Wednesday, 25 March 2009

Will there be a future restoration of Israel?

Will there be a future restoration of national Israel, according to the Bible? That is, does the Bible teach that at some point before the second coming, there will be a national revival of the Jews, bringing them into the church?

My answer is no. I don't believe that Romans 11 and/or Zechariah 14 teach this. Rather I believe that Romans 9, coming as part of the argument leading up to Romans 11, lays down teachings which make this understanding of Romans 11 impossible and contradictory to what has gone before.

In Romans 9, Paul explains a crucial part of the accurate hermeneutic for interpreting God's dealings with Israel in the Old Testament. That is, he tells us that there has always been two Israels - even from the days of Abraham. Even from the birth of Isaac, God always distinguished between this Israel and that Israel. There has always been an Israel after the flesh (Esau, Ishmael) who were only ever a temporary part of God's plan - and there has always been an inner Israel - an Israel within Israel. That Israel is the true Israel, to whom the promises were made. This is not a new teaching or method of God's dealings that comes in with the church - it's what God was always doing.

Miss that, and you'll miss a lot. For one thing, miss that, and you'll miss Romans chapter 11. The teaching that goes to Romans 11 and starts saying, "but of course, national Israel remains special to God, and he will in future bring them back into the fulness of his promises" is one that misses the point that Paul's just been spelling out. Paul's just told us that when he speaks of Israel according to the promises, he doesn't mean national Israel - he means the elect "Israel within Israel" - these are the ones to whom the promises are truly made. He means the believing remnant - to them God will be faithful. There is and always will be such a remnant; Paul himself was one of them. The engrafting of "Israel" back into the olive tree is what happens as this elect remnant come to faith - a process going on in Paul's day (which is why he speaks about his day) and continuing down through history. It is not an "end time event", but an ongoing process.

Paul gives us the key to interpreting the Old Testament Scriptures. When we read in Zechariah 14 of the Jews looking on the one whom they have pierced, and mourning in repentance, we should use Romans 9 to tell us what that means. It is not a prophecy of a future event before the second coming. It is a prophecy of those elect Jews, beginning with the thousands converted on the day of Pentecost, who have and continue to embrace their true Messiah. When prophecy speaks of Israel, we must let the apostles tell us who is meant, and not impose another meaning.

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