Over the years many people have said that God has finished with Israel. Even though the Jewish people are back in the land, they call this a political accident and say that it does not mean that God has a future plan for Israel any more than He does for any other nation. It is time for us to come to a balanced understanding as God’s plan is being fulfilled before the eyes of all nations.
God has made promises concerning Israel’s future. In Jeremiah 31: 35-37 He declares that he could no more forget these promises than to forget to sustain the whole universe. His ultimate plan is for the salvation of multitudes from Israel through faith in Jesus the Messiah, and this plan is also linked to His promise that they will have their own land. We know from experience that God can be totally trusted, and Israel is an ongoing witness to His faithfulness to all His promises. So Israel as a nation still exists. The question we have to ask is, “Does Israel have a future as far as God is concerned?” Although at the present moment some of “Israel” are back in the land, they are mostly out of fellowship with God. Will they one day be back in fellowship with Him, and be His anointed people?
Let’s look at the promises of God. They go back to the covenant He made with Abraham in the Book of Genesis.
1. God promised Abraham he would have a son
2. God promised that Abraham would have a multitude of descendants.
We know that Abraham, and his wife Sarah, had a son called Isaac from whom the Jewish people, descended. Most of the Arab nations descended from Hagar, Sarah’s maid, who was an Egyptian, whose son by Abraham was called Ishmael. Abraham’s second wife Keturah, whom he married after Sarah died, was also an Arab from what we today call Saudi Arabia, and she bore him six sons. God has fulfilled that prophecy and there is indeed a multitude of descendants from Abraham. But, are there any promises that have been made to Israel, which God has not yet fulfilled?
The major covenants that God made to Israel are.
1. Abrahamic Covenant
2. The covenant regarding the Land
3. Mosaic Covenant
4. Davidic Covenant
5. A New Covenant that He would right His Torah on their Hearts
We will look at the covenant regarding the land. This plot of land is generally known in the world as Palestine. Of course there are a group of people called the Palestinians today and their leader Yasser Arafat is an Egyptian. The Palestinians say that they should own the land, because they were there first. They were there before Abraham, and before the Jewish people, and many people today find that argument very convincing. Who lives on a plot of land is not determined by who got there first, but by who owns the land. So the question Biblically is not who was there first, but who owns the land. So “Who owns the land of Israel?” The answer is God does, and how do we know? Psalm 24: 1: The earth is the LORD’S, and the fulness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein. God is the landlord of Israel. Who has He dictated shall live there? To find the answer we need to turn back to the seedbed of the Bible.
In Genesis Chapter 12, we find that God gave Abraham the Land of Canaan despite the fact that there were already people inhabiting the land. It is for God to choose whom He will allow to inhabit His own land. In Genesis 15: 7-8, God spoke as though He owns the land, which of course He does. Abraham asked God how can he know that he will get the “promised” land. The rest of chapter 15 deals with what is called the cutting of the covenant, the usual way that legally binding agreements were contracted in the Near East. So God, and God alone, “signs” this agreement about the land, which only He could fulfil. God was the only signatory to the covenant because He knew at the time that Abraham and his descendants would not keep their word. So God made a promise that is not in any way affected by Abraham or his descendants Recorded in Genesis 15: 12 & 17 is the account of how God appeared on the earth, and informed Abraham that the covenant is unilateral; in other words God made all the promises and Abraham made none. Abraham was definitely going to come into this land and here in verse 18 we get the definition of the eastern and western boundaries as defined by God.
The river of Egypt is the Nile so the western border of the land is the Nile. The eastern border is the River Euphrates. We are not quite sure where the northern and southern boundaries are. These boundaries include the whole of Jordan and northern Saudi Arabia, and to the Euphrates River down to where it goes into the Persian Gulf. Israel took that literally, they assumed that this was the area of land that they were coming into. We know that because in Joshua 1: 2-4, the northern and southern borders are put in, the wilderness of Sinai and the areas to the east of the Jordan. Then north to Lebanon and the river Euphrates to the Mediterranean. According to God’s Word this promise has not yet been fulfilled to Israel, and historically she has yet to take all of this land. So as it stands today this is unfulfilled. Because God is true to his word He must give Israel the land, and scripture tells us how He is going to fulfil His word. Notice the promises given by God are forever and this means that Israel has a legal right to this land as long as the land exists. And even today although they do not occupy it, it is legally theirs.
The reason is because they kept getting out of fellowship with God. You can read the disastrous story in the book of Judges of why they did not spread to occupy the whole land. Sometimes Israel has been in the land and sometimes out of it, and that is God’s judgement on them at the time, but the great thing about it is even though at times God has removed them out of the land, it is still legally theirs. The judgement of removal from the land is the fifth cycle of discipline and these cycles are found in Leviticus 26, and Deuteronomy 28.
The fifth cycle is in Leviticus 26: 27-33. When we look at the history of Israel we can see three distinct times in which God warned Israel they would be removed. He told them they would go, and three times they went. But God also told them three times that they would be restored, two have already occurred and the third is occurring in our time. There are no others prophesied, and so as far as we know, this is the last one.
Let us look at the three dispersals.
1. Abraham was told in Genesis 15 that the land is going to be his, but the day is coming when the nation will be removed from the land and will go into Egypt, where they will be slaves to the people down there. Why were Abraham’s descendants removed? They became spiritually corrupt. There are various examples of that in the Scripture, just read on in Genesis. Finally Moses led them out of Egypt.
2. The second is what we call the Babylonian Captivity and this is a very interesting one. In Jeremiah’s day Israel had declined spiritually, and he warned them to change their ways or the fifth cycle of discipline was coming. The people did not believe him and finally God came down and disciplined them. It began in 606 BCE and the people were removed over a period of twenty years down to 586 BCE. In Jeremiah 29 he prophesied that the discipline would only last 70 years. If you add 70 years to 606 BCE you come to 536 BCE and in 536 BCE the first people came back into the land. If you add 70 years on to 586 BCE you come to 516 BCE that is when the Temple was rebuilt in the land.
3. This is the one that is relevant for us, as Jesus Himself prophesied it. Luke 21: 20-24 the prophecy was fulfilled just 40 years later when 1,900,000 Jewish people were killed. It goes on and talks about the people being lead away into other lands in captivity. That captivity still applies today because there are Jewish people in Russia, England, France, Canada, China, USA and many other countries. The Jewish people are still dispersed today all around the world, and the promise of restoration is not until the “times of the gentiles” are fulfilled.
Let us look at how Israel was warned about the fifth cycle of discipline for 7 years from 26 CE. In that year John the Baptist began warning “repent, the kingdom of God is at hand. The baptism of fire is coming upon you, you are going to be like the chaff burned up, be careful repent”. In approximately 30 CE Jesus began His ministry, and in 33 CE Jesus was murdered by both Jews and Gentiles. In 33 CE some of the Jewish people were cut off because of their unbelief, but all of the Jewish people were affected by the fifth cycle of discipline. But because of the grace of God He allowed them 40 more years in the land, in which to repent before He finally removed them from the land. If you add 40 years on to 26 CE you come to 66 CE. What happen in 66 CE? The Roman armies invaded Israel starting the Jewish war. If you add 40 years to 30 CE you come to 70 CE. What happen in 70 CE? The Temple was destroyed according to the Word of the Lord. If you add 40 years on to 33 CE you come to 73 CE. What happen in 73 CE? It was the end of the Jewish war when Massada the hill top fortress fell.
Since 66 to 73 CE the Jewish nation has been scattered, but the restoration has now begun. In 1948 the Jewish nation was restored legally for the first time since 73 CE. We have not yet seen the full restoration, but “the fig tree is putting forth its leaves”. In 1967 the Jewish people gained political control of the whole of Jerusalem for the first time since 73 CE. Times are drawing on and Jesus said, “Read the signs that are taking place”. But it is the Lord that is restoring Israel, giving them all the land. Zionism is still claiming the victory for getting Israel back to the land and that is why I think that dark days are ahead for Israel because God has got to show the bankruptcy of Zionism. Israel will see that God saves Israel not any political system.
Some of the prophecies in the Tenakh (Old Testament) that show us it is Jesus that will restore the land are:
Isaiah 11: 11-16
When was the first time the Lord set His hand to re-gather the people? After the Babylonian captivity but He is going to do it again.
Jeremiah 23: 7-8
Jeremiah 30: 3
God is going to do it no one else.
Jeremiah 31: 7-12
Does Israel have a future as far as God is concerned? The answer is yes!
God does not think differently today from what He did yesterday. Also God has made a promise and He will honour that promise. Israel has promises that are yet unfulfilled, going right back to the covenant with Abraham.
In May 14th 1948 the unbelievable happened, Israel came back to the land and the theological world suffered an earthquake that they never thought would happen. With Israel standing out on the horizon for all to see many theologians are still wrongly saying God has no plan for Israel, the Church is now Spiritual Israel, and God is interested only in the Church.
The God of faithfulness, the God of Truth, the God who changes not and his promises are sure. In, Romans 11:29 it states that, “The gifts and calling of God are irrevocable.” It is good news for Israel. Because God has called Israel and once they are called they are called. Here is another quotation this was written by a man called John Wilkerson, founder of the Midmay Mission to the Jewish people and he wrote this in 1889 before Israel came back to the land. He was one of the many Christians in the last hundred years or so who believed Israel would be back and he got it right. “The preservation of the State of Israel throughout time is no less secure than the salvation of the believer in Christ throughout eternity.” That is a good quote. We have come to the conclusion that Israel has a future.
Even though there is a powerful message to be taught across all nations concerning God’s continuing plan for Israel, this message itself can be overstated, however and many people who love Israel do them a great disservice without knowing it. I know people who have been put off loving Israel because of people who love Israel “too much” through emotional ties. None of us want that to occur so I have three points I want to make.
• Do not love Israel more than God loves Israel. Not everything Israel does is right their government is as fallen as any other government. When you read parts of Scripture do not shut your eyes to certain parts of it.
Jeremiah 30: 1-10 provides an example, where the restoration of Israel is a time of great trembling, a time like no other time on the earth, called “Jacob’s trouble”. Now we have to take that in context and not be afraid of what it is saying .It is simply saying that God is in charge. This passage in Jeremiah is what Jesus is referring to in Matthew 24.
So we must not love Israel more than God loves Israel. Also it is the Lord that has brought them back to the land not any political or religious movement. Of course God uses believers and unbelievers alike. God even used Nebuchadnezzar thousands of years ago. He used an unbeliever to outwork His purposes while also dealing with his life. God wants Israel truly as His own nation. They are not there yet but they are going to get there. So please do not love Israel more than God loves them, and, secondly
• Please do not misuse Scripture to support particular ideas that are not tested and are actually in error. Use the whole of Scripture and not pick and choose, so distorting the overall message. Let us look at an example.
Some Christians take the verse Zechariah 14:16: “And it shall come to pass, that every one that is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem shall even go up from year to year to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, and to keep the feast of tabernacles”, and say that the Christians are fulfilling this verse. But they are not and cannot yet fulfil this verse, because this verse follows the Second Advent of Jesus. We see this if we read the whole of the Chapter, seeing that in verses 4, 6 and 9 it is after Jesus returns to the Mount of Olives. Thirdly,
• Please also keep New Testament revelation clear and keep your ideas of the church clear. Today whoever believes becomes part of the church in which there is neither Jewish people nor Gentiles are one new man in Christ.
What is the point about Israel is concerned? A God of covenants supports Israel, a God who is faithful and true a God who changes not. God has called them; God has purposed a glorious future for them. The whole church has a glorious future ahead: all believers have whether Jewish, Arab, Western Christians and Christians from all nations and all parts of the earth we are all one in Jesus and the best is yet to come.
We as believers have got to throw out the arrogance and the pride that is in much of the Gentile church today and stand in awe before the God of Israel. God who called Israel is faithful and it is the same God who has called us. He will do it with Israel He will do it with us. There is much more we could look at in relation to the character of God and Israel but here we have a good basic understanding.
(This article was first published on the Tishrei Web site “familyrestorationmagazine”)