Dr. Thomas McCall, the Senior Theologian of our ministry, has written many articles for the Levitt Letter. He holds a Th.M. in Old Testament studies and a Th.D. in Semitic languages and Old Testament. He has served as Zola’s co-author, mentor, pastor, and friend for nearly 30 years.
This article appeared originally in the February 2003 Levitt Letter.
A few days before the Lord Jesus Christ died, and just before He began what is known as the Olivet Discourse, He issued this stern warning to His beloved capital city of Jerusalem, the city of the Great King:
“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)
It was a terrible prophecy, indicating that Jesus was about to leave Jerusalem and would be gone for a tragic period of time. His beloved city and Chosen People would not behold the face of their Messiah all during the time of His absence and it would be a woeful epoch of existence for them throughout the age of awful separation. What caused this dreadful alienation? The Lord Himself describes the cause in the previous sentence:
“Verily I say unto you, All these things shall come upon this generation. O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!” (Matthew 23:36–37)
While the remnant of Israel had received Him by the thousands, and many Jewish people acknowledged Him as Savior and Messiah, the leadership and the nation as a whole were either ignoring Him or actively trying to get rid of Him. They did not receive Him and considered Him to be a madman at best, and a deceiver and blasphemer at worst. Christ said that He wanted to gather the people as a hen gatheres her chickens under her wings, but they steadfastly refused to avail themselves of His offer!
The offer of the Messianic Kingdom had come to the nation of Israel and the nation of Israel effectively rejected the King and His Kingdom. This is what caused the tragic departure of the King, which we now know has lasted almost 2,000 years! This was no surprise to the Lord, as He had predicted it through His prophets in the Old Testament:
“Who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the LORD revealed? He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.” (Isaiah 53:1,3)
“For the children of Israel shall abide many days without a king, and without a prince, and without a sacrifice, and without an image, and without an ephod, and without teraphim.” (Hosea 3:4)
These and many other Scriptures indicate that Israel nationally would not receive the Messiah, and there would be devastating consequences as a result. Again, this does not refer to the remnant of Jewish people who would receive Christ throughout history and are doing so today. There is a distinct difference between the faithful remnant and the nation as a whole. At any rate, the Messiah has been sadly separated from Israel for all these centuries of the Diaspora, persecution and the Holocaust.
All of this is the negative way of understanding the Lord’s prophecy before He departed. However, there is a positive way of looking at it as well. Jesus said Jerusalem would not see Him until they say, “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.” That means that when Israel does welcome Him as King and Savior, they will see Him again.
Thus to Israel has been committed the awesome privilege and responsibility of inviting Christ to return. No one else can do this. The Church, composed of believing Jews and Gentiles, is eagerly awaiting the Rapture, which is the Church’s Blessed Hope, but the Church has no power to bring the Lord back. He will come, “as a thief in the night,” at His own time to take the Church to Heaven, ushering in the Tribulation. The nations of the world also have no power to bring Christ back, either.
It is only the nation Israel that has the authority to invite Jesus back to the earth to establish His Messianic Kingdom. How can one nation have such power? This should not surprise us believers in the Church age. After all, the Gospel of John says that we have been given the power to become the sons of God:
“But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name.” (John 1:12)
If the Lord gives us individuals who believe in the Lord Jesus the power to become the sons of God, surely He could give His Chosen People the authority to invite King Messiah back to reign from Jerusalem. However, is the leadership and the nation ready to do this? Sadly, no. While there are many individual Jews in Israel and around the world who believe in Christ today, the vast majority do not. They range in belief everywhere from strong Orthodox or Hassidic convictions to agnostic or even atheistic attitudes, but the majority agree at this point that Jesus is not the Messiah promised by Moses and the prophets.
What would it take for Israel to come to believe in Christ as a nation? Regrettably, it will take the awesome time of the Tribulation, with all of its judgments falling from Heaven, and its persecution of the Jewish people by the Antichrist. Through the testimony of the 144,000 Jewish evangelists and the Two Witnesses, by the end of the Tribulation Israel will be able, willing and eager to receive their long-lost Yeshua as Messiah:
“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 him 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.” (Zechariah 12:10)
“And his feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east.” (Zechariah 14:4)
When Israel repents and believes in the One whom they have pierced, the Lord Jesus Christ will return to the very place, the Mount of Olives, where He bade Jerusalem farewell so many centuries ago. What an awesome power the Lord has given His Chosen People.