The Question of Israel
“I ask then, Did God reject His people? By no means! I am an Israelite myself, a descendant of Abraham, from the tribe of Benjamin.”- Romans 11:1–10
At the end of Romans 10 we found Paul explaining that Israel had refused to pay heed to the Word of God that they heard. Because of their sin in the face of God’s repeated offers of salvation, God had made good on His threat to take the Gospel to the Gentiles. But this brings Paul to the question of whether or not God has absolutely rejected the Jews.
Clearly not, says Paul. The proof is in Paul himself. Paul is a Jew, and Paul has not been rejected. Thus, God has not absolutely rejected all Jews. What we see here is the “remnant concept” coming up again. Remember from the earlier chapters of Romans that not all who are in Israel are truly of Israel. Even though the nation at large had rejected the Gospel, there was still a remnant of true, believing Israelites.
Paul was an example of this. Paul had been persecuting the church. The last thing Paul was seeking was salvation in Jesus Christ. Yet, God had seen fit to invade Paul’s life and call him to Himself.
Farther on in Romans 11, Paul indicates that the present remnant of Israel is not the last word on Israel either. There will come a future conversion of the Jews. One of the great controversies among Christians is how we are to understand biblical prophecies of the future, with specific reference to the Jews. Does God have in His plan another chapter to be written for Israel as a people?
Many Christians believe that the promises to Israel are completely fulfilled in the New Testament church. This position, held by many Reformed scholars, believes that Romans 11 is not speaking of any special event to take place in the future concerning the Jews as a people, but more generally speaks of individual Jews who come into the kingdom of God during the gospel age.
Others, also including many Reformed scholars, think differently. They hold that Romans 11 predicts a future conversion of Jews. A few see that future conversion as happening before the events of A.D. 70 (but future to Paul), but most see it as not yet fulfilled. The great future conversion of Israel may be something that happens just before the Lord’s return, or it may be the last link in the chain of events ushering in a time of prosperity before the Lord’s return.
Often Christians get more upset with one another over prophecy than anything else. Ask God to give you a spirit of charity and a true, sober-minded interest in what His Word has to say on the subject. If disagreement on such matters hinders fellowship with believers, focus on those beliefs you hold in common. Preserve unity in your church.
Passages for Further Study
Jeremiah 31:36–37; 33:24–26
2 Corinthians 11:22