The apostle Paul wrote to the Romans, “All Israel will be saved.” But when so many don’t believe in Jesus Christ, how could Paul say that?
In reference to his fellow Israelites (Romans 9:3-4; 11:1), Paul said, “And so all Israel will be saved” (Romans 11:26). Since the vast majority of Jews have not believed in and do not believe in Jesus, some wonder how Paul could declare that all Israel will be saved.
The Bible tells us that God exalted Jesus “to His right hand to be Prince and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins” (Acts 5:31) and that salvation can only come through Jesus Christ of Nazareth (Acts 4:10, 12). As such, recognizing Christ as the Son of God is central to receiving eternal life. So how can it be that all Israel—including the tribe of Judah, from which came the Jews—will be saved since many haven’t believed in Jesus? A careful examination of Romans 9-11 provides the answer.
Paul begins by acknowledging that, among some of his countrymen, “the word of God has taken no effect. For they are not all Israel who are of Israel, nor are they all children because they are the seed of Abraham” (Romans 9:6-7). In other words, God’s promises are not limited to the physical descendants of Abraham. The people of the New Testament Church are referred to as “the Israel of God” (Galatians 6:16) because of their faith in God and His Son, Jesus Christ—not because of their family lineage.
As for those who did not believe, Paul further noted: “For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God” (Romans 10:3). Warning against this path, Paul pleaded with his countrymen, “If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved” (verse 9).
Even though Paul’s warnings did not influence all to repent and believe in Jesus at that time, Paul knew that in the long run—in the future—Jesus would come again to earth and those who had not previously had a full opportunity to recognize Christ and receive salvation would then have the opportunity to do so.
As Paul said, “And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written: ‘The Deliverer will come out of Zion, and He will turn away ungodliness from Jacob; for this is My covenant with them, when I take away their sins’” (Romans 11:26-27).
God’s festivals reveal His plan of salvation for mankind, and through the meaning of one of these festivals—the Feast of Tabernacles—we understand that Christ will return to earth and reign for 1,000 years. During this millennial reign of Christ, Satan will be bound so there will no longer be the religious deception and confusion that exists today, and people of all nationalities will have their opportunity to hear God’s truth, repent of their sins and receive salvation (Revelation 20:1-4).
After the thousand years
Speaking of still another time of education and judgment, Revelation 20:5 says, “But the rest of the dead did not live again until the thousand years were finished.” In vision, the prophet Ezekiel foresaw this time when the dry bones of deceased Israelites (representing those who had died not understanding God’s plan) would be brought back to life and given access to God’s Spirit so they will be able to understand and choose whether to obey God (Ezekiel 37:1-14). Jesus also talked about the gentiles being raised in this resurrection (Matthew 11:22, 24; 12:41-42),
Because of Satan’s deception and the “veil” that prevents people from understanding God’s truth until the Father calls them (Revelation 12:9; 2 Corinthians 3:13-16; John 6:44), this will not be a second chance for these people. This will be their first opportunity to truly understand God’s marvelous offer to become a member of His family and live forever (John 1:12; Matthew 19:29; 25:46).
So how was Paul able to confidently proclaim that all Israel will be saved? He understood that God’s desire is that “all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9) and that God, through His plan of salvation, will give everyone a full and fair opportunity to understand His truth, repent of his or her sins and receive salvation. Although some may choose not to obey God and receive these blessings, Paul believed that the overwhelming majority of Israelites would be saved.