God’s Plan for Israel

The Bible tells us that the Jewish people have a great future. Romans chapter eleven is one of the most important biblical texts in this regard. The apostle Paul teaches us that although ethnic Israel has been temporarily set aside as the main vehicle of spiritual blessing to the world, God has not ultimately rejected the Jews. Israel will be restored and revived! Read about it in Romans 11.

God has a plan for the nations.

In Romans 11 Paul emphasizes his special calling to be an apostle to the Gentile nations of the Roman world (v. 13, 15:16). This same chapter tells how through the Christian gospel, the Gentiles are the beneficiaries of God’s covenant promises to Israel. The unbelief of the Jews made a way for Gentiles to be saved (vv.11-12). The advance of the gospel to the Gentile nations is called “riches for the world” (v.12) and “reconciliation to the world” (v. 14).

This reminds me of God’s promise to Abraham: “All peoples on earth will be blessed through you” (Genesis 12:3). Paul applied this to the Gentiles in his letter to the Galatians: “Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: ‘All nations will be blessed through you.’ So those who rely on faith are blessed along with Abraham the man of faith” (Galatians 3:9).

It has always been God’s plan for his good news to be spread throughout the nations of the world. Romans 11:25 speaks of “the full number of the Gentiles” who will eventually be saved.

God has a plan for Israel.

The fact that Paul was the apostle to the Gentiles does not mean that he disregarded his own people, the Jews. In Romans 11 he says that his personal conversion to faith in Jesus Christ is one evidence that God is not finished with Israel (v. 1). He states emphatically, “God did not reject his people whom he foreknew” (v.2). He sees in his own ministry a steady stream of Jews coming to faith in Jesus, recipients of God’s grace (v.5). They are still the Lord’s people.

While some are hardened in their antipathy for Jesus (vv.7-8), there remains a believing remnant who are drawn to the joy, freedom, forgiveness, fellowship, and peace enjoyed by Gentile believers. They are made envious in a good way to desire what the Gentiles have experienced in Christ (v.11).

Paul goes on to outline a glorious future for Israel which will result in blessing for the whole world. This is described as “life from the dead” (v.15). This makes me think of the prophet Ezekiel’s vision of the dry bones which are resurrected and given new vitality (Ezekiel 37:3). This is a prophecy of the restoration of the nation Israel in the plan and purpose of God.

God’s plan is the church.

Paul introduces the word “mystery” in verse 25. In his letters this word was used for the revelation in the present of a truth that has been concealed from believers in Old Testament times. Ephesians 3:3-6 explains the unfolding of this “mystery” as the New Testament revelation that believing Jews and believing Gentiles are now members together of one spiritual organism, the true church, the body of Christ.

In Romans 11 Paul illustrated this truth with the metaphor of an olive tree. A symbol of Israel, the olive tree pictured the nation’s place in the plan of God (Romans 11:16-24). In Paul’s example, the Jews are like a cultivated olive tree and the Gentiles are like branches of wild olive trees that have been grafted into the tree to share in Israel’s spiritual advantages.

With this example, Paul was teaching the Gentiles in the church in Rome not to think of the Jews as being somehow displaced or replaced in the plan of God. There was to be no anti-Semitic prejudice in God’s church. Jewish and Gentile believers are one in Christ. God’s promises and relationship to Israel will never be cancelled (v.29).

The church is looking forward to the coming of “the Deliverer,” the Lord Jesus. His advent will usher in his kingdom and will save Israel and the nations from their sins (Romans 11:26-32). According to Paul, this will put God’s mercy and wisdom on display.

Pastor Randy Faulkner