As it is written, I have made you a father of many nations… before Him whom he believed, even God, who quickens the dead, and calls those things which be not as though they were. Who against all hope believed in hope…
I awoke this morning pondering this question: “What is required for the kingdom of God to come on earth?” How does a nation, prone always to backslide come at last, not only prolong their days in the Land, but to inherit it forever, in everlasting, indestructible peace? This is the dilemma faced by Moses and the prophets. This thought may be nothing new to many, but my invitation is to consider its implications for the bearing it should have on the church’s understanding of New Covenant righteousness, as it will be true in that coming day of an entirely saved Jewish nation after their final and greatest suffering, called “the time of Jacob’s trouble” (Jer 30:7; Dan 12:1; Joel 2:1-2; Mt 24:21).
Throughout the vicissitudes of Israel’s history — before apostasy had reached the point of no return — the prophets would hold out the hope that disaster could be averted by repentance and return. But this was never looked upon as more than a temporary fix.
Repentance and reform might indeed forestall disaster and constitute a ‘lengthening’ of the nation’s temporal tranquility (Dan 4:27), but such could never be sufficient to secure lasting peace in the Land, nor the coming of the kingdom on earth. For this, the hope was for the ‘bringing in’ of an ‘everlasting righteousness’ (Dan 9:24) that would secure everlasting peace, not only to a remnant, but to the whole of the nation, who would be preserved in this righteousness forever.
“From that day and forward,” all Israel will know the Lord throughout all their generations, so that never again will a Jew say to his neighbor, “know the Lord; for they will all know Me from the least to the greatest” (Jer 31:34. See also, Isa 4:3; 45:17, 25; 54:13; 59:21; 60:21; 66:22; Eze 20:40; 39:22; Zeph 3:13; et al). Moreover, this righteousness would not fade nor fail, but continue unabated, and without lapse ‘unto children’s children’ ( (Isa 54:13; 59:21; Eze 37:25).
Such an extravagant and unimaginable circumstance would not be possible except that the righteousness that the will justify all the seed of Israel (Isa 45:25) is not their own, but God’s alone (Isa 54:17). Because the righteousness of God is indestructible, so will be their peace, “world without end” (Isa 45:17). No weapon formed against them can prosper and no foe prevail (Isa 54:14-15, 17; with Rev 20:9)
Many think such an extravagant promise can only be fulfilled in heaven. Such unassailable righteousness and peace on this earth sounds preposterous. Add to this the even more inconceivable evidence of scripture that such completely uniform salvation is promised to no other nation. Rather than conceive the inconceivable, the natural recourse is to spiritualize these otherwise plain scriptures and to detach them from the people and Land of Israel.
But for the promise to be established, as literally described and understood by the prophets, it shuts us up to the faith of Abraham in the God who raises the dead. This is so much more than salvation of a goodly number of Jews at the end of the age; it is the sudden resurrection and birth of a nation ‘at once’, in ‘one day’ (Isa 66:8; Zech 3:9; Eze 39:22). This is the divine logic of how a people who will never come, must be forcibly brought back ‘into the bond of the covenant’. “As I live, saith the Lord GOD, surely with a mighty hand, and with a stretched out arm, and with fury poured out, will I rule over you: And I will bring you out from the people, and will gather you out of the countries wherein ye are scattered, with a mighty hand, and with a stretched out arm, and with fury poured out. And I will cause you to pass under the rod, and I will bring you into the bond of the covenant” (Eze 20:34-35, 37)
A remnant is not sufficient:
The salvation of ‘all Israel’ means there will no longer be a remnant of saved Jews in the midst of a largely unsaved nation. This has always been the case but here is why it cannot always be so, and why the prophets all looked ahead to the great transition of the day of the Lord:
History is witness that a mere remnant was never enough to keep the nation from further lapse and repeated exile. Regardless of temporary peace or fleeting revivals, the prophets well understood that the nature of human nature would always tend towards backsliding, thus my term, ‘prophetic pessimism’. As Jesus knew what was ‘in man’, so did the prophets (Jn 2:25 with Jer 10:23; 13:23; 17:9 et al). Thus my habit of saying, If history teaches anything, it is that if God were waiting on Israel, He’d be waiting forever.
In despair that the nation could ever sufficiently cooperate with God’s requirement for holiness to sustain themselves in the Land, particularly in the kind of permanence required to fulfill the promise, the prophets understood that Israel was being ‘shut up’ to the necessity of a miracle of divine intervention. For this cause, they would look on ahead to a time of radical, apocalyptic in-breaking of deepest shaking of judgment, resurrection power and new creation. They would call this time, ‘the day of the Lord’.
“When He sees that their power is gone …” (Lev 26:19; Deut 32:36 with Dan 12:7).
This principle of resurrection out of death tells us about the nature of power itself. The power of the veil lies in power itself, which is to say that intractable human tendency to put trust in any other power (Jer 17:5), which is quintessential idolatry. This innate confidence in the flesh is what is broken for the believer in the day of new birth and waits to be broken for all the surviving remnant of Israel in the coming day of the Lord. Confidence in the flesh is humanism, whether secular or religious. Thus, from the beginning, God has been at war with humanism, which is pride.
As Paul would show how the law works to ‘shut up’ (straighten, crowd) the believer to the necessity a transforming revelation (Gal 3:23), because the law was given to take away our power and to straighten us to Christ. By the same rule, Israel is raised ‘at the end of their power’. This is a very revealing principle that lies at the heart of what Paul will call, ‘the wisdom of the cross’. It is why Paul, and by the same rule, every believer, is always delivered over unto death for Jesus’ sake, that the life of Jesus also might be manifest in our mortal flesh (2Cor 4:11). Here is answer for the church of today, because where there is not this death, there cannot be this life. We could say much on this but suffice it to say, here is the anemia of the modern church. It is cross avoidance!
Through much tribulation (Acts 14:22), even the great tribulation, the veil that covers the nations is destroyed (Isa 25:7). In that day, at the end of strength, Israel will see what Job saw so clearly through his suffering, which is often the place the veil gives way, as false reliance is shattered (Dan 12:7). It’s the place of truest seeing, perhaps the only place of the kind of seeing that truly transforms and quickens the divine nature. Though preceded by a process, Israel’s transformation is not a process; it comes ‘at once’, in ‘one day’ (Isa 66:8; Zech 3:9; 12:10; Mt 23:39; Ro 11:26; Rev 1:7). It comes “when He sees their power is gone.” How instructive this is for a triumphant, complacent, Laodicean church! “I counsel you to buy of Me gold refined in the fire.” Where else did we expect?
Since the believer’s new birth is a personal application of this principle in obvious analogy to the eschatological resurrection / birth of Israel, it raises the question: How many have been truly born again by a removal of the veil over the heart (again in analogy to Israel) who have not first had their own power broken? Until we have despaired through the law (the quickened law) of any hope in ourselves (Isa 57:10), have we really come through to real resurrection life? If coming to such an end of their power is required for Israel, what is required for the church?
According to Acts 14:22, what is true of Israel and the coming of the kingdom, is no less true of every believer. Thus the faith of Israel’s future is based in pattern and principle on the faith of her beginnings. As Sarah would be visited at the “set time” (Gen 17:21), and as Paul was arrested on the road to Damascus “when it pleased God … to reveal …,” just so, will He “arise, and have mercy upon Zion: for the time to favor her, yea, the ‘set time’, is come” (Ps 102:13). Until resurrection, we are shut up to the power and initiative of the God who raises the dead.
As God, in a perfectly timed sovereignty (Gal 1:15), arrested Paul on the road to Damascus, and transformed this self assured persecutor into the apostle to the nations, just so will He stop a nation in its tracks, and bring them all the way down, that He might bring them all the way up in the power of the resurrection by the sudden, transforming revelation of the gospel. That is why the natural man cannot really ‘get it’, at least not unto true transformation. It is because he is still trusting something in himself. He has yet to come to the end of his power.
In any view of scripture that has not been spiritualized beyond recognition, God has bound up His Name, His oath, yea, the very return of Jesus with whether He can, against all odds, bring in the very nation that He first brought out of Egypt, not momentarily, not provisionally, not as under probation till another cycle of judgment, but finally and forever!
What will it take?
What will it take? It will take resurrection that comes at the end of power. It will take the quickening of a transforming revelation. This is why the saving revelation of Christ comes, not only at the end of power; it comes at the end of the law. Christ is revealed at the end of the law, because true revelation comes at the end of strength, and the law was given to take away our strength, which is the strength of veil to hide the gospel. This is why Paul could say, “the strength of sin is the law” (1Cor 15:56), because to trust in the holy commandment as a means of life is nothing else than trusting in ourselves. It is fatal confidence in the flesh. In this sense, the strength of sin is strength, our strength. This principle of resurrection faith is as true for the church now, as it will be true for Israel in that day.
The answer to the often asked question, ‘what will it take’ for the church? is shown us in the eschatology of Israel. As surely as the church is indeed the ‘pillar and ground of truth’; as surely as she is built on the rock of divine revelation; and if “unto Him be glory in the church …, world without end …,” then we may be sure that God will not suffer this age to conclude in a lackluster, ‘Laodicean fizzle’. No! Before He will have His glory in “Israel My glory,” He will have it no less in the church as demonstration and power, all the more now, in this present evil age where the battle rages. He will be no less vindicated in the church in this age, as He will be vindicated in Israel in the age to come. Besides, Israel, together with all who will be called and joined to her in that day, will be no less the body of Christ on earth for the purposes of God for that time.
Why a millennium?
It is not enough that God have an elect in this age in partial and somewhat hidden fulfillment of the promise made to the fathers. No, His covenanted promise must be openly and literally vindicated on this earth. He is jealous for this, as nothing else can so fully show His power and glory in frail jars of clay, in the very presence of His enemies. He is a God of incarnation and embodiment and demonstration. He has a point to prove, not only to His people and the nations, but to the rebellious powers.
By bringing in, finally and forever, “not another people” (Dan 2:44), but the very people He first brought out, THIS will bring the rest to Jerusalem and to the nations for which the age, and God Himself has waited and commanded the unceasing prayers of His saints. When this outrageous impossibility will be ‘done’ (Eze 39:8 with Rev 16:17), the day breaks for Israel. As He said in reply to Moses’ intercessory protest, when THIS will be accomplished, the whole earth will be filled with His glory. “But as truly as I live, all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the Lord!” (Num 14:21). Truly, Israel is God’s own, self-appointed ‘mission impossible’. Through them, grace is put on display to destroy all boasting.
Their resurrection from their helpless condition will be God’s most open demonstration and public vindication of His everlasting, covenant Word. It will confound and silence, as nothing has ever silenced, the original question: “Hath God really said?”
For this very cause, there must be a millennium of open demonstration and manifest divine embodiment BEFORE the final perfection of new heavens and earth. This must be accomplished here on this earth, not off in an invisible, perfected realm that is outside and beyond the test of time, but here, while yet in a natural bodies of frailty and imperfection, the Jewish race will be preserved on this earth for a thousand years in a blessed state of brokenness and holy weakness (Zeph 3:12-13). Truly, this will be a table spread in the presence of the enemy that has been bound to look on helplessly for a thousand years of open vindication of the Word of God.
True, Satan will be bound for a thousand years, and impotent to deceive the nations, as in times past, but this does not mean the righteous of Israel will not continue to war against the flesh. We know this, because chastisement continues to be threatened, even in the millennium, as there are highly descript provisions for continual cleansing and renewal in the kingdom age, but never is God’s covenant kindness completely removed them, because they are the true, spiritual, as well as natural seed of David’s greater son (2Sam 7:10, 14-15; Ps 89:22, 28-37; with Isa 55:3; Amos 9:15; Ro 8:28-39). They shall NEVER AGAIN depart (Isa 54:10; 59:21; Jer 32:40).
This raises the question: With it understood that redeemed Israel will be dwelling in the Land in mortal bodies, and given the notorious nature of the flesh to subvert even the most promising beginnings, how can such permanence be possible? Only by an abiding continuance in righteousness, not only of the few, but of ‘all Israel’ (the nation as a whole), can abiding peace in the Land be possible to a people who are yet in the frailty of their natural bodies, having children and building houses, as specified in many scriptures.
We really must take in and reflect deeply on the implications of what the scripture here implies. How is this possible? This could never be the case so long as only a remnant was righteous, as seen when the righteous would endure captivity along with the rebellious.
Consider that even during national revivals, when the righteous remnant would swell greatly, bringing great blessing upon the nation, and during the great reforms that followed their return from Babylon, the prophets living after the captivity would continue to look on ahead to the inevitable drift towards backsliding that would not be finally and permanently cured until the great day of the Lord and the coming in of the everlasting righteousness.
Not only does Israel start out in New Covenant righteousness; they continue in it forever. When we see the righteousness by which Israel will be kept a thousand years, can it be any other than the righteousness that keeps the believer now? (Ps 121:3-8). This says much about the kind of righteousness that is promised in Christ, as there is no other kind. His righteousness is the everlasting righteousness of millennial promise that all Israel will enter into after Jacob’s trouble (Jer 30-32). Is this not that millennial rest of ‘full assurance’ that is even now available to the believer who labors to enter into His rest? “And His rest shall be glorious!” (Isa 11:10). It is glorious now.
This righteousness is necessarily an apocalyptic (‘revealed’) righteousness (Ro 1:17). When Israel sees Him whom they pierced, they are seeing much more than Jesus’ glorified body; they are seeing the gospel by the Spirit, and behold the change that follows!
Such revelation necessarily transforms. It also necessarily produces after its own kind in some real measure (Mk 4:8). According to 2Cor 3:18, it is impossible to ‘see’ in this way and NOT be changed. This brings the question: Have we received the gospel, not only ‘as’ revelation, but ‘by’ the Spirit of revelation?
When Jesus said, “upon this rock I will build my church,” He wasn’t just speaking of Peter’s accurate confession. He was speaking of the great divide between the living and the dead. He was speaking of the way He must be known, not by mere teaching, but by revelation that flesh and blood is helpless to convey (Mt 16:17 with Gal 1:11).
Scripturally, the gospel forbids us to put too great a divide between the power and glory that will come to Israel after the tribulation and the power that has come, and is now available to the church, provided the essential conditions and dynamics are the same. This is why Paul could say in Hebrews that the powers of ‘the age to come’ can already be tasted, as the power of the kingdom shows itself now in mighty signs and wonders, even in its present form as a mystery (Heb 6:5; Mt 23:13; Mk 4:11; 9:1; 12:34; Lk 11:20).
In that day, the veil that covers the nations will be destroyed (Isa 25:7), as the mystery of God is finished at the seventh trumpet (Rev 10:7). Because of this, Israel will show forth openly what is no less true of His saints in this age, only in this age, there is the mixture of the tares and wheat in the visible, deeply beset and embattled church of God while Satan has not yet been bound.
Yet, the everlasting righteousness that will secure permanent peace for Israel at the end of Daniel’s 70th week has already come in for church with the cutting off of the Messiah at the end of the 69th week. The sealed vision that will not be unsealed for Israel until the end of the 70th week, has been revealed to the remnant (the ‘maskilim’ of Dan 11:32-35; 12:3, 10) who became the pillars of the fledgling assembly of Messiah. With the descent of the Spirit at Pentecost, not only did power come on the gathered assembly of disciples; the mystery of the gospel that was concealed in the writings of the prophets was revealed for the first time (Ro 16:25-26; 1Pet 1:11-12).
With the revelation of the gospel, the cornerstone of the whole divine edifice has been revealed as the glorious ground and basis of the everlasting covenant established in the Redeemer’s blood. In that day, when the surviving remnant of Israel will look upon Him, as the Spirit of grace and supplication is poured out (Zech 12:10), it is this gospel that they will immediately see to their lasting change and everlasting continuance in the Land. How astonishing! How glorious! How contrary to everything known or ever seen or imagined! And this is to be on this earth? Can it be? This is the faith of Abraham, who ‘against hope believed in hope’ that before the Word of God could fail, the very dead would rise (Heb 11:19).
If this is the righteousness that will be theirs in that day. If this is the covenant into which we have gained advance entrance through Messiah’s blood. If the power of continuance and the blessing of peace is based on this righteousness that is not their own but God’s own, what are the implications for the church of the present age? How far have we understood this righteousness? Have we laid hold of what will so gloriously sustain and set Israel apart for a thousand years?
Although every Jew in the Land will be fully alive to God; they will not be perfect. A considerable number of scriptures show their continued battle with personal weakness and sin and regular need of cleansing. No less then than now, their faith will be tested and proven whether it is ‘born of God’. They will have to overcome the power of the flesh, but they surely will overcome, because their faith will be ‘born of God’ and such faith ‘must’ overcome, precisely because it is born of God (1Jn 3:9; 5:4-5, 18). So now this question:
As surely as there is only one everlasting righteousness, then so far as one is truly ‘in Christ’, they are complete in Him (Col 2:10). They are a new creation right now, and not simply on the way to becoming one. We see that this life is claimed by many but what we see does not come up to the standard God gave us in the book of Acts. Why? What went wrong? Why did the glory fade? If we have the life, where is the power of the life? We see it at Pentecost. We see it at the return of Christ. We also see it in mighty exploits and anointing from the midpoint of Daniel’s 70th week and forward (Dan 11:31-33; Rev 11:3; 12:11 with Isa 40:29). Why then aren’t we seeing more of this power now?
I’ve already written much more than I set out, so I must cut this painfully short, but I believe the answer lies in what has been suggested. It is the issue of the Spirit. Of course, that is true, but the issue of the Spirit is the issue of the veil that receives its power to veil, to rob, and to hinder through the deceitful power of the flesh. It is thus, most ultimately, the issue of brokenness, as Watchman Nee develops in his classic, “The Release of the Spirit.”
The gospel may be ever so well taught and even substantially understood but it can only be “known” (in the biblical sense of that word) by the Spirit. When we survey the transitional events of the first century, with other great epoch moments throughout the OT, and compare these with the seismic transition that takes place in the middle of Daniel’s 70th week, we can begin to see the conditions and dynamics that are commonly at work. The setting is invariably one of crisis.
My beloved brother, Art Katz, used to turn Lord Acton’s famous quote, “power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely” into “crisis reveals and ultimate crises reveals ultimately.” Our apocalyptic perspective demands a theology of crisis. What will take place in the middle of Daniel’s final week is simply a much deeper, corporate experience and apprehension of nothing else or other than the gospel, the old, old story, apprehended and appropriated as never before. Why? Because the urgency of crisis that will straighten the church to holy weakness and the brokenness of the quickened Word. For Israel, this kind of willing, total surrender comes, not in the time of their choosing, but “in the day of His power” (Psa 110:3). It will be no less so for the church. We will be straightened to resurrection life and power for the final witness. As Jesus said to Peter, “when you were younger, you girded yourself and walked where you wished; but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will gird you and carry you where you do not wish.”
There is a sense in which revival waits on something that is required of the church. That is ever true, though God is the author and initiator of all that will stand and abide. But there is another sense, equally true, in which the church is ‘shut up’, as it were, to the initiative and orchestration of God. In this sense, the church is waiting on God who has ordained in their due season the necessary constraints and inducements that no amount of will or desire can ever bring about. There is a sense that flesh and sin is always to blame for what is not, while, paradoxically, only grace and nothing of man is to credit for what comes forth that counts with God.
In short, God will not leave His church to its own best intentions. We may be sure that the will is already very much present with the true bride, but ‘how to perform’ what is in her heart waits on God to supply the constraints and inducements that will get her from here to there, to the confounding and shame of every proud, legalistic, accusing spirit of denial. We are His handiwork. It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves …” (Ps 100:3), to the end that no flesh can glory.
Yours in the Beloved, Reggie