Earlier this week, on October 31st, Christians marked 500 years since the Reformation began. We would do well to be reminded of other important anniversaries which add to the significance of this day.
Nearly 2,000 years earlier on the same day, according to Jewish tradition, the prophet Ezra called for national repentance as he read the Book of the Law to Jerusalem’s citizens. It was 445 BC and they had sinned grievously against God.
Fast forward to October 31st 1917, another hugely important event largely ignored by the many Protestants marking the day, 400 years earlier, when Martin Luther famously nailed his 95 theses to a church door, challenging the corruption of the Roman Catholic Church.
For it is now 100 years since Britain’s War Cabinet adopted the Balfour Declaration (though the letter itself is dated 2 November 1917), promising to make every effort to repatriate Jews in their ancient land. It just happened to coincide with the Battle of Beersheba when 800 bayonet-wielding ANZAC (Australian and New Zealand) soldiers pulled off a surprise, and astonishing, victory over Turkish forces which paved the way for the capture of Jerusalem and all of Palestine, ending 400 years of rule under the Islamic Ottoman Empire.
I have written elsewhere of how the ANZAC horsemen rode a death-defying gauntlet of shrapnel, high explosives and machine-gun fire in a bid to prevent the intended destruction of local wells, and this too is an incredibly important centenary because it opened the way for Jewish restoration and the implementation of the Balfour Declaration – along with the fulfillment of Bible prophecy relating to the return of Jews from every corner of the globe.
If, like Ezra, we support the Book of the Law, we will stand with the people of Israel who gave it to us!
Luther faced two major challenges – a corrupt Church, and the real possibility of a Turkish Muslim invasion via central Europe – in the face of which he recognized the importance of the Book of the Law (the Bible) and the need for national repentance.
Many disagreed with Luther. Some German pastors even suggested welcoming Islam, seeing it as less oppressive than their situation under the Church.
Today’s Church faces the same challenges, and more, with secular humanism seriously eroding society’s Judeo-Christian foundations, leaving the Book of the Law despised and Christianity increasingly abhorred.
Part of this erosion stems from the substitution of a Christian festival – Halloween – for a celebration of the occult, which has taken the shine off the spiritual triumphs we have experienced on this special day.
Halloween (a contraction of All Hallows’ Evening) was originally dedicated to remembering the dead, including saints (hallows), martyrs and all the faithful departed. But it is widely thought to have pagan roots, and is now associated with ghoulish practices. One view is that it originated with the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain, when people would light bonfires and wear costumes to ward off roaming ghosts, in which case it is hardly surprising that it has morphed into an obsession with ghostly goings-on, playing pranks and divination games.
If the Church of the Middle Ages had focused less on the dead and more on the resurrection, we may have been spared this nonsense. In any event, it is clearly a devilish ploy to substitute the light of truth with the darkness of witchcraft.
We are living in dark times, and it is the duty of those who follow Christ to be “a light on the hill”, not hidden under a bushel (Matthew 5.14f), in aiding restoration of the Book of the Law, following in the footsteps of Ezra, Luther and others. It is time to take back spiritual territory lost to 21st century paganism, just as the ANZAC horsemen bravely charged across the Negev desert to capture vital wells that would save the Allied forces from dehydration and defeat. We too are called to run a gauntlet of spiritual bullets in order to recapture the wells of salvation from an enemy intent on silting them up with lies and propaganda.
Modern-day Zionists should be seeking the restoration of the Book of the Law – not only to Israel, but to our land as well where we have endured a long famine of hearing the word of the Lord.
We must pray and work towards the day when the Jews are able to fulfill their calling to be a light to the Gentiles (Isaiah 49.6). True, they have already become a powerful nation since their re-birth 70 years ago, but have not yet fully returned to the Book of the Law. They are back in the Land, but not yet fully with the Lord.
That will come, and Ezekiel 36.24-28 will be fulfilled. But in the meantime we must, by our friendship, support and prayer, encourage them to acknowledge that Jesus, whom they had believed was the God of the Gentiles, is actually their own Messiah too. In fact he came for them first (John 1.11f, Romans 1.16) and has promised that, if they fully obey him, they would be his “treasured possession” (Genesis 19.5).
In this respect, it’s interesting that the patriarch Joseph was taken into Egypt after being rejected by his brothers. After Jesus was largely rejected by the Jewish people (though a significant number accepted him, of course, or the Church would never have come into existence), the message about him was taken to the nations, and the Gentile world elevated him to a prominent role in their affairs. Isaiah had prophesied that the Gentiles would put their hope in Him. (Isaiah 42.4; see also Matthew 12.21)
As far as the UK and the USA are concerned, it would be true to say that from the 17th through 19th centuries the gospel of Christ and the Bible itself was the most influential teaching they possessed, affecting virtually every institution and producing great wealth and power in the process. At the same time a host of passionate preachers went out to the far corners of the world spreading this gospel to heathen nations. Jesus had in some respects become Lord of the Gentile world, a situation that would, in time, make Israel “envious”, according to the Apostle Paul, an orthodox Jewish rabbi who led the mission to the Gentiles. (Romans 11.11)
But just as Joseph never forgot his brothers, and longed for reunion with them, so Jesus – actually descended from Judah and described in the Bible as the Lion of the tribe of Judah (Rev 5.5) – reaches out in love to his long-lost brothers in the flesh, for whom things got worse before they got better. Now, over the past two centuries (even in the midst of multiple pogroms and the Holocaust itself), He has been revealing himself afresh to his people.
Though sadly Jesus is still seen largely as God of the Gentiles, Jewish eyes have gradually been opened. It is believed, for example, that there were as many as 100,000 Jewish followers of Jesus at the outbreak of World War II in 1939.
Tragically, many of them would have perished in Hitler’s gas chambers. But out of the ashes of the Holocaust, we not only have a re-born nation of Israel, but a growing number of so-called Messianic fellowships bringing Jesus back to where he belongs.
Just as Joseph was a sign of what was to come 400 years later with deliverance from Egypt through the blood of the lamb, so the voice of the prophets recorded in the Jewish Tenakh (what Christians call the Old Testament) fell silent for 400 years until the revelation of Jesus in the New Testament. Joseph provided his brothers with grain amidst the famine. And now Jesus is “the bread of life” – the manna from heaven – as he “fills the hungry with good things” (John 6.35, Luke 1.53).
There will come a time when, back in the land of promise and delivered from bondage in a hostile world, all Israel will recognize Yeshua, their Messiah. (Zechariah 12.10, Romans 11.26) What a day that will be – life from the dead as he who was despised and rejected of men is revealed to his brothers alive… and as Lord of all!
Charles Gardner is author of Israel the Chosen, available from Amazon, and Peace in Jerusalem, available from olivepresspublisher.com