Reading: Romans 11:25-32
• We’ve walked through Paul’s letter to the Roman Christians over the course of the last year. During the next several weeks, we will focus on some of the key takeaways.
• Today, we’ll discuss how to understand and make the most of our unique moment in the history of God’s restorative work.
Three orienting truths
1. We live in the “last days” (1 Tim 4:1) or the “times of the Gentiles” (Lk 21:24)
Prior to Christ’s first coming, God used Israel to bring salvation (Deut 7:6-8). The nations had rejected God at Babel (Gen 11:1-9), so God temporarily “let them go their own way” (Acts 14:16); he “gave them over” to their idolatry and immorality (Romans 1:24, 26, 28). God then focused on a single people group, Israel, to bring about the eventual restoration of the whole earth (Gen 12:3). Christ came to fulfill Israel’s role.
• So, when Jesus came the first time, he “was sent only to lost sheep of Israel” (Mt 15:24). Before he left, though, he sent the disciples to the whole earth (Mt 28:19-20). Jesus closed out one age and ushered in a new one.
• NB: God always loved the nations and never gave up plans to redeem them!
Since Christ’s first coming, God is using Gentile and Jewish believers together (the Church) to bring salvation (Eph 2.14-16). Most of Israel rejected their Messiah (Rom 11:1-7). God judged them for this in AD 70, within one generation of Christ’s death, and the “times of the Gentiles” began (cf. Mt 23:33-36). Since then, God is saving Gentiles and making Israel envious to provoke them to repent (Rom 11:11, 14).
• NB: God still loves Israel and will redeem many Jews (Rom 11:28)!
2. In this Age, Christ is expanding his kingdom, and Satan is pushing back
• Jesus came to “destroy the devil’s work” (1 Jn 3:8). He is building his Church and the “gates of hell will not withstand it” (Mt 16:18). At Christ’s first coming, Satan was ejected from heaven (John 12:31) and is furious because he knows his time is short (Rev 12:1-12). So, he is “like a lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Ptr 5:8).
• But the One in us “is greater than one who is in the world” (1 Jn 4:4). We triumph over Satan by blood of Lamb and word of our testimony (Rev 12:11).
• Bottom line: God’s kingdom will continue to grow until Christ comes again (Lk 13:18-21) even while experiencing set-backs (deception, martyrdom, apostasy).
• Meanwhile, expect Satan to continue his efforts in America to revise our history, confuse our identities, coopt and persecute the Faithful and create divisions through race, class conflict and partisanship and issues like gender, sexuality, globalism, and freedom of speech.
3. Jesus will return to judge evil, reward good and establish his rule
• Jesus will come with great glory, “in flaming fire” and “the trumpet of God” (see Num 10:5-10) and “every eye will see him” (2 Thess 1:8; 1 Thess 4:16; Rev 1:7).
• All who have lived and died are raised from the dead (Acts 24:15) and judged for the things done in the body, whether good or evil (1 Ptr 1:17).
• God will create a “new heaven and new earth” out of the old ones “in which righteousness dwells” (2 Ptr 3:13). In this repristinated world, there will be no more tears, mourning, crying or pain but sheer joy, unbounded love, untold beauty and immeasurable peace (Rev 21:1-22:5). We will see God’s “face” and enjoy unbroken communion with the Father and Son in the Spirit forever (Rev 22:4), and “the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea” (Hab 2:14).
Takeaways: two sacred callings
1. We are called to be courageous, active, verbal witnesses to our culture
“To the one who is victorious and does my will to the end, I will give authority over the nations.” (Rev 2:26)
2. We are called to engage in spiritual warfare through prayer
“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes… 18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.” (Eph 6:10-11, 18)