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Grace the power of God

by Jean-Marc Thobois

According to numerous prophecies, it is clear that Israel was to be gathered together again in her own country in a state of unbelief by an act of the pure grace of God. The clearest prophecy in this sense is the prophecy in Ezekiel 37 about the dry bones.

Three stages of the resurrection of Israel can be seen in that chapter:

  • the bringing together of the dry bones, i.e. of the exiles from all the countries in which they have been dispersed and a return to the land of Israel.

  • the appearance of flesh and skin on these reconstructed people, i.e. the state and its institutions are re-established in what they have that is earthly and human,

  • the coming of the Holy Spirit which restores life to these corpses, i.e. a spiritual awakening.

It is only then that the re-establishment is complete. Parallel to this resurrection of the people, the preceding chapter (Ezekiel 36), evokes the resurrection of the land that is desolate and reduced to desert.

Numerous other prophecies could be called to mind which allow us to suppose, and even state clearly, that before the Second Coming and the final Messianic appearance, Israel will be brought back to her country and into her holy city, Jerusalem. It is difficult otherwise to see how the nations would gather together against the holy city and how the coming of the Messiah would coincide with the great movement of national repentance which would result from that.

That is why since the 18th century, numerous commentators have spoken of a partial coming together of the people of Israel in her ancient (original) homeland. It is in a state of unbelief along with political instability brought about by the opposition of the nations to her return. It will only be possible to achieve her peace at the coming of the Messiah and this partial return is a preparation for this.

It seems very much that the first two stages of Ezekiel's prophecy are in the process of coming to completion and that we are near to the beginning of the third stage, the most decisive stage for Israel and the world.

The Day of the Lord

But, according to the same prophecies, this third stage will be preceded by a time of testing, described by the prophets as the "day of the Lord" (Isaiah 2:12; Isaiah 13:6-9; Isaiah 34:8; Joel 1:15; Joel 2:1; Amos 5:18-20; Obadiah 1:15; Zephaniah 1:7-14; Zephaniah 2:2; Zechariah 14:1-21: Malachi 3:2; Malachi 4:5; ... ).

This day, described in many places throughout the prophecies, will be one of intervention by God into human history, a time when God will call to account first of all Israel, and then the nations.

Jeremiah 30:4-7 describes this as a time "of Jacob's anguish" from which he will be delivered. Other texts, such as Zechariah 12 and Zechariah 14, describe the eschatological gathering together of the nations against Jerusalem in the end with the aim of eliminating Israel from among the nations "in order that the name of Israel be no longer remembered" (Psalm 83:5).

It is precisely this deadly threat of a "final solution", of a "new Shoah" which will make the divine intervention to deliver Israel absolutely essential. The apostle Paul in 2 Thessalonians 2 defines this intervention as an "epiphany", i.e. a visible manifestation of God, hidden until that time, with the result that, John tells us in Revelation 1:7, "Every eye will see".

According to the apostle, this epiphany will be that of the Messiah in glory, according to Daniel 7 when the Son of Man, i.e. the Messiah, will come on the clouds of heaven: "There will be signs in the sun, in the moon and in the stars. And on the earth, there will be anguish among the nations who will not know what to do, at the sound of the sea and the floods, men giving over their souls for terror in the expectation of what will come upon the earth; for the heavenly powers will be shaken. Then the Son of Man will be seen coming on a cloud with power and great glory. When these things start to happen, stand up straight and lift up your heads, because your deliverance draws near" (Luke 21:25-28).

According to Isaiah 11:2-4, the Messiah on whom the seven spirits of God rest will totally destroy the "Evil one" with the breath, or the spirit, of His mouth. For Paul, the Evil one is none other than the man of sin, the son of perdition, the enemy who "stands against all that is of God, to proclaim himself God".

Taking up the very terms of Isaiah 11:4, Paul declares that the Lord Jesus will destroy him by the breath of His mouth and will utterly destroy him by the bursting forth of His appearance. The disappearance of this degenerate and unholy being is the pre-condition for the establishment of the reign of the Messiah and the deliverance of Israel.

Jacob's time of tribulation

Chapters 12 and 14 of Zechariah describe, in vivid detail, the distress which will then be that of the people in these times of tribulation. Now, for the first time in human history, the possibility of such a scenario is real, and if it were only to be played out in a time still a long way off, the very fact that it might be envisaged today, ought to lead every believer, however attentive to the Scriptures, to great vigilance.

According to Zechariah 12, Jerusalem is to become a "weighty stone for all the nations", with the result that "all those who lift it up will be slaughtered". The same thought is found in Isaiah 28:14-22, where the leaders of Israel make an alliance with death in order to guarantee the security of the people or, as the Aramaic version of the Bible puts it, with the "terrorists" (Mehabilim). Hoping to avoid another invasion, they only provoke such an invasion even more certainly because they have refused to put their confidence in the "precious stone placed in Zion by the Lord" and who alone would have been able to guarantee this security for them.

Paul declares the same in 1 Thessalonians 5:3 that "men will say peace and safety and sudden ruin will melt upon them!". It is therefore very much a question of a deceptive peace for Israel, and the world, as Jeremiah also said: "They say peace, peace and there is no peace!" (Jeremiah 6:14).

This national catastrophe, according to Zechariah 12 and 14 will then be the opportunity for national repentance for Israel, following which, according to Romans 11, the illumination of Israel will be accomplished (the Truth will be revealed to Israel) with the result that "all Israel (by implication, all the Jews alive at that time) will be saved". Romans 11:12,15: "Now, if their fall has been the riches of the world, and their defeat the riches of the Gentiles, how much more will it be so from their fullness ... For if their putting aside has been reconciliation for the world, what will be their grafting in again, if not life from the dead?"

Alongside this, according to Joel 3:1-3, the Holy Spirit will be poured out on Israel for it must not be forgotten even so that this prophecy, applied quite rightly to the Pentecostal and charismatic renewal of our time, applies first of all to the nation of Israel, having survived the great attack of the nations in the context of the book of Joel. Besides, this prophecy has had, according to Acts 2, outworking in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost, but it is to take place again in the same place at the end-time.

The same event as that of the third stage of the prophecy of the dry bones of Ezekiel 37 must be seen in the prophecy of Joel (see also Psalms 79 & 80). But the "Day of the Lord" is also the time of judgement for the nations who have come against Jerusalem (Zechariah 14, Joel 2 and Revelation).

After these great judgements the establishment of the Messianic kingdom will take place on a new earth of which Jerusalem will be the capital (Isaiah 60). Then "the wolf will live with the lamb" (Isaiah 11). The Jews who have remained in the Diaspora will be brought back to Israel by the nations themselves (Isaiah 59 & 60). The ten tribes will also be restored and gathered together with the survivors of Judah (Ezekiel 37; Isaiah 11). Then, there will not be enough room for them, in such a way that the frontiers of the country will be considerably expanded. The foreigners who want to live there will be able to, on condition that they submit themselves to the law of the country (Ezekiel 47:21-23).

The hostility between Jews and Arabs will have ceased: there will be a highway from Egypt to Syria, and with Israel these countries will be the object of God's blessing (Isaiah 19:24-25).

Finally, after their judgement, the surviving nations will turn towards the God of Israel and towards His Torah (Isaiah 60). They will no longer go up to Jerusalem for war, but to worship the Lord and to learn how to be familiar with his Word (see also Micah 4). Numerous prophecies bring to our attention the eschatological pilgrimage of the nations towards Israel for the end times, notably the end of the book of Zechariah which describes the annual pilgrimage of Sukkot which will bring together the representatives of all the nations to Jerusalem as a condition of their blessing.

Thus the future of Israel is briefly sketched according to the Bible: these few considerations can allow us to position ourselves with respect to current events which are shaking the Middle East and above all to prepare us for these decisive times that we are beginning to get a glimpse of.

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