17, 1999 Israel had a major national election in which Prime Minister Benyamin
Netanyahu was defeated by Labor' s Ehud Barak. Barak will be forming a
coalition government that is due to assume governance around the first of July.
The other story in the Israeli elections that most do not realize is that
while the more conservative Netanyahu lost the top spot to the more
left-leaning Barak, the religious parties made significant gains in the number
of seats they control in the Knesset. This makes for an interesting coalition
mix since Barak has to include some of the conservatives and orthodox parties
to form a government of at least the 61 seats required for the thinnest
majority. How are these recent developments fitting into God' s prophetic plan?
Preparation For A Covenant
present church age is not a time in which Bible prophecy is being fulfilled.
Bible prophecy relates to a time after the rapture (the seven-year tribulation
period). However, this does not mean that God is not preparing the world for
that future time during the present church age- in fact, He is. But this is not
" fulfillment" of Bible prophecy. So while prophecy is not being fulfilled in
our day, it does not follow that we cannot track " general trends" in current
preparation for the coming tribulation, especially since it immediately follows
the rapture. We call this approach " stage-setting." Just as many people set
their clothes out the night before they wear them the following day, so in the
same sense is God preparing the world for the certain fulfillment of prophecy
in a future time.
John Walvoord explains:
But if there are no signs for the Rapture itself,
what are the legitimate grounds for believing that the Rapture could be
especially near of this generation?
The answer is not
found in any prophetic events predicted before the Rapture but in understanding
the events that will follow the Rapture. Just as history was prepared for
Christ' s first coming, in a similar way history is preparing for the events
leading up to His Second Coming. . . . If this is the case, it leads to the
inevitable conclusion that the Rapture may be excitingly near.[i]
Bible provides detailed prophecy about the seven-year tribulation. In fact,
Revelation 4- 19 gives a detailed, sequential outline of the major players and
events. Using Revelation as a framework, a Bible student is able to harmonize
the hundreds of other biblical passages that speak of the seven-year
tribulation into a clear model of the next time period for planet earth. With
such a template to guide us, we can see that already God is preparing or
setting the stage of the world in which the great drama of the tribulation will
unfold. In this way this future time casts shadows of expectation in our own
day so that current events provide discernible signs of the times.
today live during the church age, which will end with the rapture of the
church. Prophetic signs relating to Israel are not being fulfilled in our day.
In our own day, God is prophetically preparing the world for the time when He
will resume His plan relating to Israel. One major indicator that we are
likely near the beginning of the tribulation is the clear fact that national
Israel has been reconstituted after almost 2,000 year. Such a rebirth of the
nation of Israel is required for prophesied events of the tribulation to
transpire. Hundreds of biblical prophecies presuppose Israel as a nation and
in control of Jerusalem with a rebuilt, functioning Temple.
tribulation begins with the signing of a covenant between Israel and the
antichrist (Isa. 28:15-18; Dan. 9:26-27), who will begin his short-lived rise
to world-wide control. The important point to be made is that the antichrist
begins the tribulation with a covenant that promises to protect Israel and in
essence solve the Middle East Crisis. Bible believing Christians know that
there will not be peace in the Middle East until the second coming of Christ at
the end of the tribulation. Thus, whatever happens before the signing of the
covenant that begins the tribulation, we know that it is God' s hand preparing
the world by setting the stage for these post-Rapture events. This is what we
are witnessing through current events in Israel.
Israel' s Growing Secular/Religious
One of the under reported issues by the American press in
the wake of Israel' s election is the role being played by the growing strength
of the religious orthodox community and their different vision for the future
of the nation than that of Israel' s secular founders. The Stratror
Intelligence Update of May 24, 1999 offers
an interesting analysis of the recent election and what it means for Israel' s
future. Contrary to common belief, Stratror contends that " for the
first time in fifty years, national security was not at stake in the election.
National identity was." Yet most believe that the central issue leading to the
election of Barak was the Peace Process. Stratror explains:
central issue in the election was the relationship between secularists and
religionists. Israel, like many countries in the world, is divided into two
general factions. There are those who see Israel as the homeland for ethnic
Jews, understood as all those who could make a genealogical claim to Jewish
descent. Beyond that, the secularists saw the State of Israel, like other
Western states, as being essentially neutral on matters of religion. To be
somewhat more precise, it was understood that one could be Jewish without practicing
Jewish ritual law or even believing in the Jewish God. The state was seen as
the guardian of rights and freedoms, and in some vague sense as the heir to
some Jewish tradition, but a fundamental distinction was drawn between Israeli
citizenship and Jewish religiosity.
. . . The revolt
against Likud had much less to do with the West Bank than with the sense that
Likud had written a blank check to the religious parties on domestic policy and
the feeling that the religious parties had become corrupt with unearned power.
. . This means that anyone expecting Ehud Barak to make serious compromises on
national defense issues are going to be disappointed.
. . What is going on in Israel is, in the long run, far more important than
where the Palestinian flag flies. The social fabric is torn apart by utterly
incompatible visions of what Israel as a society should look like.
. . So Barak is going to be focusing on domestic issues when a huge and urgent
blast from Washington is going to descend on him. Misreading the election as a
sea change in Israeli views of Oslo, the administration will find Barak both
preoccupied and with a very different agenda than the one Washington would
prefer to see implemented. Clinton will feel himself betrayed by Barak, whom
he clearly favored in the election and who used his good relations with
Washington as a reason to favor him over Netanyahu. Barak, with much less room
for maneuver than Clinton will believe, will first cooperate and then resist as
Clinton pushes him beyond where the former Chief of Staff of the IDF will want
to go and where Israeli politics will permit him to go. Barak is bound to
disappoint a lot of people, since his primary mission is to please a large
segment of the Israeli public on an issue having nothing whatever to do with
foreign policy. Far less has changed in Israel than would appear at first
religious community has been steadily growing. Orthodox Jews were by-and-large
opposed to the establishment of the modern state of Israel in 1948. They
believed the coming of Messiah would accomplish the deed. However, over the
last fifty years of the nation many have immigrated to Israel and warmed to the
idea that Jews in Israel should currently press to implement the Torah as the
means of governance in the modern state. Religious Jews appear to be making
steady gains in Israel, which explains why we see an increasing tension over
whether Israel should be governed according to secular or religious law. The
average Orthodox family has 10 to 12 children, while the average secular family
does well to average two children. Some experts on Israel see the religious
reaching parity with the secular at some point during the next ten to fifteen
years. What could this mean for Bible prophecy?
Increasing Role For Religion
Jews want an Israel that is run according to Mosaic and Rabbinic religious law.
This cannot be done without a rebuilt Temple. Much of Israel' s law revolves
around the Temple and the priesthood. Absent a Temple, Israel cannot really
function as a religious nation. I believe that pressure will continue to mount
within Israeli society for the Third Temple. How might this relate to
preparation for tribulation events?
our book Ready to Rebuild,
Randall Price and I speculated that although Israel' s next Temple could be
rebuilt at any time, we think it most likely will be included as an element of
the covenant between antichrist and Israel that will start the tribulation.
Remember, the Tribulation Temple does not have to be functioning until the
mid-point of the seven-year tribulation. The greatest obstacle currently to
rebuilding the Temple is the political roadblock. A majority of Israelis are
not yet willing to endure World War III over an issue like rebuilding their
ancient Temple since they do not currently value even their own religious
heritage. Modern Israel does not yet possess the national will which will one
day be required to reconstruct a new Temple. With the current trend of the
Orthodox gaining political clout in Israel, it is not hard to conceive that
part of a future deal to " settle" the Mid-East crisis would include the
concession to rebuild Israel' s Third Temple. This would certainly be an
enticement for the religious to go along with the deal.
biggest obstacle to implementing the Oslo peace deal has to do with the " final
status" of Jerusalem. Israel' s new Prime Minister, Ehud Barak, has indicated
that he is no more willing to divide Jerusalem and permit the Palestinians to
make East Jerusalem their capital than his predecessors. The final status of
Jerusalem is now being negotiated by the new Israeli government and the
Palestinians. Bible believing Christians know the final status of Jerusalem is
destined to be under the reign of Jesus Himself after His return to planet
earth at the end of the tribulation. And not before. Guess What? The
Palestinians will have no role to play in it at all. However, in the mean
time, Scripture tells us that during the tribulation the Lord is " going to make Jerusalem a cup that causes reeling to all
the peoples around; . . . And it will come about in that day that I will make
Jerusalem a heavy stone for all the peoples; all who lift it will be severely
injured. And all the nations of the earth will be gathered against it" (Zech.
As Believers, we can take comfort
in the fact that even though we see the chaos created by the efforts of fallen
humanity to solve global problems, we know that there really is and will be a
genuine solution one day. We also need to remember that until that day comes
we are to serve and obey our Lord, preach the gospel to every creature, while
at the same time keeping an eye out for the any-moment return of our Lord.