The Jews Were Supposed to Return to the Land in Disobedience

Those who question or deny that the return of the Jews to the Promised Land beginning in 1948 was a fulfillment of prophecy often appeal to the people’s continued rejection of God.  After all, the returns from the Babylonian captivity under Zerubbabel, Ezra and Nehemiah were done out of national obedience to God.  And there is a general principal of blessings and curses being applied to the Israelites based on their obedience (e.g. Deut. 11:26-32).  The Israelites were assured that they would be scattered among the other nations should they forsake the LORD (Lev. 26:33; Deut. 28:64).  Indeed, the Israelites being taken into the Babylonian captivity testifies to how serious God’s promises are.  It is however important to recognize that the warnings provided and the first scattering of the Israelites happened under the Mosaic Covenant.

The Mosaic or old covenant (2 Cor. 3:14; Heb. 8:6) is no longer active as it was replaced by the New Covenant in Christ (Heb. 8:13; 9:15).  Therefore, we must understand how a return of the Jews to the Land is to occur under the New Covenant.  The inauguration of the New Covenant occurred at the spilling of Jesus’ blood (Luke 22:20; Heb. 12:24).  However, the New Covenant is yet to complete its objective of saving all of Israel (Jer. 31:31-34; Rom. 11:26-27; Heb. 8:8-12).

It is precisely because the Jews returned to the Land in unbelief that we should acknowledge a fulfillment of prophecy.  This is exactly what the prophet said would occur in Ezekiel 36:22-26:

“Therefore say to the house of Israel, ‘Thus says the LORD God, “It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for My holy name, which you have profaned among the nations where you went.  I will vindicate the holiness of My great name which has been profaned among the nations, which you have profaned in their midst. Then the nations will know that I am the LORD,” declares the Lord God, “when I prove Myself holy among you in their sight.  For I will take you from the nations, gather you from all the lands and bring you into your own land.  Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols.  Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.  (NASB)

Notice that it is only after the LORD ingathers the Jews from the other nations back into the Promised Land that He says He will make the people clean and free from idols (vv. 24-25; cf. Ezek. 11:14-21).  Therefore, it would actually be the opposite of what Scripture says if the Jews were brought into their land in a state of obedience and faith.  The LORD makes it abundantly clear that He will not bring the Jews back into the land for their sake and that they should be ashamed of their conduct (v. 32).  The LORD promises the Jews that He will give them a new heart and a new spirit (v. 26).  Such language indicates that the Jewish nation will be brought into the New Covenant (2 Cor. 3:3-6). The new spirit is the Holy Spirit bringing regeneration (John 3:8), leading the Jewish nation to come to finally know Jesus as their Messiah (Zech. 12:10).

This truly speaks to the abundant goodness of God.  Christians often expect nothing but grace from God and expect nothing but judgment upon Israel.  Just as God saves sinners despite themselves, so too will the God of Israel save Israel. Not only will God’s faithfulness to the unconditional covenants be demonstrated, but by restoring the Jews to their land God will honor His own name.  Then the nations will know that the loving and sovereign God of Israel is the only true God (vv. 22-23).

Could it be that the current Jewish control of part of the Promised Land is something that will again end in exile, making the above prophecy only applicable to the final return?  This is of course theoretically possible.  However, Scripture only ever speaks to two returns from exile (Is. 11:11).  It is on one extreme that some believers are quick to interpret every event in the news as fulfillment of prophecy (i.e. newspaper exegesis).  The other extreme is to refuse to accept that a prophecy has been fulfilled no matter how much evidence is provided.  Rejoice then in the work God started in 1948 with the Jews returning to the land and the establishment of the modern state of Israel.  Delight in more and more Jews coming to know Jesus as their Lord and Savior.  Don’t do it because you believe that the Jews are just but because their God is.


  1. Dan Coggins says:

    The bones come together before the spirit is breathed into them.- Ezekiel 37

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