Anti-PreTrib Gotcha Gimmick: The words saints, elect, and disciple all refer to the church
Dr. Mike Johnston
Gotcha gimmick: The words saints, elect, and disciple all refer to the church
Wrong! In order to make their theories work, our adversaries exploit the conventional division between the Testaments, which allows them to assign partisan definitions to three key words that in context deserve no such treatment: saints, elect, and disciple(s).
Webster’s Dictionary 1828 defines saint as “sacred, holy, or set apart”. It is actually a generic term used to designate God’s people. On its own, it doesn’t designate either Israel or the church Body therefore context is crucial. However, our adversaries have exploited the truth by claiming the church Body is on earth during Israel’s Tribulation because Daniel and Revelation both use the word saints. This is a prime example of eisegesis advanced by those with a conclusion hunting for a gimmick to confirm it.
The first mention of saints in both Old and New Testaments are in connection with Israel (Deuteronomy 33:2; Matthew 27:52).
Deuteronomy 33:1-3 And this is the blessing, wherewith Moses the man of God blessed the children of Israel before his death. (2) And he said, The LORD came from Sinai, and rose up from Seir unto them; he shined forth from mount Paran, and he came with ten thousands of saints: from his right hand went a fiery law for them. (3) Yea, he loved the people; all his saints are in thy hand: and they sat down at thy feet; every one shall receive of thy words.
Matthew 27:52-53 And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose, (53) And came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many.
Saints in Daniel and Revelation
To begin with, the term saints in Daniel and Revelation does not describe the church Body without fudging the context and twisting the truth in order to reach a conclusion the passage won’t support.
Revelation fully explains what Daniel first exposed. As such, it is the “full color” expansion of Daniel’s prophecies to Israel (study “thy people” references: Daniel 9:15,16,19,24; 10:14; 11:14; 12:1). Therefore, using the comparative mention principle of hermeneutics, we must interpret the terms, prophecies, and imagery in Revelation in light of Daniel’s definitions. For instance, the 10-horned Beast in Daniel 7 and Revelation 13 are the same. They both blaspheme God and make war with the saints (Rev. 13:5-6, Daniel 7:8, 20, 25; Rev. 13:2, Daniel 7:21). These saints in Daniel which are Jews (Daniel 7:18,21,22,25,27; 8:13) are the same saints in the companion book of Revelation (Revelation 5:8; 8:3,4; 11:18; 13:7,10; 14:12; 15:3; 16:6; 17:6; 18:24; 19:8; 20:9). Finally, the return – aka Revelation of Christ, the Son of Man in Daniel 7 and Revelation 19 are describing the same event.
Daniel writes: “These great beasts, which are four, are four kings, which shall arise out of the earth [Daniel addressed the influence of the beast over earth]. But the saints of the most High shall take the kingdom, and possess the kingdom for ever, even for ever and ever. Then I would know the truth of the fourth beast, which was diverse from all the others, exceeding dreadful, whose teeth were of iron, and his nails of brass; which devoured, brake in pieces, and stamped the residue with his feet; And of the ten horns that were in his head, and of the other which came up, and before whom three fell; even of that horn that had eyes, and a mouth that spake very great things, whose look was more stout than his fellows. I beheld, and the same horn made war with the saints, and prevailed against them” (Daniel 7:17-21).
In Revelation John writes: “And I stood upon the sand of the sea, and saw a beast rise up out of the sea [John addressed the sea of people on earth comprising the Beast], having seven heads and ten horns, and upon his horns ten crowns, and upon his heads the name of blasphemy” (Revelation 13:1).
“And it was given unto him to make war with the saints, and to overcome them: and power was given him over all kindreds, and tongues, and nations. And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world” (Revelation 13:7-8).
Webster’s Dictionary 1828 defines elect as used in theology means “to designate, choose or select as an object of mercy or favor.” Like saint, is not an automatic term for the church Body as our adversaries infer. Nevertheless, our adversaries tell us the church Body is on earth during Israel’s tribulation because the Lord Jesus used the word elect in the Olivet Discourse.
“And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect’s sake those days shall be shortened. Then if any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is Christ, or there; believe it not. For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect (Matthew 24:22-24).
The first mention of elect in the Old Testament addresses Israel under the Old Covenant (Isa. 42:1; 44:9). The first mention in the New Testament is from the Olivet Discourse where the Lord Jesus is also addressing Israel under the Old Covenant: “Throughout the Olivet Discourse,” Dr. Chafer explains, “Christ refers to Israel as the elect. The most casual contemplation of this discourse (Mat. 24:1-25:46) will disclose the truth that only Israel is in view as the elect of God. Similarly, a revealing Scripture from Paul (Rom. 9:1-10:4) sets forth the truth respecting Israel’s election. Too often this portion of Scripture has been applied to believers today who comprise the Church. The salient facts in the case which make it impossible, however, are that in Israel’s election there is a national objective and that an individual Jew, though belonging to the elect nation, did not have any personal election assured him. God is thus sovereign in His dealings with Israel. He disregards the enmity and hatred of the nations as they resent the fact of Israel’s election. The election is made a public matter, indeed, for Jehovah selects, preserves, and defends this one people out of all the nations of the earth. They are His “chosen people” above all the nations and chosen specifically for His glory. In relation to Israel’s election, then, God acts in sovereign authority. All other nations must eventually take a subordinate place. During Israel’s kingdom on earth, accordingly, the nation or peoples that will not serve Israel shall perish (Isa_14:1-2; Isa_60:12). No true interpretation of the Old Testament is possible if the fact of Israel’s national, sacred, eternal election be rejected.” (Systematic Theology, 1948)
Our rivals tell us the Body of Christ is on earth during Israel’s tribulation because the Lord Jesus was referring to the church Body when He used the word disciple(s) in the Olivet Discourse (Matt. 24:1, 3). However, they are wrong for many reasons including the following.
To begin with, they violate the Context Principle to advance their pretext. This is done by ignoring the nagging Jewish setting surrounding the Olivet Discourse that extinguishes their assumptions. In it Jesus answered questions presented by Peter, James, John, and Andrew (Mark 13:3) concerning His return to inaugurate the Kingdom with carefully outlined signs preceding it. The message had nothing to do with the Body of Christ which was unknown at that time to the disciples who therefore had no frame of reference  for it whatsoever (Gal. 2:6-9; 2 Pet. 3:15-16).
By ignoring and downplaying the context, our opponents have been free to pull from it a single word – disciple – to use as proof for their hypothesis that frankly falls flat under examination.
The word disciple is a generic term meaning “learner.” Dr. Chafer confirms this, “(Disciple) is not equivalent to the terminology believer or Christian.” (Systematic Theology, 1948).
The first appearance of the word disciple also disproves their theory. In both the Old and New Testaments describes Jews following God’s law (Isa. 8:16; Matt. 5:1). Disciple(s) is used used 274 times in our King James Bible and over 240 of those occurances appear in the Gospels to describe Jewish followers of Christ. Interestingly, the specific designation of “His disciples” and “the disciples” is used 210 times. The remainder of occurences appear in Acts where it describes early believers linked to the first church of Jerusalem. It is seldom if ever used in Acts in reference to what Paul later revealed as the mystery Body of Christ.
You may be surprised to learn that while connected in Acts to the Jewish church the term disciple is never linked to Christianity as a whole until Antioch (Acts 11:26). From that point on, its usage is mixed between Jews and Gentiles – mostly Jews – with a Jerusalem church undercurrent that seems to have disappeared after the revelation of the mystery.
However, here’s an unavoidable proglem. Paul – our apostle – who was charged with providing the aggregate body of mystery information. However, we find it very strange that if the term “disciple” is to be the definitive moniker of the Body of Christ in the Olivet Discourse as our adversaries want us to believe, why Paul NEVER used the term “disciple” one time in any of his 13 letters of doctrine and duty when referring to the Body of Christ (Romans through Philemon).
Our conclusion here – based on the facts as they are – is simple. The saints, elect, and disciples referred to in Daniel, the Olivet Discourse, and Revelation are in fact Jews awaiting the Messiah Jesus’ return in the last days. Denying the truth presented here is disingenuous at best and only makes sense if one is following a contrarian agenda.
 They teach the Old Testament ended at Malachi and the New Testament begins with Matthew when in fact the New Testament didn’t officially begin until the death of the Testator, the Lord Jesus Christ (Heb. 9:16-17).
 The Body of Christ was unheard of for another 20 years. Forcing Christ’s Kingdom expositions for Israel on the church (ie the Sermon on the Mount) always leads to disastrous results and can be seen in cults such as Seventh Day Adventists.
 A learner; a scholar; one who receives or professes to receive instruction from another; as the disciples of Plato. (Webster’s Dictionary 1828)