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, why does Paul continue to speak of a covenant with the “natural branches”?

And particularly, now that faith has come, why continue to distinguish between Jew and Gentile, and 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 et al)?

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 et al), many will remain unsaved (Isa 26:10; 60:12; 65:20; Zech 8:23; 14:17; Rev 2:27 et al), 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? God 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. 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). 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; 1Cor 2:7 et al). 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; 1Cor 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 question of the land of Israel and the city of Jerusalem, which is also the question of the everlasting covenant (1Chron 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.

Scripture appears to regard the attitude of the nations towards Israel as the measure of their attitude towards God.

“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 towards 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 et al) is treated in scripture as a consummate effrontery that causes God’s “fury to come up” in His face (Ezek 38:18).

Only if the question of Israel were in some direct way related to the gospel could it become such a watershed issue of divine testing at the end of the age, because the gospel is the only ground of the believer’s justification. Evidently, the “blood of the everlasting covenant” (Heb 13:20), which is the heart of the gospel, is inseparable from the literal provisions of “the everlasting covenant” as it pertains to both the people and the land of Israel (1Chron 16:17; Ps 105:10-11; Ezek 37:25-26 et al), assuring the restoration of both (Lev 26:42; Isa 62:4; Mic 4:1-8; Acts 1:6; 3:18-21; Ro 11:25-29). Therefore, the everlasting covenant is inseparable from the everlasting gospel, as both are comprehended within the mystery of Messiah’s twofold appearing to Israel.

As Israel stumbled at 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” (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, that is disinclined to agree with the righteousness of God’s choice, which is ultimately the question of His 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; 2Thes 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 left to chance. 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 et al).

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 this distinction is to lose the point. It is also to lose the great landmarks 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 opens 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 from 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 (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 (2Tim 2:19) 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 of 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).

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).

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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Critique of the Prewrath Position (by Brock Hollett) [VIDEO]

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Netanyahu’s whirlwind visit – a sign of urgency


We may be sure that at least part of the motivation behind this whirlwind visit is the mutual threat of an increasingly empowered Iran, particularly in view of Biden’s anticipated commitment to resurrect the Iran nuclear deal. Mutual interests, not only of opportunity but of urgency, are creating new bonds between historic enemies, right on time!

Prophecy is clear that a disarming illusion of lasting security must come to the region before the outbreak of the final, unequaled tribulation (Isa 28:15, 18; Eze 38:8, 11, 14; Dan 8:25; 9:27; 11:21, 23-24; 1Thes 5:3). Recognizing this, many are watching the historic “Abraham Accords” with due attention.

Until very recently, nothing could have seemed more improbable. This has never happened before in history, but it is right in line with what prophecy leads us to expect.

We know that the Antichrist (AC) will exploit this new state of affairs till he sees his advantage (Dan 11:23, 31). Toward the middle of the week, he will secretly, behind the scenes, form a counter alliance that will, without warning, strike Israel with irresistible, overwhelming force.

Those who know the scripture will see this developing in advance. They will recognize the imperatives of prophecy that must precede the AC’s invasion of Israel. As some will most certainly “see” the abomination of desolation spoken of by Daniel the prophet, this means there must first be a restoration of the “daily sacrifice”, which demands a new temple (Isa 63:18; Dan 9:27; 11:31; 12:11; Mt 24:15-16; 2Thes 2:4; Rev 11:2).

Since this development can hardly be missed, believers in the literal fulfillment of prophecy will have a precious advantage to see the approach of this ultimately transitional event, as well as the march of events that lead up to it, as seen in Isa 28:15, 18; Eze 38:8, 11, 14; 39:26; Dan 9:27; 11:21-31; 1Thes 5:3).

As these signal developments progress, watchful believers who “understand” the times and the meaning of these events will know to prepare for the great transition that will come when the Antichrist will make the normal means of buying and selling an impossibility for believers (Rev 13:16-17).

It is sobering to contemplate what this will mean for professing Christians caught completely off guard. To be caught off guard and thus exposed to the unparalleled deception of “those days” will owe in no small part to professing believers’ neglect to follow Jesus’ express command to read and “understand” Daniel’s prophecy concerning this particular event (Mt 24:15; 2Thes 2:4-5).

And, where care has been taken to study Daniel’s prophecy in light of Jesus’ Olivet prophecy, and Paul’s reference to the man of sin (compare Dan 11:31-37 with Mt 24:15; 2Thes 2:3-4), a survey of the history of interpretation will confirm that no other topic of prophecy has engendered greater disagreement among scholars, and hence greater confusion and ignorance among pastors and their congregations.

Jesus well knew that an accurate knowledge of this event would reveal, not only what follows from it, but a notable sequence of foretold details that must lead up to it (Dan 11:23-31). Knowledge of these necessarily preceding conditions and events will prove a critical, God-ordained blessing of advance warning to those who have followed Jesus’ decisive command in Mt 24:15, “whoever reads (the readers of Daniel’s prophecy of this particular event), let them understand.”

A comparison of Eze 38:12-13; Isa 19:1-25; Joel 2:1-3; and Dan 11:41-43 will strongly indicate that some of the moderate Islamic nations of the Arabian peninsula (e.g., ancient Sheba and Dedan – Eze 38:13) will express fearful foreboding at the Antichrist’s invasion of Israel. Shortly after this, Egypt will also be overrun and profoundly savaged.

It is not unreasonable to infer that such rage and fury will be due to Egypt’s friendly relationship with Israel. This will doubtless be viewed by the northern Islamic nations, who are hostile to the peace, as an act of betrayal, portending that Egypt’s fate may also be the fate of other nations near and far who have supported the peace with Israel. So, the strategic gap between north and south appears to be widening, exactly as anticipated in prophecy.

It is more than incidental that the very alignment depicted in prophecy has come so lately and swiftly into place. Until very recently, nothing could have seemed less probable. Consider how Egypt has flipped from the rabidly hostile Morsi government to the much more friendly government of al-Sisi, ‘from foe to friend’ overnight. Who knew?

Then there is the once-friendly Turkey (Eze 38: 2-6) that has gone ‘from friend to foe’ under Erdogan, also almost overnight. And now, the Gulf States are softening in their onetime non-negotiable disavowal of Israel’s right to exist, endorsing a new policy of “normalization” in the new “Abraham Accords”.

Of course, to natural eyes, these remarkable trends can always be explained by natural causes. But to the eyes of faith that see through the prism of prophecy, many of the outstanding pieces of the prophetic puzzle that once seemed so remote are falling into place at a remarkable pace.

That these things should follow upon one another in such a close succession further suggests the realistic possibility of the fulfillment of a view that has been held by many over the centuries. This is the well-known, well-documented view that the return of Jesus would introduce the 7th millennium of sabbatical completion, ending the 6 millennia given to human government.

This is not a recent view but has been maintained by a significant number over the centuries. Some, even within the early part of the last century have interpreted the “two days” of Hos 6:2 as answering to the two millennia that should elapse between Israel’s fall and Jesus’ return (Isa 8:14; 28:16; Ro 9:33; 11:11-12; 1Pet 2:8; Ps 110:1; Mt 23:39: 24:30; Zech 12:10; Acts 3:18-21; Ro 11:26; Rev 1:7), with the third day answering to the millennium that follows upon Israel’s long awaited national resurrection (Isa 25:7-8; 26:19; Hos 13:14; Eze 37; Dan 12:1-2).

There are many other compelling arguments from scripture that further support this interpretation of a long parenthesis of “many generations” between the two comings (Isa 61:4; Eze 38:8; Hos 5:15-6:2; Mic 5:1-4; Mt 23:39).

Not only was Israel to become a “nation” again after “many generations” of exilic desolation (Isa 61:4; Dan 12:1), “always a continual waste” (Eze 38:8), but upon their return, the once desolate wastelands would become a coveted prize of wealth and prosperity (Eze 38:11-13; Dan 11:24; Joel 2:2).

It is remarkable to observe that just before the Antichrist’s invasion that precipitates the day of the Lord (Joel 2:1-3; 3:1-2, 9-17), the prophet Joel compares the Land to Eden for its beauty (Joel 2:3). With the invading forces of the Antichrist (the “northern army” compared to a devouring plague of locusts, Joel 1:4; 2:20, 25), the verdant Land of Edenic beauty is turned suddenly into “a desolate wilderness” (Joel 2:2-3). This agrees perfectly with Eze 38:11-13; Dan 11:24, etc.

Whether this view of a prophetic terminus corresponding to Hosea’s prophecy of the “three days” will be confirmed remains to be seen. Of course, longstanding political mountains would have to move almost overnight, but the recent events that have fallen so providentially into place certainly merit our closest attention, as we earnestly pray “Thy kingdom come”; “Come soon, Lord Jesus!”

Consider this brief summary of relatively recent significant developments:

–> the return to the Land in 1948

–> the recovery of Jerusalem as the Jewish capital in 1967

–> the very recent alignment of the nations in perfect accord with prophecy

–> the amazing beautification of the Land

–> the burgeoning prosperity of Israel and the region

–> the peace initiatives that promise the kind of “tranquility” in the region that will pave the way for the opportunism of the AC (Dan 8:25; 11:23-24)

–> the preparations and loud demands for equal access to the Temple Mount

–> the rise of anti-Zionist Islam, obsessed with the apocalyptic vision of recapturing Jerusalem and possessing the Land, in fulfillment of what the prophets call the “ancient/ everlasting hatred” (Ps 83; Isa 34:4-8; 63:1-4; Eze 25:15; 35:5; 36:5; Obad; Mal 1:4)

–> the extreme and swift departure from the apostolic faith in the professing church

–> the ominous resurgence of world antisemitism.

All of this, and so much more, cries out for sober preparation and urgency.

In a way distinct from any other time in history, with many more essential details now in place that were conspicuously absent at the Roman destruction of the second temple in 70 A.D., the days of ultimate, all-inclusive fulfillment are fast upon us. An alignment now exists of nations and circumstances essential to the fulfillment of the last very interdependent cluster of events that prepare the way for Jesus’s return.

We may prefer to err on the side of caution, but who will not at least agree that it is hard to conceive it mere happenstance that all of this should seem to be coming into such swift alignment so near to the closing of the second millennium since Israel’s fall and Jesus’s ascension?

Can it be too lightly dismissed that by Hosea’s “three days” prophecy, God has indeed foretold the time between the advents? Many over the years have thought so. The case fully made – and heard – is quite compelling. In fact, few have really heard it. Many will yet say, “What difference does it make?”, and “Doesn’t this imply the forbidden setting of a date?”, and many other popular non-sequiturs that throw cold water.

One thing is certain: Had the Lord foretold the time of His return in a less “cryptic” way, the world would have more easily anticipated it. It would not have been thief-like (1Thes 5:3; 2 Pet 3:10; Rev 16:15,  in light of Dan 12:10). But the very confusion and disagreement in the church over all things eschatological may well prove that God indeed has foretold us all things, including the duration of the mysterious interim, albeit in a way so as to remain sealed until the time of the end (Dan. 12:4, 9).

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Who Is the True Jew?

I fully agree that in Ro 2:26-29 Paul is putting the uncircumcised gentile who “keeps the righteousness of the law” (obviously regenerate) on an equal footing with a ‘true Jew’. A true Jew is a regenerate Jew. As in other debated passages of this kind, Paul is not necessarily redefining Israel or Jews, since he clearly maintains that obvious distinction elsewhere. Rather, in what might appear to be a new re-definition, many hold that Paul intends nothing more here than his usual insistence that those who are Jews in name only are not to be reckoned as heirs unless they are also regenerated (the inward circumcision of the heart).

This is exactly the distinction Paul is making in such texts as Ro 4:14; 9:6. But since Paul so clearly identifies believing gentiles as “Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise” (Ro 8:17; Gal 3:29), some (I think not unreasonably), argue that Paul is indeed redefining the term, “Jew” in this context to include anyone who has the inward circumcision of the heart. I am one premillennialist who has no problem with that view, since, in my opinion, it is not crucial to the larger question. So who is a Jew?

Even if it is maintained that Paul is disqualifying the Jew who is only one outwardly from deserving of the name, and even if it could be certainly established that Paul is re-defining the term in this particular context to mean anyone who has the “inward circumcision of the heart, in the Spirit”, still, there are many contexts that will bear no such redefinition. Context determines usage.

Unlike many premillennialists who, because of abuse and misuse, are keen to avoid any reading that might lend support to so-called replacement theology, I am one among many premillennialists who believe that if gentiles can be reckoned as the true circumcision (Phil 3:3) and other such appellations once applied only to Jews (Ro 9:25; 1Pet 2:9-10), then it is no leap of faith for Paul to include regenerate gentiles among the true “Israel of God” (Ro 11:17; Gal 6:16; Eph 2:19). Whether anyone’s strong position will incline them to agree, it is only humility to see how easily these inferences can be made. For example, when we place Phil 3:3 side by side with Ro 2:29, it is difficult not to see the manifest parallel.

Phil 3:3: For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the Spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh.

Ro 2:29: But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God. Romans 2:29

If Paul can speak of an “Israel according to the flesh” (1 Cor 10:18), it becomes an almost necessary inference to understand that there must be an ‘Israel according to the Spirit’. While it may be reasonably argued that in some contexts Paul has included gentiles in his definition of what constitutes the true Israel of God, this bears nothing on the many other contexts in both testaments where a large remnant of Jews (unbelieving until that time), are yet predestined for future salvation on the basis of an abiding, irrevocable covenant election that remains outstanding and unfulfilled until “their fullness” (their full inclusion; Ro 11:11, 25-29). Will you concede that much?

I am not among those who believe that believing gentiles belong to some new, separate entity. It is rather the case that believing gentiles are “grafted in among them” (Ro 11:17), that is, into the “commonwealth of Israel”, which, in my view, is the living “Israel of God” (Ro 9:6; Gal 6:16). The living, and therefore persevering wild branches are one eternal body with the living Jewish branches that remain connected to the life-giving root of the good olive tree. So I’m miles from the usual dispensational position.

I see a continuity of one corporate, fully regenerate people of God, not only since Pentecost, but wherever saints (the remnant circumcised of heart) were ‘indwelt’ by “the Spirit of Christ” (2Cor 13:5; 1Pet 1:11). There is one fold and one Shepherd. This newly revealed (not newly existing!) “body of Christ” / “one new man” extends beyond the present age into, and all throughout, a yet future millennium.

Unlike dispensationalism’s two peoples of God, in our view, the penitent survivors of Israel will be no less the body of Christ on earth in the coming millennium, ‘brothers of the others’, albeit with a unique millennial stewardship for the sake of the covenant demonstration that God has reserved for that unique period. This poses no conflict with the one new man anymore than the abiding distinction of male and female, both in creation and the governance of the body of Christ, raises any question of disadvantage or inferiority. It is a question of stewardship and not of any presumed spiritual advantage or superiority.

After the body of Christ has been revealed (not newly existing, but newly revealed), the one new man (the regenerated man of the Spirit) exists without distinction or superiority in one place only, “in Christ”! Notwithstanding, the scripture itself recognizes an abiding distinction between Jew and gentile in the creation, just as there remains a distinction in the role of male and female in the natural order. This distinction is preserved, actually quite miraculously, across the ages for a very important purpose. That purpose is to publicly vindicate in open display God’s abiding, covenanted commitment to the “natural branches” “For this is My covenant with THEM when I shall take away THEIR sin ….”

Their covenanted election, and the sovereign power manifested in their corporate salvation will be put beyond all question for a thousand years of open display, as God makes of this people the great object lesson of history. In the salvation of ‘all Israel’ (in the sense that Paul intends that phrase), God is vindicating openly and publicly in the sight of all nations His very purpose in first setting Jacob apart before birth or before behaviour. This was “in order that the purpose of God might stand, not of works but of Him who calls” (Ro 9:11, 16). There it is! God has preserved the visibility and abiding distinction of the Jewish race for this one primary purpose. That purpose is to show in them His ability to bring in, finally and forever, the very people He first brought out (Num 14:11-21).

This He will do by bringing them to the end of their power in the final time of unequaled trouble (Deut 32:36; Dan 12:1, 7), and to the place of regeneration by faith, thus securing their ability to remain safely and permanently in the Land without further threat of the curses of the broken covenant. Only by an ‘everlasting righteousness’ (Dan 9:24; Jer 32:40), that is NOT their own (Isa 45:25; 54:17; Jer 23:5-6), extending not only to a remnant, but to ‘all Israel’ (regenerate Israel) “unto children’s children” (Deut 30:6; Isa 59:21; 65:23; Eze 37:25). Only then can Israel keep their covenanted Land forever in abiding safety and peace. Only by such an eternally secure righteousness can the abiding threat of covenant jeopardy be overcome forever. The thousand years is set apart to mark and make much of this open spectacle of covenant fulfillment.

Only a righteousness that is forever can possess the Land forever. This is the point that God is determined to press upon the nations in an open, visible, undeniable display of sovereign, electing grace and power that will continue unabated for one thousand years before concluding His purpose for this earth in the final perfection of new heavens and new earth. He has a point to make through the Jewish people that is dear to His heart. It is a point that is directed against all forms of pride and self righteousness. How? “They will look upon Him whom they pierced (Zech 12:10; Mt 23:39; Rev 1:7). When?  “From that day and forward” (Eze 39:8, 22, 28-29), “they will all know Me from the least of them to the greatest” (Jer 31:34).

Not only will the penitent survivors of the last tribulation all know Him “from that day and forward”, but this uniformity of salvation will continue “unto children’s children, without fail or exception throughout all their succeeding generations. Sound fantastic, unheard of, inconceivable? Read it there in the scriptures (Isa 4:3-4; 45:17, 25; 54:13; 59:21; 60:21; 61:9; 65:23; 66:22; Jer 31:34; 32:40; Eze 20:40; 37:25; Zeph 3:13, et al).

This is what Paul means when he says, “and so then (when the Deliverer comes to turn away ungodliness from Jacob), ALL Israel shall be saved.” Then will an all-holy nation of penitent survivors be “born in one day” (Isa 66:8; Eze 39:22; Dan 12:1-2; Isa 59:20-21; Zech 3:9; 12:10). Now begins the millennial demonstration of the everlasting covenant that still stands irrevocably with THEM (i.e., the “natural branches”; Ro 11:25-29), thus fulfilling a vast host of OT promises connected to an inviolable, eternal covenant promise that must be fulfilled on this earth with this people (Daniel’s people) in particular (Dan 2:44; 12:1).

This great revelatory seeing of Jesus (not by mere sight, of course, but by the Spirit of revelation, as with Paul on the Damascus road) will secure for the surviving remnant of Israel the everlasting righteousness of the everlasting covenant that is now, according to the revelation of the mystery, available to every penitent believer in the resurrected Jesus. Yet, this revelation must at length break upon the understanding of a final remnant from among the natural branches. This is in order to fulfill all that God promised to that nation in particular. This takes place at no sooner time than the return of Jesus to raise the dead (Dan 12:1-2; Mt 24:29-31). This is the “set time” that He has chosen to “favor Zion” (Ps 102:13). It is the time that His people will have been made “willing in the day of His power” (Ps 110:3).

You are right about some things that dispensationalists are wrong about, but I believe you need to much more carefully consider whether you may be wrong about some things futurists (not necessarily pre-trib dispensationalists), may be right about. It’s the old tendency towards “guilt by association” that tends to toss out the baby (at least parts of the baby) with the proverbial bath water.  It is no wonder that Paul calls this a “mystery” (Ro 11:25), as it will invariably elude prideful self reliance. They will never see rightly who do not approach the revealed mysteries of God with genuine fear and trembling. I’m sure you agree.

Speaking of my intelligence, it may interest you to know that the last grade I finished was the 9th. I can’t imagine charging you, or any other earnest believer honestly seeking the harmony of scripture, with “tickling their intellectual fancies”. :-)

Cordially yours in His great name,

Reggie Kelly

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Reggie Kelly at CBETS [VIDEO]

From a breakout session at the Center for Biblical End Time Studies (CBETS) Symposium “The Glorious Return of Our King” in November of 2019. Thank you to CBETS for allowing us to post this clip here.

CBETS Home • https://www.ihopkc.org/cbets
Symposium Home • https://www.ihopkc.org/cbets/project/symposium-2019

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