Sid:  We want everyone everywhere to have intimacy with God, religion is good until you have intimacy with God, and then religion becomes bad.  My guest Rabbi Jonathan Bernis interviewing him on his brand new book title “A Rabbi Looks at the Last Days” and I love the title of the first chapter of the book, “What if everything you’ve been told about the last days is wrong?”  On yesterday’s broadcast we found out that Jonathan came from a Jewish family, got into drugs and partying. His goal was to become a millionaire by age thirty, he was even dealing drugs and he bumped into crazy Suzie, crazy was a druggie, and all of a sudden she was like a completely different person, did you do a double take when you saw her after she had that change?

Jonathan:  I absolutely did Sid because it was unmistakable change in her life, she went from being haggard and emaciated and just had death all over her, to smiling shining filled with life.  And I made the mistake of asking what happened to her and she devoted the next few months of her life to telling me.

Sid:   Okay, so you finally decide to go to a Bible study that she invites you to, you go to that study, you can’t wait to get out but in order to get out there were a few requirements, tell me about them.

Jonathan:  Well, the basement, the study was in the basement and to get out I had to go upstairs and I was invited upstairs by the teacher of the study and another older gentleman that was attending the study.  And they took me up to the living room and began to put a Bible in my lap and began to lead me through various scriptures that talked about the sin and the separation from God and the wages of God being death.  And Sid I had what I can only describe what is a supernatural experience, I didn’t hear any voice I didn’t see anything, but the room literally began to change, I now know that it was the presence of God coming into the room, but the room became very hot and I began to sweat.  The lights seem to brighten and the couch that I was a sitting on seemed like it was a trick couch because it literally reached out and held me in the place so that I felt like I could not move.  I thought that it was all rigged and later found out that it was all normal, the light were normal. It was the Spirit of God coming into the room and convictive me of my sin and separation from Him.

Sid:  So you said the prayer and left determined you’d never go back there, and you also determined that the prayer didn’t mean anything at that time?

Jonathan:  Absolutely! I went home and did some drugs to forget the whole experience; it was a horrible experience for me because I was not ready to surrender my life.  At least I didn’t think so, but within a day or two I began to have this overwhelming urge to read the scriptures in particular the New Testament which is a funny story in itself Sid because I had no idea where to find the New Testament.  I couldn’t go to temple, I didn’t have any friends that had New Testaments and I began to search for a New Testament, finally I had to drive all the way back home about one hundred miles on my motorcycle to find a Bible with a New Testament that someone had given me years earlier when I was in a group called Young Life, and I threw it in my closet in some box, and I drove all the way back from Buffalo to Rochester, New York to find that Bible.  Went a hundred miles on motorcycle and to devour the scriptures and my life has never been the same since that’s twenty-eight years ago.

Sid:  And we’ve been friends for most of that twenty-eight years and you became a Rabbi of a Messianic Jewish Synagogue in Rochester, New York called “Shema Yisrael.”  It was very successful, but then God lead you step by step to be involved in what I consider the most exciting sign of the return of Jesus since the formation of modern day Israel.  Tell me about that.

Jonathan:  I think what we saw in Russia, were the first fruits of an outpouring that going to hit the Jewish people in an incredible way until all Israel is saved as it says in Roman’s Chapter 11.  But I had this desire planted in me around 1988 to travel to Russia and I was able to bring a team of five people there in May of 1990.  Sid in six days of ministering to Jewish people in the former Soviet Union in Moscow and St. Petersburg I lead more Jewish people to the Lord than in six years of ministry in the United States.  I came home obviously fired up knowing that this was going to be a mission field for me, but never expecting that I would actually move to Russia; I continued traveling back and forth meeting with Jewish believers bringing some humanitarian aid.  And in 1992 I went to Kiev with Alyosha Ryabinov, he was invited, a good friend of ours a concert pianist, he was involved music school in Kiev. And asked me if I would share the gospel after this recital for his family and friends; about 200 people there and afterward I got up and I shared a brief testimony, I invited people to come forward to pray to receive the Lord and about 90% rushed to the front.  I said, “Something’s going on here,” and from that involved this idea to do this huge, what turned into huge outreach festivals of Jewish music and dance.

Sid:  Now Jonathan, I remember you telling me this vision if you will of what to do there, but your plans were so grandiose that when you talk to a lot of the Messianic Jewish leaders, in fact I remember being in a meeting where you described it, they were very discouraging, but I thought it sounded wonderful.

Jonathan:  Well, it was so, we had already rented by that time this is why it made it so difficult it was a prayer meeting that you and I attended, a prayer and fasting meeting and I had already by faith rented a 4,000 foot hall.  So when a bunch of people, leaders told me it couldn’t work I was pretty discouraged because I had already committed to a 4,000 seat hall and then invited you to come and I think that you were one of the only one’s to encourage me and I invited you to join me and together we experienced probably the largest gather of Jewish people to hear the gospel since the Book of Acts.

Sid:  Approximately, how many would you say were in that auditorium?

Jonathan:  Well I can tell you exactly, 3650 a night plus standing room only.

Sid:  And of course since it was a Jewish music festival that alone insured that most of the people would be Jewish.  And I want you to describe, because I was there, but describe with your eyes what happened that first night.

Jonathan:  Well, first of all Sid none of us had any idea how many would come, we had been told by a number of leaders in the Jewish community, “You can forget about Jewish people coming because they’ll be afraid to gather because there is so much anti-Semitism.”  So none of us had any idea how many would even come.  The first shock was that they had to close the doors because the place was packed full about forty-five minutes before the concert even began, so we were totally packed.  The next thing was wondering how they would respond. Well from the minute that the music started they were elated.  These were people hungry for their Jewish identity, hungry spiritually and when I came out and shared my testimony, I don’t even remember the experience well Sid, it was very surreal, I was just caught up in this incredible anointing but I shared my testimony briefly.  And then at the end I invited people to come down to pray to receive Yeshua, Jesus, and to my, all of our amazement, not a few people trickled down, but about 80 or 90% of the auditorium stood to their feet and literally rushed down, that’s why they call them Russians…

Sid:  Ha-ha, if you weren’t going to say that I was going to say it, because I never saw an altar call like that before.  I never saw people running to come forward, ever.

Jonathan:  Our team was weeping, I was holding back the tears, but about 85% came down.  I could see people weeping in the front, raising their hands, praying with sincerity and inviting Jesus the Messiah of Israel to come into their lives.  It was one of the most amazing experiences I’ve ever had in my life and I know you feel the same way when you ministered there.

Sid:  Well, that’s the way I feel it was absolutely the second most historic time in God’s history since the reestablishment of the modern State of Israel to see so many Jewish people running to the altar.  And now you went on history now tells you went on to have many of these festivals. Give me some bottom lines, approximately how many people attended and how many Jewish people made professions of faith?

Jonathan:  Well Sid, in the twenty festivals we did through the 90s and into the early part of 2004 we saw about half a million people come face to face, and millions more that watched on television and in some cases we broadcast live around the country.  But we estimated about 60% or 65% were Jewish and we know this from the follow-up cards that we collected, and we probably saw upwards of 100,000 Jewish people respond to the gospel and altar calls.  And keep in mind also Sid, that we started congregations in each city so now we have at least fifteen Messianic Jewish Congregations in the former Soviet Union.  In fact the largest Messianic Congregation, in the world is in Kiev that was started as a result of the outreach there in 1994 that we did and people are continuing on with their faith.  Sid we saw football stadiums in the mid 90’s filled with Jewish people that knowing that they were going to hear the gospel and I think that it’s important to explain to those that are listening why this is directly directed to end-time prophecy, can I do that?

Sid:  Please.

Jonathan:  In the Bible, it’s clear that the Jewish people play a key role not just in the first coming of the Messiah, but in the return in the Messiah.  And in Roman’s 11:25 and other places, but in Romans 11:25 is one of the clearest scriptures it says that there is a blindness that’s happened to Israel in part until the fullness of the Gentiles comes in and then all Israel will be saved. Then the verse that follows says the Redeemer, or the deliver, will come forth to Zion and turn away ungodliness from Jacob.  Bottom line here paraphrased, is that Jesus is coming back when Israel says “Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord.” The Jewish people are the final event before Messiah returns; the Jewish people coming to faith in the Messiah, the blinders coming off of their eyes and the national repentance of Israel.

Sid:   But you know what the tragedy is Jonathan?  That so many Gentiles Christians are missing their call for the last days and one of the reasons is that they don’t understand the last days.  And that’s why I’m so pleased to release your brand new book “A Rabbi Looks at the Last Days” because there is such fuzziness involved and people just don’t understand their destiny…

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