Thursday, October 24, 2013

Israel a Sign?

Some have said that Israel herself is a sign.

What does this mean? 

What is the significance of the "regathering" of Israel?

The Jew himself is God's timepiece and the key that unlocks every door of prophecy. This is because God has a special love for Israel. Deuteronomy 7:6-8 declares, "For thou art an holy people unto the LORD thy God: the LORD thy God hath chosen thee to be a special people unto himself, above all people that are upon the face of the earth. The LORD did not set his love upon you, nor choose you, because ye were more in number than any people; for ye were the fewest of all people: But because the LORD loved you.

God chose Israel "to be a peculiar people unto himself, above all the nations that are upon the earth" (Deuteronomy 14:2). This is the first great insight I want you to grasp-that God chose the people of Israel simply because He loved them. 

No more, no less. David was so enraptured with the truth of God's love for Israel that he exclaimed in 1 Chronicles 17:22, "For thy people Israel didst thou make thine own people for ever; and thou, LORD, becamest their God." As we progress with this question, it will become abundantly clear why to this day Israel itself is a major sign of Christ's imminent return.

The Lord God Jehovah told the people of Israel that their country was to be located "in the midst of the land" (Ezekiel 38:12), or more literally, in the "navel of the earth." Its capital city, Jerusalem, was to be situated in the center of the nations (Ezekiel 5:5); and in that capital city the Lord was to put His name forever, and forever, declaring that His eye and His heart would be there perpetually (1 Kings 9:3). 

There the Lord promised to establish the throne of David forever (2 Samuel 7:16) and finally to give that throne to His own divine and eternal Son. Luke 1:31-33 states, "Behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end." Are you beginning to see how much God loved Israel and its people? However, it was not all love, sweetness, and light.

God also warned the children of Israel of an imminent worldwide dispersion if they thumbed their noses at Him in disobedience. He went so far as to tell them that His Son would delay His rule if their hearts became wicked and hardened. 

To see if God is a God of His word, let us look at the prophetical utterances to see if they really took place. 

Scripture tells us that Israel was, in fact, driven out of its land and scattered among the nations of the earth because of its widespread disobedience. During this worldwide dispersion, God visited the Gentiles, "to take out of them a people for his name" (Acts 15:14). In the meantime, Israel existed ...many days without a king, without a prince, without a sacrifice, without an image, without an ephod (a sacred garment of gold, blue, purple, scarlet, and fine twined linen worn by the priest), and without teraphim (Hosea 3:4). 

Devout religious Jews cry vehemently at the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem because they have been without all of these things for centuries-just as God declared they would be without them. Since all these prophecies have come to pass according to prophetical utterance, and since God has shown His mighty power in bringing each utterance to fulfillment, let us now consider the predictions in upcoming questions and answers to see if His coming is near.

The Regathering of Israel

The second part of the question is, "What is the significance of the 'regathering' of Israel?

Scores of Bible passages clearly indicate that the reestablishment of Israel in its ancient homeland will take place when Messiah is ready to return to earth. The Messiah is none other than the Lord Jesus Christ of Luke 1:32. Deuteronomy 30:3 states, "The LORD thy God will. . . return and gather thee from all the nations, whither the LORD thy God hath scattered thee." In similar language, Isaiah 11:12 tells us, "And he shall set up an ensign for the nations, and shall assemble the outcasts of Israel, and gather together the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth." Again, Acts 15:16 declares, "After this.

After what? Look at verse 14: God "did visit the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for his name." This has been occurring since Cornelius, the first Gentile convert, received Christ in Acts 10. God says, "After this [after the Gentiles have had their opportunity] I will return, and will build again the tabernacle of David, which is fallen down; and I will build again the ruins thereof, and I will set it up" (Acts 15:16).

An important historical note: In A.D. 70, Titus the Roman general smashed Jerusalem and drove the Jews into their dispersion. This is called "the diaspora," or worldwide dispersion of the Jews. From that hour until 1948, the Jews had no homeland to call their own. Instead, the nations of the world hated them, mistreated them, and labeled them, as we noted earlier, "wandering Jews." God, however, said that He would bring His people back to their own land and that this regathering would happen near the time when Messiah would set up His kingdom on earth: "And I will plant [Israel] upon their land, and they shall no more be pulled up out of their land which I have given them, saith the LORD thy God" (Amos 9:15).

God has put the Jews in their land to stay forever. Is it not interesting that the Arab nations refused to recognize Israel when it became a nation in 1948? The Arabs were determined to drive Israel into the sea and obliterate her memory from the face of the earth. However, God had other-and better-plans and, in the end, God's way always wins the day. He said in the verse just quoted that Israel would remain in its land forever after He planted the nation there. Therefore, in 1974 the Egyptians, Syrians, and others negotiated with Israel, recognizing for the first time that Israel was indeed a nation and in its land to stay. Have you studied the extraordinary message in Ezekiel 37, which alludes to this event, and which further describes the prophet's vision of the dry bones? 

Here is a portion of this amazing passage:
The hand of the LORD was upon me, and carried me out in the spirit of the LORD, and set me down in the midst of the valley which was full of bones. And caused me to pass by them round about: and, behold, there were very many in the open valley; and, lo, they were very dry. And he said unto me, Son of man, can these bones live? And I answered, O Lord GOD, thou knowest. Again he said unto me. Prophesy upon these bones, and say unto them, O ye dry bones, hear the word of the LORD. Thus saith the Lord GOD unto these bones; Behold, I will cause breath to enter into you, and ye shall live: And I will lay sinews upon you, and will bring up flesh upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and ye shall live; and ye shall know that I am the LORD. So I prophesied as I was commanded: and as I prophesied, there was a noise, and behold a shaking, and the bones came together, bone to his bone. And when I beheld, lo, the sinews and the flesh came up upon them, and the skin covered them above: but there was no breath in them. Then said he unto me, Prophesy unto the wind, prophesy, son of man, and say to the wind. Thus saith the Lord GOD; Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live. So I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood up upon their feet, an exceeding great army. Then he said unto me, Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel: behold, they say, Our bones are dried, and our hope is lost: we are cut off for our parts. Therefore prophesy and say unto them. Thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, O my people, I will open your graves [Gentile nations], and cause you to come up out of your graves [the Gentile nations], and bring you into the land of Israel. (Ezekiel 37:1-12)

There is no secret here. Verse 11 proclaims: "These bones are the whole house of Israel." In 1948, the Jews put up a flag-the six-pointed Star of David. After being scattered throughout the earth for nearly nineteen hundred years, they had finally become a nation! 

The current population of Israel is more than five million-consisting of Jews who have returned from 120 nations of the world, speaking more than eighty-three languages. While in Israel, I spoke to a Jew who had recently returned from Spanish Morocco. As I sat with him on a bus going from Arab Israel to another part of the country, we talked about the black Jews who were just then returning to Israel from Ethiopia. He quickly said, "Yes, we have come from all nations." When the Ethiopian Jews left Jerusalem nineteen hundred years ago, they said, "We will never go back to our homeland until it is time for Messiah to return.

Today these Jews from Ethiopia-called Falashas-have returned in massive numbers. They have also come from Russia and Ukraine-the final sign (see Jeremiah 3:17-18). For these reasons alone, I can say with full conviction-and trust you can also-that Jesus Christ's return to this earth is near, even at the door.

Jerusalem has always been under the heel of the Gentiles. When will ownership of Jerusalem return to the Jews: And when will the Tribulation period ultimately fall on believers?

We find further dramatic signs of Christ's return in Luke 21:24-28. Jesus said: "And they shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led away captive into all nations: and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled. And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring; Men's hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken. And then shall they see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh"

This portion of Scripture pinpoints the time of Christ's statement in utmost simplicity. In modern grammar, the Savior declares, "There is an hour coming when My people, the Jews, shall control Jerusalem. At this moment of time, there shall also be signs in space coupled with a trouble-filled world. When all of these events occur simultaneously, look up because My return to earth is very near." Jerusalem had been under the heel of the Gentiles. In fact, the Gentiles controlled the city for twenty-five centuries, but in our lifetime a miracle happened. Jerusalem was captured by the Jews in a six-day war fought June 5-10, 1967 - one of the most important signs ever concerning Christ's return predicted in Luke 21:24. But there's more. Jesus added in verse 25 that signs would occur in the sun, moon, and stars. Think of this. Twenty-five months after Jerusalem was captured by the Jews, June of 1967, Neil Armstrong stepped on the moon in July of 1969. Coincidence? Hardly.

Signs of Judgment by Fire

As we have already learned, the period of time that follows the Rapture and precedes Christ's return to earth is called the Tribulation (Revelation 7:14). The Rapture is described in Revelation 4:1 and the Revelation-Christ's return to earth to receive His church in Revelation 19:11. The chapters between the two events constitute the Tribulation Hour-a seven-year period of judgment. Christ referred to this period in the statement, "As it was in the days of Lot...Even thus shall it be in the day when the Son of man is revealed" (Luke 17:28, 30). The fire that burned Sodom and Gomorrah was all-consuming-the result of wickedness and of turning a deaf ear to the Almighty. Bad as it was for Sodom and Gomorrah, their fate is nothing compared to the coming human devastation that will afflict the people of earth during the Tribulation Hour. 

Jeremiah 30:7 declares, "Alas! for that day is great, so that none is like it." Daniel 12:1 states, "There shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation." Jesus also declared in Matthew 24:21, "For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be." Included in this horrendous portrayal is a world on fire- similar to the judgment of Lot's day. 

The Bible says, "The flaming flame shall not be quenched" (Ezekiel 20:47). Again, "The whole land shall be devoured by the fire of his jealousy" (Zephaniah 1:18). "For, behold, the day cometh, that shall burn as an oven" (Malachi 4:1). "And the third part of trees was burnt up, and all green grass was burnt up" (Revelation 8:7). "By these three was the third part of men killed, by the fire, and by the smoke, and by the brimstone" (Revelation 9:18).

A stockpile of nuclear explosives jams the weapons arsenals of the world today. 

Reports indicate that the amount is equivalent to one ton of TNT for every person alive. 

Recently, India and Pakistan conducted nuclear explosions, and the world teeters on the brink of destruction. 

Think of the mass devastation that shall be unleashed on this world during the Tribulation Hour! 

But God's people will escape this catastrophic judgment. Revelation 3:10 declares, "I also will keep thee from [ek-out of] the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth."