Further Thoughts on Divine Right to the Land

God gave Abraham and his descendants the Land as an everlasting possession. He did this when Abraham was in a deep sleep, to show the unilateral and therefore, unconditional nature of the promise. Yet even Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob dwelt as strangers in a Land that they never possessed, but dwelt in tents as sojourners (Acts 7:5; Heb 11:9). The patriarchs knew they were in for a considerable wait (Gen 15:13-16, 50:25), Abraham’s promised inheritance of the Land with Isaac and all his descendants ultimately requires bodily resurrection, most particularly for the elect ‘seed’ of promise, meaning the regenerate children of God. So, this battle over the Land for ultimate fulfillment of the promise was always going to be a very long range struggle, requiring an eschatological conclusion.

Such an eschatological conclusion would not, of course, be required if the Land promise is not to be interpreted literally. But without going into all the details and implications, when understood literally, as manifestly understood by the later prophets, the promise requires an ultimate inheritance by those whom Paul calls the ‘natural branches’, inclusive not only of Christ but also of the Land. However, the Land would never be Israel’s to retain in secure permanence until all the people are righteous by the gift of the Spirit, and preserved in that righteousness forever (“never depart”; Isa 59:21; Jer 32:40).

Time does not permit, but a rather invincible case can be made that this is how the prophets interpreted the promise. It is why Paul will speak of the salvation of “all Israel”, not just the rounding out of the full number of elect Jews, but the time when there would not be a single unsaved Jew alive on the earth – in the millennial age (see Deut 30:6; Isa 4:3; 45:17; 25: 54:13; 59:21; 60:21; 66:22; Jer 31:34; 32:40; Eze 20:40; 37:24-25; 39:22, 28-29; Zeph 3:13, etc).

In the first place, the presently much-debated “Divine right” to the Land was never  based on Israel’s ability to enter it  –  or, once having entered, to retain it. Deut 9:4-6 makes very clear that Israel’s righteousness has nothing to do with their ability to enter the Land and possess it; this is God’s decision, based on His covenant with the Patriarchs, and nothing else. Furthermore, even before Israel enters the Land, Moses tells them they would not be able to hold it long.

Deut 4:26
I call heaven and earth to witness against you this day, that ye shall soon utterly perish from off the land whereunto ye go over Jordan to possess it; ye shall not prolong your days upon it, but shall utterly be destroyed.

Then in Deut 9:24, he gives the reason why:
Yet the Lord hath not given you an heart to perceive, and eyes to see, and ears to hear, unto this day.  All the prophets assume that this condition of national blindness will persist until the Spirit is poured out on the surviving remnant, after a last and unequaled time of trouble ending in the day of the Lord (demonstrable through many scriptures). But they never interpreted this to mean that the Land would never be Israel’s till then, nor that judgment and expulsion could terminate the right of return, even before the eschatological righteousness of eternal promise, as seen in the return under Zerubbabel, Ezra, and Nehemiah.

So yes, Israel’s ability to dwell in the Land in unassailable security (2Sam 7:10; Isa 54:17; Amos 9:15) awaits an eschatological fulfillment of the law, in the revelation of the new covenant, but this obviously never stopped God from giving the Land, nor for sovereignly returning back to the Land a remnant that was manifestly short of meeting the conditions necessary for permanent tenure.

This still-defective condition is why the post-exilic prophet Zechariah, while acknowledging a ‘little reviving’ in the Land, would expect further apostasy in the future, bringing the ultimate judgments of the yet-future day of the Lord. Notwithstanding, the Jew’s homecoming was regarded as a partial fulfillment of covenant promise made ‘irrevocably’ to the fathers (Jer 30:3), even though those who returned for the larger part fell far short of the kind of repentant transformation that will describe the penitent survivors of the last and unequaled tribulation.

Clearly then, Israel’s presence and right to the Land is regarded as an irrevocable gift from God that is never finally revoked, but only temporarily suspended when the threshold of iniquity has reached the point of Divine intolerance.

The ability to hold the Land is not the basis for the gift. The Land is a lesson in the nature of righteousness, because the only way God could have given the Land to Jacob’s descendants as an everlasting possession is if He had already determined within Himself to also give them the only kind of righteousness that can keep it. This is what Daniel means by the “bringing in of everlasting righteousness”. It is God’s own righteousness wrought in His elect by the Spirit’s imputation of Christ’s righteousness.

The kingdom of God on earth waits for this great event. This is why the dilemma of the Land is really nothing more than the dilemma or crisis of the covenant in general. The great question was always how does a hopelessly unrighteous people inherit a final and secure inheritance that is conditional on their ‘permanent’ fulfillment of the conditions of the covenant? It is to ask the question that Gal 3:17 answers:

And this I say, that the covenant, that was confirmed before of God in Christ, the law, which was four hundred and thirty years after, cannot dis-annul, that it should make the promise of none effect. For if the inheritance be of the law, it is no more of promise: but God gave it to Abraham by promise.

Add as many conditions as you will. The promise is not afraid of conditions because it doesn’t depend on man! The gift could be as freely given to Abraham’s descendants as to faithful Abraham. Why? Because the gift never depended on Israel anymore than it depended on Abraham, but all is at best only partially and temporarily received in this age, pointing ever on to the necessity of ultimate, eternally imperishable resurrection, glorification, and the end of death (1Cor 15:26).

Abraham did not participate in the making of the covenant. This was to show that God Himself alone would see to the full and righteous fulfillment of all of its provisions. He would provide Himself, not only as the sacrifice but as the fulfill-er of all the conditions of the law, as He would become their only all-sufficient righteousness (Isa 54:17).

So the question, not only as to the ultimate salvation of “all Israel”, but no less, of their ‘everlasting’ inheritance of the Land, God most wisely puts on a basis that is manifestly wholly of grace, requiring nothing short of an event of resurrection life. Only then will a habitually backsliding people be able to keep the Land forever because of an indwelling righteousness that is forever, even “the Lord our righteousness” (Jer 23:5-6).

In the meantime, God has every right to give the Land to whom He will, despite their inability to hold it. He has been long-suffering with Israel all these years, whether in or out of the Land, and during the whole time of their exile, the Land has never ceased to be theirs by covenant promise, NOT by the conditions of the law, although the curse of the law upon disobedience would continue to threaten.

From the beginning God has made it obviously clear that Israel’s ability to inherit the Land in abiding peace and righteousness does not lie in an obedience that is in their power to supply. Rather, it lies in God’s predestined purpose to provide the required obedience on their behalf through His Son, and then in and through them by His Spirit at the appointed time, and never sooner! (Ps 102:13).

Until that time, the Land is regarded as theirs only because it is His to give as He wills, to whom He wills, and under the conditions that He grants (Joel 3:2). The entire end-time controversy is over the Land, and the nations are held to great account by their disregard of the covenant, proof of which is their willing, even celebratory instrumentality in the public exhibition of the final severity of covenant discipline upon Israel, to the point of arrogating the land to themselves.

This should tell us that God is using the Land to demonstrate something about the kind of grace that defines the nature of true gospel righteousness. It is a grace that doesn’t depend on man! The issue of the Land and the ability to possess and keep what God has irrevocably given is the Divinely-ordained test case that illustrates this.

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Israel Regathered in Unbelief

What are the Scriptures that you know of that speak of the preliminary regathering of Israel in unbelief?

There are only a few, but of those few, there is one that is especially clear. That is Eze 38:8.

I’ll give you the ones I can think of right off the top below, but what is far more to the point of our argument is the many scriptures that show Israel present and prospering in the Land at the time of the end? If they weren’t there for 19 centuries how did they get there? Whether we say that God brought them back or they got their on their own as an accident of history, it cannot be disputed that for the scripture to be fulfilled, Israel has to be back in the Land.

Now, is the Land they’re in today theirs by divine, or better stated “covenant right” by the promise and providence of God before and despite their unbelief, or is the modern, largely secular Jewish state their by happenstance of secular Zionism and human effort?

Can God not use human initiative, even the decree of a pagan king such as Cyrus to accomplish His purpose? Does the human element make the end result any less ordained by God? Can such a human process be divinely directed? Of course it can as the following scriptures confirm.

But is this the final and complete regathering foretold in the far greater number of return passages the presuppose prior repentance and faith? Of course it is not, as the following passages also make clear.

One of the clearest passages presupposing the return as partial, in unbelief and prior to the full and repentant return at the DOL is

Ezekiel 38:8
After many days thou shalt be visited: in the latter years thou shalt come into the land that is brought back from the sword, and is gathered out of many people, against the mountains of Israel, which have been always waste: but it is brought forth out of the nations, and they shall dwell safely all of them.

Noice this is before the invasion by the last hostile aggressor, the Antichrist of whom, not one but “ALL” the prophets spoke, so this is clearly the Antichrist and incarnation of Satan anticipated by the Assyrian, the Chaldean, Antiochus, and all the great proto-types of the final man of lawlessness, the little horn, beast, etc.

Ezekiel 38:16-17
And thou shalt come up against my people of Israel, as a cloud to cover the land; it shall be in the latter days, and I will bring thee against my land, that the heathen may know me, when I shall be sanctified in thee, O Gog, before their eyes. Thus saith the Lord God; Art thou he of whom I have spoken in old time by my servants the prophets of Israel, which prophesied in those days many years that I would bring thee against them?

Now notice that this is before the long awaited DOL that ends in Israel’s regeneration and return to the last person.

Ezekiel 39:7-8
So will I make my holy name known in the midst of my people Israel; and I will not let them pollute my holy name any more: and the heathen shall know that I am the Lord, the Holy One in Israel.
Behold, it is come, and it is done, saith the Lord God; this is the day whereof I have spoken. (Compare Rev 16:17).

Then, with Gog’s destruction by the breath of the Lord follows this statement

Ezekiel 39:21-22
And I will set my glory among the heathen, and all the heathen shall see my judgment that I have executed, and my hand that I have laid upon them. So the house of Israel shall know that I am the Lord their God from that day and forward.

Then follows the final and permanent return in faith.

Ezekiel 39:28-29
Then shall they know that I am the Lord their God, which caused them to be led into captivity among the heathen: but I have gathered them unto their own land, and have left none of them any more there. Neither will I hide my face any more from them: for I have poured out my spirit upon the house of Israel, saith the Lord God.

There is another good scripture in Ezekiel that shows the prior regathering in unbelief while yet facing the purifications of the tribulation that ends with the DOL.

Ezekiel 22:18-22
Therefore thus saith the Lord God; Because ye are all become dross, behold, therefore I will gather you into the midst of Jerusalem. As they gather silver, and brass, and iron, and lead, and tin, into the midst of the furnace, to blow the fire upon it, to melt it; so will I gather you in mine anger and in my fury, and I will leave you there, and melt you. Yea, I will gather you, and blow upon you in the fire of my wrath, and ye shall be melted in the midst thereof. As silver is melted in the midst of the furnace, so shall ye be melted in the midst thereof; and ye shall know that I the Lord have poured out my fury upon you.

Another would be Zephaniah 2:1-3

Gather yourselves together, yea, gather together, O nation not desired; Before the decree bring forth, before the day pass as the chaff, before the fierce anger of the Lord come upon you, before the day of the Lord’s anger come upon you. Seek ye the Lord, all ye meek of the earth, which have wrought his judgment; seek righteousness, seek meekness: it may be ye shall be hid in the day of the Lord’s anger.

Another would be Jeremiah 30:3

For, lo, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will bring again the captivity of my people Israel and Judah, saith the Lord: and I will cause them to return to the land that I gave to their fathers, and they shall possess it.

And this is just before the announcement of the surprising anomaly of Jacob’s trouble inserting itself between the pre-trouble and the post-trouble return of the ultimate DOL that Daniel also shows to end with his people’s deliverance (Jer 30:7 with Dan 12:1)

Notice too that Dan 12:1 sees Israel in the Land as a nation before the trouble, as does Zech 12, 14, Joel 2, and a considerable host of other scriptures that put Israel in the Land as a viable and prospering nation when the end comes.

These conditions were impossible until the last century, but Israel’s modern ‘occupation’ of the Land is NOT covenantally significant? Really? Who told you that? May I suggest Satan?

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The Purview of the Everlasting Covenant

We aim in the upcoming course to show the relationship between the old and new covenants and to investigate what had and what hasn’t changed. There is both continuity and discontinuity. Actually, your question is one of the more difficult questions of theology. On one level, nothing could be plainer than that there are simply two covenants, one that has passed, and one that has come in fulfillment of Jeremiah’s prophecy (Jer. 31:31-34). This is clear in the book of Hebrews, and in 2 Cor. 3:6.

However, we see in rom. 11:25-29, there is reference to a covenant that remains outstanding with Israel (“the natural branches”, ie. the Jew as Jew, and the nation as nation) that is to be fulfilled in the future. What covenant is this? Clearly, it is the same new covenant that is already ratified eternally in the sacrifice of Messiah. Still, it is not completely fulfilled in its stated provisions until all Israel is saved” (Rom. 11:26, 27). “But this shall be the covenantthat I will make with the house of Israel, after those days, saith the LORD, I will putmy law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And they shall teach no moreevery man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, Know the LORD, for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the LORD: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more” (Jer. 31:33-34; see also Isa. 39:20-21, in context).

We will show that according to the provisions of the New Covenant, the salvation of “all Israel” signifies an eschatological contrast to the perennial presence of a remnant that has always remained in the midst of a predominantly apostate nation. The context of Jeremiah’s new covenant points to the Old Testament Day of the Lord, when a remnant that has survived “Jacob’s trouble” (and only those will survive who are appointed to salvation) become a new nation, “born in a day” (Isa. 66: 7—9), the iniquity of the land is “cleansed in one day” (Zech. 3:9,10). From this time, there will never again be a remnant in the land, because the whole of the nation “from the least to the greatest” will all know the Lord, and will be preserved in holiness for the duration of the thousand years. That is to say, because the covenant is fulfilled in their national and collective obedience, there is no longer a remnant, but the entire nation is preserved in an everlasting righteousness” (Jer. 32:40; Dan. 9:24).

Because the law is fulfilled, as there is now a new heart of faithful obedience shared by the entirety of the nation, there is also no further threat of exile, no longer the inevitable recurrence of national disruption through covenant violation (Lev. 26; Deut. 28-32). The chronic tendency to backslide that placed the nation in perpetual covenant jeopardy is now replace by a new and lively spirit that can, and by the law of an inherent new nature, will ‘certainly’ persevere in righteousness according to the tenor of the following passages:

“Behold, I will gather them out of all countries, whither I have driven them in mine anger, and in my fury, and in great wrath; and I will bring them again unto this place, and I will cause the to dwell safely: And they shall be my people, and I will be their God. And I will given them one heart, and one way, that they may fear me for ever, for the good of them, and of their children after them: And I will make an everlastingcovenant with the, that I will not turn awayfrom them, to do them good; but I will putmy fear in their hearts, that they shall not departfrom me. Yea, I will rejoice over them to do them good, and I will plant them in this land assuredly with my whole heart and with my whole soul. For thus saith the LORD; Like as I have brought all this great evil upon this people, so will I bring upon them all the good that I have promised them: (Jer. 32: 37-42).

“ In those days, and in that time, saith the LORD, the iniquity of Israel shall be sought for, and there shall be none, and the sins of Judah, and they shall not be found: for I will pardon them whom I reserve: (Jer. 50:20).

“Thy people also shall be all righteous; they shall inherit the land forever, the branch of my planting, the work of my hands, that I may be glorified(Isa. 60:2).

“In that day shall the branch of the LORD be beautiful and glorious, and the fruit of the earth shall be excellent and comely for them that are escapedof Israel. And it shall come to pass, that he that is leftin Zion, and he that remainethin Jerusalem, shall be called holy, even every onethat is written among the living in Jerusalem” (Isa. 4:2-3).

“But Israel shall be saved in the LORD with an everlasting salvation: ye shall not be ashamed nor confounded world without end…In the LORD shall allthe seed of Israel be justified, and shall glory” (Isa. 45:17, 25).

“And the Redeemer shall come to Zion, and unto them that turn from transgression in Jacob, saith the LORD. As for me, this is my covenant with them, saith the LORD: My spirit that is upon thee, and my words, which I have put in thy mouth, shall not departout of thy mouth, nor out of the mouth of thy seed, nor out of the mouth of thy seed’s seed, saith the LORD, from henceforth and for ever: (Jer. 31:33034; see also Isa. 59:20-21).

And so, Ezekiel and the other prophets: “For I will take you from among the heathen, and gather you out of all countries, and will bring you into your own land. Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you. A new heartalso will I giveyou, and a new spiritwill I putwithin you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and causeyou to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keepmy judgments, and dothem. And ye shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers; and ye shall be my people, and I will be your God. I will also save you from all your uncleanness….” (Ezek. 37:24-29).

“For the children of Israel shall abide many days without a king, and without a prince, and without a sacrifice. And without an image, and without an ephod, and without teraphim; Afterward shall the children of Israel return, and seek the LORD their God, and David their king; and shall fear the LORD and his goodness in the latter days” (Hos. 3:4-5).

“Therefore wait ye upon me, saith the LORD, until the daythat 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, even all my fierce anger: for all the earth shall be devoured with the fire of my jealousy. For then will I turn to the people a pure language, that they may all call upon the name of the LORD, to serve him with one consent…The remnant of Israel shall not do iniquity, nor speak lies; neither shall a deceitful tongue be found in their mouth: for they shall feed and lie down, and none shall make them afraid” (Zeph. 3:8-13).

“And I will strengthen the house of Judah, and I will save the house of Joseph, and I will bring them again to place them; for I have mercy upon them: and they shall be as thought I had not cast them off: for I am the LORD their God, and will hear them…In that day there shall be a fountain opened to the house of David and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem for sin and for uncleanness: (Zech. 10:6; 13:1).

This is not to multiply passages merely to prove a point; though many more that say essentially the same thing could be cited almost indefinitely rather, it is to give you a sense of just what Paul has in mind when he says that the salvation of “all” Israel is according to “my covenant with them when I shalltake away their sin” (Rom. 11:27). This is clearly future; it concerns the “natural branches” that are currently “enemiesof the gospel”. This is, of course, the same New Covenant that the church (through the revelation of the mystery) has entered upon in unexpected advance of the Day of the Lord, in contrast to the expected “restoration of the kingdom to Israel” (Acts 1:6, 3:21; compare also Dan. 2:44 with Rev. 17:12 demonstrating the manifest futurity  of this restoration of the kingdom “to Israel”).

Now consider also that until one is in Christ, there is no true fulfillment of the law, and so one remains “under” the law for condemnation and not for blessing, because the blessing is only to the doer (Lev. 18:5). But there is no acceptable doing of the law except through the gift of the Spirit received by faith. This is why Israel stumbled even before Jesus came. Paul explains that Israel’s historic error was their failure to pursue the holiness of the law by faith (Rom. 9:32). Instead, Israel turned the standard of righteousness into a work of human ‘do-ability’. This is quintessential humanism; it is “confidence in the flesh” (Phil.3:3-r), a condition so resilient and intractable that it continues to war against the believer as well (2 Cor. 1:9, 12:7).

When the law was revealed from Mt. Sinai, it stood forth in its holiness as humanly unapproachable (Ex. 19, Heb. 12:18-21). Till this day, this is Israel’s humanly insoluble predicament. Israel remains under the curse of the broken covenant UNTIL the law is fulfilled by the creation of a new heart, and a new spirit. And until the law is consistently kept by the entire nation, there can be no final refuge from terror, and no lasting possession of the land. There is no discharge from that covenant except through fulfillment of the righteousness that it demands, but cannot confer.

The Abrahamic and Davidic covenants are both defined as “everlasting” (Gen. 17:7, 2 Sam. 23:5, Ps. 105:10, Isa. 55:3, 61:8, Jer. 31:35-37, 32:40, 33:25-26, Ezek. 37:26 et al), and belong to :my covenant (Gen. 17:19, Ex. 6:4, Lev. 26:42, 44, Ps. 89:28, 34, Isa. 59:21, Jer. 33:20-21, 25-26) “WITH THEM”(ie. the “natural” branches). This covenant is both fulfilled and unfulfilled. It is fulfilled in Christ, and with all who are in Christ. However, an essential feature of the covenant remains outstanding and unfulfilled until every Jewish soul living after Christ’s return will them be in Christ “from the day and forward” (Ezek.39:22, Acts 3:19-21, Rom. 11:25-27).

Significantly, God describes the broken law as “my covenant” in Jer. 31:32, as it is distinguished from the “new” covenant announced in the proceeding verse. Here, God calls the broken covenant “my covenant”, a term used elsewhere of the “everlasting” covenant. It is the same covenant that Paul unmistakeably identifies with the new covenant still to be established with the natural branches (Rom. 11;27 with Isa. 59:21 and Jer. 31:31-34). 

God seems to look upon the covenant in its distinct stages as a single and perpetual covenant that is both conditional and unconditional. And, whether this “everlasting” covenant is regarded as “old” from the standpoint of its failure, (because of human incapability), or “new” in its Divinely assured success (because of the promise of regeneration through Messiah’s atonement), it remains throughout, “My covenant” (compare esp. Jer. 31:32 with Isa. 59:21 and Rom.11:27). 

A comparison of these passages suggests that it is the same covenant, but differently regarded in different relationships. Viewed from the standpoint of Israel’s chronic failure, and the pessimism of the prophets concerning Israel’s spiritual capacity to fulfill its demands, the covenant is “old”, failed, and ineffectual. But viewed from the standpoint of God’s sovereign resolve to establish the covenant on the basis of grace and Divine enabling, it is new and everlasting. But the same covenant in both relations is called “the everlasting covenant”. It never ceases to be conditional, but its abiding conditionality cannot frustrate the promise, because it is God who unconditionally assures that its conditions are fulfilled on the human side as well.

On man’s part, the covenant is indeed quite breakable (Duet. 31:16, Isa. 24:5, with Jer. 31:32), but on God’s part, it is eternally secure, because it is sure of success through the power and determination of God (Isa. 59:21 with Jer. 31:31-34; 32:37-41). Therefore, we can say that the covenant that can never be fulfilled ‘by’ the people of the promise is nevertheless fulfilled ‘for’ them that it might be fulfilled ‘in’ them. Thus, when we speak of the unconditionality of the covenant, we assume, not the removal of its conditions, but the certainty of an eschatological Divine initiative that guarantees God’s own fulfillment of its human side. 

This is done for His people through the Messianic atonement, that it might be fulfilled in them through the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit. This gift is poured out upon “all Israel” in the great Day of the Lord (Is. 59:20-21, Ezek. 39:29, Joel 2:28-32; 3L14-21, Zech. 12:10-13:1), the grand demonstration in all of this is that there can be only one source of covenant fulfillment, because as Jesus said, “there is none good but one, that is, God!” (Matt. 19;17). Herein lies the key to Israel’s historic blindness and covenant failure (Rom. 9:32).

If, as some affirm, Israel is no longer “under the law”, and therefore no longer in jeopardy of its violation, no longer under the curse, then why is history such an open witness of the continued disciplines and judgments threatened in the covenant? (Lev. 26, Deut. 28-32). No one can read the threats of the covenant without being compelled to recognize that they are remarkably current in their fulfillment. Yes, anti-Semitism is indeed satanic. Nevertheless, the scripture is abundant in its testimony that God employs evil for the correction of His people (Isa. 10:5-6, 15, Ezek. 38:4). Even as Jesus said to Pilate; “You could have no power against me at all, but it be given you from above (Jn. 19:11).

This could as well be said of Satan in particular, whose limits are set by the sovereignty of God. So, while certainly, Satan is behind anti-Semitism, God is behind Satan. We know this because the Scripture is clear that if Israel (all Israel) should keep the covenant from the heart, God would make “even his enemies to be at peace with him” (Prov. 16:7). Then would Israel lie down in safety, and none make them afraid” (Lev. 25:18, 26:6, Deut. 12:10, 33:28; Hos.2:18).

But so long as such blessing is conditional on a obedience that is beyond Israel’s natural capacity to fulfill, the nation must continue in its tragic condition until “the day of His power” (Ps. 110:3). “In thatday”, the people will be “willing and obedient”, and thus will “eat the good of the land” (Isa. 1:19). In other words, the debarring “if” of the covenant’s conditional aspect will be overcome by unconditional Divine determination in the Day of the Lord (‘the day of His power”).

This is “the set time…the time appointed” to favor Zion” (Ps. 102:13, Dan. 11:27, 35, Ezek. 29:22). This is the great eschatological “UNTIL’ that stand between the “in part” of Rom.11:25, and the “all” of verse 26. It is the same “UNTIL” that appears in Mt. 23:39, Lk. 21:24, Acts 3:21, and many other such instances throughout the Psalms and the prophets. It marks the transition between an Israel that is saved “in part” (the remnant), and an eschatological “fulness” when every Jewish person, without exception, will be established in” everlasting righteousness” (Dn. 9:24) as a standing witness to the nations of God’s sovereignty in grace. It is the eschatological vindication of the everlasting covenant. Then it will be irresistibly visible “in the sight of all nations” that Israel is “the work of His hands” (Isa. 45:11; 60:21).

This witness “in the sight of all nations” (Ps. 98:2; Ezek. 28:25-26; 39:27) is the more remarkable and supernatural in view of the fact that renewed Israel exists as Spirit-filled believers (Joel 2:28-29; Isa. 44:3; 59:21, Ezek. 36:27; 37:14; 39:29), serving the Lord in natural bodies (Isa. 65:20-23; Ezek. 39:9-16; Zech. 14:16-19). And though there will be great evangelism among the nations (Isa. 2:3; 66:18-22; Zech. 8:23),it is only among the Jews that such uniform regeneration exists as to render Jewish evangelism forever unnecessary (Jer. 3:34; Ezek. 39:28).  Such is the nature of God’s intention for millennial Israel. Israel thus becomes the ultimate demonstration of the nature of the covenant, and of the sovereignty of grace in salvation, and so it is intended. As the Jew is to be provoked to jealousy through the Church’s fulness even so will the nations, “in that day” be likewise provoked to emulation through the demonstration of a nation among the family nations whose entire population is born again. “How much more their fulness!” “what shall the receiving of them be, but life from the dead!” (rom.11:12, 15). Israel’s future glory defines the nature of the New Covenant.

[Note:Let the future of the covenant as it will be displayed in Israel throughout the Millennium instruct and inspire the church to more fully apprehend and appropriate the implications of such a covenant for its own life and faith, even amid the conflict that persists in this present evil age before Satan is bound. By New Testament standards, the saints as stewards of the mysteries should recognize, appropriate, and exhibit the power of this eschatological demonstration in advance of Israel’s eschatological fulness by the 
Spirit of revelation, as custodians of the “secret of the Lor”, which is the covenant of salvation. (2 Sam. 23:5, Ps. 25:14; 91:16), known only by revelation (Isa. 8:16; 53:1, Dan. 11:32; 12:9-10).]

As a brief aside, it should be noted that coextensive with Israel’s Millennial blessedness is the binding of Satan (Rev. 20:2), and this is coincident with the destruction of the veil that is cast over all nations (Isa. 25:7). There is a manifest correlation between these events and the “finishing of the mystery of God” at the sounding of the seventh angel/trumpet (Rev. 10:7). It is no mere happenstance that with the sounding of the seventh angel, the mystery is “finished”, the veil is destroyed, and “the kingdoms of this world are now become the kingdom of our God and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever.” (Rev. 11:15; compare also 1 Cor. 15:51-54 with Isa. 25:7-8; 26:16-21; 27-13). 

The end of the age is waiting on a revelation event that comes to “the escaped of Israel” (Is. 4:2), and this happens with the return of Christ, the Deliverer who comes out of Zion (Isa. 59:21; Joel 3:16; Ro. 11:26). The return of Christ “immediately after the tribulation of those days” (Mt. 24:29-31) concludes Daniel’s 70thweek of years (Dan 9:24). Until this point, the vision is ‘closed up”, “shut up”, “sealed up” (Dan. 9:24), “bound up”, and “hidden” (Isa 78:16-17; 29:11) from Israel (compare also Deut. 31:17-18; 32:20 with Ezk 39:29). The “times of the Gentiles” (Lk 21:24) is coextensive with the time of Israel’s national blindness (Ro 11:7-10, 25-27), a blindness that many scriptures show terminates with the Day of the Lord. This is very significant because it shows the relationship of the New Covenant to the revelation of “the mystery of the gospel” (Eph 6:19). This means that god has predetermined a “set time”, (compare Ps 102;13, Dan 9:24-27; 11:27, 35; Ezk 39:22), that He will reveal Christ and the gospel to the beleaguered nation (Zech 12:10-13:1), who will call with one consent on the name of the Lord (Joel 2:32, Mt 23:39) “in the day of their calamity” (Deut 32:35, Ezk 35:5; Obad 13). “For that that is determined shall be done.” (Dan 11:36)]

The final crisis is precipitated most specifically over the covenant. Clearly, the conflict that will engage and test all nations throughout the period of Jacob’s trouble has all to do with “the controversy of Zion” (Ps 2, Isa 34:8, Zech 12:2-3). The Authorized Version terms it “the quarrel of my covenant” (Lev 26-25 KJV). The nations rage, and Jerusalem is made “a cup of trembling” and “a burdensome stone”, precisely because of the abiding significance of the ‘literal’ city, land, and people of the covenant. And who will deny that scripture builds the closing scenes of prophetic and apocalyptic eschatology around the holy land? In both testaments, it is the ‘literal’ people, land, and city that are depicted as most violently under siege at the time of the end. Ironically, these are the particular aspects of the covenant that most of Christendom has traditionally regarded as obsolete, belonging to an “old” covenant. Has the church’s appropriation of the new covenant disannulled the literal aspects that once distinguished and defined the “everlasting” covenant? May it never be! A pompous Christendom (Ro 11:25) may forget, but He will not forget! (Isa 49:15).

But regardless of how unknown, disregarded, or misread this covenant may be in the minds of men, the principalities and powers know well its meaning, and viciously oppose it. Satanic hatred becomes a sign of the covenant’s abiding significance! Therefore, Jacob’s trouble represents, on one hand, the satanic assault of nations against the land and people of the covenant (Lev 26, Deut 28-32 et al), on a people who have not attained to the obedience of the ‘new’ covenant, and are therefore under the abiding wrath of the ‘old’ covenant.

[Note:Until Israel will be “in Christ”, they are yet “of the law”, and “under” its curse (Ga. 3:10). Until Christ is revealed to the heart, all persons are “under” the curse of the broken “first” of “old” covenant (Jer 31:31-32, 2 Cor 3:14, Heb 8:13), because by definition, “sin is the transgression of the law” (1 Jn 3:4). So let none suggest that because Christ has come and fulfilled the law, Israel is no longer “under” the threat of the broken covenant. Such pitiful theology reveals a sanguine and humanistic superficiality that ill prepares the church for what should have been its prophetic expectation and responsibility.]

Does God’s covenant remain steadfast with Israel in spite of their failure to recognize either its promise or its threat? This question will become especially critical for the church as we near the end of the age. The Holocaust is proof that Jewish disregard for the covenant provides no asylum from its “vengeance” (Lev 26:25). The same is true of the nations who have before, and will again, stumble over the same covenant. And the nations that despise or disregard God’s covenantal prerogatives towards Israel will likewise drink of the cup of Divine indignation for the pride of their rebellion. In the paradox of God’s sovereignty, it is both God that brings the Gentile powers down )Ezk 38:4, 17, Zech 14:1-4) against “the people of my wrath” (Isa 10:6, Lk 21:23), and it is God who judges the presumption of the nations for their complicity in Satan’s hatred and defiance of God’s covenant, particularly as it concerns the land and people of Israel, a defiance that many scriptures show is inspired by demons (Ps. 2, Rev. 16:14), because Jerusalem is the city of the great King, the locus of Christ’s Millennial rule.

[Note:It is interesting to ponder the logic of Satan’s futile opposition to God’s rule. From the beginning the war has been over the Word: “Hath God said?” “the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy” (Rev. 19:10b). If the sovereignty of the prophetic Word can be at any point prevented, then the God in whose living presence the demons will be eternally tormented cannot exist, because if the Word of God can fail, then the God of the Word does not exist, and Satan is not doomed. This also explains why the nations are depicted in a demonic frenzy as Satan sees that his time is short. It is therefore instructive to observe what Satan is most committed to oppose.]

The powers o darkness know the threat that the ‘literal’ land,, people, and city pose to their usurping rule, and this is why the nations rage (Ps. 2:1). The principalities and powers (Dan 10:12-13, 20) move the nations to defy the covenant, because they know better than the church what the Jewish resettlement of the land signifies. It is the presence of a ‘recent’ returned nation (Ezk 38:8), still in a state of unbelief, and facing imminent Divine discipline (Zeph 2:1-2, Jer 30:7, Ezk 22:17-22, Dan 12P1), that signals the imminence of Messiah’s rule over all nations (Ps2, Rev 11:15-18), and the final displacement of the false “rulers, authorities, and cosmic powers of this dark age” (Eph 6:12 TEV). This “regathering” in unbelief is viewed as both human (Zeph 2:1-2), and Divine (Jer 30:3-7, Ezk 38:8). This is most certainly the order of return, because it is the nation’s continued state of unbelief and covenant defection that makes the Divine discipline of Jacob’s trouble necessary.

As previously noted, it is only as the new covenant is fulfilled in the salvation of “all Israel” (at 
Christ’s return) that the beleaguered nation will know undisturbed tranquility and enduring possession of the land. Though the Jew may dwell in the land for an extended period under even a provisional blessing, until the nation can keep the covenant, it cannot keep the land. Until the covenant is fulfilled by an enduring righteousness that extends to the entire nation at once and forever, Jewish tenure in the land is probationary at best. 

And when has it ever been otherwise throughout Israel’s history? Except for a remnant, and the rare occasion of a fleeting revival, the nation, form its inception, had never shown any other tendency than to slide backwards.  Still in spite of persistent covenant disobedience and the judgment of exile, restoration to Divine favor always meant restoration to the land, because the land continued to be regarded as Israel’s inalienable possession: “Thee are the people of the Lord, and are gone forth out of His land” (Ezk 36:24). As long as the covenant shall stand, possession of the land can never pass to “another people” (Lev 20:24, Dan 2:44).

This inexorable decree will be defiantly rejected and violently opposed by the nations (primarily Islamic, the descendants of Esau in particular – Ezk 35-36:11; 38-39). These nations will constitute a multinational (ten kings?) confederacy that will suddenly and unexpectedly descend upon the land people of the covenant. And though these historic enemies of the covenant will be violently overthrown in the Day of the Lord, and fearfully condemned for their “perpetual hatred” of Jacob, it is necessary (in view of other clear prophetic passages that describe a brief 3 1/2- year period that is bounded by two distinct invasions of the land) to infer that these nations do not meet with immediate judgment, but have an initial success against Israel, bringing upon the Jews the final desolations threatened in the covenant and in prophecy (Mt 24:15-21).

In our time, God has once more brought the Jews home, not to the lasting peace of the covenant, but rather to a final crucible of Divine pleading, (though there may be a brief period of deceptive peace through the Jews’ presumptuous covenant with Antichrist). This surprising anomaly in the order of return is anticipated in Jeremiah’s prophecy of Jacob’s trouble (Jer 30:4-7). What the Jews will now experience in the land will test and uncover (Isa 28:15-17) the true poverty of its condition, the cause, and at length, the cure of the nation’s perpetual predicament. If we read the prophets correctly, the present return is a final trust and stewardship of the land that is Divinely intended to compel Jews to grapple with the implications of an ignored covenant bond, its promises and threats, and ultimately, the necessity of the promised Redeemer, who is the goal of the covenant. But also, the issue of the land is designed to press the issue of the covenant on the consciousness of the nations.

Prophecy indicates that this final test of the nation’s stewardship of the land ends again in covenant failure, invasion, desolation, and expulsion. Even after a future space of security in the land (though tenuous and apparently under the auspices of an unholy league with the Antichrist), the nation’s spiritual condition is manifested in that its sins increase under these deceptively tranquil conditions (Ezk 39:26 in context of 38:8, 11, 14 with Isa 28:15-18, Dan 9:27;11:22, 31;12:11, Mt 24:15, Jer 30:7). Always, throughout the prophets, and reiterated in the eschatology of Jesus, Paul, and John, Israel’s final distress before millennial glory is set in the context of an apostate Jewish presence recently regathered to the land (Zeph 2:1-2, Ezk 38:8, Jer 30:4-7), and existing again as a “nation” (Dan 12:1).

Nonetheless, however tenuous and threatened by covenant defection, the land remains Israel’s by sovereign unconditional election. We must distinguish between Israel’s conditional enjoyment of the covenant and God’s sovereign right to unconditionally give the blessing to ‘whom He will’: “For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth” Rom 9:11). Hence, Jewish possession of the land is an inalienable part of the everlasting covenant, and this recognition is Divinely required of the nations, regardless of Israel’s temporal spiritual status. Israel’s temporal spiritual fitness is not the criterion by which God judges the nations concerning their attitude towards the covenant.

It is true that Jewish generational descent is no guarantee of anything but of certain judgment if the covenant is not fulfilled by personal and national holiness. No generation of the Jews may hope for enduring personal or national peace, apart from the righteousness of faith. However, though the conditional and temporal aspects of the covenant may be suspended through disobedience, and individually denied, the eternal and unconditional aspects of the covenant are never removed from the Jews corporately considered, ie. as a distinct people with an aboding “special Divine status”, precisely because of God’s sovereign prerogative to “quicken who He will”.

It is not just God’s ability to overcome Israel’s inability that makes the covenant sure, but it is His sovereign determination to overcome Israel’s natural unwillingness (Ezk 20:33-37) in the “day of His power”, “the set time”, “the time appointed” (Ps 1092:13, Dan 8:19; 11:27, 35). The conditions of the covenant are not set aside. It is just that God has unconditionally predetermined to enable this particular people, at a predetermined time, to fulfill all of the conditions that make the blessing of the covenant both certain and everlasting Prophecy is not mere foresight; it is the declared foreordination of God, the sovereign Creator who “does according to His will in the army of heaven” (Dan 4:35). And though Antichrist exalts himself to “do according to his will” (Dan 11:36), such autonomous ‘freedom’ cannot frustrate or exceed the limits set by God’s predetermined purpose: “for that that is determined shall be done” (Isa 14:24-27, Dan 11:36). 

It is the power and certainty of God’s predestinating grace that is the surety of the covenant and the consolation of all saints (see 2 Sam 23:5, Ps 89:28-34, Isa 55:3, Ro 8:28-39, Eph 1:11, 2 Tim 2:19). Though the covenant remains in constant jeopardy on the Jewish side until the bringing in of an “everlasting righteousness” (Jer. 32:20, Dan 9:24), the gift and promise of the land is not removed, but stands forever with this people only (Amos 3:2, Dan 2:44). 

God is free and righteous to distinguish! It is the prerogative of His rule as God. And Israel is the historical proof of this Divine prerogative. However blessed the nations through Israel’s national resurrection, the stewardship of this particular land belongs exclusively with this particular people, because of god’s intended purpose to make of Israel a visible, compelling, and consummately instructive exhibition to al nations of the sovereignty of His rule.

However ignorant, indifferent, or hostile, the nations are finally accountable for their attitude toward the covenant. Though Israel does not spiritually ‘qualify’ for undisturbed tranquility or enduring possession of the land, it is nonetheless the assault of the nations against the pole and land of the covenant that provokes God’s ultimate indignation against them: “then shall my fury come up in my face” (Ezk 38:18). God regards the world’s disregard and defiance of His covenant as an arrogant assault on Himself. But observe carefully that his ‘latter days’ multinational invasion takes place ‘while’ Israel is yet under covenant judgment. May the church of Jesus Christ hasten to observe this, because most of Christendom will also stumble over this ‘rock of offense’ that the covenant (“My covenant”) will be to the nations! [Note: Of course, the ‘rock of offense’ has first to do with the mystery of Messiah, but as we show elsewhere, this mystery touches both of Messiah’s advents to Israel, and has everything to do with the covenant.]

God, in the wisdom that is able to employ even the greatest of evils to show the sovereignty of His judgment and the glory of His grace, brings the presumptuous nations against ‘the people of His wrath’ (Isa 10:6, Lk 21:22-23), but utterly opposes the motives and pride of their demonically-inspired enterprise (cf. Ezk  38:16-23, Zech 14:2-4, Rev 16:14). To deny Jewish inheritance of the land, even on the basis of Jewish covenant failure, is to deny the covenant. 

Moreover, it is to deny “the foundation of the Lord”, because it denies the basis of election and grace. “Nevertheless, the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are His” (2 Tim 2:19 KJV). Not only does the Lord “know them that are His” (“my sheep”), but He knows them before they know Him. And so it is with God’s covenant with Israel, though it has conditions, it is not based on human ability to fulfill those conditions, but is is based on God’s predetermination to “give repentance” (Acts 5:31, 1 Tim 2:25), to have mercy on “whom He will” have mercy, and to quicken “whom He will” (Jn 5:21, Ro 9:18). It is the sovereign “whom He will” of grace that is the ultimate foundation of the everlasting (new)covenant. “for the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand. So then, it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy” (Ro 9:11, 16 KJV).

It is to this end, and in demonstration of this principle that God has made His covenant with Israel both literal and visible. The Jew is preserved in ethnic distinction (Jer 3:35-37) to show to all the helplessness of man and the sovereignty of grace. The power of this demonstration lies in its visible (literal) display with a specific race, whose distinction does not exist for its own sake (Ezk 36:32), but for the sake of the glory of God. Such demonstration intends the ultimate humbling of the nations, and the saving of many, as the nations are made to recognize the righteousness of God’s magisterial prerogatives in both judgment and grace towards Israel. “And the nations will know that the people of Israel went into exile for their sin, because they were unfaithful to me. So I hid my face from them and handed the over to their enemies, and they all fell by the sword” (Ezk 39:23). “Thus saith the LORD of hosts; in those days it shall come to pass, that ten men shall take hold out of all languages of the nations, even shall take hold of the skirt of him that is a Jew, saying, We will go with you: for we have heard that God I with you” (Zech 8:23). Whatever else the Day of the Lord will bring, the prophets are very express that all nations will b compelled to acknowledge Israel’s special Divine election (Ezk 37:28; 39:21-29). And no account of the everlasting covenant in prophecy can be detached from the  eschatological controversy concerning the city and the land.

Israel’s covenant delinquency has and will again bring the nation into judgment and exile. Though exile is a sign of Divine rebuke and displeasure, the attitude of the nations towards the wandering Jew in their midst is a Divine measurement of eternal consequence. The nations are eminently accountable as to their perception and regard for Israel’s abiding covenant status. Whether in the land or out of the land, whether in covenant compliance (and when has the nation been sustained by more than a remnant?), or sinful indifference, the covenant stands with this people, and with this land (“shall not be left to other people” Dan 2:44). God may take the Jews from the land, but He will never take the land from the Jews.

The issue of God’s reckoning and coice is the issue of His rule, and the principalities and powers know it, thus the rage of their opposition. The land was not initially given on the basis  of Israel’s righteousness. Therefore, even as the judgement of the covenant spews Israel out of the land, it remains their land, and Jerusalem remains the city of David. Though Israel cannot retain continued possession of the land apart from covenant obedience, the promise of return is irrevocable. The modern existence of Israel is not an accident of history. Jewish possession of the land is never incidental, regardless of God’s covenant contention with them. The nations will discover that God’s covenant contention extends to them as well. The test lies particularly in the question of Jewish fitness to possess the land. Though apart from national regeneration, Jewish possession of the land can never be assured of permanence, temporal tenure in the land has never been based on Israel’s spiritual worthiness! Though God may have sent the nation into exile, yet many were the days that God deal both bountifully and severely with the people in the land, and it was never the question whether the land should be theirs, but could they keep it? Could they prolong their days in the land? (Deut 4:26; 5:23; 11:9; 39:18; 32:47)

Thought God drive His people from the land, the land remains His, and because His, theirs. Not because of any virtue in the Jews, but to impress upon the nations the sovereignty of His decision, the chosen test-stone of His authority and rule, objections notwithstanding.  Therefore, the Divine entitlement of the land is non-negotiable; it cannot pass to another people, or God is not God! And while great care is enjoined concerning treatment of “the stranger’ in the land, Israel is biblically forbidden to enter into covenant or league with the inhabitants of the land (Ex 23:32-33; 34-12, Judges 2:2-3). To do so is a precursor of Divine judgment (“a snare and a thorn”, as evident in Israel’s last days “league” with the Antichrist (Dan 9:27;11:23). 

This league is made with one whom “in a time of tranquility” (NASU), “security” (ASV), enters in, and “becomes strong with a mall people” (Dan 11:23-24 ASV). There are some references to “the fattest places of the province (realm)”, suggesting that the “little horn” (an entity of insignificant origins) is actually active within the land. This would certainly fit the pattern where some of these events have been pre-typified (though not fulfilled in certain specifics) in past history. The passage indicates that “during a time of security” (Dan 11:21), and contrary to natural laws of succession (“to whom they shall not give the honor of the kingdom“ KJV), he gains royal power by intrigue and stealth. This strategic piece of cunning and artifice moves the “little horn” into a much larger dominion (“the glory of the kingdom” Dan 11:20 KJV). He is now a more significant power, and thus begins a series of regional conquest (11:25), securing increasing solidarity among those who share his contempt for “the holy covenant” (11:27-30), deceiving, and receiving support from all who are mutually incensed against it (11:32).

[Note: Many scriptures are harmonized if the Antichrist should originate as head of a newly-formed nation in the region (Dan 7:8, “came up from AMONG them”; Dan 7:24, “and another shall arise AFTER them”). According to Dan 8:9, he emerges from somewhere north of Israel, most evidently from some part of the vast Israel once ruled by the Seleucid kingdom of antiquity, which was one of the divisions of Alexander’s Grecian empire. He is appropriately called a ‘little horn’, as “comes up and becomes strong with a small people” (Dan 11:23). In the earlier part of his career (“after the league made with him”, he will employ the deceitfully disarming tact of promises of peace (“by peace he shall destroy many” Dan 8:25). From his rise to power through intrigue and stealth (Dan 11:21), and under the auspices of a treacherous “league” with the inhabitants of the land (‘”it will surely be a snare unto you”; Ex 34:12), this “man of lawlessness” (opposed to all that is holy and set apart by covenant) will “work deceitfully” (11:23), to prosecute his program of unification (the ten nations) based on a shared hatred of the “holy covenant”, particularly as it stands with the Jewish people, their Land and the holy city. He will have secretive conspiracy (“intelligence” KJV) with others who mutually plot the sudden overthrow of “the holy covenant” by what biblical geography in light of the modern spread of Islam would indicate to be the Islamic capture and and ravaging of Jerusalem (11:28, 30; Rev 11:2). “For when they shall say, ‘Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape” (1Thess 5:3).]

There is a massive amount of biblical evidence to suggest that Israel’s final crisis is an eschatological reiteration of the quarrel that began in the tents of Abraham and Isaac. These ancient ‘brethren’ constitute the modern Arab world under the implacable banner of Islam, and will prove the ultimate thorn in Israel’s side. There is much to suggest that the ten kings that will confederate with the Antichrist in the final assault of Jerusalem are Arab nations (Ps 83; Eze 25:15; 35:5; 36:5; 38:5-6; Dan 8:9; 11:20-31; Obad; Mal 1:4, etc.) . In our view of the covenant, it is not surprising that the God who loves what He has chosen with an eternal love, nonetheless takes a very stringent view of Jerusalem in its pretribulational apostasy: “how is the faithful city become an harlot?” (Isa 1:21), “the great city, which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified” (Rev. 11:8). There can be little doubt that Jerusalem is to some extent identified with “that great city’ of apocalyptic mystery Babylon. There is no reason to make the identification complete, because there is evidence of two distinct destructions of “the whore”, one that inflicted initially by the ten kings, and another that comes at the end of the great tribulation with the last bowl of judgment in the great Day of God. This judgment of Babylon appears more comprehensive, (inclusive of the whole world system), and seems to include the ten kings (Rev 19:19). This is also the order of events in Israel’s apocalyptic eschatology. There is an initial invasion that begins the time of Jerusalem’s desolations (Ezk. 38, Jer30, Dan 9:26; 11:31-39; 12 :1, 11; Mt 24:15-21), and after 3 ½  years of great tribulation, there is subsequent convergence o nations (Armageddon), but this time the invasion is prompted by the presence of Antichrist, who is situated in the besieged city of Jerusalem (Dan 11:40-45, Rev 11:2). Towards the end of the tribulation, the nations are demonically induced to attack the Antichrist (Rev 16:14; 19:17-21 with Ezk 39:17-22). One can only infer why, but apparently his yoke has become to intolerable, and the nations revolt (?). 

All of this is to say that if the ten kings are indeed the descendants of Ismael and Esau, and if Jerusalem is rightly identified with the “harlot” of the apocalypse, we may reconsider the significance of the passage that says “And the ten horns which thou sawest upon the beast, these shall hate the whore (in this instance Jerusalem), and shall make her desolate and naked, and shall eat her flesh, and burn her with fire” (Rev 17:16 KJV). If we have rightly understood this mystery, the disaster of 9/11 is a portent of the kind of Islamic contempt that will be targeted towards all who will be identified with Israel. The die is cast. But of particular significance for our view of the covenant is the following passage which adds: “For God hath put in their hearts to fulfill his will, and to agree, and give their kingdom unto the beast, until  the words of God shall be fulfilled” (17:17). Again, it is the paradox of god’s sovereign employment of the greatest and most unlawful of evils to affect the judgments and desolations threatened in the covenant, and to convert these covenant severities into the salvation of “the remnant according to the election of grace” (Ro 11:5).

Contrary to international protest and rage, God will not surrender His land to Esau. If another people temporarily inhabit the land, the right o if inheritance cannot pass to them. In spite of Israel’s covenant rejection, possession of the land is an issue of inviolable Divine choice, and is not disannulled through Israel’s covenant faithfulness, because covenant faitfulness, though required, is to the work of man, but the gift of God. God must first give what He commands, o man, because he is fallen , will faithfully fail. Rather, the promise of the land, like all of the promises of the covenant, is base on God’s sovereign prerogative to give His irrevocable “gifts and calling” (Ro 11:29) to “whom He will” (Jn 5:21, Ro 9:18). But are the nations also required to recognize the prerogatives o God’s electing grace? Apparently so, in view of God’s “controversy’ with the nations that is provoked over the last days question of Jewish possession of Jerusalem and the land. The nations receive Divine rebuke for their presumption against the city and the people of the covenant, and this in spite of Israel’s own vulnerability to covenant wrath. It seems that it is one thing for God to judge concerning the duration of Israel’s temporal possession of the land, but not for another!

Scripture leaves to question that the Jews are back in the land for Divine dealings that conclude the age, not because they are worthy, but because they are His! And though It is true that according to the covenant, a secular and unbelieving people cannot prolong their days on the land (Deut 4:26; 30:18), yet, if Israel will be displaced in judgment, it is for God to remove them, but woe unto that nation by whom they are removed. It is indeed God’s prerogative to judge His people, but woe to those nations who lend themselves as willing agents of His wrath (Isa 10:5, 12, 15, Ezk 38:4, 17-18). God will indeed bring the nations down in Divine judgment against ‘His land’ (even employing demons in fulfillment of His sovereign determination to gather the nations (Zeph. 3:8 with Rev 16:14). They will come against the people that are paradoxically called “the people of My wrath” (Isa 10:6), but it is His people, and it is His wrath, and woe unto those nations who are so divinely-employed, because “they have broken the everlasting covenant” (Isa 24:5), and presumptuously “touched the apple of ‘His eye’” (Zech 2:8). This is the stone that will fall upon the nations. The same covenant that is blessing to the penitent is a trap and a snare to the proud that tumble. Thus, Israel becomes God’s magnet that irresistibly draws the nations into a “valley of decision” (Joel 3:14). 

All of this confirms beyond dispute the viability and continuity of the literal aspects of the everlasting covenant. And nowhere is this continuity, and the distinctions between ‘old’ and ‘new’, ‘first’ and ‘second’, better  thean in the incontrovertibly future events of Jacob’s trouble. As pointe ot earlier, Jacob’s trouble is that period of crisi and transition that brings the Jewish nation into its full eschatological appropriation of Jeremiah’s New Covenant. Therefore, the Day of the Lord accomplishes the final enforcement of the new covenant in its full appropriation by “all Israel” (the surviving remnant of “that day”), and this is the goal of Jacob’s trouble.

[Note:  Many scriptures show, however, that only a remnant, “one-third” Zech 13:8) will survive to become the “all Israel” of millennial salvation. Only the remnant “that is left” (Isa 4:3) receive the revelation that comes at the precise point of Christ’s return (Ezk 30:38, Zech 13:10, 
Ro 11:26, Isa 59:21; 66:8, Zech 3:9, Ezk 39:22 et al.)]

And as many of the foregoing passages demonstrate, the ‘literal’ people, land, and city (Jerusalem) belong to the promise structure of the ‘everlasting covenant”. However, the judgements that descend on the Jewish people at this time are what Jesus calls “the days of vengeance…and wrath upon this people” (Lk 21:22-23). It is “the vengeance of the covenant” (Lev 26:25). But such vengeance and curse is not according to the tenor of the ‘new covenant”. Such judgment assumes what Paul calls “the curse of the law” (Gal 3:10). And yet, it is through the severities and travail of the so-called ‘old’ covenant that the ‘new’ comes. During the final period of unequaled tribulation period (compare Jer 30:7 with Dan 12:1, Mt 24:21). Israel is brought through sever chastisement “into the bond of the covenant (Ezk 20:33-37). The “bond of the covenant” suggests Israel’s eschatological attainment of new covenant salvation issuing in true covenant obedience. But this transforming even is accomplished by means of covenant discipline, the “rod” (37) and “fury poured out”(33), according to the tenor of the so-called ‘old’ covenant with its threats of judgement and curse. Such Divine rebuke assumes that the nation has no attained to the blessing of the new, and still suffers the curse of the old.

So, we see the simultaneous presence and activity of both the ‘unconditional’ ‘everlasting’ covenant, and the conditional Deuteronomic covenant in the very events of Jacob’s trouble. However, there is a continuity of conditionality that subsists in the covenant that is never abrogated, but ‘Divinely’ fulfilled. And it is that conditionality that creates the practical distinctions between ‘old’ and ‘new’, ‘first’ and ‘second’. This aspect of conditionality is never ‘conveniently removed’ to accommodate the weakness of the flesh (the first creation, the first Adam). It does not cease to curse sin in the flesh. It is only through death to the flesh, and resurrection to newness of life that the curse of the law is removed. It is only removed because its demand for holiness is gloriously fulfilled through the Spirit. But the gift of the Spirit assumes the glorious mystery of the atonement in Christ’s blood. So the threat of the covenant is not removed merely because of a dispensational change (the nature of which has proven quite ambiguous in the history of the church), but only as Christ’s death and resurrection becomes ours by its repetition in us through a like pattern of death resurrection (the operation of the Spirit in regeneration, and of the pattern of the cross in our sanctification).

It is the Spirit that fulfills the covenant, first, and perfectly in Christ’s humanity, and by measure (Jn 3:34) in the believer who is delivered from the curse through death to the flesh (ie. death to confidence in the flesh). This means that Israel remains ‘under’ the curse of the broken covenant (the law) until the nation will attain the corporate obedience of the New covenant, then fulfilling the promise of the ‘everlasting covenant’. Thus, such distinctions of ‘old’ and ‘new’, ‘first’ and ‘second’ may be more accurately understood as referring to tow sides (human and Divine), two effects (judgment and redemption), and two stages in the historical progress of the same covenant. The New Covenant is the salvation side of the ‘everlasting’ covenant, and the ‘old’ covenant is ‘old’ by reason of the absence of the Spirit’s empowerment to meet its requirements and conditions. And of course, as there is no new Covenant, and no gift of the Spirit apart from the necessary work of Christ’s atonement, and it is the Spirit’s revelation of the fulfillment of the covenant in Christ that signifies a change of dispensation. Even the Rabbis recognized that with the advent of the messianic era. There would be significant changes in the administration of the law under the new millennial conditions, thus, a new dispensation. Therefore, certain dispensational changes adapted by the church (in keeping with its faith that the promised age of fulfillment has arrived in the relation of the gospel), actually constitute a strategic testimony to Israel, demonstrating (through the evidence of the promised Spirit) the inadequacy of the works of the law (ie. the works of human ability).

But remember, the covenant is fulfilled in one place only – “in Christ”. This of course takes place in real space-time history, and indeed changes history, and brings in a new form of administration, but until one is ‘in Christ’, for that one, the covenant is unfulfilled, and in the absence of faith and the indwelling Spirit, the curse remains. What remains outstanding and unfulfilled concerning the New Covenant is its promise of a day when there will be no singly Jewish person on earth that is not also, certainly, and forever ‘in Christ’. This is Paul’s meaning when he speaks of the future salvation of “all Israel”, and it is god’s meaning when He says, “this is my covenant with them, when I shall take away their sin.” (Ro 11:27, Isa 59:21). Already, there was a remnant according to the election of grace (in context, the term is used of the specifically Jewish remnant), but according to Paul, the salvation of a mere remnant still leaves the elect nation (with whom God has bound the ‘public’sanctification of His very name (Ezk 36:21-22) in its shame and reproach, and this is clearly short of the covenant promise (Paul is proving the inadequacy of a remnant to fulfill the promise, although the continued presence of the remnant is pledge that the covenant, though incomplete” as touching the election”, has not failed). No, the covenant will have its ultimate historical fulfillment in the resurrection of the elect nation out of the death of Jacob’s trouble (“in one day”). Then shall “the Jerusalem which is now” be united with “the Jerusalem which is above”, an through the quickening, liberating power of the Spirit, be made of God anopenand everlasting ‘praise in the earth” (Isa 62:7).

[Note:Observe the contrast between Paul’s negative term “the works of the law” (Rom 9:32, Gal. 2:16; 3:2,5,10) with his positive term “the righteousness of the law” (Ro 2:26, 8:4).]

Therefore, in any dispensation, the absence of the obedience that is reflective o regeneration places one under the curs of the law (see Isa 26:1-; 65:2-; Zech 14:16-19). And of course, true spiritual obedience is never the cause, but the inevitable sign of regeneration.

Decisive evidence for the continuity of the covenant is found in the eschatological book od 
Daniel. Here we see that the last days Antichrist siege of Jerusalem is directed against “the holy covenant” (Dan 9:27, 11:22, 28, 30, 32). That the covenant touching the land, the city of Jerusalem, and Israel’s holy places is still significantly in force at the end of the age is evident in Satan’s rage against these institutions. In view of such indisputable evidence, it is especially unsettling to hear some of our finest evangelical leaders publicly deny ‘special Divine status’ to the ‘ancient people’ (Isa 44:7), the Divinely-commended witnesses of the covenant (Isa 43:10, 22; 44:8). “For if the firstfruit be holy, the lump is also holy: and if the root be holy, so are the branches” (Ro 11:16). The though is not of active personal holiness, but ‘holy’ in the sense of ‘set apart’. As concerning the gospel, they are enemies for your sakes: but as touching the election, they (the elect race) are belovedfor the fathers’ sakes, for the gifts and calling of God are without repentance” (Ro 11:28-29). They are beloved enemies! And all the more as we realize that the “door of faith” newly opened to the Gentiles (Acts 14:27) is the result of the Divine purpose accomplished “through their fall”, and Paul is unwilling to leave us unapprised of this costly transfer (Ro 11:11, 28). Even in Israel’s blindness to the New Covenant in Christ’s blood, there remains a conspicuous continuity in the covenant (for woe rather than weal) until the nation will escape its abiding conflict with “the vengeance of the covenant” (Lev 26:25 NKJV), through revelation of the mystery of the gospel (Ro 16:25-26, Eph 6:19), the very revelation that now constitutes the church as the eschatological mystery, and ‘fellow-heirs’ of Israel’s covenants (Rom 9:4, Eph 2:12).

In further defense of an apparent continuity, consider that before Jeremiah calls the covenant “new”, it is already known as the “EVERLASTING” covenant. The everlasting covenant made with the patriarch, declared to be unconditional with David (2 Sam 7:10-16; 23P5, Ps 89;28-37, Isa 55:3), and so often reiterated throughout the Psalms and Prophets, was first described as ‘new’ in relationship to the promise of an eschatological intervention that would come at the end of Jacob’s trouble (Jer 30:7). It represents the instantaneous regeneration of a final surviving remnant at one time only, the climactic Day of the Lord. From that day, Israel will not longer exist a s a mere remnant in the midst of a faithless nation, but as an entirely regenerate race, “from the least to the greatest, they shall ALL know me”….I have left none of them any more there.” The salvation of “all Israel” stands in contrast to “a hardening in part”. When the “Deliverer comes out of Zion”, there is not more “in part”.

And this eternal covenant has always been certain of success, because Christ is “the lamb slain before the creation” (Rev 13:8). This covenant also described as the “sure mercies of David” (Isa 55:3), that will one day take “all Israel” in its sweep, stood in other generations with the “remnant according to the election of grace” (Ro 11:5), in whose circumcised heart the law was written by the indwelling Holy Spirit.

[Note:  It is pitiful theology that presents the new birth as something peculiar to this dispensation. Nicodemus was reprimanded (Jn 3:10) for being a teacher in Israel, and yet failing to recognize the necessity of inward regeneration. Though the terminology (“born again”) is indeed original with Jesus, the concept belongs to Israel’s eschatological hope. Nicodemus failed to make the connection between Israel’s national hope, and the hope of the individual. The pattern is the same. If the nations is helpless in its dry bones state of spiritual destitution and death until it is raised to newness of life as represented in the promise of a new heart, and a new spirit, “the sprinkling of clean water:, in Ezekiel’s terms or being “born at once in Isaiah’s terms, should it be otherwise for the individual who is likewise dead in sin until quickened by the Spirit? (Eph 3:1). “God is not the God of the dead, but of the living!” (Mk 12:27). The natural man (in any dispensation) CANNOT (not merely ‘will not’) receive the things of the Spirit. It is a modern heresy that claims that the Old Testament saints were not ‘indwelt’ by the Spirit (“the Spirit of Christ whish was in them” 1 Pet 1:11), or that the law was not yet written in the hearts of the righteous remnant, contrary to the clear testimony of David (Ps 37:31; 40:8), and the prophets (Gen 41:38, Num 27:18, Isa 63:11).]

The New Covenant (confirmed in the fulness of time in Christ’s blood) is none other than the “everlasting covenant” that always stood with the righteousness of faith, and that stands not with the church in continuity with the elect remnant of Old Testament Israel. And it is this same covenant that yet remains to be established with ‘all’ Israel when the Deliverer will come out of Zion, when “they will look upon Me whom they have pierced” (Zech 12:10-13). In fact, in any dispensation, and not only in the end o f the age, this covenant is established with anyone who is enabled to “look” by the Spirit of revelation (Isa 45:22).

The everlasting covenant is at all times, and in every age, established with faith, and there is no want of personal holiness under the covenant, because righteousness myst be the issue of a heart that is purified by faith (Acts 15:9). And not only to natural Israelin the eschatological Day of the Lord, but in every generation, both before and since the cross, whether it is to an individual, or to an eschatological community (the church), righteousness is always imputed to faith (Ps 32:2, Ro 4:6-10), but a faith of what kind? We believe it is  faith that is ‘quickened’ by the free and sovereign grace of God who quickens “whom He will (Jn 5:21, Ro 8:18). It is “the faith of God’s elect” (Tit 1:1). It is the faith that is found in that number that Paul classifies as “the remnant according to the election of grace” (Ro 11:5). It is this kind of faith that millennial Israel will possess forever; and this faith does not fail (“if it were possible” mt 24:24), because it is sustained by the power of God (1 Pet 1:15), and the unfailing intercession f Christ (Lk 22:32), Ro 8:34, Heb 7:25), because it is the faith of the new covenant, based on the eternal “I will” of god. Such sovereign determination overcomes all resistance. Just as God was able to ‘get His  man’ on the road to Damascus, wo will He prevail to arrest His nation on its own ‘Calvary road’ of flight and international hatred. “For God is able to graft them in again” (Ro 11:232). However, we are not to imagine that such faith as here described is automatic, or arbitrarily quickened of God. It follows crisis, particularly the crisis of the Word, the preached Word. Apart from the Word, no amount of personal crisis, or Divine judgment can create faith. Faith comes at the end o strength (confidence in the flesh). “He takes away the first, that He may establish the second” (Heb 10:9). But such holy afflictions receive their saving significance only through “the hearing of faith” (Gal 3:2, 5), “Faith comes by hearing (Ro 10:17) as revelation destroys the veil over the heart (Isa 25:7, Zech 12:10, 2 Cor 3:14). This is the logic of Jacob’s trouble.

The re-engrafting of the natural branches is accomplished as God brings Jacob to the end of his power (compare Deut 32:36, Dan 12:7). It is then, “when thou art in tribulation, and all these things are come upon thee, even in the latter days…” (Deut 4:30), that “the LORD your God will circumcise your hearts and the hearts of your descendants, wo that you may love him with all your heart and with all your soul, and live” (Deut. 30:5-6). This is the Divine aim of Jacob’s trouble. “when He sees that their power is gone” (Deut. 32:36)! 

[Note:On the futurity of Jacob’s trouble, compare closely the parallel relationships between the evens described in Jer 30:7, Dan 12:1-2, Mt 24:21, Rev 12:12, also Dan 11:36-12:13 with 2 Thess 2:1-8, and observe the clear and inextricable association of a period of unequaled tribulation, the simultaneous brief career of Antichrist, the subsequent return of Christ, and the resurrection of the righteous dead. This complex of events is “immediately” (Mt 24:29) precursory to the final and everlasting deliverance of Israel, “thy (Daniel’s) people” (Dan 12:1).To place any of these events in past history is to deny their manifest connectedness, and clear proximity to the resurrection (Dan 12:1-2 with Mt 24:21-31).]

Paul explains that the covenant conditions of the law were ‘added’ to exclude the flesh from any participation in the fulfillment of the promise, thus cutting off all confidence in the flesh. The law that was handed down at Sinai (with promise only to the doer – Lev 18:5) is no hindrance to the promise. It is a barrier only to the flesh. Rather, the conditions of the covenant spelled out at Sinai only magnify the grace and glory of the promise, because it excludes the flesh from any part in its fulfillment. Because the law demands nothing less that the righteousness of God (perfected Messiah’s humanity alone), all are ‘shut up’ to the necessity of regeneration. In ay age, or dispensation, it is equally true. “You MUST be born again!”

[Note:The quickening of such faith in the heart is itself a resurrection event of Divine revelation, and Christ is most preciously revealed in “the end of the law”, not only in the sense of the end of a dispensation, but particularly as the goal of the law to destroy the presumption of human self-sufficiency. So, in a certain existential sense, the end/goal of the law is also the end of all the strength of the flesh. The biblical pattern shows that repentance is given particularly to those who despair of themselves (Is 57:10, Zech 12:10), “He will regard the prayer of the destitute: (Ps 102:17). There is great hope for those who say concerning themselves “There is not hope!” (Isa 57:10) And the destitute contrition always signals a salvation that has drawn very near. As we said, the salvation of the Lord is revealed at the end of strength.]

The ‘old’ covenant requires what the ‘new’ covenant assures, ie. “a new creation”, because in any dispensation, it is only a new creation that avails anything (
Gal 6:15). But the ‘new’ covenant pre-existed the ‘old’ covenant in the form of the ‘everlasting covenant’. The later conditionalizing of the promises at Sinai could not disannul the original Abrahamic promise because of the sovereign prerogative of God to fulfill both sides of the covenant by Himself alone. Surely this is the symbolism of Abraham’s ‘deep sleep’ (Gen. 15:12). “For when God made promise to Abraham, because he could swear by no greater, he sware by himself” (Heb. 6:13).

This suggest not only the continuity of the covenant, but also the unity of the covenant, its temporary conditionality passing away only because of resurrection fulfillment. It suggest that ‘old’ and “new’ are different ways of describing transition and change in the program of the covenant. The ‘new’ is simply the ‘old’ fulfilled. Of course, such fulfillment implies a change of dispensation. The weakness of the first (old) creation has been replaced through death and resurrection by a new creation. Thus, “the second” covenant is the covenant of the new creation (Heb 10:9). It is the passing away of the old (first) creation that permits us to speak of the passing away of the ‘old’ (first) covenant (Heb 8:13). It is the old creation that is done away in Christ (2 Cor 5:17). All that pertains to the weak and beggarly elements of the first creation is manifestly cut off by the ‘old’ covenant. That was, and still is, its principle purpose. The life of the resurrection is the life of the new covenant, “against such, there is no law” (Gal 5:23).

I hope these thoughts, though very random, may contribute towards a sense of the continuity of the covenant in its different stages and distinction. Finally, there are three passages that most appropriately conclude these contemplations:

Be ye mindful always of his covenant; the word which he commanded to a thousand generations; Even of the covenant which he made with Abraham, and of his oath unto Isaac; And hath confirmed the same to Jacob for a law, and to Israel for an everlasting covenant, Saying, Unto thee will I give the land of Canaan, the lot of your inheritance.   

 1 Chron 16:15-18

If they shall confess their iniquity, and the iniquity of the fathers, with their trespass which they trespassed against me, and that also they have walked contrary unto me; And that I also have walked contrary unto them, and have brought them into the land of their enemies; if then their uncircumcised hearts be humbled, and they then accept of the punishment of their iniquity; Then will I remember my covenant with Jacob, and also my covenant with Isaac, and also my covenant with Abraham will I remember; and I will remember the land. 

Lev 26:40-42 KJV

And as to the continuity of the covenant, I am particularly reminded of John’s contrast between old and new:

Brethren, I write no new commandment unto you, but an old commandment which ye had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word that he have heard from the beginning. Again, a new commandment I write unto you, which thing is true in him and in you, because the darkness is past, and the true light now shines.  

1 John 2:7-8

Yours in the Beloved,  Reggie Kelly

Posted in The Everlasting Covenant, The Mystery of Israel | Comments Off on The Purview of the Everlasting Covenant

The High Cost of Following the Lamb Wheresoever He Goes

The price to follow Jesus is still the same, everything! The kingdom of God is an all or nothing proposition. There is no middle ground. Only when the kingdom and the person of its King and His cross has no rival in the heart can anything count for anything in terms of eternity. Where this unbending standard is compromised, persecution might be avoided, but the church will no longer be the entity that Paul calls “the pillar and ground of the truth.” So what is the church? Where is the church? Before it is the somewhat mixed visible assembly of the elect children of God with all who gather to hear the Word and the kingdom call to radical discipleship, the essence of the church is the indwelling Christ, the divine nature in those who fellowship in that nature and labor to bring its light to the nations.

Before it’s greater conquest of the kingdoms of this world, the kingdom is first and foremost where Jesus sits as King on the throne of the heart. When the heart is fully possessed by the High King of Heaven, there is the kingdom of God in its mightiest display of sovereign power. Part of the “mystery of the kingdom” in its present hidden form is that it is no less powerful in its present working as it will be in the day when it will fill all of redeemed creation. Until then, with the exception of certain occasional demonstrations of outward power, the kingdom in its present working must appear to the world as weak and contemptible. This, since at its center is the scandal of the cross, not just as a historic event of redemptive necessity, but in its character as a cruciform way of life where the kingdom is not only entered once, but continually ‘being’ entered.

Not only when the kingdom began to be preached by John and Jesus, but no less since, “the violent take it by force” (Mt 11:12). Or, as in Luke’s version, “every man presses into it” (Lk 16:16). It cannot be otherwise! The straight gate of the kingdom that only few will ever enter will not swing open to casual interest (Mt 7:13). It requires a violence of desperation to enter at all cost (Mk 9:47), and none can presume to have entered if its value and priceless beauty has not far exceeded and eclipsed all else (Mt 13:45-46). The kingdom can brook no rival in the heart. It is all or nothing, and the fruits of the life of the kingdom will demonstrate this radical singleness of eye and heart in the life of it’s true heirs (Mt 6:22-23).

Where the conditions of this reality are met in truth, the triumph of the kingdom is as sure and secure in its present mystery form as in its future completion. But this security becomes a treacherous false security if the firm requirements for entering the kingdom have not been met in the real fruits that demonstrate the presence and power of the life of the kingdom, which is the character and nature of the King. Ultimately then, the call to enter the kingdom is the call to regeneration. But if regeneration is not defined and understood by its kingdom context, it risks being greatly perverted.

The call to make every effort to enter the kingdom at all cost becomes the call to be “made partakers of His divine nature”. It is union with God’s life, which is the life of the new creation, the life of the age to come. It’s subjects are no mere servants under its authority and jurisdiction, but but free children who share in the very nature and character of the King through the mysterious miracle of the new birth, also compared to resurrection (Eph 2:1).

Only as Jesus’ message of the kingdom in all it’s high demand is kept in close, inseparable connection with Paul’s gospel of grace can error be avoided. Only be holding both together in faithful tension and and agreement is the true nature of regeneration rightly defined and understood. But to relax or compromise the desperate urgency of entering the kingdom at all cost through submission to its high demands is to pervert the gospel of grace into another gospel, tilting either towards license and casual compromise or the equally deadly trap of legalism. Grace works! The watchword of the Reformation guarding against this common perversion says, “whereas we are justified by faith alone, the faith that justifies is never alone”.

Every seed produces after its own kind, and when the seed of the kingdom has germinated into true union with the life of the indwelling divine nature that was most perfectly incarnated in Jesus, the result is that one has now been “born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the Word of God, which lives and abides forever (1Pet 1:23).

To be born of that seed is also to live and abide and forever, but the cost to enter is the full and free exchange of anything and everything that might compete in loyalty or affection. Jesus warns that only the comparative few will ever enter. The straight gate of the kingdom is the straight gate of true and abiding regeneration, a much greater rarity than many seem willing to consider. Once entered, the cost for continuance is not conveniently lowered. This is why Peter will say, “take diligence to make your calling and election sure”.

For the sake of His steadfast covenant with “all the seed”, He MUST require that first things be first. This is why when we begin to neglect or forget, as certainly as we are true sons and daughters, we may be sure that we are on our way to the wood shed, till what counts most counts most again. This is why “judgement must begin at the house of God” (1Pet 4:17 with 1Cor 11:22).

Posted in The Cross of Christ, The Lamb of God | Comments Off on The High Cost of Following the Lamb Wheresoever He Goes

A Costly Neglect

by Reggie Kelly

I realize I’ve said as much many times before, but feel this needs more urgently to be stressed now than ever. By its nature, my calling and part in the Body has exposed me, far more than I could wish, to the inner workings of many strong and compelling lies that powerfully oppose and threaten the church’s readiness to escape the unparalleled deception that Jesus said would both precede and accompany the unequaled tribulation.

Even now, throughout the far greater part of professing Christendom, the tribulation without parallel or equal is believed to be past. The tribulation has come and gone with the Roman destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. A fast-growing (two related words like this become one hyphenated adjective) community called ‘preterist’ believes that Jesus’ promised return “immediately after the tribulation of those days” has also come and gone, some stoutly affirming that the resurrection is also past. This, since Dan 12:1-2 so unequivocally connects the resurrection to the unequaled tribulation.

A less popular but still thriving view, particularly among Adventist groups, is the so-called ‘historicist’ view of Revelation. This view sees the ‘great tribulation’, not as a brief period of time at the the end, but as stretching out to include either all or most of the inter-advent period. Many historic premillennialists (an accepted prefix – no need for a hyphen) view the half week (the 3 1/2 years of Daniel and Revelation) (delete comma – parentheses function as commas) as beginning with the ascension, basing their view on Rev. 12’s imagery of the catching up of the man-child, followed immediately in vision by the great tribulation.

Many, perhaps most, (add comma) evangelical lovers of Israel who see a future Antichrist invasion of Israel (delete comma between long subject and the verb) do not expect to be directly impacted by the last great deception. This is because they expect to be raptured to heaven where they will be celebrating the marriage supper while the Jewish people are experiencing their greatest hour of anguish without the church’s witness. This means that those living on this side of the rapture will not be so critically and decisively benefited by taking close heed to Jesus’ directive to read and understand Daniel in order to escape the deception that would imperil the very elect.

But if the church is exempt from the great tribulation, who then are the persecuted saints described in Daniel and Revelation? We are told these do not belong to the body of Christ, nor do they become part of the body of Christ when they are saved. Rather, it is supposed that the persecuted believers of the tribulation belong to another people of God altogether, with a different hope and destiny that is distinct from the hope and destiny of the church.

On this view, Jesus’ directive to carefully search out the meaning of Daniel’s prophecy will only be of vital relevance to those ‘left behind’ to face the dangers of those days. However, if this view is in error, it threatens to rob God’s people of vital preparation and protection from a deception so great as to threaten the very elect. Regardless then of one’s view, any fair-minded student of scripture should at least appreciate the reasonable cause for concern, at least taking stock of what is ultimately at stake in one’s perspective on the time and meaning of the tribulation and the question of the church’s relation to it.

Of all the competing views, the one that most insults and slights the sacred trust of the canon, and the Reformed doctrine of the perspicuity of scripture, is the lazy indifference that comfortably proclaims that it is impossible to know much that is definite or certain when it comes to eschatology. But it is Jesus Himself that prescribes with utmost clarity and simplicity what I like to call, “the plain man’s plain path through the millennial maze.”

Even before understanding the ‘what’ or the ‘when’ of the great tribulation, before discovering its approximate duration and then, most importantly, its meaning and purpose – even before knowing what the abomination of desolation might be – there is one simple directive that Jesus gives towards escaping the great deception that would threaten, “if possible”, the very elect. In Mt 24:15, Jesus is basically shouting, “pay attention to Daniel!” But much more particularly, He directs His sheep to one specific event that Daniel describes in considerable detail. In sum, He commands us to go to Daniel, find this particular event, “the abomination of desolation”, and to be careful that we understand what we read.

The reasons for this simple obedience will prove most crucial, not only towards escaping the great deception, but to a glorious unfolding of the whole sweep of God’s costly investment in scripture and history by which His Name is most fully glorified in all the earth. A knowledge of the relation of final things to the seedbed of covenant and promise is crucial for the church’s greater vision of God.
Jesus well knew this signal event to be the key to understanding the unsealed vision, which those with understanding (the maskilim of Dan 11:32-33, 35, 12:3, 9-10) would be proclaiming to Israel and the nations during the last persecution. According to Rev 7:9, 13-14, the testimony of tribulation saints will result in the evangelization of a vast number that will be saved out of ‘the tribulation, the great one’ (Rev 7:9, 13-14). The use of the double definite article in the Greek text is strong evidence that this is not tribulation in general, the common experience of all Christians in this age (Jn 16:33; Acts 14:22), but much more specifically, the great tribulation in particular.

Moreover, when one traces the oft-recurring theme of a final, unequaled tribulation and its centrality in the plan of God, beginning with Moses’ first mention in Deut 4:29-30, so much opens up concerning the nature and goals of God’s covenantal structure of history, and the conflict that rages over the authority of the Word, not only as to the moral and spiritual claims of the covenant, but particularly that greatest of all offenses, most calculated to test and reveal the heart, namely, God’s sovereign prerogative to choose as He will choose. This deep-seated protest and presumption of entitlement traces all the way back to Satan’s original envy (Ps 2; 48:2; Isa 14; note esp, verse 13; Eze 28). It is the basis of all antisemitism. It is why the Antichrist will be encamped on Mount Zion when the Lord returns (Dan 11:45).

I believe that at least part of the problem lies in what we bring to the scripture. When many read the Lord’s plain directive in Mt 24:15, they do not read it with virginal simplicity. “I will go to Daniel and read of this event and pray to understand”. Too often, there are already preconceived notions that have predetermined what one will find, and even much more, by what one must NOT find.

When we obey this all-too-neglected directive (“let the reader understand”) with an honest and open heart, uninfluenced by preconceived notions, we are only part way there. It is here we learn that revelation, skill, and insight came to Daniel when he “set his heart to understand” (Dan 10:12), just as the prophets before and after him would “inquire and search diligently” (1Pet 1:11). We are called into the fellowship of mysteries that require searching out with intense, holy desire, not for pragmatic self-interest, not even only for the purpose of avoiding deception. We are to have the attitude of “come and see” regarding the place of His dwelling, the beauty of His courts, and the secrets He has reserved for His friends. Our passion must be His glory, His wondrous handiwork, His costly investment, His manifold wisdom — and His greater glory in the fellowship of a ‘hidden wisdom’ ordained to our glory.

It is therefore most interesting how the mysteries of God can be so well hidden in such plain sight. It is not that they are intellectually obscure. On the contrary, there are basic protections built right in by the way that scripture interprets scripture. We will take for our best example what we find when we very simply obey Jesus by going to Daniel to look for the abomination of desolation. Jesus well knew that by so doing, we would discover, not only the meaning of this particular event, but very importantly, add comma what precedes and what follows.

By setting this initially strange, but ultimately strategic prophetic signpost at the end of Israel’s long history of covenant and promise, so much more of the overarching plan of God comes into much clearer light. It is no wonder then, comma that Daniel is situated at the center of the seven millennia of God’s prophetic schema of history, the “middle of the week”, so to speak. Interestingly, when Daniel asks, “How long till the end of these wonders?”, we understand the primary application will be the final 3.5 years, but another viable, perhaps dual, comma application would be that from Daniel’s place in history, there would be 3 1/2 millennia till “all these things would be finished”. On that view, which I think compelling, this would include the thousand-year reign of Christ and His saints.

Jesus well knew that this simple obedience would be the key that opens up, not only the order of the signal events of the end, but delete comma as noted, Daniel’s prophecy establishes the eschatological framework for the whole sweep of redemptive history from Genesis to Revelation. So, what do we find concerning this event that will prove such a protection against deception and a key to opening up and setting in right order the greater framework of prophecy? I submit it is by a simple refusal to separate what God has joined.

I cannot here begin to confirm by example, but in all my study, every system of prophetic interpretation (no comma) of which I’m aware (no comma) very obviously goes off at one of three places. Each of these is an example of separating what God has joined, but only by great violence to the text. I can only show a couple of examples.

The abomination of desolation is mentioned four times in Daniel (Dan 8:11; 9:27: 11:31; 12:11). In all four places it is accompanied by the removal of the regular, daily sacrifice. In Dan 12:11, the sacrifice is taken away 1290 days from the time that Daniel and all the righteous are raised from the dead (Dan 12:1-2). In Dan 9:27, the sacrifice is caused to stop at the midpoint of Daniel’s final week. This is 3 1/2 years from the end.

We must remember that Daniel was looking for the end of exile and the coming of the kingdom promised in the prophets before him. He is desperately seeking to understand when this tragic history would give way to kingdom glory. He is asking, “How long to the end of these wonders?” (Dan 12:7).

In Dan 9:24-27, Daniel had learned of the 70 weeks (for the readers unfamiliar with the shorthand) that Israel would be required to wait for the “coming in of the everlasting righteousness”, which would be the righteousness of the promised kingdom of David. This is the righteousness of the New Covenant that Jeremiah anticipates to come at the end of the period that he calls, “the time of Jacob’s trouble” (Jer 30:6-7).

This is the tribulation without equal, which the earlier prophets so commonly associate with the day of the Lord that ends a brief time of unparalleled national affliction and travail. Daniel will put the unequaled time of trouble at the end of the 70th 7, more particularly the second half of the last seven. In keeping with Jeremiah and the earlier prophets, Daniel puts the great transition between this age of covenant wrath and the coming age of kingdom peace and righteousness. He manifestly did not see the age between. This belonged to the mystery that would not be fully revealed and understood until the Spirit would be poured out at Pentecost (Rom 16:25-26; 1Pet 1:11-12)

But here’s what is too seldom observed or considered. In order for Jesus’ prophecy of the end to be fulfilled according to Daniel’s reference to the abomination of desolation, there MUST be a sacrifice that is stopped approximately 3 1/2 years before the final persecutor is destroyed and the dead are raised (Dan 12:1-2, 7, 11).
Likewise, in Dan 9:27 the half week begins when the sacrifice is stopped. Is the “end” that ends the half week of Dan 9:27 the same “end” that brings the deliverance of Daniel’s people and the resurrection of the righteous in Dan 12:1-2, 7, 11, 13? That is a question to be decided, but you can see how God has wisely given us pieces to a puzzle, but not without also providing us a plain path through it.

What and where is this sacrifice? Neither Jesus nor Paul specifically mentions the sacrifice, but both speak of a great violation and desecration that takes place in the temple in Jerusalem (Mt 24:15-16; 2Thes 2:4), as John will associate the temple to the final treading down of Jerusalem in Rev 11:1-2, again describing the half week of Daniel’s prophecy. There is no need to specify the sacrifice since Daniel has supplied this at every mention of the abomination. And it is clear that a temple service in the ‘holy place’ in Jerusalem is not going to exist without a sacrifice, which, of course, cannot continue beyond the point that the Antichrist imposes himself.

Stubbornness enters in when such things as presuppositions and preferences, even fears induced by taunts and the gross caricatures of a convenient ‘guilt by association’, are permitted to bias an objective handling of the evidence. All of this works to hinder us from making the otherwise obvious connections. The Lord sets a wise and perfect trap, particularly in the Word itself, for the pride of self-reliance and the momentum of uncrucified presumption. The interpretation of scripture is itself a test of the heart.
It is the power of our presumption that short circuits our objectivity, breaking the otherwise obvious connections. For example, where in 52 A.D. (add comma), when Paul is writing his second epistle, would the ‘temple of God’ be understood to be standing? It is preposterous to imagine that apart from any qualification to the contrary, Paul would have expected the Thessalonians to have any other kind of edifice in mind but the one in Jerusalem, particularly since he is so plainly ‘re’-establishing the same order of events revealed in Daniel, rehearsed during his earlier visit, and referenced by Jesus. This is even further confirmed by noting Paul’s use of language taken over from the Lord’s Olivet prophecy (compare, “our gathering together unto Him” 2Thes 2:1) where Paul is quite obviously citing Jesus’ well-known reference to the “gathering together of His elect” (Mt 24:31).

Particularly in view of all that both testaments affirm of the climactic day of the Lord, it becomes quite impossible, even exegetically dishonest, to try to separate the resurrection of the righteous from the tribulation of the half week in Daniel and Revelation. This is why those who believe the tribulation passed with 70 A.D., but believe the resurrection is yet future, are called ‘partial preterist’. In contrast, those who believe delete comma not only that the tribulation is past but that the resurrection is also past, call themselves “consistent preterist”, for good reason.
But before all the confusion and debate, it is plain for all to see what Daniel would have understood from his own prophecy. Go and learn what Daniel had inherited from the prophets that went before him, (add comma) who prophesied of these same events and goals of covenant and promise. For Daniel, the end of the 70 7’s could only mean one thing: add colon the end of gentile domination over captive Israel and the long expected (rightly expected) “post-tribulational” kingdom of God on earth. To suppose otherwise exposes a interested (unobjective?) bias, apparently formed by presumptive prior conclusions. It is not enough to say that this was merely the immature hope of OT believers, since the basic order is clearly re-affirmed in the NT (Mt 24; Mk 13; Lk 21: Acts 3:18-21; Ro 11:25-29; 2Thes 2; Rev 6-20).

This has gotten too long for any but the most patient and determined, but you see my point. The neglect to follow through on the Lord’s prescribed means of ‘understanding’ is not, of course, a blanket panacea against every possible form of deception, but it is going to be necessary. It is necessary now, not only for preparation against the ultimate deception, but for the much fuller picture of the overall context of the gospel, what I like to call, “the glory of the story”.

It will be required of the church….or will it?. This raises the crucial question of the relation of the rapture to the resurrection of the OT saints, another example of separating what God has joined. This squabble of comparatively recent origins significantly appears just in time to stand between a complacent Laodicean church and readiness to be those ‘maskilim’ who have the key of interpretation that can instruct many and turn many to righteousness (Dan 11:32-33; 12:3).

That this task should be delegated to a company that has only recently come to faith (no need for elders?) defies the biblical conception and definition of the body of Christ. It especially defies Paul’s definition of the church (defined as the corporate assembly of regenerate saints), as “the pillar and ground of truth”.

Once the context has been restored, we can begin to ask the very important question of the church’s role, and of what God has invested in granting the last sufferers a very certain and definite knowledge of the time. This will be a merciful provision intended to get the church to the place it needs to be for the ultimate witness. Thankfully, prophecy assures us that “those having understanding” (the body?, of course the body!) will be ready.

Anyway, you get the idea. It’s a burden I have. I fear we get too taken up with all the details, as there are indeed crucial details, but not to the neglect of the more critical, life-saving basics, the plum line of holy simplicity that will bring us to an otherwise impossible unity, as we become more and more constrained, searched, pruned, and emptied by the ever clearer light of fulfillment that does not depend on getting it all right.

The great falling away is greatly facilitated by the church’s dereliction precisely here. For all the wrong reasons, though ordained as judgment, the church will not awaken to the truth of these things until the end is very near. But because judgment “must” begin at the house of God, and in no small part because of the testimony of the Spirit of prophecy, the sleeping Bride will awaken, and when she does, hallelujah, what a glory! It will be the sweetest bitter, as the Jew will see his Messiah shining through weak jars of clay, a sight they’ll not forget for a thousand years.

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