Romans 11:1 - 36
ESV - 1 I ask, then, has God rejected his people? By no means! For I myself am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, a member of the tribe of Benjamin. 2 God has not rejected his people whom he foreknew. Do you not know what the Scripture says of Elijah, how he appeals to God against Israel?
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✿ By the times of the Gentiles we mean the administration of the Gentiles, as the rod of chastening upon Israel, to further God's purpose concerning them. It began with Israel's first oppression by the Gentiles in Egypt, and will continue with the history of Israel through this dispensation of Grace. It will end at the return of the Messiah in glory when he will deliver Israel from the Gentiles and exalt them as the head of all nations in the Millennium and forever (Lk. 21:24; Rom. 11:25; Rev. 19:11--Rev. 20:10). This dispensation of the Gentiles is mentioned only in Lk. 21:24 and referred to in Rom. 11:25 as "the fulness of the Gentiles." The term in Romans is often taken to mean that a time will come when God will no longer save Gentiles, but will give salvation only to the Jews. Such a doctrine is not once mentioned in the Bible. During the future tribulation both Jews and Gentiles can and will be saved (Acts 2:16-21 Rom. 1:16; 10:11-13 Rev. 7:9-17). ✿ The term "the fulness of the Gentiles" could not mean that God will some day cut off Gentiles from salvation and become a cruel tyrant, damning the souls of men in eternity regardless of what those men may desire to do about their own destiny. This term means the same as the times of the Gentiles and has nothing to do with the salvation of the Gentiles. It refers to political domination over the Jews by the Gentiles, off and on, from the Egyptian bondage to the second coming of Christ. Regarding the whole length of the times of the Gentiles it has already been over 3,700 years and will continue until the second coming of Christ, who will deliver the Jews from the Gentiles under Antichrist and set up an earthly kingdom over them forever (Zech. 14; Lk. 1:32-33 Rev. 11:15; 19:11-21; 20:1-10 Dan. 2:44; 7:13-14,18,27 Isa. 9:6-7). ✿ Jerusalem, still partly in Gentile hands, will be liberated from them and will become the Jewish capital for a short time, until the middle of Daniel's 70th week. Then Antichrist will break his 7-year covenant with Israel and enter Palestine. He will take over Jerusalem and the future Jewish temple as his capital building and start the beast worship (Dan. 9:27; 11:4-45; 12:7; Mt. 24:15-21 2Th. 2:1-12 Rev. 13; 14:9-11; 15:2-4; 20:4-6). Jerusalem will then be in Gentile hands (under Antichrist) for 42 months, finally being liberated at the second coming of Christ (Rev. 11:1-3; 12:6,14; 13:5; 19:11-21 Zech. 14; 2Th. 2:8-12). The times of the Gentiles will then end. These times refer to Israel's history from being a nation in Egypt to the second coming of Christ when she will be oppressed, more or less, by the Gentiles. It began with the Egyptian bondage, not with the overthrow of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar. This is clear from the fact that the Jews were oppressed under Egypt and Assyria more than 1,500 years, off and on, before Nebuchadnezzar. What would these oppressions be but "the times of the Gentiles?" Rev. 17:8-17 also proves that there have been and will be 8 great world empires oppressing Israel in the times of the Gentiles. See The Times of the Gentiles. ✿ The fullness of the Gentiles will end at the second coming and the national conversion of Israel (Rom. 11:25-29 Isa. 66:7-8 Zech. 12:10--Zech. 13:1; 14:1-21). The times of the Gentiles end then also (Lk. 21:24 Rev. 11:1-2 Zech. 14; Mt. 25:31-46).
I think that other translations of Romans 11:25 (such as those found at http://www.biblehub.com) make this wording clearer. The New International Version, for example, translates this passage as "a hardening has come upon part of Israel until the full number of the Gentiles come in" -- that is, until all the non-Jewish people who are going to be saved through faith in Christ have been saved. The New Living Translation (which, as I understand it, is not a word-for-word translation of the original text, but which seeks to clarify the meaning of the original text through paraphrasing) says, "Some of the people of Israel have hard hearts, but this will last only until the full number of Gentiles comes to Christ."
The fullness of the Gentiles comes in at the very end of this Age. It will be the end of the dispensation in which God is saving a people for Himself, by faith. It is otherwise known as the Church Age – the age in which God is dealing, primarily, but not exclusively, with Gentiles. In this age, there are some Jews who believe that Jesus is the Messiah. They are referred to as Messianic Jews, but the Israel that is referred to in our text (Rom. 11:26) is, I believe, “Spiritual Israel” i.e. all whose names were written down in the Book of Life before the Foundation of the World. “The fullness of the Gentiles” in Rom. 11:25 is a mystery that is related to a covenant (Rom. 11:27) in which “all Israel” will be saved (Rom. 11:26) and their sins taken away. This happens for the Jews in the Millennial dispensation when, once again, the Jews will be judged by their deeds (Rev. 14:13). It is noteworthy that this occurs just prior to the Rapture depicted in Rev. 14:14-16. For, indeed, the Rapture is the last possible chance for any Gentile to enter into the Kingdom of God during the Church Age. It marks the boundary between this age and the Millennium, with an intervening period for God’s Wrath. You can see this in Figure 3 on my Facebook Author’s page: https://www.facebook.com/pg/Craig-McElheny-430759656985167/photos/ It’s the photo showing the two phases of the Lord’s Second Coming – the Rapture and the Lord’s return at Armageddon. It is a broad overview of the Church Age, the Tribulation and the Millennium, with the intervening Day of the Lord – the Day of God’s Wrath. Click on the photo for an explanation. I believe the covenant referenced in Rom. 11:27 is described in Heb. 8:7-13. In particular, I believe this happens during the Millennium from Heb. 8:11 which states that people will not be taught to “know the Lord” as it is in this Church Age. I believe the statement that “they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest” is in reference to the Millennium when the Lord will dwell in their midst. In Isaiah, Chapter 11, after describing the Millennium, Isaiah 11:11 states that during that time (day) “the Lord will extend his hand yet a second time to recover the remnant that remains of his people…” Then, in Isaiah 12:6 it reads, “Shout, and sing for joy, O inhabitant of Zion, for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel”. The Lord will dwell in the midst of His people during the Millennium, when He is dealing, primarily, with the remnant of the Jews, and everyone will know Him.
The Gentiles are the branches of the wild olive tree (Rom 11:17-20) which have been grafted into the good olive tree of Israel. We understand these Gentiles to be of the Christian religion. The fulness of the Gentiles is the full number of Gentiles, or Christians, who have entered into spiritual Israel, or will enter in, until the times of the Gentiles is over. The times of the Gentiles will be over when Israel becomes truly independent and not dominated by the physical presence of other nations on their soil, or forced to accede to the demands of other nations because of military or related considerations. Rev 10:5-6 may indicate the divine announcement of the end of the times of the Gentiles (and perhaps the end of the 7-year covenant).
It helps to recognise the context. Throughout Romans 9,10,11, the Apostle Paul (most likely the writer here) is clearly laying out the plan / purpose of God to bring the Jewish nation to salvation in Christ. 'I do not want you to be unaware of this mystery, brothers: a partial hardening has come upon Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. And in this way all Israel will be saved, as it is written, “The Deliverer will come from Zion, he will banish ungodliness from Jacob”; “and this will be my covenant with them when I take away their sins.”' The only covenant that takes away sins is the New Covenant (Jeremiah 31) which was primarily promised to the Jewish people (those he led by the hand out of Egypt) and has its fulfilment in them. The church was a mystery but is now the main thing, only because 'most of Israel rejected him, the 'son of the vineyard owner' and the vineyard of God's Kingdom has been given the 'those who will bring the fruit'. While there was and is 'partial' faith in Jesus Messiah among the Jews, the time is coming when 'all Israel' will believe. What is fascinating is that this prophecy foresees the primarily-Gentile nature of the church. It also makes an astonishing connection between 'when the fullness of the Gentiles comes in' (the harvest of souls gathered into the Kingdom) and all Israel being saved or 'In this way' as if the two events are related. It has become my belief after several decades of studying the scriptures that the 70th week of Israel (Daniel 9:24-27) can only commence with the salvation of the Jewish nation. At that point the Gentile harvest / church age is complete. The count stopped at 69th week of the 70-week prophecy only because on 'that day' Jesus was not received as their Messiah and therefore missed out on the 'things belonging to her peace'. Rejection of Jesus stopped the clock. Only faith in Jesus will start it ticking again. At Jesus' return to rescue Israel from invading armies (Zechariah 12) they will 'look upon Me whom they pierced' and mourn (godly sorrow). An outpouring of the Spirit accompanies this. Everyone will see Him at that time (Revelation 1:7) as a final witness before the church / bride is called home to the Father's house where our Bridegroom-Lover has prepared a place for us all (John 14:1-2). As stated above this allows for a baton-transfer of sorts, from the church back to Israel as the Kingdom representatives - much like what occurred (although the other way around - Jews to Gentile) in the 1st century. Even so, come Lord Jesus. Ned Davies
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