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Paul wrote of a future time when God will turn back to Israel to call unto Himself a believing remnant of Israel.  

Rom 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 fullness of the Gentiles be come in.

Rom 11:26  And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob:

It is taught and understood that “the fullness of the Gentiles be come in” signifies the end of the Church Age.  You may have heard it said that one day the last gentile will get saved and God will send Jesus back for His Bride in an event we call The Rapture.  (Read What is the Rapture?).  Some even teach this as if God has a counter and is ticking off every salvation as it happens, and when it hits a magical number– a number that only God knows –when the last person is saved, then Jesus will come for His bride and the end times (the Seventieth Week of Daniel) will begin.

Not Likely 

Although this has been taught for a very long time, there’s a real problem with “the fullness of the gentiles” being a complete number of salvations.  I would suggest that it means something very different, and for many reasons, beginning with:

  1. Both Jews and Gentiles are the body of believers we call the Church.   And yet, Paul tells that in the Church there is neither Jew nor Gentile (Gal 3:28). Our identity is in Christ, not our national heritage.
  2. Had Paul been speaking about the Church why wouldn’t he have  written that “blindness in part is happened to Israel until the fullness of the [Church; Greek: ekklesia] be come in.”
  3. He didn’t. Paul wrote “blindness in part is happened to Israel until the fullness of the [Greek: ethnos] be come in.”
  4. Ethnos means “Gentile, heathen, nation, or people.”  So we should really think of Gentiles as meaning heathens or nations, a term the Bible uses to refer to those who are unregenerate—the lost.
  5. Furthermore, the Church, the Body of Christ, the Bride of Christ, is never called the Gentiles (plural).  Our identity is one body in Christ.  So this cannot mean a fullness of the Church (singular), with a final individual member to complete it.  The Church is one spiritual body, not individual Jews and Gentiles, with Jesus as the Head of the Body.  
  6. Gentiles might be considered a body of people, unregenerate people, from all nations. But they are individuals, not united.  And if they are like any kind of “body” (spiritually) it would be a body without a head.
  7. Finally, if the completeness of the Church were to be the fullness of the Gentiles (converts), why wouldn’t it be the fullness of the Jews and Gentiles (converts from both people groups).  Again, According to Paul, there are neither in the Church.

With this understanding, “fullness of the Gentiles” takes on a different meaning.  Therefore, we ask, what would be the fullness of the “ethnos” (unsaved people, heathens, nations)?  

Not a Number

I suggest that the fullness of the nations is not a number but rather the fullness of iniquity.  Iniquity is an act of moral uncleanness. (Read: Sin, Iniquity, and Transgression? How are they different?)

Rom 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 fullness [of the iniquity] of the Gentiles be come in.

Scriptural Support

There’s a verse in Genesis that closely parallels the Romans 11 verse.

Gen 15:16  But in the fourth generation they shall come hither again: for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full.

The fullness of the iniquity of the Amorites is a reference to God’s judgment of the iniquity of an unbelieving group of people.  This verse tells that God withheld judgment of the Amorites until their iniquity was full (complete), When the iniquity of the Amorites was full, then God sent Israel forth to take the land and enter into the promise He made to them.

Since the cross, during the Church age, the iniquity of the unregenerate has increased. The time will come when God will judge the iniquity of the Gentiles (the nations, the unregenerate) as being full, i.e. complete.  

2 Th 2:7  For the mystery of iniquity does already work: only He who now letteth [restrains] will [restrains], until He be taken out of the way.

This tells us that when believers are raptured the Holy Spirit will te “taken out of the way.”  Why? Because the Holy Spirit indwells all who belong to Christ, and when He is gone the Antichrist will not be restrained and he will rise in power.

In the Context of Romans 11

Rom 11:25  For I would not, brethren, that you should be ignorant of this mystery, lest you should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles be come in.

Once the Church is removed, the seventieth week of Daniel, also called The Tribulation, will begin (Read: What is the Seventieth Week of Daniel?). It will be a time of God pouring out His wrath in judgment of sin on the entire world.  However, this judgment is rooted in mercy. God will extend mercy to all who come to Christ in faith and trust, and He will preserver them to the end.

So Will “All Israel Be Saved?”

Rom 11:26  And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written: “The Deliverer will come out of Zion, And He will turn away ungodliness from Jacob;

“All Israel will be saved”?   Will they all be saved?  We’ll answer that question next week!

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