Is There Any Hope For the Jews?

Title: Is There Any Hope For the Jews?

Text: Romans 11:1-16

Time: November 18th, 2006

Over and over again the Apostle Paul comes back to the question that has been haunting him time and time again — what about his own people the Jews? He can’t get this question out of his mind and grapples with it for three straight chapters in the Book of Romans. As mostly Gentile Christians today, we don’t grasp the enormity of the problem from a Jewish Christian perspective — how could God’s very own chosen people reject their very own Messiah in Jesus Christ? What is to become of the Jews? Has God abandoned His very own people? Is God through with the Jews? Paul spends another whole chapter dealing with these questions. The tragedy of the Jews rejecting Jesus is something that he and other Jewish Christians could never get out of their minds. Again, we are isolated from this problem today because we never knew a time when the Jewish faith was predominant in our culture, but there was a time in ancient days when the Jews were the primary teachers of true spirituality to the world. For example, the Jews basically taught the world monotheism, or the belief in one God. Polytheism, or belief in many gods, was common among many civilizations, but belief in just one God was rare indeed in ancient times. The idea that there might be one, overall ruling God over many other lesser gods might have been the belief of a few people in recorded ancient civilizations. For example, there was an ancient king in Egypt who taught that there was one god over all the gods, but his teaching only lasted during his lifetime. Egypt was known as a polytheistic culture before and after this ancient king. His belief in one god died with him. But in the case of the Jews, belief in one God was the main article of its faith. As historians have concluded, the Jews taught the world monotheism, or belief in one God. So the Jews had an enormous influence in the ancient world far beyond their size and strength. They also helped the world learn the rule of law through teaching such things as the Ten Commandments and preserving the Law of Moses in the Bible. In the 4th century B.C., the whole Bible was translated into the Greek language thus giving Gentiles even greater access to the teachings of God. So coming from such a great tradition of usefulness to God, by rejecting the Messiah Jesus, the Jews basically turned their back on God and so God basically turned His back on His own people the Jews. The Gentiles were pouring into the Kingdom of God through the gospel, while the Jews sat on the sidelines refusing to enter. But the burning question Paul had in witnessing all of this was — is this rejection of God by the Jews, and the rejection of the Jews by God permanent? That’s the topic of Romans 11:1-16 (read). Here’s Paul’s answer.

First, God hasn’t permanently rejected His chosen people the Jews. Romans 11:1-6, “I ask then: Did God reject his people? By no means! I am an Israelite myself, a descendant of Abraham, from the tribe of Benjamin. God did not reject his people, whom he foreknew. Don’t you know what the Scripture says in the passage about Elijah – how he appeared to God against Israel. ‘Lord, they have killed your prophets and torn down your alters; I am the only one left, and they are trying to kill me’? And what was God’s answer to him? ‘I have reserved for myself seven thousand who have not bowed the knee to Baal.’ So too, at the present time there is a remnant chosen by grace. And if by grace, then it is no longer by works; if it were, grace would no longer by grace.” That the majority of Israel had rejected the Messiah Jesus was clear; and from a cosmic, divine perspective, it is clear that God had not chosen the majority of Israel to believe and receive salvation. Israel’s rejection of God and God’s rejection of Israel isn’t permanent nor is it total. As Paul will explain later, just because the majority of Jews reject Jesus at first, doesn’t mean that it will always be that way; in fact, Paul explains that later, someday, a majority of Jews will accept the Messiah Jesus. But even during Paul’s day and during our own day when a majority of Jews did and do reject the Messiah Jesus, not all Jews reject the Messiah. Paul is living proof of that. As a Jew, Paul accepted Jesus as Messiah and embraced the gospel. So did other Jews, such as the disciples and their converts in Jerusalem and in other parts of Israel. Yes, they were in the minority, but it proves that God hasn’t rejected all of Israel even during its hardest time. All throughout Jewish history there were periods when the majority of Jews were wandering from the faith and turning away from God, but there was always a small remnant that believed and remained faithful. For Paul, it was no different in his day; he was a part of the faithful Jewish remnant that believed in the Messiah Jesus. For him and the other Jewish Christians it was clear that God had saved them purely by grace through faith, since they couldn’t claim to be any more pious than many of their unbelieving fellow Jews. It’s the same with us Gentiles today; the majority of our fellow Gentiles in the modern world rejects the message of the gospel, yet as Christians we believe by God’s grace through faith. It’s not that we are smarter than others, or even that we are especially good or better than others, it’s just that we have chosen God and he has chosen us for salvation. We are part of a remnant too, a small group of believers who have believed and received God’s salvation. In this sense, we are also a part of God’s people, Jewish or not, all throughout the history of time who have believed in him against the beliefs of the unbelieving majority. This shows that God has not completely abandoned anybody, Jews or Gentiles. There is room for hope for all people.

Second, but what about the majority of Jews? Romans 11:7-10, “What then? What Israel sought so earnestly it did not obtain, but the elect did. The others were hardened, as it is written: ‘God gave them a spirit of stupor, eyes so that they could not see and ears so that they could not hear, to this very day.’ And David says: ‘May their table become a snare and a trap, a stumbling block and a retribution for them. May their eyes be darkened so they cannot see, and their backs be bent forever.’” We return to Paul’s explanation for why the majority of Jews did not receive their Messiah — God has hardened their hearts in unbelief. Not all Jews had hard hearts towards the Messiah and the gospel, because after all, the early Christian church, including Paul, was mostly all Jewish. These early Jewish Christians were the faithful remnant, the elect of Israel, the ones God saved out of the majority. But the vast majority of Jews were blind to the truth, almost as if they were spiritually sleeping. Yet even this is all in the plan of God, even though this does not relieve them of spiritual responsibility and accountability. For now, it is the Gentiles who are entering into the God’s kingdom through faith in Jesus, even as the Jews refuse to enter. But even now, as the Gentiles are the vast majority of Christians, that doesn’t mean that the majority of Gentiles believe either. Only a small minority of Jews believes in Jesus the Messiah, but also, a minority of Gentiles has received the gospel by grace through faith. The majority of Gentiles are still trying to enter God’s kingdom through works just like the majority of Jews are trying to enter by works. Of all the Gentile religions of the world, works is the main avenue that members of these religions put their hope in. Islam is a religion of works, and so Muslims put their hope in their performing of the duties of Islam. It’s very much like what Jews work for. They are both wrong. Other Gentile religions, Buddhism and Hinduism, depend on a person’s effort at obtaining a spiritually enlightened state, not by God’s grace through faith alone as in Christianity. So these two Gentile religions also lead people astray from the truth. Paul speaks as a Jew about Jews, but we as Gentiles could also speak of our fellow Gentiles today and conclude that they too have been given a spiritual blindness by God so that only a minority remnant receive the gospel out of their numbers. In the world of missions today, the eastern religions have proven difficult for the gospel to penetrate into people’s lives in these cultures. For example, Japan is almost completely closed off from faith due to some spiritual blindness. The only real bright spot in Asia is South Korea where an incredible spiritual revival has taken place and Christianity has grown beyond all expectations. Africa has also been especially open to the gospel; God has blessed Africa with spiritual openness. Also, Latin America has been open to the gospel even while Europe has begun to close its heart to the very faith that brought it blessings in the past. But for Paul in his day, even the hardest of hearts, the Jews, there is a future hope.

Third, someday the closed heart of the Jews to the Messiah will become openness to him. Romans 11:11-16, “Again I ask: Did they stumble so as to fall beyond recovery? Not at all! Rather, because of their transgression, salvation has come to the Gentiles to make Israel envious. But if their transgression means riches for the world, and their loss means riches for the Gentiles, how much greater riches will their fullness bring! I am talking to you Gentiles. Inasmuch as I am the apostle to the Gentiles, I make much of my ministry in the hope that I may somehow arouse my own people to envy and save some of them. For if their rejection is the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance by but life from the dead? If the part of the dough offered as firstfruits is holy, then the whole batch is holy; if the root is holy, so are the branches.” In the face of stubborn Jewish opposition to and rejection of the gospel Paul still has hope for the future because he believes that at some time when the time is right God will open the kingdom to the Jews along with the Gentiles. For the time being, Gentiles are coming into the kingdom during this time of openness in the hearts of the non-Jewish population of the world. That’s true. If a person becomes a Christian today it will usually be a non-Jew or Gentile person who does. This is how it has been for nearly 2000 years, but Paul prophecies into the future of a day when the hearts of the Jews will be open to the Messiah and the gospel, and that, he says, will be like life coming from the dead! Imagine a day when a majority of new converts to the Christian faith will be Jews! Imagine a day when there will no longer be a hard, closed minded Jewish prejudice against the gospel. Imagine a day when receptivity among Jews will be to the same degree or more than receptivity among Gentiles to the gospel. In fact, it will probably be the case that as the Jews become more and more open to the gospel in the last of the last days, that the receptivity of the Gentiles will become more and more closed. We see now for example that in Europe, a culture that has a long history of Christianity and its blessings, yet its population is turning rapidly away from Christianity. It may well be that the times of the Gentiles is drawing to a close and the day of the Jews in respect to the gospel is beginning. We see organizations such as Jews for Jesus claiming that a great wave of Jewish converts are starting to build momentum. There are still parts of the world where the Gentiles still need to be reached and come into the kingdom, but in the traditional lands of Christianity the time may have passed for great harvests. We still need to pray that perhaps one last great revival might sweep through America and Europe and other Christian lands, but if it doesn’t happen we may see only more closed hearts and minds to the gospel among people. The Jewish Christianity may be close at hand.

Could we be on the verge of seeing a Jewish Christian revival in the world? Could the prophecy of Paul about the Jews coming back from the dead spiritually, could that be fulfilled in our lifetime? Are we seeing the end of the Gentile age of Christianity? Will Europe become more and more closed to God, and then other Western nations such as the United States become more and more closed to God? It looks like it’s going in that direction, but of course we never know when and if a spiritual revival might take place to change that trend. Hopefully we see another great spiritual revival to bring in a final harvest of souls for the gospel, but if the trends continue, it truly looks as if the Gentile age of Christianity is coming to a close. Maybe it is as Paul predicted that the Jewish world is finally becoming envious of the spiritual blessings of the Gentile world. Maybe it is true that as Paul prayed and worked for that the Jews might become jealous about all the great spiritual blessings that have come to the non-Jewish world through the Messiah Jesus. Maybe some of the Jewish people are beginning to wonder after all the blessings Jesus and his teachings have had on the Western world, that perhaps Jesus really was their Messiah after all. One must admit that after the Jewish rejection of Jesus in the first century their religion and influence has been on the decline, and that the greatest advancement of Jewish teachings in the world has come through the influence of the Christian Bible, which includes the Jewish Old Testament. Jewish teachings are mostly learned through Christian teachers. This must bother a lot of Jews, that most Hebrew teachings are learned and spread through Christianity not Judaism. It must also bother them that most monotheism is being taught through the Christian church not the Jewish faith. Monotheism was the mark of the Jew and probably its greatest single influence on the world, yet it is not Judaism that is teaching the world about the monotheism now, it is mostly Christians. This must bother the Jews. Also, most of the Ten Commandments and the Law of Moses is taught through Christian teachings not Jewish teachings. This again, must bother many a pious Jew and even arouse jealousy as Paul explained. But will all these factors cause great numbers of Jews to turn to Jesus the Messiah as we approach the last of the last days? According to the Apostle Paul, yes, we should begin to see the Jews becoming more and more open to the gospel, while at the same time Gentiles become less and less. Does that mean that the Gentiles will ever become as hard hearted toward the gospel as the Jews have traditionally been? No, but it means that the Gentiles also won’t be as accepting as they have traditionally been towards the gospel. But according to Paul, there is coming a day when the Jews will no longer be a people who reject the gospel. We are living in exciting times!

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One Response to “Is There Any Hope For the Jews?”

  1. drmbrown Says:

    Interesting blog!
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