Israel’s Final Judgment
The recurrent hatred of Jewry throughout its existence is an enigma—a people so small in number yet so central on the pages of world history. The benefits of the Jewish people to the masses of humanity dwarf those of every other people group in the annals of the world.
The Bible says that the Jewish people are special—not better, but unique, in that they are chosen by God. This calling should produce an outpouring of compassion and concern for the Jewish people, but that is not the case.
The history of the Jewish people reads like a tragic drama. Nation after nation, people after people have persecuted them. Jerusalem, their beloved city, has changed hands no less than 86 times in the nation’s history. The Egyptians, Babylonians, Romans, the Czars of Russia, and the Nazis of Germany, among others, have waged war on the Jewish people. Some of these attacks have been the result of unreasonable hatred. Others have been the judgment of their God.
It is precisely because God has chosen them that He has meted out judgment on them for their rebellion. Their revered lawgiver, Moses, warned them about turning away from Him: “Now, therefore, write this song for you, and teach it to the children of Israel; put it in their mouths, that this song may be a witness for me against the children of Israel” (Dt. 31:19). God warned the Jewish people through the Prophet Amos: “Hear this word that the Lᴏʀᴅ hath spoken against you, O children of Israel, against the whole family which I brought up from the land of Egypt, saying, You only have I known of all the families of the earth; therefore, I will punish you for all your iniquities” (Amos 3:1–2). It was because of this special relationship that God used the Babylonians in 586 B.C. (2 Chr. 36:14–17) and the Romans in 70 A.D. (Dan. 9:26; Lk. 19:41–44) to judge Israel. God’s final judgment of Israel’s rebellion is yet future.
A Twofold Purpose
The world goes on its way, oblivious of any impending judgment for its actions. Evolution and its twin, secular humanism, have convinced people that morality is a foundation of shifting sand. There are no absolutes and thus no one to answer to for their deeds. But a day of reckoning is coming. The God who created this world and calls people to Himself through His Son will ultimately judge the world that rejects His ways.
God has decreed a period in the future when He will judge all of the nations and people of the world. This seven-year period is referred to in the Bible by a number of terms. In the church it is generally spoken of as the Tribulation period.
Jeremiah spoke of this period and captured God’s purposes for it to both the Gentile nations and Israel: “For I am with thee, saith the Lᴏʀᴅ, to save thee; though I make a full end of all nations to which I have scattered thee, yet will I not make a full end of thee, but I will correct thee in measure, and will not leave thee altogether unpunished” (Jer. 30:11).
God’s purpose for Israel in the Tribulation period is to save them from destruction during a time of intense anti-Semitism and to prepare them for their coming Messiah. He also will “correct thee [Israel] in measure” for the sins they have committed in their rebellion against Him. These two purposes are captured in an analogy of the birth process.
The Birth Process
The labor process in giving birth is one of the curses pronounced for the sin of Adam and Eve. God said to the woman, “in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children” (Gen. 3:16). The reality of this very painful process is used as an analogy in Scripture to describe God’s judgment during the Tribulation period.
Isaiah spoke of this analogy: “And they shall be afraid. Pangs and sorrows shall take hold of them; they shall be in pain like a woman that travaileth. They shall be amazed one at another; their faces shall be as flames” (Isa. 13:8). Jeremiah also mentioned this concept: “Ask now, and see whether a man doth travail with child? Why do I see every man with his hands on his loins, like a woman in travail, and all faces are turned into paleness?” (Jer. 30:6). The New Testament continues the use of the analogy in 1 Thessalonians 5:3: “For when they shall say, Peace and safety, then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child, and they shall not escape.”
This analogy relates to God’s two purposes for Israel in the Tribulation: the judgment of God and His ultimate deliverance of Israel.
Beginning of Sorrows
The initial outbreak of the Tribulation is referred to as the “beginning of sorrows” (Mt. 24:8). As labor pains come suddenly on a woman, so the judgment of God will come upon Israel and the nations of the world suddenly and unexpectedly.
The initial outpouring of God’s judgment in the Tribulation is described in the seal judgments of Revelation 6. These judgments are devastating in and of themselves, but they are not nearly as intense or painful as the latter judgments of the Tribulation period.
In these initial judgments, the rider of the white horse, the Antichrist, will begin to conquer (v. 2); a series of wars will start (vv. 3–4); famine will follow (v. 6); and 25 percent of the earth’s inhabitants will die (vv. 7–8). At that time believers will be martyred for their faith (vv. 9–11). Finally, natural disasters will occur (vv. 12–17) with a severity that people have never seen before.
The judgment will be painful. Yet, as with labor pains, the process will speed up and the pains will become greater.
The Trumpet Judgments
The seven trumpet judgments continue the birth process that began with the seal judgments. The first six are recorded in Revelation 8–9 and the seventh is recorded in Revelation 11:15–19.
The first trumpet judgment (8:7) will result in a third of the trees being destroyed, along with the grass of the earth. In the second trumpet judgment (8:8–9), a third of the salt water on the earth will be poisoned and a third of the sea life will die. In the third (8:10–11), a third of the fresh water sources will be poisoned, and many people will die as a result. In the fourth (8:12–13), a third of the bodies of light in the solar system will be affected.
The final three trumpet judgments will increase in severity, as seen in the angel’s pronouncement, “Woe, woe, woe, to the inhabiters of the earth by reason of the other voices of the trumpet of the three angels, which are yet to sound!” (Rev. 8:13). In the first of the final three trumpet judgments (9:1–11), demonic beings in the form of locusts will torment unsaved people for five months with such intense pain that the people will desire to kill themselves but will not be able to do so. The sixth trumpet judgment (9:13–21) will unleash an army of 200,000,000 in strength, and 33 percent of the earth’s inhabitants will die.
When the final trumpet judgment is poured out (11:15–19), disasters such as earthquakes and hail will strike the earth. Satan and his demons will be cast out of heaven to the earth (12:9), where their time will be limited. With a vengeance, Satan will attack the Jewish people (12:13), attempting to annihilate them. This seventh trumpet judgment also will unleash God’s final seven judgments during the Tribulation period.
The Bowl Judgments
The final seven judgments, or bowl judgments, will again increase in intensity and severity. It will be like the final period of the birth process, just before delivery, when the pains are the most acute and rapid. One writer has commented, “These judgments parallel the trumpet judgments…but expand and intensify them.”
In the first bowl judgment (16:1–2), grievous sores will come upon the people who have rejected the truth. In the second bowl judgment (16:3), all the salt water of the earth will turn to blood, and all the sea creatures will die. In the third (16:4–7), the fresh water sources of the world will turn to blood. With the fourth (16:8–9), the sun’s heat will increase so that it will scorch people with the intensity of its rays. The fifth (16:10–11) will bring darkness and pain so intense that people will gnaw their tongues. The sixth (16:12–16) will release demonic spirits that will gather the political powers of the world and their armies to the Valley of Jezreel (Megiddo) for the ultimate destruction of these forces at the climactic Battle of Armageddon.
God’s devastating, final bowl of judgment (16:17–21) will bring disasters unparalleled in all of history. An earthquake will level the cities of the world, crumble mountains, and swallow islands. Hail will fall from heaven, each piece weighing a hundred pounds. This final judgment will be so intense and painful that a statement will resound from the Temple in heaven, “It is done” (16:17).
This very painful process will accomplish God’s judgment on the earth. The armies of the nations will be destroyed at Armageddon. Well over half the earth’s inhabitants will die. God will make “a full end of all nations” (Jer. 30:11). Israel will be judged, and two-thirds of its people will die during that time (Zech. 13:8–9).
Israel will be spared complete destruction, although all the armies of the earth will be marshaled against them. Their only hope will be to call on the Messiah, and that is what they will do. Zechariah 12:10 says: “they shall look upon me [the Messiah] whom they have pierced.” At that point, Israel will receive Jesus as Messiah.
God uses the analogy of birth to illustrate the deliverance He will bring to Israel. Isaiah 66:7–9 says: “Before she travailed, she brought forth; before her pain came, she was delivered of a man-child. Who hath heard such a thing? Who hath seen such things? Shall the earth be made to bring forth in one day? Or shall a nation be born at once? For as soon as Zion travailed, she brought forth her children. Shall I bring to the birth, and not cause to bring forth? saith the Lᴏʀᴅ. Shall I cause to bring forth, and shut the womb? saith thy God.”
Three things should be noted in this passage. First, Israel will bring forth a man-child (the Messiah) before the time of travail (the Tribulation). This took place almost two thousand years ago when Jesus was born in Bethlehem. Second, as a result of the travail, the people of Israel will be ready to receive their Messiah. Third, God will not allow this to be a stillbirth. The nation will not be destroyed during the period of labor pains. The process will be painful, but at the end the nation of Israel will be born—born spiritually (born again) as each individual Jewish person accepts Jesus’ death on the cross as payment for his or her sin and receives Him as Messiah. For the first time in history, an entire nation will accept Jesus. God’s final judgment of Israel will be finished. He will deal with them for their sins, but with everlasting love He will use the circumstances to bring them to Himself.
God often works in the same manner with individuals. He allows, even brings troubles into our lives to show us our need for Him. When things seem the most desperate, He is ready to deliver us. As the psalmist said, “My help cometh from the Lᴏʀᴅ, who made heaven and earth” (Ps. 121:2). No trial is deeper than His grace.