And they will fall by the edge of the sword, and be led away captive into all nations. And Jerusalem will be trampled by Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled. (Lk. 21:24) This quotation of Jesus is so compelling. This was said during His prophecy about the destruction of the Temple and Jerusalem. Which destruction was fulfilled approximately forty years later in seventy AD. A word stands out – “until”. It indicates the other nations bottoming out – “the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled”, and the restoration of the Jews to their homeland. Events in recent history make this compelling:
- The re-establishment of the land to the Jewish people.
We…HEREBY PROCLAIM the establishment of the Jewish State in Palestine, to be called ISRAEL. We offer peace and unity to all the neighboring states and their peoples, and invite them to cooperate with the independent Jewish nation for the common good of all. Our call goes out the Jewish people all over the world to rally to our side in the task of immigration and development and to stand by us in the great struggle for the fulfillment of the dream of generations — the redemption of Israel. With trust in Almighty God, we set our hand to this Declaration, at this Session of the Provisional State Council, in the city of Tel Aviv, on this Sabbath eve, the fifth of Iyar, 5708, the fourteenth day of May, 1948. ~ David Ben Gurion
- The gain of control over the city of Jerusalem.
Six-Day War, also called June War or Third Arab-Israeli War or Naksah, brief war that took place June 5–10, 1967, and was the third of the Arab-Israeli wars. Israel’s decisive victory included the capture of the Sinai Peninsula, Gaza Strip, West Bank, Old City of Jerusalem, and Golan Heights; the status of these territories subsequently became a major point of contention in the Arab-Israeli conflict. ~ Encyclopedia Britannica
One may argue that the entirety of Jerusalem is not under Israel’s control – prophecy unfulfilled. After all, the temple mount is still a major holy site for the Islamic world. However, this is by permission of Israel. The power to allow does not cede Israel’s authority or control. Here is an excerpt from the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, March 16, 1976. The article is titled – Behind the Headlines the Temple Mount Case: A few days after Israel took East Jerusalem in the Six-Day War. Defense Minister Moshe Dayan arranged with local Moslem leaders that Israeli security forces would guard the walls surrounding the site while the Moslem leaders would be free to administer the area of the Temple Mount itself, including the two famous mosques: the Dome of the Rock and El Aksa.
Visitors–including Jews–would, however, have free access to the site, Dayan stressed. In order to ensure this, the key of the Mugrabi Gate one of the main entrances to the Temple Mount was taken from the Moslem notables and kept by the Israeli authorities.
Dayan’s arrangement later approved by the whole Cabinet, was a sincere attempt at compromise between the conflicting aims and interests of Moslems and Jews with regard to the Temple Mount. It left the administration of the site itself in the hands of the Moslems, but deprived them of exclusive control and assured the Jews free access. The Dayan arrangement specifically forbade Jews from praying on the Temple Mount.
Therefore, the words of Jesus have been fulfilled. The Jews are re-established as citizens of their land and city.
Some consider the return of Israel as the beginning of renewal to their former glory. This includes the prospect of the Temple being rebuilt, and the restoration of Levitical worship. However, the nature of the return was not the same as when Israel returned after the Babylonian captivity and destruction of Solomon’s temple (587-586 BC). They were led by the prophets Ezra, Nehemiah, Haggai, and Zechariah. The power of God was exercised, restoring His worship at the Temple. There was assurance Israel had returned to their land and worship as God’s holy nation. In contrast, those who led Israel in 1948 and 1976 were not prophets of God. The outcome of their work did not re-establish the Law of Moses in the land. Nor was worship at the Temple restored. Indeed, the Temple Mount was/is set aside to the service of Islam, and the Wailing Wall stands as a memorial to that which has faded away. Those who dare to advance the re-building of the Temple are promoting a thing which will bring about bloodshed. It is blasphemy that such prospects are promoted in the name of Jesus Christ.
What value can we see in Israel’s return to the land? For the first time in their history, it puts them on common ground with the other nations of the world. They have not returned as a holy nation, but as a nation of the world with modern political infrastructure. This is significant. And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings, so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us… (Acts 17:26-27) According to this, the Jewish people are now in an optimum condition to know God, because they now have “the boundaries of their dwellings”.
In ancient times, the Jews were born into God’s nation by reason of natural birth. Now, they are called upon to respond individually. “Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah— not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, though I was a husband to them, says the LORD. But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. No more shall every man teach his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, says the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.” (Jer 31:31-34) Where it says “no more shall every man teach…” no longer would the approach to God be based on national heritage – a thing inculcated from birth. This was teaching inculcated by parents, peers, and the surrounding society. It was indoctrination of the Law written on tablets of stone. Its legitimacy has ceased. Therefore, Israel is able to draw near to God as never before, per individual conviction and practice of faith – the law written on the heart.
Some good people look at Israel as just another nation without spiritual significance. Politically, this is true. However, from a spiritual standpoint the matter is entirely different. God has never abandoned His prospect for the Jewish people. I say then, have they stumbled that they should fall? Certainly not! But through their fall, to provoke them to jealousy, salvation has come to the Gentiles. Now if their fall is riches for the world, and their failure riches for the Gentiles, how much more their fullness! (Rom. 11:11-12) What an astonishing prospect – their fullness! Can that be measured politically? Concerning the nation of God – impossible. God’s nation represents the citizens of His kingdom, not the kingdom of men. Now when He was asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, He answered them and said, “The kingdom of God does not come with observation; nor will they say, ‘See here!’ or ‘See there!’ For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you.” (Lk. 17:20-21) The Kingdom as prophesied by Isaiah (See Is. 9:7) was shown by Jesus to be a kingdom without earthly boundaries – “within you”. Jesus also excluded the Temple as the locus for worshipping God. He said to a Samaritan woman; “Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews. But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” (John 4:21-24) Precluding the Temple and the covenant given through Moses, what would be the manifestation of faith in Israel? It must be individuals bearing the fruit of the Spirit to the glory of God.
Here are certain manifestations of God’s kingdom which would have to be found in Israel, as well as any other people:
- Not of this world. Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here.” (John 18:36)
- No national boundaries. Now when He was asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, He answered them and said, “The kingdom of God does not come with observation; nor will they say, ‘See here!’ or ‘See there!’ For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you.” (Lk. 17:20-21)
- Citizenship by redemption. “He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins.” (Col. 1:13-14)
- Not for the flesh. “for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” (Rom. 14:17)
- Not of the flesh. “Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does corruption inherit incorruption.” (I Cor. 15:50)
- Ultimate fulfillment after the end of the earth. Then comes the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father, when He puts an end to all rule and all authority and power. (I Cor. 15:24)
The Kingdom of Heaven can only be found in the behavior of people wherever they might live. This includes Israel.
Why pay attention to Israel if they are the same as other nations? It is written; For I speak to you Gentiles; inasmuch as I am an apostle to the Gentiles, I magnify my ministry, if by any means I may provoke to jealousy those who are my flesh and save some of them. For if their being cast away is the reconciling of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead? (Rom. 11:13-15) “I magnify my ministry” is a heads-up to disciples from other nations. This requires all followers of Jesus to pay attention. There are particular matters concerning our Jewish neighbors. It means no dismissal of the Jews as just another people. God knows how their prospects would be beneficial to all believers through their faith in Jesus Christ. To be alive in God is the most important thing. This means learning and growing in the characteristics of God: …add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love. For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For he who lacks these things is shortsighted, even to blindness, and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins. Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble; for so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. (II Pet. 1:5-11) (Incidentally, this shows our participation in the Kingdom is ongoing – leading to an ultimate fulfillment.) These are the key factors in worshipping God in Spirit and Truth. No altars are incorporated in this worship. Rather it is found in presenting our bodies as “a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God..” (Rom.12:1) Again, Gentile believers are taught to honor this prospect for Israel; Now if their fall is riches for the world, and their failure riches for the Gentiles, how much more their fullness! (Rom 11:12)
What would be the appearance of this “fullness” in the restoration of Israel to God? To what extent would be the acceptance of Jesus? How would this reverberate through the nation and the world? To be sure, the political ramifications are outliers to the ultimate reality of living faithfully to God. Many prophecies in the Bible are understood more clearly after the event prophesied is fulfilled. Therefore, who can predict how things will appear in the final mix? Likely, this prophecy will be best understood in retrospect.
A final consideration which concerns the opening quotation to this article. – What is the fulfillment of the Gentiles’ times? “And Jerusalem will be trampled by Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.” It must refer to the dead-end of global Gentile activity regarding their expansion and promotion of a variety of social and political movements, as seen through the ages. While the world is expanding technologically, the overall character of humanity is degrading into self-righteousness. Humanity can rain down death as never before, globally, accurately, and powerfully. The array of options in this advancement is staggering. The dream of a better world is showing itself as a fearful, painful expression of death. Isaac Bashevis Singer, Nobel Prize winner for literature in 1978, said this in his Nobel lecture; “No technological achievements can mitigate the disappointment of modern man, his loneliness, his feeling of inferiority, and his fear of war, revolution and terror. Not only has our generation lost faith in Providence but also in man himself, in his institutions and often in those who are nearest to him.” Nowadays more and more people are finding solace in fantasies rather than God’s revelation. Anarchy is confused with freedom. It makes me think of Jesus’ prophecy; “men’s hearts failing them from fear and the expectation of those things which are coming on the earth, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken.” (Lk. 21:26)
Perhaps there is a sliver of light and goodness that will shine in the face of darkness before the Lord returns and ends this universe with His judgment. Perhaps it will be found for all our sakes in Israel’s spiritual fulfillment, the acceptance of Jesus of Nazareth as the Messiah.