What is Paul talking about in Romans 11:26?

Another user submitted question!  Kent P. asks, "What is Paul talking about in Romans 11:26 when he says all of Israel will be saved?"

Romans 11:26, (ESV): "And in this way all Israel will be saved, as it is written, “The Deliverer will come from Zion, he will banish ungodliness from Jacob”;"

I personally always found Paul's writings to be very interesting and thought provoking.  One thing to take solace in is knowing that the core parts of Christian theology is very simple to understand, and usually only the parts that are not absolutely significant towards being saved are up for debate as far as interpretation goes.  This is another one of those examples for the latter.

The meaning of this verse has been debated by scholars and the like for centuries.

The question remains, what does Paul mean when he states that all Israel will be saved?

First, we can examine what Paul laid out in the prior verses, which is as a nation and as individuals, God's chosen people of Israel have refused to Jesus as their Lord and Savior.

In fact, God Himself had caused the nation and most of the citizens to become hardened in this unbelief. Why did God do this, you may wonder?

On one hand, Israel's rejection of Jesus actually made room for the rest of the world, the Gentiles, to come to God themselves through faith in Jesus as Lord and Savior. In the prior verse, Paul wrote that upon the "fullness" of the Gentiles has coming to Jesus, God will remove the hardening on the nation and people of Israel.  And then now, in the verse at hand, Paul writes "in this way all Israel will be saved."

Some have interpreted this to mean that every Israelite who has ever lived will be saved in the end, but that is not true, as birthplace does not dictate or take over faith in Christ as our Lord and Savior.  That interpretation does not fit with Paul's teaching in Romans as a whole in which salvation comes only by God's grace through faith in Christ.

Clearly, some Jewish people completely rejected God and Jesus. God is not extending salvation to those who actively hated Him merely based on their place of birth.

Some have also interpreted this to be a recount of upcoming events during the end times involving Israel, and while under great persecution, will be saved from further earthly harm by the "Deliverer."

"Salvation" and "deliverance," in reference to the Old Testament, are very closely related.  Paul likely refers to the end times in reference to when Isaiah's prophecies about a Deliverer from Zion banishing Israel's ungodliness will be fulfilled (Isaiah 59:20).

Most Bible scholars and teachers here understand Paul to be describing the Second Coming of Jesus here.  Another view is that by "all Israel," Paul means all who have faith in Jesus as Lord and Savior, both Jews and Gentiles. This view holds the church to be a new Israel. This view is not in keeping with the full context of Scripture, however. Paul has written that everyone who comes to God by faith are the children of Abraham (Romans 4:16), but in this very chapter he has made a clear distinction between believing Gentiles and Israelites.

Many Bible scholars have concluded that by "all Israel," Paul means either all Israelites who trust in Jesus (Romans 9:6–8) or the nation of Israel as a whole.

Either way, the outcome would be the same: All Israelites will be saved who come to faith in Jesus at some future time after God removes the hardening of their hearts.

The sense of Paul's words conveys the idea that this will include enough Israelites to represent the nation entirely, though it will not necessarily include every Israelite living at the time.

Take heed, not every verse of Scripture is crystal clear, and not every question we can ask about the Bible ends in a perfect answer.

This vers is fairly obscure.  As is always the case, however, the Bible is only obscure on issues which don't affect our relationship with God, or the core doctrines of the faith and Christianity.

The rest of Romans 11 wraps up a section about God's plans for His Israelite people and the glory of all things are to God. In short, He plans to reestablish His covenant with Israel. This will occur after many Jewish people come to faith in Jesus at some future point in time.  Israel remains deeply loved by God because of His irreversible promises and calling for the patriarchs. 

In the end, God will show mercy to all Jews and Gentiles who come to Him through faith in Jesus for the forgiveness of their sins and acceptance of Him as Lord and Savior.

"For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever. Amen."