“There is a rapidly growing segment of Orthodox Judaism, at least in Jerusalem, that is prophesying that present Israel will soon be destroyed, which will usher in God bringing forth a second exodus of the Jews coming out of the nations (Egypt) and into Israel. The orthodox believe this will take place because of an apostate Israeli government that gives God little choice but to judge the nation.”
One thing is certain. The judgments of the end are set in the context of a restored temple ritual that presupposes a great change in the present status of Jerusalem. This must change. I expect through war.
God is making a point that will reverberate in the Jewish soul for a thousand years. I want to show in what follows that it is very significant to God’s purpose that the Jerusalem that falls under the power of the Antichrist (Rev 11:2; 13:5) has first come under the control of the orthodox, if not entirely, at least to an unprecedented extent. (Compare Ps 83:12; Isa 28:14-15; 63:18; 64:10-11; Dan 8:13; 9:26-27; 11:22, 31, 36-37; 12:11; Mt 24:15, 20; 2Thes 2:4. ).
The picture one gets from these passages is of a Jerusalem that has accommodated the desire of certain orthodox sects of Judaism to rebuild the temple and restore the ancient ritual of animal sacrifice. This suggests sweeping changes in the current policies of the secular government, since under present circumstances; such a scenario is clearly out of the question. Something’s got to give!
I believe that nothing is more likely to produce the kinds of changes necessary to fulfill prophecy than a regional war, which everyone knows could easily escalate into a world war that can radically change everything. But contrary to the expectation of the orthodox group that you reference, I do not expect that Israel will, at this point, lose the Land to their enemies.
Think about it. If Israel lost the Land to the Islamic hordes, how soon do you think it would be before they got it back? Of course, this is not a problem for those who believe that Jacob’s trouble could begin tomorrow without an abomination of desolation and without the preceding events that scripture shows leading up to, and setting the stage for the abomination (Isa 28:15; Dan 9:27; Dan 11:23-31; 1Thes 5:3). This is precisely what the orthodox do not consider, as well as most Christians. For them, Israel’s final tribulation might as well begin tomorrow. But that is NOT the picture the Scripture presents.
However, if Israel should happen to come dangerously close to losing the Land through the political expediencies and concessions of the secular state, this could well account for the ascent of the orthodox to a greater influence in the government. It would also explain the ‘hard line’ that the orthodox can be expected to take on the Jerusalem question. You can see then what this would do to make Jerusalem the cup of trembling and burdensome stone to all nations that prophecy predicts (Isa 34:8; Zech 12:2-3 KJV).
All of this suggests the potential for great changes on the world scene, which could come over night through war. However, I do not expect this to be a war that Israel will lose to the point of another potentially age long expulsion, which, apart from special divine intervention, would be the result if the Land was lost to Israel’s enemies. This would imply an Islamic control of Jerusalem. This will come (Rev 11:2; Rev 13:5); but not yet. Before this, the orthodox must reclaim the ancient landmarks of temple and sacrifice.
Now permit me to show why I think this is crucial for God’s strategy in bringing the nation to the acknowledgement of Christ as the only acceptable righteousness by which anyone can stand before God.
You are right to note that it is not enough that we show the Jew WHAT prophecy says is coming. As you point out, there are some orthodox Jewish sects that expect apocalyptic judgments to bring down the secular state. They see themselves as the righteous remnant. That is why the winner of souls must be wise (Prov 11:30) to show the only ‘kind’ of righteousness that counts with God (Ro 10:2; Gal 6:15).
Therefore, even if apocalyptic judgments break forth, and persecution follows, the self righteous (of Judaism, Islam, and Christianity) actually feel confirmed in these kinds of events. This is why a false gospel is able to thrive in apocalyptic times (Mt 24:23-24). But God has a way of pressing on the Jewish conscience the other side of our message, which is the necessity of Christ for righteousness.
It falls to us to show Israel that Jesus is the paradox who is at once “a sanctuary,” but also “a stone of stumbling and rock of offense” (Isa 8:14). The prophetic testimony concerning Him (the gospel) is “the rest and the refreshing by which the weary are caused to rest” (Isa 28:12). But although this mystery is amply justified by the solid evidence of scripture compared with scripture (‘line upon line, here a little and there a little’), still it will be boldly rejected with a self assured boast of religious security (Isa 28:12-15). This boast will be shaken by the “sudden destruction” (1Thes 5:3) that comes when the abomination of desolation (Dan 9:27; 11:31; 12:11; Mt 24:15-16) begins “the time of Jacob’s trouble.” (Jer 30:6-7; Dan 12:1; Mt 24:21).
This gospel of the righteousness of God in Christ is the message that will be pressed on the Jewish conscience by Gentile witnesses that will bring the prophetic indictment to the scornful rulers of Jerusalem (Isa 28:14). Why do I say Gentile witnesses? The language of the text compared with its usage in other places suggests this. Such a scenario is in keeping with the irony of God that has ordained that Israel should be warned and admonished by those most likely to be discounted. [Hebrew scholars Keil and Delitzsch comment: “He would speak to them by a people that stammered in their estimation, i.e., who talked as barbarians (cf., barbari°zein and balbutire; see Isa 33:19, compared with Deut 28:49; Keil and Delitzsch.)]
Notice that the context of this prophetic testimony to Israel is after the religious leadership of Jerusalem has entered into the fateful covenant of death with the Antichrist. Although the tendency to trust in man is perennial, this is clearly eschatological, because the context is the final treading down of Jerusalem, which Revelation shows as the last 42 months (compare Isa 28:18 w/ Rev 11:2; 13:5).
This is in keeping with God’s intention that the gospel should be presented to Israel as a prophetic mystery to be made known by the writings of the prophets (Ro 16:25-26). In the context of Israel’s fatal misplacement of trust, Isaiah intimates the identity of the Israel’s Rock and the prophetic mystery that reveals itself in the gospel. “Therefore, thus says the Lord God: “Behold, I lay in Zion a stone for a foundation, A tried stone, a precious cornerstone, a sure foundation; Whoever believes will not act hastily” (Isa 28:16). Reference to a ‘testimony’ that is “bound up,” and a ‘teaching’ that is “sealed up among My disciples” (Isa 8:16), as also a “book that is sealed” (Isa 29:11) is Isaiah’s language for what the NT calls, the mystery of Christ and the gospel (Col 4:3; Eph 6:19).
So we ask, how will Israel come to see and acknowledge Christ as the goal of both the law and the prophetic mystery contained in the Old Testament? We can hardly imagine what it will mean when the orthodox leadership in Israel is permitted to recover the temple and all the institutions of their ancient worship, only to have it all stripped suddenly away in the most unexpected and catastrophic reversal in all the nation’s history (Ps 83:12; Isa 63:18; 64:10-11; Dan 9:27; 12:11). These are the days that are particularly in view when Daniel says, “But the people that do know their God shall be strong, and do exploits. And they that understand among the people shall instruct many …” (Dan 11:32-33; 12:3).
After the presumptuous “league” with the Antichrist (Isa 28:15; Dan 8:25; 9:27; 11:23), Israel will dwell securely, but it will be a fatal and false security (Ezek 38:8; Dan 11:23-24; 1Thes 5:3). It is a tenuous peace that ends 3 ½ years later in the sudden Antichrist invasion of Jerusalem (Dan 9:27; 11:31; 12:11).
If we compare the 28th chapter of Isaiah with Jesus’ reference to flight being hindered on the Sabbath (Mt 24:20), we can reasonably infer that it is particularly the religious leadership of Jerusalem that has entered into the covenant with death and hell (Isa 28:15, 18). The prophetic indictment against this act will be brought by witnesses (Gentiles? Isa 28:11) who will also make a compelling case (Isa 28:9-10) for the gospel (Isa 28:12) from the Old Testament scriptures (Ro 16:25-26).
It is important that this act of ultimate presumption should be performed, not by a secular state, but by the nation’s most religious representatives. This is the end time continuation of that “generation” that delivered up the Son of God in its religious zeal (Deut 32:5, 20; Mt 17:17; 23:35-36; 24:34; Acts 7:51). God is saying something in this that is as important for the church to see as it is for Israel. It is ultimately instructive. This issue above all others is the real point of divine contention that comes down through the ages, beginning with what was represented in Cain’s sacrifice. It is the righteousness of God versus the righteousness of man, particularly at his religious best (Ps 39:5; Jn 2:25).
This ultimately presumptuous act on the part of Israel, particularly religious Israel, is an ultimate manifestation and divine statement of Israel’s detestable tendency to put confidence in man, which is no less the issue with the church. It is a tendency that is equally characteristic of even the most orthodox branches of Judaism. Just ask them about the source of their righteousness. It is the lie concerning what is ‘in man’ (Jer 10:23; 17:5; Jn 2:24; Ro 7:18).
It is the same lie that emboldened the religious leadership to hand Jesus over to be crucified. It is the power of the veil that is over the Jewish heart to this day. Israel has never understood how high the standard really is. That is why they can imagine that there is something in man that can assist towards its attainment. This is why God has chosen to permit Israel’s religious humanism to ‘have its day’, and to reach its highest pinnacle before it all comes down by the ‘overflowing scourge’ (Isa 28:18, Rev 11:2).
The impact of this on the Jewish psyche is almost impossible to calculate; it will mean utter devastation of every trusted category of Jewish existence. It is truly the destruction of “the pride of your power” (Lev 26:19), and I really believe the most tenacious form of Israel’s pride, or of anyone else’s, is the presumption that there is something acceptable in man, particularly religious man (Ro 7:18). It will be the task of the priestly church of the living God to identify with Israel’s tragic devastation even before it comes, and through that priestly pathos and empathy, to speak, and reason, and warn, out of the depths of Christ’s love for His estranged brethren.
This is why it will be the orthodox that will be basking in the euphoria of what they imagine to be the dawn of a new messianic era of peace and safety. Jewish religious presumption will be at its apex when the sudden destruction of Jacob’s trouble breaks upon the unsuspecting nation (1Thes 5:3). Then begins the process by which God will use the Antichrist to ‘scatter the power of the holy people’ (Isa 10:5 w/ Dan 12:7). But the power that shall be broken up is something more profound than mere military or economic power; it is particularly the pride of self reliant religious perfection. This was Paul (Phil 3:4-9).
Once again, I believe the power that is destroyed is most particularly the power of religious self reliance (Ro 9:11, 13, 16; 11:6; 1Cor 1:9; Phil 3:3). No other kind of power is more endemic or tenacious, because no other kind of power is more subtle and deceptive. It is the same error that has worked its mischief in the church, even as the Jews of the Middle-Ages used to call world Christendom, “the arrogant kingdom.” It is the deep human presumption concerning the nature of man. This is what the revelation of the man of sin is all about. It is the disclosure of what man is when stripped of that measure of temporal common grace, which veils (disguises) what is at the root of his being.
So far from moving the Jew to jealousy, historic Christendom has, for the large part, moved the Jew in the opposite direction. This tragic ‘guilt by association’ is what the church must overcome in its last day’s witness to Israel, since it is inconceivable that the age will end in such an abysmal abdication of the church’s mandate to move the Jew to jealousy.
The vindication of God in His instruction of principalities and powers through the church (Eph 3:10) would be seriously aborted if the church is removed before this final witness to Israel. This is why we believe that God has ordained that the church and Israel will meet in the wilderness of mutual flight and persecution (Isa 35:1; 40:2; 41:18-19; 42:11; 43:19-21; Jer 31:2; Hos 2:14; Mt 24:16; Rev 12:6). There, in the wilderness of stripping and humbling, God will “plead with Israel face to face” (Ezek 20:35), and it is not too metaphorical to suggest that His face will be reflected in the face of Gentile believers (Deut 32:21; Isa 28:11; Mt 21:43; Ro 10:19; 11:11, 31).
Your brother in His precious grace, Reggie