The Apostle Paul quotes four Old Testament scriptures in four verses concerning the salvation of the Gentiles. In Romans 15:8-12, Paul establishes the foundation that Gentiles (non-Israelites) are to glorify God right alongside the nation of Israel, then quotes four OT passages with no explanation whatsoever. It is up to us to study these OT passages, understand the original intent of what was written, see through the prophets’ eyes as to what was expected to come to pass, then examine what actually occurred as Messiah came and extended salvation to Israel first, then to the nations. Here is the entire passage, this time in KJV:
8 Now I say that Jesus Christ was a minister of the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made unto the fathers: 9 And that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy; as it is written, For this cause I will confess to thee among the Gentiles, and sing unto thy name. 10 And again he saith, Rejoice, ye Gentiles, with his people. 11 And again, Praise the Lord, all ye Gentiles; and laud him, all ye people. 12 And again, Esaias saith, There shall be a root of Jesse, and he that shall rise to reign over the Gentiles; in him shall the Gentiles trust.
The first passage quoted by Paul is from Psalm 18. Psalms are a little easier to examine than certain prophetic portions of scripture since the psalm itself is one song. With Psalm 18, we have 50 verses in one unit and we know the occasion of this song as well, since it is described in the heading. II Samuel 22 is the parallel passage for Psalm 18, but I’m not entirely sure we can place the writing of that psalm after Absalom’s revolt. We know that in many instances that the Bible is written thematically instead of chronologically. One place to note where all of David’s enemies had been defeated is immediately after II Samuel 8. I would view this as a good place to have David reflect back and see that God had supernaturally delivered him out of the hands of all his enemies.
The history behind David’s song should be highlighted before we examine the contents. For the sake of those who haven’t read my past posts on Jesus being a King after the order of David, here is a brief summary of where I’m coming from. David was anointed as the rightful king of Israel by Samuel. He was mighty in words [as a psalmist] and mighty in deeds [by slaying the giant and leading the armies of Israel while Saul was king] before all the children of Israel. Yet in spite of his anointing from God, his words of inspiration from the LORD, and mighty deeds, the people of Israel rejected David as the king. This was especially evident as the leaders of Israel attempted to kill David multiple times over an extended period. David was forced into exile into a foreign country. Yet even in his rejection, there were many in Israel who believed on him as the rightful king, and left their homes to follow him in the wilderness. After Saul’s death, David presented himself to the nation of Israel a second time, and this time they believed on him and anointed him as king again. They were willing to follow David into battle even as the nations gathered together against him. David never lost a battle and ultimately delivered Israel from all her neighboring enemies thereby establishing peace in the Middle East.
A summary of Psalm 18 is quite simple. David is reflecting back on his rejection, exile, and then victory as the LORD proved faithful to him. He uses language of God’s deliverance that causes us to stop and think. David is in a situation of death, despair, and distress. He cries out to God who hears David from His temple. God’s anger and wrath are aroused. Through earthquakes, smoke, darkness, thunder, lightning, and hail, God gives a stern rebuke to those who had been persecuting David. God actually descends from heaven to personally deliver David from his enemies, simply because He delighted in David. This is a summary of verses 1-19.
Then David reflects on what this means for him. "God rewarded me because I was blameless," 20-24. "LORD, you treat others as they treat You," 25-27. "You light my way and personally strengthen me," 28-30. "God is my rock and teaches my hands to make war," 31-34. "Your right hand held me up," 35-36.
Then starting in verse 37, we have the portion of the psalm where David notes his part in defeating his enemies. Verses 1-19 attribute everything concerning the deliverance directly to God. Verses 20-36 were a sort of transition. David explains how it was God empowering him to leap over a wall, bend a bow, and not allow his feet to slip. Now David begins describing how he pursued them, overtook them, wounded them, and completely destroyed them, 37-42.
As a result, God has made David the head of the nations. A people that David never knew now serves him. The foreigners of these lands come out of their hiding places and submit themselves to David’s rule, 43-45. Now based on this, David gives glory to God as the One who subdues nations to be subservient to him. So now for this reason David will give thanks to God among the Gentile nations that now serve him and will sing praises to His name, 46-49. And that is the context of the verse which Paul quotes in Romans. Verse 50 closes the psalm with references to His King, His Anointed (Messiah), David, and all David’s descendants.
To apply the parallel of David with Jesus the Messiah, we understand that Jesus was anointed by the Holy Spirit. He was mighty in words and deeds before the people. Yet for all this, He was rejected by His own people. This was especially evident as the leaders of Israel attempted and succeeded to kill Him. Although rejected, He was resurrected and many believed on Jesus as the rightful King and followed Him even as He left earth to await His future return. Jesus will return, but the nations will not be happy. They will gather in an attempt to snuff Him out. Jesus will smash the nations and then rule over them. During this time, the Gentiles will come under His authority.
As David wrote this psalm, he was writing of his own experience. Yet woven in this psalm is the future Messiah who will come and fulfill the Davidic pattern. Since God did not actually descend from heaven to deliver David, can we expect the future Messiah (God in the flesh) to literally descend from heaven accompanied by earthquakes, smoke, darkness, thunder, lightning, and hail in order to render judgement on behalf of those who put their trust in God? I believe we can. Peter points out in Acts 2:25-33 that David, in writing Psalm 16, was writing concerning the Messiah. To further prove the point, Peter points out items in Psalm 16 that simply could not have been fulfilled by David. Since those things were not fulfilled by David, Peter preaches that they must be fulfilled by the future Messiah of Whom David wrote on so many occasions. We apply the same hermeneutic here. Since these items of descending from heaven with great wrath to defeat the enemies of God was not literally fulfilled in David’s lifetime, we can conclude that David was prophesying of a future Messiah.
But now let’s turn our attention to the application of Psalm 18:49 in the context of Romans 15:9. Romans 15:9 seems to concern itself with Gentiles being saved through the preaching of the gospel during the current age of rejection as Messiah awaits a future return. Psalm 18:49 seems to concern itself with Gentiles coming under the Messianic rule after Messiah returns and defeats those who gather against Him. What in the world does a verse which concerns a future Messianic kingdom have to do with salvation of the Gentiles during the rejection period? Let’s consider some solutions.
#1- PostMillennialism and A-Millennialism are not far off the mark. If we see that the Gentiles are currently being won to Christ, perhaps the enemies that the Messiah would defeat are the enemies of sin, death, and the devil at the cross. This would put us in the midst of the Messianic (Millennial) reign, but only a spiritual reign, not an earthly reign. Or it could put us in a transition on our way to the Millennial reign as the nations are currently being transformed by the current conversion of Gentiles through the preaching of the gospel. The preaching of the gospel will be how Messiah’s enemies are defeated, not by His return. Paul quotes this verse to show that the Gentiles are in the Messianic Kingdom right now, just as prophesied.
#2- Symbolic Language is used in Psalm 18. David was not saying that God would literally come down from heaven, but only figuratively. At the end of the psalm, David was not prophesying that the nations would literally serve a future Messiah, but only symbolically. Paul quotes this psalm because it is a picture of God’s plan, not the actual plan.
#3- God has an overall plan to save Gentiles. Future Gentile nations will be saved by Messiah taking authority over the nations, but currently they are saved only as individuals coming under the Messianic rule, not as their nation comes under Messianic rule. While the salvation of Gentile nations as a whole is in view in Psalm 18:49, we can conclude that no Gentile can be excluded from God’s plan of salvation. Since Gentiles will be saved nationally in the future, they can be saved individually in the present. Therefore Paul quotes this verse as an overall principle that Gentiles will know of God’s plan of salvation eventually, so it’s no surprise that they are extended the message now as well.
#4- Both verses mention the same group of people. Gentiles who are saved under the current preaching of the message of salvation will participate in the future Messianic Kingdom by means of the resurrection. Since God’s kingdom has broken forth through the preaching of the gospel, anyone can enter the kingdom of God through repentance. Firstly, Israelites were extended the invitation, then Gentiles were allowed to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit as well. Those who enter the kingdom of God will be included in the future Messianic Kingdom, even if they die before Messiah’s arrival. Messiah will resurrect the righteous dead upon His return and allow them to enter the Messianic Kingdom here on earth. Paul quotes this verse to show that Gentiles will be allowed in the Messianic Kingdom and therefore any Gentile who repents now can expect full participation in the coming kingdom, but as a Gentile, not as an Israelite.
#5- Gentiles are being saved now as proof that they will be saved in the Messianic Kingdom. After the rejection of Messiah by Israel, certain individuals within national Israel have believed on their Messiah. God opened the door to the Gentiles sometime after Pentecost to show the nature of the future Messianic Kingdom. When Messiah returns and Israel is saved as a nation, the invitation will be open for all Gentile nations to repent and be saved nationally, just like Israel. Paul quotes this verse to show present fulfillment of a future principle.
#6- The current preaching of the gospel to all nations by means of the Gentiles is a part of God’s plan to save Gentile nations in the Messianic Kingdom. Gentile nations will come under Messianic rule. The latter part of Psalm 18 explains how. The Messiah defeats all enemies that come up against Him. But many individuals of the nations are meek and do not rebel at His authority. After those presumptuous enough to gather and rebel against Messiah are defeated, those who remained behind come out from their hiding places. They knew of this Messiah because of the preaching throughout the world by Gentiles all throughout the church age (the age of the individual salvation of the Gentiles). Since many of their kindred had believed on this Messiah before His coming, this Gentile remnant of the nations now trusts in Him and submits to His rule as He begins to reign over Israel. Paul quotes the verse in Romans 15 to show God’s progressive plan to save the nations through the current preaching of the gospel, but the nations are conquered at His coming, not through the preaching of the gospel.
#7- God is giving us an advance viewing that He intends to save the entire earth. Since God created all nations, He intends to save all nations. The light of the gospel going forth to the ends of the earth during the current church age is indisputable proof that God loves every nation, not just a select few. It was too small a thing for God to simply save Israel; His plan is to ultimately save every single nation. God created the earth to be inhabited by a people that serve Him alone. Since we currently have a remnant of Christianity within every single nation in the world, we can eventually expect God through His everlasting mercy to bring every nation into a covenant relationship with Himself. Paul first pointed out His faithfulness to Israel, then quotes a verse which shows a Messianic figure singing praises among Gentile nations. While some nations may rebel again after the thousand years, God’s love will prevail after He exercises His wrath one final time to save another remnant from Gentile nations at that time.
None of the above solutions is mutually exclusive. There may be some combination of these which solve the apparent anachronism of Paul’s quotation. I personally believe all seven to some extent or another. A-Mil and Post-Mil have a couple of valid points. David was using symbolic language in describing his own life, but it remains a prophecy unfulfilled for the future Messiah. God does have an overall plan to save all nations. Any Gentile who believes in Messiah now, will rule with Him in the Messianic Kingdom. God has shown throughout all ages that He is no respecter of persons. Numbers 4-7 give what I feel are some deeper insights as to how the ages interact with each other.
If you’ve made it to the end of this post, I think the main point that Paul was trying to make was this.
Gentiles can rejoice because Israel’s Messiah will eventually rule.
Have fun and stay busy – Luke 19:13
-The Orange Mailman