Israel and the Powers
There is an invisible realm over the nations and over every locality occupied by an order of fallen, rebellious angels. They have influenced, and continue to influence, the course of history in nations, races and men. The genocidal horrors that are taking place worldwide have their source and origin in the influence that is being exerted by these angelic Powers through men on the earth, though mankind is unaware that they are being played upon and enslaved.
These angels were created and endowed by God with gifts in order to administer His creation and to preserve a certain order and structure of it in a way that would be conducive to Gods eternal purpose. In their rebellion, however, they are using the role and offices that were given them to turn the attention of men away from God. When this administrative order fell, it took on the spirit of Satan who said, I will rise above the Most High. This is the most perverse egotism. Not content to serve the purposes of God administratively, the Powers of the air use that place to win the allegiance, loyalty, devotion and worship of men unto themselves. They are fallen and defeated Powers, yet they can still influence, corrupt and adversely affect entire societies, communities and nations. They operate through culture, religion, commerce and institutions.
There is a remarkably acute statement in Scripture that shows the depth of the vehement bitterness and opposition of the Powers of darkness toward Gods governmental scheme for the end of the age and the ushering in of His millennial kingdom through the restoration of the nation of Israel. It is found in Psalm 2, and it reveals just how ancient and timeless this whole mystery is:
Why are the nations in an uproar, and the peoples devising a vain thing?
The kings of the earth take their stand, and the rulers take counsel together against the LORD and against His Anointed: Let us tear their fetters apart, and cast away their cords from us!
He who sits in the heavens laughs, the Lord scoffs at them.
Then He will speak to them in His anger and terrify them in His fury: But as for Me, I have installed My King upon Zion, My holy mountain (vs. 1-6).
The picture given here is that the nations of the world, their kings and rulers, are vexed and foaming at the mouth in indignation. They want to tear apart the cords of the Lord and His Anointed, and do not want to be under His authority. They do not want to have this King rule over them. We need to distinguish between kings and rulers. The kings are the visible, human, earthly magistrates, but who, then, are the rulers? We are suggesting that they are the unseen, invisible spirits of this world, the gods of this world, the Principalities and Powers of the air, who manifest their wisdom through earthly rulers. They operate through the unregenerate ambitions of men, and find ample opportunity to ventilate their hatred, their bitterness, their mentality and their perverse wisdom through those who are susceptible to it and who share those corrupt values. Power, force, intimidation, threat, prestige, dominance and violence are intrinsically the character of the Powers of the air.
What are they, therefore, foaming against? They are not just bemused, irritated, or somewhat piqued; they are in uproar [rage - KJV]. You do not rage unless your deepest interests are threatened. The vain thing they imagine is that somehow they can reverse the foreordained purposes of God. Even though God has a holy intention of restoring Israel to Himself, to the Land, and making it the locus of His theocratic rule, the Powers of the air still believe they can prevent its fulfillment by annihilating every last Jew.10 God speaks to them in His anger because they are opposing His millennial intention:
...I have installed My King upon Zion, My holy mountain (verse 6b).
That is His design, and He will do it.
The Specificity of God
This is so much the issue of God in His electing whom He will elect. He is God, and if He wants to set His King upon a lowly hill, then that is the statement of who He is as God in His choosing of the weak and foolish thing. If we oppose His purpose and design for Israel, it is not so much Israel that vexes us, but God. Our opposition to Israel is our opposition to God. We are saying that we cannot abide with His sovereignty, His rule, and His choosing of what He determines and elects.
There is something about God being so specific that rubs us raw, especially when it is has to do with someone other than ourselves. If God were to set His King on the hill of Washington, DC, or Geneva, or whatever capital happens to be our own, we would love it. But when it is specifically about another land, particularly the land of a despised people, then our repressed rebellion against God is brought to the surface. Nothing so reveals this stubborn and latent rebellion in us as effectively as this. It finds its ignition over the issue of Gods specificity about Israel, but it is a much larger rebellion. To be in rebellion with God over any one thing is to be in rebellion with regard to everything. To take issue with God over the smallest thing means that in that one thing you have exalted yourself above Him and are not under any obligation to agree with Him. What, then, about the other areas where you are agreeing? And on what basis is that agreement? There is one thing that betrays the whole thing, and the issue of Israel is remarkably that one thing!
In order to see the issue of Israel in this context, we need to know that there is a cosmic struggle between two value systems: the gods of this world and the God of creation. God calls us as the Church to a battle with the Powers of darkness over the whole issue of which wisdom will prevail over His creation. We are entering the last of this struggle, and the sparks will fly fiercely right up until the last resolution. There are only two kinds of wisdom or moral systems in the earth: the wisdom of the gods of this world versus the wisdom of God. The former is predicated upon power, force, violence, threat, prestige, ambition, lust, fear and intimidation, while the other is predicated on weakness and foolishness. Wherever on earth a congregation of Gods people are free from the influence of the Powers of the air, that congregation is on the way to liberating those in that locality who are bound. It is not our shouting down the Devil or taking cities for God that will affect our localities. But where there is a visible evidence of freedom from the influence of these same Powers in a fearless people, who cannot be intimidated or threatened, it is precisely from there that the Devil is required to flee.
The Eternal Purpose of the Church
Paul is now going to reveal the heart of the mystery of the Church and its purpose for being in relation to the Powers and Principalities of the air. It is the same mystery as the mystery of Israel spoken of in Romans 11, insofar as the fulfillment of the one is also the fulfillment of the other.
To me, the very least of all saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to bring to light what is the administration of the mystery which for ages has been hidden in God, who created all things; in order that the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known through the church to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenly places (Eph. 3:8-10).
There is nothing in the world that can fit us to understand these verses. In fact, everything in the world is calculated to keep us from the understanding of them. God is at odds with every rationalistic and conventional understanding of life, its purpose and meaning. Unless we comprehend this foundational premise, we will never grasp Gods purpose for the Church. We will limit our view of the Church to some kind of Sunday addendum, some kind of institutional function that has for its essential purpose ourselves, rather than God and His purpose. This would be a lamentable, if not fatal mistake. We are not true church until Gods purposes for it have the central place of consideration in our consciousness.
If we are rooted in the immediate, rooted in our needs11 and in the visible and temporal, we will remain fixated at another and lesser level. We need to apprehend the unseen and eternal that alone are calculated to free us from the bondage of narrow self-interest. God knows that if we are not occupied with something that is beyond this age, then we would become so rooted in this age as to be null and void, both for this age and the age to come.
To Whom are the Mysteries Given?
Paul talks about the mysteries of the faith that were given to him to administer, having been withheld up till that point. We need to have a proper attitude toward the mysteries of God; a sense of reverence and appreciation, and a desire that they be unveiled and revealed. It is a revealing and unveiling of God Himself that changes everything. God is jealous over His own mysteries, and He is not going to allow them to be mishandled, trifled with, or rudely examined by those who do not have a right disposition of spirit for them. Paul is not interested in promulgating a mystery in order that we should have our curiosity gratified, but in order that the mystery might be administered and effectually fulfilled through the Church. The mysteries of God are given to those who will embrace them. If we fail to embrace them, we will be unfitted to be the Church in its full apostolic character that alone is able to fulfill these mysteries. Mysteries, already given, need to be recovered and propounded by holy apostles and prophets, and the understanding of them must necessarily come to us through them. We are therefore compelled to consider as extant apostles and prophets in our own generation, and to desire and anticipate them, because pseudo-aspirants are already seeking to fill that void.12
When Paul speaks of being the least of all the apostles, he is not playing on words in a kind of false humility. This is Paul as he really saw himself, and as God saw him, and because he saw himself as the least, he was given, therefore, the most. God will not give His mysteries to self-assertive and ambitious people who would use them to further their own religious career and the recognition of men. This is the Paul who saw himself as the least of all saints, not just then, but throughout his entire apostolic career. The test of the maturity of a believer is that the longer he goes on with God and the more deeply he understands Gods way and is brought into the reality of His mysteries and call, the more he is aware of his own nothingness.
God has reserved something that can only be performed through the Church, a demonstration of a certain magnitude that is not even to be performed for the world or in the world. It is not, essentially, evangelizing or being a witness to the nations. This purpose is beyond and more ultimate than that. It is cosmic, and has to do with something that is beyond the earth, and occupies all the ages to come. It is something that delights God, and He has created all things in order that this should take place. It has absolutely nothing to do with our success or well being, or any of those things with which we are so occupied. It is totally irrelevant to the practicalities of our daily life, and yet our daily life will suffer in exact proportion as we are indifferent to the eternal purpose of God. Is that not precisely why we have problems in our daily life? Are we not suffocated and taken up with a myopic concentration upon ourselves? Are we not more concerned for the health and well-being of our congregations? How many of us realize just how much we are rooted in an egocentric Christendom?
Ironically, we will never be saved from sins, lusts and the distractions of the world until our souls are occupied with Gods purpose for our salvation. The only thing that will liberate us is to be taken up with the eternal purposes of God in Christ Jesus. Nothing else has the power to counter the pull of the world with its seemingly mundane and legitimate things. Good, respectable and conventional things have a way of occupying us beyond normal bounds. A preoccupation with Gods eternal purposes is divinely intended as a way of countering and breaking that power.
To take this eternal mandate seriously is to alert the Principalities and Powers that we have now become something formidable. From then on, they are required to regard us with a certain terror of apprehension and fear with which we were not regarded before (Acts 19:15). Let them see a people who are earnest for the eternal purposes of God, and there is a war on in the heavenlies that we will encounter and feel. At the same time, this very opposition is part of Gods very process for maturity to prepare us for the age to come.
The Manifold Wisdom of God
These verses in Ephesians chapter 2 hint at a primeval, cosmic conflict between the God of Light and the Powers of darkness that preceded even the creation of the world. It is a struggle between two value systems. It is so enormous in Gods sight that He did not think it too extravagant to create all things in order that this drama could be played out. The world was created to support an entity called the Church that would bring this conflict to its final conclusion by something that it alone can demonstrate, namely, the manifold wisdom of God. It is a demonstration important to God, but which does not seem to have any immediate relevance to our daily existence, not even to show off to the world what the Church is. The Church is not called to solve the worlds problems, or to make people happier. This demonstration has got nothing to do with any benefit for mankind that we can observe with our senses.
In fact, this wisdom is not to be demonstrated to the world, but to the invisible spirit realm of the Powers of the air. In other words, this mystery has nothing to do with anything that we can recognize as being apparently valid or important for the Church. Rather, there is something here that pleases God: a calculated demonstration to an invisible angelic order, which must be made exclusively through the Church, and it must be a manifestation of His wisdom. It is totally other than anything that we might have understood to be the purpose for the Churchs being. God does not tell us why He wants that demonstration, but it is important to Him, therefore we do not need to know anything more than that. We do not need to have an explanation, nor is God obligated to give us one, or we would be, by that insistence, on the adversarys moral ground.
The wisdom of this world is predicated on practicality, namely, What is in it for me? What benefit do I gain by believing? God wants another wisdom to defeat that wisdom through a people who will give their lives for something that has no immediate or practical relevance or consequence for themselves; a demonstration of another wisdom that is heavenly. It is a magnanimity that frees us from self-interest. It gives us a motive for being and for doing in things that are outside ourselves. The worlds system does not believe you can do it. They want to bring you into their vortex and make you march by their beat: You have got to take care of number one. Be practical! After all, what about your responsibility? What about your children? Why leave your profession and thrust your family into insecurity and risk because you think God is calling you? If you do not take care of yourself, then who will? Self-preservation is the law of life. Dont get absurd and radical about it. Do what is required to preserve your life, to advance it and to promote it. And in the last analysis, if you have to use a shady thing or two, or even employ a threat or an inducement, well, that is the way the world goes. It has all the trappings of sound, conventional wisdom, but however seemingly persuasive and enticing, it is yet the voice of the world!
To Him be Glory in the Church
We have been brainwashed and have consciously or unconsciously accepted the worlds definition of Church, for which we receive their tax-deductible accommodation. They give it because they want us to agree that the Church is only a social institution serving human need. This is an absolutely perverse definition of what the Church is. Serving human need is incidental. Its whole purpose is to serve Divine need and to glorify God, and there is no other agency given in the earth whereby that glory is to be obtained than the Church:
To Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen (Eph. 3:21).
A fellowship that has lost the meaning of the word glory has voided itself as church. If the purpose of church is that God might be glorified throughout all generations forever and ever, and if we ourselves have lost the sense of what that glory is, then what are we about? Glory is not just a fanciful word. God intended His glory to be normative, a radiance to permeate His creation. There is a whole world that does not know what glory is, but God has so calculated it that there is only one means by which His glory is to find entry into the earth and be made known, namely, through the Church. A fellowship that has already opted for programs and for things that will only serve the needs of its congregation has, by that very means, disqualified itself from being the agency through which Gods purposes can be fulfilled. And if we miss the glory, we resign ourselves to becoming merely institutional. We will find ourselves accommodating to men and their human need, but we will have missed their greatest need, namely, to make the glory of God known. We shall never come to kingdom righteousness so long as our need is the predicate of our lives, the hub and pivot around which all things turn. We will never come to sanity and wholeness, nor will we ever come to the end of all our deliverance and inner-healing ministries so long as our real sickness is our self-centeredness.
To come into the eternal purpose of God will ruin us for church programs and the various other kinds of things we think we need in order to pacify those in the pew. Even to have programs is a statement that the fellowship has lost this apostolic view, and like the world, it has got to make available services and benefits to hold the attention of its congregants.
This was in accordance with the eternal purpose which He carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord (Eph. 3:11).
What kind of a fellowship can there be that does not make as its first priority the taking to itself Gods eternal purpose? A fellowship that does not live for the eternal purpose of God is not living. It is hardly more than a succession of services. It has lost, if indeed it ever had, this vital perspective as the reason for its being. A congregation that has been gripped or apprehended by this understanding cannot possibly have boring services. In fact, are we truly saved unless we have been fully apprehended by the purposes for our salvation? We are in an unbroken continuum with those who have embraced the purposes of God, for which reason they were hacked to death, tortured, murdered and butchered in a kind of satanic fury that seeks to nullify this ultimate intention of God through the Church. That is why there are so few who want to hear the call of God, because God calls us, not to our own purposes, but to His costly ones.
The Two Wisdoms
Wisdom does not mean what we would ordinarily think it to mean. It is not wise sayings, but more like a value system. As noted, the wisdom of the gods of this world is a system predicated on force, violence, threat, fear, ambition, lust, intimidation and the terror of men to preserve themselves and to make their own survival the first law of life. It is the unchallenged premise by which the world lives its life, namely, the avoidance of pain and the pursuit of pleasure. The world makes that the foremost principle of being. The ability to lay down ones life and not to consider ones life as dear to oneself is the wisdom of God and is predicated on contemptible weakness and foolishness. The one wisdom lives for itself, its own preservation and its own advantages, while Gods wisdom lives for another; it is selfless. It is the wisdom of the Son of God who never initiated anything in Himself, or for Himself, but lived entirely for the gratification of His Father.
This is contrary to human nature and how we think we have to live. Anything that is resolved through violence is the wisdom of this world. That is the way the world has lived its life throughout history. Gods wisdom is to relinquish, to give up, to yield and to believe that there is something greater than death and, by that, not to fear death. It is a wisdom that is centered in the Cross of Christ Jesus, namely, to serve and glorify Him. We will know that we have aligned ourselves with God when we constitute a threat to the realm of spirit Powers that brood over us. The overcomers of the end of the age are not those who avoid pain and pursue pleasure, but who overcome,
...because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their testimony, and they did not love their life even to death (Rev. 12:11b).
The world cannot bear this kind of wisdom. The only one who can live like that truly is one who does not think that this life is the whole story, and who realizes that there is a life beyond this life for which this life is preparation. There is an eternity, and it is the true appreciation of that reality that enables us to be fearless in this life. If we suffer the loss of our life, we are fully persuaded that it is not mere happenstance or accident, but ordained of God, and that there will be eternal reward for that sacrifice and suffering.
Defeating the Powers
If we ourselves are insecure, fearful, jealously guarding our lives, afraid to take the risks of faith, playing it safe, then the Powers of the air are not required to acknowledge us at all. They are only impressed with the same thing they saw in both Jesus and Paul, namely, apostolic authenticity. They have only one incumbent requirement, and that is to recognize that which is authentic, namely, of God and like God, as authentic as He Himself is. God is wanting authenticity (a synonym for apostolic) in His people: heavenliness, truth, unfeigned love and all the gritty things that are so painful to obtain. We all are the products of a devious civilization that majors in appearances and outward things, but where the Powers see the truth of God in the life of His people, they will retreat. They know whom to fear and whom to acknowledge.
We cannot defeat them by turning up the amplifiers in our worship, or by shouting them down. It is not noise that impresses them, but character. It is the truth of life where we really live, not the brave show that we put on when we think we have it all together. They have got to see in our conduct and character the visible evidence of our freedom from the influence of the Powers.
The wisdom of God was superbly demonstrated at the Cross when the supreme Son of God relinquished the right to His own life and gave it up by the Eternal Spirit, the Spirit of sacrifice, without spot and without blemish unto God, without complaint and without answering His mockers back. He was as a lamb who went silently to the slaughter. He was goaded by His own people to come down from the Cross before they would believe Him. He suffered that anguish for others while at the same time hearing their taunts and mocks, when anything that is left in a person that has to do with self-justification and self-vindication would rise up and say, You fools! I am doing this for you! Dont you understand? But, instead, He says, Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing. Another wisdom was expressed, contrary to the logic that the agonizing moment would have justified.
It was at the Cross that two systems of wisdom collided. Gods wisdom does not seek for itself, but does the Fathers bidding, even unto death. Jesus would not speak His own words, or do His own thing, though He was supremely capable in Himself of doing anything He pleased. He fully absorbed the fury of the Powers of darkness, who wanted to utterly destroy Him, and thought that by doing so, they would obliterate the threat that He represented to their kingdom.
When He had disarmed the rulers and authorities, He made a public display of them, having triumphed over them through Him (Col. 2:15).
At the Cross, Jesus disarmed and brought a foundational and devastating setback to the Powers of the air by demonstrating the self-sacrificing wisdom of God. The Powers of the air exhibited their wisdom: threat, intimidation, and the use of force and violence, in order to get Jesus to react in kind, and to rail against those who were railing against Him, but Jesus demonstrated something consistently unto death by voluntarily bearing the worst that they could inflict. Wisdom is not something that is only vocally expressed; it has got to be demonstrated in life. Ultimate malignity met ultimate magnanimity, the ultimate graciousness of God, the forbearance of God, the humility of God and the forgiveness of God. Meekness triumphed over viciousness. It is the same demonstration that will again make God eternally vindicated, but this time through the Church, for which reason He has created all things.
The Powers thought they had won because they had brought Jesus into death, but Jesus bore that death in a way that revealed the wisdom of God, and that defeated them. If force cannot compel a man to react in kind, what else can they use? If they cannot manipulate us to be like them and to protect our carnal and bodily lives, and cry out and compromise and do anything to stay alive, then they have no more power over us. We have defeated them, because the worst that they can do has come upon us, and we have stood and remained faithful to God, and exhibited the character of God in that very suffering.
If the Powers of this world had only known, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory (1 Cor. 2:8). They did not realize that by imposing their full wisdom, which is predicated upon force and destruction, they were releasing a resurrection and a Life that would billow out over mankind throughout all generations, and would bring the final triumph of God and the raising of the dead. It set in motion the very things that would establish His throne, in the very city where He was put to death. Through His death, and out of His rent side, would be birthed a Church. The Holy Spirit would be poured out from the Throne of God that would give an enablement to the Church to fulfill its mandate and commission of ushering in His millennial glory and Kingdom upon the throne of David. The Powers suffered a severe setback with the crucifixion of Jesus when He made an open spoil of them and took the keys of death and of Hell. He disarmed them, but He did not inflict the final defeat. Their final defeat remains to be fulfilled by the Church in the mystery of God.
A Corporate Demonstration
We are coming to the end of the age, and the magnitude of this eternal purpose and demonstration is of such a kind that it cannot be made by mere individuals alone. It is for the Church in its entirety, because the Church is the Church only in its corporate make up and in all of the diversity of what constitutes it. We are in something together, both the minister and the housewife, and we need to be consciously aware of that, and to prepare ourselves for the final conclusion of this mystery. It requires a people freed from the influence of the Powers of the air; a people who are not insecure, fearful, and living for themselves, who are gloriously freed from mammon, who are indifferent to shopping malls, who can have their car crunched in an accident and walk away smiling, who can suffer affliction and inexplicable things without becoming undone. They are those who can receive the stripping of their earthly goods with joy, knowing that they have in heaven a more enduring substance (Heb. 10:34).
In fact, the only people who can fulfill this mystery are those who would be strangers, pilgrims and sojourners in the earth. They have risen above and beyond their national culture. They are not fearful, but gloriously free from intimidation and threat. They know that their security is not from the Government or from their employer, but from God. And if that should dry up, the Lord has alternative sources, and if it pleases Him not to provide for them, then they will prefer to die in faith rather than that they should subsist and prolong their bodily life by initiating some course of action out of themselves.
When Elijah was at the brook Cherith, being fed by ravens in a drought that had been occasioned by his own word of judgment, you have a man submitted to the wisdom of God. It says that he watched the brook dry up, but he did not allow the visibly decreasing water supply, which is life, to affect or determine his next move. He was not moved by things external or seen, but by the word of God only. Imagine an entire fellowship like that! Jews will be coming to us in their most ungainly condition, frothing at the mouth, having been suddenly uprooted from their places of security and affluence, and find themselves in threat of death, pushed, prodded and driven through places they never would have chosen. It will be an ultimate test for the Church. There must be a people on the earth in the Last Days that are not moved by circumstances, or by dwindling streams of supply, but only by the word of God, for that is the greater wisdom. It is a people who are free from fear, who, like Job, will yet trust God, though He may allow them to be slain (Job 13:15).
Let the Church become an apostolic entity and a forerunner to a kingdom that will displace the Powers of this world, and you will see the world take off its mask and come at it with gnashing teeth. Unless we get this into our spirits and understand the cosmic proportion of the Last Days struggle between kingdoms and wisdoms, we will not understand how Israel has a place in this and why the Powers of darkness are intent upon Israels destruction. So long as Israel exists on the face of the earth, they are a statement of Gods intention to establish His rule over His own creation, which rule has come under the influence of the Powers since Adams fall.
If there shall ever be a kingdom of God upon this earth, then it must of necessity be the kingdom promised to Israel upon the throne of David. God is a God who keeps His promises. The Powers of darkness know better than the Church what Gods scheme is. They see the restoration of Jews to their God and to their Land as a threat. They will seek, therefore, to eliminate that threat through the instrument of death, their wisdom. That is why we are going to see a relentless pursuit of the Jew in the Last Days: hatred, prejudice, escalating anti-Semitic fury, skinheads and neo-Nazis. As in the Nazi era, this phenomenon will become increasingly prominent. Having its origin amongst the gutter elements of Germany, it was not long before it took possession of the whole nation, and if it could happen in Germany, how then shall any nation be able to withstand it when that demonic power shall be released and allowed by God, with a fury poured out (Ezek. 20:33-34)?
This is the final showdown. The Powers of darkness are not going to give up and let go of the vested interests they have enjoyed undisputed since time immemorial. They intimidated and manipulated the German people in a space of less than a decade. Who will be able to stand in opposition to a system of government when it becomes totally captive to the demonic, and makes anti-Semitism a principle of its rule? It will be the Beast system prevailing over the world. How else can we understand that all nations shall come against Jerusalem to destroy it? The only reason that any of Israel will survive that Last Days bitter fury is because of the mercy shown to them by Gentiles, who have received their covenant mercies, or those same Jews would have perished.