WILL ISRAEL BE GOD’S PEOPLE FOR THE TRIBULATION?
There are several reasons for my belief that Israel will be God’s chosen people for the tribulation period. One of those reasons is centered on the fact that God dwells with Israel from over the ark, which was and will be again, placed in the Temple in Jerusalem. I believe, therefore, that the rebuilding of the temple in Jerusalem will be the first sign that God is preparing to take back His people to Himself. Let me offer the scriptural reasons for that belief.
GOD DWELLS WITH ISRAEL FROM HIS TEMPLE
In Exodus 25:21-22 we read, “Place the cover on top of the ark and put in the ark the Testimony which I will give you. There above the cover between the two cherubim that are over the ark of the Testimony, I will meet with you and give you all My commands for the Israelites”. And in Deut. 12:11 we read, “Then to the place the Lord your God will choose as a dwelling for His Name …there you are to bring everything I command you”. It is clear that God told Israel that He would dwell and meet with them from wherever the ark of the Testimony was.
God promises in II Chron. 7:14-16 “….if My people who are called by My Name will humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and I will forgive their sins and heal their land. Now My eyes will be open and My ears attentive to the prayers offered in this place, My eyes and My heart will always be there“. Of course, there was the other side of this promise, which was the promise of verses 19 and 20. “But if you turn away and forsake the decrees and commandments I have given you, then I will uproot Israel from the land I have given them and I will reject this temple which I have consecrated for My Name“.
Indeed, Israel did forsake their God and worship idols and God did reject them. In II Chron. 36:19 we read of how the Babylonians, “set fire to God’s temple and set fire to Jerusalem”.
For 70 years Israel was lo-ammi (not My people). But when the 70 years were over, God, in His grace took them back again. Is it any wonder that Israel was so anxious to rebuild the temple? They understood that it was because they had sinned that God had given them over to captivity, and that God did not dwell with them as long as His dwelling place with them, i.e. the temple, lay in destruction. So the temple was rebuilt and once again God dwelt with His chosen people.
I suggest therefore, that the building of the temple in Jerusalem will be the sign that God has indeed taken Israel back as His own.
The question now is, do we have any scriptural evidence that the temple will be built by the time of the tribulation? The answer is, yes, we do. The KJV of Dan. 9:27 reads, “”….and for the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate….”. The note in the Companion Bible on the phrase, “for the overspreading of” reads, “on the wing or battlement of”. The NIV translates 9:27, “And one who causes desolation will place abominations on a wing of the temple until the end that is decreed is poured out on him”.
The fact that the temple will have been rebuilt by the time of the tribulation is further proved in II Thess. 2:4, “Who (the antichrist -see verse 3) opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the Temple of God, shewing himself that he is God”.
Yet another passage which tells us that the temple will be rebuilt by the time of the tribulation is found in Daniel 8:13-14, “Then I heard one saint speaking and another saint said unto that certain saint which spake, ‘How long shall be the vision concerning the daily sacrifice, and the transgression of desolation, to give both the sanctuary and the host to be trodden under foot? And he said unto me, ‘Unto two thousand and three hundred days; then shall the sanctuary be cleansed”. Obviously, if the sanctuary is to be “trodden under foot” again, it must be rebuilt before hand.
We know from the Scriptural passages quoted above that the temple will indeed have been rebuilt at the time of the tribulation. Therefore, because God dwells with Israel from His temple, and the temple will have been rebuilt by the time of the tribulation, we may conclude that God will once again be dwelling with His people, Israel. That is to say, Israel will have been taken back as God’s people before the tribulation.
THE TRIBULATION IS CENTERED ON ISRAEL
We read in Jer. 30:7, “Alas! For that day is great, so that none is like it: it is even the time of Jacob’s trouble“. How do we know that this verse is in reference to the tribulation? We know because we read in Matt. 24:21, “For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no nor ever shall be”. Jeremiah tells us that there will be none like this period of Jacob’s trouble, and Matthew tells us that there never was or will be a time like the “great tribulation”. By comparing Scripture with Scripture we may conclude that Jeremiah speaks of the great tribulation which he refers to as “Jacob’s trouble”.
Matt. 24:21 is a quote from Dan. 12:1, “And at that time shall Michael stand up, the great prince which standeth for the children of thy People: and there shall be a time of trouble such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time: and at that time thy People shall be delivered every one that shall be found written in the book”. The phrase “a time of trouble such as never was” tells us that this verse is about the tribulation. . And from the phrase, “thy People” (i.e. Daniel’s People, Israel), we learn that the tribulation will be very Israel centered
THE PURPOSE OF THE TRIBULATION
We read in Rev. 3:10, “Because thou hast kept the word of My patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world to try them that dwell upon the earth“. The Greek word translated “world” is “oikoumenee” and means “inhabited earth”. Dr. E.W. Bullinger describes it as “the Roman empire”. The word translated “earth” is “ge” and means earth as opposed to heaven, or land, i.e. a nation. It’s usage must be determined from the context. Because the “temptation” will come upon a portion of the earth, i.e. the area that was once the Roman Empire, obviously, those tried will not be those of the whole earth. Therefore, the last phrase of Rev. 3:10 refers to the tribulation “which shall come upon the inhabited earth (the area once referred to as the “Roman empire”) to test them that dwell in the land. The land referred to here is, of course, Israel. For a complete study of the Greek words “oikoumenee” and “ge” please see the paper on the geographic limits of the tribulation.
I believe that the purpose of the tribulation is very clearly stated. It is to test Israel to determine who will be true to God and who will worship the antichrist. When Israel was lo-ammi in the Babylonian captivity they were punished, but not tested. If we are to learn from the Scriptures that tell of that period, I believe we will learn that God does not test Israel when they are not His.
THE PARENTHETICAL PERIOD OF THE DISPENSATION OF THE MYSTERY
Continuing with reasons for my belief that Israel will be God’s people at the time of the tribulation, let us consider the question in regard to Israel while our Lord was on earth. It is clear that Israel was God’s people at that time. But the 70th week did not begin in that generation because Israel was put aside as God’s people at Acts 28, when Israel’s leaders rejected their risen Messiah. We speak of a parenthetical period of the dispensation of the mystery, in which Israel is lo-ammi and the church, which is His body is being built. When that parenthetical period ends, the situation concerning Israel’s status in relationship with Her God will be the same as it was at the beginning of that period. That is to say, because Israel was God’s people before the parenthetical period, I believe they will be His people after the end of the parenthetical period.
ESCAPE FROM THE TRIBULATION
Jer. 30:7, “Alas! For that day is great, so that none is like it: it is even the time of Jacob’s trouble; but he shall be saved out of it“.
Jer. 31:2, “Thus saith the Lord, ‘The People which were left of the sword found grace in the wilderness; even Israel, when I went to cause him to rest”. The “grace in the wilderness” is a reference to Rev. 12:13-14, “And when the dragon saw that he was cast unto the earth, he persecuted the woman which brought forth the man child. And to the woman were given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness into her place, where she is nourished for a time, and times, and half a time, from the face of the serpent”. The place in the wilderness to which Israel should flee had been spoken of by Jeremiah. That safe place had been prepared for Israel when Israel was God’s people. That being the case, I believe that at the time it will be used, i.e. the tribulation, Israel will be God’s people.
THE BOOK OF REVELATION
The book of Revelation speaks more about the tribulation than any other book in the Bible. It is also the most Israel centered book in the New Testament. Proof of that statement abounds. For example, we read in 1:5-6, “To Him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by His blood, and has made us to be a kingdom of priests to serve His God and Father….”. When we read Exodus 19:6 we will see that it is to Israel that the Revelation is addressed. Ex. 19:3 reads, “Then Moses went up to God, and the Lord called up to him and said, ‘This is what you are to say to the house of Jacob and what you are to tell the people of Israel“. And Ex. 19:6 reads, although the whole world is Mine you will be for Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation”.
We read in Rev. 1:5-6 that the kingdom of priests is Israel. We cannot apply this phrase to the Church which is His Body (not a nation) without doing a great injustice to the written Word of God. This is not to say, of course, that when we read in Rev. 1:5, “to Him who loves us and has freed us from our sins through His blood…” that only Israel was so blessed. Of course not! It does tell us however, that John’s revelation was written specifically to Israel.
The Jewish character of Revelation is another clue that points to the fact that it was written to and about Israel. Consider, for example, the number of Old Testament quotations and references found in it. In the Gospel of Matthew (the Hebrew Gospel) there are 92 references to the Old Testament. In Hebrews there are 102 and in Revelation there are 285.
In my opinion, it is most logical to conclude that the most Israel centered book in the New Testament is written to and about a nation that will be God’s people for the period about which that book centers. Let me put that another way for clarity. Revelation is the most Israel centered book in the New Testament. Revelation is the book that has the most to say about the tribulation. It is only logical to conclude that the tribulation is about a nation that will have been taken back by God.
THE NEW COVENANT
There are those who believe that the New Covenant is the indication of God taking Israel back as His own. The New Covenant, as described in Jer. 31:33 is that the Lord says that He will, “put My law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts: and I will be their God, and they shall be My people“. Let us consider the last phrase of this quote, “I will be their God and they shall be My people”.
We must bear in mind that the dispensation of the mystery was not part of prophecy. Because the beginning of the present dispensation was not prophesied, obviously, the end was not prophesied. So when God says in Jeremiah 31 that He will be their God and they will be His people, He is not referring to taking them back after the dispensation of the mystery, He is talking about a relationship that will not change once the New Covenant is put into effect.
IS IT REQUIRED OF ISRAEL TO REPENT BEFORE GOD WOULD TAKE HER BACK?
Many quote Lev. 26 and insist that Israel could not be taken back as God’s people until Israel repents. Let us look at that passage. We read in Lev. 26:23, “But if ye will not hearken unto Me, and will not do all these commandments…….I will do this unto you….”. After explaining all that will befall Israel if they do not obey God’s commandments (the Mosaic Law) we read in verse 40 what Israel must do to regain favor in God’s sight. “If they shall confess their iniquity, and the iniquity of their fathers, with their trespass which they trespassed against Me, and that also they have walked contrary unto Me”.
Does this mean that Israel cannot be taken back by God until Israel has repented? If it does, then Israel cannot be taken back until the second coming of Christ because it is not until then that Israel repents. How do we know that? We know that from Rev. 1:7 which reads, “Behold, He cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see Him, and they also which pierced Him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of Him….”. But there are several scriptures quoted in the sections above which tell us that Israel will be taken back for the tribulation. We know that there are no contradictions in the Word of God. We must therefore, look more deeply into this question.
For what will Israel repent at the second coming of Christ? Let us consider once again Rev. 1:7, “Behold, He cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see Him, and they also which pierced Him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of Him….”. The phrase “they also which pierced Him” takes us to Zech.. 12:10, “….and they shall look upon Me Whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for Him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for Him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn”. The mourning of Israel will be for the sin of having crucified Christ. But that sin had already been forgiven. How do we know that? We know that form the fact that Christ asked the Father’s forgiveness for them as He hung on the cross when He prayed, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do”. We know that that prayer was answered because all during the Acts period, the message of the risen Christ was sent first to Israel.
So Israel does not need to repent in order to be taken back because Her sin of crucifying Christ had already been forgiven Her.
But Israel was not put aside because She crucified Christ, She was put aside because of Her continuing rejection of the risen Christ during the Acts period. Does that mean that according to Lev. 26 She must repent of that sin before She is taken back by God? I think not. We must re-consider the terms of the old covenant as recorded in Lev. 26. “But if ye will not hearken unto Me, and will not do all these commandments….”. Note that the terms of the covenant center on Israel’s faithfulness to obeying the commandments. As terrible a crime as it was, the rejection of Christ was not part of the terms of the old covenant. God does not make up new rules to fit the circumstances. He told Israel what would happen if they disobeyed His commandments. Those commandments did not include their acceptance or rejection of Christ, therefore it is not part of the old covenant.
There is therefore, no Scriptural evidence to conclude that Israel will not be God’s people when the end times begin. And there is a great deal of evidence to conclude that they will be God’s people for the tribulation.
This paper was written by Joyce Pollard. If you would like to respond to the opinions expressed in this paper you may e-mail me at: firstname.lastname@example.org