HOW GOD’S PLAN WITH ISRAEL WILL
(A continuation of the article Israel, God’s Plan)
HOW THE GENTILE PEOPLE WILL FIT INTO GOD’S PLAN
When we study the Old Testament or learn about Israel, we may get the impression that Gentiles are not important to God. We see that Israel was chosen by God in an exclusive manner. In our previous article we read Deuteronomy 7:6, where God says of Israel: “For you are a people holy to the LORD your God. 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.” In Psalm 147:19-20, the Lord says: “He has revealed his word to Jacob, his laws and decrees to Israel. He has done this for no other nation; they do not know his laws. Praise the LORD.”
However, although God loved and chose Israel for his redemptive purposes, he never forgot about the millions and billions of Gentiles. Abraham was actually a Gentile when God called him to become the father of many nations (Gen. 17:4-5). Throughout the history of Israel there were many Gentiles who became a part of the nation. Joseph actually married and Egyptian woman, daughter of a pagan priest, and thus the prominent Israelite tribes of Manasseh and Ephraim were half-Gentile from the start (Gen. 41:50-52). We no doubt remember Rahab, the Gentile harlot of Jericho, who helped Israel and made herself a place in the messianic line. Then there was Ruth the Moabite woman who married Boaz and also entered the messianic line, becoming the great-great-grandmother of David. There were many other Gentiles who joined with Israel. Several of David’s great warriors were Gentiles, like Uriah the Hittite for instance.
God chose Israel for his own redemptive purposes. Part of that choice was that they were to be the vehicle in which the word of God and his salvation would be able to reach out to Gentiles. The prophet Isaiah tells us that Israel was to be a light to the nations (cf. Isa. 12:4; 51:4; 60:3). In God’s great plan, the nations would ultimately give praise to God along with Israel. The Psalmist cries: “Praise the LORD, all you nations; extol him, all you peoples” (Psa. 117:1).
Unfortunately, Israel failed miserably in the task of being a light to Gentile nations. In the Servant Songs of Isaiah (Isa. ch. 42 ff.) we see that the Messiah came to Israel’s aid in order to help her be a light to the nations. In the end the Messiah himself was and is that light, drawing all people unto himself (Lk. 2:30-32).
We read in Romans that God has fitted us Gentiles into Israel through the Messiah Jesus. Romans 11:17-18 reads: “If some of the branches have been broken off, and you, though a wild olive shoot, have been grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing sap from the olive root, do not consider yourself to be superior to those other branches. If you do, consider this: You do not support the root, but the root supports you.” This engrafting is by faith and through the mercy and grace of God. We must not become proud and arrogant as the church has behaved now for almost two thousand years. Gentiles are saved by believing that Jesus is the divine Son of God and by trusting in him for our salvation. It is that simple. When we do so we are made a part of Israel and circumcised with a spiritual circumcision (Gal. 6:16; Rom. 2:28-29; Col. 2:11).
HOW BELIEVING GENTILES WILL MAKE ISRAEL JEALOUS
The Apostle Paul is the primary person in Scripture who reveals clearly to us the dynamics of how Gentiles will be saved and how they will at last bring Israel back to her own Messiah. This great mystery is spelled out in Romans chapters 9-11. Paul outlines the process in this simple manner. Israel would become hardened and would not be able to accept her own Messiah. The Rock of Israel, or the Messiah, would become a stone of stumbling for those in Zion (Rom. 9:32-33). Israel’s rejection of her Messiah would open the door for the Gentiles.
With Israel’s rejection, Gentiles could believe and receive God’s great salvation. Paul in Romans 10:19-21, citing Deuteronomy and Isaiah says, “Again I ask: Did Israel not understand? First, Moses says, ‘I will make you envious by those who are not a nation; I will make you angry by a nation that has no understanding.’ And Isaiah boldly says, ‘I was found by those who did not seek me; I revealed myself to those who did not ask for me.’ But concerning Israel he says, ‘All day long I have held out my hands to a disobedient and obstinate people’” (cf. Deut. 32:21; Isa. 65:1-2). The Gentiles would be grafted into Israel in the very place where the ten tribes were long ago broken off. As Paul says, “…I will call them ‘my people’ who are not my people…” (Rom. 9:25; cf. Hos. 2:23). Paul continues, “as it is written: ‘God gave them a spirit of stupor, eyes that could not see and ears that could not hear, to this very day.’” (Rom. 11:8; cf. Deut. 29:4).
We must understand that everyone in Israel is not really a part of Israel (Rom. 9:6). God has always worked with a righteous remnant and that continues true to this day (Rom. 9:27-28; 11:5). We must never think that God has rejected his people (Rom. 11:1). He will save the remnant, and bring glory to himself through it. Isaiah says, “Though your people be like the sand by the sea, Israel, only a remnant will return” (Isa. 10:22). Clearly, that remnant will become known as “all Israel.”
Paul continues with his outline of redemption. At the present time the Jews are enemies of the gospel (Rom. 11:28), but they are still loved because of God’s election. He has not rejected them despite what Christian anti-Semites have long said. Even our own New Testament assures us that God will never reject his people as we see in Romans 11:2: “God did not reject his people, whom he foreknew…” In fact, “…God’s gifts and his call are irrevocable” (Rom. 11:29). Gentiles have done a lot to make Israel angry, but in the end they will make Israel jealous. That means there will be some big changes in Christianity and some in Israel too. When that happens, all Israel will be saved (Rom. 11:26). As we see in Scripture this may happen in extremely perilous times as all nations begin to gather to solve the “Israel problem” once for all (Zech. 14:2-3).
HOW JEWS AND GENTILES WILL COME TOGETHER
As Paul, citing Moses, has said above, we Gentiles can affect Israel in two ways. We can make Israel angry or we can make her envious. So far in Christian history, Israel has seen little to envy in Christianity and she has encountered a lot to make her angry. Finally, in these end days there are thousands of Christians rising up who not only love Israel but who are often spending their lives in Israel helping the Jewish people. This is a beginning, but it is not enough. Whether we are old or young, we need to set our hearts on pilgrimage to Zion as Psalm 84:5 instructs us. It is also written, “Those the LORD has rescued will return. They will enter Zion with singing; everlasting joy will crown their heads. Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away” (Isa. 51:11). To put it simply, the true church is about to go home— home to Zion. We may not be able to actually go to Israel, but we can still love Israel and pray each day for the peace of Jerusalem as we have been instructed (Psa. 122:6).
In Romans 11 we meet another mystery. Paul says, “I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers and sisters, so that you may not be conceited: Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in, and in this way all Israel will be saved. As it is written: ‘The deliverer will come from Zion; he will turn godlessness away from Jacob’” (Rom. 11:25-26). We do not know exactly what the “full number” of Gentiles means. Does it mean a certain number or a certain degree of maturity in Christ?
Paul reasons that if the fall of Israel brought salvation to the Gentiles, then what will it bring when Israel is restored? He says, “But if their transgression means riches for the world, and their loss means riches for the Gentiles, how much greater riches will their full inclusion bring! (Rom. 11:12). Paul says that it will be no less than life from the dead (11:15). It will be life for dead Israel and life for dead churches and half-dead Christians. Paul may actually be speaking of resurrection life. The dead and broken branches of old Israel will be grafted back into the olive tree. If God can graft Gentiles into the tree, it will be no problem for him to graft his own people back into their tree (Rom. 11:23-24). Truly, all Israel will be saved as we mentioned (11:26). With this, Paul exclaims, “Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out! (11:33).
When all this begins to happen it will change everything. We see one glorious result in the book of Ephesians. Paul exults “For he himself [Yeshua] is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility” (Eph. 2:14-16).
Paul goes on to say, “Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household…” (Eph. 2:19). Through the Messiah, both people are now built into the household of God. It is more than a household because it grows to become a holy spiritual temple to God (vs. 20-22). Paul admits that this is a mystery that has been hidden through the ages but is now revealed. Here is the ancient hidden mystery: “This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus” (Eph. 3:6).
When all these things happen we will enter a brand new era that is beyond history. It is so full of glory that we cannot clearly see it or understand it. There will be a new heaven and a new earth where only righteousness dwells. There will be unending love, joy unspeakable and perfect peace forever and ever.
Publication date 2015