Against All Odds

There is a phrase that is not in scripture, but it captures so much of what the Bible is all about. “Against All Odds” is the apt title of a video series that traces the modern miracle of the Jewish repatriation of the Land, and the amazing story of how the fledgling new nation was able to survive ‘against all odds’.

That title made me think that truly, the history of redemption from start to finish is ‘against all odds’. It was meant to be (Ro 8:20). Anything less would have never so greatly magnified the power, grace, and unlimited sovereignty of our covenant God (Ro 8:28).

God has chosen to embody His glory in weak, helpless, and even naturally hostile, jars of clay, not away in an invisible realm, but right here, right now, on earth, “in the presence of His enemies,” against all odds. As Spurgeon well said, “considering all things, those who hold out to the end in the way of holiness will be “men wondered at.” Indeed, our final perseverance will be to the wonderment of the angels.

Even more wondrous (though not more miraculous) is the really extravagant hope of a kingdom come to THIS earth, not off in the realm of the invisible, out of sight and beyond evidence, but here, on this earth, against all odds. The glory of God will be put on public display when in the same real, space-time history that witnessed the fall, all nations will be compelled to witness the very public resurrection and rebirth of Israel ‘in one day’ (Isa 66:8; Eze 39:22; Zech 3:9).

After generations of wandering and exile, the Jew has returned to the Land, but the blindness that brought the exile continues for all but a very small remnant. For all the marvelous wonder that this represents for those who were expecting the literal fulfillment of prophecy, this is not the kingdom promised by the prophets. Although back in the Land after nineteen and a half centuries, Israel is still not saved. Therefore, Satan is not yet bound, nor is he silenced, as the question still rages, “Has God really said?”

That question is not finally answered by the revelation of the mystery of a first coming of Messiah that brings the kingdom in its spiritual essence. The ‘already’ of present fulfillment is only the earnest or first-fruits of the ‘not yet’ of a far greater number of highly detailed covenant promises that envision a kingdom of righteousness here on this earth, as all the formidable powers of the present evil age are broken and forced under its sway and authority.

What will be the proof that this kingdom has come on earth? Since the first century revelation of Christ’s twofold coming, that question has a new answer. That age will not begin when Messiah comes, but when He returns. Yet, in another sense, the powers of that coming day have already broken into this age by the revelation of the Spirit, but not to the exclusion of a further conquest of Satan’s kingdom awaits the final revelation of the ‘mystery of iniquity’ in the great tribulation that precedes Christ’s return (2Thes 2:3, 7-8; Rev 10:7; 12:12).

The mystery of the gospel revealed an unexpected anomaly. The long awaited messianic salvation would be accomplished by the incarnation and atoning death of a twice coming Messiah (Isa 53:8; Dan 9:26; Zech 12:10) BEFORE the brief and unequaled tribulation (Deut 4:30; Hos 5:15; Jer 30:7; Dan 12:1). We lose the force of the formidable mystery that confronted first century Israel if we fail to observe that these passages in their original setting and language were not as clearly messianic as they now appear to the believer in retrospect.

Though fully foretold in the prophetic writings (Acts 3:18-21; 26:22), the mystery of Messiah’s twofold advent was not revealed until after Pentecost (Acts 3:21; Ro 16:25-26; 1Cor 2:7-8 with 1Pet 1:11). It is therefore not surprising that with the exception of John the Baptist (Jn 1:29), few, if any, would have been prepared to consider that the “man child” of Gen 3:15 would be born of a virgin and deal the fatal blow to the serpent’s head BEFORE Israel’s day of national deliverance.

Because the messianic deliverance was commonly (and rightly) expected to come AFTER the tribulation of ‘Jacob’s trouble’ and ‘Zion’s travail’ (compare Isa 13:8; 26:16-17; 66:7-8; Mic 5:3; Hos 5:15; Jer 30:6-7), the happenings in association with a necessary first coming to accomplish atonement and ascension to God’s right hand, were unknown until the revelation that came in the days following the resurrection (Lk 24:25-27; Acts 1:6), and first publicly proclaimed in Spirit and power at Pentecost (Acts 2:32-33; 3:18-21; 1Pet 1:12).

In view of such an unexpected, but demonstrably foretold order of events, we may be sure that the evidence for a salvation that would precede the post-tribulational day of the Lord would have been invoked as a centerpiece of Christian apologetic in the first century. This is evident by the way the book of Revelation contrasts the pre-tribulational birth and ascent of the man child with Satan’s unprecedented assault against the woman in the time of the brief tribulation (Rev 12:5, 12-14). Note also the amazing mystery implied in the significant use of the term, “before,” in Isa 66:7, in contrast with “as soon as” in Isa 66:8).

Contrary to the popular theology of replacement that has reigned in the church since the second century, the revelation of the mystery of the gospel did nothing to cancel or change the prophets’ vision of a restored Jewish nation after the tribulation. Instead, it revealed the greater glory of the nature and means of that “everlasting righteousness” promised in the covenant (Jer 32:40; Dan 9:24). The gospel reveals that particular kind of righteousness by which alone the kingdom is established in both in the heart and on the earth.  After the final tribulation (Dan 7:25; 12:1, 7), the kingdom of the heart will fill the whole earth (Dan 2:35, 44; 7:27).

The “mystery of the kingdom” reveals that God’s conquest of Satan is accomplished in stages. Since the cross, the legal ground of Satan’s final destruction has been accomplished, and his final defeat set in irreversible motion (1Jn 3:8). But notice, Satan’s final eviction from heaven does not come until the very beginning of the last and brief tribulation (Rev 12:9-10). Note that this eviction happens 3 1/2 years before Satan is bound to begin the millennium (Rev 20:2). Both of these further stages of his defeat are manifestly future. We judge then that the Spirit’s full enforcement of Christ’s conquest over Satan is accomplished in stages at predestined points of crisis and transition.

This implies that the Accuser’s continued access to heaven, though now illicit, is somehow related to the believer’s conscience. This brings the really interesting question of what it will mean for the Accuser to be finally cast down by Michael at the beginning of the tribulation (Dan 12:1 with Rev 12:7, 9-10, 12, 14). As a principle, the finished victory of Christ over the accuser of the brethren can be more deeply apprehended and appropriated, as the strength of the flesh is further broken through a similar pattern of crisis and transformational revelation, not only in the history of redemption, but also in the personal and corporate experience of the saints (Jn 16:21; Acts 14:22).

The accuser of the brethren is cast down by the revelation and / or deeper apprehension of Christ, as “THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS”. When this is truly and deeply apprehended by the Spirit of revelation, Satan’s ability to legislate his accusations against the believer’s conscience is broken, and there is fullness of joy, regardless of the circumstance.

The revelation of the gospel that was contained in a mystery in the prophetic scriptures (Ro 16:25-26), that has come already to the church (the maskilim) will come to Israel ‘in one day’ at the end of the tribulation (Isa 66:8; Eze 39:22; Zech 3:9; 12:10). That is why, “In His (Messiah’s) days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely: and this is His name whereby He shall be called, THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS” (Jer 23:6).

This is why it is an ‘everlasting righteousness’. It is nothing else than the righteousness of God Himself, as perfected in one place only. Our righteousness was perfected in the humanity of Jesus, not only by His death, but necessarily through His perfect fulfillment of the law. This is the righteousness that is counted to the believer, by which alone the transforming and empowering Spirit is given to the one “accepted ‘in’ the Beloved”.

It is a righteousness that is much to be distinguished for what it is and what it is not. It is all His and nothing of our own (Isa 54:17; with Ro 10:3; Phil 3:9). It will not bear mixture (Ro 11:6; Gal 2:16, 21). To presume to come before God in such a ‘mingled garment’ (Lev 19:19) is doomed to meet with a terrible divine intolerance (Mt 22:11-13; 7:22-23;  2Cor 5:11; ). “All other ground is sinking sand.”

This righteousness of God by faith which has come to the elect of this age must come to the nation of the long exile at the end of the last and unequaled trouble (Jer 30:7; Dan 12:1). The ‘everlasting righteousness’ that was brought in with the death of Christ at the end of Daniel’s 69th week, will break upon the understanding of the penitent remnant of Israel at the end of the 70th week. Then will the vision and prophecy that was unsealed to the church at Christ’s first advent (Isa 8:14-17; 29:11) will be unsealed to all Israel at the time of His return (Mic 5:3; Dan 9:24; 12:4, 9; Hos 5:15; Zech 12:10; Rev 10:7).   This is the full ‘bringing in of an ‘everlasting righteousness’ (Ps 119:42; Dan 9:24) anticipated in all the prophets, not only for a remnant, as always before, but now for “all Israel’, as a nation on this earth with an entirely saved population (Isa 4:3; 26:12; 43:7; 45:25; 54:13, 17; 59:21; 60:21; 61:9; 65:23; 66:22; Jer 31:34; 32:40; Zeph 3:9, 13 etc. et al).

Little wonder that theologians see this as only possible of fulfillment in heaven. For such enduring salvation to be received by the entirety of a nation made up of the actual descendants of the inquisitions and the death camps ‘s, dwelling in real physical bodies on this present earth is most especially, ‘against all odds’. Yet his is precisely what the prophets have in view when they speak of “the everlasting covenant” (Isa 61:8; Jer 32:40; Eze 16:60; 37:26). It is also what Paul has in mind when he says, “and so all Israel shall be saved” (Ro 11:26).

This is the climax of the covenant. It is God’s self appointed “mission impossible” in history. When THIS “impossible” nation (who is less impossible?) is restored to THIS Land in THIS righteousness, then the earth will enter its Sabbath rest in glorious public vindication of the everlasting covenant foretold by all the prophets. For this the creation groans in travail, as does also the church that knows the scriptures and the power of God.

It is much to be noted that Christ’s return, the binding of Satan, and the finishing of the mystery of God (Rev 10:7) happens in significant connection with the sudden regeneration of the surviving remnant of (Isa 66:8; Eze 39:22; Zech 3:9; 12:10; Ro 11:26). It is clear that Paul stands in the tradition of the prophets in his insistence that their return is essential to the fulfillment of the covenant (compare Ro 11:26-27; Isa 27:9; 59:21; Jer 31:33-3). At “the set time”(Ps 102:13), “in the day of His power” (Ps 110:3), He will vindicate His “covenant with THEM” (Isa 59:21; Ro 11:27) openly, in the sight of all nations, “for God is able to graft them in again” (Ro 11:23), against all odds.

As we so often say, how we see God’s covenant with the natural branches in their pitiable enmity and unbelief (Ro 11:28-29), is so much the index of how we understand the nature of that grace that arrested Paul and will arrest His elect nation “at once” and “in one day” (Isa 66:8; Eze 39:22; Zech 3:9; 12:10; Mt 23:39; Acts 3:21; Ro 11:26; Rev 1:7).

Though perhaps not so outwardly dramatic, it is the same powerful working of grace that has drawn and regenerated all the elect seed of Messiah Jesus (Ps 89:29-34; Isa 45:25; 53:10; Isa 61:9; 65:23; Jer 331:26-27; Jn 6:37, 39, 44-45, 65; Ro 4:16; compare especially Isa 54:13, 17 with Jn 6:45).

Reggie

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