In the eleventh chapter of Romans, the Apostle Paul expresses his deep desire for the salvation of his kinsmen, the Jews. In relating his hope, he refers to those who would believe, as a remnant. For an example, he refers to the 7000 men kept by God, who had not bowed the knee to Baal during the time of the prophet Elijah.
After returning from the Babylonian exile, Judah (the southern kingdom of Israel) was all that remained of the whole house of Israel.
In the days of Jesus life on earth, it was to the descendants of this remnant that he came. Though they were only the southern kingdom, they nonetheless were still referred to as Israel. The other tribes (the northern kingdom) never returned from being exiled by the Assyrian Empire, but were scattered as seed amongst the Gentiles nations.
As Paul explained the lost spiritual condition of his Jewish (including the Benjamites and Levites) brethren and the salvation available to them, he commented that Israel was being made jealous through the Gentile’s salvation, (Rom.11:11). For he had hoped to stir his fellow countrymen to desire spiritual fruit through salvation rather than that which they had hoped for, an earthly kingdom established by force. Speaking from his great hope that all of Judah would repent and believe, Paul then exclaims the glory that their full inclusion could bring. For though he realized there had already been chosen a remnant according to God’s grace, he was also aware that any one of his fellow countrymen could be reconciled to God at any time if they did not continue in unbelief. For a partial hardening had occurred for the sake of the Gentiles, but this did not prevent his countrymen from coming to Christ, rather through this jealousy they might be provoked to repent and believe.
But regarding the salvation and restoration of the scattered northern tribes, no mention is made until verses 25 and 26, where they are being referred to as “Gentiles” – the result of the scattered seed – revealing that men of all nations could be included in the plan of redemption and reconciliation of the rejected northern kingdom. This however is only recognized as we understand God’s use of poetic imagery; His often used means of relating spiritual truth’s as He spoke through the prophets, and in various portions of the Old Testament. Thus, Paul’s statement, “…and in this way all Israel will be saved” (11:26), is referring in part to the salvation of the Gentiles. These were the prophesied “descendants” of the northern kingdom, the seed which had been scattered among the nations.
These Gentile descendants combined with the remnant of the southern kingdom (the Jews who believed), comprised the whole house of Israel. As James pointed out in Acts 15:16
, when referencing Amos 9:11
, once again the fallen tent of David would be unified under one King, Jesus their Messiah. And in this way all Israel will be saved! (Rom. 11:26).
Many assert that at the conclusion of the time of the Gentiles, “then, all Israel will be saved”. However, this assertion incorrectly implies that “then” is referring to a time, rather than a means. In fact several bible versions read this way. Unfortunately, this common error must be regarded with great consideration. For this improper rendering has become the foundation of an eschatological heresy that gives little to no regard to the significance of the salvation of the Gentiles as it relates to the promised salvation of all Israel, and creates an event that many Christians find as important as the return of Christ himself. But as stated in Eph 3:4-6
this is, ”the mystery of Christ, …revealed to His holy apostles and prophets…that the Gentiles are fellow heirs and fellow members of the body, and fellow partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus…”
These words echo those of the prophets who spoke of the return of the descendants of the northern kingdom and the restoration of Israel through the Messiah, fulfilled through the salvation of Jews and Gentiles. But because the Christian majority has misunderstood these scriptures, many hope and labor to establish a physical kingdom in a physical Israel – complete with temple, priest’s and sacrifices. And although Jesus, regarding the occupying army of Rome, told his disciples to love their enemies, the annihilation of the surrounding enemies of modern day Israel has been accepted by many as the will of God. Even Christian’s themselves have taken up this “prophetic cause”, to the extent of becoming militant – in direct defiance of Jesus words. Consequently, they will not stand innocent in the Day of Judgment before God.
The inclusion of Israel that Paul referred to has been available to those who do not continue in unbelief since the day of Jesus resurrection and will continue until the time of the Gentiles comes to an end. Again, the whole of Israel is comprised of those who are heirs of the promise, both Jews and Gentiles – Not as though the word of God hath taken none effect. For they are not all Israel, which are of Israel: Neither, because they are the seed of Abraham, are they all children: but, In Isaac shall thy seed be called. That is, they which are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God: but the children of the promise are counted for the seed, through the Spirit, of the faith of Abraham, not the flesh. Rom.9:6-8
Below are two Greek words that have been translated in our bibles as “then”. The first is commonly used to refer to a point in time. The latter is from Rom. 11:26
, often translated as “and so” or “thus.”
G5119 τότε tote tot’-eh From (the neuter of) G3588 and G3753; the when, that is, at the time that (of the past or future, also in consecution):—that time, then.
G3779 οὕτω houtō hoo’-to Or, before a vowel, οὕτως houtōs hoo’-toce. From G3778; in this way (referring to what precedes or follows):—after that, after (in) this manner, as, even (so), for all that, like (-wise), no more, on this fashion (-wise), so (in like manner) thus, what.