Vol. 8, No. 9
~ Page 13 ~
I just finished reading two long articles written by those who once claimed membership in the Lord's church that took the position that Romans 11:1 indicates that the physical nation of Israel is still to receive blessings as God's people, for not only does Paul deny in verse one that God has not cast away his people, he says in verse 26 that all Israel will be saved.
It is not enough to dismiss the remark with the statement that this is the same old false denominational premillennial argument (which it is) which has been disproved many times. Such statements may cause a person to accept or reject an argument or a doctrine on grounds that are prejudicial rather than scriptural. If an atheist, a liberal, a premillennialist or anyone else teaches a truth, we should accept it. Those whom we consider "giants in the faith" have the same responsibility to "prove all things; hold fast that which is good" as anyone else, and to simply label a person or doctrine as premillennial or liberal has little bearing on the truthfulness or falseness of any position.
Note some things that should cast light on the subject when carefully considered. First, let us notice some passages both in Old Testament and New which indicate that the physical state of Israel is no longer considered God's chosen people, or elect nation. In Matthew 21:42, Jesus said, "The kingdom of God shall be taken from you and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof." Is there any literal, physical nation that can be called "the kingdom of God?" When Daniel prophesied that the God of heaven was going to set up a kingdom (Daniel 2:44) that would never be destroyed, was he talking about some physical kingdom? Surely Jesus' words should forever remove any doubt about that. He said, "My kingdom is not of this world." His new kingdom was a spiritual kingdom. There were some standing there who would not taste of death until they saw it come with power (Mark 9:1). When it came (Acts 2), he did not cast off his people, but gladly received them into it if they gladly received his Word and accepted him as Lord (Acts 2:41).
So both the historical record and Paul answer the question with a resounding "No!" when the question is, "Has God cast away His people?" What is his reasoning? It is, "I am an Israelite. God has not cast me away. There is a remnant according to the election of grace." It seems evident that he is speaking of himself and all the other Jews who were saved by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8). He did not say, "There will be a remnant comprising a national group after Christ comes back." He said that there was then a remnant, of which he was a part.
When Caiphas prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation (John 11:51), it is evident that he did not die to preserve the physical, earthly nation of Israel. He died for all people of all nations (v. 52), "not for that nation only, but that also he should gather together in one the children of God that were scattered abroad." The Great Commission was to make disciples from all nations. The fact that God had rejected fleshly Israel as his kingdom, and set up a new kingdom did not mean that because a person was an Israelite, he was rejected. He could be a part of the new kingdom, just as Paul and all other Jews who accepted the Gospel were (Romans 11:27). Verse 23 makes it about as plain as it could be, "And they, also, if they abide not still in unbelief, shall be grafted in; for God is able to graft them in again." All of Israel could be saved the same way Paul was saved, if they did not abide in unbelief, but he has not the remotest reference to receiving a whole nation as a nation. When Jesus said, "Make disciples of all nations" surely no one so misunderstands him as to assume that he was talking about converting a nation as such. He converted individuals from all nations and made them to be one in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:28). Then he spoke of that result as a select race, a holy nation (1 Peter 2:9).
When Jesus said in Matthew 23:38, "Your house is left unto you desolate" he was expressing the fact that the nation as such would no longer be recognized as God's chosen people. He would set up a new kingdom composed of all in every nation that would accept him as King and Lord. He would make a new covenant with the House of Israel (Hebrews 8:9) that would fulfill the prophecy of Jeremiah 31:31-34 that would include individuals from all nations.
This is why Paul said in Romans 2:28-29, "He is not a Jew who is one outwardly--but he is a Jew which is one inwardly." This is the same idea Paul had in mind in Romans 9:6-8 when he said, "They are not all Israel, which are of Israel, neither because they are the seed of Abraham are they all children. That is, they which are the children of the flesh are not the children of God." It would be hard to find language that would express more clearly that the idea that physical Israel no longer would be counted as chosen people of God.
Because of Paul's continued emphasis on the fact that Israel was no longer an exclusive chosen people of God, it might have led a person to think that God had rejected all of them. So Paul emphatically points out that such a conclusion is invalid. All of Israel can be saved just like Paul and all Gentiles are saved. This is what Paul is saying in Romans 11:25-26, "For I would not, brethren, have you ignorant of this mystery, lest ye be wise in your own conceits, that a hardening in part hath befallen Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles be come in; and so all Israel shall be saved: even as it is written, There shall come out of Zion the Deliverer; He shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob."
There are at least two expressions in those verses that need our special attention. First, what is meant by "the fullness of the Gentiles be come in." It is assumed by many that it means, "until the full number of the Gentiles are saved who are going to be saved." Then it is assumed that the hardening of Israel will stop and all Israel as a nation will be saved. Why Israel would stop being hard-hearted because all the Gentiles who were going to obey had obeyed is not made clear by anyone, but there are many other objections to this theory.
First, we can get an idea of what is meant by the "fullness of the Gentiles" by looking at the meaning of the Greek and Hebrew word in its every context. The word "fullness" is from the Greek "pleroma," approximately equivalent to the Hebrew "melo." A careful student will note all the references, but we have space for only a few. Note John 1:16, "Of his fullness we have all received." It has nothing to do with a certain number. Surely a close examination of Romans 11:12 will help cast light on it. He contrasts the fall of Israel with their fullness. Their fall results from their rejection of God. Their fullness results from their acceptance of God's will. When we receive his fullness (John 1:16) then the fullness has come in, either to Jew or Gentile. The fullness of the Israelites in verse 12 has nothing to do with "a full number of Israelites" (whatever that might mean). It has to do with the same thing that Paul speaks of in Ephesians 3:19, where he says, "To know the love of Christ which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fullness of God."
No reference in either the Old Testament or the New indicates anything at all about a full number who might do something, but to the fact that when the Gospel with all its fullness was preached to the Gentiles and they accepted it, the honest Israelite would see that both Jew and Gentile could partake of the same blessings and be a part of the same olive tree (Romans 11:17-24). This is the same manner in which all Israel or the entire world would be saved. Even those who believe that somehow God is going to save the nation do not conclude that "all Israel will be saved" means that every individual will be saved. But the simple truth is that "so" is an adverb of manner. If we should say, "This is the way all people will be saved: They must believe in the Lord Jesus as the Christ, turn away from their sins, and have their sins removed in baptism for the remission of sins," surely no one would think we were saying that all people would be saved en masse. Everyone would know that the language simply means that all the people that are saved would be saved that way. Even the next verses bear that out, for they show the manner in which all will be saved who are saved, "even as it is written, There shall come out of Zion the Deliverer; He shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob: And this is my covenant unto them, When I shall take away their sins." The Deliverer is Jesus, and the New Covenant has already come into effect, as we have seen from Jeremiah and Hebrews.
So we should be able to see that although God had promised the destruction of the physical nation of Israel, he has not cast away his people, for Paul was a Jew, a Hebrew of the Hebrews, and God did not cast him away. Nor did he cast away Peter or any other Jew who decided to follow Jesus. And when Paul says, "So all Israel shall be saved," it simply means "This is the way all Israel that is saved will be saved." This is the kind of language that is common to us, as when we say about the post office, "This is the way all people send letters." No one understands us to mean that all people send letters, but that all people who send letters send them that way.