HATH GOD CAST AWAY HIS PEOPLE?
Dr. W. A. Criswell
Revelation Series- Part 42
1-28-62 10:50 a.m.
On the radio and on television, you are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the pastor bringing the eleven o’clock morning message entitled, Hath God Cast Away His People? It is a sermon on the conversion of Israel. It is the second part of a message that was begun to be delivered that last Lord’s Day morning. After these many years, sixteen of them and beyond, we have been preaching through the Bible and now for over a year, in the last and climatic Book, the Revelation. In our preaching through the Revelation, we have come to chapter 4 which signifies a distinct break, another section in the Apocalypse of our Lord.
Beginning at chapter 4, God outlines to us the final denouement and consummation of this age. In the beginning of chapter 4, the seer, the sainted John the apostle, is taken up into heaven, and there he sees the throne of the Almighty. And looking upon the throne, and Him who was seated thereon, he sees first of all a rainbow surrounding the throne on every side. The deep and spiritual significance of the vision of the rainbow is to remind us before the judgments of God fall, that our Lord God is a covenant-keeping God. The rainbow is a sign of the faithfulness of God to His promises. That gave us opportunity in these Sundays past, to speak of the covenants of God and the faithfulness of our Lord to those promises. The great covenant of God in the Bible is the Abrahamic promise. And we have said that the remainder of the Scriptures, beginning at chapter 12 in the Book of Genesis, is nothing other than an outworking in time and in history of that Abrahamic covenant.
When we come to the fourth chapter of the Book of the Revelation, the church is seen no more, not until she comes at the end of the age, in the nineteenth chapter of the Revelation. Not until she comes as the bride of Christ in victory and in glory, is the church seen. At the end of chapter 3, the church is translated. It is raptured. It is taken up into heaven. And beginning at chapter 4, the leadership of the spiritual and elective purpose of God in the earth is given to Israel. And at the end of that period of tribulation, of blood, of fury, of wrath, like the earth has never seen before, at the end of that tribulation, Israel looks upon her Messiah, and all Israel is delivered, is saved.
Now, the preaching this morning is an exposition of the eleventh chapter of the Book of Romans, which follows God’s elective purpose for His people. And if you would like to follow it, you can easily do so, if you will turn to Paul’s letter to the church at Rome, chapter 11. This chapter is a discussion of the problem of Israel’s unbelief and a prophecy of her future restoration, her future deliverance and salvation. Something has happened to Israel. What is it? Something has besought the descendants of Abraham. What is it? Instead of being the evangelists of the world, the leader in the spiritual conquest of this earth for God, Israel has fallen into a tragic and pitiful loss – away from the Lord God Messiah and the preaching of the good news of salvation in Him.
What has happened to Israel? In the twenty-fifth verse of the eleventh chapter of the Book of Romans, Paul says what has happened to Israel is a porosis, a porosis. That is a medical term. Hippocrates, the father of medicine, used the word porosis to describe the covering of a callous. In Romans 11:25, the translators of 1611 translated the word by "blindness" – blindness has happened to Israel – porosis, a callous, a hardness.
That word is used two other places in the New Testament. In the third chapter of Mark [verse 5], and in the fourth chapter of Ephesians [verse 18], the identical word there is translated "hardness." There is a phrase used with it in those other two places – "of the heart," hardness of the heart. But in this passage porosis does not have that qualifying phrase "of the heart." I suppose the reason the translators used the word blindness to translate it is because of the passage of Paul in 2 Corinthians 3:14-15. In speaking of Israel He says their minds were – and this is the verbal form of porosis – their minds were, translated here, "blinded"; "for until this day remaineth the same veil untaken away in the reading of the Old Testament; . . . But even unto this day, when Moses is read, the veil is upon their heart" [2 Corinthians 3:14-15]. There is a blindness of understanding of the soul that has happened to Israel. And when they read the Old Testament Scriptures, there is a covering over their eyes and a veil over their hearts.
Now, spiritual blindness has characterized the Gentiles and the Israelites all through history. Most of the Gentiles today are not saved. They are not Christians. And, of course, practically all of Israel is outside of the pale and the fold and the covenant of our Lord Christ. But this thing that has befallen Israel is separate and distinct and apart. It is an unusual thing. So much so, that Paul calls it in this twenty-fifth verse a [Romans 11] musterion, "a mystery," a thing that could not be foreseen until it came to pass in the elective will of God. There is a blindness that Israel has known in the days of their glory, when they persecuted the prophets and when they rejected the messengers of God, but there has never been a judgment of God upon Israel as there is now; for this is the judgment that has befallen the descendants of Abraham in their rejection of their Lord Messiah. "Behold," said Christ, "your house is left unto you desolate" [Matthew 23:38]. And from that day until this, they have been sojourners and strangers and pilgrims in the earth; for the most part, outcasts, hated, despised and persecuted – these, the people of God, and the children of the patriarchs. There is a blindness, a hardness that has overtaken Israel.
Now, Paul is saying, in chapter 11, two things – first, that blindness is not total; and second, that blindness is not permanent. First: that blindness is not total. And he says, as he begins the chapter, "Hath God cast away His people? God forbid" [Romans 11:1]. First, that blindness is not total. And he uses three things to demonstrate it. First: he says in verse 1: "For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin," and I am a preacher of the gospel of the grace of the Son of God. So that blindness that has overwhelmed Israel is not total, Paul says, because he is a Christian. And the first apostles, all Jews, were the first proclaimers and heralds of the announcement of the good news of God in Christ Jesus. And the whole Testament was written by God’s Israelite people. "So the blindness is not total," Paul says, first, "because I am an Israelite and a preacher of the gospel of the Son of God." Then his second demonstration that that blindness is not total; he finds as an instance, as an incident in the life of the Old Testament prophet. "Do you not know what the Scripture saith of Elijah?" [Romans 11:2]. Elijah in his despair bowed down before God and asked to die. "For," said Elijah, "I am the only one that is left. They have taken Thine altars and thrown them down. They have taken Thy prophets and slain them. And there is nobody in Israel that calls on the name of God – but I. I am the only one that is left" [1 Kings 19:10]. And the Lord God said to Elijah, "Now, now, Elijah. Now, now, you do not know it, you do not realize it, but I have reserved for Me seven thousand men – seven thousand who have not bowed a knee to Baal nor kissed his hand [1 Kings 19:20]. There are more," says God, "of these children of Abraham who have been saved than you realize, than you know about." And in my own ministry here in this church, I have worked for years by the side of some of our sainted leaders and did not know until these latter times that they were Jewish Christians. All through this church, you will find sainted men and godly women who are the children of Abraham and who belong with us in the circumference of this precious congregation. There are more who are saved, says God, than you realize. Then the third thing that Paul says about Israel. They are not blind all. It is just in part, he says, in verse 5: "Even so at this present time" – and that speaks of us today – "there is a remnant according to the election of grace" [Romans 11:5]. Verse 7: "Israel hath not obtained that which he seeketh; but the election hath obtained it, and the rest were blinded unto this day" [Romans 11:7]. There is a remnant of Israel that through every age and through every generation has shined and glowed for God.
May I take just one facet of that Israelitish hope and devotion and commitment to Christ? – just one facet of it. Any fine preacher’s library, any one of them in the world, will have these books. And these are just some that I point out that you will find on my shelves, written by godly, sainted, Israelite scholars. Here is one, there is Alfred Edersheim’s Life and Times of Jesus, the Messiah. It towers above all other studies of the life of Christ like a mountain towers above an ant hill – the greatest study in the life of our Lord, and there are literally thousands of them. But the greatest is written by a Christian Jew – Alfred Edersheim. Take another one over here. There is a book by Adolph Saphir, Lectures on the Epistle to the Hebrews – one of the finest contributions to Christian literature that was ever penned. And it was written by a glorious, consecrated Christian Jew. Take another one over here: in the section of church history, the great monumental works of August Neander. There is no student of church history to whom August Neander is not a household word. He was a great Christian Jew. If you – there is a whole host of you Chinese Christians here this morning. There was a marvelous Christian Jew named Samuel Cheris Gavotte. I would call him Sam Smith – Samuel Cheris Gavotte. He translated the entire Bible into Mandarin. And he opened God’s Word to more than two hundred fifty million Chinese – a great Christian Jew.
We had this morning at the early service about fifteen or twelve of these missionary families from Brazil, some of them on their way to Houston to catch a boat down to the great Latin American Republic. When I was a boy, the great missionary that I heard most of was named Solomon Ginsberg, who wrote The Wandering Jew in Brazil, a great Southern Baptist Christian missionary of the tribe and the household and the family of Israel. And I mentioned last Sunday morning about a week ago there was placed in my hand a copy of the Authentic New Testament – a new translation written by Hugh J. Schonfield, who is a Christian Jew. So Paul says first, that the blindness that has overwhelmed Israel is in part. It is not total. All through the generations and through the years, there are the descendants of Abraham who love our Lord Jesus, and whose life and whose prayers and whose devotion is poured out in the presence of His throne of grace.
Now, the second thing that Paul says about Israel is this. Not only is the blindness just in part, but the blindness is not permanent. Some day, some day, Israel shall be re-gathered. Some day, Israel shall become again a great nation. And some day, Israel shall look upon their Lord and accept Jesus as their promised and rightful Messiah and King. And some day, Israel shall be saved. Now, that is what the prophet, that is what the apostle is speaking of when he quotes the prophet Isaiah and discusses it here in verses 25, 26 and following in Romans 11. Every syllable of this is vital. Let’s look at it:
I would not have you without knowledge, my brethren, concerning this mystery, . . . that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles be come in.
And so all Israel shall be saved; as it is written, There shall come out of Zion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob:
For this is My covenant with them, when I shall take away their sins.
As concerning the gospel, they are our enemies – that we might be saved – but concerning the elective purpose of God, they are beloved for – Abraham’s sake and Isaac’s sake and Jacob’s sake and – the fathers’ sakes.
For the gifts and the calling of God are – without change, without turning – without repentance.
Now, if we had all day, we would just take every syllable of that and look at it. Let’s follow it until we have to close at noon. There is a blindness on Israel after the flesh – "until," achri – "until" – achri hou to pleroma ton ethnon. There is a blindness over the hearts of Israel and a veil over their understanding "until" a certain time – until a certain great event. Now, that word "until" in the Greek language is just like it is in our language, achri. It is an adverb of time, and it constitutes the first word in an adverbial clause. We say that every time we have the Lord’s Supper. "As often as ye eat the bread, and drink the cup, ye do show the Lord’s death," you demonstrate, you dramatize the Lord’s death, achri hou elthe, "until He come" [1 Corinthians 11:26]. It is like Saphir says, "An adverbial phrase to the terminus ad qiuem, "to the end to which." And beyond that, it’s something else. It’s different.
I want to take time out here to show you how men with preconceived notions will take God’s plain Word and wrest it willfully, volitionally in order to conform to their ideas. Now this is about as good an illustration of that as you will ever find. Martin Luther said the Jews were the children of the devil and they could not be converted. And John Calvin, the greatest exegete of all time, John Calvin has the same persuasion about the Jew. And John Calvin, when he came to translate that passage there and to exegete it – John Calvin, with his preconceived notion that Israel was cast off forever and that they had no future in God – John Calvin took that plain, adverbial sense of time – achri – and he translated it "in order that." So he made – and one other thing – he made Israel refer to the church. So he translated, that blindness has happened to Israel in order that the fullness of the Gentiles be come in, and so all of the church, all of the believers shall be saved. That is, the man makes up his mind beforehand what he thinks, then he goes to the Word of God and he changes the plain meaning of the Scriptures in order that it conform to his preconceived notion.
How infinitely better is it to take God’s Word and let God say what God wants to say! And behold, the marvelous sovereignty of the Lord God as He works out His elective purpose – which to me may be astonishing, which to me may be overwhelmingly mysterious, which to me may seem impossible. But all things are possible in the sovereignty and the elective purpose of Almighty God. And my part is to behold it in wonder and in glory and to magnify the Lord for such grace shown unto men. Now this is an instance of that. When I see Israel today, go over there and visit the nation newborn, when I attend the synagogue, when I speak to them, for the most part, for the most part, it is an astonishing prophecy that the day would come when your Christian preacher is the rabbi, and the evangelists of the earth are the descendants of Abraham, and these who are laying down their lives for the great Lord God Messiah are the people of Israel; but God says it! And I’m looking forward to the glorious and triumphant day when the veil is taken away from their heart, and when their eyes can see their Lord Messiah, and when they flame and when they burn for Jesus, just like Paul did. Just like John did. Just like Simon Peter did. And that is the prophecy.
Now, there is a blindness that has happened to Israel until a certain point, a certain time – until the fullness of the Gentiles be come in. Now there, we need another hour. There are two phrases that sound alike but they are not quite alike. In Luke 21:24, our Lord said "Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled" – the times of the Gentiles. Now that referred to political domination, the times of the Gentiles. It began in the destruction of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar and the carrying away into captivity. From that time until this, Jerusalem has been under the grinding heel of a foreign, alien Gentile power – the times of the Gentiles. And the times of the Gentiles last from the carrying away into the Babylonian captivity until the Lord Jesus shall come again – the times of the Gentiles. That’s how long Jerusalem is going to be in Gentile hands.
Now, in this chapter 11, verse 25 of Romans, you have the expression, "the fullness of the Gentiles" – the pleroma of the Gentiles. That refers to the age of grace; to this dispensation of the love of God in Christ Jesus, extended in its leadership and its blessing to us Gentiles – the pleroma of God; the pleroma of the Gentiles; the fullness of the grace of God toward us began at Pentecost. When the disciples asked the Lord, "Lord, will Thou at this time restore the kingdom, the leadership of the kingdom to Israel?" [Acts 1:6]. Lord? The Lord said, No. "It is not for you to know those times and those seasons" [Acts 1:7]. "For the leadership of this preaching of the good news of the kingdom of God is taken from you, and it is given to nations that bring forth the fruit thereof." So the leadership was taken away from the Jews when they crucified our Lord. And when the days of Pentecost came and continues through this present time, until and the pleroma of the Gentiles, the fullness of the Gentiles, the age of this dispensation, of this grace of the Holy Spirit, of the Gentile prerogative and leadership – it ends when the church is taken up to glory, when it is taken up to heaven, when we are snatched away and raptured up to the throne of God, that is the fullness of the Gentiles – and when that happens, when the last Gentile comes down that aisle, when the last one God has written in the Book of Life, when he gives his heart to Jesus, that’s the end. That’s the time, that’s the consummation, that’s the rapture, that’s the taking away of God’s people out of this earth – the fullness of the Gentiles.
And then, and then there is to be a great shift in the elective purpose of God, in the leadership of the Christian forces in this earth. For at that time, the kingdom, and the leadership, and its ministry will be given over to Israel. "And so all Israel shall be saved" [Romans 11:26]. All Israel – that "all" there is in juxtaposition and contradistinction to the "in part" – pas Israel, all Israel. He is just turning it around. Right now, Israel in part is saved. But the great mass of Israel is blinded. In that day, God is going to turn it around. And in that final day, all Israel will be saved. And it will just be the rebels who are the "in part," who are cast away from the kingdom and patience of Jesus. It’s going to be diametrically opposite.
Now, in the moment that remains, let me sum up how that thing is coming to pass. Paul here quotes: In that day, three things shall come. "There shall come out of Zion the Deliverer" [Romans 11:26] – the Lord Jesus shall come. Second: He "shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob" [Romans 11:26]. He is going to give them a new heart and a new spirit and new eyes to see and a new devotion to love. And third: "This is My covenant with them, when I take away their sins" [Romans 11:27]. "All of those promises that I made, I will faithfully keep," says the Lord God – "everyone of them. Not a one shall fall to the ground. They will all be true to My promise that I made to Israel." Now, those three things; so this is the thing that is going to happen. The conversion of Israel is not a process, but it is an event! It shall come as Isaiah 66:8 says: it shall come as though a nation were born in a day – just like that! First of all, according to the prophets, according to the Book, Israel will be regathered in her homeland. And then the Lord shall appear to them. And then in mourning and in weeping, they shall accept their Lord Messiah, as we give our hearts in faith and devotion and love to Him now.
Now, when we come to the Book of the Apocalypse, to see how that thing works out, there is something in it that makes us pause. And we learn that there are two steps in it. There are two things that happen when Israel turns to Jesus. For example, when you read the Apocalypse, beginning at the fourth chapter on through, apparently the Jews are in unbelief just like the Gentiles are. In the thirteenth chapter of the Book of the Revelation, the Jews and the Gentiles – all of them are worshiping at the shrines of the two beasts, the false prophet and the false political messiah. Apparently, that’s true. Well then, how is it that God is going to take away their unbelief? And how is it that Israel will be saved? Well, it’s in two parts. The first part I had you to read this morning. In the first part, at the beginning of that time that you call the tribulation – at the first part of it, the rapture of the church, the taking away of God’s people apparently makes a tremendous effect upon those Jewish people who are earnestly seeking their Messiah, and to do God’s will. And among those Jewish people, there are a hundred forty-four thousand, and lest you think that they were talking about things in general terms and not specific, he names those twelve tribes. He reiterated it; twelve thousand and twelve thousand and twelve thousand. And these are those Jewish leaders who are like flames of fire. You read about them in the fourteenth chapter of the Apocalypse, of the Book of the Revelation, these Jewish evangelists preaching, evangelizing, hounding, and proclaiming. And you have never read in time or in history, though it’s in the days of the tribulation, such turning to God at the cost of martyrdom and suffering and life. You’ve never read such things in history as is brought about by God’s flaming fire and fervor and fury upon those one hundred forty-four thousand Jewish evangelists. That’s the first part of it – the leadership of the building of the great kingdom of Jesus in the earth is placed in Jewish hands as their blindness is taken away.
Now the last part of it briefly is this: according to the ninth chapter of the Book of Daniel, the Jews are going to rebuild their temple. And they are going to reinstitute their sacrifices. They’re going to follow again the Mosaic system of the Old Testament. Don’t you ever think that Israel, though it is a little tiny strip over there, that Israel will be pushed into the sea. Israel some day will have that land. Israel some day will possess Jerusalem. Israel some day, according to the prophets, and according to the New Testament, and according to all the Bible, Israel will be given the Holy Land of Palestine. And they’re going back to that land in unbelief, just like you see them now – with a veil over their hearts and with blindness over their understanding. They’re going back to Palestine. And in this great, ultimate anti-Semitic wave, that shall be greater than the earth has ever seen, as in the days of Hitlerite Nazi Germany the persecution sent the Jews back to Palestine by the thousands and the hundreds of thousands; in that day great, final, awful, anti-Semitic wave, like a tidal wave in this earth, they will go back to Palestine by the millions. And they go back in unbelief.
And in those days, that great ultimate Antichrist, the man of sin, who comes as the dictator of the world, and as the tyrant of all times, and who promises peace, he’s going to make a covenant with those Jewish people. And they’re going to have their nation, and they’re going to have their homeland, and they’re going to rebuild that temple on Mt. Moriah – Solomon’s temple. And they’re going to reinstitute that Mosaic ritual. And right in the midst of those last days of the tribulation – right in the midst of the seven years – that great tyrant who presented himself as a man of peace, is going to break his covenant with the Jew. And that’s going to be the signal for the awfulest, most terrible Semitic persecution the earth has ever been seen. And in the midst of those days of incomparable trial and persecution, shut up there in that little country, in those days, you come to the nineteenth chapter of the Book of the Revelation, and you come to the twelfth chapter of the Book of Zechariah. And in those days, the Lord is going to appear to Israel as He appeared to James, His brother, and as He appeared to Saul on the road to Damascus. For three and a half years, that terrible persecution in Palestine of those Jewish people – and I have often wondered – the life of our Lord was three and half years in Galilee and in Judah. And for every day and for every minute and for every month that they rejected their Lord in the days of His flesh – there is that same three and half years, that same forty-two months, that same one thousand two hundred sixty days, there is that same period of time in which they live in agony and in blood in what the Bible calls he megale he thlipsis, the great tribulation. And at the end of it – and at the end of it, there appears on Mt. Zion, "There shall come out of Mount Zion the Deliverer [Romans 11:26]. And ungodliness shall be turned away from Jacob when they look on Him whom they have pierced" [Zechariah 12:10]. Let me read it in the Prophets, and then I will close:
And they shall look upon Me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for Him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for Him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn.
And in that day, there shall be a great mourning in Jerusalem. . .
And "In that day, there shall be a fountain opened in the house of David and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem for sin and for uncleanness. . . .
And one shall say unto Him: What are these wounds in Thine hand? – where did they come from? – And He shall say: These are they which I, by which I was wounded in the house of My friends."
And His feet shall stand in that day upon the Mount of Olives which is before Jerusalem. . . .
And the Lord thy God shall come and all the saints with Thee. And it shall come to pass that at evening time, it shall be light. And the Lord shall be King over all the earth."
So the prophet spake, and so Paul quoted as he looked forward to that incomparable and glorious day when as the Lord appeared to James, His brother, and won him to the faith in Himself, and as He appeared to Paul on the road to Damascus and won him to Himself; so the Lord in that day will appear to Israel in Palestine where they’ve been gathered together in unbelief. And they shall look upon Him and shall mourn for their sins, and their rejection, and their unbelief. And a nation shall be born in a day [Isaiah 66:8]. And Israel shall accept their Lord Messiah. And that is the millennium! I wish I had time to follow Paul in the eleventh chapter of the Book of Romans where he says, "If the casting away of Israel has been our salvation, what will the turning of them be? What will the receiving of them be?" [Romans 11:15]. Oh, such things, such things as God even now is working out in history. And such things as these eyes shall behold, this heart shall rejoice in. Oh, what things God hath in store for His people who love Him!
Now while we sing our song of appeal, somebody you, to give your heart to Jesus. Somebody you, put your life with us in the fellowship of the church. Is there a family to come? Is there one somebody you who will come? "Pastor, this is my wife and these are our children. All of us are coming." Is there a child, a youth? As God shall open the door, shall say the word, shall lead the way, make it this morning. If you are in that topmost balcony, there is a stairway on either side and time and aplenty for you to come. On this lower floor, into the aisles and down to the front, "Here I am, pastor, and here I come." Make it now. As the Spirit shall lead the way and as we look in faith and in hope to Jesus, come, while we stand and while we sing.