Good is Jehovah to the one hoping in him, to the soul that keeps
seeking for him.
Good it is that one should wait, even silently, for the salvation of
"And now if YOU will strictly
obey my voice and will indeed keep my covenant, then YOU will certainly
become my special property out of all [other] peoples, because the whole
earth belongs to me. And YOU yourselves will become to me a kingdom of
priests and a holy nation." —
Jehovah wants us to “test the inspired expressions to see whether they
originate with [him]” is to make sure that our understanding of the truth
is not based simply on some opinions that might sound plausible and are
then defended by trying to make the scriptures harmonize with them. (1
John 4:1) This is the case with our present understanding of the New
Covenant. The Society teaches that only “spiritual Israel” is in the New
Covenant on the basis of their idea that fleshly Israel was replaced by
“spiritual Israel.” Here are some examples of what the Watchtower has said
“This promised Seed was also a mediator, effecting between his followers
and his heavenly Father a new covenant that replaced the old Law covenant.
(Hebrews 8:10-13; 9:15) On the basis of this new covenant, the
fledgling Christian congregation replaced the nation of fleshly Israel,
becoming a spiritual Israel, a spiritual “Abraham’s seed” along with
Jesus, and stewards of ‘the things revealed.’”—w86
5/15 pp. 12-13; “The Things Revealed Belong to Us”(emphasis
“THE Son of God has superseded the prophet Moses, who was the mediator of
the law covenant between God and natural Israel. Jesus Christ has become
the appointed Mediator of Jehovah’s foretold new covenant. This
covenant was made with the nation that replaced ancient natural Israel
and is a spiritual Israel, ‘the Israel of God.’”—w84
9/1 p. 13; Lining Up With “Jehovah’s Mind” as Now Revealed (emphasis mine)
After Jesus’ death, Jews who accepted him as the
Messiah and became his disciples came under a new covenant, which replaced
the old Law covenant. (Jeremiah 31:31-34; Hebrews 8:7-13) Under this
new covenant, they—and non-Jewish believers who later joined them—became
part of a new, spiritual nation that replaced fleshly Israel as God’s
special people. —w92
6/1 p. 12; A Free People but Accountable.(emphasis mine)
The idea that
“natural Israel” was replaced by “spiritual Israel” is commonly taught by
the Society. Here are some more examples:
"In 33 C.E., Jehovah's favor had been transferred
from earthly Israel to spiritual Israel, the Christian congregation, 'a
nation producing the fruits' of the Messianic kingdom."—w06 7/1 p.
25 "A New Dedicated Nation"
• “...the Christian congregation was also God’s
‘field under cultivation,’ his spiritual vineyard, rooted in Christ Jesus
and bearing fruit to God’s praise. (1Co 3:9; Joh 15:1-8) As such
replaced the nation of
—it-2 p. 576 Paradise
“...because the natural Jews as a nation showed
the same attitude as Esau, they were replaced by spiritual Israel.”
—w03 10/15 p. 29; Jacob Appreciated Spiritual Values
“In 33 C.E., the Israel of God replaced
fleshly Israel and became Jehovah’s ‘servant,’ his ‘witnesses.’”
—w98 2/1 p. 17; Greater Blessings Through the New Covenant
“The 144,000-strong little flock is ‘the
Israel of God,’ which has replaced natural Israel in God’s purposes.”
—w95 2/15 p. 20; “Have No Fear, Little Flock”
“Nevertheless, James’ inspired expression
indicates that in Jehovah’s sight the Israel of God had completely
replaced the 12 tribes of natural Israel.” — w95 7/1 p.
12; Christian Witnesses With Heavenly Citizenship
• “The law arrangement was but a ‘shadow of the
good things to come,’ it was merely a ‘tutor leading to Christ.’ (Heb.
10:1; Gal. 3:24, NW) As it was replaced by a ‘new system of
things,’ so natural
replaced by spiritual Israel.”
—w56 8/15 p. 488; Were the Ten Tribes Lost?
The Society's reasoning regarding the new covenant goes something like
this: Since Jehovah made a covenant with natural Israel at Mount Sinai,
with Moses as the mediator, and natural Israel has been replaced with
"spiritual Israel" in God's favor and purpose, therefore it is only with
"spiritual Israel" that God has made the new covenant which replaced that
obviously arises: Did “spiritual Israel” replace natural or fleshly Israel
in Jehovah’s favor and purpose? The correct understanding of this is vital
in understanding the purpose of the new covenant and identifying the
parties involved. Let us therefore take a look and see whether this idea is
supported by Scripture.
The covenant Jehovah made with Abraham included three promises:
shall surely bless you and I shall surely multiply your seed
like the stars of the heavens and like the grains of sand that are on the
seashore; and your seed will take possession of the gate of his enemies.
And (2) by means of your seed (3) all nations of the earth will
certainly bless themselves due to
the fact that you have listened to my voice.” (Gen. 22:17,18)
1. Jehovah would make a great nation out of Abraham 2. The promised seed would come from Abraham’s line of descent 3. All nations of the earth would bless themselves by means of
Let us consider how Jehovah kept his covenant with Abraham.
Jehovah blessed and multiplied Abraham’s seed “like the stars of the
heavens and like the grains of sand that are on the seashore” by means of
his sons Ishmael, Isaac, and the six sons by his second wife Keturah.
(Gen. 25:1,2, 12, 19) But it was by means of Isaac that Jehovah promised the
seed would come. Isaac had two sons, Esau and Jacob, and Jehovah chose
Jacob as the one to carry on the lineage of the promised seed. Jacob’s
name was changed to Israel and he in turn had twelve sons. (Gen. 32:28;
35:10; 46:8-27) Those twelve sons became the great nation of Israel with
whom Jehovah made the Law covenant at Mount Sinai, with Moses as the
Jehovah promised that the seed, by means of which all nations would bless
themselves, would come from Abraham’s offspring, through Isaac and Israel
(Jacob). Did that mean that the seed would be the entire nation of Israel?
No! The nation of Israel was going to produce that seed. The Bible tells
the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. It says, not: 'And to
seeds,' as in the case of many such, but as in the case of one: 'And to
your seed,' who is Christ. (Gal. 3:16)
This promised seed that appeared at Jehovah’s due time turned out to be
Christ Jesus, the Messiah. He was the seed Jehovah originally foretold in
the Garden of Eden when passing sentence upon the rebel Satan the Devil,
who would “break up the works of the Devil.” (Gen. 3:15; 1 John 3:8) But
there was another aspect concerning the promised seed that was only
revealed once the seed had arrived. Jehovah had also purposed that the
seed would have close associates, as close as a figurative bride. (John
3:29; Rev. 21:9) The apostle Paul speaks of those who would be “in union
with Christ,” the seed, he himself being among them, and the number of
which had been determined by Jehovah “before the founding of the world,”
which number the apostle John reveals would finally total 144,000. (Eph.
1:4,5; Rev. 7:4; 14:1,3)
It was Jehovah’s sincere desire that if the nation of Israel, Abraham’s
natural children, would prove obedient and faithfully keep the covenant he
had made with them, then he would choose the entire number of the 144,000
exclusively from among them. These members, all chosen personally by Jehovah,
would become his “kingdom of priests and a holy nation,” yes, “the
Israel of God.” (Ex. 19:5,6; Dan. 7:13,14, 18, 22, 27; Gal. 6:16) They
would belong to God, being distinct from the nation of Israel as a whole,
for they would be "bought from among mankind as firstfruits to God and to
the Lamb," and be "a kingdom and priests to our God . . . to rule as kings
over the earth." (Rev. 5:9,10; 14:1-4)
first members to be chosen for “the Israel of God” as the foundation
were the twelve apostles, all natural offspring from Abraham.
(Luke 22:29,30; Eph. 2:20) At
Pentecost the number increased to 120 when they received the holy spirit
as evidence of their anointing. Over the following years and centuries
Jehovah would continue to choose individuals and give them the
responsibility to feed his household of worshippers. In this way Jesus
would be with his disciples “until the conclusion of the system of
things.” (Matt. 24:45; 28:20; compare John 21:15-17) The Scripture shows
that the last members to be chosen, to fulfill the complete number of
144,000, would be shortly before the outbreak of the great tribulation.
Was “the Israel of God” ever going to replace “natural Israel” in God’s
favor and purpose? That brings us to the third point.
Jehovah’s promise to Abraham included that all nations of the earth, “all
the families of the ground,” would be blessed by means of the seed. (Gen.
The covenant that Jehovah made with Israel at Mount Sinai, with Moses as
the mediator, was for the purpose of producing the promised seed. It was
“our tutor leading to Christ,” and “a shadow of the good things to come.”
(Gal. 3:24,25; Heb. 10:1) Once the covenant had served its purpose Jehovah
had all along intended to replace it with another covenant, a better one.
(Heb. 8:6,7, 13) Why? Because part of the covenant that Jehovah had made
with Abraham included “all the families of the ground,” the nations. (Gen.
12:3) People of the nations, non-Jews, were also going to bless themselves
by means of the seed. “Now the Scripture,
seeing in advance that God would declare people of the nations righteous
due to faith, declared the good news beforehand to Abraham, namely: ‘By
means of you all the nations will be blessed.’ Consequently, those who
adhere to faith are being blessed together with faithful Abraham.”
(Gal. 3:8,9) Therefore, once the seed had arrived Jehovah was going to
replace the old covenant, which he had made exclusively with the children
of Abraham, with a new covenant that would now include people of the
nations who would also have faith like Abraham. And the mediator of that
new and better covenant would be the promised seed, Jesus Christ, in whom
they exercised faith.
From this it is clear that the time would come when Jehovah would no
longer make a distinction between a Jew and a Gentile, even if the Jews
had been faithful. Because on the basis of the ransom, all those
exercising faith in Jesus would now be acceptable to God equally. Wasn’t
that the purpose of the promised seed in the first place, to provide a
ransom for all of Adam’s offspring who had been sold into sin and death?
It is just as the Scripture says, “For
just as in Adam all are dying, so also in the Christ all will be made
The only distinction between Jews and people of the nations that would
have continued forever would have been in connection with the “Israel of
God.” Had the Jews remained faithful to Jehovah and the covenant then all
the members of the 144,000 would have been Jews, Abraham’s natural
offspring. Gentiles would still have become Jesus’ disciples but none of
them would have been chosen and anointed by Jehovah to become part of the
Israel of God. Cornelius might still have been the first Gentile to become
an uncircumcised disciple of Christ but the choosing for the heavenly
calling would not have been his. (Acts chapter 10)
As it turned out, due to their rebelliousness and lack of faith Jehovah
lopped off some of the natural branches that would make up the Israel of
God, and grafted in wild branches which he chose from among the Gentiles.
(Rom. 11:17-26) From Jehovah’s standpoint it would have been unthinkable
to make up the Israel of God with branches that lacked faith in the seed,
with whom they would be in union, while ignoring people of the nations who
had such faith as Abraham’s. That is why Paul explains that
“those who adhere to faith are the ones who
are sons of Abraham.” (Gal. 3:7) After having lost their special
distinction status with God, Jehovah also started to choose from among the
nations members to include in the Israel of God. (Ex. 33:16) “And in this
manner all Israel will be saved,” the full number of 144,000. (Rom.
As is clear from the foregoing, the Israel of God never replaced natural
Israel. To claim otherwise is to betray a lack of understanding of God’s
purpose. The only replacing that took place is the fact that some of the
144,000 symbolic branches (natural Jews) were broken off the domestic
olive tree (the Israel of God) and wild branches (Gentiles) were grafted
in their place. The tree remains the same. It still has 144,000 branches.
It is still the “Israel of God” even though some of the members were
chosen from among the Gentiles. But, as the apostle Paul explains this is
perfectly in harmony with God’s own law, and his promise to Abraham, for the ones who are really
considered sons of Abraham are those who have faith like that of Abraham.
The new covenant that Jehovah promised to conclude “with the house of
Israel and with the house of Judah” was to replace the Law covenant he had
made at Mount Sinai with the natural children of Abraham. It was to be a
better covenant in that God’s laws would be written on the hearts of his
people, and it would be the means by which he would forgive their error
and sins permanently. That, of course, was made possible by the ransom Jesus provided,
who became the mediator of the new covenant. (Jer. 31:31-34; Heb. 8:6-13)
The apostle Paul explains how the “blood of the covenant” that Moses
mediated at Mount Sinai made forgiveness of sins possible for all those
included in that covenant, but not permanently. (Heb. 10:4) Then he further reasons how the blood of the Christ is of much
greater value in cleansing us of our sins and consciences from dead works
"once for all time," "perpetually,"
in order “that we may render sacred service to the living God.” (Heb.
9:13-22; Heb. 10:1-3,11-14) This “blood of the covenant,” Jesus said, would be poured out in
behalf of many for forgiveness of sins,” not just for the house of Israel
and the house of Judah but for all who exercise faith in the ransom.
(Matt. 26:28) “For
God loved the world so much that he gave his only-begotten Son, in order
that everyoneexercising faith in him might not be destroyed but have
Suppose the nation of Israel as a whole would have proved faithful to
Jehovah and the covenant, and millions of them accepted Jesus Christ as
the promised seed and their Messiah when he arrived, the way Jehovah
wanted them to, how would matters have turned out different?
As we have already seen, Jehovah would not have changed the number of
members of the Israel of God. He had determined that “before the founding
of the world.” That number did not depend upon how many Jews would prove
faithful in the end. There still would have been only 144,000 chosen ones,
all of them chosen only from among the Jews. And there would still have
twelve Jewish apostles. (Rev. 21:14)
But what about the rest of the millions of faithful Jews, had they
remained faithful? Would they now suddenly find themselves outside
a covenant, seeing that the old Law covenant was destined to come to an
end? Rather than being in a new and better covenant they would now be
without any covenant at all if they were not among the 144,000, that is,
if we are to believe that only the Israel of God is in the new covenant.
That scenario is totally unscriptural and it is based mainly on the idea
that natural Israel replaced “spiritual Israel.” As I have tried to show,
that idea is not found anywhere in God’s Word, but rather contradicts what
is actually taught. The new covenant, of which Jesus is the mediator,
includes all his disciples who exercise faith in him. The “blood of the
covenant” makes possible forgiveness of their sins, as Jehovah promised,
and he grants them a clean conscience. A person is brought into the new
covenant at the moment of his baptism. Apart from being in the new
covenant we cannot “render sacred service to the living God,” as Paul tells
us. (Heb. 9:14; 10:22,23)
The great crowd that comes out of the great tribulation and have “washed
their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb” (blood of the
covenant) are obviously included in the new covenant, although they are not part of
the 144,000, for they are seen before the
throne of God “rendering him sacred service day and night in his temple.
And the One seated on the throne will spread his tent over them.” (Rev.
7:14,15) Under the old covenant it was impossible to render God any sort
of sacred service in his temple, or anywhere else for that matter, without being in the covenant
with him. How can
anyone today render God acceptable sacred service in his temple unless he
too is in the covenant with God? And the fact that God will spread his
tent over them signifies that he will be with the great crowd and protect
them the same way as was foreshadowed by the tent, or tabernacle, in the
wilderness, when he was with his covenant people by means of his mediator
Moses. This does not mean that the great crowd is in heaven anymore than
those in the wilderness were, for we are told that the
tent of God is with mankind. (Rev. 21:3,4)
Today Jehovah deals with his people through the greater Moses,
Christ Jesus, the mediator of the new covenant. (1 Tim. 2:5,6) That is why
it concludes by saying that "the Lamb, who is in the midst of the throne,
will shepherd them, and will guide them to fountains of waters of life.
And God will wipe out every tear from their eyes." (Ex. 17:2-6; Rev. 7:16,17) May you
prove to be among that great crowd of happy worshippers of Jehovah who
"come out of the great tribulation."
Footnote: I avoid using the
expression "spiritual" Israel because it is nowhere found in the
seems that whenever we adopt a terminology that is not used
in the Bible we get to define it to mean and include whatever we want it
to, and that can cause
confusion, even making God's word invalid, as in the case with "spiritual" Israel replacing
natural Israel. The scriptural term “the Israel of God” is much more
specific, and avoids any confusion as to its
identity and purpose. It also restricts us from reading more into it than
what the Scriptures allow. —Proverbs 30:6; Matthew 15:6-9; 1