Why Does Israel Exist?
What is the Purpose of Israel?
World events now seem to focus on the Middle East, and especially upon Israel. Israel is mentioned in almost every news bulletin. Why is this tiny little nation of just 8 million people so newsworthy? Why is this piece of land just 290 miles (470 km) in length and 85 miles (135 km) in width so important to both Jew and Arab? Why have there been three major wars over it since 1948? Why is there continual conflict between Jews and Palestinians? Why are there conflicting claims over the ownership of Jerusalem? Why is the UN and the media so heavily biased against Israel? Why are there international boycotts of Israeli goods? In fact, given all this unrest, why does Israel exist at all? And how will it all end?
In order to answer these questions, and to see Israel’s role in the end times, we first need to look at God’s historic plan for Israel.
Essential History: An Unconditional Covenant
Abram (later called Abraham, meaning ‘Father of a multitude’) was called by God to go from his home in Ur of the Chaldeans and travel to a land that God would give to him and his descendants, forever. That land was Canaan, the area we now call Israel.
God told Abram that his descendants would become a great nation and that through this nation all the nations of the earth would be blessed (Gen 12.1-7). This is a reference to the coming of the Messiah, Yeshua (although Israel will soon bring many more blessings to the world). Later, God confirmed this promise to Abraham by a covenant:
I will establish My covenant between Me and you and your descendants after you … I will give to you and your descendants … all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God.
By Myself I have sworn, declares the Lord, … in your seed, all the nations of the earth will be blessed
The covenant between God and Abraham was now unconditional; God had sworn it by Himself. It was certain that from Abraham would come a great nation and a great blessing to the nations, and Abraham’s descendants would be given the so-called ‘Promised Land’ of Canaan (Israel) as an everlasting possession.
The Purpose of Israel – a Blessing to the Nations
So how are the nations blessed (Gen 22.18)? Tracing through the descendants of Abraham we find that the tribe of Judah is given ‘royal lineage’ in terms of a scepter (Gen 49.10). This symbolized kingship and led to the royal house of David. Following the genealogies from David in the book of Matthew we come to Joseph the husband of Mary who bore Jesus. God gave Jesus the throne of David (Lk 1.32), but Jesus’ mission at this time was the reconciliation of sinful mankind to God. Through Christ’s death on the cross, everyone who believes in Him – the resurrected Christ – and follows Him is reconciled to God. Jesus said:
Salvation is of the Jews (Jn 4.22)
That is the first and foremost blessing of the nations; Israel’s primary purpose, her primary reason for existence, was to bring salvation to the world through Christ. But there is more …
The Purpose of Israel – a Sign to the Nations
The Bible says that at the end of this age Israel will become the vortex of the world in the sense that major world events will be centered around Israel. Nations will be caught in a political vortex in the sense that they will be forced to look towards Israel. They can choose to ignore Israel and her God, but sooner or later Israel will command their attention. Why? Because God is using Israel as a sign to the nations:
He will set up a ensign for the nations and will assemble the outcasts of Israel (Isa 11.12)
At the end of this age God raises an ensign to the Gentile nations as a sign that He is going to do something great. An ensign means a national flag, emblem or banner signaling the authority of the rightful owner! At this time, God announces to the Gentile nations that He is gathering His dispersed people out of their nations, and placing them in their own land. Many take Jesus’ parable of the ‘budding fig tree’ (Mat 24.32) as pertaining to the restoration of Israel immediately prior to His return, link, link. In other words, Israel as a restored nation is a sign of His immediate return to earth.
The Sign is Visible Today
Within just 100 years the Jewish population in Israel has increased dramatically. In 1915 there were just 83,000 Jews but this increased to over 6 million Jews in 2013, link – an amazing 7100% increase! Over this time Israel has ‘greened’ a barren land by planting over 240 million trees through a massive afforestation program, link. It also declared the State of Israel in 1948 and now Israel has highly developed banking, health, and university systems and her industries include textiles, food processing, mining, agriculture and forestry. Israel is particularly advanced in the hi-tech industry such as computer science, electronics, genetics, medicine, optics, solar energy and electric cars. In recent years tourism in Israel has increased, and 2013 was Israel’s record year for incoming tourism with 3.54 million visitor entries. Christians represented more than half (53%) of all incoming tourists.
Clearly, Israel has rapidly become highly visible to the world as Jews have been drawn back from the nations into a land promised to them under the Abrahamic Covenant – a sure sign that God is working in the world, and of Christ’s return.
The Purpose of Israel – a Witness to the Nations
People often ask ‘Where is God – where is the evidence that He exists?’ God’s plan anticipated such questions. He created a special nation (Israel) to be His witness in the world, to be His servant, to achieve His purposes, and to lift up His name amongst the nations. For example, it was through Israel’s deliverance from Egypt that God showed His presence and power, and it is through Israel’s aliyah (return to their own land) that we see God working today:
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)
Isn’t it amazing that this small nation, Israel, has survived for over 3,500 years despite some 2,500 years of exile and severe persecution? Isn’t it amazing that millions of Jews have recently returned to the land promised to Abraham’s descendants (Gen 17)? When King Louis XIV of France (1643-1715) asked Blaise Pascal, the great Christian philosopher to give him proof of God, Pascal answered, ‘Why the Jews, your Majesty, the Jews!’ Today, the nations are being forced to look towards Israel, whether in hatred or in support or in bewilderment. Why? Because God is working with His people and His land to make a name for Himself – see for example the amazing growth of Israel. And there is more …
The Purpose of Israel – a Glorious Future for the Nations
Bible prophecy reveals that, at the end of this age world events will be centered around Israel. Unseen spiritual principalities and powers raged against Christ at His birth (Rev 12.4), and today they are raging against Israel by aligning nations against her (Rev 12.9, 20.8). This spiritual warfare culminates in the final war of this age (Armageddon) as all Gentile nations are gathered against Israel (Zech 14.1-3). The good news is that these events herald the return of Christ to the earth and the ushering in of an age of peace – the so-called millennial age, when Christ reigns as King from Jerusalem:
And the LORD will be King over all the earth (Zech 14.9)
These are the days when nations beat their swords into plowshares, the wolf lies down with the lamb, and the earth is full of the knowledge of the LORD (Isa 2.4, 11.9, 65.25). These are the days when Israel and Egypt and Assyria (Iraq) are one with each other and are a blessing to the world (Isa 19.24). This is the time when the land and people of Israel will be blessed above all nations, and many peoples will go up to Jerusalem to worship the LORD and keep Israel’s Feast of Tabernacles (Isa 2.2, Zech 14.16). Why? Because
Jerusalem shall be called the City of Truth (Zech 8.3)
So why does Israel exist? What is the purpose of Israel?
- Through Israel came a blessing to the world: reconciliation to God through Christ
- Through Israel we can see a sign announcing the return of Christ
- Through Israel we can see God working in the world and making a name for Himself
- Through Israel the world will enjoy peace on earth as Christ reigns from Jerusalem