Ask Me Anything - Can Jews Who Don't Accept Jesus Be Saved?
October 30, 2019
By popular demand, this new Passages study on Wednesday nights has been added to the podcast. Listen as Pastor Brad bravely answers questions turned in by members and attenders, no holds barred.
Ask Me Anything
Can Jews who don’t accept Jesus be saved?
Why would one think a Jew could be saved apart from Jesus? They are God’s chosen people.
Deuteronomy 7:6 (ESV) — 6 “For you are a people holy to the Lord your God. The Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth.”
And this can be traced all the way back to when God called Abraham (Abram at the time) out of his country to follow his destiny as the father of the Israelites…
Genesis 12:1–3 (ESV) — 1 Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. 2 And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
God promises him land, a national descendants to inhabit the land, and blessing. That last part is particularly interesting. In Abraham all the families of the earth would be blessed. We’ll come back to that later.
Genesis 15:1–6 (ESV) — 1 After these things the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision: “Fear not, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great.” 2 But Abram said, “O Lord God, what will you give me, for I continue childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?” 3 And Abram said, “Behold, you have given me no offspring, and a member of my household will be my heir.” 4 And behold, the word of the Lord came to him: “This man shall not be your heir; your very own son shall be your heir.” 5 And he brought him outside and said, “Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” 6 And he believed the Lord, and he counted it to him as righteousness.
Verse 6 will be important later, but for now know that the Jews were special in a way no other people group can claim. Out of all the people on the sin cursed earth, God chose them as a special possession and the means by which he’d set things back to rights.
The OT, however, is a chronicle of just how badly the Jews failed to live as God’s chosen people. They received the law and the covenant through Moses at Mt. Sinai but couldn’t keep it. They intermingled both physically and spiritually with other nations and their gods. A terrible cycle formed: abandoning of God’s ways, a time of chastising by God, a return to God.
Eventually, things got so bad, God raised up other nations to just carry the Jews off into exile. For hundreds of years the Jews suffered, longing to be right with God again. Prophets foretold how God would not be angry at his people forever, how he would raise up a deliverer like Moses to rescue them from the nations who oppressed them. This deliverer was called the Anointed One, the Messiah.
The Messiah would bring a new covenant and a new way of relating to God.
Jeremiah 31:31–34 (ESV) — 31 “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, 32 not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the Lord. 33 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 34 And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”
So they waited, and waited, and waited. And then out of nowhere a Jew named Jesus, born of poor parents, burst onto the scene. The whole point of the four Gospels is to declare Jesus the long awaited Messiah who proved himself to be the Anointed One through his healings, miracles, and teachings, as well as coming back from the dead.
The good news of Jesus was extended beyond the Jews to the Gentiles (us!). Unfortunately most of the Jews rejected Jesus as their Messiah and continue doing so to this day.
John 1:1–13 (ESV) — 1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. 4 In him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. 6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7 He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. 8 He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light. 9 The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. 11 He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. 12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.
Why did the Jews reject their own Messiah?
For cultural reasons
Many Jewish people will explain that they do not believe in Jesus simply because they are Jewish. They were raised being taught that Jews do not accept Jesus, while Christians do. As a minority in a society considered at one time as Christian, this one belief has come to define the most significant difference between Jews and Christians in the West. Moreover, if a Jew embraces Jesus, they have converted to Christianity and are no longer Jewish. “… At one point in history, such converts were considered lost to the Jewish community, even apostates. For a Jewish person to consider faith in Jesus, he or she must consider the social stigma they face from friends, family and the larger Jewish community. Would a rabbi ever agree to marry them?… Would they be prohibited from joining a synagogue? These are the implications many Jewish people face on considering Jesus.*
It is said that the history between the church and the synagogue has been written in blood and punctuated in violence. It seems from the foundation of the early church, Christians have accused the Jews of rejecting their Messiah and killing the Son of God. Consequently, early Christian leaders held that God has rejected them. Augustine wrote, “Jews have been scattered throughout all nations as witnesses to their own sin and to our truth…Scatter them abroad, take away their strength. And bring them down O lord.”  Such inflammatory language was echoed through the centuries as Christian leaders maintained that the Jewish people were scattered and preserved in order to be punished for rejecting Christ. Down through the ages, atrocities, murders and massacres were justified on this basis.**
Sadly, Martin Luther, the man who started the Protestant Reformation, hated Jews for killing Jesus and wrote terrible things against them.
We see the connection between the OT prophecies and Jesus but most Jewish religious leaders do not (just as in Jesus’ day).
Rabbis, religious leaders and religious followers will respond to this question that Jesus cannot be the Messiah because he did not fulfill the job requirements. “Judaism does not believe that Jesus was the Messiah because He did not fulfill any messianic prophecies. ‘Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, nor shall they learn war anymore’ (Isaiah 2:4).”  Far from establishing world peace, Jesus himself said he came to divide “father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother” (Luke 12:53, ESV). In fact, there has been more bloodshed in the name of Jesus rather than peace. How can anyone argue that Jesus is the promised Messiah according to the Jewish Scriptures?***
We don’t have time to go into it, but they misinterpret the prophecies in many ways. This is exactly what Jesus said would happen…
Matthew 13:13–16 (ESV) — 13 This is why I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. 14 Indeed, in their case the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled that says: “ ‘ “You will indeed hear but never understand, and you will indeed see but never perceive.” 15 For this people’s heart has grown dull, and with their ears they can barely hear, and their eyes they have closed, lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart and turn, and I would heal them.’ 16 But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear.
So back to our question, can Jews who don’t accept Jesus be saved? Does their special status as God’s chosen people allow them to be part of God’s forever family since they were allowed access to God through the Mosaic covenant? Doesn’t the fact that they are still faithfully waiting for the Messiah mean anything? Doesn’t the Bible say that all Israel will be saved in the end?
Let’s start with that last statement and work our way back up. The Bible does say all Israel will be saved…
Romans 11:25–36 (ESV) — 25 Lest you be wise in your own sight, I do not want you to be unaware of this mystery, brothers: a partial hardening has come upon Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. 26And in this way all Israel will be saved, as it is written, “The Deliverer will come from Zion, he will banish ungodliness from Jacob”; 27 “and this will be my covenant with them when I take away their sins.” 28 As regards the gospel, they are enemies for your sake. But as regards election, they are beloved for the sake of their forefathers. 29 For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. 30 For just as you were at one time disobedient to God but now have received mercy because of their disobedience, 31 so they too have now been disobedient in order that by the mercy shown to you they also may now receive mercy. 32 For God has consigned all to disobedience, that he may have mercy on all. 33Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! 34 “For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?” 35 “Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?” 36 For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.
Verse 26 does say “all Israel will be saved.” Some take this to mean that all Jews end up with God in the end. But I don’t think that’s what Paul means, and it’s not what the Bible teaches as a whole.****
Look at Jesus’ interaction with a Gentile Centurion in Matthew’s Gospel…
Matthew 8:5–13 (ESV) — 5 When he had entered Capernaum, a centurion came forward to him, appealing to him, 6 “Lord, my servant is lying paralyzed at home, suffering terribly.” 7 And he said to him, “I will come and heal him.” 8 But the centurion replied, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof, but only say the word, and my servant will be healed. 9 For I too am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. And I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes, and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” 10 When Jesus heard this, he marveled and said to those who followed him, “Truly, I tell you, with no one in Israel have I found such faith. 11 I tell you, many will come from east and west and recline at table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven, 12 while the sons of the kingdom will be thrown into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” 13 And to the centurion Jesus said, “Go; let it be done for you as you have believed.” And the servant was healed at that very moment.
Jesus refers to the Jews’ rejection of him, particularly the religious leaders who would one day perish…
Matthew 23:29–33 (ESV) — 29 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you build the tombs of the prophets and decorate the monuments of the righteous, 30 saying, ‘If we had lived in the days of our fathers, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’ 31 Thus you witness against yourselves that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. 32 Fill up, then, the measure of your fathers. 33 You serpents, you brood of vipers, how are you to escape being sentenced to hell?
If all Jews would one day be saved, why would Jesus say these things? This rejection of Jesus by his own people broke the heart of Paul who said…
Romans 9:2–3 (ESV) — 2 that I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. 3 For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh.
The implication is that the Jews, Paul’s kinsmen, were accursed and cut off from Christ because of their unbelief. Why would he say that if all Jews would one day be saved? So, what Paul writes in Romans 11 can’t mean that all Jews will be literally saved one day regardless of whether they’ve believed in Jesus as Messiah or not.
Then what does he mean when he says all Israel will be saved? Well, in Romans 9 Paul struggles over how all the promises and works of God bound up in Jesus the Messiah came exclusively through the Jews yet as a whole they rejected him. It would seem as if God failed…
Romans 9:6–8 (ESV) — 6 But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, 7 and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring, but “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” 8 This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring.
Paul declares that God has not failed, though, because not all who have Jewish blood running through their veins are really Israel. In God’s eyes, the qualification for being his people is not biological but spiritual, it’s not a matter of flesh but faith!
Look at what he wrote to the Galatians, who were Gentiles being influenced by Judaizers…
Galatians 3:1–9 (ESV) — 1 O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified. 2 Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? 3 Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? 4 Did you suffer so many things in vain—if indeed it was in vain? 5 Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith— 6 just as Abraham “believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”? 7 Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham. 8 And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “In you shall all the nations be blessed.” 9 So then, those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.
Which takes us back to our Genesis 15 text. Paul says the Gospel was preached to Abraham when God told him that all the nations of the earth would be blessed in him. How were all the nations blessed through? Jesus, the Messiah, the savior of the world, was a descendant of Abraham!
How did Abraham respond to this promise?
Genesis 15:6 (ESV) — 6 And he believed the Lord, and he counted it to him as righteousness.
So how was Abraham made righteous, saved? By believing in Jesus. That’s been the way you’ve been made right with God from the beginning. And that’s why Paul could say all Israel is not Israel. A true Jew is one inwardly, one who has believed in the revealed promises of God bound up in Jesus.
When Paul talks about a coming day when all Israel will be saved, he must be talking about those Jews who are truly children of Abraham through faith in Jesus, implying perhaps that one day a mass revival will happen among them. But he cannot mean all Jews will be saved according to their ethnicity.
Okay, but what about those Jews still waiting for the Messiah? Won’t their faithfulness count? One theologian weighs in on that…
What about Jewish people today who are waiting for a Messiah but, in the process, they are not believing Jesus is the Messiah? That is exactly the situation in which John the Baptist found himself in his question in Luke 7:19. He said, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” So, that is John the Baptist’s very question. And Jesus answers him by pointing to his miracles and the uniqueness of his preaching to the poor. And then he says in Luke 7:23, “And blessed is the one who is not offended by me” — because Jesus didn’t look like how they expected the Messiah to look. And so, they stumbled over the stumbling stone (cf. Romans 9:32–33). And he said: Only those will be blessed who don’t stumble over me. And that blessing is valid for all who embrace Jesus — and the opposite will be condemnation.
So, over and over again Jesus tells us in the Gospels, he tells the Jews that, if they reject him, they reject God the Father. If they don’t love him and welcome him as Messiah and Son of God, they don’t love the Father. They don’t welcome the Father. And so, let me just give a few of those, because they are really the very essence of the matter.
John 14:7 (ESV) — 7 If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.”
John 5:23 (ESV) — 23 that all may honor the Son, just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him.
John 5:42–43 (ESV) — 42 But I know that you do not have the love of God within you. 43 I have come in my Father’s name, and you do not receive me. If another comes in his own name, you will receive him.
John 8:42 (ESV) — 42 Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and I am here. I came not of my own accord, but he sent me.
1 John 2:23 (ESV) — 23 No one who denies the Son has the Father. Whoever confesses the Son has the Father also.
John 6:45 (ESV) — 45 It is written in the Prophets, ‘And they will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me—
It is just hard to imagine how Jesus could make himself clearer that to reject him and wait for another Messiah is to show you do not have a saving relationship with God. That is true for Gentiles, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, secularists. Jesus is the only way to God because he is the incarnation of God.
The fullness of God’s promises have been revealed through Jesus so the bottom line is…
“Only through Jesus does salvation come to any Jew at any time.”
NEXT WEEK: Who is the disciple referred to as “the one Jesus loved”?
**** Most that follows is adapted from "https://www.desiringgod.org/interviews/will-every-jew-be-saved"
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