Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Romans 11:13-25 by Dr. Mal Couch

Mal Couch, Ph.D., Th.D.

Romans 11:13-25

The Restoration of Israel as a Theocracy assured

Some of the greatest prophecies in Scripture are found in Ezekiel 36-37. They deal with the restoration of Israel, both spiritually and in regard to the Jewish return to the Promised Land! The apostle Paul was well familiar with these passages and one could almost say that he is paraphrasing their message here in chapter 11.

Ezekiel 37:1-14 deals with the prophecy of the dry bones. Israel is like bones scattered in the desert, but by a miracle, God will bring them back to life and plant them in their one land. Humanly speaking these bones cannot come back alive. Ezekiel is shocked with the word that God is giving him about Israel and their future restoration. The Lord said, "I, Jehovah, have spoken it and will perform it." God will use means to accomplish His purposes.

"What is the state of the nation in this vision of the dry bones? They are buried among the Gentiles (v. 21). They are a disunited, disjointed, formless mass of people living under the flags of many nations without a national awareness of their own. In the national and spiritual sense they are a mass of scattered, dry, i.e. dead bones. … The first phase in the work of the Restoration of Israel is of a physical nature. They develop a national consciousness and begin to leave the various countries of their dispersion. . . . The state of the Jewish people in the last 200 years is a remarkable fulfillment of this passage." (The Restoration of the State of Israel, Arthur Kac, pp. 44-45)

This passage of Scripture, Romans 11, gives meaning to this restoration! The church is not Israel, and Israel is not the church. There is no such think as Replacement Theology. It is a heresy pushed upon the Christian public by the allegorical guys of the (falsely describe) Covenant Theology.

But to you the Gentiles I am speaking. Insomuch then I am an apostle of the Gentiles, I am glorifying my work. (11:13) (Couch, Greek Translation)
Paul is making it clear that his argument which he will develop in the verses that follow is not based simply because he is "pro-Israel." He has been assigned by God to reach the Gentiles, yet the fact stands that God is not through with His earthly, theocratic people. The church will apostatize and turn away from the gospel. In fact that event is now happening. The church is dying. The apostasy of the church is upon us! Gentiles are rejecting Christ as Savior! Again, the apostle is using the Present Tense when he writes, "I am now speaking." What he has to say is current in its meaning and application to the argument.

If someway I might [come] alongside [and] anger the flesh [brothers] and shall save in the future some out from among them. (11:14) (Couch, Greek Translation)
During this dispensation (PERIOD) of grace Paul has a task to perform, and that is, saving spiritually those of his own by the flesh. By his proclaiming of the gospel Paul wants to antagonize his fellow countrymen in order to cause them to deal with the issue of their King, who is now in this PERIOD their Savior, though His reign on the Davidic throne is not far off! He wants to force them to examine the claims of the son of David and see what God is presently doing with the past historic fact of His death, resurrection, and ascension to heaven. By using the Future Tense of "shall save," Paul is saying he is planting seeds that may later sprout spiritually and bring many Jews to Christ at some latter time.

Again the verb paralaloo should not be translated "to make jealous." Paul’s point is that the gospel, which is blessing the Gentiles, is making the Jews mad, angry. They can sense that God has turned away from them, if only for a season! In a twist of the Lord’s providence, that anger will someday play a role in bringing Jews to Christ!

For if their throwing away (casting down of the truth) [became] a reconciliation of the world, what the receiving towards [them] if not life out from among the dead ones? (11:15) (Couch, Greek Translation)
It would be impossible to read this verse without believing that Paul is telling us there will be a restoration, a reconciliation of Israel back to the Lord. A. T. Robertson gets the point but then turns away from the obvious meaning of the passage. He writes, "Many think that Paul means that the general resurrection and the end will come when the Jews are converted. Possibly so, but it is by no means certain. His language may be merely figurative." [Italics mine.] How in the world can Robertson come so close and then back off of the meaning of the passage? He shows that if one wants to deny the obvious he can easily do so. Robertson, with all his Greek skills, was locked into his Covenant, anti-premillennial way of thinking! He denied what he saw in his exegesis!

Alford gets the point and writes: "Life from the dead literally should follow on the restoration of the Jewish people." (p. 430)

For if the first (chunk of dough) be holy and the lump also, and if the root (is) holy, then the branches also. (11:16) (Couch, Greek Translation)
Paul now makes a very important point. He shows that the starting point, of a loaf of bread (or of a branch coming out of a root), establishes the end product. From the chunk of dough the lump is broken off, and, from the root, the branch of the tree comes forth. So the nation of Israel. The chunk of dough, or the root, represents God’s blessing came down to Abraham and his descendants the Jewish people. This principle will establish what Paul says in the verses that come after.

But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, a wild olive were engrafted in among them, and together-fellowshipping of the rich root of the olive tree, (11:17) (Couch, Greek Translation)
The branches (some but not all) represent the Jewish people who originally were the recipients of God’s blessings. He reached down into ancient Babylon and Ur and called out Abraham in order to establish a people for His name. But because of their rejection of God’s blessings and their repudiation of Christ, they were broken off of the olive tree of blessing. Now the Gentiles have been engrafted into the root, that place of blessing. The elect Gentiles are now sharing of God’s goodness with elect Jews. This new body constitutes the church. The Gentiles are not being grafted into Israel but into the place of blessing. This new arrangement is temporary and it represents a postponement of God again working with the theocracy of Israel. This new arrangement is not Replacement Theology that would say God is through with the Jews and will not restore His work again with the regathered nation of Israel.

Do not triumph (as a winning gladiator) against the branches; but if you are to be triumphant, (remember) it is not you who bears the root, but the root (bears) you! (11:18) (Couch, Greek Translation)
Gentile believers in Christ cannot gloat or become arrogant as if they are better than the disbelieving Jews. "Triumph" is in the Present Tense. Apparently some of the Gentiles at that time were arrogant about their faith and felt they were better than the Jews. But by God’s sovereignty His root of blessing is supporting the Gentiles and blessing them, not the other way around! This, and in all areas of Bible interpretation, is where we dispensationalists are correct. We understand that we now are living in a new dispensation (PERIOD) of grace. But the story is not over yet. Other chapters of the drama are to follow. God is not through with Israel!

You will in the future then be saying, branches were broken out in order that I might be engrafted. (11:19) (Couch, Greek Translation)
At some point in the future the Gentiles will get it! They have to understand that the Lord ceased His time of blessing the Jews in order to turn to the Gentiles. While the church is made up of Jew and Gentile, the majority in this new body is Gentiles. Israel was set aside and the grace of God came upon the Gentile nations.

Rightly so! In unbelief they were broken out, but you in belief stand. Do not be conceited ones but fear! (11:20) (Couch, Greek Translation)
"Conceited" means to be high and lofty, to be highly exalted. This is almost precisely what happened to the church as the decades passed from the founding of the early church. The church began to look down the nose on the rejecting Jews, and in time, began to kill and persecute them. But actually, this was done in the name of Christendom not true biblical Christianity! Fear is a Present Imperative. Gentile Christians are to be continually fearing, constantly watching and monitoring their attitude towards the Jews. Anti-Semitism can raise its ugly head at any time. Most in the arena of Covenant Theology have a tinge of Anti-Semitism overtly or at least by their silence toward the plight of the Jewish people in the Holy Land.

For if the God did not spare the natural branches, neither will He spare you. (11:21) (Couch, Greek Translation)
God is not under obligation to continue to offer salvation to the hard-hearted Gentiles. A day is coming, and may be here already, when the Gentile world no longer responds to the gospel. God will be finished then with the world and the judgment of the tribulation will descend like a flood! He will again turn to the Jewish people and restore them to favor. I believe this is already beginning to take place. Israel is back in the land. Thousands of Jews in the Holy Land are now turning to Christ. Dozens of churches have been founded.

Behold then, kindness and unrelenting judgment from God, on the one hand on the ones who fell, unrelenting judgment, but on the other hand to you, kindness of God, if you continue in His kindness; otherwise you also will be in the future cut out! (11:22) (Couch, Greek Translation)

The Greek word kindness (chrastotes) is related to the word grace. Unrelenting judgment is the Greek word apotomian. The word implies severity, sharpness, cutting. In judgment, God will slash away at the Gentiles who are rejecting the gospel. This certainly has overtones of the meaning behind the words tribulation, wrath.

The apostle had no idea of God’s timetable for the Gentiles, but this verse clearly implies that the age of grace for the world will someday end. The Gentiles will be judged and rejected by the Lord, though salvation is always available even during the time of the seven year tribulation. (God is always gracious though the dispensation [PERIOD] of grace itself will end.) Because of apostasy the church dispensation (PERIOD) will end with the rapture and God will bring about a cleansing work on Israel. At the close of the seven year tribulation, Israel will be fully restored in her glory and Christ will return to reign in Jerusalem for 1000 years!

And then, if they should not remain in unbelief, they will in the future be engrafted for the God is powerful to engraft them again. (11:23) (Couch, Greek Translation)

The great Greek word specialist and dispensationalist Vine notes on this verse: "The point here is that the rejection of the Jews is not irrevocable." (p. 409) This is another verse that is virtually a guarantee of what the Lord will do in the future. The Jews will be engrafted again into the root of blessing from which, as a nation, they were removed. God is not through with the Jews! The engrafting will be a sovereign work of the Lord by His power (dunamis).

For if you were cut out from the natural wild olive (tree), and were engrafted against nature into a cultivated olive (tree), how much more shall these who are the natural (branches) be engrafted into their own olive (tree)? (11:24) (Couch, Greek Translation)
On this verse Nicoll writes: "Paul believes in his logic, and has probably in view in the words now writes that actual restoration of the Jews of which he now proceeds to speak." (p. 682)

In our lifetime we have witnessed the restoration of the Jews, though in unbelief, back to their Promised Land. This is in preparation of their coming alive spiritually with the Holy Spirit placed within their hearts. They will embrace their own Savior and Messiah, the Lord Jesus! But before it all falls into place, the church will be removed from the earth, and the terrible seven year tribulation will act as a purge on the world and on the Jewish nation. Yet, without a doubt, these prophesied events are not far off. Kac in his great volume The Rebirth of the State of Israel writes:

If this present restoration (since 1948) is preparatory to Israel’s final and complete redemption—and all signs point in that direction—it will issue forth in the transformation of the kingdoms of the earth into the Kingdom of God. This is the teaching of the whole Bible—Old and New Testament. In the New Testament this even is associated with the return of the Lord Jesus Christ. "Even so, come, Lord Jesus" (Rev. 22:20). (p. 375)

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