1. Calling, Dispersion, and Restoration

Three important events which occurred in the four thousand year history of Israel have been covered extensively in the Bible. They are the founding of Israel as a nation in their own land, their world‑wide dispersion because of their unbelief, and their end-time restoration with a view to the spiritual refinement and quickening of a remnant in Israel. Each of these important events occurs within the framework of a specific generation and represents major changes in their national existence.

A large part of the Bible deals with Israel because, in a special sense, they are the people of God. He called them and set them apart for His service, dispersed them among the nations because of their continued apostasy, and it is the same immutable covenant God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob who, in the end-time, restores Israel in the land of their fathers. There are important aspects of their calling and role in world history which are yet to be fulfilled, and for that reason a wonderful future is in store for them.

Calling and founding of the nation

The calling of Israel started with Abraham, who is the founding father of this nation. The Lord made the following unconditional promise to him and his descendants: “And the Lord said to Abram, after Lot had separated from him: Lift your eyes now and look from the place where you are – northward, southward, eastward, and westward; for all the land which you see I give to you and your descendants forever” (Gen. 13:14-15).

He then confirmed the promise to Isaac, “...to you and your descendants I give all these lands, and I will perform the oath which I swore to Abraham your father” (Gen. 26:3). To Jacob He said: “I am the Lord God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie I will give to you and your descendants” (Gen. 28:13).

However, the Lord also told Abraham that it would be many years before his descendants would possess their inheritance: “Know certainly that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, and will serve its people and be afflicted by them four hundred years. And also the nation whom they serve I will judge; afterwards they shall come out with great possessions” (Gen. 15:13-14).

Not only were the people of Israel unfaithful to the Lord at that time, but they also became the slaves of a heathen people. It was during that time of misery and distress that they remembered the Lord again and started to pour out their needs before Him day and night. Consequently, the Lord intervened in a mighty way to save them. The exodus from Egypt and the founding of the nation in the Promised Land should be viewed against this background.

As a symbol of God’s intervention and His people’s deliverance, every Jewish family had to slaughter an unblemished lamb and mark their doorposts with its blood. In this way, Israel had to learn the lesson that they could not, by their own means, obtain the inheritance God had promised to them. The sacrificial lamb was a type of the Messiah as the true Lamb of God who would, through His sacrifice, deliver His people from their spiritual slavery and enable them to inherit the kingdom of God (1 Pet. 1:18-19).

Life in the wilderness

After the people of Israel left Egypt, they spent forty years wandering in the wilderness before they finally entered the Promised Land. In that time the Lord once again had to teach His backslidden people how to live faithful and obedient lives. They were not ready to claim their inheritance, for the sins of their old life were still too deeply ingrained in them. God’s people had become so faithless that they even refused to turn to Him in their time of need. Instead of praying to Him, they longed for the affluence they had once known in Egypt. Idol worship was still so important to them, that they soon forgot the way in which God had saved them, and made a golden calf to worship.

Because of their apostatised hearts, they had to wander in the wilderness for 40 years before entering Canaan. Everybody who had been over 20 years old when they left Egypt, died during that time. There were only two exceptions: Joshua and Caleb, the two men who had not rebelled against God. We read in Numbers 32:13 (KJV): “And the Lord’s anger was kindled against Israel, and He made them wander in the wilderness forty years, until all the generation, that had done evil in the sight of the Lord, was consumed.”

During their time of wandering, the Lord used Moses to instruct and discipline Israel into understanding and accepting what it meant to be His chosen people and how they should walk in His ways of righteousness. Their relationship with Him would determine what kind of life they would have in the Promised Land. If they would follow and serve God, they would prosper – but should they again become unfaithful to Him by observing pagan religions, they would experience misery upon misery.

The Lord consistently made them aware of this choice which, ultimately, was a choice between blessing and curse, for He wanted them to live in a faithful and devoted relationship with Him. He wanted them to realise how serious the consequences would be, should they decide to desert Him. Additionally, He wanted them to appreciate the fact that He would not continue to be their keeper if they were to deliberately reject Him, for then He would chastise them.

Thorough training was given to Israel in the wilderness because it would directly affect their future lives in the Promised Land. Deuteronomy 28:1‑14 contains a list of spiritual and material blessings which Israel would receive if they lived in faithful obedience. They would be made to be the principal nation on earth (the head and not the tail) if they remained true to the Lord and refrained from entering into compromise with pagan nations.

In Deuteronomy 28:15‑68, we see what terrible curses would befall Israel should they forget the Lord and worship idols. Hunger, pestilence and natural disasters would plague them. They would not be safe anywhere and their enemies would conquer them. The vultures and predators would feast upon their slain on the battlefield, while the survivors would try to escape in fear to a place of safety. Ultimately, further warning is made of a great tragedy which would befall them:

“The Lord will bring a nation against you from afar, from the end of the earth, as swift as the eagle flies, ... a nation of fierce countenance, which does not respect the elderly nor show favour to the young. And they shall eat the increase of your livestock and the produce of your land, until you are destroyed. ... They shall besiege you at all your gates until your high and fortified walls, in which you trust, come down throughout all your land; and they shall besiege you at all your gates throughout all your land which the Lord your God has given you. You shall eat the fruit of your own body, the flesh of your sons and your daughters whom the Lord your God has given you, in the siege and desperate straits in which your enemy shall distress you” (Deut. 28:49-53).

Finally, Israel would be dispersed and live as exiles and strangers in all the countries on earth. During the Diaspora, spiritual decline and uncertainty would prevail among them. The hardships and suffering would serve as constant reminders of the blessings which they forfeited due to their disobedience to the Lord:

“Then the Lord will scatter you among all peoples, from one end of the earth to the other, and there you shall serve other gods, which neither you nor your fathers have known – wood and stone. 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. Your life shall hang in doubt before you; you shall fear day and night, and have no assurance of life” (Deut. 28:64-66).

The Lord often reiterated that, should the people of Israel continue to sin against Him, they would be scattered all over the earth, be persecuted and their country devastated. God said: “I will bring the land to desolation, and your enemies who dwell in it shall be astonished at it. I will scatter you among the nations and draw out a sword after you; your land shall be desolate and your cities waste” (Lev. 26:22-33).

The severity of the punishment Israel would receive should not be underestimated. Nevertheless, God’s unconditional promises to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob would never be jeopardised by any of these judgements. There would always be a faithful remnant of His people to ensure the fulfilment of His promises:

 “Yet for all that, when they are in the land of their enemies, I will not cast them away, nor shall I abhor them, to utterly destroy them and break My covenant with them; for I am the Lord their God. But for their sake I will remember the covenant of their ancestors, whom I brought out of the land of Egypt in the sight of the nations, that I might be their God: I am the Lord” (Lev. 26:44-45; cf. Jer. 31:20).

God Himself confirms that Israel will be restored and converted, even though it might seem impossible from a human point of view:

“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, 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, 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. 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. 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. And the Lord your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your descendants, to love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live. Also the Lord your God will put all these curses on your enemies and on those who hate you, who persecuted you. And you will again obey the voice of the Lord and do all His commandments which I command you today” (Deut. 30:1-8).

Crossing the Jordan

Israel were bound to the conditions God had set for them when they crossed the Jordan River 40 years after leaving Egypt, and entered the land which God had promised them. From a biblical point of view this land has since that time been known as Israel – not Palestine (cf. Ezek. 11:17).  Under the leadership of Joshua they conquered one city after another, and in those early years became a prosperous and victorious nation.

However, spiritual decline became the major characteristic of their history for the next 1 500 years until the Diaspora in AD 70. There were a number of important spiritual revivals during this period but these were few and normally only lasted for one generation. Following the death of a godly king or prophet the people soon returned to their idols and sin. No trial or affliction, not even the Babylonian exile, could bring about a permanent change in the nation’s spiritual life.

The prophets, who warned Israel of the consequences of their sins and tried to bring them closer to God, suffered severe trials and persecution. After the death of Malachi, the last prophet of the Old Testament, the people of Israel remained in spiritual darkness for four centuries. Because they persisted in their iniquities, God temporarily stopped speaking to them.

The birth of the Messiah, Yeshua Ha Mashiach (Jesus Christ), brought an end to God’s silence and to the spiritual darkness: “The people who sat in darkness saw a great light, and upon those who sat in the region and shadow of death light has dawned. From that time Jesus began to preach and to say, Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matt. 4:16-17).

International Dispersion (the Diaspora)

The Messiah was the Lamb sent by God to rescue His people from the bondage of sin. John the Baptist introduced Him to the nation as follows: “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29).

The coming of the Messiah (The Anointed One) would be the final test for Israel. If they responded to His message and turned to God, the curses He had warned them about through the prophetic ministry of Moses would not come into effect. If they continued in the iniquities of their forefathers, they would be dispersed to all the countries of the earth. The leaders of the nation chose to reject Jesus, as illustrated in the parable of the wicked husbandmen in Matthew 21:33-46.

The Jews certainly did not realise what the consequences of their choice would be when they forced Pilate to crucify Jesus. On that day Pilate washed his hands in front of the people and said: “I am innocent of the blood of this just Person. You see to it.” Then answered all the people, and said: “His blood be on us, and on our children” (Matt. 27:24-25).

In Matthew 23, Jesus spoke to the apostate religious leaders about the fact that they had rejected Him as well as the prophets sent before Him:

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! Because you build the tombs of the prophets and adorn the monuments of the righteous ... Fill up, then, the measure of your fathers’ guilt. Serpents, brood of vipers! How can you escape the condemnation of hell? Therefore, indeed, I send you prophets, wise men, and scribes: some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues and persecute from city to city, that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zachariah, son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar. Assuredly, I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation. O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing! See! Your house is left to you desolate” (Matt. 23:29-38).

The Lord Jesus explained that by rejecting Him, the Jews would “fill up the measure” of their forefathers’ iniquities, and that this would lead to the fulfilment of all the prophesied curses. Jerusalem and the nation of Israel would be cursed, as the prophets had warned. Because they rejected Jesus, their home (Jerusalem and the temple) would be destroyed: “Then Jesus went out and departed from the temple, and His disciples came to Him to show Him the buildings of the temple. And Jesus said to them: Do you not see all these things? Assuredly, I say to you, not one stone shall be left here upon another, that shall not be thrown down” (Matt. 24:1-2). Jesus was deeply moved by the knowledge of the traumatic fulfilment of the prophecies regarding Israel and Jerusalem:

“Now as He drew near, He saw the city and wept over it, saying: If you had known, even you, especially in this your day, the things that make for your peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. For the days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment around you, surround you and close you in on every side, and level you, and your children within you, to the ground; and they will not leave in you one stone upon another, because you did not know the time of your visitation” (Luke 19:41-44).

The Messiah warned those listening to Him that these things would happen in their lifetime: “Assuredly, I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation” (Matt. 23:36). They were the generation that rejected the Messiah, therefore the destruction of Jerusalem would occur during their lifetime, while the surviving Jews would go into international dispersion. Jesus said to His disciples:

“But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation is near. Then let those in Judea flee to the mountains, let those who are in the midst of her depart, and let not those who are in the country enter her. For these are the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled. But woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days! For there will be great distress in the land and wrath upon this people. And they will fall by the edge of the sword, and be led away captive into all nations. And Jerusalem will be trampled by Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled” (Luke 21:20-24).

The fall of Jerusalem

The prophecies of Jesus in Luke 21:20-24 regarding the fate of Jerusalem were literally fulfilled during the generation of His earthly ministry. The Jewish historian, Josephus (1963), as well as the early church father, Eusebius (1926; cf. Malan 1993), gave detailed accounts of the fear and anxiety that befell the Jews in that time. The years after Jesus’ ascension marked the beginning of a turbulent period of rebellion and lawlessness in the Middle East, as the Jews did not accept the Roman domination and refused to bow down before statues of the emperor. The violence eventually became uncontrollable and culminated in the killing of thousands of Jewish men, women and children during the dark and bloody decade of the sixties.

Cestius Gallus, the Roman governor of Syria, marched on Jerusalem in AD 66 with a large contingent of soldiers. The Messianic Jews remembered what Jesus had said about the fall of Jerusalem (Luke 21:20), and were waiting for an opportunity to flee the city. The siege was effective. Most of the inhabitants of Jerusalem were suffering from low morale and were considering a surrender to the enemy. At that moment Cestius, for some inexplicable reason, called off the siege. This unexpected turn of events raised the hopes of the Jews of gaining victory and saving their city. They promptly chased down their enemies and killed 5 300 of them. However, the Christians realised the seriousness of the situation and fled to Pella in Trans-Jordan while the other Jews were in pursuit of their enemies.

Nero, the Emperor in Rome, was furious about the humiliating defeat suffered by his forces. He sent Vespasian, one of his best generals, to teach the Jews a conclusive lesson. Vespasian and his son, Titus, commanded an army of 60 000 men. They conquered town after town in Galilee and Judea. Not only did they conquer the towns, they also slaughtered thousands of Jews and flattened every town to the ground. Many of the Jews escaped to Jerusalem. They believed that the city was so strongly fortified that it would never fall at the hands of its enemies. This idea was exactly the opposite of the expectation entertained by the Messianic Jews. They hurriedly left Jerusalem because they truly believed that the destruction of the city was imminent.

During the invasion of the Roman forces, a number of Jewish resistance groups took refuge in Jerusalem. The ensuing power struggle between them finally led to civil war. They even set fire to the city’s granaries to destroy the food supplies of opposition groups. In this way the people of Jerusalem turned on one another and weakened their own position. Jerusalem became its own enemy.

The Romans were delighted about the internal strife. They decided not to launch an immediate attack on the city, as that would have united the dissident groups against the Roman army. Vespasian became the new emperor and returned to Rome. His son, Titus, remained as sole commander of his armies in Palestine. In 70 AD he besieged the city for four and a half months before finally breaking through the walls and conquering the city. During this time 1.1 million people died, mostly of hunger. The situation became desperate and those who remained were so weakened that they could no longer bury the dead. Corpses were simply left in the streets to rot. The stench later became so overwhelming that the leaders of the rebel groups instructed their followers to throw the dead bodies into the ravines surrounding the city.

The sight of all the skeletal corpses in the valleys surrounding Jerusalem so shocked Titus that he called upon God to witness that he had not been responsible for the tragedy. According to Josephus (1963) 600 000 corpses were thrown in the ravines between 1 May and 20 July of AD 70. Amongst all the untold horrors of that time, are stories of starving mothers eating their own children to stay alive. Yes, Jerusalem truly was a city gripped by desperation and panic. This was all in literal fulfilment of the prophecies over an apostate Israel who had forgotten God and no longer honoured His Word:

Therefore, behold, days are coming, declares the Lord, when this place shall no more be called Topheth, or the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, but the Valley of Slaughter. And in this place I will make void the plans of Judah and Jerusalem, and will cause their people to fall by the sword before their enemies, and by the hand of those who seek their life. I will give their dead bodies for food to the birds of the air and to the beasts of the earth. And I will make this city a horror, a thing to be hissed at. Everyone who passes by it will be horrified and will hiss because of all its wounds. And I will make them eat the flesh of their sons and their daughters, and everyone shall eat the flesh of his neighbor in the siege and in the distress, with which their enemies and those who seek their life afflict them. ... Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, behold, I am bringing upon this city and upon all its towns all the disaster that I have pronounced against it, because they have stiffened their neck, refusing to hear my words" (Jer. 19:6-9, 15).

Those who managed to escape from the city were either killed by the Roman swords or crucified on the trees outside the city. Refugees not caught by the Romans were waylaid and murdered by Arab thugs who cut them open in their search for money – for by then everyone had heard the stories of desperate Jews selling everything they had and then swallowing the gold coins before escaping.

Yet, the resistance groups still refused to surrender. Consequently, the Romans set fire to all the buildings, including the temple, and then razed them to the ground. The western wall and three towers were the only remaining structures in the city, which were used as a shelter by a Roman garrison who stayed behind to ensure that the Jews did not try to rebuild Jerusalem. The temple was demolished right down to its rock foundations to seize the gold that melted in the fire and flowed through the cracks in the floor. Not one stone remained upon another! A group of priests who had held out on the temple wall for five days came down and begged Titus to spare their lives. He answered that the time for mercy had passed and that they had to perish with the temple. They were promptly executed.

Dispersion and further persecution

Jerusalem was destroyed and 97 000 of the survivors were taken captive. Many of them were sold as slaves. This was the beginning of the world‑wide dispersion of the Jews. Despite this shattering defeat, they once again tried to restore their country. Between 132 and 135 AD, a mere 60 years after the destruction of Jerusalem, they staged the Bar Kochba revolt against their Roman oppressors. 580 000 Jews were killed in this revolt that lasted for three and a half years. Practically all the remaining survivors were driven away. The Romans even pulled a ploughshare over Mount Zion and so fulfilled the prophecy of Micah. He said that Zion would be ploughed like a field because of the iniquities of the Jewish leaders. He further prophesied that Jerusalem would become rubble and the Temple Mount a forest (Mic. 3:9‑12).

After the revolt, the dispersed Jews lived in relative peace for many centuries in their various countries of refuge. Then a time of terror began that lasted for more than five centuries. It started with the Vatican’s first Holy War in 1096 which spread like wild fire through Germany, France, Spain and England. The Roman Catholic Church declared Judaism to be heresy, leading to the persecution and execution of many Jews. Helpless people suddenly found themselves surrounded by fanatical soldiers of the Inquisition. In their terror some parents even killed their children to save them from these murderous fanatics. Women and girls jumped into rivers with stones tied to their bodies to ensure that they would drown. The captives were murdered in the most savage ways after being forced to watch the destruction of their homes and the burning of their Holy Scriptures.

King Edward I of England persecuted the Jews, seized their property, and expelled the 16 000 remaining Jews from British territory. When an epidemic known as the Black Death swept through Europe between 1348 and 1350, the Jews were held responsible. It was alleged that they had poisoned the water supplies in Germany, thereby causing the disease. Furthermore, a malicious rumour was circulated which claimed that the Jews of Europe kidnapped and crucified Christian children during their annual Passover celebration. This, of course, aroused even stronger animosity which led to retaliations all over Europe. In Strasbourg, for example, the whole Jewish community was wiped out in a single horrific incident when all 2 000 of them were burned on a giant stake.

The persecutions in Spain were particularly violent. Spain became a living hell for any Jew who happened to be there at the time. The inquisition of Pope Gregory IX was intended to wipe out any existing form of Jewish ‘heresy’. The Jews were called marianos (cursed ones) and thousands upon thousands were burnt to death at the stake. The bodies of people who had died as ‘heretics’ were dug up and burned, and any property they had left behind was seized without further ado. One of the Jews at the time wrote: “The smoke of the stakes at which the martyrs are executed is blown heavenward all over Spain these days, and there is no end to it. One third of the cursed ones died in the flames, another third are homeless and trying to find somewhere to hide, and the remaining third live in fear of persecution.” In 1492, the Jews in Spain were ordered to leave the country within four months. Many of them died of hunger and other hardships after leaving behind their homes and belongings. Their biggest problem was finding a country where the inhabitants would allow them to stay. Most of them fled to Eastern Europe and Asia, where a considerable number settled in Russia. Small groups crossed the Mediterranean Sea and reached the coast of Africa.

In modern times we have witnessed the return of anti-Zionism to Europe. The Holocaust, in which six million Jews were killed during World War II, can be regarded as one of the most horrific incidents of genocide of all times. The Holocaust claimed almost six times more lives than was the case during the Roman destruction of Jerusalem.

Thousands of Jews were also persecuted and killed in the former Communist USSR. Still, this is not the end of the suffering for God’s chosen people. The worst is yet to come, for the Bible tells us that after the physical restoration of Israel there will be a great tribulation such as the world has never known before (Matt. 24:21-22). But, Israel will not be completely destroyed, as a remnant will be revived spiritually, and Israel will have a hopeful future through them in the land which God gave to their fathers. We already see the first signs of restoration but these are small compared to the wonders that will occur during the spiritual awakening of the entire nation.

The restoration of Israel

When Jesus said that Jerusalem would be destroyed and its people scattered, He also said that their dispersion would not last forever. Jerusalem would be trodden down by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled (Luke 21:24). The submission of Jerusalem was therefore to prevail for the duration of the present dispensation of the Gentiles, but it was never meant to be a permanent rejection.

During this dispensation members of all the nations, including the dispersed Jews, have the opportunity to enter into the kingdom of heaven by accepting the Messiah as their Saviour. At the end of this period Israel will be restored as a nation. Paul clearly refers to Israel’s spiritual restoration at the end of the church age after the harvest has been gathered among the Gentiles: “For I do not desire, brethren, that you should be ignorant of this mystery, lest you should be wise in your own opinion, that hardening in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written: The Deliverer will come out of Zion, and He will turn away ungodliness from Jacob” (Rom. 11:25-26).

The Messiah also used the preposition until or till to indicate that He would not permanently be rejected by the inhabitants of Jerusalem (the Jewish people). He said to the leaders of the nation: “For I say to you, you shall see Me no more till you say, Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!” (Matt. 23:39; cf. Ps. 118:26). After a long absence, Israel will welcome Yeshua in the name of the Lord, which is a sure indication that Israel is destined for a great spiritual awakening.

Prophecies on the restoration of Israel

There can be absolutely no doubt that the Lord will fully restore the Jewish people, their land, and their capital, Jerusalem:

“Behold, I will bring it health and healing; I will heal them and reveal to them the abundance of peace and truth. And I will cause the captives of Judah and the captives of Israel to return, and will rebuild those places as at first. I will cleanse them from all their iniquity by which they have sinned against Me, and I will pardon all their iniquities by which they have sinned and by which they have transgressed against Me. Then it shall be to Me a name of joy, a praise, and an honour before all the nations of the earth, who shall hear all the good that I do to them; they shall fear and tremble for all the goodness and all the prosperity that I provide for it” (Jer. 33:6-9).

The whole world will recognise it as the work of the Lord because He will change the hearts of His people. It is obvious that the spiritual cleansing of Israel will only occur after they have been gathered back into the land. They are gathered in unbelief but once they are in the land they will be spiritually revived:

“Therefore say to the house of Israel, Thus says the Lord God: ... I will take you from among the nations, gather you out of all countries, and bring you into your own land. Then will I sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep my judgements and do them. Then you shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers; you shall be My people, and I will be your God” (Ezek. 36:22‑28).

There are people who wrongly think (and also proclaim) that a revival in which the entire nation of Israel will be saved, will occur without any trials or tribulation. Many of these people strongly deny that Israel will be subjected to a great tribulation, and allege that prophecies to this effect were fulfilled during the Holocaust of Word War II. However, the Bible teaches that the Jewish people will be gathered into their land in unbelief, and that they will only be saved after experiencing severe affliction and distress. At that stage they will no longer be dispersed as they were during the Holocaust, but back in their land and their city, Jerusalem:

“Son of man, the house of Israel has become dross to Me; ... Therefore thus says the Lord God: Because you have all become dross, therefore behold, I will gather you into the midst of Jerusalem. As men gather silver, bronze, iron, lead, and tin into the midst of a furnace, to blow fire on it, to melt it; so will I gather you in My anger and in My fury, and I will leave you there, and melt you. ... [T]hen you shall know that I, the Lord, have poured out My fury on you” (Ezek. 22:18‑20).

In times of great distress Israel will seek the face of their Messiah. Hosea says the following regarding the first and second comings of the Messiah, as well as Israel’s final redemption (explanatory notes between brackets):

“For I [the Messiah] will be like a lion to Ephraim, and like a young lion to the house of Judah. I, even I, will tear them and go away [the ascension of Jesus after He has announced the destruction of Jerusalem and the international dispersion of the Jews]. ... I will return again to My place [heaven] till they [the people of Israel] acknowledge their offence. Then they will seek My face; in their affliction [in the great tribulation] they will earnestly seek Me. Come, and let us return to the Lord; for He has torn, but He will heal us; He has stricken, but He will bind us up. After two days [of one thousand years each – cf. 2 Pet. 3:8] He will revive us; on the third day [in the third millennium after His first coming] He will raise us up, that we may live in His sight” (Hos. 5:14 – 6:2).

From this Scripture it is obvious that Israel, as a people, will only seek the Lord “in their affliction”. Zechariah mentions the shocking death-toll of the coming great tribulation when a remnant in Israel will be saved: “And it shall come to pass in all the land, says the Lord that two-thirds in it shall be cut off and die, but one-third shall be left in it: I will bring the one-third through the fire, will refine them as silver is refined, and test them as gold is tested. They will call on My name, and I will answer them. I will say, This is My people; and each one will say, The Lord is my God” (Zech. 13:8-9).

The Lord Jesus says the following on this time of great distress when, after the Antichrist has declared himself to be God in the rebuilt temple in Jerusalem, he will try to annihilate Israel and all other people who refuse to worship him:

“Therefore when you see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place, ... then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. ... For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be. And if those days had not been shortened, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect’s sake those days will be shortened” (Matt. 24:15-16, 21-22).

A great tribulation is awaiting Israel, before a remnant of the nation will be saved to inherit the kingdom of the Messiah. Jeremiah also refers to this time when he says: “Alas! For that day is great, so that none is like it; and it is the time of Jacob’s trouble, but he shall be saved out of it” (Jer. 30:7).

During the coming time of tribulation under the false messiah an intense spiritual polarisation will occur in Israel. The leaders of Israel, as well as the majority of the nation, will accept the Antichrist as messiah. The true Messiah has warned them against this fatal error of judgement: “I have come in My Father’s name, and you do not receive Me; if another comes in his own name, him you will receive” (John 5:43). All deceived people everywhere will follow suit.

At the other end of the spectrum God will bring about a revival in Israel, from which 144 000 fearless witnesses for the Messiah will emerge. In the face of strong opposition, attacks and threats, they will proclaim that Yeshua is the true Messiah and Saviour of the world, and that the Antichrist with his false message of peace is the great deceiver. Tension between the followers of Christ and the Antichrist respectively, will run high and give rise to the active persecution of Messianic Jews and Christians among all nations. According to Daniel 9:27, 11:36 and 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4, in the middle of the tribulation, the Antichrist will enter the Most Holy of the rebuilt temple in Jerusalem and declare himself to be God. The spiritual battle will then adopt further and more intense proportions and take a turn for the worst.

The Jews who assumed that the Antichrist was the Messiah, will be utterly shocked and completely disillusioned when he declares himself to be God, abolishes the sacrificial service in the temple, erects an image of himself in the Most Holy, and demands the worship of all people. For the remaining 3˝ years of the tribulation period they will probably take refuge in Petra in the Negev desert, south of the Dead Sea in Jordan, where the Lord will sustain a remnant of Israel. But the world-wide persecution of Christians and Jews will continue. In Zechariah 12 and 14 we read that hatred of the Jews will motivate all nations to deploy forces against Jerusalem.

At the height of the battle of Armageddon the situation will become critical for survival among the fugitive remnant of Israel as they are surrounded by their enemies. They will say: “Our hope is lost, and we ourselves are cut off” (Ezek. 37:11). Nevertheless, they will move to the Mount of Olives in anticipation of the second coming of Yeshua, where the Messiah and His heavenly army will rescue them:

“And in that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives. ... And this shall be the plague with which the Lord will strike all the people who fought against Jerusalem: Their flesh shall dissolve while they stand on their feet, their eyes shall dissolve in their sockets, and their tongues shall dissolve in their mouths. It shall come to pass in that day that a great panic from the Lord will be among them. Everyone will seize the hand of his neighbour, and raise his hand against his neighbour’s hand” (Zech. 14:4, 12-13).

In the midst of great confusion these enemies will flee from the face of the Lord Jesus, and start killing one another. With exceeding joy the remnant of Israel will look up to their Saviour and King who had appeared on the scene so dramatically and at such an opportune moment. However, a great shock awaits them when they will see the wounds of the nails in His hands and feet. According to Zechariah 13:6, they will ask Him about the origin of these wounds, to which He will reply: “Those with which I was wounded in the house of My friends.” Under the guidance of the Holy Spirit they will experience bitter contrition for their sins, while calling to Him for forgiveness. These highly emotional moments are described as follows by Zechariah:

“And I will pour on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of grace and supplication; then they will look on Me whom they pierced. Yes, they will mourn for Him as one mourns for his only son, and grieve for Him as one grieves for a firstborn. In that day there shall be a great mourning in Jerusalem” (Zech. 12:10-11).

Because of their sincere repentance the Lord Jesus will forgive all the sins of the nation – that is the entire remnant of Israel that will have survived the great tribulation. To Israel it will indeed be a Day of Atonement as the whole nation will be spiritually awakened and saved on a single day. Following this, the nations will be judged and the long expected reign of the Messiah will begin with Jerusalem as capital of the world (Mic. 4:2-3).

Israel’s suffering as judgements of God

We cannot conclude this chapter without giving a biblical explanation for the extreme suffering of Israel – the great misery and loss of life during the siege and destruction of Jerusalem in the first century, the persecution of Jews among the Gentiles throughout the centuries, in particular the indescribable slaughtering of six million Jews during World war II, as well as the greatest suffering of all time that awaits them during the coming great tribulation. The question regarding the real cause of the Holocaust is very sincerely given by a Messianic Jew, Arthur Katz (1998) in his book, The Holocaust: Where was God? An Inquiry into the Biblical Roots of Tragedy. Excerpts from his book are offered with the kind permission of Art Katz Ministries (www.artkatzministries.org):

“The misappropriation of the sufferings of Messiah as being our own is inevitable for a Jewry that refuses a consideration of Him and is yet required to find explanation for our own historical sufferings. If we reject Messiah as the fulfilment of Isaiah chapters 52:13–53:12, who ‘was so marred more than any man,’ and then substitute Israel in His place, we are then brought to an inevitable place of collision. This ultimate logic of rejection forces us not only to be opposed to the Messiah if He were to come, but of necessity to envy His place – to be as the Messiah, to be ourselves the Suffering Servant, to be deified, to be the Messianic hope, and to be the civilization that is the answer for all” (p. 30).

“Why do men prefer some kind of a religious form that is not the knowledge of God in truth? Why is there this instinctive and deep aversion of the knowledge of God and a preference for a religious substitute? It is, I believe, because religion is that human amalgam of practice and thought that gives men the form of something in which they can engage themselves to their own satisfaction and, at the same time, shields them from the obligation that the true knowledge of God brings. Why do we not rush to the knowledge of God in truth if it is available? Why do we prefer Judaism, or Catholicism, or Protestantism, or even an occult alternative, to the knowledge of God in truth? Is it because the true knowledge of God brings requirement? To know God in truth is to know the requirement of God in truth – and that is not convenient for man. That is a profound reason why God is circumvented, and why we prefer a god of our own choosing who does not make demands. Even the Living God can be lost to us if we seek ‘convenience’ rather than the truth, as even contemporary Christianity testifies. What had happened to our God-given, biblical faith by the time the One who came as Messiah-King two millennia ago? It had become a hardened system, and His very presence threatened its perpetuation (see John 11:47-50!). If the system was to continue, then He, of necessity, had to perish, rather than be allowed to live to threaten it. We defended our calcified religious system unto death. We sought to keep it alive and perpetuate it rather than allow it to come to that end and new beginning for which Israel’s very God was calling. This is the tragic re-enactment of self-perpetuating ‘religion’ through all generations” (p. 39).

“In refusing to rightly interpret the Holocaust of God in the crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth as the judgement for all sin, we, by that refusal, set in motion the very circumstance which made our own Holocaust inevitable. By refusing to interpret our catastrophes rightly (catastrophes that we set in motion), we make ourselves subject to the next. Such is the tragic continuum until the end” (p. 40-41).

“We suffered at the hands of the very nation we had esteemed. We lacked the understanding of the inherent depravity of all human nature. Therefore, we could not anticipate the evil that man could do – inhuman, if not bestial things, done to us by the very people who were the projection of our own concept of man in his exalted state. We had projected onto the German civilization our own lofty and idealistic view of ourselves – a view, I suspect, despite the tragedy of the recent past, we still essentially hold! We are a people given to a self-exaltation and self-congratulation in our own self-assessment. It pervades our religious services and our cultural life. So impressive are we in our own sight that we are blinded to that corruption inherent in the very nature of man as man, a corruption that is deeper than the issue of German civilization itself. That is to say, what we are as men in ourselves is yet to be recognized. We have not yet learned the lesson” (p. 46).

“God has a controversy with us concerning our alienation from Him. We have been unwilling to face the meaning of our own history, and to consider the horror that was the result of that alienation. The unhappy fact is that the interpreting of catastrophe as the consequence of (and judgement for) sin is totally incompatible with contemporary Jewish self-assessment. It is outside our consciousness and consideration. We have a sense rather of our own innate self-righteousness and goodness” (p. 78).

“Catastrophe, as judgement fulfilled, is God’s penultimate provision to bring unto repentance those who would otherwise have no consciousness of that need. The failure to interpret catastrophe in that way, and the failure to see the hand of God in our judgements, must necessarily result in our seeking to place the blame on men. We will find the fault as being with the Germans and Hitler. This is not to say that they were blameless, but we are stopping short of seeing the greater truth. In the last analysis, those who blame men end up blaming God. If we will not see ourselves as the factor for the judgements that have come, then we will inevitably come to the place where God Himself becomes ultimately the evil one. God is judged and found wanting. If man will not accept himself as being the root cause of his own judgements, ironically, God is the one who ends up being condemned for inherent defect in His creation seeing that He was apparently ‘unable’ to intervene in preserving Jewry from calamity. We have a much greater facility to find fault with God than with ourselves. That in itself sums up how lamentable our condition is. … How important, then, to rightly interpret our tragic past. We would be fools not to receive the benefit of that past and to anticipate what is to come again if its root causes are not recognized and dealt with repentantly. If our judgements are in direct proportion to our sins and the magnitude of our judgements indicate the magnitude of our sin, then we need to be awakened to something of which we are not personally and subjectively aware. It is for the lack of this consciousness that God gives us calamity in order to evoke the questions that we ourselves would never have thought to ask. On the contrary, so smugly satisfied are we with our condition that we think we represent the standard to which the whole world would do well to aspire. We would do better to understand our condition, not in the light of our own subjective fancy, but in the light of the scriptural judgements that we are catastrophically required to experience. … [God] stretches Himself and extends His mercy, and He sends His messengers, which messengers we have historically rejected. In our resiliency, we somehow find a way to recover from our calamities ... finding a way to remove the onus of its true meaning as judgement, not seeing it in terms of our national sin” (p. 79-81).

“It is remarkable how much the interpretation of the Holocaust, as being the judgement of God, radically explains God as God, and brings with it a fear of God as Judge. This fear of God is painfully lacking in our modern consciousness. We have grown up without the sense of the awe of God and the fear of Him. This is one fruit of the unanswered questions raised by the Holocaust that we have chosen not to ask” (p. 7-8).

“We do not have a perspective of God as Judge. Consequently, we have paid a high price for the loss of the understanding of God, both in judgement and in mercy, in severity and in goodness. God’s dealings with Israel (past, present and future) are absent from our consideration or awareness, and we have therefore voided the most profound revelations of God given us in Scripture … There is something about God in judgement that reveals God as He is not to be seen in any other way. Yet, it is the one aspect of the attributes of God from which we instinctively shrink. We cannot reconcile the God who is mercy and love, just and righteous, with a God who would be the Judge to bring affliction of this magnitude on mankind – and particularly on Jewish mankind. If our God does such things, then the most distasteful, the most painful, and the thing most calculated to destroy our own religiosity, becomes the most precious and true revelation of God. Is it not in this contradiction, if we would see it through, that the deepest revelation of God is to be found?” (p. 9).

“Could it be that we cannot understand the Holocaust from God’s perspective unless we bring eternity into view? Only eternal consideration makes the calamity of the Holocaust in any way intelligible. … It is only in the hope of averting another fire, one that is inextinguishable and eternal, that makes this fire, in any way, comprehensible. If the one will teach us and save us from the other, then it makes supreme eternal sense. … To omit eternity from our consideration is to disfigure reality itself” (p. 9-10).

“I once had the privilege of meeting the distinguished author, Elie Wiesel, a Romanian Jew and famed winner of a Nobel Prize. He himself is a survivor of the Holocaust, and is probably one of the greatest spokesmen on the subject of the Holocaust. … At the conclusion of his public address, I asked him privately: ‘Mr. Wiesel, to what degree would you be willing to acknowledge that the sufferings that we have experienced as Jews, in all of the calamities of our history and especially the Holocaust, are the fulfilment of God’s judgements forewarned prophetically in the concluding chapters of the books of Leviticus and Deuteronomy?’ He looked at me for a moment in a kind of shocked silence and then answered: ‘I refuse to consider that.’ Has that statement been echoing and reverberating up in the heavenlies ever since? Is it not in effect a summation of man’s very self-exaltation over God? It begins significantly with the word ‘I.’ In this instance, it is not so much the matter of whether what is being stated is right or wrong, but that there is something higher than God’s Word – the ‘I’ who can approve or refuse it! Is it human arrogance exalting its opinion, its thought and its will above God Himself? To refuse to consider the Word of God is to exalt ourselves above the Word of God and, by implication, denounce the Word and effectually reject it. Is this not in effect what we have done historically to the prophets sent to us?” (p. 11-12).

“We have a greater obligation than the Gentiles do because we are the ‘people of the covenant.’ We are the ‘chosen ones’ and have had the advantage of the revelation of God, of the Law given at Sinai, and of everything else that came to us first as His witness people. Upon us, therefore, comes the greater judgement. In what way are we Jews of today any different from the Jews upon whom God’s judgements fell historically? The mere passage of time has altered nothing. To say, therefore, that present-day Jews do not deserve judgement is to presumptuously declare that the earlier, historical judgements were equally undeserved and invalid. To annul the validity and justice of those judgements is to, in effect, annul God. The God of wrath, fury, and judgement then, is yet God now. He will again express His wrath in fury and judgement before the age ends, and for the same reasons for which they came before. That is why He is calling us to repent now of our independent self-will, notions and opinions, and surrender before the Holy One of Israel while we can. His mercy is to call us to repentance before the fulfilment of what is apocalyptically prophesied in His word (see Isaiah 13:6; 65:6-7; Jeremiah 30; Daniel 12:1; Joel 2; Amos 8:8-10; Zephaniah 1:12; Zechariah 14:1-5)” (p. 88).

“I have a sense that these things are impending and near, and that the only thing that restrains them is the hand of God. Is not everything positionally in place and could explode in a moment? The weight of our Jewish unbelief and unrelatedness to God must bring us down. When He takes His hand away, then we will slip, slide, and fall into destruction and devastation in a moment. We are already under the sentence of condemnation until that condemnation is lifted by the receiving of that One whom God sent to bear it, namely, the Messiah of Israel – Jesus of Nazareth. In the continuing rejection of God’s gift, all Israel stands under this sword of judgement, hovering over our heads, waiting for the moment when God simply takes His hand of restraint away. I would rather be proven false, but I believe that this present generation of Jews is going to suffer devastation on a world scale that will eclipse the Nazi era” (p. 89).

“We are going to be viciously hated and pursued, suddenly uprooted, losing everything in a day, having to flee with only what is on our back and in panic not knowing where we are going. … We are going to suffer double for our sins but our God has said, ‘I will restore.’ How urgent, then, to believe that the God who promises judgement and fulfils it is also the same God who promises restoration and will also fulfil it. … Not to believe God’s judgement as the fulfilment of His Word now is to nullify all hope of believing for His future intervention then. This is the scenario for the last days, namely, the restoration of Israel by the unmitigated grace and mercy of God – so totally undeserved. We Jews are the epitome of what man is. We are the statement, in our humanity, that should forewarn men everywhere. God has chosen to use us as the witness people to demonstrate Himself, if not by our virtue, then by our vice” (p. 90).

“The nations are unconsciously waiting for our restoration to God, for we have a theocratic destiny as a ‘kingdom of priests’ (Exodus 19:6) and ‘a light to the Gentiles’ (Isaiah 42:6). … God is waiting for us to own the death of our Messiah, and, by that acknowledgement, set in motion our salvation. But if we plead exemption in any measure, then we are lost without hope. The power of our deception needs to be broken, as well as our self-justification that opposes God, so entirely summed up in our continuing rejection of Jesus of Nazareth. This same God is going to give us a historical opportunity to recognize our pathetic and dismal failure. Those who survive the tribulation shall never again fail, because God will give us a new heart” (p. 92; end of quotations from the book by Art Katz).

In the light of what Art Katz rightfully said, every Christian is committed to present to Jews the biblical way for the restoration of Israel. Were they not to be warned against the coming false messiah and the great tribulation, how would they ever be able to correctly assess the situation and take the right decisions during that time? It would be of no avail to merely offer humanitarian assistance to a people who still persist in rejecting the Messiah. Without Him they cannot be saved and share in the blessings of the Lord to themselves, their land and their nation.

It is obvious that, in Israel, as in all other nations of the world, there will be increased divergence and conflict in the end-time between the unbelieving majority and the believing minority. The Bible refers to the latter as the “remnant” in Israel, and in practice they are known as Messianic Jews. Although they are a small minority who will suddenly disappear when the Heavenly Bridegroom takes them away (Matt. 25:1-13; John 14:2-3), a revival will occur shortly after the rapture and the revelation of the Antichrist in which 144 000 Jews will powerfully be saved (Rev. 7:1-8). They will also convince many of their fellow Jews to reject the false messiah, and to accept and serve the true Messiah. But the Messianic Jews will still be a minority, since the majority will conclude a covenant with the false messiah and rebuild the temple in Jerusalem (John 5:43; Dan. 9:27).

The whole remnant in Israel will be saved during the public coming of the Messiah at the end of the great tribulation. Israel will inherit the Messianic kingdom on earth only once they are a believing nation who serve the Lord wholeheartedly. However, a very difficult road lies ahead for this nation before the remnant will reach this wonderful destination.