The great sign: Israel
11th December 2022, hej
1) The Sign of Isarel
The sign of Israel, being no longer a new nation, is perhaps not as ascendant to a post-modern myopic generation as it was to more far seeing generations.Yet it is still likely that this generation has been exposed to solving the world’s problems by Boycotting, Divesting from or Sanctioning Israel (though none will divest of their own electronic devices full of Israeli tech). This is the great sign.
And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. (Matthew 24:30)
A cursory reading of this might suggest to the Biblically literate that God was going to send a sign such as a special star to herald Christ’s second coming – in the same way that the Magi saw the star (Mat 2:2) and followed it to honour Christ’s birth (though he was perhaps two years old by the time they arrived Matt 2:16.) There is much debate as to what that star was, but as it behaved in a peculiar manner, by standing (Mat 2:9), I would be hesitant to interpret it as a comet. Some thought they had seen a sign in the stars in 2017, but the excitement was from a misunderstanding of Revelation.
But is the sign of the son of man hidden in heaven in plain sight – seen only by those who know? Let us look at the context.
Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken: (Mat 24:29)
‘Those days’ in the context referred to the specific trials including in synagogues in the era that led to the Roman destruction of Jerusalem. Did any of the historians of that era note terrible signs in the heavens? Does Josephus for example note stars falling from heaven? What is meant by heaven? How do the prophets use it?
For my sword shall be bathed in heaven: behold, it shall come down upon Idumea, and upon the people of my curse, to judgment. (Isaiah 34:5)
We see how Christ used the term heaven,
And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted unto heaven, shalt be brought down to hell: for if the mighty works, which have been done in thee, had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. (Matthew 11:23)
Heaven is just above Idumea and inhabited by Capernaum. Christ used the idea of people or cities as stars of heaven in the same way we speak of stars in the media heavens. Those in the heavens are the exalted ones. Those in hell are those lower than the low, as we also in popular language might have a hellish day.
What was darkened? The religious power of Jerusalem! Not since the Roman dispersal have the Jewish religious leaders handed down law that mattered! The Jewish political power of that era ended totally, so that it might be said to give no light. The civic power of Jews to rule over Jews ended. All the great Jews, the stars, of that age were killed or sent into exile.
The greatness of Christ's Israel
Let us stop and think – what other nation as Israel of that age had such a great history? Perhaps Egypt, but Egypt was then ‘base’. Israel was truly great under king Solomon and had an empire of sorts before the Romans or Greeks were even nations, let alone empires. The Babylonians could not extinguish the Jewish nation. The Persians oversaw rebuilding of the nation. The Greeks tried to impose Greek culture – but the Maccabees fought back and prevailed. The Romans could never rule the Jews. They tried. The destruction of the Jewish nation was due to the fact that the Romans realised they couldn’t rule them, and the Jews would not be ruled. So how great was the fall of the Jewish nation? It must have shaken the nations – as according to Pliny the Elder Jerusalem was known as the “the most famous city in the East, not just in Judea” bibleodyssey.org. Pliny being neither Jew nor Christian had no reason for saying it, unless it was plain observation and agreed by all. Luke’s record of Acts 2 where there are at Jerusalem people of all nations corroborates the record of Pliny. It must have shaken the nations in the way that the fall of the USSR and now Ukraine will in the modern world. In addition everyone knew of the great history of Israel as it was readily available in the language of the era in the Septuagint, the biblios, that gave the name to all books.
The Jews of that era of Christ were expecting Messiah to be made king of Israel (Jn 6:15). For the last remnant of great Israel for their nation to vanish at the hands of the Romans was a massive faith shaking event. Even the faithful were shaken by the terrible events as we know from Peter who speaks of the judgment beginning at the house of God (1 Pet 4:17).
The greatness of Modern Israel
The modern mind which is divorced from Jewish thinking and in addition has little regard for Christ’s role as king of the Jews, will likely not see the revival of Israel as a nation of influence among the great nations as the sign Y’shua spoke of at Olivet.
However, if the stars as the heavens speak of any high places of influence of the earth, re-born Israel is in heaven.
How great is Israel? Even as a child I remember Israel made the news nearly every week. In 1988 and 1989 I tracked the world news page of the papers in the school library. There are over 190 nations on earth, but most never made it in a year to the world news page. It needed a great disaster, war or an earth shattering violence at an election result. I don’t remember if Denmark, Sweden or Finland in that era made it to the world news page- at the time with populations greater than Israel’s. Israel was a star among the great nations of the USSR (Russia), USA, France and West Germany. In Israel every election mattered. There in Israel every visit by world leaders mattered. There was ongoing war and killings in many obscure places, but it was the bombings and killings in Israel that made the news.
Mark’s record of the conversation doesn’t mention the sign at all – but Luke goes into much more detail:
And they shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led away captive into all nations: and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled. And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring; Men's hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken. And then shall they see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. (Luke 21:24-27)
Whereas Matthew records the prophecy of the sun being darkened and the moon not giving light and stars falling, Luke speaks of signs (semeion) in the sun moon and stars (implying ‘in the heavens’ by contrasting it ‘with on the earth’). This is ‘the sign’ (semeion) of Christ in the heavens. It is the same language.
When shall this sign be?
It had to be after Jerusalem is no longer trodden down of the Gentiles. At the time of the prophecy none could have had any conception of how complete or how long that treading down would be. It is now a fact of history.
So let us think. The fullness of ‘the sign’ is perhaps hidden deliberately in the three records. We have to use our intellect to re-construct it. From talking of the darkening of the sun, moon and falling of stars our Lord seems to have shifted to speaking of Jerusalem and utter captivity, to then shift back to speaking of signs in the sun, and in the moon and stars. Mathew merely records there is ‘the sign of the son of man in heaven’ that will cause all tribes to mourn – the sign is then equated to the signs in the sun, moon and stars that cause distress of nations. Do you see how they are the same? It is very typical of prophecy that matters are repeated.
Has there been a mourning of (nearly) all nations? How many, via the UN, mourn each year the establishment of Israel- see the jewish virtual library
On the 75th Anniversary they vote for a global resolution to mourn! jpost.com It’s unheard of in relation to any other war!
What is the sign of the Son of Man in heaven? How can the return of Jews to Jerusalem be ignored as a sign in heaven, when no nation ignores it? How many nations have a statement about Jews in Jerusalem? How many nations’ leaders speak of ‘peace’ by dividing Israel and taking the best part of Jerusalem from the Jewish people?
Then also, many of the modern generation forget just how earth shattering the Jews returning to the political heavens was. No less than Sir Isaac Newton wrote of it from those such a Joseph Mede who already understood it, seeing the Jews re-established as a nation already from his era (his work was published in 1733 after his death).
Balfour and San Remo resolution affirming Balfour and the formation of the League of Nations was in a time of seismic change among the great nations in the heavens of nations. Every empire of the world at the time failed with the Ottoman Turkish Empire, German and Austro Hungarian Empires, even the British Empire which was to devolve into a new order in the Commonwealth. The Russians were in revolution, the Germans defeated lost their global influence, the French were weakened and their hold on any extension of overseas power reduced. The world saw how great the death was from a great war, so even the ‘victors’ still mourn! Looking back now we can see how great the change at that time was, and how the chaos in the nations extended for a generation until resolved in the second great world war. It is no accident that Israel is born with a victory by fighters who had just fought in a world war that again changed the maps radically.
It’s not ‘ordinary’, because it happened. It’s not business as usual in the history of the world. We can use the world ‘Miracle’. It is not one miracle but many miracles in three wars 1948,1967 and 1973. This was a great sign in the heavens.
Do we notice the signs?
Perhaps a great star will suddenly shine in the physical heavens and some astronomers become excited. Perhaps we are given such a sign. But are we like the Pharisees asking for a sign of Christ when they heard of bread being given by miracle and people being healed? Do we ignore that Israel is a miracle of technical innovation so great among the nations, in the heavens of nations that Israel’s leaders are stars among the stars of nations, with access to the ear of all leaders?
Consider also the witness of the absurdity of Jews that still deny Israel’s existence, as the nation should not exist until Messiah comes. What a sign! Yet Isaac Newton wrote in his work published 1733 based on many prophecies including that of Daniel that “the commandment to return and to build Jerusalem preceeds Messiah the prince 49 years - it may perhaps not come forth from the Jews themselves but from some other kingdom friendly to them and preceed their return from captivity, and give occasion to it… The manner I know not let time be the interpreter” p134
If this generation is myopic consider how many people saw a long way forward and cheered the moves of Britain into the Levant at the time of Disraeli and Gladstone, when as yet there was no sign that Jews would return - there was even a popular English novel on the matter! Consider how many saw the first Aliyah of Jews determined to farm the land from 1881 to 1903 as evidence when as yet there was no confirmation it heralded anything much of note. In hindsight, the events form a pattern, but at the time the agriculturalists struggled against terrible issues, and may have expired. Will we fail to see a sign now in full brightness, that others saw even when it wasn’t evident as more than the possibility of a glow in the dark sky?
Some object to Israel as a sign now, as it does not seem holy or good enough. Yet where are there as many anywhere else who seek holiness in the ways of the Bible? The mere fact it is condemned so much and so unfairly, to standards no other nation is held to– is the greatest sign of all. Why should we expect the rebellious nations to like God’s work, and look at their own nation objectively? The king of Nineveh who repented was a remarkable exception. Jews say they are a light to the nations, but the light is the light of Messiah. The way of light of the kings of the East, the beacon of the way of Christ’s coming with power and glory, is shining in a green oasis already – I hope to see finally for those who saw the sign before it shone.
And we see often the condemnation of Israel, this shining sign in the political heavens. Anti-zionism calls all nations to the battle that brings Christ Messiah the Anointed king of the Jews to return in Glory.
And the sixth angel poured out his vial upon the great river Euphrates; and the water thereof was dried up, that the way of the kings of the east might be prepared. And I saw three unclean spirits like frogs come out of the mouth of the dragon, and out of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false prophet. For they are the spirits of devils, working miracles, which go forth unto the kings of the earth and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty. Behold, I come as a thief. Blessed is he that watcheth, and keepeth his garments, lest he walk naked, and they see his shame. (Rev 16:12-15)