The Future of Israel in Romans 9–11

In Romans 9–11, Paul expounds on the covenant-keeping righteousness of God in light of God’s setting aside of the nation of Israel. Considering God’s many blessings and promises given to the nation of Israel as a nation (Rom 9:4–5), the question arises: how can a righteous, covenant-keeping God reject his chosen people? (Romans 11:1 sums up the discussion of chapters 9-11 with the question: “Has God rejected His people?”). Paul begins his defense of God’s righteous actions in verse six by stating that “it is not as though the Word of God has failed. For not all who are descended from Israel are Israel.”

Romans 9–11 has led to countless disagreements and debates on a number of theological issues [1]. However, for the sake of this series, a slightly more focused discussion will be attempted. In answer to the question “has God rejected His people,” Paul answers “absolutely not!” However, does Paul mean to say that God will fulfill His promise literally to restore national Israel to live in peace in the land God gave them? Or does Paul mean to redefine the term “Israel” to refer to the Church as the “spiritual Israel?” [2]

Over the next several weeks, we are going to see that there is a sure future for national Israel as a restored, prominent people in the land promised them by God. Paul defends God’s righteousness by arguing that God has not, in fact, rejected His people Israel entirely, but is preserving a remnant of believing Jews who will receive the covenant blessings in the future. I believe a faithful, consistently plain-sense interpretation of the text will lead the honest student of the Bible to this conclusion.

Supersessionism [3] understands Romans 9 as teaching that the identification of “Israel” is no longer meant to be ethnic Jews. When Paul says that “not all who are descended from Israel are Israel,” Paul is teaching that the Church (those saved through faith since the Cross [4]), has replaced national Israel in the plans and purposes of God, or at least that Paul specifically expands the reference of “Israel” to include Gentiles [5]. Thus, supersessionism holds that ethnic Israel has no future role in the Kingdom as a nation [6].

A Dispensational understanding of Romans 9 holds that Paul is speaking of ethnic Jews. Paul argues that although national Israel has been currently set aside in their having a primary role in the plan of God, He has not rejected Israel wholesale, in the sense that the promises will not be literally fulfilled to ethnic Jews. Rather, Israel will be restored to their former prominence and established in the Land by Christ upon His return, thus enjoying the blessings and the fulfillment of the promises [7] of the Abrahamic, Davidic, and New Covenants [8].

Next time, we’ll look at the hermeneutical principles that must undergird our study of the Word of God, and then launch into an examination of Romans 9–11.

virtus et honos


Notes:

1] For example, Romans 9, specifically, is also a key proof text for the Calvinist view of Unconditional Election (e.g. John Piper, The Justification of God, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1983. 89).

2] Michael G. Vanlaningham, “The Jewish People According to the Book of Romans,” in The People, the Land, and the Future of Israel: Israel and the Jewish People in the Plan of God, ed. Darrell L. Bock and Mitch Glaser (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 2014), 123.

3] A term for the view commonly held most notably within Covenant theology that the Church has replaced Israel. The terms supersessionism and Covenant theology may be used interchangeably in the course of this series. When this is done, Covenant theology is not meant to refer to all that is included under that title, but rather simply refers to that system of theology which holds to the supersessionist view.

4] When the capitalized term, “Church,” is used in this series, it speaks collectively of all born-again believers in Christ of this dispensation—the New Covenant community; the “universal church,” as opposed to a local church.

5] Michael J. Vlach, Has the Church Replaced Israel?: A Theological Evaluation. (Nashville: B&H Publishing Group, 2010).

6] Representatively: C. K. Barrett, A Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans (New York: Harper & Row, 1957); C. H. Dodd, The Epistle of Paul to the Romans (New York: Harper & Row, 1932); Herman N. Ridderbos, Paul: An Outline of His Theology, trans. John R. Witt (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1975); N. T. Wright, The Climax of the Covenant: Christ and the Law in Pauline Theology (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1992).

7] Though different scholars have different specific lists, the physical blessings irrevocably promised in the covenants which God gave to Israel, and which dispensationalists believe will be fulfilled literally to physical, ethnic Israel in the future, include: that Israel will be established as a nation forever (Gen 12:2; Ex 19:6; 2 Sam 7:8; Jer 31:35-37); that the Jews as a people will never be annihilated (Gen 15:5; 2 Sam 7:12, 16; Jer 31:27, 36); that national Israel will be established permanently in the land of Palestine (Gen 15:18; Ex 20:12; 2 Sam 7:10; Jer 31:38, 40); that Israel will have a triumphant kingdom forever, the Messiah establishing peace and justice on all the earth (Gen 22:17; Ex 19:6; 2 Sam 7:16; Ps. 2:8–10; Ps. 72:4; Isa. 2:2–4; Isa. 9:7; Isa. 65:21–22; Amos 9:11-12; Micah 4:3–4; cf. Luke 1:32-33).

8] Representatively: Norman L. Geisler, Systematic Theology (Minneapolis: Bethany House, 2002); Harold W. Hoehner, “Israel in Romans 9-11,” in Israel: The Land and the People, ed. H. Wayne House (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 1998); H. Wayne. House, “The Future of National Israel,” BSac, 166:664; Steve Lewis, “’Some’ vs. ‘All’ — The Doctrine of the Remnant and the Salvation of Israel in Romans 9-11,” CTJ 09:26; Michael G. Vanlaningham, “The Jewish People According to the Book of Romans,” in The People, the Land, and the Future of Israel: Israel and the Jewish People in the Plan of God, ed. Darrell L. Bock and Mitch Glaser (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 2014); Michael J. Vlach, Has the Church Replaced Israel?: A Theological Evaluation (Nashville: B&H Publishing Group, 2010); John F. Walvoord, “Millennial Series: Part 14: The Abrahamic Covenant and Premillennialism.” BSac. 1609:434.

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Resources for the study of Dispensationalism

This post is more for my own benefit than anything else. But if, by chance, my study on the nature of the Kingdom interested you, I thought I would post a list of valuable resources for further reading about the many different issues and implications in the controversy surrounding Dispensationalism vs. Covenantalism. If you have other excellent resources to recommend, I’d be happy to hear about them.


And now for a very long list of other resources (mainly books, but with some online articles as well) that could be very useful for the further study of dispensationalism:


Bottom Line (If you only get a couple books, consider these first):

Has The Church Replaced Israel? – Michael Vlach

He Will Reign Forever – Michael Vlach

Introductions:

DispensationalismCharles C. Ryrie

Dispensationalism: Essential Beliefs and Common MythsMichael Vlach

Progressive Dispensationalism (defense) – Darrell Bock & Craig Blaising

Progressive Dispensationalism (critique) – Ron Bigalke

The Case for Progressive Dispensationalism – Robert Saucy

Major Bible PropheciesJohn F. Walvoord

Biblical Theology:

The Greatness of the KingdomAlva J. McClain

Michael Vlach’s Blog is altogether an indispensable resource.

The Kingdom in Matthew – Matthew Allen

Paul and the “Israel of God”: An Exegetical and Eschatological Study — S. Lewis Johnson

Word study on the “Kingdom” part one, two, three, and four — Lyndon Unger

The Theocratic Kingdom (3 Vols)George N. H. Peters

Everlasting Dominion – Eugene Merrill

A Biblical Theology of the Old Testament – Zuck/Merrill/Bock (eds.)

The Millennial KingdomJohn F. Walvoord

The Kingdom of God in the Teaching of Jesus – Norman Perrin

The Parables of Jesus – J. Dwight Pentecost

The Parables of the Kingdom – G. Campbell Morgan

Reflections on Dispensationalism – John Walvoord

The Kingdom of God in New Testament Theology: The Battle, The Christ, The Spirit-Bearer, and Returning Son of Man. – Darrell Bock

The Kingdom of God in the Old Testament – William Barrick

Understanding End Times Prophecy (2nd ed.) – Paul Benware

The Footsteps of the Messiah (2nd ed.)Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum

Other Important Studies:

Israel in Prophecy – John F. Walvoord

Things to Come – J. Dwight Pentecost

Thy Kingdom ComeJ. Dwight Pentecost

Revelation 20 and the Millennial Debate –  Matthew Wehmeyer

Continuity and Discontinuity – (ed.) John Feinberg

Dispensationalism and God’s Glory – Greg Herrick

Specific Issues:

The Messianic Hope Michael Rydelnik

Jerusalem in Prophecy – J. Randall Price

“When God Was King.” – Doug Bookman

The Temple and Bible Prophecy – J. Randall Price

Premillennialism – Muchael Vlach

Collected Essays:

Issues in Dispensationalism(eds.) J. Master & W. Willis

Christ’s Prophetic Plans(eds.) R. Mayhue, J. MacArthur, et al

Israel: The Land and the People(ed.) H. Wayne House

Three Central Issues in Contemporary Dispensationalism(ed.) Herbert W. Bateman


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