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Volume 15, Issue 3: Stauron

Naomi's Wood

Gary Hagen

Christ reigns over His kingdom. As the Apostle's Creed states, He sits at the right hand of the Father, and will come again to judge the earth. The outworking of His redemption of the world involves past, present, and future events. But when the Scriptures speak of the salvation of the world, it does not do so in terms of the signs we used to see under the Golden Arches (1 million sold, 10 million sold, etc). There are no cosmic widget counters in heaven to let God know when that last soul comes in "just as he am."

So when any two Christians of differing persuasions discuss future events—a postmillennialist and an amillennialist let's say—the first will frequently state that Christ's return cannot be imminent (in the sense of tomorrow or next month) because the world has not yet been brought in subjection to Christ according to the Scriptures. Psalm 110:1 is often used as a favorite proof text: "The Lord said to my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool."
However, such a text does not automatically argue for millennia or even centuries yet to come in redemptive history. Nor is it to say that things might not go much faster than most would expect. Just recall how surprised most were in 1989 to see the rapid vaporization of communism throughout most of the world. Only a few years earlier, most had assumed that the Warsaw Pact-NATO standoff would be a permanent feature in our lifetime. President Reagan had embarked on the largest peacetime military build-up ever. What a difference a year made.
Likewise, when a loaf of bread is leavened, it may rise slowly at first. It might be punched down and kneaded several times before it is finally baked. Before instant yeast, it was not uncommon to let bread dough rise for an entire day. But the final rise is like a geometric progression and accelerates even into the early baking. The same can be said of plants. As most gardeners know, seedlings grow imperceptibly at first. But some plants later grow so quickly that you can almost watch it happen (bamboo grows three to four feet per day). This article does not argue that the earlier use of Psalm 110:1 is incorrect — only that it is incomplete. In the postmill-amill debates, another mile marker of Scripture is very often overlooked.
Paul told the Gentiles in Rome that their redemption was a "grafting" into the cultivated olive tree (Rom. 11:13 & 17). He warned them not to gloat over the mercy of God. Some had apparently become a bit haughty over God's disowning of unbelieving Israel. But Paul warned that this had all to do with faith and unbelief, not God's repudiation of Israel (Rom. 11:20, 22). He first reminded them that not all Israel had been rejected (vv. 4-5 cf. 2 Cor. 3:16). Paul then instructed them that the Deliverer would deliver greater Israel as well—and take away sin; although for a time His tarrying would benefit the Gentiles (vv. 25-27 cf. 2 Cor. 3:12-18). He argues logically that if God was so kind as to have mercy upon wild olive branches, "how much more" merciful will God be to His covenant nation, the natural branches (v. 24)? And far from this being a dichotomy, the Gentiles should look at this as an even more blessed outworking of God's reconciling the world (v. 15).
None of this should be taken as dispensationalist jibberish about last days' revival of Old Testament temple worship, red heifers and all (Heb. 8:6-7). The Scripture is clear: the redemption of Israel will be the same as that of the Gentiles. The solas are all still intact. Only by faith alone in Christ alone will any be saved, Jew or Gentile. The first century of the church's history was distinctly Jewish—so much so that Christianity was spoken of as a Jewish sect (Acts 24:5; 28:22). Since the second century, the Gentile influx diminished many Jewish characteristics, and the church began to be seen as a separate religion altogether. Indeed, many have written that the church replaced Israel rather than being just engrafted branches. But the Scriptures point to a future in God's redemptive outworking of Christ's kingdom on earth when not only will the Gentile nations have turned to Him in overwhelming number, but Jews will also come to faith in such numbers that it will be said that Jacob will have been grafted into the covenant tree once again (vv. 15, 24).
It is interesting to read in the book of Ruth that Naomi (the bankrupt and destitute Israelite) didn't go directly back to Boaz, her kinsman-redeemer. Naomi's only contact with her redeemer was through Ruth, a Gentile. Yet it is only through Naomi's tie to Boaz that Ruth seeks him in the first place! Isaiah 66:19-20 told of a calamity that would cause people to flee Jerusalem, and as a result of the diaspora they would declare God's glory to the Gentile nations. The fruit would be that they (Gentiles) would bring brethren (Jews) out of all nations as an offering to God.

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