Paul’s Theology of Israel’s Future: A Nonmillennial Interpretation of Romans 11 -- By: Lee Irons

Journal: Reformation and Revival
Volume: RAR 06:2 (Spring 1997)
Article: Paul’s Theology of Israel’s Future: A Nonmillennial Interpretation of Romans 11
Author: Lee Irons

Paul’s Theology of Israel’s Future: A Nonmillennial Interpretation of Romans 11

Lee Irons

The interpretation of Romans 11 is, of course, a highly controversial subject. Two of the major millennial positions—premillennialism and postmillennialism—go to this text, among others, to find biblical justification for their respective eschatologies. Although they differ as to the timing and character of the glorious, external, earthly phase of Christ’s kingdom, both the premillennial and postmillennial form of chiliasm agree that Romans 11 holds out the hope of a mass conversion of Jews and Gentiles during a long era of righteousness and peace upon the earth. Amillennialists, however, neither expect such a hope nor find it in Romans 11. They—and I include myself among them—take the view that this text does not promise such a massive eschatological harvest of Jews and Gentiles. O. Palmer Robertson, in his important paper “Is There a Distinctive Future for Ethnic Israel in Romans 11?”, says,

The eye of man cannot tell whether this number is few or many But the eye of faith is confident that the “full number” is being realized. For this reason, it is neither necessary nor appropriate to posit some future date in which the “remnant” principle will be superseded by a newly-introduced “fulness” principle. 1

This is what I am calling the nonmillennial interpretation of Romans 11:1 call it nonmillennial rather than amillennial (though it is certainly that) in order to accent the fact that this interpretation sees neither pre-nor postmillennialism in this passage. Paul does not address the millennial question. The question is not even remotely in the background of his thought (though the passage may contain teaching

that would logically imply an answer to that question). Thus, I have called my paper a nonmillennial interpretation of Romans 11.

But this is not to say that my paper is going to be an exclusively negative attack on views I regard as being unbiblical. On the contrary, I have a positive thesis to offer, as well as what I believe to be compelling arguments in its support. My thesis is that the reference in verse 26 to “all Israel” should be interpreted as a Pauline redefinition of the concept “Israel” in light of the great mystery that has been revealed in the person a...

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