On Matthew 24 and Luke 21

@MysteryofIsrael – Question: Do you see a distiction between the audiences in Mt 24 and Lk 21?

No. I see both manifestly parallel accounts to be a summary of the Olivet Discourse, though surely delivered at different times and in different parts over the course of the Lord’s ministry, but especially when the express question was put to Him so shortly before His passion.

All three Synoptics have the same material, with slightly different variations. In all, there is a near partial fulfillment that served that generation and all subsequent generations. Then there is the far fulfillment that achieves the exhaustive and detailed fulfillment of every jot and tittle in the future during Daniel’s 70th week.

Though capable of a partial past application, I see the future fulfillment of Luke’s version as entire and fully intact, not merely some outstanding parts. That is to say, I see nothing in Luke’s account that does not also apply to the future in consistency with the parallel accounts in Mark and Matthew.

It is a great loss to our message when much of Luke’s account is scissored out and restricted to 70 A.D.

I believe this commonly observed phenomenon of near and far, in both prophetic and apocalyptic scripture is a divinely intended mystery to be searched with utmost guarded care, as we can well see how this unique characteristic of prophecy has been handled by academia. Reggie

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On Evangelism in “Apocalyptic Evangelism”

I believe we are using the word, “evangelism” in the apostolic sense of the word, which necessarily included the context of a revealed mystery to be made known to all nations by means of the prophetic scriptures. It is the gospel, the good news, the proclamation, but it is the gospel ‘according to’. According to what? “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 … made known to all nations for the obedience of faith.” All of this, the means and the end, is also “according to,” according to the commandment of the everlasting God.

So I take it that God is very keen that the gospel be presented as the revelation of a mystery that was fully foretold in the prophets but hidden, not only from men, both just and unjust, but also from the principalities and powers of this age till its appointed time of revelation and manifestation. This gospel includes both comings and the relation of those comings to Israel. It is the OT mystery of Messiah’s coming, departure, and return to Israel. Now I realize that’s a mouthful and preaching the gospel does not have to follow a prescribed method, but this is the framework and understanding that all the apostles were proceeding. It was the approach they took and they understood the preaching of the gospel as the revelation of a mystery that proves itself by its conformity to what was written in the prophets. That’s its apologetic force and appeal that removes the intellectual refuge in the face of the miracle of fulfilled, and being fulfilled prophecy. This content and this means of making the gospel known was, in their understanding, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, since it pleases God to make Himself known as the God who declares the end from the beginning, the one to whom is known (and foretold) all His works from the beginning. “The testimony of Jesus is the Spirit of prophecy.”

This does not have to explicit in every preaching of the gospel, of course. There is great freedom. But this should be the context and framework of understanding that is understood as implicit, not as a rigid method, by no means, but as a consciousness of the aims of God, not only as to His ends but as to His commanded means, namely, the use of the scriptures of the prophets. When the gospel is preached in this way, built right into it is a powerful apologetic through the miracle of fulfilled prophecy. It is the power of prophecy in evangelism that has been all to neglected. Yet, it is this that God enjoins on us as ‘according to the commandment of the everlasting God’, as I understand Paul’s statement in Ro 16:25-26, and as observed in the common practice of apostolic preaching as we have it recorded in the book of Acts.

The gospel was first preached in an apocalyptic context of flight from the wrath to come, as an urgent message of repentance in view of the shortness of the time, beneath the shadow of an imminent destruction of Jerusalem that would naturally be understood in inextricable connection with the judgment of the nations and restoration of the kingdom to Israel. That’s where they were and where we find ourselves again, full circle.

It is also the “witness” (Travis’ “credible witness”) of the imminence of the kingdom of God (Mt 24:14) God will not judge fully and finally until there has first gone forth in power and clarity this “witness” so to leave all men without excuse for a very compelling opportunity for faith that to reject is to expose the powerful predisposition of the natural heart.

Apocalyptic evangelism is not limited to Jews, though it is meant to appeal to them, not only from the evidence of fulfilled prophecy but of things presently unfolding and soon to follow in their lifetime. Thus, it has the working of a delayed reaction bomb. This is especially seen in Isa 28 where the gospel is first dismissed, but soon enough the forewarned disaster falls and this is calculated to have powerful working on the Jewish conscience in his time of calamity. The same can be said of the rising tide of anti-Semitism, which a futuristic understanding of prophecy has always clearly anticipated. That too is again upon us. Apocalyptic evangelism exploits this evidence to point the Jew, and the nations to the implied divine contention over the nature of true covenant righteousness, and all the issues of God’s face being hidden from the beleaguered nation till the coming in of the everlasting righteousness. Even that statement presumes a mystery, since this righteousness was revealed in the gospel but waits to become the experience of the entirety of the nation when it is born in a day.

The target audience is “whosoever will.” The issue of Israel and the controversy God has with them is for the nations to consider, but they will not consider it rightly until they have understood how God is using the issue of Zion to confront the nations with His controversy with them. All is designed to bring down every high look, to destroy all boasting, whether Jewish or gentile. Actually, all evangelism is apocalyptic in the sense that all preaching of the gospel should presuppose this context of the everlasting covenant and the breaking in of the judgments of the day of the Lord, as well as the ever present danger of eternal hell for the spiritually dead. It is this apocalyptic righteousness of the Spirit that quickens the dead, apart from works, that the gospel reveals, now to those who obey and then to the surviving remnant who look upon Him whom they pierced and cry with one voice, “blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.” Apocalyptic evangelism is a call to the nations, albeit in the context of a convincing witness of both the presence and imminence of the kingdom, which implies the return of the King to reign from Zion’s little hill over all nations through a restored “Jewish” nation. It’s that last part that stumbles many. It was so intended. That’s why this sovereign prerogative (the scandal of particularity) will be openly vindicated and employed as a divinely intended challenge to the nations for a thousand years (Isa 66:19-22; Zech 8:23; 14:17-18).

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The Mystery of Iniquity

On Sat. night you made a remark in passing about the Proto-Evangelium [“the first gospel”] in Genesis. I think you said that the “unpacking” of Gen.3:15 is found in Daniel. I wonder if you could expand on that for me. I’ve been teaching on the everlasting gospel starting there in Genesis and I’d like to hear your perspective as it relates to Daniel.

Hardly enough could be said about Gen 3:15. It is the seed bed, not only of the gospel but of the whole comprehensive mystery of God that is finished with the 7th trumpet (Rev 10:7). The two seeds establish the two lines of men by which the plan of redemption can be traced from beginning to end. It is more than Messiah and Satan. It anticipates the line of the ungodly making up the city of man, mystery Babylon, and the line of the children of the Spirit who are headed up in the Messiah who form corporately the city of God, the heavenly Zion.

These two lines are really two natures, the nature of Satan in fallen man and the nature of God in His saints. These two natures that run through the whole of humanity come to their fullness and perfection in a personal incarnation in the two princes of Dan 9:25-26. Paul will speak of the “mystery of godliness” (1Tim 3:16) and its antithesis, the “mystery of iniquity” (2Thes 2:7). The mystery of iniquity that is presently working, comes to final revelation in the ‘man of sin’ after the one who is restraining is removed.

As Jesus would be the ultimate Seed of the woman who perfects in His humanity the mystery of godliness, so also the seed of the serpent must come to a similar fullness of Satan in the flesh. As the uniquely begotten Son was given the Spirit without the measure (Jn 3:34) so that in Him should dwell all the fullness of God (Col 1:19; 2:9), just so, by a miraculous transition, the Antichrist will likewise fill up the full measure and image of his father, the Devil. Thus, the two princes of Dan 9:25-26 fulfill two distinct mysteries that bound the age between the 69th and 70th weeks of Daniel.

We must understand that the “revelation” of the Man of Sin implies something much more than merely identifying him by his actions, as usually understood. Scripture reveals a number of recognizable events that lead up to his abominable act in the temple that will identify him well before his ‘revelation’ as the Man of Sin (Isa 28:15, 18; Dan 8:25; 9:27; 11:21-31). The ‘revelation’ of the Man of Sin signifies that transitional moment that Satan fully enters the mortally wounded beast as he ascends from the abyss to become the “beast that was, and is not, and yet is” (Rev 11:7; 17:8).

The mystery that I believe the Spirit intends to convey is that the same beast that descends into the abyss upon the event of the mortal wound, ascends to become ‘the beast that was, and is not, and yet is’ (Rev 11:7; 13:14; 17:8, 11). Upon his ascent from the abyss, he becomes the composite beast who now embodies the fullness of that spirit / nature of Satan that was only partially seen in the former beast kingdoms (Rev 13:2; 17:11). This mystery is that all of this is now concentrated in a man (Rev 13:18),  as now endowed with “all power and signs and lying wonder” (2Thes 2:9).

In what follows, I want to show that the one who begins as a ‘despicable’ person (in God’s eyes), and who comes in disarmingly to obtain the kingdom, not by war or by ordinary means of succession, but by deceit and blandishment (Dan 8:25; 11:21, 23), is the same leader (scripture calls him a king) who will rise from the dead. This supreme demonic miracle (ordained by God as necessary before Christ can return) will move the whole of the unsaved world to marvel as they “behold the beast that was, and is not, and yet is” (Rev 13:3; 17:8).

The miraculous healing of the head wound is further described as an ascent up out of the abyss (Rev 11:7; 17:8).  Obviously, the mortal wound is the descent; its healing is the ascent. I believe this is the strong delusion that God has determined to send on those who have already manifested a determined and resolute hatred for the truth (2Thes 2:11). It will mean irreversible reprobation (Rev 14:9-11), the point of no return.

A comparison of Dan 12:1 with Rev 12:7-14 makes clear that the unequaled tribulation starts when Michael stands to cast Satan down to earth. Plainly, the eviction of Satan intersects in time with the ascent of the Antichrist from the abyss with the healing of the mortal wound (Rev 13:3, 12; 17:10). At the same time, or nearly the same time, the abomination is being placed in Jerusalem to begin the tribulation (Dan 9:27; 12:11; Mt 24:15-16, 21; 2Thes 2:4; Rev 11:2).

Whether this demonic resurrection takes place very shortly before his invasion of Israel, or shortly upon his forcible arrival in the city is an open question. It has been reasonably suggested that this miracle of resurrection is how he is able to secure the unified cooperation of the ten kings in the ‘secretly planned’ assault on Jerusalem that finds Israel off guard, dwelling securely under the false presumption of lasting peace (Isa 28:15, 18; Eze 38:8-9; Dan 8:25; 11:23, 27-31 with 1Thes 5:3).

Notice the relation between Satan’s expulsion and the coming of the kingdom in Rev 12:10. Why is it that the kingdom does not come in all its fullness until Satan is cast down? I believe it is for the same reason that the day of the Lord cannot come until the one who is restraining is taken out of the way. The removal of Satan as the one who hinders (1Thes 2:18) permits the mystery of iniquity to be revealed in the man of sin as the personal embodiment of the beast that returns from the mortal wound. This alone explains why all of heaven rejoices with such great jubilation over an event that will mean such woe and suffering for the earth (Rev 12:10-12).

When scripture is carefully compared, it becomes apparent that this will be realized through a miracle of death and resurrection that will cause the entire unsaved world to “wonder when they behold the beast who was, and is not, and yet is” (Rev 13:3: 17:8). Nothing else is so well calculated to so powerfully deceive the multitudes. It is a divine judgment for those who have not received the love of the truth, particularly in the face of such abundant evidence from prophecy that we know will be declared under great anointing at that time (2Thes 2:11; Rev 13:3-4, 14 with Mt 24:14; Rev 12:10; Dan 11:33; 11:2; Isa 28:11-12).

Many interpret the healing of the wound as the resurrection of one of the kingdoms of antiquity, such as Rome or the Ottoman Empire. It is hard to see how something as gradual and naturally explained as the revival of a former world kingdom could so well account for the kind of deception that such an astonishing miracle will send upon the world of the unsaved. Furthermore, the revival of a former kingdom would hardly require the casting down of Satan, whereas Satan is very committed to resist a forced entrance into the body of Antichrist, since the revelation of the mystery of iniquity will mean that is time is short (2Thes 2:3, 7-8; Rev 12:12).

This explains why the mortal wound in one of the beast’s heads so nearly appropriates the language of Gen 3:15. As much as Satan was fatally wounded at the cross, the death of the Antichrist (by the mortal wound) is significantly timed in relation to Michael’s enforcement in heaven of the victory of calvary. For this cause, the death of the Antichrist means the end of  Satan’s tenure over the nations, because his resurrection will mean the soon end of the composite beast (Dan 7:11; 2Thes 2:8) through which Satan has ruled over the nations as the god of this age.

All the evidence points in the direction that the desecration of the temple at Jerusalem is in close connection with the casting down of Satan, which results in the resurrection of the Antichrist. It must not be missed that Satan’s casting down is in close, I would say immediate, connection to the healing of the mortal wound, which the best reading of the evidence shows to be the actual resurrection of the man of sin.

Whereas it is true that the beast who speaks great words, persecutes the saints, and kills the two witness at the end of the 3 1/2 years (Rev 11:2-3; 13:5), is represented as a man (Dan 7:8; 11:21, 36-37; 2Thes 2:4; Rev 13:18), he is much more. He belongs to a multi-headed, multi-horned composite beast (Rev 13:2; 17:10-11) that reaches back across all the great, God opposing kingdoms of the biblical record. Clearly, Rome is the 6th head of this beast, as contemporary to the apostle John who received the Revelation in the first century A.D. (Rev 17:9-10). From John’s place in time, only one more head remains, and it will continue only a ‘short space’ (Rev 17:10). How then does the Spirit speak of an 8th?

The riddle is solved when we understand that the 8th head that goes into perdition is the risen 7th who “was, and is not, and yet is” (Rev 17:8, 10). In this way, the 7th and last head continues a ‘short space’ as the 8th, since the 8th is manifestly the return of the 7th. After continuing the ‘short space’ (the 42 months), the 8th beast, as the risen 7th, goes into perdition. Notice that the beast is cast into the lake of fire one thousand years before ‘the rest of the dead’ (Rev 20:5) or even Satan (Rev 20:10-15).

As the eighth, he incorporates in a single individual all the power of evil that has been behind the great world kingdoms of the gentiles that have usurped and resisted the promised rule of God over all the earth.  As Satan manifest in the flesh, the risen man of sin becomes the ultimate embodiment of that composite, trans-historical beast, that has been the instrument through which Satan has exercised his rule over the nations until the times of the gentiles be fulfilled.

As much as Michael’s casting down of Satan marks the great transition point in heaven that has its counterpart in the abomination of desolation on earth to begin the tribulation (Dan 9:27; 11:31; 12:1, 11 with Mt 24:15, 21; Rev 12:7-14). And as much as we believe that Satan’s expulsion intersects with the healing of the deadly wound, we have before us compelling evidence that the temple of God at Jerusalem is entered by a man who has only very recently risen from the dead.

The revelation of the long working mystery of iniquity means that the man of sin now incorporates in himself all the fullness of what the former beasts were only in part, just as Jesus filled up in His holy person all the fullness of God. This is how the ‘prince that shall come’ fulfills the mystery of iniquity as the incarnation of the serpent’s seed, which is necessary before Jesus can return (2Thes 2:3, 7-8). Thus the revelation of the Man of Sin is not merely the point at which he can be identified, but much more particularly the moment that Satan becomes fully incarnated in the revived “beast that was, and is not, and yet is” (Rev 17:8).

Significantly, the time of Satan’s ultimate exposure in the Antichrist, with the casting down of the accuser of the brethren, is also the time that the two witnesses receive power, and not only the two witnesses, but we notice from a number of passages that this is also the same time that a great anointing is shown to rest on the maskilim (the wise who have understanding; Dan 11:32-33; 12:3, 10 with Rev 11:3, 12:10-11). It is amazing to contemplate that the most manifest and abundant fulfillment of prophecy since Messiah’s first advent will accompany the greatest empowerment of the church since Pentecost. This will result in the evangelization of a multitude too great to number that will come out of ‘the tribulation, the great one’ (Dan 11:32-33; 12:3 with Rev 7:9, 14).

So the great transition that takes place in heaven affects much more than the revelation of the Man of Sin. The casting down of the accuser will also accomplish an unparalleled release of the Spirit and power upon the godly remnant. The first half of the week will have been crucially instrumental in crowding the godly remnant to the kind of intercession that will receive the intervention of Michael who will accomplish the final removal of Satan from his position in heaven as the one who hinders the revelation of the mystery of iniquity and by so much, the coming of the kingdom (compare 2Thes 2:7 with Rev 10:7; 11:15; 12:10). Notably, Michael’s removal of Satan as an obstruction to the full coming in of the kingdom (Rev 12:10) is very much to be compared to the removal of the opposing prince of Persia who stood to resist the mighty revelation that was fighting to break through in answer to Daniel’s prayer (Dan 10:10,12-14).

[Note: Besides ‘the accuser of the brethren’ (Job 2:4; Zech 3:1-2; Rev 12:10), Satan is also called the one who hinders, withstands, or resists (Dan 10:13; Zech 3:1; Ro 1:13 with 1Thes 2:18; 2Thes 2:7).]

As you know, it is my view that Satan is the restrainer whose position in heaven is holding back the revelation of the mystery of iniquity, which is holding back the day of the Lord (2Thes 2:2-3, 7-8). So long as his place in heaven can be retained, the day of the Lord cannot come, the kingdom cannot come (Rev 12:10; 11:15), and the mystery of God cannot be finished (Rev 10:7). This is why Satan is in no hurry to bring forth the Antichrist, as popularly supposed.

This is where we have it turned just around. We naturally tend to think it is Satan’s great ambition to bring forth the Antichrist. But this is the last thing he wants, since his full exposure in the Man of Sin will mean that from that time, his time is short (Rev 12:12). His power over the nations is at an end. (This is why he goes after the woman with an urgent and desperate fury. He knows that the preservation of a remnant from among the Jewish race is indispensable to the public vindication of God’s irrevocable covenant with them; Isa 59:21; Ro 11:27.)

Satan’s eviction by Michael in the middle of the week is very much to be compared to the resistance of the demon prince of Persia who “withstood” the angelic messenger until he was taken out of the way by Michael (Dan 10:13). Doubtless, this is the background of Paul’s thought on the much disputed question of the identity of the restrainer. It is also strongly confirmed by John’s depiction of Michael’s forceful removal of Satan as a prior necessity before the kingdom of God can fully come on earth with the finishing of the mystery of God (Rev 10:7; 11:15; 12:10).

Notice how the same event that signals great woe to the earth dwellers (Rev 12:12) marks a mighty break-through of heavenly glory and victory for the saints (Rev 12:10-11). “”Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ.” Why? Because the accuser of our brethren is cast down …” (Rev 12:10). Daniel then becomes a type of the ‘maskilim’ (wise / understanding) of the last days (Dan 11:32-33; 12:3, 10) when a pre-determined sequence of foretold events will move the godly remnant to a place of ultimate urgency and intercessory travail that will be answered in Michael’s intervention.

It is clearly NOT the false prophet, but John’s sea beast who rises from the abyss with the healing of the mortal wound (Rev 11:7; 13:1-3; 17:8). It is he who reveals the mystery of iniquity as the incarnation of the serpent’s seed. It is important to see that this trans-historical (Rev 17:10), multi-headed, multi-horned beast is ultimately embodied in a man, I believe a resurrected man, the man of sin. So which prince takes away the daily sacrifice? That is the question that will decide whether we can say that the ‘coming prince’ of Dan 9:26 is the man of sin, and not some other, such as Antiochus IV, as suggested by Jewish scholars, or Titus, as suggested by most Christian scholars of replacement orientation? The answer to this question will decide whether the 70th week of Daniel followed the 69th in unbroken succession, or whether we must see a gap between the death of Christ and the advent and career of Antichrist.

Those who want to make Jesus the one who confirms the covenant in Dan 9:27 argue that is not the ‘prince that shall come’ but Messiah, the anointed prince who is cut off (Dan 9:26), who stops the sacrifice by His death in the middle of the week. There are a number of problems with this view, not least is the observation that in every other mention throughout the book of Daniel, it is always the evil prince that stops the regular sacrifice (Dan 8:11; 11:31; 12:11). Moreover, the desolation of Jerusalem described in Dan 11:31; 12:11 comes approximately 3 1/2 years before the end in Dan 12:11, and this is consistent with the sacrifice being stopped in the middle of the week. It is particularly inconsistent to make the ‘consummation’ / ‘end’ described in Dan 9:27 to be merely the end of the city in 70 A.D., whereas in every other mention, ‘the end’ has in view the post-tribulational deliverance of Daniel’s people and the resurrection of the dead (Dan 12:1-2, 13; Mt 24:21, 29-31; Rev 12:7-14).

In summary, if the final week of years has in view the Antichrist as “the prince that shall come”, then we must infer a gap between Messiah’s atoning death at the end of the 69th week and His return to destroy the Antichrist at the end of the 70th week. As the first 69 weeks brings us to the revelation of the gospel with the cutting off of the anointed prince (Dan 9:26), the 70th is preserved to bring in His return after the mystery of iniquity has been revealed in the ‘prince that shall come’. Therefore, it is no more possible for the 69th week to have followed the 70th week in unbroken succession than for the advent and career of Antichrist to have followed immediately upon the death of Jesus. To infer a gap between these two antithetical mysteries of incarnation is in perfect keeping with ‘mystery of the gospel’, which reveals a heretofore hidden age between the two advents of Christ. This is the mystery that so profoundly tested Israel, over which all but the elect would stumble.

Curiously, Daniel never uses the term, ‘day of the Lord’, but the unequaled tribulation and the “finishing of the transgression” (Dan 8:24; 9:24) is clearly the last stage in Israel’s long history of covenant discipline that ends in the day of the Lord. The age long discipline of the covenant foretold by Moses in Lev 26, Deut 28; 31-32, continues till the new heart is given at a time of “great tribulation” (Deut 4:29-30; 29:4; 30:1-6). The discipline of the covenant does not end with a probationary return to the Land. We see this in the fact that the return from Babylon still looks ahead to a future unequaled tribulation climaxing in the day of the Lord (Jer 30:7; Dan 12:1; Zech 14:1; Mal 4:1). Israel is not assured of secure preservation in the Land until the “bringing in of the “everlasting righteousness” of the “everlasting covenant” (Jer 34:40; Dan 9:24). This righteousness is ‘revealed’ in the gospel (Ro 1:17).

Daniel knew the prophecies of Isaiah, Jeremiah, and others who spoke of this righteousness that must come before the nation could be established in abiding security in their Land. Jeremiah had shown that in that day when Israel would dwell safely, the righteous Branch, Israel’s King, would be called, “the LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS” (Jer 23:5-6). I believe it is incorrect to suppose that this everlasting righteousness is only brought in at the end of the 70th week. Like “reconciliation for iniquity” (Dan 9:24), the everlasting righteousness came in for the church at the end of the 69th week. It will yet come in for ‘all Israel’ at the end of the tribulation, which, of course, is also the end of the 70th week.

This conforms perfectly to what was foretold by Isaiah in Isa 8:14-17. The teaching would be “bound up and sealed among my disciples” until God’s face is no longer hidden from the house of Jacob. Note that the face of God remains hidden from Jacob until the Spirit is poured out at the great day of the Lord (Eze 39:22, 29; Zech 12:10; Joel 2:28-29; 3:1-2, 16-17, 21). While the greater part of Israel would stumble, the mystery of the kingdom and the gospel (the sealed vision) would be revealed to the believing disciples, who await its revelation to the surviving remnant of Israel at the post-tribulational day of the Lord. It is that unveiling that births the nation ‘at once’ and ‘in one day’ at the end of a final time of national travail and great affliction (Deut 4:29-30; Isa 13:6-8; 26:17-18; 66:8; Mic 5:3; Hos 5:15; Jer 30:6-7; with Eze 39:22; Zech 3:9; 12:10; Mt 23:39; 24:30; Acts 3:21; Ro 11:26; Rev 1:7). The redemption of Israel is inextricably bound to the hope of resurrection (Ro 11:15), as all roads lead to that great transition called, day of the Lord, which the NT treats as a synonym for Christ’s return.

We see in Rev 12 that the seed of the woman is both corporate and personal. It is therefore a great error to limit the woman’s travail to Mary, or the man child only to Jesus. The figure of the woman and the man child is far more sweeping, envisioning, not only the personal Seed, but the corporate seed of the woman which includes not only the spiritual seed, but also the physical seed through whom alone the promise of the everlasting covenant can be fulfilled in an all holy Jewish nation as the theocratic head of the nations.

The end of the covenant that will realize the return of the natural branches (Ro 11:27) envisions the glorious convergence of the earthly and heavenly Zion at Christ’s return. The woman is an inclusive figure that includes the elect nation, I would say, even in its unbelief as the abiding object of an irrevocable election, and also the believing ‘remnant of her seed who keep the commandments of Jesus’. Thus, the woman represents both Israel and the church, as the righteous remnant within the still elect nation.

Now notice a great mystery: Isa 66:7-8 shows the astonishing anomaly of the birth of a man child BEFORE the woman travails. Then, only AFTER Zion’s travail, the nation is born in one day.

“Before she travailed, she brought forth; before her pain came, she was delivered of a man child. Who hath heard such a thing? who hath seen such things? Shall the earth be made to bring forth in one day? or shall a nation be born at once? for as soon as Zion travailed, she brought forth her children.”

This is the riddle that Rev 12 will solve. If we understand the woman to represent both the heavenly and the earthly Zion, we see that it is the heavenly Zion that brings forth the man child BEFORE the great tribulation. This stands in marked contrast to the earthly Zion whom Satan tries to exterminate before the covenant can be fulfilled in their return (Isa 59:21; Ro 11:27). Hence, there is one travail of the woman before the tribulation, and there is another travail of the woman that ‘IS’ the tribulation. It is only “when Zion travails’ that a nation is born in one day (Isa 66:8). This is in marked contrast to the ‘pre-tribulational’ travail that births the man chid BEFORE the pain of Israel comes in what is clearly the great tribulation (Isa 66:7 with Rev 12:1, 5-6). Obviously, the birth of the nation in one day refers to the post-tribulational day of the Lord, not May 14, 1948, as popularly taught.

Posted in Bible Study, Daniel, Genesis, The Mystery of Godliness, The Mystery of Iniquity | Comments Off on The Mystery of Iniquity

The Mystery of the Younger

We find in the pattern of God that He continuously picks the least. Abel was exalted over Cain in that his offering was accepted, but Cain’s was rejected. Abraham’s son Isaac was given the blessing instead of Ishmael. It was said of Jacob before he was even born, “The elder shall serve the younger.” Even King David was the least of his brethren. So the question is: What is it about the lesser that God seems to find favor with? Why does it seem as though God chooses the second, when it is tradition that the firstborn and elder gets the blessing? I have a feeling that it is related to Israel and the end times.

Yes, even of Israel it was said, “you were the least of all people” (Deut 7:7). The Bible’s remarkable focus on the salvation and exaltation of the poor and needy is regarded by unbelieving scholars as a device invented by the Hebrews to preserve identity and national resilience in a world of evil where the strong rule over the weak, thus, the shepherd kingdom of Jewish eschatology. They are right in their observance of this remarkably consistent pattern, but dead wrong in their interpretation. “For though the Lord is high, he regards the lowly, but the proud he knows from afar” (Ps 138:6). It is a principle that is uniform throughout Scripture, but there is something deeper that God is emphasizing.

In all His ways and workings, God is jealous that His elect know Him most particularly and distinctly as ‘the God who raises the dead’. For this cause, they are always being ‘shut up’ to resurrection, not only ultimately, but daily. He is always ‘taking away the first that He may establish the second.” The pattern in Scripture where God chooses a second born over the first born is an illustration of this. God rejects what is born first (human strength) and choses what is born second (born again). In the case of Jacob and Esau, Jacob was the weaker one who came second, but his weakness was precisely the point. God wants to do something in His strength – not in human strength. It is a simple but glorious divine principal that God can only fill what He first empties, but no one is sufficiently emptied of their power by circumstances alone. Only divine revelation is sufficient to take away the veil that stands in the power of our power. That is why salvation and or maturity depends on first breaking the power of the flesh, but this is never accomplished by suffering alone but by revelation that devastates what Paul calls, ‘confidence in the flesh’.

Certainly the believer has personal responsibility and freedom to humble themselves, but the humility which God respects comes from the work of the Spirit. Our most sincere discipline and determined resolve cannot break confidence in the flesh. It takes the Spirit to bring new birth, and death and resurrection. We see this in our own lives and with eschatological Israel. It is very significant that the ‘set time’ to favor Zion works in perfect timing with the moment that the surviving remnant of Israel has been brought to the end of ‘their power’ (Deut 32:36 with Dan 12:7). Israel’s story is illustrating how regeneration works both for the individual and the nation.

Jacob’s trouble is designed by God to bring the surviving remnant of Israel to the transformational moment that takes place at Christ’s return (compare Gal 1:15-16 with Ps 102:13; 110:3; Isa 66:8; Zech 3:9; 12:10; Mt 23:39; Rev 1:7). There will be a witness to Israel that will prepare them to receive “Him whom they have pierced,” but that witness is not enough. God will also use the chastisement of the Antichrist to bring Jacob to the end of His power (Isa 10:5-6). God uses the Antichrist, as He uses suffering in our own life, to bring Israel to the end of her power, to a place she would not naturally go, so that He can pour out His Spirit on the entire nation.

This is why Israel’s eschatological birth and resurrection happens at the very time that Israel’s human strength is broken, just as the covenant predicted (Lev 26:19; Deut 32:36). Human strength must be broken to remove the veil that exists over the nations (Isaiah 25:7). We should notice carefully the profound relationship that exists between the power of the veil and the power of the flesh. The revelation that eternally transforms the nation must come with no help at all from man. This is why God says in Zechariah, “I will pour on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of grace and supplication” (Zec 12:10). He must give revelation unto repentance. It is remarkable to observe in how many ways that the eschatological salvation of the corporate ‘Ebhed Yahweh’ (servant of the Lord) is a reiteration of the cross and resurrection of Jesus, the personal Servant. This suggests that Israel will see His face mirrored in their own hour of ultimate calamity and prostration. There is a principle here that we must not miss.

The salvation of Israel, just like the resurrection of her Messiah, awaits an ultimate act of divine intervention and resurrection precisely at the point that their power is gone. Part of this ultimate end of human strength will be the revelation of Him whom they pierced (Zech 12:10). Thus we see how the Spirit of revelation works to destroy the last remains of human self reliance. The scripture says this comes to them suddenly, ‘in one day’ (Isa 66:8; Eze 39:22; Zech 3:9) – just as our new birth comes in a moment. Their travail is finished with the sudden birth of an all holy nation precisely at the point that the Spirit gives revelation and this revelation is given at the end of their human strength. It was so for Paul. It will be so for Israel (Gal 1:15-16 with Ps 102:13; 110:3). We cannot miss this principle. What then does this great principle portend for God’s purpose for the church that will speak for God to both Israel and the nations in the coming tribulation?

Whether in the initial moment of regeneration and divine quickening or the daily and progressive process of sanctification, the principle is always resurrection, whether a climactic event or a divinely orchestrated process whereby Christ is more deeply formed in the believer. But in all circumstances, it is invariably, and always at the ‘end of power’, i.e., power of the flesh. It must always be the work of the Spirit and not the strength of man.

That is why the believer is always being delivered over to death for Jesus’ sake. It is the principle, in keeping with what Paul calls, ‘the mystery of the faith,’ that we see taking place in some measure whenever and wherever God’s elect are being ‘formed into the image of Christ.’ Whether this is in our initial regeneration or our progressive sanctification, either way the principle remains – He removes our power to replace it with His. it is the necessary first to remove carnal confidence that impedes spiritual progress, and this is why God orders the circumstances that keep us always cast upon Him.

“For we do not want you to be ignorant, brothers, of the tribulation we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. But we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God who raises the dead” (2Cor 1:8-9).

Paul is speaking of something far more than the doctrine of the resurrection at the last day. It is to know God experimentally, through many dangers, toils, snares, and “deaths.” We see this process continually in our own lives and in the story of Israel. This is how Israel’s story began and how it will end.

“And as for your nativity, in the day you were born your navel was not cut, neither were you washed in water to supple you. You were not salted at all, nor swaddled at all. No eye pitied you to do any of these things for you or to have compassion on you; but you were cast out in the open field, to the loathing of your person, in the day you were born. And when I passed by and saw you polluted in your own blood, I said to you when you were in your blood, Live! Yes, I said to you when you were in your blood, Live!” (Ezekiel 16:4-6)

As the old song says, “must Jesus bear the cross alone and all the world go free? No, there’s a cross for everyone and there’s a cross for me.” So many of us have experienced this pattern and, if we have not, we should ask serious questions about its absence. God is not going to bring Israel to maturity in a different way from the church. If the church will be a witness to Israel in the last days, how shall we speak to them of things that are strange to our own experience? The church, if it is to be the church, must learn the cross and experience its own death and resurrection before there can be any apostolic sending and certainly before the church can off an end times witness to Israel.

Edited by Samuel Clough

Posted in Israel and the Church, Jacob's Trouble | Comments Off on The Mystery of the Younger

“Behold, I Was Shapen in Iniquity…”

Do you know how long the Jews have not believed in Adamic sin being imputed? How modern is that notion?

You ask an interesting question on the Jewish rejection of the imputation of Adam’s sin. I don’t think there was ever a time when rabbinic Judaism has not rejected the doctrine of original sin, and hence, the imputation of Adam’s sin. The imputation of Adam’s sin in Ro 5 is in keeping with the doctrine of original sin, which is strongly suggested in many scriptures in both testaments, but particularly required for our understanding of the necessity of Jesus’s virgin birth, since in this way the Messiah would circumvent the the fallen nature of Adam, as passed down through the seed of man. Jewish theology is particularly vocal and passionate in its rejection of the doctrine of original sin, strongly affirming instead the innate ability of man to achieve salvation, but not, of course, without the necessity of forgiveness and mercy through self-initiated repentance, nothing of the special drawing of the Spirit required.

Instead of original sin, Judaism teaches the notion of the two inclinations, with the free will of man being the arbiter as to which wins out in the struggle. They reject the Christian view that a deep root of corruption, received in the fall, pervades all our nature, rendering us incapable of a true and acceptable holiness apart from the special quickening of the Spirit. They believe that the only thing we inherit from Adam is the two inclinations inherent in human nature. With every new entry into the world, it is a fresh start of innocence that is progressively broken down or built up through free choices. No one enters into the world without the full right and ability to gain (earn?) eternal life through the wisdom and discipline of right choices (Ro 4:4). In Judaism, man is not inherently incapacitated for righteousness as in Christian theology (which is taken mostly, but not entirely from the scriptures of the NT that profoundly deny natural, unaided capacity for an acceptable righteousness (e.g., Ps 51:5; Jer 13:23; 17:9; Eze 16:5-6; Mt 19:17; Ro 7:14, 18, 23; 1Cor 2:14, Eph 2:1).

Although I believe that we do inherit the imputation of Adam’s particular sin, as he acted representatively in our nature, as in him all die; it is the fallen nature inherited from Adam that incapacitates us for true repentance, faith, and holiness, since this has rendered us as dead and inert apart from the special intervention of the Spirit. Hence, even the best that the unregenerate person is capable of producing, even in sincere obedience to divine commands, this cannot count for salvation, or even contribute towards eternal life. The way is barred from even the best of human will and noble intention (Ro 9:16, 31-32; 10:2-3). Of course, this is the offense of the cross, namely, the rejection of all that stands under the power of the first creation, not as always completely worthless in and of itself, but as necessarily rejected where the gift of eternal life is concerned.

Since this is getting at the heart of the mystery of the faith, that salvation comes only through a transforming revelation that creates a new union with the divine nature, it is to be expected that the natural man, and of course Jewish theology, would categorically reject such a foreign thesis. That “in man is nothing good” (MK 10:18; Ro 3:10; 7:18; Rev 15:4) is a consummate offense to reason, since it shatters hope in man. This is the hue and cry of humanism and the protest of every man centered theology.

This is not to say (though some have said) that all that pertains to the unsaved is worthless and evil. Even Calvin would speak of “the remnant of the image of God” in fallen man. All can see that the unregenerate are by no means incapable of a measure of goodness, but this cannot count for, or take the place of salvation. Lest any flesh should boast, this must be wholly the work of God by the Spirit. That’s the crucial difference. Man in the image of God, like the law written on stone, has a kind of glory; that is true, but it is fatally short of the glory of God. This is the problem.

It is an hard word indeed, but unless the thoughts and intent of the heart, however noble and selfless the motive, are the fruit of the indwelling Spirit of Christ received by faith, this cannot count with God where salvation and eternal reward is concerned. There may be temporary reward for wise living. A restrained and disciplined lifestyle with virtue and good works may even check and restrain the progress of sin and depravity and do some good in the world. But whatever its temporal value, it is short of the necessary miracle of the new creation and thus short of the glory God. As Paul would say, the only thing that counts is a new creation (Gal 6:15). Thus, Israel’s eschatological salvation in the present age becomes the paradigm and macrocosm of individual and corporate salvation through the transforming revelation of the gospel (Isa 45:17, 25; 54:13; 59:21; 66:8; Jer 31:34; 32:40; Eze 37:5; Dan 9:24 with Jn 3:3; 5:21; 6:45, 63; 2Cor 5:17; Gal 6:15; Eph 2:1; 1Pet 1:23)

The issue will always reduce to the issue of the Spirit. In Christ / in the Spirit is life eternal. Outside is wrath, regardless of time or dispensation, since only by the indwelling Spirit of Christ were any ever made alive to God. That is a rule that may be well inferred from a host of scriptures in both testaments (Gen 41:38; Nu 27:18; Isa 63:11; Dan 4:8-9, 18; 5:14; Mt 22:32, 43; Jn 3:3, 6, 10; 4:24; 6:63; 8:39; Ro 8:14-15; 9:8; 1Cor 2:14; 2Cor 3:17; Gal 4:29; 6:15; Eph 2:1; 1Pet 1:11). Not all receive the same reward or punishment (Lk 12:47-48), but eternal destiny is decided by the issue of life by Spirit through the imputed righteousness of Christ to true faith, which, of course, is a living, and thus a working faith.

Not even the most noble acts, however selflessly motivated, can count for salvation. Nothing of man or that stands in the will or power of man can avail. Only the imputation of Christ’s righteousness can justify before God, the evidence being the gift of the Spirit who creates the new heart of the New Covenant. It is the power and life of the new creation, born of the Spirit and the Word through the imputation of Christ’s righteousness. This alone justifies before God.

I think a central and non negotiable point of our message must always be the unthinkable terror of presuming to stand before infinite, unapproachable holiness, in anything less or other than the very righteousness that was perfected in Jesus’s 33 1/2 years of tested obedience under the law as the spotless Lamb (Mat 3:15; Gal 4:4-5). To come in any other covering is an inexcusable affront (Mt 22:11-13). To present anything less, or to mix something of man with its perfection is to pollute and nullify the whole. By itself, no human work can stand in the judgment, since all other ground is sinking sand. That one sacrifice cannot brook mixture. It is all or nothing. To presume to add anything within human reach or power to the finished work of Christ is to pollute the whole. “A little leaven.” I realize that’s an hard word; but the law requires perfection. Anything short is an affront to divine holiness and to the law.

The Spirit could never have quickened the first sinner apart from the divine certainty of the Surety’s divinely guaranteed success, being already counted as a fully accomplished event in the eternal counsel and foreknowledge of God. Jews need to understand that Jesus and His sacrifice was not an afterthought, not a new plan, but the ground of all salvation past and future, even before the revelation of the mystery that brought to full light the way and means of God’s eternally predestined will to gather together all things in Christ (Eph 1:9-10). Obviously, this means that those in the OT who trusted in God for a righteousness that was not their own had imputed to them much more than they could yet understand (Ps 32:2; Ro 4:6). Just as when Jesus said, “For verily I say unto you, That many prophets and righteous men have desired to see those things which ye see, and have not seen them; and to hear those things which ye hear, and have not heard them” (Matt 13:17), since now, the way into the holiest of all has been made manifest.

What points of appeal can be brought to Jews that can break into such a powerful false covering, so seemingly supported by scripture itself? (Ro 10:2-3; Phil 3:5-9). Surely it is a blindness that is especially powerful and unique to this beloved enemy “for our sakes” (Ro 11:28). Who, more than the Jew is calculated to send believers back to do their homework in order to give answer? (Prov 15:28; 16:1; Isa 50:4; 2Tim 2:15; 1Pet 3:15). By this divinely ordained encounter, believers are either deepened or devastated in their faith. The Jew is a provision to see if the believer has apprehended the revelation of the gospel by the Spirit (Isa 53:1; Mt 16:17; Ro 1:17; 1Cor 2:14; Eph 6:19). Else, this formidable challenge has the power, as nothing else, to profoundly shake the faith that one only ‘seemed’ to have (Lk 8:18).

Somehow, it has pleased God that when the foolishness of the cross is preached, the Spirit cuts through all the otherwise impossible intellectual barriers. Although the consummate offense, there is something about the concept of a crucified Messiah that breaks into the human spirit as nothing else ever could. As someone has well said, “true faith begins precisely at the point the atheist thinks it should be at an end.”

Posted in Apocalyptic Evangelism, Church Doctrine, Opposing Views, The Mystery of Israel | Comments Off on “Behold, I Was Shapen in Iniquity…”