OK, I’m well aware that I’m heading into dangerous territory here. I’m also well aware that there are plenty of Bible teachers I respect highly who disagree with me on this issue. We finally need to confront the elephant that’s been in the center of the room. It’s the question that I’ve been dancing around but never fully answered, but I can’t avoid it any longer. The question is: Has the Church permanently displaced Israel as the center of God’s plan? Up until the time of the apostles, God primarily used the nation of Israel to push forward his plan for redeeming humanity. Yes, there were a few Gentiles who were saved under the Old Covenant, like Rahab and Naaman, but they were few and far between. Most of the people on earth who had a right relationship with God were Jewish.
But then it changed. God’s plan on redeeming humanity and carrying out his will is centered on the Church, which is made up of every race, every culture, every people group, and every ethnic background. The only thing that matters is faith in Jesus Christ. There are Jews who trust in Yeshua (as they call him), but they make up a small minority of Jews in the world.
So is that ever going to change? Is God going to bring national Israel back to himself? And if so, in what sense?
My short answer to that question is, yes, he will. There will come a time in the future in which God causes national Israel to repent and return to him.
What do I mean by this? Does this mean that every Jew at that point in time will be saved? No. That’s never been the case.
Let me—very briefly—make the case. Remember what we said about this paradigm shift from Israel to the Church? The “hardening,” as Paul calls it is not total. There always have been--and are to this day--Jews who are right with God and who trust in the Messiah. But this gulf between Israel and the Lord is not only not total, it’s not permanent either. I just don’t see how I can interpret vss. 25-27 any other way.
I know that there are whole schools of thought that claim that the Church is now the “New Israel,” but I don’t think so, at least not in this context. Once the right number of Gentiles have come in, “All Israel shall be saved.” I have my theories about how that happens, but that goes into details beyond the purview here.
Once again, I want us to try to find a practical application. If I didn’t think we could, I wouldn’t bring up this topic. What can we learn from this? Well, nothing entirely new, but I do have this. . .
• Once again, we see the fact that—until this life is over—there’s no such person as someone who’s without hope. Let’s take this from the macro down to the micro level. If you have a relative or friend who doesn’t know Christ, please don’t give up on them. Paul’s point about Israel is the same as about that neighbor: Before Christ redeemed you, you were just as much without hope as they are. He saved you, right? How do you know what God has in store for that person? Keep praying for them, and keep showing and sharing the truth in a loving way. You never know what might happen.
• Second, we need to quake in fear and bask in love. Just a few verses above Paul tells us to “consider therefore the kindness and sternness of God: sternness to those who fell, but kindness to you.” Of course I don’t mean we’re supposed to be afraid of God. But we need a godly fear that trembles in awe at what we were saved from. And think about what it took for him to do that. And then think about the love that motivated him to do it. And that’s the type of love he’s showing us right now.
Father God, thank you. You truly are the best friend and worst enemy anyone could ever have. Thank you for not giving up on me. I want to return that favor for someone. Who shall it be?