Israel’s Primacy in God’s Program
The history of Israel began more than 4,000 years ago when God called Abraham in Ur of the Chaldeans, telling him to leave Ur and settle in the land of Canaan. There God made a covenant with him through which He would bless Abraham and his seed and launch a plan that would affect the entire world.
The Abrahamic Covenant incorporated a number of provisions, including four personal promises to Abraham: He (1) would be forged into a great nation, (2) be greatly blessed,(3) have his name made great, and (4) become a channel of blessing to the world (Gen. 12:2–3). Later all the promises were confirmed to and through Isaac and Jacob, the patriarchs of the Jewish people (26:1–5; 28:10–16).
The covenant also promised Gentiles spiritual and physical blessings contingent on their treatment of Abraham and his seed (meaning the Jews). Nations and individuals who commit-ted anti-Semitic acts of hatred and persecution would be cursed and suffer God’s inevitable judgment (12:3). Nations that were good to the Jewish people would be blessed.
The Abrahamic Covenant’s promises would be expanded via three others made with Israel:
- Land Covenant. The land promise (Gen. 12:1; 13:14–17; 15:7; 17:7–8) was reaffirmed in the Land Covenant (Num. 34:1–12; Dt. 30:1–10).
- Davidic Covenant. The promise of seed (Gen. 17:4–8) was reaffirmed in the Davidic Covenant (2 Sam. 7:12–17; Ps. 89:3–4, 34–37; Isa. 9:6–7; Lk. 1:30–33).
- New Covenant. The promise of blessing (Gen. 12:2–3) was reaffirmed in the New Covenant (Jer. 31:31–34; 32:40; Ezek. 16:60–62; 34:25–31; 37:26–28; Heb. 8:6–13). Like the Abrahamic Covenant, these three covenants are unconditional and eternal and will be fulfilled in their entirety to Israel at Christ’s Second Coming.
Israel’s Crucial Place in Prophecy
Scripture emphatically affirms that God selected Israel out of the good pleasure of His own will. He set Israel apart to be a holy, special people—a treasured possession—unto Himself. He did not select Israel because of its size, for it was the least of nations. Nor did He choose it because it was superior to others for the nation possessed no innate goodness, beauty, or desirability.
God selected Israel for two simple reasons: He loved it; and He had sworn an oath to its fathers—Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Dt. 7:6–8).
Scripture also reveals God selected the nation for three main purposes: (1) to be a people to worship Him in holiness and through which He would manifest His divine purposes and plan to the world; (2) to receive, record, and propagate God’s Word to the world (Rom. 3:1–2); and (3) to be the channel through which His divine Son, Jesus the Messiah, would make salvation available to lost humanity (Jn. 3:16; 4:22).
Through Abraham and his seed, God promised to establish His theocratic Kingdom (God’s rule) on Earth, the final form of which is to be implemented in and through Jesus the Messiah. At His First Advent, Jesus offered the Kingdom to Israel contingent on the nation’s repentance and acceptance of Him as the Messianic King (Mt. 4:17). Jesus confirmed, identified, and authenticated His authority and message as the Messiah of Israel through the miracles He performed. He alone was qualified to establish God’s theocratic Kingdom on Earth.
However, though many Jewish people accepted Jesus, Israel’s leadership rejected Him, attributing His miracles to Satan (12:24). So the offer of the Kingdom was postponed (not annulled) until Israel receives Him by faith. From that day forward, Christ changed His message from one of hope and rest (11:28) to one of judgment (21:33–44; 22:1–7; 23:37—24:2; Lk. 19:11–27; 21:20–24).
The theocratic Kingdom will not be restored to Israel until Israel is reconciled to the Messiah at His Second Coming. Then Jesus will sit on David’s throne and reign over Israel, and His Kingdom will be established forever on Earth (Lk. 1:32–33).
Israel’s primacy overflows in both Old and New Testaments. Israel plays a crucial role in history and prophecy as God implements His redemptive purpose and plan for the world through the nation.
Israel’s Crucible of Persecution
For the past 4,000 years, Satan has incited hatred and persecution of the Jewish people with the objective of annihilating them. Why? Because he knows God plans to destroy him through Jesus the Messiah. He thinks that, if he could destroy the Jewish people, he could prevent his demise and thwart God’s program for Israel and history. So he has used every means possible, both individuals (even Christians) and nations, to try to destroy the Jewish people.
His attempts are well documented in biblical and non-biblical literature. Anti-Semitism extends from Israel’s slavery in Egypt to today.
For example, in the Old Testament, Satan tried to annihilate Israel by using Pharaoh of Egypt. Pharaoh ordered the death of all Jewish newborn males. During Israel’s wilderness wandering, Satan tried to destroy Israel by using the Amalekites and Amorites, as well as King Balak and the prophet-for-hire, Balaam. Then he tried to use the Philistines, Canaanites, Midianites, Ammonites, Babylonians, and Romans. He also tried to use an anti-Semitic Persian bureaucrat named Haman (but Queen Esther saved the day) and the villainous Syrian ruler, Antiochus IV (Epiphanes), but the Maccabees prevailed.
Satan also tried to pollute and destroy the royal line of King David through whom the Messiah would be born. When this tactic failed, he tried to kill the Messiah at His birth (Mt. 2:16–18), then unsuccessfully tempted Him to sin (4:1–11). Later he motivated Jewish leaders to reject and plot His death (12:14, 24) and ultimately used the Roman Empire to crucify Him. This strategy also failed to destroy Jesus the Messiah.
In A.D. 70, Rome besieged Jerusalem, killing 1.1 million Jews and enslaving 97,000. In 135, Rome put down a revolt led by Simon Bar-Kokhba, killed 500,000 Jewish people, and banished the rest from Jerusalem.
Although Jewish people remained elsewhere in the land, the vast majority was scattered worldwide to suffer persecution greater and longer than any people in the history of mankind. Some of the worst attempts to brutalize and annihilate entire communities of Jewish people came from anti-Semitic elements within organized Christendom, including the Spanish Inquisition, the pogroms in Russia, and Adolf Hitler’s Germany and through organized terrorism world-wide for the past 19 centuries.
But Satan’s greatest effort will take place during the Great Tribulation when two-thirds of the world Jewish population will be killed (Dan. 9:27; Zech. 13:8; 14:1–2; Rev. 12:6, 13–17; 16:13–16). One-third of all humanity also will die (Rev. 9:18).
However, all Satan’s attempts to annihilate the Jewish people will fail, and he will be cast alive into the Lake of Fire to suffer eternally (20:10).
Israel has survived every satanic attempt to destroy it and will continue to do so (Isa. 54:17). God will preserve Israel and cause the nation to flourish in its own land, as He has promised, because it plays a primary role in implementing God’s theocratic Kingdom on Earth after Christ’s Second Coming.