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Romans 11:26a (ESV) states:

“And in this way all Israel will be saved...”

Many take this to mean that someday the nation of Israel (meaning either, all the physical descendants of Jacob or all the elect within ethnic Israel) is destined to be saved. Others feel that the expression “all Israel” refers, not to “Israel after the flesh” (1 Corinthians 10:18) but to the Church as “the Israel of God” (Galatians 6:16) composed of Jews and Gentiles alike.

Other views appear to fall somewhere between those two positions.

Is there anything in the text to support one view above another (e.g. is the expression “all Israel” referring to a physical or spiritual nation)?

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    The text in Romans 11 repeatedly distinguishes between 'Israel' and 'the gentiles', drawing contrasts between the two, so the latter interpretation (that Israel is here a 'spiritual nation') seems doubtful. – user2910 Aug 8 '17 at 16:55
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    Mark - I agree that it may appear doubtful to some, on a cursory reading of the text, however, the passage is not only concerned with the state (present and future) of ethnic Israelites, but also includes the fact that Gentiles are being graften into the Israelite tree - hence the question legitimately arises: what it meant by the expression "all Israel" in the context of the argument? – Richard Aug 8 '17 at 18:02
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Is there anything in the text to support one view above another (e.g. is the expression “all Israel” referring to a physical or spiritual nation)?

  • Paul seems to preclude the idea that all of the nation of Israel is part of the Israel of God:

Berean Study Bible Romans 9:6It is not as though God’s word has failed. For not all who are descended from Israel are Israel.

So clearly not all who are Israeli are true Jews:

BSB Romans 2: 27The one who is physically uncircumcised yet keeps the Law will condemn you who, even though you have the written code and circumcision, are a lawbreaker. 28A man is not a Jew [simply] because he is one outwardly, nor is circumcision only outward and physical.

  • it is also unreasonable to think that "all Israel" refers to gentile believers only or to Jews + gentiles because Israel is reckoned specifically through Jakob aka Israel.

  • so that leaves "the Israel of God" who are the faithful Jews.

Bifurcated Olive Tree

NOTE:

People often mistakenly imagine that Paul taught that a gentile who's conscience leads them to live uprightly becomes a Jew. That's not the point he is making. Instead he's saying that a Jew that doesn't live uprightly isn't a real Jew.

Another error people make is to imagine that the branches that were broken off in Romans 9-11 were broken off of Israel and the gentiles were grafted in their place. But what Paul is actually saying is that the disobedient Jews were broken off of Abraham and the faithful gentiles are grafted into Abraham. Big difference:

NIV Romans 4: 9Is this blessedness only for the circumcised, or also for the uncircumcised? We have been saying that Abraham’s faith was credited to him as righteousness. 10Under what circumstances was it credited? Was it after he was circumcised, or before? It was not after, but before! 11And he received circumcision as a sign, a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised. So then, he is the father of all who believe but have not been circumcised, in order that righteousness might be credited to them. 12And he is then also the father of the circumcised who not only are circumcised but who also follow in the footsteps of the faith that our father Abraham had before he was circumcised.

The Jews are natural branches of Abraham in that they have a physical connection to Abraham by birth while those who follow in the steps of Abraham's faith descend from Abraham's faith. Imagine a tree that has two boughs. On the one bough are the natural branches and on the other are the gentile branches. The natural branches are the descendants of Abraham through Isaac and Jakob while the gentile branches are descendants of Abraham in like faith. This branching occurred in the initial pronouncement to Abraham:

BSB Genesis 15: 17indeed I will greatly bless you, and I will greatly multiply your [NATURAL] seed as the stars of the heavens and as the sand which is on the seashore; and your seed shall possess the gate of their enemies. 18"In your seed [Jesus] all the nations [GENTILES] of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice."

So Jesus is the righteous bough through which the gentiles descend from Abraham, through the Christ while the Jews are the natural descendants of Abraham:

BSB Galatians 3: 7Understand, then, that those who have faith are the sons of Abraham. 8The Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and foretold the gospel to Abraham: “All nations [gentiles] will be blessed through you.” 9So those who have faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith

So the believing gentiles are grafted into Christ and thus into the Abrahamic covenant through a non-Jewish path. This is great because the non-Jewish believers re not subject to circumcision or the Sinai covenant because they are not Jews and not part of Israel.

UPDATE:

Further evidence that "all Israel" refers to the "remnant" of Israel:

NIV Micah 2: 12“I will surely gather all of you, Jacob; I will surely bring together the remnant of Israel. I will bring them together like sheep in a pen, like a flock in its pasture; the place will throng with people. 13The One who breaks open the way will go up before them; they will break through the gate and go out. Their King will pass through before them, the Lord at their head.”

  • WoundedEgo - you state: “Israel is reckoned specifically through Jakob aka Israel” this is true – however, Israel always included those gentile converts who, although not physical descendants of Jacob, were to be treated as “…native-born among the children of Israel” and were duly assigned “…an inheritance with you among the tribes” (Ezekiel 47:22-23). With regard to Paul’s use of the olive tree analogy, he does not say that the branches “broken off” were “broken off of Abraham” as you suggest. The clear reference is to Jeremiah 11:16, where the olive tree is identified as Israel. – Richard Aug 14 '17 at 7:23
  • Gentiles that joined national Israel became subject to the same laws as the Jews just as those who move to France are under the jurisdiction of the laws of France. They have the same privileges and responsibilities. But joining Israel did not make them partakers of the Abrahamic covenant which is based on faith and is independent of circumcision and the law. – Ruminator Aug 14 '17 at 12:51
  • The olive tree is the Abrahamic covenant. It is the "thin branches", not the boughs (main branches) that are cut off from the natural bough and the gentiles are grafted into the singular seed, the faith bough. God did not burn up the faithful, only the unfaithful. – Ruminator Aug 14 '17 at 13:07
  • WoundedEgo - people who move to France are NOT regarded as "native-born" - as per the Ezekiel quote above. Also, did you have a scripture reference for your 'olive tree is the Abrahamic covenant' statement? Both of these statements otherwise appear forced. – Richard Aug 14 '17 at 14:11
  • Ezekiel 47 clearly refers to the children born to aliens living in Israel and is not the relevant passage. See the section of Romans 4 I cite in my answer for a relevant passage. As to Abrahamic covenant, it is actually made with Jesus and those in Christ benefit from it: Gal 3:7 English Revised Version Know therefore that they which be of faith, the same are sons of Abraham. – Ruminator Aug 14 '17 at 15:23
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To my mind, Romans 9:6-8 leaves no doubt that here Paul is referring to "the Israel of God" (Galatians 6:16) and not Israel after the flesh, which is a mixed bag:

[...] "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."

Since those three terms appearing in Romans 9:6-8 to describe God's elect ("children of God, Israel of God, Israel") are all used synonymously by Paul in a single passage; and since Paul also makes it plain in the same passage that Israel consists of both those Jews who are of the holy seed of Isaac (whether natural born, or Gentiles grafted in by the Spirit of adoption) and those natural born Jews of whom Jesus said in John 8:44, "ye are of your father the devil" (who are therefore not genuinely Jewish, as far as Jesus is concerned), it seems reasonable to me to conclude that "all Israel shall be saved" refers to the election alone. Otherwise, God would have to resurrect and conduct forced conversions of the many unbelieving Jews he has already rejected over the centuries, regardless of their unbelief and rejection of Christ, if genealogy really plays a role in determining salvation.

Remember, Jesus also hammered away at this point in his letters to the Smyrnians and Philadelphians. He said "I know the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews, and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan" (Revelation 2:9), and he called natural-born, unbelieving Jews "them of the synagogue of Satan, which say they are Jews, and are not, but do lie," (Revelation 3:9) because as we know, circumcision and true Jewishness are no longer a matter of genealogy or conformity to the Law.

The natural branches, once broken off because of their unbelief, can no longer claim membership in the commonwealth of Israel. Conversely, Gentiles grafted into the vine have become bona fide Jews in the sight of God, adopted into the twelve tribes of Israel as indicated by James in his general epistle (i.e. the book of James is addressed exclusively to members of the twelve tribes, making it very clear to Christians that there is no separate "Israel of God" for Gentile converts, seeing that Christ by his blood has "broken down the middle wall of partition between us [Jews and Gentiles]...for to make in himself of twain one new man," Ephesians 2:13-15).


Note: all Scripture quotations are KJV.

  • The "Israel of God" is a subset of Israel, not an amalgam of Israel and believing gentiles. Believers are baptized into Christ, not into Jacob or Moses. – Ruminator Aug 21 '17 at 12:19
  • @Ruminator—That's nonsensical. Christ is Israel, and all those “in Christ” are the Israel of God, whether Jew or Gentile. Simple as that. Not all those who are of Israel (the patriarch, i.e. Jacob) are Israel (the Israel of God). (Rom. 9:6) – Der Übermensch Nov 30 '18 at 4:32
  • @DerÜbermensch If you say so. But can you demonstrate it? – Ruminator Nov 30 '18 at 9:09
  • @Ruminator—I’ll demonstrate mine if you demonstrate yours. – Der Übermensch Nov 30 '18 at 17:11
  • Why might I have to demonstrate that Israel is Israel? Or even Israeli? Israel was the shadow of the corporate body of Christ, not (to my mind) another Israel. I could be wrong. I once got lost walking home from the grocery store a few blocks away! But there is no "second Israel" language in the scriptures that I'm aware of (as there is for a second Adam). – Ruminator Nov 30 '18 at 17:52
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Today, all of those who are in Christ are now Israel.

In the OT "all Israel" were all of the children of Israel, all of the congregation of Israel, or all of the tribes of Israel, or all the house of Israel. Also synonymous with the seed of Jacob, or all the seed of Israel, or the seed of Isaac, or the seed of Abraham. Some examples are:

Ex. 12:47,

"They saw not one another, neither rose any from his place for three days: but all the children of Israel had light in their dwellings."

Num. 14:22,

"And all the children of Israel murmured against Moses and against Aaron: and the whole congregation said unto them, Would God that we had died in the land of Egypt! or would God we had died in this wilderness!"

Deu. 1:1,

"These be the words which Moses spake unto all Israel on this side Jordan in the wilderness,...."

Psa. 22:23 -

"Ye that fear the Lord, praise him; all ye the seed of Jacob, glorify him; and fear him, all ye the seed of Israel."

1 Chron. 16:13,

"O ye seed of Israel his servant, ye children of Jacob, his chosen ones."

Isa. 45:19,

"I have not spoken in secret, in a dark place of the earth: I said not unto the seed of Jacob, Seek ye me in vain: I the Lord speak righteousness, I declare things that are right."

Isa. 45:25 -

" In the LORD shall all the seed of Israel be justified, and shall glory."

Ezek. 3:7,

"But the house of Israel will not hearken unto thee; for they will not hearken unto me: for all the house of Israel are impudent and hardhearted."

Under the old covenant they were the physical blood line and any other who joined with them.

Ezra 6:21,

"And the children of Israel, which were come again out of captivity, and all such as had separated themselves unto them from the filthiness of the heathen of the land, to seek the Lord God of Israel, did eat,"

But, under the new covenant there was a change.

Gal. 3:24-29,

"24 Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. 25 But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster.

26 For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.

27 For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.

28 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.

29 And if ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise." (KJV)

Mat. 3:9,

“And think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham. (KJV)

John was telling the Pharisees and Sadducees, the sects of the Judeans (Jews), that their fleshly lineage to Abraham, their genealogy was not the deciding factor in whether they were worthy. Then something else was needed to be considered worthy.

Matt. 3:8,

“Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance:”

If you are going to be worthy of the inheritance, to be considered as children of God, of the house of Israel, then you have to be obedient and faithful under the gospel of Christ.

Rom. 4:8-13,

“Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin.

9 Cometh this blessedness then upon the circumcision only, or upon the uncircumcision also? for we say that faith was reckoned to Abraham for righteousness.

10 How was it then reckoned? when he was in circumcision, or in uncircumcision? Not in circumcision, but in uncircumcision.

11 And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had yet being uncircumcised: that he might be the father of all them that believe, though they be not circumcised; that righteousness might be imputed unto them also:

12 And the father of circumcision to them who are not of the circumcision only, but who also walk in the steps of that faith of our father Abraham, which he had being yet uncircumcised.

13 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.“

It is the faithful that are the House of Israel. The circumcised Jews thought they were so special that all the rest of mankind was cursed, and not to be considered equal to them. The message that John and Christ brought in the fullness of time during the first century A.D. was that the faithful, those who followed after our heavenly Father were of the House of Israel.

Rom. 4:16-18,

“Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace; to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed; not to that only which is of the law, but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham; who is the father of us all, 17 (As it is written, I have made thee a father of many nations,) before him whom he believed, even God, who quickeneth the dead, and calleth those things which be not as though they were. 18 Who against hope believed in hope, that he might become the father of many nations, according to that which was spoken, So shall thy seed be.”

This idea that all of mankind, that all nations of the world were invited, were called to come back to God was inconceivable to many of the Jews. They had misunderstood the covenant relationship with God from the very beginning of that covenant given in the exodus wilderness.

They were to be a kingdom of priests, a holy nation (Ex. 19:6), an example unto all of the other nations on earth of how to be acceptable to God. They were to be holy, a wife honoring one husband, and a mother to the other nations on earth.

Instead, the Israelites became proud, snapped their suspenders, believing they were the only people on earth whom God loved. Jesus made a point of telling those in Nazareth that there were others outside of Israel who had received God’s blessings when none in Israel had. (Luke 4: 25-27)

It was for the promise God made to Abraham - for Abraham’s sake - that God used the children of Abraham, through Isaac and Jacob to bless all nations of the earth. (Gen. 26:24; 28:4; Ex. 32:13; Is. 41:8; Acts 3:25)

It was never for the sake of the children of Israel, but for the sake of Abraham! Abraham’s faith was reckoned unto him for righteousness! (Gen. 15:6)

Rom 9:7-8,

*Neither, because they are the seed of Abraham, are they all children: but, In Isaac shall thy seed be called.

8 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.”*

Rom. 9:25-26,

“As he saith also in Osee, I will call them my people, which were not my people; and her beloved, which was not beloved. 26 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.“

Rom. 9:30-32,

“ What shall we say then? That the Gentiles, which followed not after righteousness, have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness which is of faith. 31 But Israel, which followed after the law of righteousness, hath not attained to the law of righteousness. 32 Wherefore? Because they sought it not by faith, but as it were by the works of the law. For they stumbled at that stumblingstone;”

No one's DNA, no one's blood line matters anymore. The call of the gospel of Christ is open to everyone of every nation and tribe on earth. Everyone who believes and is baptized into Christ, puts on Christ, and becomes of the seed of Abraham.

Rom. c. 11 comes after the teaching of chap. 4-10 that the faithful were always the Israel of God, and begins by making the distinction that fleshly Israel were not being cast away.

Rom. 11:1,

"I say then, Hath God cast away his people? God forbid. For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin."

Paul then separated those unfaithful from the remnant that were faithful.

Rom. 11:5,

"Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace."

The grafting in of the nations (gentiles) through the broken branches of the tree (the unfaithful and unbelieving children of Israel) were the same opportunity for the call of the tribes of Israel to return to God.... through the gospel of Christ.

Rom. 11:22-23,

" Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God: on them which fell, severity; but toward thee, goodness, if thou continue in his goodness: otherwise thou also shalt be cut off. 23 And they also, if they abide not still in unbelief, shall be grafted in: for God is able to graft them in again."

So, then under the gospel of Christ all believers, both the original branches (the blood line of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob) and the grafted branches (all the nations) are become one in Christ, and are counted for the seed.

And, Rom. 11:26 refers to the joined branches of the tree as "all Israel". Fleshly Israel had the same opportunity to be in Christ as all of the nations do. This is the gospel that was preached from the beginning.

Gen. 22:18,

"And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice."

Acts 17:26,

"And hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation;"

Gal. 3:8-9,

“And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations be blessed. 9 So then they which be of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham.

Gal 3:16,

“ Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ.

FURTHERMORE, we must remember the first "milk" of the word when studying the heavier "meat" of the word (Heb. 5:13).

Mark 16:16,

"He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved;..."

and, Rom. 11:26,

"And so all Israel shall be saved:..."

Both of these statements are true, as the Holy Spirit does not contradict Himself. Therefore, he that believeth and is baptized (into Christ) shall be saved, and all Israel shall be saved joins the two, and makes them the same. The definition of "all Israel" are those that believe and are baptized into Christ.

Christ is the seed of the promise made to Abraham. It is through Christ that we can become children of Abraham, by faith!

So, the house of Israel were always those of the faithful of God, those who followed after the spirit of God, and are sons / children of God. (Roms. 8:14)

Therefore, when God said that he would make a new covenant with the house of Israel (Jer. 31:31, 33), then the new covenant promise is under the gospel of Christ, and the Israel that is in Christ.

Under the old covenant the house of Israel were the physical children of Jacob, all those that could trace their genealogy back to their physical ancestor, Abraham. When we are reading the Old Testament, we know that the references to the house of Israel were speaking of the tribes of Israel, the descendants of Jacob.

But, under the new covenant the definition of the house of Israel was fully completed - fulfilled - and changed from the blood line to the promise. All those that have been baptized into Christ are now the line of the faithful!

So the new covenant that He made with the house of Israel is with all those that are in Christ, and the Israel which is in Christ is now saved with an everlasting salvation. (Isa. 45:17)

Today, the house of Israel are spread throughout all nations of the world where ever they are, whomever have been baptized into Christ. Just as God promised Abraham that his seed should be multiplied as the stars of heaven, so they are! (Gen. 22:17; 26:4; Ex. 32:13)

(All scripture is from the KJV. All bold emphasis is mine.)

  • I've downvoted, because your response doesn't interact with or exegete the text of Romans 11.26. – user2910 Aug 9 '17 at 15:53
  • Yes, I believe Mark Edward's point is a valid one. I note that some significant theologians support the view that the whole physical nation of Israel is what is being referred to in v.26 - John Stott, John McArthur, John Piper, J.C. Ryle, Doug Moo and many others...so a counter argument would need to exegete the relevant text(s). – Richard Aug 10 '17 at 8:46
  • Have added the requested exegesis for Rom. c. 11. If you will be so kind as to read again..... – Gina Aug 10 '17 at 14:53
  • Gina - I don't disagree with your theology, however, exegetically, it may be insufficient to merely state "…And, Rom 11:26 refers to the joined branches of the tree as "all Israel."" The reason so many notable theologians have an issue with this interpretation is that the name “Israel” is used in the previous verse as a clear reference to the physical nation (in contrast with believing “Gentiles”) but “Israel” would need to carry an entirely different meaning in the following verse (26). The subsequent verses also appear to contrast Jews (unbelieving) with Gentile believers (27-28). – Richard Aug 11 '17 at 7:34
  • I know this is confusing to get through. The contrast in the whole of these chapters are the believing vs the unbelieving; the faithful vs the unfaithful. "And, so" begins a concluding thought. "Shall be saved" can only be discussing the believers... not the unbelievers. As such, "all Israel" are the believers who are in Christ. The unbelievers of either the apostate fleshly Israel or of the heathen nations can be grafted in when they believe and are baptized into Christ. But the believers are saved when they have put on Christ. So "all Israel" can only refer to the "saved" in Christ. – Gina Aug 11 '17 at 8:30
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The intent of the statement in Romans 11:26 is to assure the gentiles that the Israelites had not been 'dumped' by God. He was allowing the Israelites time to 'come around' and realize that their Messiah had indeed appeared as prophesied. The exact statement is referring to the rest of those who had not already accepted Jesus as Messiah so he indicates 'in order that all Israel may be saved.' Allowing the gentiles 'in' was kind of a punishment to Jews.

In order for gentiles to become part of Israel, so a mighty 'rock converting' would have to occur. And it makes the need of the 144,000 in Revelation sort of moot. Why specify Israelites if we are all going to be Israelites?

Some people suggest that gentiles are 'grafted in', but something that is grafted produces fruit of its own kind, not of the same kind from which they gain their sustenance - to say a gentile is grafted to the root is to say that more gentiles will be produced - I really can't believe that possibility exists.

The better way and actually described by Jesus is that we become heirs with Him and will be transformed to be like Him as brothers (genderless) just because we accepted what He did for us and He spoke to the Father on our behalf.

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Israel refers to Jacob's physical lineage. Israel is everyone born of Jacob. "All Israel will saved" literally means "everyone physically born of Jacob will be saved". This is Yahweh's promise to His children. The verse is referring to the flesh and blood descendants of Jacob. So ALL of Israel, who have remained "clean" and not been mingled with Edomite/Canaanite blood (this is the reason Esau was hated - for taking foreign wives, also check Deut 23:2 where "bastard" means "mamzer or mongrel" will be saved, according to Yahweh's promises to Abraham.

Although all Israel will be saved, some will be resurrected to everlasting shame and contempt - those unbelievers and sinners who will have to wear their guilt for eternity, while those who are obedient to Christ will awake to glory and rewards in the Kingdom. Both situations are still salvation.

Yahweh's promises are given to the physical Israel and are not to be revoked - ALL Israel receives eternal life, not one of His children will be lost, according to Christ. Israel refers to Jacob's lineage, and is not to be interpreted as some form of "spiritual" Israel, unless the Bible tells us so.

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