“The Holy Spirit spoke rightly through Isaiah the prophet to our fathers, saying, ‘Go to this people and say: Hearing you will hear, and shall not understand; And seeing you will see, and not perceive; For the hearts of this people have grown dull. Their ears are hard of hearing, And their eyes they have closed, Lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears, Lest they should understand with their hearts and turn, So that I should heal them.’ Therefore let it be known to you that the salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles, and they will hear it!” (Acts 28:25-28)
With these words the apostle Paul pronounced blindness upon the nation of Israel for the last time in the book of Acts. This is the third such pronouncement he made throughout his ministry in the book of Acts, and being the last, it is the most significant.
The quotation from the book of Isaiah, chapter 6, was God’s prophecy regarding the judicial, spiritual blinding of His chosen nation, Israel. This passage was quoted by the Lord Jesus during His ministry, as the people of Israel rejected Him, their Messiah and King (Matt. 13:14-15; John 12:40-41). We find it quoted here by the apostle Paul, after the people of Israel had completely rejected the offer of the kingdom through the ministry of the Holy Spirit.
Having rejected God and His plan and purpose for them, the nation Israel was at this time set aside. Israel’s long awaited kingdom and the blessings it would bring was to be postponed. When God set them aside, it did not mean that they would never experience their promised kingdom on earth, for the Scriptures plainly teach that one day they will. What God has promised, He will do! We read in Romans 11:25,
“For I do not desire, brethren, that you should be ignorant of this mystery, lest you should be wise in you own opinion, that blindness in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in.”
The blindness upon Israel was only “in part.” In the context of this verse, the expression “in part” means that it was only temporary. It would last “until” the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. Paul goes on to say in Romans 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; For this is My covenant with them, when I take away their sins.”
With the setting aside of Israel and the postponement of God’s kingdom program for them, many changes occurred. The apostle Paul, who had been called by God to be the apostle to the Gentiles and to receive a special revelation from God concerning a new plan and purpose for them, began to write a number of letters from his prison house in Rome. These letters, commonly referred to as the prison epistles, fully revealed the blessed truth which Paul referred to as “the mystery” (Eph. 3:1-9). Prior to this time, Paul had made reference to some portions of the mystery (Rom. 12:4-5; I Cor. 2:6-8; I Cor. 12:12-13; etc.), but he had not fully revealed it. It is possible that up until this time the apostle Paul himself did not fully know all of the truth of the mystery, but may have received the rest of it while in prison in Rome. Acts 26:16 seems to indicate that God revealed truth to Paul progressively, not all at once.
God revealed to Paul that He was no longer dealing with Israel as a nation. All saved people would be added to a body of believers called the church, the body of Christ (Col. 2:24) in which there is no distinction made between Jew and Gentile (Col. 3:11).
With Israel set aside and the truth of the mystery now being fully revealed, the need for sign gifts, such as healing, tongues, and prophecy, ceased to exist. Therefore, we see their use gradually fade away until it ceased all together (I Cor. 13:8-11).