'The LORD your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your midst, from your brethren. Him you shall he...and I will put My words in His mouth, and He shall speak to them all that I command Him. And it shall be that whoever will not hear My words, which He speaks in My name, I will require it of him.' (Deuteronomy 18:15-19)
For Christians the idea that Jesus is a greater-than-Moses figure in history may seem obvious--but not especially relevant for us. But for Israelis and Jews, Moses has always been a key figure in their national history.
This article is especially relevant for the nation of Israel, after the Rapture of the church, and prior to the Second Coming of Jesus.
There are a number of hints in the Bible that one of the roles Jesus will assume just prior to His second advent will be that of the Greater Moses, the Chief Shepherd of the flock of Israel. That is, Jesus will personally lead the remnant of believing Jews who have survived the last terrible Middle-Eastern war, including the multiple battles of the 'Campaign of Armageddon.' The Lord will actually shepherd the believing remnant of Israel into their own land --exactly as if the conquest of the land of Canaan was happening for the first time.
The writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews (1) noted clearly that Jesus was indeed a 'greater Moses.'
'Therefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our confession, Christ Jesus, who was faithful to Him who appointed Him, as Moses also was faithful in all His house. For this One has been counted worthy of more glory than Moses, inasmuch as He who built the house has more honor than the house. For every house is built by someone, but He who built all things is God. And Moses indeed was faithful in all His house as a servant, for a testimony of those things which would be spoken afterward, but Christ as a Son over His own house, whose house we are if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm to the end.' (Hebrews 3:1-6)
Moses, the man, was disqualified from bringing the second generation of Jews of the Exodus from Egypt, into the promised land. Instead, Joshua led the conquest and settling of the people of Israel in the promised land. (2) Moses died disappointed that his own personal failure had disqualified him from bringing the people into the land. However, on the Mount of Transfiguration in upper Galilee, Jesus took his disciples James, Peter and John to a high mount where He stepped out of time and into eternity--to meet with Moses and Elijah. (3)
It is helpful to review who constitutes the subset of ethnic Jews who are Yahweh's own people. They are called 'true Jews,' in the New Testament--they are the true sons and daughters of Abraham. (Members of the 'true church' constitute a separate branch of the family of Abraham as Paul discusses in Romans). The Apostle Paul says clearly that each and every 'true Jew' (or 'true Christian') must have the same faith as Abraham had. (4) This means that only a few Jews in the world today are true Jews. The Bible calls this small group 'the remnant of Israel.' (5) This remnant of Jews who believe in the God of Abraham, who trust in the Old Covenant promises of a coming Messiah, may not yet all know Yeshua as Messiah. They are a distinct group compared to Jews who have openly converted to Jesus Christ and are part of the church, the Body of Christ. Included in the church are the congregations of 'Messianic Jews' in Israel who number perhaps 50,000, and the Messianic Jews around the world who acknowledge Jesus (Yeshua) as Messiah and Lord.
Because of the great broad scope of God's covenant promises to Abraham, both Jews and Gentiles today are in general part of one body of believers, the church. But God's promises to the nation of Israel are not the same as His promises to the church. The church has by no means replaced Israel in the plan of God! Therefore Romans 11:5 is apparently speaking of a remnant of true Jews who are a small group of historic Old Covenant Jewish believers, yet people who are not part of the church. (5)
The land of Israel, a specific geographical area of the Middle East, was given to the Jewish people forever, through their forefather Abraham (Genesis 12:7, 13:12-17; 15:7). Of course all lands and all peoples on earth belong to God, since He owns everything, (Acts 17:24-31). But Israel is unique--set aside as model nation intended to show the other nations what a nation living in harmony with the one true God is like.
'For you are a holy people to the LORD your God; the LORD your God has chosen you to be a people for Himself, a special treasure above all the peoples on the face of the earth. The LORD did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any other people, for you were the least of all peoples; but because the LORD loves you, and because He would keep the oath which He swore to your fathers, the LORD has brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you from the house of bondage, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.' (Deuteronomy 7:6-8)
Israel's failure to live up to her calling for a long, long time now is a long story, but suffice it to say that God has not forgotten, nor set aside, his commitment to 'true' Israel. That nation is destined to be the head of the nations with Jerusalem as the capital city of our planet. In the end, all the nations of earth will be judged against Israel as the standard. Isaiah shows that Jesus Himself is the Guarantor that the nation will ultimately meet God's requirements as a righteous nation.
Tacked on to God's covenant with Israel at Mt Sinai is a special provision, namely, the right of the Jews to live in their own land is contingent upon their behavior being in line with the standards of the Landlord--God who owns the land. (This is sometimes called the 'Palestinian Covenant,' but a better name is the 'Covenant of the Land.') (7) God has already evicted His people from their land twice for breach of this covenant, but His next disciplinary action will be final.
After the Diaspora of the First and Second Centuries A.D., Israel as nation did not exist until Jews who had resettled their ancient homeland--beginning in the 1890s--declared statehood in 1948. The present population of Israel is about 5 million Jews, (8) but of these only a few percent are true Jews using the Apostle Paul's definition.
The vast majority are merely ethnic or secular Jews ignoring God and living according to the ways of the rest of the nations. This large group does not have a long-term right to live in God's land because of the Land Covenant feature appended to the Law of Moses.
It is true that God has brought the Jews back to the land through a series of miraculous events in the past 100+ years. The prophets of Israel predicted the return from exile would be in a state of unbelief, with national spiritual rebirth following. Down through the centuries, Yahweh has protected the Jews and saved them again and again from extinction at the hands of their hostile neighbors. His ultimate purpose is that the land of Israel should be inhabited only by those who know and trust the God of Abraham, all exercising the same faith as Abraham had.
God will hold Israel to a higher calling than other nations because of their calling and great privileges (Romans 9:4,5). It is a general principle of God's dealings with mankind that 'to whom much is given much is expected,' (Luke 12:48).
There are dozen great reasons why is not wise to be anti-Israel or anti-Semitic, regardless of the state of belief or unbelief of God's people Israel. The state of their relationship with their God is a family matter which the Holy One of Israel will deal with personally. (8) Yet, whole nations today are pledging themselves to the eradication of Israel not realizing that in so doing they are sealing their own fate.
Bible scholar Stanley Ellisen eloquently discusses the future activity of God in the Middle East on behalf of the people of Israel in his helpful book, Who Owns the Land (Tyndale House, 2003). (9)
Military strategists have known from many years now that a great world war is inevitable in the Middle East. The question is, how long can it be delayed? History seems to show that U.S. foreign policy in the Middle east has usually made things worse rather than better! The Bible is very clear that Israel is the key to world peace. It is not for nothing reason that Jesus is called 'the Prince of Peace.'
'Nevertheless the gloom will not be upon her who is distressed, As when at first He lightly esteemed The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, And afterward more heavily oppressed her, By the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, In Galilee of the Gentiles. The people who walked in darkness Have seen a great light; Those who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death, Upon them a light has shined. You have multiplied the nation And increased its joy; They rejoice before You According to the joy of harvest, As men rejoice when they divide the spoil. For You have broken the yoke of his burden And the staff of his shoulder, The rod of his oppressor, As in the day of Midian. For every warrior's sandal from the noisy battle, And garments rolled in blood, Will be used for burning and fuel of fire. For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace There will be no end, Upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, To order it and establish it with judgment and justice From that time forward, even forever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this. (Isaiah 9:1-7)The final events of the end of the age we live in will not begin until God has finished calling people from every nation (Jew and Gentile alike) to be joined to His glorious church, the Bride of Christ, the Body of Christ, (Romans 11:25-36). The church exists under the New Covenant God which originally set up for Israel, but God's promises to the church are separate and distinct from his promises to the nation of Israel. In a future day all of Israel will benefit from this new Covenant (Jeremiah 31:31ff).
'Therefore if they say to you, 'Look, He is in the desert!' do not go out; or 'Look, He is in the inner rooms!' do not believe it. For as the lightning comes from the east and flashes to the west, so also will the coming (parousia) of the Son of Man be. For wherever the carcass is, there the eagles will be gathered together.' (Matthew 24:26-28)Ray Stedman develops this 'behind the scenes' model for the work of Jesus on earth during the tribulation in his book on the Olivet Discourse, What on Earth is Happening? Much of the work of the Lord during the tribulation will involve the judgment of the nations and the pulling down of demonic strongholds which are embedded in the cultural fabric of our world.
'As I live,' says the Lord GOD, 'surely with a mighty hand, with an outstretched arm, and with fury poured out, I will rule over you. I will bring you out from the peoples and gather you out of the countries where you are scattered, with a mighty hand, with an outstretched arm, and with fury poured out. And I will bring you into the wilderness of the peoples, and there I will plead My case with you face to face. Just as I pleaded My case with your fathers in the wilderness of the land of Egypt, so I will plead My case with you,' says the Lord GOD. I will make you pass under the rod, and I will bring you into the bond of the covenant; I will purge the rebels from among you, and those who transgress against Me; I will bring them out of the country where they dwell, but they shall not enter the land of Israel. Then you will know that I am the LORD.The resurrection of all of Israel is anticipated in a vision God gave to the prophet Ezekiel while and exiles from Jerusalem were in a Babylonian refugee camp:
'As for you, O house of Israel,' thus says the Lord GOD: 'Go, serve every one of you his idols--and hereafter--if you will not obey me; but profane My holy name no more with your gifts and your idols. For on My holy mountain, on the mountain height of Israel,' says the Lord GOD, there all the house of Israel, all of them in the land, shall serve Me; there I will accept them, and there I will require your offerings and the firstfruits of your sacrifices, together with all your holy things. I will accept you as a sweet aroma when I bring you out from the peoples and gather you out of the countries where you have been scattered; and I will be hallowed in you before the Gentiles. Then you shall know that I am the LORD, when I bring you into the land of Israel, into the country for which I raised My hand in an oath to give to your fathers. And there you shall remember your ways and all your doings with which you were defiled; and you shall loathe yourselves in your own sight because of all the evils that you have committed. 'Then you shall know that I am the LORD, when I have dealt with you for My name's sake, not according to your wicked ways nor according to your corrupt doings, O house of Israel,' says the Lord GOD." (Ezekiel 20:33-44) (11)
The hand of the LORD came upon me [Ezekiel] and brought me out in the Spirit of the LORD, and set me down in the midst of the valley; and it was full of bones. Then He caused me to pass by them all around, and behold, there were very many in the open valley; and indeed they were very dry. And He said to me, 'Son of man, can these bones live?' So I answered, 'O Lord GOD, You know.' Again He said to me, 'Prophesy to these bones, and say to them, 'O dry bones, hear the word of the LORD! 'Thus says the Lord GOD to these bones: 'Surely I will cause breath to enter into you, and you shall live. I will put sinews on you and bring flesh upon you, cover you with skin and put breath in you; and you shall live. Then you shall know that I am the LORD."'The resurrection of the whole house of Israel appears to take place outside of the land--verse 14 God says he will '...open your graves and cause you to come up from your graves, and bring you into the land of Israel.' Daniel 12:2,3 also speaks of the future resurrection(s) of the people of Israel--an event which is separate from the resurrection of the church which will occur earlier, i.e., at the Rapture.
So I prophesied as I was commanded; and as I prophesied, there was a noise, and suddenly a rattling; and the bones came together, bone to bone. Indeed, as I looked, the sinews and the flesh came upon them, and the skin covered them over; but there was no breath in them. Also He said to me, 'Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, son of man, and say to the breath, 'Thus says the Lord GOD: 'Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe on these slain, that they may live."' So I prophesied as He commanded me, and breath came into them, and they lived, and stood upon their feet, an exceedingly great army. Then He said to me, 'Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. They indeed say, 'Our bones are dry, our hope is lost, and we ourselves are cut off!"Therefore prophesy and say to them, 'Thus says the Lord GOD: 'Behold, O My people, I will open your graves and cause you to come up from your graves, and bring you into the land of Israel. 'Then you shall know that I am the LORD, when I have opened your graves, O My people, and brought you up from your graves. 'I will put My Spirit in you, and you shall live, and I will place you in your own land. Then you shall know that I, the LORD, have spoken it and performed it,' says the LORD." (Ezekiel 37:1-14).
'Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves. But beware of men, for they will deliver you up to councils and scourge you in their synagogues. You will be brought before governors and kings for My sake, as a testimony to them and to the Gentiles. But when they deliver you up, do not worry about how or what you should speak. For it will be given to you in that hour what you should speak; for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you. Now brother will deliver up brother to death, and a father his child; and children will rise up against parents and cause them to be put to death. And you will be hated by all for My name's sake. But he who endures to the end will be saved. When they persecute you in this city, flee to another. For assuredly, I say to you, you will not have gone through the cities of Israel before the Son of Man comes.' (Matthew 10:16-23)The activity of the 144,000 will no doubt be coordinated and directed by the Lord Jesus Himself (remember Jesus and the church will be on earth, behind the scenes, during the entire tribulation directing all the events of the end time). The world-wide vigorous work of the 144,000 will fulfill the promise of Matthew 24:14,
'And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come.'The book of Revelation assures us that hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions of people, all over the earth will hear and respond to the gospel of the coming kingdom of Christ on earth, receive Jesus as Lord, and be saved. This special class of believers (often called the 'tribulation saints') will not be part of the church nor part of the nation of Israel.
'You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me. But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life. I do not receive honor from men. But I know you, that you do not have the love of God in you. 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 5:39-43)A 'successful' mid-East peace treaty between Israel and the Arabs will be negotiated during the first half of the tribulation period, by Israel's false Messiah and the last leader of the revived Roman Empire. These men are described for us in Revelation 13. Quite probably further partitioning of the land of Israel between Jews and Palestinians will be involved, (Daniel 9:27, 11:29)
'Therefore hear the word of the LORD, you scornful men, Who rule this people who are in Jerusalem, Because you have said, 'We have made a covenant with death, And with Sheol we are in agreement. When the overflowing scourge passes through, It will not come to us, For we have made lies our refuge, And under falsehood we have hidden ourselves.' Therefore thus says the Lord GOD: 'Behold, I lay in Zion a stone for a foundation, A tried stone, a precious cornerstone, a sure foundation; Whoever believes will not act hastily. Also I will make justice the measuring line, And righteousness the plummet; The hail will sweep away the refuge of lies, And the waters will overflow the hiding place. Your covenant with death will be annulled, And your agreement with Sheol will not stand; When the overflowing scourge passes through, Then you will be trampled down by it. As often as it goes out it will take you; For morning by morning it will pass over, And by day and by night; It will be a terror just to understand the report.' For the bed is too short to stretch out on, And the covering so narrow that one cannot wrap himself in it. For the LORD will rise up as at Mount Perazim, He will be angry as in the Valley of Gibeon--That He may do His work, His awesome work, And bring to pass His act, His unusual act. Now therefore, do not be mockers, Lest your bonds be made strong; For I have heard from the Lord GOD of hosts, A destruction determined even upon the whole earth." (Isaiah 28:14-22)
During this time period, in the first half of the tribulation period, the Third Temple will be rebuilt in Jerusalem and placed into service with a functioning Levitical priesthood and Old Covenant animal sacrifices and offerings. Midway through the tribulation period, Israel's false Messiah will step into the temple in Jerusalem, declaring himself to be God, and commanding worship of the end-time Roman Caesar, the first 'beast' of Revelation 13,
The entire world (more than 100 nations) will be under the strong rule of an imitation of Jesus, the Antichrist.
In Matthew 24, Jesus warned that this event (the desecration of the Third Temple) would trigger the terrible final judgments on Israel and the nations which one reads about in the OT prophets and in the Book of the Revelation.
'Therefore when you see the 'abomination of desolation,' spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place' (whoever reads, let him understand), then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. Let him who is on the housetop not go down to take anything out of his house. And let him who is in the field not go back to get his clothes. But woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days! And pray that your flight may not be in winter or on the Sabbath. 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 unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect's sake those days will be shortened.' (Matthew 24:15-22)Jews in and around Jerusalem who have come to know Yeshua through the work of the 144,000 will be in immediate danger of their lives; hence Jesus warned them ahead of time that they should flee Jerusalem at once. Their place of refuge will be in nearby Southern Jordan. For more details about the exile of Israel in Edom see The Coming Exile of Israel in Edom,
For thus says the Lord GOD: 'Indeed I Myself will search for My sheep and seek them out. 'As a shepherd seeks out his flock on the day he is among his scattered sheep, so will I seek out My sheep and deliver them from all the places where they were scattered on a cloudy and dark day. And I will bring them out from the peoples and gather them from the countries, and will bring them to their own land; I will feed them on the mountains of Israel, in the valleys and in all the inhabited places of the country. I will feed them in good pasture, and their fold shall be on the high mountains of Israel. There they shall lie down in a good fold and feed in rich pasture on the mountains of Israel. I will feed My flock, and I will make them lie down,' says the Lord GOD. 'I will seek what was lost and bring back what was driven away, bind up the broken and strengthen what was sick; but I will destroy the fat and the strong, and feed them in judgment.' 'And as for you, O My flock, thus says the Lord GOD: 'Behold, I shall judge between sheep and sheep, between rams and goats. 'Is it too little for you to have eaten up the good pasture, that you must tread down with your feet the residue of your pasture--and to have drunk of the clear waters, that you must foul the residue with your feet? 'And as for My flock, they eat what you have trampled with your feet, and they drink what you have fouled with your feet.' 'Therefore thus says the Lord GOD to them: 'Behold, I Myself will judge between the fat and the lean sheep. 'Because you have pushed with side and shoulder, butted all the weak ones with your horns, and scattered them abroad, therefore I will save My flock, and they shall no longer be a prey; and I will judge between sheep and sheep. I will establish one shepherd over them, and he shall feed them--My servant David. He shall feed them and be their shepherd. And I, the LORD, will be their God, and My servant David a prince among them; I, the LORD, have spoken. I will make a covenant of peace with them, and cause wild beasts to cease from the land; and they will dwell safely in the wilderness and sleep in the woods. I will make them and the places all around My hill a blessing; and I will cause showers to come down in their season; there shall be showers of blessing. Then the trees of the field shall yield their fruit, and the earth shall yield her increase. They shall be safe in their land; and they shall know that I am the LORD, when I have broken the bands of their yoke and delivered them from the hand of those who enslaved them. And they shall no longer be a prey for the nations, nor shall beasts of the land devour them; but they shall dwell safely, and no one shall make them afraid. I will raise up for them a garden of renown, and they shall no longer be consumed with hunger in the land, nor bear the shame of the Gentiles anymore. Thus they shall know that I, the LORD their God, am with them, and they, the house of Israel, are My people,' says the Lord GOD."You are My flock, the flock of My pasture; you are men, and I am your God,' says the Lord GOD. (Ezekiel 34:11-31)During the last half of the tribulation period a small number of Jews remaining in Jerusalem will come to know Yeshua and begin to pray and repent as the prophet Zechariah (12-14) described.
'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 unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect's sake those days will be shortened.' (Matthew 24:21-21)It is no coincidence that the eyes of the world are focused on Israel these days. This is God's doing. He is about to consummate the redemption of the entire world--and Israel will be at the very center of it all.
'I will surely assemble all of you, O Jacob, I will surely gather the remnant of Israel; I will put them together like sheep of the fold, Like a flock in the midst of their pasture; They shall make a loud noise because of so many people. The one who breaks open will come up before them; They will break out, Pass through the gate, And go out by it; Their king will pass before them, With the LORD at their head.' (Micah 2:12-13, NKJV)
'I will surely assemble, O Jacob, all of thee; I will surely gather the remnant of Israel; I will put them together as the sheep of Bozrah, as the flock in the midst of their fold: they shall make great noise by reason of [the multitude of] men. The breaker [the one who breaks open] is come up before them: they have broken up, and have passed through the gate, and are gone out by it: and their king shall pass before them, and the LORD on the head of them. (Micah 2:12-13, KJV)
'Behold, the day of the LORD is coming, And your spoil will be divided in your midst. For I will gather all the nations to battle against Jerusalem; The city shall be taken, The houses rifled, And the women ravished. Half of the city shall go into captivity, But the remnant of the people shall not be cut off from the city. Then the LORD will go forth And fight against those nations, As He fights in the day of battle. And in that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, Which faces Jerusalem on the east. And the Mount of Olives shall be split in two, From east to west, Making a very large valley; Half of the mountain shall move toward the north And half of it toward the south. Then you shall flee through My mountain valley, For the mountain valley shall reach to Azal. Yes, you shall flee As you fled from the earthquake In the days of Uzziah king of Judah. Thus the LORD my God will come, And all the saints with You. It shall come to pass in that day That there will be no light; The lights will diminish. It shall be one day Which is known to the LORD-- Neither day nor night. But at evening time it shall happen That it will be light. And in that day it shall be That living waters shall flow from Jerusalem, Half of them toward the eastern sea And half of them toward the western sea; In both summer and winter it shall occur. And the LORD shall be King over all the earth. In that day it shall be-- 'The LORD is one,' And His name one. All the land shall be turned into a plain from Geba to Rimmon south of Jerusalem. Jerusalem shall be raised up and inhabited in her place from Benjamin's Gate to the place of the First Gate and the Corner Gate, and from the Tower of Hananeel to the king's winepresses. The people shall dwell in it; And no longer shall there be utter destruction, But Jerusalem shall be safely inhabited.' (Zechariah 14:1-11)
'Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.' (Matthew 24:29-30)The Ten Plagues of Egypt
'Now I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse. And He who sat on him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war. His eyes were like a flame of fire, and on His head were many crowns. He had a name written that no one knew except Himself. He was clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. And the armies in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, followed Him on white horses. Now out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations. And He Himself will rule them with a rod of iron. He Himself treads the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. And He has on His robe and on His thigh a name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.' (Revelation 19:11-16) (13)
'Even so, come Lord Jesus.'
'What then? What Israel sought so earnestly it did not obtain, but the elect did. The others were hardened, as it is written:
'God gave them a spirit of stupor, eyes so that they could not see and ears so that they could not hear, to this very day.'
And David says, 'May their table become a snare and a trap, a stumbling block and a retribution for them. May their eyes be darkened so that they cannot see, and their backs be bent forever.' (Romans 11:7-10 NIV)
Now, those are horrible words, but they represent the reaction that God has determined should accompany unbelief. When you hear truth, it is always very important that you do something about it. If you know something is true, then you had better act on it. If you don't, you lose your capacity to recognize truth. Gradually the dry rot that is described here, that is so visibly evident among many in Israel today, will set in. Paul calls it a blindness. Their eyes are blinded, so that even when the truth is there they cannot see it. Their ears are deaf. Even when loving appeals and warnings are set before them, they don't hear them. Their table, their food, becomes a snare and a trap, leading into slavery.
The food of Israel referred to here is the Law, the Scriptures. Jews highly value the Law. Now, they don't know a lot about it. Many Jews today are hardly acquainted with anything in the Old Testament. The rabbis have given themselves to the study of it, and yet all that intensive study only seems to make them sink deeper and deeper into the trap of legalistic slavery. They are bound by rituals and spend their days constantly working out interpretative details..' There's Hope Ahead (for Israel), http://raystedman.org/romans2/3527.html.
(5) 'For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh; but he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, not in the letter; whose praise is not from men but from God.' (Romans 2:28)
'Therefore He who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you, does He do it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?--just as Abraham 'believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.'
'Therefore know that only those who are of faith are sons of Abraham. And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel to Abraham beforehand, saying, 'In you all the nations shall be blessed.' So then those who are of faith are blessed with believing Abraham. For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse; for it is written, 'Cursed is everyone who does not continue in all things which are written in the book of the law, to do them.' But that no one is justified by the law in the sight of God is evident, for 'the just shall live by faith.' Yet the law is not of faith, but 'the man who does them shall live by them.' Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (for it is written, 'Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree'), that the blessing of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles in Christ Jesus, that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith. Brethren, I speak in the manner of men: Though it is only a man's covenant, yet if it is confirmed, no one annuls or adds to it. Now to Abraham and his Seed were the promises made. He does not say, 'And to seeds,' as of many, but as of one, 'And to your Seed,' who is Christ. And this I say, that the law, which was four hundred and thirty years later, cannot annul the covenant that was confirmed before by God in Christ, that it should make the promise of no effect. For if the inheritance is of the law, it is no longer of promise; but God gave it to Abraham by promise. What purpose then does the law serve? It was added because of transgressions, till the Seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it was appointed through angels by the hand of a mediator. Now a mediator does not mediate for one only, but God is one. Is the law then against the promises of God? Certainly not! For if there had been a law given which could have given life, truly righteousness would have been by the law. But the Scripture has confined all under sin, that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe. But before faith came, we were kept under guard by the law, kept for the faith which would afterward be revealed. Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor. For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise.' (Galatians 3:5-29)
(6) Ray C. Stedman, God's Faithfulness and the New Covenant.
(7) 'See, I have set before you this day life and good, death and evil. If you obey the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you this day, by loving the LORD your God, by walking in his ways, and by keeping his commandments and his statutes and his ordinances, then you shall live and multiply, and the LORD your God will bless you in the land which you are entering to take possession of it. But if your heart turns away, and you will not hear, but are drawn away to worship other gods and serve them, I declare to you this day, that you shall perish; you shall not live long in the land which you are going over the Jordan to enter and possess. I call heaven and earth to witness against you this day, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse; therefore choose life, that you and your descendants may live, loving the LORD your God, obeying his voice, and cleaving to him; for that means life to you and length of days, that you may dwell in the land which the LORD swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them.' (Deuteronomy 30:15-20)
(8) 2005 world population figures for the Jews are as follows: Africa, 78,800; Asia, 5,277,100, including 5,237,600 in Israel and Palestine; Europe, 1,519,600; the Americas, 6,049,500 with 5,280,000 in the United States. Source. The Bible indicates that all the surviving true Jews in the world will return to the land of Israel during the thousand-year reign of Yeshua in Jerusalem. (Matthew 24:29-31). The Total World Population is about 7900 million.
(9) Ellisen writes as follows in the last chapter of his book entitled Divine Assessment and Promised Restoration,
'For Bible believers, Israel's return to the land often conjures up scenes of anticipation and expectancy. And it should. But since the Zionists have achieved their goal of establishing a homeland, some questions naturally arise. Is this really the return of which the prophets spoke? Those Old Testament seers had much to say of Israel's return to the land in the end times. Most climaxed their prophecies on this note. Likewise, Jesus and the New Testament writers pointed to this return. Are we to assume that those prophecies are now being fulfilled? Or are we being conned by prophetic impostors?
The prophet Ezekiel explicitly describes this future return of Israel to its land (Ezekiel 36-39). After portraying Judah's desolation and scattering for idolatry and obstinacy, the prophet declares the Lord's vow to restore all Israel to the land (Ezekiel 36:5-8, 17-24). That restoration was to begin with a physical regathering that would issue in a final spiritual renewal. The 'dry bones' of Ezekiel 37 describe the spiritual deadness of the 'whole house of Israel' both in dispersion and while it reassembles in the land in the end times. Following that return, a great northern invasion will take place by 'Gog' from the 'far north' with its allies (Ezekiel 38:2-13). The confrontation climaxes in the destruction of Israel's enemies, whereupon Israel itself is spiritually renewed (Ezekiel 39:25-29).
The prophet Zechariah predicted that in the final days 'Judah will be besieged as well as Jerusalem' (Zechariah 12:2), indicating a Jewish return to the land as a harbinger of the end-time events. The 'house of Judah' will occupy the land, and this physical restoration precedes the nation's spiritual restoration (12:10-13:1). Jesus also announced that the Jewish people will be back in the land, with a rebuilt temple, as the final days come to their climactic end. He specifically tells those 'in Judea' what to do when they 'see standing in the holy place 'the abomination that causes desolation' (Matthew 24:15-16).
This reminds us that the final restoration of Israel is yet future and will be both total and divinely accomplished. The extremes of optimism and despair that now prevail could well be a part of that initial process of Israel's return in unbelief. New birth does not come without birth pangs.
We might do well, too, to consider how quickly events in the Middle East have moved since World War I. Egypt, for instance, was established as the first modern Arab nation in 1922; that was the same year the Jewish National Home in Palestine was approved by the League of Nations. Three years later, the first universities of both Arabs and Jews were established in Cairo and Jerusalem respectively.
On the scene today are two ancient peoples with fabulous histories demanding a place among the nations, each bringing its own load of cultural baggage. As we've already seen, both claim the same land, and both appeal to their relationship to Abraham to authenticate their rights. Since the question of divine rights through the Abrahamic covenant is a crucial question, let's begin by noting how those promises are being expropriated on the one hand and misappropriated on the other.
The special issue that concerns us here is the Bible's promise to Abraham that his children would inherit the land of Canaan. Both Jews and Arabs believe their relationship to Abraham is the legitimate one, authenticated by a sacred book. The central issue of this conflict is whether the Bible or the Qur'an has divine authority. The issues of the land and its relics are almost incidental to this spiritual core.
THE MUSLIM EXPROPRIATION OF COVENANTAL RIGHTS
The essence of this religious problem may be seen in the struggle over the sacred shrines of Jerusalem. When Caliph Omar took Jerusalem in 638, he immediately built a crude mosque over the temple ruins, which Byzantine Christians had used as a rubbish dump. Umayyad Caliph Abd al-Malik completed this Dome of the Rock in 691, making it a shrine of elegance and splendor. This he did not only to honor Muhammad, but to 'instill [sic] a sense of pride in Muslims overawed by the majestic churches of Christendom.' It was 'intended to make a symbolic statement to both Jews and Christians, the two religions that Islam considered its imperfect predecessors.' By building over Solomon's temple, it proclaimed to Jews that Islam had superseded their religion. The heart of Israel's religion was covered over by the religious shrines of the Muslims.
The message to Christians was even more ominous and explicit. Ornaments from Christian Byzantine rulers were used to decorate the inner shrine of the Dome, signifying the spoils of the victor. Islam had risen to supplant Christianity. It also underlined this point in its founding inscription: 'O you People of the Book, overstep not bounds in your religion, and of God speak only the truth. The Messiah, Jesus, son of Mary, is only an apostle of God, and His Word which he conveyed unto Mary, and a Spirit proceeding from him. Believe therefore in God and his apostles, and say not Three. It will be better for you. God is only one God. Far be it from his glory that he should have a son."'
A more blatant put-down would be hard to find. The beautiful Dome of the Rock, with its golden luster and mathematical rhythm, became a spectacular symbol of Islam's challenge to both Judaism and Christianity. Its very splendor declares its rejection of the Christian doctrines of the Trinity and the divine Sonship of Christ. In this it merely reflects the teachings of the Qur'an, which openly dismiss the Bible's covenantal promises to the 'people of the book.'
By this distortion the Qur'an bestows upon Muslim Arabs a divine right to the land through Abraham and Ishmael. Muhammad, in fact, made this a cornerstone of Islam. This claim of Abrahamic inheritance compels the Arabs to militancy. 'Islam is a militant religion, which makes perpetual war incumbent on the Muslim community until the whole world is subjected to its rule.' This, of course, is not loudly proclaimed, except when Muslims are in the majority. Parts of the Qur'an encourage a philosophy of retaliation, justifying jihad on unbelievers who obstruct the faith.
THE ISRAELI MISAPPROPRIATION
As the Muslim Arabs have expropriated the biblical promises to the land, so also the Jews have tended to misappropriate them. Some Israeli leaders have appealed to the biblical covenants as grounds for their political right to the land. Others have similarly politicized the Abrahamic covenant, misappropriating it to defend their claims. In so doing they've forgotten to read the fine print. So that we do not make the same mistake, we need to take a closer look at that covenant with its detailed stipulations.
Israel's divine right to the land rests on two Old Testament covenants, as discussed in Chapter 2. The first was that which was given to Abraham, and later confirmed to Isaac and Jacob (Genesis 12:7; 13:15; 17:8; 26:3; 28:13). This covenant was also later used to reaffirm Israel's right to cross the Jordan into Canaan (Deuteronomy 1:8). The second, often called the Palestinian covenant, was given to Moses before the nation entered the Promised Land (Deuteronomy 283Q).365 This second covenant elaborated on the Abrahamic treaty. In this lengthy treatise the Lord itemized the conditions under which Israel could occupy the land. He reminded them that he was the covenant Lord and they would be his tenants or guests.
Grounded on the Abrahamic covenant, the promise of the land was unconditional; it guaranteed that the land of Canaan would eventually be Israel's forever (Psalm 105:9-11). But related to the Palestinian covenant, its benefits were conditional. The land would be theirs ultimately; but the enjoyment of it by succeeding generations had specific strings attached. Obedience was required of those who would occupy the land.
That this promise and its conditions would be enforced was demonstrated time and again in ancient Israel as the nation moved through cycles of blessing, disobedience, judgment, repentance, and restoration. It almost seemed as if the people became addicted to the pattern. At issue was the Lord's covenant-keeping character. To underscore the certainty of his Word, the Lord twice allowed the temple to be destroyed and the people scattered. From the last calamity in AD. 70 there has yet to be a complete restoration.
THE BASIS OF DIVINE RESTORATION TO THE LAND
That covenant also outlined specific conditions for Israel's restoration and return to the land. Certain human conditions had to be met by God's people before he would act. Let's briefly trace those conditions as laid out in the Old Testament. These conditions were first expressed in Deuteronomy 30:1-3:
And it shall come to pass, when all these are come upon you, the blessings and the curses which I have set before you, and you shall call them to mind among all the nations where the Lord your God has driven you, and shall return to the Lord your God and obey his voice according to all that I command you this day, you and your children, with all your heart and with all your soul; then the Lord your God will bring back again your captivity, and have compassion upon you, and will return and gather you from all the nations where the Lord your God has driven you. (Lamsa version)
Those conditions were later repeated in many Old Testament passages, emphasizing that Israel's return to the land was contingent on its 'return to the LORD.' Even the physical blessings of the covenant were dependent on its spiritual response. Solomon stressed this in his dedicatory prayer at the temple. Envisioning Israel's future scattering when it would depart from the Lord, Solomon implored the Lord to 'hear thou in heaven' when the people would pray (1 Kings 8; 2 Chronicles 6). The Lord replied, 'If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land' (2 Chronicles 7:14, NKJV).
The same conditions were emphasized by the writing prophets. Joel, one of the earliest, presents a paradigm for restoration both historically and prophetically. His key point was that genuine repentance must precede the blessing of restoration (Joel 2:12-19). Deliverance from both locusts and hostile armies depended on the people's genuine turning to the Lord (2:12).
At the close of the Old Testament, Zechariah gets more specific about what that final turning to the Lord means. He is the most messianic of all the prophets, describing both the Lord's first coming and rejection by Israel (9-1l), and his second coming and reception (12-14). After portraying the Lord's future deliverance of the remnant from the gentile armies attacking it, the prophet quotes the Lord: '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' (Zechariah 12:10, NKJV). He defines that piercing as the wounds 'with which I was wounded in the house of my friends' (13:6, NKJV). All this relates to the earlier description of Messiah's vicarious offering 'as a lamb [led] to the slaughter' in Isaiah 53:5-7 (NKJV).
When Jesus came the first time and was rebuked by the Pharisees for accepting Messianic honor, he reminded them of what the prophet Daniel had said about that 'wounding.' Daniel had coupled the 'cutting off' of Messiah with the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple (Daniel 9:25-26). In Luke 19:44, Jesus related the two when he said the city would be leveled 'because you did not recognize the time of your visitation' (NASB). Their failure to recognize and receive their Messianic visitor would bring the judgment of God on the city. And with that judgment would come also their scattering to the ends of the earth.
This was Zechariah's primary point in describing Israel's future repentance or 'turning to the Lord.' Central to that national mourning would be the acknowledgment they had wounded Messiah in their house. That deep mourning for and reception of him would bring a spiritual revolution to all the families of Israel, resulting in the physical restoration of Israel to the land.
THE DIVINE MEASURE OF ISRAEL TODAY
What happens when we put the divine plumb line to the house of Israel claiming the land today? Has it met the biblical conditions for restoration? By most human standards, the Jewish people stand high in regard to moral character. They appear to enjoy a surplus of intelligence, industry, self-sacrifice, high morals, and religious sincerity. Furthermore, they endured the Holocaust. From that crucible they have emerged to command international attention, doing so under constant threat of extinction. They have dramatically demonstrated the truth of the maxim, 'Growth comes through struggle.'
Measured by the divine standard, however, another picture emerges. Though modern Israel has a human and international right to the land, its people fall far short of covenant obligations. To put it bluntly, the current generation has no biblical right to possess the covenant land. The nation has never recognized the Messiah God sent, let alone mourned over his wounding. Though many in Israel admit to Jesus' greatness as a Jewish teacher, most adamantly reject him as Messiah. They see him as but one of several prominent pseudo-messiahs.
The State of Israel will allow nearly every deviation from Jewish orthodoxy in its policy of toleration and pluralism. Even Jewish atheists are welcomed as citizens-but not believers in Jesus. Though the Law of Return of 1950 granted citizenship to anyone born Jewish, the Israeli High Court of Justice ruled in 1962 in a case of a man who had been born Jewish but who had converted to Christianity. They decided that 'the fundamental conception that 'Jew' and 'Christian' are a contradiction in terms is something which is unreservedly accepted by all.' On December 25, 1989, the Israeli Supreme Court ruled that Messianic Jews 'cannot claim the right to come to this country as immigrants by virtue of the Law of Return' because those Jews 'who believe in Jesus are 'members of a different faith.'
Judged on biblical grounds, the nation today does not pass divine muster as a nation living in covenant obedience to God. The promise to possess the land is directly tied to the nation's response to Messiah. Though its international right to the land can be well defended, Israel's divine right by covenant to possess it today has only sentiment in its favor.
THE CHURCH'S RESPONSIBILITY TO ISRAEL TODAY
Care must be taken at this point, lest we get the wrong idea of the church's proper attitude toward Israel. As we have noted, a spirit of animosity has clouded relations between Jews and Christians through most of church history. Too often the church has forgotten that it is "not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,' says the LORD of hosts' (Zechariah 4:6, NASB). Though the church today cannot repair that damage, it can narrow the breach by rethinking some of the issues in a spirit of reconciliation. Many Jewish-Christian writers have addressed the problem in an attempt to find some ground of rapprochement. Both Catholics and Protestants have anguished over it, seeking areas of dialogue with Jewish leaders. Let's note several monumental problems separating the two camps that need special clarification if a climate for mutual dialogue is to be found. (end of Ellison Quote)
Supporting Israel's Right to the Land
Historically, Israel's right to possess the land in any given generation is conditioned on the nation's obedience to God. Today most of those living in the State of Israel are there in unbelief. Does that mean the church should not support any of Israel's claims to the land? The answer is no, for two reasons.
First, as indicated earlier, God does announce a regathering of the people to the land in unbelief prior to the coming of the Messiah (Ezekiel 37:1-14; Zechariah 12:1-13:1). The current restoration of the State of Israel seems to be a harbinger of God's end-time program. And if that's the case, then God's hand is in the establishment of Israel.
Second, the Palestinian covenant was established between God and Israel. God, and God alone, has the right to determine the level of blessing or cursing to be meted out to his people. But the Abrahamic covenant does have a component that applies to all the nations. God said, 'I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse' (Genesis 12:3). Even when Israel was under God's judgment, God still held nations accountable for their treatment of the Jewish people. God judged the Assyrians and the Babylonians for mistreating his people (Jeremiah 80:17-19). God also announced he would judge nations based on their treatment of his chosen people (Jeremiah 30:16; Obadiah 15-17). The Abrahamic covenant is still operative, and God still holds nations accountable to seek ways to bless the Jewish people. And one way to do that today is to support Israel's right to their God-given land.'
(10) Ray C. Stedman, Comfort at the Grave.
(11) From Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum, The Footsteps of the Messiah, Ariel Ministries, 2004:
...Ezekiel draws a simile with the Exodus when, under Moses, God brought the entire nation of Israel out of the land of Egypt, and brought them into the wilderness of the Sinai Peninsula. God's plan and program for Israel at Sinai was to accomplish two things: first, they were to receive the Law of Moses; and second, they were to build a Tabernacle through which much of the Law could then be maintained. With these two things accomplished, they were to press on and enter into the Promised Land itself. But because of a series of rebellions and murmurings against God's revealed will, finally at the Oasis of Kadesh Barnea, which was right on the border of the Promised Land, God entered into judgment with His people. The divine judgment was that those who came out of Egypt would now have to continue wandering throughout the wilderness for forty years. During those forty years, all those who came out would die our, except for two righteous spies, and those below the age of twenty. So forty years later it was a new nation that was allowed to enter the Land under Joshua, a nation that was born as free men in the wilderness, not as slaves in Egypt.
That historical frame of reference is the backdrop for the future. But this time, Ezekiel prophesies, God will regather His people from all parts of the world. It should be noted that it is a regathering out of wrath, and a gathering for wrath. They were gathered out of the wrath of the Holocaust. The events of the Nazi Holocaust, when six million Jewish people died, created the world stage for Israel to become a state, for the regathering in unbelief. That this gathering is not in faith, but in unbelief, is seen from the fact that this gathering is with a mighty hand, and with an outstretched arm, and with wrath poured out. This phrase is repeated twice and is found in verses 33 and 34. God's goal is that of Messianic Kingship, but the means of attaining it will be by wrath and judgment. This is a gathering both out of wrath and for wrath. This regathering in unbelief occurs after wrath has been poured out on the people. But because it is a regathering in unbelief, it is a regathering for a future time of wrath. In that future time of wrath, God will once again enter into judgment with His people, and will purge out the rebels among them. Those who remain will turn to the Lord; they will be brought into the bond of the covenant, specifically, the bond of the New Covenant (Jeremiah 31:31-34). They will be brought into national salvation. Then it will be a new nation, a regenerate nation, that will be allowed to enter the Land under King Messiah for the final restoration.
In these verses, Ezekiel clearly describes a worldwide regathering in unbelief, from wrath and for wrath, in preparation for a specific period of judgment that will then lead to a national salvation, and in turn to their final restoration.
Another passage making the same point is found in Ezekiel 22:17-22:
The word of the LORD came to me, saying, 'Son of man, the house of Israel has become dross to Me; they are all bronze, tin, iron, and lead, in the midst of a furnace; they have become dross from silver. 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 I will gather you in My anger and in My fury, and I will leave you there and melt you. Yes, I will gather you and blow on you with the fire of My wrath, and you shall be melted in its midst. As silver is melted in the midst of a furnace, so shall you be melted in its midst; then you shall know that I, the LORD, have poured out My fury on you." (Ezekiel 22:17-22)Again, Ezekiel describes a regathering, this time focusing upon the City of Jerusalem. Jerusalem becomes the furnace of affliction, a common figure pointing to Israel's need for refining (Isaiah 1:22, 25: 48:10; Jeremiah 6:27-30; 9:7; Zechariah 13:9; Malachi 3:2-3). Furthermore, it is also a regathering in unbelief because they are filled with the impurities of brass and iron and lead and tin. They are also regathered for a future time of wrath, when the wrath of God will be poured upon them for the purpose of melting them and to purify them. As a purified, believing nation, they will then turn to the Lord. Here again he speaks of worldwide regathering in unbelief in preparation for a specific future judgment, but the purpose of the judgment is to bring them to national repentance. only then will they experience the final worldwide restoration in faith'
'And you, son of man, prophesy to the mountains of Israel, and say, 'O mountains of Israel, hear the word of the LORD! 'Thus says the Lord GOD: 'Because the enemy has said of you, 'Aha! The ancient heights have become our possession,""therefore prophesy, and say, 'Thus says the Lord GOD: 'Because they made you desolate and swallowed you up on every side, so that you became the possession of the rest of the nations, and you are taken up by the lips of talkers and slandered by the people'-- 'therefore, O mountains of Israel, hear the word of the Lord GOD! Thus says the Lord GOD to the mountains, the hills, the rivers, the valleys, the desolate wastes, and the cities that have been forsaken, which became plunder and mockery to the rest of the nations all around--'therefore thus says the Lord GOD: 'Surely I have spoken in My burning jealousy against the rest of the nations and against all Edom, who gave My land to themselves as a possession, with whole-hearted joy and spiteful minds, in order to plunder its open country." 'Therefore prophesy concerning the land of Israel, and say to the mountains, the hills, the rivers, and the valleys, 'Thus says the Lord GOD: 'Behold, I have spoken in My jealousy and My fury, because you have borne the shame of the nations.' 'Therefore thus says the Lord GOD: 'I have raised My hand in an oath that surely the nations that are around you shall bear their own shame. 'But you, O mountains of Israel, you shall shoot forth your branches and yield your fruit to My people Israel, for they are about to come. 'For indeed I am for you, and I will turn to you, and you shall be tilled and sown. 'I will multiply men upon you, all the house of Israel, all of it; and the cities shall be inhabited and the ruins rebuilt. 'I will multiply upon you man and beast; and they shall increase and bear young; I will make you inhabited as in former times, and do better for you than at your beginnings. Then you shall know that I am the LORD. 'Yes, I will cause men to walk on you, My people Israel; they shall take possession of you, and you shall be their inheritance; no more shall you bereave them of children.' 'Thus says the Lord GOD: 'Because they say to you, 'You devour men and bereave your nation of children,"therefore you shall devour men no more, nor bereave your nation anymore,' says the Lord GOD. (Ezekiel 36:-1-15)
'Nor will I let you hear the taunts of the nations anymore, nor bear the reproach of the peoples anymore, nor shall you cause your nation to stumble anymore,' says the Lord GOD." 'He found him in a desert land And in the wasteland, a howling wilderness; He encircled him, He instructed him, He kept him as the apple of His eye.' (Deuteronomy 32:10)
'For thus says the LORD of hosts: 'He sent Me after glory, to the nations which plunder you; for he who touches you touches the apple of His eye. For surely I will shake My hand against them, and they shall become spoil for their servants. Then you will know that the LORD of hosts has sent Me. Sing and rejoice, O daughter of Zion! For behold, I am coming and I will dwell in your midst,' says the LORD. (Zechariah 2:8-10)
'At the same time,' says the LORD, 'I will be the God of all the families of Israel, and they shall be My people.' Thus says the LORD: 'The people who survived the sword Found grace in the wilderness-- Israel, when I went to give him rest.' The LORD has appeared of old to me, saying: 'Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love; Therefore with lovingkindness I have drawn you. Again I will build you, and you shall be rebuilt, O virgin of Israel! You shall again be adorned with your tambourines, And shall go forth in the dances of those who rejoice. You shall yet plant vines on the mountains of Samaria; The planters shall plant and eat them as ordinary food. For there shall be a day When the watchmen will cry on Mount Ephraim, 'Arise, and let us go up to Zion, To the LORD our God." For thus says the LORD: 'Sing with gladness for Jacob, And shout among the chief of the nations; Proclaim, give praise, and say, 'O LORD, save Your people, The remnant of Israel!' Behold, I will bring them from the north country, And gather them from the ends of the earth, Among them the blind and the lame, The woman with child And the one who labors with child, together; A great throng shall return there. They shall come with weeping, And with supplications I will lead them. I will cause them to walk by the rivers of waters, In a straight way in which they shall not stumble; For I am a Father to Israel, And Ephraim is My firstborn. 'Hear the word of the LORD, O nations, And declare it in the isles afar off, and say, 'He who scattered Israel will gather him, And keep him as a shepherd does his flock.' For the LORD has redeemed Jacob, And ransomed him from the hand of one stronger than he. Therefore they shall come and sing in the height of Zion, Streaming to the goodness of the LORD--For wheat and new wine and oil, For the young of the flock and the herd; Their souls shall be like a well-watered garden, And they shall sorrow no more at all.' (Jeremiah 31:1-12)
(13) From Ray Stedman, 'The most dramatic event in all history will be the visible appearing of Jesus Christ. No one can possibly miss it when it occurs. He himself describes it for us in Matthew 24:29-31:
'Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken; then will appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory; and he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.'
This is the most prophesied event in the Bible. The Old Testament contains many references to it, and it has been estimated that in the New Testament one verse out of ten refers to this coming of Jesus Christ. If all the references to this event were taken out of the New Testament, you find it unintelligible in many parts.
From 'Presence' to Unveiling
But we must be careful to understand it in relation to the parousia, the presence of Jesus, which has been going on since the Church was taken out of the restrictions of time before the end of the age began. This flaming advent is part of the parousia, actually the event that marks the end of the secret presence. It is the outshining of his presence before the eyes of the whole world. What he has been in secret to his own during the dark days of the tribulation, he now will be openly before the whole world. He will especially manifest himself to the Lawless One. Paul says, 'The Lord Jesus will slay him with the breath of his mouth and destroy him by his appearing and his coming' (2 Thessalonians 2:8).
That last phrase, 'his appearing and his coming,' is literally, 'the epiphany of his parousia.' Epiphany is a word that means unveiling, or outshining. Taken in that sense, Paul is calling this dramatic appearance of Jesus Christ, 'the unveiling of his presence.' It is the startling climax of the whole period which Jesus calls 'the close of the age.'
The final crashing crescendo of civilization's last hour will be accomplished in three sweeping movements. Each of these is traced in broad strokes by Jesus. The first is a violent activity in nature:
'Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken.'
Notice that the Lord Jesus distinctly separates this event from the Great Tribulation. The tribulation will be essentially the manifestation of the naked brutality of man, the exhibition of the cruelty and unbelievable violence of the human heart unrestrained by grace. It is described for us in detail in the book of the Revelation, especially in the judgments of the seals and the trumpets. It will be a time when the horrors of Nazi persecution, reflected in the gas chambers of Buchenwald and Dachau, will be repeated all over the earth; a time when violence stalks the streets, and the nuclear witches of terror scream through the skies. As Jesus said, it will be a day of unprecedented human evil, of terrible slaughter and human suffering.
But immediately following this tribulation terrifying signs appear in the heavens. The phrase, 'the powers of the heavens will be shaken,' suggests severe gravitational disturbance of the solar system. This in turn would produce phenomenal effects on the earth. Showers of meteors will flash through the darkening skies. Earthquakes cause the land to heave and shake, and great tidal waves sweep the coasts. Luke reports that, 'men [will be] fainting with fear,' and there will be great 'distress of nations in perplexity at the roaring of the sea and the waves.' Volcanoes erupt, spouting out streams of lava and vast clouds of cinder and ash which obscure the sun and the moon. The sun is darkened and the moon reddens and is finally unable to shine at all ...
Voices from the Past
To face honestly the unresolved mysteries of the past is realize how readily these words of Jesus can be fulfilled. It is not only Jesus who tells us of these earth traumas, but other prophets from the Old Testament have foretold them. For instance, Joel 2:30,31 says:
'And I will give portents in the heavens and on the earth, blood and fire and columns of smoke. The sun shall be turned to darkness, and the moon to blood, before the great and terrible day of the LORD comes.'
Isaiah also describes the same event, using very similar language in 13:9, 10:
'Behold, the day of the LORD comes, cruel, with wrath and fierce anger, to make the earth a desolation and to destroy its sinners from it. For the stars of the heavens and their constellations will not give their light; the sun will be dark at its rising and the moon will not shed its light.'
And in Revelation 6:12-14, the apostle John describes it in very vivid terms.
'When he opened the sixth seal, I looked, and behold, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth, the full moon became like blood, and the stars of the sky fell to the earth as the fig tree sheds its winter fruit when shaken by a gale; the sky vanished like a scroll that is rolled up, and every mountain and island was removed from its place.'
All these passages confirm the words of Jesus that some celestial force will create these tremendous events upon earth, and will thus introduce the final act in the drama of civilization as we know it.
This violent upheaval in nature is followed immediately by the sign of the Son of man in heaven and the visible appearing of Jesus Christ to all the earth:
'Then will appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven, and then all the tribes of earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.'
As we have already noted, this is the outshining of his glory; the sudden unveiling of his presence. It is often called the 'second coming,' though in truth that term covers the whole period of Christ's secret presence. But it will be the second time the world sees Jesus Christ. The last time it saw him was on a bloody cross, writhing in the agonies of death, apparently a shameful failure with no glory, no power and no success. But when it sees him again it will see him coming triumphant in power and glory...
The reference of Jesus to his coming 'with power and great glory' reminds us immediately of the closing words of the Lord's Prayer. How many times have you prayed, 'For Thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory?' That prayer reflects the anticipation of God's people, through all the dark centuries, of the eventual coming of that flaming hope when the power and the glory of the universe will be in the hands of the One to whom it rightfully belongs...
But that is not all that will happen to Israel when Jesus appears in power and glory. He also adds, concerning himself, 'He will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.'
Once again we do not need to be in doubt as to who these elect are. Isaiah 11:11, 12 helps us here:
'In that day [the context makes clear it is the end of the age] the Lord will extend his hand yet a second time to recover the remnant which is left of his people, from Assyria, from Egypt, from Pathros, from Ethiopia, from Elam, from Shinar, from Hamath, and from the coastlands of the sea. He will raise an ensign for the nations, and will assemble the outcasts of Israel, and gather the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth.'
Jeremiah also confirms the same promise. The whole thirty-first chapter of Jeremiah should be read to note the beauty of its language and the lilting gladness of its promise. But in verses 7,8 he says:
"...the LORD has saved his people, the remnant of Israel.' Behold, I will bring them from the north country, and gather them from the farthest parts of the earth, among them the blind and the lame, the woman with child and her who is in travail, together; a great company, they shall return here.'
Certainly this gathering will include the 144,000. Perhaps also it will include as many as are left alive of the 'great multitude' of Gentiles who believe in Jesus because of the testimony of the remnant of Israel. Jesus himself, in his description of this same gathering given in the parables of Matthew 13, suggests that others are included. He says, in verses 40-43:
'Just as the weeds [tares] are gathered and burned with fire, so will it be at the close of the age. The Son of man will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all evildoers, and throw them into the furnace of fire; there men will weep and gnash their teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father.'
Many have confused this gathering by the angels with the removal of the church, described by Paul in 1 Thessalonians 4. Nothing is said here of gathering the elect into heaven, but rather, as ordinary living persons, they are gathered into an earthly kingdom. There is no resurrection of the dead mentioned at all, while in the case of the removal of the church, this is a primary emphasis.
Furthermore, when the church is removed there is no suggestion that evil men are judged, but in the passage quoted above from Matthew 13, Jesus makes clear that 'all causes of sin and all evildoers' will be removed from his kingdom at the same time that the elect are gathered. This he emphasizes further in another of the Matthew 13 parables, verses 47-50:
'Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net which was thrown into the sea and gathered fish of every kind; when it was full, men drew it ashore and sat down and sorted the good into vessels but threw away the bad. So will it be at the close of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous, and throw them into the furnace of fire; there men will weep and gnash their teeth.'
Doubtless it will be at this time that the Lawless One will come to his end as it is described by John in Revelation 19:19-21:
'And I saw the beast and the kings of the earth with their armies gathered to make war against him who sits upon the horse [the LORD Jesus] and against his army. And the beast was captured, and with it the false prophet who in its presence had worked the signs by which he deceived those who had received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped its image. These two were thrown alive into the lake of fire that burns with brimstone. And the rest were slain by the sword of him who sits upon the horse, the sword that issues from his mouth; and all the birds were gorged with their flesh.'
In this review of his dramatic return to earth, the Lord Jesus has laid great stress upon its effect on Israel. Probably you, like the vast majority today, are not Jewish but Gentile. You may well ask, 'What significance has all this for me?' As we have already noted, whenever God wants us to understand how he will handle us as believers today, he holds before us the history of the nation Israel.
Briefly retrace the history of this race and you will see what is meant. In that desperate hour when they were slaves and serfs, in bondage in Egypt, the angel of death passed over and spared them, and in that first Passover they were born as a nation by the grace of God. They were redeemed, brought out of bondage, and set free. Then, in the marvelous phrasing of Moses, God carried them on eagles' wings and bore them along, upholding them, and sustaining them by miraculous interventions on their behalf. (see Exodus 19:4.)
But his goodness and grace were repaid, for the most part, by pride, arrogance, and a self-righteous effort to please him without any genuine conviction of heart. They fell to murmuring, complaining, and grumbling, in constant frustration of God's efforts with them. At last there follows the story of gradually increasing moral failure and of final dispersion in moral bankruptcy and despair.
For centuries they wandered throughout the length and breadth of the earth, preserved as a nation, but still in unbelief. Even when they were allowed to go back to Israel and establish themselves as a nation, again they did so in unbelief. But, says Jesus, the hour is coming when by an act of sovereign grace, without any merit on their part, God will bring them back again to the land. This time it will be an hour of mourning and repentance when they will understand at last what God has been wanting to do with them. They will then enter into a time of national health and wholeness and will become the instrument of blessing to all the earth.
If you read carefully the book of Romans you will see that the same story is told in chapters 5-8. These detail for us the way God has designed to bring men into genuine liberty, genuine joy and the true excitement of life. In chapters 9-11 of Romans' Israel is brought in as the illustration of all this. These trace for us the way God will work with us. When we come to the place of utter spiritual bankruptcy, when we stop thinking we can contribute something of value to God, and begin at last to rest, to rely wholly upon his ability to do everything through us-then we begin to enter into the fullness of life that God has planned for man. This is the meaning of God's dealings with Israel. (From What on Earth is Happening: The Olivet Discourse, by Ray C. Stedman)