Bible Prophecy and the return of Jesus
Israel & the Return of the Messiah
By I Gordon
‘ All things are mortal, but the Jew. Other forces pass but he remains. What is the secret of his immortality?’ Mark Twain
Turn on your TV, open your newspapers, listen to your radio – doesn’t matter what you do, you cannot escape the fact that Israel is the constant focus of the world’s media. This shouldn’t be surprising, for God has spoken through the prophets that He would make Israel and Jerusalem the centre of the world’s attention. The following study is based on a sermon I recently gave where I tried to give an outline for what is currently happening in the Middle East and what the Bible tells us will happen before Jesus returns. Not easy for one sermon believe me! So this is not a detailed study of end time events, but an overview of God’s future dealings with Israel and the return of her Messiah. Specifically, I want to look at the following questions -
- Does Israel as a nation have a specific part to play in the plan of God?
- What specific issue has to happen before Israel is saved?
- How does this specific issue come about?
- What is the climax of this issue?
All sounds a bit vague doesn’t it? It should make sense as we carry on. But let me add firstly that this study is about Israel and the return of Jesus to deliver that nation. It is not about the church or the rapture, which God has different plans for. I strongly believe that the rapture of the church can occur at any moment and is distinctly separated from the second coming of Jesus to deliver Israel at the end of the tribulation. But as the church we can look at Israel, God’s time clock, and know that the time of our homecoming is at hand.
Does Israel as a nation have a specific part to play in the plan of God?
I find it a shame that this question even needs to be asked but because of some who still teach that God has given up on Israel as a nation, lets look at a few scriptures that clearly confirm this is not the case.
Rom 11:23-24 ‘And they also (Israel), if they do not continue in their unbelief, will be grafted in; for God is able to graft them in again. For if you (gentiles) were cut off from what is by nature a wild olive tree, and were grafted contrary to nature into a cultivated olive tree, how much more shall these who are the natural branches (Israel) be grafted into their own olive tree?’
In Romans chapter 11 Paul has to answer this very question – does Israel as a nation have a future in the plan of God? Notice first of all that he says that it is certainly possible for God to graft them in back if they do not continue in unbelief, since they are the natural branches. He now goes on and gets more specific saying
Rom 11:25-26 ‘For I do not want you, brethren, to be uninformed of this mystery, lest you be wise in your own estimation, that a partial hardening has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in; and thus all Israel will be saved.’
Not only is it possible, it is actually going to happen! It is called a ‘mystery’, which are specific truths not shown in the Old Testament, but now revealed in the New Testament. That Israel would be hardened in part while Gentile nations came to know the Lord was not revealed in the Old Testament. Yet Paul doesn’t end it there. He sees further ahead still and writes that after the full number of Gentiles have been saved, God will once again turn back to Israel and save them.
Rom 11:26-28 ‘Just as it is written, “The Deliverer will come from Zion, He will remove ungodliness from Jacob.” “And this is My covenant with them, When I take away their sins.”
From the standpoint of the gospel they are enemies for your sake, but from the standpoint of God’s choice they are beloved for the sake of the fathers; for the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.’
Could Paul be any clearer? While the nation of Israel is currently hardened and to an extent, an enemy of the Gospel, yet they are still loved because of the promises made to Israel’s fathers – Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. And finally the clincher – the giftings and callings of God are irrevocable. That is, God doesn’t change His mind about those whom he chooses! Never! If you need any further proof, please note that Paul quotes from Jeremiah 31:33-34 to prove that God still has a plan for that nation. Jeremiah 31, starting in verse 27 speaks of the new covenant that God will make with the nation of Israel, which will not be like the one when He took them out of Egypt. In verses 35-37 God even issues a challenge saying that only if the heavens can be measured, or day and night cease, will He cast off the offspring of Israel! And that my friends, isn’t going to happen! So we have seen that God still has a plan for the nation of Israel to bring them into a new covenant and relationship with Him, and that this occurs ‘after the fullness of the gentiles has come in’. So the next question has to be…
What specific issue has to happen before Israel is saved?
In the quote from Romans chapter 11 earlier, Paul linked ‘all Israel shall be saved’ with ‘The deliverer will come from Zion, He will remove ungodliness from Jacob.’ (Isa 59:20) In other words, the future salvation of Israel is clearly linked with the coming of the Messiah, Jesus Christ – the deliverer and redeemer of Israel! This should not come as a surprise for Jesus Himself said
Luke 13:34-35 ‘O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, just as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not have it! “Behold, your house is left to you desolate; and I say to you, you shall not see Me until the time comes when you say, ‘BLESSED IS HE WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD!’ ” ’
‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord’ is a Messianic title from Psalm 118:26 and it is this title that some who did believe shouted out to Jesus on His triumphant entry into Jerusalem. (Luke 19:38) But Jesus said that Israel would be left desolate, and that they would not see Him again UNTIL they acknowledge that He is their Messiah. This is in accordance with Old Testament scriptures as well, such as
Hosea 5:14-15 ‘For I will be like a lion to Ephraim, and like a young lion to the house of Judah... I will go away and return to My place until they acknowledge their guilt and seek My face; In their affliction they will earnestly seek Me.
Please read the whole passage in Hosea. It is God speaking, saying that He will return to His place until Israel admit their guilt and seek His face. Now we know that Jesus is the Lion of the tribe of Judah and it is in Jesus that this prophecy is fulfilled. So we have before us the specific issue that must take place before Israel as a nation can be saved – they must acknowledge that Jesus is their Messiah and their guilt in rejecting Him 2000 years ago. So the next question is…
How does this acknowledgement that Jesus is the Messiah come about?
From the Hosea passage quoted above, we read ‘in their affliction they will earnestly seek Me.’ While there are individual Jews who have come to believe in Jesus, as a nation, Israel still remains in gross unbelief today. What is coming upon the nation of Israel is the hardest times in their entire history. It is in their affliction that they will cry out for Jesus to come and save them. It is known as the ‘time of Jacob’s trouble.’
Jer 30:2-7 ‘For, behold, days are coming,‘ declares the Lord, ‘when I will restore the fortunes of My people Israel and Judah.’ The Lord says, ‘ I will also bring them back to the land that I gave to their forefathers, and they shall possess it.’ ”Now these are the words which the Lord spoke concerning Israel and concerning Judah, “For thus says the Lord, ‘I have heard a sound of terror, of dread, and there is no peace.‘ Ask now, and see, if a male can give birth. Why do I see every man with his hands on his loins, as a woman in childbirth? And why have all faces turned pale? ‘Alas! For that day is great, there is none like it. It is the time of Jacob’s trouble, but he will be saved from it. ’
So forget the current Middle East ‘peace process’. The Arab nations are not after peace. They are after the annihilation of Israel. Muhammad himself declared ‘the last hour will not come before the Muslims fight the Jews and the Muslims kill them.’ Muslims believe the 21st century to be the ‘century of Islam’ and that the annihilation of Israel is simply the precursor to conquest in the West. The war in the Middle East is not about land, it is about religion. That Islam (which means ‘absolute submission’) cannot even deal with this tiny little nation called Israel, which won’t submit or follow Allah, is a great disgrace for every Muslim faithful to the Koran. Their intention is still the same as that penned 3000 years ago.
Psalm 83:1-4 ‘God, do not keep silent; be not quiet, O God, be not still. See how your enemies are astir, how your foes rear their heads. With cunning they conspire against your people; they plot against those you cherish. “ Come,” they say, “let us destroy them as a nation, that the name of Israel be remembered no more.’
Jesus Himself testified to how terrible these times would be saying
Matt 24:21-22 ‘For then there will be great distress, unequaled from the beginning of the world until now—and never to be equaled again. If those days had not been cut short, no one would survive, but for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened.’
What is the climax of this issue?
We have seen that it is ‘in their (Israel’s) affliction that they will seek me (Jesus)’. I now want to be a little more specific as to the climax of this issue. The Prophet Zechariah tells us how things will end saying
Zech 12:1-3 ‘This is the word of the LORD concerning Israel… “I am going to make Jerusalem a cup that sends all the surrounding peoples reeling. Judah will be besieged as well as Jerusalem. 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.’
Israel is currently ranked as having the 4th best army in the entire world and this has been proven time and time again, as they have had to fight for their very existence. Just a quick summary of their wars shows some remarkable victories –
1948 – War of Independence. Straight after becoming a nation again, 18,000 Jewish settlers had to fight 7 trained, fully equipped Arab armies. Many of the Jews fought without even having a gun, yet they won.
1967 – In the face of another Arab attack, Israel launched a pre-emptive strike in what is now the famous 6-day War. This lightening victory left the world gasping and military academies entering new tactics into the warfare journals!
1973 – The Yom Kippur War. On the Holiest of all Jewish days, (the day of Atonement), Israel was attacked by a united Arab force. Israel suffered great losses as it took up to 3 days to fully mobilise its army. Yet, while outnumbered 4 to 1, (300,000 Israelis fought 1,200,000 Arabs) Israel still won and were even on the doorsteps of both Cairo and Damascus when other nations persuaded them to stop.
Yet the war that is coming is even too great for Israel. Zechariah tells a little more saying -
Zech 14:2-3 ‘ I will gather all the nations to Jerusalem to fight against it; the city will be captured, the houses ransacked, and the women raped. Half of the city will go into exile, but the rest of the people will not be taken from the city
In the midst of the chaos however, Zechariah tells us one more amazing prophetic statement - something that will completely change the course of this battle! Zechariah tells us that the following will happen.
Zech 12:10 ‘ They will look on me, the one they have pierced, and they will mourn for him as one mourns for an only child, and grieve bitterly for him as one grieves for a firstborn son.’
The word translated ‘on me’ can also be translated ‘to me’. I think both are true. Fulfilling Luke 13:35 quoted earlier, Israel will first look to Jesus, the one they pierced on the cross 2000 years ago. The will recognise that Jesus, their Messiah was ‘the son of Joseph’ who suffered at their own hands. And then, in a miracle of miracles, they will actually look on Him, as He comes down to deliver Israel and fight the nations that have attacked her. In doing so Jesus will fulfil the prophecies that the Messiah would also be ‘the son of David’ – a conquering King! In the face of unbelievable opposition, Israel will cry out for their Messiah to return, and He will! Listen to their cry -
Isaiah 64:1-3 ‘ Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down, that the mountains would tremble before you! As when fire sets twigs ablaze and causes water to boil, come down to make your name known to your enemies and cause the nations to quake before you ! For when you did awesome things that we did not expect, you came down, and the mountains trembled before you .’
Listen to how incredible, and how frightening, that day will be for those that have come to fight against Israel.
Zech 14:3-9 ‘ Then the LORD will go out and fight against those nations, as he fights in the day of battle. On that day his feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, east of Jerusalem, and the Mount of Olives will be split in two from east to west, forming a great valley, with half of the mountain moving north and half moving south… Then the LORD my God will come, and all the holy ones with him. On that day there will be no light, no cold or frost. It will be a unique day, without daytime or nighttime —a day known to the LORD. When evening comes, there will be light. On that day living water will flow out from Jerusalem, half to the eastern sea and half to the western sea, in summer and in winter. The LORD will be king over the whole earth. On that day there will be one LORD, and his name the only name .’
The Judgement of the Nations
The Prophet Joel also speaks of this time, as well as the judgement that is to follow. I only mention it here simply to show the basis upon which this judgement takes place. Firstly he prophesies the battle itself:
Joel 3:9-11 ‘ Proclaim this among the nations: Prepare for war! Rouse the warriors! Let all the fighting men draw near and attack. Beat your plowshares into swords and your pruning hooks into spears. Let the weakling say, ‘I am strong!‘ Come quickly, all you nations from every side, and assemble there.’
There they will be judged on the basis of their treatment of Israel.
Joel 3:1-2 ‘ In those days and at that time, when I restore the fortunes of Judah and Jerusalem , I will gather all nations and bring them down to the Valley of Jehoshaphat. There I will enter into judgment against them concerning my inheritance, my people Israel, for they scattered my people among the nations and divided up my land.’
Joel 3:14-16 ‘ Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision! For the day of the LORD is near in the valley of decision. The sun and moon will be darkened, and the stars no longer shine. The LORD will roar from Zion and thunder from Jerusalem; the earth and the sky will tremble. But the LORD will be a refuge for his people, a stronghold for the people of Israel.’
The time is at hand for these amazing prophecies to be fulfilled and Israel has a huge part to play in the coming days. Even as we look at the news today we see that Jerusalem is the center of the world’s attention just as God said it would be thousands of years ago. But that which is coming is the ‘time of Jacob’s trouble… but He will be saved out of it’. So forget the treaties and false promises of peace for the Middle East. The word of God has already revealed what will take place. Through affliction, God will enable Israel to believe that Jesus is their Messiah, yet it will not be easy. And if you are a Christian, then begin to look up, for as we see these things begin to take place we know that our redemption draws near!