What does the Church think of Israel?
Who are the key players when the Messiah returns?
Here are three key points:
Firstly, as I pointed out in an earlier article, the future of the Jewish people is a mystery and so we'll never really understand it and nor should we try, as our brains are simple incapable for the task. Some groups hate this idea, they feel that they should be able to explain everything and are unwilling to accept that there are some things in God's word that are just for Him to understand. If God says something is a mystery we should just accept it and work through the consequences. Let’s face it, when Jesus was asked about the timing for the end of the World, he said ‘No-one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father’ (Matthew 24:36) and that should be good enough for us.
The consequences here are that there has been a hardening in Israel. This is a sacrificial hardening, though Jews have largely been unaware of their sad role. Jews have been hardened in some way as to allow Gentiles into the kingdom. Remember this is a mystery, so I don't have to explain it, but you'll do well to read the whole of Romans 11 and ask God to explain Himself to you. The hardening is also temporary and is due to end when the full number of the Gentiles has come in and all Israel will be saved, whatever that means.
We would do well to look at the current World situation, with Jews flocking to the Gospel of Jesus the World over, like never before, or at least since the time of the Book of Acts and consider the possibility that this hardening is finally coming to an end. This would therefore indicate that we are also approaching the time when the full number of the Gentiles have come in. This ties in with one of Jesus' signs for his return, in Matthew 24:14, ‘And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations and then the end will come.’
There is another thread that also speaks of 'times of the Gentiles' and the idea that this will one day come to an end. This is in Luke 21:24 and was also part of the same 'end time' speech by Jesus. It reads ‘Jerusalem will be trampled on by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled’. Jerusalem has, since 1967, been in Jewish hands and this is not a situation likely to change, despite the posturing and rantings of the nations of the World.
Jerusalem is the place where the lonely and isolated Outcast Nation of Israel will come into stubborn conflict with the rest of the World. But again, be warned, nations of the World, because we can carry on reading in Zechariah 12:4, ‘I will keep a watchful eye over the house of Judah, but I will blind all the horses of the nations’. We can expect God to protect His people, which doesn't bode too well for Israel's enemies, whoever they are.
We now return to Jesus' speech on the signs of the end of the age or, to be precise, his last words to the religious and political leaders of Israel, just before he explains himself to his disciples. He spoke prophetic words in Matthew 23:37-39, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing. Look, your house is left to you desolate. For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, 'Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord'".
This echoes part of Psalm 118, a Messianic Psalm looking ahead to the Messiah. It is also a theme in Hosea, Chapter 5, verse 15, ‘then I will go back to my place until they admit their guilt. And they will seek my face; in their misery they will earnestly seek me.’
Taking an informed glance into the future I would suggest that there is going to be a time, perhaps soon, when the political and religious leaders of the Nation of Israel are going to have to acknowledge the God of Israel. They are going to have to swallow their pride, despite having the third largest army in the World and the brains and ingenuity to deploy this army in unexpected ways. They are going to have to realise that it was the God of Israel who sustained them through the perilous times of the 20th and 21st Centuries in the land, just as He had sustained them in the preceding 18 centuries outside the land. I'm afraid the journey to this realisation from where they are now is not going to be an easy one and we can only pray that it will be short. Pride is surely the deadliest sin of all and needs to be dealt with convincingly, before God can really work with His people.
For the previous article in this series, click here.
For the next article in this series, click here.
To find out what is my favourite book of the Bible, click here.
You can reach Steve with any comments or questions at the Saltshakers Web Community website.