A gracEmail subscriber asks if the return of Jews since 1948 to the modern state of Israel is a fulfillment of biblical prophecy and a sign of Jesus’ soon return.
* * *
The Old Testament prophets repeatedly anticipate a time when God will gather Jews who have been scattered around the world back to their ancestral homeland (Isa.11:10-12; 52:1-10; Ezek. 36:22-24; 37:1-12; Zech. 10:6-12; 12:3,6). Many biblical scholars believe that these prophecies will be fulfilled literally. Other scholars note that the New Testament sometimes explains such literal-sounding promises in spiritual terms instead, including some of these very texts (see Acts 15:13-20; Rom. 10:15; 15:12).
Assuming for the moment that the prophecies concerning the return of the Jews to their biblical homeland are to be fulfilled literally, there is still one element which prevents me from relating those texts with any certainty to the modern state of Israel. That is the fact that these same prophecies say that when God brings the Jews back to their ancient land, he will also give them a heart to acknowledge and to serve him. Yet that was not true of most of the original Zionists and it is not true of most Israelis today.
Dr. Robert O. Freedman, president of Baltimore Hebrew University, states that the “overwhelming majority of the earliest Zionists were secular Jews.” According to Dr. Shmuel Sandler of BarIlan University, only 24% of present-day Israelis define themselves as religious and 56% never attend synagogue. Indeed, “the new Israeli,” writes Dr. Zeev Sternhell of Hebrew University of Jerusalem, “has begun to forge an independent identity which has nothing to do with the religion of his forefather and ‘divine promise.'”
God might yet fulfill the ancient promises in the most literal fashion — I disagree with those who rule out that possibility. But the prophecies of Isaiah, Ezekiel and Zechariah cited above include a vision far more grand and glorious than anything we have seen yet. That being the case, current events in Israel have no specific relationship to the return of Jesus Christ. Yet, as the New Testament Scriptures make clear, believers are always to be watchful and ready, aware that Jesus may return at any time.