1 Corinthians 1:17-24
“For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel, not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of no effect. (18) For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. (19) For it is written:
“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,
And bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent.”
(20) Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? (21) For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. (22) For Jews request a sign, and Greeks seek after wisdom; (23) but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness, (24) but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.”
This was the state and condition of the world in the time when Paul preached his gospel (Rom. 16:25). In a general way it divides the unbelieving world into two distinct entities: unbelieving Jews and unbelieving Gentiles. It also defines a certain human mindset, distinct to each group, which is the main cause of their rejection of Christ. It is the general character of the world at that time. This character does not change for the good, but only worsens to the end.
Judaism – the Religion of the Flesh
The Jews are engulfed in their religion of the flesh. It only produces the confidences of the flesh (Phil. 3:2-6). It is a walk in the flesh, by senses, by sight, and by seeking signs. “For the Jews request a sign…” Their circumcision in the flesh is a sign and symbol to themselves that they are separate from the Gentiles. A Messiah to Israel crucified by their own hands on a cross is simply a stumbling stone, a reason of offence to this people (Rom. 9:30-33, Is. 8:14-15). This does not line up with their Messianic prophecies or what they expected and were looking for (John 12:34, Luke 18:31-34, Is. 9:6-7). Even today it still doesn’t line up with what they are looking for.
Before the future appearing of Jesus Christ to the world, what will the condition of the nation of Israel be like? One very clear understanding from Scripture describes their condition as a nation from the time of Messiah’s first appearing to them until He appears again.
“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, but you were not willing! See! Your house is left to you desolate; and assuredly, I say to you, you shall not see Me until the time comes when you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!”
Israel set aside until the end
Israel is a desolate nation. As a people they are set aside by God. He does not presently acknowledge their calling as a people of God. He says to them, “You are not my people, and I am not your God.” (Hosea 1:9) The clear understanding from Jesus, their Messiah, is that they remain in this condition until He returns again to them – the appearing of Christ to the world is His appearing to rescue a Jewish remnant from out of unbelieving Israel.
“Therefore when you see the ‘abomination of desolation,’ spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place” (whoever reads, let him understand), (16) “then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. (17) Let him who is on the housetop not go down to take anything out of his house. (18) And let him who is in the field not go back to get his clothes. (19) But woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days! (20) And pray that your flight may not be in winter or on the Sabbath. (21) For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be. (22) And unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect’s sake those days will be shortened.”
(23) “Then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘There!’ do not believe it. (24) For false christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. (25) See, I have told you beforehand.”
(26) “Therefore if they say to you, ‘Look, He is in the desert!’ do not go out; or ‘Look, He is in the inner rooms!’ do not believe it.”
The abomination of desolation marks the middle of Daniel’s final week, a definitive marking of time concerning Daniel’s people Israel (Dan. 9:24-27). This passage from Daniel has all the salient features that distinguish prophetic writings.
The Character of Prophecy
- It is specifically about Daniel’s people (Dan. 9:24). The subject of prophecy is Israel.
- It is about the marking of time concerning Israel on the earth (Dan. 9:24).
- It is about God’s government of the earth. In this case, it is counting the time involved with the three remaining Gentile world dynasties that rule over and afflict Daniel’s people (Dan. 9:24-27). The exception is Babylon, which had already passed by the time of this prophecy.
In the passage above from Matthew 24, Jesus is speaking about Jewish time and Jewish signs. It is obvious He is not speaking of the church or to the church. If Daniel’s revelations were about his people and Jesus is referring to Daniel’s prophecies, then Jesus is also speaking prophetically to Israel. The whole nature of the passage bears this out. Further, He is directly speaking to a Jewish remnant in the midst of Israel in the end. This Jewish remnant is the elect He often refers to – in this case the remnant cannot be deceived by false christs and false prophets. Why? Because God sealed them and keeps them as the elect, chosen by Him (Mark 13:20). But the rest of the nation will be greatly deceived in the end by false christs and false prophets showing great signs and wonders to deceive. It is their nature and it is the character of their religion – “The Jew seeks after a sign…”
He who comes in his own name
Even more condemning in the end is how the nation of Israel will receive the antichrist. He will be the one who comes in his own name, that they will receive in direct contrast to Jesus Christ having come in His Father’s name (John 5:43). The antichrist will do this:
“He performs great signs, so that he even makes fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men. And he deceives those who dwell on the earth by those signs which he was granted to do in the sight of the beast, telling those who dwell on the earth to make an image to the beast who was wounded by the sword and lived.”
The calling down fire from heaven is a noteworthy sign to the nation of Israel. For the purpose of deceiving Israel, the antichrist will mimic the prophet Elijah. It was the test and proof to Israel that Jehovah is the one true God (I Kings 18:19-40). In the end Israel will go after the antichrist, which is the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders.
Worldly wisdom of the Gentiles
If we speak of the Greeks ‘seeking after wisdom,’ we are speaking in general of the other part of the unbelieving world. They would shun ecclesiastical pretentions and religious superstition. Through the wisdom of the world they seek to reason and prove that God does not exist. By their science, contemporary liberal philosophies, and higher reasoning they strive to become independent of God and simply apostate. Faith in God is a superstition to them, the cross of Christ nothing but foolishness. Their faith is in the sciences and philosophies for the explanation of all the mysteries of life and the universe. Human intellect and human accomplishment are exalted, and by it man is exalted to the exclusion of God, and even to the position of God.
“…because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. (20) For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse,(21) because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. (22) Professing to be wise, they became fools,”
The world through wisdom did not know God. Presently through their scientific exploration and liberal thinking they create a bias against God. It has become this way for much of the Gentile world. Has God not made foolish the wisdom of this world? In the end the instruments of worldly evil will take on a form of full and open rebellion and apostasy against God. This is because the dragon will be kicked out of the heavens down to the earth and he will know his time is short (Rev. 12:9, 12). He gives all his power to the two beasts, and to the first, his throne and authority (Rev. 13:1-2, 7, 12). In order for the 4th beast of Daniel to rise up out of the bottomless pit (Rev. 17:8), it will have to throw off and destroy all the religious influence and superstitions of the Mystery, Babylon the Great, the harlot that has rode its back for centuries (Rev. 17:3-6, 16-17).
1 Corinthians 1:24-31
“…but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. (25) Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.
(26) For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called. (27) But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; (28) and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, (29) that no flesh should glory in His presence. (30) But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God—and righteousness and sanctification and redemption— (31) that, as it is written, “He who glories, let him glory in the Lord.”
The Wisdom of the World is only foolishness to God
For the believer, Christ is the power and wisdom of God. The Spirit then goes on to show how the wise and the mighty of this world are brought to naught by the calling and choice of God. In almost every verse the Spirit compares the wisdom and power of God with that of the world. Basically there is no comparison. The weakness of God is stronger than the mightiest of men, the foolishness of God wiser than the wisest of men. And this is what the believer is in Christ Jesus and what Christ has been made for us. And once again, it being God’s choice and God’s calling, and being God’s work alone, there will never be any flesh boasting in His presence.
“But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God.”
1 Corinthians 2:6-7
“However, we speak wisdom among those who are mature, yet not the wisdom of this age, nor of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the ages for our glory,”
Christ has become for us the wisdom of God. In Him and through Him we have the mind of Christ. By His Spirit given to us we know the deep things of God. And this wisdom that Christ has become for us will always trump the wisdom of this world (I Cor. 2:10-16). He was ours and we were His before time began, so that the hidden wisdom of God that we are in Christ is not of the world.
The manifold Wisdom of God is known through the Church
“…and to make all see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the ages has been hidden in God who created all things through Jesus Christ; to the intent that now the manifold wisdom of God might be made known by the church to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places, according to the eternal purpose which He accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord,”
The multifaceted wisdom of God is made known by the church’s existence. This was the eternal purpose of God in His counsels and plans. Such counsels existed in eternity past. Before time began we were found to be in Christ to the eternal glory of God and for the displaying of the gathered body of Christ in His glory (II Tim. 1:9). It will be throughout the ages to come that God will show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus (Eph. 2:7). The church is the manifold wisdom of God displayed.
“…the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places,”
“…who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself.”
The resurrection of Christ – the resurrection of the Believer
The church will enter into this glory after our bodies are transformed and we are caught up from this earth. This event – the display of the exceeding greatness of God’s power toward us – has already been demonstrated when God raised Christ from the dead (Eph. 1:18-23). According to the general content of I Cor. 15, the resurrection of Christ is intimately connected to the resurrection of the believer/church. There He is called the firstfruits from among the dead. The body of Christ, the church, must be glorified in the same way as He was glorified – His resurrection was the demonstration of it. His body must be joined to Him, not just by the Spirit presently in spiritual truth and understanding, but by physical presence through the display of God’s exceedingly great power. He is the firstfruits from the dead, and the believer/church will be the many others.
Also in I Cor. 15 we clearly see a contrast between the first and second Adams – the first was of the earth, made of dust. The second man, the Son of Man, is from heaven. There remain those who are heavenly, destined to bear the image of the heavenly Man. We will be raised in glory, we will be raised in power (I Cor. 15:42-54). The first man was a living being, the last Adam a life-giving spirit. This should be clearly seen in two great realities of life in Christ. As the Son He gives life to whom He wills (John 5:21) and He is the resurrection life in the believer that eventually will swallow up mortality/corruption (I Cor. 15:51-55, II Cor. 5:1-5). According to God’s counsels we will be transformed and conformed to Christ’s image by the working of His power by which He is able to subdue all things.
Once again, this is God’s sovereign work according to His eternal counsels and purpose, and for His eternal glory in Christ. This is what God has made Jesus Christ to be for us. He is both the resurrection and the life. Truly then, Christ has been made to those who are called, both the power of God and the wisdom of God.
Chapter 14: Endnotes
 Many of the doctrinal systems of theology struggle with the question, ‘What to do with Israel, the descendants of Abraham after the flesh?’ Here I will address those systems that have Israel replaced by the church and basically see the nation of Israel ceasing to exist, at least the nation no longer existing according to the flesh. These particular systems may view the nation of Israel as always having been the church, even when they were delivered out of Egypt and pass through the Red Sea. So in some cases the concept is not simply the church replacing Israel at some point in time, but that Israel was always the church and the church is always the real nation of Israel. As you can see this can get very confusing when trying to keep straight the what, when, where, and how concerning this substitution or elimination or spiritualization that these systems are proposing.
I believe the Scriptures and the mind of God show this: Israel is a real nation. They are the physical descendants of Abraham after the flesh – physical fleshly descent by natural birth. They are a people and a nation in the flesh. Their religion is of the flesh and of the senses – it is truly a walk by the flesh and senses. The law is not of faith (Gal. 3:11-12), so Judaism cannot be a walk by faith (II Cor. 5:7). By their religion and birth they are always connected to the flesh. God’s separation of Israel was from the Gentiles in the world, but it was never a separation apart from the world itself. Israel always remains a part of the world and connected to the world. God’s calling of Israel is an earthly calling. By it they are a people after the flesh connected to this earth and the Promised Land.
God made promises to this nation, the physical descendants of Abraham. These promises were made unconditionally. The main point I make is that God made promises to the physical line of descendants of Abraham and He will never change or rescind those promises, but will remain absolutely faithful to fulfill His promises to them. How can God do otherwise? We see many of these promises made in Genesis, but other promises to David and his linage. If God makes any promise, He must be faithful in time to fulfill that exact promise – this is the faithfulness of God as a divine attribute. Unconditional promises from God are fulfilled by Him through sovereign choice and sovereign grace. Teaching point: every choice God makes is sovereign and all grace from God is sovereign – this defines the choice of God and the grace of God and eliminates any Arminian thought from the equation.
We often fail to understand the dynamics of the covenant of promise given to Abraham and confirmed in his One Seed, who is Christ (Gal. 3, 4). The promises are unconditional and are all deposited in Jesus Christ (II Cor. 1:18-20). The responsibility of man or Abraham has no involvement with this covenant. This covenant is not an agreement between two parties as we commonly think of covenant. It was an agreement of one party, of God with Himself alone. No mediator for this covenant, because there weren’t two parties or two conditions to be met on two different sides (Gal. 3:19-20). Again, it was simply unconditional promises requiring God to remain faithful for their fulfillment – this is sovereign grace.
The point I try to show is that the nation of Israel exists today as they did back in the wilderness in front of Mt. Sinai, and that these people of physical descent from Abraham are still part of the plan and counsel of God. I show Israel as distinct from the body of Christ, the church. Now there would be numerous ways to approach this task, but we’ll look at what Jesus says in Luke 13:34-35 and Matt. 23:37-39.
“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, but you were not willing! See! Your house is left to you desolate; and assuredly, I say to you, you shall not see Me until the time comes when you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’ ”
He speaks to the city, but the city didn’t kill the prophets God sent. Rather the people and the leaders representing the nation were responsible. They were guilty of all the blood of their prophets (Matt. 23:29-36). Jesus is speaking to the nation of Israel, the descendants of Abraham according to the flesh. He is not speaking to the body of Christ! When He says your house is left to you desolate He is again speaking directly to Israel. The church is not left desolate for nearly two thousand years! He says, “…assuredly, I say to you, you shall not see Me until the time comes…” Who is He speaking to? Is it to the church or Israel? Obviously He is speaking to Israel. They saw Him at that time, but the house of Israel would become desolate for a long time, as set aside by God. (Jesus saying, “Your house…” is referring to one of two things or both: the Jews as the house of God and/or the temple that was the center of the worship and practice of Judaism. Regardless it is related to Israel, not the church, the body of Christ)
It is a good thing that the gifts and callings of God are without repentance. Jesus tells Israel they would not see Him again until… How will this be fulfilled? Jesus Christ, the Messiah of Israel, will appear a second time to this nation. How will this be different? In the end God will prepare a Jewish remnant of His choice (elect) and will pour out His Spirit on them, before the great and terrible day of the Lord. It will be these who will be crying out for deliverance and vengeance during Jacob’s trouble (Luke 18:1-8). These will be His elect who will say when He appears again to the nation, “Blessed is He who comes in the name of Jehovah!”
It should be obvious that Jesus is speaking to the nation of Israel and not the church. It should be obvious that it is the nation of Israel made desolate and not the church. The two passages span a long period of time where this nation will not see Him, having seen Him at the time of His speaking. This house of Israel remains desolate for nearly two thousand years. When Jesus says, ‘I will build my church’, is this in desolation? The gates of hell will not prevail against it? Does this sound like a desolate house? Further, He promises He will appear again, at some future point in time, to this house made desolate. His elect remnant, chosen by God out of unbelieving Israel, animated by the Spirit poured out on them before His appearing again to them, cannot be deceived by a false messiah (Matt. 24:22-24). Jesus is the true Messiah to Israel, who comes to the nation as the anointed Servant of Jehovah – “…until you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’”
In the first book of this series I made the point that Messiah comes to Israel two different times. This is exactly what Jesus is speaking of in these passages. His first coming to Israel was based on the responsibility of Israel, it being the final testing of the principle of responsibility in man by God. The testing of man in responsibility always proves his failure. Israel rejected their Messiah, their King. The second coming of Messiah to Israel is by sovereign power, choice, and grace. These are the opposite principles from that of responsibility in man. The first coming to Israel was doomed to failure, and for the nation it was a complete failure. The second coming cannot fail for it is the sovereign work of God, and has no dependence on the responsibility of Israel.
 Jesus refers to the end-time Jewish remnant as the elect in a number of places: Matt. 24:22, 24, and 31; Mark 13:20, 22, and 27; and Luke 18:7. These all occur during prophetic statements He makes. Also during these prophetic statements He is often speaking directly to the remnant – “…when you see the abomination of desolation,” is a sign and direct warning to them to flee Judea for the mountains. It is the end-time Jewish remnant who will see all these signs and warnings. It is the remnant that should hope their flight is not in the winter or on the Sabbath. The Old Testament prophecies do refer to a Jewish remnant in the end (Is. 1:9, 8:17-18, 10:20-23, 11:11, 16, 28:5, 65:9, 22, Jer. 23:3, 31:1-14, Joel 2:32, Micah 2:12, 4:7, 5:3, 7-8, 7:18, Zeph. 3:8-15, Zech. 8:7-13, Rom. 9:27). These are the elect Jesus speaks of prophetically as the great Prophet to Israel to whom Moses referred.
Jesus saying, “when you see the abomination of desolation,” He is speaking of the event that begins the last three and a half years of Gentile world power – the time of Jacob’s trouble (Jer. 30:7). This does not refer to Titus of the Romans in 70 AD. We know this to be true when we look at the verses that follow His statement:
“For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be. And unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect’s sake those days will be shortened.”
Two things to note: the abomination of desolation brings on the great tribulation – the most horrific time ever seen or experienced on the face of the earth. That did not happen in 70 AD with the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple. Also Jesus says that the days of the great tribulation were shortened for the elect’s sake (the Jewish remnant) – this means shortened to three and a half years. It does not refer to nearly two thousand years of time.
With the understanding from the prophetic scriptures that there, in fact, will be a Jewish remnant awaiting a Messianic Deliverer (Rev. 7:1-8), a remnant on which the Spirit of God will be poured out upon before the great and terrible Day of the Lord (Joel 2:28-32), then we are better assured that it is not the church waiting for His appearing. Rather, it will be a Jewish remnant waiting according to prophecy, with Jewish hopes of deliverance from oppressive Gentile powers, and restoration in their Promised Land. For it to be the church waiting with the remnant on the earth for the Day of the Lord, or the church seen and believed to be this elect group enduring the most horrific time the world has ever known, is simply a violation of the proper understanding of prophetic biblical principles. Also, as I have mentioned previously, God does not deal with two separate and distinct callings at the same time.
 The testimony given in John 5 concerning Jesus Christ as sent by God to Israel is threefold. It is a testimony rendered against Israel. First, John the Baptist testified the truth concerning who Jesus was, and Israel had heard this testimony (John 5:33-35). Second, and a much greater testimony, are the powerful works that He did. These were given to Him by the Father to accomplish and they are a witness that He was sent by the Father (John 5:36). Third, the Father Himself has testified concerning who Jesus was, speaking from the heavens above (John 5:37). There is one more testimony that Israel would not receive because they did not have God’s word abiding in them – it is how the Scriptures testify of Christ (John 5:38-40). Eternal life is found in the Father and the Son (John 5:26). The Jews mistakenly thought this was found in the Scriptures or their law. They were on the wrong side of every testimony of truth presented here.
 All things revealed in Scripture as spiritual truths and realities in God’s counsels before the foundations of the world are all the things set apart from the world. They are the things that have no relationship with the created world or earth (this is a great Scriptural principle in understanding). The believer/church is found in Christ before time begins and before the world (Eph. 1:4, II Tim. 1:9, and Titus 1:2). Our calling is heavenly, and not of the earth or world (Heb. 3:1). Jesus said, “They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.” (John 17:14, 16, 15:19) The mystery given to Paul to reveal, which was not revealed until Christ was glorified and the Spirit sent down, was hidden in God before time began and before the foundations of the world. All aspects of this mystery were hidden in God and separate from the world. The wisdom of God in Christ towards the believer/church is all part of this mystery – that is why the Spirit says through Paul, “But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the ages for our glory.”