Wednesday, August 21, 2013

What About the Jews?

Should We or Should We Not Pray for God to Come Back Soon?

Poem: "What of the Jews?"

I recently wrote a poem exploring the conundrum I've had regarding whether it's best to ask for God to come back as soon as possible or whether it's best for Him to be as patient as possible, letting history drag out and waiting for more people to be saved before the final 7-year period of Earth history known as the Tribulation.

I think I explain the issue pretty well in the rhyme scheme itself. Without further ado, please enjoy the below poem, and feel free to read the footnotes for background information on the things I make reference to in the poem. It is my favorite poem I've written yet, because of how much complex thought I was able to fit into it without upsetting the scheme. 

Reading note: Lines will have the stress on the second syllable, a la "dut-duu," unless there is an asterisk -- * -- at the beginning of the line, in which case the stress will be on the first syllable, a la "duu." 

What Of the Jews?
A thought about the Rapture’s1 struck my mind in recent days
It came about as I was contemplating how to pray

Should I petition for the Lord to come to Earth with speed?

Or should I ask that individual Jewish souls be freed?

The Bible says that, in the end, “All Israel shall be saved.”2
But in the years before that, many more go to their graves3
* What, then, ought my focus be in praying for my friends?
* What will give them the best chance to make it in the end?

The way to life is death, as their whole hist’ry goes to show4
I yearn for them to sooner meet the Savior that I know
Before the Time of Jacob’s Trouble,5 many will refuse

A “partial hardening”6 has become the norm among the Jews

I wish it were not so, but it is hard to reach them now
As a nation, one could say, their heart is far too proud.7
Could this be reason, then, to hope for Tribulation8 come?
That hardship would ensure all live, instead of only some?

But if the Tribulation came today, what of my friends?

* Would they be unsaved if they should meet untimely ends?

The fear of asking carelessly is keeping me awake

And anxiously considering the lives which are at stake

* What’s a bigger roadblock to a Jew’s accepting Christ?

Is it prosperity or is it deadly human strife?9
* War can make a man more urgent, peace can make him slack.
* Should we then hope that the Jews come soon under attack?

* May it not be so! Let me suggest another way:

The many  Jewish tribesmen sealed descend from those today10
Implicit in that they believe is that they’ve heard it preached—
The Gospel cannot save the men to whom it hasn’t reached11
So whether they believe through trial, or escape before
The answer to my doubt, it seems, is: Preach the Gospel more!

We can’t assume the end will come so soon s’ as to be lazy

Few things in life are truer than [that] the future is quite hazy

* We don’t know when time runs out. We can’t afford to quit

So carry on, and do God’s will—yes, every little bit!

I love the Jews, and want them saved, from great to very small

But best of all for them ‘s to join us at the Trumpet call12
“Escaping all these things,”13 to spite their stubborn ancestry
Rejoicing at the Wedding Feast14 about God’s majesty

* Meanwhile, those we left behind will have another shot

To flee their sin, repent and put their faith and hope in God15
* Stubborn Israel took two thousand years to learn the truth:16
That God, in choosing men for heaven, cares not what we do
* We can only e’er do any good by His great grace

To try to work our way to Him is, in His eyes, disgrace

* My dear Jewish friends, I hope you’ll come to Faith today

But if you don’t, as we have seen, God still will have His way.

Baruch HaShem17

Footnotes for those curious:

1. The Rapture is a Biblical concept supported by the theological reasoning behind the purpose of the present Church Age and future Tribulation. Put shortly, in the final 7-year period of human history before the return of Jesus Christ, God punishes the pagan gentile nations and disciplines rebellious Israel. As the Church is neither pagan gentiles nor rebellious Jews, there is no reason for it to be present on earth during this time. Concurrently, the book of Revelation nowhere mentions the Church after the description of the end-times begins, although Israel is mentioned many times. The letter to the Thessalonians explains why the Church is not present by saying that all believers in Christ will be “caught up” (Grk. harpazo, Lat. rapturo, from which we get ‘rapture’) 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 introduces this doctrine, and 1 Thessalonians 5:9 supports it by saying “we are not appointed to suffer wrath.” A subsection of the Tribulation period is known as The Wrath, where God releases His righteous anger on the world. See Revelation 6:16-17. Logically, 5:9 indicates that the Church won’t be on earth during that time period. For clarification, the Church is defined as the sum total of all those who are saved by faith in Christ. It does not refer to a building or religious institution. The Roman Catholic Church is not THE Church, and neither is any other church. There are unsaved people in every religious institution that calls itself “christian,” and there are probably at least some who are saved, in every such institution as well. Do not be mistaken: affiliation with a religion does not save you, only faith in Christ can save you.

2. Romans 11:26

3. This refers to two things: one is that for as long as the Church Age draws on, Jews will continue to live and die natural lives and most of them will remain in unbelief, dying in their sins, and this is a great tragedy. The other thing is that it is quite possible that even though many will come to faith in the Tribulation, many will also die, and it is presently unclear to me whether there is any guarantee in Scripture against the possibility that those who die before the Return of the King will be unsaved. If there is no such guarantee, then the Tribulation will result in the deaths of many unbelieving Jews, and thus for those who do not convert before the end of the 7-year period, and die, the calamity means nothing but damnation for them, and not salvation. Such a possibility urges me strongly against wanting to ask for the end to come soon, lest I inadvertently be praying damnation on someone.

4. The first part of this, “the way to life is death,” refers to Christ dying on the Cross for us. His death made possible our eternal lives, if we repent and receive His sacrifice as a substitute for the punishment we deserve because of our sin. Consequently, Romans 6:11 “Count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.” To live, we must die. The second part of the line is just a clever artistic reference to the fact that it is the very history of the Jewish race that has brought us the message of life as delivered to them by God, through continual national calamities after calamities. Even today, the Jewish story is not yet over, because even though they are still killed throughout the world, and will yet be in the future, those who are alive at the end of the Tribulation will be alive in Christ even as the whole world has died – and those who live now have the opportunity to live by the power of God through dying to their Jewishness and accepting the Gospel of salvation through faith and not nationality.

5. The Time of Jacob’s Trouble is another name for the Tribulation, further lending support to the doctrine of the Rapture of the Church. Jacob is Israel. The primary reference for this is Jeremiah 30:7 “How awful will that day be! No other will be like it. It will be a time of trouble for Jacob, but he will be saved out of it.”

6. Romans 11:25

7.  That the Jews have stumbled because of a general case of religious-nationalist pride (being the “Chosen Ones,” you know – it can make you arrogant, and it did) is a common theme in the Bible, especially in the Old Testament where the prophets preach continuously against their countrymen’s sins. Here is how Paul—the Jewish Pharisee—puts it in Romans 10:19-21 :

“Again I ask, Did Israel not understand? First, Moses says, “I will make you envious by those who are not a nation; I will make you angry by a nation that has no understanding,” And Isaiah boldly says, “I was found by those who did not seek me; I revealed myself to those who did not ask for me.” But concerning Israel he says, “All day long I have held out my hands to a disobedient and obstinate people.””

8. The term Tribulation comes from Jesus’ discourse in Matthew 24:21, where the word He uses to describe the future events He’s foretelling about has historically been translated ‘tribulation,’ meaning distress, trouble, etc.

9. Proverbs 30:7-9, the sayings of Agur:
“Two things I ask of you, Lord; do not refuse me before I die: Keep falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you, and say, “Who is the Lord?” Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God.”

10. Simple logic. Revelation 7:4-8 describes 144,000 people of Jewish descent, 12,000 from each of the 12 tribes, as being “sealed” by a mark on the forehead before the earth was subjected to the Trumpet and Bowl judgments, but after the Seals (read Revelation for more details. The three categories described are telescoping sequences of catastrophes unleashed on the earth during the Tribulation period). Those sealed were supernaturally protected from death and suffering throughout the course of the Tribulation, in the vision John saw. The hope that these could be Jews who turn to Christ very shortly after the Rapture and Seal judgments is a potential motivation to pray for God’s Second Coming to happen soon. Revelation here blatantly guarantees that 144,000 Jewish people who were NOT believers prior to the Rapture WILL be saved. This is very encouraging news. And so the logic that I lay out in the poem above is, if they come to faith, they must have had access to New Testaments and/or the preaching of Christians prior to the Tribulation, so that the events would have provoked them to faith in Christ. The reasoning for this is in the point below.

11. Romans 10:13-14 “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved  (ref: Joel 2:32). How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?”  The following verses go on to say, “How can anyone preach unless they are sent?...Faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ.” The conclusion, then, is to preach the Gospel so that the Jews may hear and believe.

12. The ‘trumpet call’ phrase is inspired by the line in the song “Days of Elijah” by Twilah Paris, that goes, “behold He comes, riding on the clouds, shining like the sun, at the Trumpet call.” In comparing Matthew 24:30-31 with 1 Thessalonians 4:16, these passages identify a trumpet of some sort with the Rapture, as well as informing that God Himself will make a “Second Appearing,” coming down but not touching down on earth, before the Tribulation, but not to be confused with the Second Coming.

13. Luke 21:36 (Luke 21 is the parallel passage to Matthew 24 in Luke’s Gospel).

14. Revelation 19:6-9. The Wedding Feast of the Lamb is a celebration that takes place in heaven during the Tribulation, where all those who belong to God participate in glorifying Him. It is called a Wedding because the Church is symbolically represented as a bride, such as in Ephesians 5:25, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the Church and gave Himself up for her…”

15. Romans 9:31-32. “But the people of Israel, who pursued the law as the way of righteousness, have not attained their goal. Why not? Because they pursued it not by faith but as if it were by works. They stumbled over the stumbling stone.”

16. I don’t mean anything concrete by this. It simply indicates that if the end of history is within the next century, then it took roughly 2,000 years after the Messiah came for the Jews to finally believe in Him, one and all. It doesn’t mean that no Jews ever have. Remember, it was a partial hardening. Romans 11:23 says, “And if they do not persist in unbelief, they will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again.”

17. This is a common Hebrew phrase meaning "praise God," "thank God," or literally, "blessed be the name of the Lord."

Further reading about Israel: Romans 9-12.

Note: the verse quotations were taken from my NIV Bible. I have a KJV and NIV, so the way I phrase something may appear to look different from the actual quote I put up, but this is simply a matter of translation. For that matter, the verse pop-up feature uses the ESV version. Variety is the spice of life!

~ Rak Chazak

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