Upon seeing the name “Bialystok,” I cried. Perhaps the previous two hours at the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C had effected me more than I realized. My mother and her immediate family, the Hirshbeins, moved to the U.S. from Bialystok, Poland, before Hitler’s invasion. Those who escaped survived; the rest of the family perished as the Nazis eradicated the Jewish community of Bialystok.
The Holocaust was not the first atrocity in history, and sadly, according to the prophets, it won’t be the last. The Jewish prophet Zechariah predicted an even more horrible period for my people. Whereas about one third of Jewish people in the world were murdered under the Nazis, Zechariah prophesies that two thirds of the Jewish people will be lost in a future tribulation (Zech. 13:8). Why, God, why? Why the Holocaust?
The Enemy of God
The Enemy’s Strategy
God cannot lie (Titus 1:2). The Adversary’s plan is to prove God wrong by nullifying God’s promises made to the Jewish people through the Jewish Messiah. God has promised that the Jewish people would always survive as a people (Jeremiah 31:35-37), and would also be the conduit of the Messiah, the Savior of the world.
Satan is trying to remove the Jews as a people, and his strategy is two-fold:
1. Stop the Jews from living! The Psalms describe this most obvious strategy:
“Your foes rear their heads…. They plot against those You cherish .”Come,” they say, “let us destroy them as a nation, that the name of Israel will be remembered no more” (Psalm 83:1-5).
Simply put: if you destroy the Jews then you can prove God is a liar. For if God can’t keep His people as He promised, then no one can trust any of His promises. Additionally, if Satan can destroy Israel as a people, he proves himself to be greater than God!
Anti-Semitism is anti-God. This accounts for the Pharaohs, Hamans, Herods and Hitlers throughout the centuries. That they are tools of Satan in no way excuses their culpability: we all are responsible for our actions, regardless of who or what influences us in those actions.
2. Stop the Jews from living as Jews!
The second, more subtle (though potentially just as effective) strategy is to make Jewish identity repugnant, or at least irrelevant, to Jewish people themselves. In this way, Jewish people would not want to remain Jewish, and Israel would cease to be an identifiable nation before God. In the book of Esther, we read of Mordecai’s bad advice, followed by Esther: “Don’t reveal you’re a Jew” (Esther 2:10). Only when she abandoned that bad advice and revealed her Jewish identity was catastrophe averted.
This same bad advice has been relived by many of our people in every generation; in an attempt to fit into the Hellenistic culture of early second century BCE, some Jews actually had their circumcision surgically reversed! Even today, being Jewish is often so poorly understood that many make no attempt to maintain their heritage.
The shame of it all is that there are some Jewish believers in Yeshua who do not maintain their Jewish identity. In some cases, they didn’t value their Jewishness before they came to faith in Yeshua. For others, it is because they are told that as followers of Yeshua they are no longer Jews. In any case, by not identifying as Jews, they play right into Satan’s plan: to stop the Jewish people from existing as an identifiable people. In so doing, we not only discredit our faith among the general Jewish community, we also work against the very testimony of God’s faithfulness in the recognizable existence of the Jewish people (Jeremiah 31:36)!
Though he was an apostle to the Gentiles, Paul understood what was at stake in this matter: the very faithfulness of God. Would the Good News of Yeshua that Paul proclaimed to Gentiles mean that God had rejected His people? His answer:
“By no means! For I am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, from the tribe of Benjamin. God will not reject his people He foreknew” (Romans 11:1-2).
Every Jewish believer who states “I am an Israelite” or “I am a Jew” (Acts 22:3)—as opposed to “I was a Jew” or “I am a former Jew”—confirms that God keeps His people. God is faithful, and Yeshua is the hope of Israel, not its destroyer!
The Enemy’s Destroyer
Therefore, for the sake of testifying of God’s faithfulness in light of this trenchant spiritual warfare, Jewish believers have a responsibility to maintain Jewish identity. In this responsibility we also have a liberty as to how we express our Jewishness, just as the larger Jewish community enjoys its liberty in their various expressions of Jewish identity. However, our lives must in some way declare, “Am Yisrael Chai b’Yeshua HaMashiach – the People of Israel live in Yeshua the Messiah!”
God promised that the Redeemer of mankind and the Destroyer of Satan would be the Messiah of Israel (Gen. 3:15).
To prevent his own demise, Satan would need to stop this Redeemer from coming and fulfilling His mission. We see how this dovetails with his previous ploy, since the Redeemer was promised to come through the Jewish people (Genesis 12:3; 22:18; 49:10; Isa.11:10; 49:5-7).
On this point, it seems that Satan has failed, since Messiah has come. But if Satan failed, then why is there still anti-Semitism today after Messiah’s resurrection?
Am Yisrael Chai!
The survival of the Jewish people is the lynchpin of God’s future activity and victory, because the return of the Lord is tied to the repentance of Israel. Yeshua said to our people:
“You will not see me again until you say, Baruch Haba B’Shem Adonai, ‘Blessed is He that comes in the Name of the Lord’” (Matthew 23:39).
Just as David could not rule over all of Israel and remove the adversaries until the people accepted him as king (2 Samuel 5:1-5), Yeshua will not return to reign on the Davidic throne and remove the adversary, Satan, until the Jewish people acknowledge Him as King.
Peter reiterates this point when he proclaims to the Jewish people: “Repent and turn to God, that your sins might be wiped away, in order that the times of refreshing might come from the Lord, and that He might send the Messiah, who has been appointed for you – even Yeshua. He must remain in Heaven until the time comes for God to restore everything, as He promised…” (Acts 3:19-21).
The return of Yeshua will “restore everything” and bring “the times of refreshing.” Messiah’s reign on earth is tied to the Jewish people “repenting and returning to God.” Therefore, Satan is desperately trying to avoid his own demise by preventing the return of Messiah. He is doing all he can do to destroy Israel and the Jewish people now; at the same time he is trying to make faith in Yeshua so alien and repugnant that no self-respecting Jew, let alone the nation, would ever desire to repent and turn to Yeshua!
Horrors of this magnitude occur because of spiritual warfare, ultimately directed against Messiah Himself. Congregations of believers in Yeshua, Jewish or Gentile, who do not endeavor to bring the Good News to the Jewish people, play into Satan’s plot to prevent Israel from recognizing their Messiah. Hence, not only must we remember the Holocaust and “pray for the peace of Jerusalem” (Psalm 122:6), but believers should do all they can to bring the Good News of Messiah to the Jewish people around the world.
For more Messianic questions, we’ve got answers for you!