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Alex's Blog - August 11, 2009 - The Restoration of the Jews (Part 2)
By Alex Dodson
It is interesting that the English Reformers who translated the Geneva Bible and included their notes of commentary in it took the position that one day the Jews as a whole would be converted. In the 1599 edition of the Geneva Bible, the note on Romans 11:15 states, "It shall come to pass that when the Jews come to the Gospel, the world shall as it were come quicken again, and rise up from death to life. (p. 1155 Geneva Bible 1599) The Reformers saw a world wide revival coming in association with the conversion of the Jewish people. Again they comment on verse 25 with these words, "The blindness of the Jews is neither so universal that the Lord hath no elect in that nation, neither shall it be continual; for there shall be a time wherein they also (as the Prophets have forewarned) shall effectually embrace that which they do now so stubbornly for the most part reject and refuse." (p. 1155 Geneva Bible 1599) The Reformers recognized that there was still a remnant of the Jews who had believed though the Jewish people as a whole had rejected the gospel but they saw this rejection as temporary and not continual. There would be a day that such rejection would end and the Jewish people as a whole would embrace the Savior. In their comment on verse 28, they state, "Again, that he may join the Jews and Gentiles together as it were in one body, and especially may teach what duty the Gentiles owe to the Jews, he beateth this into their heads, that the nation of the Jews is not utterly cast off without hope of recovery." (p. 1155 Geneva Bible 1599) They did not see a reinstatement of Judaism or a rebuilding of the temple and renewal of the sacrifices. Rather, they saw the Jews embracing Christ and coming into the church or being grafted back in to their own olive tree. They would once again be called the people of God as they join with the Gentile believers as one people in the one body of Christ.
The Great Prophecy of Ezekiel
Although it is possible to interpret the following passages as directly related to the first restoration of the Jews after being in Babylon for 70 years or even to the first coming of Christ and ministry of the church in the world. It is impossible to be absolutely sure what all of this prophecy means. One day we will know for sure. For now we can only interpret it in the light of what has happened to the Jewish people in the past and to other promises given in scripture concerning them.
Having said this, it would seem the Ezekiel passages indicate that in the future there will be a great spiritual revival to break out among the Jews. The whole section of Scripture in Ezekiel 36-39 seems to describe such a spiritual revival taking place. We find such passages as this one in Ezekiel 36:24-27 - "For I will take you out of the nations; I will gather you from all the countries and bring you back into your own land. I will sprinkle clean water on you , and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws." These words describe nothing less than a great spiritual revival among the Jewish people as a whole. They can also describe in principle what happens in any revival. God pours out His Spirit and gives new hearts and causes people to follow His laws.
This amazing prophecy of Ezekiel about the Jewish people concludes in chapter 39:25-29 with this wonderful passage - "Therefore this is what the Sovereign Lord says: I will now bring Jacob back from captivity and will have compassion on all the people of Israel, and I will be zealous for my holy name. They will forget their shame and all the unfaithfulness they showed toward me when they lived in safety in their land with no one to make them afraid. When I have brought them back from the nations and have gathered them from the countries of their enemies, I will show myself holy through them in the sight of many nations. Then they will know that I am the Lord their God, for though I sent them into exile among the nations, I will gather them to their own land, not leaving any behind. I will no longer hide my face from them, for I will pour out my Spirit on the house of Israel, declares the Sovereign Lord." We see then that a time will come when God will pour out His Spirit on the Jewish people in a mighty way. It will be at the time the Jewish people are gathered together into their own land from many nations. The revival will effect the Jews all over the world. There will be a great ingathering of the Jews into God's Kingdom. They will no longer reject Christ but will embrace Him as their own Messiah and Lord.
This revival seems to go beyond the first restoration under Ezra and Nehemiah and Zerubbabel. It seems to describe something much more widespread and significant and points ahead toward another restoration in the future. Also, this description seems to describe something more than a general restoring of the people of God. The Spirit of the Reformation Study Bible has this comment on Ezekiel 38:8 - "Ezekiel spoke of a time in the future when Israel would have been regathered into the land. This gathering began in 539 B.C., when Cyrus sent back some Israelites to repopulate the land. Yet continuing sin caused this restoration to fail so that it was postponed until the time of Christ. Christ began to restore the people of God in his first coming, he continues to do so now through the ministry of the church and will completely restore them in his second coming." (p. 1358) Ezekiel's prophecy would seem to be much more specific than a general restoration of the people of God. This prophecy specifies the people of Israel and talks about the land in a specific way. To take it in too general a way, it seems to me, would negate the real purpose of the prophecy. The prophecy is too specific to be only a general prophecy about the church.
In our next blog, we will talk more about the rejection of the Jews and the dispersion that took place in 70 AD.
All Scripture quotations are from the New International Version unless indicated otherwise.
1599 Geneva Bible. Tolle Lege Press, White Hall, WV, 2006.
Spirit of the Reformation Study Bible. Zondervan, Grand Rapids, MI 2003.