For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek (Romans 1: 16). How often do we quote the first part of this verse and leave out the rest? (I’ll be the first to plead guilty.)
Paul uses the phrase “to the Jew first and then the Gentile” frequently. Why? His explanation is spelled out in Romans 11: 1-36. Here are some of the key verses:
I say then, Hath God cast away his people? God forbid. For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin (verse 1).
I say then, Have they stumbled that they should fall? God Forbid: but rather through their fall salvation is come unto the Gentiles, for to provoke them to jealousy (verse 11)!
Are Gentiles believers provoking Jews to jealously or simply provoking them?
Now if the fall of them [the Jewish people] be the riches of the world, and the diminishing of them the riches of the Gentiles; how much more their fulness? For I speak to you Gentiles, inasmuch as I am the apostle of the Gentiles, I magnify mine office: If by any means I may provoke to emulation them which are my flesh, and might save some of them. For if the casting away of them be the reconciling of the world, what shall the receiving of them be, but life from the dead (verse 12-15).
When will the dead come to life? When Jesus returns to earth. And what will prompt His return? Consider Matthew 23: 39 (NASB). Speaking of Jerusalem, Jesus said, “For I tell you, you will never see Me again until you say, ‘Baruch ha-ba b’shem ADONAI. Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!'”
So the return of Christ is linked to his recognition by the nation of Israel. “For I do not want you, brethren, to be uninformed of this mystery, lest you be wise in your own estimation, that a partial hardening has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in; and thus all Israel will be saved; just as it is written, * ‘THE DELIVERER WILL COME FROM ZION, HE WILL REMOVE UNGODLINESS FROM JACOB. AND THIS IS MY COVENANT WITH THEM, WHEN I TAKE AWAY THEIR SINS” (Romans 11: 25-27, NASB. See Isaiah 59: 20 also.)