In Part I we introduced the concept of Prophetic Convergence. Our world is devolving into chaos. This is occurring on almost every front. Behind it all are the conditions Jesus described in Matthew 24 and Luke 21. It is this writer’s contention that we are living in the time just before the Time of the End. One of the hallmarks of this prophetically rich period is the role Israel is to play in the End Times. Both the Old and New Testaments testify to the major role that nation and people will play. The Scriptures clearly tell us – that while the rest of the world will be judged in the process – the 7-year Tribulation is all about Israel. That’s where it began – and that is where it will end.
ISRAEL: GOD’S SUPER SIGN
Many Christians know a little bit about the days leading up to Christ’s return. They’ve heard of “wars and rumors of wars” – of earthquakes and famines and the Antichrist, a One World Government, the Mark of the Beast – and the devastation of mankind. A quick read of Matthew 24 and Luke 21 gives us a general overview of what the world would be like as we approached the time of His return. Other Scriptures are even more specific about what is to come. And the more we look into it, the more we see it is all about God’s People. Looking at the events to come from their perspective, the Scriptures give us a detailed account of just what will happen to prepare the world for the coming of the Antichrist, the One-World System, and Christ’s eventual return. These prophecies reveal some of the specific nations involved and the outcomes of those wars. Scripture tells us there are at least 2 wars before Messiah comes: The first in which Israel fights Syria and its near Arab neighbors and another soon to follow against a coalition of Russia, [or Turkey], – along with Iran and the second ring of Islamic States. Yet despite the machinations of man, God has promised the land to Israel forever. “Also I give to you and your descendants after you the land in which you are a stranger, all the land of Canaan, as an everlasting possession; and I will be their God.” (Genesis 17:8) You see, even the judgement that is to come is a reflection of God’s love for mankind and a revelation of His heart for the Jewish people. In Genesis 13:14-15, God told Abram: “Lift your eyes now and look from the place where you are—northward, southward, eastward, and westward; for all the land which you see I give to you and your descendants forever.” God was establishing an everlasting covenant with His people. It was through that tiny nation that God was going to bless all nations – according to just how those nations treated Israel. “I will bless those who bless you, And I will curse him who curses you; And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” (Genesis 12:3)
But did God really intend that Israel should have that Land forever? First, when Israel had strayed from God, there came the time of the Babylonian Captivity; 70 years when God’s People were forcibly removed from their promised homeland. Then came rule under a series of foreign rulers. During Jesus’ time it was the Romans who held sway. He came as Israel’s promised Messiah – and many expected Him to drive out the hated Romans and restore their independence, even their glory years as under King David. But it was not yet that time.
At the time of His triumphal entry into Jerusalem on the first Palm Sunday, Jesus began to contemplate the coming fate of Jerusalem; the city of the prophets in the Land The Father had chosen. What should have been a time of joy was marred by the tragedy He knew was coming. Luke 19:41-44 gives us this account. “Now as He drew near, He saw the city and wept over it, saying, “If you had known, even you, especially in this your day, the things that make for your peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. For days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment around you, surround you and close you in on every side, and level you, and your children within you, to the ground; and they will not leave in you one stone upon another, because you did not know the time of your visitation.” In Matthew 21:2, Jesus reiterates the same point regarding the Temple buildings. “Assuredly, I say to you, not one stone shall be left here upon another, that shall not be thrown down.”
That is exactly what happened. In April of AD 70, Roman General Titus began a siege of Jerusalem against the rebelling Jews. The Romans constructed embankments as they systematically starved the city’s inhabitants.[i] In the final assault in September of that year the Romans destroyed Jerusalem and killed an estimated 1.1 million Jews. During the destruction, fire was set to the Temple. The fire caused the gold-leaf ornamentation on the Temple ceiling to melt. The melting gold flowed down the walls and settled into crevices between the stones. The Romans pried apart the stones to remove the gold. This specifically and exactly fulfilled Jesus Christ’s prophecy that not one stone would be left standing on another.
Jesus was saying that the destruction of the Temple and Jerusalem itself occurred “because you did not know the time of your visitation.” Despite clear prophetic warning, Israel had failed to recognize and accept their predicted Messiah. Still speaking to his disciples on the events to come, The Lord detailed more of the fate of Jerusalem. “But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation is near…. And they will fall by the edge of the sword, and be led away captive into all nations. And Jerusalem will be trampled by Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.” (Luke 21:20 & 24) Again, that is exactly what happened. The Romans destroyed Jerusalem in the year 70, and again in the year 135. During the two destructions, the Romans killed an estimated 1.5 million Jews. Hundreds of thousands of Jews were taken as slaves to other countries, mostly throughout Europe and parts of Asia. Only a tiny remnant remained in the Land. [It is significant that the respected historian Josephus names no Christian victim of this Roman slaughter in his accounts of this great Jewish War. Believers were warned first of all by Luke’s account of Christ’s warning. They clearly saw the approaching Roman Legions, gathering to surround Jerusalem. In addition, Eusebius, an early Church Father, known as the ‘Father of Church History’, tells us of a New Testament prophet that warned the Christian community to leave the city and escape the coming slaughter. It seems they did.[ii]]
And thus Israel was removed from the roster of nations – for over 1,800 years. In Deuteronomy 28:37 the Lord had warned: “And you shall become an astonishment, a proverb, and a byword among all nations where the LORD will drive you.” So it came to pass. In the centuries that followed the Jewish nation was scattered among the nations of the world. Their separation and persecution became legendary. Denounced as Christ-killers by some Christian leaders, their economic and social interactions were severely restricted. In much of Europe they were forbidden to own land. In Muslim countries they were subject to the onerous legal restrictions of Dhimmitude: – laws and special taxes imposed on all non-Muslims. They were kicked out of England in the 12th century and Spain in 1492. To make a living they gravitated to the occupations of trade and banking; many gathering wealth in the process, thereby aggravating the ignorant prejudices of the masses. Over the course of time this inevitably led to violence such as the Russian pogroms which devastated whole villages. Anti-Semitism culminated in Hitler’s Holocaust. Millions were murdered in the Nazi camps; – Auschwitz and Dachau and Treblinka and others.
In the meantime, Israel’s enemies overran God’s Holy Promised Land. Muslims for the most part, and Crusaders for some, occupied the Jewish homeland. Leviticus 26:32-33 had warned as much. “I will bring the land to desolation, and your enemies who dwell in it shall be astonished at it. I will scatter you among the nations and draw out a sword after you; your land shall be desolate and your cities waste.” This was a time of punishment.
But this had changed neither God’s heart for Israel nor the sacred covenant He had declared. Psalm 89:30-37 expresses the sense of it. “If his children forsake my law and do not walk according to my rules, if they violate my statutes and do not keep my commandments, then I will punish their transgression with the rod and their iniquity with stripes, but I will not remove from him my steadfast love or be false to my faithfulness. I will not violate my covenant or alter the word that went forth from my lips. Once for all I have sworn by my holiness; I will not lie to David. His offspring shall endure forever, his throne as long as the sun before me. Like the moon it shall be established forever, a faithful witness in the skies.” (ESV) And there is this promise found in Psalm 121:4: “Behold, He who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.” (NASB) And so it was.
Israel was not forgotten in her exile. God used the Prophet Ezekiel to pronounce judgment in his earlier writings, He later used him to offer hope. “And I will bring them out from the peoples and gather them from the countries, and will bring them to their own land; I will feed them on the mountains of Israel, in the valleys and in all the inhabited places of the country.” (Ezekiel 24:13) And God gave Israel more than just a promise of nationhood. He promised blessing for the returned nation. Even her fertility would be restored. Isaiah 27:6 reads. “Those who come He shall cause to take root in Jacob; Israel shall blossom and bud, And fill the face of the world with fruit.” So in our day we’ve seen how this has come to pass. Isaiah 41:18 speaks of that fertility. “I will open rivers in desolate heights, and fountains in the midst of the valleys; I will make the wilderness a pool of water, and the dry land springs of water.” Joel 2:23 comforted them that even the rains would return to a then parched soil. “Be glad then, you children of Zion, And rejoice in the LORD your God; For He has given you the former rain faithfully, And He will cause the rain to come down for you— The former rain, And the latter rain in the first month”. And rainfall has increased in Israel at the rate of about 10% each decade, beginning about a century ago, when the Zionist movement began to bring Jews back to the Holy Land. God also promised their language would be revived. “For then I will restore to the peoples a pure language, That they all may call on the name of the LORD, To serve Him with one accord.” (Zephaniah 3:9) And so God restored even the Hebrew language after centuries of disuse.
But before that could happen God’s word needed to be fulfilled. Now the Jews were a people that had rejected their Messiah, and so, by Divine decree had earned punishment. Yet God had promised to be merciful. In fact Ezekiel 37 tells us that God would first gather them to their land in unbelief. That chapter speaks of a great valley of dry bones. It is a picture of the scattered, defeated and lifeless nation of Israel. It is the story of how God would bring that nation back to life. Verse 8 describes a people without “breath”, or the Holy Spirit, without which there is no belief. But through Ezekiel, God promised a transformation. “I will put My Spirit in you, and you shall live, and I will place you in your own land.” (Ezekiel 37:14) A rhapsodized Ezekiel confirms that promise again and again. The Jews would be gathered up from where they were scattered among the nations of the world, – and then this wonderful promise: “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.” (Ezekiel 36:26) Isaiah talks specifically of the return, calling God’s People back from the nations. “Do not fear, for I am with you; I will bring your offspring from the east, And gather you from the west. “I will say to the north, ‘Give them up!’ And to the south, ‘Do not hold them back.’ Bring My sons from afar And My daughters from the ends of the earth.” (Isaiah 43:5-6)
To the astonishment of nearly all, God has kept – and is keeping His promise. He has called the Jews back into the Land and continues to do so. For centuries rabbinic calls for aliyah, (the return of Jews to the Holy Land), had died in infancy. By the late 19th century however, God had moved through history in such a way as to allow the beginnings of Zionism to take root. Beginning in the 1870’s, Jews began to form societies to purchase land in Palestine from the Arab owners. The Arabs were only too happy to get rid of unproductive land, selling it at inflated prices. Then beginning in 1881, anti-Jewish pogroms began to sweep through Russia, with its large population of Jews, contributing to the urgency of the project. Jewish bankers, like the magnificently wealthy and powerful, House of Rothschild, contributed significantly to the project. By 1897, the 1st Zionist Congress was held under the organizing genius of Theodore Herzl. The movement saw the Jewish population of Palestine go from about 25,000 in the 1880’s to around 100,000 by WWI. During the course of that war, the British government announced the Balfour Declaration, promising a Jewish homeland in Palestine. Though the British somewhat backed off their promise after the war, there was no putting the genie back in the bottle.[iii] By 1948 all was in place – and the Nation of Israel came into being. And now the call to return continues to the remaining scattered Jewish population.
Calls To Return
The deteriorating world situation is giving birth to new calls to Jews around the world to immigrate to Israel. In January of this year a jihadist attacks culminated with a murderous attack on the Paris offices of Charlie Hebdo, a satirical publication. In the wake of that incident, Prime Minister Netanyahu issued a call for Aliyah by France’s Jewish population. “To all the Jews of France, all the Jews of Europe, I would like to say that Israel is not just the place in whose direction you pray, the state of Israel is your home.”[iv] Just a month later, “Netanyahu called for ‘massive’ Jewish immigration to Israel in the wake of the shooting at a synagogue in Copenhagen that left a 37-year-old Jewish security guard dead in the attack.”[v] A friend and reliable source told me that the conditions in Europe are much like 1937, when Hitler was in power. While many see it, others are blind to the growing danger and determined to stay. In the wake of those attacks, the Chief Rabbis of both France and Denmark rejected the calls for Jews to move to Israel.[vi] [vii] But now the call is going out on religious terms.
‘Return: Messiah Is Coming’
It was several years ago now, 2007 to be exact, that Rabbi Yitzhak Kaduri, perhaps the most respected Orthodox teacher in Israel revealed in a letter opened after his death that the name of the Messiah. The note, written in Hebrew, read: ―He will lift the people and prove that his word and law are valid‖. More importantly, the phrase provided an acrostic, which initials spelled out the revealed name of the Messiah; – Yehoshua or Jesus.[viii] (Now there are issues with this ‘revelation’ – but we’ve not the time to address them here. Still, it’s significant that an Orthodox Rabbi would identify Jesus.) But now there is more. Here’s a report from Breaking Israel News. “Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky, a leading authority in mainstream Ultra-Orthodox Judaism, has been giving clear and unequivocal messages recently that the coming of the Messiah is imminent. He is urging Jews to make Aliyah as soon as possible.” Kanievsky is consistently spreading the message that Messiah is coming very soon. He told one Jew from Argentina: “Gather your family and come to Israel. Otherwise, there won’t be enough room for you on the airplanes.”[ix] “I will bring you out from the peoples and gather you out of the countries where you are scattered, with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, and with wrath poured out.” (Ezekiel 20:34)
So this is the prophetic sign: That Israel has become a nation after 1,800 years. That God has called His people home. And that He continues to call them home. And that they are beginning to look for Messiah. Praise God!
[i] John MacArthur, The MacArthur Study Bible, Thomas Neslon Bibles, 1997, – notes for Luke 19:43-44, pg 1,554-1,555
[ii] Paul L Maier, The Catastrophic Fall of Jerusalem in 70 AD, Jesus Christology, July 13, 2008
[iii] Mideast Web .org
[iv] i24 News, January 12, 2015
[v] Netanyahu Calls for Mass “Aliyah” After Denmark Attacks, Jewish Voice, February 18, 2015
[vi] Denmark chief rabbi rejects Netanyahu call to make Aliyah, JTA.Org, February 15, 2015
[vii] French Chief Rabbi Haim Korsia Rejects Israel’s Calls For Aliyah, Jewish Daily Forward / Huffington Post, February 20, 2015
[viii] Rabbi Reveals Name of the Messiah, Israel Today, April 30, 2007
[ix] Leading Israeli Rabbi Says the Arrival of the Messiah is Imminent, Breaking Israel News, July 3, 2015