Jesus Plus Nothing Bible Studies
The Uniqueness of Israel and Bible Prophecy
by I Gordon
The following is adapted from an email that I recently sent to a relative who is an atheist and doesn't see any evidence for the existence of God. I decided to focus on one topic that I believe gives proof that God not only exists, but that the God of the Bible is the only true God... and that is through Bible Prophecy. Bible prophecy has two main themes - the nation that God chose, Israel, and that nation's promised Messiah - the Lord Jesus. I decided to focus on the nation of Israel as the outcome of the Bible claims can be easily verified through secular history. The following are some of my thoughts on this that I wrote to my relative and his subsequent objections. It is written with the unbeliever in mind.
One way we can know that the God of the Bible is God...
Can we know whether there is a God? If so, can we know that the God of the Bible is the true God? When you read the Bible, one of the ways that God says we can know that He is God (and the true God) is by the fact that He declares the end from the beginning. About 28% of the Bible is prophecy ( that is, God declaring what will take place in the future. For example God says:
Isaiah 46:9-10 'I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me. I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say: My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please.'
The God of the Bible even challenges other so-called 'gods' to show that they are gods by doing the same. If they are 'God' then they should know all things, things still to come as well as that which has been.
Isaiah 41:21-23 'Present your case,' says the LORD. 'Set forth your arguments,' says Jacob's King. 'Bring in your idols to tell us what is going to happen. Tell us what the former things were, so that we may consider them and know their final outcome. Or declare to us the things to come, tell us what the future holds, so we may know that you are gods.'
One example: The remarkable Jewish race
I became a Christian in 1990 in my first year of University. One of the things that fascinated me right from the beginning of my faithwas the history and prophecies concerning this people called the Jews (and their nation of Israel.) In the Bible you may know that God chose one nation only, descended from Abraham, through the line of Isaac and Jacob, to be His people. They were to be a light to the rest of the nations showing who the true God was. Largely they failed in that (but God is not finished with them there!) Their history, going back thousands of years is fascinating... specifically when compared to what the Bible said, in advance, would happen to them.
There is a well known story how Frederick the Great asked the philosopher Marquis D'Argens, 'Can you give me one single irrefutable proof of God?' To which Marquis replied, 'Yes, your majesty, the Jews.' In other words, the history of the Jewish race declares that the God of the Bible is real! Christians and non-Christians have noted something very special and peculiar about this race:
'Some people like the Jews, and some do not. But no thoughtful man can deny the fact that they are, beyond any question, the most formidable and the most remarkable race which has appeared in the world.' (Winston Churchill)
"I will insist the Hebrews have [contributed] more to civilize men than any other nation. If I was an atheist and believed in blind eternal fate, I should still believe that fate had ordained the Jews to be the most essential instrument for civilizing the nations... They are the most glorious nation that ever inhabited this Earth. The Romans and their empire were but a bubble in comparison to the Jews.' (John Adams - 2nd US President)
In like manner Mark Twain wrote:
'If statistics are right, the Jews constitute but one percent of the human race. It suggests a nebulous dim puff of stardust lost in the blaze of the Milky way. properly, the Jew ought hardly to be heard of, but he is heard of, has always been heard of. He is as prominent on the planet as any other people, and his commercial importance is extravagantly out of proportion to the smallness of his bulk. His contributions to the world's list of great names in literature, science, art, music, finance, medicine, and abstruse learning are also away out of proportion to the weakness of his numbers. He has made a marvelous fight in this world, in all the ages; and had done it with his hands tied behind him. He could be vain of himself, and be excused for it. The Egyptian, the Babylonian, and the Persian rose, filled the planet with sound and splendor, then faded to dream-stuff and passed away; the Greek and the Roman followed; and made a vast noise, and they are gone; other people have sprung up and held their torch high for a time, but it burned out, and they sit in twilight now, or have vanished. The Jew saw them all, beat them all, and is now what he always was, exhibiting no decadence, no infirmities of age, no weakening of his parts, no slowing of his energies, no dulling of his alert and aggressive mind. All things are mortal but the Jew; all other forces pass, but he remains. What is the secret of his immortality?'
Does it seem odd to you that the one race that people find the most remarkable when looking at human history (whether you like them or not) is exactly the same race that the God of the Bible chose 4000 years ago to be His people and His nation alone and to show that He exists? It did to me when I started investigating these things. In the Bible God said that He would make the people of Israel 'the head and not the tail.' (Deut 28:13). Human history reveals this to be the case. Though persecuted and hated, the Jews have often risen to the top. Apart from the quotes above from Churchill, Adams and Twain that state this very thing, look at more modern day Nobel prizes as evidence of this extraordinary race:
An example: Nobel prizes for Jews
"As of 2017, Nobel Prizes have been awarded to 892 individuals, of whom 201 or 22.5% were Jews, although the total Jewish population comprises less than 0.2% of the world's population. This means the percentage of Jewish Nobel laureates is at least 112.5 times or 11,250% above average." 1
That is remarkable! 0.2% of the world's population and 22.5% of the Nobel prizes won for excellence in all sorts of fields. Remember - the God of the Bible said He would make them the head and not the tail. To quote again: "As of 2017, people of Jewish descent constituted 36.71% of economics, 25.23% of medicine, 26.21% of physics, 19.77% of chemistry, 13.27% of literature and 8.65% of individual peace awards."
It is not the French or the Germans or the Turks or the Chinese winning a disproportionate amount of Nobel prizes in so many fields... It is the Jews. Have you ever consider why it just happens to be this people of the Bible, not large in numbers by any means, that stand out among all the races as being remarkable in this way? God chose the Jewish race, the Bible says, not because they were large in numbers, but because they were small and so through them He could demonstrate His reality for those that want to see. Do you see?
A few prophecies concerning Israel
Because the God of the Bible has said that you can know that He is the true God by the fact that He 'makes known the end from the beginning' let's put that to the test concerning this people He chose - the Hebrew race, the nation of Israel. As far back as Moses (and then through all the prophets), God declared what would happen to the nation of Israel. For example, even before coming into the Promised Land in Deuteronomy chapter 28 Moses spoke of both the blessings and the curses that would befall them. Included in the curses for disobeying God were prophecies of the following:
Moses prophesied that because of their disobedience they would be scattered to the very ends of the earth. Deuteronomy 28:64 "The Lord will scatter you among all peoples, from one end of the earth to the other..."
This was fulfilled precisely starting from 70AD-135AD where after the Jews rejected Jesus as their Messiah, the Roman's destroyed Jerusalem and the Jews were driven out of their land. Secular history records all of this happening as described 1500 years in advance by Moses. The next verse in Deuteronomy gives a good account of what life was like for the Jews among the nations...
Moses prophesied that the Jews would be hated and find no rest while among the nations Deuteronomy 28:65-66 "And among those nations you shall find no rest, nor shall the sole of your foot have a resting place; but there the Lord will give you a trembling heart, failing eyes, and anguish of soul. (66) Your life shall hang in doubt before you; you shall fear day and night, and have no assurance of life."
Leo Tolstoy writes about what the Jews experienced amongst the nations saying:
'What is the Jew?...What kind of unique creature is this whom all the rulers of all the nations of the world have disgraced and crushed and expelled and destroyed; persecuted, burned and drowned, and who, despite their anger and their fury, continues to live and to flourish. What is this Jew whom they have never succeeded in enticing with all the enticements in the world, whose oppressors and persecutors only suggested that he deny (and disown) his religion and cast aside the faithfulness of his ancestors?! The Jew - is the symbol of eternity. ... He is the one who for so long had guarded the prophetic message and transmitted it to all mankind. A people such as this can never disappear. The Jew is eternal. He is the embodiment of eternity.'
But the Bible doesn't end with the Jews dispersed among all the nations... God said He would regather them! Only two chapters on in Deuteronomy. God spoke through Moses and said that He would regather them from all the nations of the world and make them a nation in their own land again!
Moses prophesied that the scattered nation would be gathered again into the very same land!
Deuteronomy 30:1-5 "Now it shall come to pass, when all these things come upon you, the blessing and the curse which I have set before you, and you call them to mind among all the nations where the Lord your God drives you, (2) and you return to the Lord your God and obey His voice, according to all that I command you today, you and your children, with all your heart and with all your soul, (3) that the Lord your God will bring you back from captivity, and have compassion on you, and gather you again from all the nations where the Lord your God has scattered you. (4) If any of you are driven out to the farthest parts under heaven, from there the Lord your God will gather you, and from there He will bring you. (5) Then the Lord your God will bring you to the land which your fathers possessed, and you shall possess it. He will prosper you and multiply you more than your fathers.
Note that the regathering of the Jews would be back into the same land that their fathers possessed. How well do you know the history of the Jews? It is exactly as described above. The Jews ceased to be a nation from 70AD through to May 14th 1948. What other people have been dispersed among all the nations, ceasing to have their own nation and language, and then 2000 years later are brought back to their former homeland to be a nation again? It is remarkable. On May 14th of this year they will celebrate their 70th anniversary... and Jews from around the world continue to travel back and make their home back in Israel like the prophets foretold. There is so much more that could be said here, especially concerning their wars against overwhelming Arab armies and odds right from the day of formation back in 1948 but let's continue...
What about prophecies now and still to come?
While I'm only touching the surface on the prophecies but one that is relevant concerning the nation of Israel is this that the prophet Zechariah gave:
Zechariah 12:1-3 This is the word of the LORD concerning Israel. The LORD, who stretches out the heavens, who lays the foundation of the earth, and who forms the spirit of man within him, declares: (2) I am going to make Jerusalem a cup that sends all the surrounding peoples reeling. Judah will be besieged as well as Jerusalem. (3) On that day, when all the nations of the earth are gathered against her, I will make Jerusalem an immovable rock for all the nations. All who try to move it will injure themselves. According to the word of the Lord to Zechariah, God said He will make Jerusalem 'a cup that sends all surrounding peoples reeling'. 'I will make Jerusalem an immovable rock for all the nations. All who try to move it will injure themselves.' Another version says that Jerusalem will be a 'stumbling stone' for all the nations. Do we not see this today? Which city on planet earth today is causing the most trouble for the United Nations because try as they might, they just cannot find a solution for it? It is the city of Jerusalem! Exactly what God said would happen. Do you find that interesting? Any peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians falters on the status of Jerusalem. The UN tries, the US tries, Russia, the EU... all have got nowhere despite decades of effort. It is an 'immoveable rock' just as God said it would be. If you don't think this is the case, have a look at the completely lop-sided focus and fascination that the United Nations have with this nation of Israel. For example, despite all the atrocities that have been happening in Syria's civil war "From 2012 through 2015, the United Nations General Assembly has adopted 97 resolutions criticizing countries; 83 out of those 97 have been against Israel (86%)." 2
Does it make you curious that out of all the nations in the world so much of the world's attention (and hatred) just happens to be against this one nation, the only nation, that the Bible said God chose to be His own? And does it make you curious that in the Bible there is only one city in the world that the God of the Bible said is His and bears His name - Jerusalem (Psalm 48:1,8, Dan 9:19, Matt 5:35)... and it just so happens that this one city becomes this insolvable problem, this immovable rock, that the UN and the world spends so much time speaking against (which God said would happen in His word)?
A prophecy still to come...
The Bible speaks a lot also of wars still to come. One very prominent one involves Russia, Iran and Turkey (along with other nations) in an alliance coming against Israel. Historically, Russia, Iran and Turkey haven't been aligned but we see that happening in our day. Just like the Bible said, Iran wants nothing more than to wipe Israel off the map. Recently they came out and said that the date of Israel's destruction has already been determined.3 Turkey, who was partially westernized after the fall of the Ottoman empire, is now, under Erdogan, introducing fundamental Islam into all areas of life and has become rabidly anti-Israel once again. It is all building just as the Bible prophets foretold. Others have written better studies on this but if interested, I have written my own study on this particular prophecy from Ezekiel 38 and 39 here:
An interesting thing about this war is that God states repeatedly that one of the main reasons for this war is so that both Israel and the nations (that includes you!) can know that He is God. He says:
Ezekiel 38:16 You will advance against my people Israel like a cloud that covers the land. In days to come, O Gog, I will bring you against my land, so that the nations may know me when I show myself holy through you before their eyes.
Ezekiel 38:22-23 I will execute judgment upon him with plague and bloodshed; I will pour down torrents of rain, hailstones and burning sulfur on him and on his troops and on the many nations with him. (23) And so I will show my greatness and my holiness, and I will make myself known in the sight of many nations. Then they will know that I am the LORD.'
Ezekiel 39:7 'I will make known my holy name among my people Israel. I will no longer let my holy name be profaned, and the nations will know that I the LORD am the Holy One in Israel.
I could go on but I have written enough. Like I said at the start Bible prophecy is just ONE way we can know that the God of the Bible exists and is the true God - He declares the end from the beginning. Mockers may laugh at Jesus. They may scoff at the Bible. They may think Christians are crazy or blind. But as someone that has studied Bible prophecy for nearly 30 years, I can tell you that history has and is unfolding exactly as the God of the Bible said it would, even prophecies written thousands of years ago! God has declared it in advance so that we can know that He is who He says He is. I have only really focused on Israel as one example here but the prophecies concerning the Messiah Jesus are equally as impressive. I hope you will give some consideration to these things.
The following were some objections that were raised in response to what I had written. I will just list the objections briefly and include my response.
Objection 1: Using the source of the claim as evidence of the claim is circular reasoning.
Bible prophecy isn't circular reasoning. The source of the claim are the prophecies in the Bible... true. But the evidence of the prophecies fulfilled can be verified through secular history, not using the Bible.
Objection 2: Isn't Bible prophecy just poetry?
No, not primarily. There are prophetic statements made in the Psalms (which is primarily songs and poetry) and some prophecy in songs like in parts of Isaiah. Some prophecy comes in the form of visions like Revelation and Daniel. But the vast majority of prophecy comes through the Hebrew prophets simply recording what the Lord has said. There is also the prophetic statements and teaching of the Lord Jesus and the Apostles. None of the prophecies I have sent you are songs or poetry.
Objection 3: The Bible and Bible prophecy is not clear.
Instead of speaking in generalities, was there anything unclear about the prophecies that I sent you? I believe even a young person would be able to read those prophetic statements and understand what it is saying. For example, Moses told the nation of Israel what would happen in their future when they disobey the Lord. He said:
Deuteronomy 28:64-66 Then the LORD will scatter you among all nations, from one end of the earth to the other. There you will worship other gods-- gods of wood and stone, which neither you nor your fathers have known. (65) Among those nations you will find no repose, no resting place for the sole of your foot. There the LORD will give you an anxious mind, eyes weary with longing, and a despairing heart. (66) You will live in constant suspense, filled with dread both night and day, never sure of your life.
It's pretty clear isn't it? He said the nation of Israel would be scattered among all the nations, from one end of the earth to the other. Among those nations they would find no rest. Most date Deuteronomy to the 15th century BC. Secular history records all of these events occurred as predicted. The destruction, the dispersion, the widespread nature of the scattering (to the end of the earth), the persecution of Jews among the nations... Or what about the prophecy Moses carried on with after this stating that the Lord would regather the Israelites back again... Is it not clear as well? Here it is again:
Deuteronomy 30:1-5 When all these blessings and curses I have set before you come upon you and you take them to heart wherever the LORD your God disperses you among the nations... then the LORD your God will restore your fortunes and have compassion on you and gather you again from all the nations where he scattered you. Even if you have been banished to the most distant land under the heavens, from there the LORD your God will gather you and bring you back. He will bring you to the land that belonged to your fathers, and you will take possession of it. He will make you more prosperous and numerous than your fathers.
This is pretty clear is it not? The Lord said that even though He would scatter them to all the nations, He would also restore their fortunes and regather them back into the same land (the land that belonged to your fathers). Again, this is the prophecy, and in 1948, approx. 1900 years after being scattered, this was fulfilled. It is clear and remarkable.
Objection 4: Prophecies are claimed in many places, in other religious texts, Nostradamus etc...
True, to a limited extent, but none like the Bible. If you want to talk about vague, unclear, ambiguous "prophecies" then sure, there's Nostradamus. Read him and see if you have any idea what he is talking about! I don't. It is left obscure probably on purpose! (if interested: http://www.equip.org/article/nostradamus/) In terms of other religions, there are no detailed prophecies in the Koran (Islam's holy book) and I have read that there are none in the Hindu Vedas, the book of Mormon, or the sayings of Buddha. In contrast, as mentioned, approx 28% of the Bible is prophecy. Again, it is how the God of the Bible said you can know He is the true God. He said He would declare the end before it occurred. If you think of the key religious figures in the different religions were there any prophecies written in advance about Buddha? Muhammad? There were over 300 prophecies about Israel's Messiah, the Lord Jesus, written hundred of years before he came in startling detail!
Objection 5: The Diaspora: I hope you'll agree that there is nothing unusual about the destruction of a nation (kingdom) in pre-modern times:
True but that wasn't what I was pointing to. It is the uniqueness of Israel's dispersion and restoration that is the issue. Do you know another nation that has the following:
1. Their nation has been destroyed
2. The people are scattered to the far ends of the earth.
3. Though scattered and persecuted they maintain their identity as a people group for centuries
4. After 1900 years they come back again as a nation in the same land they used to inhabit
5. There religious writings and prophets said all this would happen centuries before it did.
If this isn't unique, what nation would you point to that matches say the first three points? And then add in point 4... What other nation has been destroyed, scattered, persecuted and after nearly 2000 years becomes a nation again in the same land? And then, to top it off, what nation had all that happen and also had their own prophets write it all down and foretell it many centuries in advance...?
Objection 6: There were other people and nations at work in Israel becoming a nation again. They had reasons for doing so and it could be seen as a self-fulfilled prophecy
If you think it was just a self fulfilled prophecy you are not looking at it in its entirely. Rome wasn't trying to fulfill prophecy when it destroyed Israel. Neither the Jews nor anyone else was trying to fulfill prophesy by being scattered to the ends of the earth. Nor were the nations trying to fulfill prophecy by persecuting the Jews during this time like the Bible said. And take for example the other prophecy I sent you from Ezek 38. It speaks of a coming war against Israel (not fulfilled yet). One verse gives a description of what the land of Israel will be like when the regathering takes place: . .
Ezekiel 38:8 "After many days you will be summoned; in the latter years you will come into the land that is restored from the sword, whose inhabitants have been gathered from many nations to the mountains of Israel which had been a continual waste; but its people were brought out from the nations, and they are living securely, all of them.
This prophecy says that when the Jews are regathered back from many nations into their land again that...:
1. It will happen in the "latter years" (Biblical terminology for the last days before the Messiah's return) This indicates that Israel would be dispersed for a long time. Neither the Jews nor the nations were doing this on purpose to create self-fulfilled prophecy
2. It will be "a land restored from the sword" - Again, perfectly accurate given the violent history of Israel/Palestine and Jerusalem. For example, "During its long history, Jerusalem has been attacked 52 times, captured and recaptured 44 times, besieged 23 times, and destroyed twice." (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Jerusalem). It was often fought over during the Middle Ages and crusades. Was anyone trying to self-fulfill prophecy by making Israel a land of the sword? No.
3. At the time of restoration, it will be a land that 'had been a continual waste'. This is again true in secular history. For the 400 years leading up to the Balfour Declaration, the land was under the control of the Ottoman Empire. They imposed a tax on having trees and the place was a desolate waste. Mark Twain visited Palestine in 1867 and wrote it was "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.' Again, this is what God said in His word it would be like leading up to the gathering of the Jews back again. The Turks weren't trying to fulfill prophecy by leaving it this way.
As for Israel becoming a nation, this required a UN vote in 1947. From a natural point it was a vote that hung in the balance right until the final minute. The "Christian" United Kingdom didn't even help abstaining in the vote! Yet of all counties to help sway the vote probably the most important was Russia... an atheistic nation under the rule of the anti-Semitic Joseph Stalin. Not exactly a nation or a leader that loves the Jews, their Biblical history, or one trying hard to fulfill Bible prophecy! Yet Russia voted for them and instructed the other eastern European communist countries to do the same. Amazing! (https://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4737624,00.html)
There are far too many fulfilled prophecies and miraculous events to just write this all off as 'a self fulfilled prophecy'.
Objection 7: Is Jerusalem the only problem place, or even the most problematical place? Probably not. Syria, Iraq, Iran, Libya, Palestine, even Egypt have been more problematical that Jerusalem in recent decades.
Indeed all have had their problems recently... but I didn't say Israel and Jerusalem in particular will be the only problem place. I said that the Bible says it will be the focus of the world's attention and the issue of Jerusalem would be 'an immoveable rock' or a 'burdensome stone' that the nations will not be able to resolve. You probably didn't look but follow this link to see the disproportionate focus on Israel and Jerusalem that the United Nations have. https://www.unwatch.org/un-israel-key-statistics/ To give one example from the link, between 2006 and 2016 the UN human rights council passed more resolutions against one nation than all the others on planet earth COMBINED! Yep... Israel! Think of all the shameful atrocities that occur in many countries of the world and then to think that the UN human rights council spends more time with one small nation than all the others combined is absolutely nuts! In comparison to Israel the UN is not passing resolutions against Iran, Iraq, Egypt and hardly any even against Syria despite all the atrocities. Many, on different sides of the political debate, have spoken of this unhealthy obsession that the United Nations has with Israel. Again this is what God in His word prophesied would occur. For example:
So again, the UNITED NATIONS is not spending all its time and focus on Egypt, nor Iran, nor Libya despite their recent wars in the so called 'Arab spring'. And while Syria has been a focus because of the length of their ongoing civil war, the UN hardly pass anything on it like they do Israel. The Bible said that Israel and Jerusalem would be the focus and it is.
Objection 8: You speak of coming wars... I'm not an expert on ancient geography, but I think neither Russia nor Turkey existed during biblical times in any form like we know them now. Iran was fractured into various Kingdoms. And is there really an alliance between Russia, Iran and Turkey?
Fair point which I didn't address. The link I provided to my studies of Ezekiel 38,39 does go into the names used in the Bible and what that nation is today. It is certainly true that the Bible doesn't use modern names like 'Russia' and 'Turkey' and 'Iran'. It speaks of 'Persia' coming against Israel. 'Iran' was 'Persia' until the name changed in 1935. It speaks of 'Magog' which historians have associated with modern day southern Russia (the land of the 'Scythians') And if there was to be any misunderstanding of who Magog is, the Bible prophecy speaks of them as coming out of 'of the remote parts of the north' - Go directly north from Israel and you go through Moscow with nothing being a remoter parts of the north than that!
Anyway... I only added this part because this prophecy (along with the total destruction of the city of Damasus which I haven't gone into because I have focused on Israel) are two prophecies that are starting to line up I believe. They will be fulfilled like the others have been. And if you don't think that there is a Russia - Turkey - Iran alliance (as the Bible says there will be in the last days) look at what is happening in the Middle East today - http://www.jpost.com/International/Fallout-from-the-Turkey-Iran-Russia-meeting-549022
Just so you know, I don't write these things trying to win an argument. I'm not remotely interested in trying to score points in some kind of intellectual debate. I simply wanted to show you one way that the God of the Bible says we can know He is the true God (through Bible prophecy). He does this so that we can come to know Him which is the most important point of all. You may discount all that I have written above at the moment... But maybe, just maybe, it will get you thinking. If not then my hope is that one day it will come back to you and you will reconsider. There are many other prophecies still to be fulfilled (for both the world and Israel) and from studying these for the last 30 years it is my personal belief that all of the main players mentioned in the Bible are aligning and moving into place. If these other prophecies take place then the planet is in for major upheaval in the coming days. At the very least, keep your eyes on that small little Jewish nation in the Middle East that was chosen by God about 4000 years ago! They have been persecuted amongst the nations for 2000 years. Hitler tried to finish them off with his 'final solution'. Iran wants to wipe her off the map and repeatedly says so. She is surrounded and hated by Islam on every side. She is the obsession of the United Nations. Yet God says He will not only keep her but use her to make Himself known and vindicate His name to the nations. That includes you!
Eze 36:22-23 "Therefore say to the house of Israel, Thus says the Lord GOD: It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for the sake of my holy name, which you have profaned among the nations to which you came. (23) And I will vindicate the holiness of my great name, which has been profaned among the nations, and which you have profaned among them. And the nations will know that I am the LORD, declares the Lord GOD, when through you I vindicate my holiness before their eyes.