Johan Malan, Mossel Bay, South Africa (May 2014)
Israel is a people that were called, separated and sanctified by God to reveal His Son to the world through them, and also to use them as special witnesses of the Messiah. That is the reason why John the Baptist introduced Him as follows: “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29). During the first century, Jesus came as Saviour when He made atonement for the sins of lost humanity on the cross.
However, the Son of God is also destined to physically reveal the kingdom of heaven on earth, and for that reason He is not only the Saviour but also the King of the world. Before His birth, the angel said to Mary: “He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David” (Luke 1:32). Jesus was also incarnated in the house of David to become the King of an Israel-based kingdom and to rule the world from Jerusalem. But He will only be revealed as King at His second coming, after humanity had the opportunity of becoming part of God’s kingdom on a spiritual level through repentance and rebirth.
Great blessings would have been experienced by Israel if they remained true to the Lord and served Him with all their heart while also fully accepting the Messiah. However, the contrary is also true: they would render themselves enemies of God if they turned away from Him and worshiped idols. That has indeed happened and inclined Israel towards rejecting the Messiah as the Son of God. Instead of Israel dwelling safely in their land and being honoured as a special people under the leadership of their Messiah-King, they were driven from their land due to incessant unbelief. Because of Israel’s apostatising the Messiah commissioned the church among the nations (including saved Jews) to be His servants and witnesses on earth.
However, this turn of events do not mean that the Lord has abrogated His covenant with Israel and that they will no longer enjoy the promised blessings of the Messianic reign of peace (cf. Lev. 26:44-45). They would indeed be dispersed among the nations for a very long time but during the second coming of Jesus the Messiah they will be back in their land and, on a national level, be given another opportunity to receive Him as their Messiah. This time, the whole nation will rise to the occasion and fully embrace Him (Matt. 23:39; Zech. 12:10).
It is imperative for Israel to accept the Messiah in order to fulfil their calling as a Messianic people. Because of this, the Lord has given them various prophecies on the coming of His Son. The prophecy on the 70 year-weeks in Daniel 9 includes a countdown to both the first and second coming of the Messiah. Those among them who heeded these prophecies during the first century were able to determine the time of the Messiah’s first coming, while Jews in the coming tribulation period will have a prophetic countdown in terms of which they will be able to determine the exact day of Christ’s second coming. This prophecy reads as follows:
“Seventy weeks are determined for your people [Israel] and for your holy city [Jerusalem], to finish the transgression, to make an end of sins, to make reconciliation for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy, and to anoint the Most Holy. Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the command to restore and build Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince, there shall be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks; the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublesome times. And after the sixty-two weeks Messiah shall be cut off, but not for Himself; and the people of the prince who is to come [the false messiah] shall destroy the city and the sanctuary. The end of it shall be with a flood, and till the end of the war desolations are determined. Then he [the false messiah] shall confirm a covenant with many for one week; but in the middle of the week He shall bring an end to sacrifice and offering. And on the wing of abominations shall be one who makes desolate, even until the consummation, which is determined, is poured out on the desolate” (Dan. 9:24-27).
There are various prophetic points of reference in this prophecy, of which the first 69 year-weeks have already elapsed and can therefore be historically identified without a shadow of doubt. The following events are referred to:
· At the beginning of the 70 year-weeks, in March 445 BC, the Persian king Artaxerxes gave permission to the Jews in exile to return to their land and rebuild Jerusalem and the temple. The initial building work was completed after 7 year-weeks, and during the subsequent 62 year-weeks Jerusalem was inhabited and further expanded during troublesome times.
· At the end of 69 (7+62) year-weeks, in April 32 AD, the Messiah was betrayed and crucified in Jerusalem. Daniel said that He would be “cut off” (Isaiah 53:8 says: “He was cut off from the land of the living”). Because Israel had rejected the Messiah, God’s plan of salvation for them was temporarily suspended. The 70th year-week was “cut off” from the preceding 69 in order that the gospel could be carried out to the entire Gentile world. During this time, Israel’s further history of salvation was postponed while they are in international dispersion among the Gentiles (Luke 21:24).
· The end-time restoration of Israel implies that they would regain full control over Jerusalem, so the temple can be rebuilt and the Old Testament sacrificial system be revived. During that stage they will have a strong expectation on the appearance of the Messiah-King to introduce the final phase of their political and spiritual restoration.
· Due to the advanced stage of Israel’s end-time restoration, the scene is now set for the beginning of the 70th year-week of Daniel, when the false messiah will conclude a covenant with Israel and the nations for one week. He will be recognised as Messiah by Israel, and also grant them the right to rebuild the temple and to resume the sacrificial service.
· In the middle of the final year-week, after 3½ years, the Antichrist will forbid the sacrifices and desecrate the temple by declaring himself to be God and setting up an image of himself in the Most Holy. During the last 3½ years of this week, he will be revealed as a violent tyrant and enforce his demand to de worshipped upon all people.
· At the end of the 70th year-week the true Messiah will come, destroy the false messiah and his followers, and save the entire remnant of Israel physically and spiritually. Subsequently, the Messianic reign of peace will be instituted and everlasting righteousness will prevail, as envisaged in Daniel 9:24.
· There are three different countdowns in Daniel’s prophecy on the 70 year-weeks. The first one is the 69 year-weeks between the command to rebuild Jerusalem and the crucifixion of the Messiah. The second one is the 3½ years (42 months) between the covenant with the false messiah and the day when he will defame the temple by entering into it and declaring himself to be equal with God. The third countdown is the 3½ years between the Antichrist’s abominable act of self-deification and the second coming of the true Messiah.
Firstly, clarity needs to be gained on the exact length of prophetic year-weeks. A year-week (Heb. “Shabuwa”) refers to a group of seven – in this case a week of seven years. Year-weeks are well-known periods in Israel and are also used in modern Israel to group years together into sevens (Lev. 25:3-4). After every six years, orthodox Jews observe the seventh year as a sabbatical year when the land has to rest. A jubilee is celebrated every 50th year, following upon seven year-weeks (Lev. 25:8-10). The prophecy in Daniel 9 refers to 70 year-weeks, i.e. a time of 490 years.
The scripture in Daniel 9 is based upon a prophetic calendar in which every year has 360 days, being composed of 12 months of 30 days each. It differs from the seasonal or sun calendar in which years have 365¼ days, as well as the lunar calendar of Jews with its years of 254 days each. However, Israel has a complex system of leap years in which a 13th month is added to certain years, thereby ensuring that their years do not become out of cycle with the seasons. The month Nisan, in which they celebrate Pesach, should always coincide with the spring month while Tishri, during which the harvest festivals are celebrated, should always be in autumn.
When a certain period in the prophetic calendar is converted into days, it can be applied to any other calendar to arrive at a certain date. That is the reason why prophecies and periods which are part of the 70th year-week of Daniel (i.e. the tribulation of seven years) are expressed in terms of days or months, which ensures that their exact length can be determined beyond any doubt. In Revelation, the two halves of this year-week are often described as 1 260 days, and also as 42 months. This fact alone renders strong proof that there is a direct relationship between prophecies in Revelation and Daniel.
In Revelation 11:3-12, two special witnesses are described who will minister during the first half of the tribulation period in Israel. John says that they will prophesy for 1 260 days (3½ years) until the middle of the week when they will be confronted and killed by the Antichrist. That will coincide with the time when the Antichrist will forbid any further sacrifices in the temple, as well as the worship of Yahweh, declares himself to be God and starts killing all the witnesses of the true God. That also includes Israelis who will refuse to worship the false messiah and his image.
Because of this situation, Jews who refuse to worship the false messiah will hastily have to flee from Jerusalem and its surroundings. In His Olivet Discourse, the Lord Jesus referred to the seriousness of this situation:
“Therefore when you see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place (whoever reads, let him understand), then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. Let him who is on the housetop not go down to take anything out of his house. And let him who is in the field not go back to get his clothes. But woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days! And pray that your flight may not be in winter or on the Sabbath. For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be. And unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved” (Matt. 24:15-22).
These Jews will probably flee to Petra south of the Dead Sea in an effort to remain outside the reach of the Antichrist. They will stay there during the final 42 months of the tribulation period. Johns says: “Then the woman [referring to Israel] fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God, that they should feed her there one thousand two hundred and sixty days” (Rev. 12:6). This is the same period as the 42 months when the self-deified Antichrist will act blasphemously, institutes a reign of terror over the nations, makes war against the saints and will overcome them (Rev. 13:5-7).
As far as the first part of the prophecy is concerned which culminated in the rejection of the Messiah, 69 year-weeks (483 prophetic years) have indeed elapsed since the permission given by Artaxerxes to Nehemiah on 1 Nisan 445 BC to rebuild Jerusalem (Neh. 2:1-8), until the crucifixion of the Messiah on 14 Nisan 32 AD. The 483 prophetic years of 360 days add up to 173 880 days. When that figure is divided by 365¼ it equals 476,06 seasonal years on our Gregorian calendar. On this calendar, the 69 year-weeks elapsed between 23 March 445 BC (1 Nisan on the Jewish calendar) and Friday 11 April 32 AD (14 Nisan on the Jewish calendar), and came to an end on the day when Jesus was crucified. All that remains in Israel’s history of salvation until the dawning of the Messianic reign of peace is the 70th year-week of Daniel which will be introduced by the false messiah’s covenant with Israel. It is evident beyond any doubt that the 70th year-week in this prophecy will be fulfilled just as literal as the first 69 year-weeks, and can therefore not be spiritualised, allegorised, or interpreted in any other non-literal way.
The big gap between the 69th and 70th year-weeks is filled by the church dispensation, when the entire world is to be evangelised. Although individual Jews can be saved during this time, and many of them indeed played a major role in the church dispensation, the majority of Israelites are in a spiritually hardened state during this period. As a nation, they will only be saved at the end of the time of world evangelisation. Paul says: “For I do not desire, brethren, that you should be ignorant of this mystery, lest you should be wise in your own opinion, that blindness in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written: The Deliverer will come out of Zion, and He will turn away ungodliness from Jacob” (Rom. 11:25-26).
As far as the church age is concerned, we do not have a countdown up till the moment when the heavenly Bridegroom will come to take away His bride at the rapture. We can only make general observations on the end-time in the light of the fulfilment of prophecies on the restoration of Israel and their capital city, Jerusalem; however, no pertinent date-setting can be based on these events. The Lord links the concept if imminence to promises on His second coming by indicating that He will come unexpectedly, as a thief in the night. He wishes to ensure that all believers of all times expect His sudden coming and engage in making preparations for their future life in heaven by doing things that have value for eternity. Only after the church has been caught away, the time for the remaining countdowns in Daniel 9 and 12 will follow.
Firstly, there will be a countdown of 1 260 days between the day in which Israel concludes a covenant with the false messiah, and the middle of the tribulation period when he will desecrate the temple. Daniel gives more details on this major crisis during the middle of the 70th week, when the countdown to the coming of the true Messiah will begin. He says: “And forces shall be mustered by him, and they shall defile the sanctuary fortress; then they shall take away the daily sacrifices, and place there the abomination of desolation” (Dan. 11:31). The image which will be made of the Antichrist will be part of his self-deification: “The king shall do according to his own will: he shall exalt and magnify himself above every god” (Dan. 11:31). That will be the beginning of the great tribulation, which will be the last half of the year-week (Matt. 24:21).
Great distress will come upon the Jews while they flee from Jerusalem to the mountains: “At that time Michael shall stand up, the great prince who stands watch over the sons of your people; and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation, even to that time” (Dan. 12:1). However, during this time of severe persecution they will have a definite countdown to the time when they will be reconciled with the true Messiah, and when they will subsequently also become co-heirs of His kingdom: “And from the time that the daily sacrifice is taken away, and the abomination of desolation is set up, there shall be one thousand two hundred and ninety days. Blessed is he who waits, and comes to the one thousand three hundred and thirty-five days” (Dan. 12:11-12).
There are good reasons why Daniel first adds 30 days to the 1 260 days of the great tribulation, and subsequently another 45 days, as there are various events that will occur between the day when the Messiah sets foot on the Mount of Olives and the formal establishment of His kingdom. To clearly comprehend the relationship between the different phases of this countdown we need to consider the larger context of events which form part of the last year-week.
Israel’s reckoning of years – and therefore also their cycle of year-weeks – begins on the Rosh Hashanah (New Year’s feast) in the month of Tishri on the secular version of their lunar calendar (that celebration usually coincides with a date in September on the Gregorian sun calendar). During this month the Jews celebrate their harvest festivals, which are the last three in the annual cycle of the seven major festivals (Lev. 23). These three feasts are the Feast of Trumpets (Rosh Hashanah), the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur), and the Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkoth). Believing Jews have a strong expectation that the Messiah will appear during one of these last three feasts.
Seeing that the false messiah will attempt to take the place of the true Messiah (cf. John 5:43), and in the light of the fact that he will conclude a covenant with Israel for one year-week, it is generally expected that he will make his appearance during one of the harvest festivals, close to the beginning of a year (and potentially also of a year-week). His acceptance by Israel and the conclusion of a covenant with him, will initiate a countdown of 1 260 days until he will declare himself to be God in the rebuilt temple. The middle of a year-week in Israel is always in Nisan, which is the spring month when the Passover is celebrated. It is during this feast that the Antichrist will commit his extreme act of blasphemy. The majority of Jews will revoke their covenant with him as he will insist that all of them bow down before his image and worship it.
In the Ten Commandments, Israel is strongly prohibited from practising idolatry: “You shall not bow down to them nor serve them” (Ex. 20:5). During the Babylonian captivity Daniel’s three friends sternly refused to bow down before the image which was made by Nebuchadnezzar, and because of that extreme demonstration of faith, idol-worship is still deeply repugnant to Jews. They will openly reject the false messiah’s command to worship him as God and summarily revoke their covenant with him. This act will greatly infuriate the Antichrist and he will order genocide of the Jews. When that happens they will have to flee to the mountains in great hurry. This flight will be attended by the greatest distress and anxiety in the entire history of Israel. The countdown to the coming of the true Messiah will start at the moment when the Antichrist commits his blasphemous act, which will cause Israel to flee from him.
The Lord Jesus warned the Jews that they should waste no time in getting away from the false messiah, and because of that they should pray that their flight does not take place on a Sabbath or in winter (Matt. 24:20). On the Sabbath, orthodox Jews are only permitted to walk about two kilometres (Acts 1:12), in which case the powers of the Antichrist will overtake and kill them. In wintertime, their progress will be slow and difficult. Should they have to flee during spring, it is possible that late cold from the preceding winter may occur. However, they should pray that it will a warm spring day, so they can get away quickly and will also be able to overnight in the open without shelter. They will probably flee southwards along the Dead Sea until they reach the remote and desolate canyon at Petra in Jordan. This is a rugged place which is only accessible through a narrow gorge. Petra has more recently been declared as a world heritage site where warfare or any destruction of the environment is prohibited.
During Israel’s flight the Lord will help them not be overtaken and obliterated by their enemies. This protection may even take the form of an earthquake in which a large rift is formed that will prevent the pursuers from reaching them: “So the serpent [Satan] spewed water out of his mouth like a flood after the woman [Israel], that he might cause her to be carried away by the flood. But the earth helped the woman, and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed up the flood which the dragon had spewed out of his mouth” (Rev. 12:15-16). The Antichrist will also be troubled by revolts which will break out in diverse places against his military regime: “But news from the east and the north shall trouble him; therefore he shall go out with great fury to destroy and annihilate many” (Dan. 11:44).
A remnant of Israel will be protected to survive the great tribulation of 3½ years, and they will continue with their countdown of 1 260 days since the beginning of their flight. At the end of that year-week, around the time of the harvest festivals in Tishri, they will move up to Jerusalem to await the coming of the Messiah on the Mount of Olives. A highly dramatic 2½ months will follow there, and through the Lord’s intervention that will lead to a permanent turning-point in the destiny of Israel.
It will be an extremely dangerous venture for the Jews in exile to embark on a journey by foot from their mountainous hide-out to Jerusalem, as a multinational military deployment for the battle of Armageddon will by underway in Israel – and specifically also around Jerusalem. However, there is nothing that will keep these Jews from their intended journey as they will be strongly convinced that they will see the Messiah descending upon the Mount of Olives, when they will be physically saved and also spiritually reconciled with Him. The approaching Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur) of that year will give rise to a big expectation of divine intervention. It will be their final hope that the Messiah will come to destroy their enemies and to offer Israel a new beginning of faithfulness and dedication to the Lord.
The faith of the exiles in the imminent coming of the Messiah will have to be so strong that they will even be prepared to risk their lives and face the possibility of complete extermination by entering the besieged city of Jerusalem. They will understand the dangers of the following scenario in Zechariah 14 very well, but that will also be their only hope of meeting the Messiah:
“For I will gather all the nations to battle against Jerusalem; the city shall be taken, the houses rifled, and the women ravished. ... Then the Lord will go forth and fight against those nations, as He fights in the day of battle. And in that day His feet will 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 towards the north and half of it towards 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. It shall come to pass in that day that there will be no light; the lights will diminish. It shall be one day which is known to the Lord; neither day nor night. But at evening time it shall happen that it will be light. ... And the Lord shall be King over all the earth. ... And this shall be the plague with which the Lord will strike all the people who fought against Jerusalem: Their flesh shall dissolve while they stand on their feet, their eyes shall dissolve in their sockets, and their tongues shall dissolve in their mouths. It shall come to pass in that day that a great panic from the Lord will be among them. Everyone will seize the hand of his neighbour, and raise his hand against his neighbour’s hand” (Zech. 14:2-13).
Antichristian forces will start conquering Jerusalem, and they will also close in on the fugitives from Petra. In utter desperation and despair, these Jews will look up to the sky for the coming of the Messiah and cry out: “Our hope is lost, and we ourselves are cut off!” (Ezek. 37:11). Then it will suddenly happen: The Son of God will descend from heaven, followed by a host of angels and saints, and set foot on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem. The Mount of Olives will be split in two, forming a big valley in which the fugitives will find refuge against their enemies. They will flee into the crevasses and caves in die mountainside and there, literally at the feet of Jesus the Messiah, they will be safe.
The darkness of God’s judgements will enfold the earth during daytime, just as it happened almost 2 000 years ago when His judgement for the sin of the world was carried by Jesus on the cross outside Jerusalem. Between 12 noon and 3 p.m. when Jesus died, it suddenly became dark (Matt. 27:45). A similar phenomenon will occur on the day of His second coming, while the judgements of God will be poured out upon the sinners at the battle of Armageddon. Late the afternoon it will become light again (Zech. 14:7). Amos also refers to the darkness which will prevail during the judgements of the day of the Lord: “For what good is the day of the Lord to you? It will be darkness, and not light ... very dark with no brightness in it” (Amos 5:18, 20).
In these dramatic and decisive moments, great confusion will prevail among the enemies of Israel while they are befallen and destroyed by God’s judgements. They will also start killing one another. The false messiah and the false prophet, as the two leaders of the worldwide rebellion against God and His people, will be captured and cast alive into the lake of fire (Rev. 19:19-20).
When the light shines through again, the remnant in Israel will fall down before the Messiah in amazement and worship. They will look up to Him and become utterly perplexed when they see wounds in His hands. Their first words to Him will be: “What are these wounds in Your hands? Then He will answer, Those with which I was wounded in the house of my friends” (Zech. 13:6).
How will the Jews account for the fact that the Messiah will have wounds in His hands when He appears on the Mount of Olives? Where were these wounds inflicted on Him? It could not have been in heaven! They will indeed look on Him whom they have pierced during His first coming, when He was prepared to be nailed to a cross and die for the sins of the whole world. Because of the testimony of the wounds in His body as confirmation of His atoning death on the cross, the glorified body of Jesus still bears the marks of His crucifixion (John 20:24-29).
The union between Israel and the Messiah will be highly affectionate and sincere. The people who, moments before, were still faced by extermination will fall down in worship before the feet of their Saviour. Their joy will be alternated by tears of remorse while the remnant in Israel is reconciled with Yeshua Ha Mashiach (Jesus the Messiah). It will indeed be a Day of Atonement to them, and the beginning of the national conversion of all the Jews who survived the great tribulation:
“And 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 pierced. Yes, they will mourn for Him as one mourns for his only son, and grieve for Him as one grieves for a firstborn. In that day there shall be a great mourning in Jerusalem, like the mourning at Hadad Rimmon in the plain of Megiddo. And the land shall mourn, every family by itself. ... In that day a fountain shall be opened for the house of David and for the inhabitants of Jerusalem, for sin and for uncleanness. It shall be in that day, says the Lord of hosts, "that I will cut off the names of the idols from the land, and they shall no longer be remembered” (Zech. 12:10-12; 13:1-2).
The period of mourning will probably last for 30 days, as was customary in Israel (Num. 20:29; Deut. 34:8). At the end of these thirty days the entire remnant in Israel will be saved (Rom. 11:26). After 30 days, 1 290 days will have elapsed since that dark day of open rebellion against the kingdom of heaven, when the false messiah declared himself to be God in the temple in Jerusalem. A further 45 days will be taken up by the marriage feast of the Lamb, the restoration of the throne of David in Jerusalem, as well as the judgement of the nations (Rev. 19:7-9; Acts 15:16-17; Matt. 25:31-32). The judgement of Matthew 25 will take place before Christ’s throne of glory when all those who survived the great tribulation will appear before Him.
When the reign of the Messiah is formally instituted, 1 335 days will have elapsed since the beginning of the false messiah’s reign of terror when his image was set up in the temple. Jews who survive this terrible time will see the Messiah’s coming after 1 260 days of great tribulation. After 1 290 days they will be spiritually reconciled with Him, and after 1 335 days they will enter into the promised reign of the Messiah. Everlasting righteousness will then prevail for them as the people of God while the Messiah rules from Jerusalem.
Everlasting righteousness will only be a reality in Israel at the end of the 70 year-weeks as the promises of the millennial reign of the Messiah will then be fulfilled to them. It is for the following reasons evident that the reign of peace has not yet dawned for Israel or any other nation:
Israel will be greatly blessed: Israel will enjoy unprecedented blessings during the Messiah’s reign. The Lord says: “Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love. ... Again I will build you and you shall be rebuilt, O virgin of Israel! ... For thus says the Lord: Sing with gladness for Jacob, and shout among the chief of the nations. ... Behold, I bring them from the north country and gather them from the ends of the earth. ... For I will turn their mourning to joy. ... No more shall every man teach his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord, for they all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them” (Jer. 31:3-4, 7-8, 13, 34). The saved Israel will be fully in favour with God and be the most important nation on earth (Zech. 8:23). The nation has never enjoyed blessings of this nature. During their international dispersion the past 2 000 years, there was no other nation that suffered so much continued sorrows than Israel. Even during the 40 years before the destruction of Jerusalem, their land was afflicted by internal strife, attacks from outside, and revolts against the Roman Empire.
Christ rules as King: During the reign of peace, the Messiah will not only be King of the world but specifically also King of the Jews (Luke 1:32; Acts 15:16-17). The fact is that the Jews have never as a people accepted Jesus as their Messiah and King, as there was never a situation of national repentance when they looked up to Him whom they have pierced to accept Him as their Messiah (Zech. 12:10). During the millennium when Christ will rule over the world, Satan will be bound and will therefore not be in a position to deceive the nations (Rev. 20:1-3). That is another reason why the entire Israel will serve the Lord, as well as a saved remnant of the nations: “At that time Jerusalem shall be called The Throne of the Lord, and all the nations shall be gathered to it, to the name of the Lord, to Jerusalem. No more shall they follow the dictates of their evil hearts” (Jer. 3:17). At present the situation is quite different as the majority of people in Israel and also among the nations still have hardened hearts that are blinded by die god of this world, Satan (2 Cor. 4:4). The whole world still lies under the sway of the devil (1 John 5:19).
Jerusalem as the spiritual and political capital of the world: The nations of the world will go to Jerusalem to pray to the Lord for mercy: “Many peoples and strong nations shall come to seek the Lord of hosts in Jerusalem and to pray before the Lord” (Zech. 8:22). This situation will clearly only prevail after the second coming of Christ, when deputations from the nations that fought against Jerusalem, but subsequently repented, will annually go to Jerusalem to praise the Prince of Peace and celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles (Zech. 14:16). In the new dispensation, the nations will fully accept the authority of Christ, live in peace with all other nations, and completely discontinue their present military policies of training soldiers and amassing military hardware. To the contrary – weapons will be melted and the material used to manufacture agricultural implements: “Many people shall come and say, Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; He will teach us His ways, and we shall walk in His paths. For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. He shall judge between the nations, and rebuke many people; they shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore” (Isa. 2:3-4). This situation will be clearly different from the present situation in which Jerusalem is trampled by the Gentiles, Israel’s divine mandate over the city and the land of Israel is not even recognised by the international community, while weapons of mass destruction are amassed as never before.
Israel evangelises the world: During the reign of peace Israel will be God’s people who will fulfil their calling to evangelise the entire world (Isa. 27:6). They will then, in a special way, be a blessing to all the world. Paul says: “Now if their fall is riches for the world, and their failure riches for the Gentiles, how much more their fullness!” (Rom. 11:12). The fact that Israel, as a nation, rejected the Messiah during His first coming, was the major reason why He commissioned His disciples after His resurrection to proclaim the gospel to all nations (Mark 16:15). We received the salvation which they have rejected. The Lord now expects gratitude from us, as well as a commitment to make Israel jealous on what we have received, so they can also share in the salvation of the Messiah (Rom. 11:11). When they serve the Messiah with all their heart, they will be an example and blessing to the whole world. Up to the present stage Israel was not in a position to proclaim the praises of the Messiah among the nations as they have not yet received Him as Saviour.
Shortly, the Messiah will catch away His true church that acted as a withholder against the appearing of the false messiah (2 Thess. 2:6-8). After that, the false messiah will be revealed and usher in the dark time of trouble for Jacob as well as the unbelieving nations (Jer. 30:7). In the middle of tribulation period, the false messiah will presumptuously declare himself to be the God and King of all the nations, including Israel. On that very evil day, Israel’s countdown to the coming of the true Messiah will begin – 1 260 days until they will see Him coming on the Mount of Olives, 1 290 days until they will be reconciled with Him, and 1 335 days until they will enter into the promised Messianic kingdom.
That will be the end of the 70 year-weeks which were mostly characterised by great distress to unbelieving Israel – then the phase of everlasting righteousness will dawn. Isaiah says: “He will swallow up death forever, and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces; the rebuke of His people He will take away from all the earth; for the Lord has spoken. And it will be said in that day: Behold, this is our God; we have waited for Him, and He will save us. This is the Lord; we have waited for Him; we will be glad and rejoice in His salvation” (Isa. 25:8-9).
The second coming of Jesus Christ, the annihilation of the Antichrist and his powers, the binding of Satan and his demons in a pit, the spiritual quickening of a remnant in Israel, the restoration of the throne of David in Jerusalem, and the elevation of Jerusalem to be a world capital under the rule of the Messiah, will all follow upon the 70th year-week of Israel’s history of salvation. Every Christian should pray for the dawning of this wonderful period in the history of the world, because the Lord has clearly commanded us to do so:
“I have set watchmen on your walls, O Jerusalem; they shall never hold their peace day or night. You who make mention of the Lord, do not keep silent, and give Him no rest till He establishes and till He makes Jerusalem a praise in the earth” (Isa. 62:6-7). In their Bible Knowledge Commentary, p. 1117, Profs. Walvoord & Zuck say the following on this Scripture: “In the ancient world watchmen were stationed on city walls (often in towers) to watch for any approaching enemy. While on guard they were never to sleep. Righteous Israelites, like watchmen, were to be alert on Jerusalem’s behalf. They were to give themselves and God no rest till He establishes Jerusalem, that is, they were constantly to ask God that the city become the praise of the earth, so blessed by God that people everywhere would extol her.”
Jerusalem as “the city of the Great King” (Ps. 48:2) will play a pivotal role in the dispensation of everlasting righteousness which will dawn after the 70 year-weeks of Israel.