Romans 11:11-36 – Life from the Dead

2014). It deals with one of the great biblical signs of the imminence of the Consummation: the large-scale converision of ethnic Israel in the last of the Last Days. Though other biblical texts touch on this theme (see note 1), Romans 11:11-36 gives us the single most important discussion of this holy mystery. I hope you will enjoy my humble attempt to plumb its amazing depths.

An Exposition of Romans 11:11-36

Though this passage touches only indirectly upon the Consummation, it is of great importance, since here we are supplied with yet another outstanding sign of its imminence: the latter day conversion of ethnic Israel at large, leading swiftly to the Parousia and the Resurrection of the dead. Later, I will touch on some of the practical implications of this unique revelation for Christian life and ministry. First, however, we must examine the text itself, in order to see if this really is the apostle’s message.

Introduction

In Romans 9-11, Paul is addressing the problem of Jewish unbelief. Yes, the primitive Church was comprised almost exclusively of Jews, some of whom were laid into her very foundation (Eph. 2:20, Rev. 21:14). Nevertheless they represented only a small minority of Israel. Moreover, once the Gospel overflowed the borders of Israel, multitudes of Gentiles began to receive Christ while most of the Jews, both inside and outside of Palestine, continued to reject him. So it was in NT times, and so it has been right up to the present day. Always there has been a small remnant of believing Jews, while the large majority of Abraham’s physical seed continues in unbelief. How can such things be? How is it that God’s OT people have largely missed and spurned their own Messiah?

From the length and ardor of his remarks on this troubling providence, it is clear that Paul was quite exercised about it, doubtless in large part because he knew that the opponents of Christianity would point, over and again, to Jewish rejection of the Gospel as a sign of its illegitimacy. Here then we find him seeking to explain large-scale Jewish unbelief, clear himself and all Christians of charges of anti-Semitism, and equip believers of all generations to respond wisely to this apparent obstacle to faith. Continue reading

Blessing and Cursing Israel

Jr:

Is It True That God Blesses Those Who Bless Israel and Curses Those Who Curse Israel? (original source here)

It must be true, because this is what God says, isn’t it? Well, actually God says this, “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” (Genesis 12:3).

When God makes a promise we can know that it is certain, and that He will not change. The problem is, however, when we hear Him saying what He did not say. This text does say that God will bless those who bless Israel, but rather those who bless Abraham, to whom God is speaking. Later, however, in Numbers 24, it gets a little more clear. There Balaam, clearly speaking about the nation of Israel says, “Blessed is he who blesses you, And cursed is he who curses you.”

That should settle the matter, should it not? The difficulty is still, however, answering about whom this promise is made. Does not Paul himself say, “But it is not that the word of God has taken no effect. For they are not all Israel who are of Israel” (Romans 9:6). Here it is all too easy to get confused. What could it mean that not all Israel is of Israel?

If there are some who are Israel that are called Israel, and some that are not Israel that are called Israel, which of these are the ones that fit the promise? My dispensational friends suggest that the Israel to whom this promise is made matches up with the nation of Israel founded in 1948 in the Middle East. They hear in this promise that those who bless that nation of Israel will be blessed and those who curse that same nation will be cursed. This, in part, informs the politics of American foreign policy. As long as America sees this Israel as a friend, the reasoning seems to go, God will bless America. When America turns its back on that nation, God will curse this nation.

The Reformed perspective takes a different tack. It affirms that that Israel which is actually Israel, just as with the promise to Abraham in Genesis 12:3, applies to those who are in Christ, who trust in His finished work. Though we deny the moniker, this is what our dispensational friends call “replacement theology.” The Reformed, however, see this is as the outworking of the truth of Galatians 3:7- “Therefore know that only those who are of faith are sons of Abraham.” We who are Reformed do not believe God replaced Israel with the church. We believe instead that there has always been only one people of God, those who believe.

Israel is the sons of Abraham. Those who are of faith are the sons of Abraham. Those who are of faith are therefore Israel. And in turn, those who bless those who are of faith will be blessed, and those who curse those who are of faith will be cursed. It is how we treat the church that matters. What of ethnic Israel? What of that country in the Middle East? Many in the Reformed camp hold out hope that there will be one day a mass conversion of those who are not today the sons of Abraham, that virtually all of Israel will once again become Israel. That said, many of these likewise hold out hope that there will be a mass conversion of Arabs, and Persians, of every tongue and every tribe. All of the promises of God belong to the children of Abraham, those who are of faith, including the promise that through Abraham, all the world will be blessed.