The Order of the Return (Part 1)

that ill-prepares the people of God for what is ahead for both Israel and the church. Preterism puts the tribulation in the past. Amillennialism conceives of a “little season” of Satan’s release at the end of this age, with little specificity, and certainly no relation to literal Israel. Historicism, with its often failed ‘year day’ theory, spreads the tribulation out over history, with ‘perhaps’ an intensive resurgence at the end. Pre-tribulationism exempts the church from any presence or role in the tribulation. In this view, Jacob’s trouble is only “Jacob’s problem”, since the church is in heaven at the wedding feast while Israel suffers the Antichrist.

On the other hand, the position called, ‘historic pre-millenialism’ sees the future great tribulation as primarily concerned with the purification of the church, since there is often little or no focus on the still outstanding covenant contention that will rage over the literal land and people of Israel at the conclusion of the age, and the unique millennial destiny that follows, as theocratic head of the nations. The church will indeed be tested and purified (Dan 11:35; 12:10; Rev 7:14), but the primary purpose of the tribulation is to bring Israel back into the bond of the covenant (Ezek 20:33-34, 35, 37).

Hence, ours is a comparatively rare perspective that sees both Israel and the church together in the tribulation, with the godly remnant ‘instructing many’ (Dan 11:33; 12:3), amid a common experience of world wide flight from the persecuting policies of the Antichrist (Rev 12:6, 17). The time of Jacob’s trouble (compare Jer 30:6-7; Dan 12:1, 7; Mt 24:16, 21; Rev 11:2; 12:6, 14) designs to bring Jacob to the end of his power (Deut 32:36; Dan 12:7). This transitional time is also referred to as ‘Zion’s travail’ (Isa 26:17-18; 66:8; Mic 5:3), which ends in the sudden and supernatural birth of the nation “at once … in one day” (Isa 66:8; Eze 39:22; Zech 3:9). The millennium begins when ‘all Israel’ (the natural branches) have come into “the everlasting righteousness” of covenant promise found only in Messiah.

In speaking of the future desolation and ‘treading down’ of Jerusalem, Jesus will use a term that Ezekiel uses as a synonym for the day of the Lord (“the ‘time’ of the gentiles;” Ezek 30:3). It is usually thought that Jesus’ use of this term in its plural form, “the ‘times’ of the gentiles” (Lk 21:24), is intended to describe the entire time of gentile control over Jerusalem from the Babylonian captivity until Jerusalem passed back into Jewish hands with the Arab-Israeli war of 1967.

Others see the time in view as reaching to the return of Christ when the times of the gentiles will end with the restoration of the kingdom to Israel (Acts 1:6; 3:21). However, in keeping with the pattern of past instances when Jerusalem was “trodden down” by the Assyrian and later the Babylonian invader (Isa 10:6; Mic 5:5), the prophets depict a final “treading down” of the city by the Antichrist, who is the eschatological anti-type of all of Israel’s ancient oppressors. This final treading down of the holy city will be currently in progress when the day of deliverance arrives (Isa 28:5, 18; 63:18; Dan 8:13; Rev 11:2) .

Significantly, the apocalyptic books of Daniel and Revelation apply the treading down of Jerusalem, not to the long period between 70 A.D and the present return, but to a short period, i.e., the second half of Daniel’s seventieth week, which is the last 3 1/2 years (Dan  9:27; 12:7, 11; Rev 11:2). It is remarkable that Jesus’ use of the term applies equally well to both the long and the short periods of desolation and captivity. A further captivity after Israel is regathered is clearly anticipated in Zech 14:2. Though mercifully brief in duration (Dan 7:25; 9:27; 12:7, 11; Rev 11:2-3; 12:6, 14; 13:5), it is a time like no other. “Alas! for that day is great so that none is like it …” (Jer 30:7 with Dan 12:1; Joel 2:2, with Mt 24:21-22).

Since the above passages show clearly that the holy city is in the process of being ‘trodden down of the gentiles’ when the Lord returns (Zech 14:1-5; Rev 11:2), it cannot be imagined that the ‘times of the gentiles can end anytime short of the post-tribulational day of the Lord. Furthermore, Paul speaks of the “the fullness of the gentiles” (Ro 11:25), as coterminous with Israel’s national deliverance at the post-tribulational day of the Lord (compare Ro 11:25-27; Isa 59:16-21; 63:3-7; Jer 30:7; Dan 12:1). Only after this future desolation and treading down of Jerusalem of very brief duration (Isa 63:18; Dan 7:25; 8:13; 9:27; 11:31; 12:1, 7, 11; Mt 24:15; Rev 11:2) will Jerusalem dwell securely “from that day and forward” (Eze 39:22, 25, 28 with Jer 30:10; 32:37; Eze 34:27-28; Hos 2:18, 23; Mic 4:4; Zeph 3:13; Zech 14:11).

Since it is clear that the last 3 1/2 years envision a further treading down of the holy city, we must distinguish between a return after the long exile of “many generations” (Deut 28:59, 63; Isa 32:10-15; 58:12; 61:4; Eze 38:8; Hos 3:3-4) and another very short time of desolation, captivity, and wilderness flight that takes place during the unequaled tribulation of the last 3 ½ years (Jer 30:7; 31:2; Ezek 20:35-36; 22:19-22; 38:8; Dan 11:31; 12:1-2, 11; Hos 2:14, 18; Joel 3:1-2; Zeph 3:1-2; Zech 12:2-3; 14:1-2, with Mt 24:15-16; Rev 11:2; 12:6, 14. In contrast to the present return, the return that follows the great tribulation will be in faith. It will be complete and final and to the last man (Deut 30:1-5; Isa 27:12-13; Eze 39:22, 28-29; Zech 10:10-11; 12:10-13:1).

This means that the Antichrist invasion from the north (Eze 38-39, Joel 2:20; Dan 8:9; 11:21) is launched against a nation that has only lately returned from the long exile of ‘many days’ (Eze 38:8). This is further corroborated by the evidence of scripture (Isa 63:18; 64:10-11; Dan 8:13-14) that suggests that the ‘sanctuary’ that the Antichrist will violate has only ‘recently’ been recovered to Jewish possession (notice the language, “a little while;” Isa 63:18). 

Daniel is equally clear that a short desolation of just 3 1/2 years begins when the regular sacrifice is taken away by the Antichrist (Dan 8:11; 9:27; 11:31, 12:11). This anticipates the restored presence of the ‘sanctuary’ on the hotly disputed temple mount. It is exegetically impossible to separate the removal of the sacrifice and the placing of the abomination from the last 3 1/2 years of  unequaled tribulation “of those days” (Mt 24:19, 22, 29) that ends in Jesus’ return, the destruction of Antichrist, Israel’s deliverance, and the resurrection (Dan 7:11, 25; 11:31, 35-36; 12:1-2, 7, 9-11; Mt 24:15, 21, 29, 31; 2Thes 2:1-4, 8; Rev 10:7; 11:2, 15; 12:6, 14; 13:5; 16:14-15; 19:20).

[Note: The prince that stops the sacrifice in Dan 9:27 is not Messiah the prince of Dan 9:25, but “the prince that shall come” of Dan 9:26, since in every other reference to the removal of the sacrifice throughout the book of Daniel, it is always by the one who exalts himself (Dan 8:11, 25; 11:31, 36-37; 12:11; Mt 24:15 with 2Thes 2:4). He is also called the ‘little horn’ (Dan 7:8; 8:9), the beast (Dan 7:11; Rev 13:4; 19:20) and ‘king of fierce countenance’ (Dan 8:23-24; 11:36) that speaks great swelling words against the Most High and makes war on the saints for the final 3 1/2 years (Dan 7:8, 20-21, 25; Rev 13:5-7).]

Therefore, from the broad range perspective of the Hebrew prophets, Israel’s long captivity is not considered as finally ended until the day of national repentance and deliverance. The time is clear. The surviving remnant of the down trodden nation are born into holy nationhood at once and in one day at the end of Zion’s travail, the great tribulation that reaches its climax in the great day of the Lord (Isa 66:8; Eze 39:22; Zech 3:9; 12:10; 14:7; Joel 3:21; Mt 23:39; 24:29; Acts 2:20; 3:21; Ro 11:26; Rev 1:7).  

The significant ’tills’ and ‘untils’ of OT prophecy invariably place Israel’s national deliverance and full return at the end of a time of great travail and affliction (Deut 4:30-31; Isa 13:7-9; 26:16-17; 32:15-18; 66:8; Jer 30:6-7; Hos 5:15; 6:1-2; Mic 5:3-4). Zion’s travail ends with the day of the Lord (Isa 66:8; Eze 39:22). Although he does not use the term, day of the Lord, Daniel will place the deliverance of Israel at the end of the unequaled trouble that he will identify with the last 3 1/2 years (Dan 12:1, 7, 11). A careful comparison of contexts, considered in light of attending detail, will reveal that MOST of the return passages have in view this final post-tribulational return from the Diaspora (Deut 30:1-5; Jer 30:10, 18; 33:7-9, 11, 14-16; 46:27-28; Eze 39:22-23, 25, 28-29; Zeph 3:8-9, 13-15, 19-20; Joel 2:27; 3:1-2, 20-21; Zech 14:2-5).

[Note: In Jewish perspective, the exile is not so much measured by Jewish presence in the Land but by the hiding of God’s face from the larger nation, which ends with the day of the Lord (compare Deut 31:17-1832:20Isa 8:15;54:864:7Ezek 39:23-2429). Therefore, until the Spirit has been poured out upon the penitent survivors of the last tribulation (Ezek 39:29;Joel 2:27-31Zech 12:10), the nation, as a whole, remains under the threats of the broken covenant (Lev 26; Deut 28-32).]

So both testaments give witness of a long captivity followed by final captivity of very brief duration  (Zech 14:2). It is from this latter captivity that “the ‘redeemed of the Lord’ shall return, and come with singing unto Zion; and everlasting joy shall be upon their heads …” (Isa 51:11; 62:11-12). Failure to distinguish between a partial and preliminary return ‘after many days … many generations’ and a further and complete return after a further captivity of only short duration has left many with a misguided optimism concerning the future of the modern state.

I will never forget the first time that I heard believers call Israel, “the Ark of Safety”. I was with Art visiting the Corrie Ten Boom house in Haarlem near Amsterdam. The view expressed was that if such a disaster was not to be repeated, Christians should unite to do all in their power to help Jews from every country return to Israel, as the divinely protected, “Ark of Safety”. There was no doubting the sincerity of concern for the people of the ancient witness, but I could hardly believe my ears. Were these dear believers unaware that the Antichrist reign of terror begins in the Land and makes Jerusalem its first target? It made me to wonder, not only how such an error could survive the plain sense of scripture, but why has this found such widespread acceptance among the friends of Israel, the very ones that should have been the prophetic watchmen on her walls?

It is the return of an ancient heresy that scholars of Jewish history call, “the inviolability of Zion.” It is the presumption that God has pledged unconditionally to protect the nation from the success of her enemies. The enemy may assail, but he can never prevail. However, the enemy has prevailed many times before (not ultimately, of course), and how, apart from the only righteousness that fulfills the covenant, can the present secular state claim immunity from ‘the discipline of the covenant,’ as recorded in Lev 26 and Deut 28-32? Until the coming in of the ‘everlasting righteousness’ (Jer 32:40 and Dan 9:24), the Jewish people, as a whole, remain under what we might call, ‘covenant jeopardy.’ This means that the threatened curses of the broken covenant remain outstanding and threatening until their final resolution in the promised messianic righteousness of the New Covenant.

The ill-fated doctrine of Zion’s inviolability suffered its first death in the fulfillment of Jeremiah’s prophecy (Jer 25:11; Dan 9:2). It was revived after the successful Maccabean resistance against the Syrian tyrant, Antiochus IV (Epiphanes). This formed a new precedent that emboldened Jewish resistance in three successive, but futile revolts against Rome (66-70, 115-117, 132-135 A.D.)

The modern revival of belief in the “inviolability of Zion” is defended by three basic arguments:

1) The modern re-birth of the nation in 1948.

2) The belief that the “time of Jacob’s trouble” was the Holocaust of Nazi Europe.

3) The amazing succession of military victories that have, against all odds, saved the fledgling nation from almost certain destruction.

The first argument confuses May 14, 1948, with the spiritual birth of the nation at the post-tribulational day of the Lord (compare Isa 66:8 with Ezek 39:8, 22, 28-29; Jer 30:7; Dan 12:1; Zech 12:10). As the surrounding context confirms, the sudden regeneration of the nation “in one day” happens after Zion’s travail, and marks the beginning of the nation’s millennial glory with the pouring out of the Holy Spirit on the surviving remnant (Ezek 39:29 with Joel 2:28-32; Zech 12:10). “From that day and forward” (Ezek 39:22), there will be no more remnant, because every Jewish survivor and all the children born throughout the future generations will all know the Lord (Isa 4:3; 54:13; 59:21; 60:21; 66:22;  Jer 31:34; Ezek 20:40; 39:22, 28-29). With the Deliverer’s return to Zion (Isa 59:19-21; Ro 11:26), the Antichrist is destroyed (Dan 7:11; 2Thes 2:8) and the millennium begins (Ezek 39:22-29). It is then that Israel will be the all righteous nation of covenant promise that enjoys final and uninterrupted security in the Land (Jer 23:6; 30:10; 32:37; Ezek 34:25, 28).

[Note: In the perspective of the prophets, Paul’s much disputed phrase, “and so all Israel shall be saved,” envisions this time when there will be no further need for evangelism among the Jewish inhabitants of the Land (Jer 31:34), thus assuring the abiding continuance of unfailing obedience through the promise of the new heart.]

The second argument is refuted by the fact that Jacob’s trouble and all the passages that deal with Israel’s last suffering are set ‘in the Land.’ It begins in the Land (Ezek 22:19-22; Zech 13:8-9; Dan 12:11; Mt 24:15-16, 21) and ends in nothing short of Israel’s final and ‘complete’ deliverance (Jer 30:7; Dan 12:1), Christ’s return, the destruction of the ‘Man of Sin’ (2Thes 2:8), and the resurrection of the righteous dead (compare Mt 24:21, 29-31; with Dan 12:1-2).

As to the third argument, there can be no doubt that Israel’s return to nationhood is a remarkable and necessary fulfillment of prophecy (Ezek 38:8; Dan 12:1). Before the judgment of the tribulation and Antichrist, and before the day of national repentance, Israel is granted a gracious, albeit probationary return to the Land BEFORE the final crisis that ends in the redemption (Ezek 38:8; 39:26). This gathering is indeed a gracious fulfillment of covenant promise (Jer 30:3; Eze 38:8), but it does not accomplish the final salvation of ‘all Israel.’ Rather, it sees ahead to the yet future time of Jacob’s trouble (Jer 30:7; Dan 12:1), which does indeed end in final salvation of the day of the Lord and the further and final re-gathering of all Israel (Eze 39:28; Zech 8:7-8, 22-23; 10:9-12; 12:10-13:1; 14:3-4).

Significantly, Daniel will apply Jeremiah’s language of a time like no other (Jer 30:7 with Dan 12:1) to the last 3 1/2 years that begins with the abomination of desolation and the removal of the daily sacrifice that ends with Israel’s deliverance and the resurrection (Dan 9:27; 12:1-2, 7, 11). Jesus will use the same language (Mt 24:21) to describe the unequaled tribulation that begins with the abomination and ends with His return (Mt 24:15-16, 21, 29). Thus, we see that the present return is a probationary time of divine pleading that must, at some point, climax in the great tribulation that reaches its climax in the great and notable day of the Lord (Mt 24:29; Acts 2:20; Rev 16:14-17; note especially the similarity of language between Ezek 39:8 and Rev 16:17).

Therefore, so long as the larger part of the nation remains estranged from the “bond of the covenant” (as only fulfilled in Christ), the judgments of the broken covenant will continue to threaten Israel’s peace in the Land. And while covenant jeopardy threatens Jewish safety in any land at all times, it is particularly “in the Land” that the prophet Zechariah says that two thirds will be cut off (Zech 13:8-9) in the tribulation. Therefore, if we believe that Jews will be facing the fury of Antichrist, as first directed against those living in the Land, what should be our prophetic responsibility? (Ezek 33:6).

The victories of the past do not guarantee that the enemy will not terribly prevail for a season (Dan 7:21, 25; 12:7; Rev 11:2; 13:5). While it is certainly true that Israel will be abundantly saved at the “set time” (Ps 102:13; Dan 11:35), it is not before she has passed through “what has been determined” (Dan 11:36; 12:7). It is no mere matter of interpretation, but only the greatest sorrow that constrains us to face the plain language of scripture of a last days’ siege and desolation of Jerusalem. We must not shrink from the lengths that God will go to arrest His elect and beloved nation on its predestined path to resurrection and glory.

It is only Scripture that compels us to point out that great affliction and another exodus of wilderness flight awaits Jews all over the world, both in the Land and in the nations (Jer 30:7 with Dan 12:1 Mt 24:16; with Rev 12:7, 14). The same awaits all who will expose themselves to peril through costly identification with this hunted people (Rev 12:16-17). The true church will be distinguished from the false in no small measure by its willingness to lay down its life to lend succor and aid to despised and now abandoned nation. This, since scripture leads us to infer that it will be the Antichrist’s first objective to eliminate the Jewish race (Rev 12:6, 13-14). In all probability, it is the church’s part in hiding the woman that will bring upon the saints the hatred and fury of the Antichrist (Rev 12:16-17)

We are very near the ancient doctrine of Zion’s inviolability when we hold an unjustified optimism concerning Israel’s future that ignores what all the prophets see as necessary for the self-reliant Jacob (supplanter) to become the broken and contrite Israel (one who perseveres with God). It is the principle of the cross, of death before resurrection. The nation must mirror Messiah’s tragic passage from degradation to exoneration. A naive view of the cost of Israel’s return risks being offended at the lengths that God will go in order to bring His people into the bond of the covenant. Perhaps we are ignorant of this for them, because we’ve not sufficiently known this process for ourselves. Paul understood this when he speaks of a necessary travail in order for Christ to be formed in the hearts of the Galatians (Gal 4:19). It is the principle behind his statement, “So then death works in us, but life in you” (2Cor 4:12). That is why Israel’s deliverance is often depicted as a birth that is preceded by travail (Isa 13:8; 26:16-17; 66:8; Mic 5:3; Jer 30:6)

The reason for such tribulation is manifest (Acts 14:22). Fallen human nature cannot be conquered except by the inward work of the cross applied by the Spirit, through the quickening of divine revelation. This is why Jacob must be brought to the end of his power (Deut 32:36; Dan 12:7) before the veil can be taken away (2Cor 3:16; Zech 12:10). How can it be different for the church? The veil is lifted and Christ revealed at the end of strength (“confidence in the flesh”). That is the pattern for all the true “Israel of God”. It is death before resurrection and travail before birth.

It is the plain reading of the covenant that ‘until’ the Jewish people possess the “everlasting righteousness” of the New Covenant (Jer 32:40; Dan 9:24), not by a few, but by ‘all’ (Isa 4:3; 54:13; 59:21; 60:21; Jer 31:34; Jer 32:40; Eze 20:40; 39:22), there can be no lasting security in the Land. Until then, there will always remain “the quarrel (vengeance) of My covenant” (Lev 26:25; Mic 6:2). The broken covenant, the coming short of the glory of God in Christ, will always be a liability that leaves open the peril of further judgment, yes, even momentary captivity into the nations (Zech 14:2 with Lk 21:21-27; Rev 11:2; 12:6).

Since the covenant requirement is met nowhere but in Christ, to suppose that Israel is not subject to further exile, even if very brief (3 ½ years), is a humanistic presumption that is in great danger of being offended at the lengths God must go to accomplish the resurrection of a nation, whether it be out of the death of exile, or an hour of unsurpassed affliction and travail (Deut 4:30-31; Ezek 37:11; Ro 11:15). Although no enemy can ever have final success in accomplishing Satan’s futile desire to eliminate the Jewish race, biblical history is full of examples of severe chastisement that have ended in exile. If another expulsion and exile of brief duration (the last 3 1/2 years) is considered a term too extreme to describe Israel’s experience under the Antichrist, who will deny that Jesus describes a final desolation of Jerusalem before His return (Mt 24:15-16, 21), and that John sees a final treading down of Jerusalem and flight into the wilderness? (Rev 11:2; 12:6, 14). Is this not enough to prepare ourselves to warn and escort fleeing survivors to places of safety in the day of Jacob’s calamity? (Eze 35:5; Obad 13)

If the Assyrian who was a type of the coming Antichrist was called by Isaiah, “the rod of my chastisement” (Isa 10:5), why should it be different with the final anti-type? The Antichrist functions under God’s sovereignty as the rod of His discipline. And while God has set definite limits, it is foolish to imagine that the covenant chastisement that will come through the final Antichrist will be less severe than any of the other cruel oppressors of Jewish history. If Jewish writers can call the modern Holocaust, the “tremendum”, what will be “the time of Jacob’s trouble”, so that none is like it? (Jer 30:7; Dan 12:1; Mt 24:21).

The ancient Jewish sages and rabbis confess with one voice that salvation comes to Israel in the hour of his greatest extremity. This is far from supposing that the enemy will not have cruel success and prevail for “a season and a time” (Dan 7:21, 25; Rev 11:2; 13:5). The final desolation of Jerusalem is a constant theme of Old Testament prophecy, confirmed and understood as literal by Jesus and the apostles (Isa 63:18; 64:10-11; Ezek 22:19-22; Dan 9:27; 11:31; 12:11; Mt 24:15-16; Rev 11:2).

Even before the New Testament revelation of the mystery of the gospel (Ro 16:25; Eph 6:19), the Old Testament was clear in its witness that God would accomplish His unconditional promise by pouring out His Spirit on the broken and contrite survivors of the final trial (Isa 59:21; Ezek 39:29; Zech 12:10). The ancient Rabbis described Israel’s last woes by such terms as, “the birth pangs of Messiah,” or, “the footsteps of Messiah.” Throughout the writings of the sectaries of Qumran (the people of the Dead Sea Scrolls) and many of the Rabbinical writings of the Christian period, the view was commonplace that the final redemption comes only at the end of a brief but unequaled time of severity (Jer 30:7; Dan 7:25; 9:27; 12:1, 11).

This will be the time when God will once again bring the fleeing remnant into the wilderness to “plead with them there” through great judgments, mighty signs in nature, and also tender appeals (Isa 35:6; 40:3; 41:19; 42:11; 43:19; Hos 2:18; Jer 31:2; Ezek 20:35). [Note: Scholars see that the final redemption is set in the context of a second exodus out into the wilderness and back again, but tend to interpret this as poetic metaphor of Christ as the new exodus. In the literal view, Israel is driven into the wilderness by the Antichrist, to return again from all lands when he is destroyed at the Lord’s return.]

The New Testament confirms the Old Testament’s witness to a final wilderness experience for the people of God that begins with the descent of the nations upon unsuspecting Jerusalem (Isa 34:8; 63:18; 64:10-11; Joel 3:2; Zech 12:2-3; Mt 24:15-16; Lk 21:24; Rev 11:2). A careful comparison of related passages will show that after this, when the “great trumpet” sounds (Isa 27:13), the surviving remnant of Israel begins their long trek back home, not only from specifically mentioned neighboring countries (Isa 11:15-16; 27:12-13), but from places of hiding such as the neighboring wilderness of Edom (Isa 16:1-4; 26:20; 35:1; 42:11; Ezek 20:35-37; Jer 31:2; Hos 2:14; Dan 11:41 ASV).

When the abomination is placed in the holy place in Jerusalem, speedy flight from that area will be a matter of life or death (Mt 24:15-16, 21). A remnant will escape into the outlying regions, such as the wilderness of Petra in southern Jordan (Isa 16:1-4; 26:20; 42:11; Dan 11:41). It is significant to observe that the Jews that are returning to the Land after the day of the Lord are called, “the outcasts” (Isa 11:12; 16:3-4; Isa 27:13), “the escaped of Israel” (Isa 4:2; 10:20; 66:19), “those who were ready to perish” (Isa 27:13), and “those who were left of the sword” (Jer 31:2).

Manifestly, the modern return, though prophetically significant, cannot be the return that Isaiah calls, “the second time” (Isa 11:11). A careful comparison of Isa 11:11-12, 15-16; 19:4-6 with Isa 27:12-13; Zech 10:10-11 will show that this return must be accompanied by a miraculous crossing of ‘the river of Egypt’ on dry land. Moreover, this return is signaled by the sounding of the “great trumpet” (Isa 27:13). Since the time is the same, it can hardly be doubted that this is the post-tribulational trumpet that Jesus refers to in Mt 24:31, and that Paul calls, the “last” (1Cor 15:52)? Note that Paul’s citation of Isa 25:8 in 1Cor 15:54 (“then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written”) demonstrates that the time in view is the time that the OT righteous are raised from the dead, clearly AFTER the unequaled tribulation (Job 19:25-26; Isa 26:19; Dan 12:1-2).

Therefore, since it is clear that the return of Isa 11:11-12, 15-16 is the same return that begins with the post-tribulational trumpet of Isa 27:12-13, it follows that the modern return is not the return that Isaiah calls “the second time.” We may see the present return as a first stage, but we must distinguish between the present partial return and the full and final return that follows the national regeneration that comes only at the end of the last tribulation.

Not only throughout the nations of the Diaspora (compare the term “outcasts” in Isa 11:12; 16:3-4; 27:13), but even more locally and regionally in the neighboring countries adjacent to Israel (Dan 11:41 with Isa 16:3-4; 42:11 NKJV), Jews will be driven into places of hiding (Isa 16:3-4; 26:20; 27:13 {“ready to perish”}; Rev 12:6, 14).

[Note: The word translated rock in Isa 42:11 is not the usual Hebrew word for rock. It is Petra in Edom / modern Transjordan, see 2Kings 14:7; Isa 16:1; 26:20; with Dan 11:41]

These and a number of parallel passages combine to show that the day of salvation will find many in the wilderness. The reason is clear. It is because Jerusalem has very recently become a wilderness of desolation through the assault of the Antichrist (see Isa 4:2-4; 63:18; 64:10-11; Ezek 22:19-22; with Dan 11:31; 12:11; Mt 24:15; Rev 11:2; 13:5).

Therefore, it is a great error to confuse the present return and re-establishment of the unbelieving nation with the complete return that comes only after Israel’s post-tribulational deliverance and spiritual transformation (Ezek 39:22, 28-29). Until then, they are a chosen and ever beloved people (Ro 11:28-29), albeit under the abiding threat of the curses of the covenant (Lev 26; Deut 28-32). Nevertheless, the preliminary return that we see today was absolutely foretold. It was necessary to the complete return that follows the end of the tribulation. All of prophecy presupposes and requires a substantial Jewish presence in the Land, existing again as a nation (Dan 12:1), albeit under covenant judgment (Ezek 20:35-37; 22:19-22; Dan 12:1; Zeph 2:1-2). To make light of the modern miracle of Israel is not merely an issue of interpretation, it is an issue of the heart.

After the conference, I plan to work with a friend and colleague from New Zealand (Dalton Lifsey) on a joint writing project that aims to present the full case from scripture for this crucial distinction concerning the order of the return. Manifestly, the present return, though very gracious, is probationary at best (Ezek 38:8; 39:26), since it anticipates the unequaled tribulation that MUST precede the nation’s repentance at the day of the Lord. Only then, “from that day and forward” (Ezek 39:22), will God’s face never again be hidden from the prodigal nation (Deut 31:17-18; 32:20; Isa 8:17; 64:7; Ezek 39:23-24, 29).

We must see that there is a return that precedes the trouble, and another return that follows it. The first is partial and in unbelief. The second is in penitent faith and includes every Jewish survivor (Zech 13:8-9), to the last man (Deut 30:4; Eze 39:28).

Much has been made of the passage in Ezek 36:24-25 where great stress is put on the word “then” that seems to imply that Israel is “first” gathered to the Land before the time of national cleansing. The same may be said of Ezek 37 where a case can made for the prior resurrection of the nation before the breath of the Spirit effects the promised regeneration. However, just as much stress should be put on the wording of verse 33, which says, “In ‘the day’ that I shall have cleansed you from all your iniquities (past tense), I will also cause you to dwell in the cities, and the wastes shall be built. And the desolate land shall be tilled, whereas it lay desolate in the sight of all that passed by. And they shall say, ‘This land that was desolate is become like the garden of Eden;’ and the waste and desolate and ruined cities are become fenced, and are inhabited. Then the heathen that are left round about you shall know that I the Lord build the ruined places, and plant that that was desolate: I the Lord have spoken it, and I will do it” (Ezek 36:33-36).

There is a mystery here that is the cause of much of the puzzlement. It is solved when we understand that there is an age long exile of desolation and depopulation of the Land that is followed by a re-gathering that precedes the desolations of the great tribulation (Jer 30:3; Ezek 38:8; 22:19-22; Zeph 2:1-2). Though unsurpassed in severity and apocalyptic devastation extending to all nations, this time of desolation and flight into the wilderness is thankfully very short (Dan 12:7; Mt 24:16; Rev 11:2; 12:6, 14; 13:5).

You are correct that Art became persona non grata to most of the messianic leaders in Israel for referring to this time as another “expulsion.” I believe this was to “make a man an offender for a word” (Isa 29:21), since many agree that Jews will be required to flee to places of safety, many to outlying regions that will provide hiding from the face of the Antichrist (Isa 16:3-4; 26:20; 42:11; Ezek 20:35; Dan 11:41; Mt 24:16; Rev 12:6, 14).

Art also was understood to teach that there would be no survival for Jews left in the Land. Whether he failed to qualify his remarks on those occasions, I do not know. I do know that there will be a remnant of Jewish life that survives in the Land. The scripture says as much (Zech 14:2; Mt 10:23; Rev 11:13). However, it would be a great presumption to not heed the Lord’s warning to flee into the wilderness (Mt 24:16). Note that Zech 13:8-9 says that a third of those “in the land” escape the sword. Given what the scripture implies of conditions in the Land under the reign of Antichrist, that is a surprisingly high percentage of Jewish survival, for which we can be very thankful. However, are we safe in assuming that this high percentage of Jewish survivors remain in the Land, or will survival depend on successful escape into the wilderness and to places of refuge outside the Land? It is at best a sober inference, but in view of Jesus’ clear warning to flee, it seems more probable that the “third part” that were in the Land when the tribulation began, will survive in so great a number only because the larger part managed to escape to places of refuge in the wilderness. Whether this escape is within or outside the Land, we cannot say with final certainty, but we are safer to follow the lead of the scriptures that show the certainty of survival in wilderness regions outside the Land.

See the following scriptures as evidence that Israel’s flight into the wilderness is concurrent with Jerusalem’s final desolations: Isa 63:18; 64:10-11; Jer 30:7; Dan 9:27; 11:31-35; 12:11; Zech 14:2; Mt 24:16; Rev 11:2; 12:6, 14). Significantly, Jer 30:18 says that the Jerusalem will “be built upon its own heap.” This is the picture that we see in the larger context of Ezek 35-36 and Obadiah. The final return is always AFTER the surrounding nations (Edom in particular) have been humbled for their ‘everlasting hatred’ against the children of Israel (Joel 3:19-21). The time is clear: It is “in the day of their calamity, in the time that their iniquity had an end” (Deut 32:35; Ezek 35:12, 15; 36:2-3; Obad 13).

It is after this final judgment on the persecuting nations (i.e., ‘times of the gentiles’; Ezek 30:2-3; Lk 21:24) that the waste and ruined cities of Israel shall again be built and re-inhabited (Ezek 35:4; 36:3-4, 10, 34-36, 38), never again to be “bereaved of men” through war (Ezek 36:12, 14 with Isa 49:19-20).

Thus, we must distinguish between “the desolations of many generations” (Isa 61:4), and the brief and final desolations of the great tribulation. We must be clear: There is a return before the tribulation (Jer 30:3; Ezek 38:8; Zeph 2:1-2; Dan 12:1) and there is another that is AFTER the tribulation (Isa 11:11-12, 15-16; 27:12-13; 49:19-20; Jer 30:10; 31:8-9, 11-12; 32:37-40; Ezek 34:12-15, 25, 28, 30; 36:33; 39:28-29; Joel 2:18; 3:1-2, 15-16; Zech 8:8-9; 10:6, 10-11; 14:11).

Zephaniah presents the pre-tribulational gathering of Israel as a “self-gathering” BEFORE the day of judgement (Zeph 2:1-2 KJV). In contrast, the final return is attended by great signs of supernatural divine power (Isa 11:15-16; 27:12-13; 35:1, 6; 41:17-18; 43:19-20).

If context is duly considered, it is this post-tribulational return of Israel in penitent faith that is so gladly assisted by gentiles (Isa 49:22; 60:9; 66:20; Zech 8:23). I do not discount the possibility that certain circumstances might justify assisting a Jewish family in their desire to return to the Land. However, to assist Jews back to the Land with no clear warning of what awaits them there is reprehensible in the extreme (Ezek 33:6). These covenants of silence are shameful evidence of the church’s own deep humanism. What an irony that in the interest of recovering our “Jewish roots”, we should so radically depart from our ‘apostolic roots’ (Acts 4:20).

Yours in the Beloved, Reggie

Original Question:


I am teaching a three part series over the next three Sundays, pt 1 The restoration of Israel pt 2 & 3: The Jewish Road to Calvary

Ezek 36 does appear to be referring to ruins during the apocalyptic period just before the return of the Lord. Verse 15 states no less than three times. V 29 “deliver you from all your uncleanness” compares with Zech 12:1. Again V 33 “On the day that I cleanse you from all your iniquities.” Again V 30 “never again to bear the reproach of famine among the nations.” Then in v 36 we have “the nations which are left all around you shall know that I the lord have rebuilt the ruined places.” Ruins being rebuilt are also referred to in 10 & 33.

More than anything else, Art was probably hated for this one thing: i.e., his suggestion that these ruins are modern day Israel.

In terms of arguing the case against this premise (and I say that because I want to be solid in my arguing the case for Art’s position), can anyone point to any time in history when Ezek 36:36 has been fulfilled? Was there any such demolition during any of the three deportations into Babylon and then into Egypt with poor Jeremiah? There was no such demolition of the nations round about, was there? It was Israel that was being demolished and not the surrounding nations!

What about other periods of history? Could this verse be used in any of those in an attempt to deflect it away from the glaring reality of a coming holocaust? So, can anyone argue that verse V 36 has been fulfilled at a time prior to today? If not, then it does stand, does it not, that much of modern day Israel will yet be turned to rubble? Indeed, the fact that rebuilding is such a prominent feature in this chapter and in other books, such as Isaiah etc., the language of the prophecies are intended to imply the kind of massive building projects we see in the land today, such as never seen in all its history.

As some parts of my knowledge of the whole history of Israel are a bit patchy, would this last statement be correct in your thinking?


I am sorry to be so long getting to your question, Peter, but its importance is part of the reason I knew it deserved more than a quick reply. Above is part of a reply to some friends in Germany that have expressed concern over the ‘Aliyah’ movement among Christians to assist Jews to return to their Land. Hopefully this will address both questions.

Filed under
Amillennialism, Apocalyptic Evangelism, Bible Study, Dispensationalism, Israel and the Church, Jacob's Trouble, Opposing Views, Preterism, Prophecy, The Day of the Lord, The Everlasting Covenant, The Last Days
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