As we continue looking at the Post-Tribulation view of the Rapture, we are studying about God’s elect. You can read what we’ve presented in the last couple of studies here and here.
Here’s why this study is so important. Jesus said this as part of His answer to the apostles’ question about “what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?”
For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be. And unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect’s sake those days will be shortened.MATTHEW 24:21-22
Our question concerns the identity of “the elect” for whose sake “those days will be shortened”? Post-Tribulationists believe Jesus was including Israel and the Church in His response. However, Pre-Tribulationists and Mid-Tribultionists believe Jesus was referring to Israel in Matthew 24 and that the “rapture” (caught up) Paul wrote about in 1 Thessalonians 4 and 1 Corinthians 15 will be prior to the event Jesus described in Matthew 24.
A Curious Claim
The Apostle Paul made a curious statement in Romans 11 that we’ll look at in a minute, but first let’s get some background for this curious claim he made.
Paul moved from the brilliant statements in Romans 8 about there being no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus and being free from indwelling sin to being heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ. Paul wrote that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us and that the Spirit of God helps us in our weaknesses. Paul asked and answered a glorious question: “If God is for us, who can be against us?” Paul made the amazing claim that “we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us” and that “neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Paul moved straight from that glorious truth to this statement about his personal sorrow:
“I tell the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Spirit, that I have great sorrow and continual grief in my heart.”Romans 9:1-2
Why was Paul sorrowed? Because Israel had rejected Christ.
For I could wish that I myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my countrymen according to the flesh, who are Israelites, to whom pertain the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the service of God, and the promises; of whom are the fathers and from whom, according to the flesh, Christ came, who is over all, the eternally blessed God. Amen.Romans 9:3-5
That is a stunning statement on at least two levels. One, Paul knew the glory that would be his and all those who had faith in Christ. The love he had for his fellow Israelites would have been very deep for him to wish that he were accursed from Christ for his brethren. Second, Paul knew that Christ would reject Israel for a time because Israel had rejected Him. What then would Christ do? He turned to the Gentiles.
What shall we say then? That Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness of faith; but Israel, pursuing the law of righteousness, has not attained to the law of righteousness. Why? Because they did not seek it by faith, but as it were, by the works of the law. For they stumbled at that stumbling stone. As it is written: ‘Behold, I lay in Zion a stumbling stone and rock of offense, And whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.Romans 9:30-33
Did that mean Paul gave up on Israel? Not at all.
Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they may be saved.Romans 10:1
Though Paul’s primary calling from Christ was to the Gentiles, he never lost his love for the people of his birth. He continued to preach and teach that the people of Israel must confess their sins and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.
For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.Romans 10:2-4
Paul continued in Romans 10 to point to the error of Israel’s thinking about Christ Jesus. He pleaded with them to understand a great thing God had done through the death of Christ:
For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him. For ‘whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.’Romans 10:12-13
That statement was contrary to everything Israel believed about itself and the Gentile world. Jews believed there was a big distinction between Jew and Greek, which meant they continue to reject Paul’s message.
So, was that the end of Israel’s hope? A few Jews would come to saving knowledge of Christ, but the nation would never come? Paul asked the question this way:
I say then, has God cast away His people? Certainly not! For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin. God has not cast away His people whom He foreknew.Romans 11:2
We are now coming into curiosity territory. All of it was part of God’s eternal plan, a plan Paul called the election of grace.
Even so then, at this present time there is a remnant according to the election of grace. And if by grace, then it is no longer of works; otherwise grace is no longer grace. But if it is of works, it is no longer grace; otherwise work is no longer work. What then? Israel has not obtained what it seeks; but the elect have obtained it, and the rest were blinded.Romans 11:5-7
This hearkens back to what Paul wrote in the first part of his letter to the Romans: “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek” (Romans 1:16). Paul’s entire letter is about the Gospel of Christ because it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes. Paul wrote again and again that the Gospel of Christ did not allow for salvation by works or any other type of human energy. As Paul wrote about the present time, “there is a remnant according to the election of grace.” Salvation is all of God’s Grace, not of human works. If it was of works, it could not longer be of grace. Israel, with all its efforts, had not obtained what it sought; “but the elect have obtained it, and the rest were blinded.”
Even so, Paul wrote, Israel’s rejection by God was not final, and that brings us to the first part of the curious claim:
I say then, have they stumbled that they should fall? Certainly not! But through their fall, to provoke them to jealousy, salvation has come to the Gentiles. Now if their fall is riches for the world, and their failure riches for the Gentiles, how much more their fullness!Romans 11:11-12
Salvation has come to the Gentiles because of the fall of Israel, but that fall is not permanent.
For I do not desire, brethren, that you should be ignorant of this mystery, lest you should be wise in your own opinion, that blindness in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written: ‘The Deliverer will come out of Zion, And He will turn away ungodliness from Jacob; For this is My covenant with them, When I take away their sins. Concerning the gospel they are enemies for your sake, but concerning the election they are beloved for the sake of the fathers. For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.Romans 11:25-29
Paul revealed a mystery to both the Jews and Gentiles who heard him preach and read his letters. Paul did not want them to be ignorant of that mystery: “that blindness in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in.” Blindness in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in? What’s that about? Let’s break it down for right understanding.
The Greek word translated “blindness” is pōrōsis and means “covering with a callous, hardening, blindness.” God blinded the eyes of Israel through a spiritual callous that covered their eyes, minds and hearts. The Greeks used the word for something that caused blindness, numbness, dullness, insensitivity. Israel, meaning most Jews including their leaders, were blind and numb to the Gospel of Christ. They might hear it, but the truth didn’t penetrate the spiritual hardness of their hearts. Some Jews heard and did believe, but it was a small number in comparison to the full number of Jews in the world at Paul’s time. The same has been true in the two-thousand years since the beginning of Paul’s preaching of the Gospel.
The Greek word for “until” is achri and addresses a time when something will happen. That something, Paul wrote, is until the “fullness of the Gentiles has come in.” The word “fullness” is plērōma and means “a filling up, full complement.” This is important to understand. The blindness (hardness, callousness) of Israel will continue until the full or complete number of Gentiles are saved. When that happens, when all Gentiles God has chosen are saved, along with the elect remnant of Jews, “Israel will be saved.” Jesus Christ, the great Deliverer, will come out of Zion and will turn away ungodliness from Jacob. Why will this happen? Because the “gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.” Because of God’s “election,” Israel is beloved “for the sale of the fathers.”
The curious claim here is that Israel’s salvation will not occur until the Gentile’s salvation is complete (eiselthē – may come in, enter into). Israel’s salvation will be the fulfillment of God’s “election” (eklogēn – a choosing out, choice, selection). Did you notice two mentions of “election” in Romans 11?
- Even so then, at this present time there is a remnant according to the election of grace. vs 5
- concerning the election they are beloved for the sake of the fathers. vs 28
The first election is God’s present work in saving a small number of Jews along with the larger number of Gentiles. It’s called “the election of grace.” Paul wrote about that in more detail in Ephesians 2:11-18 and is what we’ve seen during the past 19 centuries in the history of the Church. It is primarily Gentile with a small number (remnant) of Jews. The second election is God’s future work in saving Israel “for the sake of the fathers.” God made a covenant with Abraham, Jacob, Isaac and Moses thousands of years ago and He will do what He promised. It will be primarily Jewish in reach and scope. The Old Testament prophets wrote about this in great detail, as did the Apostle John in the Revelation.
That may surprise some that God has two elections, but it shouldn’t surprise us. God has been electing, selecting, choosing different people and peoples throughout the history of humanity. Paul addressed two of those selections in Romans 11. Both are about salvation and both are based on the Gospel about which Paul wrote earlier that he was not ashamed of the Gospel for it is the “power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.”
While a very small number of Gentiles could participate in some of the blessings of God revealed to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Moses, most Gentiles were “aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world” (Ephesians 2:12). Yet, Paul wrote in Romans 11:5 that “at this present time” there was a remnant of Jews who would be saved with Gentiles. In fact, those remnant Jews would become part of a “new creation” where Jesus Christ would “create in Himself one new man from the two thus making peace” (Ephesians 2:15).
The first election Paul wrote about is where Jesus is reconciling a remnant of Jews with many Gentiles to “reconcile them both in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity” (Ephesians 2:16). This is quite remarkable and is something Paul referred to in Ephesians as a “mystery”.
Paul’s message concerning Israel is clear. God has an election of a remnant of Israel who will be saved with Gentiles, but the nation of Israel will not be saved until the “fulness of the Gentiles has come in.” So, which election did Jesus mean when He said these words in Matthew 24?
- “And unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect’s sake those days will be shortened.” vs 22
- “For false christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect.” vs 24
- “And He will send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.” vs 31
This is the heart of the question we are investigating now. Will Jesus return for the first and second elect at the same time or at different times? How we answer that question will determine whether we are Pre, Mid or Post-Tribulationist in our view of the Rapture.
We will look deeper into how Christ gathers His elect in the next part of our special series “God’s Judgment: How It Works.”
If you have not read all of the parts of this study we’ve published so far, we invite you to do that now for the Scriptural background to Christ as Judge.
- Part One
- Part Two
- Part Three
- Part Four
- Part Five
- Part Six
- Part Seven
- Part Eight
- Part Nine
- Part Ten
- Part Eleven
- Part Twelve
- Part Thirteen
- Part Fourteen
- Part Fifteen
- Part Sixteen
- Part Seventeen
Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
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