In our study of the book of Acts, we have come to Israel's final rejection of Messiah a couple weeks ago. Remember that in Acts chapter 3, Peter was preaching, and he called on Israel, God's chosen people - as somebody said, God's frozen people, but that's not biblical; he called on Israel, God's chosen people, even though they are cold and indifferent toward Him - to repent and be converted. And he said that if they were, then the kingdom would come. But they rejected this second offer, or this second time of the same offer really, second time around, they rejected it and decided rather than accepting it, they would persecute again Jesus Christ through persecuting His disciples.
And we saw that from then on, never again in the New Testament is Israel nationally given an opportunity to respond to Messiah and thus bring the kingdom. The kingdom as an offer was then ceased. It then ceased. It was cut off. And the Lord then turned to the church totally. A new channel for His witness, He cut that fresh channel, the church, and began to deposit His blessing there, and to use them as His tool to reach the world.
And then we saw that, and because we wanted to put it in perspective, we moved over to the book of Romans. And last week we began to study in chapter 11, because we wanted to find out, as some theologians are saying today, if it is true that since Israel was set aside, is that a permanent setting aside? Is that a total exclusion of Israel from all of God's plan?
It's interesting that last Sunday morning I would have chosen to preach on this, because one of my friends was here whose pastor had told him just prior to his coming to this church, in a sermon that he had heard in his own church, that that was the case, that Israel definitely is permanently set aside, the church is now the Israel of God, there is nothing left for Israel nationally at all.
In order for us to be able to understand carefully this truth, we wanted to move in our study of Acts on a little tangent and come to Romans chapter 11. And we want to find out if in fact that is true, that God is finished with Israel.
Now in verse...in chapters 9 and 10, the answer that Paul gives is yes, God is finished with Israel. That's in chapters 9 and 10. Because of God's sovereign design to bring salvation to the Gentiles, and because of Israel's unbelief and disobedience, God set Israel aside. That's chapters 9 and 10.
But chapter 11 says it's only partial, and it's only temporary. And we must get to chapter 11. Yes, it’s true Israel is set aside, set aside because God wanted to call out the Gentiles, and He couldn't get to them through Israel because Israel failed to be a channel, so He set them aside because of their disobedience and unbelief. Yes, they are set aside. But no, it is not permanent. And chapter 11 says it is partial. We saw in verses 1 to 10 last week that the setting aside of Israel is only partial. Because there's always a remnant; in every age there's a remnant. There always has been a remnant. There always will be a remnant of believing Jews in every...every era of history.
Now I want to continue that study this morning a little bit by looking at verses 11 to 25 or so, seeing how far we get. It really doesn't matter at the end there. But we want to see the second feature of Israel's setting aside. It is not only partial, it is temporary. There is not only always a remnant, but Israel as a nation, as a whole, will in fact be saved, will in fact be re-gathered and reunited under Messiah. That is coming, so that the total setting aside is only temporary.
Now it's an amazing thing, but we are living in the day when God is beginning to re-gather Israel to bring about this salvation experience for them nationally. Paul's message here in Romans 11 is clearly that Israel as always remains in the mainstream of God's plan, and that He's getting back to Israel. And the faithfulness of God depends on it. God's word is suspect if God doesn't continue to deal with Israel.
Let me just consider this for just a moment. In the Olivet Discourse, Jesus predicted the end of Gentile civilization very clearly. He predicted that the times of the Gentiles would come to an end. And that God would go back to dealing with Israel again. Daniel said the same thing. Daniel said in chapter 9 that there would be sixty-nine weeks of years determined upon Israel and then there would be the interval time when Messiah was rejected, and then there would be a final time when God would deal with Israel, the seventieth week, that final seven-year period, and that has not come. So God must deal with Israel nationally to fulfill the instruction of Daniel as well as the very statement of Jesus that the times of the Gentiles would come to an end, and God would go right back in dealing through it with Israel.
And it's interesting that Jesus in the Olivet Discourse also predicted that the restoration of Israel would take place in the same era of history as the demise of the Gentiles. It has to happen that way. The Gentile reign in the world will end, and Israel’s restoration will begin. And we're beginning to see the overlap. People today are talking about the death of Gentile civilization. People are writing today about the demise of...of civilization. We're talking about civilization running to its extreme end, to the wall, with no further to go, and we know this is happening. And in fact, in Mark 13:30 Jesus said that the generation that is alive when the fig tree buds will not die off till all the things of the end come to pass. The fig tree budding is apparently Israel; that's one valid interpretation. That would mean that as Israel begins to bud as a nation, that's the sign that Israel's day is coming and the Gentile civilization is coming to an end, and you and I are alive in the day when the fig tree is budded.
Now this has been God's promise to Israel all along, that they would be restored, that their setting aside was only temporary. In Amos, chapter 9:14 - my dad used to say, "You can always find Amos in the Bible but look as I may, I can never find Andy" – but in Amos 9:14 says, "I will bring again the captivity of My people." Get it? "I will bring again the captivity of My people of Israel. And they shall build their waste cities and inhabit them. And they shall plant vineyards and drink their wine. They shall also make gardens and eat the fruit of them, and I will plant them upon their land and they shall no more be pulled up out of their land which I have given them, sayeth the Lord thy God." Now there is a cut and dried promise that God will restore Israel, that it is a secure thing that nothing can violate it, and it is permanent.
Israel has not...has been a “no people” in a sense, using the Old Testament term for Gentiles. They have become the “no people” in one form or another for 2,600 years. And finally today, we see them being planted back in the land, and God is beginning to fulfill his final promise to Israel.
Ezekiel deals in great measure with this. In Ezekiel 36:24, "For I will take you from among the nations, gather you out of the countries and bring you into your own land." First comes the...the physical restoration, then the revival. "Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you and you shall be clean from all your filthiness and your idols. I will cleanse you. A new heart will I give you. A new spirit will I put within you. I will put My Spirit within you, cause you to walk in My statutes and you shall keep My ordinances and do them."
So God says, "I will bring you back from your captivity, I will place you in the land, and then there will be a spiritual revival." Now this is a fantastic thing to be alive in this day to see this happen; to see the things that are going on in Israel; to see the building of the waste cities; to see all of the fruit that is being reaped because of the planting in Israel; all of these miraculous things happening in Israel.
It is the miracle of history, in fact, that the Jews have even survived in the human jungle over these years, since 70 A.D. these some 2,000 years. It's amazing they've even survived to be re-gathered. That's the miracle, really. That's the miracle of anthropology. By reason of Israel's geographic position alone it's a buffer state, and it's been kicked back and forth by many great powers throughout all of its history. It was exposed repeatedly to the influences that destroyed stronger nations than it ever was. And all the ancient tribes and the ancient kingdoms in that area have long since disappeared. But Israel remains, and as pure as ever.
Even under outside rule from 586 B.C. to 70 A.D., under control other than their own, they remained pure. And perhaps the greatest modern historian, Toynbee, Arnold Toynbee, says this, "As for long life, the Jews live on. The same peculiar people today, long ages after the Phoenicians and Philistines have lost their identity, the ancient Syriac neighbors have gone into the melting pot and have been reminted, while Israel has proven impervious to this alchemy performed by history in the crucibles of universal states and universal churches and wanderings of the nations, to which all we Gentiles in turn succumb." End quote. They've remained pure in spite of being a buffer state, and in spite of being dominated by other forces.
Thirdly, they've remained pure, amazingly, even under direct persecution. In the destruction of Jerusalem, 1,100,000 of them were killed. Two years before that, the Gentiles of Caesarea slew 20,000 Jews and sold tens of thousands of others into slavery. In a single day, the people of Damascus cut the throats of 10,000 Jews. After the fall of Jerusalem, almost 100,000 fugitives were captured and sold into slavery. Many more died as gladiators in the games.
A few years later in 115 A.D. the Jews of Cyrene, Egypt, Cyprus and Mesopotamia rose up against Rome. They were suppressed, and under the Emperor Hadrian, the Romans destroyed 985 towns, and the historical record tells us they slew 580,000 men, and more perished through starvation, disease and fire; and so many of the Jews that were left were sold as slaves that their price dropped to that of a horse.
Skipping centuries of persecution in between, we come to the crusades in 1096. The first crusade was launched to recapture the holy places from the Ottoman Turks, and the crusaders thought it desirable to kill the Jews in Europe before proceeding to fight the Turks, and thus they did. The second crusade in 1146 and ‘47 threatened to exceed the carnage of the first one. In 1290, Edward the First of England ordered the Jews to leave England by November 1. The same thing began to happen all over Europe. It happened in France, and in two cities in France, Anjou and Putin, there were 3,000 trampled to death under the horses' hooves of the crusaders.
During the scourge of the Black Death in 1348 and ‘49, the charge was that the Jews had brought on the Black Death by poisoning the wells, and they had to flee for their existence to Poland and to Russia, and that's why so many Jews have Polish and Russian backgrounds. And this continued through the centuries to the infamous Dreyfus affair that occurred in 1894.
But all of this persecution, instead of rubbing out the Jew, finally resulted in a great Zionist movement at the end of the 19th century, and they began to move back to Israel. And by the time of 1914 there were 90,000 of them in the land. And slowly, they came back. Then there were 300,000 in the '30s, and slowly they came back. And then in World War II, Hitler slaughtered six million of them. But that didn't stop them, they kept coming back, and only a handful of years later, they were a nation.
From a historical standpoint, they are an absolute miracle. They have absolutely no right to exist on the face of the earth, apart from God's sovereign care. They have had every influence that has destroyed lesser people, and they have remained.
And they had to remain because God wasn't finished with them yet. The church is not the final Israel of God. God is going to deal with Israel. And we believe that even today, we're beginning to see God bring them back. Not only does God's setting aside of Israel in the long run appear to be partial, but it is definitely temporary. He is re-gathering Israel. He has preserved them to re-gather them to redeem them.
Now with that in mind, we come to Romans 11 verse 11. And here, the apostle Paul presents to us the facts regarding the temporary setting aside of Israel. And I want you to see this, because this is a tremendously important passage, it's a very difficult one to interpret for many people. We'll endeavor to give it to you in a simple way so that you'll understand the tremendous truth that it's teaching.
Now the point of 11 to 25 is Israel's blindness is temporary. How is he going to get to that point? How is he going to build to that great idea, that great thought that he's trying to communicate? Well, he gives us three things. He says Israel's blinding has a definite purpose, a definite pre-warning, and a definite promise.
First of all, in Paul's unfolding of this, he says Israel's blindness has a definite purpose. God is doing something in it, and that's in verses 11 to 15. Look at verse 11. "I say then, have they stumbled that they should fall?" That's a very interesting beginning. In other words, Israel stumbled, and over whom did they stumble? Who was the rock of offense? Jesus Christ. Go back to chapter 9:33, "Behold I lay in Zion a stumbling stone and a rock of offense." That's Jesus Christ. They fell over Jesus Christ. They stumbled over Him.
Now, when Israel stumbled, immediately the covenant theologian moves in and says, "They stumbled and they fell and it's final, God is no longer dealing with them.” But then you have this statement right here, "Have they stumbled that they should fall?" What are the next two words? “God forbid.” Again we have that strong negative mē genoito, no, no, no, no way. No, they have not stumbled that they should fall.
Now Paul wants to show us the same thing that he showed us in 11:1, "Hath God passed away his people?" No, no, no, no. Is this a permanent thing? No. Is it a total thing? No. It's partial, and it's temporary. He wants to teach us that the rejection is not final, it is not permanent. They stumbled, but did not permanently fall nationally. Was it God's design in Israel's stumbling that that would be the end? Was their rejection of Christ designed to be a permanent casting away of the nation from God's plan and the forfeiture of the kingdom? Is there no further hope for Israel as a nation? Only for individual Jews who are saved? No, that's not so. Israel nationally does have a place in God's plan. God had a purpose, even in their stumbling.
Now look at the purpose, threefold purpose: First of all, Gentile salvation. Verse 11, "But rather, through their fall, salvation is come unto the Gentile.” Now that's a terrific statement. It is stated there that God had a very gracious and very far-reaching aim in their being set aside, and that aim was Gentile salvation. Now God had that aim in line all the way along. God always wanted the Gentiles to be saved. He kept trying to do it through Israel, and that didn't work. So He finally set them aside, and just circumvented them. But Gentile salvation came as a result of their setting aside. If the channel is blogged, you’ve got to...blocked, you’ve got to remove the channel, right? And so it was the...the unbelief of Israel in a very real sense that made God directly circumvent them and come to the Gentiles in a very direct way. And so he says here that God had built into this thing a very positive purpose, Gentile salvation.
Look at the end of verse 11 again and see it in that light. "But through their fall, salvation is come to the Gentiles.” The church owes its existence to the unbelief of Israel. Now that's a very strange argument, and yet it's true. The apostle Paul is saying we have a right to be thankful in a sort of a left-handed sense to Israel for not believing, for that brought God in direct contact with us.
In Acts chapter 13 an interesting two verses I think, 46 and 47 there, says, "Then Paul and Barnabas grew bold" as if they weren't already "and said it was necessary that the Word of God should first have been spoken to you," he was talking to these Jews. He said, "It was necessary that the Word of God should first be spoken to you" now watch this "but seeing you put it from you and judge yourself unworthy of everlasting life; lo, we turn to the Gentiles.” See. “For so hath the Lord commanded us, saying 'I have sent thee to be a light of the nations, that thou shouldst be for salvation unto the ends of the earth.' And when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad, and glorified the Word of the Lord and as many as were ordained to eternal life, believed."
Now, it simply says that Paul makes the statement that the Gentiles were the second object of God's plan; they were always the ultimate target, but in terms of direct relation, they were directly related to God, He directly came to them when Israel as a channel ceased to function by unbelief. And so the Gentiles were thankful. And our attitude toward Israel ought to be that very same kind of attitude, in a very general sense. I don't think we ought to go up to the Jews we know and say, "I want to thank you for your unbelief," but I think we ought to keep in mind the general perspective at that point. Through Israel's stumbling, full salvation went to the Gentiles. And as I say, if God can't do it through them, He'll do it around them. And He always works like that. We, the recipients of God's gracious salvation are really the direct result of the rejection of Israel.
Second thing he says in terms of God's purpose, not only Gentile salvation, but Jewish jealousy. God has everything figured out so beautifully. Look at verse 11, the very end, "To provoke them," that refers to Israel, "to provoke them to jealousy.” Jealousy is emulation. God... Watch this one. God wants to redeem Gentiles so that Gentiles will have a relationship to God that will make Jews jealous. You see? That's the plan. "In time," says Paul, "Israel will see what the Gentiles have gained, and what they in their obstinate unbelief have lost, and they will believe," hopefully. Notice God's design for Israel. Gentile salvation, watch this, as important as it is for every individual believer, is also the direct design of God to bring Israel to salvation by showing them what they missed.
God always has in His mind the salvation of Israel. Even in redeeming Gentiles, God is looking one step past that to the salvation of His people, Israel. Why? Because God made so many promises to them, that He must keep them. And in bringing them about, there must be salvation, therefore everything that He does must have as its ultimate end the salvation of Israel in order to complete His promise. But it cannot happen against their will or in view of their unbelief.
And so Paul sees that Israel, observing the favor and the blessing of God bestowed on the church, will be jealous and desire to turn to the Lord to have what they lack, and what the Gentiles possess; God designing then that the salvation of Israel would be the excitement of the Jews.
Look at verse 13, and he expands the same thing, skipping 12 for a minute. "For, I speak to you Gentiles, inasmuch as I am the apostle of the Gentiles, and I magnify my office.” He says "I'm talking to you Gentiles.” He's always saying, "I have a heart for Israel, a heart for Israel.” So he reminds them that he knows that he's really sent to them, and he says, "I'm not saying that I don't like this thing, I magnify my office. I mean, I'm happy about being the apostle of the Gentiles. I mean, my heart’s desire and prayer for Israel is that they be saved, and they are my people, and I could almost wish myself accursed for the sake of Israel, but I don't mind a bit being around you Gentiles. It's all right. It’s all right. And I magnify my office." They say, "Thanks Paul.” And then he says this, "Of course, if by any means I may provoke to jealousy them who are my flesh and save some of them.” I, most of all, want you to be converted so the Jews will see what you’ve got and want it. He still, down in his heart, had Israel, didn't he?
You say, well that's kind of an illegitimate motive. No, because that was God's plan. That's God's motive. That's very pure. And I believe that when Israel does come to salvation during the tribulation, the great factor in that is going to be that which they see they have missed in Messiah, and which the church had so genuinely and so real.
And so he's simply saying there, then, that it is the idea of God in setting aside Israel to redeem Gentiles who would then provoke Israel. They would be the living example. Isn't that a horrible reversal of the original plan? Where Israel was supposed to be so godly that they became the standard that the Gentiles would want to emulate? And they goofed it up so bad that God reversed the whole process, set them aside, chose the Gentiles to do back to them what they were supposed to do to the Gentiles? And Paul knows that the more successful his Gentile ministry is, the greater the prospect that some Jews may be saved, and that's his heart’s prayer, chapter 10 verse 1.
It's kind of an exciting thing to see the chain reaction in witnessing. Paul knew that people who came to Christ affected other people who come to Christ.
There's a third purpose that God had, not only Gentile salvation and Jewish jealousy, but world blessing. Verse 12, "Now if the fall of them" that is if the fall of the Jews "be the riches of the world." In what way? Because when Israel fell, God moved to the whole world with salvation with the gospel, in a very direct sense to the church, so that's a good thing. "If the fall of them is the riches of the world, and the diminishing of them, the riches of the Gentiles" watch this "how much more their fullness.” Listen, if the fall of Israel was so good for the rest of the world, can’t you imagine what their salvation's going to be? If a negative could bring about such a great result, can you imagine what a positive is going to do?
This is the same part... Paul loves this argument. He uses it in Romans 5. In Romans 5, you know, he says there that Christ's death has reconciled us to God. That's terrific. Let me read you this. You don't have to turn to it. He says this, "If when we were enemies,” verse 10, “we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, how much more, being reconciled we shall continue to be saved by His life?" In other words, if Christ's death could do so much for me, imagine what His living at the right hand of God is doing for me. If His death could save me, imagine how His life must be able to keep me. See? That's the point. If a negative could effect such a great result, what a positive must be doing. That's Paul's argument right here. He says if the setting aside of Israel turned out to be such a great thing for the Gentiles, imagine what's going to happen when the Jews believe. And that's exactly right.
During the middle of the tribulation, the Jews are going to believe. They're going to look on Him whom they have pierced, as Zechariah said, "mourn for Him as an only son,” get right with God through Messiah, and they're going to turn into the super preachers the world has ever seen.
The Jewish people have a way of selling their product, there's no question about that. There's a charisma about them somehow, but when they get turned onto their Messiah, they are going to become some kind of supernatural salesmen. In a period of three and a half years, the 144,000, in chapter 7, are going to blitz the earth. And there are all kinds of master plans going around today to evangelize by certain years, but this group is going to accomplish it.
It says in Revelations 7 that he chooses 120...144,000 — 12,000 out of every tribe — and away they go preaching. And what happens? This, listen: "And after this I beheld" verse 9 "and a great multitude which no man could number of all nations, kindreds, peoples, tongues, stood before the throne and before the Lamb clothed in white robes and palms in their hands, and cried with a loud voice saying, 'Salvation to our God who sits on the throne and unto the Lamb.'” What’s that group of saved people that is so monstrous that you can't even count them? Those are the Gentiles that are saved when the Jews get saved.
And so Paul says here in Romans 11, "If their falling was so good, imagine what their rising must be.” And if you want to find out, just read Revelations 7 and you find out that once Israel gets saved, they turn the world inside out in three and a half years, and more people are saved than in any other time in history. That's God's plan.
And so the setting aside of Israel doesn't violate God's plan, it just explodes it. Paul argues that since the fall of the nation Israel from the place of blessing, and its rejection of Messiah had such a good result in that God turned to the Gentiles, oh how great must be that which will happen when Israel believes. If we Gentiles have been enriched through the miscarriage and disaster of Israel, what wealth we're going to experience in the great return when the fullness of Israel takes place. And you know what's going to happen. For the whole world will come the great kingdom.
You know the whole world waits for the kingdom of Christ? And the key to the whole thing, the key that unlocks the door to the kingdom is Israel's salvation. We can't have the kingdom until Israel gets straight. But, I mean, it's not too bad right now, knowing the Lord, is it? I mean, the kingdom will be nice. I’m... I'm ready for the kingdom. That's terrific. But it's not really... It’s not half bad just being saved. And if the fall of Israel can result in my salvation, that's great. But imagine that the salvation of Israel's going to result in the kingdom, which is going to be everything that is the very best about being a Christian with nothing else included. No negatives. Think of it. When the kingdom comes, world blessing, the Lord Jesus Christ sitting on the throne of David in Jerusalem, Israel is saved, Satan is bound, universal righteousness reigns, peace, prosperity for 1,000 years, and then right on into eternal bliss. And all of that awaits the salvation of Israel.
And that kingdom is going to be fantastic. I don't know if you ever studied your Bible on the facts about the kingdom, let me just review them for you for just a moment. The kingdom is primary for Israel, and it's certainly wonderful for the rest of us. But the Bible tells us that in the kingdom, for example, Israel will have all the land that was promised to Abraham. Back in Genesis chapter 13: verses 14 and 15, God promised them land. He drew the boundaries over there in chapter 15 verse 18, clear from the River of Egypt to the Euphrates. And all that whole territory which they do not now possess that will be theirs. It also tells us in Ezekiel 34 and 37 that Israel will be re-gathered, as we read this morning. In 36, they will be redeemed. Jeremiah 31:31-35 says Israel will have spiritual blessing like they've never known. Jeremiah 30 says Jerusalem will be rebuilt. Read that. That's a great passage. Jeremiah 30:18-24, the rebuilding of the city of Jerusalem. And then I love Zechariah 6 because Zechariah 6 says that the temple will be rebuilt. So it's going to be a restoration for all of Israel, terrific, complete blessing.
One great passage that comes to my mind is Isaiah, right there at the...close to the end, 62 I think. In Isaiah 62:2 he says, "And the nations will see thy righteousness, and all kings thy glory." This is talking about the kingdom. "And thou shalt be called by a new name which the mouth of the Lord shall name, and thou shalt also be a crown of glory and a hand of the Lord,” great day for Israel. "and a royal diadem and a hand of thy God. Thou shalt no more be termed forsaken" - no, no more set aside, no more forsaken "neither shall thy land anymore be titled desolate,” no “but thou shalt be called Hephzibah.” You say well that's terrific, what is that? Hephzibah means "my delight is in her.” No more forsaken and no more desolate, but my delight is in her. “And thy land, Beulah.” That means married. "For the Lord delighteth in thee and thy land shall be married.” Everything's going to be reversed. The kingdom is going to be terrific for Israel.
But not only for them, they will become a blessing to everybody else. Says in Micah 5:7, "And the remnant of Jacob shall be in the midst of many people as dew from the Lord, as showers upon the grain.” The blessing of Israel is the blessing of the world. Don't ever wish ill of Israel, my friend. Don't ever wish ill of Israel. The blessing of Israel is the blessing of the world.
For clear back in Genesis, I think it's 9, God said that "Japheth shall be blessed in the tents of Shem." And "Salvation” John, I think it...well John 4 is it 22, “Salvation is of” what? “the Jews.” Don't ever wish ill of Israel. Through them comes blessing to all.
You say well is the kingdom only for them? Where does it say it's for us? Well, in Daniel 7:18, "But the saints of the Most High shall take the kingdom and possess the kingdom forever.” The same chapter, verse 27, "And the kingdom and dominion and the greatness of the kingdom under the whole heaven shall be given to the people of the saints of the Most High.” It's not just them; it's also the people of the saints of the Most High.
Matthew 19 takes it a step further. It talks about the fact that the kingdom is also going to be granted to those who follow Christ. And then later on you find that in 1 Peter 2:9 that we are a royal priesthood, going to inherit a kingdom is implied. In 2 Timothy 2:12 it says, "We shall reign with Him.” In Revelation 3:12, I love that one, it says, "We shall sit with Him on His throne,” which is the Father's throne.
So all the saints of all the ages will reign in the kingdom but the key to the whole thing is Israel. It's only when they're saved, during that tribulation, that the kingdom opportunity is released to us.
Revelation 20 verse 4, listen, "And I saw thrones and they sat upon them and judgment was given unto them. And I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus and for the Word of God, and who had not worshipped the Beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads or in their hands, and they lived and reigned with Christ 1,000 years." And they are just saints out of the tribulation, Jew and Gentile.
So the kingdom is for all who believe. Verse 5 says, "But the rest of the dead live not until the thousand years are finished. This is the first resurrection.” Those who reign are in the first resurrection. The first resurrection has three parts; Christ the first fruits, the resurrection of the church and the resurrection of the Old Testament and tribulation saints. Those three make up the first resurrection. And all of those in the first resurrection reign in the kingdom.
But it can't come to any of us until Israel believes. And so we desire above all things the salvation of Israel.
Now back to chapter 11 verse 15, and here's the same thought, "For if the casting away of them be the reconciling of the world.” In other words if Israel being set aside turned out to be salvation for the world, "what shall the receiving of them be but life from the dead?" In other words, the great resurrection is going to happen when they believe. And the eternal life in its fullest is going to take place, through the kingdom and eternity.
If we have been saved, if we have been redeemed, if we have been reconciled to God by them being set aside, we shall live eternally in God's glorious kingdom by them believing. Tremendous thought. The Jews always looked for a resurrection at the coming of the Messiah. Daniel 12 talked about it. But they failed to see it in Jesus and failed to see Him as Messiah, but when Israel does come to Christ, then there's going to be a great resurrection of Old Testament saints, tribulation saints, and we will be brought down from heaven to join with them in the great kingdom.
So the temporary blindness, then, of Israel, has a threefold purpose: One, Gentile salvation; two, Jewish jealousy; three, world blessing. And God is planning all of these things all the way along.
Second point: Israel's temporary blindness not only has a definite purpose, but it carries a definite pre-warning. And this is for us Gentiles to listen carefully, because it's a warning against Gentile pride. Against anti-Semitism if you will, in any way, shape or form. Paul is talking here about Israel's fall, but he has something to say to Gentiles in the form of a warning. Because it's very easy for Gentiles, especially, we've been through the gospels and we've studied John and we've seen the hatred and the bitterness, and maybe we've had a little animosity toward the Jewish leaders. And maybe we've been able to have a little bit of feeling toward Israel from that. I pray God that's not so, and that's one reason why I'm stopping to do this series. I want us to keep it in perspective.
And it may be easy for us Gentiles to exalt ourselves proudly above Israel, but we better be very careful. Watch verse 16; this is a serious warning. It starts out with this statement, "For if the first fruit be holy, the lump is also holy. And if the root be holy, so are the branches." Now first fruit and root and branches are simply illustrations. What it means is this; whenever an offering was brought, Numbers 15:21 talks about bringing a large handful of dough. And they would merely take a first fruits, which was a sample of it. And if the sample was good, then the whole pile was rendered good. That's the idea.
And what he's saying here is this; if God has stated something, if God has given a first fruits promise, then you better believe it's going to come to pass. If God established the root as good, the branches will follow true. The root determines the tree. What is Paul trying to say? Let me say it in another way. The basis for believing that Israel will return to its chosen place in the promised kingdom is the fact that originally, the nation was set apart, consecrated to God. It was set apart as holy unto God. If the root is holy and the set apart first fruits was holy, then the whole deal is going to come back to that holiness. That's the point. The patriarchs were consecrated to God; Abraham, Isaac, Jacob. They were the first fruits, and they were the root. And they were consecrated to God and because the first fruits was consecrated, the whole lump was consecrated. That's the way they worked their sacrifices. They didn't have to bring the whole thing and have it consecrated, only a piece of it, and that was symbolic of the whole thing. And when God consecrated the patriarchs, He therefore consecrated Israel as a nation and sooner or later, He'll get back and Israel will be made holy separate unto God.
So the guarantee of Israel's holiness was the fact that God made promises to the patriarchs. God said to Abraham in Revelation 12, "In thee shall all the families of the earth be blessed.” And God has to keep that promise because that's who He is. Israel as a nation was long ago chosen by God, long ago set apart as an elect nation, God promised that they would be a holy nation, and they will be. Because the first fruits was holy, that consecrated the whole lump. Now that's a simple illustration just to show that God is consistent.
Verse 17, "If some of the branches be broken off, and thou being a wild olive tree were grafted in among them and with them partakest of the root and fatness of the olive tree, boast not against the branches." That's an important statement. Now he's talking about an olive tree. Let's just see if we can put it into perspective. The root is Abraham. The root of the tree is Abraham, because that's the Abrahamic Covenant which is the covenant of blessing. “In thee shall all the families of the earth be blessed.” Nobody's ever blessed apart from Abraham. Because it's through Abraham the covenant came, it's through Abraham's loins Messiah came, right? So nobody is ever blessed apart from Abraham.
So the root of blessing is Abraham. The trunk is God's promises, God's covenant blessings that come through Abraham. Even salvation comes through Abraham in the sense that Christ is the son of Abraham. So the root then is Abraham, the trunk is God's promises that come through Abraham.
Now originally, they...that tree had true branches. And the true branches coming out of the trunk was Israel. They were the real branches. They didn't believe, so God, the pruner, came along and whacked off all the branches. Then God went over in the Gentile area, called the wild olive tree, and he whacked off some branches, took them back, and grafted them into the Abrahamic blessing. So we are blessed in the tents of Shem. We are blessed in the loins of Abraham. That's why the Bible says that whosoever is of faith is a child of Abraham.
Because when we were saved as Gentiles, it means that we were connected into God's covenant promise through Abraham. The wild ones grafted in, then, are Gentiles. The church... Incidentally, there are some Jewish believing branches who've remained in.
And now comes the warning, verse 18: "Boast not against the branches," the original branches. "If thou boast, thou bearest not the root, but the root thee.” You're saying wow, we’re...we're so much better than them. Wait a minute. You're a branch. It is still God's plan with Israel that is the root of all your blessing. Because you are only blessed as God maintained His covenant through Israel, you see. So you cannot step aside and say well, you know, Israel can just you know what, and that's all I care for them, and so forth and so forth. You are blessed only as you are joined under the covenant promise of God that came originally to Abraham, and was made fulfilled in Christ, who is the seed of Abraham.
And so we cannot boast; God forbid that we should boast. If a Gentile boasts, that is being ridiculous. That is absurd because you're not giving life to the root; the root’s giving life to you. You're only a branch. You owe everything to the covenant God made with Israel. Keep Israel in the right perspective.
We Gentile Christians have no reason to boast over Israel; all of our blessing and salvation comes from the root and stock of Israel, God's promises with Abraham. Salvation is of the Jews, we are blessed in the tents of Shem. Don't ever yield to the temptation to look down on Jews. Don't ever yield to the temptation to disparage Israel. Now that doesn't mean you agree with everything they do, that means that you always keep the right perspective to Israel in a national sense. And I think it should radiate in a very personal sense too.
And so the new life which enables us Gentiles to produce fruit unto God is the covenant stock of Israel that we've been grafted into. By faith we are Abraham's seed. Israel owes no debt to us, no, they don't owe any debt to us. They will someday, when they see us and believe. But we now owe a debt to them, because we're grafted into their covenant blessing.
Verse 19, another warning. It's easy for a Gentile to come along and say...say, "Thou wilt say then the branches were broken off, that I might be grafted in.” See? I mean, I am so superior. They just whacked those babies off and stuck me right in there. I mean, I didn't even belong, but God couldn't resist me.” Now wait a minute, you are only blessed insofar as you're related to Israel; we saw that.
Let me give you a verse and we'll bounce off of that one. Galatians chapter 3 talks about this. It says in Galatians 3 verse 6, "Even as Abraham believed God and it was counted to him for righteousness, know ye therefore that they who are of faith, the same are the sons of Abraham." Anybody who believes falls into Abrahamic blessing. And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham saying "in thee shall nations be blessed.” So then they who are of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham. You might not like it, but in a very real sense, your only blessing from God comes because you've lined yourself up with the greatest Jew of all, Abraham. Other than Christ.
Then he says in verse 13, "Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us, for it is written, ‘Accursed is everyone that hangeth on a tree,’ that the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ.” We are grafted into Abrahamic promise. And he goes further in 29, I like it: "And if you be Christ's, then are you Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise." So, we're united.
And there's no place for us to stand up and say, "Well I'm better." It isn't you that's better. You could say, "Well they were broken off that I might be grafted in.” That's a superiority complex. But listen to verse 20. I like that, "Well,” it starts out, "because of unbelief they were broken off,” and you only stand by faith. The whole issue isn't that you were better than them, it's whether you believe and they don't, right? The only way a man is ever plugged into God's blessing is by what? By faith. The only reason Israel was set aside, not because they were less than you, not because God looked down upon them nationally; contrary, He did not; but because they didn't believe, and you did. That's all. “For by grace are you saved” what? “through faith, that” what? “not of yourselves. It is a gift of God, not of works, lest any man” what? “should boast.”
And so he says don't boast. You've been grafted in because of their unbelief. Not because there's anything desirable about you. Faith is the issue, not genetic superiority or national superiority. Get off your high horse. In fact, I like this: "Ye shouldn't even get high minded.” it says at the end of verse 20, "But you ought to fear.” You say what should I be afraid of? What do we Gentiles have to fear? Verse 21, this is a potent one: "For if God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest He also spare not thee.” Now that's strong stuff. If God was so severe on the real branches, don't you think if the Gentile branches aren't what they ought to be, He'll whack them off just as fast? You say, you mean the Lord would actually deal against the church? You mean that the Lord would actually come and whack off the Gentile church? Oh, ho, ho, let me give you an illustration, Revelation 2, and I'll show you some whacking that's already been done. Revelation 2:5, he writes to Ephesus. "Remember therefore from where thou art fallen,” church at Ephesus. “And repent and do the first works, or I'll come unto thee quickly and remove thy lamp stand.” I'll wipe you out. I'll cut you right off.
Now He's not talking about personal salvation, He's talking about Gentile inclusion in blessing. He did it on an individual basis in that church. The church of Ephesus doesn't exist anymore. He did it in chapter 2:16 in dealing there, that's Pergamos. He says, "Repent or I'll come unto thee quickly and fight against them with the sword of My mouth.” He deals with His church very strongly. And to the Laodicean church he said I'll come to you in this sense, "Because thou art lukewarm and neither hot nor cold, I will spew thee out of My mouth."
Listen, God will deal in just as much judgment against a Gentile church that isn't obedient and doesn't put faith in Him as he did against an unbelieving Israel, because faith is the issue. If God didn't spare Israel, his people, to whom the promises were made, why should He spare a faithless, selfish, Gentile Christianity, who were never a people but a “no people” to begin with? Christianity can go just like Judaism went. And my friends, it will.
Christianity reaches its heyday in the tribulation, read it in Revelations 17, the whole false system reaches its apex and it is gobbled up by the political system and totally destroyed. God is going to wipe out Gentile Christianity. The true church is removed and then God's just going to clean up. And you know what He's going to do? He's going to... After wiping out Gentile Christianity, and in the middle of the tribulation, Israel is grafted back in, exactly what Paul says. And so we need to be very careful as we look at these truths.
All of the sins that brought Israel's demise are characteristic of the church. The church is today, self-centered, proud, idolatrous, worshipping everything but God, and adulterous. And it will be destroyed. Read Revelations 17: The church will go to hell. That's sad. "Many will say unto me in that day, 'Lord, Lord,' and I’ll say” what? “I never knew you.”
Somebody called up the other day and said, "Do you believe in the National Council of Churches"? I said, "I believe in it, I believe that most of it's going right to hell.” And I said that in my own mind, because I believe it to be true. The false church is growing at an unbelievable rate. And God's going to deal with it, just like he did with Israel.
So, a definite purpose, a definite pre-warning. Thirdly, it has a definite promise. Verse 23, look at this. Well, look at verse 22 for a minute so we don't skip it. "Behold, therefore, the goodness and severity of God; on them who fell, severity; but toward thee, goodness, if thou continue in His goodness.” Did you like that? The Gentiles are going to be blessed if they stay in the place of faith. “Otherwise, thou also shall be cut off.” You, too.
And here comes the promise. Verse 23, Israel's restoration: "And they also, if they abide not still in unbelief, shall be grafted back in, for God is able to graft them in again." Listen, if Israel ever believes, they can be grafted in. That means Israel's restoration is possible.
Secondly, Israel's restoration is easy. Verse 24, "For if thou wert cut out of the olive tree, which is wild by nature, and grafted contrary to nature into a good olive tree, how much more shall these who are the natural branches be grafted into their own olive tree?” That's easy. It's not only possible, it's easy. They're the natural branches.
Thirdly, it’s coming, verse 25: "For I would not, brethren, that you should be ignorant of this mystery, lest you be wise in your own conceit, that blindness in part is happened to Israel only until the fullness of the Gentiles be come in." What's the fullness of the Gentiles? It's a term for the church. When the church is complete, when the Gentile body is full, God goes right back to Israel.
What does he say? Verse 23, Israel's restoration is possible. Verse 24, it's easy. Verse 25, it's coming. Verse 26, it's happened. “And so all Israel shall be” what? “saved.” It will be grafted back in. The church is on its way to hell. The true church will be raptured into heaven. The rest of the organized church of Christianity will be set aside. God will go right back grafting Israel again, the whole nation be redeemed in the tribulation, then the kingdom will come.
And so we need to learn these things. Is God finished with Israel? No. Blindness is partial and temporary. Christ will redeem them. Look at verse 26: "There shall come out of Zion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob. For this is My covenant unto them when I take away their sins.” It's going to happen; they're going to be saved.
You say why is God going to do this? Verse 29, "For the gifts and calling of God are without (what?) repentance.” God is faithful. Are you glad God's faithful? Doesn't the lesson of God's faithfulness to Israel give you a sense of security? It does me. Oh what a tremendous realization and I think that's what Paul had on his heart when he said this, "Being confident of this very thing, that He which hath begun a good work in you will (Do what?) continue to perform it until the day of Jesus Christ." I'm glad God is faithful, aren't you?
I'm glad that God is not done with Israel because that means that even in sin in my own life, and even when I fall flat on my face, and even when I'm not the dad I ought to be to my kids and when I'm not the husband I ought to be to my wife, and when I'm not the man I ought to be to the others who need me, and even when I have sin in my heart and sin in my mind and sin in my deeds, and even when my life is all crudded up and I get twisted around and...and I miss God's plan for that day and the next day, even in all of that, God is faithful. “For the gifts and calling of God are without (what?) repentance.”
Jesus said, "All that comes with me...all that comes to me will be brought by the Father.” And He said in the next verse in John, "I will lose none of them, but raise them all at the last day.” God is faithful. He'll finish what he begins. That is a marvelous promise.
Learn that lesson as well as the lesson of Israel and you've learned well, I think, what God would teach you this morning.
Father, we do thank you for this hour that we've shared together from the Book. God, give us a great love for Israel and a perspective that truly shows that we understand what it is that you're doing with Israel. Thank you, Father, that through them, even through their setting aside, you provided Gentile salvation, and you'll even use it to provoke them to jealousy, and also, Father, to bring in the great kingdom. Thank you, Lord, for such lessons of faithfulness. Oh God, may we know that You're faithful. And may we rest in it; not abusing it, not treading on it, taking advantage of it, but believing it, and living it. And may we as your stewards be also found faithful. We pray in Christ's name, amen.