Prophecy From a Catholic Perspective (22) – Israel’s Embracing of Jesus as a Harbinger for His Return

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Continuing through the Catechism of the Catholic Church as it relates to prophecy:

673 Since the Ascension Christ’s coming in glory has been imminent, even though “it is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has fixed by his own authority.” This eschatological coming could be accomplished at any moment, even if both it and the final trial that will precede it are “delayed”.

The Second Coming of Christ is a very real event that we believe in. We fully expect the prophecies of the Old Testament prophets who foresaw the perfect Messianic kingdom to be fulfilled. While, as Christians, we believe the Messiah has already come in Jesus, we understand that there is yet more perfection to come, and this will happen when Christ returns. We consider this an imminent prophecy, in that it is sure to come and that we are in the Last Days. But to God, a day is as a thousand years and a thousand years is as a day. So “imminent” in God’s time is not as seemingly urgent as when us mortals suggest that something is “imminent.”

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?” 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”.

The Catholic Church is not known for getting caught up in the End Times game. Seldom will you hear preaching from the pulpit about the end of the world. To the extent it has occurred, it’s been in reaction to some popular notions in recent years that have caused Catholics to wonder about what the heck is going on in the world. The Left Behind series, as entertaining as the books are (and I read them all), are filled with theological suggestions and conclusions that simply are out of step with Catholic doctrinal positions. But enough Catholics did not understand this, and thus certain responses were needed from our Pastors and Bishops to clarify matters.

The reason why the “end times” is not a focus of Priests at the pulpit is because the Church has very few dogmatic positions on the details of end time events. There are grand general doctrinal positions which, quite honestly, outweigh the details infinitely in their importance. That Christ will come again, and that we need to be ready to meet Him is the most important thing. But that is true whether we meet Jesus at His Second Coming or through natural death. And we profess this eschatological belief two different times in the Mass, so it is not as if we ignore the anticipation of this event. The problem with speaking to end-time events is that there are such widely varying interpretations of what the details might be that if one is not careful, much speculation and outright fear can be introduced that is neither prudent nor is it necessary. It is best to study the topic cautiously and without a favoritism to the more spectacular and wild aspects of what may happen. It is much more important to focus on the spiritual message of hope and the realistic presentation of the presence of evil fighting good, and what that means to us in our own lives. It is for this very reason that my own presentation of Prophecy (which will at some point get into some more of the remarkable private revelations) is done so as to begin with the Catechism. In all our discussion on this subject, remaining grounded in the hope of it all and rooted in Church teaching are paramount.

Having said all that, there are a few things that the Church has committed to presenting in the Catechetical teachings, and it would be worth the while to occasionally hear these things as well. There is something to be said for a better understanding of the times are in, or may be in someday, and the harbingers of events that are known to us.

The above entry from the Catechism presents an important eschatological detail in Salvation history. Israel is still a very integral part of God’s plan. It is clear here that Jesus’ return is delayed until a full acceptance of Jesus as the Messiah by the Jewish people. Further, this acceptance is “in the wake” of the fullness of the gospel being preached to the Gentiles. So, when God has considered the evangelization of the world to be complete, then at that point will we see the final acceptance by Jews. It began with them, and it will end with them. (Alpha and Omega symbology?)

God is truly remarkable, in that He forgets nobody. The Jews’ acceptance of their Savior may be delayed, but they will come around to the reality of Jesus as Messiah, and will surely play an important part in the perfection of the kingdom.

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