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After Two Days He Will Revive Us…

Posted: July 31st, 2015, by Reggie Kelly

Originally published in Oct of 2013, we are bringing this article back to the front page for reference of an up-coming article.

“After two days He will revive us; the third day we shall live in His sight” (Hos 6:2).”

According to the NT, the gospel reveals a mystery that was at once fully foretold in the writings of the prophets (Acts 26:22; Ro 16:25-26; Rev 10:7), but divinely concealed from both men and angels until the appointed time (Mk 8:30; 9:9; 1Cor 2:7-8). For example, all who accept the witness of the NT will recognize that Messiah’s twofold advent was not clearly distinguished before the gospel was revealed with the outpouring of the Holy Spirit (1Pet 1:11-12). Whereas every aspect of the gospel was “according to the scriptures (Acts 26:22; 1Cor 15:3-4), Paul would nonetheless speak of it as a mystery (Eph 6:19-20 with Col 4:3-4). Its revelation in the ‘fullness of time,’ would bring to light all of the other related mysteries described in the NT (Ro 11:25-29; Eph 1:9-10; 3:4-5, 9-10; Col 1:26; 4:3-4; 1Tim 3:9, 16). Paul’s reference to the gospel as a mystery is anticipated by Jesus’ reference to the ‘mystery of the kingdom of God’ (Mk 4:11). At the heart of both is the formerly unknown fact that Messiah was to come twice.

The Spirit’s revelation of the gospel gives a clarity of hindsight that enables the detection of both comings in a number of OT prophecies that before would have been quite indistinguishable, particularly as it pertains to the time (1Pet 1:11). Often, aspects of both comings are mysteriously intermingled, or side by side, without clear distinction, with no clear evidence of an inter-advent period between. The present age thus forms the mysterious ‘gap’ between the advents that has been so much belittled in certain scholarly circles. However, had Messiah’s substitutionary atonement, and therefore His twofold advent, NOT been hidden until the appointed time, the princes of this age would not have crucified the Lord of glory (1Cor 2:7-8). Moreover, the mystery would not have accomplished its further purpose to test hearts and stumble pride.

The point to be made here is that the mystery of the gospel, and God’s wise use of it, is not something merely ‘hidden in God.’ All is contained in the prophets and God is glorified when the gospel is vindicated by reference to what was foretold. Every part of the mystery of the gospel is “according to the scriptures” (Lk 24:44-46; Acts 3:18-21; 26:22; Ro 16:25-26; 1Cor 15:3-4; 1Pet 1:11), but the prophecies were so given and arranged in a form and manner that was divinely calculated to conceal the cross and the knowledge that Christ should come twice until the time appointed.

Paul understood the great commission (“the commandment of the everlasting God”) as a call to preach the gospel as it was indeed “according to the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began. But now is made manifest, and by the scriptures of the prophets (the instrumental means), according to the commandment of the everlasting God, (to be) made known to all nations for the obedience of faith.” God is most glorified when the divinely commanded means is properly united to its evangelistic goal.

I am suggesting that if Paul’s statement is unpacked for its full implications, then here we have God’s prescriptive command for the true apostolic approach to evangelism that was practiced all throughout the book of Acts. Built right into the proclamation of the gospel is the divinely intended apologetic. Only as the gospel could be shown to conform in all points to what stood written in the prophets was it to be accorded any credence at all (Acts 26:22). “The testimony of Jesus is the Spirit of prophecy” (Rev 19:10b).

This divinely ordained mystery is contained completely in the prophetic scriptures, verified and confirmed by its manifest conformity to the same (Acts 26:22; Ro 16:25-26), but it also reveals a parenthetical, hidden age that could only come to light after the revelation of the mystery of Messiah’s coming, departure, and return to Israel. With this advance in understanding, an unforeseen age discovers itself between the two advents of Jesus. However, although this age was not foreseen or clearly distinguished by the prophets (1Pet 1:11), it was nonetheless fully foretold.

Sometimes called, ‘the double horizon of prophecy’, it is a well noted characteristic of Hebrew prophecy to envision events widely separated in time as part of a single sweep of eschatological fulfillment.  In other words, the events belonging to Israel’s eschatological judgment and salvation were often presented as a single complex, with no clear indication of the considerable time that might elapse between undetectable stages of fulfillment.

Prophecies of a near range fulfillment anticipated in the contemporary crisis would include details of the ultimate redemption that did not follow, or fully come to pass after the threatened judgment that was, very remarkably fulfilled to the letter. How is this to be understood? How is it that the threatened judgments are so faithfully fulfilled when the extravagantly lavish descriptions of national salvation have either failed or been manifestly postponed?  

It seems apparent that even the prophets recognized, to some extent, this phenomenon of the near and far horizon within some of their own prophecies.  Fully knowing that earlier prophets, such as Isaiah, Micah, and Hosea had depicted the final redemption against the backdrop of the impending Assyrian invasion, the later prophets did not hesitate to apply some of these same prophecies, employing the same note of threatening imminence, to the impending invasion of Babylon or some more distant aggressor.

This observation suggests that the prophets themselves were keenly aware of a typology of the march of kingdoms and hostile ‘Antichrist’ figures (the ‘Assyrian’; the ‘Chaldean’, etc.) so that, for them, a contemporary, partial fulfillment of the ultimate day of the Lord did not disappoint nor exhaust their own abiding expectation of a yet greater, more complete and final fulfillment in the future. We might call this ‘pattern eschatology’.

It is also remarkable to observe how prophets living more than an hundred years after their predecessors would continue to use the same language of imminence (‘at hand’; ‘near’; ‘greatly hasting’) to describe the ultimate day of the Lord and final salvation of the nation, well after the foretold invasion of Assyria had come and gone. It seems the later prophets were able to understand a kind of abiding, ‘existential’ imminence that could as well apply to later generations facing similar judgment, even if the full and final eschatological deliverance of the nation was not yet.

Such a ‘first-fruits’ or advance ‘earnest’ of ultimate eschatological fulfillment, as well observed in the well known ‘already and not yet’ pattern of NT fulfillment, is not without OT precedent. It can be seen in the experience of the return of the exiles from Babylon. There was real fulfillment of the promise (the already) but not yet the full realization of ‘all’ the covenant had promised with all the highly descriptive elaborations of the prophets.

Remarkably, many of the prophecies describing the return would be presented as accomplishing the full and final redemption, without clear distinction of the stages of fulfillment that would supervene.  Such a telescopic view of prophecy is endorsed by evangelicals who recognize the authority and witness of the NT, but it is not so warmly received by critical scholars, both liberal and Jewish, who charge evangelicals with “eisegesis” (reading ‘into’ the text what one is interested to find).

Indeed, the early church’s view that the prophetic writings held a secret to be revealed by the Spirit in the last days (a view also held by the sectaries at Qumran), would not have passed muster with the critical norms and standards of modern exegesis and hermeneutical science, but all of this forms the background and context that is fully consistent with what the NT will speak of as a mystery contained in the prophetic writings, but intentionally preserved by God until the appointed time of revelation. The intent of the heavenly secrets were to function as a strategy of heavenly warfare to confound and overturn the wisdom of the powers of this age, both human and angelic.

I point this out because I hold a view of Hos 6:2 that is part of this mystery of Christ’s coming, departure, and return to Israel. As mentioned, the revelation of two comings of Messiah discovers a hidden age that would extend from Messiah’s ascension to the end of the times of the gentiles at the end of the great tribulation (Lk 21:24 with Rev 11:2). This is the long exile of covenant wrath and discipline during which Israel would remain under a judicial blindness, as God would “return to His place,” and hide His face from the nation, as a whole (Deut 31:17-18; 32:20; Isa 8:17; 54:8; 64:7; Eze 39:23-24, 29). This would continue until the transitional ‘day of the Lord,’ now revealed as Messiah’s second coming.

A favorite example of this mystery is demonstrated in the better translations of Mic 5:1-5. Here, both comings appear in the space of a few verses. The words, “Now gather yourself in troops, oh daughter of troops,” should be understood as prophetic sarcasm or taunt aimed at the futility of the nation’s tendency to trust in its military when it is not merely the king of Assyria, but Yahweh Himself who has “laid siege against us” (Mic 5:1). Most commentators interpret the rest of the verse, “they shall smite the judge of Israel with a rod upon the cheek,” as merely referring to the indignity inflicted on the contemporary king of Israel by the Assyrian invaders. But is this sufficient cause for what follows in Mic 5:3?: “Therefore (for this cause) will He give them up.” Let these words resonate. These are words that chill the soul, as they summon contemplation of a staggeringly tragic history.

Note that this is no momentary ‘giving up’ but continues to the day of redemption that ends the exile forever with the advent of the ruler from Bethlehem. What great provocation, then, can account for such a prolonged surrendering of a people over to perpetual wandering and suffering to the end of the long exile? The prophets are clear that it is a matter of the heart. For the far larger part, the nation has departed from Yahweh’s steadfast covenant love, and violence against this covenant love has incurred the curse. But here, in this passage, a more particular offense is in view. A trajectory of covenant dereliction has reached its climax. “Therefore (for this cause) will He give them up …” Such words can only indicate some act of ultimate provocation.

What is this that seals the nation’s perpetuity in exile until its eschatological resolution in the travail of Zion when the Redeemer, the ruler from Bethlehem, shall come in mighty deliverance? (Isa 59:20-21; 66:8; Jer 30:6-7). Can this be accounted for by anything less than some crowning act that epitomizes and exposes to view Israel’s tendency to trust in man rather than God, a tendency to “always resist the Holy Spirit” (Acts 7:51). It is this tendency that reaches climactic revelation in Israel’s own rejection of her King who is none other than Isaiah’s ‘Servant of Yahweh’ whom the nation would abhor and reject (Isa 49:7; 53:3). Since this great act of the rejection of Immanuel in their midst, the nation has been surrendered to blindness, but never forever. It is always only ‘UNTIL …’ (Mic 5:3; Hos 5:15; Mt 23:39; Acts 3:21; Ro 11:25).

Both Isaiah and Micah had spoken of the time of ultimate travail as concurrent with the eschatological day of the Lord, preceding the restoration of the Davidic kingdom of God on earth (Isa 13:8; 21:3;  26:16-18; 66:7-8; Mic 4:9-10; 5:3). Later, Jeremiah and other of the prophets would refer to this time of ultimate birth pangs as synonymous with Moses’ mention of the tribulation of the latter days (Deut 4:30; Jer 30:6-7, 24; Hos 5:15). It is ‘THEN’ that all the prophets concur that “the remnant of His (Messiah’s) brethren shall return.” Until then, Israel has been delivered over to the judicial blindness that is only removed at the Deliverer’s return to turn ungodliness from Jacob (Isa Ro 11:25-27).

Therefore, the particular offense that provokes the age long ‘giving up’ of Israel can be nothing less than the national sin of “smiting of the judge (ruler) upon the cheek.” The reason for so grave and awful a judgment, one that has lasted so long, is that the judge or ruler of verse one is no ordinary king. He is the ruler from Bethlehem, the Messiah from David’s line.

Only a provocation of such a magnitude is sufficient to account for those solemn and awful words that history has so tragically vindicated, “therefore, He shall give them up” (Mic 5:3). But for how long? Israel is ‘given up UNTIL’ the time that she who has come to travail has brought forth.” When is this? It is the time like no other; “it is even the time of Jacob’s trouble” (Joel 2:2; Jer 30:7: Dan 12:1). Following Moses, the prophets would continue to foretell of a an ultimate time of national travail and rebirth that would climax in the great day of the Lord (Isa 13:8-9; 26:17; 66:8; Jer 30:6-7; Mic 5:3 etc.). After Zion’s travail, the remnant of His brethren, who now recognize Messiah, as typified by Joseph’s self-disclosure to his estranged brethren, returns to the children of Israel. “For now shall He (the smitten ruler from Bethlehem) be great unto the ends of the earth” (compare Zech 9:9-10), and He shall stand and feed in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God; for now shall they abide (Israel’s millennial continuance in peace and righteousness): And this man shall be the peace …” (Mic 5:3-5).

With Mic 5 as background, Hos 5:15 – 6:2 comes gloriously into full light. Hos 5:15 can, of course, be naturally understood to refer to nothing more than the provocation that induced Yahweh to descend in judgment on Israel through the Assyrian, the rod of His indignation (Isa 10:5), and then to withdraw His presence and protection, as when the glory departed from the temple in Ezekiel chapters 10 and 11. Such a view is certainly in keeping with the pattern of judgment threatened the curses of the covenant of the covenant law suit in Deut 28-32, as continually reiterated and enforced by the prophets on the conscience of Israel. But in light of the glory of the mystery, the language of Hos 5:15 transcends any such limitation. Thus, it is far better taken to refer to an even more significant departure from the temple, even Jesus’ departure back to His Father’s right hand when He said, “Behold, Your house is left to you desolate. For I say to you, after this you will not see me again “UNTIL” you will say, BLESSED IS HE WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD” (Mt 23:39). This is the time of Christ session at the right hand of God, as foretold in Ps 110 (another key “UNTIL” of prophecy). The language of Hos 5:15 is no accident! Pay close attention to this unusual language that so richly suggests what the mystery will reveal as the first and second comings of Christ: “I will return again to My place Till they acknowledge their offense. Then they will seek My face; In their affliction (Jacob’s trouble) they will earnestly seek Me.”

In view of what follows in Hos 6:1-2, how can it be lightly dismissed that this has something much more in view than only the idolatry of the northern kingdom? Rather, is this not the post-tribulational acknowledgement of the nation’s crowing offense? The offense that summed up a history of idolatry and apostasy? (Acts 7:51-52). It is not mere “guilt” or “trespasses” (plural), as in some translations. It is the consummate “offense” or ‘trespass” (singular) of the nation in the rejection of the Messiah. This is what is acknowledged at at time of great affliction that ends the elect nation’s long night of exile and estrangement from covenant favor (Hos 3:5). With this acknowledgement, the One who was here and departed now returns to revive the nation that will live out the third day in His sight of God as a resurrected nation. The Revelation of John will provide the key that permits us to identify the ‘third day” with the thousand year reign of Christ Jesus.

It is well known that before the time of Christ, there were conceptions that history would follow the analogy of creation week, for each day a thousand years. This tradition is referred to in the “Epistle of Barnabas,” which appears in vol. 1 of the Ante-Nicene Fathers. By no means am I alone in believing that the two days of Hos 6:2 signifies the time between the advents, but if it is true that a day stands for a thousand years, it means that the “set time” for Israel’s post-tribulational new birth and resurrection (Eze 37; 39:22, 28-29 with Isa 66:8; Mic 5:3), has always been two thousand years from the national rejection of the Son. The two days begins with the smiting, piercing, and ‘cutting off’ of the Messiah (Isa 53:8; Dan 9:26; Zech 12:10) and ends with the post-tribulational revival, so that nation will live out the third millennial day, as a living resurrected nation, with all their children taught of the Lord (Isa 54:13; 59:21; Jer 31:34). During this unforeseen, but certainly foretold interim, the covenant nation would be blinded, while a door of faith would be opened to the gentiles (Acts 14:27; 15:14; Ro 11:7). According to Paul, this is the time that Moses’ prophecy would be fulfilled that said that as Israel had moved God to jealousy by that which was ‘not God,’ so He would move them to jealousy by a ‘not a people’ (Deut 32:21 with Ro 10:19; 11:11). As they had hidden their face from Him (Isa 53:3), so He would hide His face from them (Deut 31:17-18; 32:20; Isa 8:17; 54:8; 64:7; Eze 39:23-24, 29). As nothing else, this would explain the unexpectedly long delay between the advents.

When the Messiah was smitten, pierced, and cut off, Israel was ‘given up.’ That is the language of divine abandonment, and some translations translate it thus, even the Jewish translation. This is the time that God would not only hide His face, He would quite literally “go away and return to His place” (at the Father’s right hand) TILL the nation would acknowledge their offense at a time of great affliction. This is exactly what the NT leads us to believe that Israel will do as they see Him whom they pierced (Zech 12:10 with Mt 24:39; 24:30; Acts 3:19-21; Ro 11:26; Rev 1:7). They will acknowledge a corporate complicity in Messiah’s death, a complicity that all fallen humanity shares in equally.

This is how a generation nearly two thousand years removed from their forebears can own to themselves the piercing of the Messiah (compare Mt 23:30-36). Therefore, in a context that anticipates the “end of sin” (Dan 9:24), the national resurrection that is implied in Hos 6:1-3 means that the acknowledgement of Hos 5:15 can have no lesser ‘offense’ in view than the consummate offense of the nation’s corporate rejection of the Messiah (Acts 2:23; 3:14-15, 17; 4:10-11; 7:51-52). The implications of such language can have no lesser meaning than the age long estrangement of blinded Israel between the two advents. No other interpretation does justice to the divine sacrifice that is implied in God’s surrender of His beloved prodigal nation to the sword and to continuous exile. This must continue, and any Jewish reader of the Hebrew Bible should should be able to recognize that God’s face will remain hidden from the nation, as a whole, until a surviving remnant is born into holy nationhood at the day of the Lord, after passing through the throes of an unequaled tribulation (Deut 4:30; Jer 30:7; Dan 12:1).

If this interpretation of the two days is true, then it is no wonder that Israel is back in the Land and Jerusalem is increasingly the cup of trembling that prophecy predicts (Zech 12:2-3). All present trends suggest that all that remains that is necessary to set the stage for the final seven years will be coming speedily into place. “For He will finish the work, and cut it short in righteousness: because a short work will the Lord make upon the earth.”

Regardless of what is ‘behind’ in the faith of the faithful, this can be ‘filled up’ very quickly (1Thes 3:10), because God is not waiting for man to ‘get his act together’ but He will arise and act, as He knows how to bring the foretold constraints and inducements that are calculated to take His people where they would not have gone (Jn 21:18), even very quickly (Ps 110:3; 102:13 with Gen 17:21)

If, however, this interpretation of Hos 6:2 is true, then God is greatly glorified by such amazing precision, showing His absolutely foreknown and predetermined schedule to His children (“those things that are revealed belong to us and to our children”). We certainly have precedent for this kind of chronological accuracy in the prophetic chronology of Daniel’s amazing prophecy of the seventy weeks. The really much debated question is whether God ever intends that we should have some knowledge of the time. Is there ever a time that it will be possible to know the time? Daniel’s prophecy is one clear example. Who, knowing the prophecy of the seventy weeks, would not also know something about where they stood in relation to the time of the Lord’s first advent, what those living before the revelation of the mystery would have understood as also the time that the kingdom would be restored to Israel. For 490 years, it was quite possible to know, at least with some degree of proximity, how near or distant one stood to the time of the great messianic redemption, as it was conceived by Jews living before the cross.

I maintained this view of the two days of Hosea very strongly amid the false excitement that came when many took the ’93 Oslo peace accords to be the false covenant that begins the 7 years. You’ll remember when Yassir Arafat and Yitzak Rabin shook hands in agreement in front of then president Clinton in those famed photographs. In those days, many insisted that the two days of Hosea should be reckoned from Christ’s birth. I would point out a number of things that should have followed the beginning of the 7 years that was clearly NOT in place, precluding even the possibility. Not least was the necessity of the daily sacrifice, since certainly there could be no stopping of a sacrifice in the “holy place” at Jerusalem if it had not first been started. Nothing in the Oslo accord had moved any closer to the unthinkable prospect of Jewish access to the Arab controlled temple mount, something that is feverishly guarded to this day.

Nothing could prevail to dissuade the advocates of that view until after the year 2000 had completely come and gone. It will be quite different when the real thing comes, because shortly after the false peace, the sacrifice that will be stopped in the middle of the week will be in clearly in place. Its removal in conjunction with the Antichrist’s desecration of the ‘holy place’ in Jerusalem starts the great tribulation (Mt 24:15-16, 21 with Dan 9:27; 11:31; 12:1, 11; 2Thes 2:4; Rev 11:2: 12:7-14). In the full context of all that will accompany and confirm this compelling sign, resistance and denial at this late stage will be a manifestation of the most advanced kind of unbelief. For the faithful, there will be no uncertainty as to the time, and this will have a deep working of sober urgency all throughout the body of Christ, as can hardly be imagined.

The false alarms of prophetic speculation that has littered the landscape of church history could have all been avoided if even the most basic order of events had been kept in proper order. This requires close and careful observance, all by the grace of the Spirit, of course, but we have in print a number of keen writers from past generations who knew and taught this basic outline (it is nothing new). Some were clear in their insistence that nothing on the immediate horizon gave any certain evidence of a near fulfillment. In no small part, this balance of judgment and clarity was due to a studied commitment to interpret prophecy in its plain and literal sense, not discounting, of course, the manifest use of symbol and imagery. In every case throughout history and today, the false alarms of prophetic speculation derives from a tendency to separate what God has joined.

Failure after embarrassing failure has only strengthened the argument that the time can never, and should never be known. But now as then, there is a time to know the time, just as when Jesus would rebuke the nation for not knowing the time of its visitation (Lk 19:44). But “seventy weeks are determined,” and whatever ambiguity may have attended this prophecy before the revelation of the mystery, still, the Jews of Jesus’ day should have known, by any reckoning, that the end of Daniel’s seventy sevens was imminently at hand. Doubtless, this is why Luke’s gospel would say that ‘all men were in expectation” (Lk 3:15). According to Jesus, ignorance of the time was reprehensible and worthy of divine rebuke. That seventy weeks were to be reckoned from the well known decree of the king of Persia to the time of the messianic redemption was NOT a mystery to those who received the scripture. For Israel, it was time to know the time, as also the time between would have precluded any false view of imminence.

Regardless of one’s view of the time of the rapture, if scripture is interpreted literally, it will be unmistakable to believers living at the time that they are in the unequaled tribulation. Since this will be marked by clearly revealed signs that require that certain preceding conditions be in place, believers will have great occasion to see the tribulation coming before it arrives. Who then can deny that it will be possible, at that time, to know the time, at least very approximately. If God has revealed it, then it becomes part of the believer’s stewardship, so that to not know the time when it is time that we should know it, is to reflect seriously on the condition of the heart. This is particularly true as the evidence mounts in the face of the most openly manifest and prolific fulfillment of prophecy in all of history. What was once a subject for speculation and debate becomes, at a certain advanced stage, a manifestation of the true disposition of the heart. It will be a dispensation of divine requirement, a new watershed of division and crisis of decision.

Those who recognize that the mystery of the gospel reveals an unforeseen gap between the 69th and 70th week of Daniel agree that there is yet a further installment on the divine calendar that is very well defined. Indeed, believers of that time will know with certainty that the peace arrangement that provides for Jewish return to the temple mount is not just another peace initiative in the perennially troubled Mideast. At this time, the sacrifice will again be in place and Israel will presume itself secure. This will not be done in a corner.

Such a compelling sign will only be resisted by the most advanced kind of unbelief. For the faithful remnant, there will be NO question of the time. Let me be clear that I do not put any confidence in my dream, except as something to hold in my heart. The apparent stress on the time is what impressed me most. I am, however, quite assured that the interpretation is correct that sees the two days of Hos 6:2 to be referring to the the time between the advents, between Israel’s rejection of Messiah and the revelation that comes to them at the time of His return. For this, a very considerable case can be made, as you may remember from the piece I did on Mic 5:1-4 and the Joseph analogy. The argument builds on a great deal more than mere assumption that the two days is equivalent to two thousand years.

Still, if the time rolls around and the particular line up of events required by prophecy are not in place and in clear view, then it will be obvious that I was wrong to read such specificity into Hos 6:2, as some translations leave out both the ‘two days’ and the “third day,” translating the passage thus: “He will restore us in a very ‘short time;’ he will heal us in a ‘little while,’ so that we may live in his presence.” Such presumption and liberty with the text is not translation; it is at best interpretation. In any event, the two days of Hos 6:2 has been anything but “short” for the Jewish people. The view I take of Hos 6:2 is only as good as it can be shown to belong to a whole complex of events that stand together.Only if and when the necessarily accompanying signs are all in place in proper relationship will our view be sufficiently confirmed to hold anyone else accountable to believe it. I present this only for those who will hold it tentatively in the hearts in the event trends move swiftly in the right direction. If that proves to be so, then who will not rejoice and stand in awe of yet another glorious example of the God who declares the end from the beginning, a tremendously edifying reality, already well enough demonstrated to make unbelief utterly without excuse.

For all who wait for the consolation of Israel, surely, these be the days! Reggie

The Mystery of Election

Posted: July 26th, 2015, by Reggie Kelly

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.

Jacob’s Trouble and the Dilemma of the Covenant

Posted: July 22nd, 2015, by Reggie Kelly

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.