The Rest and the Refreshing

This is the kind of mystery (see the post “After Two Days…“) inscribed in the scriptures of the prophets that only Jesus understood in His un-fallen, divinely human mind (“by His knowledge will He justify many”). It is why He was not at liberty to unpack the mystery to His disciples until the appointed time of revelation (after the cross and Pentecost). It was purposely hidden, not only from the pride of man as judgment, but the principalities and powers (those angelic rulers that stand behinds the potentates of earth). “For had they (the demon princes) known it (the mystery), they would not have crucified (inspired the crucifixion) of the Lord of glory, since it would prove their undoing.

It may sound speculative and theoretical, but until I can be corrected, this observance has led me to make some inferences that, at least for me, explain a lot. For example, I infer (not dogmatically affirm) from this that Satan cannot know or read the mind of the Spirit except as he is able to learn, second hand from the minds of those who receive spiritual illumination but who also have the natural mind because of the fall. In contrast, Jesus, being, virgin born, bypassed the fallen nature received from Adam. Although His mind was fully human, it was also fully divine, even as He grew up into all fullness, with no trace of what we have all received through our parentage through the fall.

This is how Satan was not able to know what Jesus alone could know until the time of fulfillment and revelation. It is also why it was so crucial that Jesus guard the messianic secret, even from His own disciples until the time. Whereas the demons were unique in their ability to know the identity of the Son, they could not know the hidden wisdom of the cross. Of course they know it now, too late as their judgement has been sealed.

It is the same with the mystery hid in other ages. It is to some extent knowable in a superficial and factual kind of way, but even though it is now revealed, it is only truly apprehended by the Spirit. That is why Paul would say that it is impossible for the natural man to receive the things of the Spirit. There is not the capacity for the spiritually dead to receive the things of the Spirit.

This has helped me understand better God’s strategy in using divine secrets in His war against demonic powers and judgment on the pride of man. It has also helped me understand better the use of tongues in spiritual warfare. Let me explain.

“In the law (Isa 28:11) it is written, With men of other tongues and other lips will I speak unto this people; and yet for all that will they not hear me, saith the Lord” (1 Cor 14:21).

In view of its context and primary meaning, I always puzzled over why Paul would use this specific verse from this particular context in order to support his point about tongues as a sign to the unbeliever with a view of tempering its use in the church for congregational edification. Certainly at Pentecost, and in some instances in the assemblies, to hear in one’s own language words being spoken in another language is indeed a miraculous sign to the unbeliever. It certainly availed to arrest the multitude on Pentecost in order for the gospel to be preached by Peter.

But something else was also happening on Pentecost. For the first time, the gospel of the mystery of Christ’s suffering and the glory that should follow was being preached in full light of the cross and resurrection, ascension and return. The gospel, foretold but kept a secret in times past, had now been revealed by the Holy Spirit send down from heaven (1Pet 1:11-12). Until this time, Jesus would speak in proverbs and parables, concealing to some extent what would soon be broadcast from the housetops (Mt 10:27; Jn 16:25), but until that appointed time, it is “tell no man …”

Hold this in mind as we look at Isa 28 in both its historical and further eschatological application, but before going to Isa 28, let’s look at something interesting and complementary of the point I want to make in an earlier chapter of Isaiah.

Characteristic of Hebrew prophecy in that mysterious blend of the near and the far, Isa 8:12-18 holds a glorious prophecy of the gospel,

“Say ye not, A confederacy, to all them to whom this people shall say, A confederacy; neither fear ye their fear, nor be afraid. Sanctify the Lord of hosts himself; and let him be your fear, and let him be your dread. Sanctify the Lord of hosts himself; and let him be your fear, and let him be your dread. And he shall be for a sanctuary; but for a stone of stumbling and for a rock of offense to both the houses of Israel, for a gin and for a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem. And many among them shall stumble, and fall, and be broken, and be snared, and be taken. Bind up the testimony, seal the law among my disciples. And I will wait upon the Lord, who hides his face from the house of Jacob, and I will look for him. Behold, I and the children whom the Lord hath given me are for signs and for wonders in Israel from the Lord of hosts, who dwells in mount Zion.”

As typical, the first, but I would not say, primary application of this prophecy is to the imminent threat of the confederacy of Ephraim (the northern kingdom of Israel) and Syria against Judah. The Lord of host, Yahweh, as particularly to be revealed in Immanuel, will be at once a hiding place for those who trust and fear the Lord, but a stone of testing, set to be a divinely prepared trap of judgement for the fearful and unbelieving. What I particularly want to point out is that in the Hebrew, to seal up and bind up means to ‘keep under wraps’ (Keil and Delitzsch). It is “the testimony” that is sealed and this is used elsewhere of the gospel, even in some translations, the mystery (1Cor 2:1).

As I will show, this agrees very nearly with what will be called in Isa 28:12, “the rest and the refreshing”, a clear allusion to the gospel. Observe that this knowledge of doctrine is arrived at by those weaned from the milk and drawn from the breast (Isa 28:9). This is background of Jesus’, Paul’s, and Peter’s language for the meat of the Word versus the milk. Notice too that this knowledge is arrived at and verified to the unbeliever by a a line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little there a little approach that apparently shows the agreement and harmony of the interspersed parts of the prophetic testimony when properly compared and considered. That’s what we do when we make the case for the once hidden but now revealed mystery of the gospel from the prophecies of the OT (Acts 26:22; Ro 16:25-26).

Before leaving Isa 8, notice that even before the carrying away into Assyria of the northern kingdom of Israel, Isaiah is representing God’s face as hidden from larger Israel, not forever but only for a time. Isaiah and Ezekiel are very clear in showing that God’s face is hidden until the end of exile, when the last gentile aggressor is destroyed and the ‘time of the goyim’ (gentiles; Eze 30:3) ends at the day of the Lord. Until that day, the revelation of the gospel is “sealed up among my disciples” (Messiah’s disciples) until God’s face is no longer hidden from Israel.

Until then (the end of the 70th week), the vision and prophecy is sealed up among that ever increasing band of disciples who will know the hidden secret of the kingdom (Lk 8:10) by the revelation of the gospel sent down by the Holy Spirit to those who would believe on Jesus, the stone of testing. We shall see that stone again in Isa 28, and for good reason, since He is the embodiment of this mystery that brings the rest and the refreshing and gives sanctuary to the one who believes. “The children whom the Lord has given me (Isaiah’s children yes, but beyond to Messiah’s children, both Jew and gentile) are for signs and wonders in Israel.”

I want to suggest by what we will see in Isa 28 that it is particularly the gentile children of Messiah (another tongue), protesting to Israel of a misplaced trust in the arm of the flesh (covenant with death), and by implication making the case for Jesus as Messiah by a line upon line, here a little, there a little demonstration of evidence from the Hebrew scriptures. Of course, at the first, this will be dismissed but in the end, it will speak powerfully as Jacob is brought to the end of his power in preparation for the revelation of Jesus.

In Isa 28, the historical context is the contemporary threat of the Assyrian invader, but, as typical of the curious blending of the near and far horizons of Hebrew prophecy, the ultimate goal of the vision is the post-tribulational day of the Lord, as verse 5 makes very clear, as also the larger context of Isaiah’s ‘little apocalypse’ (chapters 24-28). As much as we are sure that Isa 28 points beyond the Assyrian invasion to a future covenant with death and hell (In keeping with the pattern of the past but particularly and ultimately the Antichrist. Also notice the theme of “treading down” which is seen in Lk 21:24; Rev 11:2), it should be agreeable to any conservative view of scripture that “the rest and the refreshing” of Isa 28:12 and that Jesus is quintessentially the “foundation stone laid in Zion” of Isa 28:16.

So according to the authority of the NT writers, we have definitely moved beyond the contemporary application to the broader canvas of the apocalyptic climax that always and invariably assumes the final, day of the Lord deliverance of Israel in fulfillment of the everlasting covenant. On the way there, a mystery is revealed, not only to Isaiah’s disciples in its OT form, but more ultimately to the disciples of the tested cornerstone, Jesus.

This is the gospel that secures the promised rest and refreshing for the individual believer (“disciple”) from whom the face of God is NOT hidden, even before the nation is born into its millennial salvation. This testimony of the gospel will be set forth to Israel in a compelling line upon line testimony by those of stammering lips and another tongue. Very significantly, this will be just after they have entered into their covenant with death and hell (particularly true of the first half of the week). For the moment, however, the testimony will be lightly dismissed, in no small part because it is coming to them through gentiles. That is the calculated offense! Of course, Jewish witnesses will suffer the same dismissal through a natural guilt by association. Manifestly, there is divine judgment in this. It would take an unusual humility to entertain such a thing coming from gentiles. But as Paul will show, it can also be an occasion to provoke a redemptive emulation when Jews see in gentiles the evidence of the promised Spirit as received by faith without the works of the law.

Now, of course, it is understood that the historical context of God’s speaking to Israel through stammering lips and another tongue refers most specifically to God’s covenant threat to plead with Israel through judgement by means of foreign invaders.

“The Lord shall bring a nation against thee from far, from the end of the earth, as swift as the eagle flies; a nation whose tongue thou shalt not understand” (Deut 28:49). So that after the threat of further judgement is ended forever with Israel’s salvation at the day of the Lord, Isaiah can say: “Thou shalt not see a fierce people, a people of a deeper speech than you can perceive; of a stammering tongue, that you cannot understand” (Isa 33:19).

The same usage can apply to difficulty of understanding, as in Isa 32:4: “The heart also of the rash shall understand knowledge, and the tongue of the stammerers shall be ready to speak plainly.” I can only suggest what seems to me compelling evidence that God will speak, not only through the gentile invader, but through gentile witnesses, the mystery of the gospel that is the rest and the refreshing. This will be presented, line upon line, here a little and there a little out of the Hebrew scriptures (all scripture is Hebrew but of course we mean those recognized by Jews as authoritative). Included in that same testimony will be the prophetic protest concerning Israel’s ill-fated peace arrangement with the Antichrist (Dan 8:25; 9:27; 11:23). But this is only the ultimate end of God’s long contention against His people’s habitual tendency to put trust in man.

Now I can come to what I wanted to say concerning a possible association between the idea of mystery as a divine strategy in spiritual warfare and our use of tongues for personal edification, and as a sign to unbelievers when tongues are supernaturally interpreted by the Spirit in another person’s hearing. It is this: God has put His secrets beyond the power of flesh to humble pride and to keep His pearls from unworthy spirits, so that the glory of His hidden wisdom, the secrets of His heart, mind, and will would not be available to anything of human self sufficiency but based solely on a relationship of intimate friendship and child like trust.

This is why where the Spirit is not specially quickening the gospel, connecting the dots, so to speak, it sounds to the unbeliever (in this case a Jewish unbeliever) like unintelligible gibberish that can be safely dismissed. It is also why the hidden things of the gospel, now revealed, openly declared, and accessible to all, remains foolishness to the natural man. It is also why that even when it is supposed that we have understood, we may not yet have understood spiritually, since this is only possible by the transforming power of the Spirit at the level of the heart, as we come by grace to really know what we only thought we knew. The point of all being our utter dependency on the quickening, illuminating power of the Spirit to spiritually apprehend and discern even those things that we assume we know. Do we yet know them? As Mt 7:23 so soberly warns of how much can be known and done by one who has never been known (intimate union) by Jesus.

As much as the natural mind is incapable of knowing or receiving the things of the Spirit apart from internalization of the truth through the Spirit’s power to quicken whom He will, it occurred to me that when we are praying in the Spirit, Satan is unable to access the meaning of what is being transacted. Although never in the sense that the spiritual man ‘knows’ in terms of intimate experience, but only through observance and what can be learned second hand through the believer’s natural mind (not to be confused with the spiritual mind) can Satan know anything of what has transpired between God and the believer. That is one reason why in tongues we are speaking mysteries. Here’s the rule: When the natural mind is shut out; Satan is shut out.

(Jesus had a fully human mind but it was not a ‘natural’ mind in the sense of fallenness and self dependency. For this cause, among many others, He was necessarily born of a virgin that He might bypass entirely the fallen nature that comes down through the seed of the man through Adam.)

For this cause, Satan cannot decode the language of intimacy or what the believer is praying in the Spirit in warfare, particularly when this is out of a glorious weakness and dependency on the Lord, that through faith, what is being uttered is not gibberish, is not foolishness, but holy mystery, known, given, quickened, and received of God. In the wisdom of God’s foolishness through tongues, we gain a bypass of all the interference and spiritual blockage that is in our natural mind and this also circumvents the ability of Satan to interfere.

From this analogy of tongues (as discussed by Paul in 1Cor 14) to the larger context of Isa 28 and the NT revelation of the formerly hidden mystery of the gospel, I think I understand better his use and application as applied to tongues. It is an analogy that was never intended to exactly conform in every point of detail. In both references, the issue is mystery that brings refreshing when miraculously translated by the Spirit. This is the analogy that applies to the nature of all mysteries that have their source and power of communication in the Spirit.

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The Mystery of Election

As to the mysteries of foreordination and predestination, there’s too much connected to this than can be accounted for by divine foresight of what men will do with the words and actions of God in history. It not something I care to debate but I must contend for what scripture plainly affirms, of course. I am neither Calvinist or Arminian in the systematic or “consistent” kind of way. I do not, for example, subscribe to limited atonement, although I understand their logic, despite its contradiction of plain scriptures to the contrary.

When it comes to those who pass into reprobation, such as Pharaoh or Judas, I certainly don’t believe God is setting those guys up. He is, as you say, foreseeing and incorporating their own self chosen rebellion into His plan. However, once they have advanced to a certain place, God is free and just to take certain measures that He knows will exacerbate their condition and drive their fallen natures into greater exposure and damnation as judgement on an already existing condition.

On the other hand, even fully respecting a certain kind of limited free will, which I do, it cannot be denied that God does NOT operate according to the perceived rules of human fairness. What do I mean? I mean you have only to look at history, as also the history of revival and conversion. Paul himself and the surviving remnant of Israel (i.e., the third that is saved in one day), are perfect examples of God “tampering” with human freedom in a way that far exceeds and surpasses what He does with the general population over the general course of time.

Who can deny that in the case of some, much more than others, He brings far greater constraints and inducements? For example, for nearly 2,000 years, most of the remnant of God’s people was from among the Jewish nation. Then, for what has been nearly another 2,000 years, it is quite the exact opposite. Then, for a final 1,000 years, there is one nation under heaven whose population is 100 % saved while all throughout the nations there is ongoing evangelism and clearly a number of increasing preponderance, particularly towards the end of the millennium who refuse to behold the majesty of the Lord (Isa 26:10). Am I to believe that all of this happens only by God’s foreknowledge of men’s free will and actions. Besides Yada, as in Amos 3:2 and its Greek counterpart, prognosei, means intimacy or prearrangement of relationship, as when Adam knew his wife, Eve. It is much more than divine omniscience. .

I believe that God is free to bring such constraints as to conquer the natural resistance of the will without violence to the will. I further believe He is free to do this in the case of some without being thereby obligated to do the same in the case of all, and that, of course, is the offense. It is also the mystery of theodicy that Paul does not solve by merely invoking free will, which He so easily could have done in anticipation of the inevitable objections. Why did God choose Jacob, an individual and a nation, but not Esau, also both individual and nation independently of their works and before works were even possible. The answer is not mere foresight of their works. That would say nothing about grace. The scripture gives the reason very clearly. It was “in order that” His purpose in grace might stand, not of him who wills or works but of Him who calls, as always, “lest any flesh boast.” Special discrimination election was necessary for grace to be grace, that is of the biblical kind.

I would tend to go with you that this is only with regard to the Jewish nation as a corporate entity and your persuasion of that puts us at one in what I believe to be the main burden of Ro 11, but corporate entities are made up of individuals, and unless someone can explain a goodly number of scriptures that shows the instantaneous salvation of the Jewish nation, with all the subsequent population preserved in gospel holiness, without a single defection that is not met with quick chastisement and correction for a thousand years, then I’ve got to believe that something more than divine foresight is at work here. It is discriminating, apprehending grace that is NOT universal for the very reason that God’s lavish mercy on one does not obligate Him to the other, though He takes nothing from, nor imposes no disadvantage on the other. He is justly free to take special measures in behalf of one without this obligating Him to do the same for another, though He has done more than enough for the salvation of all so that all are without excuse. Their greatest damnation will be His goodness to all, but there’s a manifest difference between what some call ‘common grace’ and the special grace that is manifest by His deliberate and always successful pursuit of those the father gave to Jesus to bring home.

To fail to appropriate His provision lies entirely with the free will of man. God has done all on His part to be gracious, even pleading all the day long, not willing that any perish, taking no delight in the death of the wicked. On the other hand, those who appropriate God’s provision do so under conditions and constraints that do not prevail equally and at all times so that there is nothing in them to credit for the conversion of the will and transformation of their nature. That’s where I tend to leave it. While men are free and responsible for their actions, else judgement would be a mechanical sham, still, by any reckoning, there is more going on here than mere free will and divine foresight of what men will do with what comes their way.

As God got His man on the road to Damascus in one day by a sudden blast of transforming divine revelation (“when it pleased God to reveal His son in me”), just so, He will get His nation! (“the time to favor Zion, yea, the set time has come!”) In terms of a human perception of divine fairness, where does this leave the many generations that were not so specially constrained, their power fully shattered and met by a mighty, divinely timed in-breaking of transforming revelation that kills the old and quickens the new? Not an every day event, to be sure.

God is free to raise the dead and quicken whom He will, not just those who will and run. He’s God and that’s the point He seems to go out of His way to make, even for a thousand years of requiring the nations to recognize and honor His just prerogative in discriminating election and grace. It’s a mystery, hid and laid up among His treasures from the beginning. It is a mystery how one is made to differ from another only by God’s grace, yet without injustice to those not so specially wrought upon by God, even while His just severity is seen to fall without remedy on the unwilling for the very sake of their unwillingness. But the people will be willing, not of themselves, but in the day of His power. That’s not just any day that man chooses to make the day of God’s power. It is the time of His special act. It’s a day of resurrecting grace that is specially directed on one people, but no less every individual who will make up that nation.

That’s just some of my thinking on the matter. It makes no one happy on either side, so I’ve never gotten too spoiled to having the luxury of full doctrinal agreement on this among those I love and with whom I rejoice to fellowship. But here I stand though it loses me much support, as you can imagine, even though I’ve never pushed it or indulged in the philosophical problems it can tend to create beyond what the scripture explicitly or leaves to necessary inference. There it is: Man is responsible and God is sovereign and the twain do meet. But free will, by itself, or God’s foreknowledge by itself alone, does not seem to sufficiently account for what we see in scripture, history, and most especially prophecy.

God is free and just to constrain and bring powerful and rare inducements to an extent that becomes a natural offense when the same is not done equally for others. When you think about it, both the Calvinist and the Arminian must bear the implications of this scandal to humanistic reason. Why didn’t God provide atonement and potential for repentance for Satan? His grace towards man did not thereby obligate Him towards the angels that fell and I can imagine that this is part of their rage, but that is speculative and I have to quit. It’s all too deep for me but I am only obligated to affirm what the scriptures most plainly affirm regardless of how this perturbs or disturbs the reasoning mind, mine included. Hope that helps explain me a bit more though I doubt I can answer many of the questions it must raise. I’m as non plussed about much of this as the next person, but feel God is saying something through these things that we must not miss only because it boggles the mind and creates philosophical problems. The answer seems more to bow than to understand.

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Jacob’s Trouble and the Dilemma of the Covenant

This is how I approach the question of the futurity of Jacob’s trouble. It is to build first the covenant background and the eschatology that grows out of the covenant, particularly what I like to call ‘the dilemma of the covenant’, as the question of how God will accomplish His unconditional promise to not only bring the particular people into this particular Land, but most importantly, keep them there.

He will accomplish His unconditional promise by meeting the imposed conditions Himself by means of atonement and the gift of the Spirit. It was a remarkable epiphany when I discovered how God had used the issue of covenant jeopardy that always threatened Israel’s abiding security in the Land as the means by which God would constrain the prophets to see ahead to the necessity of the great apocalyptic in-breaking of the day of the Lord, but also the revelation of the mystery of the gospel as the basis of the ‘everlasting righteousness’ that could indeed guarantee an eternally secure peace in the Land, because He would become, “the Lord our Righteousness (Jer 23:5-6).

The logic goes like this: History is proof that if God were waiting on Israel, He’d be waiting forever. It is only if the tendency to backslide can be cured, once and for all, that the promise can be sure of everlasting continuance. With the covenant curses threatened on disobedience hanging always overhead, and with the tendency to slip back again into apostasy after every fleeting revival or reform, how can the promise of eternal security in the Land ever be sure to the wayward nation?

The jeopardy posed by the conditional covenant can only be overcome if all of the people, and not only a remnant, are partakers of an eternal righteousness that is unchangeable and secure, so that none will go back or depart, even unto children’s children (Isa 54:13; 59:21). This is exactly what is promised in the everlasting covenant, and it is all built around the promise of the Land as an everlasting possession by this ‘particular’ people, forever free from the curses of the law that that continually threaten invasion, desolation, and exile.

If we juxtapose Deut 4:29ff with Deut 29:4 (the inversion helps memory), we find an important clue in Moses that sets up the whole theology of the Day of the Lord that would be carried forward by the prophets. According to Moses, Israel’s days could not be prolonged in the Land (Deut 4:26; 30:18) until they would receive the heart that until now, God had not yet given them (Deut 29:4). This would not come to the nation as a whole (there was always a remnant who had the new heart) until after the ‘great tribulation’ of the latter days (Deut 4:26-31). This alone would overcome the perennial curse of the broken covenant, thus assuring unending security in the Land, from which they would “never again” be plucked up or afflicted anymore forever (2Sam 7:10; Jer 31:40; Amos 9:15).

This is the background for the eschatology of the day of the Lord as partial solution to the dilemma of covenant jeopardy. That the promise must wait until after the unequaled the tribulation of the Day of the Lord was well known. Unknown was the deeper and even more glorious solution that lay hidden in the mystery of Christ. You see then how God has built His plan around the all constraining question: How does a backsliding nation ever come to lie down safely in their own Land, never again to fear cursing or oppression from their enemies? The Land can only be eternally secure if all the nation, and not only a remnant, has a righteousness that is eternally secure unto children’s children, world without end. This is exactly what was promised in the everlasting covenant. It is the ‘everlasting righteousness’ that will come in at the end of Daniel’s final week (Dan 9:24).

However, the deeper mystery, hid in other ages, is that the New Covenant could only be purchased through the ‘blood of the everlasting covenant’ as basis for the imputation and indwelling of that righteousness that is ‘wholly other’ as perfected on the principle of an endless life in the humanity of the elect Servant Son. So the post-tribulational Day of the Lord (the time of Israel’s resurrection / birth into New Covenant righteousness), together with the revelation of the gospel, becomes the ultimate divine solution to the dilemma of the covenant, or perhaps I should say covenants, plural.

Paul shows that the addition of the Law, with its imposition of conditions, could not annul the immutability of the promise, because the meeting of the conditions would not be by the power of man but by the God who raises the dead. The giving of the Law creates the dilemma of how the promise could be certain of fulfillment, since if anything is left to man, the promise is at risk. Only through resurrection would a people who are dead be able to so fulfill the law as to be safe in the Land forever.

This is why Paul is so vehement against making the promise to depend on anything of man, else it would be uncertain and subject to defeat. But faith, rightly understood, is impossible to the flesh. Faith that is quickened of God is born of God. As such, it is as far removed from human ability as the living from the dead. Faith is not a work of man but of God. The devils believe but the faith of God’s elect is an overcoming faith precisely because it is born of God (1Jn 5:4). In that sense, the faith that is quickened by the Spirit is in itself ‘a piece of resurrection’ (Art’s words).

The sudden revelation of Christ to the surviving remnant of Israel at Jesus’ return, analogous to Paul’s revelation on the Damascus road, is all about God’s determination to show in Israel’s resurrection the same power that He showed in Christ’s resurrection. But whereas Jesus was seen alive by chosen witnesses, every survivor from among the nations in that day will see the spiritual resurrection and return of the national servant / son (Ex 4:23-24; Hos 1:11; Isa 41:8-9; 42:19; 43:10; 44:1-2, 21; 49:3).

It is the covenant as fulfilled through the death and resurrection of the personal Servant Son in the midst of history that becomes the basis by which He will raise the corporate son at the end of history, all in open vindication of His unfailing power to fulfill the conditions of the covenant by Himself alone, precisely so that no flesh might glory, and for this, it must be by grace alone from start to finish, with nothing depending on man, else all is put at risk, even His eternal inheritance in Christ.

That Abraham fell into a deep sleep and was not permitted to pass between the pieces was to underscore that this everlasting covenant was made within the Godhead and was not lent out to the mercy of human will or cooperation, but of Christ who was in Abraham by the divine nature, as one born of Word and Spirit. So, in that sense, it is not I but Christ who is the true cooperator, as certainly obedience is required but only Christ’s obedience through the Spirit can fulfill the righteousness required by the Law in a way that is living and acceptable.

It must be so, because the obedience of which man is capable is fatally short. This is why Paul will speak of the obedience of faith, which is really the obedience of Christ at work in the believer through the Spirit, as it was no less the Spirit of Christ in the OT righteous (1Pet 1:11). This is also how there is ultimately and essentially only one Seed that inherits the promise, as the inheritance of the corporate seed is only by Him, as partakers of His divine nature, as born of the Word of God.

Thus, Israel is given to show the true nature of grace as a resurrection phenomenon through the quickening of Spirit in those who are called according to His purpose, before and apart from consideration of their works. (Ro 9:11, 16). An all saved, holy nation, compromised specifically of Jews, will exist in that specific Land for a thousand years to give continuous witness that men live by mercy and not by works of righteousness which they have done. In that sense, Israel exists to destroy all boasting by putting this great principle of grace on display. This is why He requires that Israel’s special covenant election be recognized and honored by the nations for a thousand years.

For one thousand years, an all saved, eternally preserved nation will witness to what Satan and flesh protests and hates the most. That is discriminating grace that has the right to visit or to pass over without obligation, as so well captured in the glorious old hymn that says, “while on others thou art calling, do not pass me by.” Nothing is more despised by the pride of man. This is why for one thousand years, Israel will embody this principle openly, that through them, God might impress upon all flesh His righteous prerogative to save and keep apart from works of righteousness which have done. Yet, the righteousness that is wrought in us through the Spirit received by faith could never be more actual and real, yet nothing of ourselves.

The divine upholding of God’s right to choose and quicken whom He will does not cut off anyone from hope unless they insist on including something of themselves or their own power in that hope. Like Israel, election exists to destroy all boasting, but it cuts off no one, only the lie of human entitlement based on merit. I hope that is clear.

This is some of the more salient points that I see God making through the prophetic purpose that He has built around the election, the fall and rising again of Israel in that faithful pattern of life out of death.

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You Have Boasted Against ME

Notice the oft overlooked fine print.

Ezek 35:10-15

10 Because thou hast said, These two nations and these two countries shall be mine, and we will possess it; whereas the Lord was there:
11 Therefore, as I live, saith the Lord God, I will even do according to thine anger, and according to thine envy which thou hast used out of thy hatred against them; and I will make myself known among them, when I have judged thee.
12 And thou shalt know that I am the Lord, and that I have heard all thy blasphemies which thou hast spoken against the mountains of Israel, saying, They are laid desolate, they are given us to consume.
13 Thus with your mouth ye have boasted against me, and have multiplied your words against me: I have heard them.
14 Thus saith the Lord God; When the whole earth rejoiceth, I will make thee desolate.

Mic 4:11-12

11 Now also many nations are gathered against thee, that say, Let her be defiled, and let our eye look upon Zion.
12 But they know not the thoughts of the Lord, neither understand they his counsel: for he shall gather them as the sheaves into the floor ….

To speak against the mountains of Israel (obviously Jewish covenant claim), is regarded by God as blasphemy. Read it there in the text. Notice how He takes the words that men speak against Israel’s right to the Land as spoken against Himself, even though the nation, so far from attaining to covenant obedience, is a ‘sitting duck’ for the day of ultimate covenant judgment. Notwithstanding, God takes the contempt of Israel’s neighbors very personally. This needs to be probed as so much is at stake in this question.

The above are just two of a considerable number of passages that contain God’s view of the modern question of “divine right” to the Land, currently being hotly debated among evangelicals. As in so many of these examples in scripture, there is a mysterious overlap with a partial fulfillment in history that fell clearly short of of all the stated goals of the prophecy and a future fulfillment that will exhaustively fulfill every detail. This leaves a clear choice in interpretation.

Where there is a conviction that no part of the Scripture can fail of real and literal fulfillment, in conformity with the plain meaning of language and the original author’s intention, this points necessarily to a more complete fulfillment in future. This is particularly seen where the prophecy is set in the context of Israel’s ultimate salvation at the climactic day of the Lord. Where this principle is ignored or rejected on critical grounds, or the language spiritualized on dogmatic grounds, the tendency is to consign such passages to antiquity, voiding them of relevance or application to the modern circumstance.

While of course recognizing a partial fulfillment in past history, the demands of detail and context point necessarily to a future fulfillment that will include all the parts of the prophecy of which history makes no account, most particularly the final and everlasting deliverance of Israel at the Day of the Lord. As much as this has not happened, we conclude that such passages as these do indeed apply to the modern situation.

So much you know. What I want to particularly point out is that God’s great umbrage with the nations in their defiance of the covenant with regards to the Land in particular, is set in passages that presuppose Israel’s pre-millennial condition of covenant bankruptcy. The judgments that come upon the nations at the day of the Lord have particularly in view their view of Israel. That is to say, the attitude of the nations towards a still outstanding and binding covenant with Israel (the everlasting covenant; Ps 105:8-11) is regarded by God as more ultimately a statement of their attitude towards Him.

From the standpoint of His controversy with His people, it is God Himself who brings down the rebellious nations as a rod of discipline. But from the standpoint of the nations, this is high effrontery against the claims of His covenant that is the ultimate provocation of wrath on the nations. Let us not miss the paradox. “Offenses must come but woe to them by whom they come!”

Israel’s vulnerability to the curses and discipline of the covenant notwithstanding, when the nations move against them, a red line is crossed. Significantly, it is with act in particular that His anger comes up in His nostrils, as so many scriptures attests. Tell me if this does not mean that God continues to regard the Land and the people He chose to place there as uniquely His by “divine right”?

Israel’s shortcoming of covenant obedience, which Christians now rightly see as gospel obedience, was never before a final deterrent of entrance into the Land, whether initially with the Exodus or the return from Babylon. The remnant of true regeneration was always only comparatively small as it is today. The only thing that ever cast Israel out of the Land was when the cup of iniquity would come to full, when the iniquity of the Land would reach intolerable proportions.

Furthermore, when Israel went back to the Land, it would be at best a ‘day of small things’. The return would fall clearly short of the promise. Return to the Land was not based on a national repentance. This is to confuse any pre-tribulational return to the Land, whether ancient or modern, with the final and complete return that is indeed based on the post-tribulational repentance of the penitent remnant that becomes the all holy nation born in one day after Zion’s travail.

With the return from Babylon, there would be a time of refreshing in the Land but it was not expected by the prophets of the return (Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi) to last. Even the post-captivity prophets, Haggai and Zechariah, who led in the revival, and Malachi would continue to look ahead to an ultimate day of the Lord, the final transition from this age to the next.

However long they would stay in the Land follwoing their return from Babylon (Daniel said 70 weeks of years), whatever the ups and downs, there would remain still ahead an ultimate time of unequaled trouble called, “Jacob’s trouble.” This would include yet another brief and final time of terrific desolation and Jewish flight to places of safety. In the fore-view of the prophets building on Moses, this would be the last installment of the ongoing discipline of the covenant that must follow Israel to the end of the age. As much as the tribulation is still future, Israel’s further desolation is still future.

In all of this, the point most clearly to made for our purpose is that despite Israel’s outstanding exposure to covenant discipline and divine judgment, this by no means detracts from the wickedness and bold defiance of the Word and Spirit of God that becomes explicit wherever presumptuous words and hands of self righteous men are raised against God’s chosen people, the Jews, and against the Land He sovereignly gave to them by divine right, not of a temporal, conditional covenant, but an unconditional, and therefore everlasting covenant. It is His holy and divine work to bring them to that place and He is surely able, but in the meantime, the nations are accountable to know, not only His counsel but His heart towards them. That was the church’s job, but you know the paradox of history.

Let us be very clear: The gift of the Land was never based on any superior righteousness of the Jewish nation (Deut 9:4-5). Quite the contrary, it was given by free and sovereign grace. However, their ability to keep the Land in abiding peace would never be finally secure to them until the whole of the nation, without the exception (Jer 31:34), would all be regenerate “from that day and forward” (Eze 39:22, 28-29). That Israel will exist millennially as an entirely saved nation after the last gentile aggressor has been destroyed at the end of the ‘times of the gentiles’ is made ‘inexcusably’ plain all throughout the prophets (Isa 4:2-3; 45:17, 25; 54:13; 59:21; 60:21; Jer 31:34, to mention only a few).

Although Israel must remain vulnerable to covenant judgment util that day, still, whether in the Land or out of the Land, they are no less set apart and no less beloved, despite their covenant infidelity and enmity against the gospel, so that to look upon them as covenantally insignificant, let alone to lay presumptuous hands on what God has chosen and about whom He has so definitely spoken, is in all the scriptures a precursor to wrath. Antisemitism is a sign of self righteousness and pride that discerns nothing of the true nature of divine election and mercy that is not based on works. Its resurgence is a modern sign of the first magnitude. It is always a portent of disaster and curse upon the nations that embrace it, because it represents something profoundly near to the heart of God that can only be spiritually discerned.

He gave them up for a brief moment, for their sins, yes, of course, but in a deeper sense, for us, for had He brought them in at that time, as He will surely do at the appointed time (Ps 102:13), where would we be? In a mystery, their momentary blindness is an alabaster box of divine sacrifice of unspeakable cost that to sleight or despise is to provoke His profound displeasure.

Posted in Bible Study, Ezekiel | Comments Off on You Have Boasted Against ME

The Glorious Church in the Great Tribulation [VIDEO]

From the Glorious Church 2015 Conference in March. Reggie Kelly made it just in time to be included on the panel for a discussion of the nature and character of the Church during the great tribulation. This video along with messages from the co-panelists can be found at the Glorious Church 2015 YouTube Channel.

Co-panelists Ryan Couch, Fred London and Bryan Anthony delivered additional messages at the event. (Click their names to jump to specific messages)

Posted in Christ In You The Hope of Glory, Israel and the Church, Video | Comments Off on The Glorious Church in the Great Tribulation [VIDEO]