Theses Regarding “All Israel Will Be Saved”

April 18, 2024

Theses regarding the widespread restoration of Israel:

1) The people provided the promise have not been redefined. The Old Testament prophecies frequently distinguish between Gentiles and Israel with reference to future blessing. Moreover, when Paul says “all Israel will be saved” (Rom 11:26), he is not speaking merely of “all the elect remnant of Jew and Gentile,” which would be at best nothing more than a tautology.

A responsible reading of Rom 11:26 must fully reckon with 11:28. In terms of the “Israel” Paul has in view, “As regards the gospel, they are enemies for your sake. But as regards the election, they are beloved for the sake of the fathers.” This verse makes absolutely no sense if Paul is not referring to the presently unbelieving mass of “ethnic” Israel, and it makes no sense if he does not have a massively significant reversal in view.

2) The nature of the blessing has not been redefined. On the one hand, Yahweh has always been fully committed to his creation (the earth and its environs), which is why the doctrine of the resurrection is so central to Christian faith. Given that, there is nothing “carnal” in itself regarding the long-held desire of Israel to hold God to his promise of land. On the other hand, the promises to Israel have always been spiritual promises. The promises to Israel stand in the context of a promise of a new heavens and a new earth, and they are messianically defined. That is, they are all about Jesus, and always have been.

3) The distinction between Jews and Gentiles in the promises, therefore, does not mean that one is an “earthly seed” and the other is a “heavenly seed.” The biblical program is one of full integration and shared blessing between Israel and the nations.

4) It is useless to object that “God has divorced Israel” and is therefore done with them. Ironically, the only actual biblical texts which explicitly mention Yahweh divorcing Israel also explicitly affirm that he will restore them (post-divorce)! (That is a key aspect of the message of Hosea.)

5) The promises of God, not the dilution of Israelite blood through the vagaries of history, must always establish the starting point and immovable foundation of what we believe.

6) The biblical promises are in fact much more miraculous than simply envisioning that some day the people we know as “Jews” will embrace the Messiah en masse. Throughout the later Old Testament prophets, including well after the obliteration and displacement of the northern kingdom by the Assyrians, Yahweh still promises a future for Ephraim as representative of the northern tribes. The radical character of God’s promises for Israel are so daring that Ezekiel portrays it most starkly as life from the dead.

7) These promises remain future, and they do not introduce an alternate route of redemption.

A] It will not do to suggest that the promises were fulfilled by the return from exile, because i) The return from exile was a return of a small remnant from only the Babylonian exile; and ii) still in Romans 11, Paul anticipates the fulfillment of these promises in the future.

B] Neither will it do to suggest that the promises were fulfilled in the 1st century, but later than when Paul wrote Romans. Not only is there zero evidence of a widespread turning to the Messiah by 1st century Jews; even if there were, that would not satisfy the promises, as we have noted in (5) above.

C] Neither yet will it do to suggest that these promises will be fulfilled at Christ’s return. His return will be for judgment, and after that a reversal will be too late. To the contrary, Jesus himself sets the timetable in Matthew 23:39: Israel will not see him again until they say “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord,” that is until they submit to him as Messiah and Lord.


It may be objected that if the northern tribes must be restored, the promises are impossible.

We must take this bull by the horns. Read through the prophetic books. The promises are what they are. They involve a very significant form of “all Israel,” including the so-called “lost tribes” (see e.g. Jer 31:1, which refers to all the clans of Israel; see also Jer 30:3; Ezek 36; 37:16–17; Zech 8:13; 10:6ff etc). Indeed, the signature new covenant prophecy itself clearly distinguishes between “the house of Israel” and “the house of Judah” (Jer 31:31; cf Ezek 36:25–26 in context).

Does God break his Word? Does he renege on his promise? Does he redefine his promises to the degree that they are utterly meaningless?

He does not.

How then can he restore the northern tribes when they have been sown into the Gentile world to the degree of apparent untraceability?

There is one way that I know of.

He can save the world.

And just coincidentally, that seems to be exactly what Paul says God is up to. “If their trespass means riches for the world, and if their failure means riches for the Gentiles, how much more their fullness!” [Rom 11:12] “For if their rejection means the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance mean but life from the dead?” [11:15]

“For the gifts and calling of God are irrevocable. For just as you were at one time disobedient to God but now have received mercy by their disobedience, so also these now disobeyed regarding the mercy shown you, in order that they themselves may obtain mercy. For God has consigned all to disobedience, in order to have mercy upon all.” [Rom 11:30–32]