What is the role of Israel in bible prophecy?
Unfortunately, a large segment of the Christian community believes that God is finished with Israel, that the blood of Christ on the cross negates God’s promise to the Jewish people.
Nothing could be further from the truth! God’s Word remains forever, and God promised Abraham:
“The Lord had said to Abram, ‘Leave your native country, your relatives, and your father’s family, and go to the land that I will show you. I will make you into a great nation. I will bless you and make you famous, and you will be a blessing to others. I will bless those who bless you and curse those who treat you with contempt. All the families on earth will be blessed through you.'” Genesis 12:1-3 (NLT)
God’s promise to Abraham still stands, and the tiny nation of Israel is a major player in end time events.
For proof of the central role played by Israel in bible prophecy, one need look further than the Book of Ezekiel and the first half of the 20th Century…
The Regathering of God’s People
More than 2,600 years ago, God told the prophet Ezekiel of His plan to regather the Jews from the four corners of the earth where they had been scattered and bring them back into the land of Israel:
“Then he said to me, ‘Son of man, these bones represent the people of Israel. They are saying, ‘We have become old, dry bones – all hope is gone.’ Now give them this message from the Sovereign Lord: O my people, I will open your graves of exile and cause you to rise again. Then I will bring you back to the land of Israel. When this happens, O my people, you will know that I am the Lord.” Ezekiel 37:11-13 (NLT)
In the late 19th Century, the Zionist movement started to gain in popularity, and Jews throughout the world trickled into Israel by the thousands. Then those thousands became tens of thousands. The horrors of the Holocaust turned a trickle into a deluge as the Jewish people sought refuge in a country where they would no longer face minority status.
All this mass immigration occurred in fulfillment of God’s Word, as referenced in numerous regathering of Israel bible verses found in the Old Testament.
But God didn’t merely promise to regather the Jewish people in the land of Israel.
He promised breathe life back into the nation.
In fact, He promised Israel would be a nation born in a single day:
“‘Who has ever seen or heard of anything as strange as this? Has a nation ever been born in a single day? Has a country ever come forth in a mere moment? But by the time Jerusalem’s birth pains begin, the baby will be born; the nation will come forth. Would I ever bring this nation to the point of birth and then not deliver it?’ asks the Lord. ‘No! I would never keep this nation from being born,’ says your God.” Isaiah 66:8-9 (NLT)
This is exactly what happened on May 14, 1948, when the country’s leaders declared Israel an independent nation and the United States quickly recognized the declaration.
Jerusalem: A Burdensome Stone
Need further evidence of the role of Israel in bible prophecy?
How about God’s promise to make Jerusalem “a heavy stone, a burden for the world”…
“I will make Jerusalem and Judah like an intoxicating drink to all the nearby nations that send their armies to besiege Jerusalem. On that day I will make Jerusalem a heavy stone, a burden for the world. None of the nations who try to lift it will escape unscathed.” Zechariah 12:2-3 (NLT)
As you read this, world leaders are focused on Jerusalem. In a hopeless effort to forge “peace” between the Arab and Jewish people, many leaders openly talk about “dividing” Jerusalem.
Yet, God’s proclamation is clear. Jerusalem will remain an undivided Israeli possession.
The Destruction of Damascus
Yet despite the numerous end time prophecies fulfilled by modern day Israel, Christ has not yet returned, meaning several unfulfilled prophecies are yet to be fulfilled.
Given the promise of Jesus that the generation which witnessed Israel’s rebirth would not pass away until all end times bible prophecy is fulfilled, many of us will witness the fulfillment of these remaining prophecies.
One such prophecy is the foretold destruction of Damascus:
“This message came to me concerning Damascus: ‘Look, Damascus will disappear! It will become a heap of ruins. The cities of Aroer will be deserted. Sheep will graze in the streets and lie down unafraid. There will be no one to chase them away. The fortified cities of Israel will also be destroyed, and the power of Damascus will end.” Isaiah 17:1-3 (NLT)
Currently, Damascus is the world’s oldest continuously inhabited city, so this is clearly an unfulfilled bible prophecy – one scheduled to be fulfilled in our generation.
The War of Gog and Magog
The war of Gog and Magog also plays a central role in end times bible prophecy concerning Israel.
More than 2,600 years ago, the prophet Ezekiel revealed God’s plan to bring a coalition of nations against Israel in the last days.
The leader of that coalition, which includes Russia (Magog), Iran (Persia), Ethiopia (Cush), Lybia (Put), Turkey (Gomer), and others, is Gog (the leader of Russia):
“Therefore, son of man, prophesy against Gog. Give him this message from the Sovereign Lord: When my people are living in peace in their land, then you will rouse yourself. You will come from your homeland in the distant north with your vast cavalry and your mighty army, and you will cover the land like a cloud. This will happen in the distant future. I will bring you against my land as everyone watches, and my holiness will be displayed by what happens to you. Then all the nations will know that I am the Lord.” Ezekiel 38:14-16 (NLT)
In the centuries since Ezekiel’s prophecy, Russia and Iran have never had a military alliance. Yet, the past decade has seen closer and closer military and diplomatic cooperation between the two nations, making fulfillment of this prophecy in our generation a much more realistic scenario.
A Covenant With Death
The prophet Daniel prophesied the nation of Israel would confirm a covenant with the Antichrist in the end times. This covenant, or treaty, would last for a period of seven years – the same amount of time allotted for the Tribulation:
“The ruler will make a treaty with the people for a period of one set of seven, but after half this time, he will put an end to the sacrifices and offerings. And as a climax to all his terrible deeds, he will set up a sacrilegious object that causes desecration, until the fate decreed for this defiler is finally poured out on him.” Daniel 9:27 (NLT)
According to Daniel, in the middle of the treaty’s seven year time period, the Antichrist will set up a sacrilegious object that causes desecration in God’s Temple. This act is known as “the abomination of desolation.”
The Abomination of Desolation
As a climax to his terrible deeds, the Antichrist will commit “the abomination of desolation”:
“He will put an end to the sacrifices and offerings. Then as a climax to all his terrible deeds, he will set up a sacrilegious object that causes desecration, until the end that has been decreed is poured out on this defiler.” Daniel 9:27 (NLT)
Essentially, the Antichrist will stand in the Temple of God and proclaim himself to be God.
Jesus told His disciples of this horrible act in the Olivet Discourse:
“The day is coming when you will see what Daniel the prophet spoke about ? the sacrilegious object that causes desecration standing in the Holy Place. (Reader, pay attention!) Then those in Judea must flee to the hills. A person out on the deck of a roof must not go down into the house to pack. A person out in the field must not return even to get a coat. How terrible it will be for pregnant women and for nursing mothers in those days. And pray that your flight will not be in winter or on the Sabbath. For there will be greater anguish than at any time since the world began. And it will never be so great again. In fact, unless that time of calamity is shortened, not a single person will survive. But it will be shortened for the sake of God’s chosen ones.” Matthew 24:15-22 (NLT)
Of course, for this prophecy to be fulfilled, something else must take place…
The rebuilding of the Temple in Jerusalem.
The Third Temple
In case there’s any doubt, Paul confirms in his second letter to the Thessalonians what Daniel and Jesus have already confirmed. The Antichrist will stand in the Temple and proclaim himself to be God:
“He will exalt himself and defy every god there is and tear down every object of adoration and worship. He will position himself in the temple of God, claiming that he himself is God.” 2 Thessalonians 2:4 (NLT)
Of course, in order for the Antichrist to do this, the Temple has to exist. And since the Roman legions destroyed the Temple in A.D. 70, it’s never been rebuilt.
The bible clearly prophesies that it will be in the last days.
Israel Receives the Holy Spirit
Another major end times event will be the recognition of Jesus Christ as the long-awaited Messiah of the Jewish people by the Jewish people themselves:
“Then I will pour out a spirit of grace and prayer on the family of David and on the people of Jerusalem. They will look on me whom they have pierced and mourn for him as for an only son. They will grieve bitterly for him as for a firstborn son who has died.” Zechariah 12:10 (NLT)
Currently, the overwhelming majority of the Jewish people reject Jesus of Nazareth as the one who fulfilled the Old Testament messianic prophecies.
According to the prophet Zechariah, that will change in the last days, when the family of David will “look on me whom they have pierced and mourn for him as for an only son.”
The Messiah Returns
Unquestionably, the biggest end time event for Israel will be the return of the Messiah to reign over the earth:
“Then the Lord will go out to fight against those nations, as he has fought in times past. On that day his feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, east of Jerusalem. And the Mount of Olives will split apart, making a wide valley running from east to west. Half the mountain will move toward the north and half toward the south. You will flee through this valley, for it will reach across to Azal. Yes, you will flee as you did from the earthquake in the days of King Uzziah of Judah. Then the Lord my God will come, and all his holy ones with him.” Zechariah 14:3-5 (NLT)
At the end of the Tribulation, Jesus Christ will physically return to the earth to wage war against His enemies. His feet will touch down on the Mount of Olives, and it will split apart.
The Lord of Heaven’s Armies will come as the conquering Messiah, to take possession of the earth once and for all. When He comes, He will establish a Kingdom which will last forever.
So when will all these things take place?
When will all the end times prophecies concerning Israel finally reach fulfillment?
Almost 2,000 years ago, Jesus gave us the answer:
“Now learn a lesson from the fig tree. When its buds become tender and its leaves begin to sprout, you know without being told that summer is near. Just so, when you see the events I’ve described beginning to happen, you can know his return is very near, right at the door. I assure you, this generation will not pass from the scene before all these things take place. Heaven and earth will disappear, but my words will remain forever.” Matthew 24:32-35 (NLT)
Throughout the Old Testament, the fig tree is used as a symbol for Israel. In fact, Jesus Himself used a barren fig tree as a parable for an unbelieving people.
In the above passage, Jesus is clearly telling His disciples that when the nation of Israel “begins to sprout,” the events He described will soon come to pass.
In other words, when the nation of Israel is reborn again as foretold by the prophets Ezekiel, Jeremiah, Isaiah, Amos, and others – then you will know “His return is very near, right at the door.”
“I assure you, this generation will not pass from the scene before all these things take place. Heaven and earth will disappear, but my words will remain forever.” Matthew 24:34-35 (NLT)
Christ is coming soon. Israel’s existence is clear evidence, so live your life accordingly.