The Epistle to the Romans (11:12) reveals a national conversion of the Jews that will wonderfully advance the spreading of the gospel throughout the world. The fall of the Jews, as a people before God, is set over against the subsequent conversion of all Israel to the faith of Christ: “And so all Israel shall be saved” (Rom 11:26). “Now if the fall of them be the riches of the world, and the diminishing of them the riches of the Gentiles; how much more their fullness?” The fullness, or conversion, of the Jews will not be after the manner of the forced conversions which have been imposed upon them by the Roman Catholic Church. Freely Christ is given and freely He shall be received when the Lord shall “pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and supplications: and they shall look upon Me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for Him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for Him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn” (Zec 12:10). This will take place when Christ comes to them, not in person but in the power of the gospel, as it is written: “There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob. For this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins” (Is 59:20,21, Rom 11:26,27).
The future prosperity of the Church is bound up with the Christian future of the Jews. Furthermore, the Gentile Christian Church has a standing obligation towards the Jews arising from their instrumentality in bringing God’s mercy to us. “For as ye in times past have not believed God, yet have now obtained mercy through their unbelief: even so have these also now not believed, that through your mercy they may also obtain mercy” (Rom 11:30,31). This work is in accordance with God’s will. Thomas Boston, one of the Church of Scotland’s most eminent ministers recognised the importance of praying for the Jews. In a sermon on Zechariah 12:12, preached at Ettrick on 11 March 1716, he asked, “Have you any love to, or concern for, the Church, for the work of reformation – the reformation of our country, the reformation of the world? Any longing desire for the revival of that work now at a stand, for a flourishing state of the Church, that is now under decay? Then pray for the conversion of the Jews.”
To preach Christ to the Jews is a priority for Christian Churches. “Rabbi” Duncan, in his fifth address to the Free Church Assembly, in 1864, said, “The beloved Apostle of us Gentiles, our teacher in faith and verity, opens his mission to us with these noble words: “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first and also to the Greek” (Rom 1:16). To the Jew, his kinsmen according to the flesh, he assigns his due priority, not superiority. He is primus inter pares [first among equals], from which position he should neither be by Gentile pride degraded, nor by voluntary humility of Gentile obsequiousness exalted.” They remain, as regards the election and covenant, “beloved” of God for the fathers’ sakes. “For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance” (Rom 11:29).
Love for the Jews and a longing for their true, spiritual conversion was evident in the preaching of the fathers of the Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland. Rev D Macdonald, Shieldaig, when preaching from Ezekiel 37:1-14, on the valley of dry bones, said: “When the fullness of the Gentiles shall come in, the Jews shall have a large share of the glory and honour in spreading the kingdom of Christ. They shall come from north, south, east and west, from the countries where they have been scattered, and shall go forth preaching the gospel, it may be with unprecedented success, enflamed with love and zeal, considering that they were so long rejecting Christ and that their forefathers crucified Him. Doubtless their sorrow shall be very great, and their love and zeal very intense. They shall be the more qualified to preach in various countries as they shall possess the languages of the countries in which they have been sojourners. They shall preach in these languages; and their success may be the conversion of innumerable multitudes.” “For the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea” (Is 11: 9).
Commenting on the question put in Isaiah 60:8: “Who are these that fly as a cloud, and as the doves to their windows?” Mr Macdonald said, “There are many drops in a cloud. So there are many written in the Lamb’s book of life that shall be converted. The Gentiles that believed after Christ’s resurrection are here alluded to, and so are all believing souls to the end of time. The Jewish people are included. There is a special promise concerning them (Rom 11:25,26). They shall be converted in millions when the glorious days shall come. I am of the opinion that they shall be enflamed with love, with much love; that the Holy Spirit shall be poured abundantly upon them, and that they shall be honoured of God to evangelise the world, perhaps more than any other preachers.” In a third sermon, on Psalm 46:4, entitled The River and the City, Mr Macdonald said, “There is joy in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, and if that is so, what great joy it will afford to God when the millions that inhabit the kingdoms of the world shall be converted! Then the Jews shall throng the roads to Jerusalem, coming back to their land and city from all the cities in which they were exiles. Jerusalem shall be rebuilt. Colleges, schools and churches will be reared up in every direction. It will then be said of the Church of God: “Who is she that looketh forth as the morning, fair as the moon, clear as the sun, and terrible as an army with banners?” (Song 6:10).
The state of Israel was restored in 1948. Some think that a civil restoration of Israel to their own land is not necessary in order for the fulfilling of the Scripture prophecies concerning the Jews. Others take a different view. In the seventeenth century, James Durham (1) expected, in the light of many Scripture promises, a restoration of a national, civil state of Israel. Thomas Boston was of a similar mind: “Whether the Jews shall possess their own land again or not, I will not positively determine: but I confess I incline to think they will” (on Zec 12:12).
In the year 2001 approximately 44 000 Jews returned to Israel as immigrants from various parts of the world, including almost 34 000 from the former Soviet Union. The Jews call this Jewish immigration aliyah, which means ascent. The word occurs in 2 Chronicles 9:4 and refers to the glorious ascent, or stair, by means of which Solomon ascended and entered the temple. The root of aliyah is alah (to go up) from which also comes hola, the holocaust, or whole burnt offering. The hola, being the principal sacrifice, typified Christ as a substitute enduring the sufferings due to the sins of His people. Those who reject Him have no substitute and must bear the punishment of their own sins. After the wicked attempt of the Nazis to exterminate the Jews during the Second World War, a Jewish state was re-established and since then the Jews have been returning to their own land in millions. Do these events suggest that the spiritual restoration of Israel may be near at hand, when “all Israel” will embrace Christ “once offered to bear the sins of many”?
In 1922 Donald Urquhart offered himself to the Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland as a student, with a view to devoting his life to work among the Jews. He was subsequently ordained as a missionary to the Jews on 25 July 1928 and set sail for Palestine on August 4 of the same year. He became proficient not only in the Hebrew of the Bible but also in modern Hebrew. Interesting reports of his work are to be found in The Free Presbyterian Magazine, volumes 35,39 and 40. He laboured in Tel Aviv, in a community of around 40 000 Jews. In 1925 the Synod received Mr Isodore Reuter to work among the Jews in Glasgow. More recently, until 1981, Rev Moshe Radcliff was employed as a Missionary to the Jews in Glasgow. We understand that the Free Presbyterian Church was the last Scottish Church to employ a full-time Missionary to the Jews. As the gospel came from the Jews to the Gentiles, so it is to return from the Gentiles to the Jews, through “your mercy” (Rom 11:31,32). The Jewish and Foreign Mission Committee is at present considering ways in which we as a Church might revive our work among the Jews. May the Lord give guidance!
1. Commentary on Revelation, Old Paths edition, p 788f.