Christians, particularly Protestant Christians, are very used to emphasizing that they have a ‘personal relationship’ with Jesus. There is an attitude of individualism that arose within Protestantism that resulted in each individual Christian placing a focus on their personal relationship with God. In addition, reactions within Protestantism to cold, dead, formal orthodoxy or too much emphasis on dry, scholarly, and sometimes divisive theology, led to pietism and the focus on cultivating a personal experience of the Spirit of God as part of a lively, active, relevant and dynamic personal spiritual life. Influences such as these infiltrated the Great Awakening and its leaders such as Jonathan Edwards in particular. The Great Awakening formed the basis for what we now know as Evangelicalism – especially in the U.S.A. Thus we find an emphasis on individuals reading and interpreting Scripture for themselves, and we find preachers encouraging individuals to ‘ask Jesus to come into their heart’, as well as perhaps encouragements to personal, individual experiences of spiritual gifts, or to a personal, individual experience of the Spirit of God, or the Presence of God.
This individualism reflects one of the great differences between modern day ‘Bible-believing’ Christians and the Jews, because the Jews tend to perceive God’s dealings with them as being at a national level more than at a personal or individual level. Jewish focus is on a group of people, physically descended from Abraham and the son that God promised to Abraham – Isaac – as being God’s chosen people. God made a number of promises to Abraham and his descendants, including the promise of land and the provision of a future deliverer. These promises to the descendants of Abraham and Isaac were further elaborated under Moses in particular. The Jews were set apart as God’s people and given not only promises but also privileges, revelations, prophets and God’s Law in order to keep them on a godly path until the time for their promised deliverer arrived.
But the Jews disobeyed the conditions of the Covenants that God made with them again and again, such that they roused the anger of God and lost what land they had managed to possess and found themselves placed in exile. By the time of Jesus, their land was reduced to a province under Roman governance. Even so, the Jews at this time were still looking for their promised deliverer or Messiah, and the Jews understood the promises surrounding the Messiah in nationalistic terms. This meant that the promised deliverer was thought of in terms of a ruler/king in Israel who would arise and deliver the Jews from Roman rule, defeat their enemies and establish the Promised Land that they would possess from then on under the heirs and successors of this promised ruler. This would usher in prosperity and blessedness for the Jews – for Israel.
Jesus claimed to be the promised Messiah but when he began his ministry he was met with opposition from the Jews. Despite his teaching and miracle working, he was seen as an upstart and a false messiah. On his death, the Jews considered that he had not fulfilled all of the Messianic prophecies, and so they rejected him. Then, following a failed attempt to overthrow Roman governance, the Jews were banished from their own land – thus continuing their exile – an exile that had lasted from the time of Isaiah and Jeremiah right up until the end of World War II. The book or Revelation tells us that they were scattered in exile in the wilderness to prevent Satan, who was incensed at his failure to frustrate the work of the Messiah, from turning on them and destroying them.
Meanwhile, Christians, on seeing that not all of the Messianic prophesies had been fulfilled by Jesus, but still insisting that God cannot fail, chose to ‘spiritualise’ these unfulfilled prophesies by arguing that they had a ‘spiritual fulfillment’ in heaven. In the process, they denied the possibility of any literal, material fulfillment of prophecies found for example in Isaiah and Jeremiah.
A careful reading of Scripture reveals that the Jews are not wrong to interpret these prophecies in nationalistic terms. Isaiah and Jeremiah prophesied the then forthcoming overthrow and captivity of the divided northern and southern kingdoms. But they were also at pains to point out that this defeat did not mean that God had abandoned them or that God had failed, and that in due course, God would honor His promises to the Jews because he had sworn by His own Name to fulfill His promises.
Thus, at the end of the present age, with the rise of the ‘man of lawlessness’, the Jews, at a national level, will have paid in full for their breaking of the Covenants and rejection of the Messiah. At the end of this present age, the full number of Gentiles and martyrs will have come in, and the gospel age will come to a close and God furious wrath will be poured out. It is with the close of the present age that God’s promises to the Jews as a nation will come into effect. Following the events that will occur during the time of the generation of the ‘man of lawlessness’, Jerusalem and Israel will be purged and cleansed, and afterwards the remaining remnant of Jews will be brought out of exile and will be gathered to their Promised Land. The rule of the Messiah will be established in Zion and the time for the judgment of nations will begin.