As the Jewish political organization tottered towards its end, the call of the Gospel was dramatically widened: for the first time, Gentiles were invited to share in the privilege of knowing the eternal God. Paul was the foremost and most energetic leader of this preaching to the Gentiles.
“It was necessary that the word of God should be spoken first to you,”
“since you thrust it from you,”
“and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we turn to the Gentiles” (Acts 13:46).
“There is neither Jew nor Greek,”
Paul wrote to the Galatians,
“Once you were no people,”
“but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy” (1 Peter 2:10)
In Romans 11, Paul compares Israel to a fine olive tree, which, regrettably, produced no fruit. God has pruned out the barren branches and replaced them instead with wild olive shoots, grafted into the ancient trunk. These Gentile olive shoots now share the rich sap of the parent tree. The fall of Israel was the Gentiles’ opportunity.
It is worth noting that, as with Israel, so with the Gentiles, the response to the call is still limited to individuals. The “remnant” principle still applies. James, another apostle, put it crisply when he described the call of the first Gentiles, Cornelius and his household:
“God first visited the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for his name” (Acts 15:14).
It will only ever be a few who are “taken out”, selected by their response to the call to repentance. And the conditions for acceptance by God are still faith and obedience, just as they were for Abraham.
This new phase of God’s plan, the call of the Gentiles, has been running for nearly 2,000 years, a period as long as the call of Israel. We are now ready to move on, and ask whether the Bible reveals yet further stages to God’s plan, ahead in our future.
The Return of Israel
On the campus of the Tel Aviv University in Israel there stands a remarkable museum called Beth Hatuphutsoth, ‘House of the Dispersion‘. It is a graceful new building packed with the very latest in audio-visual aids. It aims to show young Jews of today how their fathers preserved their beliefs and culture during centuries of wandering, how they kept themselves pure from inter-marriage, and how they returned to the land of their dreams. In a darkened bowl-shaped auditorium, rays of light project on to the curved ceiling above the audience a world map where tiny stars represent the known communities of Jews from the times of Assyria, Babylon and Rome onwards. Practically every country of the world has received Jews at some time.
As the centuries pass by, the stars in the display move eerily, as persecution drives the Jews from one country to another. France, Germany, Spain, Poland, Great Britain – each act of terror is catalogued in lights. Sometimes the lights go out, as whole communities pass into oblivion. Then, amazingly, the pinpoints of light begin to move back to the Land of Israel, as the Return gets under way in the twentieth century.
Whole galleries of the Beth Hatuphutsoth museum are devoted to the fortunes of Jewish communities in particular lands – a pagoda-style synagogue modelled on the one in Beijing, a reconstruction of a wedding in the Ukraine, a Jewish rabbi pleading for his life before a Jesuit priest in the Inquisition, and most moving of all, in letters of fire, the last words penned by Jews who faced death in the German Holocaust.
The pace and emotion quicken as the exhibition reaches the last joyful stages of the Return. Everything is painstakingly chronicled. First come the thoughts of a national home penned by Weizmann in Russia under the Czars, the publishing of Herzl’s The Jewish State in 1896, and the Zionist Congress of 1897. There follows the slow, grinding labour of the early settlements in Palestine under the Turks. The British mandate after the First World War allows more and more Jews to return. Finally, the agony of Hitler’s repression creates an irresistible pressure in Europe and precipitates a chain of events leading finally to the formation of the State of Israel in 1948.
Since those exciting days, as we know, hardly a day goes by without some mention of the tiny State in our newspapers. No bigger than Wales, with a population two-thirds that of London, Israel is now prominent in world affairs. The Suez crisis of 1956, the Six-Day War in 1967, the Yom Kippur battles in October 1973, the invasion of Lebanon in 1984 – whether you resent or admire their prowess, the Israelis have a new, vital national spirit that defies all the rules of history. Never before has a nation been driven systematically from its land, survived 25 centuries of uprooting, and come back to life on its ancient hills with such remarkable vigour.
What, we must ask, is the meaning of all this? Is it some fantastic coincidence, that God’s people should survive, when so many other nations in history have perished?
There is a straightforward answer.
Right at the end of the blessings and cursings we looked at in the Book of Deuteronomy, Moses wrote these significant words:
“When all these things come upon you, the blessing and the curse, which I have set before you, and you call them to mind among all the nations where the LORD your God has driven you, and return to the LORD your God . . . then the LORD your God will restore your fortunes, and have compassion upon you, and he will gather you again from all the peoples where the LORD your God has scattered you. If your outcasts are in the uttermost parts of heaven, from there the LORD your God will gather you, and . . . will bring you into the land which your fathers possessed, that you may possess it” (Deuteronomy 30:1-5).
The Return is no accident of history. It is the deliberate act of a loving, merciful God.
Jeremiah puts it just as plainly:
“I am with you to save you, says the LORD; I will make a full end of all the nations among whom I scattered you, but of you I will not make a full end” (30:11). How true are those words! The Assyrians, the Babylonians, and the Romans, who scattered Israel, have disappeared, but the Jews survive. “I have loved you with an everlasting love,”
the prophet goes on,
“therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you” (31:3).
“I will take you from the nations, and gather you from all the countries, and bring you into your own land. I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses . . A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you . . . and the land that was desolate shall be tilled, instead of being the desolation that it was in the sight of all who passed by” (36:24-26,34).
We could go on. There are many, many similar prophecies in the Old Testament, each describing aspects of the Return we have been witnessing in our own time. There is no doubt it is the work of God Himself.
Now, ask yourself:
Why should God want the Jews back in their ancient homeland? What is it leading up to?
The answer to that question is the most dramatic of all:
it is the coming of the Kingdom of God!
Before you scoff at this idea, just listen again to the words of the angel Gabriel to Mary, the mother-to-be of Jesus:
Did Jesus reign over the Jews when he was on earth before?
The answer is “No”.
“We have no king but Caesar,”
they cried. They rejected him, and he was impaled.
But Jesus rose from the dead to an immortal life. A King who reigns for ever needs to be immortal. That prophecy of Gabriel requires an immortal Jesus to return to Jerusalem where David’s throne was, and rule over a land populated by Jews. 100 years ago, this would not have been possible. The Jews were still scattered, and the Turks ruled over the Holy City. Today, we find the land inhabited by nearly 4 million Jews (and by other ethnic groups as well); and Jerusalem once more the capital of Israel. Consider, again, the promise of Jesus to his apostles:
For this simple, straightforward blessing to be given to Peter, James, John and their fellows, they must be brought back from the dead, for none of them reigned over Israel in his lifetime. There must also be an Israel for them to reign over, with Jesus. All of this is entirely possible today. Israel has survived, and God has brought Israel back to their land, in preparation for the Kingdom of God.
There is absolutely no doubt that Jesus is going to come back from heaven, and then will come the time of reward for all those who, like the apostles, have followed him faithfully. Jesus tells us this plainly in the Parable of the Nobleman, who went into a far country, to receive kingly power and then return (Luke 19:11-27). During his absence he left his servants to look after his business interests. Significantly, the citizens of the country sent a message after him to say,
“We do not want this man to reign over us”.
Jesus spoke this parable, Luke says,
“because he was near to Jerusalem, and because they supposed that the Kingdom of God was to appear immediately” (v.11).
Jerusalem was the place of David’s throne. Jesus, the disciples believed, was the King, and they thought he was going to reign, there and then.
But the time was not ripe. He had to suffer for the sins of men, and rise from the dead, and go away to his Father’s right hand for 19 long centuries. Jesus himself is the Nobleman, and heaven the far country. The Jews, who were supposed to be his people, rejected him, just as the parable said. But see how it concludes. At his return, having received the Kingdom, the Nobleman inspects his household, and promotes his loyal and industrious servants to positions of honour-reigning over 10 cities, or 5 cities, according to their ability. At the same time, his enemies are slain. The time for the Nobleman to return is very near. We must prepare for the day of inspection.
Looking into the Future
Will There Ever be Peace on Earth?
What is the Kingdom of God?
Sign of the Times and the Last Days
- Photo gallery of Museum of the Jewish People (Bet Hatefutsoth)
- First mention of a solution against death 7 Human sacrifice
- As there is a lot of division in Christendom there is too in Judaism
- Elul Observances
- The attitude of Christians to Jews
- Jewish millennials between 2013 and 2017
- 2017 Undergraduate Judaic Studies Conference
- Ambassadors for our faith in Jeshua
- Nazarene Jews Through Out History
- Messianic Judaism or Nazarene Judaism
- The Rise of Anti-Seminism
- A Jew and Muslim walking together side by side down USA city streets
- Seeds from the world creating division and separation from God
- Anti-Semitic pressure driving Jews out of Europe
- Jews In France Ponder Whether To Stay Or To Leave
- Apocalyptic Extremism: No Longer a Laughing Matter
- The corpus separatum and Mahmoud Abbas
- Jesus the Jew, Jesus the Messiah, Jesus the Great I AM
- God’s incomprehensible promise to the Jews
- A journey through time – “Better by bike than by train.”
- Holocaust Memorial Day: Jews Who Fought Nazis Recall Struggle
- The Jewish Brazilian Thing
- The Poor State Of Israel – An Analysis
- France’s Government Ready to Fight Online Anti-Semitism
- Sending Jewish Refugees Back to Nazi Europe: A Permanent Stain on Cuba’s Memory
- Europe’s Jews Facing Resurgent Anti-Semitism, Highest Levels ‘Since the Second World War
- FTAC: An American of Jewish Descent
- Khazaria – Kriminal Klass Sowing Terror Murder Deceit and Lies from 750 – 2018
- Rav Avigdor Miller on How To Protect the Jews in Eretz Yisroel
- It’s not about Israel. It’s about the World.
- Netanyahu Warns Israel Will Act with International Coalition If Iran Attempts to Block Red Sea
- Jeremy Corbyn’s views ‘could drive Jewish people from UK’ | News | The Guardian
- May, Traitor and Slapper for the Zionist Cause
- Merkel Denounces ‘Dismaying’ Rise of Anti-Semitism Among Arab Refugees
- Practice Makes Perfect – The Palestinian Tragedy – An Event Coming to your Home Soon
- The Spirituality of the Church Means No Need for a White Paper on Israel
- We need to examine the reasons why we equate criticism of Israel with antisemitism