The Mystery of the Blindness of Israel



John Hoole -- December 11, 2011





As we have learned in previous lessons on the mysteries of the New Testament, we find God revealing truth in the New Testament that were completely unknown in the Old Testament.  Today's lesson on the mystery of Israel's blindness is found in Romans 11.


Romans 11:25-29 NKJV


25     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.

26     And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written: "The Deliverer will come out of Zion, And He will turn away ungodliness from Jacob;

27     For this is My covenant with them, When I take away their sins."

28     Concerning the gospel they are enemies for your sake, but concerning the election they are beloved for the sake of the fathers.

29     For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.


As we have learned thus far, there are at least a dozen "mysteries" mentioned in the New Testament.  These are truth revealed to writers of the New Testament that were unknown previously.  Three of these mysteries are especially important to understanding prophecies of the "end times."


                   •  The mystery of the Church


                   •  The mystery of the partial blindness of Israel


                   •  The mystery of the Rapture.


In the verses we just read from Romans 11, there are several points that need to be explored.


         1.      The apostle Paul gives very strong words for those "ignorant of this mystery."


         2.      What does the phrase "until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in" mean


         3.      Exactly when will "all Israel" be saved?


         4.      In what ways are the Jews "enemies of the gospel for our sake?"


         5.      What is the meaning of verse 29 - "The gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable?"


As we have noted, the Church was not mentioned at all in the Old Testament.  Everything about the Church, including its ending, called the Rapture, was unknown.  The Church is a brand new organism, not the continuation of something that preceded it.


Before examining this mystery of the temporary blindness of Israel, let's look at the context that surrounds these few verses.  The context is found in what the author of Romans says in chapters 9 through 11.


The Book of Romans is one of the heavy doctrinal books of the Bible.  What is written in this book is sometimes mind-stretching, sometimes breathtaking.  Most theologians consider the first 8 chapters as the first section of the book of Romans.  These eight chapters have a common theme - Justification and Sanctification.  But, before moving on to discuss the concerns of local church life - Chapters 12-15, he feels compelled to speak about God's plans for the Jews, for these are Paul's very own people.


John Hagee, in his book, Jerusalem Countdown, writes:


"Romans 9-11 is a divine codicil by Saint Paul concerning God's post-Calvary position on the Jewish people."


Dr. Harry Ironside, in his commentary on the book of Romans, writes:


         "The eleventh chapter is most illuminating in regard to God's dispensational (future) plan."


Today, as it relates to the mystery of Israel's blindness, I want to begin with the last verse of chapter 10.


Romans 10:21 NIV


21 But concerning Israel he says, "All day long I have held out my hands to a disobedient and obstinate people."


This verse clearly points to Israel's rejection of God and God's gospel through Jesus Christ.  So the natural question is this:  Has God rejected the Jews?"  And in the very first verse of chapter 11, the apostle answers this question head on.


Romans 11:1 NKJV


1       I say then, has God cast away His people? Certainly not! For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin.


Paul's main argument in chapter 11 is made up of two parts:


         1.      Israel's rejection is not total but partial.


The great majority of the Jews have rejected God's gospel as found in Jesus Christ.  But not all Jews have rejected Jesus as their Savior.  There was a remnant of Jew who trust Christ. - God always has a remnant.


         2.      Israel's rejection is not permanent but temporary.


The nation will not always reject God.  There is coming a great future day when the nation will be saved (verses 26-27).


Both of these key ideas are found in Romans 11:25.


         "That blindness IN PART (Partial) is happened to Israel."


         "UNTIL (Temporary) the fullness of the Gentiles has come in."


The blindness is not total blindness and it is not permanent blindness.  There are many Jews today who see very well - they are not blind.  There are literally hundreds of thousands of Jews who have accepted Christ as their Savior.  Whereas once they were blind, now they can see.  And there is coming a day when the nation Israel will see and recognize Christ as their Messiah and Lord.


In Romans 11, Paul looks at both the present and the future.  As he looks at the present (1st century), he sees a remnant of Jews who are saved.  It may have been just a small number when compared to the entire Jewish population.  But as he looks at the future, he sees all Israel being saved.


Speaking of the "present," the apostle Paul shows that the Jews have a part in God's present program.


Romans 11:5 NIV


5       So too, at the present time there is a remnant chosen by grace.


Speaking of the "future," Paul shows that the Jews have a part in God's future program.


Romans 11:26 NIV


26     And so all Israel WILL BE saved, as it is written: "The deliverer will come from Zion; he will turn godlessness away from Jacob. "


And this will take place after the "fullness of the Gentiles" occurs (verse 25).


God has committed Himself to the nation of Israel by way of promises and covenants.  Because of this, the nation Israel is guaranteed a wonderful future.  And God will never change His mind about this.  Read again verses 27 & 28.


Romans 11:27-28 NKJV


27     For this is My covenant with them, When I take away their sins."

28     Concerning the gospel they are enemies for your sake, but concerning the election they are beloved for the sake of the fathers.


 Let explore another aspect of what is told us in verse 1.


Romans 11:1 NKJV


1       I say then, has God cast away His people? Certainly not! For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin.


Has God cast aside His people, Israel?  "Certainly not!"  The KJV says, "God forbid!"  Then the apostle Paul offers himself as the number one proof that God has not cast away His people.  Paul was a saved Jew who had come to Christ.  And he says in effect, "I am a Jew, and God didn't cast me away."


Notice how Paul, at the end of this verse, very carefully and specifically defines who is an Israelite.  An Israelite is one who is physically and literally a descendant of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and who come out of one of the twelve tribes (in Paul's case, a Benjamite).


He says something similar in his letter the those in Philippi.


Philippians 3:5 NIV


5       circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee;


The definition Paul gives as to what constitutes an Israelite is so very important.  There are those who wrongly teach that anyone who is saved and part of the church of Jesus Christ is a true Israelite - even a saved Gentile.


People who do not properly understand this mystery of Israel's temporary blindness, usually are those who believe God is through with Israel, and have been replaced by the Church.  Further, they believe that all of the Old Testament promises that God gave to Israel have now be transferred to the Church.  They are very emphatic to teach that the Jews who live in Israel today, and around the world, have no relationship with biblical prophecy - either in the Old or New Testaments.  They don't believe God will give Israel an inheritance in the millennial reign of Jesus Christ.  Many of them do not believe in a Rapture.  Nor do they believe in a literal, visible second coming of Christ to earth to reign.  Rather, they believe that Jesus Christ is already reigning from heaven today, spiritually.  And the church will eventually receive whatever inheritance was promised to Israel.  This is why it is so important to properly understand this mystery.


Early in chapter 11, Paul presents two illustration to show that God has always had a remnant that have been faithful in their worship of the true and living God.  We have just discussed the first illustration - it was the apostle himself.  The second illustration is in the verses that follow verse 1.


In Romans 11:1, the apostle answers the question on whether God has cast away the Jews with an emphatic "Certainly Not!"


         He repeats it in the second verse.


Romans 11:2-5 NIV


2       God did not reject his people, whom he foreknew. Don't you know what the Scripture says in the passage about Elijah — how he appealed to God against Israel:

3       "Lord, they have killed your prophets and torn down your altars; I am the only one left, and they are trying to kill me"?

4       And what was God's answer to him? "I have reserved for myself seven thousand who have not bowed the knee to Baal."

5       So too, at the present time there is a remnant chosen by grace.


God has most definitely set His love upon these people and claimed them as His own.  Would He then go and cast them away?   Absolutely not!!!  Look what God through the apostle uses as an illustration of this.


God says, in effect, don't you remember what I said to Elijah?  To understand the Old Testament background for this story, read 1 Kings 19.  When Elijah, speaking to God, said, "They have killed Your prophets and torn down your altars."  He was referring to the rebellious Israelites.  And it didn't help that their king, Ahab, had married a pagan named Jezebel, who led their people away from Jehovah to worship BAAL, the Canaanite god.


It was a time of great apostasy in Israel, and Elijah felt that he was standing all alone.  He felt he was the only one left who was faithful to Jehovah, the only True God.  But Elijah was mistaken and God had to correct him.  In 1 Kings 19:18, we find God saying to Elijah, "I have reserved to Myself..."  God tells Elijah, "I have a remnant."  Then God adds that the number that are still faithful to Him is 7,000.  They had not been led away to worship Baal.  It was apparently a "silent minority" because Elijah did not know of their existence.  But God knew who they were.  2 Timothy 2:19 is true:  "God knows them that are His."


God, through the apostle Paul, was using this story to illustrate what was happening in the first century.  God still had a remnant of Jews - He had certainly not cast them aside.  At the time, there were again thousands of Jews who were faithful to God.  3,000 on the Day of Pentecost and 4,000 shortly thereafter.


Let me repeat that Paul makes two points with regard to the blindness of Israel.


         1.  Her blindness is partial, not total.


         2.  Her blindness is temporary, not permanent.


With regard to the second point, when does God tell us their sight will return?


Romans 11:25 NKJV


25     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.


What does the phrase "until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in" mean?  The NIV translation may help us here.  It reads: "until the full number of the Gentiles has come in."  Today, Christ is building His Church, made up primarily of Gentiles.  God is visiting the nations of the world to take out of them a people for His Name.  At some point in the future - a time known only to God the full number of Gentiles will have come in.


God gave the prophet Daniel an timetable that will help us understand when the "time of the Gentiles has come in."  We find it in Daniel 9 and it is commonly called "Daniel's 70 weeks."


Daniel 9:24-27 NKJV


24     Seventy weeks are determined For your people and for your holy city, To finish the transgression, To make an end of sins, To make reconciliation for iniquity, To bring in everlasting righteousness, To seal up vision and prophecy, And to anoint the Most Holy.

25     Know therefore and understand, That from the going forth of the command To restore and build Jerusalem Until Messiah the Prince, There shall be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks; The street shall be built again, and the wall,  Even in troublesome times.

26     And after the sixty-two weeks Messiah shall be cut off, but not for Himself; And the people of the prince who is to come Shall destroy the city and the sanctuary. The end of it shall be with a flood, And till the end of the war desolations are determined.

27     Then he shall confirm a covenant with many for one week; But in the middle of the week He shall bring an end to sacrifice and offering. And on the wing of abominations shall be one who makes desolate, Even until the consummation, which is determined, Is poured out on the desolate."


Most evangelical premillennialists believe the beginning of the fulfillment of this prophecy occurred when the Persian King Artaxerxes gave the decree in 444 B.C.  You can read about King Artaxerxes and the decree he made in Nehemiah 2:1-8.  This was a decree allowing Nehemiah to rebuild the city of Jerusalem, including walls and gates.


The entire time-period involved is specified as exactly 70 weeks of years (vs. 24).  And these 70 weeks are further divided into four lesser periods.  And we are told a little about what will happen during each.


Those 4 sections start with the dividing of the 70 weeks.


                   The first mentioned is 7 weeks in duration.


                   The second is 62 weeks.


                   The last week is divided into two groups of ½ week each.


First Period             - 7 weeks, or 49 years


Since the first seven weeks are separated from that which follows, to what does it refer to?  Without belaboring this point, since it is not a point of significant debate, this first segment refers to the time in which the city will be built, including walls, gates, moat and plaza, and doing it during troublesome times.


John Walvoord, former professor and then president of Dallas Theological Seminary, says: "The first seven weeks refer to the time of the rebuilding of Jerusalem."


Second Period       - 62 weeks, or 434 years


         The next segment of time is the period of sixty-two weeks of years.  This segment is to follow the first, and together, they would be 483 years.  We are given no information to think or consider any gap between these two periods.  And there are no historical events that would lead to any conclusion than these are consecutive.  We are told that the 62-week period will end with the arrival of the Messiah.


Once again, look at Daniel 9:25 NIV


25     Know and understand this: From the issuing of the decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until the Anointed One, the ruler, comes, there will be seven 'sevens,' and sixty-two 'sevens.' It will be rebuilt with streets and a trench, but in times of trouble.


Messiah the prince can be none other than the Jewish Messiah - Jesus the Christ.  Most theologians that take a more literal interpretation of the Bible agree that this event takes place on the Triumphal Entry of Jesus.


The 434 years between the rebuilding of Jerusalem and the coming of the Messiah, Jesus Christ, is essentially the time between the Old and New Testaments.  There are more than 400 years between the ending of the Old Testament and the beginning of the New Testament record.  The Bible contains nothing that occurred during this time, thus, they are sometimes called the "silent years."


Textual reasons for the postponement of the 70th week


Notice again the words of Daniel 9:26.


Daniel 9:26 NIV


26     After the sixty-two 'sevens,' the Anointed One will be cut off and will have nothing. The people of the ruler who will come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. The end will come like a flood: War will continue until the end, and desolations have been decreed.


Two events are mentioned in this verse, and we are told they occur after the completion of the second time period of 62 weeks of years.  But while they definitely occur after the close of the 62 weeks, nothing is said about how long after their closing.  The first thing mentioned is the "cutting off of the Messiah."


To review, verse 26 begins with the phrase, "Then after the sixty two weeks,...."  The two things that are described following that statement are:


         1.      The Messiah will be cut off.


         2.      The people of the prince who is to come will destroy the city and the sanctuary.


All evangelical interpreters agree that the cutting off of the Messiah certainly refers to the death of Jesus on the cross.  And this fits perfectly with our understanding of what Gabriel told to Daniel.  Jesus was crucified four days after his arrival in Jerusalem.


Robert Culver states:


"There can be no honest difference of opinion about that: the cutting off of Messiah is 'after' the sixty-two weeks.  It is not the concluding event of the series of 62 weeks.  Neither is it said to be the opening event of the seventieth.  It is simply after the seven plus sixty-two weeks."


The second event occurs after a longer delay following the ending of the period of 62 weeks.  The sanctuary that is destroyed must be the Temple.  The only time following the crucifixion of Christ where we know Jerusalem will be destroyed, happened in A.D. 70.  The city will never be destroyed again.


What we have here is the evidence of a gap between the 69th and 70th week of years.  As we have seen in several earlier lessons, this seems to be the rule, not the exception.  This is especially true of Old Testament prophecies concerning the nation of Israel.  And once again the prophecy skips over the Church Age, something which was not mentioned in the Old Testament.


The clock of God concerning Daniel's 70 weeks was put on hold at the end of the 69th week.  And it will not start again until the 70th week begins.  The Church Age began fifty days after the Resurrection of Christ on the Day of Pentecost, and it comes to an end at the time of the Rapture.  For the Church, that is the event we are waiting for.


This brings us to the last, or 70th, week of the prophecy.  And, according to the details given in Daniel 9:27, this period is broken into two segments.  At this point in time, the clock with regard to this prophecy will begin again.  Once again, the focus will be on Israel, not the Church, which will be gone.  One of the major reasons for the Tribulation is for God to work on Israel.


Daniel 9:27 NIV


27     He will confirm a covenant with many for one 'seven.' In the middle of the 'seven' he will put an end to sacrifice and offering. And on a wing [of the temple] he will set up an abomination that causes desolation, until the end that is decreed is poured out on him." 


We are told in this verse that the seven years will begin with the confirming of a covenant between the "Prince that will come" (i.e., the Antichrist) and the people of Israel.


While God's clock for Israel has been on hold with regard to the prophecy of Daniel 9, the Church Age has been continuing and building.  And when the number of Gentiles has come in, according to God's plan, then the Church's time clock will end, followed closely by Israel's clock beginning again.


The blindness of Israel is quite evident today.  There is still much contempt and disdain for Christianity in Israel today.  Israel will today allow nearly every deviation from Jewish orthodoxy in their land, including atheism.  But they will not be tolerant to Christianity.


This issue came to a head, and was brought before the Knesset in 1989.  On December 25, 1989, the Israeli Supreme Court ruled that messianic Jews "do not belong to the Jewish nation and have no right to force themselves on it.  Those who believe in Jesus are, in fact Christians."


This arrangement is, however, not God's permanent way of blessing the world.  Though entirely adequate for His present purposes, it is not yet what He promised.  He has vowed to graft Israel back into the tree of blessing, and He will do this after the fullness of the Gentiles has come in.  Her conversion may seem impossible today, but Paul declares it will occur one day soon.