"A Rabbi Looks at the Last Days" was not what I was expecting. Perhaps I've read one too many `End Times' books and somewhere along the way formed a preconceived idea that any book pertaining to the Last Days would by nature attempt an argument for a pre-Trib, or mid-Trib, or post-Trib, return of Jesus. Furthermore, I expected that it would attempt to analyze current events and political trends to make predictions and hypotheses, and that it would use words like "new world order", "mark of the beast", and "antichrist" liberally. Author Jonathan Bernis doesn't do any of those things. So let's be clear right at the start- if that is what you're looking for- this book won't interest you. If, however, you are honestly seeking perspective and wisdom, then you will be intrigued by Bernis's argument that Christ's return hinges on widespread acceptance of the true Gospel by the Jewish people, and that this must become the focus of the Church today.
But before he gets to that, Bernis spends a good deal of time trying to correct what he sees as common misperceptions pertaining to the Jewish people. He argues, for instance, that the Jews have not rejected the Gospel; rather, they have not heard the true Gospel. Indeed, throughout history the Jews have been blamed for killing Jesus and have been reviled and persecuted as a result- most often at the hands of so-called Christians. Bernis goes into a historical review of anti-Semitism, linking it back to Satan's desire to crush the people of God and the promised Savior that would come through them. Bernis also spends quite a lot of time reiterating that God is not finished with the Jewish people, nor has He replaced them as His chosen people. The redundancy on these points gets a little tedious and dry I'm afraid.
On a positive note, Bernis gives great instruction on how to share the Gospel in a way that is valid, sensitive, and comprehensible to the Jews. He certainly makes a great case for the importance and need to share the Gospel with them, and he demonstrates how the redemption of Israel is linked to Christ's return. I truly appreciated his humility in refusing to speculate on what the "End Times" will look like. What I grew weary of was the redundancy in the first part of the book- I get that the author is committed to correcting misperceptions about the Jewish people_I guess I'm naÃ¯ve about how widespread and persistent those misperceptions must be in the Church today. So, if he is rightly addressing a real problem, then it's all the more important that you read this book and talk to your Christian friends and family about it. I will say overall, I gained some good insights from this book, particularly in terms of relating the Gospel to the Jews, but I don't think I actually gained much insight on the "Last Days" and I'll wager that this book isn't what you'd expect in light of the title.
I received a complimentary copy of this book for review from Chosen Books. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255.
The first part of the book brings the reader's attention to what is happening in the Jewish community, and how it relates to the last days. "It is not possible...to understand the last days without understanding Israel's role in all this." (41)
Bernis shares his own history, raised Jewish and then becoming a Christian during college. He eventually felt the call to go back to his hometown of Rochester, NY, to expand a small Messianic fellowship to a full fledged Messianic Jewish congregation.
He gives several reasons why Christians can know the "last days are near." For example, Satan is increasing his attacks on the Jews. He reviews history and explains the "why" of the persecution.
Another sign is that scattered Jews are returning to Israel. (He spends some time describing his evangelistic meetings in Russia in May, 1993. He writes, of renting The Oktyabrsky Grand Concert Hall, "People who know this story often comment, 'What great faith you had!'" (67) Of the meetings, he writes, "...it was unlike anything seen since the Shavuot [Pentecost] almost two thousand years before." (68) Words of comment fail me.)
Other reasons include the Gospel being preached to the nations, rise of Messianic expectations in Israel, and that the "times of the Gentiles" are being fulfilled.
The second part of the book concentrates on the reader's role in ushering in God's kingdom. When Yeshua returns, there will be a return to the Garden of Eden. (147) "The good news is that this world is on its way." (148) And we "can help speed up its arrival... By doing [our] part to reach the Jewish people with the Gospel." (148) "The revival of Israel is tied to revival for the world..." (149)
He helps us understand what words to use, etc., respecting the history of the Jews, as well as using the Old Testament exclusively.
He encourages Christians to celebrate the Jewish feasts and gives a description of them and their meaning.
Bernis writes about much more than the Jews and the last days. He recounts much of his own evangelistic work among the Jews all over the world. He also writes about the Jewish roots of Christianity, suggests doing things like celebrating the feasts, and critiques replacement theology. He covers the history of Jewish persecution and of the newly formed state of Israel in depth.
He laments that Christians are not focused on evangelizing the Jews. "There is a direct connection between the salvation of Israel and the return of Jesus to this earth." (81,82)
He writes, "The Gospel began with the Jewish people." (97) He says Christians have forgotten that it is "first to the Jews." (Rom. 1:16) Bernis calls it an issue of "divine priority." Focusing on evangelizing the Jews is part of "God's divine order." (97)
There are a few issues I have with Bernis' book.
Bernis placed much emphasis on evangelizing the Jews as the salvation of Israel is necessary, he says, for the return of Christ. Imagine my surprise when I read, "After the blowing of the shofar as both a warning to the earth that leads to the outpouring of God's judgments and the shofar blast that summons us to meet Him in the air, we will see a national awakening take place with Israel as they recognize the one whom they have pierced..." (214) So now I am confused. Does the awakening of Israel happen after the "rapture"? Bernis does add that this awakening must happen before Jesus can establish His millennial reign. (216) He later writes, "...the Jewish people will continue to reject the cornerstone [Jesus] until a set time in history." (218) He notes that Jesus is waiting in heaven and one of the things He is waiting for, before He returns, is "the salvation of Israel." (222) But Bernis wrote earlier that the national awakening will happen after the trumpet blast.
He writes, "Until 1967, it was impossible for Jesus to return..." (97) This was because the Jews did not have control of Jerusalem until then. Also, "...[Jesus] simply cannot come back until He is invited back by His Jewish brethren." (82) (Wow. I thought God was sovereign.)
He also writes, "I am convinced that God does nothing apart from the prayers of His people." (170) So, how did God create the universe, before He created people to pray Him into action? Reading through the Bible, I find that God acted sovereignly many times, before any human prayed.
Bernis encourages Christians to embrace our Jewish roots. He writes, "...the first century church...was made up entirely of Jewish people or proselytes to Judaism. These people never forsook the traditions of their forefathers." (197) "The Jews of the first century who put their faith in Yeshua never meant to start a religious movement that was separate and distinct from Judaism." (198) In fact, he writes, Jesus is waiting in heaven for, among other things, "the Church's coming into its destined fullness...a fullness that includes returning to the Jewish roots of the faith..." (222) So, Christians not celebrating the Jewish feasts is preventing Jesus from returning?
I find this whole concept of Christians embracing their Jewish roots odd. Paul opposed Peter when Peter went "Jewish" in a Gentile setting (Gal. 2:11-14). Paul said a religious festival or a Sabbath day is "a shadow of things that were to come," and that "the reality, however, is found in Christ." (Col. 2:16-17) The writer of Hebrews agrees, saying the law and the sacrifices (such as those at the Day of Atonement) were not realities but only shadows of the good things that are coming. (Heb. 10:1) I just do not understand why I, who have the reality of Christ, would want to celebrate the shadows.
With all Bernis covers regarding how Christians think of the Jews, he never addresses Bible passages like Gal. 3:7 ("it is those who are of faith who are the sons of Abraham."), Gal. 3:28 ("There is neither Jew nor Greek..."), nor Gal. 3:29 ("If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise.")
This book was not what I expected, based on the title. This book is mostly about the Jews, their persecution, and how Christians should evangelize Jews to bring on the return of Jesus.
I received a complimentary egalley of this book from the publisher for the purpose of this review.