ARE THERE TWO CALLINGS IN THE DISPENSATION OF THE MYSTERY?
Many in the Acts 28 community believe that some believers of the dispensation of the mystery are not members of the church which is His body, which, because the church is called to heavenly places, leads them to the conclusion that there are two callings in the dispensation of the mystery. One calling is to heavenly places and, in the view of some who hold to two callings in the dispensation of the mystery, others to the new Jerusalem. I believe that all believers of the dispensation of the mystery are members of the church which is His body, and that there is only one calling for believers of the dispensation of the mystery, i.e. to heavenly places. This paper is an attempt to explain the reasons for that belief.
Those who believe in two callings do not all hold to the same views on each detail of the issue. This is, of course, to be expected, as a question as complex as this one will not be agreed upon in every particular by all who hold to the basic premise. But if I do not present a particular view it is only because I am trying to present what I think is the majority opinion. If the reader would like an answer to an issue not expressed in this paper, I encourage him/her to let me know of that issue via the e-mail address given at the end of this paper.
There are several questions that I will address in our search for the truth about two callings in the dispensation of the mystery. They are:
Who are those invited to the wedding feast of Matthew 22:9-10?
Was Hebrews written after Acts 28?
To whom was Ephesians written?
Is there precedence in another dispensation for two callings in the dispensation of the mystery?
MATTHEW 22: THE PARABLE OF THE WEDDING BANQUET
The parable of the wedding feast is told in Matthew 22:1-14 and reads, 1) “Jesus spoke to them again in parables, saying: 2)‘The kingdom of heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son. 3) He sent his servants to those who had been invited to the banquet to tell them to come, but they refused. 4) Then he sent some more servants and said, ‘Tell those who have been invited that I have prepared my dinner. My oxen and fattened cattle have been butchered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding banquet’. 5) But they paid no attention and went off-one to his field another to his business. 6) The rest seized his servants, mistreated them and killed them. 7) The king was enraged. He sent his army and destroyed those murderers and burned their city. 8) Then he said to his servants, The wedding banquet is ready, but those I invited did not deserve to come. 9) Go to the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone you find. 10) So the servants went out into the streets and gathered all the people they could find, both good and bad, and the wedding hall was filled with guests. 11) And when the king came in to see the guests, he saw there a man which had not on a wedding garment; 12) And he saith unto him, ‘Friend, how camest thou in hither not having a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless. 13) Then said the king to the servants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, and take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth’. 14) For many are called, but few are chosen”.
(A note to the reader: I realize that most interpret this parable to say that God (represented by the king in this parable) sent His armies to destroy Jerusalem, and that was accomplished at 70 AD by the Roman army. But we read in Ezek. 5:9, “And I will do in thee that which I have not done, and whereunto I will not do any more the like.…..”. This verse tells us that after the destruction by the Babylonians led by Nebuchadnezzar, God will not destroy Jerusalem again. Unless one is willing to say that God broke that promise one must conclude that God did not send His armies in 70 AD to destroy Jerusalem. I point this out so that the reader may come to this parable with an open mind as to its interpretation.)
Those who believe in two callings point to verses 9 and 10 where the servants are sent out to the “street corners” to find guests for the wedding banquet. They believe that those guests found at the “street corners” are those who live in the dispensation of the mystery, but are not members of the church which is His body. This is a crucial part of the argument in favor of two callings, as verses 9-10 are the only scriptures that ostensibly allude to the supposed group of the dispensation of the mystery who are not members of the church which is His body.
Let us assume for the moment that the parable of the wedding feast is about the Gentiles of the dispensation of the mystery who are not members of the church which is His body. Who are those that are called and who are those that are chosen in the context of this parable? Obviously there is a contrast, but a contrast between whom? The principle of right division does not allow for either the called or the chosen to be those of the church which is His body because the parable is about the kingdom of heaven, i.e. “the kingdom of Heaven is like”. That is to say, the dispensation of the mystery has nothing to do with the kingdom of Heaven. I believe that a study of this parable will show that it has nothing at all to do with anyone who lives in the dispensation of the mystery.
There are two questions which must be asked in regard to the parable of Matt. 22. One is when will the king of Matt. 22:7 send “forth his armies” and destroy “those murderers” and burn their city? And the other question is, to what city does this parable refer when it speaks of destruction?
Let us first consider the question of when the king will “send forth his armies” We read in Joel 2:11, “And the Lord shall utter His voice before His army: for His camp is very great: for He is strong that executeth His word: for the day of the Lord is great and very terrible…..”. Note this verse speaks of “His army”, i.e. God’s army. Compare that to Matt. 22:7b, “the king sent forth his armies“. Note also that “His armies” will march in the day of the Lord. So we have “his armies” of Matt. 22 being God’s armies of Joel 2. By comparing Scripture with Scripture we have answered our first question, i.e. when will His army march? His army will march in the day of the Lord.
Bearing in mind that Ezek. 5:9, quoted above, is a record of God’s promise to never again destroy Jerusalem after the Babylonian destruction let us consider what city will be destroyed. II Kings 5:17-19, Jer. 46:10, Ezek. 13:5 and Joel 1:15 are scriptures which speak of destruction from God in the day of the Lord. Rev. 18 speaks of the destruction of Babylon. By comparing Scripture with Scripture we may conclude that Babylon is the city that will be destroyed by the “kings armies” of Matt. 22.
Rev. 18:2 reads, “Babylon the great is fallen…..”. And in verse 8 of that chapter we read, “….she shall be utterly burned with fire: for strong is the Lord God who judgeth her”. Rev. 18:20 is also helpful, “Rejoice over her, thou heaven and ye holy apostles and prophets, for God hath avenged you on her“. Isn’t that what the king will send his army to do, i.e. to avenge the murders of those who were sent to call the guests to the wedding? Verse 24 reiterates, “and in her (Babylon) was found the blood of prophets and of saints, and of all that were slain upon the earth”. Also Rev. 19: 2, “….for He hath……..avenged the blood of His servants at her hand”. Rev. 19:7 even connects the destruction of Babylon with the wedding parable of Matt. 22, “Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honor to Him; for the marriage of the Lamb is come…..”.
Who are those who are bidden? The children of the kingdom are Israelites, (see Matt. 8:12) they are the ones that have been bidden. But who are those at the street corners who are bidden? We are not specifically told, but we must take our answer from Scripture. Going to the street corners is an event that is connected to the marriage feast and therefore to the second coming of Christ, the Bridegroom. If we consider the events connected to the second coming of Christ we will have the answer to our question, who are those bidden from the street corners?
One of the events connected with the return of Christ, when His wedding feast will be ready, is the gathering of Israel. The gathering of Israel is prophesied several times in the Old Testament, but let us consider Ezek. 20:34, “I will bring you out from the people, and will gather you out of the countries wherein ye are scattered”. Note Israel will be gathered from the nations. I believe it is the nations that the parable refers to as the “street corners” to which the servants of Matt. 22:9-10 will be sent. That these servants were sent to the nations to gather Israel is in keeping with the fact that the parable is one of those that teach of the kingdom of Heaven. The kingdom of Heaven is Christ’s rule of Israel in the millennium. (For the Scriptural evidence of that statement please see the paper on this web-site The Kingdom of Heaven.) It is also in keeping with the fact that Matthew is the most Israel centered of the four Gospels and the parable of the wedding feast is recorded only in Matthew’s Gospel.
But some of the guests were found unworthy to attend the wedding. This is also in keeping with the prophecy of the gathering of Israel from the nations. Ezek.20:38 reads, “And I will purge out from among you the rebels, and them that transgress against Me……they shall not enter into the land of Israel…..”. As the above mentioned paper on the kingdom of Heaven will show, there will be “weeping and gnashing of teeth” outside the land of Israel in the millennial reign. This is where we are told the unworthy guests will be cast (see Matt. 22:13).
Note the word “for” in verse 14 of Matt. 22. That tells us that this parable (as is true of all parables) has a main point. That point is, “For many are called, but few are chosen”. Who is meant by “the many that are called” and “the few that are chosen”. If we are to answer that question from the context, (as I believe we should) we must conclude that in this parable and in this context, the gathered of Israel from all the nations (in the words of the parable, from the “street corners”) to which they had been scattered are the many that are called. And the righteous of that group, who will be allowed entrance into the kingdom of Heaven are the few that are chosen.
In his note in the Companion Bible on the phrase “many are called but few are chosen”, Dr. Bullinger suggests we see Matt. 20:16 and 25:30. But the same phrase is used in several parables and does not always refer to the same two groups. We must consider the context of each occurrence. Matt. 20:16 comes at the end of the parable of the hired laborers. Consider that the parable comes as an answer to Peter’s question, “we have forsaken all, and followed Thee; what shall we have therefore?” (Matt. 19:27). I believe that we may conclude that in this parable and in this context the many who are called are Israel, and the few that are chosen are the twelve disciples.
The point of the parable of Matt. 25:14-30 is that those who showed by their life that they respected the knowledge they had of their Lord’s return, were allowed entrance into the kingdom of Heaven. Those who did not, were not allowed entrance into the kingdom of Heaven. (It would take us too far off track to give the reasons for this conclusion. May I suggest the reader see the paper on this web-site A Study Of How To Interpret The Parables Of Jesus Christ.) The point is however, that this phrase does not refer to the same two groups in every parable. The groups to which they do refer must be taken from the parable itself.
Mr. Welch, in his book Parable, Miracle And Sign expresses his view that the “few” are those in the “highways” (i.e. “street corners in the NIV). He wrote the following of those “few”. “In the parable before us, those who finally are gathered together, who are found in the highways, are ‘bad and good’; worthiness is no longer spoken of. These seem to be the elect, who are gathered together by the angels from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.”. Mr. Welch goes on to say in the same paragraph that these are compelled to come. I suggest we look at Matt. 13 which also speaks of the gathering by the angels.
We read in Matt. 13:37-43 our Lord’s explanation of the parable of the tares. Verses 41-42 read, “The Son of man shall send forth His angels, and they shall gather out of His kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity. And shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth”. We learn from this passage that some of those gathered by the angels are not fit to live in the kingdom of Heaven, they will be cast out. But a believer, a child of God cannot be unworthy of the kingdom of Heaven. Furthermore, Mr.Welch himself wrote that “these (the few) seem to be the elect”. If they were the elect we cannot think that they were not worthy of the kingdom of Heaven.
To review the parable as a whole: I am suggesting that the destruction of the murderers and their city is the Lord’s destruction of Babylon which we are told is His revenge against those who killed the prophets. The servants of verses 9-10 will be sent to gather Israel from the countries to which they had been scattered. Those Israelites who had been bidden but were found unworthy, will be cast out of the land where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
What I have suggested is quite different than the widely held view of Matthew 22 which is presented in the Companion Bible. Let us consider that view.
The notes in the Companion Bible on this parable describe, I believe, the thinking of most of those who believe in two callings in the present dispensation. The notes state that 1) the servants of verse 3 were those of the gospel period and 2) that the servants of verses 4-6 were those of the Acts period. 3) The note on verse 7, states that the “armies” of that verse are the “Roman armies” of 70 AD. And 4) the phrase “burned up their city” refers to the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD. Let us consider these points briefly.
1) The servants of verse 3 were those of the gospel period, and 2) that the “other servants” of verses 4-6 were those of the Acts period. I will not dispute that even though I do not believe that there is enough Scriptural evidence to prove it.
3) The note on verse 7, states that the “armies” of that verse are the “Roman armies” of 70 AD. But there is no Scriptural account of the destruction of 70 AD. (Luke 22 is also said to speak of the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD, but the paper on this web-site When Will The Times Of The Gentiles Be Fulfilled? will prove from Scripture that Luke 22 is about the end times and does not speak of 70 AD.) Therefore, that interpretation has no Scriptural evidence and is based entirely on human records.
4) Does the phrase “burned up their city” refer to the destruction of Jerusalem by God in 70 AD? We read in Ezek. 5:9, “And I will do in thee that which I have not done, and whereunto I will not do any more the like, because of all thine abominations”. This verse refers to the destruction of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar who God sent to destroy that city as a punishment for Israel’s sinful state. But here God promises to not destroy Jerusalem again. We must conclude therefore, that God represented by the king in this parable did not destroy the city in 70 AD. Furthermore, there is no Scriptural evidence that God, destroyed Jerusalem in 70 AD.
On the other hand there is much Scriptural evidence that God will destroy Babylon and for the express purpose as stated in the parable, i.e. to punish those who killed his servants.
We read in verse 7 that the king “sent forth his armies, and destroyed those murderers, and burned up their city”. To whom does the pronoun “their” refer? It refers to the city of the murderers. As discussed above, Rev. 18 does indeed give the Scriptural evidence that Babylon will be destroyed in the day of the Lord which is when God’s army will march, and that it will be destroyed for the specific reason given in the parable, i.e. to avenge the blood of God’s servants. I believe that in the day of the Lord Babylon will be a literal city and will be literally destroyed. But I also believe that Babylon represents all that is evil. Therefore, because the murderers spoken of in the parable are evil, in one sense Babylon can certainly thought of as “their city”, i.e. the city of evil doers.
If one interprets this parable as a prophecy of the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD we have the following difficulties.
1) This is a parable of the kingdom of Heaven. Gentiles of the dispensation of the mystery have no place in the kingdom of Heaven.
2) That interpretation is not based on the Word of God because the Word of God never speaks of the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD by the Roman army.
3) The parable has to do with the kingdom of Heaven, i.e. Christ’s reign of Israel in the millennium. It is estimated that the dispensation of the mystery began around 63 AD. Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD. We can not have a prophecy concerning the kingdom of Heaven fulfilled in the dispensation of the mystery. To do so violates three time honored principles of Bible study, 1) consider the context, 2) interpret Scripture with Scripture and 3) “rightly dividing the Word of truth”.
4) Israel was lo-ammi in 70 AD. There are no Israel-centered prophecies being fulfilled in the dispensation of the mystery.
5) If the destruction of the city was the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD that would mean that the servants who went out to the “street corners” were sent out in the dispensation of the mystery. Again, we can not have prophecy found in a parable about the kingdom of Heaven fulfilled during the dispensation of the mystery. That goes against the principle of “rightly dividing the Word of truth”.
6) If those at the wedding feast were those of the dispensation of the mystery, we would have some believers being allowed into the kingdom of Heaven and some being cast out. Again, that goes against the very heart of the concept of “rightly dividing the Word of truth”.
Those who believe in two callings have only one scripture passage which, in their view, applies to those in the dispensation of the mystery who are not members of the church which is His body. That one passage is Matthew 22:7-14 where servants are sent to the highways to gather those who had been bidden to the wedding. As we have seen, that passage does not speak of Gentiles in the dispensation of the mystery, it speaks of the gathering of Israel at His coming. Therefore, there are no scriptures that speak of any Gentiles in the dispensation of the mystery who are not members of the church which is His body. They are never mentioned or alluded to. There is absolutely no Scriptural evidence that there is such a thing as believers of the dispensation of the mystery who are not members of the church which is His body.
WAS HEBREWS WRITTEN AFTER ACTS 28?
What is the significance of the dating of Hebrews in relation to the question of two callings? Its significance lies in the fact that those who hold to the doctrine of two callings believe that some in the dispensation of the mystery are not called to heavenly places, but are instead, called to the New Jerusalem. They cite the fact that many who are named in Hebrews chapter 11 who were “looking for a better country” were Gentiles. So if the New Jerusalem is the calling of some Gentiles, then, as the argument goes, the Gentiles of the dispensation of the mystery who are not called to heavenly places are called to the New Jerusalem.
If the New Jerusalem is to be the calling of some in the dispensation of the mystery, Hebrews must have been written after Acts 28. Why? Because no one knew of the dispensation of the mystery until it was revealed after the end of the Acts period. To say that the New Jerusalem was offered to a group that no one had knowledge of goes against the very heart of the doctrine of right division.
Let us go to Hebrews and see if we can’t determine from that book when it was written. If it was written during the Acts period, which I believe is the case, then it obviously has nothing to do with a calling in the dispensation of the mystery which, during the Acts period, was still a mystery hidden in God.
THE PROMISES STILL STAND
Heb. 4:1 reads, “Therefore, since the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us be careful that none of you be found to have fallen short of it”. The NIV Interlinear Greek-English New Testament reads literally, “Let us fear therefore, lest being left a promise to enter into the rest of him, seems anyone of you to have come short”.
What is the “rest” that was promised? We are told in 3:16-17, “Who were they who heard and rebelled? Were they not all those Moses led out of Egypt? And with whom was he angry for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the desert? And to whom did God swear that they would never enter his rest if not to those who disobeyed? ….” Those that fell in the desert were obviously those of Israel who left Egypt with Moses, but were not allowed entrance into the land God had promised to Abraham. Therefore, the “rest” spoken of in Hebrews 4:1 was entrance into the promised land.
The writer of Hebrews is saying that the promise of this rest “still stands”. Or as the KJV puts it, “a promise being left“. That tells us that the promise of “rest”, i.e. entrance into the land, was still standing at the time Hebrews was written. That means, of course, that Israel had not been put aside. How do we know that? We know that because once Israel had been put aside at Acts 28 the promised rest (entrance into the land) was set aside with Her. But since the writer of Hebrews writes that the promise did stand, obviously Israel had not been put aside at the writing of Hebrews. Therefore, Hebrews was not written after, but during the Acts period.
It is also significant that the writer of Hebrews writes, “Let us….”. And again, “any of you should seem to come short”. If the writer of Hebrews wrote this epistle after Acts 28 he would have known that the generation to which he was writing was not looking for the same promise as were those who fell in the desert. Those that fell in the desert were looking for entrance into the land. After Acts 28, the promise of entrance into the land was put in abeyance and the promise of resurrection life in heavenly places took its place (Eph. 1:3). Again, this shows that Hebrews was written during the Acts period, not after.
THE OLD COVENANT READY TO VANISH AWAY
Let us consider another verse from Hebrews which points to it having been written during the Acts period. We read in 8:13, “By calling this covenant ‘new’, he has made the first one obsolete; and what is obsolete and aging will soon disappear” (NIV). The KJV has “”Now that which decayeth and waxeth old is ready to vanish away”.
The Greek word translated “soon” in the NIV and “ready” in the KJV occurs 30 times in the New Testament. In the KJV it is translated “nigh” or “near” 22 times, “at hand” 7 times and once “ready”.
This passage tells us that the disappearance of the old covenant is near. If the disappearance is near then it had not yet disappeared; that is, it was still in effect at the time of the writing of Hebrews. The old covenant was given to Israel. If Hebrews had been written after Acts 28, i.e. after Israel had been put aside as God’s chosen people, then the old covenant would have already been put aside with Her. That is to say, when Israel was put aside at Acts 28 all the promises and prophesies given Her were put in abeyance until God takes Israel back as His chosen nation. Because the old covenant was still in effect, we must conclude that Hebrews was written before Israel was put aside at Acts 28. Hebrews was written during the Acts period.
Let us consider another aspect of the old covenant in relation to when Hebrews was written. The old covenant will disappear when the new covenant is put into effect. We are told that the new covenant will be put into effect in the millennial reign of Christ (see Ezek. 20:34-38). By saying that the old covenant will “soon” be obsolete or is “ready to vanish” the writer is saying that the millennial reign, which will make the old covenant obsolete, is near. If Hebrews were written after Acts 28 the writer could not have said that the millennial reign is near. That is to say, if Hebrews was written after Acts 28, the millennial reign would have been in abeyance, along with all God’s plans and purposes concerning Israel.
THE DAY APPROACHING
Let us consider Heb. 10:25. “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching“. What day was approaching that they needed to exhort one another “so much the more”? Let us consider the context.
Verse 27 is helpful. “But a certain fearful looking for of judgment, and fiery indignation which shall devour the adversaries”. What day is it that is one of judgment and fiery indignation, one which shall “devour the adversaries”? Does this not sound like the great and dreadful day of the Lord? I believe that it is the day of the Lord to which the writer refers in verse 25. If Hebrews was written after Acts 28, what day would the writer be referring to? There is no mention in the prison epistles of a day that can be described as a day of “judgment and fiery indignation”, one which shall “devour the adversaries”. Because there is no mention of such a day of “fiery indignation” in the prison epistles, I believe that we may conclude that that day is not one that we should exhort one another about in the dispensation of the mystery. That fact makes the dating of Hebrews after Acts 28 highly unlikely.
Let’s say for the moment that it is the day of the Lord that these Hebrews needed to exhort each other about. That would mean that the writer was expecting that day in the lifetime of those to whom he was writing. That being the case, Hebrews could not have been written after Acts 28 when all prophesies concerning Israel were held in abeyance.
YET A LITTLE WHILE AND HE SHALL COME
10:37 is another verse that suggests that Hebrews was written during the Acts period. “For yet a little while and He that shall come will come, and will not tarry.” The note on the phrase “a little while” in the Companion Bible reads, “Gr. mikron hoson hoson =very, very little “. If Hebrews had been written after Acts 28 the writer would have known that Christ would not come, as promised in this verse, in a little while. Therefore we may conclude that Hebrews was not written after Acts 28, but during the Acts period.
TIMOTHY SET AT LIBERTY
The only verse in the book itself that might lead the reader to believe that Hebrews was written after Acts 28 is 13:23, “Know ye that our brother Timothy is set at liberty……”. Many commentators believe that Timothy’s being set free has to do with the Neronian persecution. The fact of the matter is that we are not told in the Bible from what Timothy was set free; therefore we can only surmise.
As students of God’s perfect Word, I believe that it is much better to base our dating of Hebrews on what we know from Scripture rather than on what we surmise. Furthermore, the proof set forth of Hebrews being written during the Acts period in the verses quoted above, is substantial.
It might be helpful, at this point, to draw some conclusions concerning our question of two callings in relation to the dating of Hebrews. I believe that there is more than enough Scriptural evidence from the epistle itself to prove that Hebrews was written during the Acts period. The dispensation of the mystery was a secret hidden in God during the Acts period. Therefore, the writer of Hebrews could not possibly have written anything in that epistle which concerns a calling to any who live in the dispensation of the mystery. That being the case, we must conclude that the New Jerusalem was not a calling offered to any in the dispensation of the mystery.
TO WHOM WAS EPHESIANS WRITTEN?
Eph. 2:6 reads, “And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with Him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus”. Some who believe in two callings in the dispensation of the mystery point out, correctly, that Ephesians is addressed to “faithful saints”. But the implication, in the mind of some, is that those who are not faithful are excluded from the promises of this epistle. And, because one of those promises in Ephesians is life in heavenly places, some believe that those who are not faithful are not promised life in heaven.
The problem is, as we have seen in our discussion of when Hebrews was written, Hebrews was written during the Acts period. Therefore, the New Jerusalem could not have been offered to any in the dispensation of the mystery because the mystery had not been revealed until after the end of the Acts period. If only the faithful are promised resurrection life in heaven, we have no scriptures telling us where the unfaithful will live. Even the unfaithful will have resurrection life, as we see in II Timothy 2:13, “If we are faithless, he will remain faithful, for he cannot disown himself”. So let us examine the epistle to the Ephesians that we may determine if the unfaithful were excluded from the promises given in Ephesians.
Before we examine Ephesians, I believe that a verse from Philippians would be very helpful. Philippians was written “to all the saints in Christ Jesus at Philippi…”(Phil. 1:1). Note that this epistle is written “to all the saints” with no distinction between the faithful and the unfaithful. We read in 3:14, “I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling”. The “high calling” is the calling to heaven. Paul goes on to write in verse 15 that if any think differently (about pressing toward the mark for the prize of the high calling) that God will make it clear to them. In other words, all saints are encouraged to press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling. If all saints are encouraged to press toward the prize associated with the high calling, then obviously, all saints are called to the high calling. Let me put that another way, as it is important. If the unfaithful are not called to the high calling, then Paul would not encourage them to press toward the prize of that calling. Therefore, we may conclude that the high calling is for all believers, faithful as well as unfaithful, but the unfaithful will not receive a prize.
Some have said that the high calling itself is the prize and that prize is given only to the faithful. I will quote a passage from The Third Step of the Alphabetical Analysis by Charles Welch. “It is exceedingly difficult to find support from any passage of Paul’s epistles to suppose that the prize was itself the high calling. Just as the ‘reward of the inheritance’ in Col. 3:24, means the reward attached to an inheritance already assured by grace (Col. 1:12), so the prize of the high calling of God means the prize which is attached to the high calling already received and entered by grace.” On page 4 of the “Third Step” Mr. Welch nullifies the argument that the word translated “high” is an adverb, and adverbs qualify verbs, therefore “calling” must be a verb. He points out that in the Greek, adverbs do not qualify verbs only.
I believe therefore, that Philippians 3:14-15 answers the question as to whom the high calling is promised, i.e. “to all the saints”. But let us look at the epistle to the Ephesians in order to determine if the unfaithful were excluded from the promises contained in that epistle.
Let us look at Eph.1:5, “he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ”. Compare I John 3:1, “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God.” John did not exclude the unfaithful in calling them God’s children. If all believers are children of God, then Eph. 1:5 was written to all believers, faithful or not.
Eph. 1:7, “In Him we have redemption through His blood…..”. Is it only the faithful that have redemption through His blood? It is not, it is all who “believe in Him” (John 3:16). Therefore, we may conclude that Eph. 1:7 was written to all who are redeemed, faithful or not.
Eph. 1:11, “In whom we have an inheritance being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will”. Who is the “we” that has the inheritance spoken of in this verse? For the answer to that question we must go back to verse 7, “In Him we have redemption through His blood”. All believers are redeemed through His blood, so all believers are included in verse 7. Verse 8 reads, wherein he hath abounded toward us…”. The “us” of verse 8 is the same people as the “we” of verse 7, i.e. all believers of the dispensation of the mystery. Let us consider verse 9, “Having made known unto us the mystery of his will…..”. (Note that verse 9 speaks of the “mystery of His will”, not the dispensation of the mystery.) The mystery of His will is described in verse 10, that “he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth”. So verse 9 is written to the same people as are verses 7-8. We then have a parenthetical statement concerning the mystery of His will. Then in verse 11 Paul wrote “in Whom we….”. Who is the “we” of verse 11″? The “we” of verse 11 is the same people Paul was writing to in verses 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, and 10, i.e. all believers in the dispensation of the mystery.
Eph. 1:13-14, “……Having believed, you were marked in Him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession…”. Note II Cor. 5:5, “and has given us the spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come”. II Corinthians was written to “all the saints (see II Cor. 1:1). The unfaithful were not excluded from receiving the deposit guaranteeing redemption. The guarantee of resurrection life transcends dispensational boundaries. Resurrection life is no less sure in the present dispensation than it was in the Acts period. We have every confidence, therefore, that all believers received the deposit guaranteeing their redemption? Therefore, Eph. 1:13-14 includes all saints, i.e. all believers, the faithful and the unfaithful.
Eph. 2:5, “made us alive in Christ even when we were dead in transgressions-it is by grace you have been saved”. Is this true of faithful believers only? Absolutely not. It is true of all believers. Consider then the following verse, “And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with Him in the heavenly realms”. If verse 5 is true of all believers, faithful and unfaithful, there is absolutely nothing in this passage that suggests that verse 6 is not equally true of all believers, faithful and unfaithful. Of course, verse 6, unlike verse 5, is dispensational and is true of believers of only the dispensation of the mystery.
The point is this: when reading the epistle to the Ephesians it is clear that, at the very least, the verses quoted above were written to all believers of the present dispensation. If one simply reads this epistle without any preconceived ideas of whether it was written to exclude the unfaithful, I believe that it is quite clear that it includes all believers.
There is one more thing to consider before we leave our discussion of Ephesians. When we rightly divide the word of truth we know that the calling of the earthly kingdom was promised to the believers of Israel. We know that based on two truths. Those two truths are: 1) that promise was made quite specifically in any number of scriptures written concerning Israel. 2) There is only one calling mentioned for believers in the dispensation of the law. (The paper on this web-site, The Wife and the Bride of Revelation shows that there were not two callings for two different groups.)
If we apply those same two truths to the dispensation of the mystery, we shall be led to conclude that all believers in the present dispensation are called to one calling, i.e. heavenly places. Let us examine that thought. 1) The promise of a heavenly calling was made quite specifically in Eph. 2:6, in Col 3:1, etc., the epistles written after Acts 28. 2) There is only one calling in the dispensation of the mystery mentioned in the Bible. Just as two truths help us to understand that the calling in the previous dispensation was an earthly one, so too do the same truths help us to understand that the one calling in the dispensation of the mystery is to heavenly places.
I hesitate to say why something is in the Bible, but in this case, because so much has been made of it, it might be worth considering the question of why Paul addresses his epistle to “faithful saints”. As mentioned above, some believe that the epistle is so addressed in order to exclude unfaithful saints. But as we have seen, there is no such exclusion. We all know that towards the end of his ministry, many forsook Paul. But is it really so difficult to believe that at the time Paul wrote this epistle, all the saints were faithful? That is to say, perhaps Paul believed that all saints were faithful. That is, in my opinion, a much more reasonable conclusion than to say that Paul addressed the epistle to faithful saints in order to exclude unfaithful saints.
THE PRINCIPLE OF A PRECEDENCE OF AN ELECTION WITHIN AN ELECTION
The argument has been put forth by those who believe in two callings in the dispensation of the mystery which states in essence that because there was an election within an election in the previous dispensation, precedence was set for two callings in the dispensation of the mystery. That is, that the elect are called to one calling and the elect within the election are called to another.
In his book Dispensational Truth, chapter 15, Charles Welch has given his reasons for believing that there is an election within an election in the dispensation of the mystery. In the paper Is There An Election Within An Election? I give my reasons for saying that while there was an election within an election in the previous dispensation, both groups were called to the same calling. Therefore, there is no Scriptural evidence to prove that there are two callings in the present dispensation.
Mr. Welch, in the book mentioned above, points to a smaller group in Numbers 18 that were elected out of the elect nation of Israel; that does make for an election within an election. But those in Numbers 18 were elected for the purpose of serving; it was not an election to a different calling. Therefore, Numbers 18 does not set precedence for two callings in one dispensation.
There is no question that the 144,000 who will be chosen out of the nation of Israel is an election within an election. But again, they were not called to a different calling, they were chosen to be faithful. Again, the calling of the 144,000 to faithfulness does not set precedence for two callings in the same dispensation.
Some in the Acts 28 community believe that the land of Israel and the New Jerusalem are two callings for Israel in the same dispensation. That the earthly Jerusalem was for the elect nation and the New Jerusalem was the calling for the elect remnant of that nation. If that were true, it would set a precedence for two callings in the dispensation of the mystery. In my paper on this web-site, The Wife And The Bride I present the Scriptural reasons for my belief that the wife and the bride are not two different groups with two different callings. The wife is faithful Israel blessed for Her faithfulness with entrance into the kingdom of Heaven. The bride is also faithful Israel who, after the kingdom of Heaven has run its course, are blessed by being allowed entrance into the New Jerusalem. The point is that there is no Scriptural evidence that there were ever two callings in one dispensation. Therefore, there is no precedence for two callings in the dispensation of the mystery.
Many people have made the comment, “God can have two elections with two different callings in the same dispensation”. Of course He can. The question is not can He, but has He. There are absolutely no scriptures to support the view that some in the dispensation of the mystery will have a different calling than heavenly places. As faithful students of His Word, we may not simply make one up.
The parable of Matthew 22 is the only passage that supposedly alludes to those of the dispensation of the mystery who are called to a different calling than others. Because in truth, there are no such people, we have no reference in the entire Bible to any living in the dispensation of the mystery who have not “risen with Him” (Col. 3:1).
Hebrews is said to offer the calling of the New Jerusalem to some in the dispensation of the mystery. But Hebrews was written during the Acts period. The dispensation of the mystery was a secret hidden in God during the Acts period. Therefore Hebrews could not have been written to those in a dispensation not yet revealed. So not only is there no mention of a people in the dispensation of the mystery who are called to a different calling, there is no mention of a calling, other than heavenly places, for those of this present dispensation.
Ephesians 2:6 clearly states that believers in the dispensation of the mystery will be blessed in heavenly places. Because there are any number of verses in chapter one of that epistle that do not exclude the unfaithful, we must conclude that 2:6 does not exclude the unfaithful either.
We have also seen that Philippians, which is explicitly written “to all saints” encourages all saints to press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling. If all saints in the dispensation of the mystery are encouraged to press toward that mark, obviously all saints are included in the high calling.
There had been, in the previous dispensation, an election within an election, and there will be again. But there has never been two different callings in the same dispensation. Therefore, there is no precedence for two callings in the dispensation of the mystery.
There is no mentioned in the Bible of a group in the dispensation of the mystery that is called to a calling other than heavenly places.
There is no mentioned of a calling for those of this dispensation other than heavenly places.
There is a clear promise in Eph. 2:6 that all believers in this present dispensation are called to heaven.
There is no precedence for a doctrine of two callings in one dispensation. Therefore:
THE DOCTRINE OF TWO CALLINGS IN THE DISPENSATION OF THE MYSTERY HAS NO SCRIPTURAL SUPPORT AND IS, THEREFORE, FALSE.
This paper was written by Joyce Pollard. I would love to hear your thoughts. Please E-mail me at: firstname.lastname@example.org