1 Peter 1:1-2 NKJV 1 Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To the pilgrims of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, 2 elect (eklektos) according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace be multiplied.
When Peter writes his first letter, he addresses it to the “pilgrims of the Dispersion”. This familiar term was ascribed to the scattered Jews who had been displaced out of Israel into other lands because of the Roman invasion. Then in verse 2, Peter describes them as ‘elect according to the foreknowledge of God’. It would appear at first glance that Peter is writing specifically to the Jews, but if we continue reading the letter, it becomes clear who he is addressing. This identification of Peter’s readers is important because it links into our wider discussion of who are the Elect? As one of Jesus’ closest disciples, Peter’s testimony of the Elect would be in harmony with the Lord’s, so his understanding of the Elect helps us to identify those to be gathered immediately after the great tribulation that Jesus spoke of in Matt 24:31.
In 1 Pet 1:18 Peter writes “knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold” and later 1Pet 2:10 “who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy.” Peter gives us a window through which we are able to look closer at his readers. He describes them as ‘ransomed from the futile ways of their forefathers’. Does that sound like the Jews or the Gentiles? Or what about those ‘who once were not a people but are now the people of God’, to whom does Peter refer?The apostle Paul writes similarly in Eph 2:11-13 “11 Therefore remember that you, once Gentiles in the flesh–who are called Uncircumcision by what is called the Circumcision made in the flesh by hands– 12 that at that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.” When Peter writes, he does so to those who were not a people, but had been ransomed, to be the people of God, So yes. I do believe Peter includes Gentile believers when he writes, but more than that, His perspective has changed, for he no longer differentiates between Jew and Gentile but sees them as the Lord does, the Elect. Wonderfully inspired by the Holy Spirit, he calls them ‘pilgrims of the dispersion’, and ‘elect of God’, and in so doing, Peter is grafting in the wild olive branch into the native olive tree that is Israel. Wow, that’s important, because like Paul, Peter is saying that there is a ‘commonwealth of Israel’, he is identifying Gentile believers with their Hewbrew roots. The underlying message of Peter is to encourage the ‘Elect’ around the known world to persevere through great hardship, persecution and suffering. For in their endurance they follow the footsteps of Jesus who suffered and died for them so they might be saved. Peter proposes a solidarity in suffering shared jointly by Jew and Gentile, because there is only one Elect. Whatever path the gentile church takes that separates them from Israel is not one ordained by God. There isn’t a separate plan of God for a Gentile church, no, if she is to benefit from any benevolence of Divine mercy, it is only because she has been grafted into Israel. All the covenants and promises are made to Israel, not to the gentile church. Here’s what Paul writes Rom 9:4 They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises.
So to answer our question: Who are the Elect? I think Peter gives a great answer when he writes in 1Pe 2:9 NKJV “But you are a chosen (eklektos, Elect) generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvellous light”
I’ll finish by drawing together the points I made last time and just now. Jesus never referred to Israel as the Elect, He always spoke of Israel directly, but He did use the term Elect when speaking of the chosen to be at the Wedding Banquet. Peter understood the Elect of God to be inclusive of both Jew and Gentile, and he created a solidarity in suffering between the two. Ultimately Peter describes the Elect as a chosen (Elect) generation, a royal priesthood and a Holy nation, God’s own special people. I believe this to be good biblical exegesis letting scripture speak for itself, and using scripture to interpret scripture, and not eisegesis putting something into the text that isn’t there. I hope you’ll agree with me. We’ve taken time to unpack this because it’s an important marker on our timeline. At this stage, since we have identified the Elect, or I should say ‘His Elect’, I am happy to connect Matt 24:29-31 and 1 Thess 4:13-18 since they both refer to the same group of people, “we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord”