Today marks 69 years since the dramatic rebirth of the modern State of Israel in May of 1948. Israelis are joyfully celebrating independence, security and growing prosperity, but not everyone is happy. Sadly, there are many people in this region and around the world who despise Israel and seek her isolation, demise, and even annihilation.
Rather than address these (very important) geopolitical issues today, however, I’d like to address a question that many people ask me when I travel and speak around the world: Are there really ancient prophecies in the Bible that promised the rebirth of Israel in the last days, despite all the wars and rumors of wars and controversy this would ignite?
Yes, there are.
The most famous of these, perhaps, are found in the book of Ezekiel, chapters 36 through 39. Here, the Hebrew prophet Ezekiel, writing more than 2,500 years ago, describes in great detail, in chapter after chapter, how “in the last days” (Ezekiel 38:16) the Lord will remember the Jewish people, resurrect the “dry bones” of the Jewish people who seemed left for dead (Ezekiel 37:1-14), remember the land of Israel, bring the Jewish people back to the land, cause the land of Israel to flourish again, and help the Jewish people rebuild the ancient ruins of Israel.
The prophet also describes how the Lord would help the Jewish people survive and multiply and be blessed again in a resurrected land of Israel—which Ezekiel describes as “the center of the world” (Ezekiel 38:12)—even though their enemies would repeatedly seek to destroy them.
Consider a few excerpts from these important passages:
- Ezekiel 36:8-10—“But you, O mountains of Israel, you will put forth your branches and bear your fruit for My people Israel; for they will soon come. For, behold, I am for you, and I will turn to you, and you will be cultivated and sown. I will multiply men on you, all the house of Israel, all of it; and the cities will be inhabited and the waste places will be rebuilt.”
- Ezekiel 36:22-24—“It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for My holy name. . . . For I will take you from the nations, gather you from all the lands, and bring you into your own land.”
- Ezekiel 37:1, 11-14—“The hand of the Lord was upon me, and He brought me out by the Spirit of the Lord and set me down in the middle of the valley; and it was full of bones. . . . Then He said to me, ‘Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel; behold, they say, “Our bones are dried up and our hope has perished. We are completely cut off.” Therefore prophesy and say to them, “Thus says the Lord God, ‘Behold, I will open your graves and cause you to come up out of your graves, My people; and I will bring you into the land of Israel. Then you will know that I am the Lord, when I have opened your graves and caused you to come up out of your graves, My people. I will put My Spirit within you and you will come to life, and I will place you on your own land. Then you will know that I, the Lord, have spoken and done it,’ declares the Lord.”’”
- Ezekiel 38:8, 12—“After many days you [Gog, a key enemy of Israel] will be summoned; in the latter years you will come into the land that is restored from the sword, whose inhabitants have been gathered from many nations to the mountains of Israel which had been a continual waste; but its people were brought out from the nations, and they are living securely, all of them. . . . the people who are gathered from the nations, who have acquired cattle and goods, who live at the center of the world.”
That said, Ezekiel was by no means the only Hebrew prophet who foretold Israel’s miraculous rebirth and the Jews’ return to the Holy Land after centuries of exile. Consider several other key passages of Scripture:
- Isaiah 66:8-9—“‘Who has heard such a thing? Who has seen such things? Can a land be born in one day? Can a nation be brought forth all at once? As soon as Zion travailed, she also brought forth her sons. Shall I bring to the point of birth and not give delivery?’ says the Lord. ‘Or shall I who gives delivery shut the womb?’ says your God.”
- Jeremiah 16:14-15—“‘Therefore behold, days are coming,’ declares the Lord, ‘when it will no longer be said, “As the Lord lives, who brought up the sons of Israel out of the land of Egypt,” but, “As the Lord lives, who brought up the sons of Israel from the land of the north and from all the countries where He had banished them.” For I will restore them to their own land which I gave to their fathers.’”
- Jeremiah 31:3-9—“The Lord appeared to him from afar, saying, ‘I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have drawn you with lovingkindness. Again I will build you and you will be rebuilt, O virgin of Israel! Again you will take up your tambourines, and go forth to the dances of the merrymakers. Again you will plant vineyards on the hills of Samaria; the planters will plant and will enjoy them. For there will be a day when watchmen on the hills of Ephraim call out, “Arise, and let us go up to Zion, to the Lordour God.” . . . Behold, I am bringing them from the north country, and I will gather them from the remote parts of the earth, among them the blind and the lame, the woman with child and she who is in labor with child, together; a great company, they will return here. With weeping they will come, and by supplication I will lead them; I will make them walk by streams of waters, on a straight path in which they will not stumble; for I am a father to Israel.’”
- Amos 9:11-15—“‘In that day I will raise up the fallen booth of David, and wall up its breaches; I will also 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. ‘Behold, days are coming,’ declares the Lord, ‘when the plowman will overtake the reaper and the treader of grapes him who sows seed; when the mountains will drip sweet wine and all the hills will be dissolved. Also I will restore the captivity of My people Israel, and they will rebuild the ruined cities and live in them; they will also plant vineyards and drink their wine, and make gardens and eat their fruit. I will also plant them on their land, and they will not again be rooted out from their land which I have given them,’ says the Lord your God.”
In the New Testament era, Jesus of Nazareth repeatedly reaffirmed the teachings of the Hebrew prophets. Indeed, he challenged people for not having read r understood or believed the Hebrew Scriptures.
- Matthew 5:17—“Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill.”
- Matthew 19:4 (NLT)—“‘Haven’t you read the Scriptures?’ Jesus replied.
- Matthew 22:29 (NLT)—“Jesus replied, ‘Your mistake is that you don’t know the Scriptures, and you don’t know the power of God.’”
By reaffirming the truth and the value of the Old Testament Scriptures, Jesus reaffirmed the truth and the value of God’s promises to resurrect the people and the land of Israel in the last days.
What’s more, Christ specifically spoke of the rebirth of Israel in Matthew 24:32-33. “Now learn the parable from the fig tree,” he said. “When its branch has already become tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near; so, you too, when you see all these things, recognize that He is near, right at the door.”
What is the “parable from the fig tree” to which Jesus referred? The fig tree repeatedly symbolizes the nation of Israel throughout the Old Testament. In Jeremiah 24, for example, the Lord referred to the Jewish people as figs—some good, some bad—as he promised to bring them back from captivity to the Promised Land. Hosea 9:10 says, “I found Israel like grapes in the wilderness; I saw your forefathers as the earliest fruit on the fig tree in its first season.” In Micah 4, in a passage specifically about the last days and people coming to Jerusalem to visit the Lord’s Temple, Micah writes that when it comes to the Jewish people in the last days, “each of them will sit under his vine and under his fig tree.”
When Jesus spoke of the “parable from the fig tree” in Matthew’s Gospel, he was referencing these and similar passages. He was saying that when you see the State of Israel reborn, and Jews coming back to the Holy Land, and the land of Israel turning green and flourishing again—and when you see this happening in the context of all the other signs, all the other “birth pangs”—then you should know we are in a special and distinctive moment in history, a moment unlike any other. At that time, while we won’t know the day or hour of Christ’s return, the Lord Jesus told us to “recognize that He is near, right at the door” (Matthew 24:33).
The apostles certainly believed the ancient prophecies about the rebirth of Israel would one day come to pass. In Acts 1:6, they asked the Lord Jesus after his resurrection if he was now going to bring the prophetic promises to fulfillment, end the Roman occupation, and rebuild the kingdom of Israel. It is reasonable to believe they expected Israel to be reborn as a politically independent state at any moment.
“Lord, is it at this time You are restoring the kingdom to Israel?” they asked. Jesus did not say that theirs was a stupid question. He did not say those prophecies about Israel’s future rebirth were inaccurate or irrelevant or canceled by Jewish unfaithfulness to God, or that his followers were misinterpreting those passages. Rather, he said to them, “It is not for you to know times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority” (Acts 1:7). For Christ and his apostles, it was not a matter of if the Father would fulfill his promises to Israel and the Jewish people, but when. And since the Lord Jesus knew the promises would not be fulfilled for more than 1,900 years, he mercifully chose not to give the disciples any details, for it may well have discouraged them.
The apostle Paul also repeatedly affirmed the truth and value of all the Hebrew prophecies in the Scriptures. In so doing he reaffirmed the rebirth of Israel and the re-gathering of the Jews in the last days.
- In 2 Timothy 3:16, for example, Paul writes, “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching.” That certainly covers all the prophecies in the Old Testament, including those describing the future resurrection of Israel.
- In Romans 9:3-4, Paul writes about his deep love for “my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh, who are Israelites” and explains that to the children of Israel “belongs the adoption as sons, and the glory and the covenants and the giving of the Law and the temple service and the promises.” When he speaks of “the covenants,” Paul speaks of all the covenants. He does not exclude the Abrahamic covenant, in which the Lord unconditionally promised the land of Israel to the Jews, his chosen people according to Genesis 12 and 17, among other passages.
- What’s more, when Paul speaks of “the promises,” he speaks of all God’s promises to the Jewish people. He does not exclude the promises of Ezekiel 36, 37, 38, or any of the other promises of resurrecting the nation of Israel or re-gathering the Jewish people to Israel.
Indeed, the most definitive and conclusive sign that we are living in the era the Bible calls the “last days” was the miraculous rebirth of the State of Israel in May 1948, the return of millions of Jews to the Holy Land after centuries of exile, the wars and rumors of wars that have engulfed the Jewish state for the last half century and more, the rebuilding of the ancient ruins in Israel, and the increasing international focus on the nation of Israel as the epicenter of the momentous events that are shaking our world and shaping our future. Some Bible scholars have described the rebirth of Israel as the “super sign,” and I agree.
Many people did not see the modern resurrection of the Jewish state coming. Many thought it would never happen and shouldn’t. For centuries, world leaders had cruelly scattered and persecuted the Jewish people and denied their right to return to their ancient homeland.
Sadly, even many church leaders throughout history came to believe in a pernicious doctrine called “replacement theology,” which denied the veracity and legitimacy of Bible prophecies that said Israel would be reborn in the last days. Such replacement theologians, and the pastors and laypeople who read and followed their conclusions, said God had rejected the Jewish people and would no longer honor the ancient covenants to give the Jewish people the heretofore “Promised Land.” Unfortunately, many people in the United States and around the world also vigorously opposed the creation of the modern State of Israel. Indeed, most of the Arab and Islamic world was willing to use any means necessary, including war, to strangle the reborn infant nation in her cradle, as they demonstrated time and time again.
Yet those who were watching events through the lens of Scripture knew Israel would one day be reborn. What’s more, those who believed the ancient biblical prophecies were true and valid often did much to assist the young nation of Israel.
One last major point: There is a critically important passage of Scripture we must consider in this context of the prophetic rebirth of the State of Israel and its implications for the future of the United States.
“Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go forth from your country, and from your relatives and from your father’s house, to the land which I will show you; and I will make you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great; and so you shall be a blessing; and I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse. And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.” Genesis 12:1-3
Later in the Bible, these promises to Abram were passed down to his grandson Jacob, who was renamed Israel.
“Then his father Isaac said to him . . . ‘Cursed be those who curse you, and blessed be those who bless you.’” Genesis 27:26, 29
Still later in the Bible, the Lord again explicitly repeats these promises. “Balaam saw that it pleased the Lord to bless Israel. . . . Balaam lifted up his eyes and saw Israel camping tribe by tribe; and the Spirit of God came upon him,” we are told in Numbers 24:1-2. Then the Lord spoke through Balaam:
“The oracle of him who hears the words of God. . . . How fair are your tents, O Jacob, your dwellings, O Israel! . . . Blessed is everyone who blesses you, and cursed is everyone who curses you.” “” Numbers 24:4-5, 9
The Bible’s message is clear: God promises to bless individuals and nations who bless the Jewish people and the State of Israel, and he promises to curse those who curse Jews and Israel.
The “whole counsel of Scripture” commands us to love and pray for and bless Israel’s neighbors, as well. It’s not either/or — it’s both/and. We are supposed to love and bless Israelis and Palestinians, as well as all the others in the Middle East. That said, there are specific directives to the Lord’s people to love and show mercy to Israel and the Jewish people, and we ignore these at our peril.
The good news is that America has been Israel’s most faithful friend and ally for the past seven decades, since helping to bring about the prophetic rebirth of the Jewish state. We have blessed the Jewish people here at home and around the globe. And in so many ways, the Lord has, in fact, blessed the United States of America as a result. If we remain faithful allies of Israel and continue to bless the Jewish people in real and practical ways—while we increasingly turn our hearts back to the Lord, who made this promise in the first place—then I believe God will continue to bless America and help us recover from our many challenges and our many sins. God made this wonderful promise, and we can depend upon him to be true to his Word.
But let us make no mistake: if the United States stops blessing Israel and the Jewish people and either abandons them or begins actively working against them, then we will no longer be eligible for the blessings of God. Rather, we will face God’s curse. This is a fate no nation can long endure. Certainly not ours. Indeed, given all the other enormous and existential economic, fiscal, spiritual, and moral challenges we face, I have no doubt that America will most certainly implode if we stop actively and consistently blessing Israel and the Jewish people.
That does not mean we have to agree with everything Israel says or does. That does not mean we need to turn a blind eye to mistakes, or sin or injustice. Not at all. The Hebrew prophets were often directed by the Lord to speak to the nation of Israel — to the people and the leaders — to warn them of their mistakes and urge them to turn and follow the Lord. Yet let’s remember they did this out of a deep love for the God of Israel, and the people of Israel. They weren’t trying to be hostile to Israel, even when she was on the wrong track. They were trying to help her get back on the right track. Can America — and other nations — be helpful to Israel in pointing out mistakes and encouraging her to go in the right direction? Of course.
But let’s be clear: God will not be mocked. One way or another, America will reap what she sows. So will every nation.
- Let us pray for the peace of Jerusalem.
- Let us study the ancient Biblical prophecies.
- Let us love Israel and the Jewish people with sincere and humble and helpful hearts.
- Let us love the Palestinian people and all of Israel’s neighbors in the same way.
- Let us pray for U.S. and Israeli leaders, and all the leaders in the region — they face enormous and complicated challenges.
- Let us pray for the Church in the epicenter to be a light in the darkness and a voice of hope for the hopeless.
- Let us be faithful to knowing God’s Word and obeying it in these last days, knowing that each of us will face an accounting in due time.
This article originally appeared on Joel C. Rosenberg’s Blog, May 2, 2017, being adapted from a chapter of his 2012 book, Implosion: Can America Recover From Its Economic & Spiritual Challenges In Time? It is reposted here with permission.