Understanding Israel | Article

In Romans 9 – 11, Apostle Paul deals extensively with the Roman believers’ response and understanding towards Israel. While the passage has been debated by many through the centuries, it is important for us to clearly understand certain truths. The failure of the Church historically to do this has sadly allowed anti-Semitism to grow and flourish among the Body of Christ. We should carefully examine all these truths constantly.

One New Man

Salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone for all people. There is no separate plan of salvation for Israel.

“What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh, has found? For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the Scripture say? ‘Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness." (Rom. 4:1–3)

God only has one people, one Body, one Bride, and one redemptive plan. The end of that plan is that both Jew and Gentile would be united into one new man As Ephesians 2:15 says,

“…having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances so as o create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace..”

There is no distinction between Jew and Gentile from the standpoint of the Gospel. While God maintains His election of Israel as His redemptive vehicle in the earth, He enforces no distinction between Jew and Gentile. Even from the Old Covenant God always desired all nations to enter into that covenant and be grafted into His set apart people (Acts 15:9; Rom. 3:22; Rom. 10:12; Col. 3:11)

It’s Not about Israel — it’s All about Israel

Standing with Israel does not mean agreeing with everything they do! Very much like a parent will stand by their child to the end, no matter what, but strongly disagree with that child’s wrong decisions, so we are called to stand (as God Himself does) by Israel’s side through everything, even though we might and should disagree with some of their policies.

Standing with Israel does not mean adopting their culture. Flying the flag and blowing the shofar does not mean we stand with Israel. In like manner, not flying the flag and not blowing the shofar does not mean we don’t stand with Israel. If you like the culture, enjoy it. If you don’t like the culture, don’t worry about it. It’s not about the culture.

The Real Issue about Israel is God’s Sovereign Election. The issue about Israel isn’t actually about Israel! It’s about God and His sovereign right to elect (or choose) a people through whom to reveal Himself.

“For though the twins were not yet born and had not done anything good or bad, so that God's purpose according to His choice would stand, not because of works but because of Him who calls.” (Rom. 9:11)

This issue goes back to the Garden of Eden, where God elected a tree and demanded that man would honor His election. Man rebelled against this, and we are living the rest of history as a result. But God had a plan! God elected or chose to confine Himself to a course of action on earth. That course was to bring Himself forth in the flesh through a woman. That woman would have a single lineage, which God would elect. The whole of history from Adam through Christ, and even until now, is about God exercising His right to choose.

“And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head, and you shall bruise him on the heel." (Gen. 3:15)

Election of Israel

Israel exists because God elected a gentile, pagan, idolatrous Iraqi named Abram. God chose him, set him apart, changed his name to Abraham, and made a covenant with him. God did not choose Abraham because he was Jewish, or even righteous. Rather God chose a man through whom to reveal Himself to the nations of the earth, and set that man apart to be the father of a new nation that was not a nation. God chose that salvation would come through Abraham.

“Since Abraham will surely become a great and mighty nation, and in him all the nations of the earth will be blessed?” (Gen. 18:18)

God elected Isaac, and not Ishmael. God elected Jacob, and not Esau. It was not because of anything about the individuals, but it was God choosing a lineage through whom to bring salvation. There could only be one line through which Jesus was going to be born in the flesh.

“For though the twins were not yet born and had not done anything good or bad, so that God's purpose according to His choice would stand, not because of works but because of Him who calls.” (Rom. 9:11)

Out of the nations of the earth, God called forth His very own nation. It was never about THEM, it was always about God creating a context for His birth and to bring salvation to the nations. It was about God declaring Himself to the nations.

When we speak of Israel, we must understand that we are speaking of God’s sovereign election of a people through whom the light of revelation and eventually the Light of Christ would be brought into the world. We must tread with reverence on the holy ground of Israel, knowing that we tread in the realm of God’s Right to Choose. We must not become arrogant against God and those He chose, and wise in our own estimation, and question God’s choice. We must have a holy fear over the issue of Israel, because we tread in the realm of the kindness and severity of God (Rom. 9:20; 11:17–22).

God is Not Finished with Israel

God has not rejected Israel. The God of the Bible has never cast away His beloved nation, Israel. Romans 11:1–2 says,

“I say then, God has not rejected His people, has He? May it never be! For I too am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin. God has not rejected His people whom He foreknew…”

This means that He has a redemptive plan for Israel. He has not forgotten them and has a surprise in store for all of us! Just as Elijah thought that all was lost and hopeless (Rom. 11:2–5), so even today the LORD is allowing a remarkable miracle to unfold in Israel. He is more than active in Israel’s present journey and coming salvation.

Also, it is clear from Romans 11:11 that Israel’s rejection of God in Christ is neither full nor final.

“I say then, they did not stumble so as to fall, did they? May it never be! But by their transgression salvation has come to the Gentiles, to make them jealous.”

Israel has experienced a partial hardening and God has called us to embrace this mystery in Romans 11:25.

“For I do not want you, brethren, to be uninformed of this mystery – so that you will not be wise in your own estimation – that a partial hardening has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in…”

There is a glorious future for Israel! Her failure is currently partial but (and) one day, all Israel will be saved. Romans 11:26 says,

“…and so all Israel will be saved; just as it is written, ‘the Deliverer will come from Zion, He will remove ungodliness from Jacob.’”

Israel’s journey is fully bound up in the sovereign plan of God. His ways are beyond our understanding but they are clear to the extent that out of Zion a Deliverer will come and bring great blessing to Israel. This vision of Israel’s future will not fail because God’s calling for Israel is irrevocable.

“From the standpoint of the Gospel they are enemies for your sake, but from the standpoint of God's choice they are beloved for the sake of the fathers; for the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.” (Rom. 11:28–29)

Jesus is Returning to the Jews in Jerusalem to Rule the Earth

We must understand that Jesus is coming back to the earth, to rule forever, from a throne, and that throne will be in Jerusalem. We must further understand that He is returning to the remnant of Israel that will survive the Great Tribulation, and then repents and believes in Him. He is not returning to “the Earth” in a vague way, but to Jerusalem specifically. He is not returning to “humans” generally, but specifically to redeem Israel. Many Scriptures in the Bible testify of that.

“In that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, which is in front of Jerusalem on the east…” (Zech. 14:4)

“The LORD will stretch forth Your strong scepter from Zion, saying, ‘Rule in the midst of Your enemies.’" (Ps. 110:2)

“This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in just the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven. Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem…” (Acts 1:11–12)

"At that time they will call Jerusalem 'The Throne of the LORD,' and all the nations will be gathered to it, to Jerusalem, for the name of the LORD…” (Jer. 3:17)

“Then it will come about that any who are left of all the nations that went against Jerusalem will go up from year to year to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, and to celebrate the Feast of Booths. And it will be that whichever of the families of the earth does not go up to Jerusalem to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, there will be no rain on them.” (Zech. 14:16–17)

“For the LORD has chosen Zion; He has desired it for His habitation. ‘This is My resting place forever; Here I will dwell, for I have desired it.’” (Ps. 132:13–14)

“For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; And the government will rest on His shoulders; And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace, On the throne of David and over his kingdom, To establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness From then on and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will accomplish this.” (Isa. 9:6–7)

“Then you will know that I am the LORD your God, Dwelling in Zion, My holy mountain. So Jerusalem will be holy, And strangers will pass through it no more.” (Joel 3:17)

Israel Was and Will Be God’s Vehicle of Salvation

The reason that Israel is “the chosen people”, or God’s set apart nation, is not because they are Israel. Rather, they are Israel because God chose a people through which to bring salvation to the ends of the earth. His original plan was to bring “salvation” (justice, righteousness, peace, order) to the earth through Adam and his descendants. After the fall, God once again set apart a people through Abraham and Sarah, through whom to bring salvation to the Earth.

"You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews.” (Jn. 4:22)

“I say then, they did not stumble so as to fall, did they? May it never be! But by their transgression salvation has come to the Gentiles, to make them jealous.” (Rom. 11:11)

"In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice." (Gen. 22:18)

“Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, descendant of David, according to my Gospel…” (2 Tim. 2:8)

"The scepter shall not depart from Judah, Nor the ruler's staff from between his feet, Until Shiloh (Jesus) comes, And to him shall be the obedience of the peoples.” (Gen. 49:10)

"I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near; a star shall come forth from Jacob, a scepter shall rise from Israel, and shall crush through the forehead of Moab, and tear down all the sons of Sheth.” (Num. 24:17)

Satan’s Rage Against Israel

Satan has always sought to destroy the Jews. He knows that God has ordained that he be cast into prison, then into the lake of fire for eternity. His first desire is to avoid this imprisonment and unbearable eternal punishment. From the start, he has set out to destroy Israel, because Israel is God’s vehicle to restore His divine order on the earth.

Satan is seeking to exploit Jesus’ “prophetic loophole”. Jesus, pronouncing a judgment upon the blind guides of the Jews at the end of His ministry, declared that He would not return for His Second Coming until the Jewish leadership in Jerusalem welcomes Him back as the Messiah and the Son of God.

"For I say to you, from now on you will not see Me until you say, 'BLESSED IS HE WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD!'" (Matt. 23:39)

From Genesis until now, Satan has sought to stop the prophesied “Seed”, Jesus, from being able to come forth. While this battle is inevitably futile, it is still very real. Throughout history God has narrowed down the way in which He would come, and each time, Satan set out to destroy the people through whom Jesus would come. In this prophecy, Jesus gives Satan a clear target. If Satan can destroy all the Jews, and annihilate Jerusalem from the earth, then Jesus has no Jewish leadership in Jerusalem to return to. Then Satan would be able to accuse God of being a liar. (Read Revelation 12:3–17)

Little does Satan realize that his rage is working in cooperation with and under the leadership of God to refine and ultimately redeem the nation of Israel as it is being mentioned in the book of Zechariah.

"Behold, I am going to make Jerusalem a cup that causes reeling to all the peoples around; and when the siege is against Jerusalem, it will also be against Judah. ‘It will come about in that day that I will make Jerusalem a heavy stone for all the peoples; all who lift it will be severely injured. And all the nations of the earth will be gathered against it.’” (Zech. 12:2–3)

“For I will gather all the nations against Jerusalem to battle, and the city will be captured, the houses plundered, the women ravished and half of the city exiled, but the rest of the people will not be cut off from the city.” (Zech. 14:2)

God’s Litmus Test for the Church, the Nations and the True Apostles

A litmus test is “a crucial and revealing test in which there is one decisive factor.” God will use the issue of Israel as the litmus test to reveal the truth of the inner nature of both the Church and the remnant of the nations especially in the End-Times.

After the second coming, all the people of the nations who were not killed and did not accept the mark of the Beast will be brought before Jesus and judged by their treatment of the Jews through the Great Tribulation. It is not that their “works” toward Israel gain them merit, or that their failure toward Israel damns them, but rather that their response to Israel reveals the truth that has always been deep in their heart. Matthew 25:31–46 says,

But when the Son of Man comes in His glory…then He will sit on His glorious throne. "All the nations will be gathered before Him… 'Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 'For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat…"Then the righteous will answer Him, 'Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You…"The King will answer and say to them, 'Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.' "Then He will also say to those on His left, 'Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry, and you gave Me nothing to eat… "Then they themselves also will answer, 'Lord, when did we see You hungry…"Then He will answer them, 'Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.' "These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.

The Church will also be judged according to their stance towards Israel. Paul gives a very dire warning to the Gentile Church in Rome concerning their attitude towards Jews who are currently rejecting Jesus in Romans 11:18–22.

“…do not be arrogant toward the branches; but if you are arrogant, remember that it is not you who supports the root, but the root supports you. You will say then, ‘Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in.’ Quite right, they were broken off for their unbelief, but you stand by your faith. Do not be conceited, but fear; for if God did not spare the natural branches, He will not spare you, either. Behold then the kindness and severity of God; to those who fell, severity, but to you, God's kindness, if you continue in His kindness; otherwise you also will be cut off.”

Paul boldly says that if these Gentile believers become arrogant toward unredeemed Jews, that they are in danger of departing from the faith. By looking at Jews who, by rejecting Christ have been cut off, and then arrogantly comparing themselves to the Jews and thinking that they fare better, they are then standing before God on the basis of works, and no longer on the basis of faith in God’s goodness. At that point, they are no longer in the faith, and hence no longer saved.

Many believe that Nazi Germany in World War II was a dress rehearsal for what will be coming. The Church in Germany, for the most part, failed to stand for the Jews against the Nazi’s. They preferred their comfort, status, and lives over that of the Jews. A lack of proper understanding and passion for Israel led them to betray Jews to death. We must cultivate a theological understanding and a passion in our heart for the Jews, so that we will have an unyielding resolve to stand with them.

The Bible calls the Church to provoke Israel to jealousy through signs, wonders, and the prophetic spirit, as well as sacrificially stand with them. Under the Antichrist’s mark system and persecution, we will take Jews into our homes. They will see our bare cupboards and ask what we will do about food. We will pray to Jesus, and God will provide supernaturally. They will see us prophesying and praying to begin and end plagues, and praying to be spared from plagues, and they will see God answer.

This will cause them to think, “This is like Moses and Elijah! This is what Yahweh does!” This will be their provocation to jealousy. We must build a theology and a passionate heart NOW concerning Israel so that we can operate in this way in those days.

In Romans 10:1, Paul made it clear that his ministry revolved around his desire to see the Jews come to a saving knowledge of Christ.

“Brethren, my heart's desire and my prayer to God for them is for their salvation.”

In this day when we believe and long for the restoration of the Apostolic ministry, let us remember that Paul himself – an eminent authority on Apostolic ministry, declared that the point and heart of Apostolic ministry was the salvation of Israel. Paul went so far as to wish that he himself could be condemned to eternal damnation in the lake of fire, if only that would bring Israel to salvation.

“For I could wish that I myself were accursed, separated from Christ for the sake of my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh…” (Rom. 9:3)

“But I am speaking to you who are Gentiles. Inasmuch then as I am an apostle of Gentiles, I magnify my ministry, if somehow I might move to jealousy my fellow countrymen and save some of them.” (Rom. 11:13–14)

We should evaluate our heart and our ministry by this standard. Do we feel for Israel what God feels for Israel? Do we shape our prayer, our preaching, our ministries, around the hope that Israel would be moved to jealousy and be saved?

A Challenge

God has not forgotten Israel and we should be a people filled with love and gratitude to this beloved people of God. I would like to end by issuing this challenge to each of us: if this view of Israel is a new thought to you, if you know that you are lacking in your passion to see them saved, consider spending a day a week in fasting and prayer, and read through Romans 9 – 11 over, and over, and over again. Throw in the rest of the book of Romans and do this for a year. Get Romans 9 – 11 deep in you. Feel the heart of Paul. Feed yourself on biblical truth about Israel. Allow God to work in your heart through prayer and fasting.

May God grant you revelation and understanding about the beloved people of God – Israel!