By Bryan Fischer
Follow me on Twitter: @BryanJFischer, on Facebook at “Focal Point”
In my understanding of New Testament eschatology, there is just one prophecy which has yet to be fulfilled before the return of Jesus Christ. (I understand all the prophecies of Matthew 24 save one to have been fulfilled by 70 AD. Exploring that subject is a matter for another day.)
The lone remaining prophecy which must be fulfilled before Christ returns again is found in Romans 11:25-32, where Paul, seeing into the future, speaks of a certain and massive spiritual awakening among the Jewish people.
According to the apostle, a "partial hardening" came upon the Jews, so that in God's inscrutable ways the gospel would deflect off their hardness and be redirected to the Gentile world.
When "the fullness of the Gentiles has come in," the apostle says, then "all Israel will be saved" (Romans 11:25-26). The implication is that when God's harvest among the Gentiles is complete, when the full number of Gentiles have come to faith in Christ, he will remove the callus from the hearts of the Jews and they will turn en masse to Christ.
That Israel has a spiritual awakening in its future is certain, despite what even some evangelical theologians say. For, as Paul states flatly, "the gifts and calling of God (on Israel) are irrevocable" (Romans 11:29). The Jews have never stopped being the chosen people of God and his plans for them are not yet complete.
In light of this, CNN published a fascinating article late last week, "Jews reclaim Jesus as one of their own."
The thrust of the piece is that Jews, who have historically ignored and rejected Jesus, are now seeking to "understand him and claim him as one of their own."
For instance, Amy-Jill Levine, co-editor of the recently released "Jewish Annotated New Testament," says, "In reading the New Testament, I am often inspired, I am intrigued. I actually find myself becoming a better Jew because I become better informed about my own history."
And Rabbi Shmuley Boteach argues in his own new book, "Kosher Jesus," that "Jews have much to learn from Jesus - and from Christianity as a whole - without accepting Jesus' divinity. There are many reasons for accepting Jesus as a man of great wisdom, beautiful ethical teachings, and profound Jewish patriotism."
Boteach even goes so far as to say that Jesus was "a patriot of our people," and that "Jews will gain much from re-embracing him as a hero." Whoa.
Even more fascinating is that the motive for this Jewish embrace of Jesus is precisely the motive the apostle indicated would trigger this final awakening: jealousy.
Says Paul, in Romans 11:11, "[T]hrough their trespass salvation has come to the Gentiles, so as to make Israel jealous." He adds a bit later, "I magnify my ministry in order somehow to make my fellow Jews jealous and thus save some of them" (Romans 11:13b-14).
Strikingly, this is exactly what is motivating many contemporary Jews to take a fresh look at Jesus of Nazareth.
For example, an Orthodox Jew by the name of Benjamin Cohen, who recently spent a year attending Christian churches, frankly admits that he is jealous of Christians because they have Jesus.
"He's a tangible icon that everybody can latch on to. Judaism doesn't have a superhero like that," says he.
He goes on, "I'm not advocating for Moses dolls," but says that "it's hard to believe in a God you can't see. I'm jealous of Christians in that regard, that they have this physical manifestation of the divine that they can pray to." Double whoa.
The article concludes with these words from Cohen:
"People ask me all the time if I believe in Jesus. Do I believe he exists? Sure. Do I believe he's your God? Sure, I have no problem with that. I understand Christians' love for Jesus and I respect that. If anything, I learned a lot from them and did become a more engaged Jew, a better Jew, and I appreciate my Judaism more because I hung out with Jesus." Triple whoa.
So modern Jews are embracing Jesus as a lost Jewish patriot, are jealous of Christians because they have in Christ the embodiment of the Godhead, have been hanging with Jesus, are beginning to develop the rudiments of a sincere faith in him, and are claiming him as one of their own. Quadruple whoa.
Jesus taught us to learn from the fig tree, and reminded us that when "its branch becomes tender and puts out its leaves, you know that summer is near. So also"when you see all these things, you know that he (the Messiah) is near, at the very gates" (Matthew 24:32-33).
In other words, it may be that Jesus is not only grasping the handles on the door through which he will re-enter history, he may be turning them as we speak.
The branch, as Jesus would say, is becoming tender. Can summer be far behind?
(Unless otherwise noted, the opinions expressed are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of the American Family Association or American Family Radio.)