Now if the fall of them be the riches of the world, and the diminishing of them the riches of the Gentiles; how much more their fullness? Rom. 11:12.
One of our readers submitted the following question: "My wife, who is a pre-millennialist, would like to know your opinion of Rom. 11:12 ('how much more their fulness')."
I am somewhat reluctant to offer an interpretation of this expression in Rom. 11:12, because it involves the question of the place of Israel in the purpose and plan of God. That question has been often debated and hundreds of books have been written on it. The disagreements between a-mils and pre-mils are many more than the interpretation of this one passage.
I shall, however, offer a brief explanation, not so much in the hopes that any pre-mil reading this will be converted from his or her erroneous position, but more as a matter of information so that any pre-mil may at least know how historic a-mils have interpreted this Word of God.
The expression in vs. 12, "the fullness of the Jews," is the same in meaning as the expression "And so all Israel shall be saved" in vs. 26. The question, in its narrowest form, is: Does "all Israel" mean "every Jew"? or does it mean "every elect Jew?" If the latter is true, as I believe it is, then God continues to save a remnant from the nation of Israel throughout all history. When that last elect Jew is saved, that is the "fullness of Israel;" then "all Israel is saved."
That, in short is the historic a-mil interpretation of this expression. I cannot go into the proof from Scripture and from this chapter itself why this interpretation is the correct one. The RFPA has a publication, God's Eternal Good Pleasure, which deals with this passage (and with all of Romans 11) in detail. If any of our readers are interested in the proof for the historic a-mil interpretation which I have summarized, they can purchase the book or write for a photocopy of the chapter on Romans 11:12.
In the remainder of this article, I want to make a few general remarks about the thought of the apostle in this chapter.
First of all, it is well to remind ourselves that Rom. 11 is a part of a section in Paul's epistle to the Romans which begins in chap. 9, and which deals with the so-called "Jewish Problem." What is God's purpose with the Jews?
That problem is highlighted in chap. 9 by the apostle's remarks about Israel's apostasy and God's judgment upon the nation. Israel was rejected because the nation crucified Christ. Does that rejection of Israel mean that God has forsaken His people and that His Word is of none effect?
Paul spends this entire section explaining his answer that it is not true that God's Word has failed, for a remnant of Israel is saved.
In Rom. 11, using the figure of an olive tree, Paul points to the fact that the natural branches have been cut off the tree (11:17, 21). He explains, however, that the natural branches were cut off in order to make room for branches from the wild olive tree to be grafted in (17, 19).
In fact this is precisely what the apostle means by various expressions used, also in vs. 12: "The fall of them (Israel) is the riches of the world (Gentiles)"; "the diminishing of them (Israel) the riches of the Gentiles." The casting away of them (Israel) is the reconciling of the world (Gentiles) (15).
And so the rejection of the nation of Israel was to make room for the Gentiles. Or, to put it a bit differently: While the church of Christ was saved from the nation of Israel in the old dispensation, God's purpose is to save a catholic church, i.e., a church gathered from every nation and tribe and tongue. With Pentecost the work of God broke through the national boundaries of the nation of Israel in order to encompass every nation.
Nevertheless, the nation of Israel occupies that unique position in the purpose of God that from it alone an elect remnant is saved throughout the entire new dispensation. The apostle talks about this in 11:1-5, and literally states this in vs. 24: "For if thou (a Gentile) wert cut out of the olive tree which is wild by nature and wert grafted contrary to nature into a good olive tree: how much more shall these, which be the natural branches (Jews) be grafted into their own olive tree?"
One more point must be remembered. Never in the old dispensation did God save all of the natural Jews. Not only does the OT record demonstrate this, but Paul says the same in 9:6-13, when he explains that election and reprobation cut through the nation in all its history. Only the seed of the promise was saved. So also in the new dispensation God saves a remnant according to the election of grace. And when that remnant is saved, the fullness of Israel comes, and so all Israel is saved.
- Volume: 7
- Issue: 13
Prof. Herman Hanko (Wife: Wilma)
Ordained: October 1955
Pastorates: Hope, Walker, MI - 1955; Doon, IA - 1963; Professor to the Protestant Reformed Seminary - 1965
Emeritus: 2001Website: www.sermonaudio.com/search.asp?speakeronly=true&currsection=sermonsspeaker&keyword=Prof._Herman_Hanko
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