Witnesses of Israel’s “Resurrection”
By: David Parsons, ICEJ Vice President & Senior Spokesman
“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)
As Israel prepares to mark 75 years since its modern-day rebirth in May 1948, the impact of that dramatic event is still reverberating to this day. So, what does Israel’s return to the world stage mean for us as Christians today?
To begin with, Israel’s national rebirth did involve birth pangs, as it is forever linked to the Holocaust. The ‘miracle’ of restored Jewish sovereignty in the historic Land of Israel took place just three years after the Nazi genocide against the Jews ended. The Holocaust marked the lowest point of the Jewish people’s long, hard journey of wandering among the nations. Yet only three years later, they suddenly managed to attain national independence back in their ancestral homeland.
Amazingly, the Apostle Paul declared long ago that Israel’s last-days ingathering would be like “life from the dead!” (Romans 11:15) This means the rebirth of Israel is nothing less than the resurrection power of God still at work in the earth today!
Paul based his teaching on Israel’s revival in Romans 11 on numerous Old Testament passages, such as Isaiah 6 and Jeremiah chapters 24 and 31. The Hebrew prophets describe Israel’s final restoration as a two-phase process, starting with the physical ingathering of the Jews back to the Land of Israel in unbelief, and then their spiritual ingathering back to God by a special outpouring of the Holy Spirit. “Return to Me and I will return to you”, the Lord states quite plainly in Zechariah 1:3 and Malachi 3:7. But perhaps the clearest prophetic passages on how Israel’s promised restoration would play out can be found in Ezekiel chapters 36 and 37.
In Ezekiel 36:24-28, God declares: “For I will take you from among the nations, gather you out of all countries, and bring you into your own land. Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you…”
Then in Ezekiel 37 we have the vision of the Valley of Dry Bones, where the prophet speaks of a time of great calamity when the people of Israel would say: “Our bones are dry, our hope is lost, and we ourselves are cut off!” It is as if he were looking down through time at the mass graves of Jews slaughtered in the Holocaust. Yet then God declares that all is not lost; that at their very lowest moment He would assuredly “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.” (Ezekiel 37:12-13)
Four times in two verses, God decrees He would bring Israel out of its graves. Therefore, Paul is able to proclaim: “For if their being cast away is the reconciling of the world, what will their acceptance (or ingathering) be but life from the dead?” (Romans 11:15)
For 75 years now, we all have been witnesses of the resurrection power of God at work in Israel. This places much responsibility upon us. How so?
The Apostles told everyone they were “witnesses” of the death and resurrection of Jesus. In the Hebrew mindset, to be a “witness” carries a deeper meaning than just watching a crime or accident take place. It is a much weightier matter.
First, the Ten Commandments say: “Thou shalt not bear false witness.” (Exodus 20:16) Add to this the Law of Witnesses in Deuteronomy 19:15-21, which states that you need two or more witnesses to establish the guilt of someone for trespassing the Law of Moses. But if a witness testifies falsely to the breaking of a law, they were subject to the same punishment as the crime they were accusing someone else of.
Therefore, the followers of Jesus would have taken a huge risk to go before the Sanhedrin and testify of its complicity in the death of Jesus. But if that opportunity ever arose, the 12 Apostles actually were the ones set apart to serve as witnesses before the Sanhedrin concerning the death and resurrection of Jesus, with all the risks that entailed – namely, the death penalty.
Then in Acts 10:39-42, Peter said to the first Gentile convert, Cornelius: “We are witnesses… chosen before by God, even to us who ate and drank with Him after He arose from the dead. And He commanded us to preach to the people, and to testify that it is He who was ordained by God to be Judge of the living and the dead.”
Paul makes a similar point when preaching to learned Greeks in Athens: “Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead.” (Acts 17:30-31)
Peter and Paul concurred that the resurrection of Jesus carried a message, that by it He was declared the Judge of all mankind. Therefore, you might have gotten away with your ignorance and idol worship in the past, but now you are accountable before God, and it is time to repent.
Every act of God’s resurrection power carries a message. When Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, he declared, “I am the Resurrection and the Life.” (John 11:25) When God raised Jesus from the dead, He was declared to be the Judge of all humanity, and you cannot get away with your sin and ignorance of God any longer.
So, what is the message from God in resurrecting Israel from the grave in our day? First, it is that the world is about to be judged. Just as the building of the ark by Noah was the greatest sign to the ancient world they were about to be judged, the building up of Zion is the clearest sign we are about to be judged (Psalm 102:16; Isaiah 54:9). And this judgement includes how we have treated the Jewish nation and people. Psalm 2, Joel 3, Jeremiah 30:11, Zephaniah 3:8ff and other passages speak clearly of this. Secondly, the message is that we can no longer be ignorant or indifferent towards Israel.
For 75 years now, the Christian world has witnessed Israel emerging from the grave of the Shoah and placed back in their Land, a process that is still unfolding and awaits its culmination in Israel’s national salvation. When Israel was scattered and in disfavor with God, you might have gotten away with ignoring them or viewing them as being punished by the Lord. But not anymore. Once He restored Israel in their Land, this is a new day! And we will be held responsible for our reaction.
Some Christians want to put Israel back in the grave. They are working with antisemites to undermine Israel’s legitimacy and dismantle the Jewish state. They should fear God!
But there is a much larger category of Christians who are indifferent to the ongoing resurrection of Israel. They think it has nothing to do with them. But after 75 years of an Israel overcoming so many challenges and blessing all the world, we cannot remain stuck in our ignorance and indifference. Every Christian needs to connect to Israel in positive, meaningful ways.
Having a love and concern for Israel is not a litmus test of whether one is saved. But I believe it does indicate whether you are flowing with the Holy Spirit today. After 75 years of a revived Israel, if we keep clinging to the old negative views and attitudes towards the Jewish people, or still think Israel does not matter, you risk getting cut off from the move of the Holy Spirit in our day (Romans 11:20-21). And neither will God overlook this when we all stand in judgment before Him.
Photo credits: Flash90, GPO, Getty images