With only two exceptions, all of the adult Israelites that Moses led out of Egypt died in the wilderness without ever entering the Promised Land. Unbelief prevented their entry (Hebrews 3:19). This is a testimony to us that we should trust God and not harden our hearts (Hebrews 3:7-8; 1Corinthians 10:11). However what shall we say of them, whose carcasses fell in the wilderness, never inheriting the promises? Is it all over or is there yet salvation for them? Have they committed what many call the unpardonable sin?
It may be interesting to note that the Bible does not speak of an unpardonable sin. In Matthew 12:31-32 Christ says all sorts of sin will be forgiven, but the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit shall not be forgiven, either in the present age or in the (age) to come. Mark 3:28-29 says there is no forgiveness in the age (translated, never), and is in danger of age judgment. Unbelief is thought to be the so-called unpardonable sin, and may very well be the sin spoken of here, but I find no evidence that this sin is unpardonable. Is there a sin too strong for the cross of Christ? Our understanding of this sin has got to be wrong, since these questions make the sin argument out to be too great an evil from which Christ has power to save us. Indeed, if this is so, truly all things are not possible for God (cp. Mark 10:27; 14:36). This is the spiritual parallel to the secular argument, asking if an Omnipotent God could create a rock that he couldn’t lift. Both arguments would turn our eyes away from God and place them upon his creation (the great rock or the great sinner).
The word for age is defined as a time of uncertain duration. Any attempt by myself or anyone else to say that this word means forever, eternal or everlasting must be accompanied with proof of context or proof from elsewhere in the Bible, that unending is exactly what it means. The sin against the Holy Spirit carries with it a punishment of God holding back his forgiveness for two ages. The first age in which the forgiveness is held back was the age in which Christ was born (the Age of Law or the Mosaic Covenant). The second is the age that was about to come upon the world due to Jesus’ sacrifice (the Age of Grace or the New Covenant). Anyone who sins against the Holy Spirit in either period will not have the opportunity to repent, because repentance is a gift from God (2Timothy 2:25). If anyone should seek repentance, he will not find it, just as Esau’s repentance could not bring back his birthright (Hebrews 12:16-17).
Hebrews 3:11 says God swore in his wrath that the unbelievers would not enter into his rest. In reality, this rest was not found by anyone who entered the Promised Land! David spoke of this rest (Hebrews 4:7), proving that Joshua was unable to give that rest to anyone (Hebrews 4:8). Only Christ is able to give this rest (Matthew 11:28-30). Therefore, there remains a rest to be given the people of God (Hebrews 4:9-11). Notice in Hebrews 3:11 that God swore in his wrath that unbelievers would not enter into that rest. Micah 7:18-19 states that there is no god like our God. Our God pardons iniquity and passes by our transgressions. He will not retain his anger forever, because he delights in mercy. He will turn again and have compassion upon us, subduing our iniquities and casting all our sins in the depths of the sea. Truly, God does not treat us as we deserve, and because he does not, his glory will fill the earth. Alleluia! Praise God for his mercy, which he displayed for us upon the cross!
All Israel will be saved! God says so in Romans 11:26. I’ve heard some Christians say: “God said it! That settles it! I believe it!” Well, God does say it in Romans 11:26, and it really should settle any argument to the contrary, but does it? Although all Israel shall be saved, concerning the Gospel they are its enemies, because God chose to have mercy upon the gentiles. Concerning the election, they are still beloved of God (Romans 11:28). They are the enemies of God, yet God loves each of them. Truly, God’s thoughts are not my thoughts. His ways are not my own ways. How I wish I thought and acted more like him. If such a thing were true, I wouldn’t be so judgmental toward others.
I find it interesting to see what conclusions I may draw from this teaching of unbelief among the Jews. First of all, unbelief is unbelief no matter who is expressing it, whether Jew or gentile. Secondly, if God is not a respecter of men’s persons (Acts 10:34; Romans 2:11; James 2:9), then it must be true that what happens to the Jews due to their unbelief happens as well to the unbelieving gentiles. If it can be shown that God saves all Israel, then it must also be true that God saves all gentiles as well.
God has not cast away his people (Romans 11:1-2). Though they have committed great evil, God still reserves a remnant among them (Romans 11:2-5). For grace to be grace there can be no boasting of any work of righteousness that we have done. Either salvation is a gift, or God owes it to us. It cannot be any other way (Romans 11:6).
Israel did not and could not obtain what it sought after. The elect, those upon whom God will have mercy (Romans 9:15; 8:29), have obtained what Israel sought after (Romans 11:7-10). Israel has stumbled, but not that it should fall. Israel stumbles that salvation could be brought to the gentiles, and this mercy extended to the gentiles is intended to provoke the Jews to be jealous for God (Romans 11:11). Israel’s fall or partial blindness, which comes from God (Romans 11:8-10), is a blessing to the rest of the world. The question now is: “What will their fullness be like, if their fall is wonderful for us” (Romans 11:12)? If the casting away of Israel is the reconciling of the world, the receiving of them must bring about the resurrection of all the dead gentiles viz. Sodom and Gomorra, those killed in the Flood etc. (Romans 11:15). Without minimizing Christ’s rejection by his own people, the Root is holy, therefore the branches (the Jews) are holy as well (Romans 11:16).
We are not to boast against any unbeliever, especially the Jews. We live in God’s goodness but they in God’s severity. This is to be a warning to us, in that we should continue in his goodness. Otherwise, we too will find ourselves castaways (Romans 11:17-24). Paul reveals a secret that up to that time had not been known. Blindness in part has come upon the Jews only until the fullness of the gentiles comes into the fellowship through election (Romans 11:25).
All Israel shall be saved (Romans 11:26). It is God’s covenant with them that he should take away their sins (Romans 11:27). Concerning the Gospel, they are the enemies of God; but concerning the election, they are beloved of God for the fathers’ sakes (Romans 11:28). God will not change his mind concerning what he gives nor whom he calls (Romans 11:29). In times past we were unbelievers, yet we have found mercy in the Jew’s unbelief. Likewise, they will find mercy, because mercy has been shown to us, the gentiles (Romans 11:30-31). God considers them all in unbelief so that he can have mercy upon everyone, both Jew and gentile alike (Romans 11:32)!
Praise God! He is not at all like I am. It is good that he doesn’t need my advice (Romans 11:33-36). How could I even begin to know him or his ways unless he first reveals himself to me?
To conclude, let’s look into Isaiah 57. God says in Isaiah 57:16, that he will not contend with the Jews forever, neither will he always be angry. Why? “…Because the spirit would fail before me, the breath of man which I have made.” Verse-17 reveals that God was angry because of Israel’s greed, and because he was angry, God hid himself from them. They kept on in their willful ways, unrepentant. Verse-18 expresses God’s grace in that he receives them as they are and heals them. In other words, they will change; they will repent, but the motivation will come from God (cp. Philippians 2:13). Thus, God will comfort them and those who mourn for Israel. The universality of God’s grace is revealed in Isaiah 57:19, in that he will heal him who is near (the Jew) and him who is afar off (the gentile). Verses-20 and 21 answers to Isaiah 57:1-2. Those who are faithful will escape the future ages of judgment, but the wicked will be brought through them, because God is never mocked, though he is abundant in mercy! Truly, we serve a magnificent God!