Israel: Still the Apple of God’s Eye Part Three
Today we live in what Jesus referred to as the “times of the Gentiles” (Lk. 21:24). The entire world lies under Gentile domination and has done so since the Babylonians destroyed the Temple and Jerusalem and carried the Israelites into captivity in 586 B.C. But Gentiles will not dominate the world forever. Scripture is clear that God has a future for Israel, and it will be glorious. Three prophecies summarize Israel’s future Kingdom.
Times of the Gentiles
1. Daniel’s Five Kingdoms. In the book of Daniel God summarized future world history through Nebuchadnezzar’s dream and Daniel’s vision. In Daniel 7, four beasts come out of the sea. The first is like a lion; the second, like a bear; the third, like a leopard.
The fourth, however, is different. It is grotesque, “dreadful and terrible, exceedingly strong. It had huge iron teeth; it was devouring, breaking in pieces, and trampling the residue with its feet” (v. 7). Daniel was told that these four destructive beasts represent four major Gentile kingdoms. The prophet’s vision expanded on the dream Babylon’s King Nebuchadnezzar had in Daniel 2.
Nebuchadnezzar saw a statue. Its head of gold represented Babylon, corresponding to the lion in Daniel’s vision. Its chest and arms of silver represented Medo-Persia, corresponding to the bear. The statue’s bronze belly and thighs represented Greece, corresponding to the leopard. And the legs of iron and feet of iron and clay represented the Roman Empire, correspond -ing to the grotesque beast.
In Daniel 2, a stone “cut out without hands” strikes the statue and destroys it:
You [Nebuchadnezzar] watched while a stone was cut out without hands, which struck the image on its feet of iron and clay, and broke them in pieces. Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver, and the gold were crushed together, and became like chaff from the summer threshing floors; the wind carried them away so that no trace of them was found. And the stone that struck the image became a great mountain and filled the whole earth. And in the days of these kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed; and the king-dom shall not be left to other people; it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever (vv. 34–35, 44).
The stone is the eternal, heavenly Kingdom, presented in Daniel’s vision to the “One like the Son of Man, coming with the clouds of heaven!” (7:13). He receives the Kingdom for the saints of the Highest One:
Then to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and His kingdom the one which shall not be destroyed (v. 14).
So the Gentiles are represented by four kingdoms, followed by the Messiah’s Kingdom that is obviously Jewish. Clearly, Daniel understood that God was prophesying that four major world kingdoms would be followed by a heavenly Kingdom that would destroy all the Gentile kingdoms and encompass the entire earth.
Jesus Confirms Daniel
Today many argue that Daniel’s prophecy was scuttled by Israel’s rejection of its Messiah. But they are wrong. Daniel 9:26 actually includes a reference to the Messiah’s crucifixion: “Messiah shall be cut off, but not for Himself.” Furthermore, Jesus actually reaffirmed Daniel’s prophecy. It is no accident that in Matthew 24, at the request of His disciples, Jesus laid out Israel’s future. When they asked Him, “What will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?” He explained what lies ahead (Mt. 24:4–31).
2. Jesus’ Olivet Discourse. In Matthew 24 Jesus elaborated on Daniel 9:24–27, where the angel Gabriel told Daniel, “Seventy weeks [literally, seventy groups of seven] are determined for your people and for your holy city” (v. 24). Each “week” is composed of seven years. When Jesus spoke on Mount Olivet, He stood between the end of the 69th week and the “cutting off” of the Messiah. It was now merely two or three days before Jesus’ death. He certainly knew that Israel had rejected Him and that He would return to build His church.
In Matthew 23, Jesus had castigated the Pharisees, scribes, and Sadducees for their rebellion against Him. Now, addressing His Jewish disciples who asked, “What’s the sign of Your coming?” He elaborated on the one remaining week (70th week) of Daniel’s prophecy.
This would have been the time for Him to say, “Men, I want you to understand something. There is no future Kingdom for Israel.” Instead, He explained the future to them. Though He had been preparing them for the mystery form of the Kingdom for a year, He now reverted to Israel’s Kingdom program and what will happen.
The 70th week is divided in half by the breaking of a covenant and the Abomination of Desolation. Jesus said there will be “wars and rumors of wars” (24:6). These will occur during the first half of the 70th week, also called the Tribulation. Then will come “famines, pestilences, and earthquakes” (v. 7). These constitute the beginning of birth pangs. There will be tribulation and persecution. Lawlessness will increase, and the gospel of the Kingdom will be preached (vv. 9–14).
Yet it is not the end. It’s only the beginning of the end. Then, Jesus said, “When you see the ‘abomination of desolation’ spoken of by Daniel the prophet,” flee to the mountains because things will get a whole lot worse (v. 15). Much greater tribulation, “such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time,” will fol-low (v. 21). False christs (messiahs) will be everywhere. Then the sun will grow dark and the “sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven” (v. 30).
Perhaps the sign will be akin to the glory of God that appeared to Moses in the burning bush or to Abraham in the Chaldees. All we know is that it will be clear indeed that the Son of Man is coming. Jesus then said that the Son of Man will descend to this earth and establish His Millennial Kingdom. Throughout the remainder of the Discourse, Jesus warned His disciples to watch and be alert.
Thus, mere hours before His death, Jesus clearly reaffirmed Daniel’s prophecy that the Kingdom will come to the nation of Israel.
Paul Confirms Israel’s Future
Twenty-five years after Jesus’ prophecy and well after the establishment of the church, the apostle Paul confirmed the future of Israel’s Kingdom. Though the apostle to the Gentiles did not focus primarily on eschatological issues (as did John in Revelation), he did affirm the centrality of Israel in God’s program and the future of its Kingdom.
3. Paul’s Olive Tree Prophecy. In Romans 11 Paul likened Israel to the root of a cultivated olive tree whose branches were broken off due to unbelief. Then branches from a wild olive tree (Gentiles) were grafted in. However, a day is coming, Paul wrote, when the natural branches will be grafted back into its root. “Do not boast against the branches,” he told the Gentile believers in Rome. “Remember that you do not support the root, but the root supports you” (v. 18). “Blindness in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. And so all Israel will be saved” (vv. 25–26).
Paul taught that the Kingdom will come to the nation of Israel. The Jews are still God’s Chosen People. There is still a future for them. Israel is still the “apple of His eye” (Zech. 2:8). We Gentiles have been grafted in through the church. But one day the church program will end, and God will begin to work with the nation of Israel again. And so God’s Chosen People will be restored to their covenants.
Through the prophet Isaiah, God told Israel, “Instead of your shame you shall have double honor, and instead of confusion they shall rejoice in their por-tion. Therefore in their land they shall possess double; everlasting joy shall be theirs” (61:7).
Meanwhile, we must pray for the peace of Israel. We are outsiders who have been adopted into God’s family. So we must pray for the Jewish people around us.
Second, we must share Jesus’ love with them. And third, we must thank God for all the blessings we enjoy because of what He has done through the nation of Israel. Israel’s Messiah is our Savior; and someday, as His Bride, we will reign with Him in a Jewish Kingdom that will have no end.