Taken together, there is an enormous weight of evidence in favor of the idea that God has not yet accomplished all He has planned for this people called Israel. The question is, are these prophecies speaking of ethnic Israel, or is the term Israel a metaphor, which speaks symbolically of another people group? The volume of testimony regarding “Israel” is so great that we must render a verdict regarding the identity of these people that occupy such a significant role in God’s plan for the ages.
Historically, most Christians have chosen to understand such testimony as being fulfilled through a remnant of the nation of Israel combined with a large number of Gentiles. Together these constitute a body of chosen ones known as the “elect” or the “church.” They are a spiritual Israel of sorts. This kingdom is spiritual by nature, but will have concrete and more visible form when God creates a new heaven and earth, and Christ rules as king over that earth inhabited by the elect from all ages. According to this position, the projections of future world prominence for Israel metaphorically point to the eventual reality of the kingdom of the elect on the new earth. One of the first Christian thinkers to articulate thought in this direction was Augustine in his work The City of God. That is a work, which continues to impact Christian thinkers to this day.
A statement of Scripture that is critical in the shaping of our understanding of future events is found in Romans 11:11. There, speaking of ethnic Israel, Paul writes, “I say then, they did not stumble so as to fall did they? May it never be! (NASB)