Eschatology in Romans Related to Israel and the Church, Part 3
Welcome to the third installment in this series. The first two articles can be read here and here and in those first two articles we covered Romans 3:1-4 and began covering Romans 9 – 11 respectively. Since Romans 9 – 11 includes three chapters all by itself, it is really impossible to cover all of it in one article, which is why it continues into this article as well.
Before we get further into things, I would like to state a biblical warning for all those Christians (both Jewish and Gentile), who persist in the notion that the Jews are no longer God’s chosen people, that He no longer has a plan for Israel, or both. This unbiblical attitude that came into vogue several hundred years ago and has consistently picked up steam in more modern times is, I believe – based on the truth of God’s Word – a stench to God’s nostrils. It is wrong to believe this and harbor any anti-Semitic attitude, yet it persists within Christian circles. It is anathema.
For those Christians who persist in this attitude, please be aware that you are aligning yourselves against God and His purposes. If in Romans, Paul teaches that God yet has a purpose to fulfill in the nation Israel, then those who believe otherwise are really standing against Israel, whether they think they are or not. I would urge that these people go back to the Scriptures and take the time to really study His Word throughout Romans and zero in on chapters nine, ten, and eleven specifically.
Too many Christians today act and sound like Martin Luther (Reformation) who, toward the end of his life had become so angry where Jews were concerned that the anti-Semitism he harbored reeked in many of his writings. Just one of his writings, The Jews & Their Lies, was filled with vitriol and hate-filled speech from which it is believed that Adolf Hitler eventually wrote his own two-volume work, which included his own views of Jews in Mein Kampf. This is a terrible legacy and one where Luther clearly failed to comprehend Paul’s teachings in Romans! He was unable to grasp God’s plan for Israel. Let it not be so for you, if you are one who holds the Jews in contempt. You have no right. You cannot argue that the Jews of today are “fake” Jews or individuals who stand against God. This is nothing new for Israelites as this was their attitude during Moses’ day. Since God has specifically blinded the Jews as a people (Romans 11:8; though individuals here and there obviously, through God’s grace, have their eyes open to the truth, just as Paul did), our job as Christians is to persevere in spreading the gospel even to those who are blind, whether Jew or Gentile. But, as we’ll learn, there is a very specific reason God has chosen to blind the Jews as a people and as it turns out, it is for our (the Gentiles) benefit.
In our last article, we introduced the concepts Paul presents in Romans 9 – 11. A quick three-part outline as noted, breaks things down like this:
- God’s Past Dealings with Israel (9:1-33)
- God’s Present Dealings with Israel (10:1-21)
- God’s Promised Dealings with Israel (11:1-36)
We are going to get more deeply into Romans 11 in this article and if we can sum up Romans 10, it would be that though God has given Israel everything it needs to gain salvation, the nation has so far, refused and remains completely lost. What this does not mean is that all Jews are lost anymore than all Gentiles are lost. This is simply not true. As we noted, based on Paul’s clear teachings, any Jewish individual who places faith in Jesus for salvation is no longer lost. That person, like any Gentile, becomes born again or born from above (John 3), and as such, is baptized into Christ’s Body as part of His Church.
Paul even uses himself as a perfect example of this. It is immensely important that Christians especially understand this truth. Again, the sticking point for many is the nation of Israel itself. To these folks, it seems like God is going to go “backwards.” Isn’t Israel done? Isn’t the sacrificial system over? Why would God revisit it?
What many fail to understand is that the far-reaching promises of God first given to Abraham will not be fully or finally fulfilled until the Millennial Kingdom. What happens then? It is inaugurated after Jesus returns physically to this planet. The Bible tells us Jesus will reign from His (earthly) father’s throne (The Davidic Covenant; Second Samuel 7:11b-16; First Chronicles 17:10b-14). This is referencing Jesus’ physical lineage all the way back to King David. King David ruled from Jerusalem. So too will Jesus rule from that same place and He will do so for 1,000 years of uninterrupted peace.
It will be at this point that Israel will be made up of that final remnant which turned in faith to Jesus for salvation during the trials and terror of the Tribulation that occurs at the close of this age, just prior to the physical return of Jesus. Those Jewish people who receive salvation by faith in Christ alone and who survive the Tribulation will go into the Millennial Kingdom as human beings who have not died. You and I (and most of the Christians living now will likely have died by then and will immediately go to heaven to receive our reward and to be with Christ forever and ever. We will have our sin natures removed, we will be given glorified bodies and we will live in His presence eternally beyond death.
The Jewish people who enter into the Millennial Kingdom as saved people will also be the ones who not only make up the final remnant of Israel, but will be the ones who enjoy the fullness of the Abrahamic Covenant, which includes the Land originally promised to Abraham throughout Genesis. This is extremely important to remember and it is clear that Paul is referring to this coming Millennial Kingdom though he does not mention it by name, within Romans 11.
It will also be during this Millennial Kingdom that because of Israel and their reconnection with God as their Sovereign Lord, the entire earth – people, land, animal kingdom – will be blessed beyond measure. In essence, the Millennial Kingdom will be the place and time where God brings all things together under the perfect sovereignty of His rule on earth, fulfilling many prophecies and promises, not only related directly to Israel but to the rest of the earth as well. In fact, as we will learn, if God had not specifically blinded (and continues to blind the Jews as a nation), the gospel would not have been presented directly to Gentiles. Let’s begin looking at Romans 11 to see what Paul tells us about this entire situation of Israel.
So I ask, God has not rejected his people, has he? Absolutely not! For I too am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, from the tribe of Benjamin. 2 God has not rejected his people whom he foreknew! Do you not know what the scripture says about Elijah, how he pleads with God against Israel? 3 ‘Lord, they have killed your prophets, they have demolished your altars; I alone am left and they are seeking my life!’ 4 But what was the divine response to him? ‘I have kept for myself seven thousand people who have not bent the knee to Baal.’ (Romans 11:1-4; NET).
Paul comes out of the gates showing that in every generation since Israel’s birth, there has been a remnant that God has saved for Himself. As proof, Paul not only points to himself as an example of the remnant from that current generation (in the first century AD), but he also points to the Scriptures in which Elijah thought himself to be the only individual left who worshiped Jehovah. God pointed out to Elijah that this was not the case and even though up to that point, Elijah was not aware of it, God reveals that there were seven thousand individuals who had not committed idolatry by bowing the knee to Baal (Satan).
As far as Paul is concerned, this is proof enough that God’s ways and sovereignty are inscrutable to most people. His purposes are accomplished because of His sovereignty over all things.
What we can take away from this is that in every generation since the birth of Israel, God has gathered and kept for Himself a remnant of individuals who, like Paul (and Elijah before him), come to God in faith believing in God the Son for redemption. This means that Israel yet has a place in God’s timetable and purposes.
So in the same way at the present time there is a remnant chosen by grace. 6 And if it is by grace, it is no longer by works, otherwise grace would no longer be grace. 7 What then? Israel failed to obtain what it was diligently seeking, but the elect obtained it. (Romans 11:5-7)
These are interesting comments from Paul. Notice he refers to his own lifetime in stating again that God chose a remnant and the individuals who make up that remnant are chosen by grace. Those Israelites – Jewish individuals – come into the Church the exact same way that every Gentile comes into the Church and as Paul did – through grace, by faith in the completed work of Jesus on our behalf. There is no other way and even though the Israelites of the Old Testament had no knowledge of God the Son who would come and die for the sins of humanity, they still approached God in the only way that was then and now acceptable: through faith.
In verse 8 of Romans 11, Paul notes that the rest who did not come in by faith, were hardened in their hearts. Paul states that God deliberately gave them a spirit of stupor (v. 8) so that they could not enter in. That may sound extremely harsh on God’s part, but His ways are not our ways. He has His reasons and will the pot say to the potter, ‘why have you made me like this?’ Since everyone is born into this life already condemned, God can do whatever He wants to do for His purposes and will still be just and righteous.
I ask then, they did not stumble into an irrevocable fall, did they? Absolutely not! But by their transgression salvation has come to the Gentiles, to make Israel jealous. 12 Now if their transgression means riches for the world and their defeat means riches for the Gentiles, how much more will their full restoration bring? (Romans 11:11-12)
Paul gets even more interesting here. Lest we believe that Israel has stumbled with finality, Paul quickly corrects that, asserting the exact opposite is true and we’d best pay attention to the truth of God’s Word. Paul points out that within each generation, God has reserved for Himself a believing remnant of Jews who essentially make up “Israel,” though it will only be the final remnant of Jewish believers from the coming Tribulation period who will – after surviving the seven-year Tribulation period without dying – will go into the Millennial Kingdom and fully inherit the Land that was originally given to them through Abraham (cf. Matthew 25:31-46).
In verse 11, Paul also points out a very important truth that is often missed today. He introduces it by stating that though the “transgression” of Israel (as a nation; or the Jews as a whole, with the exception of a remnant from each generation), has allowed God to offer salvation directly to the Gentiles! This fact must not be missed and it is here that we actually owe a debt of gratitude to the Jewish people. Because God has hardened their hearts and blinded their eyes to the truth of salvation (for the nation as a whole, though individual Jews by grace, still have their eyes opened to the truth of salvation), God was able to essentially bypass Israel and offer salvation directly to all Gentiles throughout the world. This went into effect when Jesus, the Messiah was rejected by the religious leaders of Israel and then paid the price for our sin by His substitutionary death and resurrection from the dead.
We all know that Israel’s purpose was to be a light to all nations. This is something that Jesus Himself stressed and chided Israel for not being (Matthew 5:15). Yet, in spite of Israel’s failure, God did not fail. He brought forth the Deliverer in Jesus, who became the propitiation for the sins of the world – yours and mine. Those who, in faith believing, trust in His finished work, receive salvation.
Had Israel not stumbled, then in order to receive that salvation today, everyone would be required to approach God through the nation of Israel. Because God blinded the hearts of that nation, He was then able to offer salvation directly to all people – Jews and Gentiles – throughout the world in every generation since the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.
Notice in Romans 11:12 (above), Paul finishes his thought by asking a question. He asks that if Israel’s “transgression” means spiritual wealth for the world and specifically, that transgression (unbelief) has allowed God to go around Israel and offer salvation directly to Gentiles, then how much more precious and rich will Israel’s “full restoration bring” to the entire world be? Here, Paul is looking forward to the coming Millennial Kingdom where the remaining future promises connected with Israel will unfold and be fulfilled. At that point, Israel will be the center of our world just as it is the center of God’s World now (cf. Ezekiel 5:5; 38:12). During the coming Millennial Kingdom, Israel will be the fountain of blessing for the entire world! It is extremely important to grasp this.
We’ll pick this up next time with more from Romans 11, so please join me then!
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