I came across Romans 11:26 the other day. This verse has me stumped. Does it really mean that every last Jew living at the time of Christ’s return is going to be saved when Israel is restored?
The part of the verse you refer to reads, “And so all Israel will be saved.” Some Bible scholars believe this verse does indeed teach that every last individual Jew of that day will be saved; I have before me a commentary that takes this position. However many other Bible scholars take the opposite position, and I believe that this latter group is correct, based on the principle that we must compare Scripture with Scripture and watch the context. In other words, we have an opposite view that the verse does not mean that every Jew living at Christ’s return will be regenerated. Why take this position?
First, if you study the context of Romans 11, you find that the apostle Paul was treating Israel as a nation rather than referring to individuals. Notice that Paul didn’t say “each and every Israelite” would be saved. Rather he said “all Israel.” When you study the major and minor prophetic books of the Old Testament, you cannot help but see reference after reference to a national deliverance and restoration of corporate Israel as a nation, and certainly not every individual in it might necessarily be a part of the believing remnant.
Second, the word “saved” needs to be seen as synonymous with the word “delivered.” When we Bible-believing Christians hear the word “saved,” we tend to think of our popular usage of it: someone hears the gospel, often in a church service, and responds; that person trusts Christ as Savior and receives salvation. We say the person is “saved.” But the word here actually indicates deliverance from, and restoration after the terrible tribulation Israel will have been suffering. Israel’s Messiah, called the Deliverer will deliver her from the Tribulation. Note the rest of verse 26, which is based on the prophet Isaiah’s words in Isaiah 59:20 and 21: “The Deliverer will come out of Zion, and He will turn away ungodliness from Jacob.”
Third, we generally do not find situations in history when everyone en masse turned to God. The norm was a remnant who received salvation, who drew near to God, who believed. Salvation is always the same, whether in Old Testament or latter times. It has to do with faith and believing, not with being of a chosen nation. In the tribulation period, it will still be true—a remnant will believe on Him.
Fourth, Scripture passages point to this view, which says that not all individuals are going to be a part of the redeemed. There is going to be a purging. Ezekiel 20 speaks of God’s purging rebels, those who do not believe on Him, from among His people at the conclusion of the Tribulation. Another example is in Zechariah 13, which distinguishes between those who are God’s and those who are not. Those who are His consist of the ones who “will call on My name” (v. 9), again seen as a remnant if you look at that verse.
So in essence, regarding Israel we have two aspects to Christ’s coming at the end of the Tribulation: His coming to Israel, fulfilling those covenants with her as a nation (“all Israel”); and also His coming to the believing remnant of Israel, the true Israel, whom we also call the elect.
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