"Whom He Foreknew"
Part One: Foreknowledge and Predestination
In the book of Romans, we find the surprising phrase in two places, "whom He foreknew." The first time (Romans 8) refers to an individual – any individual who chooses to dedicate his life to Yeshua (Jesus) the Messiah; and the second place (Romans 11) refers to a nation – perhaps any nation, but in this case specifically to the nation of Israel.
God loves all people and desires for them to be His children. However, in order to love, one must be given free will. Free will allows for a person to choose to love in return or to choose not to love.
Although God grants freewill, His supernatural ability allows Him to see ahead of time who will end up choosing to love Him and who will end up refusing. This goes along with the rabbinic saying: "Everything is foreseen, yet freewill is granted (Pirke Avot 4:19)."
God prefers that everyone would choose to receive His grace, yet He knows that not everyone will. For those whom He knows will ultimately choose Him, He "predestines" - prepares a plan to bless them. For those whom He knows will ultimately refuse Him, He prepares a plan to punish them. It is up to each individual to choose which one of these destinies he will take part in (II Timothy 2:20-21).
If a person chooses to receive the grace of God, then God chooses him. Anyone who chooses God becomes one of the chosen, the "elect." God predestines the elect because He knows ahead of time, who will choose Him. His "election" is based on His "foreknowledge."
The same process [freewill – foreknowledge – predestination] holds true for every person, whether he be the simplest believer or the greatest apostle. Paul's description in Romans 8 is applying to every believer the same calling that was given to the prophet Jeremiah (Jeremiah 1:5).
Part Two: The Chosen People
In 1978 I began to work for Messianic evangelist Manny Brotman. He sent me out to teach in churches what we called the "Romans 11 message." After all these years the profound secrets contained in Romans 11 never cease to amaze me.
At the beginning of the chapter, God twice refers to the Jewish people as "His people." In this "New Testament" age, after the gospels and after the book of Acts, the Jewish people are still referred to as "God's people." There is present tense meaning, not just past, to the Jews being the chosen people, even from a totally "Christian" world view.
How can this be? As a Jew, I reject any racist interpretations of "chosen-ness." There must be some spiritual, moral or historical reasons for this designation. I believe the answer is found again in the phrase, "whom He foreknew."
If God foreknew the Jewish people, there must have been something that He knew. What is it? Meditate on that for a few minutes. There must be something to "justify" His choice of the Jewish people as the chosen people. He must have known something that has already happened, or He must know something that has NOT YET happened. Let's look at the range of possibilities:
1. Total Sovereignty
God has the right to choose whomever He wants. He is the potter; we are the clay. If He decides to choose the Jewish people as the chosen people, then it is a test for all the other nations of the world to submit to God's sovereign authority. That is the argument of Romans 9:14-23.
However, we understand well enough the character of God to know that His choices are never arbitrary and unjust, even though He has the right and power to do so.
2. Faithfulness to the Forefathers
The Jewish people are the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. God cut a covenant with these forefathers. One of the articles of God's covenant is that He gives special attention to the descendants of His covenant partners. (Any person who chooses to believe in Yeshua comes into his own covenant relationship with God, and in that sense his children are also "chosen" after him for special blessing.)
Paul referred to this concept in verse 28 when he said, "concerning the election, they are beloved for the sake of the fathers." This is what the rabbis call "z'chut Avot" meaning the "right" of the forefathers.
3. The Firstborn Nation
Not only were the Jewish forefathers faithful to God, but the nation as a whole was the first nation in history to have an ongoing covenant with God. When God sent Moses into Egypt, He said, "Israel is My son, My firstborn." (Exodus 4:22).
Because of the "firstborn son" role of the Jewish people, they have a certain standing in the international family of God. Even the present Pope recently referred to Israel as the "elder brother" of the Church. The fact that Israel was the first nation to receive the covenant faith provides an historic foundation or root for the rest of the nations (Romans 11:16-21).
4. First Century Apostolic Community
The international church today is founded not only on the faith of the forefathers, but also on the first century apostles and prophets. The fiery community of faith in the early chapters of the book of Acts was primarily Jewish. They took upon themselves the mission of world evangelism. Their community did more than any other to spread the kingdom of God. Recently in Rome, I was surprised to note that the Vatican is built over the supposed grave of a Jewish fisherman from the Galilee called Shimon Bar Yonah (Peter, the first "pope," in their terminology).
Few Christians would deny how much of their faith they owe to a zealous student of Rabban Gamliel in Jerusalem, named Shaul (known to the world as Paul the apostle). If for nothing else, the Jews could be considered the chosen people because of the faithfulness of the early disciples.
Note: Perhaps many of my readers would agree with me up to this point. Some would even point to the works of famous Jewish rabbis, scientists, professors, and statesmen who have shaped history throughout the past 2,000 years. However, in this article I am not looking for just the historic meaning of the chosen people, but the prophetic meaning for the future.
Part Three: What will their Fullness be?
Romans chapter 11 is the primary passage in the Bible describing why the Jews are the chosen people. Surprisingly enough, the emphasis of the passage is not on the nation as a whole but on the Messianic remnant within the nation. Even more surprising, the emphasis is not on what Israel has already done, but on what is going to happen in the future.
The future role of Israel is not only greater than its past role but "MUCH MORE" so.
A question to be asked here is: "More than what?" The answer is: more than the apostolic mission of the first century. That's it. The "fullness" and the "acceptance" of Israel will be similar to the revival of the first century but much more so. That has not yet happened, but it will soon, God willing. Let's continue with our survey of the "election" of Israel -
5. End Time Remnant
The remnant described by Shaul in Romans 11 is the community of the Messianic Jewish believers within the nation of Israel. Much of my life is dedicated to the nurture and growth of this group of people, so perhaps I lack some objectivity. However, as I read scriptures, there are many prophecies and promises yet to be fulfilled both to Israel and to the international Church, in which the messianic Jewish remnant is to play a central role. This includes:
6. End Times Revival
A central reason that the Jewish people are "chosen" is that God foreknew and foresaw that there would be a huge revival in Israel in the end times, in which virtually the entire nation would come to faith in Yeshua. Although there is still opposition to the gospel here in Israel, more and more are coming to faith every day. Shaul winds up his argument about the destiny of the Jewish people in Romans 11 with the great promise of verse 26: "And so all Israel shall be saved."
As the gospel was ignited by a great revival in Jerusalem (Acts 2), so will it end up with another great revival. This "second" Pentecost will not just affect the local community in Jerusalem, but will fulfill the prophecy that "it shall come to pass in the last days, says God, that I will pour out my spirit on all flesh" (Acts 2:17, Joel 2:28).
7. National Destiny
In Christian culture there is much understanding of personal salvation but not much of national destiny. In Jewish culture there is not much understanding of personal salvation but much of national destiny. It is part of the paradoxical and often painful experience of the Jewish people that we are acutely aware of being a chosen people, but as individuals we are lacking our own spiritual and moral fiber to qualify us for that chosen-ness.
Nevertheless, God is moving our people into position to fulfill His calling. Today Israel finds itself at the political focus of the whole world. We are being betrayed by the liberal humanistic nations of the West, as well as being threatened with extinction by the Islamic nations of the Middle East. Living in Israel is a pressure cooker of religious, historical, and military factors. Whether we like it or not, God is refining us in spiritual fire.
Yeshua is about to return and set up His millennial kingdom on the earth. The restoration of the nation of Israel is part of preparing this world for the Messianic kingdom to come. May in this way God's promise to Abraham finally be fulfilled that through his seed, all the nations will be blessed (Genesis 12:3; 18:18; 22:18; 26:4)!