As all of us are painfully aware, October 7th, 2023, was the deadliest day for the Jews since the Holocaust. It was really a combination of Pearl Harbor and 9/11 for the nation of Israel. There were 1,400 Jews that were killed in one day. This would be the equivalent of 35,000-40,000 Americans killed in the same period. Many of the Israeli women were raped, and precious little babies were beheaded. As a result of the unspeakable atrocities and demonic depravity of Hamas, in butchering innocent people, all eyes are on Israel. Israel, of course, has declared war on Hamas, and for the past two months they have made remarkable progress in Gaza. Hamas not only killed helpless civilians, they captured some 240 hostages, many of whom were women, children, and elderly Holocaust survivors. Through a short ceasefire and negotiations, some of them have been released, but 137 are still being held captive. So all eyes are still on Israel.
The Bible says that in the last days, at the end of days, all eyes will be on Israel. We see that in Zechariah 12:1-3:
The burden [heavy message] of the word of the Lord against Israel. Thus says the Lord, who stretches out the heavens, lays the foundation of the earth, and forms the spirit of man within him: “Behold, I will make Jerusalem a cup of drunkenness [a cup of trembling] to all the surrounding peoples, when they lay siege against Judah and Jerusalem. And it shall happen in that day that I will make Jerusalem a very heavy stone for all peoples; all who would heave it away will surely be cut in pieces, though all nations of the earth are gathered against it.”
What we see happening in the Middle East with the nation of Israel is a forerunner of Zechariah 12, and it is being played out right before our very eyes. What we are seeing 24-7 on cable TV and social media is a tectonic shift in the Middle East. In fact, Prime Minister Netanyahu recently said, “What’s happening right now with Hamas is a watershed moment that will bring a tectonic shift in the Middle East.” One senior diplomat from Qatar said this about what is happening right now in the Middle East, “This is a game-changer.” And it is a game-changer! The fallout is still coming and will continue to come for some time. The situation on the ground is changing rapidly, and it could well spiral out of control into a broader regional conflict or even World War III. Other bad actors are already intervening and escalating the situation, nations like Iran, Syria, Turkey, and terrorist groups like Hezbollah. It seems like these avowed enemies of Israel are not going to be able to stay on the sidelines much longer without entering the fray. The United States could easily be drawn into direct involvement as the situation deteriorates. Americans have been killed and Americans are being held hostage. US Navy Carrier Strike Groups are now not far off the coast of Israel as a deterrent, and the US Air Force is now operating in that area and assisting in intelligence gathering. Again, a tectonic shift is underway right now in the Middle East.
But this shift is not just happening geo-politically and militarily; there’s an important shift prophetically. The end-times stage is being set before our very eyes. Prophetically speaking, as we look at what is happening today, things are not falling apart; they are falling into place, and Israel is at the heart of it all. Why? Because almost all end-times events hinge or depend on the Jewish people being back in their homeland. So the Bible’s eyes are on Israel in the last days.
You know Israel is mentioned over 2,200 times in the OT and then 70 times in the NT. The city of Jerusalem, the most mentioned city in the Bible by far, is mentioned over 800 times. It has been well said that Israel is God’s prophetic clock. Israel is God’s timepiece. The clock is ticking and the time is late. If you want to know where we are on God’s prophetic calendar, look at Israel. So that is exactly what we are going to do. Using the Bible as our lens, we are going to look back at Israel’s past, look around at Israel’s present, and look forward to Israel’s future.
1. LOOK BACK – ISRAEL’S PAST
To understand the present and the future of Israel, we must understand about her past. This recent attack on Israel by Hamas is nothing new. The hatred of Jews as we all know is long and prolonged. William Shakespeare in his work “The Tempest” said, “What’s past is prologue.” That’s a great statement, isn’t it? What’s past is prologue. This is certainly true of Israel, because Israel’s past is a prolonged prologue to what we see today. Years ago, Winston Churchill said this, “The further backward you can look, the farther forward you can see.” And when it comes to Israel, we can look back a long ways.
What is the origin of the conflict over Israel? The story really begins all the way back in the Garden of Eden. Remember that after Adam and Eve sinned, God comes in Genesis 3:15 and declares a curse on the Serpent and ultimately the one who is behind the Serpent––Satan. God says, “I will put enmity between . . . your seed [the seed of Satan], and her Seed [the Seed of the woman]; He will bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” This refers to the coming Messiah, the coming Deliverer, the coming Redeemer. And as we will see, this coming Head-Crusher will come from Israel. All the way back in the Garden of Eden this battle is set up between Satan and the Seed.
Then as we go forward a bit to Genesis 12, we find that 4,000 years ago, this promised Seed was going to come from Abraham. In Genesis 12, God calls a man named Abram to move from modern day Iraq––the Ur of the Chaldeans––to the land of Canaan, which is the land of Israel today. Abram goes to that land, and in Genesis 15, God makes an unconditional covenant with Abram. He makes a blood covenant with him, and in that covenant, God promised Abram 3 things––Land, Descendants, and Blessing.
God promised Land,Descendants as many as the stars of the heaven and the sand of the seashore, and Blessings––that through Abraham all the nations of the earth will be blessed. Now Satan heard that, and he knew for the first time where this promised Seed was coming from. The Seed was going to come from Abraham, then Isaac, then Jacob, then Judah, and then from the descendants of David. So knowing this, Satan set out on an age-long campaign to destroy the Jewish people, because that is the one nation the promised Seed is coming from.
You think about Pharaoh who tried to wipe out the Jewish people by killing the young boys. Then Haman in the book of Esther tried to wipe out the Jews. You remember in the time between the OT and the NT (the 400 silent years), a king from Syria named Antiochus Epiphanes tried to destroy the Jewish people and drive them out of their land. Stalin tried to wipe out the Jews in Russia. Hitler tried to destroy the Jews in the gas chambers of Nazi Germany, killing 6 million Jews. And the Bible tells us in the future the Antichrist, this coming world ruler, is going to be the ultimate anti-Semite, inspired by, indwelt by, and energized by Satan himself in trying to wipe out the Jews.
But I like what someone said years ago. He said, “Have you ever noticed that every time someone tries to wipe out the Jews, the Jews always end up with a holiday?” Pharaoh tried to wipe out the Jews in the book of Exodus, and they got the Passover. Haman tried to wipe out the Jews, in the book of Esther, and they got Purim. Antiochus Epiphanes tried to wipe out the Jews, and they got Chanukah, the Feast of Lights. And when Hitler tried to wipe them out, they ended up with May 14, 1948––the rebirth of the modern state of Israel.
God’s covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob can never be overturned. No matter how many people try to annihilate the nation of Israel, they never will. But that is Satan’s ultimate goal because he hates the Jews. Throughout all of history, there has been this hatred. You know there has never been an age-long hatred of the Irish, or the Russians, or the Italians, or any other group of people. But there has always been this hatred of the Jewish people and the attempt to destroy them. And the reason for this is that Satan knows the One who is going to crush his head is going to come from Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and David. And so in the OT, Satan tried to wipe out the Jewish people, especially the line of King David, because he knows if he can do that, he will keep the Messiah from being born.
But of course, Jesus the Messiah was born. So Satan then incited the Jewish leaders and the Romans to kill Him, but Jesus resurrected. He came back to life and ascended to heaven. So now Satan is going with plan B, which is to wipe out and destroy the people over whom the Messiah is going to reign when He returns. Satan wants to thwart and derail the promises of God. So what we see happening today is satanic and demonic.
Now remember that part of the unbreakable covenant God made with Abraham involved the Land. God promised to give the land of Canaan to Abraham and his descendants forever. It is an unalienable, eternal possession for them. The land is given to them by divine decree. In Genesis 15:15-18, God lays out the boundaries to that land. It goes from the river of Egypt to the river Euphrates. It includes what Israel has today, but also the land of Lebanon and Syria and the nation of Iraq. The descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob have not yet possessed all of this land. But we know God is true to His Word, so one day all of this land will be theirs.
But according to the Bible, the Jewish people have the title deed to the land of Israel. God owns the land, and God gave it to them. The earth is the Lord’s, and the fullness thereof (Psalm 24:1 KJV). The whole planet is God’s, and He can give any part of it to whomever He wants. God chose to give the Land to Israel. It is the only piece of land, the only piece of real estate on earth, ever promised to a particular people. In Genesis 12:3, God says: “I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you.” And God has never revoked that promise.
Now the Jewish people have not always occupied the land. God Himself has put His people out of the land several times because of their disobedience. So the Jewish people have not always occupied the land, but they have always owned it. But during those times when Jewish people did not occupy the land, other people have lived there. And that is the source of the conflict about this land through the ages. Really what the conflict is about is a conflict between the Jews and the Arabs.
Several years ago on the History Channel, there was a series about the Hatfield’s and the McCoy’s. It was a series about a blood feud between two families from West Virginia and Kentucky who battled and fought one another for about 30 years. We still use the idea of the Hatfield’s and McCoy’s today. A couple of families may have a dispute, and we say they are fighting like the Hatfield’s and the McCoy’s. And when we see something like this, we wonder what started it and why has it gone on so long. Well, the same thing is true of the seemingly endless conflict between the Jews and the Arabs. Today, we have a front row seat to a feud that stretches all the way back to the two sons of Abraham––his son Isaac and his son Ishmael. The Jews come from Isaac, and the Arabs come from Ishmael. And from the time of Isaac and Ishmael, Israel’s history has been an unbroken line of antagonism, animosity, and conflict. Satan has used the Arabs, the descendants of Ishmael, to try to wipe out the Jews.
This was especially true of the rise of Islam. Satan, the father of lies, is the author of all false religions. I believe Satan deceived Muhammad and created Islam in order to try to destroy the Jews. You see, God loves Israel, and Satan hates what God loves. Tragically we see that hatred on high definition right before us. Now let us fast forward to the current clash.
2. LOOK AROUND – ISRAEL’S PRESENT
The continuous cauldron of conflict in the Middle East since 1948 has been unrelenting. That was the year that Israel was brought back by God to their ancient homeland in fulfillment of Bible prophecy. You can read it for yourself in Ezekiel 37 – that in the end times Israel is going to be regathered to their land. It is a vision of a valley of dry bones that are scattered all over the place. God asks Ezekiel, “Can these bones live?” Ezekiel wisely answers, “Only You know, God.” Then right before his eyes the bones come together, and God breathes into them the breath of life. This is a picture of the absolute miracle God would do in regathering His people. In 1948 only 6% of the Jews in the world lived in Israel. Now almost 50% of the Jews in the world live there. The Jews were scattered in 70AD to some 70 different countries for almost 2,000 years. Their language had even died out. But throughout all the centuries, God preserved Israel as a unique people, and He brought them back to their Promised Land. It has been called the Miracle on the Mediterranean. God is faithful to keep His promises, and we can see them being fulfilled right before our very eyes.
Well, as you can imagine, the return of the Jews to their homeland in 1948 set off a firestorm in the Middle East. If you look at a map, you will see that a ring of enemies surrounds Israel. It has been called a “ring of fire.” At the moment Israel became a nation in 1948, she was attacked simultaneously by 5 Arab nations. Think about this. The Arabs have 300 times more land than the Jews, and the Arabs have 40 times the population of Israel. But in 1948, they wanted to drive Israel into the sea. Yet miraculously, God gave Israel the victory.
Today there is a lot of talk about a 2-state solution. But in 1947, a 2-state solution was put into place. It was accepted by Israel but rejected by the Palestinians. The agreement has been proposed 5 times for a 2-state solution, but every time the Arabs have rejected it.
Israel has been called Palestine, but there is really no such thing. In 135AD there was a Roman emperor named Hadrian who wanted to eradicate any memory that the Jews had ever been in the land, so he deliberately changed the name from Israel to Syria Palestina, and the land became known as “Palestine.” He got that name “Palestine” from the word “Philistine,” the perennial enemy of the Jews. But the Palestinians have no currency and no government.
Today, the Palestinians who live in Gaza are political pawns of Iran and other Arab nations. These other Arab nations do not want to take these Palestinian refugees in. Instead, they want to leave them in the land as a thorn in Israel’s side. Hamas is a proxy or a surrogate of Iran, and they have ruled in Gaza since about 2007. Hamas is an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, and that is why Egypt does not want to take them in. They had to fight a long time to get the Muslim Brotherhood out of Egypt, and they certainly do not want them back. But Hamas has one basic agenda, and that is to destroy and murder Jews. In fact, their charter calls for the total annihilation of Israel and the destruction of every single Jew. Now I am not saying this is the goal of all Palestinians, but it is the goal of Hamas. Their stated goal is to drive the Jews into the sea. They despise the Jews, and they desire the land for themselves. So the ongoing conflict continues. There is only one land, but two groups of people––the Arabs and the Jews.
The conflict between the Arabs and the Jews is all about the land of Israel, and within the land of Israel, it becomes all about the city of Jerusalem; and in Jerusalem, it is all about that little 36-acre plot of land known as the Temple Mount. When Hamas invaded Israel, they called it operation “Al Aqsa Storm.” What is Al Aqsa? It is the third holiest site in Islam. There is Mecca, there is Medina, then on the Temple Mount there is a mosque called the Al Aqsa. When you look at the Temple Mount, you see a golden domed structure called the Dome of the Rock in the center. But it is just a shrine. It may have been where the two Jewish temples stood. But the real holy site for Muslims is the Al Aqsa Mosque on the south end of the Temple Mount. It is very interesting that the Temple Mount, those 36 acres, is where Abraham went to sacrifice his son Isaac, which is Mount Moriah. Then 2,000 years later, Muhammad came along and said it was not Isaac that Abraham took up to the mount, but Ishmael. Muhammad deliberately rewrote history.
However, that 36-acre Temple Mount is the prophetic flashpoint of the conflict. The Temple Mount is the third most holy site for the Muslims and the most holy site for the Jews, the site where their two temples stood. But the issue for Israel’s enemies today is not their size, but their existence. Israel can never be shrunk small enough to make the Palestinians happy. There is no solution that will ever be good enough for them. Think about this simple comparison: If the Jewish people said, “We are going to lay down all of our weapons,” what would happen? The Jews would be gone in a week! But if the Palestinians were to lay down their weapons and say, “We do not want to fight anymore,” what would happen? Peace. That tells the whole story.
Here is another thought that people do not realize – 20% of the people in Israel are Palestinian Arabs. There are 1.6 million Palestinian Arabs who live in Israel. They vote, they hold political offices, and they live there in peace. Yet you will never see millions of Jews living in any Arab countries dominated by Islam. But the point that we do not want to miss is that the Jewish people are back in their land today because God brought them back. And there is this key distinction between them owning the land and occupying it. They have not always occupied it, but they have always owned it, because God gave them the land.
In his excellent book “I Never Thought I’d See the Day,” David Jeremiah gives the following illustration that really makes the point. He says:
The land belongs to God first and God gave it to His [chosen] people [Israel] as an inheritance forever … To get a proper perspective on this, let me give you a little illustration. You are sitting in your reserved seat at a theatre production [but] just before the curtain rises, you get an important call on your cell phone so you leave your coat on your seat and go to the lobby to return the call in private. You return to discover a stranger is sitting on your coat in your seat. The squatter refuses to leave and he only does so after an embarrassing scene in which the ushers force him to abandon the seat for which he cannot produce ownership [a ticket]. You, however, have your reserved seat ticket stub so access to the seat is given back [restored] to you. In that illustration, the theatregoer is Israel. The seat is Israel’s homeland. The ticket is the Bible where legal assignment to the land is recorded. The temporary vacancy of the seat represents Israel’s temporary absence from the land from 70AD to 1948. The squatter represents various groups who have availed themselves of the opportunity to take the land in Israel’s absence. The coat represents the historical artifacts throughout the land that show [attest to]
that Israel’s previous habitation really happened. And the usher … is the United Nations, who said, “This is Israel’s seat, [this is Israel’s land].”
The land belongs to Israel by divine decree. This means that this entire clash is a clash between two kingdoms––it is the kingdom of Satan against the kingdom of God, the kingdom of light against the kingdom of darkness. Ultimately, there will never be a human solution to this deeply religious problem. Though our leaders should work as much as they can to make it the best they can, this conflict is only going to be solved by the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace.
So where is all of this headed? What can we say as we scan the prophetic horizon?
3. LOOK FORWARD – ISRAEL’S FUTURE
There is a story I love from recent Jewish history. Perhaps you have heard of Moshe Dayan––the great war hero in Israel, probably Israel’s most famous military leader. He lost his left eye in a battle, and he wore a large, black patch over his left eye. Well, years ago he was driving down a highway in Israel, and he was in a big rush. He was driving too fast, and he was pulled over by a police officer. The officer said, “I know who you are, with your black eye-patch; you are famous and unmistakable. You’re a renowned war hero of our country. But I’m going to give you a ticket anyway, because you of all people should be setting a better example.” Well, Moshe Dayan gave a classic response. He said, “Look here, Young Man. You can see I have just one eye. Do you want me to look at the road or the speedometer?”
As we look at Israel today, the speedometer is increasing, but we need to keep our eyes on the prophetic road. We need to keep our eyes on the road ahead––the road that leads to the End-Times, the road that leads to Armageddon. As we keep our eyes on the road, we see that what is happening today is not Israel’s final war. Things are going to get worse. While there are many future events we could talk about, there is one future war that events right now are setting the stage for. It is called the Battle of Gog and Magog in Ezekiel 38-39.
The OT prophet Ezekiel, writing over 2,600 years ago, predicted a war in Israel in the End Times, and we read in Ezekiel 38 and 39 about this war that is coming. Now I know this is not a great revelation, but Ezekiel 37 comes before Ezekiel 38 and 39, and what is Ezekiel 37 about? It’s about the Jewish people being regathered to their land in the End Times. We are witnessing that right now. So if we can see that and know that what the Bible predicts is literally true, then we know for sure that Ezekiel 38 and 39 will come to pass, as well. And in this passage, God lays out a coalition of nations that are going to come together and invade Israel in the end times. There are 10 proper names that are listed––1 of a ruler and 9 of groups of people that will rise against Israel. These are ancient places that Ezekiel gave in about 580BC, but when you look at their modern counterparts, it is amazing what you see.
In verses 1-2 of Ezekiel 38, Gog is the name of a prince or a ruler. Magog refers to the area around Moscow, and Rosh refers to Russia. In verse 2 – Mesech and Tubal, and in verse 6 – Gomer and Togarmah refer to 4 regions in modern Turkey. In verse 5 – Persia refers to modern day Iran. In fact, historically, Iran was called Persia and was only renamed Iran in 1935. Then in verse 5 – Ethiopia refers to modern day Ethiopia and Sudan, and also in verse 5 – Libya refers to modern day Libya and Algeria. So in “the latter years” (verses 8 and 16), there will be a coalition of Islamic nations led by Russia that will hatch an evil plan to attack Israel (verse 10). At that time, no other nations will stand with Israel, but God will draw these enemies, and then wipe them out to protect His people and make His name known in all the earth.
Now this battle of Gog and Magog is not the same as the battle of Armageddon. The battle of Armageddon occurs at the end of the Tribulation, right before Jesus comes back to earth at the Second Coming. But it seems that the battle of Gog and Magog comes right after the Rapture of the Church and right before the Tribulation begins. This leader Gog is not the same leader as the Antichrist. The Antichrist will lead a Western coalition, but Gog will lead a Russian, Iranian, Turkish, and North African alliance. You may be wondering if Vladimir Putin is Gog. Well, we cannot know for sure, but as Joel Rosenberg says, “If Putin isn’t Gog, he’s certainly Gogesque!”
It is important to note that Ezekiel 39:9 says that Israel will be burning weapons from this war for 7 years. The Bible tells us that the Tribulation, also known as Daniel’s 70th Week and the Time of Jacob’s Trouble, will last for 7 years. This is why some prophecy experts believe that the Battle of Gog and Magog will occur right after the Rapture and right before the Tribulation. Though no one can be dogmatic, the possible scenario is that when the Church is raptured, the United States will be so weakened that it will cease to be a superpower and not be able to defend Israel. Russia will seize the moment, forming a coalition of Islamic nations from Iran, Turkey, and North Africa to attack Israel, but God will wipe them out. This will set the stage for the Antichrist to come on the scene to make a covenant of peace with Israel for 7 years and promise to help her rebuild her temple. And thus the Tribulation will begin.
The amazing thing is that 2,600 years ago, Ezekiel prophesied all of this––that Israel would be returned to their homeland and that Russia and Islamic nations would line up to attack Israel. Again, we do not know exactly when Jesus is coming, but we can say for sure that the world’s stage is being set right before our very eyes. And, as we said earlier, from a prophetic perspective, things aren’t falling apart; they’re falling into place. When you look at our world today, all the signs are there that Jesus is coming soon. As someone has well said, “When we look at our world today, it’s like we’re in the two-minute warning. The game is almost over.”
What we see happening with Hamas right now is not a fulfillment of Ezekiel 38-39, but it is a foreshadowing of it. What is happening right now could very easily turn into the battle of Gog and Magog. What we see right now is the setting up of all the End-Times dominos. The Rapture is the first domino that will be tipped, and everything else in Bible prophecy will follow. The Rapture is the next event that will happen on God’s prophetic calendar, and it could happen at any day, at any time, and at any moment. Someone said that at the Rapture we are going to get an airlift followed by a face-lift. This is what the Bible talks about in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18:
But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep [the dead in Christ], lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus. For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first.Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up [Latin Raptura] together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words.
Now when we think about all of these things, what are we to do in light of them? Let me give you 3 simple things we can do to apply to our lives as we await the coming of Christ––to Pray, to Proclaim, and to Prepare.
The first thing we can do is Pray. David Ben Gurion was the first prime minister of Israel when they were attacked by those 5 Arab nations back in 1948. He was asked, “What does Israel need?” And he said, “The only things we need are those things that start with the letter A. We need A lot of tanks, A lot of money, A lot of guns, and A lot of food.” But I believe that what Israel needs today more than anything is A lot of prayer. Look, Israel is not a perfect nation. Nothing in this blog is to suggest or lead you to this mistaken idea. Israel is not a perfect nation. America is not a perfect nation. All nations are imperfect because they are filled with, and led by, sinners. So we do not have to agree with everything that Israel says and does, but we do need to stand by Israel and pray for them. Again, Genesis 12:3 has never been revoked. God promised Abraham and his descendants: “I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you.” In Psalm 122:6, the Bible says, “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: may they prosper who love you.” Pray also for our leaders and pray for salvation and open hearts. And pray for the innocent Palestinians who are being dominated and controlled by Hamas and Iran.
A second thing we need to be doing is Proclaim – to proclaim the Gospel. Be looking for divine appointments and opportunities to talk to people about Jesus. These are perilous times, and people are afraid and losing hope. We need to be ready to leverage this crisis to share the Gospel. We need to seize the moment. Many people are talking about Israel in your family, in your workplace, someone cuts your hair, or at the gym where you work out; people are talking about what is going on in Israel, and we need to be ready to turn the conversation to Jesus and His Coming and the Gospel. Let us get up every day and pray, “God give me opportunities and give me the boldness to share about Jesus.”
Then the third and final thing I believe we need to do is to Prepare––to prepare for the Rapture. In Luke 21:28, Jesus said, “Now when these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, for your redemption draws near.”
Are you ready for the coming of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ? Are you ready for the Rapture of the Church? It could happen any day, at any time, and at any moment. It is far later than it has ever been before. So keep your eyes on Israel!