Jehovah`s Witness/Spritual Israel vs National Israel
QUESTION: Hello Mr Holland,
I come here occasionally and read some of the posts. I recently read a few relating to spiritual Israel as opposed to the Nation of Israel. I asked My Hepburn for his take on the subject because he always seems to give informative and polite answers. After you read his answer would you mind giving a response to it here for me. His reply made sense to me but I want to get a balancing view point.
ANSWER: Good morning, Gordon. I hope you are doing well, and I want to thank you for writing with your question about this very important topic. You are to be commended for trying to get a balanced view from both sides, but ultimately you will need to sit down with an open Bible and see what it says, as neither my opinion nor Mr. Hepburn’s, are what will matter. That being said, I am happy you asked me, and happy to offer my response to Mr. Hepburn’s post, that you requested.
You have asked me to respond to Mr. Hepburn’s post, which I will attempt to do here. I apologize for not finishing my reply yesterday evening, but please understand that Mr. Hepburn’s article was quite lengthy, and it took some time to even read, much less break down and respond to in detail.
Please also understand that, due to its length, I am going to try and summarize what he is saying, and offer my response, rather than breaking it down line-by-line. As is, my reply is going to be very lengthy, as well. So, please bear with me on that.
Let me say first of all, that if you are going to ask a question to a practicing JW on this forum, you picked the right one. Mr. Hepburn does not stoop to insults and name-calling in his replies, and you will find far more well-researched information and an attempt to give a fair and honest answer from him, than you will any other JW expert in this forum. So, with that being said, I want you to understand that my response will simply outline where I believe his conclusions are in error, and unscriptural, and are not intended in any way, to be insulting to him.
I believe he is a good guy, and makes every attempt to be honest. But we have a definitely different perspective on this issue. Mr. Hepburn rightly told you that you will simply need to read both sides, and compare them with Scripture, to which I fully agree with him. I notice that he did not pronounce death or destruction on you, if you arrive at a different conclusion. Try getting that type of reaction from any of the other JW experts here. So again, you picked the right JW to ask a question of.
Now, just an opinion here, and I am not stating this as fact. I personally wonder if Mr. Hepburn himself is really sold on this “spiritual Israel” thing. I realize he is here as a JW, and therefore, is sort of under obligation to present answers which reflect their viewpoint. But I wonder if he himself doesn’t seriously question his personal stance on this issue, because his answer made some pretty amazing admissions, and what I felt were also some attempts to deflect the obvious impact of Romans chapter 11. I say that, because I have had JWs before argue this topic in a similar manner, but later admit that they themselves didn’t fully believe the WT teaching on this.
Again, that is just my opinion.
An interesting note…The WT, in its early days, was DEFINITELY PRO-Israel. In fact, the WATCHTOWER was originally known as “Zion’s Watch Tower”, showing Russell’s viewpoint that the nation of Israel certainly DO have a role in the fulfillment of Bible prophecy. This is before they came to view THEMSELVES as “spiritual Israel”.
Just an interesting side note there, but let me get into my response to Mr. Hepburn’s reply to you.
Now, let me quote from him a a paragraph that really stood out to me, in his reply to you….
MR. HEPBURN: “You asked about Romans 11 and you suggest that shows Israel was not cut of. Would you agree that ALL the Bible is important not just a few verses? (2 Timothy 3:16 “ All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:”) That is why it is important to look at the Bible as a whole not at just isolated texts”
REPLY: Well, Romans chapter 11 is actually 36 verses, which ALL deal with the topic of the future of Israel as a nation, and their eventual standing with Jehovah God. I think 36 verses hardly qualifies as a “few verses”, or “isolated texts.” And in fact, the ENTIRE chapter is dealing with this ONE subject…National Israel, and their standing with God. When an entire chapter of 36 verses is devoted to one certain topic of this magnitude, I don’t think we can lightly dismiss it. I think it should compel us to study that chapter, and see exactly what it is trying to say to us.
The fact is, Romans chapter 11 is, BY FAR, the most in-depth discussion on this topic, contained in the entire Word of God. So, it is impossible to get at the truth of this subject, without understanding Romans chapter 11.
I do have a problem with Mr. Hepburn’s treatment of this chapter, although I do realize that when he responded to you, he had not yet seen my detailed break-down of this chapter, which posted the same day that his answer to you posted.
Here is where I disagree with Mr. Hepburn…He tries to interpret Romans chapter 11, in light of other verses, which actually carry a different meaning, than God permanently cutting of the nation of Israel, in favor of a “spiritual Israel”. That is the opposite what that he should be looking at it. There is a common rule of Biblical interpretation, which states that you interpret the UNCLEAR verses in light of the CLEAR ones. Where most false doctrine gets started, is when people put their spin on an unclear verse of Scripture, and then use it to re-interpret the CLEAR verses.
I say that, because of this statement from Mr. Hepburn….
MR HEPBURN: “ To fully appreciate what Paul was saying in Romans 11 we should keep in mind Romans 2:25-29 (quoted above)”
REPLY: I actually think that, to fully appreciate Romans 2:25-29, we should keep in mind Romans chapter 11. Especially since only ONE of these passages is actually dealing with the subject under discussion. This is why we should look at the less clear verses, in light of the clear ones, and not the other way around.
Romans chapter 11 is the clearest treatment of this subject that we have in the Scriptures. The statements are definite…
“Hath God cast away His people? God forbid.”
“God hath not cast away his people which he foreknew”
“Have they stumbled that they should fall? God forbid”
“how much more shall these, which be the natural [branches], be graffed into their own olive tree?”
“that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in.”
”All Israel shall be saved”
“For this [is] my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins.”
Gordon, these are but a few of the clear and direct statements, from the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, as to what is going to happen to Israel.
Mr Hepburn’s statement, and the statement of the JWs in general, is that the Jew’s rejection of their Messiah, was the final straw and this resulted in their being cut off forever. But keep in mind that there is NO POSSIBLE WAY this can be true, because Romans chapter 11 was written AFTER the Jew’s rejection and crucifixion of their Messiah. Their rejection was already an established fact, which no one in Paul’s day was disputing. Yet, in light of the fact that their rejection of Christ was prophesied in the Old Testament, and in light of the fact that Romans chapter 11 was written during and just after the rejection of Christ occurred and was still occurring, Paul still wrote these words under the inspiration of God’s Spirit, that the nation would be saved when they come to faith in Christ.
This was not speaking about individual Jews, but Israel as a nation. This is clear from reading this chapter, without trying to place a spin on it.
Now, Mr. Hepburn listed many verses from the Old Testament, where Jehovah told Israel that they must obey Him, in order to obtain His blessing and protection. These verses are neither disagreed upon, nor disputed. Nor are they relevant to the discussion on the FUTURE of the nation of Israel, either. In fact, we see the clear pattern many times in the Old Testament, which proves those verses true….When the Israelites obeyed Jehovah God, they were protected. They were blessed, they were fed, and they were victorious in battle. When they turned from Him, the blessings were removed.
But that isn’t the subject, nor the debate we are having. We are discussing Israel’s FUTURE role in Bible prophecy, and the notion that they were somehow permanently cast off from Jehovah forever, and will not be restored to a position of favor, once they come to faith in Jesus Christ. THAT is the topic under discussion. And Romans 11 lays that out for us quite clearly.
Now, let’s look briefly at the main verses Mr. Hepburn listed for you. Again, no Christian disagrees with these verses. We simply disagree that they say what JWs interpret them to mean.
Mr. Hepburn mentioned Galatians 6:15-16.…
“For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature.
And as many as walk according to this rule, peace [be] on them, and mercy, and upon the Israel of God.”
As Mr. Hepburn correctly noted here, this passage is referring to PHYSICAL circumcision. In the early days of the Christian Church, some who had been Jews and come to Christ, and some who were still practicing Jews, were insisting that Gentile believers needed to be circumcised in the flesh. Paul makes the point that being circumcised is making a “show in the flesh”, but even those who were circumcised were themselves breaking the law in other areas, and were merely trying to exert control over the new believers.
He went on to state that we are not to glory in circumcision, because neither circumcision nor uncircumcision were the important issue….What WAS important, is that they had become a new creature in Christ Jesus, and had been “circumcised” in the heart, and that our only “glorying” was to be in the cross of Christ, rather than the works of our flesh.
So yes, a Gentile believer, though uncircumcised, was still as much in favor with Jehovah God as a natural Israelite was, and could be referred to as “the Israel of God”, by virtue of the new birth.
Unfortunately there is nothing in this context that deals even remotely with the future of Israel as a nation. So, why should the clear statements in Romans chapter 11 be undermined by this passage, where there is nothing in this passage that even deals with the same subject that Romans 11 deals with?
It needs to be stated at this point, that the whole POINT of the Book of Galatians, was to deal with the Jews who were insisting that the law be kept, as a means for salvation. Galatians 1:1-3 bears this fact out. The entire theme of the Book, is that we are saved by grace, and not the works of the law.
What Mr. Hepburn and the JWs need to do to prove their point, is simply provide one Scripture that shows Israel’s rejection is permanent, and that there would be a “spiritual Israel” that would forever replace national Israel, in the transferring of the promises made to the NATION of Israel. We will list some of those promises in a moment, but let’s first look at the other main verses he listed.
Mr. Hepburn referred to Romans 2:25-29, and made this comment….
MR HEPBURN: “ In writing to the Romans Paul redefines what a Jew is. Lets look at what Paul had to say. Again this is from the AKJ Bible and unless I say otherwise all texts will be from that version Romans 2:25-29 “25”
REPLY: I must respectfully disagree with Mr. Hepburn, that Paul is RE-DEFINIG what a Jew is. If that were the case, then by the time Paul wrote Romans chapter 11, he must have forgotten what his own re-definition was, because he clearly distinguishes between Jew and Gentile in that chapter. Actually, he does in chapters 2 and 3, as well. That is why it is important to read the ENTIRE context, and as Mr. Hepburn himself pointed out, not simply selecting “isolated texts”.
In chapter 2, we see Paul clearly distinguishing between Jew and Gentile, in verses 9-17, which set the stage for understanding verses 25-29. We see that being a Jew after the flesh, does not guarantee one favor with God, if he is breaking the law of God. The point being made, is that when a Gentile without the law, does righteously according to the law of the heart, he is better off than a Jew who has the law, but doesn’t obey it.
The Jews were quite boastful about their being the ones that Jehovah gave the law to, and tended to view themselves as superior to the Gentiles, to whom the law was not given. Paul was making the point that a Gentile who comes to Christ, and does righteousness, is more of a “Jew” in the sense of having God’s favor, than is a fleshly Jew, who has the law, but disobeys it.
Again, nothing here dealing with the issue of national Israel coming to repentance, or the Old Testament promises made to them, not being kept, but instead, transferred to someone else.
Romans 11 DOES deal with that issue. I believe if you want the truth about a specific topic, it is better to read the Scriptures that deal WITH that topic, instead of using other Scriptures that don’t deal with it, and trying to make them explain the relevant Scriptures away.
The Scriptures Mr. Hepburn listed, speak on an INDIVIDUAL level…not a NATIONAL level. A Gentile who comes to Christ, has favor with God, and is not compelled to keep the Jewish law in order to have that favor. He is just as much in favor with God as a Jewish believer is.
I personally wish Brenton had not stopped at the end of chapter 2, because had he continued on to chapter 3, he would have seen that it bears out my above comments, that this passage is not re-defining anything, but merely EXPANDING on who has God’s favor, and who doesn’t. It shows the fact that the Gentiles now have a part in God’s blessing and favor, through faith in Christ.
And that is EXACTLY what is meant and referred to in Romans chapter 11, when Paul spoke of the “wild branches” (Gentiles) being grafted into the NATURAL “olive tree”, and then the “natural branches“ (Israel as a nation), being grafted BACK INTO their own tree again. The 2 passages harmonize perfectly, and do not contradict in the least.
Romans 3:1-2- “What advantage then hath the Jew? or what profit [is there] of circumcision?
Much every way: chiefly, because that unto them were committed the oracles of God.”
NOTE: If Paul had just “re-defined” what a Jew was in chapter 2, then this statement makes no sense at all. There would be NO advantage being a Jew.
But if we simply read verses 3-4, we again see this matter put to rest….
Romans 3:3-4- “For what if some did not believe? shall their unbelief make the faith of God without effect?
God forbid: yea, let God be true, but every man a liar;”
So, according to this passage Gordon, does the fact that some Jews don’t believe in Christ, nullify anything that God has promised them, or His faithfulness in keeping those promises?
A few statements from chapter 3, which bear out what I am saying….
v. 9-10- “What then? are we better [than they]? No, in no wise: for we have before proved both Jews and Gentiles, that they are all under sin;
As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one:“
v. 22-23- “Even the righteousness of God [which is] by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference:
For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;”
v. 29-30- “[Is he] the God of the Jews only? [is he] not also of the Gentiles? Yes, of the Gentiles also:
Seeing [it is] one God, which shall justify the circumcision by faith, and uncircumcision through faith.”
I believe from the above Scriptures, it is clear that this is not a statement showing that God no longer has a role for Israel in prophecy, or that He has gone back on His promises to them which are SURE, but rather, that both Jews and Gentiles are all under sin, and both Jews and Gentiles need to come to faith in Jesus Christ.
And I believe that is what the debate is over…Whether or not Israel as a nation will ever do that. The JWs say “no”, and the Scriptures say “yes”.
He also referenced Romans 9:22-27, but had he gone on to verses 32-33, we would have gotten a better picture of the problem, as to WHY the Jews “have not attained”.
Romans 9:32-33- “Wherefore? Because [they sought it] not by faith, but as it were by the works of the law. For they stumbled at that stumblingstone;
As it is written, Behold, I lay in Sion a stumblingstone and rock of offence: and whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed”
Here, we see the issue as it is….The Jews at this point in time, do not accept the Messiah, Jesus Christ, by faith. This is not debated by either side, so it’s a little difficult to understand why they keep bringing up this point, as if it proves that the WT Society, or the 144,000 JWs, is “spiritual Israel”. It does not.
The debate is NOT over whether the Jews currently accept Jesus Christ. The debate is over whether they WILL come to accept Him, and be restored, and God’s promises be fulfilled in them, as they are the ones that the promises were made to.
And I believe the Scriptures are clear on this.
Furthermore, we see in Romans 9, the PROMISES of God to Israel, made reference to…
Romans 9:3-4- “For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh:
Who are Israelites; to whom [pertaineth] the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service [of God], and the promises;”
Notice Gordon, that it is clearly speaking of Israel “according to the flesh” (v 3), so no way is this a reference to “spiritual Israel”. But after seeing it is referring to LITERAL Israel, we read that it is to THEM that pertains “THE PROMISES”…
What promises? The very ones that Mr. Hepburn admits were made to them…promises of restoration, favor, and blessing.
So, the question comes down to this….Will God keep those promises to them, or is He going to reneg on them, and give them to someone else? That is what every reader will have to decide.
I am going to close, by listing some Scripture references, which contain some of those promises….
2 Samuel 7:23-29
And while Jehovah’s Witnesses may scoff at the notion of the nation of Israel eventually looking to Jesus as their Messiah, what then do they do with this next passage of Scripture, which clearly shows that is exactly what will happen?
Zechariah 12:10- “And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications: and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for [his] only [son], and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for [his] firstborn.”
And Gordon, I would also like to give you the entire chapter of Ezekiel 37, for one of the clearest predictions of Israel being restored as a nation, as any to be found in the Scriptures. I would challenge any JW to show how this is not a prediction about national Israel being restored, as verse 11 clearly identifies it as such.
As stated above, research Ezekiel 37:1-28
And some very definite statements are made in Jeremiah chapter 31, as well.
Jeremiah 31:33-34 states….”But this [shall be] the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people.
And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the LORD: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the LORD: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”
And just HOW LONG is this promise good for? We are given an answer in the next 3 verses….
v. 35-37- “Thus saith the LORD, which giveth the sun for a light by day, [and] the ordinances of the moon and of the stars for a light by night, which divideth the sea when the waves thereof roar; The LORD of hosts [is] his name:
If those ordinances depart from before me, saith the LORD, [then] the seed of Israel also shall cease from being a nation before me for ever.
Thus saith the LORD; If heaven above can be measured, and the foundations of the earth searched out beneath, I will also cast off all the seed of Israel for all that they have done, saith the LORD.”
Gordon, I am looking out my window right now, and the sun is shining. I will see the moon and stars tonight. Furthermore, I don’t think it is yet possible to measure heaven. Therefore, I can only conclude from these verses, that the promises of God to Israel are still in effect today.
Also, Mr. Hepburn quoted some commentaries which seem to make statements in agreement with the notion of “spiritual Israel”. But I will emphasize again, that the Scripture is our final authority. I pointed out myself just the other day, in response to the misguided questioner who said that “Christendom teaches the Jews will accept Jesus”, and “the WT knows the truth”, etc, that there are MANY others besides Jehovah’s Witnesses who teach this heresy. Mr. Hepburn was correct that the JWs are not the only ones teaching this. Therefore, the other questioner simply didn’t know what he was talking about.
In light of the quotes he gave you from a few select commentaries (because there are many I could quote as well, refuting this viewpoint), I am going to give you a link that covers this topic quite in-depth, and gives thorough answers to some of the verses used by Jehovah’s Witnesses and others, who believe in “replacement theology”.
I just read this article about ¾ of the way through this answer to you, and thought you might find it helpful to look at in your spare time.
I will conclude by saying this: The JW religion takes the position that THEY are “spiritual Israel”, because that is the only way they can justify their existence. This was a religion begun in 1879, and has come to the point over time that they believe THEY are the ONLY group on the earth today with God’s favor. If it is shown that they are not “spiritual Israel”, and that the whole concept isn’t even Scriptural, then this religion cannot even justify its own existence. So, a lot rides on this teaching for them. If they are not “spiritual Israel”, and if in fact there is no such thing, then they are no different than any other religious group.
And I think the Scriptural evidence is quite clear on this topic, with too many clear and outright statements, that show their contention to be completely false.
Thanks for writing, and I hope this answer has proven helpful and beneficial.
Again, I believe Romans chapter 11 settles the issue of what will happen to national Israel, and does so in terms that are clear and indisputable.
---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------
QUESTION: Thank you for your time Mr Holland. Your response was well detailed and compelling. Seeing the two sides of this debate is enlightening. I am going to ask Mr Hepburn to give his take on some of the things you mentioned. But first may I ask you for some clarification. Can you elaborate on the verses that you say Mr Hepburn used that “actually carry a different meaning”. I have already asked and received a second response from Mr Hepburn. From what I understand Mr Hepburn as saying the chapter in Romans 11 should be considered in light of the fact that “Their rejection was already an established fact,”. He also knowledge's as you do that there was some tension between the Jewish Christians and the Gentile Christians and that should be taken into consideration in understanding Romans 11:1-3. He and I amuse JWS use the other texts to show that the nation of Israel had been rejected and that Romans 11 should be seen in that light. I understand him to say that because the other texts show rejection then Romans can not be talking about the future Nation of Israel. You say you do not dispute the many texts where Israel was told to obey or else, you and give a valid response. So I am going to ask about that and about the prophecies you mention.
Good morning, Gordon. Good to hear from you.
I will be happy to try and clarify. I actually did elaborate on what I felt were his main verses, being Romans 2:25-29, Romans 9:22-27, and Galatians 6:15-16. I tried to give what those verses were saying, in their proper context. I had to go back and find my exact quote, where I said something about them "carrying a different meaning". I assume you are referring to where I said this:
"Here is where I disagree with Mr. Hepburn…He tries to interpret Romans chapter 11, in light of other verses, which actually carry a different meaning, than God permanently cutting of the nation of Israel, in favor of a “spiritual Israel”.
REPLY: Yes, my point here, was that Mr. Hepburn was using the verses listed above (those are the ones I was referring to), to sort of undercut the clear passages in Romans chapter 11, while attaching a meaning to these verses that is foreign to the context.
You wrote: “From what I understand Mr Hepburn as saying the chapter in Romans 11 should be considered in light of the fact that “Their rejection was already an established fact,”.
Actually, I think I said that. I wrote this in my reply yesterday….”Mr Hepburn’s statement, and the statement of the JWs in general, is that the Jew’s rejection of their Messiah, was the final straw and this resulted in their being cut off forever. But keep in mind that there is NO POSSIBLE WAY this can be true, because Romans chapter 11 was written AFTER the Jew’s rejection and crucifixion of their Messiah. Their rejection was already an established fact, which no one in Paul’s day was disputing. Yet, in light of the fact that their rejection of Christ was prophesied in the Old Testament, and in light of the fact that Romans chapter 11 was written during and just after the rejection of Christ occurred and was still occurring, Paul still wrote these words under the inspiration of God’s Spirit, that the nation would be saved when they come to faith in Christ.”
And that is the point I am making…The JW premise that the nation of Israel is forever cut off due to rejecting Christ, is refuted by the fact that Paul is here stating in Romans 11, that they are NOT permanently cast off, and he wrote this when the Jew’s rejection of Christ was an already established fact. It had already happened, and was happening.
And I also must disagree with Mr. Hepburn’s contentions that Romans 11 is not dealing with Israel as a nation, when the context shows it obviously is. There are things said about the Israel in Romans chapter 11, that are ONLY true of them as a nation, and cannot be applied to anyone else. Verses 2, 3, and 20, for instance. The context shows us it is natural Israel which is spoken of, and that the same Israel that is guilty of these things, is the same Israel that will be restored. Why would restoration even be needed, unless there was a division?
I also read his comments on the word “foreknew”, and I read them several times, and still failed to understand what his point was. He listed from several “bibles”, but none of those listings changed nor contradicted the point I was making. I think Mr. Hepburn might have been arguing my point about God “foreknowing” that Israel would reject the Messiah, but surely he wouldn’t argue that, since it was PROPHESIED even in the Old Testament that this would occur…So I would say that God certainly DID foreknow that fact. The prophecies prove it. Isaiah 53, is but one such prophecy.
I was a little disappointed with his 2nd reply, to be honest with you. He is a good guy, and he is honest. And he knows better than what he is saying. I understand he has to support WT teaching, but I can see enough in his answer to KNOW that he actually does understand what Romans 11 is saying. At the end of the day, he has to decide as we all do, which is most important…The Scriptures, or the doctrine we WANT to believe. That’s all I will say on that for now.
But getting back to your question, my point was that none of the verses he used, say or teach that Israel as a nation has been permanently rejected. What they DO teach, is that Gentiles have been granted the opportunity to be saved, and receive the same blessings and standing with God. They do not even hint that national Israel has been replaced by some imagined, but nowhere mentioned in the Scripture, “spiritual Israel”.
On the other hand, Romans chapter 11 DOES deal with this topic, so the other verses should be interpreted in light of Romans chapter 11. Mr. Hepburn seems to be taking the approach that Romans chapter 11 should be interpreted in light of the other verses, which actually don’t say or teach what the Watchtower says they do. When you interpret Romans chapter 11 in light of the other verses, you have the verses contradicting themselves, due to the interpretation that is being imposed upon them….You have the verses he used, being interpreted to mean that Israel has been forever cast off, due to their rejection of Jesus Christ, and Romans chapter 11 saying just the opposite.
However, when you interpret the verses he used in light of Romans chapter 11 (which again, is the most detailed chapter in the Bible on this topic), then ALL the Scriptures harmonize. Romans 11 shows that the Gentiles have been allowed to come in, which is EXACTLY what the verses he is using, also show. And you also have Romans chapter 11 showing that once the fulness of the Gentiles have come in, then national Israel will come to repentance and realize the Messiah they rejected, was truly the One sent from God.
Its like a puzzle. Both sides have the same pieces. When you try and manipulate Romans chapter 11 to teach what it obviously isn’t teaching, and try to change it because of these other verses, you have a puzzle with pieces turned over so that you can’t see them, and have no idea where they go. When you look at what Romans 11 is saying, and harmonize it with the other verses, it is a puzzle where every piece is clear, and fits right together, giving you a view of the entire picture.
That is the point I was making in my comments. The way he is using those verses listed above, is REQUIRING him to make Romans 11 say what it isn’t saying. There is no debate at all that Romans 11 is speaking of national Israel. Paul took great steps to show this, by showing national Israel’s guilt. When those acts of verse 2-3 were committed, there was NO “spiritual Israel” in existence. And nowhere in Romans chapter 11, does the “Israel” change from national to spiritual.
It is simply a case of trying to make the Scriptures teach a doctrine, instead of letting the Scriptures FORM our doctrine.
I did appreciate Mr. Hepburn’s comment on using all the Scriptures. I quote from his 2nd reply to you. He wrote:
“I can understand why people see Romans 11 as saying that natural Israel will be saved and have a place in world events, but that is if they read Romans 11 only. But one must remember that “ All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine,” 2 Tim.3:15
It is up to you to decide if “ALL scripture ” points to another conclusion or not. As for me, I prefer to look at “ALL scripture ”
Well, this seems to me to be sort of an admission that Romans 11 DOES say what I claimed it did. He seems to decry reading Romans 11 ONLY, which I have not done, by the way. But again, Romans 11 is BY FAR the most detailed treatment of this subject in Scripture, so it certainly shouldn’t be ignored.
However, I agree that we should look at ALL the Scriptures. I have said this myself countless times through the years, on this forum. But the problem is, the more Scriptures we look at, ESPECIALLY those found in Old Testament prophecy, the MORE we see that God will fulfill the promises TO the people He made them to. Anything else questions the integrity of God.
Like the prophecies I listed for you yesterday. Gordon, I truly hope you will take the time to look those up. The one in Ezekiel 37 is CLEARLY DEFINED for us, and the one about the promises of God to Israel lasting as long as the sun, moon, and stars, is irrefutable. Also, that link I sent you, deals with some other verses “replacement theology” people use, and explains them in much more detail than I did. It even mentions some that Mr. Hepburn didn’t list. Some really good stuff there.
Bottom line…There is not one single verse of Scripture anywhere, that says that there is a “spiritual Israel” or church, that has replaced God’s promises to the nation of Israel, and has made them null and void. Every verse we have dealing with that subject, says they are NOT cast off for good, and that they will be restored. Every single one….
In fact, do you remember the question Jesus was asked of His disciples in Acts 1:6?
Acts 1:6- “When they therefore were come together, they asked of him, saying, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?”
Now, this was asked AFTER the Jew’s rejection and murder of their Messiah. So, why in the world did the disciples (the earliest of the new “spiritual Israel", in the JW minds), think that the kingdom was going to be restored to Israel? What was even behind this question? Did they not know that this was not going to happen? Evidently not, because they FULLY expected it to happen. They knew the prophecies. They knew the promises. So, they asked this question, with those prophecies and promises in mind.
But did Jesus correct them, and let them know that it wasn’t going to happen that way? No, instead He simply told them that they didn’t need to worry about “WHEN” it would happen, but that they simply needed to be empowered by the Holy Ghost to witness and preach the Gospel to the regions around them.
Acts 1:7-8 - “And he said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power.
But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.”
This would have been the perfect place for Jesus to have corrected their notion, had it been false, just before He ascended back to Heaven. He didn’t…He merely told them the Father had all of that in His own control, and they simply needed to be worrying about getting the Gospel out.
Now, you wrote….”He also knowledge's as you do that there was some tension between the Jewish Christians and the Gentile Christians and that should be taken into consideration in understanding Romans 11:1-3.”
REPLY: I agree fully with this statement. In fact, I dare say that is WHY we even HAVE Romans chapter 11...to settle the idea of whether the Church has replaced “Israel”. And I think Romans 11 clearly shows they have not replaced them. We, as the Church, are grafted into the “olive tree” (symbolizing God’s favor), as “wild branches”. And while making us part of the tree, it does NOT mean that the original branches (Israel) are cast aside, because they will be grafted back in again also. I would say it is no accident that we have such a detailed explanation as chapter 11 provides, due to the very fact of the tension, and likely DOCTRINAL questions, that arose between Jewish and Gentile believers.
So yes, I believe that fact SHOULD be taken into consideration. And I think when we do take it into consideration, it makes the case for LITERAL Israel being restored, that much stronger. Its not like the natural branches were replaced by the “wild branches”…No, the wild branches were merely ADDED into the tree, and the natural branches will be included into the tree once again also.
You wrote….”He and I amuse JWS use the other texts to show that the nation of Israel had been rejected and that Romans 11 should be seen in that light. I understand him to say that because the other texts show rejection then Romans can not be talking about the future Nation of Israel.”
REPLY: Yes, I believe you are correctly understanding what he is saying, and what the JW position in general, consists of.
Unfortunately, the other texts do not show a permanent rejection of Israel, but merely an INCLUSION of the Gentiles. That is where their argument fails.
And when we realize that, then we don’t have to do Scriptural gymnastics with Romans chapter 11.…We can simply read and accept it as it is.
Thanks for writing, Gordon, and I sincerely hope this has helped clarify what I was saying.
Take care, and God bless.