O God, stamp eternity on my eyeballs…
Apocalyptic Evangelism cont…
October 26, 2009Posted by on
When it comes to Israel’s unbelief, it is amazing to see all that conspires to reinforce it. Not only centuries of “Christian” antisemitic behavior, but even how certain verses are translated, let alone interpreted, compounds the distance between church and synagogue. Take for example the Jewish translation of Zech 12:10. Compare it with most Christian translations and you will see what I mean. Of course, Christian linguists, such as Walter Kaiser in his book, “the Messiah in the Old Testament” argues the translation question with decisive evidence for the messianic interpretation. But the average believer must take considerable pains to be informed. It may be effective on some occasions, but it’s not always quite as easy as quoting Zech 12:10 as proof that the Jewish nation pierced their own Messiah. .
Or take Dn 9:25-26. Our translations stress our Christian conviction that the anointed one that is “cut off” is the Messiah by capitalizing the word for anointed and translating the passage with a definite article, “the Messiah the Prince”. This is all legitimate, but the informed Jewish position sees this as speaking only of “an anointed prince,” which they typically interpret as referring to Onias III, the officiating high priest who was murdered when Antiochus Epiphanes desecrated the Jewish alter in the 2nd century B.C, who, of course, became the great archetype of the Antichrist in later apocalyptic literature.
Of course, it can be well argued on other grounds that the Messiah is in view, but I point this out as only one example of many, that when it comes to reaching across centuries of cumulative antisemitism to show Jews the evidence from prophecy that Jesus is the Messiah, nothing comes easy, particularly if the anti-missionaries have prepared them against the Christian witness.
I have found it best to stick at first with the issue of the broken covenant and the age long exile that must continue “UNTIL” the final redemption, which significantly follows the predetermined time of unequaled severity called Jacob’s trouble (Jer 30:6-7 w/ Dn 12:1-2). It then becomes possible to more reasonably suggest that generations of covenant revolt might have resulted in an ultimate judgment, as God would present Himself in the person of His Son to be destroyed as an ultimate exposure of what is in man.
To see this is to see. To this end, God hid His purpose in a foretold prophetic mystery, sufficient to give evidence, but calculated to remain hidden from the self secure pride of man.
Through a mystery designed to stumble pride, Israel would miss the time of their visitation, and then the wrath of the unfulfilled covenant would be poured out upon them to the uttermost (see 1Thes 2:16). The perennial resistance of the Holy Spirit (Acts 7:51) and rejection of the prophets would quite logically consummate in the rejection of God Himself in the person of His Son (Mt 21:37).
In other words, I reason back from Israel’s historical condition as explained first by the curses of threatened exile, which manifestly still continues, to the nation’s acknowledgement of its corporate condition, a condition that exposed itself in an ultimate provocation of wrath in the rejection of its national son as prefigured in Joseph. It is this consummate and all revealing act of ‘offense’ that crowns an entire history of covenant defection.
I also make great point of the fact that the promise is never fulfilled short of the salvation of ‘all’ Israel. A mere remnant can never fulfill the promise of a fulfilled covenant and abiding possession of the Land. In view of the Holocaust and a history of tragedy, this brings the ominous question, “what’s it gonna take?’ From there, I make the case for a final time of divine pleading called Jacob’s trouble. Anyway, you get the idea; it all adds up to Jesus as the rejected and returning Joseph. What the church can sew of this seed will have its working throughout the entire time of deepening crisis until the point of national revelation and regeneration, as in the case of Paul on the road to Damascus.
To hide from pride and reveal to babes (Mt 11:25), this was the purpose of the mystery to be kept in waiting “as a mystery”. It was divinely intended to be kept sealed (Isa 8:15-16; Mk 8:30; 9:9; 1Cor 2:7-8) until after Israel (essential ‘man’) had stumbled and its true heart condition and natural enmity exposed. In this way, the ultimate revelation of what is in man became the place of the ultimate revelation of the ground of all salvation, past and future. Talk about divine irony! Talk about turning what “you meant for evil” into glory!
It all comes back to God’s strategic use of mystery as an instrument to overthrow the pride of self sufficiency while at the same time demonstrating grace by “an impossible with man” revelation to “whom He will”
on the basis of a grace that admits no mixture, so as to exclude natural advantage, and so that grace might appear mercy indeed to those that receive it “agains all odds.”
It is the picture that Israel needs to have sewn into their consciousness by the witness of believers who make the intellectual side of the argument believable by what they demonstrate in terms of a heavenly wisdom, “even the hidden wisdom that God ordained to our glory.’ However, and here’s the rub; this wisdom has its embodiment, not only in Jesus, but to some real measure in all the people of the Spirit.
It is the mystery of incarnation, as Christ is formed in us, not by outward conformity to the law, but by an inward transformation that comes by revelation, often at the end of righteous spiritual travail (Gal 4:19). This gives the world a people who are taught of God to put no confidence in the flesh (2Cor 1:9).
In short, the church can forget about the effectiveness of even its most well reasoned apologetical defense of the gospel to Jews until it demonstrates this reality in an undeniable love to one another (“By this …”
Jn 13:5). That is the only real signal to the powers that they have lost their claims on the people of God (1Jn 3:14).
Obviously, the church that falls short of “this” demonstration is kidding itself about moving the Jew to jealousy. God is not so clumsy as to conclude the age on no other basis than that the church finally got its theological ducks all lined up (although our superficial theology is no doubt a partial reflection of our condition). No, God requires a demonstration before principalities and powers in the real stuff of life.
Until the church (true and living, of course) attains to this corporate demonstration, the age cannot end, regardless of how much time ticks off. The church is called to be the living demonstration that in Christ “God was manifest in the flesh.” Because the church, so far as it the church, is the living embodiment of the reality of a humanly impossible life and wisdom by the same mystery of incarnation of Word and Spirit (Col 1:27; Pet 1:23). But the ultimate test of this reality is not even martyrdom (as per Islam, etc.; 1Cor 13:3); it is the love of the brethren.
Even if perfectly true (1Cor 13:2), any doctrine or knowledge that does not translate into the inward formation of Christ, as the ‘corporate’
“Servant of the Lord” in true incarnation in the church, will not be entrusted with any heroic eschatalogical task towards Jews. It doesn’t work that way. That would be works. It is the thing we do most unconsciously and spontaneously that defines us (“when saw we thee?”)
God is jealous and guarded that the only church that will be entrusted to move Israel to jealousy in the time of Jacob’s trouble is the church that is just as instant to show the same mercy “to the least of these My brethren” in the gritty and undramatic here and now. I am quite certain that the term, “the least of these My brethren,” is not limited to the Jews in flight in the final tribulation (though it would contextually apply). It speaks no less of our fellow member of Christ’s body.
I am disturbed by how many that give themselves to conscious and deliberate end time preparation to hide the Jews are failing the test when it comes to the way we pass up the opportunity to treat with deference, patience, and kindness that that God may indeed know will be counted in the day of the judgment as, “the least of these my brethren.”
I believe the text [Zech 12:10] intends us to consider that it is indeed God who is pierced in the person of the nation’s only son (analogy to Joseph). The New Testament solves the riddle. That’s what I’ve been trying to get at. The question we need to ask is why?
Why did God hide His plan in a mystery that could be fully foretold in the writings of the prophets (Acts 26:22 w/ 1Cor 2:7-8; Ro 16:25-26; Eph 6:19; 1Pet 1:11-12), but yet in such a way that it would remain concealed until the sending of the Spirit? The New Testament makes clear that the gospel was a mystery hid in other ages, but why?
Why would God foretell something in such a way as to leave the meaning unclear until a set time? (1Pet 1:11) The scripture declares that this temporary concealment was divinely intended. But to what intent? It’s obscurity certainly proved a fateful snare of unspeakable cost for Israel.
But why? What is the church to see in this? What are we to learn through it?
We do not adequately appreciate the cost and the glory of this mystery until we grasp how difficult this was for Israel then, and still is today. For Peter, it required special revelation from the Father. Does it ever require less? Are we not woefully out of touch with the cost and therefore with the glory of the revelation of the mystery of Christ and Israel?
I’d love to get feedback on this from my brothers and sisters, as I believe it has profound implications for how we see God and also how we approach evangelism in general and the Jew in particular.
We killed God! His blood is on our hands! This is what God wants the Jew to get. Paul got it. He understood that the blood on his pious and well meaning hands was the blood of the God of Israel. It is the blood that is on all humanity’s hands, to be sure. But because it is a particularly “inside the family” controversy, God does not want the Gentile witness to soften this fact. That is to do the Jew and God an enormous ‘disservice’. It is intensely personal between God and the chosen nation (He is their Joseph; His blood must be laid where God lays it, at Israel’s feet, and of course, by no less ours, since Israel is only a statement of what man is, even in his best state).
It is so important that we stress the point that God seems to go out of His way to stress, namely, the role of human piety in the crucifixion of the Son. It was not scoundrels, but the nation’s highest and best that handed Jesus over to be crucified. We must not fail of God’s point here. The cross is a statement of what man is, particularly when he thinks he is at his best.
In fact, my experience of religion has been that men do their worst when they
are most confident that they are right.
I further believe that it is in keeping with the mystery of Christ and Israel to see that the nations have also “pierced God” in their eschatological crucifixion of Israel, as they have pierced Him many times over in their historic treatment of “the Jew in the midst.” (However, it is also clear from the text that is the twelve tribes in particularly that are seen to mourn in self affliction for their part in the act of our corporate ‘Deicide’).
Certainly the wandering Jew has never, as a people, been righteous with the only righteousness that counts, but that’s precisely the point of the test. Their tragic exilic condition should have occasioned deepest pathos and empathy from a church that understands the nature of grace. In fact, it exposes the church’s understanding of the nature of its own grace.
Jewish presence among all nations is no less a test for the nations concerning their respect for the “everlasting covenant”. The nations have an abiding responsibility to know and to regard the Word of God concerning the Jew and the Land. Neither ignorance nor unbelief absolves that responsibility. But most woeful and reprehensible has been the ignorance of those who should have been the people of the mystery (Ro 11:25).
Ignorance of “this mystery” is no small thing. It has exacted an imponderable toll throughout history. It has not only left the door open for antisemitism; it has worked to actually forward the affliction of the Jew among the nations. In the words of Michael Brown’s well titled book, “Their Blood on our Hands,” indeed!
Instead of a corporate prophet of warning to the nations, the outward “church” (so called, but by what definition?) has historically contributed the “official” theological fodder that became support for the popular forms of antisemitism among the nations, as it sometimes directly sponsored many of the persecutions that are part of the collective consciousness of Jews to this day.
May God give the understanding that weeps with Nehemiah over the collapsed and ruined walls of divine testimony among the nation of the earth.
A regenerated nation of Jews is that testimony for which the nations wait! It is no accident that Jesus’ return and the binding of Satan is bound up with the ‘day’ of this nation’s corporate repentance and regeneration. I will go so far as to say that where this is not understood, the full reach and meaning of the everlasting (New) covenant has not been understood, nor can the crisis of these days be understood.
On quick search, I couldn’t find anything on the net as clear as Walter Kaiser’s treatment of this text in his “The Messiah in the Old Testament” by Zondervan. I’ve not had opportunity to consult it yet, but I’m sure Michael Brown, a Jewish scholar of Semitic languages, would be excellent in dealing with the controversial aspects of this text somewhere in his 4 vol set called, “Answering Jewish Objections” by Baker Books.
Yours in the Beloved, Reggie Kelly