Was the Restoration of Israel in 1948 Prophetically Significant?
Dispensationalists point to the “restoration of Israel” in 1948 (which was not the restoration of Israel since Biblical, Abrahamic Israel simply does not exist today, or in 1948!). Far too many Bible students – who are not even Dispensationalists – seem to think that the events of 1948 were prophetically significant.
Norman Geisler claims that the return to the land in 1948 is “another proof that God fulfills His promises literally” (Systematic Theology, Vol. IV. (Bethany House Publishers, 2003)525). Tim LaHaye and Thomas Ice label 1948 the “Super Sign of the End” (Charting the End Times, Eugene, Or. Harvest House, 2001)84, 119). They also say: “Israel’s re-gathering (1948, DKP) and the turmoil are specific signs that God’s end-time program is on the verge of springing into full gear. In addition, the fact that all three streams of prophecy (the nations, Israel, and the church) are all converging for the first time in history constitutes a sign in itself.”
Strangely, other voices, non-Dispensational voices, are now claiming that the restoration of Israel in 1948 was prophetically significant. I find this to be quite stunning. I want to list here some implications of claiming that 1948 was the fulfillment of Bible prophecy. This is not an innocuous claim. If 1948 was the fulfillment of Bible prophecy, it has profound implications for world “foreign policy” but for eschatology and even ecclesiology. It seems to me that perhaps some have given careful thought to the issue.
Here are just a few of the implications of positing 1948 as the fulfillment of Bible prophecy.
1. It means that Israel remains God’s covenant people. There is no way out of this. You cannot posit the events of 1948 as “prophetically significant” without thereby affirming that those events were in fulfillment of God’s covenant promises to Israel. If God’s covenant promises to Israel are / were being fulfilled, then, prima facie, Israel remains God’s covenant people. So, if the restoration of Israel in 1948 was prophetically significant, there is no question that Israel remains God’s covenant people today.
Of course, this raises serious questions indeed! If Israel remain’s God’s covenant people, then what place does the church, the body of Christ now hold in God’s eye? Israel, as God’s covenant people, was the “apple of my eye” according to YHVH. So, if Israel remains the apple of God’s eye, what does that make the church? Does God have two covenant people today? (As an important aside: both Torah and the New Covenant stood side by side for a brief, interim period in the first century, but, the Old Covenant was “nigh unto passing” during that time (Hebrews 8:13) and did pass in AD 70. To suggest that Israel remains God’s chosen, covenant people says that Torah has not yet passed away after all).
2. If 1948 was the fulfillment of prophecy, then what prophecies – what covenant promises – were fulfilled? I have heard and read it proposed, mostly by Dispensationalists, that 1948 was the beginning of the fulfillment of Ezekiel 37. Thomas Ice wrote:
“How does the current return of Jews to Israel and Jerusalem relate to the dispensational view of distinction between Israel and the church? I think that we have to say that Israel’s presence in the land and continuing return from the Diaspora is the beginning of fulfillment of passages like Ezekiel 37. Ezekiel 37 clearly indicates that Israel will return to the land in unbelief and in stages, which fits the contemporary experience. The stage is set for their mass conversion during the tribulation.” (Article How Signs of the Times Relate to the Rapture and the Second Coming. http://www.according2prophecy.org/signs.html
(I will only say this about Ice’s remarkably bad comments. There is not a word in Ezekiel 37 that speaks of Israel’s return to the land in unbelief. Likewise, it says not one word about a return to the land “in stages.” This is pure eisegesis, and sloppy “scholarship” if such it can be liberally called).
Take note of something very important. If Ezekiel 37 did not begin to be fulfilled until 1948, then the New Covenant did not begin until that time. (Note: Thomas Ice and many Dispensationalists do not believe that the New Covenant promised by Jeremiah and Ezekiel has been established, and will not be established until the Millennium begins, at the Second Coming. See my series of articles on the New Covenant for a refutation of the Dispensational claims. Article #1 can be found here). Ezekiel 37:25 promised a new covenant of peace between YHVH and Israel, and, it promised that would come when “David” (i.e. the Messiah) would sit on the throne! But again, consider that if the fulfillment of Ezekiel did not begin to be fulfilled until 1948 then the New Covenant did not begin until then, and furthermore, Christ was not enthroned in the kingdom until then.
The problem here is severe. Paul, who preached nothing but the hope of Israel, wrote to the church at Corinth (comprised of members of the remnant of Israel) and he said, “you are the temple of God, as it is written” (my emphasis). He then quoted– verbatim!!– from Ezekiel 37:26! So, for Paul, Ezekiel 37 was being fulfilled in the body of Christ in the first century. It is prima facie false therefore, to claim that Ezekiel did not begin to be fulfilled until 1948.
3. According to the Old Covenant, the grounds– the exclusive condition – for restoration, was repentance and humble obedience to the Law of Moses (Leviticus 26 / Deuteronomy 30:1-10). So, if 1948 was the fulfillment of prophecy, then, to return to point #1, not only does Israel remain God’s covenant people, but, this is sooo important– the Law of Moses, every jot and every tittle, remains valid and binding today. Of course, most commentators, even Dispensationalists, claim to believe that the Law of Moses has been completely fulfilled and removed by Christ. On the one hand they say 1948 was the fulfillment of prophecy– but that demands that the Law of Moses was still in effect in 1948. On the other hand they tell us that the Law of Moses was forever removed by Christ in the first century. If the Law of Moses was annulled in the first century, then 1948 had nothing to do with the fulfillment of prophecy. To say that this is a huge self-contradiction is an understatement. To make the claim that 1948 was prophetically significant, one must be able to demonstrate beyond a doubt that Torah remains valid and binding today, and, that Israel was being faithful to the Law of Moses in 1948. Neither tenet can be established, therefore it cannot be true that the restoration of Israel in 1948 was prophetically significant.
The question is appropriate: Was Israel, in any way, what-so-ever, humbly repentant and submissive to the Law of Moses, in 1948? The undeniable, unequivocal answer is, “No,” a resounding, “No!” Even Arnold Fruchtenbaum, a leading Dispensationalist, admits, “The majority of the ones who have returned are not even Orthodox Jews. In fact, the majority are atheists and skeptics.” (Cited in Charting The End Times, page 86). This is a stunning admission– and fatal as well.
Often times, the ground and reason for positing 1948 as the fulfillment of prophecy is a total– in my estimation– misapplication and misunderstanding of Luke 21:24. It is claimed by Dispensationalists and non-Dispensationalists alike that when Jesus said, “Jerusalem shall be trodden down by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles shall be fulfilled” that this demands a restoration of Israel / Jerusalem after AD 70. This is the view of Dr. Michael Brown internationally known Premillennialist. I have had one formal, moderated YouTube Internet debate with Dr. Brown on the question of “all Israel shall be saved” and we are working on the date for another YouTube debate, with the focus on “The Times of the Gentiles,” and, “The Fullness of the Gentiles.” Our first debate has had, as of just recently, almost 20,000 views, and the interest in a second discussion is already very high. I will keep everyone informed on this.
In the meantime let me just say that to posit Luke 21:24 as a prediction of a restoration of Israel after AD 70– i.e. 1948– is a violation of what Scripture teaches. We have more to say about this in another installment. Let me suggest that you get a copy of my book: 1948 Countdown to No Where, for a thorough examination of the entire issue of the claim that 1948 was prophetically significant, and the amazing claim that God promised to return Israel to the land in a state of rebellion and unbelief. There simply is no such doctrine in scripture.