Romans 11 And The Future Of Ethnic Israel -- By: Ben L. Merkle
JETS 43:4 (Dec 00) p. 709
Romans 11 And The Future Of Ethnic Israel
The final destiny of ethnic Israel is both a sensitive and important topic. It is sensitive, because it involves real people and real outcomes. It is important, because it involves God’s promises and God’s integrity. In Romans 11, we find Paul’s clearest description of the final destiny of Israel. It is the contention of this author, however, that many who read Romans 11 read into the text a future mass conversion of ethnic Israel. In this paper I will seek to demonstrate that Romans 11, and in particular Rom 11:26, does not teach a future mass conversion of ethnic Israel, but rather that there will always be a remnant of believing Jews until the end of time. After briefly reviewing the three main interpretations of the phrase “all Israel will be saved,” I will then examine the reasons why “all Israel” refers to the elect ethnic Jews throughout history. Finally, I will answer some possible objections to this view.
II. Three Interpretations Of “all Israel Will Be Saved”
The key verse for the interpretation of Romans 11 is found in 26a, “and so all Israel will be saved.” In his commentary Douglas Moo states, “the first clause of v. 26 is the storm center in the interpretation of Romans 9–11 and of NT teaching about the Jews and their future.”1 The three main interpretations of the phrase “all Israel will be saved” are as follows: (1) all the elect, both Jew and Gentile; (2) the ethnic nation of Israel as a whole; (3) all the elect of ethnic Israel throughout history.
1. All the elect, both Jew and Gentile. Scholars such as Calvin, Jeremias, Barth, and Wright have held this interpretation.2 In his commentary on Romans Calvin states, “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
JETS 43:4 (Dec 00) p. 710