By Anthony T. Hopkins

Speaking through the prophet Jeremiah, the LORD declares:

“Thus says the LORD, /Who gives the sun for a light by day, /And the ordinances of the moon and the stars for a light by night, /Who disturbs the sea, /And its waves roar /(The LORD of hosts is His name): /‘If those ordinances depart /From before Me, says the LORD, /Then the seed of Israel shall also cease /From being a nation before Me forever.’ Thus says the LORD: ‘If heaven above can be measured, /And the foundations of the earth searched out beneath, /I will also cast off all the seed of Israel /For all that they have done, says the LORD.’” (Jer. 31:35-37, NKJ)

That the “seed”, or “descendants”, of Israel” will forever remain “a nation before [God]” could not be stated in more certain terms.

Although it is unwise to be dogmatic on a statement which allows of such a variety of interpretations, Jesus may have expressed this same idea in his “Olivet Discourse” when, speaking of the destruction of the Temple and, also, looking forward also to his Second Coming, he said:

“Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away till all these things take place.” (Mt. 24:34, RSV)

The Greek word which, in the Revised Standard Version of the Bible, has been translated “generation” is genea, which can also mean “race”; and a number of reputable commentators, therefore, including the nineteenth-century premillennialist commentator, Dean Henry Alford, have suggested that it should be translated thus in the present passage.

In his letter to the Romans, Paul deals in some detail with the status of the unbelieving section of the Jewish people. He begins by asking, “…has God cast away His people?” (Rom. 11:1a, NKJ; cf. Jer. 31:37) To which he answers: “Mi genoito!” Which expression has variously been translated as, “God forbid” (AV), “let it not be!” (YLT), “Far be the thought” (DARBY), “By no means!” (RSV, NIV, ESB), “May it never be!” (NASB), “May it not be” (Marshall), “Certainly not!” (Phillips, NKJ), and “I cannot believe it” (NEB).

“For,” he continues, “I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin. God has not cast away His people whom He foreknew.” (Rom. 11:1b, 2, NKJ) He then qualifies this by saying that, just as God had reserved for himself “seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal” (Rom. 11:4, NKJ), so, “at this present time there is a remnant according to the election of grace” (Rom. 11:5, NKJ). What Paul is saying here is that God cannot have cast away his people in their entirety, because there are Jews, like himself, who believe in Jesus Christ.

But what about unbelieving Jews? Do the Jews as a people, consisting largely of unbelieving Jews, still constitute in some sense God’s people? A study of this chapter of Paul’s letter to the Romans would appear to indicate that they do. Speaking of the unbelieving section of the Jews, he later asks, “Have they stumbled that they should fall?” Which proposition he rejects in the same vigorous manner as the previous one, adding: “But through their fall,” or, as more recent versions of the Bible translate the Greek word which, in the Authorised Version of the Bible, is translated, “fall”, “trespass” (RSV, ESV), and “transgression” (NASB, NIV), “salvation is come to the Gentiles, for to provoke them to jealousy.” (Rom. 11:11, AV)

He later says, alluding to the “firstfruits” offerings of, first, the barley harvest, and then the wheat harvest which were made in the Temple at, respectively, the Feasts of Firstfruits and Weeks: “For if the firstfruit is holy, the lump is also holy; and if the root is holy, so are the branches.” (Rom. 11:16, NKJ) It is difficult to understand this statement in any sense other than that the whole Jewish race is sanctified by virtue of the believing Jews (the “firstfruit”), and the patriarchs (the “root”) to whom a number of unconditional promises had been made.

Lastly, Paul says: “As concerning the gospel, they are enemies for your sakes: but as touching the election, they are beloved for the fathers’ sakes. For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance.” (Rom. 11:28, 29, AV) The New International Version of the Bible translates verse 28: “…they are loved on account of the patriarchs”. What Paul is saying here is that because of the promises made to the patriarchs, the Jews remain God’s chosen people. The New International Version also more clearly brings out the meaning of verse 29, which, in the Authorised Version, is a direct translation of the original Hebrew, in present-day English idiom: “…for God’s gifts and his call are irrevocable”. However unfaithful the Jews may have been to God, God remains faithful to his promises to them.

That the Jews as a people still play a part in the purposes of God can be shown by the large number of passages in the Old Testament which, literally understood, and read in the light of New Testament teaching, point to the future conversion of the Jews, these being principally Jeremiah 30:7-9; Ezekiel 39:7, 22, 28, 29; Hosea 3:5; and Zechariah 12:10-14.

All these passages, understood in the light of the New Testament, which uses such Old Testament terms as the “day of the LORD”, and such New Testament terms as the parousia, or “coming”, of Christ interchangeably, make clear that the future conversion of the Jews will take place at the time of Christ’s Second Coming in glory. Jesus himself alluded to the future conversion of the Jews when, on leaving the Temple for the final time, he declared: “For I say to you, from now on you will not see Me until you shall say, ‘BLESSED IS HE WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD.” (Mt. 23:39, NASB) What Jesus seems to be saying, therefore, is that there will come a day when the Jews as a people will say of Jesus, “Baruch haba ba shem Adonai!”—“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord”!

Paul also alludes to the future conversion of the Jews in his letter to the Romans. Having spoken of the fall of the Jews, he says: “For if the casting away of them be the reconciling of the world, what shall the receiving of them be, but life from the dead?” (Rom. 11:15, AV) It would seem from this that the conversion of those Jews who survive the events of the last days immediately preceding Christ’s visible return to earth will be followed by the conversion of those Gentiles who have similarly survived these events and who will go on to repopulate the earth during the millennium (Ezek. 38:23; 39:6; Zech. 14:16-19).

Then, using the analogy of the olive tree, which represents Israel, some of the branches of which, representing unbelieving Jews, were “broken off”, and into which, branches from “a wild olive tree”, representing the Gentiles, “were grafted contrary to nature” (Rom. 11:17-24a, NKJ), he says: “how much more will these, who are the natural branches, be grafted into their own olive tree?” (Rom. 11:24b, NKJ)

Finally, he says: “For I would not, brethren, that you should be ignorant of this mystery, lest you should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of Gentiles be come in. And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob.” (Rom. 11:25, 26, AV)

The word, which, in the Authorised Version of the Bible, has been translated “fulness”, is pleroma, which can also be translated full number. What Paul seems to be saying here is that when the full number of Gentiles predestined to salvation “be come in” (and possibly immediately following the event known as the Rapture of the Church, there being no further point in the Church remaining on earth after the last Gentile predestined to salvation has “come in”), God will “turn away ungodliness from Jacob”.

Finally, speaking of the unbelief of his fellow Jews, Paul says in his letter to the Corinthians:

“Therefore, since we have such hope, we use great boldness of speech—unlike Moses, who put a veil over his face so that the children of Israel could not look steadily at the end of what was passing away. But their minds were hardened. For until this day the same veil remains unlifted in the reading of the Old Testament, because the veil is taken away in Christ. But even to this day, when Moses is read, a veil lies on their heart. Nevertheless when one turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away.” (2 Cor. 3:12-16, NKJ).

If the word “one” in verse 16, for which there is no word in the original Greek, refers to Israelites (other English versions supply “it” (AV), “a man” (RSV), “a person”, and “anyone”, in place of the missing subject), what Paul is saying is that there will come a day when Israel “will turn to the Lord”, and the “vail shall be taken away” (2 Cor. 3:16, AV).

From the above passages, it is clear that, if the Jews as a nation have been cast off, it is a temporary arrangement.

© Anthony T. Hopkins 2007

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