Why You Need to Understand Israel in the End Times

Thursday, June 22, 2023

According to a Pew Research Center survey, 63% of evangelical Christians believe we are living in the end times. I would certainly be included in this 63%. How about you?

If we are living in the end times, one thing is clear from Scripture: We must understand Israel, and God’s prophetic plans for the Jewish nation.

In this article, I explain five reasons why you need to understand Israel in the end times.

1. All the covenant promises are fulfilled in Jesus Christ.

Paul said that Israel possesses the adoption as sons, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the temple service, and the promises (Rom. 9:3-5).

These rich spiritual treasures stem from the various covenants God made with Israel throughout history, including the Abrahamic, Mosaic, Davidic, and New Covenants. If you do a careful study of these four covenants, you will see the Mosaic, Davidic, and New Covenants stem from the Abrahamic Covenant. This means without the Abrahamic Covenant, the Mosaic, Davidic, and New Covenants would not exist.

That said, notice what Paul said to the Galatians about the Abrahamic Covenant: “Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. He does not say, ‘And to seeds,’ as referring to many, but rather to one, ‘And to your seed,’ that is, Christ” (Gal. 3:16).

What an important statement! The promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. But Paul made it clear he wasn’t ultimately talking about Isaac. He was speaking of Christ. Therefore, when God cut covenant with Abraham, the seed to whom the promises were made was Jesus Christ—not Isaac. This shows that “all the promises of God” are “yes” and “amen” in Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 1:20, NKJV). This would include the adoption as sons, the glory, and the promises spoken by the Prophets.

This brings us to one of the most important but neglected names given to the Messiah. Isaiah, speaking of the Messiah, said, “You are My Servant, Israel, in Whom I will show My glory” (Isa. 49:3). One of the Messiah’s names is Israel.

As the Messiah, Jesus is the ultimate expression of Israel—the prototype of what the Jewish nation is to become. He is the One to whom all the promises were made and fulfilled. In fact, Jesus prevailed in the same areas where ancient Israel failed. Like Israel, Jesus was called out of Egypt and tested in the wilderness for forty days (Matt. 2:13-15; Matt. 4:1-11). Yet instead of failing God’s tests, Jesus prevailed—qualifying Him to possess the Promised Land in the Millennial Kingdom and to rule the earth as God.

Jesus Christ is still the King of the Jews (John 18:33-37). He has even maintained His Jewish identity in heaven. When John was taken into the heavenly throne room, he described Jesus as “the Lion that is from the tribe of Judah, the Root of David” (Rev. 5:5).

Here’s my main point: The rich root of the olive tree in Romans 11 is Jesus Christ and all the promises made to Him through the Abrahamic, Mosaic, Davidic, and New Covenants. Jesus Christ is the One to whom both Jews and Gentiles must be grafted into to be saved and blessed. This means the church has not replaced Israel; we have been grafted into Israel (Rom. 11: 17-18).

Here’s a quick summary of Romans 11:17-24:

Jesus Christ and the covenant promises made to Him are the rich root of the olive tree. These covenant promises are scattered throughout the Law and the Prophets. The natural branches who are grafted into the olive tree are the Jewish people who believe Jesus Christ is the Messiah. The natural branches who were broken off are the Jewish people who rejected Jesus Christ as the Messiah. And finally, the wild branches who are grafted into the rich root of the olive tree are born-again Gentiles, who have put their faith in Jesus Christ. These have been shown mercy due to the unbelief of many Jewish people.

2. Israel is God’s land, and the Jewish people are His people.

In a prophecy yet to be fulfilled, Joel prophesied that the Lord “will be zealous for His land and will have pity on His people” (Joel 2:18, emphasis mine). Take note that the Lord specifically calls Israel “His land” and the Jews “His people.”

Even though the Jewish people are called God’s people, if they don’t accept Jesus as Messiah, like all unbelievers, they will go to hell for all eternity.

When Jesus returns and judges the nations, He will judge leaders who have “divided up My land” (Joel 3:2).

In the future, when a coalition of nations invades Israel from the north, the Lord says He’s the One behind it. He declared, “You will come up against My people Israel” and “against My land” (Ezek. 38:16).

Here’s my point. In these unfulfilled prophecies, the Lord said that Israel is “My land” and the Jews are “His people.”

How can the Lord say this? Paul explained why in Romans 11:28-29, saying, “From the standpoint of the gospel they are enemies for your sake, but from the standpoint of God’s choice they are beloved for the sake of the fathers; for the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.”

3. The Lord is using Israel to bring in a massive harvest.

Paul said that “a partial hardening has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in” (Rom. 11:25).

This verse, which is referred to as a mystery, informs us that part of Israel has been hardened to the gospel. It is important to understand that this is only a partial hardening. There is an ever-increasing Jewish remnant that is putting their faith in Jesus. Nevertheless, this partial hardening of Israel will remain until the fullness of the Gentiles comes in.

What does Paul mean by the fullness of the Gentiles? Some believe, as the NIV translates, that the fullness of the Gentiles is really “the full number of the Gentiles” (Rom. 11:25, NIV). They believe that God will take away the blinders from the Jewish people after the last Gentile in the world comes to faith in Jesus.

Others believe that the fullness of the Gentiles refers to Spirit-fullness, Christ-like maturity, or as Paul stated, “The measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ” (Eph. 4:13). The belief is that when the Gentile church comes into Spirit-led maturity it will provoke the Jews to jealousy and lead them to Christ (Rom. 11:11).

I believe both views are true. The fullness of the Gentiles includes both a qualitative and a quantitative dimension. The qualitative dimension is the Gentile church coming into Christ-like maturity; the quantitative dimension is a massive harvest that will be reaped among every tribe, tongue, people, and nation.

4. Israel’s acceptance will bring life from the dead.

Not only is Israel bringing salvation to the world, but God will also use her to bring resurrection life.

Paul said, “If their rejection is the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead?” (Rom. 11:15).

Israel’s acceptance—the time when God begins to remove the blinders and Israel begins to turn to Jesus Christ—will bring “life from the dead.” What does Paul mean by this?

I believe Paul was referring to Ezekiel’s valley of dry bones vision in Ezekiel 37. In this passage, Ezekiel saw Israel as a multitude of dry bones scattered in a valley. God then asked the prophet whether the bones could live.

In a diplomatic fashion, the prophet answered, “O Lord GOD, You know” (Ezek. 37:3). Following this, Ezekiel was commanded to prophesy life to the dry bones. As he prophesied, the bones began to shake and come together. Then, as the prophet watched, ligaments grew over the bones, followed by skin. Bone-by-bone, joint-by-joint, human bodies were emerging—complete and whole.

But the motionless bodies were without breath—and life. Then the Lord told Ezekiel, “Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, son of man, and say to the breath, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD, “Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe on these slain, that they come to life”’” (Ezek. 37:9).

As the prophet obeyed, “Breath came into them, and they came to life and stood on their feet, an exceedingly great army” (Ezek. 37:10).

The Lord then told Ezekiel the meaning of this revelation:

“Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel; behold, they say, ‘Our bones are dried up and our hope has perished. We are completely cut off.’ Therefore prophesy and say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD, behold, I will open your graves and cause you to come up out of your graves, My people; and I will bring you into the land of Israel. Then you will know that I am the LORD, when I have opened your graves and caused you to come up out of your graves, My people. I will put My Spirit within you and you will come to life, and I will place you on your own land. Then you will know that I, the LORD, have spoken and done it,’ declares the LORD” (Ezek. 37:11-14).

Many scholars view the dry bones coming up out of their graves as Israel after the Holocaust, when six million Jews were exterminated during Hitler’s Final Solution. If you have ever seen the survivors of the Holocaust, they were skin and bones. So, this prophecy is being fulfilled right before our eyes.

Israel now has the land, a growing population, a valiant army, a constitution, a structured government—they even have Jerusalem. Israel has everything but spiritual life.

At this moment, most Israelis are like the bodies that lacked breath in Ezekiel’s vision. They have the physical framework in place, but they lack spiritual vitality. Nevertheless, when Israel is accepted by God again, a great revival will break out in Israel. There will be a massive outpouring of the Spirit that will lead many Israelis to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ before the second coming.

God has promised to wash away Israel’s filthiness and idolatry (Ezek. 36:25). He has vowed to take away their hearts of stone, give them new hearts of flesh, and put His Spirit within them (Ezek. 36:26-27). As God brings them into the New Covenant, He will take away their sins, write His laws upon their hearts, and bring them into a place of deep intimacy with Him (Jer. 31:31-34).

In the days to come, Israel will see that Jesus Christ is the Son of God; the One pierced for their iniquities. The Jewish people will know Jesus as the Passover Lamb who takes away the sins of the world.

Israel’s acceptance will mean life from the dead for the Jewish nation and will trigger the greatest revival in history throughout the world.

5. Israel’s repentance will lead to the second coming of Jesus Christ.

As the Gentile harvest reaches fullness, God will progressively remove Israel’s partial hardening. And when the fullness of the Gentiles has come in, then, according to Paul, “All Israel will be saved; just as it is written, ‘The Deliverer will come from Zion, He will remove ungodliness from Jacob’” (Rom. 11:26-27).

When Paul wrote this, he quoted Isaiah 59:20, which states, “A Redeemer will come to Zion, and to those who turn from transgression in Jacob.”

Take note of the phrase “to those who turn from transgression.” This tells us that Jesus Christ will return when the Jewish people living in Israel repent.

Days before He went to the cross, as throngs of people gathered in Jerusalem to celebrate Passover, Jesus was virtually crowned the King of Israel. The festive crowd spread out their coats and palm branches in the road as Jesus approached Jerusalem. Mounted on a donkey, Jesus split through the masses of people as He rode toward the city gate. The crowds ahead of Him and behind were shouting out, “Hosanna to the Son of David; blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord” (Matt. 21:9).

Known as the Triumphal Entry, the Jewish people collectively acknowledged that Jesus was their promised King and Messiah. Unfortunately, just a few days later, these very same people cried out to Pilate, “Crucify Him.”

Nevertheless, the Triumphal Entry was a prophetic picture of Jerusalem just prior to the return of the Lord. Jesus used this event to foreshadow the Holy City at the end of the age. He told the Jews, “For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord’” (Matt. 23:39, NIV).

Using the very words the Jews shouted a day before, Jesus was teaching the end-time generation what must take place before He returns. Paraphrasing this verse, Jesus told the Jews gathered in Jerusalem, “Just as you acknowledged Me as your King and Messiah a day before, I will not return until you do the same thing.” This means that Israel’s repentance will usher in the return of the Lord.

Peter expressed a similar truth in his message to the Jewish people when he said, “Therefore repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord; and that He may send Jesus, the Christ appointed for you” (Acts 3:19-20).

This confirms that a significant remnant in Israel must repent and accept Jesus as their Messiah before He returns.

Pray for Greater Insight

Considering these five reasons why Israel is important in the end times, take a few minutes and ask the Lord to reveal His end-time plans for Israel to you. As you gain greater insight and understanding of God’s end-time prophetic plans, you will be equipped to fulfill the mandate of Isaiah 62:6-7 and pray for Jerusalem to become a praise in the earth.

Bryan Kessler