Previous article in this series: May 15, 2017, p. 372.
“For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the 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: “For this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins.”
Scarcely less important to dispensational premillennialism than Revelation 20 and Daniel 9 is Romans 11.
Indeed, expressing the importance of Romans 11 to premillennialism this way does not do justice to the importance of Romans 11 for that eschatology. Romans 11 is every bit as important to premillennialism as are Revelation 20 and Daniel 9 (both of which passages of Scripture I have already treated in this critique of premillennialism).
A contemporary advocate of premillennialism has written that “Romans 11 is, by common confession, the crucial passage with regard to the NT teaching concerning the present nature and destiny of national Israel.”1
If Romans 11 is the crucial passage in the controversy between dispensational premillennialism and Reformed amillennialism, verses 25 and 26 of Romans 11, quoted at the head of this article, are the heart of the chapter, the meaning of which is disputed by the two theologies of the last days. Exactly this is the description of the passage by Herman Hoeksema, in his commentary on Romans 11: “The expression and so all Israel shall be saved [v. 26]” may be called “the heart of this eleventh chapter.”2
It is the purpose of this article in the present series on premillennialism to set forth the premillennial explanation of Romans 11.
Refutation of this explanation will follow in future articles.
The Premillennial Explanation of Romans 11
Romans 11 concludes that section of the book of Romans that begins with chapter 9. Therefore, the relationship of chapter 11 to the preceding context, especially the last part of Romans 10, must be established.
Verses 19-21 of Romans 10 proclaim God’s salvation of the Gentiles upon the rejection of His Son and salvation by the nation of Israel. Those in verse 20 who had not sought God, or asked after Him, were all the Gentile nations and peoples of Old Testament times. After the earthly ministry of Jesus Christ, by the outpouring of the Spirit on Pentecost and especially through the ministry of the apostle Paul, God revealed Himself to the Gentiles, so that He was found of them and known by them.
Not only did this salvation of the Gentiles take place at the same time that the nation of Israel—the Jewish people—rejected the gospel of Jesus Christ, but the rejection of God’s gospel by Israel was the occasion of the gathering of the Gentiles by the gospel. As the apostle writes in: “Through their [Israel’s] fall salvation is come unto the Gentiles.” “The fall of them [Israel]” became “the riches of the world, and the diminishing of them the riches of the Gentiles.”
Romans 10 concludes with a damning indictment of Israel: “But to Israel he [God] saith, All day long I have stretched forth my hands unto a disobedient and gainsaying people” (v. 21).
Naturally, this indictment raises the question with which chapter 11 begins: “Hath God cast away his people?” Is it all over then for Israel, the Old Testament people of God, with regard to salvation?
At once, the apostle emphatically denies that God has utterly and forever rejected Israel: “God forbid…God hath not cast away his people which he foreknew” ().
To the dispensational premillennialist, this denial already suggests that, at some time in the future, God will save multitudes of racial Jews and restore the nation of Israel to prominence as the earthly kingdom of God in the world, with headquarters in earthly Jerusalem in what once was the land of Canaan.
Verses 11-32 are especially important for the dispensational, premillennial theology of a restoration of Israel—a nation of racial Jews—as the earthly kingdom of God in the world. The passage foretells a “fulness” of the Jews (v. 12), a grafting in again of the Jews into the olive tree (vv. 23, 24).
The heart of the passage for the dispensational premillennialists is verses 25 and 26: “…Blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the 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.” As all agree, the coming in of the fullness of the Gentiles is the salvation of the entire church, gathered for the most part from the Gentiles—all nations and races other than the Jews. The characteristic explanation of the passage by the dispensational premillennialists is that, after God has completed His saving work among the Gentiles of gathering unto Christ the entire church, He will take up again the work of saving the Jews.
This future salvation of the Jews will not consist of adding the saved Jews to the church. The time of the church will have passed. The reader will recall that this premillennial saving of the Jews will begin with the rapture of the church out of the world into the air. Rather, God will restore the nation of Israel to its prominence as the earthly kingdom of God. Israel will become again the glorious kingdom that it was once under David and Solomon in the time of the Old Testament. Indeed, its power, dominion, and glory will exceed that of Old Testament times.
Such will be God’s saving of the Jews as His restored kingdom that huge numbers of Jews, certainly the vast majority, will be brought to faith in God, thus becoming citizens of God’s kingdom.
Asks the premillennialist, “Does not the statement in verse 26 that ‘all Israel shall be saved’ predict a future salvation of multitudes of Jews, and then not simply as saved individuals, but as a restored kingdom of Israel, similar to the Old Testament kingdom in the days of its glory?” “And does not the relation of verse 26 to verse 25 indicate that this salvation of all Israel will happen after ‘the fulness of the Gentiles be come in’?”
In fact, the answer to these questions is an emphatic “no.” Verse 26 does not prophesy a future conversion of multitudes of racial Jews.
Verse 26 certainly does not envision a future salvation of Jews that restores the nation of Israel as an earthly kingdom of God in the world, a kingdom different from and alongside the church.
Nor do verses 25 and 26 teach that the salvation of “all Israel” will follow the saving of the church in time and history.
To these egregious errors of dispensational premillennialism, fatal to this eschatology, I return in my critique of the heresy.
… to be continued.
1 Barry E. Horner, Future Israel: Why Christian Anti- Judaism Must be Challenged (Nashville, TN: B&H Academic, 2007), 253.
2 Herman Hoeksema, Righteous by Faith Alone: A Devotional Commentary on Romans (Grandville, MI: RFPA, 2002), 561.