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  • Daniel Botkin

The Return of the King


King Jesus, Melech Yeshua, is coming back. Psalm chapter two says He will rule with a rod of iron and dash the heathen in pieces like a potter’s vessel. No more Mister Nice Guy. No more Gentle Jesus, Meek and Mild. The Bible says He is coming back “in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Yeshua Messiah, who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of His power” (2 Thes. 1:8f). He is coming back to rule the world as Lord of lords and King of kings.

When I wrote this article, the number one music album in America was Kanye West’s Jesus is King. Regardless of what you think about rap music or the news of Kanye West’s conversion, the Kingship of Jesus is being proclaimed even in the secular heathen world, and the heathens would be wise to submit themselves to His Kingship before He returns in flaming fire with a rod of iron.

“Be wise now therefore, ye kings: be instructed, ye judges of the earth. Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest He be angry, and ye perish from the way, when His wrath is kindled but a little.”

“So Jesus is coming back? Yeah, right,” the scoffers say. “We’ve been hearing that for almost 2,000 years.”

Peter warned that in the last days there would be scoffers who say, “Where is the promise of his coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation” (2 Pet. 3:4).


Believers and Scoffers

A few famous believers and scoffers have come from my hometown of East Peoria: Christian creationist Kent Hovind, Christian philosopher and apologist William Lane Craig, and the late Gary Richrath, guitarist of REO Speedwagon. I went to high school with all three of these guys. Another famous East Peorian was the comedian Sam Kinison.

Sam Kinison came from a Christian Pentecostal family. After Sam grew up, he became a traveling preacher. He later left the ministry and became a raunchy, foul-mouthed comedian. He made it big in show business with his lewd, outrageous humor.

The Lord tolerated Sam Kinison’s foul mouth, but eventually Sam began to mock the Lord. It’s one thing to mock false prophets, false teachings, and hypocrites. Elijah and other prophets did that. But when a former preacher begins to use his filthy language to publicly mock and blaspheme the Lord, he is on the road to destruction.

In the late 1980s Sam Kinison appeared at the Peoria Civic Center. A friend of mine who grew up with Sam and knew him as a kid went to the show. My friend told me that Sam was mocking people who believe in the Second Coming of Christ. Sam shouted to the audience, “Wake up, people! It’s been almost 2,000 years! He’s not coming back!”

Shortly after this, another Christian friend of mine happened to hear Sam Kinison on television mocking the Lord.

“The Lord is going to shut that man’s mouth,” my friend predicted.

Just a short time later, Sam Kinison was driving his car with his new bride by his side. Their car was hit head-on by a truck that crossed the center line, and Sam was killed.

Sam did not die instantly. According to witnesses at the scene, Sam seemed to be conversing with someone that no one could see. It’s possible Sam repented and got right with God in his dying moments and escaped the lake of fire by the skin of his teeth. Regardless of Sam’s eternal fate, the Lord permanently shut his blasphemous mouth, as He will shut all blasphemous mouths when He returns.


Sign of the Second Coming

Just because it has been almost 2,000 years, do not think the King is not coming back. Mankind waited approximately 4,000 years for His First Coming. Why then should it seem surprising that we have waited nearly 2,000 years for His Second Coming?

I do not set dates for the Second Coming, not even approximate dates. I do not know when the Lord will return, but I know that today we are one day closer to His Return than we were yesterday. Each passing day brings us a day closer to the Return of the King.

Past generations thought Jesus would return in their lifetime, but He did not. Does our generation have any more or any better reasons to expect His return than past generations did? Actually we do. We are seeing the restoration of Israel, something that past generations did not see. To understand the restoration of Israel, you need to know some basics about the decline and the exiles of Israel.


Israel’s Decline and Exiles

David was the first king from the tribe of Judah. David ruled over all twelve tribes of Israel, as did his son Solomon who followed him. Israel was blessed by God during the reigns of David and Solomon. But after Solomon died and his son Rehoboam became king, the kingdom of Israel was divided. The ten northern tribes separated from Judah and Benjamin. Jeroboam became king over these ten tribes, which were collectively called “Israel” or “Ephraim.” The southern kingdom was called “Judah.”

After several generations of kings, the ten northern tribes of Israel were defeated by the Assyrians and taken into exile. About a century and a half later, the southern kingdom of Judah was defeated. The Temple was burned, Jerusalem was destroyed, and the Jews were taken into Babylon.

After seventy years in Babylon, a remnant of Jews returned to the land of Judah and rebuilt Jerusalem and the Temple. However, the Jews in the Promised Land remained under Gentile dominion. They were allowed to live in their land and practice their faith, but they still had to live under the rule of foreign powers -- the Medes and Persians, then Greece, then Rome.

In AD 70 the Romans burned the Temple and destroyed Jerusalem as the Babylonians had done centuries before, and the Jews were once again cast out of their land. The Jews who survived the wars with Rome were exiled or sold into slavery.


Christian Theology About Jews and Israel

The Old Testament Prophets spoke about Israel being restored as a nation. As the Christian faith grew and evolved, Christian leaders and theologians concluded that the Prophets’ promises of a restored Israel could not be taken literally. Christian leaders said that the Prophets’ promises of future blessings to Israel were meant to be understood only figuratively and applied in a spiritual sense to the Church, not to the Jews or to the literal land of Israel. The Jews were doomed to wander and suffer because of their rejection of Christ, and thereby serve as the objects of God’s wrath, Christian theologians said. All the blessings the Prophets promised to Israel now belonged to the Church, because the Church had replaced Israel, they said. Of course the Prophets’ rebukes and curses still belonged to the Jews, but the promises of glory were for the Church, Christian leaders claimed.

With some exceptions, Christian theologians believed and taught that the Jews would never be restored as a sovereign independent nation in their ancestral homeland in a literal sense. But then came 1948.


1948

Out of the ashes of the Holocaust, the nation of Israel was reborn in 1948. After approximately 2500 years of Gentile lordship over the land of the Jews, the Jews once again had an independent nation in their ancestral homeland. The empires of Babylon, Media-Persia, Greece, Rome, and all the other empires that had ruled over the Promised Land had long ago vanished. Yet here was the independent Jewish State of Israel, reborn in 1948.

After 1948, honest Christians had to rethink their theology. Either the Prophets’ promises of a restored Israel really were meant to be taken literally, or this 1948 formation of the Jewish State of Israel was just a weird fluke of history and had nothing at all to do with the prophecies of a restored Israel.

Most Bible-believing Evangelical Christians take the view that the 1948 rebirth of Israel was indeed a fulfillment of prophecy. Some Christians think it was just a fluke of history.


1948: Fluke of History or Fulfillment of Prophecy?

The Christian naysayers who think it was not a fulfillment of prophecy point out that the Prophets’ promises of a restored Israel speak of a nation walking in holiness and righteousness, a nation that loves God and walks in obedience to His commandments. That does not describe the modern State of Israel, the naysayers say.

The naysayers also point out that the Jews who first envisioned a restored Jewish nation in the land of Palestine and worked to make it happen were not religious Jews. Many, perhaps most, were atheists and agnostics. And still today, most Jews in Israel are nonreligious secular Jews. Crime is common. Prostitution is a thriving business. Abortion is legal. Tel- Aviv is the gay capital of the world. How can a nation like this be the fulfillment of the Prophets’ promises of a restored Israel that seeks the Lord and walks in holiness?

These are some valid points. I have considered the possibility that the 1948 formation of the State of Israel was not a fulfillment of prophecy. But then I say to myself: “If it was not a fulfillment of prophecy, if God had nothing to do with it, it’s really weird that it happened. It’s really weird that the Jews would survive and preserve their Jewish identity through centuries of persecution, and nurture a desire to return to the homeland of their ancestors. And it’s even weirder that they would start trickling back in the 1800s, and that one man, Eliezer Ben Yehudah, would almost single-handedly restore Hebrew as a spoken language after Hebrew as a spoken language had lain dormant for nearly 2,000 years. And it’s really weird that atheist and agnostic Jews would be the ones determined to see the nation of Israel reborn, and would be willing to suffer hardship and even death to make it happen. If God had nothing to do with these events, it is the weirdest thing in history that ever happened.”

That is my response to the naysayers’ fluke-of-history theory.

It almost takes more faith -- blind faith -- to believe it was just a fluke of history than to believe that God orchestrated these events.

But what about the fact that the early Jewish Zionists were mostly atheists and agnostics, and the great majority of Jews in Israel today are not seeking God and not walking in obedience to His commandments as the Prophets described? I believe the answer to that question is in Ezekiel.


Ezekiel’s Prophesies

According to Ezekiel, the restoration of Israel is a two-step process. The first step is getting the Jews back to the Land of Israel. They return while still in a state of unbelief and uncleanness. This is a physical restoration. Then at some unspecified time after this physical restoration comes the second step, their spiritual restoration, when God cleanses them of their sins and gives them a new heart, as it is written:

“For I will take you from among the heathen, and gather you out of all countries, and will bring you into your own land. Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you. A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. And I will put My spirit within you, and cause you to walk in My statutes, and ye shall keep My judgments, to do them” (Ezk. 36:24-27).

This same two-step process of restoration (a physical restoration followed by a later spiritual restoration) is also seen in the next chapter of Ezekiel, which describes Ezekiel’s vision of the valley of dry bones.

Ezekiel sees a valley full of dry bones, which are “the whole house of Israel” (Ezk. 37:11). Ezekiel is told to prophesy upon these bones, which he does. Then there is “a noise and a shaking” (World War 2 and the Holocaust, perhaps?), “and the bones came together, bone to his bone.”

Ezekiel sees sinews and flesh and skin cover these reassembled skeletons, “but there was no breath [ruach] in them.” This describes Israel in its present condition today. The Jews in Israel have been reassembled into a nation, but there is no breath, no ruach, in them, except in the Messianic Jews.

Ezekiel is then told to prophesy to the wind, the ruach, and to say to the ruach, “Come from the four winds, O breath [ruach], and breathe upon these slain, that they may live.” Ezekiel prophesies as he was commanded, and the ruach comes into them and they live and stand upon their feet as an exceeding great army.

We are not told how much time transpires between Israel’s physical restoration and their spiritual restoration. Our job during this in-between time is to “prophesy to the ruach,” to pray for the Holy Spirit to breathe spiritual life into this reassembled nation of Jews who are still spiritually dead in their sins.

So the restoration of Israel is a two-step process. The fact that God used some Jews who were atheists and agnostics to begin the process of the restoration of Israel, and the fact that He still preserves and maintains this reassembled nation in spite of their sins and unbelief, makes this restoration even more remarkable. If God did not orchestrate these events of history, it’s really weird that it happened. And it’s weirder still what happened in 1967.


1967

In 1967 Israel was attacked by several well-armed Arab armies. Though greatly outnumbered, Israel stunned the world by defeating those Arab armies in just six days. On June 6, 1967, the Jews took control of the Old City of Jerusalem, including the Western Wall and the Temple Mount.

This event is significant in light of what Yeshua said about Jerusalem. When the disciples asked Him about signs that would precede His coming, one sign He mentioned was that Jerusalem would be destroyed and that “Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled” (Luke 21:24).

Jerusalem was destroyed in AD 70 and was trodden down by the Gentiles. Century after century, Gentile nations continued to rule the Old City of Jerusalem. Until 1967. June 6, 1967 marked the fulfillment of the times of the Gentiles. The Old City of Jerusalem was once again under the control of a Jewish government for the first time in 2500 years. It is also very interesting, and I believe significant, that 1967 is viewed by many (even by some Jewish anti-Jesus anti-missionaries) as the year the Messianic Jewish Movement started. If the times of the Gentiles was fulfilled in 1967, when Jerusalem was no longer trodden down by the Gentiles, it makes sense that this would be the appropriate time for the Spirit of God to start opening the eyes of many Jews. And that is exactly what happened in 1967.

Among American hippies, 1967 was called “The Summer of Love.” Among the hippies were many young Jews. Unlike previous generations of Jews, many of these Jewish hippies were open to new ideas, ideas that were unthinkable to previous generations of Jews -- ideas like the possibility that maybe Jesus really was the Son of God. Some of these young Jews began looking into the Messianic prophecies in the Tenach (Old Testament), including Daniel chapter 9, “the forbidden chapter” that reveals Messiah had to come before the AD 70 destruction of the Temple, and Isaiah chapter 53, the chapter that, along with the three preceding verses at the end of chapter 52, is deliberately omitted from the weekly Sabbath readings in the synagogues, because it so graphically describes the sufferings and death of Yeshua.

Beginning in 1967 more and more Jews came to believe in Jesus. But unlike previous generations of Jewish believers, these Jews did not hide their Jewishness and assimilate into Christian churches and live like Gentile Christians. Rather, they celebrated their Jewish identity. They started calling themselves “Messianic Jews” instead of “Hebrew Christians.” Soon they started establishing Messianic Jewish congregations.


The Growth of the Messianic Jewish Movement & Its Impact on Christians

As Messianic Jewish congregations grew in number, many Gentile Christians were attracted to the Messianic Jewish way of worship. Christians who knew the Bible began to see that the Messianic Jews’ way of worship was actually more Biblical than the way most Gentile Christian churches worshipped. The Biblical seventh-day Sabbath, the Biblical holidays, and a Biblical diet were more Biblical than observing Sunday, celebrating holidays adapted from pagan idolatry, and having church-sponsored hog roasts. As a result, many non-Jewish believers who wanted to live a Biblical lifestyle started living like Messianic Jews. Soon they began to realize the significance of Gentile believers being grafted into Israel and becoming full-fledged members of the commonwealth of Israel. (See Romans chapter 11 and Ephesians chapter 2.)


Hinenu!

So hinenu, behold, here we are! Here we are at a time in history that is closer to the Return of the King than we have ever been before. Yes, previous generations of Christians expected Jesus to return in their lifetime. But those generations did not witness the return of the Jews to the Land, the rebirth of the nation of Israel, and the retaking of Jerusalem. Nor did they witness the rebirth of Messianic Judaism and its impact on non-Jewish Christians. Previous generations did not witness the fulfillment of the times of the Gentiles.

Gentiles as individuals can still be saved and are being saved. But 1967 marked the beginning of the end of the times of the Gentiles. God’s focus is now turning more and more upon Israel -- the land of Israel, the Jews of Israel, and those Christians who have awakened to their identity as members of the commonwealth of Israel. All these things are preparing the way for the Return of the King of Israel.

Anti-Semites claim there is a Jewish conspiracy to rule the world. Well, there is, but it is not a human conspiracy. It is God’s plan to enthrone His Jewish Son, Yeshua HaMashiach, in Zion. The world will indeed be ruled by a Jew when that Jew returns.

Psalm chapter two tells about those who oppose the LORD and His mashiach, His anointed Messiah. They want to free themselves from God’s rule. But God is not threatened by their defiance. “He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the LORD shall have them in derision. Then shall He speak unto them in His wrath, and vex them in His sore displeasure. Yet have I set My king upon My holy hill of Zion” (Ps. 2:4-6).

If you are a Gentile who believes in Jesus, you need to wake up to your identity as a member of the commonwealth of Israel and begin to live as a Messianic Israelite. The King is coming and we need to be ready for His return.


| DB

 

Image: Psalm 45 by Daniel Botkin from his Psurrealistic Psalms Pseries. Visit DanielBotkin.com to see this and all of his art galleries.

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