Hope for Israel

The calling of the Jews is one of the great turning points in history. Looking at the history of the Jewish people, it would be easy to believe that God is finished with the people that he once called his own. However, although the Bible teaches that the Jews are experiencing desolation for their rejection of the Messiah, it also teaches that they will be restored to a place of blessing. This will happen when they acknowledge that Jesus is Lord and Saviour, the Messiah whom they have been seeking.

By rejecting Christ, the nation of Israel moved outside its place of blessing and opened itself up to evil. But this is only for a time. When their time of punishment is complete, all Israel will be saved (Rom 11:26). The Jews will then come to faith in Christ. Because God chose Israel, he will not reject them completely, even though they have rejected him. They will experience a time of desolation, but when that comes to an end, they will be restored to a place of blessing.

God's Promises

God cannot forget the promises he has made in his covenant. The covenant actually warned that a time would come when the nation would turn away from the Lord and be destroyed. The scattering and exile of Israel is actually a fulfilment of the covenant; it has not been broken. The same covenant also promises that a time will come when they will be restored to the land (Deut 4:25-30). The restoration of Israel is part of God's plan.

After warning that the house of Israel will be left desolate, Jesus said,

For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, "Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord" (Matt 23:39).

The Jewish nation will experience terrible tribulation, but there is still hope for the future. The time will come when the Jews will be glad to see those who come to preach the gospel. At that time, they will see that Jesus really is the Messiah, and will acknowledge him as their Lord and Saviour. Jesus was looking forward to the time when the Jews would be converted and restored to their place of blessing as part of the New Israel. Even as he warned of desolation and tribulation, Jesus gave a message of hope. Israel will be restored as a nation, not the chosen nation, when it receives the gospel.

God's promise to Israel is most clearly stated in Romans 11. Paul says that although the Jews have stumbled, they did not fall beyond recovery (Rom 11:11). He promises that the time will come when Israel is reconciled to the Lord and grafted back into his olive tree. So the Lord promises that all Israel will be saved (Rom 11:26).

As far as the gospel is concerned they are enemies on your account, but as far as election is concerned they are loved on account of the patriarchs, for God's gifts and his call are irrevocable (Rom 11:28,20).

Although the Jews have become God's enemies by rejecting the gospel, their election is still sure for the sake of the patriarchs. Once God calls a people he does not change that calling (Is 54:10, Jer 31:37).

The Covenant

The following diagram shows God's covenant with Israel. To the left of the green line is the curse of the covenant. On the right of the green line is the blessing promised in the covenant. The blue line represents the history of Israel. During Old Testament history (above the yellow line) Israel drifted in and out of the place of blessing. During the times of Moses, David and Josiah, Israel moved into the place of blessing. At other times, they moved over the green line into disobedience and the curse. God has always dealt with Israel as a nation. It was brought out of Egypt and established in the promised land as a whole nation. In the ups and downs of their later history, God treated them as one, so the whole nation shared in both blessings and curse.

The ministry of Jesus is represented by the yellow line. Israel, as a nation, rejected Jesus and passed to the left under the curse of the law (Matthew 23:37-39). Jesus filled the terms of the covenant on behalf of all those who believe in him. So the church (red arrow) receives the blessing of the covenant. (The new covenant is not really new, but is a fulfilment of the old covenant through the death and resurrection of Jesus.) As the church grows, the red arrow will become much larger.

At the present time, the nation of Israel is still on the left of the green line, under the curse. Although the nation of Israel has been restored, its restoration as achieved "by the sword" (Ezekiel 38:8). It was not by the direct hand of God, but by military and political action. The restored nation is still being trampled by the Gentiles. However, God has not forgotten Israel. The time will come when Israel will be restored to blessing.

When the Fulfilment of Israel comes, the vast majority of Israel will come to believe in Jesus. Through believing in Jesus, they will move back over the green line into the place of blessing. This is what Paul meant by being grafted back into the olive tree (Romans 11:22-24). The church and Israel will become one, in Jesus.

Blessing to the World

God has always dealt with Israel as a nation, so salvation will come to it as a nation. God will deal with the entire nation at the same time. Each individual will have to come to faith of course, but God will work things so that this happens to the whole nation at the same time. The leaders of that nation will be touched by the Spirit. Just as the religious and political leaders rejected Jesus (representing their people), the religious and political leaders of Israel will believe and serve Jesus.

When this happens, Israel will not be special among the nations. God no longer has a special nation. Israel will only receive its blessing as part of the church. This happens as the Jewish people come to believe in Jesus, and are born again into the kingdom of God. Through faith in Jesus, they will become part of the New Israel. Natural Israel is restored to a place of blessing by becoming part of the New Israel. The distinction between Jew and Gentile will then be gone forever.

This explains why the conversion of the Jews brings blessing to the world. Without the Jews, the church cannot be complete. Without natural Israel, New Israel is lacking an important part. When natural Israel is joined with new Israel, there will be a true fulfilment of God's plans. This complete New Israel will bring great blessing to the world.

Once the fullness of the Jew's come in, God's team will be complete. Satan will have lost his power to punish Israel, so a time of great victory for the church will follow. Daniel 7:18,22,27 describes a period when the saints possess the Kingdom. The sovereignty, power and greatness of all the kingdoms under the whole heaven will be handed over to the saints, the people of the Most High. This is a picture of people of God (including Israel) being given authority to establish his Kingdom. The Kingdom advances rapidly by the proclamation of the word of God in the power of the Holy Spirit. (Look here for a full description of the Kingdom of God.)

The Role of the Spirit

The Jews will be converted by an outpouring of the Spirit and the preaching of a prophetic church. This is the only way to be saved. Zechariah promised that God would pour out his Spirit on Israel.

And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and supplication. They will look on me, the one they have pierced, and they will mourn for him as one mourns for an only child, and grieve bitterly for him as one grieves for a firstborn son (Zech 12:10).

This is the moment of Israel's conversion. The Spirit of the Lord will move in the hearts of all Israel. It will be a Spirit of supplication to cause them to call on the name of the Lord. The Spirit of grace will give them faith to receive the salvation that comes through grace.

At the same time, the Holy Spirit will open the eyes of their hearts, so that they can see Jesus. They will stop looking for a warlike Messiah and realise that Jesus who died on the cross and "who was pierced" by a spear, really is their Messiah. This realisation will produce a great flood of repentance. When they realise that Jesus reigns at the right hand of God and that they have been saved by the prayers in his name, the whole land will be filled with tears. As they come to realise what Jesus has done, they will all weep with sadness and joy (Zech 12:11-14). There will also be repentance for the treatment of Israel.

Some Christians believe that the Jews will be converted when Jesus returns to Jerusalem. This is not true. Seeing is not believing. The Jews saw Jesus for three years when he exercised his ministry on earth, but they did not believe. The reason is that their hearts were hard. Nothing has changed. Israel's problem is still hardness of heart (Rom 10). They are spiritually blind to the truth. The only solution to spiritual blindness is the work of the Holy Spirit.

Preachers and Prophets

The church will co-operate with the Holy Spirit in his work in Israel. The Holy Spirit can change hearts, but he needs Christians to preach the gospel to Israel. This is why God has given so many Christians such a great love for Israel and her people. He is calling and preparing people to take the gospel to Israel. This happens during a time of terrible tumult in Israel, so these people will need to be dedicated and tough. As a gateway for the preaching of the gospel in Israel, Christians should start blessing the people of Israel now. One way of doing this is to share our material blessings. Paul said,

For if the Gentiles have shared in the Jews' spiritual blessings, they owe it to the Jews to share with them their material blessings (Rom 15:27).

Christians must demonstrate their love for the people of Israel to earn the right to speak to them. (We do not bless them if we supply them with military weapons, as this would encourage them to trust in the god of war).

Those who preach the gospel will be accompanied by prophets, who will pronounce God's warnings to evil nations and announce his plan as it is fulfilled. The prophets and intercessors may need to declare miracles of deliverance or rescue. When these prayers are answered and the prophecies are fulfilled, the people of Israel will bless the preachers and prophets, fulfilling Jesus promise.

You will not see me again until you say,
"Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord."

The prophets will speak to the Jewish people and prepare them to receive salvation in the name of Jesus. They will declare that Israel's desolation is complete. Part of their message is revealed in the scriptures.

Comfort, comfort my people,
says your God.
Speak tenderly to Jerusalem,
and proclaim to her
that her hard service has been completed,
that her sin has been paid for,
that she has received from the LORD's hand
double for all her sins (Is 40:1-2).

Timing will be critical. This message must not be declared until God decides that the time is right. A message of peace spoken too soon will result in disappointment.

Christians must be careful what they say to Israel. Some are saying that the time of the suffering has come to an end and that God will keep Israel safe. They are motivated by compassion, but are giving a false hope. Hope that is based on wishful thinking and not God's word is bound to fail. When Israel suffersa military defeat in the future, as the Bible surely teaches, the Jewish people will be disillusioned with the words of these Christians. This will make them less likely to listen when Christians share the gospel. Speaking words of comfort and blessing that God has not spoken, weakens the power of God's word, even if it is motivated by love. Christians must bless Israel, but they must not speak unless the Lord has spoken. To do so is to lose our prophetic voice.

The Return in Faith

One of the major themes of the Old Testament prophecies is the return of the Jews to Israel. At the time of the destruction of Jerusalem, they were scattered among the nations. There has been a partial return during the present century, but it has not been a return in faith that the prophecies describe. The real return takes place after the Jews who are in Jerusalem now are converted to faith in Jesus. Their are numerous passages that speak of the time (Isaiah 4:2-6; 25:6-11; 33:13-24; 35:1-10; 61:4-9; 62:10-12; 66:20; Jeremiah 12:15; 33:10-13; Ezekiel 20:41; 37:12,21; Joel 3:18-20; Amos 9:9-15; Obadiah 19,20; Micah 2:12; Zechariah 10:6-12).

The land of Israel will be restored. The conversion of the Israeli people will lift the curse from their land, which has caused it to be so desolate. The Lord will bless the land and restore it to its former prosperity.

He will also send you rain for the seed you sow in the ground, and the food that comes from the land will be rich and plentiful. In that day your cattle will graze in broad meadows. The oxen and donkeys that work the soil will eat fodder and mash, spread out with fork and shovel (Is 30:23-24).

The Lord will send abundant rain. Food will be so plentiful that even the animals will have plenty to eat. Isaiah also says that when the Lord pours out the Holy Spirit on the people of Israel, even the deserts will become fertile and the fertile ground will become luxuriant (Is 32:15).

This will be followed by a great migration of people back to the land of Israel. It is described in Ezekiel 36:10,11.

I will multiply the number of people upon you, even the whole house of Israel. The towns will be inhabited and the ruins rebuilt. I will increase the number of men and animals upon you, and they will be fruitful and become numerous. I will settle people on you as in the past and will make you prosper more than before. Then you will know that I am the LORD.

Jeremiah prophesied that the Lord would gather back all the remnant of the flock from all the countries where they have been scattered (23:3). Isaiah tells how the people of the nations among which they have been scattered will bring the people back to their land (Is 49:22-26; 60:9). He says that God will bring his people back to live in their land (Is 11:11-16). The prophet Micah says that when the people who live in Israel come to a new birth, the rest of their brothers will return to join with hem. The land will be desolate until the time when this takes place (Mic 3:4). This migration back to Israel will bring great glory to the Lord.

Those who return to Israel at this time will have come to faith in Jesus. The Lord said through Ezekiel,

For I will take you out of the nations; I will gather you from all the countries and bring you back into your own land. I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws (Ezek 36:24-27).

Those who return to Israel will come to faith, either before they return, or while they are returning. Their sins will be washed away and they will be born again of the Spirit. They will then follow Jesus with all their hearts (Is 29:17-24).

We should not assume that all descendants of Israel will return to the land of Israel, as this may not be possible. For some, their return will be a return to faith. Through faith in Jesus Christ, they will become members of the church, which is the New Israel. Their return will be to the New Israel.

After this great migration takes place, the land will be restored to even greater blessing. Ezekiel said that

The desolate land will be cultivated instead of lying desolate in the sight of all who pass through it. They will say, "This land that was laid waste has become like the garden of Eden; the cities that were lying in ruins, desolate and destroyed, are now fortified and inhabited (Ezek 36:34.35).

Such blessing will come on the land that it will become like the Garden of Eden. The land of Israel will be full of blessing and the people will know the Lord.

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