Questions From Readers
● Since Romans 11:26 says that “all Israel will be saved,” does this mean that a conversion of all the Jews is to be expected?—England.
No, for the evidence of Scripture points to the full number of spiritual Israelites as the ones embraced by the expression “all Israel.” That fleshly distinctions no longer count with God is clear from Galatians 3:28, where we read: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor freeman, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one person in union with Christ Jesus.” And at Galatians 6:16 this composite body of believers, both Jews and non-Jews, is called the “Israel of God.”
In his letter to the Romans, the apostle Paul made it clear that the natural descendants of Abraham through his grandson Jacob were in line for being ‘adopted’ as sons of God. However, because of their rejecting Jesus as the Messiah, the majority lost out on this undeserved favor. For this reason Jehovah God extended an opportunity to non-Jews to become part of the true Israel. Wrote the apostle: “Not all who spring from Israel are really ‘Israel.’ Neither because they are Abraham’s seed are they all children, but: ‘What will be called “your seed” will be through Isaac.’ That is, the children in the flesh are not really the children of God, but the children by the promise are counted as the seed.” (Rom. 9:1-8) “He is not a Jew who is one on the outside, nor is circumcision that which is on the outside upon the flesh. But he is a Jew who is one on the inside, and his circumcision is that of the heart by spirit, and not by a written code. The praise of that one comes, not from men, but from God.”—Rom. 2:28, 29.
Similarly, Jesus Christ pointed out to the religious leaders of Judaism who had rejected him: “The kingdom of God will be taken from you and be given to a nation producing its fruits.” (Matt. 21:43) That nation proved to be the nation of spiritual Israel, composed of both Jews and non-Jews who accepted Jesus Christ as their Lord. Concerning this nation, the apostle Paul stated: “You are ‘a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for special possession, that you should declare abroad the excellencies’ of the one that called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. For you were once not a people, but are now God’s people; you were those who had not been shown mercy, but are now those who have been shown mercy.”—1 Pet. 2:9, 10.
According to the book of Revelation, membership in this spiritual nation is limited to 144,000. The apostle John writes: “I heard the number of those who were sealed, a hundred and forty-four thousand, sealed out of every tribe of the sons of Israel.” (Rev. 7:4) For several reasons this simply could not refer to Israel according to the flesh. Knowing that the revelation was presented to him in “signs” and that Jehovah God was dealing with the new nation of spiritual Israel, John would have understood the reference to every “tribe of the sons of Israel” to be symbolic. The very fact that the listing of the tribes did not fully correspond to that of natural Israel, as set forth in Numbers chapter 1, confirmed this. (Rev. 7:5-8) Moreover, it was revealed to John that the 144,000 “were bought [not from among natural Israel alone but] from among mankind as firstfruits to God and to the Lamb.” (Rev. 14:1, 4) Revelation 5:9, 10 makes this yet clearer: “With your blood you bought persons for God out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation, and you made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God, and they are to rule as kings over the earth.”
Thus, when the majority of natural Israelites failed to seize the opportunity to become members of spiritual Israel during the time exclusively allotted to them (on the basis of God’s covenant with Abraham), Jehovah God opened up the opportunity for non-Jews to gain membership in that nation. (Compare Daniel 9:27; Luke 1:68-79; Acts 3:19-26.) The bringing of the Gentiles into the spiritual nation was the manner by which God purposed to save all “Israel,” as the apostle Paul said: “I do not want you, brothers, to be ignorant of this sacred secret, in order for you not to be discreet in your own eyes: that a dulling of sensibilities has happened in part to Israel [the literal Jews] until the full number of people of the nations has come in, and in this manner [“thus,” Kingdom Interlinear] all Israel will be saved.”—Rom. 11:25, 26.
If the opportunity to become part of spiritual Israel had not been extended to mankind generally, “all Israel” could not have been saved. Why not? This is because, due to the unresponsiveness of natural Israelites, the membership of spiritual Israel would not have been completed within God’s fixed time. Jehovah God saw that this would be the case and therefore purposed that the nation of spiritual Israel be taken from among mankind, that is, from among both Jews and non-Jews. This was a “sacred secret.” As Ephesians 3:5, 6 tells us: “In other generations this secret was not made known to the sons of men as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by spirit, namely, that people of the nations should be joint heirs and fellow members of the body and partakers with us [believing Jews like the apostle Paul] of the promise in union with Christ Jesus through the good news.”
Of course, it should be kept in mind that Jehovah’s casting off natural Israel as a chosen nation did not close to individuals within that nation the opportunity to become reconciled to him. Along with all other humans, natural Israelites were bought by the precious blood of Jesus Christ. (1 Tim. 2:5, 6; Heb. 2:9) Hence, these natural Israelites or Jews can be reconciled to God as devoted disciples of his Son. That is why the apostle Paul could say: “If the casting of them away means reconciliation for the world, what will the receiving of them [individual Jews] mean but life from the dead?”—Rom. 11:15.
Manifestly, not all the Gentile world has chosen to be reconciled with God and never will be. Otherwise, there would be no reason for the Lord Jesus Christ and his angels to take action against the ungodly. But such action will be taken. We read: “This takes into account that it is righteous on God’s part to repay tribulation to those who make tribulation for you, but, to you who suffer tribulation, relief along with us at the revelation of the Lord Jesus from heaven with his powerful angels in a flaming fire, as he brings vengeance upon those who do not know God and those who do not obey the good news about our Lord Jesus. These very ones will undergo the judicial punishment of everlasting destruction from before the Lord and from the glory of his strength.” (2 Thess. 1:6-9) It is noteworthy that Christians at Thessalonica experienced tribulation at the hands of both Jews and non-Jews. (Acts 17:5-9) Hence, there is no basis for claiming that all the Jews will be converted and that therefore only non-Jews will experience adverse judgment at the hands of Jesus Christ.
Until such time as that divine judgment is executed, both Jews and non-Jews have the opportunity to become reconciled to God. Members of spiritual Israel yet on earth and a “great crowd” of other devoted servants of Jehovah God and of his Son Jesus Christ will survive the execution of judgment. (Rev. 7:2, 3, 9-17) Thus the entire nation of spiritual Israel will be saved; nothing will prevent that nation from having its full, foreordained membership.