Friday, March 4, 2016

Will All Israel Be Saved?

Rom 11:25  Lest you be wise in your own sight, I want you to understand this mystery, brothers: a partial hardening has come upon Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. Rom 11:26  And in this way all Israel will be saved, as it is written, "The Deliverer will come from Zion, he will banish ungodliness from Jacob".

Much of the trouble Christians have had in biblical interpretation has come because they don’t take the time to study the context of a given verse or passage.  If you study cults and those who have gone into serious error you will always find a clear example of this.  Acts 2:38 is an example in which the Church of Christ have set their flag on its hill to live or die claiming it proves baptism is necessary for salvation, Act 2:38  And Peter said to them, "Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.  The problem, of course, is that the rest of the Bible just won’t allow it.

In the passage above from Romans 11 we have a similar problem it seems to me.  This one isn’t nearly as dangerous but nevertheless it has been used to further the cause of dispensationalism and confusion.  The phrase, “and in this way all Israel will be saved” has been taken to promote a future time in which ethnic Jews will enter into the fulfillment of prophecies as of yet unseen.  The Puritans and many others see this passage as pointing to a time in which the Jewish nation will experience revival before the Lord comes back.  I certainly would welcome that, of course, but I think there are a couple of reasons why that is problematic.

1. First of all, verse 26 is the culmination of his argument that he started in chapter 9, Rom 9:6  But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel.  Paul has spent the first eight chapters destroying everything that the Jews were trusting in for salvation; e.i. their favored status and the Law.  He has shown that they are as guilty before God as the Gentiles.  And so chapters 9-11 is Paul pointing out that God’s eternal, saving decrees were never pointed at any one ethnic group but God has always been free to save whom he will.

He makes this point immediately in Rom 9:7  and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring, but "Through Isaac shall your offspring be named."  Rom 9:8  This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring.  Just because someone was born a Jew never meant they were going to be saved, merely that they were part of the OT covenant God made with the Jews.

Paul makes this point several times in the NT; Rom 2:28  For no one is a Jew who is merely one outwardly, nor is circumcision outward and physical. Rom 2:29  But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter. His praise is not from man but from God.  Gal 3:28  There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.  Gal 3:29  And if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's offspring, heirs according to promise.

So when Paul brings his point home in 11:26, he is not saying that all Jews will be saved but that all elect Israelites would be saved because the true Israel has always been those chosen from eternity.

2. I think another point to be made that is often ignored is that whatever else verse 26 says, it clearly says that all Israel will be saved.  And the problem we have, if this is to apply to all ethnic Jews, is that this can never be fulfilled.  Millions of Jews have died without Christ from Abraham on right up until this present age.  If this points to a future revival and even if there is a time in which all Jews living will be saved, all Israel will not be saved.  How can saving a small number of Jews living at the time of Christ’s return have any bearing on all Israel being saved?

Instead, if Paul is showing in 9-11 that all the elect will be saved and this includes both Gentile and ethnic Israel, then in that way all the elect Israelites will be saved and God has, in fact, kept his promises which were only to save the elect through faith by grace.  So in this way all Israel who were elect from eternity will be saved along with all the Gentiles who were elected as well.  The way Paul is speaking of is to save the elect through the work of the cross of Christ which is being worked out in a partial hardening of the Jews as he brings in Gentiles as well.  It is a partial hardening as God is saving both Jew and Gentile alike.

Gal 5:6  For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love.
Col 3:11  Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all. Eph 2:11  Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called "the uncircumcision" by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands--
Eph 2:12  remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. Eph 2:13  But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. Eph 2:14  For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility Eph 2:15  by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, Eph 2:16  and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. 

Notice Eph. 2:15 above.  If Gentile and Jew have been made one new man in Christ then it seems that any theological position that keeps them separate has missed the point and deemphasizes the gospel.

6 comments:

  1. Nathan,

    I hear you. Romans 9-11 is extremely difficult to get a grip on and folks can go a lot of different ways with it. Clearly, they are very strong verses for election, especially virtually all of Chapter 9. But all of chapter 11 seems to--like you say--back off a tad. v.1,2--God has not rejected his people, v.5--a remnant, v.25--a PARTIAL hardening, v.28 --from the standpoint of God's choice they are beloved for the sake of the fathers, and for me a biggie v.29--the gifts and the calling are irrevocable. Seems like to me those OT promises and covenants between God and Israel still count for something.

    In other words right here, I find that God is not done with the actual people of Israel, that the church has not totally replaced Israel, and that those "gifts and calling" are "irrevocable".

    Therein lies the crux of a whole host of issues--did the church replace Israel? If the church replaces Israel, or if Israel is now immaterial to God's plan, then dispensationalism craters. But if God is not thru with national Israel, then dispensationalism is very tenable.

    To me, the rebirth and continued strengthening of national Israel in our lifetimes, augurs that God is not thru with national Israel, supporting a dispensational view.

    If indeed Israel had not been resurrected in our lifetimes--and I as a good dispensationalist see the valley of dry bones as just one a zillion OT prophecies thereof--then I think I would say with great certainty that the church replaced Israel. It is getting hard nowadays to think of the world without a state of Israel. It takes a good imagination to imagine now about a middle East full of Arabs, no state of Israel, and perhaps a Jewish faith and race that did not survive thru the centuries.

    But alas, that evaporation of the Jewish faith and people never occurred and then a regathering has occurred and indeed that regathering is still continuing to pick up steam today. The Jews are pouring out of France in the latest wave.

    So, please weigh in on your view of 11:28-29.

    Kenny B

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  2. Before I weigh in on that, let me just state that the whole "replacement" accusation that is usually made by dispensationalists is just misdirection. We do not believe that the church replaces Israel. The Bible teaches that the promises never had just Jews in view but Jew and Gentile, Christ and the Church. The NT kingdom is the fulfillment of the OT prophecies and what Israel was created for to start with. All the promises made to the Jews were fulfilled in the OT or in Christ. He is their promised Messiah and he gave them their kingdom. Some entered, most did not and we believing Gentiles are included. We don't replace them, we are included in the tree of Romans 11.

    Personally I try not to interpret the Bible by reading the newspaper. This never works out well for those who have tried. If I had a dollar for every time someone read a headline and said it was prophecy fulfillment and it turned out not to be, I would be driving a nicer car!

    I will address 11:28-29 later.

    Thanks for the reply.

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    Replies
    1. As far as Rom. 11:28-29 goes. He explained 28a already, their rejection of the gospel triggered bringing in the Gentiles. 28b, then, I would take to mean that this rejection doesn't mean God has completely thrown off all Jews. They were whom God originally made the promises to and he is still going to save some of them. But some say that this means he is going to save all of them in some future date. But even if he did, most were going to die in their sins and so this has always been about the eternal electing decrees of God to save both Jew and Gentile. Which is what 29 gets back to. It refers back to the original question. Just because not all Jews are saved doesn't negate the promises because they never had all Jews in mind.

      This is hard to deal with in a short space but I hope that helps.

      Nathan

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    2. OK. I've now read very slowly, carefully, and repetitively your original post and your subsequent comments, and I now understand where you are coming from. I can see how you make good sense out of Rom 11 within your framework.

      I don't necessarily agree with it, but I do see how each part of your analysis decently fits your framework. I've never really had it explained to me by someone strong on election like yourself. I've just had it all explained to me by people dissing election.

      But as you might imagine, I still have issues. I am loathe to kinda replace the words "all Israel" with "all elect Israelites" in v.26 like you said in the sentence right before your point #2. I have qualms about that because the first 25 verses seem to me to be more literal about real Jews and real Gentiles, not real elect Jews and real elect Gentiles. But I can see it can all hold together within your framework.

      And you know what, I've really grown just now in hearing you say that "replacement theology" isn't exactly how it is billed by those who diss replacement theology: that there isn't really any replacement going on. But that the promises weren't to the Jews per se, but to elected believers, whether they be Jew or Gentile. This is indeed revelational to me.

      But again as you might imagine, even though I now understand your view better than ever before, I have issues comprehending how seemingly literal promises to Abraham regarding land, and seemingly literal promises to David regarding throne were not literal. That throne promise to David seems to have NOT yet been fulfilled. Christ at his second coming will then fulfill that throne promise. And why would a literal land be promised to the elect of both Jews and Gentiles? I think it is a literal Jewish land.

      And then there are the terms themselves--old covenant and new coveneant. Those aren't made up terms. Nope, Jeremiah birthed both terms (old and new) in 31:31 when he prophesied about a new covenant--which Jesus then accordingly referred to at the Last Supper, and to which Hebrews 8 attests again. Sounds like to me, two distinct covenants, not some first covenant and promises that fold into, or get bigger in a second new covenant.

      To me, Rom 11:29 means that those promises to Abraham and David are NOT revoked by God. Not revoked because they were unconditional promises. However, the Mosaic covenant is in a sense dead and gone or revoked if you will because it was a conditional covenant. It was broken by the Jews, and now it is no longer in effect.

      Those are some of the distinctions I make in evaluating the Abrahamic, Mosaic, and Davidic covenants.

      Kenny B

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    3. Kenny, thanks for giving the article a careful read. It is a tremendously exhausting study and I have been doing it for over 36 years now. I was raised in dispensationalism so I feel like I am fairly astute with premilliennialism. But some of this is important too because it determines how one interprets Scripture which for a pastor gives it some priority.

      Probably someone who really wants to look into these things in detail will have to read books by Amilliennialists or at least nondispensationalists to get an answer to some of your objections that is difficult in our format here.

      I would just say this. I believe Jesus is literally sitting on the promised throne right now, reigning over literal Jews and Gentiles. An Abraham didn't look for a city made with hands (that goes for the land as well) but for something not made with hands, Spiritual. He rejoiced to see Jesus' day (cross) not a future physical kingdom.

      I am not sure what you meant when you spoke of the old and new covenants but there is only one new covenant that Christ instituted with his blood. There is no place in the NT that points to a second new covenant. So was Jeremiah looking to Christ or to a physical kingdom?

      Thanks,
      Nathan

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    4. I hear you.

      I retract those words "second new covenant". They were confusing. Jeremiah's "new covenant" is indeed the new covenant Christ referred to at the last supper, and Hebrews just to make us all sure, ties Jeremiah Christ's shed blood together in a new covenant.

      The hard to explain part is that 31:31 says the new covenant is with the "house of Israel AND with the house of Judah." Now those words are hard to parse. We don't seemingly have the new covenant with elect or saved masses from all time eras, but we seemingly have it with the house of Israel (the already defunct northing kingdom) and the house of Judah (the remaining Jewish state at the time if you will).

      Some sort of spiritualization--along your lines--would sure help this one out.

      Kenny B

      PS -- I'm flunking some of the quizzes trying to prove I'm not a robot. Give me easier quizzes please.

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