The Regatherings of Israel
David’s 4th Blog from Israel
I ended my previous blog asking a question: When the modern nation of Israel was birthed in 1948, did God return to the descendants of Israel the sovereign right to the land of Palestine that He gave to (and took away from) their ancient ancestors about 25 centuries ago?
The reason I posed this question is because so many Christians feel we should always side with modern Israel, because the 20th-century regathering of Jews and Israel’s 1948 statehood are fulfillments of prophecy, which would seem to indicate that God is on the side of Israel. When Christians side with Israel on every political issue, however, they sometimes find themselves siding against God’s moral law. Moreover, they may also find themselves siding against followers of Christ among the Arabs. And they may also find themselves building barriers to reaching Arab Muslims with the gospel.
So how should Christians view modern Israel? I think that the answer is found in understanding something about the prophecies regarding God’s regathering the descendants of Israel, a people who have been scattered all over the world.
As best as I can tell, the Old Testament foretold of three distinct regatherings of Israel’s descendants, although in reference to when I’m writing this in 2015, the first of those regatherings has been completely fulfilled, the second has been about 99% fulfilled, and the third is still yet to be fulfilled.
The Three Regatherings
The first regathering of which the Old Testament foretold was fulfilled between 538 and 456 BC, in the time of Ezra and Nehemiah. What makes it distinct is that it was a regathering of exiles from Babylon, consisting predominantly of members of the tribes of Judah and Benjamin, as they are the two tribes that had been deported to Babylon decades earlier.
The second regathering began in the late 1800s, when persecuted Jews from Eastern Europe began immigrating to Palestine. That regathering continues to this day, as Jews from around the world are still trickling in to the state of Israel.
Admittedly, the second regathering isn’t easy to find in Scripture, which is perhaps why some see the second regathering as “non-prophetic.” That is, they say that the regathering of the Jews to Palestine in the 20th century and Israel’s statehood are not divinely-orchestrated, but purely man-orchestrated (with God’s permission of course.)
What makes the second regathering distinct from the third regathering is that it has not included a mass spiritual awakening. It can only be considered, not a sign of God’s approval of Israel’s descendants or of Israel’s every political act, but a sign of His mercy. God has not forgotten the people of Israel. But that doesn’t mean that Christians should side with them on every political issue. And God’s plan for the Jews is the same plan He’s had from the beginning for everyone—He wants them to find redemption through Jesus Christ, the promised seed of Abraham.
During this second regathering, if God has given any land at all to the descendants of Israel, He has not given to them all the land of their ancestors. If you compare a map of modern Israel with a map in the back of your Bible that shows “Canaan as Divided Among the Twelve Tribes,” you’ll quickly notice that the original land that God gave to the tribes of Reuben, Gad and Manasseh were all east of the Jordan River, now in modern Jordan and Syria. During the third regathering, however, God will give that land to the descendants of Israel, according to a promise He made through Isaiah that we will consider shortly. And that event will be based on divine moral principles.
The third regathering will occur near the time when Jesus begins to rule the world from Jerusalem and Israel is exalted above all the nations. Among the descendants of Israel, there will have been a mass spiritual awakening. That is when it will be time to unequivocally side with Israel! Interestingly, although 83% of the world’s Jews today live in Israel and the U.S., there are Jews still living in at least 107 countries of the world (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jewish_population_by_country).
Jeremiah, who lived during the time of the Babylonian captivity, received revelation about the first regathering prior to its occurrence:
After Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon had carried away captive Jeconiah the son of Jehoiakim, king of Judah, and the officials of Judah with the craftsmen and smiths from Jerusalem and had brought them to Babylon, the Lord showed me: behold, two baskets of figs set before the temple of the Lord! One basket had very good figs, like first-ripe figs, and the other basket had very bad figs which could not be eaten due to rottenness. Then the Lord said to me, “What do you see, Jeremiah?” And I said, “Figs, the good figs, very good; and the bad figs, very bad, which cannot be eaten due to rottenness.”
Then the word of the Lord came to me, saying, “Thus says the Lord God of Israel, ‘Like these good figs, so I will regard as good the captives of Judah, whom I have sent out of this place into the land of the Chaldeans. For I will set My eyes on them for good, and I will bring them again to this land; and I will build them up and not overthrow them, and I will plant them and not pluck them up. I will give them a heart to know Me, for I am the Lord; and they will be My people, and I will be their God, for they will return to Me with their whole heart'” (Jer. 24:1-7)
I’m sure you noticed the spiritual aspects of what Jeremiah said regarding that first regathering.
Jeremiah also prophesied of the third regathering. It would benefit, not just descendants of Judah (as was the case during the first regathering), but descendants of both Judah and Israel (that is, Judah/Benjamin plus the ten tribes that were deported to Assyria in 722 BC):
“Return, O faithless sons,” declares the Lord; “for I am a master to you, and I will take you one from a city and two from a family, and I will bring you to Zion.
“Then I will give you shepherds after My own heart, who will feed you on knowledge and understanding. It shall be in those days when you are multiplied and increased in the land,” declares the Lord, “they will no longer say, ‘The ark of the covenant of the Lord.’ And it will not come to mind, nor will they remember it, nor will they miss it, nor will it be made again. At that time they will call Jerusalem ‘The Throne of the Lord,’ and all the nations will be gathered to it, to Jerusalem, for the name of the Lord; nor will they walk anymore after the stubbornness of their evil heart. In those days the house of Judah will walk with the house of Israel, and they will come together from the land of the north to the land that I gave your fathers as an inheritance” (Jer. 3:14-18).
It is pretty easy to see that this passage of Scripture can’t be referencing the second gathering that we witnessed in the 20th century. Jeremiah speaks of a gathering that will occur when the ark of the covenant won’t be remembered, when the Lord will be seated on His throne in Jerusalem ruling the world, and when Israel will be submitted to Him.
Let’s consider just one more prophecy, found in Isaiah 11, about the third regathering, that I think also includes a mention of the second regathering. I’ve added a few words of commentary in the text in bracketed red letters:
Then a shoot will spring from the stem of Jesse [father of King David],
And a branch from his roots will bear fruit [Jesus was descended from David].
The Spirit of the Lord will rest on Him [Jesus was anointed by the Holy Spirit],
The spirit of wisdom and understanding,
The spirit of counsel and strength,
The spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.
And He will delight in the fear of the Lord,
And He will not judge by what His eyes see, [It now begins to become clear that Isaiah is speaking of the future time when Jesus will rule over the earth, and not about Jesus’ earthy ministry.]
Nor make a decision by what His ears hear;
But with righteousness He will judge the poor,
And decide with fairness for the afflicted of the earth;
And He will strike the earth with the rod of His mouth,
And with the breath of His lips He will slay the wicked.
Also righteousness will be the belt about His loins,
And faithfulness the belt about His waist.
And the wolf will dwell with the lamb,
And the leopard will lie down with the young goat,
And the calf and the young lion and the fatling together;
And a little boy will lead them.
Also the cow and the bear will graze,
Their young will lie down together,
And the lion will eat straw like the ox.
The nursing child will play by the hole of the cobra,
And the weaned child will put his hand on the viper’s den.
They will not hurt or destroy in all My holy mountain, [None of this has happened yet! It is clearly speaking of the future time of Christ’s worldwide reign, when the nature of animals will be changed, at least in Jerusalem.]
For the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord
As the waters cover the sea. [Not true now. Clearly speaking of the future when Christ rules.]
Then in that day
The nations will resort to the root of Jesse, [All the world will be looking to the world’s ruler, Jesus in Jerusalem]
Who will stand as a signal for the peoples;
And His resting place will be glorious. [That is, His throne/palace/city will be amazing.]
[Now here is where some often start quoting from Isaiah 11 to support the idea that the 20th-century gathering of Israel and Israel’s statehood is a fulfillment of Isaiah 11. But they’ve ignored the context of the entire chapter that we’ve just read.]
Then it will happen on that day that the Lord [The phrase, “then it will happen on that day” shows a chronological connection to what we’ve already read.]
Will again recover the second time with His hand
The remnant of His people, who will remain,
From Assyria, Egypt, Pathros, Cush, Elam, Shinar, Hamath,
And from the islands of the sea. [This will be the “second time” God gathers the remnant of His people from the nations, and it will occur when all the other things we’ve read about in this chapter of Isaiah occur. So it can’t be a reference to the 20th century gathering. Moreover, the first time God gathered the descendants of Israel from all over the world was during the 20th century.]
And He will lift up a standard for the nations
And assemble the banished ones of Israel,
And will gather the dispersed of Judah
From the four corners of the earth.
Then the jealousy of Ephraim [the dominant tribe of the 10 northern tribes] will depart,
And those who harass Judah will be cut off;
Ephraim will not be jealous of Judah,
And Judah will not harass Ephraim.
They will swoop down on the slopes of the Philistines on the west;
Together they will plunder the sons of the east;
They will possess Edom and Moab, [The region east of the Jordan River that is currently not part of modern Israel, but was part of the original territory of ancient Israel]
And the sons of Ammon will be subject to them. [Also east of the Jordan River]
And the Lord will utterly destroy
The tongue of the Sea of Egypt;
And He will wave His hand over the River [the Nile]
With His scorching wind;
And He will strike it into seven streams
And make men walk over dry-shod.
And there will be a highway from Assyria
For the remnant of His people who will be left,
Just as there was for Israel
In the day that they came up out of the land of Egypt.
Then you will say on that day,
“I will give thanks to You, O Lord; [From this point on, Isaiah prophesies of the spiritual aspect of that great regathering, something we have not seen during the 20th century regathering.]
For although You were angry with me,
Your anger is turned away,
And You comfort me.
Behold, God is my salvation,
I will trust and not be afraid;
For the Lord God is my strength and song,
And He has become my salvation.”
Therefore you will joyously draw water
From the springs of salvation.
And in that day you will say,
“Give thanks to the Lord, call on His name.
Make known His deeds among the peoples;
Make them remember that His name is exalted.”
Praise the Lord in song, for He has done excellent things;
Let this be known throughout the earth.
Cry aloud and shout for joy, O inhabitant of Zion,
For great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel (Is. 11:1 – 12:6).
How near are we to the time of the third regathering? I don’t know. Some say it must be very close, because Jesus, foretelling of the deportations of Jews that would occur in AD 70 and 132, said that “Jerusalem will be trampled under foot by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled” (Luke 21:24). The modern nation of Israel possessed all of Jerusalem in the Six Day War of 1967. So some say that 1967 marked the end of the “times of the Gentiles.”
In my opinion, however, the “times of the Gentiles” will be fulfilled at the redemption of Israel and when Jesus rules the world from Jerusalem. When I was just in Jerusalem a few days ago, I witnessed Gentiles trampling in the Old City, in both the Muslim and Christian quarters! And from what I can tell, Jerusalem’s future will include a lot more trampling under foot by the Gentiles. Goodness, the antichrist himself will trample there.