My overnight flight (Jan. 3–4) to South Africa went smoothly. I was able to edit the final typeset version of our forthcoming Reformation Heritage King James Bible Study notes on Ecclesiastes, Daniel, and most of the Minor Prophets.
I also had a long talk with a very intelligent 75-year-old Jewish woman on the 15.5 hour flight from Atlanta to Johannesburg. We talked for a while about her job and her family and about interesting things to see in Israel. She has made over fifty trips to Israel, and seemed quite pleased that I was taking notes of a number of her suggestions.
Before long we got to religion. She is a Reformed Jew, is big on women’s rights, and doesn’t believe in the after-life. Her “church” has 1400 members and is led by three Jewish rabbis. They are not looking for a messiah to come, but view the caring community of Jews as “the messianic fulfilment.” Her rabbis preach almost exclusively about horizontal issues, such as women’s rights, how to help the poor, etc., and seldom touch on our vertical relationship with God. They use the Torah as a background reference tool, but don’t really preach from it.
I got close enough to her that I dared to ask her about Jesus Christ. She said that has never read the New Testament, thinks that Jesus was just another rabbi, and sees no need to be born again.
I then explained how we as Christians view the gospel, and why we think it is so important that Jesus is also God. I talked to her about our sin, and about our need for the active and passive obedience of Christ as our substitute and savior. She listened carefully, was not offended in the least, but didn’t buy into it. I asked her, “So then you feel that when you die, life is over, and that this life is the be-all and the end-all?”
“That’s right,” she said.
“Pardon me for saying this,” I responded, getting bolder now, “but from the perspective of being a Christian, that seems like such a narrow and small purpose for life. For us as Christians, we believe that this life is like a one-page preface to a massive book—it is only just the beginning. We strive to live all of life in the light of eternity, and anticipate being with Christ forever. ”
“Well,” she said, “I’m not saying for sure that there is no eternity, and no pie-in-the-sky for after this life, but I’m not betting on it. If I can just pass on my moral values to my two children, and they pass it on to their grandchildren, that, to me, is about the best I can hope for in this life.”
That was about as far as I could get with this friend. I silently thanked God for His Son and for the biblical and Christian worldview, for its much larger vision of what life is all about.