Latter Day Saints' Messenger and Advocate/Volume 2/Number 12/Article on the gathering of Israel
The subject of the gathering of Israel from his long dispersion in the last days, has become a fruitful theme of theological disquisition among all believers in divine revelation. The pulpit and the press have teemed with arguments on the subject drawn from the sacred writings to elucidate different doctrines and support entirely different opinions. Perhaps, there is no one great and important event treated with that clearness and precision by all the ancient prophets, that we find on the subject of the gathering of Israel, and yet so much diversity of sentiment obtain, as now obtains on that subject.
Some, from a superficial view of it have considered the prophecies fulfilled on the return of Judah and Benjamin from the Babylonish captivity; others have looked at it differently and strenuously supported the idea, that the scriptures relating to that subject had not yet been fulfilled, nor ever would be, only spiritually. Another class still, have been willing to admit that the Jews would be gathered as the prophets have said, but utterly dissent from the idea that the promised gathering has any reference to the Gentiles.
In humble diffidence I will now advance my own ideas, drawn from reason, from analogy, and from divine revelation.
I believe that the subject of the gathering not only affects the Jews, or direct lineal descendants of Abraham, but every nation, kindred, tongue and people under the whole heaven, and that the prophets meant as they have said, that there is no private interpretation to their expressions, but when speaking on that subject, they are to be understood literally.
One prophecy concerning Israel has most assuredly been literally fulfilled. Viz: Deuteronomy 4:27, And the Lord shall scatter you among the nations, and ye shall be left few in number among the heathen, whither the Lord shall lead you. I might adduce much scripture testimony on this point, but a fact occularly and historically established as is this one, can hardly be strengthened by any testimony, either human or divine; therefore, I will proceed to bring forward the testimony for the gathering of Israel literally in the last days. Isaiah 10:11, 12, 13: And it shall come to pass in that day, the Lord shall set his hand the second time to recover the remnant of his people, which shall be left from Assyria, and from Egypt and from Pathross, and from Cush, and from Elam, and from Shinar, and from Hamath, and from the islands of the sea. And he shall set up an ensign for the nations, and shall assemble the outcasts of Israel, and gather together the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth. The envy also of Ephraim shall depart, and the adversaries of Judah shall be cut off. Ephraim shall not envy Judah and Judah shall not vex Ephraim. The 14th chap. 1 & 2 ver. read thus: for the Lord will have mercy on Jacob, and will yet choose Israel and set them in their own lands; and the strangers shall yet be joined with them and they shall cleave to the house of Jacob, and the people shall take them and bring them to their place; and the house of Israel shall possess them in the land of the Lord for servants and for handmaids: and they shall take them captives whose captives they were; and they shall rule over their oppressors.
As we pass it may not be improper to remark that these scriptures have never yet been fulfilled. They were written a few years before the organ through whom they were given to man was sawn asunder by order of Manassah, one of the kings of Judah, and after the ten tribes were carried into captivity by Salmanassar, king of Assyria, and that was an event which took place about 721 years before the advent of the Savior into our world. The Babylonish captivity took place about 115 years afterwards, and affected only the tribes of Judah and Benjamin, and surely the return of the Babylonish captivity which took place 70 years after (536 B. C.) could not be a fulfilment of the scriptures for it never affected the captivity of the other tribes; they have never yet been gathered.—The outcasts of Ephraim and the dispersed of Judah, have never been brought together according to the prediction of the prophets.
Jeremiah who prophesied 628 years before the coming of Christ, records the word of the Lord through him in the 23d chap. and 3d ver. of his prophecy, thus: I will gather the remnant of my flock out of all countries whither I have driven them; and will bring them again to their folds and they shall be fruitful and increase. Chap. 31st, 6, 7, 8, and 9 verses read thus: For there shall be a day that the watchman upon mount Ephraim shall cry arise ye and let us go up to Zion, unto the Lord our God. For thus saith the Lord; sing with gladness for Jacob, and shout among the chief of the nations; publish ye, praise ye, say O Lord save thy people the remnant of Israel. Behold I will bring them from the north country and gather them from the coasts of the earth, and with them the blind and the lame, the woman with child, & her that travaileth with child together:—They shall come with weeping and with supplication will I lead them, I will cause them to walk by the rivers of waters in a straight way, wherein they shall not stumble, for I am a father to Israel and Ephraim is my first born. Also look at the 32d chap. from the 36th to the 40th ver. inclusive; And now therefore thus saith the Lord the God of Israel concerning this city whereof ye say it shall be delivered into the hand of the king of Babylon, by the sword, and by the famine and by the pestilence. Behold I will gather them out of all countries, whither I have driven them in mine anger and in my fury and in great wrath, and I will bring them again unto this place, and I will cause them to dwell safely; and they shall be my people and I will be their God; and I will give them one way, that they may fear me forever: for the good of them and of their children after them: and I will make an everlasting covenant with them, that I will not turn away from them to do them good; but I will put my fear in their hearts, that they shall not depart from me. Chap. 33d, 7th and 8th ver. read as follows: I will cause the captivity of Judah and the captivity of Israel to return, and I will build them as at the first. I will cleanse them from all their iniquities whereby they have sinned against me; and I will pardon all their iniquities whereby they have sinned, and whereby they have transgressed against me.
The prophecy of Ezekiel chap. 20.33, 34, 35, 36 ver. seems equally pointed on the same subject. It reads as follows: As I live saith the Lord God, surely with a mighty hand, with a stretched out arm and with fury poured out will I rule over you: And I will bring you out from the people, and I will gather ye out of the countries wherein ye are scattered, with a mighty hand and with a stretched out arm, and with fury poured out, and I will bring you into the wildhrness [wilderness] of the people, and there will I plead with your fathers in the wilderness so will I plead with you saith the Lord God. We notice that Ezekiel prophecied eleven years or between eleven and thirty-one years after the Babylonish captivity. I will adduce one more passage from Ezekiel's prophecy, chap. 38, beginning at the 21st verse: And say unto them, thus saith the Lord God, behold I will take the children of Israel from among the heathen, whither they be gone, and will gather them on every side and bring them into their own land: and I will make them one nation in the land upon the mountains of Israel, and one king shall be king to them all, and they shall be no more two nations; neither shall they be divided into two kingdoms any more at all.
We will next notice Zechariah's prophecy which was delivered at least sixteen years after the return of Judah from the Babylonish captivity. At the 10th chap. beginning at the 5th verse. And they shall be as mighty men which tread down their enemies in the mire of the streets in battle; and they shall fight because the Lord is with them, and the riders on horses s hall be confounded. And I will strengthen the house of Judah, and I will save the house of Joseph; and I will bring them again to place them, for I have mercy upon them; and they shall be as though I had not cast them off: for I am the Lord their God, and will hear them. And they of Ephraim shall be like a mighty man, and their heart shall rejoice as through wine: yea their children shall see it and be glad: their heart shall rejoice in the Lord. I will do this for them and gather them, for I have redeemed them; and they shall increase as they have increased.
Two ideas strike the mind as matters of fact on casting the eye over the above quotations from the sacred writings. And first, the Babylonish captivity affected only the two tribes of Judah and Benjamin. The other ten tribes having been carried into captivity by Salmanassar, king of Assyria, 115 years before the Babylonish captivity by Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon. Second: On looking at these scriptures, it is plainly discoverable, that the prophet mentions the whole house of Israel; and sometimes Ephraim and Judah are particularized as heads of tribes. Now we will mention one fact more for the consideration of all. Ephraim constituted one of the ten tribes, who have never yet been returned, therefore the return of Judah and Benjamin from the Babylonish captivity could not be a fulfilment of the prophecies quoted. I will still adcuce [adduce] another proof to those in any degree acquainted with history; viz. The prophets in those passages, have promised more real happiness than Judah and Benjamin have ever realized, consequently we conclude it follows, that from these considerations, Israel is not yet gathered, but will be gathered according to the predictions of those holy men whose words we have quoted.
We will notice one evidence more: to wit: Zechariah whose prophecy was delivered as before noticed, sixteen years, at least, after the return of Judah and Benjamin from their captivity, and in addition to the face that Judah and Benjaman [Benjamin] had returned but had not then, nor even now have they, ever realized what was their promised; nor have the other tribes ever yet returned. We therefore, feel confident that if the prophets meant any thing, they meant what they said and that they looked down through the vista of years, to a period yet in futurity; when those promised blessings should be bestowed with a liberal hand upon God's chosen people.
A word to those who believe that the gathering means only spiritually. The captivity and dispersion you believed were literal do you not? certainly you must admit it. Did not the Lord bring a literal flood on the antedeluvian world as he said he would by his servant Noah? True he did. Did not the Lord by the hand of Moses and Aaron literally bring the children of Israel out of Egypt into the land of Canaan as he promised the patriarch Jacob he would? Most assuredly he did. Is there not an abundance of testimony that Israel the literal descendants of Jacob have been scattered among the nations of the earth? Most certainly there is.—Now on looking at the subject, is it not worthy of remark, that all these important events mentioned in the scriptures, were predicted long before the events themselves transpired? And not only were they foretold, but they were put down in plain simple language, and a way-faring man though a fool need hardly be mistaken. The God we worship is a God of truth: When he has said he would scatter a people he has done so; when he has said he would build up a people, establish them or gather them, he has done so. And since "in him is neither variableness nor shadow of turning," we infer from a view of the analogy of the events fulfilled, and the evidences viewed in the light of reason and truth, and we arrive at this definite conclusion that the Lord will yet gather Israel in the last days as he has so often promised by the mouth of the prophets.
To those who are willing to admit that the Jews or children of Israel are to be gathered as the Lord has said, but deny that this gathering affects the Gentiles, we will suggest a few queries. And first, In what part of the volume of inspiration is to be found a covenant, or the copy of a covenant, that the Lord made with the Gentiles as a party abstract from the Jews, or the seed of Abraham: We wait for a reply. None can be given, because none can be found. Then have the Gentiles no promise left them. Separate from Israel they have none. The Lord said to Abraham, in thee and in thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed. This St. Paul said was preaching the gospel to him, and it will readily be acknowledged, that it always requires a belief in, and an obedience to that gospel, before either Jew or Gentile could be benefitted by it. Is it not plain that both must comply with all the requirements of it in order to be benefitted by it? Most certainly you will admit it. Then we further ask, has the Lord any other scheme of saving men but by the gospel? Certainly not any.
We are now prepared to ask a few more questions. Since it has been proven that Israel was to be gathered literally in the last days or in some time yet to come, Is not this agreeable to a prediction or a command and for their temporal salvation? undoubtedly it is. Then their temporal salvation could not be effected without it. The Savior himself gave the signs that were to precede the destruction of Jerusalem, the saints in that day saw them, believed the predictions concerning the city would be fulfilled and fled out previous to its destruction.—He has also condescended to give us some of the signs of his second advent into our world, but he has no where given any promise to the Gentiles only in consequence of the unbelief of the Jews they were represented as being grafted into the true vine and the Jews broken off. Now they are represented as being grafted in and standing by faith but liable to fall after the same example of unbelief that the Jews had set before them. "Now he that is faithful is blessed with faithful Abraham," and is an heir with him to the same promise. The apostle Paul in addressing the Gentile church says: for as many of you as have been baptized into Christ, have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female; for ye are all one in Christ Jesus, and heirs according to the promise: It will readily be acknowledged that the promise to Israel affected the temporal as well as eternal salvation of that people. It will also be conceded that every promise implies the necessity of obedience on part of him or them, to whom such promise is made. Therefore, since God has made no covenant for the temporal salvation of the gentiles, only suffered them to be grafted in to the one made with the Jews, and as the Jews are to be gathered, and cannot be saved temporally in the last days unless they are, so we infer the Gentiles must be, unless it can be made to appear that men can be gathered without a change of locality.
We might adduce much valid testimony of a positive command of God by revelation to gather in these last days, but, to the saints it would be unnecessary; for the reason that they are not only taught it by revelation but by the spirit and living instruction. So that to them any farther argument would be superfluous.
It is humbly hoped that those who deny any revelation in this day and age of the world, will carefully examine the testimony and arguments drawn from the ancient scriptures, divest themselves of all tradition, and preconceived opinion and then judge of the plain matter of fact before them. W.