Witnesses of Israel’s “Resurrection”
By: David Parsons, ICEJ Vice President & Senior Spokesman
As Israel prepares to mark 75 years since its modern-day rebirth in May 1948, the impact of that dramatic event is still reverberating to this day. So what does Israel’s return to the world stage mean for Christians today?
Israel’s national rebirth involved birth pangs, as it is forever linked to the Holocaust. The “miracle” of restored Jewish sovereignty in the historic Land of Israel occurred just three years after the Nazi genocide against the Jews ended. The Holocaust marked the lowest point of the Jewish people’s long, arduous journey of wandering among the nations. Yet only three years later, they suddenly attained national independence back in their ancestral homeland.
Amazingly, the apostle Paul declared long ago that Israel’s last-day ingathering would be like “life from the dead!” (Romans 11:15). This means the rebirth of Israel is nothing less than the resurrection power of God still at work in the earth today.
Paul based his teaching on Israel’s revival in Romans 11 on numerous Old Testament passages, such as Isaiah 6 and Jeremiah 24 and 31. The Hebrew prophets describe Israel’s final restoration as a two-phase process, starting with the physical ingathering of the Jews back to the Land of Israel in unbelief, followed by their spiritual ingathering back to God by a special outpouring of the Holy Spirit. “Return to Me and I will return to you,” the Lord states quite plainly in Zechariah 1:3 and Malachi 3:7.
Life from the Dead
But perhaps the clearest prophetic passages on how Israel’s promised restoration would play out are in Ezekiel 36 and 37. For example, in Ezekiel 36:24–28, God declares:
For I will take you from among the nations, gather you out of all countries, and bring you into your own land. Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you.
Then in Ezekiel 37 the prophet declares his vision of the valley of dry bones, where Ezekiel speaks of a time of great calamity when the people of Israel would say: “Our bones are dry, our hope is lost, and we ourselves are cut off!” It is as if he were looking down through time at the mass graves of Jews slaughtered in the Holocaust.
Yet then God declares that all is not lost; at their lowest moment, Ezekiel assures Israel that God will “open your graves and cause you to come up from your graves, and bring you into the land of Israel. Then you shall know that I am the Lord, when I have opened your graves, O My people, and brought you up from your graves” (Ezekiel 37:12–13).
Four times in two verses, God decrees He would bring Israel out of its graves. Therefore, Paul can proclaim: “For if their being cast away is the reconciling of the world, what will their acceptance (or ingathering) be but life from the dead?” (Romans 11:15).
“We Are Witnesses …”
We have witnessed the resurrection power of God at work in Israel for 75 years now. This places much responsibility upon us. How so?
The apostles told everyone they were “witnesses” of the death and resurrection of Jesus. In the Hebrew mindset, being a “witness” carries a deeper meaning than just watching a crime or accident occur. It is a much weightier matter.
First, the Ten Commandments say: “Thou shalt not bear false witness” (Exodus 20:16). Add to this the “law of witnesses” in Deuteronomy 19:15–21, which states that you need two or more witnesses to establish the guilt of someone for trespassing the law of Moses. But if a witness testified falsely to breaking a law, they were subject to the same punishment as the crime they accused someone else of.
Therefore, Jesus’ followers would have taken a huge risk to go before the Sanhedrin and testify of its complicity in the death of Jesus. But if that opportunity ever arose, the 12 Apostles were set apart to serve as witnesses before the Sanhedrin concerning the death and resurrection of Jesus, with all the risks that entailed—namely, the death penalty.
Then in Acts 10:39–42, Peter told the first gentile convert, Cornelius:
We are witnesses … chosen before by God, even to us who ate and drank with Him after He arose from the dead. And He commanded us to preach to the people, and to testify that it is He who was ordained by God to be Judge of the living and the dead.
Paul makes a similar point when preaching to learned Greeks in Athens:
Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead. (Acts 17:30–31)
Peter and Paul concurred that the resurrection of Jesus carried a message—that by it, He was declared the Judge of all mankind. Therefore, you might have gotten away with your ignorance and idol worship in the past, but now you are accountable before God, and it is time to repent.
Every act of God’s resurrection power carries a message. When Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, he declared, “I am the resurrection and the life” (John 11:25). When God raised Jesus from the dead, He was declared to be the Judge of all humanity; no one can get away with their sin and ignorance of God any longer.
A Message for Today
So what is God’s message to the world in resurrecting Israel from the grave in our day? First, the world is about to be judged. Just as Noah building the ark was the most significant sign to the ancient world that they were about to be judged, the building up of Zion is the clearest sign we, too, are about to be judged (Psalm 102:16; Isaiah 54:9). And this judgment includes how we have treated the Jewish nation and people. Psalm 2, Joel 3, Jeremiah 30:11, Zephaniah 3:8ff, and other passages speak clearly of this.
Secondly, we can no longer be ignorant or indifferent toward Israel. For 75 years the Christian world has witnessed Israel emerging from the grave of the Shoah (Holocaust) and being placed back in their Land, a process still unfolding and awaiting its culmination in Israel’s national salvation. When Israel was scattered and in disfavor with God, we might have gotten away with ignoring the Jewish people or viewing them as being punished by the Lord. But not anymore; once God restored Israel in their Land, a new day began! And we will be held responsible for our reaction.
Some Christians want to put Israel back in the grave. They are working with antisemites to undermine Israel’s legitimacy and dismantle the Jewish state. They should fear God! But a much larger category of Christians is indifferent to Israel’s ongoing resurrection and think it has nothing to do with them. After 75 years of Israel overcoming so many challenges and blessing the world, we cannot remain ignorant and indifferent. Instead, every Christian needs to connect to Israel in positive, meaningful ways.
Having a love and concern for Israel is not a litmus test of whether a person is saved. But it does indicate whether they are flowing with the Holy Spirit.
After 75 years of a revived Israel, if we keep clinging to the old, negative views and attitudes toward the Jewish people or still think Israel does not matter, we risk being cut off from the move of the Holy Spirit in our day (Romans 11:20–21). Neither will God overlook this when we stand before Him in judgment.
The ICEJ is still in Israel blessing the Jewish people. Be a part of what God is doing in Israel today and partner with the ICEJ.