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- Introduction | Daniel the Prophet: Pursuing the Lord’s Mandate
- Lesson 1 | Daniel Chapter 2: The Dream of Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon
- Lesson 2 | Daniel Chapter 7: Four Beasts Rise from the Sea
- Lesson 3 | Daniel Chapter 8: The Ram and the Goat
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I have heard you say that Satan is the “restrainer”. How can this be? Wouldn’t this put the timing of the end into Satan’s hands instead of God the Father, Who is sovereign over all?
You are not alone in mistaking my meaning. Let me be clear: I do not believe that Satan will reveal the Antichrist, nor that the Antichrist will be revealed by the will of Satan, and certainly NOT on any creature’s schedule. Quite the contrary, the revelation of the man of sin means that the mystery of iniquity is revealed when Satan is forcibly, and involuntarily cast down by Michael. It is an inference, but it appears that with his dejection from heaven to earth, Satan is forced to enter the body of the mortally wounded beast. By so much, the mystery of iniquity receives final embodiment in the revived body of the Antichrist. This event is ordained to precede the return of Jesus. It is the climax of the 70th week when the “prince that shall come” (Dan 9:26) will be the final embodiment and revelation of the mystery of iniquity. I see the mystery of iniquity as ultimately revealed when Satan becomes fully incarnate (so far as his moral image is concerned) in the man of sin. This is when he is endowed with “all” power, signs and lying wonders and enters the temple to claim divine honor.
Thus, the revelation of the man of sin, who is the ultimate revelation of the mystery of iniquity, is the last thing Satan wants, since from that time, his time is short. His ‘short time’ is shown in Rev 12 to be co-terminus with the last three and half years. Of course, this is the second half of Daniel’s seventieth week, the forty two months that Jerusalem will be trodden down by the invading nations of the gentiles (Rev 11:2).
For more reasons than I can show in short space, the resuscitation of the Antichrist that will astonish the world takes place in the middle of the week, since it is this that apparently moves him to arrogantly enter the temple at Jerusalem to commit the abominable sacrilege that brings the final desolation of Jerusalem. His resurrection is the result of Michael’s victory in heaven that casts him down to earth to fulfill the final woes of the great tribulation.
Satan is forcibly removed by Michael, but Michael is not the one who is restraining, or holding back the final revelation of the mystery of iniquity. It is Satan who stands in the way to resist his own expulsion, since his expulsion means that the kingdom of God can now come in power (Rev 12:10). His removal from heaven spells his end as the ruler of this age. According to Rev 12:10, as long as Satan holds his present place in heaven, the kingdom of God cannot come. Thus we see that in some sense, his presence in heaven stands in the way of the coming of the kingdom (the return of Christ), because until the final mystery of iniquity is revealed (in what I see at the complete incarnation of Satan in the resurrection of the Antichrist), Christ cannot return to finish the mystery of God at the seventh trumpet (2Thes 2:3, 7-8; Rev 10:7; 11:15 w/ Mt 24:31; 1Cor 15:52; Isa 27:13).
The revelation of the Antichrist must come first, and only in God’s appointed time, i.e., the middle of the week. The revelation of the man of sin reveals and brings to final climax the mystery of iniquity that is already at work. Manifestly, this cannot happen so long as Satan retains his place in heaven. He must be cast down to bring the final woes of tribulation, as the now revealed man of sin enters the temple to exalt himself and bring the final desolation / the great tribulation.
When Michael expels him, it seems clear that this is the time when the beast that was, and is not, and yet is lives again to the wonderment and delusion of all the unsaved world. Somehow, Satan’s dejection by Michael forces the final manifestation of Satan in the man of sin who reveals the mystery of iniquity as the full embodiment of the moral nature of Satan in the flesh.
It seems we must infer that Satan has no choice but to enter the fallen body of the Antichrist at the moment he is thrust down by Michael. It is his ultimate exposure, which spells his end and this is the last thing he wants. This is something that he wanted to do with the body of Moses but was resisted by Michael. It is NOT something he will want to do with the body of the Antichrist, but once he sees that he is cast down, his evil nature compels him to try to destroy the elect woman (Israel and the saints) and to usurp the place appointed to the Davidic king (Ps 48:2; Isa 14:13 w/ Dan 11:45).
We believe that Michael removes Satan in the same way he removed the prince of Persia in Dan 10 who was “withstanding” (same Hebrew concept of resistance that is translated ‘hinder’ or ‘withhold’ in 2Thes 2:7) the angelic messenger’s path to bring to Daniel the revelation of what would be “befall your people in the latter days.” It is that revelation given to Daniel that Jesus will send His disciples to search out [“let the reader (reader of Daniel) understand”]. This will not not only alert the believers when the time is upon them, but the revelation of the end is divinely calculated to work something in the saints on earth and in the heavenly order similar to what was stirred in Daniel, when he, through his self abasement and intercession of anguish for his people, received the help of Michael to remove the opposing demon prince of Persia.
I understand 2Thes 2 to be saying that Jesus cannot be expected to return until the one thing holding back His return has taken place first. That is the necessary prior revelation of the man of sin. He reveals in himself the mystery of iniquity that was already at work at the time of Paul’s writing. After Paul reviews what he had told them before, after they have been reminded, he says, “and now (upon Paul’s review and reminder) you know what withholds.”
We know Paul is NOT, at this point, speaking of “who” is restraining. Here the restraint is not personal, as evident from the Greek use of the impersonal neuter pronoun. We must be careful to distinguish the ‘what restrains’ of verse 6 from the ‘who restrains’ of verse 7. So ‘what’ is the ‘what’ of verse 6 that is holding back? And what is being held back?
Something (not a person) is holding back something. I believe the answer is very simple. The necessary prior revelation of the man of sin [an event] is holding back the return of Jesus. This explains why Jesus’ coming cannot be imminent as falsely assumed by those troubling the church by the false report. Paul has just proved (by reminding them again) that Jesus’ return and “our gathering together unto Him” (the subject in view), is being held back by the prior necessity that the man of sin must be revealed first. It is this event (the ‘what’ of verse 6) that must take place first. And ‘now’ (after Paul’s reminder has re-informed them), they know what holds back Jesus’ return, namely, the prior revelation of the mystery of iniquity in the man of sin.
Then, with that established, Paul is reminded of a ‘who’ that is holding back the revelation of the man of sin. Just who Paul has in view may be a mystery to us, but it was no mystery to him. Doubtless, when he taught the Thessalonians on his first visit that the man of sin must be revealed first (“do you not remember? I told you of these things before”), he may have told them also of the necessity of Satan’s necessary removal in notable analogy to Michael’s removal of the demon prince of Persia (Dan 10).
I believe this is the background for Paul’s understanding and revelation, very possibly current among some of the apostolic apostles and prophets, that just as Michael had made the way open for Daniel’s revelation, Satan would, in like manner, be “taken out of the way” in order for the man of sin to be revealed so that the kingdom of God might come on earth with the return of Jesus. This is that great “finishing of the mystery of God” that comes with the seventh trumpet (Rev 10:7). Whether others beside Paul has this revelation, it is plain that others would have it when John would write his revelation. According to Rev 12, with Michael’s removal of Satan, the kingdom is announced as having arrived in great power. Observe: Satan is cast down and only then can the kingdom of God come. That is not too different from Paul’s point that until the restrainer is removes, Christ cannot return.
I hope I have at least made clear that in no sense does Satan reveal the Antichrist. That is not his will at all! Quite the opposite, he is the one opposing the revelation, since this will mean his time is short and his grip on the earth and long resistance of the kingdom of God is about to be finally and utterly broken. It is Michael, at the command and set timing of God (in response, we suggest, to something accomplished corporately in the church in analogy to Daniel), who sends Michael to remove Satan from heaven and casts him down to earth to begin the woes of the last 42 months as the man of sin becomes the full power of Satan revealed in the flesh, as the fit antithesis to the mystery of Godliness.
I urge that you pray and ask the Lord for understanding. If this is true revelation for these last days, then it follows that it is more than the natural mind can receive or digest, as even with me, it seems to fade in and fade out. Truly, it’s hard to wrap our minds around such things. How can it be a good thing that the man of sin is revealed when it will mean great woe? Of course, it canNOT, unless the revelation of this very evil thing is indispensably necessary to the coming of the kingdom on earth.
I hope I have helped instead of confusing you further. If what I am saying here is essentially the truth, it remains to be seen what use God will make of it in the days ahead. I’ve always felt it will be very important to the saints in the first half of the week as they, in analogy to Daniel, knowing the time has come, will be constrained into a fullness of intercessory travail that will be used of God in relation to Michael’s decisive intervention.
There is something about the certainty of the time, as also true of Daniel (Dan 9:2), and the confluence of fulfilled prophecy, that will be used of God to straighten the church to apostolic fullness. This can be seen in Dan 11:32-35; 12:3, 10 in the case of the ‘maskilim’ (those having insight / understanding) and significantly, this anointing follows immediately upon the desolating sacrilege of Dan 11:31, which we know is the middle of the week (Dan 9:27; 12:11).
Again, it is equally significant that this is the same time that the two witnesses receive power. Could it be that they are not the only ones receiving power at this time? This is also the time that the overcoming martyr church receives strength, power, and the kingdom of His Messiah, as they love not their lives to the death (Rev 12:10). It all adds up to something very transitional in the midst of the week that is happening both in the realm of the Spirit and the realm of the demonic. Kingdoms are clashing ultimately. What is disastrous for the earth dwellers (those who have their sensual lives in this evil age) is a broken, bitter sweet revelation and release of unspeakable glory and kingdom power for those who have their citizenship in heaven. Something glorious is birthed as something ultimately evil is exposed.
Your friend in Christ, Reggie
Reggie had a good discussion recently with Joel Richardson concerning the timing of the return of the Lord in relation to the Millennium: Pre-mill, Post-mill, A-mill. We certainly look forward to further visits with Joel.
I have always taught that the church is not separate from Israel. It is however obviously distinct from Israel, in the same way that the prophets distinguished between the nation in its apostasy and the righteous remnant. Distinct but NOT separate!
To my mind, the church, as I see the term used in the New Testament, means a local assembly under a local government of elders under the headship of Christ, independent but in a relationship of serving and sharing between sister congregations. This cannot be said of the nation in its unbelief, hence the obvious distinction. The body has its own autonomous government, and is not ‘under’ the authority of the religious leadership of the nation, except, of course, to honor all authority, both civil and religious, as scripturally appropriate.
For my view of the relation of the church to Israel, I see the regenerate believer in Christ as necessarily “in Israel,” since it seems to me a theological axiom that one cannot be ‘in Christ’ and not also be ‘in Israel’. To be ‘in Christ’ is to be ‘in Israel’ and heirs with all the saints of the commonwealth of Israel’s unique covenant status and everlasting election. The election is with no other nation! The claim of Christ’s body to be the election of Israel is because they are in the elect One who is quintessential Israel (Isa 49:3-4). To be in Him is to be in Israel. It is to belong most particularly to that living remnant that exists within the prodigal and spiritually dead nation that is awaiting the appointed day of birth and resurrection, as best compared to the sovereign arrest of Saul on the road to Damascus (Gal 1:15-16 with Ps 102:13).
Paul says, “we are the circumcision” and he was writing to Gentiles. He speaks of the “Israel of God” in Gal 6:16, though some will insist that he is only speaking this way of regenerate Jews in distinction from those who are not (Ro 9:6). But I am of the view that Paul is applying this term to believing gentiles in Christ. In Ro 2, Paul most apparently applies the term, ‘Jew’, to faithful gentiles who show the works of the law in their hearts apart from the law as written code. But here too, some will say that Paul means only to distinguish between Jews who are true to the covenant by regeneration from those who are not. I believe he is applying the term to regenerate gentiles who show the law written in their hearts. Elsewhere, that is language for the new nature.
Though the latter two examples are disputed, no one will deny that Paul can speak in Phil 3:3 of gentile believers as the true circumcision who worship God in the Spirit and put no confidence in the flesh. This being undeniable, how can it be ruled out that Paul is not doing the same in the other two, less certain passages? Besides, Jesus had already spoken of one fold and one Shepherd and the many that would be gathered from the east and west into a new, or better, renewed nation that would bring forth the fruits of the kingdom (Mt 21:43). Who or what is this nation to whom the kingdom is given? When is the kingdom given?
Some believe Jesus is speaking of the Israel of the millennial future. I don’t think so. I believe the nation in view is the holy nation of which Peter spoke (1Pet 2:9), which he manifestly applies to the present household of God, the church, the pillar and ground of truth (1Tim 3:15). Contrary to the opinion of replacement theologians, this provisional interim, mystery form of the kingdom does nothing at all to change, let alone cancel any of the promises that remain to be fulfilled to post-tribulational Israel. Furthermore, the Philippians 3:3 passage echoes strongly Jesus’ statement to the woman of Samaria when He looks ahead to those from other nations who would worship God in spirit and in truth. It seems to me that such a ‘nation’ in this sense, could rightly be called, ‘the Israel of God’ bringing forth the fruits that fruits of the kingdom in the new way that Jesus spoke of the kingdom as present already.
I have never believed the church started at Pentecost or that this was the first time the Spirit indwelt the saints, as falsely taught by modern dispensationalism. The new birth is nothing new, as Jesus reprimands Nicodemus for not making the connection that as the nation could not enter the kingdom apart from a spiritual birth (Isa 66:8 et al), it cannot be different for the individual. Hence, Nicodemus, as a teacher in Israel, should have known that unless an individual is born of the Spirit and of the water (the metaphor for spiritual cleansing and renewal in Eze 36), that person, no less than the nation, cannot see the kingdom of God.
So while the body of Christ has been more perfectly ‘revealed’ as to its nature, as the result of the new revelation of the mystery of Christ, it is no more new than Christ is new. The body that is now revealed, as purchased by Jesus as the Lamb slain before the foundation of the world, includes all the seed of the Spirit of all ages, and has a history that reaches back to righteous Abel and extends to the last person saved in the millennium.
When one is born of the Spirit, regardless of the age or dispensation, past or future, that person is indwelt by the Spirit of Christ, thus a member of His body, even if they were born of the Word and the Spirit in Old Testament times (1Pet 1:23), as Peter says the prophets (and we must infer all the living; Mt 22:32) were indwelt by none other than “the Spirit of Christ” (1Pet 1:11). To be alive by the Spirit is to be a child of God by reason of the divine nature, and this did not begin at Pentecost, and does not end at the rapture, as falsely taught by modern dispensationalism.
The idea that the saints of the tribulation, those who are born again after the tribulation has begun, do NOT belong to the body of Christ but to another, entirely separate people of God is an abominable theory that was unheard of till advanced by J.N. Darby in the mid 1800’s. It is a theory that has tranquilized the church, as you know. On the other hand, the other view that is most prominent in the modern church (which, of course, is never rightly identified as the living body of Christ) is the view that the church is the NEW Israel. The church has replaced Israel as the NEW people of God, the new spiritual nation, bringing forth the fruits of the kingdom is a favorite text (Mt 21:43). No future restoration of the literal nation of the Jews is in view. These are the two extremes that create the illusion of a choice, when there is no choice between equally false alternatives.
My concern is that reaction to these unscriptural extremes may go too far into a new extreme in which we completely jettison the word ‘church’ from our vocabulary as a legitimate referent to anything other than the false system that it presumably promotes. But I think the error derives, NOT so much from the word, but the false assumptions concerning its meaning. I think few informed scholars would question that the word has been misused but find the fault, not with the word itself, or even how it has been translated, but with the faulty theology that it has been misused to support and reinforce. Apart from the theological assumptions that I see as having little to do with the word itself, its meaning as originally intended by Jesus, Paul, Peter, and John is accessible to anyone with even the most basic use of a concordance and lexicon, or just comparing scripture with scripture, with the Spirit’s help, of course.
When we check its usage and basic meaning, we can see that the word, ‘church’ is only very rarely used to refer to the larger corporate body of Christ, as the corporate family of God in heaven and earth (e.g., Mt 16:18; Eph 3:10, 15; Col 1:18, 24; Heb 12:23). Otherwise, it is almost always used in connection with a local assembly of believers. The word itself, by itself, carries no particular religious sense at all. It just means an assembly, whether a mob is in view, as in Acts 19:32, 39, 41, or a distinctly local assembly of believers, as in the far greater instances of its use throughout the NT.
The Kahal (Hebrew transliteration), or congregation, translated ‘assembly’ in the Septuagint translation of the Hebrew Old Testament, was by no means a completely regenerate body (Acts 7:38), just as any local assembly since the cross may not be entirely regenerate. We might call this the ‘external’ church that, even when under scriptural church government, are not always all born again. Recognition of the predictability of this mixture, as anticipated in many of Jesus’ parables, prevents us from the habit of equating the outward assembly with the living body of Christ as known only perfectly to God (2Tim 2:19; 1Jn 2:19). This is well known but it contributes to the struggle to define the church in a way that does not separate it from the yet unbelieving but no less elect nation.
But this is not the case when we use the word, ‘church’ to refer to the body of Christ as a living organism, made up strictly of those who are alive to God by the Spirit. It is this assembly of the righteous that is vitally connected to Israel, and touched in all her tribulations on the way to her covenanted future. Like a Jeremiah in travail for the nation with whom God has bound His Name and Word, the living church of God should conceive of itself as internal entity within the nation, the remnant according to the election of grace, groaning in travail for the birth of the nation that the Word might be glorified in the coming of the kingdom to earth.
This election of grace is certainly NOT true of the outward assembly or ‘congregation’ of Israel, simply because not all, not even most of the congregation of Israel was ever saved at any time throughout the nation’s history. This is why the congregation of Old Testament Israel cannot be equated with the New Testament concept of the body of Christ. Though bound in covenant destiny and identity, the righteous remnant within the nation was always distinguished from the nation, though never conceived of independently from the nation. It is the same now. The true and living body of Christ is NOT the same as Israel! There is a distinction, of course; but distinction is not the same as independence and separation. What touches Israel touches those who are alive to the Spirit’s mind and purpose for Israel, her sufferings and her destiny, as bound together by covenant, even when the natural branches are insensible that they belong to a corporate election that commends them to both double judgment and double glory. The living branches of the gentiles are grafted in to become part of the tree of Israel. To be in the tree is to be ‘in Israel’. There’s no other place for the living to be! Those who live in the tree of Israel are inextricably bound by covenant to the natural branches that are temporarily cut off from the vital life and sap to which they must return, since their return is the ‘life from the dead’ for which the whole of creation is waiting.
The great mystery is how even those natural branches who are not yet alive are nonetheless reckoned as belonging to a corporate election that while guaranteeing eventual corporate salvation does NOT guarantee personal salvation apart from repentance and faith, but God will constrain their repentance at the appointed time (Ps 102:13). Like a corporate Jeremiah or Daniel, the church should conceive of itself in solidarity with the elect and eternally beloved nation, even in its momentary apostasy. The church is mid-wife to Israel’s redemption, prophesying, interceding, and travailing in hope till the whole nation be made alive, since only then can the covenant be fulfilled and the kingdom be established on earth.
The church should see itself as born in Zion (Ps 87:3-6; Gal 4:26), waiting in hope until the full coming in of ‘all Israel’ (the elect remnant) into the ‘everlasting righteousness’ of the New Covenant. Until then, whether spiritually alive or dead, whether for weal or woe, blessing or cursing, the Jew belongs to a corporate covenant election that is irrevocable, but for this to bring blessing rather than special cursing and discipline, faith must be born in the heart by the Spirit (Jn 6:63). This is NOT the case where apostate Christendom is concerned. God is not in covenant with that assembly! The New Covenant purchased in Christ’s blood has NOT reached its promised goal until the penitent Jewish survivors of the final tribulation are born ‘in one day’ to become the holy nation of millennial promise (Jer 30:7; Isa 66:8; Eze 39:22, 28-29; Dan 12:1; Zech 12:10; Mt 23:39; Acts 3:21; Ro 11:26; Rev 1:7 to mention only a few).
In contrast, apostate Christendom is NOT in covenant with God, except in the sense of greater responsibility due to greater and more stoutly resisted light. In contrast to apostate Christendom, Israel is in covenant for weal or for woe. Jews that come to faith in Christ are blessed with all the blessings of the New Covenant. Conversely, those who fail to turn remain no less in covenant but the covenant of works that bind them to the curses of the law, the end of which is hell. Hence, God is in covenant with Israel, despite her temporary unbelief. But He is NOT in covenant with apostate Christendom, the assembly of the ungodly, the false church.
Should we avoid the word, “church” in order to avoid the false associations that the word summons in the popular mind, as reinforcing the lie that the church is a separate institution that no longer has any direct bond to the covenant nation? The error is based on a great deal more than just misperceptions associated with how translators translate a Greek word. I submit that this tendency will not be corrected simply by clearing up the translation question and exposing the historic misuse of the word. The problem is far more theological than linguistic.
I have said that the church is “the true Israel of God within Israel” in continuity with the remnant according to the election of grace, inclusive of all saints, even those living before the cross. Others take the term, ‘the Israel of God’ in Gal 6:16 as reference to Jews that have been born again in contrast to those who are not the regenerate Israel of God in this sense. Even some scholars, mostly dispensational, take this view. They would not allow that term, ‘the Israel of God’ to be applied to what we call the church. But to say that gentile believers are never identified ‘as Israel’ would seem to contribute to the separation of the church and Israel, the very thing that they are trying to help us avoid.
If Paul does apply such terms to gentile believers, there is no such application to the external church as a visible institution, but only to the truly born again people of the Spirit, the living body of Christ. On the other hand, some may reasonably argue that whereas gentile believers are “in” Israel in the sense that they are grafted in among them (the natural branches), this does not mean that they become Israel. They contend that only Jews are ever called Israel, and when Paul is interested to distinguish the living from the dead, he proceeds to qualify that only regenerate Jews count as God’s true Israel.
It is here that I tend to disagree. If Paul can so undeniably call gentile believers ‘the circumcision’ in Phil 3:3, why should it be thought impossible that he call regenerate gentiles and Jews ‘the Israel of God’ in Gal 6:16 or Ro 2:26-29? But this point is perhaps not so crucial if we can agree that it is impossible that one who is ‘in Christ’ is necessarily also ‘in Israel’, and therefore bound to God’s covenant purpose for that nation’s present affliction and future millennial destiny. The Jewish Jesus is the gentile believer’s only claim to the promises made exclusively to Israel. His circumcision counts for their uncircumcision. His Jewish credentials as the ‘seed of David according to the flesh’ is counted over to them as His seed. His Jewish inheritance is theirs because they are in Him and that qualifies them for all that is promised to Israel, as all the promises are yea and amen in Him.
I can’t see how this is a problem. It seems self-evident. It so clearly follows, that if one is washed in the blood and born of the Spirit, how are they not then part of the body of Christ? We may be sure that the Spirit that will be poured out on the penitent survivors of Israel at the end of the tribulation is the same Spirit that baptized believers into the body of Christ at Pentecost and ever since. This means that post-tribulational Israel will be no less the body of Christ on earth in that day. The promised Holy Spirit will do for them what He does for believers today. He will baptize them into the one body. There is one body. Though the mystery is newly revealed, the body of Christ is not new. It did not begin at Pentecost and it does not end its tenure on earth at the rapture. The saved of Israel in that coming day, with all who come to faith from among the nations, will be no less the body of Christ on earth, though not yet glorified.
So much to sort through, I know, but that’s my view as it now stands.
In devoted friendship, Reggie
I am contemplating the church’s necessary awakening to the necessary birth of the millennial nation of the long resistant natural branches, that great ‘without which not’ of the kingdom come on earth. But without this awakening, how will the church know its role as prophet priest intercessor and mid-wife in travail, just as Paul understood that only through travail can Christ be formed in his erring Galatians (Gal 4:19). It is this principal of travail that has been all but lost to the church in its indispensable role and relation to the foretold conclusion of the age. Before it is waiting on the revelation of the Antichrist, the age is waiting on the church, and the church is waiting on God to crowd and constrain her to the appointed finish line, which is something far more than a sudden rapture.
Little considered, but essential to the promise is the relationship between the heavenly Zion and the earthly Zion. The two shall at length meet in glorious unity of spiritual birth and transformation of nature. A comparison of Isa 66:7-8 with Rev 12:1-14 makes us to understand two distinct travails of two distinct births of two distinct Zions, first the heavenly, then the earthly made heavenly through spiritual rebirth. The birth of the man-child is significantly BEFORE the tribulation, as the birth of the nation ‘in one day’ is significantly AFTER the tribulation (Zion’s travail). A careful comparison of Isa 66:7-8 with Rev 12:2-6 compels our recognition that while the birth of the man-child (divine offspring of the woman) takes place without the travail of the earthly Zion (i.e., the literal, unequaled, pre-day of the Lord tribulation), His birth does not come without travail. This is the pre-tribulational travail of the heavenly Zion of God (the heavenly woman).
It is a view that is to be argued more on the basis of spiritual principle than strict exegesis of just the immediate context. However, when these key texts are considered, not only in the light of their more immediate context but the principles enunciated elsewhere in scripture, these combine to argue for the fulfillment of a pattern that extends, not only to the Messiah as the personal seed of the woman, but to His seed, as the corporate seed of the woman, the godly remnant born of the Spirit of Christ. In this sense, the travail of the heavenly woman is not only Mary but the godly remnant, which in this age is identified with the body of Christ, the corporate seed of both Messiah and the heavenly woman. This is why we cannot restrict the birth and ascent of the man-child only to Mary and Jesus. There is something more cosmic and corporate in view that pertains to the coming of the kingdom on earth through a principle of spiritual travail that is born of faith and earnest longing. According to Paul’s cosmology of glory, when Jesus was taken up, we were taken up in Him. This is something utterly glorious that requires spiritual apprehension to begin to fully fathom or appreciate. As the Son of Man is in heaven, even while on earth (Jn 3:13), there is a profoundly real sense in which this is true of all His seed.
In Rev 12 we see that a great transition in heaven must take place in order for the final tribulation to come on earth that finishes the mystery of God (Rev 10:7). It cannot be missed that the revelation of the mystery of iniquity in the incarnation of Satan in the man of sin, for which the return of Christ awaits (2Thes 2:3-8; Rev 12:10-12), takes place at exactly the same time that Michael casts down Satan from heaven to begin the tribulation (Rev 12:12), obviously in the middle of the week. Though the text by itself does not require it, we can infer on the basis of the analogy of Dan 10 that Michael’s heavenly victory does not happen independently of the intercessory travail of the faithful, in notable analogy to Daniel’s self-abasement and deep intercession.
This leads to the further inference that the travail of the heavenly woman is not exhausted in Mary and Jesus, but forms a pattern that implies another great transition when the church will travail in like pattern to Daniel, so that Michael’s expulsion of Satan permits what Paul calls, ‘the mystery of iniquity’ (2Thes 2:7). We believe the mystery of iniquity is revealed when Satan takes up full and unhindered residence in the fallen and then revived body of the Antichrist. This cannot happen apart from Michael’s heavenly victory. We we believe Michael’s expulsion of Satan will not, cannot take place independently of the intercessory travail of the church. But such travail of love and holy groaning, as represented in Daniel and Paul for the longed for necessity of the covenant redemption of Israel, is not likely to issue from a church that has little consciousness of what must necessarily precede and attend the coming of the kingdom. Otherwise, we would know that apart from the regeneration of the long estranged prodigal nation, there can be no return of Christ and resurrection of the church, no resurrection of Israel, no resurrection of the church, and really, no God, since it His unbreakable Word that has bound the two inextricably together.
Christ doesn’t just appear. His return is dependent on these necessary preceding events.The Word of God stands or falls together and Satan knows it. That’s why his primary focus is to exterminate, not only the church as appointed to an heavenly, and, to mortal eyes, invisible destiny of rule over the millennial earth, but particularly the Jew who is appointed to national re-birth and millennial headship over the nations in public vindication of God’s corporate election of Jacob (Ro 9:11). Knowing this destiny as essential to the fulfillment of the Word, Satan mounts an all out assault on the natural seed of the woman when he sees his time as short, as now cast down by Michael in the middle of the week. It is only as he “sees” that the earth has helped the woman (by reason of the saints in the earth who foresaw the evil) that he turns his rage on the church, the spiritual seed of the woman. Satan’s logic is clear: If the natural branches survive to become an holy nation at the end of the tribulation, his tenure over the nations is over and his eternal damnation sealed.
But most of Christendom is blissfully unaware that such things are even at stake. Thus, to a very large extent, they are ignorant of the cosmic war that has raged, with its special focus on the Jew and the little hill of Zion ever since God declared the decree (Ps 2). It’s final focus will surface and concentrate and be required of all nations in what Isaiah calls, ‘the controversy of Zion’ (Isa 34:8). How can a church that is out of touch with the elect objects of this ‘everlasting hatred’ pray intelligently, let alone travail, for a kingdom that must come on earth but can only come through much tribulation?
When will the church see, or even care that apart from the redemption and return of the natural branches at the appointed day of the Deliverer’s return (Mt 23:39; Acts 3:21; Ro 11:26; Rev 1:7), there can be no kingdom on earth? This omission is much more costly than we tend to conceive, since the day of the Lord, which is now revealed as the return of Jesus, is everywhere depicted as inseparable from the restoration of the prodigal nation, whose return will be life from the dead. In scriptural revelation, God has bound up our resurrection with theirs (Ro 11:15), as the elect object of divine longing and open vindication of the everlasting covenant, “My covenant with THEM! (Ro 11:27).
The absence of this from the church’s consciousness, let alone expectation and hope, let alone intercessory travail, is nothing short of an abomination of utter detachment from, not only the plan, but the pain of God’s heart for Zion, as the great test and proof that puts finally to rest Satan’s original question, “Has God really said?” But the secure evangelical asks only this: “If one has salvation in Jesus, then how is Israel’s redemption and return to the Land necessary for the church’s hope?” This is what happens when men separate what God has united. This is the mentality that has won the day throughout most all of evangelicalism. It’s a light, ‘que sera sera’ attitude towards any of the controversial ‘details’ of prophecy. But here’s the maxim that is missing from the church’s consciousness and responsibility: There cannot be a birth without travail. But where does the travail come from? Does God travail in Himself alone? Is it only creation that shares in His travail? Is the travail of the heavenly woman accomplished in Mary and Jesus without further reiteration in the heavenly woman, i.e., the godly remnant, which is the church of God? Indeed, heavenly woman is comprised of the people of the Spirit who show themselves in union with Spirit, who travail till Christ be formed most particularly in that people whose long awaited salvation will make Jerusalem a praise in all the earth. This does not happen without the church as witness and intercessory mid-wife. It brings the question, what is the church?
In all of scripture, God does nothing but that He first reveals His secret to His servants the prophets (Amos 3:7). A prophet is one who is heavy with the burden of the Lord, with the vision of the glory of God. Ideally, just as the church is called to a corporate servant, she is called to be a corporate prophet to the nations. But a church that doesn’t know, or is out of touch, with the truth can hardly travail in unison with the Spirit of truth. So for what does the age wait? It waits for the travail of Zion, but not only the travail (final tribulation) of the earthly Jerusalem but the travail of the heavenly Zion, the mother of us all, as the pillar and ground of the truth.
Because the church, by very definition, is the pillar and ground of the truth, we can say that where the church is, there is the truth. Conversely, where the truth is not, there the church is not. And what is a prophet? A prophet is a friend of God, one in whom God is pleased to confide the secrets of His heart and mind (Jn 15:15; 1Cor 2:14). “Shall I hide from Abraham the thing which I do?” (Gen 18:17). “But you, Israel, are My servant, Jacob whom I have chosen, the seed of Abraham My FRIEND” (Isa 41:19). A prophet may not speak well, may not speak everything, is certainly not the whole body, but simply one who has been sent to declare the truth by the Spirit of truth. “Oh, that all the Lord’s people were prophets and that He would put His Spirit upon them!” (Num 11:29). If the church is anything, it is prophetic! It is the organism of the Spirit incarnate in jars of clay. If the testimony of Jesus is the Spirit of prophecy, then to be prophetic means much more than someone who is occupied with unfulfilled future events; it is about the very nature of seeing, and implies a deep saturation in the covenant as governing structure to all the principles, prophetic mysteries, and goals of God.
Whatever a prophet is or isn’t, there can be no change to God’s own fixed rule that He will surely NOT do anything until He has first confided His secret (hidden purpose) to His friends. That is a rule that does not change with times and dispensations. One might say that He has done this once and for all in the revelation of the mystery to His first century apostles and prophets, and that would be, in one sense, correct. But it also means that there will be a faithful witness to that revelation in all the earth at the time of the end, sufficient to make all accountable for what the Lord is about to do in that day, and this extends to the vital particulars of prophetic prediction.
As much as the warning of Ro 11:25 has had its dread fulfillment in the false presumptions of a triumphal, often anti-Semitic Christendom, we may also rest assured that a faithful witness to the true implications of Ro 11:25 will be sounded far and wide throughout all nations before the end can come. This is because it is always the Lord’s way to warn very clearly before His final judgments fall, particularly the judgments that conclude the age. Not only the what but the why of those judgments must be in open declaration and powerful evidence before the final strokes of judgment will fall. The world will be unwary but NOT unwarned.
So the church will stand forth in its ordained fullness and prove faithful to the end (Dan 11:32-33; Rev 12:11). The world will be without excuse. Because God is faithful, there will be a faithful witness and the church, as pillar and ground of the truth, will be that faithful witness. So while the age waits for the church to be the church, the church waits for God to constrain her to an pre-ordained maturity that makes her a fit mid-wife for the final travail of Zion, as those who understand what it will take for the kingdom to come on earth. As another would take Peter to a place he would not naturally have chosen, just so will the Lord take His church to its own cross, as we are sure that the final witness to Israel will not be entrusted to a church that has not first passed through the cross. This divine jealousy to reveal the Son in jars of clay is why judgment MUST first begin at the house of God. God has undertaken to see that quite apart from her own power, the church will be the church for such a time as this, even when, and especially when, such fulfillment is so manifestly against all odds, to the end that no flesh might glory.
This means that so far from the church being conveniently absent, there is no other appointed vessel by whom the witness to Israel and the nations can be fulfilled. This tells us that even before the Antichrist, the age is waiting for the church to be the church. The coming forth of the Antichrist is NOT the cause but the result of church’s maturity (pregnancy unto travail and birthing). As we have often made the case, Jesus cannot return until the mystery of iniquity is first revealed in its final embodiment in the man of sin (2Thes 2:3-8). And this cannot take place apart from Michael’s heavenly victory that casts down Satan to begin the tribulation that finishes the mystery of God (Rev 10:7; 12:7-14). In notable analogy to Michael’s intervention on Daniel’s behalf in Dan ch 10, we believe Michael’s engagement and victory over Satan in the middle of the week will NOT be apart from a similar intercessory travail on the part of the believing remnant who know and understand the truth (Dan 9:25; 11:33). For reasons everywhere witnessed in scripture, I cannot conceive that this great transition can take place independently of the role of the church as prophetic intercessor. How will God get us there, to such an urgency of travail for Israel and the kingdom? I believe the answer lies, in part, in the strategic use that God intends to make of the first half of Daniel’s final week and the events that will then be in clearest evidence to “those who understand among the people” (Dan 11:33).
In this sense, the end of the age is waiting on a church that has come to travail for a kingdom that they know must come through great tribulation. They will also know that the kingdom cannot until Satan is first cast down. The greatest woe for the earth will mean greatest rejoicing in heaven. This is because it is only with Satan’s expulsion that the mystery of iniquity can be revealed in the Antichrist. This is that one great event that must take place for Christ to return (2Thes 2:1-8; Rev 12:7-14). For this cause, it is cause for great rejoicing in heaven, since with Satan’s removal from his place in heaven as accuser, not only is the mystery of iniquity revealed, but the church has come into an unhindered apprehension of her place in heaven with the ascended Lord of Glory, even while she suffers the rage of Antichrist on earth. With Satan’s removal, the kingdom at once comes with power. This suggests a form of kingdom power that precedes the actual return 3 1/2 years after Satan has been thrust down. This appears to be the release and anointing that comes to a church who loves not its life unto the death (Rev 12:11).
Paradoxically, the casting down of Satan will also mean the church’s finest hour, at least as not seen since the apostolic period, as the gospel goes out in final kingdom power to all nations, reaping a harvest that no man can number. With the removal of the accuser, there is evidently a greater grasp and appropriation of the gospel that enables great power and anointing on those who will do great exploits. This suggest that the power that comes on the two witnesses at the start of the tribulation comes, in some measure, on a far greater number. It is now that the church will face the ultimate and final expression of the mystery of iniquity in the incarnation of Satan in the man of sin (“all power”; 2Thes 2:9). This is directed, not at first on the church (‘the remnant of her seed that keep the commandments of Jesus’), but most especially and significantly against Jerusalem and the Jews in particular. It is the climactic end of the ‘everlasting hatred’, as Satan’s aim has always been to stop the seed and so make void the Word of God that threatens his eternal destruction (Isa 14:13; Eze 25:15; 28:17-19, 25-26; 35:5; Dan 11:28, 32).
I like to say, ‘when the church will travail, Michael will prevail!’ Then and only then will the mystery of iniquity be revealed SO THAT the mystery of God can be finished (Rev 10:7). This is not only because Jesus has returned; it is also because His return will mean that the nation of covenant promise has been born in one day, the day of the Lord, the day His praise fills the earth as His feet touches down on the cosmically contested hill of Zion. So we believe and so we speak.