Modern Israel in Biblical Prophecy
May 14, 1948, is the most important date in Israel’s recent history. It signifies Israel’s resurrection as a nation for the first time in 20 centuries. Never in the annals of human history had a people been uprooted from its land, dispersed across the face of the earth, survived, and returned to its country of origin to resume its national existence.
This unusual and unparalleled phenomenon has baffled historians, politicians, and religionists. The full significance of Israel’s reemergence cannot be fully understood or explained without the Bible.
In the past 60 years, various views have sprung up to explain Israel’s restoration. Some Christians say it is totally unrelated to prophecy and that modern Israel’s reestablishment is a historical event that has no relevance to biblical fulfillment.
Others teach there will be a literal, national restoration as prophesied in the Bible, but not until Jesus Christ comes back. They believe today’s return in unbelief does not follow the proper sequence of repentance, then restoration.
Both views are flawed. The first denies that this or any future return of the Jewish people to their homeland is a fulfillment of biblical prophecy. The second denies any biblical fulfillment until Israel repents of sin and unbelief—a view not taught in Scripture.
How, then, are we to interpret the return of the Jewish people to their land and the birth of the State of Israel? Scripture says Israel must be reinstated as a sovereign nation in unbelief before prophecies relating to the nation in the last days come to fruition.
Rebirth of Israel
Twenty-six hundred years earlier, Ezekiel had prophesied a national resurrection for Israel (Ezek. 37:1–14). The Spirit of the Lord set the prophet in a valley filled with dried human bones that He told Ezekiel were “the whole house of Israel” (vv. 1, 11). Then He commanded the prophet to prophesy over them (v. 4).
When the prophet spoke, a mighty miracle took place. Immediately the bones came together, forming a body of people (v. 7). This coalescing represents Israel’s resurrection as an entity in its own land in the last days. The lack of “breath” in the bones indicates the absence of spiritual life at the time of this resurrection (v. 8). Spiritual life will come when reconciliation comes—at the Second Coming of Jesus the Messiah.
Thus the Bible teaches that Israel will return to its own land in unbelief and become a nation before the Messiah’s return.
Restoration of Israel
Ezekiel 36:8–12 also teaches that the land itself will be restored upon the Jewish people’s return. In the 19th century, the sons and daughters of Abraham began coming home; and by 1948, about 657,000 resided in the new State of Israel. Most of these early pioneers had no agricultural or farming background but soon established kibbutzim (collective settlements) and produced crops on land that had been desolate for centuries.
Since their return, the land has experienced the new life mentioned in Ezekiel 36. First, it is like a tree that sprouts new branches, leaves, and fruit (v. 8). Second, it is producing abundantly as it is being “tilled and sown” (v. 9). Third, its cities are being rebuilt and inhabited (v. 10). Fourth, the land has been reclaimed, as Israel’s ruins are rebuilt (v. 10). Fifth, the land is being repopulated with Jewish people (vv. 10–12). Sixth, the Israelis are taking possession of it (v. 12). This event is a forerunner to the ultimate fulfillment of the Ezekiel 36 passage, which will take place in the Millennial Kingdom.
Reunification of Israel
On November 29, 1947, the United Nations voted 33 to 13 (10 abstentions) to recognize Israel as a sovereign nation. Israel hoped the decision would precipitate acceptance and peace with other nations, but this has not happened. In fact, the opposite is true; Israel is almost universally hated.
Scripture clearly teaches that Israel will face world opposition and unprecedented tribulation in the last days. In fact, the State of Israel will experience what the Jewish Scriptures call “the time of Jacob’s trouble”—an unprecedented holocaust poured out on Israel during the Great Tribulation (Jer. 30:7).
Consequently, Israel must be in existence when the Tribulation begins: First, Daniel prophesied, “Then he shall confirm a covenant with many for one week” (Dan. 9:27). The “he” refers to the Antichrist. He will “confirm” a new—not an existing—binding agreement with the nation of Israel. This action will launch the 70th week of Daniel, or the seven-year Tribulation.
Second, it was prophesied that the land of Magog (Russia) will join specific nations—Persia (Iran), Ethiopia, Libya, Gomer, and Togarmah (Ezek. 38:5–6)—to attack Israel before the Messiah’s return (vv. 1–12). This invasion will occur when Israel is back in its land and dwelling safely (vv. 8, 11). The purpose of the invasion is to plunder and destroy Israel (v. 12). Most conservative expositors believe the invasion will occur just before the midpoint of the seven years mentioned in Daniel 9:27. Thus there must be a literal nation of Israel for these nations to attack.
Third, immediately prior to the Messiah’s return, another invasion will occur when all the nations of the world attack the State of Israel at the end of the Great Tribulation (Zech. 14:2). This invasion is called Armageddon (Rev. 16:16). Again, there must be a literal nation of Israel for these nations to attack.
Fourth, Asaph spoke of 10 nations committed to Israel’s destruction: “For they have consulted together with one consent [heart]; they form a confederacy [literally, “cut a covenant”] against You” (Ps. 83:5). The nations being referred to are Edom and the Ishmaelites, Moab and the Hagrites, Gebal, Ammon, Amalek, Philistia, Tyre, and Assyria (vv. 6–8). The descendants of these ancient people make up modern Jordan; north-ern Arabia; Iraq; Lebanon; the northern Sinai Peninsula; parts of the Mediterranean coast; and what the news media calls the West Bank. These are Islamic people who currently seek to annihilate the State of Israel.
Rebuilding a Temple in Israel
Scripture makes it clear that a Tribulation Temple will be built immediately prior to or soon after the beginning of the seven-year Tribulation. Four New Testament passages mention a Tribulation Temple (Mt. 24:15; Mk. 13:14; 2 Th. 2:3–4; Rev. 11:1–2). The Abomination of Desolation spoken of in Matthew 24:15 will take place at the midpoint of the Tribulation when the Antichrist breaks the covenant he has made with Israel. He will position himself in the Jewish Temple and demand to be worshiped as God. There must be a literal State of Israel for this event to happen.
Interestingly, there is a movement under way in Israel to build the third Temple and reinstitute sacrificial worship. An Orthodox Jewish group called the Temple Mount Faithful is ready to lay the cornerstone, but the Israeli government has prevented it. Another group at the Temple Institute is making furniture that will be ready when the third Temple is constructed. Still another group of Orthodox rabbis are training men whose last names are Levi or Cohen to function as priests, in anticipation of a third Temple. Orthodox Jews are also working to breed a red heifer whose ashes would be used to purify the priests.
All of these facts lead to two conclusions: Israel must (1) be a legitimate nation and (2) be in control of the Temple Mount for these things to take place. Both are realities today.
An analysis of Scripture and the worldwide political alliances being formed today strongly indicate that we are living in the last days and that the rebirth of Israel in 1948 is the very one predicted in Ezekiel 37. Scripture provides irrefutable proof that the modern State of Israel must exist in the latter days, prior to the Messiah’s Second Coming. Today the nation of Israel is uniquely positioned to experience the fulfillment of God’s prophetic program.