Zionism in Bible Prophecy - Part 1
Two Trees of Judah
Issue No. 160
In the light of current events, with the conflict between the Palestinians and the Israelis out of control, it is needful to inform you how the situation developed and why. Even more important, we must see how Zionism is prophesied in the Bible and what God thinks of it.
In our last series on “Who’s Who in Prophecy,” we showed that Esau’s descendants (the nation of Edom, or Idumea) were forcibly converted to Judaism in 126 B.C. when John Hyrcanus conquered them and gave them a choice of conversion or expulsion. From that point on in history, Esau’s descendants ceased to be a nation. Better yet, Esau’s destiny became intertwined with Judah’s, for they became one nation.
Thus, the end-time Bible prophecies regarding Esau-Edom in the book of Obadiah, Isaiah 34 and 63, Ezekiel 35 and 36, and Malachi 1:1-4 are all fulfilled simultaneously with the prophecies regarding the remnant of Judah and Jerusalem. Without understanding this Judah-Edomite merger in past history, one cannot possibly understand modern Zionism and its conflict with Ishmael and Islam.
Two Trees of Judah
In Jeremiah 24 the prophet saw the nation of Judah as two baskets of figs. There were good figs, who were willing to submit to the judgment of God by submitting to the Babylonian captivity. There were also the evil figs who refused to submit. The two different attitudes among the people manifested two different baskets of figs.
These baskets obviously came from different fig trees, for Jesus tells us in Luke 6:43,
43 For there is no good tree which produces bad fruit; nor, on the other hand, a bad trees which produces good fruit.
The fig tree was the national symbol of Judah, but not all of Judah produced good fruit in the eyes of God. That was why God brought judgment upon them in Jeremiah’s day. Jeremiah pronounced the judgment of God upon Judah in Jer. 7:1-16, concluding with the words,
16 As for you, do not pray for this people, and do not lift up cry or prayer for them, and do not intercede with Me; for I do not hear you.
God brought the king of Babylon to conquer Judah. But even then, God gave the people a chance to serve their sentence in their own land and merely pay tribute to Babylon. This lighter form of judgment was called a yoke of wood. Jeremiah was called to put a wooden yoke on his neck for all to see (Jer. 27:2) and tell the people in 27:12,
12 . . . Bring your necks under the yoke of the king of Babylon, and serve him and his people and live.
The false prophets who opposed Jeremiah’s message urged the people to fight the Babylonians, rather than submit to their yoke. In fact, the prophet Hananiah went so far as the break the wooden yoke that Jeremiah had put upon his own neck. Jer. 28:10 says,
10 Then Hananiah the prophet took the yoke from the neck of Jeremiah the prophet and broke it.
Because the prophets and the leaders rejected the Word of the Lord to submit to “Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, My servant” (Jer. 27:6), God then put upon the nation the heavy yoke of iron that was prophesied in the law of tribulation found in Deut. 28:48. Jer. 28:13, 14 says,
13 Go and speak to Hananiah, saying, Thus says the Lord, You have broken the yokes of wood, but you have made instead of them yokes of iron. 14 For thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, I have put a yoke of iron on the neck of all these nations, that they may serve Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon; and they shall serve him. And I have also given him the beasts of the field.
We know from reading the Bible that the nation of Judah and other nations all came under the iron yoke because of the decision of Judah’s prophets and leaders. The iron yoke is described in Deut. 28 as captivity in another land after a terrible war in which many people are slaughtered. This happened to Jerusalem. The city was destroyed, the temple was destroyed, and the people were taken to Babylon to serve their 70-year sentence.
Then Babylon was conquered by the Medes and Persians (Dan. 5:28-31). The Persians allowed Judahites to return to their land and rebuild Jerusalem. However, Judah was not set free of Persia’s rule. Hence, the Persians replaced the iron yoke with the wooden yoke, according to God’s mercy.
This wooden yoke was to last another 70 WEEKS of years (490 years), as Daniel prophesied in Dan. 9:24. Then the Messiah was to come and set them free. However, when He came, the leaders again refused to hear His word and rejected Him as King. Most of the people followed their leaders blindly.
Why Did Judah Reject Jesus as King?
The Jews were looking for a conquering Messiah on the order of Joshua, who had been instructed to conquer the land of Canaan and put its inhabitants to the sword. They wanted a Messiah who would overthrow the Romans by military force, accompanied by miracles. However, Jesus came as the Prince of Peace, rather than as the conquering warrior. Hence, they rejected Him as Messiah.
The people did not realize that Joshua would not have been a military conqueror either, if the people had been obedient to God. God was not bloodthirsty. He did not hate the Canaanites any more than Jesus hated Samaritans. The only reason God gave Israel a physical sword to establish that first “Kingdom of God” was because the people had rejected the Sword of the Spirit at Mount Sinai.
Keep in mind that at Mount Sinai God spoke to the people verbally, and all of them heard His voice (Deut. 4:12). But they were afraid and hardened their hearts from hearing the voice of God (Ps. 95:8-11; Heb. 3:7-11). They all ran away and told Moses to go up the mount by himself and then return and tell them what God said (Ex. 20:19).
This great event, where everyone had the opportunity to hear the voice of God, was later celebrated as the “feast of weeks of the firstfruits of wheat harvest” (Ex. 34:22). Many years later, this was called in the Greek language, “Pentecost.”
The point is that the Israelites in Joshua’s day rejected Pentecost, and therefore, they refused the Sword of the Spirit by which they could have converted Canaan and the rest of the world. That sword was largely withheld from men until Acts 2, when Pentecost was finally fulfilled.
At the base of Mount Sinai, the people worshipped the golden calf, and as a result, the Levites used their physical swords to kill 3,000 men (Ex. 32:28). What would have happened, if those Levites had had the Sword of the Spirit at their disposal?? Look at Acts 2. The 120 disciples in the upper room were willing to hear the voice of God. God gave them the Sword of the Spirit, which is the Word from the mouth that is like a sharp sword (Rev. 19:15). This is the Sword Paul mentioned in Eph. 6:17, saying,
17 And take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God.
The disciples took their spiritual swords down from the upper room and used it on 3,000 men in the streets below them. Acts 2:41 tells us the result:
41 So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and there were added that day about three thousand souls.
This is what would have happened at the base of Mount Sinai, if the Levites had had better weapons. But their rejection of the voice of Jesus Christ speaking to them from the fire on Sinai deprived them of this better and more effective weapon.
This is Jesus’ weapon as well, as we read in Rev. 19:15,
15 And from His mouth comes a sharp sword, so that with it He may smite the nations; and He will rule them with a rod of iron; and He treads the wine press of the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty.
All of this shows us why Jesus did not come as a conquering warrior, but as a Prince of Peace. It explains why Jesus (Yashua, or Joshua) did not seem to fit the pattern of the Old Testament Joshua. The reason Joshua was given a physical sword was NOT because God loves bloodshed. It was NOT because God hated Canaanites. It was NOT even because the Canaanite religion was so wicked. It was Israel’s fault for refusing to hear the voice of God. Thus, they were left with a very dull weapon that could never divide soul from spirit or discern the thoughts and intents of the heart (Heb. 4:12).
The Jews of Jesus’ day could not understand this. So they were looking for another Joshua with a bloody sword with which to kill all their “enemies” and oppressors. They had heard it taught that one should love their neighbors and hate their enemies (Matt. 5:43). The Gospel of Hating Romans and Samaritans was accepted doctrine.
But those who DID accept Jesus were given the Sword of the Word, and they went forth to conquer the world by faith and truth. Unfortunately, since Pentecost is a leavened feast, they were only partially successful. It remains for the overcomers to finish the job. The overcomers must therefore learn to use the Sword of the Spirit effectively, for this Sword brings people to LIFE.
What if Jesus Had Been Accepted as Messiah?
There is historical evidence that if Judah had accepted Jesus as Messiah, Rome soon would have given them their independence without no bloodshed at all. About the year 200 A.D. the Roman Christian lawyer, Tertullian, presented Christ to the “rulers of the Roman Empire” in a letter called Apology. In chapter 21, he writes,
“All these things Pilate did to Christ; and now in fact a Christian in his own convictions, he sent word of Him to the reigning Caesar, who was at the time Tiberius. Yes, and the Caesars too would have believed on Christ, if either the Caesars had not been necessary for the world, or if Christians could have been Caesars.”
In other words, Tertullian tells us that Pontius Pilate was already a Christian by the time he informed Tiberius Caesar of Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection. (We have reproduced Pilate’s entire letter in the appendix of our book, The Laws of the Second Coming.) In chapter 5, Tertullian continues,
“Tiberius accordingly, in whose days the Christian name made its entry into the world, having himself received intelligence from Palestine of events which had clearly shown the truth of Christ’s divinity, brought the matter before the Senate, with his own decision in favor of Christ. The Senate, because it had not given the approval itself, rejected the proposal. Caesar held to his opinion, threatening wrath against all accusers of the Christians.”
We see here that when Tiberius Caesar read Pilate’s letter telling him about Jesus, he became convinced that Jesus was a god. It was common practice in those days for the Roman Empire to recognize various gods and their religious adherents. So Tiberius proposed that the Senate proclaim Jesus to be one of the gods of the Empire. However, Roman law said that only the Senate had the right to present a new god for consideration. Since Tiberius himself had made this proposal, the Senate rejected it.
We know, of course, that this Roman rejection was part of the plan of God. But if Judah had accepted Jesus as the Messiah and King, it is certain that Pilate would have interviewed Jesus under very different circumstances. Pilate still would have become a Christian. He would have written to Tiberius Caesar, as it was his duty to keep the emperor informed of such events.
The emperor no doubt would have wanted to interview Jesus in person, at the recommendation of Pilate. Jesus would have make the trip to Rome, addressed the Senate, and I believe they would have been very impressed with His wisdom, love, humility, and miraculous signs. I believe that soon Rome would have been proclaimed as a Christian nation. I believe that Judah would have been set free, along with all other nations. Or rather, all the nations that Rome ruled would have been given to Jesus Christ, the King of Kings.
We know, of course, that none of this was actually in the plan of God. God had fore-ordained a Pentecostal Age that would fail to manifest the Kingdom in its fullness. It was also necessary that Jesus be betrayed and killed as the Sacrifice for sin. Yet by looking at what might have been, we can see how Jesus’ peaceful method of conquering the world is applicable today.
This is how the overcomers will overcome the world in our day under the anointing of the Feast of Tabernacles. The manifested sons of God (Rom. 8:19) will reflect the will and character of Jesus Christ to the world. This will spark a world-wide “revival,” and it will not take long to bring the entire world under the feet of Jesus Christ.
But it will be done by love, not by bloodshed, for we have a better sword. There will be bloodshed, of course, during this time, but it will be done by those who do not possess such a sword as ours.
The Revolt Against Rome (and God)
In Jesus’ day there were again both good figs and evil figs. The evil figs chafed under the rule of Rome, even as they had rebelled against the rule of Babylon. The more these figs rebelled, the more Rome oppressed them. The more Rome oppressed them, the more they rebelled. The situation spiraled downward until finally open revolt broke out in 66 A.D. The people of Judah destroyed Rome’s 12th Legion at the Feast of Tabernacles that year.
In Abram Leon Sachar’s 1930 book, A History of the Jews, page 117, this Jewish author writes,
“Ultimately, Roman patience was thoroughly exhausted and the procurators introduced measures of barbarous severity. Soldiers slew on the slightest provocation. Eminent Jewish leaders were crucified, while whole villages were razed. All in vain. A fever of martyrdom seemed to seize upon the harassed people. Fanatics went up and down the country, wild-eyed and frantic, prophesying the end of the world, and the advent of the Messiah. Multitudes were ready to follow every impossible visionary who claimed inspiration from heaven. Zealots rushed to their deaths crying in hysterical exaltation. What was one to do with such a nation? The Romans were frankly bewildered. They had dealt with many turbulent peoples, but with none so contrary—so insanely intractable.”
Rome put down the revolt decisively. They were delayed a bit by the death of the emperor Nero in 68 A.D. But finally, at Passover of 70 A.D. the Roman armies surrounded Jerusalem and began the siege. This was precisely 40 years after John the Baptist had been executed at Passover of 30 A.D.
The city was destroyed within a few months, but the final stronghold at Masada still had to be taken. The Romans built a huge ramp of rock and earth to the top of the mountain where the fortress of Masada was located. They finished this ramp on the day before Passover of 73 A.D. That night all the evil figs at Masada committed suicide to avoid capture by the Romans.
This occurred 40 years after Jesus’ crucifixion at Passover of 33 A.D. The evil figs had been given 40 years of grace in which to repent of their rejection of the Messiah. Instead of repenting, they decided to do the work of the Messiah themselves and in their own violent way.
This method did not work. Jerusalem was destroyed. The temple was destroyed. Over a million were killed and others put into slavery. In the decades that followed, there were other uprisings in Mesopotamia, Egypt, Cyrene, and Cyprus. Abram Leon Sachar writes on page 121, 122,
“Trajan [the Roman Emperor] was compelled to send one of his ablest generals to cope with the fury of the Jews. The devastation was complete; when the last embers of the rebellion had been extinguished, it was necessary to rebuild Cyprus from its foundations. No Jew was thereafter permitted to set foot on the island, and even shipwrecked Jewish merchants who sought temporary refuge were done to death when found.”
When Trajan died, Hadrian succeeded him. He was known as a man of peace, and the Jews hailed him as a second Cyrus. But Hadrian wanted to put an end to the practice of mutilation that many people practiced, so he passed a law forbidding it. This included circumcision, and this again infuriated the Jews.
Secondly, Trajan made plans to rebuild Jerusalem as a Roman city, calling it Aelia Capitolina in honor of the patron god of Rome. This, too, infuriated the Jews and brought about the final revolt. Sachar writes on page 122,
“The soul of the revolt was the venerable rabbi Akiba, one of the ablest of Israel’s spiritual leaders . . . The Roman oppression roused the peaceful rabbi to active conflict. He centred all his hopes on a brilliant young warrior, Bar Kokba, who became the brain and sword of the revolt. . . Apparently, he claimed to be divinely inspired, and to his loyal followers he seemed the long-awaited Messiah.
“Everywhere throughout the country the word was heard that the end of suffering was at hand; the tyrant who had dared to desecrate the house of God would be swept away like chaff; the country would again belong to the people that had made it sacred. Every village, every hamlet, was stirred. Only the newly-formed sect of Christians rejected the authority of the Jewish leaders. . . The Jews believed that this last stand against the Roman eagle was like no other. It was the prelude to the establishment of God’s kingdom on earth.”
The revolt at first succeeded, and the altar in Jerusalem was rededicated. But Rome brought its general Severus from Britain and reconquered Judea. Sachar tells us on page 123,
“Bar Kokba and Akiba were both executed, along with all their followers . . . Their casualties were much greater than attended the destruction of the State in 70. . . Jews were forbidden on pain of death ever again to set foot in Jerusalem. Only on the ninth of Ab—the traditional anniversary of the destruction of the Temple—could Jews pay for the right to weep on the site of the old sanctuary. For centuries thereafter they ‘bought their tears’ weeping over the lost glories of the past, yet never abandoning the hope that some day, in God’s own way, a restoration would come and the Holy Land would once again rise from the ruins, tenderly built up by Jewish hands.”
This was how the revolt ended. They did not and still do not understand why this tragedy befell them. They do not understand why God did not help them win the wars. This made them bitter against God, saying, “Some day the Messiah will come, and boy does he have some explaining to do!”
But the explanation is simple. God had released them from an iron yoke of Babylon to a lighter, wooden yoke under Medo-Persia, Greece, and finally Rome. But they were not content with submitting for the duration of their sentence for the sins of their fathers (the evil figs). So they revolted again in 66-73 A.D., trying to throw off the wooden yoke.
They failed, because their revolt was a violation of the law itself, as explained fully by the prophet Jeremiah.
But in this revolt against God’s judgment, they again found themselves under the iron yoke, forbidden to set foot in Jerusalem, cast off among the nations as captive slaves. This condition continued until the 1940’s, when the evil figs among the Jews again staged a revolt to gain possession of the land of Palestine.
Zionism is a movement among Jews who decided that God would never set them free, and that they had to do it themselves. Without repenting, of course. More next time.