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Hanukkah and the Mystery of Lawlessness

Every year during the months of November and December, the Jewish world celebrates the festival of Hanukkah. It starts the 24th of Kislev on the Jewish calendar and continues for eight days. This holiday remembers the historical events which took place in 167 BC during the time when Israel was under Syrian-Greek rule and the Jewish people were suffering severe political and religious persecution.

The Greek ruler Antiochus Epiphanes intended to de-Judaize the people of Israel. He forbid the study of Torah (Books of Moses) and many biblical practices, such as circumcision. He also desecrated the Temple in Jerusalem by sacrificing pigs. It is considered one of the darkest hours for the people of God.

Until finally, Israel was delivered through a bold leader, Judas Maccabeus. The great miracle celebrated during Hanukkah is that a tiny portion of remaining oil for the Temple’s menorah amazingly lasted for eight days, enough time to ritually produce a new supply of pure olive oil.

Hanukkah is not a “feast of the Lord” explicitly commanded by God in Scripture, as the events took place some 200 years after the last book of the Tanach (Old Testament) was written. Yet it still can be referred to as a biblical feast as the events surrounding Hanukkah were precisely prophesied by the prophet Daniel some 500 years before they happened (see Daniel 8 & 11). We also read that Jesus came to Jerusalem to mark Hanukkah, which is also known as the “feast of Dedication.” (John 10:22)

While this Jewish festival is generally not celebrated by Christians, Hanukkah still carries much significance for the Church, as it teaches us about the prophetic. It presents the Syrian-Greek king, Antioch Epiphanes, as a prototype of the future Antichrist. The Book of Daniel, chapter 11, begins by accurately describing the flow of history which led to the events around Hanukkah and then moves seamlessly into a more distant prophecy about a future villain – the Antichrist. While today not much is preached about the Antichrist, the Bible refers to him quite frequently (Daniel chapters 7, 8 11 & 12; 2 Thessalonians 2; 1 John 2 & 4; Revelation 13 & 17).

The Bible describes him as the main earthly opponent to the people of God (Israel and the Church) in the immediate years before the return of Christ. It needs to be underlined, however, that the Antichrist is neither a challenge nor a threat to God Himself. Jesus upon His arrival will effortlessly deal with him by the mere ‘breath of his mouth’ (2 Thessalonians 2:8). But he will represent a significant challenge to the people of God by “making war with the saints” (Daniel 7:21).

There are various names the Bible gives to him. Paul calls him “the man of lawlessness”, the “son of destruction”, and “the lawless one” (2 Thessalonians 2:1ff). Jesus refers to him as “another one who will come”, while John calls him the “Antichrist” (1 John 2:18ff) and “the Beast” (Revelation 13). Daniel refers to him as a king (Daniel 11) and cryptically as “a horn with eyes of a man and a mouth to speak great things” (Dan 7:8, 11, 20, 21).

It is important to understand this embodiment of evil, as his coming is not a mere possibility but an absolute certainty. Paul saw it as a prerequisite to the return of Jesus (2 Thessalonians 2:3) and therefore he preached and wrote about it (2 Thessalonians 2:5). In addition, according to both Paul and John, the appearance of the Antichrist is not just a singular event, somewhere in the distant future, but they saw the principles and the spiritual force of the Antichrist already in operation in their day. I strongly believe it is also very much in operation in our days. John calls this dark force the “spirit of Antichrist” (1 John 4:3) which “is in the world already”, and Paul refers to it as the “mystery of lawlessness” that is “already at work” (2 Thessalonians 2:7).

Coming back to our Hanukkah story, we need to ask ourselves how did it all start back then – when Antiochus Epiphanes rose up and viscously attacked and deceived the people of God? How did the thought enter his mind to “act against the holy covenant” and to make war with the saints?

The Apocryphal book of Maccabees gives us an answer. It indicates that the thought to do so was not triggered by his own mind as a preconceived vicious plan to go against the Jews, but it originated within the people of God. In the book of First Maccabees, we read that at the same time Antiochus came to power, “lawless men arose in Israel and seduced many with their plea, ‘Come, let us make a covenant with the gentiles around us, because ever since we have kept ourselves separated from them we have suffered many evils’” (1 Maccabees 1:11). In other words, already years before Antiochus ever came to Israel the “spirit of lawlessness” was operating among the people of God, when some thought that adopting gentile practices was better than strict adherence to the word of God.

Sadly, this appeal was widely received and a delegation took the initiative even to visit King Antiochus, requesting his approval for their apostate aspirations. As a consequence, Jerusalem became a center of Greek learning and culture in the region, and a gymnasium was built there – the hallmark of Greek civilization. All activities in these gymnasiums were carried out completely nude, and soon local performers ashamed to be identified as Jews tried by various means to ‘undo’ their circumcision.

In the meantime, Antiochus strengthened his kingdom and conquered neighboring Egypt. On the way back to Greece, he passed through Jerusalem and “with arrogance he went into the sanctuary. He took the gold altar, the lampstand for the light, and all its equipment.” From now on, Greek culture was not only encouraged, it became the only allowed option. Study of Torah, prayer and circumcision were banned under penalty of death, and the Temple was completely desecrated.

The door that “lawless men in Israel” opened to liberalism and open-mindedness, to new cultures and more modern practices, led not just to more modern and ‘culturally relevant’ expressions of faith, but it opened the floodgates to the destruction of the spiritual life of Israel.

It is no surprise that Paul saw a similar sequence of events occurring in the last days. “The day of the Lord”, Paul writes, will not come “unless the rebellion comes first” followed by the “arrival of the man of lawlessness”. He sees a falling away (Greek apostasia) which precedes the coming of the Antichrist (2 Thessalonians 2:3ff).

Paul also notes that “the mystery of lawlessness” is at work already. Both Paul and Jesus warn us about the last days, that it will not be legalism or overly strict obedience to the word of God that will be the main threat, but that “lawlessness will increase” to such a degree that people will fall away from their faith.

It should make us concerned when we hear today that during the time of the Coronavirus, the average churches in North America and Europe have lost some 50% of their attendance – including on their online platforms. “People just disappear”, a leader from Europe recently told me. While some will come back when we return to the new normal, it is still alarming.

It should make us concerned when an influential leader in the USA recently called upon his followers to “unhitch from the Old Testament”, as it is no longer relevant to the young generation of today and even steers them away from church. We should be alarmed when churches in Europe adopt transgender language for their ministries, forsaking the truth that God created mankind in His image – “male and female created He them”.

The story of Hanukkah should be a stern warning to all of us to strengthen our faith and take our stand amid the dark times we live in. But how then shall we live as everything around us seems headed for uncertainty and chaos?

The word of God gives us hope! The prophet Daniel, who himself foresaw the difficult time of Antichrist, also saw that in the midst of these challenges there will be those “who know their God.” He sees these people as not defeated and broken, but – as the New King James version says – “they will carry out great exploits” (Daniel 11:32). It will be a time of great darkness, but Daniel also foresees that “those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the firmament,” and “turn many to righteousness like the stars” (Daniel 12:3). Also, the prophet Zechariah sees an overcoming army of “sons of Zion” who will challenge the “sons of Greece” (Zechariah 9:13).

The battle we are engaged in, unlike at the time of Maccabees, is not against flesh and blood but it is a spiritual battle against “principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12). It is a time to fasten on our spiritual armor, so “that you may be able to stand in the evil day” (v. 13).

The book of Maccabees tells us that when Antiochus came to Jerusalem, his main targets were three-fold: He desecrated the altar, the menorah (lampstand), and the showbread table in the Temple.

The Menorah speaks about the prophetic testimony of the church in dark times. Let us not compromise our confession, but stand firm on God’s word. The needed oil for the Menorah’s light is the Holy Spirit, which God promises to give freely to those who seek Him.

The Table of Showbread speaks about our fellowship and communion with God and with our fellow brothers and sisters. The book of Hebrews encourages us to not “forsake the assembly, as is the habit of some” (Hebrews 10:25). Do not allow Corona to stop you from meeting with your spiritual family. Even though Zoom and Skype are inadequate substitutes for personal gatherings, these tools can still be powerfully used by God and even strengthen our fellowship. Here at the ICEJ, these tools have significantly strengthened the fellowship among our global ICEJ leadership in recent months.

The Altar is our prayer life. Both Daniel and Revelation speak about the man of lawlessness targeting the “regular sacrifice”. I believe it not only speaks about a future temple, but Satan aims to kill your regular fellowship with Jesus. The most powerful antidote for the times we are living in is to strengthen our ‘prayer muscles’. I am personally very encouraged by the increase of prayer at the ICEJ during this pandemic year. I want to encourage you also to use this time of shaking to strengthen the feeble knees and rediscover the power of prayer for yourself. Maybe even consider starting the new year in prayer with our Global Prayer Gathering (resumes Wednesday, January 6th) or Rosh Chodesh prayer vigil (starting January 16th).

Hanukkah is all about the rededication of these pillars in our spiritual lives. Be encouraged to enter the new year with great resolve to stand in faith during these challenging times we now live in. Make the decision to rebuild your altar, to have oil in your lampstand, and not to forsake the fellowship of the saints.

God bless you as we end Hanukkah and enter the joyous season of Christmas and the New Year! 

Why are so many Jews suddenly wanting to make Aliyah?

Rather than bringing Aliyah to a halt, the Corona crisis appears to be producing a surge in interest among Jews worldwide to move to Israel, and the question is why?

Israeli and Jewish Agency officials are estimating that as many as 90,000 Jews will immigrate to Israel over the next 18 months. That would be nearly double the average annual rate of Jewish return to Israel over the past decade.

In the United States alone, the number of applications by Jews seeking to immigrate to Israel in May 2020 was three times higher than in the same month last year.

There are several factors driving the Aliyah wave at present, but one of the primary reasons is the clear sense that Israel has done well so far in handling the Corona pandemic.

Looking only at the world’s Jewish population, the difference between Israel and the Diaspora communities on the Corona response is quite stark. Israel is home to some 6.6 million Jews and yet it has seen only around 300 deaths so far due to the Coronavirus, whereas an estimated 10,000 Jews have died from the virus to date in Europe and North America, where the Jewish population is just over 7 million.

Thus, Israel is increasingly viewed as being safer due its better health system than many other Western countries with significant Jewish communities. This is especially true when it comes to elderly residents of traditionally Jewish retirement homes and communities, which were hit especially hard by the Corona outbreak in the New York area.

Israel’s economy also is seen as stronger and more able to recover from the impact of the pandemic. Many Israeli workers placed on temporary layoffs in March and April are back at work, although unemployment remains abnormally high and incoming tourism is still blocked.

Israel also has shown its unique national resiliency over recent months. This is a people who have become accustomed, unfortunately, to facing a myriad of crises over the decades – including wars and natural disasters – and thus they know how to collectively pull together and respond.

Despite almost 18 months of political deadlock and three failed elections, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also took firm command of the nation’s battle against the “unseen enemy” of COVID-19 and even counselled other national leaders on how to deal with the global health menace. Polls instantly gave him a decisive boost for truly taking the reins in confronting the viral threat.

Finally, there are growing concerns among Jews worldwide about the sharp rise in antisemitism over recent months, as many are falsely blaming the Jewish people for the Corona pandemic as well as for the racial tensions rocking the US and many other nations right now.

This may be a bigger factor in the Aliyah surge than many realize. YNET published an article this week about the current Corona-related wave of anti-Semitism, calling it “an unprecedented phenomenon.” The article lamented the litany of rancid claims of late, such as charges that Jews poison wells, spread the virus with deliberate coughing, use it to kill Palestinians, and intend to take over the world through the pandemic.

The article cited a special study on anti-Semitism just released by a Tel Aviv University research center which revealed that there have been hundreds of recent instances worldwide of classic antisemitic charges and actions attributing the Coronavirus to Jews and Israel. The TAU report found that "Corona antisemitism" is not just showing up in the Middle East, but much of it comes from the United States, Latin America and Europe – where almost 20% of those recently surveyed in England blamed the spread of COVID-19 on Jews.

The recent Black Lives Matter protests in the US have added another poisonous ingredient to the antisemitic brew. In one shameful example, several white Hollywood elites bent over backwards in recent days to prove they are not racist towards blacks, yet in the process they deeply offended Jews. Chelsea Handler, Jessica Chastain and other A-listers re-tweeted or liked an old video clip of Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan decrying racial prejudice, which meant they were ignoring his long record of blatant antisemitic outbursts. Farrakhan has called Jews “satanic,” compared them to “termites,” accused them of controlling the government and Hollywood, and also called Adolf Hitler a “great man.”

And now, a leading Labour politician in the UK has just erroneously claimed that George Floyd died at the hands of a white police officer in Minneapolis because Israeli security services have trained American police forces in the technique of using knee pressure to break the necks of detainees.

No wonder Jews around the world are starting to get very uncomfortable with their surroundings. Thus, the dramatic increase in the number of Jews applying to make Aliyah in just about every Jewish community abroad – from St. Petersburg to Sydney to São Paulo. This is another decisive moment in the modern saga of the Jewish return to Eretz Israel, and Christians must be at the ready to help bring them home.

Join us in bringing more Jews back home!

Breaking the Mold

As someone who worked hard for passage of the Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995, it was disappointing over the ensuing years to see one president after another break their promises to move the US Embassy to Jerusalem. Bill Clinton, George Bush, Barack Obama – Democrats and Republicans alike – had all promised during their election campaigns to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and move the US Embassy there. Yet each one reneged on their promises once in office.

And then along came Donald J. Trump. Twenty-two years after I first drafted a bill to move the US Embassy to Jerusalem for Senator Jon Kyl, President Trump was finally the one who kept his campaign promise to give this revered city the respect it is due. It proved that Trump was no ordinary politician. And it was a great personal relief and vindication that all the work and effort put in some two decades earlier had not gone to waste. When granting official recognition to Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in December 2017, Trump specifically rested his decision on the overwhelming support that bill had already received in Congress back in 1995.

Looking back on that time, there were many in Congress who actually were opposed to the Embassy move to Jerusalem, but did not want that publicly known. They had always supported the annual congressional resolutions to move the Embassy, which passed with near unanimous bipartisan support every year between 1983 and 1994. But when push came to shove and an actual law was tabled, rather than just a non-binding resolution, it was clear that the issue of ‘Jerusalem’ was merely a political football and fund-raising tool for many politicians in Washington.

That is why, at the last minute, they forced an amendment to the bill giving the president the authority to waive its provisions every six months if he could certify to Congress that it was in America’s “national security interests” to do so. This amendment ensured the bill’s passage and yet gutted it at the same time.

The proponents of the presidential waiver authority cited two rationales which had always been used to deny the Jewish people their rightful place in Jerusalem. The first pretext was “even-handedness” – that in the midst of mediating the Oslo talks the US had to remain neutral and not prejudge a major final status issue in the negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. The second excuse they offered was “implosion” – the fear that the whole Middle East would explode in violence and bloodshed if you touched the sensitive nerve of Jerusalem.

Trump proved the second pretext was totally wrong, as the region in fact did not explode with his Jerusalem decision three years ago. And as for the even-handed argument, it too was just a mask for a deeper, hidden negotiating strategy. For years, the conventional approach among the Washington elite had always been to keep Israel boxed in on Jerusalem and other final status issues in order to limit its options and force concessions in other areas to achieve peace with the Palestinians. The Israelis might get Jerusalem in the end, and deservedly so, but until then they could not have it. This strategy was pursued on both sides of the aisle, despite all the pro-Israel rhetoric heard in the halls of Congress. And it was Donald Trump who broke free of that mold, which in actuality had been hindering peace throughout the region for so long. For it gave the Palestinians a veto power over any progress towards peace, with no pressure to ever change their position.

The Trump approach is ‘peace from the outside in’, bringing more regional Arab states into the circle of peace with Israel and leaving the Palestinians to finally come to terms with Israel’s existence, or stew in their intransigence and have history pass them by.

Trump’s positive moves for peace go well beyond his recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and his move of the US Embassy there. It extends beyond his acknowledgement of the Golan as sovereign Israeli territory. He has upheld Israel’s legal rights and legitimate presence in Judea/Samaria. He withdrew the United States from the deeply flawed Iranian nuclear agreement that endangered American allies across the region. Trump and his Administration also have defended Israelis from the constant bullying and defamation they face in the United Nations.

And now President Trump is using all diplomatic fronts to benefit Israel and ensure peace and stability for all concerned. After convincing the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Sudan to normalize relations with Israel, he stands poised to welcome another five to ten more nations into the circle of peace – including the Saudis, according to a former top Israeli intelligence officer. Even Serbia and Kosovo were told to do right by Israel and Jerusalem if they want US help to overcome their differences. And this is all without fighting any wars or paying exorbitant sums for other nations to want peace for themselves.

These are historic moves that are changing the international landscape for the better. It took a non-politician to break us out of the old Washington policy-think that Israel had to be kept hemmed in to achieve peace. And the momentum is there for even greater advances in the days ahead. But first, Trump faces the daunting task of winning re-election.

Whatever the outcome of next week’s elections in the US, we can already say without reservation that the Trump presidency has been a great gift to Israel and the entire Middle East. And I will be forever grateful that he was the one who kept his promise to honor Jerusalem.


David Parsons is an author, attorney, journalist, and ordained minister who serves as Vice President and senior spokesman for the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem;

An Aliyah family of four, soon to be six!

Each of the 1,000 new Jewish immigrants the ICEJ has brought to Israel over recent months has a unique and meaningful story on their journey “home.” For Serguei and Tatyana Fraerman and their daughters, Olga and Elizabeth, the actual trip took only four days—but their journey to Israel has spanned eleven long years. 

On May 12, the Fraerman family was placed on a specially chartered “evacuation flight” from Moscow bound for Ben Gurion Airport, with Tatyana 32 weeks pregnant with twins. It was still the height of the global coronavirus lockdown and their flight was the last opportunity for her to travel due to medical reasons. Her advanced pregnancy required a lot of extra paperwork and much persuasion with airport authorities, but they made it. 

“In my mind, I expected that I would give birth in Israel,” Tatyana recounted. “But due to the situation with the coronavirus, our flight had been delayed over and over. The time came closer and closer when I would be forbidden to fly, and we began to lose heart. How could this be?"

“Then suddenly, as if a gift of fate, we received word that our flight to Israel was scheduled. Suddenly there were suitcases, packing of things, making arrangements. Everything happened instantly!” 

“My parents died when I was nine years old, and at that time, I did not know about Aliyah,” said Serguei. “I knew my relatives lived in Israel, but I did not know if I could go there. Only at the age of 29 did I learn this was possible and began the process of repatriation. Then I met my spouse, our first daughter was born, then the second, and another stage in our life [began] with its own day-to-day problems.” 

Although the application process turned out to be long, they continued to collect all the necessary documents for moving to Israel. 

Then they learned that Tatyana was not only pregnant, but expecting twin boys. This became the pivotal moment... “We wanted the children to be born in Israel,” Serguei insisted. Yet with the Israel Embassy closed for quarantine and all airlines grounded, it appeared the dream was not to be, but then events began to unfold miraculously. 

“First, I want to thank the Israeli consul for accepting our appointment during quarantine. Even though the Embassy staff were not at work, we submitted passports through the guards, and then the consul called me on the phone. He congratulated us on being approved and apologized for not being able to inform us in person,” recalled Serguei. “Then we received a letter that our departure will be on May 12.” 

Describing his first moments in Israel, Serguei said: “At Ben Gurion Airport, we were immediately met by ICEJ staff and the Jewish Agency. Our children were presented with gifts and sweets, and we were photographed. Everything seemed to happen very quickly. l had not slept for two days before that, packing our luggage."

“To come to Israel was like a call in our blood,” he said. “Here I feel at home. Although we haven’t even traveled or walked around yet, I have many friends and relatives here. This is a good country. This is a safe place for children, and it is paradise on earth.” 

“I would like to thank the ICEJ for assisting us to make Aliyah. You help people make their dreams come true. Thank you so much for your support,” said Tatyana. 

This is now a happy and hope-filled family ready to embrace their future here in the historic homeland of their Jewish ancestors. Serguei and Tatyana are grateful to everyone who have helped them along the way.   

Support our Aliyah work »

Born In A Day

As Israelis marked their 72nd Independence Day on Wednesday (29 April), many Christians saw this as a time to celebrate the faithfulness of God to His promises. Meantime, other Christians joined with the Palestinians in remembering the day of Israel’s national rebirth as the Nakba (Arabic for “disaster”).

Indeed, much of the Christian world still struggles with the theological significance of Israel’s stunning re-emergence as a nation on May 14, 1948. Some churches have slowly come to terms with the extensive biblical credentials behind the promised ‘restoration of Zion,’ but others still cling to antiquated doctrines about the Jews being cursed to endless wandering, and Israel being totally replaced by the Church as God’s redemptive instrument in the world.

We were given a recent reminder of these lingering antisemitic attitudes within Christian circles when headlines appeared last week reporting that the Danish Bible Society has just published a new translation of the Bible which removes dozens of mentions of “Israel” throughout the Old and New Testaments. In many places, the “Land of Israel” becomes the “land of the Jews.” Elsewhere, the word “Israel” is replaced with “us”, such as in Psalm 121:4: “He who watches over us [Israel in the original] will neither slumber nor sleep.”

In the face of criticism, the Danish Bible Society has offered as its defense that the costly and time-consuming translation was necessary to meet the demands of many Danish Christians who were uncomfortable in reading a version of Scripture which might lead some to confuse Biblical Israel with the modern state of Israel. In other words, they do not want to be confronted by God’s word in their political views, so they change the sacred to protect their secularized beliefs.

Timeless Truth
In all the Bible, the calling and election of the nation and people of Israel for the purpose of world redemption is presented as an enduring truth. Further, the modern-day Jewish return to the land of their fathers testifies to the faithfulness of our covenant-keeping God.  

In Genesis, the Patriarch Abraham was promised not only a “seed” to bless all the families of the earth (Genesis 12:3, 22:18), but also the physical land of Israel as an “everlasting possession” for his natural descendants (Genesis 17:8). Thus, both the land and people of Israel were irrevocably chosen for the purpose of world redemption (Romans 11:29).

Although most Christians rightly focus on the promise of a “Seed” to redeem the world (Galatians 3:16), the land promise is equally vouched for in Scripture. For instance, the Psalmist refers to it as a sworn “statute” – using a Hebrew word meaning a decree carved in stone, like the Ten Commandments (Psalm 105:10).

So even though the Lord exiled the Jewish people from their land for predetermined seasons as a corrective measure, they never forfeited their underlying title deed to the Land of Israel. And He has vowed to deliver the entire land to them one day in abiding rest and peace (Exodus 33:14; Jeremiah 30:10; Jeremiah 46:27; Hebrews 4:1, 9).

The Hebrew prophets were servants of God’s sworn covenants with Israel, revealing how the Lord would use the relationship between the land and the people of Israel to carry out His salvation purposes for all nations. When one reads the writings of the Old Testament prophets – with their odd mix of poetry, fury, compassion and despair – the key to understanding their ministry is to realize that every prophetic utterance has to fit within the terms and conditions of the covenants already established by divine oath with Israel’s Patriarchs – Abraham, Moses and David.

Thus, the words of warning flowed from the prophets’ anguish that Israel was in breach of the conditions God placed on their right to reside in the land. Yet their accompanying joy was in realization that God nevertheless was duty bound to return them to the land again one day.

Even so, some Christians contend that the two prophesied Jewish exiles and returns were completed in the days of Ezra and Nehemiah, and that Old Testament promises of an end-day ingathering and exaltation of Israel back in her land were fulfilled in the birth and ‘triumph’ of the Church. In challenging Christian Zionists, they argue that the New Testament is basically silent regarding the ‘land,’ and thus Christians have scant biblical basis to support the secular State of Israel.

Yet there are numerous clear references to the Land of Israel in the New Testament – as the Danish Bible Society has apparently discovered to their chagrin. This goes beyond just mentions of the “land,” and includes every reference to the covenants or ‘promises made to the fathers’ – meaning the Patriarchs – because they necessarily include the land. It is not implied or inferred, it is intrinsic, since the land is subsumed or embedded into the terms of God’s covenants with Abraham, Moses and David.

In Romans 15:8, the Apostle Paul says that even Jesus came “to confirm the promises made to the fathers” – which inescapably includes the land promise. Then in Hebrews chapter six, New Testament believers are urged to take “strong encouragement” that God will always keep His promises to us, simply by observing His faithfulness to the Abrahamic covenant. Thus, if we see the Almighty bringing the Jews back to their promised land, we can rejoice in God’s faithful character and trust Him to keep His every promise to us as well under the New Covenant.

In addition, New Testament writers and figures, including Jesus, repeatedly invoked the Jewish hope of a future ‘restoration’ of their sovereignty in the land, a widely held concept drawn from numerous promises in Scripture about restoring the “fortunes” (or “captivity”) of Jacob/Israel. This Jewish hope was so prevalent in those days that the words “for the redemption of Zion” or “the freedom of Zion” were even imprinted on many Judean coins in the First Century.

It was these times of favor or ‘restoration’ for Israel that the Apostle Peter alludes to when he boldly declares that the “times of restoration of all things” spoken of “by the mouth of His holy prophets” will indeed come before Messiah returns (Acts 3:21).

Isaiah 66:8 ponders, “shall a nation be born at once? For as soon as Zion travailed, she brought forth her children.” The modern-day restoration of Zion indeed has proven painful thus far for many – Jews and Arabs alike – and more has yet to be birthed. But the reappearance of a sovereign Jewish nation in their ancient homeland is truly cause for Christians to rejoice in a God who is ever faithful to His promises.

The Dance of Mahanaim

The Song of Songs makes an interesting reference to “the dance of the two camps” (6:13), or in Hebraic tradition the “Dance of Mahanaim.” We see it illustrated in II Samuel 2 in the bitter rivalry between the House of Saul and the House of David. The commander of each army, Joab for David and Abner for Saul’s lineage, send 12 young men into a gladiator-style battle before the two opposing camps. Yet as they pair off in hand-to-hand combat, they are all struck down. Realizing it is senseless violence, the deadly game is called off. Before long, David makes a feast of reconciliation with Abner, which would have included joyous dancing.

These represent two camps that were once in opposition to one another but have now come together in reconciliation, harmony and joy.

The long history of enmity between Israel and the Church is also a well-known and bitter rivalry, but in the last three decades or so, a revolution has taken place in Jewish-Christian relations. The unexpected has happened in that millions of Christians from all over the world have rediscovered the Jewish roots of their faith and have repudiated Replacement Theology, which played a major role in dividing the two camps.

Today, Christians stand with Israel, pray for Israel, and visit Israel out of a desire to demonstrate genuine love and care for a people that have given us all that we hold dear and cherish as Christians (Romans 15:27). Truly, the Dance of Mahanaim is taking place before our eyes!

However, even Christians are divided from one another and need to come together in joy and reconciliation. It is shameful to see how much of Christianity is divided over non-essential beliefs. Paul writes that “the Kingdom of God is not eating and drinking but love, joy and peace in the Holy Spirit” (Romans14:17). That is, we should stop majoring on minors! How Christians dress, eat and act is not as important as long as they do everything in a godly manner and to the glory of God.

We should rather lay stress on the “essentials” that are under threat in every stream of the Church today. This includes such core biblical concepts as the Trinity, the sufficient and once-for-all death of Jesus on the Cross, the inspiration of God’s Holy Word, the visible Second Coming of Jesus, and the need for all people to repent and exercise faith in this finished work of Christ. We need to celebrate these things afresh and thus dance the dance of Mahanaim!

Naturally, as Paul acknowledges, we have been given by the Holy Spirit the ministry of reconciliation, “as though God were pleading through us” (2 Corinthians 5:18-20). In this instance, he is referring to a lost world that is alienated from the love of God (John 3:16). Our calling is always to go and reach this world. Those outside of Christ are deemed enemies of God and thus we need to reach them in their “opposing camp” and bring them home to the banqueting house of God’s wonderful love. In this house, we will all dance the dance of Mahanaim!

An Israel On The Rise

It has been 70 years now since Israel was miraculously reborn as a nation back in her ancient homeland. In that time, the Jewish state has faced many wars, terror attacks, rocket barrages, economic boycotts and other attempts to strangle the young nation. She also had to absorb several million new immigrants, many penniless refugees of conflicts and forced expulsions. Yet despite all these challenges, Israel is a nation on the rise.

Israel remains on an ever upward trajectory because of God’s favour, and the resiliency and determination of her people. Yet, some still expect the Jewish state to go through one last dark period of divine judgment and annihilation during the ‘Great Tribulation’ before they are finally reconciled to God.

However, the Bible assures us that Israel has already been through the worst of God’s dealings with them during their times of uprooting and exile, while their future back in the land is now bright and full of hope (Isaiah 60). No doubt, Israel will face more troubles ahead, but the Lord will deliver her out of them all (Isaiah 31:5; Joel 2:32; Zechariah 14:3). Rather, the troubles and tribulation still to come are all about God’s humbling and judging of the nations to prepare the way for Jesus to come take up the throne of his father David in Jerusalem. This was the teaching of Jesus himself in his Mount of Olives discourse, found in Matthew 24 and Luke 21.

The Eschatology of Jesus
The context of these parallel passages is that Jesus has just predicted the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem. His closest followers ask him when this will occur, and what is the sign of his coming and of the end of the age? Now we think they are asking about what we now refer to as the “Second Coming”. But they had no idea yet about the return of the Lord after many long centuries in heaven. They did not even know about his Ascension yet. Rather, the disciples wanted to know when and how he would present to the entire nation the proof of his divine authority and credentials as the promised Messiah. And they expected this to trigger the restoration of the Davidic Kingdom within their lifetime.

So Jesus is confronted with a serious challenge. He must completely reset their prophetic timetable while preparing them for the tough times just ahead. He knows that the Temple will soon be destroyed and that many long centuries of exile await the Jewish people. The Luke version, in particular, sets out two very clear and distinct times of tribulation and judgement – one for Israel in the days when the Second Temple was destroyed and the Jews were forced into exile; and a second one for the nations at the end of the Gentile age. The first would begin in their lifetime, while the latter would only occur after Israel’s judgment and exile is over. After all, judgment begins in God’s house first, among His people, before the unrighteous nations are judged. (1 Peter 4:17)

Judgment on Israel
The first period of judgment foreseen by Jesus involves God’s wrath upon Israel, which began in the lifetimes of his earliest followers and led to the sacking of the Temple and the scattering of Israel. Jesus is speaking straight from the “curse” spelled out by Moses – in Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28 – should Israel turn their backs on God. He knew that the Father had prescribed exactly how He would punish Israel for her sins, and it is through sieges on their cities that get so bad the Jewish people turn to cannibalism, and it ends in their exile among the nations. In his farewell message to the Israelites, Moses also warned that “many evils and troubles” would surely befall the people due to their rebellious nature (Deuteronomy 31:17, 21), resulting in long and painful exiles from the Promised Land. He added that this was not a matter of “if” but “when”.

This manner of divine judgment then becomes a common thread throughout the Hebrew prophets. For instance, it appears in Jeremiah chapters 30 to 33, in Ezekiel chapters 5 and 37, and in Zechariah 13.

The Lord describes the severity of the judgment which would come upon Israel in the first century by saying, “I will do among you what I have never done, and the like of which I will never do again...” (Ezekiel 5:9) This prompts Jesus to warn, “For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be.” (Matthew 24:21) The Apostle Paul later proclaims that “wrath has come upon them to the uttermost”. (1 Thessalonians 2:16) Again, these passages describe the worst that God would ever do to the Jewish people, and they all pivot around the violent expulsion and long exile of the Jews from their land beginning in the first century.

Yet it all finally ends in a national restoration of Israel back in the land that ultimately gives way to her spiritual restoration as well. History testifies that all this has taken place over the past 2,000 years of Israel’s violent uprooting and scattering to all nations. And the firm promise of God is that we are now in a time of His great favour and restoration for Zion. This is an irreversible process, and nothing can stop or interrupt it. (Jeremiah 24:6, 31:28, 32:41; Amos 9:15)

Judgment on the Nations
The second period of judgment involves God’s humbling and correction of the nations. Here again, Jesus knew that God prescribes in Scripture exactly how He will finally judge the nations at the end of the age. And he points to the Flood of Noah as the model for this, saying, “But as the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be.” (Matthew 24:37) Yet this global judgment will not be by water but by fire this time! The New Testament is clear that Sodom and Gomorrah are set forth as examples of the fiery judgment that awaits the world at the end of the age. (see, for example, Luke 17:28-30; 2 Peter 2:5-6; Jude 7).

When we read the prophetic teachings of Jesus in Matthew 24 and Luke 21, there is a tendency to cram every bad thing spoken of in these chapters into the end times. But we can actually check off the worst things predicted there for Israel, since they have already been fulfilled in their long and difficult uprooting and exile from the land. Instead, the focus of God’s wrath still to come will be on the growing rebellion among the rest of humanity, and Jesus instructed us to look to the “Days of Noah” as the paradigm for what lies ahead. For in it lies the key to unlocking the timing of “the coming of the Son of Man”. (Matthew 24:37-39)

You can read an in-depth explanation on the Flood model in David Parsons’ new book Floodgates. Order your book today!

The Miracle of Israel's Rebirth

The modern-day rebirth of the nation of Israel seventy years ago is such an unprecedented act in world history, and is considered an outright ‘miracle’ in the most classic sense of the word. That is, it could only have been achieved by divine intervention.

This is especially true in light of the uniquely dire circumstances under which Israel’s re-emergence among the family of nations took place. The prophet Isaiah alludes to these travails when he asks: “Shall the earth be made to give birth in one day? Or shall a nation be born at once? For as soon as Zion was in labour, she gave birth to her children.” (Isaiah 66:8)

In 1948, the Jewish people were still reeling from the tragedy of the Holocaust. The enormous scope and depravity of the Nazi genocide against the Jews was still being uncovered, and two-thirds of European Jewry had been gassed or gunned down en masse. Most of the surviving remnant were on the brink of starvation, and few wanted to return to their homes. They knew their neighbours had never really accepted them, and likely never would.

Such calamities were nothing new for the Jews. For centuries they had faced pogroms, blood libels, forced conversions, expulsions and other forms of religious persecutions, yet this was the lowest point. The racial anti-Semitism of the Nazis had reduced them to sub-human status as if they were vermin slated for extermination. As a people, the Jews felt they had reached a dead end.

The prophet Ezekiel spoke of such a time when Israel would say as a people: “Our bones are dry, our hope is lost, and we ourselves are cut off!” Yet God declared that all was not lost. At their lowest moment, He would assuredly “cause you to come up from your graves, and bring you into the land of Israel.” (Ezekiel 37:11-12)

The great miracle of Israel’s rebirth in May 1948 was that it happened just three years after the Holocaust ended. From the ashes of the Shoah, the Jewish people suddenly arose and re-established sovereignty in their ancient homeland. At their time of greatest weakness, they were empowered in a way that had alluded them for centuries, and it was nothing less than the resurrection power of God at work.

Even more astounding is the fact that Israel faced another very serious threat of annihilation as it was reborn. When its founding leader David Ben-Gurion declared independence for the Jewish state on 14 May 1948, it was immediately attacked by five invading Arab armies. These Arab forces were armed, trained, and in some cases even commanded by officers from some of the world’s major powers. In contrast, the international community placed an arms embargo on the fledgling state of Israel, and only one small nation – Czechoslovakia – dared defy it by supplying weapons to the desperate Jewish fighters. In many instances, frail Holocaust survivors arriving from Europe were thrown straight into battle without even shoes on their feet. Arab leaders had vowed to “drive the Jews into the sea”, but somehow Israel prevailed.

THE FOLLOWING year of 1949, the United Nations voted to admit Israel as a full member state during a time when numerous nations were securing their independence and joining the international community. Many nations were also born out of the widespread suffering of the First and Second World Wars, therefore there was great sympathy for these nations, as well as Israel. Although, Israel stands out for the way it overcame the greatest odds and rewrote history.

The Jews are the only people who have been thoroughly uprooted from their homeland to then return to that same land and re-establish their national sovereignty. You could search far and wide and still not find another people who have managed to do this even once, and yet the Jews have done it twice! What makes this all the more remarkable is that the Bible, which they gifted to the world, told us all this was going to happen before it came to be. The Scriptures declared beforehand that there would be two scatterings and two returns of the Jewish people – first from Babylon and then from all the nations of the earth.

It was this very Bible that kept the Jews together as a people during their long centuries of exile. This same Bible planted in them a prophetic hope of return and national restoration, which became the driving force that brought them back – quite literally – from the grave.

The Apostle Paul relies on these prophetic passages when he speaks of a promised future restoration for Israel in the Book of Romans. He teaches that even Israel’s scattering had a redemptive purpose for the Gospel to go out to all nations and thereby reconcile many to God. Yet when it finally comes time for Israel’s ingathering, Paul says we can expect no less than “life from the dead!” (Romans 11:11-15). That is, the resurrection power of God will still be at work in the earth when the Jewish nation is finally restored in their ancient homeland.

We live in a day when we have witnessed these things coming to pass. Seventy years after Israel’s miraculous rebirth causes us to question: Will we align with those who are trying to put the Jewish people back in their graves? Or will we be among those who are found rejoicing in the incredible way God has brought the nation of Israel back to life?

The great parallels of Passover

The great theme of the Bible is the fall and sinful nature of humanity and then God’s provision of atonement and reconciliation for humankind through Christ, the Redeemer. Sin has separated us from God, but God’s gift in the resurrected Lord has brought us back near to Him.

Temple sacrifices
The purpose of the animal sacrifices and ordinances of service and worship to God in the Tabernacle of Moses in the desert, and later on in the Temple in Jerusalem, was to provide a way of escape for the Israelites from the wrath of God towards sin into His favour, protection, life and blessings.

Again and again among the Israelites, humanity’s failures, imperfections and sins were transferred onto innocent animals to save and preserve human life. The guilty man had to bring an innocent animal to the priest, who then slaughtered it and let the man go free. The punishment for sin – death – was thus removed from upon the guilty person and transferred to the innocent animal, which by God’s command had to carry the consequences of humans breaking the holy law of God.

The blood of the innocent animals was constantly covering the altar, for the Lord had said: “I have given it (the blood of the animal sacrifices) to you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood that makes atonement for the soul.” (Leviticus 17:11)

The great warning of God had been: “If you sin, you will surely die.” However, men did sin, and death did have to take place – but it was the death of an innocent animal whose blood was poured out instead of the guilty man himself. When God saw the blood, it was always the sign for Him that His righteous requirements had been met, justice had been performed and the price for man’s iniquities had been paid. God was now free and just when placing His blessings and protection upon His righteous ones!

The ultimate sacrifice
The purpose of Temple service and the constant reading of the Holy Writings among the Israelites were also to teach and raise the expectancy in the hearts and minds of His holy people for the ultimate sacrifice to come. This ultimate sacrifice would be more than a blood covering for their sins, more than a reminder of their sins – it would take their sins away and their sin-consciousness would be changed into a consciousness of righteousness (Psalm 40:6-8, Hebrews 10:1-22)!

This ultimate and final sacrifice would be the fulfilment of all the sacrifices in the Law of Moses, would be a once and for all sacrifice performed just once, and the place for it would be in the holy mountain of the Lord – in Jerusalem (Luke 13:33)!

 “When I see the blood, I will pass over you.”
(Exodus 12:13)

 "Indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us.”
(1 Corinthians 5:7)

The Lamb of God
The true Lamb of God would arrive upon the scene and His name would be “Wonderful, Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace”. He would be called “Jesus” (Yeshua or “salvation” in Hebrew), for He would save His people from their sins (Isaiah 9:6, Matthew 1:21)! And Jesus, our Lord and Messiah, truly did come and gave himself as the ultimate sacrifice for his own people during the celebration of Passover. And not only for his own Jewish people but for the whole world…

“Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” (John 1:29)

The story in the whole Bible where the God of Israel has portrayed the power of the blood of Jesus in a narrative form – and concealed it from the notice of hardened hearts – is the historical exodus of the Israelites from Egypt.

Every family in all Israel had to take a lamb – a lamb without blemish for each household – and then kill it at twilight (Exodus 12). The shed blood of the innocent lamb was then to be taken and put on the two doorposts and on the lintel of the houses. For the Lord had proclaimed: “When I see the blood, I will pass over you.” (Exodus 12:13)

Every family living in the land of Egypt – both among the Egyptians and the Israelites alike – was in danger of having death enter into their household to rob their first-born sons. The judgment of God was about to fall on the land of Egypt because of their idol worship. We can read in the book of Ezekiel that the Israelites in Egypt also had fallen into the same snare and temptation of idol worship and thus death was about to fall upon their families alike (Ezekiel 20:7-10). But God provided a way of escape for His own people!

The penalty of death and the judgment of God could be transferred from their families onto an innocent lamb slaughtered on their behalf. Someone had to die as the consequence of their sins. But this someone was not one of their own family – not the firstborn, not the father nor the mother – but a male lamb. The sins and resulting death of each Israelite family were transferred and laid upon the lamb, and the life and innocence of the lamb was transferred upon the family. The lamb died – and the family, including the firstborn, lived!

When the angel of death was then passing through the land of Egypt destroying life among the Egyptian families, whenever he saw the lamb’s blood on the lintel and on the two doorposts of the Israelite families, he passed over. Death had already come! The destroyer then did not come into these houses to strike them a second time and the families inside were in complete safety!

Only the Israelites had been told to act in this manner. The instructions for saving their lives had come through the mouth of Moses and they had heeded the word of the Lord – and they lived! The punishment for their idol worship and sins had been laid on the lamb and the families were forgiven because of the blood.

This proved to be life-saving knowledge from God spoken through the mouth of Moses, who faithfully had delivered the word of God to them (Exodus 12:21). Then the elders and each family in turn had just as faithfully passed on the word from one family to another – and so the whole nation of Israel had been warned, instructed and as a result had been saved!

Remember: “Indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us.” Our death and hell was transferred onto him on the cross, and his life and righteousness was transferred upon us through his resurrection. When we believe, his life is in us and the life we live is his and we will never die! (Galatians 2:20, John 11:26)

The Good News
The message of the Passover lamb from Moses’ mouth spread among the hundreds of thousands of Israelites in two weeks’ time. The message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ who died on the cross as our Passover lamb has also been taken to millions of people and to the four corners of the earth in two thousand years!

The truth about His death, burial and resurrection from the grave has been preached and believed on in the nations! Whoever believes and heeds this life-saving knowledge which was in the mouth of Jesus our Lord, surely shall be saved from eternal death, hell and destruction! Jesus says: “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.” (John 6:54)

Life for your family
There is a great Saviour and Redeemer, a Mediator between God and man – the man Christ Jesus! There is life, protection and blessing for your whole family – it is in his blood!

Rev. Juha Ketola is an ordained minister who serves as International Director for the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem;

I Will Do A New Thing

As we enter the New Year, we are in the midst of a twelve-month period that is rather unique in Israel’s modern history. During this year-long span, we are celebrating a remarkable series of anniversaries. It all began in May 2017 with the commemoration of the 50th anniversary of Jerusalem’s reunification, and it ends in May 2018 with the celebration of Israel’s 70th year of independence. Never in my lifetime can I recall a period with so many remembrances of key historic events related to Israel’s rebirth. They also are significant markers for the Church and the nations. This includes:

50 years of a reunited Jerusalem
70 years since the UN plan for a Jewish state
70 years since Israel’s independence
100 years since the Balfour Declaration
100 years since Gen. Edmund Allenby liberated Jerusalem from Ottoman rule
120 years since the First Zionist Congress in Basel convened by Theodor Herzl
150 years since Sir Charles Warren discovered the ancient City of David

Now each of these numbers bears a certain biblical significance.

Fifty years – the Jubilee
The biblical Jubilee encompasses a fifty-year cycle. According to Leviticus 25, every 50th year was to be a year of Jubilee. If an Israelite landing on hard times had to sell his land or even his own self into servitude, then the 50th year represented a year of good news and renewed favour. All his original inheritance would be returned to him and he would regain his freedom. It is indeed a season of God’s favour (Isaiah 60:1ff; Luke 4:18ff), when God restores unique blessings to His people.

In modern times, Jerusalem has gone through a whole sequence of these jubilee cycles over the past 50, 100 and 150 years, indicating that there is a divine pattern of restoration and release operating over the city of God.

Seventy and 120 years – a lifespan of completion
Seventy years represents a significant timespan in the Bible. Moses gives 70 years as the lower limit of a human lifetime (Psalm 91:10). It was the period for which Israel was exiled to Babylon. Thus they spent an entire lifespan in captivity. Then after 70 years, God remembered His promise of restoration and the Jewish people began returning to their homeland under Ezra and Nehemiah.

The prophet Daniel saw that 70 weeks were determined for Israel and Jerusalem to complete their divine purposes (Daniel 9:24ff).

The period of 120 years represents the upper limit for a human lifespan. In the times of Noah (Genesis 6:3), God gave humanity 120 years to live. Moses also died exactly at this age, and no biblical figure has ever reached this age since.

Thus, both 70 years (for the State of Israel) and 120 years (for the Zionist movement) represent a season of completion and accomplishment.

The Jewish year
The Jewish calendar long predates our Gregorian calendar and counts the years since Adam’s creation. According to Jewish tradition, these amazing jubilees have occurred in the Jewish year 5777 which then turned into 5778 at the last Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year) last September. Seven is always a number of completeness. God created the world in 7 days. Jesus said that we are to forgive 7 times 70, representing complete and total forgiveness. The number 777 is one of ultimate completion. The first day of the week is also the eighth day. Jesus rose on the first day of the week from the dead and ushered in a new season. The passing from 5777 to 5778 thus indicates a new season has started.

A new Jubilee season
In general, it is wise to be careful not to over-emphasise the symbolism of numbers. The concentration of anniversaries with highly symbolic numbers, however, do bear a message for Israel and the nations.

The period of 50 years speaks of restoration and return of that which belonged to its original owner. We see this Jubilee cycle in operation over Jerusalem, as key events related to the city have lined up in exactly 50-year intervals, each ushering in a new season for its rightful owners. The discovery of the ancient City of David by Sir Charles Warren brought excitement to the Russian Jewish community and led to the very first wave of Aliyah from Russia in the years following. Allenby’s liberation of Jerusalem together with the Balfour Declaration 100 years ago brought a new season to Jerusalem’s inhabitants and laid the foundation for the state of Israel. And of course, the reunification of Jerusalem in 1967 meant the biblical Old City was back in Jewish hands for the first time in almost 2000 years.

It is therefore no surprise that again, at this year’s Jubilee, another landmark of restoration has occurred for Jerusalem. The decision by the United States to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel finally affirms what the Knesset decreed back in July 1980 in the Jerusalem Law – that Jerusalem is the eternal and undivided capital of the state of Israel. This recognition was unduly withheld by the international community until now, leaving Israel as the only nation in the world not given the right to choose its own capital. As the prophet Zechariah foretold, Jerusalem became like “a cup of drunkenness” for the nations of the world.

But this latest move by the US Administration represents a new level of international recognition for Jerusalem. It is a ‘game changer’ in the way nations will deal with Israel in the future. Other nations are expected to follow suit, yet at the same time it also will result in new levels of hostility by others. In any case, this move will significantly strengthen the historical connection of the Jewish people to their national capital. It also underlines that the biblical principle of the Jubilee is still in operation today.

A new season coming for Israel
As we mark during this coming year the 70th anniversary of Israel’s rebirth as a nation, we also can look forward to a new season, a new level of prophetic fulfilment for the nation of Israel. The general idea of 70 and 120 year cycles is that a season has been completed and now something new can be expected. The prophet Isaiah repeatedly declares a new season coming to Israel: “Behold, I will do a new thing, now it shall spring forth; Shall you not know it? I will even make a road in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.” (Isaiah 43:19 [see also Isaiah 42:9; 48:6]).

Over the past 120 years, God has already opened an exciting new chapter for the Jewish people. The headline for this chapter was “Restoration”. A poor, agricultural pioneer state has become the start-up nation that is today a world leader in medical and scientific research and can compete in innovation and efficiency with Silicon Valley or any other hi-tech region of the world. Israel also experienced a number of seemingly hopeless wars and emerged as the unexpected winner. Today it is uncontested in its neighbourhood militarily and has recently become even a strategic partner for Sunni Arab nations against the growing threat of Iran and its proxy terror militias.

Now as we enter this new season, we can expect an even deeper level of restoration. It will continue to strengthen the national and physical restoration of the Jewish State. Yet at the same time, especially after the US recognition of Jerusalem, we can expect a ‘new thing’ that goes beyond the natural and political realm. We do know that one of the greatest outstanding promises God gave to the Jewish people is that of a spiritual restoration for Israel. Almost every Hebrew prophet who foresaw the Jewish physical return to their homeland also foresaw a spiritual return to God on a national scale.

“For I will take you from among the nations, gather you out of all countries, and bring you into your own land … I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; … I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, …” (Ezekiel 36:24–27; [see also Isaiah 44:3; Zechariah 12:14; Jeremiah 31:31ff]).

According to the Apostle Paul, this also means the release of an unprecedented blessing to the entire world. “For if their being cast away is the reconciling of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead?” (Romans 11:15; [see also v. 12]).

Israel’s revival will release a new level of blessing and resurrection life among the nations. We already saw the past 120 years, since the Zionist dream took shape, the greatest Christian revival this world has ever seen. In particular, over the recent decades since Jerusalem’s reunification we have seen dramatic growth in the evangelical churches of the Global South. Today, Church growth experts assess the evangelical movement has well over 600 million believers. What a spiritual revival in Israel will mean for the world is beyond imagination.

Battles and judgement ahead of us
New seasons for the believer, new levels of glory and spiritual depth, are often preceded and accompanied by seasons of battle and even suffering.

The birth of the Zionist movement was triggered by a severe wave of anti-Semitism in Europe, including pogroms in Russia and the Dreyfus Affair in France. The state of Israel was established out of a fierce battle in 1948, and Jerusalem was reunited during the Six-Day War. Both of these wars appeared to be hopeless battles for Israel, as most military experts did not give the small Jewish nation much chance of survival either time.

Yet any new level of divine restoration always results in loss for God’s enemies. Satan will do anything to contest and stop this new season. That there is now opposition to the latest developments on Jerusalem should not surprise us. Both for Israel and the Church, it means we must not just prepare to receive the great ‘new things’ from heaven, but also brace for a new wave of opposition and struggle.

Paul states: “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.” (Romans 8:18) There will be seasons of victory but they might come at a price. Jacob’s encounter with God was a fierce battle, and he came out victorious yet also limping.

The season we are entering will see further breakthroughs for Israel and deeper levels of authority and God’s glory in the Church. But it will be accompanied by global shakings and battles that are unprecedented.

Therefore as we enter this new year, we should steady ourselves for new challenges ahead but at the same time expect great new things from the Lord. God encourages us to dream His dreams. While the world might shake, God is at the same time building a kingdom that cannot be shaken. The restoration of Israel will gather greater momentum, leading to the promised outpouring of His Spirit. And we can also expect an overcoming Church entering into a new season of holiness, authority and blessing.

Let me suggest the following action points for you to consider:

• Get behind what God is doing in the Church and in Israel. Ask the Lord what His purpose is for your life and find your place in God’s kingdom. This will be the most fulfilling life you could ever live.
• Make sure that your foundations are solid and unshakable. Be part of a church that builds your life and faith, and challenges you to believe for greater things and to walk in holiness before the Lord.
• Spend daily time with Lord, praying and reading His word.
• Carry the armour of God and use it! Our battles will increase and they are “not against flesh and blood but against spiritual principalities…” Be equipped for the days ahead!

As we enter into new and exciting seasons, let us together carry out great exploits for our King!