Today's Israel in Prophecy
Israel is the most important country in the world today. From a secular viewpoint, it is situated on the land bridge between the Asian and African continents, and it represents an island of democracy in an ocean of dictatorships. It is America's key ally in the Eastern hemisphere. Economically, it is quite a power for its size, having an economy ten times the size of that of Egypt, Jordan and Syria put together! Politically, it is front-page news almost every day. The unbelieving world is indeed interested in Israel.
But for believers, its significance is beyond measure. The premillennial view of Scripture reveals that all believers will spend a thousand years in Israel with their King, and this could happen seven years from today! In the Second Coming, our Lord will not return to just any country, but as a matter of fact, "his feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east" (Zech. 14:4). He will reign on the throne of David from Jerusalem, ruling a world of believing nations. We who have trusted Him for our salvation will rule with Him. The Bride of Christ will become the Queen of the Kingdom to come.
But before all of those happy events, there is the day of God's wrath to contend with — "the time of Jacob's trouble" (Jer. 30:7). Little Israel is involved in close to 100% of End Times prophecy.
The Tribulation period, the 70th week of Daniel, will transpire when the Antichrist makes a peace covenant with the nation of Israel. That simple statement has been uttered for quite a few years, but we happen now to live in a time when people are riding up on a constant basis with peace treaties for Israel to sign. This mere fact by itself is grounds to suppose that the time is very short before the entrance of the one who will ultimately betray Israel and the world. The improvement in the Antichrist's treaty, compared to today's peace agreements, is probably the guarantee he can give of Israel's security, presumably by his ten-nation confederacy in western Europe. He will be able to provide close-in land, sea and air defenses. Another attractive feature may be the seven-year span of the treaty, and possibly permission for Israel to rebuild its temple at last. Whatever the terms of the treaty, the Antichrist would be clearly recognizable to Bible readers by his lavish promises of peace on earth. This will be a false peace, of course, but are we not living in an age of false peace agreements? As we look at a world containing Chechnya, Bosnia, Lebanon, Ireland and South Africa, to mention a few smoldering fires, we hear of peace agreements being signed and abrogated all the time. It is actually rather remarkable to compare our times with the biblical descriptions of the Tribulation period. (This is to say nothing of the famines, pestilences, earthquakes, wars and rumors of wars, offenses, betrayals, etc., spoken of by the Lord in His Olivet discourse [Matthew 24], which is also addressed to Israel [see verses 13, 15, and 16].)
Where Israel is concerned, an uneasy peace will obtain for three and a half years, at which time the Antichrist will sense the Jewish people's suspicions of him, and will attempt to assert his authority. He will do no less than call himself the God of Israel, or in Paul's words, "Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God" (2 Thes. 2:3-4). Our Lord Himself, along with the prophet Daniel, foresaw the cataclysmic effects of this spiritual excess: "When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand:) then let them which be in Judea flee into the mountains" (Matt. 24:15-16). In all probability, the Jewish people will bolt, having mistrusted the Antichrist right along. (Some teach that the Israeli leaders will accept him as a Messiah when he first comes. I do not believe they are that credulous. Having had bitter experience with false Messiahs in the past, they are far more careful than that. And after all, when the real Messiah presented Himself, they largely did not accept Him either.)
To continue our schedule of Tribulation-period events, we have the mobilization of the world's armies, and particularly that of the King of the East and his force of 200-million men-at-arms, according to Revelation 9:16. It seems that the second half of the Tribulation is devoted to preparing for Armageddon, the world having heard enough of the Antichrist's peace plans. Perhaps when the Israelis bolt, the Chinese and the others who are watching come to the conclusion that the Antichrist is not God after all, but is actually quite vulnerable. Since he controlled the world, then those who defeat him might control the world as well. And so the fight commences as the King of the East's army literally marches to Armageddon, robbing, raping and pillaging as they go through the eastern hemisphere.
Where does a 200-million-man army march? Anywhere it likes. And so the Antichrist's forces from western Europe and theatre nations designated as the King of the North and the King of the South, arm to meet this invader in that quiet, level valley in Israel surrounding the hill "called in the Hebrew tongue Har Megiddo (Armageddon)" (Rev. 16:16). The rest of the Tribulation period is the story of battles at Armageddon and Jerusalem, about which the Lord sadly observed, "And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved" (Matt. 24:22).
The Lord's arrival at this point is, of course, the Second Coming, which initiates the thousand- year Kingdom in Israel. His first act is to judge the nations of the earth as to whether they are sheep or goats; that is, whether each citizen had a saving faith or not. He sets up a throne of judgment and utilizes as His standard — and note again here the importance of Israel — "Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me" (Matt. 25:40). Most intensively "my brethren" refers to the Jewish people, or at least to the 144,000 "of all the tribes of the children of Israel" of Revelation 7:4. Outlawed, they still testified of Christ in the world, despite the Antichrist's reign, and those who helped them, fed them, clothed them, visited them in prison, as the passage urges, demonstrate that they are sheep. Those who did not help them are goats and are bound with Satan for the duration of the thousand-year Kingdom.
If churches today who care little about Israel were put to the test of these Tribulation-period believers, one wonders if they would qualify as sheep under the Lord's standards. One can only hope that believers in this age of relative freedom, prevalence of Bibles in many translations, and no Antichrist in power to contend with, would at a minimum be able to meet the test of the Tribulation period believers.
When the sheep have joined with the Old Testament saints and the church, the Kingdom has its population and it begins in earnest. It will last a thousand years, and while there will be some sin and some mischief in the world, it will be an upside-down society compared with what we have today. To believe in the King, who may be seen in Jerusalem from year to year, at least on the Feast of Tabernacles (Zech. 14:16-19), will be the choice of the vast majority of the world. The unbelievers in the Kingdom (the descendants of those who survived the Tribulation in their natural bodies and came directly to the Kingdom — the children of the "sheep," as it were), will be as those born of Adam. They will have a choice between belief and unbelief, but those who choose the latter will be bound by the onerous laws of the Sermon on the Mount: "If thy right eye offend thee . . . if thy right hand offend thee . . ." (Matt. 5:29-30). It is at that time that the meek shall inherit the earth, and those who mourn will rejoice.
With that summation of upcoming events, we can begin to consider Israel as we see it today: as a harbinger of prophetic fulfillment.
(To be continued in a later issue)
Recent discoveries at Hazor in northern Israel may go a long way toward proving to the world the accuracy of the biblical account of Joshua's conquest of Canaan.
Most evangelical Christians are amazed to learn how the majority of modern archaeologist/historians approach the history of ancient Israel. They do not accept the record of events in the Bible as factual. From their point of view, there was no Davidic dynasty. In fact, there was no King David, no Joshua, and no Moses. They tell us there was no exodus from Egypt under Moses, no conquest of the land under Joshua, and all of the events described in the Pentateuch and the book of Joshua were imaginative stories that were written after the Babylonian captivity. For these historians, David and his exploits were also just further inventions by Jewish mythologists who felt a need to create national heroes apart from accurate history. They think that Moses, Joshua and David in Israel's ancient writings are not true historical persons, but are rather the equivalent of Hercules in Greek mythology.
Modern Archaeology Accepts Only What Can Be Proven
In effect, most modern historians assume from the start that the Bible is not historically accurate. They will only accept as authentic history what may be seen in the excavations of archaeology. As far as they are concerned, if they cannot find evidence of a historic event or person in the mounds of the ancient civilizations that they have uncovered, then that person or event never existed. They think it is unscientific to conduct archaeology otherwise, and that it is beneath the dignity of science to try to "prove the Bible" through archaeological discoveries.
Thus, these scholars have developed a "history" of Israel and the Bible lands that bears little resemblance to the history written in the Scriptures. One critical discrepancy is that they do not believe that there ever was a massive Jewish army under Joshua that crossed the Jordan and conquered the land of Canaan in a great sweep during a few years' time. Instead, the modern historians have constructed a scenario in which the Jews never had such an army, but rather slipped into Canaan in nomadic fashion and gradually took over the country through population growth during a period of centuries. A recent Jerusalem Post article concerning the ancient site of Hazor illustrates these two competing views of the early history of Israel:
An archive would shed light on the highly developed Canaanite civilization which the primitive Israelites overwhelmed — whether by the sword, as the Bible tells us, or by slow infiltration, which has become the scholarly consensus in recent years.
Not all archaeologists agree with the scholarly consensus. During the hundred or so years of the development of archaeological science, there have been several Christians and Jews who have approached their work from a biblical perspective. They accept the basic historical framework of the Bible and endeavor to place whatever discoveries are made within that general structure, rather than try to impose some new framework upon the evidence.
The Minimalists and the Maximalists
This has resulted in two approaches to archaeology in Bible lands: the majority minimalist view, which accepts only the minimal amount of biblical material as authentic history; and the minority maximalist view, which accepts most, if not all, of the Bible as accurate in its historical references.
Gradually over the years, the minimalists have grudgingly had to accept more and more of the Bible as accurate, since every new archaeological find has tended to substantiate the biblical account. The great discoveries of the Herodian structures in Jerusalem and Caesarea, for instance, and the Dead Sea Scrolls at Qumran, have demonstrated even to the greatest skeptic the authenticity of many of the New Testament descriptions of the Second Temple era.
In more recent times, excavations in Jerusalem and Megiddo (to name just a couple) have uncovered strong evidence concerning the First Temple period, and discoveries in Syria and Egypt have confirmed many of the conditions described in the patriarchal era of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. In the last few years, stunning evidence has come to light that establishes the historicity of King David and his royal dynasty. The "House of David" stone that was discovered in Dan (and which was featured in our TV series of the same name), proves to all but a few diehard minimalists that there really was a King David who founded a long-lasting dynasty in Jerusalem.
The Historians Fight the Battle of Joshua
The remaining historical battleground is the crucial period spanning the Exodus from Egypt, the Joshua conquest, and the time of the Judges. The maximalists accept all of the above as history but have not been able to produce much evidence to support this view. The minimalists do think that the book of Judges is somewhat historical. They actually believe that it is an alternative, and more correct, description of how the Jewish people came to possess the land of Canaan, rather than the account presented in the book of Joshua. One problem with this theory is that the Scriptures indicate that the period of the Judges was about 400 years (1400-1000 B.C.), while the minimalists try to compress this entire period into about 250 years (1250-1000 B.C).
At any rate, very little evidence has come to light in Israel regarding this segment of time. I think the main reason for this is that under Joshua, Israel destroyed most of the Canaanite cities and did not occupy them. The Israelis were agricultural people and for the most part spread out into the countryside. They did not try to rebuild the old Canaanite cities until after the monarchies of Judah and Israel were established. Thus, there is a gap in time between the evidence for the Canaanite occupation of some of these cities and the later Israeli occupation.
Hazor and Joshua
This brings us to Hazor, one of the main Canaanite cities in the far north of the land that Joshua conquered. It is located by the fertile, well-watered area of the Huleh Valley, about nine miles north of the Sea of Galilee and fifteen miles south of Dan. Jabin was the King of the city-state of Hazor at the time of Joshua, and he dominated the entire area of northern Canaan. King Jabin organized a huge resistance to the army of Joshua:
"And it came to pass, when Jabin, king of Hazor, had heard those things, that he sent to . . . the kings that were on the north . . . and they went out, they and all their hosts with them, many people, even as the sand that is upon the seashore in multitude, with horses and chariots very many. And when all these kings were met together, they came and pitched together at the waters of Merom, to fight against Israel" (Josh. 11:1-5).
This organized resistance was not successful, however, and Joshua's army, empowered by the Lord, was able to defeat King Jabin: "and he burned Hazor with fire" (Josh. 11:11). Archaeologists have been excavating the tel (archaeological site) of Hazor for several decades, but only recently have they located the palace of the king. The building is marked by its great size (about 90 feet x 120 feet), and a layer of charred wood suggests that there was a parquet-type floor in the palace that was burned, probably when Joshua destroyed the city.
The Possibility of Archives in Hazor
The Israeli archaeologist in charge, Amnon Ben-Tor, has discovered several clay-tablet inscriptions in Hazor. He is on the verge of excavating the royal palace, where he hopes to find archives, as indicated in a recent AP story:
Hebrew University professor Amnon Ben-Tor, head of the excavation, said Monday that the tablets and other evidence point to the existence of two royal archives at the site in as-yet unexcavated palace rooms.
They have not yet found or penetrated the archives, but hope to do so in the next season. What gives the workers optimism is the fact that archives have been discovered in the palaces of similar ancient cities in the Middle East that have been excavated. In a Jerusalem Post article, Ben-Tor explains this correlation between the palace at Hazor and the palaces found in other ancient cities:
The map Amnon Ben-Tor held in one hand was that of the royal palace of Hatzor being excavated around him. His other hand gripped the map of a palace excavated elsewhere in the Middle East.
The clay inscriptions already discovered in Hazor prove that the city being excavated is, indeed, Hazor. They also show the political and economic commerce that existed between Hazor and the other major cities of Canaan and Mesopotamia, such as Mari.
Up to this point, the discovery of archives and inscriptions has been rare in Israel,
so if the archaeologists do find a trove of inscriptions in Hazor, it will truly be a
breakthrough. The more of this kind of discovery that comes to light, the harder
it will be for the world to deny the historicity of the Joshua invasion of Canaan in
particular, and the truthfulness of the Bible in general.
A CNN executive spread some fresh air with the following remark: "News is something someone wants to suppress. All other coverage is advertising." People in the past month have been fed up with the media, which in turn was fed up with the political conventions. For the media, there was nothing to broadcast in view of the fact that, according to a New York Times op-ed piece, news organizations sell four items: conflict, intrigue, surprises and cynicism. Since the conventions were so stage-managed (other than for the sexy story about the Clinton campaign adviser), none of the above were available.
The interesting part for me was the interview of a candidate's wife, in which she was asked if she were a Christian. (I won't say which candidate or which party, since I don't want to answer 500 letters about it.) She answered that she was a Christian indeed, and she named one of the liberal denominations, to which she evidently belongs. The next question surprised me. The interviewer followed up with, "A born again Christian?" And the candidate's wife stated something like "You see, that's what I mean by rhetoric. I'm just a plain Christian." Well, that rhetoric was something Jesus Christ said: "Ye must be born again" (John 3:3). I think that those who aren't aware of the term aren't aware of Him, in reality.
Our presidential campaign, in my opinion, is almost an embarrassment in front of the world. That no better men than these would come forward to lead this nation, and thereby virtually all other nations, is striking. The candidates who ran in the Israeli election were much more worthy, and as I pointed out in a previous letter, 80% of the Israelis voted (we're lucky to get 40% here). Again, I think the media is culpable, as they are for so much else in this world. They have made such a circus out of the campaign; and they dig around for so much dirt on any candidate that it is no longer appealing for thinking people to subject themselves to such offense and betrayal, two characteristics of the End Times according to our Lord (see Matt. 24:10). I've said it before, but we must bear in mind that the media is not neutral; it is a for-profit business, directed by people who stand to make money on what the particular reporter or commentator says. It is ironic that sometimes the reporter censures his subject for prostitution when, by any definition, the reporter is also prostituting himself.
We must also bear in mind that journalists are not people with certificates of any kind from any organization. They merely look good or are well-spoken, and have no particular ability to predict news such as campaigns, the stock market, etc. It has been shown many times over that those who make such predictions are no better than coin-tossers, even though they are covered with accolades such as "Here is our expert on campaigns and elections." The media virtually encourage wars because they make money covering them, as in the Persian Gulf War or Bosnia or terrorism anywhere. I especially despise their bias against Israel, because of their sell-out to petro-dollars. Oil interests control the American media, and they will always give you the oil-sellers' line, no matter what happens in this world. While there are a few trustworthy commentators who seem balanced, in general the media is hardly worthy of attention any longer.
The media has been trying to start a war in Israel for years by blind support of what it calls a "peace process," but it has not been successful. As a matter of fact, since the Israeli election things in Israel have been in perfect peace. Terrorism can strike anywhere at anytime, Americans are finding out, but it certainly hasn't struck in Israel lately. I invite you to come and see the place in this life. (If you're a born-again believer, you will certainly be going later at government expense for a tour of a thousand years!)
By the time you get this, our Fall Festival Tour will be well underway, but there is still plenty of room on our upcoming Hanukkah/ Christmas Tour. This is always a special time of year for both Christians and Jews, and this is also our most economical tour. The Basic Israel Tour includes the major biblical sites and costs less than $2,000. It runs from December 11 to the 20th — you'll be home for Christmas! Our Grand Tour features an extended tour of Israel, including a journey through the starkly beautiful Negev Desert and a stay at the luxurious resort city of Eilat by the Red Sea. In addition to Eilat, our Grand passengers will also travel into Jordan to see the ancient, "rose red" city of Petra, as well as Mount Nebo, the final resting place of Moses. The Grand Tour will leave December 11 and return on December 26, and will offer the unforgettable experience of spending Christmas Eve in Bethlehem, the city of our Lord's birth. Please call Cynthia at 214-690-1876 or 1-800-WONDERS (966-3377) for your free, full-color brochure.
In answer to your enthusiastic reception of A Pilgrim's Journey, we are going to run these tour programs again while we prepare a new series. Many viewers have expressed to us that they have been blessed by the opportunity to accompany our Spring Tour passengers on their pilgrimage around Israel, visiting the sites where the Lord ministered during His brief time on earth. If you have not had a chance to tune in, I encourage you to catch this series the second time around. I think you will agree that these high-quality programs are worth the time and effort it took to put them together. We will make them available for purchase soon.
Copyright © 1996 by Zola Levitt Ministries, Inc., a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization. All rights reserved. Brief passages may be quoted in reviews or other article. For all other use, please get our written approval.