by A.E. Knoch

(As a point of reference for some of the statements in this article,
it was written in 1939, prior to Israel achieving Statehood.)

THE LIGHT in the lampstand of the holy place was furnished by oil from the olive tree. Zechariah, the prophet, sets forth the close connection between this oil-bearing tree with spiritual illumination in a vision in which two olive trees were placed, one on either side of the lampstand. These poured their oil through a golden channel directly into the lamps (Zech.4:11-14). Again, in the Unveiling, the two witnesses are called both olive trees and lampstands (Rev.11:4), for they will be God's luminaries in the earth at the time of the end, during the darkest hour the earth will ever see.

It will be seen from this that the figure of the olive tree varies with circumstances. In both the past and future we have two trees, and they stood for individuals, for, in each case, God used two men to testify of Him. The figure is always adjusted to fit the facts. In the time of the end there will be great darkness. The light of Israel nationally, the nominal witness for God in the world, will be well nigh quenched, so that a very special testimony takes her place in the form of the two witnesses. They are not only lampstands, which give light, but olive trees, which provide the oil. Their roots, as it were, go deep into the past, for they undoubtedly themselves belong to the prophets, and bear witness to what they themselves have seen and done, especially if they are Moses and Elijah.

Zechariah gives us the key to the figure. Indeed, the whole situation is parallel to the present in many particulars. Israel had been deported. Yahweh had had indignation against Jerusalem and the cities of Judah seventy years (Zech.1:12). Yet the prophet was insisting that there was blessing in the future for them, much as Paul does in Romans ten. In fact the second and third chapters are insistent on the salvation of Israel, and end with everyone under his vine and under his fig tree. Then follows the contrastive figure of the olive trees. The prophet asks: "What are these, my lord?" Then he in turn, is asked if he did not know. As Zechariah professes ignorance, the answer comes, "This is the word of Yahweh to Zerubbabel, saying, 'Not by valor, and not by vigor, for it should be by My spirit,' says Yahweh of Hosts" (Zech.4:1-6).

Paul uses the figure of the olive tree to set forth God's witness in the earth through Israel and the nations. Perhaps we should say through Israel, with the partial and temporary assistance of the nations. In his figure the root, the trunk and part of the boughs remain representatives of the sacred nation, even in this day when Israel is "cast away." Perhaps we may compare it with the complementary truth that the Bible is God's light in the world. It is evident that by far the larger part is concerned with Israel. The nations have a very small place indeed in the bulk of it. As Paul's epistles are inserted between the divine records concerning Israel, so the nations find a small place as boughs in the olive tree.

However much stress we may lay on the place of Paul's epistles in the present secret administration, let us never go to the extreme of tearing out the rest of the Scriptures from our Bibles. Without them Paul's words would be meaningless. As a foundation they are essential. Indeed, we cannot do without them. While they may not apply directly to the present grace, they are vital to its understanding. So it is with God's witness in the earth. It depends upon Israel, as its source and main channel, even in this secret economy. Nearly all goes back to them. Their very rejection of the Messiah is the necessary prelude to our grace. And we are compelled to draw our material for witnessing from them. They remain the root which provides the fruit with its substance.

Is it not evident from this that the olive tree stands for the operation of God's spirit? The kingdom will be set up by power in the future, and maintained by an iron club, but Israel has a spiritual influence in the world today which is of tremendous potency, which does not depend on their physical numbers or material position. Oil is regularly used as a symbol for the spirit, and these two trees are further interpreted as the two sons of fresh oil who stand by the Lord of the whole earth (Zech.4:14). It is in this spiritual aspect, as God's luminary on earth, that Israel's place is continuous and unbroken, even out of her land and under the control of the nations, yes, even when cast away by God, as in their present discomfiture. The root and the trunk of the olive tree persist unchanged through all of her vicissitudes. Today, God's light in the world comes to us from Israel even though they themselves are mostly in darkness.

The change in this figure is not one of trees, but boughs. The olive tree might have been rooted up and a wild olive taken in its place. But then all the essential features of the figure would be lost. There would be no oil for light. The boughs could not be replaced. Indeed, this is the ordinary, theological view that Judaism has been succeeded by Christendom as God's witness in the world, and that there will be no return to the former in the future. All of Israel is not removed, nor are all of the nations brought in, but there is a combination, figured by the act of grafting. The whole wild olive tree is not grafted into the tame one, merely boughs from it. The nations as a whole are not included, but only those which have the Bible and diffuse light because of this. In brief, the boughs represent Christendom.

Perhaps this would be easier for us to grasp if we imagined it otherwise. Suppose that, instead of breaking off some of the boughs, the olive tree had been chopped down, and a new one planted to take its place. Is this not just what some of us have tried to do when we first began to see the distinctive character of Paul's epistles? In that case we would not need Genesis or the Unveiling in our testimony for God. Paul, consequently, should have provided us with a new account of the creation. He should have shown, as some are trying to do today, that Christ was not a Jew. In fact, he should have managed somehow to keep himself out of this witness, or, perhaps, he should have been a gentile.

In the present interval the olive tree suffers a slight change - otherwise it continues as it was. That is, literally, that God's testimony in the earth is carried on, with the modification that, at present, the actual, active testimony, to a large extent, is done through foreigners, not of the seed of Israel, such as had no part in it before Israel's latest apostasy. As a nation, Israel is still the olive tree. No other nation or nations, as such, have taken its place. This is vital to the argument, which is concerned with Israel, and God's irrevocable purpose concerning the nation of His choice. It is intended to humble us, who are of the nations, and show us how little place we have in this part of God's program. Our testimony is intended for the heavens rather than for the earth.

The figure of the olive tree, as used by Paul, sets forth the complete national testimony in the earth from the beginning to the end, or, as the figure has it, from the root to the fruit. In time it goes far back into the past and forward into the future, when again Israel alone is the olive tree. Let us not forget that Paul is explaining Israel's place in God's purpose here, rather than that of the nations, who have only a subordinate part in it. The main point is that, even in the present grace, this aspect of God's operations goes on, with only a temporary modification of an unnatural character. The nations, as such, are not the natural witnesses to God in the earth. That belongs to the chosen nation alone. During their present national apostasy, the nations are given a part in this, their peculiar privilege.


The time is a vital feature of this figure. That it is only an interval is clear, for it begins with the hewing out of some of Israel and ends with the hewing out of the nations and the restoration of the boughs that were removed. It continues while Israel is cast away. It can not end until they are grafted back again, and all Israel are saved. Hence the period it covers includes all of God's dealings with the nations during the apostasy of Israel. It includes the administration of readjustment, in which Romans was written, as well as the present, for in both of them a part of Israel is unable to witness for God, and a part of the nations is inserted in their place. It cannot end until the nations are hewn out because of unbelief.

We cannot limit the olive tree to the period preceding this administration, for the readjustment for the present did not consist in the apostasy of the nations or in the salvation of Israel. In fact it was quite the opposite. The faith of the nations rather increased up to the time when this administration began, and Israel descended further into unbelief after Romans was penned, so that, at the beginning of this secret economy the conditions which called for the cutting out of the boughs from the olive tree and grafting in of boughs from the wild olive were present in a higher degree than ever. In contrast to this, in these last days, the nations are leaving the faith and the conditions are precisely such as will obtain when the olive tree returns to normal and resumes its natural boughs.

The fact that this figure is used in a section dealing with conciliation, and not with justification, cannot be overemphasized, as it solves most of the difficulties connected with this theme. Justification deals with the individual and his personal faith toward God, but conciliation is much wider in its scope, as it embraces all mankind, and may be applied to all nations, as such, apart from faith. The justified believer will never be severed from his union with God, but the conciliated nations will lose this good thing when they apostatize and Israel is restored. The olive tree is one aspect of conciliation, in which the nations are accorded a task which can only be carried out by those on terms with God.


How very necessary it is to keep this part of the Roman epistle well within its proper scope may be seen from the opening words of the argument which leads up to the figure of the olive tree. Paul asks, "if their offense is the world's riches and their discomfiture the nations' riches, how much rather that which fills them?" This cannot refer to the riches which come to the saints, for Israel's failure has brought us riches unutterably greater than will come to the gentiles through her return to God. But the world and the nations will enjoy much greater blessings through the restored nation, in the last two eons, than the world or the nations now receive through their apostasy.

At the present time, Israel's offense has brought about the conciliation of the world. All of the individuals constituting the present social system are free to enter God's presence through the death of God's Son (Rom.5:10), because He is well disposed toward them, and does not count their offenses against them (2 Cor.5:19). Israel's offense, as a nation, leads to the non-reckoning of all offenses, in all the world, including the individuals in Israel itself. But this grace, though it defers God's judgment, is really enjoyed only by believers. Consequently it has little effect compared to the peace and plenty which will come to the nations through Israel when they are restored. The light of the Bible is a boon to the nations now, but it cannot compare with the blessings which will come to them in the millennium.

So also, Israel's discomfiture as a nation, so that they cannot take the place which God has promised them, this has brought riches to the other nations. But these are of a spiritual nature and restricted, in large measure, to the spiritual among them. When Israel is no longer discomfited, but full of the glory and power which will come to it with the presence of Messiah, then there will be tangible blessing of a physical nature also, for all of the nations, during the millennium, much more impressive than that which now comes to them through the discomfited nation. This argument seems almost the reverse of the truth if we limit it to the saints, for our spiritual blessings are far beyond those enjoyed by the nations in the thousand years. Paul is here dealing with the world and the nations, not with individual saints. And so it is with the olive tree.

Conciliation is the context in which we read of the olive tree, not justification. A glance at the literary framework will show that Paul finishes his discussion of justification, in its national aspect, before he commences the eleventh chapter. It is connected, not with the righteousness of God's dealing with the stubborn nation, but with the deeper realm of the feelings, so that God uses the other nations to provoke Israel to jealousy (Rom.11:11,14). This is followed further in the figure of the olive tree. The question of right or wrong hardly comes up. The nations vaunt themselves (11:18). They are haughty, whereas they should fear. God does not spare the boughs of either one. It is a question of His kindness and severity. As to the evangel they become enemies, as to choice they are beloved (11:28). It is the language of deep emotion, not of justice.

There is threatening here, which has disturbed every saint who has not fully digested the marvelous grace of the earlier parts of the epistle, who persists in bringing in himself and the individual destiny of saints into this section of Romans. In place of no separation (8:35), we are warned that, if we do not persist in faith, we will be hewn out (11:22). Not only that, but God will graft in those of Israel who do not persist in unbelief. But how can those, like Elymas (Acts 13:8), who have long since died, be grafted back into the olive tree? It is quite impossible to graft individuals back, since they have died in unbelief, and will not be raised from the dead until a thousand years after the olive tree receives its natural branches back. It is clear that individuals are not meant in their case. Neither is it so in ours. Personally we are in no danger of losing a place in the olive tree.

On the other hand, Christendom, of which we form a part, has fulfilled all the conditions. It has not persisted in God's kindness. It is not standing in faith. It will be hewn out. And how will that affect the saints in it individually? They also will lose their position as God's light and witness in the earth, as this will revert to Israel. They will no more be used to provoke Israel to jealousy through their blessings, for they will be transferred to the celestial realms, where Israel has no rights. We will lose, individually, to be sure, but what will this be compared to our marvelous gains? For, before or about the time when Christendom is hewn out of the olive tree, we will be caught away from the earth and take our place among the celestials, to take up a similar relation to them, for we will be God's light and witness to the heavenly realms. The figure is not at all in keeping with such an environment, or we would be tempted to say that we would take our place in a celestial olive tree.


One of the difficult aspects of this theme is the place of faith. We are so accustomed to considering it as an individual matter that its wider usage is difficult to grasp. We would he inclined toward making every individual in Israel a bough, and then break off every one that did not believe at the time when Paul wrote. Then we would graft every believer among the nations into the olive tree. But what of those who died? What of the believers today who do not apostatize? Individually the picture is impossible. Paul is not speaking to the saints, but to the nations (11:13). He was an apostle, not merely to the saints, but to the nations. And the figure applies to these. Nations may be Christian or heathen. They may stand for the Bible or against it, even though their population is a mixture of believers and unbelievers. We are here concerned with the attitude of the nations of Christendom toward God and His Christ, just as, in the past, the attitude of Israel as a nation determined its temporary removal as the witness for God's truth in the earth.

Ordinarily faith is connected with justification rather than with conciliation. But it is self-evident that, to be a light and a witness, a measure of faith is indispensable. How could Israel testify to God's mercy when they were refusing it as a nation? How can Christendom bear witness to a grace which it no longer accepts or enjoys? Israel as a nation stood by faith, and was rejected notwithstanding the remnant of believers in its midst. Even in Rome, at the final act in Israel's apostasy, some of the Jews were persuaded by what Paul said (Acts 28:24), yet the nation lost its position. At that time only a few were believers among the nations, nevertheless the nations were put into Israel's place. The witness has been carried on by so-called "Christian" nations. These are now fulfilling the prediction of this passage, that it is only until the complement of the nations enters, and now they no longer persist in His kindness, but refuse the faith, and are about to be hewn out.

That individuals are not in view here may be clearly seen by the grafting of Israel back into her own olive tree. The actual persons who were cut out were mostly unbelievers, who will not rise in the former resurrection, hence will have no part in the grafting-in process, when Israel is restored. So also with the saints among the nations. Those to whom Paul wrote will have no personal part in the apostasy or the hewing out, which is yet to come. It deals with nations and movements, not men.


In part, callousness has come on Israel, until the complement of the nations may be entering. And thus all Israel shall be saved. The duration of the condition figured by the unnatural grafting of the olive tree is definitely settled by this statement. We need only look at Israel to see that they are still callous, and all are not saved. A glance at the nations, at ourselves will show, that the entire complement of the nations has not yet entered. The conditions are present with us today. Its end is still future. The complement is the completing number out of the nations, so long as conciliation lasts, and they are not subordinate to Israel once again.

Some find a difficulty in reconciling the present grace with the figure of the olive tree, but this arises from a misconception of the essential features of this secret administration. It is concerned with the relation of the saints to one another, and does not affect the relationship of Israel to the nations or the world. It made us joint members in the body of Christ, joint enjoyers of a celestial allotment, and joint partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus of which Paul had been the dispenser. It does not affect the olive tree at all. If the olive tree were concerned with individual saints (which it is not), and the oneness of the secret were extended to it, then we would have to graft on the root and the trunk and make all the boughs exactly alike. But that would spoil the whole figure, for the root and stem remain as they were. It is the unnatural graft which will be hewn out, not the natural boughs.

As a matter of fact our relationship to the Jews today is in exact agreement with both the secret and the olive tree. I have friends among believing Jews, and they are glad to acknowledge that I have a place in the body on a par with theirs. That is our relation to Israel in faith. On the other hand, look at Jacob today. Read their literature. They are callous. In contrast to many gentile agencies they are not shedding forth the light of Yahweh in this dark world. They have been hewn out of the olive tree. They still have the appearance of a light bearer, for they use their Hebrew Bible and sing the psalms of David. But the vital sap is gone. They cannot bear fruit. This is our relation to Israel in the flesh. Let us not confuse these distinct relationships. The olive tree is not concerned with the saints but with the nations.


Much confusion has been brought in by means of this phrase, yet there is a phase of truth in which the thought is not altogether wrong. Of course the church, the body of Christ, is not Israel in any sense. But in the figure of the olive tree, boughs of the nations displace those of Israel. Hence Christendom, so far as witness is concerned, takes the place of Israel during the era in which they are calloused. Christendom is grafted on to Judaism. The root is Jewish, and the stem, but most of the boughs are gentile.

In the spiritual aspect of Israel, as figured by the olive tree, there is a continuity, which is in contrast to its national and other aspects; as a government it has ceased to exist, though it is now beginning to emerge again. No other nation was united to it. Nor will any other rule be severed from it. This is the fig tree aspect. But as a spiritual illuminant Israel has continued. Nations have taken part in their work. Based on their spiritual treasures, as contained in the Scriptures, they have largely taken Israel's place as light bearers in the world. This spiritual grafting on Israel is only temporary, while they are callous. When they are all saved it will cease. In fact it is already past to a large extent, for there is a strong movement in the world today to cast off the heritage received from them in the so-called "Old Testament." This is in full accord with God's revealed intention.

The olive tree does not simply stand for "Israel" in any and all of its many relations to God and to mankind. If we inject into it the blessing of Israel itself, or confuse it with justification, which has been discussed in the previous section of Romans, or treat it as anything else than that which the figure suggests, it will lead to endless contradiction and confusion. Israel is shown under many figures, and each one illustrates a distinct aspect. As a fig tree it brings quite a different thought before us, and as a vine still another idea. The nations are not grafted into the fig tree, although Rome is figured as a wild fig or black mulberry. They are not grafted into the grapevine. These two bring soulish blessings, while the olive with its oil speaks to us of the spirit and the enlightenment which it gives.

The olive tree is quite distinct from the new covenant. That is concerned with Israel internally, not with its witness to others. All in Israel will know God, hence there will be no need for them to teach each other. But one of their chief functions, at the time when the new covenant will be in force, in the day of Yahweh, will be to enlighten the other nations. And for this purpose the boughs which were hewn out must be restored, so that the olive tree will stand complete in that day, and perform its function as never before. Let us not confuse it with the new covenant blessings. In these Israel is blessed. In the olive tree Israel is a blessing to others.

Most of the discussions of this theme really ignore the fact that it is an olive tree. They transform it into a fig tree. In my early eagerness to gather vivid impressions of the lessons to be learned from these trees, I planted a fig and an olive tree in my garden, and studied them in nature as well as in the Book. This has left a powerful impression of their vast divergence in appearance, habits, and fruit. This, in turn, is an aid in giving character to the figures in which they are used. If anyone will enjoy a delicious first ripe fig, syrupy and sweet, and compare it with an olive plucked from the tree, he will come to the conclusion that they are not the same, for one is delicious to the taste, the other is unpalatable. So with the leaves, the boughs, the blossoms - everything is different. Just as great a difference exists in their figurative force.

The spiritual influence of Israel in the world and especially in Christendom may be illustrated by a single name, such as Moses, for example. In certain eras, in some countries, "the ten commandments" which came through him, even though definitely restricted to Israel, have exerted a power over the lives of the people greater than all human legislation. Even though I am well aware of the nature of the law, I am of the opinion of not a few educators, that these directions alone are of more practical value than a full course in sociology in our highest institutions of learning. The psychology which is wrecking so many lives today is the result of the repudiation of God's deity, and is a reaction against the laws of Moses.

The continuity of Israel spiritually and the interruption of their national or political power may be graphically illustrated by the habits of the fig and olive trees. The latter does not shed its leaves in winter, but keeps green at all times. But the fig tree, even if it is not withered (Matt.21:18-21), loses its leaves in the fall and stands bare and gaunt during the winter, as if dead. I would not say that even the fig tree was cut down when Israel's political power vanished. It is more like the sleep of winter, for there will be no new fig tree planted when Israel assumes its place politically, but the same one will become tender and sprout its leaves when their summer comes again (Matt.24:22-33). It is not now the season for the fig tree - or, in view of the proposed Jewish state, we should say, perhaps, the season is very near. Such a figure does not fit the olive tree, for no nation takes Israel's place politically, hence the figure of the wild graft is needed.

Indeed, does not the figure of the felling of the olive tree directly contradict the fact that they merely trip and do not fall (Rom.11:11)? The figures are not the same, yet the point of continuity is pressed in both. Of course, if this were in the early Scriptures, and did not come through Paul, then a subsequently revealed secret on the same subject could insert an interval in time, if this had not been so definitely fixed. This whole section, however, is devoted to the truth that Israel, in this aspect, continues, with modifications, until they are restored. To us it seems that the injection of a further figure, that the olive tree was cut down, not only adds to, but actually contradicts, the vital truth that Israel did not fall, but only tripped, and will recover herself in due time.

The tendency to cut down the olive tree because of the "mystery" is one which we should guard against. We must not cut everything off at Acts 28, because the saints among the nations were put on a par with the saints of the Circumcision, and given a new allotment at that time. God did not withdraw His spirit and illumination from the world when the oil in Israel failed. Quite the contrary. These very saints are light in the Lord (Eph.5:8). They appear as luminaries in the world (Phil.2:15).

Notwithstanding the many modern efforts to prove that Christ was not a Jew, He will always remain the greatest of all Israelites. In a very real sense He is the real olive tree, just as He is the real vine. What have we that we have not from God, through Christ? Even Israel came out of Him, though Messiah came out of Israel. And now, because we are united to Christ, we are also related to the nation from which He sprang, and receive untold spiritual wealth through and from Israel. This we pass on to the nations and the world. This spiritual light and influence has continued to operate notwithstanding Israel's defection, though, in a large measure, through gentile channels.

The eleventh of Romans comes after the eighth chapter. This whole section deals with the subject of conciliation from an entirely different angle. The nations, as political units distinct from Israel, are not before us as a rule in chapters five to eight, the companion section of chapter eleven, since both deal with conciliation. Not that individuals cannot be mentioned, for Paul speaks to His brethren in faith even in that part which is national in scope (11:25). But where there is any possibility of so interpreting it, we must make five to eight individual and eleven national. Otherwise we clash with the scope of the context, with resulting confusion.

One of the statements in this section which has caused much havoc, and destroyed the faith of the saints in the earlier revelations of God's grace in this epistle, is the statement, "Thou standest by faith" (11:20). If we take this individually all those marvelous revelations of God's heart which have gone before vanish. Unbelief can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus. God's foreknowledge, His designation beforehand, are idle tales if we, as individuals, stand by faith. Indeed, if we take this to ourselves, we are already guilty of unbelief in these supernal truths, and are not standing in faith. No wonder that most of those who take this to themselves are uncertain and fearful. Nations are dealt with according to their faith. Israel is lo ammi now, not because some individuals in it do not believe and some do (as is the case), for then no decision could be reached.

Here we have reasoning from figures again. It might be profitable to do some of this merely to show how illogical it is. An olive tree cannot have very many branches, but can have quite a quantity of berries. The branches cannot be individuals, for there are too few of them. It must be that the branches, with their twigs, and their berries, represent denominations and churches and members! How fine this fits! So it's the denominations which are represented by the branches! They cannot represent the individual because there are too few of them, and the individual has no twigs and fruit! What a mess we can make of a figure of speech if we only have something to prove! The Scriptures make none of these distinctions. They are impertinent and vain. It is a question of Israel and the nations, not of individuals.

The fulfillment of the figure is given us in verses twenty-five to thirty-two. Once the nations were stubborn. When was that? We certainly, as individuals, were not stubborn before Israel was cut out of the olive tree. We are scarcely old enough for that. Neither were the individual Jews of today hewn out of the olive tree. These actions occurred long since, and affect whole nations, as such. The nations today are about to be cut out. Yet we, who believe, will not suffer this fate. We, indeed, have faith, so this event cannot occur until we are gone. No individual was ever cut out of the olive tree in the past and replaced by an Israelite. In that case what an awakening there would be in Israel! The whole nation would have believed long ago, if every gentile less in the olive tree demanded one Jew more.

Once we see that the action in the olive tree, the breaking off and the grafting in, are separated by two millenniums, and are concerned with the place of Israel as the light bearer in the world, all thought of an individual taking part in these is eliminated. Very few saints lived near to the time when the boughs were broken out, and very few will be on the scene when they are grafted in. The great bulk have lived out of reach of these events. To describe this literally would take many words. That is why it is put figuratively. Let no saint fear that he should not be able to "stand in faith." He rests in faith. His hope is not in himself, but in Christ and God.

Acting under pressure to preserve the grammar of the Greek, the word some was inserted in the CONCORDANT VERSION in order to keep the genitive case, "of you," not "you." I regret that I did not investigate this thoroughly before admitting it, for this is a kind of false "accuracy" which should be especially guarded against in such a work as the CONCORDANT VERSION. I also blame myself for not explaining more fully in the introduction the difference between a version and a sublinear. It might have saved many a charge of translating "contrary to the Greek," if we had explained why this is done. So here, the Greek verb for spare is followed by the genitive in other places where we cannot carry it over into English (Acts 20:29; Rom.8:32; 11:21,21; 1 Cor.7:28; 2 Cor.1:23; 12:6; 13:2; 2 Peter 2:4,5). But the English is not. The some of should come out. In German we can follow the Greek exactly, but not in English.

The main reason why the figure of the olive tree causes uneasiness in the minds of those who have some grasp of its message, seems to be a mistaken idea that the details do not correspond. They would prefer a Christmas tree with the separate believers torn off or tied on, or some similar comparison in which each separate point in one has its counterpart in the other. It would be somewhat as if we should object to the figure "all flesh is grass." This cannot be, we are told, for the cells in one are quite different from those in the other. Not only is their inward structure diverse, for one has a circulation and many organs which are not found in the other, but even its outward appearance is utterly otherwise in color, shape, and proportion. Besides one is fixed in the soil, while the other moves about. One has sensation, a soul. The other has not. Flesh is not like grass! Very true! Still flesh is like grass in one particular: in its transience. So also the olive tree illustrates only one point: the nations, in part, take the place of Israel in enlightening the world. In other things there is no likeness, and should be none.

By "Christendom" is meant merely the testimony to the true God among the nations. It is not necessary to determine if any nation is "Christian" or how many. The question is, Who is making known the Scriptures? The question has been asked, Is China a Christian nation in the olive tree? But this only shows that the figure has been overdone in details. The correct question should be, Are the nations or the Jews bringing the knowledge of God to China? In the day of the Lord, the missionaries will be Jews. Now they are gentiles, with a few Jews who have accepted Christ. And even some of the Chinese are in the olive tree, notably the head of the government and his wife, as well as other high officials. This does not refer to the fact that they are saved, but that they are witnesses to God to the nation. The English, the Americans, the Germans, the Swedes, the Swiss, and others, not to forget the native believers, partake of the root and fatness of Israel's olive tree in China today. They are the light of the world until Israel returns to Yahweh.

We need not determine the "Christian" nations in order to understand the figure of the olive tree. It is a matter of contrast. We may ask, whence does the light shine forth by means of the printed page? Are Bibles published in Jerusalem, or in London, New York, and Stuttgart? Do the missionaries come from the synagogues of Israel or from churches of the nations? Are the great Bible societies in the holy city or in London, Edinburgh, New York, and Berlin? We say nothing of Rome, though there is a little light there, and many are reached. Israel is now occupied with getting delusive wealth, and in the days to come they will disseminate the true riches. Now these riches are with us, and we distribute them to the nations of the earth.

One of the notable signs for our times, is the rejection of the light which comes to us from Israel. The so-called "Old Testament" is repudiated in many quarters. This is practically a severing from the root of the olive tree. Many of the greatest institutions of learning in Christendom, mostly founded by believers in the Bible with the expressed desire to foster religious as well as secular education, have either dropped religion entirely, or have filled its theological chairs with men who are untrue to their trust. As a result, men are making progress in the physical sciences, so that they can hurl their bodies at a tremendous rate through space, yet they are progressing backward in the sphere of ethics and character, so that they are less happy and more fearful and contentious than ever before.

As the gentiles separate themselves from the divine revelation which comes through the holy nation they are fulfilling one of the parts of this figure before our very eyes. Four times there is action, hewing out and grafting in at the beginning, and hewing out and grafting in at the close. This latter process is now well started, it seems to us, so that the nations should soon be out and the original boughs back in. In the meanwhile let us continue to do our part to illuminate this dark scene, until the nations are hewn out. Then we will be glad to give up our place in the olive tree and take a higher position among the celestials.

[Return to main indexpage]