Will Today's Jews Go to Heaven?
Summary: This subject has been a source of controversy in the Christian world. Mainly because the generic New-Testament Bible teaching is that those who do not believe in Jesus Christ, are hell bound. But according to some verses, there is one exception, "The Elect".
Note that some Christian articles address this question using the figurative meaning of the word "Israel" as "all Christian believers". But I believe the Bible scripture below are literal "Israel", the Jewish-people. So I take the literal explanation in this page.
The answer based on the Bible references below:
Not all Jews are saved, but only those who were faithful Jewish believers who genuinely followed God's old-covenant law, but innocently missed that the Messiah had come. God will grant them salvation by "the Elect" option to fulfil His promises to the Jewish patriarchs.
One example of an "Elect" after-Christ, was the apostle Paul who was a genuine Jewish believer but naively missed seeing Jesus as the real Messiah, and was actually killing early Christians. Paul was forcefully saved by the grace of God.
Who are the "Elect"?
The Bible uses the term "Elect" to refer to select "Jewish people" who were an exception to the rule of the new-covenant. Specifically, those Jewish people who are/were in an old-covenant situation thinking they're wholeheartedly following God's law, and truly and innocently not knowing that the Messiah had come, and that God had already moved to a new-covenant. God knew this would happen, and made a provision for it, called "the Elect" in order to keep His promises to "the patriarchs" as in Romans 11:28 below (i.e., promises to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob). Only God knows which of the Jews are "the Elect".
- Not all the Jews are "Elect"!
- The term "Elect" does not apply to Gentiles!! (Gentiles means non-Jewish)
Example Bible reference about "the Elect", after-Christ:
... What the people of Israel sought so earnestly they did not obtain. The elect among them did, but the others were hardened
The Jewish people, for thousands of years, followed God's rules to gain salvation. This is a general statement; in reality some of them truly did. God knows who truly did - Some Jews were "the elect among them" and "others were hardened" (rejected). One example of the "Elect" is the apostle Paul who was killing Christians because he thought Jesus was a false Messiah.
Note: Today's Jews are unlikely from "the Elect". Today is different than the days of Paul!! Today, the New Testament scripture is in front of them, as clear as the sun, with all the detailed explanations of Paul who was one of them! But they continue to strongly and mockingly reject it! The New Testament was not available to the Jewish people who rejected Jesus in His days. But today? Only God knows who among them is saved, but I doubt any of today's Jews are Elect! The Elect will be mostly from among the Jews in the days of Jesus and before.
Example Bible reference about "the Elect", before Christ:
And what was God’s answer to him [to Elijah]? “I have reserved for myself seven thousand who have not bowed the knee to Baal. So too, at the present time there is a remnant chosen by grace.
Similarly before Christ, only some of the Jews will be saved by "the Elect" option. Which ones? God told us in the verses above - only the genuine faithful among them who did not "kneel" to other gods. God in this passage shows us that He did not blanket save "all of Israel"!! The number seven-thousand represents a Holy number, which is not a literal number but a number representing the part of Israel who obeyed God.
Many churches, mostly U.S. Protestant denominations, mistakenly use Paul's writeup in Romans 9, 10, & 11 to declare all the Jews are saved. But other parts of the Bible provide the details, which say only some of the Jews will.
Romans 11:25-32 Paul said:
25 I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers and sisters, so that you may not be conceited: Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in, 26 and in this way all Israel will be saved. As it is written:
“The deliverer will come from Zion;
he will turn godlessness away from Jacob.
27 And this is my covenant with them
when I take away their sins.”
28 As far as the gospel is concerned, they are enemies for your sake; but as far as election is concerned, they are loved on account of the patriarchs, 29 for God’s gifts and his call are irrevocable. 30 Just as you [Gentiles] who were at one time disobedient to God have now received mercy as a result of their disobedience, 31 so they too have now become disobedient in order that they too may now receive mercy as a result of God’s mercy to you. 32 For God has bound everyone over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them all.
Paul's term "all Israel" here means real believers who genuinely followed the old law of Moses like he himself did back in the day, and naively missed seeing Jesus as the awaited Messiah. Paul missed it until Jesus got his attention with a flash of light on the road to Damascus, Acts 9:3-4.
Romans 11:1 Paul said:
"... I am an Israelite myself, a descendant of Abraham, from the tribe of Benjamin."
Paul used himself as the example of what will happen to "all Israel". Paul, guided by the Holy Spirit, reasoned that if God did it to him, then He would also do it to other Jews like him.
Paul did a lot of explaining in the 3 chapters in Romans 9,10,11 trying to clarify this topic. And when you say a lot, people can find words to twist to fit their agenda, as we see much of in many many contradicting internet articles today.
What is the difference between "the Elect" and "Predestined"?
These two terms are not the same! For the full explanation see Section 3 in Calvinist, Presbyterian, Reformed, Biblical?.
Let's first set a reference point on this topic using what Jesus said. Here's an example of Jesus talking to Jewish people:
9 And do not think you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. 10 The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.
What is "fruit"? It is maturity in the knowledge of God, which produces true faith!
What is "cut down"? Sent to hell.
Jesus' message to Israel here is very clear. And consistent with His other parables, and with the whole Bible!!! Jewish or not, "every tree that does not produce fruit will be cut down..." This reference is God telling us very clearly in a few words exactly what He thinks of this whole topic of the Jewish people destination.
Not all Jews will be saved
Here are some other verses from Jesus showing that not all Jews will receive God's grace by "election".
Jesus here was praising the great faith of the Centurion who's not Jewish:
Matthew 8:10-12 ISV
. . . “I tell all of you with certainty, not even in Israel have I found this kind of faith! I tell all of you, many will come from east and west and will feast with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. But the unfaithful heirs of that kingdom will be thrown into the darkness outside. In that place there will be wailing and gnashing of teeth.”
"The unfaithful heirs of that kingdom will be thrown into the darkness" - This refers to the unfaithful ones of the Jews.
Then in Matthew 23, Jesus went on a rant against the Pharisees and teachers of the law using strong condemning words, basically telling them they're going to hell. The whole chapter was dedicated to this series of woes. Example:
29 Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites!... 33 “You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell?
And in Matthew 12, Jesus told the Pharisees they've committed the unforgivable sin when they called Him demon possessed.
24 But when the Pharisees heard this, they said, “It is only by Beelzebul, the prince of demons, that this fellow drives out demons.”
32 [Jesus:] Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.
Old-Testament God's Perspective
God made promises to the Jewish people throughout the Old-Testament. He promised them salvation, but only if they obey His law. Example:
Now then, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be My own possession among all the peoples, for all the earth is Mine.
So it is not "all" of them. It is those Jews who "obey His voice and keep His covenant". Who also naively missed seeing Jesus as the real Messiah? Do you think all the Jewish people in the world today meet this requirement? I'll let you answer that.
Paul said God will grant them salvation by grace through "the Elect" option, Romans 11:28. God, being the loving and faithful God that He is, will fulfil His promises to the Jews across generations, despite their foolish rejection of Jesus. But not a blanket salvation to all Jews.
God already showed us the same behavior when He granted righteousness to Abraham in the same way long before the law of Moses and the coming of Jesus Christ.
When will those "Elect" Jews Be Saved?
The grafting back-in of the "Elect" faithful Jews, will come in the future, sometime between the rapture and judgment day, according to the description in passages such as Revelation 7:1-19, which speak of end-times Israel at Christ’s return. The key verse describing the coming to faith of the future genuinely faithful remnant of Israel is:
“I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and supplication. They will look on me, the one they have pierced, and they will mourn for him as one mourns for an only child, and grieve bitterly for him as one grieves for a firstborn son.”
This occurs at the end of the tribulation prophesied in Daniel 9:24–27. The apostle John references this event in Revelation 1:7. The faithful remnant of Israel is epitomized in Revelation 7:1-8.
The passage below talks about which Jews will be saved. It is not all of them; It is 12000 from each tribe: 12x12K = 144000.
Again here, these numbers are not literal. They represent holy numbers, meaning the ones from each tribe who were genuine believers in God.
After this I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding back the four winds of the earth to prevent any wind from blowing on the land or on the sea or on any tree. Then I saw another angel coming up from the east, having the seal of the living God. He called out in a loud voice to the four angels who had been given power to harm the land and the sea: “Do not harm the land or the sea or the trees until we put a seal on the foreheads of the servants of our God.” Then I heard the number of those who were sealed: 144,000 from all the tribes of Israel.
From the tribe of Judah 12,000 were sealed,
from the tribe of Reuben 12,000,
from the tribe of Gad 12,000,
from the tribe of Asher 12,000,
from the tribe of Naphtali 12,000,
from the tribe of Manasseh 12,000,
from the tribe of Simeon 12,000,
from the tribe of Levi 12,000,
from the tribe of Issachar 12,000,
from the tribe of Zebulun 12,000,
from the tribe of Joseph 12,000,
from the tribe of Benjamin 12,000.