For those whom he FOREKNEW he also PREDESTINED to be CONFORMED to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he PREDESTINED he also CALLED, and those whom he CALLED he also JUSTIFIED, and those whom he JUSTIFIED he also GLORIFIED. – Romans 8:29-30

This passage is known as the ‘Golden chain of salvation/redemption’. There are many views and interpretations on what Paul intends to teach by it.

The Calvinist view is that God already chose before the foundation of the world which indviduals He would elect to be saved. The Arminian view is that God looked into the future to see which indviduals would accept Him, and hence elected them to be saved.

However, note that most of the verbs in the Chain are past tense. This doesn’t gel very well with either view, where the foreknowing took place since eternity past. The rest of the Chain is still happening or hasn’t happened yet. Take particular note of ‘glorified’, which according to the same chapter is a future event for believers (both in Paul’s generation and ours):

…and if children, then heirs — heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that WE MAY ALSO BE GlORIFIED with him. For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with THE GLORY THAT IS TO BE REVEALED to us. – Romans 8:17-18

Kevin Thompson (Beyond the Fundamentals) hence takes the view that God being outside of time sees the whole chain as already having happened, although to us timebound creatures it is in our future. Meanwhile, some Calvinists explain that the Chain is a future promise for us, but it is so certain to be accomplished by God that it’s practically past tense.

Neither idea really synchs for me. So here’s another proposal I found:

##What if we take vv28-29 as a short object lesson that Paul is giving where he cites Old Testament believers?##

For most of Romans 8, Paul is speaking to believers in present tense mixed together with some future promises. Then we get to:

v28: And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

How do we know this, Paul? How can we be sure God will do this for us?
“Well, just think back about our forerunners – PAST TENSE.”

vv29-30: For those whom he FOREKNEW [i.e. the Old Testament believers] he also PREDESTINED to be CONFORMED to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he PREDESTINED he also CALLED, and those whom he CALLED he also JUSTIFIED, and those whom he JUSTIFIED he also GLORIFIED.

“Remember Peter telling you about how Moses and Elijah appeared with Jesus on the mountain? This is proof that they had achieved what God promises! So be assured that God will work all things out for YOU too!”

So God FOREKNEW the Old Testament saints – or to use simpler wording, God KNEW, PAST TENSE them. Centuries and millenia before Paul’s time, God knew people like David, Moses and Abraham (whether an intellectual or a relational knowing, both work).

And following the ‘relational’ aspect as per the Krisis Praxis link at the top, relationship is a two-way street. It makes more sense that the Old Testament believers KNEW God and God knew them (PAST TENSE), rather than simply God alone knowing them one-way street.

And then having given this reminder of the past, Paul moves back to the present and future tense promises and reassurances.

The Old Testament generations were all long gone by Paul’s time. They had already run the race and received the prize – foreknown, predestined, conformed, called, justified, GLORIFIED – past tense, since it all happened long before Paul writes his letter.

In support of this idea that FOREKNEW refers to the Old Testament generation, see where else Paul uses foreknew [proginosko]:

I ask, then, has God rejected his people? By no means! For I myself am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, a member of the tribe of Benjamin. God has not rejected his people whom he FOREKNEW. Do you not know what the Scripture says of Elijah, how he appeals to God against Israel? – Romans 11:1-2

And note elsewhere the only three other times proginosko is used in Scripture. Each fits the simple, mundane definition of ‘KNEW, PAST TENSE’ (following is using ESV wording):

Acts 26:5 – The Jews, THEY HAVE KNOWN Paul’s earlier life as a Pharisee.
1 Peter 1:20 – Jesus was FOREKNOWN before the foundation of the world.
2 Peter 3:17 – The recipients of the letter are warned about lawless people, so they can be KNOWING THIS BEFOREHAND.

SUMMARY/CONCLUSION: So all the above considered, I am currently of the opinion that taking Romans 8:29-30 to be about Old Testament believers makes the most sense of the past tenses (especially glorified). And we don’t need a complicated, philosophical definition of foreknew/proginosko as some sort of precognition future-sight – in Biblical usage it simply means knew, past tense. It’s still a Golden Chain of Redemption (more accurate than calling it Chain of Salvation). Just that it’s an indirect promise to us by using an already accomplished example.

PS. The Old Testament saints view is from

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