The Jews in Prophecy
Have they been cast aside, or are they destined for glory?
Few Biblical studies are as exciting as an examination of the Jews in prophecy, for the Jews are one of the key focal points of Bible prophecy.
The Scriptures reveal the Jews as "the apple of God's eye" (Zechariah 2:8). Their land is described as "holy" (Zechariah 2:12). Their city of Jerusalem is termed the "center of the nations" (Ezekiel 5:5). They are pictured as the wayward wife of God (see Ezekiel 16 and the book of Hosea). And the Bible makes it clear that they will be the object of both God's wrath (Jeremiah 30:7) and His grace (Zechariah 13:1) in the end times.
The panorama of prophecy that relates to the Jews is breathtaking. It applies to the past, the present, and the future. It demonstrates God's love and grace as nothing else does except the Cross itself.
Paul was so overwhelmed by God's patient determination to bring a remnant of the Jews to salvation that he cried out in ecstasy: "Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways!" (Romans 11:33).
Let's take a look at the incredible prophecies that pertain to the Jewish people, and let's begin with the prophecies that have already been fulfilled.
1) Dispersion — The Jews were warned repeatedly that they would be dispersed worldwide if they were not faithful to their covenant with God. Consider the words of Moses: "The Lord will scatter you among all peoples, from one end of the earth to the other..." (Deuteronomy 28:64; see also Leviticus 26:33).
2) Persecution — The Lord also warned the Jews that they would be persecuted wherever they went. Again, the words of Moses are graphic in this regard: "And among those nations you shall find no rest, and there shall be no resting place for the sole of your foot; but there the Lord will give you a trembling heart, failing of eyes, and despair of soul" (Deuteronomy 28:65).
3) Desolation — God promised that after their dispersion, their land would become "desolate" and their cities would become "waste" (Leviticus 26:33). Moses put it more graphically when he said, "the foreigner who comes from a distant land...will say, 'All its land is brimstone and salt, a burning waste, unsown and unproductive, and no grass grows in it'" (Deuteronomy 29:22-23).
4) Preservation — But God in His marvelous grace promised He would preserve the Jews as a separate people during their worldwide wanderings. (See Isaiah 66:22; Jeremiah 30:11; 31:35-37.) Isaiah puts it in a colorful way. He says the Lord could no more forget Israel than a mother could forget her nursing child (Isaiah 49:15). He then adds that God cannot forget Israel because He has them tattooed on the palms of His hands! (Isaiah 49:16).
God has fulfilled all four of these prophecies during the past 2,000 years. In 70 A.D. the Romans destroyed the city of Jerusalem and took the Jewish nation into captivity, desolating the land and scattering the Jewish people across the face of the earth. As prophesied, everywhere they went they were persecuted, with their persecution culminating in the Nazi Holocaust of World War II.
But God also preserved the Jews, and the fulfillment of this prophecy has been one of the most remarkable miracles of history. No other people have ever been so dispersed and yet been able to retain their identity as a nation.
We are privileged to live in an age when God is fulfilling many promises to the Jews. What a testimony this is to the fact that God is alive and well, that God is on His throne and in control, and that God is faithful to His promises.
1) Regathering — The Old Testament prophets promise repeatedly that the day will come when God will regather the Jews to Palestine (see Isaiah 11:10-12 and Ezekiel 36:22-28). This remarkable regathering of the Jews from the four corners of the earth has occurred in our life time. World War I prepared the land for the people as the control of Palestine was transferred from a nation that hated the Jews (the Turks) to a nation that was sympathetic to their return (Britain). The Holocaust of World War II prepared the people for the land by motivating them to return.
2) Nationhood — The prophets stated that when the people were regathered, the nation of Israel would be re-established. This occurred on May 14, 1948 (see Isaiah 66:7-8; Zechariah 12:3-6). This is the cornerstone prophetic event of our age. It is an event that prophetic scholars have pointed to for 400 years amid much scoffing and ridicule by those who did not believe that Israel would ever exist again as a nation.
3) Reclamation — God promised that with the re-establishment of the nation, the land would bloom again (Isaiah 35:1-7; Joel 2:21-26). As Ezekiel put it, people would one day exclaim: "This desolate land has become like the garden of Eden!" (Ezekiel 36:35). And that is exactly what people exclaim today when they visit Israel, for it is once again a land of milk and honey. Over 300 million trees have been planted in this century. Rainfall has increased 450 percent. The former malaria infested swamps have been converted into cultivated land. Water from the Sea of Galilee has been channeled to the deserts, causing them to bloom.
4) Language — When the Jews were scattered worldwide in the first century, they ceased speaking the Hebrew language. The Jews who settled in Europe developed a language called Yiddish (a combination of Hebrew and German). The Jews in the Mediterranean basin mixed Hebrew with Spanish to produce a language called Ladino. The prophet Zephaniah implied a time would come when the Hebrew language would be revived (Zephaniah 3:9). It has been. Today the Israelis speak Biblical Hebrew. It is the only example in history of the resurrection of a dead language. The man God used to revive the language was Eliezer Ben Yehuda (1858-1922).
5) Jerusalem — Jesus said that one of the surest signs of His imminent return would be the re-occupation of Jerusalem by the Jews (Luke 21:24). This occurred during the Six Day War in June 1967.
6) Military Strength — Zechariah prophesied that when the Jews were re-established in the land, their military strength would be overwhelming — like "a flaming torch among sheaves" — and that they would "consume" all the peoples around them (Zechariah 12:6). Need anything be said about the fulfillment if this prophecy?
7) Focal Point — Israel is always pictured as the focal point of world politics in the end times (Zechariah 12:3; 14:1-9). This has been true since the Arab oil boycott in 1973. The West suddenly realized its dependence on Arab oil and began to line up behind the Arab obsession to annihilate Israel.
1) Tribulation — God will put the Jewish people through an unparalleled period of tribulation (Deuteronomy 4:30), during which two-thirds of the Jews will perish (Zechariah 13:8-9). The purpose will be to soften the hearts of a remnant so that they will accept Jesus as their Messiah.
2) Salvation — A remnant of the Jews will "look upon Him whom they have pierced" and will accept Him as Lord and Savior (Zechariah 12:10; Romans 11:1-6,25-29).
3) Primacy — God will then regather all the believing Jews to Israel where they will be established as the prime nation in the world during the millennial reign of Jesus. (See Deuteronomy 28:1,13; 2 Samuel 7:9; Isaiah 60-62; Micah 4:1-7.)
God's Infinite Love
God set the Jews aside and put them under discipline because of their disobedience, but He did not cut them off from His grace.
He intends to bring His wayward wife home: "For the sons of Israel will remain for many days without king or prince... Afterward, the sons of Israel will return and seek the Lord their God... and they will come trembling to the Lord and to His goodness in the last days." (Hosea 3:4-5)
The lovingkindness and faithfulness of God in keeping His promises to the Jewish people should be a source of encouragement to all Christians. As we watch God fulfill promises which He made to the Jewish people thousands of years ago, we can be absolutely certain that He will be faithful to fulfill all the promises He has made to the Church.
God's Amazing Grace
The first time my wife heard me preach about the Jews in prophecy, she came to me and said, "When you talk about how much God loves the Jews, you make me want to be one."
I responded by saying, "No, Honey, you don't want to be a Jew because if you were, you would most likely have a veil over your heart and would refuse to believe in Jesus as your Messiah" (2 Corinthians 3:12-18).
I then stressed something to her that I hope you will never forget. I pointed out that everything God is doing for the Jews He is willing to do for you and me. They are witnesses of His amazing grace. And that same grace is available to all of us, whether we be Gentiles or Jews.