Shut Up to the God Who Raises the Dead

As it is written, I have made you a father of many nations… before Him whom he believed, even God, who quickens the dead, and calls those things which be not as though they were. Who against all hope believed in hope…

I awoke this morning pondering this question: “What is required for the kingdom of God to come on earth?” How does a nation, prone always to backslide come at last, not only prolong their days in the Land, but to inherit it forever, in everlasting, indestructible peace? This is the dilemma faced by Moses and the prophets. This thought may be nothing new to many, but my invitation is to consider its implications for the bearing it should have on the church’s understanding of New Covenant righteousness, as it will be true in that coming day of an entirely saved Jewish nation after their final and greatest suffering, called “the time of Jacob’s trouble” (Jer 30:7; Dan 12:1; Joel 2:1-2; Mt 24:21).

Throughout the vicissitudes of Israel’s history — before apostasy had reached the point of no return — the prophets would hold out the hope that disaster could be averted by repentance and return. But this was never looked upon as more than a temporary fix.

Repentance and reform might indeed forestall disaster and constitute a ‘lengthening’ of the nation’s temporal tranquility (Dan 4:27), but such could never be sufficient to secure lasting peace in the Land, nor the coming of the kingdom on earth. For this, the hope was for the ‘bringing in’ of an ‘everlasting righteousness’ (Dan 9:24) that would secure everlasting peace, not only to a remnant, but to the whole of the nation, who would be preserved in this righteousness forever.

“From that day and forward,” all Israel will know the Lord throughout all their generations, so that never again will a Jew say to his neighbor, “know the Lord; for they will all know Me from the least to the greatest” (Jer 31:34. See also, Isa 4:3; 45:17, 25; 54:13; 59:21; 60:21; 66:22; Eze 20:40; 39:22; Zeph 3:13; et al). Moreover, this righteousness would not fade nor fail, but continue unabated, and without lapse ‘unto children’s children’ ( (Isa 54:13; 59:21; Eze 37:25).

Such an extravagant and unimaginable circumstance would not be possible except that the righteousness that the will justify all the seed of Israel (Isa 45:25) is not their own, but God’s alone (Isa 54:17). Because the righteousness of God is indestructible, so will be their peace, “world without end” (Isa 45:17). No weapon formed against them can prosper and no foe prevail (Isa 54:14-15, 17; with Rev 20:9)

Many think such an extravagant promise can only be fulfilled in heaven. Such unassailable righteousness and peace on this earth sounds preposterous. Add to this the even more inconceivable evidence of scripture that such completely uniform salvation is promised to no other nation. Rather than conceive the inconceivable, the natural recourse is to spiritualize these otherwise plain scriptures and to detach them from the people and Land of Israel.

But for the promise to be established, as literally described and understood by the prophets, it shuts us up to the faith of Abraham in the God who raises the dead. This is so much more than salvation of a goodly number of Jews at the end of the age; it is the sudden resurrection and birth of a nation ‘at once’, in ‘one day’ (Isa 66:8; Zech 3:9; Eze 39:22). This is the divine logic of how a people who will never come, must be forcibly brought back ‘into the bond of the covenant’. “As I live, saith the Lord GOD, surely with a mighty hand, and with a stretched out arm, and with fury poured out, will I rule over you: And I will bring you out from the people, and will gather you out of the countries wherein ye are scattered, with a mighty hand, and with a stretched out arm, and with fury poured out. And I will cause you to pass under the rod, and I will bring you into the bond of the covenant” (Eze 20:34-35, 37)

A remnant is not sufficient:

The salvation of ‘all Israel’ means there will no longer be a remnant of saved Jews in the midst of a largely unsaved nation. This has always been the case but here is why it cannot always be so, and why the prophets all looked ahead to the great transition of the day of the Lord:

History is witness that a mere remnant was never enough to keep the nation from further lapse and repeated exile. Regardless of temporary peace or fleeting revivals, the prophets well understood that the nature of human nature would always tend towards backsliding, thus my term, ‘prophetic pessimism’. As Jesus knew what was ‘in man’, so did the prophets (Jn 2:25 with Jer 10:23; 13:23; 17:9 et al). Thus my habit of saying, If history teaches anything, it is that if God were waiting on Israel, He’d be waiting forever.

In despair that the nation could ever sufficiently cooperate with God’s requirement for holiness to sustain themselves in the Land, particularly in the kind of permanence required to fulfill the promise, the prophets understood that Israel was being ‘shut up’ to the necessity of a miracle of divine intervention. For this cause, they would look on ahead to a time of radical, apocalyptic in-breaking of deepest shaking of judgment, resurrection power and new creation. They would call this time, ‘the day of the Lord’.

“When He sees that their power is gone …” (Lev 26:19; Deut 32:36 with Dan 12:7).

This principle of resurrection out of death tells us about the nature of power itself. The power of the veil lies in power itself, which is to say that intractable human tendency to put trust in any other power (Jer 17:5), which is quintessential idolatry. This innate confidence in the flesh is what is broken for the believer in the day of new birth and waits to be broken for all the surviving remnant of Israel in the coming day of the Lord. Confidence in the flesh is humanism, whether secular or religious. Thus, from the beginning, God has been at war with humanism, which is pride.

As Paul would show how the law works to ‘shut up’ (straighten, crowd) the believer to the necessity a transforming revelation (Gal 3:23), because the law was given to take away our power and to straighten us to Christ. By the same rule, Israel is raised ‘at the end of their power’. This is a very revealing principle that lies at the heart of what Paul will call, ‘the wisdom of the cross’. It is why Paul, and by the same rule, every believer, is always delivered over unto death for Jesus’ sake, that the life of Jesus also might be manifest in our mortal flesh (2Cor 4:11). Here is answer for the church of today, because where there is not this death, there cannot be this life. We could say much on this but suffice it to say, here is the anemia of the modern church. It is cross avoidance!

Through much tribulation (Acts 14:22), even the great tribulation, the veil that covers the nations is destroyed (Isa 25:7). In that day, at the end of strength, Israel will see what Job saw so clearly through his suffering, which is often the place the veil gives way, as false reliance is shattered (Dan 12:7). It’s the place of truest seeing, perhaps the only place of the kind of seeing that truly transforms and quickens the divine nature. Though preceded by a process, Israel’s transformation is not a process; it comes ‘at once’, in ‘one day’ (Isa 66:8; Zech 3:9; 12:10; Mt 23:39; Ro 11:26; Rev 1:7). It comes “when He sees their power is gone.” How instructive this is for a triumphant, complacent, Laodicean church! “I counsel you to buy of Me gold refined in the fire.” Where else did we expect?

Since the believer’s new birth is a personal application of this principle in obvious analogy to the eschatological resurrection / birth of Israel, it raises the question: How many have been truly born again by a removal of the veil over the heart (again in analogy to Israel) who have not first had their own power broken? Until we have despaired through the law (the quickened law) of any hope in ourselves (Isa 57:10), have we really come through to real resurrection life? If coming to such an end of their power is required for Israel, what is required for the church?

According to Acts 14:22, what is true of Israel and the coming of the kingdom, is no less true of every believer. Thus the faith of Israel’s future is based in pattern and principle on the faith of her beginnings. As Sarah would be visited at the “set time” (Gen 17:21), and as Paul was arrested on the road to Damascus “when it pleased God … to reveal …,” just so, will He “arise, and have mercy upon Zion: for the time to favor her, yea, the ‘set time’, is come” (Ps 102:13). Until resurrection, we are shut up to the power and initiative of the God who raises the dead.

As God, in a perfectly timed sovereignty (Gal 1:15), arrested Paul on the road to Damascus, and transformed this self assured persecutor into the apostle to the nations, just so will He stop a nation in its tracks, and bring them all the way down, that He might bring them all the way up in the power of the resurrection by the sudden, transforming revelation of the gospel. That is why the natural man cannot really ‘get it’, at least not unto true transformation. It is because he is still trusting something in himself. He has yet to come to the end of his power.

In any view of scripture that has not been spiritualized beyond recognition, God has bound up His Name, His oath, yea, the very return of Jesus with whether He can, against all odds, bring in the very nation that He first brought out of Egypt, not momentarily, not provisionally, not as under probation till another cycle of judgment, but finally and forever!

What will it take?

What will it take? It will take resurrection that comes at the end of power. It will take the quickening of a transforming revelation. This is why the saving revelation of Christ comes, not only at the end of power; it comes at the end of the law. Christ is revealed at the end of the law, because true revelation comes at the end of strength, and the law was given to take away our strength, which is the strength of veil to hide the gospel. This is why Paul could say, “the strength of sin is the law” (1Cor 15:56), because to trust in the holy commandment as a means of life is nothing else than trusting in ourselves. It is fatal confidence in the flesh. In this sense, the strength of sin is strength, our strength. This principle of resurrection faith is as true for the church now, as it will be true for Israel in that day.

The answer to the often asked question, ‘what will it take’ for the church? is shown us in the eschatology of Israel. As surely as the church is indeed the ‘pillar and ground of truth’; as surely as she is built on the rock of divine revelation; and if “unto Him be glory in the church …, world without end …,” then we may be sure that God will not suffer this age to conclude in a lackluster, ‘Laodicean fizzle’. No! Before He will have His glory in “Israel My glory,” He will have it no less in the church as demonstration and power, all the more now, in this present evil age where the battle rages. He will be no less vindicated in the church in this age, as He will be vindicated in Israel in the age to come. Besides, Israel, together with all who will be called and joined to her in that day, will be no less the body of Christ on earth for the purposes of God for that time.

Why a millennium?

It is not enough that God have an elect in this age in partial and somewhat hidden fulfillment of the promise made to the fathers. No, His covenanted promise must be openly and literally vindicated on this earth. He is jealous for this, as nothing else can so fully show His power and glory in frail jars of clay, in the very presence of His enemies. He is a God of incarnation and embodiment and demonstration. He has a point to prove, not only to His people and the nations, but to the rebellious powers.

By bringing in, finally and forever, “not another people” (Dan 2:44), but the very people He first brought out, THIS will bring the rest to Jerusalem and to the nations for which the age, and God Himself has waited and commanded the unceasing prayers of His saints. When this outrageous impossibility will be ‘done’ (Eze 39:8 with Rev 16:17), the day breaks for Israel. As He said in reply to Moses’ intercessory protest, when THIS will be accomplished, the whole earth will be filled with His glory. “But as truly as I live, all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the Lord!” (Num 14:21). Truly, Israel is God’s own, self-appointed ‘mission impossible’. Through them, grace is put on display to destroy all boasting.

Their resurrection from their helpless condition will be God’s most open demonstration and public vindication of His everlasting, covenant Word. It will confound and silence, as nothing has ever silenced, the original question: “Hath God really said?”

For this very cause, there must be a millennium of open demonstration and manifest divine embodiment BEFORE the final perfection of new heavens and earth. This must be accomplished here on this earth, not off in an invisible, perfected realm that is outside and beyond the test of time, but here, while yet in a natural bodies of frailty and imperfection, the Jewish race will be preserved on this earth for a thousand years in a blessed state of brokenness and holy weakness (Zeph 3:12-13). Truly, this will be a table spread in the presence of the enemy that has been bound to look on helplessly for a thousand years of open vindication of the Word of God.

True, Satan will be bound for a thousand years, and impotent to deceive the nations, as in times past, but this does not mean the righteous of Israel will not continue to war against the flesh. We know this, because chastisement continues to be threatened, even in the millennium, as there are highly descript provisions for continual cleansing and renewal in the kingdom age, but never is God’s covenant kindness completely removed them, because they are the true, spiritual, as well as natural seed of David’s greater son (2Sam 7:10, 14-15; Ps 89:22, 28-37; with Isa 55:3; Amos 9:15; Ro 8:28-39). They shall NEVER AGAIN depart (Isa 54:10; 59:21; Jer 32:40).

This raises the question: With it understood that redeemed Israel will be dwelling in the Land in mortal bodies, and given the notorious nature of the flesh to subvert even the most promising beginnings, how can such permanence be possible? Only by an abiding continuance in righteousness, not only of the few, but of ‘all Israel’ (the nation as a whole), can abiding peace in the Land be possible to a people who are yet in the frailty of their natural bodies, having children and building houses, as specified in many scriptures.

We really must take in and reflect deeply on the implications of what the scripture here implies. How is this possible? This could never be the case so long as only a remnant was righteous, as seen when the righteous would endure captivity along with the rebellious.

Consider that even during national revivals, when the righteous remnant would swell greatly, bringing great blessing upon the nation, and during the great reforms that followed their return from Babylon, the prophets living after the captivity would continue to look on ahead to the inevitable drift towards backsliding that would not be finally and permanently cured until the great day of the Lord and the coming in of the everlasting righteousness.

Not only does Israel start out in New Covenant righteousness; they continue in it forever. When we see the righteousness by which Israel will be kept a thousand years, can it be any other than the righteousness that keeps the believer now? (Ps 121:3-8). This says much about the kind of righteousness that is promised in Christ, as there is no other kind. His righteousness is the everlasting righteousness of millennial promise that all Israel will enter into after Jacob’s trouble (Jer 30-32). Is this not that millennial rest of ‘full assurance’ that is even now available to the believer who labors to enter into His rest? “And His rest shall be glorious!” (Isa 11:10). It is glorious now.

This righteousness is necessarily an apocalyptic (‘revealed’) righteousness (Ro 1:17). When Israel sees Him whom they pierced, they are seeing much more than Jesus’ glorified body; they are seeing the gospel by the Spirit, and behold the change that follows!

Such revelation necessarily transforms. It also necessarily produces after its own kind in some real measure (Mk 4:8). According to 2Cor 3:18, it is impossible to ‘see’ in this way and NOT be changed. This brings the question: Have we received the gospel, not only ‘as’ revelation, but ‘by’ the Spirit of revelation?

When Jesus said, “upon this rock I will build my church,” He wasn’t just speaking of Peter’s accurate confession. He was speaking of the great divide between the living and the dead. He was speaking of the way He must be known, not by mere teaching, but by revelation that flesh and blood is helpless to convey (Mt 16:17 with Gal 1:11).

Scripturally, the gospel forbids us to put too great a divide between the power and glory that will come to Israel after the tribulation and the power that has come, and is now available to the church, provided the essential conditions and dynamics are the same. This is why Paul could say in Hebrews that the powers of ‘the age to come’ can already be tasted, as the power of the kingdom shows itself now in mighty signs and wonders, even in its present form as a mystery (Heb 6:5; Mt 23:13; Mk 4:11; 9:1; 12:34; Lk 11:20).

In that day, the veil that covers the nations will be destroyed (Isa 25:7), as the mystery of God is finished at the seventh trumpet (Rev 10:7). Because of this, Israel will show forth openly what is no less true of His saints in this age, only in this age, there is the mixture of the tares and wheat in the visible, deeply beset and embattled church of God while Satan has not yet been bound.

Yet, the everlasting righteousness that will secure permanent peace for Israel at the end of Daniel’s 70th week has already come in for church with the cutting off of the Messiah at the end of the 69th week. The sealed vision that will not be unsealed for Israel until the end of the 70th week, has been revealed to the remnant (the ‘maskilim’ of Dan 11:32-35; 12:3, 10) who became the pillars of the fledgling assembly of Messiah. With the descent of the Spirit at Pentecost, not only did power come on the gathered assembly of disciples; the mystery of the gospel that was concealed in the writings of the prophets was revealed for the first time (Ro 16:25-26; 1Pet 1:11-12).

With the revelation of the gospel, the cornerstone of the whole divine edifice has been revealed as the glorious ground and basis of the everlasting covenant established in the Redeemer’s blood. In that day, when the surviving remnant of Israel will look upon Him, as the Spirit of grace and supplication is poured out (Zech 12:10), it is this gospel that they will immediately see to their lasting change and everlasting continuance in the Land. How astonishing! How glorious! How contrary to everything known or ever seen or imagined! And this is to be on this earth? Can it be? This is the faith of Abraham, who ‘against hope believed in hope’ that before the Word of God could fail, the very dead would rise (Heb 11:19).

If this is the righteousness that will be theirs in that day. If this is the covenant into which we have gained advance entrance through Messiah’s blood. If the power of continuance and the blessing of peace is based on this righteousness that is not their own but God’s own, what are the implications for the church of the present age? How far have we understood this righteousness? Have we laid hold of what will so gloriously sustain and set Israel apart for a thousand years?

Although every Jew in the Land will be fully alive to God; they will not be perfect. A considerable number of scriptures show their continued battle with personal weakness and sin and regular need of cleansing. No less then than now, their faith will be tested and proven whether it is ‘born of God’. They will have to overcome the power of the flesh, but they surely will overcome, because their faith will be ‘born of God’ and such faith ‘must’ overcome, precisely because it is born of God (1Jn 3:9; 5:4-5, 18). So now this question:

As surely as there is only one everlasting righteousness, then so far as one is truly ‘in Christ’, they are complete in Him (Col 2:10). They are a new creation right now, and not simply on the way to becoming one. We see that this life is claimed by many but what we see does not come up to the standard God gave us in the book of Acts. Why? What went wrong? Why did the glory fade? If we have the life, where is the power of the life? We see it at Pentecost. We see it at the return of Christ. We also see it in mighty exploits and anointing from the midpoint of Daniel’s 70th week and forward (Dan 11:31-33; Rev 11:3; 12:11 with Isa 40:29). Why then aren’t we seeing more of this power now?

I’ve already written much more than I set out, so I must cut this painfully short, but I believe the answer lies in what has been suggested. It is the issue of the Spirit. Of course, that is true, but the issue of the Spirit is the issue of the veil that receives its power to veil, to rob, and to hinder through the deceitful power of the flesh. It is thus, most ultimately, the issue of brokenness, as Watchman Nee develops in his classic, “The Release of the Spirit.”

The gospel may be ever so well taught and even substantially understood but it can only be “known” (in the biblical sense of that word) by the Spirit. When we survey the transitional events of the first century, with other great epoch moments throughout the OT, and compare these with the seismic transition that takes place in the middle of Daniel’s 70th week, we can begin to see the conditions and dynamics that are commonly at work. The setting is invariably one of crisis.

My beloved brother, Art Katz, used to turn Lord Acton’s famous quote, “power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely” into “crisis reveals and ultimate crises reveals ultimately.” Our apocalyptic perspective demands a theology of crisis. What will take place in the middle of Daniel’s final week is simply a much deeper, corporate experience and apprehension of nothing else or other than the gospel, the old, old story, apprehended and appropriated as never before. Why? Because the urgency of crisis that will straighten the church to holy weakness and the brokenness of the quickened Word. For Israel, this kind of willing, total surrender comes, not in the time of their choosing, but “in the day of His power” (Psa 110:3). It will be no less so for the church. We will be straightened to resurrection life and power for the final witness. As Jesus said to Peter, “when you were younger, you girded yourself and walked where you wished; but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will gird you and carry you where you do not wish.”

There is a sense in which revival waits on something that is required of the church. That is ever true, though God is the author and initiator of all that will stand and abide. But there is another sense, equally true, in which the church is ‘shut up’, as it were, to the initiative and orchestration of God. In this sense, the church is waiting on God who has ordained in their due season the necessary constraints and inducements that no amount of will or desire can ever bring about. There is a sense that flesh and sin is always to blame for what is not, while, paradoxically, only grace and nothing of man is to credit for what comes forth that counts with God.

In short, God will not leave His church to its own best intentions. We may be sure that the will is already very much present with the true bride, but ‘how to perform’ what is in her heart waits on God to supply the constraints and inducements that will get her from here to there, to the confounding and shame of every proud, legalistic, accusing spirit of denial. We are His handiwork. It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves …” (Ps 100:3), to the end that no flesh can glory.

Yours in the Beloved, Reggie

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Understanding God’s Purposes with Israel (with Joel Richardson) – [VIDEO]

The Underground Episode 44: Understanding God's Purposes With Israel with Reggie Kelly from Joel Richardson on Vimeo.

Posted in The Mystery of Israel, The Mystery of the Gospel, Video | Comments Off on Understanding God’s Purposes with Israel (with Joel Richardson) – [VIDEO]

More Thoughts on the Restrainer

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

Posted in The Day of the Lord, Thessalonians | 1 Comment

Thoughts on the Timing of the Lord’s Return (with Joel Richardson) – [VIDEO]

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.

The Underground Episode 43: Discussing Premillennialism with Reggie Kelly from Joel Richardson on Vimeo.

Posted in Amillennialism, The Millennium, Video | Comments Off on Thoughts on the Timing of the Lord’s Return (with Joel Richardson) – [VIDEO]

Israel, the Church and the One New Man

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

Posted in The Body of Christ, The Mystery of Israel | Comments Off on Israel, the Church and the One New Man