Our understanding of the restoration of national Israel and our spiritual affinity to that nation is a precious heritage of our earliest beliefs (Acts 26:6–8; Rom 8:24; 9:3–5,11; 15:8; Gal 3:8,16,26–29). Despite being a fundamental belief unique to Christadelphians, it can so easily fade from prominence and suffer by our complacency. The first of the articles by Brother Phil Perry reviews the events of forty years ago and places the freeing of Jerusalem as highly significant in the rise of Israel to a position of economic and military prominence in the Middle East. Now nothing need prevent the decree for the Son of God to rise up and to gather his saints living and resurrected, watching or slumbering, and to prepare them for judgment and for the Deliverer to come unto Zion at a time of universal war.

This year marks the 40th anniversary of the momentous events of the six day war in June 1967 when the Jews won control of Jerusalem from the Arabs. It was the first time since the destruction of Jerusalem and the end of the Jewish Commonwealth in AD70 that the Jews had Jerusalem again. The brotherhood around the world was overjoyed at this miraculous fulfilment of the Olivet prophecy as recorded in Luke 21:24: “Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.” Hence 1967 marked the end of the times of the Gentiles. So what does that mean? With the end of the times of the Gentiles might we expect that we are on the threshold of the Kingdom age? In the Olivet prophecy the Lord went on to talk of the fig tree shooting forth and the generation that sees this not passing away till all be fulfilled (v29–32). So does the 40 years since 1967 mark the end of that generation? Might the Lord’s return be this year?

To put all this in context it is beneficial to review the prophetic record in relation to Israel. There is no doubt that the nation of Israel occupies centre stage in Bible prophecy, and the history of Israel and the Jews are stand out proofs of fulfilled Bible prophecy. Every stage of their history is the subject of prophecy.

Destruction of Jerusalem and Dispersion

The Lord clearly prophesied the destruction of Jerusalem and dispersion of the Jews in AD70 some forty years before the event.“When ye shall see Jerusalem compassed with armies, then know that the desolation thereof is nigh… they shall fall by the edge of the sword, and be led away captive into all nations” (Luke 21:20,24).

The destruction of Jerusalem was the beginning of horrors to be experienced by the Jews. Further horrors awaited them in their dispersion as prophesied in remarkable detail in Scripture—for example, “And Yahweh shall scatter thee among all people… and thy life shall hang in doubt before thee; and thou shalt fear day and night” (Deut 28:64–66). Just one example of the exactness of this prophecy is the Catholic Church’s treatment of the Jews. From the time of Bishop Melito of Sardis in the second century AD till the Second Vatican Council of 1965 the teaching of the Catholic Church has been that Jews in all generations were personally accountable for the death of Christ (or as sometimes termed “the death of God”, because of their Trinitarian dogma)1 John Chrysostom, archbishop of Constantinople (349–407) pronounced Jews to be “no better than pigs, and as animals that get stubborn and hard to manage they should be slaughtered”2. Through nearly 1900 years Jews were treated with contempt, their families raped and pillaged, herded into cramped and filthy ghettos; some were forced to convert to Catholicism or die. They were prohibited from holding public office or owning land and massacred at the whim of angry mobs. The climax of this was the Nazi holocaust at the time of World War II when six million were slaughtered.

The Regathering of Israel

If prophecy of the dispersion and persecution of the Jews is so exact a proof of the inspiration of the Scriptures, how much more the fulfilment of the prophecies of the restoration. References to the restoration of Israel abound in the prophecies of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel and the minor prophets. We often quote in our lectures on this subject references such as Jeremiah 31:10: “Hear the word of Yahweh, O ye nations, and declare it in the isles afar off, and say, He that scattered Israel will gather him…” Another common quotation is the Vision of the Valley of Dry Bones in Ezekiel 37. It is notable, however, that so many of the prophecies seem to flow on seamlessly from dealing with the restoration of the Jews to their land to the time of Christ’s kingdom, as if it were one event. For example, the quotation of Jeremiah 31 above continues in “Behold, the days come, saith Yahweh that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah… I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts and will be their God and they shall be my people” (v31–33). Similarly Ezekiel 37 goes on to say, “I will make… an everlasting covenant with them… and will set my sanctuary in the midst of them for evermore”(v26). It is remarkable that Brother Thomas saw the distinction in the stages of Israel’s return so clearly—a return before Christ’s coming and a complete return subsequent to the Lord’s appearing. In Elpis Israel we read the famous quotation:

“There is, then, a partial and primary restoration of Jews before the manifestation, which is to serve as the nucleus, or basis, of future operations in the restoration of the rest of the tribes after he has appeared in the kingdom The pre-adventual colonization of Palestine will be on purely political principles; and the Jewish colonists will return in unbelief of the messiahship of Jesus, and of the truth as it is in him. They will emigrate thither as agriculturalists and traders in the hope of ultimately establishing their commonwealth but more immediately of getting rich in silver and gold by commerce… in cattle and goods… under the efficient protection of the British power”(p441, 14th edition).

How did Brother Thomas know this?[1] Did he discover this easily? No. It was through prayerful and laborious study of the Word. He had carefully pieced together the words of many prophecies into a cohesive whole. In contrast today we are faced with so many false views on prophecy which on the surface appear credible, yet when analysed thoroughly are not congruent with all of Scripture. It is a reminder that we do well to imitate Brother Thomas’ example and value his expositions.

1967 – Milestone in the History of Modern Israel

The year 1967 is one of the amazing milestones in the re-establishment of Israel, along with:

1897—Theodore Herzl and the first Zionist Congress
1917—The Balfour Declaration and Britain conquering Palestine
1948—The declaration of the State of Israel
In all of these the purpose of God with Israel took a large step forward. Progress may seem slow and then suddenly much happens quickly. In 1967 it took just six days to triple Israel’s land mass and also to seize control of Jerusalem. Is it just by chance that these events happened on these dates? To ask the question is to answer it. There is a precision about all the Father’s appointments; things do not happen by chance. For example, when Israel left Egypt it says, “And it came to pass at the end of the four hundred and thirty years, even the self-same day…” (Exod 12:41). The day they left Egypt was no accident. The events of 1967 are similarly no accident. In Daniel we read, “How long shall be the vision… to give both the sanctuary4 and the host to be trodden under foot? And he said unto me, Unto two thousand three hundred days” (8:13–14). This prophecy had its fulfilment in 1967. The starting time of the 2300 days is the vision referred to at the start of the chapter (Dan 8:2–12). A he-goat (representing Alexander the Great and the Greeks) smiting a ram (representing the Persians). When did this happen? Alexander conquered the Persians decisively in battles at the River Granicus (BC334), and at Issus (BC333). Using the ‘day for a year principle’ of prophecy, BC333 + 2300 years = 1967. Furthermore, Luke gives us re-assurance that we are on the right track with this interpretation by his allusion to the words “trodden under foot”—“Jerusalem will be trodden down of the Gentiles” (Luke 21:24). How remarkable are the prophecies of the Word. The Bible is inspired and the ages have been framed by God. God’s promises are faithful and true and we can put our faith and trust in them.

The Miracle of Modern Israel

What then of the situation of Israel today? We find that the prophetic Word is clear and precise. There are many examples we could take, but for our purposes we will consider just two. In Ezekiel 37 it says that Israel will stand “upon their its an exceeding great army” (v10). As we know, this has been amazingly fulfilled. Israel is now rated as the third most powerful nation in terms of military combat power.5 Only USA (with a population of about 300 million people) and China (with over a billion people) are ahead of little Israel with just 5 million people.

At the time of Christ’s return, Israel is also depicted as prosperous; as a people “which have gotten cattle and goods” (Ezek 38:12). Gog is enticed to take a spoil of Israel. Israel is at the cutting edge of many technologies including electronics, software, bio-sciences etc. Currently Israel has the tenth highest median household income in the world.6 This is actually an impressive result for a nation that is only 59 years old. Furthermore, Israel is not only a young nation but it has had to fund the development of national infrastructure that older nations have had in place for years—roads, water systems, electricity networks, ports, public transport, telecommunications etc. Besides this Israel has had to fund a huge investment in its armed forces in planes, missiles, tanks etc. Despite these handicaps, Israel is prospering.

How remarkable is the progress of the modern nation of Israel. But there have been setbacks in their history. The Palestinians are a constant thorn in their side and the years of the Interfada did Israel much damage. In 2006 the war with Hezbollah was certainly not a resounding success. However, taking the broad sweep of things since 1967 their survival and development has been nothing short of a miracle.

This Generation Shall Not Pass Away

What then of 2007? Will this be the year of the return of Christ? What is the meaning of the expression in Luke 21,“This generation shall not pass away, till all be fulfilled”? We perhaps look at the word “generation” in relation to the fact that it is now 40 years since 1967. Is a generation 40 years? It would appear that sometimes it is and sometimes it is not. For example, if we calculate the average length of a generation between the carrying away of the Jews to Babylon and the coming of Christ (fourteen generations as given in Matthew 1:17), it is 42 to 44 years. If you take the time from Abraham to Christ, the answer is closer to 50 years (Matt 1:17). Hence the term generation does not imply a precise number of years, but rather a period of time that is the span of life of a generation of people.

So the word “generation” does not really help us to pinpoint exactly when Christ will return. That we cannot calculate the date of the return of Christ with certainly is not really a surprise. The Lord said, “Ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of Man cometh” (Matt 25:13). Yes, we do not know exactly when, but there are many signs that we live in the last days and that the Lord’s return is imminent.

One key indicator is the alignment of the nations in the world. It closely matches the situation described in Ezekiel 38 at the time of Armageddon[2]
This alignment has become clearer in recent years. Since the invasion of Iraq in 2003, Europe and the Tarshish powers (Britain, USA and Australia) have increasingly been at odds. Europe has become increasingly aligned with Russia, and this is not just due to their dependence on oil and gas from Russia. Russia has also grown in power markedly. In the mid 1990s Russia was almost bankrupt and its military forces were in tatters. Now Russia has a large positive trade surplus from energy sales and is rapidly rebuilding military capability. Furthermore, we see Russia siding strongly with the Palestinians and Iran, and increasingly opposed to the Tarshish powers and Israel. Yes, Turkey does not appear to be in the right position just yet. However, Ezekiel 38 describes the time when the immortalized saints are with Christ and conquer Gog. From the return of the Lord till that battle could be some time.

Another sign is the resurgence in the power of Europe and the Catholic Church. The Church is depicted as a whore riding on the European beast to “make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb shall overcome them” (Rev 17:14). We are certainly seeing developments leading up to the time when Christ will conquer Europe and the Church. Let us not forget that though in 2007 we mark 40 years since 1967 in relation to Israel, the European Union celebrates its 50th anniversary (it began with the Treaty of Rome in 1957). The EU has achieved a lot in its 50 years. It has steadily grown from six countries in 1957 to twenty-seven countries by 20077. The Euro has only been established a few years yet it is threatening to take over from the US dollar as the currency of trade in commodities and oil. Similarly the Catholic Church has risen enormously in power to the point where, at the funeral of Pope John Paul II, the heads of state of almost all countries in the world were in attendance.’

With this brief review, it is evident that the stage is set for the Lord’s return. Our hope is about to be realised, whether it be in 2007 or soon after—Christ will soon be here. Our redemption draws nigh and we lift up our heads and rejoice at the prospect. If on the other hand we are not ready to meet our Lord, if we are slumbering like the virgins in the parable, then 2007 should be a wakeup call for us to trim our lamps and be ready to meet our heavenly Bridegroom.

[1] Yes, there was a sentiment at the time that was favourable to the return of the Jews to the land, but it was a very misguided sentiment. Lord Palmerston, as foreign secretary of the British Government in 1840, wrote to the Sultan of the Ottoman empire requesting the Jews be allowed to return. Lord Shaftesbury in 1871 advocated the return of the Jews to Palestine as part of the “evangelicals’ unbreakable syllogism. Bible prophecy = Israel converted and restored = second advent (of Christ)” Although it is remarkable that there were such powerful political figures of the day that had such a deep interest and reverence for Scripture, they were astray. They had not read Scripture as thoroughly as Brother Thomas; Israel were not going to return as a people converted to Christ and thereby bring Christ’s return at the same time. (See Bible and the Sword by Barbara Tuchman p140, 175)

1 Ref Constantine’s Sword – The Church and the Jews – James Carroll p7

2 Ibid p213

[2] 4 The word does not necessarily refer to the sanctuary or holy

place of the temple. The Hebrew word is quodesh and is literally

“the holy”. It is used to refer to Jerusalem (Isa 48:2), the mount

of Zion (Isa 11:9, 66:20).