NOTE: This article is partially complete. I’m not sure when I’ll finish it, so I decided to publish it as is. The primary message is there and I think it’s an important one for our time.
It has been on my heart for a while to write about antisemitism and the nation of Israel. I have witnessed a growing prejudice against Jews and against Israel’s existence, even among those who claim to be Christians. In this article I want to show God’s heart toward the house of Israel (i.e. physical descendants of the 12 tribes) and His plan for returning them to the Promised Land and redeeming them in the end times. There are many prophecies about this in the Bible. As Christians, it is important that our hearts and minds line up with God’s agenda, lest we find ourselves opposed to His work in the world.
The Bible states that a remnant of the house of Israel will be re-gathered to the land promised to Abraham and to his descendants forever. They will go through tribulation — even two-thirds will perish. But through it all, Israel will turn to the Lord God, recognize their true Messiah Jesus Christ and be saved as a nation.
God will do this for his glory and because of his covenant with Abraham.
This is not to say Israel is righteous today. It is not. The Israeli government is very involved with the New World Order agenda (as are many governments around the world). Israel’s treatment of Palestinians is horrendous and deserves criticism. But none of this negates the fact that God will save them.
It would be unwise for anyone to have hatred toward a people God intends to save, especially when we ourselves are only saved by His grace. Salvation is a gift that no one deserves!
God’s Covenant with Abraham
Abraham is the father of our faith. When God called Abraham to leave his home in Haran and go to an unknown land, He promised to make Abraham into a great nation and to bless all the peoples on earth through him.
“Go out from your land, your relatives, and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. I will make you into a great nation, I will bless you, I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, I will curse those who treat you with contempt, and all the peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” – Genesis 12:1-3, Holman
That nation would become Israel, God’s own people in the earth; the land would be the land of Canaan, the promised land; and the blessing was ultimately fulfilled in the Messiah, the Savior of all mankind, coming through Abraham’s lineage.
God was very specific that the inheritor of these promises was Abraham’s son Isaac, born to his wife Sarah in old age. It was not Ishmael, who was born to Sarah’s handmaid Hagar in a moment of doubt, nor was it any of the sons of Keturah, the wife Abraham took after Sarah died. The inheritance was passed to Isaac’s son Jacob, and not his firstborn son Esau who traded his birthright for a bowl of lentil stew. Then it passed to Jacob’s 12 sons, the progenitors of the 12 tribes of Israel: Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, Zebulun, Joseph, Benjamin, Dan, Naphtali, Gad and Asher.
God gave the promised land to Abraham’s offspring as an eternal (never-ending) inheritance:
“I will keep My covenant between Me and you, and your future offspring throughout their generations, as an everlasting covenant to be your God and the God of your offspring after you. And to you and your future offspring I will give the land where you are residing—all the land of Canaan—as an eternal possession, and I will be their God.” – Genesis 17:7-8
The patriarchs lived in the land of Canaan until the great famine, when Jacob and his sons moved to Egypt for refuge. The nation of Israel lived there 430 years and grew numerous. God raised up Moses to lead the people out of Egypt, through the wilderness for 40 years and then to the promised land. By God’s hand, Israel defeated and displaced the Canaanite nations and finally inhabited the land. Each tribe finally received their allotted portion.
Israel lived as a nation there for nearly a millennium. They went through the era of the judges and the kings. The first king was Saul, followed by David and his son Solomon. After Solomon, Israel was divided by civil war into the Northern Kingdom and Judah. The people fell into idolatry and rebellion. Eventually God punished unrepentant Israel by driving them out of the land. First, Assyria destroyed the Northern Kingdom and sent its people into exile. One hundred thirty-seven years later, Babylon destroyed Judah and Jerusalem and exiled its people.
God in his mercy restored Judah after 70 years of exile. However, it was only the remnant from Judah who returned. The tribes of the Northern Kingdom remained dispersed:
“So the family leaders of Judah and Benjamin, along with the priests and Levites—everyone whose spirit God had stirred—prepared to go up and rebuild the Lord’s house in Jerusalem.” – Ezra 1:5
By the time of Christ, Israel was subdued again by a foreign power – Rome. Except for a remnant (minority), the people of Israel did not receive their Messiah when He came. This failure would bring judgment on the nation again:
“As He approached and saw the city, He wept over it, saying, ‘If you knew this day what would bring peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes. For the days will come on you when your enemies will build an embankment against you, surround you, and hem you in on every side. They will crush you and your children within you to the ground, and they will not leave one stone on another in you, because you did not recognize the time of your visitation.’” – Luke 19:41-44
This was prophecy fulfilled in 70 A.D. when Rome sacked and destroyed Jerusalem. According to the historian Josephus, 1.1 million died, mostly Jews, and 97,000 were enslaved.
But this was not the end of the story for Israel. Israel’s rejection of Christ opened the door for the salvation of the Gentile (i.e. others nations of the world):
“By their stumbling, salvation has come to the Gentiles to make Israel jealous.” – Romans 11:11
By faith in Christ, Gentiles become spiritual sons of Abraham and, like a wild olive branch grafted into a domesticated olive tree, share in the promises God made to Abraham:
“Just as Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him for righteousness, then understand that those who have faith are Abraham’s sons. Now the Scripture saw in advance that God would justify the Gentiles by faith and told the good news ahead of time to Abraham, saying, All the nations will be blessed through you.” – Galatians 3:6-8
“And if the root is holy, so are the branches. Now if some of the branches were broken off, and you, though a wild olive branch, were grafted in among them and have come to share in the rich root of the cultivated olive tree, do not brag that you are better than those branches.” – Romans 11:16-18
Our salvation came through Abraham, the nation of Israel, and ultimately Jesus the Messiah. We are now living in the time of the Gentiles, but that window is rapidly closing. God has not forgotten Israel, whose salvation as a nation will come at the end of this age:
“So that you will not be conceited, brothers, I do not want you to be unaware of this mystery: A partial hardening has come to Israel until the full number of the Gentiles has come in. And in this way all Israel will be saved, as it is written: The Liberator will come from Zion; He will turn away godlessness from Jacob.” – Romans 11:25-26
Let’s take a look at the Old Testament prophecies about Israel’s salvation. I recommend reading the entire sections listed below. But for sake of brevity, this article will only highlight key verses and interpretations.
“For behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will restore from captivity My people Israel and Judah, declares the LORD. I will restore them to the land I gave to their forefathers, and they will possess it.” – Jeremiah 30:3, Berean Study Bible
→ God promised to restore Israel and Judah to the land of their forefathers. He specifically named Israel (Northern Kingdom) and Judah. This means all 12 tribes, not only the remnant of Judah that returned after the Babylonian exile.
“These are the words the LORD spoke concerning Israel and Judah. Yes, this is what the LORD says: ‘We have heard a cry of panic—of terror, not of peace. Ask and see: Can a male give birth? Why then do I see every man with his hands on his stomach like a woman in labor and every face turned pale? How awful that day will be! None will be like it! It is the time of Jacob’s distress, but he will be delivered out of it.’” – Jeremiah 30:4-7
→ The salvation of Israel will be birthed through a time of great distress and tribulation. In the King James Version it is called “Jacob’s trouble.” I believe this time corresponds to the seven seals of Revelation, including the Great Tribulation.
“On that day, declares the LORD of Hosts, I will break the yoke off their necks and tear off their bonds, and no longer will strangers enslave them. Instead, they will serve the LORD their God and David their king, whom I will raise up for them.” – Jeremiah 30:8-9
→ Israel will be freed from foreign captivity and enslavement. They will serve the Lord God and “David their king.” The latter is a reference to the coming Messiah King. Jeremiah wrote those words nearly 400 years after the actual King David, so it was clearly a prophetic and messianic reference. Jesus came the first time as prophet and savior. When He returns, He will judge the earth, defeat Satan’s forces and reign as King. Therefore, the salvation of Israel is associated with the return of Christ and his 1,000-year reign on earth. This is an end-times event.
“For I am with you to save you, declares the LORD. Though I will completely destroy all the nations to which I have scattered you, I will not completely destroy you; yet I will correct you in measure, and I will by no means leave you unpunished.” – Jerusalem 30:11
→ God will bring judgment and destruction on all the nations where Israel was scattered. These areas include North America, Europe, Russia and the Middle East – all places where the diaspora of Israel have lived in large numbers. But He will not completely destroy Israel. He will punish them, and through it all the nation of Israel will be saved.
“This is what the LORD says: I’m going to bring the captives back to Jacob’s tents and show compassion on their homes. Cities will be built on the ruins, and fortified palaces will be built in their rightful place.” – Jeremiah 30:18, God’s Word Translation
→ The land of Israel will be rebuilt with cities, home and fortified places. We can look at Israel today and see this has already happened.
“When Israel went to find rest, the Lord appeared to him from far away. I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore, I have continued to extend faithful love to you.” – Jeremiah 31:2-3
→ Why will the Lord save Israel? Because He loves Israel.
“For this is what the Lord says: Sing with joy for Jacob; shout for the chief of the nations! Proclaim, praise, and say, ‘Lord, save Your people, the remnant of Israel!’ Watch! I am going to bring them from the northern land. I will gather them from remote regions of the earth—the blind and the lame will be with them, along with those who are pregnant and those about to give birth. They will return here as a great assembly!” – Jeremiah 30:7-8
→ The return of Israel will be a joyous event! The Lord will draw them from the remote regions where they were scattered and assemble them in the promised land.
“‘Look, the days are coming’—this is the Lord’s declaration—’when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah. This one will not be like the covenant I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt—a covenant they broke even though I had married them’—the Lord’s declaration. ‘Instead, this is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after those days’—the Lord’s declaration. ‘I will put My teaching within them and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be My people. No longer will one teach his neighbor or his brother, saying, “Know the Lord,” for they will all know Me, from the least to the greatest of them’—this is the Lord’s declaration. ‘For I will forgive their wrongdoing and never again remember their sin.’” – Jeremiah 31:31-34
→ This passage about the new covenant appears in the same section as the return of Israel. God gave the law of Moses to Israel at Mount Sinai, but Israel did not keep that covenant. That’s why they were ejected from the land. So God has made a new covenant through His Son, Jesus Christ. Israel will be forgiven and restored under the new covenant in Christ’s blood. This reality also establishes the return of Israel as an end-times event between Jesus first coming and His return.
“This is what the Lord God says: Certainly in My burning zeal I speak against the rest of the nations and all of Edom, who took My land as their own possession with wholehearted rejoicing and utter contempt so that its pastureland became plunder.” – Ezekiel 36:5, Holman
→ Here God accused Edom of taking and plundering His land. Of all the lands and nations in the world, God said the promised land of Israel belongs to Him. He feels personally about it. Edom was a nation founded by Esau, the son of Isaac who sold his birthright to his brother Jacob for a bowl of lentil stew. Esau’s descendants founded Rome, as explained in Jacob and Esau – Two Brothers, Two Nations in Conflict, Two Destinies. Therefore, this prophecy is really about Rome taking the land of Israel, which it did around the time of Christ. So the restoration of Israel described subsequently in this section occurs after Roman occupation. It is an end-time event.
“Therefore, prophesy concerning the land of Israel and say to the mountains and hills, to the ravines and valleys: This is what the Lord God says: Look, I speak in My burning zeal because you have endured the insults of the nations. Therefore this is what the Lord God says: I swear that the nations all around you will endure their own insults.” – Ezekiel 36:6-7
→ God was angry that foreign nations desecrated His land. He vowed they would “endure their own insults” and be punished for it. Some of what will happen as described in Revelation is related to this judgment.
“You, mountains of Israel, will produce your branches and bear your fruit for My people Israel, since their arrival is near. Look! I am on your side; I will turn toward you, and you will be tilled and sown. I will fill you with people, with the whole house of Israel in its entirety. The cities will be inhabited and the ruins rebuilt. I will fill you with people and animals, and they will increase and be fruitful.” – Ezekiel 36:8-11
→ Beautiful and hopeful language about restoring the land of Israel and its people.
“The word of the Lord came to me: ‘Son of man, while the house of Israel lived in their land, they defiled it with their conduct and actions. Their behavior before Me was like menstrual impurity. So I poured out My wrath on them because of the blood they had shed on the land, and because they had defiled it with their idols. I dispersed them among the nations, and they were scattered among the countries. I judged them according to their conduct and actions. When they came to the nations where they went, they profaned My holy name, because it was said about them, ‘These are the people of Yahweh, yet they had to leave His land in exile.’” – Ezekiel 36:16-20
→ God explained why Israel was exiled in the past and how it tarnished His holy name. Israel’s rebellion, idolatry and bloodshed provoked the Lord. Yet when they were punished and scattered among the nations, it made Him look bad because Israel were His own people, God’s own “called-out” nation.
“Therefore, say to the house of Israel: This is what the Lord God says: It is not for your sake that I will act, house of Israel, but for My holy name, which you profaned among the nations where you went.” – Ezekiel 36:22
→ Israel does not deserve to be restored. That is not why God will do it. He will restore Israel because He loves them, as expressed previously in Jeremiah, and to restore His holy name among the nations.
“For I will take you from the nations and gather you from all the countries, and will bring you into your own land. I will also sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean. I will cleanse you from all your impurities and all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will remove your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. I will place My Spirit within you and cause you to follow My statutes and carefully observe My ordinances.” – Ezekiel 36:24-27
→ Here again, God declared His intention to gather the house of Israel from exile and bring them back to the promised land. Not only that, but He will cleanse them from sin, put His Spirit in them and cause them to walk in His ways. This is another reference to the new covenant in Christ and pouring out of the Holy Spirit in the end times. Again, this restoration of Israel is clearly an end-times event.
“Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion! Shout in triumph, Daughter Jerusalem! Look, your King is coming to you; He is righteous and victorious, humble and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” – Zechariah 9:9
→ The daughter Zion rejoices because her King is coming! Daughter refers to offspring, and Zion refers to Jerusalem or more broadly Israel. This verse is about the coming of Israel’s Messiah King. It was fulfilled when Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a young donkey.