Topic: God’s redemptive future plan for Israel
Text: 11:1 – 36
Memory verse: Romans 11:26a
From Romans 9-10, we respectfully learnt about Israel’s past and present. Romans 11 discusses Israel’s future and answers the question – “Has God permanently cast aside His people, or is there a future for Israel?” Paul says the answer is “Yes, there is a future.” He then presents four specific proofs.
First – The Personal Proof (11:1)
“I am an Israelite” – writes Paul. In 1 Timothy 1:16, Paul states that his conversion (told three times in Acts) was to be an example for other Jewish believers. It is worth noting that Paul’s pattern of salvation is not to be seen as a pattern for the conversion of a Gentiles today, for no lost sinner literally sees the glorified Jesus, hears Him speak and is blinded for three days. Paul’s experience is perhaps a picture of the way Israel’s people will be converted in the last days. Like the apostle, they will be in rebellion and unbelief. Then, they will see “the one they have pierced” (Zechariah 12:10 and Revelation 1:7) and will repent and be saved. In 1 Corinthians 15:8, Paul says he was “one untimely born.” That is, as a Jew, he saw the Messiah and was saved long before most of his people would have that same experience.
Second – The Historical Proof (11:2 – 10)
Paul refers to 1 Kings to show that God has always had a faithful remnant even in times of great unbelief. In fact, as we read Old Testament history, we see the fact that it was always the remnant that God used and blessed. See Isaiah 1:9, for example. It is a basic teaching of the Word that when the majority falls from the faith and cannot be reformed, then God takes the remnant and starts again.
Verse 5 states that God has “a remnant chosen by grace.” Though not a large number, there are Jews in the church today. Of course, all national distinctions are removed in the Messiah. But if God is saving Jews during this age of the church when Israel is blind, how much more will He do in that coming age near the end of time? God has never forsaken His people – this is the testimony of history.
We need to remind ourselves that during this church age, God is not dealing with the nation of Israel as such. According to Ephesians 2:14-17 and Galatians 3:28, we are all one in Jesus. No Jewish group can claim to be God’s elect remnant. In verse 8, Paul shows that this “blinding” of Israel as a nation was prophesied in Isaiah 29:10 and Deuteronomy 29:4. (Compare these with Matthew 13:14-15 and Isaiah 6:9-10).
Third – The “Olive Tree” Proof (11:11 – 24)
In these verses, Paul is discussing Jews and Gentiles, not individual sinners or saints. In this section he proves that God has a specific purpose behind the fall of Israel – namely, the salvation of the Gentiles. Gentiles do not have to become Jews before they can become believers.
Paul argues that if the fall of the Jews has brought such blessing to the world, then how much greater will the blessing be when Israel is restored. The restoration of Israel will bring “resurrection” to the world (verse 15). In other words, Paul seems to be certain that there was a future for Israel as a nation. Paul looked forward to the day when Israel would be received into fullness of blessing as a nation.
“Again” is a very key word (verse 23). God will again restore Israel. The Old Testament makes it very clear that Israel is going to turn to God again. As an example, read Jeremiah 23:3–8, which is one of the many remarkable prophecies of the restoration of Israel. Also, Zechariah speaks of the great Day of Atonement. Israel will turn to God in repentance, and God will save them just as He saves us—by His marvelous mercy and grace.
The parable of the olive tree must be examined carefully. Paul is not talking about salvation of individuals, but the position of Jews and Gentiles as peoples in the eyes of God. Israel is the olive tree (Abraham is the root) that did not bear fruit. God then broke off some of the branches and grafted the Gentiles into the tree. They were “a wild olive shoot” (verse 17). This was done “contrary to nature” (verse 24), for it is the usual practice to graft the good branch into the poorer stock. But God grafted the poorer, weak Gentiles into the good stock of Israel. This act shows the kindness and the sternness of God. His kindness was in saving the Gentiles. His sternness was in cutting off rebellious Israel.
Fourth – The Scriptural Proof (11:25-36)
Paul has used the Old Testament often in these three chapters, and in this final section, he turns to Isaiah (59:20-21 and 27:9) to show that the Old Testament promised a coming Deliverer who would cleanse and restore Israel. He states the “mystery” of Israel’s blindness. The mystery was a truth hidden in past ages but now revealed in its fullness in the New Testament.
“The full number of the Gentiles” (verse 25) refers to the number of Gentiles that will be saved during this church age. When the body of Jesus is completed, He will catch it away in the air. Then will begin the seven-year Tribulation period here on earth – “the time of Jacob’s trouble” (Jeremiah 30:7). At the end of that period, the Deliverer will come, and the believing remnant will enter into its kingdom.
“All Israel” does not mean every single Jew. Rather, it means that the nation of Israel at that day will all be saved. It will be a redeemed nation. God’s promised covenant is quoted (Jeremiah 31:31-34) in verse 27. This “new covenant” will apply to Israel when it trusts the Lord Jesus as its Redeemer. Though the Jews may seem like enemies of God’s will today, they are still loved by God. He will not break the covenants He made with their fathers. People may change, but God cannot change or revoke His promises (verse 29).
In verses 30-32, Paul explains that the Gentiles at one time rejected God (Romans 1:18 – 32), yet now were being saved by faith. Even today the Jews appear to be in unbelief, but shall one day receive grace and mercy. God “has bound over all men to disobedience, so that He may have mercy on them all” (verse 32).
As the study of Romans 9-11 comes to an end, it is important to remember that the theme of chapter 11 is national and not personal. God will never “break off” true believers from their salvation. There is no separation between Jesus and His people (Romans 8:35-39). The church today is primarily made up of Gentiles. Gentiles benefit from the spiritual heritage of Israel. In a spiritual sense, we are children of Abraham, who is the “father” of all who believe (Galatians 3:26-29). After studying God’s gracious and wise plan for both Jews and Gentiles, now we may rejoice with Paul as he concludes with a hymn of praise to God in verses 33-36.
1. How do the following points show that God has a future redemptive plan for the Israelites?
a. Paul’s personal life as a proof
b. Historical proof
c. The Olive tree proof
d. The Scriptural proof
2. How does your personal salvation experience assure you of future hope for your family?