Ancient Christian commentators after the New Testament tended to view members of the multinational church as a “new” or “true” Israel. On this logic, Christians—regardless of their ethnic background or national affiliation—had supplanted the biblical Israelites as God’s new chosen people based on their belief in Jesus. In modern scholarship, this view is called “Supersessionism” or “Replacement Theology” insofar as it sees non-Jewish Christians superseding Jews and replacing biblical Israel as the new focus of divine blessing. However, the author of Luke-Acts disqualifies this brand of spiritual replacement by making explicit distinctions between Israel and Gentiles after the coming of the Jesus and the revelation of the gospel—even in the World to Come. For Luke, Gentile believers in Jesus remain distinct from the people of Israel.
Many early church fathers described Gentile Christians as the new Israel. For instance, writing around 160 CE, Justin Martyr asserts that “we, who have been quarried from the bowels of Christ, are the true Israelite race” (Dialogue with Trypho 135). The fourth-century commentator Lactantius claims that the “house of Judah does not signify the Jews, whom [God] has cast off, but us, who have been called by [God] out of the Gentiles, and have by adoption succeeded to their place, and are called sons of the Jews” (Divine Institution 4.20). Not long after, Augustine declares, “We are Israel… let therefore no Christian consider himself alien to the name Israel” (On the Psalms 114.3). These opinions all reflect some form of Christian supersessionism: the idea that God has finished with the historical Jewish people and shifted focus to the “true” Israel of the Gentile church.
Yet, these supersessionist views do not align with the data in the New Testament. Luke notes that Simeon, addressing God as he beholds the infant Yeshua, describes the child as “a light for revelation to Gentiles (ἐθνῶν; ethnōn), and glory to your people Israel (λαοῦ σου Ἰσραήλ; laoū sou Israēl)” (Luke 2:32). According to Luke’s second volume, Peter says that those gathered against Jesus before his death in Jerusalem included “the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel” (Acts 4:27). Later, Jesus himself tells Saul that he will be an apostle “before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel” (Acts 9:15). Thus, after Jesus’ birth, death, resurrection, and ascension, Luke makes explicit distinctions between Gentiles and Israel.
In fact, Luke even goes beyond the events of Jesus and his earliest followers to speak of a future in which Gentiles and Israel remain separate peoples. Speaking of Israel at the destruction of the temple in 70 CE and in subsequent world history until the Parousia, Jesus prophesies that “there will be great distress upon the land and wrath against this people (λαῷ τούτῳ; laō toūto). They will fall by the edge of the sword and be led captive into all the [other] nations (ἔθνη; ēthne), and Jerusalem will be trampled underfoot by Gentiles (ὑπὸ ἐθνῶν; hupō ethnōn) until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled” (Luke 21:23-24). Once that time is fulfilled, Jesus says, a universal resurrection will accompany the Son of Man’s arrival, at which time righteous Gentiles like “the queen of the South” and “the men of Nineveh” will “rise up in the judgment” alongside Jews (Luke 11:31-32). That is, Gentiles remain Gentiles even after their resurrection from the dead; they do not become people of Israel. Alongside these Gentiles, Jesus’ eschatological kingdom also includes his Jewish disciples who will “sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel” (Luke 22:30). Contrary to later Christians who envisioned the multinational church as the new Israel, Luke clarifies that Gentiles maintain their earthly ethnicities at the eschaton, and the tribes of Israel remain distinct from the other nations in the kingdom of God.For more - Click here now