Forever the Iconoclast
For years I've had reservations about the End-Times movement or whatever you might want to call it. This is the teaching that the church was a mystery, never mentioned or even alluded to in the Old Testament, and the old covenant would re-emerge with the Jews performing sacrifices in the Temple again once the church is raptured away. Even though I have sat through over a hundred sermons on the subject, I never had been able to get past the feeling that something about it just wasn't right.
About a year and a half ago, a friend and I had agreed to start a church plant together. We were going to use his office for the start and grow from there. Over lunch one particular day, our conversation skirted off into Bible prophecy. (He was and still is into Bible prophecy big time.) In no time flat we hit on Romans 11:25, 26:
want you to understand this mystery: a hardening has come upon part of Israel, until the full number of the Gentiles has come in; so all Israel will be saved. . .
The End-Times movement uses this verse as the fulcrum for a great revival among the Jews at Jesus' Second Coming (there are some variations on timing, but the overall message is the same). They see "Israel" as having one meaning and one meaning only, and that's ethnic Jews. This is how one prophecy teacher puts it:
There is not a single reference in the New Testament to Israel which cannot be taken in its plain meaning. Not a single instance requires the term to include Gentiles.
The problem that I've had with this, and had at lunch that day, is how it cuts against what Paul writes in Romans 9:6. He says there that "not all the ones of Israel are Israel." This marks two Israels, not just one, meaning that you can't just paint "Israel" by the numbers. You can't say, for instance, "not all ethnic Jews are ethnic Jews." Paul elucidates two Israels throughout Romans 9-11, and it's just one of the two that is saved in Romans 11:25, 26.
My friend and I decided to shelve our church plans that day, and revisit the issue later on. After looking at this over the past year and a half, I'm more than confident that the idea of a last great revival among ethnic Israel isn't scripturally sound.