Thus says the Lord of hosts, ‘In those days ten men from all the nations will grasp the garment of a Jew, saying, “Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you.”’’ ( Zecharia 8:23NASB)
The minor prophet Zecharia has quite a lot to say about the “Day” (or age) to follow this which I may comment on in subsequent posts. The above verse reaffirms the fact that Old Testament prophets, John the Baptist and even Jesus Himself in the Olivet discourse spoke of the age to be heralded by Christ’s coming in glory occurring within a generation of His birth, not preceded by an epoch we know as the gospel/Church age in which Gentiles are summoned to play an equal part with Jews within the sanctified community we know of as “Church” (ekklesia – literally the called-out ones). No surprise then that the twelve disciples had little clue about the arrangement, not least Peter, who although clear enough that Gentiles should be evangelised (i.e. called to acknowledge Christ as Lord, repent and be baptised in His name) but not to receive the same gift of salvation as Jews (Acts11:17-18) resulting in eternal life, which I explain elsewhere is not referring to “going to heaven when you die” but restored communion with God and His Christ (Jn17:3; Col1:27) even whilst still inhabiting what Paul describes as the vessel or tent that is one day to be replaced by a body more attuned to a glorious, sin-free destiny (1Cor15:53).
Paul had been enlightened by the risen Christ, called out of time as the thirteenth faithful apostle (after Matthias) and provided with some entirely new revelation I have referred to in shorthand as the “fellowship of the secret”:*
Unto me (Paul), who is the most inferior of all the saints, was this grace granted that I should preach among the (Gentile) nations, the unsearchable riches of Christ to enlighten all regarding the fellowship of the secret hidden in God (the Father)through the ages, who created all things through Jesus Christ, that through the Church should NOW be made known to the sovereignties and authorities in the heavens, the multi-faceted nature of God’s wisdom according to the purpose of the ages made in Christ Jesus our Lord (Eph3:8-11 cf. Greek)
In other words, it was not until the establishment of the Church, indeed by its establishment, that this mystery concerning the Gentiles’ portion, salvific inheritance and the dispensation pertaining to it was revealed by God even to the principalities and powers of Heaven, having been “hidden in God” from the earlier age. That is why none of the Old Testament prophesies depict the gospel age or Church in the form it has taken, for it was never envisaged (or at least disclosed) that the Gentiles would be included amongst Christ’s consecrated band of enlighteners, rather that they would become enlightened through association with the Jews, God’s elect people as my featured verse makes clear (Zech8:23). But now according to Paul’s good news, the Gentiles could be made holy so as to be incorporated within that consecrated fellowship and inherit all its privileges (Acts26:18).
Once this mystery is grasped, the role of God’s chosen people may be perceived within a vastly broader providential context: the Church and Israel before her was never the totality of those God intended to reconcile to Himself, but His royal priesthood for the world (Ex19:5, 6 cf. 1Pet2:9). That should also be evident from Romans 11:11-15 in which Paul states that “salvation” has been brought to the Gentiles as a result of Jewish failure, yet God’s declared intention had always been that all people everywhere are given the opportunity to be healed and come to a knowledge of the truth (1Tim2:4) so that the world as a whole may be purged and restored.
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