South Sydney Anglican Church
22 November 2020
Topic: Eschatology , Israel

The Partial Hardening of Israel

Speaker: Matt Johnson

Bible Passage: Romans 11:25-27

Big Idea:      I do not want you to be ignorant – all Israel will be Saved

Dear Friends and visitors. My name is Matt and because of some baptisms we are doing in a few weeks time – I’m slightly shortening our Romans 11 sermon series. I’ve decided to jump today to the key verses in Romans 11:25-26, so that in two weeks time I can speak on something different at the baptisms. So todayRomans 11:25-26-27 – and the words “All Israel will be saved” are our focus.

Prayer:

Last week the wardens of our church allowed a Russian Jewish church to meet in our hall (out the back). So last Saturday from 1:30-3pm we had Jewish Christians singing Jesus praise in our church hall in Russian. That’s right it’s a Russian Jewish church of 20-25 people. Like us they believe salvation is through faith alone in Jesus, not through obedience to the Mosaic law. I CHECKED, because these days there are all sorts of crazy churches out there – who aren’t really Christian at all. But these guys are Jewish Christians…

So sitting in my office last Saturday writing my sermon on Romans 11, I was listening to a bunch of Jews singing Jesus’ praise in Russian (of all things). It struck me that Jesus really is pretty phenomenal. On the one hand, Jesus is Jewish enough that he truly can be the Messiah of a particular ethnic group – the Jews. And yet, on the other hand Jesus is also inclusive enough that he can be the Saviour of Gentiles – from China to Greece, from Aboriginal Australia to British England. There is truly no one else like Jesus in the history of the world.

Now naturally, the Jewish church all took an interest in our sermon POSTER out the front of church saying “All Israel will be Saved.” They generally agreed this is what Romans 11 seems to say. But we spent a bit of time talking about the fact that until Israel believes in Jesus – they remain ENEMIES of the Christian gospel.  The pastor shared with me some of the hostility he has experienced as a Jewish pastor.

Many Jews are not just APATHETIC to the name of Jesus; they are HOSTILE to the name of Jesus. Jesus is seen by many as an enemy to Jewish identity and Jewish culture.

(Slide 2) In July 2020 (this year) the Jewish government shut down a Christian TV channel in Israel for doing evangelism. Jews for Judaism (a reactionary group to Jews for Jesus) don’t want Jewish people believing in Jesus. So the Christian channel was blocked. What’s more, Jews who are Christians are sometimes denied the right of “ALIYAH” which is return to Israel. All Jews are welcome to return to Israel. Its called Aliyah. But Christian Jews often need to hide their Christian faith in order to return. Although, Israel returned to the promised land in 1948 there has not yet been a widespread turning to Jesus. Why not? What’s happening? There are considerably more Messianic Christian churches in Israel today (than in 1999), but in recent years there has also been increasing opposition to Christian missionaries and Jewish evangelism. So will all Israel be saved?

Point 1:  All Israel will be Saved (after the full number of Gentiles).

Show:                    Rom.11:25-27 (READ)

Explain:       Well these verses are the CLIMAX of Paul argument in Romans 11. When Paul saysI do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery” we now know the “YOU” is predominantly Gentile Christians. And we now know the mystery – Paul wants us to understand – is that some natural Jewish branches were broken off (from the promises to Abraham, Issac and Jacob) so that we Gentiles could be grafted in

Earlier in Romans 11 Paul explained that God left Israel in a state of sin because he needed the Jews to reject their Messiah and ask for his crucifixion (GOSPEL) The problem is – if we sin against God we deserve to die. Now the Bible is clear that JEWS AND GENTILES are completely alike in one thing. We are all sinners who deserve to die. But God came up with a plan – to save us. In His great love for us – God’s Son, the Lord Jesus agreed to be our scapegoat, our Passover Lamb and our sacrifice for sin. Jesus agreed to die for our sin.

But in order for Jesus to die for sin – someone had to kill him. So God left the Jews in their hardness of heart – so that they would reject Jesus and put him to death. Of course, the Jews didn’t do this on their own. The Gentile (Romans) nailed him to the cross. (So Jews and Gentiles are complicit in the death of God’s Son). But thankfully, this led the world to having a Saviour. Jesus died to take THE PUNISHMENT for your sin. Now how many people do you know who love you enough to die for you? Well Jesus loves you that much and that means you can trust him.

Now if you BELIEVE Jesus died for you and you THANK Jesus for dying for you – God says He will forgive you and you get a FREE PASS TO HEAVEN). If you REJECT what Jesus has done to save you then ultimately you pay for your own sins on judgment day. But in his great love God has provided a way out in Jesus – for both Jews and Gentiles.

Now sadly, it seems like many more Gentiles believe in Jesus, than Jews. But Paul now explains that once the full number of Gentiles – are actually saved – something will change in Israel. Paul explains the natural Jewish branches will be grafted back into the promises of Abraham and they will recognize in mass that Jesus is their Messiah.

Just as God opened our blind eyes – to the Jewish Messiah, so God will open the blind eyes of ALL Israel – after the full number of Gentiles have come in. (Now whether that means absolutely every Jew will become a Christian – or whether it means the vast majority of Israel will become Christian IS DEBATED even among those who believe in a future salvation of Israel. But Paul’s words “all Israel” does imply a totality of sorts.

Apply:          Paul’s point to Gentile Christians is that we should not write off the Jews. Nor should we Gentiles think that God’s purposes now revolve entirely around us. Yes, God loves Gentiles. But the Jews are first amongst equals in God’s Kingdom. THE GOSPEL – 1) as preached by the apostles throughout the book of Acts and 2) clearly stated by Paul is “first to the Jew and then to the Gentile.” (Rom.1:16) We are the UNNATURAL BRANCHES, not the Jews. We are the JOHNNY COME LATELY, not the Jews. So, Paul is like – if God’s Sovereign grace has been extended to you the unnatural branches, how much more must it be extended to those who are natural branches.

Paul is full of hope that God’s grace will come full circle – and what started with the Jews will eventually finish with the Jews. And if there is A FUTURE HOPE of salvation for Israel, then there is A PRESENT HOPE for the salvation of Jews – right now. Even though the Jews are often hostile to Jesus and wary of the church – God still wants His chosen people to have faith, hope and love in Jesus. And truly, A) if blind, dumb, deaf Gentiles can look at the Jewish Scriptures and see Jesus is the Jewish Messiah, how much more should Jews who take their won Scriptures seriously be able to see Jesus is their Messiah.

It’s all there… Now to back up the claim that all Israel will be saved Paul quotes three Old Testament passages.

SHOW:         Romans 11:26-27 (READ)

Explain:       Now notice the little “c” at the end of verse 27. If you look down to your footnotes and find the little “c” you’ll see that what Paul is saying comes from Isaiah 59:20-21; Isa.27:9 & Jer.31:33-34. Now a few weeks ago – I shared with you that when the New Testament quotes the Old Testament – we should actually look at the Old Testament quote in context. This is called BROAD REFERENCE INTERPRETATION. It is based on the belief that the apostles do not quote the Bible out of context. So we are now going to spend some time looking at the passages Paul quotes. But before you turn to Isaiah 59 – let me just show you what I think Paul is saying. (Slide 3). So first sub-point;

Subpoint A: God is Committed to Israel despite their Sin

Show:          Isaiah 59:1-15 (page_________________)

Explain:       Someone said to me a week or two ago; “Matt, you know that many of the Jews are not very nice people.” Yes. I know this and Isaiah knows this. Isaiah says that although the Jews are the CHOSEN PEOPLE – they are still a bunch of sinners who do some pretty ordinary things. Like us, the Jews are sinners who need saving. Now from verse 15 onwards – Isaiah turns to their much needed salvation. Verse 16 says (READ; Isa.59:16-17). Now as Christians we know that God did intervene in Jesus. Jesus came to earth clothed in God’s righteousness and salvation. But there are a few hints here that Isaiah is NOT talking about Jesus’ first coming, but second coming. Look again at verses 18-20 (READ)

Now this is clearly about JUDGMENT DAY. The idea of the Redeemer coming like a pent-up flood is reminiscent of the ACTUAL FLOOD. Noah’s flood. When Jesus came the first time – he said “I have not come to judge the world, but to save the world.” (Jn.3:17).

But Jesus’ second coming is about judgment. So really, in context, this seems to be talking about JESUS’ SECOND COMING. This also says the Redeemer will be feared from the WEST unto the EAST where the sun rises. Again, this is more in line with Jesus’ return as the Lion of Judah, and may even be Jesus’ source when he says in Matthew 24; “for as lightening that comes from the east is visible even in the west – so will be the coming of the son of man.” (Matt.24:30). Jesus’ return will be recognized from one end of the earth to the other.

But most Messianic Jews believe that Jesus’ return will still center on Jerusalem or Zion. The Redeemer will come from or to Zion. Bob Mendehlsohn truly believes that when Jesus returns in the flesh – it’s not going to be to Brooklyn New York or to Vaucluse, Sydney (despite the number of Jews in both places). No! Jesus is going to return and stand on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem. Jesus will return to the same place he left. This is based on a number of Scriptures – including Zechariah 14 and Isaiah 59. Remember, Paul is quoting Isaiah 59:20 to speak of the future salvation of Israel – and the Redeemer comes to or from Zion (Jerusalem).

Illustrate:     Now I know the minute I say WACKY things like this – Gentiles get very nervous. The word ZION carries notions of Zionism (and Palestine) and a mess that most Christians rightly want to avoid. That’s ok. I’m not pushing Zionism and I’m not asking anyone to take sides in the Israel-Palestine problem. I’m probably of the opinion that ONLY Jesus’ return to the Mount of Olives will resolve these difficulties.

Apply:          But either way Paul is saying Jesus’ return may be a little more ISRAEL CENTRIC than we realize. Now whether this Israel centricity involves A) the people (and the land) or just B) the people – I leave it at this stage for you to decide. But what I really want you to notice is how Isaiah 59 ends. (READ Isa.59:21) Now this does not mean all Jews are automatically saved. They must also come to faith in Jesus.

But this is saying that God has a covenant with the Jews – that extends through all generations. So I would say (at the very least) Paul is quoting Isaiah 59 to point out – that despite all Israel’s sin – God still has a commitment to Israel as a nation and as a people that extends through all generations. Now NOTHING in Isaiah 59 suggests – all Israel will be saved. But Isaiah 59 does make it clear that God has bound himself to Israel and intends to come to Israel despite all their sin. 

Subpoint B: God’s Promise was to Save ALL Israel

Show:          Jeremiah 31:23-37 (READ)

Explain:       Now again, the actual verse that Paul quotes in Jeremiah 31 – is verse 33. God promised the Jews he would one day make A NEW COVENANT with them where he would write His law upon their minds and upon their hearts. Now who was this promise to?

Well again, the establishment of this new covenant with the Jews seems to accompany a return to the land. The TWO IDEAS seem to be held together. The difficulty is that Paul quotes Jeremiah 31 in 52AD – while the Jews were still in the promised land. Jerusalem is not yet destroyed. So, whether Paul foresaw the destruction of Jerusalem in 70AD and 136AD and the Jews eventual return to Israel in 1948 is highly speculative. We need to be careful that we don’t read more into Jeremiah 31 than Paul intended. Paul’s primary focus is on the salvation of the people, not a return to the land. He is primarily making the case that at some point “All Israel will be saved.”

SHOW:         Jer.31:33-34 (READ)

Now when God says that “no man will need to teach his neighbour because they will ALL know me from the least of them to the greatest”, you kind of get the impression – everyone is saved. That’s pretty expansive. I also explained at the beginning of this sermon series – the phrase “from the least of them to the greatest(in verse 34) is used in Jeremiah 6 times (and on each occasion it means the totality of a specific group. By quoting Jeremiah 31 – Paul does shed light on what he means by “ALL Israel.” All Israel means All Israel. You’ve got to do EXEGETICAL GYMNASTICS and tie yourself in knots – for it to mean something else. Jeremiah clearly says; “all Israel will come to a knowledge of the new covenant in Jesus – and no Jew will need to teach any other Jew because they will all know God.That doesn’t just mean the elect within Israel. It must mean all Israel because there is no one else to tell about Jesus…

Subpoint C:        God will Gather ALL Israel in true Worship of Himself

Show:           Isa.27:1-13 (page________________READ)

Explain:        Now the actual verse Paul quotes is Isaiah 27:9. The reason there are some differences is because Paul quotes from the Greek version of the Old Testament, whereas our English translations are based on the actual Hebrew Bible. Now please notice Isaiah 27 begins with the slaying of LEVIATHAN – the gliding serpent, Leviathan the coiling serpent. Now in original context this may be talking about Babylon. But the Bible tells us the true serpent is Satan. Behind all the evil in this world is a spiritual serpent who speaks with forked tongue. But, the good news is the serpent will be slain by Yahweh’s sword.

Interestingly, in Revelation 19 & 20 (end of the Bible) Jesus comes forth with a great sword coming out of his mouth and then we are told “the ancient serpent” is defeated and bound for 1000 years. The problem for some theological grids is that Paul now gives Isaiah 27 (a future orientation) – post Jesus’ first coming. Look at verse 6; “In days to come Jacob will take root, Israel will bud and blossom and fill all the world with fruit.” (Isa.27:6). But Paul sees this salvation of Israel after some future defeat of the serpent. Now if, 1) reading biblical quotes in context is correct – a future slaying of Satan, that leads to a future salvation of Israel – means Paul’s theology is now aligning much more with pre-millennial eschatology, than a-millennial eschatology.

A future oriented slaying of Satan and a future salvation of Israel is pretty much classic pre-millennial theology. Now I suspect (for those of you who know what I’m talking about) some of your theological grids are jumping up and down thinking the Apostle Paul must have got this wrong. But I won’t make that call. I might question Calvin, but I don’t question Paul.

Look at the very optimistic note for Israel on which Isaiah 27 finishes. (Isa.27:12-13; READ) This talks of the Jews being gathered one by one… The language of gathering the Israelites – “ONE BY ONE” is used in the Bible in reference to taking a census of all the people’. It means counting and including every last one of them. So one by one may again define what Paul means by “All Israel being saved.” As in “All Israel” means everyone you would include in a one by one census of Israel. So Isaiah 27 says 1) Satan is defeated, 2) the Jews are gathered one by one, 3) the trumpet sounds and 4) at the very end all Israel is found worshiping the LORD on the holy mountain in Jerusalem. Now whether this is a picture of the heavenly Jerusalem (ie a picture of heaven itself) or an earthly Jerusalem you can debate over morning tea.

APPLY:        But Paul has now quoted three BIBLE passages to defend the idea that in the end all Israel will be saved. Now as we’ve read these passages we’ve seen that what Paul says will happen to Israel actually aligns with more literal readings of Revelation. Again, I think much of what I’m saying falls down if A) reading Old Testament quotes in B) Old Testament context is wrong. I’m assuming BROAD REFERENCE of Old Testament quotes is a correct way to read the Bible. But when I look at the Old Testament quotes in context – they do seem to shed further light on the very things Paul is speaking of in Romans 11. But these observations then lead me towards more plain, literal and chronological understandings of Revelation. Paul himself is backing up the idea that “all Israel will be saved” through the plain and literal interpretation of Isaiah and Jeremiah.

The fact is 1) Jesus is coming back, 2) all those who believe in Jesus (including the Jews) will be saved. But the book of Revelation tells us about a few other things that are yet to take place. So are we meant to read Revelation literally or symbolically? I think Paul has at the very least given us one piece to the puzzle – the salvation of Israel should be understood literally. And if the salvation of Israel is literal – are references to events around Israel and Jerusalem also meant to be understood literally? Let me pray…

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