A Time of Trouble – for the Gentiles
For thus says the Lord: “Sing with gladness for Jacob, and shout among the chief of the nations; proclaim, give praise, and say, ‘O Lord, save Your people, the remnant of Israel!’ … “Hear the word of the Lord, O nations, and declare it in the isles afar off, and say, ‘He who scattered Israel will gather him, and keep him as a shepherd does his flock.’” (Jeremiah 31:7, 10)
Sing to the Lord, all the earth; proclaim the good news of His salvation from day to day. Declare His glory among the nations, His wonders among all peoples. … And say, “Save us, O God of our salvation; Gather us together, and deliver us from the Gentiles, to give thanks to Your holy name, to triumph in Your praise.” (1 Chronicles 16: 23-24; 35)
For centuries the Jews have been taking the measure of the Christian world – accumulating abundant, painful proof that the followers of Jesus are out to convert them away from their faith, and even justifying their deaths if they refuse.
Jews hold this same measure about Christians today.
Tragically their take is right. They see many in Christendom embracing an End Times perspective rooted in this anti-Semitic soil. Much to our shame, no small number of we Christians claiming to stand with Israel subscribes to this twisted eschatology.
It is shocking, but many of us believe:
* That Israel will soon experience a major war with her immediate neighbours, which the Jewish state will decisively win (based on Psalm 83).
* The Arabs will appeal to Russia who – with Muslim allies – will respond with a major invasion that will be crushed by God on Israel’s high ground (Ezekiel 38).
* Even such clearly divine intervention, however, will not turn the Jews to Jesus.
* Meanwhile Christians will be ‘raptured’ – snatched away into Heaven – while together with all non-Christians the Jews will be ‘left behind’ (1 Thessalonians 4:17).
* The Antichrist will emerge, facilitate Israel’s signing of a peace agreement, and enable the Jews to rebuild their temple in Jerusalem (Daniel 9:24-27; 2 Thessalonians 2).
* This treaty will mark the beginning of ‘the time of Jacob’s trouble’ or ‘the Great Tribulation’ – a seven-year period of unparalleled horror during which two thirds of the Jews will be killed (Jeremiah 30:7; Zechariah 13: & 14; Matthew 24:21 and Revelation 7:14).
* It is this ‘Holocaust’ that will finally bring the Jews to the end of themselves. God will supernaturally preserve a ‘remnant’ of them, who will at long last accept Jesus as Messiah (Isaiah 37; Zechariah 12:10 and Romans 11:26).
* This will usher in the Millennium reign of Jesus from Jerusalem (Revelation 20:4-6).
This is the cobbled together ‘Scriptural’ scenario that festers in much of mainstream Evangelical Christianity, and even in the ranks of those calling themselves Christian Zionists.
And the Jewish people know it, as they also know that when things don’t work out according to our interpretations and expectations, Christians turn on Jews.
Jews know that most of the End Times ‘experts’ and a seeming majority in the pro-Israel Christian world are in expectation of a Middle East war or wars that will lead straight into ‘Jacob’s time of trouble’ (Jeremiah 30:7).
In pop-prophecy pundits’ publicly stated view – often expressed as matter-of-factly as next week’s weather forecast – this ‘time’ will see about ten million of the world’s estimated fifteen million Jews slaughtered, driving those who are not killed to accept Jesus and finally become Christians!
With little compassion or even concern, these ‘experts’ make the most harrowing pronouncements without showing any understanding of what the Jews have been through.
They declare, for example, that modern-day Israel will become the most reviled nation in world history, forced to endure persecution more wretched than anything Hitler ever devised.
They say that the worst lies ahead for her, an unspeakable horror that will surpass even the Nazi Holocaust.
And then they cloak it in a hope that barely disguises the suffering they anticipate for her – that the Jewish people also have a great and wonderful future because Jesus Christ will come back and all Israel shall be saved.
What a sickening misinterpretation of the Word of God. And what a terrible shock these Christians are in for.
For it isn’t Israel who is heading for a time of trouble. Rather, it’s the rest of the world that is heading for the ‘Day of the Lord.’
‘The time of Jacob’s trouble’ is over. This actual phrase appears only once in the Bible, in Jeremiah 30:7, and its context – as set out in the whole of chapters 30 and 31 of the book – is, without ambiguity, something the Jews were set to suffer while in exile or the Diaspora (as the Bible calls it, in captivity) outside their land. And they did.
Christians who talk glibly about more trouble and suffering on that scale awaiting the Jews are dismally disconnected from the extent of the affliction this nation has already been through.
Beginning with a genocidal war against the Jews by Rome in AD 70 through 135, the remnant that survived would endure incomprehensible and incomparable suffering for close to 20 terrible centuries, facing persecution so ferocious it prevented any population growth among the world’s Jews for nearly 1700 years.
This time of trouble – or period of “great tribulation” for Israel as foreseen by Jesus (Matthew 24:21) – culminated in another massive, horrifically near-successful effort to exterminate them completely during the Holocaust in WWII.
But, as Jeremiah unequivocally states, it is “out of this trouble” that Israel is saved. And it is after this trouble that the Jews are restored to their land. And so it has been.
The time of Jacob’s trouble began drawing to a close in 1882, with the beginning of the end of Israel’s captivity (or exile), when the first of successive waves of massive Jewish immigration to their ancient, desolated homeland got underway.
As the clock ticked, marking the wind down of that time of distress, we saw the ensuing liberation of the Land of Israel from Islamic rule, beginning with WWI’s ANZAC liberation of Beersheba in 1917, and facilitated by Great Britain’s issuing of the Balfour Declaration on the same day – leading to the League of Nations’ binding resolution legislating the creation of a national home for the Jews in their biblical land.
Hell’s last great effort to impede God’s purposes – through the Nazi attempt to annihilate the Jews in captivity, and through the treachery of Great Britain which, in collusion with the Arabs, sought to thwart the resurrection of Israel’s national home – signaled the concluding winding down of this time of trouble.
Its final flailing will be aimed at the Jews remaining in captivity, as increasing anti-Semitism will drive the rest of them home. They are all due to come (Ezekiel 37:21; Ezekiel 39:27-28). With their final return – once they are in their land, the time of Jacob’s trouble will be over.
God is rising to have mercy on Zion, for the set time to favour her has come (Psalm 102:13).
Concurrent with the ending of Jacob’s trouble comes the termination of “the times of the Gentiles” as their ascendance over Israel (people and land) will soon be fulfilled (Luke 21:24). And it is the Gentiles – who have trodden Jerusalem underfoot, scattered the Jewish people and divided up the Land of Israel (Joel 3:2) – who are destined for God’s wrath (Isaiah 63:1-6).
As the Almighty prepares to up-end His anger on the world – as we arrive to His day of vengeance for the controversy of Zion (Isaiah 34:1-8) – God has been restoring and readying the land of Israel as a haven for His people, an ark of protection, a place that will serve as ancient Goshen where the Israelites in Egypt were secluded from God’s plagues upon the Egyptians.
As darkness descends to cover the earth, over Zion the light is rising (Isaiah 60:1).
Here in their land the Jews will be sheltered from the fury to come (Joel 3:16).
For their safety and for their survival it is therefore imperative – and it is God’s stated plan and purpose – that the Jewish people come home to their land; to find safety under the wings of the God of Israel (Ruth 2:12).
The Bible explains in great detail the fact of Israel’s unfaithfulness to her God, and it spells out the terrible consequences to the Jewish people (Deuteronomy 28).
Like everyone everywhere, the Jews are sinful men and women. Nationally, in its history, Israel sinned grievously against God – arguably more grievously than any other nation because, unlike any other nation, Israel was specially chosen by God and He formed a unique relationship with her. She failed Him, betraying His trust and played the harlot.
All this the Bible makes clear.
But Scripture also leaves no doubt that God will blot out those national sins forever.
“I, even I, am He who blots out your transgressions for My own sake; and I will not remember your sins.” (Isaiah 43:25)
“O Israel, you will not be forgotten by Me! I have blotted out, like a thick cloud, your transgressions, and like a cloud, your sins. Return to me, for I have redeemed you.” (Isaiah 44:21-22)
“In those days and in that time,” says the Lord, “The iniquity of Israel shall be sought, but there shall be none; and the sins of Judah, but they shall not be found; for I will pardon those whom I preserve.” (Jeremiah 50:20)
Who is a God like You, pardoning iniquity and passing over the transgression of the remnant of His heritage? He does not retain His anger forever, because He delights in mercy. He will again have compassion on us and will subdue our iniquities. You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea. You will give truth to Jacob and mercy to Abraham, which You have sworn to our fathers from days of old. (Micah 7:18-20)
Israel has paid double for her sins (Isaiah 40:1).
The Jewish people have had their great tribulation – and then some. The Lord their God is drawing them back to their land to bind up their wounds (Jeremiah 30:17; Isaiah 30:26), not to permit more pain and devastation to be inflicted upon them. Suffering will continue until the end – He will punish them “in measure” – but there will be no more genocidal war or Holocaust.
He is bringing them back to rejoice over them for good (Deuteronomy 30:9). The Gentiles, however, He is drawing into the winepress. In fury He is going to crush them terribly there (Isaiah 63:3; Joel 3:13).
Christian brothers and sisters, how can we, with any integrity and sense of morality, encourage and help the Jews make aliyah to Israel if we subscribe to the fallacy that insists God is restoring them in order that He may further horrifically allow them to be punished for their national unfaithfulness towards Him?
If we believe that the Jews are being returned to their land so that two thirds of them can be wiped out; if we hold that what awaits nationally restored physical Israel is another Holocaust; if we believe that God is going to use the ‘Great Tribulation’ as a form of discipline until the Jews come to a place of repentance and in desperation call out their recognition of Jesus as their Messiah – then we need to be asking ourselves:
Who on earth do we think that we are? What do we believe our calling to be?
Since when has it been – and where is it written – that God has called us as Christians to be instruments for facilitating His discipline and punishment upon the Jews?
This is the great tragedy – that nothing less than heresy has informed Christendom’s relationship with the Jewish people down through the centuries: Israel was unfaithful to God (a biblical fact) and the Jews killed Christ (a vicious fiction). Because Israel as a nation rejected Jesus as Messiah (a biblical and historical fact), God will punish them until they change their position and embrace Jesus as Lord (a perversion of His purposes and a misrepresentation of His nature).
Christian Zionists – we need to turn our backs on heresy and understand that we are Scripturally instructed not to be instruments of discipline but instead to praise and glorify God, and to rejoice with Him as His long awaited reunion with His special treasure (Psalm 135:4), His glorious redemption draws near. We are called to encourage Israel, to be ‘Ruth’ to her.
How else can we be participants in this wondrous thing that God is doing?
We are to sing to the Lord about this – to sing with gladness. And we are to shout it from the rooftops for all to hear.
Ingathered Israel has a wonderful and secure future. Wielding the Word of God, we are to declare this to principalities and powers as an expression of our faith and belief in the Almighty’s assurances to Israel despite the obvious overwhelming odds stacked against her.
“Behold your God. He is in the midst of you. He is mighty to save! Your God reigns.” We are to proclaim these hope-filled promises to the Jewish people.
When you fight against Israel, you are fighting against the Lord. We are to publish abroad, for the ‘coastlands’ to hear, God’s stated intentions concerning His people and His land.
Addressing Israel – constituted today within the borders of the State of Israel as well as inside the areas it administers but has yet to take possession of – our message needs to be that Israel has a certain and glorious tikvah (hope).
To assert such a thing, we have to believe that the Jewish people are being brought back to their land for their own protection; not for further destruction. This is something we can say with certainty, for it is the unmistakable, unbreakable and unchangeable promise of Almighty God.
Using all the methods at our disposal, this is the promise we must convey to the Jewish people – who since 1882 are being gathered from the nations where they have lived in dispersion for nearly 2000 years, and whose national home was resurrected as the State of Israel in 1948.
Let them know our unshakeable conviction:
“God is bringing you back to your own land – for good, for blessing, for ever.”