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The Destiny of Israel

We have seen that the promises of God to Israel are forever: that they will live at peace in the land God promised Abraham, and that they would bless those nations who bless them.  So how can we explain the situation as we see it today, with Jews scattered all across the Earth and the land of Israel a hotbed of hostility and turmoil, under continuous attack from their Arab neighbours?

 

Israel was always destined to be the channel through which God would bring salvation to the entire world. Beginning with one man, Abraham, God taught his descendants how to live by means of the Torah, culminating in the Incarnation, which paved the way for forgiveness and restoration through Jesus the Messiah. This message would have remained within that nation and their land unless there was a way to disperse it across the nations.

 

So we can see that the dispersal of the Jews was a deliberate plan to create, as it were, the arteries, through which the message of God could reach the entire world. As the Jews were scattered across the earth, they became the conduit through which the message could travel. Roman roads, and the protection afforded by the Roman Empire, made travel far easier than at any previous time in history. With Jerusalem at the heart, the Jewish relationships and family connections enabled the spread of the Gospel to every nation on the planet. As Jews made the annual pilgrimage back to Jerusalem for the feasts, they became influenced by the Gospel and took it back to the nations where they had been exiled. We see this notably on the Day of Pentecost in AD33, when the Holy Spirit came on the 120 followers of Jesus and 3000 were added to the Church in a single day. They were from far and wide, Mesopotamia and Persia to the north and east, Rome and Europe to the west, Egypt and Libya to the south (Acts 2:9-11). As they returned to their countries of residence, so the gospel went with them although for several decades, the message of Jesus remained largely a Jewish faith.

 

In order for the Gospel to reach the Gentile world, God allowed the nation of Israel to be virtually destroyed and dispersed in AD70 as the Roman occupiers renamed the land Philistine or Palestine in order to humiliate the Jews. So, here we are nearly 2000 years later, still waiting, but seeing the beginnings of the fulfilment of the promises made to Abraham. The prophets predicted the day when God would restore the land and bring back Jews to Israel from every nation in the world. But if man or Satan can prevent this, then God would be proven to be a liar, lacking in the power to honour his promises, or non-existent. So this fulfilment is very critical to our belief and theology. The realisation of the promises made to Abraham, are among the few proofs we have of God’s faithfulness, credibility and reliability.

 

The purpose in Israel being dispersed amongst the nations in order to take the message to the entire world, has only partially been fulfilled to date. Jesus said to go to every nation and make disciples (Acts 1:8). Those early followers could never have thought this would take at least 2000 years to accomplish.

 

In Romans 11 Paul describes the nation of Israel as a vine. The Gentiles or non-Jewish believers in Jesus have been grafted in to that vine, but the root still remains Jewish. Some of the natural branches have been broken off, but all for a good reason. Paul says, ‘I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers, so that you may not be conceited: Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in. And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written; The deliverer will come from Zion; he will turn godlessness away from Jacob. And this is my covenant with them when I take away their sins.’ (Romans 11:25-27) But he adds that Gentiles should not be arrogant, since if God would break off the natural branches, how much more readily could the engrafted branches be removed. (Romans 11:20). We often lay claim to the Old Testament promises without recognising that they were actually made to Israel and it is only as we are engrafted to that same vine that we can appropriate those promises to ourselves. In Paul’s analogy, it would appear that some have attempted to cut themselves off from Israel, and become as a vine without a root. The Christian Church cannot divorce itself from Israel and reject her, saying ‘We are the new Israel’ any more than can a vine exist without being rooted in the ground. There are no grounds or foundation for making such a claim. This may be what Jesus is referring to, in the book of Revelation: ‘I know the slander of those who say they are Jews and are not.’ (Revelation 2:9)

 

Admittedly, at this point in time the nation of Israel is not in fellowship with God; it’s government and policies are almost entirely atheistic and humanistic. But, according to the Bible, this is for a reason and only for a season. We are rapidly approaching the end of that season.

 

It is true that, as a nation, Israel rejected Jesus as the promised Messiah. In his day, many of the political leaders actually recognised he was the Messiah, but they did not like what they saw. They expected some magnificent warrior king who would lead them to freedom, out of bondage to Rome who at that time occupied Israel. Instead, they saw a penniless, humble rabbi teacher, whose trade was carpentry, going around breaking all their traditions. He made them angry and so they rejected him and arranged his execution. Since that time, as a nation, Israel has been blinded to their true Messiah, although individual Jews have recognised Him and call themselves Messianic Jews. However, once again we can see the strange and amazing ways in which God works. If Israel had accepted Jesus at that time, Christianity, as it became later called, would have become just a Jewish religion and anyone wanting to follow Jesus would have had to become a Jew. Instead, the followers of Jesus became a persecuted sect, who were driven out of the Temple, out of Jerusalem, out of Israel and across the world. Over 400 million people have accepted Jesus as the Messiah even living in the world today. It was His rejection by the Jews that enabled the rest of us, so called Gentiles to hear, accept and believe, and that was God’s doing. It was all part of the plan. (Romans 11: 28-36)

 

The Apostle Paul writes about this at great length in his letters. He shows that this ‘blindness’ of the Jews is only for a period, which has turned out to be about 2000 years, until the fullness of the Gentiles be come in.’ (Romans 11:25)

 

The writer to the Hebrews expressed how God will be faithful to the covenant He made with Abraham. ‘For when God made promise to Abraham, because he could swear by no greater, he sware by himself, Saying, Surely blessing I will bless thee, and multiplying I will multiply thee. And so, after he had patiently endured, he obtained the promise. For men verily swear by the greater: and an oath for confirmation is to them an end of all strife. Wherein God, willing more abundantly to shew unto the heirs of promise the immutability of his counsel, confirmed it by an oath: That by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us’ (Hebrews 6:13-18)

 

The writer is expressing that God does not break his promises. The fact that God was faithful to Abraham and Israel is proof that He will be faithful to us. Conversely, if God broke His promise to Abraham, how can He be trusted to keep His promises to us? That is our hope.

 

A person reading the Old Testament 100 or more years ago would have found much of it hard to believe or even understand. This is what may have fuelled replacement theology. References to the restoration of Israel, such as the valley of dry bones in Ezekiel 37, must have been hard to take seriously.

 

In a vision, Ezekiel saw a valley filled with dried bones. ‘The Lord said to me, "Prophesy to these bones and say to them, 'Dry bones, hear the word of the LORD! This is what the Sovereign LORD says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life. I will attach tendons to you and make flesh come upon you and cover you with skin; I will put breath in you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the LORD.' So I prophesied as I was commanded. And as I was prophesying, there was a noise, a rattling sound, and the bones came together, bone to bone. I looked, and tendons and flesh appeared on them and skin covered them, but there was no breath in them. Then he said to me, "Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to it, 'This is what the Sovereign LORD says: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe into these slain, that they may live.' So I prophesied as he commanded me, and breath entered them; they came to life and stood up on their feet—a vast army. Then he said to me: "Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. They say, 'Our bones are dried up and our hope is gone; we are cut off.' Therefore prophesy and say to them: 'This is what the Sovereign LORD says: O my people, I am going to open your graves and bring you up from them; I will bring you back to the land of Israel.’ (Ezekiel 37:4-12)

 

For over 2500 years, Jews have existed only in small pockets all over the world and could hardly be called a nation. Around the end of the 19th Century, there were a number of politicians, believers in the Bible who wanted to see the Jews repatriated to the land of Israel. One of these people, Lord Balfour drew up a declaration in 1917 to propose their restoration, allocating a portion of land in the Middle East for this purpose1. At that time, the land was derelict and virtually uninhabited. In 1867 Mark Twain described Lebanon, Syria, and the Holy Land as ‘A desolate country whose soil is rich enough, but is given over wholly to weeds... a silent mournful expanse.... a desolation.... we never saw a human being on the whole route.... hardly a tree or shrub anywhere. Even the olive tree and the cactus, those fast friends of a worthless soil, had almost deserted the country.’ 2

Great Britain was given the mandate to take care of the people and the land until the Jews were able to set up their own government. Over the next few decades, Jews started immigrating to this area and the land began to blossom (Isaiah 35:1). During World War Two, Hitler organised the mass extermination of Jews in Germany, which would have increased the rate of immigration to Israel, had that been possible. However, there was much opposition, in particular by Great Britain by means of the Navy, and of course some of the Arab countries. For a start, to appease the surrounding nations, Winston Churchill took a decision to divide the land either side of the Jordan River, giving the Jews the portion to the west, which was only about 23% of the land allocated by the Balfour Declaration3. The British gave the eastern 77% of the territory to the Arab Emir Abdullah and entitled it Transjordan, which eventually became known as Jordan as it is today. The British also severely limited the number of Jews that were allowed to enter the land, resulting in untold numbers being driven back to Germany and their original lands. Some were even drowned in the Mediterranean Sea as their flimsy ships sank. As we know 6 million Jews perished in Hitler’s ‘Final Solution’. It appears that all the hordes of hell were opposed to the Jews becoming a nation in their own land, determined to prove that God did not keep His promises.

 

In spite of all this opposition, the nation began to form, and in 1948 the British mandate was handed over to an Israeli government and the nation of Israel was born in one day. This is exactly as prophesied by Isaiah ‘Who hath heard such a thing? who hath seen such things? Shall the earth be made to bring forth in one day? or shall a nation be born at once? for as soon as Zion travailed, she brought forth her children.’ (Isaiah 66:8). Since that time Jews from all over the world have been coming into the land of Israel, often with the help of Christian organisations.4

 

Even more amazing is this: Ezekiel the prophet was instructed by God to lie on his left side for 390 days to atone for the sins of Israel and then on his right side for a further 40 days for the sins of Judah (Ezekiel 4:1-6). A day was assigned for each year. This makes a total of 430 years. Israel was exiled and taken into captivity in Babylon for 70 years. So that leaves 360 years to go. Now back in Exodus 23, there is a promise and a curse: if Israel repents after being banished from the land, they will return, but if they are still in rebellion, their punishment will be multiplied 7 times. Israel as a nation has never repented of her rejection of God’s authority. So this left 360 x 7 = 2520 years of exile to run. Apparently if you multiply all this out from the date of the decree of King Cyrus that they should return to the land of Israel, allowing for leap years and other date adjustments, it actually comes to the date of 14 May 1948, which is the day the land of Israel was reborn! This can only have been effected by One who is outside our time and space!

 

So we can expect a revival of the Jews and recognition of Jesus as their Messiah. ‘And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications: and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourns for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn.’ (Zechariah 12:10). According to this passage and many others, there is a time yet to come at which the nation of Israel will recognise the One who they pierced by crucifixion, which is Jesus, as their Messiah. They will repent and return to God and He will graciously receive them. The house of David refers back to the messianic and kingly line that as we have seen is fulfilled only by Jesus. So Jesus will be truly acknowledged as the King of Israel and indeed the whole world.

 

Many forget that Jesus was and still is, a Jew. In the book of Revelation He is called the Lion of the Tribe of Judah as He is called upon to open the book that will usher in the end of the age. ‘And one of the elders said unto me, Weep not: behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, hath prevailed to open the book, and to loose the seven seals thereof.’ (Revelation 5:5)

 

The seven seals in the Revelation, as they are opened one by one, pronounce the beginning of the end of the age, which is the long awaited 70th week. At that time of writing, books were actually rolled up scrolls. Each section of the book was sealed with a wax seal. In John’s vision, as the Lamb opens each of the seals in God’s book a new catastrophe is unleashed on the Earth.

 

We all would like to think that the history of the world has a happy ending, that ultimately good will triumph and mankind will learn to live in peace and prosperity, free of disease and pain. However, this is not the picture the Revelation shows. As the seals are opened, the so-called four horsemen of the Apocalypse are loosed, they bring world-wide devastation, beginning with war, famine, death and persecution. There is no indication that mankind will gradually improve, that the Church will be triumphant, that we will fill the Earth with truth and love. The opposite in fact is the destiny of man.

 

Due to the failures and ineffectiveness of the messengers, as well as resistance and opposition from Satan and the forces of darkness, the gospel has been corrupted and stalled and prevented from reaching the final goal. Natural man does not want God’s intervention and interference. Man has tried every possible way to eliminate God from the equation. Through education, politics and conquest, man has sought to make a god of himself and replace the Creator. Up to now, man has failed to bring peace to the world. Every attempt has ultimately failed, and it is perceived that only a world government can achieve world peace. God’s plan is that Jesus will be the one who establishes and heads up such a worldwide government; but Satan has other plans and will fight right up until the end to thwart God.

 

The human desire for peace is highly laudable. The main reason for the economic crisis we are now facing is largely due to war. Nothing uses up resources like war. The underlying cause of the American debt is the vast expenses incurred by two world wars, followed by Vietnam and Iraq. The debt has been further exacerbated of course by greed and risky investment on a huge scale. If it were possible to have world peace, then the resources available to man to sort out the ills of the planet would more than suffice. The problem is that man wants to achieve this without God’s help and that is not possible.

 

Using mere men who have power complexes, from Alexander, Napoleon, Hitler, through to modern day rulers and presidents, Satan has tried to conquer the world. In modern times, attempts have and are being made to set up world governments. Perhaps the closest the world came to that was Communism, which was the brainchild of Karl Marx. Marx, who incidentally was a Jew, was attempting to bring about a human Utopia without God and it failed abysmally. The problem is that man, without God becomes self-centred and self-seeking and that any government will ultimately have a single individual presiding over it and hence over the entire world. Can you imagine the power such an individual would have!

 

1. Balfour Declaration: http://www.mideastweb.org/mebalfour.html

2. Mark Twain, The innocents Abroad

3. Churchill: http://www.winstonchurchill.org/i4a/pages/index.cfm?pageid=314

4. Aliyah; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aliyah_Bet

 

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