The Restoration of Israel
ISRAEL'S BLINDNESS DEPARTING.
There is another feature of prophecy relating to Fleshly Israel, the fulfillment of which we should now begin to see. The Apostle Paul declared: "Blindness, in part, is happened to Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles be come in," i.e., until the elect number from among the Gentiles, who, together with the remnant of Israel, are to constitute the spiritual phase of the Kingdom, shall all have come into that highest favor, from which Israel as a nation was cast off, and to the benefits of which they as a people have continued to be blind. In the fullest sense, therefore, the blindness of Fleshly Israel, otherwise called Jacob, is not due to pass away until the selection of Spiritual Israel has been completed. We are expressly advised (Rom. 11:26) that their recovery and deliverance from blindness and prejudice will come out of (mount) Zion, the glorified Church or Kingdom. But as the Kingdom of Zion to some extent began in 1878, when our King took to himself his great power to reign, although the "feet" class were not yet fully developed and glorified, so the favor of God toward "Jacob," through Zion, properly had a beginning there, though it will not reach them in fullest measure until the "feet" members of Christ's body are also glorified. And as 1881 was the time parallel to the turning of the light from Jacob to the Gentiles, so it marks the time for the beginning of the turning back again of special light upon the long blinded Jews. And, true to its Jewish pattern, the nominal Christian Church is now blindly stumbling, while only a small remnant of it is being blessed. How fitting the words of the Apostle, here: Be not high-minded, but fear; for if God spared not the natural branches, take heed, lest he spare not thee, etc.
But Israel's full recognition of the true Messiah and his Kingdom will doubtless come about under and through the restored patriarchs and prophets, whose perfect restoration will be the first work of the Christ after all the "body" has been glorified. But their blindness will begin to pass away before; and already a great movement toward Christ has set in, especially among the Russian Jews.
Looking in this direction, the signs of the times are so pronounced as to be startling. The remarkable religious movement in progress among the Jews in Southern Russia is bringing thousands of that people to a recognition of Jesus Christ as the long promised Messiah, and to an acknowledgment of their national sin, in rejecting and crucifying him. This is in no sense the result of Christian missionary activity: it is an independent movement, springing up out of soil wholly Jewish. The leader of the movement is a Jew, Mr. Joseph Rabinowitch, formerly a merchant, and later a lawyer, and a man of high reputation among his people. Mr. Rabinowitch was not a rabbi, and neither he nor any of the leading men of the movement were clergymen of any sect or creed. Concerning this movement, we quote from several reports.
"Its development has been such that it can confidently be pronounced no longer a mere experiment with doubtful chances of permanent existence. It has manifested a remarkable vitality; its growth has been steady and healthy, positive in character, yet avoiding all unnatural haste and dangerous extremes. Having been recognized by the Russian authorities as a religio licita, it now has a legal existence and legal rights. Its character stamps it as one of the most unique phenomena in the variegated kaleidoscope of national, social and religious interests that divide the hearts and minds of the Czar's one hundred and sixteen millions of subjects.
"The faith of this new communion is further peculiar in this, that they propose not to form any organic connection with any existing form of Christianity, but, with the avowed aim of ignoring the historical development of doctrines since the Apostolic age, to draw their teachings directly from the New Testament source, without having any special regard for the formulas of doctrines found in the orthodox churches of our times. It claims to be modeled after the Jewish-Christian congregations in the days of the apostles.
"Energetic in character and ambitious in self-improvement and the advancement, politically, socially and morally, of his people, Mr. Rabinowitch years ago became known as a zealous friend of reform among the Eastern Jews. With an education and enterprise far beyond his brethren, he set about to devise ways and means to attain his ideals and ends. He did what he could to secure for them better political rights, but was unable to protect them against the fierce persecutions that set in against the unfortunate Israelites in Russia, Roumania and neighboring countries. He acquainted himself with the advanced philosophical thought of the West, in the hope that its adoption by his people would elevate them to a higher plane, and thus secure for them higher ideals and nobler ends. But he soon learned to doubt both the efficiency of the means and the possibility of applying them to a people whom centuries of persecution and ultra-conservatism had been hardening to principles so at variance with their traditional ideas. He again attempted to win them away from their greed for gain, which, next to their formalistic religious exercises, is the all-controlling and all-degrading factor in the mind of the oriental Jew. But his endeavors to establish agricultural colonies for them, both at home and in the Holy Land, proved abortive. While in Palestine, the conviction ripened in him, through an independent study of the New Testament in its relations to the Old, that Israel had made the mistake of its national life, and had become untrue to its historic mission, by the rejection of Jesus Christ.
"This conviction on Christ, as the embodiment … of Israel's aims as a nation, is the central thought around which the whole movement circles. The principles enunciated by the humble Nazarene are recognized as those which alone can accomplish the destinies of the people, and enable them to attain the end for which they were set apart as a chosen people. It is thus regarded as a serious break in the normal and historical development of Israel, that eighteen hundred years ago this people as a nation refused to accept those tenets and principles which are regarded by all Christians, and now also by Mr. Rabinowitch and his followers, as the legitimate and only correct outcome of the whole previous historical development of Israel. To heal this breach is the ideal aim of the Kischinev reformer, by setting in anew there, where first the chosen people entered upon an erroneous path of national development. In 1880 he published a program in which he advocated a complete reorganization of the rabbinical system. He was further active in the work of a society for the promotion of agriculture among the Jews of Southern Russia; and during the days of persecution in 1882 he earnestly advocated the return of his people to Palestine. During that period the change in his religious conviction took place. It was not the result of Christian mission work, nor is he a convert in the ordinary sense of the word. The change was gradually effected, and only after long deliberation did the thought of organizing Christian congregations of the Jewish nationality assume maturity in his mind. After his return from Palestine his conviction was: The key to the Holy Land lies in the hand of our brother Jesus.' In the words, 'Jesus our Brother,' lies the kernel of his religious views. His work has been successful, and many are accepting his teachings."
When Mr. Rabinowitch began to think that he ought to be an avowed and open believer in Christ, he was much perplexed with the number of sects amongst Christians, and hesitated to join any of them. He says, "As the Jordan must be crossed to reach Canaan, so Jesus is the way to spiritual possession and rest." As to the Lord's Supper, he says that the members of his movement do not celebrate this, except as a Passover Supper. They (like us) do not yet see their way to celebrate it at other times. He says Jesus did not command his disciples to remember his resurrection, but to remember him. Neither he nor his followers keep Sunday as the Sabbath, but continue the observance of the Jewish Sabbath. Circumcision is still observed; but it is not considered necessary to salvation.
It is reported that a Lutheran pastor proposed to a committee in London that Mr. Rabinowitch be employed by their Society as missionary to the Jews. The committee declined, though only on the ground that he was not then baptized. He has, however, since then been baptized in Berlin, not into the Lutheran Church, nor into the Anglican Church, but simply into the Church of Christ. Mr. Rabinowitch is in possession of letters received from Jews in all parts of Russia and Roumania, inquiring into the movement, its rules and its doctrines, with a view to joining it, or starting another and similar one.
"Mr. Rabinowitch possesses a very gentle, humble, loving spirit, and quickly responds, even to tears, to assurances of Christian affection. He does not desire to identify himself with any sect, but wishes to take his Christianity from the New Testament, and grow out of old habits and doctrines into new ones, as the Holy Spirit may teach him in his continued and prayerful study of the entire Word of God."
Prof. Franz Delitzsch, of Leipzig, the leader of the Jewish missions in Germany and editor of the Saat auf Hofnung, a quarterly devoted to this work, published a pamphlet of about seventy-five pages on this new religious development, the largest space in which is occupied by original documents, in both the Hebrew and the German translation, on this movement. These documents embrace thirteen theses; a Confession of Faith of the National Jewish Church of the New Testament; an Explanation of the Faith in the Messiah, Jesus of Nazareth, in the sense of this congregation; a Haggada for the Israelites believing on the Messiah, Jesus of Nazareth; and finally, an Order of the Lord's Supper. As appendices are added a declaration of a teacher, Friedmann, to the Jewish believers in Christ, and a declaration adopted by a conference of the latter, held in Kischinev. The pamphlet contains all the materials for a study of the new movement.
These theses, which are to be regarded as the basis of the new faith, start out with an account of the deplorable state of the Jews in Russia, maintain that the endeavors at improvement on the part of the Jews themselves have all proved futile, and proceed to say:
"There is need of a deep and inner moral renewal, of a spiritual regeneration. We must cast aside our false god, the love of money, and in the room thereof must establish in our hearts a home for the love of truth, and for the fear of evil." For this, however, a leader is necessary. Who is he to be? In Israel none can be found. "The man who possesses all the qualifications of a leader, love of Israel, sacrificing of life, pureness, deep knowledge of human nature, earnestness in the exposal of the sins and evils of his people, we have, after a careful research in all the books of the history of our people, found only in one man, in Jesus of Nazareth." The wise Israelites in his day could not understand him; "but we can say with certainty that he, Jesus, he alone has sought the welfare of his brethren. Therefore we should sanctify the name of our Brother Jesus." "We should receive the Gospel books into our houses as a blessing, and unite them with all the Holy Scriptures which were handed down to us by our wise men."
One of the most noteworthy of a series of articles of faith which they have drawn up is the following:
"According to the decree of the inscrutable wisdom of God, our fathers were filled with hardness of heart, and the Lord punished them with the spirit of deep sleep, so that they opposed Jesus Christ and sinned against him until the present day. But by their unbelief they led other nations to greater zeal, and they thus contributed to the propitiation of mankind, who have believed in Jesus Christ, the son of David, our king; when they heard the good tidings through the peace-promising messengers (Isa. 52:7), who had been disgracefully expelled from communion with Israel. In consequence, however, of this our sin against the Christ of God, the world has grown rich by its faith in Christ, and the nations in fullness have entered the Kingdom of God. [They are not clear here. It is the full number of the 'little flock' out of the nations, and not the full nations falsely called Christendom, that Paul refers to in Rom. 11:25.] Now, too, the time of our fullness has also come, and we, the seed of Abraham, are to be blessed by our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; and the God of our forefathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, will take pity upon us and replant the branches which have been torn out, into our own Holy Root, Jesus. And thus all Israel shall share the eternal salvation, and Jerusalem, our Holy City, shall be rebuilt, and the throne of David established forever."
The following is an extract from a letter of Mr. Rabinowitch, dated Jan. 2nd, 1885, to a gentleman in London:
"Your valuable letter, etc., were received. My heart rejoiced when I read them and perceived how great and strong the love of your heart is toward the brethren of the Lord Jesus, the Messiah, according to the flesh, and how precious the salvation of the Israelitic nation is in your eyes.
"I prostrate myself before Jehovah, the God of our Lord Jesus; and from the depth of my heart stream forth the words of the sweet singer of Israel (Psa. 35), 'Let them be ashamed and brought to confusion together that rejoice at mine hurt. Let them shout for joy and be glad that favor my righteous cause; yea, let them say continually, Let the Lord be magnified, which hath pleasure in the prosperity of his servant.' Amen.
"Herewith I send you my opinions and statements in reference to those children of Israel in Southern Russia who believe in Jesus as the Messiah. From them you will learn to know the origin of our faith in Jesus (our brother bodily), the Messiah. He is the innermost desire and longing of our hearts. Our English friends and brethren in Jesus, our Savior, may be convinced by the above pamphlet that after the Lord has made bare his holy arm in the eyes of all nations, and all the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God, that now the time has come when there shall depart from the midst of Israel all unclean persons, and the bearers of the vessels of the Lord shall be cleansed.
"True, the salvation of the Lord cannot go out and come into the world with haste (Joshua 6:1), nor can it walk with rapidity; but now as Jehovah, the Avantguard and King of the Universe, has passed on before the people of Israel, the God of Israel shall come also as Rearguard, as Gatherer of the outcasts of Israel. I devote my time and name to the welfare of my stubborn and unhappy nation, to testify unto them with a brazen forehead, in the strength of God, the gospel of promise, which our fathers had received; viz., that God hath raised Jesus of Nazareth, out of the seed of David, as Savior of Israel.
"Through the depth of the riches and wisdom of God, the highest, our fathers, who were incumbents of the promise, rebelled against Jesus, so that grace might be bestowed upon the heathen nations, not through any promise, but through grace in the gospel of the Messiah. Now, after the fullness of the Gentiles hath come in, the time has arrived for us, the sons of Israel, to return to the God of Israel and his King, and be his beloved children. We should accept our heritage of Jacob, which is without limit; for we are the legitimate heirs, children of Abraham, disciples of Moses, servants of the house of David in eternity. Thus our fullness (i.e., the coming of many Israelites to Christ) will be our riches and the riches of the nations, according to the words of Jehovah by St. Paul, a firstborn of Israel, and at the same time the foremost among the returning heathen.
"Among my brethren, and in large meetings, I earnestly admonish, 'Shake thyself from the dust; arise, put on thy beautiful garments, my people; through the son of Jesse, Jesus of Nazareth, hath the Lord done great things with thee, O Israel, that he might also work great things among the nations of the earth, who were blessed in our fathers.'
"I greatly thank God that I see thousands who cheerfully listen. Many and worthy sons of Israel are waiting and longing for the hour, the hour of the grace of our God. I implore you, in the name of our brethren in Russia who seek the salvation, that the friends of our Lord Jesus Christ, wherever they be, may not be silent, but that they give counsel and speak out boldly, until Immanuel be with us also, until Jehovah show us him and his dwelling.
"These are humble words written from afar off."
In addition to this remarkable awakening, a like movement has been progressing in Siberia, of which we have the following account from the Presbyterian Witness:
"News comes from ice-bound Siberia of a gospel movement essentially the same as that of Mr. Rabinowitch's. The leader is Jacob Scheinmann, a Polish Jew, who, twenty years ago, through independent thought, came to the conclusion that Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of David, was the true Savior. The strict Talmudic Jews got him transported to Siberia, where for fifteen years he labored, almost unheeded, to awaken faith in his fellow-exiles. Among the uncalled-for mail matter which was found at Tomsk, where he was engaged in business, was a pamphlet by Rabinowitch, with whom he at once communicated. He has been busy disseminating his views through pamphlets called 'The Voice of One Crying in the Wilderness.' Delitzsch's Hebrew translation of the New Testament is being eagerly read and studied by the Siberian Jews. It is said that fully 36,000 copies have been thus used."
Thus we see remarkable indications of God's returning favor to Israel: in driving them out of other countries by great persecutions, opening up Palestine to receive them, inviting them thither by special provinces in their favor in the way of benevolent enterprises for their improvement and assistance, and also in this significant movement that is the beginning of the turning away of Israel's blindness. And how evidently it is all of God! In this work for the restoration of Fleshly Israel, as well as in the great harvest work for the gathering of Spiritual Israel, the agency of the now cast-off nominal church is wholly ignored. In both of these great works now in progress the various organizations of nominal "Christendom" are quietly set aside; and in his own time and way, and by new, humble, untitled instruments, as in the Jewish harvest, God is causing his great work to prosper and progress.
And now we inquire, What does it signify? What will be the outcome of this strange and wonderful work, the marked beginnings and rapid strides of which are so manifest in this harvest period? The Apostle Paul distinctly shows that the regathering of Israel signifies a regathering, or restitution, for all mankind: "Now if the fall of them be the riches of the world, and the diminishing of them the riches of the Gentiles [as it was in the turn of divine favor to them] how much more their fullness." Through the casting away of Fleshly Israel the Gentiles received the favor of the high calling, and the "few" who appreciate it, and overcome the obstacles in the way of attaining it, will be exalted to joint-heirship with Christ. They will form the body of Christ; the great Deliverer. This was the intent and will be the result of the casting away of Fleshly Israel; but their gathering again and their re-establishment in the land of promise mark another step in the great divine plan: they declare that the restitution of all things, "to the Jew first," but ultimately to "all the families of the earth," is about to begin. Earth's Great Jubilee is about to be introduced, and it begins in God's order with the Jew. So seen, Brothers Rabinowitch and Scheinmann and their co-laborers are God's instruments in preparing his ancient people for restitution, even as it is our privilege to be co-workers with the Lord in the reaping work connected with the harvesting period of the Gospel age and its select, spiritual class. Surely, Israel's full return to their own land and to divine favor will mean that the great Deliverer, Head and body, through whom restitution is to be accomplished, has been exalted to power, that the Kingdom has come, and that the work of restitution, of which Fleshly Israel is the first fruit, has already begun. Therefore, "If the casting away of them be the reconciling of the world, what shall the receiving of them be, but life from the dead?"—restitution, not only for the living, but for the dead also, according to promise; and not only for Israel, but for all mankind, of which Israel was a type, and is to be the first fruit. These beginnings of favor to Israel are only droppings before a mighty shower that will refresh, not only Israel, but all mankind. And though the surgings of strife will yet beat heavily against Israel, and for a time bring them into still greater tribulation and distress, in the midst of it all God will be with them, and in due time will help and exalt them.
In this connection the following public press dispatch is significant. The outcome of the movement will be watched with deep interest by all who are walking in the light of the present truth, and who realize from God's Word that the time has come which God announced through the prophet Isaiah, saying: "Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God. Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her that her warfare [margin, her appointed time] is accomplished, for she hath received of the Lord's hand double [Vol. 2, Chapter 7] for all her sins"—Isa. 40:1, 2.
The dispatch referred to runs as follows:
A JEWISH KINGDOM PROPOSED.
Washington, D. C., March 5th, 1891.
"William E. Blackstone, of Chicago, to-day visited the President of the United States in company with Secretary Blaine, and presented a memorial in behalf of the Russian Jews.
"He explained that the memorial was the result of a Conference of Christians and Jews recently held in Chicago, and called special attention to the fact that it did not antagonize Russia, but sought in a peaceable way to give the Jews control of their old home, Palestine.
"He pointed out many evidences of the possibility of great development of that country, both agriculturally and commercially, under an energetic government, and said that the railroad now building from Joppa to Jerusalem, if extended to Damascus, Tadmor and down the Euphrates, cannot fail to become an international highway.
"He said that the poverty of the Turkish Government gives emphasis to the proposed indemnity, by funding a portion of the Turkish national debt through Jewish capitalists, and that only peaceable diplomatic negotiations are asked for, to the end that all private ownership of land and property be carefully respected and protected. In closing he said that, being on such friendly terms with Russia and having no complications in the Orient, it is most fitting and hopeful that our government should initiate this friendly movement, to give these wandering millions of Israel a settled and permanent home.
"The President listened attentively to Mr. Blackstone's remarks, and promised to give the subject serious consideration.
The text of the memorial is as follows:
"What shall be done for the Russian Jews? It is both unwise and useless to undertake to dictate to Russia concerning her internal affairs. The Jews have lived as foreigners in her dominions for centuries, and she fully believes that they are a burden upon her resources and prejudicial to the welfare of her peasant population, and will not allow them to remain. She is determined that they must go. Hence, like the Sephardim of Spain, these Ashkenazim must emigrate. But where shall two millions of such poor people go? Europe is crowded, and has no room for more peasant population. Shall they come to America? This would be a tremendous expense and would require years.
"Why not give Palestine back to them again? According to God's distribution of nations it is their home, an inalienable possession from which they were expelled by force. Under their cultivation it was a remarkably fruitful land, sustaining millions of Israelites, who industriously tilled its hillsides and valleys. They were agriculturists and producers as well as a nation of great commercial importance, the center of civilization and religion. It is said, too, that rains are increasing, and there are many evidences that the land is recovering its ancient fertility.
"Why shall not the powers which, under the treaty of Berlin, in 1878, gave Bulgaria to the Bulgarians and Servia to the Servians, now give Palestine back to the Jews? These provinces, as well as Roumania, Montenegro and Greece, were wrested from the Turks and given to their natural owners. Does not Palestine as rightfully belong to the Jews?
"If they could have autonomy in government, the Jews of the world would rally to transport and establish their suffering brethren in their time-honored habitation. For over seventeen centuries they have patiently waited for such a privileged opportunity. They have not become agriculturists elsewhere because they believed they were sojourners in the various nations, and were yet to return to Palestine and till their own land. Whatever vested rights, by possession, may have accrued to Turkey can be easily compensated for, possibly by the Jews assuming an equitable portion of the national debt.
"We believe this is an appropriate time for all nations, and especially the Christian nations of Europe, to show kindness to Israel. A million of exiles, by their terrible sufferings, are piteously appealing to our sympathy, justice and humanity. Let us now restore to them the land of which they were so cruelly despoiled…
"To this end we respectfully petition His Excellency, Benjamin Harrison, President of the United States, and the Hon. J. G. Blaine, Secretary of State, to use their good offices and influence with the governments of their imperial majesties: Alexander III., Czar of Russia; Victoria, Queen of Great Britain and Empress of India; William II, Emperor of Germany; Francis Joseph, Emperor of Austro-Hungary; Abdul Hamid II., Sultan of Turkey; Her Royal Majesty, Marie Christina, Queen Regent of Spain; with the government of the Republic of France; and with the governments of Belgium, Holland, Denmark, Sweden, Portugal, Roumania, Servia, Bulgaria, and Greece, to secure the holding, at an early date, of an international conference to consider the condition of the Israelites and their claims to Palestine as their ancient home, and to promote in all other just and proper ways the alleviation of their suffering condition."
[The memorial is signed by prominent men of all professions and creeds from Chicago, Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Washington.]
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