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Originally published in "The Lord's Coming Herald & Wesleyan Bible Prophecy Advocate," Spring Edition 2000

And So All Israel Shall Be Saved

    The above caption is one of the most misunderstood texts in the entire Bible. Most evangelicals take it as a prediction that all the Jews will get saved, or are guaranteed to get saved, at the end of this age-perhaps in some future so-called post-rapture seven year great tribulation period, perhaps in some so-called post-second coming earthly millennial reign. At any rate, the supposed teaching is used to justify and excuse present Jewish rejection of Christ by offering hope that God will, at the last, sovereignty over-ride the Jewish people's free moral agency and sweep them all into the Christian fold, irrespective and regardless.

      Such a predestinarian interpretation of Romans 11:26 implies that something must be added as an inducement for racial Jews to accept Jesus as their Messiah in the future that is not available to them now, in spite of the fact that the New Testament hints nowhere at the existence of any such further added inducement, while the uniform teaching is everywhere laid out that "today is the day of salvation," and "today if ye will hear his voice harden not your hearts."

    The best explanation of this passage we have ever heard comes from the pen of Everett I Carver, in his excellent book on Bible prophecy entitled When Jesus Comes Again. Carver points out that the "and so" at the beginning of Romans 11:26 means something quite different than what is popularly imagined:

    "Thayer states that houtos 'refers to what precedes; in the manner spoken of; in the way described'', as well as 'thus, so.' Now just how was Israel being saved at the time Paul wrote this letter to the Romans? They were being saved in small numbers (Romans 11:14), and they were being saved through the preaching of the gospel (Romans 10:12-16). Therefore, we conclude that Paul is saying that all of Israel that become saved will become saved after this fashion, or according to this pattern, or in the manner just described.. . .
   
    "Those who teach a future conversion of the total Jewish population at the second coming, translate houtos as though it were an adverb of time. These render it as though Paul were saying 'And at that time,' or 'Then all Israel will be saved.' But this interpretation is not justified. Had that been Paul's meaning, surely he would have used tote which is an adverb of time. Had he done that he would have meant that at some future time all Israel would be saved. But houtos does not say that, and it is improper and misleading to attempt to force such an interpretation on what Paul did not write"
(pp.198-199).

    Several other matters must be considered here. First, it is wrong to assume that the Jews "as a nation" had rejected Christ in the first century, or that "as a nation" they continue to do so. Nations do not accept or reject Christ, individuals accept or reject Him. Furthermore, not all the Jews, by any means, did reject Christ in the first century! There was a division among the people concerning Jesus from the first (Jn 7:43; 9:16; 10:19), and that division continues to this day.

    Friends, we must remember that the "blindness" that is said to have come upon the Jews in Romans 11:25 was not a total blindness, as to affect the whole nation, but only a blindness "in part." Not all the Jews were blinded to the reality of who Jesus was—certainly the first disciples, including Paul himself, were not!—only some of them were!

    Notice that this partial blindness of the Jews is to last until the fullness of the Gentiles be come in (verse 25). Now "fullness" means the full number or measure. Paul is saying hypothetically in verse 25, then, that the full measure of the Gentiles will have to be converted to Christ first, before the partial blindness is lifted from the Jews. That sounds like post-millennialism to me—a theoretical post-millennialism that says that Christianity must gain universal acceptance among the Gentiles first, before the last pocket of resistance of Jewish rejection is wiped out!

    But is this what popular dispensational interpreters teach? Of course not! They think that most of the Gentile church-world is going to reject Christ, or apostatize from Christianity first, then all the Jews will get saved after that! But that is not what Paul is saying in Romans 11:25, he is saying just the opposite! Let me repeat, Paul is saying exactly the opposite of what we modern evangelicals have been false-programmed to imagine he is saying in Romans chapter 11! Paul is saying that God has concluded both Jews and Gentiles in unbelief that he might have mercy upon them all (Romans 11:32). And that mercy is being shown to both Jews and Gentiles alike in this present age through the gospel plan of salvation being preached to every people (including the nation of Israel) by the Christian church.

    The meaning of the Romans 11:26 text is this: in the manner of accepting salvation in Christ by faith, as described in Romans 10:6-10, all the true Israel of God shall be ultimately saved—there is no other way. This is what Romans 11:26 means. Paul, in a recap of his argument throughout, is saying that there is only one way of salvation for Jews and Gentiles alike, and that all the Jews who ever get salvation will get it in God's way: that is, through the Deliverer who has come out of Zion to turn away ungodliness from Jacob.

    The coming of the Deliverer out of Zion and the opening of the the fountain of redemption in the house of David for sin and uncleanness (Zechariah 13:1) happened at the first advent of Christ two-thousand years ago. To ignore that reality in favor of treating Romans 11:26 as a proof-text on which to hang some elaborate scheme of predestinarian end-time Bible prophecy fantasy regarding racial Jews--though it may satisfy the need of sympathy that the Christian has for racial Jews as the "beloved for the fathers' sake" (Romans 11:28)--cannot be proved as doctrine from a careful exegesis of Romans chapter 11.

    Paul's prayer and heart's desire for Israel was that they might be saved (Romans 10:1). He also realized, however, that God does not force anyone to get saved against their will, including racial Jews.

    Friends, Calvinistic predestinarian and LIMITED ATONEMENT impulses are very dangerous when they become a dominate motive for the interpretation of end-time Bible prophecy! A consistent Wesleyan-Arminian must allow free moral agency its rightful place in the outworking of his/her millennial and/or eschatological scheme.

    To alleviate racial Jews from their responsibility to get saved now in deference to an assumed assured conversion of the nation at the end-time, is to hold to a compromise of accountability to divine revelation that can only lead to an undermining and weakening of the progress and well-being of the entire Christian faith. In the inordinate desire to exonerate unbelieving racial Jews from their need to come to terms with the Christ of revelation in the here and now, the Christian church must beware a subtle, carnal pride that mutilates the gospel.

    Since Calvary and the resurrection 0f Jesus Christ in the midst of Daniel's 70th week, God has no favorite people other than the obedient, who constitute Christ's church! Yes, "all Israel shall be saved" but unbelieving racial Jews are no part of God's true Israel:  "For he is not a Jew which is one outwardly, neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh; But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God" (Romans 2:28-29). "For they are not all Israel  which are of Israel; Nether, because they are the [physical] seed of Abraham, are they all children; but, in Isaac [the son of promise] shall thy seed be called. That is, they which are the children of the flesh [i.e., racial Jews], these are not the children of God; but the children of the promise are counted for the seed" (Romans 9:7-8). "That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith. . . . For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus " (Galatians 3:14. 26).

    The presence of the "ifs" in Romans ll:12-29--ten of them altogether--indicates that the passage is not a prediction; it is more likely a recapitulation. Paul does not here follow the path of straightforward logical deduction, but is speaking hypothetically for the sake of illustrating a consistent point. He is not introducing here some new discordant thought. He is reinforcing his total argument about the way of salvation by grace through faith that comes from accepting Jesus as the Messiah now—whether we are Jew or Gentile, it makes no difference, Arminianism underlies the thinking here, of course, just as it does throughout the entire Bible. John Calvin's attempt to read predestinarianism into the Romans 9-11 passage unleashed a plague of muddled thinking into Christian eschatology that has never ceased to bedevil the Protestant church! Even one so learned as John Wesley himself, in the Romans 11:25 passage at least, was affected by it.

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