By Brian C Thomas
What nation or area is in the world news the most? Without a doubt, the answer is Israel. Have you ever stopped to think, why is that? Geographically, Israel is a small nation about the size of New Jersey in the United States of America. At 260 miles long and 60 miles wide at its widest point, 768 "Israel’s" could fit inside the United States of America! Israel only extends 9 miles across at its narrowest point. Being such a tiny nation, why is Israel always in the news? Why is there so much controversy over Israel? Why does the Iranian president want to wipe Israel off the face of the earth? With all the land in the world, why is everyone obsessed with Israel? The answers to all of these questions are found in the Bible and point to Jerusalem; the location where Jesus Christ will return to reign over the earth.
The book of Luke gives an account of a conversation between Jesus and the disciples. The disciples were speaking on the beauty of the temple, “Then, as some spoke of the temple, how it was adorned with beautiful stones and donations, He said,”– Luke 21:5. Jesus responded to their description of the temple by stating, “These things which you see—the days will come in which not one stone shall be left upon another that shall not be thrown down.” – Luke 21:6. The disciples probably felt a deep sadness to hear of the temple being destroyed that was located in the heart of Jerusalem. They then asked Jesus when will this take place and what will be the sign of this taking place? Jesus proceeded by telling them of the following signs that would occur pointing to His return to earth: false messiahs, wars and rumors of wars, nation against nation, kingdom against kingdom, earthquakes, famines, pestilences, great signs from heaven, persecution, betrayal (Luke 21:8-19). He also stated, “And they will fall by the edge of the sword, and be led away captive into all nations. And Jerusalem will be trampled by Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.”– Luke 21:24. With this statement, Jesus predicted that Jerusalem would be destroyed and that inhabitants of the land would be led away into all nations as captives. Approximately 40 years after Jesus gave this prophecy, Jerusalem was invaded and destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD. The temple that Jesus spoke of in Luke 21:6 was also destroyed during this invasion. God had warned the Jews through many prophets that He would allow this to happen if the Jews continued to reject Him. Shortly after they rejected Jesus as the Messiah, this prophecy was fulfilled. After 70 AD, the Jews were scattered all over the earth where they faced relentless persecution. Everywhere they went, they faced scorn that climaxed during the Nazi Holocaust of WWII when 6 million Jews were killed.
The Gentile Age
Jesus stated that the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple that occurred in 70 AD would mark the beginning of the Gentile Age (Luke 21:24). This would be the period when the Jews no longer had control of their Holy City, Jerusalem. After 70 AD, Jerusalem was controlled by the following Gentile nations:
70 – 313
313 – 636
636 – 1099
1099 – 1291
1291 – 1516
1516 – 1918
1917 – 1948
During the Arab rule of Jerusalem, a significant event occurred that is still the center of much contention today. Construction of the Dome of the Rock was completed in 691 on the same location of the Jewish temple that was destroyed in 70 AD. But the Dome of the Rock is a Muslim worship center and is the reason for strife between the Muslims and Jews today. The Jews, of course, want a Jewish temple back in its rightful location but to do so would mean the Dome of the Rock must be destroyed.
End of The Gentile Age
As we look back in the book of Luke, remember Jesus stated, “…And Jerusalem will be trampled by Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.”– Luke 21:24. The “trampling” of Jerusalem began in 70 AD but Jesus stated that time period would eventually come to an end. It would come to an end when God had finished punishing the Jews for rejection of His commandments. God had promised the Jews that He would not forget them during their exile and would return them to their land again, the land that He promised them when He made the covenant with Abraham. He spoke this through the prophet Ezekiel, “Then He said to me, “Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. They indeed say, ‘Our bones are dry, our hope is lost, and we ourselves are cut off!’ Therefore prophesy and say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD: “Behold, O My people, I will open your graves and cause you to come up from your graves, and bring you into the land of Israel. Then you shall know that I am the LORD, when I have opened your graves, O My people, and brought you up from your graves. I will put My Spirit in you, and you shall live, and I will place you in your own land. Then you shall know that I, the LORD, have spoken it and performed it,” says the LORD.’” – Ezekiel 37:11-14. We know that God is faithful and always true to His word. Just as He had promised to Ezekiel, Israel officially became a nation again on May 14,1948 by way of the British Mandate. After 1,878 years of dispersion, the Jews were reborn as a nation just as Ezekiel prophesied.
Prior to the British Mandate, the land that is present day Israel, Gaza, and West Bank was called Palestine. Under the British Mandate, the United Nations General Assembly partitioned the land into two states: one Jewish and one Arab. This meant that half of Palestine would go to the Jews (Israel) and half to the Arabs (Gaza & West Bank). Under this mandate, it was proposed that Jerusalem would become under international control, belonging to neither the Jews nor the Palestinians in order to keep peace.
The Arabs (Palestinians) rejected this proposal for Jerusalem and invaded the city in what became known as the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. This war ended with the Arab nation of Jordan in control of East Jerusalem and the Jewish nation of Israel in control of West Jerusalem. So although Israel was once again a nation, they only had claim to ½ of Jerusalem which meant there was still prophecy to be fulfilled. Nineteen years later in 1967, Israel found itself surrounded by several armies from several nations that were preparing for an attack. Just as Israel seemed overmatched in the battle between David & Goliath but still prevailed, the Jewish nation defeated the Arab nations of Jordan, Syria, and Egypt in the Six-Day War on June 10,1967. In doing so, Israel reclaimed all of Jerusalem and the Gentile Age that Jesus spoke of in Luke 21:24 technically came to an end.
Present Day Conflict
But the Gentile era is not going away without a fight. Even though Israel regained control of Jerusalem in 1967, the Gentile Muslims still have a huge influence in the city. The Gentile trampling of Jerusalem will not totally end until the close of the Tribulation. The Arabs are still launching rockets into Israel on a daily basis in attempts to take over the Holy City of Jerusalem. Suicide bombings and other acts of terrorism are regularly reported in and around Jerusalem as the Palestinians attempt to intimidate Israel into surrendering the land. The entire world is coming against Israel with threats to give up portions of Jerusalem to the Palestinians, hoping to bring about peace. Even the United States, which has been the greatest friend to Israel over the years, is pressuring Israel to give up their city. Zechariah prophesied that this would happen, “And it shall happen in that day that I will make Jerusalem a very heavy stone for all peoples; all who would heave it away will surely be cut in pieces, though all nations of the earth are gathered against it.”– Zechariah 12:3. Through Zechariah, God warned that nations would be defeated that come against Jerusalem. The prophet Joel warned that all nations that come against Jerusalem will be judged, “I will also gather all nations, And bring them down to the Valley of Jehoshaphat; And I will enter into judgment with them there On account of My people, My heritage Israel, Whom they have scattered among the nations; They have also divided up My land.” – Joel 3:2. Christians should be praying that the leadership in their nations do not pressure Israel into giving up Jerusalem; doing so will bring doom. Satan knows that Jerusalem is the future earthly throne of Jesus and the attempts of the Arabs to overtake it are satanically driven.
Return of Jesus
After Jesus spoke with the disciples concerning these events that were to come, He began to explain that when you see these things happen, know that He is returning soon, “Now when these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near.” Then He spoke to them a parable: “Look at the fig tree, and all the trees. When they are already budding, you see and know for yourselves that summer is now near. So you also, when you see these things happening, know that the kingdom of God is near. Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all things take place.” – Luke 21:28-32. The budding of the fig tree occurred when Israel became a nation in 1948 and reclaimed Jerusalem in 1967 to mark the beginning of the end of the gentile age. Jesus stated that the generation which sees these events will not pass away before He returns.
All we have to do is look at Jerusalem and we clearly see that the Gentile Age is coming to a close. Jesus said this would mark his soon return. All of the prophecies that must occur before Jesus returns to remove His followers from earth have taken place. Therefore, we should obey the command of, “..., then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh.” We should live as if Jesus could appear in the sky any day now. We are truly a privileged generation to be able to witness fulfillment of prophecy that points to the Lord’s soon return. While we wait for His appearance, we give Blessings to Israel and to the only wise God, be glory through Jesus Christ forever. Amen.