Editor’s Note: Brother Dennis submitted this article as one possible interpretation of the passages he explores. Your editor has included the article not as an endorsement of Brother Dennis’s interpretation, but as an interpretation worthy of consideration. Your editor encourages the reader to study the matter further.
We read in Romans 11:26, “And so all Israel will be saved.” It seems clear to me that we cannot take this passage literally. Certainly not all generations of Israel could be saved. Think how wicked some of the people of Israel were such as Omri and Ahab. And it is improbable that all of any one generation of any nation will be saved. Never is eternal salvation offered on a national scale. Salvation is based on each individual’s faith and obedience.
Let us review a little. The promise was given to Abraham (Genesis 12:3, and again in 22:18), then repeated to Isaac (Genesis 26:4), and again to Jacob (Genesis 28:14). God changed Jacob’s name to Israel (Genesis 32:28, 35:10). Jacob married daughters of his mother’s brother Laban. Jacob had 12 sons and one daughter by his two wives and their maids. During the days of a great famine when Jacob’s son Joseph was a ruler in Egypt, the family moved from Canaan Land to Egypt, and while there they grew to be a great multitude of people, and were placed in bondage. In the days of Moses, God delivered them from Egypt and gave them a code of law at Mount Sinai. From that time forward, they were known as the nation of Israel. God claimed them as His people, but as yet they had no land. They journeyed 40 years in the wilderness and then under the leadership of Joshua they entered Canaan Land which God had promised to their fathers.
The Book of Joshua tells the stories of their conquering and inhabiting the land through the period of the Judges and the Kings. In the days of King David and King Solomon the nation reached her greatest point of power and glory, but after the death of King Solomon the kingdom split into two segments. The northern tribes lost their independence to Assyria in 721 B.C. and people were taken from the land. About 100 years later Assyria was taken by Babylon.
In 606 BC the southern nation was overrun by Babylon and lost their independence. In 606, 597 and 586 a great portion of the people were taken to Babylon (Jeremiah 25:11). 70 years later in 536 Babylon was overtaken by Medo-Persia and we have the stories of Esther and Zerrubabel, and Ezra and Nehemiah, and many of the Jews returning to their home land (Jeremiah 29:10), but it was no longer their land. They were subjects of Persia, then of Greece, then of Rome. (There were a brief few years in the Maccabean period that they were reasonably free but they could not maintain that freedom).
In the days of the Romans, Christ, the Seed of Abraham (Galatians 3:16), came to earth. “He came to His own and His own did not receive Him, but as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name.” (John 1:11-12) He lived a sinless life, died for our sins and arose from the dead, ascended to heaven and sat down on His throne.
The church, the climax and fulfillment of the prophecies of the kingdom of God on earth, was established, not a physical kingdom, but a spiritual kingdom, a spiritual house, a holy nation, now the true Israel of God. Those who have believed the gospel and have been baptized have been “added to the church” (Acts 2:47), “conveyed into the kingdom” (Colossians 1:13). The gospel was delivered even to the Gentiles, for the law that had for so long separated Jews and Gentiles had been taken out of the way and nailed to the cross. The people of Israel, because of their unbelief and rejection of the Messiah were symbolically broken off, like branches from a tree, and by the goodness of God the Gentiles were grafted in. (Romans 11)
I draw your attention to some outstanding passages about Israel. Just as surely as the sun continues to shine by day, and the moon and stars at night, and the waves of the sea roar, the seed of Israel shall not cease from being a nation. (Jeremiah 31:35-36) Remember the last of the tribes of Israel lost their independence to Babylon 606 BC and even yet to this day have maintained their identity, though they were without a land for over 2500 years. Haman and others tried to destroy them. Even in modern times, Hitler and later the Arab nations have tried to destroy them.
So many wonderfully amazing things have transpired in that area just within the lifetime of those of us who are older. It wasn’t until after the Holocaust and World War 2 that the United Nations granted a sliver of their ancient land back to the Jews, and on May 14, 1948 Israel declared her independence. The United States was the first nation to recognize Israel as a free sister nation. But within a matter of hours after the declaration of independence six Arab nations crossed Israel’s borders. Seven months of intermittent fighting followed as the people of Israel struggled to defend themselves. Eventually armistice declaration lines became internationally recognized borders.
Then in May of 1967, at the request of Nassar of Egypt, the United Nations patrol guards were removed from along the border of the Gaza Strip. On May 22, Nassar blockaded the Gulf of Aqaba and declared “We are ready for war.” He moved 100,000 troops into the Sinai, and another 80,000 troops into the Gaza Strip. Missiles, rockets, tanks and radar were all pointed toward Israel. Meanwhile on Israel’s northern border 40,000 Syrian troops were ready to strike. On the east, Jordan had another 40,000 troops preparing to resume hostilities. Saudi Arabia ordered 20,000 troops to Jordan. In early morning air strikes on Monday, June 5, 1967, the tiny nation of Israel, one seventh the size of the state of Iowa, nearly destroyed the air forces of the hostile Arab countries. In six days the war was over and Israel had enlarged her borders. It impressed me that even the news commentators compared that war to those of the Old Testament when God delivered Israel from the hands of their enemies.
The thing that particularly fascinated me was that Israel re-possessed the city of Jerusalem. I remembered the prophecy of Jesus in Luke 2:1:24 as He spoke of the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans: “Jerusalem will be trampled by Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.” I compared that language with that in Romans 11:25 speaking of the blindness of Israel “until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in.” I wondered: could that mean that the time has come that the Gentiles have had adequate time to be saved? And will people of Israel finally be enlightened? 2 Corinthians 3:14 tells us “the veil is taken away in Christ” and again in verse 16 “when one turns to the Lord the veil is taken away.” Romans 11:23 tells us that if they do not continue in unbelief, they will be grafted in again. But at this present day we still see relatively few Jewish people accepting the Messiah.
But back to Jeremiah’s statement in Jeremiah 31 about Israel always being a nation: Could that not be understood as possibly referring to the spiritual nation, the church, the kingdom of Christ, which was at that time yet to come, along with the new covenant foretold earlier in the chapter, and then spoken of in 2 Corinthians 3:6; Hebrews 7:22, 8:6-13, 9:15, as well as or even more so than to the physical nation of Israel? And in regard to the question about all Israel being saved, Romans 9:6-8 makes plain that not all of the physical nation of Israel are a part of God’s Israel today, nor are they all children because they are the seed of Abraham. God’s Israel today, the church, is made up of believers, the obedient to the gospel, regardless of ancestry or nationality. Galatians 3:29 says it this way: “If you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed and heirs according to the promise.”
So I understand all Israel being saved to indicate both Jews and Gentiles, not all of the physical nation of Israel, but all of God’s people, whether Jews or Gentiles. But like Paul, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they might be saved. God loves us all and shows no partiality.
Without controversy the ancient nation of Israel was God’s chosen and special people (Deuteronomy 7:6, 14:2, 26:18-19; Psalm 135:4), but that covenant with them is obsolete and His special people today are those whom Christ has redeemed. (Titus 2:14, 1 Peter 2:9).
Thomas D. Dennis
207 W Hunter Dr. Nixa, MO 65714