WHEN DID PAUL KNOW ABOUT ISRAEL’S FALL?
by Shawn Brasseaux
When did the Apostle Paul learn of Israel’s fall? Not “For what saith the preacher?” Not “For what saith the denomination?” Not “For what saith the commentary?” “For what saith the Scriptures?”
Ironically, in order to answer this question, we must work backwards in the Bible. We begin at the end of the Acts period. Reading from Acts chapter 28: “ And when they agreed not among themselves, they departed, after that Paul had spoken one word, Well spake the Holy Ghost by Esaias the prophet unto our fathers,  Saying, Go unto this people, and say, Hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and not perceive:  For the heart of this people is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes have they closed; lest they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them.  Be it known therefore unto you, that the salvation of God is sent unto the Gentiles, and that they will hear it.”
If we proceeded no further in our Bible understanding, we would conclude that Israel fell before God right here. Not surprisingly, some appeal to this passage to teach that the nation Israel fell at the end of the Book of Acts, that she was judicially set aside at the close of Acts. Consequently, these individuals are called “Acts 28ers.” They believe that God continued to operate Israel’s prophetic program, her covenants, for the entirety of the Acts period—even during Paul’s ministry. We cannot agree with these conclusions for a host of Scriptural reasons. (See our “Acts 9/28 Hybrid Theology” study linked at the end of this article. Time and space do not permit us here to discuss this technical topic.)
Returning to Acts chapter 28, verse 28: “Be it known therefore unto you, that the salvation of God is sent unto the Gentiles, and that they will hear it.” This sounds exactly like Romans 11:11-13. Therefore, we turn to Romans chapter 11: “ What then? Israel hath not obtained that which he seeketh for; but the election hath obtained it, and the rest were blinded.  (According as it is written, God hath given them the spirit of slumber, eyes that they should not see, and ears that they should not hear; ) unto this day.  And David saith, Let their table be made a snare, and a trap, and a stumblingblock, and a recompence unto them:  Let their eyes be darkened, that they may not see, and bow down their back alway.
“ I say then, Have they [Israel] stumbled that they should fall? God forbid: but rather through their fall salvation is come unto the Gentiles, for to provoke them to jealousy.  Now if the fall of them [Israel] be the riches of the world, and the diminishing of them the riches of the Gentiles; how much more their fulness?  For I speak to you Gentiles, inasmuch as I am the apostle of the Gentiles, I magnify mine office:  If by any means I may provoke to emulation them which are my flesh, and might save some of them.  For if the casting away of them [Israel] be the reconciling of the world, what shall the receiving of them be, but life from the dead?
“ For if the firstfruit be holy, the lump is also holy: and if the root be holy, so are the branches.  And if some of the branches be broken off, and thou, being a wild olive tree, wert graffed in among them, and with them partakest of the root and fatness of the olive tree;  Boast not against the branches. But if thou boast, thou bearest not the root, but the root thee.  Thou wilt say then, The branches [Israel] were broken off, that I might be graffed in.  Well; because of unbelief they were broken off, and thou standest by faith. Be not highminded, but fear:  For if God spared not the natural branches [Israel], take heed lest he also spare not thee.  Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God: on them [Israel] which fell, severity; but toward thee, goodness, if thou continue in his goodness: otherwise thou also shalt be cut off.  And they also, if they abide not still in unbelief, shall be graffed in: for God is able to graff them in again.  For if thou wert cut out of the olive tree which is wild by nature, and wert graffed contrary to nature into a good olive tree: how much more shall these, which be the natural branches, be graffed into their own olive tree?
“ For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in.  And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob:  For this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins.  As concerning the gospel, they are enemies for your sakes: but as touching the election, they are beloved for the father’s sakes.  For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance. 30 For as ye in times past have not believed God, yet have now obtained mercy through their unbelief:  Even so have these [Israel] also now not believed, that through your mercy they also may obtain mercy.  For God hath concluded them all in unbelief, that he might have mercy upon all.”
One would have to be willingly ignorant not to see in Romans chapter 11 that Paul knew of Israel’s fall. Based on the information found in Romans 15:24-28, we know that Paul wrote the Book of Romans in Acts 20:1-3. Still, he knew about Israel’s fall even before Acts chapter 20. Let us go back in time.
Paul declared in Corinth (Greece, Europe) in Acts chapter 18: “ And when Silas and Timotheus were come from Macedonia, Paul was pressed in the spirit, and testified to the Jews that Jesus was Christ.  And when they opposed themselves, and blasphemed, he shook his raiment, and said unto them, Your blood be upon your own heads; I am clean; from henceforth I will go unto the Gentiles.” Israel is fallen, and Paul knows it here too. Nevertheless, he knew about Israel’s fall long before Acts chapter 18. We go back in time yet again.
In Acts chapter 13, Paul announced in Antioch of Pisidia (Asia Minor, Turkey): “ Then Paul and Barnabas waxed bold, and said, It was necessary that the word of God should first have been spoken to you: but seeing ye put it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles.  For so hath the Lord commanded us, saying, I have set thee to be a light of the Gentiles, that thou shouldest be for salvation unto the ends of the earth.  And when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad, and glorified the word of the Lord: and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed.” Paul understands Israel’s fall here, yet he knew of it even before Acts chapter 13.
Some three years after Paul’s conversion (cf. Galatians 1:15-18), we read in Acts chapter 9: “ And when Saul was come to Jerusalem, he assayed to join himself to the disciples: but they were all afraid of him, and believed not that he was a disciple.  But Barnabas took him, and brought him to the apostles, and declared unto them how he had seen the Lord in the way, and that he had spoken to him, and how he had preached boldly at Damascus in the name of Jesus.  And he was with them coming in and going out at Jerusalem.  And he spake boldly in the name of the Lord Jesus, and disputed against the Grecians: but they went about to slay him.” We do not read about it here, but something supernatural occurred in Jerusalem that caused Paul to escape Jerusalem. Paul speaks of this many years later.
Acts chapter 22: “ And it came to pass, that, when I was come again to Jerusalem, even while I prayed in the temple, I was in a trance;  And saw him saying unto me, Make haste, and get thee quickly out of Jerusalem: for they will not receive thy testimony concerning me.  And I said, Lord, they know that I imprisoned and beat in every synagogue them that believed on thee:  And when the blood of thy martyr Stephen was shed, I also was standing by, and consenting unto his death, and kept the raiment of them that slew him.  And he said unto me, Depart: for I will send thee far hence unto the Gentiles.”
In Acts 9:26-29, Paul knew that Israel was fallen because the Lord Jesus Christ told him that her capital city, Jerusalem, would not accept his testimony. Paul understands that he will have a ministry far, far away from the land of Canaan. He knows that God’s Word will spread well beyond Jerusalem and Israel. As Paul travels around preaching the Gospel of Grace over a period of 30 years (the rest of Acts), Israel will learn of her national and spiritual fall. See the verses we read earlier—Acts 13:46-48 (Antioch of Pisidia, Asia Minor, Turkey), Acts 18:5-6 (Corinth, Greece, Europe), and Acts 28:25-28 (Rome, the world’s capital of the time).
As Acts chapter 9 opened, Saul of Tarsus met the risen, ascended, and glorified Lord Jesus Christ outside of Damascus. While Luke covers this very loosely in verses 1-9, the Holy Spirit caused him to withhold certain details that will not be revealed until decades later. Acts 26:16-18 reveals some of Christ’s words to Saul/Paul in chapter 9: “ But rise, and stand upon thy feet: for I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister and a witness both of these things which thou hast seen, and of those things in the which I will appear unto thee;  Delivering thee from the people, and from the Gentiles, unto whom now I send thee,  To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me.”
Jesus Christ told Paul that He was “delivering” him from unsaved Israel and the unsaved Gentiles, and sending him (his apostolic commission, as “apostle” means “sent one”) to preach to them His finished crosswork as sufficient payment for their sins (1 Corinthians 15:3-4). The Lord wants them to be saved unto eternal life just as Saul/Paul had just been forgiven and justified. In summary, it is abundantly clear that the Apostle Paul knew of Israel’s fall on the very day of his salvation unto eternal life and his commissioning as “the apostle of the Gentiles” (Romans 11:13).