Posts Tagged ‘romans 11’


Will there be a massive harvest of ethnic Jews before Jesus Returns?

The interpretation of Romans 11 and the future of ethnic Jews has cause much debate and controversy within the Church of Christ even within the Reformed camp. Let me begin by stating that ones interpretation of this section in the book of Romans does not determine if one is either Reformed and nor does it determine ones salvation in my opinion and in the opinion of other Reformed folk to dogmatize this non-essential doctrine would be unnecessary and schismatic. However, I do affirm that in order for one to be consistent in a Covenantal/Reformed hermeneutic the expositor must apply covenantal exegesis to Romans 11 like any other passage of Scripture. Therefore it is my task at hand to attempt to show that in my 19yrs of study on Eschatology I believe that I am finally comfortable in the view that I now hold concerning this issue and I am in good company with John Calvin, Martin Luther, Herman Bavinck, Herman Ridderbos, L. Berkoff, Herman Hoeksema, O.Plamer Robertson, William Hendriksen to name a few. Obviously there is disagreement within the Reformed as to the identity of who “All Israel” is so in my paper I will be dealing with the debate within the Reformed views rather than the Dispensational view, that in fact will come at a later date.

In Romans 11, we see the Apostle Paul’s most emphatic description of the destiny of Israel. It is the view of this writer, however, that many who read Romans 11 read into the text a future mass conversion of ethnic Israel. In this paper I will seek to demonstrate that Romans 11, and in particular Rom 11:26, does not teach a future mass conversion of ethnic Israel, but rather that a remnant of believing ethnic Jews have already been gathered per the entire context of Romans chapters 9-11. I will briefly review the three main interpretations of the phrase “all Israel will be saved,” I will then examine the reasons why “all Israel” refers to the Elect ethnic Jews of past history prior to 70 A.D.

Three main options for the meaning of “all Israel” in verse 26 have been propagated in the history of interpretation. The three main interpretations of the phrase “all Israel will be saved” are as follows:

(1) all the elect, both Jew and Gentile

(2) the ethnic nation of Israel as a whole

(3) all the elect of ethnic Israel throughout history.

The first one is what is affirmed in my paper; that “all Israel” refers to the entire people of God, Jew and Gentile alike. John Calvin, in his comments on Romans 11:26, clearly summarizes the view I maintained here:

“And so all Israel, etc. Many understand this of the Jewish people, as though Paul had said, that religion would again be restored among them as before: but I extend the word Israel to all the people of God, according to this meaning — “When the Gentiles shall come in, the Jews also shall return from their defection to the obedience of faith; and thus shall be completed the salvation of the whole Israel of God, which must be gathered from both. . . .”The same manner of speaking we find in Gal. vi.16. the Israel of God is what he calls the Church, gathered alike from Jews and Gentiles.” Commentary on the epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Romans

Calvin uses Gal 6:16 as part of his defense because there Paul refers to the Church as the “Israel of God.” This paper will seek to present further exegetical and theological evidence to provide further corroboration of Calvin’s instincts.

My paper is not going to be a negative attack on views I regard as being unbiblical. On the contrary, I have a positive view to propose, as well as what I believe to be compelling arguments in its support. My view is that the reference in verse 26 to “all Israel” should be interpreted as a Pauline redefinition of the concept “Israel” in clear light of the great mystery that has been revealed in the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ. According to this view, Paul’s assertions in this passage in regards to Israel are in fact not prophetic in the usual sense of the term. Romans Chpt. 11 is not a prewritten history of end times events. I admit though that Paul does raise the question of Israel’s future, as one can clearly see in verse 1: “has God rejected His people?” However, the question is not answered by a futuristic prophetic prediction of what is yet to occur but by a redemptive-historical reinterpretation of what Israel itself IS in the present. I believe that a careful exegesis of the Greek words and syntax of verses 25-26 leads to the conclusion that Paul has literally redefined the term “Israel” to refer to the New Testament church by arguing that God’s irrevocable promises to Israel are fulfilled by means of the salvation of both Jew and Gentile in the church age.

My favorite theologian Herman Bavinck states: “All Israel” (pas Israel) in 11:26 is not, therefore, the people of Israel that at the end of time will be converted in mass.” (Herman Bavinck, The Last Things [trans. John Vriend; Grand Rapids: Baker, 1996]

L. Berkhof writes, “All Israel” is to be understood as a designation not of the whole nation but of the whole number of the elect out of the ancient covenant people” (Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1994] 699).

H. Ridderbos states, “That he [Paul] would thereby have in mind a conversion of Israel at one point in the eschatological end time does not appear from Romans 11” (Herman Ridderbos, Paul: An Outline of His Theology [trans. John R. De Witt; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1975] 358).

Holy Scripture demands that we interpret the Church as True Israel, this is the essence of a Reformed hermeneutic when dealing with tota scriptura. Since the Apostle Paul’s epistle to the Romans is what is in question here then let us now examine Paul’s understanding of who a true Jew is and the identity of who true Israel is.

“28 For no one is a Jew who is merely one outwardly, nor is circumcision outward and physical. 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.” Rom. 2:28,29

“28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slavenor f ree, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.” Gal. 3:28,29

“13 For the promise to Abraham and his offspring that he would be heir of the world did not come through the law but through the righteousness of faith. 14 For if it is the adherents of the law who are to be the heirs, faith is null and the promise is void. 15 For the law brings wrath, but where there is no law there is no transgression.16That is why it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his offspring—not only to the adherent of the law but also to the one who shares t he faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all,” Rom. 4:13-16

“6 But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, 7 and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring, but “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” 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.” Rom. 9:6-8

“12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. 13 For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” Rom. 10:12,13

I think God made it extremely clear He is done with Israel the nation, the land etc…As for Israel of the promise, the elect, yes they continued to be saved and included as Paul says, some who were of Jewish decent. But He is now fulfilling the promise to Abraham to make him a father of many nations. So Israel was never of the seed according to the flesh, Israel was always that of faith and that is who all those promises were to. Jews are those who are so inwardly…and not so outwardly according to the flesh. Those who are of faith, are those of Abraham! But you may ask, “so what about the Jews of today?” my simple response is, What Jews? There is no pure 100% Jew out there so how can we call them Jews if they are mixed with other ethnicities. Even in 70 Ad their books that kept their record of their bloodline was destroyed and burned up, coincidence? I think not.

The Jewish lineage was lost, two tribes completely, it is now a fabricated made up lineage for a few who claim it, and the rest were lost to a great extent, most intermarried with Babylonians, and few could call themselves pure Jews and trace a genealogy back to Biblical Jews. And if it was the case these Jews were to continue to trace their genealogy to show their grandchildren as being some of these Jews, why would we be told in 1 Tim 1:4… “charge some that they teach no other doctrine, 4 nor give heed to fables and endless genealogies, which cause disputes rather than godly edification which is in faith.(NKJV)

Seems they should have continued keeping genealogies if there was to be an influx of Jews and we needed to know it. I know God doesn’t need it, but if there is no Jew in human eyes then the concept is meaningless anyway, and if we simply mean people who have chosen to live in Israel with some Jewish blood decent… well what would be the point?

God’s love for the Jews is that He is in the business of fulfilling His promise to Abraham in making him a father of Israel from all races now. A spiritual Israel of all races, the House of Israel of faith not the fleshly descendants. Jews and Gentiles alike. Rom 10:1 1 For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.” 12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him. 13 For “whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved.” (NKJV)

I don’t know what could be more clear?

Rom 9:6-8

“But it is not that the word of God has taken no effect. For they are not all Israel who are of Israel, nor are they all children because they are the seed of Abraham; but, “In Isaac your seed shall be called.” 8 That is, those who are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God;but the children of the promise are counted as the seed. (NKJV)

The children of the flesh are not the Jews God was talking about, referring to, promises made to. Future anything to. Not the children of the flesh!! These aren’t even real Jews or real Israel. They were the type the shadow of real Israel, The believers are Israel the real people of God, of all races of all ages. So if it never was the fleshly descendants then why at the end of the world would it all of a sudden be about some fleshly descendants?? Exegetically makes no sense if you ask me. Not to mention what of those ethnic Jews who have died in their sins prior to this mass conversion? Did they get a free pass to the Kindgom because they were Jews in the flesh? Are they not part of “all Israel”? Again, makes absolutely no sense to interpret Romans 11 as such. It seems to me that the word ‘Jew’ does not have the same connotation today as it did 2000 years ago. Paul’s audience would have understood ‘Jew’ to either refer to a direct descendant of Jacob or a Christian. If he refers to a harvest of ‘direct descendants of Jacob’, then how will we know when it happens? For all I know, I could be a direct descendant of Jacob. I think there will be a massive harvest of every nation before Christ comes if that is what He chooses to do. I still don’t understand why we separate the Jews from the rest of the world when talking about “end times”.

There is no Jew anymore. No Greek in God, no partiality. Only elect or non-elect. The promises were never to ethnic Jews. Not the land, not the messiah, nothing . It was all promised to the elect. So God never saw them as a special people. He saw them as covenant breakers going to hell or elect. God had no more to do with a non-elect Jew than He does with a non-elect person in a church pew today? They are both in the visible body, church , covenant whatever word works for you, by man’s fleshly judgment, but they are not in the invisible covenant of Grace. So a sensible question is why would He and how could He “again” do something with an ethnic people He never had any dealings with?

Believers today are added in to Israel the elect. They are not added in with unbelieving ethnic Jews. They don’t replace ethnic Jews. Ethnic Jews were never in. Never had promises to them. God hated their sacrifices.

He finally stopped dealing with them altogether as a nation and as Jews. Now he deals with them only as humans as all people. No distinction. There is no more jew or Greek. Not now, now will be later, there is no more Jew in god eyes. Don’t you see it would be a violation of His word to all of a sudden deal with an ethnic people? There are only saved and unsaved. Not even male or female. No more distinctions based in ethnicity or sex as far as promises and salvation and that is one reason women now get the sign of being in the covenant.

Now lets look at the view I maintain here in a nutshell. Now I agree with Calvin and Robertson that Pauls concern is not for Israel as a nation but rather the Elect/Remnant of Israel but where I disagree with that this is still future but rather a realized even prior to 70 A.D.

But Before developing the exegesis of my distinctive view, it would be wise to examine briefly Robertson’s argument for an exclusively present concern in this chapter. While rejecting his interpretation of “all Israel” I believe that Robertson adduces compelling evidence that suggests that Romans 11 is misused and misunderstood at a fundamental and basic level if it is read as a predictive prophecy concerned with end times events. He provides four arguments indicating that the scope of Paul’s concerns is present rather than future, Robertson writes:

1. The first clause is found in verse 1: “I say then, God has not rejected His people, has He? May it never be! For I too am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin.” Note well how Paul answers his own question, “God has not rejected His people, has He?” He does not answer, “May it never be! For do you not know that in the Millennium God will restore Israel to her former glory?” But this is not what the text says, Robertson comments: “In answer to the question, ‘Has God cast off his people?” Paul identifies himself as current proof that God’s purposes for Israel are being realized in the present era. . .” (p. 210). Paul is an Israelite, and Paul is saved. Therefore , he reasons, it cannot be the case that God has entirely rejected Israel.

2. The second piece of evidence that Romans 11 focuses on God’s present intentions for Israel is found in verse 5: “In the same way then, there has also come to be at the present time a remnant according to God’s gracious choice.” Notice particularly the phrase “at the present time” (en tw’/ nun kairw’). These two references [vv. 1 and 5] orient this first paragraph of Romans 11 (vv. 1-10) to the question of God’s dealing with Israel in the present hour” (p. 211).

3. But this concern with Israel’s present salvation continues into the next section, which provides the third clue. Verses 13 and 14 read:

“But I am speaking to you who are Gentiles. Inasmuch then as I am an apostle of Gentiles, I magnify my ministry, if somehow I might move to jealousy my fellow countrymen and save some of them.”

Is it not clear that Paul’s fervent aspiration is that by his present ministry among the Gentiles he might see the salvation of his kinsmen according to the flesh? “By his current ministry he expects to see Jews moved to jealousy when they see Gentile believers sharing in the blessings of the messianic kingdom.” (Robertson, 211).

4. Fourth, the concluding paragraph (vv. 30-32) reiterates the fact that the entire chapter is oriented not toward a future hope but toward a present expectation.

“For just as you once were disobedient to God, but now have been shown mercy because of their disobedience, so these also now be shown mercy. For God has shut up all in disobedience that He might show mercy to all.”

“The threefold ‘now’. . . of these concluding verses indicates that Paul’s emphasis on the present responsiveness of Israel continues to be his central concern” (Robertson, 212).

Thus, we have four pieces of evidence, distributed pervasively throughout the entire chapter, from its initial statement in verse 1 to its concluding finale in verse 32, which, taken together have the cumulative effect of demonstrating that Romans 11 is not concerned with a predictive prophecy regarding Israel’s future as such but with something entirely different. The reception or acceptance of Israel mentioned in verse 15, or their ingrafting (as it is called in vv. 17-24), is not a future eschatological hope but an imminently anticipated consequence of Paul’s present evangelistic efforts among the Gentiles.

I believe Robertson is devestatingly convincing here!

So in a nutshell the passage is saying is that national Israel has been blinded (but not all of course) so that the Gentiles can be grafted in hence “the fullness of the gentiles”. “until” does not indicate that God will go back to save NATIONAL Israel, it just indicates that that when all God’s elect are saved then ALL Israel will be saved. There is no reason to conclude any going back to deal with Israel as a nation at all.

The passage doesn’t say “until the fullness of the gentiles come in, AND THEN I WILL SAVE ALL NATIONAL ISRAEL WHEN I REMOVE THE BLINDNESS”.

Thats what we insert in the text but is that what it really says? I don’t think it does anyways.

I think it says this “when all the elect from all nations is come in then together with the already present believing Jews that I have preserved, the remnant, ALL ISRAEL or THE TOTAL CHURCH, shall be saved”

The fullness of the Gentiles are all those who are unbelieving and uncircumcised of the heart, in keeping with Pauls whole context.

Lets remember that I am not denying that national Israel will be saved, but that a remnant of national Israel WAS saved in the past therefore the Remnant of Israel+grafted in Gentiles=ALL ISRAEL. Was ALL Israel hardended and blinded when Paul was writing afterall Paul was a chief Jew not to mention all the Jews that was saved prior to 70 AD.

What does Paul mean when he states that Israel is experiencing a “hardening in part”? The noun…(“hardening”) corresponds to the verb (“were hardened”) in verse 7 where Paul contrasts the “elect” with the “rest.” As in verse 7, in verse 25 Paul is speaking quantitatively (“in part”) and not temporally (“for a while”). The verse should not be understood as meaning “for a while hardening has happened to Israel” but “a partial hardening (or ‘a hardening in part’) has happened to Isra el.” Also, by a “hardening in part” Paul does not mean that all of Israel is only partially hardened, but that some are fully hardened while the elect remnant is being saved. In no way does the phrase suggest that God intends to initiate a special salvation era for Israel in the future.

Again this is in harmony with Paul’s teaching of not “ALL Israel is Israel” and “there is a REMNANT WITHIN Israel” at that PRESENT time

So what is a Gentile according to scripture? a non-Jew.

what was a samaritan according to scripture? a Mixed Jew(worse than a Gentile).

So what are our mixed of Jewish descent brothers today? Gentiles

And what do you say to the Jews for Jesus Movement today about their unblindness and recieving of the Gospel?

Do we tell them “hey your are supposed to be blind still until the future mass re-exodus”

How does one who believes in a future mass salvation of Jews explain their conversion?

And if you are goin g to use the “blindness in PART” argument then it is obvious that you are conceeding to the fact that God has maintained a remnant and then the future ALL Israel as a nation is gone out the window.

How can ALL Israel be saved if they are being saved already? Is there some special couple hundred thousand Jews that are specifically special to God after the Gentiles have come in? Again, makes no sense.

The main premise that I wish to convey is the meaning of “all Israel” in verse 26. As I have already stated, I contend that “all Israel” refers not merely to all the elect of the nation of Israel but to all the elect from both the Jews and the Gentiles. If this interpretation and view is correct, I believe we will have a better grasp both of the apostle’s eschatology and of his hermeneutic. Most importantly, we will see the radical nature of his Christologically-transformed definition of Israel. And this in turn will confirm that Paul’s concerns even in verses 25-26, are present and theological rather than future and prophetic.

I conclude then that the Apostle Paul was in no way concerned with some distant future for ethnic Israel but rather for the Remnant ethnic Israel a that “Present time” together with the “fullness of the Gentiles” come together to form “ALL ISRAEL”.

For the Glory of God
Ricky Roldan

Disclaimer: This paper was not intended to be an exhaustive exegesis of Romans 9-11 but rather I tried to be as concise as possible.