Hardening . . . until the fullness of the Gentiles
Romans 11:25-27.
Cecil N. Wright

(1) "Hardening . . . until the fullness of the Gentiles be come in." Some have interpreted this to mean that the hardening will continue till the last Gentile has been save, hence till the end of time--a permanent hardening, with no salvation possible.

 Others consider "the fullness of the Gentiles" to refer to a substantial, considerable, possibly even the maximum number to be saved--the high tide of Gentile membership in the church. This seems much more likely. The other alternative hardly makes sense in light of what immediately follows, and has to be rejected if context means anything.

 (2) "And so all Israel shall be saved." "So" may be understood in either of two senses: (a) In this manner; or (b) consequently. If the first sense is correct, the manner is to be inferred from preceding text--that is, it is to be by turning from unbelief to belief, the same as the Gentiles had done and were doing. This expresses obvious fact, but does not seem to be what is indicated by immediate context.

 Immediate context makes it more natural to take "so" to mean "consequently." That would make the thought to be that after "the fullness of the Gentiles be come in" the hardness of Israel can be expected to end and consequently "all" Israel yet be save--not just a "remnant."

 "All" need not be understood as a mathematical all, however, but a substantial or considerable number. There went out to John the Baptist "Jerusalem, and all Judea, and all the region round about Jordan," and were baptized of him in Jordan (Matt. 3:5-6). "But the Pharisees and lawyers rejected for themselves the counsel of God, being not baptized of him" (Lk. 7:30). Hence, not every individual needs to be understood by "all", but a substantial number--more than a "remnant."

 (3) "All Israel shall be saved." Does this mean spiritual Israel, or Israel according to the flesh? (See 9:6). Certainly all spiritual Israel shall be saved. However, in Paul's day spiritual Israel represented only a remnant of fleshly Israel. And it was the greater part of the latter that was hardened "until the fullness of the Gentiles be come in," with that hardness seemingly to end afterward (at least for a significant number). It would seem from the text that spiritual Israel is ultimately to consist of more than a "remnant" of Israel after the flesh.

 Such anticipation seems in harmony with what Jesus said to Jerusalem on the last day he taught the multitudes there: "Ye shall not see me henceforth, till ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord" (Matt. 23:;39). This seems to indicate that his second coming would not be until after Jerusalem (consisting principally of Jews) had been converted and would welcome those who come in the name of the Lord--not every individual inhabitant necessarily, but a substantial number.

 (4) "As it is written." "It is written, There shall come out of Zion the Deliverer; He shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob: And this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins." The Deliverer (Christ) had already come, but the implication is that turning ungodliness from Jacob and taking away their sins had not yet been fulfilled to the extent contemplated in prophecy and anticipated by Paul--but would be after "the fullness of the Gentiles come in." This seems to be consistent with the entire context of Chapters 9-11 and not contradicted by legitimate exegesis of any other passage.



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