What’s Ahead for Israel?

The fighting in Gaza has captured a great deal of coverage in the world’s media.  I have no idea how the current fighting will be resolved, but I am interested in the fact that the “truces” are being “timed” – so many hours or days.  I don’t want to make any rash statements, but perhaps – perhaps – this is the beginning of what will culminate in a 7-year treaty between Israel and her enemies.

Daniel 9:27 speaks of an individual who will “confirm a covenant” with Israel for seven years.  The word “confirm” may mean the confirmation of an already existing treaty, or it may mean the making of a new one.  It’s uncertain.  But there is coming a definite treaty.  How do we know it’s Israel?  Because this whole message from Gabriel to Daniel is about “your people and your holy city,” that is, Israel and Jerusalem.  How do we know that “a week” refers to 7 years?  Because the first 69 weeks refer to years and to historical events (historical to us, that is.  They were still future to Daniel).  It makes no sense whatever to say that the first 69 weeks are actual years, but the last week is just some indeterminate period of time.  Finally, who is this individual?  Nobody knows.

Anyway, however the current situation in Israel plays out, it isn’t the final act of her history.  Zechariah 14 gives us details on that.

Zechariah 14:1, 2 refer to a terrible battle in which Jerusalem will be captured and looted and the women subjected to terrible atrocities.  Many of the inhabitants will be taken captive.

It seems to me that this will cover an extensive period of time, perhaps three and a half years, or the last half of the seven years.  It will be a terrible time.  The talking heads on TV will have a great deal to say about the fact that “the Jewish problem” has finally been solved.  Learned discussions will take place on how much better off the world is now that Israel has been defeated.  I’m sure there will be parades and wild celebration, if not world wide, then certainly in Arab countries.  The thorn in their side will finally have been pulled!  Of course, this is all speculation, but I’m sure these future events in the Middle East will generate as much coverage as the current ones are making.

However, whatever happens, this will not be the end of the story.  Vs. 3 and 4 tell of the sudden return of the Lord Jesus to the Mount of Olives, where He will fight against those nations.  Now it could be that very little time elapses between the seeming final destruction of Jerusalem and Israel and the return of the Lord, though we have treated it otherwise.  It certainly is possible, though the preceding verses do seem to allow for a lapse of time.  Regardless, the Lord will return to Israel and that will be the end of the conflict.  Verses 12-15 describe the plague which will befall those fighting against Israel.  Some have thought this refers to the destruction of an atomic explosion.  Since God doesn’t tell us, we can’t know, just that it will happen.  Further, there will be great panic among these forces, so that they will begin to fight each other.

Accompanying the Lord’s return will be great geological changes.  We would call them catastrophes.  There will be an enormous earthquake, resulting in a very large valley, v. 4.  In addition, a very large portion of the land will be turned into a plain, v. 10.  This will make room for the things described in Ezekiel 40-48.  One of the arguments against a “literal” understanding of those chapters has been the fact that there’s not enough room in Israel for them.  The changes associated with the return of our Lord will take care of that.

Another such change will be living waters flowing from Jerusalem, half toward to Mediterranean and half toward the eastern sea, (the Red Sea?).  Ezekiel 47:1-6 adds to the description of these waters.

The geological changes from the earthquake will undoubtedly affect more than just Israel, though the immediate effects of it extend only to Azal, wherever that is.  The rift itself, which is seen in the Jordan valley, extends 3000 miles into Africa.  Whenever that goes, kind of like the San Andreas fault in California, there will undoubtedly be widespread effects.

But there will also be heavenly effects, which seem to continue beyond just the immediate return of the Lord, v. 6, 7.  We really have no idea what this will be, having nothing in our experience to compare with it.  Perhaps a similar thing happened in Joshua 10:12, 13.

There will be one thing with which we are familiar: there will still be summer and winter, v. 8.

Zechariah 16-21 describe what will happen when the LORD shall be King over all the earth, v. 9.  Mostly it describes worship, which will be mandatory, and refusal will be punished.  The Reformation Study Bible says that these verses refer to “the final state,” or eternity.  If that’s so, then why is there a need for “punishment” and “plague”?  There won’t be any rebellion in eternity.  Heaven will be filled with those who love and serve the Lord and Hell will be filled with those who don’t and won’t.

I know that there’s a lot of discussion about “the kingdom,” and what it is.  Many believe that it’s just the rule of the Lord Jesus in the hearts of His people.  While there is that part of it, Scripture says that “the Lord will King over all the earth,” v. 9.  This is more than the providential rule with which He governs this present world, or the “rule” over His people, which is imperfectly carried out,  at best.  “Imperfect,” not because of Him, but because of us.  When the Lord rules as Scripture says He must and will, there will be no doubt about it.

I just can’t understand why anyone would think it would be such a terrible thing for the Lord actually to “rule” from Jerusalem, or anywhere else on this planet.  Doesn’t the Scripture say that a scepter of righteousness is the scepter of Your Kingdom, Psalm 45:5?  Isn’t it a great insult to Him to imply that His rule on this planet would be anything but “righteous”?

Zechariah isn’t the only one who mention the reign of our Lord.  Revelation 19:11-16 also describes His return.  V. 15 says, Out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations.  And He Himself will rule them with a rod of iron. 

Of course, part of the difficulty in interpreting Revelation is it’s use of symbols.  It’s obvious that there won’t really be a sword sticking out our Lord’s mouth, but, at the same time, the gist of the prophecy is plain.  He will come in victory and swift judgment against His enemies.  The interesting part is where “He Himself will rule them [the nations, not His people, not the Church, – the nations] with a rod of iron.”  The word translated “rule” is interesting.  It means “to shepherd,” and is also used in John 10 of our Lord’s care of His people.

He will “shepherd” the nations.  Zechariah 14:16-21 tells us something of that “shepherding.”  This is a far cry from the Reformed view that the Lord will come back, there will be the final judgment, and then He will usher in eternity.

There is one final statement in Zechariah 14:21, the last statement in the book:  In that day there shall no longer be a Canaanite in the house of the LORD of hosts. 

What in the world is that all about?

I’m afraid the answer will have to wait until our next post.

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