Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ; And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ: To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God, According to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord: (Ephesians 3″9-11)
The Bible is primarily about Israel; how she came into existence, how God prepared her to be the custodian of the Word, the worship, and to be a witness to all nations, also how Israel fell into sin and apostasy, Her exile from the land, and her prophesied return in unbelief in the last days, and how the Messiah will come to save her in one day!
The Stories of the Bible are told in a Hebrew context, the prophets also are Israelites, and the theme of the prophets are of the fall and future redemption of Israel. Finally, the Messiah, the world’s Savior , is Jewish.
But there is a huge gap in the middle of many of these prophecies, an intimation of a secret to come, ie a mystery. That mystery would prove to be the church, and the age of grace.
Isaiah 61 gives us a wonderful example of this ‘gap’ in time and history, in the prophetic account of Israel’s future. Jesus quoted it in his hometown sermon, but when he didn’t finish the verse, his own people tried to kill him. The text says,
The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me; because the Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound; To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn; ( Isaiah 61:1-2)
But when Jesus read it he stopped at “The acceptable year of the LORD…” , leaving out the part about “The day of vengeance of our God…”.
This is because there is a 2000 year gap between “the acceptable year of the LORD…” and “the day of vengeance of our God…”.
The Prophecy is accurate, for the Messiah has come to Israel, and a terrible judgment is yet coming to the earth, but in between these two facts is a long period of time, two thousand years, in which Israel is in a state of suspension in God’s purposes.
She has been sent into exile, scattered throughout the nations of the earth, as a consequence of the curse of the Law of Moses, and of her failure to enter into the New Covenant spoken of through Jeremiah.
Israel is a witness , even in her suspension, for she has been put on display throughout the nations of the earth, as a byword, an object lesson, as Moses predicted she would be.
The prophet Hosea predicted this gap and suspension in his prophecy,
For the children of Israel shall abide many days without a king, and without a prince, and without a sacrifice, and without an image, and without an ephod, and without teraphim: Afterward shall the children of Israel return, and seek the Lord their God, and David their king; and shall fear the Lord and his goodness in the latter days. (Hosea 3:4-5)
For many days, Israel has been without nation, national symbol, Government, national sovereignty, Priesthood and temple apparatus, sacrifice, national leadership. This has been going on since 70 Ad! But there is a turning point word, “AfterWard”, in which Israel “returns” and eventuates in her “seeking the LORD…” .
How long did that gap last? Israel was exiled out of national existence in 70 AD, and has never since been a political entity until May 1948! Hosea warned us it would be “Many days…”. Only recently have we entered into the phase called “Afterward…”, in which millions of Jews have been streaming from the ends of the earth in the great return.
Even the” return” which comes “Afterwards”, is divided into two parts; First there is a geographical return, a new Exodus. Second there will come a spiritual return of the chosen people, in which they will “return”, ie Teshuvah, repent, and turn back to their God, and to Messiah (the Son of David, their KING). We are currently situated between the twofold returns.
Hosea goes on to explain why Israel has been put into suspension for this “long time”, for the LORD speaks to them in the first person, explaining, that because of their unconfessed national sin, He must go back to His place until they” acknowledge their offense…”,
I will go and return to my place, till they acknowledge their offence, and seek my face: in their affliction they will seek me early. (Hosea 5:15)
In what sense can the omnipresent God “go” anywhere? Only in this sense; though God is everywhere at once, He did sanctify a piece of real estate in the city of Jerusalem, and gave Israel the instructions to construct a Holy House for Him to dwell in, and when all things were ready, He descended in a cloud and inhabited the Holy House, and the nation, animating the only nation on earth which was the custodian of true worship.
But the LORD removed himself. He left the temple desolate, first the Babylonians came and destroyed the temple, and took Israel into captivity for 70 years, then the Romans came and utterly destroyed the temple and nation, sending the Jews into a two thousand years dispersion.
Come, and let us return unto the Lord: for he hath torn, and he will heal us; he hath smitten, and he will bind us up. After two days will he revive us: in the third day he will raise us up, and we shall live in his sight. Then shall we know, if we follow on to know the Lord: his going forth is prepared as the morning; and he shall come unto us as the rain, as the latter and former rain unto the earth.(Hosea 6:1-3)
The “Two days” is the length of the gap, and corresponds to Moses’ Psalm in which he prophesied that with the LORD, a day is as a thousand years and a thousand years as a day. Hosea says that after “Two Days” Israel would be perfected, and she would live again in the LORD.
Jesus was challenged that Herod wanted to kll him, and his anger alludes to this scripture, but from the perspective of the Church which was to come,
And he said unto them, Go ye, and tell that fox, Behold, I cast out devils, and I do cures to day and to morrow, and the third day I shall be perfected.(Luke 13:32)
For Two days, Israel shall languish in exile and estranged from her God, whilst for two days, the church will cast out devils, heal the sick and reconcile men to God in the name of Jesus. but the third day os for both os us to be perfected.
The LORD knew from the beginning what the end would be, and what Israel would do. He had purposed all along to provide a second witness through a “non People”, composed of Gentile and Jew, strangers, foreigners and remnant believers from among Israel, to make up that gap in the time of Israel’s temporary blindness and hardness. That mystery is called “The Church”.
The church does not by any means replace Israel, but she is a co-witness with her to this dark world, of the reality of God and of the blessedness of his grace. None of the Apostles knew of her existence before the resurrection, nor did the prophets which preceded them, the church is a mystery, kept hidden in God until the proper time.