16 - Israel No More?

From around 1400 B.C. to 135 A.D. the Jews dwelt in the land of Israel. During that time God raised up many prophets to warn, reprove, and encourage the Jews to live their lives according to the truths of His word. Sometimes He allowed foreign countries to conquer them as a form of chastisement. Other times He blessed them with bountiful harvests. The greatest blessing He gave to them was His Son, Jesus Christ. Regrettably, as a nation they rejected Him as their Messiah. This led to their dispersion throughout the world, which lasted until 1948 A.D. 

After the last book of the Old Testament was written around 400 B.C., God allowed the Greek armies, under the leadership of Alexander the Great, to conquer the land of Israel. The Jews suffered greatly under his successors until the Jewish commander, Judah Maccabee, started a revolt against them in 167 B.C.  This uprising eventually led to the defeat of the Greek armies and restored Jewish rule in Israel for one hundred years. After that, a new threat appeared on the scene, one that would change Jewish history forever.

The Dreadful and Terrible Beast

In Chapter 10 I discussed a vision that God gave to Daniel concerning the future of his people and the nation of Israel. In this vision Daniel saw four beasts that represented four kingdoms that would conquer Israel in succession. The first three beasts were the Babylonian Empire, the Medo-Persian Empire, and the Greek Empire under Alexander the Great. However, the fourth beast was worse than the first three. Daniel described it in graphic terms:

"After this I saw in the night visions, and behold a fourth

beast, dreadful and terrible, and strong exceedingly; and it

had great iron teeth: it devoured and broke in pieces, and

stamped the residue with the feet of it: and it was diverse

from all the beasts that were before it; and it had ten


This beast represented the Roman Empire, the most powerful force ever to rule the world until that time. The Roman conquest of the Mediterranean region began in the Fourth Century B.C.  In 63 B.C. the Roman general, Pompey the Great, invaded and conquered Jerusalem and thereby fulfilled this prophecy of Daniel's. The Jews would suffer under Roman oppression for the next two hundred years.

It was during that time that God sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to deliver the Jews from the oppression of sin. However, the Jewish religious leaders rejected Jesus as the Messiah and had the Romans crucify Him. The week of Jesus' passion, He talked about the future of Israel and the center of Jewish worship, the Temple in Jerusalem:

"And Jesus went out, and departed from the Temple: and

His disciples came to Him for to show Him the buildings of

the Temple. And Jesus said unto them, See you not all these

things? Truly I say unto you, There shall not be left here

one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down."2

"Behold, your house is left unto you desolate: and verily I say

unto you, You shall not see Me, until the time come when you

shall say, Blessed is He that comes in the name of the Lord."3 

Within forty years of Jesus speaking this first prophecy the Temple was indeed destroyed. The fulfillment of the second prophecy occurred sixty-five years after the destruction of the Temple. The desolation of the House or Nation of Israel transpired when the Romans defeated the Jews in a final Jewish revolt.

What led up to these events was a century and a half of suffering under Roman rule. A segment of the Jewish population known as Zealots finally decided to take on the Roman Empire.

The Jewish Revolt

From the time that Pompey the Great conquered Jerusalem in 63 B.C., the Jews had endured Roman procurators, governors and puppet-kings. In 66 A.D. an incident occurred that would change Israel's history for nearly two thousand years.

The last of the Roman procurators, Gessius Florus, seized a large sum of money from the Jewish Temple treasury. Shortly thereafter, the Jewish masses rioted in protest against this action and defeated the Roman garrison stationed in Jerusalem. The Romans responded by sending a large army from Syria to quell the rebellion. This force swept down through northern Israel in the region of Galilee. There they captured or killed thousands of Jews. Eventually the Roman troops made their way south to the outskirts of Jerusalem. After several days of trying to breach the city's walls, the Roman forces pulled back. At this point, the Roman emperor, Nero, placed General Vespasian in charge of the Roman army.

Although the Jewish forces had some successes early on in the revolt there was severe infighting among the many factions of their people. This weakened their position before the Romans and eventually led to disaster for them. Vespasian sought to take advantage of this situation by immediately laying siege to Jerusalem. However, the political situation in Rome changed with the death of the emperor Nero and caused a delay in his efforts to conquer Jerusalem. Vespasian went to Rome to become the new emperor and left Jerusalem in the hands of his son Titus. Finally, in the spring of 70 A.D., Titus began the army's assault on Jerusalem. By summer they had penetrated the city walls and prepared to attack the Jewish rebels who were defending the Temple.

The Romans tried to break through the inner massive walls that surrounded the Temple complex but were unsuccessful. Eventually they achieved their objective by burning the gates that led into the Temple area. The Roman soldiers entered the complex, slaughtered the Jewish defenders, and set fire to the Temple. As Jesus had prophesied forty years earlier, the destruction of the Jewish Temple was complete.

Though the Roman Empire had dealt the Jews an ignominious defeat and reduced the Jewish presence in Jerusalem through death and exile, the nation of Israel continued to exist for another sixty-five years.

However, because of the Jewish Revolt the Jews no longer had an organized religious system by which they could worship God. There would be no more Temple sacrifices and the Jewish religious leadership was in disarray. Out of this uncertainty the Pharisees became the uncontested leaders of the Jewish nation. They redefined the Jewish system of worship and set about developing it for the next several generations. The synagogue replaced the Temple as a place for Jews to worship. The rabbis replaced the Temple priests as the religious leaders of Judaism. Lastly, the study of Jewish religious writings, prayer services, and the performing of good deeds replaced the system of Temple sacrifices.

Although the Jews continued to dwell in Jerusalem and Israel, they did so without any Jewish civil authority.  That all changed in 132 A.D. when a second Jewish revolt against Rome occurred. This time it led to the downfall of ancient Israel and to the dispersion of the Jews throughout the world for the next eighteen hundred years.

The End of Ancient Israel: The Son of the Star

Forty-seven years after the Romans destroyed the second Jewish Temple, a new emperor reigned in Rome. At first He put down some final outbreaks of Jewish rebellion around the eastern part of the empire. However, some time later it appeared to the Jews that this emperor, Hadrian, was going to show favor to them. They even believed that he was going to allow them to rebuild the Temple. As it turned out, such was not the case.

In 130 A.D. Hadrian came to Jerusalem with the intention of establishing a Roman colony there and renaming it Aelia Capitolina. On top of this, he issued decrees against Judaism such as the one forbidding circumcision. These developments along with the fact that it did not appear that the Romans were going to allow the Jews to rebuild their Temple after all led to an uprising among the Jewish population. A man by the apparent name of Shimon ben-Kosiva emerged as the leader of this second rebellion. For the next three years he would gain the upper hand against the Roman forces that occupied Israel. Although history is a little vague as to ben-Kosiva's real name, it is very clear as to name given to him by his followers.

One of the leading Jewish rabbis at that time was Akiva (or Akiba) ben-Joseph. He came to believe that ben-Kosiva was the Messiah who would deliver the Jews from Roman oppression and rebuild their Temple. Thus, he applied a Messianic prophecy in the Book of Numbers to him:

"I shall see Him, but not now: I shall behold Him, but not

near: there shall come a Star out of Jacob, and a Scepter

shall rise out of Israel, and shall smite the corners of Moab

and destroy all the children of Sheth."4

Rabbi Akiva declared that ben-Kosiva was this Messianic "Star" and called him "Shimon bar-Kokhba", which is Hebrew for: "Simon, son of the star". As it turned out, although bar-Kokhba was a charismatic and strong leader, he was not able ultimately to defeat the Roman Empire. After three years of fierce fighting his forces were defeated, Rabbi Akiva was tortured to death by the Romans, and he was slain in the Judean hills.

After quashing this second Jewish rebellion the Romans were determined not to let a third Jewish revolt happen ever again. They accomplished this by exiling most of the Jewish population from the land of Israel.

For the next eighteen hundred years the Jews were dispersed throughout the world. Tragically, in most of the countries they migrated to, non-Jews, including the Christian Church persecuted them mercilessly. Though many of these nations tried to destroy their Jewish identity, their efforts were in vain. The Jews continued to observe the Sabbath, study their religious writings, and celebrate the Jewish feasts ordained by God. They always concluded the Passover feast by reciting their eternal hope of living in the land of Israel: "Next year in Jerusalem!" As we will see, it would not be until 1948 that they were able to realize this dream.

Post-Jewish Israel

Almost two hundred years after the bar-Kokhba revolt, the Roman/Byzantine emperor Constantine adopted Christianity for his religion. After nearly three centuries of persecution, Christianity had finally gained a legal status in the Roman Empire. By this time however, the number of Gentile Christians dwarfed the number of Jewish Christians. Many of these Christians migrated to Israel and built churches and monasteries around the holy sites mentioned in the Bible. A lot of them treated the Jewish population still dwelling in Israel in a very un-Christian manner. They would not allow Jews to enter Jerusalem except for one day a year to mourn the destruction of their Temple. This was just the beginning of a long succession of foreign dominance in the land of Israel.

After a brief and ultimately unsuccessful Persian invasion of Israel in the early part of the Seventh Century to defeat the Byzantine army, a new threat appeared on the horizon.

Mohammed was born in 570 A.D. in what is now Saudi Arabia. He founded the religion of Islam, which spread quickly throughout the Arab lands. A few years after Mohammed's death his followers invaded and conquered Israel and dwelt there for the next four centuries. They too placed some restrictions on the Jewish population. It was during this time that the Muslims built the Dome of the Rock shrine on the Temple mount, which is still located there in Jerusalem.

In 1099 A.D. the Europeans invaded Israel and defeated the Muslim armies in the name of the Christian Church. For the next eighty-eight years they maintained power in Israel and once again treated the non-Christian population harshly. However, their dominion over Israel was short-lived.

A Muslim army under the leadership of Saladin defeated the Christian Crusaders in 1187 A.D.  By 1291 A.D., the Egyptian or Mamluk (or Mameluks) Muslim army completely eradicated the European influence in Israel. Under the rule of the Mamluks, the land of Israel declined into ruin.

The Ottoman Turks, in turn, conquered the Mamluks in 1517 A.D.  It was under the reign of the Turkish Sultan, Suleiman the Magnificent, that the current walls of Jerusalem were built. During this period Jewish presence in Israel increased significantly. However, the Ottoman rulers placed many restrictions on the Jews that hindered but did not deter the Jews from reclaiming the land. One limitation was that the Turkish administration prohibited the Jews from purchasing any land in Israel without the permission of the government in Istanbul. But the rule of the Ottoman empire was about to end.

In 1897 an event took place that would have a profound effect on the land of Israel. In August of that year, the leading Jewish Zionist, a writer and journalist by the name of Theodore Herzl, convened the First Zionist Congress in Basel, Switzerland. Because of his efforts the Jews began to believe that they would once again live as a nation in the land of Israel. Jewish immigration to Israel increased and they created many settlements throughout the land.

When World War I erupted in 1914, the countries of the world chose sides. The primary combatants were the Allies consisting of Britain, France, and Russia and the Central Powers who were the Germans and the Austro-Hungarians. The Ottoman Turks decided to fight with Germany in this conflict. In December of 1917, the British army, under the command of General Edmund Allenby, defeated the Turks and conquered Jerusalem.

In November of 1917, the British foreign secretary, Lord Arthur James Balfour, issued a written pledge to the Jewish Zionist, Chaim Weizmann, to establish in Palestine a National Home for the Jewish people. To implement this policy, the newly formed world-governing council called the League of Nations mandated that Great Britain govern in Palestine. They were to help the Jews immigrate to Israel and organize a new Jewish nation. At the same time the British were to respect the rights of the Arab population that was also dwelling in the land. However, it did not take long for the Arabs to resist any effort that would allow the Jews to establish a country.

In 1929, rioting by the Arabs led to the deaths of numerous Jews in Jerusalem and around the country. More Arab uprisings occurred in the 1930s to resist the increasing immigration of Jews to Israel. It was during this time when the British government considered the idea of partitioning Israel into two sections, one for the Jews and the other for the Arabs. Both sides had problems with this solution and therefore the British did not attempt to implement it.

It was during the 1930s that Germany began wholesale persecution of the Jews. This eventually led to the Holocaust whereby the Nazis exterminated 6,000,000 Jews during World War II. A large part of this tragedy could have been avoided if the governments of the world had allowed the Jews to migrate from Germany to either Israel or to other countries. Such was not the case and therefore millions of Jews, including one and a half million Jewish children, died mercilessly at the hands of the Nazis.

After the war, a large segment of the European Jews who survived the Holocaust tried to immigrate to Israel where they hoped finally to find sanctuary from persecution. However, to appease the Arabs who lived in Israel, the British government resisted these efforts. There is an irony in this situation by the fact that during World War II, Jews helped the Allies to fight against the Germans while the Arabs sided with the Nazis. Nonetheless, the situation in Israel grew worse for the Jews after the war.

Finally, the British had enough of being in the middle of this turmoil and turned the issue over to another newly formed world-governing council, the United Nations. In November of 1947, the United Nations voted to partition the land of Israel into two sections, one for the Jews and the other for the Arabs. This partition plan also called for the British mandate to end on May 14, 1948. The Arab response to this vote was immediately to start attacking the Jews and their settlements in Israel.

On May 14, 1948, nearly eighteen hundred years after the Jewish nation of Israel ceased to exist it was reborn. However, there were "labor pains" before the existence of the new nation was assured. As soon as the last British troops left Israel, Arab armies from the countries surrounding Israel launched full-scale attacks against the Jews. By February 1949, the fighting had stopped and the Jews and Arabs agreed to an armistice. One result of this war was that Jerusalem was divided in half with the Arabs in eastern Jerusalem and the Jews in the newer, western part of Jerusalem. This left the Temple Mount and the Western Wall, which was part of the Second Jewish Temple complex, completely in Arab hands. They refused to allow the Jews to visit this holy site.

In June of 1967, the Arab nations were once again poised to attack Israel. This time the Jews defeated them overwhelmingly and gained control over all of Jerusalem, the Egyptian-held Gaza strip, and the Syrian-controlled Golan Heights on the eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee. The exultant Jews rushed to the Western Wall where they began praising and worshiping God. However, the Israeli Minister of Defense Moshe Dayan, reverted control of the Temple Mount to the Arabs almost immediately after this war ended. Though many Jews have complained that this has led to three decades of tensions between the Arab world and the Jews in Israel, I believe that it was not yet God's timing for the Temple Mount to be in Jewish hands.

In 1973 during the Jewish holy day of Yom Kippur, the Egyptians and Syrians again attacked Israel. After sustaining severe losses at the beginning, the Israeli army soon prevailed and once again defeated the Arab armies. This eventually led to a peace agreement between Egypt and Israel, which cost the Egyptian President, Anwar Sadat, his life at the hands of Arabs.

Since that time there have been several Arab and Muslim uprisings against Israel and its people. There has also been a call for the formation of a Palestinian state. It is very important to note that at no time in history has there ever been a country called Palestine. The ancient Romans referred to it by that name in an effort to denigrate further the Jews who were living there. When the Moslems had control of the land during the 600s A.D. through the 1000s A.D., they never created the country of Palestine. The British followed their Roman ancestors by also referring to the land of Israel as Palestine yet never formed such a nation. The United Nations gave the Arabs half the land of Israel under the control of Jordan, yet the Arab Jordanian government refused to establish a Palestinian state.

The modern call for the creation of the state of Palestine is a deceptive tactic by the Arabs and Muslims to destroy the nation of Israel. Since the rebirth of Israel, the Arabs have promised to "drive the Jews into the Sea". In Chapter 18, I will illustrate why I think that Satan is behind this endeavor.


I believe that the modern nation of Israel is a partial fulfillment of biblical prophecy. After eighteen centuries of the Jews losing their nation, God has miraculously brought them back to their land. They should have been assimilated into every culture where they were dispersed around the world, yet they maintained their Jewish identity throughout all this time. The agnostic writer, Mark Twain, wrote concerning the continuing existence of the Jews:

"If the statistics are right, the Jews constitute but one percent of the human race. It suggests a nebulous dim puff of star dust lost in the blaze of the Milky Way. Properly the Jew ought hardly be heard of; but he is heard of, has always been heard of. He is as prominent on the planet as any other people, and his commercial importance is extravagantly out of proportion to the smallness of his bulk. His contributions to the world's list of great names in literature, science, art, music, finance, medicine, and obtuse learning are also way out of proportion to the weakness of his numbers. He has made a marvelous fight in this world in all the ages, and has done it with his hands tied behind him. He could be vain of himself and be excused for it. The Egyptians, the Babylonians, and the Persians rose, filled the planet with sound and splendor, and faded to dream stuff and passed away. The Greeks and the Romans followed and made a vast noise and they are gone. Other peoples have sprung up and held their torch high for a time. But it burned out, and they sit in twilight now, or have vanished. The Jew saw them all. Beat them all, and is now what he always was, exhibiting no decadence, no infirmities of age, no weakening of his parts, no slowing of his energies, no dulling of his alert and aggressive mind. All things are mortal but the Jew. All other forces pass, but he remains. What is the secret of his immortality?"5

The answer to Mark Twain's question is God. God has a plan for the Jewish people and this plan included bringing them back to the land of Israel that He gave to them. God declared, through the prophet Amos, that one day He would bring the Jews back to the land of Israel forever: 

"And I will bring again the captivity of My people of Israel, and

they shall build the waste cities, and inhabit them; and they

shall plant vineyards, and drink the wine thereof; they shall

also make gardens, and eat the fruit of them. And I will plant

them upon their land, and they shall no more be pulled up out

of their land which I have given them, saith the LORD your


I believe God fulfilled the first part of this prophecy when He brought the Jews back to Israel after eighteen hundred years of captivity throughout the world. Although the Jews have reclaimed large parts of the land and have made it bountiful since 1948, the complete fulfillment of this prophecy will occur during the Millennium.

I will discuss God's prophetic plans for the Jewish nation of Israel in more detail in Chapter 18. Before that however, I want to examine a teaching that has arisen in parts of the modern Christian Church.


1    Daniel 7:7

2    Matthew 24:1-2

3    Luke 13:34-35

4    Numbers 24:17

5    [Mark Twain; Harpers Magazine; 1899]

6    Amos 9:14-15

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