Summary: This article was written and published May ’15.
When Jesus tells the parable of the unjust judge in Luke eighteen it may surprise some to learn that He is speaking prophetically of the end times (Luke 18:1-8). Through the fifth verse He gives the parable, then in verses six through eight He explains its meaning. It is prophetic because the last verse speaks of the return of the Son of Man to the earth at the end, and whether He will find faith on the earth. Also, the passage that precedes this in Chapter seventeen is prophetic as well (Luke 17:22-37). Now we ask the question – what is this parable really talking about? It seems the key that unlocks the understanding is figuring out who this phrase is speaking of – “And shall God not avenge His own elect?” Who exactly are God’s own elect?
We can readily identify the widow from the parable as referring to God’s own elect in the explanation. But this doesn’t tell us who they are. Many will automatically jump to the conclusion that it can only be referring to the church, that only the church are the elect of God, and this passage is found in the New Testament, and so, definitely this speaks of the church. Unfortunately, that would be the wrong conclusion and answer. It is true that the church, and all individual believers that make up the church, are the elect of God (Rom. 8:29-33) – no true Christian should ever doubt this. Yet, does this mean that the church is the only elect of God that exists, or ever did exist, or ever will? Are there different groups that God involves in His election?
This is an easy question to answer. All the Old Testament saints were elect of God, yet they are not found as part of the body of Christ. Jesus said He would build His church, indicating future tense, that is, He hadn’t started yet when He spoke His words (Matt. 16:18). The church didn’t exist in the Old Testament. It couldn’t exist until Jesus was exalted to the right hand of God on high, and the Holy Spirit was sent down. This is when there is now the Head in glory to which the body is formed and united (Eph. 1:18-23, John 7:39, I Cor. 12:12-13). But there were Old Testament saints, and they were just as much the elect of God as we are.
But if the parable points prophetically to the end and the return of the Son of Man, then who is this elect group of God? Again, this is an easy question to answer. If we are speaking of the end, if we are speaking of the return of the Son of Man, and if we are speaking of the subject of prophecy, then the reference is to an end time Jewish remnant.
Revelation 7:1-8 (NKJV)
“After these things I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding the four winds of the earth, that the wind should not blow on the earth, on the sea, or on any tree. Then I saw another angel ascending from the east, having the seal of the living God. And he cried with a loud voice to the four angels to whom it was granted to harm the earth and the sea, saying, “Do not harm the earth, the sea, or the trees till we have sealed the servants of our God on their foreheads.”And I heard the number of those who were sealed. One hundred and forty-four thousand of all the tribes of the children of Israel were sealed:
of the tribe of Judah twelve thousand were sealed; of the tribe of Reuben twelve thousand were sealed; of the tribe of Gad twelve thousand were sealed; of the tribe of Asher twelve thousand were sealed; of the tribe of Naphtali twelve thousand were sealed; of the tribe of Manasseh twelve thousand were sealed; of the tribe of Simeon twelve thousand were sealed; of the tribe of Levi twelve thousand were sealed; of the tribe of Issachar twelve thousand were sealed; of the tribe of Zebulun twelve thousand were sealed; of the tribe of Joseph twelve thousand were sealed; of the tribe of Benjamin twelve thousand were sealed.”
This is the end-time Jewish remnant. It certainly is not all of Israel, but a remnant. And it is numbered, which is also a Jewish characteristic. They are sealed by God, but not like the believer/church. Their seal is physical, a mark on their foreheads. Israel is God’s earthly calling; Judaism is God’s religion of the earth and for man in Adam; it is designed by God for man in the flesh – a walk by sight and the senses, and a following after signs (I Cor. 1:22). Their seal from God is earthly in character. And certainly, this Jewish remnant is elect of God. Why would I say that? Because, all that election refers to is the sovereign choice of God. And this looks like the sovereign choice of God. This is what the widow represents – the end time Jewish remnant elect of God.
Now there are more characteristics of this elect Jewish remnant, and the parable does a good job in bringing these out (Luke 18:1-8). The widow says, “Avenge me of my adversary.” She is looking for justice for herself. During the coming tribulation, a time known as Jacob’s trouble (Jer. 30:7), the Jewish remnant will be crying out to Jehovah for vengeance on their enemies (Ps. 10, 35, 73, 82, 83, 94:1-7). They will be looking to be saved or rescued out of the midst of evil, and from the injustices afflicting them. And they will be persistent in doing this. And God will bear long with them.
The Psalms are the prophetic voice of the end time Jewish remnant. In them we hear the remnant crying out for deliverance, from the ungodly and wicked, from evils and burdens. In the Psalms, we also see the Spirit of Christ in its intimate identification with this group in all their sufferings. The moral character of the Jewish remnant in contrast to the remainder of the unbelieving nation is shown in Psalm 1 and the beginning of Psalm 119:
Psalm 1 (NKJV)
“Blessed is the man Who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful;
But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night.
He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth its fruit in its season, whose leaf also shall not wither; And whatever he does shall prosper.
The ungodly are not so, But are like the chaff which the wind drives away.
Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment, Nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous.
For the Lord knows the way of the righteous, But the way of the ungodly shall perish.”
Psalm 119:1-4 (NKJV)
“Blessed are the undefiled in the way, who walk in the law of the Lord! Blessed are those who keep His testimonies, who seek Him with the whole heart! They also do no iniquity; they walk in His ways. You have commanded us to keep Your precepts diligently.
Now we will look at a few passages from the Psalms where there should be no confusion that they are examples of the Jewish remnant seeking vengeance and justice, and in no way or by any measure are they examples for the church or the proper moral thoughts of the believer.
Psalm 55:15-19 (NKJV)
“Let death seize them; Let them go down alive into hell, for wickedness is in their dwellings and among them.
As for me, I will call upon God, and the Lord shall save me. Evening and morning and at noon I will pray, and cry aloud, and He shall hear my voice. He has redeemed my soul in peace from the battle that was against me, for there were many against me. God will hear, and afflict them.”
“O God, why have You cast us off forever? Why does Your anger smoke against the sheep of Your pasture? Remember Your congregation, which You have purchased of old, The tribe of Your inheritance, which You have redeemed— This Mount Zion where You have dwelt. Lift up Your feet to the perpetual desolations. The enemy has damaged everything in the sanctuary. Your enemies roar in the midst of Your meeting place; They set up their banners for signs. They seem like men who lift up Axes among the thick trees. And now they break down its carved work, all at once, With axes and hammers. They have set fire to Your sanctuary; They have defiled the dwelling place of Your name to the ground. They said in their hearts, “Let us destroy them altogether.” They have burned up all the meeting places of God in the land. We do not see our signs; There is no longer any prophet; Nor is there any among us who knows how long. O God, how long will the adversary reproach? Will the enemy blaspheme Your name forever? Why do You withdraw Your hand, even Your right hand? Take it out of Your bosom and destroy them.”
Psalm 10:1-6 (NKJV)
“Why do You stand afar off, O Lord? Why do You hide in times of trouble? The wicked in his pride persecutes the poor; Let them be caught in the plots which they have devised.
For the wicked boasts of his heart’s desire; He blesses the greedy and renounces the Lord. The wicked in his proud countenance does not seek God; God is in none of his thoughts.
His ways are always prospering; Your judgments are far above, out of his sight; As for all his enemies, he sneers at them. He has said in his heart, “I shall not be moved; I shall never be in adversity.”
And I add this verse, “Break the arm of the wicked and the evil man; seek out his wickedness until You find none.” (Ps. 10:15) Now none of the above sounds like the church, the sons of the Father in heaven. The following passage expresses the moral character of the believer/church. In a sense, it is almost the opposite in character, and hopefully you will understand what I mean.
Matthew 5:38-45 (NKJV)
“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. If anyone wants to sue you and take away your tunic, let him have your cloak also. And whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two. Give to him who asks you, and from him who wants to borrow from you do not turn away.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven.”
The moral character of the believer is the same as that of God – we have been made partakers of the divine nature (II Pet. 1:4). This is not His attributes, such as omnipotence or omniscience, but moral nature – holy, righteous, and blameless (Eph. 1:4, II Cor. 5:21). So then, we are to be imitators of God as dear children. We are to walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us (Eph. 5:1-2). These truths are easily understood from the remainder of the above quoted passage:
Matthew 5:45-48 (NKJV)
that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so? Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.
Believers are born of God (John 1:12-13). This is how we receive the divine nature. As His sons we imitate our Father – we act like Him morally. Also we love one another like Jesus loved us, and we walk in this world as He walked (I John 2:6). This is Christian piety, and it is a big part of our experience, a product or outcome of our redemption in Christ.
But the Jewish remnant has a different character. They cling to the law and attempt to do it. In this there are three points to make concerning the differences, all important to clearly see. First, Israel represents man in the flesh and man in the first Adam (Rom. 8:9, 7:5). The end time Jewish remnant would be of Israel, and also would be in the flesh and in the first Adam. Israel is not in Christ, they are not in the second Adam. The remnant would be in the same position.
Second, the law is Judaism, and represents the perfect measure of human righteousness of man in Adam, man in the flesh. But it was never the measure of God’s righteousness, of God’s nature. Human righteousness from the law says this, “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.” (Lev. 24:20) Notice that Jesus quotes this to start the passage from Matthew above, only with this preface – “You have heard that it was said…” What He is referring to is that it was said in the law and under Judaism. In the passage, Jesus is clearly moving away from the law. For Christianity, He makes a positive change. Instead of righteousness based on an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth – based on justice and equality, what is right and just in the human mind – now it would be based on grace and mercy, and not resisting evil. This is quite a change, and represents quite a difference between Christianity and Judaism. But, again, the Jewish remnant is of Israel and Judaism. Instead they look for Jehovah to come and avenge them of their adversaries.
Third, the character of prophecy is about the earth, about the principle of the government of the earth, and about Israel. All the prophecies about Israel and the promises made to Israel will be fulfilled by God through the Jewish remnant. God’s counsels for Israel will be completed in them. They will form the nation saved by God (Rom. 11:26). Jehovah’s government of the millennial earth will be centered in Israel and Jerusalem. The law is the basis of that government. God will make a new covenant with them at that time (Jer. 31:31-34, Heb. 8:7-13). The law will be written by God on their hearts and in their minds, so they will obey Him (Ez. 11:17-20, 36:24-28). So, the end time Jewish remnant is associated with these principles, while the church is not.
So then, the elect of God that He bears long with in all their cries to Him, symbolized by the persistent widow, is the end time Jewish remnant, sealed by God and preserved through afflictions and persecutions. They can only be delivered through tribulation and judgments – it is part of their character. In the prophetic sayings of Jesus we find God’s elect:
Matt. 24:22 (NKJV)
And unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect’s sake those days will be shortened.
The days of Jacob’s trouble, the great tribulation, are shortened to 1,260 days, otherwise nobody would survive – no flesh would be saved.
For false christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect.
The Jewish remnant will be preserved by God. Therefore, they cannot be fooled by false Messiahs and false prophets. But the remainder of the Jews will go after them.
And He will send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.
When God first seals the remnant, four angels stand at the four corners of the earth, holding the four winds of the earth (Rev. 7:1). When the Son of Man returns to the earth He sends His angels out to gather the Jewish remnant from the four winds. I believe in all this we are talking about the same group – the end time Jewish remnant, the elect and chosen of God (Is. 45:4, 65:9, 22, Mark 13:20).