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News 287, DWV TV September 22, 2003
THE THRILL OF UNTIL
One of the most thrilling concepts in the Bible, facets of the word of God, arrows of desire, launchings for longing is to be found in this word 'until', used by the Lord in vital sites.
For How Long is Jerusalem to be under Gentile dominion ? UNTIL their time, their apportioned phase in history, their time of dominance and prominence, their series of kingdoms is COMPLETE, so that their innings is over: Luke 21:24.
THEN the Jews having had their 'time' and the Gentiles theirs, it is time to complete the ... match.
What match ? The match of freedom in a glorious world, in which sin and every contrivance, aided by the devil, the adversary of righteousness, seek to wreak havoc on truth and peace in their only combination, the Lord's own life where they form an integrality of eternity, and history for it to show itself.
Is that all it is ? It is more, not less. It is a match of the wit of the Lord and the works of man: self-glorifying and specious works in the midst of blessing like overarching bows of light, despised as if they were engines of destruction.
Is that all ? It is more, not less. It is a match of the mercy of the Lord and the quagmire of man's sin, in which the power of God evacuates on call to His name; but this is a proviso, that it must not merely be what you THINK is His name, when you concoct and imagine and give life to some little god of your own imagination, but what IS IN FACT His name, such as it has always been and will be, the same for ever.
And what IS His name ? It is the same name, that of Creator and Maintainer, Counsellor and Redeemer, Saviour and just Judge. And how do you call on it ? It is the same way, the Everlasting Gospel, foreshadowed as soon as sin entered man's life, and a fulcrum throughout the long wait in the Old Testament as more and more detail was provided of this Gospel (cf. SMR Ch. 9), and then consummated in the cross, where lovingkindness taking legs and arms, for man, man took them and pierced them with nails.
What sort of a Gospel is that then ? some may ask. It is the same and only sort: that God is willing to provide an escape from sin, its guilt, its power, its domination, its perils and its doom, being love; that He is willing to act, being gracious, and became man, being merciful, not standing aloof from man's sore, but experiencing what life means in the flesh. Thus He took man's hatred in false judgment and being a sacrifice for sin, atoned for the ways and will of man, in liberality and adequacy to cover every case.
But what of those who do not come to this remedy, redemption and rescue ?
They stay where they want to be.
Where is that ?
It is in exclusion, in self-serving, either of the psyche, or its elected deputies of philosophy, pretended gods or any other substitute for truth which, appealing, take over the soul of man and teflon it with a covering of artificiality, if by any means it might become desensitised until judgment comes.
But is God really willing to save all ? Yes, He says so in Colossians 1:19ff., most emphatically, and in I Timothy 2, most categorically and dramatically.
But don't you see some expert to help you ?
It can help, but never rely on any but God, for HE ALONE is wholly reliable (I John 2:27).
Yet how do you rely on Him ?
As you would rely on anyone or anything, by trusting it.
But what if people and schemes have failed often in the past ?
No 'if', they have. God however never fails. What He says, empirically, psychically, historically, prophetically, morally, judgmentally, mercifully, graciously, in this way or that, in thousands and ten thousands of utterances, HE DOES. The sun is less likely to rise, a mere creation, then God to do His word, the expression of omnipotence.
Yet, someone may pursue it, WHY does God bother ? As Creator He cares; as provider He is concerned; as Lover, He is moved; as merciful, He seeks.
Why then, one might ask, does He not simply save all ?
It is because what He has created us in His own image, not a pulley mechanism, or an electronic circuit, not a programmed slave-master situation, either indirectly with parameters of 'learning' or directly with transmissions that move, and obtain specific results assuredly.
Man is made to be responsible, and if irresponsibility is his, it becomes his destiny.
Is this not, one might still lunge in thought, rather unfair ? After all, one might be in a rather bad mood when someone tells the Gospel, and then pride might make one refuse to change one's mind ?
Sin is sin. It has its ways and its work; and its destiny.
Yet is not love more inventive than that ?
In fact, yes it is; still the principle remains the same: THIS is the condemnation, that LIGHT has come into the world (Jesus Christ, God as man as noted above), and men have preferred darkness (John 3:19).
Still, the interlocutor proceeds, Might not that preference come in the social dynamics of some group, so that one really regrets one's own bravado, but is ashamed to 'come clean' ?
It might be so, but God has provided for even this.
That is where the much emphasised aspect of the Bible comes to the fore: predestination. Because, as so correctly protested above, man is so sunk in sin that he might even choose hell rather than risk the deflation of 'changing his mind' before his peers, there is scope for the imagination and power of God, in wisdom and love, to act further.
Indeed,He has acted further. He even took, if you will, the 'precaution' of seeing to it that all the results were known and fixed before the world was even permitted to exist (Ephesians 1:4, Romans 8:28ff.), so that no 'odd event', be it psychic or social or even physical for that matter, COULD possibly intervene to ruin the plan. NOTHING can get between you and salvation in terms of an unfortunate event, episode, odd occurrence and the like. GOD KNOWS you; and HE FOREKNEW His own people. HE CHOSE THEM, before time began.
Hold on! the concerned one might protest. Does this not mean that He chooses what He likes, so where is the love in that ? Don't we all do just that ?
No, it does not mean that. As to whether we 'all' do that, it is time for you to consider that not all people are just selfish, simply pleasing themselves: far from it. In fact, one of the most salient scriptures declares this: "We then who are strong, ought to bear with the scruples of the weak, and not to please ourselves" - Romans 15:1. Not only so, but this is in terms of the example of Jesus Christ, Himself, God incarnate (John 1:1, Philippians 2): "For even Christ did not please Himself; but as it is written, The reproaches of those who reproached You fell on Me." That citation is from Psalm 69 and applied to Christ, just as this part of Psalm 69 also is so applicable: "Reproach has broken My heart, and I am full of heaviness. I looked for someone to take pity, and there was none: and for comforters, but I found none."
Indeed, Paul also tells us that God has not chosen many brilliant and outstanding people in terms of mere human accomplishments, as in I Corinthians 1:27ff., but rather has chosen "the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things are not, to bring to nothing the things that are: so that no flesh should glory in His presence."
No, God repeatedly and most graphically makes it clear that He would LIKE to bring all to Himself, cleansed, reconciled and forgiven, pardoned, empowered and refreshed, renewed and filled with mercy, as children adopted by grace; and He does it in the most categorical terms, with emphasis and poignancy, as in Colossians 1:19ff., Ezekiel 33:11ff., Hosea 7:1 and even Jeremiah 51:9. This is His sublime, divine willingness, more, His desire.
Cases like the inveterate, invasive, persecutory Saul, so specialising in arrest and torment of Christians that his name would be an abomination, are not so unusual, for Saul even changed his name to PAUL, the famous apostle, on conversion: God forgiving with a magnificence which is like so much in all His works and ways (cf. Micah 7:19ff., Psalm 103, 32, 51).
Statedly, He does NOT however receive all as He would like, because "you would not" - Matthew 23:37 (cf. SMR Appendix B, The Kingdom of Heaven Ch. 4), and the principle is spread out like the washing on the line, in John 3:19. The children of Jerusalem were not willing; that generation would not respond, and thus directly responsible, they and not their unwitting children, they themselves as perpetrators were those who would render ACCOUNT! (cf. Ezekiel 18:1ff.).
Now the questioner might proceed, like this.
Why however does He not blitz the recalcitrant, subvert the invidious, constrain the reluctant, just grab them ?
It is because they are all in His image, and there is nothing of love or truth or peace in pretence, or mere subversion by artifice, for neither sincerity nor reality are there, but so many programmatic psychic residues, which might have been, but now are not persons. He is not interested in the aritifcial pretensions of appearance, but in worship in spirit and in truth (John 4).
God does not make in His image in order to defile and abase it: man may defile it; GOD seeks to reclaim it, but reclaim IT, not some distorted piece of anguished residue, bearing merely superficial resemblance to an image-bearer of God, to a responsible being, to one whose person is not plastic but spiritual perceptive, or receptive, or in any case manifest in integrity.
WOULD YOU like to be blitzed ? Would YOU like to become what you do not really know, in order to have peace in the end ? Perhaps you even would, for many will sell almost anything for some sort of comfort and security; but EVEN IF you would like to be manhandled, or God-handled in such a way, what would the result be ? It would be someone MAKING USE OF GOD for a couple of tricks: namely security and a quiet life.
You cannot make use of God. HE IS SPIRIT. HE KNOWS. There is nothing real in masquerading as a lover of God (for God is love), when you love only yourself! That is a lie. Thus even if you would like to be blitzed, it would not help, such action merely increasing the millions of hypocrites. These are not so precious that they have to be made!
There is however one way out. If you would rather like to be blitzed, to abandon all caution and just be with God anyway, then you need to consider WHY this is so. Do you want God more than yourself ? If so, there is hope. Do you want to keep yourself on your terms and be in God ? Then here there is no hope. Would you however wish to be even reconstituted by God, BECAUSE HE IS GOD, and truth and loving, and so taste and see what He is like ? There is much hope here.
Then repent of being yourself without God, and call on the NAME, the biblical name of the actual God, and in so doing, come in the way prescribed, by receiving what HE HAS DONE, which is to die for you in love, so that in mercy, justice sated, you may be forgiven. Then putting your trust in Him, find in Him your home.
If you do so, thank God, for He never loses any by misadventure: for He KNOWS His own, and without reserve seeks all as He states; and if you do not do so, then thank yourself and find the marvellous results of your trusting you more than God who made you! (cf. Proverbs 1 with 8:34-36).
THE JEW AND YOU
We have by now been looking well into the members' pavilion in the MATCH which has been running these several millenia now. We started by considering the UNTIL to be found in Jerusalem's case, that it was to be under Gentile dominion UNTIL that innings in the match, was over. It is over.
Jerusalem has now long been in Jewish hands, so the times of the Gentiles (Luke 21:2;4) are now ready to be put down as a finished innings.
What is so very good about that is this, that it means that both sides having had a 'go', the match is progressing to the score situation, the end, the conclusion; and the conclusion is Christ. He set it up; and He has made provision for the score at stumps, and how it is all to be done.
When all these things, including this of Jerusalem, come to pass, said Christ, you know that the time for His return to the oval, the world, is near (Luke 21:28). All this has been pondered in particular detail, both in Answers to Questions Ch. 5 and SMR Ch. 8.
Yet this is merely one example
of the thrill of the 'until'! Look at
I Corinthians 11:26.
Here the very symbolic exhibition of the redemption wrought by Christ is the
Lord's Supper ends with these words,
"For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until He comes."
Till He comes! Jerusalem is one index, and the Lord's supper is a perpetual reminder. He is coming, He will return; and if MacArthur in hope of American power, could said, I SHALL RETURN! to the island where his power had seemed to fail, how much more does God tell all the WORLD that HE WILL RETURN, as He came in Christ, yes this SAME CHRIST (Acts 1:7ff.), and not another (II Corinthians 11), in demonstration of DIVINE POWER.
You see it again in terms of a parallel with Israel, and this time a most intimate one, in Romans 11:25. Paul has been at pains, in divine inspiration, to use an illustration to show a major sweep in history to come. IN THE PAST, he intimates in Romans 11, the JEW, Israel had been like a beautiful olive tree. Its roots were from the Lord, its fashioning and its growth. However, it betrayed the Lord, so that now the whole structure, at first seeming most Jewish (though in fact it was always a divine gift to man, with roots and bases for all, to come in due season, cf. Psalm 100 and Romans 15:9-21), is parted from the Jew.
Put differently, Israel is hacked out: it is separate, without divine life, languishing. Not only so, says Paul, but Gentile believers, those who unlike the NATION Israel (but very like the apostles, drawn from the Jews) DID believe in this gift of God in the grace of the Gospel, Jesus Christ, these are GRAFTED INTO the same olive tree, root and all, from which the Jews had, that is Israel, been removed.
Paul inveighs against Gentiles who are merely complacent or formalistic, and tells them NOT TO BE HAUGHTY or HIGHMINDED (Romans 11:18ff.); for they can be removed in a parallel way to that of the loss of Israel, and for a parallel reason: that ? LACK OF FAITH. The tree functions through faith: for it is a FAITH TREE, for without faith, you cannot even please God (Hebrews 11:6).
Now we come to our splendid and arresting UNTIL! Paul declares, in Romans 11:25, that he would not like Gentiles to be unaware, unversed in a special and important piece of knowledge. ISRAEL yes, is blind, yes is out of it, yes is in a sad case; but this is not for ever.
Not at all! says Paul, having already in Romans 11:15 sketched the contrast between the GRACE which the Gentiles received in the Gospel when the Jews were CAST AWAY, and the GLORY when the latter are RETURNED to their own olive tree! If their removal brought such blessing to others, think, he declaims, of the wonder of it when they COME BACK!
That, then is past, by Romans 11:25. Now says Paul, I want you to know this, that this blindness has happened to Israel, the nation - that is, to SOME only, of the Jews since many are already believers, starting with the Jewish apostles of the Christian Church - only for a certain time. This is a time schedule here.
This blindness for Israel is to be the case only UNTIL the Gentile time is over. Now we have already met this "times of the Gentiles" above, and we could relate it further to Daniel 2 and 7, but we shall not here enjoy that indulgence, since we have work to do. WHEN therefore the time of the Gentiles is over, then the Jewish blindness is going to be removed: there is going to be an efflorescence, indeed a re-grafting of the ancient branch, so long removed from the olive tree. They're coming back to being close with God, not in some other olive tree, but in their own, the very one from which they were removed because they failed to receive their own Messiah.
Sight will come to this region of the spiritual blind. They will see, receive Him in large numbers and being convicted of sin, be converted to the Lord Jesus Christ, after so long a time.
Then the full scope of the glorious and grand plan of God will be revealed: Jews in, Gentiles out, Jews out and Gentiles in, both humiliated in their respective prides; and then all who are in, to be in by mercy only, by the one Gospel only, by Jesus Christ only. So is the deep wisdom of God! and Paul glorifies Him for this in Romans 11:30-36.
Thus we are now at one of the major pivots of history. To be sure, Jerusalem is still menaced, and all sorts of contrived plans for it NOT to be free to the Jews are in view, so that there is a sort of hiatus; but for all that, it is currently in Jewish hands and the signal is clear. At any time now, instead of the removal of Jerusalem from the Jew, as is clearly in UN desire, there may come the divine action to protect and deliver His people (as in Zechariah 12, where the vast conversion work in Israel is shown in detail, amidst the wars against it ).
We do not go on for ever in this Gentile phase, increasingly a crass wilderness of impossible philosophy, silly sociology, sad psychology and inane warfare. The nations (or 'Gentiles') have indeed had their wonderful opportunity to seek for the Lord (as described by Paul in Acts 17:26-17), and their number is very nearly up. Confrontation with God is very close, as in SMR pp. 506ff..The blindness in Israel comes to a due terminus, just as the oppression of Jerusalem does, and the Gentile time comes to its Judge as the Jew did earlier; but this time, it is a world-wide and total judgment for all (Romans 11:33, Acts 17:31, Matthew 25:31ff., 24:45ff., Isaiah 24).
Thus this UNTIL is like the beginning of the Christmas holidays for the school student. Then the thing is OVER and one may rejoice in the brine, and the sand and the sun and the sea-gulls, the cliffs and the walks, the surf and the waves.
Here, it is Christ, the great intermission in the mercy of God, made available for suffering humanity! That is the vacation from the vice and viciousness of this world; and at this UNTIL, it is near, even becoming all but visible through the long-distance sight in the windscreen!
In this way, what is bringing near the Jewish realisation, at something like a national level, is also bringing near your Gentile time when Christ coming, you MUST BE GOING to be with Him, while the axes fall behind you (I Thessalonians 4, Matthew 24:30ff., Philippians 3:20-21).
These however are merely one set of UNTILS. There are many more with the same sense of mercy and peace because of truth and justice, in the Gospel of grace. First let us see one close parallel in Micah 7:9-10. Here in poignancy and pathos, is to be seen the dethroned Jewish nation, all but obliterated, bent within, dishonoured without (7:3,8), fallen but to arise (7:8) when God has finished His discipline, when the people come to their place and are at last to be found.
"I will bear the indignation of the LORD, because I have sinned against Him, UNTIL He pleads my case, and executes justice for me" (Micah 9).
How long has this obtained!
How long has Israel hardened its heart, whether as exilic in the hardened world with its progroms, programs and inquisitions, or as now, on its return, with the UN saying, DO NOT REMOVE ARAFAT! (DW TV, September 22), for says one, he is the democratically elected leader of a State, and represents aspirations. Hitler too had aspirations, and had a kind of election! (cf. SMR pp. 967ff.).
It is not only whether you represent the aspirations of a people, that is the matter, but what those aspirations may be: lebensraum perhaps ? Germany was not the only nation to have such concerns; but again, it is a matter of method. HOW do you plan to get living room, quarters for the landscaped desires of your heart upon this globe! That, it is the question!
Do you gain the fulfilment of aspirations by killing kids, knocking over youth, invading super-markets, leaving twisted metal and writhing humans in the course of your interview with the aspiration, at the place you want to be ? Does this not matter ? Is it only in America, in Germany, in France that it matters if people do this to you ? Is the world blind, like Israel ? But alas, could it be more blind!
Surely Israel to this day is bearing the indignation of the LORD, whom, nationally, it still stubbornly and most ill-advisedly, and let's face it, treacherously continues to sideline! It was warned most vigorously (Deuteronomy 28-32), and frequently (as in Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Isaiah).
Nevertheless, it is almost heart-breaking to see them sacrifice their young to those who may well qualify as what Moses prophetically called a 'foolish nation'!*1 (Deuteronomy 32:21).
In what a foolish nation ? in this, that a large percentage are following a false prophet, Muhammad, both in terrorising arms of steel and body bits, and steeled heart, the only red of which seems at times the blood of others; and it is so because Israel the nation WILL NOT call upon the name of their God, no, not even as they did when they returned from the earlier exile with Ezra and Nehemiah.
They do not call on that only LORD anew, who came on time, as pre-announced, these two millenia since (cf. Highway of Holiness Ch. 4), their own prince, leader and Saviour! Have not the Gentiles sufficiently abused His name, that Israel still kicks! Has not Israel yet sufficiently tasted and seen the gall and the wormwood when as a nation it turns from the living God, as Isaiah predicted they would, instead abhorring the One who came to save them (Isaiah 49:7)!
It is time to repent, NOW. The world does not repent: it merely seizes and acclaims murder and the methods of murder with Israel, in this; as has for so long been its European custom.
Very well, this crass world continues its crass execution by crass approbation of the method of murder, provided the butt be Israel, which is thus placed "because I have sinned against Him", and such things may well continue "UNTIL HE PLEADS MY CASE" (Micah 7:9 cf. I John 2:1-2, Isaiah 32:17).
There is no mystery about it: it awaits the calling upon the name of the Lord, the repentance for the crucifixion of Christ (Zechariah 12:10, Romans 11:25), that realisation for so long hidden, but to come shortly: and as to that, the sooner the better, as far as stolen young bodies are concerned, the butts of internationally 'recognised' hatred and its associated 'aspirations'.
However, there is to be a restoration completed (Micah 7:12), one now but begun. There is to be a divine action (7:15ff.) comparable in dimension and scale with that which brought out Israel from Egypt in the Exodus; and it is needed! It is as in Zechariah 12 and Ezekiel 36 to the culmination of the repulse, in Ezekiel 38-39, which leads to that blessed relief and Messianic acceptance; and eventually to the rule and reign of Christ who has gone only UNTIL HE COME (as Paul put it), a thing noted in Ezekiel 37:23-24; for this is the outcome and this is the income, and this is what is to come when this UNTIL is over.
Similarly Daniel is to rest in the Lord, when his day on earth done, his restoration in resurrection arises. He is to rest in his place, and "will arise to your inheritance at the end of the days." For how long must he wait, this precise prophet of the death date of Christ ? He must wait "until the end" (Daniel 12:13); for there is an end, not a mere cessation; and that end is the beginning of actions so vast and wonderful on the one hand, and so titanic in destruction on the other, over the forces of frenzied presumption for so long moving about that they quite forget the 'end'. It comes when that STONE made without hands, strikes the statue representing the rule of nations, at last stricken before the returning Christ (Daniel 2:34ff., 44ff.). It is Christ Himself (cf. Daniel 7:23-25) who as that stone, fills then the earth.
It is then, at last, that the terminus for the Ages comes, so that, after the pompous pretender, the man of sin and devil’s messiah, that deceiver in unsanctified humanism echoing the emptiness within with the false words from his vapid mouth (Daniel 7:8), there comes the legitimate and eternal Majesty of the Redeemer:
"I was watching in the night visions,
And behold, One like the Son of Man,
Coming with the clouds of heaven!
He came to the Ancient of Days,
And they brought Him near before Him.
"Then to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom,
That all peoples, nations and languages should serve Him.
His dominion is an everlasting dominion,
Which shall not pass away,
And His kingdom the one which shall not be destroyed."
That is the joy to come, when the Eternal Word of God, filled with majesty and power, dominion and authority, peace and grace, mercy and tenderness, compassion and justice, truth and wisdom, having come into human form and suffered to the uttermost for man (Isaiah 7, 9, 12, 22, 42, 49, 55-55), rules in the only regality which can last, that of the truth, sublime in wonder, a spectacle of grace and a testimony of worth (cf. Revelation 5:9-13, cf. SMR pp. 582, 623) as the Jewish prophets for so long have proclaimed to ears so often deaf, both in the Jew and the Gentile (Isaiah 42:6,18-20, 53:1): yet not all have been deaf! (Isaiah 49:6), nor will be (Isaiah 55:1-4).
let us look even further in our UNTIL basket. What might be said of Jeremiah
30:23-24, where the exposition on the presumptuous and impetuous arrogance of
false prophets for the time complete,
those who run though the Lord did not sent, who speak though He gave them nothing to say, comes to its crest ? This is a phenomenon to reach its climax and culmination in the end of human history, before the Lord's return, in the "latter days" which indeed merge into His coming (Jeremiah 23:18-20 - "in the latter days you will consider it perfectly") ?
Here in Jeremiah 30 you see, in verses 21ff., the Messiah as so often (cf. 23:5-6, and 30:9 expressly), approaching with His unique holiness to His Father, evoking wonder, and the judgment to be poured on all contemptible contempt of the Lord, all spurious evasiveness before Him (cf. Jeremiah 30:15). The day of the Lord is one with a dangerous dawn to those who yawn and spit out pretence in the name of the Lord!: The actual Speaker is coming to assess on the spot!
Like a whirl-wind will the ultimate rebuke come, violent on the head of the wicked, and "The fierce anger of the LORD will not return until He has done it, and until He has performed the intents of His heart. In the latter days, you will consider it" (Jeremiah 30:24-25).
It goes on, then, the divine exposure and mounting judgment, until ... ? Until it is over and simply ceases ? Far from it: UNTIL IT MEANS THAT HE HAS PERFORMED THE JUDGMENT DESIRED, UNTIL THEN. That is what it says, here in Jeremiah.
Judgment ? It can strike fear; but it should bring joy. It is joy to the just to do judgment (Proverbs 21:15); and when it means clearing the mounting rubbish, for so long littering the highways, when it implies the freedom of access now to the highway of holiness in pure air and with level terrain, what is this but joy! (Isaiah 35, 40:3-5). If some wish to populate the piles, so be it; one could not concur. It is their preference! Long has been the patience of their being sought! Long has the highway of holiness been a supreme challenge: now it comes openly and readily.
But what more is in our basket, our cluster of UNTILS ?
What now of Isaiah 28:16-29, 29:13-18 ? Here you see the FOUNDATION STONE laid for all holiness and help, for all comfort and faith, a "tried stone" (and HOW He, the Christ was tried, cf. Hebrews 5:7, Luke 23:42ff.!); and through this, the false 'refuge' of lies will be removed (as so well in Matthew 23!); for the Lord will DO His UNUSUAL ACT, His strange work (28:21), which though it involves in the end, judgment itself in the world, yet has far more than this.
This strange action, as the Lord calls it, is one which enshrines from the centre to the circumference, the mercy of the Gospel (as in Isaiah 29:13-14).
heard of the God of creation
coming as a
Rock, a Foundation, on which man can rest, and
in the process (Zechariah 3:9) as sin is etched on His blemishless surface,
for such a
motive as love,
such a task
object as the adoption of children from the blighted race of man,
blighted for their blight,
v and rescuing them in the intimate manner of becoming a quasi-criminal in the place of those who receive the rescue, the adoption and repenting, find grace in the eyes of God!
Precisely, says Isaiah (53:1), and who has believed it! he asks in his presentation as a preliminary! God knows not only what man does, and will do, but what He will do, and what man will do with what He does! Omniscience is His, and He shows it.
Wisdom of this world will flee before the wisdom of the LORD, and this overturning in the Gospel and the truth of the Lord, continues in the sickeningly whirled and confused world, "UNTIL Lebanon shall be turned into a fruitful field ... In that day the deaf shall hear the words of the book, and the eyes of the blind shall see out of obscurity" (29:17-18). Then the work of the Gospel in Christ will be consummated in the rule of the Lord, and no more shall the world rob the children.
It is indeed as in Isaiah 32, where after introduction to the rule of the Messiah to come (1-6), and the culmination of this forecast for His return (as in Isaiah 11), we see that despite this, the rebellion of the people will lead to the sad groaning that sin presents. For how long will this adversity continue, following a light-handed treatment of the Gospel by those who scoffed at it ?
It will be …
"UNTIL the Spirit is poured upon us form on high,
And the wilderness becomes a fruitful field,
And the fruitful field field is counted as a forest. Then justice will dwell in the wilderness, and righteousness remain in the fruitful field. The work of righteousness will be peace, and the effect of righteousness, quietness and assurance forever" (32:15-20).
Here as so often, you see Gospel on the one hand, and its rejection on the other; the desolations resulting here, but the blessedness on the reception, there, UNTIL there is this vast movement back to the Lord, whose rule then comes in a power which fits into a new heavens and a new earth, a full refurbishing (as in Acts 3:19-21), which is to come with the return of Christ with His people (cf. Isaiah 59, where the phrase is so used).
Is this not a matter of joy, that at last, after so long a time, this same Jesus comes again in a manner similar to that in which He went (Acts 1:7-11), and at last, the Spirit poured out from on high (as in Zechariah 12:10ff.), there is a moving on a vast scale, and indeed one which affects many peoples (as in Acts 2, where Joel is cited).
Who would not rejoiced when this UNTIL comes onto the loudspeaker, and the address which follows is one not of word, but of action!
TO FULFIL 'UNTIL'
So have we seen in passing, some of the events that inhere in the end, like rubies in an engagement ring. Amongst these, have been the times of the millenium, that refurbishing, that cleansing and correcting, that time of power and glory, in which the nations are rebuked, and the Lord rules as with a a rod of iron, dealing as required with the recalcitrant clay, as a potter's vessel which is broken. Psalm 2 is immensely clear on this.
Some people of course just seem to wish that it could all be made up on a nice little scheme, just for them. There would be an end of history, a judgment day, a purging and an acceptance, and heaven would proceed.
They even go so far, in some cases,
in interpreting the 'millenium' as to ascribe to it a significance of zero. Its
existence has the following characteristics, they say: NONE. This is not
entirely sound as an exposition of the period which John specifies
(Revelation 20), for to have symbolised as something,
what is nothing, is not at all a sound practice! It is like 'not knowing what you are talking about', which, though common among men, is not to be found with God, on whom such an extrapolation from the vices of man is not to be visited!
It is easy to ignore other persons. God is one of these. Indeed, as the infinite and originating, the encompassing and the creating One before all, for whom time and space as we have them are mere elements of His creation, His is the mind to watch, the way to follow, the brilliance to discern, the will to love, the radiance to find ravishing; and as the God who likewise loved His creation to the uttermost, His is the heart to revere.
It is easy to forget Gethsemane, to forget His agony, to forget what it meant for majesty to writhe in pain, for the King of eternity, having sent His only begotten Son from those domains to these, to have Him exposed to spittle, and smashed as if he were the latest sports car of some drug addict; for truly man became, as he has become, addicted to the drugs of desire for false deities, often hidden as in Communism, in the interstices of the philosophy*2.
That is why it becomes so easy to ignore the fact that when GOD ELECTED TO VISIT THIS PLANET IN PERSON, and to become a sacrifice for sin, there were ingredients in this procedure which were horrendous, in principle as in practice. To have the beauty of holiness despised by those of inner ugliness, to have career abusers of religious reality, judging God, to have the apparent weakness necessary for love's offering for sin, to be interpreted by many as if God lacked the power, when in fact He was displaying it at a level to which most were blind: these and infinitely more such things, are not mere interesting features of the furniture of some room in history!
They are the garish display of the libertine spirit of man, the incalculably cruel rendition of the conceit of man, the indescribably atrocious defamation of fame by infamy, as if infamy sat astride the seat of judgment, riding side-saddle on some excursion. They require correction. It shouts for help; it calls for exposure; it cries for another outcome, to belittle this blatancy, to show the contemptibility of the contemptuous, and the scorn due to the scornful. You see this aspect in Psalm 2, where God sees the intentions of their scornful hearts, and lampoons their pretentious pride, setting His Son where they could no more kill, and over them. Here He appeals to them to trust in that Son, the Messiah, and to be wise for judgment is coming.
Further, for God to be seen as if
under the rule of legal criminals, prostrate in their own sin as they arise to
execute judgment, like Caiaphas and Pilate, requires an answer. God is patient
and likewise loving;
but truth will come in the end, and the truth is that what makes of love a parody, and of mercy a convenience is already burning (cf. John 3:18,36). Thus you read in Isaiah 24:23:
"Then the moon will be disgraced,
And the sun ashamed,
For the LORD of hosts will reign,
On Mount Zion and in Jerusalem,
And before His elders gloriously."
There is an end to all the hypocritical dimensions of pretence and pretension. There is a time for humbling, when "the Lord alone will be exalted", yes and for that day, there is scope (cf. Isaiah 2:16ff.). "Cease from man," says the word of God (Isaiah 2:22), "whose breath is in his nostrils; for of what account is he!"
In the millenium, this world restored for object lessons, the Messiah indeed rules with a rigour (Psalm 2, Isaiah 11, Micah 4) that is distinctive (cf. Psalm 110); and here is the setting shown
a) for the
loveliness of the Lord's creation, where vice has no victory;
b) for the
beauty of the Lord's holiness, where deceit can bring no fraud to contort
c) for the royal
rule of Him whose humiliation was in love, and for truth, that He might be
just in His pardon, having paid Himself the difference between the reward of
sin and the necessity of
d) for the
exposure, immediate and singular, of sin and its cardinal rebuke (Zechariah
14 cf. The Impregnable Tower, Ch. 8);
e) for the
testimony of creation to His handiwork (cf. Isaiah 59) without the
f) for His
majesty in the presence of faith, where government is godly, showing the
Here too is ground for joy, when the Lord is vindicated in manifest splendour, sin wears its own shabbiness, and the loathsome pretences of shallow minds, set on superficial models, is sand-blasted at all times with the magnificence of the truth. A "new heavens and a new earth" is set for this period in Isaiah 59, where longevity is the norm, though cursedness continues in its own unillustrious realm, until the heaven and the earth swept away (as in Revelation 20:1-4), there comes the ultimate eternity, already reserved and present (Revelation 21:1, cf. II Corinthians 5:1ff., John 14:1-3).
Here is the UNTIL of Zephaniah 3:8-16:
" 'Therefore wait for Me,' says the Lord,
'Until the day I rise up for plunder;
My determination is to gather the nations
To My assembly of kingdoms,
To pour on them My indignation,
All my fierce anger;
All the earth shall be devoured
With the fire of My jealousy.
'For then I will restore to the peoples a pure language,
That they all may call on the name of the Lord,
To serve Him with one accord.
From beyond the rivers of Ethiopia
The daughter of My dispersed ones,
Shall bring My offering.
'In that day you shall not be shamed for any of your deeds
In which you transgress against Me;
For then I will take away from your midst
Those who rejoice in your pride,
And you shall no longer be haughty
In My holy mountain.
'I will leave in your midst
A meek and humble people,
And they shall trust in the name of the Lord.
The remnant of Israel shall do no unrighteousness
And speak no lies,
Nor shall a deceitful tongue be found in their mouth;
For they shall feed their flocks and lie down,
And no one shall make them afraid."
'Sing, O daughter of Zion!
Shout, O Israel!
Be glad and rejoice with all your heart,
O daughter of Jerusalem!
The Lord has taken away your judgments,
He has cast out your enemy.
The King of Israel, the Lord, is in your midst;
You shall see disaster no more.' "
Here it is as in Matthew 13:42-43, moving on to II Peter 3:10ff.; as in Psalm 50:22-23, fulfilling its challenge and its correction; as in Habakkuk 3:13, 2:14, with Isaiah 33:20ff., in Psalm 2, in Isaiah 24:23, Isaiah 66:14-16, Amos 9:13ff., where the closely described Israel as also in Micah 7, has its own particular but Gospel-clad homecoming not only in territorial site, but in spiritual sight! This is as in Ezekiel 37 in its two such phases, the restoration to the land, and THEN that to the Lord in two specialised and specific phases of the prophetic action: vv. 7, 11ff..
In these ways does the Lord DO HIS OWN GOOD PLEASURE, teaching, cleansing, rebuking, demonstrating here on earth, before the eternal blessedness of heaven supersedes the ways of this earth, burnt up with its works, for ever.
His own people are resurrected at His return (II Thessalonians 4), but the Lord has His ways, His words and His works; and unwise is He who seeks to truncate these in the interests of those foolish human philosophies which neither understand that of which they speak, nor give honour to the Lord who has told us what He means in language so mulitiplied, so various, so diverse in annotation and thrust, yet so integrated in clime and intention, that to ignore it is like ignoring the sun in the heavens. Surely the sun too, it will go; but in the meantime, it is wise not to burn the fingers, yes and more than this, in trying to direct its ways.
The Lord's ways do not change; for they are everlasting; and the Lord does not fail (Malachi 3:6, Habakkuk 3:6, Zephaniah 3:5); and what He says, He will do. Just as many could scarcely comprehend that God would REALLY suffer, be pierced in human format, so now many can scarcely credit that He will act JUST AS HE SAID. This will remove His word, not at all!
The THRILL of the UNTIL remains in all its blessed and myriadfold completeness. Let us rejoice in it all. Would you rule out events at an Agricultural Show ? Would you show your philosophy to the Committee ? But now would you show it to God Himself, and rule out what you will! Try harder, then says the voice of mocking Elijah! Alas the gods of philosophy are not even there to listen.
On the Millenium: Sparkling Life in Jesus Christ Ch. 10, and SMR pp. 504ff..
On Isaiah: Heart and Soul … Chs. 4-7, in this case, especially Ch. 6.
*1 See Highway to Hell, and More Marvels ... Ch. 4.
The divine irony exposed in Deuteronomy 32 is this, that since Israel (then predicted, now in fact) would see fit to ‘kick’ against the divine splendour, the grace of God, to try out other rocks that move, and forsake the Rock which ‘begat’ them, and this in the face of all the miracles and wonders God for so long did for them; since it would use new gods, new arrivals, coming newly up, human cultural experiments based on nothing, clad in nothing, doing nothing, but producing shame while provoking God for their stiff-necked obstruction of His mercies, and cold departure from His love, then God would meet this action.
In what way would He meet it ? Not least in this.
HE would respond for His part, and since they acted to provoke HIM with a foolish ‘gods’, HE would provoke them with a ‘foolish nation’. How often has this procedure been followed; and how ludicrous the disproportion while Israel, capable of so much, is brought so low; and given such grace from the Lord, in mocking it or declining to be interested in it, is shown like a dog its vomit, the way of it.
In this way, the divine grace is not inoperative, for often it is only when the seedy substitute for spirituality is seen, that the undivine blockage is removed, and people, Jew or Gentile, seek the Lord. In Deuteronomy 32, we do indeed see, as Paul cites in Romans 15:10, that when the time comes, until which Israel waits, there is such an affusion of grace, such a repentance of heart, such a return to the Lord that human history, clinging desperately to many forms of unbelief, changes starkly. In this triumph, all who love God are to rejoice, Jew and Gentile (Deuteronomy 32:39-43 cf. Romans 11:26-36, 15:10).
*2 Cf. Beauty of Holiness Ch. 4, SMR pp.127ff., 307-308, 332D-E, 925ff., where Hegel's illicit potential to actual program, is the principle of Marx no less, who merely materialised the procedure, a step in both cases logically deleted by the need to HAVE the potential to be available for the programming, and the programming to be available for the potential, in the first place. The fact that it does not work, logically, historically or metaphysically, does not help that fabrication of rampant imagination.