It All Revolves Around Israel – Part 1

Norbert Lieth

What Ezekiel 33—48 have to say about the present and the future of Israel.

When we consider current events, they can show us a hint of what God’s Word foretells about the end of days: “And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places. All these are the beginning of sorrows” (Matt 24:6-8).

Both the Covid pandemic and the subsequent Russian invasion of Ukraine, draw our attention to the power of the Bible’s prophetic Word. “We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts” (2 Pet 1:19).

Current events shouldn’t give rise to speculation. We’re not concerned with exegeting the newspaper. Ultimately, the fulfillment of Bible prophecy is always the best interpretation. But we can be asking ourselves whether these events have started the countdown to “The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to show unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass” (Rev 1:1a).

Paying attention to the Bible’s prophetic Word means paying attention to each day. As someone once said, “The one who reads a newspaper knows what is happening in the world. The one who reads the Bible knows why.”

Until recently, it would have been thought impossible for such a great threat of war to again be menacing Europe and the world, 77 years after World War II. In this regard, I’d like to draw your attention to some connections that you may find interesting. The existence of a Jewish State plays an important role in them. And, it’s no coincidence that they’re also directly related to a future attack by Gog from the land of Magog (Ezek 38—39). Israel is both the geographic and spiritual center of the world and all its affairs (Ezek 38:12).

Ezekiel 33—48 record three major prophetic events at various stages: the physical restoration of the nation of Israel  (33—37), the attack of Gog  (38—39), and the spiritual restoration of the Jewish people, with a new temple in the messianic kingdom (40—48).

Let’s consider the different phases of Israel’s restoration.

“And it came to pass in the twelfth year of our captivity, in the tenth month, in the fifth day of the month, that one that had escaped out of Jerusalem came unto me, saying, The city is smitten” (Ezek 33:21).

For that period in Israel’s history, it was a low point. The worst word of its time. The greatest national catastrophe.

Daniel came to Babylon in 605 BC, and Ezekiel followed in 597 BC. On August 5th of 586 BC (the 9th of Av according to the Hebrew calendar), Jerusalem was completely conquered, and the temple destroyed. The prophet Jeremiah witnessed it firsthand. Starting in 539 BC, Jews under Persian rule were permitted to return, rebuild, and inhabit the land. It reached the point where a second temple was built—in preparation for the Messiah’s first coming. When Jesus first came to Israel, the situation in the land was as follows:

“Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel, prophesy, and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD unto the shepherds; Woe be to the shepherds of Israel that do feed themselves! should not the shepherds feed the flocks? Ye eat the fat, and ye clothe you with the wool, ye kill them that are fed: but ye feed not the flock. The diseased have ye not strengthened, neither have ye healed that which was sick, neither have ye bound up that which was broken, neither have ye brought again that which was driven away, neither have ye sought that which was lost; but with force and with cruelty have ye ruled them” (Ezek 34:2-4).

Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan addresses this situation, as does the parable of the Good Shepherd. Also remember Jesus’ cries of woe over the 
people’s religious leaders in Matthew, as well as His other statements: “I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep” (John 10:11). “But he answered and said, I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matt 15:24). “And Jesus, when he came out, saw much people, and was moved with compassion toward them, because they were as sheep not having a shepherd: and he began to teach them many things” (Mark 6:34).

Israel’s wicked shepherds eventually rejected the good shepherd, and the consequences were inevitable: in 69/70 AD, Jerusalem and the temple were again destroyed, this time by the Romans. It was certainly no coincidence that it happened on the same day as the first time (the 9th of Av). This was a great horror for the people of Israel: history was repeating itself. The people were scattered throughout the world (Luke 21:24).

In springtime, May of 1948, the Jewish State was reestablished. This time, it was in preparation for the Messiah’s return.

“For thus saith the Lord God; Behold, I, even I, will both search my sheep, and seek them out. As a shepherd seeketh out his flock in the day that he is among his sheep that are scattered; so will I seek out my sheep, and will deliver them out of all places where they have been scattered in the cloudy and dark day. And I will bring them out from the people, and gather them from the countries, and will bring them to their own land, and feed them upon the mountains of Israel by the rivers, and in all the inhabited places of the country” (Ezek 34:11-13).

We should understand that Ezekiel isn’t taking the Church Age into account, for it was still a mystery. So, these Old Testament verses are saying that the people will be gathered back to their homeland. Then the Lord will judge among the sheep of Israel for the establishment of His coming rule:

“And as for you, O my flock, thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I judge between cattle and cattle, between the rams and the he goats … Therefore will I save my flock, and they shall no more be a prey; and I will judge between cattle and cattle” (Ezek 34:17, 22).

Last but not least, these words are reminiscent of the description of the judgment recorded in Matthew 25:31ff. The Lord will judge both Israel (Ezek 20:35-38; Matt 25:1ff.) and the nations, and those who belong to Him will enter the kingdom. After that, King David will be installed as joint ruler in Israel (Ezek 34:23-24). The Lord Himself will be the God of His people (v. 24). A covenant of peace is established with Israel (v. 25). The redeemed are established as a blessing (v. 26). The land will be exceedingly fertile (vv. 26-27). The people will no longer be plundered by the nations, but will live in safety (vv. 28-30). The children of Israel will be His flock, and He will be their God (v. 31).

It’s wonderful to compare points in history and see precisely how biblical prophecy is being fulfilled. The great goal is for the fig tree to bear fruit once again: “But ye, O mountains of Israel, ye shall shoot forth your branches, and yield your fruit to my people of Israel; for they are at hand to come” (Ezek 36:8).

In springtime, May of 1948, the Jewish State was called back to life. And so, Jesus’ words about the fig tree are apparent: “Now learn a parable of the fig tree; When his branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is nigh” (Matt 24:32). The events in detail:

1. Gathering from among the unbelievers: “For I will take you from among the heathen, and gather you out of all countries, and will bring you into your own land” (Ezek 36:24).

2. Purification (forgiveness): “Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you” (v. 25).

3. Spiritual rebirth: “A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh” (v. 26).

4. God’s people once again: “And ye shall be my people, and I will be your God” (v. 28b).

The restoration of the land is closely related to the eventual redemption: “Thus saith the Lord GOD; In the day that I shall have cleansed you from all your iniquities I will also cause you to dwell in the cities, and the wastes shall be builded” (Ezek 36:33; cf. Rom 11:26).

The goal of this national restoration is their spiritual restoration. This is more specifically explained in Ezekiel 37, so there will be no doubts about God’s predictions.

Ezekiel sees a valley full of dead bones. At God’s command, the bones come together again (Ezek 37:7), which symbolizes the 19th-century Zionist era. Then, the Jews began to migrate from the tombs of the nations, back to their homeland (Ezek 37:21). Incidentally, this happened first of all from the land of the north: Russia (Jer 16:14-15; 23:8).

After that, tendons, flesh, and skin began to cover the bones (Ezek 37:8). This symbolizes the founding of the State of Israel in 1948. Israel received a recognizable face again; it became its own entity. But it had no breath—that is, spiritual renewal. We read, “but there was no breath in them” (v. 8b). And then it continues, “Then said he unto me, Prophesy unto the wind, prophesy, son of man, and say to the wind, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live. So I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood up upon their feet, an exceeding great army” (vv. 9-10).

At what point will resurrected Israel receive the breath of the Holy Spirit? Apparently, this will take place after the events of Ezekiel 38—39, after Gog’s incursion from the land of Magog. At the end of Ezekiel 39, after Gog’s destruction, it says, “Neither will I hide my face any more from them: for I have poured out my spirit upon the house of Israel, saith the Lord GOD” (Ezek 39:29).

Likewise, the Lord says that His sanctuary (the temple) will be reestablished in the midst of Israel at the same time: “And the heathen shall know that I the LORD do sanctify Israel, when my sanctuary shall be in the midst of them for evermore” (Ezek 37:28).

From chapter 40 through the end of Ezekiel (chapter 48), the future sanctuary—the temple—is described. Thus, the appearance of Gog occurs between the national and spiritual restorations of Israel. This means that the book could be divided as follows. Chapters 33—37: National Restoration. Chapters 38—39: Invasion of Gog. Chapters 40—48: Spiritual Restoration and Messianic Kingdom.

News from Israel - 08/2023

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