Light for the Last Days

Restoring the Kingdom to Israel (Part 2)

The significance of Jerusalem

In the previous article we looked at the last question the disciples asked the Lord before He ascended into heaven, ‘Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?’ We saw that Jesus’ answer to the question implies a restoration of the kingdom at the time of His second coming, when He will come ‘in like manner’ to the manner in which He ascended into heaven, in the clouds of glory as King of Kings and Lord of Lords. This is in contrast to His first coming when His glory was veiled, as He took upon Himself the form of a servant in order to fulfil the prophecy of the Suffering Servant of Isaiah 53.

In this article we look at the significance of the place of the ascension and the return of the Messiah. The ascension took place from the Mount of Olives on the eastern side of Jerusalem: ‘Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet which is near Jerusalem, a Sabbath day’s journey.’ (Acts 1.12). In the book of Zechariah we read of the events of the last days of this age in chapters 12-14. At the climax of this period we read: ‘Behold the day of the Lord is coming, and your spoil will be divided in your midst. For I will gather all nations to battle against Jerusalem; the city shall be taken, the houses rifled, and the women ravished. Half of the city shall go into captivity, but the remnant of the people shall not be cut off from the city. Then the Lord shall go forth and fight against those nations as He fights in the day of battle. And in that day His feet shall stand on the Mount of Olives, which faces Jerusalem on the east. And the Mount of Olives shall be split in two, from east to west making a very large valley; half of the mountain shall move toward the north and half of it toward the south. Then you shall flee through my mountain valley, for the mountain valley shall reach to Azal. Yes you shall flee as you fled from the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah. Thus the Lord my God will come and all the saints with you.’ Zechariah 14.1- 5.

The end of this age will come when the Lord stands on the Mount of Olives having won the victory over the allied forces of evil that come to fight against Jerusalem in the last days. This will be followed by the 1000 year reign of the Messiah when ‘the Lord shall be King over all the earth’ (Zechariah 14.9) fulfilling the prophecy of Isaiah 2.1-4, 11-12 and Revelation 20. So Zechariah has the Lord standing in the same place from which Jesus ascended into heaven when the angel said ‘This same Jesus will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven.’ Acts 1.11. Obviously this is not a coincidence.

In Zechariah’s prophecy we see that the focal point of the end time conflict is Jerusalem: ‘Behold I will make Jerusalem a cup of drunkenness to all the surrounding peoples, when they lay siege against Judah and Jerusalem. And it shall happen in that day that I will make Jerusalem a very heavy stone for all peoples; all who would heave it away will surely be cut in pieces, though all nations are gathered against it.’ (Zechariah 12.2-3)

In verse two Jerusalem is a cup of drunkenness to all the surrounding peoples. In verse three it is a heavy stone for all peoples bringing all nations into the conflict. Since the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948 following the UN resolution in 1947 Jerusalem has been a focal point of the conflict between Israel and the surrounding peoples, but also one which has involved all ‘all nations’ through the UN and the various international peace conferences aimed at resolving the issue.

As a result of the first Arab-Israeli war in 1948 Jerusalem became a divided city with the Old City under Jordanian control and the western half of the city under Israeli control. Access to the holy places and the Jewish Quarter was forbidden to Jewish people from 1948 to 1967 when as a result of Israel’s victory in the Six Day War Jerusalem was united under Israeli rule.

In 1973 Egypt and Syria made a surprise attack on Israel on Yom Kippur, the holiest day in the Jewish calendar. Had they won that war no doubt the Jewish state of Israel would have ceased to exist and Jerusalem would have returned to Arab rule. In fact Israel reversed early losses and ended up with its armies on the road to Cairo and Damascus. The United States then intervened to draw up a peace agreement. Following the Yom Kippur war the Arab oil producing states restricted oil production in order to put pressure on the West over Israel and Jerusalem. This led to recession in the industrialised world, showing that what happens in the Middle East is vital to the interests of the whole world.

In 1974 the PLO adopted the 10 Points Phased Doctrine. This strategy aimed to set up a mini- state as the first step in ‘liberating Palestine’. The statement of the Palestine National Council said, amongst other things: ‘Once it is established, the Palestinian national authority will strive to achieve a union of the confrontation countries (i.e. the surrounding Arab countries), with the aim of completing the liberation of all Palestinian territory and as a step along the road to comprehensive Arab unity.’ In other words this state would be a springboard for the final goal, which is the elimination of Israel.

Given the fact that the UN was involved in the establishment of the State of Israel and that the Americans and the Europeans were concerned to preserve Israel, it was clear that this goal of destroying Israel would need a plan to change the perception of the West. Instead of seeing Israel as ‘David’ fighting the Arab ‘Goliath’, they needed to see Israel as the Goliath oppressing the Palestinian David. As a result a very successful propaganda campaign has been waged to this effect.

This need to involve the world powers was spelt out clearly by Abu Jihad, Yasser Arafat’s deputy, at the PLO’s Algiers summit in 1988: ‘What we are doing is carrying out a two-phase strategy. This is a policy that says first we get a Palestinian State next to Israel, then we use it as a base to destroy what remains of Israel. In order to get to the first step we must persuade the world of our good intentions, that we don’t intend to carry out the second phase.’ In other words this is a deception aimed at gaining the support of the nations of the world for a policy which in fact they would disapprove of – the destruction of Israel.

At the present time the Palestinian Authority is being led by Mahmoud Abbas who is presented as the moderate face of Palestinian politics. In his election campaign in January 2005 Abbas said, ‘We are choosing the path of peace and negotiation. If there is no peace here, there will be no peace in the Middle East or the rest of the world.’ He pledged to deliver deceased PA Chairman Yasser Arafat’s promise of Palestinian statehood. ‘Israel must pull out of all Palestinian lands occupied in 1967,’ he told supporters in Ramallah. ‘We cannot compromise on Jerusalem. A state that is cut up by settlements cannot be a state. Everything Yasser Arafat said and believed in his life is a legacy and we will do all our best to implement it.’

Israel is now under enormous international pressure from the powers behind the ‘Road Map’, the UN, the USA, the EU and Russia to accept a ‘land for peace’ deal which would end the conflict. This raises the questions ‘How much land?’ and ‘What kind of peace?’

Statements by US Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice in her recent visit to the Middle East make it clear that the US in now backing a Palestinian State which will comprise most of the territory of Judea and Samaria (the West Bank). As far as the Palestinian Authority and the Arab Muslim world are concerned the land required for peace is the whole territory that Israel gained in 1967, including the Old City and surrounding areas of Jerusalem that were under Jordanian control from 1948 to 1967. When Israel took the Old City of Jerusalem in 1967 Moshe Dayan said, ‘We have retaken our holiest places, never again to depart.’ Much of the area surrounding Jerusalem has been developed by Israel since 1967 with settlements which are towns or extensions of Jerusalem in themselves. Therefore the redivision of Jerusalem to the borders of 1948 is almost unthinkable to most Israelis. As Zechariah says, Jerusalem is a ‘very heavy stone burdening all nations.’

We also have to consider the question of ‘What kind of peace?’ Israelis note that a whole generation of Palestinians has been brought up to hate Israelis and that many programmes on the Palestinian media are given over to incitement to murder. Palestinian Media Watch, an Israel-based organization that monitors incitement in Palestinian society, has compiled a presentation entitled ‘Kill a Jew – Go to Heaven’. It accuses the Palestinian media of dehumanizing Jews similar to ways the Nazis did. A fundamental message broadcast in sermons, academic discourse and even children’s shows, according to report co-author Itamar Marcus, is that ‘the Jews are an evil force, and it’s inherent to the Jews, and therefore they have to be killed.’ Nathan Sharansky stated, ‘As in Nazi Germany, there is an entire ‘culture of hatred’ in Palestinian society today, from textbooks to crossword puzzles, from day camps to TV music videos. Calling for the murder of Jews, as Jews, is the end result.’ In the official Friday sermon broadcast on February 4th 2005, senior Muslim figure Ibrahim Mudyris explained that the diplomatic process can only achieve a return to the borders Israel had before the 1967 war. The final stage, he said will be the destruction of Israel ‘the way Muhammad returned there as a conqueror.’

All of this ties in with the passage in Zechariah 12. The surrounding peoples are politically and psychologically laying siege against Judah and Jerusalem, seeking ultimately the elimination of the Jewish state and the return of Jerusalem to Arab Muslim control, either through diplomacy or through armed struggle. All the nations are involved through the United Nations and international diplomacy led by the USA. They are also involved through the world religions, especially Judaism, Christianity and Islam which all have an interest in what happens in Jerusalem.

The stage is therefore being set for the fulfilment of Zechariah 12-14 which involves the nations coming against Jerusalem to battle at the end of days, a temporary fall of part of Jerusalem to the invading forces and the return of the Messiah in power and glory. In Zechariah 14 we read that this event will be coupled with a great earthquake causing the Mount of Olives to split in two. Such a major earthquake would also have a devastating effect on the present city of Jerusalem. In February 2004 there was a earthquake measuring 5 on the Richter scale in the Jordan Rift Valley. It shook Israel and the surrounding area and caused a crack to appear in the Knesset building half an hour before the Israeli cabinet was scheduled to meet to discuss pulling all Jews out of the Gaza Strip and handing the territory over to the Palestinians. This was followed a few days later by a partial collapse of a section of the south side of the Western Wall, causing the women’s prayer area to be closed for a few days while it was repaired.

On the evening of the earthquake Israeli Channel 2 TV reported that geologists believe a major earthquake could strike Israel without notice, and based on research predict the arrival of ‘the big one’ within the next 50 years. Channel 1, screening a map highlighting areas of the capital believed to be especially susceptible to damage in the event of a major quake, pointed out that the Al Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock – both straddling Israel’s Temple Mount – were most at risk.

Active fault lines run throughout the small Jewish state due to the tectonic structure of the Dead Sea Rift that runs the full length of Israel. According to the ‘Risk Management Solutions’ which monitors the possibility of earthquakes in the region, the Jordan Valley Fault ‘has a high probability of generating a major earthquake. Research suggests that the Jordan Valley Fault generates magnitude 7 or larger earthquakes every 1000 years. The last major event on this segment occurred in 1033, increasing the current probability of a major earthquake.’

All of this makes it very significant that the Hebrew prophet Zechariah foretells a final, cataclysmic earthquake when the Messiah comes to Jerusalem, an event that will split the Mount of Olives in two, from east to west, creating an enormous valley. The book of Revelation 16.18 too speaks of a coming earthquake such as ‘had not occurred since men were on the earth.’

Before the Messiah actually comes to the earth to fulfil Zechariah 14, we read in Zechariah 12.10: ‘I will pour on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of grace and supplication; then they will look on me whom they have pierced and mourn for him as one mourns for his only son’ (Zechariah 12.10).

At the end of days as the final conflict rages around Jerusalem the remnant of Jewish people there will look upon ‘the pierced one’ and understand that He is the only one who can fit the empty space in their lives and fulfil their hopes of the Messiah. There are references in the rabbinic writings to this being a Messianic prophecy also. Commenting on Zechariah 12:10, Rabbi Alshech writes: ‘For they shall lift up their eyes unto me in perfect repentance when they see him whom they have pierced, that is Messiah, the Son of Joseph. For our rabbis of blessed memory have said that he will take upon himself all the guilt of Israel, and then shall be slain in the war to make an atonement.’

This prophecy fits in exactly with the message of Jesus. He is revealed in the Gospel as the only Son who has been ‘pierced’, dying by crucifixion, in order to redeem the world, and who will come the second time to judge the world according to how we have responded to his message.

Jesus gave His teaching on His second coming on the Mount of Olives, just outside Jerusalem (Matthew 24, Mark 13, Luke 21), the same place Zechariah says the Lord is coming to in order to save Israel. Jesus ascended into heaven from there and the angel spoke to the disciples saying: ‘This same Jesus who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven’ (Acts 1.11).

The event described in Zechariah when Israel looks on one who has been pierced will be the same event as Jesus points to in Matthew 23.39 when He says concerning Jerusalem, ‘You shall see me no more until you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’’ When Jesus is welcomed and accepted as Messiah by the Jewish people, He will come to the earth and finally bring peace to Israel, to reign as King over all the earth in fulfilment of Zechariah 14.9 and of Isaiah 2.2-4, which speaks of the time of universal peace on earth following the Messiah’s return.

Tony Pearce

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