Romans 11, Part 5
Dec 23, 2010
The sovereignty of God is established in Romans 9, and this, Paul says, explains why God hardened the heart of Israel, even as He had hardened the heart of Pharaoh in an earlier time. In Romans 11 Paul tells us that only the elect remnant of grace were spared this blindness.
The result of this blindness was that both Israel and Judah failed to fulfill their obligations under the Old Covenant. First Israel was cast off in 721 B.C. By the time of Paul's writing, Judah had already failed but was yet in the midst of its 40-year grace period (30/33 to 70/73 A.D.) before they too would be cast out of God's house. Nonetheless, it was already prophesied that all of the tribes of Israel would be cast off in order to make way for the New Covenant and its way of regathering the tribes and reforming the Kingdom under one Head, Jesus Christ.
This is the context in which Paul says in Rom. 11:25 and 26, "a partial hardening has happened to Israel until the fulness of the nations (ethnos) has come in, and thus all Israel will be saved."
Paul was looking forward to the fulfillment of the promise given to Abraham, making him a "great nation" and a "multitude of nations." Since Paul was looking beyond the first coming of Christ into the time of the second coming, He had in mind the promise to Joseph (or Ephraim). Christ had already come of the tribe of Judah in order to establish His throne rights (the Scepter); but He was yet to come of the tribe of Ephraim in order to bring forth the Sons of God, which is the promise of the Birthright.
This is what Paul contemplated in his concept of "the fulness of the nations," for it had been promised that Ephraim would become a fulness (Heb. melo) of nations (Gen. 48:19). In other words, during the time of Israel's blindness, God would work with the remnant of grace, raising up and training those who would rule and reign with Christ in The Age to come. He would then use that remnant of grace to bring salvation to the rest of the nations at a later time.
The plan is evident from Scripture. God called one man (Abraham) and used him to bring forth a nation that would be a light to the nations. Likewise, in the New Testament, the plan started with one man (Christ), who was used to call the remnant of grace to minister to the rest of the nations.
Stepping back still further, we see that the first resurrection is the point where the entire remnant of grace from all past ages are raised from the dead in order to minister to all nations in the age of post-blindness. In other words, The Age to come will be a time when God removes the blindness, not only from Israel, but also from the nations in general. They will see the glory of God through the overcoming remnant of grace and will desire to learn the laws of the Kingdom (Isaiah 2:2-4).
This Age to come will benefit the generations that are alive during that thousand-year period, but it will have no effect upon those who lived and died in previous generations. The rest of the dead will be raised at the end of the thousand years (Rev. 20:5) to face the judgment of God for all works done in their life time. The real time of restoration will then begin, for the Age following the Great White Throne will be the time when the vast bulk of humanity since the beginning of time will learn the ways of God by means of judgment in the "lake of fire." Isaiah 26:9 says,
(9) ... For when the earth experiences Thy judgments, the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness.
Likewise, Isaiah 27:8, 9 tells us that God banished and expelled the house of Israel, in order that "through this, Jacob's iniquity will be forgiven." The purpose of judgment is to find forgiveness, not to punish endlessly. For this reason the Law itself limits punishment for misdemeanors to 40 stripes (Deut. 25:1-3), and it limits punishment for felonies to a Jubilee cycle of 49 years. When judgment ends, the sinner is restored to grace, for the Law must then release him from its custody.
When the restoration of all things occurs in the end, the divine plan will be complete, and the purpose of Ephraim's Birthright will be accomplished. The blindness imposed by the sovereignty of God will end when it is time to bring in the fulness of the nations. This will certainly include the nations of Israel and Judah, but it will also include the rest of the nations as prophesied to Abraham at the beginning.
It is truly unfortunate that the Dispensationalist teachers of the 19th and 20th centuries have so grossly misunderstood Romans 11:25. Not understanding the difference between the Birthright of Israel (Joseph) and the Scepter of Judah has been evidence of their own partial blindness. In thinking that the old Jewish system of worship was going to be re-established in The Age to come, complete with physical temple, priests of Levi, animal sacrifices, and even the Old Covenant itself--these teachers cast out the book of Hebrews. The natural consequence of such false teaching is to say that Judaism and its Old Covenant is--in the end--the permanent covenant, while the New Covenant was really only a momentary interruption of the true method of salvation by works.
Nothing could be further from the truth. Even so, it is only "a partial hardening" that has happened to them, because most of those deceived by Dispensationalism do sincerely believe in Christ and understand that they are "under grace." The problem is that their prophecy teachers have undermined the New Covenant by teaching contradictory eschatology.
Hence, they have misunderstood Rom. 11:29, "for the gifts and calling of God are irrevocable." They take this to mean that the Jews (whom they believe to be Israel) are chosen, whether or not they believe in Jesus Christ. They take this to mean that Jews are saved by means of the Old Covenant, while "gentiles" are saved by the New Covenant.
The logical end of this "Dual Covenant Theology" is just now being seen in the Church. Pressure is mounting to end all attempts to convert Jews to Christ, since they are saved already by the Old Covenant. Missions have been turned into mere support mechanisms for political Zionism.
The fruit of this theology is the conclusion that the Old Covenant with Moses was an unconditional covenant that would win in the end, in spite of the temporary interruption by the New Covenant under Jesus Christ. Since the day of Pentecost, "gentiles" have had opportunity to be saved and to hold sway over the Jews who had been put into the dog house for a season. But once they come out of the dog house, then Judaism will again be the true religion of The Age to come, and "gentiles" will be their slaves, as the Jewish Talmud envisions.
There is, of course, some confusion among the ranks of the Dispensationalists and those who follow their teachings. Many contradictions reign as the result of this partial blindness. Dual Covenant itself is an attempt to reconcile the contradictions. Likewise, some teach that the Jews are the "meek" who will inherit the EARTH, while "gentile" Christians will inherit HEAVEN. Thus, Jews will be required to have animal sacrifices on earth and be saved by the Law, while Christians will be in heaven on the basis of the sacrifice of Christ, and will be "free from the Law."
But fewer and fewer Christians are being taught that distinction. More and more are being taught that they ought to "become Jews" in order to be chosen by God. Such people intend to follow the Jewish path of salvation and would support animal sacrifices, thinking that they can add Jesus to Judaism and come up with the ideal believer. They need some eye salve to cure their partial blindness (Rev. 3:18).
This is the fifth part of a series titled "Romans 11." To view all parts, click the link below.
Dr. Stephen Jones