The Elect in Matthew 24: Jews or Gentiles?

Who are the elect that Jesus spoke of when He said “for the elect’s sake those days shall be shortened”?  Who are the elect to whom “false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders…”? Finally, who are the elect He spoke of when He said “Immediately after the tribulation of those days… he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other”?  (Matt 24:22, 24, 29, 31)

The Calvinist doctrine teaches “the elect” means those who have been chosen to receive eternal life (they are saved). If “elect” = “saved” then the elect in Matthew 24 would necessarily be talking about believers in general. What we see, however, is that God repeatedly calls the Jews “the elect [ones (plural)]” in the Hebrew Scriptures and we likewise see , “the elect [ones (plural)]” in the New Testament is also a reference to the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, that is, the Jews. Consequently, Jesus’ reference to the elect in Matthew 24 is not speaking of the believers at large, but specifically of ethnic Israel (who believe). This conclusion is more thoroughly demonstrated in my complete paper and video “Why God Did Not Elect Calvinists,” or watch the video here. Furthermore, the gathering of the elect in Matthew 24 is not referring to Gentile believers before the tribulation but believing Jews after the tribulation. John Calvin plainly taught that election meant: “All are not created on equal terms, but some are preordained to eternal life, others to eternal damnation and, accordingly, as each has been created for one or other of these ends, we say that he has been predestinated to life or to death.” [1] Lest we think that is wrenching Calvin out of context, Calvinist Loraine Boettner clarifies: “The Doctrine of absolute Predestination of course logically holds that some are foreordained to death as truly as others are foreordained to life.” [2] The good news, however, is that “election, elect, chosen” (and the derivatives) are terms that have nothing to do with one’s eternal destiny. Scripture does speak at length of “the elect” and “the chosen” but these terms are devoid of the Calvinistic sense of someone who has been elected to receive eternal life. Conversely, the term elect and its derivatives are not salvific in meaning but simply refer to persons or things that are chosen for a particular purpose and the purpose has nothing to do with eternal life. Once the definition of the word is established biblically, the foundation of Calvinism will be undermined and will collapse and the true identity of the elect in Matthew 24 will come into view. The word elect (Greek verb: eklegomai ἐκλέγομαι; Hebrew verb: bakhar בָּחַר) means to choose, select. The elect or chosen (as nouns or adjectives) are those people or things that have been elected, selected, or chosen for a particular purpose by someone. For example, God chose Levi to minister forever “… the LORD your God hath chosen [bakhar בָּחַר Greek LXX eklexetai εκλεξηται]…” Deut 18:5 (see also 1 Chr 15:2).  God and the people chose Saul to be the first king of Israel: “…behold the king whom you have chosen and whom ye have desired! And behold, the LORD hath set a king over you,” (1Sam 12:13). Saul’s election by God to be king had nothing to do with eternal life and his removal from being king likewise had nothing to do with eternal life. Because thou hast rejected the word of the LORD, ​he hath also rejected thee from being king,” (1 Sam 15:23) – he was simply removed from his post. Judas is analogous to Saul in many ways because they were both elected for a purpose (not salvation, per se) yet they both forfeited their election.[3] God’s election of Messiah further demonstrates that the term elect/election is devoid of the Calvinistic concept of eternal life. “My Servant… Mine elect [בְּחִירִי bekhiri LXX: eklektos εκλεκτος] in whom My soul delighteth… (Isa 42:1, see also Isaiah 49:7). This title was used of Jesus on the cross “… ‘let Him save Himself if he be Christ, the chosen of God.’” (Luke 23:35 see also 1 Pet 2:4, 6). Jesus was unquestionably chosen, elected, predestined by God to be the Messiah but His election was not for His salvation; He was chosen by the Father to give us eternal life because he is the source of life! God also elected for Jerusalem to be His city and for His name to be there, (1 Kgs 8:44, 11:32, 36; 2 Chr 6:6; Ps 132:13). God chose the foolish things of the world to confound the wise. Jesus pointed out that the guests chose (eklegomai εκλέγομαι) the best seats, (Luke 14:8). Our conclusion from each of the examples is that election has nothing to do with predestination to eternal life. God chose priests, kings and Jerusalem for His purposes and man chose both God and idols. Again, we would be wrong to try to insert the concept of eternal life into the term election.

The Election of Israel

While election is made by God and men of people and places, there is a usage that stands out uniquely in Scripture: God’s chosen people, the elect, are the Israelites. The title “chosen/elect” is in many verses in Scripture. The use of the title “elect” to describe Israel becomes very important when we venture into the New Testament because it clears up many theological, soteriological, and eschatological issues including the identity of the elect in Matthew 24.

  1. God hath chosen thee to be a special people unto himself. (Deut 7:6).
  2. The LORD hath chosen thee to be a peculiar people unto Himself. (Deut 14:2)
  3. O ye seed of Israel his servant, ye children of Jacob, his chosen ones! (1 Chr 16:13)
  4. The people whom he hath chosen for his own inheritance. (Ps 33:12)
  5. O ye Seed of Abraham his servant, ye children of Jacob his chosen. (Ps 105:6)
  6. He brought forth his people with joy, and his chosen with gladness. (Ps 105:43)
  7. For the LORD hath chosen Jacob unto himself, and Israel for his peculiar treasure. (Ps 135:4)
  8. For Jacob my servant’s sake, and Israel mine elect… (Isa 45:4)
  9. I will bring forth a seed out of Jacob… mine elect shall inherit it. (Isa 65:9)
  10. … the days of my people, and mine elect shall long enjoy the work of their hands. (Isa 65:22)

The verses above demonstrate how God has specifically called Israel, Jacob, the Seed of Abraham His chosen. Thus “the chosen” or “my chosen” and “the elect” (in the plural) refer to ethnic Israel.  This point is proven by Paul who, in a synagogue on the Sabbath day in Antioch, read from the Law and Prophets and then spoke to his fellow Jews: “Men of Israel… give audience: The God of this people Israel chose our fathers…’” (Acts 13:16, 17). Thus, the election of Israel is corroborated by Paul in the New Testament as well.

The Elect in Peter’s Epistles Are Jewish

Peter likewise uses the term elect to describe the Jews: “…to the strangers scattered throughout elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father…” (1 Pet 1:1-2) The word “scattered” (Greek diaspora διασπορά) was used to describe the scattering among the nations that God had promised to the Jews (Israel) if they would not follow Him (Lev 26:33; Deut 4:27; Neh 1:8, etc.; the LXX uses the same Greek word as the NT). James, in his epistle, could not be any clearer that the diaspora is Israel when he says: “to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad [en te diaspora. εν τη διασπορα]: greetings.” (James 1:1).Thus James and Peter were writing to Jews in the diaspora. In 1 Peter chapter two Peter describes his Jewish (believing) brethren with words used repeatedly in the Old Testament to describe the Jewish people.

Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ. But ye [are] a chosen generation [note: the Greek word is genos (race) not genea (generation) see: NASB], a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light. (1 Pet 2:5, 9) “…ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people… ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests and an holy nation.” (Ex 19:5, 6)
“For thou art an holy people unto the LORD thy God: the LORD thy God hath chosen thee to be a special people unto himself, above all people that are upon the face of the earth.” (Deut 7:6)
“For thou art an holy people unto the LORD thy God, and the LORD hath chosen thee to be a peculiar people” (Deut 14:2)
For the LORD hath chosen Jacob unto himself, and Israel for his peculiar treasure.” (Ps 135:4)

Their election, however, is by no means a guarantee that they will inherit eternal life (just as Judas was elect yet foolishly rejected the invitation.) Paul corroborates this fact so clearly in 2 Timothy: “Therefore I endure all things for the elect’s sakes, that they may also obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory…” (2 Tim 2:10) Paul endured many things for the elect, the Jews, which again demonstrates election has nothing to do with salvation.

The “Few Chosen” Are Israelites

Speaking with the Pharisees in Matthew 22, Jesus compares the Kingdom of Heaven to a King who prepared a wedding feast for His Son. Those that were invited to the wedding feast were not interested in coming so the King sent His servants out calling everyone who would come. Therefore, Jesus’ statement “For many are called, but few are chosen,” (Matt 22:14; see also Matt 20:16) must be interpreted in light of who are the chosen – that is the Jews! The chosen, elect (the Jews) were the ones to whom the promise of the Messianic Age was first given.[4]However, when the bridegroom came many of them were not willing to come and therefore God the Father gave instruction for the many to be called to the feast as well as the chosen. Knowing that the elect are the Jews completely rules out any Calvinistic interpretation of the passage and unlocks the passage for us. Note that both the called and chosen still needed salvation as indicated by the man found without a wedding garment who was cast out.

The Elect in the Tribulation

We can now consistently interpret the elect in Matthew 24; they are not Gentile believers in the tribulation, but are God’s chosen and the days will be shortened for their sake. Why? Because it is specifically called the time of Jacob’s (Israel’s) trouble (Jer 30:7).  John saw in his vision how “there was a war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon…and his angels.” (Rev 12:7). Daniel received the same information about that war in which Michael fights on behalf of the Jews, “at that time Michael shall stand up, the great prince who standeth for the children of thy people [Israel]; and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation, even to that same time [reiterated by Jesus in Matt 24:21]: and at that time thy people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book.” (Dan 12:1). When we continue reading in Revelation 12 we see “the dragon … persecuted the woman which brought forth the man childand went to make war with the remnant of her seed.”(Rev 12:13, 17). Again, Satan’s The Elect in the Tribulation are the Jewswrath is against the Jews. In Daniel 7 we see the same thing; the Little Horn (Antichrist) “made war with the saints, and prevailed against them,” (Dan 7:21). So too in Revelation 13 the war is against the Jews “it was given unto him to make war with the saints, and to overcome them,” (Rev 13:7). Also in the parallel passage, “he…shall wear out the saints of the most High…and they shall be given into his hand until a time and times and the dividing of time, (Dan 7:25). Notice the saints (Jews are given into his hand for 3 ½ years (1260 days), which is the same as in Revelation 12 “the woman [Israel] fled into the wilderness, a thousand two hundred and threescore days,” (Rev 12:6).  In each of those parallel passages, the Jews are the ones under the gun. It is the time of Jacob’s trouble which is why Jesus spoke of the days needing to be shortened on behalf of the Jews, God’s elect.

Deceiving the Elect

Jesus said “false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect,” that is the Jews[5]. (Matt 24:24)  We know they will be deceived because they confirm a covenant in Daniel 9:27, and the abomination of desolation is successfully erected in a (deceptively) rebuilt temple (Matt 24:15 and Dan 11:31). (This is the covenant they make with death in Isaiah 28:18.) Two thirds of the Jews will tragically die during the tribulation and deception will be a means to accomplish it.

Gathering of the Elect

Then “immediately after the tribulation of those days … he shall send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other,” (Matt 24:29, 31). Jesus used the language of Isaiah 11 to describe the gathering of the elect, an obvious reference to the Jews: “he… shall assemble the outcasts of Israel, and gather together the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth,” (Isa 11:12). The gathering of the Jews is further predicted in Isaiah 43:5, 54:7, and Zech 2:6. The gathering of the elect in Matthew 24:31 is not the church at large, but the gathering of the Jews after the tribulation. If we don’t see the pre-trib rapture in Matthew 24:31, then where do we find it? Perhaps the strongest evidence we have for a pre-trib rapture comes to us from the Hebrew Scriptures. The familiar passage in I Thessalonians 4, which speaks of the rapture, closely parallels the book of Isaiah. Both passages have the same order of events: 1) the dead rise first, 2) the living go away, hidden behind a door, 3) Jesus/God comes to punish the world. Thy dead [men] shall live, [together with] my dead body shall they arise. Awake and sing, ye that dwell in dust: for thy dew [is as] the dew of herbs, and the earth shall cast out the dead. Come, my people, enter thou into thy chambers, and shut thy doors about thee: hide thyself as it were for a little moment, until the indignation be overpast. For, behold, the LORD cometh out of his place to punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity: the earth also shall disclose her blood, and shall no more cover her slain, (Isa 26:19-21). There is a rapture of those who believe in Jesus – for the Jew first and also for the Gentile. Thus discovering that the elect in Matthew 24:31 is not the rapture of the (Gentile) church does not invalidate the pre-trib rapture. It simply demonstrates that God has a bigger plan for the Jews, who are His elect.


In this brief overview we have seen that elect and election have nothing to do with salvation, predestined to eternal life or death, nor any Calvinistic definition. God elected priests, kings, disciples, Messiah, angels, and Jerusalem – all of which had nothing to do with being predestined to salvation. We then came to the election of Israel and saw that in no less than ten verses in the Old Testament God declared Israel to be His elect! Thus, when we turned to the New Testament we could see that elect/election/chosen never was there as a reference to being predestined to salvation. Peter wrote to believing Jews (elect); Paul endured things for the sake of the elect (the Jews). Therefore, “the elect [ones (plural)]” does not mean “saved,” but simply someone or something elected for a particular purpose. God specifically elected the Jews, among other things, to be the special guests at the marriage supper of the Lamb, and many rejected the invitation; they, like everyone, need to put on a wedding garment of salvation, to be accepted in. When the time of Jacob’s trouble occurs, Satan will focus on the Jewish people. It is for their sakes that the days will be shortened and false messiahs and prophets will come to deceive them in particular. Lastly, the gathering in Matthew 24:31 is not the rapture of the (Gentile) church; rather, Jesus will send out his angels to gather his elect, Israel, after the time of Jacob’s trouble.   All Scripture quotations are from The King James Version. Hebrew Scripture quotations are from Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia. Copyright © 1967/77, 1983 Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft Stuttgart. Used by permission. The Greek Old Testament Scriptures are from the Septuagint. New Testament Greek quotations are from the Greek New Testament according to the Byzantine Text form, edited by Maurice A. Robinson and William G. Pierpont, 2000 edition. All Scripture quotations have been retrieved using theWord Bible Software All emphasis of Scripture verses is mine.

[1] Calvin Institutes of the Christian Religion 3:21:5
[2] Loraine Boettner The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination 1932 from 2000 bible study centre™ DIGITAL LIBRARY p. 104-5; For a similar statement see: James R. White, The Potter’s Freedom, Amityville, NY: Calvary Press, 2000, p. 39
[3] “Jesus answered them, ‘Have not I chosen [eklegomai ἐκλέγομαι] you twelve, and one of you is a devil?’” (John 6:70).
[4] See how Isaiah 2, 4, 11, 60-66 and more passages speak of the Messianic age in which the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob would be God’s special people.
[5] Mark’s Gospel adds “…for the elect’s sake, whom He chose…” (Mark 13:20) emphasizing those whom God chose: the Jews.