DID all ISRAEL go into the land? Some may be a little
perplexed by this question, because the majority of them did not go into
their promised allotment. They were strewn along in the wilderness (1
Cor.10:5). Instead of bringing them to Canaan, God put them to death when
they distrusted Him. He would not let them go into the land because of
unbelief. Nevertheless we read in Joshua, when they got into the land,
that all Israel was saved, notwithstanding the fact that, individually,
the greater part had perished. So, you see, as a nation, they were all
saved; but individually, this was true of comparatively few. Only two of
an entire generation crossed the Jordan. We could have a hot theological
controversy about this; one side saying that they did go into the land,
and the other saying that they did not, because of not recognizing the
difference between the individuals and the nation.
In the Word of God this distinction is exceedingly
important, and without it we may get into a great deal of difficulty and
most malignant error. It may even lead us to take the very heart out of
God's revelation for the present, and cast us down from the highest
pinnacles of His love. The danger is that it may wreck and ruin grace.
This is the worst crime that can be committed in the present
administration. It is misdemeanor even to discount grace. We may be
lenient with those who fall off from grace, but let us do our best to
resist every interpretation which robs us of our most valuable and
glorious possession, the grace glorious that is ours in Christ Jesus. To
do this we must discriminate between God's dealings with His saints and
those with the nations of this day.
In the case of Israel, it should be easy to see this
difference. The individuals, because of unbelief, were strewn along
the wilderness. They did not enter the land. But the nation was taken
through and entered the promised allotment. This seems contradictory. Yet
such contradictions are found all the way through the Scriptures. Once we
see this, let us use it as a key to unlock some truths that seem to be
very difficult for a few of God's saints to understand.
First, let us emphasize the fact that all Scripture
must be kept in its own context. Otherwise, it is worse than mere error.
It is error with a thick coating of camouflage to make it look like truth.
In Romans we have God's truth for the present time, yet
it is given from two entirely distinct viewpoints. In the beginning of the
epistle the individual aspect is presented, and two of the great truths
that characterize the present administration are brought out as they are
nowhere else. These are justification and conciliation. Those who have
a complete edition of the Concordant Version will see that the structure
shows how these two truths are taken up twice, from the individual
standpoint in chapters three and five and from the national aspect in
chapters ten and eleven. At present we wish to confine our attention to
conciliation. Conciliation is concerned with the whole world.
Individuals are reconciled.
At another time, in connection with the main subject of
the nations, we shall take up the fact that we are in the eras of the
nations. At first Nebuchadnezzar was given authority over all nations.
But he was not given any religious supremacy. That continued with
Israel. He tried to get it, but had to give it up. That is the lesson of
the fiery furnace (Dan.3).
So that, in the beginning of the present era, or eras,
of the nations, dominion was exclusively political, and Israel retained
the priesthood. They rebuilt the temple. If anyone at that time wanted to
come to God, even though Israel's political supremacy had been taken from
them and given to heathen rulers, they had to come through the chosen
nation, God's people. There was no other way of access to the Deity.
But when Paul went to the synagogues among the
dispersion, his purpose in going to them was quite different from that of
the other apostles. They heralded the kingdom with a view to the salvation
of the whole nation. He began a different ministry, seeking to rouse them
to jealousy, no longer with the nation in view, but to save some of
them. It was based on the salvation of some outside of Israel, and was in
line with the conciliation of the world, to which it led.
Gradually, during the period when they rejected God's
testimony as recorded in the book of Acts, Israel lost their religious
supremacy. It was no longer necessary to approach God through them. God
was conciliated to the world. Oh how I wish that this great truth were
known today! So far as I am aware, this fundamental fact of the evangel is
not apprehended or heralded anywhere in the world today, except among a
few of my friends. I once saw reconciliation advertised. I went to the
meeting. The preacher was a foremost fundamentalist. But he never spoke of
conciliation, though he mentioned reconciliation once or twice. He
evidently had not even heard of conciliation. Because God was
conciliated to the whole world, the temple was broken down and destroyed
in spite of all Titus' efforts to save it. Access to the Divine Presence
is now open to all men. This is especially true today of the enemies of
God. Any one of them may come direct to God without any intermediary
In the latter part of Romans we have this same truth
taken up. It is impossible to understand the eleventh chapter unless we
see that it is another aspect of the truth of conciliation, previously
dealt with in chapter five. Here is the key to much of the difficulty
today. I know of men who have written good books on the first part of
Romans, but when they come to the latter part, they cannot make it square
with the first. It is considered very difficult. But it is not difficult
when we see that we have a national instead of an individual viewpoint
there. Note carefully the wording of the eleventh of Romans and you will
see that it is national all the way through, and not individual, even in
some passages that appear to be so apart from the context.
Some have thought that part of it is individual and
part national, but we need only try it out to see that it does not work.
Go back, for an instant, and consider the individual in regard to the
entrance into Palestine. Suppose it was understood that all Israel was
going to get there. How are you to get into the land those individuals
that were strewn along the way?
Neither does it work in Romans. First of all we read
here that Israel's offense is the world's riches. This is hardly
orthodox, hence, few understand it. It is generally insisted that the
world does not partake of any riches unless men believe, and that they get
their riches in Christ. There is no individuality about the world. But
Israel's discomfiture is the world's riches. This is conciliation. It
shows that God is taking a different attitude toward the nations than He
ever took before. Conciliation is the subject of this eleventh chapter.
When we first believed, some of us could find salvation on almost every
page of the Scriptures by simply putting it there. Israel's discomfiture
does not lead to the salvation of any particular person but puts a sinner
among the alien nations into a much nearer relation to God than had ever
been the case since Adam sinned. Still some are reconciled and some are
not. That is an entirely different matter. It is not to be found in this
part of Romans. It belongs to the earlier chapters. Moreover, individuals
in Israel are also reached through the conciliation.
So we have it: "If their casting away is the
conciliation of the world, what will the taking back be if not life from
among the dead?" This certainly is national. It continues long after the
individual's of that day are off the scene. Whether believers or
unbelievers, whether Peter or Paul, Judas or Bar-Jesus, individually they
can have no place in death. It is the nation, as such, that has been
replaced by the other nations. Believers in Israel are still in the olive
No, it does not work individually. Paul says that he
was one of the chosen nation. He was not thrust away. Every individual was
not cast away. It is the nation that has tripped.
When is it that this will be fulfilled? We must
settle the time element in this chapter if we wish to understand it. When
was Israel cast away? When will Israel be taken back? "Arriving out of
Zion shall be the Rescuer. He will be turning away irreverence from Jacob"
(Rom.11:27). It is not limited to the life time of an individual. There
is a vast period of time in which conciliation operates. This is easily
grasped when applied to nations. But if it is individual and these
individuals who were cast away for unbelief, including all the unbelievers
in the book of Acts, are to be taken back when the Rescuer arrives out of
Zion, then Christ was quite mistaken throughout His ministry. If we read
what He has to say about the matter it will become very clear that
unbelievers will not have a part in the kingdom at all. Take the false
prophet to whom Paul spoke, who set himself against the truth and Paul
blinded him. The indefiniteness of the time period here is very notable,
because it covers both the national and individual aspect. Each has its
"appointed time." Individually Bar-Jesus will not see again until the
resurrection at the great white throne. But he is also a picture of the
nation. That will have its eyes opened much earlier, when Zion is
rescued. Acts is the antitype of Israel in the wilderness. The unbelieving
individuals who went against the truth will have no place in the kingdom.
But blinded Israel, as a nation, that shall be brought back long before
the rebels in it will be reconciled at the consummation.
I used to wonder about the scripture, "all Israel shall
be saved." When we were fresh in the truth of universal reconciliation,
some of my friends tried to use this passage to prove that every Israelite
that ever lived would be saved at that time. They will be in the
consummation, but that is not what this passage teaches. This is a
national matter and does not by any means include those who were strewn
along in the wilderness in Acts.
And so it is with Israel today. It is not the case that
individual Jews are cast out of the olive tree for their unbelief and,
when Christ comes, will be put back in again and take part in the kingdom,
because they have not remained in unbelief. They will not be roused from
the dead until after the kingdom is past.
In the eighth chapter of the epistle to the Romans we
have a grand climax of present truth for the believer today. That chapter
begins with no condemnation, and ends with no separation. Various and
vicious are the efforts that have been made in order to undermine this
great grace. One of the methods is the one we have been considering. It
consists in going to the same epistle and using a later discussion in
order to annul what is so marvelously brought before us in the eighth
Do yon know of any crime that is worse than this?
Actually using God's Word itself to destroy it! Degenerate men do not
think profanation of divine things is so bad, but one of the great lessons
God taught His people of old was the sanctity of His dwelling place. I
have been greatly impressed by the severity which characterized His
dealings with those who dared to touch aught of His with unholy hands. How
much more severe should be the penalty of destroying His holy revelation!
May God forgive those who are using His own Word in order to destroy the
In the beginning of Romans, God is dealing with
individuals in regard to righteousness in chapters three and four, in
regard to reconciliation in chapter five, and in regard to glorification
in the eighth chapter. Then, in the succeeding chapters 9, 10, and 11, we
have the same subjects, but they are dealt with entirely from the
national standpoint. The first part of Romans is the foundation on which
the last part rests. Let us not repudiate its message by perverting the
complementary truths of the last part.
The point, in the eleventh of Romans, that we must not
miss is that it concerns the conciliation. God is there dealing with a
condition that arose from the national apostasy of Israel. Because the
nation of Israel rebelled (notwithstanding the fact that thousands of
individuals were obedient), they not only lost their place politically at
the head of the nations at the time of Nebuchadnezzar, but now they have
lost their place at the head of the nations religiously. God is now
appealing directly to the nations themselves. He is at peace with them. He
is conciliated. The religious rites of Israel are set aside. The
conciliation of the world is heralded to all. Conciliation is not
individual, it is for the whole world, whether they believe or not.
Reconciliation is individual. Here we have the conciliation of the
world. "If their casting away is the conciliation of the world, what
will the taking back be but life from among the dead?"
THE OLIVE TREE
Now we are ready to consider the olive tree. By this
metaphor God is trying to give us a picture of a very complex situation.
The only way to deal with it is first to understand the literal. So we
will first look at it from this standpoint. We have seen that Israel was
the olive tree, and was used by God in order to illuminate the rest of the
world. When His chosen nation repeatedly repudiated Him, then it was that
God went to the other nations, and now, through them, He is making known
His will and His Word. Literally some of the Jews are included, because
they believe, so they remain in the olive tree. After this has gone on
until the time comes for the kingdom, then it is that the nations, as
such, are cut out of the olive tree because they, as a whole, repudiate
God, notwithstanding the great numbers that have believed among them. It
is not true that those unbelievers who were, in figure, cut out of the
olive tree, will be returned to it at the advent of Christ. There is
much evidence in the word of God as to this. The unbelieving Israelites
will not enter into the kingdom any more than those strewn along in the
wilderness entered the land of promise. By the same token, those who
accepted the ministry of Paul when he was alive did not fall aside and
will not be cut out when the kingdom comes. Since then millions of
unbelieving Jews have died. They will not be restored to a place in the
kingdom. Millions of believers have died. They will not apostatize and be
Now let us take up the very interesting subject of the
trees. You will remember the so-called parable of Jotham in Judges nine.
We will not go into the circumstances of the time because all we want to
do is to get an idea of the significance of the various trees (Judges
8 In going, the trees go to anoint over them a
king. And they are saying to the olive, "Reign over us." 9 And saying
to them is the olive, "Shall I leave off my sleekness by which they
are glorifying God and mortals, and go to sway over the trees?" 10 And
saying are the trees to the fig, "You go. Reign over us." 11 And
saying to them is the fig, "Shall I leave off my sweetness and my good
produce and go to sway over the trees?" 12 And saying are the trees to
the vine, "You go. Reign over us. 13 And saying to them is the vine,
"Shall I leave off my grape juice which rejoices God and mortals, and
go to sway over the trees?" And saying are all the trees to the
box-thorn, "You go. Reign over us." 15 And saying is the box-thorn to
the trees, "Should, in truth, you anoint me to be king over you, come,
take refuge in my shadow. And should you not, forth comes fire from
the box-thorn and devours the cedars of Lebanon."
There is a tremendous amount of truth in this allegory.
We will bring out only a few features in order to grasp their symbolic
meaning. The first time we read about the olive is very instructive. When
the flood had covered the earth and wiped out all God's enemies, then it
was that the dove went out and came back with an olive leaf (Gen.8:11).
Ever since then, in many nations of the earth, an olive branch is the
symbol of peace - real peace. Peace is one of the first thoughts
suggested by the olive tree. That fits in wonderfully well here.
Conciliation is the very essence of peace. God is at peace with mankind
ever since Israel was thrust aside. He no longer shuts Himself up within
walls and doors, and dwells by Himself in a temple. The olive tree shows
that God is at peace with mankind, and that is why it is brought in here.
Not only that, but when God made a house for Himself, to dwell in, in the
tabernacle, it was the fruit of the olive that provided divine
illumination. This is also included in the figure of the olive tree.
Years ago I was vitally interested in these symbols
and, as soon as I got a piece of land of my own, I planted an olive tree,
and a fig tree and a vine. My principal profit came from comparing them
with what God has said about them in His Word. Since then I have seen them
in other sections of the world, in Italy, in Greece, and especially in
Jerusalem and the so-called garden of Gethsemane. They have taken a large
place in my heart.
So it seems clear that, in this figure, we have a
strong confirmation of the conciliation, the peace that God has made with
all mankind. And it also pictures that divine illumination comes from the
oil of the olive. Israel was once the only source of light from God, and,
in a sense, still is. Now, however, the aliens are the means of its
dissemination. God's last revelation to mankind comes through two olive
trees, light-bearers in the darkest hours of man's history (Rev.11:4).
At this time we will not look very closely at the other
trees. We meet with the fig tree very early in the Scriptures. Adam made
himself a fig-leaf covering. Fig leaves and fig fruit are in contrast in
the Scriptures. Adam and Eve try to manufacture an artificial
righteousness by means of fig leaves. We are reminded of this by our Lord,
who went to a fig tree, seeking fruit, yet found nothing but leaves.
Israel had righteousness - plenty of it - like some of us before we believed
(Mark 11:13). But it was self-righteousness. The fig figures both
righteousness and unrighteousness: leaves to cover up unrighteousness,
fruit which speaks of real righteousness. We know what fruit is in the
Scriptures. Among other things it is righteousness (Eph.5:9).
In the future the fig tree is going to bear fruit once
again. In the millennium there will be fig trees and olive trees and
vines. Israel was a vine, taken out of Egypt. Later on, Christ is the
Vine. And there were actually some in Him as the Vine, who were cut off.
Are they going to be grafted in again? Not by any means. They are to be
burned up. Moreover, I do not think you can graft dead ashes into a living
plant. I never heard of it being done. Here we have individual
unbelievers. They are not restored when Christ comes. Nationally it is a
different matter. In the Millennium they will sit under their vine and
their fig tree and there will be much good fruit.
When I was in Palestine, I wanted to see the cedars of
Lebanon, but it seemed impossible because of the deep snow when I was near
them. Then I got a professedly honest guide who guaranteed to take me up.
But the way became so slippery and dangerous that we could not quite reach
them. Yet I was near enough to see what they were like. All the way
through Scripture the cedars represent the great and high ones of the
The world is full of brambles, or box-thorns, today.
The only products of the box-thorn mentioned are shade and fire, unless we
reckon the thorns. This is what we are coming to in man's latest kingdoms.
At the time this is being written the greatest peace
conference ever held by man is in session. Hitherto, in this country, all
such conferences have been opened by prayer to God. The most striking
feature of this gathering is the absolute lack of any recognition of Him.
We will soon be under the shade of the bramble.
What about the boughs? Are they individual or not? Just
read what is said about the boughs. This is all that is necessary. Because
of unbelief they were cut out, and God is going to graft them in again
just before the kingdom is set up. Now I would like to have you find any
passage in the Scriptures that will substantiate the idea that unbelieving
individuals are going to be grafted in again. Were those who were strewn
along in the wilderness raised and brought into the land? Even Moses
himself was not allowed to enter it. These boughs that are cut off and
grafted in again are not individuals. In death there is no opportunity for
repentance. And they will not have a place in the former resurrection,
when the grafting takes place.
Let us consider the other boughs that were grafted into
the olive tree in Paul's day. Are we to understand that individual
believers from among the nations at that time were grafted into the olive
tree, and now, after they have been dead so long, they are to be taken out
when the kingdom is set up? The mere fact that the two graftings are so
far apart in time makes an individual application impossible. Such
confusion results if you make it individual. It entirely upsets what God
reveals elsewhere in the Scriptures, regarding individuals.
Just as Israel, as such, was at peace with God, so
today He is at peace with the nations, as such. And as Israel once was the
source of divine illumination to the earth, but later the light went out,
so it is with the nations also. If we make this individual, we are
destroying a vital part of God's revelation.
Take Romans, for instance. In the beginning we have
justification. This may be represented by the fig tree. Next comes
conciliation. There we have the olive tree. Then glorification. There we
have the vine. In all of these, God's overflowing grace takes, us out of
ourselves and puts us into Christ, in Whom He is well pleased.
When we come to the latter part of Romans, let us not
repudiate His glorious revelation by basing our salvation upon our own
works or sufferings or experience. That is not the way to God's goal, for
He must become Everything in each one of us.
We must keep the different subjects in Romans distinct
in our thoughts even as they are in the epistle. If we take a passage out
of the section dealing with justification and insert it into one concerned
with conciliation, we are bound to be confused and to confuse others. If
we take an argument from the ninth chapter and use it to interpret the
eleventh, we are mutilating and misleading. Let us not join what God has
separated. The confusion created is all the more dangerous, as both are
God's Word, and may even be written by the same writer, and the immature
and ignorant unconsciously swallow the veriest poison, thinking it is
God's Word. Were they established in the truth, they could not accept such
distortions because they invariably conflict with other passages.
If the judgment of Matthew twenty-five is individual,
then salvation is of works, and the gospel is gone. If the olive tree is
individual, then conciliation is of man, and grace and glory are gone.
Then not only the gospel and grace and glory go, but with them, God is
At the present time grace reigns. I wonder if we
realize what that means. Grace is on the throne, and anyone that tries
to drag it down from its sovereignty is committing no ordinary crime. It
is treason, and traitors are not treated as ordinary criminals. No greater
offense, in God's sight, is possible in this administration, when grace is
reigning, than a concerted effort to dethrone it. May God deal in grace
with all who are involved in this, is my prayer.