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THEOLOGY > Future > The End of the Age > Salvation of Israel  


And in this way all Israel will be saved.
Rom. 11:26

What is the future of the nation of Israel? Is there a future? Does ethnic Israel, the literal descendants of Abraham, have any hope? Will the nation even be in existence at the end-time? Is the concept of a remnant a valid concept? Tese are stimulating questions that deserve consideration, and the Scriptures speak to these issues. In Romans Paul has an entire passage devoted to these matters (11:1-36).

Paul begins by asking a question: “Has God rejected His people?” (v. 1; NKJV: “Has God cast away His people”); the answer is definite: “By no means!” (v. 1; NKJV: “Certainly not!”).  The same point is made later in the passage by a similar question with an identical answer: “Did they stumble in order that they might fall?” (v. 11; NKJV: “Have they stumbled that they should fall?”); the answer is the same as above: “By no means!” (v. 11; NKJV: “Certainly not!”).

Throughout the eleventh chapter it is obvious that Paul is discussing ethnic Israel; in support of this fact the following points can be made:

One, Paul associates himself with the literal nation, speaking of himself as “an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, a member of the tribe of Benjamin” (v. 1);

Two, he speaks of Elijah and Israel, of the fact that Israel killed the prophets of God and yet there were seven thousand that did not follow Baal (vs. 2-5);

Three, he refers to the prophecy of Isaiah concerning the nation (vs. 7-8);

Four, he speaks of David in connection with the nation (v. 9);

Five, the Gentiles are contrasted with the nation of Israel, a common theme in the history of the nation and one that is found throughout the Scriptures (vs. 11-14, 25);

Six, the indication that the exclusion of Israel as a nation is limited to a certain time period, indicated by the word “until” (v. 25);

Seven, he refers to the “forefathers” of the nation and their connection with God and His election, and the fact that the nation was beloved (v. 28);

Eight, in the larger context (Chs. 9-11), he is discussing ethnic Israel (9:1-5, 13; 10:1-3).

These points are sufficient to establish the fact that Paul is speaking of national Israel. In his other writings he does deal with spiritual Israel, but that is not true of this passage. Therefore, an interpretation predicated upon identifying “Israel” in verse twenty-six with spiritual Israel, or the entire Church, is inconsistent with the entire passage, both the immediate context (Ch. 11) and the larger context (Chs. 9-11).

And in regards to literal Israel, the above questions are lucid: Has Israel been rejected by God, and has Israel so stumbled that it has fallen, never to rise again? To both questions the answer is a resounding negative—“By no means!” or “Certainly not!” In other words Israel has a future part in the plan of God.

The question now becomes: What is the future destiny of Israel? The answer is found in the words of the verse just below the title of this article: “And in this way all Israel will be saved” (Rom. 11:26). The Jews will continue to exist as a people so that a large number from the nation will be saved at the end-time.

Consider Israel from three perspectives: one, God’s temporary rejection of Israel; two, God’s inclusion of the Gentiles as part of His people; and three, the salvation of Israel at the time of the end.

God’s temporary rejection of Israel. Israel is God’s people who He foreknew (Rom. 11:2) and elected because they were beloved (v. 28), but the nation did not obtain the salvation that it sought (v. 7). Because of their disobedience (v. 30) and unbelief in God’s provision the nation was broken off (v. 20). God did not spare the natural branches (v. 21) but displayed severity (v. 22) and afflicted the people with spiritual blindness (v. 25).

The blindness of the people, to use the wording of the NKJV, did not make its appearance in the days of Christ, but had roots that reached deep into their history. In reference to the time of Moses, Paul makes the point that “their minds were blinded” and that “until this day the same veil remains unlifted in the reading of the Old Testament” (II Cor. 3:14). He adds: “But even to this day, when Moses is read, a veil lies on their heart” (v. 15).

Both David and Isaiah spoke of Israel’s blindness, and Paul makes reference to their accounts justifying the argument that the nation’s blindness was a fact throughout its history, from the time of Moses until the days of Paul:

Let their eyes be darkened, so that they do not see.
Rom. 11:10; from Ps. 69:23

God has given them a spirit of stupor,
eyes that they should not see and ears that they should not hear,
to this very day.
Rom. 11:8; from Isa. 29:10

Note the words in Rom. 11 that are used to speak of God’s rejection of Israel: “cast away” (v. 2, 15; ESV: “rejected”); “blinded” (v. 7; ESV: “hardened”); “spirit of stupor” (v. 8); “stumble” and “fall” (v. 11); “failure” (v. 12); “broken off” (v. 19-20); “cut off” (v. 22); “blindness” (v. 25; ESV: “partial hardening”); and “enemies” (v. 28).

This emphatic rejection that is conveyed by the above words is not God’s final response to the nation—the rejection is temporary; it is for a limited period. The question is asked: “For if their being cast away is the reconciling of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead?” (v. 15). The indication is that there is an “acceptance” ahead that will be like “life from the dead.” And the statement is made: “God is able to graft them in again” (v. 23). The definitive statement is later in the chapter: “Blindness in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in” (v. 25)—the nation’s blindness is “until.”

God’s inclusion of the Gentiles as part of His people. Paul is unambiguous in relating the rejection of Israel to God’s plan for the Gentiles: “through their trespass salvation has come to the Gentiles” (v. 11), and the phrase: “if their failure means riches for the Gentiles” (v. 12). In both of these statements and in other statements throughout the passage, it is obvious that blessings (“salvation” and “riches”) accrue to the Gentiles because of the disobedience and unbelief of Israel; Paul speaks of them as “God’s kindness” to the Gentiles (v. 22).

In the revelation of their inclusion there are also warnings to the Gentiles. One, they are not to be “arrogant” (NKJV: “do not boast”) toward Israel because the Gentiles are supported by Israel and not the reverse—Israel is the root, and the Gentiles are the branches (vs. 18-19). Two, the Gentiles are not to become “proud,” but are to “fear,” because if the Gentiles reject God’s provision for them He will not spare them as He did not spare Israel (vs. 20-21). God will also “cut off” (v. 22) the Gentiles.

God also informs the Gentiles that one of the reasons that salvation has come to them is “to make Israel jealous” (v. 11). The blessings of God on the Gentiles is designed to provoke the nation to jealousy as the nation sees spiritual blessings being given by their God to the very people that throughout their history they have deemed outside and therefore not deserving of God’s blessing. As Israel sees the Gentiles enjoying a fellowship with God that has been denied the nation, righteous envy will arise in Israel, with the result that the desire of Israel will be for the same salvation and fellowship that the Gentiles enjoy.

The salvation of Israel at the time of the end. It has already been noted above that the rejection of Israel is limited and will come to an end when “the fullness of the Gentiles has come in” (v. 25). And at that time “all Israel will be saved” (v. 26). Obviously, the text does not imply that every Jewish person without exception will be saved, but rather that a great number from the nation will turn to their Messiah, probably the majority of the nation.

The Scriptures affirm in a number of ways that God will return to the nation in salvation at the end-time. Consider the following statements:

if their failure means riches for the Gentiles, how much more will their full inclusion mean (v. 12);

what will their acceptance mean but life from the dead (v. 15);

and even they, if they do not continue in their unbelief, will be grafted in, for God has power to graft them in again (v. 23);

how much more will these, the natural branches, be grafted back into their own olive tree (v. 24);

all Israel will be saved (v. 26);

as regards election, they are beloved for the sake of the fathers (v. 28).

For both Jew and Gentile salvation is of the Lord; on this point the passage is unmistakable. Repeatedly the texts attribute salvation for both groups to the work of God; it is He who rejects and it is He who saves.

I have kept for Myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal (v. 4);

there is a remnant chosen by grace (v. 5);

the elect obtained it, but the rest were hardened (v. 7);

God gave them a spirit of stupor (v. 8);

God has the power to graft them in again (v. 23);

a partial hardening has come upon Israel (v. 25; NKJV: “blindness in part has happened to Israel”);

the Deliverer will come from Zion, He will banish ungodliness from Jacob (v. 26);

this will be my covenant with them when I take away their sins (v. 27);

they are beloved for the sake of their forefathers (v. 28);

the gifts and calling of God are irrevocable (v. 29);

by the mercy shown to you they also may now receive mercy (v. 31);

For God has consigned all to disobedience, that He may have mercy on all (v. 32).

On the human level, the horizontal plane, man has the responsibility to repent and believe; but on the divine level, the vertical plane, God grants repentance and faith (see: God is Sovereign). In the Scriptures these two dimensions are not in opposition, for both are affirmed without any hint of conflict.

As with any individual, the hope of Israel, does not reside in their own aspirations and achievements but in the gracious and redemptive act of God:

And I will pour on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of grace and supplication; then they will look on Me whom they pierced. Yes, they will mourn for Him as one mourns for his only son, and grieve for Him as one grieves for a firstborn. In that day there shall be a great mourning in Jerusalem . . . in that day a fountain shall be opened for the house of David and for the inhabitants of Jerusalem, for sin and for uncleanness. It shall be in that day . . . that I will cut off the names of the idols from the land, and they shall no longer be remembered . . . They will call on My name, and I will answer them. I will say, “This is My people”; and each one will say, “The Lord is my God” (Zech. 12:10-11; 13:1-2, 9).

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