Wednesday, April 30, 2008

There Are No Second Chances

We been discussing the implications of the following passage from Romans 11 on the two streams of redemptive history:
"I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers, so that you may not be conceited: Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in. And so all Israel will be saved..."
Let us return to our musings.

The sequence of events prophesied in this passage is unmistakable:
(1) first, a hardening of Israel,
(2) then the harvest of the full number of the Gentiles,
(3) followed by the redemption of the entire nation of Israel.

In other words, Paul is saying that in redemption history God will shift his gracious attention from the Jews to the Gentiles for a period of time, during which every Gentile who will be saved will get saved, and then he will turn back his gracious attention to the Jews and save virtually the entire population of them alive at that time. I interpret this as describing a break in the succession of Daniel's 70 weeks (between 69 and 70), which Jesus called the time of the Gentiles. When that age has run its course, then redemptive history will resume with week 70 and the unfinished work God has with the Jews and Jerusalem.

What should be crystal clear from this passage is that there is a finite number of Gentiles who will be saved (don't get excited, that has nothing at all to do with Calvinism vs. Arminianism). God knows who they are, and exactly how many of them there are. When all of them that will be saved are saved (a good definition for full number or completeness), God's redemptive work with the Gentiles is finished.

During the Age of the Gentiles, that gracious work was carried out by the outpoured Spirit of God and the church. When that age ends, it stands to reason (as well as in prophecy) that those agencies will have some change in status. Since the full number of Gentiles will have come in, there remains no point in either being turned lose in this world any longer, so both will cease being in the way of the Devil's plots. The Spirit will turn the focus of God's redemptive work to redeeming all of Israel; the church will be caught away to Christ in the heavenlies.

If you are fans of Hal Lindsey's or Tim LaHaye's, or remember the cheesy Thief in the Night movie series from the seventies, the scenario I pictured here may seem a bit strange, but the notion that Daniel's 70th week has anything at all to do with Gentiles getting saved is just biblically wrong! For Gentiles, today is the day of salvation, and once the full number has been saved, it's over. There may be do-overs in the realm of children's games, but when it comes to salvation for Gentiles, it's now or never and there are no second chances.


Anonymous said...

Eschatology is one of the the "interesting" topics in the Bible. But it is also the one that is mostly misunderstood.

My knowledge is very limited regarding this topic...

Therefore, I'll just read... :)

SLW said...

Glad to have you reading. If you have a question, or even a doubt or disagreement, don't be afraid to chime in.

Anonymous said...

How do you explain the fact that Jewish people are coming to Christ today?

SLW said...

That's easy, Paul said (Romans 11:25) a partial hardening (thick-skinnedness) has come upon the Jews during the age of Gentile harvest. Some number of Jews will be the part that isn't hardened, the bulk will be. It's looking ahead in this series, but I look for 144,000 Jews to believe in their Messiah Yeshua at the beginning of the 70th week.