"For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect."
|God's got it all right there, in His palm|
Our verse falls into the latter category: the persuasive power of the false prophets (ordained by God, of course) is such that without the preservative power of the Spirit, the elect would fall away. We see at least 2 other examples of potentiality in Matt, the 1st just 2 verses earlier (24:22) and the 2nd in 11:21-24; God knows exactly what would have happened under different circumstances, which He completely controls.
So the bottom line: is it "possible" that the elect would/could fall away during the time of Matt. 24? Arminians would say so, but when we think about what God has ordained from a 30,000 foot view (the previous paragraph), that assumes no other verses about what God does with the elect. If God did choose this alternate universe where the elect are deceived, the Scripture given after His creation of this universe would differ from ours. For example... "What shall separate us from the love of Christ?... those pesky false teachers!" Or "I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand... except the deceivers at the end of the age." (Jn 10:28)
No, with what God says elsewhere, it is not possible for the elect to be deceived; God has promised to keep them in His power (1 Pet 1:5). Without it, we would fall, and it is this potentiality that Jesus warns us. These warnings are another means of preserving grace: Christ's sheep hear the warnings and flee from false christs.
Photo courtesy of lauroroger