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Some Thoughts on “Keeping the Law” – [VIDEO]

Posted: August 4th, 2015, by Tom Quinlan

This is a 13 minute excerpt from the recent study in Hebrews 7. In this clip Reggie mentions one of the first Articles we ever published here at Mystery of Israel. That article is reprinted below for your convenience.

Some Thoughts on “Keeping the Law” or “Torah Observance”

Certainly for Paul, keeping the commandments in a true and living way was the equivalent of a new creation (in the sense of its sure and necessary evidence). This is clearly seen when 1 Cor 7:19 and Gal 6:15 are compared in juxtaposition. But the ‘keeping of the commandments’ is never the cause, but the sure and certain ‘result’ of “a new creation” (defined as vital regeneration, the resurrection life of Christ in every living believer). To ‘get the cart before the horse’ in this matter constitutes ‘another gospel.’

However, Paul just as clearly declared himself (not only gentiles as in Acts 15:10-29) ‘free’ (except for expedience sake) from certain regulations of the law (1Cor 6:12; 1Cor 9:19-21). In some instances, however, these ‘regulations’ were not merely rabbinic custom but divine commandment. How can this be? Since Paul never releases even gentile believers from the keeping of the essential commandments of God (far from it!), what has changed? Why is anyone at any time released from circumcision or any other commandment of the law?

Though not stated so explicitly (or where would be the controversy, and hence the divinely intended crisis?), there is a certain ‘kind’ of commandment that the apostle calls ‘carnal’ Heb 7:16 and 9:10). Which commandments come under this designation?

The evidence suggests to me that such a distinction has in view those particular commandments given specifically to Israel that are ‘physical’ and outward, the performance of which lies within the reach of the natural man, and do not require for their fulfillment the miracle of regeneration. It is not so with the perfect holiness required by the law. By divine intent, this requirement is necessarily beyond natural ability, and possible only to God through the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit, “the power of an endless (or indestructible) life.” It is these physical ordinances in particular that formed part of Israel’s unique stewardship “under the law” that stood between Jew and gentile. But now, since “the time of reformation” Heb 9:10), these particular kinds of commandments are no longer permitted to divide between members of the eschatological ‘one new man.’ God is jealous that this issue of divine contention not be compromised by well meaning believers as did Peter in the episode that Paul records in Gal 2:11.

Paul is clear that to rest in any form of “works” (anything possible to man) for justification is ultimately fatal, but what of the question of observing such humanly doable ordinances strictly for the sake of witness or a presumed ‘higher sanctification’? In my view, this is to surrender something that is critical to the heart of the divine purpose for this dispensation. It misses entirely God’s very point in removing the temple and sacrifice and in giving the Spirit to gentiles “in order to provoke” the ‘observant’ Jew to jealousy [Paul argues that such fastidious ‘observance’ apart from the Spirit falls fatally short of true “commandment keeping”].

It is to miss entirely the very cause and nature of the believer’s distinctive stewardship ( calling / trust / responsibility ) ordained for this present time while the Jew is under the particular form of judgment decreed for this dispensation. To return ‘at this time’ to these particular kinds of ‘dispensationally conditioned’ ordinances is to give back the very ground that Paul rebukes Peter for yielding to the men that came from James (Gal 2:12-18). It is to build again what was destroyed (I ask, what was “destroyed”?), and makes the one returning to the old (something is “old”) standard of division a transgressor. Furthermore, it removes from God the very leverage of appeal that is intended to demonstrate to the Jew that “righteousness does not come by the law” (Gal 2:21; 3:11; Heb 10:8) which in Pauline usage means that perverse “confidence in the flesh” that imagines that the holiness of the law can be approached by man as man. Regardless of time or dispensation, the law is fulfilled only by the power of the Spirit, perfectly and flawlessly in Christ, but substantially and visibly in every ‘living’ believer.

Many of the laws first given at Mt. Sinai are provisional for a theocratic nation ‘in the land’. They are not eternal. Abraham was no less a commandment-keeping man of the Spirit, as are all his true born progeny (see John 8:39), yet he knew nothing of many of the laws first instituted at Mt. Sinai. These were distinctive and restrictive in their intention for the new theocratic nation. However, the righteousness embodied, articulated and required in that distinctive covenant is indeed eternal. The law requires nothing less than the perfect righteousness of God Himself and cuts off all else. This righteousness perfectly fulfilled only in Messiah’s flawless humanity (Lev 18:5; Mt 3:15; Gal 3:12), is in substantial measure fulfilled also in the believer by nothing less than a comparable incarnation of the Spirit (new creation) mediated through a regenerating miracle of divine revelation that issues in true repentance and saving faith. This is the work of the Holy Spirit, and is fundamentally axiomatic for any time or dispensation (the new birth is not peculiar to the New Testament “Are you a master in Israel …?”).

So the law instituted with the Sinaitic covenant is a divine trust given uniquely to the priestly nation, but it also functions as a test and witness to the reality of that nation’s true heart condition, i.e. its fidelity to God; it was a provisional stewardship for Israel in particular, conditioned in some respects on endurance in the Land, and never intended to reach beyond its purpose to bring in a new creation of completed perfection; it was therefore in that sense regarded by the apostles as a temporary dispensation (Heb 9:10). This is in no way contradicted by the recognition that certain elements belonging to that earlier dispensation will again be in force in the coming millennium when the kingdom is restored to Israel. But according to the mystery hid in other ages, the Church of this dispensation is revealed as the eschatological first-fruits, not only of Israel’s millennial salvation, but of something even more ultimate than millennial Israel, namely, the “one new man” of the new creation, the heavenly Zion, the completed assembly, the final tabernacle of God (Gal 4:26; Heb 12:22; 11:40; Rev 21:3). Thus, the mystery of the Body of Messiah reveals the Church in its essential nature as a kind of ‘eighth day’ phenomenon. In its invisible essence, the Church is the present realization of that new creation that is beyond even the millennial dispensation. This is not only the destiny, but the now present heavenly position of every true born child of God. Our citizenship is in heaven. And though no less true of all of the ‘living’ from every age (Mt 12:26-27), this, as so much else, has only come to full light through the revelation of gospel.

Though often confused and improperly differentiated, these important distinctions take absolutely nothing away from the unique role and special stewardship that Israel MUST fulfill throughout the millennium for the sake of ‘that’ necessary and public vindication of covenant faithfulness on God’s part (“This is my covenant with them…”). Rather, it is only to distinguish that the stewardship and calling of the Church of this age is unique to this age, though this is not the last age. The Church is a mystery organism, a phenomenon of divine revelation set ‘between the times’ as a witness to “the powers of the age to come.” Although the “powers” of the coming age have come in unexpected advance of the salvation of the ‘last day’ (Old Testament ‘Day of the Lord’) in the person and work of the Messiah and in the Spirit poured out upon the Church, the age itself is still future.

During this present age and dispensation (the time that Israel is under temporary divine hardening), the Church is to show forth the life, power, and freedom of that new order of existence “apart from the works of the law.” At the same time, through the eschatological gift of the Spirit, the believer (most remarkably the ‘gentile’ believer, Col 1:27) is able now to fulfill in real measure the very righteousness required by the law, which is nothing less than the righteousness of God Himself. The Church (when it is the Church) should be distinguished by those miraculous and inimitable fruits of the Spirit “against which there is no law,” and thus move Israel to jealousy, NOT because it is observant of those outward ordinances that are possible to unaided human performance, but because it manifests the power of the promise of the new age by the gift of faith in Christ’s imputed righteousness to the glory of God alone, and ALL most purposefully and emphatically “apart from the law!” (Ro 3:21). This is God’s method of removing all ground of boasting. This is the very point of divine contention. Shall we surrender it?

In my view, it is not only inconsistent, but a serious defection for the gentile believer to take on the yoke of Sabbaths, feasts and other physical ordinances of like kind, and thus remove from God the very thing that He has appointed to make His case against Israel’s greatest historic tendency and fatal presumption (Ro 9:32), namely, the lie of humanism, the presumption that in man is anything good. It is only as the Church comes into its appointed eschatological fullness that Israel will be made jealous. Israel will NOT be made jealous by an accommodating zeal for sanctification through Sabbatarian and kosher observance. On the contrary, such a presumption, though perhaps unconsciously, reveals the same inherent humanism that only retards the Church’s calling and hinders the fullness that Israel and the end of the age waits. It is by divine design that the Holy Spirit promised to the surviving remnant of Israel at the Day of the Lord should now be seen resting upon unqualified non-observant non-kosher gentiles! This is God’s very point; it is His contention with Israel. We must draw the line where an inspired and inerrant New Testament has drawn it. The offense must continue; it is divinely intended. Israel will come forth from its grave because God insists on being known as “the God that raises the dead,” not because we made them jealous through kosher observance or any other “carnal ordinance” (apostolically so-called; Heb 9:10). There is a place where the believer is obliged to not ‘give place … no, not for an hour; that the truth of the gospel might continue with you” (Gal 2:5). This is where Paul who could otherwise “become all things to all men” was obliged to draw the line.

I am aware that there is much more to this issue that requires consideration, but these few points are offered as a safeguard against the mounting threat of a Judaizing spirit that still stalks the church, though not always in its original Jewish form. I believe we can expect to see this crisis escalate with an unequaled subtlety towards the end. There is good reason to expect that the church’s greatest test will not be the Antichrist, but a deception of a more subtle kind, so that “if it were possible, they (the false anointed ones) shall deceive the very elect.” Signs and wonders are not fatal except as they lend support to a lie, and I believe it will be the lie of works righteousness. Licentious antinomianism is not subtle enough to threaten the very elect. However, works righteousness is subtle beyond imagination, as it only takes the least amount of that leaven to spoil the whole.

In trembling contention for the non-negotiable offense of the gospel,


The Rest and the Refreshing

Posted: August 1st, 2015, by Reggie Kelly

This is the kind of mystery (see the post “After Two Days…“) inscribed in the scriptures of the prophets that only Jesus understood in His un-fallen, divinely human mind (“by His knowledge will He justify many”). It is why He was not at liberty to unpack the mystery to His disciples until the appointed time of revelation (after the cross and Pentecost). It was purposely hidden, not only from the pride of man as judgment, but the principalities and powers (those angelic rulers that stand behinds the potentates of earth). “For had they (the demon princes) known it (the mystery), they would not have crucified (inspired the crucifixion) of the Lord of glory, since it would prove their undoing.

It may sound speculative and theoretical, but until I can be corrected, this observance has led me to make some inferences that, at least for me, explain a lot. For example, I infer (not dogmatically affirm) from this that Satan cannot know or read the mind of the Spirit except as he is able to learn, second hand from the minds of those who receive spiritual illumination but who also have the natural mind because of the fall. In contrast, Jesus, being, virgin born, bypassed the fallen nature received from Adam. Although His mind was fully human, it was also fully divine, even as He grew up into all fullness, with no trace of what we have all received through our parentage through the fall.

This is how Satan was not able to know what Jesus alone could know until the time of fulfillment and revelation. It is also why it was so crucial that Jesus guard the messianic secret, even from His own disciples until the time. Whereas the demons were unique in their ability to know the identity of the Son, they could not know the hidden wisdom of the cross. Of course they know it now, too late as their judgement has been sealed.

It is the same with the mystery hid in other ages. It is to some extent knowable in a superficial and factual kind of way, but even though it is now revealed, it is only truly apprehended by the Spirit. That is why Paul would say that it is impossible for the natural man to receive the things of the Spirit. There is not the capacity for the spiritually dead to receive the things of the Spirit.

This has helped me understand better God’s strategy in using divine secrets in His war against demonic powers and judgment on the pride of man. It has also helped me understand better the use of tongues in spiritual warfare. Let me explain.

“In the law (Isa 28:11) it is written, With men of other tongues and other lips will I speak unto this people; and yet for all that will they not hear me, saith the Lord” (1 Cor 14:21).

In view of its context and primary meaning, I always puzzled over why Paul would use this specific verse from this particular context in order to support his point about tongues as a sign to the unbeliever with a view of tempering its use in the church for congregational edification. Certainly at Pentecost, and in some instances in the assemblies, to hear in one’s own language words being spoken in another language is indeed a miraculous sign to the unbeliever. It certainly availed to arrest the multitude on Pentecost in order for the gospel to be preached by Peter.

But something else was also happening on Pentecost. For the first time, the gospel of the mystery of Christ’s suffering and the glory that should follow was being preached in full light of the cross and resurrection, ascension and return. The gospel, foretold but kept a secret in times past, had now been revealed by the Holy Spirit send down from heaven (1Pet 1:11-12). Until this time, Jesus would speak in proverbs and parables, concealing to some extent what would soon be broadcast from the housetops (Mt 10:27; Jn 16:25), but until that appointed time, it is “tell no man …”

Hold this in mind as we look at Isa 28 in both its historical and further eschatological application, but before going to Isa 28, let’s look at something interesting and complementary of the point I want to make in an earlier chapter of Isaiah.

Characteristic of Hebrew prophecy in that mysterious blend of the near and the far, Isa 8:12-18 holds a glorious prophecy of the gospel,

“Say ye not, A confederacy, to all them to whom this people shall say, A confederacy; neither fear ye their fear, nor be afraid. Sanctify the Lord of hosts himself; and let him be your fear, and let him be your dread. Sanctify the Lord of hosts himself; and let him be your fear, and let him be your dread. And he shall be for a sanctuary; but for a stone of stumbling and for a rock of offense to both the houses of Israel, for a gin and for a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem. And many among them shall stumble, and fall, and be broken, and be snared, and be taken. Bind up the testimony, seal the law among my disciples. And I will wait upon the Lord, who hides his face from the house of Jacob, and I will look for him. Behold, I and the children whom the Lord hath given me are for signs and for wonders in Israel from the Lord of hosts, who dwells in mount Zion.”

As typical, the first, but I would not say, primary application of this prophecy is to the imminent threat of the confederacy of Ephraim (the northern kingdom of Israel) and Syria against Judah. The Lord of host, Yahweh, as particularly to be revealed in Immanuel, will be at once a hiding place for those who trust and fear the Lord, but a stone of testing, set to be a divinely prepared trap of judgement for the fearful and unbelieving. What I particularly want to point out is that in the Hebrew, to seal up and bind up means to ‘keep under wraps’ (Keil and Delitzsch). It is “the testimony” that is sealed and this is used elsewhere of the gospel, even in some translations, the mystery (1Cor 2:1).

As I will show, this agrees very nearly with what will be called in Isa 28:12, “the rest and the refreshing”, a clear allusion to the gospel. Observe that this knowledge of doctrine is arrived at by those weaned from the milk and drawn from the breast (Isa 28:9). This is background of Jesus’, Paul’s, and Peter’s language for the meat of the Word versus the milk. Notice too that this knowledge is arrived at and verified to the unbeliever by a a line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little there a little approach that apparently shows the agreement and harmony of the interspersed parts of the prophetic testimony when properly compared and considered. That’s what we do when we make the case for the once hidden but now revealed mystery of the gospel from the prophecies of the OT (Acts 26:22; Ro 16:25-26).

Before leaving Isa 8, notice that even before the carrying away into Assyria of the northern kingdom of Israel, Isaiah is representing God’s face as hidden from larger Israel, not forever but only for a time. Isaiah and Ezekiel are very clear in showing that God’s face is hidden until the end of exile, when the last gentile aggressor is destroyed and the ‘time of the goyim’ (gentiles; Eze 30:3) ends at the day of the Lord. Until that day, the revelation of the gospel is “sealed up among my disciples” (Messiah’s disciples) until God’s face is no longer hidden from Israel.

Until then (the end of the 70th week), the vision and prophecy is sealed up among that ever increasing band of disciples who will know the hidden secret of the kingdom (Lk 8:10) by the revelation of the gospel sent down by the Holy Spirit to those who would believe on Jesus, the stone of testing. We shall see that stone again in Isa 28, and for good reason, since He is the embodiment of this mystery that brings the rest and the refreshing and gives sanctuary to the one who believes. “The children whom the Lord has given me (Isaiah’s children yes, but beyond to Messiah’s children, both Jew and gentile) are for signs and wonders in Israel.”

I want to suggest by what we will see in Isa 28 that it is particularly the gentile children of Messiah (another tongue), protesting to Israel of a misplaced trust in the arm of the flesh (covenant with death), and by implication making the case for Jesus as Messiah by a line upon line, here a little, there a little demonstration of evidence from the Hebrew scriptures. Of course, at the first, this will be dismissed but in the end, it will speak powerfully as Jacob is brought to the end of his power in preparation for the revelation of Jesus.

In Isa 28, the historical context is the contemporary threat of the Assyrian invader, but, as typical of the curious blending of the near and far horizons of Hebrew prophecy, the ultimate goal of the vision is the post-tribulational day of the Lord, as verse 5 makes very clear, as also the larger context of Isaiah’s ‘little apocalypse’ (chapters 24-28). As much as we are sure that Isa 28 points beyond the Assyrian invasion to a future covenant with death and hell (In keeping with the pattern of the past but particularly and ultimately the Antichrist. Also notice the theme of “treading down” which is seen in Lk 21:24; Rev 11:2), it should be agreeable to any conservative view of scripture that “the rest and the refreshing” of Isa 28:12 and that Jesus is quintessentially the “foundation stone laid in Zion” of Isa 28:16.

So according to the authority of the NT writers, we have definitely moved beyond the contemporary application to the broader canvas of the apocalyptic climax that always and invariably assumes the final, day of the Lord deliverance of Israel in fulfillment of the everlasting covenant. On the way there, a mystery is revealed, not only to Isaiah’s disciples in its OT form, but more ultimately to the disciples of the tested cornerstone, Jesus.

This is the gospel that secures the promised rest and refreshing for the individual believer (“disciple”) from whom the face of God is NOT hidden, even before the nation is born into its millennial salvation. This testimony of the gospel will be set forth to Israel in a compelling line upon line testimony by those of stammering lips and another tongue. Very significantly, this will be just after they have entered into their covenant with death and hell (particularly true of the first half of the week). For the moment, however, the testimony will be lightly dismissed, in no small part because it is coming to them through gentiles. That is the calculated offense! Of course, Jewish witnesses will suffer the same dismissal through a natural guilt by association. Manifestly, there is divine judgment in this. It would take an unusual humility to entertain such a thing coming from gentiles. But as Paul will show, it can also be an occasion to provoke a redemptive emulation when Jews see in gentiles the evidence of the promised Spirit as received by faith without the works of the law.

Now, of course, it is understood that the historical context of God’s speaking to Israel through stammering lips and another tongue refers most specifically to God’s covenant threat to plead with Israel through judgement by means of foreign invaders.

“The Lord shall bring a nation against thee from far, from the end of the earth, as swift as the eagle flies; a nation whose tongue thou shalt not understand” (Deut 28:49). So that after the threat of further judgement is ended forever with Israel’s salvation at the day of the Lord, Isaiah can say: “Thou shalt not see a fierce people, a people of a deeper speech than you can perceive; of a stammering tongue, that you cannot understand” (Isa 33:19).

The same usage can apply to difficulty of understanding, as in Isa 32:4: “The heart also of the rash shall understand knowledge, and the tongue of the stammerers shall be ready to speak plainly.” I can only suggest what seems to me compelling evidence that God will speak, not only through the gentile invader, but through gentile witnesses, the mystery of the gospel that is the rest and the refreshing. This will be presented, line upon line, here a little and there a little out of the Hebrew scriptures (all scripture is Hebrew but of course we mean those recognized by Jews as authoritative). Included in that same testimony will be the prophetic protest concerning Israel’s ill-fated peace arrangement with the Antichrist (Dan 8:25; 9:27:11:23). But this is only the ultimate end of God’s long contention against His people’s habitual tendency to put trust in man.

Now I can come to what I wanted to say concerning a possible association between the idea of mystery as a divine strategy in spiritual warfare and our use of tongues for personal edification, and as a sign to unbelievers when tongues are supernaturally interpreted by the Spirit in another person’s hearing. It is this: God has put His secrets beyond the power of flesh to humble pride and to keep His pearls from unworthy spirits, so that the glory of His hidden wisdom, the secrets of His heart, mind, and will would not be available to anything of human self sufficiency but based solely on a relationship of intimate friendship and child like trust.

This is why where the Spirit is not specially quickening the gospel, connecting the dots, so to speak, it sounds to the unbeliever (in this case a Jewish unbeliever) like unintelligible gibberish that can be safely dismissed. It is also why the hidden things of the gospel, now revealed, openly declared, and accessible to all, remains foolishness to the natural man. It is also why that even when it is supposed that we have understood, we may not yet have understood spiritually, since this is only possible by the transforming power of the Spirit at the level of the heart, as we come by grace to really know what we only thought we knew. The point of all being our utter dependency on the quickening, illuminating power of the Spirit to spiritually apprehend and discern even those things that we assume we know. Do we yet know them? As Mt 7:23 so soberly warns of how much can be known and done by one who has never been known (intimate union) by Jesus.

As much as the natural mind is incapable of knowing or receiving the things of the Spirit apart from internalization of the truth through the Spirit’s power to quicken whom He will, it occurred to me that when we are praying in the Spirit, Satan is unable to access the meaning of what is being transacted. Although never in the sense that the spiritual man ‘knows’ in terms of intimate experience, but only through observance and what can be learned second hand through the believer’s natural mind (not to be confused with the spiritual mind) can Satan know anything of what has transpired between God and the believer. That is one reason why in tongues we are speaking mysteries. Here’s the rule: When the natural mind is shut out; Satan is shut out.

(Jesus had a fully human mind but it was not a ‘natural’ mind in the sense of fallenness and self dependency. For this cause, among many others, He was necessarily born of a virgin that He might bypass entirely the fallen nature that comes down through the seed of the man through Adam.)

For this cause, Satan cannot decode the language of intimacy or what the believer is praying in the Spirit in warfare, particularly when this is out of a glorious weakness and dependency on the Lord, that through faith, what is being uttered is not gibberish, is not foolishness, but holy mystery, known, given, quickened, and received of God. In the wisdom of God’s foolishness through tongues, we gain a bypass of all the interference and spiritual blockage that is in our natural mind and this also circumvents the ability of Satan to interfere.

From this analogy of tongues (as discussed by Paul in 1Cor 14) to the larger context of Isa 28 and the NT revelation of the formerly hidden mystery of the gospel, I think I understand better his use and application as applied to tongues. It is an analogy that was never intended to exactly conform in every point of detail. In both references, the issue is mystery that brings refreshing when miraculously translated by the Spirit. This is the analogy that applies to the nature of all mysteries that have their source and power of communication in the Spirit.

After Two Days He Will Revive Us…

Posted: July 31st, 2015, by Reggie Kelly

Originally published in Oct of 2013, we are bringing this article back to the front page for reference of an up-coming article.

“After two days He will revive us; the third day we shall live in His sight” (Hos 6:2).”

According to the NT, the gospel reveals a mystery that was at once fully foretold in the writings of the prophets (Acts 26:22; Ro 16:25-26; Rev 10:7), but divinely concealed from both men and angels until the appointed time (Mk 8:30; 9:9; 1Cor 2:7-8). For example, all who accept the witness of the NT will recognize that Messiah’s twofold advent was not clearly distinguished before the gospel was revealed with the outpouring of the Holy Spirit (1Pet 1:11-12). Whereas every aspect of the gospel was “according to the scriptures (Acts 26:22; 1Cor 15:3-4), Paul would nonetheless speak of it as a mystery (Eph 6:19-20 with Col 4:3-4). Its revelation in the ‘fullness of time,’ would bring to light all of the other related mysteries described in the NT (Ro 11:25-29; Eph 1:9-10; 3:4-5, 9-10; Col 1:26; 4:3-4; 1Tim 3:9, 16). Paul’s reference to the gospel as a mystery is anticipated by Jesus’ reference to the ‘mystery of the kingdom of God’ (Mk 4:11). At the heart of both is the formerly unknown fact that Messiah was to come twice.

The Spirit’s revelation of the gospel gives a clarity of hindsight that enables the detection of both comings in a number of OT prophecies that before would have been quite indistinguishable, particularly as it pertains to the time (1Pet 1:11). Often, aspects of both comings are mysteriously intermingled, or side by side, without clear distinction, with no clear evidence of an inter-advent period between. The present age thus forms the mysterious ‘gap’ between the advents that has been so much belittled in certain scholarly circles. However, had Messiah’s substitutionary atonement, and therefore His twofold advent, NOT been hidden until the appointed time, the princes of this age would not have crucified the Lord of glory (1Cor 2:7-8). Moreover, the mystery would not have accomplished its further purpose to test hearts and stumble pride.

The point to be made here is that the mystery of the gospel, and God’s wise use of it, is not something merely ‘hidden in God.’ All is contained in the prophets and God is glorified when the gospel is vindicated by reference to what was foretold. Every part of the mystery of the gospel is “according to the scriptures” (Lk 24:44-46; Acts 3:18-21; 26:22; Ro 16:25-26; 1Cor 15:3-4; 1Pet 1:11), but the prophecies were so given and arranged in a form and manner that was divinely calculated to conceal the cross and the knowledge that Christ should come twice until the time appointed. Paul understood the great commission (“the commandment of the everlasting God”) as a call to preach the gospel as it was indeed “according to the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began. But now is made manifest, and by the scriptures of the prophets (the instrumental means), according to the commandment of the everlasting God, (to be) made known to all nations for the obedience of faith. God is most glorified when the divinely commanded means is properly united to the commanded goal. I am suggesting that if Paul’s statement is unpacked for its full implications, then here we have God’s prescriptive command for the true apostolic approach to evangelism that was practiced all throughout the book of Acts. Built right into the proclamation of the gospel is the divinely intended apologetic. Only as the gospel could be shown to conform in all points to what stood written in the prophets was it to be accorded any credence at all (Acts 26:22). “The testimony of Jesus is the Spirit of prophecy” (Rev 19:10b).

That a divinely intended mystery is present in the prophetic scriptures is further confirmed by the notable phenomenon of a mysterious overlap, a kind of telescoping of the near and the far that recognizes a double horizon in prophecy. Some prophecies show a near range fulfillment in the contemporary crisis confronting the nation in the prophet’s own day. Often, the same prophecy will transcend the contemporary situation, projecting some of the attributes of the near fulfillment on to the more distant horizon of the final redemption, i.e., post-tribulational deliverance of Israel. This has been called the near and far view of prophecy. An age between could only be discerned in hindsight. This was recognized by the later prophets who were far removed in time from the former. They would continue to use the same language of the earlier prophets to describe the ultimate salvation of the nation promised in the everlasting covenant. Such a view of prophecy is endorsed by evangelicals who recognize the authority and witness of the NT, but it is not so warmly received by critical scholars, both liberal and Jewish who charge evangelicals with “eisegesis” (reading into the text what one is interested to find). Indeed, the early church’s view that the prophetic writings of the OT held a secret to be revealed by the Spirit in the last days (a view also held by the sectaries at Qumran), would not have passed muster with the critical norms and standards of modern exegesis and hermeneutical science.

I point this out because I hold a view of Hos 6:2 that is part of the mystery of Christ’s coming, departure, and return to Israel. The revelation of two comings of Messiah discovers a hidden age that would extend from Messiah’s ascension to the end of the times of the gentiles at the end of the great tribulation (Lk 21:24 with Rev 11:2). This is the long exile of covenant wrath and discipline during which Israel would remain under a judicial blindness, as God would “return to His place,” and hide His face from the nation, as a whole (Deut 31:17-18; 32:20; Isa 8:17; 54:8; 64:7; Eze 39:23-24, 29). This would continue until the transitional ‘day of the Lord,’ now revealed as Messiah’s second coming.

A favorite example of this mystery is demonstrated in the better translations of Mic 5:1-5. Here, both comings appear in the space of a few verses. The words, “Now gather yourself in troops, oh daughter of troops,” should be understood as prophetic sarcasm or taunt aimed at the futility of the nation’s tendency to trust in its military when it is not merely the king of Assyria, but Yahweh Himself who has “laid siege against us” (Mic 5:1). Most commentators interpret the rest of the verse, “they shall smite the judge of Israel with a rod upon the cheek,” as merely referring to the indignity inflicted on the contemporary king of Israel by the Assyrian invaders. But is the sufficient cause for what follows in Mic 5:3? “Therefore (for this cause) shall He (Yahweh) give them up (the divine surrender of the Jewish people); Until the time that she who has come to travail has brought forth. THEN the remnant of His brethren shall return to the children of Israel.” Clearly, this is the time that Israel has been delivered over to the judicial blindness that is only removed at the Deliverer’s return to turn ungodliness from Jacob (Ro 11:25-27). The reason for the words that chill the soul as Israel’s long history of painful estrangement is contemplated, is because of the national sin in the “smiting of the judge (ruler) upon the cheek.” The reason for so grave and awful a judgment, one that has lasted so long, is that the judge or ruler of verse one is no ordinary king. He is the ruler from Bethlehem, the Messiah from David’s line.

Only a provocation of such an ultimate kind is sufficient to account for those solemn and awful words that history has so tragically vindicated, “therefore, He shall give them up” (Mic 5:3). But for how long? Israel is ‘given up UNTIL’ the time that she who has come to travail has brought forth.” When is this? It is the time like no other; “it is even the time of Jacob’s trouble” (Joel 2:2; Jer 30:7: Dan 12:1). Following Moses, the prophets would continue to foretell of a an ultimate time of national travail and rebirth that would climax in the great day of the Lord (Isa 13:8-9; 26:17; 66:8; Jer 30:6-7; Mic 5:3 etc.). After Zion’s travail, the remnant of His brethren, who now recognize Messiah, as typified by Joseph’s self-disclosure to his estranged brethren, returns to the children of Israel. “For now shall He (the smitten ruler from Bethlehem) be great unto the ends of the earth” (compare Zech 9:9-10), and He shall stand and feed in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God; for now shall they abide (Israel’s millennial continuance in peace and righteousness): And this man shall be the peace …” (Mic 5:3-5).

With Mic 5 as background, Hos 5:15 – 6:2 comes gloriously into full light. Hos 5:15 can, of course, be naturally understood to refer to nothing more than the provocation that induced Yahweh to descend in judgment on Israel through the Assyrian, the rod of His indignation (Isa 10:5), and then to withdraw His presence and protection, as when the glory departed from the temple in Ezekiel chapters 10 and 11. Such a view is certainly in keeping with the pattern of judgment threatened the curses of the covenant of the covenant law suit in Deut 28-32, as continually reiterated and enforced by the prophets on the conscience of Israel. But in light of the glory of the mystery, the language of Hos 5:15 transcends any such limitation. It is far better taken to refer to an even more significant departure from the temple, even Jesus’ departure back to His Father’s right hand when He said, “Behold, Your house is left to you desolate. For I say to you, after this you will not see me again “UNTIL” you will say, BLESSED IS HE WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD” (Mt 23:39). This is the time of Christ session at the right hand of God, as foretold in Ps 110 (another key “UNTIL” of prophecy). The language of Hos 5:15 is no accident! Pay close attention to this unusual language that so richly suggests what the mystery will reveal as the first and second comings of Christ: “I will return again to My place Till they acknowledge their offense. Then they will seek My face; In their affliction (Jacob’s trouble) they will earnestly seek Me.”

In view of what follows in Hos 6:1-2, how can it be lightly dismissed that this has something much more in view than only the idolatry of the northern kingdom? Rather, is this not the post-tribulational acknowledgement of the nation’s crowing offense? The offense that summed up a history of idolatry and apostasy? (Acts 7:51-52). It is not mere “guilt” or “trespasses” (plural), as in some translations. It is the consummate “offense” or ‘trespass” (singular) of the nation in the rejection of the Messiah. This is what is acknowledged at at time of great affliction that ends the elect nation’s long night of exile and estrangement from covenant favor (Hos 3:5). With this acknowledgement, the One who was here and departed now returns to revive the nation that will live out the third day in His sight of God as a resurrected nation. The Revelation of John will provide the key that permits us to identify the ‘third day” with the thousand year reign of Christ Jesus.

It is well known that before the time of Christ, there were conceptions that history would follow the analogy of creation week, for each day a thousand years. This tradition is referred to in the “Epistle of Barnabas,” which appears in vol. 1 of the Ante-Nicene Fathers. By no means am I alone in believing that the two days of Hos 6:2 signifies the time between the advents, but if it is true that a day stands for a thousand years, it means that the “set time” for Israel’s post-tribulational new birth and resurrection (Eze 37; 39:22, 28-29 with Isa 66:8; Mic 5:3), has always been two thousand years from the national rejection of the Son. The two days begins with the smiting, piercing, and ‘cutting off’ of the Messiah (Isa 53:8; Dan 9:26; Zech 12:10) and ends with the post-tribulational revival, so that nation will live out the third millennial day, as a living resurrected nation, with all their children taught of the Lord (Isa 54:13; 59:21; Jer 31:34). During this unforeseen, but certainly foretold interim, the covenant nation would be blinded, while a door of faith would be opened to the gentiles (Acts 14:27; 15:14; Ro 11:7). According to Paul, this is the time that Moses’ prophecy would be fulfilled that said that as Israel had moved God to jealousy by that which was ‘not God,’ so He would move them to jealousy by a ‘not a people’ (Deut 32:21 with Ro 10:19; 11:11). As they had hidden their face from Him (Isa 53:3), so He would hide His face from them (Deut 31:17-18; 32:20; Isa 8:17; 54:8; 64:7; Eze 39:23-24, 29). As nothing else, this would explain the unexpectedly long delay between the advents.

When the Messiah was smitten, pierced, and cut off, Israel was ‘given up.’ That is the language of divine abandonment, and some translations translate it thus, even the Jewish translation. This is the time that God would not only hide His face, He would quite literally “go away and return to His place” (at the Father’s right hand) TILL the nation would acknowledge their offense at a time of great affliction. This is exactly what the NT leads us to believe that Israel will do as they see Him whom they pierced (Zech 12:10 with Mt 24:39; 24:30; Acts 3:19-21; Ro 11:26; Rev 1:7). They will acknowledge a corporate complicity in Messiah’s death, a complicity that all fallen humanity shares in equally.

This is how a generation nearly two thousand years removed from their forebears can own to themselves the piercing of the Messiah (compare Mt 23:30-36). Therefore, in a context that anticipates the “end of sin” (Dan 9:24), the national resurrection that is implied in Hos 6:1-3 means that the acknowledgement of Hos 5:15 can have no lesser ‘offense’ in view than the consummate offense of the nation’s corporate rejection of the Messiah (Acts 2:23; 3:14-15, 17; 4:10-11; 7:51-52). The implications of such language can have no lesser meaning than the age long estrangement of blinded Israel between the two advents. No other interpretation does justice to the divine sacrifice that is implied in God’s surrender of His beloved prodigal nation to the sword and to continuous exile. This must continue, and any Jewish reader of the Hebrew Bible should should be able to recognize that God’s face will remain hidden from the nation, as a whole, until a surviving remnant is born into holy nationhood at the day of the Lord, after passing through the throes of an unequaled tribulation (Deut 4:30; Jer 30:7; Dan 12:1).

If this interpretation of the two days is true, then it is no wonder that Israel is back in the Land and Jerusalem is increasingly the cup of trembling that prophecy predicts (Zech 12:2-3). All present trends suggest that all that remains that is necessary to set the stage for the final seven years will be coming speedily into place. “For He will finish the work, and cut it short in righteousness: because a short work will the Lord make upon the earth.”

Regardless of what is ‘behind’ in the faith of the faithful, this can be ‘filled up’ very quickly (1Thes 3:10), because God is not waiting for man to ‘get his act together’ but He will arise and act, as He knows how to bring the foretold constraints and inducements that are calculated to take His people where they would not have gone (Jn 21:18), even very quickly (Ps 110:3; 102:13 with Gen 17:21)

If, however, this interpretation of Hos 6:2 is true, then God is greatly glorified by such amazing precision, showing His absolutely foreknown and predetermined schedule to His children (“those things that are revealed belong to us and to our children”). We certainly have precedent for this kind of chronological accuracy in the prophetic chronology of Daniel’s amazing prophecy of the seventy weeks. The really much debated question is whether God ever intends that we should have some knowledge of the time. Is there ever a time that it will be possible to know the time? Daniel’s prophecy is one clear example. Who, knowing the prophecy of the seventy weeks, would not also know something about where they stood in relation to the time of the Lord’s first advent, what those living before the revelation of the mystery would have understood as also the time that the kingdom would be restored to Israel. For 490 years, it was quite possible to know, at least with some degree of proximity, how near or distant one stood to the time of the great messianic redemption, as it was conceived by Jews living before the cross.

I maintained this view of the two days of Hosea very strongly amid the false excitement that came when many took the ’93 Oslo peace accords to be the false covenant that begins the 7 years. You’ll remember when Yassir Arafat and Yitzak Rabin shook hands in agreement in front of then president Clinton in those famed photographs. In those days, many insisted that the two days of Hosea should be reckoned from Christ’s birth. I would point out a number of things that should have followed the beginning of the 7 years that was clearly NOT in place, precluding even the possibility. Not least was the necessity of the daily sacrifice, since certainly there could be no stopping of a sacrifice in the “holy place” at Jerusalem if it had not first been started. Nothing in the Oslo accord had moved any closer to the unthinkable prospect of Jewish access to the Arab controlled temple mount, something that is feverishly guarded to this day.

Nothing could prevail to dissuade the advocates of that view until after the year 2000 had completely come and gone. It will be quite different when the real thing comes, because shortly after the false peace, the sacrifice that will be stopped in the middle of the week will be in clearly in place. Its removal in conjunction with the Antichrist’s desecration of the ‘holy place’ in Jerusalem starts the great tribulation (Mt 24:15-16, 21 with Dan 9:27; 11:31; 12:1, 11; 2Thes 2:4; Rev 11:2: 12:7-14). In the full context of all that will accompany and confirm this compelling sign, resistance and denial at this late stage will be a manifestation of the most advanced kind of unbelief. For the faithful, there will be no uncertainty as to the time, and this will have a deep working of sober urgency all throughout the body of Christ, as can hardly be imagined.

The false alarms of prophetic speculation that has littered the landscape of church history could have all been avoided if even the most basic order of events had been kept in proper order. This requires close and careful observance, all by the grace of the Spirit, of course, but we have in print a number of keen writers from past generations who knew and taught this basic outline (it is nothing new). Some were clear in their insistence that nothing on the immediate horizon gave any certain evidence of a near fulfillment. In no small part, this balance of judgment and clarity was due to a studied commitment to interpret prophecy in its plain and literal sense, not discounting, of course, the manifest use of symbol and imagery. In every case throughout history and today, the false alarms of prophetic speculation derives from a tendency to separate what God has joined.

Failure after embarrassing failure has only strengthened the argument that the time can never, and should never be known. But now as then, there is a time to know the time, just as when Jesus would rebuke the nation for not knowing the time of its visitation (Lk 19:44). But “seventy weeks are determined,” and whatever ambiguity may have attended this prophecy before the revelation of the mystery, still, the Jews of Jesus’ day should have known, by any reckoning, that the end of Daniel’s seventy sevens was imminently at hand. Doubtless, this is why Luke’s gospel would say that ‘all men were in expectation” (Lk 3:15). According to Jesus, ignorance of the time was reprehensible and worthy of divine rebuke. That seventy weeks were to be reckoned from the well known decree of the king of Persia to the time of the messianic redemption was NOT a mystery to those who received the scripture. For Israel, it was time to know the time, as also the time between would have precluded any false view of imminence.

Regardless of ones view of the time of the rapture, if scripture is interpreted literally, it will be unmistakable to believers living at the time that they are in the unequaled tribulation. Since this will be marked by clearly revealed signs that require that certain preceding conditions be in place, believers will have great occasion to see the tribulation coming before it arrives. Who then can deny that it will be possible, at that time, to know the time, at least very approximately. If God has revealed it, then it becomes part of the believer’s stewardship, so that to not know the time when it is time that we should know it, is to reflect seriously on the condition of the heart. This is particularly true as the evidence mounts in the face of the most openly manifest and prolific fulfillment of prophecy in all of history. What was once a subject for speculation and debate becomes, at a certain advanced stage, a manifestation of the true disposition of the heart. It will be a dispensation of divine requirement, a new watershed of division and crisis of decision.

Those who recognize that the mystery of the gospel reveals an unforeseen gap between the 69th and 70th week of Daniel agree that there is yet a further installment on the divine calendar that is very well defined. Indeed, believers of that time will know with certainty that the peace arrangement that provides for Jewish return to the temple mount is not just another peace initiative in the perennially troubled Mideast. At this time, the sacrifice will again be in place and Israel will presume itself secure. This will not be done in a corner.

Such a compelling sign will only be resisted by the most advanced kind of unbelief. For the faithful remnant, there will be NO question of the time. Let me be clear that I do not put any confidence in my dream, except as something to hold in my heart. The apparent stress on the time is what impressed me most. I am, however, quite assured that the interpretation is correct that sees the two days of Hos 6:2 to be referring to the the time between the advents, between Israel’s rejection of Messiah and the revelation that comes to them at the time of His return. For this, a very considerable case can be made, as you may remember from the piece I did on Mic 5:1-4 and the Joseph analogy. The argument builds on a great deal more than mere assumption that the two days is equivalent to two thousand years.

Still, if the time rolls around and the particular line up of events required by prophecy are not in place and in clear view, then it will be obvious that I was wrong to read such specificity into Hos 6:2, as some translations leave out both the ‘two days’ and the “third day,” translating the passage thus: “He will restore us in a very ‘short time;’ he will heal us in a ‘little while,’ so that we may live in his presence.” Such presumption and liberty with the text is not translation; it is at best interpretation. In any event, the two days of Hos 6:2 has been anything but “short” for the Jewish people. The view I take of Hos 6:2 is only as good as it can be shown to belong to a whole complex of events that stand together.Only if and when the necessarily accompanying signs are all in place in proper relationship will our view be sufficiently confirmed to hold anyone else accountable to believe it. I present this only for those who will hold it tentatively in the hearts in the event trends move swiftly in the right direction. If that proves to be so, then who will not rejoice and stand in awe of yet another glorious example of the God who declares the end from the beginning, a tremendously edifying reality, already well enough demonstrated to make unbelief utterly without excuse.

For all who wait for the consolation of Israel, surely, these be the days! Reggie