The current restoration of national Israel (Zionism) is a sign of the Second Coming of Christ. Israel has a special purpose as God’s witness to the nations, and will be the vortex of the world at the end of the age.
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What’s special about Modern Israel?
The land variously called Israel, Palestine or the Holy Land is extremely small compared to its neighbours. It’s about the size of Wales. Its original occupants (the 12 tribes of Israel) were scattered to the nations some 2,500 years ago and since then the land it has been occupied by Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians, Greeks, Romans, Turks and the British. Even in 1900 the population of Israel was only some 500,000; it was politically and industrially insignificant, with a mix of many peoples representing some 50 languages. So why is Israel frequently in world focus today?
During the 20th century Israel saw astounding development, especially after becoming a state in 1948. For example, from 1958 – 1965 it saw a growth of 13.6% in manufacturing. And the population grew from 0.5m in 1900 to 8.7m in 2020. It now has high-tech industries, forestry and agricultural industries, and a highly developed infrastructure. But these facts alone are insufficient to warrant world attention. There must be a more fundamental reason.
The reason for Israel’s prominence today is biblical rather than political. The Bible says that God chose a special people to be His witness to the world:
‘You are My witnesses,’ declares the LORD, ‘And My servant whom I have chosen … And what nation on the earth is like Your people Israel, whom God went to redeem for Himself as a people and to make a name for Himself, and to do a great thing for You and awesome things for Your land’Isaiah 43:10, 2 Samuel 7:23
The Restoration of Israel – Zionism
The movement to restore Israel as a nation in her own land and to create a Jewish state is often referred to as ‘Zionism’. Whilst this movement has both religious and secular roots, what we see today in Israel is actually an out-working of God’s covenant with Abraham.
Consider a little history: Whilst the seed of Abraham was fulfilled in Christ, God’s flagship nation and chief witness had lost its identity amongst the nations. It was scattered in disgrace and some maintain that the New Testament Church has now replaced Israel as God’s witness (replacement theology).
This is erroneous. Since God gave Abraham an unconditional covenant, then national Israel must one day fulfil her role as God’s witness and return to the land covenanted to Abraham’s descendants. In fact, God did not destroy national Israel – He simply gave her a ‘writ of divorce’ (see for example Jeremiah 3:8) – and there are many prophecies of the restoration of Israel and her ‘remarriage’ to her God. For example:
Behold, I will take the sons of Israel from among the nations where they have gone … and bring them into their own land … (Ezekiel 37:21)
I will say to the north, “Give them up! … bring My sons from afar and my daughters from the ends of the earth (Isaiah 43:6)
And (the LORD) will lift up a standard for the nations, and assemble the banished [scattered] ones of Israel, and will gather the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth (Isaiah 11:12)
These prophecies have seen recent fulfilment as the concept of Zionism and the restoration of Israel (sometimes referred to as the ingathering of the exiles) started in the late 19th century. Consider a few key facts concerning Israel (Palestine):
- 1882: First wave of emigration (first ‘Aliyah’ or ascent) to Palestine, particularly from Russia and Romania
- 1897: Theodor Herzel convened the First Zionist Congress in Basel, Switzerland
- 1917: General Allenby liberated Jerusalem from the Turks, giving Jews access to the city
- 1922: British Mandate for Palestine was formalized by the League of Nations, link
- 1948: State of Israel established; David Ben Gurion became the first Prime Minister
- 1950: Law of return passed by Israel’s Parliament – opening Israel to Jews from over 60 countries
- 1967: Jerusalem came under Jewish rule
- Jewish population: 1915: 0.08m; 1945: 0.55m; 1967: 2.4m; 2005: 5.3m; 2017:6.5m; 2020: 6.8m; link
Note that 1917 saw Jerusalem liberated from Gentile control after some 2500 years, link. Some see this as direct fulfilment of Jesus’ prophecy:
Jerusalem will be trampled under foot by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled (Luke 21:24)
Jerusalem then came under the 1922 British Mandate for Palestine with the prime objective of the establishment of a Jewish national home in the mandated land (see map). Significantly, in 1967 all of Jerusalem returned to the total control of national Israel.
Aliyah: Mass Jewish Immigration to Israel
Aliyah means “going-up” (to Jerusalem). Jews see it as “going up to holiness”.
Population growth of Palestine/Israel is striking. In 1915 there were just 83,000 Jews but this increased to over 6.8 million Jews in 2020, link, corresponding to an amazing 8,000% increase! In comparison, over the same period the UK population increased just 55%. We can see this as the amazing natural growth of a young nation, or, more likely, as the fulfilment of the above prophecies in Ezekiel and Isaiah.
Israel’s Law of Return
On 5 July 1950, the Knesset (Israel’s parliament) passed the Law of Return. Subject to certain security conditions, this Law gave every Jew in the world the right to go and settle in Israel as an ‘oleh’ (a person who makes aliyah: pl. olim). The Law of Return was amended in 1970 to clarify the term “Jew” and the application of the Law to family members. This Law opened up Israel to Jews from over 60 countries.
Today, Zionist organizations like The Jewish Agency and WZO continue to oversee Aliyah, immigration, settlement and education. All new immigrants also learn Hebrew to help them integrate into Israeli society. As an Aliyah example, a tribe called the Bnei Menashe in India has maintained their Jewish roots and believe they belong to the lost ten tribes. In 2014 some 7,000 returned to their ancient homeland.
The Restoration of Israel: Rapid Technological Growth
Today, Israel has highly developed banking, health, and University systems and her industries include textiles, food processing, mining, agriculture and forestry. Israel is particularly advanced in the hi-tech industry such as computer science, electronics, genetics, medicine, optics, solar energy and electric cars. Those who choose to boycott Israeli goods will loose a lot of benefits of the modern world!
The video below highlights how Israel’s technological innovations are making the world a better place.
Land and Sea Blessings
In 2010 a huge natural-gas discovery was confirmed in the Eastern Mediterranean inside Israel’s territorial waters. Analysts believe this Levant Basin gas field could provide Israel with 50 to 200 years of gas, at current levels of use. Israel also has one of the world’s largest deposits of shale oil – 250 billion barrels in Israel’s Shfela basin. Although expensive to extract, Israel is now pioneering shale oil technology. Some think Israel may well become an energy exporter over the next decade.
In fact, in line with God’s future blessing of Israel, the Bible seems to imply that God has already given the land of Israel abundant mineral wealth:
For they shall partake of the abundance of the seas and of the treasures hidden in the sand ( Deuteronomy 33:19)
Could this be a reference to natural gas and shale oil?
Today, ISRAEL is the only country in the world that
bears the same name
speaks the same language
upholds the same faith, and
inhabits the same land as it did
3,000 years ago
Hebrews, Israelites and Jews
It is helpful to clarify common terminology
The story of the Hebrews begins with Abram. He is first described as a Hebrew in Genesis 14:13. Abram spoke an ancient Semitic language called Hebrew, and evidence suggests that the Israelite tribes who invaded Canaan spoke Hebrew. Amazingly, the language is not dead (it is Israel’s official language) and has been revived in Israel in line with end-time prophecy:
In that day five cities in the land of Egypt will speak the language of Canaan (Isaiah 19:18)
For then I will restore to the peoples a pure language, that they may call on the name of the LORD (Zephaniah 3:9)
God’s unconditional covenant with Abram was that, through his descendants (Isaac, Jacob and the 12 tribes), he would become a great nation (Genesis 12:2). Moreover, from Abram would come a multitude or company of nations (for more see the lost tribes) and this called for a change in Abram’s name:
No longer shall your name be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham; for I have made you the father of a multitude of nations (Genesis 17:5)
Later, God also renamed Isaac’s son Jacob and called him ‘Israel’:
And God said “Your name is Jacob; your name shall not be be called Jacob anymore, but Israel …
The land which I gave to Abraham and Isaac I will give to you, and I will give the land to your descendants after you” (Genesis 35:10,12)
So in time the descendants of Jacob formed the nation Israel, and they lived in the land promised to them (Canaan). This occurred around 1300 BC after their Exodus from Egypt under the leadership of Moses and Joshua.
What do we understand by the term ‘Jew’? For the purpose of Israeli Law, “Jew” means a person who was born of a Jewish mother (the father can be a non-Jew) or has become converted to Judaism and who is not a member of another religion. From a biblical point of view, the term ‘Jew’ (Hebrew ‘Yehudi’, pronounced ‘ya-hoo-DEE’) originated from the name/tribe Judah (2 Kings 16:6). But by 700 BC the term Jew came to mean any person descended from Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
Today it is common to refer to Abraham’s descendants as ‘Jews’, and the term ‘Jew’ is used loosely by the media to refer to the people of Israel. So today Abraham’s descendants are referred to as Hebrews, Israelites, or more commonly, Jews!