As God's chosen people, are Jews automatically saved?
The Bible is clear that the Jews are God's chosen people (Genesis 12:2). They were chosen as a nation to receive instruction on Who God is and how to worship Him. Their mission was to embody this knowledge by obeying the laws God gave them and spreading the truth about God to other nations. Since God chose Israel as a nation, His blessings and their obedience were to be on a national scale. As their confusion with the crucifixion of Jesus revealed, this emphasis on the corporate colors the Jews' idea of what being "saved" means.
When Jesus rode a donkey into Jerusalem, the Jews who laid palm fronds on the road were expecting a king to save them as a nation. They expectantly awaited the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies regarding the restoration of their kingdom and the judgment of their enemies. The "Messiah" was to be a military and political king that would reinstate their independence and bring peace and prosperity to the land (Matthew 21:1-11).
The prophets do speak of a time of comfort, peace, and joy (Micah 4:2-4; Isaiah 32:17-18; 40:1-2; 61:7, 10), but we now know this promise will be fulfilled at the millennial kingdom when Israel as a nation will be blessed and her enemies judged and destroyed. This ethnic/national/political salvation is what Judaism looks forward to, not individual salvation from the bondage of sin.
Judaism does teach sin. In fact, there are twenty different words for sin in Hebrew, ranging from "missing the mark," to "failing at a duty," to "personal offense," to "breaching a covenant." Regarding personal sin, Judaism teaches that the offender must take steps before God can forgive. If he harms another person, he must regret his action, ask forgiveness, and make amends. If this is done sincerely, God will pardon his offense and give him a long and prosperous life—the same promise given to Israel as a nation. But Judaism does not universally teach original sin or that mankind is born with a sin nature.
In Judaism, there is confusion about what a person would need to be saved from or to. There is no central teaching of the afterlife, heaven, hell, or what forgiveness results in other than blessings on earth. Even Jews who believe in the afterlife admit their Bible (the Old Testament) does not have enough information to give a clear picture of what it is like. Based on God's nature, the good will live with Him and the evil will not. But there is still disagreement as to a literal, physical resurrection, and their Scriptures are more concerned with life on earth than life after death. Even so, the afterlife is promised to those who were faithful on earth, not to all Jews as a nation, and certainly not to those who rely on the sacrifice of Jesus instead of their own actions.
Christians believe that we do not have to rely solely on the scant information found in the Old Testament to understand God's forgiveness of sin and His provision for the afterlife. Jesus and the inspired writers of the New Testament explain how the Old Testament points to Jesus as the fulfillment of the law that Jews are so intent on keeping (Luke 24:27).
John 14:6 says, "Jesus said to him, 'I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.'" There is no way to approach God for forgiveness except to go through Jesus. This is why God sent Jesus—to save the world from sin (Matthew 26:28). This forgiveness results in eternal life with God (John 3:16). But John 3:18 says, "Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God." There is no salvation without Jesus.
Hebrews 10:1-10 describes how Jesus was the source of salvation even in the time of the Old Testament. The sacrifices were only a reminder of sin. The blood of bulls and goats could not wipe away sin. Instead, Jesus had to come to fulfill the law. The progressive revelation of the Bible means that Jews are responsible for what God has revealed to them. Before Christ, they needed to have faith in a righteous and gracious God (Romans 4:3-8). Now that Jesus has come, they are without excuse. As Hebrews 1:1-2 says, "Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world."
Within the last one hundred years, the Jews have seen their nation saved. In the millennial kingdom, Israel will be a mighty power, peaceful and prosperous. But no Jew will receive personal salvation without Christ. God has chosen Israel to reveal Himself to the world. Sadly, this does not mean that every Jew is chosen to receive saving grace through Jesus' sacrifice.
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