After Paul the apostle had presented the doctrine of the gospel to the Roman believers, he supposed that those readers and hearers of his epistle who had a Jewish background would raise certain questions. If Paul’s teaching was correct that, in relation to the claims of the gospel, there was no difference between the Jew and Gentile, what about all the promises God had made concerning the future blessing of the nation? Chapters 9, 10 and 11 of the Roman epistle form a parenthesis in which Paul deals with the question voiced at the beginning of chapter 11, ‘Hath God cast away his people?’, Rom. 11. 1. A further question is posed in verse 11, ‘Have they (Israel) stumbled that they should fall (never to rise again)’? (Italics are my explanatory additions to the text). The stumblingblock for Israel was Paul’s teaching that righteousness could never be obtained only by the deeds of the law. Righteousness could be obtained by the grace of God through individual and personal faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. They had to learn that God had set the nation aside because of their rejection and crucifixion of His beloved Son, their Messiah. He would use their fall as the means of bringing Gentile nations into blessing through the gospel, but that did not imply that God had finished with the nation for ever. Indeed, Paul went on to explain that once God had completed His purpose concerning the church, made up of Jews and Gentiles on equal ground, He would resume His dealings with Israel with a view to their promised blessing as a nation.
‘For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in. 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: For this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins’, Rom. 11. 25-27. As Paul confidently asserts that ‘all Israel’ – that is, the nation as a whole – will one day be restored, he refers to the Old Testament scriptures for his authority. He probably had in mind the scripture, ‘Oh that the salvation of Israel were come out of Zion! when the Lord bringeth back the captivity of his people, Jacob shall rejoice, and Israel shall be glad’, Ps. 14. 7. Also, ‘When the enemy shall come in like a flood, the Spirit of the Lord shall lift up a standard against him. And the Redeemer shall come to Zion, and unto them that turn from transgression in Jacob, saith the Lord’, Isa. 59. 19-20. Whilst these scriptures are true and full of assurance for the nation, some might raise the objection that they had already been fulfilled. Paul therefore goes back to the bedrock that settles once and for all whether there is yet a glorious future for Israel, ‘For this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins’, Rom. 11. 27.
The covenant Paul is referring to is the New Covenant, a fact that is clear from the words ‘when I shall take away their sins’. Of the four unconditional covenants made by God, only the New Covenant promises the forgiveness of the nation’s iniquity. This was not promised in the Abrahamic Covenant, Gen. 12. 1-3, nor in the Palestinian Covenant, Deut 30. 3-5, nor in the Davidic Covenant, 2 Sam. 7. 11, 13, 16, even though each of these three is an eternal and unconditional covenant with the nation. It is the New Covenant that combines all the features and blessings of the other three but with this wonderful and all-important addition, ‘I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more’, Jer. 31. 34. If any scripture gives absolute proof of a future for Israel, it is this, ‘Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah … I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts … for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more’, Jer. 31. 31-34. Manifestly, this clear and unconditional promise of God has not yet been realized in the nation’s experience. It is still future, waiting to be fulfilled in the millennial reign of the Lord Jesus Christ. Israel will have been sorely tried and purged in the tribulation period that follows the rapture of the c hurch and, finally, the nation will turn back to their God in repentance. Their repentant cry will result in the glorious manifestation of the Lord Jesus Christ as He comes to establish His kingdom.
‘Reformed Theology’ and ‘Replacement Theology’ deny a literal millennial reign and, therefore, deny any future for Israel, but let the word of God speak for itself. The Old Covenant, under which the nation languished for so long, was legally put away at Calvary when the Lord Jesus, on behalf of the nation, bore its penalty curse. At the same time, and by the same sacrifice of Himself, the Lord Jesus established on the merit of His own blood the New Covenant of which Jeremiah speaks. The nation of Israel, however, is not yet ready to enjoy the New Covenant because of collective unbelief and hardness of heart. The tribulation period, the repentance of the nation and their acknowledgment of the Lord Jesus as their Messiah will bring them into the good of the New Covenant that will see them fully and gloriously restored to Jehovah their God. These things can only be future; they are with ‘the house of Israel, and the house of Judah’, and they demand a glorious future for Israel. Any other scenario would make God a liar!
In view of all the biblical evidence that supports the truth of a glorious future for the nation of Israel, it should be almost unnecessary to write this particular article in the series. However, two modern trends combine to make this article necessary. The first is the sad fact that many Christians are not reading their Bibles thoroughly, and the second is that the form of biblical interpretation known widely as ‘dispensationalism’ is under sustained assault. This second factor makes the need to address the first one both vital and urgent. The word of God, read with prayer and reliance upon the Holy Spirit to impart its truth to the believing soul, interprets itself. God’s plan and purpose for the ages is clearly set forth in the scriptures, but if we replace serious Bible study by a superficial reading of many inaccurate and misleading paraphrases, the result will be a rapid decline in the understanding of the basic framework of scripture.
Into the vacuum left by a widespread neglect of sound biblical exposition has come, mainly through well-marketed and attractive books, a form of teaching that is easy to consume and concentrates on the wellbeing of the reader. How sad when:
Where such a selfish approach to spiritual things exists, there is also a carelessness concerning sound doctrine.
There is a great need for Christians to get back to their Bibles, to study them with a view to understanding, with the gracious aid of the Holy Spirit, the truth of God for His people. The recognition that God has separate but complementary programmes for the Jew, the Gentile and the church is fundamental to a proper understanding of scripture. It is because I believe the Bible is the inerrant word of God, and believe with complete assurance the principles of so-called ‘dispensationalism’, that I believe with equal fervency that there is a great future for the nation of Israel.