We know that God has set times to accomplish His purposes, for the Bible tells us “there is an appointed time for everything” (Eccl. 3:1). We saw it with Israel’s 40 years in the wilderness, in their 70-year incarceration in Babylon and more recently her return to the land after a 2000-year Roman exile. Once His purposes are accomplished, and the lessons learned, He moves on to the next phase of His plan to redeem, not only Israel, but the whole world.
So what is “the Gospel Age,” and what happens when it ends? By “the Gospel Age” I mean that time period Yeshua spoke of when, following his resurrection, his Jewish disciples asked if he was now restoring the kingdom to Israel? He said only the Father knew for sure when it would come. In the meantime they had work to do. But it couldn’t begin until they’d received the power of the Holy Spirit. Then they were to go forth and “be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth"(Acts 1:8).
In other words, the rest of the world still had to hear the good news that God had given His son as a sacrifice to atone for our sins, and that now all was forgiven. At this point, of course, the disciples were clueless that the goyiim were going to be the main target in this Gospel outreach. Or that many generations would have to come and go before the job was done and God’s kingdom (the Messianic kingdom of Israel) could appear.
Well, that was then and this is now. And my Spirit alarm clock is blaring, telling me to wake up and get ready – it’s God’s “set time to favor Zion” (Ps. 102:13).
To begin, notice the path the Gospel would travel according to Yeshua. It was to start in Jerusalem. And indeed it did when three thousand Jews were saved following Peter’s first sermon on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:41). But that revival would be short lived. The majority of Jewish Israel, led initially by an irate, unsaved Saul, would reject it vehemently, forcing the disciples to take the message northward. To Samaria (Acts 8:5), Damascus (Acts 9:19,20), Phoenicia, Cyprus and Antioch (Acts 11:19), and finally to Greece and Rome and eventually every nation on earth. And to make certain there would be no going back to Jerusalem God sent in Rome to slam the door behind them.
But now it has been reopened in our day look - and look what is happening in the world. The Western nations of Europe and America, where the Gospel prospered most and was then sent out to other nations, have largely abandoned their “Christian” world view. Indeed, they are embracing the tenets of atheistic humanism more and more each day. Consequently, all manner of evil has broken out in our societies. Christians (and Jews) are beginning to feel like outsiders in their own nations. Our churches have also succumbed to worldly values and largely abandoned the teachings of the Bible. No wonder so many have become mausoleums. Or rock concert halls. Or feel-good coffee houses. Or even mosques. Places where God’s biblical truths are no longer heard.
At the same time, look at where the Gospel is flourishing. Among the Muslim nations that surround Israel. Tens of thousands are being motivated to find this Jesus they are meeting supernaturally in dreams and visions. They are then being led to believers to hear the Gospel for the first time, and getting saved. In other words, the Gospel that went out like a tsunami to crash upon distant shores is receding back from whence it came. It is headed back to Jerusalem.
Isn’t that what Paul prophesied would happen in the last days? After describing how the wild, uncultivated Gentile olive branches were being grafted into the cultivated olive tree of Israel through the Gospel, he said this: “I do not want you, brethren, to be uninformed of this mystery, that a partial hardening has happened to Israel, UNTIL the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. And so [in this way] all Israel will be saved” (Rom. 11:25,26).
Paul’s “until” is a timing word. It implies the beginning of something. And also the end of something. It means the Jews who had been deliberately hardened by God to the Gospel for centuries will finally be given ears to hear it. And that all the Gentiles who had been harvested by the Gospel would “come in” to the land to join their Jewish brethren as the Israel of God. Then all Israel would be saved! Both Isaiah and Jeremiah clearly prophesied about this coming second exodus of God’s people out of all the nations (Isaiah 11:1-16 and Jer. 23:5-8).
Understood, of course, is that when all those who had received the Gospel exit their former homelands the Gospel door will slam shut behind them. And the light will go out from those countries. “And darkness will cover the earth, and deep darkness the peoples” (Isa. 60:2).
It appears time is running out for the nations.
Brian Hennessy is author of Valley of the Steeples