From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts out its leaves, you know that summer is near. 33So also, when you see all these things, you know that he is near, at the very gates. 34Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place.
Our generation is beginning to see an emergence of events on the prophetic timeline that are accelerating at an exponential rate into one climatic convergence at the end of this age.
I am speaking — of course — about the coming great tribulation and the subsequent return of the Lord Jesus to reclaim His throne and regenerate all of creation.
I have recently launched a new YouTube platform — Regeneration Radio — where I will explore the current events and signs of the end-times in connection to the gosepl of Jesus and the testimony of the Biblical prophets.
For my first session in the Convergence Series, I make the case for the rebirth of the nation-state of Israel as one of the most significant prophetic signs of our generation.
Could we be living in the last generation before the coming of the Lord Jesus?
Then you shall say to Pharaoh, “Thus says the LORD, Israel is my firstborn son, 23and I say to you, ‘Let my son go that he may serve me. If you refuse to let him go, behold, I will kill your firstborn son.'”
Israel began as one man, Jacob, growing into a family and then an entire ethnic people group in Egypt. Once in captivity under Pharaoh, the LORD God of Israel redeemed His people and chose them as a holy nation — a people of His own possession.
God often uses human relationships to illustrate and convey His love and commitment to us, and one of the most profound examples is the relationship between father and child. The LORD speaks of Israel as both son and daughter to demonstrate the depth of His heartfelt devotion to His people, and as we will see, this thread continues to run throughout the Scriptures to the very end.
In essence, God is communicating one big idea to Israel. We are family.
The Apple of God’s Eye
The LORD your God who goes before you will himself fight for you, just as he did for you in Egypt before your eyes,31and in the wilderness, where you have seen how the LORD your God carried you, as a man carries his son, all the way that you went until you came to this place.
The LORD called Israel his firstborn son, which is a term associated both with preeminence and inheritance. God’s law made provisions for the firstborn to receive a double portion of the father’s inheritance [Deuteronomy 21:15-17]. By using the title of firstborn, God was declaring Israel to be the rightful heir of His kingdom and His possessions. The LORD was willing to give Israel everything.
The language of the Exodus provokes a powerful image of a loving father carrying his son through the perils of the wilderness and leading him to safety. Like any doting father, God kept Israel as the apple of His eye from the day he was born. Nothing compares to a father’s love for his children.
But the LORD’s portion is his people, Jacob his allotted heritage.
10 He found him in a desert land, and in the howling waste of the wilderness; he encircled him, he cared for him, he kept him as the apple of his eye. 11Like an eagle that stirs up its nest, that flutters over its young, spreading out its wings, catching them, bearing them on its pinions, 12the LORD alone guided him, no foreign god was with him.
A Wayward Son
Tragically Israel grew privileged, ungrateful, and rebellious — dishonoring his Father with all forms of idolatry and immorality. Not only did Israel’s habitual sin break God’s heart but also provoked Him to anger.
But Jeshurun grew fat, and kicked;you grew fat, stout, and sleek;then he forsook God who made himand scoffed at the Rock of his salvation.16They stirred him to jealousy with strange gods;with abominations they provoked him to anger.17They sacrificed to demons that were no gods,to gods they had never known,to new gods that had come recently,whom your fathers had never dreaded.18You were unmindful of the Rock that bore you,and you forgot the God who gave you birth.19 The LORD saw it and spurned them,because of the provocation of his sons and his daughters.20And he said, ‘I will hide my face from them;I will see what their end will be,for they are a perverse generation,children in whom is no faithfulness.
The prophet Hosea echoes the words of Moses. You can hear the disappointment in the Father’s heart, as He reflects on the memories of Israel’s life.
When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son. 2The more they were called, the more they went away; they kept sacrificing to the Baals and burning offerings to idols.
3Yet it was I who taught Ephraim to walk; I took them up by their arms, but they did not know that I healed them. 4I led them with cords of kindness, with the bands of love, and I became to them as one who eases the yoke on their jaws, and I bent down to them and fed them.
God’s One and Only Son
He was still speaking when, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.”
Where Israel failed as God’s firstborn son, Jesus the Messiah would succeed. Where Israel would dishonor the Father in sinful rebellion, Jesus would perfectly please the LORD. Where Israel would fail to be a light unto the Gentiles and lead the nations to worship the One True God, Jesus would come as the light of the world, leading all men out of darkness into His marvelous light.
Of course, we must not conclude that the Father sent His one and only Son into the world as a supplemental fix for Israel’s rebellion. NO! The incarnation of God the Son was always God’s original plan from before the very foundation of the world [John 17:23-24]. As the Creator Himself, Jesus is the firstborn over all creation, having preeminence in all things [Colossians 1:15-18].
And as only God could do, He opened the door through the cross for the whole world to believe in His Son and be given the right of being adopted as sons and daughters of the King!
But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, 5to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. 6And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!“
A Prodigal Returns
With weeping they shall come,
and with pleas for mercy I will lead them back,
I will make them walk by brooks of water,
in a straight path in which they shall not stumble,
for I am a father to Israel,
and Ephraim is my firstborn.
One of the most amazing realties of God’s ultimate plan of redemption is His unwavering commitment to the covenant people of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Although Israel has proven to be by and large a rebellious son, God has not forsaken Israel and has promised to bring him back home in the end. The natural branches that were broken off in unbelief will be grafted back in to God’s family tree in the end.
So I ask, did they stumble in order that they might fall? By no means! Rather, through their trespass salvation has come to the Gentiles, so as to make Israel jealous. 12Now if their trespass means riches for the world, and if their failure means riches for the Gentiles, how much more will their full inclusion mean!
Although a partial hardening has come upon ethnic Israel for many generations, God has always persevered for Himself a remnant. And like the prodigal son who has been estranged from his father in sin, Israel will return to the LORD through many trials and trust in God’s own Son — the Messiah.
This is the amazing story of redemption. God has by no means totally rejected Israel, but like a faithful Father, He will make good all His promises to the physical descendants of Jacob and keep His covenant to the end. Just as He does with all of His wayward children, the Father is waiting for the people of Israel to repent and return to Him, where He will receive them back with open arms! And in this way, all Israel — both Jew and Gentile — will be saved when Messiah returns to lead us home to inherit the kingdom of Israel as God’s firstborn sons!
Yet the number of the Israelites will be like the sand of the sea, which cannot be measured or counted. And it will happen that in the very place where it was said to them, ‘You are not My people,’ they will be called ‘sons of the living God.’
Say therefore to the people of Israel, “I am the LORD, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will deliver you from slavery to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great acts of judgment.“
The Exodus from Egypt is the single most significant event in the history of God’s people prior to the incarnation of Jesus Christ and His subsequent death, burial and resurrection. The Exodus not only lays the foundation for our faith in the God of Israel — Yhvh or Yahweh — but also marks the birth of the nation of Israel and the supernatural redemption of God’s people.
The sacred writings of the Torah, Psalms, and prophets collectively are pointing back to the Exodus as the signature event in Israel’s past, while at the same time looking forward to the greater Exodus at the end of the age when Messiah is revealed from heaven. God’s redemption of Israel out of Egypt and through the waters of the Red Sea provide the template for our ultimate redemption through the Person and work of Jesus Christ — the greater Moses.
God Breaks the Bonds of a Cruel Master
Then the LORD said, “I have surely seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters. I know their sufferings, 8and I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey …“
Israel sojourned into Egypt as a family of 70 and grew into a great multitude. Pharaoh responded by enslaving the people of God and subjecting them to harsh labor under his cruel taskmasters. For generations all the children of Israel were born into slavery and knew nothing of freedom. Even worse, Israel was powerless to deliver herself from Pharaoh and were left desperately crying out to God in agony.
Although Israel languished in despair, the Bible tells us that God heard their cry and determined to act. Israel needed a God greater than the gods of Egypt and someone more powerful than Pharaoh. Only the LORD — the Most High — could save them, and that is precisely what He did.
Israel, of course, is meant to be indicative of humankind in general, as we all are born into spiritual slavery as sons of Adam and held in bondage by the evil ruler of this world — the devil. The parallels between man’s sinful condition and Israel are obvious. In and of ourselves we are left powerless over sin and the devil, who has authority over all the kingdoms of the world [Luke 4].
Like Israel, we need a God who is greater than all our sin and more powerful than the devil to deliver us from our hopeless state. The good news is that the God of Israel became a man in the person of Jesus Christ and came to redeem us from the powers of darkness and transfer us into the Kingdom of God.
But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. 23For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.
[1 John 3:8]
He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, 14in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
God Brings us through the Waters of New Birth
The LORD will reign forever and ever. For when the horses of Pharaoh with his chariots and his horsemen went into the sea, the LORD brought back the waters of the sea upon them, but the people of Israel walked on dry ground in the midst of the sea.
It was the LORD Himself, clothed in a cloud, leading Israel through the sea, as He also protected them in the rear by a column of fire. When Israel emerged from the depths with the enemy in her wake, she had been reborn — the birth of a nation through the waters of baptism. What a scene as the children of Israel rejoiced and praised God with a victory song of celebration!
The imagery of water baptism and the new birth runs consistently throughout the Scriptures. Noah and his family saved through waters. Moses and Israel saved through the sea. Jesus Himself, while ascending from the baptismal waters of the Jordan, is identified by the Father from heaven as His beloved Son — the Messiah of Israel. Later Jesus schools the teacher of Israel — Nicodemus — by revealing that man must be born of more than mere natural descent in order to enter God’s kingdom. We must be born again — from above — by the Holy Spirit.
In other words, flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, but only those who participate in the resurrection at the end of the age. Ultimately the flesh counts for nothing, but God’s words are Spirit and eternal life!
Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, 22who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers having been subjected to him.
[1 Peter 3:21-22]
Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?4We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.
Paul reminds us that all of these supernatural events throughout history are examples and foreshadowings of greater things to come in Christ — who not only redeemed Israel as a new nation but also who redeems us as a new creation.
For I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, 2and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, 3and all ate the same spiritual food, 4and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ.
[1 Corinthians 10:1-4]
God Redeems us a People of His own Possession
Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob, and tell the people of Israel: 4‘You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. 5Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine; 6and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words that you shall speak to the people of Israel.
Once the LORD had drowned Pharaoh and the army of Egypt in the sea, the process of redemption had been complete. Israel was chosen and set apart from all the nations of the earth to be God’s treasured possession and covenant people. The LORD will forever be the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel. Israel is the name of the covenant people of God, but Israel was not redeemed at the exclusion of the other nations of the earth but rather for their ultimate blessing and inclusion into God’s kingdom.
In Christ, all the nations of the earth will be blessed. In Christ, God has made for Himself a people from not only the tribes of Israel but also from every tribe and nation and people of the earth. Even as Israel departed Egypt and crossed the sea, it was a mixed multitude of Egyptian and Israelite alike. God’s plan has always been to redeem for Himself kingdom of priest from every nation!
The Exodus is the pattern for all of redemptive history, and Christ is the hero of the whole story. Jesus is the image of the invisible God — the One who manifested in human form to redeem Israel out of Egypt — the One who took on flesh to save the world — and the One who is coming down again in power and great glory at the end of this present age to ultimately redeem the sons of God through the resurrection of the dead.
They shall dwell in the land that I gave to my servant Jacob, where your fathers lived. They and their children and their children’s children shall dwell there forever, and David my servant shall be their prince forever. 26I will make a covenant of peace with them. It shall be an everlasting covenant with them. And I will set them in their land and multiply them, and will set my sanctuary in their midst forevermore. 27My dwelling place shall be with them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 28Then the nations will know that I am the LORD who sanctifies Israel, when my sanctuary is in their midst forevermore
Next session, I will consider Israel the Bride of the LORD and the betrothal at Mt. Sinai.
O Come, O Come Immanuel … and ransom captive Israel … that mourns in lonely exile here … until the Son of God appear.
“Then fear not, O Jacob my servant, declares the LORD, nor be dismayed, O Israel; for behold, I will save you from far away, and your offspring from the land of their captivity. Jacob shall return and have quiet and ease, and none shall make him afraid. 11For I am with you to save you, declares the LORD; I will make a full end of all the nations among whom I scattered you, but of you I will not make a full end. I will discipline you in just measure, and I will by no means leave you unpunished.“
One cannot tell the story of Israel without telling the story of exile and the long, perilous journey back home. Israel knows suffering full well, passing through the fires of persecution and shedding the bitter tears of lament. The nation of Israel was born out of slavery, and her destiny is one tied to perpetual exile until the end — the consummation of all things and the arrival of the Kingdom of God.
Remember, Israel means to strive, to struggle — both with God and man — and to overcome in the end. Much of Israel’s exile was brought on by her own rebellion and departure from the One True God to serve the gods of the nations, and some of Israel’s suffering has been at the hands of the satanic powers of darkness — who hate God and His covenant people.
During those many days the king of Egypt died, and the people of Israel groaned because of their slavery and cried out for help. Their cry for rescue from slavery came up to God. 24And God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. 25God saw the people of Israel—and God knew.
Such was the case in Egypt, when Pharaoh and his gods determined to enslave and destroy Israel — God’s chosen portion. Israel was displaced, estranged from her homeland and held captive at the hands of her enemies. The spiritual battle was raging in Egypt over God’s covenant people. It has been raging ever since and will continue to rage until the very end.
It has been written. The patterns of exile and deliverance throughout the Scriptures paint us a prophetic pattern that has been replayed over and again throughout redemptive history. What has been done will be done again.
COVENANT & CONTROVERSY
And the LORD will scatter you among the peoples, and you will be left few in number among the nations where the LORD will drive you. 28And there you will serve gods of wood and stone, the work of human hands, that neither see, nor hear, nor eat, nor smell. 29But from there you will seek the LORD your God and you will find him, if you search after him with all your heart and with all your soul. 30When you are in tribulation, and all these things come upon you in the latter days, you will return to the LORD your God and obey his voice.31For the LORD your God is a merciful God. He will not leave you or destroy you or forget the covenant with your fathers that he swore to them.
The unique covenant that God made with the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is at the very heart of the perpetual enmity surrounding Israel. The gods of the nations and the devil himself seek to devour the seed of the woman, and by destroying God’s covenant people, Satan is attempting to nullify the word of God and revoke the promise of God.
This is why the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain agains the LORD and His Anointed. God has uniquely bound Himself to the people of Israel; therefore, Israel is the nation and land of controversy among the nations. Israel is the target of satanic opposition. Israel is the key prophetic timepiece in God’s redemptive plan.
From the moment Israel was delivered from Egypt and entered into the land of promise under Joshua, she has experienced one calamity after another. One invasion after another. One exile after another. Consider the plight of captive Israel.
Israel was held in bondage multiple times to the Philistines and Midianites during time of the Judges (circa 12th-11th Century B.C.)
Israel was conquered by the Assyrians and the Northern Kingdom was exiled in early 8th Century
The remnant of Israel — Judah — was conquered and carried off into Babylon, marking the exile of the Southern Kingdom in the late 6th Century B.C.
Haman and the Persian plot of ethnic genocide in Esther’s day in the late 4th Century
Cruel oppression of Antiochus Epiphanes IV in the days of the Maccabees, or 3rd Century B.C.
Roman conquest and destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D, scattering the remnant of Israel to the four winds of the earth
Persecution during the Spanish Inquisition and Crusades
Jewish Pogroms in Russia
Holocaust of Nazi Germany during WW II
And so it will be in the last days at the end of the age — one final episode of Jacob’s trouble. One more invasion of the land. One more siege on Jerusalem. One last exile of Israel. One final diaspora to the nations. God has bound Himself to the people and the land of Israel, and the restoration of Israel will not fully be realized until the LORD Himself comes down from heaven in flaming fire and crushes His enemies and sits down on His glorious throne.
STRANGERS PASSING THROUGH
In more ways than one, Israel’s story is our story — God’s story. We all identify as strangers passing through — aliens in a foreign land not our own — wandering and waiting to go home. We all are spiritually born into bondage, under the powers of darkness in the heavenly places and held captive by sin and oppressed by a cruel master — the devil.
The God of Israel always intended to adopt the Gentiles into His convent family and incorporate people from every nation into the commonwealth of Israel. We too are brought near into covenant relationship with God through Jesus Christ. So that in the end — all Israel — will be saved, Jew and Gentile, slave and free, male and female.
In that way, Israel not only represents the covenant people of God in the flesh and the physical promised land, but ultimately Israel represents the covenant people of God by faith and the eternal kingdom on earth as it now is under the Lordship of Christ in heaven.
God always had a bigger plan — a redemptive plan. The gospel of the Kingdom is that God has redeemed a people for His own possession from every tribe and nation under heaven — using Israel as the conduit of His blessing to the nations and then bringing exiles back into Israel to inherit the land and enjoy the covenant blessings forever.
Speaking of Abraham and the other great men and women of faith, the author of Hebrews says …
Therefore from one man, and him as good as dead, were born descendants as many as the stars of heaven and as many as the innumerable grains of sand by the seashore.These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. 14For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland.15If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. 16But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.
The Time for Restoring All Things
Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out, 20that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus, 21whom heaven must receive until the time for restoring all the things about which God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets long ago.
Israel will be in exile until the King of Israel returns to set His people free once and for all. He is King over the whole earth, but His chosen portion, His allotted inheritance, is Israel. All people who trust in the God of Israel and in His Messiah King Jesus belong to Israel and have a permanent home in the promised land.
As we wait for the day when Jesus comes and restores the fortunes of Jacob and gathers His people to Himself and makes good on all of His promises, we wait patiently in hope, knowing that God’s people will never be fully at home as sojourners in a hostile world.
Hear, O nations, the word of the LORD, and proclaim it in distant coastlands:
“The One who scattered Israel will gather them and keep them as a shepherd keeps his flock. 11For the LORD has ransomed Jacob and redeemed him from the hand that had overpowered him. 12They will come and shout for joy on the heights of Zion; they will be radiant over the bounty of the LORD—the grain, new wine, and oil, and the young of the flocks and herds.Their life will be like a well-watered garden, and never again will they languish.”
Next time I will take a closer look at Israel as God’s redeemed.
All the descendants of Jacob were seventy persons; Joseph was already in Egypt.6Then Joseph died, and all his brothers and all that generation. 7But the people of Israel were fruitful and increased greatly; they multiplied and grew exceedingly strong, so that the land was filled with them.
Israel migrated into Egypt as a family, and as the LORD had promised Abraham, Israel multiplied greatly in Egypt for 400 years and became a distinct ethnic people group. Known as the children of Israel or the Hebrews, God’s covenant people prospered in Egypt until a wicked Pharaoh arose in power and subjugated Israel into slavery.
By the time of Moses and the Exodus, Israel had grown to 600,000 men plus women and children, which means that their numbers far exceeded one million at the end of their sojourn in Egypt [see Exodus 12:37-38]. It is just like God to work His perfect will and bless His people through adverse, even hopeless, circumstances. Consider what the LORD told Abraham some 400 years earlier.
Then the LORD said to Abram, “Know for certain that your offspring will be sojourners in a land that is not theirs and will be servants there, and they will be afflicted for four hundred years. 14But I will bring judgment on the nation that they serve, and afterward they shall come out with great possessions” … On that day the LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying, “To your offspring I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the river Euphrates”
Little is known about Israel during this 400 year sojourn in Egypt. All that we are told from the Biblical record is that after Joseph and his generation died, a new king arose in Egypt who despised the Hebrews and initiated what would become a vicious cycle of suffering followed by divine deliverance. If there has been one common thread that has run continuously throughout Israel’s history, it is the thread of rebellion, oppression, and divine chastisement, leading to repentance and restoration.
Many times the ethnic people of Israel brought oppression and judgment upon themselves as the consequences of unbelief and rebellion against the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Others times Israel was the exclusive target of satanic hostility and opposition, as the seed war of Genesis 3:15 developed and progressed in real time. As the chosen covenant people group of God, Israel was the conduit through which God had resolved to work His will and ultimately bring forth the Messiah to crush the head of the Serpent and bless all nations.
God’s Chosen Portion
When the Most High gave to the nations their inheritance, when he divided mankind, he fixed the borders of the peoples according to the number of the sons of God. 9But the LORD’s portion is his people, Jacob his allotted heritage.
10He found him in a desert land, and in the howling waste of the wilderness; he encircled him, he cared for him, he kept him as the apple of his eye.
After the flood the LORD came down to judge the rebellion at Babel led by Nimrod. In His divine judgment, the LORD confused the languages of mankind, creating natural barriers that would lead to the birth of the original 70 nations [see Genesis 10-11]. It was at this time that the LORD divided up the nations and their boundaries according to the number of the sons of God [see Deuteronomy 32:8-9], but the LORD reserved for Himself one people group — one ethnos — as His own allotted inheritance, namely Israel.
From that moment, the nations of the earth — or Gentiles — were considered profane and alienated from God and the commonwealth of Israel. Gentiles have been oppressed and deceived by the evil, heathen “gods” of the nations, who led them into gross immorality and idolatry. Israel, on the other hand, wold be set apart as holy unto the LORD — the Most High and God of gods.
This hard ethnic distinction runs throughout the Scriptures, until the mystery of God was revealed in Christ, who came to reclaim and redeem a people for God’s possession from all the nations of the earth and gather them into Israel. As Paul reminds us in Romans 9, “As indeed he says in Hosea, ‘Those who were not my people I will call ‘my people,’ and her who was not beloved I will call ‘beloved. And in the very place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’ there they will be called ‘sons of the living God.’” [Romans 9:25-26]
In Christ, the ethnic barrier was brought down and God united all people in Christ — not so that we all would lose our ethnic identity but rather so that we could all reflect the immense diversity of the kingdom and represent the manifold beauty of God’s saving grace.
When you read this, you can perceive my insight into the mystery of Christ, 5which was not made known to the sons of men in other generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit. 6This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.
Although Christ has brought down the dividing wall of hostility and redeemed people from every tribe and language and nation into His kingdom, that is not to say that God’s covenant promises to the ethnic people of Israel (aka the Jews) have become obsolete. God’s promises and purposes remain for the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the “flesh,” which means that the ethnic distinction of Israel in these last days is on of the greatest prophetic phenomena of redemptive history.
The fact that an ethnic, national, and territorial Israel still exists today, some 3,500 years since the Exodus, is profound in and of itself. The fact that Israel remains at the center of the geopolitical and religious controversy of the Middle East is one of the most substantial prophetic signs of the last days.
In my next post, I will deal exclusively with Israel in captivity — God’s people in bondage.
All the persons belonging to Jacob who came into Egypt, who were his own descendants, not including Jacob’s sons’ wives, were sixty-six persons in all. 27And the sons of Joseph, who were born to him in Egypt, were two. All the persons of the house of Jacob who came into Egypt were seventy.
After Babel, God chose Abram from among the nations and entered into an everlasting covenant with him. God’s covenant involves a promise for a chosen family, a holy nation, a land, and ultimately a Son — a King — to bless all the families of the earth and save mankind. This covenant is predicated on and perpetuated by God’s grace and it is actuated and applied through our faith in Messiah and God’s holy word. As it is written, from first to last, the righteous shall live by faith.
God gave Abraham a miracle son of promise, Isaac — one of the first to typify the resurrection of Jesus Christ [see Genesis 22 the “AKEDAH“]. The LORD then extended His covenant to Isaac’s son, Jacob, changing his name to Israel. After initiating a covenant relationship with the patriarchs, the LORD God continued His redemptive work through Israel the family. By the time Jacob and His 12 sons sojourned to Egypt during the famine in the days of Joseph, they constituted a family — 70 persons in all.
So Israel took his journey with all that he had and came to Beersheba, and offered sacrifices to the God of his father Isaac.2And God spoke to Israel in visions of the night and said, “Jacob, Jacob.” And he said, “Here I am.” 3Then he said, “I am God, the God of your father. Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for there I will make you into a great nation. 4I myself will go down with you to Egypt, and I will also bring you up again, and Joseph’s hand shall close your eyes.“
Israel — the Family of God
The LORD is a personal God, a relational God. He is our Father, our Redeemer, our Comforter and Healer. He desires deep heartfelt devotion and covenant communion with His people. God has chosen a family for Himself to reflect His glory and nature to the world. From Adam to Noah — from the Garden to the flood — the LORD worked through the nuclear family to accomplish His purposes. As image bearers of the Creator and King of the universe, mankind has been purposed to be God’s kingdom representatives on the earth.
God’s covenant family always has consisted of loyal and believing sons and daughters and servants and saints, who desire to see God’s kingdom come and His will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Even God — having revealed Himself through the infinitely complex dynamics of His own triune nature — eternally exists in perpetual love and communion as Father, Son and Spirit. The LORD is One as a unity — perfect in power and purpose and will, yet at the same time God is inherently diverse within Himself, existing in three distinct persons and expressing His manifold wisdom in all creation. Just as one family consists of many members, God consists of three distinct, yet united, personalities.
For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named,16that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
As I said, the Most Hight is a God of relationship. He is the Head of the household and the Father of the family. He has chosen to redeem for Himself a people for His own possession and that people will forever be known as Israel.
Israel — the Household of God
Jacob was blessed with 12 sons and one daughter. The sons of Israel are the princes or tribal heads of the 12 tribes of Israel. The 12 sons of Israel represent God’s eternal family, and every believer in the God of Israel is automatically Incorporated into one of the 12 tribes. We see this reality expressed in the Heavenly Jerusalem that will come down to earth during the Millennial Kingdom of Christ.
And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great, high mountain, and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God, 11having the glory of God, its radiance like a most rare jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal. 12It had a great, high wall, with twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels, and on the gates the names of the twelve tribes of the sons of Israel were inscribed.
The Scriptures are replete with language depicting God’s covenant people as a household or family. His ultimate promise is to be our God and we HIs people.
And like any human family, Israel was to some degree both dysfunctional and disobedient, marred by scandal and moral failure. Jacob schemed his father-in-law Laban and acquired much of his wealth. Sibling rivalry often raged between Jacob’s two wives, Leah and Rachel. When Jacob showed favoritism to Rachel’s son Joseph, the rest of his brothers betrayed him and sold him as a slave into Egypt. Even Judah was deceived by his own daughter-in-law, Tamar, and conceived an illegitimate child through her.
Needless to say, the family of Israel was far from perfect, which consistently reminded them of their need for a sinless Savior and righteous Redeemer. The sons of Israel needed an elder brother to restore them to the God of their fathers, and Israel looked forward in faith to the day Messiah would come. In the same way, God’s people today look back in faith upon the cross and empty tomb of Christ, and to all who receive Him and believe in His name God gives the right to be called the children of God.
Remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ … For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. 19So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone.
Ephesians 2:12-13, 18-20
It is Jesus Christ who came in the flesh to bring many sons to glory, leading us out of darkness into His marvelous light.
But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone. For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering. 11For he who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one source. That is why he is not ashamed to call them brothers, 12saying, “I will tell of your name to my brothers …
Israel — the 12 Tribes of God
A tribe is a related group of people with a common ancestor. When Israel went down to Egypt as 70 persons in all, there were 12 tribes in one family. Think of it like an extended family with uncles and cousins and grandchildren and nephews. Israel is the tribe of the One True God, and Jesus Himself reminds us that the tribes of Israel have an eternal destiny in the kingdom of God and the regeneration of all things.
Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, in the regeneration of all things, when the Son of Man will sit on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.29And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life.
From patriarch to family to the 12 tribes, Israel has always been God’s chosen people for His own possession out of all the nations of the earth. Next time I will expand my study of Israel to it’s season of captivity and it’s birth as God’s holy nation.
Israel can be viewed as a masterful mosaic through a variety of lenses in the Biblical narrative. Historical, geographical, genealogical, covenantal, spiritual, geopolitical, peculiar, and prophetic to name a few. Israel is called the “son” of God [Exodus 4:21-23], and yet at the same time Israel is depicted as the beautiful bride who one day will be restored to her Beloved as a radiant and pure virgin prepared for the Bridegroom [Jeremiah 31 & Isaiah 62:1-5].
All of these analogies are essential to understanding the true identity of Israel, but before I dive into deeper waters, I would like to first take a look at Israel the patriarch — the man who was the first to be called by that name. I am speaking, of course, about Jacob. God sought out and initiated a relationship with Jacob — son of Isaac, grandson of Abraham — giving Jacob a new name and consequently a new identity, purpose, and destiny.
The God and Creator of the universe entered into space time and interrupted Jacob’s life in such a profound way that it will forever be tied to the spiritual roots and prophetic purposes of God’s holy people. So what happened when Jacob personally encountered God incarnate? He quickly realized that not only had God spared his life that day but also promised to bless and remain faithful to him and his descendants forever.
By grace Jacob was chosen of the Father to preserve a people for God’s own possession and subsequently become a blessing to rest of the world. By faith, Jacob was counted among the righteous, called a son of the Most High, and given a prophetic promise that he would prevail in the end.
Father Abraham and the Everlasting Covenant of Faith
And behold, the word of the LORD came to Abram: “This man shall not be your heir; your very own son shall be your heir.”5And he brought him outside and said, “Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” 6And he believed the LORD, and he counted it to him as righteousness.
Before we can look more closely at the patriarch Jacob, we need to back up two generations to his grandfather — Abraham. After the universal flood of Noah’s day and the supernatural rebellion at the Tower of Babel, the LORD God chose to reveal Himself personally to a Hebrew living in ancient Mesopotamia and establish an everlasting covenant with him. His name was Abram, later changed to Abraham — meaning the father of a great multitude [Genesis 17]. The covenant God initiated with Abraham would establish a new family of faith set apart for God’s redemptive purposes and glory.
When the Most High gave to the nations their inheritance, when he divided mankind, he fixed the borders of the peoples according to the number of the sons of God. 9But the LORD’s portion is his people, Jacob his allotted heritage.
Abraham is also called the father of faith, having believed God’s word and rested in God’s unfailing promise not only to give him a son — Isaac — but also to provide the Savior of the world through one of his descendants so that all the nations of the earth were to be blessed in Christ.
Beginning with Abraham, the LORD began to reveal Himself in faithfulness through a particular family, both spiritually and genealogically — ensuring that His covenant promises would be transferred and perpetuated throughout all generations. Next the LORD confirmed His covenant exclusively with Abraham’s son , Isaac [Genesis 17:15-21], and later with his grandson, Jacob [Genesis 28:10-17].
These are the patriarchs of Israel — the founding fathers of faith so to speak. From then on, the LORD God would identify Himself as the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, further distinguishing Himself as the Most High God and Creator of the Universe — supremely greater than all the other gods of the nations.
Consider the moment the LORD revealed Himself to Jacob and reaffirmed His covenant with him and his descendants forever.
And he [Jacob] dreamed, and behold, there was a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven. And behold, the angels of God were ascending and descending on it! 13And behold, the LORD stood above it and said, “I am the LORD, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac. The land on which you lie I will give to you and to your offspring. 14Your offspring shall be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread abroad to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south, and in you and your offspring shall all the families of the earth be blessed. 15Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land. For I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.”
Israel — God Prevails
And Jacob was left alone. And a man wrestled with him until the breaking of the day. 25When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he touched his hip socket, and Jacob’s hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him. 26Then he said, “Let me go, for the day has broken.” But Jacob said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” 27And he said to him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob.” 28Then he said, “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with men, and have prevailed.”
Although the LORD had blessed Jacob at Bethel through a night vision, Jacob’s life forever would be changed at Peniel. Here Jacob would wrestle with God incarnate and talk to Him face to face — otherwise known as a Christophany in Scripture. By demonstrating faith in the LORD, Jacob would receive a new name — Israel — which gives insight into his destiny.
Israel can literally mean “striving with God” or “God prevails.” Both are appropriate for the primary focus must always remain on God, who ultimately prevails and perseveres and remains steadfast and faithful to the end. Likewise, the message in the name “Israel” is that all who believe in the God of Israel will overcome in the end. Israel means to persevere with God and to overcome. Israel means to prevail with God, not independently of God nor arrogantly over God.
As we will see, understanding Israel’s origin and meaning play a significant part in discovering Israel’s identity and destiny. This promise of overcoming with God was not for Jacob alone but for every individual who puts his/her faith in the God of Israel and His Messiah — Jesus Christ.
When we read the seven letters to the seven churches in Revelation, Jesus gives unique promises to those who overcome, such as access to the tree of life and authority over the nations. Jesus is speaking of those who persevere with God and remain faithful to the end. In other words, Jesus is giving a promise to … Israel, as all who overcome in faith belong to Israel. It could not get any clearer according to the Apostle John.
For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.5Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?
[1 John 5:4-5]
Chosen to Bless the World
God appeared to Jacob again, when he came from Paddan-aram, and blessed him. 10And God said to him, “Your name is Jacob; no longer shall your name be called Jacob, but Israel shall be your name.” So he called his name Israel. 11And God said to him, “I am God Almighty: be fruitful and multiply. A nation and a company of nations shall come from you, and kings shall come from your own body. 12The land that I gave to Abraham and Isaac I will give to you, and I will give the land to your offspring after you.” 13Then God went up from him in the place where he had spoken with him.
Like all acts of divine election, Jacob was chosen by God for a specific service and not at the exclusion of the rest of the world but rather for the benefit and blessing of the nations. Jacob was by no means without fault, having been a trickster and schemer from birth, yet by faith Jacob would enter into covenant relationship with the LORD and would become the father of 12 sons, who would become the 12 tribes of Israel.
As the father of this family of faith, Israel would bless his sons before he died [Genesis 49], and in his blessing would be God’s promise to bring the true Son of Israel through the tribe of Judah into the world to save mankind to the uttermost. Jacob also pronounced a profound blessing on Joseph’s two sons.
And Israel blessed Joseph and said,
“The God before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac walked, the God who has been my shepherd all my life long to this day, 16the angel who has redeemed me from all evil, bless the boys; and in them let my name be carried on, and the name of my fathers Abraham and Isaac; and let them grow into a multitude in the midst of the earth.“
Like Jacob, all who believe in the Son of God, Jesus Christ, are justified by faith and incorporated into the family of Israel — the household of God. Jesus is the great Overcomer — having conquered sin on the cross and death through His resurrection. It is in Christ alone that we realize our destiny as Israel — prevailing with God.
Those who are considered worthy to attain to that age and to the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage, 36for they cannot die anymore, because they are equal to angels and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection. 37But that the dead are raised, even Moses showed, in the passage about the bush, where he calls the Lord the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.38Now he is not God of the dead, but of the living, for all live to him.”
From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts out its leaves, you know that summer is near. 33So also, when you see all these things, you know that he is near, at the very gates. 34Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place.
For nearly 1,900 years, the land of Israel was a desolate place, devoid of life and cursed to the core. Roman legions laid siege to Jerusalem and burned down the Temple in A.D. 70, and then almost 70 years later (135 A.D.) the entire city of Jerusalem was plowed over and salted by the Romans following the disastrous revolt of the false messiah Simon bar Kochba.
Like the prophets before Him, Jesus Himself prophesied concerning the destruction of Jerusalem. The Babylonians were the first to lay siege to Jerusalem and exile the Jews in 586 B.C., and Jesus warned the leaders of Israel that a similar judgment would come upon them as well for rejecting Him at the time of His visitation.
And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it, 42saying, “Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. 43For the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up a barricade around you and surround you and hem you in on every side 44and tear you down to the ground, you and your children within you. And they will not leave one stone upon another in you, because you did not know the time of your visitation.“
After Jesus was rejected by men and cut off for the sins of the world (Daniel 9:26), His prophecy came true and both Jerusalem and the land of Israel was left desolate for nearly 1,900 years.
In 1867, famous author Mark Twain took a private tour of the holy land and was astonished by its condition. Consider how Twain described the sheer desolation of the entire land of Israel at that time.
A desolate country whose soil is rich enough, but is given over wholly to weeds… a silent mournful expanse…. a desolation…. we never saw a human being on the whole route…. hardly a tree or shrub anywhere. Even the olive tree and the cactus, those fast friends of a worthless soil, had almost deserted the country.
[Mark Twain — Innocents Abroad — 1867]
However, when one visits Israel today, it is a rich and fertile land, inhabited by nearly 10 million citizens and teeming with life.
Something obviously happened between Mark Twain’s notorious visit and what we see in the modern state of Israel today?
Jesus told us about that too, and it has everything to do with God’s prophetic clock and the lesson of the fig tree.
The Lesson of the Fig Tree
As the ministry of Jesus was coming to a close and His appointment with the cross was drawing near, our Lord used a powerful object lesson from nature to teach us about God’s prophetic clock concerning the nation of Israel.
As Jesus and His disciples were making their way to Jerusalem just prior to Passover, they came upon a fig tree, and Jesus took advantage of this opportunity to teach His disciples about the judgment of Israel and ultimately about the rebirth of the nation in connection to His return.
The fig tree was used in the Hebrew Scriptures as an illustration of God’s favor and blessing over Israel. In Solomon’s day when the Kingdom of Israel was at the zenith of peace, the fig tree was a symbol of prosperity (1 Kings 4:25). The prophet Hosea likewise associated the fig tree with Israel’s birth as a nation coming out of Egypt.
Like grapes in the wilderness, I found Israel. Like the first fruit on the fig tree in its first season, I saw your fathers. But they came to Baal-peor and consecrated themselves to the thing of shame, and became detestable like the thing they loved.
When Jesus came upon this fig tree outside of Jerusalem, He found it to be fruitless and pronounced a curse on the tree. The tree leaves immediately withered, eventually down to the very roots (see Mark 11:20). The object lesson, of course, was that the national leadership of Israel — represented by the fig tree — was faithless and therefore fruitless at the time that their Messiah had arrived. Because of their unbelief and subsequent rejection of Jesus as Messiah, God brought a curse on the nation and the land of Israel. The fig tree served as a symbol of God’s judgment.
In the morning, as he was returning to the city, he became hungry. 19And seeing a fig tree by the wayside, he went to it and found nothing on it but only leaves. And he said to it, “May no fruit ever come from you again!” And the fig tree withered at once.
Jesus wept over Jerusalem one last time and made a sobering promise to the people of Israel. They would not see His face again until they experienced a national repentance and recognized their grievous sin of rejecting God’s one and only Son.
O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! 38See, your house is left to you desolate. 39For I tell you, you will not see me again, until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’”
Once again, this curse became a reality after the Roman legions left Jerusalem desolate and scattered the Jews to the four winds of the earth. Just as the fig tree withered and died, the land of Israel was left desolate for generations. By all accounts, Israel was never to be a nation again and the Jews would never again return to the land.
Yet God never breaks a promise.
Summer is Near
Immediately after weeping over Jerusalem, Jesus began to teach His disciples about the signs of the end of the age and of His 2nd coming. Tucked right in the middle of His famous teaching on the Mount of Olives, Jesus used the fig tree once again as an illustration for the future rebirth of Israel. Calling attention to the same fig tree He just finished cursing, Jesus made a profound promise.
He prophesied that the same fig tree that had withered and died will one day come back to life and produce fruit again. The illustration could not be more clear. Although Israel would be desolate and fruitless for a season, God had not fully rejected His people. The fig tree — Israel — would come to life in the future. Furthermore, Jesus connected this amazing rebirth of Israel with the unique generation that would live to see His return.
From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts out its leaves, you know that summer is near.33So also, when you see all these things, you know that he is near, at the very gates. 34Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place.
As God would have it — in the wake of arguably the worst time of suffering the Jewish people have ever experienced (the Holocaust) — the nation of Israel was reborn against all odds. In May of 1948, the United Nations narrowly passed a resolution to officially recognize Israel as a sovereign nation again. The Jews were able to return to their homeland for the first time in over 18 centuries, and the fig tree began to put forth leaves of life.
After defending their land from at least three hostile enemy invasions (1948, 1967, 1973), Israel stands today as a living testimony of God’s faithfulness and as an undeniable witness to the fulfillment of Biblical prophecy. The rebirth of the state of Israel remains as one of the most unexpected prophetic fulfillments in human history.
A Return in Unbelief
Lest you be wise in your own sight, I do not want you to be unaware of this mystery, brothers: a partial hardening has come upon Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in.
Countless Biblical prophesies describe the Day when Messiah will return to gather all His people — Jew and Gentile — and restore the fortunes of Israel and establish the Kingdom of Israel on the earth (Isaiah 11, Jeremiah 30-33, Zephaniah 2, Ezekiel 39). This final gathering is connected to the deliverance on the Day of the LORD when Messiah comes to crush the antichrist and his armies.
Other passages clearly speak of a national turning of Israel and the Jewish people in faith after enduring the horrors of the coming great tribulation. Out of the fires of affliction Israel will cry out in faith to Jesus and finally acknowledge Him as Lord and Savior and a remnant will be saved (Joel 2:30-32, Hosea 5:15-6:3, Zechariah 12:10-12).
The lesson of the fig tree, however, is not describing this final gathering and restoration of Israel at the end of the age, but rather it is a prophesy about the nation of Israel being gathered back to the land primarily in unbelief. The overwhelming majority of Jewish people today are either secular — holding no “religious” beliefs — or orthodox, yet only a remnant of Jewish people embrace Jesus as Messiah today. Most still are in a hardened state of unbelief toward Jesus as Lord.
The fig tree prophecy, however, was essential because without the Jews first returning to the land and Israel becoming a nation again, God’s prophetic word could not be fulfilled. Let me explain.
Passages like Ezekiel 38-39, Zechariah 12-14, Luke 21, Matthew 24 and Revelation 16-19 depict the final battle for Jerusalem and the coming of Messiah to crush the Beast and his armies that have invaded Israel and laid siege to Jerusalem. Up until 1948, there was no state of Israel and Jerusalem certainly was nothing to fight about, yet once Israel returned to the land and reclaimed Jerusalem in 1967, everything changed!
For the first time since A.D. 70 these prophecies now have the potential for being fulfilled because Israel is a primary player on the world stage and the center of controversy for the entire world. Jesus was trying to tell us that when Israel was back in the land — the fig tree was just beginning to bud — and the generation that sees Israel in the land again can expect His return to be very near — even at the very gates!
If we are interpreting the words of Jesus correctly, He says that the generation to see all these things take place — including the rebirth of Israel in 1948 — will not pass away until all is fulfilled and He returns in power and great glory to take vengeance on the wicked and redeem His people, reclaiming His rightful place once and for all!
Many have attempted to determine what is meant by a “generation,” claiming it could 100 years or even 70 years, but one thing is certain. The coming of Jesus is near. Even so Lord Jesus, come!
Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and He will reign wisely as King and will administer justice and righteousness in the land. In His days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell securely. And this is His name by which He will be called: The LORD Our Righteousness.
For the LORD has chosen Zion; he has desired it for his dwelling place: “This is my resting place forever; here I will dwell, for I have desired it.“
There are many great and ancient cities in this world but none more significant than the holy city of Jerusalem. Of all the places on a map, why is Jerusalem special? What makes it unique?
Is it the geography? After all, the ancient Jewish scribes considered Jerusalem to be the center of the world — the very heart of the earth.
The Sages of Israel proclaimed: The Land of Israel is the center of the world. Jerusalem is the center of the Land of Israel.
[Midrash Tanhuma — 4th Century A.D.]
Or is it the religious diversity? After all, the three most prominent “monotheistic” religions — Judaism, Christianity, and Islam — all lay claim to Jerusalem as their holy city. Even today the old city of Jerusalem is divided up into four quarters — Jewish, Christian, Muslim, and Armenian.
Perhaps it is the history. Jerusalem is one of the oldest cities in the world and bears the visible scars and ancient monuments of nearly 4,000 years of history. Although it has often been obscured by the imperial shadows of greater nations, Jerusalem has stood the test of time and remains today as viable as ever. It is most improbable that Jerusalem even exists today.
Just from a Biblical perspective alone, the historical significance of Jerusalem is astounding. Consider what has transpired on or around Zion — God’s holy hill.
Jerusalem is where Abram met King Melchizedek — Priest of the Most High God — and paid him homage with the spoils of war. [Genesis 14]
Jerusalem is where Abraham willingly offered his beloved son, Isaac, in faith before the LORD intervened and provided a substitute. [Genesis 22]
Jerusalem is the mountain that David captured and claimed for Yahweh as the capital city of Israel and the royal throne of the king of Israel. [2 Samuel 5]
Jerusalem is the site of the threshing floor that David purchased from the Jebusite Ornan to stop the plague sent by the Angel of the LORD. [1 Chronicles 21]
Jerusalem is where Solomon built the Temple of Yahweh. [1 Kings 8]
Jerusalem is where our Lord Jesus Christ was crucified as the perfect sacrifice for sin. [John 19]
Jerusalem is where the Lord Jesus was buried and on the third day was raised from the dead. [John 20]
Jerusalem is where God first poured out His Holy Spirit upon all believers at Pentecost. [Acts 2]
All of these are substantial and worthy of endless contemplation and deeper consideration, yet I believe that there are three more reasons Jerusalem has forever been set apart from all the cities in the world.
#1 — Jerusalem is the Place that God has chosen for Himself Forever
Since the day that I brought my people out of the land of Egypt, I chose no city out of all the tribes of Israel in which to build a house, that my name might be there, and I chose no man as prince over my people Israel; 6but I have chosen Jerusalem that my name may be there, and I have chosen David to be over my people Israel.
[2 Chronicles 6:5-6]
As the LORD revealed Himself to the patriarchs, kings, and prophets, His testimony about Jerusalem never changed. God has chosen and claimed and sanctified this mountain in Israel as His very own “dwelling place” and “resting place forever” [Psalm 132:13-14].
The LORD commanded King Solomon to build a permanent dwelling place on Mount Zion and upon its dedication to the LORD, He descended in a cloud and filled the Temple with His glory. [see 1 Kings 8:10-11] By attaching Himself and His name to this particular piece of real estate, the Creator of the universe has given Jerusalem eternal significance.
For now I have chosen and consecrated this house that my name may be there forever. My eyes and my heart will be there for all time.
[2 Chronicles 7:16]
#2 — Jerusalem will be Ground Zero for the Final Battle of Godbringing an End to this Age
There is one final battle that remains for Jerusalem, and it literally will be the battle for the ages. The Bible says that Jerusalem will be ground zero for that great and final battle on the Day of the LORD when Jesus Christ returns from heaven to wage war against His enemies.
“Behold, I am about to make Jerusalem a cup of staggering to all the surrounding peoples. The siege of Jerusalem will also be against Judah. 3On that day I will make Jerusalem a heavy stone for all the peoples. All who lift it will surely hurt themselves. And all the nations of the earth will gather against it … And on that day I will seek to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem.
[Zechariah 12:2-3, 9]
This is the very same prophecy that Jesus speaks of in His Olivet discourse.
But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation has come near … They will fall by the edge of the sword and be led captive among all nations, and Jerusalem will be trampled underfoot by the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.
[Luke 21:20, 24]
Jesus will return in power and glory to liberate Jerusalem from the evil one and tread down His enemies in wrath, bringing an end to this evil age.
And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. 28Now when these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.
#3 — Jerusalem Foreverwill be the City of the Great King — Jesus Christ
Great is the LORD and greatly to be praised
in the city of our God!
His holy mountain, beautiful in elevation,
is the joy of all the earth,
Mount Zion, in the far north,
the city of the great King.
Once Jesus wins the final battle of God and liberates Jerusalem, He will take His rightful place on the throne of David in Zion and will rule and reign the nations as the King of Israel. The prophetic Scriptures all point to this Day when Messiah will once again choose Jerusalem and be installed as King of kings on His holy mountain.
Then the LORD will go out and fight against those nations as when he fights on a day of battle. 4On that day his feet shall stand on the Mount of Olives that lies before Jerusalem on the east … And the LORD will be king over all the earth. On that day the LORD will be one and his name one.
[Zechariah 14:3-4, 9]
Sing and rejoice, O daughter of Zion, for behold, I come and I will dwell in your midst, declares the LORD. 11And many nations shall join themselves to the LORD in that day, and shall be my people. And I will dwell in your midst, and you shall know that the LORD of hosts has sent me to you. 12And the LORD will inherit Judah as his portion in the holy land, and will again choose Jerusalem.
He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord holds them in derision. 5Then he will speak to them in his wrath, and terrify them in his fury, saying, 6“As for me, I have set my King on Zion, my holy hill.”
During the Millennial reign of Christ from Jerusalem, all the nations will pay tribute to the King and worship Him by observing the Feast of Tabernacles.
Then everyone who survives of all the nations that have come against Jerusalem shall go up year after year to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, and to keep the Feast of Booths. 17And if any of the families of the earth do not go up to Jerusalem to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, there will be no rain on them.
And in that Day, the heavenly Jerusalem will come down as the eternal city of our God, where we will dwell with Him forever! All who have trusted in Christ and now belong to Him have been granted citizenship in the Kingdom and given access to the Holy City.
As you can see, Jerusalem not only is the center of the earth, but it is the center of the universe and our eternal home because it is where Jesus dwells forever!
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 2And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.
No longer shall your name be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham, for I have made you the father of a multitude of nations. I will make you exceedingly fruitful, and I will make you into nations, and kings shall come from you.
On September 15, 2020, leaders from the United States, Israel, Bahrain, and the United Arab Emirates signed an historic peace accord that will begin the normalization of relations between Israel and her surrounding Arab nations. Initiated by President Donald Trump and his administration, The Abraham Accords represent an unprecedented move toward establishing peace in the Middle East.
Now another Muslim-majority nation in North Africa — Morocco — has normalized ties with Israel, and most geopolitical experts believe there will be more Middle Eastern nations to come.
So how did we get here and where are these Abraham Accords going?
How will the Abraham Accords transform the geopolitical landscape of the Middle East, and more importantly, will these unprecedented accords lay the groundwork for what many believe to be the last days and the time of Jacob’s trouble?
To find out, we first must look back before we can understand the way forward. We start by going back 4,000 years to the man known as the “father of faith.”
That is why it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his offspring—not only to the adherent of the law but also to the one who shares the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all.
The three most significant monotheistic religions on earth claim Abraham as a patriarch of the faith. Jews, Christians, and Muslims all trace their origins back to the life and witness of father Abraham. Granted, Abraham had many sons, which eventually grew into many great people groups that settled in the ancient Near East.
When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the LORD appeared to him and said, “I am God Almighty. Walk before Me and be blameless. 2I will establish My covenant between Me and you, and I will multiply you exceedingly.”Then Abram fell facedown, and God said to him, 4“As for Me, this is My covenant with you: You will be the father of many nations. 5No longer will you be called Abram, but your name will be Abraham, for I have made you a father of many nations. 6I will make you exceedingly fruitful; I will make nations of you, and kings will descend from you.
Now the LORD said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. 2And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. 3I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
Abraham did indeed father many nations, but according to the testimony Biblical record — which is the true account of history — the LORD God Almighty only established His covenant of promise with one of Abraham’s descendants. God chose Isaac, not Ishmael, as the son of promise. This is significant because Ishmael’s descendants largely represent the Arab populations of the Middle East, which are now represented as Muslim-majority nations.
Then Abraham fell on his face and laughed and said to himself, “Shall a child be born to a man who is a hundred years old? Shall Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear a child?” 18And Abraham said to God, “Oh that Ishmael might live before you!” 19God said, “No, but Sarah your wife shall bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac. I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his offspring after him.20As for Ishmael, I have heard you; behold, I have blessed him and will make him fruitful and multiply him greatly. He shall father twelve princes, and I will make him into a great nation. 21But I will establish my covenant with Isaac, whom Sarah shall bear to you at this time next year.”
God’s covenant with Abraham and Isaac was then continued through Isaac’s son, Jacob, the twin brother of Esau [Edom]. The LORD would reaffirm His covent with Jacob by changing His name to Israel — as he would become the father of the 12 tribes of Israel. Esau would later join himself to the tribes of Ishmael becoming perpetual enemies of Israel.
And he said to him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob.” 28Then he said, “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with men, and have prevailed.” 29Then Jacob asked him, “Please tell me your name.” But he said, “Why is it that you ask my name?” And there he blessed him.
The Promised Land
God’s covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob [Israel] included some very significant promises. First God promised Israel a land, the boundaries of which were clearly established by the LORD [see Genesis 15:17-21]. This is the Promised Land that was given to Israel after 400 years of bondage in Egypt. As long as Israel loved and obeyed the LORD, He promised to bless and protect and provide for them in the land, but He warned Israel that rebellion and idolatry would result in being expelled from the land.
After you have children and grandchildren and you have been in the land a long time, if you then act corruptly and make an idol of any form—doing evil in the sight of the LORD your God and provoking Him to anger— 26I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you this day that you will quickly perish from the land that you are crossing the Jordan to possess. You will not live long upon it, but will be utterly destroyed. Then the LORD will scatter you among the peoples, and only a few of you will survive among the nations to which the LORD will drive you.
The people of Israel were indeed expelled from the land in three separate invasions and exiles. The Assyrians exiled the northern kingdom of Israel in 722 B.C. The Babylonians exiled the southern kingdom of Judah in 586 B.C., and the Romans destroyed Jerusalem once again and removed whatever remnant of the Jewish population from the land between 70 and 140 A.D.
Amazingly, just as the Bible predicted, God did not completely destroy His chosen people Israel and after nearly 1900 years of exile, the nation of Israel was reborn in the land against all odds.
But if from there you will seek the LORD your God, you will find Him if you seek Him with all your heart and with all your soul. 30When you are in distress and all these things have happened to you, then in later days you will return to the LORD your God and listen to His voice. 31For the LORD your God is a merciful God; He will not abandon you or destroy you or forget the covenant with your fathers, which He swore to them by oath.
Of course, the repatriation of the land by the modern state of Israel in 1948 is not the final fulfillment of God’s promise of restoration for Israel. It is, however, a significant prophetic sign of the end of the age that had to be fulfilled in order for God’s prophetic word to be fulfilled in the last days.
The Son of Promise
Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring. It does not say, “And to offsprings,” referring to many, but referring to one, “And to your offspring,” who is Christ.
To be clear, the greatest promise of all to Abraham was the coming of the “seed of the woman,” the promised Messiah and Savior of the world [see Genesis 3:15]. All nations of the earth have been blessed with the free gift of eternal life and the forgiveness of sins through the person and work of Jesus Christ, the son of Abraham, the son of David. This is why Gentile believers all over the world also identify with Abraham as the father of faith.
There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.
Peace in the Middle East
For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. 3While people are saying, “There is peace and security,” then sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. 4But you are not in darkness, brothers, for that day to surprise you like a thief.
[1 Thessalonians 5:2-4]
So will there ever be peace in the Middle East?
The answer is … yes!
But before true peace can be established by the coming Prince of Peace — Jesus Christ — there must be a time of trouble such as the world has never seen before nor ever will again.
The Abraham Accords, in my estimation, are both good and bad.
It is a noble cause to broker peace among enemies and try to normalize relationships among neighboring nations that historically have lived in hostility. I do believe that these accords can create more opportunities for trade, commerce, diplomacy, and the general welfare of all nations involved.
At the same time, I also can see the Abraham Accords laying the groundwork for the coming “covenant with many” — spoken of by the prophet Daniel — and the coming 10-king alliance that will be used by the coming Antichrist to form his Middle Eastern Beast empire.
In other words, whatever “peace” is established among Israel and her neighbors in these last days will only be a temporary peace, leading to a false sense of security.
Daniel identifies this coming evil ruler in the following way.
And he shall make a strong covenant with many for one week, and for half of the week he shall put an end to sacrifice and offering. And on the wing of abominations shall come one who makes desolate, until the decreed end is poured out on the desolator.
For ships of Kittim shall come against him, and he shall be afraid and withdraw, and shall turn back and be enraged and take action against the holy covenant. He shall turn back and pay attention to those who forsake the holy covenant.31Forces from him shall appear and profane the temple and fortress, and shall take away the regular burnt offering. And they shall set up the abomination that makes desolate. 32He shall seduce with flattery those who violate the covenant, but the people who know their God shall stand firm and take action.
It is very possible that the Abraham Accords are normalizing relations in the Middle East in order to prime Israel’s neighbors for a future covenant that will set the stage for the emergence of the “little horn” — aka the Beast.
We also know that the Beast will assume power over a ten-king coalition and turn against Israel in the end, leading one final invasion of the holy land and one last exile of God’s people.
“Thus he said: ‘As for the fourth beast,
There shall be a fourth kingdom on earth, which shall be different from all the kingdoms, and it shall devour the whole earth, and trample it down, and break it to pieces. 24As for the ten horns, out of this kingdom ten kings shall arise, and another shall arise after them; he shall be different from the former ones, and shall put down three kings. 25He shall speak words against the Most High, and shall wear out the saints of the Most High, and shall think to change the times and the law; and they shall be given into his hand for a time, times, and half a time.
And the ten horns that you saw are ten kings who have not yet received royal power, but they are to receive authority as kings for one hour, together with the beast. 13These are of one mind, and they hand over their power and authority to the beast. 14They will make war on the Lamb, and the Lamb will conquer them, for he is Lord of lords and King of kings, and those with him are called and chosen and faithful.”
The prophetic word has told us the end of the story. It has been written.
These new developments should give us pause to ponder the coming of the great tribulation, pray for the people of Israel and her neighbors, and put our hope in the coming King!
Most of all, as more pieces of the prophetic puzzle fall into place, we must remain unshaken in our resolve and unmovable in our faith in Jesus Christ.