5-2 Preaching To Israel In The Last Days
We should preach especially in the last days, knowing that a witness
must be made to all nations before the Lord comes; and Phil. 4:5 seems
to imply that just because “the Lord is at hand” we should let our “moderation”
[RVmg. “gentleness”] be known unto all men” in the hard world of the last
days. But there is reason to think that we should especially preach to
Israel in the time of the end:
- " I will scatter thee among the heathen, and disperse thee in
the countries, and will consume thy filthiness out of thee" (Ez.
22:15) suggests that as the day of the second coming approaches, Israel
will be progressively purged and move closer and closer towards repentance.
- “The remnant” of Israel will be saved, those who believe in Jesus,
“For the Lord will execute his word upon the earth, finishing it and
cutting it short…as Isaiah hath said before, Except the Lord of sabaoth
had left us a seed [i.e. the remnant] we had become as Sodom” (Rom.
9:28,29 RV). This associates the shortening of the last days for the
sake of the Jewish remnant. Paul is surely expanding the Lord’s own
words, that the days will be shortened “for the elect’s sake”. And that
“elect”, according to Paul’s inspired exposition, are the Jews who repent
and accept Jesus in the last days. Quite simply, the quicker we get
the remnant of Israel to repent, the quicker the Lord will be back.
- There is reason to think that there has always been a “remnant” of
Jews who believe in the true Messiah- Paul’s reasoning in Romans certainly
implies this. If some Jews have always ‘held the truth’- then did we
not ought to be seeking them out? For there aren’t so many within our
community. Only if Heaven above can be measured “then will I cast off
all the seed of Israel” (Jer. 31:37 RV). Clearly not all
Israel have been cast off- only if the Heavens pass away will all the
seed of Israel cease from being “before me”, i.e. in some sort of covenant
with God (Jer. 31:36). Paul surely alludes here when saying that God
has not [totally] cast off His people because there is always “the remnant”.
There will always be a remnant of Israel open to true conversion in
- In similar vein Is. 55:1-6 bids Israel seek the Lord, and then comments
that His word will accomplish what He wants it to achieve; the earth
/ land will respond to the rain of His word which He sends upon it (:11).
This seems to be saying that somehow there will always be response from
Israel to the Gospel. And the following verses hint that this may be
specifically so in the last days, for v. 12 says that the result of
the land’s response to the word will be that “ye shall go out with joy,
and be led forth with peace: the mountains and the hills shall break
forth before you into singing”. Their response to the word in the last
days ushers in the Kingdom.
- When Israel return to the Lord and swear in truth that “the Lord
liveth”, then all the other nations of the world will be blessed in
the coming of the Kingdom (Jer. 4:1,2 RVmg, NIV).
- “I will hiss for them, and gather them; for I have redeemed them”
(Zech. 10:8) is perhaps an example of the ‘prophetic perfect’ tense;
God is going to gather His people so as to redeem them. The regathering
of Israel is therefore related to their redemption. The fact so many
have now been regathered to the land is surely an indication that their
redemption draws nigh; and should we not therefore tell them of the
Gospel which they must accept as part of that redemption?
- Isaiah 40 is a prophecy which essentially concerns the time of the
Lord's second coming. Verses 4 and 6 contain several references to Is.
2:10-12, which concerns this time; v. 5 = Rev. 1:7; 1 Pet. 4:13; v.10
= Rev. 22:12. Before the Kingdom comes, there must be a witness to Israel
of the blessed time that is coming, comforting her (v.2) that her time
of punishment for sin has now ended (this can only really have a latter
day application): " O thou that tellest good tidings to
Zion, get thee up into the high mountain; O thou that
tellest good tidings to Jerusalem, lift up thy voice with strength...say
unto the cities of Judah, Behold your God! behold, the Lord
God will come..." . This is the language of Is. 52:7: " How
beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth
good tidings...that saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth"
. We know these words of Is. 52:7 apply to our preaching, according
to Paul's use of them in Rom. 10; and yet they specifically refer to
the latter day witness to Israel, according to Is. 40. Therefore it
is us who should be making this witness in the last days. Not only Isaiah
40 but also Is. 57:14 teach that a level way must be made amongst the
Jewish people, i.e. the stumbling blocks and ‘valleys’ must be removed
from their path. “Cast ye up, prepare the way, take up the
stumbling block out of the way of my people” is therefore a command
to God’s people to undo the generations of false shepherding which Israel
have experienced: “They have caused them to stumble in their ways from
the ancient paths, to walk in paths, in a way not cast up”
(Jer. 18:15 s.w. “cast…up” in Is. 57:14). Once we have prepared the
way in this sense, then the highway is in place over which the Lord
Jesus will return. This is how vital our work is for the Jewish people.
The whole latter part of Isaiah is full of descriptions of this preaching
to Israel, appealing to them to repent, humble themselves, quit their
materialism and idolatry, and accept the Lord Jesus as Messiah (e.g. 55:1-5).
The preaching of Is. 52:7 is the " report" concerning Christ's
cross of Is. 53:1; the message of " peace" of Is. 52:7 is the
Gospel of peace with God through the sacrifice of Christ (Is. 53:5). And
Isaiah 40 expands this message to include the mortality of man and the
primacy of God's word. All these things are distinctive Bible doctrines;
it is surely we who ought to be making this witness!
The 144,000 are redeemed from all the tribes of Jewry in the last days,
and they wash their robes [through baptism] in the blood of Jesus as a
result of “the great tribulation” (Rev. 7:14 RV) which they pass through.
This great multitude are Jews yet out of every nation and language (Rev.
7:9)- for as Ron Abel shows in Wrested Scriptures, the great
multitude and the 144,000 are to be read as identical. The witness to
them will thus be world-wide. This “great tribulation” is one of many
links discernible between Revelation and the Olivet prophecy. The Lord
had prophesied that the “great tribulation” such as never was for Israel
will occur in the very last days before the return (Mt. 24:21). It is
only for the sake of “the elect” that the days of the great tribulation
are shortened. This elect are surely the 144,000 of Rev. 7- Jewish brethren
in Christ, converted during the very last days. It is this “elect”
which is to be gathered from “the four winds” (Mt. 24:31) by the Angels.
This suggests that they are not just Jews in the land who are converted,
but those throughout the world-wide Diaspora. For the time of Jacob’s
trouble, worse than anything they have ever experienced (including the
holocaust) must affect all Jewry world-wide. And this includes the USA
and other apparently pro-Jewish or tolerant nations.
The shortening of the days for the sake of a remnant is predicted in
Is. 65:8,9: “As the new wine is found in the cluster, and one saith, Destroy
it not, for a blessing is in it: so will I do for my servants’ sakes,
that I may not destroy them all. And I will bring forth a seed [Jesus]
out of Jacob…and mine elect shall inherit it, and my servants shall dwell
there”. The “elect” are paralleled with “my servants”. Because of them,
the minority of faithful fruit, the whole tree is not destroyed. This
is exactly the image of the fig tree parable; because of the beginnings
of spiritual fruit on the tree of Israel, the whole nation will not be
cut off and they will be saved by the coming of the Kingdom. The Lord’s
description of the shortening of the days uses some rather odd past tenses:
“Except the Lord had shortened the days, no flesh would have been saved:
but for the elect’s sake…he shortened the days” (Mk. 13:20 RV). One wonders
if we have here an allusion back to the days of Noah, where again there
was the possibility that no flesh would have been saved. The 150 days
of flooding is perhaps the basis of Rev. 9:10, where Israel is to have
150 days of tribulation at the hands of her Arab enemies in the last days.
The connection between the passages would therefore seem to be teaching
that the final 150 days tribulation will be shortened due to the repentance
of the remnant.
The LXX uses this same word for “tribulation” in several passages pregnant
with latter day significance:
“The day of my [Jacob’s] distress” at the hands of Esau (Gen.
“The anguish of his [Joseph’s] soul” at the hands of his half
brethren and the Ishmaelites (Gen. 42:21)
“I will hide my face from them, and they shall be devoured, and many
evils and troubles shall befall them; so that they will say
in that day, Are not these evils come upon us, because our God is not
among us?” (Dt. 31:17)- a passage in the Song of Moses regarding Israel’s
latter day tribulations.
“Thus saith Hezekiah, This day is a day of trouble, and of
rebuke, and blasphemy” (2 Kings 19:3)”- Sennacherib’s Assyrian invasion
at this time was a clear prototype for the latter day invasion described
in Ezekiel 38 and elsewhere.
“The time of Jacob’s trouble” from which he will be delivered
“There shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since
there was a nation even to that same time: and at that time thy people
shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book”
(Dan. 12:1). This time of trouble is specifically for Israel in the
A Remnant Will Repent
Any ideas of witnessing to Israel must be seen against a significant
backdrop of evidence that there will be a repentance of a remnant in Israel
in the last days. Consider:
- Am. 9:9 says that Israel’s moving to and from amongst the nations
is to be likened to corn being “sifted in a sieve”. It follows that
the longer they move amongst the nations, the more the corn will be
prepared for final ingathering. The longer they suffer, the nearer they
are to repentance. Reflect too that “yet shall not the least grain fall
to the earth”. Does this imply that there has always been a faithful
remnant amongst Israel, throughout all their wanderings amongst the
- Reflect carefully upon James’ justification of Peter’s preaching
to the Gentiles: “To this agree the words of the prophets; as it is
written (in Am. 9:11 LXX)…I will build again the tabernacle of David
which is fallen; and I will build again the ruins thereof, and I will
set it up: that the residue of men may seek after the Lord, and all
the Gentiles, upon whom my name is called” (Acts 15:15-17). He is surely
saying that because the house of David has been rebuilt, therefore it
is now O.K. to help the Gentiles “seek after the Lord”. James perceived
that firstly the Gospel must go to the house of David, the Jews, and
once they had responded, then it would go to the Gentiles. Perhaps the
Lord had the same principle in mind when He bad His preachers to not
[then] preach to Gentiles but instead [at that stage] concentrate on
preaching to the house of Israel (Mt. 10:5). Yet the primary fulfillment
of Amos 9 is clearly in the last days- then, after Israel have been
sifted in the sieve of persecution amongst the Gentiles in the latter
day holocaust, the tabernacle of David will again be ‘rebuilt’, the
Gentiles will turn to the Lord, and then “the plowman shall overtake
the reaper…the mountains shall drop sweet wine…and I will bring again
the captivity of my people Israel…and I will plant them upon their land,
and they shall no more be plucked up out of their land” (Am. 9:13-15).
Surely what we are being told is that there must be a repeat of what
happened in the first century. What happened then, in the repentance
of a minority in Israel, the spread of the Gospel to the world and then
the Lord’s ‘coming’ in AD70…this must all be repeated on a far greater
scale. Thus some in Israel must repent in the last days, after the pattern
of the 1st century. This will bring about the great latter
day gathering in of the Gentiles at the establishment of the Kingdom,
when the whole Gentile world will seek to come up to Zion (Is. 2:3;
19:23; 11:10; 51:4,5; 60:3,11; 66:20; Zech. 8:21).
- Acts 3:19,20 RV suggests that the repentance of Israel is a precondition
for the sending of the Lord Jesus. We hasten the Lord's coming by witnessing
- Ps. 24:9 clearly states that when the gatekeepers of Zion lift up
their heads [to God in truth], then the King of glory will come in.
And the Lord applies these words to His true people of the last days
in Lk. 21:28- they are to likewise lift up their heads [so that] their
redemption will draw nigh, or be hastened.
- The Lord will come to those who have turned from ungodliness in Jacob
(Is. 59:20); although Paul's citation of this is deliberately altered
to teach the truth that the majority of Israel will not turn
before He comes. To them He will come and turn ungodliness away from
them (Rom. 11:26).
- " Unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness
arise" (Mal. 4:2)- He returns to those in Israel who already fear
- " Come, and let us return unto the Lord...after two days will
he revive us: in the third day he will raise us up, and we shall live
in his sight (language of the Lord's resurrection)...his going forth
is prepared as the morning; and he shall come unto us as the rain, as
the latter and former rain unto the land (second coming language)"
(Hos. 6:1-3). This seems to be a description of Israel seeking to repent
in the last days, wishing to associate themselves with the resurrection
of Christ, so that when He returns they might share in it.
- When Jerusalem sees Jesus again, they will be saying: “Blessed is
he that cometh in the name of the Lord” (Mt. 23:39). This would suggest
they are waiting for Him. And these words being taken from the Passover
hallel, it could be that the Lord returns to them at Passover time,
when they traditionally expect Him. Indeed, Jerusalem will not see the
Lord until they say “Blessed is he…”- as if the time of His
return depends upon their ‘seeing’ / perceiving Him beforehand.
- When “all the tribes of the earth / land mourn [in repentance]…then
shall they see the Son of man coming” (Mt. 24:30).
- Dan. 12:3 speaks of “they that be wise...they that turn many to righteousness”.
This group of people are defined in Dan. 12:10 as “the wise” amongst
latter day Israel who are purified and refined in the latter day time
of Jacob’s trouble such as never was for Israel. The very same phrase
occurs in Dan. 11:35, where we read that some of these wise and understanding
ones will perish during “the time of the end...the time appointed” (RV)-
of the three and a half year tribulation? One wonders if the Lord had
these “wise” in mind in His parable of the “wise virgins” of the latter
days. This would all suggest that some amongst Israel will repent and
zealously preach in the last day tribulation, even if it costs them
their lives. And Rev. 11 seems to be saying something similar.
- The shooting forth of the fig tree is given as the special sign that
the Lord will return (Lk. 21:30). This must be understood in the context
of the Lord coming to the fig tree in Mk. 11; He sought for at least
the beginnings of fruit shooting forth, but found only leaves. And therefore
He cursed the fig tree. He evidently saw the shooting forth of the fig
tree as a figure of Israel's acceptance of Him, however immaturely.
Likewise the parable of Lk. 13:6-9 makes the same connection between
fruit on the fig tree and repentance within Israel. " Learn a (the)
parable of the fig tree" (Mt. 24:32) may suggest that we are to
understand the fig tree parable in the light of these other fig tree
parables. And there are several OT links between fruit on the fig and
spiritual fruit in Israel (Mic. 7:1 cp. Mt. 7:15,16; Hos. 9:10; Hab.
3:17,18). When the branch of Israel “is now become tender”, i.e. immediately
this happens, we are to know that the eternal Summer of God’s Kingdom
is nigh (Mt. 24:32 RV). The tenderness of the branch is surely to be
connected with the hard heart of Israel becoming tender through their
acceptance of Jesus and the new covenant. When we see just the beginnings
of Israel’s repentance, through a remnant responding, we are to know
that “he is near, even at the doors” (Mt. 24:33 RV). The idea of Christ
at the door is repeated by the Lord Himself in Rev. 3:19,20- where it
means that Jesus is asking others to repent and turn to Him. Opening
the door means the Lord has granted forgiveness- His being at the door
implies surely that He is asking for repentance. All this evidence steers
us away from the idea that the fig tree became tender through the re-establishment
of the nation of Israel- and towards an understanding that this is all
about Israel’s repentance (1).
- Romans 11 speaks all about the conversion of Israel. My summary of
the teaching there would be something like this: Initially, God’s intention
was that “the Jew first” would be saved, then the Gentiles. But this
didn’t happen. Paul’s mission to the Gentiles ended up more successful
than the mission to the Jews run by the Jerusalem brethren- perhaps
because of their weakness, but this was how it happened. Thus God has
revealed through Romans 11 a kind of re-think in the plan; now, the
success of the mission to the Gentiles would provoke the Jews to conversion.
It could be that the wave of Gentile conversions in the very last days
dry up, and lead to Israel’s conversion, which heralds the time when
all peoples will be saved, or at least “all Israel” both over time and
space, spiritual and natural, will be ultimately saved through the return
of Jesus. Thus the conversion of the Jews, or at least a remnant, heralds
the Lord’s return.
- The Lord says that when the abomination of desolation appears, then
His people should flee Jerusalem; and “let him that readeth understand”
(Mt. 24:15-17). Whatever application this had to the events of the three
and a half years tribulation of AD67-70 was at best a sketchy and incomplete
fulfilment. The tell tale phrase is “let him that readeth understand”.
This is inviting us to be like Daniel in Dan. 9:22-25, who also wanted
to understand the meaning of the “abomination” prophecy. But he was
told that the meaning of that vision about the abomination that desolates
would only be revealed in the very last days, i.e. at the time of its
fulfilment (Dan. 8:17,26; 12:9). The implication of all this is that
there will be believing Jews living in the Jerusalem area at the time
of the setting up of the abomination; and they will have special understanding
of this prophecy which will lead them to flee. The importance of this
for our present study is that this indicates that there will be believers
in Israel just before the Lord returns. They will have “understanding”
and will be motivated by this to respond. “Let him…understand”
is paralleled with “let him that is on the housetop [flee immediately]…let
him that is in the field not return”. Understanding leads to action-
both then and now.
Would it be going too far to suggest that our initial preaching to Jews
could be the Elijah ministry to Israel? For John “was Elijah” without
being Elijah personally. What about, therefore, some specific campaigns
aimed at the Jewish communities in England, Argentina, Russia, South Africa
and especially the USA? In any case, whatever our view of ‘Elijah’, surely
none can deny that the pattern of the first century brethren was always
“to the Jew first” (i.e., most importantly). Even when they rejected the
message and Paul turned to the Gentiles, he still preached “to the Jew
first” despite being the apostle to the Gentiles. So, who could really
pour cold water on a specific outreach to the Jews? We can all ‘go for
it’ with the Jewish folk in our own nation or community.
Rev. 8:3-5 as well as Rev. 11:6 certainly allude to Elijah as a pattern
for our latter day witnessing. Much incense of latter day prayer is added
to the existing incense, resulting in fire being brought down on earth
after the pattern of Elijah (Rev. 8:3-5 RV). The especially intense prayers
of the latter day remnant are added to the cumulative prayers of former
generations, and result in the second coming and the beginning of the
final judgments. We have commented in The Last days upon the
Biblical insistence upon intense prayer in the last days, and that this
is a precondition for the second coming.
In the ex-USSR, roughly 1 in 100 people are Jewish. Amongst those
we have baptized there in the last 10 years, roughly 1 in 10 were Jewish.
(1) For more on this see The Last
Days chapter 14.