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Exposition: Israel's Preparation Phase Prophecies

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Exposition: Israel's Preparation Phase Prophecies

By itself, Revelation’s church age description could lead one to conclude that the church has replaced the role of Abraham’s descendents or even that God has rejected the Jews. In Jesus' future millennial reign, Israel is the world's premier nation as they finally enjoy the full extent of Deuteronomy's blessings (Deuteronomy 28:1-14). Then, they will be God's conduit for blessings to overflow onto all gentile nations. Now, they are living in the last phase of a time of terrible persecution and tragedy. The prophecies concerning the present time of trouble cover an important period in the history of Israel as they set the stage for the fulfillment of many key end-time full tribulation prophecies. It is an unfortunate fact than much of this material has been abused to justify persecution of the Jews or teach forms of replacement theology (other groups have taken Israel's place in God's plan), especially since these verses show God's corrective, not destructive, punishment of Israel.

At the proper time, God will restore His wife, Israel, to her rightful position. Until then, He continues to exercise spousal discipline, correcting and rebuking the Jews. This right is His alone and anyone taking liberties with Israel risks her Husband's wrath. This point is evident as God unconditionally promises to bless those who bless the Jews and curse those who curse them. Even as they wallow under God's curses, God zealously watches over His wife and there is never any excuse or defense for persecuting them. God collectively punishes Israel's sins but does not reject His people. The book of Romans further explains that, even at the height of God's punishment, not all Jews are rebellious. It illustrates this point by recalling the story of Elijah where he thought he was the only one who continued to be faithful to God but was corrected by God who testified that 7000 maintained their integrity (1 Kings 19). Similarly, there continues to be a faithful remnant of Jews even during the Jews' church age dispersion. Christians predisposed against the Jews, should consider the critical role Jews have played in promulgating the gospel. Not only did they pen the predominate portions of both the Old and New Testaments of the Bible, but also they were its primary characters and audience. In other words, the Bible was written by Jews, about Jews, and for Jews. On top of this, virtually every early church leader was a Jew and without their efforts, gentile Christianity would never have been grafted onto this Jewish tree (Romans 11). Further, the Bible is unequivocal on the question God's rejection and replacement of the Jews as His chosen people:

I say then, Hath God cast away his people? God forbid. For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin.  God hath not cast away his people which he foreknew. . . .  (Romans 11:1-2)

Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace.  (Romans 11:5)

This faithful remnant has continued to serve throughout the ages.  In the early church, they were the apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers (Ephesians 4:11).  Probably, only Jews have ever served in the positions of apostles.  The fact that God has not and will not forsake or replace Israel is also confirmed in Deuteronomy 4:30-31:

When thou art in tribulation, and all these things are come upon thee, even in the latter days, if thou turn to the LORD thy God, and shalt be obedient unto his voice; (For the LORD thy God is a merciful God;) he will not forsake thee, neither destroy thee, nor forget the covenant of thy fathers which he sware unto them.

Even in the darkest moments of the last days, God desires to forgive Israel and restore her as though nothing has happened.  The message is clear: God has not and will not forsake, reject, or replace His wife Israel.  Understanding these basic facts about God’s relationship to Israel and the accountability of gentiles, Christian and non-Christian, for their actions against God’s wife is an important foundation to lay prior to looking at this difficult period in Israel’s history.

The tone for Israel’s last two thousand years was set on the eighth day Jesus’ life when His parents took Him to the temple for His circumcision.  There, Simeon met them and foretold the impact of Jesus’ birth on Israel:

And Simeon blessed them, and said unto Mary his mother, Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel; and for a sign which shall be spoken against;  (Luke 2:34)

Through His birth alone, Jesus triggers a set of events that ultimately leads to Israel’s fall.  Fortunately, it does not end there as Jesus also brings the eventual rebirth to the nation.  Through it all, He is a lightning rod of controversy (a sign) that many oppose.  This fall of Israel is portrayed throughout the Bible through many symbolic representations:

  • An adulterous wife (Ezekiel 16:30-58, Hosea 9, Jeremiah 30:14-15)
  • Dross (Ezekiel 22:17-22)
  • An unproductive vineyard (Isaiah 5:1-7, Deuteronomy 4:5-8, Isaiah 5:5-6, Matthew 21:33-41, Matthew 23:29-39)
  • An unproductive fig tree (Hosea 9:10, Mark 11:12-21)
  • Her two falls (Isaiah 29:1, Ezekiel 16:23, Ezekiel 24:6-14, Deuteronomy 28:36-37, Deuteronomy 28:63-68, Luke 19:41-44, Matthew 24:1-2, Zechariah 1:18-21)

After all, only twice in Revelation 1-3 are the Jews even mentioned and in both occasions, they persecute perfect churches.  Revelation’s narrative neither mentions the nation of Israel nor gives insights into the Jews’ disposition.  Fortunately, the rest of the Bible provides many clues concerning their disposition, painting a generally horrific landscape of their plights and sufferings in the millennia between Jesus’ crucifixion and Jesus’ return.  More importantly, these passages explain God’s role in their pain and suffering, why Israel has fallen under His judgment, and the nation’s final disposition.