Abstract: A very significant but often overlooked aspect of Israel’s national life is the role and testimonies of Messianic Jews. A few short biographies are presented.
Since the beginning of Israel's history, this nation has been a major arena for the struggle between the kingdom of God and the kingdom of Satan. God called Israel forth from the heathen world to be His people, set apart for Him, a nation who would live to honour His Name. They were to take a stand against this world and against the forces of evil. Therefore, He called them Israel which means Warriors for God.
It is understandable that Satan, God's enemy, would do everything possible to harm or destroy Israel physically and spiritually. To that end he incites their heathen enemies to attack and confront them. He also makes use of more subtle attacks in the form of temptations, such as he used to tempt Eve in the Garden of Eden. The spiritual polarisation in Israel is proof of the degree of success he has had. Many Jews have forgotten the Lord, many have turned to a form of godliness without real spirituality, and others have even turned to idols.
Nevertheless, there was always a faithful remnant in Israel – a group of Jews who are truly worthy to receive the blessings that God had promised His people. In one of the darkest hours of their history, when Elijah thought that he was the only faithful one left in Israel, God gave him the assurance that there were 7 000 others who have not bowed the knee to Baal.
Of course, the faithful remnant was always a minority group, but that is not the determining factor. No, they are the true Israel and it is from them that the Lord Jesus came in the flesh (Rom. 9:4-5).
Do you reject and condemn Israel for the sins of the majority? Or do you pray for the restoration and protection of the Jews because you know that there is still a faithful remnant in their midst? The apostle Paul said: "Though the number of the children of Israel be as the sand of the sea, a remnant shall be saved" (Rom. 9:27).
The same situation prevails world-wide, as the majority of the members of all nations have left the ways of the Lord, and are now on the road to perdition. We must therefore be certain to recognise this reality, otherwise we may wrongly generalise and judge a whole nation.
The courage of the faithful remnant in Israel is evident throughout their history. When God called Abraham, he obeyed without question and received the promise that the Saviour of the world would be born from his descendants. The two generations after Abraham, that of Isaac and Jacob, continued to lay the foundation of this outstanding nation.
The people of God often became faithless and disobedient, and He called leaders like Joseph, Moses, Caleb, Joshua, David and the prophets to lead them back to Him. These men mostly worked and witnessed in a society that not only rejected them, but openly threatened their lives. However, they knew what the consequences of disobedience were, therefore they continued to witness and preach regardless of the price they had to pay.
Joseph was condemned, thrown into a well and sold to the Midianites. Moses had to flee to the desert because his people had rejected him when he killed an Egyptian to protect one of his own. Caleb and Joshua were the only two spies who believed that the Lord would enable His people to conquer the Promised Land, but the majority report of the other ten spies was accepted. The Jews were so enraged by Caleb and Joshua's persistence and bold stand for God, that they wanted to stone them. Even David knew firsthand what it was to be rejected by his own people. He spent many days and nights fleeing and hiding in caves. Many of the prophets were hunted down, imprisoned and killed. We know that the Lord Jesus Himself met with severe hostility. He was persecuted, falsely accused, sold for the price of a slave and finally crucified with a common criminal on each side of Him.
God used the powerful witness of saints like these to lead thousands of His people back to Him. After all his hardships, Joseph became a powerful man in Egypt who saved his whole family from starvation. Moses became the great leader who freed Israel from the land of slavery and taught them the ways of the Lord. Joshua, who had not been afraid at the sight of the heathen Canaanites, led the twelve tribes into the Promised Land, and achieved one victory after another. David became one of the most famous fighting kings ever to reign in Israel, and an ancestor of the Messiah. The prophets prepared the people for the arrival of the Messiah and King. Even in times of decadence and apostasy, they helped to preserve, protect and encourage the faithful remnant of God.
All the Messianic prophecies and atonement rites of the Old Testament were fulfilled in the suffering and death of Jesus, the Messiah. He was the ultimate sacrifice for the sins of mankind, and it is therefore not necessary for priests and prophets to intercede any longer. The veil into the Sanctuary was torn when He was crucified. The door was opened, and now anyone can approach the throne of mercy and ask for forgiveness in the name of Jesus. The church of the Lord Jesus was founded with the conversion of 3 000 Jewish people at Pentecost. After the mighty outpouring of the Holy Spirit, the faithful were sent to the uttermost parts of the earth as witnesses for the Messiah. On this mission to a hostile world, the struggle and persecution would continue unabated.
In the New Testament, the war between the kingdom of God and the kingdom of Satan intensified. Apart from the church, Israel remained an important target for the forces of evil, since they are still the chosen people of God (Lev. 26:44-45; Ezek. 36:24‑29; Acts 15:16; Rom. 11:1-33; Heb 8:7-13).
The Messianic Jews were persecuted right from the beginning (see Acts 8:1-4). This hostility would continue in a lesser or higher degree throughout the centuries. The nineteenth century saw large numbers of Jews accepting Jesus (for more information, see: Famous Hebrew Christians, by J. Gartenhaus). Reverend E. Newman, a Jewish Christian, believes that more than 500 000 Jews from a total of sixteen million, had accepted Jesus as the Messiah before World War II.
Because of social rejection it is extremely difficult for an orthodox Jew to become a Christian, with the result that there are virtually no Jewish Christians who are unsaved nominal Christians. If they take a decision to become Christians, they count the cost and go all the way. Therefore, the statistics of conversions in Jewish communities are much more reliable than statistics pertaining to Western countries, where about 80% of the members of Christian churches (in some cases up to 98%) have not met Jesus Christ personally, and are therefore not born-again believers, but merely Christians in name only.
Modern-day saints among the remnant of Israel experience as much opposition as their faithful brethren of the first century, and their witnesses are equally inspiring. The following are the testimonies of a few such heroes of faith:
Rabbi Leopold Cohn was born in Berezna in the eastern part of Hungary in the nineteenth century. At the age of thirteen, after his Bar Mitzvah, he decided to become a rabbi as he became aware of the need for spiritual leadership.
While studying, he was intensely aware of his people's dispersion, and that they had been waiting for the Messiah so long. It became one of the focal points of his research and prayers. Article 12 of the Jewish creed, confirming the belief that the Messiah will come even though He may tarry, became an integral part of his morning prayer.
Repeating these words so often, turned the belief in his heart into a burning desire for the fulfilment of God's promises. He desperately wished to see his people restored soon. He finally discovered that repeating the prayer for Israel was not enough for him any more. He would sit on the bare floor at night and mourn the destruction of the temple. All the time he would beg the Lord to send the Messiah soon.
The young rabbi often wondered why the Messiah was still waiting, and when He would come. Then he came upon these words in the Talmud: "The world will exist for six thousand years. There will be chaos for two thousand years, two thousand years will be spent under the Law, and the time of the Messiah will be two thousand years."
With great enthusiasm he began to study the work of Rashi, a well‑known Jewish expositor, but this brought no answers. "After the two thousand years the Messiah will come and destroy the wicked kingdoms." These words confused him even more, for that means that the Messiah has already come! Instead of seeing the Messiah, the people of Israel had been scattered, and this was one of the most problematic events in the history of his nation to account for.
"Could it possibly be?" Leopold Cohn asked himself. "Is it possible that the time of the Messiah had come without the fulfilment of the promise?" He was deeply disturbed and confused, and decided to seek an answer in the original Scriptures of the Old Testament. Daniel 9 brought some answers, and he discovered many profound and hidden truths. For example: from Daniel 9:24 he deducted that the prophecy of the 70 weeks referred to a period of 490 years.
Rabbi Cohn, who was used to the complex and often abstract arguments of the Talmud (the Jewish scriptures containing their religious traditions, ethical standards and laws) was fascinated by the clear and simple statements in the Word of God. He started to question the credibility of the Talmud, because it differed from the Holy Scriptures in so many ways. "Please open my eyes so that I can see the wonders in Your Word," he prayed.
At that stage he was still unfamiliar with the New Testament, therefore he did not try to find any answers there. He went to the rabbi of a nearby town and told him about his doubts and confusion regarding the Talmud. Instead of advice, he received a vicious scolding and was insulted and humiliated. The rabbi ended his long speech with the following reproach: "Have you now undertaken to explain that which cannot be fathomed? You, who are little more than a child, now have the audacity to question the teachings of the Talmud! Aren't the teachings of our fathers good enough for you any more? You speak exactly like the American apostates who believe that our Messiah has already come. I want to warn you that if you continue with these blasphemous thoughts, you will be shamed and you will be dismissed from your position. Maybe you would then like to join the faithless in America?"
The young rabbi was deeply shocked at his colleague's reaction, but he could not forget his reference to America as a place of freedom! Yes, there he would be able to continue with his research about the Messiah of Israel.
Rabbi Cohn arrived in the USA in March 1892 and immediately contacted the Christian Jews. He bought a Hebrew translation of the New Testament, and as he read the very first words, he knew that he had found the answers he had been searching for so long: "The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham."
For the first time he understood the vivid description of the suffering Messiah in Isaiah 53. This led to much soul‑searching, but he finally realised that Yeshua, the Messiah, the One in whom Israel would be exalted, was the same Jesus whom the Christians worship. He then gave his life to the Lord Jesus and promised to serve Him, whatever the cost may be.
The price he had to pay for his faith, was very high indeed. The Jews rejected him as a traitor and even planned to kill him. His friends helped him to escape, and he continued with his studies in Scotland. He returned to New York in 1893 and started to work among his own people. Those were extremely hard times for him and his wife. There were times when they didn't even have enough to eat. He sold his wife's jewellery and used the money to pay for the hall in which their meetings were held.
Even worse than their material problems, were the troubles they ran into when people who had pretended to be friends, attacked Reverend Cohn. As he was delivering a New Testament one afternoon, a strong man attacked him. He was repeatedly hit and kicked. Then the man threw him down, grabbed him by the ears and banged his head against the floor again and again, shouting in Hebrew: "These ears have heard that we may not have any foreign gods. They should be torn off because they now listen to the Christian idols!"
He went home, bloody and beaten, but he knew that he had suffered for the truth. He also knew well that Jesus had said that the student cannot be higher than his master. Jesus had been persecuted and attacked ‑ His followers could expect no less.
Reverend Cohn worked hard and his congregation of converted Jews constantly grew. The work he did to preserve and restore the remnant of Israel was recognised and widely acclaimed. In 1930 he received an honorary doctorate in theology from the Wheaton College in Illinois.
Leopold Cohn was indeed a bold and fearless soldier of the cross. He was truly a blessing to the church of Christ.
Albert Nathan's parents were orthodox Jews and he grew up in a community that totally rejected Jews who had accepted Jesus as their Messiah. To them the Christian faith was something to joke about, and not something to be taken seriously. At the age of nineteen, Nathan went to the USA on a business trip, intending to enjoy as much of life as he possibly could during the six months that he was to be gone. One day he heard lovely music coming from a hall in New York. He thought it was part of a choir concert, and promptly went inside.
Imagine his shock when he discovered that the music was part of a dedication service, and that the people were singing praises to the Lord Jesus! He immediately got up to leave, but it was not to be. A few of the people standing at the door, wanted to know whether their singing was so terrible that he couldn't bear to listen to it! They assured him that he was more than welcome to stay. He wanted to sit close to the door, but was led to the front of the hall. Someone gave him a Bible and hymn book to use. He sat down, feeling like a prisoner.
The childlike and intimate way in which these faithful people spoke to their heavenly Father in prayer, impressed Nathan. Like a bolt of lightning he suddenly knew: "God is my merciful Father. He wants to find me, for He wants to save me from my sins and conceit." The young soloist invited him home after the meeting and asked him whether he, too, walked in the light of the Saviour. "How could I?" Nathan answered, "I am not a Christian, I am a Jew." "I'm delighted to hear that," the man said, "because Jesus first came to the Jews." They prayed together, and Nathan accepted the Lord Jesus as his Saviour.
It wasn't an easy decision, and the consequences were very serious. He realised that he would not only have to leave the world behind, but that he would also be rejected by his family and friends. He wrote to his parents to inform them of his decision. His mother, who loved him dearly, answered: "Your letter is much harder to accept than your death would have been!" That was the beginning of a long struggle, one in which Nathan, through Bible study and prayer, clung to the love and mercy of the One who had carried the world's hatred and rejection, the One who had accepted the cross.
Albert Nathan was baptised and then studied for four years before becoming an evangelist. He worked in America, Morocco and Spain for nineteen years, and led many Jews, Arabs and Spaniards to Jesus. He became widely known as a man who truly loved his fellow‑men, and when he died at the age of 43, many of the Moroccan Jews who had met Jesus through him, mourned his early death.
In one of his very last sermons he used Galatians 2:20 as main theme:"I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me."
Hermann Liebstein was born in Russia. After completing his studies, he stayed in Bucharest and Istanbul for a while, before going to England. His parents were orthodox Jews, but he was not really interested in or concerned with religion.
In England he met with the Jewish Mission, and that motivated him to read the New Testament. He then compared it with the prophecies in the Old Testament, and came to the conclusion that Jesus was undoubtedly the Messiah. Isaiah 53 was the Scripture that finally convinced him. He realised that the Messiah had also suffered and died for his sins, and he wanted to give his whole life to Him for opening the gates of heaven for him.
Hermann was concerned about his parents' reaction, because he knew that they would be devastated by grief and sorrow. But he also knew that Jesus had said that no one who values his father or mother above Him, can be worthy of Him. Satan and the Holy Spirit were locked in a deadly battle for his soul, but the victory went to God. Hermann Liebstein gave his whole life to the Lord Jesus and was baptised. On that memorable day he said:
"My Christian friends, I realise that this is a very important moment in my life. In the presence of the Almighty and everybody here today, I profess my faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. I know that my confession will infuriate all my friends who do not believe, and I know that I have caused my dear mother more sorrow than she can bear. But I also know that the path to glory is paved with sorrow and struggle. Therefore I accept the cross of our Lord with joy, and I regard it as an honour to suffer for His Name."
Liebstein was a very enthusiastic Christian and helped wherever he could. He was a lawyer and gave free legal advice to other Christians who could not afford to pay his fees. He remained an active member of the British missionary movement that worked among the Jews, and often carried out important and difficult assignments without asking any payment. He was a popular man and was remembered for a long time.
His work was always done in a thorough and disciplined way. His notes on the book of Revelation were published and proved that he was an able and practical expositor of the Bible, one who was truly led by the Holy Spirit. He was also an excellent public speaker and used this ability to serve the Lord.
The church deeply felt the loss of Hermann Liebstein when he left for the Father's house, but God is true and faithful and He always calls new disciples to do His work and proclaim His message of salvation.
"I lived in two different worlds ‑ first as an orthodox Jew, and later as a Christian. I first lived under the curse of the law, that is in a limited world of fear and superstition. But then God in His mercy helped me to reach the light, to leave death behind and reach true life. After that I had the privilege to be a messenger of the gospel. I brought the good news of God's mercy and salvation through the work of Jesus to Jews and non‑Jews alike, for I know that I have a duty to everyone."
These are the words of Chaim Gurland, the son of an enthusiastic rabbi in Lithuania. His intensive study of God's Word started at the tender age of five. The life of Elijah made such an impression on the young boy, that he ran away from home one day because he also wanted to be taken to heaven as Elijah had been. It took his parents days to find their hungry child again.
His parents wanted him to become a rabbi, and he complied with their wishes. However, the three years he spent at the rabbinical seminary led him to doubt that the Talmud was truly inspired by God. He could of course not talk about his doubts, and afterwards wrote that the day of his induction was the most unhappy day of his life.
He openly questioned the Talmud in the synagogue, and challenged the others to debate the matter with him. No one accepted his challenge, and the leading rabbi insisted that he withdraw his statements. He refused, and finally had to resign two years later. After that he became a private teacher, which was a low-salaried position. One day he received a New Testament in Hebrew from a peddler. For the very first time he read what Jesus had said to the people who followed Him to the mountainside. He read the words that Paul had written to the believers, and all the other truths in the New Testament. This just led to more doubts, and he became very sad and depressed.
Shortly afterwards Pastor Faltin, who also knew Jews in Kishinev, contacted him. The pastor promised to give him lessons in German and in art if he would read through the Hebrew Bible with him, because he wanted to improve his knowledge of Hebrew. Chaim agreed.
They progressed until they came to Isaiah 53, which the Jews never read, because they know that the Christians regard this Scripture as a description of the suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus, the Messiah. Chaim asked the pastor to skip that part, but he answered: "I pray that God will give you the courage to discover His truth and merciful salvation with me."
After thinking about it for a while, Chaim agreed. The pastor then first turned to the New Testament and read the verses describing Jesus' suffering and death. Then they read the prophetic chapter that was written 700 years before His birth. Chaim had to admit that it was a perfect description of what Jesus had suffered, and of the work that had been done on Calvary for lost sinners. That led to many discussions between the pastor and the teacher and his wife. They finally accepted the overwhelming evidence that Jesus is the Messiah, and committed their lives to Him as the Saviour.
The Jewish community was shocked and furious when they heard that Rabbi Gurland would be baptised in Pastor Faltin's church. Some of them said that his baptism would lead to tragedy for the community. It was also rumoured that a number of Jews had even threatened to murder him, should he abide by his decision.
When Pastor Faltin asked him whether he would prefer to be baptised quietly in the rectory, he answered: "No, Jesus Christ is a living and powerful Saviour. He can protect me; and if He should choose not to, I am willing to suffer and die for Him."
The whole Jewish community was in an uproar the day he was to be baptised. The church was packed, for many Jews had come to witness the occasion. Gurland then told the congregation how he had discovered the heavenly light through the words of Isaiah 53, and confirmed his faith in Jesus Christ, the Messiah and Saviour. There were no incidents during the service, and Jesus who had once calmed the sea, calmed the stormy emotions on that day.
After the service an elderly lady walked up to Gurland and said: "I have for eighteen years been praying that God would save your soul."
That was the beginning of a period of training and studying. After his baptism he became known as Rudolf. He studied theology in Berlin and became a Protestant minister. His induction sermon was based on the words of Romans 1:16: "For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek."
Although he worked in Kishinev with Pastor Faltin, he did not forget his fellow Jews. He often talked to them about Jesus and led many of them to the Lord. Chaim Gurland became well-known for his work in Germany and Russia.
A few years later he joined the missionary movement working among the Jews. He led Bible study classes for the Jews and corresponded with many others. The Holy Spirit used him to lead many fellow Jews to Jesus. Apart from that, he spoke in many churches and to many groups. He told them about his ministry and tried to make them aware of the importance of the work that still had to be done in Israel. At one stage he wrote: "The work among the Jews cannot be left to a few people; it is a part of the church's work in which we must all be involved."
Chaim Gurland had many disappointments in his work. At times he was severely tested, and at other times he experienced an intense struggle, but he succeeded in making Christians deeply aware of their Jewish neighbours. He lived in two different worlds. At times he would convey his own enthusiasm to Christians, and then again invited his Jewish brothers to the Messiah who came for everyone, Jews and non‑Jews.
He was nearly 74 when he died. Before his death he requested that Psalm 122:1‑4 be read at his funeral:"I was glad when they said to me: Let us go into the house of the Lord. Our feet have been standing within your gates, O Jerusalem. Jerusalem is built as a city that is compact together, where the tribes go up, the tribes of the Lord, to the Testimony of Israel, to give thanks to the name of the Lord."
Paul and Rolande Ghennassia
"'We have found the Messiah.' What a joyful cry was that of Andrew when he imparted this wonderful news to his brother, Simon Peter (Jn. 1:41). It is indeed with no less joy that my wife and I wish to tell you: We have found the Messiah, the One of whom Moses spoke (Deut. 18:15‑20). Both Jews, originating from practising religious families, we were numbered among those who detested and despised Jesus Christ, having been taught from childhood to consider Him a renegade and impostor. In our straying lives we were His enemies. Isaiah's statement represented our real condition, although we professed faith in God with our lips:"'They have forsaken the Lord, they have provoked to anger the Holy One of Israel, they have turned away backward. Why should you be stricken again? You will revolt more and more. The whole head is sick, and the whole heart faints. From the sole of the foot even to the head, there is no soundness in it, but wounds and bruises and putrefying sores; they have not been closed or bound up, or soothed with ointment' (Is. 1:4-6).
"Yet His love was seeking us and the blessed moment of His revelation to our souls in distress was fast approaching.
"Trouble came suddenly upon our home. My wife was afflicted with a tumour on the left foot and severe decalcification. She had to be sent to the hospital. Our children had to go into an orphanage because I could not care for them both, due to their age and my work. I found myself alone to face my distress. These lamentable conditions drove me to very bitter thoughts, to the point of doubting the existence of God. Sometime afterwards my wife returned home, although not healed, and just as suddenly a further trial afflicted her ‑ a purulent eczema transformed the whole of her body into one great wound.
"It was enough to make one despair of everything, since the cup of our distress was full. This was the very moment chosen by the Lord to reveal Himself to us. One of our neighbours attended services where prayer was offered for the healing of the sick. She proposed that such prayer should be offered for my wife, and we went. A few days after this, the eczema had gone, while the tumour was also healing.
"This remarkable healing gave my wife an intense urge to attend the meetings, whatever the cost. After much hesitation on my part, I finally agreed to take her. Thus I attended this 'conference' that was an entirely new experience to me. I was hiding myself as much as I could so as not to be seen by some eventual acquaintance, as I was thoroughly ashamed to be in such a place. I was indeed very much surprised to hear the preacher state with conviction what I had hitherto denied with my whole heart, namely that Jesus Christ was indeed the Messiah predicted by the Scriptures, the Lamb of God by whose blood 'whosoever' could be saved!
"A few days later the healing was quite complete and we were saved from the depths of despair. Peace, joy and hope flourished in our hearts. In the tempest of our trial God was showing us 'the Sun of Righteousness... with healing in His wings' (Mal. 4:2).
"We had already started reading the New Testament with interest. Meanwhile everything was changing in our home, now freed from sickness and the trail of discouragement. The change in my wife became more and more evident. She was now finished with periods of tears and was singing hymns. She was happy, with a heart delivered of a load. I felt myself becoming a new man, and now I realise that this was due to reading the New Testament, through which Jesus was becoming a familiar person to me. Yet, this did not convince me of His deity, impregnated as I was by my traditional education. It was evident that my hatred of Him was somehow dissipated and that my heart was grateful for all the good we had received through His precious Name. But I still thirsted for the answer to the one question that kept on haunting me: Was He or was He not the Messiah of Israel, of whom I had so often heard in my youth? Was it possible that He had come, that the people had not acknowledged Him, and not received Him?
"I bought a copy of the Old Testament in the French Rabbinical version, determined to find the truth about Jesus. I took refuge in my room and with supplication asked God to send me light on the subject. I told Him I was prepared to fully obey and follow the way He would show me. Then I opened my Bible, searching in every one of its books. I had not very long to seek, for it seemed that God was turning the pages. Every text speaking of the Messiah was springing before my eyes, showing Him as the Son of God (Ps. 2), with His divine attributes (Is. 9:5-6), in miraculous birth among humans and in Bethlehem (Micah 5:1-3; Is. 7:14), then in His work of atonement on the cross to save men (Ps. 22; Is. 53), and again as the One who would come in the midst of Israel looking upon Him whom they have pierced (Zech. 12:10).
"It was marvellous to see how all these prophecies applied to Jesus, and could apply to Him alone. Everything mentioned in the rabbinical version as an 'obscure passage' became luminous to me. It was so prodigious that I was literally shaken with all this light flooding my soul. So Jesus really was the Messiah, and His people had not acknowledged Him. But as for me, now that I knew and was convinced of it within me, I had to proclaim it. A deep assurance had flooded my heart. Jesus was without the slightest doubt the Saviour that was to come. I now understood why He was to be crucified on Golgotha. It was to redeem me by His blood.
"Without further delay my wife and I confessed our faith in the Messiahship of Jesus and, shortly afterwards, we received a mighty baptism of the Holy Spirit imparting to us an extraordinary strength and vigour.
"So in 1953 we came to know our Messiah and since then the grace of God has more than abounded. During all these years we have time and again been experiencing the happiness of being reconciled to God through Jesus our Messiah. That is why more and more we desire to make known to our Jewish brethren the One who is and remains the Hope of Israel."
"I was born in Poland where my father was a respected rabbi, and my mother was a pious woman who spoke Hebrew as well as Polish fluently. After some years at a Talmudic school, where I had studied many other subjects after class, I returned home. I did not, however, intend staying at home because my opinions and way of thinking had changed. I had no inner peace any more. I used to be very interested in the Talmud and other Jewish classical writings, meditating on them, but then had become engrossed in the Old Testament prophecies.
Again I had studied the Hagada (Jewish traditions) and began to doubt. Perhaps the writers of the Talmud had made a big mistake by condemning the greatest man of their nation to death. Maybe they had some reason for inventing the most fantastic tales about His birth. The more I studied the Hagada, the clearer my insight became, till at last the exalted though terrifying thought occurred to me that Jesus is indeed the promised Messiah. I compared the explanations of the Talmud with the Old Testament prophecies, and saw that everything foretold by the holy prophets had from beginning to end been fulfilled in the life of Jesus.
"From that time I did not have any peace of mind. But somehow I lacked the courage to reveal the secret of my heart to anybody, knowing that my voice would be like that of a preacher in the desert. I was still young and thus kept everything secret for a while. However, one day I heard Jewish people telling nasty stories about the Saviour, and I became so agitated that I could hardly control myself. I went home and my mother could tell by my face that something unpleasant must have happened. I did not want to tell her, but when she insisted, I revealed to her what had been going on in my mind.
In anger and consternation she cried out: 'Do you really know what you are saying? The devil has taken possession of you to draw you away from the Lord. What shall your fate be on the day of judgement?' But when she noticed that she would get nowhere with hard words, she pleaded with me to quickly get rid of those ideas while there was still time. My reply was that up to that day I had never grieved her, but had always taken trouble to please her. The way I was now causing her to worry, must be proof of my conviction of the truth. I could therefore not change my way of thinking. Before I had finished speaking, my father entered the room and we kept quiet. During the night my parents awoke and started to talk about me. After that I was carefully watched by them, and when they saw me reading a book other than the Talmud, it was burned. This went on for a year.
"One day my father spoke very severely to me. I told him that no threats or curses would ever change my mind. This was the first of many long discussions which made life very unpleasant. Considered to be such a great sinner, I was regarded as being the cause of every affliction and grief. Eventually I ran away from home to my uncle in Lodz. He was a rich man who had no children, and was pleased to have me stay with him. After he received a letter from my father telling him about me, his attitude changed drastically towards me and I had to leave him. Then friends invited me to stay with them. I earned a living by teaching, while I continued studying. At last I passed my examination and became a rabbi.
"A friend invited me to a Baptist Church where a missionary was to speak. We went and heard him address a large gathering in words full of Spirit and Truth. Afterwards when I confirmed the truth of the missionary's words, there was an uproar. The other Jews who heard the message, cursed me and wanted to tear me to pieces, so that I had to hide myself. The next day I left Lodz and travelled to Vilna where I continued my studies. My parents had given me a wife when I was still very young, and after my marriage I was obliged to accept the office of a rabbi in a small Polish town. It was the beginning of a difficult time.
"On the Sabbath before the Passover I had to speak in a synagogue in Chomez. In my pocket was a New Testament and a Hebrew book of the same size. By mistake I took out the New Testament and accidentally dropped it. it was picked up by somebody near me, and when he wanted to hand it to me, he saw that it was a New Testament. He screamed as if a snake had bitten him, and told the congregation that I, their rabbi, possessed a New Testament. He added that not only I but they also would be punished for my sin. This made me tell them that I was going to resign from my office as their rabbi, which I did a few days later.
"What I had to suffer at that time! My mother died of worry and my father decided not to see me again. Afterwards I was appointed as a religious instructor and teacher of Hebrew by the Jewish congregation in Warsaw, a vocation I practised for nine years. Then HK, a former teacher, was appointed inspector of religious instructors. One day he and my colleagues were gathered in my classroom for a discussion, when the sorry plight of the Russian Jews cropped up. We considered ways to improve their position. I tried to convince them that their propositions would lead to nothing, and then openly said that the position of us Jews would not improve before we were prepared to acknowledge the awful mistake our ancestors had made by denying Jesus. We must recognise Jesus Christ as our Messiah, who had shed His blood on Golgotha to liberate us from our sins. This started a discussion, but not an angry one, because all my colleagues present were free‑thinkers and the inspector himself an avowed atheist. He had hated me for a long time and now seized the opportunity to report me to the Board of the Jewish congregation.
"When I attended a Sunday evening service of the Warsaw Mission, two Jewish young men entered the hall. Afterwards they went to the Jewish congregation to tell them that I was a baptised Jew, and they had seen me kneel with others in Church. The Board met and decided to dismiss me without any remuneration or compensation, and without the opportunity to defend myself.
"It took a long time before any compensation was promised to me. When I appeared before the Board to receive the money, I asked them: 'Why was I dismissed before any investigation had been made?' One of the Board members answered: 'If we had asked you to come, you would not have told the truth. Now we do not believe you any longer in the matter, because two witnesses have, according to Jewish law, sworn before a rabbi to the truth of their statement, and you have forfeited your right to be believed.' To this I replied: 'Gentlemen, you are mistaken; I am always ready to speak the truth.' 'Did you pray with the Christians and knelt with them? Were you baptised some time ago?' I answered calmly: 'I have not yet been baptised, but hope that it will happen soon.' That was enough; I was not allowed to say another word, and was bombarded with abusive language and ridicule. But I remained calm and respectful.
"During the ensuing pause one of the men jumped up, turned to me and screamed: 'You trouble‑maker, how dare you utter those religious opinions so calmly and defiantly in our presence? We know that as a former rabbi you will attack us verbally and in writing, and slander Jewry, you wicked traitor.' One of the men ran to me, his hand raised ready to hit me, and shouting: 'Yes, it would be best to kill him.' My reply was: 'Gentlemen, I am in your power and you are free to do it. I do not hate you; no, on the contrary, I love you. But I sincerely regret that you are so stubborn, and do not want to admit that much evil has happened to us because we had slandered and crucified our Redeemer.'
"Now the excitement flared up once more and I was not allowed to say another word. One of them, however, asked me: 'If the congregation should take you back and pay you a good salary on condition that you promise not to contact the missionaries again, would you be willing to do it?' To this proposal I answered: 'I will never sell my soul for money.' So the public connection with my countrymen ended and with it my source of income."
P.D. Weiss accepted Jesus, was baptised and became a powerful witness for the Messiah. He also became a student of the New Testament and attended the services of the Warsaw Mission. He was totally rejected and ostracised by the other Jews, and his conversion led to opposition to the Mission. However, Weiss became a valued worker of the Warsaw Mission. He travelled widely and remained a powerful witness for Christ amongst his fellow Jews. He astounded them with his knowledge and the practical way in which he could use the Talmud. Many of the orthodox Jews maintained that it was regrettable that a man with such talents had "lost the way". When he died, his funeral was attended by many Jews who wanted to pay their respects to this bold Jewish Christian.
"My training and experience as an engineer has taught me to search for facts, analyse them and find answers. "Sometimes, even in engineering and science, we make basic assumptions that cannot be proved. Why then are they accepted? The answer is that they work when put to a test, whereas other assumptions fail.
"I have personally investigated and tested God's promises in the Scriptures to see if they work. The Old Testament promises that anyone who searches for God can find Him, if he searches for Him with all his heart. Testing this promise, I have found that God does reveal Himself to me through His Son, the Messiah. God is a living reality in my life, and as He has promised, I found peace and joy through the love of Christ.
"How can a Jew believe in Christ? I have accepted Him because what the Scriptures promised fits perfectly together with the facts of history, and my personal experience has verified the promise of God's Messiah."
Richard Wurmbrand, founder and director of Christian Mission International, is called a modern day John the Baptist. He is truly one of the greatest Jewish Christians of this century. This outspoken witness for Christ has spent fourteen years in a Rumanian prison, and was sold to the Christians of the West as an undesirable person afterwards.
From the USA he organised and controlled an underground missionary network covering all the Communist countries and later spreading to the Arab world, Asia, Africa and Latin America. Through his organisation he even reaches the most remote islands in the Pacific Ocean. Although he is deeply concerned about the salvation of all mankind, he works with a special zeal to introduce Jews all over the world to the gospel of Jesus Christ.
In his book Christ on the Jewish road, Wurmbrand stresses the importance of the people of Israel ‑ not only in the past, but also in the present and the future. Because of the exceptional talents of its members, the Jewish nation has produced much that has proved beneficial to the world. They have also done some things that have been detrimental to mankind. For that reason no one can ignore their role in the future of the world.
We all live in structures created by Jews. The Christians live according to spiritual principles set by Jesus Christ, a Jew. The Jews are the founders of capitalism as well as Marxism. The nuclear age can also be traced to the work of a Jew - Albert Einstein. It is true that there are many differences among the Jews. It is also true that the more conservative element among them is a minority group. But we dare not ignore the fact that this faithful remnant is going to play a very important role in the lives of millions of people in the years to come.
Let us see what Richard Wurmbrand says in the preface to Christ on the Jewish road (p. 7‑10):
"'Thou hast chosen us from amongst the peoples,' the Jews declare daily in their synagogues. 'Salvation is of the Jews,' said Jesus (Jn 4:22). 'The dirty Jews are the cause of all our troubles,' say the anti‑Semites... Some people find in Christianity their true happiness; others hate Christianity and would like to see it destroyed. It is a Jew, Jesus, who is the cause of their happiness or their fury.
"Some people benefit from capitalism; others feel that they are exploited by the capitalist system, and would like to see it overthrown. No one would deny that the Jews were instrumental at an early point in time in founding this system, and that they still play a highly important role in economic and financial life, out of all proportion to their numbers. Whether you feel attracted or repelled by capitalism, your attitude will to a large extent be determined by Jews, whom you will probably never have seen face to face...
"Communism may be to you a source of joy or suffering; it derives from the Jew Marx and a host of Jewish champions of this idea, without whom the revolution in the East would have been impossible. The fate of a farmer in Vietnam, who has never seen a Jew in his life, will, in the last resort, depend on whether he reads the book about the Jew Jesus or the book about the Jew Marx. Whichever triumphs, either the Christian civilisation or the Marxist world, both are closely bound up with a Jewish name.
"Some people place their confidence in modern science, whose peak achievement is in atomic physics, a science capable of enabling mankind to live in a Utopia. Others wait, in fear and terror, for the destructive atomic war which they believe will be the final result of this science. In both the West and the East, atomic science is to a large extent in the hands of Jews. Einstein gave the United States a start in atomic weapons. The Jew Teller is the father of the nuclear bomb. The Rosenbergs, Jews, gave atomic secrets to Russia. In scientific books the universe is named after a Jew: we speak of Einstein's universe, as though we lived in this universe as the guests of a Jew.
"And this is really so, for we are in very fact the guests of a Jew; only His name is not Einstein, but Jesus Christ. He is a human being and a Jew, but also God ‑ a marvellous God, of whom we read in His holy book, in Paul's Epistle to the Romans: '...of whom (the Jews) as concerning the flesh Christ came, who is over all, God blessed for ever' (Rom. 9:5). A people from whom God came!
"Mine has not been ordinary missionary work; I have worked among these people who in the holy book of the Christians are called 'a chosen people', a people from whom a God has come, but who nevertheless are ignorant of this God, a nation which is either blessed or cursed by millions of people ‑ as the source of their happiness or their misery ‑ a race whose fate has determined and will determine, more than any other nation, the fate of the entire world.
"The Jewish people have given to the world the Bible, consisting of the Old and New Testaments, a book written by Jews, but which is at the same time the Word of God ‑ the only book capable of satisfying the spiritual needs of the world. And it will satisfy these needs when it is once again in the hands of those who have written it, and when they gather around Him who is the chief subject of the book, Jesus, the Messiah of the Jews and the Saviour of the nations.
"The overwhelming majority of mankind lives in dire sin, bereft of the true faith. Murder, exploitation, oppression, fornication, deceit, envy, debauchery and slander are widespread. Mankind is bound to suffer speedy destruction unless it is converted and rouses itself from the spiritual death in which it now lies. But the Scriptures tell us that the conversion of Israel will be life from the dead (Rom. 11:15).
"Jesus and the Jews are indissolubly linked to one another. 'Where is He that is born King of the Jews?' the Magi enquired when He came into this world (Mt. 2:2). 'This is Jesus, the King of the Jews,' was the inscription on the Cross (Mt. 27:37).
"The Old Testament prophecies have the same message. Moses told the Jews: 'The LORD your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your midst, from your brethren' (Deut. 18:15). Isaiah, who prophesied the birth of Jesus eight hundred years before it took place, declared: 'For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given' (Is. 9:6) ‑ us meaning the Jews. When he foretold the new covenant which Jesus would establish by shedding His blood on the Cross, Jeremiah declared: 'Behold... I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah' (Jer. 31:31).
"Jesus Himself said: 'I was not sent except to the lost sheep of the house of Israel' (Mt. 15:24). He also declared that He was the Saviour of the world, but in the passage above and in similar statements He established His special relationship with the Jewish people.
"The intention of my entire missionary work, of which I give an account in this book, was to make Israel conscious of this relationship, a relationship which can never be broken, however much we may oppose it."
Fall and rising
From what we know about the lives of the Christian Jews discussed above, it is obviously not easy to be a shepherd to the people of Israel. Jesus came to glorify His people, but because of the spiritual resistance by many of them He was "destined for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign which will be spoken against" (Lk. 2:34). Even today the proclaiming of His Messiahship is a highly emotional issue, as it is no easy task to break through the resistance created by the rabbinical traditions of the past 2 000 years.
We also know, however, that no human arguments are stronger or more convincing than the working of the Holy Spirit. Proof of this lies in the fact that so many Jews have been led to Jesus during the past 2 000 years. Their existence also proves that God has not given up on His chosen people. It is true that Israel were dispersed because they were a sinful and disobedient nation, but in His infinite love God still wants to draw them to Him. He has given the firm assurance that all the promises He made to their forefathers will be fulfilled:"Yet for all that, when they are in the land of their enemies, I will not cast them away, nor shall I abhor them, to utterly destroy them and break My covenant with them; for I am the LORD their God" (Lev. 26:44).
In the dark days of the great tribulation, God will gather the remnant of His people, those who have not bowed before the Baal of the end- time ‑ the false messiah (Rev. 7:2‑8). Amidst unequalled struggles and persecution such as the world has never known, the Lord will keep them upright and strengthen them to be His witnesses. Yes, Israel is the only nation on earth that enjoys God's promise of eternal protection:"I am with you; for I will make a complete end of all the nations to which I have driven you, but I will not make a complete end of you. I will rightly correct you, for I will not leave you wholly unpunished" (Jer. 46:28).
Israel is nearing the final stage of their punishment and purification, but God will reveal Himself powerfully through His faithful remnant. Many of His people will call upon His Name in their time of suffering and tribulation.
Israel will be purified and saved in this time, and then gather at the feet of the Messiah (Zech. 12:10; 13:9) to receive the fulfilment of all the promises regarding His kingdom. In that kingdom Jerusalem will be the capital of the world (Is. 2:2, 3; Zech. 14:9).
Will your attitude and endeavours be of any assistance to introduce the people of Israel to their Messiah? God wants you to work towards that end ‑ and you owe it to your Jewish brothers!
Promises of restoration"At that time, says the Lord, all the families of Israel shall recognise Me as the Lord... I will care for them as I did those who escaped from Egypt, to whom I showed My mercies in the wilderness, when Israel sought for rest. For long ago the Lord had said to Israel: I have loved you, O My people, with an everlasting love; with loving-kindness I have drawn you to Me. I will rebuild your nation, O virgin of Israel. You will again be happy and dance merrily with the timbrels... For the Lord says: Sing with joy for all that I will do for Israel, the greatest of the nations! Shout out with praise and joy: The Lord has saved His people, the remnant of Israel. “For I will bring them from the north and from the earth's farthest ends... Tears of joy shall stream down their faces, and I will lead them home with great care. They shall walk beside the quiet streams and not stumble. For I am a Father to Israel, and Ephraim is my oldest child. Listen to this message from the Lord, you nations of the world, and publish it abroad: The Lord who scattered His people will gather them back together again and watch over them as a shepherd does his flock. He will save Israel from those who are too strong for them! They shall come home and sing songs of joy upon the hills of Zion, and shall be radiant over the goodness of the Lord... Their life shall be like a watered garden, and all their sorrows shall be gone... I will turn their mourning into joy and I will comfort them and make them rejoice, for their captivity with all its sorrows will be behind them... “Ephraim is still My son, My darling child. I had to punish him, but I still love him. I long for him and surely will have mercy on him. As you travel into exile, set up road signs pointing back to Israel. Mark your pathway well. For you shall return again, O virgin Israel, to your cities here... The day will come, says the Lord, when I will make a new contract with the people of Israel and Judah... At that time it will no longer be necessary to admonish one another to know the Lord. For everyone, both great and small, shall really know Me then, says the Lord, and I will forgive and forget their sins... “The Lord who gives us sunlight in the daytime and the moon and stars to light the night, and who stirs the sea to make the roaring waves – His name is Lord Almighty – says this: I am as likely to reject My people Israel as I am to do away with these laws of nature! Not until the heavens can be measured and the foundations of the earth explored, will I consider casting them away forever for their sins! For the time is coming, says the Lord, when all Jerusalem shall be rebuilt for the Lord... it shall never again be captured or destroyed" (Jer. 31 Living Bible).
These promises are true ‑ no one can doubt them:
· God will again restore Israel as the leading nation, just as they were in the days of David and Solomon.
· As the people of Israel were scattered across the length and breadth of the earth, they will be gathered from the north and all the corners of the earth in the last days to be established in their land.
· The One who had scattered Israel, will gather her and protect her. The identity of Israel has not changed during exile. The same nation that was scattered is being restored to the land, and a remnant of them will also be revived spiritually.
· Just as literal as the cities of Israel were destroyed during the dispersion of the nation, will they be rebuilt and filled with people during the nation's restoration. Jerusalem will be rebuilt for God in the millennium.
· The restoration of Israel does not only imply that the Jews will physically return to their country. They will also be changed from within and will love God.
· God's love for Israel has not changed at all. He will conclude a new covenant with the restored remnant of His people. This agreement will be everlasting, as the saved members of the remnant of Israel will have new hearts that will only be inclined towards God through the Messiah.
· God's covenant with Israel is as unchanging as the order of the universe.
· In the millennium, Jerusalem will be rebuilt as The City of the Great king!