Content by reggiekelly

Thoughts on the Mystery of Heavenly Hindrance

Only weeks apart, I received the same question from two dear friends. It is a question many have asked, and it is one that has the potential to cast great light on much else. Here’s how one friend put the question:

“It is clear the nameless one (described in Dan 10:4-11:1) is the Lord Jesus given clear unity with Revelation 1. How do you understand His being delayed and receiving help from Michael to release the word?”

Even among those commentators who see verses 5-9 as depicting a pre-incarnate appearing of Christ, most will argue that beginning at verse 10, another figure has come into view. The proposed change from Christ to an angel is assumed only because it is thought to be inconceivable that the pre-incarnate Son could need angelic assistance to push past the resistance of the demon Prince of Persia to complete his errand to Daniel (Dan 10:13).

[And what a strategic errand it was! It was to be an exceptionally long, uninterrupted (two chapters), unparalleled, narrative style prophecy that would lay out in astonishing detail “what shall befall your (Daniel’s) people in the latter days.” No wonder the demonic realm was so invested to impede the messenger’s mission. It is important to note what this mighty, history-determining breakthrough of divine revelation cost Daniel, as well as the place that sovereign providence had brought him in preparation for it.]

Yet, does the view that an angel has stepped in in place of the glorious Christ really solve our problem? It still leaves the question, why would the holy angels, sent by God, ever be successfully detained? Wouldn’t it be expected that the only assistance they would need to fulfill their mission would be amply supplied by God Himself? What then is this mystery of demonic resistance? What is its purpose in the great scheme of God’s eternal purpose? Why the struggle? …

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The Only True Doer

We say no sin is too great and no sinner is too far (excepting, of course, those who have put themselves “past feeling”)! God is very near to those who feel their destitution (Ps 102:17), especially in those moments of utter weakness that attends the end of mortal life. Never was there a greater, more sovereign revelation than that which broke upon the thief on the cross at the point of greatest weakness and self-despair!

This profound spiritual principle – manifest throughout the scriptures – is most clearly seen at Israel’s appointed time of national deliverance. The veil covering the Jewish heart will be removed “at the set time” …“in one day”…“at once” when the penitent survivors of Israel will “look upon Him whom they pierced” (Ps 102:13; Isa 25:7; 66:8; Eze 39:22; Zech 3:9; 12:10; Mt 23:39; Ro 11:26; Rev 1:7; 10:7). But critically, this transformative revelation is given “when He (Yahweh) sees that their power is gone” (Deut 32:36 with Dan 12:7).

The power of His endless life is revealed at the end of the pride of self-reliance (the strength of the veil) which hides the transformative liberating revelation of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ (2Cor 3:14-18; 4:6). This withering process of crisis is critical for shattering the pride of self-reliance, not only in the unbelieving, but as Paul explains, God wisely uses it even in the lives of the godly (Acts 14:22; 2Cor 1:8-10; 12:7).

At the inception of faith, the free gift of an everlasting righteousness is immediately imputed. But saving faith comes when the Spirit has used the unapproachable holiness of the law to drive the sinner off of any hope in themselves (Ex 19:16m 21-24; 20:18-19; Ro 7:9; Gal 3:10, 19, 21). This is why the Law must come first (Jn 1:17). When the real implications of the law’s holy requirement is brought home to the heart, the gospel of a righteousness that is utterly transcends our hearts becomes exceedingly good news…

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Ye MUST Be Born Again

One thing I would say without looking at the whole superstructure, which time simply does not permit, is the really foreign thought that God is fishing for DNA in order to mediate His salvation. That someone named Kelly, for example, is saved, not strictly because of the drawing power of the Holy Spirit, and response of faith to God’s great, “whosoever will” extended to all nations without discrimination, but because my physical lineage has some surviving genetic element that can be traced back (or that can only be assumed on the basis of what I believe) to one of the supposedly lost ten tribes of Israel (see David Baron’s excellent little pamphlet by that title). That just doesn’t square with the mystery that Christ is revealed ‘in’ gentiles, without discrimination, and that gentiles of “every” tribe, tongue, and nation are equally made Abraham’s seed through faith alone. Such a thesis is suspicious from the start!

Yes, I believe and affirm that God preserves an ethnic distinction from among the natural branches precisely in order to demonstrate and set on public display His covenant word to Israel for the vindication of His sovereignty in divine election, and for the instruction of the nations and the fallen order of principalities and powers through what He has purposed to show through them. A preserved remnant from among the natural branches will indeed be born in a day (Isa 66:8; Zech 3:9) and gathered from all nations, never to be invaded again. That is sure and certain! Until then, they are made sufficiently distinguishable as a distinct ethnic race precisely in order to show in them the discipline of the covenant and to test the hearts of all nations concerning this blinded people who, though momentarily enemies of the gospel, are NONETHELESS BELOVED, and are to be so regarded, to the chagrin of those nations who have laid malicious, unfeeling hands on God’s afflicted in their pitiable ghetto condition, a presumption that will be much required in that day.

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Crucial Distinctions Regarding the “Church”

I’ve always maintained that “this one and that one were born in her” (the heavenly Zion; Ps 87:3-7; Gal 4:16; Heb 12:22-23; Rev 12:1-2, 17; 19:7; 21:2, 9-10 with Jn 3:29). The Psalmist can’t conceive of any of the saved of the nations, regardless of geographical location, as being born (born again) outside of Zion. But which Zion? There is an heavenly and an earthly, but until the twain do meet in that coming day, they remain distinct, though never separate.

The gentiles have always been debtors to their Hebrew roots since God first separated Abraham and declared His electing love of Zion. All redemptive goals take us to the heavenly city of the saved of all nations, but on the way towards that ultimate, post-millennial goal, the line of sovereign election must pass through the Jerusalem which is now in bondage with her children. The covenant must be openly vindicated on this present earth by its ultimate realization in the salvation of “all Israel”, preserved in faithful obedience by the new heart of the New Covenant for a thousand years. Here, we take a comparatively rare view of Paul’s meaning, “and so all Israel shall be saved” (Ro 11:26).

We are intensely agreed that Paul is NOT speaking of the full ingathering of all of God’s elect, an attractive suggestion by supercessionists, if looked at only superficially. But rather, Paul is reiterating what all the prophets understood as the climax and final resolution of the covenant, as the prophets envisioned an all saved Jewish, nation empowered by the outpoured Holy Spirit, and controlled by a new heart and new spirit to abide in covenant faithfulness for a thousand years of open testimony to the nations.

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The Signs Before THE Sign

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.

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A Tale of Four Temples: What the Prophets Knew and When They Knew It

Isaiah 63:18
“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.
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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.

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A Revealed Righteousness

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”?

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ESV on Dan 9:25-26?

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!

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Israel and the Church: Two Views

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.

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It is Finished

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.

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Mystery of Israel
Reflections on the Mystery of Israel and the Church... by Reggie Kelly

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