Next week (May 15th) marks the 64th anniversary of the founding of the State of Israel. The historic and prophetic significance of this monumental event can hardly be exaggerated.
In light of the anniversary this month, our aim is to give away digital copies of “The Controversy of Zion and the Time of Jacob’s Trouble” for a limited time. Details about how will soon be announced.
Until then, we have made the Seventh Chapter–entitled “The Modern State of Israel: Jacob’s Final Crucible”–free for download. You’ll find the links below.
If you’d like to help promote the book, please pass this on.
For His glory,
“I might show you by scriptural evidence that the Jews will probably first be gathered in an unconverted state, though humbled, and will afterwards be taught to look to Him whom they have pierced, through much tribulation.”
J. C. Ryle (May 1858)
“The terrible fiery furnace (of Jacob’s trouble) immediately succeeds the gathering into the midst of Jerusalem.”
David Baron (1855-1926)
In this chapter we turn our focus to the political birth of the modern State of Israel and the question of its relevance to biblical prophecy. Such a consideration is foundational to the “the controversy of Zion” and the “time of Jacob’s trouble;” namely because for the first time since the generation of the apostles, the modern State has made the final conflict of which the prophets spoke possible. Substantial Jewish presence on Jewish soil for the first time since the first century is one of the premier “signs of the times” indicating the nearness of Jacob’s final “trouble.”
THE POLITICAL BIRTH OF THE STATE OF ISRAEL IN 1948
On May 14, 1948, after almost 2,000 years of national homelessness and through an inconceivable turn of geopolitical events, the Jewish Agency decreed the independence of a self-determining State called “Israel.” Then in June of 1967, just shy of two decades later, the coveted city of Jerusalem that the Jews were long denied came under Jewish sovereignty (with the controversial exception of the Temple Mount) after the famous Six-Day War.
With Jewish presence on Jewish soil and Jewish possession of the City of David for the first time in two millennia, the question of the meaning, significance, and role of the State of Israel in God’s historic and prophetic purposes demands our consideration. Herein lies the present tense manifestation of the “controversy of Zion.”
A HISTORICAL OVERVIEW OF THE BIRTH OF THE STATE
Below is a brief overview of a few of the most significant events in two millennia of Jewish history that give perspective to this monumental juncture of the political emergence of Israel.
The Significance of AD 70
In AD 70, just as Jesus prophesied in Luke 19:41-44, the city of Jerusalem was besieged by the Roman army and was subsequently decimated in a horrific military campaign. The fall of Jerusalem to the Romans began a 2,000-year period of Jewish exile from the Land, which is often referred to as “The Diaspora.” For 2,000 years the Jews made (mostly unwelcome) residence in nearly every nation on earth—except Israel.
The Emergence of Modern Political Zionism
Then, at the end of the 1800s, what would later become widely known as “Zionism” began to take shape. Zionism as a political movement was formally established by the Austro-Hungarian journalist Theodor Herzl in 1897 following the publication of his book Der Judenstaat. While Zionism is nuanced, the movement’s visionary center-of-gravity was the dream of the re-establishment of an independent Jewish Nation-State upon the same soil from which the Jews were driven. The Shorter Oxford English Dictionary defines Zionism as, “A movement for the reestablishment of a Jewish nationhood in Palestine, and [since 1948] the development of the State of Israel.”
The ideology galvanized, progressively maturing and gaining momentum during the first few decades of the 1900s, until the Second World War broke out. WWII and the events that followed marked an unparalleled turning point in Jewish history. The spirit of Zionism was significantly bolstered and forged, indelibly shaping the geopolitical landscape of the Middle East from then until now.
The Impact of World War II on the Birth of the State of Israel
The systematic annihilation of approximately six million Jews under the leadership of Adolph Hitler and the Nazis thrust “the question of the Jew” and their predicament of national homelessness into the conscience of the global community, lending Zionism the momentum that years of political maneuvering could not accomplish. As the Allied Forces advanced into Germany and began to liberate the towns that hosted the now famous Death Camps, international sympathy for the Jewish people grew. In the bloody wake of World War II and the gut-wrenching aftermath of the Nazi Holocaust, the political stage was set for something incredible, controversial, and unforeseen. At four p.m. on May 14, 1948, the Jewish Agency made the hotly contested declaration of independence of the self-determining State that was to be called “Israel”—a declaration that on May 11, 1949, under the primary leadership of US President Harry S. Truman—was acknowledged and accepted by the United Nations in a majority vote.
The Arab-Israeli War on 1948
The celebration on May 14, 1948, quickly turned somber as a fledgling band of Jews found itself surrounded by vowed enemies and significantly outnumbered. As soon as the declaration of Israel’s independence was made, roughly fourteen million Arabs—comprised of the armies of Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Lebanon, and Iraq—declared war on 650,000 virtually unarmed Jews, initiating the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. This war would fail to accomplish its primary objective of pushing Israel into the sea.
Consequently, the population of Israel rose from 800,000 to two million between 1948 and 1958 as Jewish immigrants and survivors of the Holocaust made their way in droves to the newly founded State. Thus it was clear: The Jews were here to stay. For now at least.
The Repossession of Jerusalem in the Six Day War of 1967
By 1966-1967 the Arab-Israeli tension was mounting and the conflict was intensifying. Egypt announced a partial blockade of Israel’s access to the Red Sea. As a result, Israel launched a preemptive strike which consequently began the Six Day War with Egypt, Jordan, and Syria, fought between June 5 and June 10 in 1967. The outcome of the war was staggering. Israel gained decisive control of the Gaza Strip and the Sinai Peninsula from Egypt, the West Bank and East Jerusalem from Jordan, and the Golan Heights from Syria. For the first time since the generation of the apostles (circa AD 30-100), there were Jews in the city of Jerusalem with governing power.
THE BIBLICAL SIGNIFICANCE OF THE BIRTH OF THE STATE
The declaration of Israel’s Statehood in 1948 and the reclaiming of Jerusalem in 1967 are two of the most significant events in modern history. In addition to dramatically altering the political and social landscape of the Middle East, they gained the attention of Bible-believing Christians who for the last 2,000 years had unanswered questions about the future of the Jewish people and the prophecies about an end-time regathering to the Land.
In 1980, just a year before his death, the great preacher of Westminster Martin Lloyd Jones said the following in an interview:
“To me 1967, the year that the Jews occupied all of Jerusalem, was very crucial. Luke 21:43 is one of the most significant prophetic verses: ‘Jerusalem,’ it reads, ‘shall be trodden down of the Gentiles until the time of the Gentiles be fulfilled.’ It seems to me that that took place in 1967—something crucially important that had not occurred in 2,000 years….I am equally impressed…that we are living in the time of the end…”
World-renowned Bible teacher Derek Prince saw 1967 the way Jones did: as a miracle of epic proportions that set in motion the unfolding of events that not only fulfilled ancient prophecies but also signaled the nearness of the return of Jesus. He and his wife were living in Jerusalem during the years surrounding 1948 when the State was born and witnessed the incredible unfolding of events up close and personal. He describes his experience in his book The Promised Land:
“ marked the beginning of the end… It has been my privilege to live through what I consider to be the two most significant fulfillments of Biblical prophecy since the first century. The first was the rebirth of the state of Israel in May 1948. The second was the reestablishment of the Jewish government over the area that Jesus knew as Jerusalem in 1967.”
“[I] had been permitted to see [the fulfillment of Isaiah 66:8 and the birth of the Nation in a day] with my own eyes! On one day—May 14, 1948—Israel was born as a complete nation, with its own government, armed forces and necessary administrative functions. True, everything had been improvised hastily and on a small scale. Yet all the necessary ingredients were there to make Israel a sovereign nation within its own borders. So far as I knew, such an event was without parallel in human history.”
Prince was a loyal intercessor for Israel and a diligent student of biblical prophecy. He believed that
“the central theme of biblical prophecy, as it is being unfolded in our time, revolves around the land and the people of Israel. God is carrying out His predetermined plan to regather the Jewish people from their worldwide dispersion and restore them to their ancient homeland.”
THE BIBLICAL TEACHING ON THE FATE OF THE STATE
While Prince and Jones are correct in their estimation of the prophetic significance of the birth of the modern State and the Jewish possession of Jerusalem, it’s important that we understand the full scope of the prophetic implications of these great events. It’s essential that we discern what objectives the State is intended to meet in the plans and purposes of God. Over this issue there is much debate and confusion.
For example, Prince believed that the events surrounding 1948 constitute the fulfillment of the prophecy that the Jews would be resettled in Israel “never again [to] be uprooted out of the Land that I have given them” (in Amos 9:14-15). Along with most Christian Zionists, Prince contested that the modern State was the first stage in the process of Israel’s restoration. He believed therefore that the present tenure in the Land is permanent. He wrote that
“[Amos 9:14-15] contains…predictions, each of which is being fulfilled before our eyes….For my part, I believe Israel is now receiving permanent possession of the Land, just as God here promises: ‘never again to be uprooted.’”
Prince articulated what is affirmed by the majority of Christians who view the birth of the State as the fulfillment of prophecy: The modern State as we now know it is here to stay. I submit, however, that there is “more to the story.”
Scripture is quite clear that the final hour of tribulation, judgment, and refining of the Jewish people occurs in the Land of Israel. As we’ll explore in the next few chapters, the fact that this season of unequaled violence and purgation will befall the Jewish people in their ancient homeland requires that we view the establishment of the current State as but one of the stages in the order of a relatively complex drama.
We cannot view the modern State as permanent, unchallengeable, inviolable, and invincible (the way many Christian Zionists now view it) until it passes through the different stages of the restoration of Israel described in the Scriptures, stages that we have yet to witness.
A mistaken view of the order of the return of the Jews to the Land of Israel predisposes us towards unrealistic expectations concerning the fate of the State. Unrealistic expectations will not serve the Church or the Jews as the coming storm approaches.
THE END-TIME INVASION AND OPPRESSION OF THE STATE OF ISRAEL
The present-day State is not intended to satisfy the ultimate intentions of God for national Israel; it is a preliminary provision that sets the stage for future crisis and greater glory. This is made clear by the multitude of prophecies that depict Israel “shattered,” “captive,” “scattered,” and “sifted among the nations” at the “time of the end” before her great “awakening.”
The fact that Israel’s restoration and Jerusalem’s final vindication at the end of the Age is said to follow a season of unequaled suffering stands to contradict the common belief that the present-day State is relatively invincible. The prophetic Scriptures are consistent in showing Israel suffering the fury of foreign enemies and the fierce wrath of God in their own Land before the Jewish people can rest secure in a restored Nation free from future oppression. The prospect of the political death of the State as we now know it isn’t a popular idea among Christian Zionists (and understandably so). However, it is clearly established in Scripture.
Take for example Isaiah 51:17-52:2. In Isaiah 52:1-2 we read about the final salvation of Israel and the beautification of the city of Jerusalem:
“Awake, awake, put on your strength, O Zion; put on your beautiful garments, O Jerusalem, the holy city; for there shall no more come into you the uncircumcised and the unclean. Shake yourself from the dust and arise; be seated, O Jerusalem; loose the bonds from your neck, O captive daughter of Zion.” (Isaiah 51:1-2)
This prophecy of Jerusalem’s final deliverance describes how foreign oppression will forever cease as her final “captivity” comes to a dramatic close. Zion’s final “awakening” and “rising” is out of the “dust” and ashes of the yet future “time of Jacob’s trouble,” and not a minute sooner. This passage tells us that the “holy city” will not be free from captivity until after a final hour of “captivity.”
The fact that the inhabitants of Zion are called to “arise” out of “captivity” is evidence of the dark days ahead and the fate of the modern State. The picture we’re shown in Isaiah 52:1-2 is of a severely oppressed people who have been imprisoned and held in the “bonds” of “unclean” foreign invaders.
Isaiah 52:1-2 describes the condition of the Jewish people when they are delivered from their tormentors. Isaiah 51:17-23 describes the torment. These two chapters are intended to be understood as one unified prophecy. With the present-day State in your mind consider the implications of these passages from 51:17 to 51:23:
“Wake yourself, wake yourself, stand up, O Jerusalem, you who have drunk from the hand of the Lord the cup of his wrath, who have drunk to the dregs the bowl, the cup of staggering.” (Isaiah 51:17)
The scenario that precedes Jerusalem’s awakening is Jerusalem’s suffering. Though we will soon read that the source of her suffering is the foreign armies who have invaded the Land, this passage tells us that the primary source of her suffering is God Himself. Isaiah declares the invasion (soon to be described) as a “cup” of God’s “wrath.” The city of Jerusalem is said to be “staggering” because of the cup of wrath she has drunk from. Isaiah elaborates saying, in essence, that it is not as though they have tasted of God’s wrath, but rather, that she has drained the cup to its very “dregs.” This passage makes it abundantly clear that Jerusalem’s beautification comes on the heels of Jerusalem’s chastisement; a crisis of great severity. “Staggering” is not “the staggering walk of the intoxicated but the final stages of [frenzied panic]: a picture of being hopelessly, irretrievably under the wrath of God.”
“There is none to guide her among all the sons she has borne; there is none to take her by the hand among all the sons she has brought up.” (Isaiah 51:18)
The double mention of “sons” here stresses the point that, though there are many young men to protect the Land, they stand no chance in the face of the onslaught of the enemy. The phrase “there is none to take her by the hand” refers to the complete helplessness of anyone within the Land to deliver (meaning to “guide” or “take”) the city from this great catastrophe.
“These two things have happened to you—who will console you?—devastation and destruction, famine and sword; who will comfort you?” (Isaiah 51:19)
Commenting on the phrase “two things,” Motyer writes, “duplication is the idiom of totality. Thus, even though every human resource of effort, personnel, and assistance (51:18) was there, “ruin and destruction” (total disaster touching property) and “famine and sword” (total destruction against people) left not even a voice to “console.” The destroyed city pictures the devastating effect of divine wrath in action. It runs beyond human power to resist (51:18) and human tenderness to assuage (51:19).” The crisis is so severe that any human attempt to comfort and console is futile.
“Your sons have fainted; they lie at the head of every street like an antelope in a net; they are full of the wrath of the Lord, the rebuke of your God.” (Isaiah 51:20)
The imagery contained in 51:20 is gut-wrenching. The meaning of the uselessness of Jerusalem’s abundance of “sons” in 51:18 is now clear. The “sons” have no ability to deliver the city from its enemies because the “sons” are filling the streets like trapped and helpless animals. Note the conjunction of the fainting and falling of the sons and the wrath and rebuke of God. This drives home the reality that “Jacob’s trouble” is not so much an issue between Jacob and the hostile nations that surround him, but rather Jacob and God. Isaiah declares that the military invasion that precedes Jerusalem’s awakening is an instrument of divine judgment. Political, religious, or ethnic strife is not at the bottom of Israel’s final affliction; God’s wrath is. Before exalting the city that has been destined for glory, God reduces it to ashes and rubble from which He will beckon her to “rise.”
“Therefore hear this, you who are afflicted, who are drunk, but not with wine: Thus says your Lord, the Lord, your God who pleads the cause of his people: ‘Behold, I have taken from your hand the cup of staggering; the bowl of my wrath you shall drink no more; and I will put it into the hand of your tormentors, who have said to you, ‘Bow down, that we may pass over’; and you have made your back like the ground and like the street for them to pass over.’” (Isaiah 51:21-23)
These three verses emphasize the penultimate nature of this hour of judgment and wrath. Jerusalem’s suffering will soon cease in conjunction with the crushing of the individuals, armies, and nations responsible for her anguish by the same fury that befell Jerusalem. The Lord promises to “plead the cause of His people” in the Land by taking the “bowl of wrath” away from them and putting it “in the hand of their tormentors.” This speaks of ultimate vindication. God’s wrath against the Land of the Covenant and the people of the Covenant is not the final word. The final word is vindication and deliverance. But not until after a season of devastation and judgment.
This is but one example of a multitude that describes the brutal invasion of the end-time State of Israel prior to the appointed time of national “Awakening.” The language is unmistakably clear concerning the devastating nature of this great invasion and decimation. The words “affliction,” “fainting,” “torment,” “wrath,” “devastation,” and “destruction” communicate the extremity of “Jacob’s trouble” within the Land of Israel.
And if these are the words the prophets used to describe the condition of the Land of Israel and the city of Jerusalem prior to “the time of the end,” then why do so many anticipate the preservation and protection of the present-day State?
THE WILDERNESS OF THE NATIONS
When the State is invaded and the city of Jerusalem is besieged, the inhabitants within the Land will be “sifted among the nations” and driven into “the wilderness.” What many Christians (and Jews) don’t realize is that when the State and the city within are “trampled,” Jewish survival will depend largely on their escape into the surrounding “wilderness” locations. This is clearly established in the writing of the prophets.
With those prophetic warnings in mind, Jesus commanded the inhabitants of Jerusalem to “flee” when the invasions begin. Jewish flight into the “wilderness” during “the time of Jacob’s trouble” is scripturally mandated. Those who reject this command will suffer unimaginable violence, many to the point of death.
The “wilderness” refers to the literal wilderness regions of the Middle East. But it also refers to nations where Jews will be able to find relative safety during the “scourge.” For example, the prophets often spoke of nations like “Assyria” and “Egypt” harboring Jewish refugees who will return to the Land at the conclusion of the “trouble.” Out of such nations the Lord will deliver His people from “captivity.” This is called the “wilderness of the nations” or the “wilderness of people” (as some translation render it). Consider Ezekiel 20:33-38:
“As I live, declares the Lord God, surely with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm and with wrath poured out I will be king over you. I will bring you out from the peoples and gather you out of the countries where you are scattered, with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, and with wrath poured out. And I will bring you into the wilderness of the peoples, and there I will enter into judgment with you face to face. As I entered into judgment with your fathers in the wilderness of the land of Egypt, so I will enter into judgment with you, declares the Lord God. I will make you pass under the rod, and I will bring you into the bond of the covenant. I will purge out the rebels from among you, and those who transgress against me. I will bring them out of the land where they sojourn, but they shall not enter the land of Israel. Then you will know that I am the Lord.” (Ezekiel 20:33-38)
We read that the Lord will gather the Jews “out from the peoples” and “countries” where He scattered them with “wrath poured out.” The final resting place of these regathered Jews will be, we read in verse 38, “the Land of Israel.” Ezekiel refers to this as being “restored” to “the bond of the Covenant.” The “Land” and the “Covenant” are inextricably connected. The promise of Ezekiel 20:33-38 assures us that a national regathering and restoration is yet future for Israel.
But notice the order of events that precede this restoration. Before being “restored to the bond of the Covenant,” God pleas “face to face” with Israel in what is called “the wilderness of the peoples” or “the wilderness of the nations.” Here “in the wilderness” the Lord will “purge out the rebels” and those who “transgress against” Him. It will be a sifting process. He will divide the righteous from the wicked and thoroughly refine the Nation through judgment.
What is most interesting about this prophecy of Israel’s final regathering and restoration is the fact that some of the Jews will be gathered out of the lands and nations to which they were scattered but still “not enter the land of Israel” because of rebellion. Clearly the modern State is not in view here. Those who have entered the Land since 1948 experienced no “face to face” pleading with God in the “wilderness of the nations” that resulted in national restoration to the Land (physically) and the Lord (covenantally). As gruesome as the Holocaust of Nazi Germany was, it is not to be understood as Israel’s final affliction, for her final affliction must have its inception “in the Land” of Israel and in the reclaimed city of Jerusalem.
The flight and captivity described here persist right up to the time of Israel’s “restoration to the bond of the Covenant.” Moreover, “then” the surviving remnant of Jews who do “enter the Land” will “know that He is the Lord.” The fact that the purging, regathering, and restoration described in Ezekiel 20 result in Israel “knowing that He is the Lord” cannot be overlooked. The regathering to the Land in 1948 after the establishment of the modern State produced no such awareness.
This requires us to view the birth of the present-day State of Israel as a necessary prerequisite that makes the final expulsion, purgation, regathering, and restoration possible.
In the following chapters we will explore a number of prophetic Scriptures where we will learn to observe the necessary distinctions between the modern State and the future Nation, as well as the modern return to the Land and the future return to the Land.
 Ryle, Are You Ready, 48.
 Baron, The Jewish Problem, chap. 3, accessed February 2011.
 I say, “substantial,” because throughout the centuries small numbers of Jews resided in the Land.
 Matthew 16:1-5
 A crucible is: “a ceramic or metal container in which metals or other substances may be melted or subjected to very high temperatures. It’s a place or occasion of severe test or trial: the crucible of combat. Or a place or situation in which different elements interact to produce something new.” (The New Oxford American Dictionary, First Edition, Elizabeth J. Jewell and Frank R. Abate, ed.s, Oxford University Press, September 2001).
 I say, “many,” in light of the fact that a large percentage of the Jewish population in the Land at the commencement of “Jacob’s trouble” will escape into other nations. This escape from the Land is developed at length in subsequent chapters.
 Many prophecies of Israel’s eschatological suffering and salvation contain references to “refinement” in “fire.” For example, see Zechariah 13:8-9.
 The “Jewish Agency” (also known as Sochnut or JAFI) was the Jewish authority before the establishment of the State.
 It is worth noting that there has always been Jewish presence in the Land of Israel. But it was always very limited. The fledgling population ebbed and flowed among Islamic scourges, Catholic Crusades, famines, and various other tribulations.
 During World War II, the Jewish population in Arab and Islamic nations was dramatically reduced as Jews were forced from their homes or slaughtered. Many who found refuge in the newly established State were those that were driven from nations like Libya, Egypt, Iraq, and Iran.
 C. Henry, “Martin Lloyd Jones: From Buckingham to Westminster,” Christianity Today, (February 8, 1980).
 Derek Prince, The Promised Land (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Chosen, February, 2005), Kindle e-book, chap. 5.
 The establishment of the State in 1948 and repossession of Jerusalem in 1967 “sets in motion tensions and conflicts that require devastation, humiliation, and expulsion, which, in turn, gives God the opportunity to effect their restoration and return, when the cities that have been laid waste shall be rebuilt, and in such a way that those nations that remain round about shall know that He is the Lord who has spoken and done this.”—Art Katz, The Mystery of Israel and the Church, chap. 15.
 Daniel 12:7
 Isaiah 52:1-2
 Joel 3:2-3
 Amos 9:8-10
 Daniel 11:40; 12:4
 Isaiah 52:1-2
 J. Alec Motyer, The Prophecy of Isaiah: An Introduction and Commentary (Downers Grove, Illinois: IVP Academic, 1998), 414.
 Amos 9:8-10
 Revelation 11:1-2; Luke 21:20-24
 Isaiah 26:20; 27:13; Jeremiah 31:31; Daniel 11:41; Hosea 2:13-16; Matthew 24:16
 Matthew 24:15-22
 Zechariah 13:8-9
 Isaiah 28:18-19
 See Isaiah 11:11, 16; 27:12-13; Hosea 11:10-11; Micah 2:12-13; 5:6; 7:12-15; Zechariah 10:10-11
 Isaiah 42:6-7, 16, 22; 49:9-12, 19-21, 24-25; Jeremiah 31:1-23; Ezekiel 39:25-29; Amos 9:8-15; Zephaniah 3:17-20
 See Matthew 24:15-22; Zechariah 12:1-2; 14:1-3.