Since 1948, when David Ben Gurion declared Israel to be an independent, sovereign state, the nation has gone from strength to strength. One third of all living Jews have settled in Israel and the nation has made amazing advances in commerce, science and medicine, and in military power. This has been achieved in spite of the fact that throughout the last half century the odds stacked against Israel’s survival have been immense; it has been said that every day Israel survives is a miracle! Anti-Semitism, however, has constantly dogged this nation. Throughout their history, Satan has sought to exterminate the nation that God chose to be His own people and through whom the Messiah would come.1 Today, Israel is surrounded by hostile neighbours intent on her annihilation but she is also torn by internal dissent. We may well ask, ‘Does Israel have a future?’ The answer lies, not in her own efforts or the pressures imposed on her by the super powers, but in the faithfulness of God who will keep His covenant promises which He made thousands of years ago.
Linked with God’s call to Abram to leave Ur of the Chaldees and go on pilgrimage to an unknown land were His promises, not only to bless Abram and make his name great but, through the nation which would come from him, to bless all mankind, Gen. 12. 1-3, 7. The same promises were confirmed to Isaac, Gen. 26. 3-5, and Jacob, Gen. 28. 13-15; they were unconditional – i.e., they did not depend on Israel’s faithfulness to God – and were in perpetuity, i.e., for ever. A most amazing confirmation, in which God binds Himself on oath to fulfil these promises, is found in Psalm 105. Note the use of a number of legally binding words: He remembers His covenant forever, the word which He commanded, for a thousand generations, the covenant which He made with Abraham, and His oath to Isaac, and confirmed to Jacob for a statute, to Israel as an everlasting covenant, saying, ‘To you I will give this land of Canaan as the allotment of your inheritance’, Psa. 105. 8-11. Despite such statements, some have deduced that, since Israel rejected her Messiah, God had rejected her. The question raised by the apostle Paul, ‘Has God cast away His people?’ was categorically answered in the words, ‘Certainly not!’, Rom. 11. 1. Later, in defence of this position, he made the most emphatic pronouncement, ‘for the gifts and calling of God are irrevocable’, Rom. 11. 29. What Israel has achieved in the last half-century should be neither too highly regarded nor ignored. Nevertheless, it can never be regarded as a fulfillment of the promises made to Abram. Without doubt, over the last fifty years or so, God has overruled in her affairs to accomplish His purposes which include the fulfillment of the Scriptures foretelling Israel’s return to the Land and making her into a modern nation with Jerusalem as her capital. Yet, today, Israel is by and large a secular, materialistic, godless nation, and her spiritual restoration and blessing foretold in Scripture still lie in the future.
Politicians and world leaders will seek to impose their will on this nation but, where they act contrary to the word of God, they will fail and indeed suffer for meddling with the divine plan, Zech. 12. 2-3. The Scriptures foretell that Israel is destined to pass through a time of great suffering and tribulation. This has been well summarized: ‘The important world events which are taking place today may be regarded as the prelude to the consummation which will include Israel’s time of suffering. Heart-rending as it may be to contemplate, the people of Israel who are returning to their ancient land, are placing themselves in the vortex of this future whirlwind which will destroy the majority of those living in the Land of Palestine. The searching and refining fire of divine judgement will produce in Israel that which is not there now, an attitude of true repentance and eager anticipation of the coming Messiah. This tribulation period will then be followed by Israel’s day of glory.2 Israel, the nation chosen by God to be a blessing to all nations, has failed grievously and must be corrected before she can fulfil her Godgiven role, Jer. 30. 11. She will be brought under the rod of God’s discipline – a time of trouble, Dan. 12. 1, the time of Jacob’s trouble, Jer. 30. 5-7. Our Lord described these events, ‘for then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been seen since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be. And unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved, but for the elect’s sake, those days will be shortened’, Matt. 24. 21-22. The ‘night of sorrow’ will reach its climax and conclusion when all nations lay siege to Jerusalem, Zech. 12. 2-3; 14. 1-3. They will be confident that Israel’s end has come – one final blow and all will be over. The few that remain of Israel will realize their situation is hopeless. In their extremity, they will cry to God for deliverance – ‘They shall call on My name, and I will answer them’, Zech. 13. 9, and God will answer them by sending Israel’s Messiah as their deliverer. ‘Immediately after the tribulation of those days … they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory’, Matt. 24. 29-30. ‘Then the Lord also will roar from Zion and utter His voice from Jerusalem; the heaven and the earth will shake; but the Lord will be a shelter for His people and the strength of the children of Israel’, Joel 3. 16. ‘In that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives which faces Jerusalem on the east’, Zech. 14. 4. Then, those that remain in Jerusalem ‘will look on Me whom they pierced’, Zech. 12. 10. Israel will recognize the Messiah and realize the terrible mistake made in rejecting and crucifying Him almost 2000 years ago – imagine their horror and sense of guilt! As Zechariah foretold, the nation will go into deep mourning and repentance, ‘In that day there shall be a great mourning in Jerusalem … the land shall mourn, each family by itself, their wives by themselves,’ etc., Zech. 12. 12. At the same time the Spirit of God will be poured out on that nation, ‘On that day a fountain shall be opened to the house of David and for the inhabitants of Jerusalem, for sin and for uncleanness’, Zech. 13. 1; see also Jer. 31. 31ff.; 33. 14ff.; Ezek. 36. 24ff. The outcome will be that Israel will be ‘born again’. ‘Who has heard such a thing? Who has seen such a thing? Shall the earth be made to bring forth in one day? Or shall a nation be born ‘in a moment’? for as soon as Zion travailed she brought forth her children’, Isa. 66. 7-8. Rather than Israel being destroyed, the nation and her capital, Jerusalem, will still be there after the Great Tribulation; we read, ‘Jerusalem shall stand, when all is over, where Jerusalem stood’, Zech. 12. 6, Knox.
Immediately after the Great Tribulation, the Lord Jesus will set up His Millennial Kingdom centering on Jerusalem, and the purposes for which God chose Israel will be realized. Israel, fired by a new love for her God after her great deliverance and recognition of her Messiah, will exercise a spiritual ministry and become God’s evangelist to the nations, Isa. 61. 6. At present Israel is spiritually dumb, but in that day she will ‘declare the mighty works of the Lord’, Psa. 118. 17. Then, as never before, the nation will sing the great ‘Hallel’, Psa. 113-118, in praise to God whose ‘grace has prevailed over her’, Psa. 117. 1 – Baron,3 throughout her dark night of sorrow. At last Israel will fulfil the purpose for which God chose her and ‘all who see them shall acknowledge them, that they are the posterity whom the Lord has blessed’, Isa. 61. 9. God has declared that Israel will not only survive but enjoy a wonderful future as foretold almost 4000 years ago. ‘The gifts and calling of God are irrevocable’, Rom. 11. 29. Israel is indestructible!
KEITH, Graham (1997) Hated without a Cause, Paternoster Press, p. 301
WALVOORD, John F. (1974) Israel in Prophecy, Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, p. 138.
BARON, David ‘The conclusion of the Hallel’ in The Ancient Scriptures for the Modern Jew, pp. 141-172, The Messianic Testimony, London.