About Jesus - Steve Sweetman
I was raised in an
Evangelical world that believed Jews were God's chosen people.
When I would ask if the "elect" people seen in Matthew
24:21 and 22 were Jews or the church, no one seemed to know.
I guess that was to be expected.
It's a confusing issue. "Divine
election", as theologians call it, has been debated for centuries.
I suggest you consider what I say as you study the issue for
As Christians we often
begin our study of Biblical issues in the New Testament.
Both hermeneutics and common sense dictate we start any study in
the Old Testament. So, I
begin in Genesis where our English word "chose", and other
related words, are translated from the Hebrew word "bachiyr".
There's no religious significance about this word. It
simply means to pick or choose.
Right after God judged
It's no coincidence that
the Bible introduces Abraham right after God judged the newly formed
nations of the world. These
nations needed divine help. For
this reason God chose, or elected, Abraham to be the father of a great
nation we know as
To birth this promised
great nation God chose Abraham's son Isaac over his son Ishmael.
God then chose Isaac's son Jacob over his son Esau to continue on
the path to nationhood. The
Apostle Paul explained the reason for these choices in Romans 9:11 and
12. "In order that
God's purpose in election (His choices) might stand: not by works but by
Him who calls (NIV). In
other words, God's choices in this matter were based on His sovereign
will, not on any goodness Abraham, and Isaac may or may not have
possessed. Being God, He can
choose whoever He wants for whatever He wants.
Further to God choosing
Abraham as Israel's father, He appointed, or chose, Israel to be His
priest or representative to the ungodly nations (Exodus 19:6 - Isaiah
49:6). This choice is
confirmed throughout the Old Testament as seen in these two of many
examples. "Israel, whom I have chosen (Isaiah 44:1)."
"Israel, my chosen (Isaiah 45:4)."
The above Old Testament
facts should form the foundation for our thinking concerning divine
election. They're critical
when figuring out who the elect people are in Matthew 24:21 and 22.
Here, Jesus spoke about a time of great distress, unequaled in
human history, which would overtake the world.
I believe this distress will occur during what many call the
Great Tribulation. Jesus
then said that if those days weren't cut short, no one would survive,
but, for the sake of the elect, those days would be shortened. Like
its Hebrew counterpart, the Greek word "eklekios" that's
translated as "elect" in this passage has no religious
significance. It simply
means to pick or to choose. So,
who are these elect people that God chose to rescue from this distress?
Both Jesus and those
listening to Him were Jews. They
would have believed that Israel
was God's elect nation as stated in the Old Testament.
It makes no sense that Jesus would deviate from this traditional
Jewish thinking without informing His disciples.
In fact He would have misled them if He had deviated without an
explanation. It's thus clear
to me that the elect in this prophetic passage is
The debate heats up even
more when we read Colossians 3:12. The
Apostle Paul called the Colossian believers, which included both Jews
and Gentiles, God's chosen or elect people.
Contextually speaking, Paul used the word "elect" to
refer to that which we call church, not to the nation of Israel. We should realize,
however, that even though Paul's use of the word "elect" in
this verse differs from Jesus' use of the word in Matthew 24, that
doesn't permit us to rethink what Jesus said and make Him say something
He didn't say.
The Apostle Peter also
used the word "elect" in 1 Peter 1:1.
Here, scholars are divided. It's
debatable whether Peter was addressing Jews, Gentiles, or both Jews and
Gentiles. Because of this
uncertainty, we can't use 1 Peter 1:1 to support any position on this
In one sense of the word,
the New Testament community of Christ is God's chosen or elect people
for the age in which we live. That
being the case, we cannot disregard the long standing Old Testament fact
that I believe Jesus confirmed: Israel
is God's chosen or elect nation with respect to prophetic history.
I conclude the following.
New Testament believers are God's special chosen people for this
age, not because of any goodness they may or may not possess, but
because of God's sovereign choice as seen in the cross of Christ.
Abraham was God's special chosen man, not because of any goodness
he may or may not have possessed, but because of God's sovereign choice
to make him the father of a great nation.
is God's special chosen nation, not because of any goodness it may or
may not possess, but because of God's sovereign choice for it to some
day be His priest to the nations. It's
called "divine election", and for that reason, I as a chosen
New Testament believer choose to support God's chosen nation of Israel.