Why does the Bible say that some are called and chosen in this day and age? (Part 2)


In the first part of this series, we discussed that few people, identified as the firstfruits, were foreknown and predestined by God, long before they were born, to be called for salvation in this age. We showed from the Bible that those who are called today to salvation were elected or chosen to be called before the foundation of the world—before time began. We debunked the idea that some would be called first, and only later, after having proven themselves to be worthy, they would become chosen. We showed that the Bible teaches the exact opposite— that God from the beginning chose us for salvation to which He called us; in other words, those who are called to salvation today had been chosen long ago by God to be called.

The reason why some erroneously teach that we must be called first and that only later, once we have proven ourselves, we can belong to those who are also chosen, is based on a fundamental misunderstanding of basically two Scriptures in the book of Matthew which state that “many are called, but few are chosen.” In misapplying these passages to God’s call to salvation, they conclude that God calls many people today, but only few qualify and become God’s chosen people, worthy of inheriting salvation. In teaching this, they would also have to say, as we pointed out in the first installment, “that God, even though He foreknew and predestined some to be called in this day and age, engaged in a big gamble as to who would also advance to becoming chosen, and that most of those whom God predestined to be called would not make it, and would fall away, and that God knew this ahead of time; in fact, before time began. This is truly a preposterous concept. Why would God call those whom He had foreknown and predestined, knowing that they would not make it, but fall away?”

Part of this false teaching is that they do not believe in the biblical concept of predestination. Rather than understanding that God has very specifically elected certain designated individuals, foreknown to Him, long before they were born, long before the foundation of the earth, even before time began, they teach that God only had a general plan of calling at random an unidentified group of unspecified and undesignated people, and that out of that group, many would fail, but some would succeed. This is clearly NOT the biblical teaching, as we have proven from the Bible in the last installment.

We also say in our free booklet, “Are You Predestined to Be Saved?”, in chapter 1, on pages 15-17:

“So then, did God know from, or even before, the foundation of the world—before time began—that He would call certain ones to salvation? Based on the testimony of Scripture, the answer is, Yes!…  Predestination does not mean that we whom God has called to salvation at this time are guaranteed to attain eternal life. But it DOES mean that we were preordained—’predestined’—by God to be called to salvation in this life, so that we CAN attain eternal life at the time of the resurrection. We can also fail, however.

“Predestination, then, has to do with the time of our calling to salvation. It also has to do with the fact that our names—the names of those who are called in this life—are written in the Book of Life, and that they have been written in it since the foundation of the world—before time began—and that our names will remain in that Book, as long as we do not commit the unpardonable sin.

“Note the following quote from Herbert W. Armstrong’s booklet, ‘Predestination… Does the Bible teach it?’, copyrighted 1957, pages 14 and 15: ‘… predestination has… only to do with the TIME of your calling—whether you are called NOW, in this age, or later! Notice it in the passage in Romans 8:28-30: ‘For whom He did foreknow.’ How GREAT is God! If you are now called, God ‘foreknew’ you—knew you thousands of years before you were born!…  Those now being called, in this age, were foreknown, and PRE-destined to be called now—to be the FIRST to put their hope in Christ… God… DID decide far in advance which ones He would call in this FIRST calling, to be a priest or a king in His Kingdom—to have part in the saving of OTHERS!…’

“If YOU are called today to salvation—if YOU have been preordained and predestined to be called in this life—God KNOWS that you can make it and He is confident that you WILL make it…”

We will now discuss in detail what Christ meant when He said twice in the book of Matthew that many are called, but few are chosen (compare Matthew 22:14; Matthew 20:16). To state right from the outset, neither passage describes our call to salvation.

We start with Christ’s saying in Matthew 22:14, by quoting the passage in context, beginning with verse 1:

“(1) And Jesus answered and spoke to them again by parables and said:

(2) ‘The kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who arranged a marriage for his son,

(3) and sent out his servants to call those who were invited to the wedding; and they were not willing to come.

(4) Again, he sent out other servants, saying, “Tell those who are invited, ‘See, I have prepared my dinner; my oxen and fatted cattle are killed, and all things are ready. Come to the wedding.’”

(5) But they made light of it and went their ways, one to his own farm, another to his business.

(6) And the rest seized his servants, treated them spitefully, and killed them.

(7) But when the king heard about it, he was furious. And he sent out his armies, destroyed those murderers, and burned up their city.

(8) Then he said to his servants, “The wedding is ready, but those who were invited were not worthy.

(9) Therefore go into the highways, and as many as you find, invite to the wedding.”

(10) So those servants went out into the highways and gathered together all whom they found, both bad and good. And the wedding hall was filled with guests.

(11) But when the king came in to see the guests, he saw a man there who did not have on a wedding garment.

(12) So he said to him, “Friend, how did you come in here without a wedding garment?” And he was speechless.

(13) Then the king said to the servants, “Bind him hand and foot, take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

(14) For many are called, but few are chosen.”

Notice, first of all, that in this parable, the kingdom of heaven or the kingdom of God is compared or likened to a king who arranged a marriage for his son. This is obviously referring to God the Father, the Highest in the Godhead and the Kingdom, who is arranging a marriage for His Son, Jesus Christ. It is Christ, the Bridegroom, who will marry His bride—the church—when He returns, as we clearly read in Revelation 19:7-8:

“Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready. And to her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints. Then he said to me, ‘Write: ‘Blessed are those who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb!’…”

Next, note that the king sends out his servants to invite guests to the wedding. The servants have been rightly understood as God’s disciples who, through the ages, have labored in God’s Work to help proclaim the gospel and the need for repentance. But the guests were unwilling to attend the wedding ceremony. They are obviously different from the servants. Please also note that the “servants”, mentioned in this parable, do not describe God’s angels, as the servants being sent out to invite the guests to the wedding, are mentioned twice, at different times, and seem to refer to different groups of individuals. First, in verse 3, “servants” are mentioned, and in verse 4, “other servants” are mentioned. If the reference was to angels, why would God send out different kinds of angels the second time, as if the first group had been incapable of fulfilling their job? Rather, a time sequence is described, when God sends out His disciples, at different times, throughout the ages, to invite people to have a relationship with Him. Emphasis is placed, after the first group of servants had been sent out, on the events occurring during the last days.

The guests, however, refuse steadfastly to come.  They do NOT describe converted Christians or those having been invited and called to salvation. Rather, they are clearly identified, in verses 6 and 7, as murderers who killed the king’s servants (proving that the servants could not have been angels who cannot die), and the king sent out his armies, killed them and burned their cities—apparently referring especially to the destruction of the city of Jerusalem in 70 A.D.

The Benson Commentary stated in regard to Matthew 22:7:

“This branch of the parable plainly predicted the destruction of the Jews by the Roman armies, called God’s armies, because they were appointed by him to execute vengeance upon that once favourite, but now rebellious people.”

Barnes’ Notes on the Bible states:

“This doubtless refers to the Jews and to Jerusalem. They were murderers, having slain the prophets; and God was about to send forth the armies of the Romans under his providential direction, and to burn up their city.”

The Jews at the time of Christ were never called to salvation. Neither were the houses of ancient Israel and Judah in the Old Testament, let alone the Gentile nations.  Only very few are CALLED to salvation in this age.

Christ’s statement in Matthew 22 mirrors and echoes what He said in the parable of the wicked vinedressers, in Matthew 21:34-41:

“‘(34) Now when vintage-time drew near, he [the owner of the vineyard] sent his servants to the vinedressers [to whom he had leased the vineyard], that they might receive its fruit.

(35) And the vinedressers took his servants, beat one, killed one, and stoned another.

(36) Again he sent other servants, more than the first, and they did likewise to them.

(37) Then last of all he sent his son to them, saying, “They will respect my son.”

(38) But when the vinedressers saw the son, they said among themselves, “This is the heir. Come, let us kill him and seize his inheritance.”

(39) So they took him and cast him out of the vineyard and killed him.

(40) Therefore, when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those vinedressers?’

(41) They said to Him, ‘He will destroy those wicked men miserably, and lease his vineyard to other vinedressers who will render to him the fruits in their seasons.’”

When we read that people are called, this does not have to mean, called to salvation. Even though the Greek word for “called” in Matthew  22:14 is “kletos” (see discussion in the last installment), it and related words such as “klesis” and “kaleo”, can refer to other aspects of “calling.” We read, for example, that Paul was “called” (“kletos”) an apostle (Romans 1:1; 1 Corinthians 1:1), and there are examples where the word “kalero” (“called”) does not refer to a call to salvation at all (compare Matthew 2:7; 22;45; 23:9; Acts 4:18). Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words states that the word “kaleo,” while “particularly” used of the “Divine call to partake of the blessings of redemption,” can also be used “to call anyone, invite, summon.”

In the parable of Matthew 22:1-14, the word for “called” is used in this more general sense.

We read in this parable (in verses 8 and 9) that the king sent out his servants to find others to invite as guests to the wedding, until the hall was filled with guests (verse 10). Again, the distinction between guests and servants is important and is being maintained. The fact that one of the guests does not have on a wedding garment, does not mean that the guest suddenly had become a servant unworthy of salvation. In passing, the word “guest” (“anakeimai” in Greek) is used in Mark 5:40, describing the dead girl lying on the bed. The word normally describes a guest reclining, lying or sitting at a table.

We read the following explanation about the guest without proper apparel in the Benson Commentary:

“To explain this, it must be observed, it was usual in the eastern countries to present the guests at marriages, and other solemnities, with garments wherein they were to appear, and the number of them was esteemed an evidence of the wealth and magnificence of the giver. This king, therefore, having invited so many from the lanes, and hedges, and highways, who could never have provided themselves with proper raiment in which to make their appearance at this marriage-feast, according to the custom of the country, must be supposed to have ordered each, on his applying to the ruler of the feast, to be presented with a proper garment, that they might all be clothed in a manner becoming the magnificence of the solemnity. But this man either neglected to apply, or refused to accept and put on, the garment offered him, which was the circumstance that rendered his conduct inexcusable.”

The Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary comes to the same conclusion, stating:

“The language here is drawn from the following remarkable passage in [Zephaniah] 1:7, 8:—”Hold thy peace at the presence of the Lord God; for the day of the Lord is at hand: for the Lord hath prepared a sacrifice, He hath bid His guests. And it shall come to pass in the day of the Lord’s sacrifice, that I will punish the princes, and the king’s children, and all such as are clothed with strange apparel.” The custom in the East of presenting festival garments (see [Genesis] 45:22; [2 Kings] 5:22), even though [not] clearly proved, is certainly presupposed here.”

We explain in our before-mentioned booklet, on pages 53-54:

“The guests, mentioned in verses 3 to 8, seem to describe Old Testament Israel—the physical descendants of Abraham—as well as the religious leadership at the time of Christ’s First Coming. We need to understand that Old Testament Israel was never offered eternal salvation. Still, the Bible says that they were all called to the wedding (compare Luke 13:34); but not in the sense that they were ‘called’ to eternal salvation—just as ‘guests.’ They were called, on a physical level, to have a relationship with God, but they even rejected that kind of a relationship (compare Matthew 21:33–46, especially verses 43 and 45, clarifying that Christ was speaking of the Pharisees and chief priests). Luke 13:34 reveals that Christ wanted often to gather the children of Jerusalem together, but they were unwilling, rather choosing to kill the prophets and stone those who were sent to them.

“Please also note Matthew 8:11–12: ‘And I say to you that many will come from east to west, and sit down with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. But the sons of the kingdom will be cast into outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ Christ is addressing here the Pharisees and chief priests, calling them the ‘sons of the kingdom.’ But they were never called to salvation. The fact that they will be cast into outer darkness does not mean that they have committed the unpardonable sin. It means, however, that they will not enter the kingdom of God at Christ’s First Coming (compare the parallel passage in Luke 13:28–30, showing that they, who thought that they would be ‘first’ in the kingdom, will actually be ‘last.’) They will still get their chance to qualify at a later time.

“In that sense, many, including the modern houses of Israel and Judah, are ‘called’ to a physical relationship with God, but few are chosen today to have a spiritual relationship with God that leads to eternal life.”

We do not deny the fact that this parable has also spiritual applications and can be seen as describing a “member” or better a “guest” attending Church services who refuses to repent, which would be shown by his blatant refusal to be dressed with a white garment of righteousness. In that case, his being cast into outer darkness, where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth, would indicate the final fate of this person who refused to repent and who showed this by his rebellious attitude, having committed the unpardonable sin.

But in focusing on the obvious meaning of the parable, it tells us that many are called for certain tasks and even for a physical relationship with God, but only few (the firstfruits) had been chosen before time began to be called today for eternal life. To put it differently, out of the many called for a physical relationship with God, only few were called and chosen (“eklektos” in the Greek) to have a spiritual relationship with Him.

To stick with the obvious meaning of the parable, the emphasis is not on members of the Church of God, but on guests—unconverted people who are not called for salvation, but who are called to have a physical relationship with God—specifically, but not exclusively, referring to the modern descendants of the houses of Israel and Judah, who, like the Pharisees of old, should have known better.

God expects the modern descendants of the houses of Israel and Judah to keep His commandments—at least by following the letter of the Law. There is no excuse for breaking the Law of the Ten Commandments. Even though most are not yet called to salvation, they ARE called to have a special physical relationship with God, as was also the case with Old Testament Israel. Their refusal to keep the Law and to even appear before God as “guests” to the wedding, with dignity and respect for Him, His Son and His servants, is inexcusable. And as God destroyed ancient Jerusalem by the ancient Romans as a consequence, so He will destroy modern Jerusalem and the modern cities of the USA, the UK, Canada and other English-speaking nations through the modern Romans—the last European revival of the ancient Roman Empire.

(To be continued)

Lead Writer: Norbert Link

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