By its very nature much of Scripture IS Israel orientated and specific, and thus time or era specific as well, yet this in no way negates its value for believers post Parousia in applying its truths and principles beyond the first-fruits first century time frame, for this reason: Israel was God's redemptive microcosm for what He was outworking in reconciliation on behalf of the whole creation – macrocosm. God predestined, called and elected historic Israel; out of Israel He chose a remnant; through this remnant came the Messiah [Christ]; "in Christ" God called a remnant or "first-fruits"; through this remnant God delivered [saved] "all Israel"; and in redeeming Israel God reconciled the whole world, thus restoring humanity to Himself.
To put it another way:
Out of the
.... Out of Israel God chose the Remnant.
........ Out of the Remnant God chose the Messiah.
........ In the
.... In the Remnant God chose Israel.
God's unilateral covenant with the Gentile Abram that "all families of the earth would be blessed" [Gen 12:3] found fruition in the Seed – Christ, and subsequently through Christ's 'Body' of first-fruits believers. Through them was ministered and manifested the redemptive plan and purpose of God for and on behalf of ALL humanity – to the Jews first and then the Gentiles. This is how that which had a fixed "this generation"
A pantelistic reading of Paul understands the first-fruits mission on behalf of Israel and the wider world this way:
Rom 8:18-23 For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us [first-fruits]. For the earnest expectation of the creature [Israel] waiteth for the manifestation [in
Or to paraphrase what I believe to be Paul's intent:
For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us first-fruit believers. For the earnest expectation of Israel eagerly waits for the calling of the first-fruit sons of God. For Israel was subjected to the futility of the law, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected her in new covenant resurrection hope; because Israel herself also will be redeemed from the bondage of the law into the glorious liberty of the first-fruits children of God. For we know that even the greater world groans and
It was the "the children of God" [a very Jewish designation] i.e., the first-fruit saints, elsewhere are called "sons of God" signifying covenantal authority, who "in Christ" are the elect of the elect – or a refining of such, that experience "in part" in that transitional age, a rising up out of the old covenant body of death.
This rising up came to fruition in the Parousia when ALL historic Israel was redeemed, and as a result, all humanity reconciled.
Just as Gideon of old selected certain ones to join his band to bring deliverance [salvation] to Israel, so too did Christ draw to himself those elect ones through whom the great deliverance would come – initially on Israel's behalf, and then to the world.
This then broaches the issue of ELECTION. From the perspective of
Rom 9:11 …for the children not yet being born, nor having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works but of Him who calls…
The outworking of Christ's redemptive reconciliation by those elect first-fruits would cost many their lives [Mk 10:39; Jn 15:20]. Rejection of Israel's new covenant likewise cost many in Israel their lives – those who rejected or refused to heed Jesus' words "unless you repent" as those of Siloam [Lk 13:3-5] suffered the ultimate perishing in the great conflagration of AD70, being wiped out of the 'book of life' i.e., out of 'the book' or land of the living – a covenantal euphemism for the literal loss of life [Psa 69:28]. Their loss of temporal physical life in Jerusalem's AD70 'lake of fire' consequently meant the greater loss of "reward" in the forth coming consummative Resurrection.
To say then that Christ died for the elect ONLY – with "the elect" being viewed as a special group that gains exclusive entrance into heaven upon physical death at the expense of all else, is to have the whole redemptive and reconciling scenario upside down and back to front; quite apart from the fact that nowhere in Scripture is such a thing intimated. The first-fruit elect were the ones losing their lives [Mk 8:35; Jn 15:13] "in Christ" [and some quite literally] as they were laying down their lives on behalf of their brethren – old and new covenant Israel, past and present as it then was. It was this laying down in sacrificial service that is the essence of thought behind those who were being "baptized for the dead" of 1Cor 15:29. cf. my article: Baptised for the Dead.
All who answered the call of God as evidenced in the Old Testament did so, again, not to get to Heaven– that was NEVER the issue, but rather to minister to and on behalf of God's people. Through Christ's atoning sacrifice the whole of humanity has been restored and are now generically speaking 'the people of God', or possibly expressing it this way – humanity has been brought into Israel, and believers are as the 'New Jerusalem'. Christ's disciples
Thus coming to faith in Christ is not and never was about securing potential 'fire insurance' from some supposed post death calamity such as a fiery Hell or total annihilation; coming to faith in Christ was and is about coming into a life of service with God. By responding affirmatively in repentance and faith to the call of God – experiencing conversion, one enters into the priesthood of service, a priesthood of believers who are "saved to serve".
Some with a critical eye of judgment view Romans 9 as the touchstone of election and reprobation with regards to existence beyond the grave, but miss God's redemptive purpose, not appreciating that the new covenant was a heavenward call toward loving justice, doing mercifully and walking in humility [Mic 6:8]. And this ultimately being demonstrated by the axiom of "love thy neighbour…" – doing so is loving God, and experientially in life being loved by God – knowing His assurance of peace.
God's dismissiveness towards Esau as stated by Paul in Romans was not that of a rancid hatred, but rather needs to be seen and understood in the light of redemptive history – God's redemptive story, that is, Esau was not the one chosen or elected for such a high redemptive calling. When God "hates Esau" [Rom 9:13] it means God had no regard towards him – in relation to the outworking of the Divine redemptive plan. It does NOT mean: "therefore he shall be eternally damned upon death!!" This expressed hatred is likewise seen elsewhere in terms of the hyperbolic requirement to "hate" even ones very own father and mother, wife and children, brother and sister… [Lk 14:26] – an embellished hatred relative to the commitment of Israel's redemptive cause with NO literal intent of caustic abhorrence.
This is why 'election' in its proper context of redemption was [past tense] about purpose NOT position, it was about service NOT security.
Thus rejection – or as some
1Sam 16:6-7 So it was, when they came, that he looked at Eliab and said, "Surely the LORD's anointed is before Him!" But the LORD said to Samuel, "Do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature, because I have refused [rejected] him. For the LORD does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart."
This then is the true nature of Paul's election issue of Romans 9: whether helped, hindered or hardened of the Lord had nothing to do with one's individual and exclusive post death destiny, but had everything to do with God's corporate and inclusive redemptive plan for humankind. That was the story of Israel – to be the world's light. Christ and his ELECT first-fruit saints fulfilled Israel's mission.
Paul's various "vessels" [Rom 9:21-23; 2Tm 2:20-21] whether they be honourable OR NOT were all from the same lump, all were of the one house [kingdom]. Israel, believing AND unbelieving, whether rebellious OR faithful were no less all-together the covenanted people of God. Faithfulness indeed obtained the blessings and promises whereas faithlessness with a certainty led to temporal judgment and forfeiture of blessing, yet such as these were, these consequences of actions were still experienced in this life. So the scope of redemption as it applied to Israel WAS comprehensive and inclusive of ALL, yet faith enabled those "called" to be useful in the redeeming-reconciling hand of God – something the first-fruit saints came into, and so found salvation in this life.
So we find, scripturally speaking, that "rejection by God" was NOT about post death retributive judgment via damnation or obliteration; it was simply NON-election to the greater redemptive purposes of God – nothing more and nothing less. This notion that "election" has to do with post death destinies has NO biblical warrant whatsoever, none! Ultimately election was for the benefit and inclusion of all, NOT their exclusion. And that benefit was and is a covenantal relationship with God in life, this life – none other than what the Bible calls eternal life. It is this LIFE that is grasped by faith in Christ, and so finds the salvation of life specifically, individually; as distinct from the redemptive reconciliation that encompasses all generically and collectively.
Any divine calling and empowering subsequent to the Parousia was and is for the testimony and maintaining of this grand reality in witness, worship and works. This truly is what the "fulfilled paradigm" of pantelism [realised eschatology and realised redemption] is all about. Folk can banter back and forth on the platform of supposed "orthodoxy" quibbling over the vice or virtues of the likes of Calvinism or Arminianism, yet all the while the train of spiritual seekers keeps passing them by.
Is it possible that both Calvin and Luther erred in part? – One in dragging redemptive election past the Parousia; and the other by dragging "justification" i.e., salvific vindication past this life – thus making it the means of escaping a supposed post death calamity and so the passport into heaven? Pantelism believes so. Yes there is a "righteousness of faith" for the believer, but again that righteousness is in relation to one's standing in the call of Divine service [2Pet 1:10] – none other than the new covenant standing in this life and not some post death standing in Heaven's queue.
It is time for those of the "fulfilled framework" to stop ignoring this glaring inconsistency and start re-examining their so-called "position" as it relates to the
N. T. Wright in his recent work 'Paul' makes this passing comment: "Election was closely bound up with eschatology…" [p. 110]. New Testament eschatology being bound up and fulfilled in Christ and outworked through His first-fruit saints demands likewise the
We who live post Parousia are in a sense the "offspring" of that generation i.e., we live in the ageless world of righteousness – that which the first-fruit saints in their time were awaiting [2Pet 3:13; Gal 5:5]. We who believe today are like those who believed then – we are God's priests in and to His world. The pre-Parousia priesthood "Body of Christ" fulfilled their role in securing redemption – believers post Parousia