Something's Been Forgotten
Something has been rankling me for sometime now. What is irritating me is the fact that biblical truth seems to have been forgotten by evangelical Christians regarding the peace negotiations in which Israel and the Palestinians are currently engaged. Evangelical lovers of Israel have been saying things like, "I am praying for you America for I fear for you." "Don't Forget Jerusalem." "This Annapolis Peace Conference (November 2007) was a disaster and a total tragedy…" President Bush is compared to the evil enemy of Israel, Gog (Ezekiel 38 and 39) by some Christians and some rabbis. President Bush is being urged to "Read your Bible…" Another Christian writes that "(He) is outraged…" and that we can "save Jerusalem" by sending a petition with one million signatures to Washington DC (which is totally futile and ineffective hype to begin with).
Here is the capper. One evangelical Christian actually writes that the establishment of a Palestinian State and the division of Jerusalem would be "an effective reversal of prophecy." My friends, that is simply crazy talk! Does this Christian actually think that mankind can effectively reverse a biblical prophecy pronounced by the Omniscient and Omnipotent King of Kings and Lord of Lords. What chutzpa!
The first biblical fact this Christian has forgotten is the nature of God. God is all-powerful in sovereign dignity. What God speaks He performs, and nothing can stand in His way or stop His majestic plans, much less reverse them.
The Lord of hosts has sworn saying, "Surely, just as I have intended so it has happened, and just as I have planned so it will stand, …"
So will My word be which goes forth from My mouth; it will not return to Me empty, without accomplishing what I desire, and without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it.
Statements like "an effective reversal of prophecy" reveals that this Christian (as well as the others cited above) have been distracted by the daily news into forgetting that the all-powerful, sovereign God of the Universe is the one who ultimately controls the world's governments and Israel's future.
Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God.
The all-powerful, sovereign God of the Universe also watches over Israel and loves His people.
Ascribe strength to God; His majesty is over Israel and His strength is in the skies. O God, You are awesome from Your sanctuary. The God of Israel Himself gives strength and power to the people. Blessed be God!
Confidence in God should manifest peace in our lives instead of the frantic turmoil and hysterical anxiety the preceding statements reveal. For example, instead of petitioning God in prayer to save Jerusalem, we are told we can save Jerusalem by signing an e-mail petition sent to a mere mortal. The sovereignty of God has been forgotten and the power of God has been ignored, but that is not all that has been neglected.
The Times of the Gentiles
The second item that I want to discuss is the biblical doctrine called the "Times of the Gentiles." We currently live during The Times of the Gentiles. An understanding of this epoch in God's plan for mankind will restore calm and balance to thoughts when we read the news about Israel.
The Times of the Gentiles consists of that long interval of history that began in the past, in 586 BC, with the Babylonian destruction of Jerusalem, and lasts until the return of Yeshua and the institution of the Messianic Kingdom sometime in the future. The Times of the Gentiles is laid out for us in the writings of the prophet Daniel. In chapter 2, King Nebuchadnezzar has a dream about a great statue of a man. The head is constructed of gold, the breast and arms of silver, the belly and thighs are made of bronze, its legs of iron, and its feet consist of part iron and part clay. A stone is cut out and strikes the statue on the feet. The statue is then demolished and the stone grows into a great mountain that fills the entire earth.
The statue represents four Gentile kingdoms. The dream has a chronological explanation. The chronology begins with Nebuchadnezzar King of Babylon. He is the head of gold. Daniel goes on to say that three other kingdoms will follow Babylon. We know from history that those kingdoms were the Medo-Persian Empire, the Hellenistic (Greek) Empire, and the Empire of Imperialism (Roman Empire). A better title for the final kingdom is Imperialism, due to the fact that the Romans began a new type of government to rule this kingdom that made it different from the preceding three. More details regarding these kingdoms and the Times of the Gentiles are brought out in Daniel 7-12.
Finally, the stone that crushes the statue is a symbol of the world wide Messianic Kingdom instituted byYeshua at His Second Coming. From this chapter we can determine the length of the Times of the Gentiles. The age extends from approximately 586 BC until the institution of the Messianic Kingdom.
Please observe that many other empires, kingdoms, or countries are not noted. There is no mention of the British Empire, the Japanese Empire, the Chinese Empire, the United States, or Islam. None of these kingdoms or countries is important enough in God's plan to warrant mention. They play their role, to be sure, but only the four most important kingdoms in relation to the nation Israel are mentioned here.
All this means that we live in the midst of the Times of the Gentiles. For a detailed development see the commentary Footsteps of the Messiah, by Dr. Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum. This book is available throughHaDavar Messianic Ministries and Ariel Ministries.
If this is the epoch in which we live, what is the major characteristic of this era? Yeshua describes the Times of the Gentiles with these words in Luke 21:24:
...They will fall by the edge of the sword, and will be led captive into all the nations; andJerusalem will be trampled underfoot by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled (emphasis mine).
The most distinctive characteristic of the Times of the Gentiles is the fact that Jerusalem will be "trampled underfoot by the Gentiles" until the interval of time has run its course.
Jerusalem was first trampled underfoot by Babylon in 586 BC with the destruction of the city and the Temple. The city and Temple rose from the ashes 70 years later when the Jewish people returned from exile under Medo-Persian rule. The Medo-Persians then fell to the armies of Alexander the Great of Greece. The Hellenistic (Greek) Empire continued to keep Israel under its thumb to the point of desecrating the Temple in 168 BC. Israel experienced 100 years of relative independence when the Maccabees rose up and threw off the Greek yoke. This short period of Jewish sovereignty over Jerusalem is also predicted by Daniel in chapter 11:32-35. However, in 63 BC the Roman general Pompey marched into Jerusalem and once again the city was trampled underfoot. The Roman crushing reached its pinnacle in 70 AD when Jerusalem and the Temple were destroyed. The next blow came when the Romans shattered the Second Jewish Revolt in 135 AD and dispersed the Jews all over the world.
From 135 AD until 1948 AD, the Land languished, stripped of its rightful inhabitants. In 1948 the State of Israel was born and Jewish sovereignty was realized over segments of the promised land and part of Jerusalem. After the 1967 Six Day War, Jerusalem was reunited under Jewish control. Today another era of Jewish sovereignty over Jerusalem is being experienced. However, just like during the Maccabean period, this time of Jewish sovereignty will be temporary. How long it will last we do not know. East Jerusalem might be handed over to the Palestinians by the end of 2008, and it might not. There could even be another season or two of lost and restored sovereignty. However, we know that Jewish sovereignty will be lost for the final time during the Tribulation Period.
The Tribulation Period will begin when Israel signs a seven year covenant with the Antichrist. In the middle of the Tribulation Period, at the three and one-half year point, the Antichrist will break his covenant with Israel and begin the Tribulation Holocaust. Jerusalem will be trampled underfoot for the last time (Zech. 14:2). The Tribulation will come to conclusion with the national regeneration of Israel, the pleading of Israel for our Messiah and His return to defend Israel, defeat His enemies, and institute the Messianic Kingdom. At that time, the Times of the Gentiles will terminate. Jerusalem will no longer be trodden down, but lifted up as the capitol of the planet (Zech. 14:16-21).
What does all this mean to us today? Since we are living in the era that is characterized by Gentiles treading down Jerusalem, it should not surprise us if Jewish sovereignty over Jerusalem is temporary, tenuous, and disputed at best. Sovereignty over the city may be divided between the Jewish people and the Palestinians. If that occurs we should not be alarmed. Gentile sovereignty over Jerusalem, whether total or partial, is fully in keeping with the characteristics of this age-The Times of the Gentiles.
A clear understanding of the age in which we live and the statements of Yeshua should bring peace to our hearts rather than anxiety. Why? Because we see the events of the world falling into place exactly as the Bible predicts. God is in charge! This peace should be the exact opposite of the anxiety that fear mongering and hype generate.
Lest I be misunderstood regarding the future of Jerusalem, let me share my personal desires. My personal desire is that Jerusalem should not be divided, with East Jerusalem becoming the capital of a Palestinian state. Nor do I desire a Palestinian state be set up in the Promised Land. However, God is not asking my opinion on the matter. He did not come to me or to anyone else asking what should be done. Fervent Christian Zionists seem to think they have God's will all nailed down. However, they seem to forget that we have to submit to His will. Do not forget that Yeshua is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Remember, even if Jerusalem is divided again, and a Palestinian State is set up, it will be temporary. A Palestinian state will not exist in the Messianic Kingdom.
In summary, when we look at the events of the Middle East today we should keep a number of Biblical principles in mind. Number one: remember who is in charge. It is not the President of the United States, or the Prime Minister of Israel, or the Prime Minister of the Palestinian Authority. The King of Kings sets up those earthly leaders for His purposes and brings them down when He sovereignly chooses to do so.
It is He who changes the times and the epochs; He removes kings and establishes kings
Number two: remember that we are living during the Times of the Gentiles. The characteristic feature of the Times of the Gentiles is Gentile domination over Jerusalem. We may not like this fact but we need to submit to God's will in this matter.
Number three: remember our commission. We are commissioned in Matthew 28:19-20 to:
Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.
We are not called to run the Israeli government. Some Christians are called to be part of running our own government. Likewise, it is fine for Christians to be involved in political action and the political process, as long as they do not place their trust and hope in the political arena. As a friend of mine said, "Blessing Israel is the best foreign policy." I agree. But that does not mean that, by the will of God, a Palestinian State will not be set up or that Jerusalem will not be divided. My point is that, as Bible believers, we should have a biblical view of current events. Unfortunately, that biblical view has been truncated by many Believers. In other words, something has been forgotten. This, of course is the whole point of this section.
By the way, do not forget that the United States has blessed, and is blessing, Israel today. The United States is Israel's best friend and perhaps her only friend today. Not only that, the United States has been our most favorable refuge in history. The Jewish community has thrived here more than in any other place in the world during our current 2,000 year old world wide Diaspora. We love the United States and are very grateful for this wonderful country. The United States is blessing the Jewish people. Do not let that be forgotten either.
Again, please make no mistake, I support Israel; but I must support Israel in a manner that is consistent with the complete biblical revelation. I must support her in a manner that is not governed by my emotions or my desires, but by the Bible. I want to be as thorough as possible. I do not want Yeshua to say to me, "By the way, Bob, you forgot something."
Consequences of Disobedience
Now we come to the fourth and final item I want us all to remember as we biblically assess the latest news. We have to remember the consequences of disobedience laid out for Israel in the Abrahamic Covenant and the Mosaic Covenant. Both the eternal and unconditional Abrahamic Covenant and the temporary and conditional Mosaic Covenant contain blessings for obedience and curses for disobedience. Essentially, both covenants state that if the Jewish people are obedient, then God will bless us and increase our occupation of the Promised Land until we possess all that was promised to Abraham. For example, in Deuteronomy 19:8-9, if the Jewish people are obedient, then our territory will expand to the point that we will need to add three more cities of refuge to the country.
If the Lord your God enlarges your territory, just as He has sworn to your fathers, and gives you all the land which He promised to give your fathers-if you carefully observe all this commandment which I command you today, to love the Lord your God, and to walk in His ways always-then you shall add three more cities for yourself, besides these three.
However, if we disobey, then God's discipline will grow harsher and harsher. Our enemies will gradually take away parts of our land and we will not enjoy the blessing of occupying those areas. If we continue to persist in disobedience we will eventually be exiled from our Land. Therefore, we will not experience the blessing of living in the Land at all. For example:
But you will perish among the nations, and your enemies' land will consume you.
To sum it all up, if we are obedient, our occupation of the Land will expand to the full promised boundaries. Conversely, if we persist in disobedience, our boundaries will contract, even to the point of squeezing us off of our own land.
In fact, the Bible teaches that we will be squeezed off our land three times. The first experience will be short term and local in nature. The second will be more severe and world wide in nature. The third will also be world wide in nature, and the most severe discipline of the three. The first experience of exile occurred under the Babylonians in 586 BC. Then the Times of the Gentiles commenced, and we were banished to Babylon for 70 years. The second experience of exile, we know from history, lasted close to 1,800 years. In 135 AD, God used the Romans to crush the Second Jewish Revolt and hurl us into the Diaspora. This experience came to its conclusion in 1948 with the establishment of the modern State of Israel. The third experience of exile, also world wide in nature, will occur in the middle of the Tribulation period when the Antichrist breaks his seven year covenant with Israel and begins his Tribulation holocaust (Dan. 9:27, Matt. 24:15 22, Rev. 12:1-6). The most important point I wish to make is to note that there will be two world wide dispersions of the Jewish people.
Two World Wide Regatherings
Each world wide dispersion must be followed by a world wide regathering. Consequently, the Bible reveals that there will be two world wide regatherings of the Jewish people. The first world wide regathering will be in unbelief, in preparation for judgment-the judgment of the Great Tribulation, the Time of Jacob's Trouble (Jer. 30:7). The second world wide regathering will be in faith and in preparation for blessing-the blessing of the Messianic Kingdom.
The prophet Ezekiel deals with the regathering in unbelief in Ezekiel 20:33-38, Ezekiel 22:17-22, and Ezekiel 36:22-24. Let us take a look at Ezekiel 20:33-35.
"As I live," declares the Lord God, "surely with a mighty hand and with an outstretched arm and with wrath poured out, I shall be king over you. I will bring you out from the peoples and gather you from the lands where you are scattered, with a mighty hand and with an outstretched arm and with wrath poured out; and I will bring you into the wilderness of the peoples, and there I will enter into judgment with you face to face."
The Second World Wide Regathering is handled by Isaiah in chapter 11, verses 11-12.
Then it will happen on that day that the Lord will again recover the second time with His hand the remnant of His people, who will remain, from Assyria, Egypt, Pathros, Cush, Elam, Shinar, Hamath, and from the islands of the sea. And He will lift up a standard for the nations and assemble the banished ones of Israel, and will gather the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth.
Application for Today
What does all this mean for us today as we attempt to biblically evaluate the evening news? First of all, we can expect expansions and/or contractions in the boundaries occupied by the Jewish people. In fact, expansions and contractions of our territory have been part and parcel of our history. The following chart shows this very plainly.
As the chart reveals, our possession of the Land has expanded and contracted due to our obedience or disobedience throughout our history. Our greatest extent of possession came during the height of Solomon's glory at the end of the United Kingdom. Our two most severe contractions are evident during the Babylonian Exile and the First World Wide Dispersion caused by Rome.
Likewise, as shown on the chart entitled "Modern Possession of the Land," our territory has continued to expand and contract ever since we returned to the Land from the First World Wide Dispersion. Ironically, Israel gained and held territory throughout a number of wars, only to begin to lose territory once the modern "Peace Process" began in 1991.
Where is all this headed? It is impossible for us to tell at this point. We are currently located in the row labeled "Near Future." The row is marked by question marks because there is no way for us to discern God's plans for the near future. There may be more expansions and contractions in Israel's future. We have lost the Gaza Strip. We may lose the Golan Heights and the West Bank, and we may not. Only time will tell. The Russian Invasion of Israel is on the horizon (Ezek. 38-39). That war will have a definite effect on the chart.
However, we do know that the Second World Wide Dispersion looms darkly on the horizon. Following the Second World Wide Dispersion, we encounter the blessings of the Messianic Kingdom when all Israel will be regathered in faith. Then we will occupy 100% of the land promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
Today we are back in The Land. However, we are back in The Land in unbelief, and in preparation for judgment. This is the factor many fervent Christian Zionists overlook. They appear to think that the institution of the Messianic Kingdom is just around the corner and that current Jewish occupation of the Promised Land is permanent. Neither of these positions is accurate. The time is not right for the institution of the Messianic Kingdom. It is the Tribulation period that is looming before us. We will be cast out of the Land one more time during the Tribulation.
In light of all this, what should lovers of Zion be doing? The answer is very simple. We should be snatching Jewish souls from the jaws of the Tribulation and from the mouth of Hell by obeying the Great Commission and Romans 1:16.
Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.
For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.
At HaDavar we are doing our best to obey the marching orders we have been given for this age.
I would like to add a short sequel to all the remarks I have made about the Middle East Conflict. I would like us to remember the conditions we should expect to witness as the Times of the Gentiles draws to a conclusion.
Jesus told us what to expect in Matthew 24:4-7.
And Jesus answered and said to them, "See to it that no one misleads you. For many will come in My name, saying, 'I am the Christ,' and will mislead many. You will be hearing of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not frightened, for those things must take place, but that is not yet the end. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and in various places there will be famines and earthquakes."
The general characteristics of the time in which we live are found in verses 4-6, deception, false messiahs and local wars. Then, in verse 7 Yeshua gives us a glance at additional, special conditions we should expect to appear at the end of the age. They include 1) world wars 2) famines and 3) earthquakes.
The idiom "nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom" is very important to understand from a Jewish point of view. Dr. Arnold Fruchtenbaum concludes his detailed explanation of the expression in his work The Footsteps of the Messiah (page 94) with these words:
In Jesus' day, the expression of nation against nation, kingdom against kingdom was a Jewish idiom of a world war preceding the coming of the Messiah.
Consequently, the outbreak of World War I signaled that the end of the age had begun. Therefore, we should not be surprised when we find ourselves in the middle of a world characterized by deception, false messiahs, local wars, world wars, famines, earthquakes, and natural catastrophes in general.
In practical terms, what should this mean for us today who are living at the end of the age? The first thing is that we should not fear all we experience and see on the daily news. We live in a dangerous and volatile time. We should expect perilous and unpredictable events to be commonplace. This knowledge should encourage us to praise God for the fact that we know what is going on and to thank Him for telling us so very clearly. Many people have no idea what is happening and are terrified of the future. Yeshua very clearly exhorted us in Matthew 24:6, "See that you are not frightened, for those things must take place."
How should we then live? We should live with a relaxed grip on the things of this world. Floods can sweep away and drown our possessions like the Mississippi River Valley is experiencing as I write. Earthquakes can knock down all that we have sacrificed for as central China is experiencing at this moment. Fires like those here in California can burn up our possessions. Fraud, greed, embezzlement, and swindling can steal our money and possessions as those caught in the sub-prime mortgage scandal are feeling. Disease can destroy our lives and the lives of our loved ones, and immorality can pervert and pollute our lives. We must live with a relaxed grip on the things of this world.
We also need to be serving God as a holy people. Let me allow just one (of many) section of scripture to speak for itself.
... in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.
Something has been forgotten! The first thing that has been forgotten is the sovereignty, power, and character of God. In addition to remembering that essential, let us never forget that we live during the times of the Gentiles, our commission for this age, the consequences for Israel's disobedience, that the Jewish people will experience three exiles and two world wide regatherings, and finally that we live in a dangerous and volatile period of time. Keeping the memory of these principles in the forefront of our minds will enable us to live fruitful lives of dignity, wisdom, and courage during the times of the Gentiles.