ISRAEL: Sign of the End Times

Rainer Wagner

Israel is the most striking indication of the Lord’s return. It is like the hand on the world clock. Bible-believing Christians, of course, have always known of Israel’s return to its ancient homeland.

Prelate Albecht Bengel (1687-1752), Pastor Johann Christoph Blumhardt (1805-1880) of Möttlingen, or the hymn writer and founder of the still existing congregation in Württemberg, Michael Hahn (1758-1819), are just some of the theologians known to German Christians, who spoke about the conversion and wonderful future of the nation Israel. Physician and friend of Goethe, Heinrich Jung-Stilling (1740-1817) wrote: “The true believer consistently looks at the golden hand on the clock high up on the temple wall; and he who doesn’t see clearly asks another with sharper vision what time it might be. Some of what you are writing concerning the Jews is known to me. Conversion of this strange nation and its return to the fatherland will be an eye-opener to many. That will legitimatize the Bible once again to everyone, and we will then definitely know where things stand.”

When we compare Biblical prophecy concerning Israel with current events, we get the impression that the hand on that clock is close to midnight. God’s renewed attention toward Israel has begun. The first sizable immigration of Jews from Russia took place in 1882. The Lord’s important speech concerning signs of the end of the world (Matthew 24; Luke 21) is often referred to as the Olivet Discourse, because it was on that Mount that He spoke to His disciples. On this occasion, Jesus said this generation will not pass away—the one that will see the fig tree sprouting new leaves—and “it [the end of the world] is near, even at the doors” (Matt 24:32-34).

There is no doubt that the Bible means Israel when it speaks of this fig tree. We see that in the parable of the fig tree in the vineyard (Luke 13:6-9). Here Israel is compared to a fig tree that had been carefully tended by the gardener for three years, but did not bring forth any fruit. Jesus sees Himself as the Gardener: He labored for three years among “the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matt 15:24). But, as declared in the beginning of John’s Gospel, “He came unto his own, and his own received him not” (John 1:11). During His last sojourn in Jerusalem, Jesus passed by a fig tree and, looking for fruit, could not find any. He then cursed the tree, and it “withered away” (Matt 21:19-20). The action in this encounter is also symbolic for Israel.

Jesus was looking for fruit, but Israel did not produce any. Thus, it withered away. For 2,000 years, Israel remained outside God’s dispensation of grace. However, once pronounced, God always keeps His promises. Israel’s patriarchs had indeed been given great promises, for themselves and their descendants. Paul writes that God never regrets His promises, always fulfilling them (Rom 11:29). This applies particularly to the Promised Land (Gen 15:18-21). So that now, after 2,000 years of dispersion into all parts of the world, the Jews once again have a country of their own, within their ancient territory. That is not merely a political development—no, this is God fulfilling the promise He gave to Abraham and his descendants.

The boundaries of this country were determined neither through wars nor powerful nations, nor by UN resolutions or the terrorism of the so-called Palestinians. Even the fanatical hatred of the Hamas fundamentalists cannot nullify God’s promises. God has determined that Israel come home into its own country at the end of time. The former Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin, observed that Israel has the oldest documentation for its claim to this territory. The documents are God’s promises recorded in writing. Short-term setbacks notwithstanding, God’s plan for Israel cannot be altered.

God is gathering His people from all corners of the world. To restore the nation of Israel, it was necessary to gather its members together again. Many prophets have foretold this, and students of God’s Word, such as the aforementioned Jung-Stilling, have also always known about it. In Isaiah 54:7-8 we read: “For a small moment have I forsaken thee; but with great mercies will I gather thee. In a little wrath I hid my face from thee for a moment; but with everlasting kindness will I have mercy on thee, says the LORD thy Redeemer.” And Jeremiah 23:3 tells us: “And I will gather the remnant of my flock out of all countries whither I have driven them, and will bring them again to their folds; and they shall be fruitful and increase.”

Some theologians claim these promises were met after the Babylonian enslavement, and there will be no further fulfillment. But that is wrong. The promise was not to those who were in Babylon, but to those dispersed into “all countries” of the world. That is the Jewish nation, which after 70 AD experienced a Diaspora into all the world. The Bible tells us about this return, that God will bring everyone home and leave no one behind in foreign lands (Ezek 39:28). This was not fulfilled after the Babylonian captivity, and will only come to pass at the end of the present regathering.

According to Jeremiah’s words: “Thus said the LORD, The people which were left of the sword found grace in the wilderness; even Israel, when I went to cause him to rest” (Jer 31:2). When the Jews in the 1930s and 40s emigrated to Palestine, they escaped from the “sword”; namely, the 2,000-year-old persecution in the world, as well as the concentration camps and gas chambers of the Nazis. The great emigration from 1945-48 brought the survivors of the Holocaust into the Promised Land.

The first Jews to return at the end of the 19th century, found the land of Israel to be a desert, but under their care it became a flowering garden. To the north the land consisted mostly of malaria-infested swamps, and in the south was the Negev desert. The Jews drained the swamps; they deepened the Jordan, which caused Lake Hula (alternate name: Lake Semechonitis) to disappear, thereby removing the cause of Galilee’s marshy condition.

Today, Galilee is a large, productive agricultural area. An aqueduct 3 meters in diameter supplies the kibbutzim in the Negev desert. Now vegetables are grown here, and the cows of the Kibbutz Yotvata, 40 kilometers north of Eilat, each provide 11,500 liters of milk per year. At the turn of the 19th century, this land was bought for those Jews willing to settle there by the wealthy Jew Rothschild, from the rich Arab sheikhs in Damascus and Cairo. The Arabs laughed to themselves at having found this seemingly foolish buyer for their worthless piece of territory.

In 1867, Mark Twain describes the Jerusalem of that time in his travel memoirs: “Misery, poverty and filth; these manifestations that mark the presence of Muslim rule more clearly than the half-moon flag itself, are in abundance … Jerusalem is sad, bleak and desolate. I would not want to live here.” And about Palestine in general he had this to say: “Of all countries with a dreary landscape, I think Palestine takes the prize” (The Innocents Abroad). Palestine is dismal and unappealing.

Neither Mark Twain nor the Arab princes had the faintest idea of the blessing God would bestow on His people in their land. With the return of the Jews to Israel, the country awoke as from a deep sleep. What God had declared through Jeremiah is being fulfilled: “Again I will build thee, and thou shalt be built, O virgin of Israel: thou shalt again be adorned with thy tabrets [tambourines], and shalt go forth in the dances of them that make merry. Thou shalt yet plant vines upon the mountains of Samaria: the planters shall plant, and shall eat them as common things” (Jer 31:4-5).

Today, travelers in Israel can see with their own eyes that God keeps all His promises.

News from Israel - 07/2020

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