A Matter of Life and Death
Several months ago I spoke about our ministry to a certain group of pastors and lay leaders in the Boston area. One of the lay people who kindly came to hear about our work chose to take offense at a statement I made about my father. The day on which I was speaking would have been my father’s 70th birthday, had he lived. I mentioned him in my talk because Christian friends often ask us about the reactions of family members of Jewish believers. Sadly I told the group that my father had died almost three years earlier, hating my profession as a missionary and dismissing my story of God’s grace, and that he had gone irrevocably into eternity without bowing his heart to the Savior.
When I said that, the lady heartily disagreed with me. She asserted her belief in a God who would give my father a second chance after he had died and was face to face with the Lord.
I don’t think that she was speaking for the other lay people or for the pastors. However, no one moved to take further issue with her statement. I certainly could not agree with her, but as a guest, I felt restrained from making a public rejoinder at that point.
Because of that experience, I am wondering if there are other Christians who might have offered the same words of comfort.” I am wondering if there are others who, through similar, well-intended misconceptions, might be undercutting the cause of evangelism. Such rationale that seeks to extend God’s grace beyond the teaching of Scripture lessens the urgency of the gospel message and serves to dishearten those of us who care for the work of evangelism.
I wonder if that lady realized the implications of the belief that led to her statement. She called her point of view a simple “disagreement” among Christians. Perhaps it is a point of divergence, but I don’t think there is room for that much divergence in the truth of Scripture.
Throughout the Scriptures I hear the Lord calling us to go out and make disciples of all humanity—now—in our lifetime. I hear his commission to preach the good news to all who have ears to listen and act on the truth. I hear Jesus in John 14:6 and Peter in Acts 4:12 giving story that there is only one way into the Kingdom of God. The writer of Hebrews tells us that the time frame for human life and death is followed by the Judgment (Hebrews 9:27).
Because of these clear teachings I sense an urgency to proclaim the gospel at this time to everyone. If, as the lady suggested, people will have a second chance to believe after death when they see God face to face, why should we care about what happens now? Wouldn’t it be better—and easier—for people to see the radiant face of God for themselves and then choose to be loyal to him? But that is not the way it is written in THE BOOK!
Every day as we go out into the streets to hand out tracts, we meet those who are perishing without any desire for God’s forgiveness. We bear the brunt of their anger as they chafe under our reminder of God’s sovereignty and reject it. Every day we call on Jewish people who do not yet know Messiah’s grace. Many are unwilling to hear, and some are hostile.
If we wanted to protect our feelings and take the easy way, we, too, might choose to believe that those people do not need to know about Yeshua right now. If we could only believe in a “second chance” after death, it would provide us with an escape from the stigma of being identified with the “narrowness” of God’s only way of salvation. But the Bible teaches that now is the time, and “today is the day of salvation” (II Corinthians 6:2).
Anything less than this cuts the heart from evangelism because it undercuts the imperative to preach Christ today to those who are lost without him. While one breath remains in us, we believers must encourage one another to accomplish our God-given task of telling others of his grace. The days are few before the Son of Man will return. Let us busy ourselves with the work of proclaiming his Kingdom!
Tuvya Zaretsky is one of the founders of the Jews for Jesus ministry. He was the first field missionary beginning his service in February 1974. Tuvya continues to serve the Lord, now as the Director of Staff Development internationally, based out of the Los Angeles office. He also chairs the Board for the Jews for Jesus branch in Tel Aviv, Israel. Tuvya was raised in Northern California in the institutions of American Judaism. During his bar mitzvah at age thirteen, Tuvya read from Isaiah 6:1-8 and declared with the prophet, Hineni-Here I am, send me!" However, his search for God and spiritual truth didn't come into focus until ten years later, when a Christian colleague encouraged him to seek God in the pursuit of truth. Tuvya came to believe in Y'shua (Jesus) on December 7, 1970. Ever since, he has been joyfully saying to God, "Hineni-Here am I." The full story is available by that title, in a booklet form here. Tuvya has provided the leadership of Jews for Jesus branches and evangelistic campaigns in major cities of the US and in Israel. He headed up the Las Vegas Behold Your God (BYG) campaign in 2005 and co-led the 2006 BYG outreach in New Jersey. He is now also an administrator for the website www.JewishGentileCouples.com. In April, 1989, Zaretsky was present at the Willowbank Consultation on the Christian Gospel and the Jewish people, that produced the watershed Willowbank Declaration. Tuvya has presented missiology papers at the Evangelical Theological Society, the Lausanne Consultation on Jewish Evangelism (LCJE) and at the Global Diaspora Missiology Consultation in 2006. He currently serves as president for the International Coordinating Committee of the Lausanne Consultation on Jewish Evangelism, a networking body of Jewish mission agencies. He was editor of the Lausanne Occasional Paper 60, Jewish Evangelism" A Call to the Church in 2004. He was a contributing author of Israel the Land and People edited by H. Wayne House (Kregel Publishers, 1998). His doctoral dissertation, co-authored with Dr. Enoch Wan, was published as Jewish-Gentile Couples: Trends, Challenges and Hopes (William Carey Library Publishers, 2004). He authored or edited articles for the June 2006 issue of MISHKAN themed, "The Gospel and Jewish-Gentile Couples" (Jerusalem) . And in 2008 he was coordinator and contributor for the World Evangelical Alliance Consultation that produced "The Berlin Declaration on the Uniqueness of Christ and Jewish Evangelism in Europe Today". In 2013 Zaretsky was appointed to serve as the Senior Associate for Jewish Evangelism by the International Lausanne Movement. Tuvya has an M.A. in Missiology concentrating in Judaic Studies from Fuller Seminary's School of Intercultural Studies and the Doctor of Missiology degree from the Division of Intercultural Studies at Western Seminary in Portland, Oregon. He is married to Ellen, who is also a Jewish Believer in Jesus. They have three young adult children: Jesse, Abbie and Kaile.