"Behold, I will make Jerusalem a cup of trembling unto all the people round about, when they shall be in the siege both against Judah and against Jerusalem"
And in that day will I make Jerusalem a burdensome stone for all people: all that burden themselves with it shall be cut in pieces, though all the people of the earth be gathered together against it. " ----Zechariah 12: v 2,3
Though the Bible has spoken prophetically of all the major empires of the world, we see that it has most specifically focused on the nation of Israel. In fact, the entire history of Israel is an astonishing testimony to the supernatural origin of the Bible. When we examine the prophetic messages centering around it and see them fulfilled in its history, the Bible’s track record is validated and the providence of God is affirmed over and over.
A Prophetic Road Map: The Nation Israel
As the nation of Israel sat perched on the banks of the Jordan River, before its people ever set one foot upon the Promised Land, the Lord gave an outline of its entire history through His mouthpiece Moses. The book of Deuteronomy is like a road map for where history was headed before the trip got underway. It covers the whole history of Israel more than three thousand years in advance. While different segments of the historical journey have been updated with more details being added along the way, not a single variation from the earlier explicit course has ever been necessary.
In the process of Moses’ exhortation to the nation of Israel, he provides an outline of what will happen to this elect nation once it crosses over the Jordan River and settles the Promised Land (Deut 4:25-31). A summary of these events include the following:
Israel and its descendants will remain long in the land.
Israel will act corruptly and slip into idolatry.
Israel will be kicked out of the land.
The Lord will scatter the Israelites among the nations.
The Israelites will be given over to idolatry during their wanderings.
While dispersed among the nations, the Israelites will seek and find the Lord when they search for Him with all their heart.
There will come a time of tribulation, said to occur in the latter days, during which time Israel will turn to the Lord.
Since the first five events have happened to Israel—and that is beyond competent dispute—then it is reasonable to expect that the final events will also occur to the same people in the same way as the earlier events. An expanded narrative of Israel’s future history is provided in Deuteronomy 28-32:
The conditions of blessing will follow obedience.
1 Israel will choose apostasy.
2 God will bring affliction upon Israel, while still in the land, because of its apostasy.
3 Israel will be taken into captivity.
4 The enemies of Israel will possess its land for a time.
5 The land itself will remain desolate.
6 Israel will be scattered among the nations.
7 The time will come when Israel will be “few in number.”
8 Though punished, Israel will not be destroyed if it repents.
9 Israel will repent in tribulation.
10 Israel will be gathered from the nations and brought back to its divinely given land.
11 A History of Preservation
This is, indeed, history written in advance. Israel is the lens through which the Bible presents both the past and the future of the world itself. It is the means through which God’s program for the redemption of mankind will be performed.
One of the greatest miracles in the Bible is before our very eyes: the continuing existence of the Jewish people. Again and again, throughout the many centuries and empires, attempts to wipe out the Jews have always failed. The Egyptians, the Assyrians, the Babylonians, the Persians, the Greeks, the Romans, the Crusaders, and the Nazis of Germany—all failed in their aggressive attempts at genocide.
The Israelites originally went down to Egypt as a family, were enslaved, and after four centuries, emerged as a nation. God referred to this emergent nation as His “firstborn” (Ex 4:22). And it was His plan to use them to bring forth the One who would be the Redeemer of mankind.
Their saga begins with God’s covenant and land grant to Abraham. Their prophets warned that the entire world would ultimately go to war over this land grant and that is exactly what is being challenged by the world today. But there is much more at stake than simply Israel’s right to the land. God’s plan for the redemption of mankind is ultimately at issue.
Israel’s vicissitudes—both ups and downs—were continually predicted by the prophets throughout their entire history. After the civil war following Solomon’s death, the histories of both the Northern Kingdom and Southern Kingdom became astonishingly graphic. The dismal decline of the Northern Kingdom resulted in their being obliterated from existence.
The commitment of God to David’s dynasty is all that prevented the Southern Kingdom from a similar fate. Although the kingdom suffered as a captive of the Babylonian Empire (prophesied in Deuteronomy 28:49-57), through the prophet Jeremiah it was promised deliverance after seventy years and a return to the land. And those seventy years were fulfilled to the very day!
Though Israel’s Babylonian captivity was its first removal from the land, God restored and continued to woo the nation to faithfulness. Christ’s arrival, ministry, and ultimate rejection are well-known historically, but few people realize how much this led to the Jews’ later dispersions. Jesus Himself gave us His perspective when He said:
O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not! Behold, your house is left unto you desolate. For I say unto you, Ye shall not see me henceforth, till ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord. - Matthew 23:34-39
The tragedy of all history, the rejection of Christ, led to the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in A.D. 70. In fact, Luke 21:24 foretold that the Jewish people “shall be led away captive into all nations,” a statement that reflects the very language of Deuteronomy 28:64: “Then the Lord will scatter you among all peoples, from one end of the earth to the other” (NKJV). The Diaspora simply cannot be understood without the background of Deuteronomy.
The regathering of the Jews into their own homeland—the second time—is the key to understanding the times in which we live.
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. - Isaiah 11:11,12
Their first regathering was from their captivity in Babylon. The second time, prefigured in Ezekiel 37’s colorful “dry bones” prophecy, is one of the dramatic events of the twentieth century.
Many Bible scholars have felt that the Diaspora was a permanent judgment upon Israel for having rejected their Messiah. They felt that a literal return of the Jews to the land of Israel was fanciful and misinformed. It was a debate at the time between the “old-fashioned fundamentalists” and the modern “liberals.”
During World War II, many pundits were viewing the rise of Hitler as the “Antichrist.” However, there were a few radio commentators, M.R. Dehahn, H.A. Ironside, and others who pointed out that he couldn’t be: because the nation Israel was not in its land.
A Litmus Test for Scholars
It was a dramatic day on May 14, 1948, when David Ben-Gurion, using Ezekiel as his authority, announced on international radio the name of “Israel” as the new state and homeland for the Jews. It was a great day for the Jews. And it was a most significant day for Biblical scholarship as well. The debate about the literalness of God’s promises should have ended.
Immediately set upon by their Muslim enemies, Israel shocked the world by the miraculous victories in their War of Independence. Vastly outnumbered, they nevertheless established their fledgling state in the midst of impossible conditions. In 1967, they again startled an astonished world with their miraculous victories in the Six-Day War. And again, in 1973, in the Yom Kippur War. The saga of the Israeli Defense Forces has become a modern legend. And yet, the worse is still to come. The time of Jacob's trouble.