Beyond the Veil to the Future
The definitive New Testament chapter on the identification of Israel and the prophetic destiny and relationship of Christians to the Jewish people is chapter 11 of the book of Romans. God spelled out in clear detail whether He is through with Israel and whether Christians have forever displaced the Chosen People in the plan of God.
Romans 11 also identifies the unmerited grace extended to Gentiles as a result of Israel being temporarily set aside. Beyond these profound clarifications, it draws back the veil of the future, revealing the road beyond the dark days of global, cataclysmic upheaval that lie ahead.
The core issue involves understanding that, whatever detractors may say about Israel’s hour of opportunity pass-ing with the final phase of the Old Testament or rejection of the Messiah, the New Testament proves them wrong. Israel was, is, and shall forever be the central theme of prophetic and historical reality. There is a truism in sports that can well be applied on the field of biblical, dispensational dis-course: Always keep your eye on the ball. In the venue under discussion, always keep your eye on Israel.
I say then, has God cast away His people? Certainly not! [Don’t ever let it enter your mind!]….God has not cast away His people whom He foreknew (Rom. 11:1–2).
Even in the darkest hours of Israel’s spiritual slippage, God, through His infinite grace, preserved the nation and retained a remnant. An example is the Lord’s response to the prophet Elijah’s railing against the Israelites when, saturated with idolatry, they resisted the preaching of the prophets and persecuted the divine messengers. “But what does the divine response say to him? ‘I have reserved for Myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal’” (v. 4).
Fast-forward to the present. The Word declares, “Even so then, at this present time there is a remnant according to the election of grace” (v. 5).
Israel’s grace-remnant accentuates verse 11:25: “blindness in part has happened to Israel” (emphasis added). For this reason and others, it is inaccurate to state that the entire nation is in rebellion against God. As a matter of fact, there are at least three broad categories of religious opinion among Jewish people. First, there is the aforementioned remnant of believers in the Messiah, Jesus. Then there is the core of Conservative, Orthodox, and ultra-Orthodox Jews who are believers in God. Then come the agnostics and atheists who doubt or reject belief in Jehovah.
The issue, therefore, is not that a major segment of Jewish people have no belief in God; they do. The issue is the identity of the Messiah. This is not a trivial distinction; it places the focus of the last days squarely on the Messiah and on the nation’s heart being turned to Him.
So many things that seem cloudy to our finite minds are settled in God’s mind and are revealed to us in due season. So it is with the partial blinding of Israel (vv. 8–10). Why would it be so? And why would Gentiles, a truly godless, barbaric, idol-worshiping, depraved, and spiritually bottomed-out lot, be extended mercy?
I say then, have they [partially blinded Israel] stumbled that they should fall?Certainly not! But through their fall, to provoke them to jealousy, salvation has come to the Gentiles. Now if their fall is riches for the world, and their failure riches for the Gentiles, how much more their fullness! (vv. 11–12).
Here’s a peg upon which two seminal revelations are hung: (1) Incomprehensible grace is being extended to unworthy Gentiles and (2) Israel’s long-sought, future fullness and glory are indelibly assured.
The evidence is in: God is saving Gentiles, and Israel will have its unique place as the consummate theocracy in ages to come. Thus, in spite of how Replacement Theology devotees would like to see it, the church and Israel are separate entities; and you cannot accept one and dismiss the other.
The facts of the case reveal that, in reality, the church is a miraculous but temporary phenomenon on a mission to make Him known until the Bride is complete and the Rapture removes believers. Using the analogy of a cultivated olive tree (Israel), the apostle Paul depicted the church as a cluster of wild branches, grafted in for a purpose that extends beyond merely rescuing Gentiles by grace:
And if some of the branches were broken off, and you, being a wild olive tree, were grafted in among them, and with them became a partaker of the root and fatness of the olive tree, do not boast against the branches. For if God did not spare the natural branches, He may not spare you either (vv. 17–18, 21).
Pride of position, tainted with disdain for the Jewish people and cynicism about God’s love for them, is precisely what God warns us against here. Scripture condemns anti-Semitism in all forms—subtle or aggressive. That it is becoming fashionable in a world in secular overdrive, however, is predicted. Second Thessalonians speaks of a tide of apostasy (falling away from the faith) that precedes Christ’s Second Advent. Among the most odious manifestations of societal failure is theological anti-Semitism, which is on the rise in Christian circles, including some considered evangelical. In the current climate, one might conjecture that we are now entering such a period.
Nevertheless, Israel’s full restoration is assured:
Now if their fall is riches for the world,…how much more their fullness! For God is able to graft them in again (vv. 12, 23).
God’s purpose in blessing Gentiles with redemption through the Jewish people, who gave us the Scriptures and the Christ, is to make Gentile Christians ministers of “provocation” (v. 11). That is, Christians should so live that others, Jewish and Gentile, will be provoked to consider Christ. To live otherwise is to deny our obligation and scorn the privilege of being a light to the world.
For I do not desire, brethren, that you should be ignorant of this mystery, lest you should be wise in your own opinion, that blindness in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in (v. 25).
The day is coming when “the fullness of the Gentiles” will have come in. In simple terms, the church is on the road to the Rapture—when the number of Gentiles to be saved is complete, the church program is finished, and the Lord comes to catch us away (Jn. 14: 1–4; 1 Th. 4:13–17).
His any-moment return is the great incentive to be about the Lord’s work until that transcending journey. It is also an incentive of another kind.
Not being reared in church or Sunday school was my lot in life during my formative years. Knowing little of God, I held the vague, unsettling opinion that, when I died, it was the dark and a hole in the ground for me. My first formal contact with the message of the gospel was at a mass meeting in Detroit, Michigan, where a Hebrew-Christian evangelist was speaking. I left the building after the meeting much the same as I’d gone in, but with this difference: I came away convinced of three things: (1) the Bible was the Word of God, (2) Christ was coming again, and (3) I was not ready to meet Him.
For six months thereafter I was consumed with the fact that the Lord might come at any moment and find me wanting; the experience was known in those days as conviction. Late one night the issue was settled. I became a born-again Christian. That was nearly 60 years ago. And I can tell you that the imminent return of Christ is as real to me today as it was on that spring night in 1948.
My expectancy is bound to what we have before us in Scripture. The next great event on the divine calendar is the Rapture of the church—or, as in this text, the day when the fullness of the Gentiles will have come in:
And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written: “The Deliverer will come out of Zion, and He will turn away ungodliness from Jacob; for this is My covenant with them, when I take away their sins” (vv. 26–27).
What is being said here is this: Our Lord never forgets a promise. He has made an irreversible covenant with the Jewish people concerning their land and their King. And those are forever promises. They are as unalterable as is His promise of eternal life to believers. You are as assured of heaven today as you will be the moment you step over the threshold into glory.
Prophetic revelation does not end with the Church Age. In a sense, the Church Age is only the beginning. We are reminded to keep an eye on Israel. That admonition was never truer than it is today. One day all of Israel will be drawn to the promised Deliverer and will believe and be saved. The Word reaches us through the prophet Isaiah:
“The Redeemer will come to Zion, and to those who turn from transgression in Jacob,” says the Lᴏʀᴅ. “As for Me,” says the Lᴏʀᴅ, “this is My covenant with them: My Spirit who is upon you, and My words which I have put in your mouth, shall not depart from your mouth, nor from the mouth of your descendants, nor from the mouth of your descendants’ descendants,” says the Lᴏʀᴅ, “from this time and forevermore” (59:20–21).
As God directs, we can say with the apostle Paul, “For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable” (Rom. 11:29).
Furthermore, as we scan the entire field of dispensational truth—God’s road map to eternity—we can but exclaim,
Oh, 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 has known the mind of the Lᴏʀᴅ? Or who has become His counselor? Or who has first given to Him and it shall be repaid to him?” For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever. Amen (vv. 33–36).