The unbreakable chain of the effectual call of the Holy Spirit is as follows: foreknown, predestined, called, justified, and glorified.
Knowing that there is an irresistible, unchangeable chain, with which the elect are pulled from the dead to safety and into the glorious presence of God, is an overwhelming comfort for the believer. We distinguish here between the elect and believers because there are some of the elect that are still caught up among the dead who are yet to be called and there are those who already have eternal life through faith. The former cannot have this comfort until they are called, have been justified, and have their hope fully in Christ for the consummation of the glory to come. The foreknowledge of God makes their salvation certain but unless they believe, they cannot share in the rewards of the merit of Christ. Believers fully trust God that He will steer the hearts of men that ultimately all of the elect brothers and sisters will be called, hear the gospel, repent, turn, and be healed.
Do we know who are of the elect and who are not? To what extent may we know whom God has predestined? How certain can we be of our election; that our names are in the book of life? Do the elect remain in the church and do the reprobate remain outside of it?
Before we answer these questions, we need to look into the nature of election and reprobation. Let us look at some basic truths about this.
In the following passages, the concept of the elect being the ungodly, sinners, powerless, and God’s enemies before they were saved by the blood of Jesus is very clear. If there were a state of neutrality, Scripture could not have been this explicit about the timeline of God’s predestination.
Romans 5:6 – 11 You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. 7Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. 8But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God's wrath through him! 10For if, when we were God's enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! 11Not only is this so, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.
The critical element referred to above is time. If we put this sequence of events into its proper perspective by adding time, we find that everybody, elect and reprobate, were condemned to death. Once that was concluded and there was no possible way for anyone to escape death, God showered mercy upon those whose names were recorded in the book of life by the merits of his Son, Jesus Christ’s one, sufficient sacrifice. The elect are called, not all at once, but during this lifetime according to God’s good pleasure. We are called to evangelize, preach, teach, discipline, admonish, pastor, and shepherd all the peoples of this world so that we may reach the elect who, unknowingly yet eagerly, await their release from death.
Had God not showered mercy upon some and had he done nothing instead, everyone would have received his just dessert: remaining in eternal death. However, some received mercy while the others are none the worse off than they were before, as objects of wrath being predestined to descend into the abyss with the beast.
It behooves us to be very clear when we explain the doctrine of predestination that it does not imply what the simple language might suggest, “some are predestined to eternal life while others are predestined to eternal damnation” but that all were condemned and from that cesspool only some were saved. It is a critical distinction without which this doctrine should never be addressed.
We previously quoted the passage from Romans 8:5, which defines for us that wall of separation between the elect and the reprobate, which cannot be breached.
Romans 8:5 Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires.
That wall is also described as a chasm.
Luke 16:26 And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.
Jesus speaks in this parable about the chasm between the elect and the reprobate in the life hereafter, which truly cannot be crossed. This chasm already exists here in this life, as is evident in Romans 8:5, with the exception that, while in this life, it is possible to cross over from the side of the dead to the side of the living, but not the other way. The only possible way for someone to go from the side of the sinful nature over to the side of the Spirit is by the Holy Spirit performing the following “surgery,” giving us a new spirit and a new heart.
Ezekiel 36:26 I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.
In the following passage, the apostle clearly explains our stay among the dead after the fall when “all of us” were living among the reprobate as objects of wrath, and “like the rest” living in our sinful nature, confirming the passages in Romans 5:6-11.
Ephesians 2:3 All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath.
Then, by sheer grace and love, God raised us up from that pool of death, making us alive again.
Ephesians 2:4 But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions--it is by grace you have been saved.
in spite of all the testimony,
John 14:11 Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the miracles themselves.
John 10:25 Jesus answered, "I did tell you, but you do not believe. The miracles I do in my Father's name speak for me.
Acts 2:22 "Men of Israel, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know.
Hebrews 2:4 God also testified to it by signs, wonders and various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.
in spite of God writing his law on their hearts,
Romans 2:14, 15 Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law, 15since they show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts now accusing, now even defending them.
in spite of them facing the Christ on his throne at the end of time.
Matthew 25:43, 44 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me. 44They also will answer, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?'
We do not and should not know who is elected to damnation or to glory lest we should grow complacent and not preach the gospel to everyone.
We should be certain of our own election, not that we should boast, but that we ought to enjoy the rewards that come through faith in Christ. We are overjoyed with delight that we are getting back our eternal life in glory, which was taken from us by the fall of our First Parents. If we, then, celebrate our new life in Christ, we ought to know that this life is but a tent in which we sojourn for a short while. That is certainty.
It is, however, impossible to know this with conviction unless we have saving faith and repentance.
Concerning others, we should hope that they are of the elect but we cannot be certain because the secrets of their hearts will remain hidden in this life and only be exposed at the court of Christ.
Matthew 12:36 … I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken.
We can only ascertain by the fruits someone bears whether they truly have the love of Christ, which they claim is in their hearts. If we are mislead by hypocrites, we ought to excommunicate them according to Matthew 18 so that they do not cause those weak of faith to stumble. If they repent, they should be welcomed back into the congregation of Christ.
Whether the elect are able to fall away from Christ or whether the reprobate are able to have a change of heart is a question that has been answered in the immutability of God. There can be no superior alternative to God’s first choice and when He condemned all of mankind to death because of the fall in the Garden, he condemned the elect with them. He also purposed that by the merits of his Son the elect would be raised up from the dead: those whose names God wrote in the book of life before creation. From this it is clear that not only will all of the elect become believers before they die, in manners we do not know, but all of the reprobate will refuse, willingly and freely, not to believe, in spite of all the testimony and proof. The elect will rejoice at regaining their eternal life and the reprobate will not believe that God exists. Since we have received the wonderful gift of regaining our eternal life – and we eagerly hope to enter it finally – it is impossible for us to lose it again by falling into a situation in which we denounce Christ as our Savior. It is truly a treasure found for which we give up everything in this life to enjoy the fruits of the life to come.
Matthew 13:44 - 50 "The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field." 45"Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. 46When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it."
Everyone’s heart will be searched and judged and those who have hearts of stone will be separated from those with hearts of flesh.
47"Once again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was let down into the lake and caught all kinds of fish. 48When it was full, the fishermen pulled it up on the shore. Then they sat down and collected the good fish in baskets, but threw the bad away. 49his is how it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come and separate the wicked from the righteous 50and throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
What is the use of knowing that God foreknew and predestined us to justification and glorification?
The first use is that we should attribute to God alone and none other the full extent of our being raised up from the ranks of the dead.
I Corinthians 4:7 … What do you have that you did not receive?
John 1:16 From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another.
John 3:27 To this John replied, "A man can receive only what is given him from heaven."
Romans 9:16, 18 It does not, therefore, depend on man's desire or effort, but on God's mercy. 18Therefore God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden.
Titus 3:5 - 7He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit 6whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.
Ephesians 2:8, 9 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God-9not by works, so that no one can boast.
The second use is that we may have complete certainty and comfort in our salvation. What desperation if we were to believe that such an important thing as the regaining of our eternal life depended upon what we do or omit to do? Far greater is the certainty when we know that the entire operation, from conception to completion, is in the hands of the living God. Even the torturous suffering and death of his Son was not too great a sacrifice for our sakes: that is how certain God’s resolve is concerning our place with him in glory.
The third use of this doctrine is that we may know that we are members of the elect and are recipients of all the rewards promised to them from the beginning.
The fourth use is that we know now that we are members of the invisible universal church, which God founded when He wrote the names of the elect into the book of life even before He created anything.
The fifth use is that we know that God is in our midst every time we gather in his name. He purposed that we should have communion with one another so that He can have his Spirit live in us who will raise up our mortal bodies in immortality to be with him.
Romans 8:11 And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you.
The sixth use is that we may have peace with God, rejoice, love, and remain faithful while suffering affliction and persecution.
Romans 5:1 - 11 Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. 3Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance, 4perseverance, character; and character, hope, 5and hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.
The seventh use is that we know that the offices of the Holy Spirit that pertains to this life will be fulfilled at the end of time and we will experience the Holy Spirit anew in glory, since there will be no more counseling, comforting, and admonishing necessary.
Thus the doctrine of the book of life, which is truly one of the golden threads with which the gospel is bound from beginning to end, holding it firm against intrusions preached by persons such as the LDS church’s Joseph Smith, the Roman Catholic Church’s Catechism, Islam’s Mohammad and others.
Revelation 13:10 If anyone is to go into captivity, into captivity he will go. If anyone is to be killed with the sword, with the sword he will be killed. This calls for patient endurance and faithfulness on the part of the saints.
This passage declares that those who persecute and kill the church here on earth will themselves suffer captivity and death.
Jeremiah 15:2 And if they ask you, 'Where shall we go?' tell them, 'This is what the LORD says: "'Those destined for death, to death; those for the sword, to the sword; those for starvation, to starvation; those for captivity, to captivity.'"
Isaiah 26:21 See, the LORD is coming out of his dwelling to punish the people of the earth for their sins. The earth will disclose the blood shed upon her; she will conceal her slain no longer.
Isaiah 33:1 Woe to you, O destroyer, you who have not been destroyed! Woe to you, O traitor, you who have not been betrayed! When you stop destroying, you will be destroyed; when you stop betraying, you will be betrayed.
Matthew 7:2 For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.
Matthew 26:52 "Put your sword back in its place," Jesus said to him, "for all who draw the sword will die by the sword."
Revelation 13:10 If anyone is to go into captivity, into captivity he will go. If anyone is to be killed with the sword, with the sword he will be killed. This calls for patient endurance and faithfulness on the part of the saints.
These words call for the patient endurance of the saints because suffering and affliction are the maturing process that leads to perfection.
The following are various passages giving us a brief insight into Scripture’s instruction on this. We see that perseverance brings forth maturity and completeness; protects us against evil doctrines; and perfects our faith before we leave this life. We have joy, peace, and a love for the Lord. We are instructed to witness to our persecutors (Luke 21:13) and pray for all saints.
James 1:2- 4 Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds 3because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. 4Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
Psalm 37:7 Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him; do not fret when men succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes.
Habakkuk 2:3 For the revelation awaits an appointed time; it speaks of the end and will not prove false. Though it linger, wait for it; it will certainly come and will not delay.
Matthew 10:22 All men will hate you because of me, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved.
Galatians 6:9 Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.
Philippians 3:12 - 14 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead. 14I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
James 5:7 - 11 Be patient, then, brothers, until the Lord's coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop and how patient he is for the autumn and spring rains. 8You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord's coming is near. 9Don't grumble against each other, brothers, or you will be judged. The Judge is standing at the door. 10Brothers, as an example of patience in the face of suffering, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. 11As you know, we consider blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job's perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy.
I Peter 5:10 And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.
I John 4:17, 18 In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like him. 18There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.
Isaiah 48:10 See, I have refined you, though not as silver; I have tested you in the furnace of affliction
Romans 12:12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.
Habakkuk 3:17, 18 Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls. 18Yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior.
Matthew 5:12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
Romans 2:7 To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life.
Romans 5:3, 4 Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance. 4Perseverance, character; and character, hope.
Romans 15:4, 13 For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. 13May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Philippians 4:4 - 7 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
II Thessalonians 3:5 May the Lord direct your hearts into God's love and Christ's perseverance.
Hebrews 10:36 You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised.
Hebrews 12:1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.
I Peter 1:3 - 7 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. 4And into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade--kept in heaven for you 5who through faith are shielded by God's power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. 6In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. 7These have come so that your faith--of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire--may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.
I Peter 2:19 For it is commendable if a man bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because he is conscious of God.
I Peter 4:13 But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.
II Peter 1:4 – 9 Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. 5For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge 6and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness 7and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. 8For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9But if anyone does not have them, he is nearsighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins.
Luke 21:12 – 19 But before all this, they will lay hands on you and persecute you. They will deliver you to synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors, and all on account of my name. 13This will result in your being witnesses to them. 14But make up your mind not to worry beforehand how you will defend yourselves 15for I will give you words and wisdom that none of your adversaries will be able to resist or contradict. 16You will be betrayed even by parents, brothers, relatives and friends, and they will put some of you to death. 17All men will hate you because of me. 18But not a hair of your head will perish. 19By standing firm you will gain life.
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