Except Your Righteousness Shall Exceed…

I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven. Mt 5:20

We need to seek the Lord concerning the best means to turn this apocalyptic perspective among the orthodox to the real question of righteousness as it pertains to Israel’s long exile and God’s outstanding covenant controversy with His people (Lev 26:25; Mic 6:2). They do not hold the optimism that mere return to the Land is an end of exile. For them, the time line is very simple. It is exile and redemption. Until the redemption, Jews remain in exile, whether in the Land or out of the Land. Remarkably, they see great desolations ahead, even in the Land, though they believe the greater safety will be there. Thus the cry for immediate flight to the Land.

It is interesting that it was the confidence that Messiah would come to save from the gentile oppressor that emboldened many of the zealots in first century Israel to incite the rebellion that brought Rome down upon Jerusalem. Even when Titus would give opportunity for surrender or escape, they refused. They saw the Romans as Edom and Kittim and fully expected that after a brief time of suffering, Messiah would come to bring victory to the city under siege, as pictured in Eze 38-39; Zech 14. For them, the Romans were Gog and Magog.

Interesting too that the siege began suddenly at the very time when the city would be flooded with pilgrims coming to celebrate Passover. This makes perfect sense of why the Lord adds to His warning to depart with the further warning; “Let not those who are in the countries come in to her. For these are the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled (Lk 21:21-22).

Unless we believe that “all things which are written” were fulfilled in the events from 67-70 A.D., then ‘the days of vengeance’ were not exhausted in 70 A.D., as assumed by most interpreters. According to Isa 28 and a number or scriptures, Jewish religious success in the Land will be at an all time high when the Antichrist strikes unexpectedly. Unlike the notion that many have of an immediate end to Gog (the Antichrist, see Eze 38:17), Jerusalem will continue to be trampled for 42 months. If this says anything, it says that the discipline of the covenant continues till its final resolution in the righteousness that comes to Israel only at the day of the Lord.

The view that Israel’s national covenant discipline ended with the Roman destruction has effectively silenced institutional Christendom from any prophetic voice to Israel. For good reason it is only a few pre-millennialists and ultra orthodox Jews that expect an apocalyptic future that will erupt over the controversy of the Land (Isa 34:8; Zech 12:2-3). However, by dismissing Jesus, they also rob themselves of the true order of events through His instruction concerning Daniel’s prophecy. Ignorance of this will expose many to the calamity they wish to flee, as when Amos says, “As if a man did flee from a lion, and a bear met him; or went into the house, and leaned his hand on the wall, and a serpent bit him” (Amos 5:19)

Even if they could be persuaded of the true order of events, they believe they are the righteous remnant. They see themselves as the ‘maskilim’ (those having insight) that turn many in their nation to righteousness (Dan 11:32-33; 12:3, 10). They attribute their sufferings to their righteousness, and the sufferings of the secular nation to its sins. If they suffer with the sins of the nation, it is like Daniel and Ezekiel in painful solidarity with a nation under discipline. They are waiting, not only for Moshiach to deliver them from Gog (Armillus or any number of names for the last gentile aggressor), but also for the righteousness that comes to the ‘entirety’ of the nation with his destruction in the great day of God (Eze 39:8, 22-29).

This is why the issue of ultimate contention is not the question of a particular line up of events, but of what constitutes an acceptable righteousness before God. So it is not merely the question of righteousness, but what kind of righteousness? How do we make them see that God can accept nothing ‘short’ of His own righteousness, as only perfected in Messiah, credited to, and quickened in the believer by the Spirit through faith in an eternal predestined atonement that is the only basis for salvation both before and after the cross? To communicate and demonstrate THAT mystery remains the principal task of the church. Mounting crisis, coupled with the fulfillment of prophecy is the divinely appointed means to crowd Jews to consider that any flight that is not to Jesus is at best temporary and ultimately in vain.

Reggie

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