Lest you be wise in your own sight, 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.” – Romans 11:25-27 ESV
Paul has been establishing the fact that God is not yet done with Israel. While the majority of Jews have rejected Jesus as their Messiah, a remnant have been shown mercy by God and placed their faith in His Son as their Savior. Paul was living proof of that reality and there were other believing Jews in the church in Rome. And the Gentile believers have much to grateful for to the Hebrew nation. It was through the Jews that their Savior had come. Jesus was a descendant of Abraham and born into the line of King David – all in keeping with the promises made to both men. And while those Jews who refused to accept Jesus as their Savior were “broken off because of their unbelief” (Romans 11:20 ESV) and the Gentiles were grafted in, that does not mean that God is through with them. If He is able to take Gentiles and graciously and mercifully graft them into the root of Abraham, can He not do so with the Jews? Paul asks the very same question. “And even they, if they do not continue in their unbelief, will be grafted in, for God has the power to graft them in again” (Romans 11:23 ESV).
The key word here is belief. It is faith in Christ that is necessary for anyone, whether Jew or Gentile to be grafted into the root of Abraham. Paul told the Galatian church, “The real children of Abraham, then, are those who put their faith in God. What’s more, the Scriptures looked forward to this time when God would declare the Gentiles to be righteous because of their faith. God proclaimed this good news to Abraham long ago when he said, ‘All nations will be blessed through you.’ So all who put their faith in Christ share the same blessing Abraham received because of his faith” (Galatians 3:7-9 NLT). He went on to clarify, “Through Christ Jesus, God has blessed the Gentiles with the same blessing he promised to Abraham, so that we who are believers might receive the promised Holy Spirit through faith” (Galatians 3:14 NLT). It is through faith, our belief in the saving power of Jesus Christ that we inherit the promises made to Abraham. We become part of God’s family through belief in His Son. And the same thing will be true for God’s chosen people, the Jews. But Paul indicates that a “partial hardening has come upon Israel” (Romans 11:25 ESV). The term Paul used is an interesting one. It is pōrōsis and it means “obtrusiveness of mental discernment, dulled perception” (Outline of Biblical Usage). The root word from which it comes means “to grow hard, callous, become dull, lose the power of understanding.” For the time being, the Jews, individually and collectively, are experiencing a callousness to the gospel message. This was all part of God’s divine plan. As Paul wrote earlier, “their rejection means the reconciliation of the world” (Romans 11:15 ESV). It was their rejection of Christ that led to the gospel being taken to the rest of the nations of the world. But Paul indicates that there will be a point at which “the fullness of the Gentiles has come in” (Romans 11:25 ESV). Thomas L. Constable explains what this phrase means:
When all the Gentiles whom God has chosen for salvation during the present age of Jewish rejection (setting aside) have experienced salvation, God will precipitate a revival of faith among the Jews. Even though some Jews trust Christ now, God is not presently working through them as Israel as He will in the future (i.e., in the Millennium), after multitudes of them turn to faith in Christ. He is now working through the church. – Dr. Thomas L. Constable, Notes on Romans, 2009 Edition.
Quoting from Isaiah 59, Paul writes, “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” (Romans 11:26-27 ESV). God is going to do a work among the Jewish people. But it will not take place until He has completed His work among the Gentiles. There is a day coming when the number of Gentiles or non-Jews to be saved will be complete. Not ALL Gentiles will be saved. There is a limited number of those who will place their faith in Christ, and when that number has been reached, God’s work among the Gentiles will have been fulfilled. He will then turn His attention to the Jews. But when Paul says that “all Israel will be saved,” he most certainly does not mean that every single Israelite who has ever lived will become a believer in Jesus Christ. As not all Gentiles will come to saving knowledge of Jesus Christ, neither will all Jews. But when compared to the relatively small believing remnant of Jews that currently exists, the number that will come to faith in the future will be large. The prophet Zechariah predicted that future day when God will do a mighty work among the people of Israel. God promised His people that on that day, “I will pour out a spirit of grace and prayer on the family of David and on the people of Jerusalem. They will look on me whom they have pierced and mourn for him as for an only son. They will grieve bitterly for him as for a firstborn son who has died” (Zechariah 12:10 NLT). Zechariah continued to write the words of the Lord, promising, “On that day a fountain will be opened for the dynasty of David and for the people of Jerusalem, a fountain to cleanse them from all their sins and impurity” (Zechariah 13:1 NLT). The prophet went on to say, “‘Two-thirds of the people in the land will be cut off and die,’ says the Lord. ‘But one-third will be left in the land. I will bring that group through the fire and make them pure. I will refine them like silver and purify them like gold. They will call on my name, and I will answer them. I will say, “These are my people,” and they will say, “The Lord is our God”’” (Zechariah 13:8-9 NLT).
God is ready, willing and able to redeem Israel. He is not yet done with His chosen people. He has not fully rejected them. He is simply waiting until the full number of Gentiles have come to faith in His Son, then He will turn His attention to the Jews. His plan is perfect. His timeline is right on schedule. We don’t know when these things will take place, but we are to trust that they will, because our God is faithful, just, righteous, powerful, and fully capable of completing what He has started and fulfilling all that He has promised – to us and to Israel.