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The Crux

January 15, 2010

Introduction

This post presents a theological model that attempts to capture the basic structure of the redemptive plan of God revealed in the Scriptures. It has been in a state of percolation since the days of my formal theological studies. I consider it to fall within the camp of Progressive Dispensationalism, though I don’t claim my presentation is representative of that camp.  It is my own take on it.

The model is intended to:

1. Be Christocentric. In God’s redemptive plan and in the flow of history, Jesus Christ is the center, the point, the crux. (The diagram itself turns out to be cruciform.)
2. Demonstrate the Israel/Church relationship:  not replacement, not parallel, not parenthesis.
3. Account for an immanent return throughout the church age.
4. Apply Daniel’s seventy weeks both to the first coming and the second.

I haven’t wanted focused on the various dispensations themselves, but that structure does seem to be present. It recently occurred to me that it does divide into the four dispensations typically described by Progressive Dispensationalists: Patriarchal, Mosaic, Ecclesial, and Zionic.  In this present form I refer simply to phases.

The diagram also incorporates seven themes I elaborate elsewhere from Genesis chapter 1: 

  • God as Creator/Owner
  • God as King
  • God as Judge
  • God as Father/Provider
  • Light
  • Division
  • Time/Rhythm of Life/Sevens

Refer to the following chart (click for large version):

The primary foreground element is the line of promise running from Abraham to Christ. The structure that underlies this line is Israel, Christ being the point of it. (Green dot to white dot.)

 

Phase One.

Phase One sets the stage for the rest of the plan and defines the background, the world that God loved and sent His Son to redeem (John 3:16). It includes the events of Genesis 1-11, chapters in which God deals with mankind as a whole. Three crises occur, each a major turning point, after which nothing can be the same as before. Each is a failure, a judgment, but also a step in the redemptive plan of God.

1. The Fall (Adam, black dot). Lavished by God with with good gifts and entrusted with rule over the earth, our first parents do what creation itself dared not do, disobey the voice of God. The consequence of their disobedience was death, disconnection of the human race from God, and condemnation of the race. This death, spiritual death immediately, physical death inevitably is a curse and an enemy. However the redemptive aspects are:

a. Barring access to the Tree of Life prevents a true living hell of ongoing physical longevity in a state of spiritual death.
b. Death itself will become an instrument of our redemption, through the cross of Christ.

2. The Flood (Noah, blue dot). That it is at the same time a rescue and a judgment is clear from 2 Peter 2:5,9. Redemptive aspects include:

a. A demonstration of God’s absolute hatred of sin.
b. Evidently, from Gen. 6:1-4, purging humanity of an admixture of the non-human.
c. The eight preserved form the basis for the nations to come.

3. Babel (Prism). Human depravity was showing itself in pride, arrogance, disdain for God, and foolish dependance on technology and political power. God’s plan here introduces frustration into man’s self-sufficiency. At this point as well God separates, as he did in Genesis 1 between light and darkness, between land and sea. By confusing languages He divides man into nations, the nations that are described in chapter 10.

The chart pictures this division as a prism dividing an initial ray of mixed (white) light into constituent colors. The red ray running down the center will trace the line that through Shem, Eber, and Abraham will become the nation of Israel, the Nation, and lead to Christ. (This will be developed in the next post.) The other rays symbolize the various nations of the earth, the Gentiles. They run along the background during the whole of the Old Testament but their importance is never really forgotten, as the New Testament makes clear.

Phase Two

At the conclusion of Phase One God separates humanity into nations. The diagram pictures them as discrete rays, but in reality these nations blend in and out of one another. In His plan He sets the nations aside (Acts 14:16; 17:26-27) and builds one for Himself from one man of his choosing Abra(ha)m. This nation will serve as His remnant through which He will effect His redemptive plan.

Abraham is indicated by a green dot (recalling the green plants of Gen. 1 containing its seed) and is the beginning of Israel, the arrow represents the promise to his Seed, the point of the nation of Israel. God gives promises which are (a) for Israel and (b) through Israel for the world. Israel’s purpose is accomplished by millennia of history, however, as the expanded red ray shows.

On the red ray the left triangular section pictures the increase in population from Abraham, through Isaac and Jacob to the time of the Exodus. Magnified it might look something like this:

At the time of Moses (yellow dot) the people Israel is constituted as a nation under the Mosaic covenant with the Law as its constitution. The law is illustrated by the gray lines on either side of the red ray. The law is a visible representation of the righteousness of God, and serves several functions:

1.  It keeps the ray discrete, coherent light, like a laser beam, so that the nation of God’s own making does not intermingle with the nations.
2.  It defines the covenant, which Israel as a whole fails, but Christ as Israel par excellence fulfills.
3.  It serves as a checklist for the life of God in a man. Man, in spiritual death, fails and is condemned by the law. Christ, in whom is Life, obeys it perfectly, showing Him to be the Perfect one who will become sin for us that we may become His righteousness.

The gray line extends only until Christ, since the Law leads to Christ (Gal. 3:24), who is the end of the Law (Rom. 10:4).

Along the course of history the nation is prepared for Christ. King David (purple dot) is an ancestor and type of Christ. God makes a covenant with him that will ultimately lead to Christ, and the structure of Israel’s kingship will be expanded to the Anointed one, the Messiah, King of kings.

The prophets, Isaiah, Jeremiah (orange dot) also prepare the nation for Christ. They prophesy the Suffering Servant and the New Covenant that He will mediate. Is the Servant Israel or the Messiah? Both. Israel’s purpose is to bring redemption into the earth, which it accomplishes through Christ who is Israel par excellence, the quintessence, the remnant of remnants. Magnified it might look like this:

Isaiah prophesies that Israel’s Messiah is also to be a light to the nations (Is. 49:6; 60:3). Christ comes to the Nation, and reminds them that they serve as light to the world (Matt. 5:14), which again, they ultimately fulfill through Him (John 8:12; 9:5). His life is the light of men (John 1:4,9). The light is shown by the glow of the white dot, and the light to the nations by the transverse rays from Christ across the spectrum of rays representing the nations.

Daniel’s seventy times seven years (faint white rectangle). 69 sevens brings us to Messiah (triumphal entry A.D. 3/30/33?). After the 69th seven (not during the 70th week) Christ is crucified and on the third day resurrected.

 

Phase Three

Christ came as the Messiah to His nation, sent to the lost sheep of Israel (Matthew 15:24). His sheep knew His voice and follow Him (John 10:27). Yet He was largely rejected by His own Nation (John 1:11), but He had other sheep (John 10:16).

The high priest unknowingly prophesied that Christ would die for the Nation, but not only for Israel, but “also to gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad.” (John 11:50-51).

Isaiah had prophesied that He would be rejected (Isaiah 53:3). Even as Christ inaugurated the New Covenant in His blood (1 Cor. 11:25) God was putting into place the means by which the blessings of that covenant would spread to the nations.

As the nations were formally set aside so that the remnant would run along the line of the Nation, now the Nation is set aside for the benefit of the nations. By their trespass salvation comes to the nations. The nations enjoy the New Covenant blessings prior to the Nation, to in turn make the Nation jealous (Rom. 11:11). This is a deliberate act of God, a temporary and partial hardening of Israel (Rom. 11:25) to enrich the nations (Rom. 11:12). Note that it is temporary.

The nation-based structure itself remains intact, but the remnant principle is turned ninety degrees, so that it runs in a transnational sense. So now the transverse ray of the light to the nations becomes the axis of the redemptive plan during this phase.

Daniel’s seventy sevens sits on the Israel national line [“Seventy weeks are decreed about your people and your holy city” (Dan. 9:24)] and while the sevens are continuous on one another—in the national line, the third phase is not following the line but sitting athwart it. This phase continues “until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in.” (Rom. 11:25) So though it has now lasted nearly two millennia, the end of the age remains nearby all the time.

The New Covenant brings new blessings, particularly in relation to the Holy Spirit as Christ prophesied (John 15-17). Old Testament believers experienced regeneration, and some few theocratic leaders served under the anointing of the Spirit. Now however the Holy Spirit comes to indwell all believers as Joel prophesied (Joel 2:28ff; Acts 2:17ff), which baptizes believers into Christ’s Body (Acts 1:5).

This is Christ’s Church, of which He had spoken in the future tense (Matt. 16:18) As Christ’s Body they continue to minister as He began (Acts 1:1), being sent by Christ as Christ was sent by the Father (John 20:21). During the entirety of the age He is with His Church (Matt. 28:20) as God had been with Christ (Acts 10:38).

He has placed the members of His body to do His works (John 14:12) because He was returning to the Father and sending the Holy Spirit. The whole body being a microcosm of Christ, each member functions in a part of that ministry (1 Cor. 12:4-7). [However, it may be that the apostles themselves served individually as a microcosm of Christ’s ministry (2 Cor. 12:12).]

One manifestation of the Spirit apparently new with the Church occurred at Pentecost when those gathered there spoke in other languages, recalling the national separation at Babel, and signifying the reorientation of the remnant from the Nation to the nations. (1 Cor. 14:21-22). The wall of separation (illustrated by the gray line of the Law) in this age is gone and Israel is now simply one of the nations as the remnant is oriented (Eph. 2:14). The Church is sent to all the nations of the earth. (Matt. 28:19).

Phase Four

The Father will determine at what time He will “restore the kingdom to Israel” (Acts 1:6). That this query from the disciples was not fatuous, as it is often purported to be, is clear enough from Jesus’ response not to substance but only to timing. However, in God’s redemptive plan the kingdom takes on a cosmic dimension. Abraham’s seed inherits not only the land of Israel, but the whole earth (Rom. 4:13, Matt. 5:5).

Israel continues to play a central role, but it is God’s means of transforming the kingdom of this world to the Kingdom of the Lord and of His Christ (Rev. 11:15). The Nation has played a role by occupying the axis of God’s redemptive plan and bringing Christ into the world, and then by being set aside, transverse to the axis of the plan, as the Messiah brings light to the nations.

At the appointed time, however, the axial shift is to be reversed and Israel’s “full inclusion” will bring far more riches to the world than their temporary and partial blindness (Rom. 11:11, 25-26). Each division, the Nation and the nations has now each played a dominant and a suppressed role in God’s plan, so that mankind might know the fullness of redemption in God’s plan.

For just as you were at one time disobedient to God but now have received mercy because of their disobedience, so they too have now been disobedient in order that by the mercy shown to you they also may now receive mercy. For God has consigned all to disobedience, that he may have mercy on all.” (Rom. 11:30-32)

For the duration of phase 3, the axis has sat transverse to the national line of Israel at the junction of the sixty-ninth and seventieth seven. At the beginning of Phase 4 the seventy sevens chronology continues (faint white rectangle).

The meaning of Dan. 9:27 has been debated whether “he” refers to Christ or to another (anti-Christ):

And he shall make a strong covenant with many for one week, and for half of the week he shall put an end to sacrifice and offering. And on the wing of abominations shall come one who makes desolate, until the decreed end is poured out on the desolator.”

By analogia fidei, Scripture interprets Scripture. What book would be the New Testament counterpart and commentary on Daniel? What book describes abominations and desolations with particular focus on half a “week”? What book signals to us over and over that it is the explanation for the final seven by its incessant focus on the number seven? Clearly, a main theme of the book of Revelation is to account for the final seven and in particular the final half of that seven.

That Christ returns and destroys the beast (Rev. 19:20), the man of iniquity (2 Thes. 2:8) shows that Christ’s return is a complex event and involves a major crisis of wickedness in the earth. Christ said it would be like the time of Noah or Lot (Luke 17:26-30). Peter tells us that “the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment.” (2 Pet. 2:9) During this time of God’s wrath, in His plan He will keep His people “from the hour of trial” coming on the world.

Does Christ preserve His Church from wrath (1 Thes. 5:9) through a kind of “ark” event in which His Body ascends to the heavens at the end of its earthly ministry (1 Thes. 4:17) as His body ascended to the heavens at the end of His earthy ministry (Acts. 1:9)? There are indications of this. (Matt. 24:33, Rev. 3:8 [c.f. v. 20], Rev. 4:1 [c.f. Rev. 11:12]???)

At any rate, at the conclusion of the final seven, Christ returns (Rev. 19:11) with His saints (Rev. 19:14 [c.f. v. 8]; 1 Thes. 3:13) and sits on His throne and begins to rule over the Nation and the nations [having bound Satan, so that he can no longer deceive the nations (Rev. 20:3)]. Yes, it is at THIS time that Christ is restoring the kingdom to Israel. Only He is not just Israel’s King, but King of kings and Lord of lords (Rev. 17:14, 19:16).

Nations will continue to exist as God has established them, but now all are under the rule of Christ, with the Nation at the head of the nations (Is. 2:1-4; Jer. 3:17). Though the axis of the redemptive plan has returned to national orientation, there is no retreat into the past. Now the warp and woof of the plan are combined and the kingdom is over all nations. This is represented by the brightened colors of each national ray.

The kingdom endures in this way until Christ has put all enemies under His feet, including death (1 Cor. 15:25-26). The vision of Revelation refers to a thousand years, during which resurrected saints will rule and judge with Him. At the end of this appointed time, Satan [after one final outrage (Rev. 20:7-9)] will be consigned to hell (v. 10), the remaining dead will be resurrected and the unredeemed will follow Satan into hell (Rev. 20:12-13, 15), and at last the enemy death itself will be destroyed (Rev. 20:14).

Then at the end Christ “delivers the kingdom to God the Father” (1 Cor. 15:24), and God establishes a New Heavens and New Earth, as represented here by the darkness changing to a solid light.

 

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. February 1, 2010 10:11 pm

    Generally I do not post on blogs, but I would like to say that this post really forced me to do so, Excellent post!

  2. February 3, 2010 2:16 am

    There is obviously a lot to learn. There are some good points here.

    surface encounters

  3. February 6, 2010 10:00 pm

    Hey, I read a lot of blogs on a daily basis and for the most part, people lack substance but, I just wanted to make a quick comment to say GREAT blog!…..I”ll be checking in on a regularly now….Keep up the good work! 🙂

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