About 4000 years ago, God called Abraham, and promised him three things (Gen 12:1–3): (1) “I will bless thee, and make thy name great.” Abraham was particularly singled out to be an instrument of God’s grand salvation plan. (2) “I will make of thee a great nation.” The promise was also made to the nation Israel which means “Prince of God”. (3) “In thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.” The promise will extend to the world. God said that those who bless Israel, He will bless, and those who curse Israel, He will curse (Gen 12:3).
God made Israel His chosen nation (Deut 7:6). Special promises were made to Israel especially in regard to the land God had promised her (Gen 12:7 cf, 15:18–21). God promised to Israel the land of Canaan—a land flowing with milk and honey (Exod 3:17). The land was not possessed by Abraham, Isaac and Jacob during their time because the iniquity of the Canaanites was not yet full (Gen 15:16). Possession of the land came only after the great Exodus. God used Moses to lead Israel out of Egypt and then Joshua to take over the land of promise (Deut 1:6–8).
However, the occupation of the full extent of the Promised Land which is from Egypt in the East to the Euphrates in the West will only be realised when the Lord Jesus returns. God promised Israel a King who will rule over the whole world from Jerusalem (2 Sam 7:12–13). This Davidic promise will be fulfilled in Christ—the greater Son of David (Isa 9:6–7)—when He returns in the millennium.
God intended for Israel to be His evangelist in the Old Testament, to declare the gospel of their Messiah. But Israel was rebellious and was punished. Israel split into two after the reign of Solomon—the northern kingdom of Ephraim and the southern kingdom of Judah. Ephraim had 20 kings and all of them without exception were wicked. The Lord sent the Assyrians to punish them in 721 BC. Judah also had 20 kings and most of them were bad ones (about a half dozen good ones). Having sinned against God, the Lord also punished them by sending the Babylonians in 586 BC to destroy Jerusalem. The people were taken into captivity to Babylon and there they remained for 70 years. When the time was up, God allowed them to return to the Promised Land and Jerusalem was rebuilt (Jer 25:11, 29:10). As prophesied, Israel repossessed the land after 70 years in exile. The temple and city were rebuilt under the supervision of Zerubbabel, Ezra, and Nehemiah.
Israel’s Messiah-Saviour Jesus Christ eventually came in 5 BC. Christ lived until AD 30 when He was crucified for the sins of the world and rose from the dead. The Apostles of Jesus Christ preached the Gospel and the New Testament Church was founded and spread throughout the known world.
Israel’s unbelief and rejection of their Messiah led God to scatter the Jews into the four corners of the earth. They were cast out of their land again. This happened in AD 70. Nevertheless, God did not forsake them but promised them a future restoration to the Promised Land (Isa 11:11–12). This was fulfilled on May 14, 1948 when Israel became a nation once again. Back in the Promised Land, Israel shall not be uprooted again.
Israel is a miracle nation: “The restoration of Israel to its ancient land and its establishment as a political government is almost without parallel in the history of the world. Never before has an ancient people, scattered for so many centuries been able to return to their ancient land and re-establish themselves with such success and such swift progress as is witnessed in the new state of Israel” (Walvoord).
Why is Israel, above all nations, so special? It is because of God! The Scriptures say, “the LORD thy God hath chosen thee to be a special people unto himself, above all people that are upon the face of the earth. The LORD did not set his love upon you, nor choose you, because ye were more in number than any people; for ye were the fewest of all people: But because the LORD loved you, and because he would keep the oath which he had sworn unto your fathers” (Deut 7:6–8). Once Israel is regathered into the land the second time, she will no longer be uprooted. The very fact that God gave Israel victory in all the wars since independence in 1948 is testimony to that; viz the War of Independence (1948–9), the Sinai Campaign (1956), the Six Day War (1967), the Yom Kippur War (1973), the Lebanese War (1982), the Gulf War (1991) etc. The nations surrounding Israel were not small; they numbered 30 million, but Israel though small defeated them all. It is a modern case of David versus Goliath.
One day, the Antichrist will cause a peace treaty to be signed between Israel and many nations (Dan 9:27). This will start the seven-year Great Tribulation. It will be a time of Jacob’s trouble (Jer 30:7). Israel will come under attack and the world will seek to destroy her.
Know that the Great Tribulation consists of two halves. The first half will be a time of relative peace. There will be the sealing of 144,000 (Rev 7:4). Two special witnesses will come down from heaven to preach the Gospel and declare the coming judgement of God on the world. These two witnesses will likely be Moses and Elijah (Rev 11:3). During this time the temple will be rebuilt. The second half will be a time of war. The Antichrist will break the peace treaty and will desecrate the temple and persecute the Jews (Rev 12:6, 16–17). This will result in a world war which will focus on Israel. The armies of the world will converge in Israel, specifically in Megiddo, to fight the battle of Armageddon (Rev 16:16). The Jews will cry out to their Messiah and Jesus Christ will descend from heaven with the saints, to destroy the Antichrist and his armies and deliver Israel (Rev 19:11–21).
After Jesus Christ has put away all His enemies and delivered Israel, He will inaugurate His kingdom on earth, and rule over the whole world for a thousand years (Rev 5:10, 20:6). Israel during the Millennium will be First Nation and Jerusalem will be the capital of the world (Isa 2:2–3). Christ will sit on the throne of His father David and rule over the whole world with peace (Isa 11:4).
At the end of the Millennium, there will be a final revolt by Satan (Rev 20:7–9). Christ will destroy all who rebel against Him by fire. All the unbelieving dead will then be judged by Christ who will sit on His Great White Throne, and all whose names are not found in the Book of Life will be cast into the Lake of Fire and there they will remain forever (Rev 20:11–15).
This present heaven and earth will then be burnt up with fervent heat and will be no more (2 Pet 3:10). Then God will start creating again. He will create a new heaven and new earth, and a new Jerusalem (Rev 21) where all His people will dwell forever. JK
ISRAEL A GREAT NATION
Rev Dr Timothy Tow
Since the end of World War II, many young and vigorous nations have been born, one after the other, which were once colonies of the Great Powers. From the ASEAN Bloc have “emerged” the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore. Many nations have arisen in Africa with new names that old-timers have a hard time to follow. Among all these new nations there came into being on May 14, 1948 the State of Israel. The majority of Israel is made up of returnee Jews, after 2,000 years of exile.
In land area Israel is one of the tiniest. The only country in the world, to which she can boast of comparative bigness, perhaps, is Singapore. Population-wise Israel has over 5 million souls, not much bigger than Singapore either. Indeed, Israel is but a speck on the globe, a little dot on the world map. If you stand at a vantage point in the Holy Land on a fine day, say, on the hill of Samaria, you could see almost the four corners of the country. How does a tiny country like Israel become such a great nation as she is today?
Israel is in the news, front page world news, more often than any other of the new-born nations. Israel is in the news side by side with the super powers, most frequent with the United States. How has little Israel gained such global prominence?
In an issue of the Straits Times 1981, the story was told of former Israel Prime Minister Menachem Begin meeting with former US President Ronald Reagan. This is what Begin said of a joke he cracked with the American President. Begin said President Reagan told him he had three phones on his desk. One was white to call British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. One was blue to call France’s Francois Mitterrand. The third which was a red one was for God. But added Reagan, “I don’t use it too much, as long distance is so expensive.”
Mr Begin told his host he too had three phones. One was for Mrs Thatcher, one for Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and also one for God. “But,” added Begin, “I use it all the time as, in Jerusalem, it is considered a loca1 call.”
Israel is a great nation because it is so closely linked to God. Israel is a great nation not by her own prowess. Not because the Jews are a smarter people, a superior race. Israel is a great nation because that is what God had graciously promised Abraham, that his descendants would so become (Gen 12:2). The same promise that Israel would be a great nation he confirmed in Jacob (Gen 46:3) and with the Israelites under Moses (Deut 26:5). Israel’s greatness is solely from God.
[Excerpt from Chapter III of The Story of My Bible-Presbyterian Faith by Timothy Tow (Singapore: FEBC Press, 1999).]
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