Romans 9 spoke of God’s sovereign election of Israel as His chosen. Theirs is the adoption as sons; theirs the divine glory, the covenants, the receiving of the law, the temple worship and the promises. Theirs are the patriarchs, and from them is traced the human ancestry of Christ, who is God over all, forever praised! Amen. (Romans 9:4-5) In chapter 10 we saw how in the obsessive pursuit of a righteousness of their own, they rejected the righteousness that comes from God. In the world’s eyes they became the rejected ones, and the Lord Himself said that the Kingdom would be taken away from them and given to a people who would produce its fruit. (Matt 21:43) Later He said that they wouldn’t see Him again until they say, “Blessed is he who comes in the Name of the Lord.” (Matt. 23:39)
But in both cases the rejection was clearly temporary, its duration dependent upon their response. In the first Matthew passage Jesus went on to say that prostitutes and tax collectors would come into the Kingdom before the leaders of Israel. Not instead of but before. And in the second the operative word is until, implying that someday they would call Him blessed, and when they do they’ll see Him again.
Of course, God had foreseen all of this. Nearly 800 years earlier He had Hosea preview this very time. “Then I will go back to my place until they admit their guilt. And they will seek my face; in their misery they will earnestly seek me.” (Hosea 5:15) The Lord would go back to the place from whence He had come and wait until they admitted their guilt in rejecting Him and petitioned His return. And petition Him they will. Joel 3:16-21 gives us the Lord’s response to their petition, culminating in the most incredible show of His mercy ever. Their bloodguilt, which I have not pardoned, I will pardon.” (Joel 3:21). He’s speaking of their devastating declaration in demanding the Lord’s crucifixion in the face of Pilate’s attempt at mercy. All the people answered, “Let his blood be on us and on our children!” (Matt. 27:25) Let’s see how it all comes to pass.
The Remnant of Israel
I ask then: Did God reject his people? By no means! I am an Israelite myself, a descendant of Abraham, from the tribe of Benjamin. God did not reject his people, whom he foreknew. Don’t you know what the Scripture says in the passage about Elijah—how he appealed to God against Israel:
“Lord, they have killed your prophets and torn down your altars; I am the only one left, and they are trying to kill me”? [1 Kings 19:10,14] And what was God’s answer to him? “I have reserved for myself seven thousand who have not bowed the knee to Baal.” [1 Kings 19:18]
So too, at the present time there is a remnant chosen by grace. And if by grace, then it is no longer by works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace. (Romans 11:1-6)
Through out history God has preserved a remnant of His chosen ones. Not substitutes from the Church as the replacement theology advocates would contend, not those who claim to be Jews though they are not, but are of the synagogue of Satan (Rev. 3:9) but legitimate children of Israel, proof that God has not abandoned His people now, any more than He did in the days of Elijah.
What then? What Israel sought so earnestly it did not obtain, but the elect did. The others were hardened, as it is written:
“God gave them a spirit of stupor, eyes so that they could not see and ears so that they could not hear, to this very day.” [Deut. 29:4, Isaiah 29:10]
And David says:
“May their table become a snare and a trap, a stumbling block and a retribution for them. May their eyes be darkened so they cannot see, and their backs be bent forever.” [Psalm 69:22.23] (Romans 11:7-10)
Because the majority did not recognize time day of God’s coming to them though the prophets had foretold of it for centuries, he has hidden it from their eyes. (Luke 19:41-44)
Again I ask: Did they stumble so as to fall beyond recovery? Not at all! Rather, because of their transgression, salvation has come to the Gentiles to make Israel envious. But if their transgression means riches for the world, and their loss means riches for the Gentiles, how much greater riches will their fullness bring! (Romans 11:11-12)
Over and over again, the Old Testament hints that God would open the door of salvation to the Gentiles, but now we’re told the reason. It’s to make Israel regret rejecting the Messiah. But if their disobedience has brought such blessing upon the world, how much more will come because of their obedience? The answer to that question lies in two words: The Kingdom.
I am talking to you Gentiles. Inasmuch as I am the apostle to the Gentiles, I make much of my ministry in the hope that I may somehow arouse my own people to envy and save some of them. For if their rejection is the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead? If the part of the dough offered as firstfruits is holy, then the whole batch is holy; if the root is holy, so are the branches. (Romans 11:13-16)
We all know that Jesus had to die for the sins of the world. But Paul’s point here is based on Israel’s complicity in causing it to happen. Because they rejected the Messiah, the whole world can be reconciled to God through His shed blood. (Col. 1:19) And soon, because of their acceptance of Him, the whole world can experience the resurrection through His blood as well. Declaring the sample of a batch Holy renders the entire batch holy. Israel is the sample, the firstfruits of mankind.
If some of the branches have been broken off, and you, though a wild olive shoot, have been grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing sap from the olive root, do not boast over those branches. If you do, consider this: You do not support the root, but the root supports you. You will say then, “Branches were broken off so that I could be grafted in.” Granted. But they were broken off because of unbelief, and you stand by faith. Do not be arrogant, but be afraid. For if God did not spare the natural branches, he will not spare you either. (Romans 11:17-21)
Not all of Israel rebelled, only parts. For 20 years after the cross, the Church was mostly composed of Jewish believers. But those parts that rebelled opened up a place for the Gentile believers who became like wild shoots grafted in to a cultivated root. They’re not the root, nor do they replace it, but in fact are nourished by it. As Gentile believers we are fed by the Bread of Life and nurtured by His Word. Both came to us through Israel, the root of Christianity.
Consider therefore the kindness and sternness of God: sternness to those who fell, but kindness to you, provided that you continue in his kindness. Otherwise, you also will be cut off. And if they do not persist in unbelief, they will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again. After all, if you were cut out of an olive tree that is wild by nature, and contrary to nature were grafted into a cultivated olive tree, how much more readily will these, the natural branches, be grafted into their own olive tree! (Romans 11:22-24)
This is an adaptation of the Lord’s admonition to His disciples in John 15:1-8. There He called Himself the vine, saying that we are the branches. The word translated continue here is from the same root as the one translated abide (or remain) there. Our faith in Him has to come from our heart; it’s not just a state of mind, subject to the influences of external factors, it’s a state of being, it’s who we are. And if we, who don’t have our origin in the things of God can flourish in Him, how much more so will the Jews, who do?
All Israel Will Be Saved
I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers, so that you may not be conceited: Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in. And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written:
“The deliverer will come from Zion; he will turn godlessness away from Jacob. And this is my covenant with them when I take away their sins.” [Isaiah 59:20,21; 27:9; Jer.31:33,34] (Romans 11:25-27)
Their eyes blinded and their hearts hardened, Israel waits in the wings until the Lord has finished building His Church. When that happens, the Church will be whisked off to Heaven and Israel will once again be the focus of God’s attention.
The Greek word translated “full number” is a nautical term and refers to the number of crewmen necessary for a ship to set sail. And the phrase “come in” means to arrive at a destination. Once the required complement of soldiers and sailors was aboard, the ship could leave the harbor and set sail for its destination. So it is with the Church. Once the number required to make up its membership is reached the Church will depart for its destination in Heaven, and God will open the eyes and soften the hearts of His people Israel. This is in agreement with Acts 15 where James prophesied that Israel was being set aside while the Lord took from among the Gentiles a people for His name’s sake. After that He would return and rebuild David’s fallen tabernacle. (Acts 15:13-18)
Ezekiel and Daniel agree as well. The Battle of Ezekiel 38 is the vehicle whereby God opens Israel’s eyes (Ezek. 39:22) and shortly thereafter Daniel’s 70th week begins with a treaty that includes provisions for building a Temple (Daniel 9:27).
As far as the gospel is concerned, they are enemies on your account; but as far as election is concerned, they are loved on account of the patriarchs, for God’s gifts and his call are irrevocable. Just as you who were at one time disobedient to God have now received mercy as a result of their disobedience, so they too have now become disobedient in order that they too may now receive mercy as a result of God’s mercy to you. For God has bound all men over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them all. (Romans 11:28-32)
God’s call is irrevocable. He can’t abandon Israel, nor can He abandon us. Once He has us, we cannot escape. Israel became disobedient so God could show mercy to the disobedient Gentiles. Because He showed mercy to us in our disobedience, He now has to show mercy to them in theirs. It would be unjust to do otherwise.
Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out! “Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor?” [Isaiah 40:13]”Who has ever given to God, that God should repay him?” [Job 41:11] For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen.
Soon Israel will have come full circle: elected, rejected, accepted. By sovereign election Israel became God’s people. He could have chosen anyone but He chose them to be His holy nation. When the promised Messiah came to Israel, they rejected Him, opening the door of salvation to the Gentiles. Through the Messiah, Gentiles can become the spiritual children of God as well. When the Lord has completed His work among the Gentiles, He’ll again turn to Israel and this time they’ll recognize their Messiah. (Zech. 12:10) Their rejection will be forgiven, they’ll be accepted, and God’s promise to Abraham will have been fulfilled. “All the peoples of the Earth will be blessed through you.” Selah