In this present age there doesn’t seem to be any fulfillment of prophecy pertaining solely to the Gentiles that was not foretold in the Old Testament. It’s as if the prophetic foreview was suspended on the day of Pentecost and will be resumed at the time of the Rapture. However, developments in the Middle East in particular seem to indicate that the end of the age is close and the fulfillment of Gentile prophecy is about to be resumed. I want to take a look at some history and some prophecy that concerns both Israel and the Gentile world.
Israel’s history begins in Genesis 12:1-3. “Now the LORD had said to Abram: "Get out of your country, From your family And from your father's house, To a land that I will show you. I will make you a great nation; I will bless you And make your name great; And you shall be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, And I will curse him who curses you; And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed."
The call of Abraham is a major theme in the Old Testament and the New Testament Gospels and Acts give further insight on the state of Israel in the first century A.D. In the rest of the New Testament there are many references to Israel both historic and prophetic, particularly in the book of Revelation.
Over the centuries, God has dealt with man in differing ways in several time periods called dispensations. In the dispensation of promise, which is the fourth dispensation, the covenant with Abraham lays the foundation for all God's dealings with Israel for all time.
Following this came the dispensation of the law, recorded in Exodus 19. It is the major dispensation of the Old Testament and sets out the conditions for Israel's life, both spiritual and physical, and continued until the Law was fulfilled at the cross. Most of Israel's history recorded in the Old Testament relates to the dispensation of law. That dispensation ended with the last verses of Luke 23:55-56. “And the women who had come with Him from Galilee followed after, and they observed the tomb and how His body was laid. Then they returned and prepared spices and fragrant oils. And they rested on the Sabbath according to the commandment.” This would be the last Sabbath observed under the Law.
The first verses of Luke 24 record this: Luke 24:1-6. “Now on the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they, and certain other women with them, came to the tomb bringing the spices which they had prepared. But they found the stone rolled away from the tomb. Then they went in and did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. And it happened, as they were greatly perplexed about this, that behold, two men stood by them in shining garments. Then, as they were afraid and bowed their faces to the earth, they said to them, "Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but is risen!”
The resurrection of Christ ushered in the dispensation of grace. We are still in the dispensation of grace. The Gentiles now share God’s grace with Israel and the privileges it brings including that of salvation and eternal life.
In the future dispensation of the kingdom, the 7th and last dispensation, Israel will again have a prominent role. She will again possess the Promised Land and Jesus Christ will be her King.
Even though there are far more Gentiles than Jews in the world, (and always have been) Israel plays a dominant role in the entire history of the world ever since Abraham and will until the end of this world’s history.
God made five major covenants with Israel and they are all factors in Israel's history and prophecy. They begin with the aforementioned covenant with Abraham in Genesis 12:1-3.
The Abrahamic covenant is the broad basis for all God's dealings with Israel in all the following generations. The later Mosaic covenant spelled out the conditions Israel was to live by in the dispensation of law and it relates to all of the Old Testament beginning in Exodus 19.
The Palestinian covenant (Deuteronomy 30) relates particularly to Israel's possession and later temporary forfeiture of the land, but still with the promise of ultimate permanent possession of that land in the Kingdom Age.
The Davidic covenant (2 Samuel 7) anticipates prophetically the future kingdom where Christ will reign on earth in the Millennium, with the resurrected David as His prince. It is an unconditional covenant in which God promised David an unending succession to a throne and a kingdom forever. God, however, reserved the right to interrupt the actual reign of David’s sons if chastisement was needed but the covenant cannot be broken. The final and eternal King will be David’s Greater Son, Jesus Christ.
What is called the “New covenant” is recorded in Jeremiah 31:33. This relates to Israel's blessings in the Kingdom Age when Christ reigns on earth and it contrasts with, and also replaces, the Mosaic covenant. “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.”
Israel’s history properly begins with "Jacob", whose name God changed to "Israel", but it usually includes the life story of Abraham and Isaac, the grandfather and father of Jacob.
God called Abraham from Ur of the Chaldees. He took his father and went about a thousand miles northwest to Haran and while he was there he became a wealthy herdsman. When his father died, in obedience to God, Abraham, his wife Sarah, and his nephew Lot came to the promised land, this time about a thousand miles southwest from Haran. God had promised him a land and it was there in this Promised Land that God began to deal with Abraham.
In the Abrahamic covenant, God promised that he would become a great man, that he would be the father of a great nation, and that through his posterity the entire world would be blessed. These promises have been literally fulfilled. Even after Abraham and Sarah were too old to have children, Isaac was born. In due time Jacob and Esau were born to Isaac and Rebekah. God chose Jacob, the younger twin, to be the head of the nation Israel.
Here’s something interesting: the account of the lives of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob takes up the 39 chapters of Genesis 12 through 50. Evidently they are especially important to God since the whole account of the creation of the world takes only two chapters (Genesis 1- 2), and the complete story of the fall of man into sin took only one chapter (Genesis 3). From God’s point of view, the history of Israel is the key to the history of mankind as a whole.
After He made the covenant with Abraham, God gave this prophecy in Genesis 15:13-14. “Then He said to Abram: "Know certainly that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, and will serve them, and they will afflict them four hundred years. And also the nation whom they serve I will judge; afterward they shall come out with great possessions.”
Israel went down to Egypt, all 75 souls, because there was a famine in the Land of Canaan. Joseph, whom his brothers had sold into slavery, unbeknown to them was already there and had risen from slavery to great authority in Egypt and Jacob and his family were welcomed to the land of Egypt and were cared for during the lifetime of Joseph.
The Israelites' remained in Egypt for over 400 years. They prospered and multiplied until a new king who didn’t know that Joseph had not only saved his own people but also the whole nation of Egypt from starvation, took away their privileged status and made them slaves. When they cried out to the Lord, the Lord raised up Moses and Joshua to lead them out of Egypt into the Promised Land.
On their journey from Egypt to freedom in the Promised Land, Israel failed to obey God at Kadesh-barnea and didn’t enter the Promised Land. He made them wander in the wilderness a total of forty years as a result but ultimately enabled them to conquer the land on the east side of the Jordan River. God took Moses up on a high mountain and showed him the Promised Land and there he died. God buried him and no man knows where his grave is. After Moses' death, Joshua led them across the Jordan and they conquered much of the Promised Land.
They prospered as a nation until Joshua died. Israel departed from obeying God and Judges records a downward moral spiral. The last verse of Judges records this: Judges 21:25. “In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes.”
They lost much of their land until God raised up Samuel the prophet who re-established Israel spiritually and the twelve tribes were united under Saul, David, and Solomon. Saul failed as the first king of Israel but his successor David was able to re-capture much of the territory belonging to the Promised Land.
King Solomon continued the conquest until Israel controlled most of the area originally promised to Abraham, from the river of Egypt to the River Euphrates which still runs through Baghdad today.
Solomon violated God's command not to marry many wives or to depend on horses for military strength, consequently, many of Solomon's children were raised by heathen wives who worshipped foreign gods. That prepared the way for a divided kingdom and Israel's strength declined again.
After Solomon's death, the ten tribes (called Israel) who lived north of Jerusalem withdrew and all their kings were wicked, and God judged them with the Assyrian captivity in 721 B.C.
The two tribes of the Southern Kingdom, consisting of Benjamin and Judah, were called Judah. All of their kings descended from David and many, but not all, were godly kings. However, that nation as a whole disobeyed God and failed to observe the Sabbath year. Every 7th year they were to let the land lie fallow but they ignored this for 490 years and God called them to account for this and they were taken into captivity in 605 B.C. for 70 years by the Babylonians.
After seventy years, some of the people returned to the land as promised. Jeremiah 29:10. “For thus says the LORD: After seventy years are completed at Babylon, I will visit you and perform My good word toward you, and cause you to return to this place.”
Ezra records the people's return and their struggle to rebuild the Temple, and Nehemiah records the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem and the city itself about a century later. Israel was back in the land but they failed to follow the Lord. About 200 years later they were caught between Syria and Egypt in a war caused by a power struggle between Alexander the Great’s generals who sought power after his death in 323 B.C. He had conquered the known world in 13 years and died at the age of 33, reportedly from a venereal disease.
About this time, Rome began to expand her power and Jerusalem itself was subdued by the Romans in 63 B.C. The Romans treated Israel cruelly and hundreds of thousands of Jews were killed or carried off into slavery.
About 100 years later, and with the authority of the Roman rulers, Jesus was crucified. About 40 years later, in A.D. 70 the city of Jerusalem was burned by the Romans. Most of the Jews were driven from their homeland and dispersed all over the world. Not until the twentieth century, in 1948 A.D., did Israel begin to return to her land and become a recognized state politically.
While Israel originally became a great nation in fulfillment of prophecies given to Abraham, history records that she was deposed from her land three times.
The first was her descent into Egypt where she was placed into bondage and couldn’t return to her land for over 400 years.
Second, the Assyrian and Babylonian captivities where Israel was taken from the land and later allowed to return.
The third and final dispersion came after the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. Today this is referred to as the “Diaspora.”
The prophecy that pertains to the Davidic kingdom and its fulfillment is very important. The throne of Israel is promised to David and his seed forever and this promise will be fulfilled when Christ returns to earth at His second coming and ascends the throne.
The seventy weeks of Daniel were important prophecy that denoted time periods in the history of the Jewish people from their return to the land after the seventy years captivity up to and including the Tribulation Period and the second coming of Christ. It is too detailed to take up other than as a separate subject so I will pass over it for now.
Prophecy Concerning the Advent of the Messiah is without a doubt the most important prophecy in all Scripture. It’s clear that the prophets of the Old Testament were unable to distinguish why and how there were to be two advents of the Messiah.
This present time period that began at the cross and has continued for nearly 2000 years, the age we live in, was so secret in the counsels of God that even the prophets who wrote the Scriptures did not fully understand the events which were to be fulfilled at Christ’s first coming and those which are yet to be fulfilled at His second coming.
When Jesus read Isaiah 61:1-2 in the synagogue of Capernaum, He stopped abruptly when He finished reading the things which were predicted for His first advent.
Luke 4:18-19. "The Spirit of the LORD is upon Me, Because He has anointed Me To preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives And recovery of sight to the blind, To set at liberty those who are oppressed; 19: To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD."
He made no mention of the things that would remain to be fulfilled when He comes again, even though they were there in the following Scriptures.
Even the angel Gabriel combined the events which belong to the first and the second advents of Christ. Luke 1:31-33. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end."
According to Old Testament prophecy, Christ was to come both as a sacrificial Lamb and as the conquering Lion of the Tribe of Judah.
Isaiah 53:7. “He was oppressed and He was afflicted, Yet He opened not His mouth; He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, And as a sheep before its shearers is silent, So He opened not His mouth.”
Isaiah 11:4. “He shall strike the earth with the rod of His mouth, And with the breath of His lips He shall slay the wicked."
When you consider these two predictions, it’s no wonder there was misunderstanding in the minds of the Old Testament prophets as to how and when all this could be fulfilled.
Peter commented on this in 1 Peter 1:10-11. As to this salvation, the prophets who prophesied of the grace that would come to you made careful search and inquiry, seeking to know what person or time the Spirit of Christ within them was indicating as He predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories to follow.”
There are many important Old Testament prophecies concerning Israel that relate to Israel's several dispersions and their final re-gathering.
The Assyrian captivity of the Northern Kingdom and the Babylonian captivity of the Southern Kingdom were a national punishment for sin. The whole nation of Israel was taken from the land and eventually was scattered among the nations of the earth. This fulfilled many prophecies. Israel's national identity in no case would be lost even through almost 2000 years of dispersion. They refused the offer of God to re-gather them and establishing their kingdom at the first advent of their Messiah.
“Matthew 23:38-39. “See! Your house is left to you desolate; for I say to you, you shall see Me no more till you say, 'Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD,” Their rejection of the Messiah has continued and will continue until His second coming. As their King, He’ll re-gather His people into their own land, which is now the war-torn Middle East, and they will enter into the peace and glory and blessedness of every covenant promise of God concerning them.
Israel will have a dramatic future role in end-time events leading up to the second coming of Christ. According to Scripture, there are four major movements to Israel's future in relation to the end of the age.
1. Israel was prophesied to again be a nation. In order to make a covenant with the "prince that shall come," it is necessary for Israel to again be a political state. This was fulfilled in May 1948 when she was recognized as a nation and gained a portion of the Promised Land. Her strength has increased until Israel today is a major factor in world affairs.
2. Daniel 9:27 indicates that Israel will enter into a covenant with a Gentile ruler for a planned seven years. Israel will have a measure of peace and security and, in this period, undoubtedly many more Jews will go back to the Promised Land and Israel will prosper financially as well as politically.
3. The covenant with Israel will be dramatically broken after three and one-half years and Israel will become a persecuted people. This is "the time of Jacob's trouble" of Jeremiah 30:7 and the "Great Tribulation" of Matthew 24:21.
4. With the second advent of Christ at the end of the Great Tribulation, Israel will experience a glorious restoration and Christ will reign on earth for a thousand years.
The first stage, the return to the land as a recognized nation, has already taken place and the second stage will most likely not take place until after the church is raptured.
Scripture speaks of the Day of the Lord and the indications are that the Day of the Lord will begin soon after the rapture of the church. Major events of the Day of the Lord seem to include the Great Tribulation, the second coming of Christ and the battle of Armageddon, the thousand-year reign of Christ on earth and the Great White Throne judgment that will come at the end of the millennial reign.
The stage is being set for some very dramatic end-time events and Israel will play a major role.
Those who have accepted Jesus Christ as their Savior,
Jew and Gentile alike, need not fear this end time.
They will not face it.
Christ died for the sins of the world
and all God asks is that we confess our sins
and trust that the shed blood of His Son,
Jesus Christ, paid for them in full.
Christ will come and meet us in the air
to take us to heaven before that
"great and terrible Day of the Lord."