The Enigma of Israel


Series: Revelation (2021)

Passage: Revelation 12:1-6

Speaker: Jeff Thompson

Why has Israel, a relatively tiny people group and country, been such a lightning rod across the centuries? Where does anti-semitism come from? And what does it have to do with The Great Tribulation? In this study, we’ll dive into the enigma that is Israel, and find some answers.

Transcription (automatically generated):

There is a rumor going around that the Book of Revelation is hard to understand. But columniation say, we for you see, the word Revelation. Revelation means that something has been revealed, and the very first words of this book tell us exactly who it is that's being revealed. It's the revelation of Jesus Christ, and God wanted us to read this book so much that he promised those who would take the time to read and respond to it a special blessing. And we find that blessing in chapter one, verse three.

Let's claim it together. It says, Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of this prophecy and keep those things which are written in it for the time is near. But God knew there would still be those who would claim it's hard to understand. So to make it easy to understand. He also included a simple and easy to follow outline.

And we find that in Revelation chapter one, verse one nine, that's where Jesus gives John these instructions. He says, John, I want you to write the things which you have seen, and that refers to the resurrected and glorified Jesus that John sees in chapter one. Then Jesus says, John, I want you to write about the things which are that refers to the Church age, which began around 32 Ad, continues to the present day and is prophesied across seven letters dictated by Jesus to John in chapters two and three.

And then lastly, Jesus says, John, I want you to write about the things which will take place after this, things that will unfold after the Church age comes to a close. And that moment the Church age coming to an end, takes place in Revelation chapter four, verse one, it says, this John writes, after these things, I looked and behold a door standing open in heaven.

And the first voice which I heard that was the voice of Jesus in chapter one was like a trumpet speaking with me, saying, Come up here and I will show you things which must take place after this. And up John goes serving as a picture of the Church who will be raptured to be with the Lord. And Jesus takes all of chapters four and five to show us the Church safe and secure with Him in heaven before he begins pouring out his wrath on the Earth that has rejected him in chapter six.

And it's in Revelation 616 that those on the Earth reveal they know and understand the source of their calamity, identifying it as the wrath of the Lamb. And in the Bible, the Lamb is always who Jesus.

So chapter One introduces the focus of this incredible book, Jesus Christ. Chapters two and three take us through the Church age up to the present day. The Church goes up. In chapter four, verse one, we see the Church safe and secure in heaven for chapters four and five before wrath comes down. In chapter six.

That wrath will continue for seven years across a time period known as the Tribulation, and it's documented in chapter six through 19 after which Jesus will return to the Earth with his Saints in the event known as the Second Coming. And there'll be even more wondrous events revealed in the latter chapters of this special book. And here's what I can tell you with certainty. If you love Jesus, then your story will end with the words and they live happily ever after. In terms of our timeline for today's study, the 7th trumpet has been blown, marking the final judgment of the Tribulation, but we will not see its effects until we pick up that narrative thread in chapter 15.

Next week we will be discussing a war in the heavenly places that unfolds in verses seven of Revelation, chapter twelve. But today we're going to look at verses one through six of chapter twelve, because John is going to give us some important background on the key figures in this war and their history. As we've mentioned in recent studies in the Great Tribulation, which is the back half of the seven years of the Tribulation, God's focus returns to Israel because he has unfinished business with them. Specifically, there are unfulfilled promises that God intends to fulfill.

Unfortunately, there are today many professing believers who hold to a theology that teaches God is done with the Jewish people, abandoning them in favor of the Church.

The only problem with that idea is the Bible. For example, in Jeremiah 31 37, we read thus says the Lord, if heaven above can be measured and the foundations of the Earth searched out beneath, I will also cast off all the seed of Israel for all that they have done, says the Lord. In other words, God says it's impossible that I would cast out Israel from my heart and my plans. Today's text is going to explain at least part of the enigma that is ethnic Israel, the Jewish people.

Why has this people group and hated and persecuted by so many across history despite always being a relatively tiny population and country when it even had a country.

Jews make up around zero 2% of the world's population, while Muslims, for the sake of comparison, make up around 24.1%. Why is Israel such a lightning Rod? If they truly are the chosen people of God, why do they seem to be perpetually both the victims and the cause of so much turmoil? Verses one through six are going to give us the answers. So let's jump in verse is now a great sign appeared in heaven.

Would you underline a great sign? So what we have verse is our scene changing. The camera changes shots. We're looking at something else now a great sign that appears before John. As we've worked our way through Revelation, we've always started with the assumption that the text is speaking literally unless there is a compelling reason to interpret it some other way.

But here we notice that this is called a great sign. That is the text telling us plainly that this is not something literal, but rather a sign. The story God is about to show John will contain symbolism, and Jesus wanted us to know that. So we told us right up front. So write this down.

The signs in Revelation chapter twelve are symbolic. The signs in Revelation chapter twelve are symbolic. Let's keep reading. In verse one, it says a woman clothed with the sun with the moon under her feet and on her head a Garland of twelve stars. Then, being with child, she cried out in labor and in pain to give birth.

Now there's been much speculation across the centuries as to the identity of this woman. Some say she is the Church, but that's problematic because the Bible always implies that the Church is a Virgin bride for Christ, not somebody who has been married before, had a child with someone else or is pregnant out of wedlock. In fact, there's no mention of the Church ever being pregnant in the Bible. Some say this woman is married, but we're going to find out that while she is involved, there's something even greater going on here that makes it impossible for this woman to be married.

I'll give you the punchline and then we'll unpack it.

Write this down. The woman is ethnic Israel. The woman is ethnic Israel. By this point, you should know that pretty much everything in Revelation is explained somewhere else in the book or in the Old Testament. The symbolism we see here the stars, the sun, and the moon altogether only shows up in one other place in the Bible.

In Genesis we encounter a man named Jacob at a certain point in his life. God changes Jacob's name to Israel. Jacob or Israel has twelve sons, and one of them is Joseph. Joseph has a dream and tells his brothers about it with exactly zero tact. I put it on your outline from Genesis 37, verse nine.

We read. Then he dreamed still another dream and told it to his brothers and said, Look, I have dreamed another dream, and this time the sun, the moon, and the eleven stars bowed down to me. Jacob is offended by the dream, and his response provides us with an explanation. His father rebuked him and said to him, what is this dream that you have dreamed? Shall your mother and I and your brothers indeed come to bow down to the Earth before you?

Clearly the implication is that in Joseph's dream, Jacob is the son, his mother, Rachel, is the moon, and the eleven stars are his brothers. Joseph would be the 12th star, and we bump into that same symbolism here in verse is of Revelation chapter twelve, where John sees a woman clothed with the sun with the moon under her feet and on her head a Garland of twelve stars. The twelve sons of Jacob or the twelve sons of Israel would grow to become the famous twelve tribes of Israel.

The nation of Israel came from the sons of Jacob. So the big thing we need to understand in order to make sense of this great sign is that this woman is ethnic Israel, and she is about to give birth to a child.

Verse three and another sign appeared in heaven. We are reminded again that Jesus is revealing things to John using symbolism, and we're changing scenes again as John sees another sign that's related to the first sign, behold a great fiery red Dragon having seven heads and ten horns and seven diadems on his heads. Even if you're not a Christian today, you get no points for figuring out who the fiery red Dragon is. It's Satan. And verse nine will make that absolutely clear when we get there next week, write this down.

The Dragon is Satan. The Dragon is Satan. The diadems on his heads are the kinds of crowns worn by conquering Kings and political rulers. We don't have time to unpack all the symbolism right now, but we will over the coming weeks. For now, though, I'm going to satisfy your curiosity by letting you know that the seven heads refer to the seven empires that ruled over and or persecuted Israel at various times throughout history.

The Egyptians, Assyrians, Babylonians, Medes, Persians, Greeks and Romans all persecuted or conquered Israel up to and including the time of Christ. On the other end of history, ten horns are yet to come. They refer to the leaders of ten nations or ten regions that will make up a revived Roman Empire that will be ruled by Antichrist during the Tribulation. Just so we know what else to be watching for that's coming up, too. When we look at Revelation chapters twelve and 13, together, we'll see the picture of an unholy Trinity begin to emerge.

We'll have the Dragon, Satan. We'll have the beast that we've already met before. Who is the demonic power behind Antiochus? Who's Satan's son, so to speak. And then we will also soon meet the false Prophet.

He will be Antichrist's propaganda Minister, the one who prepares the way for Antichrist's rise as the Holy Spirit prepares hearts for the gospel. And this will be a counterfeit unholy Trinity consisting of Satan being the Father, Antichrist as the Son, and the false Prophet serving as the false Holy Spirit. So we've been introduced to Israel, the woman who's about to give birth to a child, and to Satan, the Dragon who has persecuted Israel throughout history and will rule the Earth through Antichrist during the Tribulation. Let's see what else we can learn about the origins of Satan the Dragon in verses four, it says his tale drew a third of the stars of heaven and threw them to the Earth, as in several other places in Scripture, these stars of heaven are Angels.

And we noticed that because those stars were following behind the Dragon.

They were cast from heaven to the Earth. We're being told here that when Lucifer rebelled against God in heaven. Incredibly, a third of the Angels sided with him. But if you know the story, then you know it didn't go well. They were thrown out of God's Kingdom and cast down to the Earth.

The Ark Angel, Lucifer became known as Satan, and the Angels allied to him became known as fallen Angels. And if you're doing the math, that means, even in the realm of Angels, Satan is outnumbered two to one. Now we learn what the Dragon Satan is determined to do. It says, and the Dragon stood before the woman who was ready to give birth to devour her child as soon as it was born. We're meant to understand that ever since Satan was cast out of heaven, he has been bitter.

He has hated God, and he was listening when God spoke the proto Evangelion, the first recorded prophecy in Genesis 315, saying to Satan, I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed, he shall bruise your head and you shall bruise his heel. This caused Satan to say, AHA, God's plan is to try and save humanity from sin through a male child. And as Satan listened in on God's promises to Abraham and then to Isaac and then to Jacob, it became clear which people this male child would come from and even where these people would dwell.

That's why we see Satan in this symbolic picture, waiting to devour the child that would come from the woman Israel. Obviously, the child we're referring to is Jesus the Messiah.

So write that down. The child is Zeus. This is why there has been antisemitism for as long as the Jewish people have been a people. This is why Empire after Empire set their sights on Israel, a tiny and seemingly inconsequential people. It's because they are not inconsequential.

They were right in the middle of God's plan to save humanity. And they are still a massive part of God's plan. There is hatred in the collective heart of humanity toward the Jew, and it has been put there by Satan himself. He hates God. He hates God's son, and he hates God's people.

As we understand this, so much of what is happening in the Middle East begins to make sense, as does much of the Old Testament narrative of the Bible. Cain slew his righteous brother able. John explains this in his first epistle. Cain, who was of the wicked one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him?

Because his works were evil and his brothers righteous. Genesis Six tells us that Satan sent fallen Angels to procreate with human woman to corrupt the gene pool of humanity in an attempt to render humans irredeemable. After Joseph had been forgotten, Satan attempted genocide by stirring the hearts of Pharaohs in Egypt to kill Hebrew babies and enslave their families. In the centuries of the judges of Israel, Satan attempted to spiritually annihilate God's people through surrounding pagan cultures, including repeated attempts to lure the Jews into cults that practice child sacrifice.

Satan used King Saul to try and assassinate David, knowing Messiah was destined to arrive through his lineage.

When Israel was a divided Kingdom, the Messianic Lion was twice reduced to a single child. Satan attempted genocide again through Amen, but God thwarted those plans through a young Queen Esther. Satan went to work through King Herod, who issued a command to kill all baby boys under the age of two. In and around Bethlehem. Following news of the birth of Jesus during Jesus's Ministry, Satan tried to stir up the people of his hometown, Nazareth to kill him and later tried to drown Jesus using a storm on the Sea of Galilee.

And later, when Satan thought he had finally stopped the plan of God by nailing Jesus to the cross, it backfired spectacularly, to say the least. It was the greatest miscalculation in history. Satan thought he was destroying Zeus when in reality he was destroying himself. In Satan's defense. Not a phrase I use very often.

Can you blame him for not seeing it coming? Can you blame him for not even considering the possibility that Jesus would die for our sins? You can't because it was so wonderful that it didn't even enter the mind of Satan. It didn't even enter the mind of the Angels or anyone else. Nobody saw the cross coming because it's too good.

It's too gracious. It's too glorious. It's too outrageous. There was nothing Satan could do other than say Dang it. I blew it again.

And yes, I'm aware that Satan probably doesn't use the phrase Dang it. Since Adam and Eve were placed in the Garden of Eden, Satan has been trying to wipe out the people of God. Why? Because Satan believed that by eliminating the Jews, he could thwart God's plans, embarrass God and ruin his plan to redeem humanity, making God into a liar who cannot keep his promises. Unfortunately for him, God simply incorporated Satan's best efforts into his master plan.

Having failed at preventing Jesus coming as Messiah at his first coming, Satan now seeks to undermine Jesus second coming. How? Well, if Satan can destroy the Jewish people, God won't be able to fulfill his promises to Israel. And in some twisted way, Satan will win a victory by turning God into a liar. Satan is the reason for all the violent persecution and antisemitism that marks the 2000 years since Jesus returned to Heaven.

Satan is the reason Hitler was obsessed with wiping out the Jews. Satan is the reason why on the day she became a nation again in 1948, the armies of Egypt, Jordan, Syria, and Iraq joined together in an attempt to eliminate the nation of Israel. Satan is actively at work trying to thwart God's promise to redeem Israel. Spoiler Alert Wiley Coyote has a better chance of catching the road runner. Some scholars suggest that this is the reason why the exact timing of the Rapture is not revealed in Scripture.

God intends to take Satan by surprise. Verse Five she the woman Israel bore a male child who gas is your Bible says was put a line through it and write is because that's the correct translation. And I'll explain why it matters when Jesus came to the Earth the first time the Jews and the world collectively said, we will not have this man reign over us. What would have happened if they had said we will have this man to reign over us. It's a fascinating question that I'll leave you to discuss with your brothers and sisters.

All we know for sure is that humanity rejected the rule and reign of Jesus at that time, which is why verse five should read. She bore a male child who is to rule all nations with a Rod of iron. That would be a better translation of the original text, too. It's a reference to Psalm chapter two, verse nine, which speaks prophetically of the coming Messiah, more specifically, his second coming, which will take place in Revelation 19. It doesn't mean Jesus millennial reign on the Earth will be marked by brutality, but rather that his government will be strong.

It'll be unshakable and just he will destroy all corrupt earthly systems, political, economic, social. You name it. Jesus will have the power to enforce justice on the Earth. And incredibly, Jesus told us in Revelation 226 through 27 that he's going to share that authority with us. Then we Reid and her child that's Jesus was caught up to God and his throne.

Ultimately, Satan was unable to stop Jesus'earthly Ministry and Jesus returned to heaven. The images John has been shown have a broad overview of the history that we've discussed. Now the scene returns to the tribulation, and we read in verse is then the woman. Remember, the woman is Israel fled into the wilderness where she has a place prepared by God that they should feed her there. 1260 days.

Remember how long? 1260 days? Is that's right? It's three and a half years, exactly half the length of the seven year tribulation. And anytime we see this number as days, months or years, it's a reference to the back half of the tribulation, the great Tribulation.

So write this down at the halfway point of the tribulation. Israel is going to need to flee for safety. At the halfway point of the tribulation, Israel is going to need to flee for safety. Why? What changes at the halfway point of the tribulation?

Well, as we've learned, everything changes for Israel. At the halfway point of the tribulation, Antichrist commits the abomination of desolation, kicking Jews off the Temple Mount, entering the rebuilt temple and setting up a throne for himself, demanding to be worshiped as God and launching a genocide against the Jewish people. But God obviously has a plan in place because he knows everything, and his plan is to protect Israel by providing a place of shelter in the wilderness. Jesus talked about this in his all of that discourse. Look at what he said in Matthew 24, verses 15 through 22.

It's on your outlines. Jesus said, therefore, when you see the abomination of Desolation spoken of by Daniel the Prophet standing in the Holy place, whoever reads, Let him understand. Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. Let him who is on the rooftop, not go down to take anything out of his house and let him who is in the field not go back to get his clothes. Jesus says, Israel, when you see Antiochus committing the abomination of desolation know that things are about to take a dark turn in a way that will make the Holocaust look tame by comparison.

When you see this happen, don't grab your things, don't pack. Don't call your friends because there's no time. Just run, flee, get out of there. Then Jesus goes on and says, but woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days, because nobody will be able to slow down for them and pray that your flight may not be in winter. This may surprise you, but mountainous parts of Israel and Jordan to the south can become completely impassable due to winter snowstorms.

That's why Jesus says, Pray, this doesn't happen in winter because your escape route would be cut off. And then Jesus says, Also pray that this doesn't happen on the Sabbath, and I underline that in my Bible because I want you to recognize this is not a warning for the Church who will be raptured before the tribulation begins. Jesus says, this is for those who are in Judea and an area affected by the observance of the Sabbath. Jesus is clearly talking to Jews in Israel, specifically around Jerusalem as a day of the week.

The Sabbath, which is Saturday, doesn't really change anything for us.

Gentiles other than being part of our weekend in Israel, though everything shuts down on the Sabbath society grinds to a halt. That's why Jesus says, it's going to be very difficult for you if this happens on the Sabbath. It's at this point in the Olivet discourse that Jesus gives this warning to Israel for then there will be great tribulation such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time. No nor ever shall be. Now would you agree that as far as sources go, Jesus is pretty good?

I don't want you to miss that. Jesus himself tells Israel that what they will experience in the great Tribulation will be worse than anything they have ever experienced or will ever experience again, worse than the fall of Jerusalem in 70 Ad and worse even than the Holocaust. Now it's critical to understand the implications of this verse is because it completely destroys the eschatological systems that teach things like the Book of Revelation is about things that have already happened. It's about the fall of Israel between 70 Ad and 120 Ad.

No, it's not because Jesus said, for then there will be a time of great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time.

No, nor ever shall be. The time Jesus is speaking about is as bad as it will ever get for Israel as bad as the events of 70 80 to 120 Ad were, the Holocaust was significantly worse. That means that in the all of it discourse, Jesus could not have been referring to first and second century events and the underscore point, Jesus adds, and unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved. But for the elect's sake, those days will be shortened. In other words, unless the length of that time period, the Great Tribulation was limited by God, everyone on Earth would die.

But God will limit the length of those days for one specific reason to save elect ethnic Israel.

Sorry. In Isaiah chapter 16, verses one through five, the question of where Israel will flee in the Great Tribulation is addressed prophetically. It's on your outlines too. It says, Send the Lamb to the ruler of the land from Saleh to the wilderness. So wherever Israel goes will involve journey through the wilderness to the Mount of the daughter of Zion.

Hide the outcasts. Do not betray him who escapes. Let my outcasts dwell with you, o Moab, be a shelter to them from the face of the spoiler. Other translations will say the destroyer instead of the spoiler. Israel will be ending from a destroyer during this time, for the extortioner is at an end.

Things are wrapping up. Devastation ceases. The oppressors are consumed out of the land. Other translations will use phrases like oppressors have completely disappeared from the land. God declares that there's a place called Salah in the land of Moab.

Write this down. Moab is in present day Jordan. Moab is in the present day country of Jordan to the south of Israel. The Jews in Jerusalem in Israel are going to flee south to Jordan during the Great Tribulation, as there will be enemies in every other direction. Saleh means the rock in Hebrew, and if you look it up in a strong concordance, it'll tell you that it refers specifically to the rock city of Ijumea.

It's Saleh in Hebrew, but in Greek it's the city called Petra. Write that down. It's Soleil in Hebrew, but in Greek it's called Petra. And when you put it all together, you find that Saleh is Petra, the rock city of Ijumea, which is kind of mind blowing because there is a city in Moab. There is a city in Jordan that is called Petra, or in Hebrew.

It's about 140 miles Southeast of Jerusalem and 2700ft above sea level in the mountains. The city of Petro was carved into rock around 2500 years ago and is most famous for being featured in the movie Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade in 1090 and 89. You might recognize its treasury called Al Jazne. From this Photo, Petra is an amazing place, and through ingenious engineering, the Edomites who built it created a system that captures rainwater in massive cisterns, providing hydration in a desert environment. This enabled the development of an entire civilization that at once lived and thrived in Petra.

Staggeringly, the rock city of Petra could still today hold a population of up to 2 million people. But for now it's a tourist attraction and one of the seven new wonders of the world. As always, I encourage you to do your own research, but I am personally convinced that Petra is where Israel will flee during the Great Tribulation. But if you're not still convinced, I've got one more exhibit of evidence to share with you. In chapter eleven of his book, Daniel the Prophet wrote that Antiochus would enter the glorious land.

That's always a reference to Israel. And it's an implication that Antichrist will conquer Israel and many countries shall be overthrown. But these shall escape from his hand. Edom, Moab, and the prominent people of Ammon. Guess what country?

Edom, Moab, and Amon are all located in today Jordan. Where did we learn that Petra is located? Moab Daniel prophesied that for some reason Antiochus won't conquer the country of Jordan. I suggest we know the reason why Israel and Jordan currently enjoy peace thanks to a peace treaty they signed in. And that treaty also paved the way no pun intended for a major highway that today connects the two countries back to Revelation Twelve.

And let's just read verse six. One more time, it says. Then the woman fled into the wilderness where she has a place prepared by God that they should feed her there 1260 days. It was prepared by God 2500 years ago, and it's been preserved by God for the past 2500 years. Now, when you talk about Israel and we talk about God's promises to Israel, you might wonder, well, what does that have to do with me?

Why should I care? They're part of the family. That's great, but we're kind of disconnected right now. As a Christian, you should always find it encouraging when you read about God's faithfulness to Israel across millennia, because when we see God's absolute commitment to keep His promises, we are reminded just how secure we are in His promises. I shared that in Jeremiah 31 37.

We read thus says the Lord, if heaven above can be measured and the foundations of the Earth searched out beneath, I will also cast off all the seed of Israel for all that they have done, says the Lord. I told you that God says it's impossible for me to disown Israel. They're my people. In two Timothy 213, Paul writes this about us, those who belong to Jesus if we are faithless, he remains faithful, for he cannot deny Himself. When we place our faith in Jesus, he puts his seal on our lives by placing His Spirit the Holy Spirit in us.

And he promised to never take His Spirit from us. Telling His disciples, I am with you always. We mess up when we foolishly choose to sin when we rebel, when we don't honor Jesus the way we should when we fail, he doesn't leave us. God says it's impossible for me to disown you because I am in you. Therefore disowning me would be disowning myself.

And that's impossible. God will not keep His promises to Israel because they deserve it. And God will not keep His promises to us because we deserve it. God will keep His promises to Israel and His promises to the Church for one reason alone. God is good.

He's just good. I'm so thankful for the truth our brother Paul shared in Romans Eight writing. I am persuaded that neither death nor life nor Angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus. Our Lord. He's with us.

He'll be faithful to the end till the moment we arrive in His presence. And then he'll be faithful for eternity. After that, thank God that our Salvation rests in the hands of a good and loving God. Let's pray together. Would you buy your head and close your eyes?

Father, thank you for your great love for us. And thank you that you are just good and everything that you do for us is good because that's all you can be is good. And so. Lord, we delight when we see your faithfulness displayed toward our future brother and sisters. Ethnic Israel Lord, we delight when we see your faithfulness endure across millennia.

And when we see your commitment to keep your promises even through centuries of unfaithfulness on the part of Israel. Lord, it reminds us and fills us with hope that you will keep your promises to us and that you are able to keep your promises to us. Lord, you're the firm foundation in which we place our hope, help us to build our lives on you. And thank you that our Salvation doesn't rest on us. But it rests upon your goodness which never changes.

We love you, Jesus. We bless you. It's in your name. We pray. Amen.

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