The Westminster Larger Catechism on the Jewish people:
Has God promised anything regarding ethnic Israel? Good people are on all sides of this hotly debated topic. Among Reformed folk there are many points of view. Great men like Puritan John Owen spoke of the revival of the Jewish people and their restoration to the land. Others see the Jewish people as simply one of the peoples of the earth, certainly with a special history. What are the implications of the fact that the Kingdom of God is no longer centered in one geographical location or ethnic group? The meek now inherit the whole earth. Does that mean that the earthly Israel is no longer important? Are the Jewish people no longer of any special concern at all? And what about the Arabs? What is the answer? The Westminster Larger Catechism states:Doug Moo, John Murray, and Clair Daivs on the Jewish people:
"In the second petition (which is, Thy kingdom come), acknowledging ourselves and all mankind to be by nature under the dominion of sin and Satan, we pray, that the kingdom of sin and Satan may be destroyed, the gospel propagated throughout the world, the Jews called, the fulness of the Gentiles brought in; the church furnished with all gospel officers and ordinances, purged from corruption, countenanced and maintained by the civil magistrate: that the ordinances of Christ may be purely dispensed, and made effectual to the converting of those that are yet in their sins, and the confirming, comforting, and building up of those that are already converted: that Christ would rule in our hearts here, and hasten the time of his second coming, and our reigning with him forever: and that he would be pleased so to exercise the kingdom of his power in all the world, as may best conduce to these ends." (WLC answer to question 191)
Surely this is our answer! We are to pray for the gospel going forth to all peoples, and this certainly includes ethnic Israel. It includes the Palestinians, Jordanians, Egyptians, etc., too. But it is interesting the note that the Catechism especially singles out the Jewish people as a specific prayer interest. Romans 11:12 tells us their restoration to faith will be a special blessing. We are to pray for the advancement of God’s rule in the hearts of men. We are to look for the political world to be influenced by the gospel. We are to pray that governments allow the gospel to be freely proclaimed.
But Paul must intend more than simple historical fact in light of the theological context here. If we ask what precedence Paul accords Israel elsewhere in Romans, we find that his emphasis is on the special applicability of the promise of God to that people whom he chose (3:2; 9-11). However much the church may seem to be dominated by Gentiles, Paul insists that the promises of God realizes in the gospel are "first of all" for the Jew. To Israel the promises were first given, and to the Jews they still particularly apply. Without in any way subtracting from the equal access that all people now have to the gospel, then, Paul insists that the gospel, "promised beforehand"... in the Holy Scriptures" (1:2), has a special relevance to the Jew. (Douglas J. Moo, The Epistle to the Romans, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.,©1996, pp. 68-69)John Calvin on the Jewish people:
To the Jew first, and also to the Greek...It does not appear sufficient to regard this priority as that merely of time. In this text there is no suggestion to the effect that the priority is merely that of time. The implication appears to be rather that the power of God unto salvation through faith has primary relevance to the Jew, and the analogy of Scripture would indicate that this peculiar relevance to the Jew arises from the fact that the Jew had been chosen by God to be the recipient of the promise of the gospel and that to him were committed the oracles of God...the gospel is pre-eminently the gospel for the Jew. (John Murray, The Epistle to the Romans, Wm. B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., ©1984, Vol. I, p. 28)
Church History professor Clair Davis (Westminster Seminary in Philadelphia) has expressed to me his personal observation that revival in the church is always somehow connected with revival of the Jewish people toward the gospel and revival of the church's interest in Jewish evangelism. Taking the gospel to the Jewish people ultimately benefits the church and serves toward the advancement of Messiah's kingdom in the world (Romans 11:12). Let us continually affirm, and give practical expression to the affirmation: "...I am not ashamed of the gospel: it is the power of God for salvation to every one who has faith, to the Jew first and also to the gentile."
"I extend the word Israel to all the people of God, according to this meaning, When the Gentiles shall come in, the Jews also shall return from their defection to the obedience of faith; and thus shall be completed the salvation of the whole Israel of God, which must be gathered from both; and yet in such a way that the Jews shall obtain the first place, being as it were the first born in God's family.Charles Hodge on the Jewish people:
...as Jews are the firstborn, what the Prophet declares must be fulfilled, especially in them: for that scripture calls all the people of God Israelites, it is to be ascribed to the preeminence of that nation,who God had preferred to all other nations...God distinctly claims for himself a certain seed, so that his redemption may be effectual in his elect and peculiar nation...God was not unmindful of the covenant which he had made with their fathers, and by which he testified that according to his eternal purpose he loved that nation: and this he confirms by this remarkable declaration, that the grace of the divine calling cannot be made void."
(see Calvin's Commentaries, Vol. XIX, Epistle to the Romans, Baker Book House, 1981, p. 434-440.)
"The second great event, which, according to the common faith of the Church, is to precede the second advent of Christ, is the national conversion of the Jews....that there is to be such a national conversion may be argued...from the original call and destination of that people. God called Abraham and promised that through him, and in his seed, all the nations of the earth should be blessed...A presumptive argument is drawn from the strange preservation of the Jews through so many centuries as a distinct people.John Murray on the Jewish people:
As the rejection of the Jews was not total, so neither is it final. First, God did not design to cast away his people entirely,but by their rejection, in the first place, to facilitate the progress of the gospel among the Gentiles, and ultimately to make the conversion of the Gentiles the means of converting the Jews...Because if the rejection of the Jews has been a source of blessing, much more will their restoration be the means of good...The restoration of the Jews to the privileges of God's people is included in the ancient predictions and promises made respecting them...The plan of God, therefore,contemplated the calling of the Gentiles, the temporary rejection and final restoration of the Jews...
The future restoration of the Jews is, in itself, a more probable event than the introduction of the Gentiles into the church of God. This, of course, supposes that God regarded the Jews, on account of their relation to him, with peculiar favor, and that there is still something in their relation to the ancient servants of God and his covenant with them, which causes them to be regarded with special interest. As men look upon the children of their early friends with kinder feelings than on the children of strangers, God refers to this fact to make us sensible that he still retains purposes of peculiar mercy towards his ancient people.
As the restoration of the Jews is not only a most desirable event, but one which God has determined to accomplish, Christians should keep it constantly in view even in their labors for the conversion of the Gentiles."
(Systematic Theology V.3, James Clark & Co. 1960, p. 805. and A Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans, Presb. Board of Pub., 1836, pp. 270-285 passim. Now Published by Banner of Truth Trust)
"To the Jew first, and also to the Greek...It does not appear sufficient to regard this priority as that merely of time. In this text there is no suggestion to the effect that the priority is merely that of time. The implication appears to be rather that the power of God unto salvation through faith has primary relevance to the Jew, and the analogy of Scripture would indicate that this peculiar relevance to the Jew arises from the fact that the Jew had been chosen by God to be the recipient of the promise of the gospel and that to him were committed the oracles of God...the gospel is pre-eminently the gospel for the Jew.Geerhardus Vos on the Jewish people:
While it is true that in respect of the privileges accruing from Christ's accomplishments there is now no longer Jew or Gentile and the Gentiles "are fellow-heirs, and fellow members of the body, and fellow-partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel" (Eph. 3:6), yet it does not follow that Israel no longer fulfills any particular design in the realization of God's worldwide saving purpose...Israel are both "enemies" and "beloved" at the same time, enemies as regards the gospel, beloved as regards the election... "Beloved" thus means that God has not suspended or rescinded his relation to Israel as his chosen people in terms of the covenants made with their fathers.
Unfaithful as Israel have been and broken off for that reason, yet God still sustains his peculiar relation of love to them, a relation that will be demonstrated and vindicated in the restoration."
(The Epistle to the Romans, John Murray, Wm. B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 1984, Vol. I, p. 28 and Vol. II pp. xiv-xv and 76-101, passim.)
"The elective principle, abolished as to nationality, continues in force as to individuals . And even with respect to national privilege, while temporarily abolished now that its purpose has been fulfilled, there still remains reserved for the future a certain fulfillment of the national elective promise. Israel in its racial capacity will again in the future be visited by the saving grace of God [Rom. 11.2, 12, 25]....Jonathan Edwards on the Jewish people:
Nevertheless such (Jewish) conversions remain for the present but sporadic examples, though at bottom expressive of a divine principle intended to work itself out on the largest of scales at the predetermined point in the future....
To the events preceding the parousia belongs, according to the uniform teaching of Jesus, Peter, and Paul, the conversion of Israel (Matt. 23:39; Luke 13:35; Acts 1:6,7; 3:19, 21; where the arrival of "seasons of refreshing" and "times of restoration of all things" is made dependent on the [eschatological] sending of the Christ to Israel), and this again is said to depend upon the repentance and conversion and the blotting out of the sins of Israel; Romans 11, where the problem of unbelief of Israel is solved by the twofold proposition: (1) that there is even now among Israel an election according to grace; (2) that in the future there will be a comprehensive conversion of Israel (vss. 5, 25-32)."
(Biblical Theology, Old and New Testaments, (c)1948 Wm. B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., Tenth Printing, p. 79, The Pauline Eschatology, (c) 1979 Baker Book House, p. 88, and Redemptive History and Biblical Interpretation, The Shorter Writings of Geerhardus Vos, p. 35, edited by Richard B. Gaffin, Jr., (c) 1980, Presbyterian and Reformed Pub. Co.)
"Jewish infidelity shall be overthrown...the Jews in all their dispersions shall cast away their old infidelity, and shall have their hearts wonderfully changed, and abhor themselves for their past unbelief and obstinacy. They shall flow together to the blessed Jesus, penitently, humbly, and joyfully owning him as their glorious King and only Savior, and shall with all their hearts, as one heart and voice, declare his praises unto other nations...Nothing is more certainly foretold than this national conversion of the Jews in Rom. xi.Matthew Henry on the Jewish people:
Besides the prophecies of the calling of the Jews, we have a remarkable providential seal of the fulfillment of this great event, by a kind of continual miracle, viz. their being preserved a distinct nation...the world affords nothing else like it. There is undoubtedly a remarkable hand of providence in it. When they shall be called, that ancient people, who alone were so long God's people for so long a time, shall be his people again, never to be rejected more. They shall be gathered together into one fold, together with the Gentiles...."
(The Works of Jonathan Edwards, Volume 1, Banner of Truth Trust, 1976, page 607.)
"Now two things he exhorts the Gentiles to, with reference to the rejected Jews: To have a respect for the Jews, notwithstanding, and to desire their conversion. This is intimated in the prospect he gives them of the advantage that would accrue to the church by their conversion, Rom. 11:12, 15. It would be as life from the dead; and therefore they must not insult or triumph over those poor Jews, but rather pity them, and desire their welfare, and long for the receiving of them in again.John Owen on the Jewish people:
Another thing that qualifies this doctrine of the Jews' rejection is that, though for the present they are cast off, yet the rejection is not final; but, when the fullness of time is come, they will be taken in again. They are not cast off for ever, but mercy is remembered in the midst of wrath.
The Jews are in a sense a holy nation (Exod. xix.6), being descended from holy parents. Now it cannot be imagined that such a holy nation should be totally and finally cast off. This proves that the seed of believers, as such, are within the pale of the visible church, and within the verge of the covenant, till they do, by their unbelief, throw themselves out; for, if the root be holy, so are the branches....Though grace does not run in the blood, yet external privileges do (till they are forfeited), even to a thousand generations...The Jewish branches are reckoned holy, because the root was so. This is expressed more plainly (Rom. 11:28).
Though particular persons and generations wear off in belief, yet there having been a national church membership, though for the present suspended, we may expect that it will be revived...It is called a mystery (Rom. 11:25), that which was not obvious, and which one would not expect upon the view of the present state of that people, who appeared generally so obstinate against Christ and Christianity that it was a riddle to talk of their unanimous conversion. Alas! who shall live when God
(Matthew Henry's Commentary, V.6, MacDonald Publishing Company, pp. 448-453.)
...there shall be a time during the continuance of the kingdom of the Messiah in this world, when the generality of the Jews all the world over, shall be called and effectually brought to the knowledge of the Messiah, our Lord Jesus Christ: with which mercy they shall also receive deliverance from their captivity, restoration to their own land, with a blessed, flourishing and happy condition therein. -- I shall not here enter into a confirmation of this concession, or assertion. The work would be long and great, because of the difference about the time, season, manner of their call, and their following condition, and so it is unmeet for us to undertake it, in the winding up of these discourses. I only assert the thing itself, and have no cause, as to the end aimed at, to inquire into the time and manner of its accomplishment. Besides, the event will be the only infallible expositor of these things, and in matters of such importance as those before us, I shall not trouble the reader with conjectures. The thing itself is acknowledged, as far as I can understand, by all who have any acquaintance with these things. Christians generally do assert it, look for it, pray for it, and have done so in all ages from the days of the apostles....
As to the Jews themselves in their false notion of it, it is the life of their hopes and religion. What is it then that the Jews plead? What do they expect? What promises are given unto them? They say that they shall be delivered out of their captivity, restored to their own land, and enjoy peace and quietness, glory and honour there. We also say the same concerning them; but by whom shall these things be wrought for them? By their Messiah they say at his coming. But shall he do all these things for them, whether they believe in him or no; whether they obey him or reject him; whether they love him or curse him? Is there no more required to this deliverance, but that he shall come to them? Is it not also that they shall come to him? Here then lies the only difference between us; we acknowledge that the promises mentioned, are not yet all of them actually fulfilled towards them; this they also plead. The reason hereof they say, is because the Messiah is not yet come, so casting the blame on God, who has not made good his word according to the time limited expressly by himself. We say that the reason of it is, because they come not by faith and obedience to the Messiah, who long since came to them, and so cast the blame, where sure it is more likely to lie, even on them and their unbelief.
They are in expectation that the Messiah will come to them; we, that they will come to the Messiah; and it may be this difference may ere long be reconciled, by his appearance to them, and so calling them to faith and obedience....
Whatever is foretold and promised concerning the Jews themselves, in the days of the Messiah, doubtless they have no reason to expect the accomplishment of it, until they receive him, own him, and submit to him, which to this day they have not done. When of old Moses went forth to visit them in their distress, and slew the Egyptian that smote one of them, and endeavored to betray him to death; and because of this their bondage was continued forty years longer, and yet at length by the same Moses were they delivered. And although they have refused and rejected him who was promised to be their Savior, and so continue to this day in their captivity, spiritual and temporal, yet it is he, by whom in the time appointed, they shall be delivered from the one and the other. But they shall not be done until they own and receive him; and when God shall incline their hearts to receive him, they will quickly find the blessed consequences of it....
We grant that there are many promises on record in the Scripture concerning their gathering together, their return to God by the Messiah, and the great peace and glory that they shall then enjoy. If we except their opinion concerning the perpetuity of the ceremonial law, and their return in the observance of it to their carnal ordinances, (which opinion is founded on an apprehension, which the rest of the world has long ago renounced, namely, that God is pleased with the blood of bulls and goats for its own sake, and not for its signification of that which was infinitely more excellent and glorious). And the literal accomplishment of evident allegories, which the wisest among themselves begin to be ashamed of: with these exceptions, there is nothing in their own expectations which we do not acknowledge that they shall be made partakers of.
They shall return to their own land; they shall enjoy it for a quiet and everlasting possession, their adversaries being destroyed; they shall also be filled with the light and knowledge of the will and worship of God, so as to be a guide and blessing to the residue of the Gentiles who seek after the Lord, and perhaps, shall be entrusted with great empire and rule in the world. The most of these are foretold concerning them, not only in their own prophetic writings, but also by the divine writers of sundry books of the New Testament. But all this we say must come to pass, when the veil shall be taken from their eyes, and when they shall look on him whom they have pierced, and when they joyfully receive him whom they have sinfully rejected for so many generations.
Until this be done, they may wrestle as they can with their perplexities, and comfort themselves as well as they are able in their miseries; they may get money in their dispersions by all unlawful arts and ways imaginable; and may expose themselves to the delusions of impostors, false prophets and pretended deliverers, which to their unspeakable misery and reproach they have now done ten times; yet deliverance, peace, tranquility, acceptance with God and man, they shall not obtain. Here lies the crisis of their condition.
When they shall receive, acknowledge, and believe in that Messiah who came to them so long time since, whom their fathers wickedly slew, and hanged on a tree, and whom they have since no less wickedly rejected; and when by his Spirit and grace they shall be turned from ungodliness, and shall have their eyes opened to see the mystery of the grace, wisdom and love of God in the blood of his Son; then shall they obtain mercy from the God of their forefathers, and returning again to their land, "Jerusalem shall be inhabited again, even in Jerusalem."
(An Exposition of the Epistle to the Hebrews, Second Edition, Volume 1, published in Edinburgh in 1812. Quotes are from pages 443-444 and 454-455.)