Outline of the Book of Ruth

  • Introduction to the Story (1:1-5)
    • Context:
      • During the days of the judges (1:1)
      • During a famine in Bethlehem (1:1)
    • Characters:
      • Elimelech and his wife, Naomi (1:2)
      • Sons, Mahlon and Chilion, who were Ephrathites (1:2)
    • Transition: The Family Moves to Moab (1:2)
    • Crisis: Elimelech Dies (1:3)
    • Naomi and Elimelech’s Sons:
      • They marry the Moabittes, Orpah and Ruth (1:4)
      • Mahlon and Chilion die after being in Moab for about ten years (1:5)
  • Naomi’s Return to Her Homeland (1:6-22)
    • Naomi’s Decisions:
      • Naomi plans to return to Bethlehem upon good news of God’s blessing to His people of providing food for them again (1:6)
      • Naomi and her daughters-in-law head to Judah (1:7)
      • Naomi encourages her daughters-in-law to return to Moab (1:8)
      • Naomi wishes God’s blessings on her daughters-in-law (1:8)
      • Naomi hopes that her daughters-in-law will find rest (1:9)
      • Naomi kisses and weeps with her daughters-in-law (1:9)
    • Ruth and Orpah’s Decisions:
      • They pledge to return with Naomi to her people (1:10)
      • Naomi’s first set responses:
        1. Naomi urges them to turn back (1:11)
        2. Naomi rhetorically asks if she has more sons in her womb for them to marry (1:11)
        3. Naomi urges them to turn back once again (1:12)
        4. Naomi reasons that she is too old to have a husband (1:12)
        5. Naomi hypothetically questions that even if she had a brand new husband, would they wait until her new sons for them were grown (1:12-13)
        6. Naomi concedes that she has a bitter life and that the LORD’S hand is against her (1:13)
      • Differing reactions from the daughters-in-law:
        1. Both lift up their voices and weep (1:14)
        2. Orpah kisses Naomi (1:14)
        3. Ruth clings to Naomi (1:14)
      • Naomi’s second set of responses:
        1. Naomi tells Ruth that Orpah has returned to her people and her gods (1:15)
        2. Naomi tells Ruth to follow her sister-in-law (1:15)
      • Ruth’s follow-up:
        1. Ruth asks that she not be told to turn away from Naomi (1:16)
        2. Ruth pledges to go where Naomi goes and stay where Naomi stays (1:16)
        3. Ruth declares that Naomi’s people will become her people (1:16)
        4. Ruth desires Naomi’s God to become her own God (1:16)
        5. Ruth wishes to die where Naomi will die, and then be buried in the same place (1:17)
        6. Ruth swears to these promises, and welcomes curses from the LORD if she lets anything separate them (1:17)
      • Naomi’s final responses:
        1. Naomi saw Ruth’s resolve and stopped trying to convince Ruth otherwise (1:18)
        2. Naomi and Ruth arrive at Bethlehem (1:19)
    • Naomi and Ruth’s Welcome:
      • The people’s reactions:
        1. Their return sparked a surprised response (1:19)
        2. The women question if the returning lady was indeed Naomi (1:19)
      • Naomi’s response:
        1. Naomi questions calling her Naomi (1:20)
          1. Naomi asks that she be called “Mara” (1:20)
          2. Naomi explains that her name is representative of how God has allegedly dealt “bitterly” with her (1:20)
          3. Naomi shares how she left Bethlehem full, but the LORD has brought her back empty (1:21)
        2. Naomi questions again about calling her Naomi (1:21)
          1. Naomi testifies that God has brought calamity upon her (1:21)
      • Summary of the context:
        1. Naomi and Ruth returned from Moab (1:22)
        2. They came to Bethlehem when the barley harvest started (1:22)
  • III. Ruth Encounters Boaz (2:1-16)
    • Introduction to the Context for the Next Episode 
      • Naomi’s relative is described: (2:1)
        1. He was a man of powerful wealth
        2. He was from the clan of Elimelech
      • Naomi’s relative is identified: Boaz
    • Ruth Sets Out to Obtain Grain 
      • Ruth asks to glean for grain in the fields (2:2)
      • Naomi allows her daughter-in-law to go (2:2)
      • Ruth goes to glean and ends up in the field of Boaz (2:3)
    • Boaz Discovers Ruth 
      • Boaz comes on the scene, blessing the reapers, and they do the same to him (2:4)
      • Boaz inquires about Ruth from a young man in charge of the reapers (2:5)
      • The man tells Boaz that she is a young Moabite woman who came with Naomi (2:6)
      • Ruth’s request to glean is communicated to Boaz (2:7)
      • Ruth is described as gleaning since early morning, only resting in the house a little (2:7)
    • Boaz and Ruth Meet
      • Boaz initiates the conversation:
        1. Boaz tells Ruth not to glean in other fields, but to stay near the other young women in this field (2:8-9)
        2. Boaz also says that he has demanded the young men not to touch her (2:9)
        3. Boaz likewise invites Ruth to drink from the vessels the young men have filled when she is thirsty (2:9)
      • Ruth responds to Boaz by falling on her face to the ground, asking Boaz why she—a foreigner—has found favor in his sight? (2:10)
      • Boaz answers Ruth:
        1. Boaz reveals that he has heard what Ruth has done for Naomi since her husband’s death (2:11)
        2. Boaz recalls how Ruth left her father, mother, and native land to come to an unfamiliar people (2:11)
        3. Boaz wishes the LORD’s favor and reward upon Ruth for her decisions (2:12)
        4. Boaz describes Ruth’s obedience as her coming under the “wings” of the God of Israel, in whom she has taken refuge (2:12)
      • Ruth responds to Boaz a second time:
        1. Ruth acknowledges that she has found favor in Boaz’s sight (2:13)
        2. Ruth explains that Boaz has comforted her by his kindness, despite not being his servant (2:13)
    • Boaz Continues in His Kindness to Ruth
      • During a meal, Boaz invites Ruth to eat bread and dip some in the wine (2:14)
      • Ruth is granted privileges of sitting beside the reapers, received roasted grain, and eating to her full satisfaction, even with leftovers (2:14)
      • When Ruth gleaned more, Boaz allowed her to glean among the sheaves, warning the young men, not shaming her (2:15)
      • Additionally, the young men were to intentionally leave out bundles of grain for Ruth, not rebuking her (2:16)
    • Ruth Returns to Naomi
      • The aftermath of the workday is described:
        1. Ruth gleaned until the evening (2:17)
        2. Ruth’s final count was an “ephah” of barley (2:17)
      • Ruth returned to the city to Naomi (2:18)
      • Naomi sees all that Ruth gleaned (2:18)
      • Ruth gives the leftover food to Naomi (2:18)
      • Naomi asks Ruth about where she gleaned (2:19)
      • Naomi blesses the man who took care of her (2:19)
      • Ruth identifies the man as Boaz (2:19)
      • Naomi responds to this identification:
        1. Naomi wishes the LORD’s blessings upon Boaz (2:20)
        2. Naomi acknowledges that the LORD’s kindness has not forsaken the living or the dead (2:20)
        3. Naomi reveals that Boaz is a close relative, even a redeemer (2:20)
      • Ruth follows up to Naomi’s comments by sharing Boaz’s affirmations of allowing her to stay close to the young men while she harvested (2:21)
      • Naomi reiterates that it is wise for Ruth to stay close to the other young women in Boaz’s field, lest she be attacked in another field (2:22)
      • The conclusion to this episode:
        1. Ruth listened to Naomi’s instruction from vs. 22 (2:23)
        2. Ruth continued to glean through the end of the barley and wheat harvests (2:23)
        3. Ruth lived with Naomi (2:23)
  • Ruth, Boaz, and the Threshing Floor (3:1-18)
    • Naomi Provides a Plan for Ruth:
      • Naomi rhetorically ask if she should not seek “rest” and wellbeing for Ruth (3:1)
      • Naomi reminds Ruth that Boaz is a relative and has connections with the other young women in his field (3:2)
      • The plan is revealed:
        1. Naomi mentions that Boaz will be winnowing barley at the threshing floor (3:2)
        2. Naomi tells Ruth to wash, anoint herself, and put on her cloak (3:3)
        3. Ruth is to go down to the threshing floor, but she is to stay hidden until Boaz has finished eating and drinking (3:3)
        4. Naomi tells Ruth to see where Boaz lies down to sleep (3:4)
        5. Naomi tells Ruth to uncover his feet and lie down (3:4)
        6. The result of the plan: Boaz will tell Ruth what to do (3:4)
      • Ruth pledges to do what Naomi has said (3:5)
    • Ruth Acts Upon Naomi’s Plan:
      • Preview of the following events: Ruth went to the threshing floor and did what Naomi commanded (3:6)
      • The events detailed:
        1. Boaz eats and drink so that his heart “did well” (3:7)
        2. Boaz lied down at the place where the grain was in a heap (3:7)
        3. Ruth quietly came to Boaz, uncovered his feet, and laid down (3:7)
        4. Boaz is startled at midnight, turns over, and sees a woman laying at his feet (3:8)
        5. Boaz asks for the woman’s identity (3:9)
        6. Ruth reveals that it is her, his servant (3:9)
        7. Ruth asks for her redeemer to spread his “wings” over her (3:9)
      • Boaz responds:
        1. Boaz wishes for Ruth to be blessed by the LORD (3:10)
        2. Boaz describes Ruth’s action as a kindness, not having gone after younger men, whether for wealth or not (3:10)
        3. Boaz tells Ruth not to fear (3:11)
        4. Boaz pledges to do all that Ruth has asked, and shares about the positive impressions from townsmen about her character (3:11)
        5. Boaz explains of a potential hindrance to her redeemer request: while he is one, there is a redeemer still closer (3:12)
        6. Boaz instructs Ruth to remain there for the night, and in the morning they would find out if the closer redeemer would redeem her (3:13)
        7. If the closer redeemer does not redeem Ruth, then Boaz would, pledging to God that he would do so (3:13)
        8. Boaz tells Ruth to lie down until the morning (3:13)
    • Results from Naomi’s Plan
      • Ruth slept at Boaz’s feet and then arose while it was still dark (3:14)
      • Boaz warned of letting her time overnight at the threshing floor to become public (3:14)
      • Boaz places six measures of barley on her garment to carry home (3:15)
      • Naomi asks Ruth how everything went with her plan (3:16)
      • Ruth shared all that Boaz had done for her (3:16)
      • Ruth reveals that the six measures of barley were for Naomi not to be without food (3:17)
      • Naomi responds to Ruth, asking her to wait until she finds out what happens with the redeemer, and stating that Boaz will settle the matter that day and will not rest until doing so (3:18)
  • Boaz Redeems Ruth (4:1-17)
    • Boaz and the Redeemer Meet 
      • Boaz heads to the city gate, waiting for the nearer redeemer (4:1)
      • The nearer redeemer comes by (4:1)
      • Boaz asks for the nearer redeemer to sit with him (4:1)
      • Boaz asks for ten elders of the city also to sit down with him (4:2)
      • Boaz inquires of the nearer redeemer about the potential transaction (4:3)
        1. Naomi, having come back from Moab, is described as selling the land formerly owned by their relative, Elimelech (4:3)
        2. Boaz invites the nearer redeemer to buy the land if he wishes, but if not, then Boaz would do so (4:4)
        3. The nearer redeemer responds in confirming that he will purchase the land (4:4)
        4. Boaz then reveals that Ruth the Moabite, the widow of the dead, would be involved in this transaction (4:5)
          1. This practice is to raise up the name of the dead (4:5)
        5. Upon hearing this additional information, the nearer redeemer no longer desires to redeem the land (4:6)
          1. The nearer redeemer reasons that this transaction would destroy his inheritance (4:6)
          2. The nearer redeemer grants Boaz to proceed with the redemption instead (4:6)
    • Historical Observations from the Author 
      • The biblical author explains how Israelites formerly had a custom of redeeming and exchanging (4:7)
      • The custom explained: one person would take his sandal and give it to the other (4:7)
      • The custom in context: The nearer redeemer gave his sandal to Boaz, encouraging him to buy it (4:8) 
    • Boaz Speaks to the Elders 
      • Boaz declares that they are witnesses of the land purchase from Naomi (4:9)
      • The purchase includes all that belonged to Chilion and Mahlon (4:9)
      • The purchase also involves Ruth, who would become his wife (4:10)
        1. This is for the purpose of raising up the name of the dead (4:10)
        2. This is also so that the name of the dead will not be cut off from his brothers or from the gate (4:10)
      • Boaz declares again that they are witnesses (4:10)
      • The people and the elders respond:
        1. They accept their position as witnesses (4:11)
        2. They ask the LORD to make Ruth like Rachel and Leah, who had built up the house of Israel (4:11)
        3. They hope that Boaz will become powerful in Ephrathah and well known in Bethlehem (4:11)
        4. They wish that the house of Boaz and Ruth will be like Perez, whom Tamar bore to Judah (4:12)
          1. This wish is based on the desire of the LORD giving Boaz and Ruth offspring (4:12)
    • Boaz Marries Ruth 
      • Their marriage described: 
        1. Boaz took Ruth for his wife (4:13)
        2. Boaz had sexual relations with her, and the LORD caused her to conceive and to bare a song (4:13)
      • The women’s response to Naomi:
        1. They blessed the LORD for not leaving Naomi without a redeemer (4:14)
        2. They hope for his name to become well known in Israel (4:14)
        3. They desire for him to become a restorer of life and sustain her in her old age (4:15)
        4. The reason for these blessings: 
          1. Ruth—Naomi’s daughter-in-law—loves her (4:15)
          2. Ruth is better than seven sons (4:15)
          3. Ruth has given birth to a son (4:15)
  • VI.Postlude to the Story (4:16-22)
    • Naomi’s Response to these Events:
      • She took the child, laid him in her lap, and nursed him (4:16)
    • The Women’s Response to these Events:
      • They proclaim how a son has been born to Naomi (4:17)
    • The Final Narrative to these Events:
      • This son was named Obed (4:17)
      • Obed is the father of Jesse, who is the father of David (4:17)
    • The Generations Detailed:
      • Perez to Hezron (4:18)
      • Hezron to Ram (4:19)
      • Ram to Amminadab (4:19)
      • Amminadab to Nashon (4:20)
      • Nashon to Salmon (4:20)
      • Salmon to Boaz (4:21) 
      • Boaz to Obed (4:21)
      • Obed to Jesse (4:22)
      • Jesse to David (4:22)

Book Review: “Reprobation and God’s Sovereignty” by Peter Sammons

For many years, I have held some the doctrines related to God’s foreordained choice of those who would be saved (or condemned) with a fairly open hand. The Bible is absolutely clear that there is an “elect” group of people appointed unto eternal salvation–this was a choice decided in eternity past. There’s really no contest on that. And really, both Calvinists and Arminians would still agree up to this point. The key difference is over what basis God used to decide whom the elect would be–did He sovereignly choose the elect, wholly of His own will (Calvinism)? Or did He use “prescient” foreknowledge to “choose those that would choose Him”? In seminary, I set out to decide once and for all what my opinions on this matter would be, and in my selected reading I still didn’t settle in on one position wholeheartedly. And now, about 8 years later, I still haven’t fully clenched my hand with a decided position. When I found Peter Sammons’ book, “Reprobation and God’s Sovereignty,” I thought I might have found the clincher on this mysterious and weighty doctrine. Having read the book, I can say that I learned some Reformed nuances that I hadn’t heard before, and thus found some benefit to the book. At the same time, Sammons is transparent as well to remind readers that there is still some room for mystery. And thus, while he makes a fairly compelling case for a Reformed perspective on the doctrine of reprobation, my hands are still open.

Sammons defines “reprobation” as “the eternal, unconditional decree of God for the non-elect” (pg. 47). This term, “unconditional,” especially separates the Calvinist crowd from the Arminian, as it requires that this decree was not based on prior knowledge of what a person would do. Page 141 is what seems so striking to me, as we see the inclusion of mystery to both sides of the argument. Sammons notes, “The compatibilist position realizes that there is an aspect of mystery behind how God’s absolute sovereignty does not destroy human responsibility.” But with an attached footnote, points out, “The Arminian view eventually appeals to mystery as well.” No doubt, there are certainly multiple passage in Scripture that favor the Reformed compatibilist viewpoint, especially Romans 9. But however one looks at this issue, I think it’s safe to allow for some room of graciousness to the other side of this debate, realizing that “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law” (Deuteronomy 29:29 NIV).

I would encourage readers to pick up a copy of “Reprobation and God’s Sovereignty” to obtain a clear perspective as to what Reformed theology teaches in regards to the doctrine of reprobation. Stylistically, the book was not tremendously captivating or illustrious–it was adapted from a dissertation, and it shows. I recognize the topic isn’t the most cheery of issues, but I would’ve preferred a little more artistry in language (granted, this was from Kregel’s “academic” series). Overall, though, the book does what it advertises, even if there might be some disagreement over the certainty of this mysterious doctrine.

Note: A review copy of this book was provided to me for free by Kregel Academic. All opinions were my own.

The Faith of the Presidents (NEW Book Available!)

Not everyone gets remembered in history books. Those who do, however, have typically lived a life of great influence, whether for good or for ill. In American history, few people have outpaced the presidents in terms of notoriety. And thus, it is crucial to know the details behind these consequential politicians.

Published in 2021, The Faith of the Presidents is an up to date compilation of biographical essays devoted to each president of the United States, from George Washington to Joe Biden. Utilizing primary and secondary sources, John M. Wiley delves into the lives of these presidents on the deepest of levels–unveiling their faith. Not all presidents were religious, and while some laid everything out to be known, some were more reserved in their ponderings about God, the Bible, and the place of religion in the United States. But there is arguably no greater driving force behind America’s presidents than their faith (or lack thereof).

While there are other works that have been composed regarding the religious perspectives of most of America’s presidents, there are no other known books to date that have surveyed all the presidents with the goal of helping Christian readers specifically to spiritually engage with the faith of these presidents. In a way, this book is a cross between a history book and a Christian theology/Christian living genre. The Faith of the Presidents offers thoughtful Christians an opportunity to refine their faith and discerningly learn about the religious views of America’s most powerful statesmen.

Click here to purchase the paperback.

Click here to purchase the Kindle version.

Book Review: “A History of Evangelism in North America” by Thomas P. Johnston, ed.

Click here to purchase this book on Amazon: https://amzn.to/3heZLzC

Throughout several years of Bible college, seminary work, pastoral ministry, and Bible teaching I’ve gone through many different books on evangelism–usually, they are “how to” kinds of books. Likewise, I’ve tried to read just about any church history book I’ve been able to touch. But I was a bit struck not too long ago when I first heard of this book, “A History of Evangelism in North America,” edited by Thomas P. Johnston. I had never even heard of a book that deals with the history of evangelism (in any continent), unless one counts books on the history of missions. Thus, there is a great deal of uniqueness to this recent volume by Kregel Academic. For those less familiar with church history, there are some chapters on the big names like Jonathan Edwards, Francis Asbury, and Billy Graham. But there are also quite a few lesser studied figures, such as J. Wilbur Chapman, John Mason Peck, Henrietta Mears, and Dawson Trotman. For Christian leaders interested in getting some inspiration from the past (or even the very recent past, as the last few chapters deal with the twenty-first century), as well as for the historically-minded Christian (whether as a lay learner or teacher/professor), “A History of Evangelism in North America” is a nice contribution to the evangelical-reading world.

The one noteworthy critique I would highlight is that this book reads more like a collection of chapter-length mini-biographies (with a few exceptions). As editor, Thomas P. Johnston had a rather difficult task of trying to cohesively weave multiple chapters into a text that surveys evangelism in North America. Although there is some continuity, such as a multiple-chapter analysis of figures from the First Great Awakening, at times this book reads a little choppier than I had anticipated. I definitely believe I received a good overview of the different figures presented, but the book isn’t titled, “A History of Evangelists in North America,” but is rather about “evangelism” as a phenomenon. Thus, I think one of the drawbacks, in my opinion, is the discontinuity at times that results from highlighting individuals more prominently over movements (although granted, some of the chapters do try to divert some attention to broader movements). Personally, I was hoping to learn a little more about the personal evangelism that (I assume?) existed in times of a more Christianized North America from the 19th and 20th centuries.

That critique aside, I do think this is a valuable text for Christian leaders to obtain. These stories are captivating, inspiring, and motivating to the 21st century believer, even though many of them precede the present generation by decades. This is another type of “great cloud of witnesses” for us to consider. The authors all tended to likewise show why their spiritual impact is significant–in other words, it wasn’t a dry, academic textbook. This is definitely marketed for evangelical Christians. And having delved into it, I would recommend others to consider its contents for their historical and spiritual enrichment.

Note: A review copy of this book was provided to me for free by Kregel Academic. All opinions were my own.

Book Review: “John: Through Old Testament Eyes” by Karen H. Jobes

I was first introduced to the works of Karen Jobes from her excellent work, Invitation to the Septuagint. A lot of biblical Greek work today is, understandably, on New Testament Greek. So, Jobes is already an accomplished LXX scholar in her own right. But this commentary from Kregel Academic takes some of her Old Testament expertise and merges that into the fourth gospel of the New Testament. This is an interesting integration since we would typically think of Matthew as the most Old Testament-centric (or fulfilling) book among the four gospels. John is more often seen as a gospel written to the Gentiles as much as it was to the Jews. Still, there is much of the Old Testament to draw from in the Gospel of John, as Jobes shows again and again in her commentary.

I think the top sub-heading for this Kregel series says it well, “A Background and Application Commentary.” I was teaching through a couple of passages from the gospel of John recently, and found Jobes work to be very help and also unique. That’s the value in this commentary, is that while there are some noticeable teachings “through Old Testament eyes,” a lot of the helpful material (for me at least) was found in her exegetical work and application.

There are scores of commentaries available to pastors, teachers, and laymen–and a ton on John’s gospel–so much that it is hard to narrow down one’s choices to preferred commentaries. This one is among the more unique ones that I’ve read, so I think it holds its value quite well. Jobes is a well-learned scholar, and does incorporate plenty of exegetical points, but she isn’t particularly difficult to understand either, which makes this volume accessible.

Many thanks to Kregel Academic for providing this book free of charge in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

Book Review: “40 Questions about Pastoral Ministry” by Phil A. Newton

Pastoral ministry is not for the faint of heart, which makes it even more important for young and newer pastors to glean from the wisdom of pastors who have many years of experience in this vocation. Phil A. Newton certainly has the wisdom and experience, and his book, 40 Questions about Pastoral Ministry, is definitely a resource that I can recommend.

Though there are 40 questions, there are more than 40 answers to be sure. The topics that he covers are both philosophical and practical. Theologically, Newton is more on the conservative side of the spectrum of doctrinal convictions, which suits me, but some may be more on the egalitarian persuasion. But in terms of pastoral heart, Newton is especially encouraging to pastors who are dealing with anxieties and strains of pastoral ministry. Similar to my own senior pastor’s encouragement to me, Newton strongly urges ministers to stay long in their roles, despite opposition that is, unfortunately, inevitable.

When I first thought about a book on just 40 questions in pastoral ministry, I wondered if it would keep my attention and seem logical in the way it would be laid out. Thankfully, it is a well-edited and nicely-written work packed with biblical counsel for pastors. I would think the audience is quite narrow to almost entirely pastors, so the market is likely thin for this book. But I would encourage pastoral studies professors to consider this work by Newton as a helpful textbook for a Bible college or seminary course.

Consider this: it’s rare to get the opportunity to hear from a pastor with multiple decades of experience. It’s even rarer to do so from a gifted writer. But that’s what you can expect from 40 Questions about Pastoral Ministry.

Note: I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. All opinions were my own.

FREE Power Point Lessons for the Book of Acts

the coliseum

Photo by Diego Muñoz Suárez on Pexels.com

I recently just finished teaching through the entire book of Acts with my Sunday school class. What a big accomplishment that was, and quite a large amount of great lessons in truth found along the way. Here are my Power Points, divided in four units, that I used while teaching. I highly recommend John Polhill’s commentary on Acts. Otherwise, I used a variety of language sources and a couple of technical commentaries to arrive at conclusions. Please download and use freely!

Acts 1-7 Power Point

Acts 8-14 Power Point

Acts 15-21 Power Point

Acts 22-28 Power Point

Romans 11 and the Destiny of Israel: A Comparative Study

land-kinneret

Photo Credit: Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Introduction

There is no shortage of biblical scholarship pertaining to the destiny of Israel in Romans 11. Amillennialists and premillennialists alike have posited heavily researched articles and books that attempt to place Romans 11 in the context of the Apostle Paul’s letter. Both have also tediously endeavored to correctly analyze the grammar and syntax of this controversial yet important chapter in God’s Word. Despite such painstaking efforts, it is doubtful that simply the exegetical arguments presented by the amillennialist will convince the premillennialist, and vice versa. The reason being has virtually nothing to do with intelligence or close-mindedness, but rather with one’s theological method. Therefore, in this research, the views espoused within amillennialism and premillennialism must be first considered as stated by their proponents. Subsequently, several exegetical observations will be addressed to identify where the differences are between amillennialism and premillennialism, but most specifically in regards to the destiny of Israel, namely, whether or not a mass conversion awaits national Israel in the future. Based on a comparison between the views, it will be contended that the premillennial perspective provides the most natural and normal interpretation of the data, which is based on a literal hermeneutic that seeks to understand the text of Scripture without basing assertions largely on theological presuppositions.

Amillennial Views of the Destiny of Israel in Romans 11

John Calvin is a Christian thinker heavily respected by men and women who adhere to both amillennial and premillennial positions of eschatology. While Calvin’s soteriology might be more broadly shared between the two views, his eschatology favors the amillennial view. According to Calvin, “The Israel of God is what [the Apostle Paul] calls the Church, gathered alike from Jews and Gentiles.”[1] Therefore, when Romans 11:26 speaks of how “all Israel will be saved,” Calvin’s interpretation, which is shared by many amillennialists, would indicate that Israel has no ethnic purpose in this context, but is equated with the universal Church. The amount of diversity in opinion from amillennialists alone, however, is notable. Charles Hodge has explained the opposite opinion of Calvin in regards to the ethnic ramifications of Romans 11: “Israel, here, from the context, must mean the Jewish people, and all Israel, the whole nation. The Jews, as a people, are now rejected; as a people, they are to be restored. As their rejection, although national, did not include the rejection of every individual; so their restoration, although in like manner national, need not be assumed to include the salvation of every individual Jew.”[2] Calvin and Hodge are two renowned Reformed thinkers who would share similar beliefs about eschatology, but Romans 11 is a passage that can divide amillennialists.

One of the reasons why amillennialists have trouble finding common ground with fellow proponents of their eschatological system is the interpretive question of how to understand the time length involved in “Israel’s” salvation. Some believe that the timeframe is “synchronic,” which refers only to “Israel” at the end of the time of the “fullness of the Gentiles,” while others take the “diachronic” view, which requires “all Israel” to be referring to ethnic Jews, and specifically to believing Jews of all times.[3] There are amillennialists who take the synchronic view that would only consider “all Israel” as referring to the elect believers who are ethnically Jewish, and that number could be quite minimal. Charles M. Horne argues, “[W]hen Paul states that ‘all Israel shall be saved’ he means to refer to the full number of elect Jews whom it pleases God to bring into his kingdom throughout the ages until the very day when the full number of the Gentiles also shall have been brought in. In keeping with the context, ‘all Israel’ means ‘the remnant according to the election of grace’ (11:5), not the nation in its entirety.”[4] There are even some amillennialists who think that there will be some type of mass conversion prior to the return of Christ.[5] But Horne has adamantly insisted, “If Paul is speaking in 11:26 of a future mass conversion of the nation of Israel, then he is destroying the entire development of his argument in chaps. 9-11.”[6] Thus, the synchronic view of the timeframe noted in Romans 11 is an open discussion within amillennialism.

The diachronic view is also a thoroughly defended theory within amillennialism that must be evaluated. Regarding the timeframe of the fullness of the Gentiles and the relevancy of “Israel” being saved, Ben Merkle has written, “This phrase is essentially terminative in its significance, implying the end of something. Yet, only the context can determine where the emphasis lies after the termination. Often the phrase is used in an eschatological context, where the termination envisioned contains a finalization aspect that makes questions concerning the reversal of the circumstance irrelevant.”[7] Merkle compared the construction of ἄχρι οὗ (translated “until”) with First Corinthians 11:16, referring to partaking of the Lord’s Super “until” he comes.[8] N.T. Wright holds a similar view as Merkle, viewing Jews who are saved in the present age as composing “Israel,” that is, elect believers within the Jewish nation.[9] All of these amillennial views are theoretically plausible, as interpreters have found ways to fit the texts of Romans 11 into a particular conclusion, even though the different views within amillennialism cannot coexist. The question is whether or not the theological method instituted to arrive at such conclusions is most preferable.

Premillennial Views of the Destiny of Israel in Romans 11

Premillennialists likewise have plenty of flexibility among themselves in terms of opinions on matters related to eschatology. Whereas covenant premillennialists consider only one people of God throughout history, dispensational premillennialists distinguish between Israel, which includes saved and unsaved people throughout history, and the Church, which only includes believers, both Jew and Gentile, in the present age. Nevertheless, premillennialists can find some common ground in the meaning of Romans 11. Michael G. Vanlaningham has argued:

Currently beset by a partial spiritual hardening toward God, a significant group of Jews will experience a future repentance and salvation. This will come at some future point in the church, perhaps as one of the series events that will compose Christ’s second coming. Paul adduces proof of this salvation with two quotations from Isaiah. Through this significant passage God’s future program for Israel becomes clearer than before.[10]

 

Meanwhile, John F. Walvoord, a stalwart defender of dispensational premillennialism would not view the timing of Romans 11 as being during the church age, but during the end of the Tribulation, and preceding the Second Coming of Christ. Walvoord has said, “The contrast throughout the passage is not between the believer and unbeliever, but between Gentiles as such and Israel as a nation. In Romans 11:25, the issue is brought to a head with the revelation that Israel’s present blindness and unbelief will be concluded at the same time that the present Gentile opportunity is ended.”[11] Thereafter, “all Israel” will be saved.

In recent years, premillennial scholars have put forward interpretations of many different aspects of Israel’s future in regards to Romans 11. Four of them are worth considering in this discussion, though more exist. First, while many often attack the discontinuity approach from a premillennial perspective in the understanding of history, Samuel A. Dawson sees both continuity and discontinuity in the plan of God throughout the ages. He has explained:

To forcefully drive this point home Paul uses an olive tree analogy to establish the continuity and discontinuity of God’s plan in dispensing his mercy. And although Paul begins this analogy by emphasizing the one historical root from which God dispenses his mercy to both Jew and Gentile (continuity), he mainly emphasizes the diverse way in which God dispenses his mercy throughout history (discontinuity), which opens up a future salvation for Israel that is in harmony with Old Testament prophecies.[12]

 

A second important contribution to premillennialism comes from Jim R. Sibley in his work on Romans 11:15. This verse reads in the Greek as follows: “εἰ γὰρ ἡ ἀποβολὴ αὐτῶν καταλλαγὴ κόσμου, τίς ἡ πρόσλημψις εἰ μὴ ζωὴ ἐκ νεκρῶν;” The issue here is whether or not Paul’s question of Israel’s “rejection” is to be rendered as an objective genitive or a subjective. Especially since Paul just insisted that God would never reject His people of Israel, and for a variety of other reasons, Sibley affirms that the phrasing of Romans 11:15 should be understood as Israel rejecting salvation in the present age, not as God rejecting Israel.[13]

David Q. Santos has provided yet another interpretation worth evaluating. His research focused on Romans 11:19-24, though in his article he provided a thorough background of the epistle as a whole. His thesis might be summarized as follows: “Paul’s conclusion regarding Israel is that, while it may be a mystery, Israel does have a future in God’s plan. There will be a time when the blinders will be removed from the nation and Israel will no longer live in unbelief. At that point, those natural branches will be regrafted and all Israel will be saved.”[14] Finally, Matt Waymeyer’s analysis of Romans 11:28 requires some attention:

Romans 11:28 is an often neglected verse that helps in determining which of the views is correct, because the pronoun “they” in v. 28 refers to the same people as the “all Israel” of v. 26. Since context requires that the pronoun “you” in v. 28 refers to Gentiles, the “enemies” and the “they” of v. 28 must be ethnic Jews, thereby eliminating the possibility of “all Israel” being the church. The two clauses in v. 28 describe what is true of ethnic Israel at the same time, not on condition prior to Israel’s salvation and another subsequent to that salvation. That eliminates the view that “all Israel” depicts an elect remnant of believing Jews, because they could hardly be enemies according to the gospel after becoming believers. The view that “all Israel” is the ethnic nation of Israel has v. 28 speaking of Israel’s dual status: simultaneously they are enemies according to the gospel and beloved because of the fathers.[15]

 

Both amillennialists and premillennialists have put forth countless hours of research to prove that one view is superior to the other in terms of understanding the context of Romans, grammatical observations, and general theological principles. Thus, a conscientious awareness of where the differences are is urgent, requiring a closer look at some exegetical observations from Romans 11.

Exegetical Observations in Romans 11

The first exegetical point requiring focus is the identity of Israel in Romans 11. According to Walvoord, “[T]here 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.”[16] Amillennialists would surely have a problem with Walvoord’s assertion. The first clause might be challenged in reference to Romans 9:6, which says, “For they are not all Israel who are descended from Israel” (οὐ γὰρ πάντες οἱ ἐξ Ἰσραήλ, οὗτοι Ἰσραήλ).[17] The NASB added the phrase “descended from,” so the verse could read: “For not all of Israel are Israel.” In the context of Romans 9, it can be readily deduced that Paul is referring to the fact that not all people within the nation of Israel are truly “Israel,” which is to distinguish the “children of the flesh” (national Israelites, but unbelievers) from the “children of the promise” (national Israelites, but believers). Walvoord’s second clause, however, places much more of a burden of proof on amillennialists. In Romans, Paul speaks quite frequently of Israel, and he does distinguish, as Romans 9 indicates, between believing and unbelieving Israelites. However, a literal interpretation of the data requires one to restrict “Israel” to only include Jews, but never Gentiles. In chapter 11, Paul includes the title “Israel” in verses 2, 7, 25, and 26. Clearly, he is referring to national Israel in verses 2 and 7, and there is no indication whatsoever of a change in meaning in verses 25 and 26. Jews and Gentiles share equal privileges in the Church, but in Romans 11 and elsewhere in the epistle, the amillennialist relies on a presupposition that “Israel” can include Gentiles. A much more natural reading of the text would restrict “Israel” to simply Jews, and the context would determine whether or not Paul is speaking of believing or unbelieving Jews.

A second exegetical observation necessitating comment is the meaning of the “fullness of the Gentiles.” Similarly to how Paul had already identified Israel in this context prior to verses 25 and 26, so also has he spoken about Gentiles (verses 11-13). The most natural way to interpret “Gentiles” is to conclude their identity as being non-Israelites. Therefore, when verse 25 speaks of the “fullness of the Gentiles,” the people being identified can be contrasted with national Israelites. Most believers in the present age are indeed Gentiles, but there will be a future moment in which the last Gentile will be redeemed. Furthermore, the Old Testament quotations of Isaiah 27:9 and Jeremiah 31:33-34 are massively significant. Ungodliness will be removed from “Jacob,” which can be understood as Israel since the patriarch, Jacob, had his name changed to Israel, and he is the progenitor from which the twelve tribes of Israel arose. The second passage refers to the New Covenant, which again originally referred to the nation of Israel, but in Jeremiah 31. Although Paul did not include the first clause from Jeremiah 31:34, surely he would not have disregarded its importance, where it says, “‘Know the Lord,’ for they will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them.” Jeremiah 31 speaks comprehensively of Israel, which fits the context of Paul’s argument in Romans 11, “and so all Israel will be saved.” The partial hardening will not last forever over the people of Israel, but the fullness of the Gentiles must first come to a completion.

Conclusion

There are a variety of opinions on the meaning of Romans 11 and the destiny of Israel. However, Paul gives no clear signs that he means something different regarding the identity (and thus, the destiny) of Israel in verse 2 compared to verse 26. The fullness of the Gentiles indicates a time in which, according to both the Old and New Testament, all of Israel will be saved. This usage of “Israel” is no different than the Israel Elijah accused of killing God’s prophets and tearing down His altars (Romans 11:3). What is distinct is not the identity of Israel as being composed of something other than Jews, but that the fullness of the Gentiles will have to accomplish its purpose in provoking Jews at the end of their “partial hardening.” Walvoord summarized it well many decades ago, “During the present age a remnant of Israel is saved through the Gospel. The hardening or blindness is ‘in part.’ When Christ returns, the situation will be changed. Instead of a remnant, instead of a small part, Israel as a whole will be saved. It will be a national deliverance.”[18] Marvin Richardson Vincent has rendered “πώρωσις ἀπὸ μέρους” (Romans 11:25) as “Not partial hardening, but hardening extending over a part.”[19] Indeed, a large part of Israel is spiritually blinded from the true Messiah, while there is a remnant composed of believing Jews. The destiny of Israel is based off of the New Covenant promises of Jeremiah 31. Paul, in Romans 11, differs in no way in describing that future glory, but until the fullness of the Gentiles is completed, Israel remains composed of a remnant of believers and a large portion of unbelievers.

 

Notes:

[1] John Calvin, Commentary on the Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Romans, trans. and ed. John Owen (Grand Rapids: Baker, reprinted 1993), 437.

[2] Quoted in John F. Walvoord, “Eschatological Problems IX: Israel’s Restoration,” Bibliothecha Sacra 102:408 (October 1945), 411. Italics original.

[3] Ben Merkle, “Romans 11 and the Future of Ethnic Israel,” The Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 43:4 (December 2000), 711.

[4] Charles M. Horne, “The Meaning of the Phrase ‘And Thus All Israel Will Be Saved’ (Romans 11:26),” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 21:4 (December 1978), 334.

[5] For this discussion, see Lee Irons, “Paul’s Theology of Israel’s Future: A Nonmillennial Interpretation of Romans 11,” Reformation and Revival 6:2 (Spring 1997), 104.

[6] Horne, “The Meaning of the Phrase ‘And Thus All Israel Will Be Saved’ (Romans 11:26),” 333.

[7] Ben Merkle, “Romans 11 and the Future of Ethnic Israel,” 715.

[8] Ibid.

[9] For a critical essay of Wright’s view, see Michael G. Vanlaningham, “An Evaluation of N. T. Wright’s View of Israel in Romans 11,” Bibliothecha Sacra 170:678 (April 2013), 189. Vanlaningham says Wright’s “weakest” part of his argument concerns a lack of explanation of ἄχρι οὗ. However, taken under the umbrella of Merkle’s explanation, Wright’s view would likely be little or no different.

[10] Michael G. Vanlaningham, “Romans 11:25-27 and the Future of Israel in Paul’s Thought,” The Master’s Seminary Journal 3:2 (Fall 1992), 141.

[11] Walvoord, “Eschatological Problems IX: Israel’s Restoration,” 405.

[12] Samuel A. Dawson, “The Historical Outworking of God’s Plan to Dispense His Mercy Illustrated in the Olive Tree of Romans 11:16-24,” Detroit Baptist Seminary Journal 21 (2016), 107. Italics original.

[13] See especially Jim R. Sibley, “Has the Church Put Israel on the Shelf? The Evidence from Romans 11:15,” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 58:3 (September 2015), 576-580.

[14] David Q. Santos, “Israel and Her Future: An Exegesis of Romans 11:19-24,” Journal of Dispensational Theology 19:56 (Spring 2015), 84.

[15] Matt Waymeyer, “The Dual Status of Israel in Romans 11:28,” The Master’s Seminary Journal 16:1 (Spring 2005), 57.

[16] Walvoord, “Eschatological Problems IX: Israel’s Restoration,” 409.

[17] All English translations are from the New American Standard Bible.

[18] Walvoord, “Eschatological Problems IX: Israel’s Restoration,” 410.

[19] Marvin Richardson Vincent, Word Studies in the New Testament, vol. 3 (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1887), 130.