The Redeemer Shall Come Out of Zion- #3
MORE ON THE BLINDNESS OF ISRAEL
Israel has not obtained what it seeks; but the elect have obtained it, and the rest were blinded. (Romans 11:7)
Let their table become a snare and a trap, A stumbling block and a recompense to them. Let their eyes be darkened, so that they do not see, And bow down their back always (11:9- Psalms 69).
Blindness in Part Has Happened to Israel until the Fullness of the Gentiles Has Come in and So All Israel Will Be Saved, as it Is Written (Romans 11:25)
In Romans 11, it is clear that Paul is focused on the tragedy of Israel’s then current blindness. He mentions it no less than three times in chapter 11. He believed that her blindness was not only a part of her history, but what was happening in his day was foretold by the ancient prophets.
One thing is for certain, and that is that Paul employs the motif of Israel’s blindness, her hardened heart, in his discussion of “Israel.” He echoes Deuteronomy 29:4f; Isaiah 29:10, and of course Psalms 69. In each of these passages Israel’s blindness either did, or was predicted to be, the basis of God’s judgment on Israel. In addition, in Acts 28:26, the apostle quotes from Isaiah 6:9f and its description of Israel’s blindness in the prophet’s day to warn the Jewish leaders in Rome to not not repeat that blindness and reject the Gospel of the kingdom that he preached to them, lest the judgment like that in Isaiah come on them.
We cannot forget that in Matthew 13 Jesus also cited Isaiah 6:9f to warn his audience against blinding themselves against him and his message lest judgment come on them.
So, Paul’s doctrine of the blindness of Israel draws from OT passages where Israel’s blindness would result in her imminent judgment (when she would fill the measure of her sin, Ps. 69:27). This means that the blindness of Israel in Romans 11:25 cannot be extrapolated over a period of centuries, because the prophecies that he cites are inextricably tied to impending judgment on Israel! That was true whether the judgment was in the eighth century BC (Isaiah 6:9f), or in the last days prophecies of Psalms 69.
N. T. Wright comments on Paul’s use of the blindness of Israel:
Much as we might like to hope for a sudden universal unhardening, this is simply not how the notion of ‘hardening’ itself functions. As we saw, the ‘hard and impenitent heart’ of 2. 4-5 was what came about when the ‘kindness’ of God, meant to lead to repentance, was refused, so that the ‘hardening’ was the prelude, not to a sudden mercy despite the lack of repentance, but to judgment” (2013, 1237). He adds: “The Until’ clause (‘until the fulness of the nations comes in’) does indeed provide a temporal marker, but it is not a marker which of itself can tell us what happens to the ‘hardened’ part of Israel once that time has been reached (N. T. Wright, Paul and the Faithfulness of God, (Minneapolis, Fortress, Vol. III & IV, 2013), 1237).
Wright is correct. The “hardening until” aspect of Romans 11 is commonly overlooked or interpreted to mean that Israel’s blindness continues to this day and continues until the Parousia. It is at that time, we are told, that Israel’s blindness will be removed and she is converted. But historically, Israel was “blind” until her blindness resulted in her judgment. The fact is that in Romans 10-11, Paul speaks at length of Israel’s blindness, citing OT prophecies that called for the Lord to judge Israel for her blindness (Psalms 69). That almost certainly means that Paul was anticipating the imminent judgment of Israel in the first century. Upon what basis would one exclude the underlying portent of judgment from Paul’s three fold mention of Israel’s blindness, understanding that historically, Israel’s blindness had always brought judgment?
So, the salvation of Israel at the coming of the Redeemer (Romans 11:26-27) would occur at the coming of the Lord in judgment of Israel, due to her blindness which led her to reject the Messiah, and to persecute those who accepted him.
If one admits to the imminence of judgment inherent in the blindness motif, then does that not demand that her salvation, the salvation of the remnant at the coming of the Lord in 11:26-27 – was imminent? To deny the element of imminent judgment contained in the motif of Israel’s blindness means that one has to prove that Romans 11 is a “one off,” stand alone prophecy, that ignores that historical motif of blindness and imminent judgment. Yet, Paul is undeniably drawing from historical and prophetic contexts in which imminent judgment as a result of blindness is paramount.
So, what we find is that while Paul assuredly anticipated the coming salvation of “all Israel” (i.e the righteous remnant) at the coming of the Lord, there are two underlying but powerful indications that the time of salvation would likewise be the time of judgment.
It is commonly argued that the time of salvation and the time of judgment are two distinct times. Dispensationalists often make this argument. For instance, Thomas Ice says that a fatal flaw of the preterist view of prophecy is, “The confusion of judgment and salvation in relation to the nation of Israel. Preterism sees only judgment toward Israel that speak of tribulation”(Thomas Ice, Prophecy Watch, (Eugene, Ore, Harvest House, 1998), 170).
This is a false temporal dichotomy. As I demonstrate in my Elijah Has Come: A Solution for Romans 11:25-27, almost invariably in the OT, the time of salvation is the time of the judgment. While some texts may focus on one aspect or another, that does not man that the two tenets can be divorced from each other temporally.
When we join together the idea of the redeemer, whose task it was to avenge the shed blood, and the concept of the blindness of Israel, these two tenets are virtually probative in establishing that in Romans 11 :25-27 Paul was not looking to the distant future to a conversion of national Israel at the parousia of Christ. While he assuredly did anticipate was the consummation of Israel’s soteriological, covenant history. He knew that only “some” – the remnant – would be saved. He knew that the body of the nation would perish in the coming judgment foretold by Psalms 69 and Isaiah 59 (not to mention Isaiah 27 which we have not developed). He also knew that the consummation of that history was not to be a long drawn out, two millennial + long time:
For He will finish the work and cut it short in righteousness, Because the Lord will make a short work upon the earth (Romans 9:28).
Thus, when we consider and honor these contextual facts they falsify both the Dispensational view of a future restoration of Israel, and they negate at the same time, the Postmillennial creedal view of a future restoration of Israel. Romans 11:25-27 was fulfilled in AD 70.
Stay tuned for more! In the meantime, be sure to get a copy of my book, Elijah Has Come: A Solution for Romans 11:25-27 in which I demonstrate the incredible eschatological significance of John the Immerser.