Biblical Prophecy And The Regathering Of Israel
By J. C. Ryle (1816 – 1900)
[Editor’s Note: In one of the sermons compiled in the book Coming Events and Present Duties published in 1879, J. C. Ryle showed great understanding of biblical prophecy regarding the regathering of the Jewish people. He taught that the numerous prophetic texts that mention the gathering and restoration of the Jews in the latter days (e.g., Isa. 11:11-12; Ezek. 37:21; Hos. 3:4-5; Amos 9:14-15; Zeph. 3:14-20) “all point to a time which is yet future. They all predict the final gathering of the Jewish nation from the four quarters of the globe and their restoration to their own land.” He went on to say that based on “Scriptural evidence, the Jews will probably first be gathered in an unconverted state, though humbled; and will afterwards be taught to look to Him whom they have pierced, through much tribulation.”
His understanding of the prophecies was obviously accurate as the nation of Israel was reborn about 70 years after he shared the message and the Jews have indeed regathered in an unconverted state. Throughout the message Ryle provides excellent teaching regarding how the church should relate to the Jewish people and also regarding how we should approach Scripture and prophecy. Following are excerpts from the message that remain relevant for us today.]
“I ask you, then, to settle it firmly in your mind that when God says a thing shall be done – we ought to believe it. We have no right to begin talking of probable and improbable, likely and unlikely, possible and impossible, reasonable and unreasonable. What is all this but veiled skepticism and infidelity in disguise?
“What has the Lord said? What has the Lord spoken? What says the Scriptures? What is written in the Word? These are the only questions we have a right to ask; and when the answer to them is plain – we have nothing to do but believe. Our reason may rebel. Our preconceived ideas of what God ought to do may receive a rude shock. Our private systems of prophetic interpretation may be shattered to pieces. Our secret prejudices may be grievously offended. But what are we to do? We must abide by Scripture, or be of all men most miserable. At any cost, let us cling to the Word. ‘Let God be true, but every man a liar’ (Rom. 3:4).
“In all matters of unfulfilled prophecy, I desire, for my own part, to fall back on this principle. I see many things I cannot explain. I find many difficulties I cannot solve. But I dare not give up my principle. I am determined to believe everything that God says. I know it will all prove true at the last day. I read that He says in the text, ‘He that scattered Israel will gather him’ (Jer. 31:10). It must be true, I feel, whatever be the difficulties. That Israel shall be gathered, I steadfastly believe.”
“Reader, accept a friendly exhortation this day. Cleave to the literal sense of Bible words and beware of departing from it – except in cases of absolute necessity. Beware of that system of allegorizing and spiritualizing and accommodating, which…has found such an unfortunate degree of favor in the church. Settle it in your mind, in reading the Psalms and Prophets, that Israel means Israel; and Zion means Zion; and Jerusalem means Jerusalem.”
“What I protest against is the habit of allegorizing plain sayings of the Word of God concerning the future history of the nation Israel and explaining away the fullness of their contents in order to accommodate them to the Gentile church! The least errors in theology always bear fruit. Never does man take up an incorrect principle of interpreting Scripture, without that principle entailing awkward consequences and coloring the whole tone of his religion. …Whatever edification you derive from applying to your own soul the words which God addresses to His ancient people – never lose sight of the primary sense of the text.”
“God’s counsels and purposes are independent of human strength. The sun will set tonight at its appointed hour, and neither Queen, Lords, nor Commons, Pope, President, nor Emperors – can hasten, prevent, or put off its setting. The tides of the sea will ebb and flow this week in their regular course, and no scientific decree nor engineering skill can interfere with their motion. And just in like manner, the promises of God concerning Israel will all be fulfilled in due season, whether we will hear, or whether we will forbear.
“When the ‘times and seasons’ arrive which God has ‘put in His own power,’ Israel will be gathered; and all the alliances and combinations of statesmen, and all the persecution and unbelief of apostate churches shall not be able to prevent it. But seeing that we look for such things, it befits us all to be found in the path of duty. It behooves us to consider gravely the solemn question: What manner of people ought we to be? And in what way can we testify our full assent to God’s purposes about the Jews? Can we in no sense be fellow-workers with God? Should we not remember that remarkable saying of Paul, ‘Through your mercy they also may obtain mercy’ (Rom. 11:31).”
“I believe, then, for one thing, that it is a duty incumbent on all Gentile Christians to take a special interest in the spiritual condition of the Jewish nation, and to give their conversion a special place in our prayers. I believe, furthermore, that it is a duty incumbent on all Gentile Christians, to be especially careful that they take up stumbling blocks out of the way of Israel, and too that they do nothing to disgust them with Christianity or hinder their conversion. This is a matter which is expressly mentioned in Scripture. There we find Isaiah bidding us, ‘Take up the stumbling block out of the way of [God’s] people’ (Isa. 57:14). Finally, I believe it is a duty incumbent on all Gentile Christians to use special efforts in order to promote the conversion of the Jews.”
“I leave the whole subject with three remarks, which I pray God to impress on the minds of all into whose hand this address may fall.
“For one thing, I charge every reader to remember the special blessing which God has promised to all who care for Israel. Whatever a sneering world may say, the Jews are a people ‘beloved for the fathers’ sake’ (Rom. 11:28). Of Jerusalem it is written, ‘They shall prosper that love thee’ (Psa. 122:6). Of Israel it is written, ‘Blessed is he that blesseth thee, and cursed is he that curseth thee’ (Num. 24:9). These promises are not yet exhausted. …Is there anyone that desires God’s special blessing? Then let him labor in the cause of Israel, and he shall not fail to find it.
“For another thing, I charge every reader of this address never to forget the close connection which Scripture reveals between the time of Israel’s gathering and the time of Christ’s second advent to the world. In one psalm it is expressly declared, ‘When the Lord shall build up Zion, He shall appear in His glory’ (Psa. 102:16). Where is the true believer who does not long for that blessed day? Where is the true Christian who does not cry from the bottom of his heart, ‘May Your kingdom come’? Let all such work and give and pray, so that the Gospel may have free course in Israel. The time to favor Zion is closely bound up with the restitution of all things. Blessed indeed is that work of which the completion shall usher in the second coming of the Lord!
“Finally, I charge every reader of this address to make sure work of his own salvation. Rest not in mere head knowledge of prophetic subjects. Be not content with intellectual soundness in the faith. Give diligence to make your own calling and election sure. Seek to know that your repentance and faith are genuine and true. Seek to feel that you are one with Christ and Christ in you, and that you are washed, sanctified, and justified. Then, whether the completion of God’s promises to Israel are near or far off – your own portion will be sure. You will stand safely when the kingdoms of this world are passing away. You will meet Christ without fear when He comes the second time to Zion. You will join boldly in the song, ‘Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord’ (Matt. 21:9).”