vents in the Land of Israel have always been of interest to those who believe the writings of the prophets, and who see in modern Israel the beginning of a national resurrection or restoration. The picture we witness today was remarkably described by those who studied the prophetic writings about 150 years ago. John Thomas in 1848 wrote:
"The pre-adventual colonization of Palestine will be on purely political principles; and the Jewish colonists will return in unbelief of the Messiahship of Jesus, and of the truth as it is in him..." Elpis Israel.
Forty-eight years ago the State of Israel was bornbut it was not the result of a Scriptural Faith. Israel today is largely a nation of unbelievers just as John Thomas had expected. If the principle that is stated in Hebrews 3:19 "...they could not enter in because of unbelief" is applied to the modern situation, then Israels inability to hold territory should not surprise us. Neither should we be surprised if real peace for such an Israel appears difficult to achieve. The same Hebrew prophets who wrote of Israels restoration also emphasized that there would be no peace for the wicked (Isa. 48:22), and unbelief is wickedness because it is tantamount to accusing God of lies (1 John 5:10). A faith in political Zionism and its socialism, is no substitute for faith in Christ.
There are those in Israel who are not unbelievers in the general sense of the term and who do have a zeal for God, but it is not according to knowledge. These see prophecies being fulfilled and even recognize that the age of the Messiah is approaching, but they do not know of the real Jesus and neither can they keep the Law of Moses in any proper sense. Because they do not know the Truth they are not in a position to believe it; hence they are really unbelievers also.
Scripture teaches us to expect a false peace in Israel just prior to a great military invasion of the LandEzekiel 38:8, 11, 14. This "peaceful" situation is almost certainly what we are now beginning to see develop, but it must go much further yet bringing a high level of prosperity to those that "dwell in the midst of the land". We are not told how this comes about; just that it will. Some people argue that the position described by Ezekiel is impossible, and that no such "dwelling safely" and accompanying prosperity is achievable. The many reasons advanced for this may sound convincing, but the words of the inspired prophet cannot be so easily made of none effect, they mean what they say. The "spoil" of Ezekiel 38:12 is not oil, as some have thoughtEzekiel is quite specific in relating it to "cattle and goods". In verse 13 this is amplified to include "silver and gold...cattle and goods." That, he says, will constitute "a great spoil". It is no use bending these words to mean something else.
The situation in the land seen by Ezekiel "in the latter years", prior to invasion, requires the conditions that are enumerated in the above panel. Let us consider them:
The first two items clearly exist and resulted from events that have been in progress since about 1917.
LEFT: One of the Jewish Settlements "in the midst of the Land" of Israel.
The third point hinges upon the understanding of the word "safely". Consulting two separate translations of Gesenius work, as well as Bagsters (Davidson) Lexicon, the rendition of the Revised Version "securely" seems a very reasonable one. But even if we take the word "confidently" as some prefer, that does not necessarily mean self-confidence. It could apply to a situation such as is pointed out in Isaiah 30:2,3 or in chapter 36:6; except that Egypt (Daniels King of the South) could be extended to the U.S., Britain and trading nations such as are mentioned in Ezekiel 38:13. This, surely, is the focus of Israels misplaced trust and confidence today.
LEFT: Settlers homes in the West Bank.
"Unwalled villages" or "open country" (See Ezekiel 38:11. R.V. mg) fittingly describes Jewish settlements in the area of the West Bank (Judea and Samaria) that are there now. Israel may be withdrawing from several townsBethlehem, Ramalla among recent onesbut the settlements that have been built in the "open country" will remain under Israels protection.
The fifth and sixth pointsat rest, with no defence concernsis not a situation that we see yet, though there are early signs of its approach. When one considers what has happened since Sadat of Egypt made his first move towards peace with Israel in the 1970s, and how that agreement has weathered the storms, the protests and even acts of terrorismit is not difficult to see a general situation of peace and co-operation developing. It would be as a result of this that prosperity would comethe cattle, goods, silver and gold (point 8). In fact, such a result is already on the horizon as one of the fruits of peace agreements.
RIGHT: Posters on a fence in Jerusalem declare "This Is Not Peace"
Yet, when all is added up and achieved, this is not peace. It is Ezekiel who describes the situation, but it is he who also says that a great company will invade the land and come against the mountains of Israel. The words of 1 Thess. 5:3 come into mind: "For when they shall say peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them." The picture is one of a false peace; false security. Lulled by silvery tones from the Vatican, assurances from strong nations afar off, a degree of well-being and affluence at homeall will contribute to a feeling of security.
There are those who feel that the great trauma and suffering inflicted upon the Jews as their State is destroyed by the Northern aggressor will bring about repentance. This is not so. If suffering alone were sufficient to turn Israels heart then the Holocaust during World War II would have accomplished it. No; we cannot escape the fundamental truth that for Jews (as for anyone else) to call upon the Name of the Lord, there must first be belief. This is absolutely essential:
"How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe on him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things..." (Romans 10:13-15).
The apostle Pauls application of Isaiah 52:7 to the situation in the first century is only part of the picture. There is clearly to be another application, for Isaiah continues:
"...that publisheth salvation; that saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth! Thy watchmen shall lift up the voice; with the voice together shall they sing: for they shall see eye to eye, when the LORD shall bring again Zion..."
The prophecy continues to speak of the time when Jerusalem will be redeemed and when the Lord shall comfort His people. So we see the need of preachers to be sent; for Zions "watchmen" to lift up the voice and publishinterestingly"peace".
There is of course a teaching mission that will go forth to the Jewish diaspora and gather them once Messiah has appeared (Isa. 66:19-21; Zech. 2:6-8 etc.), but: "The LORD also shall save the tents of Judah first" (Zech. 12:7). There can be little doubt that this saving of Judah comes because "the governors of Judah say in their heart, There is strength to me and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem in the LORD of hosts..." (Zech 12:5; see A.V. mg). How would they be able to say this in their heartunless they had received instruction?
It would be the wrong way round if Israel were delivered first and instructed for faith afterwards. That is not Gods order. Thus, teachers must appear on the scene and instruct those in the Land before the great invasion and subsequent deliverance. As in the situation that preceded Christs first coming, John Baptist went "before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord" (Luke 1:17).
Who are the teachers that will go forth? A consideration of the relevant prophecies leads us to the conclusion that they must be the risen saints (Elijah and those who will assist him in this first phase of the workMalachi 4:5,6; Matt. 17:10,11).
Now in view of these things what may we conclude? First, it would appear that instruction of Jews living in the Land will begin while they are "dwelling securely" prior to the invasion of the Land from the north. Secondly, it would seem almost certain that this is the condition we now see developing. Thirdly, as Elijah and the saints are involved in this work the coming of Christ and the resurrection must be very close at hand. Fourthly, and finally, are we ready to meet the Lord as those who have sought his truth diligently and made serious effort to do what he has asked of us?
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