Untenable Tenets of the Dispensational System

It is not the new birth, or even special empowerment by the Spirit that dispensationalists deny to the saints of the tribulation. How could they? They see well enough the power of the two witnesses and the mighty exploits that are being accomplished by the maskilim of Dan 11:32-33, 12:3, 10. They would even grant the special “coming upon” of the Spirit, selectively received throughout the OT, but corporately upon the fledgling church at Pentecost (Acts 1:8; 8:15-16). What they deny is that tribulation saints are “indwelt” by the Spirit.

It is hard to overstate how far this runs against the a biblical theology of the Holy Spirit and the doctrine of regeneration, as it pertains to both testaments, but this is nonetheless a key component of the system. But many, even in their own camp, are often not aware of this, and have not thought through why this view is an essential pillar of pre-tribulational dispensationalism.

But if tribulation saints are not indwelt by the Spirit, what of the truth of the believer’s adoption and union with Christ, as common partakers of the divine nature? How does one sustain union with the divine nature if this is not internal? How is one who is born of the Spirit not also indwelt by the Spirit? What happens to the New Covenant promise of a new spirit and new heart? What of the new creation that the believer becomes through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit?

Is not the Spirit that came at Pentecost the same that was promised all throughout the prophets? And will this promise not have a yet further fulfillment when the penitent survivors of Israel will receive the Spirit in the yet coming Day of the Lord? Are we to believe that the blessing of Pentecost and the New Covenant will be different, or something inferior for tribulation saints and the Jews who come into the blessings of the New Covenant at Jesus’ return? And what of the saved of the nations throughout the millennium? Will they NOT be indwelt by the Holy Spirit and therefore NOT qualify as members of Christ’s body?

John F. Walvoord and other pre-trib defenders speak of a “reversal of Pentecost”. Does this not imply a ‘retraction’ of the blessing of Pentecost? How would that notion suit Pentecostals? Yet many of them embrace the pre-trib rapture of the bride whom they distinguish form the saints of the tribulation. But how can there be a reversal of Pentecost without the equally impossible notion of a reversal of the New Covenant? Since the gift of the Spirit’s indwelling belongs to the blessing of the New Covenant secured in the Redeemer’s blood, how can this be reversed in the case of believers who come to faith during the tribulation and beyond?

Since the Spirit was (in some sense) “not yet given” until Christ was glorified (Jn 7:39), it is no more possible for a reversal of Pentecost than the reversal of the basis on which He would now be given. Now that Jesus has been glorified, the Spirit has also been ‘forever given’ in the full light of the revelation of that once and for all event. The relation of these two realities, the glorification of Jesus and the gift of the Spirit, are inseparable, not only throughout this age, but no less the millennial age to come. Yet dispensationalists would have us believe that tribulation saints will not be indwelt. Why not? Simply because this would make them members of the body of Christ based on such scriptures as 1Cor 6:17; 12:13; Eph 2:17; 4:4, etc.

In its original context, the eschatological promise of the Spirit was to the penitent survivors of Israel at the post-tribulational Day of the Lord (Isa 32:15; 59:21; Eze 11:19; 36:26-27; 37:14; 39:29; Joel 2:29-32; Zech 12:10-13:1). With the glorification of Jesus, the “promise of the Father” has come as first fruits in unexpected advance of “that day”, but this does nothing to cancel or change its original application and fulfillment in the still future DOL. Now that the New Covenant has been sealed in the Savior’s blood, how can it be thought that those who receive the promise in that coming day will receive something inferior to what the church received at Pentecost in first-fruits fulfillment of that very promise?

What is it then about God’s beloved saints enduring the persecution of the Antichrist that deprives them of the advantage of the Spirit’s indwelling? Shall post-tribulational Israel receive something inferior in the day of their national repentance than the fledgling community of Jesus confessors received at Pentecost on the very basis of that very promise? This is a question pre-tribulationists ought to reconsider, since they hold with us that the penitent Jewish survivors of Jacob’s trouble will indeed receive the promise of the Spirit at that time.

To rephrase the question: will those who receive the promise of the Spirit in its original, post-tribulational context, receive something less (“with” but not “in”) than the body of Christ received at Pentecost? Yet if the receive the Pentecostal blessing of the Spirit’s indwelling that the church of this age receives, how will they not be members of Christ’s body, particularly now that Jesus has been glorified? Why would tribulation saints not also be baptized by the one Spirit into the one body now that Jesus has been glorified?

I don’t think most pre-tribulationists have thought this through, or really seriously faced the implications of their unique view of the church that depends entirely on some very erroneous notions of the Spirit’s indwelling, as limited only to a presumed mystery church age. Now that Jesus has been once and for all glorified, there is no returning to an inferior, pre-Pentecost relationship of only ‘with’ but not ‘in’. Why would there be? Such an inference would not exist were it not for its essential expedience to support a view of the church that did not exit before Darby. The reason is clear.

Dispensationalism’s defense of the doctrine of imminence depends entirely on their defense of an ecclesiology that keeps the church out of the tribulation and no less out of the millennium. This is because of their view that the church is a mystery organism, belonging strictly to this present mystery dispensation, unforeseen and unforetold in the prophets. All the saved before Pentecost and those saved after the pre-tribulation rapture cannot belong to the ‘mystery body of Christ’. They belong instead to God’s program for Israel and the nations. So those who believe on Jesus after the rapture cannot, on this view, be reckoned as belonging to the body of Christ.

Dispensationalism depends on a view of the Pauline mystery that must be regarded as completely separate and distinct from the “mystery of the gospel and of Christ” (Eph 6:19), which is admittedly foretold in the OT scriptures. It is not only God’s eternal purpose to incorporate gentiles into equal standing in one body that was hid in other ages (Eph 3:6), but the mystery of the gospel itself (Ro 16:25-26; 1Pet 1:11-12), and this mystery was certainly fully foretold in the “scriptures of the prophets”. So already the idea that a mystery can have nothing to do with what was foretold in prophecy breaks down. To support, then, the idea of the church as a mystery organism, separate and distinct from all other saints in the OT, the tribulation, or the millennium, dispensationalism must conceive of the church, not only as a new revelation, but an entirely new entity, separate and distinct from all who will be saved in the tribulation and beyond.

It is one thing to “distinguish” between the church as the regenerate people of God and “Israel after the flesh”, elect and predestined, but not yet in Christ, but to posit a separation between the regenerate saints of the present time from all who are no less born again in the tribulation and beyond, is opposed to the Bible’s own definition of the nature of regeneration, and what constitutes believers as the body of Christ by reason of living union through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

Dispensationalism’s unique understanding of the Pauline mystery is foundational to the system introduced by Darby. Certainly the church was not, and could not be revealed as the body of Christ until the gospel was revealed, but does this mean that the church, in its essential nature, as joined to God by the Spirit, had no prior existence? (1Cor 6:17). Here is a principle too little considered: For something to be newly revealed, or come more fully to light, does not necessarily mean it has had no prior existence.

This is a very neglected consideration. We see this with the gospel, with Christ, and particularly His two comings, which were certainly foretold, but not understood until the gospel was publicly revealed with the Spirit’s descent at Pentecost (compare Ro 16:25-26; 1Pet 1:11=12). This was entirely new to the understanding, but not new to what could be shown to have been fully foretold in the writings of the prophets. Yet Paul calls this fully foretold gospel a mystery that was kept secret in other ages (Acts 26:22-23; Rom 16:25-26; Eph 6:19).

For the dispensational view of the mystery to stand, it must be distanced from anything foretold in the OT, and nothing of OT prophecy can intermingle with this ‘mystery age’ that the church is assumed to occupy, as extending only from Pentecost to the rapture. The tribulation belongs to another dispensation entirely.

Why do dispensationalists find it necessary to assume this? It is because there can be no compromise of imminence. If the abiding possibility of the rapture is not to be put off beyond any intervening events foretold in OT prophecy, then for imminence to stand as an abiding, ever present possibility, no foretold event can exist in OT prophecy that must be fulfilled before the 70th week begins. All outstanding and un-fulfilled OT prophecy can only be seen on the other side of the rapture, fully contained in Daniel’ 70th week. Otherwise, if it can be shown that there are prophecies in the OT that could only be fulfilled in the long age between the advents, then, of course, imminence becomes impossible.

But a careful study and comparison of parallels of Paul’s use of the term, mystery, or secret will not permit this kind of complete dissociation from the mystery contained in the OT scriptures. Yes, there are discrete and distinct mysteries, not all of which were specifically foretold in the prophets, but these could only come to light by the revelation of the gospel (Ro 16:25-26).

Certainly the mystery of Christ and the church could not be understood as it is now, but since the revelation of the mystery of the gospel, the means by which God would accomplish His eternal purpose to bring all things together into one could now be made be made known (Eph 1:9; 3:5-6), not only to the church but to the principalities and powers (Eph 3:10). The mystery revealed to Paul was that through the instrumentality of the gospel (“by the gospel”), as a secret now revealed, God would fulfill His original promise to bless all nations through Abraham’s Seed, only this would accomplish something far more grand than anything that could have been conceived before. Not only would the nations be blessed, they would become fellow equals in the inheritance of the saints in the one, regenerate people of God, revealed now as the body of Christ, God’s one new man (regenerate man).

This is NOT something that is temporary, as in dispensationalism, but continues to be the revelation of everyone who believes on Christ until the final perfection of new heavens and earth. Granted, this discrete mystery revealed to Paul was not specifically spelled out anywhere in the writings of the prophets, but it is bound to the larger revelation of the gospel that is its basis. Therefore, in Paul’s mind, the mystery of the church is a piece with the mystery of the gospel.

Notably, one aspect that shows the relationship of the mystery to OT prophecy is its wonderful capacity for verifying the truth claims of the gospel by solving the puzzle of prophecy (1Pet 1:11-12). The agreement of the revealed mystery with all that stood written in the prophets was regarded as the gospel’s greatest evidence of proof (Acts 26:22-23). Yet, this evidence, so compelling in retrospect, was purposely hidden, not only from the pride of man, but necessarily from the righteous too, until the time appointed.

This is so that the mystery would remain hidden, even from the rulers of the darkness of this age, so that they would not know the ‘hidden wisdom’ until it was too late (1Cor 2:7-8; Rom 16:25-26). It was a divinely set trap (Isa 8:14-17 with 1Cor 2:7-8). So Paul’s view of mystery is not disconnected from Jesus’ teaching on the “mystery of the kingdom”, as the new form the kingdom would take throughout an unexpected, inter-advent period.

This idea of a mystery, closed up and sealed among the Lord’s disciples, has its background in the OT’s view of the sealed vision (Isa 8:14-17; 29:11; Dan 9:24; 12:4, 9; Hab 2:2-3). It is this that make the Messiah to be a stone of stumbling in His appointed time, but that’s another whole study in its own right, but very relevant to how we would see Paul’s use of the concept of the revelation of concealed secrets in contrast to dispensationalism’s interest to divide between two, regenerate peoples of God in order to keep the church out of the tribulation.

But suppose the concession is made, (as some non-dispensationalist also believe), that the church (as now defined) did not exist in any form before Pentecost. What then? Surely this is no proof that the church does not appear on earth again after the rapture, and that believers who come to faith during the tribulation and beyond are any the less to be reckoned as members of Christ’s body. This would be to suggest that a once and for all revelation could somehow recede back to something inferior, according to the dispensationalists’s reading of Jn 7:39 with Jn 14:17.

So in order preserve the doctrine of imminence, the church must be raptured before any of the signs of the 70th week can begin, obviously. Therefore, to make the church of this present, “mystery age”, exempt from the tribulation, something must explain the presence of saints in the tribulation, as seen so clearly all throughout the book of Revelation. Here is where dispensationalists turn to texts on the Holy Spirit to support the concept that only believers of this age can belong to the body of Christ, because only believers of this age have the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

To uphold the system, they must define the church out of the tribulation, ‘at all costs’. Identify tribulation believers as members of Christ’s body and all is lost, case closed. That would put the church in the tribulation. That’s the logic. Thus the invention of a new, and unprecedented doctrine of the church that denies to the faithful of the tribulation identity as members of Christ’s body. We may find traces of the doctrine of imminence in church history, most often on the presumption that the Antichrist is present, but never this. This is new, original with Darby.

Like tribulation saints, millennial believers are also believed to sustain a pre-Pentecostal relationship to the Spirit, “with” but not “in”. Fantastical, I know, but this is some of the ugly underbelly that is taught in the seminaries in the interest defending the indefensible. Unhappily, much of this never reaches the people in the pew. They get just enough to be inoculated from a fair hearing of an alternative, mediating view, and never learn what academic pre-tribulationists know very well to be necessary to sustain the system. As for example, what would the average pre-tribulationist think if they knew what the academics at the seminary know, that for the system to work, Job, Isaiah, Daniel, and all the saints of the OT must remain in the dust of the earth for another seven years after the rapture, while the church is in heaven celebrating the marriage of the Lamb?

By defining the church out of the tribulation period, not only is the church protected from wrath (as though tribulation saints and Jews fed and preserved in the wilderness will NOT be protected from divine wrath, not to mention the surviving gentiles who facilitate Jewish return after the tribulation is over), but by removing the church from earth before the onset of Daniel’s 70th week, the doctrine of imminence is safeguarded, because all of the signs that definitely signal the Lord’s return belong to the 70th week, safely on the other side of the rapture. So nothing needs to happen that might signal Jesus’ return to rapture the church, since the signs belong to the 70th week.

The problem with this is view of imminence is the necessary reconstitution of Israel as a viable nation populated by Jews, with Jerusalem at its center (see Dan 12:1; Eze 38:8; Zech 12:2-3 et al). This is a comparatively recent development that did not exist for centuries!

Think about it: For nearly 17 centuries, the Jews were almost everywhere else but in their own Land. The Land was to lie waste and desolate, not for one, but for “many generations” (Isa 61:4). Not only this, but the temple that the last aggressor will “tread down, burn, and lay waste” is very significantly one that has been only recently recovered to Jewish possession (“possessed it but a little while”; Isa 63:18; 64:10-11). The context is clearly the final desolation of Jerusalem and the Jews’ final deliverance at the DOL. No other assault, whether Babylon, Greece, or Rome has burned a temple that the Jews had possessed only a “little while”.

Either this language is merely a metaphorical of a ‘seemingly’ short time, or it is literal, and necessarily future. The point is this: No other period has answered to the “many generations” of desolation as referred to in Isa 61:4. The Babylonian captivity was a single generation, 70 years. Only the long Diaspora that followed the Roman destruction can answer to these details. So how could Jesus return at any moment since Paul allegedly introduced the mystery of the pre-trib rapture sometime before his first letter to the Corinthians? And what was the “blessed hope” of believers living between Pentecost and Paul’s supposed new revelation? May I suggest it must have been the hope that Jesus gave to every believer drawn by the Spirit, namely, resurrection at the “last day” (Jn 6:39, 44; 11:24).

How possible then was an imminent return when there was no Jewish nation in existence to strike an agreement with the Antichrist? It is one thing to teach an any moment coming when the temple was still standing, and Daniel’s 70th week might begin without obstacle. It might seem possible again to teach an imminent return before the tribulation after the modern repatriation of the Land, but HOW can pre-tribulationists consider a pre-tribulational return a viable possibility for the 17 centuries during which the Jewish people were everywhere but in the Land? Where would be the “many generations” of desolation, not to mention many other details of the foretold Jewish experience all throughout the long Diaspora that began with the Roman expulsion?

But I digress; back to the issue of the Spirit. So we see Dispensationalism’s ‘interest’ to find anything that might seem to support their distinction between the saints of this, so-called “church age” (a term so completely assumed you would almost think it exists in scripture). They believe they find justification to distinguish so-called “church saints” from so-called, “tribulation saints” by their understanding of Holy Spirit’s relation to the body of Christ as unique to believers of this mystery church age.

They argue, and who will not agree?, that the Spirit was in some sense “not yet given”, because Jesus was “not yet glorified” (Jn 7:39). They further point out that Jesus speaks of the Spirit who is now “with” the disciples but “will be” (future tense) “in” them (Jn 14:17). Dispensationalists make much of this to argue that before Pentecost the Spirit was only “with” OT believers. He was not “in” them. When it is pointed out that many of the OT saints were indwelt by the Spirit of Christ, with Peter affirming the same in the NT (1Pet 1:11), the response is, “yes, but the Spirt did not indwell them PERMANENTLY”. Well, they were either born again or they weren’t, and how else do the dead live and sustain a living relationship with the living God? (Mt 22:32). We can see from Jesus’ remarks to Nicodemus that He did not regard the new birth as something new or future, but a present necessity to discern the things of the Spirit, as Paul would also so clearly affirm (1Cor 2:14). In the OT, the children of the flesh persecuted the children of the Spirit, even as now (Gal 4:29), and so on we could multiply examples.

But perhaps the most exegetically unsupportable ‘reach’, illustrating how one unproven inference demands another, is when pre-tribulationists advance the notion that not only “assumes” that the Holy Spirit is the un-identified personal restrainer of 2Thes 2:7, but that it is the church that must be removed before the man of sin can be revealed. It is one thing to say the Holy Spirit is the one who is holding back the revelation of the man of sin (itself a mere inference); it is quite something else to say it is particularly His indwelling of the church that requires that the church be removed. How is this arrived at?

Pre-tribulationists do NOT want to say that the Holy Spirit is removed entirely from the earth. They know that no one could be born again after the rapture except by the Spirit, of course. Therefore they reason that it is particularly the Holy Spirit’s indwelling presence in the believers (of this age) that is removed. Thus, the church is removed. And, as we have shown, since the church as the body of Christ is defined by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, they reason that those who come to faith during the tribulation cannot be the body of Christ. Well, there it is. This is what they teach, and must teach in order to keep the church out of the tribulation, in order to maintain the any moment return to terminate the mystery body’s limited tenure on this earth.

It is a shameful grabbing at straws, and like all wood, hay, and straw, it will go up in smoke not many days hence, but at what cost? The prophetic people of God must not only identify error, they must ask why it has come, particularly just now? What does it threaten? What will it cost in the day when it will be required?

Before ending this, I can anticipate that many will want to ask in what sense was the Spirit “not yet given” in Jn 7:39? I may not know the right or complete answer, but I’m sure enough of a few things it cannot mean. It cannot mean that no one was ever indwelt by the Spirit before Pentecost. That would be a contradiction of a host of scriptures bearing upon the nature of vital regeneration and flatly contradict 1Pet 1:11 that says that the Spirit of Christ was “in” the prophets. When this is pointed out, it is ‘desperately’ argued that He ONLY in-dwelt the prophets, or worse, that He did not PERMANENTLY indwell them.

While the Spirit certainly came in a much fuller, ‘corporate’ measure, with signs following, there were signs before Pentecost. So in what way did He come that was wholly new? I can only suggest, but one thing that was truly new and without precedent. It is the Spirit’s descent upon the whole of the church. All that were being daily added to the church received the ‘coming upon’, ‘falling upon’ of the Spirit’s power and anointing. This fulfilled Moses’ desire that the prophetic anointing would come upon all the people (Num 11:29).

The special empowerment of the Spirit was no longer selective, as in the OT, but came upon all, not only in gifts and signs, but perhaps the best answer is that now, the Spirit would come as the Spirit of revelation, opening to clear view the mystery that many prophets and righteous, even angels desired to look into (Mt 13:17; 1Pet 1:12). The full glory of the revealed mystery could only break on the disciples’s understanding AFTER Jesus was glorified, and now the gospel could be proclaimed to the whole world. This is just the point of Pentecost. This is at least one sense in which the Spirit came in power that is not too much considered in studies and discussions of what changed at Pentecost.

I suspect that the phenomenon of revelation and the deep piercing of the heart, all in conjunction with the appointed time, is what sets Pentecost apart, as it set in motion the church’s mission to the nations. That’s perhaps part of the explanation of what unique, new sense the Spirit had not yet been given.

As for Jn 14:17, I suggest that far too much has been concluded beyond its simple intent. It is typically taken to mean that the Spirit who is “with” the disciples would come at some future time to be “in” them. I don’t think that’s the point, though, of course, it could be so argued, provided this was the only text to use this language, and provided that such a conclusion didn’t conflict with other clear texts bearing upon the question. But I invite us us to look at another text in John’s second epistle where the same language is used.

“For the truth’s sake, which dwells ‘in’ us, and shall be ‘with’; us forever” (2Jn 2). Observe that here we have an inversion of the same expression, “with”, and “shall be in”. Who would want to suggest that the truth, which now dwells “in us” will change His relation to an inferior position of only “dwelling WITH us” sometime in the future? I submit that this is simply what is called a ‘synonymous parallelism’, intended only to stress the abiding nature of the Spirit’s, or in this case, the truth’s relation to the believer, and not a change of position or relationship.

In my view, the disciples would hear this comfort from Jesus, not as a change of location, but an assurance that the One currently with them, would come to them in the person of ‘another Comforter’ and remain ‘in’ them forever, not that they were currently un-born again, or un-indwelt by the Spirit. Jesus had pronounced them all “clean”, except Judas (Jn 13:10), and this could never be said apart from the regenerating work of the Spirit that implies the indwelling of the divine nature, which Peter will make the equivalent of being ‘born again by the Word’, something that we may be sure distinguished the living from the dead, not only in the NT but no less in the OT (1Pet 1:23). Being born of the Word of God, as being partaker of the divine nature by the Spirit’s indwelling, is certainly NOT limited to NT believers, as a number of scriptures, and many necessary inferences can be produced to show. .

But again, even if it were granted that the Holy Spirit indwells believers in this age in some unique, unprecedented way, this would not mean that He will do less for tribulation saints, particularly since His indwelling is based on the once and for all glorification of Jesus. Conclusion: Tribulation saints, and all who come to faith throughout the millennium will be no less the body of Christ on earth than those who have the Spirit now.

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A Son Perfected Through Suffering: A Purified Bride Translated and Caught Up

Sometime back, I did a short essay called, “Where God is Taking the Church” I believe it touched on this question:

Do you guys have anything on the the theme of testing/purification/refining of the saints during the great tribulation and the end of the age in general?

In contrast to dispensationalists, we believe the saints of the last tribulation are the body of Christ. Clearly then, Daniel’s vision of the refining, whitening, and purification of the saints of that particular, ‘unequaled’ tribulation expects something climactic and unique, distinct from the more common experience of tribulation in general, as characteristic of the age in general.

We know God’s vision for post-tribulational Israel. What is less considered is His perfecting purpose for the church of the last generation. God has not finished with His intention to educate the powers through the church, “the pillar and ground of truth”. It is that holy entity that is called to walk in the path of the Servant, demonstrating the wisdom of the cross before principalities and powers, answering most especially at the end, “have you considered My servant …”

If God will have an all saved Jewish nation, miraculously born and cleansed “in one day” (Isa 66:8; Eze 39:22; Zech 3:9), then God is able to perfect the church unto climactic translation, not only because the chronological clock has struck, but because the church has been brought to something unprecedented, that can only be compared to the translation of Enoch and the catching up of Elijah.

Unlike tribulation in general, as the church by definition is a tribulation people, the ‘great’ tribulation is much more particularly the great transition between this age and the age to come. This is why the great tribulation is compared to a final travail unto the birth of the new age of covenant promise. Also called the time of Jacob’s trouble and ‘Zion’s travail’, the unequaled tribulation ends with the birth of Israel and the translation of the church. This is very significant, because this convergence is not only because Jesus returns at this time, but because of what God has accomplished in these two, elect entities.

In the case of Israel, the beleaguered remnant according to the election of grace has been brought finally, and fully to “the end of their power” (Deut 32:36; Dan 12:7) in preparation to look upon Him whom they pierced when He comes in the clouds (Zech 12:10; Mt 23:39; 24:30; Acts 3:21; Ro 11:26; Rev 1:7). In the case of the church, a process of revelation and experience of divine power in the furnace of affliction has brought the corporate body of Christ to its promised eschatological perfection (Dan 11:32-33, 35; 12:3, 10; Jn 17:23; Eph 4:13; Heb 4:9; 1Jn 4:18; Rev 12:11; 19:7).

This twin event of birth and resurrection at Jesus’ return begins the liberation of the creation described in Ro 8:20, which we see as realized in two stages, pre and post millennial (Isa 24:22; Ro 8:20; Rev 20). All of this means the end of the age is not only waiting on the completion of His purpose to bring Israel back to Him, not only His intention to fully reveal the mystery of iniquity, but His intention to perfect His corporate servant, the church, in a final demonstration before principalities and powers. I call this the ‘final straightening of the church’.

The tribulation, with its clearly marked certainty of the time, and abundance of unsealed revelation and prophetic fulfillment, will function as a kind of birthing canal, emptying not only Israel but the church of their power. This is why I believe we should see the enormous use that God has invested in the first half of the week.

What God has invested in giving the church the critical preparation of the first half of the week is exactly WHY the church will be straightened and prepared for the great transition that takes place at the beginning of the second half. This time will mark Michael’s clearing the heaven of Satan’s hindering presence (Rev 12:7-14 with Dan 12:1).

This brings Satan down for his ‘short time’ (Rev 12:12), but it also signals the time that the two witnesses receive their power, but not ONLY the two witnesses, but a whole body of ‘maskilim’ who receive strength and power at precisely the same time that Michael is evicting Satan (Rev 12:10-11). These who “love not their lives unto the death” are shown in Daniel’s prophecy to be receiving this power to “be strong and do great exploits and instruct many” at the very time the abomination is being placed that begins the unequaled time of trouble (Dan 11:31-33; 12:1-2, 7, 11). It is no accident that THIS is the very time the two witnesses are receiving their power for final tribulation witness.

I hope we can see this. It cannot be too greatly stressed that this great transition at the mid-point of Daniel’s final week is, not only the time that Satan is being thrust out of heaven and confined to earth for his ‘short time’ of unparalleled destruction; it is the same time the daily sacrifice is being taken away and the abomination of desolation placed in Judea to begin the great tribulation, just 3 1/2 years before “the end” (Dan 9:27; 12:7, 11). We must not miss this connection! Michael’s heavenly victory results, not only in woe for the earth, but in great anointing of power coming upon the church for the final testimony that results in a multitude beyond human ability to count coming out of ‘the tribulation, the great one’ (Rev 7:9, 13-14).

As Jesus saw His appointed hour, those of understanding will see and prophetically apprehend the approaching test for all its unparalleled requirement. As the door of the last seven years is shut firmly behind us, many more of the awakening body of Christ will begin to foresee the evil and dig down deep, greatly hiding herself in Christ, knowing her natural inability to stand in the evil day. This will prepare and fit the church, not only for her final purification and perfection unto translation at Jesus’ return, but her ultimate testimony to the nations, more than at any other time moving Israel to jealousy.

As Jesus said of Peter, I believe it can be prophetically said of the church of the last hour, that another will take her and lead her where she would not have gone, even to a corporate cross of obedience unto death (Rev 12:11). So the purification of the saints of the last and unequaled tribulation is unto a divinely ordained perfection that ends in translation, with the removal of the veil cast over all nations (Isa 25:7-8; Rev 10:7). I am suggesting that the testing of the church, I would call it the great emptying of the church, is not unrelated to the veil that is spread over the nations being removed with the finishing of the mystery of God at Jesus’ return (Isa 25:7; Rev 10:7). There is something about the relation of revelation “at the end of power”, which is to say at the end of human self sufficiency, which must always removed as a necessary prerequisite for resurrection.

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Reggie Kelly Testimony: The Anatomy of a Revelation [VIDEO]

This interview was recorded in preparation for “Covenant and Controversy II: The City of the Great King” by FAI Missions. It is included as an extra in the Special Edition, where it is still available at a higher resolution along with many other excellent clips.

We are grateful to FAI for permission to share this here.

The interviewer is Dalton Thomas of FAI Missions.

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The 4th Beast of Daniel 8

I would love to know your thoughts on the Islamic Caliphate (700 ad) as the the fourth beast of Daniel rather than the traditional interpretation of Rome.

I have a different take on the nature of the beast kingdoms. I see them as a generic continuity of the kingdom of man, not so much replacing one another, though there are territorial and distinct character changes, but each kingdom is not so much replaced as living on in its successors. Whatever we understand of the 4th kingdom, it is paradoxically at once the last, and yet not the last. We know this because John sees Rome as the 6th, to be succeeded in the future by a 7th. I think the point here is that the 4th kingdom would be the last monolithic world dominion. Unlike the more contained 3 predecessors, the 4th (I think Rome) would be first divided and then fragmented and never again able to come into the kind of cohesion achieved by the earlier kingdoms, including Rome in its beginnings, and I think this fragmentation and division continues right through the Antichrist time, since he is never able to consolidate his kingdom into another world dominion, uniting only the ten, but then enforces economic but not absolute military dominance over many nations that continue to resist him right up to the end (Dan 11:40-45 with Rev 16:12-16, many scriptures bearing on this little considered fact).

So the Antichrist arises as a ‘little horn’ from the region of ancient Syria (Dan 8:9), amidst a very divided, diffused and fragmented end time form of the 4th kingdom, and actually constitutes both the 7th and the 8th from the standpoint of John’s fuller account of beast kingdoms, reaching back to include Egypt and Assyria in addition to Daniel’s four. For John the Antichrist is the 7th in his rise, but becomes the 8th as the risen 7th. As the 8th, he now embodies as the former 7, as the ‘composite beast’ . He is therefore at once the 7th and the 8th. As the 8th, he is the risen 7th, now become the full incarnation of Satan, the ultimate human embodiment of the mystery of iniquity, but that’s another discussion.

The rise of Islam is indeed huge and becomes THE primary force that will be exploited to overwhelm Israel and begin the tribulation. It is no accident of history that a 7th century fiction of Mohammed’s mid night journey from the temple mount should obsess the entire Arab world (people of the ‘everlasting hatred’), not with Medina or Mecca but Jewish Jerusalem. I also believe since a very young man that the ten kings will be Arab nations. So how do I make these to be an extension of Rome rather than the Islamic world? Good question. I ask that myself. I can only say that the ten are shown to issue out of the 4th in its final, fragmented stage, and certainly many of these nations were part of the ancient Roman world and its evolution through history. It seems the prophecy sees the 4th kingdom in a long evolution of division and fragmentation, reaching to the end, and thus ignores, on the gap principle, many of the kingdoms that would rise and fall within its parameters. But here’s the principal reason I can’t well negotiate skipping Rome as the 4th kingdom:

For me, it is Dan 9:26. Here is the “cutting off” of the Messiah (compare the same language in the Song of the Suffering Servant; Isa 53:8). This greatest event on the 70 week timeline significantly happens when Rome rules the world. Clearly, there is a gap between the 69th and 70th week, and thus between the time of Rome and the time of the final mystery of incarnation in Daniel’s “coming prince”, Paul’s ‘man of sin’. The ten kings are contemporary with the beast, but the beast and the ten are described as issuing out of the fourth. John sees all these beast as a single beast with many heads, and he clearly carries this beyond Rome, which he represents as the 6th of 8 heads.

Now here’s my thinking: In Lk 3, it is said that when John Baptist emerges out of the desert to begin his ministry on the Jordan, the scriptures says “all men were in expectation”. That phrase is huge! By any reckoning, the 70 weeks were nearly expired. It was time for the last events that would bring the kingdom. It was time for the Messiah, or at least his expected forerunner. Clearly, Rome was obviously the 4th, and to their experience manifested all the traits described of the 4th. The Messiah, though rejected, appears and makes the atonement that purchases the ‘everlasting righteousness’ of covenant promise. In this, the kingdom of God has come near and is announced as present. Am I to suppose that the kingdom of God in its inaugurated form as a mystery, but mighty in its working and accomplishment in the realm of the Spirit, did NOT come during the fourth kingdom? Or that Jesus’ death during the rule of Rome over Judea was not during the 4th kingdom? That’s just hard for me. Rather, it seems we are touching again on the heart of the mystery of the kingdom coming in stages, with the unexpected gap between the two comings at both ends of the long history of the divided and fragmented 4th kingdom. In other words, it’s the gap principle again where there is the partial, then the leap to the end and the full coming in of the kingdom to fill the whole earth.

I also believe that the same 4 that appear in Dan 2 is represented again in Dan 7 under the imagery now of beasts rather than metals. I base this on my personal conviction that the language of Dan 7:4 too clearly refers to Nebuchadnezzar’s insanity and humbling to dismiss. This means that the winged Lion is the head of gold, which for me is decisive that the same 4 beasts are in view in both visions only under different symbols. Now, can we really conceive that after Daniel’s vision begins with the 3 kingdoms that history confirms followed after Babylon, that Rome is skipped, the very kingdom that was ruling when Jesus announces the inaugurating presence of the kingdom and the great turn of history in His imminent cutting off as the curse reversing seed of the woman? That, for me, is too much to ask. No, Daniel is not skipping Rome anymore than John skips Rome in his vision of the 7 headed beast, but the 7th could well be one who emerges out of a later stage of the 4th, and perhaps this emergence is from the caliphate which took its rise within the 4th, but is not particularly distinguished from the 4th in its ten king stage.

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Israel Today and Everlasting Security in the Land

I’m very interested in the overall impression that you will get while there [in Israel]. One thing is for sure, like you said, “So much going on in the Spirit that is so intense over here.”

Just like when a child of God is out of order and God will lead that one into some test of adversity to cure them of their presumption, I see the spirit of Islam, raised up like a Pharaoh to send a prodigal son running back into the Father’s arms to receive, in great brokenness, a new heart and spirit.

In the meantime, I see divine tenderness in bringing them back again into their own Land with great tokens of blessing of ‘common grace’. This is a milestone of immense significance, and for that reason so much the greater reason to soberly listen to their own prophets. Why? Well, of course that they might attain to the revelation of the righteousness of God, but also because for 18 centuries, there has been no Jewish nation, particularly one that has only recently returned “after the desolation of many generations” (Isa 61:4; Eze 38:8). Even beyond the explicit references to the return, this is what all the prophets presuppose as the necessary setting “in the Land” for God’s final pleading with His people in their greatest and final crisis. Only since the modern return from “the desolations of many generations” has the stage been set for the far greater and complete return that comes only after the tribulation when the Spirit is poured out on the surviving remnant (Isa 66:8; Zech 12:10; Eze 39:22, 28-29).

So while return to the Land is indeed a miraculous modern fulfillment of prophecy, the presence of an implacable enemy, still possessed of what Ezekiel calls, “the old hatred” (Eze 25:25) and “the everlasting hated” (Eze 35:5), should be sober reminder that though they are back home, they are not yet “home free”. But this is not the first time this situation has existed for Israel. Consider: When the Jews returned from Babylon, there was “a little reviving” (Ezra 9:8-9) . Notwithstanding, the prophets of the return, anticipating the inevitable drift back into apostasy, would continue to speak of the inexorable approach of an ultimate day of the Lord that would be preceded by an unequaled time of trouble, not only for Israel but the whole world. Nevertheless, according to Daniel’s prophecy, Israel’s deliverance would not come before the end of the 70 weeks. This would mean that for nearly 5 centuries the Jews would be back in their Land, but because of the partiality of their repentance, the nation would continue to reel under the cycles of persecution and occupation of successive kingdoms. Still, then as now, there would be extended periods of what we might call, ‘common grace’, which is the grace that God has on the poor, benighted condition of the natural man, as space for repentance is granted in divine patience, pity and love.

But where Israel is concerned especially, God cannot forever settle for this middle ground of in the Land, but never able to realize lasting security or guaranteed permanence in the Land apart from the promised righteousness of the everlasting covenant. As much as everything in our nature would like to avoid that day, it must come, because it is only an entirely regenerate nation that can fulfill the Abrahamic and Davidic covenants, as necessary for the kingdom of God to come on earth, and this cannot happen apart from “the bringing in of the everlasting righteousness”, not only for a remnant, but for the entirety of the nation (Isa 4:3; 45:17, 25; 54:13; 59:21; 60:21; Jer 31:34, et al.). That’s the part that so few are really seeing. God’s going for broke here. Can He pull this off? “Has God really said?” Can He, without going to a more ‘cooperative’ people, take the same people He first brought out, and not only bring them in, but keep them in the Land forever, without further threat of covenant jeopardy ever surrendering them again to the will of their enemies?

This is the great test God has appointed for Himself, as He has chosen to bind up His Name and covenant oath with making good on this miracle promise, which is nothing less miraculous than Isaac’s or the Savior’s own miraculous birth (compare Gen 17:21; 21:2 with Ps 102:13; Isa 66:8). This is the great question that the millennium is given to settle openly and forever, in public vindication of the everlasting covenant, as it pertains to Israel in particular (the “scandal of particularity”).

What will make this so remarkable and manifestly miraculous is that this will be the experience of a nation that is NOT yet physically raised to glorified immortality, but newly born, filled with the Spirit, albeit still in their natural bodies. The uniform salvation of every Jewish survivor and every child ever born thereafter to Jewish parentage, will be a burning bush of standing witness to the nations of sovereign, electing grace, simply because while there will be great, unprecedented salvation and evangelistic outreach to the nations, in only one Land and among only one people will there be uniform salvation from the least to the greatest, so that not one of mature age need ever be taught to know the Lord, since they will ‘all’ know Him. This is precisely what Paul meant when speaking of the salvation of ‘all Israel’ when the Deliverer comes out of Zion.

If this divinely ordained demonstration did not require flesh and blood embodiment on this earth, it is hard to see why a millennium would be required after the Lord’s return, which is exactly why so many cannot conceive of an earthly millennial reign, though it is everywhere demanded throughout the OT and spelled out in particular in Revelation. They don’t understand the covenant, at least as it pertains to THEM (i.e., the natural branches), as essential to the great point that God is determined to make through the Jew. What is that point? It is the very purpose for which Jacob was first set apart. It is “SO THAT the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of Him who calls” (irrevocably). The Jew exists as distinct, not only to preserve the holy oracles and give the world Jesus (and then to have no further purpose?), but they are miraculously preserved, against all odds, as distinct among the nations, that through them, by real embodiment of real, preserved ethnic identity, God might make this very point, and send it home for a thousand years of open, public witness.

Still, there will be pockets of contempt and envy against Israel’s election, until the earth has become full again of covenant haters, election despisers, showing that even under the most compelling and auspicious conditions, the wicked are unwilling to behold the majesty of the Lord.

“Let favour be shewed to the wicked, yet will he not learn righteousness: in the land of uprightness will he deal unjustly, and will not behold the majesty of the Lord. Lord, when thy hand is lifted up, they will not see: but they shall see, and be ashamed for their envy at the people; yea, the fire of thine enemies shall devour them” (Isa 26:10-11).

Another point I wanted to make is that NEVER before have such a number of often overlooked details of prophecy existed in such perfect alignment, some that have only fallen into place the last few years. Not only can Jesus NOT come until the man of sin is first revealed, but preterists and amillennialists should be apprised that only now, for the first time, the right enemies are in the right place for the final and plenary fulfillment of prophecy. Not Rome, but Gog and Magog and the distinct nations listed in Eze 38:5-6. Titus was no ‘little horn’! The early church fathers would caution against associating any of the Caesars with the final beast in the absence of the ten kings. Yet, the ten kingdoms mentioned in Ps 83 include the very territories that are ranged against Israel now, who harbor to this day “the everlasting hatred” that the scripture depicts as alive and well at the time of the day of the Lord and Israel’s deliverance for kingdom glory (Obad; Eze 35-36, et al.). It is these nations in particular that all the prophets show to be bringing the final siege upon Israel when the great day of the Lord comes in all its finality. It is Lebanon, Edom (modern Jordan), Assyria (modern Iraq), Persia (modern Iran) and so on we could go.

In only the last few years, even less, the nations that prophecy shows to be belligerents against Israel are turning from an only recent posture of friendship to open hostility. We see this with Turkey, the Togarmah of Eze 38. Conversely, other nations mentioned in prophecy as NOT opposing Israel in the final conflict, but instead being threatened and overrun by the Antichrist, have only very recently moved in the opposite direction. For example, the book of Ezekiel is most prolific in its mention of Egypt. Yet, when we come to the list of nations that are led by the principality, Gog, against the Land of Israel, Egypt is significant for its non-mention. How far this seemed from probable only a short while ago when the radical Muslim brotherhood Morsi government was leading Egypt towards absolute, obsessive belligerence against Israel. Not only so, but Egypt is particularly described in Dan 11:42 and in Isa 19 as being a special object Antichrist rage, no doubt for their policy of moderation towards Israel. Note too that Egypt is overrun in Dan 11:42 only AFTER the abomination has been placed in Dan 11:31, showing this to be AFTER the middle of the week, making clear that Egypt was NOT one of the ten aggressors confederated with the Antichrist in his invasion of Israel.

Another compelling instance is Saudi Arabia (biblical Sheba and Dedan). Mutual regional strategic and economic interests have brought these one time bitter enemies into just the kind of common cause that makes the Antichrist invasion of Israel an occasion for Saudi consternation (Eze 38:13). Not only are the Saudis not supportive of the Antichrist invasion of Israel, they are threatened by it. All of these developments are very recent, but necessary to fulfill many, often overlooked details of prophecy.

Thus we can say that there are many nations that will support the peace arrangement that the Antichrist disrupts in the middle of the week. It is incorrect to suppose that ‘all’ nations go against Israel. They do not! It is the Antichrist with his ten that break the peace and flood the Land of Israel with overwhelming forces. The onlooking nations, unable to repulse his advance (Dan 11:31 with Rev 13:4) are aghast and imperiled. They will be impotent to resist (Dan 11:31 with Rev 13:4). Dissenting nations will soon come under great pressure to capitulate to his demands. Evidently, he does not have complete military control over all the nations, certainly not at ‘the end’ (see Dan 11:40-45), but is able to use his strategic advantage over the flow of vital resources to exert control over the nations through economic sanctions. Besides the sweeping power of unrestrained deception, his chokehold on the world’s economy appears to be a primary means to manipulate compliance with his demands.

The hearts of men will be ultimately tested as to whether they will bow to his demands, and we may be sure that part of the price to escape economic strangulation will be the handing over of the Jews.

All’s to say, these conditions have never existed until now. These developments are remarkably new. So what does this mean for where we are at the moment? How long will the present status quo hold? When we look at the scriptures and the modern situation since Israel’s remarkable return and achievement of statehood, one does not get the impression that the tribulation is that far removed from Israel’s preliminary return in unbelief, coupled with great prosperity and beautification of the Land.

I mentioned that this beautification and prosperity of the Land comes “after many generations of desolation”. Think about it. When has this prophecy been fulfilled in the past? Is it the 70 years of captivity prophesied by Jeremiah? That was only ONE generation. Could it have been fulfilled anytime BEFORE Rome’s destruction of the temple when the Jews populated and tilled the Land all throughout the 490 years of Daniel’s 70 week prophecy? No, the only period long enough to account for this prophecy is the period since 70 A.D., especially since 132 A.D. It is only since then that the Land lay barren and untilled until the 19th century. Now observe: In Eze 38:8, the Antichrist invasion of the Land comes AFTER the Land has been for “many days … a continual waste”. This again refers to the long exile that answers to none other than the Roman exile since final Jewish eviction in 132 A.D. But while no definite time is given for how long the Jews will be in the Land and greatly prospering before the Antichrist invasion, it is hard to take the impression that the time can be very long from this preliminary regathering in unbelief to their ultimate regeneration and complete return when the face of God is no longer hidden and the Spirit poured out (Eze 39:22, 28-29).

It is also significant that this is AFTER the desolation of ‘many generations’ but BEFORE the brief desolation of the last 3 1/2 years. Joel describes the day of the Lord as coming to a land that is Edenic BEFORE it is attacked and turned into a “desolate wilderness” (Joel 2:3). This is exactly the condition of the Land that Ezekiel describes as existing just before the attack of Gog (Eze 38:12-13).
“Blow ye the trumpet in Zion, and sound an alarm in my holy mountain: let all the inhabitants of the land tremble: for the day of the Lord cometh, for it is nigh at hand; A day of darkness and of gloominess, a day of clouds and of thick darkness, as the morning spread upon the mountains: a great people and a strong; there hath not been ever the like, neither shall be any more after it, even to the years of many generations.A fire devoureth before them; and behind them a flame burneth: the land is as the garden of Eden before them, and behind them a desolate wilderness; yea, and nothing shall escape them” (Joel 2:1-3)

Upon the Lord’s return, the Land will be returned to its Edenic beauty during the millennium (Eze 36:35), but this is not to be confused with its pre-day of the Lord condition described by Joel and Ezekiel that is brought into ruin by the ravaging hordes of the Antichrist.

So we’ve come full circle. Jerusalem is again a cup of trembling, as the prophet says she must be just before her final deliverance and glory. It is the controversy of Zion again, only this time is the last time, because unlike former destructions and desolations, the players declared in the ‘fine print’ of prophecy are now, for the first time, even within the last few years, all now aligned in place. All that remains is a peace arrangement that provides for required recognition of Israel’s right to exist, and access for Jews to restore their ancient ritual and temple. This brings the really big question that has recently moved me to tears. What will THIS take and what will it cost?

As Dalton recently posted, and as confirmed by a friend that used to work within the intelligence community, all the other wars have been little wars compared to the big one that is presently building on the northern border. The missiles currently being stock-piled by Iran’s proxies, and now well concealed within Russian protected Syria, are not for self defense but for the day of strategic opportunity to destroy Israel, nothing less.

Knowing that the next US administration may not be so supportive, Israel may well decide to take preemptive action. It has long been my expectation that the changes required in the region to fulfill the final necessary requirements of prophecy will not come by any natural process of diplomacy. Nothing short of war, one that may well threaten Israel’s survival, could account for the kind of changes necessary to fulfill prophecy. Only a seismic re-balance and re-configuration of the whole political landscape could ever change the political deadlock that preserve the present status quo. Yes, it is a war that Israel will win but at what cost?

So how soon? How close are we? Note first that Israel has been in and out of the Land more than once since Jeremiah gave his prophecy concerning their final salvation at the end of the time of Jacob’s trouble (Jer 30:7 with Dan 12:1-2; Mt 24:21). What’s to say that after this return Israel may not dwell in the Land as a prosperous nation for many, many years yet to come? Well, no one text ‘says’ that Israel is only back in the Land a very little while before the great tribulation. However, ‘if’ the case is well enough made that the two days of Hos 5:15-6:2 are indeed symbolic, not of an indefinite short period of time (as most commentators) but as two definite millennia, to be reckoned from the Lord’s ascension. And ‘if’ the recent developments mentioned above are indeed preparation for the kind of conditions that will exist just before the Antichrist’s invasion, then we are looking at a short period of time for such seismic changes to take place.

When the prophecies are closely investigated, it seems clear that nothing on the present horizon, short of a regional, if not world war, could conceivably account for the kind of shift that would induce the Arab world to make the kinds of concessions that prophecy requires. Think about it. The Antichrist hates the covenant. He agrees to the peace only because it is expedient for the moment. From its very inception, he immediately begins to plot against the very covenant he confirms (Dan 11:23-31). This is the man who will bring the world of radical Islam with him in his attack on Jerusalem. Unless there was some unprecedented inducement, would such a man consent to a peace that he so deeply opposes?

It seems clear that the one who will be leader of the ten nation confederacy that descends upon Israel would never countenance such a peace plan, particularly one that must necessarily include provisions for Jewish control of at least some part of the temple mount, unless Israel had attained an overwhelming advantage in the negotiations. It is this kind of advantage that I believe will come to Israel only after another war, sufficient to reshape the balance of power throughout the region and to profoundly revise opinion over how peace can be secured.

This will be particularly true if Israel’s survival is once more threatened by its attempts to accommodate outside pressure. It will produce in the Israeli’s another resolute ‘never again’ posture towards world opinion, as the moderate nations enter into a new phase of negotiations only after another bitter lesson of tragic cost. Of course, this will be the beginning of the end, precisely when things finally look hopeful after so many years of seemingly impossible deadlock and impasse. It will be mankind’s ultimate Babel of humanistic imagination that peace on earth can be attained short of kingdom righteousness, with an all saved Israel at its center.

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