The Promise that Israel Will be Saved.

I befriended a number of young native Israelis when I lived in the country and was surprised at their indifference upon hearing that I was a Christian. They seemed equally apathetic about Judaism. It was their ethnicity as Jews and connection to the land of Israel as their national homeland that unified them.

Something else that came as a surprise was when one friend gave me a Hebrew Bible published specifically for the Israeli Defense Forces. It was given to her brother when he was conscripted into the army; every soldier gets one and almost all 18 year-old’s are drafted, men and women. He didn’t want it. I was shocked when I  noticed that it contained the New Testament, which in Hebrew is called Haberit Hakhadasha, “The New Covenant”. There’s probably a copy sitting in most Israeli households.

I recognized it as the 19th-century translation of the New Testament by the German Old Testament scholar Franz Delitzsch. The Lutheran Hebraist had translated the Greek into classical Hebrew, a long-dead language. What is oddly coincidental about this is that around the same time Lexicographer Eliezer ben-Yehuda, who immigrated to Palestine from Europe and who became a leader in the movement to re-establish the nation of Israel as the Jewish homeland, was determined to and succeeded in reviving classical Hebrew as its native language.

Romans 11:25-27 clearly states that in the last days the Jews of Israel and those worldwide would embrace Christ as the Messiah:

Lest you be wise in your own conceits, I want you to understand this mystery, brethren: a hardening has come upon part of Israel, until the full number of the Gentiles come in, and so all Israel will be saved; as it is written, “The Deliverer will come from Zion, he will banish ungodliness from Jacob”; “and this will be my covenant with them when I take away their sins.”

Some commentators doubt that this points to a future conversion of the Jews, preferring to interpret the phrase “all Israel” as a reference to the Church as a whole, including believing Jews. But throughout Romans 9-11 Jews and Gentiles are consistently presented as separate entities. While the notion that the Church represents the “new Israel” is compatible with Catholic teaching, it is not the subject of Romans 9-11. The focus here is on the conundrum of the ultimate fate of unbelieving Jews. In the verses preceding this text, Paul references tree branches, the gentiles being the wild olive branch that was grafted onto the tree, and the Jews, the original cultivated branch that, though cut off, could later be grafted back on.

This will not happen until after “…the full number of Gentiles come in”. We will know that this will have been achieved by witnessing a widespread conversion of Jews. In the following video a sociological cross-section of Israelis are asked what they think about Jesus. The variety of responses shows the lack of knowledge among Jews living in the Holy Land about His life and teachings. From my experience in the country, it is the opinions of the young non-religious Israelis in the video that represent those of the vast majority—a simple indifference, not hostility, representing a possible opportunity.


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