As we study Romans 9-11, I think it is important to understand God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility in salvation and in all of life because we’re trying to understand, as best we can as finite beings, the nature of God and the nature of man (us). We see throughout Scripture the love of God, the mercy of God, and the grace of God. And we see in the nature of man a desire for autonomy and independence from God (e.g., seen in eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil showing man’s desire to not have to depend on God in order to discern good and evil) and even outright rebellion as Adam and Eve rebelled against a clear command from God to not eat from that one tree or “you will die.” Thus in their (man’s) autonomy and rebellion they disobeyed God and as the saying goes, “how is that working for you?” Man has not done too well on his own since the Fall as seen in 6,000 years of war and strife in our world, in our homes, and in our hearts. Yes God is sovereign but He has chosen to limit His sovereignty by giving man free will. And though man has free will he has limited free will. Even as God says to the proud waves ‘Thus far you shall come, but no farther” (Job 38:11), He also says to the proud man like Pharaoh, and Hitler: ‘Thus far you shall come, but no farther.” And though man may choose his own way he cannot choose the consequences of his choices. So man wrestles with his accountability to God and with God’s sovereignty over us, as seen in the book of Job and in our own lives, when, in painful trials, we like Job may think or even say, “God, I deserve better than this.” Yet, we ultimately see in Scripture God’s overarching love, mercy, and grace shown to us and sometimes only through painful trials. Thus a strong and vigorous belief in God’s perfect (albeit sometimes painful) love for us satisfies that deep God-given need for security (I belong – permanently to my God) and significance (I matter to God, and His people and His purposes in and through my life make my life meaningful). Add to this the promised hope of eternal bliss in the presence of God and the family of God and we can have hope, peace and even joy in this “present evil age” (Gal. 1:4) as we live out God’s “good, pleasing and perfect will for our lives.” (Romans 12:2)
[“The theme of Romans is found in chapter 1, verses 16–17: God offers the gift of His righteousness to everyone who comes to Christ by faith. Paul wrote Romans to reveal God’s sovereign plan of salvation (1–8), to show how Jews and Gentiles fit into that plan (9–11), and to exhort them to live righteous and harmonious lives (12–16). The Vindication of the Righteousness of God (9–11): It appears that God has rejected His people, Israel, but it is really Israel who has rejected her Messiah. Paul deals with the problem of Israel in the plan of God in three ways: (1) God is the sovereign Lord who is responsible to no one for His work of election and rejection (9). He elected Israel in the past, but because of her disbelief, the nation has been set aside in the present. (2) Although God is sovereign, humans are responsible for the consequences of their decisions (10), and this is true of their decision to accept or reject Jesus. (3) Israelites, the “natural branches” (11:21) of God’s olive tree, have been cut off and Gentiles have been added (11). But God’s rejection of Israel is only partial (there is a spiritual “remnant” that has trusted in Christ) and temporary (they will be grafted back; 11:23–27). Paul appropriately quotes frequently from the Old Testament in this section, and he emphasizes that God will be faithful to His covenant promises and restore Israel.” Wilkinson, Bruce ; Boa, Kenneth: Talk Thru the Bible. Nashville : T. Nelson, 1983, S. 376]
[“Some Christians attempt to draw from these chapters doctrines about individual believers’ justification before God. But Paul has already dealt with individual justification in the first four chapters of Romans. Certainly Paul could review what he taught in chapters 1-4, but the context of chapters 9-11 seems to deal with a completely different topic. So be very careful when making claims about justification from chapters 9-11; you may be placing the words of Paul in a subservient position to your particular theological views.”] See more at: http://www.toughquestionsanswered.org/2009/10/17/what-are-romans-910-and-11 about/#sthash.Hc7MlPG0.dpuf
[“Chapters 9-11 of Romans form a unit. The subject matter of these three chapters is the nation Israel (see 9:3-4; 10:1,21; 11:1-2,26,28). These chapters are also somewhat parenthetical. The flow of thought could have gone from chapter 8 right into chapter 12. In the first eight chapters Paul has set forth THE GOSPEL OF GOD, that is, the good news of JUSTIFICATION (Romans 1-5), SANCTIFICATION (Romans 6-8) and GLORIFICATION (Romans 8). In chapter 12 he deals with the practical implications of the gospel (how the truth of the gospel ought to affect our daily living toward God and toward our neighbor). Thus chapter eight would flow naturally into chapter 12, but instead of doing that Paul gives us a three-chapter parenthesis in which he helps us to understand where the nation Israel fits into the purpose and plan of God.
Chapter 9 deals primarily with Israel’s PAST (as God’s chosen and privileged people). Chapter 10 deals primarily with Israel’s PRESENT (as a nation which has refused to submit to God’s gospel). Chapter 11 deals primarily with Israel’s FUTURE (a nation which someday will be saved and which will enjoy the fulfillment of the new covenant promises).
In order to understand this section we need to try to put ourselves in the shoes of those who lived in the first century and to try to understand the JEWISH PROBLEM.
Fact #1–The Israelites are God’s chosen people (Deut. 7:6-9; Romans 11:28)
Fact #2–God promised His chosen people that they would enjoy a glorious kingdom under their Messiah (Dan. 7:13-14; Isaiah 2:1-5; 9:6-7; 11:1-9; Jer. 23:5-8; 31:31-37; 33:14-16; Luke 1:32-33).
Fact #3–The nation Israel (at least the great majority in the nation) rejected their Messiah when He came to earth (John 1:11; Matthew 12:22-24; Matthew 21:33-46; 27:22, 23, 25; John 19:15; Acts 22:22; 1 Th.2:14-15).
Fact #4–When the church first began it was made up entirely of Jewish believers (Acts chapter 2, the Day of Pentecost). But gradually this changed. As the years went by more and more Gentiles entered the church and less and less Jews (we see this as we travel through the book of Acts and also as we span the years of church history). Today (and this has been true for most of church history) the church is made up almost entirely of Gentile believers. We thank God for Jews who have believed on Christ as Messiah and as Savior, but their numbers are few. The nation as a whole is blind though, thankfully, there are a few exceptions (see Romans 11:25).
Are you beginning to see the problem? Facts #1 and #2 seem to be contradicted by Facts #3 and #4. What has happened to Israel’s glorious kingdom? What has happened to all of the promises which God has given to the Jews? God’s program for the present (the church) involves primarily the Gentiles and not the Jews. Why is this so? Has God cast away His people (Compare Rom. 11:1)? Is God all through with the nation Israel? Does the nation have any future in God’s program at all?
Put yourself in the shoes of a first century Jew. The gospel that Paul preached was either true or false. Jesus Christ, whom Paul preached, was either the true Messiah or He was not. Thus we have two alternatives: 1) The gospel that Paul preached is not true, and hence Jesus Christ is not the true Messiah and we must still await the coming of the true Messiah. If this is so, then the reason the Kingdom has not yet come is because the true Messiah has not yet come. 2) The gospel Paul preached is true and hence Jesus Christ is indeed the true Messiah. If this is so, then why is there no kingdom? Why do the Jewish people continue to suffer in this world? Why aren’t the Old Testament kingdom promises being fulfilled? Has God cast away His people? GOD HAS GIVEN TO US ROMANS CHAPTERS 9-11 TO ANSWER THESE QUESTIONS.
These issues are very relevant to our day as well. There are number of Christian denominations and individual believers who deny that the nation Israel has any hope of a future kingdom on earth under their Messiah as predicted in hundreds of Old Testament prophecies. Some teach that the CHURCH has inherited the promises that were made to ISRAEL. Others teach that the kingdom is here and now and that Christ is spiritually reigning in the hearts of His believers. Even though there is a sense in which this is true, it still does not solve the problem of hundreds of specific kingdom promises and predictions which have not yet been fulfilled. Did God really mean what He said about the kingdom and the coming Messiah or not? Romans chapters 9-11 are thus vitally important chapters in rightly understanding the place of Israel in God’s program.
What is God doing with the nation Israel? The answer is basically twofold: God has a wonderful plan and purpose for the Jew today:
- God has a wonderful plan and purpose for the Jew today, but this plan and purpose cannot be realized until the Jewish person believes on the Lord Jesus Christ. See Romans 10:9-13; 11:1-5.
- God has a wonderful plan and purpose for the Jew for tomorrow, but this plan and purpose cannot be realized until the true Messiah of the Jews comes to this earth a second time. See Romans 11:25-28. Israel’s present unbelief and rejection of the gospel will not keep God from fulfilling any of His kingdom promises to this nation (Rom. 11:28).
It should be noted that this present church age (which has lasted about 2000 years) was not revealed in the Old Testament. The Old Testament Jew looked ahead into the distant future and saw a mountain peak which was the coming of the Messiah and the great kingdom age. He did not realize that what he was seeing was actually two mountain peaks with a valley in between:
Let’s consider some Old Testament passages which illustrate this:
1) ISAIAH 9:6-7 – Verse 6 speaks of Messiah’s birth and verse 7 speaks of His kingdom but no hint is given that these two events are separated by hundreds of years.
2) MICAH 5:2 – Messiah must be born in Bethlehem and He must be ruler in Israel. Only the first of these was fulfilled at His first coming.
3) ISAIAH 61:1-2 (compare Luke 4:18-19) – The Lord Jesus knew where to stop reading because He knew what part of this passage was fulfilled at His first coming. The day of judgment awaits His second coming.
4) ZECHARIAH 9:9-10 – Which part of this prophecy was fulfilled at the Lord’s first coming? (Compare Matthew 21:4-5.) Which part of this prophecy must await future fulfillment?
5) LUKE 1:31-33 – This New Testament prophecy is similar to the Old Testament prophecies given above in that part pertains to His first coming and part must await future fulfillment at His second coming.
When the Old Testament Jew read his Bible he could only see one coming. Today we are living in the period between the two comings of Christ during which time He is building HIS CHURCH (Matt. 16:18) and taking out of the nations a people for His Name (Acts 15:14). As we read our Bible today we have the advantage of being better able to see two distinct comings of Christ–one is now history and one is still prophecy (He has come and He will come again)!” http://www.middletownbiblechurch.org/romans/romans9.htm]
QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION AND APPLICATION
Are you beginning to see the problem? Facts #1 and #2 seem to be contradicted by Facts #3 and #4. (Please read the four facts underlined in the text above.)
1) What has happened to Israel’s glorious kingdom? What has happened to all of the promises which God has given to the Jews? (See Major Features of the Millennial Kingdom below in which God’s promises to the nation of Israel will be fulfilled.)
2) God’s program for the present (the church) involves primarily the Gentiles and not the Jews. Why is this so? Is God all through with the nation of Israel? Does the nation have any future in God’s program at all? (See Rom. 11)
3) How do God’s plans for Israel have application for us today? Read Genesis 12:3, Psalm 122:6, and Joel 3:2.
Major Features of the Millennial Kingdom
An earthly kingdom. The premillennial interpretation of the reign of Christ holds that He will reign on earth for one thousand years after His second advent. This is in contrast to the amillennial view which identifies the millennium with the present church age or the intermediate state, and the postmillennial view which views the kingdom as also in the present age and climaxing with the second advent. If the premillennial interpretation is correct and we can understand the Scriptures relating to this kingdom in their normal literal sense, a panorama is unfolded in both the Old and New Testaments which gives us many details of this reign of Christ on earth. Its general characteristics are unfolded in such passages as Isaiah 2:1-4; Isaiah 11; Psalm 72; Jeremiah 23:5-8; 31:31-40 ; Ezekiel 37; Daniel 2:44-45; 7:13-14 ; Micah 4:1-8; 5:2-5 ; Zechariah 14. The outstanding New Testament passage is Revelation 20.
Christ as supreme Ruler of the millennial kingdom. According to Psalm 2:6, God will fulfill His purpose of setting His Son on the throne over the earth, “Yet I have set my king upon my holy hill of Zion.” As king over all the earth, Christ will fulfill hundreds of prophecies that anticipate such a situation.
The Scriptures present Christ in His first coming as a king (Luke 1:32-33; Matt 1:1; 21:1-11 ). It was in His offer to Israel as their king that He was rejected (Mark 15:12-13; Luke 19:14). Even His cross bore the inscription that He was the King of the Jews (Matt 27:37). When He returns to the earth in His second coming, He obviously will be coming as King (Rev 19:16) and will fulfill the promise given to David that of his seed would come one who would reign on the throne forever (2 Sam 7:16; Ps 89:20-37; Isa 11:1-9; Jer 23:5-6; 33:14-26 ).
The evidence in support of the concept that Christ will reign on earth is so abundant that only by wholesale spiritualization can these passages be construed to mean anything other than their ordinary meaning. The characteristics of the reign of Christ are plainly set forth in many passages, such as Isaiah 11, and the New Testament confirms the literal interpretation. The announcement to Mary, for instance, concerning the birth of Christ plainly interprets these prophecies in their literal sense. In Luke 1:32-33 the angel announced the birth to Mary in these words: “He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Most High: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: and he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.” All of the references previously cited in support of the earthly rule of Christ likewise are proof texts for the fact that Christ will reign over the earth. Associated with Him in His reign will be resurrected saints of all ages, some of whom, like David, will have a particular rule (Isa 55:3-4; Jer 30:9; 33:15-17 ; Ezek 34:23-24; 37:24-25 ; Hos 3:5; Amos 9:11). The church likewise will reign with Christ as will also all the tribulation saints who have been martyred (2 Tim 2:12; Rev 20:4-6). Numerous other passages confirm this concept of Christ’s reigning assisted by other rulers, some of whom may be resurrected saints (Isa 32:1; Ezek 45:8-9; Matt 19:28; Luke 19:12-27.
Principal features of the political government of the millennium. It was God’s original intent in creating Adam that he should rule the earth. Due to the fall, this responsibility was transferred to Christ who as the last Adam will accomplish that in which Adam failed.
The rule of Christ on earth will be an absolute one characterized as a rule of a rod of iron with immediate judgment on any who oppose Him. (Ps 2:9; 72:9-11 ; Isa 11:4; Rev 19:15). A prominent feature of the government will be perfect justice in contrast to the inequities which often exist in political rules today. The meek and the poor will have equity in that day (Isa 11:3-5) and the wicked are warned of immediate judgment (Ps 2:10-12).
The political judgment of Christ will be principally directed to those who survive the tribulation and enter the millennium in their natural bodies both of Israel and of the Gentiles. The sheep of Matthew 25:31-46 and the godly remnant of Israel left after the rebels are purged out (Ezek 20:33-38) will comprise the earthly citizens of the millennium. There is evidence that they will rapidly multiply and before the end of the thousand years will be able to fill the earth with renewed population. These who enter the millennium are also anticipated in the parables of the wheat and the tares (Matt 13:30-31) and the good fish of the parable in Matthew 13:49-50. In this political government Israel will have a prominent place, and numerous passages relate to this in the Scripture (Isa 9:6-7; 12:1-6 ; Jer 23:5; Mic 4:1-8, etc.)1 Many passages likewise refer to Christ’s rule over the entire earth of which Zechariah 14:9 may be taken as representative. Gentiles, although in a subordinate role in relation to Israel, will nevertheless be greatly blessed in the millennium and share in the prosperity of the period.
Spiritual characteristics of the millennium. While the millennial kingdom is primarily a political rule, because of the unusual characteristics of the kingdom there is much to foster and promote spiritual life during this period. The amillennial objection to a literal kingdom on the ground that it is primarily moral and spiritual is beside the point. Premillenarians agree that there is much evidence of spiritual blessing and righteousness in this period, and this is derived from the fact that the kingdom is governed by Christ.
The fact that the glorified Christ is in the earthly scene and is visible to those in the millennium is unquestionably an important factor in the spiritual life of the period. As is anticipated in Jeremiah 31:34, everyone will have the evidence before him that Christ is indeed the Son of God and all that the Scriptures claim of Him. Missionary effort will be unnecessary for the knowledge of the Lord will be universal as Isaiah says, “For the earth shall be full of the knowledge of Jehovah, as the waters cover the sea.” (Isa 11:9). Christ as the world ruler of the millennial kingdom will be the object of worship, and the universal instruction in Biblical truth as well as the many demonstrations of divine power and the abundant ministry of the Holy Spirit will foster a spiritual life on a world-wide scale unprecedented in the history of the world.
The millennium will be a period which will feature personal righteousness as well as national righteousness in keeping with Solomon’s prediction: “In his days shall the righteous flourish, and abundance of peace, till the moon be no more.” (Ps 72:7). The righteous rule of Christ Himself is described in specific terms in Isaiah 11:3-5. The absence of war and universal peace (Ps 72:7; Isa 2:4) will provide the context in which spiritual life will flourish. The praise of the Lord and the joy which will attend the blessings of that period are described in Isaiah 12:3-4 and Isaiah 61:3-7. In addition to the presence of Christ the power of the Spirit will tend to foster and promote a deep spiritual life (Isa 32:15; 44:3 ; Ezek 39:29; Joel 2:28-29).
Although difference of opinion has existed concerning the exposition of Ezekiel 40:1—46:24 , which describes temple worship and sacrifices in the millennial scene, whether this should be interpreted literally as many premillenarians do or symbolically, in either case it supports the concept of a deep spiritual life in the millennial kingdom. Taken as a whole the millennial kingdom will be characterized by righteousness, joy, and peace on a world-wide scale similar to that which was enjoyed by the early church.
Economic, social, and physical aspects of the millennium. Many prophecies combine to give other aspects of the millennial kingdom. Because of the righteous rule of Christ and the efficient political government, there will be justice for individuals and peace among nations. Physical and financial prosperity will characterize the period as the curse laid upon the earth because of Adam’s sin seems to be lift. (Isa 35:1-2; cf. Isa 30:23-24; 35:7 ). Poverty and lack of necessary physical things will be reduced to a minimum in an era of prosperity such as the world has never known (Jer 31:12; Ezek 34:25-27; Joel 2:21-27; Amos 9:13-14).
The blessings of the millennium will even extend to the human body. Indications are that disease will be at a minimum and physical health the normal situation (Isa 29:18; 33:24 ; 35:5-6 ; 61:1-3 ; 65:20 ). The world population which will be small at the beginning of the millennium due to devastating judgments of the tribulation and purging judgments of the second coming of Christ will be supplanted by a rapidly growing population. Multiplied births will characterize both Israel and the Gentiles (Isa 30:19-20; Ezek 47:22).
Important changes will also occur on the face of the earth at the beginning of the millennium such as the division of the Mount of Olives (Zech 14:3-8). Jerusalem is seemingly elevated to a high plateau (Zech 14:10) and the rest of the land will be depressed.3 These changes in typography are related also to the division of the land pictured in Ezekiel 48:1-27; 45:4-19 .4
The multiplied details of every aspect of life relating to the millennium makes untenable the efforts to spiritualize all these Scriptures and make them conform to the present age. The description of this period is so graphically different in all of its aspects that it demands a literal fulfillment in the period following the second coming of Christ. The millennial kingdom will be the crowning work of Christ prior to the eternal state.
The Close of the Millennium
The thousand-year reign of Christ will close, according to Revelation 20:7-9, with a rebellion against Christ as God and King. This will be occasioned by the loosing of Satan who has been bound throughout the millennial kingdom and who upon his release immediately prompts many on earth to rebel against Christ. Those who are deceived in this way have been born during the millennium and, while forced by circumstance to make an outward profession of faith in Christ, nevertheless reveal their true state of unbelief as soon as opportunity arises. Those who rebel, led by Satan, encompass the city of Jerusalem in an attempt to take it by force and according to Revelation 20:7-9 are destroyed by fire which comes from heaven. With the destruction of the army, Satan himself is cast into the lake of fire (Rev 20:10) where the beast and the false prophet were cast a thousand years before. The millennial kingdom, the most ideal state imaginable for man apart from the eternal state itself, thus closes with another graphic demonstration of the wickedness of the human heart even under such ideal circumstances and forever shuts the mouths of any who would question God’s justice in judging the world.