The Most Obvious Answer
The most obvious answer to the question of the meaning of all is found in the context. The all is in antithesis to the in part of Romans 11:25 and the remnant of verse 5. During the present age a remnant of Israel is saved through the gospel. The hardening or blindness is “in part.” When Christ returns, the situation will be changed. Instead of a remnant, instead of a small part, Israel as a whole will be saved. It will be a national deliverance.
A. T. Robertson while attempting to defend Postmillennialism in his interpretation admits: “All Israel (pas Israel). What does Paul mean? The immediate context (use of PAS in contrast to APO MEROUS, PLEROMA here in contrast with PLEROMA in v. 12) argues for the Jewish people ‘as a whole’.” He goes on to express his opinion that other Scripture (Rom. 9:6; Gal. 6:16) may justify the teaching that both Jew and Gentile or spiritual Israel may be the idea.
The opinion of Charles Hodge is worthy of weight as he is not arguing for Premillennialism: “Israel, here, from the context, must mean the Jewish people, and all Israel, the whole nation. The Jews, as a people, are now rejected; as a people, they are to be restored. As their rejection, although national, did not include the rejection of every individual; so their restoration, although in like manner national, need not be assumed to include the salvation of every individual Jew. ‘All Israel’ is not therefore to be here understood to mean all the true people of God, as Augustine, Calvin, and many others explain it; nor all the elect Jews, i.e., all that part of the nation which constitutes ‘the remnant according to the election of grace’; but the whole nation, as a nation.” The viewpoint that ‘all Israel’ means ‘Israel as a whole’ is not ‘an almost unprecedented extreme’ of literalism which is characteristic of Millennarianism,’ as Dr. Allis would have us believe, nor is it a peculiarity of a little sect of Plymouth Brethren’ (Walvoord). ‘It is the interpretation of those who believe that Israel means Israel. whether premillennial or postmillennial, and it is the only interpretation which makes sense out of the eleventh chapter of Romans.’ It is the strong conviction of the writer that when God says ISRAEL, He means ISRAEL: WHEN HE SPEAKS OF THE CHURCH, HE MEANS CHURCH AND NOT ISRAEL.” When the plain sense of Scripture makes sense, seek no other sense, lest it becomes nonsense.” Professor Wm. Hendriksen, professor of New Testament Literature at Calvin Seminary and an avowed Amillennialist, interestingly disagrees with Dr. Allis and holds that ALL ISRAEL refers to the total number of elect Israel in all Ages - i.e., holds to a literal interpretation of the passage. This is, to say the least, an improvement on Augustine, Calvin, and Allis, though it misses the point of the context. (And So All Israel Shall Be Saved - P. 33). The deliverance predicted in Romans 11:26 is clearly a group deliverance rather than individual salvation. This is borne out in the explanation which follows in the chapter.
What Is The Nature Of The Deliverance?
The salvation of ‘all Israel’ is described as a fulfillment of prophecy. Isaiah 59:20-21 is quoted in part in Romans 11:26, 27. The full quotation in Isaiah is as follows: “And a Redeemer will come to Zion, and unto them that turn from transgression in Jacob, saith Jehovah. And as for Me, this is My covenant with them, saith Jehovah: My Spirit that is upon thee, and My words which I have put in thy mouth, shall not depart out of thy mouth, nor out of the mouth of thy seed, nor out of the mouth of thy seed’s seed, saith Jehovah, from henceforth and forever.” Three things are mentioned specifically in the Roman quotation: (1) the Redeemer shall come OUT OF Zion; (2) He shall turn ungodliness from Jacob; (3) this is a covenant to be fulfilled “when I shall take away their sins.”
All views of the Millennium agree that the Deliverer is the Lord Jesus Christ. Question has been raised concerning the meaning of “out of Zion.” The Hebrew of Isaiah 59:20 is correctly rendered “to Zion.” The LXX has interpreted this to mean “for Zion.” Paul in quoting the Hebrew uses neither the Hebrew nor the LXX when he quotes the passage as “from Zion.” How is this difficulty to be solved and what is the meaning of Zion? It is clear that Paul is here not directly quoting but is gathering up various passages in one statement. It will be noticed that his reference to turning away ungodliness is not in the Isaiah passage either. The Scriptures speak of Christ as both coming to Zion and from Zion (cf. Ps. 14:7, 20:2; 53:6; 110:2; 128:5; 134:3; 135:21; Isa. 2:3; Joel 3:16; Amos 1:2). It is certainly to quibble with words to argue, as Dr. Allis does, that this change of wording favors the Amillennial view that a heavenly city is intended. In the nature of the case Christ must come “to Zion” before He comes “from Zion.” The deliverance promised Israel is not PER SE His second Coming, but His rule on earth after His coming.
What is meant by ZION? This term has been used in reference to the city of Jerusalem or parts of it ‘at least since the time of David’ (Inter. Std. Bible Encyclopaedia). A study of its usage in the Old Testament reveals that its meaning is LITERAL, that is, IT IS ALWAYS ASSOCIATED WITH THE EARTHLY ZION. Its use in the New Testament is also LITERAL. The only cases in question are the references in Hebrews 12:22 and Revelation 14:1, which readily yield to a literal interpretation if the pre-millennial viewpoint be adopted in interpreting the passages as a whole. In no case does Zion become merely a ‘heavenly city’ (Allis). The many predictions in the Old Testament foretelling the coming of the Deliverer ‘out of Zion’ (see references above) argue for a literal interpretation.
When the Deliverer comes, He will “turn away ungodliness from Jacob.” This is an event, not a process extending over ages of time. It is the subject of much Old Testament prophecy. It is part and parcel of the new covenant which Romans 11:27 mentions. A classic Old Testament passage bearing on the subject is Jeremiah 31:31-37. A new covenant is promised the house of Israel. In this new covenant, Jehovah promises: ‘I will put My law in their inward parts, and in their heart will I write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people etc.’ (Jer. 31:33, 34). The passage then goes on to declare that Israel will endure AS A NATION under this new covenant as long as the ordinances of the sun, moon and stars endure. The passage concludes: ‘Thus saith Jehovah: If Heaven above can be measured, and the foundations of the earth searched out beneath, then will I also cast off all the seed of Israel for all that they have done, saith Jehovah” (Jer. 31:37). In brief, the new covenant promised the house of Israel is precisely what Paul refers to in Romans 11:26-27. The elements are the same: Israel is promised blessing as a group or nation; ‘all’ are to be blessed; ‘all’ are to know the Lord; ‘all’ are to be forgiven. Certainly this is not the picture of Israel in any period of its history until now. A literal fulfilment demands an interpretation of Romans 11:26, 27 which is in accord with the Premillennial position. The fact that believers in this age enjoy a ‘new covenant’ of grace and blessing does not hinder the future fulfillment of this promise to Israel, which is in no wise being fulfilled now.
The Premillennial interpretation of Scripture adds a great deal to the bare outline provided in Romans 11:26, 27. According to this viewpoint, the deliverance will be more than spiritual. Israel will be in the great tribulation and threatened with extermination (Mt. 24:15-22). The coming of Christ will deliver them from physical harm. This is in view of their coming spiritual blessing which will be their portion after being judged and brought into the land of promise. These events are the means to the end — the spiritual blessing on Israel throughout the Millennium. To argue that all the details of the complicated series of events which will bring Gentile power to its end and establish the kingdom of Christ on earth must be in this portion of Romans in order to establish the Premillennial view of the future, is an example of the error of arguing from silence.