In this article I will be exploring the idea of individual and collective salvation. I will be addressing the concept of salvation from a Christian perspective and will be answering this question: When one family member gets saved does the entire household also get saved? By saved, I mean an acceptance of Jesus Christ as Saviour and becoming a recipient of eternal life with Him. Opinion is divided in the Christian community about this belief with many Christians using Noah as a perfect example of an entire family being saved. Others see the concept of salvation as only for the individual and no one else.
Examples such as Noah, Abraham and to some extent Job indicate that there is hope for eternal life for extended family members in God’s overall plan. And Paul’s words to the prison keeper in Acts 16:31, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household” supports that argument. But so much of the Bible does not support Acts 16:31. And, since we are called to rightfully divide the Word of Truth, we need to look wider and deeper to see if this concept can be substantiated across the entire biblical text.
Most of our beliefs about the entire household being saved stems from examples in our Hebrew Scriptures (Christian Old Testament). Of which Noah and his family are the most prominent. We must keep in mind though Noah’s family’s salvation was physical and not spiritual and what Paul was referring to in Acts 16:31 was spiritual. Although I agree that as a metaphor Noah’s Ark can also have a spiritual significance, Noah’s family were saved only in a physical, earthly sense. It is the same scenario with Abraham and others in the Bible.
Abraham pleaded for his family and for Sodom. He kept bargaining with God for mercy for the righteous souls of Sodom, if there were any righteous souls that is (Genesis 18:20). In this instance also, God in His infinite mercy saved Lot and his family for Abraham’s sake. But it would be purely a physical salvation, because as we know from the story, Lot’s daughters left Sodom, but Sodom never left them. Even physical salvation has its limitations, as in the case of Noah’s son, Ham after being saved departed from the Lord and who can forget the treachery of Lot’s daughters. Another example is the tragedy experienced by Job’s family.
It is without doubt that we are all familiar with the most classical of all biblical stories, the story of Job. Job enjoyed many earthly blessings bestowed upon him by the Almighty. His ten children were amongst the most precious of those blessings. Job was aware his children chose a lifestyle of partying rather than worship, so he took it upon himself to offer sacrifices on their behalf (Job 1:4-5). Job’s intercession for his family, could not save them in this earthly realm forever and despite his efforts his children perished. Like Job ancient fathers viewed their families as one whole unit. And not just families but whole communities viewed themselves as collectivist societies. Entire tribes had only one identity and only one name. This is evident with the twelve tribes of Israel, each tribe took on the identity and the name of its tribal elder.
It is because of this belief the ancients stood so confidently in the gap for their family members. Abraham stood in the gap for his nephew Lot, and Job stood in the gap for his children. The High Priest stood in the gap for the children of Israel in the Tabernacle and the Temple. There is no better example of collective salvation than in the Passover story of Exodus. It was a Lamb for a Household (Exodus 12:3). But everyone of those examples only offered temporary salvation and every one of those examples did not guarantee eternal salvation, or did it? I am often reminded of what the Apostle Paul said, “All Israel shall be saved!”
People read Paul’s, “All Israel shall be saved,” (Romans 11:26) as a statement when it is a question. Paul was asking the question; Will all Israel be saved? Since I believe, he was clearly referring to a remnant, the answer is emphatically, “No.” There is nowhere in the Hebrew Scriptures that guarantees corporate or collective salvation for entire nations, tribes, groups or even families. Ezekiel said, “The soul that sins shall die.” Ezekiel Ch.18:20. That is the soul and not the body.
The body is a different issue as I pointed out, while family members remain on this earth, prayer, intercession can be offered up, and they can be saved in a physical sense. Once the soul has rejected God and has passed from this earth all bets are off. That soul has chosen separation from God and cannot be saved anymore. Which pretty much makes offering Masses and prayers for the dead an exercise in futility. It does nothing for the departed soul, it only benefits the churches financially and offers comfort for the ones left behind.
For those who are adamant that “All Israel shall be saved,” because Paul said so, have you checked the cross-reference to that passage in the Old Testament? The cross-reference is Isaiah Ch. 59: 20-21, which simply states, “A Redeemer shall come out of Zion, and to those who TURN from their transgression in Jacob. The operative words there, being ‘Redeemer’ and ‘Turn.’ If they do not accept the Redeemer or TURN (Repent) then they cannot be saved. That is why I can say an emphatic, “No” to “All Israel being saved.”
Turning as in repenting from one’s sins is one of the oldest concepts in Jewish literature. What most Christians do not realize is that when Jewish literature speaks of salvation, it is speaking predominantly about the Resurrection of the Dead. A theory made famous by the Maccabees and book of Daniel. In Jewish thought the idea of salvation is a return to Eden and the manifestation of heaven here on earth, rather than leaving this earth and going to heaven like Christians believe. The phase of death then is a long deep sleep used sixty-six times in seventeen books of the Bible. The individual sleeps in a state of rest until resurrection. It’s where we get RIP from. For a full explanation of what “All Israel shall be saved” means please check out my article in the link below.
I will return now to the original passage I quoted in Acts 16:31, where Paul offers the entire jailers family salvation. It is no doubt that Paul offered them eternal salvation and not just some physical deliverance. There is a couple of things to consider here, firstly, that the jailer would have been the head of the household. And it is understood if he decided to follow Christ his family would have also do so. And secondly, it was a miraculous event that preceded his conversion. In these types of circumstances, it is common to see even whole communities come to Christ. But everything hinged on the family believing on the Lord Jesus Christ, there were no exceptions.
Although Paul goes one step further in 1 Corinthians 7:14 by stating that an unbeliever is made ‘holy’ or ‘sanctified’ by their believing partner. For me, this passage does not line up with the rest of the Bible. No adult can be made ‘Holy’ by another adult under the New Covenant. Only The Holy Spirit can make someone, Holy. I would agree though, that children, perhaps up until the age of reason can be sanctified by a believing parent. The age varies, Jews like many other ancient cultures believe this age to be thirteen, while in others it is eighteen or even twenty-one. Personally, it is dangerous to give anyone the green light for eternal salvation and every soul no matter how young should receive Jesus Christ as their Lord and Saviour.
The Apostle Peter says in 1 Peter 4:18, “If the Righteous are barely saved…” my point exactly! Ezekiel also says, even if Noah, Daniel, or Job were present they could only save themselves and nobody else (Ezekiel 14:14). Which leaves us where exactly? The example that Christians use to justify salvation for whole families does not apply for spiritual salvation. Although, God in His mercy, hears and answers prayers to save and deliver loved ones here on earth. There is no mention of collective or corporate salvation anywhere in the Scriptures. Although, from texts such as Maccabees and Daniel a belief in collective salvation evolved in ancient Israel. But this was steeped in the doctrine of the Resurrection of the Dead.
Jews and Christians have vastly different theories of life after death and eternal life. One is here on earth and return to Eden and the other is in Glory land in the Heavens. By all accounts we can barely save ourselves let alone another person who is a sinner. Jesus often spoke of the difficulty in entering eternal life, for some, it is like passing through the eye of a needle. Albeit there is hope, plenty of hope for the believer. The believer, just like the jailer in Acts 16:31 opens the door for the whole family to receive salvation. Honestly, it is a privilege, and we need to start seeing it that way. Unfortunately, in many instances we as Christians cut ourselves off from family in a physical sense when we join a church. This should not be the case, stay close to your families, pray for them, and share the Gospel with them.
I was so blessed recently to have watched a video of a Pastor Thomas Niditauae from Vanuatu, in a Near Death Experience he believed the Lord gave him two warning. We should listen to this man. The second warning had four parts to it and consisted mainly of bringing loved ones into the family of God. The link is below, please watch it sometime. I will leave with the words of Jesus to Zacchaeus the Tax Collector (Luke 19:1-10), “Today salvation has come to this house.” The day you received Jesus Christ into your life and became a Christian, salvation entered your house, and you became the gateway by which the other members could also be saved. May God Bless you in your mission to save your family!
All Israel shall be saved? My article:
Pastor Thomas Niditauae video:
Scriptural References: n.d. The Holy Bible Authorized King James Version. Nashville: Collins World.