Through the Fire of Affliction
In the prophet Zechariah we read these words; “Awake, O sword, against my shepherds, and against the man who is my citizen, says the LORD Almighty: smite the shepherds, and draw out the sheep: and I will bring My hand upon the little ones. And it shall come to pass, that in all the land, says the LORD, two parts thereof shall be cut off and perish; but the third shall be left therein. And I will bring the third part through the fire, and I will try them as silver is tried, and I will prove them as gold is proved: they shall call upon My name, and I will hear them, and say, This is My people: and they shall say, The Lord is my God.” (Zechariah 12:7-9) (Brenton Septuagint Translation)
God loves Israel
If God loves Israel, and He does indeed, why have they suffered more than any other people group or nation on the earth? This is a fair question in the light of the Bible and history as we see them still afflicted by their enemies on every side. According to God’s Word; “Theirs is the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises. To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Messiah, who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen.” (Romans 9:4-5) Yet they have suffered so much down through their long history.
Blessings and Curses
According to the Torah Israel were given God’s laws and commandments and attached to these were blessings for obedience and curses for disobedience. (Deuteronomy Chapter 28) When Israel walked by faith and sought to walk in accordance with God’s law and commandments they were protected from their enemies, however, when Israel walked in unbelief and sought to go contrary to God’s revealed Word they were attacked and oppressed by their enemies. The Book of Judges gives ample testimony to this Biblical truth. When Israel fell into extremity because of the overwhelming might of their enemies they called out to the LORD and He sent them Judges to bring them deliverance.
When these afflictions from their enemies came upon Israel God was trying to get their attention regarding their spiritual waywardness. During the times of the Kings of Israel and Judah He sent them His prophets to try to bring about repentance and correction for His people but they refused to listen to His servants the prophets He sent among them. Finally He sent His One and only Begotten Son and Israel by enlarge rejected Him. Forty years after the Lord Jesus had risen from the dead and ascended to heaven the Jewish nation continued to reject the salvation only found in their Messiah the Lord Jesus. It all came to an abrupt end in 70 AD when Biblical Mosaic Judaism ceased to exist even as it does to this day.
Israel is back
Today Israel is back in the land bequeathed to them by God when He cut a blood covenant with Abraham and promised Him and his descendants through the line of Isaac and Jacob the whole land of Israel from the Wadi of Egypt to the Euphrates River to be for them “an everlasting possession.” (Genesis 15:17-19; 17:7-8) In the Millennial Messianic Kingdom Israel will “possess their possessions” and “possess the gate of their enemies.” (Obadiah 1:17) (Genesis 22:17) The Prophet Ezekiel foretold their restoration to the land but that they would be gathered again in unbelief. (Ezekiel 37:1-8) This was fulfilled in 1948 and confirmed in the prophet Isaiah when by God’s will “a nation was born in a day.” (Isaiah 66:7-9) As to their spiritual restoration it is still in the future. (Ezekiel 37:9-14) After this spiritual restoration the faithful surviving remnant of Israelis will enter into the Millennial Messianic Kingdom (Ezekiel 37:15-28) this prophecy given in Zechariah 13:7-9 has four applications.
1. This Prophecy relates to the Chief Shepherd
In relation to the Body of the Messiah, the faithful Assembly (Church) the Messiah our Lord Jesus was struck down at the cross and His followers were scattered. (Matthew 26:31) after He had risen from the dead and ascended into heaven His shepherds namely His apostles were also persecuted and all martyred for their faith except John and through persecution the sheep (believers) were scattered but continued to preach the Word of God. (Acts 8:4)
2. This Prophecy relates to the Body of the Messiah, the Faithful Church
Today the Shepherds (pastors) are also being persecuted and martyred and their sheep scattered. According to a recent survey conducted by Voice of the Martyrs Ministry the report revealed that in 57 countries today it is estimated that a 100 million plus ongoing numbers of believers are being persecuted for their faith in the Lord Jesus. Since the time of the Lord Jesus and the apostles there have been 70 million martyred for their faith in Him and 45 million of these happened in the last century. When the Antichrist’ sets up his empire multitudes of faithful believers will be martyred. (Revelation 13:5-7) After three and a half years the Lord Jesus will come back to rescue His saints still living on earth and to destroy Israel’s enemies and set up the Messianic Millennial Kingdom on earth. (Daniel 2:34-35, 44-45; 7:18, 22, 26-27) (Revelation 19:11-21 to 20:1-6)
3. This Prophecy relates to Israel in the Last days
Israel and the Church are like two sides of the same coin, separate yet one. What happens to the Church will also happen to Israel. Today the true ‘shepherds’ in Israel are those faithful Messianic pastors who are seeking to shepherd their flocks in the power and strength of the Chief Shepherd. The false ‘shepherds’ in Israel are the Rabbis and Jewish religious sects that by enlarge hate the Lord Jesus and persecute their fellow Jews who have come to believe in Him as their Messiah. About 160 years before the birth of the Lord Jesus, when Antiochus Epiphanies invaded Israel he persecuted faithful Jewish believers who remained faithful to God and true to Torah even on pain of death. Many religious Jewish leaders compromised and went along with Antiochus’ agenda even to the point where they betrayed their fellow Jews. (Daniel 11:32-35) When the Antichrist sets up his headquarters in Jerusalem for three and a half years many religious and secular Jewish leaders will go along with his agenda even to the point where they will betray their fellow Jews to keep their lives in this world. The same thing will be happening in the Institutional Church during this time. When Antichrist invades Jerusalem and desecrates the Temple Mount and persecutes faithful Jews in some way throughout the extent of his empire he will also persecute faithful Believers in the Lord Jesus. (Daniel 7:21, 25; 8:24; 11:33-35; 12:7) Christendom will become the domain of Antichrist. At the same time he is being worshipped in the Temple in Jerusalem he will also be actively worshipped within Christendom. The apostasy of the Church will have paved the way for this to happen. (2 Thessalonians 2:3-4)
4. This prophecy relates to the Faithful Remnant
According to the prophet Zechariah two thirds of the Jews living in the land of Israel will be struck down and the nation devastated but a third will be preserved. (Zechariah 13:8) This third will be a faithful remnant that will be refined through this time of fiery persecution to inherit the Millennial Kingdom and co-reign with their Messiah in Jerusalem. (Zechariah 13:9-19) Another exile is coming for the people of Jerusalem where half of the city will be taken once again into exile but the other half left in the city. (Zechariah 14:1-2) After three and a half years, when God’s refining process has taken its course, the Lord Jesus will come back to save Israel, destroy all of their enemies and reveal Himself to those, whom He knows in His foreknowledge, will believe in Him when they see Him coming in the clouds in great power and glory. (Zechariah 14:3-7) It will be a remnant that will ultimately be saved to enter the Millennial Messianic Kingdom. (Romans 9:27) Right now a partial hardening has come upon the hearts of the people of Israel as a nation but that hardness and veil over their hearts will be removed in the day the Lord Jesus revealed Himself to Israel at His Second Coming and in that day “All Israel will be saved” because “God’s gifts and His call are irrevocable.” (Romans 11:25-29) As Zechariah also writes concerning Israel’s ultimate salvation; “And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and compassion: and they shall look upon me, because they have mocked me, and they shall make lamentation for him, as for a beloved friend, and they shall grieve intensely, as for a firstborn son. In that day the lamentation in Jerusalem shall be very great.” (Zechariah 12:10-11a) (Brenton Septuagint Translation)
God is turning His grace and purposes of salvation back to Israel because of the covenant He made with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob to give them the land of Israel to be for them an everlasting possession, a land that would stretch from the wadi of Egypt to the Euphrates River. (Genesis 15:17-19; 17:7-8) The Lord Jesus Himself cut the New Covenant of salvation with the House of Israel and with the House of Judah, not the Church. (Jeremiah 31:31) The Church is part of Israel by incorporation and inclusion but has not replaced Israel. God has never abandoned Israel and even though they have been away from Him for over 2,000 years He has not abandoned them. For His own names sake, not for their own sakes, He is going to have mercy on them as His people in the last days just prior to the return of their Messiah our Lord Jesus. (Ezekiel 36:19-21) A third of Israel’s population will be saved out of this time of Great Trouble for Jacob. (Jeremiah 30:1-7) There will also be a remnant saved out of Christendom. (Matthew 7:14) Together the redeemed Jews and Gentiles will go into the Millennial Kingdom to co-reign with their Messiah and with the saints of all the ages since the time of Abel. This reign will continue into all of eternity. (Daniel 7:18, 22, 27) (Revelation 2:26-27; 20:4-6; 22:5) So then this is what God says about Israel; “Can a woman forget her nursing child And have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, but I will not forget you. “Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of My hands; Your walls are continually before Me.” (Isaiah 49:15-16) The nail scarred hands of Jesus says it all!