“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:” (Romans 11:26)
Last time, we looked at the condition of the individual Hebrew in relation to Israel’s rejection of their coming Messiah. We considered that the Apostle Paul tells us in Romans 11 that, essentially, the Jew stands on the very same ground as the Gentile; he is free to come to Christ in faith and be saved on that basis. One’s nationality is neither a disadvantage or advantage when it comes to the Gospel, for the call of Christ goes out to members of every race and country. But what about the nation of Israel as a whole? God is preserving a remnant out of the nation of Israel, but does that mean that He is forever through with the nation itself?
One of the most peculiar Bible misinterpretations, in my opinion, is the notion that God has forever turned His back on Israel and is actually hostile toward the Hebrew people. Such a twisted theology has been grounds in the past for horrific persecutions of Jews by many claiming to be Christians. Anti-Semitism was quite common in the Medieval Catholic Church and was carried over into the Protestant Reformation. No less a figure than the great reformer, Martin Luther, carried a strong bitterness toward the Jewish race most famously expressed in his book, On the Jews and Their Lies, where he made the statement:
“[The Jews are] a base, whoring people, that is, no people of God, and their boast of lineage, circumcision, and law must be accounted as filth.” (for more documentation on Martin Luther’s anti-Semitic writings, Click Here and Here)
My point is not to criticize the past actions of the Roman Catholic Church nor the bitter ravings of the founder of Lutheranism (to whom all Protestants otherwise owe a great deal of gratitude for his willingness to stand up for and teach the great doctrines of the Faith), but to show that anti-Semitism carried out in the name of Christ has been going on for a very long time. The only real basis for such radical beliefs seem to be the fact that Israel rejected Christ and, therefore, Christ must be angry toward the entire race. But is this really what Scripture teaches?
No other chapter in the Bible so resolutely refutes the practice of anti-Semitism by the Church as Romans 11, and that is why we are taking the time to look at the subject now. Far from declaring God finished with Israel, Romans 11 shows us that every single promise that God made to that nation will one day be fulfilled. God will honor His covenants with Israel because His gifts and callings are without repentance (v. 29); He doesn’t change His mind. This is something very important for the Christian to see because, if God is willing to renege on His promises to Israel, how can we be certain of the promises He has made to us? Fortunately, God never fails to honor His promises.
Modern Hostility Toward The Jews
“But if ye shall at all turn from following me, ye or your children, and will not keep my commandments and my statutes which I have set before you, but go and serve other gods, and worship them: Then will I cut off Israel out of the land which I have given them; and this house, which I have hallowed for my name, will I cast out of my sight; and Israel shall be a proverb and a byword among all people:” (1 Kings 9:6-7)
Shortly after Solomon dedicated the Temple to God, the Lord appeared to him for a second time. During this appearance, God warned him what would happen if Israel rejected Him. They would ultimately be driven out of the land and taken into captivity, their Temple profaned and destroyed. In 587 B.C., the first Temple built by Solomon was destroyed by the Babylonians. When the armies of Rome under the command of Titus sacked Jerusalem in 70 A.D., the second, rebuilt Temple was defiled and destroyed. At that time, the Jews were driven out of the land again not to return for nearly 1,900 years. Even now, the re-founding of the nation in 1948 is only a partial return of the people to that land.
During their exile out of the land of Palestine, the prophecies were literally fulfilled as the Jew became a “proverb” and “byword” among the people. The Jew has been persecuted and despised by Gentiles clear up to today. It seemed that anti-Semitism became unpopular and less tolerated after the horrific events of World War II, when it was realized how far a burning hatred toward a particular race could be carried out. It was hoped by many that the terrible cruelty meted out by the Nazi regime under Hitler toward the Jews would be enough to prevent such atrocities in future generations. Yet today a new generation is repeating many of the sentiments of their forefathers, the passage of time erasing the memory of the sins of the past. Even 20 years ago, anti-Semitic leanings would have not been tolerated in most Christian churches but, today, with an ignorance of both the Bible and world history, many young people calling themselves “Christians” have adopted the hostile viewpoints of the past, believing that a sympathy for the blatant terrorists who attack innocent Israelis is the “politically correct” stand to take.
Has The Church Replaced Israel?
Some theologians have taught a doctrine which states that the Church, the Body of Christ, has replaced Israel in the plan of God and that all covenants and promises have been subsequently transferred to believers in Christ. Although members of the Body of Christ are spiritual heirs of Abraham, because he is the father of all who possess a genuine faith in God (Galatians 3:29), Gentile Christians have not taken the place of the Hebrew people. Not only is there absolutely no Scriptural support to be found for such a notion, there are a multitude of Bible passages in both Testaments which simply cannot be made to fit into the “Replacement” viewpoint. Take for instance Jeremiah 23:3-4:
“And I will gather the remnant of my flock out of all countries whither I have driven them, and will bring them again to their folds; and they shall be fruitful and increase. And I will set up shepherds over them which shall feed them: and they shall fear no more, nor be dismayed, neither shall they be lacking, saith the Lord.”
Is this talking about Israel or the Church? Has the Church been driven into various nations, or has Israel? Has this passage already been fulfilled? No. Israel certainly does not “fear no more” or prosper without lacking. This hasn’t been fulfilled yet. Let’s consider the next two verses:
“Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch, and a King shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth. In his days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely: and this is his name whereby he shall be called, The Lord Our Righteousness.” (Jeremiah 23:5-6)
The language makes it abundantly clear that this is a promise made to Israel, not the Church. “I will raise unto DAVID a righteous Branch (Christ)”, “In His days JUDAH shall be saved, and ISRAEL shall dwell in safety.” There is just no way to fit passages like this into a Replacement Theology worldview. Jesus Christ is the Lord of the Church, but He is not yet executing judgment and justice on the earth. And this is but one example among many. If we accept that when the Bible says Israel it means Israel, then the entirety of Scripture flows together seamlessly without contradiction or inconsistency. As soon as we try to suggest that someone else is actually meant when Israel is mentioned, then we have a multitude of problems trying to force the Word of God into the mold of our own preconceptions.
God told Abraham:
“And I will make thee exceeding fruitful, and I will make nations of thee, and kings shall come out of thee. And I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after thee in their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee. And I will give unto thee, and to thy seed after thee, the land wherein thou art a stranger, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God.” (Genesis 17:6-8)
The word everlasting appears twice in this passage. Both the Covenant and the possession of the land were given to Abraham and his descendants eternally. As we saw earlier in God’s words to Solomon, Israel’s occupancy of the land is conditional on their fidelity to the Lord. But that land is theirs eternally, regardless of the mandates, injunctions, directives, or suggestions of any other power on earth. God has given Israel the land and no man has the prerogative to overrule that.
As prophesied in the passage from Jeremiah that we just looked at, a remnant of Israel will one day be regathered into that land over which the Lord Jesus Himself shall rule (see also Revelation 20:4-6, Zech. 12:7-10, and Ezekiel 39:25-29). The current populating of Israel by Jewish inhabitants and a Jewish government in power is in no way a fulfillment of these prophecies because they have not turned to God in this hour neither is Christ ruling over them and the whole earth. The fulfillment still lies in a future time.
God’s First People
“Simeon hath declared how God at the first did visit the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for his name. And to this agree the words of the prophets; as it is written, After this I will return, and will build again the tabernacle of David, which is fallen down; and I will build again the ruins thereof, and I will set it up: That the residue of men might seek after the Lord, and all the Gentiles, upon whom my name is called, saith the Lord, who doeth all these things.” (Acts 15:14-17)
Israel, as a nation, rejected their promised Messiah at His first coming and have consequently been temporarily set aside that God might take out of the Gentiles a people for His name. As the Apostle Paul has shown us in Romans 11, He is also taking out a remnant from among Israel to join with these Gentile believers in order to form the Body of Christ, the Church. As Christians, we should not necessarily show special deference to Jews, for they are only human as we are and, like everyone else, are in need of a Savior. But neither should Christians treat Jewish non-believers with contempt or scorn. They are to be treated as anyone else and should be witnessed to of the love of Christ, just as we would any other non-Christian person. However, we should regard Israel as a whole with a reverence and respect because they definitely hold a special place in the heart of God. If we love the Lord, then we will love those whom He loves. The current government of Israel is not infallible or incapable of making mistakes or committing sin. But those who claim to love the Lord and yet side with Israel’s enemies are standing against a people whom God dearly loves and has promised to one day fully defend. God will someday destroy the enemies of Israel; how sad it will be when many of those destroyed will claim to be servants of the Lord!
“Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: they shall prosper that love thee.” (Psalm 122:6)
To God goes all glory. In service to Him,