One of the signs that must precede the Second Coming of Our Lord and His final judgment is the conversion of the Jews as a nation. It is a confirmed as such by this passage from the Catechism of the Catholic Church No 674 “The glorious Messiah’s coming is suspended at every moment of history until his recognition by “all Israel”, for “a hardening has come upon part of Israel” in their “unbelief” toward Jesus.St. Peter says to the Jews of Jerusalem after Pentecost: “Repent therefore, and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus, whom heaven must receive until the time for establishing all that God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets from of old.”St. Paul echoes him: “For if their rejection means the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance mean but life from the dead? (Rom 11:15)”The “full inclusion” of the Jews in the Messiah’s salvation, in the wake of “the full number of the Gentiles”,will enable the People of God to achieve “the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ”, in which “God may be all in all”.
What we can say is that their conversion is part of a mysterious design of Divine Providence which will bring to fulfillment the Covenant established and never revoked. The first chosen will be the last to accept the message of salvation offered by Jesus Christ. However, the way this occurs is distinctly different to the evangelization of the Gentiles. In his famous text De Consideratione, Saint Bernard of Clairvaux (1090–1153), writes about this mystery advising Pope Eugene III : “Granted, with regard to the Jews, time excuses you; for them a determined point in time has been fixed, which cannot be anticipated. The full number of Gentiles must come in first” (De Consideratione III/1, 2).
By rejecting their Messiah,the Jews temporarily frustrated the will of God for them (Lk 7:30) bringing about Jesus’ prophecy of the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD and their dispersal throughout the world- an exile which has last some 2000 years, during which time the Gospel of God’s salvation has spread to a universal level. In a very real way. St. Paul describes this reality when he writes: “But through their trespass salvation has come to the Gentiles, so as to make Israel jealous. Now if their trespass means riches for the world, and if their failure means riches for the Gentiles, how much more will their full inclusion mean!” (Rom 11,11-12).
Two passages from the New Testament relate the importance of the sequence of end times events (in a chronological sense from Pentecost) First in St Luke’s Gospel Jesus says “Jerusalem will be trodden underfoot until the age of the Gentiles is completely fulfilled.” (Lk 21:24) and then Later St Paul says “Lest you be wise in your own conceits, I want you to understand this mystery, brethren: a hardening has come upon a part of Israel, until the full number of the Gentiles come in, and so all Israel will be saved…” (Rom 11:25-26). So what we discover is that there can be no mass conversion of the Jews until the Gospel has been spread to a universal dimension. This would also rule out a millennium era of peace in which a temporal Kingdom of Christ would come and transform the earth, because within that theory, the mass conversion of the Jews would have to happen as part of it, as well as the other mass conversion (which we are told only happens at the end of the world), and if the Jews were to reject this ” temporal Kingdom” then they would surely be destined to damnation because presumably they would no longer have invincible ignorance to rely on. This is obviously not the case .Scripture assures us that the Jews will convert at the end and due to the two witnesses described in (Rev 11: 3-13) who preach for a time and are then put to death in Jerusalem by the Antichrist before they rise after three days.
So what of the Conversion of the Jews and are there any signs of it? In Heralds of the Second Coming, I have avoided any speculation on this point as there is no real evidence yet, but one aspect that cannot be discounted is the establisment of Isreal in 1948 and the return of the Jews to their homeland. Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa, the Papal Preacher, eloquently summarizes the importance of this momentous event “We know that God gave Israel the land but there is no mention of his taking it back again forever. Can we Christians exclude that what is happening in our day, that is, the return of Israel to the land of its fathers, is not connected in some way, still a mystery to us, to this providential order which concerns the chosen people and which is carried out even through human error and excess as happens in the Church itself? If Israel is to enter the New Covenant one day, St. Paul tells us that they will not do so a few at a time but as an entire nation, as ever-living ‘roots’. But if Israel is to enter as a nation, it must be a nation; it must have a land of its own, an organization and a voice in the midst of other nations of the earth. The fact that Israel has remained an ethnic unity throughout the centuries and throughout many historical upheavals is, in itself, a sign of a destiny that has not been interrupted but is waiting to be fulfilled” (from Christ, the Glory of Israel). (cited from newtorah.org)
It is interesting that the great wars Jesus described in His Olivet Discourse (and understood by several popes are referring to the two world wars) paved the way (albeit through the terrible evil of the Holocaust) to the creation of the State of Isreal. It would seem that there is an eschatological significance linking these events, which at present is still in part a mystery hidden by Divine Providence. This explains why discerning the sign of the times is so important. We know God has not forgotten Isreal and never will. As Cardinal Ratzinger once pointed out, the Jews are always in the middle of the great events of history, it will be through their greatest ever-namely their final acceptance of Jesus as Lord and God that will bring about the crowning victory of Jesus against all his enemies. Finally, “God may be all in all” giving fulfillment to the great prayer of Jesus “Thy Kingdom come, thy Will be done on earth as it is in Heaven”. This will be the everlasting eschatological peace which the elect will inherit. Come Lord Jesus!