According to the New Testament, a pagan who becomes a follower of Jesus and enters the Kingdom of Heaven (in conservative Christian parlance, “gets saved”) becomes part of the “Commonwealth of Israel” (Eph. 2:11-13).
The apostle Paul wrote to formerly pagan members of the church in Corinth:
You know that when you were heathen [ἔθνη (ethnē); in the Septuagint ἔθνη translates = גּוֹיִם (gōyim, “non-Jews”)], you were led astray to dumb idols, however you may have been moved. (1 Cor. 12:2; RSV; emphasis added)
If the believers in Corinth were formerly Gentiles, this begs the question: What had these former Gentiles become?
Probably the clearest definition of who these “saved” pagans are is found in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. Writing to a church formed of Gentile men and women who had come out of completely pagan backgrounds, the apostle states:
Remember when you were non-Jews… and called the Uncircumcised…and were alienated from the commonwealth of Israel…. But now in the Messiah Jesus you who were far away [i.e., non-Jews] have been brought near by the blood of the Messiah… So, therefore, you are no longer foreigners and temporary residents, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the family of God. (Eph. 2:11-19).
Here Paul addresses uncircumcized non-Jews by birth as if they were no longer non-Jews:
I want you to know, brethren, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea…. (1 Cor. 10:1-3; RSV)
Who were these “ancestors” of the uncircumcized Corinthians to whom Paul alluded? None other than, for example, Moses, Aaron, his sister Miriam, Joshua, and others. These Gentile followers of Jesus got new ancestors and a new salvation history (see also 1 Cor. 5:1). Through Jesus, these Corinthians became part of Israel. They were not born Jews, but were adopted (Gal. 4:1-8), and so intimate had their relationship with God become that they addressed him as Abba (“Daddy”; Rom. 8:15; Gal. 4:6). These former Gentiles definitely did not replace Israel, but there is room in God’s family for adoptees.