Text: Romans 11:15-36
Olive is mentioned in several interesting contexts in the Holy Bible.
A sign of peace — The first mention of “olive” in the Holy Bible is when “…the dove came in to him in the evening; and, lo, in her mouth was an olive leaf pluckt off: so Noah knew that the waters were abated from off the earth” (Genesis 8:11).
THE GLORIOUS LIGHT OF CHRIST
Oil for the light — In “the tabernacle of the LORD, which Moses made in the wilderness…” (1Chronicles 21:29), “…pure oil olive [was] beaten for the light, to cause the lamp to burn always” (Exodus 27:20; Leviticus 24:2). The lamp which burned olive oil always in the tabernacle is an allegory of the “…light of the glorious gospel of Christ” (2Corinthians 4:3-4), “how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures:” (1Corinthians 15:3-4). When the Lord Jesus told the Jews, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up… he spake of the temple of his body” (John 2:18-21; Matthew 26:61).
It is a great tragedy that “the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them. For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2Corinthians 4:4-6).
The olive press — Gethsemane was the location of a garden in the mount of Olives. According to Robertson’s Word Pictures, Gethsemane ‘means oil-press in the Hebrew, or olive vat. The place (χωριον) was an enclosed plot or estate, “garden,” or orchard (κηπος)…. There are now eight old olive trees still standing in this enclosure. One cannot say that they are the very trees near which Jesus had his Agony, but they are very old….’
In his commentary, Matthew Henry said, ‘The place where he underwent this mighty agony; it was in a place called Gethsemane. The name signifies… a press for olives, like a wine-press, where they trod the olives (Micah 6:15). And this was the proper place for such a thing, at the foot of the mount of Olives. There our Lord Jesus began his passion; there it pleased the Lord to bruise him.’ The Lord Jesus Christ “…was bruised for our iniquities…” (Isaiah 53:5) “…to set at liberty them that are bruised” (Luke 4:18) that we might “…walk in the light of the LORD” (Isaiah 2:5).
A light of the Gentiles — The LORD said to his Son: “I the LORD have called thee in righteousness, and will hold thine hand, and will keep thee, and give thee for a covenant of the people, for a light of the Gentiles” (Isaiah 42:6). John the Baptist “came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men through him might believe” (John 1:1-7).
When the Jews saw that almost the whole city of Antioch came to hear the word of God, “they were filled with envy, and spake against those things which were spoken by Paul, contradicting and blaspheming. Then Paul and Barnabas waxed bold, and said, It was necessary that the word of God should first have been spoken to you: but seeing ye put it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles. For so hath the Lord commanded us, saying, I have set thee to be a light of the Gentiles, that thou shouldest be for salvation unto the ends of the earth” (Acts 13:43-47).
The light of the world [all men] — Jesus said to his disciples, “As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world” (John 9:5); “…he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life” (John 8:12).
The everlasting light of the Lamb — Isaiah prophesied of the light in the new heaven and earth (Revelation 21:1). “The sun shall be no more thy light by day; neither for brightness shall the moon give light unto thee: but the LORD shall be unto thee an everlasting light, and thy God thy glory. Thy sun shall no more go down; neither shall thy moon withdraw itself: for the LORD shall be thine everlasting light, and the days of thy mourning shall be ended” (Isaiah 60:19-20; 42:6). The apostle John declared that “the holy city, new Jerusalem…” (Revelation 21:2) “had no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it: for the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof” (Revelation 21:23); “And there shall be no night there; and they need no candle, neither light of the sun; for the Lord God giveth them light: and they shall reign for ever and ever” (Revelation 22:5).
THE PLACE OF DEPARTURE AND RETURN
Christ’s ascension — After speaking to his disciples, Jesus was taken up to heaven from the mount called Olivet (Acts 1:1-12).
Christ’s second coming — The prophet declared: “And his feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east, and the mount of Olives shall cleave in the midst thereof toward the east and toward the west, and there shall be a very great valley; and half of the mountain shall remove toward the north, and half of it toward the south” (Zechariah 14:4).
THE TESTIMONY OF BELIEVERS
Knowing that “The words of the LORD are pure words…” (Psalm 12:6-7), and that “…the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple” (Psalm 19:7; 93:5; 2Peter 1:19), all “…the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:26) may confidently declare that “Christ is all, and in all” (Colossians 3:9-11), and that: “The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? the LORD is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?” (Psalm 27:1). “The LORD is my strength and song, and he is become my salvation: he is my God…and I will exalt him” (Exodus 15:2; Psalm 118:14). “The LORD is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower” (Psalm 18:2). “The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want” (Psalm 23:1).
“The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusted in him, and I am helped: therefore my heart greatly rejoiceth; and with my song will I praise him” (Psalm 28:7). “But the LORD is my defence; and my God is the rock of my refuge” (Psalm 94:22). “The LORD is my portion, saith my soul; therefore will I hope in him” (Lamentations 3:24). “…The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me” (Hebrews 13:6). Like Abram, the LORD is also our “…exceeding great reward” (Genesis 15:1). By faith we have received the Lord Jesus, who is “the way, the truth, and the life…” (John 14:6), and God has promised us: “When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory” (Colossians 3:4). When Christ’s “glory shall be revealed…[we will]…be glad also with exceeding joy” (1Peter 4:13).
The commission of God’s children — After his glorious resurrection, the Lord Jesus commanded the eleven apostles: “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15). All saints should “…testify the gospel of the grace of God” (Acts 20:24): “Testifying both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts 20:21).
THE TWO OLIVE TREES
TWO WITNESSES OF GOD
When Zechariah saw the two olive trees standing on the right and left sides of the golden candlestick, he asked the angel, “What are these two olive trees upon the right side of the candlestick and upon the left side thereof?” (Zechariah 4:4, 11). The angel answered, “…These are the two anointed ones, that stand by the Lord of the whole earth” (Zechariah 4:11-14).
Before his crucifixion, Jesus took Peter, James, and John “up into an high mountain apart, And was transfigured before them: and his face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light. And, behold, there appeared unto them Moses and Elias talking with him” (Matthew 17:1-3). During the “time of Jacob’s trouble” (Jeremiah 30:7), the LORD said, “And I will give power unto my two witnesses, and they shall prophesy a thousand two hundred and threescore days, clothed in sackcloth. These are the two olive trees, and the two candlesticks standing before the God of the earth” (Revelation 11:3-4).
Because of these scriptures and the similarity of the works of Moses and Elijah to the two witnesses, I believe they will be the two witnesses during the tribulation period, which will follow after the church is caught up “to meet the Lord in the air” (1Thessalonians 4:17).
THE GOOD AND WILD OLIVE TREES
Read Romans 11:15-36. This passage of scripture sheds light on how God is working with Jews and Gentiles during the time period between the resurrection of Christ and the day when the church will be caught up “to meet the Lord in the air” (1Thessalonians 4:17). I cannot identify exactly what the good olive tree represents, but I believe the root of the olive tree is Abraham, whose blessings were first bestowed upon the Jews and then upon the Gentiles after the resurrection of Christ.
The blessing of Abraham to all families and nations — When the LORD called Abram out of Ur of the Chaldees, he said to him, “And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed” (Genesis 12:1-3).
After demonstrating his faithfulness and determination to fulfill God’s command for him to offer Isaac for a burnt offering (Genesis 22:2), “the LORD called unto Abraham out of heaven the second time, And said, By myself have I sworn, saith the LORD, for because thou hast done this thing, and hast not withheld thy son, thine only son: That in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies; And in thy seed [“…thy seed which is Christ” (Galatians 3:16)] shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice” (Genesis 22:15-18).
This wonderful blessing of faith was verified in the New Testament when the apostle Paul wrote: “Even as Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness. Know ye therefore that they which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham. And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen [Gentiles] through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations [Jews and Gentiles] be blessed. So then they which be of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham” (Galatians 3:6-9).
At least in part, the good olive tree signifies the blessing of Abraham. The semicolon in the following two verses separates two independent clauses which declare two separate blessings that have come upon the Gentiles since the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The earthly blessing is, “That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; [and the heavenly blessing is] that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith” (Galatians 3:13-14).
During his earthly ministry, and before he was crucified, the Lord Jesus commanded his disciples: “Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not: But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matthew 10:5-6). However, after his resurrection, “…he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15). The saving gospel of Christ was preached “to the Jew first, and also to the Greek” (Romans 1:16).
The children of Abraham — “Therefore it [the imputed righteousness of God (Romans 3:22)] is of faith, that it might be by grace; to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed; not to that only which is of the law, but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham; who is the father of us all [believing Jews and Gentiles], (As it is written, I have made thee a father of many nations,) before him whom he believed, even God, who quickeneth the dead, and calleth those things which be not as though they were” (Romans 4:16-17).
The door of faith opened — The Lord Jesus said unto Paul, “Depart: for I will send thee far hence unto the Gentiles” (Acts 22:21). When Paul and Barnabas had come to Antioch, “and had gathered the church together, they rehearsed all that God had done with them, and how he had opened the door of faith unto the Gentiles” (Acts 14:25-27; 2Corinthians 2:12). The blessings of Abraham came upon the Gentiles when the “door of faith” was opened to them.
The four keys of the kingdom — The Lord Jesus said to Simon Peter, “And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven” (Matthew 16:19). Later, before he ascended back to heaven, the Lord said unto his apostles, “But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth” (Acts 1:8).
‘Philip went to Samaria and preached. When they repented, Peter was sent to use the third key (Jerusalem and Judea were opened already), and the door was now opened to the Samaritans to receive the Holy Ghost. The Spirit then led Philip to the Gaza road, and he met the eunuch from Ethiopia, a proselyte of the Jews. When he put his belief in Jesus, Philip baptized him, Acts 8:26-38. Philip then left him and went to Caesarea, preaching as he went. Peter and John returned to Jerusalem. Peter went to Lydda and Joppa, where he raised Dorcas from the dead. Cornelius in Caesarea sent for him to come and preach the gospel, and he used the fourth key to open the door to the uttermost parts of the earth. Now, all the doors are open, so there is no more need of keys; whosoever will may come and receive eternal life from the Lord Jesus Christ.’ (Bryan Girard).
Repentance granted — When the disciples heard that the Gentiles, who had come together in the house of Cornelius, received the Holy Ghost after they heard and believed the gospel preached by Peter, “they held their peace, and glorified God, saying, Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life” (Acts 11:15-18).
Mistaken identity — The scriptures make it clear that the natural branches of the good olive tree represent “Israel,” while the graffed-in branches of a wild olive tree represent “Gentiles.” Many commentators teach that the branches of the wild olive tree that are graffed into the “good olive tree” represent Christians. But we know by the scriptures that this cannot be true because the apostle declared to the Gentiles who have been graffed into the good olive tree: “Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God: on them which fell, severity; but toward thee, goodness, if thou continue in his goodness: otherwise thou also shalt be cut off” (Romans 11:22). By this it is clear that the good olive tree does not typify salvation. The branches of a wild olive tree, which can be graffed in and then cut off, cannot represent Christians! Born again believers can never “be cut off” (Romans 11:22)!
The Lord Jesus declared: “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand” (John 10:27-29), and: “All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out” (John 6:37). Therefore, “all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:26) “have everlasting life” (John 3:16). They have “passed from death unto life” (John 5:24).
Three separate groups — The scriptures divide all men into three distinct groups: “the Jews… the Gentiles… the church of God” (1Corinthians 10:32-33). When Jews and Gentiles are saved by believing on the Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 16:31), they both lose their national distinctions: “For as many of you as have been baptized [“with the Holy Ghost” (Matthew 3:11; Acts 1:5)] into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek [Gentile], there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise” (Galatians 3:27-29): “…heirs of God” (Romans 8:17).
When a Gentile is “born again” (John 3:3-7; 1Peter 1:23) – “born of the Spirit” (John 3:8), he does not become a Jew; but the Lord makes him “a new creature” in Christ (Revelation 21:5; 2Corinthians 5:17; Galatians 6:15). He is a believer who is called a “Christian” (Acts 26:28; 1Peter 4:16; Acts 11:26)!
When the unbelieving Jews claimed Abraham as their father, “Jesus saith unto them, If ye were Abraham’s children, ye would do the works of Abraham.…Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do” (John 8:39-44). They were Abraham’s children by physical birth, but they were not “the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:26). By this, we understand that the following scripture is not a reference to Gentiles at all but to those Jews which believe the gospel. In perfect harmony with the words of Jesus, the apostle wrote: “For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly [physically]; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh: But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God” (Romans 2:28-29).
THE MYSTERY OF ISRAEL’S BLINDNESS
Conceited wisdom — A large number of professing Christians today teach that God has replaced Israel with the church. This is an error that is in great contrast to the declaration of the scriptures. In our text, the apostle instructs the Gentiles: “For if thou [Gentiles] wert cut out of the olive tree which is wild by nature, and wert graffed contrary to nature into a good olive tree: how much more shall these, which be the natural branches [Jews], be graffed into their own olive tree? For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in [when the last Gentile believer is added to the body of Christ and caught up with the church to meet the Lord in the air (1Thessalonians 4:13-18).
The unsearchable depth of God’s wisdom — Like David, I must say, “LORD, my heart is not haughty, nor mine eyes lofty: neither do I exercise myself in great matters, or in things too high for me” (Psalm 131:1). May the Lord give you faith to believe and receive the following declaration of his plan:
“As concerning the gospel, they [Israel] are enemies for your sakes: but as touching the election, they [Israel] are beloved for the fathers’ sakes. For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance. For as ye [Gentiles] in times past have not believed God, yet have now obtained mercy through their [Israel’s] unbelief: Even so have these also now not believed, that through your mercy they also may obtain mercy. For God hath concluded them [Israel] all in unbelief, that he might have mercy upon all [Jews and Gentiles].
“O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out! For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been his counsellor? Or who hath first given to him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again? For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen” (Romans 11:15-36).
God’s covenant unto Israel — “And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob: For this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins” (Romans 11:26-27). This will take place after the Lord Jesus comes with all his saints to judge and make war.
The LORD declared through his prophets: “I will heal their [Israel’s] backsliding, I will love them freely: for mine anger is turned away from him. I will be as the dew unto Israel: he shall grow as the lily, and cast forth his roots as Lebanon. His branches shall spread, and his beauty shall be as the olive tree, and his smell as Lebanon” (Hosea 14:4-6); and, “Behold, I will gather them out of all countries, whither I have driven them in mine anger, and in my fury, and in great wrath; and I will bring them again unto this place, and I will cause them to dwell safely: And they shall be my people, and I will be their God” (Jeremiah 32:37-38).
The prophet commanded Israel: “Sing, O daughter of Zion; shout, O Israel; be glad and rejoice with all the heart, O daughter of Jerusalem. The LORD hath taken away thy judgments, he hath cast out thine enemy: the king of Israel, even the LORD, is in the midst of thee: thou shalt not see evil any more.” (Zephaniah 3:14-15). Then the believing Jew will testify: “But I am like a green olive tree in the house of God: I trust in the mercy of God for ever and ever” (Psalm 52:8).
Because he is “not willing that any should perish” (2Peter 3:9), now God is commanding all men to repent (Acts 17:30-31). If you are an unsaved Jew or Gentile, I pray that you will be saved by the faith of the gospel, “how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures” (1Corinthians 15:3-4) and become one of “the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:26) and a member of “the church of God” (1Corinthians 10:32).
“Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved” (Acts 16:31).