Acts 2:17 and Israel in the End Time

Hello, Reggie

“I am looking for a reply or articles answering these two questions:

  1. Acts 2:17 and the pre mill [pre-millennial] understanding of end times.”
  2. A clear verse that shows the Jews our main part or a huge role in end times.”

Peter quotes in full the passage from Joel describing the day of the Lord and the salvation that attends it. He is indeed saying that the salvation of that coming day has appeared already in Christ. It is not necessary to suppose that he is saying that the day of the Lord has come, which in context comes AFTER the stellar darkness (Acts 2:20), which Jesus says comes just before His return (Mt 24:29). That the day of the Lord passed with Pentecost is contradicted by many passages in the NT that speak of that day as yet future.

No, it is better to understand that Peter is saying that the phenomena that was being publicly manifested (and creating quite a confusion) is the promised Holy Spirit that was expected in connection with the well known day of the Lord. This does not mean that Peter believes the day of the Lord has come. He well knew that the day of the Lord follows the tribulation, as described by Jesus (Mt 24:29). Rather, Peter’s declaration of present fulfillment is in keeping with what many of the NT writers affirm, that the powers of that coming day have ‘broken in’ into this present age, in unexpected advance of the post-tribulational day of the Lord. [Note: Jesus puts the cosmic upheaval and darkness at the end of the tribulation (Mt 24:29), which Peter, citing Joel’s prophecy, puts BEFORE the day of the Lord. So it is plain that Peter did not confuse Pentecost with the day of the Lord.]

Pentecost is the feast of first-fruits, and it is the pre-millennial view that what has come at Pentecost through the revelation of the mystery of the gospel is the “first-fruits” of the salvation that will yet come to the penitent remnant of Israel who survive the time of Jacob’s trouble (Jer 30:7 with Dan 12:1; Mt 24:21). The post-tribultional day of the Lord remains intact and still future, with no promise to the natural branches failing of its scheduled time of fulfillment, and why not?

Non-millennial interpreters do something here that is very unjustified. They ignore “the already and the not yet” pattern of NT fulfillment, at least when it comes to Israel. They rightly recognize that the salvation promised to Israel at the post-tribulational day of the Lord has come in unexpected advance of that day. It is true that the revelation of Christ’s twofold coming has introduced an ‘inaugurated eschatology’ that realizes a present first fruits of coming glory. But recognition of the present fulfillment of some aspects of the salvation of the coming day of the Lord, provides no legitimate grounds to completely re-interpret or spiritualize what is yet to come to Israel (the natural branches) at the end of the tribulation. [Note: Non-millennial interpreters also tend to deny the futurity of the great tribulation, since a future tribulation implies a future Antichrist, which is exegetically impossible to dissociate from an end time scenario of events that is very literal in its relation to Israel.]

I can’t go into all the evidence now, but many passages in the OT reveal in retrospect a hidden parenthesis between the two advents of Christ. The revelation of the mystery of Christ’s twofold coming illuminates the meaning of this formerly unknown gap. During the interim period God is hiding His face from the apostate nation, while a remnant (including gentiles in fulfillment of Deut 32:21) will know the secret and instruct many (Isa 8:14-15, 16-17; 29:11; Dan 9:24; 11:33; 12:4, 9-10). But this state of general apostasy and exile of the elect nation (Ro 11:29) is never forever. It is only UNTIL the restoration of Israel at the post-tribulational day of the Lord (Isa 66:6; Mic 5:3; Hos 5:15-6:2; Ezek 39:22-29 etc et al.).

Until then, the gospel reveals that the power and salvation of the  day of the Lord has indeed come in unexpected advance of THAT DAY, through the revelation of the secret hidden in other ages (Ro 16:25-26; Eph 6:19; 1Pet 1:11). But according to Paul, this present fulfillment of the covenant through the revelation of the mystery of the gospel and concomitant gift of the Spirit cannot stop short of the grafting in again of the natural branches (Ro 11:25-26, 27-29).

Paul does not present this event as a generous divine initiative tacked on at the end of the age for good measure. No, it is a covenant necessity demanded by the specific language of the covenant, (Ro 11:26-29), which would only be established with the nation, as nation, at the end of the great tribulation (Jer 30:7; Dan 12:1).  That is the eschatology of the Old Testament. The revelation of the mystery modifies, but does NOT erase, nor spiritualize this abiding goal of the covenant. The day of the Lord will bring all that the literal reading of scripture said it would bring.

So I see Peter as saying “this is that,” but this is NOT “all” of that. It is indeed the Spirit promised to Israel in association with the well known day of the Lord. The promise of that day has indeed arrived. It is here. But the day itself, and the full balance of hope and promise that remains to be fulfilled at that time, remains for a post-tribulational future. Nothing about that has changed.

The powers of the age to come have indeed broken decisively into this present evil age, apart from the apocalyptic judgments and outward transformation that was expected to accompany the day of the Lord and the end of the time of the gentiles (Lk 21:24). But this discovery does nothing to change all that Scripture promises will come to the broken and penitent remnant that will look upon Him whom they pierced (Zech 12:10), when “that generation”. Then will the penitent Jewish remnant say with one voice, “blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord” (Mt 23:39). Hallelujah!

Non-millennial interpreters are very weak on the “UNTILs” of eschatology. They take the “already” of present fulfillment to blot out the other side of the mystery of Christ, namely, the birth of the nation at the still future “restitution of all things” (Isa 66:8; Ezek 39:22; Acts 3:21).

I have no problem with the church appropriating Israel’s promises, particularly since there are no others to appropriate. My problem is the failure to recognize that the covenant is not complete, and God Himself can take no rest, until the promises made to the fathers and to David has extended to “all Israel.” According to the prophets, the salvation of “all Israel” begins with the repentance of a surviving Jewish remnant at the end of the tribulation (Ezek 39:22, 20; Zech 12:10, Jer 31:34), and extends to include every child born to Jewish parentage “from that day and forward” (Isa 44:3; 45:25; 54:13; 59:21; 61:9; 65:23; 66:22; Ezek 39:22, 29).

The salvation of any number of Jewish individuals does not fulfill this promise. This is the post-tribulational salvation of a nation (Isa 66:8). It will arrive on schedule and not a moment sooner (Ps 102:13; 110:3). To ignore or attempt to ‘re-interpret’ this inalienable feature of the everlasting covenant is to miss the goal that stands at the end of the covenant by which God will be greatly magnified in the sight of all nations. It is to miss the context and nature of the mystery that has provided salvation for the world through Israel’s fall (Ro 11:11, 11:25). Not only this, but to miss the mystery of Israel is to miss the nature and meaning of the crisis that will engulf the nations and bring this age to its predestined conclusion.

“2. A clear verse that shows the Jews our main part or a huge role in end times.”

Again, the issue is the mystery. If we believe that God has ordained that the Jew should be moved to jealousy by what he sees in the church (Ro 11:11), then certainly the church has a ways to go. If we are not pre-tribulational, then it follows that the church will be here in the capacity of witness and friend to Israel in the day of their greatest national calamity. Rev 12 speaks of the woman being fed in the wilderness. You might interpret that as angels, or God, but we believe it refers to those who will know the prophecy and the time, and will be prepared to receive and succor the Jews in the hour of their flight from ‘sudden destruction’.

To be sure, that is an inference; but it follows from our conviction that God has ordained that Israel and the church meet in the wilderness of flight and persecution, to receive refuge, succor, and decisive prophetic instruction from a church that foresaw the evil and made ready.

The conversation that takes place in that wilderness and the demonstration of the church’s love to risk its life in costly identification with the despised nation will be used of God to prepare and soften Israel for the gospel to break upon their understanding in the same way that Saul’s exposure to Stephen’s witness played a role in preparing him for his encounter on the Damascus road.

Also, if you take the pre-day of the Lord context of Isa 28, as signifying an eschatological “covenant with death and hell”, that causes Israel to rest in a deadly false security, then you can see that this action is greatly protested by those who bring a witness of prophetic warning against this ill-fated presumption (in the context of a defense of the mystery of the gospel, “here a little and there a little”). The context shows that this protest of Israel’s decision to trust in man is also the gospel (“the rest and the refreshing whereby the weary is caused to rest”).

But notice that this prophetic warning comes to Israel by voices that are rejected and dismissed, particularly because it comes to them from a people of another tongue. This is an idiom used in other places to refer to gentiles. In other passages, such as Isa 35:4, we see the presence of a prophetic voice in the wilderness that aims to encourage the hope of the devastated nation that the time of their deliverance is near at hand.

Simply put, the church is the prophetic voice that has the key of interpretation. The godly remnant will employ the prophetic scriptures to point Israel to the savior. Prophecy is God’s final ‘dynamite’ that will prevail over Jewish unbelief. The church is the prophetic priestly intercessor that God uses in the travail of bringing Israel to birth after the time of unequaled judgment (Isa 66:8), in the same way that He used Paul to travail till Christ be formed in his Galatians.

Some things must be intuited prophetically by the Spirit. There is not always a single “clear” verse that is finally decisive. It is not that easy; it wasn’t meant to be. We must be taught by the Spirit. However, this will never contradict the clearest parts of scripture. That is the check and safeguard that God has given us. Sometimes it is the cumulative evidence of scripture that leads to what one might call, “a necessary inference”.

Many from very diverse backgrounds and walks of life, with no traceable influence on one another, have claimed an inner witness of the Spirit concerning the church’s role towards Israel in the coming time of Jacob’s trouble. If the church is God’s servant heart and prophetic voice in the earth, this would surely follow. I would urge that you pray whether these impressions may have indeed come from the Spirit, and whether God has ordained a wilderness encounter between Israel and the church in the coming great tribulation. It is an issue of the Spirit more than exegesis, though not without substantial support from the cumulative evidence.

“I have reviewed some articles and can follow some of the points, but when it comes to Israel, where is this bias (basis?) coming from? I am looking for answers, not debate.”

I always welcome honest inquiry and I’m grateful for your interest in this subject. I’m glad to see that you were unwilling to dismiss things out of hand without further inquiry. So the Lord bless you in your quest. May it be pure of self interest and greatly rewarded by His faithfulness to always help those who confess themselves helpless.

Yours in the Beloved, Reggie Kelly

Filed under
Apocalyptic Evangelism, Church Doctrine, Israel and the Church, Jacob's Trouble, Prophecy, The Day of the Lord
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