Brother Paul Billington is Editor of the widely read Bible Magazine and will be well known to many readers of The Lampstand. He has written this article from Israel at the time of the recent political the bielections. From this advantageous position, he comments upon the purely secular nature of politics in the Land today and contrasts this with what he observes as a stirring amongst the younger generation towards their religious heritage.

It is now some 150 years since Brother John Thomas penned those well known words in Elpis Israel: “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”. Those amazing statements made nearly 70 years before there was an Israeli State, demonstrate the power of the Word of God when it is correctly expounded, for that is precisely the situation that we see in Israel today.

Those “political principles” have been very much in evidence recently, and it is only through the eye of faith that we can realise the fact that here before us is (in Brother Thomas’ words) “a partial and primary restoration of Jews before the manifestation [of Christ], 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” (Elpis Israel p441, 1939 Edition). In other words, it is out of the existing political elements that a small “nucleus” will be developed.

This requires a ‘religious awakening’ to take place to some degree amongst a section of modern Israelis. The words of Hosea 3:4–5 indicate this. After abiding “many days without a king, and without a prince, and without a sacrifice… etc” the children of Israel are to “return, and seek Yahweh their God, and David their king; and shall fear Yahweh and his goodness in the latter days”.

There are three distinct steps here. First, a return; secondly, a seeking phase; and thirdly, fearing the Lord and His goodness.

We have so far seen the partial return “in unbelief” that Brother Thomas predicted on the basis of Scripture. This is precisely what we see in the secular State of Israel today and it is that “unbelief” that became manifest in the election. But this cannot be the end of the story; we must expect some Jews to begin “seeking” Yahweh their God. This is what the word “seek” indicates—a searching, enquiring after, looking into a matter.

When this spirit of seeking begins to stir among the children of Israel, we will know that the time is close for Christ’s return—for Isaiah 59:20 says: “the Redeemer shall come to Zion, and unto them that turn from transgression in Jacob, saith Yahweh”. This word “transgression” here, can also be translated as apostasy. It suggests a move away from the traditions, and from the mumbo-jumbo of Judaism; a departure from those “commandments of men” that has been so characteristic of the Jewish people in their blindness.

It is also worthy of note that whereas Isaiah says that the Redeemer will come to Zion, Paul in Romans 11:26 says that the Deliverer “shall come out of Zion, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob”. This is when “all Israel shall be saved”. So if we take the words to mean what they say (and both the original Hebrew of Isaiah, and the Greek text of Romans verify this), there is to be a coming to Zion, and then a coming out of Zion. So, just as Brother Thomas expected, Christ will come and deliver the Jews in the Land from Gog first, and then have mercy upon the whole house of Israel by bringing again their captivity after the destruction of the Gogian confederacy. This, of course, is the teaching of Ezekiel chapters 38 and 39 (see especially 39:25).

The Israeli Election

This election has been about many things, as elections usually are—with everything possible being done to manipulate it so as to conform to the wishes of the ruling establishment and of the outside world. But the issue in this election has been the question of the West Bank, and coupled with it, Israel’s security. Should Israel hand it over to a Hamas Palestinian Government, and expel the Jews that live there today? Many secular left-wing Israelis want to do that, believing that it will bring them peace. Such a move is strongly opposed by the religious and National Zionists, and today this division between the two sections of Israeli society is very deep. But what politicians promise to do, and what they actually do, is often quite different.

The interesting thing for us is that those who want to hold on to the West Bank territories are driven by religious convictions. They believe in the promises made to their forefathers (in as far as they understand them that is). They believe that the land—and especially the Biblical heart-lands of Judea and Samaria (the West Bank)—is theirs as a gift from God. This belief drives many Jews to live in dangerous areas such as Shechem and Hebron, and any move to dismantle their settlements is resisted.

From the perspective of Bible prophecy there must be a Jewish presence in the area of the West Bank when the crisis of Ezekiel 38 occurs. In fact, this presence may well be a reason for the Gogian invasion, to forcibly remove “the people that are gathered out of the nations, which have gotten cattle and goods, that dwell in the midst of the land”.

This “midst of the land” (or navel) corresponds to “the mountains of Israel” (v8,12). This is the home of many of these Zionist settlers. They look for the Redemption, for the consolation of Israel, for the coming of ‘Moshiach ben David’—but as yet they do not know his true identity. And of course they will not know the Messiah’s identity until they shall look upon him whom they have pierced” (Zech 12:10). But how far away are we from that time?

Today we see a people gathered out of the nations and dwelling in the midst of the Land, and upon the mountains of Israel. Will the result of this election bring about the removal of these Jewish settlers—are they to be evicted by the Government of Israel itself? We must wait and see. It is not impossible that a situation will develop in order to prevent it.

There is no doubt that the Palestinians want to see the Jews removed, and the president of Iran has made it clear that he wants to see Israel wiped off the map! There is not much doubt that this thinking is developing in Russia and in Europe also. A remarkable book entitled Christian Attitudes towards the State of Israel by Paul Charles Merkely (McGill-Queen’s University Press) has this comment:

“What is clear is that the Christian anti-Zionists are becoming more brutal in their indictment against Israel and Israel’s friends every day. Given the magnitude of contemporary Israel’s sins, the Christian anti-Zionists say, we should begin to prepare ourselves for the thought that Israel will be thrown out of the land she presently imagines that she ‘possesses’.”

So if the new Israeli government is either unable or unwilling to evict the Jewish settlers, there are those who would be only too eager to do the job for them. So Israel is at a cross-roads as far as the West Bank is concerned. Those who have a degree of belief in their Scriptures want to stay in the area, whereas most left-wing secular Israelis want to retreat back into Tel Aviv and the Negev. The choice is between the road of courage and sacrifice, or the road of appeasement. Israel can either turn left, or it can turn right.

As we watch these developments on “purely political principles” we know that the God of Israel is working out His purpose, and will yet bring out of the current situation a “nucleus or basis” through which Christ will work when he comes. This must involve a religious element—the Lord will not work through hearts of unbelief; he will not use a secular nucleus or basis. For “when it shall turn to the Lord” then “the vail shall be taken away” says Paul (2 Cor 3:16).

It is worthy of our notice that the strength of religious Zionism in Israel today, is to be found in the youth—it is the rising generation that is zealous for the Land and for the promise of redemption. These young people are highly motivated. Their young men sing songs of the redemption and of the coming of Messiah son of David. And most importantly they make some attempt to learn Scripture and live by many of its principles. It is, of course, the work of Christ to turn their hearts, and we know that he will do so—but we are now seeing an initial interest; a sign to us that the Lord’s return really is imminent.

In Eureka volume 2, in speaking of the work of the Rainbowed Angel, Brother Thomas says,

“Israel after the flesh has to be ‘made willing’ to move in obedience to the commands of Jesus, as the Leader and Commander of the people (Psa 110:3; Isa 55:4). This may be also the mission of the angels. But this work of the Spirit, however, executed by the angels or by the saints, it would seem to be a necessary preliminary to a general movement for their deliverance.”

This applies to the Diaspora, but the principle must be equally true for those who dwell in the land—that nucleus who will be delivered from Gog by Christ and the saints. They must be made willing to obey the Lord if they are to form that basis and nucleus. In Elpis Israel the scene is described as follows:

“The Lord Jesus Christ at his appearing in his Kingdom finds Judah inhabiting the land. Not all the Jews, but a goodly number of them. Having gained the victory of Armageddon, he convenes the elders of the people, which as their deliverer he has a right to do. Thus “they look upon him whom they have pierced”; “and one shall say unto him, What are these wounds in thy hands? Then he shall answer, Those with which I was wounded in the house of my friends.” The effect of this information upon the people is to cause a national lamentation. They will then discover that he to whom they owe their deliverance from Gogue, is Jesus of Nazareth, whom their fathers crucified.”

This scene translates into reality once we recognise “the elders of the people” as those who are even now expecting Messiah and the redemption. Religious Zionism is a growing political force in Israel, and although they did not win the recent election, this movement will not be extinguished—but on the contrary it will continue to develop until the Lord returns and convenes the elders of the people, and they “look upon him whom they have pierced”. They will, no doubt, be “corrected in measure” and must yet be taught the true principles of the Word, but all this will take place in God’s good time.

Those of us who want to be involved in this grand purpose at the Lord’s return, must devote ourselves to the Hope of Israel. We must see that very special characters are required in those who will rule as kings and priests in the restored Kingdom of Israel. We must work toward that goal now, praying that in the Lord’s mercy he will work in us to bring about that transformation of mind and character that will fit us for the great honour of being true citizens of Israel in the day of her glory under Christ.