The Stage is Not Yet Set: Critical Distinctions

What do you think of this article Reggie?

Good thoughts, good points, raising a very timely question. However, and it’s a big however, we must never forget the larger surrounding context of Zech 12:2-3. Obviously, the final siege of Jerusalem ends when the repentant survivors of Israel “look upon Him whom they pierced” (Zech 12:10), as a fountain for cleansing is opened (Zech 13:1). So when do “all” nations gather against Jerusalem? (Zech 12:3; 14:2), and what are the circumstances that will be prevailing at the time?

It may come as a surprise, but not all nations that come to fight at Jerusalem are being driven by an antisemitic hatred. Not all the nations that are gathered to Armageddon are coming against Israel. This is not well known, but contrary to popular prophecy scenarios, the final siege of Jerusalem is not directed against the Jews but against the Antichrist (Dan 11:40-45). The modern state of Israel will have already been overwhelmed and conquered 3 1/2 years earlier. This is clear from Dan 9:27; 11:31; 12:1, 7, 11 with Mt 24:15-16, 21; Rev 11:2; 12:6, 14. A careful comparison between Eze 39:8, Dan 11:40-45, and Rev 16:12-17 will show that “at the time of the end”, the nations are directing their attack against the Antichrist, little expecting that they will be meeting the returning Lamb of God. Armageddon is the time at the end of the tribulation that all nations, deceived by demons (Rev 16:13), are rushing headlong into the trap that God has prepared for all who have ignored His everywhere declared covenant Word.

At this time (i.e., the end of the tribulation), the nations are not coming to destroy the Jews. They are coming to oppose the Antichrist who will have set up his royal pavilion on God’s holy mountain (Dan 11:45). It is then that the gathered armies of the nations will come flooding into the valleys of Esdraelon, Jehoshaphat (Decision), and Jezreel (Hos 1:5; 2:22-23; Joel 3:2, 12-17), only to “fall upon the mountains of Israel” (Eze 394, 17). God will use, not only the rabid antisemitism of the Antichrist and his ten, but the revolt of other great nations that have apparently found his yoke unbearable. In this way, God will fulfill His long declared intention to bring all the nations into a final trap of judgment for their defiance or indifference to the prophetic Word of God (see Isa 5:26; 13:4-6; 14:24-26; 17:12-13; 29:7-8; 34:2; Eze 38:4-6; 39:8; Dan 11:40-45; Joel 3:2; Mic 4:11; Zeph 3:8; Zech 12:3, 9; 14:2-3, 16; Rev 16:12-17).

Not all nations will unite with the Antichrist against Israel. Some will express astonishment and helpless disapproval (Eze 38:12-13), while others such as Egypt will be ravaged at the same time that Israel is ravaged by the same fierce king (Isa 28:2; 19:4; Dan 8:23-25). Notice that whereas Ezekiel is notably prolific in his prophecies concerning Egypt, curiously, Egypt is not mentioned in the list of nations that come against the Land under the leadership of Gog (i.e., the Antichrist; cf. Eze 38:17). This strange silence speaks volumes. Evidently, Egypt is among the moderate Arab nations that are at peace with the peace, intensifying the hatred of the Antichrist that will also break out with fury against Egypt at nearly the same time he makes his move against Israel (Dan 11:42).

If we are correct to understand that the covenant that the Antichrist ‘confirms’ (strengthens / gives formal approval) in Dan 9:27 is indeed the “holy covenant” of Dan 11:28, 30 that is violated in the middle of the week (Dan 9:27; 11:31; 12:11), then apparently the Antichrist was only one among “many” other nations who lent his support to the holy covenant that manifestly recognized Jewish right of return to the temple mount, (perhaps in some agreement to share the temple mount). This too suggests a divided world, since some nations will be in support of the ill-fated peace, as others who have hated the covenant from the start will join the Antichrist’s secretive plot to overthrow it (Dan 11:23-31).

We know from a number of scriptures that before the fateful invasion of the Antichrist, there has been some kind of peace arrangement that has worked to greatly relax Israel’s guard (Isa 28:15, 18; Eze 38:8, 11, 14; Dan 11:23-24). This helps to explain why the invasion will take Israel so suddenly by complete surprise (Isa 28:17-18; 1Thes 5:3). That Jerusalem is not under siege before this time is made clear by Jesus’ reference to Daniel’s mention of the abomination of desolation (Dan 9:27; 11:31; 12:11). The demand for urgent flight is in plainest connection with this particular signal event (Mt 24:15-16). This tells us that Israel does not come under final siege until the middle of the week. Before this, the Jews suppose themselves safe and secure in their alliance with the Antichrist, with other nations that are doubtless pledged to protect the peace (Isa 28:15; Eze 38:8, 11, 14; Dan 11:23-24).

All of this goes to show how tremendously secure this peace will seem. It would appear from Isa 28 & Eze 38, in light of the presumption depicted in 1Thes 5:3, that at least the orthodox will perhaps (?) suppose that that the messianic era has dawned, or is soon to dawn. Therefore, what seismic changes must be expected between the present status quo and the kinds of conditions described in scripture? Certainly recent events are moving us along an inexorable trajectory in that direction, but radical changes are required to get us there. We’re getting there, but we’re not there yet!

Obviously, there must be renewed Jewish access to the controversial temple mount in order for there to be a temple that the man of lawlessness can enter, not only to exalt himself above all forms of deity (Dan 11:36-37; 2Thes 2:4), but also to place what appears to be an idol image of himself in the holy place (Dan 11:38-39; Mt 24:15; Rev 13:14). We know too that with a temple, and probably before the temple is finished, there must be the restoration of the ancient sacrifice (Dan 8:11; 9:27; 11:31; 12:11). The continual sacrifice is “stopped” / “taken way” 3 1/2 years before the end (Dan 9:27; 12:7, 11). This is very plain. It is this twin event (namely, the placing of the abomination and removal of the daily sacrifice) that starts the unequaled tribulation (compare Dan 12:1, 7, 11; Mt 24:15-16, 21; Rev 11:2; 12:14; 13:5).

Due to the massive amount of error that is currently circulating, it is important to stress the point that it is Jesus Himself who sends His disciples (and therefore us), to “read and understand” Daniel’s prophecy concerning this decisive event that signals the start of the tribulation (“let the reader understand”). Jesus well knew that when this simple command would be obeyed (as Daniel “set his heart to understand”; Dan 10:12), not only would one discover what follows, but also what precedes this pivotal event that would work to align and put in order all of the most strategic events of the end. In view of what is being taught, it is very critical that we note very carefully that this unequalled tribulation that begins with standing up of Michael in heaven (Dan 12:1 with Rev 12:7-14), coupled with the removal of the continual sacrifice and invasion of the temple on earth (Dan 9:27; 11:31; 12:7, 11) ends in nothing short of the return of Jesus (Mt 24:15-31) and the resurrection of the righteous (compare especially Dan 12:1-2, 13 with Mt 24:21, 29-31).

To miss the vital interconnection between the abomination, the cessation of the sacrifice, the tribulation, and the resurrection is to run adrift. For example, with only one exception, every misleading interpretation that I’ve encountered invariably disjoins and separates the abomination of desolation from the cessation of the regular sacrifice. Note this connection carefully. It will help you when you encounter any number of highly influential viewpoints that separate the inseparable. No less than the abomination, it is the cessation of the daily sacrifice that starts the final half week of unequaled tribulation. Both aspects of this single event are at an equal distance from the resurrection (Dan 9:27; 12:7, 11).

The sacrifice is stopped at the same time the abomination is placed in the temple. It should be obvious that these are two aspects of a single event that cannot be separated. For many, this will seem obvious, but it may surprise to know that the throughout the vast literature over the centuries, the abomination is seen as one thing (often the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D.), and the cessation of the sacrifice another (usually imagining that when Jesus died, the sacrifice became obsolete). But any careful comparison will demonstrate that these two aspects of a single event cannot be separated, and the tribulation that follows this event, though very brief, cannot end with anything short of the resurrection at Jesus’ return (Dan 12:1-2; Mt 24:21, 29-31).

All’s to say, these inextricably conjoined aspects of the single event that starts the unequaled tribulation cannot be exegetically separated without unconscionable violence to the text. But this is precisely what has been done, yet nothing could be more vital for the church’s awareness and preparation against the great deception so urgently stressed and forewarned by Jesus and Paul (Mt 24:4; 2Thes 2:3). The connection is crucial, not only to escape from the great deception but also the means by which those of understanding will be made ready agents of world witness, holding the critical key of interpretation for the final great, unparalleled harvest of souls that will come out of ‘the tribulation, the great one’ (Dan 11:32-33; 12:3, 10; Mt 24:14; Rev 7:9, 12-13; 14:6).

As much as many of us are convinced that the time is very short, we are to hold the church steady by helping our brethren to avoid the false alarms of prophetic speculation. Not only because this has discredited the witness of many, but because of what God has invested in that time when those of understanding will know the time with utmost certainty. It is for this cause, we are to guard with utmost diligence the proper order of events. For many, the time will become very certain at the outset of the last week. For others, this certainty may not come until more nearly the middle of the week when the man of lawlessness is about to be revealed.

Personally, I believe God has been pleased to reveal even more than this. We have made no secret of our conviction that a compelling case can be made from many interrelated scriptures that the two days of Hos 6:2 represent the 2 thousand years since the cross and ascension, as the third day represents the millennium that follows Israel’s national resurrection. As compelling as we believe the case to be, and the greater glory of God in the marvel of such a fully foretold timeline, we too are held in check. Only by confirmation of these necessary preliminary events sometime within the next few years will our confidence be vindicated. Until then, we must remain tentative and restrained. What is NOT tentative, but most certain, is the necessity of a temple and sacrifice before the tribulation can begin.

What great use God will make of such unprecedented certainty seems implied by the great power and anointing that is seen to rest on the godly remnant of the last half of the week (Dan 11:31-35; 12:3; Rev 11:2) and the fruit that comes of it (Dan 11:33; 12:3; Zech 12:10; Ro 11:26-27; Rev 7:9, 13-14). This is why Satan will do all in his power to discredit, confuse, and obfuscate the certainty of the time that will spell his downfall (Rev 12:12), as these things will be seen and known by the saints with utmost certainty at that time. I love to quote G. H. Lang, “The History and Prophecies of Daniel”, pg 140.

“When this agreement shall have been confirmed, the wise will know that the final Seven of years has commenced, that the end days are present, that the consummation of the age has arrived. They will expect the violation of the covenant after three years and a half, and will not be overwhelmed with surprise, having been told beforehand by this prophecy. Then will it be seen in fullness that the knowledge of the prophetic Scripture is simply priceless.”

In the patient waiting (James 5:7-8), reggie

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The Mystery of the Kingdom (& John the Baptist)

“I do not have a clear understanding of this text and was curious of your understanding of it. I was asked by a young believer and have read many comments on this but nothing I read set right with me. I pray all is well. Love and God bless”

11 Verily I say unto you, Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist: notwithstanding he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. Matthew 11:11

When rightly understood, this puzzling passage, elusive and so little agreed upon by commentators, literally explodes with unimaginable, incomprehensible glory. It is, as they say, “too good to be true!” To grasp its implications is to weep and rejoice at the magnitude of the promise of the kingdom, a promise and reality that doesn’t wait till a future day of the Lord, but stands presently accessible and available to all who enter the kingdom of heaven, as much at the time Jesus spoke these words as it does today.

Utterly outside the conceptual universe of His contemporaries, Jesus gives hint here of what will be much more fully unveiled and expounded by the rabbi from Tarsus. I am speaking of the revelation of the righteousness of God that is unveiled in one place only, i.e., the gospel.

16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. 17 For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith. Romans 1:16-17

If Jesus is the Messiah, this means He is the curse reversing seed of the woman that was promised from the beginning. As part of His mission to reveal the “mystery of the kingdom”, (a much broader concept than conceived by His contemporaries) Jesus is making allusion here to the imputation of the fullness of His own personal righteousness to each and every believer, not only as to justification but as to the hope of glory.

Jesus brings this out in an enigmatic, but nonetheless ultimately revealing way that would only be fully understood for the full glory of its implications in retrospect. In short, Jesus is laying the groundwork for Paul and the fuller revelation of the “mystery of the gospel” that would not come to fullest light until after the Spirit’s mighty descent at Pentecost. (Ro 16:25-26; Eph 6:18; 1Pet 1:12)

To fully grasp the unexpected magnitude of glory implicit in Jesus’ words, it is important to establish what He surely did not mean. He did NOT mean that John was not yet in the kingdom. He also did not mean that the kingdom was something that remained to be established in the future that John was not yet a part of. No, the kingdom was here ‘already’, present, active, and available for entrance, as many were already entering, as others were being hindered in their efforts to enter.

20 But if I with the finger of God cast out devils, no doubt the kingdom of God is come upon you. Luke 11:20

12 And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force. Matthew 11:12

16 The law and the prophets were until John: since that time the kingdom of God is preached, and every man presseth into it. Luke 16:16

52 Woe unto you, lawyers! for ye have taken away the key of knowledge: ye entered not in yourselves, and them that were entering in ye hindered. Luke 11:52

Clearly then, we are not to suppose that John somehow stood outside the kingdom while others were entering, and others opposing entrance. Nor are we to suppose that the kingdom, as Jesus understood it, lay only up ahead in the future. The kingdom is present and powerful in its working, albeit in a presently hidden form, recognized only by revelation, thus the ‘revelation’ of the “mystery of the kingdom.”

It is not completely correct to say that kingdom had only now arrived, although the King had arrived. It is better to understand that the kingdom has always been present (Ps 145:13; Dan 4:3, 34, et al) but is now ‘on the move’ in a decisive and ultimately determinative way that was not in keeping with the contemporary expectation, since the mystery of Messiah’s two comings being not yet known nor even conceived of before Pentecost. (Mt 11:3; 16:22; Acts 1:6; 1Pet 1:11-12)

No, Jesus was not saying that John had not entered the kingdom while others clearly were entering it at that very time. Rather, He is hinting at, and laying the conceptual groundwork for the most glorious revelation that lay completely outside any human ability to conceive or comprehend. He does this by taking their high regard for John as prophet and forerunner of the King and His kingdom, and pushing the popular conception of him beyond any conceivable limit.

Jesus does this to stress the inconceivable point that is calculated to burst into unimaginable glory. Something far beyond the highest spiritual example will be the common inheritance of even the very least who prevail to enter the then present and active kingdom of heaven. The very least citizen of that kingdom will possess the very righteousness of the King, the divine Son of God, as no lesser righteousness than His can be accepted in that place. (Mt 22:11-13)

Precisely because his greatness as a prophet was undoubted by the people, Jesus raises the bar far beyond their highest notions of John or of anything they could have identified or associated with John in terms of spiritual stature and status in the long expected kingdom. It must have shocked even John’s greatest admirers to hear Jesus say that of all born to woman, a greater than John has never existed. Now take that in. What is Jesus doing here?

He is preparing His hearers (and us) for the most astounding revelation that will eclipse anything ever conceived by even the most spiritual of His saints in ages past. And what is that? It is as we’ve said, the incomprehensible revelation of glory that the very righteousness wrought out in the spotless obedience of the Servant Messiah, the curse reversing seed of the woman, has been transferred (imputed credited accounted), not in the part but in the whole, to the least born again believer in Jesus.

They do not stand in their own righteousness, as neither did John, but in His righteousness alone, faultless to stand before the throne. This is seismic! It is beyond our grasp apart from the quickening illumination of the Holy Spirit, but to grasp it is to know a joy unspeakable that is full of glory.

Jesus is taking the highest contemporary standard of holiness and righteousness and raising that conception to an inconceivable new height precisely in order to make the greatest possible impression of what would be the common experience and possession of every believer entering this ever present kingdom by new birth.

We just don’t get it! Because if we did, I submit that the very earth would shake before us. Do we even begin to see what this means?! We have a righteousness that far exceeds our highest association, not only with a John Baptist, but an Abraham, a Moses, an Elijah! Why? Because a greater is here, and the very least of us are invested with His righteousness (there is no other acceptable), and are made perfectly complete in Him, as He alone is complete in Himself.

Woe to those poor theologians of Trent who called this glorious Jesus, Pauline, Reformed doctrine a “legal fiction”. If it is not a “legal fiction” that the spotless Lamb of God could be counted as sin for my sake, how is it a “legal fiction” if I, a poor sinner without strength, should be made (both counted and indwelt) righteous by His righteousness for His sake?

And let us be clear, as Paul was clear, as the Holy Spirit was clear when Jesus says to John, “permit it to be so now, for it is necessary for us to fulfill all righteousness”. This means that it is not simply God’s righteousness in His heaven above, but that particular righteousness that was perfected in our Lord’s spotless humanity over approximately 33 ½ years of testing, fulfilling all that was commanded in the law, both as to its letter and the spirit of its intention (Gal 4:4). It is THAT righteousness (“the LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS”; Isa 45:25; 54:17; Jer 23:5-6) that was performed and fulfilled in the representative humanity of Jesus.

It is His righteousness that is imputed, not in the part but in the whole, to the least justified believer, even now translated out of the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of His dear Son (Col 1:13). That’s where we are, seated far above all principality and power, robed right now and forever in the righteousness of another that Satan cannot touch (1Jn 3:6; 5:4, 18). THAT, my beloved friend, is the gospe!l, and woe to those who add to it or take from it, since to add even the least smattering of leaven is to pollute and spoil the whole, sterilizing it of its saving power. To grasp this in all its glorious implication is truest freedom and power for every good work.

Oh Lord, let us not come short or be diverted from this quickening, invariably transforming, fruit bearing revelation of the Spirit. Break in upon us, as you broke into them and show us that the Accuser has no rights against our conscience so far as we stand in nothing of our own righteousness but in His alone.

1 There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. Romans 8:1

27 To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory: Colossians 1:27

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The First Resurrection

What would you say is the cost of making the first resurrection either the new birth or something else?

Contrasted with the first resurrection coming at the end of the last persecution with the destruction of the final beast, the obvious answer is the necessary details of all that. But is there something more that is lost? It sure feels like it.

Lost is all that God has invested in the demonstration that Israel was first set apart to demonstrate and vindicate “through their fall” and national resurrection by a sovereign act of discriminating grace (Eze 36:22, 32). Lost is all the meaning of God’s own affliction and sacrifice in their temporary surrendering over to blindness and dispersion “for our sake”. (Ro 11:11-12, 28). Lost too is all that God has invested in the crisis events of the end that signal and lead up to that great transition of greatest consequence to millions.

Lost is the purpose of 1000 years of open demonstration and vindication of the ‘everlasting covenant’, as every Jew who revered the scripture understood it before the cross, and as the apostles of the Lamb manifestly understood it after the cross.

In all references to the forward looking “everlasting / new covenant” the expectation is clear, that AFTER a final tribulation of unequaled severity, the penitent survivors of Israel would be born to new national life in one day (Ps 102:13; 110:3; Isa 66:8; Zech 3:9) through the spiritual regeneration of the new / everlasting covenant. That “from that day and forward”, not SOME but “ALL” would know the Lord from the least to the greatest (Isa 4:3; 45:17, 60:21; Jer 31:34; 32:40; Eze 39:22, 28-29), and this blessed preservation would extend without exception unto children’s children, “world without end” (Isa 44:3; 59:21; 61:9; 65:24; 66:22; Eze 37:25).

From this time and forward, all of Israel would lie down in safety, none making them afraid, or menacing their peace again forever (). This is because that at the end of the final week (Daniel’s 70th week), the surviving remnant of Israel, having come now to faith by the Spirit’s revelation of Jesus to their hearts, will enter into the “everlasting righteousness” that was secured when reconciliation was made for sin at the end of the 69th week (Dan 9:24-26).

It is not enough that Jews and gentiles be saved on equal footing by faith in Jesus’ once and for all sacrifice. For the promises of the covenant to have their complete and plenary fulfillment, it is necessary for two crucial events to be accomplished, 1.), the finishing of the mystery of iniquity by the finishing of the mystery of God at Jesus’ seventh trumpet return (2Thes 2:3-8; Rev 10:7; 11:15), and 2.), the salvation of “all Israel” that ends Israel’s temporary and partial blindness at the end of the times of the gentiles” (Mt 23:39; Ro 11:25-29; Lk 21:24).

God has joyously placed Himself under sworn obligation to His covenant oath that the hopelessly intractable nation that He first brought out of Egypt, He is able to bring into the specific Land of specific promise, and not only bring them in, but keep them there in abiding, unbroken peace, because of the everlasting righteousness that is not their own. That through His work with them, He might show on the public stage of history one of the greatest, open and visible demonstrations of the glory of sovereign, electing grace.

It is for this very cause (“in order that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works but of Him who calls”) that He first chose Jacob on a basis utterly apart from any inherent quality in himself, and for this purpose, to make this very point, He has miraculously preserved their public visibility throughout all the centuries. That the people He first set His love upon, and for nothing that can be credited to them (Eze 36:22, 32), He has invested this open demonstration and vindication of HIs glory on the question of whether He is able to graft in again, and thus fulfill the everlasting covenant in all its parts and aspects, literally and tangibly on this earth, the opposition of history and all the demons of hell notwithstanding.

It is our appreciation of this, and our fellowship with Him in this great burden of the prophets that is at stake. We need to get beyond what any given truth of scripture will ‘do for us’, and enter into the fellowship of what this means to Him. He desires that we “come and see”, feast and fellowship in the mysteries of His manifold wisdom that He delights to reveal to His friends, even the hidden wisdom ordained to our glory.

He desires that we know what this great demonstration and vindication means to Him as His answer, not only to His people and the nations, but to the gainsaying principalities and powers that have so long ruled this present age, always raising that original, but no less perennial question, “has God really said?” For this great event of divine satisfaction, we are commanded to give Him no rest “till He stablish and till He makes Jerusalem a praise in the earth”, against all odds!

Finally, there is the question of hermeneutics, which can have the end effect of raising the same question, “has God really said?” Going beyond the fully agreed and acknowledged use of metaphor, figurative language, poetic, symbolic and apocalyptic conventions of speech found all throughout the Bible, has anyone ever paused to document the sheer volume of scripture, not of figurative but plain words of plainest meaning, that would have to be spiritualized and divested of their natural sense, in order to sustain the non-millennial interpretations that see nothing on this present earth after the post-tribulational day of the Lord? I realize that’s a long sentence, but read that again.

It would be a worthwhile exercise just to go through and document the massive amount of scripture that describes conditions on this earth after the great day of the Lord, but that fall clearly short of the final perfection. Plain language could never be thus handled by anyone who believes the scripture infallible and without error unless deferring to powerful presuppositions as to what these scriptures ‘cannot’ mean.

Many have noticed how little agreement exists among amillennialists over what is meant by “the first resurrection”. There is only agreement on what it cannot mean. This can only be attributed to strong presuppositions that precede and influence exegesis, in this case, the plain person’s plain reading of plain language.

Even if we had never heard of the duration of the millennium from John’s Revelation, any plain reading of the OT would have led to the necessary inference of glorious but yet imperfect conditions on this earth between the post-tribulational DOL and the perfection of new heavens and new earth. We know that such views existed in the intertestamental period and among Jews during the post-Christian centuries.

Nothing in the NT contradicts but only re-affirms that fundamental expectation of events on this earth, only now in the full light of the revelation of the mystery of two comings of Messiah. And finally, have our amillennial brethren ever been to the future day of the Lord to confirm and report back that Israel will surely NOT be gathered?

The time for that event was always described as happening at one time only, i.e., the post-tribulational day of the Lord. On what ground can they certify to us that this will not happen right on schedule, when the prophets said it would? And what do they do with the modern state of Israel? Is it an accident of history? To those who have this hope, the trajectory of history seems firmly right on course.

Looks like we’re in for stormy weather, and it threatens to be a lot stormier if we do not have an anchor in what these events mean and where they’re designed to take the church and Israel in these ultimately transitional, closing days, particularly when they are staring us right in the face.


Posted in Church Doctrine, The Day of the Lord, The Resurrection | Comments Off on The First Resurrection

The Downfall of the Devil is in the Details of Daniel [VIDEO]

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Why the Jew?

An email to a correspondent concerning a previous message on “The Tents of Shem”

Your comments have come on the heels of recently revived discussions about Art Katz’s controversial statement containing the term “to bow”, in order to enter into “the tents of Shem”. I would like to highlight another important aspect of this seminal and multifaceted prophecy, showing not only that from the first, God’s eternal purpose in grace would be mediated through Abraham’s elect line, but also, why it is mediated in this way.

As you rightly point out, Noah did not bless Shem directly, but rather, he blessed the God of Shem, whose distinctive character is unknowable apart from the Spirit of revelation. You rightly suggest that Shem’s distinction lies solely in the distinctive character of his God. Thus, the blessing of dwelling in “the tents of Shem” signifies coming into the true revelation of God, as mediated through a priestly people that reflects His nature.

Apart from this priestly character, Jewish descent avails nothing as far as salvation is concerned. However, God is most selective of the means by which He is pleased to mediate the revelation of Himself. This is why Jesus wanted the woman at the well to understand that “salvation is of the Jews”. It is a perfect wisdom that shuts the manna of divine revelation and salvation within – and never outside – the chosen tents of Shem as the hideaway of divine blessing.

In order to dethrone pride, God elects to place the blessing in a despised and disregarded place, into which one must stoop to enter. There is something about tent coverings of badger skins and jars of clay that speak eloquently of this divine jealousy. So indeed, we must bow, in the sense of abasement, to come into and receive what is outwardly weak, foolish, and dismissed by men.

But this is not the whole answer, because we must still ask, “Who makes one to differ from another?” (1Cor 4:7). It is not surprising that God has chosen the meek, the faithful, and those who reflect His priestly character as the channel of His blessing, but why should natural descent count for anything? Since we know that “in the flesh is nothing good”, why distinguish ethnicity in the first place? Why single out a distinct people as the locus and channel of divine blessing, if indeed priestly character is all that counts? Do the Jewish people, by some natural virtue, possess a unique aptitude and faculty for the cultivation of moral religion? Some imagine this, but this is to miss the point entirely.

If we suppose that “neither Jew nor Greek” means ethnicity is of no account any longer, particularly, now that faith has come, why continue to distinguish between Jew and Gentile at all, or between Israel and the Church? Since the covenant is fulfilled in Christ, so that “in Him” there is neither Jew nor Greek, why does Paul continue to speak of a covenant with “the natural branches” that is unfulfilled until the Redeemer’s return? (Isa 59:19-21; Ro 11:26-27)

Why the Jew? As cleverly put to verse, “How odd of God to choose the Jews.” Why does God take no rest until Israel fulfills its original calling to be a mediatorial nation of priests to bless all nations (Ex 19:6; Isa 2:3; 62:2), which is Israel’s millennial destiny (Isa 61:6)? If “all that counts is a new creation” (Gal 6:15), then why is it necessary that the life of this new creation be personified and exhibited through Jews as Jews (“the natural branches”) as a distinct nation, all holy, in their land as long as the earth shall last (Isa 4:3; 45:17; 54:13; 59:21; 60:21; 66:21)?

Theologians have called this divinely-preserved distinction “the scandal of particularity”. Notably, such uniform salvation (not a single unsaved Jew – Jer 31:34), and the eternal security of a divinely-guaranteed perseverance in grace (32:40) is not assured to any other nation. Though the nations will enjoy an unprecedented abundance of salvation in the millennium (Isa 27:6; 66:19; Jer 3:17; Mic 4:1-8; Hab 2:14), many will remain unsaved (Isa 26:10; 60:12; 65:20; Zech 8:23; 14:17; Rev 2:27), so that by the end of the millennium, an innumerable host from all nations are ready, at Satan’s behest, to launch another futile assault against the chosen locus of God’s government on earth (Isa 2:3; Rev 20:7-9).

What is God saying in all of this? He has sworn to preserve this distinction for an important prophetic purpose (Jer 30:11; 31:35-37). I believe it is what He’s been saying all along, and intends that Israel demonstrate for one thousand years in the sight of all nations (Ps 98:2-3; Ezek 39:27). Israel exists as a distinct nation for the sake of an ultimate demonstration in history. This is the very purpose of the millennium. This is what makes “the tents of Shem” message so controversial; it underscores this profound mystery.

God hides His secret from pride by mediating the revelation of His salvation through something or someone that is disallowed or despised. It is the glory of God to conceal a matter (Prov 25:2). “Truly You are a God, who hides Yourself, O God of Israel, the Savior!” (Isa 45:15). To reiterate, it is important to understand that apart from special revelation, the hidden things of God are unintelligible to the natural man; only by revelation is the heart changed. God hides His secret from pride by mediating the revelation of His salvation through something or someone that is disallowed or despised (1Cor 1:27). “He has no form or comeliness; and when we see Him, there is no beauty that we should desire him” (Isa 53:2).

It is a defining principle of all divine dealing and testing that the secret of God’s intention (Eph 1:9) is hidden from the wise and prudent and revealed to babes (Mt 11:25-27). “To whom is the arm of the Lord revealed?” (Is 53:1).

Divine mystery is like “the flaming sword which turned every way, to guard the way to the tree of life”. It is a two-edged sword: to pride, it is a trap and a snare, a rock of offense and a stone of stumbling (cf. Isa 8:14-17; 29:11-14; with 1Cor 1:19; 2:7-14), and conversely, revelation of “the hidden wisdom ordained to our glory” is the kiss of divine friendship (Gen 18:17; Amos 3:7; Jn 15:15) to those who receive what flesh and blood is incapable of receiving (Mt 16:27; 1 Cor 2:7). Even when the mystery “hid in other ages” is revealed and preached to all nations (Mt 24:14; Ro 16:25-26), it remains a “sealed vision” to the children of pride (Isa 8:14-17; 29:11; Dan 9:24; 12:9-10). This is the test by which the world is judged.

The mystery of the gospel (Ro 16:25; 1 Cor 2:7-8; Eph 6:19; Rev 10:7; 19:10b) that stumbled Israel (Isa 8:14-17; 49:7; 53:3-5; Mt 21:42) will once more stumble not only Israel, but all nations, as last-days events press the question of “the everlasting covenant”.  Any literal reading of the great volume of prophetic scripture describing world conditions leading up to the Day of the Lord shows clearly that the age will not end before all nations are in great agitation over the issue of the land of Israel and the city of Jerusalem, which is also the issue of the everlasting covenant (1 Chron 16:17-18; Isa 24:5).

The controversy of Zion (Ps 2; Isa 34:8; Zech 12:1-2; 14:1-9) is destined to plunge all nations into a final “valley of decision” (Joel 3:14).

Manifestly, God intends that the entire world be confronted over the question of His sovereign choice of Jacob. It is an ultimate point of divine contention that provokes an ultimate act of divine intervention.

“I will also gather all nations, and will bring them down into the valley of Jehoshaphat, and will plead with them there for my people and for my heritage Israel,
whom they have scattered among the nations, and parted my land.”
(Joel 3:2).

“Therefore, wait ye upon me,” says the Lord, “until the day that I rise up to the prey:
for my determination is to gather the nations, that I may assemble the kingdoms, to pour upon them mine indignation”
(Zeph 3:8).

Scripture appears to regard the attitude of the nations toward Israel as the measure of their attitude toward God. Significantly, in the imagery of John’s apocalypse, an attack on the people, land, and city of the covenant is regarded as an attack on the Lamb (Rev 17:12-14). This final assemblage of the nations against the symbols of “the holy covenant” (Ezek 38-39; Dan 9:27; 11:22, 28, 30-32; 12:11; Joel 3:2; Zech 12:1-2, 9; 14:2; Mt 24:15-29; Lk 21:24; Rev 11:2; 16:14-16; 19:15-21) is treated in scripture as a consummate effrontery that causes God’s “fury to come up” in His face (Ezek 38:18).

Since the scripture is plain that God has determined to make the end-time crisis of Israel a watershed issue of divine testing for all nations (Isa 34:8; Joel 3:2; Zech 12:2-3), it would be surprising indeed if the issue of Israel is not, in some sense, inseparably related to the gospel.

The everlasting gospel derives from what the prophets call “the everlasting covenant”. This includes both advents of Messiah and the full scope of the promise, including Israel’s restoration (Ro 11:27). As such, it follows that the “blood of the everlasting covenant” is inextricably linked to the literal covenantal provisions pertaining to both the people and the land, and not merely to His promise to bless all nations through Abraham’s seed. God sees the whole sweep of the covenant, in all its specific features and provisions, as an indivisible unity that stands or falls together (Gen 12:33; Ro 11:25-27; Eph 3:6; Heb 13:20; 1 Chron 16:17; Ps. 105:10-11; Ezek 37:25-26).

This is why the rebellious angelic powers of this present evil age are so committed to oppose, not only a part, but the whole of what pertains to the full scope of the everlasting covenant. This scope necessarily encompasses both advents of Christ and the open vindication of the everlasting covenant in Israel’s full restoration at Jesus’s post-tribulational return.

We maintain that God sees and treats the everlasting covenant, in all its features and provisions, as an inseparable unity, a single continuity of covenant commitment whereby God puts His own Name and the vindication of His covenant oath on the line (“as truly as I live”, saith the Lord…). The observation that the promise will be realized in stages and in first-fruits installments does nothing to alter or replace any part of the inextricably linked covenant chain of fulfillment.

When it comes to the spoken Word of God, as manifestly understood by the prophets to whom it first came, fulfillment is an all-or-nothing proposition. The plain meaning of plain language stands or falls together, since God has bound His Word, His covenant oath, and His name to the plenary consummation of every jot and tittle of that Word.

His name and His fame is at stake. He meant it to be. Can He bring in, fully and finally forever, that same intractable people whom He first brought out (Num 14:13-21)? This is the question that history waits to answer, and its answer will be as God declared to Moses, “as truly as I live, (when this is done), all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the LORD” (Num 14:21; Eze 36:22, 32). God’s self-appointed “mission impossible” will be the age-ending climax of history, to the praise of the glory of His sovereign grace!

To see God’s covenant pledge as an indivisible unity – as He sees it – we must understand that in any age or dispensation, there is only one means by which anyone can be justified.

That means is the imputation of the coming Surety’s righteousness. God can do this only because He sees the sacrifice of the Son as an already-accomplished certainty in His eternal predestination (Acts 2:23; Rev 13:8). Nothing of His eternal purpose was left to human contingency.

This is how covenant predestination of an abiding, “everlasting righteousness” bears most directly on the question, not only of the nation’s eschatological salvation, but equally, of the secure and abiding inheritance of the Land, as public witness to the power and faithfulness of God. The Lord considers His making good on part of the covenant as the sure guarantee that what remains will be as faithfully fulfilled, and with the same literalness of detail.

As mentioned, the outstanding question of history as concerning the Jews and the onlooking powers, is whether God can do all He promised for this particular people, who already bear a notable history of covenant failure. This is where the question of a righteousness that is not one’s own comes so powerfully into play.

Critically, for Israel, lasting tenure in the land as a people is inseparably connected to her coming into possession of the “everlasting righteousness” proclaimed in the prophets (Jer 32:40; Dan 9:24). The unexpected glory of this kind of righteousness is that it falls nothing short of God’s own impeccable righteousness as perfectly accomplished in the Son (Isa 26:12; 45:25; 53:17; Jer 23:6), and then, in real measure, in the believer by the Spirit. It is nothing less than the righteousness that is put to the credit of every true, Spirit-born believer in Jesus (2Cor 5:21). This is the same new/everlasting covenant righteousness that the saints of the OT entered into by penitent faith (see Num. 11:25-26, 29; 14:24; 27:18; Ps 51:10; Prov 1:23; Isa 55:1-3; Eze 18:31), but which the nation as a whole waits to enter until the post-tribulational day of the Lord.

Necessarily then, this perfect righteousness that alone satisfies all the demands of the law had to be wrought out and performed perfectly in the spotless humanity of the Substitute (Mt 3:15). It is this predestined divine accomplishment on the sinner’s behalf that gives the Spirit (in any age) His lawful right to “quicken whom He will” (Mt 11:27; Jn 5:21; Ro 9:18). And though not so fully revealed, this pending but already-secured sacrifice is the basis of the gift of God’s eternal life in the soul of man, as experienced by all the true remnant of faith, whether living before or after the cross.

Without this necessary apprehension by the gift of faith, Israel will always stand in covenant jeopardy. Judgment always looms, and the promise that a fully redeemed, all-holy nation will “lie down in peace and safety” would remain forever an elusive prospect, only temporarily enjoyed at best.

Only a righteousness that is eternally secure can guarantee permanent possession of the land because conditional possession based on obedience can never be permanently secure. However, God’s solution to this dilemma is not removal of the condition of abiding holiness. As Paul will argue, the conditionality of the Law can do nothing to defeat the success of the promise of the unilateral covenant cut with Abraham (Gen 15:12-21, Gal 3:17, Heb 6:17). God has determined to meet and fulfill every necessary condition by Himself alone (Gen. 22:8).

This does not neglect the real, human obedience that Israel must and will yield in order to secure the promise. It simply means that the source of that obedience will be God alone, through the sacrifice of the Substitute, and through the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit.

The covenant promise cannot be satisfied only by a spiritual birth or resurrection (Isa 66:8, Ezek 37:9). It necessarily includes national restoration to the land (Lev 26:42; 1 Chron 16:17; Ps 105:10-11; Isa 62:4; Ezek 37:25-26; Mic 4:1-8; Acts 1:6; 3:18-21; Ro 11:25-29), but secure and lasting possession of the land will not be possible until the everlasting righteousness of God in Christ has been revealed, not only to a remnant dwelling in the midst of an apostate nation, but to the whole of the nation, when the Jewish survivors of the last tribulation are suddenly regenerated “in one day” (Ps 102:13; Isa 66:8, Zech 3:9, 12:10, Matt 23:39; Rom 11:26; Rev 1:7). “From that day and forward”, all Israel will know the Lord. (Ezek 39:22, 28-29; Jer 31:34), never again to be menaced by the Gentile invader (2 Sam 7:10, Amos 9:15, Isa 54:14-17, Jer 31:38-40).

Whereas the everlasting righteousness purchased in the Redeemer’s blood has come already to the remnant, a clear and inclusive reading of the promise will show that a mere remnant is never sufficient to hold the land in secure perpetuity. Only the salvation of “all Israel” in a preserved, “everlasting righteousness” would be able to fulfill the promise of “everlasting possession”. Only this will satisfy the full scope and demand of the everlasting covenant as understood by the prophets.

It is common for interpreters to assume that when Paul says “and so all Israel shall be saved” (Rom 11:26), he has nothing more in mind than a yet-future engrafting of some additional Jews back into the “natural branches” of the covenant olive tree, thus completing the full number of the elect. On the contrary, like the prophets before him, Paul is looking to that time when there will not be a single Jewish soul alive on the earth who does not know the Lord (Jer 31:34). He is looking for that time expected by all the prophets, when no longer a mere remnant, but “all Israel” will be righteous, and continue in that righteousness “unto children’s children, world without end” (compare Deut 4:29-31; 30:5-6; Isa 4:3; 45:17, 25; 54:13, 17; 59:21; 60:21; 61:8-9; 65:23; 66:22; Jer 31:34; Eze 37:25; 39:22, 29-29; Joel 2:28; Zeph 3:13). Only their full return to the Land in the strength of a righteousness that is not their own is sufficient to fulfill Paul’s meaning when he said “This is My covenant with them…” (Isa 27:9; 59:21; Jer 31:34; Ro 11:26-27).

This is Paul’s clear meaning, based on his reading of the prophets’ manifest understanding of the everlasting covenant. In Paul’s view, it remains outstanding and incomplete until it is fulfilled “with them” (Rom 11:27). When the Jew is back in his covenanted place, fully clothed in Christ’s righteousness alone, then, as truly as the Lord lives, “the whole earth will be filled with My glory” (Num 14:20). The prophets were aware that only the enduring divine righteousness of the Lord Himself would qualify the nation for enduring blessing in the land.

Whereas the righteous remnant were not strangers to the circumcision of the heart (Deut. 10:16; 30:6; Jer 4:4) and the law written in the heart (Ps 37:31; 40:8; Isa 51:7), even the new heart and the new spirit (Ezek 18:31), Paul will argue that even more than any particular form of transgression, and even before Jesus arrived, the larger nation had already stumbled by their failure to approach the requirement of righteousness by grace through faith, rather than by the works of natural strength and self-reliance (Isa 8:14-15, 28:16; Rom 4:1-7, 9:30-10:3).

As Israel stumbled over Jesus, so will all nations stumble over Israel, by reason of the same prophetic mystery. “But the wicked shall do wickedly; and none of the wicked shall understand” (Dan 12:10). Anti-Semitism reveals an autonomous contempt for the constraints of God’s sovereign election and rule. Because anti-Semitism results from a failure to regard the sovereignty of God in all things, it is a form of deicide. Not understanding the profound implications of such phrases as “through their fall” (Ro 11:11) and “for your sakes” (Ro 11:28), the nations have laid presumptuous and bloody hands on the servant “who is blind” (Isa 42:19) for their sake.

“It was foreordained that Israel should reject him temporarily in order that the Gentiles might accept him. Here again is an example of God permitting his people to be bruised that the world might be healed.” (Jacob Gartenhaus, Rebirth of a Nation, pg. 59, Broadman). In the mystery of God, Israel’s rejection of “the heir” (the Servant-Son Messiah) is answered in the rejection of Israel (the servant-son nation) by the nations. As Israel has said, “We will not have this man rule over us!”, so the nations have said, “We will not have this nation rule over us!” But all have said, “We will not have this God rule over us!”

Because God’s pre-temporal decision is not based on works (Ro 9:11-23), it exposes a latent resentment and envy in the natural heart, disinclined as it is to agree with the righteousness of God’s choice, which is ultimately to question His of rule. “Is it not lawful for me to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or are you envious because I am good?” (Mt 20:15). This deep-seated quarrel with the election, and therefore, with the Word and rule of God, explains the rage of the nations in the Last Days siege against the people, land, and city of the covenant. (Isa 2:4; Isa 34:8; Joel 3:2; Dan 9-12; Mt 24:15-29; 2 Thess 2; Rev 11:2; 12; 19) It is the eschatological manifestation of Satan’s long war against the covenant (Rev 12:4).

God has predetermined history in a way that defies human understanding. However, the believer knows that nothing concerning God’s election is arbitrary or random. Rather, it is indispensable to the glory of His eternal purpose (Gen 18:25, Eph. 3:11). To the natural mind, such apparent discrimination will seem arbitrary and unfair, but this is precisely the point. Such a radical challenge to human understanding profoundly exposes the true disposition of the heart. This seems to be the point in Jesus’ momentary refusal of the woman of Canaan in Mt 15:22-28: “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel…it is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to their dogs.”

What does Jesus seek in this woman that causes Him to require her acknowledgment of Israel’s unique covenant status and privilege? Something high must come down in order for grace to abound. The apparent ‘exclusion’ of covenant restriction becomes God’s opportunity to include, on the basis of grace alone, all who will bow to the authority and justice (Gen 18:25) of His sovereign right to have mercy on whom He will have mercy (Jn 5:21; Ro 9:18).

Paul explains that the election of Jacob is necessary so “that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of Him that calleth” (Ro 9:11). All is to underscore the great maxim of Romans 9:16: “So then it is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy.” History and prophecy will bear this out: the entire drama of redemption, including its ends and ultimate goal, depends on the initial establishment and preservation of an essential ethnic distinction between Jew and Gentile.

For this cause, Christ must come out of Jacob (Num 24:19), and be made of the seed of David according to the flesh (Acts 2:30; Ro 1:3), and for this cause, He will return to “the remnant of His brethren” (Deut 30:3; Mic 5:3), Paul’s “kinsmen according to the flesh” (Ro 9:3), who will “in that day” return to Him (Hos 3:4-5; 5:15-6:2; Mt 23:39; Ro 11:25-29).

To lose the Jew-Gentile distinction would be to lose the purpose invested in this great landmark of divine instruction. Furthermore, it is to set light by the enormity of divine cost that such an eschatological demonstration implies. “For the Lord has redeemed Jacob, and glorified Himself in Israel” (Isa 4:23). “Also, your people shall all be righteous; they shall inherit the land forever, the branch of My planting, the work of My hands, that I may be glorified” (Isa 60:21).

Through Israel, God will be known to all nations as the God who chooses, and that His favor is not based on anything He ‘finds’ in man, but on what He has determined to put within (create, birth, quicken) those whom He has foreknown (Jer 31:33; 32:40; Ezek 36:26-27; Ro 8:29-30). “Jacob have I loved” (9:13) before he becomes Israel, before he has done good or evil. This precipitates the question: was the election of Jacob based on divine foresight of the change in his character, or did God’s election assure that change?

The answer to this question is not left to theological speculation; it is answered by prophecy, and will be ultimately answered by history itself. It is not the change that determines election; it is election that assures the change. This seems to be the point of Paul’s analogy of the potter’s freedom in Ro 9:21. The same principle that removes the ground of all boasting (Ro 11:18; 1Cor 4:6-7; Eph 2:9) provides the assurance that “God is able to graft them in again”, by no might of their own (Ps 102:13, Ezek 36:22, 32; Ro 11:23).

Because the truth of election is ultimately humbling, it is ultimately redemptive. It is the death sentence to everything that is lofty and self-assured, but the seal of a “blessed assurance” where “confidence in the flesh” has been shattered. Nothing else so profoundly offends and tests the natural heart, and this is why I am in agreement with the controversial use of the term “bow”, when used in this context. Though strange to modern hearing, it is, after all, a very biblical metaphor (Isa 49:23; 60:14). The only bowing that scripture intends is before the God who is distinguished by what He has spoken and performed (Rev 19:10b).

Through Israel’s restoration, the covenants of promise receive final historical vindication. Apart from this great apocalyptic act of divine power, the covenant is incomplete, but because the election cannot fail, “all Israel shall be saved” (cf. Isa 54:13; 59:21; Amos 9:9; Jn 6:45; Ro 9:6; 11:26). God has gone to utmost lengths, at imponderable divine expense, in order to make ultimate and public demonstration of this principle, through a people that history has shown to be hopelessly incapable of covenant fulfillment. This is precisely the point: Israel’s impossible condition exists for the glory of God. (Jn 9:3 with Jn 11:3, 15)

The conditional promise which said “If you are willing and obedient, you shall eat the good of the land” (Isa 1:19), is made secure by an eschatological act of transforming grace, ensuring Israel’s collective willingness “in that day”. “Your people shall be willing in the day of Your power” (Ps 110:3; Gal 1:15-16).

All of the blessings and promises of the conditional covenant are unconditionally guaranteed by the sovereign “I will”s of God’s predetermined purpose (cf. Jer 24:7; 31:33; 32:39-40; Ezek 11:19; 36:27 et al), ensuring that “from that day and forward” (Ezek 39:22), “all Israel” will know Him distinctively and experientially as the God who raises the dead (Ps 102:20; Ezek 37:13; Hos 6:1-2; Eph 2:1; 2Cor 1:9). Then will all Israel say with one voice: “Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord” (Ps 118:22-26; Mt 23:39 with Zech 12:10).

The covenant, in its totality, is incomplete until they are all Israel that are of Israel (Isa 60:21; Jer 31:34). This is the climax of the covenant. This was the expectation of the OT prophets and it remained the expectation of Paul. This is what Paul means when he says “and so, all Israel shall be saved”“for this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sin” (Ro 11:26-27).

This miracle of national transformation comes through the supernatural regeneration of the surviving remnant (Isa 4:2; Zech 13:8-9), by the revelation of their rejected and now-returning Messiah (Ps 118:22; Zech 12:10). It will come suddenly and at once (“in one day”); Isa 66:8; Ezek 39:22; Zech 3:9), “immediately after the tribulation of those days” (Mt 24:29), “when the power of the holy people has been completely shattered” (compare Deut 32:36; Dan 12:7 with Jer 30:7; Dan 12:1). It is the Day of the Lord. “Behold, it is come, and it is done,” saith the Lord GOD; “this is the day whereof I have spoken” (Ezek 39:8, 22; Rev 16:14-17). It is Joseph revealed to his brethren. It is the persecutor, Saul, arrested in his opposition, to become Paul to the nations.

In the same way that Paul could say “When it pleased God to reveal His Son in me …”(Gal 1:15-16), even so, at “the time appointed” (Ps 102:12; Dan 11:27, 35), the nation of the Jews, in its own Damascus Road experience, will know the mystery that was revealed to Paul (cf. Isa 8:14-17; Dan 9:24; 12:9; Ezek 39:22-23; Zech 12:10; with Rev 10:7; 20:2). Israel’s final restoration to covenant favor at the second coming of her rejected Messiah is history’s ultimate answer to the question “Hath God really said?” (Gen 3:1). Israel’s impossible condition exists for the glory of God.

This is why God has unfinished business with “the natural branches”. For this cause, Israel must be transformed into a holy nation of priests in the sight of all nations, as an ultimate testimony to the sovereignty of God’s ways in grace, whereby men from every nation (Isa 55:3; 61:8-9; Zech 8:23 et al) are made to see, to be humbled, and to cry out “While on others thou art calling, do not pass me by!”

I believe that this helps to explain why “the tents of Shem” message is so controversial. It touches issues of great sensitivity that challenge comfortable categories. True prophetic revelation provokes and requires a deep wrestling with implications that are not always spelled out, because God still hides His secret from autonomous self-reliance, even in the plain hearing of it.

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