12. Israel

Israel is of great significance to all the people of the world because the words of God were entrusted to them (Rom. 3:1-2). According to Romans 11:11-15, Israel is a blessing to the nations during their spiritually blinded state, and will be an even greater blessing to the world after their spiritual restoration. Because they are used as an example to warn us against disobeying God (1 Cor. 10:1-12), it is important that we pay close attention to them.

Calling, dispersion and restoration

A large part of the Bible deals with Israel. In a very special sense they are the chosen people of God. He called them to be a holy people and led them to the Promised Land; He then dispersed them among the nations because of their disobedience; and it is the same immutable covenant God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob who is restoring Israel to the land of their fathers in the end-time.

Calling and establishment in their land. The calling of Israel started with Abraham, who is the progenitor of Israel (Gen. 12:1-3; 13:14-15). The promise of the land was later confirmed to Isaac and Jacob (Gen. 26:3; 28:13). Before inheriting the Promised Land, the descendants of the founding patriarchs first spent 400 years as strangers in Egypt, where they became the slaves of the Egyptians (Gen. 15:13-14). Under the leadership of Moses and Joshua they were led out of Egypt to take possession of the land, which the Lord had promised to their fathers. This was their establishment in the land.

Dispersion. The Lord set a clear spiritual standard to Israel for the privilege of being called a people of God. Should they continuously fail to meet this standard, they would invite the displeasure and even the anger of God against them. Extended periods of national disobedience resulted in God surrendering Israel to their enemies. Through experiences such as this they learned the hard way the consequences of straying from God. After they had humbled themselves before the Lord and confessed their sins, He again restored them to their land (Lev. 26; Deut. 30). The Babylonian captivity of Israel, which was confined to one area, was obviously not the international Diaspora to all nations. The Diaspora only occurred in the first century AD, and was finally announced by Jesus after He was rejected as Messiah by Israel (Matt. 23:37-38; Luke 21:20-24). The siege and destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in AD 70 was the start of the long international dispersion of Israel that lasted for almost two millennia. At some time during the Diaspora there have been Jewish exiles in all countries of the world.

Restoration. Never in all of Israel’s existence as a nation was there ever the slightest doubt of the validity of the unconditional promises that God made to the founding fathers of the nation (Lev. 26:44-45). Even if Israel is unfaithful, God remains a faithful covenant-keeping God who will again restore the nation to their land (Rom. 3:3-4). The restoration of Israel from their international dispersion has led to the establishment of the modern Jewish state in May 1948. The final objective with Israel’s physical restoration in the land of their fathers is their spiritual restoration (Ezek. 36:22-28). For this to be realised there will have to be a spiritual testing and purification after they have been gathered in their land. That will be a time of great affliction and tribulation (Ezek. 22:19-20; Jer. 30:7; Matt. 24:15-22). Only a remnant of the nation will be saved (Rom. 9:27) since the majority of them (as is the case among all nations) are spiritually hardened and unrepentant.

Jerusalem

Jerusalem is the only city in the world which was chosen by God to put His name there forever (1 Kings 9:3; 11:36). In Old Testament times the temple, as the house of the Lord, was built in Jerusalem. However, the greatest revelation of God to Israel and all of humanity was the coming of His Son, Jesus, to the world (Isa. 9:6-7; 49:6). In Jerusalem, that unique city of divine revelation, the Lord Jesus proclaimed the message of eternal life. He also taught in the temple. But the majority of the city’s inhabitants rejected the Messiah as well as His teachings. In so doing, they brought great peril upon themselves. During His entrance into Jerusalem on a colt Jesus wept over the city and its blinded inhabitants who rejected their Messiah-King to their own detriment and ruin (Luke 19:41-44).

The Lord Jesus was crucified on Golgotha just outside Jerusalem in the stone-quarry of Solomon. Here, He made atonement for our sins by paying the price for the transgressions of a lost humanity to God. Calvary will forever stand out as the expression of God’s condescending love and forgivingness, and as the only door to eternal life. There is no other name under the heaven given to us whereby we must be saved – only Jesus Christ and Him crucified (Acts 4:12).

Jesus was buried outside the gates of Jerusalem but rose from the dead three days later. Forty days after His resurrection Jesus ascended to heaven from the Mount of Olives. Just prior to His ascension He gave the Great Commission to His disciples. That ministry would only commence after something very important had happened in Jerusalem, which was the outpouring of the Holy Spirit (Luke 24:49; Acts 1:8). The day when that happened was the birthday of the church of Christ in Jerusalem.

Many people wrongly argue that the divine purpose of Jerusalem was terminated when the disciples moved out of the city to preach the gospel in the rest of the world. What about God’s decision that His name would forever dwell in Jerusalem? Was that decision rescinded when Israel rejected Jesus and crucified Him? Not at all! The long-term future of Jerusalem was always, and still is, securely fixed in the divine counsel and purposes of God. The Lord Jesus told the Jews that Jerusalem would be destroyed and its inhabitants scattered across the world until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled – i.e. until the end of the church dispensation (Matt. 23:37-39; Luke 21:20-24). After their international Diaspora and physical restoration they will also be spiritually revived (Rom. 11:25-26). Biblical Jerusalem (the Old City) was recaptured from Jordan in June 1967 and declared to be Israel’s capital city in August 1980. That event ushered in the last generation of this dispensation.

The last seven years of the last generation are described as the 70th year-week of Daniel (Dan. 9:24-27) when Israel will, to their virtual destruction, conclude a covenant with the false messiah (John. 5:43). They will revoke their covenant with him when he declares himself to be God in the rebuilt temple in Jerusalem after 3˝ years (2 Thess. 2:4). At the end of the tribulation period, when the true Messiah sets foot on the Mount of Olives during His Second Coming (Zech. 14:5), the remnant of Israel will look on Him whom they have pierced (Zech. 12:10) and be spiritually reconciled to Him (Zech. 13:1). They will reverently greet Him by exclaiming: “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!” (Matt. 23:39).

The Messiah will restore the throne of David in Jerusalem, thereby fulfilling a prophecy in Luke 1:32. The Messianic reign of peace will then commence with Jerusalem as capital of the world (Isa. 2:2-4; Jer. 3:17). That will introduce a time of great glory for Jerusalem and the redeemed Jewish nation (Zech. 8:22-23; Isa. 33:20-22; 52:1; 60:3,11-12,14,18; Jer. 31:31-34).

In view of the wonderful future of Jerusalem we must earnestly pray for this city (Ps. 122:6; Isa. 62:6-7). Fervent prayers are needed because the enemies of God, of Israel and of Christianity will do everything in their power to drive Israel from their land and also to fight the Messiah when He comes to Jerusalem. On that day, the Lord will enter into judgement with the wicked world powers that will be deployed in Israel under the leadership of the Antichrist (Zech. 14:2-3,12-13, Joel 3:1-2; Rev. 19:19-21). In their relentless efforts to make room for a Palestinian state, the nations are undermining the rights of Israel, while also disregarding the decrees of God, by trying to divide the land that God gave to Israel (Joel 3:2). In this way, a stronghold is created for Israel’s enemies in their midst, thereby violating the divine mandate which Israel holds on the land.

Attitudes towards Israel

There are widely diverging attitudes among the nations towards Israel. This is a very important matter, since the judgements of God have been pronounced upon the enemies of Israel and His blessings upon those who support and bless them (Gen. 12:3). If we wish to be blessed by God we must bless Israel. Do not rush to condemn them because they crucified Jesus – remember Gentiles participated! It was indeed a wicked act of unbelief, but it was part of God’s plan of salvation for Israel and the nations. If the atoning death of the Lord Jesus had not taken place, you and I could not have been reconciled to God, nor become Christians.

Because Israel has rejected and crucified the Messiah, salvation has come to the non-Jewish nations. In their fallen state, Israel is a source of great blessings to us (Rom. 11:11-12). God says that in their spiritually restored state, during the Messiah’s coming reign of peace, they will even be a greater blessing to the world (Zech. 8:23). Christians owe a debt of gratitude, recognition, blessing, intercession, and support to Israel. They must be provoked to jealousy by our worshipping and serving their God, Yahweh Elohim, through their Messiah, Yeshua! Witnessing of this kind has already given rise to a small but significant increase in the number of Messianic Jews. The future of Israel is in the hands of those Jews who accepted, confess and serve Jesus Christ (Yeshua Ha Mashiach).

Personal commitment

What a privilege to bless Israel and witness of the Messiah to them! The Lord has promised to restore Israel to their land (Jer. 31:10), to revive a remnant of them spiritually (Ezek. 36:25-27), to establish Jerusalem and to rule the world from this city (Jer. 3:17). While the wicked nations of the world, in their foolishness, conspire together to destroy Jerusalem (Ps. 83:2-4; Zech. 12:3), we commit ourselves to bless the city and its inhabitants by proclaiming the promises that the Messiah made about this nation and their capital city, Jerusalem (Isa. 62:6-7; Jer. 31:38; Matt. 23:39). The Messiah is the Holy One of Israel, and the Jews will have no rest, prosperity or peace until they are reconciled to Him – He is their only hope.

Questions

1.    Mention two biblical promises on the end-time restoration of Israel.

2.    Mention three important future events that will happen in Jerusalem.

3.    What should our attitude be towards the unsaved Jewish people?

4.    What does the Bible say about the nations that harm, persecute and fight Israel?

5.    Who gave Israel’s land to them, and when did that happen?