Returning from Israel

Just a couple of days ago we returned from Israel where we led a group of forty-four delightful believers through the Land of the Bible. We went to many of the usual spots around Galilee, the Dead Sea and Jerusalem. In light of this trip, it seemed good to share just a few observations with you.

The Temple Mound and the Temple Institute

The Temple mount, where Solomon’s temple stood, remains the most volatile piece of real estate on planet earth. It is under the authority of the Muslims though the Israeli police are up there keeping the peace. There was peace and quiet when we went up there early one morning. It is always a meaningful experience to walk around the temple mount where so much biblical history took place. Today, the golden dome dominates the landscape and covers the bedrock of Mount Moriah (where Abraham went to sacrifice his son, Isaac). And this is the place where the Jews will build a temple sometime in the future. The Temple Institute, which is located in the Jewish quarter of the old city, has spent tens of millions of dollars in preparing for this new temple. They have made the priestly garments, the gold and silver temple vessels, the cornerstone of the temple, as well as having trained men from the tribe of Levi on the sacrificing of animals. Aside from the Ark of the Covenant (which they believe Messiah will bring to the temple), all is ready to go for temple sacrifices and worship.

Will they build a temple?  The answer is “yes.” Daniel 9:27, 2 Thessalonians 2:7 and Matthew 24:15 make it abundantly clear that a temple will be built and will be fully functional during the early days of the Tribulation. The Temple Institute believes that they are preparing for the temple described in Ezekiel 40-48. However, they are mistaken. They may think they are preparing Messiah’s temple, but they are really making preparations for the Tribulation temple. It should be noted, for example, that the dimensions of Ezekiel’s temple are so great that it could not even come close to fitting on the present temple mount.

The big question is, of course, when will Israel gain control over the temple mount in order to built their temple. The Bible does not specifically tell us. But, in my opinion, it could well be given to them by the Antichrist with whom they enter into a covenant relationship at the start of the Tribulation.  If in fact, God Himself has just destroyed Russia, Iran, and many Islamic nations in the “Gog-Magog” battle (Ezekiel 38-39), then none of those will have the might or the will to resist an action of the Antichrist. While there would likely be a deep resentment in the Islamic world, none will be able to challenge “the man of war”, the Antichrist. I see this as a possible scenario. 

The Northern Border with Lebanon and Syria

We made stops within a mile of the border with Lebanon, and then went to the Golan heights where we were about a mile from the border with Syria (with Damascus being about 25 miles away).  All is quiet on the northern front. Israel’s enemies have learned that if they launch balloons with bombs attached or if they cross the border and do harm to an Israeli town, they will experience retaliation that is many times worse than what they delivered to Israel. Israel has learned that weakness invites trouble, but strength does deter many foolhardy ventures of their enemies. 

And while this approach has brought “peace” to the northern border, the day is coming when there will be a great invasion of Israel from the north. Ezekiel 38-39 describes the “Gog-Magog” battle where an overwhelming force comprised of Russia, Iran and many Islamic nations roll like storm clouds cross the northern border to annihilate the Jewish nation. The competent Israeli Air Force and their famous tank corps will be no match against these invaders. However, God sees this as an attack on His own land and it is at that time that God powerfully intervenes “in His zeal” and “blazing wrath” and crushes these invaders. He will use a great earthquake, disease, torrential rain, fire and brimstone, “friendly fire” and hailstones (Ezek. 39:19-23). The result of this will not simply be the destruction of a great military force, but it will be the beginning of Israel coming back to the Lord spiritually as well as the nations of the earth getting a fresh view of the great Creator God (Ezek. 39:21-22). So while Israel’s northern border is quiet today, in the future it will be the scene of the epic destruction of Israel’s enemies by the Lord God Himself.

Shiloh in Samaria

Shiloh is located about 30 miles north of Jerusalem. When Joshua and the Israelites entered the land of Canaan, they set up the Tabernacle in the hill country of Samaria in a place called Shiloh (Josh. 18). Shiloh was the religious capital of Israel for some 350 years until David conquered Jerusalem and made that city the capital. For the past few years a concentrated archaeological effort has been ongoing at Shiloh and there is a high level of certainty about the spot where the Tabernacle was set up. Not many tour groups go there because it is in an area where hostility between Arabs and Israelis is ever present. Numerous Israeli settlements have sprung up much to the distress of liberals in the Israeli government. However, these zealous Israeli settlers see this as the very heart of their historic land and it is certainly not “occupied territory” as the media describes it. After all, around 1390 B.C., Joshua established this place as belonging to Israel.  And so, they are simply claiming it as their own. These are true patriots.

And while their determination and efforts are most commendable, they will never reclaim the land originally given to them by God. They will eventually get all of the land that God promised His people only because God will give it to them. God has made an eternal, unconditional covenant with the descendants of Abraham through Isaac and Jacob. He has given His word that He will do this. When Messiah Jesus returns in power and great glory (Matt. 24:27-30; 25:31), then all of the covenant promises given to Abraham will be fulfilled, including the land. 

Going to Israel does remind the believer that God is doing and will do what is needed to bring about the fulfillment of His covenant promises. It is never a question of whether these things will take place, but only a question of when they will come about.