Monday, November 11, 2013

What is the significance of the regathering of Israel?

That then the Lord thy God will turn thy captivity, and have compassion upon thee, and will return and gather thee from all the nations, whither the Lord thy God hath scattered thee. If any of thine be driven out unto the outmost parts of heaven, from thence will the Lord thy God gather thee, and from thence will he fetch thee: and the Lord thy God will bring thee into the land which thy fathers possessed, and thou shalt possess it; and he will do thee good, and multiply thee above thy fathers. And the Lord thy God will circumcise thine heart, and the heart of thy seed, to love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, that thou mayest live.
(Deut. 30:3-6).

I am not sure why there are so many negligent views of prophecy today. On the one hand, we have those who find in the Bible the daily headlines of the newspaper. But on the other hand, we have those who disparage any literal interpretation of prophecy whatever. Truth lies somewhere between the two extremes, but how are we to tell where?

The answer, I think, is easier than one might expect. No doubt the universe is unfolding just as God has designated, and every word of every prophecy about the future of man and the earth will also unfold just as God has foretold. Psalm Two is one of my favorites, for it pictures the kings and rulers of the earth conspiring against God and his Son, and in all of their plots and conspiracies the Lord laughs at them in derision. They amount to absolutely nothing. Thus, the Bible stands athwart history, and is shouting its message to those who but read.

In the long years that there was no Israel around, Bible scholars looked at these prophecies and wondered how they would ever possibly come true. Perhaps in that light, we can best understand how so many of the prophecies were not taken literally, and speculation was so rampant as to what the Bible might mean. Indeed, Revelation seems to have a new historical interpretation with each successive generation. Even Augustine, a premillennialist at first, became convinced that the Lord would only return as men prepared for his coming, and became convinced that postmillennialism was the proper interpretation. Beginning with the turn of the last century though, efforts were beginning to be made to re-establish a Jewish homeland, and that is a key point at which our literal understanding of these prophecies had a chance to enlarge.

Chafer published his magnificent The Kingdom in History and Prophecy in 1915, and was already looking toward Israel, saying, “But He will yet regather them, else the oath of Jehovah will fail, and that regathering will be without reference to their own choosing, or merit. Under an unconditional covenant He has pledged to place them in kingdom blessings, under the glorious reign of their Immanuel King and in their own land (Deut. 30:3-5; Isa. 11:10-13; Jer. 23:3-8; Ezk. 37:21-25). This, too, shall be done by no human processes, but by the mighty power of God.1 But Chafer was largely basing his beliefs on scriptures, quoting them extensively.
There were some discussions going on concurrently during this period of Chafer’s life. “In 1896, Theodor Herzl, a Jewish journalist living in Austria-Hungary, published Der Judenstaat ("The Jewish State"), in which he asserted that the only solution to the "Jewish Question" in Europe, including growing antisemitism, was through the establishment of a Jewish State.”2 Eventually, this desire for a Jewish state was endorsed by England with the famous Balfour Declaration: “His Majesty's government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.”3 Thus was sanction given to the Jewish people to reclaim part of their homeland.

With Israel’s obtaining sovereignty at last in 1948, many of the prophecies that had had centuries of symbolic interpretations thrust upon them could at last be looked at literally. Could God really have meant what he plainly said after all? In the opening verse of this question (at the top), one of the most famous of all prophecies is given. Chafer plainly sees the sense of this verse, saying, “That Israel will yet be regathered into her own land is the burden of about twenty Old Testament predictions beginning with Deuteronomy 30:3.”4 Had Chafer lived to see the nation of Israel being born, he would have seen his Biblical prophecies coming true. He did plainly see and state that from the Bible it was evident that Israel would come together again.

God plainly says that the Lord will one day bring all of Israel back from the lands to which they have been scattered. This action is to be taken of God regardless of the faithfulness of the Jews. Today, as we look at the religion of the Jews, they could scarcely be further away from God. According to some surveys, there are more atheistic Jews percentage wise than any other people. Yet God is faithful.
But what are we to think of this regathering of Israel? God is preparing for his return. Much more than that we cannot say with any degree of confidence, and those speakers who see current headlines in Biblical prophecy seem to doom themselves and their followers to disappointment. Listen to what Jesus taught concerning his return.

But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father.
Luke 13:32
Is it not interesting that Jesus himself knew not the hour of his coming? It was left for God the father to know, and him alone.

And again:
Now learn a parable of the fig tree; When his branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is nigh:
So likewise ye, when ye shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors.
Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled.
Matthew 24:32-34

Most scholars believe Jesus was using the fig tree as a symbol for the nation of Israel. We have watched Israel come to the forefront during the last century, and have watched it continue despite the fact that all of its surrounding neighbors have called for its destruction; indeed most of those countries have been actively involved in trying to destroy Israel.

We see a people who are altogether not ready for their Redeemer in the nation of Israel, but we also see in Israel a nation rapidly exhausting all of their allies in their bid to keep their freedom. It is fairly easy to envision a time in the not too distant future when Israel will find herself alone, surrounded on every side by enemies, and in the most desperate of straits. That, coincidentally, is exactly the picture prophecy presents of the seventieth week of Daniel, that last week of years before the end of this age—the age of grace.

The significance of the regathering of Israel? Only the declaration to a blind and deaf world to see and hear that King of Kings and Lord of Lords is preparing to come back. Will any see and take heed? The scriptures from Matthew, above, signal that it is the “season” in which he is to come, and the consistent charge from our Lord is to “watch”. Are you watching as I am, wondering when and how the outcome will be? It is, after all, the command of our Lord.

1. Chafer, Lewis Sperry (2010-09-19). The Kingdom in History and Prophecy (Kindle Locations 596-599). . Kindle Edition.
4. Chafer, Lewis Sperry (2010-07-07). Dispensationalism (Kindle Locations 216-217). . Kindle Edition.

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