The Current Scene

The Current Scene

Edwin Fesche

Holocaust Survivors

Last June about 10,000 survivors of the Nazi attempt to annihilate all Jews within their territory met in Jerusalem. Half were from outside of Israel. This colossal reunion restored vivid memories as these veterans recounted their experiences to one another. Prime Minister Menachem Begin addressed this group with words of assurance. He traced modern anti-Jewish feeling back to the great reformer, Martin Luther, who was quoted as saying, “burn the synagogues, put all Jews into stables, let them starve, let them suffer, let them crawl, for the sins they committed.” Begin pledged to defend the Jews from mass destruction. Justifying his belligerance, Begin said, “Israel will never allow an enemy to develop weapons of mass destruction to be used against the Jewish people.” To preserve the memory parents took their children to the Wailing Wall (the only remnant of the ancient temple) and charged them to remember the holocaust. A testament read in six languages vowed that the attempt to annihilate Europe’s Jews “Shall never let the sacred memory of our perished six million be scorned and erased,” and to remember “what an indifferent world did to us and to itself.”

The nation of Israel holds a significant place in Scripture from the call of Abraham on through to the Revelation. Our Lord respected this fact; he said, “I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matt. 15:24). When we get into the epistles we still find the Jew as an entity distinct from the Church. For instance, Romans 9-11 and also this verse, “Give no offence, neither to the Jews, nor to the Greeks, nor to the church of God” (1 Cor. 10:32). In the Revelation the 12 tribes are discovered and sorted out in chapter 7. Another thing of note is that the Jew monopolizes most of the Bible’s prophecy. True, the world and the Church are not unrelated to these prophecies, but the Jew generally has the centre stage. Closely associated with these prophecies are the covenants made to Abraham and David and their descendants. In a nutshell the Jew was promised correctional judgment if he sinned (Deut. 30:1-3). Next, the Jew has been promised consummate earthly blessings conditioned upon national repentance (Hosea 14). To annul these blessings by spiritualizing them and applying them to the Church is not a consistent way to interpret prophecy. The Jewish race is still in the throes of national punishment — it has all been so literal. Proceeding from the example of the fulfilled prophecies we conclude that the future ones relating to Israel will be just as literally fulfilled. Two things will bring about Israel’s long promised blessing; namely, the great tribulation, or as described by Jeremiah, “The time of Jacob’s trouble” (30:7). Following this they will say, “Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord” (Matt. 23:39), and they will discover that He has the wounds of Calvary as He tells them, “with which I was wounded in the house of my friends” (Zech. 13:6). Further, Zechariah says, “and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for Him, as one mourneth for his only son” (12:10).

Begin, his commitments to the contrary, has not taken into account his Jewish prophets. Israel is yet to endure its consummate trial. Both Isaiah and Jeremiah liken it to a time of national childbirth. The outcome of the time of labour will be, “shall a nation be born at once? For as soon as Zion travailed, she brought forth her children” (Isa. 66:8). The time of travail is given in Zechariah 14:2. “For I will gather all nations against Israel to battle; and the city shall be taken, and the house rifled, and the women ravished; and half of the city shall go forth into captivity.”

The investment of the city under Titus was just a rehearsal of this scene. No deliverance came when the Romans destroyed the city. In Zechariah’s prophecy just when the nations are gloating that they have settled the Jewish problem, “Then,” Zechariah says “the Lord shall go forth and fight against those nations, as when he fought in the day of battle.” The New Testament apostle and prophet, Saint Paul, is inspired to write, “For if the casting away of them (the Jews because of their rejection of Christ and the gospel) be the reconciling of the world (the Christian evangel to all nations), what shall the receiving of them be, but life from the dead” (Romans 11:15). The coming of Christ to deliver Jerusalem is His coming to the earth and is not to be confused with the rapture of the Church which occurs at least seven years before Zechariah’s prophecy when His feet shall light upon the Mount of Olives. The millennial blessing of the Jews fulfills an important part of the Abrahamic covenant, “And in thee shall all the nations of the earth be blessed” (Gen. 12:3). The world will profit when Israel is blessed.

At this time of writing the Ottawa Summit conference has just adjourned. Its object was economics, but the fast moving events in Lebanon unintentionally intruded into the discussions. They were deeply concerned with the gravity of events. All appeared that their hands were tied to bring about a cease fire. The Middle East has become centre stage in the world’s geopolitics. Most of the world’s oil is there and the Jew is the only reliable ally amid an array of unstable governments with one bent — Israel’s destruction. A portent that indicates an approach toward the end times. Again, Zechariah comes to mind, “And in that day will I make Jerusalem a burdensome stone for all peoples; all that burden themselves with it shall be cut in pieces though all the nations of the earth be gathered against it” (12:3). Again, God says, “I have spoken it, I will also bring it to pass” (Isaiah 46:11) .

Luther’s Anti-Semitism

The reference to Prime Minister Begin’s accusation that the great Protestant reformer was the father of modern anti-Semitism aroused this writer’s curiosity. We recall reading snatches of William L. Shirer’s monumental history, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, and book reviews years ago. It could be from reading this book that Begin gathered his thunder, or from sources of Shirer’s information. On page 236, in the chapter on “Life in the Third Reich” there is a paragraph that gives us the gist of Shirer’s reasoning. We quote: “It is difficult to understand the behaviour of most German Protestants in the first Nazi years unless one is aware of two things: their history and the influence of Martin Luther. The great founder of Protestantism was both a passionate anti-Semite and a ferocious believer in absolute obedience to political authority. He wanted Germany rid of the Jews and when they were sent away he advised that they be deprived of ‘all their cash and jewels and silver and gold,’ and furthermore, ‘that their synogogues or schools be set on fire, and their houses be broken up and destroyed and they be put under a roof or stable, like the gypsies, in misery and captivity as they incessantly lament to God about us’ — advice that was literally followed four centuries later by Hitler, Goering and Himmler.”

In defense of Luther we should realize he was a child of his day. Course and vulgar language was not unusual for one’s enemies. Luther when describing his co-worker, Malanchthon, gives us a glimpse of himself, “I am rough, boisterous, stormy, and altogether warlike. I must remove the stumps, cut away the thistles and thorns, and clear the wild forests; but Master Philip comes along softly and gently, sowing and watering with joy.” However, Melanchthon was not the man for the controversies of his day; to avoid strife he was too prone to compromise.

Luther did not free himself from all the trappings of medieval Christendom. He must have recalled the material and persecutions of the Inquisition that included Jews on their black list. Then too, he could not account for the Jews not flocking into the new Protestantism. All unbelievers who were not in the church were considered misfits. Luther’s anti-Semitism was entirely religious, not racial. If Shirer had as carefully researched Luther as he did the tons of Nazi records that fell so surprisingly intact into Allied hands he would have had a balanced view of the Reformer. Luther possessed the highest academic degrees; he was a voluminous writer, and is still read, and he was a popular university professor with hundreds of students clamoring to attend his lectures on the books of the Bible. He was a devoted husband and father; his Christmas hymns touch the believer’s heart.

A review in the London Times supplied a partial answer at the time Shirer’s book appeared and it was important because it came from the secular world.

“Luther was not the spiritual ancestor of Hitler. Nor can this particular label be affixed to Bismarck. To say that National Socialism was in the main stream of German historic development is to accept the claim which many Nazi writers put forward — men who were only too anxious to give some intellectual respectability to the weird hotchpotch of ideas which make up Nazi doctrine by citing the great names of Germany’s past in their support.”