I’m sure we’ve all heard various opinions on Israel. There are a lot of Christians who believe that the current state of Israel is the final return, and that we just need to await the day that Jesus will return and all Israel will be saved. On the opposite side of the spectrum are believers that say it doesn’t matter what happens in the Middle East because we are the ‘New Israel.’ Where does the truth actually lie?
To truly dive into such a topic as this, we need to look at the Bible as a whole. We need to see the history of Israel, what their purpose is, and we need to let the Scripture speak for itself. Both they that say Israel is finally restored and they that say we are the New Israel have taken Scriptures out of context. For example, I would challenge you to look at any prophecy that speaks of Israel’s final return. One of the most often quoted verses would be Amos 9, where it says, “They shall never again be uprooted.” This is actually the very last verse of Amos. But lets just assume that Amos 9:15 has a context. What is that context that is being spoken of?
Well, contrary to the subdivider in my Bible, the context actually starts way back in verse 8 (if not sooner). We find that God declares to “the sinful kingdom,” “I will destroy it from the face of the earth – yet I will not totally destroy the house of Jacob. For I will give the command, and I will sift the house of Israel among the nations as grain is sifted in a sieve, and not a pebble will reach the ground. All the sinners among my people will die by the sword, all those who say, ‘Disaster will not overtake or meet us.’ In that day I will restore the tabernacle of David. I will repair its broken places, restore its ruins, and build it as it used to be, so that they may possess the remnant of Edom and all the nations that bear my name, declares the Lord who will do these things.”
Question: has that happened? Has the tabernacle of David been restored? Has Edom been given into the hand of Israel as a possession? The tabernacle of David is the throne of David. Is there a king upon the throne of David ruling over Israel? No. When we couple this with Isaiah 2:2, “The mountain of the Lord’s Temple will be established above all other mountains… and all nations will stream unto it,” we find that this part about Edom and the nations might actually have more to do with world peace and all peoples coming up to see the Lord. Has that happened? No. Why? Because the first thing that must happen before there is the “never again will you be uprooted” is the establishment of Messiah upon the throne of David. That hasn’t happened, so the latter can’t have happened either.
But this leaves an interesting question: if the final restoration is not what we’re currently seeing, then how exactly do we understand from Amos 9:8-10? And another question: What exactly are we seeing when we look at the Middle East?
There are two things necessary for good hermeneutic of the prophetic Scriptures: an understanding of the general history of Israel (which is actually part of a larger history and context of Scripture) and the relentless pursuit of contextual analysis. Both of these are rooted in one essential ingredient: hearing the Holy Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit that leads us into all truth. This is God’s eternal purpose. Such topics as Israel and the last days are not things to ‘meddle’ with. It says in Zechariah 2:8 that, “whoever touches you (Israel) touches the apple of my eye.” That Hebrew word used there is literally the pupil of God’s eye.
We need to have the utmost sobriety about this. Casual glimpses and meshing together of Scripture in a dubious sort of fashion is an abomination. You play games with the apple of God’s eye, and ultimately if Israel has not been restored to her Land that final time, you play games with the lives of countless Jews. The Messiah came before God’s final judgment upon Israel. We can say that Israel has been exiled for the past 2000 years, and in 1948 they were reestablished as a nation – born in a day. But there are a few things that must happen when God restores them the last time. We’ll look into each one of these subjects individually:
1) Israel’s final redemption comes with world peace.
2) Israel’s final redemption means they believe in the Lord their God.
3) Israel’s final redemption happens at Christ’s return.
4) There are prophecies about two returns at the end of the age.
What will become increasingly obvious is this: The current state of Israel is not the redeemed Israel spoken of in prophecy. Instead, it is an Israel that is out of sync with God’s covenant, and they will continue to be until that final restoration unto glory. All four of those things must take place before Israel is redeemed (or, more precisely, the first three at the time of their redemption). We actually mistake Bible prophecy when we say that Israel can be restored to the Land before they are redeemed. This cannot happen in a progression or spurts, as some suggest it is happening. It must all happen at once, or it won’t happen at all.
Israel’s final redemption comes with world peace
When we look through the Scriptures, we find that the covenant made to Israel was that they would be at peace in the Land. They won’t have any wars. If a nation decided to come up against Israel, they will flee in seven directions. Five will chase 100, and 100 will chase 10,000. The sword will never pass through Israel. This is found in Leviticus 26:6-8. If Israel will obey the commandments of the Lord, then they shall dwell in peace. But if she disobeys, then her enemies shall pursue her to the exact same degree. Actually, it even says that they will flee when no one chases (Leviticus 26:17).
The exile is a judgment. What is also a judgment is when there is no peace. This is a covenant that God has made with Israel. If God has established this covenant with them, and has brought them back according to that covenant, then don’t you think that they should have peace in the Land? Why are Israel’s enemies sending rockets day and night into the Land of Israel? Why is Israel a stench and burden to those surrounding her? This is a judgment from God. The redemption of that nation, and the restoration of her brings peace to the whole world.
Isaiah 35:10 specifically promises that when Israel returns, she will return with everlasting joy upon her head. Mourning and sighing will flee away. Why does it say this? It says this because everything that Israel has experienced up to this point would be persecution and tribulation (of which the Nazi Holocaust was only a foretaste). Israel will go through a time that is unparalleled. She will endure great suffering and trial. It is called by the prophet Jeremiah, “The Time of Jacob’s Trouble.” That time was mentioned by Jesus as being unequaled: “If that time were not cut short, no flesh would survive” (Matthew 24:22). The people will go through such anguish before their restoration that when they are delivered from it, they will enter Zion with singing.
But wait, wasn’t the Nazi Holocaust a time of unequaled tribulation? Indeed it was. So maybe Israel endured that, and then God delivered her. But we can’t reject the verse in Isaiah. She shall enter Zion with everlasting joy upon her head. Why is it everlasting? It is everlasting because there will never be another time like this. Sorrow and sighing will flee away. Why? God will make sure that they are never oppressed again. They will have peace on every side, and the Lord their God will rule over them to protect them. Does this fit the description of modern day Israel?
Though their oppressors do not overtake them, she still has oppressors. It is said in Joel 2:19, “Never again will I make you an object of scorn among the nations.” Guess what… Nations are scorning. It is not sufficient to say that there will come a time when the nations don’t scorn. I agree that there will come a time, but there will not come a time with the current state of Israel. She is still out of the covenant. The evidence for that is that she does not have the temple, she does not have the sacrifices, and she is not at peace in the Land. All of these things are covenants that God has established with her.
Israel’s final redemption means they believe in the Lord their God
Lets start in Isaiah. We’ll then work our way through to Zechariah. For the record, the amount of Scripture that I’m referencing is small. Compared to the overwhelming testimony of Scripture, I am being quite conservative. The fact is, if you continue through to study the prophets, you’ll see over and over and over again this same testimony. Isaiah 10:20 says, “In that day the remnant of Israel, the survivors of the house of Jacob, will no longer rely on him who struck them down, but will truly rely on the Lord, the Holy One of Israel.” What we find in this verse is a little bit of what I had previously spoken. Israel’s final redemption comes after a great calamity. “They will no longer rely on him who struck them down…” When Israel returns that final time, they will no longer trust on the arm of the flesh at all. The arm of the flesh has historically been Egypt that would be an ally to Israel, but this final allegiance will be with the Antichrist himself.
When they return the final time, they will trust in the Lord their God. “Therefore my people will know my name; therefore in that day they will know that it is I who foretold it. Yes, it is I,” Isaiah 52:6. When Israel shall return to the Land that final time, it shall be in such a manner that causes them to know it was God’s doing. They won’t take the prophecies about how God has said they would return, and therefore they have a right to the Land. This is taking the Lord’s name in vein. They act as though God has established them to bless them, so they can then then ignore Him in all other areas of their politics.
The Lord has indeed established the current nation of Israel. God has restored her, for no one else has the authority to do such a thing. That does not give Israel the right, however, to then take those promises and use them as a “magic genie” against all her oppressors. It is a shameful thing to use the name of the Lord as a safety blanket. When He shall redeem Israel and bring her back to the Land, that people will know Him. That kind of knowledge is not some sort of acknowledgment of God, but is a deep intimate knowledge. Because they have suffered His judgments, they shall know His mercy. For His judgments are His mercies.
That people will return knowing their God. That knowledge will consist of more than an intellectual ascribing. Israel shall deeply know and be united with God. She shall come to know the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. That people will come to know Christ Jesus, and that kind of knowledge does not come cheaply for the Jew. There is a stripping that must take place. God must pluck up, destroy, and then plant. He must destroy any knowledge that they currently have, because even if it is truth, it is based in a false reality. Any false reality or perception of God cannot remain.
To have the proper knowledge of God as God is to have a proper knowledge of everything. It is that knowledge of Him that reveals to us our own self. It reveals to us the condition of the nations. It reveals to us the understanding of God’s purpose for the nations. For Israel to return knowing the Lord is more than a statement about them coming back and “believing” in Jesus. Our current understanding of repentance barely even scratches the surface. I think repentance is an understatement. “At that time, I will be the God of all the clans of Israel, and they will be my people… The people who survive the sword shall find favor in the desert. I will come to give rest to Israel,” Jeremiah 31:1-2. Notice here again the context of coming out of tribulation and destruction. God brings them out of calamity, “The people who survive the sword…”
“Then they will know that I, the Lord their God, am with them and that they, the house of Israel, are my people… You my sheep, the sheep of my pasture, are people, and I am your God, declares the Sovereign Lord,” Ezekiel 34:30-31. God does not mince His words. He doesn’t speak into the air to fill it with noise. What He has said shall be done. That peoplewill be His people. Though there is only a remnant of followers of Christ Jesus now, at that time they shall all be followers of Christ Jesus. As it is written, “And so, all Israel shall be saved,” Romans 11:26.
To move from their current beliefs (or disbeliefs) to the state of “all Israel shall be saved” is quite an epoch. Something drastic has to take place that Israel shall say, “I will go back to my Husband as at first, for then I was better off than now,” Hosea 2:7. That something is called the Time of Jacob’s Trouble. The Tribulation is the calculated drama to take place that will drive the Jewish people to repentance before the Lord. They will recognize that their punishment is in proportion to their sin (Ezekiel 7:8). To come to that acknowledgement is to come to the understanding that you are under judgment. When in history has that taken place? The only example that I can think of might be with the generation of Nehemiah.
To acknowledge that the Lord is judging His people is to acknowledge the error or our ways. But we are a stiff-necked people – all of us. It isn’t Israel that is stiff-necked and we can mock them for it. We have all been bullheaded and absolutely absurd. That kind of an acknowledgement from the people of God grants unto God His due worship and adoration. He has not slain us because He is against us, but because He is for us. He has not abandoned us and allowed mischief to take place. Instead, He is the author of the chastisement, and He is the finisher and “perfecter” of our faith.
“I will bring them back to live in Jerusalem; they will be my people, and I will be faithful and righteous to them as their God,” Zechariah 8:8. To claim that the first can happen without the second is an abuse of Scripture. If we are content with saying that God has restored Israel in her sinful condition so that they might gradually come to know the Lord, then what exegetical error are we not capable of? This is quite possibly the one thing that needs to be understood in Christendom. If we are sending Jews back to Israel as a safe haven, we are sending them to their deaths. We are taking them out of the frying pan and throwing them into the fire.
Though it is true currently that the Jews worldwide are suffering persecution, it is not true that Israel is safe. If you send them to the Land, they will suffer the greater persecution. It is actually upon that land that the judgment is the most concentrated. There is better possibility of survival to endure the persecution in the nations than to go unto Israel where God has spoken, “though a tenth remains in the Land, it will again be laid waste,” Isaiah 6:13. Ninety percent of the population in Israel will either flee or die. God has declared that during the Tribulation there will only be a stump to remain (Isaiah 11:1). Zechariah 13:8 adds the detail that two-thirds will die in the land.
This is not a game. This is not something to wistfully send money in order to send the Jews back home. This is life and death. There is coming a time of judgment that is yet future that will eclipse even the Nazi Holocaust, and it will be worldwide. The devastation that will occur in the land of Israel will be such devastation that it will actually cause even some Christians to fall away from God. The question of “why” won’t cut it. To believe that God would allow such terror to break out upon the Jewish people is considered anti-Semitism. Yet, it might actually be the greatest form of love to warn them and prepare our hearts and homes to be a refuge for them.
Why is it that the Tribulation is the calculated drama to lead them to repentance? They won’t just flee into the wilderness and “be sifted through all nations.” They will find refuge in the wilderness (Revelation 12:6). That refuge will be a Church that has been prepared by God. They will flee Jerusalem to come unto a Body that is so unified in character and heart that Psalm 133 calls them “Zion.” That reality being portrayed and lived out in daily interaction with the saints, and taking in the Jewish people as brethren instead of “sinners,” is the very means necessary to drive them to envy. It is actually that very thing that will cause for the layers to be stripped away little by little. While they are suffering agony without the Holy Spirit, we are wrestling the principalities and powers over them in the Spirit. It is that wrestling that will actually lead to their blindness and hardness of heart being taken away – removing the veil and breaking their power (Isaiah 25:7, Daniel 12:7) – so that when Christ returns they shall each person break away to weep and repent (Zechariah 12:10-14).
The final redemption of Israel comes after great tragedy. It comes when they are brought back to the Land knowing their God. It comes when there is to be worldwide peace. There is only one thing that can cause such a predicament:
Israel’s final redemption happens at Christ’s return
Nothing short of the revelation of Jesus returning on the clouds will save them. The nations will behold Him coming, and all they that have persecuted Israel will be held accountable. The nations will gather to Jerusalem for a final battle against Christ Jesus, but He shall prevail over them. It is actually upon this return of Jesus that God has ordained the redemption of Israel. There is much to the story that needs to be played out and explained as to how we get here, but know that it takes nothing less than their rejected Messiah (beholding Him whom they have pierced – Zechariah 12:10) returning to cause repentance to spring up in the House of Israel.
It is prophesied in Genesis 49 what shall come to pass in the last days. Upon Judah (from where we get the Jews) the prophecy is given, “The scepter will not depart from Judah; nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and unto him shall the gathering of the people be.” This is an obvious prophecy that Christ shall come from Judah. But notice that it is an end time prophecy, and that the gathering of the people is unto Him.
“The oppressor will come to an end, and destruction will cease; the aggressor will vanish from the land. In love a throne will be established; in faithfulness a man will sit on it – one from the house of David – one who in judging seeks justice and speeds the cause of righteousness,” Isaiah 16:4-5. Notice the oppressor is defeated when the throne is established. The oppressor is the Antichrist, which is a shadow of the ultimate oppressor: Satan. Later Isaiah says (33:17-18), “Your eyes will see the King in His beauty and view a land that stretches afar. In your thoughts you will ponder the former terror.”
It is upon beholding His appearing that Israel is saved. On that day, when Christ returns, He shall gather Israel. It shall be in that day that kings and queens will bring them back upon their shoulders (Isaiah 49:22-23). At the return of Christ, Israel is redeemed. When Israel is redeemed, the nations are subjected under her. When the nations humble themselves and “enter the tent of Shem” (Genesis 9:27), then everlasting righteousness has been established, and world peace will last from generation to generation. All of this climaxes at the return of Christ.
Fulfillment of Prophecy, but not of Promise
There is a text in Ezekiel that explains what we’re seeing in the Middle East currently. “Then the word of the Lord came to me: Son of man, the house of Israel has become dross unto me; all of them are the copper, tin, iron, and lead left inside a furnace. They are but the dross of silver. Therefore, this is what the Sovereign Lord says: Because you have all become dross, I will gather you into Jerusalem. As men gather silver, copper, iron, lead, and tin into a furnace to melt it with a fiery blast, so will I gather you in my anger and my wrath and put you inside the city and melt you. I will gather you and I will blow on you with my fiery wrath, and you will be melted insider her. As silver is melted in a furnace, so you will be melted inside her, and you will know that I the Lord have poured out my wrath upon you,” Ezekiel 22:17-22.
The current state of Israel is a fulfillment of prophecy, but not of promise. God has gathered the people back together a second to final time in judgment. The plan is to convict of sin, and to display to Israel her wrongs. When Israel has acknowledged that she has sinned before the Lord, the end has come.
In Isaiah 11:11, God says, “In that day the Lord will reach out His hand a second time to reclaim the remnant that is left of His people…” Why does God reach out a second time? We’re seeing the first time play out before our eyes. Yes, God brought Israel back to the Land. However, that restoring to the Land is not based upon the redemption of Israel and the restoration of the covenant. Instead, it is based upon judgment. God will pour out His furor upon a disobedient people.
“For a little while your people possessed your holy place, but now our enemies have trampled your sanctuary,” Isaiah 63:18. We learn from Daniel 8:10 and other places that the Temple will be rebuilt, and sacrifices begun to be offered again. The Antichrist will cut off the sacrifices and sit himself upon the throne in the Temple (2 Thessalonians 2:4). There has to be a temple and sacrifices for that to happen. I don’t believe that we’ll be seeing Israel having the Temple and sacrifices for a long time. It says in Isaiah 63:18 that they have possessed His holy place “for a little while.”
We are beholding prophecy play out before us, but we are not witnessing the restored and redeemed Israel that is gathered back to the Land by Jesus Christ Himself. There is a coming calamity before that will take place. Israel will pass through another time of being sifted through the nations. The Jewish people will be uprooted from that Land and scattered throughout all nations. When God has sifted them as one sifts grain in a sieve, then the end has come. So many things connect right at the very end.
We could spend a lifetime searching out the details of all of the sub-stories. All of the little details that are given to tell us what is happening to Israel during the Tribulation is one “story.” Another “story” is what is happening to the Church. Another story is what is happening in heaven. Another story is what is going on in the midst of the nations. Another story is what is going on in the midst of the Antichrist’s kingdom. All of these stories interweave, but ultimately intersect together into one story at the consummation of the age: the return of Christ.
To understand what is playing out before our eyes is a life and death necessity. I’m not against building ministries or sending the Jews back to Israel per se. But to do so without the understanding of a coming calamity that Jesus gave the warning, “When you see the abomination of desolation spoken of by Daniel, then let those who are inJudea flee to the mountains” (Matthew 14:15-16 paraphrase), is the same as wickedness. This is ministerial malpractice at its absolute worst. We have not rightly divided the word, and the result will be the blood of countless masses upon our hands.