by Reginald Kelly
All modern trends are moving inexorably
in the direction predicted by the Hebrew
prophets. In addition to keeping the church
wakeful, this fact should be continually
pointed to in the church's witness, as a
powerful evidence of the Bible's authority
and inspiration, and as a call to come to
terms with the claims of Christ and the
urgency of salvation through faith in the gospel.
Expectation of the sure fulfillment of
prophecy was a given in first century Israel.
The church's task was to show that prophecy had
been fulfilled in Christ and would continue to
be fulfilled in the imminent destruction of
Jerusalem and ultimately, the return of Christ.
Many, such as the sectaries of Qumran, the people
of the Dead Sea scrolls, dwelt in desert
communities in expectation of Jerusalem's imminent
desolations and the final world conflict. We have
come full circle. Once again the world stands under
the shadow of another threatening age ending crisis
over the question of Jerusalem, the "controversy of
Zion." The prophetic scriptures are indeed on schedule,
but few employ this compelling fact in presenting
the gospel to an intellectualizing generation that
demands evidence. Well, the evidence is in our daily news.
The modern church naturally acknowledges that Christ
fulfilled prophecy, though many are at a serious loss
to make the case from the Old Testament. But for the
larger part, the church has scant knowledge of the
legitimate aspects of first century Jewish expectation.
Those "legitimate aspects" are still outstanding and
in evident process of contemporary fulfillment.
As for world Jewry, unlike their first century
counterparts, Jews for the most part are ignorant of
what the prophets foretell concerning Jerusalem and
the last days, but this is beginning to change through
the current popular fascination with apocalyptic themes
(albeit only slightly and with pitiful distortions).
Most modern Jews are secular, and like the world, are
comparatively ignorant of both sides of the prophetic
equation concerning both Christ and Israel. But God has
given the church a powerful tool for the convincement
of a skeptical age. However, due to the scandal of its
recurrent misuse through failed 'apocalyptic scares',
this tool, so powerful in the early church, has been
allowed to slip into disuse.
Prophecy is God's own self-chosen apologetic
(Isa 41:21-23, 26; 43:9-12; 44:7; 45:11, 21; 46:10;
"the testimony of Jesus is the Spirit of prophecy;"
Rev 19:10b). And where prophecy does not at once
convince, it leaves a seed of witness that unfolding
of events will confirm pointing to the truth of Christ
and the gospel. The seed may yet germinate under the
right conditions, particularly in the case of Israel
when the church will move the Jew to jealousy by the
manifest evidence of the Spirit, coupled with the
testimony of prophecy. Furthermore, prophecy leaves
all who persist in resistance of the saving good news
without excuse (Jn 15:22). Prophecy exposes the hiding
place (Isa 28:17).
Paul said his gospel was to be known to all nations
by the scriptures of the prophets (Ro 16:25-26). This
was the divinely ordained 'modus operandi' of the the
early church's approach to evangelism as seen in all
the NT examples of apostolic proclamation. The gospel
was to be held forth to Jew and to gentile as a
heretofore hidden, but no less foretold mystery
Ro 16:25-26; 1Pet 1:10-12) contained in the prophetic
writings and to be made known to all nations by the same.
Perhaps this neglect, together with its failure to take
seriously the mandate to go first to the Jew, has robbed
the church of some of the strength of its witness.
In these days of restoration, let us pray that the
church will recover this vital key, which is essentially
the apostolic method of evangelism, and that recovery of
this lost key will also aid the church in the recovery
of its own lost apostolic and prophetic identity.
So while the end of the age awaits what God has determined
concerning Israel (Zech 12:10 w/ Mt 23:39; Acts 3:21;
Ro 11:26), Israel awaits a further eschatological purpose
that God has determined to accomplish in the church before
the Lord's return (Dn 11:32-35 w/ Jn 13:35; 14:12; 16:21-26;
17:11, 21-22; Eph 4:13; Phil 1:20; 3:10-14; Rev 12:10-11).
Though not easy to prove exegetically (since it is more by
implication and by the cumulative evidence), there is a
case from scripture that certainly implies that a prior
travail and birthing into eschatological fullness must be
accomplished by the church before the final tribulation
(Zion's travail) can begin for Israel (consider the mystery
implicit in Isa 66:7 as compared w/ Rev 12:5, 13).
Paul said his gospel was to be known to all nations by
the scriptures of the prophets (Ro 16:25-26). This was
the divinely ordained 'modus operandi' of the the early
church's approach to evangelism as seen in all the NT
examples of apostolic proclamation. The gospel was to be
held forth to Jew and to gentile as a heretofore hidden,
but no less foretold mystery (Ro 16:25-26; 1Pet 1:10-12)
contained in the prophetic writings and to be made known
to all nations by the same.
Perhaps this neglect, together with its failure to take
seriously the mandate to go first to the Jew, has robbed
the church of some of the strength of its witness. In
these days of restoration, let us pray that the church will
recover this vital key, which is essentially the apostolic
method of evangelism, and that recovery of this lost key
will also aid the church in the recovery of its own lost
apostolic and prophetic identity.
So while the end of the age awaits what God has
determined concerning Israel (Zech 12:10 w/ Mt 23:39; Acts
3:21; Ro 11:26), Israel awaits a further eschatological
purpose that God has determined to accomplish in the
church before the Lord's return (Dn 11:32-35 w/ Jn 13:35;
14:12; 16:21-26; 17:11, 21-22; Eph 4:13; Phil 1:20;
3:10-14; Rev 12:10-11). Though not easy to prove
exegetically (since it is more by implication and by the
cumulative evidence), there is a case from scripture that
certainly implies that a prior travail and birthing into
eschatological fullness must be accomplished by the church
before the final tribulation (Zion's travail) can begin
for Israel (consider the mystery implicit in Isa 66:7
as compared w/ Rev 12:5, 13).
There is a twofold travail of the woman. First there
is the preliminary spiritual travail of the heavenly
Zion. This is accomplished before Israel's pain comes
(see Isa 66:7 w/ Rev 12:5; compare also Jn 16:21; Gal
4:19 as a pattern). Then follows the earthly travail
(the literal tribulation) of the earthly Zion/natural
Israel (compare Isa 13:8; 66:8; Jer 30:6; Mic 5:3;
Dn 12:1; Mt 24:21). It is only AFTER this travail
(the brief but unequaled tribulation) that "a nation
is born in one day" (Isa 66:8; 59:19-21; Zech 3:9;
This 'one day' is the spiritual regeneration
and regathering of Israel (as also the translation and
gathering of the church) that comes at the 'great day
of God' at the tribulation's end in conjunction with
the destruction of the Antichrist (2Thes 2:8) and the
resurrection of the righteous at Christ's post-tribulational
last trumpet return (compare Isa 25:7; 26:19; 27:13;
Dn 12:1-2 w/ Mt 24:29-31; 1Cor 15:52, 54; 2Thes 2:1-3,
8; 2Pet 2:10, 12; Rev 16:14-15).
However symbol and imagery may be interpreted, one
thing seems beyond dispute, i.e, there is a spiritual
kind of travail and birth that must be completed before
Israel's earthly tribulation can begin. There is a
spiritual birth that happens before the time of Israel's
eschatological tribulation. The two travails, one
spiritual, and the second physical, are bound together.
Unless an unscriptural wedge is driven between Israel
and the church (as in dispensationalism), the woman's
birthing of the manchild pertains to the church (the
true Israel within Israel), no less than the persecuted
woman pertains to both Israel and the church in the
tribulation. Unless the presence of the church is
defined out of the tribulation, as in dispensationalism,
then it cannot be doubted that the church is in view
when the scripture refers to "the rest of her offspring,
who hold to testimony of Jesus;" Rev 12:17). It is not
enough to see this as only fulfilled in Mary and Christ,
since this travail and birth is accomplished at the
threshold of the last 3 1/2 years and is the catalyst
for what follows.
The New Testament shows an awareness of the clear
distinction between tribulation as an inalienable
principle of the spiritual life, and the final
'great tribulation' of brief duration that ushers
in Christ's return. The two must not be confused.
When this important distinction is made, it becomes
clear that the travail of the woman and the birth of
the man child has to do with a heavenly occurrence
that immediately results in the final tribulation
of 'short' duration.
The birthing of the man child completes the time of
the woman's travail, which permits Michael's victory
over Satan in heaven. With Satan's expulsion from
heaven to earth, his time is 'short'; the tribulation
is here, and thus the kingdom of God can now come.
Regardless how the woman's travail is understood,
it is clear that it has not reached its final goal
until the final casting down of Satan, and this
happens only at the mid point of Daniel's seventieth week.
Paul shows that the day of the Lord and the church's
gathering unto Christ must await the revelation of
the mystery of iniquity (2Thes 2:1-3, 7-8). The
revelation of this mystery is the 'without which not'
of Christ's once and for all return. But this event
cannot come until Satan is cast down. It is important
to note that Michael's expulsion of Satan, the
announcement of the inbreaking of kingdom power (12:10),
and the woman's 3 1/2 year flight into the wilderness,
all hinges on the completion of the woman's travail
in the birth and ascent of the man child.
In view of the connection of these events to the
limited tribulation of 3 1/2 years, it is evident
that the fulfillment cannot be limited to the
entirety of the inter-advent period. Rather
something future seems intended that reiterates
in pattern and principle what was accomplished
in the birth, safe escape, and victorious ascent
of the Seed over all principality and power.
I believe this future travail of the church awaits
a Pauline or Danielic kind of priestly travail for
Israel (compare Ro 9:3; Gal 4:19)? What will it take
to bring an indulgent and self-occupied church to
this? Will the church finally understand that there
can be no informed praying for the coming of the
kingdom that ignores the prior necessity of unequaled
tribulation, as only this can end in Israel's age
ending confession (Dn 12:7; Mt 23:39; Acts 3:21; 14:22)?
Will the church come to understand that the age cannot
with Christ's return independently of the day of
Israel's national repentance? And will the church ever
come to see its own divinely intended role in preparing
Israel for that confession through its tribulation
witness? The church, rightly defined is the corporate
Ebhed Yahweh. Not only as the witnessing remnant,
but also as the corporate 'servant - intercessor' in
the travail of divine love for covenant Israel.
Such travail will require a selfless willingness
for the events that are necessary to its fulfillment?
What will raise the church's consciousness and prayer
to its calling to travail for a kingdom that cannot
come apart from a church willing to lay its life
down for Israel? [Note that on the basis of
Ro 11:12, 15, Israel's future "fullness" is the
key to an exponential increase of salvation
among the nations. Thus how can a church devoted
to 'missions' ignore its calling 'to the Jew first'?]
It is so much more than Israel's salvation that is
at stake; it is the very name and glory of God in
His covenant pledge that is at stake, though most
of the church historically would see no loss at
all to their concept of divine glory if Israel
should remain estranged forever (Ro 11:25-36).
If the travail of the woman is not wrongly dissociated
from the church, it seems clear that there is an
inseparable relation to something that must first
be accomplished in and through the church that is
related to the finishing of the mystery of God (Rev 10:7).
This doesn't happen in a vacuum; it presupposes truth
and revelation, and the travail of true faith and
intercession. It is not new truth, but a deeper
apprehension of the prophetic scriptures at the
time of fulfillment that will constrain the church
to a place it would not otherwise have gone, in
analogy with Jesus' word to Peter: "Truly, truly,
I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress
yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when
you are old (weak and dependent), you will stretch
out your hands, and another will dress you
("dressed in His righteousness alone"), and
carry you where you do not want to go" (Jn 21:18).
For Peter, it was a martyrs cross; for the church
of the last days, it will be the great tribulation.
I believe the church will be brought corporately
to something almost analogous to Mary's conception
and birth of the Word, as utterly weak, as utterly
meek, and so completely apart from the help of man.
There is mystery here; but I am sure that Michael's
removal of Satan (in analogy with his removal of
the opposing Prince of Persia in answer to Daniel's
travail; Dn 10:13), and the resulting tribulation
(which is necessary to bring Israel back in
fulfillment of the everlasting covenant at Christ's
return), must not be dissociated from a fullness
that must first come to the church, as it knows
itself to be facing the final and greatest test.
This heavenly victory will be accomplished by the
church's deeper apprehension of the revelation of
the mystery of the gospel in conjunction with the
final opening of Daniel's sealed vision. In short,
the church must attain to its own "fullness"
before Israel can attain to "their fullness"
(compare Ro 11:12 w/ 11:25). God has placed the
two in amazing tandem. The one is dependent on the
other and cannot come to full formation without
the other. Israel and the church are a mutual
source of divinely intended provocation with a
view towards the revelation of the glory of
sovereign mercy apart from works. "I will have
mercy on whom I will have mercy."
I am personally convinced that the same God who
will be publicly vindicated in His word
concerning Israel will be no less vindicated in
the sight of men and angels concerning a yet
unfulfilled eschatological fullness for the church.
Before it will be "Israel My glory" (Isa 46:13),
it will be "glory in the church" (Eph 3:21).
And contrary to the false dichotomy of the
dispensational error, the twain do meet! Regenerated
Israel on earth will be no less the body of Christ
than the glorified church ruling and reigning with
Christ. The seed is the seed, and it is such by
nothing other than union with the indwelling Spirit
of Christ, regardless of dispensation.
So while the end of the age waits for Israel, Israel
waits for something to be restored and demonstrated
in the church, and it is a sovereign God of absolute
predestination that will accomplish to fulfill His
purpose in both at the "set time" (Ps 102:13),
"for that that is determined shall be done" (Dn 11:36).
God knows how to both to their appointed place
"at the time appointed" (Dn 8:19; 11:35), but it
is a pitiful theology that drives a wedge between
God's sovereign ability and the church's necessary
responsibility. A new dispensation of divine requirement
is at hand. When prophecy will be in the final
stages of fulfillment, things formerly discussed and
debated of only casual consequence will begin to be
divinely required. Much will be exposed and many
will fall away.
As Jesus was a stone of stumbling and rock of offense
to the religion of first century Israel, so will the
offense of Israel, Jerusalem, and the Jew, become an
extension of the same essential mystery in its final
form (see Isa 28:9-16). All nations will be required
to grapple with a prophetic testimony of the gospel
that can no longer be conveniently separated from the
issue of Israel.
As the age began, so shall it end, and all the great
issues that formed the offense of the cross and the
gospel, will be present in the last offense that
brings all nations to oppose the everlasting
covenant in Israel's election and divine right
to the Land. Not because they are worthy in
themselves, but because of what God has decreed
concerning them. It is not their Land because
they are holy Christians; it is their Land because
of God's predestinating prerogative to make them
holy Christians in the day of His power (Ps 110:3).
Apparently, God is holding all nations responsible
to know this, since when the nations come down to
the mountains of Israel to 'divide' and 'part' the
Land (Dn 11:39; Joel 3:2), God's fury comes up in His
face (Ezk 38:18), since He regards this act as the
ultimate act of hubris and violence "against the holy
covenant" Dn 11:28, 30). So it is clear that the
contention of God with all nations over the issue of
His covenant with Israel cannot be separated from the
issue of the gospel.
In fact, this is how God has chosen to press the
issue of the gospel upon the conscience of all
nations. To not have God's heart towards Israel
(especially when the prophetic standard is being
raised in the sight and hearing of all nations)
is to not know God's heart or His covenant.
We may be sure that Satan enjoys the church's ignorance
of this mystery, as it helps to extend his illicit
tenure in the heavens, which prolongs this present evil
age. But at some soon point, something's got to give!
Come quickly Lord Jesus, and accomplish in heaven and
on earth all that holds back your return! Lord, you said
that when you looked there was "no man .. no
intercessor," so your own arm brought to you the
decreed salvation of Israel (compare the contexts
of Isa 59:16 w/ 63:5). Lord, this is not in the
heart of man; it is in your heart.
Lord, in ourselves, we could never be willing for
the price. Create the intercessor in us. It is
Him you always hear. Come quickly Lord Jesus!
Come suddenly to your temple! is our prayer.
The Church and Israel
the preaching of the gospel