Prof. Johan Malan, Mossel Bay, South Africa (June 2010)
One of the greatest Messianic Jews of all time, Paul, said to the Ephesians: “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ... He Himself is our peace... For through Him we both [Jews and Gentiles] have access by one Spirit to the Father” (Eph. 2:13,14,18).
As long as the nations of the world, including Israel, keep on rejecting the Lord Jesus, His Word and His gospel of salvation, their quest for peace will remain an elusive dream. By their own choice they have embarked upon a course of postmodern reforms, which is the driving force behind the emerging post-Christian societies of the 21st century. Christian civilisation of modern times is on its way out, having been rejected as obsolete by postmodern man whose mind has been blinded by the ruler of this evil world (John 14:30; Eph. 2:2).
The inevitable consequence of turning away from Jesus Christ, who is the light of the world, is to tread the dark road of the god of this world, Satan, who presents himself as an angel of light (2 Cor. 4:4; 11:14). This is a sure way to spiritual confusion, moral depravity, sin, unrighteousness, and ultimate ruin as an individual or a nation.
The mighty USA rose to a position of undisputed world leadership when they observed Christian constitutions for two millennia. This fact alone did not render America a Christian nation in all respects but nevertheless allowed true Christianity the opportunity to thrive. During this time they sent missionaries to many nations, resisted evil ideologies such as communism, refused to officially recognise the non-Christian religions, and were the foremost supporter of Israel since the birth of the modern Jewish state in 1948. They were basically a peace-loving nation that conducted or sponsored humanitarian projects all over the world. But during the past two decades they have radically changed their course and are now taking the lead in multireligious, postmodern and post-Christian reforms. They are also clearly turning a cold shoulder to Israel under the presidency of Obama. The new policies that were adopted amount to the contemptuous disregarding of “our great God and Saviour, Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13). Because of these new developments the USA are steadily losing their greatness as a nation and are on a sharp downward course towards ultimate mediocrity.
The same reforms have also been instituted in post-Christian Europe. No wonder the EU has lost sight of God’s plan for the restoration of Israel in the land of their fathers. They are now assisting and strengthening Israel’s enemies in Gaza, which is biblically part of Israel, thereby inevitably bringing upon themselves the curse of Genesis 12:3, Joel 3:2 and Zechariah 14:12-13.
On their part, Israel is largely responsible for aggravating their own problems by their continued rejection of Jesus as their Messiah. There is no possibility of lasting peace without Him. While Israel and the nations continue to exclude Christ and His kingdom from their deliberations, they keep on marching towards Armageddon, where Jesus, the Messiah and Prince of Peace, will judge the rebellious nations. Israel will also greatly suffer during the coming time of trouble, and only a remnant of the nation will be saved.
As long as Jesus and His message of salvation is not seriously considered, there will be no peace on earth. His reign of peace will only be instituted after His enemies were judged and destroyed. Until then, each of us (Jew as well as Gentile) will have to make a personal choice about our relationship with Jesus Christ. He is either your Saviour or He will be your Judge. There is no escaping your appointment to appear before Him and to bowing your knees before Him. You will either appear before Him at His Judgement Seat where He will reward His true disciples (2 Cor. 5:10), or at the Great White Throne where He will condemn His enemies to the lake of fire (Rev. 20:11-15).
The sooner Israel and the nations start thinking beyond political and military solutions in their quest for peace, and also seriously consider the spiritual dimensions of our struggle, the sooner they will discover the only real solution. There is only One who can conquer the powers of darkness – the One who has all authority in heaven and on earth (Matt. 28:18). Since the forces of darkness will not relinquish their struggle against the kingdom of God before they are finally defeated, we must make sure that we have taken sides with the Victor, Jesus. As saved people we must put on the spiritual armour of light (Rom. 13:12) while strictly obeying the guidelines set forth in God’s Word.
It should be clearly understood that all people’s destiny is determined by their relationship with Jesus Christ. Not only in Israel, but all over the world, Jesus was “destined for the fall and rising of many… and for a sign which will be spoken against” (Luke 2:34). It was, particularly in Israel, highly disputed whether Jesus was the Messiah or not. But He was indeed God incarnate who fulfilled all the Messianic prophecies in the OT. He did not only come to the world to save humanity but also, at a later stage, to judge those who refused the offer of salvation (John 1:29; Acts 17:30-31; Rev. 6:15-17).
Individuals as well as nations should be judged in terms of their relationship with Jesus Christ and not in the first instance on the basis of their relationship with Israel. Those who are truly saved will understand Israel’s position and reach out to them in the love of the Messiah. Those who reject God will also reject the Chosen People. The lost should first be reconciled with God through Jesus Christ before the secondary problem of their external relations with other nations can be successfully dealt with.
The critical factor determining Israel’s position – both in die kingdom of God and in the world – is their relationship with the Messiah. The unsaved world has always despised and even hated the people of God, and it is of little value to continue heaping up evidence against them as further proof of their anti-Semitism. If Israel follows God’s way, all the efforts of their enemies will come to nought. God says, “I will be a wall of fire all around her [Jerusalem], and I will be the glory in her midst” (Zech. 2:5).
But what happens if Jerusalem (the leadership and core of the Jewish nation) openly despise their God by not honouring their covenant with Him and by rejecting the Messiah who was sent to them to save and lead them? They then forfeit their divine protection and become an easy target to the many enemies around them.
Let us reflect on the situation that prevailed during the first coming of the Messiah. Did He criticise the Roman Empire for their negative disposition towards Israel - or did He criticise and warn the Jews against the consequences of being out of touch with God the Father and therefore being unable to recognise and accept Him (Jesus) as their promised Messiah? The answer is obvious. Israel hastened their own downfall by rejecting the Messiah, and not in the first instance because of the hostilities of the Roman Empire. Jesus said:
“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 chicks under her wings, but you were not willing! See! Your house is left to you desolate…” (Matt. 23:37-38). “For the days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment around you, surround you and close you in on every side, and level you, and your children within you, to the ground; and they will not leave in you one stone upon another, because you did not know the time of your visitation” (Luke 19:43-44).
Israel was dispersed among the nations for almost two millennia, and during this time they experienced some of the worst atrocities imaginable (cf. Lev. 26 and Deut. 28). What was the main cause of theses afflictions – the spiritual rebellion of Israel or the hostility of the nations? God said: “If you do not obey Me but walk contrary to Me, then I also will walk contrary to you in fury; and I, even I, will chastise you seven times for your sins… I will lay your cities waste and bring your sanctuaries to desolation… I will scatter you among the nations and draw out a sword after you; your land shall be desolate and your cities waste” (Lev. 26:27-33).
How can we objectively review Israel’s problems without bringing their broken relationship with God into the equation? Of what use is it to keep on focusing on the negative attitudes against Israel of Syria, Iran, Russia, the US and many other countries? Will it make any contribution towards solving the problem? Not in the least! By only blaming Israel’s adversaries we run the risk of actually expressing ourselves against God’s plan for the spiritual restoration of Israel and the nations.
God said He would gather all nations against Israel shortly before their final restoration (Zech. 12:3; 14:2). That also includes the US, so why are we so surprised at what the Obama Administration does to alienate Israel? God will indeed judge the nations for conspiring and fighting against Israel (Zech. 14:12-13; Joel 3:2), but in the first instance these attacks will be allowed to purify Israel and drive them to God (Ezek. 22:19-22). The majority of the spiritually hardened members of Israel will die during the coming time of Jacob’s trouble (Jer. 30:7; Zech. 13:8-9).
The spiritual dimension of Israel’s struggle is a very significant and decisive factor for their future survival. Although it is still a highly controversial subject we should be very explicit in stating this important fact. Do not merely vaguely mention God when talking to Israelis, as that can be used as an excuse for quickening the spirit of orthodox Jews towards reverting to the law and rebuilding the temple. We must specifically mention Jesus as Messiah, Who is the only way to the Father (John 14:6). Some of the major Christian ministries in Israel are not clear enough on this issue, thus not really contributing to Israel’s reconciliation with God.
Because of their spiritual ignorance Israel is dangerously positioned to appropriately deal with the major crises which face them. During the coming time of divine judgements (the tribulation period) God will dramatically intervene to save Israel when they will be faced with extinction in a full-scale Russo-Arab invasion of their land (Ezek 38–39). They will indeed realise that God has supernaturally destroyed their enemies by fire (Ezek. 39:2-7). God will be honoured for this rescue operation, also by members of the Gentile nations.
Despite this sudden spiritual awakening in an agnostic world, knowledge on the person and works of the true Messiah will still be very scanty. Satan will succeed in exploiting this ignorance to offer to the world a counterfeit Messiah in the name of Jesus, i.e. the Antichrist. He will pretend that he was sent by God at a critical moment to save Israel and humanity from a full-scale world-war. All people will hail him as the universal Prince of Peace and openly worship him as their saviour (Rev. 13:3-4). Israel will also fully endorse his claim to be the promised Messiah (John 5:43), as he will allow orthodox Jews to rebuild the temple and resume the OT sacrifices. By so doing they will explicitly reject the great sacrifice of the true Messiah on the cross. The false messiah will successfully deceive them by his messianic claims.
It is a general tendency among human societies to blindly accept and follow a leader who, despite his suspicious credentials, makes preposterous promises on positive reforms under his leadership. This tendency was clearly demonstrated by Russia’s acceptance of a communist leader in 1917 in the hope that communism would bring freedom by liberating the working class from exploitation by the rich. But communism introduced some of the most cruel dictatorships, oppression and economic misery in human history. The Germans took a similarly ill-conceived decision to become followers of Hitler, being deluded by his promises to raise Germany to a position of undisputed supremacy and prosperity in the world. Instead, he led them to near destruction in World War II. In both cases Christians and Jews suffered heavily at the hands of these dictators. The Antichrist will, likewise, be a master deceiver who will succeed in obtaining full support from Israel as well as the international community to introduce his new world order of political, religious and economic globalism. Apart from gaining a position of political and economic leadership, the members of all religions will also recognise and worship him as their common Messiah, thereby discounting the leadership position and redemptive work of the true Messiah.
Within a few short years the universal acceptance of this new leader will prove to be a very costly error since their covenant with Satan’s false Prince of Peace will put humanity directly on course to the greatest tribulation of all time (Dan. 12:1; Matt. 24:21). A remnant in Israel will flee to the mountains in great hurry to escape the fury of the false messiah when they break their covenant with him after he has declared himself to be God in the Most Holy of their rebuilt temple (Matt. 24:15-21; 2 Thess. 2:4). The devil and the Antichrist will then turn to the Gentiles and mobilise them with the assistance of evil spirits to deploy their military forces in the Middle East for a showdown with the true Messiah. That will give rise to the battle of Armageddon, which will be the biggest world war ever (Rev. 16:13-16; 19:19).
Who will stop the rising tide of evil? The true Messiah, as in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily (Col. 2:9). When will it be stopped? At His second coming when He will set his feet on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem to annihilate His enemies (Rev. 19:11-21; Zech. 14:2-13). On that very day the whole remnant in Israel will be saved. Under strong conviction of the Holy Spirit they will recognise Jesus as Messiah. The Lord says: “And I will pour on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of grace and supplication; then they will look on Me whom they have pierced; they will mourn for Him as one mourns for his only son, and grieve for Him as one grieves for a first-born” (Zech. 12:10).
This mourning refers to Israel’s deep contrition in view of their past unbelief, when, convinced of the sin of rejecting the Messiah, they shall look on Him whom they have pierced, and shall mourn, and find cleansing in the fountain opened for sin and for uncleanness (Zech. 13:1). And so all Israel will be saved (Rom. 11:26). A remnant of the Gentiles will also be saved when they will mourn for their sins of not having accepted and served the Messiah (Matt. 24:30; Zech. 14:16).
Before true peace can prevail on earth Satan, the deceiver of the nations, must first be removed from the scene and bound in a bottomless pit. That will indeed be done when Christ returns (Rev. 20:1-3). For true peace to prevail on earth a number of very important events must first occur:
· Jesus Christ must return to earth as King and Judge to take active control of world affairs.
· The rebels against the Kingdom of Christ must be destroyed.
· The devil must be bound, thereby terminating his influence on earth before the millennial reign of Christ can be instituted.
· A remnant of Israel and the nations must be saved.
As for now, the devil is not yet bound and has extensive influence on earth (2 Cor. 4:4; Eph. 2:2; 1 John 5:19). Christ’s kingdom has not yet been revealed here and He guides believers through the Holy Spirit to shine as lights in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation (Phil. 2:15). We have to put on the full armour of God to remain standing against the wiles of the devil (Eph. 6:10-12). At His second coming, Christ will destroy the wicked rulers and take the government upon His shoulders (Rev. 11:15; Acts 15:16-17; Dan. 2:44-45; Psalm 2:1-12; Isa. 2:2-4; Jer. 3:17).
In the difficult situation which now prevails, Jesus Christ is the light of a dark world and the Saviour of both Jews and Gentiles. Only He can reconcile us with the Father and give us true peace. Only in Him we have a hopeful future. Denying Him is a sure way to self-destruction for individuals as well as nations. He is the resurrection and the life – also the Bright and Morning Star who announces the coming of a new day of God’s richest blessings to this troubled world.
If you wish to have peace with God now, accept the Lord Jesus as your Saviour and be redeemed from your sin. If you wish to prevail against evil in the present world, become more than a conqueror in Christ by being filled with His Spirit and learning to use your spiritual armour. If you wish to share in the peace and blessings of Christ’s millennial reign on earth, become one of His disciples and behave yourself worthy of His kingdom. If you wish to have a mansion in heaven, become a follower and witness of the One who is now busy preparing these mansions. Only through the beloved Son of God will you be granted access to these wonderful blessings. This should be our basic message to Israel and the whole world.