As a follow-up to Easter, I am particularly concerned with another resurrection much discussed in the Bible, and yet little taught in our churches.
I am referring to what the Apostle Paul describes as “life from the dead” – when the Jewish people as a whole will recognise their Messiah.
In explaining to the Christians at Rome (a mix of Jew and Gentile believers) how the Gentiles among them have benefited from the Jews’ overall rejection which put Jesus on the cross because it meant salvation was extended to non-Jews, he says: “If their transgression means riches for the world…how much greater riches will their fullness bring!” (Rom 11.11f)
Then he adds: “If their rejection is the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead?” (v15)
Paul is elaborating on what the prophets had foretold concerning a restoration, both physical and spiritual, of God’s ancient people.
Ezekiel illustrated this phenomenon most graphically with his vision of the Valley of Dry Bones coming back to life (Ezekiel 37), especially relevant this week as we marked the 75th anniversary (on April 15th) of the liberation by British forces of the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp.
Amazingly, some 2,500 years before it happened, Ezekiel prophesied that the “whole house of Israel” would be brought back to the Promised Land (v12), after which the Lord would reveal himself to them through his Spirit living within them (verses 13 & 14). See also Ezekiel 36.24-26.
Yes, pestilence and plague abound along with cataclysmic storms and an unprecedented shaking of the nations including reported plans for a global biometric ID system with worrying similarities to the apocalyptic Mark of the Beast (see Rev 13.16). But we need to focus on the greatest sign of Jesus’ soon return – the Jewish restoration so powerfully foreseen by Ezekiel and others.
Modern Israel is now over 70 years old, and Jews from the diaspora are still arriving in their droves. More significantly still, Jewish people are discovering Jesus in increasing numbers.
Among them is a professor from New York City who was made aware of Jesus at a private school, but his rabbi convinced him that he was not the Messiah. However, his search continued until one day he had an amazing vision of Jesus himself – brightly illuminated and standing in front of a cross – which left him profoundly shocked with his hands shaking!
It was somewhat reminiscent of the vision seen by Daniel of “a man dressed in linen, with a belt of finest gold round his waist”, a face like lightning, eyes like flaming torches, and arms and legs like burnished bronze – all of which left the terrified prophet trembling (Dan 10.5).
This in turn was virtually identical to the vision of Jesus seen by the exiled Apostle John (Rev 1.13-15), describing him as the One “who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty”. (Rev 1.8)
So, he is the One who showed himself to Daniel around 500 BC, to our Jewish professor from New York in these days, and who is also coming back soon to rule and reign on the earth.
My younger brother has a habit of watching the epic movie Ben Hur every Easter and particularly likes the denouement focused on the healing from leprosy (through the blood of Jesus) of the lead character’s mother and sister.
As it happens, the healing of a leper was the first record of a specific cure in the New Testament (Matthew 8.1-4) and rabbinical tradition has it that such a miracle would be a sure sign of the Messiah, which perhaps explains why the Lord told him to show himself to the priest “as a testimony to them”.
I’m sure I don’t have to remind you that the Jews are very special to our heavenly Father. And if we want to know Him better, we need to know his heart – that he loves them with an ‘everlasting love’ (Jer 31.3), that they are his ‘treasured possession’ (Psalm 135.4) and the ‘apple of his eye’ (Deut 32.10, Zech 2.8). If we love Jesus, we should surely love the Jews, his brothers in the flesh.
If we identify with them in their suffering, as we do with Jesus’ death on the cross, we will also share the joy of their glory and resurrection when, as “life from the dead”, they return to the sheepfold of God’s ecclesia (literally, ‘called-out ones’) as disciples of King Yeshua.
In identifying with them, we would do well to emulate Master Sergeant Roddie Edmonds who, in January 1945, saved the lives of 200 Jews when, as the highest-ranking officer among the 1,292 American GIs in a Prisoner-of-War camp, he was told by the German commandant to identify the Jews among them.
With a gun held against his head, he refused, saying: “We are all Jews.”
We must not only stand with them, but also lead them back to the One who came “for the lost sheep of Israel”(Matt 15.24). For the gospel is “to the Jew first, and also for the Gentile”. (Rom 1.16)
Charles Gardner is author of Israel the Chosen, available from Amazon; Peace in Jerusalem, available from olivepresspublisher.com; and A Nation Reborn, available from Christian Publications International