I wrote recently about how we can be certain that the modern nation of Israel is a work of the flesh and not a fulfilment of prophecy. To some people, this is so radical, so controversial, they cannot fathom how this can be so. The founding of modern Israel is such an incredibly powerful sign, such an incredible moment on the world stage, they think: How can such a powerful sign not be a work of God?
Well first, let me say that God is sovereign and so he is in control of whatever happens in the world in some sense. Christians can debate the particulars about how God exercises his sovereignty, but we all agree that he is the sovereign king. He decrees the bounds, he decrees what can and cannot be allowed and much more. So, in this sense, we can say that God is at work in the founding of the nation-state of Israel today. He is at work in all the nations in one way or another (Ps. 2).
But that is not the same as saying that God has brought Israel back to his land to fulfil prophecy in our day. We demonstrated in an earlier piece that this cannot be the case, because the conditions of the return of Israel are not evident in the modern nation of Israel. We noted these conditions in that piece:
The Bible does prophecy a return of the Israelites to the land. But for this to be fulfilled it requires:
1) A repentant people, who turn from their sins and rebellion against God.
2) They are now believers who trust in their Lord and Messiah, Jesus Christ.
3) All Israel, not just Judah, but the whole 12 tribes is restored.
4) They will inhabit all of the land, not just the fraction that they do now.
None of these conditions have been fulfilled. If you want to see the biblical justification for these conditions you can refer to this earlier piece.
So, the question remains: how can such a powerful sign, the return of a large percentage of the nation of Israel to the land, not be a fulfilment of prophecy? Simple, the full conditions of that sign have not been fulfilled and therefore it is reasonable to say that this is the sign of a false fulfilment. The devil is the ruler of this world and he has great power, it stands to reason that he would be able to pull off some incredible signs.
Jesus warned us to be on the lookout for false signs claiming to be about end-time fulfilment, “23 Then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘There he is!’ do not believe it. 24 For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect” (Matt. 24:23-24). He also warned that the elect were in danger of falling for those signs.
Paul tells us something very similar and warns us about how the devil works,
“9 The coming of the lawless one is by the activity of Satan with all power and false signs and wonders, 10 and with all wicked deception for those who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. 11 Therefore God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false, 12 in order that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness” (2 Thess. 2:9-12).
This passage is speaking about what the coming of the antichrist, or lawless one, will be like. Whether you want to attribute this to Nero, or some future antichrist (I think it is legitimate to apply it to both and many other antichrists as well) note that the coming of the lawless one will be in line with how Satan already works and he works via “all power and false signs and wonders…” My translation of the Greek behind this verse would be “all power, and signs and lying wonders…” similar to the RSV translation (the above quote is ESV).
This does not change the meaning of the verse very much, because both demonstrate that the evil one is capable of powerful signs and false wonders. He has great power and is capable of pulling off powerful deceptive tricks. Tricks that Jesus warns might even be able to deceive some of the elect.
Now consider this: what could be a more powerful false sign or lying wonder than the re-establishment of the nation of Israel in a world that is hostile to its formation? I know some people cannot handle this thought, that it might be a false sign. But bear with me, just do a thought experiment for a moment.
The modern nation of Israel does not fulfil the full counsel of God’s word on the re-establishment of the nation. You can take a passage out of context to say that this is a biblical fulfilment, like this verse, Amos 9:15, “I will plant them on their land, and they shall never again be uprooted out of the land that I have given them,” says the Lord your God.” But when you read the whole counsel of God’s word on the return you can see very clearly this is a false fulfilment. Plus, Amos 9:11-15, which speaks of the restoration of Israel, is quoted by the Apostles in Acts 15 to refer to the establishment of the church.
Consider also that the nation of modern Israel is largely atheistic, has a large population that explicitly rejects Jesus, has been encroaching on the land of Palestinians, some of whom have been in the land for centuries and more, and the church is persecuted in that land. But those who believe this is a biblical prophecy give cover to all of this, which clearly is not in the will of God for the nation of Israel to do. There is no mandate for modern Israel to conquer the land, in fact the more the church supports this modern conquest the more this does damage to the witness of the church in the Middle East. Again, it is clearly a false sign.
When you couple this with a Christian support for a Middle Eastern policy that favours Israel and disables many of the other nations in the Middle East, you can see how Christians holding this view can do great damage to the mission of the church. We are commanded to evangelize to Jew and Gentiles, Arabs and Israelis, Palestinians and Jordanians, all peoples in fact. However, Christians are seen as agents of a global empire in the Middle East because of a very vocal segment of the church supporting Zionistic policies. Again, this is clearly a false sign, that creates a very large stumbling block for mission.
It is very hard to explain this to people, because they look at the Bible and see Israel is there and then they look at the Middle East and see that Israel is there and they think: all is well with the world, Go Israel! But if you examine the prophecies carefully you see that they require more than this, as we have demonstrated. Therefore, this is clearly a work of deception and a false sign.
The power of the sign is not the most important thing. The uniqueness of the sign is not the most important thing. The wonder of a sign is not the most important thing. When God does these kinds of signs then you will see such amazingness, but you will also see much more. The most important thing to determine whether it is a true sign or a false sign is how closely it comports with the word of God and points people to faith in Jesus.
Let me quote one of our passages from the previous post again, just to be absolutely clear,
“17 Therefore say, ‘Thus says the Lord God: I will gather you from the peoples and assemble you out of the countries where you have been scattered, and I will give you the land of Israel.’ 18 And when they come there, they will remove from it all its detestable things and all its abominations. 19 And I will give them one heart, and a new spirit I will put within them. I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, 20 that they may walk in my statutes and keep my rules and obey them. And they shall be my people, and I will be their God. 21 But as for those whose heart goes after their detestable things and their abominations, I will bring their deeds upon their own heads, declares the Lord God” (Ezekiel 11:17-21).
Let’s look at all the conditions that God gives for this to be a true fulfilment, in detail:
- The Lord will gather these people (this must mean the full 12 tribes right?);
- From all of the countries where they have been scattered;
- He will give them the land of Israel (without qualification, so all of it);
- They will remove all idols and abominable practices from the land;
- They will have renewed hearts;
- They will be Spirit-filled believers;
- They will fulfil God’s laws because they are Spirit-filled;
- They will worship God alone, as he is their God, and reject all forms of false worship;
- This means they will praise the name of Jesus, and worship the Father, Son and Holy Spirit as God.
In other words, when this prophecy is fulfilled Israel will be a fully filled and revitalized Christian nation that honours and worships the Father and comes to him through the Son, and who are empowered in this by the work of the Spirit.
Can anyone, and I mean anyone, honestly say that the modern nation-state of Israel fulfils these conditions? Of course not. It is actually quite dishonourable to make such a claim.
When someone says they believe the modern nation-state of Israel is the fulfilment of prophecy show them this passage, or Deuteronomy 30 or Ezekiel 37 or any number of other passages that prophecy a return, and really drill down with them these nine points, or however many points are in those respective passages. They are necessary for the prophecy to have been fulfilled. Until they are, then it is guaranteed that the devil is up to something. And when you look at the fruit of the West seeking to replant Israel in the land, you can see that it does not bear good fruit. It bears war, destruction, strife, persecution of believers and many other ills.
I truly want what is best for the Jewish people and the people of Israel. I support their right to establish a nation. Every nation has a right to exist and every nation needs somewhere to exist. But if you want the best for them point them to Jesus, and do not lie to them by saying that their nation is protected by divine prophecy. This is a grand error and a terrible lie.
One day the Messiah will call back his people. Many passages prophesy this, and this will be a good day for the world because it will mean the fullness of the Gentiles has also come it. But in the meantime, look out for false signs, they are dangerous and they are all over the place.