TODAY the world nervously watches the Middle East. Rocket attacks, clashes of armed militias, and terrorist bombings are frequent occurrences. Add to this explosive mixture the very real possibility that nuclear weapons could be used. No wonder people everywhere are worried!
The world was also anxiously watching the Middle East in May of 1948. At that time, 62 years ago, the British mandate to occupy what was then called Palestine was ending, and war was imminent. The year before, the United Nations had authorized the creation of an independent Jewish State in a portion of the occupied territories. The surrounding Arab nations had vowed to prevent this at any cost. “The partition line shall be nothing but a line of fire and blood,” warned the Arab League.
It was Friday afternoon, May 14, 1948, at 4:00 p.m. The final hours of the British mandate were ticking away. In the Tel Aviv Museum, a small crowd of 350 onlookers were present by secret invitation for an eagerly anticipated announcement—the formal declaration of statehood for the modern-day nation of Israel. Security was tight, lest the numerous enemies of the fledgling State attack the proceedings.
David Ben-Gurion, the leader of Israel’s National Council, read The Declaration of the Establishment of the State of Israel. It stated, in part: “We, members of the People’s Council, representatives of the Jewish Community of Eretz-Israel . . . by virtue of our natural and historic right and on the strength of the Resolution of the United Nations General Assembly, hereby declare the establishment of a Jewish State in Eretz-Israel, to be known as the State of Israel.”
A Fulfillment of Bible Prophecy?
Some Evangelical Protestants believe that the modern State of Israel thus fulfilled a Bible prophecy. For example, in the book Jerusalem Countdown, clergyman John Hagee states: “This momentous occasion had been recorded by the pen of the prophet Isaiah, saying, ‘A nation shall be born in a day.’ (See Isaiah 66:8.) . . . It was the greatest moment in prophetic history of the twentieth century. It was living evidence for all men to see that the God of Israel was alive and well.”
Is that statement true? Did Isaiah 66:8 predict the establishment of the modern State of Israel? Was May 14, 1948, the “greatest moment in prophetic history of the twentieth century”? If the modern State of Israel is still God’s chosen nation, and if he is using it to fulfill Bible prophecies, this would certainly be of interest to Bible students everywhere.
Isaiah’s prophecy states: “Who has heard of a thing like this? Who has seen things like these? Will a land be brought forth with labor pains in one day? Or will a nation be born at one time? For Zion has come into labor pains as well as given birth to her sons.” (Isaiah 66:8) The verse is clearly foretelling the sudden birth of an entire nation, as if in a single day. But who would cause this birth? The next verse gives a clue: “‘As for me, shall I cause the breaking through and not cause the giving birth?’ says Jehovah. ‘Or am I causing a giving birth and do I actually cause a shutting up?’ your God has said.” Jehovah God makes it clear that the dramatic birth of the nation would be his doing.
Modern Israel is governed as a secular democracy that officially makes no claim to rely on the God of the Bible. Did the Israelis in 1948 recognize Jehovah God as the one responsible for their declaration of statehood? They did not. Neither the name of God nor even the word “God” was mentioned anywhere in the original text of the proclamation. The book Great Moments in Jewish History says this of the final text: “Even at 1:00 P.M. when the National Council met, its members could not agree about the wording of the proclamation of statehood. . . . Observant Jews wanted a reference to ‘the God of Israel.’ Secularists balked. Compromising, Ben-Gurion decided that the word ‘Rock’ would appear instead of ‘God.’”
The modern State of Israel to this day bases its claim to statehood on a UN resolution and what it calls the natural and historic right of the Jewish people. Is it reasonable to expect that the God of the Bible would perform the greatest prophetic miracle in the 20th century in behalf of a people who refuse to give him credit?
How Does the Modern Claim to Statehood Compare?
Modern Israel’s secular attitude contrasts sharply with the situation in 537 B.C.E. Back then, the nation of Israel was indeed ‘reborn’ as if in a day after being devastated and depopulated by the Babylonians 70 years earlier. At that time, Isaiah 66:8 was strikingly fulfilled when the Persian conqueror of Babylon, Cyrus the Great, authorized the return of the Jews to their homeland.—Ezra 1:2.
The Persian King Cyrus recognized Jehovah’s hand in the matter in 537 B.C.E., and those who returned to Jerusalem did so for the express purpose of restoring the worship of Jehovah God and rebuilding his temple. The modern State of Israel has never officially declared any such desire or intention.
Still God’s Chosen Nation?
In the year 33 C.E., the fleshly nation of Israel lost its claim to be God’s chosen nation when it rejected Jehovah’s Son, the Messiah. The Messiah himself put it this way: “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the killer of the prophets and stoner of those sent forth to her . . . Look! Your house is abandoned to you.” (Matthew 23:37, 38) Jesus’ statement came true when in 70 C.E., Roman legions destroyed Jerusalem along with its temple and priesthood. But what was to become of God’s purpose to have a “special property out of all other peoples, . . . a kingdom of priests and a holy nation”?—Exodus 19:5, 6.
The apostle Peter, himself a fleshly Jew, answered that question in a letter written to Christians—both Gentile and Jewish. He wrote: “You are ‘a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for special possession,’ . . . for you were once not a people, but are now God’s people; you were those who had not been shown mercy, but are now those who have been shown mercy.”—1 Peter 2:7-10.
Christians who were selected by holy spirit thus belong to a spiritual nation, their membership not being determined by birth or geographic location. The apostle Paul described the matter this way: “Neither is circumcision anything nor is uncircumcision, but a new creation is something. And all those who will walk orderly by this rule of conduct, upon them be peace and mercy, even upon the Israel of God.”—Galatians 6:15, 16.
Whereas the modern nation of Israel offers to confer citizenship upon any natural or converted Jew, citizenship in what the Bible calls “the Israel of God” is given only to those who are “obedient and sprinkled with the blood of Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 1:1, 2) Speaking of these members of the Israel of God, or spiritual Jews, Paul wrote: “He is not a Jew who is one on the outside, nor is circumcision that which is on the outside upon the flesh. But he is a Jew who is one on the inside, and his circumcision is that of the heart by spirit, and not by a written code. The praise of that one comes, not from men, but from God.”—Romans 2:28, 29.
That verse helps us understand a controversial comment Paul made. In his letter to the Romans, Paul explained how the unbelieving natural Jews were like branches of a symbolic olive tree that were lopped off so that “wild” Gentile “branches” could be grafted in. (Romans 11:17-21) Concluding this illustration, he states: “A dulling of sensibilities has happened in part to Israel until the full number of people of the nations has come in, and in this manner all Israel will be saved.” (Romans 11:25, 26) Was Paul foretelling an eleventh hour mass conversion of the Jews to Christianity? Clearly, no such conversion has taken place.
By the expression “all Israel,” Paul meant all of spiritual Israel—Christians who have been selected by holy spirit. He was saying that the failure of the natural Jews to accept the Messiah would not thwart God’s purpose to have a spiritual ‘olive tree’ full of productive branches. This is in harmony with Jesus’ own illustration of himself as a vine whose nonproductive branches will be lopped off. Jesus said: “I am the true vine, and my Father is the cultivator. Every branch in me not bearing fruit he takes away, and every one bearing fruit he cleans, that it may bear more fruit.”—John 15:1, 2.
Although the establishment of the modern State of Israel was not foretold in the Bible, the establishment of the nation of spiritual Israel certainly was! If you identify and associate with that spiritual nation today, you will reap eternal blessings.—Genesis 22:15-18; Galatians 3:8, 9.