Question: What is the Hardening?
Answer: To answer what is the hardening, you need to look at who was hardened. Pharaoh was hardened by God, and who also hardened himself. This can be done, because God warned Israel not to do it. (Psalm 95:8) The Jews were hardened according to Isaiah 6:9-10, and perhaps was fulfilled at John 12:40, and confirmed by Paul at Romans 11:25. There are two reasons why to believe that the hardening is not a fixed permanent state. Even though Paul was fully aware of the hardening, he still prayed for them (Romans 10:1), which would make no sense if he thought that it was a permanent condition. Jesus was also fully aware of the hardening, but still encouraged people, in that although they may deny Him (evidence of the hardening), to nevertheless look at the testimony of His miracles, which would then lead them back to Him. (John 10:38) Jesus states: “...though you do not believe Me, believe the works, so that you may know and understand that the Father is in Me, and I in the Father.” Therefore, if the hardening is not a permanent state, as these examples would suggest, then perhaps the hardening can be understood as being pitfalls that people are naturally drawn to, resulting from valuing the wrong things. If the Jews valued power and sovereignty, and a mighty ruling Messiah, rather than a caring and humble Messiah, then the presentation of a humble and caring Jesus would trigger their natural pitfalls. Jesus said that although they outwardly professed God, they were inwardly far from Him. (Matthew 15:8) One way in which God hardened the Jews was by having Jesus perform miracles on the Sabbath. Jesus could have performed miracles on any other day, but God specifically chose that day, in order to expose, in them, something that wasn’t right with God. The effect is that some were convicted by their conscience while others were hardened against Him.