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Why Israel had to suffer, so the nations could be saved Part I




Before you think I have changed the gospel, let me be clear. The Jewish people did not atone for the sins of the nations. That is not what this blog is about. Only Yeshua, through his sacrifice, can do that. It is only faith in his atoning death that can achieve salvation. But Israel did pay a price so that his message could be spread throughout the nations. At least, that seems to be what Paul is teaching, backed up by 2,000 years of history.


Romans 9-11 teaches that Israel’s rejection of Yeshua was connected to the Gentiles receiving salvation. But how does this make sense theologically? Why couldn’t God save Israel and the nations at the same time? “Thus, for some reason, the ingathering of the Gentiles requires a partial hardening of Israel. But why is this the case?”[1] asks Mark Kinzer.


The answer is that Israel’s salvation would trigger the Second Coming. Both the Hebrew Bible and New Testament predict that the mass ingathering of Jews will cause the events leading to the Parousia and the Messianic age.


  • Zechariah 12-14 reveals a national turning of Israel to Messiah (12:10), leading to mass forgiveness (13:1), which probably comes after the events at the beginning of Zechariah 14, judgment, leading to Messiah’s appearance on behalf of Israel and the kingdom’s establishment: “The Lord will be king over the whole earth. On that day there will be one Lord, and his name the only name” (Zech. 14:9).

  • Revelation 1:7 speaks of the “those who pierced him” mourning at the Second Coming—a clear reference to “the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem” from Zechariah 12:10.

  • Matthew 23:39 predicts the Orthodox Jews of Jerusalem will one day welcome Yeshua. Paul, in Romans 11, speaks about the “greater riches” that will come with Jewish acceptance (v. 12), even using the words “life from the dead” (v. 15), a probable reference to the first resurrection (Rev. 20:5-6).

  • The rabbis agree. “[W]ell-attested rabbinic tradition” also claims, “Israel’s repentance triggers the eschaton.”[2]


In other words—if mass Jewish acceptance “trigger’s” the Second Coming, then God had to enforce Israel’s rejection, or the nations would be lost. This is the view of Terence Donaldson, “If Israel’s acceptance of Christ will accompany—indeed, precipitate—the Parousia (Second Coming), and if the Parousia represents the termination of the Gentiles’ opportunity for salvation, then Israel’s immediate acceptance of the gospel would have meant the closing of the door to the Gentiles.”[3] Elizabeth Johnson adds:

Paul shares with several of his Jewish and Christian contemporaries a conviction that Israel’s repentance and faithfulness to God will inaugurate the eschaton (Messianic Age). From that vantage point, Israel’s immediate positive response to the gospel would have initiated the judgment and left the Gentile world under a death sentence. Only by God’s gracious restraint of Israel are the Gentiles successfully evangelized.[4]

Israel’s Hardening and the Church’s Response

But “God’s gracious restraint of Israel,” for the benefit of the Gentiles, has been the greatest source of suffering for the Jewish people. Romans 9 teaches that God can harden whom he desires (v. 18) and have compassion and mercy on whom he wishes (v. 15 [from Ex. 33:19]). Romans 11:7-10 confirms that God did indeed harden his people, and v. 11 says their rejection because of this hardness brought the gospel to the Gentiles.


Ironically it was those “objects of his mercy,”[5] Gentiles who benefited from Israel’s hardening, who became the primary persecutors of the Jewish people. Dr. Michael Brown recounts how the anti-Jewish rhetoric of the church fathers led to the shedding of the “blood of countless thousands of Jewish martyrs,”[6] as he summarizes St. John Chrysostom’s (400 CE) sermons in these few words: “the Jewish people, the killers of Christ, are fit for slaughter.”[7] Instead of recognizing that God himself, with a heavy heart, hardened them for the sake of the nations, the Church viciously persecuted the Jewish people for their rejection of Jesus. They had no idea that the rejection by Israel held open the doors of salvation for the nations—even until today.

David Pawson claims, “Chapter 11 is the climax of the letter in which Paul rebukes Gentile believers for their arrogance toward his own Jewish people.”[8] He goes on to share, “Three times in chapter 11, [Paul] accuses the gentile believers in Rome of arrogance.”[9] His purpose for Romans 11:25 was to warn the Romans that failure to understand this mystery (that God hardened Israel and has a plan for their return) would lead to conceit and pride over Israel.


And sadly, that is exactly what happened!


(Next week, we will explore the love of God and how He will bring all of this to a glorious conclusion one day!)

[1] Mark Kinzer, Postmissionary Messianic Judaism, Redefining Christian Engagement with the Jewish People (Grand Rapids: Baker Publishing Group, 2005), 127. [2] Kinzer, 127. [3] Terrance Donaldson, Paul and the Gentiles: Remapping the Apostle's Convictional World (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1997), 222. [4]E. Elizabeth Johnson, “Romans 9–11: The Faithfulness and Impartiality of God,” in Pauline Theology, vol. 3, ed. David M. Hay and E. Elizabeth Johnson (Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2002), 232. [5] Clearly a reference to the Gentiles who came in, but not excluding Jewish believers (see v. 24). [6] Michael Brown, Christian Antisemitism: Confronting the Lies in Today's Church (Lake Mary: Charisma, 2021), 2. [7] Brown, 2. [8] David Pawson, A Commentary on Romans (Ashford: Anchor Recordings, 2015), 12. [9] Pawson, 101.