by Mark Robinson
The billboard was the most controversial the city center had seen in years, and maybe ever. People had a myriad of opinions on its purpose and message. The message was brief – “It IS Coming!”
Some thought it was a hoax. Sure, they recognized the reality of the billboard’s message, but these people believed there was no real purpose behind the message.
Others wondered what was coming. Daily they would drive by the sign and question what it was and when it was coming.
Most, though, read the message but quickly forgot it. Life was too full, work very demanding, and family obligations ever present.
There were some, though, who knew the message was not a hoax. They had intimate details about the development of the plan. They were aware of the work going on to bring the message to light.
As it turned out the billboard was part of an elaborate advertising campaign for the opening of a theatrical drama in the near future. The simple, “It IS coming,” was to provoke people to consider and talk about what IS actually coming.
Israel: God’s Billboard
Israel is God’s billboard to the world. It is His sign of impending events. The rebirth of Israel is the start of God’s prophetic time clock for the coming events of the Tribulation period and the return of Jesus. Israel cries out, “It IS Coming!” John Walvoord and Mark Hitchcock capture this truth when they write:
“Israel. It’s the key. History proclaims its past. Headlines proclaims its present. Prophecy proclaims its future.”[i]
One can read scores of books on Bible prophecy. Messages in the thousands have been preached on the signs of the times. Some of these are pure speculation, others newspaper eisegesis, and some a reasonable, balanced presentation of future events according to the Bible.
I remember a popular book written in 1988 by Edgar Whisenant, 88 Reasons Why the Rapture Could Be In 1988, which sold over 4 million copies. It was obviously wrong in its prediction. This failure did not deter Whisenant. He then published 89 Reasons Why the Rapture Could Be In 1989.
We must be careful as we consider signs of the times. In fact, I would suggest there is only one sign of the times. One indicator we are living in the time of the return of Jesus. One historical event that is clearly miraculous and a fulfillment of biblical prophecy that tells us God’s prophetic time clock has started its final countdown. The one sign is the rebirth of the nation of Israel.
End Time Prophecies
There are a host of prophecies about the end times from Genesis to Revelation. Consistent hermeneutics demands us to expect these to be fulfilled as literally as the prophecies of Jesus’ first coming. When the Jewish prophets foretold the Messiah being born of a virgin (Isaiah 7:14), born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2), crucified (Psalm 22), and rising from the grave (Isaiah 53:10; Psalm 16:10), these were fulfilled in a very literal way. There is no reason to think God won’t fulfill end time prophecies in the same literal manner. When we read of a rebuilt Temple (Dan. 9:27; 2 Thessalonians 2:4), a worldwide 10 kingdom confederation (Dan. 2 and 7), and a host of enemies rising against Israel (Dan. 11:40-45; Ezek. 38-39), we should accept these at face value.
Just as a producer/director of a play will let it be known that a drama is coming, so does God. Just as the producer/director starts preparing the set, the actors and actresses, and everything needed in preparation for opening night of the drama, God is now getting the “actors and actresses” ready for His drama. He is preparing the set. Everything is being put in place for the greatest drama the world has ever seen.
It is Israel, though, that proclaims “It IS coming!” Israel is the “advertisement” that tells people God is getting ready to open the curtain for the final climactic drama of human history. The drama will last for seven years. The cast is Israel and the nations of the world. The villain is the anti-Christ. The protagonist is the Messiah of Israel, the Lord Jesus.
Israel: Prophecy Fulfilled
The student of Bible prophecy must keep his eye on Israel. Israel is in the center of God’s prophetic plan. There are scores of prophecies about the future of Israel. The overwhelming majority of these deal with Israel in the Tribulation Period or Israel in the Millennium. Some of these prophecies, though, relate to Israel in the present, either by direct statement, or inference.
For example, there are a host of prophecies about the return of the Jewish people back to the land of Israel from worldwide captivity.
“That then the LORD thy God will turn thy captivity, and have compassion upon thee, and will return and gather thee from all the nations, whither the LORD thy God hath scattered thee.” Deut. 30:3
“Behold, I will gather them out of all countries, whither I have driven them in mine anger, and in my fury, and in great wrath; and I will bring them again unto this place, and I will cause them to dwell safely.” Jer. 32:37
“For I will take you from among the heathen, and gather you out of all countries, and will bring you into your own land.” Ezek. 36:24
When these prophecies, and others like them, are considered they give us a full picture about the return of the Jewish people to the land. Some, like the above Deut. 30:3, when read in context, speaks of the Jews returning to the land after they have turned to the Lord. This would place this ingathering at the end of the Tribulation period. There are other prophecies, though, that tell us that there must be a nation in the land even before the start of the Tribulation period.
For example, Daniel 9:27 tells us there will be a peace agreement orchestrated by the anti-Christ between Israel and her enemies. This covenant is the starting date for the seven year Tribulation period. The inference of this verse is there must be a nation of Israel in existence so the anti-Christ can negotiate this covenant. So there must be a return of some Jewish people back to the land of Israel, and Israel’s being a nation among the nations of the world, before the start of the Tribulation period.
One of the clearest mentions of this is the prophecy of the “dry bones” in Ezekiel 37. Ezekiel is taken by the spirit of the Lord into a valley strewn with very dry bones. Verse eleven tells us, “Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel.” The bones represent the Jewish people. The context of chapter 36 to the end of the book deals with end time events for Israel. Thus, the “dry bones” prophecy is referring to the return of the Jewish people from worldwide captivity.
Verse 8 sheds light on the return of the Jewish people to the land. “And when I beheld, lo, the sinews and the flesh came up upon them, and the skin covered them above: but there was no breath in them.” The sinews, flesh, and the skin represent the nation becoming a reality again in the last days. Having no breath means they will have no spiritual life. What we should expect to see is the nation of Israel resurrected in the last days before the Tribulation period, and Israel coming to the Lord (“breath in them”) at the end of the Tribulation period when the entire nation accepts the Lord (Isa. 66:7-8; Zech. 12:10; Rom. 11:26-27). On May 14, 1948 Israel became a nation once again. The bones came together, the sinews and the flesh were placed on the bones, and the skin covered them. Israel lived again, albeit in unbelief concerning her Messiah.
As we conclude our consideration of Israel’s rebirth and its implications for end-time prophecy, we must consider one additional scripture passage. Isaiah 11 is recognized by Jew and Christian as speaking of the coming Messianic kingdom. The promises of this kingdom are exhilarating:
“The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them. And the cow and the bear shall feed; their young ones shall lie down together: and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. And the sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the cockatrice’ den. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea.” Isaiah 11:6-9
Israel has been in two dispersion captivities. The first was the one nation captivity of Babylon in 586 B.C. The second was the worldwide captivity resulting from the Roman destruction of Israel in A.D. 70. It is with these captivities in mind that Isaiah makes the following statement in chapter 11:10-12.
“And in that day there shall be a root of Jesse, which shall stand for an ensign of the people; to it shall the Gentiles seek: and his rest shall be glorious. And 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, which shall be left, from Assyria, and from Egypt, and from Pathros, and from Cush, and from Elam, and from Shinar, and from Hamath, and from the islands of the sea. 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.” (emphasis added)
“In that day” refers to what has been discussed in the earlier verses of this chapter. Among other things we see the rule of the Messiah in his earthly kingdom, the domestication of wild beasts, and the knowledge of the Lord being worldwide. It is the time period we call the Millennial kingdom. It is the 1,000 year reign of Jesus on earth.
We are told “in that day” God will bring the Jewish people back to the land of Israel the second time. This return is from the “four corners of the earth.” The text is very clear. There are only two dispersion returns back to the land. The first was from Babylonian captivity and the second return is from worldwide captivity.
Ezekiel’s “dry bone” prophecy tells us that the Jewish people will come back to the land in unbelief. Subsequent to the return in unbelief will be the nation of Israel embracing their Messiah. Isaiah tells us when the Jewish people return to the land of Israel the second time, from worldwide captivity, this will be the time period when the kingdom of Messiah will be established on earth.
When Israel was born as a nation in 1948 it was the fulfillment of Ezekiel 37:8. This is the key to end time events. Jewish people are returning to the nation of Israel in unbelief. We are living in the time of the return of Jesus Christ to set up His kingdom on earth. This event is preceded by the Rapture and the Tribulation period.
What we are seeing now in our world is the Master Director getting the actors in place, the sets built, the scenes prepared. The curtain will be rising shortly on the end time drama called the Tribulation period. We may be very close to the opening act of this drama. Are you ready?
It IS coming!!!
1. John Walvoord & Mark Hitchcock, Armageddon, Oil, and Terror: What the Bible says about the Future, Tyndale House, page 50, 2007