Note: This Letter was originally published October 17, 2008. As Israel is “special” in the sight of God, so too was the Apostle John. J.L. Robb’s column, “John, the Son of Thunder” gives us some insight as to why.
“For then will I turn to the people a pure language, that they may all call upon the Name of the LORD, to serve Him with one consent.” (Zephaniah 3:9)
Hebrew, as a spoken language, was already on the decline when Latin was still the lingua franca of the day. The modern word “Hebrew” is based in the root word ‘abar’ which means ‘to cross over.’
As a functional, working language, classical Hebrew flourished until around the time of the Babylonian Captivity in the 6th century BC. Under the subsequent Persian, Greek and Roman Empires, the popular use of classical Hebrew waned.
By the mid-part of the 2nd century, scholars studied Hebrew primarily for the purposes of quoting from the Mishnah and Talmud. By this time, Hebrew was primarily a written — rather than spoken — language, apart from its liturgical use in prayer.
But the revival of the Hebrew language as a working language wasn’t even seriously considered until late in the 19th century. There was no need — there had been no need, literally for centuries.
Alexander the Great’s Koine Greek was imposed over Hebrew, which was then superimposed by the Latin of the Roman Empire.
By this time, the working language of the Jewish people was primarily Aramaic. Following Rome’s Destruction of the Temple and the subsequent Diaspora, the Jews of Europe maintained their cultural identity speaking Yiddish, rather than Hebrew.
In 1881, a Lithuanian Jew named Ben Yehuda emigrated to Israel and set out to revive the long-dead Hebrew as a living, working and functional modern language based on classical Hebrew.
When Ben Yehuda’s first son was born in the Promised Land in 1882, he was raised as the first all-Hebrew speaking child in modern history. In December 1890, Ben Yehuda founded the Hebrew Language Council.
In 1922, the UN listed Hebrew as one of the three working languages of the British Mandate, fulfilling Zephaniah’s obscure prophecy that, when God DID call the Jews home to Israel, He would do so in the traditional pure language of Jewish worship, the long-dead language of David the King.
As the 19th century drew to a close, something began to happen within the world-wide Jewish community. It wasn’t really the centuries of persecution, the periodic pogroms, the second-class status of Jews in their host nations that precipitated the sudden attraction of the Jews for the Promised Land.
What was it that caused the Jews of the world-wide Diaspora, after nineteen hundred years, to suddenly decide, in the space of one generation, that NOW was the time to begin the Ingathering?
The Promised Land hadn’t moved. It had been right there for the whole two thousand years. And the late 19th century didn’t offer political hope to the Jews that the Promised Land would suddenly become Jew-friendly.
In 1900, Jerusalem had been under the rule of the Islamic caliphate of the Ottoman Empire for almost four hundred years.
And when I say that world-wide Jewry ‘suddenly’ decided it was time for the world’s Jews to return to their Promised Land, in historical terms, the ingathering was sudden, indeed.
First, the Jews began to long for a homeland. Theodor Hertzl, founder of modern Zionism, wanted a homeland for the Jewish people, first and foremost.
He wrote in 1896, “oppression and persecution cannot exterminate us. No nation on earth has survived such struggles and sufferings as we have gone through. Jew-baiting has merely stripped off our weaklings; the strong among us were invariably true to their race when persecution broke out against them…. “
He even petitioned the British government to allow the creation of a Jewish state in what is modern-day Uganda.
(In rejecting the petition, the British government reminded Hertzl and the Zionists that the Jewish homeland was in Palestine, then part of the Ottoman Empire).
In 1897, Hertzl convened the first Zionist Congress in Basle, Switzerland. Just fifty years later, the Jewish State was ‘born in a day’ fulfilling the words of the Prophet Isaiah.
Twenty-five hundred years ago, the Prophet Isaiah asked these questions:
“Who hath heard such a thing? who hath seen such things? Shall the earth be made to bring forth in one day? or shall a nation be born at once?. . . ” and I want you to consider the answers with me carefully.
Q. “Who hath heard such a thing?” A. Of all the generations who ever lived from Isaiah until May 14, 1948, only THIS generation can answer that question, “We Have.”
Q. “Who hath seen such things?” A. When Isaiah asked that question, and for another 2,500 years after that, the answer was, “nobody.”
Of all those generations across the ages, only you and I can say that we hath seen such things a ‘nation born at once’ a nation which, as Isaiah continues, is identified as Zion;
“for as soon as Zion travailed, she brought forth her children.” (Isaiah 66:8)
We witnessed within our lifetime, the “earth being made to bring forth in one day” that day being December 25, 2001 when the Soviet Union collapsed.
The north at last gave up the last of her captives as the former Soviet refuseniks finally escaped to the Promised Land, fulfilling the promise of the prophet Jeremiah;
“I will say to the north, Give up; and to the south, Keep not back: bring My sons from far, and My daughters from the ends of the earth.” (Isaiah 43:6)
Never in all of recorded history has there been an event more clearly prophesied nor literally fulfilled than the restoration of the Jews to the same piece of geographic real estate from which they had been evicted — not once, but twice.
The prophet Jeremiah predicted that the Jews of the Babylonian captivity would be restored after seventy years — and the Book of Daniel records that prophecy was literally fulfilled after the Babylonians fell to the Persian Empire.
But there was also a second ingathering prophesied for the Jews of Israel by the Prophet Ezekiel, one specifically identified by the prophet as concerning the “latter days” (Ezekiel 38:16)
At that time, said the prophet, the Jews will again inhabit the Land of Promise, which the prophet specifically identifies geographically as “the mountains of Israel” (and not the jungles of Uganda).
It is this second ingathering, the one for the latter days, that constitutes the most overtly miraculous work of God since the First Advent.
From the time of Christ to the modern era, the Jews have been targeted for extermination in almost every corner of the earth where they’ve sought refuge over the ages.
For centuries, without nation, land or flag, they’ve endured; their culture, religion and ethnicity intact, surviving even the Holocaust, Satan’s ultimate effort at wiping out God’s Chosen People.
The modern state of Israel stands as a living monument to the unbreakable Word of God; vibrant and living evidence of God’s existence and His continued involvement in the affairs of mankind.
The manner of its restoration is both overtly miraculous and historically fortuitous. It shouldn’t exist. But in order for any of the prophecies of the Bible for the last days to have any contemporary context, it MUST exist.
Without the existence of a literal, politically viable Jewish State known as “Israel,” none of the prophecies concerning the last days and the coming judgment of the nations find any historical context.
Whatever is happening on the global stage would then serve no particular prophetic agenda and we could draw no particular confidence from seeing it unfold.
But, SINCE there IS such an historical entity as Israel, a nation ‘born in a day’ as a Jewish State, against all the odds, we can knowthat the events that are unfolding in our lifetimes are following a particular script.
The current world-wide economic crisis has a prophetic context ONLY because there exists a Jewish State called “Israel”. Until the restoration of Israel in 1948, there was no prophetic context into which one could place the Crash of 1929.
We can see the prophetic context now, (thanks to historical hindsight) but the context is that the Great Depression was among the factors that caused the World War that resulted in the fulfillment of the prophecy of the restoration of Israel in the last days.
Looking forward or backward in terms of Bible prophecy, the temporal frame of reference we’re using is May 14, 1948.
For twenty-five millennial prior to that date, the prophecies of the last days were locked in a box, by Divine Decree.
“But thou, O Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book, even to the time of the end: many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased. ” (Daniel 12:4)
The key that unlocks that box is the existence of the Jewish state of Israel. Since Israel’s re-emergence on the world’s stage, she has occupied a much greater portion of the world’s attention than her tiny size would warrant, because that is what the Bible said would be the case.
Israel is at the heart of every conflict, the question of the final status of Jerusalem is as important to America or Russia or Europe as it is to Tel Aviv.
Yet Israel is no larger than Rhode Island, no more populous than New York, and has fewer natural resources than Florida.
Why? Because the Bible is true. The world knows that it’s hours are numbered whether it wants to admit it to itself or not. The signs are all around, and the biggest and most annoying sign of all is that big Star of David over Jerusalem.
It is a constant reminder to the god of this world that his job is only temporary.