The Mystery of the Jewish Nation (Part 2)
C. Gahan, Ilminster
The first part of this article was published in the previous issue, and readers may consult it again so as to appreciate the connection. Eds.
Israel's Blindness is only Partial.
In Romans 11.25, the apostle says, "that blindness in part is happened to Israel". While the great mass of the Jewish nation had come under the judgment of God, there were and are individual .exceptions to this: "there is a remnant according to the election of grace", Rom. 11.5. For example, he mentions the case of Elijah; the kingdom of Israel under Ahab had fallen into an awful apostasy, and darkness covered the land. Yet unknown to the prophet, God had reserved for Himself seven thousand men who had not bowed the knee to Baal. Later, in the still darker days of Malachi, there was a godly remnant. Amid the deepening gloom we are told that there were those "that feared the Lord . . . and that thought upon his name", Mai. 3. 16. Later still, when darkness covered the whole land of Palestine, we find a little band of men and women welcoming Israel's Messiah. Even in that dark day, there were godly Jews waiting for the coming of Him who was to be the consolation of His people Israel. So, too, in the apostles' day there were godly believing Jews. The greatest of all apostles, the apostle Paul, was a Jew; he was an Israelite of the purest blood, but his eyes had been opened by the Spirit of God and gladly he had accepted God's way of salvation by faith.
Broken off the Jewish nation may be, but that does not prevent individual Jews coming into the blessing of salvation. Indeed, "to the Jew first" was the watchword of the first preachers of the gospel; our Lord commanded His disciples to "go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel", Matt. 10. 6. To these lost Jewish sheep, therefore, they went, and many of them were brought into the Redeemer's flock. In the first New Testament churches, converted Jews predominated, and from then until now myriads of Jews have received the gospel of the grace of God. All of which underlines the apostle's words, "that blindness in part is happened to Israel". This blindness is only partial; while the great mass of the Jewish nation have departed from the living God, there always has been a faithful remnant who have received the salvation of God. In countless cases the gospel has been "the power of God unto salvation" to believing Jews.
Thirdly, in explaining the mystery of Israel's blindness the apostle intimates that
This Blindness was Providential. There was a wonderful and far-reaching aim in Israel's blindness; it was overruled for the enrichment of the Gentiles. To the Jew the Lord Jesus came to fulfil the promises made to their fathers; "He came unto his own, and his own (His own people, the Jews) received him not", John 1.11. In the divine programme this contingency had been foreseen, and provision had been made to meet it. The long-promised Messiah had come; the King had offered Himself to Israel, but they had rejected Him, and this opened the way-for the coming in of the Gentiles. Jewish unbelief cannot frustrate the purpose of God; the Lord Jesus was then despised and rejected, so they were set aside and the Gentiles brought in that God might take out of them "a people for his name", Acts 15. 14.
This is what God is doing in this age; He is calling out of the Gentiles a people for His name, and constituting that people the church. Israel's fall, therefore, not only opened the way for the coming in of the Gentiles, it prepared the way for the manifestation of God's purpose concerning the church. The King being rejected by His own nation the Jews, the kingdom in glory has been postponed and the church has been established. The church has superseded Israel, and the divine testimony committed to them has been taken from them and given to the church. The purpose of God now is the out calling of the church, and what is the church's business in this age? Must she begin where Israel left off? Must she take up the work of the rejected King and establish His kingdom on earth? By no means. The King who was rejected is now in heaven, and the kingdom cannot be set up while the King is absent. Must and will the church convert the world? Again the answer is in the negative. If we wait for the church to convert the world, the world never will be converted. This does not mean the church has failed— the Scriptures nowhere intimate that the church will convert the world; to the contrary, the Bible teaches that throughout the church's day the world will get further and further away from conversion. What then is the church's business in this dispensation? Her great business is not to convert the world, but to evangelize the nations, that from them God may take a people for His Name.
Men must be left without excuse; until our Lord returns the gospel must be preached for a witness to all nations.
Thus did Israel's blindness open a door of opportunity to the Gentiles, but this leaves no room for Gentile boasting. For in Romans 11. 25 the apostle is addressing Gentiles, "For I would not", he says, "that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits". That Gentiles have been brought into the scope of God's electing purpose is not due to any merit of their own. Gentiles have no reason for pride, but much reason for gratitude; of this we can be certain: God will not be less severe with Gentiles than He was with His own nation the Jews. At the present time it is severity towards the Jews and goodness towards Gentiles, but it is only goodness towards Gentiles so long as they make wise and proper use of this time of opportunity. If they fail, they will, like their Jewish predecessors, be cut off; thus Gentile privilege involves a corresponding responsibility. Jewish blindness was the occasion, and not the cause, of mercy being extended to Gentiles. God overruled it, and made it the opportunity for gathering out of the Gentiles a people, His church; with the still further purpose that, when the church is completed and gathered in, Israel also shall be recovered and restored. This brings us to the conclusion of the whole matter; in explaining the mystery of Israel's blindness the apostle is most careful to remind us that
This Blindness is not Final.
There is a definite time limit to Israel's blindness; it is not a permanent blindness, it is only "until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in". This expression, "the fulness of the Gentiles", means the complete number God will take out of the Gentiles in this dispensation, in this age in which "blindness in part is happened to Israel". We have seen that with the setting aside of Israel, salvation came to the Gentiles. True to God's promise the Messiah came to the Jewish people. Instead of receiving Him, they crucified Him; since they rejected the Lord Jesus, God rejected them and turned to the Gentiles. For Gentiles He inaugurated a dispensation of grace, a dispensation when "whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved". Acts 2. 21. But a day is coming when Gentile blessing will have reached its fulness, and when that day comes Israel's blindness shall be removed. In the words of Romans 11. 26, "And so all Israel shall be saved; as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob". Israel's extremity becomes God's opportunity; at the very moment when the armies of the beast are about to destroy the last remnant of the Jewish nation, the Lord Jesus, the Deliverer, will intervene. Descending to Mount Olivet with ten thousand of His saints, He will not only destroy Israel's last and most terrible enemies, He will at the same time remove for ever the vail of blindness from her eyes. Then it is that the Jewish nation will be born again; recognizing and receiving their Messiah, the whole nation will be reborn. In that day a converted and restored Israel will become God's light in the world and nations will come to that light, and kings to the brightness of its shining. The Church has a glorious destiny but her calling is heavenly, and this will distinguish the Church's role from that of the converted Jews of a coming day. The Church will reign over the nations in the heavenlies, and the converted Jews will reign over the nations of the earth. As far as the earth is concerned Palestine and the Jewish people will be the centre of all God's interests, and the focus of all God's dealings in that day.