Will All Israel be Saved? Rom. 11:25-32
At this point many theologians get far off the point Paul is making in the context. Remember this rule of interpretation: a text without a context is a pretext. If we fail to understand what a Bible passage meant to the first readers, we will fail to understand its meaning for us. The Bible is a divinely objective product. It does not mean one thing to one person and something else to another. People often say, “The Bible does not need interpretation. It just means what it says.” But interpretation is essential. Interpretation or hermeneutics is accurate understanding leading to proper application. This passage was not written to establish that the entirety of Israel will somehow miraculously turn to God when Jesus returns. That mistaken point of view frequently manifests itself in the teachings of premillennialism, the doctrine that suggests Jesus will return to set up a physical kingdom and reign for 1,000 years on earth. Nothing could be further from the truth. What then does the passage mean?
The mystery of which Paul speaks in verse 25 is that God includes Gentiles along with Jews in the gospel call (Acts 2:38-39). “Mystery” is used in the New Testament of truth not formerly known, but now clearly revealed. The term is used in reference to at least three other revealed truths in addition to the inclusion of the Gentiles: the incarnation of Christ, the death of Christ, and the change that will take place in our bodies at the resurrection. Revealed mystery is a concept that enlightens us on key doctrine.
The challenging statement in the context is this, as translated in the NIV: “And so all Israel will be saved” (11:16). This statement is in balance with Paul’s statement that “Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in” (11:25). This difficult passage is the conclusion of Paul’s points made in the past few chapters. Israel had been a nation of privilege, having the promises, the Law, and the covenant. They had largely failed God and had become conceited, believing they would be saved regardless of their behavior. The early acceptance of the gospel by the Jews soon turned to rejection as the Jews hardened their minds and their stance against Jesus being the Christ. This opened the door for many (the full number) of the Gentiles to receive and obey the gospel. But the Jews could still be saved on the same basis as the Gentiles. By no means does Paul indicate that all Jews will someday, somehow be saved. Only in the sense that the church is the Israel of God, will all Israel be saved (Gal. 6:16). Salvation is offered on the same basis to all—obedience to Christ.
Paul concludes he section by saying, “For God has bound all men over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them all. The first few chapters of Romans established these truths: the Gentiles sinned apart from the Law; the Jews sinned though they had the Law; thus, all had sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Rom. 3:23). Both Gentiles and Jews had sinned against the light of revelation given to them. Salvation is by God’s mercy and grace to all men.
My comments are not an inspired commentary, but rather a few words to draw attention to the background, context, and dynamic situation of the book of Acts. May God bless your reading of His Word. T.C.