Not Final but Temporary Part 3 Israel’s Future Restoration – Romans 11:23-27
Pastor Mark Hardy August 25, 2013
In his book entitled Explore the Book, J. Sidlow Baxter wrote a poem that focuses on the attribute of God’s faithfulness. It reads:
He never fails the soul that trusts in Him;
Tho’ disappointments come and hope burns dim,
He never fails.
Tho’ trials surge like stormy seas around,
Tho’ testings fierce like ambushed foes abound,
Yet this my soul, with millions more has found,
He never fails; He never fails.
He never fails the soul that trusts in Him;
Tho’ angry skies with thunder-clouds grow grim,
He never fails.
Tho’ icy blasts life’s fairest flow’rs lay low,
Tho’ earthly springs of joy all cease to flow,
Yet still ‘tis true, with millions more I know,
He never fails; He never fails.
He never fails the soul that trusts in Him;
Tho’ sorrow’s cup should overflow the brim,
He never fails.
Tho’ oft the pilgrim way seems rough and long,
I yet shall stand amid yon white-robed throng,
And there I’ll sing, with millions more, this song—
He never fails; He never fails.
Nothing in life is more taken for granted than a faith that is unchallenged. And nothing challenges our faith more than the trials of life. Life in this fallen, sinful world often screams out to us that God is not sovereign or good or faithful toward us by what He is allowing to happen in our lives. But that is not true! For as 2 Timothy 2:13 declares that even “If we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself.” God is faithful! He never fails! Once again we see the faithfulness of God behind the scenes in the passage we will be looking at this morning. Turn in your Bible to Romans 11.
In Romans 11:23-27 we see three aspects of Israel’s future salvation by the grace of God that should keep all of us Gentile believers humble in how we look at the Jews.
The first aspect of Israel’s future salvation is this:
I. The Assurance that God can accomplish Miracles
A. Look at v. 23: And they also, if they do not continue in their unbelief, will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again.
1. Having just warned professing Gentile believers in vv. 16-22 to not be arrogant and boast over the Jews because God has broken off the branches of the Jewish majority in their unbelief, so that the same thing doesn’t happen to them, Paul now shifts his focus onto the hope of Israel’s future restoration, the theme of chapter 11.
2. Now when Paul says “they also” he is no longer referring to the Gentile believers but the unbelieving Jewish majority. Here we see the hopeful possibility that “if they do not continue in their unbelief” (9:30-10:21) but instead exercise faith in Jesus Christ, they will be “grafted in,” or better “re-grafted” back into the cultivated olive tree (i.e. the people of God) from which they were broken off.
3. Here we see that faith makes all the difference! Salvation for both Jews and Gentiles has ever and always been through faith (3:22, 26; 10:4-13).
4. There is only the one tree of the true people of God, and everyone is attached to this tree by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. There is no other way!
5. And yet, it is God alone who can make this happen. Paul says at the end of v. 23, “…for God is able to graft them in again.” A.T. Robertson is correct when he says, “This is the crux of the whole matter. God is able.” (pg. 397)
6. The word “able” (dunatos) not only speaks of God being all-powerful or omnipotent, but also His willingness to restore His people when they repent of their sin and believe. God is able and willing to miraculously graft them in again because He is faithful to His saving promises to Israel.
B. Paul then gives further reason why the Jewish majority will one day be grafted in again in v. 24: For if you were cut off from what is by nature a wild olive tree, and were grafted contrary to nature into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these (i.e. unbelieving Jews) who are the natural branches be grafted into their own olive tree?
1. In other words, if God can graft wild olive branches (i.e. Gentile believers) into a cultivated olive tree (the true people of God) to which they did not “naturally belong,” He can certainly re-graft unbelieving Jews who by nature originally belonged to the tree when they repent and believe!
2. God is able to do it because with the all-powerful “God all things are possible” (Matt. 19:26). Therefore, because of God’s faithfulness Israel’s future return to the Lord is not only possible but certain!
3. We see this in the second aspect of Israel’s future salvation, which is this:
II. The Fact that Israel will be Saved
A. Look at vv. 25-26 where Paul says: For I do not want you, brethren, to be uniformed of this mystery—so that you will not be wise in your own estimation—that a partial hardening has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in; and so all Israel will be saved; (Stop there)
1. Highlighting the extreme importance of what he is about to say, Paul uses his familiar introductory formula, “I do not want you, brethren, to be uniformed” (1:13; 1 Cor. 10:1; 12:1; 2 Cor. 1:8; 1 Thess. 4:13). And the reason he wanted the predominately Gentile church at Rome to not be “uninformed (or ignorant) of this mystery” was “…so that you will not be wise in your own estimation.”
2. Paul wants to help them understand God’s plan of salvation and how they and the Jews fit into it, so they will be less likely to arrogantly think that Israel is out forever and they as the church have replaced Israel. And yet, that is exactly what some believers teach today as they let their theological system take precedence over what the text of Scripture actually says.
3. Now what is “this mystery” that Paul is talking about here? The word “mystery” (musterion) means something hidden from eternity past but is now revealed by God in the New Testament (Dan. 2:17-18, 27-30, 47; Mk. 4:11; Rom. 16:25-27; Eph. 3:3-6; Col. 1:26-27; 2 Thess. 2:7).
4. Paul then goes on to describe the content of this mystery in vv. 25-26. In these two verses God reveals to us His plan of salvation as outlined in three stages.
B. The first stage is: The hardening of the Jewish majority. Paul says in v. 25, “…that a partial hardening has happened to Israel…” (Stop there)
1. We have already seen that Israel’s hardening was not simply a matter of their human disobedience but of God’s sovereign and judicial hardening (9:17-18, 30-10:21; 7-10). But this hardening is not total but partial because God by His grace has preserved a remnant for Himself (11:1-5, 7).
2. While it is true that individual Jews are being saved today, during this present church age God is predominantly saving a great number of Gentiles (11:11-15) as the gospel is being preached throughout the world. As we saw before, this was intended by God to make Israel jealous (11:11, 14) and drive them to saving faith in Jesus Christ.
3. The fact that more Gentiles are coming to Christ at this time than Jews is the ultimate application of Jesus principle “the first will be last; and the last, first” (Matt. 19:30). Although salvation was intended first for the Jews (Jn. 4:22; Rom. 1:16), in actuality they are last.
4. Now whereas Israel’s hardening is not total but partial, it is also not final but temporary.
C. We see this in the second stage, which is: Israel’s hardening will have an end. Look at the end of v. 25, “…until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in.”
1. The word “until” (achri) refers to time; and the word “fullness” (pleroma) has to do with numerical completion. Together, these terms show that Israel’s hardening will last for a predetermined length of time.
2. Also, the phrase “has come in” refers to entering the kingdom of God (Matt. 5:20; Mk. 9:47; Jn. 3:5; Acts 14:22) or eternal life (Mk. 9:43, 45). Both of which refer to receiving salvation.
3. Therefore, when Paul says, “until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in” he is saying that Israel’s hardened unbelief and rejection of Christ will last only until the full number of Gentiles believers has been reached.
4. Douglas Moo says it this way, “…the Gentiles’ ‘fullness’ involves a numerical completion: God has determined to save a certain number of Gentiles, and only when that number has been reached will Israel’s hardening be removed.” (pg. 719)
5. Notice that since it was God who sovereignly hardened Israel in the first place, it is God who sovereignly removes it. And it is “the fullness of the Gentiles,” when the last Gentile believer is saved that marks the end of stages one and two and the beginning of the third stage.
D. The third stage is: Ethnic Israel is saved in Mass. Look at v. 26: and so all Israel will be saved… (Stop there)
1. Concerning the opening words “and so” (kai outos), F.F. Bruce rightly states, “The connecting words ‘and so’ say more than ‘and then:’ they imply that ‘in this way’—by the operation of the divine purpose that the gospel should be received by the Gentile first, and then also by the Jew—(that) the salvation of ‘all Israel’ will come about.” (pg. 218)
2. This is the divinely appointed process whereby God sovereignly planned salvation history to unfold. Although we often have no clue what is happening in the world and in our lives, He knows exactly what He is doing!
3. We now come to the time when “all Israel will be saved.” Israel’s future restoration is the overall theme of the chapter, the heart of this mystery, and the outcome that everything in chapter 9-11 has been pointing to.
4. This third stage was described in v. 12 as “their fulfillment,” in v. 15 as “their acceptance,” and in vv. 23-24 as the re-grafting in again of the natural branches into their own olive tree.
5. Now what exactly does “all Israel will be saved” mean? Let’s look at each of the three main words in this statement: “all,” “Israel,” and “saved.” First, what is the identity of “Israel?” There are three basic views:
1) Some say “Israel” refers to the entire community of the elect, both Jews and Gentiles that make up the church.
• This is the Amillennial view that sees the church as the new Israel that replaces the old Israel and is the true people of God.
• However, this view disregards the clear ethnic contrast between Israel and the Gentiles throughout chapter 11, and especially v. 25.
2) Some say “Israel” refers to the remnant within Israel that has believed throughout their history.
• Although Paul uses the term “Israel” for the “spiritual Israel” or elect within “ethnic Israel” (9:6b), this would not advance Paul’s argument. It would be anticlimactic since Paul has said all along that the remnant of believing Jews, those not broken off from the tree, would be saved and will continually exist while the fullness of the Gentiles is being completed.
• Paul has also made it very clear in verses 12 and 15 that something more than the salvation of the remnant awaits Israel in the future. The expectation that the broken off branches will be grafted in again to the olive tree suggests that a great number of Jews will turn back to Christ in faith.
3) Others say that “Israel” refers to the ethnic Israel as a whole. This is the best view.
• Paul has used the term “Israel” ten times so far in Romans 9-11 and each refers to ethnic Israel [9:6b (twice), 27 (twice), 31; 10:19, 21; 11:2, 7, 25].
• John Murray accurately states, “It is exegetically impossible to give to ‘Israel’ in this verse any other de-no-ta-tion than that which belongs to the term throughout this chapter.” (Vol. 2 pg. 96)
• And F.F. Bruce agrees saying, “It is impossible to entertain an exegesis which understands ‘Israel’ here in a different sense from ‘Israel’ in verse 25.” (pg. 218)
6. Second, what is the extent or scope of the word “all?” Whom does Paul intend to include in “all Israel?” Again three views:
1) Some say “all” refers to every single Israelite without exception who ever lived throughout Israel’s history.
• But this would be a sort of ethnic universalism. And this directly contradicts what Paul said in 9:6b that “…they are not all Israel who are descended from Israel.”
• Also, since the salvation of “all Israel” is a future event that occurs only after the completed number of Gentiles believers, then all the Jews who failed to believe in Jesus Christ have died in unbelief. And Scripture is clear that faith in Christ is the only way of salvation.
2) Some say “all” doesn’t mean “all” as in every single Israelite at the end of history, but refers to ethnic Israel as a whole representatively. This view carries a lot of weight.
• Since the word “all” is often used as a representative amount in the Old Testament (1 Sam. 7:5; 12:1; 25:1; 2 Chron. 12:1; 1 Kgs. 12:1; Dan. 9:11), they say this is the way it is used here.
• Therefore, they say at the end of history the small remnant of Jewish Christians will explode in number so as to be the majority of Israel (though not every Israelite), and that majority is representative of the nation, and is thus called “all Israel.”
3) Others say “all” refers to the entire ethnic nation of Israel— every single Israelite who is alive at the end of history. I personally think this is the best view.
• Here the word “all” literally means all! Now before “all Israel” is saved, God is going to judge Israel during the Great Tribulation (Ezek. 20:33-38; Dan. 12:10).
• In Revelation 12 we are told that Satan will persecute and attempt to destroy Israel. The prophet Zechariah prophesied in Zechariah 13:8 that during this Tribulation period two-thirds of the Jewish population will be “cut off and die.”
• Now while the Jewish population is dramatically reduced, Zachariah goes on to declare in v. 9 that the remaining one-third of the Israelites that are alive at the end of the Tribulation when Christ returns will go through a period of intense suffering that will result in all of them receiving Him and being saved (Zech. 12:8-13:1-2; 14:4; Acts 1:11; Rev. 1:7). These are the now believing Jewish majority that is re-grafted into the true people of God.
• It is this group that makes the previously small remnant to explode in number and now constitute “all Israel,” the entire ethnic nation of Israel. Now “all Israel” is spiritual Israel!
7. Third, notice again the timing when in history “all Israel will be saved.”
• Since “all Israel” is saved only after the salvation of all the elect Gentiles, there is no more salvation for Gentiles. This shows that the end of time has arrived.
• Douglas Moo correctly observes, “The salvation of Israel comes only after God has brought into the kingdom all the Gentiles destined to be saved. No room is therefore left for a spiritual quickening of the world; all that remains is the consummation.” (pg. 695)
• Therefore, this end of time is closely associated with the Second Coming of Jesus Christ in in all of His glory as “King of Kings and Lord of Lords” (Rev. 17:14; 19:16) at the end of the Tribulation to take back this earth that rightly belongs to Him, to put down His enemies, and to establish His millennial kingdom.
8. Therefore, “this mystery” that Paul wants Gentiles believers to know refers to God’s plan of salvation at the end of history whereby all ethnic Israel will be saved when Christ returns. And this is the very fulfillment of Paul’s prayer in 10:1 where he says, “Brethren, my heart’s desire and my prayer to God for them is for their salvation.” (9:2-3)
9. The third aspect of Israel’s future salvation is this:
III. The Proof from Scripture of Israel Salvation
A. Look at the end of v. 26: just as it is written, “THE DELIVERER WILL COME FROM ZION, HE WILL REMOVE UNGODLINESS FROM JACOB.” (Verse 27) “THIS IS MY COVENANT WITH THEM, WHEN I TAKE AWAY THEIR SINS.”
1. As we have seen before, Paul introductory formula “just as it is written” means that just as God’s Word was authoritative when originally written, so it has binding authority now. So listen to and believe what it says!
2. He then gives a quotation, which is a combination of certain elements from various Old Testament Scriptures: Isaiah 27:9; 59:20-21a; and Jeremiah 31:33-34.
3. Now in proving Israel’s future salvation from Scripture, first Paul says in v. 26, “THE DELIVERER WILL COME FROM ZION…” Whereas in the Old Testament “the Redeemer” or “Deliverer” is certainly Yahweh, for Paul He is Jesus the Messiah.
4. Notice that He “will come (future tense) from Zion.” Although the word “Zion” has been said to refer to Jesus’ place of origin, descent from David, and His death and resurrection in Jerusalem, it is best to see it as referring to the heavenly Jerusalem from which the Lord comes to save Israel at His Second Coming (Gal. 4:26; 1 Thess. 1:10;Heb. 12:22; Rev. 3:12, 21).
5. Second, notice what Christ does when he comes. Paul says at the end of v. 26, “…HE WILL REMOVE UNGODLINESS FROM JACOB,” which is the patriarch from whom the name Israel and the twelve tribes of Israel came.
6. This is also in the future tense, showing that when the glorified Christ comes to save His people it is a salvation from their sins. He is the One who will remove their “ungodliness” or unbelief and grant them saving faith in Himself.
B. And third, Christ does this in fulfillment of His earlier covenant with them. Look at v. 27: “THIS IS MY COVENANT WITH THEM, WHEN I TAKE AWAY THEIR SINS.”
1. This undoubtedly refers to a portion of the New Covenant that God originally gave to Israel in such passages as Jeremiah 31, Ezekiel 36, and others. Paul uses a clause from Isaiah 27:9 to interpret this covenant in terms of the forgiveness of sins.
2. Here we see that the substance of the New Covenant which Christ brings about in Israel’s future salvation is His gracious forgiveness of their sins. Therefore, Paul ties Israel’s salvation to the cross of Christ, where the price for sin has been paid in full (3:21-26).
3. As we saw back in Romans 5, this forgiveness of sin is what I called a “new purity.” The four resources of the New Covenant given by God to every believer are: a new purity, a new identity, a new disposition, and a new power.
4. Although these promised resources were originally given to Israel, since the New Covenant was inaugurated by Christ at His first coming, Gentile believers can share in these blessings right now as Abraham’s spiritual children (Gal. 3:8-9).
5. Whereas the New Covenant was inaugurated by Christ at His first coming, it will be consummated at His Second Coming when “all Israel will be saved” and they will experience the fulfillment of all God’s promises to them by His sheer mercy and grace.
6. Therefore, as Paul said back in 9:6a, “…it is not as though the word of God has failed…” God’s saving promises to Israel have not failed or been nullified, regardless of her unbelief and rejection of the Christ and His gospel.
7. God is not finished with Israel! Although on the surface God may “appear” to not be faithful to the promises He made to Israel, God always keeps His promises.
8. God’s promises cannot be thwarted, and He Himself will not break them. Therefore, what He has promised will always be fulfilled at exactly the time and in exactly the way that He has sovereignly determined.
9. And this is all because God is faithful! He never fails!
In closing, may we as Gentile believers learn from God’s faithful dealings with Israel! Not only should this keep us humble in how we look at the Jews, but it should also deeply encourage our hearts because our God will always be faithful to His promises to us as well!
Therefore, no matter how difficult the trials may be in our lives that challenge our faith, we must continually hold fast to the truths of God’s Word and make the conscious choice to trust Jesus. He is worthy of our trust because He is faithful! He never fails!