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Chapter 12

Ye Olde Olive Tree

The Claim: “Dispensationalism teaches that God has TWO separate people; Jews and Gentiles, but the Bible teaches that we are ALL one people, therefore Dispensationalism is WRONG!”

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his false claim is probably one of the more interesting, and it is uncanny how often people misinterpret and therefore misrepresent the entire Olive Tree scenario, found in Romans 9 – 11.

This is such an important concept that many books have been written on whether or not Israel has a future. In fact, since it would be very difficult to deal with this subject fully here, we are writing a separate book which will cover only Romans 9 – 11. This will provide us with much more space to properly deal with the logistics of this subject. For our purposes here though, we will do our best to present in just a few pages what we believe Paul is teaching concerning Israel.
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By Faith Alone After spending the first part of Romans explaining the truth about faith and how only faith pleases God, he then moves on to a detailed discussion of why all people – both Jews and Gentiles – are equally condemned because all are unrighteous. From here, Paul explains that God’s wrath is coming upon the unrighteous in the form of judgment, and why His judgment is just. Paul then goes into an explanation of faith; what it is, how it works and why God is pleased by the exercise of it. He also makes it clear that since salvation has nothing to do with works, but faith only (from man’s position), there is absolutely no reason to boast about anything, as if we somehow managed to make ourselves good enough for God to accept. This is not the case at all, and Paul hammers this home to the church in Rome. To prove that faith is the operative mechanism that God approves (and not works), Paul starts with Abraham, who was found faithful even before he was circumcised. It was to Abraham that the original covenant promises were made regarding how God would not only bless Abraham, but his direct descendents, as well as all the families of the earth. Helplessly Dead When we arrive at chapter five, Paul discusses our helplessness and how Jesus came to save us even when we could do nothing for ourselves. We were helpless because we were dead in our sins. The sin that Adam committed created a tendency to rebel against God and commit acts of lawlessness. This sin nature was passed down from Adam to all people and God is righty justified by allowing this to occur since all have sinned in Adam. Since this places all humanity in the position of being alive to sin and dead to God, it required Jesus to offer Himself as the perfect atonement in order that we might – through faith in Him – die to our tendency to sin and become alive to God.

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It is because of this faith that God has granted us salvation that was made possible by Christ’s work on Calvary’s cross. In Him, we have been freed from the law that was incapable of saving anyone. The law did two things; 1) pointed out the sin, and 2) provided opportunity to sin. But in Christ, we do not have to follow the dictates of our sinful nature, but can, by His strength, move away from sin by saying “no” to temptation. Romans 8: No Longer Condemned In Chapter eight, Paul continues with the this line of reasoning, showing convincingly that because we are in Christ, we are no longer condemned at all. Christ’s righteousness has been given to us through faith. God, in seeing us, sees God the Son’s righteousness. As we move through the chapter, we learn from Paul that there is nothing in this life that has the ability to separate us from the love of Christ. We, as His children, are blessed beyond measure in Jesus Christ, our Lord. It is almost as though the first eight chapters build up this tremendous crescendo, climaxing in chapter nine. It is here that Paul’s anguish is seen in the fact that while his love for his own Jewish people goes deep, he realizes that most will not receive what God freely offers. This brings his heart to the breaking point and he himself wishes, if it were possible (but it is not), that he could be accursed if that meant salvation for his brethren. Romans 9: Reasons for Israel’s Rejection So in chapter nine, Paul’s thoughts turn to Israel. He understands that they, as a nation, have rejected Christ. He understands that because of that, judgment will come (which occurred in A.D. 70 through the Roman armies which destroyed Jerusalem and the Sanctuary). But Paul begins to explain God’s purposes in Israel’s rejection. He is careful to state clearly that God’s Word has not failed (cf. 9:6). This could never happen. It is unthinkable to Paul. He then reiterates the Abrahamic Covenant by first noting that even though the nation of
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Israel was made up of large numbers of Jewish individuals, not all of them are truly Israelites. Only the spiritual Jews are true Jews. Let’s look at the text clearly, within its context. We see that Paul has stated that not all of those who were part of the nation of Israel, were actually true Israelites (v. 6). He then states, “not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring, but ‘Through Isaac shall your offspring be named’.” This verse clearly shows that Paul is speaking about Jews only here, not Gentiles. He narrows the field to show that it is only through Isaac that the promise is carried. Verse eight states, “[this] means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring.” It is specifically at this point, that many people go off on a tangent. Paul is still speaking about Jewish people here. That is the context, yet Gentile Christians look at this and exclaim, “Cool! I am a spiritual Israelite because I am also from Abraham!” Are we? It’s All About God’s Sovereign Choice The next few verses (through 14) reiterate the promise of God that Abraham would have a son with Sarah. This son – Isaac – had two sons with his wife, Rebekah. While still in the womb, one of the two sons – Jacob – had already been chosen by God, while the other one – Esau – had been passed over, or rejected. Again, we are still not talking about Gentiles here. The promise that God made to Abraham, is being narrowly focused so that we see how and through whom the promise is being brought to fruition. So far, it has been Abraham, to Isaac (not Ishmael), and Jacob (not Esau). Some might argue that God knew Esau would sell his birthright, which is why He rejected him. That actually is neither here nor there, but to believe that is to disagree with Paul, who stated “they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad—in order that God’s
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purpose of election might continue,” (v. 11). Paul is clearly stating that God’s choosing of Jacob instead of Esau had nothing to do with anything they did or might have done. God’s choice of Jacob was purely God’s sovereignty in action. To prove his point, Paul highlights the Pharaoh of Egypt from days gone by. This is the very same Pharaoh that attempted to keep Moses from leaving with the people of Israel for the Promised Land. Paul’s point is that God chose Pharaoh for that particular time, placing him in that position of power for His own purposes; “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth,” (v. 17). From there, Paul segues into a brief discussion regarding God’s ability to do what He sees fit to do, in order for His purposes to come to fruition. If that means making a vessel for “dishonorable” purposes (like the Pharaoh), or for “honorable” ones (as in the case of Israel). It is clear that while God created Israel for His express purposes (which is the basic meaning of holiness, meaning to be set apart), Israel was not necessarily morally holy. In fact, most of the time, they were not morally holy at all, but far from it. Still, the truth of the matter is that God created them for His own purposes, based on nothing Abraham did, or they did. It was all of God’s choosing. Spiritual vs. Physical JEWS (Not Gentiles) If we read back carefully over the text in Romans 9:1-24, the truth of the matter should become obvious if the text is kept within its context. So far, Paul has only compared and contrasted regenerate Jews with unregenerate Jews; physical with spiritual. The point that Paul is making here is clearly brought out by Steven A. Kreloff, “What do all these definitions of physical and spiritual Jews have to do with the Word of God not failing? To relieve the anxiety of those who questioned God’s integrity in keeping His promises to Israel, Paul was pointing out that the salvation promises God to Israel are going to be ultimately fulfilled not for physical Jews, but for spiritual Jews.”1
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This has tragically always been the problem with Israel. Many Jews within that nation failed to understand that as far as God was concerned, there was a huge difference between being merely a physical Jew and a spiritual Jew. This is why Jesus was constantly at odds with the religious leaders of His day because they were merely physical Jews. They believed because they were Jews, born of Abraham, that fact was good enough to save them before God. The truth of the matter though is that it was not. While God has always kept a Remnant of spiritual Jews for Himself (which Paul brings out later), many Jews were never part of that Remnant. If we consider all the religious leaders of Jesus’ time; the Pharisees, the Sadducees, the Scribes, et al., too few of them were actually part of the Remnant. We know of Joseph of Arimathea, quite possibly a member of the Sanhedrin (cf. Mark 15:43; John 19:38), and Nicodemus, (cf. John 3:1-21), whom we know to have been a Pharisee. These two were it. By and large, the religious leaders had no tolerance for any sense of real spirituality and Jesus called them on it at every turn. It was because they were merely physical Jews, that they were never part of the Remnant that God kept for Himself, during that particular generation of Jesus’ day. Paul was basically teaching that within the nation of Israel, there was always a chosen group of Jews, who were spiritual Jews. These Jews “got it,” or understood the message, which made them part of the Remnant. It was a whole within the larger whole nation that Paul is speaking of here with respect to the spiritual Jew. He is not dealing with or speaking of Gentiles here because Gentiles are not part of the nation of Israel to begin with, so they could not be part of the Remnant either. If we take the time to look carefully at both the Abrahamic Covenant found in Genesis 12, 13, 15 and 17, and also seek to understand Paul’s meaning here, it should become clear that in all of this, God’s intent was not save everyone who came from Abraham. His intent was to
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always have for Himself a Remnant of believing (or spiritual) Jews. Paul brings this out by the mere fact that He shows conclusively that God chose Isaac, but rejected Ishmael. He chose Jacob and passed over Esau. This was election at work here. It is through God’s elective purposes that the nation of Israel was created at all, and within that nation, His elective purposes were further defined with the Remnant of Jewish believers. One of the biggest keys to this whole situation is election, as Kreloff points out. We find election at work in God’s promise to Rebekah, found in Genesis 25:23, “‘Two nations are in thy womb, and two manner of people shall be separated from thy bowels; and the one people shall be stronger than the other people; and the elder shall serve the younger.’ The key phrase in this verse is ‘two nations.’ The nation that came from Esau was called Edom. Edom became a nation of idolaters and the enemy of Israel. in judgment, God made the Edomites servants to the Israelites who came from Jacob’.”2 It’s Election Of course, this entire subject of election is a hard nut to crack for many of us (myself included). People get very upset that God would choose certain individuals, but not others. What is often not considered though is that Paul has just finished explaining in previous chapters that all have sinned, therefore all deserve condemnation and death. If everyone is heading in the same direction (to death, and justly so), but God comes along and snatches a few off of that path, placing them on another path leading to life eternal, how is God unjust in that, since all are condemned anyway? Paul has shown that God’s purposes are made perfect in election because all people fall short of God’s glory (cf. Romans 3:23). Whether He chooses person A, or person B is completely up to Him and in so doing, not only do His elective purposes glorify Him, but He has been guilty of nothing unjust.

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To try to understand this, we have created a (very) simple illustration (God’s Elective Purposes), that probably fails in a million ways, but the underlying principle is clear. Think of God as a fisherman. He goes to a stream in which all (Jewish) fish are headed in the same direction, and ultimately that direction ends with a very large waterfall. (Remember, at this point in Romans, Paul has been dealing with Jews and the creation of the nation of Israel, which is why there are no “Gentile” fish yet.) For the sake of our illustration, let’s say that all fish who wind up going over the falls will die. There is no hope for them once they go over the falls. But as the fisherman, God comes to this stream and begins to catch a fish here, two fish there, five fish there, another one there, etc., while all of the fish are moving steadily along in the stream with the current. They are all heading for the waterfall, except for the ones which God has fished out of the river. He will take these particular fish and place them in another stream (path), which leads to a completely different destination. As opposed to charging God with unfairness because He does not save all the fish, we should really be considering the fact that God is under no obligation to save even one fish! If He allowed all the fish to go over the falls, He would still be just. It is the self-centered person who believes that they know better than God. The ego-centric person believes that God is somehow required to save all people, simply because “He created us, knowing that we would fail.” This attitude gives no thanks for God’s patience, and blessing He has showered on all of Creation, in spite of the fact that we are deserving of none of it. It takes no personal responsibility into account. God’s justice is never measured by man’s inability to keep His commandments. This chapter has already gone on longer than I have wanted it to, so let’s see if we can get where we are heading a bit more quickly. Toward the end of chapter nine of Romans, Paul links Israel’s failure with their unbelief. They tried to keep the Law, thinking salvation
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would come to them from that effort. Because of their own human attempts to keep the Law, they stumbled over THE Stumbling Stone; Jesus Christ. They could see no righteousness apart from the Law. They were so focused on the Law itself, that they became blind to the One who came to free them from its tyranny! Gentiles also have this problem in the world today. “I’m a good person. I’ve never killed anyone.” That may be true, but that attitude is in direct conflict with the truth that Paul has revealed here in Romans. Romans 10: Israel is Culpable Romans 10 brings out the fact that any unbelief evidenced by the nation of Israel, is solely their responsibility. Even though in this chapter, Paul acknowledges Israel’s zeal for God, he announces that this zeal is completely misplaced. He certainly understands that because he would say that he was the “zealot of all zealots” when it came to the Law! Israel relied on their own “righteousness” which is less than nothing and because of this, they are fully culpable for their own downfall and failure here. Because Israel had the prophets, the Law, the Temple and all things related to it, they should have recognized who Jesus was when He arrived at their doorstep. Everything that Christ went through was prophesied by the prophets. The nation of Israel as a whole, had that in the records left for them by these same prophets! While God always kept a Remnant of spiritual Jews for Himself, most within the nation of Israel were physical Jews, yet they were still completely without excuse! In the middle of chapter 10, Israel is told by Paul that they had the opportunity to believe, but chose instead to disregard Christ. Even though the Jews of Israel had ample opportunity to hear the gospel message, they rejected it, over and over and over. Paul asks rhetorical questions even responding to them to clearly show that Israel is without excuse. They heard the gospel time and time again, and they heard it from many different people and in many different ways. It
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was in a way, built into the sacrificial system. It was seen in the design and operation of the Tabernacle and later the Temple. The nation of Israel, as far as Paul was concerned, was a nation that had no excuse whatsoever, and he wanted to drive that point home to them. Romans 11: Has God Rejected Israel? God Forbid! We arrive at chapter eleven nearly breathless. Paul has presented all arguments, leaving no stone unturned, in order to show that not only did Israel have all the benefits of being a chosen nation, but they had all the opportunities to hear the gospel, and even saw the gospel lived out in the life and death of Jesus Christ. There was nothing more that could be given or said to them. God had used every possible way to
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highlight for the nation, their need for a righteousness that did not come from themselves, but from God. Overwhelmingly, they flunked. So in chapter eleven, Paul asks this question, “Has God rejected Israel?” In spite of his answer which is a resounding “God forbid!” the Church, since the late first century/early second century, has acted as if God has indeed rejected His people. The idea that God has canceled all promises to Israel and has transferred everything to the Church has become one of the tragically false hallmarks of theology today. This is in spite of the fact that Paul would vehemently disagree and has done so in Romans 11:1! Paul then begins his argument with “For I myself am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, a member of the tribe of Benjamin. God has not rejected his people whom he foreknew,” (Romans 11:1b-2). Here is where people become confused. They believe that Paul is saying that because he is a believer (and part of the Church), this proves that God has not rejected Israel. So they believe that God continues to work with Israel on an individual basis only. The problem though is that these individual Jews are also God’s Remnant for this age. What these folks conveniently forget is that the Church has been grafted into the Jewish Olive Tree. This tree never becomes Gentile and the Gentiles in the Church who are grafted into it, merely partake of its blessings (while never becoming Jewish!). The Church never pushes Israel (the Remnant) out of the tree! We are there by God’s grace only and that is because He has partially hardened Israel’s heart! What Paul is actually saying is that God has not rejected the Remnant which was alive during Christ’s and Paul’s day (v. 5). That Remnant is still part of Israel, just as the Remnant before Christ was part of Israel. How did these people come to be spiritual Jews? Through faith and faith alone. Any righteous acts in their life were predicated on their faith, as opposed to these same acts being done by the rest of the Jews of Israel, but whose acts were not considered righteous because of their lack of faith.
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What God has done is that He has created a people that have been set apart for Himself and His purposes (which is the meaning of Paul’s use of the word ‘holy’ here). The nation of Israel was created to be a light to all nations. They failed to do this as God knew they would and of course, we know that Jesus called them on numerous times in His Sermon on the Mount as well as other areas of Scripture. In spite of God’s foreknowledge of their failure, He created the nation anyway, moving ahead with His plan to bless all families of the earth through Abraham. Since God chose Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, the Patriarchs and the nation itself based on nothing they did to earn anything, the idea that He would throw the nation away is absurd! Israel was chosen based on God’s elective purposes! This is the same way the Church (and those who make up the Church), was chosen! The Root is “Holy” (Set Apart) We can see in the illustration on the previous page, that God chose Abraham, and from him, Isaac, and from him, Jacob, and from him, the twelve sons who made up the Patriarchs. These – as Paul states in Romans 11:16 – make up the root of the Olive Tree and since the root itself is holy (set apart), so also is the entire tree. The Abrahamic Covenant is based on, and springs forth from that root. Those branches which represent the nation of Israel and its individual members (both physical and spiritual Jews), receive blessing because of the fact that they are connected to the root, whether they are merely physical Jews or spiritual Jews. All received the blessings of manna, parting of the Red Sea, God’s protection and much more! None of it was deserved! Notice throughout the Old Testament, the entire nation is considered “one” nation which God generally dealt with as a whole. For instance, we read toward the end of Numbers 13 and beginning of 14, though two of the twelve spies came back from their foray into the Promised Land, with positive, faith-filled reports that God would give them the victory, the remaining ten had no faith at all in God. Notice it was because the people chose to listen to the faith-lacking report of the ten
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spies that God sends them off into the wilderness to wander for forty years. During that time, the Word of God was fulfilled when He told Moses, “none of the men who have seen my glory and my signs that I did in Egypt and in the wilderness, and yet have put me to the test these ten times and have not obeyed my voice, shall see the land that I swore to give to their fathers. And none of those who despised me shall see it,” (Numbers 14:22). So the entire nation wandered for forty years so that those who had moaned and groaned, would die in the wilderness. They would never enter into the Promised Land. Many individual physical (non-spiritual) Jews were judged in the Old Testament and often through those judgments, fell in death. Just because they were part of the physical nation of Israel, does not mean that they were all spiritual Jews. The Remnant of God was built into that nation, but the Remnant was never the entire nation. We see many of these judgments proceeding from God throughout the Old Testament and it is through these judgments that God “pruned” the unregenerate (physical/non-spiritual) Jews from the nation. Keep in mind also that during all these years, while many Jews died during these wanderings, new Jews were born into many families. It wasn’t like the nation’s overall numbers dwindled, but it obviously was also not the same people for all the history of Israel. Any new Jews, born into many families within the nation of Israel, would grow up and they would have to make their own decision about the God of Israel; would they believe Him, or not? Their faith, or lack of it, was what made the difference between being part of the Remnant of Israel, within the nation of Israel, or merely being part of the physical nation of Israel. Time continues to march onward from the Old Testament period toward the time of Christ and into the period of the New Testament. Even after witnessing the life and miracles of Jesus, and hearing His teachings, most of Israel rejected Him. They hardened their heart to Him, His love and His message of redemption.

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Is it any wonder that God chose to harden their hearts (except for the Remnant), since most of Israel had already hardened their own hearts? God merely sealed what they themselves had already done. In verses eleven and twelve, Paul asks “did they stumble in order that they might fall? By no means! Rather through their trespass salvation has come to the Gentiles, so as to make Israel jealous. Now if their trespass means riches for the world, and if their failure means riches for the Gentiles, how much more will their full inclusion mean!” In other words, Paul is asking, have they stumbled so badly that they are unable to get back up? Are they down for the count? His response
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is a resounding “By no means!” Paul then states that Israel has only been set aside temporarily. Now we are getting to the crux of the situation here. If Israel has been set aside temporarily, what does that mean? It is obvious that God is still saving individual Jews because Paul is one. If Israel had been completely set aside temporarily, then no Jew would be able to be saved. What Has God Set Aside Then? Since individual Jews were being saved, then what has God actually and in fact, set aside?! He has obviously set aside the nation of Israel and is instead only dealing at this time with the Remnant of Israel. We know this because Paul clearly considers himself to be part of the Remnant (“I myself am a Jew”). It is apparent then that God is still dealing with individual Jews. So what has God set aside? Just as God reserved a Remnant for Himself throughout the Old Testament, He continues today to reserve a Remnant for Himself, made up of different (spiritual) Jews. Paul speaks plainly about Israel’s blindness and he states that they will continue to be blind until something happens. That event is the fullness of times for the Gentiles. In other words, once the very last Gentile has “come in” to the Church, God will then begin once again dealing with Israel as a nation. While God is calling Gentiles to Himself through the Church, He is also using the Church to safeguard His Remnant, which is also part of the Church. When the Rapture occurs, all who are part of Christ’s Bride – both spiritual Jews and Gentiles – will be taken out of this world to be with Christ forever. Any Jewish individuals saved after that event will become God’s Remnant for that future period of time. The Bible indicates that multitudes of people will be saved and that God Himself will seal 144,000 Jews to be evangelists during the Tribulation/Great Tribulation. Once this hellish seven year-period is completed (with Christ’s return), those Jews who are alive, and are saved, will make up God’s Remnant at that time. These will go in and possess the land, originally promised to Abraham and Abraham’s descendents. They will
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possess the land, under the watchful eye of King Jesus, who will reign for 1,000 years, physically over a political Kingdom, from David’s throne in Jerusalem. What has always been true and will always be true is that all people, whether Jew or Gentile, are saved by faith in God. This faith, that takes God at His Word, is what allows Him to credit people’s accounts with Christ’s righteousness. It was that way beginning with Adam and Eve and it will be that way until the end of time. Salvation is solely by God’s grace, through faith alone, and it is in the finished work of Christ alone. There has never been any other way of salvation available to
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mankind. It has always been based on faith, which produces righteousness. In this section of Romans, it is important to repeat what Paul is teaching, and we need to pay close attention. He states unequivocally that: 1. God has not permanently rejected Israel (11:1) 2. God has given Israel a partial hardening of their heart (11:25b) 3. UNTIL the fullness of the Gentiles has come in (11:25b) Please note this: Paul is saying that there is only a temporary rejection of Israel (he says it’s not permanent), and a partial hardening of their heart. If it is temporary and partial, there must be an END to it; a time when God will once again begin dealing with Israel as a nation. This is implicit in Paul’s declaration that Israel is temporarily set aside with a partial hardening. Paul informs us of that end, when the temporary rejection and partial hardening will be removed from Israel.In Romans 11:25b, Paul states, “a partial hardening has come upon Israel, UNTIL the fullness of the Gentiles has come in” (emphasis added). It is clear then that God has set Israel aside for a specific period of time, not forever as some would like us to believe. This hardening and temporary setting aside will only last until the last Gentile is slated to become saved. Once this last Gentile – whoever that happens to be – becomes a Christian, then the Rapture can occur. With the Church taken to be with the Lord, and the Holy Spirit no longer restraining evil in the world as He did through the Church, when the Church was here on earth, God will once again deal with Israel. He will refine them and His Remnant will turn to Him in faith, believing Him to be who He says He is, and Jesus as Messiah will be received by this Remnant. What needs to be understood is that God has always had a Remnant, in every period of time since the inception of Israel. Even before that, there were righteous individuals in Job, Noah, Enoch, Abraham and a others. Also note that the branches that God prunes or breaks off
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from the Olive Tree are in one specific generation, with more Jewish people born into the nation of Israel during that same generation. Some of these eventually become part of God’s Remnant for that period of time, while others are pruned off the Olive Tree. As time moves onward, the same thing happens again and again and again. We finally get to the time of Christ and nothing is different. God prunes or breaks off Jewish branches (different Jewish individuals, of

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course), and then after the Church is born, begins to graft Gentiles into the Jewish Olive Tree. God has hardened the hearts of those unregenerate physical Jews, but this is only temporary. He continues to deal with His Remnant which is now the Olive Tree. It must be clearly understood that the Gentiles who are grafted into this Olive Tree are not taking over the tree, nor are the Jewish believers pushed out of the tree! Gentiles are grafted into what IS (and has always been), a Jewish Olive Tree. It never ceases to be Jewish. Gentiles grafted into this Jewish Olive Tree also never cease to be Gentiles. Gentile Christians will always be the wild olive branches! Being grafted into the Jewish Olive Tree, allows the wild olive branches to gain from this association. This is why Paul emphasizes the fact that we, as Gentiles owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to the Jewish people and to Israel! There is no getting around this, yet some try desperately to do so, but they will wind up heaping God’s judgment onto themselves because of it! This is the largest difference between the Old Testament period and the New. Since the birth of the Church, Gentiles started to be grafted into the Olive Tree in large measure. During the Old Testament period, few Gentiles aligned themselves with Israel, becoming part of its culture, and religion. Since Acts 2 though, millions and millions of Gentiles have been grafted into the Jewish Olive Tree, from which the direct blessing of at least part of the Abrahamic Covenant is ours. Jewish people continue to be grafted into their Olive Tree as well, yet during this period of time, Israel as a nation has been broken off from their own tree! The natural (or Jewish) branches which remain are those who make up the Remnant. The Jewish people who became believers during Christ’s day became part of the Remnant then. Those whose hearts were hardened (essentially the nation of Israel), were broken off the Olive Tree. Paul states
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in chapter eleven that God will graft the natural (Jewish) branches back onto the Olive Tree in much greater measure once the last Gentile has become a Christian and the Church is removed from earth. At this point in Paul’s letter to the Romans, when he states, “all Israel will be saved”, he simply means that all those Jews alive at the end of the Great Tribulation who will have become believers, will be the Remnant of Israel for that period of time; the last period in human history. Obviously, this Remnant is made up of different Jewish believers than during Paul’s time, and the time before that, and the time before that, etc. So also, God is not of course grafting the same Jewish branches back onto the Olive Tree today that He broke off during the time of Christ. Paul’s analogy is simply pointing out that God elects those who are broken off (based on their lack of faith) and those who are grafted in (based on the presence of their faith). The Remnant has always been and always will be made up of those Jews who are believers in God’s Word. During the age of the Church, His Word is found in Christ, who is the Logos. Yet, it has always been of faith. During this time, the Church is benefitting (and owes a debt to the Jewish people because we are benefitting), by being attached to (grafted into) the Olive Tree. This is only temporary, because once the Rapture occurs, the Church will be removed from the Olive Tree, to be taken to the presence of the Lord. The Olive Tree, which has always been and always will be Jewish, remains for the Remnant which God will create during the Tribulation/Great Tribulation period. Those who believe and teach that the Church has somehow replaced Israel are not only doing a tremendous disservice to God’s Word, but they are in real danger of bringing God’s judgment (or at the very least, His chastisement) on themselves. They have erred in understanding His Word and because of it, have created a scenario which nowhere fits Scripture!
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The Church is beholden to the nation of Israel because as Jesus Himself said, “Salvation comes from the Jews,” (John 4:22). Those who would deny this do so in spite of the clear teaching of Paul, which is reflective of truth of God’s Word. As Paul states, God has not forsaken His people; His chosen people. He has set them aside temporarily and the very word “temporarily” implies an end of that time, in which God will once again deal with His people as a nation. The wonderful grafting that God has done on our (Gentiles) behalf is so marvelous that words really cannot describe it. Because He hardened the hearts of most of Israel (temporarily), the Church is in the
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privileged position of having been grafted into the very place of blessing that all of Israel was once partakers. Now, we receive the blessing of salvation, whereas had God never hardened the hearts of the Israelites, we would have died. Paul makes it clear too that the reason God has hardened their hearts is so that, in offering salvation to Gentiles, grafting them into the Olive Tree, the jealousy of the Jews was to be aroused. Through this jealousy, they would come to realize that salvation is of the Jews to begin with and if so, why are they not enjoying the benefits of it?! As God works through the Church, to provoke His chosen people to jealousy, the Church remains in the undeniably awesome position of actually being connected to the very root from which the blessings of God have been promised through Abraham. This salvation that we have springs from that root. Paul cautions us Gentiles though that we should not become arrogant because just as easily as God grafted us in, He can break us off. This He will do to those who are apostates; merely professors of the faith. We need with due diligence to live carefully, humbly, thankfully, acknowledging that what has been given to us Gentiles, is solely based on God’s elective purposes. It is nothing we have deserved. Gentiles (and Messianic Jews!), who wrongly believe that God is done with Israel as a nation, have unfortunately, effectively called God a liar. I know; that sounds like “fightin’ words,” but the truth is that either the Replacement Theologian is correct, or he is completely incorrect. His anger, his vitriol, his rancor is just too noticeable and too much. Why do many Replacement and even Covenant Theologians despise the Jewish people so much? Does that not say something about the potential error of their thinking? I understand that because they believe they are correct in their assertions, they also naturally believe that those who do not agree with them are unequivocally wrong. This naturally tends to bring out the
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“fight” in some folks because they believe that they are defending God’s Word from all detractors. I would implore those who believe that god has set aside Israel, to get on their knees, pleading with Him to show them with clarity, the truth of His Word. I will continue to do the same for myself. I pray that God would deal with me in such a way that I cannot help but see that I am in error (if that is the case!). If I am not in error here, then I pray that God would cement these truths to my heart, giving me a greater burden for the Jewish people, because of the tremendous gift I have been given, because of the hardness of their heart. May my words, thoughts and deeds glorify my Lord and my God, Jesus Christ.

1 2

Steven A. Kreloff God’s Plan for Israel (The Woodlands: Kress Publications 2006), 27

Ibid, 31

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