People often confuse God’s salvation plan with His salvation means. His plan on different groups can be different, while His means to save is always the same. Paul’s epistle to the Romans clearly demonstrates the point. Rom 1:16 states that the gospel is to save everyone who believes, which shows that people are always saved by faith. The timing is, however, different – Jews first and then Gentiles, which implies His plans of salvation to Jews and to Gentiles are different. Then Paul began to spell out the gospel.
The point becomes clear again when one reads Rom Ch 9-11. In Ch 9, Paul argued that God has the sovereignty in choosing the Gentiles over the Jews, and then in Ch 10 he further explained that the Jews were rejected by God because they rejected the gospel. They were “partially hardened” as pointed out by Paul in 11:25 (cf. 11:7). In Ch 11, Paul disclosed God’s plan on Jews – Our Lord has not forsaken the Jews; He is faithful to Israel. The Jews were rejected or broken off, so that the Gentiles would be saved or grafted in (Rom 11:19-20) so as to make the Jews jealous (Rom 11:11, 14-15). But when “the fullness of Gentiles” come in, the partial hardening of the Jews will end, and all Israel will be saved finally (Rom 11:25-26). Undoubtedly God’s salvation plans on the Jews and on the Gentiles are different.
But when will “the fullness of Gentiles” come? The NIV and NET render the translation as “the full number of the Gentiles”, implying the timing is related to the number of Gentiles. However, the verse is over-translated in these two versions. The word “number” is not in the original text. The original text, accurately translated by NASB, reads
“ἄχρι (until) οὗ (that) τὸ (the) πλήρωμα (fullness/ fulfillment) τῶν (the) ἐθνῶν (Gentiles)”,
(Until that the fullness/fulfillment the Gentiles)
which greatly resembles our Lord’s saying in Lk 21:24
“ἄχρι (until) οὗ (that) πληρωθῶσιν (are fulfilled) καιροὶ (times) ἐθνῶν (Gentiles)”.
(Until that are fulfilled times Gentiles)
It is very likely that Paul and our Lord were talking about the same thing; the only difference is that Paul omitted the word “καιροὶ (times)” .1
Let’s take a look at Lk 21:24. In Lk 21:20-24, our Lord’s prophecy on the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70 was recorded. He prophesied, in v24, that the Jews would be “led captive into all the nations”, and Jerusalem would be “trampled under foot by the Gentiles until the times of Gentiles are fulfilled”. Checking the history of Jerusalem, we know that the “times of the Gentiles” (ruled by Gentiles) began with the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70, brought about by the Roman general Titus, and it ended in 1967, when Jerusalem was miraculously recaptured by the Israelis in the historical Six Day War.
The Six Day War is referred to by many as a miracle. It was fought between June 5th and 10th of 1967. All of Israel’s neighboring Islamic nations (Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq) sought to destroy the Jewish State newly established in 1948, which was then weak in military force comparing to her enemies:
“In the weeks leading up to the war, Israelis were growing increasingly concerned as Egypt, Jordan and Syria formed a military alliance, and began moving aircraft into position for attack. The Israelis knew that they were vastly outnumbered compared to the combined forces of Iraq and the allied Arab neighbours both in forces and equipment. So many Israeli deaths were expected that all of the public parks in Jerusalem were designated as cemeteries by the rabbis in advance.2”
Israel fought the war with a surprise aerial attack on Egypt. As their air force was only a quarter of those of their opponents, Israel’s attack aimed only at to reduce their opponents’ great advantage. However,
“That morning, some 200 aircraft took off from Israel and swooped west over the Mediterranean before converging on Egypt from the north. After catching the Egyptians by surprise, they assaulted 18 different airfields and eliminated roughly 90 percent of the Egyptian air force as it sat on the ground. Israel then expanded the range of its attack and decimated the air forces of Jordan, Syria and Iraq.3”
The Zion Gate with the traces of bullets from the Six-Day War of 1967, in the old city of Jerusalem.
The unfolding events went in Israel’s favour. Many miracles were reported in the Six Day War, including inexplicable paralysis coming upon troops of Egyptian soldiers, peculiar unexploding bombs landing and perching on piles of Israeli munitions, soldiers in the enemy troop abandoning weapons because of seeing Abraham behind the Israel soldiers, etc. Here is another amazing report:
“Starting June 5, days of violent battling ensued throughout the old city of East Jerusalem. On June 7th, an eerie silence befell the city when Jordanian firing stopped. It was too quiet and so Israeli troops were dispatched to check for a trap. However, their report was of no trap, but of a miracle. The city was empty, save for all the equipment that the Jordanian army left behind. The Israeli forces entered East Jerusalem, and took the Temple Mount, reaching the Western Wall without even firing a single shot.” 4
It is clear that God helped Israel to reunify Jerusalem. Why had God done this in such a miraculous way? We cannot help but think that God intended to make the War an undeniable mark of the fulfilment of His prophecies, not only the recapturing of Jerusalem in Lk 21:24 but also the end of the partial hardening in Rom 11:25. God may want to declare that, through the miraculous reunification of Jerusalem in the Six Day War, His regrafting of Israel has begun.
The end of partial hardening is evident. From the time of the apostles up to the Six Day War, scarcely any Jews came to faith in Jesus. However, after the War, it is noticeable that many Jews began to receive Jesus as their Messiah. The following are quotes from different sources:
“Another astonishing indicator is the phenomena of Jewish people coming to faith in Yeshua (i.e. Jesus) all over the world—in numbers not seen since the book of Acts … For more than nineteen centuries, the number of Jews openly professing faith in Yeshua was extremely small, and most were assimilated into the Church. All that changed after 1967. The miraculous return of Jerusalem to the Jewish people sparked a great revival. Often called “The Jesus Movement,” this revival was unique from all previous revivals, as Jews started coming to faith—in significant numbers.” 5 (emphasis mine)
“The obvious change is with regard to the number of (Jewish) believers. Our research shows that (in the past 20 years) the number of congregations has roughly tripled, and that the number of believers has either doubled or tripled … In 1999, the number of believers in total was approximately 5,000. Today, 5,000 is just the number of believers in Russian-speaking congregations in Israel.” 6
“- In 1948, there were approximately ten million Jewish people around the world who had survived the Holocaust. About 600,000 were living in Israel. Of those, only 23 of them believed in Yeshua as their Messiah. There were some churches led by denominations and missionaries in Israel, but there were no Messianic congregations at all.
- In 1989 Israel’s Jewish population had grown to 3.5 million, and by this point, the estimated number of believers had reached 1,200. There were now 30 congregations.
- By 1999 there were 4.8 million Jews living in Israel, 81 Messianic congregations and an estimated 5,000 believers.
- In 2017, 300 congregations were counted. It has become increasingly difficult to accurately identify the number of Jewish believers in Israel, but a conservative estimate is now 30,000.” 7
The conversion of the vast number of Jews can only be explained by the sovereign work of our almighty God in fulfilment of His words in Rom 11:25 – the ending of the partial hardening in 1967. Rom 11:26 further declared that, after the end of the partial hardening, whole Israel will be saved when Christ returns. We are assured that this will be in a very near future.
The following are some lessons to learn:
1) God promised to bless the descendants of Abraham, and He promised to save Israel in the end times, regardless of how they rejected Him. God does not change – He is faithful to what He has promised, and His love lasts, no matter how depraved we are.
2) God’s gracious offer is always available to Israel: they can be saved by repenting and receiving Jesus as their Messiah. Similarly, God’s grace is always available to us. All we have to do is to repent.
3) God is almighty: He re-establishes Israel who has fallen for more than 2000 years, has delivered her in the Six Day War, and makes the hardened Jews reborn. In God there is nothing too difficult. Trust Him.
4) The end of the partial hardening indicates that Christ will come soon. We should be on guard, or we will regret it when He returns.
“So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with Him”. -- 2Peter 3:14.
1. Luke used a verb “πληρωθῶσιν (are fulfilled)” in Luke, which requires an object to enact and hence “καιροὶ (times)” is used. Paul used “πλήρωμα (fulfillment)”, a noun, in Rom 11:25 and “καιροὶ (times)” can be omitted.
2. The Miraculous Restoration Of Jerusalem In 1967, One for Israel
3. Six-Day War, History
4. Israeli Defense Forces: 17 Miraculous Israeli Military Victories, Jewish Virtual Library
5. Signs of the Times, Jewish Voice
6. How Many Messianic Jews in Israel?, Caspari Center
7. Findings of New Research on the Messianic Movement in Israel, One for Israel
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