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Eschatology in Romans Related to Israel and the Church, Part 1

Monday, November 21, 2016 13:47
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Theology and Politics from a Conservative, Biblical Perspective

menorahThere are numerous passages in the book of Romans that are considered eschatological in nature, meaning passages that deal specifically with events, entities, or both connected to the very last days of this current age; the future from our perspective. These passages look to the time just prior to the physical return of Jesus as well as new age that begins upon His return. It will be this coming age where Jesus Himself will reign from his earthly father David’s throne over all the earth.

Let me state at the outset that the only way to get around the literal nature of the passages we are going to look at is to view them allegorically. This is what those who are aligned with Amillennialism and/or Preterism have done. In fact, it is a common practice within those camps to understand Scripture in a literal sense until arriving to a passage that deals with the future from our perspective. Once they arrive to these passages, most often, their method of interpretation moves from a literal (or “plain sense”) understanding to a figurative/allegorical understanding. There is really no reason for this other than what is simply preferred by the interpreter, regardless of the dictates of Scripture itself.

Of course, the biggest sticking point for Amillennialists, Preterists, and others who see no significance of Israel today is that they come to the pages of Scripture and see a specific plan of God for Israel and the Church as being divisive or contradictory, therefore that cannot exist. They see this as a contradiction because they wrongly believe that those who do see a unique plan for Israel and the Church also teach two different methods of salvation; one for Israel and one for the Church. Again, this is absolute error on their part. It stems from one specific note written by C. I. Scofield in the 1904 version of his notes that was corrected/clarified in successive versions. However, this was only viewed as an attempt by Scofield to hide his error. When Scofield’s notes are read carefully and globally, it is really impossible to come away thinking that he believed Jews gained salvation one way and Gentiles another, but there are those who remain insistent that this is what he taught regardless of anything else.

It is very clear from Scripture that all – both Jews and Gentiles – are saved the same way. Yet, the fact that God still has unique and separate purposes for Israel as He does for the Church (with the two remaining separate), does not in any way form a contradiction at all. The means of salvation for individuals of each group is exactly the same. There is no difference! It is by faith in Christ alone, period.

It is really no different from anything else in life once a person becomes a Christian. One person may sense God calling him into the pastorate, while another individual believes she is called to the mission field. Still another Christian believes they are being called to open a secular business. In each case, all three have salvation, which is gained in exactly the same for each, however, the specific calling or will of God for each person beyond their salvation leads them in different directions. No one would argue that the person going into the pastorate is truly saved while the missionary or business person’s salvation is questionable.

It is the same with the nation Israel and the Church. Today, it is 100% impossible for any person – Jew or Gentile – to be saved apart from Jesus. No Jewish person living today gains salvation apart from his/her faith in Christ’s atonement. That is an impossibility.

Paul spends the first few chapters of Romans explaining that all Jews – under the law – just as all Gentiles – apart from the law – are all found guilty. The need for each individual regardless of ethnic make-up is to understand that there is no salvation under heaven apart from Jesus. It is that simple.

Every Jewish person who has already died without ever acknowledging their need for His atonement, dies in their sin and they are currently in hell. This is true of every Gentile person as well. There is no difference; to the Jew first and also to the Gentile. The Jew is condemned under the law and the Gentile is condemned by their conscience apart from the law. All are guilty. There is none righteous, no not one (Romans 3:10). A Jew living in Israel today who does not have salvation in Jesus is just as guilty as just as “dead in sin” as any Gentile not living in Israel. In that case, being Jewish does not save them. Only faith has the ability to save anyone; Jew or Gentile.

Just like a lawyer, Paul has spent two full chapters building his case against all people who, according to God, fall into one of two ethnic categories – Jews and Gentiles. That’s it. There are no blacks, whites, browns, or others.

So what does this have to do with the specific plans that God might have for both Israel and the Church? How does this play into things and what does Paul have to say about these two separate, unique entities?

Romans is not a book that can be read once and done. It is a book that must be repeatedly studied because the truth presented there runs deep and is layered. The major eschatological passages of Romans are:

  • Romans 3:1-4
  • Romans 9 – 11
  • Romans 13:11
  • Romans 16:25-27 (possibly)

Too many commentators skip over Romans 3:1-4 as not having any real or true eschatological significance, but a close look at the text distinguishes it as one that has something to say with respect to eschatology and specifically, where Israel is concerned.

ROMANS 3:1-4
Let’s see if we can grasp exactly what Paul is teaching here.

1 What advantage then hath the Jew? or what profit is there of circumcision?

2 Much every way: chiefly, because that unto them were committed the oracles of God.

3 For what if some did not believe? shall their unbelief make the faith of God without effect?

4 God forbid: yea, let God be true, but every man a liar; as it is written, That thou mightest be justified in thy sayings, and mightest overcome when thou art judged. (emphasis added; KJV)

Paul begins by asking two pertinent questions regarding Jewishness. He asks what advantage might there be and what benefit is there in being circumcised? By asking these two questions, we should arrive to the correct conclusion as stated by Paul. Some start to think that Paul is beginning to focus on methods or works in order to have an advantage as a Jew before God? Paul seems to teach this in several places throughout Romans but when Scripture is allowed to interpret itself, we must conclude that Paul is not teaching that. What then is he teaching?

Clearly, Paul is speaking about individuals who have not exercised faith in Jesus at all. In other words, those who have never received salvation. They will be judged according to works based on how the Law convicts them (if Jewish), or their conscience (if Gentile).

Recall that in Romans 1, Paul talked about how desperate man has been to live as if God did not at all exist. Because of this, human beings have actually devolved from the high position we were originally created into as the pinnacle of God’s Creation, to creating graven images of beasts, birds, and bugs to actually worship. Far from being evolutionary, it is clearly devolution that has been at work in our minds. This has occurred solely through sin and man being successfully tempted to dethrone God from his heart and life. In general, people want to go through life with no thought of God (Psalm 2).

Paul then takes a very serious look at all people – both Jews and Gentiles – and concludes from Scripture that all are guilty; the Jew is declared guilty under the Law while the Gentile is declared guilty by his own conscience.

Even though the individual Jew had the Mosaic Law, it doesn’t mean that the Jew in faith believed it or observed it. Many observed it outwardly but that did nothing for them really as their hearts were far from God. That is extremely clear from all the failures of many within Israel from one generation to the next. The same is true today. I have talked to orthodox Jews who have bragged about how easy it is to “observe” the Law. They are missing something entirely because they are only focusing on the outward and not the inward observance as Jesus Himself taught (Matthew 5:27-28). Certainly, actions determine outwardly whether or not someone broke a law, but it always starts in the heart where it is only seen by God Himself. It comes from within a person; something only God can see even when the person appears to be doing the right thing outwardly.

As we know, multitudes of Israelites were destroyed by God due to their own lack of belief in Him. Are these Jews in heaven with God now solely because they are Jews? Sadly, no. They died “in their sin” without having any type of saving-faith that would have kept them from experiencing God’s wrath in this life and now. Yet, there was Abraham, Noah, Elijah, Elisha, David, Isaiah, Jeremiah, and many others who had and exercised a faith in God that saved them. That faith in God caused them to do from their heart what pleased Him.

Just being Jewish is pointless unless that Jewish person has faith in the One who saves us from ourselves, sin, and death: Jesus. Without that saving faith in Jesus, Jews who stand before God on their day of judgment do not get a pass because they are Jewish. Jesus pointed this out during His earthly ministry to the religious leaders (Matthew 3:9; Luke 3:8-9). Unfortunately for most then and now, this truth does not sink in.

There are many, many Jewish people in hell at this very moment just as there are many, many Gentiles. The only path to salvation is through Jesus and faith in His completed work. That applies to all Jews as well as all Gentiles. All Gentiles and Jews who receive Jesus as Savior today become members of the Church, His Body. It is that simple. God will fulfill His original plans with Israel at some point in the future. However, once again, salvation for those of future Israel is only through Jesus and faith in Him.

What does this mean where Israel is concerned now? It means that anyone who is Jewish and part of Israel today is just as dead in their sin (unless they have received salvation from Jesus Himself), as any Gentile. When a Jewish (or Gentile) person does receive Jesus, it means while they might continue living in physical Israel as Jewish individuals, they are actually part of the Church and not Israel.

Romans 3:1-4 indicates that at a future point, God will revive and complete His program with Israel. He will choose a final remnant of believing Jews who will place their faith in Jesus as Savior, Messiah, and Lord and this will occur during the upcoming Tribulation period (“time of Jacob’s trouble”). God is waiting for that generation of Jews, but it is not as though He is sitting in the heavens wringing His hands wondering when or if that generation will one day appear. That generation will appear and they will appear at the exact time they are supposed to appear, according to God’s sovereignty and timing. It is already a “done” deal as far as God is concerned. Because He exists in the eternal present, He, unlike us, has already seen it happen. He knows them each by name. He sees their faces. They will embrace His salvation (cf. Zechariah 12:10).

I’d like to note something missed by many because people do not do word studies anymore. We sometimes forget the English Bibles we have today have been translated from other languages. Some translations are better than others because some are word for word, others are thought for thought, or even paragraph for paragraph. By going back to the original languages as often as possible and studying words in their original from trusted sources and understanding why the translators used specific English words in their translations, we learn a great deal.

For instance, Romans 3:1 says “Then what is the advantage of the Jew or what is the profit for the circumcision? Much in every way. First, because the oracles…” (emphasis added). Dr. Thomas R. Edgar (professor of New Testament Literature at Capital Bible Seminary in Lanham, MD), instructs us that word “oracles” is from the Greek word logia, which looks similar to the word logos, but it is a distinctly separate word, and means neither “logos” (word) or “graphe” (scripture). Yet, Paul deliberately chose the word “logia” here (under the Spirit’s guidance), because of what he was trying to tell us.

Edgar notes, “[Romans 3:1-4] show that Israel’s advantage in having the logia committed to them is not merely in possessing them but in God’s faithfulness to what He has said in the logia. The connection with verse 3 shows that the advantage lies in the fact that God will be faithful to His sayings, logia, in spite of Israel’s unbelief in its Messiah” [2] and essentially Paul points out that if God does not keep His promises or commitments to Israel, this would make Him a liar (Romans 3:4a). Since God cannot lie (Numbers 23:19), it must be assumed that God will carry out His original promises to Israel just as He will carry out His promises related to the Church.

In short, Edgar states that “the logia are specifically the promises to Israel and not the Old Testament in general. This passage teaches that God will not renege on His promises to national Israel despite Israel’s rejection of Christ.” [3] If we simply read the English text without taking the time to delve into the truth that is sometimes hidden by the use of English words, we will never gain this teaching from Paul and will, unfortunately, be carried off into erroneous thinking.

This actually all ties back into the Abrahamic Covenant (which we may take up at a later date), found in Genesis 12:1-3; 13:14-17; 15 & 17. See also Genesis 22:15-18. The Abrahamic Covenant was stated to Isaac in Genesis 26:3-5, 24 as well as Jacob in Genesis 28:13-15; 35:9-12. It is later referred to as God’s covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in 2 Kings 13:23. One cannot fully understand the ramifications of the eschatological passages in Romans connected to Israel without fully understanding the Abrahamic Covenant.

Ultimately, in Romans 3:1-4, Paul is teaching that “God will not renege on His promises to national Israel despite Israel’s rejection of Christ…[that He] will be faithful and will not lie, particularly regarding Israel, and that Israel’s rejection of its Messiah will not cause Him to be unfaithful to what He has said in His word.” [4]

Why the delay? Israel and the world simply awaits God’s timing. Nothing more and nothing less.

[1] Dictionary of Premillennial Theology, p. 380

[2] Ibid, p. 381

[3] Ibid, p. 381

[4] Ibid, p. 381

Theology and Politics from a Conservative, Biblical Perspective

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