Romans 11:25-26 – What Does Paul Mean by “All Israel Will Be Saved”?

The toughest couple of verses in all of Romans are contained in Romans 11. After Paul’s illustration of the olive tree and how God selects those branches (whether native to the tree (Jews) or wild olive branches (Gentiles) that belong in his tree he makes a statement that is a little perplexing in 11:25-26…

“I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers, so that you may not be conceited: Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in. 26And so all Israel will be saved…”

It is difficult to say which mystery Paul is talking about when he says “this” mystery. He could be talking about the olive tree and God’s “kind and stern” actions toward his people. Or “this” could refer to what he is about to say regarding Israel’s hardening but eventually acceptance. Last night in our men’s class I made the point that the mystery points back to the olive tree example but the more I think about it, I think it mostly points forward to what Paul is about to explain – God’s plan to save Israel. That is, after all, what Paul is trying to explain all through chapters 9-11. Paul says God has planned the salvation of Israel in three steps – 1) hardening of some of the Jews, 2) acceptance of some Gentiles, 3) all Israel will be saved.

At this point we have some issues. When Paul writes that “all Israel will be saved” we either have to define Israel by a certain set of people in order to make that consistent with all Paul has said about the necessity of righteousness to come by faith in Christ or we have to assume all Jews will eventually put their faith in Christ, or that God is going to save them no matter what (which is not consistent with what Paul has written to this point in Romans). Some people have wanted to say Paul is talking about “Spiritual Israel” here but that just doesn’t bear out through the context. Paul is talking about ethnic Jews here. So either they all will eventually put their faith in Christ or Paul is defining Israel in a slightly different way than meaning every single person who is a direct descendent of Abraham. Paul and Jesus agree that not all ethnic Jews are actually children of Abraham (see John 8:39-41 & Romans 4:12).

It has always been the case that God has called his people “Israel” when some Jews were not included in that number. Two places we see this in the OT are the concept of the remnant and also through blessings and curses in Deuteronomy (for more on that see the first paragraph in this post on Galatians 3:10-14). In Deuteronomy blessings and curses are repeatedly laid out before God’s people. The gist of it is, if you follow God and keep his commandments you will do well in the land. But if you double cross God, rebel and go your own way you will be under a curse. This curse was basically considered a removal of the blessings of God and of covenant status with God. That basically would put an ethnic Jew out of “Israel” and into the same status as the Gentiles (who were also thought to be cursed and devoid of God’s blessings). So my contention here when Paul says “all Israel will be saved” is that he is talking about “true Israelites” (as Jesus refered to Nathaniel as in John 1:47)…those who obeyed the law and were led by that law, as it was intended to do, to Jesus Christ. So this does not mean every single Jew who ever lived will be saved and it does not mean that every single Jew will somehow get a second chance to believe in Jesus at the last day (although I can see how some would interpret it that way). It probably means faithful Jews will turn to Christ and be redeemed and that in some way, shape or form, there may be more of that to come than we realize. That is the plan that God had from the beginning. The only difficulty I see in this interpretation is that it is difficult to keep the Israel of verse 25 consistent with the Israel of verse 26. Hank’s suggestion that the ESV translation of this verse may help us a little here – “Lest you be wise in your own sight, I want you to understand this mystery, brothers: a partial hardening has come upon Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. And in this way all Israel will be saved…”

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About mattdabbs
I am a minister, husband, and father. My wife and I live and minister in Saint Petersburg, Florida. My primary ministry responsibilities include: small groups, 20s and 30s, involvement, and adult education.

13 Responses to Romans 11:25-26 – What Does Paul Mean by “All Israel Will Be Saved”?

  1. Good job dealing with the issues surrounding & taking a stab at interpreting one of the tougher Scriptures in the Bible.

    Whenever I attempt to teach passages like this, 1st Cor. 13, or others, I make sure to cite 2nd Peter 3:15-16. If even an inspired writer of Scripture finds Paul “hard to understand,” then we’re in pretty good company.

  2. ally says:

    It would be very difficult for me to believe and accept that ALL Jews will eventually be saved.
    I know some Jews who are truly heathens, and to somehow be magically given eternal life by virtue of Abraham is inconceivable to me.
    I can accept that Jews who currently believe in God and who according to their knowledge obey His commands, will one day have their eyes opened; but as for those who disown God and Jesus, and are not even religious- I don’t think so.
    They fall under the same category as Gentiles who don’t believe in God regardless of their lineage.

    After all, isn’t God just and fair, and aren’t Jews dying everyday who never accepted Jesus?

    • mattdabbs says:

      Ally,

      If you read the post completely you will see that I addressed your point 🙂
      Like when I wrote,

      “Paul and Jesus agree that not all ethnic Jews are actually children of Abraham (see John 8:39-41 & Romans 4:12).

      It has always been the case that God has called his people “Israel” when some Jews were not included in that number. Two places we see this in the OT are the concept of the remnant and also through blessings and curses in Deuteronomy (for more on that see the first paragraph in this post on Galatians 3:10-14). In Deuteronomy blessings and curses are repeatedly laid out before God’s people. The gist of it is, if you follow God and keep his commandments you will do well in the land. But if you double cross God, rebel and go your own way you will be under a curse. This curse was basically considered a removal of the blessings of God and of covenant status with God. That basically would put an ethnic Jew out of “Israel” and into the same status as the Gentiles (who were also thought to be cursed and devoid of God’s blessings). So my contention here when Paul says “all Israel will be saved” is that he is talking about “true Israelites” (as Jesus refered to Nathaniel as in John 1:47)…those who obeyed the law and were led by that law, as it was intended to do, to Jesus Christ. So this does not mean every single Jew who ever lived will be saved and it does not mean that every single Jew will somehow get a second chance to believe in Jesus at the last day (although I can see how some would interpret it that way). It probably means faithful Jews will turn to Christ and be redeemed and that in some way, shape or form, there may be more of that to come than we realize. That is the plan that God had from the beginning.”

      Hope that helps.

    • Ken Evans says:

      Paul did not specify Jews in this passage, he said “Israel.” Jews are but one tribe of Israel. Israel and Judah were separated as nations when Rehoboam and Jeroboam split the country. In fact, that is the first time “Jews” were mentioned in the Bible.

    • John Hetherington says:

      I know that Christ would have all God children be saved. Those that reject God’s word at the Rapture will not meet Christ in Heaven and those that did will meet him in Heaven. I believe that those that remain on Earth will go through the tribulation. I also believe that if they see the error of their ways and believe in Jesus Christ will be saved. The orthodox Jew that did not believe in Christ will have seen the error of their ways will be saved during the tribulation. God sent Jesus to Earth to the Jews first then to the Gentiles that all might be saved. He didn’t say when just that they believe before death.

  3. Jeff says:

    The problem of not having “Israel” mean the same thing in v.25 as v.26 is not that significant, seeing that Paul uses “Israel” to mean two different things in the space of 2 words in the Greek (if my memeory serves me correctly) in 9:6b. And seeing that the main logical point of chs.9-11 is in 9:6b and the penultimate point is 11:25-26, then it should not be surprising that Paul did the same thing in both spots.

  4. George says:

    It seem in these verses Paul makes his statement clear……This is a mystery! But if you read further, he says: “As far as the gospel is concerned (Greek; kata=in accordance with) they (Israel) are enemies on your (Gentile) account; but as far as election (Greek; ekloge= choice or selection) is concerned, they (Israel) are loved on account of the patriarchs, for God’s gifts and His call are irrevocable (Greek; ametameletos= without regret). God has made a promise to Abraham and his descendents that they are His people, and He will be their God…..And in this, God can not go back on His promise. The Scripture does not say “partial” of Israel or “a few” of Israel, but “all” Israel as it is God, Himself who hardened Israel’s heart for the purpose of bringing the gospel message, by faith, to the Gentile nations, Rom. 11:7-8.
    Read further and it will explain the fullness of Pauls message, “For God has bound all men over to disobedience so that He may have mercy on them.” This is not an issue of judgment, condemnation or salvation but of how indepth His “mercy” abounds over the disobedience of both Jew and Gentile as nations of the world. When given a hardened heart by God does not lead to separation but a unity and so, to authenticate His compassion on all His creation. Even though we always mention that by accepting Christ as our Lord and Savior, this is the only act pertaining to mankinds salvations, Jeses even mentions from the Sermon on the Mount “Blessed are the poor in spirit, who mourn, are meek, stand for righteousness, are merciful, pure in heart, and peacemakers…..these will all see God and be welcome in His kingdom……And yet, Jesus makes no mention here whatsoever that they must accept Him as Lord and Savior. God’s intentions for His creation (as Satan can not create mankind, and so, all creation belongs to God at all times) God can do whatever He pleases with us and His intentions is that all mankind will come to the knowledge of His truth…..Either in our lifetime, or at the time of judgment (1 Tim. 2:3-4;1 Cor. 15:24-27).

  5. Garry Oliver "Ollie" says:

    Here is how I view it: 26And in this way all Israel (“a few?”) will be saved…God has forever planned the salvation of ethnic Jews..they will become “true Israelites”…as Jesus referred to Nathaniel in John 1:47…just as it was in God’s Plan from the beginning, Jews in masse will have their eyes opened/turn to their own Messiah…exactly how that will happen is a mystery!…as it is written, “The Deliverer will come from Zion, he will banish ungodliness from Jacob”; 27 “and this will be my covenant with them when I take away their sins.” 28As regards the gospel, they are enemies of God for your sake. (now) But as regards election, they are beloved for the sake of their forefathers…God has made a promise to Abraham/Isaac/Jacob and their descendents…God will not go back on His promise (Gen. 17:7 ; Gen. 17:8-9 ; Gen. 26:3-5)…29For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable

    • mattdabbs says:

      you are saying God will make all ethnic Jews true Israelites? As mentioned above, Jesus and Paul didn’t even think all Jews were God’s people. As far as God not going back on his promise, I agree. However, God’s promises are contingent on our accepting them. God made his people many promises in the OT and then brought judgment on them at various times because they fell away. Does that mean God does not make good on his promises or does that mean these promises are made in light of a relationship we are to have with him?

  6. akoto says:

    For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in. And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob — Romans 11:25-26 (KJV)

    1. The fulness of the Gentiles was referring to the fullness of the Gentiles Times that is –2008.

    2. The Israel that has to be turned away from ungodliness by the Deliverer was referring to the Christians. To understand, think of Christ as Israel (Matthew 2:15) his 12 apostles symbolize the 12 tribes and all the believer of Christ –the Israelites. Christians are spiritual Israel regardless of racial belonging; their faith in Christ made them that way.

  7. doxa2yah says:

    Amos 3:1-2 Hear this word that Yähwè יָהוֶה hath spoken against you, O children of Yi$rä´ël ,יִשׂרָאֵל against the whole family which I brought up from the land of Mixrayim ,מִצרַיִם saying, You only have I known of all the families of the earth goo.gl/vRASi

  8. John says:

    Could it be that God blinded Israel to the truth and prohecy of the coming of the Messiah so that the rest of the world would be afforded the same blessings and opportunity that the Israelites had enjoyed. Then, when the gentiles have been effectively and collectively ministred to, then the Jews’ eyes will be opened. The blinding will cease and they will be able to see what is so obvious to others, that Jesus the Christ was indeed the messiah, who came to take away the sins of the world.

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