Jews & Last Hour
Dear Dr. Brown,
I received a list of questions that a contact in my home church wrote down. He has been raised Roman Catholic and doesn’t know much, if anything, about the Wesleyan-Arminian persuasion. If you have time, could you please answer some of these questions? I have written down the one’s I am unsure of. So…if you could, it would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!
I don’t think I can get to all of your questions in one column, so I’ll have to answer some of them later. Your friend asked:
If the Jews are God’s chosen people, then how do they not believe in Jesus and will they go to Heaven?
Paul answers this question in Romans. In Rom. 9:1-5 Paul says that he has great sorrow and anguish in his heart for his fellow Jews. He was even willing to be damned if that would result in the salvation of the people God had chosen and blessed so much. In Rom. 10:1-4 Paul tells us why the Jews have not believed: rather than accepting the righteousness that come from God through faith in Jesus, they have attempted to make themselves righteous before God by keeping the law. But no one can ever justify himself before God by keeping the law (Gal. 3:11). Doing good never cancels out sin.
However, there is still hope for the Jews.
In Romans 11:17-24, Paul uses the imagery of an olive tree to explain the condition of the Jews. They are “branches” that have been broken out of the olive tree because of their unbelief (11:20). Gentiles (that you and me) are grafted into the olive tree through faith in Christ (11:17-20). If a Jew will turn to Christ and believe that God has provided an atonement for his sins through Christ, he will be grafted back into the olive tree (11:23-24). At the same time, Paul warns the Gentiles that if they do not continue in faith, they can be cut out just like the Jews were (11:21-22).
You may be wondering what the ‘olive tree’ is. The olive tree is the line of believers that began with Abraham, the spiritual father of all believers (Rom. 4:16) and the physical father of all Jews. Romans 9:6ff is Paul’s explanation of why all the descendants of Abraham are not automatically saved: only those who believe in Christ (9:33) are considered part of Abraham’s spiritual descendants. The good news that Jesus died and rose again so that we might be saved is still the power of God to save men, to the Jew first and also to the Gentile (Rom. 1:17).
People have been saying for years that the world is going to end, what makes it so much more real now, than back thousands of years ago?
This is a good question. Let me say first that the New Testament emphasizes that Christ’s return is imminent in several ways. It says we are in the ‘last days’ (Acts 2:17; Heb. 1:2). We are in the ‘last hour’ according to John (1 John 2:18), and Peter says, “the end of all things is at hand” (1 Pet. 4:7). But, you might say, “Isn’t this ‘last hour’ getting pretty long?”
Peter gives the most implicit answer to your question in his second epistle (2 Pet. 3:3-10). He says that mockers will arise who will say that people have been saying for years that Jesus will come, but he hasn’t come; therefore, all this talk about Jesus’ coming and the world ending is a bunch of nonsense.
But, Peter says, anyone who says that is deliberately ignoring the fact that God destroyed the world by a flood just like it promised He would, even though those people did not believe it. Peter gives us the reason Christ hasn’t returned and the world hadn’t been destroyed in verses 8-9: “But do not let this one fact escape your notice, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance” (NASB).
God is patiently withholding his wrath so that men may still be saved! Isn’t God good?! But don’t be fooled into thinking that God’s patience will last forever. 1 Peter 3:10 tells us that there is coming a day in which the heavens and the earth will be destroyed by fire. Since that is true, we should be very careful to live holy lives (3:11).
Yes, the ‘last hour’ has been longer than we would have expected and might still be longer that we do expect. At the same time, the last hour could end tomorrow with Jesus coming for his bride. Let’s live ready! Even so, come, Lord Jesus!
Glad to be able to share the Scriptures with you.
P.S. The reason people talk about Christ’s coming being ‘sooner’ or ‘closer’ than it ever has been is simple: nearly 2,000 years have passed since Christ ascended to heaven. That makes his coming nearly 2,000 years closer that it was back then!