|And it came to pass, that, when the sun went down, and it was dark, behold a smoking furnace, and a burning lamp that passed between those pieces. In that same day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying, Unto thy seed have I given this land| (Gen.15:17, 18). Here the two great periods of Israel's history was made known to Abram in figure. The vision of the smoking furnace and the burning lamp intimated that the history of Abraham's descendants was to be a checkered one. It was a prophecy in symbolic action; and like all prophecy was to have a double fulfillment. The order was first the sorrow and suffering, and then the glory and joy. There was first the smoking furnace of Egyptian bondage, and then the burning lamp which typified the brilliant reign of Solomon. After which there was the furnace, again, the furnace of the Babylonian captivity, and since Israel crucified her Messiah the furnace has been seven times hotter than ever before. Yet is it written, |For Zion's sake I will not hold My peace, for Jerusalem's sake I will not rest, until the righteousness thereof go forth as brightness, and the salvation thereof as a lamp that burneth| (Is.62:1).
A remarkable statement is found in Deut.32:8 which antedates the actual history of the Jews. |When the Most High divided to the nations their inheritance, when He separated the sons of Adam, He set the bounds of the people according to the number of the children of Israel.| Israel is here seen to be present before the mind of God six hundred years before they had any national standing in the earth, and two hundred years before the birth of their father Abraham. Yet, even at that remote period, God assigned to the descendants of the then scattered sons of Adam, their position in the earth according to the number of that people which was not then born. Here, then, we learn God's purpose concerning the chosen nation -- Israel is God's earthly center.
In Gen.13:14, 15, we read |And the Lord said unto Abram, after that Lot was separated from him, Lift up now thine eyes and look from the place where thou art northward, and southward, and eastward, and westward. For all the land which thou seest to thee will I give it, and to thy seed forever.| And again in Gen.15:18 we are told, |In that same day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying, Unto thy seed have I given this land, from the river of Egypt unto the great river, the river Euphrates.| The land of Palestine has been given unconditionally to Abraham and his descendants, |For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance| (Rom.11:29). But these Divine promises have never received anything more than a partial fulfillment. The patriarchs themselves were but sojourners in a strange country, so much so, they needed to purchase a burying ground in it for their dead. It is true that in the days of Joshua, Israel entered into possession of the Promised Land, but it is to be particularly noted that they entered Canaan under the Covenant of Law (see Deut.27:1-3, 8-10; 28:1 etc.), and hence their continued tenure of it was conditioned upon their obedience to Hehovah. But, as is well know, they failed to walk in the Divine statutes, and turned aside after false gods. And long did Jehovah bear with their waywardness. Prophet after prophet was sent unto them, calling them to forsake their sins and return unto the Lord and He would abundantly pardon. But in vain. Ultimately the point was reached when God's patience became exhausted, and in judgment upon them He sent them into captivity, from whence nothing more than a remnant has ever returned to their own land. It was to the descendants of this remnant that the Lord Jesus came. To the |lost sheep of the house of Israel| He was sent (Matt.10:5-7; 15:24). But He received no better treatment at their hands than did the prophets who were before Him -- |He came unto His own and His own received Him not.| He was despised and rejected of men, and Israel disowned their King and put Him to a shameful death. While their Messiah was hanging upon the Cross, |All the people said, His blood be on us, and on our children| (Matt.27:25), and God took them at their word! A few years later Jerusalem was besieged, captured and destroyed by the armies of Titus; hundreds of thousands of Jews were slain, and the remainder of them carried away into captivity. Since that time they have been a homeless nation, and wanderers on the face of the earth. Literally has the prophecy of Hosea been fulfilled, |For the children of Israel shall abide many days without a king| (Hosea 3:4). And yet, in spite of all, they have preserved their national individuality, and have never been absorbed by the other nations.
Now, it is evident that the nation of Israel has been preserved for a purpose, and what that purpose is, God's Word makes known. A marvelous future yet awaits these descendants of Abraham. Jerusalem is not trodden down of the Gentiles, but it is only to continue thus |Until the Times of the Gentiles be fulfilled| (Luke 21:24). The tabernacle of David, now fallen down, is to be restored (Acts 15:16), and the one who has been for so long the sport of the nations shall yet become its |head| (Deut.28:13).
The restoration of Israel occupies a most prominent place in the Scriptures of truth and three things should be particularly noted in connect therewith. First, the restoration of Israel cannot take place until after the Church has been removed from the earth. Second, the restoration of the entire nation will be a gradual one. Third, restored Israel will occupy a much more exalted and glorious position than any it has held in the past, not excepting the reign of Solomon. The first of these three statements is based upon Acts 15:14-17 where we are expressly told that it is not until |after| God has taken out of the Gentiles a people for His name that He will return and build again the tabernacle of David. The second and third statements, above, will now be considered at more length.
In Zech.12:9, 10 we are told, |And I will pour upon the House of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications: and they shall look upon Me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for Him, as one mourneth for his only son and shall be in bitterness for Him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn.| Here is the starting-point of Israel's moral restoration, namely, the repentance of Juhah. Be it noted that this prophecy contemplates the House of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem only, for it is not until a later date that God deals with the Ten Tribes. With the above Scripture should be linked 2 Cor.3:15, 16 -- |But even unto this day, when Moses is read, the veil is upon their heart. Nevertheless when it (Israel) shall turn to the Lord, the veil shall be taken away.| One of the first consequences of Judah's turning unto the Lord in repentance will be the removal of the veil now upon their heart.
The restoration of the Ten Tribes is brought before us in Ezek.34 -- the whole chapter should be read -- |For thus saith the Lord God; behold, I, even I, will both search My sheep, and seek them out. As a shepherd seeketh out his flock in the day that he is among his sheep that are scattered; so will I seek out My sheep, and will deliver them out of all places where they have been scattered in the cloudy and dark day. And I will bring them out from the people, and gather them from the countries, and will bring them to their own land, and feed them upon the mountains of Israel by the rivers, and in all the inhabited places of the country. I will feed them in a good pasture, and upon the high mountains of Israel shall their fold be: there shall they lie in a good fold, and in a fat pasture shall they feed upon the mountains of Israel. I will feed My flock, and I will cause them to lie down, saith the Lord God| (vss.11-15). The Ten Tribes restored to Palestine shall be united to the House of Judah and the two Houses become one again -- |Thus saith the Lord God; Behold, I will take the Children of Israel from among the heathen, whither they be gone, and will gather them on every side and bring them into their own land: And I will make them a nation in the land, upon the mountains of Israel; and one King shall be king to them all: and they shall be no more two nations, neither shall they be divided into two kingdoms any more at all: Neither shall they defile themselves any more with their idols, nor with their detestable things, nor with any of their transgressions: but I will save them out of all their dwelling places, wherein they have sinned, and will cleanse them: so they shall be My people, and I will be their God. And David My Servant shall be King over them; and they all shall have one Shepherd; they shall also walk in My judgments, and observe My statutes, and do them. And they shall dwell in the land which I have given unto Jacob My Servant, wherein your fathers have dwelt; and they shall dwell therein, even they, and their children, and their children's children for ever: and My Servant David shall be their Prince for ever. Moreover I will make a covenant of peace with them: it shall be an everlasting covenant with them: and I will place them, and will multiply them, and will set My sanctuary in the midst of them for evermore. My tabernacle also shall be with them: yea, I will be their God, and they shall be My people. And the heathen shall know that I the Lord do sanctify Israel, when My sanctuary shall be in the midst of them for evermore| (Ezek.37:21-28).
With the restored and re-united twelve tribes God will make a new covenant -- |Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers, in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which My covenant they brake, although I was a husband unto them, saith the Lord: But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; after those days, saith the Lord, I will put My law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be My people. And they shall teach no more every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for they shall all know Me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the Lord: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more| (Jer.31:31-45; cf.32:37-40; Is.59:20, 21).
Early in the Millennium Jerusalem will be rebuilt: |Thus saith the Lord; Behold, I will bring again the captivity of Jacob's tents, and have mercy on his dwelling places; and the city shall be builded upon her own little hill, and the palace shall remain after the manner thereof| (Jer.30:18, cf.31:38-40). Furthermore, the Temple itself will be re-built, built under the immediate supervision of the Lord Himself -- |Thus speaketh the Lord of hosts, saying, behold the man whose name is The BRANCH; and He shall grow up out of His place, and He shall build the Temple of the Lord: Even He shall build the Temple of the Lord; and He shall bear the glory, and shall sit and rule upon His throne; and He shall be a priest upon His throne: and the counsel of peace shall be between them both** and they that are far off shall come and build in the Temple of the Lord, and ye shall know that the Lord of hosts hath sent Me unto you| (Zech.6:12-15). This Temple, which is fully described in Ezekiel 40 and 41; will be an imposing structure of vast dimensions, upwards of a mile in extent. The Shekinah Glory shall enter it and from it radiate the whole earth -- |And, behold, the Glory of the God of Israel (i.e., the Shekinah Glory, see 11:23), came from the way of the east: and His voice was like a noise of many waters: and the earth shined with His glory| (Ezek.43:2). The Old Testament ritual (with a few minor modifications) will be employed in this re-built Temple -- see Ezek.46 etc. -- and as of old the sacrifices and feasts were anticipative, so those offered up and celebrated in the Millennium will be commemorative.
During the Millennium the land of Palestine will be apportioned equally among the Twelve Tribes -- see Ezek.47 and 48 -- and upon thrones shall sit the twelve apostles judging the twelve tribes of Israel -- |And Jesus said unto them, Verily I say unto you, That ye which have followed Me; in The Regeneration (i.e., the Millennium) when the Son of Man shall sit in the throne of His glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel| (Matt.19:28). Apparently, it was to this Isaiah referred to when he wrote -- |Behold, a King shall reign in righteousness, and princes shall rule in judgment| (Is.32:1).
Many are the passages which describe Israel's millennial glory and blessedness. The last six chapters of Isaiah are occupied more or less with this theme, and from them we quote a few portions. After speaking of the Redeemer's return to Zion (Is.59:20, 21), the prophet cries -- |Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee| (Is.60:1). The prophet continues -- |And the Gentiles shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of they rising.** Surely the isles shall wait for Me, and the ships of Tarshish first, to bring thy sons from far, their silver and their gold with them, unto the name of the Lord thy God, and the Holy One of Israel, because He hath glorified thee. And the sons of strangers shall build up thy walls, and their kings shall minister unto thee: for in My wrath I smote thee, but in My favor have I had mercy on thee. Therefore thy gates shall be open continually; they shall not be shut day nor night; that men may bring unto thee the wealth of the Gentiles, and that their kings may be brought. For the nation and kingdom that will not serve thee shall perish: yea, those nations shall be utterly wasted.** The sons also of them that afflicted thee shall come bending unto thee; and all they that despised thee shall bow themselves down at the soles of thy feet; and they shall call thee, The city of the Lord, The Zion of the Holy One of Israel. Whereas thou hast been forsaken and hated, so that no man went through thee, I will make thee an eternal excellency, a joy of many generations.** Thy sun shall no more go down; neither shall thy moon withdraw itself: for the Lord shall be thine everlasting light, and the days of thy mourning shall be ended. Thy people also shall be all righteous: they shall inherit the land for ever, the branch of My planting, the work of My hands, that I may be glorified| (Is.60:3, 9-12, 14, 15, 20, 21). The Lord shall |appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called Trees of Righteousness, The planting of the Lord, that He might be glorified. And they shall build the old wastes, they shall raise up the former desolations, and they shall repair the waste cities, the desolations of many generations. And strangers shall stand and feed your flocks, and the sons of the alien shall be your ploughmen and your vinedressers. But ye shall be named the Priests of the Lord: men shall call you the Ministers of our God: ye shall eat the riches of the Gentiles, and in their glory shall ye boast yourselves| (61:3-6). And again; |And the Gentiles shall see thy righteousness, and all kings thy glory: and thou shalt be called by a new name, which the mouth of the Lord shall name. Thou shalt also be a crown of glory in the hand of the Lord, and a royal diadem in the hand of thy God. Thou shalt no more be termed Forsaken; neither shall thy land any more be termed Desolate: but thou shalt be called Hephzibah (My delight is in her), and thy land Beulah (Married): for the Lord delighteth in thee, and thy land shall be married| (62:2-4).
Not only will Israel enjoy glorious blessings themselves, but, in the Millennium, they shall be a blessing to |all families of the earth| (Gen.12:3). Then will be fulfilled that word, |He shall cause them that come of Jacob to take root: Israel shall blossom and bud, and fill the face of the world with fruit| (Is.27:6). And further we are told, |And the remnant of Jacob shall be in the midst of many people as a dew from the Lord, as the showers upon the grass| (Micah 5:7).
We turn now to consider,