By Nathan Jones
Where in the Bible did God promise to return the Jews to their land?
I was recently interviewed by Vic Batista, senior pastor of the Miami-based Calvary Chapel Aventura on his radio program "The Truth Will Set You Free" via TWave Radio. "Pastor Vic" (as he likes to be called) was born in the Dominican Republic and is as active in planting churches and helping orphans there as he is in southern Florida, reaching out with the Good News of Jesus Christ to both the English and Spanish speaking audiences.
In this "The Truth Will Set You Free" episode, we'll marvel at how Israel being a nation again fulfills one of the most prolific prophecies in all the Old Testament.
The Valley of Dry Bones
Vic: Our topic for today will be that of the regathering of the nation of Israel. We are so excited because we are talking about such an incredible topic. God has accomplished a very important miracle in regathering the Jewish people. I believe it's the most important prophetic development in the 20th Century.
Various passages in the Bible talk to us about the miracle of the regathering of the nation of Israel. One of the greatest of those passages would be Ezekiel chapters 37 and 38. Nathan, can you talk to us a little about that passage?
Nathan: Ezekiel 37 is about a valley of dry bones. The prophet Ezekiel was shown this image of dry bones. All was death, as if a mighty empire had once been there, but had since turned to dust.
Then, all the sudden, the bones rise up out of the valley. They join together so that the skin and the bones all combine. The people have life once more and are a people group again. The Bible prophesied that the nation of Israel would come out of death to come back to life again as a nation reborn.
Nathan: Actually, Pastor Vic, the Ezekiel 37 prophecy goes all the way back to Deuteronomy 30. Before Israel was even a nation, they had been wandering around the desert for 40 years. Then God says to Moses basically, "I know the hearts of your people Israel. The Hebrew people over the centuries will have their love for me grow cold. We'll be distant. They'll follow other gods and they'll break the covenant I made with them. And so, I will not defend them anymore. They will be taken out of the land I promised them into exile and captivity among the Gentile nations."
God's prophecy given to Moses happened exactly that way. The Northern Kingdom of Israel was exiled in 722 BC and then later with Judah and Jerusalem in 586 BC. The Israelites were scattered up north. The Lord 70 or so years later regathered the Jews back into a nation once more. And, for a few hundred years, Israel was a nation again, although under occupation. First the Greeks and then the Romans ruled Israel. Finally the Romans destroyed Jerusalem and the Temple in 70 AD, and by about 130 with the Bar Kokhba Rebellion the Jews were totally scattered to the four corners of the world.
Amazing how that very scenario was prophesied well over a thousand years before it even happened! As a matter of fact, Deuteronomy 30:3 says, "The Lord your God will bring you back from captivity and have compassion on you and gather you again from the nations where the Lord your God has scattered you." So, even before Israel was a nation, God was telling them to the effect, "You're going to disobey me. You're gonna be exiled. But, I'm going to bring you back." God promised to bring Israel back into the Promised Land because He is always faithful to His covenant.
Pastor Vic, you and I weren't alive back in 1948 when Israel became a nation again, were we, Brother?
Vic: No, we're not that old.
Nathan: We're not that old, but we live in a generation that was alive back in 1948 and witnessed Israel became a nation again.
The Ottoman Empire will not arise again. The Mayans and Incas will not rise again. But, Israel as a nation is back in their land again after almost 1,900 years, just as God foretold in Deuteronomy 30 and Ezekiel 37 and many other verses. We can go through them if you want. There are many verses that prophesied that Israel would be exiled, and not just once but twice, and then a second time brought back back in their land. When Israel — God's covenant nation from the Bible — became a nation once again in our own modern era, well that signals the time to start looking for Jesus to return.
Vic: What an amazing and beautiful picture of grace, right? People have a hard time understanding grace, but here is God's grace being poured out upon these people, much like us as believers in Christ. Sometimes we mess up. Then the Lord corrects us so that He can bring us back to Him. He always loves us. That's what you're saying to us when it comes to God's love for Israel, right?
Nathan: That's it. God is characterized by grace. He's also characterized by justice for He will always do what is right. He will always follow His own rules and laws, and when we disobey those laws, He sends punishment in the hopes that we will repent and turn back to Him. If we don't repent, then the final judgment of destruction come down upon us. But, when we repent and turn our lives over to Him, by God's grace He keeps His covenant. He keeps His promises. We are unfaithful, but He always remains faithful. God promises to restore us and bring us back to a right relationship with Him through the salvation which Jesus paid for by dying on the cross for our sins.
Vic: Excellent point! Lamb & Lion Ministries' founder, Dr. David Reagan, has a great love for the nation of Israel. He frequently communicates over your television program Christ in Prophecy to anyone tuned in that God is not through with Israel. God still has a plan for them. Nathan, you and I and other believers in Christ, we need to pray for Israel, right?
Nathan: Yes, we do. Dr. Reagan is the founder and director of our ministry. He started the ministry in 1980 and is our main host on our television program "Christ in Prophecy." I've never met a man who is so passionate about the Jewish people. Did you know he's been to Israel leading tours over 45 times? He has a great passion for the Jewish people, because he knows that even though the Valley of the Dry Bones prophecy from Ezekiel 37 has been fulfilled and the Jewish people are again back as a people group in their own land once more, their hearts are not yet with the Lord. They exist as a nation, but the spirit isn't there yet.
When we pray for the peace of Israel, what we're really praying for is the return of Jesus Christ. That'll be the time when a remnant of the Jewish people, a third actually, will give their hearts to the Lord Jesus Christ. Zechariah 12:10 says, "I will pour out on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem the spirit of grace and the supplications so they will look on me whom they have pierced..." This is Jesus talking in a prophecy written hundreds of years before the Crucifixion! "...And they will mourn for Him as one mourns for an only son, and they will weep bitterly over Him like the bitter weeping over a firstborn."
When Jesus comes back, when He returns, the Jewish people will be like, "There's the Messiah! What did we do?" They'll turn back to the Lord. We can also read about that in Isaiah 10:20-23 and even in the New Testament in Romans 9:27. Isaiah cries out concerning Israel, "Though the number of the sons of Israel be like the sand of the sea, it is the remnant that will be saved."
The Jewish people are still waiting for the Messiah. Boy, are they going to be surprised when they see that the Messiah is Jesus Christ. It always gets me excited!
In the second part of this discussion with Pastor Vic on the Jews regathering back into Israel, we'll look at how the Jews came to own their own land again.