Seeing the Big Picture
The question is raised frequently these days regarding the wisdom of Israel’s current prime minister in signing onto the Oslo Accords and the land-for-peace formula.
It is, indeed, a perplexing question. The answer can be found only by looking into the prophetic Scriptures and discovering what the Word of God projects for the long term.
We must remember that while we have been privileged to witness the rebirth of the nation of Israel, this is not the Kingdom age. Therefore, we should not be surprised if the modern State of Israel does not possess all of the land ceded to Abraham and his children.
A Glimpse Into the Future
It is safe to say that if we are witnessing prophetic movement in the national life of Israel today, it is evidenced in the rebirth of the nation, a phase anticipated in Ezekiel 37. The vision of the dry bones represents a gathering of Jewish people back into the Promised Land—but in unbelief. The dry bones of Ezekiel’s vision “are the whole house of Israel” (Ezek. 37:11). Three great episodes are related in this pivotal glimpse into the future.
O my people, I will open your graves, and cause you to come up out of your graves, and bring you into the land of Israel (Ezek. 37:12).
The bones coming together but with no breath of the Spirit within the body—modern Israel is in such a state. For all of the controversy over the place religion is to play in the life of the nation, Israel is, in reality, a secular state. The fact that both major political parties are now willing to trade portions of the Promised Land to placate their enemies manifests this fact.
And ye shall know that I am the Lᴏʀᴅ, when I have opened your graves, O my people, and brought you up out of your graves (Ezek. 37:13).
The day will come, as foretold in Zechariah 13 and other key Old Testament passages, when Israel will recognize that God alone is the author of their national preservation. Furthermore, He is their only source of deliverance.
And [I] shall put my Spirit in you, and ye shall live, and I shall place you in your own land; then shall ye know that I, the Lᴏʀᴅ, have spoken it, and performed it, saith the Lᴏʀᴅ (Ezek. 37:14).
Reconciled Israel will, under the Messiah’s reign of righteousness, possess all of the land and promises granted to the heirs of Abraham by a faithful God. For a nation so often beset by tribulation, the best will come at last.
Where Are We Now?
Perhaps an appropriate comparison can be made with the period between the two Testaments and where we are now positioned. The four hundred silent years between Malachi and Matthew were not silent after all. They were essentially a time of preparation—preparation for the entrance of Jesus, the Messiah, at Bethlehem of Judæa. But beyond this, events were in the making that swept across the centuries and millennia to shed light on personages and powers that would come to the stage in the last days.
It was during this time that the Grecian Empire, led by Alexander the Great, came on the scene. This was the third empire, spoken of by Daniel the prophet (Dan. 8:21–22), that was to have dominion over the known world. Out of the remnants of Alexander’s sprawling domain would come the great archetype of the end-time Antichrist—the infamous “little horn” of Daniel 8 and 11. It was this Antiochus who attempted to destroy Judaism and obliterate the identity of the Jewish people. It was also the time when the fourth world empire of Daniel’s prophecy came to the scene. Rome was firmly in control when Jesus was born.
With these great empires came a universal language—Greek—magnificent roads, and a form of political stability that, while oppressing subject peoples, would also provide a stable environment for the spread of the gospel. Thus, during this period when there was no voice of the prophet in the land, history and prophecy were in fusion, preparing for the great day of His coming.
Much the same thing can be said of the time between the ascension of Christ and God’s activating His prophetic plan for Israel. During this prophetic interlude, the church is carrying out its mission of world evangelism, ever looking and longing for the Rapture that will signal the end of the Age of Grace. Even now, however, while Israel as a nation has been prophetically set aside for a time, significant preparatory events are taking place. In fact, the setting aside of the nation does not imply that God is not at work with regard to Israel. To the contrary, events are evolving that will set the stage for the consummating Tribulation-era confrontation with the Messiah.
The preservation of the Jewish people, while scattered among inhospitable Gentile nations, must be regarded as a central element in this program. A consequence of Jewry’s suffering during the exile was the hunger for refuge that resulted in the resurrection of the state and the massive return to the land witnessed over the last century or more. In concert with these realities has been the international polarization that is forming the international cartels identified in the prophetic Scriptures as operative in the last days. Harbingers of the revived Roman Empire are issuing from Western Europe. Revitalized Russian imperialism is the dream of a new bevy of Russian leaders. The Muslim world, with its entrenched anti-Israel radicalism, is becoming a global force. Powers of the Far East are flexing their muscles and have become a primary dispenser of weapons of mass destruction. The Western world, including the United States, has drifted from historic moral moorings and seems to be consorting with chaos. Perhaps the most foreboding tale of the times is being told in the increasing preoccupation of the global giants with Israel and Middle Eastern affairs.
Bowing to the Inevitable
Jesus said it two thousand years ago:
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 by the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled (Lk. 21:24).
An intriguing fact of history has been the almost universal indifference of world leaders to the state of Jerusalem as long as Gentile forces were in control. But since 1967, when Israel reclaimed the Old City and reestablished a Jewish presence there, the drums have not ceased beating for Israelis to relinquish control of territory that is indisputably theirs. When, in defiance of U.N. mandates, Jordan controlled the Old City and locked out Jews, world leaders had virtually nothing to say. When Israel annexed the whole of Jerusalem and opened the city to all faiths, Gentile nations—including the United States—refused to give even the token respect routinely granted to sovereign states by placing their embassies in Jerusalem.
Indeed, Gentile forces are attacking on two fronts at the present time. Politically, they have joined forces with Israel’s foes to demand a divided Jerusalem. Increasingly there is a call to internationalize the City of David and place it under U.N. control. Religiously, liberal Protestant elements have allied themselves with the Vatican and Muslims in lobbying for a kind of religious trinity—Muslim, Christian, and Jew—which, in their words, will bring “exclusivist” Jewish designs on Jerusalem to an end.
Make no mistake about it, Gentile powers are bent on calling the shots in the Middle East. The drive to do so will increase rather than diminish in the years to come.
Thus, when U.S. diplomats did some heavy arm twisting to secure an agreement on Hebron and Israeli redeployment in Judæa and Samaria, it most probably meant that Israel’s prime minister was being taught the facts of life in our time. No one questions the fact that American representatives opted out of the role of mediator in favor of being a negotiator with an agenda to achieve. Consequently, the Americans and Yasser Arafat were widely credited for the breakthrough, while Israel made all the concessions.
Now Israeli leadership is acknowledging that they are ready to accept a Palestinian state, as long as it is not militarized or involved in alliances with radical Arab regimes such as Iran and Iraq. In addition, there will be a Palestinian capital in Jerusalem. At the moment, Israelis are insisting it will be outside the limits of the municipality. Things being as they are, however, there is little belief that the Palestinians will be denied their capital in East Jerusalem.
But has anything really changed? Will Yasser Arafat and his successors keep their word? Most likely not. It is difficult to imagine that the man who cheered Saddam Hussein when Scud missiles were raining down on Israel during the Gulf War will not warmly embrace cooperation with his former mentors once he feels free to do so. It has not escaped the attention of Israeli leaders that they are dealing with a man who, throughout the negotiations, has followed a pattern of promising everything while giving little or nothing. All of this says that the intensity of international pressure on Israel to bow to a wider agenda has become virtually unbearable.
Will this era of imposed good will bring the desired result? The answer to that question rests on two poles. One, will the Palestinians keep their promises? Two, and with more potentially devastating consequences, how are radical Muslim regimes interpreting Israel’s conciliatory mood? A recent report by the Congressional Task Force on Terrorism and Unconventional Warfare, headed by U.S. Congressman Jim Saxton of New Jersey, may tell the story.
“…The Middle East may well be on the verge of a major regional war. Arab states, as well as Iran and Pakistan, are convinced that the present vulnerability of Israel is so great that there is a unique opportunity to, at the very least, begin the process leading to the destruction of Israel. These circumstances are considered to be a historic window of opportunity the Muslim world should not miss. Toward this end, several Arab states, as well as Iran and Pakistan, have been engaged in a frantic military build-up and active preparations in the last few months.”
The only perceived answer to the Jihad-driven Islamic dream of destroying Israel is superpower protection. Interestingly, at the same time that the United States was nudging Israel’s current administration toward signing onto the land-for-peace concept, a military hot line was being established between Washington and Jerusalem. This is the first time in the history of the modern State of Israel that a permanent military hot line between the two nations has been in place. We can be sure that Israel is not taking the long leap into a partitioned homeland without assurances of protection by Western nations, particularly the United States.
All of this means that the prophetic arrows are all pointing in one direction.
And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week; and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease, and for the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate, even until the consummation, and that determined shall be poured upon the desolate (Dan. 9:27).
The “he” of Daniel 9:27 is, of course, the Antichrist. At the outset of the Tribulation period, he will “confirm the covenant” with Israel. This act seems to imply strengthening an already existing covenant. Thus, perhaps we are seeing the development of a forerunner to what will mature into the historic agreement between Israel and its last and greatest enemy.
There is another solution, one triumphantly set forth in the prophetic Word. Israel will have its Protector—and peace with security. It will come with the long-awaited King of kings and Lord of lords.