Romans 11:25 For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in.
The common views among dispensational Bible students are that “the fulness of the Gentiles” either refers to the completion of the Body of Christ or the “times of the Gentiles” (Lk. 21:24). While it is true that God will resume His dealings with Israel when He catches away the Body of Christ (which implies the completion of the Body), and that Israel will be saved as a nation at the second coming of Christ (which ends the times of the Gentiles), neither the completion of the Body of Christ or the times of the Gentiles are the issue in the context.
The first eight chapters of Romans form the doctrinal section concerning Justification by faith made available in Christ to all condemned sinners, both Jews and Gentiles, for there is no difference. We are not justified by the law and in Christ we are dead to the law. The last five chapters form the practical section in which the doctrine of the first section is applied to the daily walk of believers. Between the doctrinal and practical sections stands a parenthetical passage of three chapters (9-11) which forms the dispensational section in which Paul answers questions concerning God’s dealings with Israel. In light of the doctrine set forth in chapters 1-8, the question naturally arises, “Hath God cast away His people?” (11:1). In these three chapters Paul had something to say about Israel’s past, present, and future.
- Past Election (9)
- Present Rejection (10)
- Future Salvation (11)
The context in Romans 11 concerns God’s dispensational dealings with Israel and the Gentiles as groups of people. Paul was speaking to the Gentiles at large (v.13). The wild olive tree is not the Body of Christ (Rom. 11:16-24). The church in this age is a spiritual BODY in which there is neither Jew nor Gentile (Col. 3:11), not a TREE with Jewish and Gentile branches.
What do the trees and branches represent?
- The good olive tree represents Israel who is likened to various trees in scripture. The olive tree is a symbol of their spiritual privileges (Rom. 9:3-5).
- The wild olive tree represents the Gentiles as a whole. It is called a “wild” tree because it was not planted, watched over, and cared for by God.
- The branches that are broken off the good olive tree represent unbelieving Israel.
- The wild olive tree being “graffed” in represents Gentiles brought into a position to partake of God’s blessings. The salvation accomplished by Israel’s Messiah is now offered freely to all men. The scriptures (which came through Jews) have been translated and published through the Gentiles. Unsaved Jews to this day are absolutely blinded to the truth of the scripture (2 Cor. 3:14).
The purpose of this passage is to warn the Gentiles. They must not become high-minded or boast against fallen Israel (Rom. 11:25). They were cut off (God’s severity) because of unbelief. Gentiles can only stand by faith (God’s goodness). The grafting in of the Gentiles did not change the root so what do the Gentiles have to boast about when they are partaking of Israel’s blessings? What have the Gentiles done with the goodness of God? The majority have rejected the word of God that has been made available to them. The Gentiles will not always have this position of direct blessings of God without Israel. They will be broken off in unbelief and Israel as a nation will be grafted back into their own tree.
That the Gentiles would be given a place of privilege while Israel is set aside in blindness was a mystery revealed through Paul and therefore not found in the OT scriptures. Israel being blinded was not a mystery. Gentiles being saved was not a mystery. But Gentiles being saved through the blindness of Israel was a mystery because according to prophecy, the Gentiles were to be saved through Israel (e.g., Isa. 60:1-3). The main point in Romans 11:25 is that the blindness of Israel is not complete and eternal, but rather partial (some believed) and temporary (“until”). To believe the church in this present age replaced Israel is to be ignorant of this mystery and wise in your own conceits. It is also an attack on the faithfulness of God (vv.26-29).
The word “fullness” signifies that which is complete. Israel’s fullness concerns God fulfilling all that He promised them (Rom. 11:12). The “fulness of the Gentiles” concerns God completing how He deals with them in this present age: great opportunity and privilege WITHOUT Israel. When this age ends with the rapture of the Body of Christ things will revert to the way they were in times past and Israel will once again have an advantage over the Gentiles.