The Age of the Gentiles
All my life, I have heard ministers both defend Israel, and declare that the time in which we live, beginning with the ascension of Christ and the Early Church, would soon come to an end; that time being, the Age of the Gentiles. To the professors of dispensationalism, 1948 was a pivotal year as well, in that Israel once again became a nation and the flag of David no longer rested in “mothballs.” Some theologians taught that my generation would not pass away before the Son of Man, Christ himself returned. My purpose for writing has nothing to do with refuting any of the above.
The context for my writing continues to be the saga in Egypt’s Tahrir Square, which began 18 days before the ousting of President Mubarak. Could this have been the beginning of a new age? Possibly, ending a time when God’s focus seemed so upon the children of Japheth, the descendants of Noah, whose seed would come to be known as the Greeks, the Gentiles? Could this all come about just as swiftly as it began in the Egypt of the B.C.E, when the Israelites hastily fled that country with Moses, carrying dough that had not had time to rise?
Could Christianity as we have known it, be on the precipice of a new day, when just as the Lord did with Judaism, our sacred faith also be challenged; with much of what we proffer being our own tradition and not “the whole counsel of God?” Possibly, God is ushering in a new day of grace; similarly as He redefined the Law of Moses, which had been unable to bring about righteousness? Could God now be reaching back to the Sons of Ishmael, with whom He also made a covenant on that day, when He sought out Hagar in the desert; this handmaiden of Abraham’s family, then driven away by a jealous Sarah?
Egypt’s current thirst for freedom emerged un-expectantly, aided somewhat by a social technology that has afforded massive global communication networks, delivering this hasty grassroots’ phenomenon in just 18 days.
Matzah, the bread eaten to celebration Israeli freedom from Egypt’s bondage has an eerie correlation to this story, in that it too, is made in record-breaking time: no longer than 18 minutes from when the water is poured into the flour until the baked product comes out of the oven!
Could we be looking in the face of the day that evangelical churches have wrangled over for some time, many expecting a rapture to occur just before that day? Others, seeing a seven-year window opening at the end of this age, some even taking a “mid-tribulation” approach, as the Bible clearly indicates a time of trouble, Jacob’s trouble, with two clearly defined 3.5 year time lines and an Armageddon experience threatened.
Is the God of Abraham, who was the God-Man Christ, now about to complete His work of grace, truly unwilling that any of His creation perish? Has the tiny nation of Israel now been made whole as a people, with Russian Jews and thousands of others migrating back; also, seemingly kept by grace in the face of their foes, though some, no different from their Palestinian counterparts, religiously war away those days of grace, as they await a Messiah other than the Christ?
We, in this nation, primarily of the Gentile culture, have now also had ample window for repentance, from a belief system largely built upon human philosophy. Yet, we continue today, taking our toll on the true principles of Christ and of Abraham, tweaking the laws of grace for the sake of our own prosperity, while the globe suffers, much like President Mubarak has done. Yes, we now find that he has exported billions from the world’s largest Arabic nation, while the average citizen there lives on only $2 a day; and even the USA has supported his regime, with about 1.5 Billion of our tax dollars annually. Why? Possibly only for the sake of controlling precious resources, strategic navigation routes and the support of a war machine, that assures our democracy? Seriously, my edgy writing is neither to complain, nor overly criticize our nation. For I too have been so blessed to live here in relative freedom; but, some of our actions as professing followers of Christ, do merit scrutiny!
Could it be that now, our brothers in Abraham, the Sons of Ishmael, long-held in bondage by legalistic Islam, and in some cases, state imposed Sharia Law, have had enough? Could God again be speaking to them, “Do not be afraid, God has heard the boy crying as he lies (sic) there. Lift the boy up and take him by the hand, for I will make him a great nation.” Gen. 21:17b-18 NIV
This won’t set right with many of my friends, some involved in the three major religions , but my hope is with Jonah. You see, when he preached, the gentiles repented! Yet, sure enough, even when God forgave them, this same man, Jonah became jealous and enraged! Lest we be too hard on ourselves, Jonah was both a type of Christ and a type of Israel. Yes, grace and rage can abide within the same people, for we have all sinned and come short of the glory of God! Should we as Christ followers also recoil, at a time when God is at work, bringing freedom and grace to these ancient Middle eastern people?
Think about that, for Paul did:
“Again I ask: Did they (Israel) stumble so as to fall beyond recovery? Not at all! Rather, because of their transgression, salvation has come to the Gentiles to make Israel envious. But if their transgression means riches for the world, and their loss means riches for the Gentiles, how much greater riches will their full inclusion bring! (Rms. 11:11-12, NIV)
Don’t miss my italics above, nor below! We might just check our own hearts as Christians, at a time when we preach grace with our lips, but the only gospel some have experienced from this nation, has been war and greed, while we profess to be followers of a God they revere as the God of Abraham. We should remind ourselves everyday of both the grace and freedom we enjoy, which they have so often been denied.
We should wish that this gift and a life such as ours, be available to all men. As we Christian’s like to sing, “We are one in the bonds of love” and God of Abraham and the Christ of Calvary are love!
And by the way, Happy St. Valentine’s Day!