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Communion Presbyterian Church ARP

Jewish Eschatological Hope

We have always lived in interesting times.  If you have been alive over the last 100 years, I’m sure you would have wondered if the world was going to end:  World Wars, Cold Wars, Religious wars, Culture Wars, Political infighting, terrorism, natural disasters, disease, famine, and disco.

Even beyond our last century, people have always speculated, “Is this going to be the end of the world as we know it?”  “Have we finally come to the day of destruction?”

For cultures dominated by religion, it is not uncommon to consult prophecies of future events and to believe in a “Final Day” when everything ends – when the calendar runs out.  Certainly, those raised in a Christian context have had their share of candidates for the Anti-Christ, and for the Mark of the Beast, and for the cataclysmic end of the world via nuclear conflagration.

Why would Christians think this way?  We get it from the Bible!  In the opening pages of the Bible we read of a perfect estate inhabited by the crown of God’s creation who were given a calling:  Love and obey God as His representatives upon the earth, take dominion over every creature in this sphere.

Well, a creature less noble than they, convinced them to reject the terms of their contract with God, and as a result, the harmonious communion that was enjoyed was completely lost forever.  It was a tragic fall from grace that brought about frustrating burdens, trials, pain, weakness, enmity, jealousy, blood, sweat, and tears.  But in the midst of God’s condemnation and curses upon them for their first failure, there also came a promise of a future hope – a descendant of the first family would come to destroy the first frustrator. 

So in Genesis, at that immediate point of “What will happen to us now?” God promises a future redeemer to come to settle the score and to make things right again.  The first book of the Bible teaches us to look forward to a final resolution.  Therefore a foundational doctrine of the Jewish faith is the conviction that God is going to do something to fix all that is wrong.

This Jewish conviction, of a future day when God would come to settle the score with Deceivers and redeem true Jews is documented throughout the entire Old Testament!  In fact it was such a reality to the Jews, they often thought it was happening in their day as well.

Think of all the “End Times” episodes of the Old Testament:  The Flood of Noah ranks up there!  The Israelites slaving in Egypt with a Pharaoh killing their sons, all the battles in the books of Judges, and Samuels, and Kings, and Chronicles –even the conflict with Goliath as the giant challenges Saul’s army (He had to be the Anti-Jehovah).  The destruction and exile of Israel by Assyria, the same of Judah by Babylon, the story of Queen Esther, and the domination of the Meads, Persians, Greeks, and Romans over the land of Israel – there were plenty of opportunities for the Jewish people to believe that the end of time had come in their day – and their prophets wrote about a definite end that would come – but the final end would truly be FINAL with a grand summation of all things and the redemption of all that was frustrated, accompanied with a renewal of all nature and spiritual devotions.

Now since the OT is thick with these passages, especially the prophets, I wanted to isolate a representative passage that affirmed 4 clear convictions of the Jewish Eschatological hope.

1. Days of trial would come!  Why?  For a few reasons…

          a- To judge unfaithful Israel for their disobedience – God would often marshal oppressive armies to surround and discipline rebellious Israel for her lack of spiritual devotion and her covenant identity with God.  It was part of God’s winnowing of the unfaithful in order to preserve the faithful.

b- Therefore, the second aspect of days of trial was to make sure that those who truly believed in God would remain truly dependent upon Him.  During the Day of trial, those who are faithful do not give up on the truth because it is too hard; they don’t give up on their convictions so that they might “blend in” with society; they don’t give in in order to escape persecution – it is this refining work of God that He prepares His faithful people for the glory of His appearing.

2. God would intervene, and expectedly in the person of “The Messiah” the “anointed one.”

          a- He would be either a conquering King or persuasive prophet, or some miraculous manifestation, whomever it may be, the Jews knew that some PERSON, some SEED of the woman, had to appear to put down evil FINALLY and completely – and restore the righteous once again.  The appearing of this Anointed One would be accompanied with the dual duty of judgment for some and salvation for others.

          b- SO the appearing of this person would bring about the DAY OF THE LORD, and he would bring judgment upon all people.  For those who were not faithful to God, the arrival of this person would be destruction and darkness.  For those who were faithful, it would be the rising sun of healing and wholeness since those who were most faithful would undoubtedly have come under and through the most persecution and would require complete spiritual and physical redemption.

          c- Third aspect of the Anointed one was his ability to gather the world to a central location – again for two purposes  1. To gather all of God’s people who had been scattered across the globe to a place where they would rejoice in his presence and 2. To gather all the forces of evil into one place as they THOUGHT they were about to destroy God’s elect; but in his gathering and appearing, there will be a clear and decisive judgment for those who possess God’s favor versus those who will receive His wrath.  His appearing will preserve his righteous ones as he destroys the wicked from the face of the earth.

3.  Beyond (or after) this DAY OF THE LORD would be the arrival of a new kingdom reality where Israel inherits all the blessings of God and the nations benefit as a result.  When the Jewish future hope is expressed in the Old Testament, it is always envisioned as a total reconstruction of the physical and spiritual environment of Israel.  New hearts are ready to occupy a physical reality that would burst forth with physical blessing and abundance – IT WOULD NOT BE, some whispy, cloud like, existence!  It would be feasting and vegetation and eating and the fullness of bodily senses.

4. This future, eternal dwelling, would be complete because of the literal the presence of God would be among His people – and ALL the nations.  God himself will be present in this future reality, every enemy of mankind, including war, disease, and death – would be removed, and a new order of eternity would reign, and this would be the fullness of the defeat of the deceiver with a return to paradise lost.

ESV Isaiah 25:1 O LORD, you are my God; I will exalt you; I will praise your name, for you have done wonderful things, plans formed of old, faithful and sure. 2 For you have made the city a heap, the fortified city a ruin; the foreigners' palace is a city no more; it will never be rebuilt. 3 Therefore strong peoples will glorify you; cities of ruthless nations will fear you. 4 For you have been a stronghold to the poor, a stronghold to the needy in his distress, a shelter from the storm and a shade from the heat; for the breath of the ruthless is like a storm against a wall, 5 like heat in a dry place. You subdue the noise of the foreigners; as heat by the shade of a cloud, so the song of the ruthless is put down. 6 On this mountain the LORD of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine, of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined. 7 And he will swallow up on this mountain the covering that is cast over all peoples, the veil that is spread over all nations. 8 He will swallow up death forever; and the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth, for the LORD has spoken. 9 It will be said on that day, "Behold, this is our God; we have waited for him, that he might save us. This is the LORD; we have waited for him; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation."

?? - Why bring up this Jewish perspective of the last days?  Well, for the majority of Christian history, this was also the prevailing view of the way the church has viewed the last days – but with a twist…

With the first advent of Christ, we see a complete fulfillment of these Jewish categories, but fulfilled in the most important way, Christ came for the distressed and persecuted of Israel, He brought with him both judgment of the prideful and salvation for the humble, At the cross he gathers everyone to either judgment or salvation, and he has established his kingdom on earth where his presence is known by the power and person of the Holy Spirit.  So as Christians, we have what theologians call, a “realized eschatology.”  All of the Jewish hopes have been fulfilled in Christ in the most important aspect, our spiritual redemption.

HOWEVER, there IS more to the story, and more to our future!!  The problem is, over the last century or so, competing views to the Christian perception of the physical return of Jesus Christ has created confusion for many in the church – especially about what we should expect for the future.  And I’m here to advocate in this first lesson of our mini-series THE view that has already been outlined in the Old Testament – as a recapitulation for the Church – or whom I would call along with St. Paul, the Israel of God.

Now that Christ has provided for the spiritual renewal of His people, the future physical renewal of all things is yet to come – and a foundational conviction for us is to once again embrace the convictions of the Old Testament promises for the awaited Messiah while still seeing them applied For the Second Coming of Christ.

Jesus, I think tried to do this with his teaching that we will address in more detail in the next few weeks.  But it had to be the Jewish Eschatological hope that was the impetus for the last question the disciples asked Jesus in Acts 1:6 .., "Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?"

After everything that Jesus had been through, demonstrating that he was the Messiah – what would the logical question be?  Is it time for the eternal hope to be manifest upon the earth?

We’ll look at how Jesus answers this question and the new revelation that the Apostles share for the church as we go forward.

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