On the heels of Jesus describing the people of His time as an evil generation because they sought a sign from God – despite having seen many signs from Yahweh in the person of Jesus – He condemned them. He said that the queen of Sheba and the men of Nineveh would rise up in judgment over the people of Israel, but more pronouncements of doom were coming (Luke 11:29-32).
When Jesus sat down to eat with a Pharisee, who then criticized Him for not adhering to their religious traditions and practices, He told him clearly how God saw this ruling elite, and it wasn’t good. In fact, their heart condition in the presence of God Himself would cause Him to pour down wrath upon them as a people..
Kind and gentle, loving Jesus, who would never say anything to harm the delicate ears of anyone (yes, I’m being cynical and speaking of those who preach only a Jesus of love, grace, and tolerance) first called the Pharisees fools. Their greed and wickedness permeated them from the inside out; God saw it, and He wasn’t pleased at the results. Although Luke doesn’t record this first statement by Jesus as a woe, it surely was.
Jesus went on to declare six more woes, making a total of seven (God’s perfect number, showing how short man falls; the significance of this is extreme in this instance). The remaining woes were as follows:
- Addressed to the Pharisees for the manner in which they tithed. They gave on every last part of all their crops, but neglected justice and love.
- Addressed to the Pharisees for their pride in loving the acclaim of the people.
- Addressed to the Pharisees for the spiritual death that radiated off them, just as physical death caused a Jew to become unclean.
- Addressed to the lawyers for how they burdened people with laws and made themselves exempt.
- Addressed to the lawyers for righteously burying the prophets of old, yet the guilt of their fathers fell upon them for having killed those prophets.
- Addressed to the lawyers for teaching people what they didn’t need, thereby hindering them from entering the Kingdom of God.
All seven of these woes had accumulated over the years and built up a store of wrath. The fifth woe, however, seems especially significant. Time after time God’s children shed the blood of the prophets that He had sent to them. Jesus appeared to lump Cain with all the people of Israel despite his not being a Jew nor technically part of God’s Chosen People (as that designation didn’t come about until much later). Cain killed Abel. His blood cried out from the ground for justice. Because of the lineage of mankind descending from Cain, God saw Cain’s sin in the same light as that which apparently caused the death of Zechariah. Jesus referred to Abel as a prophet, just as Zechariah was. For these men whom God designated and sent as His representatives on earth, those whose hands were drenched in their blood earned special wrath from God. And in Luke 11:50-51 Jesus describes the bad news:
“… so that the blood of all the prophets, shed from the foundation of the world, may be charged against this generation, from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who perished between the altar and the sanctuary. Yes, I tell you, it will be required of this generation.”
The generation that Jesus spoke of was the one of which He was a part. He singled out the people of His day. Not long after, Jesus articulated why in Luke 19:44:
“… and tear you down to the ground, you and your children within you. And they will not leave one stone upon another in you, because you did not know the time of your visitation.”
It was this generation among whom Jesus walked who missed His visitation. In other words, they didn’t recognize Emmanuel – God with us. Yahweh walked in their midst but they rejected Him. For their spiritual blindness that particular generation earned God’s wrath that perpetuated through the millennia. Recall that just before He was crucified, the people called for His death. Matthew 27:25 shows how they did it:
And all the people answered, “His blood be on us and on our children!”
They actually called down a curse upon themselves.
That curse has remained to this day. God has blinded the Jewish people as seen in John 12:40:
“He has blinded their eyes
and hardened their heart,
lest they see with their eyes,
and understand with their heart, and turn,
and I would heal them.”
This is in contrast to Satan’s actions upon the rest of the world as 2 Corinthians 4:4 shows:
In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.
Isn’t that interesting? God blinded His own people for their rejection of Jesus, whereas it is Satan who blinds unbelievers elsewhere (i.e. Gentiles) who aren’t Jews. This is part and parcel of the special attention that God gives Israel and will do even more so in the Tribulation.
Once the church has been Raptured, God turns His focus on Israel. He desires for His own children to love and honor Him. They ultimately will, but their final years before that happens will perhaps be worse than all the time since they killed Jesus. However, we know that God’s mercy will prevail in the end. As Paul says in Romans 11:26, “all Israel will be saved.”
We know from the description of this time in Zechariah 13:8 that this actually means that those who are saved are the 1/3 remnant that remains at the end of the Tribulation. But, at that time, something glorious happens. The next verse, Zechariah 13:9 describes it:
“And I will put this third into the fire,
and refine them as one refines silver,
and test them as gold is tested.
They will call upon my name,
and I will answer them.
I will say, ‘They are my people’;
and they will say, ‘The Lord is my God.’”
The curse that fell upon the Jewish people in the time of Jesus’ generation will finally be lifted. They will declare that Jesus – Yeshua – is Messiah. On that marvelous day, just as Jesus declared in Matthew 23:39 (also in Psalm 118:26), the people of Israel will say:
“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’”