Tag Archives: prophecy

A New Year of Ministry

I love this time of year as we reflect upon God’s goodness and grace. I hope you had a joy-filled Christmas and were able to give more thought to the dozens of Old Testament prophecies fulfilled in the New Testament. Last month, I highlighted a number of these prophecies that have impacted the messianic expectations of my Jewish forefathers. I am excited to share more with you about some of them.

One of my favorite prophecies describes the promise of God to David through Nathan the prophet:

“When your days are complete and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your descendant after you, who will come forth from you, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. . . . Your house and your kingdom shall endure before Me forever; your throne shall be established forever.” In accordance with all these words and all this vision, so Nathan spoke to David. (2 Samuel 7:12–13, 16–17)

We know the baby born in Bethlehem, in fulfillment of the prophecy in Micah 5:2, would be the promised Davidic King and sit on his throne forever. But those meant to be His subjects—my Jewish ancestors—did not accept Him. As John wrote, “He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him” (John 1:11).

As a Jewish person, I wish my Jewish ancestors had accepted Him as Messiah.

We will not realize the complete establishment of His glorious kingdom until my people—the Jewish people, His chosen people—declare their loyalty to the one true Messianic King of Israel. Paul wrote of that day, “And so all Israel will be saved” (Romans 11:26).

I believe that day is coming. According to the word of God, the emergence of this glorious and literal Davidic kingdom is unstoppable! As sure as He came once, so He will come again! Luke wrote:

And as they were gazing intently into the sky while He was going, behold, two men in white clothing stood beside them. They also said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into the sky? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in just the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:10–11)

Maybe we will see Him face to face in 2022!

FIRST TO DIE

Jesus fulfilled a hidden and more mysterious element of messianic prophecy in His first coming as His journey to the Davidic throne included suffering and dying for our sins.

Isaiah wrote in chapter 53:4–5, “Surely our griefs He Himself bore, and our sorrows He carried; yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, and by His scourging we are healed.”

I recognize that this rejection by many first-century Jewish leaders was part of God’s plan as it would lead to His death for our sins. We understand that the Son of God was born to die so that the sons of men might become the children of God—through His finished work at Calvary.

But this is not the end of the story.

He would also rise in triumph by resurrecting from the dead and then, one day, taking His rightful place as King of Kings and Lord of the nations.

The Apostle Paul wrote in Romans 1:2–5, “. . . which He promised beforehand through His prophets in the holy Scriptures, concerning His Son, who was born of a descendant of David according to the flesh, who was declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead, according to the Spirit of holiness, Jesus Christ our Lord, through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles for His name’s sake.”

We pray that God will use you and our 127-year-old mission to reach today the remnant of Jewish people who will come to faith in the promised Messiah.

We also believe the calling of Chosen People Ministries is to stir the hearts of our Jewish people to prepare them for their end-times turning to Jesus, which will initiate the final series of prophecies related to His return. Again, the apostle wrote in Romans 11:25–26, “For I do not want you, brethren, to be uninformed of this mystery—so that you will not be wise in your own estimation—that a partial hardening has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in; and so all Israel will be saved.”

Jesus promised this end-of-days turning of the Jewish people to Himself when He spoke to the Jewish leaders during a pivotal point of His ministry, “For I say to you, from now on you will not see Me until you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’” (Matthew 23:39).

I take great comfort in knowing that the day will come when the Jewish people will welcome Him, and He will reign forever. This eternal reign is our biblical hope.

UNTIL THEN . . .

In the meantime, we will work tirelessly to bring the message of the King to the Jewish people. As I think about all the Lord accomplished during 2021, and what He is doing today, my heart is encouraged, but we need your prayers and partnership more today than ever before! We hope and pray that Chosen People Ministries will emerge from the pandemic strong as we draw closer and closer to the day of His return.

Allow me to share some of the blessings of this past year and some hopes for the future:

  • In Israel, we recently took about two dozen Holocaust survivors to Haifa on a retreat, which was a first over the last eighteen months. We prayerfully hope the landscape will change in the coming months in Israel, allowing us to fully reopen our Ramat Gan and Jerusalem Centers to meet in person without restriction.
  • Last month, we took forty young Israelis for a retreat in the desert for fellowship, and several seekers joined us for the trip.
  • Our Charles L. Feinberg Center for Messianic Jewish Studies initiated our first virtual class in Israel through Zoom! Dr. Gregg Hagg taught Hermeneutics and Bible Study Methods. This addition to our seminary program is an exciting step forward in making disciples in the Land!
  • We are developing a brand-new and innovative website in Hebrew to reach younger Israelis. This site will cover many of the challenges that younger and more secular Israelis face regarding relationships, education, the stress of serving in the Israeli army, and other emotional issues like loneliness.
  • We are also getting ready to begin our new “Hosting Israelis” network in the United States and other countries where Christians can invite Israelis traveling after their army service to spend a few days in their home. This network will give Israelis an opportunity to see what a Christian family is like and it will provide our hosts the opportunity to talk to these precious young people about the Lord.
  • We are developing other digital media tools for evangelism, including a new animated “gospel tract” for Facebook and other social media platforms.
  • We had great success with our online Hanukkah and Christmas outreach as thousands responded and requested our booklet, The Gospel according to Hanukkah!

ADVANCING TOWARD HIS GLORIOUS FUTURE

By God’s grace, we have certainly experienced the Lord’s blessings throughout 2021, but I believe 2022 will be a year of more incredible progress in sharing the gospel with the Jewish people. We plan to continue our advancement strategy focused on three areas: training a new generation of Chosen People Ministries staff; expanding our ministry through social media, videos, and websites; and growing our exciting work in the Holy Land as we continue to add new young staff members.

I so appreciate your help, prayers, and generous support throughout 2021 and hope you will continue to stand with us in 2022.

The encouragement and trust you have shown me and our staff reflect your heart for this ministry and your continued commitment to making the gospel known among God’s chosen people.

Please pray for our efforts in working with hundreds of local churches by marking January 16, 2022, as “To the Jew First Sunday.” We have provided videos, various books and booklets, and other resources to make this a special Sunday for God’s work among the Jewish people. For more information on “To the Jew First Sunday,” please visit chosenpeople.com/priorityinfo.

May the Lord fill your heart and home with great joy during this new year. Zhava and I and the Chosen People Ministries worldwide staff wish you a happy and hopeful New Year.

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Messiah, Son of David

Merry Christmas! I hope and pray you will find this wonderful season of the year to be filled with the presence of the Lord.

How does a Jewish person come to faith in Jesus the Messiah? In my case, it was by discovering the ways Jesus fulfilled dozens of Old Testament prophecies about the coming of the Messiah. Growing up in a Jewish home in New York City, I would have never imagined the Hebrew Scriptures pointed to Jesus. It would never have even occurred to me that such a thing was even possible!

Yet God can reach even the least likely person, in a most unlikely way. One day, I found a New Testament in a phone booth in the middle of the Redwood Forest in Northern California. I was nineteen years old and asked God earlier that day to show me the truth—especially if Jesus really was the promised Messiah. Two of my best friends had recently become believers, and during my efforts to talk them out of it, I became intensely interested in finding out if Jesus was the Messiah of Israel.

The Son of David

My favorite Bible hero growing up was King David. I admired David but never gave much thought of him as the great…great-grandfather of the Messiah. Though raised a modern Orthodox Jew, I was still very secular. I could read the Bible in Hebrew by the time I was ten years old, but I did not really know what I was reading!

I still remember reading the New Testament I found and was simply stunned by the first verse of the first chapter of the Gospel of Matthew: “The record of the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah, the son of David, the son of Abraham.”

Immediately, the New Testament, which I thought was a book for Gentiles, warmed my heart. When I read about Jesus’ relationship to King David, I was encouraged to keep reading. Linking Old Testament prophecies with what I saw in the Gospels eventually helped me come to accept the Lord.

I cannot overstate the importance of this connection. It is essential to show Jewish people how Jesus fulfills the Messianic promises of the Hebrew Scriptures as they demonstrate that Jesus is the promised Messiah to a Jewish person who is sincerely seeking. Without the reassurance of this Jewish connection, even the most indifferent Jew will hesitate and turn away.

The Davidic Covenant

The covenant God made with my hero David, including the promise of the Messiah, has come to mean a lot to me over the years. It all hinges on that frequently misunderstood title, “Messiah.” Let’s unpack it a bit and trace the connection between David, Jesus, and the role of Messiah.

The writers of the New Testament clearly believed that the Old Testament spoke of a Messiah who would save Israel from her enemies. Not only that—they taught that Jesus is that Savior. He rescues all who believe in Him from sin and judgment!

“Messiah” and “Christ” are the same term. The Hebrew word Messiah literally means anointed and refers to the process of oil being poured over the heads of key leaders within the nation of Israel as a symbol of God’s Spirit empowering them for their ministry. Christ, our English term, is derived from the Greek term christos, which is actually the Greek word for Messiah.

The Hebrew Scriptures describe three anointed offices in Israel: prophets, priests, and kings. In our understanding, the Messiah is the one who combines all three offices in one anointed person.

That is, the Messiah is God’s prophet, priest, and king, and we proclaim that Jesus fulfilled each of these anointed offices. He spoke for God as His prophet, He is the high priest interceding for us, as well as the once-for-all sacrifice for sin, and He is also our king, both today and tomorrow.

We read in 2 Samuel 7:12–16 the following prophecy of King David’s eternal kingdom described by Nathan the prophet,

When your days are complete and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your descendant after you, who will come forth from you, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be a father to him and he will be a son to Me; when he commits iniquity, I will correct him with the rod of men and the strokes of the sons of men, but My lovingkindness shall not depart from him, as I took it away from Saul, whom I removed from before you. Your house and your kingdom shall endure before Me forever; your throne shall be established forever.

Often, covenants in the Hebrew Scriptures are delivered as prophecies. For example, in Genesis 12:1–3, what is usually known as the Abrahamic Covenant, God promises that the patriarch and his descendants would become a nation, inherit a land, have a relationship with the God who chose them, and be a blessing to the world. It is a prophecy and also a covenant, and God is the one who makes sure these wonderful promises come to pass.

The promises in 2 Samuel are usually referred to as the Davidic Covenant. It is a prophecy and a covenant promising David a son who will be the future king of Israel and reign forever.

In the past, the Jewish people demanded a king, and God allowed them to anoint Saul as their first regent. Yet this choice came to the children of Israel without God’s blessing. Israel failed in following their chosen king, and the king failed to lead his people. He disobeyed God’s instructions regarding proper worship and lost his kingdom (1 Samuel 13:13–14).

God then chose a shepherd boy to be the king of Israel. Unqualified according to the standards of the world, He was nonetheless qualified in God’s sight and was also from the promised royal tribe of Judah (Genesis 49:10) and born in Bethlehem, the city of David.

God, speaking through the prophet Nathan, promised that the kingdom of David would endure in perpetuity! The Lord assures King David that his dynasty would last forever. Even if David’s sons were disobedient, as was Solomon, the dynasty would still endure.

The Davidic Covenant falls into a category of covenants that are described as unconditional.

In Isaiah 9:6–7, we read about this coming Davidic King in majestic terms, spoken by the prophet Isaiah.

For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; and the government will rest on His shoulders; and His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness from then on and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will accomplish this.

The predicted names of this child reveal that He would be God in the flesh. Only Jesus the God-Man and King could fulfill this prophecy; He is the ultimate and eternal Davidic king.

These prophecies came to pass and provide a powerful rationale for our faith.

As a Jewish believer, I could not believe Jesus is the Messiah unless I was convinced that all He did was consistent with what was predicted in the Hebrew Bible. I was . . . and still am, more than ever!

Our Message of Hope for the Jewish People

I am privileged to be the seventh president of Chosen People Ministries. Our Mission was founded in 1894 by a rabbi who left Hungary to find freedom on the golden shores of our great country. Leopold Cohn found far more than he expected. He found Jesus, who provides true freedom and joy. We want our Jewish people, family, and friends to find that same peace, so we will continue to proclaim His love for all—to the Jew first and also to the Gentile—until the Son of David returns to set up His throne.

But we cannot do this without you. We are partners in this ministry to the Jewish people. Whether we are reaching Jewish people in the United States, Israel, France, Argentina, or the other countries where we serve, our message is the same. He is the Messiah, the Anointed One, and when we place our trust in Him, we receive the glorious gift of eternal life.

Thank you for your prayers and generosity. Have a Merry Christmas, knowing that the promised Son of David has come and will come again to fulfill every last detail of the promise to King David.

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What is Next for Israel?

Dear friend of God’s chosen people,

It is my joy to introduce you to Dr. Michael Rydelnik, the director of Jewish Studies at Moody Bible Institute and the radio host for Open Line on Moody Radio, which airs every Saturday at 9:00 am. Chosen People Ministries has enjoyed the service of dozens of Moody Jewish Studies graduates working on our staff in the United States, Israel, and worldwide!

Michael is a dear friend of mine who came to know the Lord through Chosen People Ministries. His wife, Eva, has served on the Chosen People Ministries staff for multiple decades.

I asked Michael if we could share his article, which focuses on why Israel is evidence of the reality of God and the truth of the Scriptures! Scripture often calls Israel a “witness” or a “light to the nations.” These names capture Israel’s fundamental calling to bring blessings to the world. This call is clearly depicted in Genesis 12:1–3 when God told Abraham that it would be through Israel that all the world’s nations would be blessed. Jesus relayed something similar to the woman at the well when He said, “Salvation is from the Jews” (John 4:22).

Today, Israel is blessing others as the “vaccine nation,” leading the world in the percentage of citizens vaccinated against COVID-19 and providing invaluable information about the vaccine. Israel is often a shining example in some unexpected ways!

I know Dr. Rydelnik’s teaching will spiritually enrich you! And as always, thank you for your faithful prayers, love, and support for YOUR Mission to the Jewish People.

Your brother in Messiah,

Mitch

Is the Modern State of Israel the Fulfillment of Prophecy?

by Dr. Michael Rydelnik

Even if we concede for the moment that the Jewish people’s continuing presence is evidence for the reliability of the Bible, we are well within our rights to raise other concerns. What, for example, is the connection between the Jewish people and the highly contested real estate in the Middle East that makes up modern-day Israel? For some, the relationship between God’s covenant promise to preserve the Jewish people and the equally emphasized “Promised Land” is highly problematic. Today even some committed Jews and Christians may wonder what relationship the present day State of Israel has with the land it sits on. In 1948, varying numbers of Orthodox Jews were horrified that anyone could even consider a Jewish state based upon modern notions of nationality in place of a kingdom under the Messiah’s reign. This sentiment persists today.

Yet, politics aside, it cannot be denied that not only have the children of Israel endured despite the harsh treatment they have received, but against all odds, after 2,000 years of exile, the Jewish people have once again returned to the Land of Israel as the biblical prophets promised they would. The Hebrew prophets foretold a day when God would draw His people back to Israel. Although centuries of dispersion caused this aspiration to retreat into the far background of Jewish life, it never fully disappeared. If nothing else, the hope that is voiced every year during Passover—“Next year in Jerusalem!”— serves as an annual reminder of the Jewish people’s lost heritage.

So unlikely did a realistic restoration of the Jews to their Land seem that throughout church history, Christians, for the most part, could not conceive of a literal fulfillment of this promise. Therefore, many believers in Jesus interpreted these prophecies figuratively or historically—if they thought of them at all. However, some believers in the nineteenth century did indeed take the promise of a return literally and began to anticipate a Jewish return to the Land of Israel. Thus, you could say that what has become known as Christian or biblical Zionism was birthed at the same time or even earlier than rising Jewish aspirations for modern statehood promoted by Theodore Herzl.

Statehood and the Promise of the Bible

Is the existence of the modern State of Israel a further validation of Scripture’s reliability along the same lines as that of the Jewish people’s continuing presence in the world? Consider the following conditions set out in the scriptural record.

First of all, a national spiritual regeneration by turning to Jesus is not a biblical prerequisite for a major movement of Jewish people returning to and possessing the Land of Israel. In fact, the prophet Zechariah indicated the Jewish people would turn to God, through the Messiah, only after returning to Israel (Zech.12:10; 13:1). Likewise, the prophet Ezekiel stated God’s promise, “For I will take you from the nations, gather you from all the lands and bring you into your own land” (Ezek. 36:24). The passage continues, “Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean…. Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh” (Ezek. 36:25–26). Note that the spiritual regeneration of Israel follows the restoration of the Jewish people to the Land. Thus regathered, Israel will, as a nation, turn in faith toward the promised Messiah.

Second, the Bible predicts Israel would return to the Land in stages. Ezekiel 37 contains the stark and unforgettable vision of a valley of dry bones. The bones come to life in stages: first sinews on the bones, then flesh, then skin, and finally, the breath of life (Ezek. 37:6–10). Then God tells Ezekiel, “Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel” (Ezek. 37:11). This vivid depiction of the Jewish people’s restoration to their Promised Land is well in keeping with what is actually occurring. The regathering does not occur instantaneously; rather, it is a process culminating when the nation as a whole receives the Messiah according to Jewish expectation.

The dry bones represent Israel in exile, without hope. The process of the bones coming together with sinew, flesh, and skin refers to the successive waves of returning Jews before Israel’s rebirth. This is, in fact, how the Jewish people have returned to the Land. There were five separate aliyot (immigration waves) from 1881 to 1939, returning Jewish people from Europe to the Promised Land. After Israel’s birth in 1948, an estimated one million European Jewish survivors of the Holocaust came to Israel, followed by a majority of the 800,000 Jewish people driven from their homes in Arab countries. More recently, 1.5 million Jewish people fled the Former Soviet Union and immigrated to Israel. These immigration waves show how the Jewish people have returned in stages. The body without breath represents unbelieving Israel, restored but not yet regenerated. Finally, according to this passage, God breathes life into these bodies, representing the day when all Israel turns to the Messiah.

Third, the Bible predicts Israel would return to her Land through persecution. The Hebrew Scripture says of Israel, “For I will restore them to their own land which I gave to their fathers” (Jer. 16:15). God will use “fishermen” and “hunters” to pursue His people back to Israel (Jer. 16:16). This metaphor for persecution has been literally fulfilled in Israel’s rebirth. Since the birth of modern Zionism, the primary motivation for return to the Land of Israel has been anti-Jewish persecution. In the last hundred years, Czarist pogroms, Polish economic discrimination, Nazi genocide, Arab hatred, Soviet repression, and more recently, an alarming rise in European and North American antisemitism have driven Jewish people back to their homeland.

Fourth, the Bible predicts that, after a period of exile, the children of Israel would return to reestablish national identity, thus setting the stage for the arrival of the Messiah and the consummation of history as we know it. At that time, the Messiah will deliver Israel from her enemies (Zech. 14:3).

Ask yourself, do the facts of history—particularly the emergence of a Jewish homeland in the Middle East—line up sufficiently with the predictions of the Hebrew Bible to form a credible connection? Since Israel has returned in unbelief, in stages, through persecution, the establishment of the modern State of Israel likely fulfills the predictions of the ancient Hebrew prophets and sets the stage for events yet to come.

The return to Zion is powerful evidence of the truth of Scripture. It is beyond remarkable that God would restore a dispersed and persecuted people to their Land after two thousand years of exile. Given the relationship between these events and the predictions of the Bible, would you say it is more or less likely that this has truly come about by the hand of God?

And if the above is true—what impact should this have on our lives? Certainly, we should pray for the peace of Jerusalem (Psalm 122:6)! Also, if the return of Jesus is linked to the Jewish people turning to Him, then how should we view Jewish evangelism today? This question is answered by the Apostle Paul in Romans 11:11–29! As God’s people, we must do all we can to reach Jewish people with the message of the gospel!

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Predicting the Future was God’s Idea!

Israel is the focal point of God’s plan for the Last Days, and I believe the Bible is clear about Israel’s future role. It is simply incredible to visit Israel and realize that the nation and Land that God promised to Abraham, and of which the prophets spoke, exists today. Modern Israel is a signpost of God’s faithfulness and a reminder that the Word of God is true—and that His coming is near!

But how close are we? According to the Hebrew prophet Zechariah, there are a number of puzzle pieces that need to be in place before the Lord’s second coming. God’s chosen people must be back in the Land, Jerusalem must be in Jewish hands, and her enemies must surround her. (Zechariah 12:9-10 ff)

These pieces are in place today in ways that have never been true before. We live at a unique moment in human history, as the table is set for the return of Messiah!

If we are closer to this glorious day than most people think (which I wholeheartedly believe), then how should our lives be different? We cannot live while ignoring the signs of His soon appearing. As Jesus said,

Watch therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming. (Matt. 24:42)

Of course, we should not set dates for His return; the Lord Himself warns us against doing this (Matthew 24:36). Throughout the ages there have been many attempts to predict the day and hour of His coming, and the results have often been disastrous and harmful for the proclamation of the Gospel. Because of these negative experiences, many say we should not allow ourselves to become fixated on the Second Coming.

I could not disagree more!

Sometimes I think we have internalized the idea that talking about the world as we know it coming to an end makes us naïve fanatics. But if Jesus is coming soon—and I am sure He is—then we should certainly live today in light of His coming, and encourage others to do the same. We need an army of “fanatics” who believe this and preach it

The entire Bible—particularly the prophets—warns non-believers of the judgment to come and comforts the hearts of believers with this great hope! Jesus does not want us to try to set dates, yet He does tell us to be prepared, because the hour is coming.

Understanding that we have little time left motivates me to preach the Good News with a greater sense of urgency! I do not want to sound critical, but it seems that many Christians believe in the second coming… yet the belief does not make a real difference in the way we LIVE and WITNESS.

There are a growing number of believers and churches who do not think that Israel has any role at all in the last days… and often it is these same churches that downplay the second coming. Practically and theologically speaking, there are fewer things to think about if the promises of God to the Jewish people about a future kingdom are simply fulfilled spiritually in the Church.

However, for my brothers and sisters who take this vantage point on the second coming, the return of Jesus is cloaked with vagaries and veiled in ambiguity. After all, how might a wolf lie down with a lamb at a Sunday morning service? Must we believe that the words of the prophets should be regarded as mere symbols of a future reality that has little connection to the words of Scripture?

What about the realignment of national loyalties predicted in Isaiah 19—how would this be spiritually fulfilled in today’s church? Passages like these simply beg for literal fulfillment, and if you do not have some sort of restored physical kingdom with Israel at the center, then how can these prophecies possibly make sense?

The urgency of Jewish evangelism in light of Jesus’ return is easily lost when the Old Testament is not taken literally and Israel becomes just one nation amongst all the others. In fact, reducing the more literal language of Scripture about the future of Israel and spiritualizing the inspired text ultimately causes Jewish evangelism to be downplayed. It requires the words of Paul commanding the church to bring the Gospel to the Jew first (Romans 1:16) to be viewed as having been completed in the first century, without any further prophetic purpose! There is a connection between believing in Israel’s importance in the End Times and believing in the importance of Jewish evangelism today.

The link between the second coming of Christ and the salvation of the Jewish people is unavoidable. Paul writes,

For I do not desire, brethren, that you should be ignorant of this mystery, lest you should be wise in your own opinion, that blindness in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written… (Rom. 11:25-26)

In the meantime, we will continue to pull out the stops in reaching Jewish people for Jesus, as the state of Israel and alignment of nations in the Middle East are indicators that we are getting closer to His coming. Reaching Jewish people for Jesus takes on a new and prophetic urgency in light of this day and hour.

Keep looking up!

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