Israel in the Tribulation – Doctrinal Study

“Alas! for that day is great, so that none is like it: it is even the time of Jacob’s trouble; but he shall be saved out of it.”

“For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be.”

“And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob.”

– Jeremiah 30:7; Matthew 24:21; Romans 11:26

Prophecy is a theological subject vital to our understanding of God. Many Born-Again Believers run the entire race of life ignorant of their eternal future. At the very beginning of the book of Revelation John writes, “Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein: for the time is at hand” (Revelation 1:3) What is the reason for which we are blessed for reading, hearing, and keeping the things in the book of Revelation? “The time is at hand.” It is time to get serious about eternity. Many Born-Again Believers try to keep up-to-date on their earthly retirement, but how many keep up-to-date on their eternal inheritance?!

One topic of prophetic studies which is of paramount importance is the subject of Israel’s role in prophecy. I have found that the way one views Israel and Israel’s role in prophecy will determine how prophecy is interpreted. If you have a wrong view of Israel, you will have a wrong view of prophecy. Israel plays an important role in God’s timeline and is all the more significant in the last times. The aspects of Israel’s prophetic involvement which will be highlighted in this study are Israel’s identity, tribulation, and salvation.  

The first situation that must be considered is the identity of Israel. The modern-day Jew is the Israel of the Bible. While many accept this simple truth, there are those who reject it and point to the Anglo-Saxons, American Indians, Africans, or the Church as the true Israel. These false views stem from either spiritualizing Scripture or trusting in traditions of men. One interesting view is the British-Israelist Theory. British-Israelists believe that the last king of Israel before the captivity, Zedekiah, had a daughter who became the first queen of Britain. The British-Israelists believe this queen, Tea Tephi, to be the progenitor of the royal line of Britain ruling over the lost 10 tribes of Israel. Instead of basing their view on Bible, this view is based upon names vaguely mentioned in British and Scottish legend. However, the so-called lost tribes were not completely lost. There is an abundant amount of Biblical evidence proving there were remnants of ALL the tribes living in the Southern Kingdom of Judah when Israel split in II Chronicles 10. The Southern Kingdom of Judah included many Israelites from all the tribes who were faithful to God’s promises, submitting to the Davidic line of kings (II Chronicles 11:3, 16-17; 15:9; 24:5; 30:10, 18, 21, 25; 31:16; 34:6, 9; 35:3). Moreover, Ezra 2:59, 62-70 give witness to the fact that when the Jews returned from captivity, there were representatives from ALL Israel, NOT just the two tribes. James wrote to the “twelve tribes which are scattered abroad” (James 1:1).  

Another view very widely held is the view of replacement theology, the theology that the Church has replaced Israel. The Bible teaches that “the LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying, “Unto THY SEED have I given THIS LAND, from the river of Egypt unto the great river, the river Euphrates (Genesis 15:18).” Genesis 17:2 says “I will make my covenant between me and THEE, and will multiply THEE exceedingly.” Genesis 17:7 says “I will establish my covenant between me and THEE and THY SEED after thee in their generations for an EVERLASTING covenant…” The Lord goes on to confirm the Abrahamic covenant many more times with Abraham and his descendants. NOT ONCE DID THE LORD PUT A CONDITION ON THIS COVENANT. If the Lord conditioned this covenant with a requirement, then replacement theologians may have some grounds for debate. GOD CANNOT LIE (Titus 1:2; Hebrews 6:18). How can an EVERLASTING covenant end? Knowing the eternal, unconditional nature of the Abrahamic covenant, it is a fact that the Abrahamic covenant involves Abraham’s physical descendants only. Louis Berkhof, a renowned Calvinistic, replacement theologian, in Systematic Theology, says that at Mt. Sinai, the “Church and State became one.” He also goes on to say that “it is true that at Sinai a conditional element was added to the covenant.”  He and other replacement theologians determine to fit the Bible into presupposed theological theories and a scientific, understandable system of man. But there’s a problem with this intellectual system – God won’t fit into it! “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:9). Replacement theology is extremely damaging, leading to a distorted view of prophecy. In A Summary of Christian Doctrine, Louis Berkhoff makes it clear that he believes in only one general resurrection and one general judgment (pp. 161-162). Many verses refute this idea and reveal multiple resurrections and two judgments. Revelation 20:5 says “But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection,” indicating a distinction between the first and second resurrection. It is also known by various passages that there are two judgments, the “Bema” seat (the judgment seat of Christ) and the Great White Throne Judgment. The Bema seat is where the saved will be judged on how faithfully they served Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 9:4-27). The Great White Throne Judgment is where the lost will be judged based on their works (Revelation 20:12). If the resurrections and judgments are spiritualized, than the millennium and the tribulation are spiritualized as well which is exactly what replacement theology leads to. The modern-day Jew is the biblical Israel. God has not forgotten Israel. Although God has written Israel a bill of divorcement (Jeremiah 3:8), God will reclaim her. God will heal her when the world thought she could not be healed (Jeremiah 30:12-24).

At any moment, the Body of Christ will “be caught up together … to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord” (1 Thessalonians 4:17).  After years of trials, tribulations, and persecution, the completed Body of Christ will finally be taken up to live forever with Christ. The sad part is that there will be many Gentiles who will be damned to hell at that instant as a result of their rejection of the Lord Jesus Christ while the Holy Spirit was in the world (2 Thessalonians 2). While there will still be Gentiles saved during the Tribulation period, the focus of the Tribulation is Israel. The antichrist will make a covenant with Israel, ushering in a time of false peace. At the middle of the tribulation, the antichrist will break the covenant with Israel and Israel will be heavily persecuted throughout the world. It is during this time that Israel will repent and turn to Jesus, their Messiah. Zechariah 12:10 says “And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications: and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn.” In Acts 3:19, Peter preaches to Israel that they must repent and be converted before the promised “times of refreshing” can come. When the persecution of the tribulation comes to Israel, Israel will repent and convert to Christ. To accomplish this, God will separate out and seal 144,000 Jews for the ministry of preaching the gospel of the kingdom throughout the whole world (Revelation 7). The Tribulation is a period meant for the preparation of Israel for the Millennium. The refined Israel at the end of the Tribulation as a NATION will whole-heartedly turn to God for their salvation (Romans 11:25-26). At the end of the 7-year tribulation, Jesus Christ will miraculously defeat the armies of the world and will rule and reign in righteousness for a thousand years (Revelation 20:5).

Some people may take the fact that if Israel as a nation is saved during the tribulation, then the Calvinistic doctrine of predestination is correct. This is simply not the case. Ephesians 2:8 says “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God.” Though Israel as a nation is saved during the tribulation, each individual Jew must personally place their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ in order for them to enter into eternal life. If individual Israelites will be elected to be saved regardless of their free will, then there must needs be some who are elected to damnation, but the Bible teaches that “[Jesus Christ] is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world (1 John 2:2). It is still a whosoever-will gospel!

Israel is facing hard times right now. Many nations are rising up against her. Israel is headed for even harder times as more nations develop a hatred for the Jews. It is important to pray for the “peace of Jerusalem” for “they shall prosper that love thee (Psalm 122:6).” God has not forgotten Israel and neither should we.

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