Posted by: mystic444 | November 23, 2009

The Olivet Discourse: Further Thoughts

Since I’ve devoted so much space to talking about the “last days” in general, and Jesus’ predictions on the Mount of Olives in particular, it’s perhaps only appropriate that I examine a question or two that a thinking person may well ask – and show how I believe this prediction concerning the destruction of Jerusalem, the Temple, and Jewish nationality relates to previous articles on reincarnation and universal salvation. First, since Jesus had stated just prior to his prophecy (as related by Matthew) that the present generation would suffer punishment for the accumulated sins of all previous generations, one may well ask how that could possibly be considered just? How could God righteously hold off punishment for several generations, and then visit on one generation punishment which is actually fitting for not only the sins of that generation, but for all the sins of their ancestors also? Even though the present generation may have continued the sinfulness of their forefathers, and even sinned in a greater way, it would certainly be unjust to fail to punish the previous generations, and then punish this present generation for all of the sins. As I see it, this objection is valid – unless the punishment is seen in the light of reincarnation. The only way such a punishment of one generation for all preceding generations would be just is if the present generation comprised the same ‘souls’ who had lived in those previous generations. In this scenario, the same ‘wicked’ souls had grown worse and worse in their ‘depravity’ – even though given many opportunities to ‘repent’ and return to God, over several generations – until they had ‘filled up the measure’ of their sins and punishment was finally inflicted. This would be in keeping with Jesus’ “lament” over Jerusalem, speaking as the representative and spokesperson for his Father: “How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing” (Matt. 23:37, NRSV). This is the same idea that I presented in a previous article as a solution to the warning in Exodus 20:5 that the sins of the ‘fathers’ would be visited upon the ‘children’ unto the third and fourth generations of those who hate God: the ‘children’ in their ‘generations’ are in fact the future ‘incarnations’ of the fathers, not separate ‘souls’ who just happen to be physical descendants of the ‘fathers’. Since I have shown that reincarnation was an underlying concept of Jesus and his disciples, as well as the early ‘church’, I believe that it is the viewpoint that underlay this prediction of ‘final judgment’ made by Jesus.

Another interesting point though, and a ‘good news’ concept, is that considering Jesus’ warning in this light of reincarnation, the accumulation of sin over several ‘generations’ or ‘incarnations’ may be compared to an illness or fever which grows worse and worse until it reaches a ‘breaking point’. After the fever reaches this highest peak, it then recedes and the sufferer begins to get better. So it is here: Israel’s cup of iniquity has become full, and the appropriate punishment has been inflicted – causing the cup to be emptied and the result is blessing for them. “Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that her warfare is ended, that her iniquity is pardoned, that she has received from the LORD’s hand double for all her sins” (Isaiah 40:1, 2, RSV). This is why Jesus said “…you will not see me again, until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord’” (Matt.23:39, RSV). This is why Jesus said that all the tribes of the earth [land] would mourn when they see the Son of man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory (Matt. 24:30). Yes, it would be a mourning over their loss when they saw people coming from the east and west and entering the kingdom with Abraham, while they themselves (the sons of the kingdom) were cast out into outer darkness (Matt. 8:11, 12). Yet it would also be a mourning of repentance, a true turning point as they realized the enormity of their transgression and began the journey back to the Father. Zechariah 12 speaks of this mourning of repentance: “And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of compassion and supplication, so that when they look on him whom they have pierced, they shall mourn for him as one mourns for an only child, and weep bitterly over him, as one weeps over a first-born” (verse 10). I can easily imagine those Jews who were slaughtered during that time of ‘great tribulation’, both by their fellow Jews and by the Roman soldiers, rising out of their dead bodies to be confronted by Jesus whom they had despised and crucified (and continued to reject by despising the messengers of Jesus in the years following the crucifixion of Jesus). They would then realize that he was indeed ‘anointed of God’ [Christ/Messiah] and would be horrified that they had refused God’s love as he had presented it. Yet they would find, as countless others have found since (as recounted by many ‘near death’ experiencers and those who recall ‘past lives’ and what followed their deaths), that the character of Jesus had not changed from love to hate, from ‘savior’ to ‘condemner’; rather he confronted them with love and helped them see what they must do in future lifetimes to return to God. He really would have told them that their warfare was ended, and their iniquity was pardoned! As Paul pointed out in Romans 11, many of the Jews were cut off from the ‘Olive tree’ of God’s blessing, and Gentiles were grafted in instead of the ‘branches’ which had been cut off. But God is able to, and will, graft those cut off Jewish branches back into the Olive tree, so that the entire world will enter into the blessing of God.

It is quite surprising to read some of the approving statements made by Jews about Jesus in later years – surprising at least for those who have been raised in Christian ‘orthodoxy’ and who think that Jews hate Jesus. Several years ago I got a book from the library entitled When Jesus Became God: The Struggle to Define Christianity During the Last Days of Rome by Richard E. Rubenstein. I was wanting to read about the actual controversy within the early Christian church over the Deity (or lack thereof) of Jesus, otherwise known as the “Arian Controversy”. I was quite surprised to find that the book was written by a Jew (and not a ‘Christian Jew’ either), who acknowledged that he had been fascinated by the person of Jesus since childhood. He said that the idea of Jesus as a prophet of God was quite acceptable to him, and probably would be to most Jews if those who called themselves ‘Christians’ had not over the centuries acted in such hate filled ways toward the Jews. He did not show any indications of hatred and disdain for Jesus, though he did not accept the idea that Jesus was God (he would side with the ‘Arians’ in saying that Jesus was ‘just’ a man, or at least always subordinate to God). Many other Jews have made statements about Jesus which perhaps will be quite surprising to ‘orthodox’ Christians. I’ll end this series of articles by giving a compilation of some of these statements which I found on the Internet several years ago.

What Jews Say About Yeshua/Jesus

“I personally regard Him as one of the greatest spiritual teachers the world has ever known.” (J.L. Levy, Rabbi)

We Jews honor the Nazarene as our brother in faith, sprung from our loins, nurtured at Israel’s knee, a teacher of sweet and beautiful ideals, a preacher whose influence has been and still is among the mightiest spiritualizing factors in the world.” (Rudolph Grossman, Rabbi)

“Jesus is the most important Jew that has ever lived, to whom the sinner and the outcast age after age, have owed a great debt of gratitude.” (Dr. Claude Montefiore, President of the Jewish Religious Union)

“Christ was sent to teach not only Jews, but the whole human race; and therefore it was not enough that his mind should be accommodated to the opinions of the Jews alone, but also to the opinion and fundamental teaching common to the whole human race; in other words, to ideas universal and truth.” (Baruch Spinoza, Philosopher)

“Who can compute all that Jesus has meant to humanity? The love He has inspired, the solace He has given, the good He has engendered, the hope and joy He has kindled-all that is unequaled in human history.” (H. G. Enelow Rabbi)

“His profound and holy words, and all that is true and heart-appealing in the New Testament, must from now on be heard in our synagogues and taught to our children.” (Constantine Brunner, Philosopher)

“Spotless walk, unselfish love for mankind. Thousands of Jews adored Jesus, their teacher and friend.” (Dr. J.M. Jost, Historian)

“No one can read the Gospels without feeling the actual presence of Jesus. His personality pulsates in every word. No myth is filled with such life.” (Albert Einstein, Scientist)

Of these Messianic claimants, only one, Jesus of Nazareth, so impressed His disciples that He became their Messiah. And He did so after the very crucifixion which should have refuted His claims decisively. But it was not Jesus’ life which proved beyond question that He was the Messiah, the Christ. It was His resurrection. (Ellis Rivkin, Professor of Jewish history at Hebrew Union College)

“The pupil of Moses may ask himself whether all the princes of the House of David have done so much for the Jews as that Prince who was crucified. Had it not been for Him, the Jews would have been comparatively unknown or known only as a high Oriental Caste which had lost its country. Has not He made their history the most famous history in the world?” (Benjamin Disraeli, British Prime Minister)

No ethical system or religious catechism, however broad and pure, could equal the efficiency of this great personality, standing, unlike any other, midway between heaven and earth, equally near to God and to man … Jesus, the helper of the poor, the friend of the sinner, the brother of every fellow-sufferer, the comforter of every sorrow-laden, the healer of the sick, the up-lifter of the fallen, the lover of man, the redeemer of woman, won the heart of mankind by storm. Jesus, the meekest of men, the most despised of the despised race of the Jews, mounted the world’s throne to be the earth’s Great King.” (Kaufmann Kohler, Rabbi, President of Hebrew Union College)

“Scores of men have believed themselves to be the Messiah and have convinced many of their contemporaries, but those who believed Jesus to be the Messiah have built a great church upon the rock of their belief. He is still the living comrade of countless lives. No Moslem ever sings, “Mohammed, lover of my soul”, nor does any Jew say of Moses, the Teacher, “I need thee every hour.” (Rabbi Solomon B. Freehof, Rabbi, Scholar and Author)

“I would even go so far as to declare that perhaps no gentile can come to God the Father otherwise than through Jesus Christ … The Christian who according to his belief, comes to the Father through Jesus Christ… stands before the same God in whom we Jews believe, the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob, the God of Moses our teacher, to whom Jesus also said ‘Father’.” (Hans Joachim Schoeps, Theologian and Scholar of religious history)

I have the suspicion that Jesus was more loyal to the Torah than I am as an Orthodox Jew. (Pinchas E. Lapide, Senior Lecturer at Bar-Ilan University)

“I do not think that many Jews would object if the Messiah—when he came—was the Jew Jesus.” (David Flusser, Professor of Religious History at Hebrew University in Jerusalem)

“Every Jew should be proud of the fact that Jesus is our brother, flesh of our flesh and blood of our blood. We desire to put him back where he belongs.” (Dr. Chaim Zhitlowsky, Jewish scholar and author)

What is this? Is it only the Jew who is unable to see and hear? Are the Jews stricken with blindness and deafness as regards Christ, so that to them only he has nothing to say? Is he to be of no importance to us Jews? Understand then what we shall do: We shall bring him back to us. Christ is not dead for us-for us he has not yet lived; and he will not slay us, he will make us live again. His profound and holy words, and all that is true and heart-appealing in the New Testament, must from now on be heard in our synagogues and taught to our children, in order that the wrong we had committed may be made good, the curse turned into a blessing, and that he at last may find us who has always been seeking after us.” (Constantine Brunner, Philosopher)

Eight Jewish authors give surprising new answers to an age-old question…

“We shall never get the future straight until we disentangle the past. To disentangle the past means to re-examine the trial of Jesus – myths woven purposely by our leaders around the greatest and most noble personality in history, only that we may not see and recognize the real Jesus. To us, my brethren, in this our day is given the privilege to reclaim the Christ we have lost for so many centuries. Has not the crucified Christ more than fulfilled the highest and noblest of our greatest prophets? Is not he the incarnation of the essence of what the Law, the Psalms and the Prophets taught?” (Israel Zangwill, Novelist)

“I am constantly, amazed at the naivete of our teachers and leaders who are surprised when I tell them that the best of our youth, our intellectuals, become Christians out of conviction … Our ‘leaders’ do not believe it. To them a Jew never becomes a Christian unless he wants to better his position. That Christianity has drawn to itself such noble souls as Pascal, Novalis, Kirkegaard, Amiel, Dostoyevsky, Claudel, etc., etc., and that it exercises a most overwhelming influence on the most earnest truth-seekers among us, of that our teachers know nothing.” (Max Brod, Author, Poet, Composer)

“The movement for the recognition of Christ by the Jews is not a fantasy arising from (my) brain. In the hearts and minds of many men, ordinary men like myself, traders, men of affairs, the fact that Christ is the only leader who can take us anywhere worth going to is coming to new recognition.” (Gustav Lazlo, Author)

“[Jesus] felt within himself the call to save the lost sheep of the house of Israel … He, by word and example, raised the sinner and the publican, and filled the hearts of those poor, neglected, thoughtless beings with the love of’ God transforming them into dutiful children of their Heavenly Father. He animated them with his own piety and fervor, and improved their conduct by the hope he gave them of being able to enter the kingdom of heaven. (Heinrich Graetz, Historian)

“No Jewish prophet before Jesus ever searched out the miserable, the sick, the weak, and the down-trodden in order to pour forth love and compassionate service. He went out of his way to redeem the lowly by a touch of human sympathy that is altogether unique in Jewish history!” (Ernest R. Trattner, Author)

“Jesus Christ, to me, is the outstanding personality of all time, of all history, both as Son of God and as Son of’ Man. Everything he ever said or did has value for us today, and that is something you can say of no other man, alive or dead… Every act and word of Jesus has value for all of’ us, wherever we are. He became the Light of the World. Why shouldn’t I, a Jew, be proud of that? No other religious leader, either, has ever become so personal a part of people as the Nazarene. When you understand Jesus, you understand that he came to save you, to come into your personality. It isn’t just a case of a misty, uncertain relationship between a worshiper and an unseen God; that is abstract: Jesus is personal.” (Sholem Asch, Novelist)

“I regard Jesus of Nazareth as a Jew of Jews, one whom all Jewish people are learning to love. His teachings have been an immense service to the world in bringing Israel’s God to the knowledge of hundreds of millions of mankind … We are all glad to claim Jesus as one of our people.” (Isidore Singer, Ph.D., Managing editor of The Jewish Encyclopaedia)

“Without Jesus and without Paul, the God of’ Israel would still have been the God of a handful, the God of a petty, obscure and insignificant tribe…Let the Jew, despite the centuries of persecution and suffering be thankful that there was a Jesus and a Paul. Let him more fully appreciate that, through the wonderful influence of these heroic characters, the mission of the Jew is being fulfilled, and his teachings are being spread to the remotest nooks and corners of the world by Christianity.” (Harris Weinstock, U. S. labour leader and author)

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