No one can argue that the Scriptures contain teachings that are simple to understand, but also teachings hat are more challenging to grasp. That God loves you, no matter who you are, is easily understood for it is simply stated and repeatedly confirmed. That not everyone will be saved, or that being good isn’t good enough, are more challenging concepts. As such, they are also more easily misunderstood and incorrectly taught. What the Scriptures teach concerning Israel is often misun-derstood.
By inspiration, Paul wrote, “and so all Israel will be saved; just as it is written, ‘The Deliverer will come from Zion, He will remove ungodliness from Jacob’” (Romans 11:26). Many have taken the statement: “and so all Israel will be saved” to mean that in the end, all of that nation will be saved. Or, that in the end, the final generation or generations of the nation state of Israel will be saved. What does the Scripture teach on this issue?
It does not teach us that eventually a generation of Israel will arise who are categorically guaranteed salvation by vir- tue of heritage. Men are not saved, neither are they condemned, on the basis of birth. Ezekiel 18 is the treatise for salvation and punishment being meted out to individuals based on individual character. The New Testament never indicates that an entire race will be saved or condemned. Instead, the language is just as personal as is the case in Ezekiel 18. Notice how often we read statements in the New Testament like “…If any man…,” “…the one…,” “… whoever…,” “…he who does…,” and “…he who will…”
We know that the word of God does not contradict itself. Therefore what Peter affirmed to Cornelius (Acts 10:34) and what Paul affirmed to the church at Rome (Rm. 2:11), that God does not show partiality cannot be set aside so that with one race of people, it can be said, “so all will be saved.” If God foreordained a specific generation of one race to be saved so that they are predestined to salvation regardless of personal character, then what is said about God not show- ing partiality cannot be taken seriously.
Misunderstanding “…so all Israel will be saved” is usually a product of misunderstanding the role Israel played in God’s scheme of redemption. Every day millions of listeners are urged to pray for the nation of Israel and to financially support its government and peo-
ples because the Lord will one day return to Jerusalem and reign over an earthly
kingdom. They are told that before that happens all the Jews throughout the world
will become believers and return to Zion.
That is not the meaning of Paul’s message to the church at Rome and it is not the reason for his statement, “…so all Israel will be saved.” The Bible does not prophesy that a future generation of Jews will return to Palestine to repos- sess the land or that the land promises of the Old Testa- ment will finally and fully be realized just before the Lord returns. Virtually all of those land promises were made be- fore David’s reign and long before Babylonian captivity and the subsequent release that happened seventy years later. Statements indicating that those promises had been fulfilled and realized are clear (Josh. 21:43-45; 1 Kings 4:20,21).
To understand the meaning of Paul’s statement is not diffi- cult if we simply study it in its context. Jews and Gentiles have equal opportunity to salvation. The nation of Israel did play an important role in the scheme of Redemption. Jews were not abandoned by God when Jesus shed His blood and purchased His church. They had the gospel preached to them years before it was preached to the Gentiles. Every one of them who obeyed the gospel enjoyed the blessing of salvation and a relationship with God, but so also did the Gentiles who obeyed. Paul illustrated the community of the saved as being an olive tree with branches that were: (a.) pruned if not productive, (b.) or by obedience were naturally productive or, (c.) with branches that were grafted in. In this latter category, both Gentiles who obeyed and even Jews who once rejected and then later accepted Christ are the grafted branches. Paul makes the case, not only in this let- ter but in the Galatian letter also, that spiritual Israel is whom he refers to when he speaks of the redeemed. There- fore all men, Jew or Gentile, who are receptive and obedient, make up the spiritual house of Israel. The promise then is not biased in any way. It is a glorious statement of assur- ance: If you do His will, you will be saved! God will be faith- ful to His promises. The only question for us is this: Will we be faithful to Him?