Looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory |
of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus (Titus 2:13)
The Mystery of Israel's Blindness |
"Blindness in part has happened to Israel ..."
Concerning the mystery of Israel's blindness, Paul states: "For I would not, brethren, that you should be ignorant of this mystery, lest you should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part has happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles has come in" (Rom. 11:25). Why is Israel an enemy of the Gospel in this age and blinded in unbelief? Paul answers this by stating that Israel had sought after the "law of righteousness" but had not attained it "because they sought it not by faith, but as it were by the works of the law, for they stumbled at that stumbling-stone" which is Christ (Rom. 9:31-33).
Jesus was to go first unto His own house, the nation of Israel, "to the Jew first" (Rom. 1:16). John states that Jesus "came unto His own, and his own received Him not" (John 1:11). Therefore, when Jesus was rejected by the rulers of the nation of Israel, He hid the treasure (Israel) again (Matt. 13:44). He later spoke to the chief priests and Pharisees concerning the Gentiles, "Therefore say I unto you, the kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof" (Matt. 21:43). Even though He was rejected by His own people, He did not reject them, but paid the ultimate price at Calvary. He sold all He had to pay the redemption price for His treasure Israel.
The history of Israel's past, present, and future is given in the Book of Romans chapters 9-11. In Chapter 9 Paul explains Israel's past election in relation to God's sovereignty. In chapter 10 he explains Israel's present rejection in relation to God's righteousness and in chapter 11 Israel's future restoration as a nation.
Israel's Past Election
In Romans chapter 9 Paul discusses Israel's past election and the privileges God had given them as His treasure. They include: (1) Israel's adoption; (2) the glory on Mt. Sinai and the Holy of Holies; (3) the covenants, which included those with Abraham, Moses, and David; (4) the law, which was given to Israel at Mt. Sinai; (5) the service of the tabernacle and priesthood; (6) the promises to Israel concerning the coming kingdom; (7) the fathers of the nation of Israel (Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob); and (8) Christ the Son of God, Israel's Messiah and Redeemer. Yet Israel failed to appreciate her privileges and "stumbled at that stumbling-stone" which was Christ (see 1 Pet. 2:8).
God's past election of Israel is based upon His sovereignty and whether we agree with His decision or not, God has chosen the nation of Israel to be His "peculiar treasure" (Ex. 19:5). Yet Israel has rejected God's righteousness and stumbled in unbelief. Israel was to be a light to the other nations, but ultimately failed to realize God's plans and purposes.
In Romans chapter 10 Paul explains Israel's present setting aside in unbelief due to their "going about to establish their own righteousness" (Rom. 10:3). They failed to realize that "Christ is the end of the law for righteousness" (Rom. 10:4). Many professing Christians today are like Israel in that they have a religion, but no relationship. They are trying to establish their salvation on a works basis. Many are just as zealous and just as blind as Israel in relation to the "righteousness which is of faith" (Rom. 10:6).
During this age there is no difference between the Jew and the Gentile (Rom. 10:12). Both must "confess," and "believe," (Rom. 10:9), and "call upon the name of the Lord" (Rom. 10:13) in order to be saved. In this age the Gentiles have responded by faith (Rom. 10:20); whereas, Israel has by their disobedience rejected the righteousness of God (Rom. 10:21). Therefore, during this dispensation God's "peculiar treasure" (Israel) has been temporarily hidden while the body of Christ is being completed (Rom. 11:25).
Israel's Future Restoration
In Romans chapter 11 Paul relates Israel's future restoration as a nation. Paul asks the question, "Has God cast away His people?" and answers it with a definitive "God forbid" (Rom. 11:1). The present suspension of Israel is only temporary. Many today teach that the church has taken the place of Israel and that God's promises for Israel now find their completion within the church. Paul states that, "God has not cast away His people which He foreknew" (Rom. 11:2). The treasure is now hid but will be brought to light when God's plans and purposes for His church are completed. During the present age God has "a remnant according to the election of grace" (Rom. 11:5).
Paul asks another question in relation to Israel's setting aside, "Have they stumbled that they should fall? God forbid: but rather through their fall salvation has come unto the Gentiles, to provoke them to jealousy" (Rom. 11:11). Just as Israel's rejection has brought salvation to the Gentiles, their restoration will occasion great blessing for the world (Rom. 11:12-15). Paul then speaks concerning Israel as the good olive tree whose branches have been broken off in unbelief (Rom. 11:16-20). Paul states: "For if God did not spare the natural branches, neither will He spare you" (Rom. 11:21). J. Vernon McGee remarks that "since God did not spare the nation Israel when they apostasized, the argument is that He will not spare an apostate church." After the body of Christ is completed, God will call His Bride home and He will again deal with the nation of Israel. Through faith Israel will be grafted back into their own olive tree (Rom. 11:24)
Paul now comes to the restoration of the nation of Israel. The mystery is revealed that Israel is partially blinded until the "fulness of the Gentles has come in" (Rom. 11:25). Paul speaks here of the "fulness of the Gentiles" (Rom. 11:25), while Luke speaks of the "times of the Gentiles" (Luke 21:24). Are they similar? The "times of the Gentiles" began with the rise of the Babylonian Empire in 606 B.C. and will end with the return of Christ at the end of the Tribulation period. Notice that in the last forty-two months of the Tribulation, the Gentiles will control the temple and the city of Jerusalem (Rev. 11:2b). Gentile dominion will end with the breaking in pieces of the image of Nebuchadnezzar by the stone "cut out without hands" symbolizing the everlasting kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ (Dan. 2:34-35; 44-45). The "fulness of the Gentiles" (Rom. 11:25) concerns the full number of Gentiles that will be saved during the church age which will complete the body of Christ (cf. Acts 15:14).
When Christ returns at the end of the Tribulation "all Israel shall be saved" (Rom. 11:26). This does not mean that every Israelite will be saved, but relates to a remnant who have as individuals turned from their transgression (See Isa. 59:20-21). Notice that the conversion of Israel will issue in a new covenant (Jer. 31:31-34; Heb. 8:8-13) which will restore Israel to God's favor and blessing (Hos. 2:19-20) and result in their elevation to the head of the nations (Deut. 28:13; Jer. 31:38-40). Though Israel is at enmity with the Gospel today, they are still God's "peculiar treasure" and concerning their election, "they are beloved for the Father's sake" (Rom. 11:28).
In her book, The Study of the Parables, Ada Habershon notes that "the field, we know, is the world, and the Lord paid the price for the whole, not that He might gain possession of Israel only, but that He might have all His redeemed, every one for whom His death paid the price;..." We were all included in that purchase when Christ died at Calvary's cross, "for the sins of the whole world" (1 John 2:2). The mystery of Israel's blindness (Rom. 11:25) emphasizes God's plans and purposes in the restoration of Israel, when at last the Lord will possess His earthly treasure (See Amos 9:14; Acts 15:16-17).