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The Apostolic Approach to Evangelism

Updated Aug 2017 from a post in 2009 – [Contains some repetitious material from another recent article but has been assembled with greater deliberation and clarity. Definitely worth rereading]

Before Art’s passing, the goal of the planned ‘table talks’ for the following summer was to bring together the scriptures that would establish an overview of the key themes of prophecy. He wanted to find something that would “pull the strands together” into a kind of synthesis, and then to use that synthesis to address and answer the classic Jewish objections to the faith.

What follows is an expansion on a brief overview sent to a brother with whom I shared a plan of presentation that aims to simplify many of the sometimes complex issues of prophecy. It also provides a convenient grid of reference for anyone wanting to present the case for Christ and the mystery of Israel from the Old Testament.

I first present some ideas for an initial introduction. This can be used with great versatility and comparative simplicity, depending on the situation. For those who want to take the subject further, I offer further suggestions on how this initial introductory outline can be used to go deeper, as understanding and maturity permits.

I believe that what I present here came in answer to prayer. For years I have looked to the Lord for a means to “make plain upon tables” (Dan 12:4; Hab 2:2-3) an appreciable amount of otherwise difficult and controversial subject matter. The goal is simplicity and clarity for the average person, regardless of academic background. But the real power of the truths that follow lies in the scriptures themselves. They are specific target passages that merit closest attention.

The approach builds around the well known story of Joseph, as type and parable of both comings of Christ to Israel. The idea is to begin with a couple of key portions of Old Testament prophecy in order to establish a simple outline of the prophetic future, particularly as it pertains to the relationship of Christ’s two comings to Israel. This will provide a convenient frame of reference that can enable and equip any believer to make the case for the mystery of the gospel in the Old Testament, particularly in its relationship to Israel and the events that conclude the age.

To open the subject, I sometimes begin with the familiar story of Bethlehem as an opportunity to show the amazing prophecy of Mic 5:2, pointing out its great antiquity (8th century contemporary of Isaiah). I then point out the lesser known feature of the prophecy the follows in the next verse. “Therefore (for this cause) will He (Yahweh) ‘give them up’ UNTIL the time that she who travails has brought forth; then shall the remnant of His brethren return to the children of Israel (Mic 5:3). The chosen nation is to be “given up UNTIL …”. This is the language of divine abandonment. What are the implications? What provocation was so great as to evoke such ominous language, anticipating the tragic nature of Jewish history?

The next verse shows that the return of “His brethren” coincides with the universal dominion of the ruler from Bethlehem. Exile ends forever with the Davidic king’s rod-iron rule over all nations that begins when His enemies are made His footstool with the destruction of the last invader of the gentiles (Ps 2:6-9; 110:1-6; Mic 5:4-6). This is the arch-persecutor whom Paul, citing Isa 11:4, will call, ‘the man of sin’, (compare Paul’s use of the Septuagint’s translation, “the Ungodly One” with the KJV’s, “that Wicked; 2Thes 2:8).

That verse 2 speaks of Israel’s promised Messiah from David’s line is undisputed by the Rabbis who freely acknowledge the Messiah’s pre-existence but do not accept any inference of deity. Indeed, the Hebrew does not require it, as examples can be shown where the language means only the days of old, but it is also understood that were a kind of divine son-ship in view, as in Christian theology, there is no other terminology in the Hebrew language that could more definitely indicate deity and co-eternality. Yet, if we compare Isaiah’s use of very similar language for the Davidic Messiah (Isa 7:14; 9:6-7 from Gen 3:15; Ps 2:7; 110:1-4), the evidence begins to mount in the direction of a divine figure.

By connecting verse 1 with verse 3 it becomes evident that the reason for the abandonment of verse 3, (“He shall give them up”), is that the smitten judge of verse 1 was not, as usually assumed, a mere humiliation of Israel’s contemporary king by the invading army (whether Hezekiah by the Assyrians, or Zedekiah by the Babylonians, as variously suggested), but the smitten judge was, in fact, the Messiah from Bethlehem who was rejected by “His brethren” (keeping in mind the Joseph analogy).

It has been well said that when we see a “therefore” in scripture, we need to pay close attention to what it’s ‘there for! ‘Therefore’ marks the transition from what is said and what the results or consequences are of what has been said. In this instance, I point out that the “therefore” (‘for this cause’) of verse 3 stands in causal connection to the smiting of the ruler of Israel in verse 1. The insertion of verse 2 between the cause of verse 1 and the effect of verse 3 explains the enormity of the offense that brings the judgement of Yahweh’s abandonment of the chosen people. It is because the smitten judge of verse 1 is not just any king or governor of Israel. He is the ruler from David’s line who has no beginning who brings the kingdom that has no end. The time in view is NOT the time of His birth, nor His ascension to the right hand of God, but when He comes (returns?) to destroy the final enemy (Ps 110:1-2; Isa 11:4; Mic 5:5-6).

The degree of punishment implies a greater crime than the more common sins of idolatry and covenant disloyalty from which there would a measure of recovery and revival, as under the prophets, Zechariah and Haggai, Ezra, and Nehemiah. Rather, the enormity of the punishment implies something more that sins in general, but a particular, consummate offense. This is evident in Hos 5:15-6:2 where the end of exile and the resurrection of the nation to begin the messianic age awaits acknowledgement, not simply of sins, or guilt in general, but of one offense in particular (compare also Zech 12:10, and Mt 23:39; Jn 19:37; Rev 1:7).

Such a long and unremitting experience of exile can only be explained by an offense that is on the scale of the national rejection (smiting) of God’s Messiah, the Davidic king whom He calls His son in Ps 2:7. It should not be lost on our attention that the prophet Isaiah, who is notably a contemporary of Micah, uses the same language to describe the suffering servant of Isa 50 and 53 who is likewise smitten by both the nation and by God as an atonement for sin. (compare, Job 16:10; Ps 69:26; Isa 50:6; 53:4, 10; Mic 5:1; Zech 13:7; Lam 3:30; Mt 26:31, 67-68; 27:30). .

Because it is so important to be clear on Israel’s predestined restoration to covenant favor, we are careful to emphasize that the “giving up” of Israel is never permanent, but only “UNTIL” the time of ‘Zion’s travail’. It is also important to point out that Micah’s reference to Israel’s travail is typical OT language for the great and unequaled tribulation (“Jacob’s trouble”) that ends in the spiritual birth or resurrection of the nation (compare Deut 4:30; Isa 13:8; 26:16-17; 66:8; Jer 30:6-7; Dan 12:1; Hos 5:15; Mic 5:3).

Most will have heard of the coming “great tribulation”, referred to in popular idiom as ‘the apocalypse’. The concept of a final great tribulation of unequaled severity was once a common theme in the eschatology of Judaism. The transition from exile to redemption was understood to follow a time of great and unequaled tribulation, which the Rabbis called “the messianic woes,” or “the footsteps of the Messiah.”

The Micah passage is only the first plank of evidence. The strength of the argument is in the cumulative evidence for a foretold prophetic mystery that is distributed here and there throughout the writings of the prophets (Isa 8:14-17; 28:9-13; 29:11; Dan 9:24; 12:9; 1Pet 1:11; Ro 16:25-26).

Pointing out the implications of Micah 5:1-4 for both comings of Messiah to Israel provides the perfect opportunity to turn to another significant “until” passage from the Old Testament, Hos 5:15-6:2. Here again, a time of divine desertion is in view, which can be shown to correspond to the two days of exile and the age long chastisement that ends with Israel’s national repentance and resurrection (Hos 6:2 with Isa 26:19-20; Eze 37:5, 11-12; Dan 12:1-2; Hos 13:13-14).

Notice that in both the Hosea passage and the Micah passage; the cause for divine desertion is blamed, not on guilt or transgression in general, but on a singular ‘offense’ or transgression. The nation’s release from the judgment of exile and tribulation comes when this particular offense is acknowledged (Hos 5:15; Zech 12:10; with Mt 23:39; Acts 3:19-21; Ro 11:26; Rev 1:7). Once again, we see that the transition comes “in their affliction” (Deut 4:30; Isa 48:10; Jer 30:6-7; Dan 12:1). It is important to stress that the day of national deliverance is always depicted as coming after a brief, but unequaled time of national birth pangs, affliction, or tribulation called “the time of Jacob’s trouble” (Deut 4:30; 32:36; Isa 13:6-8; 26:17-18; 66:8; Mic 4:9; 5:3; Jer 30:7; Dan 12:1, 7; Mt 24:21).

Significantly, Hosea depicts the departure and return of God in language that fits the presence, departure, and return of the Messiah to His former place in heaven, as now ‘sit down’ (term of completion) at God’s right hand, “waiting till His enemies are made His footstool when He shall begin His rod-iron rule out of Zion (Ps 2:8-9; 110:1-2; Hos 5:15; Heb 10:12-13). It is important to point out that the One who departs to His place, returns when the offense that provoked His departure is finally acknowledged. This corresponds to Zech 12:10. “They shall look up Me whom they have pierced.” The manifest analogy with Joseph becomes even more compelling in light of Mt 23:39. “You will not see me again ‘till’ you will say, “Blessed is He who comes …”  Zech 12:10, used with Mt 23:39, takes on glorious force in relationship to the prophetic type of Joseph’s reunion with his estranged brethren. It is the fitting dénouement to the most costly, fiercely pursued love story ever conceived.

The smiting of the divine son of David is the key to determining when the two days of Hos 6:2 begins. The time of Israel’s final giving up conincides with the two days that begins when the smitten ruler returns to His place at the Father’s right hand, expecting till His enemies are made His footstool at Antichrist’s destruction and the return of the kingdom to Israel. (compare Mic 5:1-5; Hos 5:15-6:3). This is the ultimate provocation that caused the One who “came to His own” but was ‘despised’ of the nation (Ps 22:6; Isa 49:7; 53:3; Hos 9:7; Jn 1:11) to “go away and return to His place” (Hos 5:15 w/ Ps 110:1-3; Mt 22:44; 26:64; Acts 1:11; 2:34; 3:21; 7:56; Ro 8:34; Eph 1:20; Col 3:1; Heb 1:3, 13; 8:1; 10:12; 12:2). You can see how amazingly well Mic 5:1-4 and Hos 5:15-6:2 go together in setting forth this basic outline of prophetic history.

The order and the way one proceeds from here will be a matter of personal adaptation and choice, but at this point, I like to point out that the unexpected interval between two distinct comings of Messiah covers, not only the full time that God is hiding His face in disapproval (Deut 31:17-18; 32:20; Isa 8:17; Eze 39:24, 29), but it particularly marks the time that the Deuteronomic threat would be fulfilled that during Israel’s estrangement from covenant favor, another people, a ‘not a people’, would be called to make Israel jealous. (Deut 32:21; Isa Isa 49:5; 65:1; with Mt 21:43; Acts 14:27; 15:14; Ro 10:19; 11:11; 1Pet 2:9-10). This is the time of Messiah’s session at God’s right while His face remains hidden, as the vision and prophecy remains sealed from the errant nation who have not yet come into the everlasting righteousness of the New Covenant sealed by the ascended Redeemer’s blood (Ps 110:1-2; Isa 8:14-17; Isa 59:20-21; Jer 32:40; Dan 9:24).

This great and unexpected reversal begins with rejection of the ‘corner stone’ (Isa 8:14-15; 28:16; Mt 21:42; Acts 4:11; 1Pet 2:8) and continues until the Spirit is poured out upon the surviving remnant (Ezek 39:28-29; Joel 2:28; Zech 12:10). “From that day and forward the house of Israel will know that I am the Lord their God (Ezek 39:22). “And I will not hide My face from them anymore; for I shall have poured out My Spirit on the house of Israel, says the Lord God” (Ezek 39:29; compare also Isa 8:17; 59:19-21; Ro 11:25-27). This basic order of ongoing covenant discipline and the hiding of God’s face between the advents needs to be brought to Jewish attention, so that what many refuse to consider now, they will consider perfectly. “In the latter days, you will consider it perfectly” (see Deut 32:29; Isa 1:3; 42:22-25; Jer 23:30; 30:24)

After the two days of divine absence (Mt 23:39) that perfectly parallels the age long “giving up” of Israel described in Mic 5:3 and Hos 5:15-6:2, the rejected ruler from Bethlehem returns to revive the blinded nation by a miracle of revelation and regeneration that accomplishes the return and reunion of His estranged brethren (the broken off branches). With this, the covenant with Israel is vindicated, as Messiah begins His universal, rod-iron rule over the nations from a restored Zion (Mic 5:4). Notice how the language, “then the remnant of His brethren shall return” is so profoundly evocative of Joseph’s family reunion at the moment of his self revelation to his brethren who had formerly rejected and sold him.

If I am speaking to Christians who have heard of the millennium, I point out that the Jews are raised to live out the third day in His sight as a newly born / newly revived, now entirely regenerate nation (Isa 54:13; 59:21; 60:21; Jer 31:34 et al). Thus, the third day in which the resurrected nation lives in His sight, corresponds perfectly to the NT revelation of the thousand year reign that follows Messiah’s return.

With the national confession and repentance that concludes the second day, the resurrected nation then lives out the third day of millennial glory as an all living (fully regenerate) nation that has now come into the ‘everlasting righteousness’ of covenant promise (Jer 32:40; Dan 9:24). With the new heart and spirit that is no longer the experience of only a remnant (Eze 18:31), but now the entirety of a fully regenerate with none left among them who do not know the Lord (Jer 31:34; Eze 39:22), never again to depart (Isa 54:10; 59:21; Jer 32:40), the Land can now be kept in  guaranteed security, forever beyond the threat of curse and exile (2Sam 7:10; 1Chron 17:9; Isa 54:15-17; Jer 24:6-7; Eze 37:25-28; Am 9:14-15).

At this point, I will typically share my personal conviction that the two days should be reckoned from the point of the Lord’s return “to His place”.  The time of abandonment begins, not with the destruction of the temple in 70 A.D., but when Jesus returned to His former glory in heaven, to take His seat of authority and rule at the Father’s right hand. There He remains until another great ‘until’ of prophecy, “until His enemies are made His footstool” (see Ps 110:1-2), and from thence He will return “at the set time to favor Zion” (Ps 102:13; 110:3). The following verse, Ps 110:3, shows that the same time Messiah’s enemies are made His footstool, the nation, long apostate, is made ‘willing in the day of His power” (i.e., the day of the Lord). With this, the long captivity is over forever, as the times of the gentiles close with the Deliverer’s descent out of Zion to turn ungodliness from Jacob (Lk 21:24; Ro 11:25-29).

In His parting words, Jesus declares to the nation who would not be gathered, “Behold, your house is left unto you desolate. For I say unto you, Ye shall not see me henceforth, till ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord” (Mt 23:38-39). With Israel’s fall, a “door of faith” would now be opened to the gentiles (Deut 32:21; Isa 49:5; 65:1; Acts 14:27; 15:14; Mt 21:43; Ro 1:5; 10:19; 16:25-26; 1Pet 2:9).

The death of Jesus would mark an unexpected extension of the long night of exilic judgment that must continue “UNTIL the times of the gentiles be fulfilled” (Lk 21:24). In the meantime, something completely unexpected would interpose itself into the eschatological time line. That is the present calling out of the gentiles a people for His name (Mt 24:14; 28:19; Acts 14:27; 15:14; Ro 16:26). This was, of course, very much expected but only in connection with the ‘end’ of exile, never as a result of Israel’s greater fall and further hardening (Ro 11:11). Though fully ‘written’ and foretold in the prophetic writings, all of this belonged to the mystery hidden in other ages (Isa 8:16; 29:11; Acts 26:22; Ro 16:25-26; 1Cor 2:7-8; 1Pet 1:11).

Astonishingly, before Israel’s regeneration and return, before the tribulation (Zion’s travail; Isa 66:7-8), not with Israel’s deliverance and exaltation, but “through their fall” (Ro 11:11). This unexpected turn took everyone by surprise. “Though Israel be NOT gathered”, yet,  Messiah’s labors would not be in vain, but receive a more immediate reward and vindication among the gentiles (Isa 49:5-6; 65:1). Even while the saved remnant will continue to ‘wait on Him who hides His face from Israel’ (Isa 8:17), the sealed vision, what Paul calls the ‘hidden wisdom’ is ‘bound up and sealed among My disciples’ (Isa 8:16). It is the ‘mystery of the gospel’ by which the gentiles are made fellow partakers and joint heirs with the household of faith (Ro 16:25-26; Eph 2:19; 3:5-6; 6:18).

Paradox of paradox, only in this way could the Deuteronomic threat of Moses be fulfilled, that for a certain season, during the nation had been ‘given up’, another people (‘not a people’ / gentiles) would be blessed in their place. How better to understand the great extension of exilic judgment than by the nation’s failure to recognize “the time of their visitation” resulting in the rejection and crucifixion of Jesus? (Mt 23:39 with Lk 19:44; Acts 2:23). In this light, few things uttered by mortal lips could be more chilling and prophetic than the tragic self-imprecation invoked in Pilate’s judgment hall, “His blood be on us and on our children!” (Mt 27:24-25).

By following through, using, and underlining for emphasis, the highly significant ‘tills’ and ‘untils’ of prophecy, the way is made clear to show that Israel’s blindness and exile is both temporary and everywhere connected to their national resurrection at Messiah’s return. With the question raised as to what great offense would be sufficient to condemn the nation to such an extended exile, one might turn to compare in Dan 9:26, where one called a ‘messiah’ is ‘cut off’, noting the same language is used to describe Isaiah’s suffering servant in Isa 53:8. Like Micah’s smitten king, He is likewise smitten, stricken, and despised of His own brethren (Isa 49:7; 50:6; 53:3-4). This comparison shows that the anonymous Servant in Isa 53 and the anointed Prince of Dan 9:26, are one and the same. He is the seed of the woman through whom the curse would be reversed by atoning substitution.

It is important to understand that the prophets well knew the implications of this most pregnant promise. Only one not under the curse could conceivably reverse it. Through unfolding revelation of David’s discernment of the significance of Abraham’s encounter with Melchizedek and his own investing of his future greater son with transcendent attributes of deity at God’s right hand (without “beginning of days”; Ps 110:4; Mic 5:2; Heb 7:3, or ‘end of days’; Isa 9:6-7), we may be very sure that the prophets foresaw, not only the sufferings of Messiah and the glories that would follow (1Pet 1:11), but also His necessary sinlessness and divine nature (Ps 2:7; 110:1, 4; Isa 7:14; 9:6-7; Mic 5:2; Jer 23:6).

As contemporaries in the southern kingdom of Judah, both Isaiah and Micah saw and foretold that the ruler from David’s line would be (in significant pattern with the sufferings of the rejected Joseph and the afflictions of David), rejected, despised, and ‘smitten’ by “His own brethren” (Ps 22:6, 16; Isa 49:7; 50:6; 53:3-4; Mic 5:1-3; Zech 12:10; Jn 19:37; Rev 1:7). They understood that before Messiah would enter into His glory, He would first be made a trap and snare for pride and unbelief, as the divinely ordained stone of stumbling (Isa 8:14; 28:6; Mk 12:10-11; Acts 4:11; Ro 9:32-33; 1Cor 1:23; 2Cor 2:16; 1Pet 2:4-8).  But it is just here, at the point of Israel’s greater fall by the rejection of their Messiah, that both Micah and Hosea, also contemporaries, speak of an extended time of divine abandonment (Mic 5:3; Hos 5:15).

Among the covenant curses of Deuteronomy it is written that while God’s face would be hidden from the nation (Deut 31:17-18), at the same time, He would be provoking them to jealousy by another people, a ‘not a people’, a ‘foolish nation’ (Deut 32:20-21). The foretold surrender of Israel over to an age long hardening (Job 34:29; Isa 6:9-11; 29:11) would never be more than partial, of course, since God would always preserve to Himself a remnant.

God’s face was never hidden from the remnant, but the prophets looked to the time when, not only a remnant, but all Israel would be saved, entirely, and without exception, all would be righteous and their children after them preserved in righteousness forever (Isa 4:3; 45:25; 54:13; 50:21; 60:21; Jer 31:34; 32:40 et al), when the face of God would no longer be hidden from any part of the now fully redeemed nation (Isa 8:17; Eze 39:22, 28-29).

This situation of a lively remnant in abiding contrast with a disobedient nation under judgment would continue only ‘UNTIL’ the Spirit is poured upon us from on high …” (Isa 32:15-17). Not the concurrence of the pouring out of the Spirit with the spiritual birth of the nation in one day (Isa 66:8; Zech 3:9; Eze 39:22) whereupon the erring nation will at last and forever enter into everlasting righteousness of the New Covenant (Isa 66:8; Jer 31:3131-34; Eze 11:19; 36:26-27). But note; a new spirit was always in times past available to the remnant who would turn to the Lord in repentance (Prov 1:23; Isa 55:1-3; Eze 18:31).

Not knowing the mystery of Messiah’s two comings and the purpose of God for the gentiles during an unexpected inter-advent period, nor the expansion of the remnant to include the wild branches from among the gentiles during an extended exile between the advents, the pouring out of the Spirit was always associated with the end of the final tribulation at the day of the Lord. The hiding of God’s face, not from the remnant, from whom His face was never hidden, but from the nation as a whole, ends forever with pouring out of the Spirit upon the newly born (Isa 66:8), resurrected (Isa 25:8; 26:19; Eze 37:12; Hos 6:2; 13:14) , and now entirely regenerate nation of penitent survivors at the end of the great and final tribulation (Isa 8:17; Isa 54:7-8; 57:17-18; 59:21; 64:7; Eze 36:26-27; 37:14; 39:8, 13; 22-24, 39; Joel 2:29-31; Zech 12:10).

Not only had Moses foretold the great anomaly of gentile salvation at the very time the face of God would be hidden from the larger nation, but Isaiah is just as clear, particularly when an exceptionally stubborn and much debated textual variant is duly considered. Time forbids giving an account and full documentation of the argumentation that has passed between both Jewish and Christian scholars, but the wording that is actually present in our surviving manuscripts (Kethiv) for Isa 49:5, but also questioned by the marginal reading (Quere) in some manuscripts, requires us to understand that Messiah’s mission to gather the tribes Israel would meet with momentary disappointment and seeming failure (“though Israel be NOT gathered”; see note below).

This momentary disappointment would be vindicated by the more immediate expansion of Messiah’s mission to bring the light of salvation to the nations and isles afar off (Isa 42:1; 49:1, 6), not AFTER Israel has been restored, but during the time that Israel is NOT gathered. Such a reading, along with Isa 65:1, suggests that the gathering of the gentiles would not be limited to the post-tribulational salvation of the nation, (which is no less true and forthcoming), but to the time that follows the rejection of Messiah, Jesus (Isa 49:7; 53:3; Mic 5:1; Zech 12:10).

This is just an opening for all the many evidences that can then, time permitting, be added to demonstrate the gospel in the Old Testament. Not only as a mystery that pertains to Christ’s two comings, but as a mystery that reveals God’s plan in all its glorious relationship to the fall and rising again of Israel. As I said, it provides a port of entrance by which one can move freely, fitting each additional piece into the framework that the mystery establishes of Messiah’s two comings and the extended judgment of exile that continues until His return.

It is certainly well known that the two comings of Christ were foretold in prophecy, but the approach that I am commending here underscores and proves the relation of the second coming to Israel in particular. Then all the great points of divine contention that the end events will press to ultimate intensity can be considered in their proper context. This is something much more than the mere acknowledgement of prophetic fulfillment. It raises all the great issues of God that surface when we understand that the end of the age comes in relation to what Isaiah calls the “controversy of Zion” (Isa 34:8; Zech 12:2-3).

By demonstrating this structural outline of the mystery of Christ and Israel, one is able to verify from OT prophecy, that between the comings of Christ, the face of God is hidden from the nation at the very same time that God is provoking the Jew to jealousy by another people (the preponderantly Gentile church; Deut 32:21; Isa 49:5; 65:1 with Mt 21:43; Ro 10:19; 11:11). These scriptures establish the context and time for the calling out of a people from among the Gentiles (Acts 14:27; 15:14-18; Ro 11:15-17, 25) during the time that God is hiding His face from the nation as a whole (Deut 31:17-18; 32:20; Isa 8:17; Ezek 39:29; Mic 3:4).

I say “the nation as a whole,” because the face of God is not hidden from the elect remnant, among whom the testimony is “sealed up and bound” (Isa 8:16). The Spirit has already revealed the mystery of the gospel to the church (Ro 16:25-26 w/ Dan 11:32-33; 12:3, 10). What is waiting is for the Spirit to be poured out “in the whole house of Israel” at the day of the Lord (Isa 44:3; 59:21; Ezek 37:11, 14; 39:25, 29; Joel 2:28-29; Zech 12:10). Then will the ‘sealed vision’ be revealed to the penitent remnant of Israel by the outpoured Spirit of God (compare Isa 8:16-17 w/ Dan 9:24; Ezek 39:29; Zech 12:10) in the same way that the gospel was revealed by the Spirit at Pentecost (Acts 3:18-21 w/ 1Pet 1:11-12). From this we can see that Israel’s national regeneration “in one day” (Isa 66:8; Ezek 39:22; Zech 3:9; 12:10) stands in remarkable analogy to the amazing sovereignty of Christ’s revelation of Himself to Paul on the Damascus road (Gal 1:15-16 w/ Ps 102:13).

Ezekiel is clear that “from that day and forward” (Ezek 39:22), God’s face will never more be hidden from any part of the whole house of Israel (Ezek 39:28-29). From that time, every living Jewish survivor of the last tribulation (Jer 31:34), and every child ever born to Jewish parentage (Isa 54:13; 59:21), will ‘all’ know the Lord in the glory of the everlasting covenant (Isa 60:21; Jer 31:34). This is the covenant background behind Paul’s statement, “And so ‘all’ Israel shall be saved” (Ro 11:26).

The gentile believer, no less than the Jewish believer, needs to be prepared to show the evidence of the gospel as a prophetic mystery contained in the Old Testament, not only for the useful goal of personal salvation, but because God has literally ‘commanded’ that the mystery of the gospel should be made known to all nations (not only to Jews) “by the scriptures of the prophets” (Acts 18:28; Ro 16:26). Prophecy is God’s own chosen method of witness (Isa 41:21-22; 42:9; 43:10-12; 44:7-8; 45:11; 46:9-10; Rev 19:10). It is like Paul’s reference to the weakness and ‘foolishness” of preaching; it is the approach that has “pleased God.”

From the standpoint of evangelism, the early church made a point to proclaim the gospel as a revelation a mystery (Eph 6:19) that was completely foretold in the Old Testament (Acts 26:22), but yet kept secret until the set time of revelation (Isa 8:16; 29:11; Ro 16:25-26). Should this also be our approach to evangelism? I believe it should for the following reasons:

Among Jews of the first century, the test for any truth claim was the question: “Does it stand written?” The revelation of the gospel was commended, by the apostles, to Israel on one basis only, namely, its agreement with what Moses and the prophets foretold. Approaching the witnessing task in this way does some very important things. At the same time that it validates the gospel, it also shows decisive evidence for the miracle of prophecy. The demonstration of the divine purpose of God in prophecy gives purpose and meaning to history, which opens a door of hope to the hopeless, even as it removes the intellectual excuse. (Even when our witness does not result in someone’s salvation, God has willed the removal of the “hiding place” for purposes of clarity in His judgment (Ps 51:4; Isa 6:10; 28:13; Jn 15:22).

This original approach to evangelism also accomplishes something else that is very important but too slightly considered in modern times. It establishes the gospel as a mystery that was intentionally hidden until the time of its full revelation with the advent of the Spirit at Pentecost (Acts 3:18-21; Ro 16:25-26; 1Pet 1:11-12). We need to understand why the gospel of Christ was a mystery, because it bears greatly on how we understand the last days of this age.

There was a divine strategy to expose and defeat the principalities and powers of this present age by keeping the mystery of God’s hidden wisdom concerning Christ secret until after its accomplishment (compare Mk 8:30; 9:9; “see you tell no man;” w/ 1Cor 2:7-8; “For had they (the principalities and powers) known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory”. The mystery was a divinely prepared trap and snare against all self sufficient presumption, both human and demonic (Ps 69:22 w/ Isa 8:14-15; 28:16; Mt 21:42; 1Pet 2:6-8). In that sense, it was hidden for judgment (Jn 9:39).

Before its revelation, the gospel, though completely foretold, was a divinely designed mystery (the sealed testimony or vision; Isa 8:16; 29:11; Dan 9:24; 12:4, 9) prepared to function not only as revelation to the repentant, but as judgment to the impenitent. The church needs to present the gospel for the mystery that it was, and also for the revelation that it will yet be to the penitent survivors of Jacob’s trouble at the future day of the Lord.

The mystery of the gospel includes both comings of Christ, and the second coming is inextricably related to literal-physical Israel and all that pertains to the Antichrist, the tribulation, and Christ’s return at the day of the Lord. The greater mystery of God (Rev 10:7), “the mystery of His will” (Eph 1:9), or “the eternal purpose which He purposed in Christ” (Eph 1:11), reveals God’s predestined means of fulfilling in literal detail His everlasting covenant with Israel. That is why it is so essential that the church understand its relationship to Israel’s future grace, since it is the same covenant of sure mercies, as established with Abraham and David.

In order for the hidden wisdom of God’s prophetic purpose in Christ to be concealed from the demonic realm, it was also necessary that it be hidden from man as well (Mt 13:35; Ro 16:25; Eph 3:5). Even after the mystery of the gospel has been revealed to the church in its outward form, its inner essence remains hidden and inaccessible to pride (Mt 11:25; 1Cor 2:14). It is not enough that the outward form of the gospel be only understood with the mind; it must be quickened by the Spirit, as only revelation by the Spirit is sufficient to create lasting inward transformation (2Cor 3:18). Enough evidence will make even a devil “believe” (Ja 2:19), but true trust in God is foreign to our nature. It must be in-wrought by the life giving Spirit of God.

This understanding of the ways of God in mystery as judgment, and through revelation as mercy, saves the church from taking for granted the extravagant cost and scope of the work of God with both Jew and gentile in His continual war against the pride of self-reliance. It brings into view a further aspect of God’s ability to accomplish both judgment and salvation by His wise use of a prophetic mystery that is at once His glory and special delight.

Paul spoke about the “fellowship of the mystery” (Eph 3:9 KJV), as a “hidden wisdom, which God decreed before the ages for our glory” (1 Cor 2:7). This carries huge implications for the church, not only for its more intelligent appreciation of the cost and glory of the gospel, but for its understanding of the modern crisis of Israel as we approach the concluding stages of the same prophetic mystery, as this mystery will again confront Israel (Isa 28:11-18), the church (Ro 11:25; 1Pet 4:17), and the nations (Ps 2:1-2, 6; Isa 29:7-8; 34:2, 8; Dan 11:28, 30; 40-45; Joel 3:2; Zeph 3:8; Zech 12:2-3, 9; 14:2-3).

It raises the issue of God’s employment of mystery and revelation in His conquest of Satan (Dan 10:12-13; 1Cor 2:7-8; Rev 12:7-10), as it also tests and exposes the hearts of men. Although the prophetic mystery that stumbled Israel is now an open secret, it remains hidden from the pride of impenitence (Isa 28:21). Such a concept of revealed mystery by a God who “hides Himself” (Isa 45:15) provides a radical readjustment of how God is perceived in this aspect of His judgment upon all human and demonic autonomy. If the ultra religious sects of Israel was not spared in the day of an unrecognized visitation (Lk 19:44), how shall the pride of the church be spared (Ro 11:21; 1Pet 4:17), as we near the time that the “the mystery of God” (Rev 10:7) is about to be finished?

In conclusion, this plan of presentation shows the basic outline of history in prophecy, and makes sense of the unexpectedly long interval that has already passed between the first and second comings, which brings us now full circle again to an imminent world crisis over Jerusalem as a modern cup of trembling, evoking all the great issues of God that conclude the age. It makes sense out of all that has followed in Jewish history.

The case for a future tribulation that is focused primarily on the nation of Israel opens up opportunity to call attention to the contemporary fulfillment of prophecy and to draw out the implications of current trends. Time permitting, particularly when witnessing to Jews; one could expand on the ancient contention of the covenant (Lev 26; Deut 28-32; Ezek 20:37), and the explanation this provides for the mystery of Jewish suffering throughout history. The way is then made to show that the great goal of the covenant and the solution to the crisis of Jewish history is the revelation of the righteousness of God in Christ. This is the crux; all else is secondary by comparison. The entire New Testament is occupied to expound the righteousness promised to Israel in the everlasting covenant. (“For therein (the gospel) is the righteousness of God revealed… But now the righteousness of God is manifested …; Ro 1:17; 3:21-22, 25-26; 10:3-4; 16:26).

In covenant and prophecy, all lines lead to the revelation of Messiah as “the Lord our righteousness” (Jer 23:6). No other righteousness is adequate to fulfill the law and no other sacrifice is acceptable to assuage divine wrath. The imputed righteousness of Christ is the “the everlasting righteousness” (Isa 26:12; 45:24-25; 54:17; Jer 23:6; 32:40; Dan 9:24) of covenant promise that will enable Israel to keep the Land forever. It is the righteousness revealed to the church at the end 69th week of Daniel, as it will be revealed to the penitent remnant of Israel at the end of Daniel’s seventieth week, fitting the newly born nation (Isa 66:8) for its millennial inheritance.

The gap that the above scriptures expose between Christ’s two advents can be discerned in Daniel’s famous prophecy of the seventy weeks (Dan 9:24-27). A hidden age between the advents is a common characteristic of Old Testament prophecy, where both comings of Christ are often blended in the same prophecy without clear distinction. The phenomenon also appears in many passages where near and distant aspects of prophecy are combined.

We need to understand that God deliberately concealed the foretold gospel of Christ in the form of a prophetic mystery, revealed in parts and pieces (“here a little, and there a little”) throughout the prophetic writings of the Old Testament (Ro 16:25-26; 1Pet 1:11-12). This needs to be underscored, because Daniel’s mysterious prophecy of the seventy weeks constitutes a perfect example of the OT mystery of Messiah’s coming, departure, and return to Israel, as a secret, divinely sealed and ‘kept under wraps’, or ‘encrypted’ (the Hebrew sense of Isa 8:16 according to Keil and Delitzsch) until its revelation by the Spirit (compare also Dan 9:24; 12:4, 9; Ro 16:25-26; 1Pet 1:11-12 etc.)

This is not the place to make the full case, but the seventy weeks are strategically constructed around the two great mysteries of incarnation (the woman’s and the serpent’s seed of Gen 3:15) that mark the beginning and the end of this present age. In One (“Messiah the Prince”), the mystery of godliness is revealed (1Tim 3:16). In the other, “the prince that shall come” heads up the mystery of iniquity, which Paul shows must be revealed before Christ can return (2Thes 2:7).

It can be demonstrated beyond reasonable dispute that the final week (Dan 9:27) of Daniel’s prophecy of the seventy weeks (Dan 9:24-27) is not in reference to Christ but the Antichrist. Therefore, a gap is necessarily observed between the 69th and 70th weeks. The controversy over whether the 70th week of Daniel is future, resolves itself into one decisive question: “Which of the two princes stops the daily sacrifice?” If the evidence within the immediate context of the book is given due priority, the answer is irrefutable. It is “the one who exalts himself” (compare Dan 8:11 w/ Dan 11:31-37; 2Thes 2:4).

Furthermore, chapter 12 of Daniel is particularly decisive in making the case for the futurity of Daniel’s final week, because it makes clear that the sacrifice that is stopped in “the middle of the week” in Dan 9:27, happens approximately 3 ½ years (1290 days) before the resurrection of the dead (compare Dan 12:1-2 with Dan 12:11; see also, Dan 7:25; 12:7; Rev 11:2-3; 12:16, 14; 13:5). To suppose that the 70th week of Daniel follows the 69th in unbroken succession is to ignore the internal evidence within the book, but worse, it is to miss the divinely intended mystery that will continue to offend the rationalism of higher criticism.

So the great tribulation is clearly the second half of the last seven years that starts with a covenant or league (Dan 9:27; 11:23) that is made with “the prince that shall come.” He is the Antichrist (“little horn” or “Man of Sin”) who makes the “covenant with death hell” that seduces Israel into a false sense of security (Isa 28:15-18; Dan 11:24 ASV). The false security that results from this ill-fated peace treaty (Ezek 38:8, 11, 14) prepares the way for the “sudden destruction” (1Thes 5:3) of Jacob’s trouble (Jer 30:7; Dan 12:1; Mt 24:21). Therefore, the tribulation starts at the mid point of the week when the Antichrist violates the covenant that he earlier confirmed at the start of the week (Dan 9:27; 11:23-31).

No single prophecy could ever be more important for the end time church to understand (“Let the reader understand;” Mt 24:15) than Daniel’s prophecy of the seventy weeks (Dan 9:24-27). Careful attention to Daniel is vital for opening up and showing so much else that is critically relevant for the church’s preparation for its role in these last days towards Israel and the nations (Dan 11:33; 12:3, 10). The specific chronology of Daniel is particularly dreaded by Satan, because his eviction by Michael in the middle of week (Rev 12:9-10) is directly related to the prophetic countdown of events that start with the beginning of Daniel’s seventieth week.

[Note 1: We have followed K and 4QIsd in reading lo‘ (‘not’; cf also Vg, Sym, Th), rather than Q and 1QIsa lô (‘to him’; cf also LXX, Tg, Syr). The latter reading implies the meaning ‘and so that Israel might be gathered to him’, which makes easier sense but thus seems to be a correction. Goldingay, J., & Payne, D. (2006). A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on Isaiah 40–55. (G. I. Davies & G. N. Stanton, Eds.) (Vol. 2, p. 162). London; New York: T&T Clark.

[Note 2: That the book of Daniel has suffered greater attack by liberal scholarship than any other book of the Bible should alert the conservative believer to Satan’s special fear and hatred of its contents. (see Sir Robert Anderson’s, “Daniel in the Critics Den.” More recently, Josh McDowell has written an update of Anderson’s material by the same title.)]

[Note 3: The futurity of the entire seven years of Daniel’s seventieth week was specifically affirmed by Hippolytus (170-236 AD) in his “Treatise on Christ and Antichrist” (Ante Nicene Fathers Vol 5, Pt. 2:43). Hippolytus was a disciple of Irenaeus, who was a disciple of Polycarp, who was a disciple of John. So the really presumptuous allegation that the gap between the 69th and 70th weeks of Daniel is an invention of modern 19th century dispensationalism is patently false. On the contrary, the much maligned “gap theory” is intrinsic to the mystery of Christ in the Old Testament.]

Reggie

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