As with most theological positions, there are a variety of interpretations of this passage: (1) The salvation of every racial/ethnic Jew. This is an impossible interpretation. Why preach the gospel to the Jews if they’re all going to be saved?" (2) the salvation of believers–racial and spiritual Jews–throughout history. This position changes the meaning of Israel, going from literal (Rom. 11:1) to spiritual (11:26). While it’s possible; it’s unlikely; (3) the salvation of a remnant of Jews at the end of history. This is the position of the Westminster Confession of Faith (Q. 191 LC). Two-thousand years have passed since Romans was written. The Jews have had plenty of time to be “jealous” (Rom. 11:11). The Jews in Paul’s day were jealous. That’s why Jews were persecuting the church; (4) salvation of those Jews who survive the Great Tribulation. This becomes a debate over when the GT took/takes place. A remnant of Jews was saved prior to the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70, therefore, the GT is a past event; (5) the remnant of Jews living during the period of covenant transition until the time Jerusalem was judged and the temple destroyed. This interpretation makes the most sense given the time indicators in the passage.
“I say then, God has not rejected His people, has He? May it never be! For I too am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin” (Rom. 11:1).1. Paul is describing the remnant in his day (11:5) in the same way that Elijah was describing the remnant in his own day (1 Kings 19:10).
- The remnant is alive “at the present time” (11:5), that is, in Paul’s day. It’s this remnant that Paul hopes to save through the preaching of the gospel, many of whom have already been saved (cf. Acts 2:5–12, 37–41).
2. There is no mention of a future tribulation or an “after the rapture” period in Romans 9–11.
3. Paul wants to save “some” of his “fellow-countrymen” (11:14).
- He is speaking of the present.
- What help is Paul’s “ministry” (11:13) going to be more than 2000 years in the future?: “So these also now have been disobedient, in order that because of the mercy shown to you they also may now be shown mercy” (11:31).
4. Save them from what? Save them from the coming judgment upon Jerusalem that took place in A.D. 70.
Endnotes: “Some see [‘all Israel’] in a diachronic sense, namely, that ‘all Israel’ refers to the nation as it has existed throughout history and that will have a share in the world to come (Sanhedrin 10:1) after the resurrection. Others take it in a synchronic sense where ‘all Israel’ refers to the nation only as it exists at a moment in history, particularly at the end of time as a part of the eschatological program. The second alternative is preferred. Moo states, ‘No occurrence of the phrase “all Israel” has a clearly diachronic meaning.’ Furthermore, the context speaks of Israel’s rejection of Messiah and her hardening which was to continue until the time when the fullness of Gentiles should come in. Then, in sharp contrast, at a particular moment in history, ‘all Israel’ will experience salvation” (Harold W. Hoehner, “Israel in Romans 9–11,” Israel: The Land and the People–An Evangelical Affirmation of God’s Promises, ed. H. Wayne House [Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel, 1998], 156).