The Lord’s redeeming love is one of the great threads of the story of salvation that is set forth in the prophets. This love is not only for individuals, but also for the nations. And if it is true for the nations, it is certainly true for Israel!
The story of Israel’s redemption is key to the world’s future that is foretold by God. This is why it is given such great attention by the Apostle Paul in Romans 9-11. Yet, as marvelous as Israel’s restoration may be, it does not stand alone. It is part and parcel of the glorious work of renewal that the Lord knew even from before Creation. The Word reveals so much to us about the redemption and blessing of Israel.
Israel’s Election and the Chosen Remnant
The Apostle Paul’s characterization of Israel’s present situation is captured by the word remnant. This concept was familiar to the Jewish readers of Paul’s day who were well versed in the Hebrew Bible.
Paul first refers to the remnant in Romans 9, as he quotes from the prophet Isaiah, “For though your people, O Israel, be as the sand of the sea, a remnant of them will return…” (Isaiah 10:22a). He returns to it again in Romans 11, in the familiar reference of the Lord’s answer to Elijah’s anguished lament that he was the only faithful Israelite left: “…I have reserved for Myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal” (Romans 11:4).
Now Paul takes this familiar imagery in a new direction. He writes, “Even so then, at this present time there is a remnant according to the election of grace. And if by grace, then it is no longer of works; otherwise grace is no longer grace. But if it is of works, it is no longer grace; otherwise work is no longer work” (Romans 11:5-6).
Drawing a parallel between the faithful few of former times, Paul likens them to the Jewish believers in Messiah in his own day. Although these Messianic Jews may not yet be numerous, they stand in the midst of all Israel as faithful followers of the God of Israel and His Messiah.
The Remnant and the End Time
Finally, Paul directs our gaze to the revealed mystery (revelation) toward which all of history presses–a history that is bound up with the inclusion of believing Gentiles and the long-awaited national repentance of Israel. The concept of the ingathering of the remnant is closely connected with the Day of the Lord-the consummation of history as we know it.
Quoting again from Isaiah, Paul writes, “And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written: ‘The Deliverer will come out of Zion, and He will turn away ungodliness from Jacob; for this is My covenant with them, when I take away their sins'” (Romans 11:26-27).
For Paul, the remnant represents those who have been tested and have remained true. They are a sign of hope that points to Israel’s glorious future. At “the fullness of the Gentiles” (Romans 11:25), Israel will be fully restored to God and the promise to Abraham concerning the nations in Genesis 12:3 will be completely fulfilled.