I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers, so that you may not be conceited: Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in. And so all Israel will be saved … (verses 25-26)
Optimism and realism.
These two words describe Paul’s perspective regarding his own people, the Jews. Realism, because in their current rejection of the Gospel and the Messiah they have become like branches disconnected from the ongoing life of the tree. But optimism, evidenced by his persistent hope that they may yet be grafted back. He holds unwaveringly to both perspectives.
Now we discover why. His optimism is something much more solid than simply wishful thinking. It’s rooted in God-given revelation. That’s the implication of the word “mystery”(verse 25). The concept was used in Jewish apocalyptic writing to speak of a future event that could not be known otherwise than through direct revelation from God. More strongly, it concerns a future event that the Lord himself has absolutely predetermined. It’s going to happen, even if we can’t see any signs of it presently.
“All Israel will be saved” (verse 26). Paul is certain. The Lord has revealed it. It’s a “mystery.”
Indeed, there are three stages to this sighting:
· Present. “Israel has experienced a hardening in part.” Paul could already see it. The Jewish people were hardened to the Gospel. Yet, it was only “in part.” As Paul stated earlier (Romans 11:5), “there is a remnant chosen by grace.” The original disciples, plus others who made up the 120 gathered on the Day of Pentecost, plus 3000 converted on that day under Peter’s preaching, plus many subsequent converts (Paul himself included), were part of that remnant. They were Jews who realized Jesus of Nazareth was the long-promised Messiah. They embraced him as Lord. Many others have done the same since. Yet it was always a “remnant,” with so many still disconnected. Paul grieved.
· Future. “Until the full number of the Gentiles has come in.” Paul could see God’s purpose being played out, touching all humanity with the blessing he had brought upon Israel. Multitudes from every nation would step into the kingdom. The sighting guarantees that the fullness of the Lord’s plan will be realized. Nothing will get in the way – what joyful confidence. Yet, there is a future day when time will be up and the end will come – what sense of urgency for mission.
· Ultimate. “And so all Israel will be saved.” Beyond all hope, Paul had seen it from the Lord himself. Right at the end, there will be a great turning of the Jewish people, resulting in salvation. They will fully embrace Jesus, for what Peter declared long ago is always true: “Jesus Christ of Nazareth … there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:10, 12). Just as Paul’s blind eyes had opened to Jesus, so, too, in that future day, the eyes of all Israel will be opened, and each heart will receive him. The exact timing is not given. How it will all happen is not made clear. But a miraculous turning to the Lord is guaranteed.
“I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery,” Paul says. It’s meant to strengthen hope, to propel us in mission, and to embolden us in prayer. “And so all Israel will be saved.” Amen.
Lord, you are faithful to your promises. “All Israel will be saved.” I pray toward that future day – may your will be done. I pray, even now, that there would be more and more added to the “remnant.” Praise you that the fullness of your purposes for those from Gentile background is also assured. The full number will be realized.
In it all, I pray for your kingdom to come, your will to be done. In Jesus’ name. To his glory. Amen.
Pray: The full number of Gentiles will enter the kingdom. All Israel will be saved. Believing these promises, pray often today: “Your kingdom come, your will be done.”