Abstract: The Bible offers extensive and clear teachings on the calling, dispersion and end-time restoration of Israel.
Scripture quotations are from the King James Version of the Holy Bible except where otherwise indicated. Only very archaic terms have been substituted, between brackets, with correlating terms from the New King James Version (NKJV). All pronouns referring to the Godhead are capitalised. Edited by Bernard and Kathleen Reeves of London.
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 will restore Israel to the land of their fathers in the end-time (Ezek. 36:24-28).
The calling of Israel started with Abraham, who is the progenitor of Israel. God said to him: “Lift up now thine eyes, and look from the place where thou art northward, and southward, and eastward, and westward: for all the land which thou seest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed forever” (Gen. 13:14-15).
This 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). Then they earnestly called on the Lord to deliver them from their bondage and misery.
After the sacrificial lamb was slaughtered and the first Passover celebrated, God led His people with a mighty arm out of Egypt. Through these events Israel learnt the lesson that they could not take possession of God’s promises in their own strength. The sacrificial lamb also pointed to the Messiah as the true Lamb of God. By His sacrifice and the shedding of His blood He would redeem people from their spiritual bondage and lead them into the kingdom of God.
Israel had to discover the principle that they were first to become a people of God who observe His laws and statutes before they could live in the land that He promised to them. They were called to be a separated and dedicated people through whom God could reveal Himself to the world. Their calling to Canaan, therefore, also included a spiritual calling.
The Lord set a 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 warnings to Israel explicitly included the possibility of a long international dispersion, should they continue with their disobedience and rebellion against God: “And the LORD shall scatter thee among all people, from the one end of the earth even unto the other” (Deut. 28:64). “And I will scatter you among the heathen, and will draw out a sword after you: and your land shall be desolate, and your cities waste” (Lev. 26:33).
The Babylonian captivity of Israel, which was confined to one area, was obviously not the international diaspora to all nations. The latter diaspora only occurred in the first century AD, and was finally announced by Jesus after He was rejected as Messiah by Israel. Prior to and in His prophetic discourse (Mt. 23 and 24) He told the apostate religious leaders that they were filling up the measure of their fathers’ sins, and that Jerusalem would be destroyed as a result. In Luke 21 He indicated that the dispersion of Israel would continue for a long period during the times of the Gentiles: “And when ye shall see Jerusalem compassed with armies, then know that the desolation thereof is nigh… For these be the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled… For there shall be great distress in the land, and wrath upon this people. And they shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led away captive into all nations: and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled” (Lk. 21:20-24).
After a century under the Roman yoke, the siege and destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in AD 70 was the start of the long international dispersion of Israel that still continues, despite one third of Jews returning to their land in the 20th century. At some time during those 19 centuries there have been Jewish exiles in all countries of the world.
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. God Himself was, and still is, the guarantor of the Abrahamic (Gen. 15:18), Canaanitic (Num. 33:51–34:15) and Davidic (2 Sam. 7:12-16; Ps. 89:3-4, 34-37) covenants that ensure the eternal allocation of the land as well as the permanence of David’s throne. Israel’s exile from the land because of disobedience cannot invalidate these covenants. Even if Israel is unfaithful, God remains a faithful covenant-keeping God who will again restore the nation to their land.
A solemn assurance to this effect was given long before the Babylonian captivity and the international diaspora: “And yet for all that, when they are in the land of their enemies, I will not cast them away, neither will I abhor them, to destroy them utterly, and to break My covenant with them: for I am the LORD their God. But I will for their sakes remember the covenant of their ancestors, whom I brought forth out of the land of Egypt in the sight of the heathen, that I might be their God: I am the LORD” (Lev. 26:44-45).
The partial gathering of Israel from their international exile is a physical restoration to the land of their fathers, but the final objective of this process is their spiritual revival from the apostate condition into which they have lapsed: “Therefore say unto the house of Israel, Thus saith the Lord GOD… I will take you from among the heathen, and gather you out of all countries, and will bring you into your own land. Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you. A new heart also will I give you… and I will put My Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in My statutes, and ye shall keep My judgements, and do them. And ye shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers; and ye shall be My people, and I will be your God” (Ezek. 36:22-28).
A spiritual cleansing must occur after Israel has been restored to their land. It will coincide with great distress and tribulation. God says that He will refine the remnant of Israel in the fire of His wrath (Zech. 13:9). Jeremiah also refers to this time when he says: “Alas! For that day is great, so that none is like it: It is even the time of Jacob’s trouble; but he shall be saved out of it” (Jer. 30: 7).
This time of trouble is the coming great tribulation when Israel will call on God for mercy and help: “In their affliction they will seek Me early”, says the Lord (Hos. 5:15).
The restoration of Israel occurs progressively: they are first physically and politically restored as a nation, but in the same spiritually blinded state that prevailed during their dispersion. Back in the land, God will allow a great tribulation upon them from which a remnant will be saved (Rom. 9:27).
The status of the city of Jerusalem is a very significant indication of the progressive physical restoration of Israel, and of the end of the times of the Gentiles. In Luke 21:24 the Lord Jesus said that Jerusalem would be trodden down by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled. The end-time restoration of Jerusalem is therefore an important parameter for the revival of the Jewish nation, while it also indicates the end of the church dispensation. It is not a sudden and quickly passing sign which leaves one no time to react to it, but a gradual process. The various phases of this process can be distinguished as follows:
· In 1948, with the declaration of Israel as an independent Jewish state, the Jews only controlled the new, western part of Jerusalem. The Old City and the Temple Mount were at that time still under Jordanian control.
· In 1967, in the Six Day War, Israel gained control over the whole of Jerusalem, and also over the West Bank, the Golan Heights and other areas. At that stage, Jerusalem was physically restored and its Jewish population entered a phase of rapid increase.
· In 1980, Jerusalem was declared the eternal, undivided capital of Israel, and Prime Minister Begin moved his office from Tel Aviv to Yerushalayim, the city of destiny. During the next two years, all his cabinet members were relocated. At that stage, the constitutional restoration of the city was complete. Its physical and political trampling was now over.
· After 1980, the spiritual trampling of Jerusalem still continued. Three Muslim mosques are on the Temple Mount, and this area is still under the control of an Islamic committee, the Wakf. According to Old Testament prophecies, the orthodox faith of Israel will strongly revive and the temple will also be rebuilt. This process will coincide with the continued rejection of Jesus as the true Messiah of Israel.
The rebuilt temple will be desecrated by the false messiah (Antichrist). When Israel revoke their covenant with him, they will be driven out of the city. It will only be at the coming of the true Messiah to the Mount of Olives, that Jerusalem and the remnant of Israel will be spiritually restored. Several important events will occur before this time, most of which will be part of the coming tribulation period.
The feasts of Israel
The seven major feasts which are described in Leviticus 23, typify God’s plan of salvation for Israel and the nations. The divine origin of the feasts are clearly stated by God who said that “these are My feasts” (Lev. 23:2). They are all Messianic feasts which find their final fulfilment in Jesus Christ (Col. 2:16-17). At the same time, the feasts reflect the chronological order of events in the divine plan of salvation, from the crucifixion to the coming of the kingdom:
The institution of the Passover during the exodus from Egypt coincided with the sacrificing of a lamb. The fulfilment of this feast was the crucifixion of the spotless Lamb of God during the celebration of the Passover. Here, at the cross, is the starting point of God’s plan of salvation for Israel and the nations. Peter said: “…forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things… but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot” (1 Pet. 1:18-19; see also Jn. 1:29).
The feast of the unleavened bread
The evening after the Passover is the beginning of the feast of the unleavened bread (Lev. 23:6). During this feast the people of Israel are only allowed to eat unleavened bread. They must also remove all leaven from their houses. The spiritual significance of the feast is that of self-examination and the cleansing of one’s life.
This feast was fulfilled during the burial of Jesus. He is the corn of wheat that fell in the ground and died, and to us became the unleavened (sinless) bread of life. We should also examine ourselves after the Passover and abandon all forms of the leaven of sin. This rule should be applied rigidly as a single sin can contaminate one’s whole life: “Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump? Purge out therefore the old leaven… for even Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us. Therefore let us keep the feast, not with… the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth” (1 Cor. 5:6-8).
The feast of the firstfruits
On a Sunday morning, the day after the Sabbath (Lev. 23: 11), the sheaf of the firstfruits of the new harvest season was brought as a wave-offering before the Lord in the temple. It had the momentous significance of making the people acceptable to God. This feast was fulfilled during the resurrection of Jesus on the Sunday morning after His crucifixion. He became the firstfruits of those that slept (1 Cor. 15:20-23). Through His death and resurrection He made all those people who believe in Him acceptable to God.
The feast of Pentecost
The 50th day after the wave-offering was the last day of the feast of firstfruits, i.e. the feast of Pentecost. It was also celebrated on the day after the Sabbath (Lev. 23:16). In the New Testament this feast was fulfilled on a Sunday morning when the orthodox Jews were busy with their Old Testament celebration (Acts 2). Pentecost means the fiftieth day. The 50 days that elapsed between the two traditional feasts account for the 40 days between the resurrection and ascension of Jesus, and the 10 days in which the disciples waited on the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in the upper room.
The four feasts mentioned above, were all fulfilled during the events of the crucifixion, burial and resurrection of Jesus, as well as the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. The last three feasts, which are always celebrated at the end of the harvest season in Israel, will be fulfilled at the end of the ingathering of God’s harvest on earth. Between the two groups of feasts there are four months in which the harvest is to be gathered (Jn. 4:35). We are at present labourers in the fields of God. When the harvest of souls has been gathered, a trumpet will sound…
The feast of trumpets
This feast, which is celebrated on the first day of the seventh month on Israel’s religious calendar, coincides with the New Year’s day (Rosh Hashanah) on their secular calendar. It is celebrated for two days, and is followed by the seven awful days in which devout Jews everywhere humble themselves, confess their sins, and seek to restore their broken relationships with God and man.
This feast will be fulfilled when the trumpet of God shall sound to gather the harvest of saved souls in the heavenly barn (1 Thes. 4:16-17). Then the seven awful years will elapse on earth, when Israel and all people who remain behind will have a last chance to confess their sins and restore their broken relationship with God by giving allegiance to the true Messiah, Jesus Christ.
The Day of Atonement
The sacrifice of the Lamb of God during Passover opened the door for reconciliation to God for all people. However, Israel’s national day of reconciliation with God through the atonement of Jesus on the cross, will only occur at the end of the great tribulation when He will appear on the Mount of Olives at His Second Coming (Zech. 3:9, 12:10, 13:1, 14:4-5). The remnant of Israel will then all be saved in one day, which to them will be a fulfilled Day of Atonement.
The feast of tabernacles
This feast is celebrated in Israel at harvest-time, taking this annual opportunity to recall their exodus from Egypt when they lived in tabernacles in the wilderness (Lev. 23:43) and to give renewed thanks to God for leading them to the Promised Land. It will also be celebrated in the Millennium when people of all nations will participate (Ezek. 14:16,17).
During the final harvest feast in heaven there will also be great rejoicing because the Lord has redeemed us from the spiritual bondage of sin and brought us out of darkness into His kingdom of light. We will reflect on the difficult days when we were pilgrims and strangers on earth, and give renewed glory and praise to the Lord for His great work of salvation accomplished for us.
To the orthodox Jews who refuse to accept Jesus as the promised Messiah, the feasts are restricted to their Old Testament significance and their secular value. They are mere shadows without their rich Messianic substance.
Rejection of the Triune God
To have the right biblical perspective on the great tragedy of Israel’s long diaspora, it must be understood against the background of the continuing apostasy and profound spiritual deadness of this nation. With the exception of a few God-fearing men and women, Israel has for many years turned its back upon God. They have been hiding behind a high wall of sin, agnosticism, and a lifeless form of orthodox worship in which there is no room for the Messiah, Yeshua.
It is evident that Israel rejected the Triune God in three stages. First, they rejected the Father, then the Son, and finally the Holy Spirit. In the parable of the tenants (Mt. 21: 33-43) Jesus indicated to the Jewish leaders that they were the tenants who, up to that point, rejected the Husbandman (God) in two stages: first they rejected his servants, and then they also rejected and killed His Son.
Rejection of the Father
Israel is the nation that was called and set apart by God. According to the parable they were to Him like a vineyard. He planted it, hedged it around and also built a tower. Israel was well cultivated and guarded, and had every opportunity to bear much fruit. In the persons of Moses and the prophets, God sent His servants to them to act as spiritual leaders so that His purpose with them could be achieved.
Under the provocation of evil kings and false prophets the nation rejected, ill-treated and killed God’s servants (the true prophets). In the time of Jesus this spirit of rebellion against God had for centuries been strongly established. Jesus warned them that God would soon hold the wicked tenants accountable for having killed His servants: “Wherefore, behold, I send unto you prophets, and wise men, and scribes: and some of them ye shall kill and crucify, and some of them shall ye scourge in your synagogues, and persecute them from city to city: that upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of Zacharias son of Barachias, whom ye slew between the temple and the altar. Verily I say unto you, All these things shall come upon this generation” (Mt. 23:34-36).
Before Messiah, the last prophet that God sent to gather a spiritual harvest among His people was John the Baptist. However, the leaders of the nation also rejected him and did not protest when Herod killed him. Jesus strongly denounced them for not having accepted and believed this great prophet (Mt. 21:25). But they also turned their backs on John the Baptist and approved of his wicked murder.
Rejection of the Son
Jesus is the Son who was, in the fullness of time, sent to Israel as Messiah to lead them as a flock into the kingdom of God. The leaders were even more hostile towards Him: “But when the husbandmen saw the son, they said among themselves, This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and let us seize on his inheritance” (Mt. 21:38).
That is exactly what happened to Jesus: “Then assembled together the chief priests, and the scribes, and the elders of the people, unto the palace of the high priest who was called Caiaphas, and consulted that they might take Jesus by [guile] and kill Him” (Mt. 26:3-4).
Through this treacherous act the leaders of Israel also rejected the second person in the Godhead, the Son. In this way they explicitly sided with their rebellious fathers who rejected the Father by killing His prophets: “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest those who are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not! Behold, your house is left unto you desolate. For I say unto you, Ye shall not see Me henceforth, till ye shall say, Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord” (Mt. 23:37-39; emphasis added).
The salute of acceptance (“Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord” – Ps. 118:26), will only be uttered by the leaders of Israel on the day when Jesus sets foot on the Mount of Olives after the dark days of the great tribulation. Despite His historical and present rejection, the true Messiah will be wholeheartedly accepted by a remnant of the Jewish nation after they have suffered the many afflictions known as “the time of Jacob’s trouble” (Jer. 30:7). But for the present, their rebellion continues.
Because of the rejection and killing of His Son, God severely punished the leaders of Israel and their misguided followers. Jesus knew that they had sealed their own fate, but He nevertheless took great pity on Jerusalem and its spiritually blinded inhabitants: “And when He came near, He beheld the city, and wept over it, saying, If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace! But now they are hid from thine eyes. For the days shall come upon thee, that thine enemies shall cast a trench about thee, and compass thee round, and keep thee in on every side, and shall lay thee even with the ground, and thy children within thee; and they shall not leave in thee one stone upon another; because thou knewest not the time of thy visitation” (Lk. 19:41-44).
Rejection of the Holy Spirit
In His patience and mercy, the Father was prepared to overlook the times of ignorance, and, after the crucifixion of His Son, to give Israel another opportunity to accept Jesus as their Messiah and thus enter into His kingdom. This opportunity was offered to them during the ministry of the Holy Spirit in the early Christian church in Jerusalem. The final act of rejecting the renewed offer was the stoning of Stephen, who was the first martyr of the Church of the Messiah among the Jewish people.
In a long speech, Stephen reminded the leaders of the sins and rebellion of their forefathers (Acts 6:8–7:60). He likened those who killed the prophets to the leaders of his time who killed the Messiah, and also accused them of resisting and rejecting the Holy Spirit: “Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye. Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they have slain those who [foretold] the coming of the Just One; of whom ye have now been the betrayers and murderers” (Acts 7:51-52; emphasis added).
Stephen put the nation in the dock, accused them of repeated rebellion against God, found them guilty, and condemned them to God’s rejection, punishment and extradition from their land. In principle he put the seal on the destruction of Jerusalem and the dispersion of the nation that started in 70 AD. The impending tragedy had, by Israel’s own doing, become unavoidable.
The prophetic significance of the three critical murders committed by Israel are discussed by Warren B. Wiersbe in The Bible Exposition Commentary (Vol. 1, 1989:433). He also confirms that the death of Stephen meant judgement upon Israel. It was their third murder directly related to rejecting the Triune God. They allowed the murder of John the Baptist who was sent by the Father; they asked that Jesus as the Son of God be crucified; while they killed Stephen themselves, thereby rejecting the Holy Spirit who spoke to them through the apostles and the early church.
As a result of these events, the commission to be the representatives and witnesses of God in the world, was taken away from Israel and given to the rejected disciples. From their ministries and missionary endeavours the church of Christ emerged among all nations.
Despite all these grave errors and misjudgements, the spiritual restoration of Israel as a nation will definitely occur. In a new outpouring of the Holy Spirit they will realise and confess their sins of rejecting God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit: “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 have pierced…” (Zech. 12:10 NKJV). “…they shall call on My name, and I will hear them: I will say, It is My people: and they shall say, The Lord is my God [Yahweh is my Elohim]” (Zech. 13:9).
Under the strong conviction of the Holy Spirit Israel will be reconciled to God through the Messiah! This faithful remnant will inherit the promises of the millennial kingdom.
Although Israel is alienated from God because they rejected the Messiah, many Jews have a great zeal for God but without understanding. In their stereotyped, blinkered way the orthodox Jews continue to observe certain laws in the belief that they will thereby ensure the benevolence of God towards them. It is a source of tremendous grief to them that there is no temple where they can bring sacrifices to God.
An ideal that lives in the hearts of many Israelis is the rebuilding of the temple in Jerusalem. After their restoration and regaining control over the Old City this ideal has come much closer to realisation. However, one of the major problems is the high profile of Islam on the Temple Mount where three of their mosques have been built – one of which is the famous Dome of the Rock. To them, it is the third holiest place on earth after Mecca and Medina.
In the early 1960’s, Islam renovated the Dome of the Rock at great expense, revealing their determination to stay on the Temple Mount. It was formerly believed that the Dome stands on the exact spot where Israel’s third temple is to be built. Archaeological ‘digs’ have disproved this and shown that the temple can be built just north of the Islamic Dome, with 3 to 4 metres between them. The temple will face the most imposing feature of the old city’s eastern wall, the East or Golden Gate, reserved for “the prince” (Ezek. 44:1-3), which Jews believe refers to Messiah – so Islam walled it up to exclude Him.
In view of the Antichrist’s deceptive philosophy that he is the common messiah of all faiths, it is not impossible that during his reign the temple and the mosque will co-exist on the Temple Mount. Islam and Judaism will then be sister religions for 3½ years, and also associate with the other world religions on the false premise that they all worship the same God. The great crisis will occur when the false messiah declares himself to be God in the rebuilt temple (2 Thes. 2:4). Israel will then revoke their covenant with him.
As for the present time, the highly emotional and conflicting religious interests of Judaism and Islam renders the situation on the Islamic-controlled Temple Mount very volatile indeed. While Islam are entrenching their position there, the Jews are in various ways preparing for the building of their temple on its ancient site. The Al Aqsa Intifada that broke out in September 2000 bears witness to this tension. Since 1990, the Jewish group, Temple Mount Faithful, twice attempted to lay a cornerstone of 4½ tons as a first step in rebuilding the temple. The Temple Institute in Jerusalem oversees the manufacture of a wide range of gold and silver objects, ceremonial pitchers, garments for priests, trumpets, harps, fire pans, etc., for use in the rebuilt temple. There are also two yeshiva schools for the training of Levitical priests in Jerusalem. To many Jews the restoration of Israel will not be complete until their temple has been rebuilt.
The struggle for Jerusalem
Jewish control of Jerusalem goes back over 3000 years to the time when king David conquered the city from the Jebusites and established it as his capital. His son, Solomon, built the first temple in “the city of David”. During the past three millennia the Jews often lost control of Jerusalem but always regained it again. After their long international diaspora since New Testament times, the Jews gained independence in a part of their ancient land on 15th May 1948. Initially they only controlled West Jerusalem. During the Six Day War in June 1967 they gained control over the whole of Jerusalem, capturing the Old City and adjacent West Bank area from Jordan. In August 1980, Jerusalem was declared Israel’s eternal, undivided capital and seat of government.
Religious Jews hold the firm, biblical belief that Jerusalem will be exalted to the position of world capital after the Messiah has come and established His kingdom of peace: “At that time they shall call Jerusalem the throne of the Lord; and all the nations shall be gathered unto it, to the name of the Lord, to Jerusalem: neither shall they walk any more after the imagination of their evil heart” (Jer. 3:17; see also Is. 2:2-4 and Zech. 8:21-23).
However, Islam is engaged in a determined campaign to gain control over Jerusalem as the capital of an independent Palestinian state. They are mustering tremendous support in the international community to strengthen their demand for dividing the land of Israel and controlling at least the eastern part of Jerusalem, which includes the Old City and the Temple Mount. These demands are contrary to Israel’s biblical mandate on the land and the city: “Behold, I will make Jerusalem a cup of trembling unto all the people round about, when they shall be in the siege both against Judah and against Jerusalem. And in that day will I make Jerusalem a burdensome stone for all people: all that burden themselves with it shall be cut in pieces” (Zech. 12:2-3). “For, behold, in those days, and in that time, when I shall bring again the captivity of Judah and Jerusalem, I will also gather all nations, and will bring them down into the valley of Jehoshaphat, and will [enter into judgement] with them there for my people and for my heritage Israel, whom they have scattered among the nations, and parted my land” (Joel 3:1-2).
The struggle for the control of Jerusalem and the land of Israel is building up to a fierce confrontation. According to the Bible, this is a united Israeli city called “Jerusalem” and not an Arab city called “Al Quds”.
Although still a very small percentage, there are increasing numbers of Jews who accept Jesus as Messiah. They are called Messianic Jews. The term Messiah is derived from Mashiach which is the Hebrew term for The Anointed One, while Christ is the Grecised version of this term. Jesus is referred to as Yeshua (Y’shua or Yashua) in Hebrew, and the name Jesus Christ is rendered Yeshua Ha Mashiach.
For obvious reasons, the Messianic Jews are regarded with considerable disapproval and suspicion by the orthodox Jews. As in the first century, they are viewed as heretics who have defected from the God of their fathers. As the number of Messianic Jews increase, the spiritual polarisation among the two groups is widening. The climate is already set for a time of intensifying persecution of Messianic Jews.
The orthodox Jews have strong representation in the Knesset (Israel’s parliament). Members of this group control the departments of Religious Affairs and Interior Affairs. They therefore have the necessary power bases to achieve their objective of prohibiting missionary work and persecuting Messianic believers. Although not widespread yet, the campaign against Messianic groups in Israel has already begun and is gradually intensifying.
The Messiah has warned about these developments and also indicated that they will take effect before the start of the great tribulation: “And great earthquakes shall be in divers places, and famines, and pestilences; and fearful sights and great signs shall there be from heaven. But before all these, they shall lay their hands on you, and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues, and into prisons… And ye shall be betrayed both by parents, and brethren, and kinsfolks, and friends; and some of you shall they cause to be put to death. And ye shall be hated of all men for My name’s sake” (Lk. 21:11-17). “Yea, the time cometh, that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service. And these things will they do unto you, because they have not known the Father, nor Me” (Jn. 16:2-3).
A repetition of the first century persecution of Messianic Jewish believers will take place. The same fear that prevailed during that time in respect of the orthodox religious leaders is beginning to be evident again: “These words spake his parents, because they feared the Jews: for the Jews had agreed already, that if any man did confess that He was Christ [i.e. that Jesus is the Messiah] he should be put out of the synagogue (Jn. 9:22).
It is our duty to pray earnestly for the young Messianic congregations in Israel, that they should be strong in the Lord during these difficult times. The opposition and hostility that they experience will increase in the near future, and they must be well prepared to avoid compromising their position of faith in Yeshua Ha Mashiach.
Evangelical Christianity, world-wide, is facing the same animosity because of its uncompromising nature. It is increasingly pressurised to conform to the interfaith practice of linking hands with other religions. This body of false religions will, in time to come, all accept the Antichrist as their common messiah. This will include orthodox Jews, the Israeli government and people, most of whom will accept him as their Messiah and obtain from him the right to rebuild their temple. Against this fatal mistake the Lord Jesus had seriously warned their forefathers almost 2000 years previously: “I have come in My Father’s name, and ye receive Me not: if another shall come in his own name, him ye will receive” (Jn. 5:43).
During the tribulation period there will be great animosity between followers of the true Messiah and the false Messiah (Antichrist). In a sense it already exists.
Hatred of the Jews
Despite the religious formalism and deadness of the Jewish people, there is no justification at all for waging a campaign of hatred against them. This is one of the most foolish and self-destructive things nations or individuals could do. To act against the declared will and purposes of God is to pierce ourselves with many sorrows. Consider what happened to Israel as a nation because of rejecting God! The same God warns the enemies of Israel, but blesses their friends, when He says to Abraham: “I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee” (Gen. 12:3).
Nations, groups and individuals who condemn or oppress Israel will bring upon themselves God’s wrath. They are digging a pit into which they themselves will fall. Great world empires, such as the once mighty Babylonian, Assyrian, and Roman, have proved the dire consequences of trying to annihilate Israel. They are gone, but Israel still exists.
Through many centuries the Roman Catholic Church, which claims to be the new Israel, has persecuted and killed Jews. During the Holocaust in World War II, millions of Jews were slaughtered in the most gruesome ways by Nazi Germany. In the period after the restoration of Israel in 1948, the Islamic Arab nations in the Middle East have played the role of the most fanatical haters of Jews.
In Psalm 83, the Bible refers to the ancient enemies of Judah who waged a religiously-motivated war of annihilation against Israel. The psalmist says: “…Thine enemies make a tumult: and they that hate Thee have lifted up the head. They have taken crafty counsel against Thy people,… They have said, Come, and let us cut them off from being a nation; that the name of Israel may be no more in remembrance… who said, Let us take to ourselves the houses of God in possession” (Ps. 83:2-4, 12).
The modern Arab nations, including the Palestinians, are descended from the ancient enemies of Judah and have declared a similar “holy war” (jihad) against Israel. The Israeli War of Independence in 1948, followed by the 1956 war, the Six Day War in 1967, the Yom Kippur War in 1974, the 1982 invasion of Lebanon and the subsequent internal revolt (Intifada) by the Palestinians bear witness to their unceasing efforts to threaten and destroy the Jewish state.
Having failed to destroy Israel, the Palestinians, with other Arab support, have been pursuing a cunning strategy of appearing to co-operate in a peace process to gain the sympathy of world opinion for them as a downtrodden people deprived of their rights. In this way they gained more and more concessions from Israel – semi-autonomy, armed militia, most of the West Bank and massive international aid. They also greatly increased their demands, especially for sovereignty over East Jerusalem and the whole of the Temple Mount. Failing to get all they demanded they again resorted to violence in the Al Aqsa Intifada (begun AD 2000). There is no solution in sight to the escalating low-level war which resulted. The situation cries out for a strong man to negotiate an effective peace treaty appeasing the Palestinians and Arab nations while guaranteeing Israel’s safety. The stage is truly set for the emergence of the Antichrist!
It is quite possible that the Antichrist, in the guise of an ‘angel of light’ and ‘peace-maker’ will emerge during a war in the Middle East. In Ezekiel 38 and 39, the Bible refers to a Russian/Arab invasion of Israel. In its war against Israel, Magog (modern Russia) will be joined by many nations, including Persia (Iran), Ethiopia, Libya, Gomer (Germany) and Togarmah (Turkey). Referring to the prince of Magog, God says: “And thou shalt come up against My people of Israel, as a cloud to cover the land; it shall be in the latter days” (Ezek. 38:16). God will intervene and destroy the enemy forces (Ezek 39:1-13). The Antichrist may then appear on the scene and claim to be the Messiah who has been sent by God to save humanity from self-destruction.
His false peace will be short-lived, lasting only 3½ years, after which he will declare himself to be God in the temple. Israel will, on that day, reject him as Messiah. An intensive campaign of hatred and military actions will be instituted against Israel until the great battle of Armageddon at the end of the great tribulation. God will then finally deal with the enemies of Israel who have incessantly endeavoured to seize their land and deprive them of their right of existence (Zech. 14:1-13).
To ensure God’s blessing upon us, we must bless Israel (Gen. 12:3). 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.
“I say then, Have they stumbled that they should fall? God forbid: but rather through their fall salvation has come to the Gentiles, to provoke them to jealousy. Now if their fall is the riches of the world, and their diminishing the riches of the Gentiles; how much more their fullness?” (Rom. 11:11-12).
Because Israel has rejected and crucified their Messiah, redemption has been offered to the non-Jewish peoples of the world. In their fallen state Israel is, therefore, a blessing to the entire world as their spiritual inheritance is offered to all people! In Romans 11:12 the Lord clearly says that in their future, spiritually restored state, Israel will be an even greater blessing to the world.
Christians owe a debt of gratitude, recognition, blessing, intercession, and support to Israel. God would “provoke them to jealousy” (Rom. 11:11-15) by our worshipping and serving their God, Yahweh Elohim, through their Messiah, Yeshua! We must also pray for the peace of Jerusalem if we wish to prosper in our own country (Ps. 122:6).
The reason why all believers should in a very serious and dedicated way intercede for Jerusalem, is because it is the city of the great King (Ps. 48:2). This is the city where our Lord revealed Himself as King, died on the cross to propitiate for our sins, rose from the dead on the third day, and ascended to heaven. Ten days after He went to heaven, the Holy Spirit was poured out upon 120 faithful and praying disciples, resulting in the birth of the Christian church in Jerusalem. From here, the message of salvation was proclaimed and carried to the uttermost parts of the world.
It is to the city of Jerusalem, on the Mount of Olives, that the Messiah will return at the end of the tribulation period to save the remnant of Israel, to judge His enemies, and to establish His kingdom on earth. In answer to the many prayers of the saints, and in accordance with His divine will, the Lord will transform Jerusalem to be the world capital, the wonderful city of the Messiah, and rule the millennial world from the restored throne of David (Is. 62:6-7).
Wrong concepts of Israel
For millennia Satan has been waging a wicked campaign of deception, hatred and attempted destruction against Israel and the Jews in all spheres of their existence. One of the many methods used by him in this struggle is to try to deprive Israel of its identity by assigning it to other groups.
Many churches are the victims of the confusion sown by the devil in this regard. They think that the church suddenly became the Israel of the New Testament. This form of self-deception is called replacement theology. Traditionally the R.C. Church has claimed to be ‘the New Israel’ and many non-R.C. theologians, even evangelicals, claim the same for themselves, thus writing off ethnic Israel and denying them any future place in the purposes of God.
It is often claimed that the church is the spiritual Israel or the true Israel. Romans 9:6: “For they are not all Israel, who are of Israel,” is cited in support of this claim. But, clearly, this means that not all ethnic Jews are truly Israelites nor, indeed, spiritually the people of God, since His laws are not written in their hearts (Heb. 8:10). The distinction is between fulfilled Jews who have accepted the Lord Jesus as their true Messiah and those who have not – it has nothing to do with being members of the Christian church!
There are also other groups who wrongly apply Israel’s identity and biblical position to themselves. Among them is the British-Israel movement and a host of related groups that are all based on the same concept. They regard the European nations as the descendants of the so-called ten lost tribes of Israel who were taken captive by Assyria in the 8th century B.C. The tribes of Judah and Benjamin are not accepted as part of Israel as they have, according to this distorted theory, mixed with the Edomites and lost their citizenship of Israel. British-Israel groups despise the Jews and do not support their present restoration to the land. Jerusalem is only of historical importance to them as they naively see the British monarchy as the throne of David!
The 70th year-week of Daniel
The prophet Daniel describes the last 70 year-weeks (490 prophetic years of 360 days each) that will pass in the history of Israel before they enter the time of everlasting righteousness (Dan. 9:24-27). Of this period, 69 year-weeks (483 years) have passed between the decree by Artaxerxes in the year 445 BC that Jerusalem was to be rebuilt (Neh. 2:1‑8), and the death of Jesus on the cross in AD 32. Then the clock stopped ticking for Israel as a nation in the divine plan of God, and the time for the evangelisation of the non-Jewish world began. That meant that Israel would temporarily lose its position as a unique people and representative of God, and that all people on earth, including the dispersed Israelites, would be given the chance to accept the Lord Jesus as Messiah and enter the church and kingdom of God.
With the present restoration of Israel and the city of Jerusalem we are now very near to the end of the church age: “Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled” (Lk. 21:24). We are now living in the period of Jerusalem and Israel’s progressive restoration, so the last year-week of Israel’s divine history may soon commence! At the end of that period the remnant of Israel will accept Jesus in one day (Zech. 12:9-10).
At the start of the 70th year-week of seven years, Israel will enter into a covenant with the false messiah (Antichrist). Daniel 9:27 reads: “Then he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week.” The false messiah will appear on the scene as a diplomat and peace-maker. He may well reveal himself at the height of a Russo‑Arab invasion of Israel. Ezekiel 38 and 39 explain that God will defeat the invaders on the mountains of Israel, but it is possible that the false messiah will seize the opportunity to claim that he single-handedly saved Israel and thereby averted a third world war.
The false messiah will be endowed with all of Satan’s powers of deception (Rev. 12:9; 13:2), and will use these powers to perform astounding “signs and lying wonders” (2 Thess. 2:9) to deceive Israel and the nations into concluding the above-mentioned covenant with him. His success as peace-maker in the Middle East will form a springboard from which he will rise, undisputed, to power in the Mediterranean alliance of the revived Roman Empire.
All countries will eventually become signatories of the peace treaties of the false messiah, and he will use the Mediterranean alliance to become the undisputed peace-maker and global leader. His success and diplomatic skills will deceive nearly everyone. At that stage, few people would dare to allege that he is involved in the greatest deception of all time, and that he would, within a few years, become the worst dictator in the entire history of the world!
Most of the Jews will be influenced by these highly dramatic events and will be quick to accept this man as their messiah. He will probably use a false genealogy, which will lead them to believe that he is indeed a descendant of King David and a member of the tribe of Judah. The world‑wide peace and unity introduced by him, together with the fact that he will encourage the Jews to rebuild the temple, will render him a national hero in Israel. Soon he will also become the hero of all the nations of the world.
After the sensational revelation of the universally accepted world leader, posing, like Satan, as an angel of light (2 Cor. 11:14), at the start of the seven year period there will be a revival in Israel with 144 000 Jews accepting Jesus as the true Messiah. They will openly declare that the man officially recognised as Messiah by the Israeli government is a false messiah. This revelation will cause great consternation and tension in Israel and immediately lead to the persecution of all who refuse to worship the false messiah.
Halfway through the seven year period, the whole world will be shocked out of the false sense of peace that it has enjoyed for three and a half years: “For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape” (1 Thes. 5:3).
Israel will be greatly disillusioned when they realise that they have been worshipping a false messiah who pretends to be God Himself. They will immediately terminate their covenant with him. The false messiah will then forbid them to sacrifice in the name of God, and instead erect a statue of himself in the Holy of holies in the newly built temple in Jerusalem, and demand worship: “...and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and offering to cease [for the remaining three and one-half years]; and upon the wing of abominations shall come one who makes desolate; until the full determined end is poured out on the desolator” (Dan. 9:27 Amplified Bible).
As in World War II, genocide will be perpetrated against the Jews during the second half of the tribulation – in that 3½ year period known as the “great tribulation” (Mt. 24:21) or “the time of Jacob’s trouble” (Jer. 30:7). The true Messiah described this time of terror in His prophetic discourse: “When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoever readeth, let him understand): then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains: let him who is on the housetop not come down to take anything out of his house: neither let him who is in the field return back to take his clothes. And woe to those who are with child, and to them that give suck in those days! But pray ye that your flight be not in the winter, neither on the sabbath day: for then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be. And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect’s sake those days shall be shortened” (Mt. 24:15‑22).
Daniel also refers to the dark days of the coming tribulation period in his prophecies about the end-time. Some of the Jews will support the false messiah because they will hope to gain peace, security, and economic benefits from an agreement with him; but others will oppose him and be violently persecuted: “And forces shall be mustered by him, and they shall defile the sanctuary fortress; then they shall take away the daily sacrifices, and place there the abomination of desolation. Those who do wickedly against the covenant he shall corrupt with flattery; but the people who know their God shall be strong, and carry out great exploits. And those of the people who understand shall instruct many; yet for many days they shall fall by sword and flame, by captivity and plundering. Now when they fall, they shall be aided with a little help; but many shall join with them by intrigue. And some of those of understanding shall fall, to refine them, purge them, and make them white, until the time of the end; because it is still for the appointed time” (Dan. 11:31-35 NKJV).
When the covenant with Israel has been broken and the false messiah declares himself to be God, the Jews will flee to a place of refuge. Then 42 months (1 260 days) will elapse before the true Messiah descends to the Mount of Olives. As this moment draws near, surviving Jews will return to Jerusalem, determined to be at the Mount of Olives by the Day of Atonement, to meet their Messiah. It will be an extremely dangerous time for them as the false messiah will still endeavour to kill all the Jews he can find. At this stage there will be a powerful multi-national force in Israel. They will be under the command of the false messiah and the false prophet, and deployed to surround Jerusalem. Their objectives will be to annihilate Israel and to kill the coming Messiah (Zech. 12:3,9; 14:2-3; Rev. 19:19-20).
The Jews who return to Jerusalem to await the Messiah will need to be deeply convinced that He really is about to come imminently, as their journey and approach to the city will be fraught with dangers. The enemy will be all around them, and a heavily armed military force will be closing in upon them with every passing minute. Many houses will be plundered in Jerusalem as the invaders start demolishing the city. People will flee to the Mount of Olives in panic. Some of them will even lose hope completely and say: “Our hope is lost: we are cut off” (Ezek. 37:11).
The battle of Armageddon
When the false messiah is about to cut off and kill the remnant of Israel, the dramatic event of the Second Coming of the Messiah will occur. The prophet Zechariah describes the momentous and highly dramatic events of that day: “For I will gather all nations against Jerusalem to battle; and the city shall be taken, the houses rifled, and the women ravished; and half of the city shall go forth into captivity, and the residue of the people shall not be cut off from the city. Then shall the LORD go forth, and fight against those nations, as when He fought in the day of battle. And His feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east. And the mount of Olives shall cleave in the midst thereof toward the east and toward the west, and there shall be a very great valley; and half of the mountain shall remove toward the north, and half of it toward the south. And ye shall flee to the valley of the mountains; for the valley of the mountains shall reach to Azal: Yes, ye shall flee as ye fled from before the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah: and the LORD my God shall come, and all the saints with Thee. And it shall come to pass in that day, that the light shall not be clear, nor dark: But it shall be one day which shall be known to the LORD, not day, nor night: but it shall come to pass, that at evening time it shall be light… And the LORD shall be King over all the earth... And this shall be the plague wherewith the LORD will smite all the people that have fought against Jerusalem: Their flesh shall consume away while they stand upon their feet, and their eyes shall consume away in their holes, and their tongues shall consume away in their mouth. And it shall come to pass in that day, that a great tumult from the LORD shall be among them; and they shall lay hold everyone on the hand of his neighbour, and his hand shall rise up against the hand of his neighbour” (Zech. 14:2‑7,9,12,13).
The moment when the true Messiah arrives on planet earth, the Mount of Olives will cleave in two and the darkness of God’s judgement will become physically manifest, just as happened almost 2 000 years ago when God’s punishment for the sins of the world was borne by Jesus on the cross outside Jerusalem. Now, during His Second Coming, grief and anguish will overcome the people who rejected the atoning death of Jesus and worshipped false gods and a false messiah who cannot offer any sacrifice and remission for their sins and their moral depravity.
At this critical moment when the wrath of God is poured out upon a sinful world, mercy and grace will still be offered by Jesus to the remaining Jews who put their trust in Him and hope for His salvation. When the dark clouds of judgement engulf Jerusalem and its surroundings, the remaining Jews will flee into the place of refuge caused by the sudden cleaving of the mountain. There, literally at the feet of Jesus, they will be safe. Great confusion will prevail among their enemies who will start killing one another.
Towards the evening it will become light again, for by then a decisive victory will have been gained. Jesus will reach out to His people in a gesture of blessing. They will become appalled when they see the marks in His hands, and their first words to Him will be: “What are these wounds in Thine hands? Then He shall answer, Those with which I was wounded in the house of My friends” (Zech. 13:6).
How do the Jews account for the fact that the Messiah will have wounds in His hands when He arrives on the Mount of Olives? Where were the wounds inflicted on Him? It could not have been in heaven! They will indeed look on Him whom they have pierced during His first coming, and mourn for Him as one mourns for his only son (Zech. 12:10).
It will be a dramatic reunion, mingled with joy and sorrow. The remnant of Israel will grieve for what they have done and the nation will accept Jesus as the Messiah (Zech. 12:10‑14). Then all will be lost for the false messiah and his hordes on this last day of the tribulation when they face the One who has all power in heaven and on earth: “And I saw the beast, and the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against Him who sat on the horse, and against His army. And the beast was taken, and with him the false prophet who worked miracles before him… These both were cast alive into the lake of fire burning with brimstone. And the remnant were slain with the sword of Him who sat on the horse, which sword proceeded out of His mouth” (Rev. 19:19‑21).
Aftermath of His coming
After the Messiah has made His dramatic appearance on the Mount of Olives and revealed Himself as the One crucified by Israel during His first coming two thousand years ago, a time of great mourning will follow. This mourning will lead to the salvation of the whole remnant of Israel: “In that day shall there be a great mourning in Jerusalem, as the mourning of Hadad Rimmon in the valley of Megiddo. And the land shall mourn, every family apart... All the families that remain, every family apart, and their wives apart. In that day there shall be a fountain opened to the house of David and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem for sin and for uncleanness” (Zech. 12:11–13:1).
The above period of mourning will probably last for 30 days, as was customary in Israel: “And when all the congregation saw that Aaron was dead, they mourned for Aaron thirty days” (Num. 20:29). “And the children of Israel wept for Moses in the plains of Moab thirty days: so the days of weeping and mourning for Moses were ended” (Deut. 34:8).
Zechariah likens the death of the Messiah to that of an only son and a firstborn. Mourning for an only son or a firstborn was particularly bitter and anguished. With the death of an only son, the light of a family was extinguished since they lost the only one who could perpetuate the family. With the death of a firstborn the honour of a family, the first instalment of God’s blessing, and therefore the most loved, was removed.
The future mourning for the Messiah is also likened to the mourning for King Josiah. Professors Walvoord & Zuck (The Bible Knowledge Commentary, p. 1567) say that “the future mourning of Israel over her Messiah is likened, in the second place, to the weeping on the day when godly King Josiah, the last hope of the fading Judean nation, was slain by Pharaoh Neco II, at Hadat Rimmon, traditionally identified as a village near Jezreel, in the plain of Megiddo (2 Chron. 35:20-27).” Thus the intensity of their mourning over the nation’s treatment of their Messiah at His first coming, can only be compared to the weeping for the death of a great and beloved monarch and over national catastrophes.
Rev. Isaac Jennings (The Imperial Bible Dictionary, Vol. IV, p. 302) says: “The great mourning of the last days described by Zechariah, when the whole land shall mourn, and every family apart unite in the act, refers to the repentance of the Jewish people, and their deep contrition in view of their past unbelief, when, convinced of the sin of rejecting the Messiah, they shall look on Him whom they have pierced, and shall mourn, and find cleansing in the fountain opened for sin and for uncleanness; and so all Israel shall be saved (Rom. 11:26). Blessed are those who mourn thus (Mt. 5:4), for they shall be comforted, through the pardoning mercy of our God freely remitting all their sins, and imparting peace to their souls.”
In his statement Daniel provides, among others, for the 30 days of mourning after the great tribulation and the coming of the Messiah: “...and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation, even to that same time: and at that time thy people shall be delivered... And from the time that the daily sacrifice is taken away, and the abomination that maketh desolate set up, there shall be a thousand two hundred and ninety days. Blessed is he that waiteth, and cometh to the thousand three hundred and five and thirty days” (Dan. 12:1,11-12).
The following is clear from these verses:
· From the time when the false messiah abolishes the sacrificial service and profanes the sanctuary by placing an image of himself in the Holy of holies, 1 260 days will elapse until the coming of the Messiah on the Mount of Olives (Dan. 9:27; Rev 13:5). After a further thirty days of mourning, the spiritual reconciliation between the Messiah and the remnant of Israel will be completed. By then, 1 290 days will have elapsed since the false messiah’s self-deification in the temple.
· Another 45 days will be taken up by the marriage feast of the Lamb, the restoration of the throne of David and the judgement of the nations (Rev. 19:7-9, Acts 15:16-17, Mt. 25:31-32). By then, 1 335 very dramatic days will have elapsed since that very evil day when the false messiah declared himself as God in the temple and instituted his satanic reign of terror. After 1 335 days, the Son of the living God will have crushed the evil powers and established His kingdom of peace. Jews who survive this terrible onslaught will, after 1 260 days of great tribulation, see the Messiah return. After 1 290 days they will be spiritually restored, and after 1 335 days they will enter the promised kingdom of the Messiah.
End-time events for Israel have been very clearly scheduled between the beginning of the 70th week of Daniel and the establishment of the Messiah’s reign on earth. During that period the Jews will be severely tested regarding their ability to distinguish between the seducing voices of the kingdom of darkness and the voice of the Holy Spirit calling them to repentance and faith in the true Messiah – Jesus, the Lamb of God who has those wounds in His hands!
The Messiah will not only reign as Prince of peace, King of kings and Lord of lords, but also as King of the Jews – as Pilate had so rightly written as the superscription above the cross of the suffering Messiah (Lk. 23:38).