Many of us were grieved to see the shift in American policy as our president expressed this week his diplomatic views that Israel should return back to the borders of 1967. The Abrahamic Covenant of Genesis 12:3 makes it clear that God has an unconditional and eternal covenant with Israel and that His blessing on our nation is dependent on our blessing on Israel: “And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.”
In a moment when America definitely needs the blessing of God, we do not need to take a further step away from the clear teaching of His Word by removing our support from Israel.
In my book, Understanding the Times, an entire chapter is devoted to Israel’s significance in current events as well as her prophetic significance. Below are excerpts from this book:
Understanding the Times: The Focus on Israel
Does it seem disproportionate that a country of only 7.2 million people with a land area slightly smaller than the state of New Jersey is the focal point of the modern world? Is it mere coincidence that it is also the focal point of Bible prophecy? People often question why Israel carries so much prophetic significance—and in recent decades, a large portion of global attention. Think about it. Why all the emphasis on Israel?
Israel is a critical component in God’s global plan—a key piece in the prophetic puzzle. In many ways, Israel’s news marks the dates on God’s prophetic calendar.
One of the most significant events of modern history occurred in 1948 when God allowed the Jews to return to Palestine. From that time on, the focus on Israel has been captivating.
Two terms in particular are frequently heard in the news: the West Bank and the Palestinian State. Both terms deserve a brief explanation.
The West Bank, the region along the western bank of the Jordan River, is home to some wonderfully historic places, including Bethlehem, Jericho, and Hebron. This region is significant and special to Israel. The Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem have become the homes of approximately half a million people. Yet the United Nations, as well as many in the United States and the European Union, are pressuring Israel to stop allowing her residents to dwell in these regions.
The feelings of the current United States’ administration are so strong on this point that new settlements have become a watershed issue. But while some encourage Israel to stop settling in the West Bank to appease her enemies (particularly Iran), others argue that Israel’s enemies cannot be appeased and simply want Israel’s destruction. In that case, pulling out of the occupied territory would only increase Israel’s vulnerability.
The second oft-employed term in relation to the significance of Israel is the Palestinian State. This, too, is an issue of great controversy. The debate centers around the Arab world’s demand for an Israeli-recognized Palestinian State. This is often referred to as the “two-state solution” to the Middle East conflict.
Whatever the immediate outcome of these issues, one thing is certain: the nation whose people were scattered across the globe for many centuries has in the past several decades become a worldwide focal point. This should not be a surprise to a student of Bible prophecy, for it fits in precisely with end time events foretold in Scripture.
The intense nature of Israeli-Arab peace talks reveals that whoever can broker the peace deal with Israel and her enemies will be a significantly powerful person. The worldwide focus on Israel, coupled with the conflict in the Middle East, are staging the scene for his arrival.
Of course, much of the conflict in Israel centers around the land itself. Both Israel and nearby Arab nations claim that strategic portions of land rightfully belong to their respective countries. So how does this land dispute relate to Bible prophecy? What is the significance of the land?
It all goes back to a promise God made to Abraham almost 4,000 years ago.
The Promise to Abraham
Now the Lord had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will shew thee: And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.—Genesis 12:1–3
Bible students refer to this promise as the Abrahamic Covenant. Through it, God made a specific promise to Abraham in three areas: the land, his seed, and a blessing.
God promised to bring Abraham to a land he had never seen and to make of him a great nation. In Deuteronomy 30:1–10 (called the Palestinian Covenant), God reconfirmed His promise to give this land to Abraham’s seed forever.
In 2 Samuel 7:12–16, God again confirmed this promise through the Davidic Covenant. He specifically promised to perpetually bless Abraham’s seed through David.
These covenants promise special blessing to Abraham’s seed and to other nations who bless Israel. The promised blessing also shows that God chose to bless the entire Gentile world through Abraham and his seed. He promised to bless those who bless Israel and to bless all nations through Israel.
Isaiah 9:6–7 prophesied of One who would fulfill this promise: “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.”
A parallel passage is Luke 1:31–33: “And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.”
Jesus, born in Bethlehem’s manger, was the child born and the Son given to us. But when Christ first came, the Jews rejected Him. “He came unto his own, and his own received him not” (John 1:11).
Some suggest that because the Jews rejected their first opportunity for Christ’s kingdom, the promises given to Abraham and David have now been transferred to the church and will be fulfilled symbolically or spiritually. Note, however, some important characteristics of this covenant.
The covenant is unconditional. God’s promise to Abraham was not based on Abraham’s performance, but on God’s faithful immutability. To be sure, there were times that the Israelites were expelled from the land God promised them because of their sin, but ultimately, God has promised the land to Abraham and to his seed.
Even after Abraham committed adultery with Hagar, God repeated His unconditional promise to give Abraham and his seed the land of Palestine (Genesis 17:4–8). And when Israel committed spiritual adultery by worshipping idols, God reassured them of His unconditional covenant (Jeremiah 33:24–26).
The covenant is literal. While some try to attribute only symbolic significance to the Abrahamic Covenant, Abraham clearly understood God’s promise to mean exactly what God plainly said.
The literal interpretation of these promises indicates that only when Christ returns to set up the final kingdom will the covenant be fulfilled. Thus, the Jews’ rejection of Christ did not dismiss God’s unconditional, literal promise. It simply deferred it for a later time.
The covenant is eternal. Psalm 105:8–11 says, “He hath remembered his covenant for ever, the word which he commanded to a thousand generations. Which covenant he made with Abraham, and his oath unto Isaac; And confirmed the same unto Jacob for a law, and to Israel for an everlasting covenant: Saying, Unto thee will I give the land of Canaan, the lot of your inheritance.” The eternal covenants of God stand unmoved by the rejection of men and unchanged by the passing of time.
God’s covenants to Israel are the hinge on which the door of future events swings. To understand these events, one must recognize the covenants as unconditional, literal, and eternal.
The Provision to Israel
For I will take you from among the heathen, and gather you out of all countries, and will bring you into your own land. —Ezekiel 36:24
One of the common points in all future prophecy is the fact that Israel will exist as a nation and will occupy the land that God promised to Abraham years ago. This is significant because, prior to 1948, the Jews had not occupied this land since AD 70.
A mere seventy-five years ago, Christians who studied Bible prophecies involving an organized nation of Israel scratched their heads in confusion; for at that time, there was no nation of Israel. The Jews had been long scattered.
The establishment of modern-day Israel was truly a significant event that sets the stage for the ultimate fulfillment of Ezekiel 38. This twentieth century miracle bears a powerful testimony to God’s faithfulness.
The return of the Jews
The miraculous reunification of thousands of Jews in Israel was prophesied in Ezekiel 36:24: “For I will take you from among the heathen, and gather you out of all countries, and will bring you into your own land.” In perfect harmony with the events following World War II, God pictures Israel gathering out of other nations and becoming a sovereign state once again.
In Ezekiel 37, God graphically pictures the nation of Israel as dry bones scattered across an open valley. This accurately describes about nineteen centuries of Israel’s existence—lifeless, vulnerable, and dispersed. But through a miraculous revitalization, God brought these bones together and gave life to them, raising out of them a great army.
This picture prophesied the return of the Jews to the Promised Land: “…these bones are the whole house of Israel: behold, they say, Our bones are dried, and our hope is lost: we are cut off for our parts. Therefore prophesy and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord God; Behold, O my people, I will open your graves, and cause you to come up out of your graves, and bring you into the land of Israel” (Ezekiel 37:11–12).
This is exactly what God began in 1948. The land He promised to Abraham is once again His provision for His people.
A Plan for Revival
Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the Lord: But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the Lord, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people. And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the Lord: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.—Jeremiah 31:31–34
The focus on Israel, from God’s perspective, involves far more than the land of Palestine; God’s primary focus is people. The verses above reveal God’s heart to bring revival to His people, to see them turn their hearts back toward Him.
God has foretold of a coming revival, often referred to in Scripture as the New Covenant. This New Covenant will bring complete fulfillment to the Abrahamic and Davidic covenants. It revolves around the coming of Christ, the shedding of His blood, and ultimately, Israel acknowledging Him as their Messiah. God has already begun the process of gathering Israel together. But God’s complete plan is to restore spiritual life to His people.
Two thousand years ago, Jesus declared to the unbelieving Jews, “…I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly” (John 10:10). The Jews rejected that life and were soon scattered by the Romans. In the final days of history, however, the Jews will be gathered again to the land of Israel (as is already taking place), and God will bring the revival of the New Covenant.
The timing of the revival
Scripture specifically notes two “calendar points” in reference to the New Covenant revival. First, it had to take place after the sacrifice of Christ. Hebrews 8:12–13 says, “For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more. In that he saith, A new covenant, he hath made the first old. Now that which decayeth and waxeth old is ready to vanish away.” Christ had to come and shed His blood to make the New Covenant possible.
Second, this revival will come at the conclusion of the “times of the Gentiles” (Luke 21:24). When Israel rejected Christ, God turned His attention to the Gentiles, urging them to salvation through Christ. But one day, when “the fulness of the Gentiles be come in” (Romans 11:25), God will fulfill the New Covenant with His people.
The beginning of the Great Tribulation will mark the end of the “times of the Gentiles.” Scripture indicates that God will use the Tribulation to soften the hearts of His people for this revival (Jeremiah 30:4–9).
As we look at current events, including the return of the Jews to Israel, there is no doubt that God has made the initial preparations to bring about His plan for revival.
The result of revival
Israel is financially and technologically prosperous. But God desires to give them spiritual prosperity. Through the New Covenant, God will give Israel a new heart: “A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh” (Ezekiel 36:26).
Additionally, God desires to give Israel a renewed relationship. Since God’s original promise to Abraham, He has graciously set apart Israel as His own people. Through Israel, God brought Christ into the world and thus used His people to bless all people (Genesis 12:3).
Yet, through the centuries, Israel has spurned God’s favor toward her. As God led His people through the wilderness by Moses, they complained and doubted Him. Even after He brought them into the Promised Land, they continually turned their worship to idols and refused to heed God’s warnings of judgment. When Christ came, they rejected Him and crucified their promised Saviour. Yet God still desires to renew His relationship with Israel and to claim her once again as His people.
…After those days, saith the Lord, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people. And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the Lord: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more. —Jeremiah 31:31–34
Though Israel has rejected Christ, she is still God’s focus. According to biblical prophecy, she will eventually have not only the land of Palestine, but she will have a heart for God as well.
The current global focus on Israel is a reflection of God’s focus on His people. He has a plan for Israel, and the changing times around us are being used by God to bring fruition to His purpose.
Meanwhile, all across the Gentile world, people are trusting Christ as their Saviour and establishing an unconditional, literal, and eternal relationship with God through Christ. Our opportunity—and responsibility—during the “times of the Gentiles” is to bring the Gospel to every corner of the globe (Mark 16:15).