Politics & Prophecy: A Lawyer’s View of the End Times
Part 3 – The Restoration of Israel
by Gerald R. Thompson
Jer. 23:1-8 / Jer. 32:36-44 / Ezek. 28:25-26 / Ezek. 34:11-31 / Ezek. 36:16-38 / Ezek. 37:11-14, 24-28 / Ezek. 38:8-12 / Isa. 11:11-16 / Zeph. 3:14-20 / Zech. 8:1-8 / Rom. 11:25-27
The restoration of Israel in the end times is foretold in numerous scriptures throughout the O.T. I have listed only some of the principal texts above. They are so extensive that I will not reproduce all of them here except in summary fashion below. But I want you to see that this is not a passing thought found in only one or two texts. It is a pervasive theme of the Bible.
The Root and the Graft
The restoration of Israel as a nation is important because it shows that God has not forgotten about Israel, “switched” from Israel to the Church, or merged the two together. When people consider Israel and the Church to be merged, it always means that the Church takes over and Israel goes away, i.e., that the Church replaces Israel in prophecy. Merge is code language for replace. In contrast, I want to emphasize that Israel is important in the prophetic future and is not replaced or superseded by the Church.
Take Rom. Chap. 11, for example, which starts out with the statement, “God has not rejected His people, has He? May it never be! For I too am an Israelite …” In fact, the whole chapter, while explaining how Gentiles have been grafted into the “olive tree of God” (i.e., the chosen people of God), affirms that Israel has not been cut off from the tree. According to Rom. 11:17-18:
But if some of the branches were broken off, and [Gentiles], although a wild olive shoot, were grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing root of the olive tree, do not be arrogant toward the branches. If you are, remember it is not you who support the root [Israel], but the root that supports you.
Therefore, if the Church does not support Israel, then it cannot replace it, either. The grafting process does not convert the cultivated olive tree (to use the metaphor of Romans) into a wild olive tree. As anyone familiar with horticultural grafting knows, the graft is an add-on, not a replacement. In other words, among the chosen people of God, Israel is primary, the Church is secondary, and nothing in this respect has changed since the Church came along. See Rom. 11:23-24:
And even [Israel], if they do not continue in their unbelief, will be grafted in, for God has the power to graft them in again. For if [Gentiles] were cut from what is by nature a wild olive tree, and grafted, contrary to nature, into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these, the natural branches, be grafted back into their own olive tree.
God is not done with Israel as a nation yet. Jesus did not come to obliterate the distinction between the nation of Israel and the Church. Furthermore, God has prepared from the beginning of the Church, to re-integrate unbelieving Israel back into the olive tree. Thus, Rom. 11 foreshadows the turning of Israel to Christ in the end times. As if to put the matter to rest, Rom. 11:26 says, “all Israel will be saved,” and v. 29 says, “For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.” These verses are intended to be understood literally, taken at face value. Don’t denigrate them by forcing an allegorical interpretation upon them.
The idea that the Church has become the Israel of God, and God’s future plans for Israel and the Church are one and the same, is an idea held by postmillennialists and amillennialists to fit their narrative of the supremacy of the Church. Besides ignoring the clear instruction of Rom. 11, it is based on a wrong understanding of God’s covenants with man throughout history. This view conceives of the divine covenants all applying to believers only, and therefore constitute successive chapters in a single “progressively revealed” covenant.
However, the divine covenants (other than the covenant in Christ), according to the scriptures, apply to those who made them at the time and their physical descendants. Therefore (as I said in the Introduction), some of the covenants apply to everyone and others apply only to the Jews. Only the covenant in Christ applies to Christians (or the Church), per se. For purposes of the present discussion, we will adopt the view of the premillennialists – otherwise, none of the prophecies concerning the restoration of Israel have any future importance and there wouldn’t be any point discussing them.
Hallmarks of the Regathering
The regathering of the Jews is the second phase of the restoration of Israel (after the firstfruits of Israel – the 144,000) and is important for three reasons (national, spiritual, political):
1) it means the restoration of the full extent of Israel’s territory (i.e., land);
2) it means the spiritual renewal of the Jewish people who will eventually follow Jesus; and
3) it means the destruction of all the nations that come against Jerusalem.
But first, a little history. After the judges, Israel had only three kings for 120 years as a unified nation. After Solomon’s death, the kingdom divided into two parts, each with a separate kingly line – the 10 northern tribes, commonly called Israel; and the southern two tribes, commonly called Judah. Each of these were separately conquered and taken into captivity – Israel by the Assyrians about 721 B.C., and Judah by the Babylonians around 600 B.C.
In 586 B.C., Jerusalem was destroyed. Around 538 B.C., Zerubbabel started to rebuild the temple, and Nehemiah followed around 445 B.C. to rebuild the city walls. These stood until 70 A.D., when Jerusalem was utterly destroyed and the Jewish people were scattered among the nations. No Jewish king has reigned over the nation of Israel since the Babylonian deportation. And in spite of the formation of the state of Israel in 1948, the Jews remain largely scattered among the nations today.
Most of the O.T. prophets wrote during the time between 721 B.C. (the first deportation) and the rebuilding of Jerusalem by Nehemiah. So one thing to watch for is prophecies relating to the rebuilding of the temple by Nehemiah (the Second Temple), and the return of the Jews from deportation. This initial return of the Jews to Jerusalem is not the “restoration” of Israel. Neither is the formation of the state of Israel in 1948. Why? Because neither of these past events signify:
1) the turning of the Jews to Jesus spiritually;
2) restoration of the full extent of the Promised Land (we’re talking real estate here); or
3) the destruction of all surrounding hostile nations.
I encourage you to read all of the texts cited above to see just how pervasive this theme of restoration is in the O.T. You can easily see why the Jews in Jesus’ time were expecting a conquering king, rather than a suffering savior. They were looking for the restoration of Israel, which obviously hadn’t happened yet. And it hasn’t happened since, either.
The following are some representative scriptures relating to the regathering of the Jews:
Return of Jews to Palestine
Jer. 23:3 – “Then I will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the countries where I have driven them, and I will bring them back to their fold, and they shall be fruitful and multiply.”
Jer. 32:37 – “Behold, I will gather them from all the countries to which I drove them in my anger and my wrath and in great indignation. I will bring them back to this place, and I will make them dwell in safety.”
Ezek. 34:12-13 – “As a shepherd seeks out his flock when he is among his sheep that have been scattered, so will I seek out my sheep, and I will rescue them from all places where they have been scattered on a day of clouds and thick darkness. And I will bring them out from the peoples and gather them from the countries, and will bring them into their own land.”
Restoration of the land
Ezek. 28:25 – “Thus says the Lord God: When I gather the house of Israel from the peoples among whom they are scattered, and manifest my holiness in them in the sight of the nations, then they shall dwell in their own land that I gave to my servant Jacob.”
Ezek. 36:24 – “I will take you from the nations and gather you from all the countries and bring you into your own land.”
Ezek. 37:21-22 – “Thus says the Lord God: Behold, I will take the people of Israel from the nations among which they have gone, and will gather them from all around, and bring them to their own land. And I will make them one nation in the land, on the mountains of Israel.”
Ezek. Ch. 45-48 - Detailed measurements are given to Ezekiel for re-allotment to the tribes of Israel “When you allot the land as an inheritance.” Included in these measurements is a metes and bounds description of the entire Promised land, like the kind used in legal descriptions for deeds today. Ezek. 47:13-23.
Jer. 32:38-39 – “And they shall be my people, and I will be their God. I will give them one heart and one way, that they may fear me forever, for their own good and the good of their children after them.”
Ezek. 36:26-28 – “And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules … and you shall be my people, and I will be your God.”
Rom. 11:26 – all Israel will be saved, as it is written, “The Deliverer will come from Zion, he will banish ungodliness from Jacob.”
Destruction of hostile nations
Joel 3:19 – Egypt shall become a desolation and Edom a desolate wilderness, for the violence done to the people of Judah, because they have shed innocent blood in their land.
Zeph. 3:15, 19a – The Lord has taken away the judgments against you; he has cleared away your enemies. The King of Israel, the Lord, is in your midst; you shall never again fear evil. … Behold, at that time I will deal with all your oppressors.
Zech. 8:7 – Thus says the Lord of hosts: behold, I will save my people from the east country and from the west country.
Zech. 14:12-13 – And this shall be the plague with which the Lord will strike all the peoples that wage war against Jerusalem: their flesh will rot while they are still standing on their feet, their eyes will rot in their sockets, and their tongues will rot in their mouths. And on that day a great panic from the Lord shall fall on them, so that each will seize the hand of another, and the hand of the one will be raised against the hand of the other.
Precious little is overtly stated as to when the regathering of the Jews will happen. We can infer that the regathering will most likely occur at the beginning of the Millennium, because multiple texts refer both to Israel being ruled by Christ, and the surrounding nations being judged, all about the same time. However, Rom. 11:25-29 indicates it will happen after the fullness of the Gentiles has come in, that is, a highly probable reference to the end of the Tribulation (see discussion below).
Ezek. 38:8-12 overtly suggests, and other texts imply, that the regathering will begin (but not be completed before) Armageddon, because Gog and Magog will attack Israel when the Jews already “have been gathered from many nations” and “are living securely” in unwalled villages. In other words, some measure of restoration will come before Armageddon, principally the physical (or geographical) regathering of the Jews. If there is a seven year peace treaty with the Antichrist, this may be the time of living securely.
However, the Bible never says that the Jews will turn their hearts to Christ prior to the Second Coming. Therefore, it is most probable that the spiritual renewal of Israel will not come until after the Second Coming. In fact, this is a necessary implication of the 144,000 of Israel who by definition are the first part of the nation of Israel to turn to Christ. The rest of the nation will not turn to Christ until after the 144,000 have finished their task (i.e., after the Tribulation). Similarly, the direct rule of Christ and the covenant of peace will come after Armageddon, not before. So I am not convinced the regathering precedes Armageddon since all these things should happen at the same time.
The regathering will undoubtedly take some time (How quickly can the Jews all return to the Promised Land?), may unfold in stages instead of all at once, and may be ongoing while other things are happening. God never says the various events which are prophesied will not overlap each other. Be wary of end times charts and graphs that show one event stopping before another event starts.
But one thing is for certain – the regathering of the Jews in its full prophetic sense hasn’t happened yet. The formation of the civil state of Israel in 1948 wasn’t it. Otherwise, the Gaza Strip, West Bank and Golan Heights would not be in Palestinian hands, the spiritual renewal would already have occurred, and the hostile nations around Israel would be destroyed. Clearly these things have not yet taken place.
The Golden Age
Isa. 11:6 / Isa. 65:17-25 / Ezek. 34:25-31 / Ezek. 36:8-15 / Ezek. 39:21-29 / Joel 3:18-21 / Amos 9:11-15 / Micah 4:1-8 / Zech 8:1-8 / Zech 14:6-21
Similar to the scriptures relating to the regathering of the Jews, the scriptures relating to the Messianic Era (a/k/a the Golden Age) are extensive and comprise a major theme of the Bible. The list of principal texts above is illustrative, not exhaustive. I encourage everyone to read them all fully, and to seek out others I have not shown For purposes of this discussion, I will only treat them in summary fashion as in the prior section.
The Golden Age is simply that period of time following the regathering of the Jews in which:
1) there is unparalleled peace and safety;
2) there is unparalleled prosperity and a re-habitation of the land; and
3) Israel will be foremost among the nations of the world, which is to say, the throne of David will be restored, and Israel will no longer be a reproach among the nations.
Many of the scriptures relating to the regathering of the Jews also relate to the Golden Age, as the two concepts are necessarily related to each other. Practically speaking, this Golden Age is the same as the Millennium, but from a distinctly Jewish perspective. The Millennium is how the same period is viewed from the perspective of the Church. These are not in conflict or in competition with each other, but are two sides of the same coin, which must be understood together to get the whole picture.
The following texts relate to the Golden Age of a restored Israel. As you examine them, ask yourself: 1) does God exaggerate? and 2) have any of these really happened yet? You might even ask a third question: If God knows all things from the beginning to the end, why would He make all these prophecies concerning Israel as a nation if He just intended it to be replaced by the Church?
Peace and Safety
Isa. 11:6 – The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat, and the calf and the lion and the fattened calf together; and a little child shall lead them.
Ezek. 34:27 – they shall be secure in their land. And they shall know that I am the Lord, when I break the bars of their yoke, and deliver them from the hand of those who enslaved them.
Zech.8:4-5 – Thus says the Lord of hosts: Old men and old women shall again sit in the streets of Jerusalem, each with staff in hand because of great age. And the streets of the city shall be full of boys and girls playing in its streets.
Isa. 65:21-22 – They shall build houses and inhabit them; they shall plant vineyards and eat their fruit. They shall not build and another inhabit; they shall not plant and another eat; for like the days of a tree shall the days of my people be, and my chosen shall long enjoy the work of their hands.
Ezek. 34:26-27 – And I will make them and the places all around my hill a blessing, and I will send down the showers in their season; they shall be showers of blessing. And the trees of the field shall yield their fruit, and the earth shall yield its increase.
Ezek. 36:10-11 – And I will multiply people on you, the whole house of Israel, all of it. The cities shall be inhabited and the waste places rebuilt. And I will multiply on you man and beast, and they shall multiply and be fruitful. And I will cause you to be inhabited as in your former times, and will do more good to you than ever before.
Ezek. 39:25 – “Therefore thus says the Lord God: Now I will restore the fortunes of Jacob and have mercy on the whole house of Israel, and I will be jealous for my holy name.”
A king in Zion
Amos 9:11-12 – “In that day I will raise up the booth of David that is fallen and repair its breaches, and raise up its ruins and rebuild it as in the days of old, that they may possess the remnant of Edom and all the nations who are called by my name,” declares the Lord who does this.
Micah 4:1-3 – It shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the house of the Lord shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and it shall be lifted up above the hills; and peoples shall flow to it, and many nations shall come, and say: “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob, that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths.” For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. He shall judge between many peoples, and shall decide for strong nations afar off.
Zech 14:8-9 – On that day living waters shall flow out from Jerusalem, half of them to the eastern sea and half of them to the western sea. It shall continue in summer as in winter. And the Lord will be king over all the earth.
A change in language
And then we have this interesting little tidbit in Zeph. 3:8-9. Verse 8 clearly refers to Armageddon, and then v. 9 says, “For at that time I will change the speech of the peoples to a pure speech, that all of them may call upon the name of the Lord and serve him with one accord.” I wonder what language people will stop speaking? Perhaps the language of the opponents of Jehovah God? Which is the more likely candidate: Latin or Arabic?
The onset of the Messianic Era will bring not only spiritual, political, relational and environmental changes to the earth, it will bring a number of key topographical changes as well. Most of these changes will relate to the land of Israel and surrounding areas in the Middle East.
Let’s start with the obvious one – the great earthquake which marks the end of the Tribulation. Rev. 6:14 says that as a result of the quake, every mountain and island will be removed from its place. Rev. 16:19 says that, “The great city [i.e., Jerusalem] was split into three parts [although apparently only a tenth of Jerusalem will fall – Rev. 11:13], and the cities of the nations fell [i.e., completely].” The next verse adds, “every island fled away, and no mountains were to be found.” It is on the basis of these verses I have concluded that essentially everything built by man will be thrown down so Jesus can inaugurate His new world order with a clean slate. Any earthquake strong enough to remove mountains is strong enough to topple any man-made structures.
The N.T. is not alone in referring to this quake. Ezek. 38:18-20, in describing the consequences of Armageddon, notes that “on that day, the day that Gog shall come against the land of Israel, declares the Lord God, … On that day there shall be a great earthquake in the land of Israel. … [T]he mountains shall be thrown down, and the cliffs shall fall, and every wall shall tumble to the ground.”
But that isn’t the only topographical change coming. Several others are mentioned in Zech. 14. Verse 4, speaking of the Second Coming, notes that “On that day [Jesus’] feet shall stand on the Mount of Olives that lies before Jerusalem on the east, and the Mount of Olives shall be split in two from east to west by a very wide valley, so that one half of the Mount shall move northward, and the other half southward.”
Concurrently, according to Zech. 14:10, “The whole land shall be turned into a plain from Geba to Rimmon south of Jerusalem. But Jerusalem shall remain aloft on its site …” See also Isa. 40:3-4, “In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain.” Both literally and symbolically, the mountains of Israel will be made flat, but Jerusalem itself will be raised up.
Finally, Zech 14:8 says that, “On that day living waters shall flow out from Jerusalem, half of them to the eastern sea and half of them to the western sea.” In other words, water will flow from Jerusalem in two directions – west to the Mediterranean, and east to the Dead Sea. To get a fuller picture of the water flowing eastward, we must turn to Ezek. 47:1-5, which describes water flowing from underneath the threshold of the temple to the east. The river is described as ankle deep 1,000 cubits from the temple, knee deep at 2,000 cubits, waist deep at 3,000 cubits, and too deep to pass at 4,000 cubits (about 6,000 feet) downstream.
The use of the term “living waters” in Zech. 14 should immediately call to mind verses in Jeremiah to the effect that God is the fountain of living waters (Jer. 2:13; 17:13) and Jn. 4:10 & 7:38 where Jesus also claims to be the source of living water. In each instance, living water refers to the healing and restorative power of God. The fact the living waters will flow outward from the Messianic Temple foundation indicates the absolutely unique and unending favor of God poured out on Jerusalem. When all these things take place it will be a time as close to the perfection of heaven that mankind will ever experience on this earth.
It should therefore be no surprise that the living waters flowing into the Dead Sea will have a healing and restorative effect, as per Ezek. 47:8-9:
“This water flows toward the eastern region and goes down into the Arabah, and enters the sea; when the water flows into the sea, the water will become fresh. And wherever the river goes, every living creature that swarms will live, and there will be very many fish. For this water goes there, that the waters of the sea may become fresh; so everything will live where the river goes.”
The Dead Sea is so named because it currently has such high mineral content that no fish or wildlife can survive in its waters. But all this will change when Jesus returns. Ezek. 47:12 goes on to say, “And on the banks, on both sides of the river, there will grow all kinds of trees for food. Their leaves will not wither, nor their fruit fail, but they will bear fresh fruit every month, because the water for them flows from the sanctuary. Their fruit will be for food, and their leaves for healing.”
One other topographical change worth noting is mentioned in Rev. 16:12, although this one occurs during the Tribulation and not afterwards, namely “the great river Euphrates and its water was dried up, to prepare the way for the kings from the east.”
I think what makes all these topographical changes important is that they – along with the changes which will be made to the relationship of mankind to the animal kingdom, the rebuilding of society and all social institutions from scratch, the restoration of Israel and the defeat of its enemies, and the establishment of a worldwide government, theocracy and religion – show the extent to which Jesus, upon His return, will be lord and master over the whole earth. Not one aspect of life on this planet will escape His being in control of it, and all things will be altered to suit His pleasure.
All these changes will be brought about to show His mercy and goodness, His provision and care, and His everlasting dominion. Thus, the waste and uninhabitable places such as deserts and mountains – with a few exceptions to serve as reminders of His judgment – will be made flat, filled with vegetation and wildlife, and yet the wild beasts will not prey upon mankind. There will be universal peace worldwide – not a tense standoff or temporary cessation of hostilities – but a genuine and lasting peace because old rivalries and hatreds will literally disappear.
Most of the topographical changes to the land of Israel seem designed to increase it prosperity and habitability. Jerusalem, being God’s chosen place to show His favor, will remain aloft as a visible reminder of its prominence in all the world. I am sure the Temple Mount, a/k/a God’s most holy mountain, will remain raised up for that same reason.
Finally, I am struck by the fact these topographical changes, in particular, highlight the absolute necessity that the kingdom of Christ will be established on this earth, i.e., the present world. These changes are not referring to the new earth to be created, since that earth will be perfect and need no alterations. Further, topographical changes – described with precision and detail (including measurements) – are not things which are given to allegory or spiritualizing. These things will be real, physical, and part of human history. The kingdom is really coming. To earth.