The Restoration of Israel
(by Bob Pulliam)
There are several passages in the Old Testament prophets which speak of Israel’s return to their land. Does this mean that Israel will at some point in the future regain the land promised to Abraham? Even if such were found in these passages, it cannot be true that:
...The return will be a fulfillment of the promise to Abraham, for we found that already to have taken place (see Covenant With Abraham).
...The nature of their possession of the land will be as Premillennialists teach (for we have found that Jesus cannot return to earth and reign in Jerusalem).
Passages Referring to "the Last Days"...
So you shall know that I am the Lord your God, Dwelling in Zion My holy mountain. Then Jerusalem shall be holy, And no aliens shall ever pass through her again. And it will come to pass in that day That the mountains shall drip with new wine, The hills shall flow with milk, And all the brooks of Judah shall be flooded with water; A fountain shall flow from the house of the Lord And water the Valley of Acacias. Egypt shall be a desolation, And Edom a desolate wilderness, Because of violence against the people of Judah, For they have shed innocent blood in their land. But Judah shall abide forever, And Jerusalem from generation to generation. For I will acquit them of the guilt of bloodshed, whom I had not acquitted; For the Lord dwells in Zion." (Joel 3:17-21)
Notice that these things shall take place in "that day" (v18). This is the "day of the Lord" spoken of in verse 14. It is also referred to in 2:31. And it is called the "last days" in 2:28. "Last days" is usually interpreted to mean the end of the world; but such is not the case in scripture.
Peter quoted from Joel 2:28-32a (Acts 2:16-21) and applied them to the day in which he was living, nearly 2,000 years ago. The author of Hebrews used the words "last days" of his day ("has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds;" - Heb 1:2). Why does Paul warn Timothy of what will be in the last days if Timothy is not going to live in them? (II Tim 3:1) The rich of James’ day had heaped up treasure in what was know as the "last days". (Jms 5:3) The bottom line?... The "last days" began in the days of the apostles.
Micah also prophesied of the "last days" (Mic 4:1ff). What was to happen in this passage? The house of God would be established — it exists as the church (I Tim 3:15); the word of the Lord would go forth from Jerusalem — which was accomplished in the apostles (Acts); the kingdom would exist in perfect peace — which came to pass in Christ Jesus (Col 1:13f). The concept of peace, sometimes causes people to stumble when they read these passages. So let’s turn our attention to a few kingdom peace prophecies.
Passages of Perfect Peace...
These are passages that generally refer to the period of time from the captives return to the establishment of Christ’s kingdom. They are usually understood to be perfectly literal references to the blessings God will heap on Israel in the end. But are they meant to be taken literally? Can they not be seen as perfectly symbolic references to the peace we possess in God’s spiritual kingdom (Rom 14:17)?
In Isaiah 10:20-34, Isaiah wrote of the return from captivity. Then, in Isaiah 11:1-10, we find a passage commonly applied to the end of time (2500+ years past the fulfillment of the previous prophecy). We should also note the symbolism with which chapter eleven begins:... Rod, stem, branch, rod of His mouth, breath of His lips, belt of His loins. No one denies that these references are symbolic, but when we get to the description of peace we let our desires to preclude the message presented.
Note also that the gentiles will seek him in the day under consideration... If it has not come to pass yet, where does that leave you and me. However we do see the gentiles coming in the days of the apostles. The kingdom, then, is the church which Jesus built (Mt 16:18f).
Another popular passage is Zephaniah 3:14-17. This passage carries the same message of peace, joy, and prosperity in the coming kingdom of Jesus. It is in the time frame spoken of above, after the captives have returned to the land (3:20).
Israel and Judah Gathered Together...
A common misconception about the return from captivity is misused often by the religious world. Many believe that Judah and Levi were the only tribes to return to Jerusalem after the captivity. The other tribes being left for some future purpose of God. The Mormons try to find the "missing" tribes of the Bible in their Book of Mormon. The Premillennialist tries to claim that the promise of joining the tribes together in the land has not yet taken place. Therefore it must still come to pass.
The truth is, a remnant of all Israel returned to the land. First, we find Benjamin actually named (Ezra 1:5), although an accounting of who from that tribe is not given in chapter two. Second, we must remember that the focus of the return related in Ezra and Nehemiah centers around Jerusalem. Judah and Benjamin (with the Levites), had been the only tribes allied in the south when taken by Babylon. That these should return first is only natural. Third, the promise of a covenant in Jeremiah 31:31ff has been fulfilled (Heb 8:8ff). This covenant would be with the house of Judah and the house of Israel (v31). These are the same "the days are coming" spoken of in 30:3 which tells of Judah and Israel returning. When did these return?... We are not told. Neither are we told when Jeremiah’s words in Jeremiah 44:28 were fulfilled:
"Yet a small number who escape the sword shall return from the land of Egypt to the land of Judah; and all the remnant of Judah, who have gone to the land of Egypt to dwell there, shall know whose words will stand, Mine or theirs." (see also Jer 3:18; 33:7; 4:7; Zech 10:6-10)
In Hosea 1:10f, we read:
"Yet the number of the children of Israel Shall be as the sand of the sea, Which cannot be measured or numbered. And it shall come to pass In the place where it was said to them, ‘You are not My people,’ There it shall be said to them, ‘You are sons of the living God.’ Then the children of Judah and the children of Israel Shall be gathered together, And appoint for themselves one head; And they shall come up out of the land, For great will be the day of Jezreel!"
We must ask, "Is there any clue as to when this would take place?" Better than a clue, the New Testament declares it’s fulfillment!
"As He says also in Hosea: "I will call them My people, who were not My people, And her beloved, who was not beloved. And it shall come to pass in the place where it was said to them, ‘You are not My people,’ There they shall be called sons of the living God." (Rom 9:25f)
The Mormons, as mentioned earlier, love the reference to two sticks in Ezekiel 37:15ff. What do those sticks refer to? They are a continuation of the prophecy from the first fourteen verses. That was a prophecy about the return from captivity (vv11f). So also is the reference to two sticks. The passages we have already noted adequately prove that Israel and Judah were both brought back to possess the land. After the return, David would rule the nation (v25), which can only refer to the reign of Jesus.
Many Old Testament prophecies can be called upon to show some future fulfillment of Israel’s return (those we have considered represent only a fraction). We have seen how these passages are misused to teach a future fulfillment of what has already been fulfilled. We have learned that God’s promises have been kept, and even seen New Testament verification in some points.