God’s dealings with Israel as a nation in the future – Romans 11


By God’s great sovereignty, He elected the nation of Israel to be the vehicle through which He would fulfill His purposes on the earth. God gave Israel many privileges; the greatest being the fact that through their bloodline, the Messiah has come as the Savior of the world. Unfortunately, Israel has rejected the true Messiah, Jesus Christ. Their religious zeal and their lack of knowledge both contributed to their failure to trust in Jesus. In this present age, God continues to work with Israel by extending them grace. God not only gives grace to Israel, but also to all the peoples of the world. This is the age that ‘whosoever will’ may come and be saved. However, God has not completely set aside the nation of Israel. In the future, God will fulfill all that He has promised to the great nation of Israel. In Romans chapter 11, we see four things that God will do for Israel.

Israel will not be forsaken. Notice what Paul says in verses 1-5. “I say then, Hath God cast away his people? God forbid. For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin. 2 God hath not cast away his people which he foreknew. Wot ye not what the scripture saith of Elias? how he maketh intercession to God against Israel, saying, 3 Lord, they have killed thy prophets, and digged down thine altars; and I am left alone, and they seek my life. 4 But what saith the answer of God unto him? I have reserved to myself seven thousand men, who have not bowed the knee to the image of Baal. 5 Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace.”[1]Paul addresses the question as to whether or not God has completely set aside His chosen nation. Paul answers very emphatically with “God Forbid.” The statement is clearly made that God has not set aside His people. God will continue to work in and through the nation of Israel. The illustration is given of Elijah, who at one time, felt as if he was all alone. He thought that he was the only one left who has been faithful to God. Yet, God answered him by encouraging him with the truth that there are many more who have not bowed down to Baal. In other words, Elijah, you are not alone. Even today, there is a remnant of believing Jews. There are those who are a part of God’s elected nation of Israel who have not rejected Christ. There is a lesson for us to learn here. As believers in Christ, we are not alone. There are many believers around the world who have not bowed down to the ways of the world. There are many that are faithful in their walk with God and in the proclamation of the Gospel. We may feel sometimes as if we are all alone. We may feel as if we are the only ones left who are walking with God. My friend, be encouraged, there are many who still believe. There are believers all around the world. Don’t give up. Don’t lose heart. You are not alone. Just as God will not forsake Israel, He will never forsake you who have called upon His name for salvation.

Israel will be given grace. Paul mentions the grace that Israel is given in verses 6-12. “And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work. 7 What then? Israel hath not obtained that which he seeketh for; but the election hath obtained it, and the rest were blinded 8 (According as it is written, God hath given them the spirit of slumber, eyes that they should not see, and ears that they should not hear;) unto this day. 9 And David saith, Let their table be made a snare, and a trap, and a stumblingblock, and a recompence unto them: 10 Let their eyes be darkened, that they may not see, and bow down their back alway. 11 I say then, Have they stumbled that they should fall? God forbid: but rather through their fall salvation is come unto the Gentiles, for to provoke them to jealousy. 12 Now if the fall of them be the riches of the world, and the diminishing of them the riches of the Gentiles; how much more their fulness?” [2]The nation of Israel failed to achieve the thing that it was searching for. They were searching for righteousness by works. The nation of Israel hardened itself because of their refusal to accept God’s plan of grace. This goes to show that the desire for righteousness by works is deeply embedded in human nature. People have a hard time understanding that you do not have to do anything to earn salvation. Many people today, Jew and Gentile alike, stumble over the idea that salvation is a free gift. There are a few who are of Israel that has not hardened their hearts and has believed on the Lord Jesus. They remain a part of God’s election of Israel because they have accepted Christ by faith. “The rest of Israel had become hardened. Because they refused the way of faith (cf. 9:31–32), they had become insensitive to God’s self-revelation and the promptings of his Spirit. Disobedience never leaves a person in the same condition. Obedience draws the believer into an increasingly intimate relationship with the Lord, but disobedience separates and hardens. The tragic aspect of hardening is that disobedient people are increasingly unable to grasp the serious nature of their spiritual apostasy.”[3] The good news, however, is the fact that not all hardened their hearts. There is a remnant. Why? Because of God’s grace.

Israel will be restored. In verses 13-24, we see the restoration of Israel as a nation. “For I speak to you Gentiles, inasmuch as I am the apostle of the Gentiles, I magnify mine office: 14 If by any means I may provoke to emulation them which are my flesh, and might save some of them. 15 For if the casting away of them be the reconciling of the world, what shall the receiving of them be, but life from the dead? 16 For if the firstfruit be holy, the lump is also holy: and if the root be holy, so are the branches. 17 And if some of the branches be broken off, and thou, being a wild olive tree, wert graffed in among them, and with them partakest of the root and fatness of the olive tree; 18 Boast not against the branches. But if thou boast, thou bearest not the root, but the root thee. 19 Thou wilt say then, The branches were broken off, that I might be graffed in. 20 Well; because of unbelief they were broken off, and thou standest by faith. Be not highminded, but fear: 21 For if God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest he also spare not thee. 22 Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God: on them which fell, severity; but toward thee, goodness, if thou continue in his goodness: otherwise thou also shalt be cut off. 23 And they also, if they abide not still in unbelief, shall be graffed in: for God is able to graff them in again. 24 For if thou wert cut out of the olive tree which is wild by nature, and wert graffed contrary to nature into a good olive tree: how much more shall these, which be the natural branches, be graffed into their own olive tree? “[4]Even though the nation of Israel rejected Christ and has suffered the consequences of their actions, God will one day restore Israel to their rightful place. The Bible Exposition Commentary says, “There is a future for Israel. Paul calls it “their fullness” (Rom. 11:12) and their “receiving” (Rom. 11:15). Today, Israel is fallen spiritually, but when Christ returns, the nation will rise again. Today, Israel is cast away from God, but one day they shall be received again. God will never break His covenant with His people, and He has promised to restore them.” [5] Paul uses two illustrations to show how God is not through with Israel. He speaks of the lump and of the olive tree. First of all, Paul speaks of the lump. In verse 16, the reference is to Numbers 15:17-21. “The first part of the dough was to be offered up to God as a symbol that the entire lump belonged to Him. The same idea was involved in the Feast of Firstfruits, when the priest offered a sheaf to the Lord as a token that the entire harvest was His (Lev. 23:9–14). The basic idea is that when God accepts the part He sanctifies the whole. Applying this to the history of Israel, we understand Paul’s argument. God accepted the founder of the nation, Abraham, and in so doing set apart his descendants as well. God also accepted the other patriarchs, Isaac and Jacob, in spite of their sins or failings. This means that God must accept the “rest of the lump”—the nation of Israel.”[6] Secondly, we see the illustration of the olive tree. The olive tree is a symbol of the nation of Israel. This is seen in Jeremiah 11 and Hosea 14. It must be understood here that Paul is not talking about individual’s relationship with God; rather, he is talking about the nation of Israel’s place in God’s plan. “The roots of the tree support the tree; again, this was a symbol of the patriarchs who founded the nation. God made His covenants with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and He cannot deny them or change them. Thus, it is God’s promise to Abraham that sustains Israel even today. Many of the Jewish people did not believe. Paul pictured them as branches broken off the tree. But he saw an amazing thing taking place: other branches were grafted into the tree to share in the life of the tree. These branches were the Gentiles. In Romans 11:24, Paul described this “grafting in” as “contrary to nature.” Usually a cultivated branch is grafted into a wild tree and shares its life without producing its poor fruit. But in this case, it was the “wild branch” (the Gentiles) that was grafted into the good tree! “Salvation is of the Jews” (John 4:22)[7] Some mistaken the olive tree as a picture of the church. This is a grave mistake. “God does not look on the members of Christ’s body and see them as Jews or Gentiles. The olive tree illustrates the relationship between Jew and Gentile in the program of God. The “breaking off of the branches” is the equivalent of “the fall” (Rom. 11:11), “the diminishing” (Rom. 11:12), and “the casting away” (Rom. 11:15). To read into this illustration the matter of the eternal destiny of the individual believer is to abuse the truth Paul was seeking to communicate. Paul warned the Gentiles that they were obligated to Israel, and therefore they dared not boast of their new spiritual position (Rom. 11:18–21). The Gentiles entered into God’s plan because of faith, and not because of anything good they had done. Paul was discussing the Gentiles collectively, and not the individual experience of one believer or another. It is worth noting that, according to Bible prophecy, the professing Gentile church will be “cut off” because of apostasy. First Timothy 4 and 2 Timothy 3, along with 2 Thessalonians 2, all indicate that the professing church in the last days will depart from the faith. There is no hope for the apostate church, but there is hope for apostate Israel! Why? Because of the roots of the olive tree. God will keep His promises to the patriarchs, but God will break off the Gentiles because of their unbelief. No matter how far Israel may stray from the truth of God, the roots are still good. God is still the “God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob” (Ex. 3:6; Matt. 22:23). He will keep His promises to these patriarchs. This means that the olive tree will flourish again!”[8] God will restore the nation of Israel.

Israel will obtain mercy. In verses 25-32, we see how God will be merciful to the nation of Israel. “For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in. 26 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: 27 For this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins. 28 As concerning the gospel, they are enemies for your sakes: but as touching the election, they are beloved for the fathers’ sakes. 29 For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance. 30 For as ye in times past have not believed God, yet have now obtained mercy through their unbelief: 31 Even so have these also now not believed, that through your mercy they also may obtain mercy. 32 For God hath concluded them all in unbelief, that he might have mercy upon all.” [9] Mercy refers to God not giving what we deserve. Israel deserved to be cut-off. They failed to accept Christ, they rejected Him; therefore, they deserved to be punished and to be cut-off from God’s grace forever. Yet, in God’s great love for them, He did not completely cut them off. Paul mentions that these truths are a mystery. The Bible Knowledge Commentary says, “Israel’s corporate stumbling, which is temporary, not permanent, is called a mystery. In Scripture a mystery is not a truth difficult to understand, but a truth previously unrevealed (and therefore unknown) which is now revealed and publicly proclaimed.” [10] So, what is this mystery that is now revealed? The mystery revealed is God’s plan to temporarily set aside Israel in order that grace may be given to all. “God’s sovereign plan to put Israel aside temporarily in order to show grace to Gentiles is no basis for conceit on the part of the Gentiles; it is designed to display further the glory of God.”[11] “In order for God to bring the gospel to Gentiles He had to deal with Israel corporately as enemies. But in relation to God’s choice (election) of Abraham and His covenant with him and the patriarchs, Israel is beloved. Because God chose Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (cf. 9:6–13), He loves the nation and will carry through on His promises. This is another reason Israel’s hardening must be temporary (cf. 11:15, 22–25) and she must finally be saved corporately: God chose her. And God’s gifts and His call are irrevocable.” [12]

In conclusion we read verses 33-36. “O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out! 34 For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been his counseller? 35 Or who hath first given to him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again? 36 For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory forever. Amen.” [13] The great mystery of God’s dealings with Israel both in the past, present, and future is beyond the understanding of man. It is of God. No one can fully understand God’s ways and purposes. Therefore, we conclude that the great doctrines of the faith are so rich and deep that are ultimate reaction is to raise our hands in praise and adoration, giving God all the glory.

[1] The Holy Bible: King James Version. (2009). (Electronic Edition of the 1900 Authorized Version., Ro 11:1–5). Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.

[2] The Holy Bible: King James Version. (2009). (Electronic Edition of the 1900 Authorized Version., Ro 11:6–12). Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.

[3] Mounce, R. H. (1995). Romans (Vol. 27, p. 216). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

[4] The Holy Bible: King James Version. (2009). (Electronic Edition of the 1900 Authorized Version., Ro 11:13–24). Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.

[5] Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). The Bible exposition commentary (Vol. 1, p. 551). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

[6] Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). The Bible exposition commentary (Vol. 1, pp. 551–552). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

[7] Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). The Bible exposition commentary (Vol. 1, p. 552). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

[8] Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). The Bible exposition commentary (Vol. 1, p. 552). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

[9] The Holy Bible: King James Version. (2009). (Electronic Edition of the 1900 Authorized Version., Ro 11:25–32). Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.

[10] Witmer, J. A. (1985). Romans. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 2, p. 485). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

[11] Witmer, J. A. (1985). Romans. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 2, p. 485). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

[12] Witmer, J. A. (1985). Romans. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 2, p. 486). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

[13] The Holy Bible: King James Version. (2009). (Electronic Edition of the 1900 Authorized Version., Ro 11:33–36). Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.

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