Is there a simple proof that the words “and so all Israel shall be saved” (Rom. 11:26) refer to the nation of Israel and not to a spiritual Israel consisting of all believers?
The proof is in the very words that follow in verses 27–29. Before looking at these verses, we must remind ourselves of some simple rules of language involving parentheses. A parenthesis is a collection of words inserted into a passage that is grammatically complete without them. They express a comment, an explanation or an afterthought by the writer. Normally these words are marked off by brackets, dashes or commas. There are many parentheses in the NT. For example, we have “Are ye ignorant, brethren, (for I speak to those knowing law,) that law rules over a man as long as he lives?” (Rom. 7: 1). The parenthesis in brackets is explanatory but could be omitted with the passage being still grammatically complete and perfectly understandable. In the NT, parenthetical explanations are sometimes given by quoting OT Scriptures. For, example: “who is the father of us all, (according as it is written, I have made thee father of many nations,) before the God whom he believed” (Rom. 4: 16, 17).
Now the Greek manuscripts of the NT have no commas, no brackets and generally no punctuation of any kind. The use of brackets in English to indicate a parenthesis lies within the judgment of the translator. In Rom. 11: 26, 27 Paul cites Isaiah 59 “According as it is written, The deliverer shall come out of Zion; he shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob. And this is the covenant from me to them, when I shall have taken away their sins”. This quotation of the Apostle is used to explain and substantiate the clause “and so all Israel shall be saved”. Now although the quotation is not in brackets, it is effectively parenthetical as the main text is perfectly understandable without it: “and so all Israel shall be saved. … As regards the glad tidings, [they are] enemies on your account; but as regards election, beloved on account of the fathers” (Rom. 11: 26, 28). Hence this parenthetical quotation does not divorce v26 from v28.
The key to the meaning of “Israel” in v26 is in v28. In the latter verse we have two pronouns (“they” and “your”) and pronouns always refer back to previous nouns for their meaning. Throughout the passage (Rom. 11: 7–36) pronouns in the third person (they, them, their) refer to “Israel” (v7) and those in the second person (thou, you, thee, your) refer to the “nations” (v12). Beyond grammatical dispute the “they” of v28 is the “Israel” of v26. What does Paul say of “Israel” in v28? He says they are beloved “on account of the fathers”. While Israel nationally had fathers (see Rom. 9: 3–5) it could be argued that Abraham was also “father of all them that believe” (Rom. 4: 11). However, the conclusive clause is the first one of v28: “As regards the glad tidings, [they are] enemies”. This company are deemed enemies as regards the glad tidings. Could this be some spiritual Israel, believers of any kind? Impossible! Believers are not enemies of the glad tidings. But surely both Jews and Gentiles were equally enemies of the glad tidings? Not so! Of some 35 examples of opposition to the glad tidings recorded in Acts only five may be attributed to the Gentiles. The vanguard of opposition was the Jews nationally. Five times we have the telling phrase “But the Jews …” (see Acts 13: 45, 50; 14: 2; 17: 5; 28: 19). Time and again the Jews resisted God’s testimony in the Gospel. Hence I deem it beyond doubt that when Paul says “all Israel shall be saved” he means Israel nationally—not just a remnant as at the present time.
The same sovereign mercy that saves individuals now, both Jew and Gentile, will then be exercised in regard to the nation of Israel. The question “shall a nation be born at once?” (Is. 66: 8) will be answered in the affirmative, for God “will pour upon the house of David and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem the spirit of grace and of supplications; and they shall look on me whom they pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for an only [son], and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for [his] firstborn. In that day shall there be a great mourning in Jerusalem, as the mourning of Hadad–rimmon in the valley of Megiddon. And the land shall mourn, every family apart: the family of the house of David apart, and their wives apart; the family of the house of Nathan apart; ... all the families that remain, every family apart, and their wives apart. In that day there shall be a fountain opened to the house of David and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem for sin and for uncleanness” (Zech 12: 10–12, 14; 13: 1). Thus all Israel—national Israel—will be saved.