May 17, 2008

Israel At 60. What's Next?

By Jack Kelley

In that day the Lord will reach out his hand a second time to reclaim the remnant that is left of his people from Assyria, from Lower Egypt, from Upper Egypt, from Cush, from Elam, from Babylonia, from Hamath and from the islands of the sea. (Isaiah 11:11)

"Therefore say to the house of Israel, 'This is what the Sovereign LORD says: It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am going to do these things, but for the sake of my holy name, which you have profaned among the nations where you have gone. For I will take you out of the nations; I will gather you from all the countries and bring you back into your own land." (Ezek. 36:22,24)

I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers, so that you may not be conceited: Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in. And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written: "The deliverer will come from Zion; he will turn godlessness away from Jacob. And this is my covenant with them when I take away their sins." (Romans 11:25-27)

This past week marked the 60th anniversary of Israel's rebirth as a fulfillment of the prophecies of Isaiah, Ezekiel, Paul and others. Brought back in unbelief to the ancient homeland of their patriarchs, Israel has defied history, world opinion, and the concerted effort of their enemies for 60 years.

Most of the world has no idea how close Israel has come to extinction again, not only in the wars we all know about, but also in several other major efforts that were discovered and prevented at the last minute but never made the headlines. Altogether, Israel has faced and overcome an existential threat at an average greater than one for every 10 years of the nation's modern history.

Will this ever end? Will Israel's neighbors ever come to terms with the fact of Israel's existence? Not according to Bible prophecy. Let's look at what God's word has to say about what's coming for Israel. Because there's more written about this time to come than any other subject in the Bible. I've just selected a few of His proclamations to give you an overview. As you read this, keep in mind that if my calculations are correct all this could happen within the next 10 years or so.

According to Psalm 83 Israel will soon face an attack by neighboring nations intent upon its destruction. And according to Isaiah 17, Syria will attack leaving Israel damaged but not destroyed. In the process, the city of Damascus, one of the oldest in the world, will cease to exist and Syria will be defeated.

After that Israel will face its biggest threat yet as the Russian Iranian coalition of Ezekiel 38 mounts what they believe will be the final assault on their sworn enemy. But what should have been an easy victory for Israel's powerful enemies will turn into an utter disaster that leaves their forces decimated.

This time Israel will emerge from the smoke and ashes with the realization that an old and trustworthy Friend has intervened to turn certain defeat into a resounding victory. The King of the Universe will have revealed Himself to the world as Israel's champion. (Ezek. 39:22)

But still the enemy will be relentless. Even the knowledge that God is on Israel's side will not be sufficient to dissuade him because the power behind Israel's enemies believes himself to be God's equal. (Isaiah 14:14). Taking control of the thoughts and actions of a popular leader, he will convince Israel that he's the long awaited messiah and enforce a covenant that appears to be the ultimate assurance of peace for them. (Daniel 9:27)

By means of this peace he will deceive many (Daniel 8:25) and Israel will believe the Kingdom Age is finally coming, that what they wanted Jesus to do 2000 years ago has finally been done for them. Israel's enemies will lie scattered over the battle field in utter defeat, and what will appear to be a permanent peace will have arrived. In gratitude Israel will build a Temple and take up their long abandoned relationship with God.

Just when it looks like peace has finally come, this leader will show his true colors and will proclaim himself to be God, (2 Thes. 2:4) causing the temple to become desolate and worship to cease. There will be war again, even worse than before, and Israel will discover that they've made a covenant with death and it's been annulled (Isaiah 28:18). It will be 3 ½ years of the most terrible time the world has ever seen (Matt. 24:21) and Israel will be right in the middle of it until finally all the nations of the world will be lined up against Jerusalem. (Zech. 12:2-3)

But once again at the last minute God will intervene, this time in the person of Israel's true Messiah. He'll pour our His Spirit of grace and supplication, and they'll will finally acknowledge Him. (Zech. 12:10) With the armies of Heaven at His command, He'll suddenly appear in the skies over Israel just as He promised and with nothing more than the word of His mouth He'll slay Israel's enemies once and for all. (Rev. 19:11-16) The false messiah will be cast live into the lake of fire, (Rev. 19:20) Satan will be bound for 1,000 years, (Rev. 20:2) the Kingdom Age will finally begin, and peace will reign at last in the Promised Land.

Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her that her hard service has been completed, that her sin has been paid for. (Isaiah 40:2)

"Their bloodguilt, which I have not pardoned, I will pardon." The LORD dwells in Zion! (Joel 3:21)

Instead of their shame my people will receive a double portion, and instead of disgrace they will rejoice in their inheritance; and so they will inherit a double portion in their land, and everlasting joy will be theirs. (Isaiah 61:7)

Among men all traces of the anti-semitism so prevalent again today will be gone and Israel will be the world's preeminent nation, home to the people of God.

Be glad and rejoice forever in what I will create, for I will create Jerusalem to be a delight and its people a joy. I will rejoice over Jerusalem and take delight in my people; the sound of weeping and of crying will be heard in it no more. (Isaiah 65:18-19)

This is what the Sovereign LORD says: "See, I will beckon to the Gentiles, I will lift up my banner to the peoples; they will bring your sons in their arms and carry your daughters on their shoulders.

Kings will be your foster fathers, and their queens your nursing mothers. They will bow down before you with their faces to the ground; they will lick the dust at your feet. Then you will know that I am the LORD; those who hope in me will not be disappointed." (Isaiah 49:22-23)

The whole creation will rejoice that the curse has finally been lifted and peace has been restored between God and His chosen people.

"In that day the mountains will drip new wine, and the hills will flow with milk; all the ravines of Judah will run with water. A fountain will flow out of the LORD's house and will water the valley of acacias. (Joel 3:18)

You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands. Instead of the thornbush will grow the pine tree, and instead of briers the myrtle will grow. (Isaiah 55:12-13)

No one who reads the Bible literally can dispute that these promises were spoken by God to Israel and have never been fulfilled. Nowhere in the Bible is He called the God of the Arabs, or of the Americans or any other national or ethnic group. He's called the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and whether the rest of us like it or not He chose the Jewish people to be His own and has sworn never to forget them.

For you are a people holy to the LORD your God. The LORD your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on the face of the earth to be his people, his treasured possession. (Deut. 7:6)

This is what the LORD says, he who appoints the sun to shine by day, who decrees the moon and stars to shine by night, who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar — the LORD Almighty is his name:

"Only if these decrees vanish from my sight," declares the LORD, "will the descendants of Israel ever cease to be a nation before me." (Jere. 31:35-36)

Through out history the nations of the world have been blessed or cursed according to the way they've treated Israel and it's long past time for us to get used to that idea. Even the mighty Babylonians, into whose hands the Israelites were given By God Himself, suffered the penalty for mistreating them. (Isaiah 47)

This doesn't mean that we have to blindly accept every action of Israel's government, which after all is a secular one and as disregarding of God's word as the rest of the world. But it does mean that we shouldn't be pressuring Israel into violating God's commandments concerning the land He gave them. And we shouldn't be tolerating the anti-semitism that's so rampant in our society again, whether it's the deranged rantings of a national leader, the empty boasts of a terrorist chief, or the desecrating acts of teen aged vandals.

Because if the 60 years of Israel's modern existence have taught us anything, it's that God's hand is upon them and He won't let go until they're his again. In the meantime whoever touches Israel touches the apple of His eye (Zech 2:8) and will surely suffer the consequences.

The next 10 years are set to be the most turbulent by far in all of Israel's modern history. God is calling them back to Him and knows that they won't come easily. But come they will, and when they do it will be great news for all of us. For if their transgression means riches for the world, and their loss means riches for the Gentiles, how much greater riches will their fullness bring? (Romans 11:12)

You can almost hear the footsteps of the Messiah.