Jesus—King of Israel and King of the Nations
by Samuel Whitefield
Artists and Authors
We are living in an unprecedented moment in human history. We may be the first generation to see the gospel reach every tribe and tongue. We are also in the first generation where the issue of Israel has become a global controversy. This controversy is only going to intensify, so we must have a biblical answer to God’s purposes for Israel and the nations. That answer begins with understanding God’s plan to gather both Israel and the nations under His chosen King.
As we seek to understand how Israel relates to God’s purposes for the nations, there are serious questions that must be answered:
- How do we reconcile the promises made to the Jewish people with the expansion of the gospel to the Gentiles in the New Testament?
- How does a modern, secular Israel—frequently referred by the term “Zionism”—relate to the saved Israel the Bible speaks about? Is there any connection at all?
- How do Old Testament promises relate to the New Testament church?
- Who are the people of God?
- How are the biblical promises about Zion fulfilled?
Because the Old Testament presents the kingship of Messiah in the context of Israel and her salvation, the emergence of modern Israel also raises a couple of related questions:
- What does it ultimately mean that Jesus is King both of Israel and the nations?
- How do we understand Jesus’ kingdom and its relationship to Israel?
- What does it mean to have a Jesus-centered view of Israel and of Zion?
More and more, believers across the earth recognize Israel is of great significance, not just in the past, but also in the present and the future. At the same time, many are wrestling with how to reconcile Israel’s importance with the real transitions that take place in the New Testament. The key to understanding this biblical tension is realizing that the first coming of Jesus did not fulfill most of the Bible’s promises. What His first coming did was secure those promises, making their fulfillment possible in the future.
Many promises that most of the church assumes were fulfilled in Jesus’ first coming are in fact promises that remain to be fulfilled in the future by the glorious return of Jesus.
If we remove the artificial divide between the Old and New Testaments, we can be faithful and loyal to the gospel and the great transition the New Testament brings, while also being faithful to Paul’s exhortation that the gospel mission in the nations would ultimately end in the salvation of the Jewish people. When we view the Old Testament and New Testament together, we can both recognize and celebrate the unique election of the Jewish people and the offer to the Gentiles to be full members of the people of God, because Jesus is both the King of Israel and the King of the Nations.
To understand how Israel and the nations are joined in God’s plan, we have first to Old Testament foundations and recognize how deeply Paul’s gospel is rooted in the Old Testament. The Old Testament is not simply part of our history. It contains the foundations of the New Testament gospel. Not only is the Old Testament the foundation of our gospel, it ultimately declares specific promises that have not yet been fulfilled—promises that are driving where redemptive history is going.
As the crisis of Israel increases and the mission to every people group nears completion, it is going to become even more critical that the global church clearly understands both the original foundations of the gospel in the Old Testament that remain in force and exactly how the first coming of Jesus shifted the trajectory of redemptive history. We must also understand how the New Testament teaches that the promises given to Israel and the nations will be fulfilled by God’s King.
The controversy of Israel, and of Zion, is not going away. We must have a Jesus-centered answer to Zion and the people of God.
Question: What can you do to grow in understanding of God’s plan for Israel and the nations?
Samuel Whitefield serves as faculty at IHOPU.