In Romans 11:26 we read about “All Israel being saved.” Many people like to point to this passage and proclaim on behalf of all the Jews in the world today and say; “See, this proves that God will save everyone who is of Jewish descent or nationality”. I have a slight issue with this, and perhaps you will join me in looking at this critically.
We need to look at a few things. Is this really what the verse says? Do the surrounding verses in the context of this verse support this idea? Does the other teaching in the book of Romans support this idea? Do the passages that Paul quoted from the Old Testament support this idea?
Before we look at these factors let’s first ponder a concept in the New Testament that may preclude this idea all together.
“Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons:” Acts 10:34
In this passage we have Peter standing in the house of Cornelius (A Roman centurion from an Italian cohort; a gentile), and Peter is telling the assembled crowd of his Jewish entourage that accompanied him and the gentile household of Cornelius that God is not a “Respecter of persons”. What does he mean? Peter is explaining to the crowd that salvation is open to all. All kindred, tongues, tribes and nations (see Revelation 5:9).
He goes on to add t his statement:
“But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him.” Acts 10:35
So Peter elaborates and confirms that salvation is now open to ALL who fear God. Salvation is not any longer a monopoly reserved to one nation or people. Peter is opening the gospel to go out to the whole world. My point in highlighting this is that from this point on in the scripture you will not find a single verse of scripture that teaches that God had a plan to change this all inclusive plan and revert to an exclusive salvation where only one nation would be eligible. So God is NOT going to again deal with people based on race, ethnicity, nationality, or genealogical descent.
This criteria of inclusiveness was announced as early as John the Baptist as he was preparing the way for the Lord.
“He came unto his own, and his own received him not. But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” John 1:11-13
Notice, salvation is not based on being “born of blood, the will of the flesh or the will of man.” No longer can the Jews claim Abraham as their father and lay hold of salvation based on that. The bible is very clear; God does not save based on genetics, genealogy, gender or geographic origin. So why would we imply onto the text in Romans 11:26 that he all of a sudden is now going to save an entire race or nation of people in one fell swoop when the bible is clear elsewhere that this is not a possibility. So that means that the passage in Romans 11:26 has to have some other meaning. It cannot mean that God is going to save ALL of Israel without exception, all at once.
Let us first quote the text word for word as it is written and not paraphrase as is often the case with people who try to proof text this to a Israel wide salvation. I am quoting from the English Standard Version (ESV). The ESV claims for itself in its Preface, that it “is an “essentially literal” translation that seeks as far as possible to capture the precise wording of the original text and the personal style of each bible writer.” (ESV page, vii). I believe that in this verse they have succeeded where other translations have not.
“And in this way all Israel will be saved, as it is written, “The Deliverer will come from Zion, he will banish ungodliness from Jacob”;” Romans 11:26
In this verse the major difference with other translations is in the very first phrase; “And in this way…” Most other versions translate this as; “And so all Israel will be saved…”.
The Greek text is very clear. The word translated “So” is the Greek word “outo”, Strongs # 3779, and it literally means, “In this way” or “In this manner”. So Paul is elaborating on the manner in which “All” Israel shall be saved. He is not saying that it is a foregone conclusion that “All” Israel will be saved.
Next we need to define who Paul is talking about when he is speaking about “Israel”. Starting early in the book of Romans Paul clearly defines for us who is a Jew, who is of Israel and we need to keep the apostles definition in mind when we read the text later in the book.
For 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.
For the promise, that he should be the heir of the world, was not to Abraham, or to his seed, through the law, but through the righteousness of faith. Romans 4:13
“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.” Romans 1:16
In this verse Paul puts the Jew and the gentile on an equal footing when it pertains to the gospel.
“There will be tribulation and distress for every soul of man who does evil, of the Jew first and also of the Greek, but glory and honor and peace to everyone who does good, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For there is no partiality with God.” Romans 2:9–11
Here in regards to judgment (tribulation) and glory (salvation) God is not partial. He is declaring again that Jew and gentile are on an equal footing, but he will deal with the Jew first before he gets to the Gentile. But it is a guarantee that for the long term and far off into the future the policy of the divine is equality. The reason for dealing with the Jew first is because this is what was prophesied in the Old Testament. God always intended to restore a remnant of Israel and combine them with those of the nations (gentiles).
Paul quotes both Isaiah and Hosea to justify this in Romans 9:24-29.
“Even us, whom he hath called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles? As he saith also in Hosea, I will call them my people, which were not my people; and her beloved, which was not beloved. And it shall come to pass, that in the place where it was said unto them, Ye are not my people; there shall they be called the children of the living God. Isaiah also crieth concerning Israel, Though the number of the children of Israel be as the sand of the sea, a remnant shall be saved: For he will finish the work, and cut it short in righteousness: because a short work will the Lord make upon the earth And as Isaiah said before, Except the Lord of Sabaoth had left us a seed, we had been as Sodom, and been made like unto Gomorrha.” Romans 9:24-29. (As a side note, see my article; “Sodom and Gomorrah A Type”, http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/8162713/sodom_and_gomorrah_a_type.html?cat=37).
Here Paul is declaring that the purpose of God has always been to combine both Jew and gentile into one body, and he makes it abundantly clear that it will not be all Israel, but “A remnant will be saved”. This alone would contradict the “All Israel will be saved” concept. So already we have falsified that notion with the scripture. But let’s continue to have Paul define who Israel is.
“For 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.” Romans 2:28-29
So here we see that Paul has defined a Jew as one who has had an inward change of the heart. Being a Jew (according to Paul) is not dependent on any outward criteria.
What about being a descendent of Abraham? Does that qualify you as a true child of God or a Jew or an Israelite?
“For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” Galatians 3:26-29
What about having the law?
“For the promise, that he should be the heir of the world, was not to Abraham, or to his seed, through the law, but through the righteousness of faith. For if they which are of the law be heirs, faith is made void, and the promise made of none effect: Because the law worketh wrath: for where no law is, there is no transgression.” Romans 4:13-15
We see here that having the law did not accomplish the purpose of God. Even Abraham was not given promises based on law, but based on faith. So we see that the Jew cannot claim Abraham as their father in reference to this definition of who God’s people are. It is only and solely through “Faith”.
So Paul, who is Israel?
“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.” Romans 9:6-8
Here again, Paul is very clear. What many recognize as Israel based on the flesh or outward nationality, has nothing to do with actually being an Israelite.
“Even us, whom he hath called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles?” Romans 9:24
So here Paul identifies them as those who are called, BOTH Jew and gentile.
“For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him.” Romans 10:12.
So we see then that “All Israel” would have to fit this definition. All of the elect, all of the chosen, all those who are of “Faith”, all of the people who are coming to Jesus Christ without reference to lineage, race, descent etc…those are the Israel that Paul is referring to in the “All Israel shall be saved”. And that is very true…all who come to faith in Christ no matter your background shall be saved (see Romans 10:9-10).
Now we come to Paul’s usage of the Old Testament passages.
“Yet the number of the children of Israel shall be as the sand of the sea, which cannot be measured nor numbered; and it shall come to pass, that in the place where it was said unto them, Ye are not my people, there it shall be said unto them, Ye are the sons of the living God.” Hosea 1:10
“And I will sow her unto me in the earth; and I will have mercy upon her that had not obtained mercy; and I will say to them which were not my people, Thou art my people; and they shall say, Thou art my God.” Hosea 2:23
Paul quotes these two passages from Hosea in Romans 9:25-26, and his point here is that God is promising there would come a time when he declared to the majority of Israel (note there would always be a remnant-see Romans 9:27) that “YE ARE NOT MY PEOPLE”. To physical national Israel there is a breaking away, but there is also a grafting in. In Hosea 2:23 he promises to those who “WERE NOT MY PEOPLE,” that is, those who are gentiles, they shall be his people and he shall be their God. This is very much in keeping with the idea that God is done dealing with national Israel and he is now in the time frame of saving a remnant of national Israel and combining them with a multitude of gentiles. This was happening in Pauls day, not ours. Paul is declaring the fulfillment of these passages in the first century salvation of Israel.
Next Paul quotes from Isaiah 59:20 and following:
“The Deliverer will come from Zion. he will banish ungodliness from Jacob, and this will be my covenant with THEM when I take away THEIR sins.”
First of all Paul is commenting on THE WAY in which all Israel will be saved…”All Israel was defined by Paul earlier.
So Paul went to great lengths to demonstrate that “ALL ISRAEL” is not the people who are descended from Abraham, or those under the law…It is defined as those who are of faith…the elect,….the remnant. Those are all terms that Paul used to describe them…and HE ALWAYS included the Gentiles…
So we can see from Paul’s own words that “All Israel” were those (both Jews and gentiles) who were trusting Christ by faith.
But why then does he quote Isaiah 59:20 and following?
For that we need to read Isaiah 59:21 and its context.
“And the Redeemer shall come to Zion, and unto them that turn from transgression in Jacob, saith the LORD. As for me, this is my covenant with them, saith the LORD; My spirit that is upon thee, and my words which I have put in thy mouth, shall not depart out of thy mouth, nor out of the mouth of thy seed, nor out of the mouth of thy seed’s seed, saith the LORD, from henceforth and forever.” Isaiah 59:20-21
In verse 20 he declares the redeemer will come out of Zion…etc. This is the part quoted in Romans 11, and this came to pass when Christ came.
Then in verse 21 he restates the promise of the New Covenant, which we are now in the midst of. So it is the coming of the NEW COVENANT which is “THE WAY” of the manner in which All Israel will be saved. And who is included in the NEW COVENANT? Revelation 9:5 says people from every kindred tongue tribe and nation…Not just national Israel.
Then continuing on in the context of Isaiah, we come to chapter 60. (Please note: the chapter divisions are manmade). The beginning of 60 is the same context as the end of 59.
“Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the LORD is risen upon thee. For, behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people: but the LORD shall arise upon thee, and his glory shall be seen upon thee. And the Gentiles shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising.” Isaiah 60:1-3
When you get to verse three you will notice that the gentiles are specifically included in the participation of the deliverer coming from Zion and the light arising and shining from the Lord. This is again “the way” in which all Israel will be saved.
So here is why Paul quoted Isaiah in order to show HOW all Israel would be saved. They would be saved by the institution of the New Covenant and the inclusion of the Gentiles. The ONLY way in which all Israel will be saved is by way of a remnant of national Israel (not the entire number) and the addition and inclusion of the gentiles. This is clearly what Paul intended by his “All Israel will be saved”, comment.
There is not foundation to believe that all of national Israel without exception will be saved in one fell swoop. This idea is just not found in the bible anywhere.