4. What Does the Lord Say About the Conversion of All Israel?


The churches of Christ Greet You (Romans 16:16)



All millenarians hold that all the Jews will be converted and acknowledge the Christ cru­cified as the Messiah, the Savior of all man­kind, either at the beginning or at some time during the hoped‑for millennium. They think that passages such as Zechariah 12:10 sup­port their belief: "And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications: and they shall look upon me, whom they have pierced." In the New Testament they regard Roman 11:25-26 as their main stronghold be­cause Paul there declares that "all Israel shall be saved." How such passages are to be understood in agreement with other state­ments of Holy Writ we shall now try to show.


A Remnant of Israel will Accept Christ


God says by the prophet Isaiah: "For though thy people Israel be as the sand of the sea, yet [only] a remnant of them shall return [be converted]" (Isa. 10:22). This is repeated by the apostle Paul who writes: "Esaias also crieth concerning Israel: Though the number of the children of Israel be as the sand of the sea, [yet only] a rem­nant shall be saved. . . . And as Esaias said before: Except the Lord of Sabaoth had left us a seed, we would have been as Sodom and been made like unto Gomorrah" (Rom. 9:27, 29). In the Old Testament God promised: "In that day will I raise up the tabernacle of David that is fallen, . . . and I will build it as in the days of old" (Amos 9:11). In the New Testament He declares that this very prophecy is being fulfilled in the conversion of the Gentiles, God taking "out of them a people for His name," thus building His church (Acts 15:14‑17). "Through their [the Jews'] fall salvation is come unto the Gen­tiles, for to provoke them [the Jews] to jeal­ousy" (Rom. 11:11; cf. Acts 13:46-47).


Yet it is not all Israel that will be converted to Christ, but only a remnant, "the election," those who will not abide in unbelief; "the rest are blinded" (Rom. 11:7‑10). This rem­nant shall, by the missionary activity of the Gentile church (see Isaiah 11:11‑16), return to God's holy mountain which is Zion, the church of Jesus the Messiah. But as a whole, as a nation, the people of Israel have been rejected (Matt. 21:43) and this rejection will continue unto the end of the world, as the Lord says (Luke 21:24‑27): "Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled; . . . and then shall they see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory." The "times of the Gentiles" are the times in which the Gen­tiles are called by the Gospel, the times of grace (2 Cor. 6:1-2; Psa. 81:11‑15). And these times continue unto the end as the Lord as­sures us in Matthew 24:14: "And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world, . . . and then shall the end come." But concerning the Jews as a nation, the Holy Spirit tells us: "The wrath is come upon them­ to the uttermost" (1 Thess. 2:16), that is, unto the end (compare the Greek text). These statements are plain and sweeping leaving no room for a universal conversion of the Jews (cf. Luke 19:11‑27).


Who is meant by "the House of David"?


Promises such as Zechariah 12:10 and Joel 2:28 began to be fulfilled on the Pentecost Day (Acts 2:17), and are still being fulfilled in the gathering of the remnant of Israel as well as in the gathering of "all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call" (Acts 2:38-39). For the "house of David" (Zech. 12:10) comprehends all the children of the "Son of David" (Heb. 2:13; Eph. 2:19-20), the "royal priesthood" (1 Pet. 2:9; Rev. 5:10). In the same sense the "inhabitants of Jerusalem" (Zech. 12:10) are all the citizens of the Holy City, the church of Christ (Gal. 4:26; Heb. 12:22; Rev. 3:12).


This gathering of the elect of Israel during the time of the New Testament is indi­cated in the words Isaiah 11:11: "The Lord shall set His hand again the second time to recover the remnant of His people"; for after they had broken the first covenant, God promised them a second proof of His grace in sending the Messiah, thereby establishing the "new cove­nant" (Jer. 31:31‑33), and calling them by the Gospel (2 Thess. 2:14). All true children of Abraham (Rom. 4:11-17), of Israel, will accept and keep this new covenant; but they are only a rem­nant. For we read in Isaiah 4:2-3 that at the time when "the Branch of the Lord" (Isa. 11:1; Jer. 23:5-6) "shall be beautiful and glorious . . . for them that are escaped of Israel, . . . he that is left [the remnant] in Zion . . . shall be called holy, even every one that is written among the living," that is, in the Book of Life (Psa. 69:28; Amos 9:9; Rev. 20:15; 21:27) . Isaiah does not say "the whole Jewish nation."


Misinterpretations of Other Old Testament Passages


In this connection we may point out the misinterpretation of such passages as Isaiah 2 and Micah 4:1‑8 on which the millenarians base their belief that in the last times the city of Jerusalem in Palestine will be the capital of Christ's earthly kingdom. They teach that Christ will re­side in Jerusalem and reign like David and Solomon, and that all the nations will go there to worship on the mountain of God. Right here it is necessary again to remind the reader of the fact that the kingdom of Christ is not a worldly kingdom (John 18:36-37), and that this kingdom on earth, the Kingdom of Grace, does “not come with observation," with ex­ternal show (Luke 17:20‑21). When the prophets of God speak of "the last days," the days "hereafter," they mean the whole era, or period, of the New Testament times. The “mountain of the house of the Lord" is the Lord’s church (compare with this passage Isaiah 28:16; 1 Peter 2:6‑8: Matthew 21:42; Ephesians 2:19 ff., etc.), to which "many nations shall come" by being converted to the living God (Acts 26:17 ff). This prophecy has been in process of fulfillment since the beginning of the missionary work of the holy apostles (Acts 15:12‑17; 10:45; 11:18). Therefore God ad­dressing all believers does not say, "Ye shall come to the holy mountain" as if it were to happen in the future, but, "Ye are come unto Mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God" (Heb. 12:22‑24; Gal. 4:25). So then by the founding and building of the church of Christ, the Messianic kingdom, all these prophecies have been fulfilled.


How about the Chief Bulwark of the Mille­narians?


Let us now consider Romans 11:25‑27, which the millenarians believe to be the prin­cipal New Testament proof for a general con­version of the Jews. This passage reads as follows: "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. 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; For this is My covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins."


It is certain that the apostle Paul does not deny what he has stated in the whole section com­prising Romans 9:1‑11, 24, namely, that not "all Israel according to the flesh," but only a remnant of Israel will be saved, "according to the election of grace" (Rom. 11:5‑11). Further­more, the purpose of this section, chapters 9‑11, is to prove that the promises of God concerning Israel are being fulfilled, that they have not become void, even if not all Jews are saved. It is made plain that this is the Holy Spirit’s intention when Paul declares: "Not as though the Word of God hath taken none effect. For they are not all Israel, which are of Israel" (Rom. 9:5‑8). Mark well how he distinguishes between "all Israel" and those "which are of Israel." The same distinction he makes in Romans 2:28-29, saying: "He is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; . . . but he is a Jew, which is one inwardly." (Compare Matthew 3:9; John 8:39‑44; 1:47; Revelation 2:9).


In the light of such clear definitions we are compelled to take the phrase "all Israel" in our text as denoting all true Israel, all such as are genuine children of Abraham (John 8:39; Gal. 3:29). This is expressly stated in the promise quoted by Paul in 11:26 from Isaiah 59:20 where we read: "The Redeemer shall come to Zion, and unto them that turn from transgres­sion in Jacob, saith the Lord." Hence not all such as can trace their natural descent to Abraham, but all Israel according to the spirit, that is, all "who turn from transgres­sion in Jacob," who believe in the promised Redeemer, shall be saved. This remnant of Israel together with the elect of the Gentiles, they are the children of Abraham, the true Israel (Rom. 4:11-12). In full agreement with the statement that only a remnant of the people of Israel shall be saved, Paul here declares "that blindness in part is happened to Israel until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in." This is saying that not all Jews are hardened, blinded, and excluded from salvation as some Bible‑readers may imagine when reading passages like Isaiah 6; Acts 13:46-47; 1 Thessalonians 2:16. Only a "part," a portion, of Israel is blinded; but God has reserved a remnant, a "holy seed" (Isa. 6:13; Rom. 9:27‑29); and this remnant shall be saved.


Rejection of the Gospel by the Greater Part of Israel to End of Days


Now the blindness which has befallen the greater part of Israel (for "remnant" indicates a small part) will continue "until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in," until this "fulness" has been brought into the fold of the Good Shepherd. The "fulness of the Gentiles" does not mean "all Gentiles" but the "full number" of all the elect out of the Gentiles, as is easily seen, especially here, where by "all Israel" all the elect out of Israel (Rom. 11: 7) must be understood. The gathering and coming in of "the fulness of the Gentiles" however, does not cease before the end of the world; and the preaching of the Gospel always has a converting and saving power and effect (Isa. 55: 10-11; Jer. 23:29; Rom. 1: 16; 1 Cor. 1:18). Hence we know that the gathering of "the ful­ness of the Gentiles" shall not be completed at some period of time before the end. These words of Paul (Rom. 11:25), exclude all hope for a future great or even universal con­version of the Jews; blindness of the greater part of Israel will continue unto the end of the world.


Paul continues: "And so all Israel shall be saved" (Rom. 11:26). Here we must point out a great mistake of the millenarians. They take the adverb of manner "so" as an adverb of time, in the sense of "then, thereafter." This is inadmissible, for it not only changes the meaning of the text but also makes the Holy Spirit contradict Himself, saying something here which is at variance with other passages of His Holy Word (for instance 1 Thessalonians 2:16). The adverb "so" denotes the manner in which the Word of God quoted from Isaiah 59:20 will be fulfilled. God's promise regarding Israel does not remain without effect (Rom. 9:6); God has not "cast away His people" entirely or in their totality (Rom. 11:1), not so completely that they have become like Sodom and Gomorrah (Rom. 9:29): He has left them a remnant, a seed, which will be converted and again be "grafted into their own olive tree" (Rom. 11:24). And "so," in this manner, the promise will come true that "all Israel shall be saved," that is, the promise to all "that turn from transgression in Jacob" (Isa. 59:20). And the gathering of this remnant will continue "until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in," that is, as we have shown, unto the end of the world. 

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