I believe there is a future for Israel. Early in my departure from dispensationalism, I didn’t want to believe that, however. In my exodus from Left Behind theology, I didn’t want to believe in a rapture, a distinctively “Jewish” millennial kingdom, or a literal end-time temple where Jews and the nations would come to sacrifice and worship. I still don’t believe those things, but I do believe there is a future for Israel. What do I mean? Before Christ’s return, there will be an end-time conversion of a large number of Jews through their faith in the gospel of Jesus Christ. That’s it.
The Old Testament is clear that God will bring redemption to Israel, the people he chose out of all the other peoples on the earth (Deut. 7:6). Here’s just three examples from the prophets that prove this:
- “I will restore the fortunes of my people Israel” (Amos 9:14).
- Israel will once again be the object of God’s affection (Zeph. 3:14-20).
- Israel will be called “The Holy People, the Redeemed of the LORD” (Isa. 62:12).
These OT references cannot solely refer to ethnic and national Israel, however, for Gentile Christians have obtained these promises and are included among God’s people with all believing Jews (Rom. 2:28-29; 4:1-25; Gal. 3:7-9). There is one flock, one church (John 10:16; Eph. 2:11-22)! How do we reconcile this? Did the church replace Israel? Is Israel left out of the proverbial salvation loop?
My view has been shaped mostly by Romans 9-11—the only non-prophetic passage that speaks in-depth on Israel’s future. Though this section is difficult to interpret, it is much clearer than the prophets! There, Paul teaches that God has made promises to Israel (e.g. some of them mentioned above), but it seems that the Gentiles are now the sole recipients of those promises. For Paul, the gospel is at stake in Romans 9-11. In Doug Moo’s words, “Paul must…demonstrate that the God who chose and made promises to Israel is the same God who has opened the doors of salvation to ‘all who believe.’ To do so, Paul must prove that God has done nothing in the gospel that is inconsistent with his word of promise to Israel” (Epistle to the Romans, 550).
Thus the question surfaces: Are God’s promises to Israel broken? The answer in 11:29 is a resounding No! Paul states that “all Israel” (a representative term meaning a large number) will receive those promises when they are grafted back into God’s people along with the Gentiles (Paul uses the analogy of a “tree” and “branches” in this case, see 11:17-18). Earlier in Romans, Paul was clear how this would happen: only by faith in Christ (3:23-31; 4:1-12; 10:5-17). He is also clear when this will happen: when fullness of the Gentiles are saved (11:25).
Believing Gentiles and believing Jews make up God’s one new covenant people. For the Jews, just like the Gentiles, salvation is by grace through faith (see Acts 15:11). This is why the most anti-Semitic thing anyone can do to a Jew is refuse to preach the gospel to them! Just like me, a European mutt, the Jews need Jesus.
So is there a future for Israel? Yes! But it is in accordance with the gospel of grace by faith in Jesus: Jews will be incorporated into God’s new covenant people. According to the prophets (e.g. Jer. 31; Ezek. 36), this was God’s glorious plan all along.