Understanding the Difference Between the Church and Israel

Vivian Bricker

Contributing Writer
Updated Jun 06, 2024
Understanding the Difference Between the Church and Israel

While morally we should adhere to the Law, nowhere are we condemned by the Law as Israel was in the Old Testament. Rather, we are declared forgiven by Christ.

Sadly, many people have an incorrect view of the Church and Israel. Within Covenant Theology, the belief that the Church has replaced Israel permeates their thinking. In other words, they believe the Church is the “New Israel.” From this type of thinking, they surmise that Israel will not inherit the blessings that have been promised to them. Even though this is a popular belief, we have to weigh it against Scripture. By looking at Scripture, we will be able to obtain a biblical perspective on the issue. 

The Difference Between Dispensationalism and Covenant Theology 

Before we can discuss the different beliefs surrounding the Church and Israel, we have to discuss the difference between Dispensationalism and Covenant Theology. In short, Dispensationalism is a theological system following a grammatical-historical, literal interpretative method of the Bible, which holds the Church has not replaced Israel. Covenant Theology is a theological system following an allegorical interpretation of prophetic texts, which leads to the belief that the Church has replaced Israel as God’s chosen people. The main differences between these two schools of thought are the matter of the Church and Israel as well as how the Book of Revelation should be interpreted. 

It's important to notice these differences because they do make a huge impact on how you read the Bible. Whether you adhere to Dispensationalism or Covenant Theology, try to look at the Bible for what it truly says. God created the Bible to be read just how we would read any other book—as it literally is. He did not create the Bible for the purpose of confusing us with impossible, hard-to-understand allegories.

As part of my undergrad degree, one of my professors had us compare and contrast Dispensationalism and Covenant Theology. By doing this, it helped us come to our own findings about which is true. I personally adhere to Dispensationalism because this is what I find to agree with the Bible. 

All of this is to say, I encourage you to do your own research and see what you find is most in agreement with the Bible. The matter of whether you are a Dispensationalist or Covenant Theologian holds no weight on your salvation. 

The Difference Between the Church and Israel

Some of the differences between Israel and the Church is that the Church was only revealed in the New Testament—not in the Old Testament. The Church is the “mystery” that Paul speaks of in Colossians 1:26. The Church began at Pentecost in the second chapter of Acts while Israel has existed since the Old Testament in the Pentateuch. 

Jesus also spoke of building His Church upon Peter and His profession of declaring that He was the Christ (Matthew 16:18). The Book of Acts is the key to the distinction between the Church and Israel. In Acts, the term "Israel" is used exactly 20 times; whereas the Church (ekklesia) is used 19 times. However, these words are always seen as distinct from each other. This is because Israel and the Church are two separate entities.

The Church also has the distinct element that we are given the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20), which was not given to Israel. Never was Israel told to go out to the nations to proclaim God. People outside of Israel could join Israel; however, they would not be seen as the true Israel. The Church is open to all people, but Israel only included the ethnic Israelites. The Church is also composed of all believers who are saved, but there were people who constituted Israel who were not saved. From seeing these differences, we can ascertain the truth that Israel is distinct from the Church. The Church has not replaced Israel, nor is the Church and Israel the same thing. They are two distinct entities with two distinct purposes. 

Israel is distinct from the Church by its ministry because it had the practice of the Levites and the practice of the Aaronic priesthood (Leviticus 21; Numbers 18). The practice of the Levites and the Aaronic priesthood was not carried onto into the present day for the Church. Moreover, the Mosaic Law is not binding on believers today. While morally we should adhere to the Law, nowhere are we condemned by the Law as Israel was in the Old Testament. Rather, we are declared forgiven by Christ. As Paul tells us, there is no condemnation in Christ (Romans 8:1-4).

Both as Part of God's Design

Remember, Israel is God’s chosen people, and that will never change as God will never change (Hebrews 13:8). In fact, Paul informs us that Israel will be saved as a whole, but not every Israelite (Romans 11). This is important to take to heart because Israel is God’s chosen people. While the Church consists of the family of believers, Israel will always remain God’s chosen people. This is shown to us throughout the Old Testament as well as the New Testament. As the present-day Church, we do not need to overlook or undermine the reality that Israel is God’s chosen people. 

Therefore, the Church and Israel are two distinct aspects of God’s plan. Both parts are important to God, and He loves the Church and Israel equally. We should never come to the conclusion that the Church has replaced Israel because that would be reading into the Scriptures what is not really there. Rather than misinterpreting the Bible, we are to read the Bible with a literal hermeneutic and take what it says to heart. They are both two important parts of God’s design.

The Church was introduced at the coming of the Holy Spirit and will continue until the time of the rapture of the Church. After this time, the Church Age will end. This means that no more people will be added to the Church because the purpose of the Church has been completed. On the other hand, Israel will continue on for all eternity because it is a place and a people group. The Church and Israel are two important forces; however, we do not need to neglect the importance of seeing them as two distinct entities. 

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Vivian BrickerVivian Bricker loves Jesus, studying the Word of God, and helping others in their walk with Christ. She has earned a Bachelor of Arts and Master's degree in Christian Ministry with a deep academic emphasis in theology. Her favorite things to do are spending time with her family and friends, reading, and spending time outside. When she is not writing, she is embarking on other adventures.