Sovereign Grace Advent Testimony has a quarterly publication entitled Watching and Waiting. The October/November 2007 issue has an article titled "Israel in the Millennium" expounding on Romans 15:8-12. I was excited to read something on this often overlooked passage of scripture. First I will post the scripture, then I will post excerpts from the article. At some point in time, I would like to share some of my own thoughts on Romans 15:8-12.
8 Now I say that Jesus Christ has become a servant to the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made to the fathers, 9 and that the Gentiles might glorify God for His mercy, as it is written: "For this reason I will confess to You among the Gentiles, And sing to Your name." 10 And again he says: "Rejoice, O Gentiles, with His people!" 11 And again: "Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles! Laud Him, all you peoples!" 12 And again, Isaiah says: "There shall be a root of Jesse; And He who shall rise to reign over the Gentiles, In Him the Gentiles shall hope."
Israel in the Millennium by John Douglas
This message was given at a Sovereign Grace Advent Testimony Conference in London on 22nd September, 2006. Everything in BLUE is a direct quote from the article.
Let us turn to Romans 15 and in particular to the verses 9, 10, 11, and 12, which all contain the word "Gentiles." These verses are important. Do you know who the Gentiles are? They are those who do not come from the stock of Jacob, those who do not pertain to the twelve tribes of Israel. So there is a sense, ethnically, in which mankind is divided into two, Jews and Gentiles. It is interesting to notice that the Lord has kept a part of Romans 15 specifically for the Gentile peoples.
Five Introductory Observations
It is important to learn when reading the Bible, whether in the Old Testament or the New Testament, the three expression "Gentiles", "Heathen", "Nations" all have the same word in the original. There may be few exceptions, but nearly all the time, when you find the word "Gentiles" in the Bible, you are entitled to read "Nations." If you read "the heathen" in the Bible you are not to imagine that the Lord has in mind those whom we would regard as heathen. That is not the thought in the Bible. The Lord is talking about Gentile peoples, and we are among them. Ordinarily in Scripture, when Gentiles are mentioned, they represent the ungodly world.
It is equally important to observe that Israel is called "His People," and this quotation is made after the Lord Jesus died and rose again. So Israel, after Calvary, is not merged into some kind of anonymity, blended in with the nations and lost to view among the nations; but, even after Calvary, and after Pentecost in Acts 2, Israel is still a distinctive people. Israel is seen here in verse 10 as a distinct entity and importantly, Israel as seen is in union with God, because Israel here is described as "His People." So, we are looking at God’s covenant people here, that part of Israel brought into the covenant of redemption and made one with God and with Christ. Israel retains her identity, even though Christ has died on the cross. That death on Calvary and the rising again of the Saviour has not abolished the special identity of Israel; for this quotation is entered into Scripture after Jesus’ death and resurrection.
Those saved among the Gentiles are called upon to engage in full-hearted joy, an abiding and an overflowing joy. The Lord says, "Rejoice, ye Gentiles." They are to rejoice with His People; to rejoice with Israel. Nowadays, when Gentiles rejoice, they usually forget about Israel. There are Gentiles who, if they rejoice now, will say to themselves that they are the whole people, the whole cheese, and it does not matter about Israel. That preposition, "Meta" (with) in the Greek, means "to go along with, to be in conjunction with." So Gentiles should rejoice, not apart from Israel, but along with Israel.
I want you to notice the significance of the word, "again." It occurs in verses 10, 11, and 12. Why does He repeat this word? He is showing us that it is generally taught in the Old Testament that the Lord will allow for the admission of Gentiles into the Church, which is His Body. The Lord is saying, in effect, "Do you see how the whole Bible is alive with this subject?"
All three parts of the Hebrew Bible are represented in the quotations that are found here in Romans 15. They are mentioned by the Saviour in Luke 24, the Law, the Prophets and the Psalms. For the Jews who were living through the gospel days, that would have been the whole Bible. So the apostle Paul, in quoting the Law, the Prophets and the Psalms, seems to be saying that throughout the whole Bible, God has made allowance for that day when the Gentiles would be brought under the sound of the Gospel; and so the whole Bible is there presenting that wonderful message. It is not as if God just casually mentioned the Gentiles in some isolated part of the Bible. Some of our friends in Christ think the Gentiles are not mentioned at all, which is sad, because the Lord shows here that this is widely taught throughout the Old Testament.
Why the Lord Came into the World: A Two-fold view
Verse 8 tells us that "Jesus Christ was a minister of the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made unto the fathers." So, the Lord Jesus Christ is described as "a minister of the circumcision," and thus the purpose of the Lord, in His first coming into this world, as it is highlighted here, is twofold. First of all, in relation to Israel, the circumcision. You see the words showing the purpose of the Lord in coming into the Land of Israel is "to confirm the promises made unto the father." Secondly, He has the Gentile peoples in view, for this scripture testifies, "and that the Gentiles might glorify God for [His] mercy." The Lord will not forget His prophetic Word. Specifically here it is stated the purpose that the Lord had in coming into the world, and in particular to Israel, was that He might confirm the promises. He confirmed those promises by His teaching. You will remember He said, "Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil" (Matthew 5:17). Remember, Romans 15:8 assures us that the Lord came to Israel to confirm the promises.
God’s Word Comes to Pass Irrespective of the Conditions
The speaker here expounds on examples in scripture such as the birth of Isaac to Abraham and Sarah even though the promise seemed impossible to fulfill.
Thoughts about the Word "Confirm"
An important adjective for the verb "confirm," which highlights the meaning of the word, is found in Hebrews 2:2. The verse says "the word spoken by angels was steadfast." That related to the giving of the law, and therefore every word spoken Mount Sinai stood and is still standing today and will stand for all eternity. That gives a clue to our verse in Romans 15 where
the Lord Jesus is "a Minister of the circumcision." He came to Israel to confirm the promises, to show them that every word in the Scripture is steadfast. That is what it means to confirm the Scriptures.
Here the speaker notes that the scripture in Romans 15:10 comes from Deuteronomy 32 which is a part of the law. Since the law has not been abolished, he intends to fulfill it. He also notes that the phrase in Romans which says, "Rejoice ye Gentiles" is equivalent to the phrase in Deuteronomy which says, "Rejoice O ye nations", since, as he has pointed out, heathen, nations, and Gentiles are all referring to the same thing.
In fact, There are Four Entities in Deuteronomy 32:43
is the Gentiles or nations. The second is the people, namely Israel. The third is the adversaries, those who set themselves up in bitter enmity against the Lord and against His Christ. The fourth is the land, called "His land." That is the land of Israel. These four entities help to summarise the teaching of this verse, where the Gentiles are told to rejoice with His people.
At the start, I said there are some verses quoted in the New Testament which will reach a new level of fulfilment when the Lord Jesus comes, and this is one of them. I do not doubt there are studious people in the Lord’s family who have understood long since that Romans 15:10 has sprung from Deuteronomy 32:43, but not so many have discerned the conclusion to verse 43. They have only noticed the little snippet that is taken and carried over into the New Testament and I believe they have never thought to work out what the context is in which that word is given at the first and they have not asked themselves the question, did the Lord say anything else? When you do ask this, then you see that He did say something else, and what He said is infinitely important.
So why would the Gentiles rejoice?
The Lord has met with you and saved your soul. Are you rejoicing about that? If I asked some friends why they are rejoicing, somebody may say that it is because their sins are all put away. Somebody else with more study may say it is because the Gentiles, unworthy as they are, are put on the same foundation as Israel, they are brought into the body of the Lord’s people. Another is bound to say the reason he rejoices as a Gentile is because he has become an heir of glory, and the best has yet to be.
But there is another reason why you should rejoice. It is found in Deuteronomy, and it is God’s command for the Gentile to rejoice because (1) God is going to avenge the blood of His servants; He is going to deal with His adversaries, and (2) He will be merciful to His land, and to His people. So the Gentiles are to rejoice, not only because the Lord will deal with His adversaries in due time but they are to rejoice because the Lord will be merciful unto His land and to His people. The verse is quoted in Romans to show that what Deuteronomy says is still relevant. The verse is not now relegated to history, having had only a past fulfilment. No, the original wording ultimately relates to the future, the Book of Romans indicating that Deuteronomy 32:43 is still given currency with God in our time. God has by no means finished with this word from Moses. That brings us straight into the subject of Israel in the millennium.
Set Your Heart on this Song
Before leaving Deuteronomy 32, we should consider the significance of verse 46. I will ask you to search your hearth and come to a conclusion, how many Gentiles Christians have a hold of this and have rejoiced with His people, Israel, because the Lord is going to be merciful to His land and to His people? And how many have seen that is part of a song? The words are made into a song because men are to rejoice, and the Gentiles are allowed to come in at the end of the song, and rejoice because the Lord will be merciful to His land and to His people.
This is Israel in the millennium. That is the key theme. It came out of our text. It did not appear to be in Romans 15:10 but it was there all the time. It was in the mind of God, and when we looked at Deuteronomy, the source text, we could see it right away. God wants us to set our hearts on this, that the Lord will be merciful to His land and to His people. And the Gentiles are called on to rejoice. When they get to be part of this and see what God has done then they will be rejoicing in it. That is how it all comes together.
A Look at Exodus 19
We turn to Exodus 19 to see how the Lord will be merciful unto His land and His people.
What was the purpose of God in bringing Israel out of Egypt? The answer is in the last line of verse 4, "I brought you unto Myself." That is the great scheme of redemption; the essence of the gospel; that is why the Lord saved you. It was not just to keep your soul out of hell. The Lord saved you to bring you to Himself. If you are interested in studying the Bible and you wanted to put the whole book of Exodus in encapsulated form, I would put it to you, this very well sums it up, it is God bringing His people to Himself.
When we come to verse 5, we see the next thing in the purpose of God for we read of God’s peculiar treasure. The Hebrew word is "segullah." What does that mean? It is translated "a peculiar treasure."
The third thing we should notice is in verse 6. Israel is to be a kingdom. This is Israel in the millennium because never in all their history has Israel been a kingdom in the manner described here. It is not a kingdom in the usual sense because God talks of a kingdom of priests. That has never taken place. Israel has never been a kingdom of Priests but it is plainly stated that, in the purpose of God, they are to be.
They will become a Holy Nation. That is part of the purpose of God also…. the nation will be so transformed as to be saints with God.
These then are the essential points. (1) God has brought Israel out of Egypt to bring them to Himself. (2) He will make them a peculiar treasure. (3) They will be a kingdom of priests, and then (4) a Holy Nation. They have not been a holy nation, as yet.
"Yet for All That"
Turn to Leviticus 26, where we find God’s covenant expounded. In this chapter, there is a long projected history of Israel having walked contrary to God, and God reminds His people of the years of woe and heartache and sorrow and despair and dismay, which come as a result of sin. Somebody may say God has forgotten Israel now; all of His covenant has passed away, and Israel has no future. But God says He will remember His covenant. Someone will say Israel’s sin, failure and unbelief, their rejection over years, centuries, or, indeed, millennia means that Israel has been disinherited.
In verse 42, the Lord states quite clearly that He did not make His covenant with Israel. God did not make His covenant with those people who committed all those sins and entered into disgrace. He made His covenant with three people, with Jacob, with Isaac, and with Abraham. He affirms it in this vers. He will remember that covenant with those three and they did not sin against Him in this horrific fashion. They did not sin as to have God reject them and count them as abomination. When He remembers His covenant with them He will remember the land.
Our principal quotation in this message has been that God will be merciful to His land and to His people. There is a marvellous promise in verse 44. There is a long list of details about Israel’s shameful behaviour, but observe four words in this verse, "yet for all that." God makes it clear that yet for all that, He will remember His land and His people. Notice the negatives. (1) "I will not cast them away." (2) "Neither will I abhor them." (3) "To destroy them utterly," and (4) "To break my covenant with them."
A graduation is there. That is to say, it is like steps going down and getting worse as they go. It is bad enough to be cast away, but it is infinitely worse to be abhorred, and worse still if God would destroy them utterly, and finally break His covenant. They go from bad to worse, but the Lord is not going to cast them away finally…. God intends to bring Israel back to Himself.
Some Negatives are Positives
There is a rule in hermeneutics about God’s negatives, and it is this, that God’s negatives in a paragraph like this one, are intended to be positives. Thus, the first phrase would be, I will embrace them. (He will not cast them away). If He says, I will not abhor them that means, I will warmly receive them and love them. When He says, I will not destroy them utterly, that means, I will save and protect them. And if He says, I will never break My covenant, it means, I will keep and establish My covenant.
In Jeremiah 30:3, the Lord has said, "For, lo, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will bring again the captivity of My people Israel and Judah, saith the LORD: and I will cause them to return to the land that I gave to their father, and they shall possess it." So the Lord is going to bring them back, in the millennium. In what way will God plant them in the land? In Jeremiah 32:41 we read, "I will rejoice over them to do them good, and I will plant them in this land assuredly with My whole heart and with My whole soul." The Lord will do this when the Lord Jesus comes again. That God should speak of His whole heart and His whole soul is a unique statement in Scripture. Di you ever come across anything like that before about God? As if the Lord would speak as man speaks. It is called in theological language, "anthropomorphism".
Notice that in the next verse (42) reference is made to "all this great evil" and again "all the good that I have promised them." One is set against the other. This verse is very important, and tells us that as the evil has come, so the good will follow, and each in conformity to His Word. The past influences the future. History is to be used as an aid to prophetic interpretation…. the history of Israel is summarised in the words "as I have brought all this great evil upon this people." History is a guarantee as to how God intends to fulfil His Word. All those ancient prophecies which were fulfilled to the letter, those prophecies which foretold terrible judgement and came to pass precisely, become the pattern by which we understand the prophecies about the future. So we have a Divine rule of interpretation here, a God given hermeneutic as to how we should interpret Scripture. God brought all this evil upon the Jewish people. That is history. Then the prophecy assures us the good He has promised them will likewise come to pass.
An Example of God’s Word Executed with Precision
A simple illustration would be that of Pharaoh. God spoke through Moses saying "tomorrow at about this time I will bring a plague" (e.g. Exodus 9:18). How was the prophecy fulfilled? Was it interpreted spiritually and did it take an infinite amount of time for the prophecy to be fulfilled? Or, did Moses explain that he did not intend to take God’s Word literally? No, the next day at the exact time the plague came. Every word of God was steadfast and sure.
That is the note on which we began and that is the note on which we conclude.
(a) The Word of the Lord will go forth from Jerusalem in the millennium with such power and blessing (Isaiah 2:1-4), that the knowledge of the Lord will cover the earth as the waters the sea, (Isaiah 11:9). That is saying something. We have never had that in our time.
(b) Near the beginning of the Book of Isaiah (7:14) is a wonderful prophecy concerning a special birth, the virgin birth of Christ, which belongs to His first coming. That virgin birth is something the natural man cannot believe. Interestingly, the end of the Book (66:8) has a prophecy about the second coming, also marked by a special birth, but this time, the birth of a nation. At the coming of Christ the veil will slip away from Israel. They will look on Him Whom they have pierced and God will pour out His Holy Spirit upon them, and the Bible asks, "Who hath heard such a thing?" It looks impossible. Nobody could believe this. There are men nowadays who cannot believe in that birth. "Who hath seen such things? Shall the earth be made to bring forth in one day? Or shall a nation be born at once?" Yes, all at once. In one day the nation shall be born at once, the redeemed of Israel will be saved. "For as soon as Zion travailed, she brought forth her children." Praise the Lord. It is a wonderful passage and the Lord will do great things in the millennium, when His name will be spread abroad and the knowledge of the Lord will cover the earth as the waters the sea.
There are a lot of good points scattered throughout this speech that are worthy of deeper pondering.
Have fun and stay busy – Luke 19:13
-The Orange Mailman