Alex's Blog - August 20, 2009 - The Restoration of the Jews (Part 5)
By Alex Dodson
The main passage in the New Testament that teaches a future conversion of the Jews is Romans 11. Paul begins the chapter by pointing out that all of the Jews were not cast off. There was still a remnant that believed. We must understand that the very early church was made up largely of Jews. All the apostles were Jews as was Jesus, Himself. The church began in Jerusalem with a body of Jewish believers. Paul, himself, points out, "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….So too, at the present time there is a remnant chosen by grace.' - Romans 11:1-2, 5 Though the Jews as a whole had rejected the Messiah, a remnant had believed.
Paul goes on to point out that because the Jews had fallen, salvation had now come to the Gentiles. However, had the Jews fallen beyond recovery? Paul says, "Not at all!" (vs. 11) Through their transgression salvation had come to the Gentiles. Yet Paul seems to indicate that a future conversion is in store that would bless the world. He says, "But if their transgression means riches for the world, and their loss means riches for the Gentiles, how much greater riches will their fulness bring!" (vs. 12) Paul goes on to say in verse 15, "For if their rejection is the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead?" The future conversion of the Jews will also result in a blessing to the Gentiles. Iain Murray in The Puritan Hope writes, "The sense of verses 12 and 15, according to the common Puritan interpretation, points to a vast addition to the Church by Israel's conversion with resulting wider blessing for the world. There is a great revival predicted here!" (P. 66)
Paul continues by using the olive tree as an illustration. He says that the olive tree represents the people of God. The root is Israel, God's people in the Old Testament. The olive tree remains in the New Testament but some of its branches have been broken off. These are the Jews that rejected Jesus when He came. Then he says that some branches from a wild olive tree were grafted in to take the place of those that were broken off. These grafted in branches are the Gentile believers. Notice that they are grafted into the same olive tree which has Israel as its root. Paul warns the Gentile believers not to boast. He says, "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." (vs.19-21) God is able to break off the Gentile branches if they do not keep the faith.
Then, Paul seems to point to a time when the Jewish branches will be grafted in again into the olive tree. He writes, "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?" (vs. 23-24) God is able to revive the Jewish people and bring them back into the fold. He is able to graft the Jews back into the olive tree, the people of God.
Then, Paul seems to make a bold prophecy in verses 25 and 26 when he says, "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.'" Paul states that the hearts of the Jewish people have been hardened for a time. However, not all are hardened for even Paul himself was a Jew and there were other Jews who accepted Jesus as the Messiah. The Jewish people as a whole, however, rejected Jesus as the Messiah and would continue in unbelief. The gospel would go primarily to the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles (that is when the church is made up primarily of Gentiles only) comes to an end. Then, Paul says the Jewish people as a whole would come to Christ. He points to Isaiah 59:20 which says that a deliverer would come from Zion to save the Jewish people. So, this seems to point to a time in the future when the Jews as a people will come to acknowledge Christ as Saviour and Lord.
The Puritan Hope in commenting on Paul's prophecy in Romans 11 says, "All these considerations lead to the conclusion that in verses 25 and 26 Paul is speaking of the realization in future history of what the predictions of the earlier verses point towards, namely the termination of the long period of Israel's blindness, and the resulting salvation of a large mass of that people. The 'all Israel' is not the believing remnant of all centuries but the body of the Jews received again at a particular period in history. The mystery of which Paul would not have them ignorant is, in Parr's words, 'that when the fullness of the Gentiles is come in, there shall be a famous, notorious, universal calling of the Jews'". (P. 68)
David Brown in commenting on this passage in Romans 11 writes, "The contrast which runs through the whole chapter shows, beyond all reasonable doubt, what is meant, namely, that wheras it is but a handful of Israelites who at any time, during the period of rejection, are in the Church - the great body of the nation being in an outcast and excommunicated state - the time is coming when not a remnant only, as now, but 'all' shall be saved; meaning, the bulk and body of the nation, as contradistinguished from this remnant." (p. 121 Hal Lindsey & the Restoration of the Jews)
Romans 11 points to a time when the Jews in mass will come to Christ and this restoration will be a part of a larger worldwide revival. May the Lord soon bring this to pass and may we see the day when the Jewish people embrace their Messiah. May we pray toward that end and revival worldwide. In our next blog we will look at Revelation 12 and what it says about Israel and their future.
All Scripture quotations are from the New International Version unless indicated otherwise.
Murray, Iain H. The Puritan Hope. The Banner of Truth Trust, London, 1971.
Schlissel, Steve and Brown, David. Hal Lindsey & the Restoration of the Jews. Still Waters Revival Books, Edmonton, AB Canada, 1990.