Bible Question:

Lately I am bombarded with the Israel question. I personally believe that those Jews who have been saved are ONE with us (non-Jewish) who are saved (Romans is clear about this I feel). The hope of Christians is heaven bound. The hope of Jews seems to be earth bound. Is God's presence going to be in a new Jewish temple? Where is the fine line between “natural and spiritual Israel?”

Bible Answer:

We need to develop some background before we answer the question “Where is the fine line between natural and spiritual Israel?”

Jew by Physical Birth

In the Old Testament, it is clear there were either Jews or people from other nations, known as Gentiles. For example, God Himself refers to “the sons of Israel” and then to “a rebellious people” in Ezekiel 2:3.

Then He said to me, “Son of man, I am sending you to the sons of Israel, to a rebellious people who have rebelled against Me; they and their fathers have transgressed against Me to this very day.” Ezekiel 2:3 (NASB)

The Hebrew word that is translated as “people” in the verse is goy. It means “nations” or Gentiles.  That is, God Himself said there are either Israelites or Gentiles. Over one hundred times, the Old Testament refers to both Israelites and Gentiles in one verse. That is, a person was a Jew or Israelite by race or birth.

In the New Testament, it is also clear that a person was a Jew by birth. The Holy Spirit wrote through the apostle Paul,

For I do not want you, brethren, to be uninformed of this mystery — so that you will not be wise in your own estimation — that a partial hardening has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in; and so all Israel will be saved. . . Romans 11:25-26a (NASB)

Here again we see the combination of Israelites and Gentiles. The Greek word for Gentiles is ethnos which means nations.  We must not miss Philippians 3:4-5 where the Apostle Paul said that he was of the nation of Israel according to the flesh. Then in Romans 11:13-14,

But I am speaking to you who are Gentiles. Inasmuch then as I am an apostle of Gentiles, I magnify my ministry, if somehow I might move to jealousy my fellow countrymen and save some of them. Romans 11:13-14 (NASB)

In Romans 9:3, he refers to “my kinsmen according to the flesh.” That is, Paul was a Jew by birth and his kinsmen were Jews according to the flesh or race.

For I could wish that I myself were accursed, separated from Christ for the sake of my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh . . . Romans 9:3 (NASB)

Paul clearly assumed that a person was a Jew by physical birth, not by spiritual birth. Paul was hoping to see some of them saved.

Jew by Spiritual Birth

When a person becomes a Christian, he or she becomes a Jew in a spiritual sense according to Romans 9:6-8,

. . . For they are not all Israel who are descended from Israel; neither are they all children because they are Abraham’s descendants, but: “THROUGH ISAAC YOUR DESCENDANTS WILL BE NAMED.” That is, it is not the children of the flesh who are children of God, but the children of the promise are regarded as descendants. Romans 9:6-8 (NASB)

The Holy Spirit tells us the true descendants are not by physical birth, but are those by the promise, that is, by a spiritual birth. This “promise” assures us (Hebrews 9:15) that we can become righteous by faith.

. . . those who have been called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance. Hebrews 9:15 (NASB)


So all who believe are considered to be spiritual Jews.

But some believe there is no difference between a spiritual and a natural Jew. They refer to Galatians 3:6-9. This is unfortunate because they not only misunderstand the symbolism, but they ignore the statement in Romans 9:8 that they are “regarded as descendants,” but are not actual descendants.

That is, it is not the children of the flesh who are children of God, but the children of the promise are regarded as descendants. Romans 9:8 (NASB)

So natural Israel are those who are physically born a Jew. Spiritual Israel is everyone – Jews and Gentiles, who place their faith in Jesus.

Our Hope

Those of us who believe are all spiritual Jews. So we share in the spiritual promises together, including living eternally in heaven. Yet, there is a promise of an earthly kingdom and temple with an heir of King David reigning on the throne of David. This promise is for physical Israel. In Luke 1, the Holy Spirit tells Mary that the child born to her will be,

. . . great, and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David; and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever; and His kingdom will have no end. (NASB) Luke 1:32-33

And so when they had come together, they were asking Him, saying, “Lord, is it at this time You are restoring the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority . . . And after He had said these things, He was lifted up while they were looking on, and a cloud received Him out of their sight.” (NASB) Acts 1:6-9

In Luke 1:32-33, Mary would have assumed he was referring to a physical kingdom. The kingdom starts off as a physical kingdom and then becomes a spiritual kingdom. In Acts 1:6-9, Jesus’ disciples asked when the kingdom was coming. Jesus does not tell them it is only spiritual and already here. He tells them it is yet future and they will need to wait and then He ascends into His spiritual kingdom. God has a kingdom that has existed since eternity past. God reigns! Where? The answer is heaven Luke 23:42)!


The hope of both Jews and Gentiles is both an earthly and a heavenly kingdom. God’s presence will exist in the earthly and in the heavenly kingdom. For more information on the kingdom you may want to see a study on the Prophecy of the Future.