Israel in the interval between the Rapture and the Tribulation
It is evident from the word of God that there is a time gap after the rapture of the saints of this present dispensation. The place that Israel will have in that period is also defined in the word of God.
A Return to the Land
The first thing that is necessary is that, as a nation, the Jews must once again be in possession of the land of Israel before the events that are to mark the Tribulation can begin. It is common knowledge that they were dispossessed of the land in AD 70 when the invading forces of Titus ransacked the city of Jerusalem, destroyed the temple and drove the people among the nations around them. This was in accord with the prophecy of Hosea chapter 3 verse 4, ‘For the children of Israel shall abide many days without a king, and without a prince, and without a sacrifice, and without an image, and without an ephod, and without teraphim’.
During the long absence from the land they have been without the status of a nation but thankfully they did not turn to idolatry, or lose their identity as a people in the 1900 years of exile. Many prophetic teachers taught that the return of the nation to the land would only be at the time of the fulfilment of the feast of trumpets when the Lord will send His angels to gather His elect from the four corners of the earth at His return in glory to establish His kingdom, Mark. 13. 27. However, it is quite evident that there must be a gathering in unbelief and not to kingdom glory, to establish them once again in the land so that the events of the Tribulation can take place as recorded in the Olivet discourse.
It was a monumental event that occurred on 14 May 1948 when a mandate by the United Nations granted the Jews a place again in Israel to re-establish a homeland for its people. From that time onwards the Arab nations have sought to drive them from the land of their heritage, and, in spite of being there in unbelief, the Lord has preserved them, against overwhelming odds, to set in order events that will shortly take place when the rapture of the saints occurs.
The Rebuilding the Temple and Restoring of the Sacrifices
It must be in this period of time that there will be a movement to restore once again the worship of Jehovah as it had been in former days. There are a number of prophecies that relate to the worship that will be in progress when the Man of Sin arises to dominate the minds of men and establish himself as God. It is apparent that the temple will be built in close connection with the former temples that once graced the land in Jerusalem, for the prophecy of Matthew chapter 24 verse 15 makes a distinction between the various parts of the temple, speaking of the ‘holy place’ indicating that there were the other sections of it. The book of Revelation chapter 11 also refers to the worship of the Jews when the Tribulation begins, as it records the fact of the temple of God, the altar, and them that worship therein. That sacrifices are being offered is seen in Daniel chapter 9 verse 27, when one of the first actions of the Man of Sin will be to ‘cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease’. The same is said in chapter 11 verse 31, ’And shall take away the daily sacrifice, and they shall place the abomination that maketh desolate’. From these, and other scriptures, it is clear that the present desire of those in Israel to see the temple rebuilt and for the sacrifices to be restored will one day be put into effect, for the Man of Sin cannot abolish what does not exist. This temple is not the temple that the Lord will build in which He will be glorified during the days of kingdom glory.
It is also apparent that not all within the nation will have a desire to serve the Lord, for again the book of Daniel would testify to those who ‘forsake the holy covenant’ and ‘do wickedly against the holy covenant’, who will be ‘corrupted by flatteries’, Dan. 11. 30-32. The Lord Himself also speaks of a faithful remnant that will be found in those days who are told to ‘flee’ for their own preservation, Matt. 24. 16-22.
They will Recognize the Military Power of the Man of Sin
Even in the period after the Rapture of the church and before the Tribulation begins it is evident that there will be a time of national disturbance among the nations. The Lord Himself spoke of wars and rumours of wars, of civil war, and also of military conflict as nation rises against nation. During this time, and before the Man of Sin is revealed, there will be on-going conflict between what is now Iraq and Egypt, as recorded in the book of Daniel chapter 11. For the struggles for power between the King of the North, the ancient Babylon, and the King of the south, Egypt, are recorded for us with a view to seeing how the Antichrist, the Man of Sin, comes to power. Many have taken these verses to be historical, recording events that have already taken place in the inter-testamental period. Yet such expositors also proclaim that this period is the time of the silence of God when no revelation was made known. We cannot have it both ways! Either the Lord did reveal what would occur in that time period or these verses must point to future events.
If, as we believe, the prophecies of Daniel chapter 11 are still future, and we do have this great conflict between the nations referred to, then we realize that Israel is sandwiched between them and will feel the weight of the struggles that will ensue during that period of battles for supremacy. It is as a result of this warfare that the Man of Sin comes to political ascendancy. There seems to be at least three kings in association with what is presently Iraq but will represent what is the ancient people of Babylon. The first King of the North, of verse 16, will stand in the glorious land, evidently Israel, which by his hand will be consumed.
Perhaps here we have the fulfilment of the prophecy of chapter 9 verse 26, when ’the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary’. Before the Tribulation begins, Israel will be subject to attack from the ongoing wars. This king will come to nothing, for chapter 11 verse 19 states, ‘He shall turn his face to the fort of his own land; but he shall stumble and fall, and not be found’. A raiser of taxes will rise in his place who ‘within a few days shall be destroyed neither in anger nor in battle’, v. 20. It is at this point that the Man of Sin comes to the fore, perhaps his first act is to dispose of the king in the previous verse. This king, seen at first as a vile person to whom they will not give the honour of the kingdom, moves seemingly peaceably and with flatteries, until he ingratiates himself into the hearts and minds of the people. Such is his ability to establish his kingdom and to destroy any opposition that those responsible for the well-being of the nation of Israel will turn to him for military protection.
The Raising of the Covenant
There are a number of things that must take place before the Tribulation can actually begin. The first is the Rapture of the church. We are not appointed to wrath, 1 Thess. 5. 9, nor will He bring us into it but will ’keep thee from the hour of temptation (trial) which shall come upon all the world to try them that dwell upon the earth’, Rev. 3. 10. The Lord has taken our judgement at the cross and for those who believe there is now no condemnation, according to Romans chapter 8 verse 1. The Tribulation period is a ’day of wrath, a day of trouble and distress, a day of wasteness and desolation, a day of darkness and gloominess . . . I will bring distress upon men, that they shall walk like blind men, because they have sinned against the Lord: and their blood shall be poured out as dust, and their flesh as the dung’, Zeph. 1. 15-17. The Lord will not judge His own with the world.
The Antichrist must also come to some form of authority, though he will not yet be manifested as the first beast of Revelation 13. When he does come to prominence, the nation of Israel will turn to him for protection for the book of Daniel speaks of a league made with him, 11. 23. This would refer to the covenant spoken of in chapter 9 verse 27. It is evident that this covenant is made at a time prior to what is recorded in chapter 9, for there the covenant is confirmed. The covenant is made before the Tribulation begins and when the covenant is confirmed this is the commencement of the Tribulation period. This would seem to indicate that the Man of Sin will be called in to protect the people of Israel when they feel that they are in need of his help. There is no thought of this covenant being broken, as so many teach, it is rather some form of peace treaty to give assistance to Israel for their support. What is indicated is that rather than break a covenant he usurps authority in association with the prince of the covenant, who is the religious leader in Israel, 11. 22, to set himself up as God within the temple.
The Reserving of the Elect
There will be a very definite number of the Jewish nation from all around the globe who will be marked out for preservation from among the twelve tribes. They will have the seal of God placed in their foreheads before the Tribulation begins. God knows who these are and will send four of His angels to the four corners of the earth to hold back the storm of judgement before it comes upon the world, so as to mark out this elect company, Rev. 7. 1-8. We are not told that they have a ministry during the Tribulation, though many make them the preachers of the kingdom during that period. However, it is simply that the Lord will reserve to Himself from among the Jews those who will be protected by a divine hand.