In the previous section, The Sign Posts of History, we looked at the overall chronology of the universe from the perspective of the Bible. Toward the end of that timeline, two events were listed with no further detail: The Rebirth of Israel and The Second Coming of Christ. In this section, we will examine more closely the time period surrounding these events and develop a chronology that focuses specifically on the Last Days and the prophetic events related to the nation of Israel.
Since the land of Israel and the Jewish people are the main prophetic focus for much of the End Times, it should come as no surprise that recent Israeli history can be seen to reflect Biblical prophecies made thousands of years ago. These prophecies are now coming true in our generation with great precision. Examining these prophecies and determining how they might be placed into a logical sequence can lead to a complete understanding of what will happen to Israel in the Last Days.
This process allows us to piece together the events prophesied in the Bible and fit them perfectly into a chronological map of where we are heading in the End Times. Many of these events include the fulfillment of prophesies that have already occurred from our perspective, and now become clear signals of the nearness of the Lord’s return.
Events Leading to Israel’s Rebirth
The initial events that led to the fulfillment of End Times Biblical prophecy concerning Israel began to occur in the later part of the 19th Century and the early part of the 20th Century. One of the most important developments, which would eventually lead to the reestablishment of the state of Israel, was the beginning of the Zionist movement in the late 1900s. Theodor Herzl is considered the founder of this movement, and he formed the Zionist Organization to primarily promote Jewish immigration back to Palestine. In Herzl’s 1896 book Der Judenstaat (The Jewish State), which became in effect the Zionist manifesto, he wrote of his vision of a near future, independent Jewish homeland that would be reestablished sometime in the 20th Century. The name of his movement, Zionism, was borrowed from the name of the hill near Jerusalem called Zion, which also became synonymous with the capital of Israel and the universal symbol for all those Jews yearning to return to their land.
Zionism first became a popular movement among the Jews in Europe, particularly during the late 1800s and early 1900s. Antisemitic persecutions against Jewish people (called pogroms) during this period combined with the rising tide of the Zionist movement fueled the fire that resulted in mass migrations of Jews out of Europe and back to the land which was formerly Israel’s.
The chronological map of the Last Days in this section indicates two major immigration movements (called Aliyahs) that occurred before World War I, the first one happened before 1900 and the second one happened after 1900. These Aliyahs happened during a period when the Middle East was still controlled by the Ottoman Empire, which despite these early immigration events of Jews back to Palestine, the Islamic empire was not going to be accommodating to the Jews or to a Jewish state.
However, the advent of World War I (1914-1918) changed everything. Germany (which was a focal point of antisemitism in Europe) was defeated, the Ottoman Empire (which dominated Palestine, was destroyed) and the British Government (along with the League of Nations) ended up controlling much of the Middle East. Even before the end of the war, the British government issued a monumental statement, written by Arthur Balfour, that supported and permitted the return of the Jews to Palestine (see image of this letter). The Balfour Declaration, as it became known, was issued on November 2nd, 1917 and published on the 9th of that month. It represented a fundamental shift in the world’s position regarding the Jews and their former homeland. For the first time in nearly 2,000 years, the Jews were officially permitted to return to Palestine.
Almost six years after the Balfour Declaration, a second major proclamation was made by the British government and the League of Nations, which would forever change the landscape in the Middle East. The British Mandate for Palestine was issued on September 29th, 1923, and it was part of much larger mandates in the Treaty of Versailles enacted after World War I to manage the newly conquered lands. These mandates sought to develop the terms for administering the territories defeated in the war, especially in the region from the Mediterranean Sea in the west to Persia in the east. The mandates included maps for creation of new states from Palestine to Mesopotamia, which made up the region previously ruled by the Ottomans.
The British Mandate for Palestine created the possibility that the Jews could return to their own partitioned portion of land directly within their original homeland. With the British and the League of Nations in charge of dividing up the land throughout the Middle East, the Jews were suddenly left in a position where they could return to Palestine and escape the persecution they experienced in Europe and other regions.
After the Balfour Declaration and the British Mandate for Palestine were issued, three major Aliyahs occurred causing hundreds-of-thousands of Jews to immigrate in mass back to their homeland. This made for a total of five Aliyahs since the beginning of the Zionist movement in Theodor Herzl’s time, and the fifth Aliyah led right up to the start of World War II in 1939.
The rise of Nazi Germany and World War II again changed everything for the Jews. The antisemitic persecution that they endured in Europe before this time paled in comparison to the persecution they were about to experience at the hands of the Nazis. The Holocaust was one of the worst examples of mass murder and the attempted extermination of an entire people the world had ever seen. Millions of Jews were first rounded up and enslaved and then systematically executed in concentration camps scattered throughout Germany-controlled Europe. Experts have estimated that there were over 6,000,000 Jews killed during the Nazi years.
The persecution of the Jews and their desire to escape to their former homeland caused a major fulfillment of prophecy regarding their return to Israel. As discussed in great detail under several sub-sections on Israel, the Lord’s plan did not involve blessings for Israel in this process, but an angry ripping of the Christ-rejecting Jews out from the countries where they had been living to send them back to their land for judgment. These facts often run contrary to what many Christians believe has happened to Israel in recent times. No, God is not blessing them, but gathering them for judgment in the Last Days. Even so, as a result of these events, the number of Jews in Palestine increased by over 24-fold from 1885 to 1946 as they fled persecution (see Zionism and Yishuv to compare the Jewish population in Palestine throughout this period). The Lord did rip them out of the nations and returned them to their land just as he predicted.
Ezekiel spoke of these events in his prophecy:
“As I live, saith the Lord God, surely with a mighty hand, and with a stretched out arm, and with fury poured out, will I rule over you: And I will bring you out from the people, and will gather you out of the countries wherein ye are scattered, with a mighty hand, and with a stretched out arm, and with fury poured out.”
Thus, the events on the chart leading up to the Rebirth of Israel include many periods of intense persecution against the Jews. Often these times included violent Pogroms, which were mob attacks against Jews and Jewish property. These occurred in Russia, in Germany, and in many European countries as well as some nations throughout the Middle East. The persecutions against the Jews began to rip them away from the nations to which they had been scattered and many escaped to Palestine in hopes of avoiding death. This period of violent uprooting culminated in the horrendous persecutions at the hands of the Nazis during World War II.
As incredible as it may sound, these violent persecutions of the Jews throughout the world and their migration back to the land of Israel occurred exactly as predicted by the prophets. The top half of the Chronology of Israel in the Last Days is characterized by this quote from Ezekiel, which predicts that God would rip them out of the nations with “fury poured out” and bring them back to their land. The fear of the pogroms and the hope of the Zionist movement combined to rip them away from any sense of security among the nations and move them back to their land. All of these persecutions, therefore, would ultimately lead to the historic founding of Israel and the most exciting fulfillment of prophecy since the First Coming of Christ.
The Rebirth of Israel
The most important event of this period was the Rebirth of Israel on May 14, 1948. As the main sections on Israel more fully discuss, this incredible event was the main sign leading to the End of the Age. For the first time in thousands of years, the Jews again had a homeland in the Middle East that they could call home. Their rebirth occurred not as a result of protracted military campaigns, but it occurred in a single day, just as the prophets predicted (Isaiah 66:7-8). This event is the most important sign of the Last Days that we have witnessed, as most of the remaining prophecies concerning this period involve the nation of Israel and the Jewish people living in their land.
Some have said that predictions of the soon Return of Christ have been made in every generation and that none of them have ever come true, so what makes this generation and time any different? Primarily it is because of the Rebirth of Israel that we can know for certain that the End of Days is at hand. This event therefore is the primary sign on our chronology and the one that should grab our attention and wake us up from any doubt that the Return of Christ is drawing near.
Trembling and Fear
The time period after Israel became a nation also is accurately predicted in the Bible. As the chronology chart shows, it is marked by repeated wars with their Arab neighbors and decades of constantly building tension. Both the prophet Jeremiah and Jesus himself predicted that before the end there would be a time of “wars and rumors of wars” and “fear” and “trembling” would characterize the nation of Israel, not peace. Although the Bible clearly predicts a time when Israel would be reborn and live in peace forever, the Last Days are distinct from that future promise, because Israel now is heading toward a day of judgment by the Lord, which will culminate in their true rebirth in salvation and faith.
There are many End Times prophecies in the Bible that are important to comprehend, but for a full understanding of how they will fit into the Chronology of the Last Days sometimes it is not completely clear until they actually occur. The Rebirth of Israel is one such prophecy. The Lord plainly predicted that they would be reborn in a single day and become a nation in a state of unbelief leading to Armageddon (see for instance Jeremiah 30:3-7). However, God did not provide details of how many wars they would have to fight before the end, nor did he tell us that they would finally capture Jerusalem only after winning a series of battles in a spectacular Six-Day War.
Only by living through this time period when the events actually happened, are we now able understand how Israel’s days of trouble are unfolding. Decades of wars and turmoil have been building up to a point where Israel’s enemies are becoming too strong to fully restrain them by military strength alone. Pakistan has developed nuclear weapons and Iran is nearing completion of a nuclear program and missile development that will seriously threaten Israel’s security. Egypt and Syria are becoming more radicalized and are again calling for the destruction of Israel. The Iranian leaders have stated their goal of destroying the Jewish state in a nuclear holocaust. At the same time, terrorist groups in Gaza, Lebanon, and Syria have gathered thousands of short range missiles capable of striking within Israel. Meanwhile, the struggle between the Jews and Palestinians over Jerusalem is building to a crescendo that is being debated on a global level just as the prophets predicted (Zech. 12:2).
Aspects of these events have been added to the End Times chart in ways that combine Biblical prophecy with actual news events. The two most important sign posts of the Last Days are the Rebirth of Israel as a nation and their subsequent capture of Jerusalem in 1967. In addition, the period of wars and the constant fear that the Jewish nation has endured also are key parts of the predictions that have found fulfillment during this time.
The Lord said that he would rip them out of the nations to which they had been scattered with “fury poured out” (Ezekiel 20:33-34). The prophets also predicted that after Israel became a nation that there would be a time of intense fear (Jer. 30:5). Jesus too predicted that there would be “wars and rumors of wars” in this time period, which would lead to the most severe time of trouble the world had ever seen (Matt. 24:6 and Matt. 24:21).
However, the one thing that was not completely clear in Biblical prophecy is how the Rebirth of Israel and the subsequent years of tension would ultimately lead to the start of the last seven years of this age. This final 7-year segment is commonly called Daniel’s 70th Week. Daniel predicted that there would be a concluding 7-year period that would finish God’s dealings with Israel and ultimately result in their salvation right at the end of this age (see the sections on Israel and Daniel 9:24-27).
But how would the prophecies of Israel’s rebirth relate to the start of this final period? The Bible was not completely clear on this point. This is where a bit of hindsight from our current vantage point in history can help tremendously. The relationship between the timing of the Rebirth of Israel and the start of the final seven years (Daniel’s 70th Week) could not be completely understood before our generation. Even though the prophecies definitely stated that Israel would be reborn in the Last Days, they did not provide enough information to say if the event would occur before the rise of the Antichrist, concurrent with his rise, or after he was already on the scene. Only by actually experiencing the fulfillment of some of these prophecies are we now able to place the events in their proper chronological order. In the case of Israel, it is apparent today that their rebirth happened long before the revealing of the Antichrist and that in the intervening years the world has been moving only slowly (from our perspective) in preparation for the rise of the final empire. Thus, from our current point of view in the early part of the Twenty-First Century, recent historical knowledge works to our advantage and helps us establish the End Times chronology better than any other generation in the past could have done.
Unlike some of these other uncertain timings of prophetic fulfillment, the specific prophecies dealing with Daniel’s 70th Week are clearly explained in the Bible as to their chronological sequence. For instance, it is well established that the final seven-year segment will occur immediately before the Return of Christ, and that the Lord himself will bring the entire period to a close. Indeed, it is within this one final segment of the Last Days—containing by far the greatest number of prophecies dealing with the End Times—that the overall timing of events is best understood and defined.
From the new information on this second chronology chart, we can see that Daniel’s 70th Week is marked by two equal divisions. The initial half, or the first 3-1/2 years, is primarily characterized by the Empire of the Beast, while the latter half is labeled the “Great Tribulation” from Christ’s description of the horrible conditions predicted for that time. From our previous study of this period (see the sections on the New World Order) it is obvious that these two titles are perfect as descriptions of what will happen during the final 7 years before Jesus returns.
Next: The Events Leading to the End (coming soon)