“Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace.” (Rom.11:5)
There were Jewish saints who made the transition from the Law of Moses to the covenant of grace. They were called a remnant. In a figure of speech they were the natural branches of the good olive tree, the planting of God. They needed not to be grafted.
This remnant is to be distinguished from the Jews who rejected Jesus as the Messiah. They were called the natural branches which were broken off. The message in Romans 11 is for the sake of the branches which were broken off, that they would be grafted in again.
Paul’s use of the phrase “at this present time” might suggest the subsequent teaching was only valid for those contemporary with the apostle. If this is the case, then why were the succeeding ideas of Romans 11 even recorded? Why would one generation (the generation directly responsible) be given such hope only for the following generations to be denied? Perhaps it was for the assurance of the Gentiles in future generations they need not be bothered by these Jews? (I am being sarcastic.) Some have gone so far as to say that the Jews are the true fulfillment of Babylon, the mother harlots. Others believe and promote that modern Israel is Gog and Magog. Such ideas only serve to choke the mind from every good thing which leads to repentance and salvation. “The present time” pointed to the conditions which existed at the time of his writing, not to the exclusion of future generations.
Some of those from Jesus’ time were persuaded of Jesus’ guilt; “His blood be on us, and on our children.” It is obvious the generation which cried so to Pilate had children, and their children had children, etc. They also had rabbis which tried to lead and maintain some semblance of service to God after the temple was destroyed in 70 AD. In 132-135 Simon Bar Kokhba tried to re-establish Jewish independence and the re-building of the temple. His efforts were brought to nothing, yet the continuation of Jewish oral traditions and commentaries proceeded forth into the future. Thus we have the Talmud, with its components of the Mishnah (interpretations of the scriptures) and Gemara (commentary on the Mishnah). More importantly, a people is with us to this day. In part, these have been coalesced through their identification with the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the Bible, and the Torah. However, another tie exists which has kept this remarkable people through the ages. I believe it transcends their religion, their lack thereof, or even their intentions. It is the reality of a nation produced by the Creator for the sake of redemption. Even though, as a nation, they rejected redemption through Jesus of Nazareth, their identity didn’t just slip into oblivion. The scripture says of them; “beloved for the fathers’ sakes.”
Therefore, there is at this present time a remnant. Also, there are natural branches to be grafted back into their heritage.
On a personal note:
Will the remnant become a nation? Will the relevance of Romans 11 diminish because of a great restoration? I don’t know how to answer. I would like to see the answer of God’s hand in this matter before my departure.