“Alas! That day is so great
there is none like it;
it is a time of distress for Jacob;
yet he shall be saved out of it.
…. For I am with you to save you, declares 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.
I will discipline you in just measure,
and I will by no means leave you unpunished.” -Jer. 30.7, 11
The prophets of Israel have spoken about a time of distress which will befall the Jewish race at the time just preceding the return of their Messiah (Ps. 2, 83; Is. 10; Jer. 30; Ez. 35-38; Zech. 12-14; Am. 9). As dark as Israel’s history has often been, the prophets indicate that a time is coming that will transcend every past event in the measure of trial, suffering, tragedy, and breaking experienced. The salvation that Jews will experience both now and at the end of the age has everything to do with the cross of Christ, as it is revealed through the Church.
The history of the people Israel is simultaneously the most glorious and the most tragic history of any nation. The Lord’s activity in Israel’s history is like a precious coin that we are able to hold high and behold in wonder. One side is that of His merciful acts of deliverance and salvation, and the other side shows us His disciplinary acts, His holy judgments, and His chastening of the same nation. Our unwillingness or ignorance in seeing this “coin” has played a significant role in maiming the Church, and keeping her from the character and nature that she is called to bear.
Israel is a unique witness. No other nation has seen the magnitude and majesty of God’s Divine and miraculous works in its midst. A brief survey of the scriptures leaves us dumbfounded at the display of Yahweh’s hand in the midst of, and on behalf of, His people Israel.
From the appearances of God to Abraham and the patriarchs, to the angelic activity so frequent in the Old Testament. From the strong hand of deliverance openly manifested against Pharoah and Egypt, to His mighty appearance and speaking in a thunderstorm on Sinai. From the pillar of coud by day to the pillar fire by night. From the manna which fell from heaven to the water which sprung out from the rock. From Elijah’s raising of the widow’s son, to the falling of fire from Heaven. From an endless list of signs and wonders, to the fiery oracles of the prophets. The list goes on and on and on, and the historical accounts of these events are shocking, breathtaking, and beyond our ability to fathom.
As remarkable as the revelation of God is in the OT, the Lord took it to a permanent climax in the revelation of Himself through His Son in the NT. John the apostle wrote, “we have seen His glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (Jn. 1.14b)
The miracles He performed were too vast to number, and they extended into the book of Acts and beyond. This is all a part of Israel’s long history, and the glorious activity of God in Her midst. Consider now the cross, the greatest display of God’s nature and power in history! It took place in the land of Israel, and in the midst of a predominately Jewish crowd.
Consider His resurrection and subsequent appearances, all to a group of faint-hearted, disoriented Jewish disciples! Consider the fact that He preached, in a resurrected body, for forty days on matters concerning the Kingdom of God! Glorious time! And the apostles recorded none of it for us to hear? But there He was with a remnant from within Israel.
Consider His ascension before approximately 500 Jewish souls. Consider the 120 and the thousands that would encounter Him through them, when the Spirit of Holiness was copiously poured out on the day of Pentecost. This all took place to Israel, and to a group made up mostly of Jews. Remarkable!
It goes without saying that Israel, more than any other nation, has had the greatest opportunity to see and behold the glory of the One true God, for bursting from Her chronicles come the words of the prophets and the acts of the Lord, which reach their fulfillment in the great Prophet and Priest, the Son of God Himself.
“Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days He has spoken to us by His Son…” -Heb. 1.1-2a
As we flip the coin of His presence in Israel’s history, we see the tragedy of a people who respond, more often than not, in unfaithfulness to the One who has revealed Himself to them. Their disobedience and unbelief have left them in the most precarious and horrendous of places.
Roughly 400 years in Egypt as slave laborers; Decades in wilderness wanderings because of their unbelief; Over 50 years of exile and homelessness under the heavy hand of Babylon in the 6th century B.C. Devastation, mass slaughter, and displacement under the hand of Rome in 70 A.D. Centuries of diaspora and unsettledness. Temples and synagogues have been destroyed. Homes have been plundered and families broken up. Holocausts have rocked world Jewry, not the least of which was that of WWII, where over 6 million Jewish souls (including more than a million children) were wiped off of the face of the earth through a demonically inspired season of systematic annihilation. How can we put words to the depth of anguish that has been Israel’s experience? We agonize when we see the photos and hear the stories, and we haven’t a clue as outsiders how profound the distress really is.
Yet God, in His overarching wisdom, was ever-present in the midst of these unfathomable days of horror, confusion, and genocide.
As unspeakably tragic and dark as these historical details are- and we haven’t got the words to define the depth of their darkness- they only make up a small glimpse of Israel’s historical sufferings.
Though not many would make note of it, the internal devastation of Israel is much profounder, for She is destined to be a “nation of priests” and a “light unto the world,” setting forth the knowledge of God to the nations. This She has been mostly ignorant of, or outright opposed to, and this has not only caused the perishing of many in Her midst, but the apostasy of the nations has been further enflamed by Her lack of Priestly function in the earth.
I have yet to mention the stark reality of Hell itself, which is not only populated with evil dictators and mass murderers, but with millions of Jewish souls as well. Has this stricken our souls as believers in the Scripture?
The fact that we have been unwilling to consider the absoluteness of Hell is a statement that we have not known God as He is. We prefer our own comfort and ease over against the burden which caused prophets to weep, apostles to preach, and Jesus to bear the cross. The proof that we are unwilling to consider the reality of Hell is in the fact that we are not weeping, praying, and laboring to see men redeemed in the present, while they still have opportunity to be saved. The Church is especially guilty of this with regard to the lost sheep of the House of Israel.
O, the horror of thinking that so many have been cut off from the very communion that He had desired them to be the heralds of! The horror of their eternal separation from the experience of grace, the Spirit which set David to dancing and the prophets to prophesying! It was meant for Her national experience, and yet how small of a remnant has actually tasted His goodness!
Do our hearts remain comfortable and well-primped in the face of their eternal death? Have we no tears for them? Have we no tears for Jerusalem? Though the external sufferings have been overwhelmingly dark, the greater cataclysm is that by and large, for the majority of Her existence, that nation whose history has seen more Divine mercy and grace than any other has spent the bulk of Her years totally removed from a vital union with the God Who has so persistently sought Her out.
“Your holy people held possession for a little while;
our adversaries have trampled down your sanctuary.
We have become like those over whom You have never ruled,
like those who are not called by Your name.” -Is. 64.18-19
All of Israel’s “little while” possessions have been so fleeting, like vapors which rise and dissipate with a brevity that only magnifies the seasons in which Yahweh’s “adversaries have trampled down” His sanctuary. The nations are perishing, and the people of God are languishing for want of a true revelation of God, and it can only come in the fullest sense when Israel steps into the priestly/national role for which reason She has been set apart.
When I speak of Israel on these terms, I am not speaking of the modern State of Israel, but the remnant from within the people Israel, who are presently scattered abroad throughout the nations of the earth.
As the prophets have declared, Israel’s entry into Priestly destiny will not occur without the most immense and trying events she has ever known. A time of distress is coming, “such as never has been since there was a nation till that time.” (Dan. 12.1) She is going to come into a national experience of death, the likes of which we cannot describe or categorize. It is simply said by Jeremiah, “That Day is so great, there is none like it.”
Israel, residing in various nations, will experience the greatest opposition and distress that she has ever known. The prophet Amos calls it a “sifting” through which those who reject God’s glory, “the sinners of my people,” “shall die by the sword.” (Am. 9.10) But in the midst of that great shaking, “no kernel shall fall to the earth.” (v. 9)
In other words, those who are ‘kernels’ of the pure wheat of God- which is to say, those who open themselves to the mercy He is extending to them- will pass through this time and make up a nation of priests that will convey the nature of God to the nations of the earth in a manner theretofore unseen. They will be a nation of priests, filled with the knowledge of God, and witnessing to other nations as to how they ought to function within the Messiah’s cosmic Kingdom rule.
“I will plant them on their land, and they shall never again be uprooted out of the land that I have given them.” (Am. 9.15)
This is a description of things yet to come. We are attempting to hold up the “coin” of God’s involvement in Israel’s history, to behold His merciful acts of deliverance, and on the other side, the chastening and disciplining which His hand has effected or permitted for their purification. It’s all one “coin,” and we have yet to see every aspect of either side. The Day of the Lord will shed indescribable light on it all, and they will know that He is their God, and that they are His people.
You may say, “I’m a gentile believer in the 21st century. What has this got to do with me or my career? What has this got to do with our Church and our ministries?”
Everything, dear saint, and the fact that you have disregarded it as peripheral is a statement of how far we have fallen from the apostolic Gospel.
The remarkable thing is here shown: Similar to the adding of new information or art in the engraving of a coin when it is updated, the Church which is mostly made up of gentile believers has been grafted into the awesome “coin” of Israel’s history. The “coin” which we have sought to behold has your own soul engraved alongside Israel, and though the majority of the saints in the earth are oblivious to the mystery of Israel, we have all been intimately included in the unfolding plan of the ages. If you hold the coin up rightly, and allow the Light of Christ to shine upon it, you can see that there is a carving of your own life and faith upon it.
You see, unless the Church comes into the fullness of Christ and the reality of priestly obedience ourselves, when this time of ultimate distress rises, Israel will have no hope of salvation. So it’s the presence of an apostolic, Jesus-centered people in the midst of the shakings which gives a demonstration of mercy to Israel, though the nations have “raged” against Her. Paul has stated that “by your mercy they will obtain mercy.” (Rom. 11.31)
But how shall they obtain mercy through a people who are not merciful themselves? If we are self-righteous, promoters of our names and our ministries, jealous and envious men, we will be more concerned with saving our lives than we will with extending mercy at great cost to ourselves. We have got to be delivered from the power of self and brought onto the grounds of meekness and mercy, or else the offense that comes in times of trial and threats that emerge in the midst of persecution will be too much for our threadbare faith, and we will be unwilling to extend mercy to the lost sheep of Israel. A sentimental love for the state of Israel is insufficient. A class on Jewish roots, as wonderful and insightful as it can be, is not enough to fit us for the day of distress. We are being required to die to our self-preferences, even ones we think are spiritual, to turn to the Lord entirely, and be immersed in His Spirit.
Are you living by the “power of an indestructible life” (Heb. 7.16b), or are you living an uninspired religious life, mingled with hollow entertainment and a preoccupation with the things of this world? Our only calling is to be so enwrapped with the nature of God, so infused with the power of His grace, so aligned with the ways of His Kingdom, that we ourselves have become a demonstration of the kind of priesthood that will be Israel’s national experience after the smoke of judgment and purging has cleared, and She finds Herself passing through the womb of eschatological restoration.
“And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and pleas for mercy, so that, when they look on Me, on Him whom they have pierced, they shall mourn for Him, as one mourns for an only child, and weep bitterly over Him, as one weeps over a firstborn.
…. The land shall mourn….
…. and all the families that are left, each by itself, and their wives by themselves.” -Zech. 12.10, 12a, 14
The people of Israel, as a majority, are not aware of their need for mercy. They are like other nations of the earth, thinking themselves to be “good people,” optimistic and hoping for prosperity and looking for their personal destinies. The prophets declare that in the time of greatest shaking, Israel will be brought to a place of brokenness as never before.
Out of Israel’s most acute awareness of Her need for mercy and cleansing, the Lord will pour out the Spirit of grace, breath and life and substance will come to Her “dry bones,” and She will be raised up, a mighty and vast army.
We settle for casual considerations of Israel, and have sentimental attachments to Jewish things and the State itself, because we are not willing to reckon with God as He is. The way you view Israel is the way you view the Gospel itself. If you think Her salvation will come by some kind of happenstance, or by some good of Her own, inherent in Her lineage, and that the land is sacred and the State is invincible, you have not rightly considered the depravity of the human heart.
“Look upon the nation Israel….
…. these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, upon whom the end of the ages has come.” -1 Cor. 10.18a, 11
Israel is not an anomaly or a strange phenomenon. Their moral failures and disloyalties to God are simply a statement of the spiritual condition of the nations, and of men altogether. If we have not seen ourselves in that same darkness and utter hopelessness, a depravity beyond description, we have not been saved.
I want to say in all humility, yet without mincing words, that these ministries who are touting a new and false gospel to the Jew- namely, that Israel will be saved without repentance and faith in Her Messiah- are more despicably deceived than the Judaizers of Paul’s day. If Israel receives anything less than the apostolic Gospel of Christ from the Church in these last days, She will have no hope at all.
She doesn’t need a rally of American Evangelicals for Israel, who relish in bringing back a jar of water from the Jordan, and a stone from the holy land. She doesn’t need a group of believers who are merely passionate about seeing democracy flourish in the Middle East. She needs an apostolic witness, a people who have been filled with God, and who are setting forth His Son in the earth in bold and loving proclamation, demonstrations of His power, and a singular burden for the breaking in of salvation in the Land and abroad.
Have we any burden for Israel’s salvation?! Is Israel to us a cute trinket that gratifies our religion, or do we ache inside that by and large, a veil still covers Her eyes? Have we tears for Israel, saints? Have we an apostolic faith as the men of old, who prayed and fasted and allowed their bodies to be broken in hopes of bringing the Light of the Son to the lost sheep of the House of Israel?
How slap-dash and flippant has our Christianity become? Have we taken it to ourselves and fashioned a religious sub-culture which is devoid of true mercy and meekness, and unable to demonstrate the power of His indestructible life in the midst of an unbelieving generation? We will not be able to set forth the Son of God in a time of extreme turbulence and shaking, unless we have ourselves received a “spirit of grace and pleas for mercy,” having looked upon Him, the One that we ourselves have pierced.
Many who bear the name of Christ in the West are still in need of a great conversion, by which we would mourn over the depravity which necessitated the cross, look upon Him, and cry out for salvation from the spirit of this age. We cannot look to men or to our closest kin. We must face Him with our own human depravity, repent of sin and believe upon the Son, following Him wheresoever He calls us, or else we have not been saved, and the life of God will not be extended through us and unto Israel in the time of Her greatest trial.
When we have been brought onto those grounds of an inwardly tender and radical experience of mercy, we shall be fit to extend it to Israel in that awesome Day.
You are a vital part of the “coin” we have been holding up, dear saint. Do not settle for a lackluster, earthbound view of life. If you don’t come into an adequate death to your own self-life, your resurrection experience will also be found wanting in the day of God’s power. Do not be as the foolish virgins, who lacked adequate oil at the Day when the Bridegroom returned.
What then? How do we respond? Turn from childish things, O child of God. Turn from the table that this world and its systems have spread before you. Look upon the One Israel has pierced. Look upon the One you have pierced. Clear the way for secret prayer! Clear the way for long and lavished time in the Scriptures! Examine your own life before the light of God, and surrender the innermost parts of your life unto Him.
O, how He has loved Israel! O, how He has loved us! O, how jealous He is for His Kingdom to break into the earth once and for all!
Let us cry out to Him, and give Him no rest “until He makes Jerusalem a praise in the earth.” (Is. 62)