The Redeemer Shall Come Out of Zion – Part #1
Don K. Preston (D. Div.)
For I do not desire, brethren, that you should be ignorant of this mystery, lest you should be wise in your own opinion, that blindness in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. 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 11:25-27 continues to be the source of almost endless speculation and discussion. We are told by most commentators that it refers to a yet future coming of the Lord at the end of time, at which point “national Israel” will be converted. This is the classic Postmillennial view. While Postmillennialists and Dispensationalists hold to greatly different paradigms, in this regard, they share a great deal in common. Both anticipate a future restoration and conversion of national Israel.
Postmillennialists Kenneth Gentry and Greg Bahnsen offered the following comments about Romans 11:25-27:
Gentry offers this:
Postmillennialists sees here the promise of world conversion as finally including Israel herself.”…. “We must understand that since Israel’s loss is almost total (only a remnant remains, 11:5), her ‘fulfillment’ (Gk, pleroma) must be commensurate with her loss, which means it must be virtually total. Hence, postmillennialists believe in future, massive conversions among the Jews, not only due to general systematic requirements of world salvation, but also due to this exegetical evidence.” (Gentry, He Shall Have Dominion, (Draper, VA., Apologetics Group, 2009), 254). See also Gentry, Thine is the Kingdom, 2003, (Vallecito, CA., Chalcedon 2003), 13ff, 169).
Greg Bahnsen offered numerous citations from the Westminister Confession of Faith on the fulfillment of Romans 11:25-27 as part and parcel of Postmillennialism. Bahnsen says,
“The Westminster divines looked forward to the overthrow of the Roman Antichrist, the expansion of the true church by the conversion of the Jews and the fulness of the Gentiles, and an age of blessing upon the church through the rule of Christ.” (Bahnsen, Victory in Jesus: The Bright Hope of Postmillennialism, (Texarkana, Ar., Covenant Media Press, 1999), 83f, 88-89).
Another popular view is that of Kim Riddlebarger, Amillennialist, who, along with other commentators suggest that the coming of the redeemer “out of Zion” is referent to Jesus’ incarnation, not a future coming at all. He offers us a somewhat confused view of Romans 11:25f:
Paul, therefore, probably understands the future tenses of the Isaiah prophecy as fulfilled in the first coming of Christ, which set in motion the apostolic mission of the church. (Kim Riddlebarger, Amillennialism, (Grand Rapids, Baker. IVP Press, 2003), 194).
So, Riddlebarger says that the coming of the Lord out of Zion was the Incarnation. But, he then posits a future salvation of Israel at the end of the age: “Is there a future for ethnic Israel? Paul’s answer was yes. And the presence of a believing remnant was proof. But the future salvation of Israel is not connected to a future millennial kingdom. It is connected to the end of the age. When all Israel is saved, the resurrection is near.” It is of more than passing interest that Riddlebarger interprets the key text that is used by others to speak of a future salvation of Israel, and rejects that application. Yet, he says- while not offered an exegetical argument or text – that Israel does have a future!
N. T. Wright differs with all of the above and offers us this:
Much as we might like to hope for a sudden universal unhardending, this is simply not how the notion of ‘hardening’ itself functions. As we saw, the ‘hard and impenitent heart’ of 2. 4-5 was what came about when the ‘kindness’ of God, meant to lead to repentance, was refused, so that the ‘hardening’ was the prelude, not to a sudden mercy despite the lack of repentance, but to judgment (N. T. Wright, Paul and the Faithfulness of God, 2013, 1237).
He adds: “The Until’ clause (until the fulness of the nations comes in’) does indeed provide a temporal marker, but it is not a marker which of itself can tell us what happens to the ‘hardened’ part of Israel once that time has been reached.” I am personally convinced that, as I will share below, the “until” temporal marker must be delimited by chapter 9:28, where Paul said that the end times salvation of the remnant would not be a prolonged, protracted process.
Wright takes the view that in Romans 11 Paul had in mind the total number of Israelites that will eventually be converted through individually turning to the Lord in faith until that number is finalized at the coming of Christ. He also seems to suggest that the “all Israel” to be saved is inclusive of Jew and Gentile that will be saved until the consummation. (N. T. Wright, The Letter to the Romans, New Interpreters Bible, (Abingdon, Nashville, 2002).
As one can see, there are many differing views about the meaning of “all Israel shall be saved.” Gary Demar offers a helpful summary of the differing views that have been / are suggested in the commentators:
//As with most theological positions, there are a variety of interpretations of this passage:
(1) The salvation of every racial/ethnic Jew. This is an impossible interpretation. Why preach the gospel to the Jews if they’re all going to be saved?”
(2) The salvation of believers–racial and spiritual Jews–throughout history. This position changes the meaning of Israel, going from literal (Rom. 11:1) to spiritual (11:26). While it’s possible; it’s unlikely;
(3) The salvation of a remnant of Jews at the end of history. This is the position of the Westminster Confession of Faith (Q. 191 LC). Two-thousand years have passed since Romans was written. The Jews have had plenty of time to be “jealous” (Rom. 11:11). The Jews in Paul’s day were jealous. That’s why Jews were persecuting the church;
(4) Salvation of those Jews who survive the Great Tribulation. This becomes a debate over when the GT(Great Tribulation, DKP) took/takes place. A remnant of Jews was saved prior to the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70, therefore, the GT is a past event;
(5) The remnant of Jews living during the period of covenant transition until the time Jerusalem was judged and the temple destroyed. This interpretation makes the most sense given the time indicators in the passage.// (http://www.preteristsite.com/docs/demarisrael.html).
I believe that Demar (and a growing number of other commentators), is correct to see that Romans 11 was fulfilled in the first century. (In my book, Elijah Has Come: A Solution to Romans 11:25-27, I adduce a wealth of information and evidence to support this claim. You can order that book from my website. Mention this article and I will pay shipping for you).
ROMANS 11 AND GOD’S FAITHFULNESS TO OLD COVENANT ISRAEL
Before proceeding, there is a fundamental fact that must be recognized, and that is that the promises of the salvation of Israel at the coming of the Lord are in fact focused on the fulfillment of God’s Old Covenant promises made to Israel – Israel after the flesh (Romans 9:1-3), and cannot be divorced from that context. Paul is clear that the consummation of the salvation of the remnant was to include some of those of Israel that remained, at the time he was writing, enemies of the Gospel (Romans 11:28)! He was not talking about Gentiles! While the Gentiles were being brought into Israel’s salvation – which was itself the fulfillment of God’s promises to Old Covenant Israel!! – nonetheless, it is critical to see that Paul is not discussing the end of the New Covenant age, or history, at the Second Coming of Christ. He was speaking of the consummation of Israel’s Old Covenant age, not the consummation of the Messianic Age.
What this means is that if you posit the fulfillment of Romans 11:25f at the end of the Christian age, that means that you are saying that Old Covenant Israel remains as God’s covenant people today. It means you are saying that a multitude of Old Covenant promises made to Israel after the flesh are still valid and binding to day. This is problematic for those who claim that God was through with Israel and the Old Law at the cross. If Romans 11:25-27 is not fulfilled, then God was NOT through with Israel or the Law at the cross. It is that simple. It is that undeniable.
Let me illustrate the problem by sharing a recent discussion (September -November, 2022) on YouTube. A poster who claims to be an Amillennialist, that often posts under my YouTube videos adamantly takes the position that the Law of Moses was nailed to the cross. He argued that the Law itself was annulled (from katargeo, in the Greek). I asked him how, if that were true, Paul could say that the last three of Israel’s feast days were still, when Paul wrote Colossians, “shadows of the good things about to come” (Colossians 2:14-17)? Amazingly, he said that those feast days remain as shadows of the good things that are coming! In response, I posted the following argument:
Not one jot or one tittle could pass from the law until it was all fulfilled, said Jesus.
The law of Moses – all of it – was completely abrogated, annulled at the cross- says Jeff Cunningham.
But, Jeff Cunningham says that the last three feast days of Israel’s festal calendar – commanded by the Law of Moses – remain valid and binding – unfulfilled shadows, until the time of the judgment, the parousia and the resurrection.
Therefore, not one jot or one tittle of the Law of Moses has passed away, and will not pass away until the unfulfilled shadows of the last three feast days of the Law of Moses are fulfilled, at the time of the judgment, the parousia and the resurrection.
Mr. Cunningham refused to answer. Not so much as a keystroke. As of the posting of this article, I have posted this argument five times, and Mr. Cunningham refuses to say one word. Not a jot, not a tittle. Little wonder why.
As demonstrated above, both Amillennialists and Postmillennialists posit the fulfillment of Romans 11:25-27 at the end of the current Christian age / end of time. Yet, in Romans 11, Paul anticipated the fulfillment of numerous Old Covenant promises made to Old Covenant Israel. Do you see the problem? It is real and it is severe.
In an attempt to keep this article to a manageable size, I want to focus now on the language of “the redeemer shall come out of Zion” with a focus on the word and concept of the “redeemer.”
To set the stage for the rest of the article let me share a quote from Tom Holland’s book, Contours of Pauline Theology:
The first responsibility that fell upon the shoulders of the redeemer was that of securing revenge for his family. When a member of the family was murdered, the redeemer’s responsibility was to exact blood vengeance on the guilty party; the law of retribution meant that the responsibility rested on his shoulders (Genesis 4:14-15, 23f; Numbers 35:22-29; Deuteronomy 19:4-10). In the latter part of Isaiah, where YahWeh is often called the redeemer, Yahweh promised to act as the avenger of his people (Isaiah 43:3-4, 14-15; 47:4; 49:25-26; 5916-20). In the New Testament Christ himself is presented as fulfilling this same role (Luke 1:68-79; 18:7; 2 Thessalonians 1:6-9; Revelation 6:9-11). (Tom Holland, Contours of Pauline Theology, (Christian Focus Publications, Geanies House, Fearn, Ross-Shire IV20 1TW, Scotland, UK; 2004), p 240).
While one can point to the story of Ruth and take note of the fact that there is not any vindication of suffering in the story, which is true, that does not mitigate Holland’s point. (Let me take note that in the Greek of Romans 11:26, we find the word “deliverer” (Rhyomenos) and not “redeemer.” The majority of translations render it as deliverer as well. However, the LXX of Isaiah 59: is the “redeemer”- (goel). So, this does not change the fact that both Numbers 35 and Deuteronomy 19 describe in great detail the role of the redeemer as the avenger of the family that had suffered the murder of their loved one. The reality is that the role of the redeemer was multi-faceted. Deliverance was one of those roles / functions.
With that in mind, take note that in the context of Romans 11, Paul mentions the Jewish rejection of the Gospel. That rejection included the martyrdom of the saints who were preaching the Gospel to them (cf. Chapter 10). Thus, when we come to 11:25f we cannot exclude the ideas lying behind the “redeemer” motif.
Virtually all scholars agree that in Romans 11:25-27, when Paul makes the promise concerning “all Israel shall be saved, for the redeemer shall come out of Zion” that he was quoting from three specific OT prophecies: Isaiah 27:10f; Isaiah 59:18f; Jeremiah 31:29f – with a strong possibility that he also had Daniel 9:24-27 in mind.
For brevity, let’s focus on Isaiah 59:18f. We will also discuss Psalms 69 that Paul quotes prior to verses 25-27:
According to their deeds, accordingly He will repay, Fury to His adversaries, Recompense to His enemies; The coastlands He will fully repay. So shall they fear The name of the Lord from the west, And His glory from the rising of the sun; When the enemy comes in like a flood, The Spirit of the Lord will lift up a standard against him. “The Redeemer will come to Zion, And to those who turn from transgression in Jacob,” Says the Lord.
It is important to note the strong theme of judgment found here: “According to their deeds, accordingly He will repay, Fury to His adversaries, Recompense to His enemies.”
So, along with the promise of the coming of the redeemer for the salvation of those, “who turn from transgression in Jacob,” we find the promise that the Lord would repay His enemies, the unrighteous, with vengeance and judgment. Let’s look closer at the chapter to see what sins the Lord would judge at the coming of the redeemer.
ISAIAH 59, BLOOD ATONEMENT, AND ISRAEL’S SALVATION
I suggest that Isaiah 59 naturally breaks itself into three divisions: Accusation, Acknowledgment, Action. Let us briefly explain each of these divisions. (I develop Isaiah 27 and 59 in more detail in my book, Like Father Like Son, On Clouds of Glory, which is available from my websites).
● ACCUSATION ➔ In verses 1-8, Jehovah accuses Israel of being almost hopelessly sinful. Among her sins, “Your hands are defiled with blood” (v. 3). Hosea, contemporary of Isaiah, described her blood guilt, “they break all restraint. With bloodshed upon bloodshed” (Hosea 4:2). Not only that, but, they recognized that their sin was mounting up, which had ominous meaning, as we shall see momentarily– “For our transgressions are multiplied before You, And our sins testify against us; For our transgressions are with us, And as for our iniquities, we know them.”
Israel recognized that she was in the process of filling up the measure her sin, and a major portion of that sin was “violence” and shedding innocent blood. Undeniably then, the theme of bloodshed and martyrdom is a major accusation against Israel in this prophecy. This demanded the coming of the Redeemer to avenge that innocent blood.
● ACKNOWLEDGMENT ➔ In verses 9-15, Israel confesses her sin. Salvation is far from her, “justice is far from us, nor does righteousness over take us, we look for light and there is none, ….justice is turned back, and righteousness stands afar off, truth is fallen in the streets” (v. 9, 15).
● ACTION ➔ Jehovah, “Saw it, and it displeased Him that there was no justice…therefore…He put on righteousness as a breastplate, and a helmet of salvation on His head; He put on the garments of vengeance for clothing, and was clad in zeal as a cloak. According to their deeds, accordingly He will repay. Fury to His adversaries, recompense to His enemies; the coast lands He will fully repay. So shall they fear the name of the Lord…The Redeemer will come to Zion and to those who turn from transgression in Jacob” (v. 16f).
Isaiah 59 then, one of Paul’s main sources of appeal for the salvation of Israel, is in fact, a prediction of the judgment of Israel for shedding innocent blood. It foretold the coming of the Redeemer to avenge that innocent blood. This fits the context of Romans 11 quite well.
As noted just above, Romans 10-11 sets forth the recalcitrance of Israel toward the gospel (10:16f), the message of their salvation. In 10:21, Paul quotes from Isaiah 65:2 to speak of Israel’s rebellion. The significant thing about this is that in Isaiah 65:6-7, the prophet foretold that Israel was going to fill the measure of her sin and be destroyed. H. C. Leopold shows that this verse proves that there is such a thing as ‘mass guilt,’ where the sins of generation after generation are not completely broken with and the amount grows higher and higher. Ultimately, or time and again, it then happens that God visits the sins of the fathers upon the children.” (Exposition of Isaiah, Vol II, (Grand Rapids, Baker, 1974), 362). Keep in mind that Israel’s rebellion – including the shedding of innocent blood – would reach its height, and Jehovah would come and destroy her. However, this destruction would result in, and be followed by, the new creation (65:6-19).
We will pick up our discussion of Isaiah 65 as it relates to Isaiah 59 in our next installment, so stay tuned! In the meantime, be sure to get a copy of my book, Elijah Has Come, A Solution to Romans 11:25-27.