ROMANS 11:1-36 God’s Sovereign Use of the People of Israel

 

At the end of Romans 10 Paul quotes Isaiah 65:2 (in 10:21), which depicts God reaching out to disobedient Israel. Paul quotes Old Testament scriptures that point to the receptivity of the Gentiles to God’s call. This may have caused some to question whether or not Israel would ever respond to God’s gospel. Therefore, Paul is now going to directly address the issue of Israel. Is God finished with Israel? Jews are likely thinking that Paul is implying God is finished with Israel. Many in the church today claim that God is finished with Israel and that the church is the “true Israel.” Romans 11 should put to rest any thought that God is finished with Israel. God has a plan for Israel; He isn’t finished with Israel yet. It’s always dangerous to form a theology on a half-truth. That is what liberal scholars do; they stop in Romans 10 and say God is finished with Israel. As we study Romans 11 we see God has a glorious plan for Israel in future.

 

God’s Sovereign Plan Still Includes Israel – The Remnant

 

Romans 11:1-2a – “I say then, has God cast away His people? Certainly not! For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin.2 God has not cast away His people whom He foreknew.”    [1]

Paul begins the next portion by again anticipating a question from his audience and stating that God has certainly not cast away His people Israel. Paul says, “God has not cast away His people whom He foreknew,” which implies God would never have chosen them in foreknowledge to simply cast them away. Paul then says he is an Israelite (11:1b). He then speaks of the historic presence of a remnant of faithful ones in the nation of Israel, of which Paul is a prime example. God isn’t finished with Israel and He intends to work in and through a remnant of faithful ones (11:1).

 

God Sovereign Preservation of a Remnant of Israel

 

Romans 11:2b-4 – “Or do you not know what the Scripture says of Elijah, how he pleads with God against Israel saying, ‘LORD, they have killed Your prophets and torn down Your altars, and I alone am left, and they seek my life’? 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.’”

 

Paul refers to the prophet Elijah who as he went up against the prophets of Baal which outnumbered him 850 to one  - 1 Kings 18:19) thought he was the only faithful Israelite left (1 Kings 19). Elijah thought that if Jezebel got him, God would be out of business, because he thought he was the only one left. That is a strategy of the enemy, to make us think we are in the battle alone, to isolate us. But God corrected Elijah by telling him of a faithful remnant of “seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal” (11:2-4).  In the same way we shouldn’t think we’re the only one fighting against the hoards of the world (see Romans 9 discussion of “Remnant”).

 

God was not and is not surprised by Israel’s rejection of His prophets and His Son Jesus. God foresaw Israel’s rebellion and captivity (Deuteronomy 28:36; 29:28; Isaiah 53).  Jesus knew Israel would reject Him and crucify Him (Matthew 16:21). And yet God chose to work in and through Israel anyway. Despite Israel’s repeated and historic rejection of God and His Son, God remains true and faithful to His eternal covenant with Israel.

 

Has God Replaced Israel with the Church? 

 

There are some who say that because of Israel’s unfaithfulness God has cut them out of His plans forever, and replaced Israel with the Church. Such a doctrinal view is referred to as Replacement Theology.  Another aspect of such a theological slant is that it tends to be preterist and or amillennial in regards to prophetic interpretations. That is, those who view the Church as taking the place of Israel often believe that such prophetic portions of Scripture as Revelation (which address the role of Israel in God’s prophetic plans – Revelation 7; 14) have already been fulfilled in history (preterist view the fulfillment of Revelation in the 70 A.D. destruction of Jerusalem) or they view prophetic parts of the Bible in a strictly symbolic sense. It is only by adopting a view of God’s word that is prematurely fulfilled in history and or symbolical, that one can usurp the place of Israel in God’s plans and insert the church in its place. It takes a great deal of interpretive mumbo jumbo, twisting and contorting to cut Israel out of God’s sovereign plans.

 

What Does God Say About the Everlasting nature of His Covenant with Israel?

 

God teaches in His word that His covenant with Israel is everlasting. What does the Bible tell us about Israel and her place in God’s plans in history and geography? The following points show the testimony of Scripture to the everlasting nature of God’s covenant with Israel.

 

First, God’s Covenant with Abraham is based on God’s choosing to elect Abraham to be a means by which the world could be blessed. We see this in God’s first words of calling to Abraham in Genesis where it states:

 

  • Genesis 12:1-3 – “Now the Lord had said to Abram: 1 “Get out of your country, From your family And from your father’s house, To a land that I will show you.2 I will make you a great nation; I will bless you And make your name great; And you shall be a blessing.3 I will bless those who bless you, And I will curse him who curses you; And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”  [2]

God elected Abraham to serve as His instrument to bring blessing to the world. How would God use Abraham to bless the world? By using Him to exemplify the eternal truth of God’s sovereign plan that the just shall live by faith. In Genesis 15 it states:

  • Genesis 15:6 – “And he believed in the Lord, and He accounted it to him for righteousness.”  [3]

Abraham became a model of righteousness received by faith and Paul refers to him as such earlier in Romans (see Romans 4 and Hebrews 11:8-10).

But Abraham would further serve as a means by which God would bless the world by being the holy line from which Messiah Jesus would descend. Paul points this out when he is inspired to write:

  • Galatians 3:16 – “Now to Abraham and his Seed were the promises made. He does not say, “And to seeds,” as of many, but as of one, “And to your Seed,” who is Christ.”  [4]

God blessed the world through Abraham by using him as a model of faith and bringing forth the Messiah Jesus from his descendants. God’s blessing is received according to people’s response to God’s covenant with Abraham.

Second, the covenant of God with Abraham includes the descendants of Abraham. This is supported by the following verses:

  • Genesis 17:7-10 - “And I will establish My covenant between Me and you and your descendants after you in their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and your descendants after you.8 “Also I give to you and your descendants after you the land in which you are a stranger, all the land of Canaan, as an everlasting possession; and I will be their God.” 9 And God said to Abraham: “As for you, you shall keep My covenant, you and your descendants after you throughout their generations.10 “This is My covenant which you shall keep, between Me and you and your descendants after you: Every male child among you shall be circumcised;”  [5](See also 1 Chronicles 16:13-18; Hebrews 6:13-17).

 

It is important to note that the descendants with whom God maintained His covenant are those who descended from the child of promise, Isaac. This is evidenced when God tells Abraham to go and offer Isaac as a sacrifice to test his faith. God’s words are, “Take now your you’re your only son Isaac” (Genesis 22:2). God did not recognize the offspring of Abraham that had come about by fleshly efforts (Ishmael – Genesis 16) as covenant heirs. Paul points this in the New Testament and uses it to illustrate God’s salvation plan of grace through faith and not works of the flesh (Galatians 4:21-31).

Third, God’s covenant with Abraham is everlasting, it doesn’t end. God made an everlasting covenant with Abraham and his descendants and illustrated it in numerous ways.

 

God illustrated the everlasting nature of His covenant with Abraham in the covenant ceremony He performed with Abraham in Genesis 15: 12-20 where a sacrifice is cut into four parts and in the night God passes a burning torch through the pieces of the sacrifice. This was a common practice in covenant making that communicated that if either party broke the covenant let them then be as the sacrifice, cut to pieces. This was a strong illustration of God’s permanent covenant with Abraham.

 

God clearly expresses in words that His covenant with Abraham is everlasting and extended to his descendants when He says to Abraham in Genesis:

 

  • Genesis 17:7 – “And I will establish My covenant between Me and you and your descendants after you in their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and your descendants after you.”

 

God demonstrated the everlasting nature of His covenant with Abraham through the rite of circumcision, which is an irreversible procedure (Genesis 17). Circumcision was a rite chosen by God to show the permanence of His covenant with Abraham and his descendants as well as show that it was a covenant teaching that the flesh should be cut away (see Romans 2:28-29).

 

God demonstrated the eternal nature of his covenant with Abraham in that He swore by Himself. Since God is immutable (i.e. unchanging) it shows the immutability of His covenant with Abraham (Hebrews 6:13-20).

 

God demonstrated the eternal nature of His covenant with Abraham in that He perpetuated it in His the revelation in His word. The Abrahamic covenant was reiterated through Moses (Leviticus 26:44-45; Deuteronomy 7:7-8). David referred to the everlasting nature of God’s covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and their descendants (2 Samuel 23:5). David also speaks of the rite of Israel to the Promised Land based on this everlasting covenant of God with them when in his last words he praises and thanks God saying:

 

  • 1 Chronicles 16:14-18 – “He is the LORD our God; His judgments Israeli in all the earth. Remember His covenant forever, the word which He commanded, for a thousand generations, The covenant which He made with Abraham, and His oath to Isaac, and confirmed it to Jacob for a statute, to Israel for an everlasting covenant, saying, ‘To you I will give this land of Canaan as the allotment of your inheritance,’ when you were few in number, indeed very few, and strangers in it.” (See also Psalm 105:10)

 

 Isaiah speaks of the everlasting nature of God’s covenant with Israel saying:

 

  • Isaiah 54:7-8,10 – “For a mere moment I have forsaken you, But with great mercies I will gather you. 8 With a little wrath I hid My face from you for a moment; But with everlasting kindness I will have mercy on you.’ Says the LORD, your Redeemer. . . . For the mountains shall depart and the hills be removed, but My kindness shall not depart from you, nor shall My covenant of peace be removed,’ Says the LORD, who had mercy on you.”

 

Jeremiah speaks of the everlasting nature of God’s covenant with David and Israel  (Jeremiah 32; 33:19-22). Ezekiel spoke of the everlasting nature of God’s covenant with Israel (Ezekiel 11:16-17; 16:60; 37:26; 36-38). God’s covenant with Israel is everlasting, (that means it will not end).

 

God demonstrated the everlasting nature of His covenant with Abraham by incorporating it into the worship songs of Israel. Psalms is the worship book of Israel in it we see the everlasting covenant in the following examples:

 

  • Psalm 89:3-4,28,33-34 - “I have made a covenant with My chosen, I have sworn to My servant David:4 ‘Your seed I will establish forever, And build up your throne to all generations.’ ” Selah . . . 28 My mercy I will keep for him forever, And My covenant shall stand firm with him. . . . 33 Nevertheless My loving kindness I will not utterly take from him, Nor allow My faithfulness to fail.34 My covenant I will not break, Nor alter the word that has gone out of My lips.”  [6]
  • Psalm 105:8-11 – “He remembers His covenant forever, The word which He commanded, for a thousand generations,9 The covenant which He made with Abraham, And His oath to Isaac,10 And confirmed it to Jacob for a statute, To Israel as an everlasting covenant,11 Saying, “To you I will give the land of Canaan As the allotment of your inheritance,”   [7]

 

God wanted to imbed the everlasting nature of His covenant with Israel by putting a song in their hearts about it.

 

The New Covenant God speaks of does not negate the Abrahamic covenant He has with Israel We see this in the following prophetic words of Jeremiah who was inspired to write:

 

  • Jeremiah 30:11 – “For I am with you,’ says the Lord, ‘to save you; Though I make a full end of all nations where I have scattered you, Yet I will not make a complete end of you. But I will correct you in justice, And will not let you go altogether unpunished.’”  [8]
  • Jeremiah 31:35-37 – “Thus says the Lord, Who gives the sun for a light by day, The ordinances of the moon and the stars for a light by night, Who disturbs the sea, And its waves roar (The Lord of hosts is His name):36 “If those ordinances depart From before Me, says the Lord, Then the seed of Israel shall also cease From being a nation before Me forever.”37 Thus says the Lord: “If heaven above can be measured, And the foundations of the earth searched out beneath, I will also cast off all the seed of Israel For all that they have done, says the Lord.”  [9]

 

Jesus recognized the everlasting nature of the Abrahamic covenant with Israel. We see this in the following verses:

 

  • Matthew 19:28 – “So Jesus said to them, “Assuredly I say to you, that in the regeneration, when the Son of Man sits on the throne of His glory, you who have followed Me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.”  [10]

Jesus here makes reference to the presence of the twelve tribes of Israel that will continue in existence. In Luke’s record of Zacharias’ prophecy regarding Messiah Jesus he speaks of everlasting covenant with Abraham (Luke 1:71-74).

God’s covenant with Israel is not based on Israel’s faithfulness, but on God’s faithfulness and therefore it is an everlasting covenant because God will always be faithful to it. God will discipline and correct Israel, even allow Israel to experience captivity, chaos and defeat, but He will never totally reject her.

Fourth, God’s covenant with Abraham includes the right to the Promised Land. In Genesis 17 it states:

  • Genesis 17:8 - “Also I give to you and your descendants after you the land in which you are a stranger, all the land of Canaan, as an everlasting possession; and I will be their God.”   [11]

While God gave the land to Abraham and his descendants, the presence in the land of Abraham’s descendants was conditioned on their obedience to God (Deuteronomy 28-30). But God always promised that He would bring Israel back to the Land even if they disobeyed and were exiled  (Leviticus 26:14-46; Jeremiah 29:10-14; 31:31-37; Amos 9:13-15; Ezekiel 36-39; Romans 9-11). Israel has an everlasting right to return to and possess the Land.  

 

There is no place for Replacement Theology, which teaches that the church replaces Israel. “Israel” is mentioned 77 times in the New Testament and  “Jew” is mentioned 190 times. God is not finished with Israel yet and those who would write off Israel need to recognize that (Romans 9-11).

 

God’s Sovereign Remnant Elected By Grace

 

Romans 11:5-6 – “Even so then, at this present time there is a remnant according to the election of grace.6 And if by grace, then it is no longer of works; otherwise grace is no longer grace. But if it is of works, it is no longer grace; otherwise work is no longer work..”  [12]

Paul says there is a remnant of faithful ones at present too. Who are these faithful remnants? They are the ones elected by God’s grace. They are the ones who did receive Jesus as their Savior. The first disciples and others such as Simeon (Luke 2:30) and Anna (Luke 2:38) are examples of the faithful remnant. In Revelation there is reference to a faithful remnant of 144,000 messianic believers (Revelation 7). And Paul comments that if they have been elected by God’s grace they are not chosen by works, which implies they are the elect by faith. The elect are those who have opened the eyes of their heart to the gospel of grace through faith in Jesus Christ and are used by God in His predestined plans. The others of Israel have been blinded to this grace.

 

The Election of Grace

 

The word “election” in 11:5 is translated from the Greek term  EKLOGE (Strong’s #1589 -  eákloágeµ, ek-log-ay´) meaning, “selection;  chosen, election”[13] and, “a picking out, that which is chosen.”[14] What Paul tells us is that God elects not on human merit, but by His grace (see Romans 9 discussion). Keep in mind we are speaking about God electing people for service. There is no evidence of any election to salvation here unless one is predisposed to such a doctrinal view. Israel is elected to serve the LORD by His gracious decision. It is a great privilege to be used by God in any way and He bestows that privilege by His grace.

 

Man elects people on the basis of merit and ability. God elects by grace on the basis of His foreknowledge. If you had the ability to know ahead of time who would win the Kentucky Derby, would you bet on the loser or the winner? The winner of course. God has the capacity to know before what the end result will be and therefore those He elects He knows will succeed. 

 

Again Paul reiterates that God’s election is not based on a person earning it by works, but God simply elects people because He loves them by His grace. If election is based on our works, then it isn’t any longer by God’s grace. People who try to gain election by works try to earn it and become worthy of it by what they do. But no one can ever make himself or herself worthy of God’s election; it can only be received by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:5-9).

 

God’s Sovereign Efficiency

 

Romans 11:7-11 – “What then? Israel has not obtained what it seeks; but the elect have obtained it, and the rest were blinded.8 Just as it is written: 1 “God has given them a spirit of stupor, Eyes that they should not see And ears that they should not hear, To this very day.”9 And David says: “Let their table become a snare and a trap, A stumbling block and a recompense to them.10 Let their eyes be darkened, so that they do not see, and bow down their back always.”11 I say then, have they stumbled that they should fall? Certainly not! But through their fall, to provoke them to jealousy, salvation has come to the Gentiles.    [15]

Now Paul delves into the particulars of Israel’s plight. What was Israel seeking? They were seeking to be righteous by their own efforts or works. And as we have studied and as Paul has already pointed out in Romans, righteousness is not attainable by works, but can only be received by grace through faith in Jesus  (11:7; Romans 5).

Just as it was true of Paul saying that this works oriented religious pursuit led to spiritual blindness, it remains true in our day. Jews have a zeal for their nation and their religion, but it is a fanatical zeal ignorant of God’ revelation (11:8; 10:1-3). Paul here quotes Deuteronomy 29:4 and Isaiah 29:10. The word “stupor” is an interesting word and is translated from the Greek term  KATANUXIS (Strong’s # 2659 -          katavnuxi", kat-an´-oox-is) referring to, “a prickling sensation, as of the limbs asleep), stupor, (lethargy;  slumber.”[16] When you sit in one position without moving, sometimes your blood is blocked from circulating to a portion of your extremities and you get a rubbery leg and tingly sensation. This is more commonly referred to as that part of your body falling asleep.  In the same way, those who sit and persistently refuse to respond to God’s grace become insensitive, asleep or deadened to the voice of God. When you continually refuse to hear God’s word, you will become increasingly deaf to His voice with every succeeding act of willful shutting of your ears. The same is true if you refuse to see the hand of God working in your life, you’ll become increasingly blind to the reality of God (11:8).

Furthermore, one commentary states and adds to the picture painted by this word by saying:

“The spirit of slumber (stupor or torpor) literally means “the spirit of stinging.” The word (Gr katanyxis) is used for the numbness which is the result of a bite or poisonous sting. Israel had refused to seek righteousness after the manner of God and had attempted to establish her own righteousness. Thus God gave them to a blinding stupor and poisoning insensitivity toward the truth of God.”[17]

Those who persist in the poison of sin (Romans 1:18-3:18) will find themselves deadened and spiritually insensitive to God. Someone has said, “There are none so blind as those who will not see.” There are people who refuse to believe, they are set in their ways and no amount of evidence will turn them around. There are people convinced that the landing of men on the moon was all a fake. There are people who are prejudiced and associate intellect and other attributes based on external observations of certain people groups. There are people whose attitude is such that they seem to say, “My mind is made up, don’t confuse me with the facts.” Jesus referred to the Pharisees as such people and said of them, ““Let them alone. They are blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind leads the blind, both will fall into a ditch.” (Matthew 15:14).  [18]

Psalm 69 which Paul quotes in verses 9 and 10, (Psalm 69:22,23), is a messianic psalm. The verses quoted by Paul are a call for God to judge those who oppose the Messiah. The “table” referred to is the table of communion with God. Their attempts to commune with God by works ensnares and traps the legalist.

Jews believed that they alone were eligible for salvation. Paul here explains that God has in His sovereign will allowed a blindness to come upon Israel so that a door could be opened to the Gentiles. God’s total efficiency is seen in that the salvation of the Gentiles would serve the purpose of provoking Jews to jealousy over God. The spiritual blindness of Israel is not pointless. God has allowed Israel to stumble at the stumbling block of faith in Christ, and has allowed the Gentiles to respond to the gospel in part to provoke Israel to jealousy (11:9-11).

This work of God between Israel and the Gentile world can be seen on a smaller basis in our lives. God often will draw people to Himself by inciting a holy jealousy in the unsaved through Spirit filled believers. Paul referred to believers as living epistles (2 Corinthians 3:1-3) in that their lives could be read like a book by those in the world. When a Spirit filled believer is truly living out the love and grace of God in their lives, it is beautiful and attracts the unbeliever who wonders what makes them different. The one who is ready and unashamed of the gospel is a light in the dark world that attracts people like bugs to a light in the night. Christ in you can be used by the Spirit to bring about a hunger and thirst for what you have in the heart of the unbeliever. When you live the life of the Spirit and show stability and staying power in life, those unsaved around you wonder, “How do they do it? What do they have that others don’t have? What makes them different? I don’t know what it is yet, but I intend to find out because I want what they have?” Just as God works in total efficiency and draws Israel back to Him by inciting a holy jealousy of His relationship with Gentiles, so too He incites a holy jealousy in unbelievers because of the living reality of Christ in you the hope of glory (Colossians 1:27).

Also, again in verse 11 we see Paul reiterating that God is not finished with Israel. Those who see the church as Israel have a confused and convoluted perspective on prophecy as a result seeing the church going through the Tribulation. The only way one can hold that the church is Israel is to turn a blind eye to verses such as this one and others that tell us clearly God continues to have a plan for Israel.

God’s Sovereign Fullness for Israel to Come

Romans 11:11-15 – “I say then, have they stumbled that they should fall? Certainly not! But through their fall, to provoke them to jealousy, salvation has come to the Gentiles.12 Now if their fall is riches for the world, and their failure riches for the Gentiles, how much more their fullness!13 For I speak to you Gentiles; inasmuch as I am an apostle to the Gentiles, I magnify my ministry,14 if by any means I may provoke to jealousy those who are my flesh and save some of them.15 For if their being cast away is the reconciling of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead?”  [19]

In the Song of Moses in Deuteronomy 32, we see a prophetic word about what would happen when Israel forsook God. The result has come to pass in what we see today. God is working in the world primarily through the Gentile church in the present day. But God is not finished with Israel. He is going to provoke them to jealousy through showing the Gentiles His salvation. Like a child playing hard to get, who is provoked to jealousy when their sibling is shown attention by a parent, so too will Israel be provoked to jealousy and return to the Lord (11:11).

In Deuteronomy 32 it states God’s plan:

  • Deuteronomy 32:21 – “They have provoked Me to jealousy by what is not God; They have moved Me to anger by their foolish idols. But I will provoke them to jealousy by those who are not a nation; I will move them to anger by a foolish nation.”  [20]

God has never stopped loving Israel and He will use the Gentiles to provoke them to jealousy to awaken their love for Him. Jeremiah is inspired by God to describe God’s love for Israel as everlasting when he writes:

  • Jeremiah 31:3 – “The Lord has appeared of old to me, saying: “Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love; Therefore with lovingkindness I have drawn you.”  [21]

Paul goes on to say that if so much has come from the fall of the Jews, (that is salvation to the Gentiles world) then when Israel does turn to the Lord their fullness will be even greater. There is a lot of anti-Semitism in the world today, even in the church. Israel is being disciplined by God, but God has not cast them aside forever. He will again raise them up to fit into His plan again.  We have seen this resurrection begun on May 14th, 1948 with the establishment once again of Israel as a nation. Then in 1967 Israel captured Jerusalem. Soon during the Tribulation (Revelation 7; 14), God is going to work a mighty revival in the world and He is going to do it through Jews who will accept Jesus as their Messiah. The culmination of this fullness will be the kingdom age of Christ’s reign on earth during the Millennium (Revelation 20).

In the book of Daniel, Daniel records a prophecy which states that from the rebuilding of   the city of Jerusalem there world be 490 years of prophetic workings for Israel in God’s plans. When Jesus made His triumphal entry into Jerusalem and went to the cross it marked the fulfillment of the first 69 sevens or 483 years according to Daniel’s prophecy. We are awaiting the beginning of the seventieth week (i.e. Hebrew HEPTED or set of seven years) of Daniel which is also known as the time of Jacob’s trouble and the 7-year Tribulation. During this seventieth week, God will work through Israel to fulfill His will upon the earth. The close of this seven-year period will be punctuated with the 2nd Coming of Jesus (see Revelation 6-19).

God’s Sovereign People Broken Off – Grafted In

Romans 11:16-21 – “For if the firstfruit is holy, the lump is also holy; and if the root is holy, so are the branches.17 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,18 do not boast against the branches. But if you do boast, remember that you do not support the root, but the root supports you.19 You will say then, “Branches were broken off that I might be grafted in.”20 Well said. Because of unbelief they were broken off, and you stand by faith. Do not be haughty, but fear.21 For if God did not spare the natural branches, He may not spare you either.”  [22]

The first fruit was that first part of the harvest offered to God. By offering God the first part of the harvest a person was symbolically saying it all belonged to God (Leviticus 23:9-14; Numbers 15:17-21). The idea was that by God accepting the first part, He was sanctifying or accepting the whole as well. Paul is speaking here of Israel as that first fruit or first work of God and by accepting Abraham as the first part, the descendants were accepted by God too, God is not finished with Israel (11:16).

When Paul speaks about some of the branches being broken off he is referring to the apostasy and disobedient of Israel who were broken off. The Exodus marked the beginning of Israel as a nation (Exodus). Pentecost was the beginning of the church and marked the beginning of the church age (Acts 2). Just as Israel became corrupted over the Old Testament years, so too by the end of the New Testament much of the church deteriorated (Revelation 2-3). The church has nothing to boast about when looking at the problems of Israel in history. The history of the church is just as replete with sin and immorality as is Israel if not more (11:17-21).

Oftentimes when a Christian witnesses to a Jew the Jewish person will respond, “Why should I listen to you, the church has tried to annihilate the Jew throughout history.” And in saying that the Jew would be speaking truth as the history of crusades and inquisitions show. But the point to be made in response to that is that the church has been responsible for killing more Christians than almost any other group. In the centuries leading up to the Reformation, masses of Bible believing Christians were hunted down and killed by those in the established church. The history of the church is indefensible. The truth however is that not all who go by the name Christian were or are Christian (Matthew 7:15-24). To return to our imaginary Jewish friend we are witnessing to, a good response would be to share honestly about the corruption of the church and then also shaer about the reality of true Bible Christianity. There is a faithful remnant in the church too.

The Root and the Tree Are Christ

Paul uses a metaphor of an olive tree to convey the relationship between the Gentile church and Israel. It is likely that the root and tree are Christ based on what Jesus said in John 15. Jesus said:

  • John 15:1-8 - “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser.2 “Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit.3 “You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you.4 “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me.5 “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.6 “If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned.7 “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you.8 “By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples.”  [23]

Keeping Jesus’ metaphor in view helps us interpret what Paul says in this passage of Romans 11.

When Paul speaks of the first fruit (11:16) of the tree he speaks in reference to Israel.  The thing God started in Israel is “holy,” that is it is special and unique (11:16). He then speaks of some branches being broken off which would be those Israelites who rebelled and died in their sin (11:7a). The Gentile church is like a “wild olive tree” grafted into the holy olive tree to partake of the “root and fatness” by faith like Abraham (11:17b). That which is grafted in later has no grounds for boasting against the branches that were broken off, because just as the early branches were supported by the root of Christ, so is the wild olive tree church. The early parts of God’s promise to Abraham is the beginning of what God would do in the church as the church rests on righteousness by faith just as Abraham did (11:18). Paul says that the branches that were broken off were broken off because of “unbelief” and those who remain abide in the tree by faith (11:19-20; see also John 15). Paul says just as some branches were broken off because of unbelief regarding Israel, the same can happen regarding the wild olive tree church (11:21). Even those in the church must come to faith in Christ (i.e. be grafted into Christ) through faith in Christ, not works. Whether you are a Jew or non-Jew, whoever you are, you can’t be saved by your works or own efforts, you can only be saved by God’s grace through faith in Jesus.

God’s Sovereign Security in Christ

Romans 11:22-24 Therefore consider the goodness and severity of God: on those who fell, severity; but toward you, goodness, if you continue in His goodness. Otherwise you also will be cut off.23 And they also, if they do not continue in unbelief, will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again.24 For if you were cut out of the olive tree which is wild by nature, and were grafted contrary to nature into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these, who are natural branches, be grafted into their own olive tree?”

Here we see the key to security in Christ, it is to ”continue in His goodness” by faith (11:22). Just as a branch can be broken off for unbelief, branches can be grafted back in if they respond by faith (11:23). For if a wild olive tree church can be grafted into a “cultivated olive tree, how much more” can “natural branches” be grafted back in (11:24). The bottom line is that faith is what keeps us in connection with the tree.

Some would contend that once a person is grafted in or saved that how they live doesn’t matter or cannot effect their grafting. This view of eternal security has lead to loose and unholy living. While God expects no more than our best, He does expect our best. And while we are not saved or even sustained in our salvation by works, works are evidence of true conversion. The works we do are the evidence of God’s love in our hearts and an offering of loving appreciation (Romans 5; 2 Corinthians 5:14-21).

Sin in Believers

 Nowhere in the Bible does God give license to sin. There is “a sin” not leading to death, which is the incidental sin that occurs in the sanctifying process of life. This is mentioned in John’s first epistle where it is written:

  • 1 John 5:16-17 – “If anyone sees his brother sinning a sin which does not lead to death, he will ask, and He will give him life for those who commit sin no leading to death. There is sin leading to death. I do not say that he should pray about that. All unrighteousness is sin, and there is sin not leading to death.”

While the above verse makes allowance for those indiscriminate sins that occur during the process of sanctification and spiritual growth, nowhere is a lifestyle of continuous ongoing sin okayed by God. Saying some words at an altar does not give you eternal security before God, what gives eternal security is the reality of the Spirit in you working to bear fruit and conform you to the likeness of Jesus Christ.

Security comes through the abiding faith relationship one has with God through faith in Jesus. When we abide in Jesus, relate to Him in the Spirit and grow in that relationship, then sin is crowded out by the love of the Lord in us. God loves Israel so much that even when they reject Him for long periods of time, God is longsuffering and loving to still reach out His hand to save them. He’ll do the same with you. If you’ve been drifting away form Jesus, backsliding or even fallen away from Him, He’s reaching out to you. Come back to Jesus, take hold of His hand and let Him work in and through you once more.

God’s Sovereign Work  - The Fullness of the Gentiles

Romans 11:25 – “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.”  [24]

Paul then moves on to say there is something he doesn’t want believers to be ignorant about. (See also 1 Corinthians 12:1ff.; 1 Thessalonians 4:13). He refers to “this mystery.” The word “mystery” (MUSTERION – Strong’s # 3466) doesn’t mean something that God is trying to keep from humanity, but it means, something that has yet to be disclosed by God.

Notice how Paul connects being “ignorant” with being “wise in your own opinion.” Pride and prejudice are always based on a degree of ignorance. The more ignorant a person is the more proud and prejudiced they tend to be. Those who claim the church has supplanted Israel do not know their Bibles and are ignorant and wise in their own misguided opinion. Paul instructs his readers against this.

When Paul says, “”but blindness in part has happened to Israel,” we need to understand that Israel’s blindness is partial, there is a remnant of Jews who have accepted Christ as their Savior by faith (11:5). We also need to understand that according to this verse this blindness is temporary, until the fullness of the Gentiles comes in. If you go to Israel today what you will find in terms of missionary effectiveness is that not many Jews come to Jesus annually. There is a blindness in their hearts and minds toward Jesus. In evangelizing Jews we should understand this blindness. Many Jews who come to Jesus as their Savior will come during the Tribulation (Revelation 7; 14) after the church has been raptured out of this world. When that incredible event occurs, the seeds of the gospel planted now will bear fruit (Isaiah 55:8-11). The thing Paul wants the readers to know is that God is not through with Israel and will not leave her in blindness forever. But Israel’s blindness will continue, “until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in.”

“The Times of the Gentiles” and “The Fullness of the Gentiles”  

The Bible speaks of “the times of the Gentiles” in the gospel of Luke’s account of Jesus’ Olivet Discourse where it states:

  • Luke 21:24 - “And they will fall by the edge of the sword, and be led away captive into all nations. And Jerusalem will be trampled by Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.”  [25]

Here “the times of the Gentiles” refers to the time between the destruction of Jerusalem and dispersion of Israel and the Gentile rule over the land of Israel, until the time when Israel would be reestablished as a nation and Jerusalem rebuilt (Jeremiah 30). The times of the Gentiles began in 70 A.D. when Jerusalem fell and Israel was dispersed as a nation and ended on May 14th, 1948 when Israel again was united as a nation in Israel. In 1967 Jerusalem was retaken by Israel. The rebirth of the nation of Israel in effect marked the beginning of a new time in history that may very likely be the beginning of the final End Time scenario.

“The fullness of the Gentiles,” (Romans 11:25) refers to the number of Gentiles foreknown and ordained by God to be saved. In Acts it refers to this when it states:

  • Acts 15:14 - “Simon has declared how God at the first visited the Gentiles to take out of them a people for His name.”  [26]

God is taking out of the Gentile world a “people for His name.” God in His sovereign foreknowledge has marked the time when the last Gentile will cross over the line form death to spiritual life by accepting Jesus as their Savior. When that final individual is saved from the Gentile world, God will begin the use of Israel again. The Rapture of the church coincides with this final Gentile being converted (2 Thessalonians 2:6-7). God knows who will be saved and therefore He knows when the last Gentile will be saved and he can begin to work again through Israel. The next altar call may be the last one!

When the Fullness of the Gentiles comes In

When the last Gentile is saved, God removes the Gentile church (via the Rapture – 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18) and turns to Israel as His instrument to fulfill His sovereign prophetic plans during the Tribulation (Revelation 6-19). The trumpet sound associated with the Rapture of the church is God’s sounding forth the end of the church period (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17; Revelation 4:1).

In Zechariah it speaks of how God will bring all eyes to focus on that little piece of real estate, (no bigger than the state of Rhode Island) that is called Israel. When we read the words of God in Zechariah and what He says about what will happen in the End Times once Israel has been reborn as a nation, we can see that this prophetic scenario is already started. In Zechariah it states: 

  • Zechariah 12:1-3 – “The burden of the word of the Lord against Israel. Thus says the Lord, who stretches out the heavens, lays the foundation of the earth, and forms the spirit of man within him:2 “Behold, I will make Jerusalem a cup of drunkenness to all the surrounding peoples, when they lay siege against Judah and Jerusalem.3 “And it shall happen in that day that I will make Jerusalem a very heavy stone for all peoples; all who would heave it away will surely be cut in pieces, though all nations of the earth are gathered against it.”[27]

Since May 14th 1948 we have seen a scenario unfolding with ever increasing intensity where Israel and Jerusalem in particular is a “cup of trembling”  (Zechariah 12:1-3).  Zechariah speaks of a battle where “all the nations of the earth are gathered against it” (Zechariah 12:3).  This last battle against Jerusalem will seem hopeless for God’s people but God isn’t finished with them and He has a glorious and magnificent plan to bring about their deliverance physically and salvation spiritually.

Restoration of the Nation of Israel Foretold

The restoration of Israel that occurred in 1948 was foretold prophetically in the Old Testament and is one of the greatest fulfillments of Bible prophecy. Verses that foretold Israel’s restoration are:

  • Deuteronomy 30:3-4 - “that the Lord your God will bring you back from captivity, and have compassion on you, and gather you again from all the nations where the Lord your God has scattered you.4 “If any of you are driven out to the farthest parts under heaven, from there the Lord your God will gather you, and from there He will bring you.”  [28]
  • Ezekiel 36:21-24,32 - “But I had concern for My holy name, which the house of Israel had profaned among the nations wherever they went. 22 “Therefore say to the house of Israel, ‘Thus says the Lord God: “I do not do this for your sake, O house of Israel, but for My holy name’s sake, which you have profaned among the nations wherever you went.23 “And I will sanctify My great name, which has been profaned among the nations, which you have profaned in their midst; and the nations shall know that I am the Lord,” says the Lord God, “when I am hallowed in you before their eyes.24 “For I will take you from among the nations, gather you out of all countries, and bring you into your own land. . . . 32 “Not for your sake do I do this,” says the Lord God, “let it be known to you. Be ashamed and confounded for your own ways, O house of Israel!”   [29] (See also Ezekiel 20:9,14,17,22,33-44)

God is full of grace and seeks to save and restore not only Israel but also any who would come to Him. God said He would restore the nation of Israel and He did. If God is able to restore an entire nation, He can restore you too.

God’s Sovereign Plan to Save All Israel

Romans 11:26-27 – “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;27 For this is My covenant with them, When I take away their sins.”  [30]

God made a promise to Abraham to bring His Son into the world through Abraham and his descendents (Genesis 12; 15). The Savior promised came as God said He would and was rejected by Israel. God therefore, moved to work through the Gentile church. God orchestrated all of this. But God has always promised that He would again save His people Israel (Jeremiah 30-31). Paul quotes Isaiah 59:20,21 to convey this point.

These verses predict a mighty revival that God is going to work in Israel and “and so all Israel will be saved.” This does not necessarily mean that every single individual in Israel will be saved, but that Israel as a whole will be saved. Paul is likely using the literary form of hyperbole. But nevertheless, at the return of Jesus Christ at the 2nd Coming, a mighty work will take place in Israel. God’s work in Israel is depicted in the following:

  • Isaiah 27:6,12-13 – “Those who come He shall cause to take root in Jacob; Israel shall blossom and bud, And fill the face of the world with fruit. . . .12 And it shall come to pass in that day That the Lord will thresh, From the channel of the River to the Brook of Egypt; And you will be gathered one by one, O you children of Israel.13 So it shall be in that day: The great trumpet will be blown; They will come, who are about to perish in the land of Assyria, And they who are outcasts in the land of Egypt, And shall worship the Lord in the holy mount at Jerusalem.”  [31] (See also Isaiah 11; Jeremiah 31:31-34)

There will be a tremendous revival in Israel upon the return of Jesus at His 2nd Coming. More on this later.

God’s Sovereign Irrevocable Gifts and Calling

Romans 11:28-32 – “Concerning the gospel they are enemies for your sake, but concerning the election they are beloved for the sake of the fathers.29 For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.30 For as you were once disobedient to God, yet have now obtained mercy through their disobedience,31 even so these also have now been disobedient, that through the mercy shown you they also may obtain mercy.32 For God has committed them all to disobedience, that He might have mercy on all.”   [32]

Israel’s rejecting God turned out to be a blessing for the Gentiles, but they remain beloved by God (11:28). God cuts short the Tribulation for the sake of elect Israel (Matthew 24:22).

Paul says, “For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable” (11:29). God does not change; God doesn’t take back His gifts and calling. They may be abused by man, but God continues to extend them. Just as we have had God’s mercy extended to us, so too will God extend His mercy to Israel (11:30-31). God allowed Israel to enter into disobedience in His plan so that ultimately all could experience the opportunity to receive God’s mercy (11:32).

God’s Sovereign Placing of Israel in Prophecy

You might wonder why the rebirth of Israel is so important and why we make such a big deal about not confusing Israel with the Church and visa versa. Simply put, if Israel is not around, Jesus 2nd Coming loses its impetus. The 2nd Coming of Jesus occurs in the context of rescuing Israel against which the nations of the world have assembled to destroy her.

There is a portion of Scripture that presents the End Time scenario showing the central location of Israel in its unfolding. The portion of Scripture that shows the centrality of Israel in God’s sovereign End Times events is found in the book of Zechariah. Let’s pause a moment and consider this portion of Scripture.

In chapter fourteen of Zechariah it states:

  • Zechariah 14:1-5 – “Behold, the day of the Lord is coming, 1 And your spoil will be divided in your midst.2 For I will gather all the nations to battle against Jerusalem; The city shall be taken, The houses rifled, And the women ravished. Half of the city shall go into captivity, But the remnant of the people shall not be cut off from the city.3 Then the Lord will go forth And fight against those nations, As He fights in the day of battle.4 And in that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, Which faces Jerusalem on the east. And the Mount of Olives shall be split in two, From east to west, Making a very large valley; Half of the mountain shall move toward the north And half of it toward the south.5 Then you shall flee through My mountain valley, For the mountain valley shall reach to Azal. Yes, you shall flee As you fled from the earthquake In the days of Uzziah king of Judah. Thus the Lord my God will come, And all the saints with You.”  [33]

The Final Battle Takes Place Around Jerusalem

 

  • Zechariah 14:1-3 – “Behold, the day of the Lord is coming,  And your spoil will be divided in your midst.2 For I will gather all the nations to battle against Jerusalem; The city shall be taken, The houses rifled, And the women ravished. Half of the city shall go into captivity, But the remnant of the people shall not be cut off from the city.3 Then the Lord will go forth And fight against those nations, As He fights in the day of battle.”  [34]

The “day of the LORD” is a time during which God directly intervenes in the history of humankind. Here we see that Jesus Christ will intervene gloriously through His 2nd Coming at a time in the history of Israel when all seems lost. Just as the Jewish day begins at sunset and ends at the break of the light of day, so will this day of the Lord start in darkness and end in the glorious light of the LORD.

And this work of God will use Jerusalem as its central location to culminate the prophetic scenario as God assembles “all the nations to battle against Jerusalem” (verse 2; see Psalm 2).  Israel is the battlefield and stage for God’s final sovereign culminating prophetic work. It is going to be a fantastic and incredibly glorious scenario, as we will touch on below.

This final chapter begins by bringing us to the scene of the final battle of Armageddon. It’s important not to confuse these verses with Nebuchadnezzar’s overthrow of Jerusalem in 586 B.C., for to do so would be to relegate the passage to history rather than prophecy. These verses also do not refer to the fall of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. under the Roman Titus because that battle was by one empire rather than a host of “nations” (i.e. plural referring to a confederacy of nations). The Battle of Armageddon is described in the following verses:

  • Revelation 16:13-16 – “And I saw three unclean spirits like frogs coming out of the mouth of the dragon, out of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false prophet.14 For they are spirits of demons, performing signs, which go out to the kings of the earth and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty.15 “Behold, I am coming as a thief. Blessed is he who watches, and keeps his garments, lest he walk naked and they see his shame.”16 And they gathered them together to the place called in Hebrew, Armageddon.”  [35]
  • Revelation 19:17-21 – “Then I saw an angel standing in the sun; and he cried with a loud voice, saying to all the birds that fly in the midst of heaven, “Come and gather together for the supper of the great God,18 “that you may eat the flesh of kings, the flesh of captains, the flesh of mighty men, the flesh of horses and of those who sit on them, and the flesh of all people, free and slave, both small and great.”19 And I saw the beast, the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against Him who sat on the horse and against His army.20 Then the beast was captured, and with him the false prophet who worked signs in his presence, by which he deceived those who received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image. These two were cast alive into the lake of fire burning with brimstone.21 And the rest were killed with the sword which proceeded from the mouth of Him who sat on the horse. And all the birds were filled with their flesh.”  [36]

Since the rebirth of Israel on May 14th, 1948, Israel has functioned under the proud notion of many that they have survived on the basis of their own strength. This final scenario leading up to the 2nd Coming of Jesus will leave no doubt in their minds of from Whom their salvation comes. The final deliverance of Israel will come when Jesus returns to earth with His saints.

The 2nd Coming

  • Zechariah 14:4 – “And in that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, Which faces Jerusalem on the east. And the Mount of Olives shall be split in two, From east to west, Making a very large valley; Half of the mountain shall move toward the north And half of it toward the south.”  [37]

When Jesus returns at His 2nd Coming He will descend from heaven with a shout and set His feet down upon the Mount of Olives, which is located just outside the eastern walls of the City of Jerusalem. The Bible speaks frequently about this 2nd Coming and what follows are a few verses which show the correlation with this passage in Zechariah:

  • Acts 1:9-12 – “Now when He had spoken these things, while they watched, He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight.10 And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as He went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel,11 who also said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven.” 12 Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a Sabbath day’s journey.”  [38]

This passage in Acts correlates Christ’s 2nd Coming with the passage in Zechariah in that it identifies the location of the Mount of Olives as the site where Jesus will descend.

  • Matthew 24:29-30 - “Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken.30 “Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.”  [39]

Unlike the Rapture which occurs “like a thief” (1 Thessalonians 5:1-2), the 2nd Coming occurs out in the open for all the peoples of the nations to see. Revelation 1:7 also confirms this:

  • Revelation 1:7 – “Behold, He is coming with clouds, and every eye will see Him, even they who pierced Him. And all the tribes of the earth will mourn because of Him. Even so, Amen.”  [40]

The 2nd Coming of Jesus that comes at the end of the seven-year Tribulation and is an event that the entire world will see is separate and distinct from the secret (“as a thief” – 1 Thessalonians 5:2) Rapture of the church before the Tribulation (see Luke 21:36; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; 5:9; Titus 2:13; Revelation 3:10; 4:1).

 

Saved by Christ’s 2nd Coming

The return of Jesus at the 2nd Coming, which occurs at the end of the seven-year period of Tribulation, is depicted in the following verse:

  • Zechariah 14:5 – “Then you shall flee through My mountain valley, For the mountain valley shall reach to Azal. Yes, you shall flee As you fled from the earthquake In the days of Uzziah king of Judah. Thus the Lord my God will come, And all the saints with You.”  [41]

When Jesus descends to the earth upon the Mount of Olives at His 2nd Coming, the mountain will be split in two and provide a natural passageway for the inhabitants of Jerusalem, (who are surrounded by their genocidal enemies) to escape. Once the area is cleared out of God’s people, he will begin to clean up the enemies of God. Notice too that when Jesus comes back at the 2nd Coming, He will come accompanied by the His saints, those believers of the church which had been previously raptured before the Tribulation (see also Jude 14-15).

So fantastic and breathtaking will be the glorious appearing of Jesus (Titus 2:13) that when Israel sees Jesus coming with His saints from heaven to intervene and save her, her people will come to salvation because they will see that Jesus is indeed their Messiah.

  • Zechariah 12:4-10 - “In that day,” says the Lord, “I will strike every horse with confusion, and its rider with madness; I will open My eyes on the house of Judah, and will strike every horse of the peoples with blindness.5 “And the governors of Judah shall say in their heart, ‘The inhabitants of Jerusalem are my strength in the Lord of hosts, their God.’6 “In that day I will make the governors of Judah like a firepan in the woodpile, and like a fiery torch in the sheaves; they shall devour all the surrounding peoples on the right hand and on the left, but Jerusalem shall be inhabited again in her own place—Jerusalem.7 “The Lord will save the tents of Judah first, so that the glory of the house of David and the glory of the inhabitants of Jerusalem shall not become greater than that of Judah.8 “In that day the Lord will defend the inhabitants of Jerusalem; the one who is feeble among them in that day shall be like David, and the house of David shall be like God, like the Angel of the Lord before them.9 “It shall be in that day that I will seek to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem. 10 “And I will pour on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of grace and supplication; then they will look on Me whom they pierced. Yes, they will mourn for Him as one mourns for his only son, and grieve for Him as one grieves for a firstborn.”  [42]

God will fight for His people in that final day and will “pour on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of grace and supplication” (verse 10a).  God will pour out the Spirit on Israel, the Holy Spirit will do a mighty work in the hearts of the people of Israel in that Day.

Then there will be a mighty spiritual awakening in all of Israel. Zechariah states, “then they will look on Me whom they pierced. Yes, they will mourn for Him as one mourns for his only son, and grieve for Him as one grieves for a firstborn.”  (verse 10b). When Jesus comes again, it will be in such a powerful way that it will break the hearts of those who had previously rejected Him.

If you were in Israel, surrounded by the hounds of hell of the enemy nations, ready to die, and at the last possible moment, when all seemed lost, the sky opened up and Jesus appeared riding on a white stallion with “KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS” emblazoned His robe and thigh, could you have any doubt as to who Jesus is and that He is the Messiah? No, I don’t think it would be possible to doubt Jesus identity or turn away from Him. Indeed such a situation and historic event may be what leads to a literal fulfillment of Paul’s words, “and all Israel will be saved” (Romans 11:26).

So you see, the climactic event of God’s sovereign prophetic scenario occurs in the center of the reborn nation of Israel. God is not finished with Israel. May any such doctrine or thought perish!

 

God’s Sovereign Unspeakable Riches

Romans 11:33-36 – “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!34 “For who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has become His counselor?”35 “Or who has first given to Him And it shall be repaid to him?”36 For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever. Amen.”  [43] 

You just can’t plumb the bottom of God’s riches of wisdom and knowledge, His judgments, and His gracious plan of redemption in Christ. When you comprehend what God plans to do, it simply is too amazing for human words; only His inspired words can serve adequately. Paul here is inspired to rejoice and spontaneously burst forth with praise to God for His mighty sovereign plan. But does this verse mean that God keeps us in the dark? Does it mean that He is only mysterious and so transcendent that He is beyond comprehension to the point of being impersonal? Far from it, God has revealed Himself to us in Christ.

Some Things Are “Secret” or Undisclosed to Us By God

That God does not reveal everything to us is clear by the testimony of His own word which states:

  • Deuteronomy 29:29 - “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but those things which are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.”  [44]

When Paul tries to plumb the depths of God’s sovereign use of Israel, all he can say is, “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!34 “For who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has become His counselor?” (11:33-34). There are certain things, a lot of things that our finite minds in this fallen state are just incapable of figuring out. Even when we are given our glorified bodies with perfect minds it will take us eternity to relate to all of God. What a wonderful way to spend eternity, getting to know God! 

Does God Reveal Anything to Us?

I’m glad that Deuteronomy 29:29 includes the words, “but those things which are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.” God has revealed good and wonderful, awesome things to us. We can spend a lifetime receiving and taking in all that God has revealed to us. It is a glorious thing to spend your life getting to know God better through what He has revealed. God calls us to come and reason with Him to come and experience a close, intimate personal saving relationship with Him (Isaiah 1:18). But how has God revealed His truth to us? 

 

How Has God Revealed His Truth To Us?

We have already seen that God reveals His truth to humanity in part through His creation, but unfortunately humanity often rejects His natural revelation (Romans 1:18-3:18). But God has gone beyond His creation by revealing His truth in His word. The following are some truths about how God reveals things to us.

First, God reveals His truth in His word. We see an example of this in the life of Samuel who was one of the greatest men of the Bible. Why was he so great? Because God revealed Himself to Samuel in His word as it states:

  • 1 Samuel 3:20-21 – “And all Israel from Dan to Beersheba knew that Samuel had been established as a prophet of the Lord.21 Then the Lord appeared again in Shiloh. For the Lord revealed Himself to Samuel in Shiloh by the word of the Lord.”  [45]

Samuel was great and greatly used by God because he was a man who was into God’s word and God’s word was into him.

Second, you don’t have to be academically smart or worldly wise to receive God’s revelation. Jesus said:

  • Matthew 11:25-30 – “At that time Jesus answered and said, “I thank You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and prudent and have revealed them to babes.26 “Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in Your sight.27 “All things have been delivered to Me by My Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father. Nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and the one to whom the Son wills to reveal Him.28 “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.29 “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.30 “For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”  [46] (See Also 1 Corinthians 1-2).

God makes His revelation simple and clear enough so that everyone and anyone who wants to know Him can know Him.

Third, the Father and the Holy Spirit help us to receive His revelation. When Peter made his declaration that Jesus was the Messiah, the Christ, Jesus said it was the Father who had revealed this insightful truth to him saying:

  • Matthew 16:15-17 – “He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”16 Simon Peter answered and said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”17 Jesus answered and said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven.”  [47]

Jesus told us that it is the Holy Spirit that will guide us into all truth saying:

  • John 14:26 - “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you.”  [48]
  • John 15:26 - “But when the Helper comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify of Me.”  [49] (See Luke 2:26; 1 Corinthians 2:10; Ephesians 3:5).

Fourth, you cannot receive God’s revelation apart from the Holy Spirit. Paul was inspired to write this truth saying:

  • 1 Corinthians 2:10-14 – “But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God.11 For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God.12 Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God.13 These things we also speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual.14 But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.”  [50]

Whatever we know about God is revealed to us by the Holy Spirit.

Fifth, the greatest revelation of God is that He has revealed Himself to us in Jesus Christ. In the opening inspired words of John’s gospel we are told of God’s Self-revelation in Christ when it states:

  • John 1:1-3,14-18 – “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.2 He was in the beginning with God.3 All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. . . . 14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.15 John bore witness of Him and cried out, saying, “This was He of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me is preferred before me, for He was before me.’ ”16 And of His fullness we have all received, and grace for grace.17 For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.18 No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him.”  [51]

That “the Word” is Jesus is without doubt and that Jesus is God is further testified to in John’s gospel when Jesus Himself states:

  • John 10:30,38 – “ “I and My Father are one.” . . . 38 “but if I do, though you do not believe Me, believe the works, that you may know and believe that the Father is in Me, and I in Him.”  [52]

Jesus told Philip that He was the exact representation of God, God in the flesh when He said:

  • John 14:7-11 - “If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; and from now on you know Him and have seen Him.”8 Philip said to Him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is sufficient for us.”9 Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; so how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?10 “Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me? The words that I speak to you I do not speak on My own authority; but the Father who dwells in Me does the works.11 “Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father in Me, or else believe Me for the sake of the works themselves.”  [53]

That Jesus is God revealed is seen throughout the Bible. Below are samplings of the some verses that testify to Jesus’ being God revealed to us:

  • Isaiah 7:14 - “Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel [ literally: “God with us.”].”  [54]
  • Romans 9:5 – “of whom are the fathers and from whom, according to the flesh, Christ came, who is over all, the eternally blessed God. Amen.”  [55]
  • Philippians 2:6-7 – “who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God,7 but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men.”  [56]
  • Colossians 1:15-19 – “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.16 For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him.17 And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist.18 And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence. 19 For it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell,”  [57]
  • Colossians 2:9-10 – “For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily;10 and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power.”  [58]
  • Hebrews 1:1-3 – “God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets,2 has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds;3 who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,”  [59]

Indeed when we look at the Bible we see that it is a book that reveals God in Christ to humanity. In Hebrews it states that the entire book, the entire Bible, is aimed and focused on God revealing Himself in Christ. In Hebrews it states:

  • Hebrews 10:7 – “Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come—In the volume of the book it is written of Me—To do Your will, O God.’ ”   [60]

God’s greatest revelation is Himself in Christ.

Sixth and last, God has revealed a way to enter into a personal intimate relationship with Him whereby we can have our sins forgiven and cleansed from our heart so that we can know Him and this is made possible by His grace through faith in Jesus Christ. Paul in some of his last words spoke of God’s revealing disclosure of the possibility of knowing God personally through faith in Jesus. Paul was inspired to write about this saying:

  • 2 Timothy 1:8-12 – “Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me His prisoner, but share with me in the sufferings for the gospel according to the power of God,9 who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began,10 but has now been revealed by the appearing of our Savior Jesus Christ, who has abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel,11 to which I was appointed a preacher, an apostle, and a teacher of the Gentiles.12 For this reason I also suffer these things; nevertheless I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day.”  [61]

Have you come to know the magnificent God who has revealed Himself to us by the Spirit in the Holy word of God which speaks of God in Christ? You can know God personally and if that weren’t good enough, you can know Him, have a relationship with Him, ETERNALLY! Receive God’s revelation in Christ, turn from your sins, ask His forgiveness for your sin and put your faith in Jesus’ substitutionary death on the cross for you. Do that and you will be saved from your sin, the Holy Spirit will indwell you and He will help you come to know God personally in Christ.

God’s Grace and Mercy Revealed Through Israel

And Paul says in Romans 11: 35-36, “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.”  No mater what anyone has sacrificed or offered to God, the spiritual principle and truth is that spiritual investments bear great spiritual dividends. To be used for God’s glorious sovereign plan is the greatest privilege and reward.

God is in control and has worked everything out to show mercy to all. The same mercy and patience and grace shown to Israel, He extends to us. God’s mercies are new every morning:

  • Lamentations 3:21-24 – “This I recall to my mind, Therefore I have hope.22 Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, Because His compassions fail not.23 They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness.24 “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “Therefore I hope in Him!”  [62]

Justice is getting what you deserve. We all deserve to be convicted of our sin and condemned to eternal death and hell. Mercy is not getting what you deserve. We don’t get our just condemnation due us as we put faith in Jesus Christ and His righteousness is put to our account. Grace is getting what you don’t deserve. God pours out His blessings on us even though we don’t deserve it. Oh, if only we would appreciate all that God has done for us and live accordingly.

Conclusion

As we draw to the end of this section we can reflect on God’s sovereign will to elect certain people to accomplish His sovereign plan of salvation and even demonstrate His faithfulness through the nation of Israel. God is great and loves us so much. Whatever your view of God’s sovereignty, we can all agree with that! God is so good and so gracious. Praise His holy name.

What effect should all of this have on us? How should all of this affect our lives? That is what we will see in the final section of Romans.

 

 

 



[1]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[2]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[3]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[4]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[5]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[6]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[7]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[8]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[9]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[10]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[11]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[12]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[13]James Strong, New Strong’s dictionary of Hebrew and Greek words [computer file], electronic ed., Logos Library System, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson) 1997, c1996.

[14]W.E. Vine, Merrill F. Unger and William White, Vine’s complete expository dictionary of Old and New Testament words [computer file], electronic ed., Logos Library System, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson) 1997, c1996.

[15]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[16]James Strong, New Strong’s dictionary of Hebrew and Greek words [computer file], electronic ed., Logos Library System, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson) 1997, c1996.

[17]Jerry Falwell, executive editor; Edward E. Hinson and Michael Kroll Woodrow, general editors, KJV Bible commentary [computer file], electronic ed., Logos Library System, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson) 1997, c1994.

[18]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[19]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[20]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[21]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[22]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[23]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[24]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[25]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[26]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[27]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[28]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[29]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[30]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[31]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[32]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[33]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[34]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[35]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[36]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[37]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[38]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[39]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[40]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[41]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[42]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[43]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[44]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[45]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[46]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[47]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[48]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[49]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[50]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[51]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[52]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[53]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[54]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[55]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[56]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[57]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[58]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[59]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[60]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[61]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[62]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.