I received the following question:

If the Jews in the dispersion became as the Gentiles, then what if they feared God and worked righteousness? Of course they still wouldn’t be in the covenants, but would they obtain a spot in the kingdom? Would outer darkness simply be outside of the covenants, and the weeping and gnashing of teeth be the resulting bitterness? Then, how would everyday life be for the expelled Jew?

A Jew who broke his relationship with God would either have to enter back into that relationship, or he would be out of relationship altogether. There was no starting over with a new, Gentile-type relationship. That would be like a couple who had been married and divorced deciding they wanted to start over as friends. That is not really reasonable, and it is not going to work. You cannot go from a relationship like a marriage back to a mere friendship. And one could not go from being an Israelite to having a relationship with God like a Gentile did. It was just not possible, and God would not cooperate in any such attempt. One must either come back to the relationship God desired from every Israelite, or not have a relationship with Him at all.

That said, there were some special things going on with Israel during the Acts period regarding this. There were Jews outside the land who had given up on living the lifestyle and culture God had given to His people. In some ways, this is very understandable, since the Jews living outside the land couldn’t really keep the law anyway. That far from Jerusalem, they could not hope to make it there three times a year to appear before God at the appointed feasts, nor to present their children to the Lord every time one was born. No provision was made in the law for being in exile and therefore not being able to keep all of it. Instead, one who failed to keep the Passover was cut off from his people. The Jews outside the land kept what laws they could, but really it was never enough. To keep some of the laws only pointed out the fact that they were law-breakers, since they were not keeping ALL the laws. The pull of keeping a simple and doable religion of the nations around them must have been strong for some of these Jews. At least these gods didn’t demand of them things that were impossible for them to accomplish. Others may not have turned aside after idols, but may have simply become tired of keeping some of the law, but never being able to be credited with keeping all of it, so they just gave up altogether. This type of Israelite living outside the land is called a “Greek” in the New Testament, since they were now living the Greek culture and lifestyle rather than the Jewish culture and lifestyle.

Now when the message of salvation through faith in Christ came to these Greeks, it provided a way for them back into God’s good graces without returning to the frustrating reality of trying to keep a law that they never could really keep anyway. Therefore, they entered into a relationship with Christ based on faith in the gospel. The command to them was to trust Christ alone for their salvation, and not to attempt to return in any way to keeping the law. This was a different command than that for the Jews outside the land who continued to attempt to keep the law. They were not to stop keeping the law when they came to faith in Christ. Now that they were back in proper relationship with God, however, He would command them how to deal with the parts of the law that they could not keep to the letter living too far away from Jerusalem.

So the Jews who were not keeping the law did have a different relationship with God through faith in Christ than the Jews who were keeping the law did. That said, the relationship of these “Greek” ancestral Israelites was still not that of a Gentile. A Jew and a Gentile were still very different when it came to relationship with God.

I believe that one of the things that happens as the kingdom begins in the future is that there will be a universal resurrection of every Israelite, the wicked as well as the good. They will all be gathered together, and then God will weed out from among them those who are rebellious against Him. This is described in Ezekiel 20.

33. “As I live,” says the Lord GOD, “surely with a mighty hand, with an outstretched arm, and with fury poured out, I will rule over you. 34. I will bring you out from the peoples and gather you out of the countries where you are scattered, with a mighty hand, with an outstretched arm, and with fury poured out. 35. And I will bring you into the wilderness of the peoples, and there I will plead My case with you face to face. 36. Just as I pleaded My case with your fathers in the wilderness of the land of Egypt, so I will plead My case with you,” says the Lord GOD.
37. “I will make you pass under the rod, and I will bring you into the bond of the covenant; 38. I will purge the rebels from among you, and those who transgress against Me; I will bring them out of the country where they dwell, but they shall not enter the land of Israel. Then you will know that I am the LORD.

That this regathering will include those who are dead is made clear from Ezekiel 37, in the explanation of the vision of the valley of dry bones.

11. Then He said to me, “Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. They indeed say, ‘Our bones are dry, our hope is lost, and we ourselves are cut off!’ 12. Therefore prophesy and say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD: “Behold, O My people, I will open your graves and cause you to come up from your graves, and bring you into the land of Israel. 13. Then you shall know that I am the LORD, when I have opened your graves, O My people, and brought you up from your graves. 14. I will put My Spirit in you, and you shall live, and I will place you in your own land. Then you shall know that I, the LORD, have spoken it and performed it,” says the LORD.’”

So I believe that those who are cast out into outer darkness are wicked men (like those who were Christ’s enemies) who will be raised from the dead with the rest of Israel, but who will be weeded out from among them as rebels. They will be purged out from among Israel, and will reenter the darkness of death outside the kingdom. As they see others entering the kingdom and realize they will not be able to, they have great sorrow and regret. However, this sorrow and regret is for having missed paradise. Even then, I do not believe they will regret not knowing or having a relationship with God. They would like to live in paradise, as long as they didn’t have to be with God while they were there. In other words, they want a perfect life without God, which is no perfect life at all.