Does Israel Have a Future? – Part 9

Norbert Lieth and Johannes Pflaum

Under Replacement Theology, an important covenant is misclassified and robbed of its earthly promises for the people and land of Israel: the Abrahamic Covenant. Unlike the Old (Mosaic) Covenant, the Abrahamic Covenant is a one-sided covenant which God made unconditionally with Abraham.

The Prophets and Israel's Future — God Is Gathering His People

God sets a sign in place for these truths; namely, the gathering together and restoration of Israel: “And it shall come to pass in that day, that the Lord shall set his hand again the second time to recover the remnant of his people, which shall be left, from Assyria, and from Egypt, and from Pathros, and from Cush, and from Elam, and from Shinar, and from Hamath, and from the islands of the sea. And he shall set up an ensign for the nations, and shall assemble the outcasts of Israel, and gather together the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth” (Isa 11:11-12).

Note that it says, “set his hand again the second time.” For what reason? To gather Israel. Both times, He is bringing home a remnant of the Jewish people from dispersion. So Isaiah is speaking of two future events.

The first time, this occurred by decree of the Persian king Cyrus, who released Israel from Babylonian captivity. This is already historical fact (Ezra 1:1ff.).

The second time Israel is brought back, it will be from a worldwide dispersion because it says, “from the four corners of the earth.” This return of the Jews to their homeland serves as an “ensign” (a sign or banner) for the nations, for very specific purposes:

• It is a sign of the truthfulness of God’s Word, a sign of the end times. So we must not exclude Israel from our proclamation.

• It is a sign of warning to the nations regarding how they deal with Israel, because it is a powerful reminder of how God does so. The nations must not claim that Israel is no longer of any importance; Israel’s gathering proves otherwise. Anyone opposing Israel is opposing God’s actions. So the nations have no excuse.

• It serves as a prerequisite sign for the execution of the final prophetic events (for example, the events of Revelation).

• It is a threefold sign: for the coming judgment, for Israel’s ultimate spiritual restoration, and for the Messiah’s return and the renewal of Creation. This is the precise reason why little Israel is such a thorn in the side of the big UN. Only 9 million people live in Israel—0.1 percent of the world’s population. And yet Israel always makes the biggest headlines and keeps the UN busy. It kicks up dust and is like a wrench in the gears, because God has made this small people a great sign for the nations. This sign says: The living and almighty God still exists! And that’s why His people still exist.

In Jeremiah 31:33-40, the prophet speaks of a New Covenant for Israel, which stands in contrast to the Old Covenant. Advocates for Replacement Theology apply this covenant exclusively to the Church of Jesus as the “Israel of God”; as such, they see no promise in it for the chosen people of Israel. We’d like to make it clear why this is an impossible application of Scripture, with some reasons resulting from the whole context of chapters 30 and 31.

In the prophecy about Israel’s future salvation and the associated New Covenant, the term “Jacob” is used six times (30:7, 10, 18; 31:7, 11). This, as we have previously explained, refers exclusively to the people of Israel when it doesn’t mean the patriarch himself.

Jeremiah 30:7 speaks of “Jacob’s trouble” taking place before Israel’s salvation, and the New Covenant for God’s people that comes with it. Here we have another indication of how this final affliction will bring unsaved Israel (Jacob) to repentance and renewal. In chapter 30:12-16, the prophet speaks of the unsaved people’s sinful condition.

This chapter and the next speak of Israel and Judah’s inseparable connection several times (Jeremiah 30:3-4; 31:24). The term “Judah” isn’t applied to the Church anywhere in the New Testament. It is either used as a name or associated with the tribe of Judah. Remarkably, Jeremiah speaks of the house of Judah in connection with the New Covenant twice (Jer 31:27, 31). The land and cities of Judah are mentioned beforehand in relation to future promises (Jer 31:23-24), so it can only be referring to Israel.

Chapter 31 speaks of Ephraim (vv. 6, 9, 18, 20). This name is often used by the prophets as a synonym for the northern kingdom of Israel, and thus for all of Israel.

Both chapters 30 and 31 speak of the dispersal of Israel among the nations and their being gathered together (Jer 31:11; 31:2, 8, 10; cf. 23:8; 16:14-16).

The name “Zion” in Jeremiah 30 and 31 can only be applied to the earthly Jerusalem (and not the heavenly one; cf. Heb 12:22). The prophet speaks of former outcasts (Jer 30:17), so he can only be referring to the earthly Jerusalem. He gives geographical information that can also only refer to the earthly Jerusalem (Jer 31:38-40). Additionally, Benedict Peters points out in his exegesis of Jeremiah, that all New Testament mentions of the new Jerusalem contain a qualifier to avoid confusion (Gal 4:26: “Jerusalem which is above”; Heb 12:22: “the heavenly Jerusalem”; Rev 21:2: “new Jerusalem”; Rev 21:9: “the bride, the Lamb’s wife”; Rev 21:10: “holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God”).

In addition to mentioning the land, the mountains of Ephraim are also mentioned (Jer 31:6). There is also talk of animals and vineyards (Jer 31:5, 27).

In chapter 31:1, Jeremiah establishes the connection to what he has previously said: “At the same time…” (that is, in the “latter days”; cf. Jer 30:24). In this context, he then comes to speak of the New Covenant from verse 31 onward. As Jeremiah 31:1 continues, it becomes clear that it can only be speaking of the people of Israel:

“At the same time, saith the Lord, will I be the God of all the families of Israel, and they shall be my people.”

The word used for families here means the various families as a sub-group of a tribe. In the same way, Moses heard the families weep, each at the entrance of their tent (Num 11:10).

So, this term means the clans within the tribes of Israel, which is why a spiritual application to the Church of Jesus makes no sense at all. The context of the passage, as well as the information contained within it, makes it clear that Jeremiah 31’s promise of the New Covenant cannot be separated from Israel’s future and transferred to the Church.

Thus, according to Jeremiah 31:7a, Israel will become the head of the nations (which has never been the case in history) and, according to verse 7b, the believing remnant will be saved, which agrees with the New Testament (Rom 9:27; 11:5). Thus, at the end of days, a remnant of the ethnic people of Israel will see the fulfillment of the New Covenant, be converted, and lead the nations in the Millennium of Peace when Christ reigns from Jerusalem.

The prophet Zechariah speaks of both Jesus’ first and second comings. In the overall context of his book, it becomes clear that both the Messiah’s first and second comings are inextricably linked to the people and land of Israel. Everything that Zechariah prophesied about Jesus’ first coming was fulfilled literally, not spiritually. Another thing is the figurative language the prophet uses to describe his visions. Benedict Peters shows through his exegesis of Zechariah, that even interpreters who reject a future for Israel are equating Jerusalem with the earthly Jerusalem in nearly every instance in Zechariah 1—11. The rift in the interpretation occurs when the book reaches the return of Jesus. Then people begin to spiritualize geographical details with no justification. Some examples of literal fulfillment of Zechariah’s prophecies about the Messiah’s first coming include:

• Jesus entered Jerusalem on a donkey (Zech 9:9).

• Jesus was abandoned by His disciples when He was taken prisoner (Zech 13:7).

• Jesus was betrayed for 30 pieces of silver (Zech 11:12).

• Judas threw the 30 pieces of silver into the temple. The potter’s field was then bought with the money (Zech 11:13).

• Jesus’ side was pierced with a spear (Zech 12:10).

• Zechariah speaks of both Jesus’ first and second comings at various points, within a narrow textual context. Thus, there is no reason to interpret the passages about Jesus’ second coming any other way than literally:

• The nations will gather against Jerusalem (Zech 12:1-3).

• The house of David will recognize their Lord and God in the returning Christ and will experience an outpouring of the Spirit (Zech 12:10).

• The families that repent, in connection with Israel’s lamentation over the Messiah’s violent death, are named separately (Zech 12:10-14). In his vision of the messianic kingdom, Ezekiel also lists the tribes of Israel by name and gives precise geographical information about their respective tribal areas. This can only be related to the land of Israel (Ezek 48:22-29).

• The Mount of Olives will split when Jesus returns (Zech 14:4).

• Precise information is given about Israeli geography and names in connection to Christ’s return. Zechariah also tells what Egypt and all other nations can expect to happen, if they do not go to Jerusalem to worship the King (Zech 14:10-11, 18). Like Ezekiel (47:8), Zechariah speaks of the plain at the Dead Sea, which is also called Arabah.

In the book of the prophet Zechariah, the predictions of Jesus’ first and second comings are so clear (and in some places so closely intertwined) that it’s impossible to apply different criteria for interpretation (literal vs. spiritual), without fracturing the principles of textual understanding. The literally fulfilled prophecy about Jesus’ first coming in the book of Zechariah, allows for no other conclusion than that the statements about His return will be fulfilled just as literally.

When we look closely at Scripture, we see that there are two instances of Israel being gathered in the end times; you could call it a two-part gathering. The first occurs before Jesus’ return, and the second after His return.

The first gathering of the people to their native land occurs before the Great Tribulation: the fig tree grows tender shoots and puts forth its leaves (Matt 24:32). The graves are opened, and the dry bones of the dead come to life and return to their land (Ezek 37).

The second and final gathering of Israel takes place after Jesus’ return, in accordance with the salvation of the remnant of the people and the beginning of God’s millennial kingdom on earth (Deut 30:1-10; Isa 27:12-13; 49:22; Jer 16:14-15; Ezek 34:11-16). At that time, the remaining nations will carry the sons of Israel back in their arms (Isa 49:22), which wasn’t at all the case for the post-1945 exodus (the English had put the Jews in internment camps in Cyprus, and the Arabs fought them when they came into the land). A biblical consequence of this is that we don’t need to wait for a surge in migration (or even a complete migration) before Jesus returns. Because with the resurrection of a Jewish State, all prerequisites for the final act on the stage of world history have already been met.

Israel’s first gathering and subsequent founding of the State in 1948, is a miracle of God before our very eyes. Again, Israel didn’t take this land for itself! It is God’s land, and He gave it to Israel. He speaks of “my country,” and He didn’t designate that country for anyone else. This is why Joel 3:1-3 reads:

“For, behold, in those days, and in that time, when I shall bring again the captivity of Judah and Jerusalem, I will also gather all nations, and will bring them down into the valley of Jehoshaphat, and will plead with them there for my people and for my heritage Israel, whom they have scattered among the nations, and parted my land. And they have cast lots for my people; and have given a boy for an harlot, and sold a girl for wine, that they might drink.”

This passage tells us where the “land for peace” policy, as demanded by the international community, will lead: to God’s judgment. Why? It is His land, which He has designated for none other than His people Israel. The fact that today’s State of Israel still exists after 75 years is a divine miracle. 

As author Ramon Bennett wrote in his book The Wall: Prophecy, Politics, and Middle East ‘Peace’: “Never, in 5,000 years of recorded history, has a people come back to its land after 2,000 years, as Israel has done. Never, in 5,000 years of recorded history, has a ‘dead’ language been revived into the vernacular, as Hebrew, Israel’s common language, has been. Never have so few people been attacked by such great numbers so many times, as Israel has been. Never have so few people inflicted such decisive defeats upon such powerful armies in so few days, as Israel has done.”

Taking this into consideration, it’s interesting to note that Hebrew as the Jewish people’s everyday language was lost after Jerusalem fell and the people were scattered by the Romans in 70 and 135 AD. It was used only in the synagogues when reading from the Old Testament writings, and was the scholarly language of the rabbis. Apart from that, the Jews spoke either Yiddish or the language of the country in which they were living. But with the Jewish people’s return to their homeland, there was also a revival of the Hebrew language. Today, this language is once again the primary language of the Jewish people in Israel. Dr. Roger Liebi writes:  “There has never been anything like this in the history of the world! There has never been a language which had been dead for over 1,000 years brought back to life as a fully functional national language” (from Are We Really Living in the Last Days? p. 74).

When the Lord Jesus ascended into heaven, angels told the people watching, “Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven” (Acts 1:11).

When Jesus departed for heaven, He left behind a people who spoke Hebrew. He will return to a people who speak Hebrew. Doesn’t that show the great timeliness of the Bible’s prophetic Word, down to the smallest detail?

We’ve grown far too accustomed to the State of Israel’s existence, and are forgetting what a tremendous miracle occurred when God restored His people to His land! He did this for a single purpose: that they would serve Him there (cf. Acts 7:7). People, land, and ministry are inextricably linked. Even though we’re still seeing Israel’s infidelity and guilt today (Ps 106), the Lord is still working with His people and will lead them to serve Him in His land. And we can be eyewitnesses to how He repeatedly works miracles for His people, using both grace and judgment to accomplish this goal.

“God hath not cast away his people which he foreknew” (Rom 11:2a)!

News from Israel - 03-04/2023

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