In the past twenty years I have travelled all over the world – to Europe: to Austria, Germany, Holland, Ireland and England; through the United States and to the Far East – for Toward Jerusalem Council II meetings. Toward Jerusalem Council II is an effort of Messianic Jewish leaders and Church leaders to see every Church stream repent of the history of institutional Church anti-Semitism and from the historic Church rejection of the Messianic Jewish communities from the second to the seventh centuries.
In addition, we are calling upon the broad church community to align themselves with the Messianic Jewish community and declare themselves with regard to their support for this restoration. Our board consists of significant and influential Church leaders and Messianic Jewish leaders from Israel and the United States. We have been working quietly behind the scenes since 1995. During those twenty five years we have been received by high level Church leaders who have aligned themselves with our vision; some represent thousands and some even tens of thousands of churches. I am privileged to be one of the founders of this effort that has started to acquire higher visibility and has established working groups in several regions of the world. We covet your prayers for this work.
It is in this context that I write concerning the Church’s response to Israel’s judgment. In Luke 19:41-44 Yeshua predicts the judgment that is to come upon Jerusalem. Yeshua declares that judgment is coming because that generation’s leaders failed to recognize their time of visitation, that is; God’s visitation through Yeshua. Their failure to respond correctly to Yeshua was without excuse. God provided tangible proof through Yeshua’s authoritative teaching, confirming miracles and the ultimate testimony of His resurrection from the dead. On top of this, following the resurrection, the Apostles gave witness to these accounts. Though a significant minority embraced Yeshua, the great majority of our people followed the leadership of Israel in choosing to reject Yeshua.
The Fall of Jerusalem and Church Interpretation
The Fall of Jerusalem was a terrible event. The siege, the famine and the ultimate slaughter recounted by the Jewish historian Josephus describes devastation beyond imagination. Any sympathetic person would be brought to terrible grief by reading this account. No other single event except the Holocaust was responsible for a greater slaughter of Jews. Sadly, the Church responded to the fall of Jerusalem and the ending of the national life of Israel with gloating pride and vilification. The Church Fathers interpreted the devastation to mean that the Jewish people were finally and irrevocably rejected by God. This led to the idea that the Church had replaced Israel and was the new and true Israel. This idea is called “replacement theology.” This replacement included the Messianic Jewish community, which had remained true to Jewish tradition and practice. They too were rejected by the larger Church that was by that time largely composed of Gentiles. This was the first great Church split which some believe led to many future splits and compromised the Church throughout history.
The Testimony of Scripture
The Church Fathers could have put Scripture above historical circumstances and based their theology on the clear statements of Romans 9-11. This passage states that the Jewish people, in spite of being enemies of the Gospel, are beloved because of the Fathers, that “the gifts and the calling of God (to Israel) are irrevocable” (11:29). This settles the issue. Israel has not been replaced but will yet come into her destiny and all of the promises to Israel will be fulfilled.
Jeremiah explains it so clearly: “Thus says the LORD, who gives the sun for light by day and the fixed order of the moon and the stars for light by night, who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar – the LORD of Hosts is His name – ‘If this fixed order departs from before Me,’ declares the LORD, ‘then the offspring of Israel also shall cease from being a nation before Me forever.’ Thus says the LORD, ‘If the heavens above can be measured, and the foundations of the earth searched out below, then I will also cast off all the offspring of Israel for all that they have done,’ declares the LORD” (Jeremiah 31:35-37).
A Previous Precedent from Ezekiel
The Church Fathers could also have looked to an earlier precedent. There was a previous destruction of Jerusalem in 586 BC. We do not have a record similar to Josephus’ narrative to describe it, but the prophetic predictions and descriptions in Jeremiah and Ezekiel describe devastation as horrible as the destruction perpetrated by the Romans. The nations around Israel gloated. They saw the desolation as their opportunity and were glad! In some ways their response paralleled that of the early Church. We find the most amazing texts in Ezekiel 25-28. The prophecy is given that one nation after another will be brought into judgment and destroyed because they gloated and did not grieve over Israel’s destruction. Moab, Ammon, Tyre, and Edom are singled out for great judgment:
“Son of man, set your face against the sons of Ammon, and prophesy against them, and say to the sons of Ammon, “Hear the word of the Lord God: Because you said, ‘Aha!’ against My sanctuary when it was profaned, and against the land of Israel when it was made desolate and against the house of Judah, when they went into exile, therefore I am going to give you to the sons of the east for a possession … because you have clapped your hands and stamped your feet and rejoiced with all the scorn of your soul against the land of Israel, therefore behold, I have stretched out My hand against you, and I shall give you for spoil to the nations. And I shall cut you off from the peoples and make you perish from the lands; I shall destroy you. Thus you will know that I am the Lord.” (Selections from Ezekiel 25:1-7)
Nearly four whole chapters of judgment upon the nations are followed by the promise at the end Ezekiel 28 of Israel’s restoration and return:
“Once I have gathered the house of Israel from the peoples among whom they are scattered, once I have shown My holiness in them as the nations watch, then they will live in their own land, which I gave to my servant Jacob. They will have security when they live there, building houses and planting vineyards; yes, they will live in safety, once I have executed judgments against all their contemptuous neighbors. Then they will know that I am the LORD their God” (Ezekiel 28:25-25).
Judgment on the Church and Today’s Opportunity
Certainly the difficulties we see in Church history; the setbacks, the loss of the churches in the Islamic lands and more, can be traced in part to the Church’s rejection of the Jewish people and the Messianic Jews. Great divisions came into the churches of these lands. The clear warning against arrogance given in Romans 11 was not heeded. Paul demonstrated the right attitude by grieving deeply and working tirelessly for the salvation and restoration of the Jewish people.
Today the Church is given a marvellous opportunity to repent and reverse the damage. Many are responding. This will be connected to amazing revivals and ultimately to the salvation of Israel. We are privileged to be involved in such a day of great hope for both Israel and the Church. As we see the Church turn toward Israel with prayer and support for Messianic Jewish ministries, we are seeing the beginning of a significant harvest in Israel. We also see great gains in the Church in many lands as the Body of Messiah returns back to the proper divine order.