Israel is no ordinary nation. According to the Bible they were selected and called by God to be a model nation, Exhibit A, on the world stage. Their specific selection springs from a series of promises God made with Abraham at least 500 years earlier.
It was at the Exodus from Egypt that Israel "was baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea," gaining her national identity under Yahweh.
I do not want you to be unaware that all our fathers were under the cloud, all passed through the sea, all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ. (1 Corinthians 10:1-4)
Moses went up to God, and the LORD called to him from the mountain, saying, "Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob, and tell the children of Israel: 'You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles' wings and brought you to Myself. 'Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earth is Mine.' And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.' These are the words which you shall speak to the children of Israel." (Exodus 19:3-6)
Moses (and later, seventy elders assisting him) served as national leaders during their 40-year wanderings in the wilderness of Sinai. But a fully functioning priesthood was also in place to cover every violation of the Law, providing ongoing forgiveness, covering of sin, and the reassuring promise that a great king, a Messiah, would one day come among them bringing healing to all nations--and peace on earth at last. Israel was (and is) a covenant people with individual and corporate access to the living God. No other nation has such a relationship with God.
Very early in Israel's history the elements of prophet, priest and king were evident in the governmental system of that people.
"The LORD your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me [Moses] from your midst, from your brethren. Him you shall hear. And the LORD said to me: 'I will raise up for them a Prophet like you from among their brethren, and 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 18:15-18)
The Other Nations: The establishment of nations on earth other than Israel--after the Flood of Noah--can be traced back to The Table of Nations in Genesis 10-11. (See http://ldolphin.org/ntable.html). Israel's place among the nations is one facet of God's overall sovereignty over all nations, over the entire earth.
Israel's' destined role as head of all the nations is clear from many passages in the Bible. Isaiah 60 is but one of many examples:
Arise, shine; for your light [Israel] has come, and the glory of the LORD has risen upon you. For behold, darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples; but the LORD will arise upon you, and his glory will be seen upon you. And nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising. Lift up your eyes round about, and see; they all gather together, they come to you; your sons shall come from far, and your daughters shall be carried in the arms. Then you shall see and be radiant, your heart shall thrill and rejoice; because the abundance of the sea shall be turned to you, the wealth of the nations shall come to you. A multitude of camels shall cover you, the young camels of Midian and Ephah; all those from Sheba shall come. They shall bring gold and frankincense, and shall proclaim the praise of the LORD. All the flocks of Kedar shall be gathered to you, the rams of Nebaioth shall minister to you; they shall come up with acceptance on my altar, and I will glorify my glorious house. Who are these that fly like a cloud, and like doves to their windows? For the coastlands [far distant lands] shall wait for me, the ships of Tarshish first, to bring your sons from far, their silver and gold with them, for the name of the LORD your God, and for the Holy One of Israel, because he has glorified you. Foreigners shall build up your walls, and their kings shall minister to you; for in my wrath I smote you, but in my favor I have had mercy on you. Your gates shall be open continually; day and night they shall not be shut; that men may bring to you the wealth of the nations, with their kings led in procession. For the nation and kingdom that will not serve you shall perish those nations shall be utterly laid waste... (Isaiah 60:1-12)
Similarly the ultimate place of the city of Jerusalem as earth's eventual capital city is clear from many clear statements in the Bible. (See "Who Owns Jerusalem," http://ldolphin.org/psalm2.html).
The Conquest: The book of Judges describes the entry of the second generation of Israelites into their promised land under the able leadership of Joshua and Caleb. Marring the story is the account of the incomplete obedience of the various tribes in not driving out the pagan Canaanite tribes who were living illegally in God's land. (Judges 2)
The Period of the Judges: After the death of Joshua, Caleb and the tribal leaders who settled the land, Israel defaulted to a time of decline and chaos marked in the Book of Judges by the repeated phrase, "In those days there was no king in the land. Every man did what was right in his own eyes." Lack of cohesive government and unity allowed Israel's enemies from within and from outside the land to bring them under repeated cycles of slavery and bondage. When the people cried out to God, Yahweh sent them a series of deliverers, or judges. These leaders returned blessing and prosperity to the land, usually for about a generation, until the people forgot all about God all over again.
An Invisible King: Samuel, the last of the Judges and the first of the great Prophets, provided strong and unifying leadership to Israel during his long life. But his two sons, who might have been expected to succeed him, were not competent. The people clamored for a king to rule over them:
Then all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah, and said to him, "Look, you are old, and your sons do not walk in your ways. Now make us a king to judge us like all the nations." But the thing displeased Samuel when they said, "Give us a king to judge us." So Samuel prayed to the LORD.
And the LORD said to Samuel, "Heed the voice of the people in all that they say to you; for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me, that I should not reign over them. "According to all the works which they have done since the day that I brought them up out of Egypt, even to this day--with which they have forsaken Me and served other gods--so they are doing to you also. "Now therefore, heed their voice.
However, you shall solemnly forewarn them, and show them the behavior of the king who will reign over them." So Samuel told all the words of the LORD to the people who asked him for a king. And he said, "This will be the behavior of the king who will reign over you: He will take your sons and appoint them for his own chariots and to be his horsemen, and some will run before his chariots. "He will appoint captains over his thousands and captains over his fifties, will set some to plow his ground and reap his harvest, and some to make his weapons of war and equipment for his chariots. "He will take your daughters to be perfumers, cooks, and bakers. "And he will take the best of your fields, your vineyards, and your olive groves, and give them to his servants. "He will take a tenth of your grain and your vintage, and give it to his officers and servants. "And he will take your male servants, your female servants, your finest young men, and your donkeys, and put them to his work. "He will take a tenth of your sheep. And you will be his servants. "And you will cry out in that day because of your king whom you have chosen for yourselves, and the LORD will not hear you in that day."
Nevertheless the people refused to obey the voice of Samuel; and they said, "No, but we will have a king over us, that we also may be like all the nations, and that our king may judge us and go out before us and fight our battles." And Samuel heard all the words of the people, and he repeated them in the hearing of the LORD. So the LORD said to Samuel, "Heed their voice, and make them a king." And Samuel said to the men of Israel, "Every man go to his city." (1 Samuel 8:4-22)
As it turned out, God had anticipated the future time when the people of Israel would insist on a visible king. The Law of Moses had already made the following provisions and guidelines for such kings:
"When you come to the land which the LORD your God is giving you, and possess it and dwell in it, and say, 'I will set a king over me like all the nations that are around me,' "you shall surely set a king over you whom the LORD your God chooses; one from among your brethren you shall set as king over you; you may not set a foreigner over you, who is not your brother. "But he shall not multiply horses for himself, nor cause the people to return to Egypt to multiply horses, for the LORD has said to you, 'You shall not return that way again.' "Neither shall he multiply wives for himself, lest his heart turn away; nor shall he greatly multiply silver and gold for himself. "Also it shall be, when he sits on the throne of his kingdom, that he shall write for himself a copy of this law in a book, from the one before the priests, the Levites. "And it shall be with him, and he shall read it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the LORD his God and be careful to observe all the words of this law and these statutes, "that his heart may not be lifted above his brethren, that he may not turn aside from the commandment to the right hand or to the left, and that he may prolong his days in his kingdom, he and his children in the midst of Israel. (Deuteronomy 17:14-20)
The Downhill Slide to Babylon: Beginning with Saul, David, and Solomon the books of Samuel, Kings and Chronicles trace for us the next 600 years of Israel's history under the rule of kings (with a separate priesthood). A civil war had split the kingdom after the death of Solomon. Idolatrous shrines and corrupt priests were installed at Bethel and Dan to help bring about loyalty to the northern kings. The record shows that all 19 kings in the ten northern tribes ("Israel") were indifferent or actually opposed to God's expressed desire to rule his people through them. In the south, Benjamin and Judah, centering their worship around the temple in Jerusalem, retained their integrity somewhat longer--with five out of their 20 kings recorded as "doing what was right before the Lord." (For a list of these kings see http://ldolphin.org/kings.html).
But the reforms--even under the good kings--were always incomplete. The recorded revivals and restorations never brought the nation back to where she had been under King David. The inexorable decline was marked by the rise of great prophets who warned of God's grave displeasure at the failure of His people to reflect His character for all the world to see and to emulate. God had always desired that all the nations should also know the one true God and live in freedom--based on Israel as the model nation displaying God's character for all to see.
Israel's strength was always to be sought in total reliance on Yahweh, never on foreign powers and alliances, never on their own resources. Deuteronomy Chapters 28-29 describe in detail promises of blessing for obedience and "curses" for disobedience. There were also special conditions required by the Lord for all those who chose to live in His land. These aspects of the Covenant with Moses (and the so called "Covenant of the Land") were specific to Israel.
In 722 BC the Ten Northern Tribes fell to the Assyrians. This was a result of persistent, chronic, long term rejection of the rule of Yahweh in their lives. Most of the Jews who lived in the North were carried into captivity and replaced by foreigners. (see 2 Kings 17). In 586 BC--136 years later--Jerusalem fell to the Babylonian armies led by Nebuchadnezzar. The magnificent temple Solomon had built was plundered and burned. Jerusalem was destroyed with horrendous loss of life. Small numbers of Jews--tens of thousands only--were taken to Babylon where they served the kings of Babylon for seventy years. (See The Destruction of the First Temple, http://ldolphin.org/destruct1.html).
Return from Babylon: When God returned His people to their land beginning in 538 BC, they were led by Zerubbabel, a legitimate heir to the throne of David, and by a high priest names Jeshua (Joshua), who was a descendant of Aaron. The temple was rebuilt, the cities restored and repopulated. In principle Israel could then have had both a king and high priest in office over the land.
But Israel was now a vassal state. First they were under servitude to the Babylonians; after that under the Persians, then the Greeks and then the Romans. Israel had entered a long period of her history when she would be subservient to foreign dominion. Jesus later spoke of this, "Jerusalem will be trodden down by the gentiles until the times of the gentiles are fulfilled" (Luke 21:24). Even so the prophet Zechariah foretold of the future day when Israel's messiah would be both their high priest and their rightful king.
The spiritual revival which marked the building of the Second Temple, the completion of new walls under Nehemiah, and the great teaching of Ezra, faded slowly over the next 400+ years so that the spiritual life of the nation was very once again very low when John the Baptist came on the scene to announce that the Messiah had come at last. (For background see http://raystedman.org/adventure/0240.html)
Messiah's First Visit: Jesus was very popular with the crowds during the first part of his three year ministry among His people Israel. Some received Him and followed Him but the popular consensus was that the real Messiah would surely evict the Roman overlords and establish a glorious long-expected kingdom on earth, as promised by the prophets of old. Jesus was also a threat to the religious establishment of Israel which by this time was quite thoroughly corrupt.
Not only the Jews, but the entire world are responsible for the betrayal and crucifixion of Jesus--He was not only Israel's Messiah but the Savior of all of mankind--the heir to the entire earth--King of kings and Lord of lords. It was God who sent Him to die for all of us.
But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying out, "Abba, Father!" Therefore you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ. (Galatians 4:4-7)
Just before predicting the destruction of the Second Temple and of Jerusalem Jesus also lamented Jerusalem's long history of rejecting God's rule over them:
"O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing! See! Your house is left to you desolate; for I say to you, you shall see Me no more till you say, 'Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD!'" (Matthew 23:37-39)
The Diaspora: Repeated revolts against Roman rule caused the Romans not only to destroy the second temple and the city of Jerusalem in AD 70, but ongoing revolts led the Romans to subsequently remove most all the Jews from their land and scatter them among the nations in what has since been called "the Diaspora." The fact that such terrible consequences would follow deep-seated and persistent revolt against their legitimate King had been thoroughly described by Moses at in the closing Chapters of Deuteronomy All the prophets said the same thing as Moses.
However none of the Old Testament prophets ever said that God's promises to Israel were now null and void or that Israel was to be permanently set aside. Quite the opposite. One finds the most glowing, glorious promises for Israel's long-term prosperity in Isaiah, Ezekiel, Jeremiah and the other prophets immediately after the grimmest, darkest predictions of God's consequence engine running in their history. (For example see the sequence of predictions by Ezekiel in Chapters 33-39)
Statehood in 1948: The history of the Jews in their 2000-year Diaspora is full of amazing accounts of the survival of God's chosen people, the Jews, in small numbers, in many nations, often under horrendous persecution and maltreatment. The modern-day restoration of the State of Israel springing from the Zionist movement in the late 19th Century is a series of miracles. Any student of the Bible can easily see that only God could bring this about. Ezekiel is clear that Israel's final restoration to their own land would see them coming back to the land in a state of unbelief. Only after the most severe trials they had ever seen would they at last return to their God.
"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. "Then if anyone says to you, 'Look, here is the Christ!' or 'There!' do not believe it. "For false messiahs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. "See, I have told you beforehand. "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 of the Son of Man be. "For wherever the carcass is, there the eagles will be gathered together. "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. "And He will send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other." (Matthew 24:21-31)
"At that time Michael shall stand up, The great prince who stands watch over the sons of your people; And there shall be a time of trouble, Such as never was since there was a nation, Even to that time. And at that time your people shall be delivered, Every one who is found written in the book. And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, Some to everlasting life, Some to shame and everlasting contempt. Those who are wise shall shine Like the brightness of the firmament, And those who turn many to righteousness Like the stars forever and ever"it shall be for a time, times, and half a time; and when the power of the holy people has been completely shattered, all these things shall be finished.Many shall be purified, made white, and refined, but the wicked shall do wickedly; and none of the wicked shall understand, but the wise shall understand." (Daniel 12:1-10)
Zechariah gives details of the sudden conversion of national Israel back to their God in their 11th hour of gravest crisis:
"In that day the LORD will defend the inhabitants of Jerusalem; the one who is feeble among them in that day shall be like David, and the house of David shall be like God, like the Angel of the LORD before them. "It shall be in that day that I will seek to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem. "And I will pour on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of grace and supplication; then they will look on Me whom they pierced. Yes, they will mourn for Him as one mourns for his only son, and grieve for Him as one grieves for a firstborn. "In that day there shall be a great mourning in Jerusalem, like the mourning at Hadad Rimmon in the plain of Megiddo. "And the land shall mourn, every family by itself: the family of the house of David by itself, and their wives by themselves; the family of the house of Nathan by itself, and their wives by themselves; "the family of the house of Levi by itself, and their wives by themselves; the family of Shimei by itself, and their wives by themselves; "all the families that remain, every family by itself, and their wives by themselves. "In that day a fountain shall be opened for the house of David and for the inhabitants of Jerusalem, for sin and for uncleanness. "It shall be in that day," says the LORD of hosts, "that I will cut off the names of the idols from the land, and they shall no longer be remembered. I will also cause the prophets and the unclean spirit to depart from the land." (Zechariah 12:8-14, 13:1-2)
Messiah Guarantees the Final Outcome: A series of great chapters in the latter part of the Book of Isaiah describe God's calling and purpose for His people Israel. Next, the historic failures of Israel are outlined--suggesting that God's plans had failed. But then Yahweh announces that His faithful servant, Messiah, is True Israel. Messiah would fulfill all that God purposed for the nation. Messiah's triumph can then be credited to the nation's account--effective at the point in time when the nation finally exercises faith in that real Messiah.
This situation--justification by faith alone apart from works--is well known to Gentile Christians who usually first pick up this great teaching from Paul's letter to Romans. Paul quoted Habakkuk who said,
I will stand my watch And set myself on the rampart, And watch to see what He will say to me, And what I will answer when I am corrected. Then the LORD answered me and said: "Write the vision And make it plain on tablets, That he may run who reads it. For the vision is yet for an appointed time; But at the end it will speak, and it will not lie. Though it tarries, wait for it; Because it will surely come, It will not tarry. "Behold the proud, His soul is not upright in him; But the just shall live by his faith." (2:1-4)
This last phrase, "the just shall live by faith" is interpreted in Romans 1:17 to mean that a person (or a nation) is pronounced righteous when he exercises believing faith in Jesus as Messiah. Romans discusses the transfer of our sins to Christ ("imputation") and the crediting of Christ's righteousness to us when we place our faith in Christ. In Galatians 3:11 the quote from Habakkuk has a different slant, "the man who is righteous through his faith will live." In Hebrews 10:38 the same verse is used to show that a righteous man shall live his life by faith. What this means is that only Messiah has the righteousness we need to be acceptable before God. In Romans 9, 10, and 11 Paul discusses at length the tendency of the Jews to rely on their own righteousness:
Brethren, my heart's desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they may be saved. For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. For they being ignorant of God's righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes. (Romans 10:1-4)
But of course, God is always the same. He meets men in every age, every generation on the same basis: He saves people by grace apart from works, apart from the law, on the basis of faith alone. This applies to Jewish as well as to gentile believers. Israel at the present time is not exercising saving faith in their true Messiah and until they do, there can be no world peace.
The Messiah Himself will bring Israel to Himself--he is their Kinsman-Redeemer and their Avenger of Blood. Their future is all up to Him. (See http://ldolphin.org/avenger.html).
The Final Chapter: Israel's present government has neither king nor priest. It is a completely secular democratic state, emulating in many ways western democracies. If God's original (and yet to be realized) goal for Israel is for her to be a theocracy with a functioning priesthood, how do we get from here to there? As already suggested, a time of great violence lies ahead for Israel--"the time of Jacob's trouble."
'For behold, the days are coming,' says the LORD, 'that I will bring back from captivity My people Israel and Judah,' says the LORD. 'And I will cause them to return to the land that I gave to their fathers, and they shall possess it.'" Now these are the words that the LORD spoke concerning Israel and Judah. "For thus says the LORD: 'We have heard a voice of trembling, Of fear, and not of peace. Ask now, and see, Whether a man is ever in labor with child? So why do I see every man with his hands on his loins Like a woman in labor, And all faces turned pale? Alas! For that day is great, So that none is like it; And it is the time of Jacob's trouble, But he shall be saved out of it.
'For it shall come to pass in that day,' Says the LORD of hosts, 'That I will break his yoke from your neck, And will burst your bonds; Foreigners shall no more enslave them. But they shall serve the LORD their God, And David their king, Whom I will raise up for them. 'Therefore do not fear, O My servant Jacob,' says the LORD, 'Nor be dismayed, O Israel; For behold, I will save you from afar, And your seed from the land of their captivity. Jacob shall return, have rest and be quiet, And no one shall make him afraid. For I am with you,' says the LORD, 'to save you; Though I make a full end of all nations where I have scattered you, Yet I will not make a complete end of you. But I will correct you in justice, And will not let you go altogether unpunished.' "For thus says the LORD: 'Your affliction is incurable, Your wound is severe. There is no one to plead your cause, That you may be bound up; You have no healing medicines. All your lovers have forgotten you; They do not seek you; For I have wounded you with the wound of an enemy, With the chastisement of a cruel one, For the multitude of your iniquities, Because your sins have increased. Why do you cry about your affliction? Your sorrow is incurable. Because of the multitude of your iniquities, Because your sins have increased, I have done these things to you. 'Therefore all those who devour you shall be devoured; And all your adversaries, every one of them, shall go into captivity; Those who plunder you shall become plunder, And all who prey upon you I will make a prey. For I will restore health to you And heal you of your wounds,' says the LORD, 'Because they called you an outcast saying: "This is Zion; No one seeks her."'
"Thus says the LORD: 'Behold, I will bring back the captivity of Jacob's tents, And have mercy on his dwelling places; The city shall be built upon its own mound, And the palace shall remain according to its own plan. Then out of them shall proceed thanksgiving And the voice of those who make merry; I will multiply them, and they shall not diminish; I will also glorify them, and they shall not be small. Their children also shall be as before, And their congregation shall be established before Me; And I will punish all who oppress them. Their nobles shall be from among them, And their governor shall come from their midst; Then I will cause him to draw near, And he shall approach Me; For who is this who pledged his heart to approach Me?' says the LORD. 'You shall be My people, And I will be your God.'" Behold, the whirlwind of the LORD Goes forth with fury, A continuing whirlwind; It will fall violently on the head of the wicked. The fierce anger of the LORD will not return until He has done it, And until He has performed the intents of His heart. In the latter days you will consider it. (from Jeremiah 30)
The terrible news for us living today is that things will get much worse than a mere revolution or civil war within Israel. The greatest war the world has ever known will descend on us--and Israel will be at the center of this final storm. In one of his strongest indictments of His own people Jesus said,
"...you do not have His word abiding in you, because whom He sent, Him you do not believe. "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 5:38-43)
Here Jesus is telling his own people that their rejection of Him would open the door for them to receive--at a future time--a false messiah. (The Greek prefix anti can mean "instead of" as well as "opposed to"--hence our popular word antichrist).
"For indeed I will raise up a shepherd in the land who will not care for those who are cut off, nor seek the young, nor heal those that are broken, nor feed those that still stand. But he will eat the flesh of the fat and tear their hooves in pieces. "Woe to the worthless shepherd, Who leaves the flock! A sword shall be against his arm And against his right eye; His arm shall completely wither, And his right eye shall be totally blinded." (Zechariah 11:16-17)
Revelation Chapter 13 predicts that the final events at the end of the age we live in will involve two great world leaders on the world stage--one will be a military-political leader from the West. The other is to be a false prophet--an antimessiah in charge of things in Jerusalem. These two men are described as "beasts" by the Apostle John--which is how God sees them.
Regarding the second beast, Ray Stedman says,
"Now John sees another beast coming. We read of him in Verses 11-12: 'Then I saw another beast, coming out of the earth. He had two horns like a lamb, but he spoke like a dragon. He exercised all the authority of the first beast on his behalf, and made the earth and its inhabitants worship the first beast, whose fatal wound had been healed' (Revelation 13:11-12). This beast arises from the earth, used throughout the book as a symbol of Israel. That is why most biblical scholars say this man is probably a Jew. He comes from Israel and has "two horns like a lamb, but he talks like a dragon." He looks like a lamb, but he talks like a dragon. He is, therefore, a fake lamb, to put it bluntly. This is the Antichrist, the one who comes instead of Christ, who offers himself as though he were Christ. It is for this reason I believe the term Antichrist is properly applied to this second beast, although both beasts are anti-Christian in character. Horns speak of power, and this man has two lamb-like powers. Jesus also had these powers: the powers of a priest and of a prophet. This man acts as both. Jesus is a priest who leads men and women all over the world to worship the Father; and this individual is a priest, leading the world to worship the first beast." (from When Men Become Beasts," http://raystedman.org/revelation/4205.html).
Zechariah vividly describes the final invasion of Jerusalem by the armies of the world which brings about the triumphant return of Jesus to the Mount of Olives:
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. And the LORD shall be King over all the earth. In that day it shall be-- "The LORD is one," And His name one.And it shall come to pass that everyone who is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem shall go up from year to year to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, and to keep the Feast of Tabernacles. In that day "HOLINESS TO THE LORD" shall be engraved on the bells of the horses. The pots in the LORD'S house shall be like the bowls before the altar. Yes, every pot in Jerusalem and Judah shall be holiness to the LORD of hosts (from Zechariah 14)
It is interesting to read modern Jewish literature on their present day Messianic hopes. There is growing trend in Israel to welcome their long-awaited messiah as their Savior and the one who will bring salvation to the world ("salvation is of the Jews"). But these same Jewish scholars categorically reject Jesus as that Messiah (See Modern Jewish Beliefs Concerning the Coming Messiah, http://ldolphin.org/messiah.html).
The world does not need any more anti-Semitism, any more lies and insults and persecution of the Jews. But we can also reverse the coin and say that when Israel returns to the God of her Fathers, God Himself will defend and vindicate His own people--bringing them at last to their destined place as head of the nations.
Anyone who has been watching the history of modern Israel's twenty-nine successive governments since 1948 can easily see the current trend. There is no movement towards the God of Israel anywhere in the government, nor in the population at large--the opposite is happening. Only a very small remnant of Jews faithful to the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob remains in the land (Romans 11:5).
Regarding the rest of the world, one can also say that indifference to God and open blasphemous rebellion against Yahweh among earth's gentile nations is also on the increase. The age in which we live is one in which God has elected to allow evil to run its full course. Human evils, long hidden in the heart, will all surface for everyone to see. All this can be seen in the the vivid imagery of the last book in the Bible.
The fate of Israel's soon-to-arrive false messiah, and the fate of all the "great men" on the earth has already been announced:
"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. Then I saw an angel standing in the sun; and he cried with a loud voice, saying to all the birds that fly in the midst of heaven, "Come and gather together for the supper of the great God, "that you may eat the flesh of kings, the flesh of captains, the flesh of mighty men, the flesh of horses and of those who sit on them, and the flesh of all people, free and slave, both small and great." And I saw the beast, the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against Him who sat on the horse and against His army. Then the beast was captured, and with him the false prophet who worked signs in his presence, by which he deceived those who received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image. These two were cast alive into the lake of fire burning with brimstone. And the rest were killed with the sword which proceeded from the mouth of Him who sat on the horse. And all the birds were filled with their flesh." (Revelation 19:11-21)
There is no true righteousness anywhere in the world--among Jew or gentile alike--apart from Jesus Christ. This is the lesson all men must learn. Most will find this out the hard way, because the unwilling will suffer irretrievable loss.
C.S. Lewis wrote,
"God is going to invade this earth in force. But what's the good of saying you're on his side then, when you see the whole natural universe melting away like a dream and something else, something it never entered your head to conceive comes crashing in. Something so beautiful to us and so terrible to others that none of us will have any choice left. This time it will be God without disguise; something so overwhelming that it will strike either irresistible love, or irresistible horror into every creature. It will be too late then to choose your side. There is no use saying you choose to lie down, when it's become impossible to stand up. That will not be the time for choosing; it will be the time when we discover which side we really have chosen, whether we realize it or not. Now, today, in this moment, is our chance to choose the right side. God is holding back to give us that chance. It will not last forever; we must take it or leave it."
Twenty-seven hundred years ago Isaiah promised this:
The word that Isaiah the son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem. Now it shall come to pass in the latter days That the mountain of the LORD'S house Shall be established on the top of the mountains, And shall be exalted above the hills; And all nations shall flow to it. Many people shall come and say, "Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, To the house of the God of Jacob; He will teach us His ways, And we shall walk in His paths." For out of Zion shall go forth the law, And the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. He shall judge between the nations, And rebuke many people; They shall beat their swords into plowshares, And their spears into pruning hooks; Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, Neither shall they learn war anymore." (Isaiah 2:1-4)
The Old and New Testaments are in full agreement above the above scenario. Twice the New Testament quotes Isaiah Chapter 45 to show that Jesus of Nazareth is the legitimate Messiah of Israel, the Savior of all of mankind, and the rightful Heir of all things. (See Philippians 2:2:10 and Romans 14:11).
But Israel shall be saved by the LORD with an everlasting salvation; You shall not be ashamed or disgraced Forever and ever. For thus says the LORD, Who created the heavens, Who is God, Who formed the earth and made it, Who has established it, Who did not create it in vain, Who formed it to be inhabited: "I am the LORD, and there is no other. I have not spoken in secret, In a dark place of the earth; I did not say to the seed of Jacob, 'Seek Me in vain'; I, the LORD, speak righteousness, I declare things that are right. "Assemble yourselves and come; Draw near together, You who have escaped from the nations. They have no knowledge, Who carry the wood of their carved image, And pray to a god that cannot save. Tell and bring forth your case; Yes, let them take counsel together. Who has declared this from ancient time? Who has told it from that time? Have not I, the LORD? And there is no other God besides Me, A just God and a Savior; There is none besides Me. "Look to Me, and be saved, All you ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other. I have sworn by Myself; The word has gone out of My mouth in righteousness, And shall not return, That to Me every knee shall bow, Every tongue shall take an oath. He shall say, 'Surely in the LORD I have righteousness and strength. To Him men shall come, And all shall be ashamed Who are incensed against Him.
The Bible closes with these verses:
"I, Jesus, have sent My angel to testify to you these things in the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, the Bright and Morning Star." And the Spirit and the bride say, "Come!" And let him who hears say, "Come!" And let him who thirsts come. Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely. Surely I am coming quickly." Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus!
Addendum: Orthodox Jews today often speak of the relationship of Israel to the gentile nations based on their understanding of the Tanach. Here is a recent example.
SHANA TOVA (Happy New Jewish Year of 5765)
SUCCOS (FESTIVAL OF TABERNACLES) AND THE SEVENTY NATIONS
The Journey to Unity Series: Essay 55, copyright (c) 2004 by Mr. Yosef Ben Shlomo HaKohen
LIBERATED YERUSHALIYIM, D.C. (David's Capital), Liberated Israelite Tribal Territories of Yehudah and Binyamin ("Israeli-Occupied West Bank"), Kingdom of David and Shlomo, United Israelite Kingdom of Yehudah and Yosef, Yom Rishon (Day One -- "Sunday"), 18 Tishrei, 5765, (Gregorian Date: October 3, 2004), (Hijri Date: 18 Shabaan, 1425), Root & Branch Information Services [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org] [www.rb.org.il]:
Sing and be glad, O daughter of Zion! For behold, I am coming and I will dwell in your midst, proclaimed the Compassionate One. Many nations will join themselves to the Compassionate One on that day, and they will become a people unto Me; and I will dwell in your midst. [Zechariah 2:14-15]
In Letter 18 of this series, we discussed Torah teachings which enhance our appreciation of the diversity within the Divine creation, including the diverse peoples. We also began to discuss how we, the People of Israel, are to unify this diversity through fulfilling the path of Torah. The following Midrash is one of the teachings that we cited: "The Holy One, Blessed be He, has seventy names; Israel has seventy names; the Torah has seventy names; Jerusalem has seventy names" [Numbers Rabbah 14:12].
This Midrash remind us that there are seventy facets of creation. Another manifestation of this diversity can be found among humanity, as the Torah indicates that in addition to Israel, there are seventy ancient nations which are the roots of the diverse national groups and cultures which we have today. This figure is based on the number of the descendants of Noah which are listed in the Book of Genesis, after the story of the great flood. Seventy names are recorded, and at the end of the section it states, "These are the families of Noah's descendants...and from these the nations were separated on the earth after the flood" [Bereshit/Genesis 10:2].
The Torah states that we are to bring seventy bull-offerings during the seven days of the Festival of Succos (Tabernacles) [Bamidbar/Numbers 29:12-34]. According to the Torah, there are 13 offerings on the first day of the Festival, 12 offerings on the second day, eleven offerings on the third day, ten offerings on the fourth day, nine offerings on the fifth day, eight offerings on the sixth day, and seven offerings on the seventh day -- totaling seventy!
The Talmud explains that these offerings are on behalf of the seventy primary nations of the world [Babylonian Talmud/Tractate Succos 55b]. In his commentary on this Talmudic passage, the classical commentator, Rashi, explains that the purpose of these offerings is to seek atonement on behalf of the seventy nations so that the entire world will merit rain during the coming year.Ê Succos is also known as the "Festival of the Harvest" [Shemot/Exodus 23:16]. During the seven days of this fall festival, we are to ask HaShem -- the Compassionate One -- to give the seventy nations continued life and sustenance through the blessing of rain.
Since each nation has a unique purpose within the creation, we seek their continued existence. These seventy offerings -- which were accompanied by the singing of the Levites and instrumental music -- serve as an inspiring reminder of our universal concern for all the nations.
Rashi, in his commentary on the Torah passage regarding these offerings, adds a new teaching which seems to contradict the universal message of these offerings. He writes: "The bulls of the Festival are seventy, corresponding to the seventy nations, and they progressively decrease in number, i.e. each day, fewer bulls are offered than the day before. This alludes to the eventual destruction of the nations".
In his commentary on the Talmud, Rashi states that the purpose of the seventy offerings was to preserve the seventy nations. In his commentary on the Torah text, Rashi states that the decreasing number of offerings on each day alludes to the eventual destruction of the seventy nations. How do we understand this contradiction?
In addition, Rashi's teaching regarding the destruction of the nations seems to contradict all the biblical prophecies which describe the redemption of the nations during the messianic age! For example, it is written,
"It will happen in the end of days: The mountain of the Temple of the Compassionate One will be firmly established as the head of the mountains, and it will be exalted above the hills, and all the nations will stream to it" [Yeshayahu/Isaiah 2:2].
How, then, are we to understand Rashi's statement regarding the "destruction" of the nations?
Through a discussion with my rebbe, Rav Aharon Feldman, and through studying the Bible commentary of Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch, I discovered the following answer: Through the seventy offerings, we seek the physical survival of the seventy peoples. However, the decrease in the number of offerings each day is alluding to the elimination of the seventy selfish "nation-states" that currently oppose the unifying purpose of the Compassionate One. For in the messianic age, there will no longer be seventy separate nation-states opposing each other. Instead, there will be seventy diverse peoples that will be united in the service of the Compassionate One.
In this spirit, the Prophet proclaimed:
For then I will cause the peoples to speak a pure language, so that they all will proclaim the Name of the Compassionate One, to serve Him with a united resolve. [Zephaniah 3:9]
Rabbi Hirsch develops this idea through analyzing the root meanings of the biblical terms for "nation" and "people". A term for "nation" in biblical Hebrew is goy (plural form -- goyim), and a term for "people" is am (plural form - amim). Rabbi Hirsch explains that the term "goy" refers to the national structure or "body" of a nation, while the term "am" refers to a people united from within. Rabbi Hirsch points out that when verses in our Sacred Scriptures refer to the future destruction of evil nations before the dawn of the messianic age, they usually use the term "goyim".Ê Thus, these verses are referring to the destruction of evil national structures, but not to the destruction of the peoples [Rabbi Hirsch's commentary to Psalms 10:16 and 67:5].
On The First Day of Succos, we read a passage from the Book of Zechariah which describes how, before the final and complete redemption, the goyim of the world will invade the renewed Jewish community in Jerusalem. The Prophet Zechariah describes how "the Compassionate One will go out and wage war with those goyim" [Zechariah 14:3]. Zechariah also describes a great plague which will strike the invading armies, and he adds:
It shall be that all who are left over from all the goyim who had invaded Jerusalem will come up every year to worship the Sovereign, the Compassionate One Who is God of all the hosts of creation, and to celebrate the Festival of Succos. [Zechariah 14:16]
Succos is one of the three pilgrimage festivals when the People of Israel would go up to the Temple in Jerusalem. According to the above messianic prophecy, when the evil nation-states will be defeated, the seventy peoples of the earth will experience a spiritual renewal, and they will join us during the pilgrimage to Jerusalem on Succos.Ê They will join us on the very Festival when we bring seventy offerings on their behalf.
The Prophet Zechariah therefore proclaims that a new era of enlightenment and unity will begin on that great day, for all humanity will finally recognize the sovereignty of HaShem -- the Compassionate One:
HaShem will be the Sovereign over all the earth; on that day HaShem will be One and His Name will be One. [Zechariah 14:9]
Shavua Tov (Have a Good Week) and Chag Sameach (Happy Festival of Succos/Tabernacles) from Liberated Yerushaliyim,
Mr. Yosef Ben Shlomo Hakohen
Advisory Board Member, Ecology Fellowship, Root & Branch Association, Ltd.
Advisory Board Member, Social Welfare Fellowship, Root & Branch Association, Ltd.
Author, "The Universal Jew" (Feldheim Publishers)
Editor, Shema Yisrael website: "Hazon: Our Universal Vision"
Related Teachings and Comments:
1. Another way in which we sanctify the seventy aspects of creation is through the seventy judges of the Sanhedrin -- the Supreme Court of Israel. Moses was commanded to appoint seventy sages to the Supreme Court of Israel, in addition to himself. Moses was the added 71st member who would serve as the unifying leader of the court [Bamidbar/Numbers 11:16]. As long as the Supreme Court functioned, it had seventy members plus one leader, and during the Second Temple period, the Supreme Court became known as the Sanhedrin. According to the Midrash, these seventy judges correspond to the seventy nations of the world [Targum Yonasan to Bereshit/Genesis 28:3]. These seventy judges are to serve as a model for the seventy nations -- one which will inspire them to conduct their societies with justice and fairness for all. Our kabbalists teach that just as the seventy members of the Sanhedrin have an additional member who serves as the unifying spiritual leader, so too, the seventy nations of the earth have an additional member that is destined to serve as a unifying spiritual leader. That member is "Israel" -- the nation with seventy names. (Please see the commentary of the Ramban to Bamidbar/Numbers 11:16, where he discusses this kabalistic tradition).
2. In "Loshon Hakodesh" -- the sacred Hebrew language of the Torah -- each letter is also a number. For example, the Hebrew letter "ayin" is the number seventy. The term "ayin", however, is also the Hebrew word for "eye". This alludes to the idea that the Creator wants us to "see" the seventy diverse facets of creation.
3. According to the Midrash, one of the ways in which we sanctify the seventy aspects of creation is through celebrating the seventy biblical holy days of the year. They include fifty-two Sabbaths, seven days of Succos (Tabernacles), one day of Shimini Atzeres (Eight Day of Assembly), seven days of Pesach (Passover), one day of Shavuos (Pentecost), one day of Rosh HaShana (New Year), and one day of Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement) [Numbers Rabbah 14:12].
Lambert Dolphin Library: http://ldolphin.org/asstbib.shtml
September 16, 2004