A significant end-time prophecy related to the present age is that Israel would become a nation again after a long worldwide dispersion of the Jews. It seemed impossible. All the odds were against it. But amazingly, it happened.
Israel’s rebirth as a self-governing nation in 1948 represented the fulfillment of specific Bible prophecies about an international regathering of the Jews, even though they have not yet trusted in Jesus the Messiah. We might say that this is a regathering in unbelief. This regathering was prophesied to take place before the judgments that will fall upon the world during the future seven-year tribulation period.
Some 2,600 years ago, the ancient prophet Ezekiel spoke of God’s promise to the Jews: “I will greatly increase the population of Israel, and the ruined cities will be rebuilt and filled with people” (Ezekiel 36:10). God also promised the Jews: “I will gather you up from all the nations and bring you home again to your land” (36:24).
Ezekiel’s vision of the dry bones (chapter 37) portrays God saying, “I will lay sinews upon you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live.” We know that this chapter is about Israel because we read that “these bones are the whole house of Israel” (verse 11). This chapter portrays Israel as becoming a living, breathing nation, brought back from the dead.
Notice that the vision of the dry bones is presented as a process:
• dispersed bones form a skeleton;
• the bones are then wrapped in muscle;
• then the breath of life is then infused.
The great miracle happened in 1948—Israel became a nation again. At that time, Jews from all over the world began to immigrate back to Israel. The process has continued ever since, with Jews from every country continuing to stream back into the Holy Land. Ezekiel’s prophecy is being fulfilled before our very eyes.
I find this significant. In AD 70, Titus and his Roman warriors destroyed Jerusalem and decisively ended Israel as a political entity (Luke 21:20). Since then, the Jews have been scattered throughout the world for many centuries. Even in the decade before 1948, no one could have imagined that Israel would soon become a nation again. And yet it happened.
Think about this for a moment: While the present regathering of the Jews in the Holy Land is a gathering in unbelief, there is a day in the future when there will be a spiritual awakening in Israel (Joel 2:28-29). Armageddon—the campaign of battles that erupts at the end of the tribulation period—will be the historical context in which Israel will finally be converted to Christ (Zechariah 12:2–13:1). It will be quite a day!
Here’s what will happen: At the end of the tribulation period, the forces of the antichrist will move against the Jewish remnant to destroy them. The remnant will fear their imminent destruction. However, at just the right time, God will remove the spiritual blindness that He had long ago inflicted on the Jews as judgment (for rejecting Jesus), and the Jewish remnant will finally recognize Jesus as the Messiah. The Jews will promptly put their faith in Him.
Israel’s spiritual rebirth will include the confession of Israel’s national sin (Leviticus 26:40-42; Jeremiah 3:11-18; Hosea 5:15), following which Israel will be saved, fulfilling the apostle Paul’s prophecy about Israel in Romans 11:25-27. In dire threat at Armageddon, Israel will cry out for their newly found Messiah to return and deliver them (Zechariah 12:10; Matthew 23:37-39; Isaiah 53:1-9), after which their deliverance will surely come (Romans 10:13-14). Christ will return at the second coming and destroy the forces of the antichrist.
Later, in the millennial kingdom (which follows the second coming of Christ), Israel will experience the full possession of the Promised Land and the restoration of the Davidic throne. All of this will fulfill the ancient unconditional covenants God made with Abraham and David (Genesis 12:1-3; 15:18-21; 2 Samuel 7:12-13). The millennial kingdom will be a time of physical and spiritual blessing (Isaiah 35:1-10) based on the new covenant (Jeremiah 31:31-34). It will be wondrous!
Israel’s Rebirth Sets the Stage for Other Prophecies
Israel’s rebirth as a nation sets the stage for other key Bible prophecies to be fulfilled both before and during the tribulation period. For example, Ezekiel prophesies that Russia and a group of Muslim nations—Iran, Sudan, Turkey, Libya, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Armenia, and possibly northern Afghanistan—will launch a massive attack against Israel in the end times (Ezekiel 38–39). Obviously, Israel cannot be invaded unless Israel first exists as a nation.
The rebirth of Israel is also a prerequisite for the covenant that the antichrist will sign with Israel (Daniel 9:27). How could the antichrist sign a covenant with Israel if Israel did not already exist as a nation?
Scripture prophesies the rebuilding of the Jewish temple in Jerusalem early in the tribulation period (Matthew 24:15-16; 2 Thessalonians 2:4). The rebirth of Israel as a nation is obviously a prerequisite to this rebuilding.
Jesus prophesies that the Jews will be forced to flee Jerusalem at the midpoint of the tribulation when the antichrist establishes his headquarters there. The rebirth of Israel as a nation is a prerequisite for the Jews fleeing Jerusalem during the tribulation period.
Two Frequently Asked Questions
When I teach on this topic, two questions are often asked:
1. Is it possible that the prophecies of the Jewish regathering in the land were already fulfilled in Old Testament times?
No. Contextually, the broader prophecy of Israel’s rebirth and eventual attack by a northern coalition takes place in the “latter years” (Ezekiel 38:8) and “latter days” (verse 16). These terms refer to the end times. Notice also that the regathering of Jews is “from all the countries” of the world (Ezekiel 36:24). Never in Bible history have the Jews been delivered “from all the countries” of the world. This was not fulfilled until 1948, when Israel became a national entity again, after which Jews from all over the world began to return to Israel.
2. Is there any actual demographic evidence that Jews have been steadily returning to the Holy Land since 1948?
Yes, there is. When Israel declared its independence on May 14, 1948, its population was 806,000. By the end of 2005, there were nearly seven million people living in Israel, 5.6 million of whom were Jews. Many Jews have continued to relocate to Israel since 2005. Today, the main motivation for Jews to return to Israel is anti-Semitism, which is at an all-time high.
Two Devotional Insights to Consider
As I have reflected on the amazing rebirth of Israel, two devotional insights have brought me great comfort:
- If God can restore deeply troubled Israel, then He can certainly also restore you and me when we are in deep trouble. God can restore us even after we have gone through a long period of suffering. First Peter 5:10 promises: “After you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you” (emphasis added). Trust God. He is the Master of restoration.
- If God can deliver tiny Israel from the massive northern military coalition, then He can certainly deliver you and me from the seemingly gigantic problems we may face. God “is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think” (Ephesians 3:20). God promises each of us, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5).