This post is written by a member of the Messianic community in Israel or guest contributor. The opinions and views expressed are solely those of the author and may not necessarily reflect those of Kehila News Israel.

A Jew’s Rapture Book of Why

Ten questions about Israel for the "rapture-ready" Church

As a long-time follower of Yeshua the Messiah living in Israel, I address these questions to my brothers and sisters who support the pre-Tribulation Rapture scenario.

You refer to Israel as “God’s time piece,” and you intently watch everything touching my country for predictions of the End-Times. I know many of you have a genuine love for my people. But your Rapture belief dictates assumptions about Israel’s national repentance that need to be looked at more closely.

[1]  Why do you erect a “wall of partition” in the middle of God’s salvation plan?

Sorry if that sounds aggressive, but while you rejoice that Messiah made Jew and Gentile into one “and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall” (Eph. 2:14), you may not realize that you have replaced it with another wall. Take Yeshua’s warning about the Great Tribulation:

“For then there will be a great tribulation, such as has not occurred since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever will. Unless those days had been cut short, no life would have been saved; but for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short.” (Matt. 24:21-22)

You say that you are not “the elect” (the chosen) here. For you, this whole chapter is about a separate class of “chosen” that won’t exist until the really chosen are raptured. Likewise for Rev. 13:7, which says the Beast will “make war with the saints [holy ones] and overcome them.” The really holy ones are in Heaven by then; these “[not so] holy ones” refused to accept the gospel before the Tribulation “because of their own unbelief, procrastination, or pride.” Jews, who are around 0.2% of the world’s population, are prominent in your descriptions of this group.

Where does that two-tier caste system come from? Not Scripture, which identifies only one group called “God’s elect” (Luke 18:7, Rom.8:33). It’s based on a Scripture commentary called dispensationalism.

That 19th-century Church doctrine is one way to view God’s dealings with mankind, by dividing history into ages. It’s not bad… except for where in history you put the prophesied return of the Jewish nation to our God and our Messiah. For reasons I don’t get, the dispensationalists decided that the Jewish nation and the Church cannot be saved in the same “dispensation”.

[2]  Why are you so sure that Israel won’t repent in the Church age?

Wasn’t the Church age birthed by the repenting remnant of Israel who embraced Yeshua as Lord? So why shouldn’t the Church age reach its climax with the rest of Israel repenting? Seems to me that’s what Paul taught.

He wrote of the “mystery” that the promise, “all Israel will be saved,” is tied to “the times of the Gentiles” being fulfilled (Rom. 11:25). The apostle to you Gentiles doesn’t say that these acts of God will be happening in different ages. On the contrary, Paul expected that Gentiles who had received the mercy which saved them “now” would bring to Israel that same mercy “now” (v. 30-31). He was thinking of end-time prophecies like Isaiah 49.

In short, the salvation plan of Israel>Church>Israel was already announced back in what you call the “Law dispensation”. The mystery was not that God planned to save the Gentiles through Messiah, but that no one knew how God’s plan would play out. Actually, the Spirit-filled Jewish apostles found themselves looking at it with astonishment (Acts 10:45). It’s a good bet the Spirit-filled Church will be equally astonished at how God’s plan for saving all of Israel plays out.

Unfortunately, everyone in your doctrinal camp already “knows” that God deals with the Church and Israel in separate ages. So you have a condition pasted over His plan: Israel will have to be saved in some other dispensation, not yours.

Identifying that other dispensation got messy. Some decided that the Church age overwrote the “Israel/Law age” permanently (Replacement Theology). Others proposed that God called a time-out on Israel’s salvation until the end of the Church age, at which time the Israel age would resume (following their Law again), or reboot (a Grace-age echo called  “second-chance” salvation).

The chaos is such that the 7-dispensation scenario leaves the Tribulation, Israel’s time for salvation, orphaned between Dispensations 6 and 7. That’s also when you believe the Holy Spirit – the One who convicts men of sin – is removed from the earth. You have thus wedged Israel’s only shot at national repentance into a spiritual no-man’s time, when you envision repentance to be more difficult and painful than ever before.

THIS is God’s “covenant mercy” to His people Israel??

[3]  Why did Israel’s return from exile throw your teachers into such confusion?

Rapture supporters got excited when we reclaimed our ancient homeland in fulfillment of prophecy. Counting from the year 1948, Rapture teachers lined up to give explicit or hinted predictions of the Church’s soon departure: 1981, 1986, 1988, 1994, 2009, 2011, 2012 and more. When the “blood moons” (2014-15) failed to signal the Rapture, they were reused to forecast troubles for Israel. (Why Israel? Those eclipses were not over our land….) The many failures have not dampened enthusiasm among the rapture-ready for the latest Rapture theories based on Israel’s reappearance.

Meanwhile a different event created a bigger dilemma. In 1967 the Jews, facing open vows to destroy them, not only repelled the destroyers but regained control of Jerusalem, under admittedly unplanned circumstances. And God, not content to merely give victory, left His Fingerprints on the timing: restoring Israel’s Biblical heartland to the Jews in six days (like Creation), and liberating captive Jerusalem on the third day (like Yeshua’s Resurrection).

Rapture teachers were caught flat-footed. This was an explicit sign ending the Church age, based on Yeshua’s prophecy: “…they [the Jews] will fall by the edge of the sword, and will be led captive into all the nations; and Jerusalem will be trampled underfoot by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.” (Luke 21:24) The doctrinal dilemma was twofold: The Rapture is supposed to close “the times of the Gentiles”, not a war… and Jerusalem isn’t supposed to return to the Jews until they accept Christ.

The Rapture doctrine couldn’t be wrong. “God’s time piece” must be malfunctioning.

To turn back the clock, some of you predict a third Jewish exile from the Land: Israel’s rebirth was not an act of God but “a bizarre series of events” that will be nullified any day now. Others expect a localized Holocaust in “the West Bank,” cancelling the gains of the Six-Day War in a flood of new Jewish victims.

Disowning God’s command to the Church (Isa. 40:1-2), these teachers refuse to tell Jerusalem that “her warfare is ended,” for they believe “her iniquity” will not be “pardoned” while the Church is on the earth. The Jews must keep enduring punishment and lose Jerusalem again. The times of the Gentiles must return. Why? Because the Church still hasn’t been raptured. But a more convenient explanation is available: the Jews still haven’t accepted Yeshua.

[4]  Why do you never ask how many repentant Jews would be enough for God to end Israel’s punishment?

Based on God’s own testimony (Gen. 18:32), ten righteous residents would have been enough to save Sodom. Repentant Jews number between 15,000 and 20,000 (not counting silent and unaffiliated believers) in the Jewish state alone.

Is it possible that because of this humble fraction, Israel’s repentance is recognized by God as begun, and this is why Israel is experiencing so many of the blessings listed in our Covenant?

Some of you don’t sound happy about that idea; the Rapture program calls for less grace on Israel and more discipline. It really doesn’t matter how many are repenting now. One of your prominent teachers insists that “before Israel enters into her time of national blessing she must first pass through the fire of the tribulation.

[5]  Why does Israel’s repentance require the Tribulation?

If you could understand Hebrew, you would overhear discussions about Yeshua throughout Israel, even among the orthodox. Recognition of Him is still cautious, and it’s fraught with misunderstandings. But we in Israel have noticed a new freedom to talk about Him over the last decade. It’s both a cause and effect of a native-born Jewish community that openly embraces Yeshua as Messiah with typical Israeli confidence. In the army, in the universities, on the job, at the beach, and on treks abroad, the witness is passing like tiny sparks, Israeli to Israeli. Many listeners become interested enough to pick up a New Testament and read it. They are surprised to discover how Jewish it is: a fulfillment of the Tanach, turbo-driven by the Spirit of YHVH. The Good News is still powerful “to the Jew first” (Rom. 1:16).

But for reasons unknown, the dispensational foundation of your Rapture teaching will not allow for what we are experiencing. Blocking our testimony are three interlocking restrictions: “All Israel” will have to repent before God will have mercy on our nation; that could only come about from the extreme pressure of the Tribulation; neither of those can happen until after the Rapture of the Church. For some, that means way, way after, “at the last possible moment of the Great Tribulation.”

This cynical picture of God’s compassion on Israel is not complete without “Jacob’s Trouble”.

“Alas! for that day is great, there is none like it; and it is the time of Jacob’s distress….” (Jer. 30:7) Rapture teachers routinely equate this with the end-time Tribulation, as though only Israel will have trouble from it. But what of God’s promise in the same verse, that Jacob “will be saved out of it“? It’s changed to: “he will be purged by suffering through to the end of it.” Some also connect Zech. 13:7-9, which foretells that 2/3 of all Jews will be slaughtered, never considering that 2000 years of Jew-hatred have probably supplied that number already (1/3 of world Jewry were slaughtered by the Nazis alone).

The contrast is heightened by claiming a parallel promise that the Church will be saved from tribulation (Rev. 3:10), which in that case means physical removal so that not one Christian will suffer. So now you have a new problem: Divine favoritism.

In order to justify God rescuing His beloved Gentiles from the Tribulation, while He makes his beloved Jews “the focus of it, Rapture teaching blames the Jews. One dear pastor, who obviously cares about us, wrote a piece called “Jacob’s Trouble and the Great Tribulation,” where he lamented that Israel’s debt for rejecting Yeshua is still unpaid:

When the Jewish people rejected the Son of God as the Messiah, they set in motion the chain of events that were and are still to be affected…. The process of bringing them to repentance is yet forthcoming. They are an incredibly stubborn people and God’s chastisement [in the Tribulation] is one of the tools that will break the yoke.  (emphasis added)

Those who accept his view have missed three glaring contradictions:

(1) If “the Jewish people” had rejected Messiah, there would have been no missionaries to the Gentiles, and there would be no Church today.

(2) If the Jews are “incredibly stubborn” about the gospel, it’s “for your sake” (Rom. 11:28). God will not need to beat them with the Tribulation stick in order to “break” what He Himself placed on them.

(3) We see the nation’s wholesale response to “the spirit of grace and supplication” which God will pour out (Zech. 12:10-ff). Does this follow “chastisement” (v. 1-9)? No! It follows a stunning series of miraculous victories that sound familiar.

[6]  Why would you prefer flawed human theories over God’s order of events?

Scripture reveals an order that Rapture teaching tries to ignore. Consider the description of God’s dealing with Israel in Ezekiel 36.

First (v. 1-15) comes our physical return to the Land, specifically “the mountains of Israel” which are claimed by others (Judea-Samaria-Golan). Then God declares His wrath over our unfaithfulness in past tense (16-23). He brings us back from “all the lands” (24), cleanses us and gives us “a new heart and a new spirit” (25-26). That’s salvation, right? Our nation then becomes famous for Spirit-filled observance of “the statutes and ordinances” God gave us (27). Finally there’s rebuilding, repentance, and more rebuilding (28-38).

In contrast, Rapture teachers like this one leap from Ezek. 36:24 straight to Ezek. 38: “Because this prophecy has been fulfilled and Israel is a nation once more, that piece of the set-up is in place for the prophecy concerning the Gog-Magog Battle to begin.” After that, unbelieving Israel faces the Tribulation.

Ezekiel 37 expresses God’s plan more concisely and vividly as two miraculous resurrections. Again, first is the physical, then the spiritual. Whereas Rapture teachers stop reading at v. 11, time-wise we are somewhere between v. 13 and 14. Israel is the only country in the world whose pop music has been described as “God-obsessed,” and this trend has intensified over the last decade.

So for all you know, Israel’s repentance could be underway right now — and you would never see it. Your theology forbids seeing it before the Rapture.

That’s probably why a veteran Rapture teacher wrote this about modern Israel: “…most of her citizens are not only indifferent to the God of their Fathers, but openly hostile to any notions that the God of the Land is anything more than an interesting mythology now outgrown and to be discarded.” He never checked the facts… only his dispensational rulebook.

As mentioned, there are at least 15,000 in Israel alone who didn’t need the Tribulation to receive Yeshua. That problem, however, is erased by teaching that we aren’t repentant Israel. We’re just the Church that happens to live in Israel.

[7]  Why is it so hard for you to acknowledge our Jewish identity?

Rapture doctrine strongly encourages the nation of Israel to fight for its Jewish character. Study of Torah and Hebrew, the obligation to observe Israel’s God-given covenant, even loyalty to traditions not commanded in Scripture — the rapture-ready Church is duty-bound to protect these as the inheritance of the Jews. We might even say that the less interested in Yeshua Israelis seem to be, the more strongly you are prepared to honor and defend their Jewish identity.

What a change occurs when Israelis (or Jews anywhere) actually accept their Messiah! Suddenly they need to shed those “old covenant” ways and consider themselves no different from the nations who make up the Church. They have entered the realm of “no Jew or Gentile” (Gal. 3:28), which apparently means that all saints are now Gentile. It’s also the realm of “no male or female“… are all saints now female?

This flip-flop on the acceptability of Jewish identity leads you to a schizophrenic kind of Zionism. In supporting the nation of Israel, you must separate the unbelieving Jewish people from the “formerly Jewish” saints. Some big pro-Rapture ministries have built excellent relations with the Israeli government by avoiding the Israeli believers. Others who partner with Israeli believers are careful to identify us as Christians with an “ethnic Jewish” heritage — culturally interesting, but irrelevant for serving God. The consensus is that we in Israel who believe in Messiah should no longer participate in God’s covenant with Israel. If we do, then we are “under Law” rather than Grace.

I admit that we ourselves are flip-flopping about our obligations before God as Jews in Messiah. We’re probably confusing you as well. Let’s just say that the rapture-ready teachings about Israel aren’t helping either side.

[8]  Why should Israel’s dedication to Torah be cancelled by salvation?

True Torah is not rabbinic teaching, but the “commandments of God” that Messiah wholeheartedly supports (Matt. 5:19, 15:3, etc.). God’s Torah contains greater commandments for all mankind and lesser commands for Israel only. While no one would abolish “do not steal” from the Grace age, the Church discourages Israel’s laws as grace-killing bondage, or at best unnecessary ceremony. But didn’t the same gracious God give both kinds of commands?

What about the original apostles and their Jewish disciples, who taught you Grace? They released you from Israel’s obligations (Acts 15) while they themselves “were all zealous for the Law” (Acts 21:20). They never taught Jews in Messiah to abandon that Law (v. 21), and they looked for personal obedience to the Law as proof that a Jewish saint was “walking orderly” (v. 24).

Yet Rapture teaching, guided by dispensationalism, banishes that orderly walk from this age. As this Rapture FAQ page explains, “No Christian needs to keep the Sabbath, the feasts or the dietary laws to abide in Christ.” Whether Jews need to keep these to abide in their Covenant is not even on the radar. The only saints interested in Israel’s laws are legalists trying to earn salvation.

The Torah zeal of the Jewish apostles and the Jerusalem community is neutralized by hinting that those who built the Church — and who warned you not to change their teaching (Gal. 1:8-9) — were not as spiritually enlightened as today’s Church teachers.

That’s a slippery slope. Building on dispensationalist divorce of Law and Grace, one recent teaching likewise dismisses the Spirit’s power throughout the New Testament as a temporary “baby stage” between Law and Grace. Once the Church entered total Grace, she wisely gave up miracles. Paul’s principle (1 Cor. 4:20), “For the kingdom of God does not consist in words but in power,” is inverted here by a wordy, contradictory justification for why so many Christians today are powerless.

The profound connection between faithfulness to God’s commandments and the Holy Spirit’s activity affects both the Church and Israel, and it deserves a separate article. But I digress.

[9]  “Why do you yourselves transgress the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition?” (Matt. 15:3)

The enlightened Church encourages Jewishness in unrepentant Jews, but discourages it in repentant Jews. Homogenizing them all into the Church benefits the rapture-ready; it continually removes signs of the Jewish nation repenting before you are snatched away.

But as the Rapture continues to delay, and Israel’s repentance becomes more visible and more Jewish, how long can this strategy succeed?

Was it ever right in the first place? Doesn’t the New Testament command us as Jewish disciples “to remain in the calling” of the Jews? (1 Cor. 7:18)

Are you teaching Paul’s gospel? Where then are those “of Jewish heritage” among you who rest on the seventh day “to keep it holy” because “it’s a sign of the Covenant between Me and the children of Israel forever“? (Ex. 31:16-17) If you aren’t teaching this command to your Jewish congregants, haven’t you dismembered God’s definitions of “forever” and “the children of Israel” to protect your dispensations?

If you cannot acknowledge Israel’s “irrevocable” gifts and calling as “the root which supports” both Israel and the Church throughout this present age (Rom. 11:18), you lose more than just a balanced perspective on Israel. You will lose your place in an act of God awaited by ALL the ages. Sure enough, it does focus on Israel.

[10]  Why should you miss God’s greatest restoration act in history?

Paul is clear that Israel was hardened by God so that the nations — you — could receive Messiah. “From the standpoint of the gospel they are enemies for your sake.” (Rom. 11:28)

He contends that this places on the Gentiles an obligation which also is a glorious opportunity:

For just as you once were disobedient to God, but now have been shown mercy because of their disobedience, so these also now have been disobedient, that because of the mercy shown to you they also may now be shown mercy.” (v. 30-31)

Yes, rapture-ready friend: Paul placed Israel’s national repentance in the hands of the Church, in your hands, as a favor to be returned. And in his admonition to the Gentiles, notice the word “NOW“.

Rapture teaching denies you that opportunity by postponing the “now” of God until after the Church has been raptured. It denies that Israel’s repentance is beginning right now by stripping the Torah-based identity markers from all Jews who come to Messiah.

How did the apostles bring “myriads” of Jews to Messiah (Acts 21:20)? By walking in the full Torah-based gospel with the full power of the Holy Spirit. God is looking for saints who are willing to be trained by Him to bring this walk back to Israel. The cost is high. But we’re talking about “life from the dead” (Rom. 11:15).

“Listen to Me, O islands, and pay attention to me, you peoples from afar.” (Isa. 49:1) You who have ears to hear your Lord calling: Ask  Him to give you a role in fulfilling this astonishing end-time mystery. Once He shows you that the Time has arrived, you won’t want to be left behind!

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Hannah Weiss
Hannah Weiss lives in Israel with her husband Hillel, their three children and two grandchildren. Besides writing on issues relevant for followers of Yeshua, she also works as an English writer, editor and translator for Israeli exporters and academics. Hannah is part of a small home fellowship, Restorers of Zion, which serves the Body of Messiah by focusing on neglected or dysfunctional areas of Scriptural teaching and practice.

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