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THE PLEROMA, OR FULNESS OF THE
ROMANS XI. 12, 25. The works of the blessed God are wonderful ; his ways are past finding out. It is vain to foretel like him, or to be sure that we fathom his plans. The wise he takes in their own craftiness ; he reveals himself to babes. His ancient prophets diligently sought to know what time and how the things concerning Christ should be fulfilled, by themselves predicted. If they perceived, their believers did not. Confounded by the bright promises of his glory, the chosen people slew him as a pretender and a deceiver of the people; and thus fulfilled their own Scriptures, and also the measure of their sins. The Gentiles, made rich thereby in the faith of Christ, will be glorified together with Israel at the Lord's appearing; but whether we better understand the time and manner of his appearing in the clouds than the Jews did of his appearing in the flesh, may
be doubted. They looked for him; so do we. Many acknowledged him, though all forsook him: and who can stand when he appears in his glory? Who can be more trusted than Judas was; who more confident than Peter; who closer to the bosom of his Master than John? They trusted it had been he who should have redeemed Israel ; and they were right in the main thing; but they were wrong in the manner and time. Yet if any might be confident of knowing, they might; and their error is a caution to the faithful, which no follower of Christ need despise.
It would seem as if the pleroma of Israel, and also of the Gentiles, must occur at Christ's appearing. The stricter sort of natural Jews so expect for themselves, (though they do not believe that Jesus is the Christ,) and they also expect the resurrection of their holy dead at the same time. Why should not we Gentiles expect the same ?
Where is our promised fulness save in Christ the Lord? We have proved in our previous article, that the word pleroma, as applied Romans xi. 12 to ihe Jews, has reference mainly to character, and not to their civil polity and national power; has reference to their future perfection, in contrast with their past disobedience and unbelief. Reasoning from the benefit derived to the Gentiles from their depravity, the apostle inquires, What may we expect then from their pleroma or perfection? If their paraptoma or offence has been such a blessing to the nations, and their rejection for that offence has been the reconciling of the world, what will be the effect of their fulness of obedience “but life from the dead ?”
The offence of Israel is visited with blindness in part, "until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in : then all Israel shall be saved.” (Rom. xi. 25, 26.) Thus the fulness of Israel and of the Gentiles seem to be coetaneous. That of Israel is a pleroma of character ; but what is the pleroma of the Gentiles ?
“Until the pleroma of the Gentiles be come in."
We have seen by our previous article that thirteen times out of fourteen in which the word pleroma is used in the Greek Testament, it means as applied to character, perfection of character, as applied to things, perfection of quantity; and as applied
to time, perfection of time, completion or end. That pleroma which comes in” is the pleroma of the Gentiles, and the form of expres. sion, “ be come in,” is more naturally understood of time and things than of character. Fulness of character is not said to come in; but fulness of time and fulness of number may be well said to come in. And with Him by whom the hairs of our heads are all numbered, there is a perfect number,* chosen, elect, and sanctified, which are to be sealed in the earth and mustered on Mount Zion in heaven; and when this perfect number is once all gathered in, the body of the elect may be supposed to " be accomplished," (as the prayerbook of England has it,) and the pleroma of the Gentiles to “ be come in ;" the temple of the Lord is finished then, and ready to receive the headstone with shoutings of grace, grace unto it.
There is a pleroma or fulness of number and quantity requisite to complete with “lively stones" the Lord's house, and requisite to complete with due proportions in all his members the Lord's glorious body; and this pleroma agrees well with the pleroma of the Gentiles, which comes in just when all Israel_shall be saved, and the Savior appears as the Deliverer, to put away ungodliness from Jacob. Romans xi. 27.
There is likewise a fulness of the times of the Gentiles, mentioned Luke xxi. 24, until which
* This perfect number is represented in the Apocalypse by the one hundred and forty-four thousand, or twelve thousand of every tribe.
period Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles. The pleroma of a basket is a basketful; the pleroma of a rent in a coat is a patch sufficient to cover it; the pleroma of any time is the completion of that time; and if it be the times of the Gentiles, it seems to mark the end of their times. “ The fulness of the Gentiles," as applied to their time, must be understood of the end of their time, which is also the end of this dispensation, and probably of this world.*
Therefore “the fulness of the Gentiles" being come in, seems to mean the completion of their coming in, the end of their coming in; as the fulness of their times means the end of their times. So all Israel shall be saved, as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer,” &c. Israel are the seed of Abraham by faith, and not by flesh; not all the carnal Israel will be saved, but all the faithful in Christ. If he do not turn away ungodliness from Jacob only as from Hebrews born, where is the salvation of the Gentiles? The Lord is our Lord, and he loves and will save them who obey him, of whatever lineage they come, Shem, Ham, or Japheth. In the end of this dispensation, the
“ Deliverer will come out of Sion ;" likewise, he will come when the fulness of the Gentiles be come in ; and seeing that he comes
**The fulness of the Gentiles” is commonly taken for their entire and universal conversion. It probably does mean the conversion of all who are to be converted, for their fulness being come in, no more can enter; their conversion being complete, no more can be converted : but whether this conversion is universal or elect, men will yet dispute. It seems to be elect, and not universal.
only once again, the second time, (Heb. ix. 28) the two events, to wit, the fulness of the Gentiles and the end of this dispensation, are coeta
Again, there is a dispensation to follow this, called the dispensation of the fulness of times,” (Eph. i. 10,) in which all things in Christ are to be gathered together in him, whether they be in heaven or in earth. Not only the fulness of the Gentiles will be come in then, but also the pleroma, or full quality of character, of Israel, the perfectịon of Israel: and so all Israel shall be saved, and all faith shall be turned to sight, all hope shall be turned to fruition, and charity alone shall abide forever. If that dispensation is not the fifth and never-ending monarchy of the prophet Daniel, if it is not in that the saints possess the kingdom forever and ever, if it is not in that we shall judge the world, and shall even judge angels, (1 Cor. vi. 2, 3,) we are wholly at a loss when those glorious things spoken of Zion and her King are to come to pass.
Again, the pleroma of the Gentiles is coetaneous with the salvation of all Israel, and so with the pleroma or perfection of the character of all Israel, which is also coetaneous with “ life from the dead," or the resurrection of the dead, and the second coming of Christ, the Deliverer, who will then take away the sins of his chosen Jacob according to the covenant. Now observe that during all the gospel dispensation the Jews are enemies for our sake, (Rom. xi. 28,) which enmity does not cease until their fulness comes, in the end of times and of the Gentile dispensations ; and then their sins are to be taken away.