This post has the potential to mess with your head. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
In this post I want to focus on something you may not have thought about in concrete terms before. I want to talk about the return of the Lord Jesus to earth to rule as king.
Yes, you may have heard that Jesus is coming back. But if you’re anything like I used to be, you have only a very foggy idea what this means. I used to picture Jesus meeting risen believers in the air and being king in the sky somewhere. But the Bible not only says he is coming back, it says he will reign openly as king on the earth.
This isn’t just something I made up. Isaiah 11 clearly describes an earthly reign of the Messiah on an earthly throne. This is one of many prophecies in the Old Testament which point forward to the end of the age.
In case you need to be convinced, the expectation that Jesus will reign in Jerusalem on an earthly throne is not just an Old Testament idea. Don’t just take it from me. Take it from Jesus himself. He should know. According to His own words, at the end of the age he will return to Jerusalem by invitation of her leaders to be their king. “You (Jerusalem) will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord’ ” (Matthew 23:39).
I realize that at this point some of you may think I’ve really lost it. For years, even after I gave my life to Jesus, I was reluctant to talk in detail about the end times. There are many reasons for this but probably the most honest one is that I did not want to be thought a fool. There’s a word for that. It’s called pride. Well, now I am repenting of my pride and coming out of the closet, so to speak. Yes, I am one of those people. Yes, I take the Bible at face value when it talks about the end times. Yes, I believe Jesus, John, Paul and the others actually meant what they said about these things.
I used to think people who focussed on the end times were weird. It’s true enough that much of what has been taught over the years on the end times is overly complicated and sort of flaky. The pre-tribulation rapture theory that was popularized by the Left Behind series is an example of a complex, contrived theory that consists of Scriptures stitched together into a sort of patchwork quilt that doesn’t hold together if you examine it carefully. People like Harold Camping who predict the return of the Lord on a specific date are likewise not very helpful because they indulge in baseless speculation and violate the clear word of Jesus that no-one can know the exact day or hour of his return. People get disillusioned by this sort of stuff and conclude that anyone who takes end-times teachings seriously is a bit of a nut case. But if you just take the Bible at face value, it’s not that hard to understand, especially with a little help from scholars and teachers who follow some basic principles of straightforward interpretation. The first time I ever heard someone teach on God’s prophetic time clock I only listened to him because he was my friend, but I have to admit he was pretty convincing. It helps if you combine Bible study with a discerning look at the signs of the times as Jesus advised (Matthew 16:2-3).
Here’s a very brief overview of what I have come to believe about the end times. All of this is quite clear and straightforward in Scripture though it is not always taught this way. Although in a sense you could say the last days began when Jesus rose from the dead and the Holy Spirit was poured out on Pentecost, the New Testament writers were unanimous that a final crisis was coming, and that this would bring about the end of the present age and the beginning of a new age when God’s Kingdom would come to earth visibly. The Bible plainly teaches that at the end of the age, there will be three and a half years of peace followed by three and a half years of intense tribulation and struggle culminating in a final attack of the nations on Jerusalem. Israel will turn to the Lord (Romans 11:15,25-26), Satan will be cast into the pit, those who have died in faith during the great tribulation will be raised up, Jesus will reign as king in Jerusalem for a thousand years, and his reign will be glorious (Revelation 20:1-6). This will be followed by the final rebellion of Satan, ushering in the last great battle, the Great White Throne judgement, and the coming of the new heaven and new earth.
This helps to explain why Satan hates Israel so much. He hates the plan of God, because it means his doom, and he knows the Jewish people are crucial to that plan. If he succeeds in killing all the Jews, there will be no nation of Israel to welcome Jesus back to Jerusalem, and Satan won’t have to go into the pit. Of course that’s not going to happen, because God is going to have the victory, but He wants our participation. It is so crucial for the people of God to pray for the peace of Jerusalem (Psalm 122:6), especially as the final crisis draws near. Those who love Jesus need to ask the Holy Spirit to open the eyes of Orthodox and secular Jews and turn their hearts to their Messiah, to bless and protect the rapidly-growing Messianic remnant (Jews who have accepted Jesus as their Messiah), to give wisdom to Israel’s leaders, and to prepare our hearts and wills to stand with Israel when the storm of her final desolation comes, as it surely will. I believe that it will be in the midst of the time of Jacob’s trouble (Jeremiah 30:7), when Spirit-empowed Christians are offering sanctuary to Jewish refugees and praying for Israel in power with signs and wonders during a time of great hardship, that Israel will finally be provoked to jealousy in large numbers, and will at last recognize her Messiah and be saved as prophesied by Paul in Romans 11:25-26.
So why do I have to be difficult and address such a controversial issue? So many of my Christian brothers and sisters think that Israel has no further significance in the plan of God. Couldn’t I have written a nice blog post on some non-controversial topic?
Let me ask you a different question. Why is it that Islamic leaders around the globe – when speaking in Arabic, to their own people – call for the destruction of Israel, call the Jews apes and pigs, blame all sorts of evil on them, and speak openly of their intent to capture Jerusalem, kill all the Jews and make Jerusalem the centre of a new Islamic Caliphate? Doesn’t that send chills up and down your spine? If it doesn’t, it should, because these Islamic leaders are deadly serious. This hatred for Jews is not a feature of some extremist version of Islam. This is mainstream Islam, preached openly in mosques around the world, coming straight from the Qur’an.
People who say they love Jesus need to love the nation from which he came. Gentile Christianity has a very spotty history in this regard. There have been some – like the ten Boom family in the Netherlands in the 1940s, featured in the book and film The Hiding Place – who stood with the Jews of Europe in their hour of need. Sadly, a much greater number down through the ages have participated gladly in the persecution of Jews, labelling them Christ-killers, forcing them to convert to Christianity (though how a forced conversion can have any value is beyond me), and stereotyping them as sinister schemers who were responsible for all manner of evil.
It is true that Israel is not innocent. Her rejection of the Messiah, added to a history of other sins, has left her subject to the wrath of God. If we take Scripture at face value, it is clear that God has both prophesied and enacted judgments against Israel because of her rebellion, and those judgments are not yet complete. Yet when God warns his people of impending judgement, it is because he loves them and wants to see them return to Him so that judgement can be turned aside. All the more reason to pray for Israel and stand with her in her hour of coming trouble, that all who love Jesus may see Israel come through to glory, and share in that glory with her as the one people of God.
Well, this has been longer than I intended, and there’s a lot I didn’t say. Feel free to challenge, or contact me with questions or feedback. Israel is not all that matters to Jesus. He calls those who belong to him in every nation to share the good news of Jesus in word and deed with our neighbours. But salvation comes from the Jews (John 4:22), and as a Gentile believer in Jesus, I am so grateful that I have been grafted into the vine of Israel and made a partaker in the covenant promises. I’m also very grateful that Jesus is coming back to reign as King from Jerusalem. I want to be among those who greet him with joy when he appears on the clouds of heaven. My choice to love and pray for Israel is one of the choices (not the only one) that I can make now, so that when he appears I will be able to greet him with joy, with no need to be ashamed (1 John 2:28).
God bless you.