The restoration of Israel to Palestine and that nation's future conversion to Christ occupy an important place in Bible prophecy. Israel's return to the Holy Land is an event which is occurring today, and it is an outstanding sign that the second coming of Christ is near. 

I. God's Covenant With Abraham

The land of Palestine belongs to the Jews. God, who is owner of the universe, has promised that land to Israel for an everlasting possession. To many observers, the future destiny of Palestine is a matter of speculation. To students of the Bible, however, there is no need for guesswork. Palestine is the Holy Land of the Bible, and God's Word is very definite in stating to whom the land belongs. The land belongs to Israel. 

Genesis 12:1-3, 7


Promised land, seed, blessing

Genesis 13:14-17


All the land he could see

Genesis 15:5-7, 18


Unto thy seed given this land

Genesis 17:1-8


An everlasting possession

Genesis 22:16-18


In thy seed all nations blessed

Romans 4:13


Heir of the world

God called Abraham from the city of Ur of the Chaldees to the land of Canaan. In a solemn covenant, God gave the land to Abraham and to his descendants after him for an everlasting possession. Genesis 17:7, 8 can be described as a warranty deed to the promised land, through which Abraham's eternal ownership is assured: "And I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after thee in their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee. And I will give unto thee, and to thy seed after thee, the land wherein thou art a stranger, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God." 

God's covenant promises were repeated to Abraham's son, Isaac (Gen. 26:2-5), to Isaac's son, Jacob (Gen. 28:13-15; 35:10-12), and to Jacob's twelve sons (Ex. 2:23-25). The descendants of Jacob's twelve sons constituted the nation, Israel. (1 Chron. 16:13-19.) 

1. Promises Yet to Be Fulfilled. God's promises to Abraham and Israel have not been completely fulfilled. These promises will be fulfilled in Christ's Kingdom. Stephen, in his historic sermon, mentioned that Abraham had not inherited these promises during his lifetime. "Then came he out of the land of the Chaldeans, and dwelt in Charran: and from thence, when his father was dead, he removed him into this land, wherein ye now dwell. And he gave him none inheritance in it, no, not so much as to set his foot on: yet he promised that he would give it to him for a possession, and to his seed after him, when as yet he had no child " (Acts 7:4, 5). "These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth" (Heb. 11:13). Abraham and other faithful believers will be raised from the dead and will inherit these eternal promises in Christ's future Kingdom. Jesus said, "Many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven" (Matt. 8:11). "There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when ye shall see Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and all the prophets, in the kingdom of God, and you yourselves thrust out" (Luke 13:28). 

2. Blessings Conditional. God warned the Israelites that their privilege of dwelling in the promised land was dependent upon their obedience to Him. As punishment for their sins, God would drive them from the land. (Lev. 26:27-34; Deut. 28:1-67; Josh. 24:13-20.) The covenant nation and the promised land are linked together. Whenever Israelites have dwelled in the land of Palestine, they have received blessing. Whenever they have left the land, they have received bondage (Egypt), captivity (Babylon), and persecution (world dispersion).

II. Three Departures and Returns

Three times, the Israelites have left the promised land. Three times they have returned or are returning home. Each departure and each return to the land have been prophesied in God's Word. 

1. Egypt. Israel's first departure from the promised land occurred during the time of Joseph, when Jacob and his family went to Egypt to escape famine conditions in Canaan. During their residence in Egypt, Jacob's descendants were subjected to extreme bondage by the Egyptians. Through Moses, God liberated the Israelites from Egyptian bondage and enabled them to return to the land of Canaan. Israel's bondage in Egypt (Gen. 15:13; Acts 7:6) and the nation's return to the promised land (Gen. 15:14, 16; Acts 7:7; Gen. 50:24-26; Heb. 11:22) had been prophesied. These prophecies were fulfilled. 

2. Babylon. Israel's second departure from the land of promise occurred during the time of Daniel, when the Babylonian king, Nebuchadnezzar, carried the people to Babylon as captives. All of the Jews, of course, were not deported to Babylon; many persons were left in rural areas to care for the land. It was to these Jews that Jeremiah, the prophet, ministered. The deportation of Jews to Babylon began in 606 B.C. The Babylonian captivity lasted seventy years. The captivity was prophesied (Jer. 25:8-11; Ezek. 21:18-27) and was fulfilled. (2 Chron. 36:15-21.) The return of the Jews after seventy years was foretold also (Jer. 25:12-14; Isa. 44:28; 45:1-4), and these prophecies were fulfilled. (2 Chron. 36:22, 23; Ezra 1:1-11; Dan. 9:1, 2.) The return of the Jews under Ezra and Nehemiah did not fulfill the many prophecies concerning Israel's future return to Palestine. These prophecies are beginning to be fulfilled today, and they will be fulfilled when Jesus comes. Many Jews living in Babylon never returned to Canaan. Moreover, a great company of Jews who escaped deportation to Babylon went to Egypt and started an important Jewish colony there. 

3. World Dispersion. The third departure of the Jews from Palestine began in 70 A.D. and was completed in 135 A.D. This departure resulted in world dispersion for God's chosen nation. Today, after almost two millenniums, the restoration of Israel is beginning to be fulfilled. Israel's dispersion was prophesied and became a reality. Israel's restoration to the promised land likewise was prophesied, and these prophecies also will be fulfilled. 


III. World Dispersion of Israel

1. World-wide Dispersion Predicted. Throughout His Word, God warned the Israelites that He would scatter them among all nations as punishment for disobedience. 

Deuteronomy 4:27


Scatter you among the nations

Deuteronomy 28:63, 64


Scatter among all people

Jeremiah 9:16


Scatter them among the heathen

Jeremiah 31:27


Sow Israel with seed of man

Ezekiel 11:16


Scatter them among the countries

Ezekiel 37:1, 2, 11


Like valley of dry bones

Ezekiel 39:23-28


Dispersed because of sin

Hosea 3:4


Abide many days without king

Zechariah 10:9


Sow them among the people

Matthew 23:35-39


Your house is left desolate

Matthew 24:1, 2


Destruction of temple

Luke 21:20-24


Jerusalem trodden by Gentiles

2. Persecution of Israel Foretold. Scattered among the nations, God's chosen people would experience extreme persecution. They would flee from country to country; they would find no rest for the sole of their feet. God told Abraham: "I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee" (Gen. 12:3). Nations which have favored the Jews have been blessed; they have prospered. Nations which have persecuted the Jews, however, have experienced curse, difficulty, and tragedy. The persecution of the Jews was foretold in God's Word. 

Deuteronomy 28:65-67


No rest for sole of foot

Leviticus 26:33-45


Faintness in their hearts

Psalm 44:14


Become a byword and a curse

3. World-Wide Dispersion Fulfilled. During the New Testament era, large colonies of Jews were living in all major cities and provinces of the Roman Empire. The number of Jews living outside the promised land was greater than the number who lived in the land. Many Jews who went to Babylon and Egypt during the time of Daniel, Ezekiel, and Jeremiah never returned home. In fact, during our Lord's earthly ministry, Babylon and Alexandria were the two major centers of Jewish thought and culture. Jews of the dispersion who were represented by Babylon spoke the Aramaic language and kindred dialects, and they interpreted the Old Testament through the Chaldean paraphrases, the Targums. The Jews represented by Alexandria in Egypt, on the other hand, spoke the Greek language and had produced the Septuagint, or Greek translation, of the Old Testament. Countries and languages of the Roman world represented by Jews in Jerusalem on Pentecost (Acts 2:8-11) reveal the extent of Jewish dispersion at that time. When Paul went forth on his missionary journeys, he found a group of Jews in nearly every city he visited. Although these Jews resided in various areas of the Roman Empire, Jerusalem was their center of religious and political unity. 

The great world-wide dispersion of Jews from Jerusalem and Palestine began in 70 A.D. and was completed in 135 A.D. In 70 A.D., forty years after Jesus was crucified, Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans, under the leadership of Titus. The collapse of the Jewish national state occurred in 135 A.D., when the Roman general, Julius Severus, defeated Simon Bar Kochba, who led a revolt against Rome. More than 500,000 Jews were killed in battle. Jews were dispersed from Judaea and were scattered throughout the nations of earth. By order of the Roman emperor, Hadrian, the very name of the Jewish province was discarded, and was changed to Syria Palestine. Jerusalem was made a pagan city, and Jews were forbidden to enter its gates under the penalty of death. Persecution of Jews became common throughout the empire. 

During centuries that followed, the Jews were not permitted to live in the land which belonged to them. The faithful in Israel, however, could never be satisfied until they could return to their ancient home. Each year they dreamed of returning to the land which God had promised Abraham and his seed. At each Passover Feast they would say, "Next year in Jerusalem! Next year in Jerusalem! " For nearly nineteen centuries, however, that " next year " did not come. They continued to be scattered over the earth while the promised land was being ruled by the Romans, the Moslems, and the Turks. Wherever the Jews went, they brought blessing and prosperity to the nations. The Jews suffered almost constant persecution however, as they fled from country to country. During the Church Age, the Jews have been sown among the seed of men. They have resided in almost every country on earth. Bible prophecies concerning the world dispersion and persecution of God's chosen people have been literally fulfilled. 


IV. Israel's Restoration to Promised Land

1. Restoration Promised. 

Deuteronomy 30:3-5


Will bring thee into the land

Isaiah 11:11, 12


From four corners of earth

Isaiah 27:12, 13


Shall be gathered one by one

Isaiah 60:21


Shall inhabit the land for ever

Isaiah 61:3-11


Shall build the old wastes

Isaiah 65:17-25


Jerusalem and her people a joy

Isaiah 66:5-23


Bring all your brethren

Jeremiah 23:3-8


Overshadow the Exodus

Jeremiah 24:5-7


Never leave the land again

Jeremiah 30:3, 7-11


Return to the land

Jeremiah 30:17-22


City shall be builded

Jeremiah 31:7-12


Great company shall return

Jeremiah 31:23-37


Captives brought to land

Jeremiah 32:37-44


Out of all countries

Jeremiah 33:7-14


Judah and Israel to return

Ezekiel 11:17-21


Give you the land of Israel

Ezekiel 20:34, 40-44


Bring you into the land

Ezekiel 28:25, 26


Gather the house of Israel

Ezekiel 34:11-16


As shepherd seeketh sheep

Ezekiel 34:23-31


Shall dwell safely

Ezekiel 36:8-12


Bring you into your own land

Ezekiel 36:16-38


For God's holy name's sake

Ezekiel 37:1-14


Dry bones revived

Ezekiel 37:15-28


One nation, one king

Ezekiel 38:8, 11, 12, 14


Gathered out of nations

Ezekiel 39:25-29


The whole house of Israel

Hosea 1:10, 11


Be gathered together

Hosea 3:5


Children of Israel return

Joel 3:1, 17-21


Bring again Judah

Amos 9:11-15


No more pulled up out of land

Micah 2:12


Regathered as sheep

Zephaniah 3:20


Bring you again

Zechariah 8:7, 8


From east and west countries

Zechariah 8:13, 23


Ye shall be a blessing

Zechariah 10:10-12


I will bring them again

Psalm 102:16


When the Lord builds up Zion

Matthew 24:31-34


The fig tree nation

Romans 11:11-27


All Israel shall be saved

2. Restoration Begins. During the middle of the nineteenth century, a few Jews throughout the world began to lift their voices in an appeal for their brethren to return to Palestine. On August 25, 1897, the First Zionist Congress met at Basle, Switzerland. This meeting of Jews was called by an Austrian Jew, Theodor Herzel, who was the father of modern Zionism. For the next fifty years, the Zionist organization planned and worked to achieve its ambition, which was finally realized in the formation of the new state of Israel.

England, on November 2, 1917, issued the famous Balfour Declaration, named for the British Foreign Secretary, Arthur James Balfour. This document read, in full:

Dear Lord Rothschild, I have much pleasure in conveying to you, on behalf of His Majesty's Government, the following declaration of sympathy with Jewish Zionist aspirations which has been submitted to, and approved by, the Cabinet. His Majesty's Government view with favor the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavors to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing will be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country. I should be grateful if you would bring this declaration to the knowledge of the Zionist Federation. Yours, (Signature) Arthur James Balfour.

During the First World War, General Edmund Allenby, as commander in chief of the British-Egyptian Expeditionary Force, invaded Palestine and, on December 9, 1917, captured Jerusalem without gunshot. Turkish rule over Palestine came to an end. In the Treaty of Sevres, on August 10, 1920, Turkey renounced her former rights over Palestine to the Allies. In the same year, the League of Nations gave Great Britain jurisdiction over the holy land, which became effective September 29, 1923. The way thereby was opened for the Jews to go home. Since that time, the restoration of Israel has begun to become a reality. During the Second World War, Jews living in Europe suffered extreme persecution, which resulted in an intensive desire within the Jews to go home. In 1939, because of Jewish-Arab hostilities, Great Britain renounced her Balfour Declaration and sharply curtailed Jewish immigration to Palestine. On November 29, 1947, the United Nations adopted the Partition Plan of Palestine, assuring certain territories to the Jews, and certain others to the Arabs. On December 11, 1947, Great Britain announced that she would end her mandate over Palestine on May 15, 1948. 

At midnight, May 14, 15, 1948, the Jews in Palestine announced the formation of the new Jewish state of Israel, with Mr. David Ben Gurion as prime minister and Dr. Chaim Weizmann as the first president. Since that time, major nations of the world recognized the new government. On May 11, 1949, Israel was accepted as the fifty-ninth member nation of the United Nations. Jews were welcomed to the new Jewish state from all nations of the world. In 1900, there were about 50,000 Jews in Palestine; by 1936, the number had risen to 375,000 persons. The Jewish population in Palestine today is more than one million persons. As the Jews are returning home, the promised land is being rebuilt; deserts are being transformed into gardens. Rainfall in Palestine has more than doubled in recent years. The land is receiving blessing because the people of the land are returning home. The restoration of Israel to Palestine is becoming a reality. The final and complete restoration, of course, will occur when Jesus comes. 


V. Future Conversion of Israel

Israel's return to Palestine and her return to God are linked together. As a nation, Israel is returning to Palestine in unbelief. "Blindness in part" is still present over Israel, because the Church has not yet been completed; "the fulness of the Gentiles" is not yet accomplished. (Rom. 11:25, 26.) The Great Tribulation, the "time of Jacob's trouble" (Jer. 30:7), will fall upon the Jews as their last great persecution. The national conversion of Israel is yet future. When Jesus returns to earth as King of kings, Israel will accept Him as the long-awaited Messiah. When they see Him, they will repent from their sins and will be converted to God and Christ. God will cleanse repentant Israelites from their sins, give them a new heart, and establish a new covenant with them. 

Deuteronomy 30:1-6


Circumcise thine heart

Isaiah 4:3, 4


Wash away the filth

Isaiah 59:20, 21


Turn from transgression

Isaiah 60:21


Shall all be righteous

Jeremiah 23:6


Judah shall be saved

Jeremiah 24:7


Return with whole heart

Jeremiah 31:9


Come with weeping

Jeremiah 31:31-34


New covenant with Israel

Jeremiah 32:37-40


Give them one heart

Jeremiah 33:8


Cleanse from all iniquity

Ezekiel 11:17-20


A new spirit within you

Ezekiel 36:24-38


I shall have cleansed you

Ezekiel 37:23, 26-28


Will cleanse them

Daniel 9:24


To make an end of sins

Hosea 3:5


Return unto the Lord

Zephaniah 3:13, 15


Shall not do iniquity

Zechariah 12:10-14


Mourning for sins

Zechariah 13:1, 2


Fountain for cleansing

Romans 11:25, 26


All Israel shall be saved

VI. Future Position and Work of Israel

After Christ has returned to earth as King of kings and rules the nations with His glorified Church, Israel will be exalted above all nations and will fulfill God's original missionary purpose. Jerusalem will be the capital city of Christ's future Kingdom. Israel, who through the centuries has been a byword and a curse among the Gentiles, will be honored as God's chosen nation in Christ's Kingdom.

Deuteronomy 14:2


Above all nations on earth

Isaiah 60:1-22


Gentiles come to thy light

Isaiah 61:5, 6


Ministers of the Lord

Isaiah 66:19-21


Declare among Gentiles

Zechariah 8:20-23


We will go with you

Revelation 21:12


Twelve gates of Holy City

(Adapted from Systematic Theology, by Alva Huffer, published by Church of God General Conference, Oregon, Illinois 61061, U.S.A.)

© Church of God General Conference. This lesson may be reproduced without change for non-commercial purposes without prior permission.