The Sure Mercies of David

In reading 2 Samuel 7:14 KJV, I came across a passage that took me aback: “I will be his father, and he shall be my son. If he commit iniquity, I will chasten him with the rod of men, and with the stripes of the children of men:” Jesus did receive the rod of men and did take our stripes but HE did not commit iniquity. Seems out-of-place and contradictory. Further, the NIV states “When he will”, inferring that it will happen. Thoughts on this matter?

Very good question, and the Jews know it well, which is part of the grand plan, as nothing is incidental or happenstance in this kingdom, because “discernment of providence is the first element in being led of the Spirit” (Mike Snyder).

We are being confronted here with a mystery of profoundest divine intention that will either bless or stumble, depending on the disposition of the heart. It is only by a faithful and unbiased commitment to the ‘cumulative evidence’ of all that scripture says on a given subject that many of the antinomies (paradoxes, or apparent contradictions) of scripture can be solved, often with the greatest edification of glory. But this requires great patience with God’s intention to hide His secrets from the wisdom of this age while revealing them to babes.

It is a truly sublime strategy of ‘hide and seek’ that designs that the same ‘hidden wisdom’ ordained to the saint’s glory (1Cor 2:7) should elude and confound confidence in the flesh. The mysteries of God are divinely set to stumble pride, so that the wisdom of man would be its own snare, as God reserves His secrets for His friends (Gen 18:17; Isa 41:8; Amos 3:7; Jn 15:15; 1Cor 2:7; Rev 10:7), His ‘little ones’ who feel themselves hopelessly undone and cast on His mercy, daily crying, “who is sufficient for these things?!”

That said, we are dealing here with a covenant promise that is both personal and corporate. Some of it applies to the personal Messiah, David’s Lord and greater son, and some of it applies only to His spiritual seed.

It is at once the Seed (singular) of the woman, and His ‘seed’ (plural), the corporate line of all the regenerate elect of God. In both Samuel and certain of the Psalms (72 and others, forget just which), the promised Messiah is represented to apply first to Solomon, albeit in language and terms that every scripture revering Jew would at once recognize to far transcend anything realized in Solomon’s reign, clearly signifying the presence of typology.

In glorious paradox of sublimest mystery, and with notably intentional use of the exact same words, that Isaiah sees the ‘chastisement’ and the ‘stripes’ that would be laid on David’s royal heir and his children (2Sam 14:7; Ps 89:32; Isa 53:5) is laid most ultimately on the suffering Servant of Yahweh. With no guilt of His own, God has laid on Him the ‘iniquity’ of us all, and with His ‘stripes’ we are healed (Isa 53), as when those in the wilderness looked to the lifted up symbol of their destruction and were healed (Num 21:9; Jn 3:14). This is one sense in which David’s greater son and Lord was indeed visited with many stripes for the sins that were not His own but were counted to Him as though His own (2Cor 5:21). It is the mystery, but also the holy logic of divine substitution, which Jewish interpreters paradoxically can apply to corporate Israel, the righteous remnant, or some other innocent sufferer, but cannot conceive of applying to the Messiah.

Even before the creation (Acts 2:23; Rev 13:8), the ‘sure mercies’ of David (2Sam 7:13-16; 22:51; Ps 89:28-36; Isa 54:13; 59:21; 61:9; 66:22; Jer 31:34; 32:40; 33:17-16) was based on the suffering of the woman’s Seed as the Surety of a better covenant (Heb 7:22).

It is inescapable logic that in order to reverse the curse, the woman’s seed cannnot be under it. He must be free of the sin by which the curse is passed on all the race. It follows then that the Messiah must be uniquely begotten in order to be free of the taint of sin that disqualifies every other servant of God. The mystery is solved when it is seen that He will be at once human and divine, vulnerable and fully human but kept sinless as the perfect substitute. This is the logic of the virgin birth, which Isaiah understood by the Spirit’s revelation, as seen in his ‘Song of Immanuel’ (chps. 7-12), as the heel of the man child is wounded in the songs of the suffering Servant (chs. 42, 49, 50-53).

So who are David’s seed, not only his son but his children from whom His loving kindness shall ‘never depart’ (Isa 59:21; Jer 32:40), as it did from Saul? Who are these that are faithfully chastened when they sin but never forsaken? Can these be the wicked kings  ofJudah that issued from David’s line by natural descent?

As in case of the true, spiritual ‘seed of Abraham’ who are distinguished by their fruits (Mt 3:8-9; Jn 8:39) must be more than Jewish. They must be born again. Moreover, a remnant from among the natural branches must become more than a remnant. They must become an all holy nation in order to inherit the Land forever because of a righteousness that is forever (Jer 32:40; Dan 9:24). But also, because the promise that all the nations would be blessed through Abraham’s seed, an election called out from among the nations is grafted into the righteous remnant, the ‘holy seed’ (Isa 6:13) of which Messiah is the spiritual head. These too are ‘counted as the seed’ (Ro 4:16; 9:7-8, 24). (Isa 6:13) This is the spiritual seed of Abraham and of David that is the divine nature that indwells all who have been ‘born again’ of the indestructible Word of God (1Pet 1:23). As the scripture concludes, it is those who are born of the Word and the Spirit, these are the sons of God and counted for the seed (Ro 8:14; 9:8).

So this promise of the “sure mercies” of David is only to the spiritual seed, both Jewish and gentile, who stand in that line of humanity, which Paul called (speaking particularly of the Jewish branches), the ‘remnant according to the election of grace’. Manifestly, this spiritual line existed before the cross,  as also the necessity of spiritual regeneration and the new birth, as none were ever made alive nor sustained union with the living God apart from the quickening and indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

Therefore, the corporate seed of the woman is most essentially that spiritually regenerate line of humanity reaching all the way back to righteous Abel. It includes all who are all born of the divine nature that would be perfected in the personal Seed, the Messiah and Son of God to whom the Spirit would not be given by measure (Jn 3:34) but perfectly embody all the fullness of God.

We also  note that in Isa 55:1-6, the promise of the ‘sure mercies of David’ does not wait till its final eschatological outworking in the reign of the Messiah, but was preached as available to whosoeover will, and extended to nations beyond Israel during Isaiah’s day.

Conclusion: As the ‘seed of Abraham’ is shown to require the necessity of regeneration to ‘count as the seed of promise’, and just as the nation (Isa 66:8), and therefore the individual must be born of the Spirit to enter into the kingdom (Jn 3:10), it can be no less true of David’s seed / children. They must be justified by a righteousness that is not their own. It is the righteousness of another, even “the Lord our righteousness” (Jer 23:5-6) that justifies with an everlasting salvation(Isa 45:17, 25; 54:17 ).

Paul will show in Romans that this is a distinct kind of righteousness, “the righteousness of faith” by the which David could be assured that his sins would not be imputed to him (Ps 32:1-2; Ro 4:6-8). If the faith that justifies God’s elect were mere belief, it would be possible to man, and thus something in which one could glory as finding its source in man (Jn 3:27; Ro 11:35; 1Cor 4:17). On the contrary, faith must be given (Eph 2:9; Phil 1:6). The faith of ‘God’s elect’ (Tit 1:1) necessarily overcomes the world. It must; precisely because it is ‘born of God’ (1Jn 5:4). Though graciously given, it is not of man or from man, and therefore nothing in which flesh can glory.

Because of an absolute and negligently unqualified interpretation of Jn 7:34 that says in a certain context that ‘the Spirit was not yet given’, it is hastily assumed that this distinct kind of righteousness, namely ‘the righteousness of faith’ (Ro 4:13) could exist in OT saints without the Spirit, particularly in the sense of His abiding indwelling. Quite the contrary,  Peter is clear that it was the very Spirit of Christ who was “IN” Joseph, Moses, Joshua, Caleb, David, the prophets and, we may be sure, all the righteous by faith (1Pet 1:11). No less then than now, they were the living branches, alive to God by the Spirit, as based on nothing less than the imputed righteousness of God Himself, as promised in the Surety, which is to say, a righteousness that was NOT their own, no less then than now. Theirs was the very righteousness of the Spirit.

As such, the fruit and works of the Spirit are the only works that can count with God. As the righteousness is not our own, the works too must be His alone, else room is made for human glory and this can never be! As much as this rule cannot be thought unique to the NT, but must apply to all ages and dispensations, it follows that then as now, the only works that God can regard are not our own but His within us. To mix or mingle the work of man with the work of the Spirit is to make room for human glory, which is idolatry.

Therefore, the righteousness of the saints must be altogether the righteousness of another. Where this is true and real, whether of an individual or a nation, it will necessarily be accompanied by the sure evidences of its fruits, the test of its reality.

Like the Abrahamic covenant, the Davidic covenant is NOT unconditional, but it is UNILATERAL, as signified in Abraham’s deep sleep. It is made by God within Himself alone (in that sense, unilateral). Because nothing of man can defeat a covenant that God makes within Himself alone, these covenants belong to the ‘everlasting’ of ‘new covenant’ that even the OT shows to stand above the conditional covenant of Sinai, which has, and Jeremiah will argue, CAN never secure enduring peace and security in the Land, but condemns those under it to a perpetual and hopeless covenant jeopardy, ever threatening further curse and exile until its terms can be eternally satisfied and secured.

As the NT scriptures will make even more clear, the covenant of the law at Sinai designed to cut off all hope of attaining  to the promise on the basis of natural ability. This is writ large throughout the entire story. But what is by design ‘impossible with man’ is made sure, “not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit, says the Lord,” and that is the primary point the scripture underscores all throughout the history of redemption. All of history waits, not on man, or anything issuing from man, but on God who will favor Zion “at the set time” (Ps 102:13; 110:3 KJV)

This is the divine jealousy of grace apart from ‘what is in man’, to the end that no flesh can glory. This ‘hard saying’ is what we are called to help Israel see by its demonstration by the foolish nation.

This divine jealousy of a grace that depends nothing on man for its initiation or perpetuation is shown most particularly by the problem of how a covenant made with a visibly hopeless, ever backsliding nation, could ever guarantee perpetuity of obedience, so that the Land could be inherited forever, without threat of repeated covenant failure. Thus the need for a ‘better’ covenant that could guarantee the required continuance for a particular, elect nation to inherit a particular Land for an everlasting possession. This is its only hope of guarantee, that God come down and in, and that forever!

The required works of obedience would be uncompromisingly accomplished ‘in’ and ‘through’ man but not by man. This is the divine jealousy that cuts off all works that are possible to man from gaining divine acceptance or reward as pertaining to the promise. Therefore, the sure mercies of David necessarily guarantees the gift of the Spirit, and the perpetuity of the Spirit’s work to accomplish an obedience that does not fall away to further covenant cursing.


We see this perfectly in millennial Israel, and notably, they are NOT yet in glorified bodies. This spectacle of unimaginable safe keeping in abiding holiness of a nation for a thousand years of open witness is a, if not THE, primary purpose for a millennium on this earth before the perfect state. It is to show the ability of God to save and keep a people forever despite their historic track record. The millennium will put the dispute over the sovereignty of grace forever beyond dispute, just as I have learned by the Spirit to say that, from the calling of Jacob till the end of the millennium, “Israel exists to destroy all boasting!”

That the corporate, spiritual seed of David are not perfect like their head (the one, unique Son to whom the Spirit was not given by measure; Jn 3:34; KJV) is plain by the guarantee of sure and swift chastisement to those who ‘momentarily’ offend against their own ‘sure mercies’. We see this especially clearly in Ps 89:29-37; compare also Isa 59:21; 66:22; Jer 31:34; 33:19-36) . But it is also plain that this imperfection does not put the covenant in jeopardy by man’s natural inclination to always slide away backwards. No, quite the contrary, though chastisement is faithful and swift evidence that one is in a state of grace and truly regenerate, continuance and eternal perseverance in holiness is never in doubt, thus securing the covenant as “everlasting” (Jer 32:40 with Dan 9:24). Why? How? Because it is based on an ‘everlasting righteousness’ that cannot perish or fade but is its own faithfully resilient, eternal life source of the ”God who raises the dead”.

How does this kind of ‘eternal security’ NOT lead to license and abuse of the new liberty? It is because the heart is made new, forever new, by an indestructible divine nature by a sovereign act of new creation. Built right into to the New Covenant (synonymous with Abrahamic and Davidic installments) is the clean and holy fear of God. When the Spirit has come, the very nature that gave the law indwells the believer, and not only so, but God ‘PUTS’ His fear in the heart as intrinsic to the new nature. Where this fear is absent, or grows dim, it is a sure sign of one of two things: Either divine discipline is at the door, or its complete absence is a clear indicator that the heart has never been changed at its root, as God has not been known by revelation of the Spirit.

Regeneration cannot exist at one and the same time apart from the sure presence of this kind of love and this kind of holy fear. That is why the regenerate ‘seed’ of woman, of Abraham and David show that the works of the law to be written in their hearts, because when the law is in the heart, to break one of its commandments is to break the heart (compare 1Cor 7:19 with Gal 6:15), and to do so lightly is to invite sure and certain discipline, with increasing severity, if need be unto death (1Cor 11:32).

To see to the end of David’s sure mercies, and thus to the end of the New Covenant, as eternally secure in the Lamb slain before the foundation of the world, we have only to go to the future millennial blessedness of the natural seed of Jacob, since for the believer, the prophesied future is as sure as the past. There we see that in all the generations of those who are the combined natural and spiritual seed of Abraham, Jacob, and David, for a thousand years, not one born to Jewish parentage will ever fail or depart from this ‘everlasting covenant’. They are all saved and kept unto children’s children without the exception (Isa 4:3; 45:17, 25; 54:13; 59:21; 60:21; 66:22; Jer 31:34; 32:40; Eze 39:22, 28-29; Zeph 3:13, etc. et al). This is the millennial outworking of the ‘everlasting / new covenant’, which is synonymous with the Davidic covenant as ‘sure mercies’. This is why the covenant of promise will no longer be in jeopardy through the broken law.

The Spirit has come; not merely upon a remnant, as in other generations (leaving always the danger of sliding back to curse and exile) but now, at length, ‘all Israel’ is saved, each and every Jew, from the least to the greatest (Jer 31:34), with ‘none left behind’ (Eze 39:28), and so on for a thousand years of open demonstration of covenant fidelity, as the nations are made to look on with either emulation and access to the same grace, or with resentment and contempt at God’s prerogative to choose as He will choose, all to the end that no flesh can glory.

By design, election tests the heart to discover any presumed claim on divine grace. God resists all thought of entitlement on any other ground than mercy alone, that gives the grace to believe in the God who raises the dead. This is shown beautifully in the episode with the Syro-Phoneician woman (Mt 15). This is why God’s heart of universal love for all who are made in His image is necessarily and wisely ‘MEDIATED’ through a people who can claim nothing for themselves, as of themselves. It is mediated on the basis of divine election for this very clear purpose: “IN ORDER THAT the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works but of Him who calls” (Ro 9:11, 16).

This is how a people who were dead shall live; and continue in abiding security from all their enemies forever, because of a righteousness that is forever. Then as now, the sign of sonship will be the faithfulness of God to chasten all waywardness, and this fear (in no discrepancy with this God kind of love as proof of the divine nature(, will keep every Jewish inheritor of His holy mountain, and every child born to them’ ‘unto children’s children’ for a thousand years of open display (Isa 54:13; 59:21; compare esp. JN 6:45 to show that this covenant is not only millennial but now).

(Note: While massive salvation will be experienced among the nations of the gentiles, this promise of uniform salvation of all its population stands with no other nation. While the nations will flow to and from the Land and holy city promised to the natural seed (as all now saved; Ro 11:26), among them is no such promise of uniform salvation. This is God’s open, public vindication of His sovereign ability to ‘quicken whom He will’ and keep them secure in their land, “world without end”).

This will be a spectacle of the sovereignty of grace, designed to move either to emulation or envy and contempt, as seen by the revolt at the end of the millennium. All of this is made sure and secure by an indestructible new nature that prohibits all false assurance by professors whose works deny their hasty claims (Titus 1:16; 2Tim 2:19; 1Jn 2:19; ). It is those two golden, glorious words of Paul: “in Christ.” There is the locus of the everlasting covenant and sure mercies of David, “in Christ!” The covenant is made secure by the Spirit’s quickening ‘revelation’ of the gospel, for therein, and only therein, is the righteousness of God revealed. This is the only power that is sufficient to secure the corporate ‘seed of David’, which is the ‘seed of Christ’, the curse reversing Seed of the woman.

This regeneration by the Spirit is certainly not limited to those born again of the Spirit and the Word since Pentecost. Though revealed in time, His blood avails for all, as the Lamb slain before the foundation of the world. He is the eternal surety of all the elect, as those ‘eternally’ elect, ‘the (eternally foreknown) remnant according to the election of grace’ were as born again as any since Pentecost, since it is only the Spirit that has ever given life and the ‘revealed’ nature of God and quickening of new life. As I often remind; never assume that because something is newly revealed, or has come to greater light, that it is necessarily new as to existence and reality.

It will take a miracle more powerful than the world has witnessed since the resurrection of Jesus for the Jewish survivors of the last holocaust will see this. It will be life from the dead. Until then, the election and the love that decreed it is irrevocable. The dead are dead until quickened, and no amount of ‘relative’ human measurements of good or evil can even factor into a salvation that is utterly apart from works (note the story of Mannaseh of Judah). Therefore, grafted in branches should marvel and wonder, not at their fall, but at our grace, as utterly contrary to nature. We should have mercy, since they were confronted with a profound mystery that God ordained and designed to be ‘shut up and sealed’ from all pride (what flesh is not?). God deliberately hid this mystery in the writing of the prophets to be revealed at the set time, first at Pentecost, and then to the Jewish nation at the end of the 70th week. In the meantime (two days of Hos 6:2), they are enemies “FOR YOUR SAKE,” gentile!

How CAN they believe except God open their eyes? How did we believe? What do we have that we did not receive, so how glory? (1Cor 4:7). Are we less stubborn? If God went away and hid His face from us, could we see what we have been helped to see? It is by our mercy that God has ordained that they shall at length receive mercy. We justify God’s holy severity, even while we marvel that we should escape by grace alone and the sovereign drawing power of the Spirit. A lack of love for Israel in their blindness, particularly in their blindness, is a sure sign of boasting that will meet with no less a mystery designed to confound and condemn the boaster, as God has laid, particularly through the mystery of Israel, a snare and a trap for all confidence in the flesh.

In brotherly love and appreciation, Reggie

Posted in The Messianic Secret | Comments Off on The Sure Mercies of David

The Prophetic Necessity of a Third Temple (Even Before the Destruction of the Second)

The Jews who read Daniel as inspired prophecy would have understood that the temple that God commanded the returning exiles to rebuild (see Hag / Zech) was, from its beginning, a doomed edifice. As early as they had access to the book of Daniel, they could see that ‘at the time of the end’, the temple would again be surrendered over to destruction when a final aggressor (‘little horn’; Dan 7:8; 8:9) would defile the holy place and again tread down the holy city, as so read Jesus and His disciples (Mt 24:15-16; 2Thes 2:4; Rev 11:2).

Unlike many modern scholars, they saw this, not as a passing episode that did NOT realize the final deliverance of Daniel’s people (e.g., the Syrian occupation of 166-163 B.C), but as necessarily bringing in the more ultimate end of the age, even the resurrection of the righteous (Dan 12:1-2). From this, they would know that the temple would be standing for many generations, and regardless of the interruption that happened briefly in the second century B.C. under the Syrian tyrant, Antiochus IV, many understood, as Jesus would predict, that the temple would certainly be standing when the final desecration would be accomplished, just 3.5 years before the end.

It becomes very noteworthy then that the temple of Isa 63:18; 64:10-11 (which notably echoes the language of Ps 74), is described as being in Jewish possession for only “a little while” when the final desolation comes (Isa 63:18; 64:10-11). The context is clearly the end of exile. This is very significant, and a very crucial point in our apologetic, because it goes perfectly to explain why nothing in history has sufficiently answered to the 2300 days of Dan 8:9-14.

The difference between the half week described in Dan 7:25; 9:27; 12:7, 11, and the longer period of Dan 8:14 is the difference in the starting point of the sacrifice. This is clear, since both periods include the desolating sacrilege that starts the tribulation that arrives at the same end, notably an ‘end’ that Daniel ties, not only to Israel’s long awaited deliverance but also to the resurrection of the righteous (Dan 12:1-2).

The logic is this: if the 2300 days of Dan 8:13-14 has not been fulfilled in antiquity (as no proffered account of the chronology, either of the Syrian desecration or the Roman siege, answers nearly enough to the specificity of the time), and if the days are not arbitrarily converted into years, as in the historicist school and Adventism, and, since the end in view is nothing short of the eschatological climax of Israel’s permanent and everlasting deliverance in conclusion of the times of the gentiles, then it seems only one conclusion can follow. The 2300 days marks the time from which the sacrifice begins.

Since the sacrifice is stopped in the middle of the week to begin the last 3.5 years of unequaled tribulation, when did it start? At the time of the Roman destruction of the temple of 67-70 A.D., the sacrifice had been uninterrupted since it was taken away for the space of exactly 3 years by Antiochus IV, from Dec 25 166 to Dec 25 163 B.C. The sacrifice was once more suspended for only a day at the end of Pompeii’s three month siege of Jerusalem in 63 B.C. After that, it continued uninterrupted until the Roman siege of 67 A.D. Since then, the Jews have been without a temple and sacrifice (‘many days’; Hos 3:4-5).

If the temple that is desecrated to begin the last tribulation is one that has been in Jewish possession for only ‘a little while’, and if the 2300 day prophecy of Dan 8:13-14 is speaking of a sacrifice that has only recently started when it is stopped, then it becomes clear that the prophecy of Daniel could not, under any regard for the details of the prophecy, have been fulfilled while the second temple was standing. This means that the sacrifice that is taken away in the middle of the week (Dan 9:27; 12:11) cannot be confused with the sacrifice that continued in the second temple until it was stopped by the 70 A.D. destruction of the Romans. It could only belong to a future temple that hosts a sacrifice that has only recently started, because the temple itself has only recently been rebuilt, according to Isa 63:18.

Therefore, if we can say that the 2300 terminates at the point of the 1290th day of Dan 12:11, then, by counting backwards, we arrive at the approximate time the sacrifice will start again. I say approximate, because it is only an inference to assume that the sanctuary is cleansed exactly on the 1290th day after the stopping of the sacrifice. Though possible, it is not clearly stated.

If we allow the example of Hanukkah to inform the meaning of the cleansing of the sanctuary, then this may take place sometime later than the 1290, perhaps further out, somewhere within the 1335 days. Obviously, this takes us past the Lord’s return into the early days of the millennium when a new temple will be dedicated on the topographically transformed table land of Zech 14:9-11; as “the mountain of the Lord’s house will be established in the tops of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it” (Isa 2:2).

So while precise exactitude may not be advisable, it is enough to understand that within the first year after the covenant has been confirmed, the sacrifice starts only to be stopped soon afterward in the middle of the seven.

This becomes very significant in distinguishing the peace arrangement that will coincide with the beginning of the last seven years. The “league” or covenant that we are looking for must be one that brings about some very distinctive and unmistakable conditions that must align at the same time. Regardless of what other events fall impressively into place, the last seven years of this age cannot begin until some form of agreement provides for conditions that permit, not only Jewish access to the temple mount, but the consecration of the holy place in a new temple and the soon starting again of the daily sacrifice.

Any peace plan that does not confirm (ratify / strengthen) a covenant that recognizes Jewish right to their ancient place of worship CANNOT be the last week / seven of Dan 9:27, because very shortly after the last week starts with the confirming of the covenant, the sacrifice is very soon to start. Could the covenant that is confirmed in Dan 9:27 be the same covenant that is called ‘the holy covenant’ in Dan 11:28, 30?

So regardless of who the Antichrist is thought to be, or from whence he is expected to originate, and regardless of what other identifying actions he is to fulfill within the first half of the seven (Dan 11:23-30), one thing is very clear. If it is the covenant of Dan 9:27, it will be followed by the deceptive peace described in Isa 28:15, 18; Dan 8:25; 9:27; 11:23-24; Thes 5:3. But no peace can decisively confirm that seven years has begun UNLESS it provides for the soon resumption of the daily sacrifice in a temple that has been only recently recovered to Jewish possession.

THAT is the verification that the believer must require. When these unmistakable events come into manifest alignment, there can be no doubt that the last seven years has begun. Of all the questions of prophecy regarding the time (when it will be time to know the time), a peace initiative that will at last provide for the real beginnings of a temple is the only kind of peace initiative that should command our attention as promising a soon beginning of the last seven years. Until the question of a Jewish temple is seriously on the table, peace negotiations are not, by themselves, decisive evidence that the seven years is at hand.

God has given this knowledge to His people for a gracious advantage in many regards, but Jesus particularly specifies its use in our defense against the unparalleled deception that is coming on the whole earth. His prescribed antidote is that we “take heed” to what He has told us before (Mt 24:25; ‘all things’; Mk 13:23), and that we follow His command to read and understand Daniel’s reference to the abomination of desolation in particular (Mt 24:15; Dan 8:11; 9:27; 11:31; 12:11).

By so doing, we not only prepare ourselves against the great deception, we also equip others to equip others (2Tim 2:15) in those days when so many will be in distress and confusion at the overwhelming events that only the light of prophecy can interpret (Dan 11:32-33; 12:3). Jesus knew that by obedience to His command to read and understand this event in particular that a whole vista would open up, not only of what is to follow the abomination, but of all that leads up to it.

Knowing the events that mark the first half of the week will be crucial for our preparation for the unprecedented test that follows the abomination of desolation. This knowledge and the certainty concerning the time is a great gift that designs the deepest work of the Spirit in the world wide body of Christ, unprecedented since Pentecost.

Posted in Daniel, Jacob's Trouble, Prophecy | Comments Off on The Prophetic Necessity of a Third Temple (Even Before the Destruction of the Second)

Not of Works, But of Him Who Calls

So long as I have a sense of uncompleted or failed stewardship of what I’ve been entrusted, an imminent prospect of going home isn’t greeted with contentment and resignation, as I might wish, but pleas for mercy and extension. But let me right here urge that we very carefully distinguish and separate what God has clearly distinguished, that when confused, removes all sound ground for peace and trust in the hour of threatening death.

In order not to be devoured by all the ‘coulda, shoulda, woulda’s that would overwhelm even the most saintly of saints, Paul warns against looking back: “… but this one thing I do, forgetting the things which are behind, and reaching forth …” (Phil 3:13-14). But another, and even more deadly tendency is to look within, in hopes of finding faith sufficient to answer the crisis. That’s not where it’s to be found! It’s only in Him, and His to give. I’m taught of God that faith and peace is not to be found in my reach and power but in His outstretched hand, as when Peter sinking, cried out, and “immediately Jesus stretched forth His hand …” God has deliberately put saving faith beyond human reach and power that to Him might be all the glory when it is given us to miraculously believe and trust and rest.

Our only plea is mercy. There is no other; but we also seek the tender grace of a clear and full assurance that when it is our time to leave this world, we are not occupied with reward or any such thing. Our hope and stay is that our names are written in heaven. Our thought is not reward but mercy. For that assurance, we must put off all hope in ourselves, or any faith that we might produce to stand before infinite holiness. There is no sufficiency in ourselves and we only forsake our own mercies if we imagine otherwise.

With whatever reward we may meet, or whatever higher ground we may have attained, nothing that can be added that can make us anymore righteous or able to stand than the moment we were forever clothed up by the righteousness of another, in ‘the hour we first believed’. There and then and forever, I could never become more righteous than I was at that instant when I was accepted in the Beloved. I think not to appear or presume to appear in any other righteousness than that righteousness that was perfected over 33 1/2 years of Jesus’ active obedience in my behalf.

Not only did He die for me, He lived for me by fulfilling, as He said to John The Baptist, “‘ALL’ righteousness.” It is that righteousness, perfected under the law by a spotless obedience, that is imputed to the least believer, not in the part but the whole. It is not just the act of the cross but His cruciform life, lived under the exacting examination of the law, that covers and clothes us, so that in the matter of justifying righteousness, we thirst no more. Notice that as much as the righteous thirst after righteousness ceaselessly, Jesus speaks of one sense in which they never thirst again. What can that be but in the sense that they will forever have no want of righteousness when called to stand before the Lord? (Jn 4:14; 6:35).

This imputed righteousness is the ‘everlasting righteousness’ of the New / Everlasting covenant. It is NOT a process! It is an accomplished, eternally secure position at the right hand of God in our ascended Lord, whether He is in heaven or on earth. This is something quite distinguishable from even the truest works of the indwelling Holy Spirit in my life. That may factor in my sanctification and reward, but it can have nothing to do with my standing, or the ground of my eternal justification that cannot grow or mature.

The fruits of the Spirit are relative and by degree, but justification is an absolute, relative to nothing but our first and forever acceptance, as based on the righteousness of another, by even a faith born from above that is also, no less a free gift of grace, apart from any working or doing or ‘becoming’.

And that acceptance is also an absolute. It can’t grow; it doesn’t fluctuate. It is NOT a process! It is forever settled in heaven and waits to be revealed at the last day as an already, eternal, irreversible reality, as sure as the very foundation of God, because it has the unshakable seal of His eternal knowledge of His own, even when they, in moments of desperate shaking, fear and doubt, may, God forbid, question their knowledge of Him.

Brother, I have doubted many things to my shame. I have even doubted my own standing in Christ and feared greatly; but I cannot doubt that regeneration, by its very nature, provided it is indeed born from above, CANNOT be reversed. It is as sure as the seal of the foundation of God. I am not speaking of possible fluctuations in my own assurance, which to my shame, I’ve known. I’m speaking of the foundation of God, which is an entirely different matter.

His purpose according to election MUST stand, and in order for it to stand, it must be ‘not of works but of Him who calls’. It has no basis in the willing or running of man (Ro 9:18). He knows His own, so that even if their most hated doubts should rise in unwanted denial of Him, He cannot deny Himself in them, that even if they should doubt of their knowledge of Him, He can never deny His own. They are bone of His bone and flesh of His flesh in an indissoluble union that is as sure as the everlasting covenant of righteousness that will stand with all Israel for a thousand years of open demonstration that what God elects, He brings down, and in, and keeps forever.

I long that you could share this conviction with me. I am more sure of it than anything concerning my own spiritual pulse, even if it should go flat-line in my own experience. It is because I know by revelation that it’s true. I know the problems. I know the arguments. I know the fearful warnings of coming short of the straight gate of regeneration. I know how fearfully close a Judas, or an Hymeneaus or Philetus can be, but I cannot doubt of the very foundation of God, which an everlasting covenant, steadfast and sure, well ordered in all things.

All the regrets, all the ‘shoulda, coulda, woulda’s of this beleaguered and halting life, with all its fits and starts, broken hearts, and set backs, with all its shame and regret, it will melt away in His face, as you become just like Him, perfectly like Him, in the moment that we see Him as He is. That’s a great big, astonishing, almost unimaginable promise.

In the meantime, I personally believe there’s a lot here left for us to walk out, so I expect a battle that will purify and perfect, but could never add one cubit to our complete acceptance in our Lord’s own righteousness. The Lord may show us hard things, but He is the resurrection and the life, and we have a divine, purchased right to a peace that passes all understanding. “Being justified by faith, we have peace with God.”

That’s a peace that doesn’t, or shouldn’t rise and fall with any experience or emotion in all the unexpected vicissitudes of this life. It is something that every believer has a right to every moment, even in the greatest trials that may threaten great discipline but never desertion, even when we may ‘feel’ most deserted. Thanks be unto God for His unspeakable gift, as we know, the gifts and calling of God are irrevocable.

Posted in Christ In You The Hope of Glory, The Mystery of the Gospel | Comments Off on Not of Works, But of Him Who Calls

Perspectives on Israel: What’s at Stake?

Reformed theologians emphatically maintain that their Covenant Theology is not Replacement Theology. I have read their arguments in support of their position over and over again and I don’t see a dime’s worth of difference, except what seems to me more semantics than actual differences. Every time I go back and compare the two, I still essentially come up with the same sum totals. So what can you add, correct, or clarify of this perception?

There are different kinds and degrees of replacement theology that has very little to do with how one cuts the covenants. Covenant theology is usually placed over against dispensational theology / eschatology. Once again, it is largely illusional of extremes that are more imagined than real, and certainly not necessary.

There are many amillennialists who do not believe Christ can return any moment like pre-trib dispensationalists do. Why? Because they recognize what Paul calls, “their fullness” (Ro 11:12). By this, they understand a future fullness for the natural branches. Many of our premillennial brethren do not know this, but it’s a conviction among more amills and post-mills than many think. So you can see why they may not think they’re being fairly tagged ‘replacement’. Give me those guys any day to many who are virulently replacement like JW’s, Adventists, and many amills who believe Jesus can just show up, no Jews needed.

The same could be said of many historic pre-mill types who are willing to see a sizable number from among the Jewish branches that will be grafted in again to their own good olive tree before the age can end. (They identify the olive tree as the covenant with Israel, and those who persevere in faith as the true body of Christ, so that when the branches are grafted back in, they are coming into the body, baptized by the Spirit into the one body). So, while not denying a future for a sizable remnant of Jews, this is still, in one sense, yet a ‘kind’ of replacement. How so? It is because of the implications that follow from NOT seeing the particular relation of the Jew to the Land in the covenants of promise.

Failing of this, they likewise fail to discern the significance and covenant investment of God in the ‘controversy of Zion’, i.e., the Jerusalem centered crisis of the end. Thus, they do not see the covenantal necessity of a post-tribulational deliverance of Israel, as a nation born in one day, with a millennial destiny that is peculiar to an all saved Jewish nation, preserved in uninterrupted holiness for a thousand years of covenant faithfulness (“their fullness”; Ro 11:12) and vindication of every jot and tittle of the literally interpreted scripture.

In short, they do not see, for reasons they think the NT supports, the covenant necessity of a literal, Jewish Israel at the head of the nations during a millennial rule of Jesus out of a restored Zion, here on earth. They thus deny a ‘Judeo-centric’ crisis over Jerusalem at the end of the age, and the Judeo-centric millennium to follow. They see it as building again the middle wall of partition. If there is a millennium, it is the meek, Christians in general, that inherit the world in general. The specificity and particularity of the covenants and promises to Jews as Jews, are considered a myopic, nationalistic anachronism that the NT, not only expands but corrects.

Covenant theologians are such simply because they apply to the elect in general the many scriptures that we show to have a clearly post-tribulational, millennial context. That’s why they’re mystified and divided among themselves on just how to understand why all their kids (“children of the covenant) don’t all get saved. It’s been a great puzzlement, because they’re trying to take over Israel’s millennial promises and have them all fulfilled, in all their implications for the children of born again families in this age, so that every child born to regenerate parents are necessarily sure of eventual salvation and a home in heaven. But obviously, that doesn’t always work out, so its been a perennial problem and source qualification and debate.

It is this understanding of the covenant’s promise of continuance to all who are truly regenerate that led George Whitfield to caution and exhort his close friend, John Wesley, concerning Wesley’s contention that true regeneration can be fatally and finally reversed. That is to say that a truly regenerate believer can lose salvation. Whereas both expected a great falling away, and had already seen many leave a promising beginning, they were divided on whether the many that would fall from the faith once delivered to the saints, as a body of saving truth, had ever really passed through the straight gate of true regeneration, as having no deep root, as in the example of Judas, Hymenaeus and Philetus, etc. (Jn 6:64, 70; Mt 7:21-23; Jn Acts 15:54 with 1Jn 2:19; 2Tim 2:17-20. Whitfield saw Wesley’s assumption that true regeneration can be reversed as striking ultimately at the heart of the everlasting covenant and ‘foundation of God’.

On a certain occasion, when in heated exchange of papers between Wesley and Augustus Toplady, author of “Rock of Ages”, Wesley was pronouncing imprecations on his own head if the God of the Calvinists exists, to him an impossible thought. Disturbed and concerned at his friend’s haste and presumption, Whitfield endeavored to restrain Wesley by appealing to him to make a more “careful reading of the covenant”.

By this, George was trying to help John to see God was able to keep His own eternally, as represented in the covenant promises to be realized by millennial Israel. It is this that made many of that era incline towards the ‘covenant theology’ of the Reformation, many of whom, even most of whom, did grant some ‘kind’ of necessary future ‘fullness’ for the natural branches. Among the great covenant theologians of the Dutch Reformed, most saw a future for Israel, NOT necessarily millennial (though there were some millennialists), but before this age can end. They never, or many of them, never entertained the possibility of a return of Jesus without the prior return of a future remnant from among the natural branches.

So this is the dilemma: Whether or not the passages that we see as manifestly post-tribulational, and millennial in their context, how far can believers of this age claim the blessing of the New Covenant, as it will be true of millennial Jews and their children?

Before answering that, we need to observe that this understanding of the end and goal of the covenant, as made exclusively and specially to the natural seed of Abraham, means that the Jewish nation in the millennium is promised a uniformity of salvation that is NOT promised to any other nation in the millennial age. Many prophecies, and even the logic of a final revolt, proves this beyond reasonable dispute. So while there is an election of grace among the nations, it is only in ONE Land, with ONE people, that an unbroken continuity of salvation is promised and maintained, whereby all the seed / children born to born again, Spirit filled Jewish parents, are scripturally guaranteed salvation and preservation, without exception forever (the thousand years). Conspicuously, this is only among the Jews, and that is the divinely intended spectacle, defying all nature, that is set before the nations for a thousand years.

It is rare to find any writer, let alone any well known school of interpretation, that seems to face or draw out what should seem the unavoidable implications of this profound truth, so continuously reiterated throughout the prophets. It is the background and logic of Paul’s insistence on the outstanding ‘covenant necessity’ of an all saved Jewish nation on this earth, and not merely the gathering into the body of Christ some extra Jews at the end of this age. Even when this much is granted among covenant theologians, it is seldom in the scriptural context of a Judeo-centered tribulation and end of this age.

Usually, interpreters of this school will recognize some kind of Jewish re-ingraftement, but they will plead modest ignorance of just how or when this will come about, when in fact, scripture could hardly be more pronounced as to exactly when and how. This view of a Jewish, Jerusalem centered millennium is so decisive for the question of the covenant, as scripture conceives and unfolds it. When this is missed, and even when it is acknowledged, many fail to connect the divinely intended meaning, the point that God is making through a nation appointed to resurrection and new birth in one day (Isa 66:8; Eze 39:22; Zech 3:9), with a thousand years following of astounding preservation in un-forfeited holiness. How can such a thing be? Exactly! And what is God’s point? If we know everything about Israel and miss the main point, we have missed the very point of God’s unspeakably costly investment in their covenant history, and its vital instruction for the church.

To me, any view that comes short of THIS understanding of Paul’s meaning when he says, ‘and so then all Israel shall be saved’, is inherently replacement in its perhaps unconscious denial of the millennial vindication of the covenant, as conceived by the prophets and passionately reiterated by Paul. And not only this, but the whole meaning of why the age ends just where it does, around the issues it does, is also missed, leaving the church disarmed and unprepared to be the maskilim (persons of insight) bringing the key of interpretation to Israel and the nations. Yet, who but he church, as the ‘pillar and ground of truth’, will God entrust with this holy task? Dispensationalism says the 144,000 Jewish evangelists that come to faith after the church has been taken to heaven by the rapture.

What Paul means by this much disputed phrase (“and so all Israel shall be saved”) has been the topic of great disagreement and challenge among interpreters. I believe the case is easily made that Paul was reading the prophets as teaching the covenant necessity of the existence on this earth of a completely saved and eternally secure Jewish nation that would now be able to hold the Land promised to their fathers in permanent continuance. This is all presented by the prophets as requiring conditions that will not obtain on this earth until the tribulation has ended with the great and terrible day of the Lord.

So never did Paul expect these conditions of an all saved Israel before this age had run its course to its appointed end in the day of the Lord. It is the tribulation, and the Antichrist as obsessed most directly with Jerusalem and the Jewish descendents of Jacob that seems most neglected by covenant expositors. It is the weakest link in their defenses. Once it is shown beyond reasonable dispute that the Antichrist is pitted particularly against the covenant symbols centered at Jerusalem. Once you show that the tribulation begins THERE, with the object of exterminating the covenant nation, it is a small step to establish the covenant background and abiding literal promises that must follow to Israel, which, of course, requires a millennium. It all stands or falls together. That’s our apologetic. It is to show that one cannot separate events that God has indivisibly joined.

At the end of the final tribulation, the Deliverer comes out of Zion to accomplish the final purification of the elect nation, which will then exist in abiding righteousness, while yet in natural bodies in their own Land on this earth, and, as we are informed by John’s Revelation, this witness in the sight of angels and nations will continue for a thousand years. Obviously, this is not the majority view. It is comparatively quite rare. I have only heard one other expositor make mention of it in a short quote from Adolph Saphir in his commentary on Hebrews that Bryan Purtle sent to some of us recently. We must be prepared to show and defend what any plain reading of plain language demands, as these things are NOT veiled in symbol or figurative speech. Moreover, we are prepared to give account of its purpose and meaning. It is one thing to know the what, even the when of God’s declared intention, and still miss the all important ‘WHY’ of His ultimate point in the eschatology of the covenant.

Had Paul seen the millennium as a definite limited interim between the DOL return of Jesus and the post-millennial revolt? I think the interim most likely, but we have nothing conclusive of what was believed about its duration till John’s Revelation. However, it is likely that many saw the 7th millennium as following the 6 millennia of the kingdom of man. But this depends on what Peter may have had in mind in his reference to a day equalling a thousand years in 2Pet 3. We know that among some examples of inter-testamental evidence, and rabbinical speculations that the future age was divided and sometimes conceived of as a sabbath millennial rest in analogy to the 7 days of creation.

I speculate that it was Paul’s wrestling with the coincidence of the glorified saints co-habiting the millennial earth with a Jewish nation still in their natural bodies that led him to the revelation of the mystery of the rapture (1Cor 15). It seems a necessary inference then, that since the body must be changed, translation of those saved during the millennium will evidently come at the next great transitional epoch in the history of redemption at the end of the millennium, as necessary to begin the eternal state. In the meantime, it seems probable that the glorified church of this age will be present and ruling with Jesus over the cities of the millennial earth, but perhaps not at all times visible to the saints on earth, and obviously not to the unregenerate multitudes that will repopulate the millennium.

I mention this, because it is to be admitted that we premillenialists have some ‘loose ends’ that are not directly, and explicitly addressed in scripture, as true of a great many things. It is true we are left with some more or less necessary inferences, but none of this can be turned into a justification to diminish or in any way ‘re-interpret’ the plain, grammatical, historic sense of scripture, particularly when the language used does not fall under the category of poetic, hyperbolic, symbolic, or figurative.

So how far does Israel’s millennial experience of the New Covenant apply to believers and their children in the present age of New Covenant fulfillment through the Spirit of Christ? That is the very thing that covenant theologians and their adherents wrestle with at a practical level when their children do not show the necessary signs of regeneration. It is also some of the thinking behind infant baptism, though they do not make the baptism of their children to count for regeneration, as in the sacramentalism of Catholics and Lutherans.

I think we can take the post-tribulational experience of the nations as our key to this question. They will be no less saved, loved, and promised glorification of their bodies than Jews living in the millennium. But uniform continuity of salvation is NOT promised to every one of their children, as the case with millennial Israel. If that is true, it is an inference, since it is not explicitly stated in scripture. We also know that Jesus applies the millennial promise concerning the uniform salvation of all of Israel’s children to believers of the present age who are drawn to faith in Jesus (compare Isa 54:13; 59:21 with Jn 6:45) but this cannot be taken to mean that every child born to this elect company is guaranteed salvation, as we see of the children of Jews in the millennium.

Thus, there is the necessary distinction between the spiritual application of ‘eternal life’ promised in the covenants, as properly applied to ‘all’ the spiritual seed of Abraham, but this has limits in this age, as the scripture itself makes clear. Neither believing gentiles nor believing Jews of this present age, are explicitly promised that it is impossible that any of their children fail of regeneration (Mt 10:36). But this is precisely what is promised in the millennium, along with their perseverance in holiness.

As much as we would like to believe that not one of the children of regenerate parents can fail of salvation, there is a reason we do not see this kind of uniformity of salvation among the elect of this age. It is NOT promised! It is only promised to Jews in the coming age after the tribulation, and it exists in just that way it does, at that time it does, for a very special purpose of divine demonstration of God’s great point in His original election of Jacob, as apart from works, but that is another discussion.

For Israel to be sure of the promises of a people who can continue in the Land forever, without further threat from the curse of the broken law, something had to be done with the habitual tendency to backslide. For this, true and lasting regeneration would have to come to ‘all Israel’ and NOT only to the perennial, typically small remnant. This is clear; because if only a remnant is saved, as the case throughout Israel’s history, then the remnant would also suffer exposure to the discipline and judgements of the covenant, including exile. What then would be necessary to guarantee perpetuity and assured freedom from the curse of the broken covenant? Nothing short of an ‘everlasting righteousness’ (Jer 32:40; Dan 9:24) that would extend to children’s children, from which they would “never again depart” (Isa 59:;21; Jer 32:40).

So the logic of the covenant, as understood by the prophets, was clear: Israel must at some point exist as an all righteous nation, no more as a mixed multitude. A mere remnant would not suffice. They must all be saved. This would require an ultimate solution to the problem of apostasy. Only then could the Land be safe from enemy invaders and the promise sure of eternal continuance. And for this to be sure, not only to those entering the Land after the final tribulation, but to all future generations, it must follow that ‘all’ their children must also be saved and kept saved (Jer 31:34; Isa 54:13; 59:21; 60:21; 65:23; 66:22 et al).

Otherwise, new and succeeding generations would put the covenant back in jeopardy. Hence, the divinely intended necessity of a New Covenant that would insure the regeneration and sure continuance of ‘all Israel’, a particularly Jewish Israel, safe in the Land forever. Even where the New Covenant scriptures will expand on these themes, they are not changed, nor require to be changed. Israel continues to mean Israel in the sense intended by the prophets, and manifestly understood by Paul.

Jews must be Jews, not only in the coming calamity, but in its millennial aftermath. It is crucial to the divine purpose that Jews be preserved as Jews. They are the sign people! They must be Jews, sufficiently visible and distinguishable, in order to make the point that God has invested an entire history of covenant unfolding to make THROUGH THEM! (Ro 11:27). This is the primary purpose of the millennium. It is not an unnecessary appendix in the divine drama. The millennium is the scene of that necessary stage of God’s making good on every promise, every jot and tittle of His Word and oath to the natural branches.

Now we come to covenant theology’s principal opposition and alternative view of the covenants. Since many historic, post-trib premills hold to some form of what dispensationalists brand, ‘covenant theology’ (a term that should NOT be taken as NECESSARILY replacement), the competing position opposing covenant theology is, of course, pretibulational dispensationalism. A good example of someone who holds our view of covenantal development along the controlling principle of the history of the promise, is Walter Kaiser. I believe I recall correctly that dispensationalists consider him a ‘covenant theologian’. But some would categorize him as a ‘modified dispensationalists’, simply because he is premillennial, but NOT pre-trib. Here is an example of a world renowned evangelical scholar who is miles removed from replacement theology of any kind, yet takes a non dispensational approach to the covenants.

Old school dispensationalists would speak of two new covenants, one for the church now, and another, completely distinct new covenant (though based on the same blood) for Israel after the tribulation. More recently, so-called, “progressive dispensationalism”, sees the ‘already and not yet’ aspects of the one and only New / Everlasting Covenant, but still divide the church from Israel in order to justify a pre-trib rapture. According to pre-tribulational dispensationalism, the dominant view among those who see the great tribulation as future, the body of Christ must be distinguished as completely distinct from saints that come to faith after the rapture. Though blood washed and born again by the Spirit, these so-called, ‘tribulation saints’ are held o belong to another people of God. This is what covenant theologians rightly find so repugnant and inconceivable.

Both classical and progressive dispensationalists see the necessity of the literally interpreted prophecies as demanding a Jewish nation, all saved and returned to their land, with none ‘left behind’ (Eze 39:22, 28-29). So far so good. But then, as mentioned, they divide the regenerate elect into two distinct peoples with two distinct destinies. Therefore, they do not see the saved of the tribulation, nor the saved of post-tribulational Israel, as belonging to the body of Christ.

So obviously, in this view, the covenants of God with Israel are retained just for Israel, as gentiles and Jews of the present age belong to a distinct and separate body, i.e., the body of Christ. This means that the body of Christ does NOT inherit Israel’s promises, but our question is, ‘what other promises, and what other covenants are there to inherit? We are grafted “in among them”. We are made fellow heirs and of the same commonwealth of Israel with all saints (not only the saints since Pentecost) in one body, one new man, as the mystery of Christ has been revealed to show God’s eternal intention to gather together into one all (elect) things (and persons) into Him (Eph 1:9-10).

While we make the distinction between saved Jews and saved gentiles both in this age and the age to come; we do not divide them. They are one body, one new man, yet not without divinely ordained distinctions. Jews in the millennium have a unique stewardship over the city and the Land for God’s millennial purpose and demonstration, but they are no less the body of Christ, and one Spirit with their brothers and sisters from the nations.

The great disjuncture between this age and the next is that NOT all Israel is regenerate, but, as Paul insists, “all Israel shall be saved”. When is this? How is this? According to the language and logic of what is promised in the covenants, as understood and applied by the prophets, the covenant has not reached its full scope and goal until there is not to be found a single descendent of Jewish parents that will not know the Lord and be filled with the Holy Spirit. This would be one thing for the saints in glory, but this is NOT what the scriptures envisions. These penitent survivors of the last holocaust will enter the millennium in natural bodies.

As the Jewish survivors of the tribulation see the One whom they pierced, as the tribes all mourn at the revelatory, transforming sight of their returning Joseph (Zech 12:10-13:1), in remarkable analogy to Paul’s Damascus road vision, the Spirit is poured out, but this is the first-fruits of the Spirit that leaves the survivors of Israel still in their natural bodies to fulfill the millennial promises. Their repentance and new birth is happening at the same the last trump (1Cor 15:52 with Mt 24:31; Isa 27:13; Rev 10:7) is translating the members of Christ’s body (1Cor 15:23) into final glorification. So Paul reveals the mystery of the rapture, which accomplishes the divide between those receiving regeneration at the last trump, and those already regenerate receiving final glorification of their bodies.

So the penitent survivors of Israel enter the millennial period in their natural bodies, born again and full of the Spirit, but able still have children, build houses and multiply in the Land, but without the threat of lapsing again under covenant failure that would jeopardize their security and everlasting continuance in the Land. That is how the prophets saw it, as any plain reading will confirm. They didn’t see all that God had planned, true, but what they saw was true and requires no change or re-interpretation. From the perspective of the NT, the Day of the Lord still lies ahead, as does the great tribulation, and not one word shall fail of its plain literal sense.

The Land will be theirs uniquely and specifically. Others will come and go, as joyous, grateful sojourners, with certain assigned portions, defrauded of no good thing in Christ. But only one people, preserved in that mysterious distinction that has sealed them to unparalleled suffering and incomparable glory, will ‘all’ be holy in their Land. The kingdom, in this sense, will NOT be given to another people (“not another”; Isa 65:21-23; “not left to another people”; Dan 2:44). Then and only then will they lie down in safety so that none make them afraid, so that the “children of wickedness will NEVER AGAIN afflict them as before” (2Sam 7:10).

Like the face of Pharaoh, they will not see the face of another Antichrist or gentile invader to threaten their peace. Isaiah shows that from the time that the last gentile aggressor is destroyed, as prefigured by the kings of Bablyon and Assyria (Isa 14:4, 25), which is to say, from the time that Satan is bound, “no feller is come up against us” (Isa 14:8; KJV). And when the Lord, in His providence, permits the last rebellion to gather in utter futility, it accomplishes nothing, except the ordained display that is given to prove that when Satan is released for the last test, the hidden depravity that lurks in the untested heart of the unregenerate will be fully exposed for a last time in the appointed day of temptation. Thus, the post-millennial exhibition of man’s depravity is also designed to show the invincibility of the Davidic covenant in its millennial expression. “They shall surely gather together, but NOT by Me … no weapon formed against you shall prosper” (Isa 54:15, 17).

Hallelujah! What a witness they will be in the earth! What an anomaly! What a burning bush of inexplicable divine testimony! Everyday, as people carry on their natural lives, this will be set before them. It can only be compared to what we can imagine it must have been for Abraham. Everyday, as God’s friend went about his normal routine, with all the tests and adversities common to this life, he could look over to his side and see that little miracle boy, who, by every natural reckoning, should not be there. What a constant reminder of the supernatural existence and intervention of His / our mighty God. It is that kind of daily reminder that Israel will be to the nations.

As the physically preserved sign nation, God has a statement ‘through them’ that will reverberate through all eternity, world without end (Isa 45:17). It is His ultimate, eschatological statement. It is very intentionally, necessarily visible, public, and literal. Not only through the return of Jesus, but through the return of Israel, God will once and for all answer the question, ‘has God really said?’ That’s what’s most ultimately at stake in the covenants and their eschatological conclusion on this earth.

The grand point is clear. It is to answer the question first raised by God Himself, as first put to Moses. It is the question of replacement theology (see Num 14). Can He bring into the Land and keep in the Land, the very people He first brought out of Egypt? What will be required? The answer is an apocalyptic transformation that will circumcise the heart of an entire nation. Moses sees at the end of a final and unequaled tribulation (Deut 4:29-30; 29:4; 30:1-5). The prophets will call this apocalyptic intervention the day of the Lord. This is the New Covenant, “My covenant with THEM”, but it is first, according to the mystery, established now ‘in Christ’ in unexpected advance of ‘that day’. Yet, this mystery does nothing to compromise the sure fulfillment that remains to be established with ‘all Israel’ in the coming, post-tribulational day of the Lord.

Present access into the grace of the covenants does nothing to redirect or cancel their predestined appointment with post-tribulational Israel. What possible NT passage has ever remotely suggested otherwise? Scripturally, biblically, with no violence to the present New Covenant standing of believers of this age, WHY CAN”T every outstanding promise in its plain, post-tribulational context, yet be made good to the literal people of Israel at the time appointed? (Ps 102:13; 1103). Not to a mystical Israel, without arguing that question, but the people that to this day have borne the heat of the day, in covenant curses, divine discipline, and untold suffering among the nations? All for what? Shame on those who can conceive what to God is impossible (‘as I live …’), that the covenant of the Land made with the descendents of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob could conceivably stop short of an all righteous Jewish nation, safe in their Land forever. Read there in your Bible! But do not restrict your reading the final third. Ask the Holy Spirit if one truth need rule out another.

Why either or? Why not believe both, since God said both? If we don’t believe, how will we get God’s costly point? How will we enter into the fellowship of His suffering where Israel is concerned, and the unspeakable cost He’s invested in the outworking of the covenants that demand more than the discipline and judgment of God’s national son, but his future millennial glory on earth?

Yes, there is mystery. There is great difficulty in managing the many facets, but there is no excuse for unbelief or to be taught of man rather than the Spirit. Here’s the issue: The plain language and ‘authorial intentionality’ of Moses and the prophets show clearly their expectation of an age on this earth beyond the climactic Day of the Lord, wherein all the promises made to recalcitrant Israel would be established without fail, here, where the odds are most opposed. The NT still looks forward to that day. Why deplete that day of all that the prophets and apostles of both testaments bind inextricably to that day?

Without the perspective that comes from a plain reading of the promises, covenants, and prophecies, the question of why a millennium? must remain in misty non-resolution. When the centrality of Israel and a ‘Jewishly’ centered, millennial Jerusalem is denied or dissolved, the assemblies of God’s people are robbed of vital instruction concerning their covenant standing in the everlasting covenant in its present fulfillment. Moreover, they are robbed and disarmed of crucial preparation to understand and give answer in the coming time of Jacob’s trouble. “What meaneth these things? But but most tragically, ignorance of this mystery (Ro 11:25), whether willing or unconscious, robs God of His greater glory in revealing His secrets to His friends (Gen 18:27; Isa 41:8; James 2:23; Amos 3:7; Jn 15:15; Rev 10:7).”Come and see!”

It’s not about unprofitable academic arguments; it’s about care for a harmonized Bible and to grasp what God has been pleased to reveal to His servants in a rather manageable, lifetime stewardship of only 66 books.

Posted in Israel and the Church, Opposing Views, The Mystery of Israel | Comments Off on Perspectives on Israel: What’s at Stake?

What Hope of a Pre-trib Rapture Requires One to Also Believe

Someone recently gave me a commentary on Daniel by Arno Gaebelein written in 1909. After reading his comments on the 70th week, and then Daniel 11, it was easy to see that he could be classified as a Dispensational, Pre-trib, Premillennialist. But, I know that he had a heart for the Jewish immigrants that were pouring into to New York at that time, and even ministered the gospel to them. So how would you reconcile his position?

Gaebelein was old school dispensational pre-trib. All I can say is that his view of Israel’s future, as based on a plain man’s plain reading of the ordinary sense of the prophecies (his hermeneutic) stood him well in seeing the centrality of Israel in the events of the end. But like so many since, the baby got mixed in with the bathwater of dispensationalism, with its view of the interim between 69th and 70th weeks as belonging to a completely UNFORETOLD mystery program that dispensationalists equate with the so-called “church age” that assumes the church begins at Pentecost and ends its sojourn on earth at the pre-tribulational rapture.

In order to maintain the present “age of the church” (a colossal misnomer in my view), dispensationalists argue that consistency demands that this age is the time of the mystery (as they see and define the mystery) that ends with the removal of the church from earth to heaven at the pre-tribulation rapture. Thus, the church, as they define the church, occupies the gap that they recognize between the 69 and 70th weeks of Dan 9:24-27. This provides that the ‘blessed hope’ of the church can be an imminent hope, with the ever present ‘potential’ that Jesus ‘could’ come at any moment. This why, in order for Christ’s return to be maintained as an ever imminent possibility, all the foretold signs that might interpose some necessary event between the believer and Christ’s return for His church, must be seen as taking place only on the other side of the rapture. There can be no outstanding event within this so-called age of the church that can stand between the believer and the ever imminent possibility that Christ might appear any moment.

Of course, this postulate raises so many questions, not least of which is how could the events that begin the 7 years have been possible during the many centuries of Jewish absence from the Land? Not only so, but far more than the 70 years of a single generation, Isaiah predicted that the Land would pass into “many generations” of desolation (Isa 61:4), and this fits with no other time in Israel’s history until the age long dispersion that began with the Roman destruction.

The time after the rapture, in its entirety, is held to be the Day of the Lord, thus, a continual day of wrath to which believers (of this age) are not appointed. This is a recent correction (innovation) to preserve the concept of imminence. In agreement with our view, Gaebelein put the DOL at the end of the tribulation, but since later post-tribulationists (such as Alexander Reese) would point out that believers of this age are instructed to look for, or hasten towards the DOL (e.g., 1Thes 5:2-6; 2Pet 3:10-12), it became obvious that a DOL that does not come till the end of the tribulation can hardly be looked for by believers waiting for a pre-tribulation rapture. The answer was to ‘expand’ the DOL to include the entirety of the 70th week, so that the DOL could start immediately with the pre-tribulation rapture.

In this way, believers could now look for the sudden, thief-like coming of the DOL, because it is seen to begin immediately with the Lord’s pre-tribulational return to catch up the church. In this way, the entire 7 years is made the DOL. Since believers are not appointed to wrath (1Thes 5:9), it is supposed that they cannot be thought to enter any part of the 7 years, which dispensational presuppositions make a seven year long ‘day of wrath’. The problem here is the clear evidence of scripture that saints in the tribulation are NOT under divine wrath. Divine wrath is only visited upon the wicked, but tribulation believers are not exempt from the wrath of man. So this argument fails since a believer’s presence in the tribulation does not imply exposure to divine wrath, demanding pre-trib rapture to escape. Are believers of the tribulation any more appointed to wrath than believers of this age? The answer is self evident, as also the contradiction of appealing to 1Thes 5:9 as support for exemption from tribulation.

Since Reese’s arguments, dispensationalists moved the DOL back seven years to begin with the rapture. This seemed to permit them to see the rapture as an imminent event. However, another, more modern post-tribulational writer, Robert Gundry, in his book, “The Church and the Great Tribulation, pointed out that Paul puts the revelation of the man of sin BEFORE the DOL (2Thes 2:2-3). How could the DOL be held as imminent if “THAT DAY shall come UNTIL the man of sin be revealed FIRST? This is, of course, an outstanding sign that precedes the DOL, precluding the notion that the DOL can happen suddenly, as a thief, with no predicted event preceding, as essential to the idea of imminency. This posed a real problem that was discussed intensely among the defenders of the pre-trib position, but the discussion remained mostly in scholarly journals behind seminary doors.

The proposed solution was to once more adjust the time of the DOL to permit another gap of some unknown duration (probably very brief) in order to permit time for the Antichrist to be revealed AFTER the rapture, yet before the start of the DOL. So twice the DOL has been moved in reaction to errors pointed out in the system. This is well documented.

It should also be mentioned that old school dispensationalists such as C.I.Scofield and Arno Gaebelein, understood the OT righteous to go up in the rapture. But after the arguments of Reese in his book, “The Approaching Advent of Christ,” the resurrection of OT believers was moved forward to the end of the week (‘the last day’). This would mean that Job, Isaiah, Daniel, and all the righteous dead of the OT would remain sleeping in the dust of the earth (Dan 12:1-2) for an additional 7 years after the church has been taken away to heaven. In that sense, they too are ‘left behind’. :-)

All’s to say, dispensationalism stands or falls with the following two principal pillars: 1.) The doctrine of imminency (in the sense that Christ may appear for His church any moment since the earliest days of the church, particularly since Paul’s revelation of the secret rapture), and 2.) the doctrine of the church (ecclesiology), which assumes that the body of Christ did not exist until the Spirit came to indwell believers at Pentecost, supposing that He was only ‘with’ believers before this time and not ‘in’ them.

This is why dispensationalists interpret the restrainer of 2Thes 2:7 to be the Holy Spirit who must be removed before the man of sin can be revealed. However, they are instant to point out that this is not, of course, the Spirit’s removal from the earth, but only in the sense of His indwelling of believers of this age. Many leading dispensationalists, such as John F. Walvoord, defend this view by arguing for what he calls, “a reversal of Pentecost.” By this, he means that believers that come to faith after the rapture will be born again, of course, but that they will NOT be uniquely indwelt by the Holy Spirit, which dispensationalists believe is unique only to believers of this mystery age of the church.

To answer the many non-sequiturs of Dispensationalism is not something I can enter into now, but for many reasons that could be put forth, the whole edifice falls under its own weight. Any system that must make so many changes in reaction to admitted errors should be profoundly suspect. Yet, it is the leading view among most evangelicals that hold a favorable view of Israel’s place and purpose in the end times. Part of the reason is that most embracing the pre-trib rapture have been told only part of the story. They are not intimately familiar with its history and the principal pillars on which the system stands or falls. Many would blush if they only knew what their scholarly teachers understand to be essential to its defense.

How, particularly now, after the Spirit promised in Joel has been poured out on all who believe, now that Christ has been once and for all glorified (Jn 7:39), can it be imagined that there will be a retraction of Pentecost, so that those that come to faith in the tribulation or in the millennium to follow, are NOT reckoned as members of His body, are NOT baptized by one Spirit into the one Body? When the penitent survivors of Israel look upon Him whom they pierced and receive the Spirit (Zech 12:10), the very same Spirit promised by Joel that was poured out at Pentecost, will they be any less the body of Christ than the penitents of Pentecost? Will they be any less baptized by the promised Holy Spirit into the one Body that believers are baptized into now?

Dispensationalists say they will not. They hold that all who come to faith after the rapture belong to another people of God, with different promises and a different hope. So you can see that much more is at stake than simply where the rapture is placed. The very nature of what constitutes the body of Christ is put in question.

Not only does faith in a pre-trib rapture disarm the church for what it should be prepared to expect, but it robs God of the glory He has invested in the what He intends for the church’s role as prophetic witness to Israel and the nations, full of power, instructing many, and turning many to righteousness (Dan 11:32-33; 12:3; Rev 7:9, 13-14). But this assignment is NOT delegated to the 144,000 Jewish witnesses, unless they also belong to the “church of the living God, the pillar and ground of truth” (1Tim 3:15). Such a notion betrays a woeful ignorance of the nature and calling of the church. It makes the church merely a ‘speed bump’ (a parenthesis) on the way to a glorious millennium that is without the church on earth. How will the pillar and ground of truth be absent from the earth if the persecuted saints of the tribulation are not the body of Christ? It begs the question, what then is the body of Christ? How long shall it endure on the earth?

The whole conception of the nature of the mystery, as “fully foretold”, yet hidden within the prophetic writings (Acts 26:22; Ro 16:25-26; 1Pet 1:11), and the nature of the assembly of Messiah, as the revelation of His body, has been profoundly exchanged for something foreign and unheard of till the mid to late 19th century. As a dearest friend once exclaimed, “they’ve changed the story!”

Posted in Opposing Views, Pre-Trib Rapture | Comments Off on What Hope of a Pre-trib Rapture Requires One to Also Believe