In Elijah’s day, there was a remnant of Jews who did not bow the knee to Baal, even though the nation at large had.
Paul cites this example in his defense that God has not cast away his people whom he foreknew. Consider Paul’s words:
I ask, then, has God rejected his people? By no means! For I myself am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, a member of the tribe of Benjamin. God has not rejected his people whom he foreknew. Do you not know what the Scripture says of Elijah, how he appeals to God against Israel? “Lord, they have killed your prophets, they have demolished your altars, and I alone am left, and they seek my life.” But what is God’s reply to him? “I have kept for myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal.” So too at the present time there is a remnant, chosen by grace. But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace. ~ Romans 11:1-6
Paul’s defense that God has not cast away his people is not a predicated on Israel’s national status before God, but rather, the remnant within the nation of Israel who are called according to grace.
Paul believed there was a remnant within Israel who were called according to grace. By default, we can conclude that not all within Israel were called according to grace.
This is not a reference to the Calvinist doctrine of irresistible grace, but a reference to those who are true Jews from the heart and seek to serve God in truth – they are the called according to grace and the “Israel within Israel” referenced by Paul in the early part of Romans 9.
In Romans 11 Paul uses the allegory of the olive tree to describe the family of Abraham. Israel is referred to as the olive tree by nature (the olive tree cultivated by God), and the Gentiles who are of faith in Christ are called the wild olive branch which is grafted into the family of Abraham (the olive tree).
The Gentiles are not grafted the national Israel through faith. Rather they are grafted into spiritual Israel which is the true family of Abraham, for Abraham’s true children are those who are of faith.
This is why Jesus could say of Nathaniel, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!” and then say to other Jews, “If you were Abraham’s children, you would be doing the works Abraham did, but now you seek to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. This is not what Abraham did. You are doing the works your father did.”…”You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires.”
Jesus made a distinction between Nathaniel, who was a true Israelite, and those who wanted to kill him as children of the devil.
Nathaniel was called according to grace, for his heart was towards pleasing God, the others, though Israeli’s in the flesh did not have a heart towards pleasing God.
All throughout scripture there is a distinction made between Israel and “Israel within Israel” (the nation and the spiritual within the nation). This is evidenced by Paul’s theology that the promise of God did not come through Ishmael but through Isaac.
For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by a slave woman and one by a free woman. But the son of the slave was born according to the flesh, while the son of the free woman was born through promise. ~ Galatians 4:22-23
Those born of promise are those who are Abraham’s spiritual descendants like Nathaniel.
In Romans 11 Paul claims that God has not cast away Israel because there is a remnant within it who have a heart for God, and though some of the natural branches have been cut off from their own tree, God is able to graft them in again if they will believe the gospel.
These are they who are in view when Paul refers to “all Israel” being saved. Paul is not preaching an end-time restoration of a Christ-less national Israel who builds a temple and offers animal sacrifices.
Paul is referring to the remnant within Israel who will be saved through the gospel.
Thus says the Lord: “As the new wine is found in the cluster, and they say, ‘Do not destroy it, for there is a blessing in it,’ so I will do for my servants’ sake, and not destroy them all. ~ Isaiah 65:8
The all Israel who will be saved are the “true Israelites” or “true Jews”. They are the wine within the cluster. They are Israel within Israel:
But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring, but “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” 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. ~ Romans 9:6-8
The remnant is the blessing within the cluster mentioned by Israel. They are the “Israel within Israel” referenced by Paul. And as Isaiah says in another place, “Though the number of the sons of Israel be as the sand of the sea, only a remnant of them will be saved,” God will be faithful and graft them in again into their own tree when they believe the gospel.
Our responsibility to the Jews is to preach the gospel to them, It is not to support their apostate temple plans or their apostate animal sacrifices.