Q. My sister is a Jehovah’s Witness to whom I have witnessed to for over thirty years to no avail. I’m aware that Jehovah’s Witnesses believe they have replaced Israel as God’s people/witnesses. My sister recently used the term ‘spiritual Israel’ in regard to herself and other Jehovah’s Witnesses and my response was that I did not believe in a spiritual Israel. I do not subscribe to Replacement Theology in any form, believing that God will keep every promise He has made including those made to the nation of Israel and the Jews as a people. My questions are 1) who specifically are Abraham’s children by circumcision of the heart, and what and who could be spiritual Israel if there is such a people?
A. In Galatians 3:26-29 Paul said if we are in Christ then we are Abraham’s children, whether Jewish or Gentile. Since Jehovah’s Witnesses are not “in Christ” in the Biblical sense they are not Abraham’s children. (They believe Jesus is really the archangel Michael, don’t accept His deity, don’t believe in salvation by grace alone but require works as evidence of their faith, and deny eternal security. According to Galatians 1:8 they are preaching a different Gospel.)
Neither can they be the 144,000 witnesses of Rev. 7 because they are not exclusively from the 12 tribes of Israel named there.
I couldn’t find the phrase “spiritual Israel” in the major translations I researched. The closest verse I found is Galatians 6:16 where Paul’s use of the phrase ”Israel of God” is thought by some to refer to the Church. But the context indicates He was saying that a person doesn’t have to be circumcised to be part of the Israel of God, because as he said in Romans 2:28-29,
“A person is not a Jew who is one only outwardly, nor is circumcision merely outward and physical. No, a person is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code. Such a person’s praise is not from other people, but from God.”
Remember, Paul’s letter to the Galatians was a rebuttal to the “Judaizers” who taught that a Gentile had to come under the Law of Moses and be circumcised in order to be accepted into the Church.