Since the Old Testament, Tanakh, spoke often of Israel's election by God, it was necessary for the first century writers of the New Testament scripture to deal with election, and God's choice of Israel the nation. This becomes the source of the Calvinism/Arminian debate. First, let me state unequivocally, that God is absolutely sovereign. It can be no other way. While both Calvinists and Arminians are in error, the Calvinists are right about God's sovereignty. It is necessary that God elects those who are saved or are not saved. The question is whether or not the election is limited or unlimited. Certainly, one cannot deal with this unless one deals with the concept of judgment and hell. Moreover, it is somewhat dependent on whether or not hell is eternal torture. If election is being elected to eternal salvation, and the non-elected are provided a life here on earth and then annihilated, it is a different matter than if the non-elect are given eternal torture, and separation from God eternally. This is especially true because there is no choice available.
So then, let me deal with one aspect of the doctrine of hell. Jesus use of Gehenna, which is translated as hell in the KJV Bible is metaphorically speaking of the impending judgment on Jerusalem. I have written a blog post about the connection between Mark 9:44-48 and Isaiah 66 it entitled "Jesus Teaching on Hell" Read it for an in-depth look at how I believe much of the teaching on hell as eternal torture is just plain erroneous. If one accepts the concept of annihilation, then Calvinism becomes more palatable, yet, I personally still think it is error. In either event, the teaching about election deals with Israel, God's stated elect from the Old Testament, and the concept of the election as it relates to the bulk of the natural elect, missing out on Jesus and being judged for that. I accept the fact that biblical history deals with two, two thousand year ages. There is Adam to Abraham, and Abraham to Christ. Since that time, another two thousand year age has transpired. Let's call it the age of the Gentiles or the church age. Are we in fact moving into yet another age? I think it is possible.
With that in mind, let's look at God's actual position and view of humanity. Genesis 1:31 NASB "God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day." God was happy with his creative work including mankind. He said it was VERY GOOD! This of necessity is God's view of humanity forward, the fall notwithstanding. Yet, from Adam to Abraham, most of the people did not see God as gracious and believe in His love and grace. So the first two thousand year age no one acknowledged God except a few. With Abraham, God chose a specific people to show his mercy and grace. You then have the age of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, through Moses and the Prophets, all the way up to the resurrection. The Jews focused on the Law and missed God's grace. Finally, you have the birth of the church of Jesus, and God included the Gentiles, in fact, in this age it was mostly the Gentiles that heard about God's grace. Yet, they too added religion to God's grace and missed just how loving and gracious God really is.
Now look at this from Romans eleven; Romans 11:25 NASB For I do not want you, brethren, to be uninformed of this mystery--so that you will not be wise in your own estimation--that a partial hardening has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in; The fullness of the Gentiles is the fullness of the church age. Two thousand years have passed and the church has not done a much better job with the pure gospel than the Jews did. This makes it plausible to see the following passage as declaring yet another age. Romans 11:30-32 NASB "For just as you once were disobedient to God, but now have been shown mercy because of their disobedience, (31) so these also now have been disobedient, that because of the mercy shown to you they also may now be shown mercy. (32) For God has shut up all in disobedience so that He may show mercy to all." The approaching age will be indicative of the passage that directly follows this one... Romans 11:33-36 NASB "Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways! (34) For WHO HAS KNOWN THE MIND OF THE LORD, OR WHO BECAME HIS COUNSELOR? (35) Or WHO HAS FIRST GIVEN TO HIM THAT IT MIGHT BE PAID BACK TO HIM AGAIN? (36) For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen." It is plausible that we are now heading into the mercy on ALL age. It was a mystery but is now being revealed. Certainly there is still reason to preach the gospel. We should, like Paul explained in 2Cor 5, encourage all people to be reconciled to God... Why, because God was in Christ, reconciling the WORLD not the ELECT. Yes world/KOSMOS so this passage does not fit nicely with Calvinism but works well with the fact that ALL are elected to redemption and reconciliation. In this scenario God remains sovereign in election.
More to come.