Bethlehem Today and Future

Arno Froese

Now these be the last words of David. David the son of Jesse said, and the man who was raised up on high, the anointed of the God of Jacob, and the sweet psalmist of Israel, said, The Spirit of the Lord spake by me, and his word was in my tongue. The God of Israel said, the Rock of Israel spake to me, He that ruleth over men must be just, ruling in the fear of God. And he shall be as the light of the morning, when the sun riseth, even a morning without clouds; as the tender grass springing out of the earth by clear shining after rain. Although my house be not so with God; yet he hath made with me an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things, and sure: for this is all my salvation, and all my desire, although he make it not to grow” (2 Samuel 23:1-5).

For clarity’s sake, let’s read verse 5 in the Tanakh: “Is not my House established before God? For He has granted me an eternal pact, drawn up in full and secured. Will He not cause all my success and [my] every desire to blossom?” We note that the last sentence is to be understood in a positive way, because it falls in line with the previous one: “Is not my House established before God?” Thus, the following sentence is confirmed: “Will He not cause all my success and [my] every desire to blossom?” Luther uses these words: “All my salvation and all my desires, he will cause [them] to grow.” 

The name David is found no less than 1,130 times in the Bible. Interestingly, the first time his name is mentioned is in the book of Ruth, who was not an Israelite but a Moabite: “And the women her neighbours gave it a name, saying, There is a son born to Naomi; and they called his name Obed: he is the father of Jesse, the father of David” (Ruth 4:17).

Reading the four chapters of the book of Ruth, one immediately senses God’s desire to integrate the Gentiles into His plan of salvation. We are reminded here of the words of Jesus: “But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matthew 10:6). Later, Jesus specifically emphasizes that He has been sent to Israel: “But he answered and said, I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matthew 15:24).

The angel Gabriel proclaimed to Mary: “And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name Jesus. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David” (Luke 1:31-32). Here again, the exclusiveness of Israel is emphasized: “He shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever” (verse 33a). That’s not the end, for it continues: “and of his kingdom there shall be no end.”

More than six centuries before Jesus was born, this vision was revealed unto God’s faithful servant Daniel: “And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever” (Daniel 2:44). That, incidentally, reveals the future of your country (or any country): there is none. But what God establishes is eternally valid. 

With reasonable assurance, we can identify this special group of people. The sentence in the Tanakh reads: “A kingdom that shall not be transferred to another people.” 

As we saw in the beginning, prophecy clearly indicates that Gentiles will be added to this kingdom. Here the words of the Apostle Paul are helpful: “Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God” (Ephesians 2:19). It is often overlooked that the Bible calls us believers, no matter who we are, “strangers and foreigners.” It matters not what passport I have; it’s only of very temporary value. 

One more thing that needs to be emphasized is the unity between these two groups of people; namely, Israel and the Church: “And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone” (Ephesians 2:20). The apostles represent the New Testament, the prophets the Old Testament. What an immense and virtually incomprehensible privilege it is, to have become heavenly citizens through Christ Jesus our Lord!

Back to Bethlehem: when Jacob/Israel returned to the Promised Land from his uncle Laban, his beloved wife Rachel was ready to deliver Jacob’s twelfth son, Benjamin. “And it came to pass, as her soul was in departing, (for she died) that she called his name Benoni: but his father called him Benjamin. And Rachel died, and was buried in the way to Ephrath, which is Bethlehem” (Genesis 35:18-19). 

Benjamin is the only son born in the Promised Land. Here Rachel died giving birth to Benjamin; the town is Bethlehem. 

Many years later, when Jesus was born, another horrific tragedy befell Bethlehem. The wise men came to Jerusalem seeking the newborn King: “Where is he that is born king of the Jews?” (Matthew 2:2a). Alarm bells went off in the mind of King Herod. When the wise men did not return to report the place of Jesus’ birth, Herod ordered the mass killing of children two years old and under. Matthew reports: “Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet, saying, In Rama was there a voice heard, lamentation, and weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, and would not be comforted, because they are not” (verses 17-18). 

Bethlehem Today
It is not coincidental that Bethlehem is no longer considered a Jewish city, but an Arab-Muslim one. In 1948, when the Jewish State was proclaimed, Bethlehem was 85% Christian, mostly Greek Orthodox and Roman Catholic. In 2006, the Palestinian Center for Research and Cultural Dialog determined that 90% of the population of Bethlehem was either Muslim or had Muslim friends.

What a mighty panorama we see highlighted on the horizon. The source of salvation, the birthplace of Jesus Christ, is now occupied by foreigners. To visit Bethlehem from Israel today is rather difficult. Israeli vehicles are not allowed to enter Bethlehem; thus, at the border, passengers need to change from Israeli transportation to Palestinian vehicles, and on the return likewise. Rachel’s Tomb, also outside Bethlehem, is made accessible from Jerusalem under the strictest rules. 

Bethlehem’s Future
When considering Bethlehem’s future, we must understand that according to our Lord—who is the Creator of heaven and earth—all the nations of the world are insignificant in comparison to Israel. When reading about David, who was born in Bethlehem, Revelation 22:16-17 proclaims: “I Jesus have sent mine angel to testify unto you these things in the churches. I am the root and the offspring of David, and the bright and morning star. And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.”

Midnight Call - 12/2022

Arno Froese is the executive director of Midnight Call Ministries and editor-in-chief of the acclaimed prophetic magazines Midnight Call and News From Israel. He has authored a number of well-received books, and has sponsored many prophecy conferences in the U.S., Canada, and Israel. His extensive travels have contributed to his keen insight into Bible prophecy, as he sees it from an international perspective.

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