For many centuries Biblical scholars have taught that prior to the Second Coming of Jesus Christ several highly significant events would take place. One of these key events was to be the miraculous rebirth of the nation of Israel.
In 70AD Rome destroyed Jerusalem and the Jewish people were dispersed among all the nations of the world. This was a fulfillment of the prophetic warnings given in Jeremiah 29:18-19, Luke13:34-35 and Luke 19:41-44.
God promised however, that after this time of trouble He would miraculously regather the Jews from the four corners of the world to which they had been scattered and resurrect them as a nation. This would be to the astonishment and surprise of the whole world because no nation in history had ever before regained nationhood after having experienced a global dispersal, especially one lasting almost two millennia. It was to be an event which was supernatural in origin. This was predicted in Ezekiel 37:21-22 and Matthew 24:32-34. The fig tree is often used in the Bible to depict the nation of Israel; in this case the nation beginning to grow again.
On May 14th 1948 the state of Israel was officially reborn establishing itself as the only democracy in the modern Middle East. For the first time in 2000 years they were a sovereign nation once again. Later in June 1967 Israel regained control of the area that was once the Biblical Jerusalem.
Scripture predicted that their renewed status as a nation would cause shockwaves and that “Jerusalem would become a cup of trembling” for the whole world, Zechariah 12:2-3. Israel has a population of only 7 million and Jerusalem itself 700,000 yet the fulfillment of this prophecy is all too clear. Amazingly, this tiny nation has become the epicentre and focal point of the entire planet. World leaders now make decisions about Israel in the context that one wrong move could trigger a Third World War which would destroy the entire human race. Taking all these things into consideration what then should our position be regarding Israel, Palestine and the surrounding Arab nations? Although the rebirth of the Jewish nation is all part of God’s plan and has His blessing, that doesn’t mean He is always in favour with how they act and behave as a nation. There were numerous examples in Old Testament times describing God’s anger at Israel when they behaved unjustly and this principle remains unchanged.
Modern Israel clearly has a God given right to exist and to protect itself but how it achieves this must be done in a righteous and just manner. Action taken by the Israelis in any given situation must be judged on an individual basis in this light. When assessing a particular event we need to remember two wrongs don’t make a right. At the same time we also need to set events in the terrifying context that Israel is struggling for its very existence and survival. Action taken by Israel often provokes strong feelings one way or the other. Sometimes however, the information we receive via the media is inaccurate, biased or simply incomplete making it impossible to decide with any degree of certainty whether as a Christian one should approve of a particular action or not.
So what lies ahead for Israel and the Middle East?
One of the other key elements mentioned in Scripture and long taught by students of prophecy is that ultimately the rebirth of Israel will lead to a war of epic proportions engulfing the whole Middle East and many other nations. Called “The Battle of Armageddon”, it is often described by Biblical scholars as “the War to end all wars” because this conflict will be interrupted by Divine Intervention in the form of the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.
In Matthew 24:21-22 Jesus explained that if this crisis hadn’t been interrupted by His return it would eventually have escalated to the point where “no life would have survived”, the human race literally destroying itself. Zechariah 12:8-14 gives a moving description of how the Jews will respond to His return as they learn to their shock that Jesus Christ was the Messiah afterall. This passage, often called “the conversion of the Jews”states that “they will behold Him Whom they pierced and they will mourn for Him as one who mourns for his only son.” Isaiah 2:4 promises that the King of kings will then “rebuke many nations and they shall beat their weapons into ploughs and nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more." For the first time since the fall of man the human race will be at peace and “ the whole world will be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea, Isaiah 11:9. It is promised that under the world leadership of Christ poverty, misjustice, tyrannical regimes and sickness will be no more. The world economy will be run on fair and just principles and climatic conditions will be altered so that famines and droughts are eliminated.
Some Christians wrongly associate the Second Coming of Christ with what they imagine will be “the end of the world.” This confusion is partly due to the 1611 Authorized version of the Bible translating the Greek word “aion” as “world” when it really means “age, era or period.” Passages referring to the Second Coming of Christ in Matthew 24 , Mark 13 and Luke 21 actually describe Jesus returning at the end of the “age or era” not at the end of “the world itself” giving a very different meaning. This misunderstanding has hindered some from fulfilling the instruction that when we see these troubles coming on the world “we should lift up our heads in excitement and expectation.” Luke 21:28. To those who truly love and trust the Lord and realize the purpose of His return, the Second Coming should be like a light at the end of the tunnel and should be looked forward to with anticipation. To appreciate the dangerous position Israel is in we need to remember that the descendents of those countries which tried to destroy Israel in Old Testament times still exist today forming nations in the modern world. Although these different ethnic groups have developed into modern countries over the past 2-3 thousand years some have still retained their unnatural hatred for Israel. Knowing which ethnic group has generally developed into which modern nation coupled with details provided in Ezekiel 38-39 and Zechariah 12-14, Biblical scholars can see which modern nations will attack Israel with the intention of its extermination.
Ezekiel 38-39 states that this war against Israel and the invasion of the Middle East will be lead by “Gog of the land of Magog.” Gog is not a personal name but a title like Csar or President. Gog is the leader over the land of the Magogites. According to ancient Greek literature the Magogites were the ethnic group that settled north of the Caspian and Black Seas. Generally speaking these are the people we refer to today as the Russians and they occupy both the area we know as Russia and the territories of the former Soviet Republics.
For over a century many students of prophecy simply referred to these passages of Scripture as “the Russian chapters of Ezekiel.” Using their ancient tribal name Ezekiel shows that tension over the rebirth of Israel will ultimately result in a Russian lead invasion of the Middle East with the aim of destroying Israel once and for all. Zechariah 14:12 seems to describe the use of nuclear weapons against these invading nations and Ezekiel 39:11-16 states that it will take Israel seven months to clean up the region after the war is over.
Persia is also mentioned in Ezekiel 38:5 as being one of the nations supporting this attack. Today Persia is known as Iran and it is fascinating to see how Russia and Iran are forming close ties, this unholy alliance being largely based upon their mutual hatred of Israel. The government of Iran looks upon the State of Israel as being like a painful intrusion into territory belonging to Islam and that its duty is to fight against it. Moreover, there is a widely held belief by members of the government that the return of the 12th Imam is imminent and that his return can actually be hastened by destroying Israel and creating an Armageddon like scenario. This 12th Imam or Mahdi is a kind of messianic saviour to Shiah Muslims and Ahmadine Jad the former President of Iran sees himself as a kind of herald whose duty it is to accelerate this apocalyptic situation creating the conditions for his return. These views make Israel and the Western world terrified at the prospect of Iran developing nuclear weapons.
While turmoil in the Middle East is developing along the lines predicted in Scripture another long foretold event is simultaneously coming to pass. 2 Peter 3:3-4, 1 Timothy 4:1, Jude :18 and countless other verses predict that the Christian Church will be in a general state of disarray, disobedience and disbelief when Christ returns. Jesus lamented in Luke 18:8 that this disbelief and disobedience would be widespread and shows clearly that contrary to the teaching of some church leaders there will be no great revival of the church prior to His return. Instead, many church leaders will be found promoting false doctrine and disbelief in Scripture 2 Timothy 4:3-5, 2 Peter 2:1-3 and many church members will be ignorant of what it really means to love and obey the Lord and to know Him personally.
It is ironic that as we see world events so simply and plainly fulfilling prophecy, often clergy either remain silent on the issue or deny these facts altogether leading to much confusion. Mary Queen of Scots once lamented to John Knox “You interpret the Scriptures in one manner and they (other church leaders) in an alternative way; whom should I believe and who shall judge?” In reply, Knox simply said, “Believe God, who plainly speaks in His Word; And beyond what the Word teaches you, you should neither believe the one or the other. The Word of God is plain in itself! If there appears any obscurity in one place, the Holy Spirit, Who never contradicts Himself, explains the same more clearly in other places.”
Among enthusiasts of prophecy interesting discussions often occur regarding various aspects of the Second Coming. There are some who believe that the rapture or translation of Christians takes place at the moment of Christ’s return, (a view taught by the Church for 19 hundred years) and there are others who firmly believe it will happen much earlier. This issue and similar ones are fascinating to examine but we must be cautious not to be distracted from what’s really important, namely that whether the Lord comes or calls we are ready in our hearts to meet Him. Matthew 24:36 states that “we know neither the day or the hour” when He is coming so we must constantly examine and sustain our spiritual life remembering that we must all appear before the Judgment seat of Christ 2 Corinthians 5:10. The promise of His return does indeed provide a wonderful sense of hope in a world full of conflict but we must never be distracted from our own personal battle – the moral battle that rages inside the heart of every Christian.
If you have found this article of help then please feel free to circulate it to others who you think would benefit from it . More information regarding Bible prophecy can be found in the booklet ‘A Call to the Nation’ pages 29-34. This can be downloaded free from www.churchsurvey.co.uk