Tuesday, March 13, 2012

All Israel Will Be Saved

Romans 11:25-26 reads, “Lest you be wise in your own sight, I do not want you to be unaware of this mystery, brothers:a partial hardening has come on Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. And in this way all Israel will be saved, as it is written, 'The Deliverer will come from Zion, he will banish ungodliness from Jacob.' ” (Romans 11:25–26 ESV)

There are many who expect a worldwide conversion of Jews before Christ can again return in judgment, and for the most part that view is based on this verse. I thought that Calvin's words on this verse would provide some food for thought, as well as a confidence in God's preservation and salvation of his Church - who have been ingrafted into Israel.
Many understand this of the Jewish people, as though Paul had said, that religion would again be restored among them as before: but I extend the word Israel to all the people of God, according to this meaning, — “When the Gentiles shall come in, the Jews also shall return from their defection to the obedience of faith; and thus shall be completed the salvation of the whole Israel of God, which must be gathered from both; and yet in such a way that the Jews shall obtain the first place, being as it were the first-born in God’s family.” This interpretation seems to me the most suitable, because Paul intended here to set forth the completion of the kingdom of Christ, which is by no means to be confined to the Jews, but is to include the whole world. The same manner of speaking we find in Galatians 6:16. The Israel of God is what he calls the Church, gathered alike from Jews and Gentiles; and he sets the people, thus collected from their dispersion, in opposition to the carnal children of Abraham, who had departed from his faith.
If Calvin's interpretation of this verse is correct, then Romans 11 is concerned - not with spelling out the fate of ethnic Israel, but with reassuring the church that the hardening of Israel took place so that the true Israel could all be saved.


  1. Adam--

    When you get down to RTS-Jackson check out this work and I think you will be convinced (that Calvin is wrong):


    BTW, did you see the translator? And yes, the translator agrees with Ridderbos. :)

  2. Actually Michael, I'm not really in agreement with Calvin at this point. I understand Paul to here be speaking of the elect within ethnic Israel. Just as the 'fulness of the Gentiles' only means the elect among the Gentiles, I understand Paul to be making a similar reference here regarding ethnic Israel.

  3. I have a follow-up question then, Michael. Is the view I just expressed the same as Ridderbos and Gaffin?

  4. If I understand you correctly, yes. All Israel will be saved refers to all the elect Jews coming to salvation throughout the New Covenant period. Is that what you are saying?

  5. Yes, it is. I accidentally hold Ridderbos and Gaffin's view of Romans 11. Not bad.

  6. For me, the clincher is that the notion of "fullness of the Gentiles" and "all of Israel" in Rom. 11 appear to be operating in the passage, for Paul, symetrically. Not to say that the same number of Jews and Gentiles will be saved, but that there is a similar sense to both of them. It isn't "all of the elect Gentiles" vs. "ALL of the Jews." Rather, it's all of the elect Gentiles and all of the elect Jews. Hopefully you can make sense of that hodgepodge.

  7. I think we should take v.23 more seriously: "IF they do not continue in their unbelief, will be grafted in."

    I'm pretty convinced what we have in Romans 11 is a hope that Paul had which was not realized. The final judgment on old Israel happened when Jerusalem was destroyed, which was about 15 years after Paul's writing of Romans. I think ch.11 expresses his hope that that judgment could still be averted, if the Jews would repent and embrace Christ. It didn't happen, and we see Paul apparently resigning to that fact in the last verses of Acts (which are after he wrote Romans 11).

    "In this way all Israel will be saved" in v.26 then perhaps picks up on v.13-14, to say that if Israel is to be saved, they will be saved through the ingrafting of the Gentiles, provoking them to jealousy. And that, sadly, is what didn't happen. The upshot is that there still is a people of God, made up of Jews and Gentiles, 'The Israel of God,' but where the Jew/Gentile distinction no longer obtains.


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