Thursday, 24 October 2013
For I do not desire, brethren, that you should be ignorant of this mystery, lest you should be wise in your own opinion, that blindness in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. Romans 11:25
Once again Paul introduces his thought with “For…” This will be given to expand on what he said early about “how much more will these, who are natural branches, be grafted into their own olive tree?” The “natural branches” are the Jewish people. Verse 24 hinted that they will be brought back into the spiritual graces of God; verse 25 shows us this explicitly.
In order to convey this notion, he is going to use several key words to highlight the important nature of what is being relayed – “ignorant,” “mystery,” “wise,” “blindness,” and “fullness.” And so he begins with “For I do not desire…” this is an introduction to tell us that what he is about to say is important. He states it in the negative to highlight what he in fact does desire.
“Brethren” is declared to show us that this is a matter which is directed to the body of believers. It is this group, his “brethren” which he desires to impart this important knowledge to. As this is an epistle intended for the duration of the church age, Paul’s use of “brethren” then includes us, even to this day. It is not something which is fulfilled yet.
“That you should be ignorant” is a particular phrase that Paul uses to stress the importance of knowing, comprehending, and accepting a particular point. To see other such matters which Paul deems likewise important, refer to Romans 1:13; 1 Corinthians 10:1 & 12:1; 2 Corinthians 1:8; and 1 Thessalonians 4:13. In this case, we are asked to not be ignorant of a particular “mystery.”
In the New Testament, a “mystery” is something which was hidden in ages past, but is now revealed. Explaining a mystery doesn’t necessarily mean that it is yet fulfilled, such as in the case of this verse, but that it is disclosed to now understand what will someday come about. The rapture is an excellent example of such a mystery (see 1 Corinthians 15:51). Concerning the Jews, the Gentiles, the Church Age, and the Kingdom Age, Paul will now reveal this mystery.
Next he states the reason for the mystery’s disclosure – “lest you (meaning the gentiles) should be wise in your own opinion.” This is referring back to the overall thought of verses 19-24. We are not to be haughty over the Jews because we are wild branches grafted into the holy tree. They are natural branches. We can easily be broken off again; they can easily be grafted in again. Etc. Because of these things, we are not to be wise in our own opinion.
And the explanation for this is because “blindness in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in.” It is a lot of information, but the key word here is “until.” There is something future to the time of Paul’s writings, and even future to us now (as explained above concerning epistles intended for the church age) which is relevant to his discourse on the state of Jewish believers. “Blindness in part” shows us that it is only a portion of the whole. Be it a large portion or a small portion, there are exemptions. “Has happened…” explains that the blindness pertains to Israel in part and that it was in effect at the time of Paul’s letter; a time very early in the church age and even prior to the destruction of the temple and the dispersion of the Jews.
“Until” shows us that this blindness will continue unabated for a specific amount of time. When that time is reached, then the partial blindness of Israel will end. And that will come about when “the fullness of the Gentiles has come in.” The fullness of the gentiles is speaking of a set duration of time and a set number of people.
God is building a temple, with people as “living stones” in that temple. An architect plans the construction of a building to the minutest detail: dimensions, amount of materials, placement of things, time until completion, etc. God, who is infinitely wise, has every aspect of His temple contemplated. When the set portion of gentiles are brought into the fold, there will be a removal of the blinders from the Jewish people.
The “fullness of the Gentiles” is not the same as the “times of the Gentiles” (Luke 21:24) although there is an overlapping of the two. The times of the Gentiles began when Nebuchadnezzar destroyed Jerusalem, razed the temple, and exiled the Jews to Babylon. Since then, foreign powers have ruled over Jerusalem. This has continued until today. Even though Jerusalem is under Jewish control, the Temple Mount remains under the authority of the Muslims. And though a temple will again be built on the Temple Mount which will exist through the Tribulation Period (Revelation 11:1, 2), there will still be a defiling Gentile element to it. This is probably referring to the Al Aqsa Mosque which is there now and which may continue to stand side-by-side with the temple.
In contrast, the “fullness of the Gentiles” is speaking of the Church Age and the grafting in of Gentile believers. Although this technically began at Pentecost as is recorded in Acts 2, it actually started in Acts 8 with the Holy Spirit coming upon those in Samaria and in Acts 10 with the conversion of the household of Cornelius. It really picked up steam at the calling of Paul and with the introduction of His ministry. These key passages in Acts show the transition of the focus from the Jews to the Gentiles.
Life application: No, prophecy isn’t fulfilled and the church hasn’t replaced Israel.
Heavenly Father, I am so excited about the prospect of spending eternity with You. When I read the news, it’s usually bad. At times, I wake up feeling crummy. When I get tired, I get cranky. Yes, there is also fun, times when I feel great, and even good news once in a while, but I cannot wait for the day when there is just wonder and delight from moment to moment as I behold Your glory for all eternity. I just can’t wait for that day. Amen.