Israel's Future: Two Restorations; Jacob's Trouble
By way of introduction, Frederick the Great was once engaged in a theological debate with his chaplain, and he challenged his chaplain to give him a defense or a rationale for proving the truthfulness of the Bible. The chaplain told him he could do it in two words: "Your majesty, the Jews." It is their existence down through history where dozens of other peoples, nations and empires have disappeared from history, the Jews continue. The Jews continue down through the ages despite the fact that through the Middle Ages, through much of the period from the period from the destruction of the temple in AD 70 up through the rise of modern Zionism in the early 1800s their numbers diminished, as prophesied by Moses in Deuteronomy, and yet their numbers have come back tremendously and we see that quite a number have moved over the last 200 years to the land of Israel.
Where are we now? What is going on in history? We have seen that Daniel 9:25-27 establishes the fact that there is a future for Israel, that God set up a time clock for Israel in that remarkable prophecy. He set up a time clock of 490 years. The first 483 years went by and ended when Jesus Christ entered into Jerusalem in His triumphal entry, just prior to the cross. At that point God hit the stop-watch and the timer stopped. Then there is a pause because as we noted in the passage it is after that 69th week but before the 70th week that the Messiah is cut off and the people of the prince who is to come destroyed the temple. Then there is an interlude, which has now extended for 2000 years, before the time clock starts again. The time clock begins with the signing of a peace treaty between the Antichrist, the principle of the people who is to come, and the Jews. That is what begins the Tribulation.
If the Antichrist is going to kick off the Tribulation by signing a peace treaty with Israel there has to be a nation in the land. If there is no nation in the land there is nobody with whom he can sign a treaty. Secondly, if he is going to desecrate a temple half way through the Tribulation period then sometime between now and the mid point of the Tribulation the Jews have to rebuild the temple on the temple mount. There has to be a religious, ethnic base in the land in order to build the temple, and to do it correctly takes some time.
The characteristics of the nation at the time of their return is apostasy. It is an apostate temple, they haven't accepted the Messiah yet, but they have to be back in the land in apostasy to some degree. This doesn't mean that they all have to be back in the land but enough of them have to be back in the land to form a national base, a national entity. The period when they were taken out of the land the first time in 586 BC was really a foreshadowing of what will take place during the second period when they are out under discipline after AD 70. What happened at that time was that they were taken out of the land but they come back in stages, and when they came back in 536 they were not really repenting as in turning back to the Lord as Moses said in Deuteronomy 4 and 30, but they do come back to the land. Now what we see is the same thing transpiring. That first event had to take place. They had to come back to the land and have a nation there, have a national presence there, have a religious system operational, and have a temple there, so that the Messiah could come the first time. That's why God brings a small group back from the fifth stage of discipline at that time in 536. The Lord brought back a small number to establish a presence in the land and a system in the land so that there would be someone to whom The Lord could come. The same thing has to happen before the Tribulation. A group of Jews has to be back in the land, having established a nation, built the temple, in order for there to be a group for the Antichrist to come to.
Daniel 9:26, "And after the sixty-two weeks the Messiah shall be cut off, and have nothing: and the people of the prince who is to come will destroy the city and the sanctuary [destroyed the temple in AD 70]; the end will come with a flood, even to the end there will be wars, desolations are determined." That indicates that even after that there will be continuous wars and desolations down through history. So that shows us that at some time future to us there will be a seven-year period that focuses on Israel. Prior to that there will be a regathering in unbelief of the apostate Jews. They are apostate because they haven't accepted Christ as savior. Then there is a second regathering which is described in Deuteronomy 4 and 30 when they are regathered in belief. A distinction has to be made in these passages. So there are two regatherings to the land. The first is physical, it establishes the nation at the beginning of the Tribulation, and then there is a regathering to the Lord which is their turning to the Lord at the end of the Tribulation, and that is a spiritual regathering.
So the first point: Israel is regathered to the land before the Tribulation in unbelief. The second point: Israel will be regathered to the land through persecution and for judgment. Scriptures: Ezekiel 20:32-38; 22:17-22; 36:22-24; Isaiah 11:11-12; Zephaniah 2:1-2. Then there is the regathering in belief: Deuteronomy 4:29-31; 30:1-10; Isaiah 27:12-13.
Ezekiel 20:32-38: "And what you have in your mind shall never be [what you think you want to do isn't going to happen: 'we will be like the Gentiles serving wood and stone']…" When did this happen? Under Napoleon. In the early 1800s he allows the Jews to gather together in Paris and establish a new Sanhedrin. One of the emphases in this new Sanhedrin was to help the Jews assimilate and just disappear into French culture. The same thing happened in Russia in the 1860s to 1870s. "…We will be as the heathen, as the families of the countries, to serve wood and stone. As I live, says the Lord GOD, surely with a mighty hand, and with a stretched out arm, and with fury poured out, will I rule over you: And I will bring you out from the people, and will gather you out of the countries wherein ye are scattered, with a mighty hand, and with a stretched out arm, and with fury poured out. And I will bring you into the wilderness of the people, and there will I plead with you face to face [at the end of the Tribulation period]. Like as I pleaded with your fathers in the wilderness of the land of Egypt, so will I plead with you, says the Lord GOD. And I will cause you to pass under the rod [judgment], and I will bring you into the bond of the covenant: and I will purge out from among you the rebels [unregenerate], and them that transgress against me [He is preparing the Jews to return to Him at the end of the Tribulation]: I will bring them forth out of the country where they sojourn, and they shall not enter into the land of Israel: and you shall know that I am the LORD."
Ezekiel 22:17-22: "And the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, Son of man, the house of Israel [all the Jews] is to me become dross [all the impurities found in metallic ore. There is nothing of value there, just trash, impurities]: all they are brass, and tin, and iron, and lead, in the midst of the furnace; they are even the dross from silver. Therefore thus says the Lord GOD; Because you have all become dross [worthless], behold, therefore I will gather you into the midst of Jerusalem." He is going to bring them back in an unregenerate state to Jerusalem and there the judgment is going to begin to take place. "As men gather silver, and brass, and iron, and lead, and tin, into the midst of the furnace, to blow the fire upon it, to melt it; so will I gather you in my anger and in my fury…" This isn't that turning to the Lord in Deuteronomy 4 and 30 where the Jews turn to Him and God brings them back in repentance. They are unrepentant and He is dealing with them in justice. "…and I will leave you there [in Jerusalem], and melt you." This is not an attractive, fun-loving time for Israel. God is going to take them there and really turn up the heat to melt them and to burn off the impurities. "Yes, I will gather you, and blow on you in the fire of my wrath, and you shall be melted in its midst. As silver is melted in the midst of the furnace, so shall you be melted in its midst; only then shall you know that I the LORD have poured out my fury on you."
Ezekiel 36:22-24: "Therefore say unto the house of Israel, Thus says the Lord GOD; I do not this for your sakes, O house of Israel, but for my holy name's sake, which you have profaned among the heathen, where you went. And I will sanctify my great name, which was profaned…." The Jews, when they were scattered, rather than proclaim the name of Yahweh they ignored Him and worshipped the idols of the gentiles. "… among the nations, which you have profaned in the midst of them; and the nations shall know that I am the LORD, says the Lord GOD, when I shall be hallowed in you before their eyes. For I will take you from among the nations, and gather you out of all countries, and will bring you into your own land." That is a gathering in unbelief.
Zephaniah 2:1,2: "Gather yourselves together, yes, gather together, O undesirable nation [unsaved]; before the decree is issued [for the Son, the Messiah, to return at the end of the Tribulation], before the day pass as the chaff, before the fierce anger of the LORD comes upon you, before the day of the LORD'S anger comes upon you." That is a description of the return in unbelief.
Passages about the return in belief:
Isaiah 11:11, 12: "And it shall come to pass in that day, that the Lord shall set his hand again the second time to recover the remnant of his people, which shall be left, from Assyria, and from Egypt, and from Pathros, and from Cush, and from Elam, and from Shinar, and from Hamath, and from the islands of the sea. And he shall set up an ensign for the nations, and shall assemble the banished ones of Israel, and will gather the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth." That is a reiteration of Deuteronomy 30:1-10.
Isaiah 27:12-13: "And it shall come to pass in that day, that the LORD shall beat off from the channel of the river unto the stream of Egypt, and ye shall be gathered one by one, O ye children of Israel. And it shall come to pass in that day, that the great trumpet shall be blown, and they shall come which were ready to perish in the land of Assyria, and the outcasts in the land of Egypt, and shall worship the LORD in the holy mount at Jerusalem." They are returning in belief.
Isaiah 43:5, 6: "Fear not: for I am with you: I will bring your seed from the east, and gather you from the west; I will say to the north, Give up; and to the south, Keep not back: bring my sons from far, and my daughters from the ends of the earth." There is a tenderness there. He is bringing them back in belief. At the end of the Tribulation. Verse 7: "Every one who is called by my name: I have created him for my glory, I have formed him; yes, I have made him."
Zechariah 10:8-10: "I will whistle for them, and gather them; for I will redeemed them: and they shall increase as they once increased. And I will sow them among the people: and they shall remember me in far countries; and they shall live together with their children, and they shall return. I will also bring them back from the land of Egypt, and gather them out of Assyria; and I will bring them into the land of Gilead and Lebanon; until no more room is found for them. And he shall pass through the sea with affliction, and shall smite the waves in the sea, and all the deeps of the river shall dry up: and the pride of Assyria shall be brought down, and the sceptre of Egypt shall depart away. And I will strengthen them in the LORD; and they shall walk up and down in his name, says the LORD."
These verses are showing that there are two different returns spoken of in the Scripture, one in unbelief and one in belief. Isaiah 11:11 states that God will bring them back a second time. That is the one in belief. So when does this world-wide return take place that is in unbelief? That can only be one time in history, and that is what has been going on for the last 170 years. There are now five and a half million Jews living in Israel. At the end of World War I there were 50,000. This is a significant return of Jews to the land that has never taken place before in history.
Israel's regathering will be in stages. This is built off the pattern of the past. In 536 they came back under Zerubbabel and then a couple of times under Ezra and then under Nehemiah. It was gradual. It is also going to be sequential and uninterrupted by hundreds of years. Once it begins it is going to continue until it is completed. It will be one uninterrupted return. Isaiah 11:11. The point is that if there are only two world-wide regatherings and the second one occurs at the end of the Tribulation in belief, then what are we seeing today? It must be this first world-wide regathering. There is nothing else in history that could fit it and it has to occur before the Tribulation can take place. None of this is related to the timing of the Rapture, it is related to what is going to happen after the Rapture. The Rapture is just as imminent today as it was in the time of Paul, because there is no sign related to it. But what we see is the setting of the stage for what takes place after the Rapture. On the international chess board we see the pieces being moved around and manipulated, we see things coming about that establish a scenario that is very similar to what the Scripture pictures will be in place at the beginning of the Tribulation. Modern Israel parallels the Israel predicted to exist at the end times.
In 1948 Israel became a state. In 1967 Jerusalem was united as a capital and came under Jewish control. In the year 2000 with the last Intafada there was a battle for the temple mount that began, and this continues. All the violence that we continue to see today is all related to the Jews and the temple mount. For Jewish people living in the land in unbelief we constantly see peace plans trying to be internationally forced. These are all precursors to the one the Antichrist will establish and the Bible predicts that Jerusalem will be the center of international conflict.
What our conclusions?
1) Israel is still the chosen people of God. This hasn't changed. They are still locked into the Abrahamic covenant. God is still going to fulfill that promise to give them the land. They are still locked into the Davidic covenant. God is still going to put a descendant of David on the throne of David in Jerusalem to rule over all the nations. God still has them locked into the New covenant where they are going to be the spiritual centerpiece in the coming kingdom.
2) Despite Israel's sin, despite her present sin, she will still be saved. That is the promise in Romans 11:21ff.
3) National Israel today is part of God's preparation for the future fulfillment of His prophetic plan. When we factor in the context of Isaiah 11:11 and put it in the context of the other passages God can't have this massive world-wide return and then scatter them again, have them come back and scatter them again. Why? Because there are only two world-wide regatherings.
4) Christian support for Israel is in accord with God's purpose to bless all mankind. It is the job of the individual believer to support Israel. How should we do that? The same way Paul did. Romans 10:1, "Brethren, my heart's desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved." We need to be involved in praying for the Jews, in witnessing to the Jews, in supporting missions to the Jews. Furthermore, it is part of our understanding as believers living in our nation where we have a divine viewpoint framework for understanding history and we understand that Israel is still significant in God's plan, that even though we don't give a dime to any other nation in the world, Israel should be treated differently because they are still different. We can't treat Israel just like we would treat any other nation. The issues with Israel are completely different because they are still the only people in history who have a contract with God. That makes them distinct.
There are a number of terms that the Bible uses to describe the period of time called the Tribulation or Daniel's seventieth week, and they are not pleasant terms. One of the terms is "day of the Lord," one of the terms used throughout the Old Testament to depict different kinds of judgment. When it come to the Tribulation period "the day of the Lord," it pictures a time of such global catastrophe that even the rabbis recognized it as a time of horrors. It describes geophysical, political and astronomical disasters that take place on the earth, military conflicts that kill millions of people. Daniel 12:1 speaks of this time: "And at that time shall Michael stand up, the great prince who stands watch over the sons of your people [Israel]: and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time…" Jesus uses the same terminology in Matthew 24. This is a time of judgment in history that is signified by the ten plagues of Egypt. The ten plagues of Egypt are actually a type of the judgments of God during the Tribulation. Imagine what it was like to live in Egypt during the time of those ten plagues, and then take those ten plagues and magnify them a million-fold, and involve the entire plant. That is the Tribulation period. And it is a time that specifically focuses on Israel. This term, "the day of the Lord," is one of the key terms used in the Old Testament for the Tribulation.
Related to Daniel 12 Randall Price wrote and article published some years ago on Old testament Tribulation terms: "Rabbinic commentators interpreted the time of trouble as a future eschatological time equivalent to the period known as "birth pangs" (the major imagery used in the OT, and also picked up by Paul in the NT), the "the birth pangs of the Messiah." This identification is based on the signs of the messianic birth pangs described in the Mishnah which, in turn, has been drawn from Daniel's text. Typical of those making this connection were the medieval sages Rashi and Rabbi Shemuel Mazni. In his commentary on Daniel in the AD 1230s he stated, 'This generation will see the pangs of the Messiah. The tribulations of the generation described in the tractate interpolated the signs of religious enmity and civil lawlessness among Jews in the generation of Messiah to the "sons of your people" in this verse. So frightening was the prospect of encountering this kind of tribulation preceding the messianic arrival that some rabbinic sages hoped it would not come in their lifetimes." Just looking at the Old Testament text they understood how horrible this time period was going to be.
Another passage that focuses on this is Zechariah 12:2, 3: "Behold, I will make Jerusalem a cup that causes reeling to all the peoples around, and when the siege is against Jerusalem it will also be against Judah. And it will come about in that day that I will make Jerusalem a heavy stone for all the people: all who lift it will be severely injured [anyone who tries to solve this problem], though all the people of the earth be gathered together against it. In that day, declares the LORD, I will smite every horse with bewilderment, and his rider with madness [when Jesus is coming finally]: but I will watch over the house of Judah while I strike every horse of the people [Gentiles] with blindness. And the clans of Judah will say in their heart, A strong support for us are the inhabitants of Jerusalem through the LORD of hosts their God."
Isaiah 13:6,7: "Wail; for the day of the LORD is near; it will come as destruction from the Almighty. Therefore all hands shall fall limp, and every man's heart will melt. They shall be terrified: pains and anguish will take hold of them; they will writhe like a woman in labor: they will look at one another in astonishment; their faces aflame." Behold, the day of the LORD is coming, cruel, with fury and burning anger, to make the land a desolation: and he will exterminate its sinners from it." God is going to come and purge and judge the land, and destroy all the unbelievers.
Amos 5:18-20: "Alas, you who are longing for the day of the LORD! For what purpose will the day of the LORD be to you? It will be darkness, and not light. As when a man flees from a lion, and a bear meets him; or goes home, and leaned his hand on the wall, and a snake bites him. Will not the day of the LORD be darkness instead of light? even gloom, with no brightness in it?" This is the most horrible period in human history.
The day of the Lord includes darkness of the heavenly bodies in judgment, followed by the light of blessing in the Millennial kingdom. What happens is that the light of the sun gets turned down. The light of the moon dims because of its reflection. There are meteorological showers on the earth.
Joel 2:28: "And it will come to pass after this [the day of the Lord], that I will pour out my spirit upon all mankind; and your sons and your daughters will prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions [the restoration in belief]: and even on the male and female servants will I pour out my spirit in those days [the fulfillment of the New covenant to Israel]. And I will display wonders in the skies and on the earth, blood, and fire, and columns of smoke [this precedes the coming of the Lord]. The sun will be turned into darkness, the moon into blood, before the great and the awesome day of the LORD comes. And it will come about, that whosoever shall call on the name of the LORD will be delivered" – the verse that Jesus quotes at the end of Matthew 24 – "delivered: for in mount Zion and in Jerusalem there will be those who escape, as the LORD has said, even among the survivors whom the LORD calls."
Jeremiah 30:7 calls it the time of Jacob's trouble. The focus is on Israel. "Alas! for that day is great, so that none is like it: it is even the time of Jacob's trouble; but he shall be saved out of it."
Mark 13:19, "For those days shall be tribulation, such as has not occurred since the beginning of the creation which God created until now, and never shall."
All of this is leading up to a time when this massive labor pain of this time of distress is going to give birth to a new nation. A nation will be born in a day.