Those who follow my blog know I often write about Israel’s continued place in God’s prophetic program.
Why do I do this? Why not just write about the signs and our immanent hope in Jesus’ return as I often do? Why defend Israel’s place in God’s prophetic program?
It’s precisely because our expectation of Jesus’ soon return is so important that I defend Israel’s future role in prophecy. Israel is the focal point where on one side we have those who believe the rapture is near and on the other side those who dismiss our hope in Jesus’ soon return.
Why is Israel so vital to our future hope? The future of Israel . . .
1. Enables Us to Recognize the Season of Jesus’ Appearing
Those who deny a future for Israel do not regard her current existence as sign we are living in the last days. That may sound as though I am stating the obvious, but my point is that they see no reason to believe we are living in the season of Jesus’ appearing. They reject our imminent hope in Jesus’ return to take us home to his Father’s house (John 14:2-3) and regard Israel’s existence today as a fluke of history.
Those of us who see God’s miraculous hand in her reemergence as a nation regard it as the sign of the fig tree that Jesus talks about in Matthew 24:32-34. Just as a fig tree’s new leaves in spring tell us that summer is near, so Israel’s existence tells us we are living in the final hours before Jesus takes us home.
In 1983, Billy Graham wrote a book titled, Approaching Hoofbeats – The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. In the book, Graham discussed all the signs pointing to the beginning of the tribulation as John wrote about in Revelation 6. If the judgments of the tribulation seemed at hand to him back then, how much closer must they be today?
Israel is far along in its plans to build the third temple, which must be in place for the antichrist to defile halfway through the tribulation. Signs pointing to the coming kingdom of the antichrist abound all around us.
Our awareness of Jesus’ soon return and the nearness of the tribulation period stems from our belief that Israel remains a nation in God’s sight, just as He promised throughout the Old Testament!
2. Grounds our Hope in the Words of Prophecy
Those who believe the Lord is finished with Israel must overlay their interpretative perspective on numerous passages where a literal understanding of the words contradicts their point of view.
Take Isaiah 9:6-7 for example. Those opposed to a future for Israel claim that the promise of Jesus ruling from the throne of David is symbolical. It thus refers a spiritual kingdom, not to a future for Israel. However, how does one regard the references to Jesus’ birth as symbolical and then switch to an allegorical interpretation of Jesus rule in the same two verses? How do they escape the clear reading that Jesus will rule in Israel someday?
Those who dismiss a future for Israel also assert that the judgments of Revelation 6-16 are all symbolical. However, John use language that points to his writing of actual events, ones that he both saw and heard.
The word translated “saw” occurs 44 times in the book and the word “looked” occurs 12 times. In eight places the apostle writes “I looked and behold” as if to emphasize that he is writing about prophetic events. In thirty places John used the word “heard” to indicate he was writing down what he heard.
These are not the words we would expect to see in an allegory, but rather what we would expect from someone writing about future events, i.e. prophecy, precisely as John says he is writing (Rev. 1:19, 22:7). John’s warning in Revelation 22:18-19 is to those who would add or take away from the words of the book. Words matter!
If one starts taking away events from the book of Revelation because scholars claim they are “symbolic,” where does one start regarding John’s words as literal? If the judgments are not literal, what about the words regarding Jesus’ return in glory and His promise to make all things new (21:5)? Does not the allegorical approach to the apocalypse place the interpreter in the role of deciding what events are real and what are symbolical? Yes, absolutely!!
How does this relate to Israel? Those who remove Israel’s future kingdom from the pages of the Old Testament through the use of allegory also do the same to John’s record of the tribulation in Revelation 6-19.
We base Israel’s continuance as a nation on a literal understanding of biblical prophecy; the same is true of our hope in Jesus’ soon return. The words of Scripture matter!
3. Safeguards us against Doctrinal Error
Replacement theology is the belief that the Lord has replaced Israel with the church. Most of those who hold to this doctrine believe this happened because the Jews rejected their Messiah.
Most who hold to this belief are amillennialists; they do not believe Christ’s thousand year reign of on the earth based in Israel nor do they believe in a literal seven-year tribulation.
Because the majority of those who hold to some form of replacement theology believe in the resurrection of believers with immortal bodies as well as the glorious eternal state of Revelation 21-22, this might seem like an insignificant distinction among Bible-believing Christians.
The danger of amillennialism is its allegorical approach to prophecy, which they use to dismiss both the future of Israel and a literal tribulation. While most amillennialists would never deny the reality of the eternal state as described in Revelation 21-22, others use their non-literal approach to prophecy to do exactly that. This has led to much false teaching in our day.
Radical preterism follows this symbolical approach all the way to the end of Revelation ripping the heart out of our Gospel hope. They believe the Lord returned to the earth in 70 AD and that He has fulfilled the entire book of Revelation.
Dominion theology denies Israel’s future and the tribulation by asserting that the church will bring the glories of the millennium itself; Jesus only returns after the church’s reign upon the earth. These beliefs contradict the clear prophecies of both the Old and New Testaments. Scripture always view Jesus as both bringing in the kingdom and reigning over it. Dominion theology also negates all the prophecies of the book of Revelation.
The allegorical approach to prophecy, one that removes Israel’s place in God’s prophetic program for the future, has thus become a gateway to much false teaching regarding future things!
Do you see why Israel matters? Once one dismisses the miracle of Israel’s current existence and all the promises regarding the future kingdom of Israel, the foundation of our hope begins to shake beneath us. If God’s everlasting covenant with the Patriarchs (Ps. 105:8-11) and Jeremiah’s strong assertions regarding Israel’s restoration (Jer. 33:23-26) are no longer valid, then what about the words of scriptural pertaining to our future hope?
Many will vigorously disagree with me on this matter, but the path of those who dismiss our hope of Jesus’ soon appearing always leads through a dismissal of Israel and a literal tribulation. Always!
The miraculous reemergence of Israel as a nation in 1948 and God’s supernatural protection and blessing of her in our day is not a fluke of history. It’s a clear sign we live in the last days; Jesus is coming soon.
Israel’s existence further demonstrates God’s faithfulness in keeping promises as well as His sovereignty over history (Isa. 46:8-13).
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