The Future of Israel in Bible Prophecy
Israel will be the vortex of the world at the end of the age
Interpreting Bible Prophecy
Bible prophecies point to major world events at the end of this present age, especially in the Middle East. The Bible refers to these times as the ‘last days’ or the ‘end time’. Many prophecies concern the land and people of Israel, but how are these to be interpreted? What is the actual future of Israel, the truth? Is Israel just another nation, or is she special amongst the nations?
Any prophecy is subject to various interpretations since, as scripture says, we are ‘looking through smoked glass’. God has not revealed all the details and so there is much debate about how these prophecies should be interpreted. But we must also remember that God has given believers His Spirit to guide them to the truth (John 14.26). As the prophet Daniel says, a time will come when it is possible to arrive at a correct understanding of the End Time prophecies:
these (prophetic) words are concealed and sealed up until the end time … none of the wicked will understand, but those who have insight will understand
For an End Time view to be true it must agree with knowledge i.e. established fact. It must agree with both historical fact and present-day reality – what is observed. The interpretation must also be consistent with many Bible scriptures.
Daniel’s Prophecies for Israel
Daniel’s 70 Weeks
This is one of the key prophecies concerning the future of Israel:
Seventy weeks have been decreed for your people and your holy city, to finish the transgression, to make an end of sin, to make an atonement for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the most holy place (Dan 9.24)
The prophecy first defines a timeline (70 ‘weeks’) for some of the most significant events in history. It is widely accepted that one ‘week’ refers to a period of seven (prophetic) years, each of 360 days, link, link. The prophecy then refers to the Jews (Daniel’s people) and to Jerusalem (‘your holy city’). The final part of the prophecy refers to the plan of salvation for all mankind. It spans from Old Testament times to the time of Christ, or to the Second Coming of Christ, depending upon how we interpret the prophecy. The prophecy is then expanded in Dan 9.25-27.
World Government via the UN?
Historicists see all 70 weeks as past and contiguous, with Week 70 (seven years) commencing with the 3½ years of our LORD’s ministry, and concluding with the stoning of Stephen. The Historicist view has been widely held by respected preachers such as Wycliffe, Luther, Calvin, Knox, Wesley, Moody and Spurgeon, and the Church of England accepted it in the 17th century, link. But were the end-time prophecies still sealed in their day? Certainly they could not see the present world scenario.
In contrast to the Historicist viewpoint, the Futurist view places an unknown time period between weeks 69 and 70, and takes the present age to lie between Week 69 and Week 70. Week 70 is then still future but, prophetically speaking very close. Observations of the 21st century world fit the Futurist view extremely well. In particular, Daniel sees a crushing world government (Dan 2.40) led by a godless world dictator (Dan 7.8) who persecutes Israel during Week 70 . Both of these are extremely plausible given the present world scenario. For an in-depth discussion see Daniel’s Seventieth Week.
The Daniel Project
(best in full screen)
The Daniel Project is a genuine investigative documentary that puts end time prophecies under a journalistic microscope. Presenter and self-confessed atheist Jeremy Hitchen accepts the challenge to investigate the plausibility of such prophecies. By examining observable evidence (reality) the film finds that prophecies appear to be unfolding one after the other with astonishing accuracy. Over 100 end time prophecies have occurred in recent times, thereby supporting the Futurist interpretation of prophecy.
As already discussed, some key prophecies are contained in the Book of Daniel and relate to Daniel’s people – Israel. In particular, Daniel sees an end time world government and world ruler who will severely persecute Israel. He also sees mass ignorance of what is actually happening in the world. Watch the video and examine the evidence for yourself – it will be life-changing!
WORLD GOVERNMENT: Daniel had a vision of a great statue representing four great empires. The vision is not concerned with most of the nations or empires of history, but only with those nations that had, or will have, a direct impact upon Israel. Futurists believe that the feet of iron and clay represent the last form of world government that impacts Israel before Christ comes again. They believe this government will be a revived form of the historic Roman Empire, with similar characteristics – controlling and brutal. It will adhere to humanistic rather than biblical law, and hate Christians and Jews. And it will be led by a godless and ruthless world dictator – the beast of Revelation 13.1. Today, world leaders have been calling for exactly such a government or ‘New World Order’ led by the UN and the EU, link.
PEACE, THEN DISTRESS: At the start of Week 70 (seven years), Futurists see the signing of some form of seven year ‘peace treaty’ between the world dictator and Israel (Dan 9.27). Again, such a treaty is highly plausible given current Palestinian-Israeli conflicts and talk of a two-state link, link. But after just 3½ years the treaty is broken and Israel – and Jerusalem in particular – is invaded by the world dictator (Dan 9.27), setting himself up as God in the end-time Jewish temple (2 Thes 2.4). Jesus referred to this future event as ‘an abomination’ (Mat 24.15), and the prophet Jeremiah described it as the time of ‘Jacobs trouble’, a time when Israel is once more severely persecuted (but for the last time). Daniel also refers to this event and calls it “a time of trouble” for his people Israel:
Alas! for that day is great, there is none like it, and it is the time of Jacob’s trouble
And there will be a time of trouble such as never occurred since there was a nation
Prophecies of Ezekiel and Isaiah for Israel
The Ingathering and Blossoming of Israel
The prophet Ezekiel told of a time when Israel’s barren land would once more yield fruit in preparation for the return of God’s people to the land of their inheritance (Ezek 36.8-11). He saw a valley of dry bones which came alive to become the ‘whole House of Israel’ living in the land of Israel (Ezek 37.1-14). Why was God to do this? Because they had profaned His holy name amongst the nations – they were His people, yet they had been cast out of their own land! So God said:
I do not do this for your sake, O house of Israel, but for My holy name’s sake, which you have profaned … and the nations shall know that I am the LORD
So here we have the real reason why the world has seen the massive ingathering (aliyah, link) of God’s people to the land of Israel over the last 100 years; it is for the Holy name of the God of Israel. As of 2015, the world Jewish population (using ‘Jew’ in the broadest sense) was 14.2 million, of which 6.2 million (44%) resided in Israel, link. We can expect aliyah from the Gentile nations to continue since God says He will leave “none of them there any longer” (Ezek 39.28). In other words, prophecy indicates that virtually all God’s people will emigrate to Israel.
The prophet Isaiah give the same picture. Although the people of Israel were scattered amongst the nations for some 2,500 years, God promised that He would not forget them (Isa 49.15,16). Indeed, they would once more be a “light to the Gentiles – the light to salvation” (Isa 49.6) – see below. And to this end God would make the land of Israel “like the garden of Eden” (Isa 51.3). Over the past 100 years, God’s people have transformed the land from unproductive desert scrub to a vigorous agricultural economy, link.
A Third Jewish Temple
The Second Temple was completely destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD. But many prophecies strongly suggests that a third temple will materialize in or close to Jerusalem at the close of this age. For example, the godless world dictator will ‘sit as God in the temple of God’ (2 Thes 2.4) and Jesus saw this despicable act as ‘the abomination of desolation’ (Mat 24.15). Prior to this event, it appears that the Jews will have restored their temple sacrifices in this new temple, only to be halted by the world dictator (Dan 9.27). Some believe that a temple will be erected quickly around the start of Daniel’s Week 70 and destroyed by the great earthquake (see sidebar) when Christ returns, link.
Dispensationalist theology regards Ezekiel 40-48 as looking past this age and into the millennial age, and sees a glorious new temple as the throne of Christ on earth (Ezek 43.7). Incredible detail of this temple is given in Ezekiel 40-45, which defines a square plot of land (the sanctuary) comprising outer and inner courts, temple and altar. There are even hints at the elevated location of the temple (Ezek 43.12). On the other hand, the institutionalized church usually spiritualizes Ezek 40-48, either because it rejects the dispensational view (the millennial concept) or because it cannot accommodate the concept of re-instated sacrifices for sin (Ezek 45.18-25). But what does this church make of the millennial sacrifices in Zech 14.21? And where will the millennial nations worship the LORD if there is no glorious new temple (Zech 14.16)? Ezekiel 47.1-12 describes a very real temple whose healing waters flow into the Dead Sea and heal the waters for fishing! And in Ezek 48 the temple area is geographically identified as lying between the new borders of the tribes of Judah and Benjamin, (see maps at link). This is either biblical wishful thinking, or fact.
Many Jews look for the Third Temple. For instance, the goal of The Temple Institute is to see Israel rebuild the Holy Temple on Mount Moriah in Jerusalem, in accord with the Biblical commandments.
A Time of Tribulation and Salvation
The ‘time of trouble’ for Israel referred to by Jeremiah and Daniel occurs during the last half of Week 70; it is the last 3½ years of this age before Christ returns (Dan 12.7). Jesus referred to this as a time of ‘great tribulation’ and so severe that ‘unless those days are shortened no flesh would be saved’ (Mat 24.21,22). It’s vortex is Jerusalem as Israel suffers persecution under the godless world dictator, but the trouble and severe end time events also extend to the whole world (Rev 3.10).
Prophecy reveals two major end-time wars with the land of Israel as their focal point. The first is the so-called ‘Gog-Magog’ war, essentially an Arab-Islamic invasion of Israel, which occurs around the time of Week 70, possibly in the middle of Week 70. At the end of Week 70 all nations gather for war against Jerusalem (Zech 14.2, Rev 19.19). This is the final war of the age. Both wars see the intervention of the God of Israel and each time the invading nations are defeated! More at Israel’s Future Wars.
The good news is that this time is also a time of protection and salvation (read Rev 7). It is the time when 144,000 from all the tribes of Israel are ‘sealed’ by God. These could be the ‘elect’ or ‘chosen ones’ mentioned by Jesus (Mat 24.22), bearing in mind that a Jewish remnant is saved and goes into the Millennial age (note that in Old Testament terms, ‘the elect’ refers to Israel, as in Isa 45.2, 65.9). But Revelation 7 also refers to ‘a great (Gentile) multitude from all the nations’ who at last come to a saving knowledge of Christ:
These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb
All this appears to happen before the judgments of God on the earth (Rev 7.3). It seems God gives one final angelic warning before judgment starts near the end of Week 70:
I saw another angel … having the everlasting gospel to preach … to every nations, tribe, tongue, and people – saying with a loud voice ‘Fear God and give glory to Him, for the hour of His judgment has come’
Jesus may have been referring to such end-time worldwide preaching in Matthew 24.14.
The Return of Christ
Asteroid 21 July, 2006.
Image: Norris Wong Wikimedia
Immediately after the great tribulation there are cosmic disturbances heralding the return of Christ. Jesus said “the sun and the moon will be darkened and the stars will fall from heaven” (Mat 24.29).
In 21st century terms these ‘stars’ could be Potentially Hazardous Asteroids (PHAs). A PHA has the potential to make close approaches to the Earth and a size large enough to cause significant damage in the event of impact. By the close of 2015 there were over 1,600 known PHAs, link. It only needs one to hit! The book of Revelation could refer to a PHA when it says,
“Something like a huge mountain, all ablaze, was thrown into the sea (Rev 8.8).
Clearly, the immediate future of Israel is traumatic. But the good news is that, according to Bible prophecy, a remnant of Israel survives this last persecution and enters into the millennial age. They acknowledge Christ as their Messiah as He returns to the earth and His feet stand on the Mount of Olives (Zech 12.10-14, Ezek 39.28,29):
“And in that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives” (Zech 14.4)
During this glorious millennial age, Christ rules the nations from Jerusalem, and Israel and the rest of the world are at peace for 1000 years. Moreover, it will be universally acknowledged that God is with the Jews (Zech 8.23) and the true purpose of Israel will be apparent to all:
But now, says the Lord … He who formed you, O Israel, ‘Do not fear … I have called you by name; you are Mine! … You are My witnesses … and My servant whom I have chosen’
And what one nation on the earth is like Your people Israel, whom God went … to make a name for Himself
(2 Sam 7.23)