Jerusalem, April 22, 1993
Grace of Chastening
in the Darkness of Shoah
Dear Brethren – Beloved participants of the Jerusalem Convention!
„I was glad when they said unto me, Let us go into the house of the Lord. Our feet shall stand within thy gates, o Jerusalem” Psalm 122:1-2.
By the Lord's grace, my feet have stood in the gates of Jerusalem for the third time already. But could I ever dream that my feet will stand in the house of the Lord in Jerusalem? And the Lord has given us grace after grace – He prepared a spiritual tabernacle in this hall, only a few tens of kilometers apart from that earthly one, which, I feel, will soon regain its lost position.
The place we have come to prompts us to a very interesting reflection. Jerusalem – the city of peace and the city of the bloodiest battles in history – obliges us to look at history. The tragic history of the chosen nation is significant not only from the standpoint of getting to know that important fragment of the development of our common civilization, but at the same time it constitutes an important lesson for all who are coming to the Lord not only in this age, but also in the future one.
We Christians, not only the Bible Students, like to talk about the history of ancient Israel and consider the prophecies referring to this nation. We like to think about the history of the rebirth of the Jewish State. There is, however, one topic, which is, in general, treated with a bashful silence. Some are silent, because they feel guilty to a certain extend of the tragedy that occurred; and they are made silent as they see the faces of man frozen with suffering, people who almost lose their minds remembering the dramatic years of SHOAH – historically unprecedented suffering.
A Christian theologian, Johann Baptist Metz said: „We Christians will never go back beyond Auschwitz; and if we ever go beyond Auschwitz, it won't be by ourselves, but only together with its victims.”
A Christian considering the issue of Israel in the time of the end cannot bypass the tragedy of the darkness of Shoah. Six million, one third of the whole Jewish population, were murdered during but few years of the hysterical triumph of national socialism – this fact must provoke one to reflection, to modesty and humility before the inscrutable ways of providence of the Eternal God. Any casual omitting of this tragical dilemma for Christendom, any attempt to withdraw from the burden of common responsibility for the sin of nationalism, must cause a doubt both in the Jew as well as in a Christian, it must raise a suspicion that the roots of evil have not been yet uprooted from the barren soil which bears fruit of evil and grapes of God's righteous wrath.
A Christian understanding time prophecies referring to Israel must have even bigger uneasiness when it is seen that the tragedy of Shoah took place in the time when this nation was, once again, granted grace of Aliyah – regathering to the land of ancestors, to the land that was promised Abraham and his seed, as their eternal inheritance. Without even considering the issue of the double and the way of calculating it and the length of the times of Gentiles we should take into serious consideration the words of God's promise which says:
„And it shall come to pass, when all these things are come upon thee, the blessing and the curse, which I have set before thee, and shalt call them to mind among all the nations, whither the Lord thy God hath driven thee, And shalt return unto the Lord thy God, and shalt obey his voice, (...) That then the Lord thy God will turn thy captivity, and have compassion upon thee, and will return and gather thee from all the nations, whither the Lord thy God hath scattered thee” (Deut. 30:1-3).
The nation of Israel in the beginning of the eighties of the last century began to gather in their fathers' land. This strongly proves that the Lord had mercy upon them and that He heard the voice of their humble prayers begging for the grace of a return to their land. The process of gathering the Israelites in Eretz Israel, although not without difficulties, has been continually taking place for 110 years, and many groups of Abraham's descendants turn their hearts towards Him, who promised that „If they shall confess their iniquity, and the iniquity of their fathers, with their trespasses which they trespassed against me, (...) Then will I remember my covenant with Jacob, and also my covenant with Isaac, and also my covenant with Abraham will I remember; and I will remember the land” (Lev. 26:40-42).
If God had mercy upon his people as we read in the first Scripture while in the land of their exile (Deut. 30:1), then why was Israel in this special time afflicted with the greatest pogrom in its history?
There is a conviction that the purpose of Shoah was to make the Jew go to the Promised Land.
Let us look at Table no. 1. It shows that in the years 1939-48, 200 thousands of Jews came to the Promised Land. This number, compared with the 6 million of Shoah's victims would show, to say the least, a lack in efficiency of God's plan if the purpose of Shoah was to make the Jews emigrate. Also, the statistics of post-war emigration does not support this idea. Now look at Table 2. The data presented there does not include the current Russian immigration of the recent years because it seems to be here a fulfillment of totally different prophecies. This is why the data is from 1982. It follows from the table that from among 3.3 mln of Israeli Jews, only 600,000 had emigrated to Israel after the second world war from the countries which had been under the German occupation. Even if we acknowledge the fact that a large portion of the Jews born in Israel are the children of those emigres, yet we come to a number around one million, which constitutes as little as 30% of the population of this country, not to mention the 10 million Jews living outside of Israel. These figures compared to 6 million would not change the assessment of the efficiency of such a plan for gathering Israel; what's more, majority of Jews migrating to Israel after the war, were not motivated by fear of another Shoah, but rather by a resolution to help the country facing war, or simply a desire to go to their home land restored after two thousand years.
A still more unacceptable view would be to see in Shoah a continuum of the punishment for rejecting the Messiah. According to the words of Christ (John 12:31, Luke 19:40-44), the judgement of Israel took place during his own mission and ended in a great national defeat in the years 69-70 AD, When the Roman legions under Vespasian and Titus crushed the last remains of Jewish existence in Eretz Israel. This does not mean, of course, that the Jews have been relieved of the responsibility for „his blood”. Nonetheless, the punishment was executed two thousand years ago. According to God's rule, the wages of sin is death. Death does not remove responsibility, nor does it cleanse from the sin, but there can be no further punishment. The spiritual death of the nation came as a result of their failure in that judgement of „the time of their visitation”. We have a mention of that in the parable of the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31), in which Israel is represented by the rich man. The rich man dies and is taken to sheol, a place of torment. It follows from other places in the Scriptures that this cannot typify individuals who after death have no consciousness which would let them carry out a conversation or feel torment. So this story is an allegory telling the history of the whole nation which, though initially rich in God's grace and mercy, sinned and suffered a just punishment for their sin. It was a punishment of a national death and torment. This death, however would not be eternal.
The Lord gives Israel a hope through Hosea the prophet that they would arise after two days of non-existence.
„In their affliction they will seek me early: Come and let us return unto the LORD for he hath torn and He will heal us. He has smitten, and He will bind us up. After two days he will revive us: in the third day He will raise us up, and we shall live in His sight.” (Hosea 6:1-3).
From the Bible Chronology presented in the Studies in the Scriptures, Vol.2 it follows that in A.D. 1874 the seventh day from the creation of Adam began. The national death of Israel – a defeat in 70 A.D. falls at the beginning of the fifth day. So the words „after two days” and, „they will seek me early” strongly imply the time of the second coming, beginning in 1874.
The same national resurrection was prophesied by Ezekiel in the famous vision in the Valley of Dry Bones (Ezek. 37:1-14). Even if we understand that the process of the national resurrection of Israel is still in progress and has not yet ended, or that this nation has not yet received the spirit of grace and supplications, it would be still difficult to accept that during the process of resurrection and return to favor, a greater punishment should take place, for a sin committed before their „national death”.
In which direction, therefore, should we seek a solution to this dilemma of Shoah during Israel's return to divine favor?
The Scriptures present a seemingly paradoxical principle of God's dealing with his children.
„For whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth and scourgeth every sin whom He receiveth. If you endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons (Original Greek text has: God offers – prosfero – himself to you as to sons)” (Hebr. 12:6-7)
Every loving father suffers when exacting a punishment toward his child. The purpose of the punishment is not revenge but teaching a good behavior, a proper shaping of the child's developing character. Justice tells love to suffer at that time and it tells wisdom to act, for the good of the child. Such a course is really a sacrifice on the part of the father for his son. In this manner, God has many times offered himself to many of his children, for their good. God needs friends (James. 2:23), God needs servants-coworkers (2 Cor. 3:5-6). But a friend of the Eternal must learn how to be useful in His Plan, he has to show his faithfulness unto death. Such a ministry presents to the elect of God immense requirements. The mission calls for suffering. The Firstborn and Only-begotten Son of God is the mightiest and grandest example of this kind of suffering.
In his agenda for the last days, God has foreseen a special role for Israel. It is a role of a witness ( Isa. 43:10,12) and a role of light (Isa. 60:1-3) to the Gentile nations. We will quote the latter of the cited prophecies:
„Arise, chine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the LORD is risen upon thee. For, behold, the darkness shall cover the earth and gross darkness the people; But the LORD shall rise upon thee, and his Glory shall be seen upon thee. And the Gentiles shall come to thy light.”
Only then can the words of Zechariah come be fulfilled:
„ten men shall take hold out of all languages of the nations, even shall take hold of the skirt of him that is a Jew...” (Zech. 8:23).
In view of such an important mission, it seems that suffering is legitimate, and perhaps even necessary. If the Firstborn Son had to suffer, if his followers suffered for ages and their sufferings seemed to them not to hard in view of the great glory, then surely Israel, too, will echo the words of a martyr, St. Paul: „For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.” (2 Cor. 4:17). Although the glory of the sons of Israel in the time of the end will not equal the glory of the apostle Paul, yet they, too will be a precious crown of God's Kingdom (Zech. 9:16-27), a signet of authority on the hand of God's representative (Hag. 2:24), and finally a glorious footstool of his glory. (Psa. 110:1, Hebr. 10:13-16; Lam. 2:1; Isa. 66:1).
The role of a witness of God calls for suffering. This is often mention in the Book of Revelation (1:9, 20:4, etc.) First of all, the Church of the called ones of the Gospel Age is shown here as God's witness. But there is a mention of two witnesses, of two olive trees, of two candlesticks. One of those surely are the people of the Book of the New Law, but who are the other? The Old Law and its record must also give its testimony through its sons.
The role of a witness in God's judgement, described by Isaiah (Isa. 42:10), is corroborated by the words of the prophets of the New Covenant.
When we consider the immensity of the suffering of Jews with the Book and for the Book, when we try to penetrate the unclear darkness of Shoah, there seems to be one other picture of the Old Covenant which, partially at least, might explain the horror of the tragedy. Killing the animals was not done in order to satisfy God's hunger for blood. According to the teaching of the apostles, the sacrifices were to be a „remembrance of sins every year”. (Hebr. 10:3) It was not God who needed sacrifice, but the people. Their memory was so unreliable that it needed to be refreshed every year.
The sufferings of Christ and the Church are also called sacrifices. And again we say – it is not God who needs the sacrifices but human memory – poor, weary and failing. Man commits a sin and in sin he goes down to the grave in which, according to the words of Ecclesiastes there is no knowledge or wisdom (Eccl. 9:10). Man, awaken in the Millennium, would not be able to go through the way of individual restitution without the sad experience with sin. Every man will face and understand the fact that side by side, in the same conditions, with the same burden of the inherited sins, there lived the servants of God and his righteousness. Their lives were righteous and godly. Remembering their example, the sinner will then find the way leading to overcome the weaknesses and sin of the flesh. Not only this. The sinner will realize that the one who lived rightly and justly had suffered persecutions often coming from the sinner himself. This shock of guilt in regard to one beloved of the Father but persecuted and ridiculed of men will be a significant incentive to repentance and an emotional motivation to keep the principles of God's Righteousness. The suffering, the sacrifice of the Church will have been such a remembrance of sin individually to every man.
However, not only does man commit individual sin; there is also social, collective sin. Man builds systems of exerting authority, different forms of government which at the time may seem the most logical and the most effective. But in God's eyes they are only beasts, hybrides of confusion of hypocrisy, lies, and a desire to dominate others. All systems of human injustice are only to endorse the material interests of some and the exploitation of others. One of the most important works of the Time of the End is this very judgement of those systems of authority, a judgement of sins which are not individual but those which were produced by organized human society.
In the process of this judgement there needs to be man's dealing with evil, the experience of sin. There also needs to be a sacrifice which will serve as a remembrance of this social sin. The Church is not able to provide mankind with such a sacrifice because they are very few and generally they live in isolation and dispersion, without any forms of social organization.
Only one group of God's servants who are capable of providing mankind with such a sacrifice will have been Israel at the time of the end. In the near future, Israel will become a beginning of the Kingdom of Righteousness, while all around it, there will still be the darkness of a rebirth of the beast and the kings of the earth who will serve it. The righteousness of God's witness will provoke an impulse of madness on the part of Satan's servants. The suffering of Israel which will come as result of this attack will not be a punishment but a sacrifice. Zephaniah tells us about it: „Hold thy peace at the presence of the Lord GOD: for the day of the Lord is at hand: for the LORD hath prepared a sacrifice, He hath bid his guests.” (Zeph. 1:7). The guests who were consecrated before the day of the Lord are probably the Church of Christ. But the prophet tells us about another sacrifice which has just been prepared before the day of Jehovah when the Church will have been consecrated and the high calling will cease.
This sacrifice, as implied by the context of Zepheniah will be Israel spiritually reborn which will give itself a sacrifice of remembrance of social sin. However, before this happens, this people, still in a condition of uncleanness and separation from God, will suffer, so that the sins of the human systems might be manifested in the light of the day. Mankind would not have hated the systems based on nationalist impulses if not the cruel sacrifice made of the nation of Israel. It would seem that the price for this lesson was too great, but the social memory of the world's civilizations – equally unreliable as that of the individuals who compose it – needs a shock in order to give up for ever the methods of violence and murder. This failing social memory required a cruel sacrifice which Christ could not provide, nor could the Church; a sacrifice of a nation which suffered innocent for the unrighteousness of other nations. Israel has already become and will become in a bigger sense in the day of sacrifice a „scape-goat”, which on its shoulders will bear the sin of the world. Expelled to the wilderness, to Azazel, to the devil, bears the burden iniquity which can never be forgotten. Amen.