A comprehensive Christology ends with a clarified Eschatology and the Bible itself is a proof for such a claim. In this article, I have tried my best to bring both together in alignment with Jesus Christ’s prophetical claims about the end times and the course of the nation of Israel of our times. Biblical Eschatology and the Nationhood of Israel would certainly demand a book and a much deeper knowledge on the subject to present, this is an attempt just to see what God wants to convey through the modern nation of Israel since it’s also a call by Jesus Christ himself to be aware of the signs of our times (Matthew 16:23). Jesus especially points to the nation Israel throughout his teaching about end times and his second coming (Luke 21: 29-33). Recently I saw a video in which the orthodox Jews and the priests are dedicating the altar for the third temple, this certainly is a vivid sign to capture and know the times we are living in and I was inspired to write an article on the “Aliyah” of the Jews and the impact it is going to have on the world in the days to come in the light of the scriptures.
‘Aliyah’ is one of the most important words for a Jew. It signifies ‘ascent’ and simply means the act of going up to the Land of Israel (Eretz Israel) by the Jewish Diaspora from the lands of immigration over the centuries. For any believing Jew, this word gives an aspiration to their dreams and the ultimate destiny of any Jew living in any part of the world to be in the Land God promised their forefather Abraham and his descendants, and to prepare for the visitation of the Messiah or the deliverer of his people Israel. To describe Aliyah in a simple way, it is the return of Jews from their exile back to the Promised Land. It’s a significant time to write on the Jewish Aliyah when the nation celebrates its 71st independence day this month.
It all began when Abraham was called by God to the land of Canaan where he would bless him and give the land to him and his offspring (Genesis 12:1-6, Genesis 15:18-21). It’s important to note that soon as he reached the Promised Land, Abraham built an altar and worshipped the Lord. This is the beginning of many future Aliyahs. Even though God had promised the land for Abraham and his descendants that is the people of Israel, he also told them that he will scatter them when they disobey (Deuteronomy 28:62-65). So throughout the history of Israel, the scattering and gathering was periodically happening. When they were scattered others occupied the land and when they gathered in the promised land there was always a conflict with others we can see that in the books of the Bible. The Promised Land is very central to the faith and existence of Israel that scattering is a sign of punishment and gathering is seen as God’s mercy and restoration. Thus the identity of Israel is strongly rooted in the Promised Land.
Two important moments of Aliyah in the Bible is the Exodus from the bondage of Egypt under the leadership of Moses and Joshua, and the return from Babylonian captivity under Zerubbabel, Ezra and Nehemiah. We see that on the return from Egypt Moses receives the format for the tabernacle or the place of worship which was a temporary structure, it was King Solomon who built the first temple in Jerusalem, a permanent structure. In the case of Zerubbabel, their return or Aliyah ended with the people of Israel raising an altar, then the second temple as a place of worship for their YHWH. We can summarize that they were scattered hopelessly but they returned with Zeal for their nation and God whenever they returned back. So the temple or the place of worship is the central agenda of their every return. It’s good to remember that Jesus entered the temple that was built under the leadership of Zerubbabel and refurbished by King Herod.
Throughout the history of the people of Israel from the times of Abraham till now the constant scattering and gathering were happening. It was under King David the Israelites occupied the whole Promised Land, yet the scattering after the twin kingdoms of Judah and Israel a sizeable remnant were still in the land even in the midst of exile of a large group of people.
Jesus when he lived on this earth revealed the heart of God in restoring Israel in Matthew 23:37 “”Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing”. He knew that it is through him that Israel would be restored to its promised glory along with the whole world. Jesus also promised about his rejection by the Jewish people and the subsequent destruction (Mark 10:33 & Mark 13:1-2). Both prophecies were fulfilled, Jesus was rejected by the powerful section of the Jews as the Messiah and as the son of God or the deliverer and prince of peace of the people of Israel and the world. The Second Temple was also destroyed in 70 C.E under the Roman Emperor Titus to suppress a rebellion.
It is significant to know that under the Greeks and the Romans with the expansion of sea and land routes the Jews did spread across the world for the reasons of trade, education, and political governance for various empires between 300 BC-2A.D. This is the Diaspora that persecuted the Christians all along the early centuries in the middle east, Asia Minor and Europe. The Christian persecution of Jews began with Jesus and his disciples in Judea and this also led to a scattering of a different kind before the Titus Era where Jews were largely scattered. It’s important to know that almost for 3000 years even after the return from Babylon, Israel as a nation under a single leader didn’t come to a reality. And more than 2000 years since the central idea of worship ceased to exist.
The Last two thousand years history of Jewish Diaspora has seen many Aliyahs due to many political and religious circumstances. The return of Babylonian Jews in the 2nd Century, the Karaite Jews return from Persia and many Aliyahs from many countries in Europe from 12th to 18th are all of significance. The return of approximately 35000 of Jewish Diaspora from Russia in the 18th century paved the way to the modern-day Zionism. The Balfour declaration 1917 acknowledging Zionism and Jewish right to an authorized state opened up the platform in the later years for the statehood of Israel. The most significant anti-Semitic genocide under Hitler’s Germany opened up the collective consciousness of the Jewish community from various parts of the world to return to the Land. On May 8, 1948, under the leadership of David Ben Gurion, the Israel statehood was announced after many millennia of non-existence. The last 70 years were very significant in the History of Israel where thousands of Jewish Diaspora returned to the Promised Land from across the world in record numbers. Israel also is geographically expanding in size amidst the ongoing turmoil with Palestine and also Iran. The nationhood is controversial in nature and even in the UN, there is a divided opinion especially on the west bank. Both Israel and Palestine accuse each other on the violation of International Laws which really disrupts the peace in the region.
A very important focus on the pattern in which this return happens, as I said before it happens with greater Zeal. The announcement of statehood of Israel in 1948 led to the renewal of Hebrew language for common usage and many ancient cultural and ritual symbols are restored, a unified Israel since the days of Rehoboam is democratically presented, Israel is developing into a powerful economy with rising technology and tourism, most of all it again became the attraction of the world for spiritual value, yet there is one thing remains their greatest desire. Every Aliyah in the Old Testament ended up in the renewal of Jewish worship and the center of it was the temple, this time also the work towards the construction of the Third Temple is their biggest aspiration of them all. The Dome of Rock built by Umayyad Caliph Abd al-Malik which is at the claimed site of the second temple stands between the Jews and their controversial third temple for many years now, after their statehood, they look at it with more intent than ever. The construction of the temple in the place of the mosque can jeopardize the entire middle east and even the world. There are claims that the site is on a different place and the place the Mosque was once a Roman Fort, anyway with all these twists one thing is clear that they are very focused on their goal. As they always begin with the Altar (Numbers 7:10, Ezra 3:1&2), the dedication of the altar recently of the third temple is a very important incident of our times.
The Wailing Wall is the holiest site of Jews till now where they offer prayers for the arrival of their messiah and the formulation of the third temple. The orthodoxy believes the Messiah will come to the Third temple and will offer peace to the whole world. This belief is fundamentally against Christian belief since we believe Jesus is the Messiah (Matthew 16:16) and the final sacrifice for the sins of the whole world (Hebrews 10:1-18, John 1:29). Since Jesus Christ is the promise of God (2 Corinthians 1:20) to look beyond Jesus and his truth is against Gods plan for Israel. Even though they want to please God by building the temple their rejection of Jesus as Christ and their intention of seeking a messiah apart from Christ will lead them to deception. Apostle Paul talks about it clearly in Romans 10:1-4,
“Brothers and sisters, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for the Israelites is that they may be saved. For I can testify about them that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge. Since they did not know the righteousness of God and sought to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. Christ is the culmination of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes.”
And in 2 Thessalonians 2: 1-4
As to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together to him, we beg you, brothers and sisters, not to be quickly shaken in mind or alarmed, either by spirit or by word or by letter, as though from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord is already here. Let no one deceive you in any way; for that day will not come unless the rebellion comes first and the lawless one is revealed, the one destined for destruction. He opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, declaring himself to be God.
We are living at a very important point in the history of the world for which Nation Israel stands as a sign and this is the most important takeaway. We have to be prepared as the Church of God and create necessary awareness about these signs, talk about in our families and communities in the light of God’s word. Apart from these three final points have to be made before I close.
- Standing against Anti- Semitism: Throughout History, the Jews were a victim of violence and hatred. Especially many times the so-called Christians and the Church itself encouraged the hatred against the Jews. They hold that the Jews were responsible for the death of Christ and the persecution of Christians in the early centuries. Bible and Jesus didn’t acknowledge such an act. We have to stand against anti-Semitism, even Jesus prayed for their forgiveness on the cross. We have to show them kindness since the gift and calling of God are irrevocable, we have to stand against all kind of racial discrimination against anybody in this world that includes Israel. They have a unique place and we cannot ignore it (Romans 11: 11-31, Romans 9).
- Don’t become too carried away: One extreme is anti-Semitism and the other is being extremely carried away just because it’s Israel. It’s important to note that Jesus was propagated by the Jews, but also was rejected and persecuted by another section because of their hardness and selfish motives. So we can’t just blindly support them in everything just because they are Israel. As a nation Israel also can go wrong as in the times past, they exist because of God’s faithfulness and not the righteousness of their own. We have to base our support for them Israel on truth as Apostle Paul did. Especially their hardness and ignorance towards God’s salvific act through Christ will cause a lot of issues. Jesus is the promise and they have to realize it, and we might end up standing against fundamental truths laid by Christ if we carelessly support them in the wrong. Especially we should approach the Palestinian oppression with sensitivity and not shrug it off as political reality. Our God is a God of all mankind who desires justice for all. He offers justice to both Sarah and Hagar. It’s important we ask for God’s wisdom in our approach towards Israel.
- Pray for the salvation of Israel and the world:
“I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers, and sisters, so that you may not be conceited: Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in, and in this way, all Israel will be saved. As it is written: “The deliverer will come from Zion; he will turn godlessness away from Jacob”. Romans 11:25, 26
Jesus himself foretold about their salvation in Luke 21:24
They will fall by the edge of the sword and be led captive among all nations, and Jerusalem will be trampled underfoot by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled. Gods plan for Israel is that all of them to be saved. As our Lord Jesus and Apostle Paul prayed for the salvation of Jews and Israel, which should be our prayer too. Not only them Israel but also all the people of the world including Iran and Palestine since Jesus gave himself for all people (John 3:16). It’s our duty that we intercede for His Kingdom and will be done in all the earth. We should remember what Jesus said to them plainly in Matthew 12:6-7 “ I tell you that something greater than the temple is here. If you had known what these words mean, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the innocent.
In Conclusion, when the disciples asked the risen Christ about the restoration of Israel, he immediately pointed towards the task at hand, that is to receive the power from high and be a witness to him all over the world and that command from Jesus still remains (Acts 1:6-8). We cannot know the times of God, but we can understand the signs of God and certainly, this is one!!
Aliyah is happening like never before in Israel, and it’s going to increase in the days to come. As Anti-Semitism is on the rise in many parts of the world, the return is imminent on the Diaspora. Even in the countries where they were safe for years like USA and Australia, there is a
rise in the anti-Semitic tendency which will increase the return towards Israel and since Israel is becoming a strong nation it attracts many to return. The building of the third temple and the coming of the great tribulation with the rise of the Lawless one who will lead many into deception can happen anytime and we should be prepared for those days. Till then let’s look at the nation of Israel carefully. Shalom in Jesus Name!!