Israel in History and Prophecy

ON MARCH 17, 1998, the newspapers in the Christian world carried an announcement from Rome that the Vatican was issuing a document which it described as an “act of repentance.”

The New York Times, in reporting on this document, wrote that the Australian cardinal who is the head of the Vatican Commission on Religious Relations with the Jews, and which commission produced the 14-page statement, told reporters at a Vatican news conference that it was written as a teaching document for the worldwide church and represented more than an apology.

The document said, in part: “In the lands where the Nazis undertook mass deportations, the brutality which surrounded these forced movements of helpless people should have led us to suspect the worst. Did Christians give every possible assistance to those being persecuted, and in particular to the persecuted Jews? Many did, but others did not.”


A cover letter for transmitting the document was written from the Vatican by the Pope on March 12, 1998, and published in The New York Times. It said:

“On numerous occasions during my Pontificate I have recalled with a sense of deep sorrow the sufferings of the Jewish people during the Second World War. The crime which has become known as the Shoah remains an indelible stain on the history of the century that is coming to a close.

“As we prepare for the beginning of the Third Millennium of Christianity, the Church is aware that the joy of a Jubilee is above all the joy that is based on the forgiveness of sins and reconciliation with God and neighbor. Therefore she encourages her sons and daughters to purify their hearts through repentance of past errors and infidelities. She calls them to place themselves humbly before the Lord and examine themselves on the responsibility which they too have for the evils of our time.

“It is my fervent hope that the document ‘We Remember: A Reflection on the Shoah’, which the Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews has prepared under your direction, will indeed help to heal the wounds of past misunderstandings and injustices. May it enable memory to play its necessary part in the process of shaping a future in which the unspeakable iniquity of the Shoah will never again be possible. May the Lord of history guide the efforts of Catholics and Jews and all men and women of goodwill as they work together for a world of true respect for the life and dignity of every human being, for all have been created in the image and likeness of God.”

These are noble sentiments, but will they be fulfilled? From the time that Israel became subject to the Gentiles to the present, Jews have been opposed and persecuted by various religious groups, including those who call themselves Christian. Was this persecution foretold in the Bible, and is more anti-Semitism possible? What does the Bible say about the Jewish people?


In the Jewish people we have convincing evidence of the historical accuracy and the Divine inspiration of the Bible. While they were the people of God throughout Old Testament times, since the First Advent of Christ they have been a scattered, homeless, desolate, and persecuted people. Yet withal, in spirit they have remained a distinct and homogeneous people. They remained united by strong ties of blood relationship, and by a common faith in the wonderful promises of God, although they failed to comprehend the full import of those promises.

The first of these promises was made to their father, Abraham, to whom God said, “I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.” (Gen. 12:3) Later God added to this, saying to Abraham, “Lift up now thine eyes, and look from the place where thou art northward, and southward, and eastward, and westward: for all the land which thou seest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed for ever. And I will make thy seed as the dust of the earth: so that if a man can number the dust of the earth, then shall thy seed also be numbered.”—Gen. 13:14-16


Later, after Abraham had demonstrated his faithfulness to God by his willingness to offer up his son Isaac in sacrifice, God said to him, “By myself have I sworn, saith the Lord, for because thou hast done this thing, and hast not withheld thy son, thine only son: that in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies; and in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice.”—Gen. 22:16-18

These are the promises which relate to and have governed God’s dealings with the descendants of Abraham from the time they were first made until now. The repossession of the land of Palestine, the land promised to Abraham and his seed, as we see it taking place today, is related to this promise. Various of the Old Testament prophets foretold that the Israelites would be driven from their land, scattered among the various nations of the earth, and finally be caused to reinhabit their land.

When the Prophet Amos wrote to Israel: “You only have I known of all the families of the earth” (Amos 3:2), he also said, “therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities.” Israel had exclusive favor from God and thus bore a responsibility to keep God’s commandments, which they could not do. Hence, they were punished for their iniquities by God, who dispersed them worldwide.

One of the most well-known and impressive prophecies concerning Israel is found in Isaiah 40:1,2: “Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God. Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned: for she hath received of the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.” The word ‘double’ in this text does not mean ‘twice as much’, as one might conclude. Rather it is translated from a Hebrew word meaning, ‘fold in two’, and refers to a like span or period of time. First came 1845 years from Jacob’s death to Jesus’ death wherein there were chiefly favors.


Then after Jesus died in A.D. 33 came a like period, a double, of disfavor in dispersion and persecution. This like span of 1845 years ended in 1878. That year marked the beginning of a change. It involved events which would lead to a restoration of the land. This small beginning consisted of revising the treaty of San Stefano at the Berlin Congress of Nations. It included protection of minority groups in Turkey and Russia. Hence, for the first time in centuries, wealthy Jews were permitted to buy land in Palestine whereas they had not been permitted to do so heretofore. Since their dispersion, they were barred from owning land in most countries.

Jeremiah was another faithful prophet of the Lord who foretold Judah’s conquest by Babylon. While he was so prophesying, the Lord instructed him to buy his uncle’s land in Anatoth (belonging to Benjamin in Judea) even though he was saying that the land would be overrun by Babylonians. Jeremiah did as he was told, and then prophesied: “For thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel; Houses and fields and vineyards shall be possessed again in this land.” (Jer. 32:15) It might appear that Jeremiah was prophesying about the return of Jews from Babylon, but his prophecy continues in Jeremiah 32:36-44 and refers to the return from a longer dispersion. This prophecy has not been completely fulfilled.


When the opportunity to buy land in Palestine opened, another prophecy by Jeremiah began to be fulfilled: “Therefore, behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that it shall no more be said, the Lord liveth, that brought up the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt; but, the Lord liveth, that brought up the children of Israel from the land of the north, and from all the lands whither he had driven them: and I will bring them again into their land that I gave unto their fathers. Behold, I will send for many fishers, saith the Lord, and they shall fish them.”—Jer. 16:14-16

A liberal attitude started to develop toward the Jews in the lands where they were dispersed, beginning in the 18th century in a few places; but became more worldwide by the end of the 19th century. This caused many Jewish leaders to become alarmed. They had fears of their people being assimilated into the cultures of the different lands as persecution of the Jews subsided. Hence a movement called Zionism began. Its purpose was to seek a homeland for the Jew.

At the beginning, this movement was weak and disunited. Then Theodore Herzl, a Hungarian Jew, arrived on the scene. He was a journalist who saw anti-Semitism manifested during the Dreyfuss trial in France. This persuaded him to devote his life to the cause of Zionism. In 1897 he invited interested parties to the first World Zionist Congress at Basel, Switzerland. This Congress set up Zionist organizations in every country where there were large Jewish populations. Mr. Herzl used his journalistic skills effectively in promoting Zionism.

As Zionism began to take hold, and Jews were going to Palestine, Great Britain, in 1905, offered land for a Jewish homeland in East Uganda, Africa. This offer was rejected. To the Jew it was clear that Palestine alone could serve as that homeland. Zionism did a ‘fishing’ work. (Jer. 16:16) It enticed people to go to Palestine by offering land and opportunity, just as a fisherman uses bait to catch fish.


During this period of early Zionism, many Jews returned to Palestine, a land under the dominion of Turkey. Many events occurred which led to the fulfillment of the second portion of Jeremiah’s prophecy in Jeremiah 16:14-16. First, World War I broke out, accompanied by the end of the Gentile times. (Luke 21:24) Palestine was liberated by the Allies—the British army—and Great Britain was given a mandate over the land. The Balfour Declaration, issued in 1917, said in part that Great Britain and other Allied nations “view with favor the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people.”

In spite of obstacles and the opposition of the Arabs in the land of Palestine, the work of rebuilding continued successfully. Then, along came World War II, and with it a new fulfillment to the prophecy of Jeremiah 16:16. Zionism had accomplished its purpose. It had gone as far as it could in bringing Israel back home: “Behold I will send for many fishers, saith the Lord, and they shall fish them.” We note how carefully God has worded this prophecy: “and after [after Zionism has done what it could] will I send for many hunters, and they shall hunt them from every mountain, and from every hill, and out of the holes of the rocks.”


With World War II came Hitler and anti-Semitism in all its fury. The Jews had emerged from the terrible persecution of centuries of dispersion, and now, again, they were facing that same terrible persecution. Nations with economic troubles found it convenient to make the Jews a scapegoat. They blamed them for all their economic ills.

Suddenly this people, who had enjoyed the benefits of newly-found friends, found themselves ‘hunted’ and fleeing for their lives. They had no place to go except to their own land of Palestine. Now they wanted to go to Palestine out of sheer desperation. They went by the boatload, merchant vessels filled to overflowing. Those who were permitted to land kissed the ground of their homeland. But many were turned away to the island of Cyprus because quotas were being exceeded.

This large influx of new settlers to the land caused by the ‘hunters’ created a problem for Great Britain. Great Britain was committed under the Balfour declaration to respect the rights of non-Jewish communities in Palestine. They were obligated to hold the quota of new immigrants to 2,000 per month. The requests for entry were overwhelming the quotas, and Great Britain, in its protectorate role, was viewed by the Jews as an obstructionist.


It was inevitable that Great Britain would have to give up her protectorate role. She had to give up the mandate she had held for so many years, granted to her under the League of Nations, which no longer existed. The new United Nations set up a committee called the United Nations Special Committee on Palestine, or UNSCOP. This committee recommended dividing Palestine into a Jewish State and an Arab State. On May 14, 1948, the state of Israel was proclaimed. It was immediately recognized by the USA, and Great Britain, and the other superpower of that time—the USSR—recognized it on May 17, 1948. It was fitting that Chiam Weizmann should become Israel’s first president.

We have been witnessing the revitalization of Israel. God has slowly but surely caused this miracle to take place unknown to them. Most of the people have been regathered in unbelief, not aware that God’s hand has been involved. Therefore, it is still necessary that final events take place which will serve to be an eye-opening experience for all Israel, and all the world as well. The events to come are those prophesied in Ezekiel 38 and 39. The timing follows the regathering of Israel.

The document issued by the Vatican says, in essence, “Never again will there be ‘anti-Semitism’.” This is not what the prophecies concerning Israel imply. Zechariah’s prophecy, of the events leading up to those recorded in Ezekiel 38 and 39, says: “Behold, I will make Jerusalem a cup of trembling unto all the people round about, when they shall be in the siege both against Judah and against Jerusalem. And in that day will I make Jerusalem a burdensome stone for all people: all that burden themselves with it shall be cut in pieces, though all the people of the earth be gathered together against it.”—Zech. 12:2,3

It is hard to imagine all people of the earth gathered together against Judah and Jerusalem without anti-Semitism being involved again. Jeremiah speaks of “Jacob’s trouble.” (Jer. 30:7) In that time Jeremiah says, “All thy lovers have forgotten thee.” (vs.14) This is the time when God will fight for them as he did in days of old. It is this battle of the future that will bring a true end to anti-Semitism, as it ushers in the wonderful kingdom of Christ.

Dawn Bible Students Association
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