All Israel Will Be Saved
25 I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers and sisters, so that you may not be conceited: Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in, 26 and in this way all Israel will be saved.
Paul closes out this sub section of Romans (chs.9-11) commenting on the plight of his fellow Jews. In this final section, he makes a bold statement, "All Israel will be saved."
This has been a hotly debated subject over the years. What does Paul mean? Will every Jew be saved by being born into a Jewish family? Is Paul speaking in terms of the 'New Israel' made up of all those who believe in Jesus? Will the Jews final inclusion in those who are saved be part of the end times? What does the full number of Gentiles mean in terms of numbers? What relationship does all this have with that 144,000 representing the 12 tribes of Israel who are saved from judgment in the book of Revelation?
As you can see there are lots of questions that arise from Paul's statement and what it might mean. So again as I say "ad nauseum", we need to understand the context in which Paul is writing, and also take it within in the context of all of what Paul has written, and also the rest of the bible. Unfortunately, I do not have any easy answers, but maybe we can set the table as to how to go about anwswering these questions.
What do we know! We know that some Jews came to faith in Paul's time with the preaching of the gospel, but the majority did not? Most all of the churches which Paul wrote to were comprised of both Jewish and Gentile believers. A lot of Paul's letters addressed how the two groups related to each other, given their very different experience of who God is and how he revealed himself differently to these two groups. So Paul's question over the last three chapters is, what happens to the rest of the Jews, who didn't come to faith and rejected Jesus? Paul warns the Gentiles not to get too arrogant. Since Israel's rejection meant the Gentiles were grafted in to the Vine, they should be grateful, not prideful. It is not as if the Gentiles did anything to deserve this act of mercy by God.
Paul reasons that God still has a plan for the Israelites, because they were the ones to whom he made the original covenant. God does not go back on His promises. Though Paul wonders about the future of his Jewish brothers and sisters, yesterday he taught that God has mercy on whom he has mercy, and compassion on who he has compassion. He cites Jacob and Esau as a case where God chose Jacob and rejected Esau.
In terms of 144,000 Jews cited as being saved in the book of Revelation, taking a literal approach is very problematic. First, right now there are an estimated 350,000 Messianic Jews worldwide. They are Jews who have come to believe in Jesus as the Messiah. And this only represents those living right now, not the last 20 centuries. How do you reconcile this with the 144,000 number? This is just one example of how taking a literal interpretation of all the numbers and symbols in Revelation can lead to a lot of problems.
So what then can we conclude? First, Paul says this is a "mystery". Meaning he does not understand how it is all going to work out. We usually don't like mystery, we would rather have all the answers. Unfortunately, or maybe fortunately, we are not God. It is God's perogative who is saved and who is not. We know God's desire is that all people would be saved, but unfortunately some reject his free gift of salvation. Some Gentiles do, and some Jews do. When Paul says "all Israel will be saved" he may mean it in some future sense. It would make sense that at the end of times, God would have some kind of closure to his relationship with the nation he choose to bring His Son into the world. As he treats all people, he is merciful and compassionate.
Like Paul, we all have hope for our Jewish brothers and sisters, who have not yet come to believe in Jesus as the Messiah. We should pray for them and start with the common ground we have in the Old Testament scriptures. One thing is for certain we should never have a prideful attitude towards Jewish people and their faith or lack of faith. We were included by God's grace and mercy, and even our faith is a gift from God. We did not to deserve anything, but the Holy Spirit created in us faith to trust in God's promises in Christ.
In sumamry Paul says in Galatians 3:28,
"There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus."
When God sees us, he doesn't see us by human distinctions we like to make. No, he sees us His children whom he loved and died for both Jew and Gentile.