Questions from Revelation: What About Israel?

May 19, 2024


Father in heaven, as we come now to this important and at times controversial topic, we pray You would give us insight that we might search Your Scriptures and see what You have said and that we would listen, we would respond, and obey. We ask in Christ’s name. Amen.

Our topic for tonight is this question which has arisen from the year-long series on Revelation and follows on the heels of this morning’s sermon but could have followed on the heels of many different sermons. The question is this: What about Israel?

There are a lot of different ways to tackle this question. I know there are lot of questions related to this question that we would be interested in exploring. You might want to know what we should think about campus protests or the war in Gaza. Or, a question I’ve gotten many times inside and outside of the church, people have said, “Why do you think now and throughout history so often the Jews have been so frequently hated?” Or, simply, what should we think about what happened on October 7, the rise of anti-Semitism in this country.

Those are all important questions and they would take us into the fields of history and politics, and while there are certain things that I think we all ought to agree on, that for example the brutal terrorist organization kills 1200 innocent people, including 44 Americans, taking 240 people hostage, commits acts of sexual violence and murder, that those things ought to be condemned, and the rise of anti-Semitism ought to be condemned unequivocally.

But my task as a preacher and pastor and teacher of the Bible is not from this pulpit tonight to look at those various historical and political questions, but rather to think theologically from the Old Testament and the New Testament, how ought we to think about Israel?

This is a difficult topic. I remember it must have been when I was preaching through Revelation at my last church, which was almost 20 years ago, and at some point, not in a separate message but as a part of a message, I gave a few points about what we should think about Israel. A family was visiting the church and the church was not a big church at the time so a new family visiting was always a good thing to have and this man who had been visiting with his family for a number of weeks and liked the church and liked the preaching said to me, he wasn’t upset, but after I gave a message about Israel, he came from a very dispensational background, and he said very nicely but firmly to me, “This is the last time we will be visiting this church. We simply are not at all on the same page what to think about Israel.”

If you were here last week on Sunday evening and the talk about dispensationalism, you may recall that one of, if not the central tenet of dispensationalism, especially classic dispensationalism, is a sharp disjunction between Israel and God’s plan for Israel as an ethnic people and nation and God’s plan for the Church. 

So how ought we to think biblically and theologically about Israel? If you’re just visiting tonight, this is not normally the way we do things. We’re usually going through passages of Scripture expositionally, but tonight more topically to look at this question.

I had several different ways of organizing the material, but it seemed fitting that I would group this into seven statements, being very well trained by Revelation.

So let me offer seven statements, hopefully biblical, theological statements, to think about this question of Israel.

Statement #1. This will be the shortest.

God chose the people of Israel as His special treasure and agent of redemption.

God chose the people of Israel as His special treasure and agent of redemption.

Deuteronomy 7:6 – The Lord your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on the face of the earth to be His people, His treasured possession.

You know what God says to Abram in Genesis 12 – I will bless those who bless you and whoever curses you, I will curse, and all the peoples on earth will be blessed through you.

So from the very opening chapters of the Bible we see this plan that Israel, though think about it, there was no Israel when God called Abram because that would be his grandson, Jacob, or Israel, but this line of the Shem-ites, Abraham was a descendant of Noah’s son Shem. That’s why they’re called Semites, and anti-Semitism is hatred against the Jews. Abraham was a descendant, he was a Shem-ite, a Semite from that line after Noah.

We see there in Deuteronomy and Genesis and many other passages God’s plan there to call the people of Israel to Himself to be His special possession in all the earth and through them to be the agent of blessing across the globe.

Statement #2. In the Old Testament, to be a part of the Israel of God meant mainly, but not exclusively, that you were an ethnic Jew.

In the Old Testament, if you were a part of the Israel of God, it meant mainly, but not exclusively, that you were an ethnic Jew.

So most of the Bible, if the Old Testament is 4/5 of the Bible and then the New Testament written almost entirely by Jews, of course we have a Jewish Messiah, we have Jewish disciples, almost the whole Bible centers on Israel. Written by Jewish men. For most of biblical history, God’s plan was focused on the Jews.

But I say mainly, not exclusively. We do not want to overstate the case. As I just said, Abram, you think, was Abraham a Jew? Well, in one sense he certainly was not because there was no Judah from which the term Jew comes. He was a Shem-ite from the line of Noah’s son. But who is Abram? He was a pagan, an Ur of the Chaldees, up in Babylon when God called him.

And before we get to Abraham at the end of chapter 11 and the great promises in chapter 12, in Genesis 10 we have the table of nations to show that God’s kingly reign and redemptive purposes extend to all the nations. It’s always important to keep that in mind. Before we get the picture in Genesis zeroing in on this one particular family, we have these 11 chapters with creation, fall, and this cosmic work, and then in the last 4/5 of Genesis we’re really looking at four generations in one family, from Abraham to Isaac to Jacob to Joseph and his brothers. 

But before the picture of redemptive history slows down and zeroes in, remember in Genesis 10 it’s a picture of the table of nations. God’s plan from the very beginning had been for the good news to spread to all peoples.

Being ethnically Jewish in the Old Testament did not mean you were automatically right with God. There were covenant obligations the nation had to keep, and if you did not, then they would face those covenant curses – war, plague, famine, eventually expulsion.

And there were plenty of examples of circumcised Israelites who were Jews outwardly and physically but not inwardly by the spirit. There’s lots of bad guys and bad girls – Ahab, Jezebel, Jeroboam, Saul, Achan, the whole northern kingdom, later the southern kingdom is taken off to Babylon.

So being ethnically Jewish did not mean that you were automatically spiritually right with God, and conversely, being ethnically non-Jewish did not mean you couldn’t belong to God’s people. Jethro, Rahab, Ruth, Bathsheba, the widow of Zarephath, Naaman the Syrian general – these are all examples of non-Jews, and it would be imposing New Testament categories to say, well, were they regenerated, but they were certainly people who were drawn near to the covenant people of God and several of them are held up as great examples of faith and faithfulness. 

Genesis 17:12. Right there in the initiation of the covenant of circumcision we read, “For the generations to come, every male among you who is 8 days old must be circumcised, including those born in your household or bought with money from a foreigner, those who are not your offspring.”

So right there at the institution of the covenant of circumcision, God says you can be a “Jew,” you can be a part of this household of God, there’s no Jews yet because it’s just Abraham, but you can be a part of the household of faith of God’s people even if you are not of this ethnic line. So it was not exclusively just to Abraham and his descendants. Foreigners could joint Israel. The Shechemites tried it in the wrong way. Ruth joined herself, the Moabitess, to the people of Israel in the right way.

And in the New Testament, don’t we see that more often than not if you encounter a Gentile in the New Testament, you almost think, okay, this is going to be a surprising example of faith. The centurion, the Canaanite woman, Cornelius, the Ethiopian eunuch. So often Jesus scandalized His mainly Jewish audience by the ways that He was throwing open the kingdom of God to Gentiles. 

You think of Matthew chapter 20, the parable of the laborers in the vineyard. The vineyard was a common Old Testament image for Israel. Think of Isaiah 5. So when Jesus tells this story about these workers who come at the 11th hour of the day and they get a denarius after the other workers had been there for 12 hours in the heat of the sun and they get the same denarius, He was telling first of all a stories about Jews and Gentiles. The Jews were the people who had suffered and endured and had persecution and hardship and had the Law and the covenants for centuries, and now Jesus is saying you know how radically generous God is, that these Gentiles come lately, they’ll get the same denarius as the Jews, because the kingdom of God operates according to grace, not according to merit.

Third statement. So that second statement in the Old Testament, to be a part of the Israel of God was mainly, but not exclusively to be an ethnic Jew.

Third statement. The Jews in Jesus’ day were judged for rejecting their Messiah, but that does not mean that the Jews as a people are for all time responsible for Jesus’ death. 

There’s a lot that we could say here. Let me try to move quickly. First half of that statement. The Jews in Jesus’ day were judged for rejecting the Messiah.

John 1:11 – He came to His own and His own people did not receive Him.

When Jesus comes into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, we call it a triumphal entry, but it was really a triumphal approach and it was a tearful entry. But because by the time He makes it there and He looks over Jerusalem, He begins to weep. We read in Luke 19:41, “When He drew near and saw the city, He wept over it, saying, ‘Would that you had even known on this day the things that make for peace, but now they are hidden from your eyes, for the days will come upon you when your enemies will set up a barricade around you and surround you and hem you in on every side and tear you down to the ground, you and your children within you, and they will not leave one stone upon another in you,’” here’s the reason, “‘because you did not know the time of your visitation.’”

When Jesus in His Olivet discourse, in Mark 13 and Matthew 24, predicts about these great times of tribulation to come, at least some of that discourse, if not most of that discourse, is about the coming destruction of the temple and of Jerusalem in 70 A.D.  That’s what Jesus is weeping about here in Luke chapter 19. He knows what’s going to happen. They are going to reject, most of them, their Messiah. And in so doing, they will bring a judgment upon themselves. So the Jews in Jesus’ day were judged for rejecting their Messiah.

But, second half of this statement, that does not mean the Jews as a people for all time are responsible for Jesus’ death. If you want to read more about this, I apologize for the footnote here, but I wrote an article last week entitled, “Did the Jews Kill Jesus?” In fact, if you put that in Google it’s like the first or second thing, amazingly, that comes up. Did the Jews kill Jesus, because that is a topic with everything going on in our world that people are arguing about and sadly you have some people who seem very eager to make that statement as a definitive statement against the Jews.

Well, it is true. There are statements in the Gospels, John’s Gospel especially, that do lay the blame at the feet of the Jews for the crucifixion. The ESV will sometimes have a helpful footnote that says, that is, the Jewish leaders and those responsible in Jerusalem, which is the sense of it.

There are times in Peter’s preaching in Acts, particularly to the Sanhedrin, where he will say this Jesus whom you crucified, you killed this Jesus.

So because of passages like that some people say, well, isn’t it true then? Shouldn’t we say the Jews killed Jesus?

Well, as a statement without any other context, it is not a true statement and I wonder the heart out of which it comes. If we mean did the Jews, and in particular the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem at the time of Christ, hand Him over to the Romans who crucified Him, well, yes, that is certainly true. But if we mean, we were just to say it today in 2024, the Jews are responsible for the death of Jesus, that is a blanket statement against an entire ethnic or national group which can’t be proven from Scripture.

Think about it. When John or Peter look at the Sanhedrin, or the Jews in Jerusalem, and say, “This Jesus whom you crucified,” notice Peter doesn’t say, “Whom we crucified.” He’s a Jew. He’s not laying the blame at Mary’s feet, or his feet. He’s talking about the crowd the cried for Barabbas to be set free. He’s talking about the Jewish Council, which conspired against Jesus.

If you go through the rest of Acts, it’s very instructive. Though Peter will speak that way in the days immediately following Jesus’ death, when Paul goes to other parts of the Empire and he speaks to Jews, because he would typically go the Jews first and then to the Greeks, he never lays the blame at the feet of Jews in the other part of the Empire. He doesn’t go to __ and Antioch and he said, “You Jews killed Jesus.” The corporate responsibility doesn’t work like that. It was a specific statement for a group of people during Passion Week who handed over Christ to the Romans.

In fact, when Paul travels back to Jerusalem years later, he’s in the same city, he doesn’t lay the blame at their feet then, even though he’s in the same city. So corporate responsibility did not stick to them as an ethnic group or as a city, but it was something said by the apostles in that specific moment in those days following Jesus’ death.

So it is not, it is at best going to be misleading if people say, “The Jews killed Jesus,” and at worst it comes out of a heart of anti-Semitism.

Here’s a fourth statement.

The promise of inheriting the land has expanded into a better promise for inheriting the whole world.

There are so many passages in the Old Testament focused on that promise that Israel will inherit the land.

Be strong and courageous, Joshua 1:6, because you will lead these people to inherit the land that I swore to their forefathers.

Psalm 37 in particular lays down a number of conditions for this covenant promise, that they were to inherit the land upon the condition of their obedience. We read it in Psalm 37 or Deuteronomy 28 – if you do not obey the Lord your God and do not carefully follow His commands and decrees, all these curses will come upon you and one of those curses, the final curse, is to be uprooted from the land you are entering to possess. 

So there is a promise, a focus in the Old Testament, upon the land which is given as a gift and then to remain in it upon the condition of covenantal obedience.

Now the land becomes in the New Testament something better. You say, well, I don’t know, you go from material to spiritual. No, it goes from something this earthly to something other worldly. This happens with lots of promises in the Bible. It doesn’t mean they go from good to bad, but they go from better to best.

So for example, the material riches promised to the covenant-keeping Jews in the Old Testament become by and large spiritual riches promised to those of us who belong to Christ, our covenant-keeping Messiah in the New Testament. David was promised he would never lack to have an heir to sit on the throne in Jerusalem. But the New Testament tells us that that promise is fulfilled not by an earthly Davidic king today in Jerusalem, but by the descendants of David, the Messiah, Christ, who reigns on the throne in heaven.

The new temple is Jesus’ body and by extension the Church, because we are the body of Christ. 

The shadows of the Old Testament everywhere become substance in the New Testament. Famous line from B. B. Warfield that he said the Old Testament, you have the Gospel there, but it’s like a room that is richly furnished and dimly lit. So it’s richly furnished, but the lights have to come on in the New Testament to see what you can sort of grasp and were there in the darkness and in shadows. Same treasures but now illuminated so we can see what their fulfillment is.

The ark of the covenant, the priests, the sacrifices, the holy of holies, the tabernacle – all these give way to better expressions and fulfillments in the new covenant.

Psalm 37:11 says the meek will inherit the land. Matthew 5:5, Jesus says the meek will inherit the earth. 

Exodus 20:12 – honor your father and mother so that you may live long in the land your father is giving you.

Have you ever noticed how Paul references that commandment in Ephesians 6? Children, obey your parents in the Lord for this is right. Honor your father and mother, which is the first commandment with a promise that it may go well with you and you may enjoy long life on the earth.

Do you see how Paul has transposed it there? The fifth commandment in Exodus says that you may live long in the land. Paul understands the expression of that now in the New Testament is that it may go well with you and you may have long life on the earth.

Our long-awaited hope is no longer for the present city of Jerusalem, which Galatians 4:25 says is in slavery because they do not belong to Christ, but our hope is for the Jerusalem above.

In fact, it’s not so much that the New Testament is tweaking the Old Testament as it is that the New Testament is showing us what the Old Testament was really all about. The Old Testament promise of the land was always meant to point God’s people to something better than a sliver of land in the Middle East.

Now this is no statement geopolitically about Israel’s right to the land and their status as a sovereign nation. This is simply talking theologically, biblically, what right there is.

The land, you know, the land was called a land flowing with milk and honey. As the VeggieTales said years ago, sounds sticky. Milk and honey. If you’ve ever been to Israel, you realize that’s some hyperbole. It is not the best farming land on the face of the earth. When I was in Orange City, Iowa in Sioux County, some of those farmers would tell you that was just about the best land to grow corn and soybeans anywhere. It was as if all the hail just dropped there in South Dakota and then passed over all those Dutch farmers and went and blew somewhere else.

That land in Israel, a land flowing with milk and honey, it’s a hardscrabble land. Beautiful in its own way, but why is it described in such overreaching terms? Because it was meant to be both a kind of garden of Eden in the past and looking forward to the New Jerusalem and to the heavenly city that is to come. The land was always meant to point to Paradise.

This is what happens. God puts His people in a land. That’s the very beginning of the Bible. He puts them in a land, in the garden of Eden. What happens when they prove to be covenant breakers in that land? God removes them. He puts a sword and He says you can’t come back here. I’m not going to uproot My land; I’m going to uproot you from My land.

Then when He gives them the Promised Land in Israel, with some of the same descriptions of that land in Genesis 1 and 2, after all of the centuries of disobedience, He plucks them up and He says, just like He did with Adam and Eve in the garden, you have been kept, you have been pushed out of this land.

Again, I’m making the theological case that the Bible makes, not making a geopolitical claim that Israel may have to the land for other reasons.

The land was meant to point to Paradise. Just like the tabernacle was never the main point but that Jesus would come and tabernacle among His people. 

Hebrews 11 tells us by faith Abraham made his home in the Promised Land, like a stranger he lived in tents, for he was looking forward to the city with foundations whose architect and builder is God.

The Promised Land was always meant to focus God’s people on the heavenly city they would inherit, the new heavens and the new earth that would be theirs in the new creation. So it’s not so much the promised changes in the New Testament, but the shadow of the land passes away and the bigger promise.. You know what’s better than that land? The whole earth. Reigning on thrones in heaven, that’s better than a throne in Jerusalem. 

The new heavens and the new earth coming down to us and the whole world being yours. That’s better than a Promised Land.

So the land gets transposed to a global, cosmic key.

Statement #5.

The rest of the New Testament confirms that God’s plan is still for Israel. However, the definition of true Israel now centers on Jesus Christ.

This is maybe the linchpin of this whole sermon. The New Testament confirms God’s plan is still for Israel. If you say it’s God’s plan for Israel, absolutely. But it leads to another question. What do we mean by Israel? We see in the New Testament the definition of true Israel now centers on Jesus Christ. Jesus reconstituted what it means to be Israel.

So I’m disagreeing with dispensationalists who say God has a plan for Israel and one for the Church, a kingdom for the Jews but they rejected it and now the Gentiles are coming in and the Church is a mystery parenthesis and then the Church will be raptured and the nation of Israel will turn back to God during the Great Tribulation and God will come back to His plan for the ethnic Jews. I’m saying God’s plan is still with Israel, but we must let Jesus define what Israel means.

Sometimes dispensationalists will say, well, Reformed theologians, covenant theologians, you teach a version of replacement theology. The Church replaces Israel.

Well, that’s not exactly how I would put it, either. Replacement makes it sound like God has nothing to do with ethnic Israel and that the Church has just replaced Israel. Israel, gone, that thing is done and now we have the Church. A better way to describe the situation is to say that Jesus has reconstituted what it means to be Israel. Jesus comes on the scene, He’s a Jew. He’s announcing the kingdom of God, mainly to Jews, some Gentiles, He’s offering salvation, and in all of this He makes clear, He says in effect the kingdom of God you’ve been waiting for, this messianic kingdom, arrives with Me.

We understand part of the scandal was they were expecting something more of a political nature, they would get the Romans out of there and He would have a military coup. There were all sorts of messiahs and pretenders who came and had insurrections and led to revolts and rebellions and bloodshed. But Jesus wasn’t that kind of Messiah and His kingdom wasn’t that kind of kingdom.

Jesus says if you want to belong to this kingdom, you need to belong to Me. And like that parable of the laborers in the vineyard, He said the Master here is willing to give a denarius to anyone who comes. He will call in the highways and the byways and anyone who comes He will give to him the same reward. In effect, Jesus is saying, “Do you want to belong to Israel? Follow Me.”

Very deliberately Jesus chose 12 apostles. Surely it was not lost on the Israelites of their 12 tribes that Jesus is choosing 12 apostles. That sign right there is Jesus indicating there is a new Israel, or a new way of looking at Israel, that is centered on Me. think of the “I am” statements. Each one of them is Jesus taking some precious aspect of the history of Israel and applying it audaciously to Himself. Jesus says He’s the bread of life; you had manna, you know that story, well, I’m the manna from heaven. I’m food for the hungry. Jesus says unless you feast on Me, you have no life in you.

Jesus is the light of the world. He’s the pillar of fire in the wilderness, leading God’s people to salvation in a dark world. He says unless you believe that I am He, you will die in your sins.

Jesus says He’s the gate for the sheep, probably thinking of the Passover door and the blood stained there that would indicate to God these are My people. Well, Jesus is the gate for the sheep. He is the only entryway into the fold and Jesus has the audacity to say if you come by some other way, you’re a thief and a robber. If you want to be in the fold of God’s people you must come through the door marked “Jesus.” It’s the only door by which you can enter the fold. The good news is anyone can come through that door.

Acts 1:6. After the resurrection, they met together. They asked Him, “Lord, are You at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” So they’re still thinking earthly. They’re limited in their scope. The disciples are still thinking, okay, cool, resurrection, didn’t see that coming, this is going great and now You’re going to go back up into heaven but it looks like now is the time? Right? Kingdom? Reigning?

Well, I think Calvin in his commentary says, they made as many errors as they spoke words. They did not understand what the kingdom was about. 

That’s Acts 1:6. You know what Acts 1:8 says – you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, the ends of the earth. In other words, you’re thinking too small. The kingdom is not here about just Jerusalem and Israel. The kingdom is for all those who through your gospeling will believe in Me, Jesus says.

O. Palmer Robertson says Jesus is not, as some suppose, replacing Israel with the Church, but he is reconstituting Israel in a way that makes it suitable for the ministry of the new covenant. From this point on it is not that the Church takes the place of Israel but that a renewed Israel of God is being formed by the shaping of the Church.

There are a number of Scriptures that demonstrate that it is the followers of Jesus who constitute the true Israel of God.

Romans 2:28 and 29. To be a true Jew is a spiritual matter of the heart, not a physical matter of the flesh.

Romans 9:6. Not all who are descended from Israel are Israel.  Romans 9:7. Not all children of Abraham are children of Abraham.

So there’s a remnant among the ethnic Jews.

Revelation 2:9 and Revelation 3:9 say there are those who are Jews who are not what it means to be a Jew and the inherited of the covenant blessings is now redefined around the person of Jesus.

Galatians 3:29. You are true Jew, a legitimate child of Abraham, if you belong to Christ.

Philippians 3:3. The true circumcision are those “who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus, put no confidence in the flesh.”

Many times in the New Testament we have the explicit language given uniquely to Israel in the Old Testament, now applied to the Church in the New Testament. So the Church, Ephesians 1:11, are called the chosen of God. The Church, Ephesians 1:14, God’s possession. And then 1 Peter 2:9, the Church is called a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation. That was what God said to His people in Exodus 19 at that moment at the foot of Mount Sinai as he constituted them as a very nation about to descend on the mountain and give them the 10 commandments. And now in the New Testament that language is applied to the Church. The promises made to the nation of Israel and their king in Psalm 2 are applied to the overcomers in Thyatira in Revelation 2.

And Galatians 6:16. This is the classic proof text, Galatians 6:16, the church of Jews and Gentiles, circumcised and uncircumcised, is called “the Israel of God.” So to be the Israel of God is to belong in worship and obedience and faith to Israel’s Messiah, Jesus Christ. 

Two more statements. That was the longest one.

Number 6.

God is not done saving ethnic Israel.

We’ve had a lot of passages, and maybe you’ve written some of them down, but let me just have you turn to one passage in particular, Romans 11:26. Someday, Lord willing, I hope to preach a good long series on the book of Romans. I always told myself I needed to at least get to 45, I needed to be in ministry for 20 years, so I’ve passed those markers. It feels like as a Reformed preacher that you get your one good shot at the Romans series. So, Lord willing, one of these years we’ll come back to this in much more detail. So I can’t answer all the questions here, but I just want you to notice in Romans 11:26.

Paul says and in this way all Israel will be saved. All Israel.

What is meant “all Israel”? Some people think it means the Church, just like Galatians 6:16. “All Israel” here means the Church, the Israel of God. Calvin thought that, many Reformation thinkers, post Reformation thinkers, thought that, but most commentators no longer think that’s the case and reluctantly disagreeing with Calvin, I agree with the modern commentators. “All Israel” here does not refer to the Church because every instance of Israel in this chapter refers to national Israel. The verses quoted in 26 and 27 to follow have to do with the Jews, not Gentiles.

So it is true that we are the Israel of God in one sense, but in this particular passage, Paul is using the word “Israel” to talk about those ethnic Jews, so he means something other than just the Church. “In this way, all Israel will be saved.” 

There are, setting aside that interpretation, two other ways that you can understand it. “All Israel” may look forward to a time at the end, shortly before Christ returns, when all the nation of Israel alive at that time, maybe not every last single Jewish person, but a great turning of Israel will happen at the end of the age.

You see in verse 25: Brothers, a partial hardening has come upon Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in.

So one way to understand verse 26 is to say the fullness of the Gentiles coming in right now and when that task is done in redemptive history, then the hardening of the Jews will be lifted and all Israel will be saved. That there is yet a massive turning of the Jews to Christ. That is one way that many, many good commentators look at it, and I would like to be convinced of it. I’m not quite convinced of it yet.

So a second way to understand “all Israel” is to see that Paul is talking about and in this way all of the remnant of Israel, all the elect Israel, will be saved so that the partial hardening in verse 25 is not so much saying, well, then that will be lifted at the end of the age, but it’s talking about the way in which Jews will be saved and are saved right now.

Look at verse 14 – In order somehow to make my fellow Jews jealous and thus save some of them, for if their rejection means a reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance mean but life from death.

Or, more clearly, look down at verse 31, start at verse 30 – For just as you were at one time disobedient to God but now have received mercy because of their disobedience, so they, too, have now been disobedient in order that by the mercy shown to you they also may now receive mercy.

This whole argument in chapter 11 is dealing with the question, well, have God’s promises failed? I thought God had all these promises to Israel and it looks as though they’ve failed. Paul’s argument in 9 through 11, and especially in 11, is no, they haven’t failed because God still has a remnant. He still has a remnant of ethnic Jews who will come to Christ and Paul’s argument is to say this works in this cyclical way, that the Gentiles are grafted in, they’re the wild olive branch grafted in to the Israel of God through faith in Christ, and that because of this it’s supposed to make the Jewish people jealous, to say you’re getting in on our covenants, you’re getting in on our covenant blessings, and that it would drive them to then come and profess faith and come to Christ and in this way all Israel will be saved. 

Paul is certainly saying that this is happening right now. Not just something in the future but it was happening in Paul’s day. He was an example of a Jew who was saved. And it was happening that Jews were coming to Christ.

So whether this means that Paul is simply saying through this process of jealousy and then reconciliation all ethnic Israel, the elect Jews will be saved, or if he is looking to a time in the future of a massive turning of Israel, in either interpretation, we have this good news, that God is not done with ethnic Israel. So that’s why don’t say this is replacement theology, God has nothing to do with the Jews, He doesn’t even see them as Jews. No, this passage teaches at the very least that God has a plan as the Gentiles come in that it is meant therefore to stir up and lead an elect number of Jews to salvation and we ought to pray that it would be more than we can fathom or hope for or imagine.

A final statement, very briefly then.

We ought never to forget, mostly here in this crowd I imagine Gentiles tonight, we ought never to forget as Jesus says that salvation comes from the Jews. He says that to the Samaritan woman in John 4:22. What did He mean, salvation comes from the Jews?

I think there were at least three things He meant.

One. History. He’s saying historically the Jewish people were chosen uniquely by God. They were given the Law, they were given the covenants, they were given the promises, they were given the shadows, the tabernacle, the temples, the glory, historically started with the Jews.

I think He also means by that statement there is an order and we see this from Paul many times. The Gospel comes to the Jews first and then to the Gentiles and that’s how Paul often did his ministry. He’d go in and if he had an opening at the synagogue he’d start there to the Jews and then to the Gentiles. So Jesus is making a statement about history, perhaps, a statement about the order in which the Gospel comes.

And most importantly, He’s making a statement about Himself. We serve and worship a Jewish Savior. It is possible, and I do think this is a danger with dispensationalism, to begin to see everything in the world through the lens of Israel, that everything that’s happening and your kind of heartbeat is always, always about Israel. 

But there is certainly another sort of danger, not only in the extreme of anti-Semitism, but simply forgetting that salvation comes from the Jews and we who are Gentiles have experienced God’s undeserved mercy to be grafted in as a wild olive branch onto this originally Jewish tree, and that we might know and serve and worship and bow down before a Savior whose incarnation is perpetual and we will meet in glory as a Jewish man.

The message, therefore, we ought to be eager to declare as Christians is not to say, “The Jews killed Jesus.” No, but to say that through Jesus, the Son of Abraham, the Son of David, the Son of Mary, and the King of the Jews, through this Jesus – all people, Jews and Gentiles, can be saved from their sins and have eternal life in the age to come.

Let’s pray. Father in heaven, help us to think Your thoughts after You. Give us good heads and good hearts that we might understand these things. We pray that any here who do not know You would come and bow the knee in faith and repentance and use us, O Lord, to Jews and to Gentiles, that we might be the conduit of Your grace. We do pray for the many tragedies that have befallen the Jewish people, even in these last months, and we do pray for their protection here and abroad. We pray wherever there is evil and murder that it would be withstood and rejected and overthrown. We pray that the Jewish people would come in great numbers to see and to worship their Messiah, our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father and the giver of the Holy Spirit. We pray that we may all then rejoice together in anticipation of that day in heaven, gathered around the throne, a great multitude of nations, to sing worthy is the Lamb who was slain. We pray in His name. Amen.