Physical Israel in the “Last Days”

Many Prophecies in the Hebrew scriptures mention Israel and some variation of the phrase “the last days” or “final part of the days”. [See Ezekiel 38:14-16, Hosea 3:4,5, Daniel 10:14]. In 1948 a nation-state was established by people of Jewish descent on approximately the same location, and they called this place “Israel”. Can we expect this physical nation-state to be the instrument by which these prophecies are fulfilled? No, I don’t think so, and here’s why:

From an internal logic standpoint the simplest connection to make is how is this nation doing at upholding the law? The ancient nation was established on observance of the Mosaic Law. Is the modern nation observing the law as written in the Torah? From what I’ve been told there are not sacrifices at the temple or tabernacle. So from the perspective of the Mosaic Law the modern nation is not acting as we’d expect if they wanted to reclaim their old favor with Jehovah. No amount of double-talk and human reasoning can wiggle out of that.

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Beyond this obvious fact we can see from the Law itself that God’s arrangement for true worship was prophesied to undergo a big change. Many times in the Tanakh, God, or more specifically, Jehovah (Psalm 83:18, Isaiah 42:8), lets humans know that he plans on establishing a new covenant:

“Look! The days are coming,” declares Jehovah, “when I will make with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah a new covenant. It will not be like the covenant that I made with their forefathers on the day I took hold of their hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt, ‘my covenant that they broke, although I was their true master,’ declares Jehovah.”

— Jeremiah 31:31, 32

One of the features of the “new covenant” is that “it will not be like” the one made with Israel’s forefathers. This passage also tells us that the old covenant was broken; the physical nation didn’t hold up their end of the contact making it null.

This broken covenant is likened to a legal case also at Hosea chapter 4:1. Verse 2 states the evidence and 3-5 then outline the consequences for this breach in contract bringing us to this very important result:

My people will be silenced, because there is no knowledge.
Because you have rejected knowledge,
I will also reject you from serving as my priest;
And because you have forgotten the law of your God,
I myself will forget your sons.

— Hosea 4:6

“I will also reject you from serving as my priest” should be of special note because when the covenant was being enacted that was one of the attributes given that made the nation special: “Now if you will strictly obey my voice and keep my covenant, you will certainly become my special property out of all peoples, for the whole earth belongs to me. You will become to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” Exodus 9:5, 6. Notice that this is conditional. As long as Israel was maintaining their end of the contract they served as priest or mediators between God and man.

Many scriptures highlight Jehovah’s patience and forgiveness, but at Hosea 4:6 he is careful to explain that he will indeed “forget”. That last line is sometimes rendered “I shall forget your sons, even I.” Which emphasizes that even Jehovah, who so often is ready to forgive, has decided to forget this bloodline for their lack of faithfulness to his covenant.

The conditional nature of Israel being God’s special property is repeated throughout the Mosaic Law. Leviticus 26:3, 14, Deuteronomy 11:13, 22, 28; 28:1, 15; 30:15-18. How many more “if, then” statements can you find? So, it really was like a contract and thus the reaction to the breach should not be surprising.

As mentioned, within the Torah itself it is prophesied that this covenant would be broken due to the unfaithfulness of Israel as a whole:

Jehovah now said to Moses: “Look! You are about to die, and this people will begin to commit spiritual prostitution with the foreign gods that are around them in the land to which they are going. They will forsake me and break my covenant that I have made with them. At that time my anger will blaze against them, and I will forsake them and hide my face from them until they are devoured. Then after many calamities and distresses have come upon them, they will say, ‘Is it not because our God is not in our midst that these calamities have come upon us?’ But I will keep my face hidden in that day because of all the wickedness that they have done in turning to other gods.

Deuteronomy 31:16-18.

Notice that in this section the passage doesn’t immediately go into a prophesy of restoration based on Israel’s repentance. Rather, Moses is given a song which is to serve as “witness against the people of Israel” (v19). Then in describing the commands related to the song and Moses presenting it to the people we are told again that Israel will break the covenant (v20), and be unfaithful (v29).

The song itself is most of chapter 32 and it’s imagery is not very flattering for Israel.

 5 They are the ones who have acted corruptly. They are not his children, the defect is their own. They are a crooked and twisted generation!

15 When Jeshurun (Israel) grew fat, he kicked out rebelliously.
You have grown fat, you have become stout, you have become bloated.
So he forsook God, who made him, and despised the Rock of his salvation.
16 They incited him to fury with foreign gods;
They were offending him with detestable things.
17 They were sacrificing to demons, not to God, To gods that they had not known,
New ones that came along recently, To gods that your forefathers did not know.
18 You forgot the Rock who fathered you, And you did not remember the God who gave birth to you.
19 When Jehovah saw it, he rejected them because his sons and his daughters offended him.
20 So he said, ‘I will hide my face from them; I will see what will become of them.
For they are a perverse generation, Sons in whom there is no faithfulness.

So in vivid language and in plain words Moses tells us that Israel will indeed fail to uphold their end of the covenant thereby making it ineffective. Good thing that earlier, at Deuteronomy 18:15-18, arrangements are made by means of a prophecy for a “prophet like you [Moses]” to be “raised up”. What makes Moses unique? Let’s see… he spoke with God “face to face” (Deu. 34:10), he was instrumental in God’s deliverance of his people (Ex. 18:8; 32:11-14), and most importantly he mediated the covenant between God and humans (Exodus 20:18-21). So this “prophet like Moses” would probably do all those same things, but most importantly he’d set up the new and everlasting covenant between God and his people.

It’s good that’s the plan, since this breach of the contract on Israel’s part is mentioned many times. Logically something stronger would be needed to replace it. Let’s look at a few more passages that make it clear that the covenant needed replacing.

They continued rejecting his regulations and his covenant that he had made with their forefathers and his reminders that he had given to warn them, and they kept following worthless idols and became worthless themselves, imitating the nations all around them that Jehovah had commanded them not to imitate.

2 Kings 17:15

“Became worthless themselves” is pretty succinct. A few a more: The people of Jerusalem are told they brought bad things upon themselves by “abandoning Jehovah your God” Jeremiah 2:13, 17. Jehovah said to Solomon similar words to those we’re considered above, namely that if “you turn away and forsake my statutes and my commandments” then “I will uproot Israel” and “this house that I have sanctified for my name I will cast out of my sight”, 2 Chronicles 7:19,20.

I can’t imagine needing much more evidence than all that. If one reads these texts in full you will see these themes developed.

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Now is a good time to look more specifically at passages that use the phrase “Lasting Covenant” in relation to “Israel”. That may make it seem like God is establishing this new covenant with the same group. But is that what is indicated?

It follows that this lasting covenant is the one that would come later, by means of the prophet “like Moses”. Recall the first scripture we looked at, Jeremiah 31:31, 32, in which we read that this new covenant will “not be like the covenant made with their forefathers”. So we know there will be major differences.

We’ve established that one of those differences is that this new covenant will not be broken. Jeremiah 32:39-41; 33:19-22 make that point very clearly. Now, the beginning of these passages mention a restoration to the physical places of Israel. This proclamation was to let Israel know that their exile would not be permanent, but he would indeed restore them. That’s certainly the initial fulfillment, but since we’ve established that this covenant with Israel will be broken and replaced we can see that the primary fulfillment of these latter verses are in the new covenant.

Another clue that the current Israel cannot be fulfilling these prophecies is also in here, at Jeremiah 33:17, 21, 26 he mentions David. Reaffirming that a descendant of David would “sit on the throne of the house of Israel” forever. Do we see that sort of government with those sort of credentials?

Ezekiel chapter 16 poetically describes Jehovah’s relationship with Jerusalem. Showing how much he loved and cared for her in establishing her. Then she became unfaithful, worse then the neighboring nations, thus Jehovah punished her. But the final section is yet another restoration prophecy including this:

But I myself will remember the covenant that I made with you in the days of your youth, and I will establish with you a permanent covenant.

Ezekiel 16:60

Notice the use of the word “establish” (see also Ez. 16:62). The prophecy isn’t to amend or fix the old arrangement. This word is mainly used with the definition “to rise”. So the idea is that something isn’t set up, but will or can be. But again this is slightly redundant since the old covenant was demonstratively not permanent.

Isaiah 2:2-4 and Haggai 4:1-3 both use similar language to describe Israel in the “in the final part of the days”. That phrase indicates that they are describing the end of a certain era. (Which must be a separate time from the permanent arrangement promised for the future when death is no more, as described as Isaiah 25:8 and the later part of Isaiah 65.)

During those final days, what do we find? “all the nations”, “many nations”, and “many peoples” are described as seeking God’s guidance. They worship in a unified way and they don’t practice war. This is another major difference between the two covenants. Does this diversity and unity describe any earthly organization today?

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A restoration is also prophesied at Isaiah 61. Verse 8 mentions an “everlasting covenant”. So we are in the right sort of passage for this portion. Also, notice that in verse 2 one of the tasks is to “proclaim the year of Jehovah’s goodwill and the day of vengeance of our God” so the time of “goodwill” hasn’t started quite yet. The day of vengeance is still in the future- only after that will the true good times begin (Psalm 37:10, 11). Also one of the tasks is to “bind the brokenhearted” implying that some are still experiencing such pain. And indeed some are “captives” who also receive comfort.  These captives and brokenhearted ones are grouped also with “prisoners” and “those who mourn”. Verse 3 explains that they will be “given a headdress instead of ashes” and “oil of exultation in stead of mourning”, but most important to our discussion is what verse 4 says they will do. 

They will rebuild the ancient ruins; They will raise up the desolated places of the past, And they will restore the devastated cities, The places that lay desolate for generation after generation. Strangers will stand and shepherd your flocks, And foreigners will be your farmers and your vinedressers.

Isaiah 61:4, 5

Jehovah will use such ones to restore his arrangement for true worship. And as part of this arrangement even “strangers” and “foreigners” will be given not only a part with responsibility, but will even have leadership roles: “stand and shepherd your flocks”. Who are “strangers”? Often this word is used in connection to people who aren’t sons of Aaron, that is, those not approved for the priesthood. And who are “foreigners”? Well, basically in context, anyone not of Jewish descendant, right? So this prophecy informs us that the new arrangement will utilize all ethnic backgrounds, something beyond the physical Israel. We know this is the later, better covenant because this is part of the “everlasting covenant with them.”

Now, let’s look at Zechariah’s prophecy. Chapter 8 starts with God gathering his people to reside in Jerusalem to be his people. But its good to know that he was writing about 518 BCE, so the Babylonian exile is over and Jerusalem is mostly rebuilt. Verse 18 of this chapter starts a new pronouncement. After giving specific instructions for some spiritual celebrations we pick up the reading:

20 “This is what Jehovah of armies says, ‘It will yet come to pass that peoples and the inhabitants of many cities will come; 21 and the inhabitants of one city will go to those of another and say: “Let us earnestly go to beg for the favor of Jehovah and to seek Jehovah of armies. I am also going.” 22 And many peoples and mighty nations will come to seek Jehovah of armies in Jerusalem and to beg for the favor of Jehovah.’
23 “This is what Jehovah of armies says, ‘In those days ten men out of all the languages of the nations will take hold, yes, they will take firm hold of the robe of a Jew, saying: “We want to go with you, for we have heard that God is with you people.”’”

Zechariah 8:20-23

Again, we have “many peoples” and this time “mighty nations”. A large diverse group is to “seek Jehovah” and the “favor of Jehovah”. It goes on to describe “ten men out of all the…nations” desiring to join God’s people. In the scriptures, the number 10 seems to have the figurative meaning or connotation of representing all of a thing. Which harmonizes with much of what the other passages we’ve looked at that speak of “all the nations” coming to “the house of Jehovah”.

Now notice, these aren’t just casually wanting to go with God’s people, no they are said to “take firm hold” so they are decidedly taking action to join in true worship. So, who are the Jews then? Current literal physical Israel?

For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days,” declares Jehovah. “I will put my law within them, and in their heart I will write it. And I will become their God, and they will become my people.”

Jeremiah 31:33

This is from the same passage quoted at the beginning, describing the new covenant, that will “not be like” the older one. How does this relate to the “robe of a Jew” from Zechariah? Well, what is logical? That all physical Jews have God’s “law within them”? Does that follow from the evidence? I can’t see how anyone could answer yes. We all know a person’s ethnic heritage has nothing to do with how caring, compassion, honest and spiritually-minded they are.

We’ve seen above the two prophets who described the many nations coming up “to the mountain of the house of Jehovah” that they would “beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning shears. Nation will not lift up sword against nation, Nor will they learn war anymore.” So that pretty much disqualifies the modern Israel from the running. So again I ask, is there an earthy organization that fulfills this?

Author: davidbehlman

Studied Math and Physics at University of Minnesota Morris. Studied 'hands-on' Film-making in 2007-08. Been an avid reader of many subjects for a while now. I feel very strongly that far too many writings wind-up ignoring their definitions and thereby forsake real content and logic. I hope to add to the sensible discourse.

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