Well, my faithful sojourners, we’ve laid the foundation of our study by charting our course in week 1 and digging into God’s plan of the end in week 2. We now know why we’re studying prophecy, and we have a framework upon which to hang historic and future events so that we better understand the timing of Bible prophecies. If you need a refresher, or wish to review the diagram of God’s Plan of the End, click here.
In Matthew 24: 32-34, Jesus teaches us to learn the parable of the fig tree. When its branches put forth leaves, you know that summer is near. Likewise, when we see Israel (symbolized by the fig tree in Scripture) “bloom,” we know that the end time is near. Friends, Israel has “bloomed!” They ceased to exist from 70 AD, but were re-born as a nation-state in 1948! The end times are near!
To fully appreciate Israel’s re-birth, we have to understand her first birth and where she came from. We will do that in-depth in our study this week, but I want to give you the 30,000’ view today! So, put on your seatbelt and hang on. We’ve left our cruise ship temporarily for a buzz in a private jet!
In Genesis 12, 15, and 17, God made and reaffirmed a covenant with Abraham, primarily promising him descendants and land. (God’s chosen people, God’s chosen land!) Furthermore, God made His intentions very clear that the covenant would pass through the line of Isaac and Jacob, as He reaffirmed the same covenant with them in Genesis 26 and 28. Prior to God’s covenant with Abraham, there was no such thing as “Israel” or “Jews.” That covenant was the first birth of Israel.
Following the line of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the promises were passed down to Jacob’s sons. The descendants inhabited Canaan, and God changed Jacob’s name to Israel. When the land was parsed out to the descendants, it became known as the land of Israel. Joseph was one of Israel’s sons, and you likely remember that Joseph was the kid with the coat of many colors. His brothers detested him, threw him in a well and left him for dead, but he was rescued by Midianite merchants and taken to Egypt. There, he was highly favored by the pharaoh and was put in a position of being able to save his family after a famine struck Israel. However, because the people fled Israel for Egypt (in an attempt to survive the famine), they became slaves in Egypt.
God called Moses to lead the people out of Egyptian slavery back into the Promised Land. Once there, however, the Jews looked around and saw that everyone else had a king…and they wanted one too! (God was not enough!) So, God gave them their wish. Saul became king, followed by David, then Solomon, who built the Temple in approximately 952 BC.
Conflict reigned following Solomon’s death, though, and his kingdom was split…against God’s sovereign wishes. The two kingdoms were ruled, primarily, by wicked kings and before long were taken into captivity by Assyria and Babylon. It was during this time of captivity that God began revealing end time prophecy to prophets such as Daniel, Ezekiel and about a dozen others. Last week we studied Daniel’s prophecy…this week we’ll study Ezekiel’s!
What we know, though, is that the people eventually returned from captivity and re-built the temple and the city. Actually the Roman ruler, Herod, expanded Temple Mount and built a lavish Temple. Jesus’s birth, ministry, crucifixion and resurrection all took place during a short time span in this era. After His resurrection and the birth of the church (the Church Age, on our diagram), the Romans totally and completely destroyed Jerusalem and the Temple in 70 AD.
It was at that point that Jews were dispersed all over the world…first to the areas known today as the Russian and European states, then to lands abroad (including the US). Israel was no more, and there was a succession of various rulers that came and went. World wars occurred, and the Holocaust wiped out over 6 million Jews. If not dead, Jews were certainly scattered. Their culture all but died. Their language all but died. Their traditions all but died.
But God was not done, and He never forgot the covenant He made with Abraham!
“Therefore say to the house of Israel, ‘Thus says the Lord God, “It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for My holy name.”’”
Indeed, God was about to act…and that is our ultimate destination this week! Ezekiel 36-37 describes how God acted on behalf of Israel to bring her back to life!
Whew….that was a very fast trip through about 3,000+ years of history! I hope you enjoyed the ride! But the jet has landed and we’re headed back to look more carefully at the nuggets we’ll find in this week’s study.
Enjoy this week’s study!