by A.E. Knoch

DID all ISRAEL go into the land? Some may be a little perplexed by this question, because the majority of them did not go into their promised allotment. They were strewn along in the wilderness (1 Cor.10:5). Instead of bringing them to Canaan, God put them to death when they distrusted Him. He would not let them go into the land because of unbelief. Nevertheless we read in Joshua, when they got into the land, that all Israel was saved, notwithstanding the fact that, individually, the greater part had perished. So, you see, as a nation, they were all saved; but individually, this was true of comparatively few. Only two of an entire generation crossed the Jordan. We could have a hot theological controversy about this; one side saying that they did go into the land, and the other saying that they did not, because of not recognizing the difference between the individuals and the nation.

In the Word of God this distinction is exceedingly important, and without it we may get into a great deal of difficulty and most malignant error. It may even lead us to take the very heart out of God's revelation for the present, and cast us down from the highest pinnacles of His love. The danger is that it may wreck and ruin grace. This is the worst crime that can be committed in the present administration. It is misdemeanor even to discount grace. We may be lenient with those who fall off from grace, but let us do our best to resist every interpretation which robs us of our most valuable and glorious possession, the grace glorious that is ours in Christ Jesus. To do this we must discriminate between God's dealings with His saints and those with the nations of this day.

In the case of Israel, it should be easy to see this difference. The individuals, because of unbelief, were strewn along  the wilderness. They did not enter the land. But the nation was taken through and entered the promised allotment. This seems contradictory. Yet such contradictions are found all the way through the Scriptures. Once we see this, let us use it as a key to unlock some truths that seem to be very difficult for a few of God's saints to understand.

First, let us emphasize the fact that all Scripture must be kept in its own context. Otherwise, it is worse than mere error. It is error with a thick coating of camouflage to make it look like truth.

In Romans we have God's truth for the present time, yet it is given from two entirely distinct viewpoints. In the beginning of the epistle the individual aspect is presented, and two of the great truths that characterize the present administration are brought out as they are nowhere else. These are justification and conciliation. Those who have a complete edition of the Concordant Version will see that the structure shows how these two truths are taken up twice, from the individual standpoint in chapters three and five and from the national aspect in chapters ten and eleven. At present we wish to confine our attention to conciliation. Conciliation is concerned with the whole world. Individuals are reconciled.

At another time, in connection with the main subject of the nations, we shall take up the fact that we are in the eras of the nations. At first Nebuchadnezzar was given authority over all nations. But he was not given any religious supremacy. That continued with Israel. He tried to get it, but had to give it up. That is the lesson of the fiery furnace (Dan.3).

So that, in the beginning of the present era, or eras, of the nations, dominion was exclusively political, and Israel retained the priesthood. They rebuilt the temple. If anyone at that time wanted to come to God, even though Israel's political supremacy had been taken from them and given to heathen rulers, they had to come through the chosen nation, God's people. There was no other way of access to the Deity.

But when Paul went to the synagogues among the dispersion, his purpose in going to them was quite different from that of the other apostles. They heralded the kingdom with a view to the salvation of the whole nation. He began a different ministry, seeking to rouse them to jealousy, no longer with the nation in view, but to save some of them. It was based on the salvation of some outside of Israel, and was in line with the conciliation of the world, to which it led.

Gradually, during the period when they rejected God's testimony as recorded in the book of Acts, Israel lost their religious supremacy. It was no longer necessary to approach God through them. God was conciliated to the world. Oh how I wish that this great truth were known today! So far as I am aware, this fundamental fact of the evangel is not apprehended or heralded anywhere in the world today, except among a few of my friends. I once saw reconciliation advertised. I went to the meeting. The preacher was a foremost fundamentalist. But he never spoke of conciliation, though he mentioned reconciliation once or twice. He evidently had not even heard of conciliation. Because God was conciliated to the whole world, the temple was broken down and destroyed in spite of all Titus' efforts to save it. Access to the Divine Presence is now open to all men. This is especially true today of the enemies of God. Any one of them may come direct to God without any intermediary whatsoever.

In the latter part of Romans we have this same truth taken up. It is impossible to understand the eleventh chapter unless we see that it is another aspect of the truth of conciliation, previously dealt with in chapter five. Here is the key to much of the difficulty today. I know of men who have written good books on the first part of Romans, but when they come to the latter part, they cannot make it square with the first. It is considered very difficult. But it is not difficult when we see that we have a national instead of an individual viewpoint there. Note carefully the wording of the eleventh of Romans and you will see that it is national all the way through, and not individual, even in some passages that appear to be so apart from the context.

Some have thought that part of it is individual and part national, but we need only try it out to see that it does not work. Go back, for an instant, and consider the individual in regard to the entrance into Palestine. Suppose it was understood that all Israel was going to get there. How are you to get into the land those individuals that were strewn along the way?

Neither does it work in Romans. First of all we read here that Israel's offense is the world's riches. This is hardly orthodox, hence, few understand it. It is generally insisted that the world does not partake of any riches unless men believe, and that they get their riches in Christ. There is no individuality about the world. But Israel's discomfiture is the world's riches. This is conciliation. It shows that God is taking a different attitude toward the nations than He ever took before. Conciliation is the subject of this eleventh chapter. When we first believed, some of us could find salvation on almost every page of the Scriptures by simply putting it there. Israel's discomfiture does not lead to the salvation of any particular person but puts a sinner among the alien nations into a much nearer relation to God than had ever been the case since Adam sinned. Still some are reconciled and some are not. That is an entirely different matter. It is not to be found in this part of Romans. It belongs to the earlier chapters. Moreover, individuals in Israel are also reached through the conciliation.

So we have it: "If their casting away is the conciliation of the world, what will the taking back be if not life from among the dead?" This certainly is national. It continues long after the individual's of that day are off the scene. Whether believers or unbelievers, whether Peter or Paul, Judas or Bar-Jesus, individually they can have no place in death. It is the nation, as such, that has been replaced by the other nations. Believers in Israel are still in the olive tree.

No, it does not work individually. Paul says that he was one of the chosen nation. He was not thrust away. Every individual was not cast away. It is the nation that has tripped.

When is it that this will be fulfilled? We must settle the time element in this chapter if we wish to understand it. When was Israel cast away? When will Israel be taken back? "Arriving out of Zion shall be the Rescuer. He will be turning away irreverence from Jacob" (Rom.11:27). It is not limited to the life time of an individual. There is a vast period of time in which conciliation operates. This is easily grasped when applied to nations. But if it is individual and these individuals who were cast away for unbelief, including all the unbelievers in the book of Acts, are to be taken back when the Rescuer arrives out of Zion, then Christ was quite mistaken throughout His ministry. If we read what He has to say about the matter it will become very clear that unbelievers will not have a part in the kingdom at all. Take the false prophet to whom Paul spoke, who set himself against the truth and Paul blinded him. The indefiniteness of the time period here is very notable, because it covers both the national and individual aspect. Each has its "appointed time." Individually Bar-Jesus will not see again until the resurrection at the great white throne. But he is also a picture of the nation. That will have its eyes opened much earlier, when Zion is rescued. Acts is the antitype of Israel in the wilderness. The unbelieving individuals who went against the truth will have no place in the kingdom. But blinded Israel, as a nation, that shall be brought back long before the rebels in it will be reconciled at the consummation.

I used to wonder about the scripture, "all Israel shall be saved." When we were fresh in the truth of universal reconciliation, some of my friends tried to use this passage to prove that every Israelite that ever lived would be saved at that time. They will be in the consummation, but that is not what this passage teaches. This is a national matter and does not by any means include those who were strewn along in the wilderness in Acts.

And so it is with Israel today. It is not the case that individual Jews are cast out of the olive tree for their unbelief and, when Christ comes, will be put back in again and take part in the kingdom, because they have not remained in unbelief. They will not be roused from the dead until after the kingdom is past.

In the eighth chapter of the epistle to the Romans we have a grand climax of present truth for the believer today. That chapter begins with no condemnation, and ends with no separation. Various and vicious are the efforts that have been made in order to undermine this great grace. One of the methods is the one we have been considering. It consists in going to the same epistle and using a later discussion in order to annul what is so marvelously brought before us in the eighth chapter.

Do yon know of any crime that is worse than this? Actually using God's Word itself to destroy it! Degenerate men do not think profanation of divine things is so bad, but one of the great lessons God taught His people of old was the sanctity of His dwelling place. I have been greatly impressed by the severity which characterized His dealings with those who dared to touch aught of His with unholy hands. How much more severe should be the penalty of destroying His holy revelation! May God forgive those who are using His own Word in order to destroy the truth!

In the beginning of Romans, God is dealing with individuals in regard to righteousness in chapters three and four, in regard to reconciliation in chapter five, and in regard to glorification in the eighth chapter. Then, in the succeeding chapters 9, 10, and 11, we have the same subjects, but they are dealt with entirely from the national standpoint. The first part of Romans is the foundation on which the last part rests. Let us not repudiate its message by perverting the complementary truths of the last part.

The point, in the eleventh of Romans, that we must not miss is that it concerns the conciliation. God is there dealing with a condition that arose from the national apostasy of Israel. Because the nation of Israel rebelled (notwithstanding the fact that thousands of individuals were obedient), they not only lost their place politically at the head of the nations at the time of Nebuchadnezzar, but now they have lost their place at the head of the nations religiously. God is now appealing directly to the nations themselves. He is at peace with them. He is conciliated. The religious rites of Israel are set aside. The conciliation of the world is heralded to all. Conciliation is not individual, it is for the whole world, whether they believe or not. Reconciliation is individual. Here we have the conciliation of the world. "If their casting away is the conciliation of the world, what will the taking back be but life from among the dead?"


Now we are ready to consider the olive tree. By this metaphor God is trying to give us a picture of a very complex situation. The only way to deal with it is first to understand the literal. So we will first look at it from this standpoint. We have seen that Israel was the olive tree, and was used by God in order to illuminate the rest of the world. When His chosen nation repeatedly repudiated Him, then it was that God went to the other nations, and now, through them, He is making known His will and His Word. Literally some of the Jews are included, because they believe, so they remain in the olive tree. After this has gone on until the time comes for the kingdom, then it is that the nations, as such, are cut out of the olive tree because they, as a whole, repudiate God, notwithstanding the great numbers that have believed among them. It is not true that those unbelievers who were, in figure, cut out of the olive tree, will be returned to it at the advent of Christ. There is much evidence in the word of God as to this. The unbelieving Israelites will not enter into the kingdom any more than those strewn along in the wilderness entered the land of promise. By the same token, those who accepted the ministry of Paul when he was alive did not fall aside and will not be cut out when the kingdom comes. Since then millions of unbelieving Jews have died. They will not be restored to a place in the kingdom. Millions of believers have died. They will not apostatize and be lost.

Now let us take up the very interesting subject of the trees. You will remember the so-called parable of Jotham in Judges nine. We will not go into the circumstances of the time because all we want to do is to get an idea of the significance of the various trees (Judges 9:8-15):

8 In going, the trees go to anoint over them a king. And they are saying to the olive, "Reign over us." 9 And saying to them is the olive, "Shall I leave off my sleekness by which they are glorifying God and mortals, and go to sway over the trees?" 10 And saying are the trees to the fig, "You go. Reign over us." 11 And saying to them is the fig, "Shall I leave off my sweetness and my good produce and go to sway over the trees?" 12 And saying are the trees to the vine, "You go. Reign over us. 13 And saying to them is the vine, "Shall I leave off my grape juice which rejoices God and mortals, and go to sway over the trees?" And saying are all the trees to the box-thorn, "You go. Reign over us." 15 And saying is the box-thorn to the trees, "Should, in truth, you anoint me to be king over you, come, take refuge in my shadow. And should you not, forth comes fire from the box-thorn and devours the cedars of Lebanon."

There is a tremendous amount of truth in this allegory. We will bring out only a few features in order to grasp their symbolic meaning. The first time we read about the olive is very instructive. When the flood had covered the earth and wiped out all God's enemies, then it was that the dove went out and came back with an olive leaf (Gen.8:11). Ever since then, in many nations of the earth, an olive branch is the symbol of peace - real peace. Peace is one of the first thoughts suggested by the olive tree. That fits in wonderfully well here. Conciliation is the very essence of peace. God is at peace with mankind ever since Israel was thrust aside. He no longer shuts Himself up within walls and doors, and dwells by Himself in a temple. The olive tree shows that God is at peace with mankind, and that is why it is brought in here. Not only that, but when God made a house for Himself, to dwell in, in the tabernacle, it was the fruit of the olive that provided divine illumination. This is also included in the figure of the olive tree.

Years ago I was vitally interested in these symbols and, as soon as I got a piece of land of my own, I planted an olive tree, and a fig tree and a vine. My principal profit came from comparing them with what God has said about them in His Word. Since then I have seen them in other sections of the world, in Italy, in Greece, and especially in Jerusalem and the so-called garden of Gethsemane. They have taken a large place in my heart.

So it seems clear that, in this figure, we have a strong confirmation of the conciliation, the peace that God has made with all mankind. And it also pictures that divine illumination comes from the oil of the olive. Israel was once the only source of light from God, and, in a sense, still is. Now, however, the aliens are the means of its dissemination. God's last revelation to mankind comes through two olive trees, light-bearers in the darkest hours of man's history (Rev.11:4).

At this time we will not look very closely at the other trees. We meet with the fig tree very early in the Scriptures. Adam made himself a fig-leaf covering. Fig leaves and fig fruit are in contrast in the Scriptures. Adam and Eve try to manufacture an artificial righteousness by means of fig leaves. We are reminded of this by our Lord, who went to a fig tree, seeking fruit, yet found nothing but leaves. Israel had righteousness - plenty of it - like some of us before we believed (Mark 11:13). But it was self-righteousness. The fig figures both righteousness and unrighteousness: leaves to cover up unrighteousness, fruit which speaks of real righteousness. We know what fruit is in the Scriptures. Among other things it is righteousness (Eph.5:9).

In the future the fig tree is going to bear fruit once again. In the millennium there will be fig trees and olive trees and vines. Israel was a vine, taken out of Egypt. Later on, Christ is the Vine. And there were actually some in Him as the Vine, who were cut off. Are they going to be grafted in again? Not by any means. They are to be burned up. Moreover, I do not think you can graft dead ashes into a living plant. I never heard of it being done. Here we have individual unbelievers. They are not restored when Christ comes. Nationally it is a different matter. In the Millennium they will sit under their vine and their fig tree and there will be much good fruit.

When I was in Palestine, I wanted to see the cedars of Lebanon, but it seemed impossible because of the deep snow when I was near them. Then I got a professedly honest guide who guaranteed to take me up. But the way became so slippery and dangerous that we could not quite reach them. Yet I was near enough to see what they were like. All the way through Scripture the cedars represent the great and high ones of the earth.

The world is full of brambles, or box-thorns, today. The only products of the box-thorn mentioned are shade and fire, unless we reckon the thorns. This is what we are coming to in man's latest kingdoms.

At the time this is being written the greatest peace conference ever held by man is in session. Hitherto, in this country, all such conferences have been opened by prayer to God. The most striking feature of this gathering is the absolute lack of any recognition of Him. We will soon be under the shade of the bramble.

What about the boughs? Are they individual or not? Just read what is said about the boughs. This is all that is necessary. Because of unbelief they were cut out, and God is going to graft them in again just before the kingdom is set up. Now I would like to have you find any passage in the Scriptures that will substantiate the idea that unbelieving individuals are going to be grafted in again. Were those who were strewn along in the wilderness raised and brought into the land? Even Moses himself was not allowed to enter it. These boughs that are cut off and grafted in again are not individuals. In death there is no opportunity for repentance. And they will not have a place in the former resurrection, when the grafting takes place.

Let us consider the other boughs that were grafted into the olive tree in Paul's day. Are we to understand that individual believers from among the nations at that time were grafted into the olive tree, and now, after they have been dead so long, they are to be taken out when the kingdom is set up? The mere fact that the two graftings are so far apart in time makes an individual application impossible. Such confusion results if you make it individual. It entirely upsets what God reveals elsewhere in the Scriptures, regarding individuals.

Just as Israel, as such, was at peace with God, so today He is at peace with the nations, as such. And as Israel once was the source of divine illumination to the earth, but later the light went out, so it is with the nations also. If we make this individual, we are destroying a vital part of God's revelation.

Take Romans, for instance. In the beginning we have justification. This may be represented by the fig tree. Next comes conciliation. There we have the olive tree. Then glorification. There we have the vine. In all of these, God's overflowing grace takes, us out of ourselves and puts us into Christ, in Whom He is well pleased.

When we come to the latter part of Romans, let us not repudiate His glorious revelation by basing our salvation upon our own works or sufferings or experience. That is not the way to God's goal, for He must become Everything in each one of us.

We must keep the different subjects in Romans distinct in our thoughts even as they are in the epistle. If we take a passage out of the section dealing with justification and insert it into one concerned with conciliation, we are bound to be confused and to confuse others. If we take an argument from the ninth chapter and use it to interpret the eleventh, we are mutilating and misleading. Let us not join what God has separated. The confusion created is all the more dangerous, as both are God's Word, and may even be written by the same writer, and the immature and ignorant unconsciously swallow the veriest poison, thinking it is God's Word. Were they established in the truth, they could not accept such distortions because they invariably conflict with other passages.

If the judgment of Matthew twenty-five is individual, then salvation is of works, and the gospel is gone. If the olive tree is individual, then conciliation is of man, and grace and glory are gone. Then not only the gospel and grace and glory go, but with them, God is gone.

At the present time grace reigns. I wonder if we realize what that means. Grace is on the throne, and anyone that tries to drag it down from its sovereignty is committing no ordinary crime. It is treason, and traitors are not treated as ordinary criminals. No greater offense, in God's sight, is possible in this administration, when grace is reigning, than a concerted effort to dethrone it. May God deal in grace with all who are involved in this, is my prayer.

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