All Israel Shall Be Saved: Answering an Objection #3
In the previous article I took note that in Romans 11:7 we find powerful and unequivocal proof that Israel’s kingdom hope, Israel’s eschatological hope was being fulfilled in the first century. This means that the fulfillment of Romans 11:25f, being part of that hope, was not in some far distant future. Fulfillment had begun, but, consummation was not far off.
Here is the reason why.
In Romans 9:26-29 as Paul discussed the salvation of Israel – specifically the righteous remnant of Israel – he said this:
“Isaiah also cries out concerning Israel:
“Though the number of the children of Israel be as the sand of the sea, The remnant will be saved. For He will finish the work and cut it short in righteousness, Because the Lord will make a short work upon the earth.”
And as Isaiah said before:
“Unless the Lord of Sabaoth had left us a seed, We would have become like Sodom, And we would have been made like Gomorrah.”
Just as Isaiah (and Hosea) had foretold the salvation of a righteous remnant of Israel, Paul said that the righteous remnant was being saved in his day. After all, he was part of that remnant, and he was helping to gather the remnant.
A couple of things stand out here. First is the fact that just as in Isaiah and Hosea, the original promise of the salvation of the remnant was given in the context of impending judgment! It was not some generic statement or timeless promise. If the Lord was only going to save a remnant, what was He saving them from? That original promise was given in face of the impending destruction at the hands of the Assyrians. Judgment was near, but, the Lord would save a remnant!
Likewise, in the first century, Paul knew that judgment was coming. In fact, that judgment – the judgment on Israel – was going to be so severe that “unless those days be shortened, even the elect would perish” (Matthew 24: ).
In was in the face of that coming judgment that Paul could cite Isaiah and Hosea as God’s promise to save the righteous remnant. To overlook the judgment context of the salvation of the remnant is to ignore a key hermeneutical element of Paul’s discussion.
The next thing to notice is that Paul promised that the work of the salvation of the remnant would not be a long drawn out, protracted (or postponed!) process: “A short work will the Lord make on the earth”; He will finish the work and cut it short in righteousness.” This “cutting short” is from suntemnon.
Thayers says of suntemnon (p. 606)– “To cut short, briefly, execute or finish quickly…to bring a prophecy or decree speedily to accomplishment, Romans 9:28).”
A check of 36 translations reveals that it is translated “with speed”, “without hesitation or delay”, “swiftly” “with speed,” “short” (twelve times), quickly (nine times), “soon.”
So, suntemnon, means without delay, quickly, soon, short, without hesitation, “to bring to accomplishment speedily.”
This means that if the salvation of “all Israel” in Romans 11 is the consummation of the process of saving the remnant of chapter 9-10, that no matter what our concept of “all Israel” might be, it was not to be a long drawn out process.
This nullifies the view of those who claim that the salvation of “all Israel” refers to the salvation of “spiritual Jews” (with no connection to the righteous remnant of Old Covenant Israel) that takes place throughout the entirety of the Christian age until the so-called end of time.
In preparation for our public debate of 2016, Dr. David Hester said that Romans 11:25f referred to the salvation of people that will be converted until the end of time. Hester’s problem was that he initially said that Romans 11 has nothing to do with Christ’s “Second Coming.” But, after I demonstrated that it is directly related to that, he changed his argument, in mid-debate- and said that Romans 11 is about the conversion of individuals throughout the Christian age and until the end of time. When I pointed out that this demands that Romans 11 is, after all, about the Second Coming, he refused to discuss Romans 11 again. (A book of our debate is available from this website. It is entitled: The Resurrection of the Just and the Unjust.
This idea that Romans 11 and Paul’s discussion of the salvation of “all Israel” referring to the conversion of individuals throughout the Christian age is likewise the view of N. T. Wright who expressed his views:
“The high probability then seems to be that whenever one or more Jews become ‘jealous’ and turn in faith to the God who has now revealed his covenant plan and purpose in the Messiah (10:1f) that event ought to be understood by the church, particularly its gentile members, not as a peculiar or even unwelcome event, but as another bit of ‘resurrection,’ to be celebrated as such.” (N. T. Wright, Paul and the Faithfulness of God, (Minneapolis; Fortress, 2013, Vol. II),1200- His emphasis).
This view is not tenable in light of Romans 9:28. The span of 2000 years since Paul promised that the consummation of the salvation of the remnant would not be a long, drawn out work cannot be harmonized with these views. Two thousand years is not a “short work.” It is not a work that is “cut short.” Wright does not try to harmonize Romans 9:28 with Romans 11:25f. As is his usual tendency, he avoids any in-depth discussion of the first century imminence of the parousia.
Stay tuned as we continue to Answer Objections concerning All Israel Shall Be Saved.