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Harry Whittaker
The Time Of The End

2) The Repentance Of Israel


The re-gathering of Israel to the Land of their Fathers as a sign that the Last Days are upon us is a fact familiar enough to all who read these words. It is familiar both in Holy Scripture and in modern politics. The thing is past argument. Why cannot others see it as plainly as we can?

And the future of Israel is just as plain. They will come through the chapter of tribulation which yet awaits them, saved by the advent of the Messiah whom they have refused for many centuries; they will then acknowledge him, yielding humble submission, and thus will find themselves exalted to be the head of the nations, and not the tail; the glorious Kingdom of God now brought in will be essentially a Kingdom of Israel, the splendour and power of the Davidic era raised to the nth degree.

It is the purpose of this chapter to suggest that, whilst the fore-going summary is entirely correct, the emphasis is wrong. A subtle distortion has crept in which has resulted in serious loss of perspective.

The key factor is the repentance of Israel. All our thinking regarding this vital element in the divine purpose has been dominated by the familiar passage in Zechariah 12: 10:
“And I will pour upon the house of David and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications: and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn.”

An inference, not wholly justified, has been readily made that the inevitable conversion of Israel to faith in Christ will follow instantaneously when they set eyes on Jesus. The stigmata of his sufferings, inflicted by their own race and now displayed before them, will bring full conviction of their national error and sin, and they will prostrate themselves in wretchedness before him.

Such a reading of the passage is weak in two points. Misled by the familiar words of the King James Version, readers have assumed that this transformation in stony-hearted Israel is brought about by the actual evidence of their senses, as was the conversion of hard-headed Thomas: “they shall look upon me... and they shall mourn.” But the Hebrew text is not so explicit. The expression means literally: “they shall look unto me,” and it would be unwise to press the more familiar meaning. The same is also true of the New Testament version of these words in John 19: 37. Incidentally, it is well to be clear also that the allusion in John is not to the piercing by crucifixion but by the spear-thrust of a Roman soldier: yet John’s intention is that this shall be seen as brought about by Jewish malice: “him whom they pierced.”

A further difficulty (to the present writer, though he is aware that many take this in their stride) is the astonishing paradox of a great national mourning in the very moment of redemption and triumph (see, by all means, Zechariah 12: 11-14).

It is well that the fact should be recognized that this picture of a national repentance of Israel at sight of their crucified Messiah stands almost alone. Revelation 1:7 is nearly the only parallel passage:

“Behold, he cometh with clouds: and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him: and all the kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him. Even so, Amen.”

Ezekiel 36: 24-28 and 37: 23 should perhaps be read in harmony with this idea, but this cannot be taken for certain. Romans 11: 26 is fairly explicit on this:

And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob.

Yet even here the original text in Isaiah 59: 20 is markedly different in its implications, suggesting that the repentance of Israel must come before the manifestation of the Redeemer:
And the Redeemer shall come to Zion, and unto them that turn from transgression in Jacob, saith the Lord.

This repentance of Israel is a frequent theme of the prophecies concerning the Last Days. The Bible passages concerning it are numerous and explicit. It would appear to be a facet of the prophetic Scriptures, which has suffered from unwarranted neglect. Here is a block of four of these passages.

  1. “For I say unto you, Ye shall not see me henceforth, till ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord” (Matthew 23: 39).
  2. “If they shall confess their iniquity, and the iniquity of their fathers, with their trespass which they have trespassed against me, and that also they have walked contrary unto me; and that I also have walked contrary unto them, and have brought them into the land of their enemies; if then their uncircumcised hearts be humbled, and they then accept of the punishment of their iniquity: then will I remember my covenant with Jacob, and also my covenant with Abraham will I remember; and I will remember the land” (Leviticus 26: 40-42).
  3. “And it shall come to pass, when all these things are come upon thee, the blessing and the curse, which I have set before thee, and thou shalt call them to mind among all the nations, whither the Lord thy God hath driven thee, and shalt return unto the Lord thy God, and shalt obey his voice according to all that I command thee this day, thou and thy children, with all thine heart, and with all thy soul; that then the Lord thy God will turn thy captivity, and have compassion upon thee, and will return, and gather thee from all the nations whither the Lord thy God hath scattered thee” (Deuteronomy 30: 1-3).
  4. “For if the casting away of them be the reconciling of the world, what shall the receiving of them be, but life from the dead?” (Romans 11: 15).
These passages call for only brief comment. Their main idea — that the Chosen Race must shew a change of heart before its final redemption can take place — seems to be carried on surface.

  1. For many many years the faithful remnant among the Gentiles have said: “Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.” But not so Israel. Nor at the moment is there any clear sign of such conversion. Nevertheless the force of the word “until” here is inescapable.
  2. Here the full realization of the covenant promises to the Fathers is made explicitly dependent on the contrite heart of the nation.
  3. In the passage from Deuteronomy 30 the word “when” is very forceful. So also is the context in verses 11-14—verses which Paul expounds in Romans 10 with reference to the gospel of faith ignored by self-sufficient Israel.
  4. Romans 11:15 is almost like a proportion sum in arithmetic. Paraphrased the words mean this: Just as Israel’s rejection of the gospel has led to their casting off by God, so also their repentance will lead on to the Kingdom of God and the resurrection from the dead.
With such Scriptures as these the case surely stands proven. Nevertheless for the benefit of those who would make doubly sure, another block of four passages may not be amiss:

  1. “I will go and return to my place till they acknowledge their offence, and seek my face. In their affliction they will seek me early (earnestly), saying, Come, and let us return unto the Lord: for he hath torn, and he will heal us; he hath smitten, and he will bind us up. After two days will he revive us, in the third day he will raise us up, and we shall live in his sight” (Hosea 5:15-6:2; and see v. 3 also). It is almost as though the nation must re-enact in its own experience the suffering and glory of the one whom they pierced.
  2. The great Zechariah prophesy concerning Joshua-Jesus, “the man whose name is the Branch” who is to build the temple of the Lord and sit and rule as a priest upon his throne, concludes with these words: “And this shall come to pass, if ye will diligently obey the voice of the Lord your God” (Zechariah 6: 15).
  3. The margin of the Revised Version correctly re-shapes Jeremiah 4:1, 2 to read thus: "If thou wilt put away thine abominations out of my sight, and wilt not wander, and wilt swear, The Lord liveth, in truth, in judgement and in righteousness; then the nations shall bless themselves in him, and in him shall they glory — which surely means that the coming in of God’s Kingdom depends on Israel turning to Him in repentance."
  4. Peter’s speech to the Jews of Jerusalem (Acts 3) carries the same exhortation. In the Greek text the point is made explicitly, but is less obvious in the Authorised Version: “Repent ye therefore”—that three results may follow:
    1. “that your sins may be blotted out;”
    2. “that there may come seasons of refreshing from the presence of the
    3. “and that he may send Jesus Christ which before was preached unto you” (Acts 3: 19, 20).
Omitting (1) and (2) for the moment, Peter’s appeal runs thus: “Repent ye therefore ...that he may send Jesus Christ.” The plain implication here is that, in the inscrutable purposes of God, the coming of Messiah’s Kingdom somehow has the repentance of Messiah’s people as a necessary pre-requisite. Perhaps this is the point, easily over-looked, of the familiar fig-tree parable: “When her branch is now become tender” may well be a prophecy of stony Jewish hearts becoming hearts of flesh. In other words, the intention of the parable could be spiritual rather than political in which case this long foretold revival of the “fig-tree” has not yet begun!

FURTHER EVIDENCE

The catalogue of prophetic Scriptures, which have to do with this theme, is by no means exhausted. For the benefit of those who may care to investigate further, the following are added:

  1. Isaiah 17: 6-8.
  2. Psalm 81: 13,14.
  3. Jeremiah3: 14-I8.
  4. Jeremiah 29: 12-14.
  5. Deuteronomy 4: 27-31.
  6. Amos 5: 15.
  7. I5. 1 Kings 8: 47-49.
  8. Genesis 18: 19.
  9. Zechariah 13: 9.
  10. Joel 2: 12-20.
  11. Ezekiel 20: 42-44.
The last of these is especially interesting as an explicit prophecy that the return to the Land is to precede the change of heart, which is the recurring theme of so many prophetic testimonies.

One caution is necessary here. It would be a mistake to assume that the Scriptures cited require that there be a wholesale conversion of the nation. So far as can be seen, there is nothing to indicate such a conclusion. Rather is it to be expected (on the basis of Ezekiel 20: 42-44 and other passages to be cited
later) that Operation Fig-Tree — a divine surgical operation (as will be seen by and by) — will concern the Jews in the Land of Israel. The Dispersion may go almost completely unaffected by it. But of this one cannot be sure.

HOW WILL IT HAPPEN?

A further question inevitably arises here: If the Jews in Israel are to undergo such a change before the irresistible conviction which the manifestation of their Messiah is sure to bring sooner or later (and sooner rather than later), then what or who is the power that will bring it about?

There are those who have dreamed of big-scale Christadelphian campaigns in Israel. “Why should not such a project achieve success?” it is asked; “our message would not be blocked by insuperable Jewish prejudices against an orthodox Trinity. ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is One’ is our enthusiasm as well as theirs. And would not our appeal be entirely to their Law and Prophets? Who is more qualified than we to open the message of Jewish Scriptures to Jewish ignorance? More than this, the Jews are prejudiced in our favour. Of all believers in Jesus, none stand higher in Jewish regard than do Christadelphians. And what more fitting than that Israel after the flesh be brought to Christ through the ministrations of Israel after the Spirit?”

Expressed in these terms the thesis is an alluring one, and almost convincing. But, alas, it overlooks a vital fact, which completely outweighs all other considerations.

And that is the stark truth that Jesus failed to convert Israel, and Peter and Paul failed! Then what hope that a team of twentieth century Christadelphians might succeed? It is not for nothing that the Bible’s summary assessment of the Chosen Race is this: “children in whom is no faith”!

THE STATE OE ISRAEL DESTROYED

So far as one can discover, Israel’s change of mind will be brought about by a combination of two divinely controlled factors.

The first of these will be the crash in ruin of the State of Israel. For generations now it has been the confident assumption of all our expositors that this will be attempted by the Northern Invader but will fail at the outset because of the divine destruction, which will be poured out in the last great vindication of the authority of God against the puny might of man.

There are certain unresolved difficulties inherent in this view. Whereas the familiar Ezekiel 38 seems to imply an intention —“Thou shalt think an evil thought, and thou shalt say ...” — and an attempt “Thou shalt fall upon the mountains of Israel”— with Jerusalem as an island of safety in a Land swiftly overrun — “in mount Zion and in Jerusalem shall be deliverance,” as in the days of Hezekiah and his Assyrian enemy — other prophecies (Zechariah 14: 2; Ezekiel 36: 2, 3) imply a lengthy occupation of the Land, with a time of grievous affliction for the Jews and a settled occupation of the Land by their enemies.[1]

The effect of such an experience on modern Jewry will be utterly devastating. It needs little exercise of the imagination to picture Jewish reaction to such a cataclysm. A generation, which was beginning to congratulate itself on its steady assimilation into Gentiledom, came suddenly under the full fury of Hitler’s persecution. Millions of them died in misery. Many others fled to the Land of their Fathers. There, surrounded by Arab squalor and backwardness, they fashioned in record time a new state of Israel, a model to all the smaller nations of the world in its drive, efficiency and cocky self-assurance. When Arab attempts were made to wipe the Jews off the map of the Near East, they were defeated with a dedicated swiftness, which made the world marvel.


Today, so far as Arab relationships go, the Jews continue supremely confident. They have beaten the Arabs three times and would positively welcome an opportunity to do so again. Yet all the Biblical indications are that in the next clash between Jews and Arabs, the pride of Israel will be humbled.

The emphasis in the prophets on this sensational development in Israel’s history is itself sensational. Yet in our traditional enthusiasm for searching out the truth of Bible prophecy it has suffered from unwarranted neglect. All eyes have been on Ezekiel 38 (which may well have its fulfilment after the coming of the Lord, and not before: So Dr. Thomas in Eureka Vol. 2 p. 557, 558. Vol. 3 p. 405, 602, 611), with only the most cursory of glances thrown in the direction of other Scriptures equally forthright and exciting — and certainly more numerous.

Here is another block of four to illustrate the truth of what has just been written:

  1. Psalm 83 presents a picture of Israel in dire straits, beset by enemies who “have taken crafty counsel against thy people” saying: “Come, and let us cut them off from being a nation; that the name of Israel may be no more in remembrance.” So successful is this evil scheme that God’s faithful remnant are driven to appeal to Him for aid: “Keep not thou silence, O God: hold not thy peace, and be not still, O God.” The list of confederate enemies is given: “the tabernacles of Edom, and the Ishmaelites; Moab, and the Hagarenes; Gebal, and Ammon, and Amalek; the Philistines with the inhabitants of Tyre; Asshur also is joined with them: they have holpen the children of Lot.” Almost all, without exception, occupy what is now Arab territory. This fact is emphasized by allusions to Arab oppressions in ancient days: “Do unto them as unto the Midianites — Sisera and Jabin...Make their nobles like Oreb and Zeeb, Zeba and Zalmunna.” Lest it should be thought that this psalm is of purely historic reference and is here being blithely misapplied, its climax should be noted: “Let them be put to shame, and perish: that men may know that thou, whose name is Jehovah, art the most high over all the earth.”
If it stood entirely alone, this Scripture would be impressive in its relevance to the modern Jew-Arab problem, but in fact the theme recurs constantly in the prophets.

  1. The prophecy of Obadiah against the Edomites (Arabs) ends in this explicit fashion: ‘‘Saviours[2] shall come up on mount Zion to judge the mount of Esau; and the kingdom shall be the Lord’s” (cited in Revelation 11: 15). The body of this short oracle includes these details: “For thy violence against thy brother Jacob shame shall cover thee, and thou shalt be cut off for ever...Thou shouldest not have entered into the gate of my people in the day of their calamity...nor have laid hands on their substance in the day of their calamity...For the day of the Lord is near upon all nations: as thou hast done, it shall be done unto thee ... as ye have drunk upon my holy mountain, so shall all the nations drink continually ... and they shall be as though they had not been. But upon mount Zion shall be deliverance, and there shall be holiness ... And the house of Jacob shall be a fire ... and the house of Esau for stubble.”
Whatever references this prophecy may have had in ancient days; there is every reason in such phraseology for believing that its true and bigger fulfilment is still to come.

  1. Ezekiel 35, 36 is a long and powerful prophecy of judgement concerning Edom,8[3] “because thou hast had a perpetual hatred, and hast shed the blood of the children of Israel by the force of the sword in the time of their calamity, in the time of the iniquity of the end.” The theme is one of divine retribution in the Last Days. “Because thou hast said, These two nations and these two countries (i.e. the territories of both Jew and Arab) shall be mine, and we will possess it; whereas the Lord was there: therefore, as I live, saith the Lord, ... I will make myself known among them, when I have judged thee. And thou shalt know that I am the Lord ... When the whole earth rejoiceth, I will make thee desolate. As thou didst rejoice over the inheritance of the house of Israel, because it was desolate, so will I do unto thee” (35: 5, 10, 11, 14, 15).
Chapter 36 continues in the same strain. The inveterate Edomite enemy is pictured as gloating over securing possession of “the ancient high places” and the mountains of Israel. The balance is set right by an alluring contrast — Israel re-settled, blessed, and prosperous in their rightful heritage. One feature of this description is especially interesting. The recent conflict with Edom is to be the last oppression of their age-long experience: “Because they say unto you, Thou land (of Israel) devourest up men, and hast bereaved the nation; therefore thou shalt devour men no more, neither bereave the nation any more, saith the Lord God. Neither will I cause men to hear in thee the shame of the heathen any more, neither shalt thou hear the reproach of the peoples any more, neither shalt thou cause thy nations to fall any more, saith the Lord God” (36: 13-15).

  1. Joel’s great prophecy of the Last Days has this unexpected detail in its climacteric description of the new Kingdom: “Egypt shall be a desolation, and Edom shall be a desolate wilderness, for the violence against the children of Israel, because they have shed innocent blood in their land” (Joel: 3: 19). There is little point in this expression of divine wrath except it be as retribution for what has just lately been perpetrated against the Jews. Indeed if these words are not to be referred to some oppression in the Land in the Last Days which has not yet taken place, their application must be sought more than two thousand years earlier.
Readers are now in something of a position to judge whether or not there is good reason to expect a fourth Jew-Arab conflict in the near future in which the brash self-confident swagger of the modern Israeli is reduced to abject terror as he is called upon to face the worst chapter in all his long and bitter history.

ARAB HATRED

If indeed this comes to pass, the condition of mind of the Jews can well be imagined. Their fine new state of Israel, so efficiently built by Jewish brains, sweat and resolution is rubbed right off the map as though there had never been even a single kibbutz. Their vindictive enemies vent upon them all the pent-up jealousy, exasperation and hatred which hitherto has found expression only in futile vituperation and Fatah bomb explosions. The foulest horrors of occupation and slavery multiply in the Holy Land as with fiendish glee Arab out-Hitlers Hitler. And Jewish wails and groans go out to distant lands in vain. For hard political reasons nations like America and perfidious Albion find it advisable to shake their heads sadly—and do nothing. Little Israel is expendable, especially if there is the threat of nuclear escalation.

In such an extreme and desperate situation what aid these poor sons of Jacob who, like their notable forefather, have ever been slow to learn the futility of self-dependence and the wisdom of leaning upon Jehovah can seek? In all their history before God and men, they have believed in justification by their own works. Always they have had plenty of confidence in their own powers and little in the God of their fathers. But here, at last, is the final demonstration of the folly of their historic philosophy. Now they are without a friend in all the world. No one will lift a finger to help them—and this at a time when they suffer as never before.

In such circumstances—and only in such circumstances—will these hearts of stone show any sign of yielding to the appeal of heaven. Here in their bitter disappointment, and their most horrific suffering of all time, is the grace of their God most tangibly evident as He forces them to their knees in supplication and faith for the aid and solace which can come, as they now at last realize, from no other.

ELIJAH THE PROPHET

This repentance of Israel, so vital to the furtherance of the divine purpose and so patiently awaited over long generations, will now be helped forward in this crucial hour of their need by divine help of a sort they neither expect nor implore — the appearance of a prophet of repentance!

“Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord: and he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers ...” (Malachi 4: 5, 6).

John the Baptist, an Elijah-like prophet, was sent to bring Israel to repentance and failed (Matthew 11: 14 RVm and 12: 43-45). Now the prophecy will have its second, true, fulfilment. Whether this time it will be Elijah in person, or John the Baptist in person or, as is most likely, some other prophet also in the character of Elijah, is of little consequence. This prophet of the Lord will be manifested just when Israel needs him most and for the first time in milleniums is minded to heed a call to godliness.

What do the words of Malachi mean? It is difficult to be sure, but perhaps this Elijah will turn the hearts of the fathers to be like those of children, for no man can achieve true repentance except by such a change — ”Except ye become as little children”, said Jesus. And the hearts of the children — this last generation of natural Israel — he will turn to their Fathers (Abraham, Isaac and Jacob) that they might learn to emulate their faith.

HOW LONG?

The guess may be hazarded — if indeed it is a guess — that this ministry of “Elijah” will continue through a period of three and a half years of Jewish wretchedness. Jesus emphasized that the vital part of the first Elijah ministry was three and a half years (Luke 4: 25). This fact is not traceable in Old Testament history. Did Jesus get it by direct guidance of the Holy Spirit, or did he, with divine insight into Scripture, infer it from the mysterious prophetic periods of Daniel? — the time, times, and dividing of time which are to bring in Messiah’s kingdom. And are these times the “times of the Gentiles” which the Lord spoke about with such ill-omen and fair promise in his prophecy on Olivet?

Whether these tentative piecing together of intriguing Scriptures follow the divine pattern and programme is a thing to be learned through personal experience before many years are past. But there does seem to be good ground for believing that (a) there will be a repentance of Israel, at least in part, before the coming of the Lord; (b) Israel will face complete defeat at the hands of the Arabs (aided, doubtless, by more formidable allies) and will suffer as never before — “the time of Jacob’s trouble”; (c) the promised Elijah prophet will lead the people back to God; (d) when they say: “Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord,” then he will come.



[1] See also chapters 5, 7,13; and “The Last Days” chapter 8.
[2] An intensive plural for “the Messiah”?
[3] Some are inclined to question reference of Edom prophecies to the Arabs. Who else can they apply to? Dr. Thomas’s principle, letting geography, and not national character, settle the issue, is decisive. Is there any Biblical ground whatever for the strange idea, recently published, that the Edom prophecies refer to Russia?

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