Some Christians insist that Paul’s epistle to the Philippians provides a blanket “get out of jail free” card for all Israelites — that regardless of whether or not they believe in and follow Jesus Christ in this lifetime, if they were born as Israelites, they will ultimately be given a second chance to confess Christ and be saved upon His return.
This misguided belief is based on the cherry-picked verse from Romans 11:26,
“…and so all Israel will be saved; just as it is written: ‘The Deliverer will come from Zion, He will remove ungodliness from Jacob.”—Romans 11:26
In our previous essay, “Will All Israel Be Saved — Or Just A Remnant,” we thoroughly addressed the meaning of this verse — and showed that it is not a guarantee that all those born as Israelites are ensured salvation.
And to further prove this thesis, we wrote the follow-up essay — “John’s Baptism Of Repentence — And Why All Israel Will Not Be Saved” — and we encourage anyone who still holds these beliefs to read both of these essays.
Those who insist that this verse from Romans does ensure universal, unconditional salvation of “all Israel” will often quote Philippians 2:9-11 where Paul writes,
“For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”—NASB 1995
Young’s Literal Translation renders this verse as,
“Wherefore, also, God did highly exalt him, and gave to him a name that is above every name, that in the name of Jesus every knee may bow — of heavenlies, and earthlies, and what are under the earth — and every tongue may confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
[Note: It is not our intention to “cherry pick” the translation that best suits our purpose here — we merely chose these two as examples of how the verse has been translated — and we would encourage you to read and compare the different translations here to see how similar they are.]
What Paul is saying here is that upon the return of Jesus Christ both the living and the dead will be compelled to acknowledge sovereign power of Christ and the Father — and submit to their ultimate Judgment.
We know that “every knee shall bow” does not refer to salvation because Paul takes this phrase from Isaiah — who is quoting directly from God that He will demand submission and loyalty to His will:
“I have sworn by Myself, The word has gone forth from My mouth in righteousness And will not turn back, That to Me every knee will bow, every tongue will swear allegiance.”—Isaiah 45:23
Merely acknowledging God’s power and sovereignty in no way refers to or confers salvation — as James tells us,
“You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder.”—James 2:19
And we also know that “every tongue may confess that Jesus Christ is Lord” does not mean that everyone — including Israelites — will be saved — as Christ Himself tells us that “on that day” of Judgment not everyone who confesses belief in Him will be saved:
“Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you who practice lawlessness.’“—Matthew 7-22-23
Some Christians want to believe that these verses are some sort of proof or guarantee of salvation for all Israelites — however, salvation — guaranteed or otherwise — is not mentioned at all in these verses from Philippians, nor is it even implied.
It is a grave error to lead Christians to believe that just because Israelites and non-Israelites will be compelled to “bow the knee” — as they were in Isaiah 45:23 — and “confess that Jesus Christ is Lord” — as they were in Matthew 7:22-23 — that their salvation will be ensured.
Those who nevertheless insist on believing that these verses in Philippians assure salvation to all Israelites even after death ignore what Paul writes immediately after these verses — where he explains the separate issue of salvation:
“So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.”—Philippians 2:12-13
Paul is telling the Philippians that their salvation will be based on their faith in Jesus Christ here and now — in a way that is pleasing to God.
He warns them that they should not wait until that moment when they are compelled after death to bow before God and confess Christ — for at that point it will be too late.
Jesus Christ tells us that it will be those who have faith in Him before they see Him when He returns who will receive His blessing and salvation:
“Jesus said to him, ‘Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed.’”—John 20:29
And even those who do submit to Jesus Christ in the here and now nevertheless do so “with fear and trembling” because even so their salvation is not guaranteed — only at the moment of Judgment will we know if we have pleased God.
Paul continues to explain to the Israelites in Philippia what they need to do to please God in order to have a chance of salvation:
“Do all things without grumbling or disputing; so that you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world, holding fast the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I will have reason to glory because I did not run in vain nor toil in vain. But even if I am being poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I rejoice and share my joy with you all. You too, I urge you, rejoice in the same way and share your joy with me.”–Philippians 2:14-18
In other words, if Christians do not prove themselves to be blameless and innocent — and “above reproach” — then their lives will have been “in vain” — all will be lost — and salvation will be denied them at the Final Judgment.
To tell Israelites — Christian or not — that no matter what they do in this life, their salvation is guaranteed merely because they were born into Israelite flesh is exactly what the Serpent told Eve in the garden:
The serpent said to the woman, “You surely will not die!—Genesis 3:4
In Philippians 3, Paul calls those — like the Pharisees — who preach confidence in the flesh “dogs” and “evil workers“:
“Watch out for those dogs, those workers of evil, those mutilators of the flesh! For it is we who are the circumcision, we who worship by the Spirit of God, who glory in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh— though I myself could have such confidence.”–Philippians 3:2-4
Paul then explains how he — of all Israelites — who could have confidence in his Israelite flesh but does not:
“If anyone else thinks he has grounds for confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin; a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, persecuting the church; as to righteousness in the law, faultless.”–Philippians 3:4-6
Without faith in Jesus Christ — being reborn into his Spirit — Paul’s birth and life as an Israelite will be in vain:
“But whatever was gain to me I count as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things as loss compared to the surpassing excellence of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, a the righteousness from God on the basis of faith.”—Philippians 3:7-9
At no time does Paul ever reassure the Israelites in Philippia that they have nothing to fear — that their Israelite bodies into which they were born will guarantee their resurrection from the dead — and eternal salvation:
“I want to know Christ and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to Him in His death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.”—Philippians 3:10-11
As we demonstrated in our essay “The Confusion Of Nicodemus — Born Again or Born From Above,” both Jesus Christ and John the Baptist rebuke the Israelite Pharisees for believing that their Israelite flesh is enough to save them.
Yes, Jesus Christ stated unequivocally that He came only for Israel:
“But He answered and said, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”—Matthew 15:24
And, yes, Paul did say
“And so all Israel shall be saved, according as it hath been written, ‘There shall come forth out of Sion he who is delivering, and he shall turn away impiety from Jacob'”—Romans 11:26
Those who cherry pick “all Israel shall be saved” ignore the next phrase “according as it hath been written” — which is a qualifier, not a blanket unconditional statement as Paul explains in the entire context of that epistle.
And in the context of Romans 11, Paul here is simply telling us that Jesus Christ will offer salvation not just to the “cultivated olive tree” — that is, the Israelites of the southern kingdom who kept the faith and the Law — but also the “wild olive branches” — or those “lost” Israelites — the so-called “gentiles” — that is, the “uncircumcised Israelites” who over time had lost their identity as Israel did not keep the faith.
The Pharisees, of course, bristled at this radical idea — claiming that only the cultivated olive tree or the “circumcised” shall be saved:
“Some men came down from Judea and began teaching the brethren, “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.”—Acts 15:1
Yet Paul tells us that Christ came to regather and unify all 12 tribes of Israel — even those Israelite “sheep who are not of this fold” — and “bring them also“:
“For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall.”—Ephesians 2:14
Christ opened the barrier between these two folds of His Israelite sheep and offered salvation to both — the circumcised and uncircumcised — this is the true meaning of “all Israel shall be saved.”
To believe that an Israelite according to the flesh will be guaranteed salvation even without faith in Christ is exactly what the Jews believe — making Christ’s death and resurrection in vain, and irrelevant to salvation.
And to believe that somehow Israelites who did not believe in Christ — nor walk with Christ in this lifetime — will be given a second chance upon Christ’s return also make a complete mockery of the entire point of the Gospels.
Nowhere do the gospels assure us that we will be given a second chance for salvation after we die — in the gospel of Matthew, Jesus Christ tells His followers exactly who shall be saved and why — those who endure the hardships of this life and remain faithful until the end:
“And Jesus answered and said unto them, ‘Take heed that no man deceive you. For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many. And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet.
For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places. All these are the beginning of sorrows.
Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name’s sake. And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another.
And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many. And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold.
But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.”—Matthew 24:4-13
Time is short — do not allow false teachers tell you otherwise — as James admonishes us,
“Go to now, ye that say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy and sell, and get gain: Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.”—James 4:13-14
Paul exhorts us all to live now for Christ as if our eternal salvation depended on it:
“And working together, we also urge you not to receive the grace of God in vain. For He says: “In the acceptable time I listened to you, and in the day of salvation I helped you.” Behold, now is the time of favor; behold, now is the day of salvation.”—2 Corinthians 6:1-2