The Conversion of the Jews

The Conversion of the Jews

Is God done with physical Israel?

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Introduction

The reason for writing this actually has nothing to do with Israel, the conversion of the Jews or any end times thing at all. I am not a theologian with twelve degrees. I cannot make big, complicated arguments based on my training in the original languages. I'm just a graying mom who loves Jesus -- and I'm a student of God's Word. I love studying the Bible and learning about my Savior.

I wasn't raised in a Christian home. A friend from school invited me to her church when I was ten, and I went every week, even though it meant walking there. When I was 13, I asked to be baptized, and I was given a Bible - my first one! I can remember the day when my "head knowledge" about Jesus became "heart knowledge," and I realized for the first time how much Jesus loved me. I saw that it was MY sins that held Jesus to the cross. He died for the whole world, but He would have done it just for me.

When someone loves you that much, it makes everything He has to say precious. The Bible isn't just about God, it is His very words, recorded for us. It doesn't contain His Word. It IS His Word. And I find it fascinating.

The more I study, the more I discover. Every part of it is for a reason. Even little children probably know some of the things I found at first, but to me they were exciting - like the first time I connected the rules for the Passover to Jesus, "the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world."

My approach to God's Word is pretty simple - I read it and believe it. Of course there are things I don't understand, but overall, it makes sense. It all hangs together, with even the littlest details being part of the picture. I never treated the Old Testament and New Testament differently. It's all God's Word. After all, what was Jesus talking about when He said, "Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God"? The ultimate author is the same for both, and He doesn't change.

The way I read the Bible was never a problem until fairly recently. The Lutheran church I had been in never discussed end times at all (or much of anything else, for that matter). In 1996, my husband and I joined a more conservative Lutheran church and went through a class with the pastor. To my surprise, I found that they held different views on end times than it seemed like I had read in the Bible. In general, I was thrilled with the church. Unlike our old Lutheran church, they talked about Jesus! They talked about sin! They talked about salvation!

This end time thing, though, was very confusing to me. It took a number of years of studying Lutheran materials before I understood what they were even saying. In every other area, the emphasis was on what the Bible actually said. Creation, homosexuality, the Lord's Supper and other issues were all taught based on the actual words God used in talking about them. However, everything dealing with prophecy had different rules of interpretation.

Over time, I learned that the Lutheran church was amillennial and primarily historicist in their view of end times. That is, they believe that there is no "millennium" with an earthly reign of Christ to come and most prophecy has either been fulfilled, or is viewed as a picture of the age-old struggle of Satan against the church. God is done with physical Israel as any special part of His plan, and there will never be a mass conversion of the Jews.

There are many other aspects of the Lutheran variety of amillennialism, but it was that last part that became my biggest stumbling block to adopting the Lutheran view - the conversion of the Jews. There are plenty of things that I'm willing to just wait and see about, but to me, this seemed like a direct contradiction of a major portion of the Bible.

The rest of this will be about that conversion, but that's not why my heart hurts. My heart hurts because I have always believed I could simply take God at His word. He is my heavenly father, and I have believed I can trust Him and what He has to say. Right now, it seems that in order to adopt my church's view, I have to change that view of God's Word. Worse, I have to change my concept of God Himself. I wish I could adequately communicate the degree of pain this causes me. It's so hard for me to accept that things God seems to have said very clearly don't mean those things at all. Things He said were forever aren't forever. Honestly, to me, this seems no better than a politician making campaign promises, and then after being elected, explaining what he REALLY meant.

I hope you can understand what I'm saying here. The confessional Lutheran church would never, ever say I couldn't take God at His word. That's what the Lutheran church is built on, after all! It's just when you get to the nitty gritty of specific verses, that no longer seems true. Zechariah 14 is a perfect example. What it seems to say seems very clear, yet it can't possibly mean that. I have even heard a Lutheran pastor say, "What you need to understand, people, is that with all the apocalyptic books of the Bible (he was going through Ezekiel), the symbolism is far more important than what it actually says." Why?????

I'm not the only one that feels this way. Because I have a web site that discusses some of these issues, I get letters from other people going through exactly the same thing. One Michigan woman wrote, "If God does not say what He means and mean what He says, then there is no Truth. And God is Truth. Simply put, if He doesn't say what He means and mean what He says, then how can I believe anything in the Bible? It all becomes meaningless and subject to man's own interpretations. If I can't believe the Bible, then I can't believe in God!"

If you haven't felt that yourself, it must be so hard to understand that pain. And, if you're a pastor, reading this, I know you just want to feed your sheep and see them safely home. You have put your heart and soul into bringing God's truths to your people. How in the world are you supposed to react to people like me? I don't know. I wish I had answers. All I know, is that my heart hurts. It seems like God is saying one thing in His word, you're telling me something else. How am I supposed to choose? How did I wind up between the pastors that I love and trust and God?

So, I thought I would write it all down. Maybe, if I just put down what the Bible seems to say very clearly, someone will show me where I've gone wrong. Or else, perhaps you'd see that it means what it says after all? I'm not out to fight any battles. I just want you to see what God says about the conversion of the Jews.

 

The Lutheran view

Not all that is called Israel is true Israel. There is a remnant in every age that will believe. Jews are coming to faith in the same way that Gentiles are - through the work of the Holy Spirit. This began at the time of Jesus' first coming and will continue to the end. There will never be a national "conversion of the Jews."

Missouri Synod statement From the link: Over against this, Scripture clearly teaches, and we teach accordingly . . . that there will be no general conversion, a conversion en masse, of the Jewish nation, Rom. 11:7; 2 Cor. 3:14; Rom. 11:25; 1 Thess. 2:16.

 

Wisconsin Synod statement From the link: We reject as unscriptural any claim that . . . all the Jews will be converted in the final days.

Related articles from the Wisconsin Synod:

http://www.wls.wels.net/library/Essays/Authors/M/MuetzelRomans/MuetzelRomans.htm

http://www.wls.wels.net/library/Essays/Authors/G/GawrischEschatological/GawrischEschatological.htm

 

There are other confessional Lutheran resources on the Internet regarding the conversion of the Jews, but they don't seem to differ substantially from the articles posted above. 

While most confessional Lutherans reject the idea, there are certainly amillennialists who see a future conversion of the Jews, both today and in the past. Augustine, the first to write extensively on amillennialism, did in the fourth century. He said, quoting Matthew 23:39 "For I say to you, you shall not see Me henceforth till you say: Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord. Therefore, the conversion of the Jews must, for the exact fulfillment of the words of Our Lord, also precede the Second Coming of Our Lord."

Even Martin Luther originally saw a future conversion of the Jews. You can see that in his commentary on Romans, especially when he discusses Romans 11. As time went on, he turned against the idea, and rejecting a national conversion became the traditional position of the Lutheran church, but there are still Lutherans today who see a coming conversion.

 

Will there be a mass conversion of the Jews? What the Bible says. . .

No one denies that there has been a remnant of Jews in every generation saved through the work of the Holy Spirit. And, no one can deny that God, in His mercy, has probably brought many a hardened Jew to faith in Jesus as his savior. However, the corporate blindness/hardening of the Jews as a people still exists. Yet, the Bible does seem to say that there will come a time when that blindness is removed, and the Jews that God leaves alive will believe. It won't be a different belief - it will still be a belief in Jesus as the Messiah who takes away the sins of the world, but I am talking mass conversion.

There will be no fancy arguments here - just Scripture. God Himself can tell this much better than I can.

One of the key verses is from Romans. It means more if you read some of what's around it, though, so here is all of Romans 11. This is from the NIV, © Copyright 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. It would be helpful to you to read chapters 9 & 10, also. I will also occasionally use the King James version, as some of the passages are actually clearer and the Strongs Concordance numbers are helpful.

Romans 11

The Remnant of Israel

1I ask then: Did God reject his people? By no means! I am an Israelite myself, a descendant of Abraham, from the tribe of Benjamin. 2God did not reject his people, whom he foreknew. Don't you know what the Scripture says in the passage about Elijah--how he appealed to God against Israel: 3"Lord, they have killed your prophets and torn down your altars; I am the only one left, and they are trying to kill me"[1] ? 4And what was God's answer to him? "I have reserved for myself seven thousand who have not bowed the knee to Baal."[2] 5So too, at the present time there is a remnant chosen by grace. 6And if by grace, then it is no longer by works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace.[3]
7What then? What Israel sought so earnestly it did not obtain, but the elect did. The others were hardened, 8as it is written:
"God gave them a spirit of stupor,
eyes so that they could not see
and ears so that they could not hear,
to this very day."[4] 9And David says:
"May their table become a snare and a trap,
a stumbling block and a retribution for them.
10May their eyes be darkened so they cannot see,
and their backs be bent forever."[5]

Ingrafted Branches

11Again I ask: Did they stumble so as to fall beyond recovery? Not at all! Rather, because of their transgression, salvation has come to the Gentiles to make Israel envious. 12But if their transgression means riches for the world, and their loss means riches for the Gentiles, how much greater riches will their fullness bring!
13I am talking to you Gentiles. Inasmuch as I am the apostle to the Gentiles, I make much of my ministry 14in the hope that I may somehow arouse my own people to envy and save some of them. 15For if their rejection is the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead? 16If the part of the dough offered as firstfruits is holy, then the whole batch is holy; if the root is holy, so are the branches.
17If some of the branches have been broken off, and you, though a wild olive shoot, have been grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing sap from the olive root, 18do not boast over those branches. If you do, consider this: You do not support the root, but the root supports you. 19You will say then, "Branches were broken off so that I could be grafted in." 20Granted. But they were broken off because of unbelief, and you stand by faith. Do not be arrogant, but be afraid. 21For if God did not spare the natural branches, he will not spare you either.
22Consider therefore the kindness and sternness of God: sternness to those who fell, but kindness to you, provided that you continue in his kindness. Otherwise, you also will be cut off. 23And if they do not persist in unbelief, they will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again. 24After all, if you were cut out of an olive tree that is wild by nature, and contrary to nature were grafted into a cultivated olive tree, how much more readily will these, the natural branches, be grafted into their own olive tree!

All Israel Will Be Saved

25I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers, so that you may not be conceited: Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in. 26And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written:
"The deliverer will come from Zion;
he will turn godlessness away from Jacob.
27And this is[6] my covenant with them
when I take away their sins."[7]
28As far as the gospel is concerned, they are enemies on your account; but as far as election is concerned, they are loved on account of the patriarchs, 29for God's gifts and his call are irrevocable. 30Just as you who were at one time disobedient to God have now received mercy as a result of their disobedience, 31so they too have now become disobedient in order that they too may now[8] receive mercy as a result of God's mercy to you. 32For God has bound all men over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them all.

Doxology

33Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and[9] knowledge of God!
How unsearchable his judgments,
and his paths beyond tracing out!
34"Who has known the mind of the Lord?
Or who has been his counselor?"[10]
35"Who has ever given to God,
that God should repay him?"[11]
36For from him and through him and to him are all things.
To him be the glory forever! Amen.

Footnotes

  1. 11:3 1 Kings 19:10,14
  2. 11:4 1 Kings 19:18
  3. 11:6 Some manuscripts by grace. But if by works, then it is no longer grace; if it were, work would no longer be work.
  4. 11:8 Deut. 29:4; Isaiah 29:10
  5. 11:10 Psalm 69:22,23
  6. 11:27 Or will be
  7. 11:27 Isaiah 59:20,21; 27:9; Jer. 31:33,34
  8. 11:31 Some manuscripts do not have now.
  9. 11:33 Or riches and the wisdom and the
  10. 11:34 Isaiah 40:13
  11. 11:35 Job 41:11

 

There are many different views on this chapter, but before going into any of those, I'd like to go through and establish some of what this chapter seems to be saying.

First, in verses 1-6, Paul makes sure we understand that there is a faithful remnant within physical Israel, chosen by grace: 5So too, at the present time there is a remnant chosen by grace. He, himself, is part of that remnant. He calls that remnant the "elect." The remnant has not been rejected by God.

In verse seven, he goes on: 7What then? What Israel sought so earnestly it did not obtain, but the elect did. The others were hardened. So, physical Israel sought earnestly to obtain God's favor through their works (see the previous chapters), but rejected the only means of obtaining the kingdom - salvation through faith in Jesus. The elect, like Paul - the remnant - obtained it, but the rest didn't and were hardened (blinded in the King James): The others were hardened.

Several aspects of this "hardening" or "blindness" as in the King James version, are brought out in this chapter. In fact, several things seem clear about the blinding:

  1. It involves physical Israel. (And with their rejection, Gentiles can be grafted in)
  2. It is corporate, but still only partial. (The remnant is not rejected)
  3. It is for a set amount of time (until the fullness of the Gentiles come in). Whether that means "forever" depends on your view of what the "fullness of the Gentiles" means, but I think we can all agree that it continues until that fullness, and it is still in place today.
  4. It is supernatural. Yes, they brought it on themselves by their unbelief - just as Pharaoh brought God's hardening upon himself by first hardening his own heart, but now, it is something that God has put upon them - for the express purpose of grafting in the Gentiles. It is something beyond simple unbelief.

 

Let's take these one at a time. First, the hardening/blinding involves physical Israel. There are all kinds of arguments about what 26And so all Israel will be saved means. Major space is devoted to debating whether "All Israel" is purely the physical descendants of Abraham or whether it's the church or whether it's something else. It appears to me that determining whether there is a conversion of the Jews or not doesn't hinge on that definition. The olive tree seems to symbolize the tree of the promised inheritance. It may not be entirely accurate, but for purposes of this discussion, let's take "all Israel" to mean those that wind up IN the olive tree, regardless of how they got there. As Gentiles, we have been grafted in (here in Romans 11), brought near (Eph. 2:13), and now share in the inheritance (Col. 1:12).

Regardless of who "All Israel" is in verse 26, the Israel of verse 25 still has to be physical Israel, since they're the ones who have been blinded. The church has not been blinded. The believing remnant of Jews are not blinded. Paul specifically says What Israel sought so earnestly it did not obtain, but the elect did. The others were hardened. All through this chapter, you can see that it is physical Israel that has been hardened and broken off the olive tree, but through that, the Gentiles could be grafted in. In nature, a branch has to be removed in order for another branch to be grafted in. God inspired Paul to make use of that illustration: "Branches were broken off so that I (Gentiles) could be grafted in."

You can see the same thing in these other verses:

12. . . their transgression means riches for the world, and their loss means riches for the Gentiles.

15. . .their rejection is the reconciliation of the world

The Book of Acts also speaks of this:

Acts 13:46 Then Paul and Barnabas answered them boldly: "We had to speak the word of God to you first. Since you reject it and do not consider yourselves worthy of eternal life, we now turn to the Gentiles.

This is saying that before the Gentiles could be grafted in, physical Israel had to be rejected. This was no surprise to God. He planned all along for the Gentiles to be offered salvation:

Isaiah 49:6 He says: "It is too small a thing for you to be my servant to restore the tribes of Jacob and bring back those of Israel I have kept. I will also make you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring my salvation to the ends of the earth."

But there was still a particular way that it had to happen:

Romans 1:16 I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile.

Second, the hardening/blinding is corporate. It involves the physical nation of Israel, that is, physical Jews or "Israel of the flesh." Jesus spoke of why it happened:

Luke 19 41As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it 42and said, "If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace--but now it is hidden from your eyes. 43The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side. 44They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God's coming to you."

However, it is still only partial. The remnant was NOT blinded. Again, Paul specifically tells us that:

7What then? What Israel sought so earnestly it did not obtain, but the elect did. The others were hardened.

Third, it is for a set amount of time - until the full number of the Gentiles has come in: 25Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in. What God, in His mercy, does with individuals does not matter. Corporately, the hardening/blinding continues, and will remain in place until the full number of Gentiles comes in. Does that mean forever? For now, we can at least agree that the text explicitly says that the hardening continues until the full number of Gentiles have been grafted in.

Fourth, it is supernatural. They hardened their own hearts first, but when they did that, God also hardened/blinded them. This blinding is way beyond simple unbelief. I'm going to switch to the King James version, so I can make use of the Strongs Concordance numbers.

Rom 11:7 What then? Israel hath not obtained that which he seeketh for; but the election hath obtained it, and the rest were blinded

Rom 11:8 According as it is written, God hath given them the spirit of slumber [2659], eyes that they should not see, and ears that they should not hear unto this day

In verse eight, God gives "them" (those that were blinded) the "spirit of slumber". The word translated "spirit of slumber" is Strongs word #2659, katanuxis:

2659 katanuxis {kat-an'-oox-is} from 2660

1) a pricking, piercing
2) severe sorrow, extreme grief
3) insensibility or torpor of mind, such as extreme grief easily produces
3a) hence a "spirit of stupor", which renders their souls torpid
so insensible that they are not affected at all by the offer
made them of salvation through the Messiah


That was actually a quote from Isaiah 29:10:

Isa 29:10 For the LORD hath poured out upon you the spirit of deep sleep [08639], and hath closed your eyes: the prophets and your rulers, the seers hath he covered.

The "spirit of deep sleep" in Hebrew:

08639 tardemah {tar-day-maw'} from 07290

1) deep sleep, trance

It's used in verses like these:

Gen 2:21 And the LORD God caused a deep sleep [08639] to fall upon Adam,

Gen 15:12 And when the sun was going down, a deep sleep [08639] fell upon Abram; and, lo, an horror of great darkness fell upon him.

1Sa 26:12 So David took the spear and the cruse of water from Saul's bolster; and they gat them away, and no man saw [it], nor knew [it], neither awaked: for they [were] all asleep; because a deep sleep [08639] from the LORD was fallen upon them.

In every case, the slumber was from the Lord, and the people involved couldn't do anything about it if they tried.

The other quote Paul uses is similar:

Rom 11:10 Let their eyes be darkened [4654], that they may not see, and bow down their back alway.

4654 skotizo {skot-id-zo} from 4655

1) to cover with darkness, to darken
2) to be covered with darkness, be darkened
2a) of heavenly bodies as deprived of light
2b) metaph.
2b1) of the eyes
2b2) of the understanding
2b3) of the mind

Rom 1:21 Because that, when they knew God, they glorified [him] not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened [4654] (5681).

Eph 4:18 Having the understanding darkened [4654], being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness [4457] of their heart

That "blindness" of Eph 4:18 is the same as here:

Rom 11:25 For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness [4457] in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in.

4457 porosis {po'-ro-sis} from 4456 (see below)
AV - blindness 2, hardness 1; 3

1) the covering with a callus
2) obtrusiveness of mental discernment, dulled perception
3) the mind of one has been blunted
3a) of stubbornness, obduracy

4456 poroo {po-ro'-o}
apparently from poros (a kind of stone);
AV - harden 3, blind 2; 5

1) to cover with a thick skin, to harden by covering with a callus
2) metaph.
2a) to make the heart dull
2b) to grow hard, callous, become dull, lose the power of understanding

You can see that here:

Jhn 12:40 He hath blinded their eyes, and hardened[4456] their heart; that they should not see with eyes, nor understand with [their] heart, and be converted, and I should heal them.

Here is that verse in context:

Jhn 12:37 But though he had done so many miracles before them, yet they believed not on him:
Jhn 12:38 That the saying of Esaias the prophet might be fulfilled, which he spake, Lord, who hath believed our report? and to whom hath the arm of the Lord been revealed?
Jhn 12:39 Therefore they could not believe, because that Esaias said again,
Jhn 12:40 He hath blinded their eyes, and hardened their heart; that they should not see with [their] eyes, nor understand with [their] heart, and be converted, and I should heal them.

Let's look at that more closely:

Jhn 12:39 Therefore they could not [3756] believe, because that Esaias said again,

According to the Strongs on that word "not", [3756], the Greek word "ou" is an absolute negative.

So, from all this, it seems apparent to me that the hardening (brought on by their own unbelief, yes) is not simply normal unbelief, but a supernatural thing that they can do nothing about on their own.

Exd 7:13 And he hardened Pharaoh's heart, that he hearkened not unto them; as the LORD had said.

God hardened Pharaoah's heart (who hardened his own heart first), so that he COULD NOT TURN BACK but HAD to fulfill what God intended.

This is something that God has brought about, and until God removes it, they CAN'T believe. 2 Corinthians shows that they can't understand their own Scriptures until they're believers:

2 Corinthians 3 (NIV)
14But their minds were made dull, for to this day the same veil remains when the old covenant is read. It has not been removed, because only in Christ is it taken away. 15Even to this day when Moses is read, a veil covers their hearts.

So, it doesn't matter what God decides in individual cases - the corporate blindness is still in place. The various articles written on this subject go into great detail about what "all Israel" means, and makes an issue of the "and so" of Romans 11:26, saying it really means "in this way."

Romans 11
25I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers, so that you may not be conceited: Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in. 26And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written: "The deliverer will come from Zion; he will turn godlessness away from Jacob."

I believe that neither point is essential in this case. All the arguments really come down to one thing. We know the hardening/blindness continues until the full number of Gentiles comes in. The real question is: Is the blindness removed corporately at that point or not? Does Scripture teach that or not?

 

Is the blindness ever removed corporately?

This whole issue would never have been an issue at all to me if the Bible didn't teach it so clearly. I believe it is one of the dominant themes of Scripture, especially in the Old Testament. That's why it became so important to me. However, as most Christians will look for verification in the New Testament, that's the place to start.

There are few people who would disagree that Gentiles will continue to be saved (come in) right up to the time of Jesus' second coming. Therefore, if the blindness is removed corporately at all, it must happen at the time of Jesus' coming in glory. The first place you see that in the New Testament is in Matthew:

Matthew 23
37"O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing. 38Look, your house is left to you desolate. 39For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, 'Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.'[1] " (1. Psalm 118:26 )

Who is being spoken of? This has to be physical Israel - "you who kill the prophets." What does Jesus tell them? "For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, 'Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord'" We've already established physical Israel (the ones that killed the prophets) as the hardened/blinded Jews. When hardened/blinded Israel sees Jesus again, they will say, "Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord," the words from Psalm 118 about the Messiah. A couple of days earlier, Jesus had entered Jerusalem with the same words ringing out:

Matthew 21
9The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted,
"Hosanna to the Son of David!"
"Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!"
"Hosanna in the highest!"

You can see in Luke, that those shouting were actually his disciples, the ones who recognized him as the Messiah:

Luke 19
37When he came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen:
38"Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!"[
1]
"Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!"

That was the day when Jesus specifically arranged to fulfill the prophecy from Zechariah, showing himself to be their king.

Zechariah 9:9
Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion! Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

By their quoting of the Messianic words from Psalm 118, the disciples displayed their acceptance of him as their Messiah. By quoting the same words at his return, physical Israel will acknowledge the same thing. This Jesus is their long-awaited Messiah, righteous and having salvation. I see no other explanation for Matthew 23:39. These were not believers that Jesus was talking to. He was speaking to "you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you."

There is a somewhat parallel passage in Hosea:

Hosea 5
15 Then I will go back to my place
until they admit their guilt.
And they will seek my face;
in their misery they will earnestly seek me.

It is obviously the Lord speaking. What is he going to do? "I will go back to my place." When is he going to return? When "they admit their guilt." What guilt was that? Luke 19 told us: "you did not recognize the time of God's coming to you." Their guilt was their rejection of Jesus as their Messiah, their savior. Romans 11 told us the same thing. So, at the time of the Lord's return, physical Israel will admit their guilt. That's what the verse says!

Towards the end of Romans 11, Paul includes a quote from Isaiah:

Romans 11

25I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers, so that you may not be conceited: Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in. 26And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written:
"The deliverer will come from Zion;
he will turn godlessness away from Jacob.
27And this is my covenant with them
when I take away their sins."

This is a quote from Isaiah 59:

Isaiah 59

20 "The Redeemer will come to Zion,
to those in Jacob who repent of their sins,"
declares the LORD .

Do you see the similarity to Hosea 5:15? If you look at the entire chapter, you can see the whole thing take place. First, God shows Israel His law in verses 59:1 to 59:8. Then, in verses 9-15, you can see where they admit their sinfulness. What happens next? The coming of the Lord! You can see that in verses 16-19. Then, you have the verse quoted in Romans 11:26. Take a look for yourself. My comments will be in red:

 

Isaiah 59
Sin, Confession and Redemption

1 Surely the arm of the LORD is not too short to save, Their sin, in verses 1-8
nor his ear too dull to hear.
2 But your iniquities have separated
you from your God;
your sins have hidden his face from you,
so that he will not hear.
3 For your hands are stained with blood,
your fingers with guilt.
Your lips have spoken lies,
and your tongue mutters wicked things.
4 No one calls for justice;
no one pleads his case with integrity.
They rely on empty arguments and speak lies;
they conceive trouble and give birth to evil.
5 They hatch the eggs of vipers
and spin a spider's web.
Whoever eats their eggs will die,
and when one is broken, an adder is hatched.
6 Their cobwebs are useless for clothing;
they cannot cover themselves with what they make.
Their deeds are evil deeds,
and acts of violence are in their hands.
7 Their feet rush into sin;
they are swift to shed innocent blood.
Their thoughts are evil thoughts;
ruin and destruction mark their ways.
8 The way of peace they do not know;
there is no justice in their paths.
They have turned them into crooked roads;
no one who walks in them will know peace.


9 So justice is far from us, Now, in verses 9-15, they admit their sin
and righteousness does not reach us.
We look for light, but all is darkness;
for brightness, but we walk in deep shadows.
10 Like the blind we grope along the wall,
feeling our way like men without eyes.
At midday we stumble as if it were twilight;
among the strong, we are like the dead.
11 We all growl like bears;
we moan mournfully like doves.
We look for justice, but find none;
for deliverance, but it is far away.

12 For our offenses are many in your sight,
and our sins testify against us
.
Our offenses are ever with us,
and we acknowledge our iniquities:
13 rebellion and treachery against the LORD ,
turning our backs on our God,
fomenting oppression and revolt,
uttering lies our hearts have conceived.
14 So justice is driven back,
and righteousness stands at a distance;
truth has stumbled in the streets,
honesty cannot enter.
15 Truth is nowhere to be found,
and whoever shuns evil becomes a prey.

The LORD looked and was displeased
that there was no justice.
16 He saw that there was no one,
he was appalled that there was no one to intervene;
so his own arm worked salvation for him,
and his own righteousness sustained him.
17 He put on righteousness as his breastplate,
and the helmet of salvation on his head;
he put on the garments of vengeance
Verses 17-18, the Lord's wrath poured out.
and wrapped himself in zeal as in a cloak.
This is not Jesus' first coming.
18 According to what they have done,
so will he repay
wrath to his enemies
and retribution to his foes;
he will repay the islands their due.
19 From the west, men will fear the name of the LORD ,
and from the rising of the sun, they will revere his glory.
For he will come like a pent-up flood
that the breath of the LORD drives along.

Compare verse 19 to Matthew 24:27,30:
Matthew 24
27For as lightning that comes from the east is visible even in the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. . . They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory.

20 "The Redeemer will come to Zion, Here's the quote from Romans. Note the position.
to those in Jacob who repent of their sins,"
declares the LORD .

21 "As for me, this is my covenant with them," says the LORD . "My Spirit, who is on you, and my words that I have put in your mouth will not depart from your mouth, or from the mouths of your children, or from the mouths of their descendants from this time on and forever," says the LORD .

Now, read verse 21 in the position that it is noted. The Lord comes to those that repent of their sins and AFTER that, He says His words will not depart from their mouths "this time on and forever."

When you see where the quote from Isaiah 59 comes in, you can see that it fits together perfectly. We expect Gentiles to be saved right up to the time Jesus returns, so that if the blinding/hardening is going to be removed, it happens immediately before Jesus returns.

Romans 11

25I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers, so that you may not be conceited: Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in. 26And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written:
"The deliverer will come from Zion;
he will turn godlessness away from Jacob.
27And this is my covenant with them
when I take away their sins."

You can see that it doesn't matter whether the "and so" means "in this way" or not. The result is the same: when Jesus returns, the Jews finally believe. This will be even clearer as we go on.

Paul also quotes from Isaiah in verse seven:

Romans 11

7What then? What Israel sought so earnestly it did not obtain, but the elect did. The others were hardened, 8as it is written:
"God gave them a spirit of stupor,
eyes so that they could not see
and ears so that they could not hear,
to this very day
."

This comes from Isaiah 29. Again, as we look at nearly the whole chapter, the pieces fit together. The Lord comes, and in that day, the blindness is removed. My comments will be in red.

Isaiah 29

5 But your many enemies will become like fine dust,
the ruthless hordes like blown chaff.
Suddenly, in an instant,
6 the LORD Almighty will come
with thunder and earthquake and great noise,
with windstorm and tempest and flames of a devouring fire
.
This is obviously the coming of the Lord.

7 Then the hordes of all the nations that fight against Ariel,
that attack her and her fortress and besiege her,
will be as it is with a dream,
with a vision in the night-
8 as when a hungry man dreams that he is eating,
but he awakens, and his hunger remains;
as when a thirsty man dreams that he is drinking,
but he awakens faint, with his thirst unquenched.
So will it be with the hordes of all the nations
that fight against Mount Zion.

9 Be stunned and amazed,
blind yourselves and be sightless;
be drunk, but not from wine,
stagger, but not from beer.
10 The LORD has brought over you a deep sleep:
Here is the quote.
He has sealed your eyes (the prophets);
he has covered your heads (the seers).

11 For you this whole vision is nothing but words sealed in a scroll. And if you give the scroll to someone who can read, and say to him, "Read this, please," he will answer, "I can't; it is sealed." 12 Or if you give the scroll to someone who cannot read, and say, "Read this, please," he will answer, "I don't know how to read."
You can see the spiritual blindness here.
13 The Lord says:
"These people come near to me with their mouth
and honor me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me.
Their worship of me
is made up only of rules taught by men
. [
2] Sounds like Judaism of today, doesn't it?
14 Therefore once more I will astound these people
with wonder upon wonder;
the wisdom of the wise will perish,
the intelligence of the intelligent will vanish."
15 Woe to those who go to great depths
to hide their plans from the LORD ,
who do their work in darkness and think,
"Who sees us? Who will know?"
16 You turn things upside down,
as if the potter were thought to be like the clay!
Shall what is formed say to him who formed it,
"He did not make me"?
Can the pot say of the potter,
"He knows nothing"?

17 In a very short time, will not Lebanon be turned into a fertile field
and the fertile field seem like a forest?
18 In that day the deaf will hear the words of the scroll,
and out of gloom and darkness
the eyes of the blind will see.

The blindness is removed "in that day." In what day? In the context, it seems to be the day that the "LORD Almighty will come with thunder and earthquake and great noise, with windstorm and tempest and flames of a devouring fire."

19 Once more the humble will rejoice in the LORD ;
the needy will rejoice in the Holy One of Israel.
20 The ruthless will vanish,
the mockers will disappear,
and all who have an eye for evil will be cut down-
21 those who with a word make a man out to be guilty,
who ensnare the defender in court
and with false testimony deprive the innocent of justice.
This would appear to be the time of worldwide judgment, making it even clearer that the day the blindness is removed is the day the Almighty comes with "thunder and earthquake and great noise."
22 Therefore this is what the LORD , who redeemed Abraham, says to the house of Jacob:
"No longer will Jacob be ashamed;
no longer will their faces grow pale.
23 When they see among them their children,
the work of my hands,
they will keep my name holy;
they will acknowledge the holiness of the Holy One of Jacob,
and will stand in awe of the God of Israel.
Note the position of this.
24 Those who are wayward in spirit will gain understanding;
those who complain will accept instruction."

 

I know that including all this Scripture makes this document very long. However, it is not my intent to "prove" my case using just a verse here or there. A clever person can pull things out of context and prove whatever she wants. Another reason is that single verses are often misunderstood. It would be easy to look at a single verse and say, "Well, that's referring to the return from the Babylonian captivity" or "That has do with tribulation through time" or whatever.

The Bible is filled with references to the conversion of Israel. For my purpose, however, I am limiting this to those passages where a time frame can be established. Since the conversion of the Jews happens at the time of Jesus' return, verses showing worldwide wrath being poured out by God will help pin down this time frame. It will also eliminate arguments that what is being discussed happened during Jesus' first coming.

So, with that in mind, let's jump to Jeremiah, chapters 30-31.

Jeremiah 30
Restoration of Israel

1 This is the word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD : 2 "This is what the LORD , the God of Israel, says: 'Write in a book all the words I have spoken to you. 3 The days are coming,' declares the LORD , 'when I will bring my people Israel and Judah back from captivity [1] and restore them to the land I gave their forefathers to possess,' says the LORD ." This sounds like the return from the Babylonian captivity, and certainly it was partially fulfilled then. However, when you get to verse seven, you can see that something in addition to that is going on here.
4 These are the words the LORD spoke concerning Israel and Judah: 5 "This is what the LORD says:

" 'Cries of fear are heard-
terror, not peace.
6 Ask and see:
Can a man bear children?
Then why do I see every strong man
with his hands on his stomach like a woman in labor,
every face turned deathly pale?
7 How awful that day will be!
None will be like it.
It will be a time of trouble for Jacob,
but he will be saved out of it.
Lutherans are not consistent in how they see passages like this one. Some say it was the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple by Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon. Others point to the time of "Jacob's Trouble" as taking place in 70 AD. Still others see it as tribulation through time for the Jews. Sometimes "Jacob's Trouble" is even seen as the struggle of Satan against the church.

Since "Scripture interprets Scripture," what does God say about it? Let's just compare what seem to be parallel passages.

Jeremiah 30:7 How awful that day will be! None will be like it. It will be a time of trouble for Jacob,
but he will be saved out of it.

Matthew 24:21 For then there will be great distress, unequaled from the beginning of the world until now--and never to be equaled again.

Daniel 12
1 "At that time Michael, the great prince who protects your people, will arise. There will be a time of distress such as has not happened from the beginning of nations until then. But at that time your people-everyone whose name is found written in the book-will be delivered. 2 Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt.

I am convinced that these three passages are all talking about the same thing - a time of trouble, unlike any other time. There was certainly trouble when Nebuchadnezzar invaded, but 70AD was worse. Over a million Jews died at that time. However, worse yet was the trouble for Jews under Hitler. One third of the world's Jewish population were killed in the time of WWII. These passages are talking about a time that will be even worse than that, if it's going to be unequaled from the beginning of the world and never to be equaled again. This has to be talking about the time of final wrath, and as you can see, the passage in Daniel specifically pins it down to that time.

8 " 'In that day,' declares the LORD Almighty, In that day just discussed - the time of final wrath!
'I will break the yoke off their necks
and will tear off their bonds;
no longer will foreigners enslave them.
9 Instead, they will serve the LORD their God
and David their king,
whom I will raise up for them
.
So, "they," the same called "Israel and Judah" and "Jacob", the same that are going to be restored to the land of their forefathers, are going to serve "the LORD their God" in the day of final wrath.

10 " 'So do not fear, O Jacob my servant;
do not be dismayed, O Israel,'
declares the LORD .
'I will surely save you out of a distant place,
your descendants from the land of their exile.
Jacob will again have peace and security,
and no one will make him afraid.
11 I am with you and will save you,'
declares the LORD .
'Though I completely destroy all the nations
among which I scatter you,
This, too, pins this to the day of wrath.
I will not completely destroy you.
I will discipline you but only with justice;
I will not let you go entirely unpunished.'

12 "This is what the LORD says:

" 'Your wound is incurable,
your injury beyond healing.
13 There is no one to plead your cause,
no remedy for your sore,
no healing for you.
14 All your allies have forgotten you;
they care nothing for you.
I have struck you as an enemy would
and punished you as would the cruel,
because your guilt is so great
and your sins so many.
Just in case there was any doubt that it is physical Israel being discussed, this makes it very clear. God would never do this to spiritual Israel. It also makes it clear that this is not Satan's struggle against the church. God Himself caused this - to turn physical Israel back to Himself.
15
Why do you cry out over your wound,
your pain that has no cure?
Because of your great guilt and many sins
I have done these things to you.


16 " 'But all who devour you will be devoured;
all your enemies will go into exile.
Those who plunder you will be plundered;
all who make spoil of you I will despoil.
17 But I will restore you to health
and heal your wounds,'
declares the LORD ,
'because you are called an outcast,
Zion for whom no one cares.'

18 "This is what the LORD says:

" 'I will restore the fortunes of Jacob's tents
and have compassion on his dwellings;
the city will be rebuilt on her ruins,
and the palace will stand in its proper place
.
Given what's been discussed above, when is this taking place?
19 From them will come songs of thanksgiving
and the sound of rejoicing.
I will add to their numbers,
and they will not be decreased;
I will bring them honor,
and they will not be disdained.
20 Their children will be as in days of old,
and their community will be established before me;
I will punish all who oppress them.
21 Their leader will be one of their own;
their ruler will arise from among them.
I will bring him near and he will come close to me,
for who is he who will devote himself
to be close to me?'
declares the LORD .
22 " 'So you will be my people,
and I will be your God.'
"

23 See, the storm of the LORD
will burst out in wrath,
a driving wind swirling down
on the heads of the wicked.
Now, talks about the day of wrath again. Note what comes next below.
24 The fierce anger of the LORD will not turn back
until he fully accomplishes
the purposes of his heart.
In days to come
you will understand this.

Footnotes

  1. 30:3 Or will restore the fortunes of my people Israel and Judah
  2. Jeremiah 31 is pretty long, so I won't include everything. But, please, read the whole thing to satisfy yourself that I'm not pulling anything out of context and making points I shouldn't.

    Jeremiah 31
    1 "At that time," declares the LORD , "I will be the God of all the clans of Israel, and they will be my people." At what time? Go back to the previous chapter. Remember, the Bible was not originally written with chapters and verses. Those were added later. Now, if you're not convinced about the parallel verses about the "Time of Jacob's Trouble," consider this. This verse refers back to Jeremiah 30:23 - "See, the storm of the LORD
    will burst out in wrath, a driving wind swirling down on the heads of the wicked."
    It says "at that time", the Lord will "be the God of all the clans of Israel." That would not be true if this was either the destruction of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar or by Titus in 70 AD. In the first case, they still had 70 years of captivity to go through. In the second, they were dispersed throughout the world for nearly 2000 years.

    2 This is what the LORD says:

    "The people who survive the sword
    will find favor in the desert;
    I will come to give rest to Israel."

    8 See, I will bring them from the land of the north
    and gather them from the ends of the earth
    .
    Again, given what's already been said, when is this taking place?
    Among them will be the blind and the lame,
    expectant mothers and women in labor;
    a great throng will return.
    9 They will come with weeping;
    they will pray as I bring them back.
    I will lead them beside streams of water
    on a level path where they will not stumble,
    because I am Israel's father,
    and Ephraim is my firstborn son.

    10 "Hear the word of the LORD , O nations;
    proclaim it in distant coastlands:
    'He who scattered Israel will gather them
    and will watch over his flock like a shepherd.'
    11 For the LORD will ransom Jacob
    and redeem them from the hand of those stronger than they.
    12 They will come and shout for joy on the heights of Zion;
    they will rejoice in the bounty of the LORD -
    the grain, the new wine and the oil,
    the young of the flocks and herds.
    They will be like a well-watered garden,
    and they will sorrow no more.
    This has yet to happen, no matter who you're talking about.
    13 Then maidens will dance and be glad,
    young men and old as well.
    I will turn their mourning into gladness;
    I will give them comfort and joy instead of sorrow.
    14 I will satisfy the priests with abundance,
    and my people will be filled with my bounty,"
    declares the LORD .

    27 "The days are coming," declares the LORD , "when I will plant the house of Israel and the house of Judah with the offspring of men and of animals. 28 Just as I watched over them to uproot and tear down, and to overthrow, destroy and bring disaster, so I will watch over them to build and to plant," declares the LORD . 29 "In those days people will no longer say,
    Why is the point made about animals? Could it be so that don't take this any other way than its plain sense way? (This is not just picture language for heaven, in other words)

    'The fathers have eaten sour grapes,
    and the children's teeth are set on edge.'

    30 Instead, everyone will die for his own sin; whoever eats sour grapes-his own teeth will be set on edge.

    31 "The time is coming," declares the LORD ,
    "when I will make a new covenant
    with the house of Israel
    and with the house of Judah.
    Now, it's clear that we are already beneficiaries of this New Covenant. Jesus came the first time for the express purpose of establishing it for us. We are saved by grace, not by works. We are not saved by keeping the law. This "New Covenant" WAS offered to the Jews at Jesus' first coming, but the majority of them rejected it, and they were hardened/blinded as a consequence. In keeping with the full context of these two chapters, you need to decide for yourself whether this verse and those following are ONLY about Jesus' first coming. I could pull this little section out separately and make that case, but in the full context here, doesn't this mean something in addition to that?

    32 It will not be like the covenant
    I made with their forefathers
    when I took them by the hand
    to lead them out of Egypt,
    because they broke my covenant,
    though I was a husband to [
    4] them, [5] "
    declares the LORD .
    33 "This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel
    after that time
    ," declares the LORD .
    After what time? If the wrath referred to above is the destruction by Nebuchadnezzar, they still had 500 years to wait until Jesus' first coming.
    "I will put my law in their minds
    and write it on their hearts.
    I will be their God,
    and they will be my people.
    34 No longer will a man teach his neighbor,
    or a man his brother, saying, 'Know the LORD ,'

    because they will all know me,
    Please note the "all" here
    from the least of them to the greatest,"
    declares the LORD .
    Because these verses are quoted in Hebrews, this is supposed to mean that all those with the Holy Spirit will know the Lord, from the least to the greatest, and that this took place beginning at Pentecost. Please think that through carefully, though. If the "all" refers to all those with the Holy Spirit, then this is saying that "All those that know the Lord will know the Lord." To put it in other terms, you could say "All those that live in Chicago live in Chicago."

    I think we get caught up in the words and kind of lose what's being said. I'll put it into goofy terms and see if that makes it clearer:

    No longer will a man say to his neighbor or his brother, "Wear a striped hat," because they will all be wearing striped hats, from the toddlers to the grandpas.

    In my goofy example, there's no one left who isn't wearing a striped hat. Everybody - the brothers, the neighbors, the children, the old - they're all wearing striped hats. If the "all" in this case referred to only those wearing a striped hat, but there were others who didn't have a striped hat, then this would essentially be saying, "Those with striped hats are wearing striped hats," which would be a total waste of words. In my reading of the Bible, I don't find God wasting words over things.


    "For I will forgive their wickedness
    and will remember their sins no more."

    35 This is what the LORD says,
    he who appoints the sun
    to shine by day,
    who decrees the moon and stars
    to shine by night,
    who stirs up the sea
    so that its waves roar-
    the LORD Almighty is his name:
    36 "Only if these decrees vanish from my sight,"
    declares the LORD ,
    "will the descendants of Israel ever cease
    to be a nation before me."

    37 This is what the LORD says:
    "Only if the heavens above can be measured
    and the foundations of the earth below be searched out
    will I reject all the descendants of Israel
    because of all they have done,"
    declares the LORD .

    38 "The days are coming," declares the LORD , "when this city will be rebuilt for me from the Tower of Hananel to the Corner Gate. 39 The measuring line will stretch from there straight to the hill of Gareb and then turn to Goah. 40 The whole valley where dead bodies and ashes are thrown, and all the terraces out to the Kidron Valley on the east as far as the corner of the Horse Gate, will be holy to the LORD . The city will never again be uprooted or demolished."
    This is one of those places when God is either saying what He means or He isn't. If plain words have meaning, then this is physical Jerusalem, not the New Jerusalem to come. This is a physical city, not a mystical way of saying "church." I believe that one of the reasons that God includes things like "The whole valley where dead bodies and ashes are thrown" is to eliminate that understanding.

    When someone insists that this whole section is discussing the church and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit of all believers, and that this was fully fulfilled at Jesus' first coming, my mind and spirit just can't handle it. Does God say what He means or not? If the passage in Hebrews is supposed to change the interpretation of this, then why did God say it in the first place? If "The whole valley where dead bodies and ashes are thrown, and all the terraces out to the Kidron Valley on the east as far as the corner of the Horse Gate, will be holy to the LORD" is "picture language" for spiritual truths, how can any regular person expect to understand the Bible? And, if we must depend on our leaders' interpretations, how do we know they're right? Is that really the way God would talk to His people? If my father said to me, "I'm going to plant a garden in the place where we've been throwing our garbage over by the garage" then I would expect a garden, over by the garage. If he really meant something spiritual, but never said so, I think I'd have every right to be confused!

    If plain words mean anything, then this is the physical city of Jerusalem being discussed. If it is the physical city of Jerusalem, this has to take place after 70 AD. If this is taking place after 70 AD, then something in addition to the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost is meant by verses 31 to 34.

    Footnotes

  3. 31:3 Or LORD has appeared to us from afar
  4. 31:22 Or will go about seeking ; or will protect
  5. 31:23 Or I restore their fortunes
  6. 31:32 Hebrew; Septuagint and Syriac / and I turned away from
  7. 31:32 Or was their master

 

You'll find the same kind of thing repeated in Zechariah: 

Zechariah 12
Jerusalem's Enemies to Be Destroyed
1 An Oracle
This is the word of the LORD concerning Israel. The LORD , who stretches out the heavens, who lays the foundation of the earth, and who forms the spirit of man within him, declares: 2 "I am going to make Jerusalem a cup that sends all the surrounding peoples reeling. Judah will be besieged as well as Jerusalem. 3 On that day, when all the nations of the earth are gathered against her, I will make Jerusalem an immovable rock for all the nations. All who try to move it will injure themselves. 4 On that day I will strike every horse with panic and its rider with madness," declares the LORD . "I will keep a watchful eye over the house of Judah, but I will blind all the horses of the nations. 5 Then the leaders of Judah will say in their hearts, 'The people of Jerusalem are strong, because the LORD Almighty is their God.'
6 "On that day I will make the leaders of Judah like a firepot in a woodpile, like a flaming torch among sheaves. They will consume right and left all the surrounding peoples, but Jerusalem will remain intact in her place.
7 "The LORD will save the dwellings of Judah first, so that the honor of the house of David and of Jerusalem's inhabitants may not be greater than that of Judah. 8 On that day the LORD will shield those who live in Jerusalem, so that the feeblest among them will be like David, and the house of David will be like God, like the Angel of the LORD going before them. 9 On that day I will set out to destroy all the nations that attack Jerusalem.
These two verses that I've underlined once again set the time frame. What day will God destroy all the nations that attack Jerusalem? Regardless of your perspective of whether the nations have physically gathered against the physical city of Jerusalem (as a plain sense reading would imply) or whether this is a spiritual thing, the only time God destroys all the nations that attack Jerusalem is during his final wrath.

Mourning for the One They Pierced
10 "And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit [1] of grace and supplication. When is this happening? On the day He sets out to destroy all the nations. This seems to be when the blindness is removed. They will look on [2] me, the one they have pierced, and they will mourn for him as one mourns for an only child, and grieve bitterly for him as one grieves for a firstborn son. 11 On that day the weeping in Jerusalem will be great, like the weeping of Hadad Rimmon in the plain of Megiddo. 12 The land will mourn, each clan by itself, with their wives by themselves: the clan of the house of David and their wives, the clan of the house of Nathan and their wives, 13 the clan of the house of Levi and their wives, the clan of Shimei and their wives, 14 and all the rest of the clans and their wives. There are many who try to put this into the time of Jesus' crucifixion. They point to these verses as evidence:

John 19
36These things happened so that the scripture would be fulfilled: "Not one of his bones will be broken," 37and, as another scripture says, "They will look on the one they have pierced."

There are several problems with that. Certainly, the "pierced" part of that has been fulfilled, but this portion of Zechariah is what is being quoted. First, we saw that verse nine has to do with the final wrath. Second, when did the clans of Israel mourn for Jesus during his crucifixion? Why does God go to such detail here? Why mention the "clan of David and their wives," the clans of Nathan, Levi, Shemei and all their wives? What is the point? I believe it is to prevent just such an interpretation. This hasn't happened, yet.

This is not Jesus' first coming. He did not set out to destroy the nations that time. That time, He came as the lamb, not the lion. Neither did the clans mourn that day. The only ones that mourned were the disciples. The other two places that talk about the mourning are both second coming:

Matthew 24:30

At that time the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and all the nations of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory.

That word translated "nations" is actually "tribes." It is the same word used in Revelation 7 when speaking of the "tribe" of Judah, the "tribe" of Reuben, and so on.

Rev. 1: 7

Look, he is coming with the clouds,
and every eye will see him,
even those who pierced him;
and all the peoples
(again, the Greek is "tribes") of the earth will mourn because of him.

Some have tried to say that they are mourning because of their impending judgment and doom, but you can see that that makes no sense. They are not mourning for themselves, but for "him as one mourns for an only child, and grieve bitterly for him as one grieves for a firstborn son." This is Godly, repentant mourning, a recognition that they, as Jews, killed their own Messiah, the one who came to save them from their sins. They may also realize what the full scope of what they, as a people, had done:

Matthew 27:25
All the people answered, "Let his blood be on us and on our children!"

This goes right into the next chapter:

Zechariah 13
Cleansing From Sin
1 "On that day a fountain will be opened to the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, to cleanse them from sin and impurity. On what day? The day they look on Jesus and mourn. 2 "On that day, I will banish the names of the idols from the land, and they will be remembered no more," declares the LORD Almighty. "I will remove both the prophets and the spirit of impurity from the land. 3 And if anyone still prophesies, his father and mother, to whom he was born, will say to him, 'You must die, because you have told lies in the LORD's name.' When he prophesies, his own parents will stab him. Again, if plain words mean anything, this can't have happened at Jesus' first coming, or the Apostle John would have been in big trouble for writing the Book of Revelation.

 

Amos 9
Israel to Be Destroyed

1 I saw the Lord standing by the altar, and he said:

"Strike the tops of the pillars
so that the thresholds shake.
Bring them down on the heads of all the people;
those who are left I will kill with the sword.
Not one will get away,
none will escape.
2 Though they dig down to the depths of the grave, [
1]
from there my hand will take them.
Though they climb up to the heavens,
from there I will bring them down.
3 Though they hide themselves on the top of Carmel,
there I will hunt them down and seize them.
Though they hide from me at the bottom of the sea,
there I will command the serpent to bite them.
4 Though they are driven into exile by their enemies,
there I will command the sword to slay them.
I will fix my eyes upon them
for evil and not for good."

5 The Lord, the LORD Almighty,
he who touches the earth and it melts,

and all who live in it mourn-
the whole land rises like the Nile,
then sinks like the river of Egypt-
6 he who builds his lofty palace [
2] in the heavens
and sets its foundation [
3] on the earth,
who calls for the waters of the sea
and pours them out over the face of the land-
the LORD is his name.

7 "Are not you Israelites
the same to me as the Cushites [
4] ?"
declares the LORD .
"Did I not bring Israel up from Egypt,
the Philistines from Caphtor [
5]
and the Arameans from Kir?

8 "Surely the eyes of the Sovereign LORD
are on the sinful kingdom.
I will destroy it
from the face of the earth-
When will God destroy the "sinful kingdom" from the face of the earth?
yet I will not totally destroy
the house of Jacob,"
declares the LORD .
9 "For I will give the command,
and I will shake the house of Israel
among all the nations
as grain is shaken in a sieve,
and not a pebble will reach the ground.
10 All the sinners among my people
will die by the sword,
all those who say,
'Disaster will not overtake or meet us.'
The "my people" here obviously refers to physical Israel, not the church. "All the sinners among my people will die" - when is this taking place? Note what comes next.

Israel's Restoration
11 "In that day I will restore
David's fallen tent.
In what day? The day "all the sinners among my people will die" and the day the Lord destroys the sinful kingdom from the face of the earth. Was that at the time of the destruction of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar? No - they had 70 years of captivity to look forward to, and even after they DID return, they never possessed the "remnant of Edom" and the nations. What about 70 AD? They had 2,000 years of dispersal to the nations after that!
I will repair its broken places,
restore its ruins,
and build it as it used to be,
12 so that they may possess the remnant of Edom
and all the nations that bear my name,
[
6] "
declares the LORD , who will do these things.
So, when are the events described here taking place? Compare how Acts 15 renders this section:

Acts 15

16" 'After this I will return
and rebuild David's fallen tent
.
Its ruins I will rebuild,
and I will restore it,
17that the remnant of men may seek the Lord,
and all the Gentiles who bear my name,
says the Lord, who does these things'
18that have been known for ages.

All Scripture is inspired, so this is a perfectly legitimate way of quoting this part of Amos 9, even though he doesn't seem to be quoting even from the Septuagint. So, "After this I will return" would come right after "All the sinners among my people will die by the sword, all those who say, 'Disaster will not overtake or meet us." So, who is returning? Obviously Jesus, at his second coming. What will happen at his coming? He will "rebuild David's fallen tent." The sinners among His people will die, and after that, He will return. Compare that with these:

Zechariah 13

8 In the whole land," declares the LORD ,
"two-thirds will be struck down and perish;
yet one-third will be left in it.
9 This third I will bring into the fire;
I will refine them like silver
and test them like gold.
They will call on my name

and I will answer them;
I will say, 'They are my people,'
and they will say, 'The LORD is our God.' "

When has this ever happened in history? The 1/3 that is left will call on His name. If you make this stand for tribulation through time, the whole passage becomes meaningless. Besides, remember how Chapter 13 starts out:

Zechariah 13
1 "On that day a fountain will be opened to the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, to cleanse them from sin and impurity.

In order for this to be meaningful, the 2/3 will perish just before Jesus returns.

Isaiah 1
25 I will turn my hand against you;
I will thoroughly purge away your dross
and remove all your impurities
.
26 I will restore your judges as in days of old,
your counselors as at the beginning.
Afterward you will be called
the City of Righteousness,
the Faithful City
."

27 Zion will be redeemed with justice,
her penitent ones with righteousness.
28 But rebels and sinners will both be broken,
and those who forsake the LORD will perish.

Obviously, God is speaking to Jerusalem, physical Israel. You can tell that by reading the verses that come before this. This is not spiritual Jerusalem, because He calls it "harlot" in Isaiah 1:21, and you can't have it both ways. So when did God purge away the dross and afterwards Jerusalem was called the "City of Righteousness?" Not with the Babylonian captivity. Not at 70 AD. This is still to come.

Isaiah 3
13 The LORD takes his place in court;
he rises to judge the people
.
14 The LORD enters into judgment
against the elders and leaders of his people:

"It is you who have ruined my vineyard;
the plunder from the poor is in your houses.
Isaiah 4
2 In that day the Branch of the LORD will be beautiful and glorious, and the fruit of the land will be the pride and glory of the survivors in Israel. 3 Those who are left in Zion, who remain in Jerusalem, will be called holy, all who are recorded among the living in Jerusalem. 4 The Lord will wash away the filth of the women of Zion; he will cleanse the bloodstains from Jerusalem by a spirit [1] of judgment and a spirit [2] of fire. 5 Then the LORD will create over all of Mount Zion and over those who assemble there a cloud of smoke by day and a glow of flaming fire by night; over all the glory will be a canopy. 6 It will be a shelter and shade from the heat of the day, and a refuge and hiding place from the storm and rain.

To find the "in that day" of Isaiah 4:2, you have to back up to Isaiah 3:13-14, so I have included both. However, to satisfy yourself that I am not cheating, please go and read the whole thing. I've included a link to make that easier for you. In the day of judgment, the Lord will wash away the filth of Jerusalem with fire. Those who survive, who are among the living in Jerusalem, will be called holy. Afterwards there will be a shelter from heat and a refuge from storm, which should ring familiar to you.

When you put all this together, it is apparent that most of the Jews are going to die before Jesus returns. God will remove 2/3 of them, but those He leaves alive will repent of their sin. When God removes their blindness, they will finally believe in Jesus as their Savior.

There are many people who say that Amos 9 is fulfilled, because it is quoted in Acts 15, and that it was fulfilled at Jesus' first coming. However, there is a problem with that. If Amos 16-18 is referring to the New Testament period, and the coming of the Gentiles into the church at that time, then verse 10, "All the sinners among my people
will die by the sword"
must also be referring to that time period also.
You can't have it both ways.

Amos 9 (continued)
13 "The days are coming," declares the LORD ,
"when the reaper will be overtaken by the plowman
and the planter by the one treading grapes.
New wine will drip from the mountains
and flow from all the hills.
14 I will bring back my exiled [
7] people Israel;
they will rebuild the ruined cities and live in them.
They will plant vineyards and drink their wine;
they will make gardens and eat their fruit.
15 I will plant Israel in their own land,
never again to be uprooted
from the land I have given them,"

says the LORD your God.
Again, when is this talking about? If you take the plain words, it has to mean sometime after 70 AD. If you say this is a spiritual thing, then this whole chapter has to be a spiritual thing, and you're back with the problem of "All the sinners among my people will die by the sword." The only way this makes any sense is if this is taking place at the very end of the age, in the day of wrath.

 

So, what about Acts 15? How can it possibly be talking about something that happens just before Jesus returns? Let's take a look at that:

Acts 15
The Council at Jerusalem

5Then some of the believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees stood up and said, "The Gentiles must be circumcised and required to obey the law of Moses."
6The apostles and elders met to consider this question. 7After much discussion, Peter got up and addressed them: "Brothers, you know that some time ago God made a choice among you that the Gentiles might hear from my lips the message of the gospel and believe. 8God, who knows the heart, showed that he accepted them by giving the Holy Spirit to them, just as he did to us. 9He made no distinction between us and them, for he purified their hearts by faith. 10Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of the disciples a yoke that neither we nor our fathers have been able to bear? 11No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are."
12The whole assembly became silent as they listened to Barnabas and Paul telling about the miraculous signs and wonders God had done among the Gentiles through them. 13When they finished, James spoke up: "Brothers, listen to me. 14Simon has described to us how God at first showed his concern by taking from the Gentiles a people for himself. 15The words of the prophets are in agreement with this, as it is written:
16" 'After this I will return
and rebuild David's fallen tent.

Its ruins I will rebuild,
and I will restore it,
17that the remnant of men may seek the Lord,
and all the Gentiles who bear my name,
says the Lord, who does these things'[
2]
18that have been known for ages.[
3]
19"It is my judgment, therefore, that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God. 20Instead we should write to them, telling them to abstain from food polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from the meat of strangled animals and from blood. 21For Moses has been preached in every city from the earliest times and is read in the synagogues on every Sabbath."

James seems to be making his own translation here. It's not a quote from the original Hebrew nor the Greek Septuagint commonly used at that time. None of those say "After this I will return." We know that it is a legitimate translation, because all Scripture is inspired. Look carefully at the position of the quote. "God at first showed his concern by taking from the Gentiles a people for himself. . .After this I will return."

Consider this possible way of looking at James' use of the quote from Amos. God takes a people for Himself from the Gentiles (the full number of Gentiles come in) and then Jesus returns. It fits with Romans 11, and instead of "changing" Amos 9, the original meaning makes perfect sense.

Romans 11
25I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers, so that you may not be conceited: Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in.


There are many, many more places in Scripture where you can see this same thing - a spiritual restoration of physical Israel at the time of wrath. Perhaps at some point, I'll come back and add some more, but for now, I'll finish with just one more:

Zephaniah 3
6 "I have cut off nations;
their strongholds are demolished.
The whole book of Zephaniah concerns the Day of the Lord and is worth reading to get the context here.
I have left their streets deserted,
with no one passing through.
Their cities are destroyed;
no one will be left-no one at all.

7 I said to the city,
'Surely you will fear me
and accept correction!'
Then her dwelling would not be cut off,
nor all my punishments come upon her.
But they were still eager
to act corruptly in all they did.
8 Therefore wait for me," declares the LORD ,
"for the day I will stand up to testify. [
1]
I have decided to assemble the nations,
to gather the kingdoms
and to pour out my wrath on them-
all my fierce anger.
The whole world will be consumed
by the fire of my jealous anger.
This is obviously the final wrath of God here.

9 "Then will I purify the lips of the peoples,
that all of them may call on the name of the LORD
and serve him shoulder to shoulder.
10 From beyond the rivers of Cush [
2]
my worshipers, my scattered people,
will bring me offerings.
11 On that day you will not be put to shame
for all the wrongs you have done to me,
because I will remove from this city
those who rejoice in their pride
.
Never again will you be haughty
Just in case someone might be tempted to say "spiritual Israel," and "picture language for spiritual truths", God throws in phrases like these.
on my holy hill.
12 But I will leave within you
the meek and humble,
who trust in the name of the LORD .
13 The remnant of Israel will do no wrong;
they will speak no lies,
nor will deceit be found in their mouths.
Here is the remnant - the rest have been purged. Note that if you follow this through, this is not the same remnant who were never blinded.
They will eat and lie down
and no one will make them afraid."

14 Sing, O Daughter of Zion;
shout aloud, O Israel!
Be glad and rejoice with all your heart,
O Daughter of Jerusalem!
15 The LORD has taken away your punishment,
he has turned back your enemy.
The LORD , the King of Israel, is with you;
never again will you fear any harm.
16 On that day they will say to Jerusalem,
"Do not fear, O Zion;
do not let your hands hang limp.
17 The LORD your God is with you,
he is mighty to save.
He will take great delight in you,
he will quiet you with his love,
he will rejoice over you with singing."

18 "The sorrows for the appointed feasts
I will remove from you;
they are a burden and a reproach to you. [
3]
19 At that time I will deal
with all who oppressed you
;
I will rescue the lame
and gather those who have been scattered.
I will give them praise and honor
in every land where they were put to shame.
20 At that time I will gather you;
at that time I will bring you home.
I will give you honor and praise
among all the peoples of the earth
when I restore your fortunes [
4]
before your very eyes,"

says the LORD .
All through this passage, you have "at that time" and "on that day." What is being referred to? If you follow them back, you can see that it's at the time that "The whole world will be consumed by the fire of my jealous anger." I'm left with the conclusion again, that this is happening at the time of God's final wrath on the world.

 

Summary

I could easily make this four times as long by continuing to go through passages that spell out the Conversion of the Jews. In fact, once you accept that it will take place, you'll find references to it all through Scripture. Perhaps you've seen enough, though? I believe that the Scripture you've read through clearly says that there WILL be a conversion of the Jews at the time of Jesus' return. If there is NOT, it makes a good portion of the Old Testament basically meaningless.

If you start with Romans 11, especially this:

Romans 11
25I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers, so that you may not be conceited: Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in. 26And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written: "The deliverer will come from Zion; he will turn godlessness away from Jacob.

It clearly says that physical Israel, that is physical Jews, have been hardened (blinded in the King James) until the full number of Gentiles comes in. Most people accept that Gentiles will be saved right up until Jesus' return. Therefore, if there is a point where this blindness is removed, it happens at the time of Jesus' return.

The full text of Romans 11 clearly teaches that this hardening/blinding is a corporate thing, brought on by the Jews' own unbelief, but now applied by God so that, unless it is removed, they CANNOT believe. What happens with God's mercy in the case of individuals doesn't matter. The real question is whether or not there will come a time when, corporately, physical Jews will believe.

The answer is as simple as looking at Matthew 23:37-39. Who, exactly, is being referred to here?

Matthew 23

37"O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing. 38Look, your house is left to you desolate. 39For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, 'Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.'

Note that it is NOT saying, when you see me again, you will say 'Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.' No, it says they will not see Him again until they say 'Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.' It is the same as with the passage in Hosea:

Hosea 5:15 Then I will go back to my place until they admit their guilt. And they will seek my face; in their misery they will earnestly seek me.

It doesn't say that when they see Him, they will admit their guilt. No, it says they will not see Him UNTIL they admit their guilt. If your girl says she will not see you again until you apologize, what do you take that to mean? If you want to go out with her again, you'd better apologize! She's not going to go out with you until then.

The Bible says that every knee will bow before God's judgment seat, but that is not what this is saying. When an unbeliever comes before the judgment seat, his knee will bow. However, these passages and others that I went through here are saying that physical Israel will admit their guilt, will confess that Jesus is their Messiah before He will see them again. When they do look on Him, they will mourn in Godly repentance - not mourning their coming judgment. They mourn as one mourns for an only son.

This is national, physical Israel - but only a remnant will be left by that time:

Zech 13:7 . . . I will turn my hand against the little ones.
8 In the whole land," declares the LORD ,
"two-thirds will be struck down and perish;
yet one-third will be left in it.

9 This third I will bring into the fire;
I will refine them like silver
and test them like gold.
They will call on my name
and I will answer them. . .

Amos 9:10
All the sinners among my people will die
by the sword, all those who say, 'Disaster will not overtake or meet us.'

Jeremiah 30:7
How awful that day will be! None will be like it. It will be a time of trouble for Jacob, but he will be saved out of it.

Isaiah 1
25 I will turn my hand against you;
I will thoroughly purge away your dross
and remove all your impurities.

Isaiah 4
4 The Lord will wash away the filth
of the women of Zion; he will cleanse the bloodstains from Jerusalem by a spirit of judgment and a spirit of fire.

So, first the Lord removes those who will never believe - the "sinners" and "dross" from Israel. Then what? They admit their guilt and cry for help:

Isaiah 30
19 O people of Zion, who live in Jerusalem, you will weep no more. How gracious he will be when you cry for help! As soon as he hears, he will answer you.

Hosea 5:15 Then I will go back to my place until they admit their guilt. And they will seek my face; in their misery they will earnestly seek me.

There are many, many more passages like this.

So, they admit their guilt, admit that they need God, and they cry for help. The Lord comes before their enemies destroy them. He then removes the enemies so quickly that it's like a dream:

Isaiah 29
5 But your many enemies will become like fine dust,
the ruthless hordes like blown chaff.
Suddenly, in an instant,
6 the LORD Almighty will come
with thunder and earthquake and great noise,
with windstorm and tempest and flames of a devouring fire
.

7 Then the hordes of all the nations that fight against Ariel,
that attack her and her fortress and besiege her,
will be as it is with a dream,
with a vision in the night-
8 as when a hungry man dreams that he is eating,
but he awakens, and his hunger remains;
as when a thirsty man dreams that he is drinking,
but he awakens faint, with his thirst unquenched.
So will it be with the hordes of all the nations
that fight against Mount Zion.


At some point, the Lord removes their blindness . It's unclear whether this happened at the point when they admit their guilt (maybe that's why they are able to admit their guilt) or whether this happens at the Lord's appearing. It all seems to be bound up in one thing, as here:

Zechariah 12:9 On that day I will set out to destroy all the nations that attack Jerusalem.

10 "And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and supplication. They will look on me, the one they have pierced, and they will mourn for him as one mourns for an only child, and grieve bitterly for him as one grieves for a firstborn son.

On the day that He sets out to destroy the nations that attack Jerusalem, He will pour out the Holy Spirit on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem. (Note that He didn't set out to destroy any nations at Jesus' first coming.) In any case, the blindness is finally removed:

Isaiah 29
18 In that day the deaf will hear the words of the scroll,
and out of gloom and darkness
the eyes of the blind will see.

(Read the previous verses if there is any question that this is the spiritual blindness that is being removed)

They look on the one that they pierced, and they mourn, Godly, repentant mourning:

Zechariah 12
9 On that day I will set out to destroy all the nations that attack Jerusalem.
10 "And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit [1] of grace and supplication. They will look on [2] me, the one they have pierced, and they will mourn for him as one mourns for an only child, and grieve bitterly for him as one grieves for a firstborn son. 11 On that day the weeping in Jerusalem will be great, like the weeping of Hadad Rimmon in the plain of Megiddo. 12 The land will mourn, each clan by itself, with their wives by themselves: the clan of the house of David and their wives, the clan of the house of Nathan and their wives, 13 the clan of the house of Levi and their wives, the clan of Shimei and their wives,

As mentioned above, this is not Jesus' first coming. He did not set out to destroy the nations that time. That time, He came as the lamb, not the lion. Neither did the clans mourn that day. The only ones that mourned were the disciples. The other two places that talk about the mourning are both second coming:

Matthew 24:30"At that time the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and all the nations (actually, the Greek is "tribes") of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory.

Rev. 1: 7Look, he is coming with the clouds,
and every eye will see him,
even those who pierced him;
and all the peoples
(again, the Greek is "tribes") of the earth will mourn because of him.


All that are left will believe in Jesus as their Savior and long-awaited Messiah:

Jeremiah 31
33 "This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel
after that time," declares the LORD .
"I will put my law in their minds
and write it on their hearts.
I will be their God,
and they will be my people.
34 No longer will a man teach his neighbor,
or a man his brother, saying, 'Know the LORD ,'
because they will all know me,
from the least of them to the greatest,"

declares the LORD .
"For I will forgive their wickedness
and will remember their sins no more."

It just all seems very clear to me, and that in order to get rid of this idea, you have to "explain away" a whole lot of God's word. In order for me, personally, to deny this, I have to change my whole perception of the way God talks to us. I'm afraid that idea literally makes me weep - like finding out something I thought was true about my own father was not true at all.

 

Objections

As I was writing this, some Lutherans, including pastors, had an opportunity to read it and offer their opinions. I'm not sure how many actually read it, as it was apparent from some of the comments that they had not. However, I will include what they had to say. In some cases, I combined a couple of things from different sources into one, if they were speaking on the same thing. I've also distilled some thoughts to the main point.

Some of the comments made would never come out of my pastor's mouth, as they were not terribly loving. However, if we were sitting down together, and he brought up some of these things, this is what I'd say.

If there is anything left to be fulfilled, how can Jesus come at any moment?

I absolutely agree that the Bible teaches that Jesus can return any moment, without warning. However, I also believe that the Bible clearly teaches a coming conversion of the Jews. How can both be true? Somehow it is. Seeming contradictions have not bothered God in the past. Messiah would suffer and die. Messiah would reign forever. How could both be true? In order to get around this, some of the Jewish rabbis came up with the idea of two Messiahs. That was their human explanation, and obviously it was wrong. The Messiah would come from the line of David. There is a blood curse on the line of David. How can both be true? Just because we don't understand something doesn't mean it can't be true. God has a way of dealing with these things. In hind sight, we'll say, "Of course!" But, right now, we have a hard time imagining it.

You are consistently using the Old Testament to interpret the New Testament.

I don't think I am. I'm showing that the Old Testament and the New Testament agree. I guess I don't understand the idea of not looking at the Old Testament in the same way as we look at the New Testament. Ultimately, there is only one author. He doesn't change, and He says things like, "Will I say a thing and not bring it to pass?"

When the Bereans searched the Scriptures, what were they reading? The Old Testament. The Bible doesn't say they were a bunch of scholars. Chances are, they were common people like me. If what Paul had to say REALLY changed the meaning of those Scriptures, were they such an easy sell? Is it possible that some of these things required little explanation because they DIDN'T change the meaning of the Old Testament Scriptures?

Think about it. How much discussion is given in the New Testament to the proper understanding of the law? Quite a lot - and that doesn't contradict anything in the Old Testament. Yet, our entire understanding of Old Testament prophecy is supposed to change based on a verse here and there. One verse in Romans changes the entire meaning of Hosea. A mention in Acts changes the understanding of Amos. Truly - were those first century, regular people, such an easy sell? Or, is it possible that the New Testament writers were not changing the understanding but simply reminding people of what they already knew?

This is a classic example of the misuse of Scripture - specifically, taking something out of context. Theology is a self-consistent system of Scriptural doctrines. Without a system, merely reading each verse as if it was the only context to draw from is like eating bread one ingredient at a time.

Well, this is really good pastor talk, but what you're really saying is: "It doesn't matter what it says. It means something else." I didn't try to show anything based on a verse here or there but quoted entire chapters. Yet, the plain words can't possibly mean what they say, because the understanding must fit ABC doctrine. If whole sections of Scripture must mean something else to fit ABC doctrine, how do I know that ABC doctrine is even completely correct?

When we are all together, sitting at Jesus' feet and learning straight from him, I'm sure everybody is going to be surprised by something, for the simple reason that WE ARE NOT GOD. I'm not trying to be a rebel here, but I feel really stuck when God's word says THIS, yet you say it means THAT. How do I know you're right?

 The world ends instantly at Jesus' return. There is nothing more that will happen at that point.

Are you sure the Bible actually says that? This may fit your doctrine, but does it fit the Bible? I can find the verse that says we're changed instantly. I can read where it says that Jesus comes in an instant, but where does it say the world ends in an instant? The closest I can find is this:

2 Peter 3
10But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare.

Sure, this talks about destruction, but there are many, many places that talk about survivors of this. Check out Isaiah 24. (Before you reject that because I'm using the Old Testament to interpret the New Testament, just remember that Peter was constantly referring to prophecy. What was he talking about? The Old Testament. Did he ever give any indication that what he was saying was a new understanding?) I won't include the whole thing, but please take advantage of the link to read it for yourself. Make sure I'm not taking things out of context.

Isaiah 24
The LORD 's Devastation of the Earth

1See, the LORD is going to lay waste the earth
and devastate it;
he will ruin its face
and scatter its inhabitants-

3 The earth will be completely laid waste
and totally plundered.
The LORD has spoken this word.

4 The earth dries up and withers,
the world languishes and withers,
the exalted of the earth languish.
5 The earth is defiled by its people;
they have disobeyed the laws,
violated the statutes
and broken the everlasting covenant.
6 Therefore a curse consumes the earth;
its people must bear their guilt.
Therefore earth's inhabitants are burned up,
and very few are left.
The earth is destroyed and ruined, many people are killed, but some are left. This doesn't sound like ending the whole thing in an instant.
7 The new wine dries up and the vine withers;
all the merrymakers groan.
8 The gaiety of the tambourines is stilled,
the noise of the revelers has stopped,
the joyful harp is silent.
9 No longer do they drink wine with a song;
the beer is bitter to its drinkers.
10 The ruined city lies desolate;
the entrance to every house is barred.
11 In the streets they cry out for wine;
all joy turns to gloom,
all gaiety is banished from the earth.
Someone is left who is doing this.
12 The city is left in ruins,
its gate is battered to pieces.
13 So will it be on the earth
and among the nations,
as when an olive tree is beaten,
or as when gleanings are left after the grape harvest
.
This is specifically saying that people are left. How would that be possible if the earth simply ended?

The floodgates of the heavens are opened,
the foundations of the earth shake.
19 The earth is broken up,
the earth is split asunder,
the earth is thoroughly shaken.
20 The earth reels like a drunkard,
it sways like a hut in the wind;
so heavy upon it is the guilt of its rebellion
that it falls-never to rise again.

21 In that day the LORD will punish
the powers in the heavens above
and the kings on the earth below.
22 They will be herded together
like prisoners bound in a dungeon;
they will be shut up in prison

and be punished [
1] after many days. Just for fun, compare this to Revelation 20.
23 The moon will be abashed, the sun ashamed;
for the LORD Almighty will reign
on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem,
and before its elders, gloriously.

Footnotes

  1. 24:22 Or released

Joel 2:31 The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD. 32 And everyone who calls on the name of the LORD will be saved; for on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there will be deliverance, as the LORD has said, among the survivors whom the LORD calls.

Zechariah 14:16 Then the survivors from all the nations that have attacked Jerusalem will go up year after year to worship the King, the LORD Almighty, and to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles.

I would also refer you to 2 Thessalonians:

2 Thessalonians 2
1Concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to him, we ask you, brothers, 2not to become easily unsettled or alarmed by some prophecy, report or letter supposed to have come from us, saying that the day of the Lord has already come.

If the "Day of the Lord" is supposed to be that day when the earth ends instantly, how in the world could the Thessalonians have thought they were in that day? And, if for whatever reason they did have this completely confused, why doesn't Paul remind them of that? Instead, he tells them that that day will not come until the man of lawlessness is revealed. These were things he had discussed with them, for after reminding them of this man, he says, "Don't you remember that when I was with you, I used to tell you these things?" Why does he waste all that time, if all he had to say was "You silly people. If the Day of the Lord had come, the world would have ended instantly"?

You assume Israel means a physical nation or just the Jew. You miss the shift in the use of Israel. It is a distortion to ignore Paul's entire essay about Israel to build a doctrine that violates John 1:13.

For readers not familiar with that verse, here it is in context:

John 1
11He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. 12Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God-- 13children born not of natural descent,[1] nor of human decision or a husband's will, but born of God.

This is an unusual objection for anyone familiar with Romans 11, but since this came up over and over again, I will certainly respond. It makes me wonder, though, if these people actually read even a couple of pages of what I wrote. It seems so simplistic that perhaps I am missing something. The people who said this (there were several) seem to be saying that because there is no difference between Jew and Gentile in the church, that no other use of the word "Israel" is allowed, and that that is the whole point of what Paul is communicating. Well, let's look at those "controversial" verses:

Romans 11
25I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers, so that you may not be conceited: Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in. 26And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written: "The deliverer will come from Zion; he will turn godlessness away from Jacob.

No matter what "Israel" means in verse 26, the "Israel" of verse 25 has to be physical Israel, physical Jews. How can it possibly be otherwise? The church is not hardened. The remnant within physical Israel is not hardened. Paul specifically says, "What Israel sought so earnestly, it did not obtain, but the elect did. The others were hardened." Even in the use of Israel in that verse, it has to mean physical Israel. Otherwise, you could say, "What the church sought so earnestly, it did not obtain."

All through Romans 11, it says that because physical Israel was rejected, the Gentiles could be grafted in. Verse 25 says that they will continue to be rejected until the full number of Gentiles has come in. Paul clearly makes a distinction between Gentiles, physical, unbelieving Israel and the remnant of believing Jews. How does it violate John 1:13 if those that were rejected are not rejected forever? This is not saying that the church will only be Jews - only that those Jews left alive at Jesus' return will believe. The full number of Gentiles comes in, the blindness is removed from hardenend Israel, and they finally believe.

Unless I am missing something, I would just suggest that the people with this objection actually read what was written. 

The very fact that Paul cites Isaiah saying only a remnant will be saved rules out a mass conversion of the Jews.

 This person also did not read the paper and is not familiar with the prophets. Israel will have been brought through the fire and only a remnant will remain by the time Jesus returns. I have to admit that it disturbs me how very many Lutherans and other amillennialists will toss out a phrase like this as though it is an answer. Even a minimal reading of the Bible or even just of Romans 11 ought to show them that this answer has no substance. They seem to have no understanding of the two ways that Paul uses the word "remnant."

Dispensationalism is a human construction that adds to Scripture. Some people should just not be allowed to read the "Left Behind" series.

It's funny that this should be brought up when there is not a single word about dispensationalism in this whole thing. There is nothing that even hints of dispensationalism. Why do we, as humans, always wind up taking things to their extremes? If you're not a Calvinist, you must be an Arminianist! If you can't be Dr. Siegbert Becker (a well-loved Wisconsin Synod theologian), you must be Hal Lindsey! If you see a conversion of the Jews, you must be a dispensationalist! Right or wrong, as soon as that word enters a discussion, all communication shuts down.

I honestly and truly believe that when we all sit at Jesus' feet, you will be amazed at how much you actually agreed with the dispensationalists. They don't take time to learn what you believe, and you don't take time to really understand what they believe. Each side accuses the other of things that are completely untrue. I'm also willing to bet that each side will have things they had right - and both sides will have things they had wrong.

Setting all that aside - and to directly address this statement - first, there are plenty of people who have seen a conversion of the Jews in Scripture who would be horrified to have themselves called dispensationalists. Second, where in this entire paper, have I added to Scripture? Third, what does "Left Behind" have to do with anything?

Has God treated physical Israel differently? What does Paul say?

1. Because of their transgression, salvation has come to the Gentiles (Romans 11:11)

2. Their loss means riches for the Gentiles (Romans 11:12)

3. Their rejection is the reconciliation of the world (Romans 11:15)

4. Branches were broken off so that (Gentiles) could be grafted in. (Romans 11:19)

All of these verses have to do with physical Israel, the ones that were hardened. They do not refer to the church. They do not refer to the believing remnant within physical Israel. They refer to hardened, blinded, physical Jews.

And, what does Paul say about these hardened, blinded, physical Jews?

Romans 11

23And if they do not persist in unbelief, they will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again. 24After all, if you were cut out of an olive tree that is wild by nature, and contrary to nature were grafted into a cultivated olive tree, how much more readily will these, the natural branches, be grafted into their own olive tree!

Paul is clearly making a distinction in Romans 11 between Gentiles, physical Israel and the believing remnant of Jews. Would that earn him the title of dispensationalist?

Confessional Lutheranism confesses the clear message to all the world on account of the Law (Adam) and clear salvation on account of the gospel (Christ), by Grace alone through Faith alone. This is pure, biblical Christian theology - what more is needed? Some of the rest of this is noise that distracts well-meaning people.

I'm not sure what this objection is. Why did I bother to write anything? Why should I care? I guess I'd refer you back to my introduction and to Paul's letter to Timothy:

2 Timothy 3:16
All Scripture
is God­breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.

As for whether this is important or not, given the amount of space dedicated to it in the Bible, it would seem to be important to God. If it's important to God, it better be important to us.

Studying the Scriptures it isn't as simple as you state. Nuances of languages are difficult even if one knows the languages - look at what Peter wrote about Paul's letters (2 Pet. 3:15-16). It is simplistic to claim that all of Scripture is equally clear. Too many want to make the Bible a 21st century American English text that is as easy as a third grade reader - and then claim that I, who study Greek and Hebrew texts, do not accept the Bible as "literal."

This Missouri Synod pastor makes some valid points, but he wrote this after reading only the Introduction. Hopefully it became clearer what I meant as he read on.

Pastors deserve our thanks and our prayers. They feel a call from God and spend years and years learning and preparing to shepherd a flock. Then they take that job seriously and diligently work to feed their sheep. I think it's wonderful that Lutheran pastors learn the original languages and can explain the finer points of God's word to us. Not knowing those languages, I know that there are many things that I will never understand as well, at least on this side of heaven.

That said, I don't think God ever intended for the majority of His word to be understood only by church leaders. Of course there are many, many things that I don't understand, but overall the message is relatively clear. If it means something entirely different in English, why bother with translations? Certainly, there will be occasions when knowledge of the original language will add a different twist on a verse, but if that is the case with everything, how good a job did the translators do? Even though I used the NIV for most of this, I personally find the King James to be the most useful for studying individual verses. It was translated by Godly, prayerful men, who were well versed in the original languages.

Going back to the Bereans - what were they using when they "searched the Scriptures daily?" Chances are, they were not using the original Hebrew, but the translation in the language of their day, the Greek Septuagint. They were most likely regular people, not scholars.

Granted, for a translation to be perfect, you'd have to be God, but I also believe that God is perfectly capable of preserving His word for us today, not just for the original people it was written to. Why did Martin Luther bother making a German translation? Because he firmly believed in the "priesthood of all believers."

When we're talking individual verses, no question, you that have knowledge of Greek and Hebrew are way above the rest of us. We're not talking a few verses, though, but a substantial portion of the Bible. If I'm going to misunderstand a substantial portion of the Bible without knowing the original languages, I'd better toss out my English Bibles.

Here are some verses that come to mind as I think about us as the shepherd's sheep, little children, and as members in the priesthood of believers.

Matthew 4
4Jesus answered, "It is written: 'Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.'"

Numbers 23
19 God is not a man, that he should lie, nor a son of man, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill?

Matthew 11:25
At that time Jesus said, "I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children.


The proper understanding of the "mystery" of Romans 11:25 - that it is the same as the mystery of Ephesians 3:3-6 - will end the struggle of understanding Romans 11.

Here are the verses in question:

Romans 11
25I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers, so that you may not be conceited: Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in.

Ephesians 3
3that is, the mystery made known to me by revelation, as I have already written briefly. 4In reading this, then, you will be able to understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, 5which was not made known to men in other generations as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to God's holy apostles and prophets. 6This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus.

In Ephesians 3, Paul gives us the definition of a Biblical mystery - something which was not made known to men in other generations, but is now revealed by the Holy Spirit to the apostles. In that passage, Paul reveals something that was not in the Old Testament, that through the gospel, the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel.

The main message of Romans 11 is not that the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, but that with physical Israel's rejection, the Gentiles could be grafted in to the tree of promise. Here is a reminder of some of those verses:

Because of their transgression, salvation has come to the Gentiles (Romans 11:11)

Their loss means riches for the Gentiles (Romans 11:12)

Their rejection is the reconciliation of the world (Romans 11:15)

Branches were broken off so that (Gentiles) could be grafted in. (Romans 11:19)

Instead of telling us that Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, Paul tells us in Romans 11 how that comes about. Physical, unbelieving Israel is rejected, hardened/blinded and broken off the olive tree. With their rejection, salvation is offered to the Gentiles. The mystery in Romans 11:25 is exactly what it says it is: Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in. In other words, this rejection does not last forever, but only until the full number of Gentiles come in. The blindness was prophesied in the Old Testament, and its removal was prophesied in the Old Testament, but the Old Testament never tied it to the fullness of the Gentiles.

There are a variety of mysteries revealed in the New Testament. They don't have to mean the same thing.

1 Corinthians 15:51
Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed

Ephesians 5
31"For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh." 32This is a profound mystery--but I am talking about Christ and the church.

Revelation 1:20
The mystery of the seven stars that you saw in my right hand and of the seven golden lampstands is this: The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches.

The cross can not be separated from anything for the cross theologian. The perspective that all Jews will be saved simply because of their ethnicity is a horrible damnable doctrine. It evades the cross and looks to something within mankind (his ethnicity) as something meritorious for salvation as if anything within man could be counted for salvation.

I'm starting to see a pattern in these objections. It is so easy to read a statement like that and say, "Yes, he's right. There can be no mass conversion because it takes away from the cross."

First, let me just say that if something takes away from the cross, then yes, it is a horrible, damnable doctrine. However, this takes absolutely nothing away from the cross. There is no different salvation here. This is not a salvation based on anyone's ethnic heritage. Because Luther's reformation took place primarily in Germany, were those people saved because they were Germans? No - they were saved because they heard and believed the true gospel. Yet, they were Germans. Does the fact that they were German and not Russian or Swahili take away from the cross?

Second, did God treat physical Israel differently than the rest of the world? Did He harden them corporately or not? What does the Bible say? Let's drag out those verses one more time:

Because of their transgression, salvation has come to the Gentiles (Romans 11:11)

Their loss means riches for the Gentiles (Romans 11:12)

Their rejection is the reconciliation of the world (Romans 11:15)

Branches were broken off so that (Gentiles) could be grafted in. (Romans 11:19)

Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in. (Romans 11:25)

 

There is no difference in whether the Jew or Gentile is sinful. All are sinful and needing salvation.

Romans 3
21But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. 22This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, 23for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,

There is no difference in how each are saved.

Acts 15
9He made no distinction between us and them,(Gentiles) for he purified their hearts by faith. 10Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of the disciples a yoke that neither we nor our fathers have been able to bear? 11No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are."

But, there seems to be a difference in the order of things:

Acts 13:46 Then Paul and Barnabas answered them boldly: "We had to speak the word of God to you first. Since you reject it and do not consider yourselves worthy of eternal life, we now turn to the Gentiles.

Romans 1:16 I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile.

 

Like it or not, Romans 11 clearly teaches that it is through the rejection of physical Israel that salvation is offered to the Gentiles. The question is not whether God has treated the Jews differently. He certainly has. The question is simply whether He leaves them hardened and rejected forever.

No one denies that in all probability, God, in His mercy, has "unhardened" many an individual Jew, but corporately, the hardening remains and will remain until "the full number of the Gentiles has come in." As hopefully most people have seen by reading this paper, the Bible also clearly teaches that at the time of Jesus' return, the blinding is removed - God pours out the spirit of grace and supplication - and the remaining Jews (most having been killed) will finally believe in Jesus as their savior and long-awaited Messiah. There is no different salvation here.

 

The Bible itself tells us when things should be interpreted figuratively.

This is a hard one, because there is so much packed into that sentence. The statement is absolutely true, but I know the person saying it is really saying "Your interpretation of the passages given is incorrect." One person even said, "May God grant all who try to lead her to the truth patience and wisdom, and -- more importantly -- may the Holy Spirit teach her the true interpretation of the Scriptures."

Instead of trying to argue as though I know better, because I certainly don't, I'm going to fall back on the fact that I'm just regular plain Jane, congregation member (who perhaps studies her Bible more than most women). In the book Biblical Interpretation: The Only Right Way by David Kuske, ã 1995, Northwestern Publishing House, it says:

How does the interpreter decide whether a biblical passage is literal or figurative? The decision must be based on the same criteria as in any other literature: (1) Either the writer or speaker must indicate in direct words that the is using a figure of speech; (2) Or the context must make it clear that the words have to be taken figuratively. In any other case, the literal meaning of the words must be accepted as the intended sense.

That makes perfect sense to me. And yet, to me - plain Jane, congregation member - it seems like that gets applied only when convenient. If something doesn't fit ABC doctrine, then the passage must mean something else, regardless of whether it fits the above or not. A pastor at my church got through the last eight chapters of Ezekiel with two sentences: "This a picture of perfect worship. We worship differently today." Eight full chapters of details reduced to meaninglessness. That doesn't mean I understand those chapters! How do I reconcile them with Hebrews? I have no idea, but neither am I going to insist they mean something else. I just leave that on my growing list of things for Jesus to help me understand when I sit at his feet.

Also, just because something is obviously figurative doesn't mean the things around it necessarily are. I might say, "That rat owes me $20!" The "rat" is figurative, but the rest is perfectly literal. Jesus does that here:

Luke 13:32
He replied, "Go tell that fox, 'I will drive out demons and heal people today and tomorrow, and on the third day I will reach my goal.'

And, just because something is figurative, doesn't mean it can't make absolute, plain sense. Medical doctors have been amazed at the accuracy of Psalm 22 in describing what would happen during crucifixion:

Psalm 22

14 I am poured out like water,
and all my bones are out of joint.
My heart has turned to wax;
it has melted away within me.
15 My strength is dried up like a potsherd,
and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth;
you lay me in the dust of death.

The Bible is filled with different kinds of figures of speech and incredible imagery. That is not limited to the poetic or prophetic books, but is found throughout. Most of the time, symbolism is either explained right there or somewhere else in the Bible. The Book of Revelation is like a code in that regard. Sure, it's filled with symbols, but to crack the code, you just need to look at the rest of the Bible. For example, compare the symbols of Revelation 12:1 with Genesis 37:9-10.

From my plain-Jane-congregation-member point of view, it seems odd to insist on the plain sense of Scripture except when it comes to prophecy, and especially prophecy concerning the Jews.

I would just ask that if this is your objection, that my interpretation of Scripture is wrong, that you would not make general statements, but pull out something specific that I've quoted and show me why.

Romans 15:4
For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.

 

 

Other things to consider

I believe that if you accept that the Bible teaches a coming conversion of the Jews, you will see it all through the Scripture, even in the historical books. For example, in Genesis, most people recognize in Joseph a "type" of Christ. He was greatly loved by his father, and mistreated by his brothers - those that would become the tribes of Israel. Even though he accurately described how he would eventually rule over them by recounting his dreams, his brothers did not accept that as truth, and in fact, made up their minds to kill him. In being pulled from the pit, Joseph was in a sense "resurrected" and went to a far off country for a long time. In Egypt, his authority and power were obvious to all, but it wasn't until he revealed himself to his brothers that they recognized him.

A similar thing happened to Moses, another type of Christ. At first, the Jews in Egypt didn't recognize him as their leader. In Acts, Stephen says, "Moses thought that his own people would realize that God was using him to rescue them, but they did not." Instead of seeing him as their deliverer, the people said, "Who made you ruler and judge over us?" At that time, Moses went to a far country for a long time. When he came back to Egypt after 40 years, the people recognized that he was sent by God Himself to be their deliverer.

 

Other conclusions

If you can take the Old Testament passages about the conversion of the Jews in their plain sense way, this inevitably leads to other conclusions, which is perhaps why some people resist seeing it.

- The world doesn't end in an instant

- The same passages that talk about the Jews conversion at the time of final wrath also talk about an actual gathering of armies around Jerusalem, which leads you to the idea that "Armageddon" is not just a spiritual thing.

- There is an actual tribulation, an actual, specific time of "Jacob's trouble" and this isn't just all tribulation through all time.

- There is a coming leader who leads the armies and causes the tribulation.

- There are things that happen even after the conversion

I'm not going to take even one more paragraph to develop any of these other things. If God wants you to see them, He will help you see them. If you don't see them, it doesn't make any of the rest of the material presented untrue.

 

 

 

- - - - To God goes the glory if this is Truth! - - - -

 

I greatly desire your comments, questions & counsel!  E-mail me