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    § 3. THE RETURN OF ISRAEL

    Perhaps no one subject has been so much talked of, which is yet so little understood, as that of “the return of the Jews.” It is a stereotyped theological phrase, representing various and indefinite views.RDAC 86.2

    We believe in the gathering of Israel to their own land; but we must apply the same New-Testament rules here that we have to other classes of promises, to wit, allow that the true Israel are of faith, whether Jew or Gentile by birth.RDAC 86.3

    There are two classes of Old-Testament prophecies on this subject; one, agreeing with the history of the past; the other, agreeing with New-Testament declarations, to be fulfilled in the future. Those who advocate the return of the Jews in the Age to Come, do so on the assumption that there has never been a gathering of Israel since the Babylonian captivity. But that this is only assumption and an error can be shown by history, both sacred and profane. All chronologists agree that all the prophets, except Malachi, wrote before the return of the Jews from Babylon. They date about as follows: Isaiah, 758 b. c.; Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Obadiah, 588; Daniel, 534; Hosea, 725; Joel, 761; Amos, 787; Jonah, 800; Micah, 758; Nahum, 720; Habakkuk, 605; Zephaniah, 608; Haggai and Zechariah, 518; Malachi, 400. These dates are designed to cover the latest periods of their prophecies, and the decree of Cyrus was b. c. 536, and that of Artaxerxes, which gave efficiency to, and really complemented, the original decree, Ezra 6:14, was in 457. Hence, quotations from their writings, to sustain the theory in question, have the full weight of chronology against such an application.RDAC 86.4

    In Isaiah 44, the Lord declares himself as their Redeemer, “that saith to Jerusalem, Thou shalt be inhabited; and to the cities of Judah, Ye shall be built, and I will raise up the decayed places thereof.” The instrumentality used in fulfillment of this promise is also shown: “That saith of Cyrus, He is my shepherd, and shall perform all my pleasure: even saying to Jerusalem, Thou shalt be built; and to the temple, Thy foundation shall be laid.” Verses 26, 28.RDAC 87.1

    By turning to the record, we find that the decree for the return of the children of Israel was very liberal, giving permission to all to return who would. And no prophecy contemplates anything more than full permission and voluntary acceptance.RDAC 87.2

    “Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled, the Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom, and put it also in writing, saying, Thus saith Cyrus king of Persia, The Lord God of Heaven hath given me all the kingdoms of the earth; and he hath charged me to build him an house at Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Who is there among you of all his people? his God be with him, and let him go up to Jerusalem, which is in Judah, and build the house of the Lord God of Israel (he is the God), which is in Jerusalem. And whosoever remaineth in any place where he sojourneth, let the men of his place help him with silver, and with gold, and with goods, and with beasts, besides the free-will offering for the house of God that is in Jerusalem.” Ezra 1:1-4. Again, in the decree of Artaxerxes, chap. 7:13: “I make a decree, that all they of the people of Israel, and of his priests and Levites, in my realm which are minded of their own free will to go up to Jerusalem, go with thee.” Jeremiah, speaking of the return of Israel from all the nations and from all the places whither they had been driven, introduces the same condition that Artaxerxes does in his decree-they shall go up voluntarily. “For thus saith the Lord, That after seventy years be accomplished at Babylon I will visit you, and perform my good word toward you, in causing you to return to this place: For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end. Then shall ye call upon me, and ye shall go and pray unto me, and I will hearken unto you. And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart. And I will be found of you, saith the Lord: and I will turn away your captivity, and I will gather you from all the nations, and from all the places whither I have driven you, saith the Lord; and I will bring you again into the place whence I caused you to be carried away captive.” Jeremiah 29:10-14. He also places this general gathering after the seventy years’ captivity.RDAC 87.3

    These plain declarations are sufficient to cut off the assumption of our opponents, that only two tribes returned, while the ten remained scattered. There is no evidence that all of any tribe returned, while we have evidence that some of each tribe returned, even all that were willing.RDAC 88.1

    Josephus proves conclusively that twelve tribes were restored after this captivity. He says that Ptolemy Philadelphus sent a request to the Jews to “send six of the elders out of every tribe,” for the purpose of translating the law into the Greek. When they were sent, word was returned to Ptolemy thus: “We have chosen six men out of every tribe, whom we have sent and the law with them.” Josephus says they sent seventy-two; thus the twelve tribes were represented. See Josephus’ Ant, B. 12, ch. 2, sec. 4-7.RDAC 89.1

    This testimony is corroborated by Scripture. That the tribe of Levi was represented in the return is evident, for the priests were all of that tribe. But Ezra says further, “So the priests and the Levites, and some of the people, and the singers, and the porters, and the Nethinims, dwelt in their cities, and all Israel in their cities.” Ezra 2:70. “And when the seventh month was come, and the children of Israel were in the cities, the people gathered themselves together as one man to Jerusalem.” Chap. 3:1; Nehemiah 7:73.RDAC 89.2

    When the temple was built, it was dedicated as related by Ezra. “And the children of Israel, the priests and the Levites, and the rest of the children of the captivity, kept the dedication of this house of God with joy, and offered at the dedication of this house of God an hundred bullocks, two hundred rams, four hundred lambs; and for a sin offering for all Israel, twelve he-goats, according to the number of the tribes of Israel.” Ezra 6:16, 17; 8:35. If ten tribes were lacking, it would be truly singular that it should not be mentioned in such a connection as this.RDAC 89.3

    There is another gathering of Israel spoken of in both Testaments, which we will briefly notice. Isaiah 27 evidently refers to it. Note in verse 11 the expression parallel to Romans 11. “When the boughs thereof are withered, they shall be broken off; the women come and set them on fire; for it is a people of no understanding; therefore he that made them will not have mercy on them, and he that formed them will show them no favor. And it shall come to pass in that clay, that the Lord shall beat off from the channel of the river unto the stream of Egypt, and ye shall be gathered one by one, O ye children of Israel. And it shall come to pass in that day, that the great trumpet shall be blown, and they shall come which were ready to perish in the land of Assyria, and the outcasts in the land of Egypt, and shall worship the Lord in the holy mount at Jerusalem.” Verses 11-13. This we think is easily identified as the gathering of the New Testament. When the Saviour comes, “he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.” Matthew 24:31.RDAC 90.1

    That this is the gathering of Israel referred to in the prophets is proved by reference to Ezekiel 37. After relating the vision and the revivifying of the dry bones, the Lord said, “Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel: behold, they say, our bones are dried, and our hope is lost: we are cut off for our parts. Therefore prophesy and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord God: Behold, O my people, I will open your graves, and cause you to come up out of your graves, and bring you into the land of Israel. * * * And say unto them, Thus saith the Lord God, Behold, I will take the children of Israel from among the heathen, whither they be gone, and will gather them on every side, and bring them into their own land.” Verses 11, 12, 21. Comp. vs. 20-28, and Revelation 21.RDAC 90.2

    This gathering is coincident with that of Matthew 24, above referred to, as the graves of the house of Israel will be opened when the Lord sends his angels with a sound of a trumpet to gather his elect. The various points referred to in Isaiah 27, Ezekiel 37, and Matthew 24, are united in 1 Thessalonians 4:16, 17. “For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God; and the dead in Christ shall rise first: then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air.”RDAC 91.1

    In 2 Thessalonians 2, the subject is also introduced of “the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ, and our gathering together unto him.” This we firmly believe is the only gathering of Israel that remains to fulfill the prophecies.RDAC 91.2

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