Q: #438. Do Jews go to Heaven?
A: The Bible is VERY clear that “faith” in Jesus Christ is necessary for salvation. In the Old Testament, they looked forward to Jesus, and today, we look back at Jesus (more on this here). Those of the Old Testament were declared “righteous” by faith, just as we are today. Here are some verses showing us this:
(Rom 4:3) says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness.” (Also see: Gen 15:6, Gal 3:6, James 2:23)
(Rom 4:6) continues, quoting David as saying a man is blessed “whom God imputeth righteousness without works.”
(Heb 11:4) says Abel was declared righteous by faith.
(Heb 11:7) says Noah, “became heir of the righteousness which is by faith.”
In fact, (Heb 11:6) says that without faith it is impossible to please God.
Unfortunately, most Jews today have not placed their faith in Jesus Christ, and have rejected His offer of salvation, just as they did when Jesus walked the Earth. Therefore, they are condemned (not going to Heaven).
***Note: I explain some of the reasons why Jews reject Jesus as their Messiah here.
In addition, while I don’t fully understand the Jewish religion, as I understand it, several key things are a part of Jewish thought.
1. Many do not believe in an afterlife. Those who do, really don’t focus much on it, or think about it.
2. Most do not believe they have a “sin nature” or “original sin.” Therefore, they do not need to be saved from the consequences of it. (Most Jews also deny a literal “Hell.”)
3. If they sin, the way to seek God’s forgiveness is pray, repent, do good works to atone for it.
In other words, they are not looking for a Messiah who will sacrifice His life to pay for their sins.
In general, those who have a problem with saying unbelieving Jews will go to Hell is because of the special place that Jews have as “God’s chosen people” (Deut 7:6-7)(Deut 10:15)(Deut 14:2). This is a result of a covenant that God made with Abraham (the “Abrahamic Covenant”)(Gen 12:1-3)(Gen 13:14-17)(Gen 15:1-6,18-21)(Gen 17:1-21)(Gen 22:15-18). It is through this covenant that God chose the Israelites as the people through which He would work and reveal Himself. It was through them that the law was given, most of the books of the Bible were written, and the Messiah would be born (Jesus came through the lineage of Judah: Heb 7:14, Mt 1:2-3, Lk 3:33, Rev 5:5). Through them God promised that “all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Gen 12:3).
While most believe this “covenant” is still in place (it has not been replaced), it should be noted that there is no evidence that this “covenant” extends to salvation. To the contrary, we see over and over in the New Testament that the Jews are lost, and need salvation just as Gentiles do (there is no difference between Jews and Greeks (Gentiles) in this regard: Rom 10:11-13, Gal 3:27-29, Col 3:11, 1 Cor 12:13). Following are some verses that point to the Jews being lost:
(Rom 1:16) For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.
(Rom 10:1-4) Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved. (2) For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge. (3) For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God. (4) For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth.
(Acts 4:10-12) Be it known unto you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead, even by him doth this man stand here before you whole. (11) This is the stone which was set at nought of you builders, which is become the head of the corner. (12) Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.
(Mt 8:10-12) When Jesus heard it, he marvelled, and said to them that followed, Verily I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel. (11) And I say unto you, That many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven. (12) But the children of the kingdom (Jews) (the physical heirs of Abraham) shall be cast out into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
(Mt 15:24) But he (Jesus) answered and said, I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel. (Also see: Mt 10:6)
(Mt 23:37) O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!
(Rom 11:13-14) For I speak to you Gentiles, inasmuch as I am the apostle of the Gentiles, I magnify mine office: (14) If by any means I may provoke to emulation (jealousy) them which are my flesh (fellow Jews), and might save some of them.
(Acts 13:46) Then Paul and Barnabas waxed bold, and said, It was necessary that the word of God should first have been spoken to you (the Jews): but seeing ye put it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles.
One is not saved because they are a physical descendant of Abraham, but instead they become Abraham’s seed through Christ:
(Gal 3:7) Know ye therefore that they which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham.
(Gal 3:29) And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.
(Rom 9:6-8) Not as though the word of God hath taken none effect. For they are not all Israel, which are of Israel: (7) Neither, because they are the seed of Abraham, are they all children: but, In Isaac shall thy seed be called. (8) That is, They which are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God: but the children of the promise are counted for the seed.
(Mt 3:7-9) But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his baptism, he said unto them, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? (8) Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance: (9) And think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham.
(Rom 2:28-29) For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh: (29) But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God.
It is my belief, as well as the belief of many scholars that there will be a future time when MANY Jews will come to faith in Jesus Christ. (Rom 11:25) says that Israel has been “blinded / hardened,” but will no longer be so when the fullness of the Gentiles comes in (when the last Gentile has been added to the Church). I believe that this will occur during the Tribulation, which appears to me to be primarily about the Jews. I discuss this here.
***Note: Let me also quickly explain (Rom 11:26) which says, “And so all Israel shall be saved.” Some use this verse to say that ALL Jews are saved. However, this is very unlikely. As we said in the paragraph above, this verse in context is referring to the end times, and Jews being saved at this time (after the last Gentile has been saved – verse 25). Therefore, this is not referring to all Jews from all time being saved, but rather only those alive after the last Gentile has been saved (whose “blindness / hardening” will be removed).
Secondly, “all” does not necessarily mean each individual Israelite will be saved. As we said above, ALL people (Jew and Greek) must place their faith in Jesus Christ to be saved. Will “all” Jews place their faith in Jesus during this time? Perhaps, but this is unlikely. Just as there has been unbelieving Jews throughout all time (See verses above: i.e. Rom 9:6-8, Rom 2:28-29), there almost certainly will be at this time as well. This being said, it might be better understood to say that “all BELIEVING Israel will be saved.” Within “all” of Israel (as a nation), some individual Jews will be saved.
It should also be noted that when we look at the Old Testament, “All Israel” did not always mean “every individual Israelite.” For examples of this, see: (Deut 31:7)(Josh 7:24-25)(Josh 23:2)(2 Sam 10:17)(2 Sam 16:22)(1 Kin 12:1,18). I believe this also applies to (Rom 11:26).