All Israel Shall Be Saved

Much has been said recently about the reestablishment of Israel in the Middle East. Even Kim Riddlebarger’s A Case for Amillennialism, which we mentioned a few weeks ago, touches on the issue of national Israel. Some of what’s been said is divisive and some is not.

So let’s step back from the contemporary rhetoric and see what the Bible says. The Apostle Paul discussed Israel in his letter to the church in Rome. He described that nation’s relationship to God now that the gospel had been revealed. Paul made the following statement:

And in this way all Israel will be saved, as it is written,

“The Deliverer will come from Zion,

He will banish ungodliness from Jacob”;

Romans 11:26 English Standard Version (ESV)

What did he mean by ‘in this way?’ It seems that a lot of controversy surrounds this clause.

The exegete John Calvin said of the verse:

Many understand this of the Jewish people, as though Paul had said, that religion would again be restored among them as before [e.g., the sacrificial system].

But I extend the word Israel to all the people of God, according to this meaning:

“When the Gentiles shall come in, the Jews also shall return from their defection to the obedience of faith; and thus shall be completed the salvation of the whole Israel of God, which must be gathered from both; and yet in such a way that the Jews shall obtain the first place, being as it were the first-born in God’s family.”

Calvin didn’t make this assertion and others because of personal preference or animus, but based on the context of Paul’s statements in the chapter. Paul went on to say:

As regards the gospel, they [i.e., Israel] are enemies for your [i.e., the hearers of his letter] sake. But as regards election, they are beloved for the sake of their forefathers. For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.

For just as you were at one time disobedient to God but now have received mercy because of their disobedience, so they too have now been disobedient in order that by the mercy shown to you they also may now receive mercy. For God has consigned all to disobedience, that he may have mercy on all. Romans 11:28-32 (ESV)

To this, Calvin commented:

[Paul] shows that the worst thing in the Jews ought not to subject them to the contempt of the Gentiles. Their chief crime was unbelief: but Paul teaches us, that they were thus blinded for a time by God’s providence, that a way to the gospel might be made for the Gentiles;

Paul then intends here to teach two things — that there is nothing in any man why he should be preferred to others, apart from the mere favor of God; and that God in the dispensation of his grace, is under no restraint that he should not grant it to whom he pleases.

There is an emphasis in the word mercy; for it intimates that God is bound to none, and that he therefore saves all freely, for they are all equally lost.

…Paul simply means that both Jews and Gentiles do not otherwise obtain salvation than through the mercy of God, and thus he leaves to none any reason for complaint. It is indeed true that this mercy is without any difference offered to all, but everyone must seek it by faith.

And thus ‘in this way’: All Israel Shall Be Saved.

Valley of Jezreel

The view from Megiddo, northeast across the Jezreel Valley in Israel to Mount Tabor, 9 November 2005, by Joe Freeman, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 Generic

A New Prophet like Moses

“The end is near, the end is near!” We all associate this trope with crackpots and lunatics. Especially street corner prophets wearing sandwich boards. However, they are right in a sense. Around 150,000 people die every day, worldwide. Their ends are no longer near but already past.

We have to be wary of a prophet and his message. Thus Moses pointed us to the Prophet we should all listen to:

“The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brothers—it is to him you shall listen…and whoever will not listen to my words that he shall speak in my name, I myself will require it of him. Deuteronomy 18:15, 19 English Standard Version (ESV)

John Calvin has quite a bit to say about these verses:

The Lord thy God will raise up …But if He had referred them to Christ alone, the objection would naturally arise that it was hard for them to have neither Prophets nor revelations for two thousand years. Nor is there any strength in those two arguments on which some insist, that the Prophet, of whom Moses bears witness, must be more excellent than him who proclaimed him; and that the eulogium that he should be “like unto” Moses could not be applied to the ancient Prophets, since it is said elsewhere that “there arose not a Prophet since like unto” him. (Deuteronomy 34:10)…

…Yet Peter aptly and elegantly accommodates this testimony to Christ, (Acts 3:22) not to the exclusion of others of God’s servants, but in order to warn the Jews that in rejecting Christ they are at the same time refusing this inestimable benefit of God; for the gift of prophecy had so flourished among His ancient people, and teachers had so been constantly appointed to succeed each other, that nevertheless there should be some interruption before the coming of Christ.

Hence, in that sad dispersion which followed the return from the Babylonian captivity, the faithful complain in Psalm 74:9, “We see not our signs; there is no more any prophet.” On this account Malachi exhorts the people to remember the Law given in Horeb; and immediately after adds, “Behold I send you Elijah the prophet,” etc., (Malachi 4:4, 5) as much as to say, that the time was at hand in which a more perfect doctrine should be manifested, and a fuller light should shine. For the Apostle says truly, that:

“God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spoke unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son,” (Hebrews 1:1, 2)

And, in fact, by the appearing of the doctrine of the Gospel, the course of the prophetic doctrine was completed; because God thus fully exhibited what was promised by the latter.

And this was so generally understood that even the Samaritan woman said that Messiah was coming, who would tell all things. (John 4:25) To this, then, what I have lately quoted as to the transition from the Law and the Prophets to the Gospel refers; and hence it is made out, that this passage was most appropriately expounded by Peter as relating to Christ; for unless the Jews chose to accuse God of falsehood, it was incumbent upon them to look to Christ, at whose hand was promised both the confirmation of doctrine and the restoration of all things.

They had been for a long time destitute of Prophets, of whom Moses had testified that they should never be wanting to them, and whom he had promised as the lawful ministers for retaining the people in allegiance, so that they should not turn aside to superstitions; they had, therefore, either no religion, or else that greatest of Teachers was to be expected, who in his own person would present the perfection of the prophetic office…

…But with regard to the comparison which Moses makes between himself and other prophets, its effect is to raise their teaching in men’s estimation. They had been long accustomed to this mode of instruction, viz., to hear God speaking to them by the mouth of a man; and the authority of Moses was so fully established, that they were firmly persuaded that they were under the divine government, and that all things necessary to salvation were revealed to them.

And, as recorded in John’s Gospel, chapter 5, verses: 39-40 and 46-47, the Lord Jesus Christ Himself says:

“You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life…For if you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote of me. But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe my words?” John 5:39-40, 46-47 (ESV)

Please, believe Him.

Brazen Serpent

[The Brazen Serpent], Mount Nebo, Jordan (2001), Jerzy Strzelecki, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported