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Weekly fellowship over the Word with the GFW crew on the ‘God’s Foretold Work’ YouTube Channel. We go LIVE on most Saturday nights at 7PM EST to explore the “at hand” and “not yet” nature of the Kingdom of God as it relates to the mystery of Israel and the Church.
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In order for our view of the two days to be vindicated, we would have to see the signs that precede the principal sign that Jesus gives, all within a very short period of time. By understanding this particular, centermost event, all other principal events of the end are aligned and set in order.
I am speaking of the “abomination of desolation”. This is the event that Jesus directs His disciples to “read and understand” (Mt 24:15). Jesus well knew that by obedience to His solemn command to identify and understand this event, it would become possible for His sheep to recognize a number of other preliminary signs that must precede and lead up to the abomination of desolation (Mt 24:15 with Dan 8:11-14; 9:27; 11:31: 12:11).
It is these well defined events, one that is particularly unmistakable, that will alert, awaken, and mobilize the saints for their finest hour of witness and triumph over Satan and the man of lawlessness. There is a divine strategy that God has invested in making the approximate time of His coming unmistakably clear to His saints when these key, preliminary signs will be in clear, unmistakable fulfillment.
But I don’t want to begin my answer by simply laying out the order of events leading to Christ’s return. We have done that often elsewhere. Instead, I want to point out the interpretive key that is essential to support and defend our view of the end from all other competing interpretations, both now and across the annals of church history.
It is crucial that this be in the hands and understanding of God’s people for the sake of the many that will be called upon to give an answer, as we expect that the manifest fulfillment of the prophecies on the open stage of history will prove the greatest evangelistic tool since the days of the early church (Dan 11:32-33; 12:3; Rev 7:9, 13-14).
This critical key of interpretation is found in the most unexpected place. By God’s design, the event that so clearly and indisputably holds all else in proper alignment is also the most misunderstood and commonly dismissed. I speak of the indispensable sign of the sacrifice.
I want to explain why this sign is such a gift to the body of Christ. It is not only an indispensable bulwark of defense against the great deception that will so profoundly test and expose the heart (Mk 13:23), but also the priceless advantage that this advance certainty will contribute towards the readiness and prophetic equipping of the coporate body of Christ for the final task of witness to Israel and the nations.
Without exception, every debacle of discrediting, disappointing false alarm can be traced to the misinterpretation or neglect of this event.
Although there are many other signs that will be visibly identifiable in advance of the tribulation, even in advance of the restored sacrificial ritual in the rebuilt sanctuary in Jerusalem, none are more unmistakable than this, and none more essential to avoid the common error of what I call, “separating the inseparable“.
Of all the signs that Jesus gives that He was careful to say are NOT a definite indication of the end (Mt 24:6, 14), He gives one sign in particular that marks the beginning of the unequaled, or “great tribulation” (Mt 24:15-16, 21). By deliberately sending His disciples to “read” and “understand” Daniel’s prophecy of this event, Jesus well knew they would be discovering a series of events that lead up to this great sign event. These events that must necessarily precede the abomination constitute what I’m calling, “the signs before the Sign“.
Jesus knew that when His command is obeyed, this key event would establish, not only what follows but what precedes. By locating the abomination, we discover other attending events that comprise a definite chronology of events leading up to this transitional event that will signal its approach well in advance of its actual arrival (Isa 28:15, 18; Eze 38:8, 11, 14; Dan 9:27; 11:23-31; 1Thes 5:3).
The Hebrew word for those who will see the signs of the tribulation’s approach and understand their meaning are called the “maskilim”. The term means those having insight (Dan 11:32-33; 12:3, 10). Armed with this knowledge, the maskilim of the end will rise to the occasion with mighty acts of soul winning witness that will “instruct many” (Dan 11:32-33; 12:3; Rev 7:9, 13-14).
When we obey the Lord’s directive to seek out this particular event in Daniel’s prophecy, we see that it is mentioned four times. Without exception, in every instance the abomination of desolation is immediately accompanied by the cessation of the daily sacrifice (Dan 8:11; 9:27; 11:31; 12:11). The removal of the sacrifice is manifestly part of the same event, since both take place at an equal distance, approximately 3 ½ years from the end (Dan 7:25; 9:27; 12:7, 11).
With rarest exception, since the earliest church fathers, every failed system of prophetic interpretation has this tendency to separate the removal of the sacrifice from the abomination of desolation. On this one error, they all run aground.
In order to stand, these systems of interpretation, whether amillennial, post-millennial, historicist (often subscribing to the infamous year day theory) must, necessarily, separate the removal of the regular sacrifice from the abomination of desolation. Yet, an honest exegesis will recognize that these are conjoined aspects of a single event that stand at an equal distance, approximately 3 1/2 years from the resurrection (Dan 12:1-2, 7, 11). How is this not plain to see?
Furthermore, it is typical to deny a future, literal temple. It is usually argued that the “temple of God” that the man of lawlessness enters at the end is metaphorical and not literal. But to maintain this, Paul’s reference to the temple in 2Thess 2:4 and the self exalting man of lawlessness must be disconnected from the abomination of desolation and the stopping of the continual sacrifice and located somewhere else along the biblical timeline.
But can the sacrifice be separated from the abomination that makes desolate? And can this event be separated from a literal “holy place” in Jerusalem? (Mt 24:15). And what of Paul’s nearly verbatim citation of Dan 11:36-37 to describe the man who exalts himself in the temple in 2Thes 2:4?
How can this future person who is destroyed by the Lord’s coming (2Thes 2:8) be separated from the event that Daniel mentions only five verses earlier? (Dan 11:31). Moreover, Dan 9:27; 12:1-2, 7, 11-13 will show decisively that the sacrifice is removed approximately 3 1/2 years before the final deliverance of Daniel’s people and the resurrection of the righteous. These inextricably related events cannot be separated and dislocated except by resorting to an elaborate system of side-stepping, which must deny or spiritualize the otherwise obvious.
What then should be the plain person’s reading of the plain language of the text? Regardless what other mysteries await the time of the end, one thing would have been clear to Daniel’s first readers: that is the manifest inseparability of the abomination of desolation from the removal of the daily sacrifice in the temple of God at Jerusalem. This is so important, because if this event can be established as impossible to separate exegetically, then God has graciously given us an unmistakable sign that will alert His saints of the approach of the tribulation in precious strategic advance of the outbreak of the final tribulation.
Note that this sacrifice and its removal is very distinguishable from any other similar event in history. According to Isa 63:18; 64:10-11, the tribulation temple that is appointed to destruction at the time of the end is one that has been only recently recovered to Jewish possession. Nothing in history answers to this description. In every other instance where the continual burnt offering has been stopped, it had been ongoing for centuries without interruption, whether in the case of Nebuchadnezzar, Antiochus IV (Epiphanes), or Titus.
This is without historical precedent. And if the holy place has stood only “a little while”, it follows that the sacrifice that will be stopped in the middle of the week has only recently been restarted. This is momentous! This kind of clarity and certainty will be a priceless mercy, not only to guard His saints against deception, but to unify, equip, and prepare them for the final thrust of gospel witness to Israel and the nations, with the sure and certain promise of an unparalleled harvest of souls as their reward (Dan 11:32-33; 12:3; Mt 24:14; Rev 7:9, 13-14; 14:6).
This brings me to my next point. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the “strong delusion” that God Himself has decreed to send on those who will not receive the love of the truth (2Thes 2:9). What?! God sending a strong delusion?! This signals to us that a very provocative red line has already been crossed by much of the world’s population. I began to think about what this implies for the events leading up to this moment of the great divide.
I thought of the principle implicit in Jesus’ warning to the rulers of Jerusalem, “If I had not done among them the works which none other man did, they had not had sin: but now have they both seen and hated both me and my Father (Jn 15:21). In the same way, we know that God would never send such a fatal strong delusion unless the world had not first been powerfully exposed to very compelling evidence (conspicuous prophetic signs), leaving them completely and totally without excuse.
The glorious upside of this dread reality for the persistently defiant is the blessed contemplation of what success and wide reach the message of warning and promise must have, even before the outbreak of the final tribulation. You see the logic.
Then there is the question of what will start the final week. Again, interpreters seem most always to separate the inseparable. Even among the few that recognize a future removal of the sacrifice in Dan 9:27; 12:11 3 ½ years before the end, most very wrongly regard the sacrifice in Dan 8:11; 11:31 as fulfilled entirely by Antiochus IV in the second century B.C.
Not only is this poor exegesis, it is a great loss, because there is great advantage to the saints in expecting a future fulfilment of the 2300 day prophecy, and especially the events of Dan 11:21-35, which are usually assigned to antiquity. This is to rob the body of Christ of a powerfully strategic checklist of future events that start with the “alliance” of Dan 11:23, and follow in perfect chronological order on to the abomination of desolation in verse 31.
Antiochus was indeed an invaluable type and pattern of the coming prince (Dan 7:8; 8:9; 9:26; 11:21, 36), but there are many important details that he did not fulfill, which conservative scholars seem to try to ‘force fit’ in order to defend the miraculous fulfillment of prophecy, while neglecting numerous particulars that call for a much more complete fulfillment in the future.
That is another rather involved debate, but suffice to say, we understand that the covenant that Dan 9:27 has in view is the “holy covenant” of Dan 11:28, 30, and that this covenant is not “made”, but “confirmed” (in the sense of strengthened, or caused to prevail). If this is true, the implications are massive. This covenant obviously is a recognition and endorsement of a renewed temple service, since this is precisely what is being called, “the holy covenant”.
This also proves beyond dispute that, even while those who preside over the service of the temple remain unregenerate, as often is the case throughout much of biblical history, still, the commanded institutions, and their assigned location are regarded as holy by God (Mt 24:15; 2Thes 2:4 with Jn 2:16-17), just as Jerusalem under judgement is no less, “the holy city” (Rev 11:2). For this reason, Jerusalem and the temple are special targets of the Antichrist’s intense hatred for the “holy covenant” (Dan 11:28, 30).
By implication, the covenant that the Antichrist confirms is not just another peace arrangement, but a formal recognition and ostensible support for Jewish access to their historic institutions of temple and sacrifice. Furthermore, it presents the most amazing paradox, namely, that the most unholy human in history is giving visible consent and support to something that God and the Jewish people regard as holy. What paradox of circumstance could ever bring such a thing about?
There are many theories, some more viable than others. I have my own tentative view, but how it comes about is not so critical as knowing how to distinguish and identify the event when it happens. But there is delicacy here and we must be careful about a natural tendency to over presume how this will come about.
When we know the nature of the covenant that is being confirmed (“the holy covenant” of Dan 11:28, 30), even if the Antichrist is not clearly distinguishable from the “many” who may participate in endorsing the covenant, it will still be possible to know that the seven years have begun, since it will be known that the sacrifice is soon to start. Then, soon “after the league made with him”, he will proceed to fulfill the things written of him in Dan 11:21-31.
As mentioned, for a futurist interpretation that is not satisfied with the partial, pre-typical fulfillment by Antiochus IV of the second century B.C., verses 21-30 gives us the first half of the week in an orderly chronological sequence from the “alliance made with him” (verse 23) to the abomination of desolation in 11:31. Verses 31-45 is the second half of the week that ends in nothing short of the deliverance of Israel and the resurrection (Dan 12:1-2, 7, 11).
That said, provided we can be settled that the events of Dan 11:23-30 are yet future, the believer will be able to observe his actions during the first half of the week. Immediately
“after the league made with him …”, Dan 11:23-30 reveals a clear chronological order of events that describe in great detail his strategic military movements and conquests leading up to the point where he places the abomination of desolation (Dan 11:31; 12:11). This begins the last half of the week that is chronicled from verse 31-45. Dan 12:1-13 is a recap of Dan 11:31-45 (compare also Rev 12:7-14).
We have charted out elsewhere why we believe he is a small, very likely fledgling new power (a “little horn — becoming strong with a small people”) in the region somewhere to the north of Israel. If so, he may very well be identifiable by the time he steps forward to confirm the covenant. But is the covenant he confirms, whether by expediency or political necessity, one that already exists?
If the covenant of Dan 9:27 is rightly identified with the “holy covenant” of Dan 11:28, 30, it has certainly existed since Abraham. Will recognition of Jewish right to sacrifice and worship on the temple mount be required to secure the peace? That seems to be the best inference to be drawn from a comparison of Dan 9:27 with Dan 11:23.
Evidently, the alliance of 11:23 takes place in conjunction with his endorsement and support of the covenant of Dan 9:27. In any event, even if some of this remains to be seen, what cannot, and certainly should not, be missed is that the end cannot come apart from the reinstatement of the regular sacrifice. This will be a sign before the Sign, certainly only one of many others.
This will be public. So the saints will have every opportunity to see the tribulation coming before it arrives when these things begin to take place, and those who will not see will have no excuse in the sight of God.
And while we know that Israel will be under a false, disarming illusion of peace when their final suffering comes upon them unexpectedly (though soberly warned in advance by prophetic witnesses; see Isa 28), it is possible, and from the context of Dan 11:24, probable that some measure of peace will already be in place when he joins the alliance. We must hold fast to the text and be restrained in our presumptions.
There will be much that may surprise when the time comes but Jesus gives us the key that sends us to Daniel to learn a number of things that will be no surprise at all, because they will be unmistakable and certain. There will be signs before the sign that will be public and knowable. When Jesus says, “when you therefore will see”, He certainly expects this event to be recognized and acted upon.
It is no mystery that if a sacrifice that has not been in existence since 70 A.D. is to be taken away 3 ½ years before the end, it must first be started. As a “sign spoken against”, the return of the sacrifice is calculated to spark tremendous controversy. It will be the proverbial, “talk of the town”. It will be a paradigm shift for an unwary Christendom. At first, we may expect it to be forthrightly rejected by many mainline denominations and traditions. Yet, we may hope and trust that as things progress, more and more will have their eyes opened to consider and begin to understand the much larger picture that this implies for the imminence of Jacob’s trouble and the refinement and purification of the Bride for the day of translation. It will be a trumpet call to awaken, correct, and unify the the body of Christ for its final mission to the Jew first and also to the nations.
As Joseph received revelation of the seven before the seven, even so, we have received knowledge of the marked off and well signaled 3 ½ before the 3 ½ . If God’s people are duly prepared to show the case from scripture, this will be the opportunity for the awakening and sending of many into the harvest. It is this certainty that will move the living members of Christ’s body to a Daniel-like intercession that will receive the same help from Michael in the casting down of Satan that Daniel received in the removal of the opposing prince of Persia (see Dan 10:13; 12:1 with Rev 12:7-14).
As the heavens are cleared of Satan’s ability to hinder and oppose, very significantly, immediately after mention of the abomination of desolation in Daniel 11:31, the scripture says, “and the people that know their God shall be strong and do exploits, and they that understand among the people shall instruct many, and they that be wise shall turn many to righteousness” (Dan 11:31-33; 12:3).
It is not incidental that it is just here, at the start of the final 42 months that the two witnesses receive power (Rev 11:2-3). Satan’s expulsion has cleared heaven of his presence and while this will mean great woe for the earth dwellers, with the revelation of the mystery of lawlessness and the rage of Satan (Rev 12:12-14), it is then that the army of watchful, waiting intercessors, sensible of the signs that mark the time, will receive a mighty, unparalleled unction of “salvation, strength, the kingdom of our God and the power of His Christ” (Rev 12:10).
This is in the middle of the week (Dan 12:1, 7, 11; Rev 12:6-14). This new strength and power will be shown in their complete freedom from the fear and joyful resignation to martyrdom (“they loved not their lives unto death”; Rev 12:10). Not only has Satan been cast out, but perfect love has cast out fear.
Time forbids going into further detail, but we simply cannot begin to contemplate what seismic changes this great transition in heaven will bring for Israel, the nations, and the living church of God. From this point, Satan will no longer be able to hold back (restrain) what he fears most. His expulsion from heaven will mean his time is now short (Rev 12:12). This is because this accomplishes what Paul will call, “the mystery of lawlessness”.
Paul tells us that this revelation of the “mystery of lawlessness” in the man of lawlessness is what holds back the coming of Jesus and the kingdom (compare 2Thes 2:1-8 with Rev 12:7-14). Paul is clear, and the book of Revelation confirms, that apart from this prior event, Jesus cannot return and the mystery of God cannot be finished (2Thes 2:3-4, 7-8; Rev 10:7; 12:10-12).
So, what is the mystery of lawlessness? It is the divinely ordained antithesis to the “mystery of godliness” in the incarnation of Jesus (1Tim 3:16). It is the incarnation of Satan in the body of the second prince, “the prince that shall come” (Dan 9:25-26). He is the self exalting, sacrifice removing little horn (Dan 7:8; 8:9, 11, 9:27; 11:31-37; 12:11).
This happens when Satan is thrust down and forced to enter into the body of the mortally wounded beast. As the revived beast, he becomes “the beast that was, and is not, and yet is.” The whole world of mankind will marvel at the sight of this public miracle of unthinkable power and deception, as the beast rises with “all power, signs, and deceitful wonders” (2Thes 2:8).
This utterly demonic miracle, for which the return of Christ has waited, cannot take place “until he (Satan) is taken out of the way” (2Thes 2:7). That is until Michael forcibly removes him (Rev 12:7-14). In the middle of the week, the event happens in heaven that is answered by the sign on earth that the tribulation has started. At this point, Satan will know that “his time is short” (Rev 12:12); he will have lost his ability to restrain this long awaited mystery from being revealed. The kingdom of God come in full power on earth can no longer be hindered by divine permission.
With Satan’s perfectly timed removal from heaven in the midst of the week, the saints in heaven and earth can jubilantly declare, “now is come salvation, strength, the kingdom of our God and the power of His Christ” (Rev 12:10). That power will not only be seen on the two witnesses but we believe on a growing army army of Elijah forerunners declaring the Word under great urgency and at greatest possible cost all throughout the earth.
So if the confirmation of the covenant will be a sign, with the sacrifice apparently soon following, and if believers will be able to predict with perfect accuracy the political strategies, military movements and wars that will take place between the alliance of Dan 11:23 and the abomination of Dan 11:31, what will it mean when prophetic witnesses will be declaring that the man you see doing these things is very soon to rise from the dead and enter the temple in Jerusalem claiming to be above all other forms of deity? (Dan 11:36-37; 2Thes 2:4). Never has there been a time like this — finally decisive for multitudes in the valley of decision.
With such things in view, we may take great confidence that the wise among the sleeping will awaken and wax mighty, like the deeply-humbled Samson, who rose up to slay more in his death than in all his life. You see the principle.
In His great grace, Reggie
“The people of thy holiness have possessed it but a little while: our adversaries have trodden down thy sanctuary.” (KJV)
“Your holy people possessed Your sanctuary for [only] a little while; Our adversaries have trampled it down.” (Amplified)
Just as Jeremiah’s prophecy was a catalyst for Daniel’s further quest for understanding (Dan 9:2), there can be no doubt that Ps 74 with Isa 63:18; 64:10-11 would have been an influence on his expectation concerning the fate of a future sanctuary that would be standing at the time of the end.
Whether Ps 74 was written before Isaiah or the reverse, it is Isaiah who adds something that entirely distinguishes the tribulation temple from any other.
The broad context surrounding the mention of the temple in Isa 63:18; 64:10-11 makes clear that Israel’s ultimate deliverance at the day of the Lord is envisioned as following in the wake of the devastating loss of the temple and the trampling down of the holy city. This is a theme that we see in many places throughout the prophets. But here’s what is so striking about Isaiah’s prophecy in particular. The temple that will be trampled burned and destroyed in the final tribulation has only been back in Jewish possession for “a little while” (Ps 74:7-8; Isa 63:18; 4:10-11; Dan 8:11, 13; 9:26).
No other temple in history answers to this description. It can only have reference to a third temple that has been only recently rebuilt, shortly before it is desecrated, trampled and burned by the self-exalting little horn (Dan 8:11; 9:27; 11:23, 31; 12:11).
Similarities in language suggest very strongly that either Isaiah is aware of a very early Asaph (Ps 74), or else a later Asaph is certainly aware of Isaiah‘s prophecy (Isa 63:18; 64:10-11) — and Daniel shows awareness of both. I tend to favor the view that the prophecy originated with the Asaph who served in the tabernacle of David.
Certainly, an early Asaph would have inherited all that Moses had said concerning the inevitability of exile and dispersion. Covenant chastisement would be the ever-looming threat until the expected day of national repentance that Moses foresees at the end of a final tribulation “in the latter days” (Deut 4:29-30; 29:4; 30:1-6).
It is just as likely that the original Asaph could have prophetically anticipated the destruction of the sanctuary. In any event, it seems clear that Ps 74:7-8; 78:59-60; 79:1, with Isaiah 63:18; 64:10-11 forms the prophetic background for an eschatology of tribulation that is centered around a very recently restored sanctuary.
Liberal commentators who hold that this portion of Isaiah could not have come from the pen of Isaiah of Jerusalem will, of course, assume that Ps 74 and Isa 63-64 are both written in retrospect after the exile, looking back and lamenting the bitterness and shock of the loss of the first temple.
We say, on the contrary! In both cases, the Spirit of prophecy is putting into the mouth of the suffering remnant of the final tribulation the cry for the long-awaited day of deliverance and permanent possession of the Land, according to the the Abrahamic and Davidic covenants.
Daniel’s prophecy is building on this background. In what follows, we want to reflect on how he would have most naturally interpreted his own prophecy in light of where he stood in history. Both the context and the unmistakable similarity of language leave no doubt that Daniel understands “the time of Jacob’s trouble” (Jer 30:6-7) to be the unparalleled period of trouble culminating in Israel’s national deliverance at “the time of the end” (Joel 2:1-2; Isa 13:6-8; 26:16-17; 66:8; Mic 5:3; Dan 12:1-2). The removal of the sacrifice at the midpoint of Daniel’s 70th week clearly marks the beginning of the this calamitous time (Dan 9:27; 12:11).
Significantly, Daniel’s visions of the long march of kingdoms and the prophecy of the seventy sevens puts Jacob’s trouble at a great distance in the future, on the far side of three more kingdoms after Babylon. Even the earlier Isaiah saw something of this march of kingdoms before the end, and therefore expected no soon fulfillment of the Davidic covenant. He saw beyond the contemporary Assyrian threat, past Babylon’s defeat by the Medes (Isa 13), and on to the rise of Cyrus as a type of a yet more distant restoration under the Messiah from David’s line (Isa 9:6-7; 11:1-5; 44:28-45:5).
Christendom’s Solemn Loss
Therefore, not only Daniel, but Isaiah before him, understood that the final struggle at the end is centered around a lately repossessed temple and recently restored sacrifice (Isa 63:18 with Dan 8:13). Since the removal of the regular sacrifice is an inseparable aspect of the abomination of desolation, which Jesus gives as the sign that begins the final tribulation, and since the chronology of John’s Revelation is framed around Daniel’s half week as the immediate precursor to Christ’s return (Rev 11:2-3; 12:6, 14: 13:5), it is astonishing that this expectation, so manifestly fundamental to Isaiah, Daniel, Jesus, Paul, and John would come to be so absent from the consciousness of the church.
What is the reason for this loss and what does it portend for the future? That is a question the church needs to ask itself, particularly since ignorance of these critical musts of the last days exposes one to the very deception of which Jesus, and later Paul so gravely warn (Mt 24:4-5, 11, 23-26; 2Thes 2:3). Inattention to, or misinterpretation of the vital sign that Jesus gives in Mt 24:15 may (I believe certainly will) prove unspeakably costly.
Contemplate what it will mean for the watching saints to see a covenant confirmed and a sacrifice started just a short while before the man of lawlessness goes to the temple to stop the sacrifice and place the abomination that brings the final desolation of Jerusalem.
Failure to observe and obey Jesus’ command to His disciples to look for this particular event in the book of Daniel (“let the reader understand”; Mt 24:15), not only exposes one to unpreparedness, disarming shock, and possible deception, but also forfeits the priceless advantage of seeing the preliminary signs that lead up to the sign (Mt 24:15; 2Thes 2:3-4).
And this is only part of the loss. In my own experience, as a new and very young believer, I found that by following Jesus’ directive to seek this event out in the book of Daniel, with His counsel to understand, as we see that Daniel “set his heart to understand” (Dan 10:12), so much else would come to light.
I found that a knowledge of the end in its native Judeo-centric context opened up a whole new vista of the covenant background that stands behind the history of Israel and the glorious promise plan of God. So, the study of the end is crucial to our understanding the whole story line of the Bible from beginning to end and all the time between.
Returning to the question of Daniel’s likely understanding from his vantage point, let us review. Certainly, Daniel knew and expected that Isaiah had prophesied of the coming of Cyrus, identifying him by name for a testimony to the captivity weary Jews. Cyrus would issue the decree for the rebuilding of the temple. So Daniel well knew that his brethren were going home to a restored sanctuary (see Dan 9:2, 17 with Isa 44:28). Would this second temple last till the end, be destroyed and replaced by the millennial house so graphically described by Ezekiel?
Is this second edifice the temple that would be still after three more world empires would arise in succession? Is this the temple that will be invaded by the last aggressor who will replace the continual sacrificial ritual with an abomination that brings the final desolation of Jerusalem approximately 3 1/2 years before the resurrection of the righteous, including Daniel’s own resurrection? (Dan 12:1-2, 13).
Reasonably, the answer is no, not if he took careful regard to the language of Isaiah’s prophecy that the temple under final siege has been standing only a “short while” (Isa 63:18). So, while Daniel may very well have expected the second temple to last many generations, he would have anticipated its eventual end and a new and recent sanctuary to be standing in its place when invaded by the final Antichrist.
He would also certainly be aware of Isaiah’s prophecy that the Land would be barren and desolate, not only for one generation (as during the 50 years from 586 to 536 B.C.), but for “many generations”, according to Isa 61:4. The same is prophesied by his contemporary Ezekiel.
Ezekiel sees another return “after many days”, back to a Land that had “long been desolate” (Eze 38:8). Clearly, he is not speaking of the post-captivity return from Babylon, because this final and complete return takes place in the “latter days” after Israel has only recently returned to resettle the once barren Land, turning it into an Eden of beauty (Joel 2:3; Dan 8:9; 11:41), sufficient to awaken the covetousness of the northern invader (Eze 38:10-13).
This is the final aggressor. “Thus says the Lord GOD: “Are you he of whom I have spoken in former days by My servants the prophets of Israel, who prophesied for years in those days that I would bring you against them?” (Eze 38:17). When this invasion happens, the elect nation is still in a condition of unregenerate blindness, and under covenant judgment, with God’s face yet hidden (Deut 31:17-18; 32:20; Isa 8:17; 54:8; 57:17; 64:7; Eze 39:8, 23-24, 29). It is after the destruction of Gog at the day of the Lord that the nation comes suddenly to faith in one day (Isa 66:8; Zech 3:9; Eze 39:8, 22, 28-29)
Manifestly, Ezekiel is consciously referring to the same long absence from the Land that Isaiah describes in Isa 61:4. So Daniel’s long-distance vision of a march of kingdoms before the end is corroborated by Isaiah, Hosea, and his contemporary, Ezekiel (Isa 61:4; Hos 3:4-5; Eze 38:8). All are looking ahead to a much longer absence from the Land than the single generation prophesied by Jeremiah.
But when has the Land been bereft of its Jewish population for more than a generation? Only the long Roman exile that lasted from A.D. 135 until modern times answers to this description.
In view of Daniel’s certain knowledge of Isaiah’s prophecy of another temple, which will be standing only a short while before it is defiled and destroyed (Dan 8:11; 9:26), just as surely, the sacrifice that the little horn stops 3 ⅓ years before the end has been only recently restarted after “many generations” of absence from the Land.
Dealing with Dating: Making Sense of Daniel’s Numbers
Not only this, but Daniel would have known that the difference between the 2300 days of Dan 8, and the 1290 and 1335 of Dan 12 creates an apparent discrepancy: the three numbers are given in reply to the question, “how long”? (Dan 8:13; 12:6). What would this mysterious disparity between the days have meant to Daniel? How are the extra days to be interpreted?
The 2300 days end with the cleansing of the sanctuary. What is this? When is this? If this time could be known precisely, one could simply count backward to discover precisely when the 2300 days start.
Dan 12:11 makes clear that the 1290 and the 1335 are both reckoned from the removal of the sacrifice in the middle of the final week (also Dan 9:27). If the 2300 days are to be counted from this point, it would mean that the sanctuary is not cleansed until nearly three years into the millennium. I’ll come back to why I think this is the most doubtful of the possible choices.
Let’s put ourselves in Daniel’s sandals.
Daniel knows from his predecessors and his contemporary, Ezekiel, that there will be a renewed temple after the final, unequaled tribulation (Amos 9:11; Isa 2:2-4; 16:5; 56:7-8; 60:7, 12-13; Eze 37:26-28; 38-48). Significantly, Daniel’s precise language for the cleansing of the sanctuary is found in only one other place in scripture — in Eze 45:18 (and very nearly the same language is found in Eze 43:20-26). Therefore, there can be no doubt that Daniel expects the sanctuary to be cleansed sometime after “the end”, in the early days of the millennium.
With Amos, Isaiah, and Ezekiel, Daniel is expecting a new temple to be raised after the tribulation, because the temple standing at the time of the final tribulation is expected to be destroyed by fire (Ps 74:7-8; 79:1; Isa 64:10-11; Dan 9:26).
So in view of the expectation of a renewed and much more glorious temple (Hag 2:7, 9), never again subject to enemy invaders (2Sam 7:10; Amos 9:15), evidently, Daniel’s reference to the cleansing of the sanctuary takes us beyond the destruction of the tribulation temple to the beginnings of the new temple. This temple, will sit atop the elevated plateau of Zech 14:10 that will emerge from the great earthquake, which takes place in conjunction with Jesus’ return (Zech 14:1, 3-5; Rev 16:18).
The tribulation temple will be entirely replaced by a new temple. Ezekiel gives detailed instructions for the cleansing of the sanctuary in Eze 43:20-26; esp. 45:18. So where do we locate the extra days? It is most unlikely that the cleansing of the sanctuary will be delayed very long, because the returning Jewish survivors of the tribulation will want to resume their mandated worship as soon as possible. The question is, how soon might this be?
Recall that when the first wave of exiles returned under Zerubbabel, the Jews did not wait till the new house was completed before the sanctuary and the altar was set up only seven months after the return. The actual construction on the new house did not begin until seven months later (Ezra 3:6-8). Moreover, the question, “how long shall be the vision?”, suggests that the focus is on the events leading to final relief and deliverance from the persecution of the little horn.
This focus means that, for the larger part, the extra days should be reckoned, not from the time the sacrifice is taken away, but from the time it started. So I think the careful instruction of the Spirit in Eze 43:20-26; 45:18 applies to however and whenever the altar and the minimal sanctuary will be available to be cleansed.
Notably, the sanctuary is not the same as the larger temple edifice (Lev 4:6; Eze 43:21). As in the above example of the first return, a completed temple is not required to fulfill the prophecy. Whether the structure standing before the tribulation or Ezekiel’s new temple situated on the exalted plateau described in Zech 14:4, 10, all that is required to begin sacrificing is a simple altar and the inmost parts of house. The example of the returning exiles under Zerubbabel shows that the construction of the larger edifice can be ongoing concurrent with the daily offering of sacrifice.
What about the 1290 and the 1335? Could either of these terminal points be possibilities for the cleansing of the sanctuary? It would appear that both of these dates fail as an option because by this time Jesus has already returned. 1290 days is almost 43 months and 1335 is another month and a half further, whereas the career of the Antichrist is limited to 42 months when he is slain by the breath of the Lord (2Thes 2:8; Rev 13:5).
But if neither of these points after the close of the 70th week would seem to provide enough time for the returning Jews to gather to cleanse the new sanctuary atop the newly exalted “mountain of the Lord’s house” (Isa 2:2; Zech 14:10), nothing in the prophecy requires that the 2300 days end at either of these points that obviously take us beyond Christ’s return and into the early days of the millennium.
There is one place we can look for an event early in the millennium that answers very well to the pattern recorded in the book of Ezra. In the same way that the first wave of Jews returning under Zerubbabel and Joshua began to sacrifice seven months after returning and seven months before construction would begin on the house of the Lord (Ezr 3:6-8), there is another period of seven months described in Eze 39:11-16. This is the time that it takes to “cleanse the Land” of dead bodies that filled the mountains and valleys during the battle of Gog and Magog (compare Eze 39:8 with Rev 16:13-17). Could this be the time that the new sanctuary is cleansed, according to Eze 43:20-26: 45:18).
Regardless of how we account for the difference between the 2300 days and the 1290 and 1335 days, it is clear that these are not merely symbolic numbers. They are not years, as some have suggested, but days, which manifestly follow the end of the half week of unequaled tribulation and extend into the early period of the millennial age.
Moreover, they are given to mark events that are expected on this earth after the tribulation has passed. We could suggest such possibilities as the time that Israel will go apart to mourn (Zech 12:10-12), or the messianic banquet that coincides with the time of the resurrection, as described in Isa 25:6-8.
Qualifications Concerning the 3rd Temple Service
It is important to note that though the sacrifice and the sanctuary do not lose their sanctity and legitimacy because of the spiritual condition of those presiding over the temple service, the restoration of the covenant institutions of the temple and sacrifice do not exempt those serving in the temple from covenant judgment (Deut 28:49-50; Isa 10:5-6; 28:14-15, 17-18; Jer 5:15; Eze 38:4, 16; Lk 21:22-24; Rev 11:2)
Nevertheless, the ordinances and institutions commanded in the law, along with those that Ezekiel adapts to the millennial temple, remain holy and inviolable. These temple ordinances on the elect location, belong to what the scripture in Dan 11:28, 30 calls the “holy covenant”.
This covenant with the Jewish people does not depend on their personal holiness, but on God’s election and command. The “holy place” remains holy, even when the people called to holiness are not yet holy in the sense of personal regeneration. Still, in the sense of set apart, and fiercely preserved by covenant decree until the appointed day of national redemption, they are, in that sense, holy before they’re holy, as all who ravage, spoil, and pillage them will discover, to their horror.
On the other hand, because the blood and righteousness of Christ is the only acceptable covering, sacrificing in a house appointed to desolation will not insulate the worshippers from the judgment of Jacob’s trouble. Yet, it is the holiness of the appointed place where God has put His name, with the sacred institutions He has appointed for that place that establishes the obsession of Satan to usurp and the arrogance of the Antichrist to defile and destroy, as the consummate transgression — “the abomination of desolation” (Dan 8:13; 9:27; 11:31; 12:11; Mt 24:15).
Prophetic Expectations: Piecing Together the Puzzle
The phrase translated, “trodden down” or “trampled underfoot” is often applied by Isaiah and the earlier prophets to Israel and Judah when facing the Assyrian threat, as typical of the final siege of the Antichrist (Isa 5:5; 28:3, 18; 63:18). It is applied again by Jeremiah as the imminent fate of the first temple (Jer 12:10), and Daniel also applies the same term to a future defilement of the temple and the final desolation of Jerusalem (Dan 8:13).
But since he knew the second temple would soon stand again, upon the return decreed by Cyrus (Isa 44:28; Dan 1:21; 6:28; 10:1), and since he expected many generations to come and go (Isa 61:4; Hos 3:4-5; Eze 38:8), with kingdom following after kingdom (Dan 2, 7, 8, 11), it is altogether possible that Daniel expected the eventual destruction of the second temple and the eventual erection of a third. This is even probable, since he would have known from Isaiah that the tribulation temple is unique — only recently recovered to Jewish possession before it is trampled for a last time (Isa 63:18; 64:10-11).
We can see Daniel’s awareness of Isa 63:18 in particular by his use of the term for “trodden under/trodden down”, which is quite unique to Isaiah’s vocabulary. It is most often used for the final trampling down of Jerusalem just before the great day of deliverance (Isa 28:3, 18; 63:18; Dan 8:13; Lk 21:24; Rev 11:2).
Across the landscape of salvation of history, it is really edifying to see the miracle of prophecy in all its interdependent, interlocking intricacy. Looking back, we cannot fail to see the necessity of a long interval between the destruction of the second temple and the yet-future third temple that would follow the return that is “after many days” (Hos 3:4-5; Eze 38:8), and after “the desolation of many generations (Isa 61:4).
So, looking far beyond the soon restoration of the second temple, Daniel sees the temple described by Isaiah, standing at the time of the end. So far as we can be sure that Daniel knew Isaiah’s prophecy, this cannot be the second temple, but a third. And since this construction appointed to destruction (Isa 63:18; 64:11; Dan 9:26), it cannot be the fourth envisioned by Ezekiel and the earlier prophets, who see a new sanctuary in the new age (Mic 4:1-2; Isa 2:2-3; 16:5; 60:7, 13; Amos 6:11; Eze 37:26, 28; 40-48), as well as the later prophets, Zechariah and Haggai (Hag 2:7, 9; Zech 14:20-21). All the evidence points to a third, recently repossessed temple that is destroyed a final time, to be very soon followed by the glory of “the latter house” situated atop the newly lifted “mountain of the Lord’s house” (Isa 2:2; Zech 14:10).
Isaiah and his contemporaries to the north and the south all spoke of the destruction of the first temple. They also spoke of a very long exile that would last “many days” (Hos 3:4-5; Eze 38:8) and “many generations” (Isa 61:4). This long estrangement, during which time God is hiding His face from Israel, would end with the national repentance and return to raise up the fallen booth of David (Amos 9:11; Isa 16:5; Hos 3:4-5). But it is Isaiah alone who sees another temple standing at the end, one that has stood only “a little while”.
This is clearly before the restoration of the tabernacle of David that is always put after the last tribulation (Amos 9:9-11) and therefore, after the destruction of the Antichrist (“the aggressor, desolator, oppressor; Isa 16:4-5). It is also after the great national repentance (Isa 66:8; Eze 39:22; Zech 3:9, 12:10). This is followed by the complete return from all nations, with “none left behind” (Eze 39:28).
Daniel knows the vision of the final trouble and the final deliverance is at a great distance, “many days”, which from his vantage point is at least 490 years away (Dan 8:26: 9:24; 10:14; 12:1-2, 7, 11-13). Of course, Daniel did not see the gap between the first and second comings that would be shrouded in mystery until the appointed time of revelation (Act 3:18-21; Ro 11:25-29; 16:25-26; 1Pet 1:11)
The great take away from all of this is that unlike every other instance of the sacrifice being removed, whether by the armies of Nebuchadnezzar, Antiochus, or Titus, it was never a sacrifice that had been only recently restarted in a sanctuary that has been only recently returned to Jewish possession.
Call it reading between the lines, but there’s a lot to be read between those lines that glorifies the amazing foresight of the scripture, in all its delicate intricacy, so easily overlooked.
Daniel’s Understanding of Messiah’s Cutting Off
What may we suppose would have been Daniel’s understanding concerning the “cutting off of Messiah” at what would have appeared to be just seven years before the end? (Dan 9:25-27). Would the “cut off” King of Israel be raised after the seven years, with Daniel and all the righteous of Israel? (Job 19:25-27; Isa 25:8; 26:19; Dan 12:1-2; 13).
Is it then that the stem of David will slay the “wicked one” with His voice and the breath of His mouth (Isa 11:4; 30:30-31with 2Thes 2:8) Would He then slay the Antichrist and begin His rod-of-iron rule over the nations? (Ps 2:9). Or would He immediately rise to His Father’s throne, to return with the armies of His saints? (Compare Jude 1:14; Ps 149:6-9; Isa 13:4; Joel 3:11; Zech 14:5; Rev 19:14-15). In such a case, His session at His Father’s right hand would be a very short-one of only seven years. These suggestions are, of course, speculative, but they demonstrate the perplexity of the prophets, of which Peter informs us (1Pet 1:11-12).
Daniel knew Moses’ prediction of a rejected prophet by whom the nation would be judged and divided (Deut 18:18-19). Together with Isaiah’s prediction of a suffering servant who would be “abhorred” and “rejected” by the nation (Isa 49:7; 53:3), this is doubtless what Simeon had this in mind when he said, “this child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel; and for a sign which shall be spoken against” (Lk 2:34).
Daniel knew that Micah had foretold that the ruler from Bethlehem would be smitten with a rod upon the cheek, and that this would provoke God to “give them up UNTIL” the time of Zion’s travail when the penitent remnant would return to their Messiah, whose rule would now extend “to the ends of the earth” (Mic 5:1-4).He also would have known Hosea’s prophecy concerning a particular consummate “offense” (singular) sufficient to provoke the Lord to “return to His place UNTIL” (Hos 5:15-6:2).
Can we conceive that Daniel knew that the wounded, curse-reversing Seed of the woman (Gen 3:15), the divine son of David (Isa 9:6-7; Mic 5:2), would be “cut off” after suffering rejection and death at the hands of His brethren, in remarkable analogy to the story of Joseph? I think a comparison of Isa 53:8 with Dan 9:26 settles the question.
Because of this act of killing the Divine Messiah that Daniel would most naturally see at the end of the 69th seven, he would also naturally assume this to be the great transgression that brings about the Divine desertion prophesied by Hosea and Micah (Hos 5:15; Mic 5:3). Doubtless, Daniel would understand this “cutting off” of the Messiah to be the consummate “offense” (singular) that provokes Yahweh to return to His place and surrender the elect nation over to the final covenant discipline of the little horn for the final half week.
This would be after the sacrifice had been recently restored in the first half, to no avail, since the sacrifice cannot be accepted apart from a living, Spirit-quickened faith, as only demonstrated by recognition and faith in the Messiah.
Without knowing the mystery of the two comings and the long gap of “many generations” that would lay between the destruction of the second temple and a recently restored third, tribulation temple, and judging from the absence of the definite article in the Hebrew text, Daniel manifestly expected his readers to know he was using the phrase, “anointed One” as an understood title for the Messiah, Son of David (Ps 2; 110; Isa 9, 11; Mic 5:2).
From all of this detail, and the background from the earlier prophets, it would seem clear that Daniel saw the rejection and death of the Messiah as THE crowning offense that provoked God to momentarily abandon the larger part of the nation, delivering them into the hand of their enemies, and ultimately over to the disciplinary scourge of the Antichrist, whose rise would mark the revelation of the mystery of iniquity (2Thes 2:7), the finishing of the mystery of God (Rev 10:7), and the end of the times of the Gentiles (Lk 21:24, Rev 11:2).
What Daniel could not have seen was the mystery of the two distinct comings and the age-long interim that would transpire between Israel’s fall and her final return (Deut 4:20-30;Isa 8:14-17; Mt 21:43; Lk 19:42-44; Ro 9:32; 11:11, 25-27). This unexpected turn of events belonged to the secret hidden in ages past (Ro 16:25-26), and has revealed God’s secret intention to visit the gentiles to take out a people for His name BEFORE the post-tribulational return of scattered Israel to build again the tabernacle of David.
“After this I will return
And will rebuild the tabernacle of David, which has fallen down; I will rebuild its ruins,
And I will set it up …” (Acts 15:16)
After what? It is a matter of intense dispute whether the term, “tabernacle of David ”, as James used it here, is in keeping with the normal Jewish understanding of a post-tribulational event, or whether James has completely reinterpreted its meaning to be completely and sufficiently fulfilled in the present inclusion of the gentiles.
Or is it more likely that James is using the term, “after” in this passage in the same way it is used elsewhere in the prophets – to denote the expectation that the eschatological tabernacle of David is established “after” a still-future return of the penitent Jewish remnant to the Land in the “latter days”, as in Amos 9:14-15; Hos 3:4-5?
In this case, James’ reference to Amos is not to reinterpret the original language of the prophets, but to apply this foretold future precedent to the present visitation of the gentiles, in unexpected advance of the yet to be fulfilled post-tribulational conversion of greater Israel (Acts 3:21; Ro 11:25-26).
Notice that James’ citation of Amos is representative of what was foretold by other prophets. Notice how James’ citation of Amos coincides with his use of very similar language in Jeremiah’s prophecy concerning the same future conversion of the nations upon Israel’s restoration.
Thus says the LORD: “Against all My evil neighbors who touch the inheritance which I have caused My people Israel to inherit—behold, I will pluck them out of their land and pluck out the house of Judah from among them. Then it shall be, after I have plucked them out, that I will return and have compassion on them and bring them back, everyone to his heritage and everyone to his land. And it shall be, if they will learn carefully the ways of My people, to swear by My name, ‘As the LORD lives,’ as they taught My people to swear by Baal, then they shall be established in the midst of My people. But if they do not obey, I will utterly pluck up and destroy that nation,” says the LORD. (Jer 12:14-17; see also Isa 19:24-25; Isa )
James is manifestly conflating the results of what all the prophets foretold of a coming conversion of the nations that will not require that they take on all the particulars of Jewish stewardship, which was never imposed on God fearing gentiles, whether in the past or in the future, when the saved of all nations will flow to Zion (Isa 2:1; 60:5).
While reflecting on what stands at the heart of the gospel, I thought first of what Paul called, “the goal of the commandment” in Titus 1:5. “Now the end (goal) of the commandment is love from a pure heart, from a good conscience, and from sincere faith.”
That is indeed the outworking of the fruit of His life within us, as to our sanctification, but it’s foundation and root is deeper still. It’s root is the resurrection life of Jesus, as both imputed and imparted to the justified believer. Its source is as far from the strength of nature as the budding of Aaron’s rod.
Paul says this righteousness is now revealed in the recently unveiled “mystery of the gospel” (Eph 6:19).
“For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith” (Ro 1:7).
Paul shows that the mystery that could not come to full light until the revelation of the gospel was fully foretold in the prophetic writings (Acts 26:22-23). Yet, kept secret in times past till the appointed time of revelation (1Cor 2:7-8; Ro 16:25-26). Why only now, with the post-resurrection revelation of the gospel, is this righteousness revealed? Wasn’t the righteousness of God already fully revealed and well established all throughout the scriptures? What kind of righteousness is this that has waited till now to be “revealed”?
How is the righteousness of God which might be seen as a source of terror to a sin stricken conscience to be understood as good news? It is because this is the justifying righteousness of God whereby He justifies the ungodly (Ro 3:25-26; 4:5). It is the righteousness by which a helpless condemned sinner is enabled to stand blameless in the presence of unapproachable holiness.
This righteousness is wholly other, because it is nothing of our own (Ro 10:3; Phil 3:9). It has no point of intersection with even the highest ethic within human reach or power. It is of a completely different origin and source in that it resides in only one person.
Of course we are speaking of the very righteousness of the Lord Himself, but particularly as wrought out, performed, and perfected in only one place. That is the seamless garment of His own humanity as our representative, fulfilling in His flesh so much more, infinitely more, than was lost in ours.
As the last Adam, Jesus’ sinless life qualifies Him to take our place as penal substitute for the debt we owed to the holiness of the law as the ground of God’s just government. His predestined atonement on the cross purchased the Holy Spirit’s eternal right of access to lawfully and justly “quicken whom He will” (Jn 5:21; Ro 3:26; 9:18).
As the risen “second man from heaven”, He becomes the head of a new spiritual race. But even before the atonement was made in time, it was no less the basis on which He quickened His saints before the cross. “I am the the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living” (Mt 22:32).
On the basis of the “blood of the everlasting covenant” (Heb 13:20) that would be shed “in the fullness of time” (Gal 4:4), Jesus was always known to the Father as “the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world” (Rev 13:8). The eternal surety of the Redeemer’s blood was the only basis by which any of His saints were quickened (Ps 80:18; 119:50, 93; Jn 5:21; 6:63; Ro 4:17; Eph 2:1, 5; Col 2:13), “born again by the Word of God “(1Pet 1:23), and brought into living union with the divine nature (2Pet 1:4).
Then as now, the natural man cannot receive the things of the Spirit unless first made alive by the Spirit (Rom 8:7; 1Cor 2:14). Then as now, there were the “children of the flesh” who persecuted those who were “born of the Spirit” (Jn 3:6; Gal 4:29). And Peter will say the Spirit who filled and indwelt the OT faithful (Gen 41:38; Ex 31:3; ; Num 11:26; Deut 34:9; Neh 9:30; Ps 51:10-12; 139:7; Prov 1:23; Isa 63:11; Eze 2:2; 18:31; Dan 5:14; Mic 3:8) was none other than “the Spirit of Christ” (1Pet 1:11).
This is to point out that when Jesus rose as the “second man, the Lord of heaven”, He was made a quickening (life giving) spirit (1Cor 15:54), not only to those who would believe after the cross, but to all the regenerate children of God since the beginning. In all times, it is only by the Spirit that the dead live, and that Spirit is the Spirit of Christ. “Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty” (2Cor 3:17).
As our head, Jesus took us with Him to the cross. When He died, we died. “Our old man is crucified with him” (Ro 6:6). When He was buried, we were buried with Him (Ro 6:4; Col 2:12). When He arose, we rose with Him (Eph 2:6; Col 2:12; 3:1). When He ascended, we ascended and set down with Him at His Father’s right hand (Eph 2:6; Rev 3:21).
While there remains an ongoing, active “putting off” of old things (Eph 4:22; Col 3:8), the purpose and the power to “die daily” lies in the freedom of being dead, not only reckoned as dead but actually being dead, having once and forever “put off” (past tense) the old man (Col 3:9). It is this knowledge of something that is finished that empowers victory over the flesh.
Being dead to the first Adam and eternally alive to the “second man, the Lord from heaven”, we are no longer “under the law” (Ro 3:19; 6:14-15). To be in the first Adam is to be in the flesh. To be in the flesh is to be “under the law”. We are “dead to the law” and married to another by the crucified and ascended body of Christ (Ro 7:1-5). This is because we are no longer alive to the “old man” against whom the law breathes out its fearful threatening (Ex 19:16).
Paul’s seeming vehemence against the law in this negative sense, so unique to his writings, is best understood by understanding a single verse. That verse is found in 1Cor 15:56:
“The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law.”
For Paul, the strength of sin is the law, not because of any defect in the law, but only because the strength of the law to condemn resides in what Paul elsewhere calls, “confidence in the flesh” (see Phil 3:3-8). The law holds dominion over the conscience as long as confidence remains in anything of natural human ability. It is the problem of self reliance to meet the holiness of the requirement.
Paul fully understands that his kinsmen of the school of the Pharisees knew that trust in God was necessary for salvation. However, they regarded this requirement as fully within their power to perform. They did NOT, as some ignorantly suppose, believe that salvation depended entirely on themselves. This is not their fall.
No, their fall lay in the ill fated presumption that this trust could be mixed with some residual measure of trust in themselves. This is what grace cannot tolerate. Paul utterly condemns the perverse presumption that grace and works, Spirit and flesh, the perfect righteousness of Christ and some measure, any measure, of human contribution can mix (compare Ro 11:6; Gal 5:9). For Paul, grace is all or nothing.
When the heart is divided in its trust, then the broken law continues to have claim and dominion over the conscience. Paul’s point is that the law becomes the strength of sin when there is confidence in the strength of man to meet the holiness of the standard (“But I say unto you”; Mt 5:22, 28, 12:36; 39, 44; James 2:10).
This is the lie that gives sin its strength to accuse. It is also the source of the pride that God must resist. It is this misplaced confidence that gives Satan access and opportunity to accuse the conscience by his prosecutorial use of the law (Jn 5:45; 2Cor 3:9; Rev 12:10).
When Christians fail to grasp the all sufficiency of Christ’s righteousness alone, not only for justification, but also for power, this divided dependence limits, if not completely defeats, the freedom of the Spirit to bear true and permanent fruit unto God (Jn 15:16; Ro 6:22; 7:4; Gal 5:22; Eph 5:9). This is the double mind of which James speaks in Ja 1:8; 4:8. This is what afflicts and binds up many poor defeated Christians, and also many who are in peril of “failing of the grace of God” (Heb 12:15).
Therefore, being dead to the old man over whom the law, and therefore sin and Satan, held accusing, condemning jurisdiction, we have become “dead to the law” (Ro 7:4; Gal 2:19). “In Christ” the law has reached both its goal and termination, but only in the sense of its capacity as a “ministry of death and condemnation” (2Cor 3:7, 9). And also the completion of its tutelage to bring (drive) the despairing soul to Christ who is, in this sense, “the end of the law for righteousness” (Ro 10:4; Gal 3:23-25).
It is in this sense that the law has been completely “taken out of the way” (Col 2:14), and “done away” (2Cor 3:7, 11, 14). We are no longer “in” the first Adam’s nature, but the last’s. “For you are dead and your life is hid with Christ in God” (Col 3:3). This is how Paul can say “it is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me” (Gal 2:20).
Not only is our life located in another person who also lives in us (Col 1:27; 1Pet 1:11); it is in another place, “far above all principalities and power” (Eph 1:21; 4:10), and therefore secure beyond Satan’s reach (compare Rev 12:5 with 1Jn 5:18; especially in light of the implications of Ro 7:17, 20 in light of 1Pet 1:23; 1Pet 3:2; 1Jn 3:6, 9).
Our life is now in heaven, because when He ascended, we ascended and sit down with Him at the Father’s right hand (Eph 1:20; 2:6; Col 3:1; Heb 12:2; Rev 3:21). The language of “set down and seated” implies something that is finished. Like Him, we are waiting till all things are put under (Ps 110:1; Heb 2:8), but as to the certainty of our position and hope of inheritance, “it is finished!” The new creation has irrevocably begun. The first fruits have been secured and brought in. If Jesus is raised, He lives, and if He lives, He is able to come again.
We are not on our way to becoming a new creation; we ARE a new creation! This is because we are safely and forever in Him whose victory over Satan, sin, death, and the grave is the first fruits, not only of the resurrection in its order (1Cor 15:20, 23), but the entire creation (Ro 8:20).
Christ, the whole Christ, not only the death He died for us, but the life He lived for us, is now our very life, so that His appearing will be the appearing of our life. “When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory” (Col 3:4). Here is the sublime logic of a most inconceivable glory, promised to every believer: “Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is” (1Jn 3:2).
Here is a profound principle. Our deeper, fuller transformation into His likeness does not depend on a new reality, but an ever increasing revelation of Him “as He is“. “But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord” (2Cor 3:18). This means the transformative vision that begins now by the Spirit awaits its fullest revelation beyond the veil at at His return when the transformation will be complete.
As the promised Seed of the woman, Jesus’ birth, life, death, resurrection, and ascension has secured the complete reversal of the curse for all who are in Him. That is the key word, “in Him”. He has done this, not only by expiating our guilt, but by imputing to us the very righteousness that He perfected in our representative humanity, as necessarily lived out “under the law” (Mt 3:15 with Gal 4:4).
In this we see that the life He lived was as crucial to our salvation as the death He died. It is the righteousness of His life that He lived for us that is imputed, and put to our account, as though we lived that fully examined, fully approved life.
This is not the righteousness whereby God is righteous in His heaven, though it is in perfect union with that too. No, our justification is located, not in ourselves, but in another person’s righteousness (Ro 3:25-26). That is the righteousness that was perfected in the Lamb of God over 33 1/2 years of spotless obedience under the exacting inspection of the law.
It is this righteousness that is put to the everlasting seal of everyone who has the faith that is “born of God” (1Jn 5:4). This kind of faith is so much more than mental consent to a correct creed. Saving faith is born by the Spirit.
According to Paul, we are inwardly changed and transformed, not only by believing the right facts, but by the Spirit’s revelation of the face of Jesus, which is to say, a revelation of His mind and heart (2Cor 3:18 with Mt 11:27; Jn 5:21; Ro 9:18). That moment of true believing is itself a resurrection event (Eph 2:1; Tit 3:5). “How precious did that grace appear, the hour I first believed!” (Amazing Grace, John Newton).
This is the only righteousness that God can accept. To presume to come before Him in anything less or other than this man’s righteousness is an affront of intolerable presumption. The imputation of this one, only acceptable, pure, unmixed, fully complete righteousness of Christ Himself is the indispensable wedding garment that alone stands between joyful, abundant acceptance and stern rejection (Mt 22:11-13).
Christians must know by the Spirit the holy dread of presuming to appear before God in any lesser righteousness than this. It is this righteousness that is given to the least truly regenerate believer, not in the part but in the whole, as though perfectly performed by each one under the exacting scrutiny of the law.
If we could grasp this for all its implication by the Spirit of revelation, as a dear brother once said, “the ground would shake before us!” Some things are just too glorious for us to grasp, even when acknowledged as true, unless it comes by the power of divine revelation, and how rare is that?
This righteousness not only exceeds the righteousness of the scribes Pharisees; it even surpasses Jesus’ contemporaries’ highest conceptions of John the Baptist. We must ask, why does Jesus use the example of John the Baptist to send home the point that even the least citizen of the kingdom of heaven is greater than him? What is Jesus’ meaning here?
Jesus appropriates the popular view of John’s high spiritual and prophetic stature to push their conceptions of him to the completely inconceivable level of “none greater” born of woman (Mt 11:11). He did this to underscore and magnify how much greater the very least citizen of that realm is than even the most spiritual and approved among God’s servants of whom none has ever been greater.
Think how this must have been taken. Jesus is inviting them to conceive the inconceivable, and for one purpose. That purpose, I submit, is to show, not an exceedingly surpassing greatness, but an exceedingly surpassing righteousness. As in the case when Jesus terrifies His Jewish contemporaries with the forbidding task of exceeding the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees (Mt 5:20). So here, He sets before them the possibility of exceeding the highest conceptions of John’s spiritual greatness. How can these things be? Exactly!
Jesus is laying the foundations for Paul’s doctrine of justification by the imputation of Christ’s righteousness, as a unique kind of righteousness, which has no earthly comparison. He is giving us to understand that this righteousness of the kingdom of heaven is nothing of our own, but wholly His alone.
This is the OT promise of an “everlasting righteousness” (Dan 9:24). It is the righteousness of the new / everlasting covenant (Isa 59:21; Jer 31-34; 32:40). It is the promise that “in the Lord will all Israel be saved with an everlasting salvation” (Isa 45:17). It is the righteousness of the Lord by which “all the seed of Israel shall be justified and shall glory” (Isa 45:25). It is the expectation that in that day, it will be the Lord who works all their works in them (Isa 26:12). “And their righteousness is of ME, says the Lord” (Isa 54:17).
It is the righteousness of the Lord Himself, but particularly as wrought out, performed, and fulfilled in the person of our representative humanity, the scion of David, the curse reversing Seed of the woman, the second Adam.
“Behold, the days come, says the LORD, that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch, and a King shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth. In His days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely: and this is his name whereby He shall be called, THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS” (Jer 23:5-6).
The implication of this glorious truth will be totally lost if we assume that John stood on the outside of the kingdom of heaven. Quite the contrary! Some were pressing into the kingdom at that very time and taking it by force (Mt 11:12; Lk 16:16). Others were refusing to enter and blocking the way for those seeking to enter (Mt 23:13).
So this is not a kingdom that is only future on the far side of the great tribulation, as commonly and correctly expected by the Jews. Rather, Jesus is revealing the mystery of the kingdom as present and active, even as the outward structures of this evil age remain.
The kingdom is a revelatory (apocalyptic) phenomenon as well as a chronological event. It can be “at hand”, not only in terms of chronological time, though that too, but in terms of a realm that is only accessible to the Spirit of revelation. One must be made spiritually alive (born again) to see it (Jn 3:3 with 1Pet 1:23). It is present and suffering violence now, as it is being brought decisively near by the presence of its uncrowned King.
The action of the King is the action of the kingdom. The proof that the kingdom has come in power is in the binding of the strong man and the spoiling of his house, as demonstrated by the expulsion of demons by the finger of God (Mt 12:28-29).
So it is clear that John was in the kingdom as Jesus was preparing His disciples to understand its presence among them, as He begins to reveal to them what He calls, the “mystery of the kingdom”. The popular and correct understanding was that the messianic deliverance of the kingdom of God on earth comes only after the tribulation and its climax in the long awaited great day of the Lord. Against this background, Jesus begins to introduce the revolutionary new concept that the promised deliverance of the long awaited kingdom of God has two distinct stages, one present and one to come.
This kingdom that Jesus announces as presently “at hand” is not entirely new. It has always been an ever present and active reality (Ps 103:19; 145:11-13; Dan 4:17, 25, 32), but now “the time is fulfilled” for the great transition that brings the first fruits of the fulfillment of the ancient promise (M 1:15) . Even with the promise now partially fulfilled in the suffering of the Lamb that precedes the glory (Acts 3:18-21; 1Pet 1:11), there is a future glory and greater fulfillment and manifestation of the kingdom of God when all the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea (Isa 11:9; Hab 2:14). But now, even in the temporary absence of the risen and ascended King (Lk 19:11-15 with Dan 7:13-14), the kingdom is no less present in mystery form, as active in the person and power of the Holy Spirit, not only in the age to come but even now.
This revelation of the mystery of the kingdom stood in contrast (but not contradiction) to the common Jewish expectation of one coming of the Messiah in connection with Israel’s post-tribulational deliverance at the day of the Lord. The mystery of the kingdom is based on the unknown secret of two separate comings of Messiah (Acts 26:22-23; Ro 16:25-26).
The foundation of this kingdom is not simply righteousness as the world, with its religions, sects, and cults has always conceived of God and the demands of His character and laws. That understanding is common to man and leaves one fatally short of the righteousness of God that is imputed to the believer in Jesus alone.
No, this is an “apocalyptic” (unveiled) righteousness that requires the Spirit’s revelation to understand and grace, because it is a righteousness of another kind. The Reformers called this an “iustitia alien” (alien righteousness). It is apart from me; it’s not mine inherently. It belongs to Christ. It’s source is God alone by grace alone through faith alone. Yet the imputation of His righteousness assures that the Holy Spirit has come to work the works of God in and through the justified believer.
This is why we are careful to clarify and insist that “whereas we are justified by faith alone, the faith that justifies is never alone”. The righteousness that justifies us also guarantees its lively working in and through us by the indwelling Spirit of Christ. The truth of whether we are in the faith in vital reality (2Cor 13:5) is shown and vindicated by the fruits of the Spirit (Mt 7:19; Mk 4:20; Jn 15:2; Ro 7:4; Gal 5:22; Phil 1:11; Ja 2:18) , albeit in varied measure differing between believers (“some thirty, some sixty, and some a hundred fold”; Mk 4:8).
To see (really see and apprehend by the Spirit) this righteousness of the King, as actually belonging to everyone in the kingdom, even those of the least spiritual maturity or stature, one must be born again, since “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (Jn 3:3).
According to Jesus, the spiritual birth is not new. Nicodemus should have understood this as a fundamental presupposition of all spiritual life (Jn 3:10). This righteousness is the only ground and basis by which anyone was ever justified at any time or dispensation.
The Father already had in His secure possession the predestined work of the Son, counted as already done, even before the beginning of creation (Ro 8:20; Eph 1:4-5, 9-11; 3:11; Heb 9:12; 13:20; Rev 13:8). This is how God could give the Spirit of Christ to OT believers on the basis of a work yet to be accomplished in “the fullness of time” (Gal 4:4), even before the full revelation of how this would be accomplished in the gospel of the Messiah’s twofold appearing to Israel (Acts 26:22-23; Ro 16:25-26; Eph 6:19; 1Pet 1:11)
Can we even begin to take this in? In the words of Fanny J. Crosby, “I scarse can take it in!” Indeed, no one can, except by the quickening of the Spirit’s illumination. Yet when we see this clearly and grasp its implications by the grace of the Spirit’s illumination, we will begin to grasp the unfathomable glory implied by such a righteousness as this.
Can we believe that we really are, not only someday, but right now this very righteousness of God in Christ? The scripture certainly affirms this. “For He made (counted) Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2Cor 5:21).
Only by the grace of revelation can we begin to grasp the inconceivable implications of 2Cor 5:21 and therefore the glory of Jn 5:24. What had, until then, only been associated with a future hope is here declared by Jesus to be the present possession of every truly regenerate believer. “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life.”
Could grasping this by the Spirit be what it means to enter His rest? I think so. The writer of Hebrews calls this blessed estate, “the full assurance of faith.” This is far more rare than usually assumed by superficial views of the nature of true, Spirit quickened, saving faith.
This is the overcoming faith that shows itself through testing to be truly “born of God” (1Jn 5:4). It is not the lifeless, fruitless faith that is no better than the faith of demons (Ja 2:19). It is not the superficial, rootless faith that is quickly withered by the heat of temptation and adversity (Lk 8:13). It is the very faith of Christ at work in the believer (Jn 6:28-29; Rom 3:22; Gal 2:16, 20). It is the faith that Paul calls, “the faith of God’s elect” (Tit 1:1).
The Roman Catholics at Trent branded this glorious doctrine of imputed righteousness a “legal fiction”. To which I answer, if it is no legal fiction that He who knew no sin could counted as sin, not by His own sin, but by the imputation of mine; how is it a legal fiction if I should be counted the righteousness of God by a righteousness that is not mine, but His freely imputed to me? Oh wonder of wonders!
“And indeed, this is one of the greatest mysteries in the world; namely, that a righteousness that resides in heaven should justify me, a sinner on earth!” (John Bunyan).
No wonder Jesus said, “except a man be born again, he cannot see …” Not only can he not see the kingdom; he cannot see or understand the kingdom’s unique and only righteousness. This righteousness is not only impossible for the natural man to receive; it is impossible for him to conceive. It must be revealed.
“For therein (the gospel) is the righteousness of God revealed ….”
Unless God supernaturally intervenes, translation work is not an exact science.
Yes, the ESV has some poorly translated spots here and there, but no more than most others. Except in the case of Dan 9:25 ESV, Dan 9:26 ESV. (Compare with Dan 9:25, 26 KJV) That isn’t just a poor translation; it’s bad! Yet, even there, there are arguments, coming mostly from liberal Christian and Jewish Hebrew scholars that make a case for it to be translated precisely as it is in the ESV. This translation has “given great occasion to the enemies” of the messianic interpretation.
That translation made the anti-missionaries happy, giving legitimization by Christian translators to what Jewish Hebrew scholars have been protesting all along. Of course, speaking from a strictly “technical” linguistic standpoint, it can also be JUST as legitimately translated the way KJV, NKJV, NASB, and nearly every other Christian translation in history has translated it UNTIL the ESV came along and makes this massive concession and capitulation to what Jewish scholars have been insisting all along to be the result of Christian bias, tampering with the text, giving it a forced, “unnatural” meaning. But unnatural to who?
They argue that it is the Christian who has the vested interest to “force” the text to yield a meaning that would be unnatural unless one was already predisposed to see in it one Messiah rather than two. For Jews who have no such vested interest (?), it is argued that one should see two messiahs, not Israel’s long awaited anointed Davidic ruler of ancient promise, but two priestly figures or anointed leaders, one after the first seven weeks (49 years) and another after the 62 weeks (434 years), with the latter anointed leader killed, usually by some usurper.
So what’s the tiebreaker between (some would argue) equally technical options? Well, it’s context! context! context!
But how one is inclined to see the context becomes the decisive question. Who then is willing to ask what would seem the “natural” and I think decisive question concerning the context? What is the burden of the context? Ask yourself; would Daniel be expecting an “end” (consummation) to the times of the Gentiles and Israel’s everlasting deliverance from exilic suffering, not to mention his own personal resurrection at the “END” of the final week? Would he be expecting all of this to take place WITHOUT a single reference to the appearance and death of the “curse reversing seed of the woman”, AKA the Messiah, son of David Son of God? This is what we’re asked to believe. Even the Son of Man in Dan 7 is to be interpreted simply as a metaphor for a corporate human figure symbolizing the kingdom of the saints in contrast to the beast-like kingdoms of carnal man.
Is the cutting off of the anointed prince there in Dan 9:26 just some priest that got killed by some usurper. This is the typical understanding of interpreters less “interested” to see Jesus or the Davidic Prince of Israel in this passage.
Or is this Isaiah’s suffering Servant, “cut off” (Isa 53:8) in substitutionary atonement for His people’s transgressions? Scholars just can’t figure out why this death of this particular anointed leader should just happen to fall exactly one week (7 years) before the end. But what end? The answer of liberal scholars has always been to see this as the death of Onias III and the seven years the “approximate” time of the 2300 days of Antiochus’ persecution of the Jews.
Or, is the “end” in view the “grand” end and climax of the covenant in Israel’s deliverance and the resurrection of the righteous? How about the same “end” that is mentioned all throughout the rest of the book? How about THAT end?! That’s an effective point in dialogue with Jews, Christians, and Joe unbeliever, but not pragmatic liberals. Here too, they will say, yes, this is exactly the “end” that a pseudonymous Daniel had in mind. He simply ventured a prediction that didn’t come to pass as expected.
Pseudo-Daniel’s predictive blunder permits liberal biblical criticism firm certainty that the book is to be dated circa 168 B.C. Why? Because this is where the pseudonymous author, presenting history as prophecy up to this point, now ventures to make an actual prediction concerning Antiochus’ end and the resurrection of the maskilim that simply failed to happen.
Still, somehow, such an obviously discredited “pious fraud” survived and made its way, not only into the Hebrew canon in the first century A.D., but into the library of the Essenes of the Qumran community in the second century B.C.
These were the contemporaries and successors to the history of the Maccabean struggle that saw Antiochus’ persecution as fulfillment, but also knew his end came about in a way that was completely contradictory to the end described of the the little horn / vile person of Daniel’s prophecy. And this is not even to mention that no resurrection happened, and Israel soon fell back under the power of Rome. How then does such obviously failed prophecy make it into canonical acceptance, as revered by even near contemporaries of when the liberals date the book?
You can see the assault of the powers of the air in their dread of this book’s contents and what this portends for their end. As Travis so often says, “and therein lies the problem!” 🙂
Why all the fuss and confusion? You’ll guess my usual answer, but “It’s the mystery, Watson!” Always the mystery! Closed up and sealed till the time of the end!
Not too often, but very occasionally, how we see the big picture will determine translational decisions for weal or for woe. Can we even conceive that God deliberately left us just enough rope to hang ourselves with if we are not very careful, believing that not one jot or tittle can pass without perfect, detailed fulfilment of every line of the sacred trust. This is no less true, even in the pious, most often completely sincere science / art of translation.
I believe that here too God has “hid these things from the wise and prudent”. To arrive at the truth that God Himself has hidden within the text takes a miracle of mercy. It doesn’t come naturally, and great learning is no advantage where the secrets of God are concerned.
By sovereign design, He has put these difficulties right in the text for His purposes in mercy and judgement and so none can glory. He has done just that in a few places throughout scripture, particularly where the sealed vision of eschatology is concerned.
Many fail to see beyond the partial, albeit sometimes quite remarkably parallels in history to insist on a much more precise and exhaustive fulfillment in the future at the end. Yet there are many instances of this telescoped perspective of blending the near and the far in Hebrew prophecy. We see this particularly in Dan 8 & 11 for just one example, but even somewhat in the Olivet prophecy.
This phenomenon of a double horizon in prophecy works as a kind of decoy, hiding and obscuring from the hasty scholarly mind the necessity of a more thoroughly detailed and exhaustive fulfilment at the end, repeating what took place in real pattern and principle on the near horizon, but now in much more exhaustive, fuller precision of detail at the end. Here we stand!
Just discovered this one in the email archives. Not sure how it was missed. We’ll let this one sit on the front page for a few days and then put it where it belongs chronologically. TQ – Admin
On Thu, May 1, 2008:
I’ve never owned a Scofield Bible but a brother on the internet gave me the following below as an example of Scofield and dispensationalism teaching two peoples with two separate destinies. I dont quite know yet what to make of the statements. I just wanted to share them. I’m coming to see there is a difference between classical pre-mill dispensationalism and the historical pre-mill view although I’m still doing some sorting in my mind. The brother said these were Scofield’s notes on Hosea 2:2. Just thought I would share it.
That Israel is the wife of Jehovah (see vs. 16-23), now disowned but yet to be restored, is the clear teaching of the passages. This relationship is not to be confounded with that of the Church to Christ (John 3. 29, refs.). In the mystery of the Divine tri-unity both are true. The N.T. speaks of the Church as a virgin espoused to one husband (2 Cor. 11. 1,2); which could never be said of an adulterous wife, resored in grace. Israel is, then, to be the restored and forgiven wife of Jehovah, the Church the virgin wife of the Lamb (John 3.29; Rev. 19.6-8); Israel Jehovah’s earthly wife (Hos. 2.23); The Church the Lamb’s heavenly bride (Rev. 19.7).
Hi, Doc. Thanks for this. I actually have a Scofield (the ’67 edition with word changes) and like it a lot. I favor its literal and futuristic approach to prophecy and Israel, but not its particular variety of dispensationalism, particularly its view of the nature of the church.
There are two basic pillars that support ‘pre-tribulational’ dispensationalism. One is the doctrine of imminence (the view that no prophetic event stands in the way of the potentiality of an any moment coming of Christ, a potential that has existed since the earliest apostles first preached the ‘blessed hope’, which they define as exemption from the great tribulation). The second pillar is dispensationalism’s unique view of the nature of the church. According to dispensationalism, the church had no existence before Pentecost and does not (cannot) exist on earth after the rapture. I see both of these pillars as seriously flawed.
According to dispensationalism, there are two distinct programs of God, two distinct peoples of God, and two distinct dispensations for Israel and the church. The church belongs to God’s ‘mystery’ program for this dispensation only. The dispensation of the ‘church’ is seen as confined to the period between Pentecost and the rapture. In their view, the concept of the mystery removes the church from anything anticipated in OT prophecy. Therefore, it is believed that the dispensation of the church must end with the rapture before the “prophetic program” for Israel can be resumed. Thus the events of the last seven years (Daniel’s seventieth week), are understood to belong to an entirely different dispensation.
It is believed that the church is a mystery that occupies a parenthetical interim between Pentecost and the rapture, and thus stands in marked contrast to God’s “prophetic program” for Israel. According to dispensationalism’s erroneous view of the Pauline mystery, the church is so completely distinguished from even the righteous of Israel as to constitute a distinct people of God with its own distinct destiny. This doctrine of the two peoples of God is THE defining hallmark of pre-trib dispensationalism.
Note: (These features of dispensational thought developed in the mid 19th century out of an effort to understand the distinction between Israel and the church. Early, pretribulationism was not initially born out of a desire to escape tribulation as unfairly accused. Rather, the primary motive was to defend the hope that Christ could come any moment, i.e., the doctrine of imminence.)
We too distinguish between Israel and the church, but not in this way. There is another choice that does not require the dispensationalist’s notion of two peoples of God.
The election continues to go with the nation even in its unbelief. In that sense, the Jewish people remain beloved (foreloved) as a people, and can be rightly called ‘the chosen people’. But are they another ‘people of God’? True, the Jewish people remain a necessarily distinct people of covenant destiny. To this end the Jews are miraculously preserved in order to publicly demonstrate and openly vindicate the power and election of God towards this people. (“What shall the receiving again them be but life from the dead?”) But the promise of coming salvation, and the preservation of a national identity to that end, assumes nothing concerning personal salvation of individual Jews. So the question of whether there is more than one people of God is more nuanced than recognized by the simplistic ‘either / or’ choice pressed by one school against the other.
In contrast to both replacement theology and dispensationalism, we believe that the distinction between Israel and the church is better compared to the distinction that always existed between the elect nation and the more specific election of grace from within the nation, namely, the righteous remnant.
Through the revelation of the mystery of the gospel, that righteous remnant, now become the eschatological remnant of first-fruits, can be defined as the ‘body of Christ’ comprised of all who are indwelt by the ‘Spirit of Christ’. In my view, the body of Christ (though it could not have been known by that term) includes the OT righteous (see 1Pet 1:11, “the Spirit of Chirst which was ‘in’ them”).
With the new revelation has come a new language. But this is where we need to exercise caution. We learn from the doctrine of Christ’s pre-existence that for something to be newly revealed does not mean that it has come newly into existence. This is an important distinction when we are speaking of Christ and the church. Much has come to light in the gospel that had real existence before the dispensation of the fuller revelation. This applies as much to the ‘body of Christ’ as to Christ Himself and the unity of persons in the Godhead.
We believe that the church now revealed and described as the body of Christ is in indivisible continuity with the ‘remnant according to the election of grace’ that existed throughout Israel’s history and before. Israel as a nation remains elect despite its temporary unbelief. It’s destiny is only discernible by covenant and prophecy, not by its temporal behavior. The nation’s long history of apostasy cannot thwart the appointed time of transformation (Ps 102:13). This is necessary because of the demands of the covenant that remain unfulfilled apart from the reinstatement of the ‘natural branches’.
Never could the presence of a mere remnant guarantee the nation’s continuance in holiness in the Land as specified in promise and prophecy (literally understood). This can only be accomplished by the salvation of ‘all Israel’, which means the end of the remnant, since from that time ‘all’ know Him forever (Jer 31:34; 32:40; Ezek 34-39). This is everywhere shown to come no sooner than the apocalyptic day of the Lord (Isa 59:21; 66:8; Ezek 39:22; Zech 3:9). Only the coming of the revealing regenerating Spirit upon the surviving remnant as a whole can guarantee the kind of enduring national obedience necessary to continue in the Land ‘forever’, thus establishing the ‘everlasting’ covenant by an ‘everlasting’ righteousness (Dan 9:24; Jer 32:40; Isa 60:21).
Hence, Pentecost represents a first-fruits of that coming eschatologial transformation of the nation. This is the revelation that has made the church the church, and when Israel will receive the same revelation ‘in that day’, it too will be no less church, and no less the body of Christ, albeit in a unique stewardship of divine commission on the earth, as the long promised light that will lighten multitudes of gentiles throughout the millennium of Israel’s glory (Isa 60:5). It is to this church of the eschatological remnant of first-fruits that the gentiles have been added in unexpected numbers. As an eschatological entity, the church, like Paul (Act 13:47), understands its apostolic task as a first-fruits anticipation of Israel’s commission to lighten the nations. None of this supplants or replaces the covenant promise that envisions the salvation of the nation, but rather constitutes a first-fruits anticipation of that very eschatological glory, which is the “without which not” of covenant fulfillment (of any literal kind).
Your prayers are so deeply appreciated. In His great goodness, Reggie
On Mon, May 5, 2008:
Hi Reggie, have you ever seen or read the book, “The Great cover up” A research project (I guess) that traces the origination of pre trib back via, Dallas Theological College, Scofields the brethren and Darby to the McDonald family in Scotland. Apparently their daughter Mary I think was very prone to long (and way out) prophetic utterances (some of which were documented ) I believe Darby or Irving actually attended these meetings and took the idea back to the Brethren. The book contains some documentation and actual eye witness accounts.
I believe after promoting this view a number left the brethren over this including George Muller the father of orphans who said something like, I can have my bible or can have Darby and so I choose to leave and keep my bible.
It was a long time ago I read this so my memory may fail me but that was the gist
Christian love and kind regards
Hi Robert. Yes, I’ve read McPherson a long time ago in a first edition of his book. There was quite a gathering of gifted ministers in the original brethren movement. Some from both sides of the rapture question are noted for their substantial work as writers and theologians. My favorites are Tregelles and Newton; both parted ways with Darby over his innovation.
It is most interesting that just when so many gains were being made in the restoration of prophetic truth, the pre-trib rapture theory was brought in like the proverbial Trojan Horse into the evangelical camp. It became the dominant view.
Actually Margaret McDonald’s prophecies presupposed a split rapture distinguishing the spiritually fit (the five wise) from other less perfected believers who would get straightened out by passing through the tribulation. So it wasn’t the pretrib rapture of the classic dispensationalism variety as formulated by Darby and popularized in the Scofield Bible. This remains the view of those that identify themselves as ‘classic dispensationalist’. Margaret McDonald’s view was more in keeping with the partial rapture that some Pentecostals continue to teach.
I seem to recall that Darby’s more refined synthesis occurred to him during a season of illness somewhere in the mid 1830’s. The supposed revelation confirmed for him the the supposed separation of the church and Israel and their different destinies on the basis of 2Thes 2:7. He was the first to deduce that if the restrainer was the Holy Spirit, then His removal assumed the removal of the church, as those indwelt by the Spirit. The idea suggests a ‘reversal of Pentecost’ (John Walvoord) whereby the Holy Spirit will no longer indwell the so-called ‘tribulation saints’.
After the rapture, the Holy Spirit returns to His former relationship of merely ‘with’ or ‘upon’, but not ‘in’ the faithful, as believed to be the case with the saints of the OT. Thus, the pre-trib rapture of the church as concurrent with the removal of the Holy Spirit as the ‘one who now holds back’ the Antichrist, the ‘blessed hope’ is protected as an imminent event, since in this way the church of this ‘mystery dispensation’ is kept separate from the sign events of God’s prophetic program with Israel. Thus the two peoples of God. The church is the heavenly people with heavenly promises (covenants?) and heavenly destiny, while Israel is the earthly people of God, with earthly promises and an earthly destiny.
So the Lord’s manifest return after the tribulation (Mt 24:29-31) is not for the church. Rather, the purpose of Christ’s post-tribulational coming is to end the times of the Gentiles and to establish His mediatorial kingdom over the millennial earth and rule out of a restored Israel. So the rapture is distinguished from the so-called ‘kingdom coming’.
Grace and peace, Reggie
In John 17, Jesus made these two statements: “I have finished the work which you gave me to do.” And, “Now I am no more in the world.” He was still here, and still had the cross to endure.
Do you think these words pivot off what Revelation so surprisingly tells us, that Jesus was “Slain from before the foundation of the world”?
Above and behind all the contingencies of time that seem so contingent and uncertain to us, Jesus lived and walked in a whole other place. He walked in the works that had been finished already before the foundation of the world. He walked, lived and labored out of the rest (Heb 4:3, 11). ).
With the cross still before Him, and even before He would plead that the cup be somehow removed, even while knowing this would be impossible, since for this cause He came into the world. This seeming contradiction between a predestined inevitably and the Son’s appeal as though some lingering ignorance of an unavoidable certainty had come over Him.
This is no contradiction at all!, as some wicked gainsayers have suggested. On the contrary, this is the nexus of the glory of the incarnation, of the One who so emptied Himself to be exalted, as a man!, to the highest preeminence, even equality with God! Precisely here is the greatest demonstration of the perfect convergence of a fully poured out humanity in a final act of perfectly voluntary submission to the will of His Father in the face of the unbearable and incomprehensible .
Consider: He knew He was not just about to die but take on Himself the full punishment of divine wrath due the sin of the world. Certainly He would ask the cup be removed, “if possible”. He wouldn’t be human if He did not stagger beneath the weight of all that His prophetic senses could only contemplate with an intensity beyond our capacity to imagine. Let’s ponder this for a moment.
He knew He was asking the impossible, but the scripture wanted us to see the glory of a fully submitted humanity that would not be human if it did not shudder and shrink in horror at what now lay just before Him.
In the words of the grand old hymn, “did e’er such love and sorrow meet, or thorns compose so rich a crown?” I would ask, did e’er such humanity and deity meet, or the Father’s love and glory more surround?
If we could only know the power of weakness, we could begin to understand the glory of that one word, “nevertheless”. “Nevertheless, not my will, but thine, be done.” When that heart of utter submission dwells in a person, it is a piece of incarnation, as it reflects living witness to the mystery of the incarnation itself. Why? Because this kind of love, and voluntary submission in the face of such sacrifice on behalf of another, particularly an enemy, is “impossible with man”. This is why martyrdom is so central to the faith. It is not human heroics; it is submitted love. But back to the point.
It is so amazing to contemplate that the one who could say outside the grave of Lazarus …
And I knew that thou hearest me always: but because of the people which stand by I said it, that they may believe that thou hast sent me. John 11:42
comes now to Gethsemane, with a request that though gloriously heard, could never be granted, and Jesus knew it only too well. Still, His very humanity required expression in the impossible request, and the scripture was unwilling that we should fail to hear it.
But lest anyone vainly imagine that for something to be an inevitable and predestined certainty that it is somehow automatic or mechanical, look again. Jesus did nothing by external constraint or necessity, but only by the liberty of the Spirit. It was very necessary that no man take His life from Him (though men would be the witless agency), but that He lay it down “FREELY” of His own accord. Freedom, the God kind of freedom, is also at the very heart of a predestined incarnation of the Spirit of liberty.
Even while seeing, I know I don’t see. The glory of this is blinding. It would take a very uncommon revelation to begin to even conceive, let alone grasp.
The reason for this is very much to your question.
As no one else has ever walked, Jesus walked in perfect, unfettered faith in works that were finished (predestined) — already accomplished, before the foundation of the world. He lived in the past tense in the sense that He saw His future as already accomplished. Still, He prayed and groaned and travailed in prayer for the birthing and coming forth of God’s predestined future.
No contradiction here, just our mortal minds faced with the incomprehensible power of God to balance freedom, responsibility, and a fixed and unalterable predestination. And aren’t we glad God is in control of every sparrow that falls? Pity those who are afraid to embrace their best friend — the predestining power of God.
Imagine rising up in the morning, knowing you will be walking in works that were predestined before creation? Jesus lived with this consciousness. He lived each day as predestined, and in that sense past. Each day was predicted by a certainty that could not be stopped, though all hell should make it all the more glorious in the futile attempt.
We live in all the uncertain contingencies of the natural world around us, we struggle in suspense of all the maybes and what if’s of this life. Jesus lived in the consciousness that everything, literally everything concerning Him was on a predestined timeline. Is there something here for us?
The free actions and seemingly free decisions of men, enemies and disciples alike, would all fall into perfect service of a predestined plan that was perfectly ordained and utterly impossible to thwart or alter. In the words of my beloved brother, Art. “How’s them apples?”
How does that work? Exactly! We cannot grasp such a concept. Why strain and break our brain. Such paradox should not be cause for debates over philosophical, theological questions over freedom and determination, but amazement and worship at the power of grace to win the battle despite all the gates of hell, freedom and contingency notwithstanding. We can only bow and worship at such wonders that defy comprehension.
It all had to be just so, with no part (cog) missing or out of its appointed place, because the whole original purpose for creation depended on it. And not only the cross at just some eventuality along the way, but by a predestined set time under the equally ordained (pre-set) circumstances, with every player in place, yet with no violence to the will of responsible individuals. But precisely at this time, under no other possible set of circumstances. How do you do that? Only God!, which is precisely the point.
I’m now coming to the verse that I think speaks most to your question, but first one more verse that is very much like it.
Jesus knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he was come from God, and went to God; He rises from supper, and laid aside his garments; and took a towel, and girded himself …
Here is the Lamb of God’s grand exit from this world, and what does He do? He stoops to wash our feet! Take that in. This is astonishing! This is His statement that will only begin to be conceived or understood in retrospect.
Jesus said and did a lot that would only be understood in retrospect, but oh, the glory of looking back in hindsight at all that the Father was so perfectly controlling to the tiniest detail. What part could have been left out? Even the human editing of every word of the four gospel accounts is part of a perfectly sovereign, utterly superintendence, right down to the finest detail. As Jesus said, “not one jot or tittle can pass from the Torah unfulfilled.” Now that’s micro-management! Yes, God is all about the details and the small print. He guards the jots and the tittles as all a piece with the ‘seamless garment’ of the sacred trust of our divinely sent canon, perfectly supervised in its preservation and transmission.
Only Jesus could see how a perfectly predestined future was not put in doubt by the necessity of the indispensable, equally predestined travail of holy intercession that was no less voluntary, but constrained by the grace of the Spirit. We must note how nothing of what God ordains is dispensable. Prayer is the ordained means to all of God’s ordained ends. There is no conflict between a predestined outcome and the equally predestined means to its birthing into the creation, even though the works were finished before the foundation of the world. Big thoughts for our little minds! But back to the verse that is to your question.
“And now I am in the world …” These are words that look at the present from the eternal perspective above time, that sees by the “Spirit of prophecy” what is to come as though already accomplished. This is a common characteristic of Hebrew prophecy. Scholars call it the “prophetic past tense”. This is a common characteristic of Hebrew prophecy which can accomodate temporal conditionality and contingency based on response with an absolute predestination that assures a certain response at a certain, foretold time. That’s sovereignty!, where nothing of the tension is lost, but nothing is left to uncertainty. This is because the whole, with all its moving parts, is being perfectly controlled towards a predestined end, and that end, and the perfectly foretold process leading to it, is never put at the mercy of mere foresight alone.
The logic of all that the scripture says of God’s attributes in the Trinity of persons concerning an eternal purpose that had no beginning in time but always existed in the Godhead (as one brother put it, “from all eternity, there was a cross in the Godhead), leads us to conclude that the Father and the Son were enjoying the end of the timeline as already finished before it started. It was done before it began. That’s what this language, especially here in John is intended to convey. Now for those final two verses that bring this out most perfectly, also here in Jn 17, in what has been called, “Jesus’ high priestly prayer”.
I have glorified thee on the earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do. (Spoken as already finished when the cross still lay ahead)
And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was.
If that isn’t glorious Trinitarian language, I don’t know what would be!
From His perspective, Jesus has already been here and returned to the Father. This glory that the eternal Son had with the Father before the creation always existed in full finished certainty and fellowship of mutual enjoyment, and all on the basis of what was now, just about to be accomplished in time.
In the words of Fanny J. Crosby, “I scarce can take it in!” Think about it. The cross, and all the things of time that would be constructed around this great, eternally centermost event that was not only known and predestined in God, but the object of eternal, pre-temporal fellowship and enjoyment of infinite glory in the Godhead before anything had been created. It was finished before it began, but it all depended on that one center-most event of time — the cross.
Seen this way, Jesus’ last words from the cross. “It is finished!”, takes on a meaning that reverberates through all time and eternity from the Alpaha to the Omega.
That is who He is. He’s everything! All things have been put in His hands and only the Father Himself can weigh His worth!!’
What do you think of this article Reggie?
Good thoughts, good points, raising a very timely question. However, and it’s a big however, we must never forget the larger surrounding context of Zech 12:2-3. Obviously, the final siege of Jerusalem ends when the repentant survivors of Israel “look upon Him whom they pierced” (Zech 12:10), as a fountain for cleansing is opened (Zech 13:1). So when do “all” nations gather against Jerusalem? (Zech 12:3; 14:2), and what are the circumstances that will be prevailing at the time?
It may come as a surprise, but not all nations that come to fight at Jerusalem are being driven by an antisemitic hatred. Not all the nations that are gathered to Armageddon are coming against Israel. This is not well known, but contrary to popular prophecy scenarios, the final siege of Jerusalem is not directed against the Jews but against the Antichrist (Dan 11:40-45). The modern state of Israel will have already been overwhelmed and conquered 3 1/2 years earlier. This is clear from Dan 9:27; 11:31; 12:1, 7, 11 with Mt 24:15-16, 21; Rev 11:2; 12:6, 14. A careful comparison between Eze 39:8, Dan 11:40-45, and Rev 16:12-17 will show that “at the time of the end”, the nations are directing their attack against the Antichrist, little expecting that they will be meeting the returning Lamb of God. Armageddon is the time at the end of the tribulation that all nations, deceived by demons (Rev 16:13), are rushing headlong into the trap that God has prepared for all who have ignored His everywhere declared covenant Word.
At this time (i.e., the end of the tribulation), the nations are not coming to destroy the Jews. They are coming to oppose the Antichrist who will have set up his royal pavilion on God’s holy mountain (Dan 11:45). It is then that the gathered armies of the nations will come flooding into the valleys of Esdraelon, Jehoshaphat (Decision), and Jezreel (Hos 1:5; 2:22-23; Joel 3:2, 12-17), only to “fall upon the mountains of Israel” (Eze 394, 17). God will use, not only the rabid antisemitism of the Antichrist and his ten, but the revolt of other great nations that have apparently found his yoke unbearable. In this way, God will fulfill His long declared intention to bring all the nations into a final trap of judgment for their defiance or indifference to the prophetic Word of God (see Isa 5:26; 13:4-6; 14:24-26; 17:12-13; 29:7-8; 34:2; Eze 38:4-6; 39:8; Dan 11:40-45; Joel 3:2; Mic 4:11; Zeph 3:8; Zech 12:3, 9; 14:2-3, 16; Rev 16:12-17).
Not all nations will unite with the Antichrist against Israel. Some will express astonishment and helpless disapproval (Eze 38:12-13), while others such as Egypt will be ravaged at the same time that Israel is ravaged by the same fierce king (Isa 28:2; 19:4; Dan 8:23-25). Notice that whereas Ezekiel is notably prolific in his prophecies concerning Egypt, curiously, Egypt is not mentioned in the list of nations that come against the Land under the leadership of Gog (i.e., the Antichrist; cf. Eze 38:17). This strange silence speaks volumes. Evidently, Egypt is among the moderate Arab nations that are at peace with the peace, intensifying the hatred of the Antichrist that will also break out with fury against Egypt at nearly the same time he makes his move against Israel (Dan 11:42).
If we are correct to understand that the covenant that the Antichrist ‘confirms’ (strengthens / gives formal approval) in Dan 9:27 is indeed the “holy covenant” of Dan 11:28, 30 that is violated in the middle of the week (Dan 9:27; 11:31; 12:11), then apparently the Antichrist was only one among “many” other nations who lent his support to the holy covenant that manifestly recognized Jewish right of return to the temple mount, (perhaps in some agreement to share the temple mount). This too suggests a divided world, since some nations will be in support of the ill-fated peace, as others who have hated the covenant from the start will join the Antichrist’s secretive plot to overthrow it (Dan 11:23-31).
We know from a number of scriptures that before the fateful invasion of the Antichrist, there has been some kind of peace arrangement that has worked to greatly relax Israel’s guard (Isa 28:15, 18; Eze 38:8, 11, 14; Dan 11:23-24). This helps to explain why the invasion will take Israel so suddenly by complete surprise (Isa 28:17-18; 1Thes 5:3). That Jerusalem is not under siege before this time is made clear by Jesus’ reference to Daniel’s mention of the abomination of desolation (Dan 9:27; 11:31; 12:11). The demand for urgent flight is in plainest connection with this particular signal event (Mt 24:15-16). This tells us that Israel does not come under final siege until the middle of the week. Before this, the Jews suppose themselves safe and secure in their alliance with the Antichrist, with other nations that are doubtless pledged to protect the peace (Isa 28:15; Eze 38:8, 11, 14; Dan 11:23-24).
All of this goes to show how tremendously secure this peace will seem. It would appear from Isa 28 & Eze 38, in light of the presumption depicted in 1Thes 5:3, that at least the orthodox will perhaps (?) suppose that that the messianic era has dawned, or is soon to dawn. Therefore, what seismic changes must be expected between the present status quo and the kinds of conditions described in scripture? Certainly recent events are moving us along an inexorable trajectory in that direction, but radical changes are required to get us there. We’re getting there, but we’re not there yet!
Obviously, there must be renewed Jewish access to the controversial temple mount in order for there to be a temple that the man of lawlessness can enter, not only to exalt himself above all forms of deity (Dan 11:36-37; 2Thes 2:4), but also to place what appears to be an idol image of himself in the holy place (Dan 11:38-39; Mt 24:15; Rev 13:14). We know too that with a temple, and probably before the temple is finished, there must be the restoration of the ancient sacrifice (Dan 8:11; 9:27; 11:31; 12:11). The continual sacrifice is “stopped” / “taken way” 3 1/2 years before the end (Dan 9:27; 12:7, 11). This is very plain. It is this twin event (namely, the placing of the abomination and removal of the daily sacrifice) that starts the unequaled tribulation (compare Dan 12:1, 7, 11; Mt 24:15-16, 21; Rev 11:2; 12:14; 13:5).
Due to the massive amount of error that is currently circulating, it is important to stress the point that it is Jesus Himself who sends His disciples (and therefore us), to “read and understand” Daniel’s prophecy concerning this decisive event that signals the start of the tribulation (“let the reader understand”). Jesus well knew that when this simple command would be obeyed (as Daniel “set his heart to understand”; Dan 10:12), not only would one discover what follows, but also what precedes this pivotal event that would work to align and put in order all of the most strategic events of the end. In view of what is being taught, it is very critical that we note very carefully that this unequalled tribulation that begins with standing up of Michael in heaven (Dan 12:1 with Rev 12:7-14), coupled with the removal of the continual sacrifice and invasion of the temple on earth (Dan 9:27; 11:31; 12:7, 11) ends in nothing short of the return of Jesus (Mt 24:15-31) and the resurrection of the righteous (compare especially Dan 12:1-2, 13 with Mt 24:21, 29-31).
To miss the vital interconnection between the abomination, the cessation of the sacrifice, the tribulation, and the resurrection is to run adrift. For example, with only one exception, every misleading interpretation that I’ve encountered invariably disjoins and separates the abomination of desolation from the cessation of the regular sacrifice. Note this connection carefully. It will help you when you encounter any number of highly influential viewpoints that separate the inseparable. No less than the abomination, it is the cessation of the daily sacrifice that starts the final half week of unequaled tribulation. Both aspects of this single event are at an equal distance from the resurrection (Dan 9:27; 12:7, 11).
The sacrifice is stopped at the same time the abomination is placed in the temple. It should be obvious that these are two aspects of a single event that cannot be separated. For many, this will seem obvious, but it may surprise to know that the throughout the vast literature over the centuries, the abomination is seen as one thing (often the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D.), and the cessation of the sacrifice another (usually imagining that when Jesus died, the sacrifice became obsolete). But any careful comparison will demonstrate that these two aspects of a single event cannot be separated, and the tribulation that follows this event, though very brief, cannot end with anything short of the resurrection at Jesus’ return (Dan 12:1-2; Mt 24:21, 29-31).
All’s to say, these inextricably conjoined aspects of the single event that starts the unequaled tribulation cannot be exegetically separated without unconscionable violence to the text. But this is precisely what has been done, yet nothing could be more vital for the church’s awareness and preparation against the great deception so urgently stressed and forewarned by Jesus and Paul (Mt 24:4; 2Thes 2:3). The connection is crucial, not only to escape from the great deception but also the means by which those of understanding will be made ready agents of world witness, holding the critical key of interpretation for the final great, unparalleled harvest of souls that will come out of ‘the tribulation, the great one’ (Dan 11:32-33; 12:3, 10; Mt 24:14; Rev 7:9, 12-13; 14:6).
As much as many of us are convinced that the time is very short, we are to hold the church steady by helping our brethren to avoid the false alarms of prophetic speculation. Not only because this has discredited the witness of many, but because of what God has invested in that time when those of understanding will know the time with utmost certainty. It is for this cause, we are to guard with utmost diligence the proper order of events. For many, the time will become very certain at the outset of the last week. For others, this certainty may not come until more nearly the middle of the week when the man of lawlessness is about to be revealed.
Personally, I believe God has been pleased to reveal even more than this. We have made no secret of our conviction that a compelling case can be made from many interrelated scriptures that the two days of Hos 6:2 represent the 2 thousand years since the cross and ascension, as the third day represents the millennium that follows Israel’s national resurrection. As compelling as we believe the case to be, and the greater glory of God in the marvel of such a fully foretold timeline, we too are held in check. Only by confirmation of these necessary preliminary events sometime within the next few years will our confidence be vindicated. Until then, we must remain tentative and restrained. What is NOT tentative, but most certain, is the necessity of a temple and sacrifice before the tribulation can begin.
What great use God will make of such unprecedented certainty seems implied by the great power and anointing that is seen to rest on the godly remnant of the last half of the week (Dan 11:31-35; 12:3; Rev 11:2) and the fruit that comes of it (Dan 11:33; 12:3; Zech 12:10; Ro 11:26-27; Rev 7:9, 13-14). This is why Satan will do all in his power to discredit, confuse, and obfuscate the certainty of the time that will spell his downfall (Rev 12:12), as these things will be seen and known by the saints with utmost certainty at that time. I love to quote G. H. Lang, “The History and Prophecies of Daniel”, pg 140.
“When this agreement shall have been confirmed, the wise will know that the final Seven of years has commenced, that the end days are present, that the consummation of the age has arrived. They will expect the violation of the covenant after three years and a half, and will not be overwhelmed with surprise, having been told beforehand by this prophecy. Then will it be seen in fullness that the knowledge of the prophetic Scripture is simply priceless.”
In the patient waiting (James 5:7-8), reggie
Reggie’s response to an excellent comment (quoted at the bottom of this article) on the video “The Downfall of the Devil is in the Details of Daniel.”
Someone’s been listening in class! 🙂
In the interest of brevity and people’s natural lack of stamina for involved discussions, I would only tweak a couple of points. Read his summary first below my remarks, and then return to my comments here for a few, hopefully helpful caveats and additions.
Others may very reasonably differ, but it is not my view that when Michael casts Satan down to take up full and unimpeded residence in the body of the mortally wounded and risen beast that he is now “confined” or restricted to the body of the Antichrist. As in the Lord’s incarnation, the Father remained omnipresent and ubiquitous, but the fullness of His divine nature was concentrated in all its moral perfection in the body / humanity of Jesus. This mystery of incarnation (1Tim 3:16) was, of course, made possible by the virgin birth, because only in this way was it possible for Jesus to be born perfectly free of the fallen, Adamic nature that all others are born into by natural procreation.
In similar parallel, the fullness of Satan’s moral image will be fully embodied / incarnated in the Antichrist, but as Isaiah said, the Antichrist (typified by the Assyrian) does not know God’s intended use of him (Isa 10:7). In the same way, Satan, symbolized as the dragon, knows his time is short, but the risen beast will doubtless think his time has just begun, that nothing will be withheld from this consummate expression of self exaltation.
Furthermore, just as the incarnation of the son was made possible by his freedom from any taint of the fallen nature by means of the virgin birth, just so, it appears that what Paul sees as necessary for the mystery of lawlessness to be revealed requires the removal, not only of Satan from his hindering position in heaven, but something has been removed from the humanity of the Antichrist at the same time. This is why there must be this marvelous intersection and convergence between the time of Satan’s expulsion that starts the tribulation (Dan 12:1 with Rev 12:7-14) and the death and resurrection of the Antichrist in the healing of the mortal wound, which occasions his ascent up out of the abyss into which he descended at death (Rev 11:7; 13:8), all taking place at the middle of the week.
Whatever it is that preserves even the least residue of what it is that makes us human, apparently, this is what has been removed through the Antichrist’s descent and ascent out of the abyss at the very same time that Satan is being removed by Michael from his hindering place in heaven. This great transition is necessary to reveal what Paul calls, “the mystery of lawlessness” (2Thes 2:7).
As Jesus, the Anointed prince of the host in Dan 8:11; 9:25-26, fulfilled the “mystery of godliness” through circumventing passing the fallen seed of man by the virgin birth, just so, the mystery of lawlessness is revealed in the resurrection and full embodiment of Satan in the Antichrist. This is made possible by the miraculous coincidence of the death and resurrection of the Antichrist with the casting down of Satan. Observe what this implies.
Doubtless, through their understanding and certain knowledge of the time, those of understanding (Dan 11:32-33; 12:3-4, 10) will imitate Daniel. Through deep self abasement and prevailing prayer, they too will receive the help of Michael. That is why all heaven rings out with shouts of Jubilee when Satan is cast down. It is also why, just now, as perhaps never before on such a wide scale, the saints received great power and strength (Dan 11:32; Rev 11:2; 12:10). It just so happens that both Daniel and John put this great anointing precisely at the middle of the week (Dan 11:31-33; Rev 11:2; 12:7-10). This is no accident! With Satan’s expulsion, not only is there woe for the ‘earth-dwellers’ (sensual, destitute of the Spirit), but with an open heaven, free of the Accuser’s influence, great power has come upon the saints for the final test and greatest witness unto death.
No wonder all of heaven rejoices when this great blockage has been once and for all removed from his illicit access to the consciences of believers, as through deep travail the veil gives way to the clearest grasp of the liberty of the gospel and fullest enforcement in heaven of the victory that Jesus won at the cross. With Michael’s greatest victory in the removal of Satan from his position of hindrance, the now awakened sleeping giant that is the true body of Christ will arise, and shake itself like Samson, to accomplish more in its last, remaining hours (in this mortal frame) than anytime since Pentecost. I see a type in Samson that gives me hope for the sleeping wise, some of whom have been sinfully distracted and compromised by the vanities of the world system, but God can use again the son He chastens.
So put the two things together. Christ cannot return and the kingdom cannot come in all its fullness UNTIL this man has first been revealed. This event is the ”WHAT” (Greek neuter) that withholds. What is being withheld? The WHAT, I would submit, is the return of Christ to gather us together (2Thes 2:1). Paul says this cannot happen until the man of lawlessness is revealed FIRST (2Thes 2:3). But for this to take place, there is a mystery that he embodies that also must be revealed. This is the mystery of lawlessness, but for this to be revealed, there is a person who must first be removed.
For the reasons shown, we believe that person to be Satan who must be removed from heaven by Michael in the middle of the week. It is Satan’s removal from his position as the one who hinders (1Thes 2:18) that permits the revelation of the mystery of lawlessness to be revealed in the man of lawlessness. This is fatal to his interest.
It is because the whole age waits for this great event that the saints in heaven and earth rejoice, not simply because the time of greatest tribulation has now started, but because “NOW is come salvation, strength, the kingdom of our God and the power of His Messiah” Now, with Michael’s victory over Satan in heaven, that which stood in the way (hindered) the full coming of the kingdom has been taken out of the way. The kingdom can now come unhindered. The opposer can no longer oppose the necessary revelation of the mystery of lawlessness that releases the Lord to release the remaining seals and finish the mystery of God (Rev 10:7; 11:15). Satan is out of the way! The long foretold tribulation can begin that brings in the kingdom and the sure fulfillment of all that is written.
Of greatest puzzlement to commentators is to decide between the what and the who in 2Thes 2:6-7. There is a what (neuter in the Greek text) that is restraining (or some preferred translations say ‘withholding’) and there is also a person who is restraining or withholding. How do we sort this out? I would suggest that the puzzle is best solved by understanding that the necessary prior revelation of the man of lawlessness is holding back the return of the Lord. This corrects the perilous error circulating at Thessalonica.
When Paul says, “and now you know WHAT withholds” (2Thes 2:6), he is saying that after reviewing with them the order of events he had laid down at his earlier visit, they are now reminded and thus fully apprised of why Jesus cannot be expected to return until this necessary preliminary event has first taken place. This calls to mind the person who is pledged to restrain the revelation of the mystery of lawlessness that will mean his time is short.
Who is the person and what is he restraining? Satan is restraining the revelation of the mystery of lawlessness. Why would he do this? It is because he knows that when this mystery is revealed in the person of the man of lawlessness, his time will be short.
Do not confuse the identification of the Antichrist with his revelation. He will be identifiable well before this, but he cannot be ‘revealed’ until Satan has been removed (cast down) in order to become incarnate in the man of lawlessness. For this mystery to be revealed, Satan must be “taken out of the way”.
We say this happens when he is cast down by Michael. Only then will Satan be forced to take up a full and unhindered habitation in the moral nature of the man of lawlessness, thus empowering him with “ALL power, signs, and deceiving wonders”, (reminiscent of the strong delusion evoked by his resurrection). The world has never seen anything, even remotely like this!
So Jesus cannot return until this happens first. The prior revelation of the man of sin is the event (the what) that is now withholding / i.e., hindering the return of Jesus to gather His own. This corrects the dangerous presumption that Christ’s return is immediately imminent, thus diverting from all that Jesus so carefully commended as a bulwark against deception and to be fully armed for the time when it comes (Mk 13:5, 14, 21-23).
But the withholding event calls to mind the withholding revelation and the unnamed person who is committed to withhold it. That is the revelation of the mystery of lawlessness in the man of lawlessness, and this can only be revealed when Satan is removed. It is Satan (not the Holy Spirit, or Michael) that must be forcibly removed in order to be fully embodied in the now resurrected Antichrist.
This is the strong delusion that causes the whole world to marvel when they see the mortally wounded beast that was, and is not, and yet is (Rev 13:8). The removal of Satan from heaven permits the predestined revelation of the mystery of lawlessness, and this in turn opens the way for the return of the King. It is the great ‘without which not’ of Jesus’ return and the end of the age.
When Satan can no longer retain his place in heaven as the one one who hinders / resists / withholds or holds back, the revelation of the mystery of lawlessness, his time is short. It is now, with his removal, that the kingdom can come in all its full strength and power. Therefore, we say Rev 12:7-12 becomes the key to understand the mystery of the restrainer in 2Thes 2:7.
As the brother so well points out (see below), this is all in perfect parallel to the way that through Daniel’s self emptying intercession, Michael was sent to remove the prince of Persia who was “withstanding” (the Hebrew equivalent of hinder / resist / oppose) the arrival of the holy messenger who carried the critical revelation of how the age will end (Dan 10:13-14). Doubtless, this is the background behind Paul’s understanding of the role of the dark powers to oppose and hinder the advance of the kingdom’s conquest of evil.
Somehow, Satan’s dejection must coincide perfectly with the death and resurrection of the Antichrsit (Rev 11:7; 13:3; 17:8). This is what reveals the mystery of lawlessness, which is nothing short of the revelation of Satan in the “coming prince” of Dan 9:26. It is the fulfillment of THIS mystery (i.e., “mystery of lawlessness”) on which all else depends and awaits, because Jesus CANNOT return to gather together His elect UNTIL this final, outstanding mystery has FIRST been revealed (Mt 24:29-31 with 2Thes 2:1-8).
Since the removal of Satan from heaven to earth must coincide perfectly with the time of the Antichrist’s death and resurrection (obviously, very closely aligned in time), we may ask why is the death and resurrection of the Antichrist necessary in order for Satan to fully inhabit this man? I would suggest that just as Jesus circumvented (by-passed) any hindrance to the full expression of the image of His Father through the virgin birth, something here too of a hindering nature must be removed from the Antichrist in order for him to most fully express the fully exposed image of his father, the Devi (“son of perdition”). What might that be? It would seem to have to be something that was never fully eradicated, even in the most wicked antichrists (plural) of history.
Other than the predestined timing, what is it that stopped these demonically empowered antichrists ‘ beasts (plural) from becoming THE Antichrist / beast? Whatever that is, it has apparently been removed by the mortally wounded Antichrist’s descent into the abyss. Whatever this is (the remnant of the moral image that makes us human?), apparently it is the impediment that is fully removed only by the death of the Antichrist (mortally wounded beast).
By death he descends into the abyss. In resurrection he ascends up from the abyss to become now the full incarnation of Satan in the flesh. This has apparently been made possible by the divinely ordained convergence of the death of this particular man and the expulsion of Satan from heaven at the very time the tribulation is about to begin with his entrance into the temple to present himself to the world as above all other forms of deity (Dan 11:36-37 with 2Thes 2:4).
Finally, one may very reasonably ask why was this left to be such a mystery? Why, if at all important for us to know, did Paul not simply identify the restrainers, both the impersonal what or thing that is being restrained, and the person who is restraining? Firstly, it was not his pastoral purpose to expound on all the details, but simply review and recount what he had told them on his earlier visit in order to correct a serious error. But also, it is in the nature of scripture that many things are revealed in such a way as to require grace and mercy for the Spirit’s help in making the correct connections, and this is especially true of anything that the Lord wanted to be kept till the time of the end.
That said, I believe Paul did indeed most definitely identify what was being withheld. It was the return of the Lord. Let me show why this seems so plain to me.
Translators will translate enesteken in 2Thes 2:2 as “already here”, or “near at hand”, depending on whether they think the Thessalonians would have conceived of the DOL as distinct from the actual return of Jesus, since Jesus had obviously not arrived personally. The error of the Thessalonians that the day of the Lord had either arrived or was very imminently to be expected would be corrected by Paul’s demonstration that the DOL is being held back by the necessity of a specific event, namely, the preliminary revelation of the man of sin.
This, I would argue, is the ‘what’, or the impersonal ‘thing’ that is holding back the return of the Lord. It is an event, one that very necessarily MUST preceded the Lord’s return. What is being withheld (some translate restrained) is the Lord’s return, and the thing or event (impersonal neuter in the Greek text) is the prior revelation of the man of lawlessness exalting himself in the temple of God (2Thes 2:3-4). Simple as that!.
Commentators puzzle and say, “if we only knew what Paul had told them on his first visit, then we would know what they knew”, but we must modestly decline anything more than a rather tentative guess. To me, it seems fantastic that there would be any question of what Paul would have told them on his first visit. He told them exactly what Jesus told His disciples in the Olivet prophecy!
With all urgency, Jesus commands His disciples to read and understand Daniel if they will know the signs and escape the great deception. No wonder Paul opens his correction with words very similar to those by which Jesus begins His discourse, “Take heed that no man deceive you” (Mt 24:4). Paul, moved by the same urgency of warning, will say, “Let no man deceive you by any means …” So a lot at stake here.
The only blank that Paul did not fill in is the identity of the person who restrains. I believe this is because the Holy Spirit did not permit him to make this obvious. I believe it is one of those things reserved till the time of the end that when opened would open so much else. By the Spirit’s kind grace we can put the pieces together and see things reserved for the end, so not to be taken by surprise, or at least have a frame of reference by which to understand the unexpected when it comes. Appropriately, God left it to the Revelation of John to give us the clue that would make perfect sense of the restrainer of 2Thes 2:7, as both build upon the angelology (principalities and powers) of Daniel and Ezekiel that build on Moses and the prophets.
Reggie is of the conviction that Satan is the Restrainer of 2 Thes 2. That might sound counterintuitive to many. This is just my attempt to clarify that position. (I’m not saying this is exactly how Reggie sees it). Some thoughts on the Restrainer of 2 Thes 2. Everything you’ve ever been taught will likely contradict what I’m about to say, it took me 28 years to finally come to see this, now I just can’t unsee it….
2 Thes 2v7… “….Now he who restrains will do so until he is taken out of the way” Some translations say “restrain >him<” or “restrains >it<” or “restrains >evil<” etc. That is only because translators have struggled with this verse. The “it”, “him”, “evil” etc. should not be there. Because of bad translations and what we’ve been taught by sincere teachers who have read bad translations, an assumption is made that it is >evil< that is being restrained. New King James Version… And now you know what is restraining, that he may be revealed in his own time. (Good Translation – No ‘it’ or ‘him’ etc) New American Standard Bible… And you know what restrains >>him<< now, so that he will be revealed in his time. (Bad Translation – here we see the Paradigm shifting “him”) So that added “him” or that added “it” etc, is like points on a railway track really, something tiny but entirely capable of shunting the whole train (of thought) on to a different track. And that’s clearly what it does.
So to summarize, the original text does not state that it’s evil or ant-christ that is being restrained. Thats a false assumption based on bad translations. Moving on… Scripture doesn’t explicitly state either that this mystery “restrainer” is the Holy Spirit, Church or Michael or Rome etc. All these views are of course quite widely held by believers and indicate the manifold confusion that exists surrounding this passage because its >>assumed<< because of bad translations, that it’s evil that’s being restrained. So all we can really take from the text is that there is a mysterious “Restrainer” mentioned. We don’t know what he’s restraining and that he will be removed at some point, and when he is, the Antichrist can come into view. So here goes… In Daniel 10, Daniel prays and he is heard immediately and the Angel is sent forth at once but the fallen demonic powers in the heavenlies resist and restrain the Angel for 21 days until Michael intervenes. In Revelation 12v7-9 we see Michael again, this time casting down Satan and the demonic powers to earth. We are told exactly when this happens i.e. at the 1260 days (final 3 1/2 year) point.
Directly following this expulsion, we see this in the very next verse… 10 THEN I heard a loud voice in heaven say >>NOW<< have come the >>SALVATION<< and the >>POWER<< and the >>KINGDOM OF OUR GOD<< and the >>AUTHORITY OF HIS MESSIAH<< for the accuser of our brothers and sisters, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down (taken out of the way). So as Satan is removed we see a colossal dam burst in the Heavens. Satan and his angels were holding something back, as they are taken out of the way, the dam bursts! So Satan, the restrainer of God’s Salvation, Power, Kingdom, and Authority in the heavenlies, is now cast out and down from his >restraining place< and hurled down to earth.
As stated, this happens clearly at the 3 1/2 year point. In conjunction with this we see the beast receiving a mortal wound in Rev 13v3 but coming back to life again and the whole world marvelling at this. He then sets off on his 42 month (3 1/2 year) reign of terror. So as Satan is cast down by Michael exactly at the 3 1/2 year point this dovetails in perfect concert with the beast (human) dying from a mortal wound then coming back to life.
I think it’s plain Satan is now permitted, or perhaps even forced, to take up residence in this man’s body. So what we now see is the full incarnation of Satan in bodily form. We saw “The Mystery of Godliness” in the incarnation of God in bodily form in the person of Jesus. Now we see “The Mystery of Iniquity”, the full incarnation of Satan, in bodily form.
Astonishingly, there is divine symmetry here. Both “mysteries” commence their “ministry” in a death and resurrection (Jesus baptism by John), both have exactly 3 1/2 years. The Genesis prophetic opener of “the seed of the woman” and “the seed of the serpent” has now fully come into view. Keep in mind also Michael appears in Jude where he contends with Satan over Moses’ body. Why would Satan want access to Moses’ body? As Derek Prince states demons are personalities without a body. Speculating, but did he want to incarnate Moses body to then decieve the Israelites? God did not permit it then, but does He permit it, even orchestrate it, at the 3 1/2 year point? So “the lawless one will be revealed”. I.e. Satan is forced down and out of the heavenly sphere to take up residence in a man’s dead body. He’s now exposed and confined into a human body and is FURIOUS >>knowing<< his time is short. So for me this raises a fundamental question. The presupposition amongst much of what calls itself church in relation to 2 Thes 2 is that Satan >>wants<< to take the stage, that he >>wants<< to take over, that “good” in the form of the Holy Spirit OR the Church OR Rome OR Michael is restraining him. So Does Satan >>really<< want this to happen? Mathew 8v29… “What do you want with us, Son of God?” they shouted. “Have you come here to >>torture<< us before the >>appointed time<>knowing his time is short<<, knowing only eternal torture and torment awaits him.
I see it like the mafia in a city where the forces of law and order are finally and relentlessly closing in. They were happy to be incognito and pulling the strings in the dark but now they know their time is soon up and they are being forced out into the open and to pending and ultimate justice. Or like a desperate death row prisoner who knows his time of execution is fast approaching. In both these instances it’s the last thing they want and a truly desperate fight will ensue. And so we have the end times. A desperate and dark kingdom is coming to be exposed and ultimately judged and it well knows it. Like a cornered pack of rabid hyenas the final expulsion will be vicious and brutal.
In closing. If the mystery restrainer is not Satan then who is it? From whatever angle I now look at this from nothing fits better or makes more sense. I just can’t “unsee” it. Obviously the pre-trib camp uses this passage to bolster their early rapture view but it’s a doctrine based entirely on inference (that’s another story). In closing, Scripture makes plain this displacement, this ‘taking out of the way’ event happens at the 3 1/2 year point so a completely “Open Heaven” is there now for the Saints, the restraining demonic forces are removed and unprecedented Power, Salvation and Authority is now made available. It will truly be the Church’s finest hour. Revelation 7 tells us of a harvest of souls from every tribe and nation, a number so vast it cannot be counted will come out of the “Great Tribulation”.
God surely keeps the best wine till last and I believe this “Restrainer” being “taken out of the way” is the key to all this. So considering now the same verse… 2 Thes 2v7… ….Now he (Satan) who restrains (God’s Power, Salvation, Kingdom and Authority in the heavenlies) will do so >>until<< he is taken (literally forced) out of the way (by Michael in the midst of the final week). As clearly detailed in Revelation 12! So instead of “Good restraining the Evil”, it’s in effect “Evil restraining the Good” until Michael casts the evil restrainer down and out at the final 3 1/2 years point and we see an unprecedented release of God’s Spirit and Power and the greatest ingathering of souls imaginable. So this truly turns everything on its head. As I said at the offset, this view will likely blow all your fuses; it did mine. It’s easy to dismiss as it goes against the grain at night on all that’s been taught on it in this hour. I just humbly ask you to prayerfully consider it.