IS ISRAEL “CAST AWAY,” OR NOT? HAS ISRAEL “FALLEN,” OR NOT?
by Shawn Brasseaux
Many consider Romans chapters 9-11 the most difficult part of the book. Calvinists have so abused and confused chapter 9 that people fear reading and teaching it. The “sinner’s prayer” people have abused and confused chapter 10, making it harder for lost people to understand the Gospel of Grace. Those who believe that we have replaced Israel have abused and confused chapter 11, causing people to fight about it as well.
Amidst all the confusion surrounding these chapters, people struggle with so-called “contradictions” as well. For example, the conflicting ideas presented in Romans chapter 11—Israel’s casting away versus her not being cast away, and Israel’s fall versus Israel not falling—at the beginning of the chapter force people to stop attempting to understand it before they have even begun it. In this study, let me first show you exactly what verses they find troublesome. Then, I will share with you other Bible verses that shed light on these “problematic” verses.
ISRAEL—CAST AWAY OR NOT?
The Bible opens Romans chapter 11 with the following: “ I say then, Hath God cast away his people? God forbid [May God never let that happen!]. For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin.  God hath not cast away his people which he foreknew. Wot ye not what the scripture saith of Elias? how he maketh intercession to God against Israel saying….” Now, verse 15 upsets the Bible reader: “For if the casting away of them be the reconciling of the world, what shall the receiving of them be, but life from the dead?”
Did you notice the contrasting ideas in the above Scriptures? Verses 1 and 2 say God has not cast away His people Israel. Then, verse 15 says He has cast away His people Israel. Has Israel been cast away, or not? It sounds like double-talk but it is not.
Returning to the Romans 11:1-2: “Hath God cast away his people? God forbid [May God never let that happen!]. For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin.  God hath not cast away his people which he foreknew. Wot ye not what the scripture saith of Elias? how he maketh intercession to God against Israel saying….” The expression—God has not cast away Israel—has a twofold meaning.
Firstly, when Paul wrote the book of Romans (circa Acts chapter 20), there is a remnant of believing Jews still living. There is still Israel’s Little Flock, led by the 12 apostles (note verse 5)—these believers are “the Israel of God” (Galatians 6:16).
Secondly, during the Acts period, there are believing Jews outside of the nation Israel. Paul cites himself as an example (verse 1 of Romans chapter 11). This group of believing Jews belongs to the Church the Body of Christ. All these believing Jews—whether in the Little Flock or in the Body of Christ—prove that God has not cut off all contact with all Jews. The believing Jews in the Little Flock still have access to Him. The believing Jews in the Body of Christ have access to Him. Unbelieving Jews are being offered fellowship with Him, but they must believe Paul’s Gospel and join the Church the Body of Christ. Paul’s Gospel is “Christ died for our sins, He was buried, and He rose again the third day” (1 Corinthians 15:3-4).
Additionally, Israel’s Little Flock is the group of believers that God intended to form going all the way back to Abraham. God has not removed Israel from his program forever; He has not permanently rejected Israel. The triune God will deal with Israel yet future. Verse 12 of Romans chapter 11 speaks of Israel’s “fulness” (as opposed to her “diminishing”). Verse 15 discusses God “receiving” Israel (as opposed to God “casting [her] away,” or Him rejecting her). Verse 26 talks about “all Israel shall be saved” (as opposed to her spiritual blindness in our Dispensation of Grace).
When Romans 11:1-2 says that God has not cast away His people Israel, it simply means that they are not eternally out of God’s program. He still has a purpose and plan for them one day. Israel is simply “cast away” in the sense God has momentarily rejected them in order to deal with us Gentiles (verse 15). That God may deal with the whole world in His grace, He removed Israel from her privileged position. Since Israel was unwilling to reach Gentiles on God’s behalf, so worthy of His wrath, He temporarily set Israel aside so He could directly deal with all people (nations) in His longsuffering and kindness (including the unbelieving, rebellious Jews). “For God hath concluded all in unbelief, that he might have mercy upon all” (Romans 11:32). And, verse 15 in part again, “For if the casting away of them [Israel] be the reconciling of the world [Gentiles]….” This truth is also briefly mentioned in 2 Corinthians 5:19: “To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation.”
When Father God is finished forming the Church the Body of Christ (mystery), He will return to forming the nation Israel (prophecy). This leads us to our next section.
ISRAEL—FALLEN OR NOT?
The Bible says in Romans chapter 11: “ I say then, Have they stumbled that they should fall? God forbid [May God never let that happen!]: but rather through their fall salvation is come unto the Gentiles, for to provoke them to jealousy.  Now if the fall of them be the riches of the world, and the diminishing of them the riches of the Gentiles; how much more their fulness?”
Did you notice the contrasting ideas in the above Scriptures? The first part of verse 11 says Israel did not fall. The rest of verse 11 and verse 12 say Israel has fallen. Did Israel fall, or not? It sounds like double-talk but it is not.
Returning to Romans 11:11-12: “ I say then, Have they 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 be the riches of the world, and the diminishing of them the riches of the Gentiles; how much more their fulness?” These two verses actually span a period of time rather than a single moment in time. Israel stumbled but did not fall. Later, Israel stumbled and did fall. Exactly what does this mean? We must look in the context for explanatory verses.
Israel’s “stumbling” loops back to what Paul wrote in Romans chapter 9. We read in its closing verses: “ But Israel, which followed after the law of righteousness, hath not attained to the law of righteousness.  Wherefore? Because they sought it not by faith, but as it were by the works of the law. For they stumbled at that stumblingstone;  As it is written, Behold, I lay in Sion a stumblingstone and rock of offence: and whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.”
According to 1 Peter 2:5-8, the “stumblingstone and rock of offence” laid in Zion was none other than the Lord Jesus Christ. Specifically, this refers to His earthly ministry (Matthew through John). Israel stumbled in that she made the mistake of rejecting Jesus as her Messiah/King. While this occurred throughout the three years of Christ’s earthly ministry, Israel nationally and formally rejected Jesus during His trial before Pontius Pilate, at the end of His earthly ministry. Speaking on behalf of their nation, Israel’s religious leaders cried out, “We have no king but Caesar” (John 19:15). They officially rejected their birthright as the children of Abraham. They wanted no part in being God’s special people to bless all the families of the world (Genesis 12:1-3).
While Israel demanded Jesus’ crucifixion, God did not set them aside as a nation. Remember, Jesus pled from Calvary, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34). Father God indeed forgave Israel of the crucifixion of His beloved Son and their Messiah. He gave them a renewed opportunity of repentance in the opening chapters of the book of Acts. Israel had one year to change their minds about who Jesus was, and accept Him. Unfortunately, Israel again rejected that offer. After one year of trying to turn Israel around, with very few Jews converting, God finally set Israel aside. In Acts chapter 7, Israel nationally rejected the Holy Spirit (who had been speaking through Stephen and the others in the opening chapters of Acts). Unlike the blasphemy against Jesus Christ at Calvary that was forgiven, the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost could not be and was not forgiven of Israel (Matthew 12:31-32).
So Israel did stumble at Messiah Jesus during His earthly ministry, but she did not fall before God at the cross. However, Israel rejected the Holy Spirit in early Acts, and then she fell. Through Israel’s fall salvation is coming to us Gentiles. This is where Paul’s ministry comes into view. Romans chapter 11 again: “ I say then, Have they 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 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.” (A side-note: Verse 14 is Paul conducting his “special” ministry during Acts so as to entice the lost Jews to join the Body of Christ and avoid God’s wrath coming upon them.)
- Has God cast away Israel? “No,” Romans 11:1-2 says. In the Bible, there is still a believing remnant in Israel—that is, the Little Flock—whom God will use to accomplish His will in the earth one day (Luke 12:31-32; cf. Matthew 19:27-28; Romans 11:3-7). While that group of believing Jews does not exist today, it did exist during the Acts period (the time when Paul wrote the book of Romans). Nevertheless, Israel is not permanently rejected of God. After our Dispensation of Grace ends, she will be restored nationally so as to inherit all of God’s promises and blessings first guaranteed to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, et cetera (Romans 11:25-29).
- Has God cast away Israel? “Yes,” Romans 11:15 says. So God could deal with us Gentiles and form the Church the Body of Christ, He has momentarily rejected Israel. She is not His favored nation today. God considers all in unbelief—Jew and Gentile—that He might have mercy upon all (Romans 11:32). “As concerning the gospel, they [the Jews] are enemies for your sakes…” (verse 28). While Israel is not nationally converted to JEHOVAH God today, individual Jews can be saved today by believing Paul’s Gospel (1 Corinthians 15:3-4). These Jews can join the Body of Christ, and join God in His plan for the heavenly places.
- Did Israel fall? “No,” Romans 11:11 says. She stumbled (made a mistake) when she rejected Jesus as her Messiah/King during His earthly ministry. But, God did not set her aside at the cross of Calvary. She did not fall at Calvary. He continued to deal with her nationally during the first seven chapters of Acts. Peter continued to call all of Israel to repentance and Christ Jesus in Acts chapters 2, 3, 4, and 5. Stephen had a ministry attempting to convert Jerusalem in chapter 6. However, at the end of that year of preaching, in chapter 7, Stephen indicted Israel for her persistent unbelief. Please note there was no offer of repentance in chapter 7 but rather a warning of impending judgment from God. That was the pause of God’s dealings with national Israel, lest the whole world would have been consumed in God’s wrath.
- Did Israel fall? “Yes,” Romans 11:11-12 says. She fell when she refused to hear the testimony of the Holy Ghost speaking through the 12 apostles during early Acts. The culmination of her unbelief occurred in Acts chapter 7, when God finally set Israel aside and went to the Gentiles (through Paul) without Israel. For more information, please see the links below to our various related Bible studies.
» Have we been “grafted into Israel?”
» Why did Jesus stand in Acts 7:55-56?
» Can you explain Peter and the 11’s ministry in Acts 7-15?
» Can you explain Matthew 21:43?
» What is Replacement Theology?
» Have I blasphemed against the Holy Spirit?
» Can you explain Paul’s first miracle?