Only Personal Salvation?
Christian theology often emphasizes "personal" salvation and forgiveness of sins; and that when you die, you will go to heaven. Yet the world was looking for a Messiah who would lead all mankind into a new age of peace, ruling from Jerusalem. Messianic Jewish theology sees both individual and corporate dimensions as true.
Through Yeshua we can find forgiveness and regeneration (new birth), and live with the confidence that, should we die, we will join Yeshua in heaven. But we also recognize that the culmination of the New Covenant does not end with the death of believers resulting in going to heaven. In fact, Revelation 19 fused with Zechariah 14 paints quite the opposite picture.
The end of this age is marked by what scholars refer to as the Parousia—the arrival of Yeshua to set up his Millennial Kingdom.
This is what we pray for daily when we cry out, “Your kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven.” So, instead of us going to heaven, Yeshua comes down to earth (Rev. 19:11-15) to establish his kingdom (Zech. 14:9). Believers who are alive will meet Him in the air (1 Thes. 4:17) and return with Him, with new glorified bodies (1 Cor. 15:40, 44, 51ff). He will arrive on the Mount of Olives (Zech. 14:3-4) and defend Israel against her attackers.
Then the world will come under His rule. He will be king over all the earth and the peoples of the earth will make pilgrimage to Jerusalem to worship him (Zech. 14:16).
I recently read a scholarly article on Jerusalem. The author said that Church fathers had little affection for present-day Jerusalem—as they were looking to the New Jerusalem (plus they had become theologically anti-Semitic). “The only Jerusalem relevant to that faith was the ‘new Jerusalem, coming down from heaven, adorned as a bride’”
The author points out that this changed, as the fourth-century Bishop of Jerusalem, Cyril, found that “The ‘Jerusalem mystique’ was present and powerful.” Pilgrims could find great meaning in Jerusalem’s Messiah-centered past.
Yet he misses the real reason for Jerusalem’s mystic draw and fails to appreciate the fact that she will yet play a major role in the story of Yeshua. He doesn’t recognize that once again Jewish believers in Yeshua live in Jerusalem, with over 20 Messianic congregations there; but focuses solely on the dwindling Arab Orthodox Christian presence. He rightly states that place without people is empty—meaning Jerusalem without a New Testament human witness is meaningless. But he sees no great fulfillment in the return of Jesus-following Jews to Zion, and treats Zionism as a “nineteenth-century socialist utopian movement.” Indeed, the first Zionists were secular and socialist. But who are we to judge God in the way that He fulfils prophecy? (Ezek. 36:24, Jer. 31:8 and many others) The fact is that Israel was in exile for 2,000 years, and the great Hebrew prophets unanimously predicted an end-time regathering of the Jewish people to the land of Israel.
But worse, the author failed to report that Jerusalem today serves as a reminder of the coming Parousia. Believers from all over the world come to the holy city not only to remember Israel’s past and Yeshua’s earthly life, but their combined future (where Yeshua reigns from a restored Israel) and to intercede for it “while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Yeshua the Messiah.” (Titus 2:13) This mentality stems from a personal Savior idea of Yeshua.
While the salvation experience is deeply personal, that is secondary to the vast kingdom of God that will soon reign from Jerusalem over all the earth. As my dear friend, the late worship leader Mark Chopinsky used to sing, “He shall reign over all the earth,” the theme of Isaiah 11.
Until all Israel is saved…. Ron Cantor