By James H. Brookes
The story is told of Frederick the Great that he abruptly said to his court chaplain, “Give me an argument for the truth of the Bible in a single word.” The man without a moment’s hesitation replied, “Israel.” The same word is the key that unlocks the meaning of the prophetic Scriptures, and those who do not see the place Israel occupies in God’s Word and in His purposes for the future, must at best go in a blundering way through the inspired writings. They are like the unbelieving Jews of whom the apostle speaks: “Their minds were blinded, for until this day remaineth the same vail untaken away in the reading of the Old Testament,” 2 Cor. iii. 14.
From Moses to Malachi, and from Matthew to Revelation, there is abundant and unvarying testimony that the literal descendants of the literal Abraham and Isaac, and Jacob, shall be literally scattered among all nations, as a punishment for their sins, and in the last days shall be literally restored to their own land, and rejoice once more in the covenant relations to Jehovah, as the head of the millennial nations. The passages affirming this are so numerous it would require a book of considerable size-to reproduce them, nor can they be set aside by the idle fancy that they refer to the return of a few thousand Jews from the Babylonian captivity, or that they are fulfilled spiritually to the church.
Long after the return from Babylon, the Lord Jesus said to the Jews, “Behold, your house is left unto you desolate. For I say unto you, ye shall not see me henceforth, till ye shall say, Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord,” Matt. xxiii. 38, 39. If this does not mean that they shall see Him again, and then they shall say, Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord, language has no meaning. The prediction did not relate to His appearance after His resurrection, nor to the descent of the Spirit on the day of Pentecost, for in the first place they did not see Him but only His disciples; in the second place they did not say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord; and in the third place their house was left unto them more desolate than before. It remains therefore to be fulfilled at Christ’s second coming.
On another occasion our Lord said: Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled,” Luke xxi. 24. Notwithstanding the malicious attempt of Julian, the apostate, and the tremendous efforts of the crusaders to defeat the prediction, Jerusalem continues to be trodden down of the Gentiles. But words have no significance if the word until does not point to a day when Jerusalem shall cease to be trodden down of the Gentiles, and handed back to the Jews, or become uninhabited.
In the only council of the Apostles of which there is any record, James voiced the opinion of the others when he said, “Simeon [that is, Peter] hath declared how God at the first did visit the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for His name,” or as we would say, the church, the called-out ones, the ecclesia, “a Greek word,” as Dr. Joseph Addison Alexander tells us, “which according to its etymology means something called out, or evoked, and by implication called together, or convoked, as a separate assembly or society, selected from a greater number.” God never had any other purpose through the preaching of the Gospel in the present age, or if He had, His purpose has been dreadfully baffled. “And to this agree the words of the prophets,” all of the prophets, although but one is quoted; “as it is written, after this I will return.” After what? After He has taken out of the Gentiles a people for His name. “After this I will return,” and when He says, I will return, He means I will return. When He returns, what will he do? “And will build again the tabernacle of David, which is fallen down; and I will build again the ruins thereof, and I will set it up.” Once more, then, He will take poor Israel into covenant relationship with Himself, and with what object and result? ‘That the residue of men might seek after the Lord, and ALL the Gentiles, upon whom My name is called, saith the Lord, who doeth all these things,” Acts xv. 14-17.
We are not surprised, therefore, to find the Holy Ghost writing by the pen of Paul concerning Israel, “If the fall of them be the riches of the world, and the diminishing (decay or loss] of them the riches of the Gentiles, how much more their fulness? . . . For if the casting away of them be the reconciling of the world, what shall the receiving of them be, but life from the dead? . . . For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness [or hardness] in part has happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in. And so all Israel shall be saved; as it is written, There shall COME out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob,” Romans xi. 12-26.
The fulness of the Gentiles means, of course, the complete number God takes out of the Gentiles to be “a people for His name,” answering to “the times of the Gentiles,” of which our Lord speaks. So the divine procedure is as follows: First, the call of Israel; second, the call of the Church; third, the setting aside of both for unfaithfulness; fourth, the personal return of the Lord; fifth, the salvation of all Israel; sixth, the salvation of all Gentiles, at least in outward confession; seventh, the millennial kingdom of a thousand years. Or, as the late Dr. Hugh M‘Neil well put it: “There are four steps in the conversion of the world: some Jews, some Gentiles, the nation of Israel, and the nations of the Gentiles. Some Jews, called ‘a remnant according to the election of grace;’ some Gentiles, called ‘a people taken out for His name’—these are both one in Christ, and form the Church. Then the nation of Israel, on the return of the Lord; then the Gentile nations.”
Hence we might expect to discover in the Old Testament the plainest and most explicit promises of Israel’s restoration to their own land, and of their return into covenant relation and privilege and obligation as the peculiar people of Jehovah. The threat to scatter them among the Gentiles was literally executed; the promise to restore them will be as literally accomplished. “And yet for all that, when they be in the land of their enemies, I will not cast them away, neither will I abhor them, to destroy them utterly, and to break my covenant with them; for I am the Lord their God,” Lev. xxvi. 33, 34. This unconditional covenant, which was confirmed by an oath and is therefore unchangeable, guarantees to them a specific body of land, mentioned again and again, that stretches from the river Nile, up the Mediterranean coast, and eastward to the Euphrates, 600 miles from north to south, and about 1200 miles in its widest breadth, containing at least 300,000 square miles, and capable of supplying the wants of many millions of people. The Israelites have never yet possessed this vast territory, and as God is true they shall possess it hereafter.
In another passage, after a long chapter crowded with frightful woes, it was said to Israel, “If any of thine be driven out unto the utmost parts of heaven, from thence will the Lord thy God gather thee, and from thence will He fetch thee; and the Lord thy God will bring thee into the land which thy fathers possessed, and thou shalt possess it; and He will do thee good, and multiply thee above thy fathers,” Deut. xxx. 4, 5. “Thy people also shall be all righteous; they shall inherit the land forever,” Isaiah lx, 21. Of Jerusalem God says, “it shall not be plucked up, nor thrown down, any more forever,” Jer. xxxi.'31-40. ‘In those days shall Judah be saved, and Jerusalem shall dwell safely; and this is the name whereby she shall be called ‘The Lord our Righteousness,’” Jer. xxxiii. 15-26. ‘Thus saith the Lord God, I will even gather you from the people, and assemble you out of the countries where ye have been scattered, and I will give you the land of Israel,” Ezek. xi. 16-20. “The children of Israel shall abide many days without a king, and without a prince, and without a sacrifice, and without an image [margin, standing], and without an ephod, and without teraphim. Afterward shall the children of Israel return, and seek the Lord their God, and David their King, and shall fear the Lord and His goodness in the latter days,’’ Hosea iii. 4, 5. The Jewish Rabbi, Kimchi, strikingly says, “These are the days of the captivity in which we now are at this day; we have no king nor prince out of Israel, for we are in the power of the nations and of their kings and princes; and have no sacrifice for God, nor image for idols; no ephod for God that declares future things by Urim and Thummim, and no teraphim for idols, which show things to come, according to the mind of those that believe in them.”’,
“Ye shall know that I am in the midst of Israel, and that I am the Lord your God, and none else, and My people shall never be ashamed. And it shall come to pass afterward that I will pour out My Spirit upon all flesh,”’ Joel iii. 26-32. “I will bring again the captivity of My people of Israel, and they shall build the waste cities, and inhabit them.; and they shall plant vineyards, and drink the wine thereof; they shall make gardens, and eat the fruit of them. And I will plant them upon their land, and they shall no more be pulled up out of their land, which I have given them, saith the Lord God,”’ Amos ix. 8-15. “Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will sow the house of Israel, and the house of Judah, with the seed of man, and with the seed of beast. And it shall come to pass, that like as I have watched over them, to pluck up, and to break down, and to throw down, and to destroy, and to afflict; so will I watch over them, to build and to plant, saith the Lord,” Jer. xxxi. 23-40.
There are scores upon scores of similar statements, equally plain and positive in the promise that the literal seed of Jacob shall in the latter days be returned to the land which God gave to their fathers. But how do we know that the promises do not refer to the return from Babylon? Because they look to a second restoration, and because since that time Israel has been plucked up out of the land. “It shall come to pass in that day, that the Lord shall set His hand again the second time to recover the remnant of His people; . . . and He shall set up an ensign for the nations, and shall assemble the outcasts of Israel, and gather together the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth. The envy also of Ephraim shall depart, and the adversaries of Judah shall be cut off; Ephraim shall not envy Judah, and Judah shall not vex Ephraim,’ Isaiah xi. 11-16. “Thus saith the Lord God, behold, I will take the children of Israel from among the heathen, whither they be gone, and will gather them on every side, and bring them into their own land: and I will make them one nation in the land upon the mountains of Israel, and one King shall be King to them all, and they shall be no more two nations [Judah and the ten tribes], neither shall they be divided into two kingdoms any more at all,” Ezek. xxxvii. 15-28.
There are many similar statements which the reader is entreated to look up for himself; and if the subject is new to him, he will be amazed at the number of clear, explicit, unconditional predictions of Israel’s restoration to the land, and to the favour of Jehovah, which has been utterly forfeited. “I will take you from among the heathen, and gather you out of all countries, and will bring you into your own land. . . . Ye shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers; and ye shall be My people, and I will be your God. . . . Not for your sakes do I this, saith the Lord God, be it known unto you: be ashamed and confounded for your own ways, O house of Israel,” Ezek. xxxvi. 24-28, 32. It is grace all the way through, and therefore “He that scattered Israel will gather him, and keep him, as the shepherd doth his flock,” Jer. xxxi. 10. If the scattering is literal, so is the gathering. Israel and Jerusalem are mentioned hundreds of times in the Bible, and in every instance they mean the natural posterity of Jacob and the capital of Judah, except in the two or three verses where we read “Above,” “Heavenly,” “New,” as descriptive of a spiritual city.
Israel, however, will be brought to God, only through terrible judgments. ‘Thus saith the Lord God, because ye are all become dross, behold, therefore, I will gather you into the midst of Jerusalem. As they gather silver and brass, and iron, and lead, and tin, into the midst of the fire to blow upon it to melt it; so will I gather you in My anger and in My fury, and I will leave you there, and melt you,” Ezek. xxii. 19, 20, “Alas!” for that day is great, so that none is like it; it is even the time of Jacob’s trouble; but he shall be saved out of it,” Jer. xxx. 7. “And at that time shall Michael stand up, the great prince that standeth for the children of thy people; and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time; and at that time thy people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book,” Daniel xii. 1. “I will gather all nations against Jerusalem to battle; and the city shall be taken, and the houses rifled, and the women ravished; and half of the city shall go forth in captivity, and the residue of the people shall not be cut off from the city, Then shall the Lord go forth, and fight against those nations, as when He fought in the day of battle. And His feet shall stand in that day upon the Mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east; . . . and the Lord my God shall come, and all the saints with Him. . . . And the Lord shall be King over all the earth: in that day shall there be one Lord, and His name one,” Zech. xiv. 1-9.
In the time of Jacob’s trouble Antichrist will play a conspicuous part. “He shall speak great words against the Most High, and shall wear out the saints of the Most High, and think to change times and laws: and they shall be given into his hand, until a time, and times, and the dividing of time,’’ Daniel vii. 25. “He shall confirm a covenant with many for one heptad, and in the midst of the heptad [leaving 3½ years, 1,260 days, forty and two months, a time, times and the dividing of time] he shall cause the sacrifice and oblation to cease, and upon the battlements shall be the idols of the desolator,’’ Daniel ix. 27. He will invade the land at the head of an immense host; but it is said to him, “Thou shalt fall upon the mountains of Israel, thou, and all thy bands, and the people that is with thee: I will give thee unto the ravenous birds of every sort, and to the beasts of the field; to be devoured,” Ezek. xxxix. 4. At the appearing of the KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS, a call is made to all the fowls that fly in the midst of heaven, “Come and gather yourselves together unto the supper of the great God; that ye may eat the flesh of kings, and the flesh of captains, and the flesh of mighty men, and the flesh of horses,” Rev. xix. 16-18. The name of Jerusalem “from that day shall be The Lord is there,’ Ezek. xlviii. 35. Then, too, “He shall cause them that come of Jacob to take root; Israel shall blossom and bud, and fill the face of the earth with fruit,”’ Isaiah xxvii. 6,
No one can read the Word of God with an unprejudiced mind, and with a sincere desire to know the truth, without seeing that the salvation of Israel has a direct bearing upon the salvation of the world. We hear the cry of Israel, ‘God be merciful unto US, and bless US; and cause His face to shine upon US,” and what then? “That Thy way may be known upon earth, Thy saving health among all people. . . . God shall bless US; and all the ends of the earth shall fear Him,” Psalm lxvii. So we are plainly told that “when the Lord shall build up Zion, He shall APPEAR in His glory;” but for what purpose? “To declare the name of the Lord in Zion, and His praise in Jerusalem; when the people are gathered together, and the kingdoms, to. serve the Lord,” Psalm cii. 16-22. He therefore is doing most to hasten the universal triumph of the cross, who most literally obeys the injunction of the Holy Ghost, “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: they shall prosper that love thee,” Psalm cxxii. 6. The promise shall surely be fulfilled to the daughter of Zion, “unto thee shall it come, even the first dominion; the kingdom shall come to the daughter of Jerusalem,” Micah iv. 6-8.
It is strange that brethren who deny the literal restoration of Israel, do not see that God must have preserved this extraordinary people for some wonderful purpose. For 2500 years the four great world empires, and the kingdoms of Christendom, have sought to crush them, and at this day the most gigantic despotism of earth is trying to grind them to powder. But all of this is but the outworking of Jehovah’s plans, “till He make Jerusalem a praise in the earth,” Isaiah lxii 7, when “ten men shall take hold, out of all languages of the nations, even shall take-hold of the skirt of him that is a Jew, saying We will go with you; for we have heard that God is with you,” Zech. viii. 23. ‘Then the moon shall be confounded, and the sun ashamed, when the Lord of hosts shall reign in mount Zion, and in Jerusalem, and before His ancients, gloriously,” Isaiah xxiv. 23. Even now the God of Abraham, and of Isaac, and of Jacob, the covenant keeping God, is preparing the way for the return of their posterity to the land of their fathers. From twenty to fifty Jewish families are landed every week at Jaffa, and the four lines of steamers from Constantinople and Russian ports are crowded with refugees who have already taken possession of Jerusalem. In the increasing fertility of the soil, and in the remarkable return of the chosen people, God is beginning to give back to them, although still blind, “the City of the great King,” Matt. v. 35.