Israel in Prophecy

Part 1

(Who's Land is It?)




John Hoole  November 28, 2010


(Click on images for larger versions) 



May 14, 1948 was very important day in human history - maybe even pivotal day.  On that afternoon, a car was quickly traveling down Rothschild Boulevard in Tel Aviv.  The vehicle was carrying the prominent Jewish leader David Ben-Gurion.  The car stops in front of the Tel Aviv Art Museum a few minutes before 4:00 p.m.  More than 400 people were inside, made up of Jewish religious and political leaders.  David Ben-Gurion bounds up the steps to the podium, and at precisely four o'clock P.M., local time, he calls the meeting to order.


He immediately reads these historic words:


"This right is the natural right of the Jewish people to be masters of their own fate, like all other nations, in their own sovereign State.  Accordingly, we...are here assembled...and by virtue of our natural and historic right, and on the strength of the resolution of the General Assembly of the United Nations, hereby declare the establishment of the Jewish State in Eretz-Israel, to be known as the State of Israel."


Six thousand miles away, President Truman sat in the Oval Office reading a forty-word statement about to be released to the press.  He penciled in a few added words, then signs his approval and noted the time.  It was 6:11 p.m.  One minute later, the White House press secretary read the release to the world.  The United States had officially recognized the birth of the modern nation of Israel.


Last week we looked at a broad overview of what the Bible has to say about the End Times.  We looked at a timeline chart showing us the sequence of the events mentioned in God’s Word.  One of the unique features of the Bible is it predictive prophecies.  No sacred book of any other world religion offers anything comparable to the Bible in this respect.  Prophets of Israel, as recorded in the Bible, consistently predicted events in history, and did so with amazing accuracy and descriptive details.  These prophecies were stated and written many centuries before they took place.  As I said last week, this is one major testimony to the supernatural inspiration of the Bible.  Let me read a verse I presented to you in our last lesson.


Isaiah 46:9-10 NIV


9       Remember the former things, those of long ago; I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me.

10     I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say: My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please.


The ability to predict history with such accuracy, implies the ability to control history.  For this reason, God can say with absolute confidence:  "My purpose will stand."  Today, we begin filling in the details as it relates to the nation of Israel and the Middle East.  The Bible has much to say about Israel and her neighbors in the end-times.


In the study of End Times Prophecy, few areas have been more important than understanding the place Israel will play.  What amazes many people is that in the last six-plus decades, this nation, having a population of only 7 million people, has become the geopolitical center of the world.  Why is this so?  Why is a fledgling country with a total land space smaller than the state of New Jersey, mentioned in the nightly news more than any other nation except the U.S.  Why is Israel the focus of so much attention.  Why do normally calm world leaders erupt with emotion when Israel is mentioned?


For answers, we must turn not to the evening news or the front page of the newspaper, but the Bible.  As Rabbi Binyamin Elon, a member of the Israeli Knesset, wrote:


"I believe that if you do not know how to read the Bible, you cannot understand the daily newspaper.  If you do not know the biblical story of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, you cannot possibly understand the miracle of the modern state of Israel."


Yes, there is only one source that gives a clear and authoritative answer - the Bible!!  Although it was completely written almost two thousand years before the conditions we find in the Middle East today, the Bible provides a supernaturally inspired analysis of both the factors and the forces that are involved.


Many of the various prophetic interpretations that are proposed, turn on what they believe the Bible says about Israel in the End Times.  If we fails to understand God’s program for Israel, we will very probably be mislead in what we believe about...


                            •  The role of the nations in the Middle East.

                            •  The purpose of the rapture,

                            •  What part the church will play in God’s future plans,

                            •  The meaning of the millennium,


Many of the different interpretations of the End Times, stem largely from how they treat the Jews or the nation of Israel.  Let’s look briefly at the origin of the Jews and the nation of Israel. 


When we think of the Book of Genesis, we think of the landmark events that marked the beginning of civilization --- Creation, The Garden of Eden, the Fall, the first murder, the Flood, and the Tower of Babel.  Yet, amazingly, these momentous events, covering more than 2,000 years, are compressed into just eleven chapters of Genesis.


It is as if God was saying, “By the way, this is how the world got into the mess it is in now.”  The first eleven chapters of Genesis is often called the book of beginnings.  It also could aptly be described as a book of human bunglings.  These chapters do not paint an optimistic picture of humanity’s early history.  The central theme of the first 11 chapters is man’s alienation from God.  In these chapters you see man moving farther and farther away from God until his act of rebellion at the Tower of Babel.


Beginning in Genesis 12, and extending through the Book of Revelation, we see God’s reconciliation with mankind.  Although God would have been completely justified in destroying the world after Babel, He announced a plan that would result in salvation.  God’s plan included not only man’s salvation, but that of all creation, except for one part – Satan and his demons (fallen angels).


In a few minutes we will look at the beginnings of the Jewish race and the nation of Israel.  We will also look at the covenant God made with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.  Before we get into the details of these things, I would like to tell you, up front, what I believe about the Nation of Israel, as it relates to their history and their future.


When God made a covenant with Abraham, and later with the nation of Israel, I believe God made some promises that are unconditional and eternal.  When Isaiah 60:21 says,  “They shall inherit the land forever,” I believe this tells us that the promise made by God to physical Israel does not end.


Or, listen to what Isaiah says in Isaiah 11:11-12 NIV


11     In that day the Lord will reach out his hand a second time to reclaim the remnant that is left of his people from Assyria, from Lower Egypt, from Upper Egypt, from Cush, from Elam, from Babylonia, from Hamath and from the islands of the sea.

12     He will raise a banner for the nations and gather the exiles of Israel; he will assemble the scattered people of Judah from the four quarters of the earth.


I take the position that when Israel, as a nation, was reestablished in 1948, .it literally began fulfilling prophecies like that which we just read in Isaiah.  I believe the migration of millions of people, by boat, by plane and on foot, back to the Jewish homeland, was, and continues to be, a fulfillment of what God said would happen in the last days.


I do not take the position that when Israel rejected Christ as their Messiah, God withdrew all the promises He made to them, and transferred them to a new body, called the Church.  I do not believe that God has set the Jews aside.  God still has much in store for Israel.  God has made a covenant with the nation of Israel, some of which is yet to be fulfilled.  God still has promises to keep with regards to this nation.  Some of these have unfolded and are unfolding right before our eyes.


What happens to Israel is important to all of us.  Israel serves as one of the timepieces on our Christian prophetic mantel.  We do well, as Psalm 122:6 instructs us, to pray for the peace of Jerusalem and watch the Israeli clock closely.


Having made you aware of what my position is, up front, let’s now get into the details about Israel and the Jewish people.


After the Second World War ended, the Jews, emaciated as a people, and unwanted, were shunted from one refugee camp to another.  They were truly a people without a country. And then it happened!  On May 14, 1948, after almost 2,600 years of successive gentile invasions and dominations, the newly-adopted Jewish declaration of Independence was proclaimed to the world. This is how part of it read:


         “The State of Israel….will be based on freedom, justice and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel….The State of Israel will be open for Jewish immigration and for the ingathering of the exiles.”


The question asked today by many is:  “Who owns the land today?”  If you talk to any zealous Arab, they would say, “the land belongs to us, and the Jews stole it from us.”  They point to the fact that they have lived in the land for centuries while the Jewish people were scattered across the globe.  The Jews, however, say the land was promised to them by God Himself.  So, who is right?  The answer to this controversial question is found in the Word of God.


If you have bought a house recently, you know that a title search is made which must trace ownership from the very first owner to the present owner, making sure that there are no liens or other claims on the property.




                   The answer is recorded many times in the Bible.  Here are two of them.


Psalms 24:1 NIV


         1       The earth is the LORD's, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it;


Leviticus 25:23 NAS


23     'The land, moreover, shall not be sold permanently, for the land is Mine; for you are but aliens and sojourners with Me.


These and many more Scriptures attest to the fact that Jehovah owns the land.  He, in turn, gave it to the Israelites.


Jeremiah 2:7 NKJV


7       I brought you into a bountiful country, to eat its fruit and its goodness. But when you entered, you defiled My land and made My heritage an abomination.


Today in Israel, citizens can’t own the land.  Instead they lease it from the government of Israel.  If I was a farmer in Israel, I could lease land for 49 years, and then my son could lease it when my term was done.  But neither of us could own it.  The land is under stewardship of the children of Israel, but it ultimately belongs to the Lord.


The story actually begins way back in the Book of Genesis.  This is also where the Israeli-Arab conflict begins, for the Arabs and the Jews claim to be descendants of the same man.




         Abraham.  This may be one of the few things the Arabs and Jews agree on.  And the Bible corroborates the fact that they are both right.


The history of both the Jews and Arabs began more than 3,800 years ago when, according to  Genesis 12, a divine call was extended to a man.  His name was Abram…..later to be called Abraham.  Understanding God’s promises to Abraham is key to understanding the rest of the Bible and the End Times.  Genesis, chapter 11 shows some genealogies leading up to Abraham but the call and promises God made to Abraham begins with chapter 12.


Genesis 12:1 NIV


1       The LORD had said to Abram, "Leave your country, your people and your father's household and go to the land I will show you.




         Let’s look at a map


                            Ur.           In the land of the Chaldeans.






Can you imagine how he broke the news to his father?  How do you explain to your father, who was a maker of idols in a very pagan society, that you have been visited by a Being that seemed to just appear out of nowhere?  And this Being communicated with you…..asking you to leave home in fact, to leave the whole country.  If that were you, would your father have believed you?


Assuming that he believes you to this point……imagine the father asking: “Where are you going, son?”  And all you have to answer is: “Well, I’m not really sure.  This Being just spoke to me and said “go!”.  “He told me that He would show me the land when I got there.”  If that was you, what would your father have said?




         His wife Sarai, his father Terah, and Lot, the son of Abraham’s brother Haran.  Genesis 11:28 tells us that Haran (father of Lot) died while they were still in Ur.




They travel northwest, up the Euphrates river for about 600 miles.  They leave the Euphrates when they get to the Belik River (not mentioned in the Bible) traveling north to the city of Haran.  This was a well-traveled caravan trade route from east to west.  They stay in Haran for some time, until Abram’s father dies at age 205.




                   He was 75 years old.




                            She was 65 years old.


From Haran, Abram, Sarai and Lot traveled south into the land of Canaan.


Let me show you how this land is separated by borders today.  Let me also show you the location of some ancient and modern cities.  Here is the city of Nineveh.  Its ruins are directly across the Tigris River from the modern city of Mosul.  Here is the location of the ancient city of Babylon.




         It is north of Babylon, but on the Tigris River.


Before we move on to verses 2 and following, let me ask you another question.  Notice that verse 1 is in the past tense.  It reads, “The LORD HAD said to Abram,…”




         The previous chapter (Ch. 11) ends with Abram in Haran.


The last two verses of chapter 11 read:


Genesis 11:31-32 NKJV


31     And Terah took his son Abram and his grandson Lot, the son of Haran, and his daughter-in-law Sarai, his son Abram's wife, and they went out with them from Ur of the Chaldeans to go to the land of Canaan; and they came to Haran and dwelt there.

32     So the days of Terah were two hundred and five years, and Terah died in Haran.


So, where was Abraham when he received God’s instruction to get out of his country and go to a new country God would show him?  This passage really doesn’t tell us.  But a passage in the New Testament does.  Again, like I said during last week’s lesson, we need to take in the whole Bible when studying a topic.


In Acts 7, we have the record of the stoning of Stephen.  He sits before the Jewish council and is asked to defend himself.  And from verse 2 through 53, Stephen preaches a sermon.


Acts 7:2-4 NKJV


2       And he said, "Brethren and fathers, listen: The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham when he was in Mesopotamia, before he dwelt in Haran,

3       and said to him, 'Get out of your country and from your relatives, and come to a land that I will show you.'  

4       Then he came out of the land of the Chaldeans and dwelt in Haran. And from there, when his father was dead, He moved him to this land in which you now dwell.


I think it is clear from this Passage that Abram received his instruction while still in Ur of the Chaldeans.


Concerning all peoples of the earth, God promised that He would bless those who blessed Abraham and his descendants, and He would curse those who cursed them.  Throughout history, people have been blessed or cursed depending on their treatment of the Jews.  I believe Hitler’s downfall was for this reason, as much as it may have been due to the military superiority of other nations.


Following the initial visitation to Abraham, God often spoke to Him and his descendants.  When He did, He would often reiterate his promises made to Abraham and sometimes adding more details.  As time went on, there occurred further revelation concerning his promises to the nation of Israel.


As to the question of who owns the land, or who has the right to occupy the land, it is interesting to notice that Abraham’s descendants were promised a parcel of land.


For instance,……Genesis 12:7 states,


                   “Unto thy seed will I give this land.”


At the beginning, Abraham didn’t have a clue as to what land was being promised to him and his family.  He only knew that God would tell him when he got there.  God often had these conversations with Abraham, and in almost all of them, this promise of a specific land, as part of the covenant, is reiterated.


In Genesis 13:14-17 NIV,  after Abraham and Lot had separated their ways:


14     The LORD said to Abram after Lot had parted from him, "Lift up your eyes from where you are and look north and south, east and west.

15     All the land that you see I will give to you and your offspring forever.

16     I will make your offspring like the dust of the earth, so that if anyone could count the dust, then your offspring could be counted.

17     Go, walk through the length and breadth of the land, for I am giving it to you."


But we still don’t know the size and exact location of where Abraham was and the length and breadth of where Abraham could walk.


A couple of chapters later, God adds some more information.


Genesis 15:18-21 NIV


18     On that day the LORD made a covenant with Abram and said, "To your descendants I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the Euphrates--

19     the land of the Kenites, Kenizzites, Kadmonites,

20     Hittites, Perizzites, Rephaites,

21     Amorites, Canaanites, Girgashites and Jebusites."


Even with this information, we don’t have all that is needed to identify the land that is promised to Abraham and his descendants.  At best, we might now have a western and eastern boundaries.  “….From the river in Egypt to the Euphrates River….”  And if we identify the location of these other peoples that are mentioned, the borders of the territory begin to take shape.


But, keep in mind that even if we have difficulty understanding where the Hittites, the Perizzites and Gergashites, etc., were located, undoubtedly Abraham knew where they lived, and thus he knew the boundaries.


Let's take a look at some verses in Psalm 105.


Psalms 105:7 NKJV


7       He is the Lord our God; His judgments are in all the earth.


This goes along with what we read earlier about the land belonging to God.  This verse says He is Lord over the whole earth.  The judgments He pronounces do not apply just to one nation or a little piece of land.  His authority extends to all nations and the whole earth.  But in the verses that follow, God has made a special, unique commitment to one human family.  And in these verses, he gives their names.


Psalms 105:8-10 NKJV


8       He remembers His covenant forever, the word which He commanded, for a thousand generations,

9       The covenant which He made with Abraham, And His oath to Isaac,

10     And confirmed it to Jacob for a statute, To Israel as an everlasting covenant,


I know of no other biblical Passage that includes so many terms to express God's commitments.  Terms like:  covenant, word, commandment, oath, statute, everlasting covenant.  It would be difficult to express more strongly what it means for God to make a commitment.  Every covenant of God represents a solemn commitment, but this one is described as an "everlasting covenant."  It remains in force forever.  It can never be revoked.


But, in the passage we just read is a word that almost seems out of place.  Verse 9 tells us that God made an OATH.  Why would God ever need to make an oath?  Doesn't the Bible tell us God cannot lie?


Hebrews 6:17-18 (NIV) tells us why:


17     Because God wanted to make the unchanging nature of his purpose very clear to the heirs of what was promised, he confirmed it with an oath.

18     God did this so that, by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled to take hold of the hope offered to us may be greatly encouraged.


The first unchangeable thing that God gives is His Word.  The second is His oath.  What is so important in Psalm 105, that God confirms his everlasting Word with an oath?  What does it all center in?  What is God so concerned with that He swears by an oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob?  The answer is given in the next verse in Psalm 105.


Psalms 105:11 NIV


         11     "To you I will give the land of Canaan as the portion you will inherit."


He not only promises to Abraham and his descendants the land of Canaan.  He swears an oath that this is an "everlasting covenant" (vs. 9)  Almighty God, the Creator of the universe, the King of the earth has gone to such lengths to assert the destiny of this little piece of land.  God attaches far more importance to it than most of us imagine.


Somebody else attaches a great deal of importance to it as well.  That someone is the devil.  This is why the Middle East continues to draw tremendous conflict.  I don't know how God could have said if more clearly, or emphasized it more decisively, that this land belongs to Israel.


I think it must be an insult to God to suggest He doesn't know how to say what He means.  Did you know that there are 46 verses in the Bible where it makes reference to God giving an oath with respect to the Land of Israel?  I have look at each of these verses.  God gives an oath as a confirmation of His Word.  This is the most emphatic form of divine declaration provided in the Bible.  To question Israel's right to the land is, in effect, to say, "God, I know You said it, but I don't think you really meant what you said."  That is not a position I wish to take.


Let me read the last verse in the Old Testament where we are told of the oath God made with regard to the land given to the descendants of Abraham.


Ezekiel 47:13-14 NKJV


13     Thus says the Lord God: "These are the borders by which you shall divide the land as an inheritance among the twelve tribes of Israel. Joseph shall have two portions.

14     You shall inherit it equally with one another; for I raised My hand in an oath to give it to your fathers, and this land shall fall to you as your inheritance.


I present this passage to you because there is no doubt, when considering the context, that these verse are still future from where we live.  The last nine chapters of Ezekiel are a description of events and things pertaining to the reign of Christ on earth.  With this and so much more, it is amazing to me that some still question what God said.


I have taken you through this in depth discussion of the Land of Israel and who it belongs to because there are some within the church that suggest modern Israel has nothing to do with end-time prophecy.  Some of them assert that the Jews have been rejected by God, but have been replaced by the Church of Christ.  This is known among Bible students as "Replacement Theology."  The Church, according to this view, has replaced Israel, and all the promises made to Israel are now given to the Church.


Because this view goes far beyond a discussion of the land of Israel, I will probably address the fuller issue in a future lesson.  Replacement theology is not only incorrect - it is bad news for the Church.  As I said earlier, how one treats the Jews in Bible prophecy has a great influence on how the interpret other aspects of the End Times.+