Why was it ‘Morally Necessary” that God Judge the Jews First?
Romans 2:2-11 sets forth the rationale for God’s righteous judgment against the Jews. In verses 2-3 we see that, in order to deter sin, judgment rightly falls upon those who do these evil things, lest sinners should hope to escape, and lest God’s purposes should be misunderstood, (verse 4). It is God’s nature as a holy God to bless the righteous and to condemn the wicked, (verses 5-8). He shows no partiality in judgment, (verses 6 and 11).
Since salvation was to the Jew first, then to the Gentiles, (Rom. 1:16), it is also just that God’s righteous wrath be revealed first against the Jews, but also against the unrepentant Gentiles in their time. This order: “the Jew first,” does not reflect any respect of persons in judgment, nor a superior position in grace. It simply shows God’s sovereign choice of method in revealing Himself and His salvation to the world. He chose to use the Jews as an example, a pattern, and as a type and shadow. Having had the privilege of receiving God’s revelation in the Law, the Covenant and the Prophets, they were held accountable for recognizing Jesus Christ as the fulfillment of all that was previously foretold and promised. By the same token, after Gentiles receive the Gospel, they too are equally responsible.
The Jews Held Accountable
The life, works, death and resurrection of Christ had been fully revealed to the entire Jewish world in the period prior to AD 70, (Colossians 1:5-6). It was therefore morally imperative that they be brought to account. Romans 1:18-32 declares that God’s wrath is being revealed against those “who hold the truth in unrighteousness.” At that time, this applied specifically to the Jewish nation. It was they who were without excuse, (v.20), because they had been fully exposed to the knowledge of God, (v. 21), had had the truth of God, (v. 25), and knew about the promised judgments of God, (v. 32).
To those Jews Paul declared that “…the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles through you.” (Rom. 2:24). It was morally imperative that God defend His Name against blasphemy.
Distinction Between Jews and “Those Who Call Themselves ‘Jews'”
Indeed, the name ‘Jew’ itself was being misused by these unbelievers, for Paul shows that true Jewish identity depends upon faith, not upon circumcision of the flesh, but rather that of the heart, “…in the spirit, and not in the letter,” (Rom. 2:28-29). (See also Deut. 30:6; Jer. 32:29.) In fact this passage in Romans 2 from verse 17, “Behold, thou art called a Jew,” through verse 29 furnishes a definition of the kinds of people “who call themselves Jews and are not, but do lie,” as mentioned in Revelation 2:9 and 3:9.
In Romans 3:5-6, Paul chides those Jews for suggesting that God might be unjust to take vengeance upon them for their sins. Then he says: “God forbid, for then how shall God judge the world?” This clearly indicates that judgment and vengeance against these Jews was a prerequisite, and was morally imperative if God was to judge the entire Gentile world later for these same sins.
The Word Must
Therefore, this word must, (Revelation 1:1), indicating a moral imperative, foreshadows what is about to be revealed to John. It was fulfilled in the destruction of Jerusalem. God’s righteous wrath upon the unbelieving wicked is described symbolically as the destruction of “Mystery Babylon,” (Revelation 17 and 18).