What Future for Israel?
Alan H. Linton, Bristol, England
All quotations are from the King James Version
Over recent years, outstanding events have indicated that God's prophetic programme for the end time is imminent. Most significant was the proclamation of the State of Israel in 1948 and now, 50 years on, one third of all Jews living in the world have returned to the land of their fathers, albeit in unbelief. Also, in the 1967 six-day war, the divided city of Jerusalem was reunited and pronounced by the Israeli government to be the 'Undivided and Eternal Capital of Israel'. When Jesus predicted the revival of Israel (the 'fig tree'), He said, 'when you see all these things, know that He (marg.) is near - at the doors' (i.e. the gates of Jerusalem), Matt. 24. 33. Israel is God's prophetic clock; a clock that has been stopped for centuries is showing signs of ticking again. Indeed, every future event on earth as recorded in Scripture is linked either with the land of Israel or the nation of Israel.
It could well be that the events which have already taken place are the prelude to the consummation of God's purposes for His ancient people. At the present time the land and the people of Israel are under enormous pressure from their surrounding Arab neighbours and the Western Powers to give up large areas of the land which they have occupied at tremendous cost. Heart-rending as it is to contemplate, the Israelis, by returning to their ancient homeland, are placing themselves in the vortex of a future whirlwind of suffering which will destroy the majority, particularly those Jews living in the land of Israel. Notice the use of the phrase, 'the few that are left', in Isaiah 4. 3; 11. 11; 24. 6; Zech. 14. 16. The searching and refining fire of divine judgement will produce in Israel what is at present lacking, i.e. an attitude of true repentance and eager acceptance of their coming Messiah.
1. WHY MUST ISRAEL SUFFER?
Israel's suffering, throughout her history and in prophecy, is one of the major themes of the Bible. Paradoxically, the nation chosen for divine blessing is the nation that must suffer more than any other. Why? Four reasons are considered.
a. Israel's suffering indicates Satanic opposition to God's chosen people
'Death to the Jews' has been a recurring threat throughout Israel's history. Here are some instances of this. The enforced labour imposed by the Pharaohs of Egypt before the Exodus; the command to throw all male children into the Nile; the exile to Babylon; the later scattering of the nation throughout the earth (the Diaspora); the wicked Haman; the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 under Titus; and in A.D. 102-5 under Hadrian; the 'holy wars' of the crusaders; the ghettos of Poland; the holocaust of Nazi Germany; Nasser of Egypt; and, more recently, Saddam Hussain of Iraq. Israel has suffered already - sadly she must suffer greatly in the future.
b. God's discipline of a faithless people
Israel, chosen to he a channel of blessing to the world, failed. 'To whom much is given, from him much will be required', Luke 12. 48. Israel has grieved her 'Maker' and hence must be corrected, Jer. 30. 11.
c. Israel's suffering is a backcloth for a demonstration of God's grace
In Romans 11, Paul explains that the temporary setting aside of Israel opened up the door of opportunity for the Gentiles to be brought into the blessing of God's salvation.
d. Israel's suffering is one consequence of the rejection of their Messiah
When Jesus was on trial before Pilate the nation accepted full responsibility for the death of Christ - 'His blood be on us, and on our children', Matt. 27. 25.
2. ISRAEL'S FUTURE
A sequence of future events affecting Israel is foretold in Scripture. These are listed in chronological order, with appropriate references, and space limitations allow only a selection of these events to be discussed.
a. Invasion of the land of Israel from nations north of Israel, Ezek. 38, 39.
b. One world government, Dan. 7. 23.
c. Ten kingdoms will arise, Dan. 7. 24a.
d. Out of these an eleventh kingdom will arise, subdue three of the ten, and will be headed up by Antichrist, the infamous World Dictator, Dan. 7. 24b; 2 Thess.
e. The Great Tribulation lasting seven years, commencing with the signing of a peace accord between Antichrist and Israel, 1 Thess. 5. 1-3; Dan. 9. 24-27; Isa. 28. 14-22.
f. The peace accord will be broken halfway through Daniel's seventieth week, Dan. 9. 27b
g. At the end of the seventieth week, Israel in her extremity will cry to God for deliverance and this will be brought about by the coming of the Messiah, Joel
3. 16; Zech. 12. 3-9, 13. 9, 14. 1-4; Matt. 24. 29ff; Rom. 11. 26-27.
h. This will be followed by Israel's restoration and future glory, Ps. 72; Isaiah 61. 6-9; Zech. 12. 19 - 13. 2.
3. INVASION OF ISRAEL FROM THE NORTH, Ezek. 38, 39
These chapters foretell a massive invasion of the land of Israel and the subsequent destruction of the invading forces by divine intervention on the mountains of Israel. The invaders consist of a confederacy of nations, mainly from the extreme north of Israel but also areas of North Africa, under Gog, a title for the ruler of the land of Magog. Most of the nations involved are called by names by which they were known in the ancient world, Gen. 10. 2-6
These are not Arab nations but most are strongly Muslim. Scholars are divided as to when this will take place. However, the description of Israel as a 'land recovered from war', 'gathered from the nations', 'a land long desolate', 'living in safety', Ezek. 38. 8, and other features, are already taking shape at the present time. Also, the timescale demands a seven year period before the Great Tribulation, Ezek. 39. 9, when large numbers of Israelis will be living in the land. After the Great Tribulation commences the number of Jews living in Israel will be decimated. The invading army will be destroyed, not by Israel but by divine intervention, thereby displaying God's glory to the nations, resulting in spiritual revival in Israel and, possibly seriously damaging the power of Islam.
4. THE GREAT TRIBULATION
The most common name invariably linked with the Great Tribulation is 'the Day of Lord (Jehovah)'. It encompasses the final week of years (seven year period) of Daniel's seventieth week, Dan. 9. 26-27, and commences with Antichrist signing the seven year covenant with 'the many' in Israel. The Great Tribulation will affect the whole world but particularly the nation of Israel. Jeremiah 30. 7 describes it as 'the time of Jacob's trouble'. Three reasons are given in Scripture for this terrible period of persecution; to make an end of the wicked ones, Isa. 13. 9; so that many will be saved through the preaching of the gospel of the kingdom, Matt. 24. 14; Rev. 7. 1-17; and to break the power and arrogance of the holy people (i.e. the Jewish nation), Ezek. 20. 34-38; Dan. 12. 5-7.
Midway through the seven years the Antichrist will show his true character. He will break off peace with Israel, stop divine worship in the 'tribulation' temple, set up the 'abomination that maketh desolate' standing in the temple (possibly an image of himself), force idolatry on pain of death and impose a closed economic system only for those bearing the 'mark of the beast'.
A number of Jews will refuse to bow to Antichrist and this will result in world-wide anti-semitism. Many Jews will be put to death and, as warned by the Lord, large numbers will flee the land of Israel and seek refuge in the mountains, e.g. Petra, Matt. 24. 16. In the holocaust under Nazi Germany one third of all the world Jewry perished. Under the fierce persecution of the Antichrist, controlled and energized by Satan, two thirds of the Jewish population will die, Zech. 13. 8-9. This will be the largest and most intense persecution the Jews have ever known. How long will it last? Daniel's prophecy informs us, Dan. 9. 27, that it will continue 'until the consummation which is determined'; i.e. until the divine purpose is finished - the tribulation will not last a day longer than its predetermined time at the close of the seven years. The remnant of Israel - the third of the nation which will survive - will cry to God for deliverance and their Messiah will come, Zech. 13. 9. 'In that day His feet will stand on the mount of Olives', Zech. 14. 4, and the survivors will 'look on Me whom they pierced', Zech. 12. 10. Imagine their horror and sense of guilt as the few that remain of the nation recognize that they rejected and crucified their Messiah when He came 'the first time to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself. All the Jews that are left will go into deep mourning, Zech. 12. 10ff., and repentance. Then 'all Israel will be saved', Rom. 11. 26, and the nation will be 'born'(born-again), Isa. 66. 8.
5. ISRAEL IN THE MILLENNIUM
The 'Man' who carried the cross is destined to wear the crown; not simply as 'King of the Jews' but as King over the whole earth, Ps. 72; Zech. 14. 9. It is in the Millennium that Israel will fulfil the divine purposes for which she was chosen that 'in you all families of the earth shall be blessed', Gen. 12. 3. Israel will exercise a spiritual ministry and become God's messengers to the Gentiles, Isa. 61. 6; Mai. 2. 7. At present Israel is spiritually dumb but in that day they will 'declare the mighty works of the Lord', Ps. 118. 17.
'.....then the mystery of Israel will at last be solved, and it will be
seen that the whole thing was of Jehovah - that even their guilty
unbelief and rejection of Him was overruled to the enrichment
of the Gentiles and the temporary 'casting away of Israel' was to
the reconciling of the world.' Rom. 11. 15.
('The Ancient Scriptures and the Modern Jew', David Baron)
Fruchtenbaum, A.G. (1993) 4th printing. The Footsteps of the Messiah - a study of the sequence of prophetic events'. Ariel Ministries Press. P.O. Box 3723. Tustin, California 92681, pp. 471.
Phillips, J. (1981) Exploring the Woridofthe Jew. Moody Press, Chicago, pp. 240.