Hath God Cast Away His People?
January 28th, 1962 @ 8:15 AM
HATH GOD CAST AWAY HIS PEOPLE?
Dr. W. A. Criswell
1-28-62 8:15 a.m.
On the radio you are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the pastor bringing the early morning message entitled Hath God Cast Away His People? It is the second part of a sermon delivered last Sunday morning concerning the conversion of Israel.
The basis of these introductory messages is in the fourth chapter of the Book of the Revelation, verse 3 [Revelation 4:3]. And in that fourth chapter, when the seer is invited up into heaven, and through an open door he sees the throne of God, and the throne is surrounded with a rainbow [Revelation 4:1-3]; and a rainbow is a sign, a symbol of our covenant keeping Lord. The words that He says, He remembers. The promises that He makes, He will keep. And the covenants into which He has entered, He will forever hold inviolate. And that is the thesis of these sermons by which we are preparing to enter into these chapters of the Apocalypse that reveal to us the final consummation of this age.
Now in those covenants, the sign of which is the rainbow around the throne of God, in those covenants there is one preeminent, one above all others, and that is the covenant that God made with Abraham [Genesis 17:4-14]. And we have said that the rest of the Bible, all of these pages and books, is nothing other than an outworking of that holy promise that God made to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.
So the subject of the message, Has God Cast Away His People? refers to the rejection of Israel in this present time, in this present dispensation, in this present age when God seemingly has pushed them aside, has rejected them, and He has chosen another people among the Gentiles to be the emissaries of His message and the preachers of His gospel. But has God cast away His people? What of Israel?
Now that is discussed meticulously, and in the revelation and inspiration of the Holy Spirit, by the apostle Paul in the eleventh chapter of the Book of Romans. And if you will turn to the Book of Romans chapter 11, you can follow the message easily and with simplicity; the Book of Romans, chapter 11. The title of the sermon is taken from the first sentence in that chapter: “I say then, Hath God cast away His people?” [Romans 11:1].
Now, there is something that has befallen Israel. All you have to do is to look at the nation and know that something tragic has overwhelmed God’s people. In the twenty-fifth verse of the eleventh chapter of the Book of Romans, Paul describes what has happened to Israel. He uses the word pōrōsis. It is translated in Romans 11:25, “blindness,” pōrōsis, “blindness.”
Now that word is far more effective in its descriptive power than you find here in the Bible. The word pōrōsis is a medical term used by Hippocrates, the father of medicine, and Hippocrates used that identical word to refer to the callous of a covering; the covering of a callous—the hardening over the skin—a pōrōsis. Now there are two other places in the New Testament where that identical word is used. One is in the third chapter of the Book of Mark [Mark 3:5], and another is in the fourth chapter of the Book of Ephesians [Ephesians 4:18].
But in both of those other places where that identical word is used, there is also the phrase “of the heart.” And in those two other places in the Bible, it is translated in the King James Version, “hardening of the heart,” a callous over the heart. Here in the twenty-fifth verse of the eleventh chapter of the Book of Romans, the phrase, the continuing phrase “of the heart” is not used. Just the word itself, pōrōsis, is found [Romans 11:25].
I have supposed the reason the translators of 1611 used the word “blindness” instead of “callous, hardening” is because of the passage that Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians the third chapter, the [fourteenth] and the [fifteenth] verses [2 Corinthians 3:14-15]: “But their minds were,” and here is the verbal form of that word pōrōsis:
But their minds were blinded: for until this day there remaineth the same veil untaken away in the reading of the Old Testament. For even unto this day, when Moses is read, the veil is over their hearts.
[2 Corinthians 3:14-15]
Talking about the people of God, the children of Israel; “For unto this day,” says Paul, “when the Old Testament is read, there is a veil over their hearts” [2 Corinthians 3:15]. And Paul uses that word in its verbal form pōrōsis, which is translated here “blindness” [Romans 11:25].
Now I would think that is why the word is translated “blindness” here. Something has happened to Israel. There is a veil over their hearts. There is a blindness that has come to their understanding in their minds. Israel, who should have been the first to announce Jesus the Savior of the world, the first to receive Him, the first to believe Him, the first to exalt Him; and Israel should be the first among all the nations and peoples of the earth today, preaching the gospel of the Son of God. Instead of that, Israel—among the nations—is about the slowest to receive, and they are the hardest to win. Something has happened to Israel.
Now out of all of the history of the world, both Jews and Gentiles have been spiritually blind. Just look at the number of the Gentiles in the world today who are not Christians, as well as the children and family of Abraham. But there is something special that has happened to Israel, above what you see in the general group of all of the families of the earth. And in verse 25, Paul calls that something a mustērion, a mystery of God that the children of Abraham, that the people of the Lord should be thus blind to the wonderful message of salvation in Christ our Lord [Romans 11:25].
Now heretofore, Israel had been blind to the messages of the prophets, and they had been under a judgment of God because they persecuted God’s prophets [Luke 11:47-48; Acts 7:52]. But this judgment of God is beyond anything that Israel has ever endured before. This judgment has come upon them because of their rejection of Christ. It is an unusual, and a heavy, and a terrible judgment from heaven. So much so that Paul calls it a mystery, a musterion. But—and here is the great message of the Book—but, the blindness that has come to Israel is first, not total; and second, it is not permanent. These are the two great theses, propositions, that Paul is presenting in the eleventh chapter of this Book of Romans. Now let’s discuss the first one briefly.
First, that the blindness that has come upon Israel is, as he describes in the twenty-fifth verse, in part; “blindness in part” [Romans 11:25]. First, that the blindness that has come to Israel is not total. Now Paul gives three things here in the eleventh chapter of the Book of Romans to prove that the blindness that has overwhelmed Israel is not total.
First, he says, in verse 1, “For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin” [Romans 11:1]. Paul says, “I am an Israelite, I am a descendent of Abraham. And though Israel after the flesh is cut off, I am an apostle of Christ, a preacher of the gospel of the Son of God, and I have found in Jesus my Lord and my Savior.” So he himself, he gives, he cites as an example that the blindness that has overwhelmed Israel is not total. For he himself, the apostle and the preacher is a Jew, and he could have in the same breath had mentioned Peter, John, and all of those who first preached the Gospel of the Son of God, and who wrote this New Testament. So his first reason to prove that the blindness is not total is himself and those first preachers of Jesus [Romans 11:1].
Now his second illustration is found in the second verse: “Wot ye not what the Scripture saith of Elijah?” [Romans 11:2]. Then he speaks about Elijah. Elijah thought in his despair that he was the only one out of all Israel that was serving God; all the other people were apostate, and all the other children of Abraham had renounced their great Lord. That’s what Elijah thought. “Lord, they have cast down Thine altars, and they have slain Thy prophets, and I am the only one that is left” [Romans 11:3]. Then Paul says:
But the Lord said to Elijah, Elijah, you are mistaken, and I have reserved unto Myself—
How many? How many?—
Seven thousand; I have seven thousand that you do not know about. I have kept for Me seven thousand who have not bowed the knee to Baal, and who have not kissed his hand.
[Romans 11:4; 1 Kings 19:14, 18]
Now Paul uses that as his second illustration that the blindness that has overwhelmed Israel is in part; it is not total. Paul is saying there that there are more who believe in Jesus than you realize. There are more Jewish Christians than you are aware of. And may I illustrate that profoundly and poignantly in our congregation? Did you know that I have had leaders here in this church with whom I have worked for years and years, and it is only in recent days that I have learned that they were Jewish Christians? Did you know that? And I’m the pastor of the church, and I’m supposed to be the infallible pope of the congregation and know everything. Isn’t that an amazing thing? There are leaders in this church with whom I have worked for years that I did not know were Jewish people, Jewish converts, Jewish Christians, until these latter times. That somebody sitting by you, or in front of you, may be a Jewish Christian and you don’t realize it. You don’t know it. There are more of them than you know. “I have reserved for Me seven thousand who have not bowed the knee to Baal” [Romans 11:4]. That was his second illustration.
Then his third one is this in verse 5, “Even so then at this present time there is a remnant according to the election of grace” [Romans 11:5]. And verse 7, “What then? Israel hath not obtained that which He seeketh for; but the election hath obtained it, and the rest were blinded” [Romans 11:7]. There is a remnant out of Israel up until this present time, says the Book, that believes in Jesus and loves the Lord Jesus. And all through the centuries that has been true.
There is a representative from God’s family of Abraham through every year, in every crisis, in every generation; there they are, working, preaching, loving, adoring, worshipping the Lord Jesus. And if you’ll go through the books of theology, you will find that some of the greatest of all books have been written by Jewish Christians. May I just cite a few? Samuel Schereschewsky, what a name! Samuel Schereschewsky translated the Bible into Mandarin—one of the most monumental works of all time, and opened the Word of God to two hundred fifty million Chinese—he was a Christian Jew.
Alfred Edersheim wrote the great volumes, The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, and he was a great Christian Jew. And those volumes that he wrote are the greatest expositions of the life of Christ; they tower like mountains above molehills. They are the greatest that have ever been written on the life of Christ. Adolph Saphir wrote a volume entitled Lectures on the Epistle to the Hebrews which is the greatest book ever been written on the Epistle to the Hebrews, and he likewise was a Christian Jew.
One of the greatest historians of all time is August Neander, and Neander, the incomparable church historian, was a Christian Jew.
When I was a boy growing up, I heard much about Solomon Ginsburg, the wandering Jew in Brazil. Edgar, is he dead? He is dead. But when I was a boy, I heard much about Solomon Ginsburg, who wrote the book entitled The Wandering Jew in Brazil. A great missionary of the gospel of Christ in that glorious country in Latin America, and he was a Christian Jew.
And last Sunday morning I mentioned the fact that there was placed in my hands about a week ago, a copy of a new translation of the New Testament entitled The Authentic New Testament. It is translated by Hugh Schonfield, who is a Christian Jew. Time would fail me to speak of great Christian leaders and scholars today who are of the sons of Israel.
So Paul says that the blindness that has overwhelmed the descendents of Abraham is “in part.” Now his second proposition; it is not permanent [Romans 11:26]. Someday Israel will be saved:
I would not have you, brethren, that ye should be without knowledge of this mustērion . . . blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles be come in. And so, all Israel shall be saved.
There is a time, up to a point, that Israel is blind: when they read the Bible there is a veil over their hearts and they don’t see their Redeemer in Christ [2 Corinthians 3:15]. They reject the Lord, and they reject you when you come and make invitation to them to receive Jesus as a personal Savior. There is a blindness over their hearts now; but there is a day coming when that veil will be taken away and when Israel will be saved [2 Corinthians 3:15-16; Romans 11:25-26].
When is that time? And how will it come about? Now that’s the remainder of the sermon this morning. Now you look at this: every verse is vital and every syllable is filled with meaning. “Blindness in part is happened to Israel, until”; now that is an adverbial, temporal clause, “until the fullness of the Gentiles be come in” [Romans 11:25].
Achri hou eiselthē plērōma tōn ethnōn; it refers to a time. You see that phrase in 1 Corinthians 11:26, “For as often as you eat this bread, and drink this cup, you do show forth the Lord’s death, achri hou elthē, until He come.” Thayer, the great grammarian and lexicographer, said that that is the terminus ad quem. It is the time “to which.” That is what that adverbial clause means. Israel is going to be blind until a certain time, beyond which they will be delivered, and restored, and saved; up until a certain time [Romans 11:25-26].
Now I want to take a little moment here to show you how ministers, and how preachers, and how theologians, the greatest who’ve ever lived, will consciously and volitionally take a passage of Scripture and wrest its meaning, in order to prove a preconceived notion. Here is a good illustration of it. Martin Luther believed that the Jew was the child of the devil and that he could never be saved. John Calvin believed likewise, that Israel was forever cast off and would never be saved, that they were lost and blinded forever.
In order to substantiate that position, John Calvin—who I suppose is a representative of the greatest of the great among theologians and exegetes—John Calvin consciously and volitionally took that Greek adverb achris which means “until,” and he translated it “in order that,” which is a violation of the Greek language just like it would be a violation of the English language.
So John Calvin made it read like this, “Blindness has happened to Israel in order that all the Gentiles might be brought into the kingdom of God.” Then he made another change which practically all your theologians do. He made Israel mean “the church.” So when Calvin got through with the passage, he made it mean, “Blindness is happened to Israel in order that the Gentiles might be saved, and so all the church will be saved”; making “Israel” mean the church, “So all Israel shall be saved: so all the church, all the believers shall be saved.”
That’s what preconceived notions will do to you. It is infinitely better to let the Word of God say what it says, infinitely better to let God do in His might and His power what God is able to do. Now we may not be able to see it, and we may not be able to understand it, and we may not be able to enter into it, and there may be musterions about it into which our minds cannot possibly enter; that doesn’t matter. Let God be God, and let His mighty power work wonders in our eyes and before our faces.
And if some of these things require the miraculous intervention of the Almighty in human history, Lord, do it! And let us be there to see it when it’s done, and let us rejoice in the sovereignty and the purpose of grace, in the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ. So, instead of doing such a thing, we shall just follow the Scriptures as they are and let them say what they say.
Now this is what the Book says, “Blindness in part has happened to Israel, until,” until a time, and that time is “the fullness of the Gentiles be come in” [Romans 11:25]. There are two expressions like that. One is in Luke 21:24: “Jerusalem,” said our Lord, “shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.” Now I haven’t time to enter into these things, just to say them.
“The times of the Gentiles” [Luke 21:24] refers to the political domination of the Gentiles, and it began when Nebuchadnezzar came and carried Israel into captivity [2 Kings 24:10-16], and it will extend—the times of the Gentiles—until Jesus comes again [Luke 21:27-28]. “The times of the Gentiles” refer to political domination; Jerusalem is in the hands of the Gentiles, and will be until that final day.
Now “the fullness of the Gentiles” [Romans 11:25]; refers to this age of grace; it refers to the time when Gentile people have the spiritual leadership of the kingdom and message of Jesus, preaching the gospel of the Son of God. And “the fullness,” the plērōma of the Gentiles began at Pentecost [Acts 2:2-12, 39], when the leadership was taken away from Israel and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof [Matthew 21:43]. The plērōma, the fullness of the Gentiles, began at Pentecost [Acts 2:1-4] and will extend until the tribulation, until the fourth chapter of the Book of the Revelation [Revelation 4:1]. And at that time when the last Gentile Christian is in, when the last one to come down that aisle has come down that aisle, when the “fullness,” when the plērōma, when the age of grace which is given to the hands of the Gentiles—and we possess it now—when that day is ended, then God is going to place again the spiritual leadership of His kingdom and of His message in the hands of Israel [Revelation 7:3-4]. They are going to be blind in part until that day comes [Romans 11:25].
Now Paul has a word to say about the blessedness of that day when Israel is converted. Look at the twelfth verse of Romans 11: “If the fall of them be the riches of the world, and the diminishing of them the riches of the Gentiles; how much more their fullness?” [Romans 11:12]. Verse 15: “For if the casting away of them be the reconciling of the world, what shall the receiving of them be, but life from the dead?” [Romans 11:15]. When Israel turns to Jesus and when Israel is saved, you are going to have blessings in this world like you never saw in your life.
Now a Gentile preacher may be somewhat, and Gentile people may be somewhat, but there is nothing comparable to the Jewish people when they get right with God. You are going to have a Moses, and you are going to have a John, and you are going to have a Paul; and you are going to have those great men of God, converted out of Israel’s people and from the descendents of Abraham some of these days. That is what Paul is speaking of: if the falling away of them was the message that brought us to Jesus, and opened the door—the plērōma—to the Gentiles, to us, the conversion of Israel will mean spiritual blessings poured out on this earth like the world has never seen and like man has never imagined [Romans 11:12, 15].
Now in about two minutes I’ve got to sum up about thirty minutes of explanation here. How is that going to be? How is it going to be? How is God going to take away the blindness of Israel? Now just follow me just as rapidly as you can as I sum it up. I’m afraid to tell you that I’m going to expound on this part of the message at the eleven o’clock hour, and you can listen and get the back end of this sermon because every time I’ve said that, I have been slower at the eleven o’clock hour getting through than I have at the 8:15 one.
“So all Israel shall be saved: as it is written” [Romans 11:26], and he quotes from Isaiah 59:20-21. “There shall come out of Zion the Deliverer,” when Jesus comes, “and He shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob” [Romans 11:26]. Second: “and that is the covenant that God will faithfully fulfill with the children of Abraham and the people of the Lord” [Romans 11:27].
Now just to sum it up real quickly: when we come to the fourth chapter of the Book of the Revelation, you come to God’s dealing with His people, the descendents of Abraham and with the Jews [Revelation 4:1]. But it seems from the Apocalypse that the Jews remain in unbelief about like the Gentiles [Revelation 6:15-16]; there is a remnant saved [Revelation 7:3-4], but the great mass are hardened and blinded [Revelation 9:20]. For example, in the thirteenth chapter of the Book of the Revelation, it appears that the Jews are worshipping the false beast and the false prophet, just like the Gentiles are [Revelation 13:4-18]. Well then, how is it that blindness is going to be taken away from Israel? [Romans 11:25]. Well, as you read the Revelation, it comes in two steps.
The first step is this: when the church is raptured, when God’s people are taken away, when the bride of Christ is snatched out of this earth, when God’s people are raised from the dead and the living are translated to glory [1 Corinthians 15:51-57; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17], that seemingly has a tremendous repercussion upon the Israelites that are truly seeking their Messiah. And that is the time when the spiritual leadership of the preaching of the gospel and the kingdom of the Son of God is given back into the hands of Israel [Revelation 7:3-4]. “Lord,” said the disciples as Jesus ascended into heaven, “Lord, wilt Thou at this time restore the leadership of the kingdom to Israel?” [Acts 1:6].
“It is not for you to know when, and I cannot tell you times and seasons; but it is coming” [Acts 1:7]. And that’s when it’s coming; when the church is raptured, snatched away, taken out of the earth [1 Corinthians 15:51-57; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17], then the spiritual leadership is given back to Israel [Revelation 7:3-4]. And that’s where you have the twelve thousand out of Judah, and the twelve thousand out of Simeon, and the twelve thousand…that’s the passage you read this morning, when God takes out a 144,000 of Israel to be His preachers [Revelation 7:1-8]. And you will see them again in the fourteenth chapter of the Book of the Revelation [Revelation 14:1]. Israel is preaching the gospel of the Son of God, and though it is in the days of fire, and fury, and blood, yet they win people to Jesus; a multitude no man could number [Revelation 7:9], whose robes are washed white in the blood of the Lamb [Revelation 7:14]. You are going to have a great revival; you are going to have preaching, you are going to have people saved—and it will be Israel that is leading in the spiritual conversion of this earth. Now that is the first part of the tribulation, when Israel is in the van, spiritually leading the building up of the kingdom of our Savior in the hearts of men [Revelation 7:3-4].
Now the consummation is in the last half of Daniel’s seventieth week [Daniel 9:27], that forty-two months, those three-and-a-half years, the last half of that tribulation [Revelation 11:2, 13:5]. That Antichrist, that man of sin, who made a covenant with Israel; and they rebuild their temple, and they reinstitute their Mosaic sacrifices, and they are all back home, and they are worshipping Jehovah God according to the old Mosaic ritual. Right in the middle of that week, he is going to break his covenant [Daniel 9:27], and there is going to be an antisemitic wave over this earth like the earth has never seen before, and they are going to be persecuted as they have never been persecuted before. And in those days of awful tribulation—and you know it’s not without meaning that it’s three and a half years, for our Lord lived in the flesh in Galilee and Judea three-and-a-half years. And for every week, and for every month, and for every year that Israel rejected their Messiah as He gave them the signs of His messianic deity, and ministry, and mission; for every day that they rejected the Lord in the days of His flesh, there’s going to be that awful and great tribulation [Jeremiah 30:3-7].
But at the end of it, the Deliverer shall come from Zion [Romans 11:26]. His feet shall stand on the Mount of Olives [Zechariah 14:4; Acts 1:9-11]. And to that regathered nation He is going to appear as He appeared to His brother James [1 Corinthians 15:7], and as He appeared to Saul on the road to Damascus [Acts 9:1-5]. He is going to appear to His people [Luke 21:27]. And Israel is going to be saved [Romans 11:26].
Not that they have a second chance; all Israel is in distinction to “in part.” In part now some of them are saved [Romans 11:25], but then it’s going to be turned the other way around. The great host of God’s children, the descendents of Abraham, they are going to see Jesus, and they are going to mourn in repentance [Zechariah 12:10]; and they are going to accept their Lord—who is our Lord—and that is the millennium [Revelation 20:6]. Oh, what things God hath in store for us, for His people, for those who love Him! [1 Corinthians 2:9].
Well, I’ve gone way over the time. On the first note of this first stanza, somebody you give your heart to Jesus [Romans 10:8-13]. Put your life with us in the church [Hebrews 10:24-25]. On the first note of that first stanza, you come. And then we are going to let our people go to their Sunday school responsibilities. Immediately, on the first note of the stanza, come, and give the pastor your hand, while we stand and sing.