My wife’s Bible study this morning led her to ask me a question, which led us into a discussion, which led me to Romans 11:32 —
“For God has committed them all to disobedience, that He might have mercy on all.”
I love that verse. The whole passage–really, chapters–leading up to Romans 11:32 are worthwhile, of course, but for me that verse is the kicker. It also lays a foundation for helping some who don’t understand into the truth of the Last Great Day and the Great White Throne Judgment.
I’ve often argued–both in person and on the telecast–that Paul’s statements that “all Israel shall be saved” (v.26a) and the blindness of the Jews, about which he was expounding, makes no sense if this life is the only age of forgiveness. Even Jesus Christ’s own words point to a future age of forgiveness, though they are often missed in the glare of the implications of an unpardonable sin: “…it will not be forgiven him in this age, or in the age to come.” After all, his inclusion of the concept of no forgiveness for some in the age to come wouldn’t make as much sense if there were no forgiveness for anyone in the age to come.
But back to Romans 11:32… Paul’s comments about God’s willingness to allow spiritual blindness to remain in some cases and to overtake some so that, in the end, He can extend mercy in an even greater fashion is simply nonsensical without the concept of a general resurrection of the dead in which forgiveness will be made available. Really–think about it. If all we do is die and go to heaven or hell (which we don’t, thankfully! Watch this and read this!) regardless of what we have been allowed to understand in this age, then how in the world is it merciful for God to allow multiple generations to pass in ignorance of salvation–as Paul clear explains He does–when it means that will be condemned to an eternal hellfire for it? How is that an example of God “hav[ing] mercy on all”? Are the countless generation of Jews to whom Paul’s words have applied over the centuries simply not a part of the “all” Paul is talking about? Is God willing to doom the 1000 to eternal torture, without hope of escaping it, for the sake of the 1?
Or is His plan bigger than that? When He says through Paul that He has committed entire generations and peoples to disobedience, allowing them to continue in their unenlightened ignorance, for the sake of ultimately having mercy on all of them, does He mean it? I believe He means it. And the idea that they are dead forever without hope of living again and learning the truth crashes against the rock of the plain meaning of Romans 11:32.
Now, the mechanics of why things work out better this way, I won’t pretend to know for a certainty. I’m happy to plead “know in part” on this matter. 🙂 I could hypothesize and speculate to my heart’s content (and, frankly, I often do so on this particular matter), but I know that His ways are higher than I can imagine with my little pea brain, so I don’t blow a fuse when I realize that I may not know for sure.
Even Paul, who spoke, er, wrote the words of Romans 11:32 seems to have a sense of that. The words of his that immediately follow that verse seem, to me, to reflect his own comprehension that the beautiful truth of Romans 11:32 takes him to the edge of his understanding concerning the Planning God… a God whose understanding is infinite (Psalm 147:5), and whose plans possess qualities of profound mercy and wondrous grandeur which seem to mutually excel each other:
Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out!
“For who has known the mind of the Lord?
Or who has become His counselor?”
“Or who has first given to Him
And it shall be repaid to him?”
For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever. Amen. (Romans 11:33-36)
I can hardly think of a more glorious idea that would in any way be more worthy of such exclamations of wonder and praise than the all-encompassing Plan of God. Who can blame Paul for being so moved? Not me.
I know for most of the few of you out there who read this post, you already understand the beautiful truth we celebrate on the Last Great Day. But in the event there is anyone who comes across it who does not, you owe it to yourself to read the free booklet, Is This the ONLY Day of Salvation?