Although deeply conscious of our inability to give a full and satisfactory solution of the subject proposed, we will not withhold from our readers such views as we have. The passages proposed read thus, “And they shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led away captive into all nations: and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.” “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.”
The part of the subject more particularly to be considered is, “the fullness of the Gentiles,” &c. We presume that the two passages relate to the same things. The first is in the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and was spoken in connection with solemn predictions of the destruction of Jerusalem, and the dispersion of the Jews. The other is spoken by Paul in connection with his admonition to the Gentile church, in which he uses the figure of the true olive tree, as representing Abraham and his seed, and the wild olive as representing the Gentiles. The natural branches, which represent the natural or fleshly children of Abraham, were broken off, and Gentiles of the wild olive are grafted into the true olive tree. In Luke xxi. 24, our Lord predicted this breaking off of the natural branches, and intimates also the purpose of God in regard to the gathering in of the Gentiles. And in the same connection, verse 32, told them that that generation should not pass away until these things should be fulfilled. That is, as we understand, some that were then living of that generation should live to witness the truth of his prediction, the destruction of the temple, and of Jerusalem, and the scattering of the Jews, and also the Son of man coming in a cloud, with power and great glory; and in verse 31, When ye shall see these things come to pass, know ye that the kingdom of God is at hand. All these signs, or many of them, had been developed when Paul wrote his epistle to the Romans. On the day of Pentecost, Christ appeared in a cloud, with power and great glory; and immediately thereafter the gospel was preached unto the Gentiles, and Paul was himself especially commissioned to preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and the church at Rome was among those Gentiles who should be taken from the wild olive, and grafted into the true olive. Hence Paul was a faithful witness of the fulfillment of the Savior’s words.
As the natural branches of the true olive, or natural descendants of Abraham according to the flesh, the carnal Jews had been hitherto recognized under the old covenant dispensation, and were partakers of all the privileges of the family tree, which distinguished them nationally and ceremonially from the Gentiles, until the middle wall of partition was thrown down, their temple-worship and daily sacrifices abolished, and they, as a nation, scattered to the four winds of heaven, and intermingled with the Gentile nations of the earth. Then were they broken off from the true olive, and the Gentile converts to the christian faith were brought in. From that time, “he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh: but he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God.” - Rom. ii. 28, 29. “And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” - Gal. iii. 29. From what we have presented, it will be seen that Abraham, whom God has made the father of the faithful, in the figure, is brought to view by Paul, as the good olive tree, and the natural, fleshly children of Abraham are the natural branches of that tree, which were broken off. This is according to Rem. ix. 6-8, “Not as though the word of God hath taken none effect. For they are not all Israel which are of Israel: neither because they are the seed of Abraham, are they all children; but, In Isaac shall thy seed be called. That is, they which are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God: but the children of the promise are counted for the seed.” Thus we see that the children of the flesh, as natural branches of Abraham, are broken off, and the children of the promise are grafted in from among the Gentiles. As in the allegory, Abraham had two sons, the one by a bond maid, and the other by a free woman. He that was of the bond woman was born after the flesh, perfectly according to nature. But he that was born of the free woman, was by the special promise of God, and every way contrary to nature. But the son which was born after the flesh and according to the common laws of nature, was cast out, or broken off, because he could not be heir with the child of promise. Now, says Paul, the children of the promise are counted for the seed; consequently, they which are the children of the flesh, are not the children of God. The same apostle says to the Gentile saints in the churches of Galatia, “Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are the children of promise.” “So then brethren, we are not children of the bond woman, but of the free. - Gal. iv. 28, 31.
We will now pass to consider that part of our subject named in Luke, “Until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled”; and in Romans, “Until the fullness of the Gentiles be come in.
As the first of these expressions relates to times, and the other to seed, we will consider them separately, and in their order. We have shown that God had a people among the Gentiles which were to be brought in; which must come from the east, and from the west, and from the north, and from the south, and set down in the kingdom of God, with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and the natural children cast out; so for every purpose of God there is an appointed time for its fulfillment. When Isaac, the promised seed and heir of Abraham, was to supersede Ishmael in Abraham’s family, this is the word of promise: “At this time I will come, and Sarah shall have a son.” - Rom. ix. 9. That promise could not be fulfilled before its time. The impatience of Sarah and Abraham, no more than their efforts, could hasten the fulfillment of the promise. Neither could the time of the bringing in of the Gentiles be anticipated. The law and the prophets must continue until John; and the sceptre must remain with Judah, and the lawgiver between his feet, until Shiloh came. But when the fullness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, &c. This gathering of the Gentiles must be preceded by the coming of Christ; for it was unto him the gathering of the people should be. He should gather them with his arm, and carry them in his bosom. He should say unto “the north, Give up; and to the south, Keep not back: bring my sons from far, and my daughters from the ends of the earth; even every one that is called by my name; for I have created him for my glory.” When Christ sent out the seventy, the time for bringing in the Gentiles was at hand, but was not yet fully come; for the natural branches were not yet broken off; the middle wall of partition was not yet thrown down; the handwriting of ordinances were not yet blotted out; the enmity, even the law of commandments, which were against the Gentiles, was not yet nailed to his cross; therefore, the seventy were forbidden to go in the way of the Gentiles, but to go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And when the commission was given to the apostles to go into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature, they were instructed to tarry in Jerusalem until they were indued with power from on high. But when the day of Pentecost was fully come, that power for which they had been commanded to wait, came down from heaven upon them like a mighty rushing wind; and immediately they were heard in all the languages common on earth, preaching the gospel to every creature; and they of the nations of the earth did testify that they heard, in their mother tongue in which they were born, the wonderful works of God. Here commenced the times of the Gentiles; and these times must continue until all the children of promise among the Gentiles shall be gathered into the kingdom of God. “Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he had purposed in himself: that in the dispensation of the fullness of times, he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him: in whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will.” - Eph. i. 9-11. The times then of the Gentiles to be fulfilled, extends to the end of the world, and to the accomplishment of his purpose and grace in their complete ingathering into the kingdom of our Lord.
The fullness in the other text has reference to the people - the children of God which are ordained unto salvation among the Gentiles. The children of promise of all nations and kindreds on the earth. “For [said Peter] the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off; even as many as the Lord our God shall call.” This fullness is past the power of human computation; a company which no man can number, redeemed out of every tribe and kindred under heaven, and sealed with the seal of God. The fullness of them cannot be diminished—they must all be brought in; and the text implies that they shall all be gathered, for if but one should be left out, the fullness would not be complete. It is the will of the Father, that of all that he has given to Christ he shall lose nothing. And it is the will of Christ, that all that the Father has given him shall be with him where he is, that they may behold his glory. No less than the fullness will satisfy the Father or the Son; the fullness of him that filleth all in all; the fullness of his body, over which he presides in all things, as their Head. The fullness of his body, of course, includes all the spiritual seed, both Jews and Gentiles. That portion of them which are called from the Gentiles, were referred to by our Lord when he said, “Other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: [the Jewish fold,] them also I must bring, *** and there shall be one fold, and one Shepherd.”
The apostle shows that in this display of the sovereign goodness of God, boasting is altogether excluded. Of this he would not have the Gentile converts ignorant: that blindness, in part, has happened to Israel, till the fullness of the Gentiles be come in, lest we should be wise in our own conceits. The blindness of the Jews led them to reject the Messiah, and they could not enter into the gospel rest because of unbelief; for as none but those who are born of God can possess that faith which is the fruit of the Spirit and the gift of God, so neither can any enter into his rest without that faith. All unbelievers are in a state of blindness, and are cut off; for without faith it is impossible to please God. This blindness was manifested by the Jews when Paul addressed them in these words: “Beware, therefore, lest that come upon you, which is spoken of in the prophets; Behold, ye despisers, and wonder, and perish: for I work a work in your days, a work which ye shall in no wise believe, though a man declare it unto you.” “Then Paul and Barnabas waxed bold, and said, It was necessary that the word of God should first have been spoken to you: but seeing ye put it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles. For so hath the Lord commanded us, saying, I have set thee to be a light of the Gentiles, that thou shouldest be for salvation unto the ends of the earth.” - Acts xiii. 40, 41, 46, 47. And again, “Well spake the Holy Ghost by Elias the prophet unto our fathers, saying, Go unto this people, and say, Hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; seeing ye shall see, and not perceive: for the heart of this people is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes have they closed; lest they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them. Be it known therefore unto you, that the salvation of God is sent unto the Gentiles, and that they will hear it.” - Acts xxviii. 25-28. Thus we see that it was the purpose of God to withhold the light of the truth from the Jews, and execute on them the judgments long foretold, and in the meantime to send the gospel to the Gentiles. Therefore the Gentiles have not whereof to boast; but they have great cause to be humble. We do not stand by our wisdom, or on the ground of any creature excellency in which we excel the Jews. Only so far as we are subjects of God’s distinguishing grace are we in possession of the faith of God’s elect, and grafted in the true olive; and such of the Jews as continue not in unbelief shall also be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again. And all his chosen and redeemed people, both Jews and Gentiles, shall be finally brought in; 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.
Some have entertained the sentiment that after the Gentiles have been called by grace, and brought into the kingdom of Christ, the Jews are to be restored to their nationality, rebuild Jerusalem, re-establish the temple service, &c.; but we shall not attempt in this article to discuss the subject. We will only say, that we are unable to find anything in the Scriptures to sustain that opinion. As the old covenant dispensation has passed away and is forever abolished, all the Jews who are brought in must be brought in in the same way, under the same covenant, and with the same circumcision as the Gentiles. The gospel, and not the law, is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; unto the Jew first, and also to the Gentile.
Middletown, N. Y.
November 1, 1856.
Elder Gilbert Beebe
Editorials Volume 3
Pages 392 - 398