Interpreting Israel's Present Conflicts in View of Her Final Purgation
February 6, 2009
Jesus was very clear that we are to know with absolute certainty the season of His return. He left no permission for the final generation to be ignorant and unresponsive to the clear timing indicators that are given to signal the nations of the earth. This concept is quite contrary to today's pop-cultural view of the culmination of this age. Many are quick to cite "No one knows the day or the hour" without a faithful consideration of the context of that statement or of the overwhelming amount of information that has been given to us concerning the final generation of this age (roughly 150 chapters). 
Jesus dropped that phrase not to discourage people from looking to and knowing the season of His return but to encourage it and to command it ("let the reader understand;" Mt 24:15). In the same passage, after explaining the primary timing indicators that would signal the nearness of His coming He said: When you see all these things, KNOW that it is near--at the doors! Assuredly…this generation will by no means pass away till all these things take place… (Mt. 24:33-34)
The second coming will be parallel to the historical elements of His first. That is, signs will be given, prophets will be commissioned to speak clarity into the events and people will be required to respond accordingly. The generation that witnessed the first coming was severely rebuked and even ridiculed for not responding to the obvious signs of the times that unambiguously revealed what was happening in their midst. We read Jesus' scathing and terrifying words to His generation: The Pharisees…came testing Him asked that He would show them a sign from heaven…Hypocrites! You know how to discern the face of the sky, but you cannot discern the signs of the times. A wicked and adulterous generation seeks after a sign… (Mt. 16:1-4)
If you had known, even you, especially in this your day, the things that make for your peace…For days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment around you, surround you and close you in on every side, and level you, and your children within you, to the ground…because you did not know the time of your visitation. (Lk. 19:42-44) Jesus pronounced the sure and imminent destruction of a generation including its children because of the hardness, stupidity and rebellion of multitudes who lived in the midst of the greatest transition in human history but who brushed off the prophetic indicators as if they were inconsequential. These words have a historical fulfillment in the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD and a prophetic edge as we approach the end of this age and the beginning of the next.
One of the many timing indicators or signs that we are approaching the return of Jesus is the nation of Israel. In Scripture, Israel is the reference point in discerning God's prophetic timetable for the end-time drama. Israel has always been the primary timing indicator for God's prophetic calendar. The entire end-time drama in Scripture is given in context to events related to Israel.
This is important to understand as things intensify in the Middle East. Israel's current conflict with Hamas is one of the many sign posts pointing to that which is on the horizon. The current conflict is nothing in and of itself. That is, it is not a Biblical sign. It is a precursor of what is coming. And it is an appropriate moment in which to articulate what is prophesied in Scripture concerning the age-ending events that have Israel at the epicenter.
In 1948 Israel became a nation by a bizarre series of events in the wake of the holocaust of WWII. And in June of 1967 Israel gained control of Jerusalem in the Six Day War. Neither of these events were the final fulfillment of Biblical prophecies concerning Israel's return to the land. That is yet future. These two events (the establishment of the nation-state and the gaining of Jerusalem) indicate that those prophecies are about to be fulfilled. A stunning and unique sign of the generation in which the Lord returns is the prophesied rebirth of Israel as a nation. The most striking event in Biblical prophecy is the preliminary return of Jews to their ancient homeland and the necessary formation of the state of Israel. No end-time sign is more dramatic or convincing than Israel becoming a nation. Israel was scattered to the nations from her land in AD 70. For the first time in 2,000 years, there is now an Israeli government in control of Jerusalem. We are to view the establishment of the nation-state as a preliminary event that makes a yet future scattering and final regathering possible. It is a sign. But it is a sign that must be understood properly; lest we have an unbiblical view and allegiance to the current occupation of the land without a faithful acknowledgment of the coming hour of purging and cleansing.
That nation state is now experiencing some of the initial 'ground swells' of rage, violence, anti-Semitism and global attention that foreshadow, in an extremely limited way, the intense hour that is before us. That is the point: What we're seeing now is the beginning of the beginning. And this brings me to my main point for this article:
We can and must be sure: God will gather all nations against national Israel in the days ahead which will lead to the dismantling of the current nation-state, another brief scattering of world Jewry among the nations of the earth for a 42 month  period  of unprecedented violence and bloodshed known as "Jacob's Trouble"  that will culminate in the death of two-thirds of ethnic Jews  and the ultimate and permanent salvation of every remaining Jew who survives this hour of purging.  Thus we can and must be sure: Jerusalem will soon become the center of world politics and controversy.
The current conflict is the beginning of something unparalleled. So great in magnitude will the coming crisis be that the blood scourge of the Nazi holocaust will actually be eclipsed. Jesus was clear when He said: "For then there will be a great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, nor ever shall be. And unless those days were shortened no flesh would survive…" (Matthew 24:21-22)
Therefore, there are two crucial realities that I wish to highlight: First, we must come into agreement with God's sovereign election of Israel as an ethnic people group. He has elected them out from all the nations to bear a unique calling. We must discern this and embrace this. This is far different than an affinity for Jews or a sentimental zeal for the nation-state. Understanding election is essential (anti-Semitism has its primary root in a hatred of a God who elects unconditionally). And secondly, we must see that this election does not ensure Israel's protection only but also her devastation. This is true historically and it will be true prophetically. Election and covenant necessitates covenantal vengeance when there is covenantal unfaithfulness. And the "right" to the land is a dangerous claim; especially when the nation claiming the "right" has a history of being exiled from the land for unfaithfulness to the covenant. Israel's election does ensure her ultimate salvation and inheritance of the land – but only through devastation and humbling.
If we fail to recognize these two facts in the days ahead we will find ourselves in an antagonistic position before God that will inevitably result in unimaginable confusion, protest, rage and bitter offense. Many today that are 'pro-Israel' are in staunch opposition to the will of God. The reason being, they fail to recognize the redemptive value and necessity of Israel's end-time "shattering."  They assume that election means unconditional protection. On the contrary! Election in Israel's case means necessary covenantal vindication! That is, if the people of the covenant are in a hostile posture towards the covenant, the covenant will execute its "vengeance" upon them.  That is, the covenant-maker will execute vengeance for covenantal infidelity. The establishment of the nation-state in 1948 made this possible. Now that Israel is in the land we can and must be sure that her "day of reckoning" is on the horizon. 
Though the hour known as "Jacob's Trouble"  or "Zion's Travail"  or "the tribulation, the great one"  is a horrific hour that will bring with it unfathomable suffering and affliction for both Jews and Gentiles, we look forward to it with anticipation because of what the outcome will be. Like a woman pregnant with child we look forward to the coming hour of travail knowing that after a brief hour of pain and upheaval something glorious will be "born."  That is the paradigm that we must have as we attempt to understand the theological elements of the coming storm.
Of all that could be said about this hour, what we in the West need to grapple with the most right now is the idea that the current occupation of the land of Israel is not permanent but actually preliminary. So many today believe that God is going to deliver Israel from her enemies without acknowledging the hour of purging, affliction and suffering that must necessarily befall her before her deliverance and national regeneration. Concerning the contextual evidence that points to a final scattering and gather after the 1948 regathering Reggie Kelly writes:
"In the perspective of the prophets, the day of deliverance comes only after Israel has been brought once more into the wilderness for a final time of testing and divine pleading as at the first (Ezk 20:34:-37; Jer 31:2; Hos 2:14-15). This raises the question of the time of fulfillment. The context is decisive; it is the critical point of transition that ends with salvation and final return to the Land. Israel's flight into the wilderness is made expedient by the violence of Antichrist; the remnant flee from 'the face of the destroyer' (Isa 16:1-5; Jer 4:7; Ezk 35:5,12; 36:2-5; 38:17; Obad 10-14; Mic 2:12; Mt 24:16-21; Rev 11:2; 12:6). Some of the prophecies depicting the final return represent the remnant as returning not only from many nations but also from desert locations from neighboring regions outside the Land (Isa 16:4; Isa 26:19; 27:12-13; 42:11; Ezk 20:35; Dn 11:43)." 
If this concept is foreign to us, we do well to consider the multitudes of prophetic passages that speak of a return to a land that has been brought into sudden desolation. This is much different than the pre-1948 return from the age long dispersion that began in 70 A.D. Compare the following passages and note the conspicuous nature of the statements concerning the final redemption of ethnic Israel in terms of a return from all the nations to devastated places and of a new wilderness experience that feels a lot like the first Exodus journey: Isaiah 35:1-10; 40:1-5; 41:17-18; 42:9-16; 43:19-21; 51:3-23; 63:1-7; 64:9-12; Ezekiel 20:35-37; Jeremiah 31:2; Hosea 2:14-15 with Matthew 24:16-21; Revelation 12:6, 14.
The future return to the land is distinctly different from the last in two primary ways: First, none are left behind (Deuteronomy 30:4; Isaiah 11:11-16; 27:12-13; 43:6-7; Ezekiel 39:28; Amos 9:9; Zechariah 10:8-9). And secondly, every surviving Jew is regenerated and brought into the covenant to receive the land permanently (Isaiah 4:3; 54:13; 59:21; 60:21; 66:8; Jeremiah 31:33-34; Ezekiel 39:22; Romans 11:25-27).  The final return is much different than that of 1948. Thus we view any current conflict in the light of the final eschatological one that will result in the national humbling and regeneration of Israel in "one day." 
The current conflict is like the rays of the morning sun that is not yet visible. The rays can be seen and the heat can be felt but the sun itself cannot be seen. We can anticipate many more confrontations like this that will lead to a one final hour of unequaled violence and devastation. These are the initial 'speed bumps' that the newly established nation is experiencing. Having said that, it's important to note that "there are a few remarkable passages that show that the judgments of the last tribulation break forth on a people that have only recently returned to the Land (Jeremiah 30:3-7; Ezekiel 22:17-22; 38:8; Zephaniah 2:1-2; Joel 3:1-2). The language suggests that the holy places have been only lately recovered into Jewish possession when the City is suddenly invaded and 'trodden down' by the Gentiles (Isaiah 63:18; 64:10-11; Daniel 8:13; 11:23 with Isaiah 28:15-18; also Luke 21:24 with Revelation 11:2)."  That invasion is yet future.
Jerusalem will soon become the center of world politics and "controversy." (Isaiah 34:8) The prophets, apostles and Jesus all foretold of a time when Jerusalem would be the primary focus of the whole earth in the end times (Zechariah 12:3; 14:1-3; Joel 3:2, 12; Zephaniah 3:8; Luke 21:20-24). Jerusalem is quickly becoming the center focus of world attention. And it's absolutely imperative that we understand the nature of the events, the source of the events, the reason for the events and the outcome of the events.
All these trends and events demand that we take Jesus' words seriously to know the time of His return. "For the first time in nearly two millennia since the Roman period, the church is once more living under the shadow of an impending world conflict over the so-called "Jewish problem', as Jerusalem is made once more an international "cup of trembling" (Zechariah 12:2-3), and all nations are plunged into what the Isaiah calls "the controversy of Zion" (Isaiah 34:8). Through an amazing providence that includes the Islamic obsession with Jerusalem based on a 7th century myth, modern events continue to move us in the direction of the early church's fervent expectation of an imminent end that comes by an international controversy that rages over Jerusalem. But unlike the early church, the modern church is largely out of touch with the apocalyptic perspective that animated the first Christians. Moreover, there is the modern problem of competing interpretations that greatly obscure the issues and rob the church of vital certainty." 
 To put it in perspective, between the 4 Gospels there are 89 chapters. Concerning the second coming of Jesus there are roughly 150.
 Compare Daniel 7:25; 9:27; 12:7, 11 with Revelation 11:2-3; 12:6-14, 13:5
 Jeremiah 30:7; cf. Daniel 12:1; Matthew 24:21; Revelation 7:14
 Jeremiah 30:7
 Zechariah 13:8-9
 Isaiah 4:3; 54:13; 59:21; 60:21; 66:8; Jeremiah 31:33-34; Ezekiel 39:22; Romans 11:25-27
 Daniel 12:7
 Leviticus 26:25
 Concerning Israel's "right to the land" Reggie Kelly writes: "Since it is clear that the modern Jewish residents of Israel fall conspicuously short of covenant obedience, there has been considerable debate over the question of 'divine right' to the Land. This question should be laid to rest by observing the history of Israel's tenure in the Land. Certainly the remnant returning from Babylon fell egregiously short of covenant obedience (Ezra 9:1). Still, the prophets and leaders of the first return regard Israel's repossession of the Land as not based on the nation's righteousness (this obviously waits the post-tribulational regeneration of the nation), but rather on the basis of an irrevocable covenant with the Fathers (Jer 30:3; 31:35-37). Throughout the far greater part of Israel's history in the Land, the larger part of the nation has remained critically short of the required obedience. Still, the Land is regarded as irrevocably given on the basis of the everlasting covenant established with the Fathers and later with David (Ps 89:30-33), which assures the fulfillment of the conditional covenant through the messianic atonement and the gift of the Spirit. In the meantime, while Israel as a nation waits the eschatological 'fullness' (Ro 11:12), the aggressive nations are held nonetheless liable for their presumption in attacking Israel. The final Antichrist invasion of the Land is represented as an assault on the 'holy covenant' (Dn 11:28, 30), as the hubris of this act proves the ultimate provocation (Ezk 38:18; Joel 3:2). These passages presuppose that the nation under assault is manifestly yet under judgment. The nations direct their attack on a nation that the prophets describe as 'rebellious'. Yet the Land and people are nonetheless regarded as 'holy' in the sense of set apart by sovereign covenant election. Hence, the authority of the Word of God is at stake. "Has God really said?" How else shall we explain the wrath that is provoked against the nations that are reproved for their presumption in attacking Israel, despite their unwitting deployment as the rod of divine chastisement?" (The Approaching Time of Jacob's Trouble)
10] Jeremiah 30:7
 Micah 5:3; Isaiah 13:8; 66:8
 Revelation 7:14
 Isaiah 66:8
 From the article "The Approaching Time of Jacob's Trouble"
 The promise of complete, comprehensive and total Jewish salvation continues the full duration of the thousand years, and extends to every child born to Jewish parentage (Isa 54:13; 59:21; Jer 31:34). Election and preservation are central themes to the issue of Israel's future salvation experience.
 Isaiah 66:8; Ezekiel 39:22; Zechariah 3:9
 In his footnote Kelly writes: "The modern Muslim obsession with al-Quds ("the holy"), the Arabic name for Jerusalem, has its source in stories emerging from the eighth century of Mohammad's alleged ascent into heaven on a winged horse from the place that Abraham offered Isaac. Hence, the Dome of 'the Rock' stands over the place that most agree to be the original site of the temple. Significantly, none of the invasions of antiquity answer so nearly to the specifics of prophecy as the situation that presents itself today. It is remarkable that a religion originating in the 7th century A.D. would be the key to the fulfillment of prophecies dating from the 8th to the 5th century B.C. Because of this irony of history, a pan-Arabic block of nations is poised to participate in the final 'treading down' of Jerusalem by the Gentiles (Ps 83; Ezk 35:1-36:5; 38:2-6; Obad 10-15). Significantly, these nations are dominantly Islamic today. Some of them represent the modern descendents of the Semitic half-brothers of Isaac and Jacob, Ishmael and Esau. These are the peoples that Ezekiel describes as possessed of "an everlasting hatred" (Ezk 35:5) and are most deeply incensed 'against the holy covenant' (Dn 11:28, 30, 32). Hence, many interpreters look for the 'little horn' of prophecy to emerge from this general region (Dn 8:9) and form a ten nation confederacy out of the nations that were Israel's historic foes. Thus, the stage for the final fulfillment of prophecy is much more completely set today than ever before with any supposed fulfillment by the Greeks or Romans."
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