In the 11th chapter of his epistle to the Romans, Paul unfolds some blessed truths regarding the nation of Israel. Sadly, the church has often misunderstood these truths. It is the habit of Protestant commentators to appropriate all the Old Testament blessings to the church, while leaving all the curses to the Jews.
Then, too, there are many students who would relegate all these prophecies to a distant period in the past, or deny them altogether. But the true Christian should never hearken to what man alone says. His concern ought to be, and is, what saith the Word of God?
In Romans 11: 25, Paul writes: “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 unto Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles be come in.”
When Paul uses the term “Israel,” he is referring to the natural descendants of Abraham; for the entire chapter addresses the question of “whether God hath cast away His people.” Paul replies by saying, “God forbid. For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin” (Romans 11: 1, italics mine). He goes on to say that although the nation is blind regarding the Divine truths of the Savior, a remnant according to the election of grace has been preserved (Romans 11: 2-10).
Then Paul informs us that the blindness of Israel means the salvation of the Gentiles (Romans 11: 11). He says that, because of their unbelief, the Jews were “broken off” from their own olive tree, that we (believing Gentiles) might be grafted in (Romans 11: 16-20). Paul is obviously referring to Jeremiah 11: 16-17, where the olive tree is identified as Israel–God’s covenant people.
Paul nowhere implies that the church has “replaced” Israel. He elsewhere makes a distinction among “Jews, Gentiles, and the church of God” (1 Cor. 10: 32). Paul simply teaches that, through grace, saved Gentiles now partake of covenantal privileges which were conferred on the holy nation. He looks forward, however, to the time when Israel will once again be grafted back into their own olive tree when they turn again to Jesus Christ (Romans 11: 15, 23-24).
When will this Jewish national conversion take place? It is when “fullness of the Gentiles be come in.” As we see, Gentiles are still being added to the church of God, and Israel abides still in unbelief. Therefore, we have no choice but to confess that the salvation of Israel is yet future.
The restoration of the nation will be preceded by a preliminary gathering of Jews back to their own land, and a worldwide “falling away” from the truths of Christianity, which will result in precisely the conditions required to bring about the last-time scenario in which Antichrist will sit in a rebuilt Jewish temple boasting himself as God (2 Thess. 2: 3-4). Both of these processes have already commenced. This indicates how near is the salvation of Israel.
But Paul tells us more. In verses Romans 11: 26-27 he quotes two Old Testament Scriptures. The first is Isaiah 59: 20, where the preceding context speaks of judgments to be brought upon the nations at Christ’s second advent. The second citation is from Jeremiah 31: 33, where the entire context speaks of New Covenant blessings bestowed on the house of Israel and house of Judah.
Jeremiah, after stressing Israel’s perpetual heritage as God’s people (v. 35-36), predicts the fulfillment of the ancient land promises (v. 38-40). From these and the above Scriptures we learn that the Jews will be saved at the second coming of Christ, that they will then embrace the New Covenant and receive the land that God gave to their fathers. Then will the promises made to Abraham be fulfilled to the letter.
But keep in mind that these events are preceded by judgments upon the heathen. This falls in line with certain Old & New Testament Scriptures, in which it is prophesied that the conversion of Israel will be accompanied by a series of worldwide judgments. See Zechariah 12: 8-14, where the repentance of Israel is declared concurrent with the destruction of hostile nations.
Also, read Zechariah 14: 1-4, which contains a valuable key to understanding the Lord’s second coming. The whole of Zechariah 14presents a vivid panorama of end-time events which are confirmed by New Testament Scriptures.
Here is a “map” of Zechariah 14: 1-12, with a list of parallel passages for your study:
Zech. 14: 1-2/ Luke 21: 24/ Rev. 16: 14, 16
Zech. 14: 3/ Zech. 12: 9/ Rev. 19: 15
(Zech. 12: 10/ Matt. 24: 30/ Rev. 1: 7)
Zech. 14: 4/ Acts 1: 11/ Rev. 16: 19
Zech. 14: 5/ Rev. 16: 18/ Rev. 19: 14
Zech. 14: 9/ Rev. 11: 15
Zech. 14: 10-11/ Jeremiah 31: 38-40
Zech. 14: 12-14/ Rev. 16: 1-11
As you see, all these Scriptures dovetail together, and cannot be separated by long period of time, nor watered down and allegorized, as is often the practice among Christians. With the above texts in mind, when you read the rest of Zechariah 14 (verses 16-21) you’ll understand that Israel must be restored at the Lord’s coming, when He rules and reigns with all His saints in Mount Zion, on a renewed physical earth. Then the times of the Gentiles will then be ended, the beast and false prophet having been taken and cast alive in the lake of fire (Rev. 19: 20).
This judgment will inaugurate the Millennium, when Jesus Christ will reign with His saints for a thousand years. In Isaiah 24: 23, the prophet writes: “Then the moon shall be confounded, and the sun ashamed, when the Lord of hosts shall reign in Mount Zion, and in Jerusalem, and before His ancients gloriously.” When exactly does this occur? It is after the punishment of the “host of the high ones that are on high, and the kings of the earth upon the earth” (Isaiah 24: 21-22)–after the battle of Armageddon!
Of course, these verses are only a sampling of the many which confirm a future pre-millennial advent of Jesus Christ. Suffice it to say that Paul likens the restoration of Israel to a resurrection. He says: “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?” (Romans 11: 15).
Remember that Christ told the Jews: “Ye shall not see me henceforth, till ye shall say, Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord” (Matt. 23: 39). And Peter confirms that Christ will not return until the Jewish nation repents. Then their sins will be blotted out and the “times of refreshing will come from the presence of the Lord” (Acts 3: 19-21). The “restitution of all things” will arrive, and Israel will be regrafted into their own olive tree.