As we get into the swing of the Jewish New Year, with the sweet taste of honey-dipped apple still in our mouths, I pray that Israel will have a fresh revelation of their destiny as God’s chosen people.
And I am reminded of the fact that the Lord describes them as the “apple of his eye” (Zechariah 2.8) for which he longs with an everlasting love. And with the eye being the most sensitive part of the body, anticipating trouble almost before it happens, we can be sure that Elohim will be watching over his beloved at this particularly dangerous time.
I have written much about the signs of the Second Coming, but I wasn’t expecting to get one during a visit to family in leafy Hampstead, north London.
Walking up a pathway I have used for the past 45 years, I suddenly noticed the spreading branches of an overhanging fig tree. It was like the one we had in our garden in South Africa, but I have never seen one in this part of the world before. What particularly struck me was that it was laden with fruit, almost ripe for harvest.
I was reminded of the words of Jesus in describing the signs of his imminent return. “Now learn this lesson from the fig-tree: As soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. Even so, when you see these things happening, you know that it is near, right at the door. I tell you the truth, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened.” (Mark 13.28-30)
The fig tree is used in the Bible as a symbol for Israel. So it seems the Lord was saying that when it started to blossom – i.e. Israel’s long-promised restoration to their land and their subsequent growth into a vibrant nation state – we would know that his coming was not far away.
Yet this Hampstead tree wasn’t simply in blossom; it was almost ready for harvest. It was, after all, late summer. Was God perhaps speaking to my heart saying that Israel’s salvation – that is, her full restoration, both physically and spiritually – was about to happen; that we are about to witness a bountiful harvest among his chosen people in the form of a mass recognition of Yeshua as their long-awaited Messiah who, with loving arms, is coming to rescue them from their many enemies? Are we about to witness the spiritual restoration, following their return to the land, spoken of by Ezekiel: “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.” (Ezek 36.26)
In the passage quoted earlier, Jesus suggests that the generation witnessing the physical restoration of Israel, along with signs from heaven and increasing turbulence on earth, would also see its spiritual re-birth and the return of Christ himself.
My friends, no-one knows the day or hour, but of this we can be sure: Jesus is coming again – and very soon it seems!
Israel’s significance in all this cannot be overstated and was re-emphasised to me the day after my Hampstead stroll as I was admiring the Savill Garden on the Queen’s estate near Windsor. I took a series of pictures of the beautiful borders and, when I viewed them later, was mystified by one of the ‘photos’ which seemed to have a Star of David – Israel’s national emblem – imprinted against a murky grey background. Make of that what you will. And then, in the early hours one morning, I heard a still, small voice asking me to be a ‘doorkeeper’ in the house of the Lord. I took that as confirmation of a calling to continue watching for signs of his coming, and convey that to readers.
As Haggai predicted, everything is being shaken in preparation for the return of Messiah (Haggai 2.6,7). Tens of thousands of refugees, possibly including jihadist infiltrators, are swarming into Europe, putting huge pressure on EU countries already creaking under the weight of increasing political, social and economic upheavals. Yet no-one asks why Saudi Arabia, which has both the economic and physical capacity to take them, has so far completely failed to do so. The Gulf state is reported to have 100,000 air-conditioned tents capable of housing three million people sitting empty – used only for five days each year to accommodate pilgrims to Mecca.
Meanwhile Britain has been severely jolted by the election of an extreme-leftist as leader of Her Majesty’s opposition. At his first public engagement, Jeremy Corbyn even refused to sing ‘God save the Queen’, the national anthem. And the UK’s 290,000 Jews – already under increasing attack from anti-Semites – now fear a Labour leader who has referred to Hamas and Hezbollah as ‘friends’. What on earth is going on?
But be comforted, O Israel, for all this trouble also points to hope, when the glory of the Lord will be revealed (Isaiah 40.5) and Yeshua HaMashiach will return.
“I have chosen you and have not rejected you. So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand… those who oppose you will be as nothing and perish.” (Isaiah 41.9-11)
Charles Gardner is author of Israel the Chosen (available from Amazon) and Peace in Jerusalem, available from olivepresspublisher.com