Those who love the people of Israel want to understand how God will bless his chosen nation. However, before we can understand Israel's return blessing, we must first understand how they fell from blessing, and to understand their desolation, we must understand why they were chosen.

Israel Guilty

When the Son of God came to his own people, they refused to receive him (John 1:11). The people of Jerusalem initially accepted Jesus, but when he refused to be their king, they rejected him. Their leaders deliberately plotted and planned his death. They chose to see him dead, rather than lose their place of authority and privilege. They organised his crucifixion, a cruel and painful death. By this final act of rebellion, the Jewish nation lost the blessing and protection of God. When the people were pleading with Pilate to crucify Jesus, he refused to take responsibility.

"I am innocent of this man's blood," he said, "it is your responsibility." All the people answered, "Let his blood be on us and on our children" (Matt 27:24,25).

The Jewish people took upon themselves responsibility for the blood of Jesus. As a result, they placed themselves and their children under a curse.

The Bible also teaches that the Jews rather than the Romans are guilty. As Jesus was being crucified, he prayed for the Romans,

Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing (Luke 23:24).

In this prayer, Jesus was praying for the Roman soldiers. They were forgiven because they did not know what they were doing. For them, the crucifixion was part of a normal day's work. Jesus was just another criminal. The Jews had seen Jesus preach and seen his miracles, so they knew what they were doing. His prayer did not apply to them.

Even Pilate did not really know what was going on. Jesus said to him,

You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above. Therefore the one who handed you over is guilty of a greater sin (John 19:11).

Jesus declared that he did not share the same guilt as the Jews. Pilate acknowledged Jesus innocence and he tried to honour him by writing a notice on the cross saying, "The King of the Jews" (John 19:19-22). Pilate sinned by putting an innocent man to death. The sin of the Jews was far worse. They knowingly put the Son of God to death, even though they had been warned in the Old Testament that this would happen (Ps 118:22; Matt 21.42).

According to the New Testament, God holds the Jews responsible for the death of his Son. On the day of Pentecost, Peter reminded the Jews that they had put Jesus to death (Acts 2:23). When preaching in the temple, he said the same thing:

You handed him over to be killed and you disowned him before Pilate, though he had decided to let him go. You disowned the Holy and Righteous One... You killed the author of life (Acts 3:13,15).

Speaking under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Peter made it clear that the Jews were responsible for the death of Jesus. This point is made, over and over again, as part of the apostle's preaching.

Although the Jews are a chosen race, we must not play down the immensity of this sin. Forgiveness can only come through repentance. The restoration of the Jews can only occur, if they acknowledge their history. The actions and responsibilities of their nation must be presented to the Jewish people. If we cover up their sin, we hold back their salvation. The apostles constantly reminded the Jews that they had killed the Messiah (Acts 2:23; 3:14,15; 4:10: 7:52; 10:39,40; 13:28). While this angered some, it brought others to repentance.

Most of the Jews also rejected the Holy Spirit, when he was poured out on the day of Pentecost. Rejecting the Holy Spirit is worse than rejecting Jesus, because he cannot argue back.

Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.

Rejecting the Holy Spirit left the nation desolate, and without protection from evil.

Desolate House

Jesus last words to Israel were terrible.

Look, your house is left to you desolate (Matt 23:38).

These are haunting words. Israel had always rejected the prophets and now after hundreds of year that rebellion is coming to an end in the rejection of Jesus (Mat 23:35).

When God's chosen people rejected God's only son, they withdrew from the Father's blessing. When Jesus is rejected, the Holy Spirit goes too. When the Holy Spirit is spurned, that nation's house truly is desolate.

The problem is that a house does not stay desolate. When the devil finds an empty house, he gathers up some friends and moves in.

When it arrives, it finds the house unoccupied. Then it goes and takes with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. That is how it will be with this wicked generation (Matt 12:43-46).

A nation left desolate is a terrible thing, but it does not stay that way. Evil spirits come and dwell in the desolate house, and evil always follows evil. When the Holy Spirit moved out, spirits of anger, hatred and rebellion moved in. They stirred up the people of Israel to rebel against Rome, which led to a terrible disaster.

Great Tribulation

The rejection of Jesus opened Israel up to destruction, making its collapse inevitable. In AD 70, the Roman army moved in and totally destroyed the nation. The temple was destroyed and Jerusalem was razed to the ground. The siege and destruction of Jerusalem was a terrible experience. It was made worse by taking place at Passover time, when thousands of Jews were visiting Jerusalem. Over a million Jews died and a further two million were sold as slaves. The worst horror took place in the city prior to its final collapse, when fear and hunger drove the people to terrible violence.

Those who tried to escape were tortured by the Romans and then crucified. When the Romans finally broke through, they inflicted a terrible destruction. They smashed the walls and destroyed the buildings. Even the temple was smashed and burned. The city was then ploughed and strewn with salt. This was a terrible event for the Jews.

Jesus had warned that the destruction of Jerusalem would be the greatest tribulation in human history.

For there will be great distress, unequalled from the beginning of the world until now-and never to be equalled again (Matt 24:21).

Nothing as bad has happened before, and nothing as bad will occur again. The Jewish historian Josephus described these events and it was truly a terrible time.

Many Christians are prophesying a Great Tribulation in the future. This is not correct. The tribulation that Jesus prophesied occurred in AD 70. It was the worst tribulation that will ever take place on the earth. However, Jesus also said that tribulations are normal for Christians.

In the world you have tribulation, but take courage, I have overcome the world (John 16:33).

We must go through many tribulations to enter the kingdom of God (Acts 14:22).

Tribulation will be the normal experience of Christians in every age. If we are not experiencing tribulation, we should ask if we are following Jesus fully. There will be tribulation in the future, but the "Great Tribulation" is in the past.

Christians Escape

Most Christians escaped the destruction of Jerusalem because Jesus had warned them. The Jews believed that God would keep Jerusalem safe, but Jesus had explained how Christians could escape.

When you see Jerusalem being surrounded by armies, you will know that its desolation is near. Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, let those in the city get out, and let those in the country not enter the city (Luke 21:15-21).

Jesus warning saved the lives of many of his followers. Although a million Jews lost their lives in the siege of Jerusalem, no Christians were killed. They had heeded Jesus warning and fled at the first signs of the siege.

Times of the Gentiles

The destruction of Jerusalem was a vindication of Jesus' ministry. It was also the beginning of a season of troubles for Israel. After warning Christians to escape Jesus said,

For this is a time of punishment in fulfilment of all that has been written. There will be great distress in the land and wrath against this people. They will fall by the sword and will be taken as prisoners to all the nations. Jerusalem will be trampled on by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled (Luke 21:22-24).

By rejecting Jesus, the nation of Israel allowed a spirit of wrath to attack them. They would be killed or scattered among the nations.

Jesus used the expression, Times of the Gentiles to describe this period of time when the Jews have shut themselves out of God' blessing. The season is given this name because God no longer works through Israel, but through the Gentile church. The Times of the Gentiles continue until Israel accepts Jesus as their messiah. Jesus also taught that Jerusalem would be trampled by the Gentiles throughout this time.

Jesus was warning that the Jews would be persecuted by Gentiles. This is what has happened. The Jews have persecuted down through the ages. Their history has been one long tribulation. (This does not mean that Christians have been justified in their persecution of the Jews. The persecutions should have come from the hands of wicked men and not from God's people.)

This tribulation of the Jews was the consequence of their refusal to accept Jesus. Unfortunately, by rejecting Jesus, they also rejected the remedy of the cross and insisted on being treated under the old order. They committed a terrible sin and rejected the forgiveness that is available through the blood of Jesus. Therefore, their desolation will only end when they repent of their rebellion against Jesus. The Jews had more privileges than any other nation, so they will have more troubles than any other nation. Their troubles will only come to an end, when they acknowledge Jesus to be their messiah.

By rejecting Jesus, the Jews also rejected the Holy Spirit. However, we can only be born again, by the power of the Spirit. By rejecting the Holy Spirit, the Jews cut themselves off from the bearer of salvation. Jesus also spoke of the Times of the Gentiles to warn that during their time of desolation, most Jews would be unable to receive the gospel. The Jews will only be converted in mass when they open their hearts to Jesus and the Holy Spirit can touch their hearts (Rom 11:25,26).

The fate of Jerusalem should be a warning to the church. It cannot assume that because it has been blessed in the past, and is called the church, that it will continue to be blessed in the future. Gods blessing depends on obedience. For any disobedient organisation, time eventually runs out. God allowed the destruction of Jerusalem, so he will have no qualms about allowing the collapse of a church that ignores his warning and persists in disobeying his word.

Power to Satan

The desolation of the Jews explains why Satan is so active in the world, despite the victory of the cross. When Jesus died upon the cross, the devil was totally and fully defeated. He was cast out of heaven (Rev 12:13) and can only continue to function on earth if he can deceive people into rejecting the gospel. However, he does have one last, major, legal right on earth. Satan has had the right to execute the penalties of the law against Israel by working evil that will affect them. He has the right to use the nations for this purpose. Furthermore, because the Jews had been scattered among the nations, he has been able to do this work in all the nations.

Whenever Satan wants to do really great evil in a nation, he incites it to attack the Jews. This gives him greater freedom to work evil. For example, Satan incited both Hitler and Stalin to attack the Jews. This enabled him to do great evil through Germany and Russia.

The rejection of Israel has given Satan a legal right to continue working in the world, despite his defeat. Because he has had this freedom work in the world, the Kingdom has not come to its proper fulfilment. Once the desolation of Israel is complete, Satan will not have this right. He will no longer be able to deceive the nations for this purpose. This is why the calling of the Jews will bring great blessing to the world (Rom 11:12).

Israel Scattered and Hidden

Although Satan launched a ferocious attack on the Jews, it was tempered by God's mercy. God did not allow the entire nation to be killed; many were sent into exile among the nations. This proved to be a hiding place for them. Because they were spread throughout the world, Satan could not destroy them.

When the dragon saw that he had been hurled to the earth, he pursued the woman who had given birth to the male child. The woman was given the two wings of a great eagle, so that she might fly to the place prepared for her in the desert, where she would be taken care of for a time, times and half a time, out of the serpent's reach. Then from his mouth the serpent spewed water like a river, to overtake the woman and sweep her away with the torrent. But the earth helped the woman by opening its mouth and swallowing the river that the dragon had spewed out of his mouth (Rev 12:13-16).

God did not intend the whole race to be destroyed, but protected a remnant. The wings of the eagle represent the Roman Empire that sent the nation of Israel into exile (the desert). The Jews were spread throughout the world for both punishment and protection. Being exiled from Jerusalem was living in "a desert", but it also proved to be a hiding place for Jews.

Satan has been unable to destroy the Jews, because God intended that they should be kept safe. Israel is being kept hidden in exile "out of the serpent's reach" for "a time, times and half a time", the length of the Times of the Gentiles. Although under their disobedience leaves them vulnerable to evil, Israel has been kept hidden throughout this season. This is generous grace.

The New Israel

As usual, Satan got things wrong. He thought that by destroying the chosen people, he would disrupt God's plan. He did not realise that the ministry of Jesus had brought in a new stage of God's plan, when a chosen nation is not needed.

The destruction of Jerusalem was actually a sign that God had moved to the next stage of his plan to restore his authority in the world. Jesus was now the source of God's revelation in the world. The church became a New Israel, which is the source of God's blessing to the world. This is what Jesus had said would happen:

Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit (Matt 21.43).

The Jewish nation failed to produce fruit, so the Kingdom was given to the church.

This is clarified in the letters of Paul. He calls the church the Israel of God.

Not all who are descended from Israel are Israel... It is not the natural children who are God's children, but it is the children of the promise who are regarded as Abraham's offspring (Rom 9:6,8).

The natural descendants of Abraham are no longer able to inherit to the promises made to Abraham. These promises are inherited by those who place their faith in Christ (Gal 3:29 4:28; 6:16). Those who have faith in Christ are now the true heirs of Abraham. It is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, which makes a person a true Jew (Rom 2:27,28).

God is working in the world through the church, which is now his chosen people (1 Pet 2:9). The promises made to Abraham will be fulfilled through the church, the New Israel. In Psalm 45:16 when God is speaking to Jesus, he says,

Your sons will take the place of your fathers; you will make them princes throughout the land.

Christians are the sons of Jesus. They will take the place of his fathers, who are the Jews. God is saying that the church will take the place of the Jews. They will rule as princes, alongside Jesus.

Jacob saw this when he gave a prophecy about each of his sons. Speaking of Judah, he said,

The scepter will not depart from Judah,
nor the ruler's staff from between his feet,
until he comes to whom it belongs
and the obedience of the nations is his (Gen 49:10).

This is what happened. David and his descendants were from the tribe of Judah. They ruled over Jerusalem, but Jesus was the one to whom the sceptre rightfully belonged. Once he came, Judah would cease to rule and Jesus kingdom would begin to extend over the whole world. The kingdom of Israel would come to an end, and the kingdom of God would begin.

The death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus was a big step in God's plan. While Israel remains desolation, God will now work through the New Israel, which is chosen out of all the nations of the earth. The kingdom will no longer be confined to Israel, because God has extended his rule of salvation through the entire world. God no longer rules through the king in Jerusalem, because Christ will be ruling from heaven. The kingdom of Israel is replaced by the kingdom of God. God stopped dwelling in the temple in Jerusalem (he had probably been away for a while). Instead, the Spirit dwells in the church wherever it is throughout the world.

How Long

The Times of the Gentiles have continued for nearly 2000 years. Despite terrible desolation in fulfilment of the law, the Jews have refused to repent and accept Jesus. They have continued to grieve the Holy Spirit by rejecting the gospel and salvation of Jesus. These sins have continued to fill up the bowl of evil that is over them. The law says that any nation that refuses to be corrected will experience the consequences of its sin seven times over. This is exactly what has happened to Israel. The devil's attack on the Jewish people, which began in AD 70, will continue as long as they refuse to acknowledge Jesus. There is currently no evidence of widespread repentance in Israel. This means that their troubles will continue into the future.

Some Christians may feel that is unfair that modern Israel should suffer for sins that occurred two thousand years ago. However, they also want Israel to benefit from a promise of blessing made to Abraham four thousand years ago. They cannot have it both ways. If modern Israel is to inherit the promise to Abraham, they must also inherit the curse earned by their forefathers who crucified Jesus. The promise and the curse come through the same family line. Before Israel can inherit the blessing of Abraham, they must acknowledge the sins of their fathers who rejected Jesus.

Jesus warned that people of Israel that their house would remain desolate throughout the Times of the Gentiles season. His listeners probably did not expect this season to last that long, but two thousand years have gone by since he gave his warning. That leaves a big question.

How long will this house remain desolate?

Jesus' answer was very clear.

Look, your house is left to you desolate. 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 23:38-39).

Their house will remain desolate until the people of Israel bless those who come in the name of Jesus. This still has not happened yet.

Many Christian prophets use a different test to Jesus and assume that Time of the Gentiles have ended, because some Jewish people have returned to their land. The end-time prophets are welcomed in Israel, because they say that everything is okay, but they are not real prophets.

They lead my people astray, saying, "Peace," when there is no peace, and because, when a flimsy wall is built, they cover it with whitewash (Ez 13:10).

The real prophets who preach Jesus are still rejected, just as they were in the days before Jesus. The Holy Spirit will not return to the house until Jesus is welcomed. Until that happens, their house remains desolate.

Two Misunderstood Promises

God has made two promises about Israel that have been widely misunderstood.

1. Safety in Exile
After the Destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70, the Romans scattered most of the Jews among the nations. God promised that they would be kept safe there for the entirety of the season called the Times of the Gentiles, but only if they remained scattered (Rev 12:14-16). The consequence of this promise is that the Jews have continued to exist as a unique people for 2000 people.

This promise demonstrated amazing generosity by God, given that his people had rejected Messiah Jesus and the Holy Spirit he sent. This rejection robbed them of the blessings of the Torah, but God promised to protect them despite this rejection.

The corollary of this promise is that if they came together in large groups, they would put themselves at risk. This happened at various times during the history of Europe. It is now happening in the land of Palestine. By coming together in a nation-state in the twentieth century, the Jewish people have put themselves at risk by losing God’s promised protection. The consequence is that they will not be safe in the land of Israel until the Times of the Gentiles are complete.

2. Return from Exile
God has promised that at the end of the Times of the Gentiles, he will bring the people of Israel back to their land. More important, he described how, he would do it. He declared that he would give the children of Israel a new heart and a new spirit (Is 11:11; Jer 31:33-34; Ezek 36:26-27). They would come to know him, love him, and be able to serve him. The Holy Spirit will cause the nations to allow the Israelites to return and help them on their way. The nations will see God doing this when it happens and honour him .

The Zionist movement misunderstood this promise, and tried to force it to happen before the Times of the Gentiles was complete. In the twentieth century, they used political manipulation, military force, alliances with powerful gentile nations, and United Nations regulations to establish a nation-state for themselves (See Woman on the Beast). This forced return from exile did not match the nature and quality of the return that God promised through the prophets. Its ugly character is now being revealed.

Moving ahead of God’s timing is always a serious failure. Presumption got Israel into trouble in the time of Moses.

Nevertheless, in their presumption they went up toward the highest point in the hill country, though neither Moses nor the ark of the LORD’s covenant moved from the camp. Then the Amalekites and the Canaanites who lived in that hill country came down and attacked them and beat them down all the way to Hormah. (Num 14:44-45).
Perhaps this is the experience with the Amalekites that Israel should be remembering.

Dangerous Presumption
A presumptive return from exile creates two serious problems.

Reliance on political and military power leads to loss of blessings, which leads to greater threats from other peoples, which leads to increased insecurity, which leads to even reliance on greater military and political power. There is no escape from this vicious cycle apart from a merciful rescue by God.

The presumptive breach of the first promise raises an important question. Will God still keep the second promise described above. I am sure that God will bring the Jewish people to faith in Jesus when the Times of Gentiles are complete. I am sure that he will give Israel a new spirit and a new heart as he promised. I have always believed that God would bring the children of Israel back to the land of Palestine.

Now, after reading through Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel again, I am not so sure. I am wondering if the presumptive, warring behaviour of the Israeli government will not lead to nasty, destructive wars that result in the promised land being made inhabitable for humans. That would mean God’s promise will have to be fulfilled by a spiritual return.

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