General Prophecies of Hope
With all the prophecies relating to the doom and gloom of a disobedient Israel it’s easy to come away with the feeling that all hope was lost for God’s chosen people (see the previous prophecies concerning Israel). For centuries on end Jerusalem was controlled by Gentile powers just as Jesus had predicted. Even those who typically scoff at the Bible have to think twice about the prophecies of Israel’s scattering, because recorded history proves that they were fulfilled exactly as stated. Only the power of an eternal God could control a dispersed people for so long and still maintain their national and religious identity.
Yet even as Israel was in the clutches of the Lord’s wrath and experiencing persecution all over the world, year after year the Jews kept their hopes alive for an eventual return to Palestine as they gathered together on their holy days with the cry, “Next year in Jerusalem!” Somehow they seemed to know deep down that their plight would not last forever. They believed that someday they would regain the land that was promised to them and become a unified nation again. This hope was not just wishful thinking on the part of a persecuted people. They were certain that the regathering of Israel would eventually happen, because their holy scriptures predicted it. In fact, the very same prophets that predicted the scattering of Israel into all lands also went on to prophesy of a time when they would be regathered. In the book of Jeremiah these words can be found:
“For, lo, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will bring again the captivity of my people, Israel and Judah, saith the Lord; and I will cause them to return to the land that I gave to their fathers, and they shall possess it.”
The words “bring again the captivity of” in the King James translation actually mean “cause the captivity to cease”. Some of the modern versions of the Bible translate “restore the fortunes of”, but in any case the meaning is quite clear. Sometime in the prophet Jeremiah’s future the Lord would allow the Jews to return to Israel and possess the same land which was originally given to Abraham.
It might be claimed that the primary purpose of this prophecy was to simply encourage Jeremiah’s listeners, since he prophesied of these things in the midst of the dark days of the Babylonian captivity. His words gave hope to those who still believed in the Lord by helping to confirm the fact that God would not forsake his people forever. However, the ultimate fulfillment of this prediction bespeaks a time in Jeremiah’s distant future. As we shall soon see, most of the prophecies dealing with the regathering of Israel have their focus firmly fixed on the end of the age and particularly at the time just before the return of Christ.
Isaiah had much to say about Israel’s future rebirth as a nation. In chapter 43 of his book the Lord says that no matter how far away his people may be scattered, he will still be able to bring them back.
“Fear not; for I am with thee. I will bring thy seed from the east, and gather thee from the west.
“I will say to the north, Give up; and to the south, Keep not back; bring my sons from far, and my daughters from the ends of the earth, even every one that is called by my name…”
Ezekiel also prophesied of the day that Israel would return. He likened them to a wandering flock of sheep that had strayed away from their shepherd. This is what the true Shepherd says he will do:
“Behold, I, even I, will both search my sheep, and seek them out.
“As a shepherd seeketh out his flock in the day that he is among his sheep that are scattered, so will I seek out my sheep, and will deliver them out of all places where they have been scattered in the cloudy and dark day.
“And I will bring them out from the peoples, and gather them from the countries, and will bring them to their own land…”
How can anything be stated more clearly? Some people like to label the Bible as a vague, symbolic book that is difficult to understand. However, if a person is willing to search through its pages for the prophetic writings concerning Israel, the prophecies can become as understandable and easy to comprehend as writings from any other book. The prophecies are indisputable in this area: Israel was scattered among the nations just as the Bible predicted; for centuries they were persecuted exactly as Moses described; and as we shall soon see, just as decidedly the Jews were predicted to be regathered.
Moses was actually the first prophet to predict Israel’s rebirth, and his words were written down even before the Jews had entered the Promised Land for the first time. Moses’ words add enough detail for us to begin to understand how and when this event will take place.
“And it shall come to pass, when all these things are come upon thee, the blessing and the curse, which I have set before thee, and thou shalt call them to mind among all the nations, to which the Lord thy God hath driven thee,
“And shalt return unto the Lord thy God, and shalt obey his voice according to all that I command thee this day, thou and thy children, with all thine heart, and with all thy soul,
“That then the Lord thy God will turn thy captivity, and have compassion upon thee, and will return and gather thee from all the nations where the Lord thy God hath scattered thee.
“If any of thine be driven out unto the outmost parts of heaven, from there will the Lord thy God gather thee, and from there will he fetch thee.”
This prophecy of Israel being regathered was written down by Moses at the very end of his teachings on “the blessing and the curse”. Remember from previous sections about Israel that God’s people could in essence choose their future (either blessing or cursing) simply by deciding whether they would follow the Lord’s commandments. At first this was put to them as an option that could have resulted in any conceivable future. In the passage quoted above, however, Moses predicts that there will definitely come a time when his people will find themselves scattered among the nations. He also says that after being scattered they will eventually realize exactly what had happened to them. In the end, Israel would know not only that Moses’ words had come true, but that they had indeed experienced the curse as a direct result of their attitude toward God. Moses further states that at the same time this realization occurs, Israel will repent of their disobedience and turn back to the Lord.
In fact, Moses says that when these events occur, God will do an amazing thing. He says that the Lord himself “will return and gather” his people from their captivity. Return? Yes! Even in the Old Testament the reality of Christ’s first and second comings can be seen. When Jesus came the first time, Israel was still scattered and the land controlled by foreign powers as a result of centuries of disobedience and judgment. Isaiah even alluded to the fact that this would be the case by quoting Christ as he spoke of his first coming in a prophetic sense saying,
“Though Israel be not gathered, yet shall I be glorious in the eyes of the Lord.”
The Second Coming of Christ, however, will be entirely different from that of his first coming. Instead of leaving the political and national life of the nations relatively untouched as when he walked the earth previously, nothing will remain the same when he comes again. No one will be able to escape the effects of the Lord’s Second Coming—particularly with respect to the people of Israel. According to Moses, Jesus will gather together every last believer who remains among the children of Abraham. He will then make of them a new reborn nation that will become the most prominent country the world has ever seen. From scriptures like these, there can be no doubt that the rebirth of the nation of Israel will be intimately coupled with the return of Christ.
More: Gathered in Unbelief