By: Greg Kiser (QuantumGreg)
JESUS, THE ELECT ONE
Jesus is the Elect One. He alone is qualified to accomplish what is necessary to set humanity free from sin. "Look at my servant [Jesus], whom I strengthen. He is my chosen one, who pleases me. I have put my Spirit upon him. He will bring justice to the nations" (Isaiah 42:1). This refers to Jesus because, "Look at my Servant, whom I have chosen. He is my Beloved, who pleases me. I will put my Spirit upon him, and he will proclaim justice to the nations" (Matthew 12:18). All other references to "elect" are subordinate to His Election. Even God Himself said at the Transfiguration, "Then a voice from the cloud said, 'This is my Son, my Chosen One. Listen to him'" (Luke 9:35). Peter says, "You are coming to Christ, who is the living cornerstone of God's temple. He was rejected by people, but he was chosen by God for great honor... As the Scriptures say, 'I am placing a cornerstone in Jerusalem, chosen for great honor, and anyone who trusts in him will never be disgraced'" (1Peter 2:4,6), and "God chose him as your ransom long before the world began, but he has now revealed him to you in these last days" (1Peter 1:20). Thus, Jesus was "elected" or "predestined" or "foreordained" to die for the sins of the world (Acts 4:28).
Jesus, being the Elect One, many others played a subordinate part to bring His election to pass in history. God's election of the nation of Israel played a huge part: "For you are a holy people, who belong to the LORD your God. Of all the people on earth, the LORD your God has chosen you to be his own special treasure" (Deuteronomy 7:6).
So, I agree with full preterist, Michael Erikson, on his point that election is a sovereign choosing to service (not salvation), at least with regards to Old Testament election. But I will clarify why this is not the case with the New Testament elect.
OLD TESTAMENT ELECTION
Being chosen as the people from whom Christ would come is a very high privilege, but salvation was not automatically among them. Whether an individual Israelite was saved or not did not depend simply on his membership in the chosen people. The nation of Israel could serve its purpose of preparing for Christ even if the majority of individuals belonging to it were lost. Is this not true? I believe it is abundantly clear.
The "election of Israel" was the election of a group or a corporate body, not the election of individuals. James Daane, in The Freedom of God: A Study of Election and Pulpit writes on pg. 104: "Divine election in its basic Old Testament form is collective, corporate, national. It encompasses a community of which the individual Israelite is an integral part."
But, also, at times certain individuals connected with Israel were chosen for special roles in order to facilitate the propose of the nation as a whole; e.g. Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, David, and even certain Gentiles like Pharaoh (Exodus 9:16) and Cyrus the Persian (Isaiah 44:28-48:15). The fact that God elected these individuals for specific service in the history of salvation does not, however, mean that they were elected to personal salvation (or condemnation, for that matter).
NEW TESTAMENT ELECTION
When we get to the New Testament, God has now elected another corporate/collective entity, the new Israel; the church. This new elect body is not to prepare a way for Christ, but rather to participate in His saving work and the proclamation of it. Peter says, "But you are not like that, for you are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God's very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light" (1Peter 2:9). And John writes, "This letter is from John, the elder. I am writing to the chosen lady [i.e. the church] and to her children, whom I love in the truth—as does everyone else who knows the truth—... Greetings from the children of your sister, chosen by God" (2John 1,13).
And similarly to the Old Testament Israel, New Testament Israel was not only a corporate elect but also individuals whom God chose for His purpose. For example, Jesus chose the 12 apostles. And God chose Paul individually for the gospel's sake.
ELECTION TO SALVATION
But here's where I will differ from Michael Erikson. Every individual chosen in the chosen corporate body of Christ (the Church) is saved. They were not chosen just for bringing about God's purpose of salvation but to participate in it as well. This is an important difference and an added dimension to "election." We are the very object of Christ's love and redemptive sacrifice: "So guard yourselves and God's people. Feed and shepherd God's flock—his church, purchased with his own blood—over which the Holy Spirit has appointed you as elders" (Acts 20:28), and "For husbands, this means love your wives, just as Christ loved the church. He gave up his life for her" (Ephesians 5:25). We are chosen unto salvation: "As for us, we can't help but thank God for you, dear brothers and sisters loved by the Lord. We are always thankful that God chose you to be among the first to experience salvation—a salvation that came through the Spirit who makes you holy and through your belief in the truth" (2Thessalonians 2:13).
Now, I'm not a Calvinist, but I do believe in election/predestination, but more along the lines with Jacob Arminius. Calvinists believe election is unconditional and individual, in that, before the foundation of the world, God chose who would believe and who would not, and there's no way out of His pre-choice for either. This was Augustine's original idea propagated by John Calvin.
And, yes, this Calvinistic doctrine of election is one of the major players in causing Sam Frost to question his full preterism. He simply thought that if this Calvinistic doctrine of election is true, then there is a finite number of individuals who are known to God only. And since there is a finite number, "election" cannot be infinite, as full preterism requires. But, of course, this was not the only thing causing Sam to question full preterism.
But, I (also a former full preterist, yet not a Calvinist), was not disturbed by finite individual election coming to an end. I would tend to agree with Jacob Arminius' definition of election. That is, election is the idea that God predestines to salvation those individuals who meet the conditions which He has set forth. In other words, election to salvation is conditional and particular. It is not limited to a divine plan but applies to persons as well. Are specific individuals predestined to salvation? Yes, of course. For instance: "Greet Rufus, whom the Lord picked out to be his very own; and also his dear mother, who has been a mother to me" (Romans 16:13), and, "As for us, we can't help but thank God for you, dear brothers and sisters loved by the Lord. We are always thankful that God chose you to be among the first to experience salvation—a salvation that came through the Spirit who makes you holy and through your belief in the truth" (2Thessalonians 2:13). Also, "The beast you saw was once alive but isn't now. And yet he will soon come up out of the bottomless pit and go to eternal destruction. And the people who belong to this world, whose names were not written in the Book of Life before the world was made, will be amazed at the reappearance of this beast who had died" (Revelation 17:8). This last verse is a negative one, but the statement implies that there are those whose names were written in the Book of Life before the world was made.
So how can individual predestination/election be ignored? It can't. It's Biblical.
JACOB ARMINIUS' ELECTION DOCTRINE
But rather than adopt Calvinism's doctrine of "unconditional election" which logically leads to a blemish on the character of God (arbitrariness, hatefulness, etc), in my humble opinion, I can see that individual election is simply based on the foreknowledge of God, for Romans 8:29 says, "For God knew his people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son, so that his Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters." Here predestination/election is directly related to God's foreknowledge.
So, how am I elect? By the condition of faith in Christ, as stated everywhere in the New Testament. When I have faith in Christ, I am put in Christ; and it is He that is the Elect One, for, "Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us IN CHRIST to be holy and without fault in his eyes" (Ephesians 1:4).
Old Testament Election:
- There is an unconditional predestination/election made to a corporate body (Israel) to bring the Messiah into history to save mankind.
- There is unconditional predestination/election made to individuals (e.g. Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Pharaoh, David, Cyrus the Persian, etc.) to bring the Messiah into history to save mankind.
- This predestination/election of individuals does NOT guarantee the salvation of those individuals; only participation in the plan.
New Testament Election:
- There is an unconditional predestination/election made to a corporate body (the Church) to not only proclaim the gospel of salvation in Christ but to participate in it as well.
- There is an unconditional predestination/election made to individuals (e.g. Paul, Peter, Rufus, etc.) to not only be instrumental in proclaiming the gospel, but to participate in its salvation as well.
- This predestination/election of individuals and the corporate body guarantees the salvation of all those individuals and the corporate body itself (of course).
How does this understanding of election impact full preterism's idea of infinite salvation with no end to the number of individuals in the elect body of Christ?
Not being a Calvinist, I'm not sure it does. Instead, there are plenty of other issues for a classical Arminian like me besides Calvinistic election that frustrates a never-ending conversion process of sinners-to-saints. For a few, the "last day" of John 6:39, sin being eternal, physical death being eternal and, physical creation decaying forever (Does not entropy increase until the entire universe dies in a "heat death" billions of years into the future? Or does that not end either?). This last one really gets me because the word used in Romans for "creation" throughout the book is an obvious reference to the physical creation (Romans 1:22) and not to the supposed "historical Israel" that full preterism proposes.
I was a full preterist for 17 years. And just as Sam Frost admitted, I was likewise, "...actually willing to question any and every doctrine of orthodoxy and find them false so long as Jesus returned and all prophecy was fulfilled in AD 70." But I grew weary of it because it attacked my conscience.
And I found, just also as Sam said, "Since the FP has left any appeal to commentary, scholar, academia, or tradition - he is left with himself and his opinion of what he thinks the Bible says. If I appeal to a scholar (no, he's not FP). If I appeal to a tradition (no, there are many traditions, can't use them), if I appeal to a lexicon (nope, not written by a FP)....what's left? Your opinion."
Instead, I find it quite intellectually comfortable to be among the commentators, scholars, academics and yes, even some of the traditions (not all are bad!), of men/women who have come before me, knowing full well that it is the Holy Spirit who has led the church through history; and He has done it well. He did not wait until I came along to correct 2000 years of "missed FP-ism." Instead, He dealt with FP at the very outset... Jesus' future coming to AD 70 has been the staple belief of every scholar in the Church for 2000 years.
Thus, with Martin Luther I comfortably say, "Unless I am convinced by the testimony of the Scriptures or by clear reason (for I do not trust either in the pope or in councils alone, since it is well known that they have often erred and contradicted themselves), I am bound by the Scriptures I have quoted and my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and will not recant anything since it is neither safe nor right to go against conscience. May God help me. Amen."
It is clear from Scripture: Jesus is still a Man, and He will sit at God's right hand until all His enemies are made His footstool (Psalm 110:1), and then He will return to crush the last enemy Himself; physical death (1Corinthians 15:26).
Call me a futurist if you will, I do not care. I am no longer a full preterist for good reason. I am a Psalm 110:1-ist.