Jesus said no man knows the day or the hour but we can be certainly aware of the season. And while we watch from America, the viewpoint of the church, we need to be aware that God is working in so many different layers in so many different places. And our next speaker has had the opportunity to minister just in the past year or so to pastors in Lebanon. He's taught at pastors' conferences worldwide. His teaching from this pulpit goes on the world wide web. It's heard in the South Pacific. The connection receives believe it or not tremendous ratings in Mongolia. And you ought to hear how Skip sounds in Mongolian.
The Lord said take my word to the uttermost parts of the earth. Preach the gospel everywhere, and then the end will come. And here at Calvary, we're doing our part to make that happen. We also have very, very well watched TV program in Macedonia. Imagine the irony of us from Albuquerque, New Mexico teaching the Bible back to the place where Paul was called to preach the gospel. I remember Skip bringing the point up, and it was succinct a few years ago, and he said people say don't bring your Western religion to America. Don't bring your Western religion here or there. And he made the point that Christianity is the function of missionary activity. We're just taking the gospel full circle. And I really I'm going to invite you to pay very close attention, because these next few minutes are crucial as we look into the word of God, listen carefully, and understand the times in which we live. Please welcome Pastor Skip Heitzig.
Thank you. Chip mention Mongolia. I love their barbecue, don't you? I'd like you to bring-- how many of you brought a Bible today? Good thinking. Would you open your Bibles to Ezekiel's prophecy chapter 36, Ezekiel chapter 36? There's an ancient Jewish commentary called the Midrash. And there's a statement in that book that says Israel is at the center of the world, and Jerusalem is at the center of the land of Israel, and the temple is at the center of Jerusalem.
The point that they were making is that in God's program Israel, and specifically Jerusalem, is the center of it all. Most every Christian feels that. And that's why so many of us long to take tours over to Israel. And it's to see it. And especially to see the city of Jerusalem. That's the place where Abraham went and almost sacrificed his son Isaac. It's the place the prophets walked and preached. It's where David reigned from. It's where the son of David, the Messiah, walked, taught, died, and rose from the dead, and will come back to.
And it's from there, as Chip made the point, it's from Jerusalem that the gospel, the good news, went forth as they were given the commission from Jerusalem, to Judea, through Sumeria, and to the uttermost parts of the world.
I want to talk to you in the next 28 30 minutes about why Christians love and support Israel. And here's the underlying reason, it's because we love Israel's God. And we have a covenant with that same God that they have. Years ago, William Norman Ewer said, "how odd of God to choose the Jews." He was making an interesting point. The chosen people, how odd of God to choose the Jews. Someone well responded, "but not so odd as those who choose the Jewish God but hate the Jews." We support Israel because we love Israel's God. No other place has suffered like that place. No other city has seen the kind of destruction and attacks as that city. Did you know that Jerusalem has seen 36 full blown wars? The city has been reduced to ashes 17 times, And has risen 18 times.
Josephus, the ancient Jewish historian said, "all of the calamities which has ever happened to anyone from the beginning seem not comparable to those which have befallen the Jews." I think he spoke that, not just historically, but almost prophetically. Again in the Jewish Talmud there is a statement that says 10 measures of beauty were given to the whole world. Nine of them were taken by Jerusalem, by the Jews, by Israel, and one for the rest of the world. Again it says 10 measures of suffering were given to the world and nine were taken by Jerusalem. And one for the rest of the world. Some of you remember that old movie Fiddler on the Roof, when the patriarch of the family, Tevye, is wrestling with the whole chosen people thing. And he looks up to heaven and he says, God, I know, I know we're the chosen people, but once in a while couldn't you choose somebody else?
We know what he meant by that, especially now in our history. If we look back just a few years to the time when Adolf Hitler exterminated 6 million Jews, in an attempt to utterly obliterate them from planet Earth. And that's why we take seriously the very modern threat of the Iranian dictator Ahmadinejad when he wants to wipe Israel off the face of the map.
Ezekiel's a good place to reference. He was both a priest, and he was a prophet. He knew that God had chosen the Jews. But there was a problem. The Jews, when Ezekiel was alive, were not in their land. They were in captivity. You may remember from your history that in the year 605 BC it was the first of three attacks against Jerusalem and three deportations. In 6 0 5, in the first one, a young boy by the name of Daniel was taken from Israel and taken to Babylon.
In 597, that was the second attack against Jerusalem. That's when Ezekiel, the priest and prophet, was taken from Jerusalem and taken to captivity in Babylon. He was probably only 25 years of age when he was taken into captivity. Now the Book of Ezekiel is 2,600 years old. And yet some of the things that he writes about have only been fulfilled in recent times.
So what I want to do is look at some selective passages if you have your Bibles open. And I want to look at the blessing, the blessing that God promised, and the blessing that is portrayed. Chapter 36 is a declaration. God declares that He will bless the people and the land of Israel. Chapter 37 is simply an illustration of that truth. Now while Jeremiah, the prophet, is preaching in Jerusalem at this very time, Ezekiel is in Babylon. They have the same message. Here's the message, Israel will be restored. Israel will be restored. In Ezekiel 36 and 37 has a message that headlining God's future program will be the restoration of the nation of Israel.
I want to take you back a few years. The year 1897. A man by the name of Theodore Hertzel announced the beginning of the Zionist movement. And he said the purpose of the movement is to create a Jewish people, for the Jewish people a homeland secured by public law. When he made that statement, very few people of the time realized how significant and dramatic the fulfillment would become. And only, I believe, when you go there today and you look around and you see it do you understand that that is being fulfilled.
Now by the way, when we talk about the fulfillment of scripture, as seen in modern Israel, it's because we believe in a very straightforward, literal approach in interpreting prophecy. Some do not. I want to warn you. Some believe that you should take the Bible seriously, straightforward, and literally in all matters except in prophecy. I think when you do that you jumble everything up. I think God meant what he said, and he said what he meant. And we can see the fulfillment of modern Israel as of a fulfilment of many of these prophecies.
In verse one of Ezekiel 36 is the promise of physical restoration. "And you, son of man, prophesied to the mountains of Israel and say, oh, mountains of Israel, hear the word of the Lord." He's told to prophesy to the mountains, that is to the land. One of the notable physical features of the land, or the mountains, and still are. The idea here is physical restoration to the geography the people will come back to the land. Look down at verse six. That thought continues. "Therefore, prophesy concerning the land of Israel and say to the mountains, the hills, the rivers, and the valleys, thus, says the Lord God. Behold, I have spoken in my jealousy and in my fury because you have borne the shame of the nations. Therefore, thus says the Lord, I have lifted my hand in an oath that surely the nations that are around you shall bear their own shame. But you, oh mountains of Israel, you shall shoot forth your branches and yield your fruit to my people, Israel, for they are about to come. For indeed I am with you. And I will turn to you. And you will be tilled and sown."
The prediction is that God would so restore the fruitfulness of that land that it would be able to sustain the influx of many people coming back to it. Now there's a phrase that Ezekiel uses a lot, actually all the prophets use it, but 10 times, in the two chapters 36 and 37 of Ezekiel, 10 times the phrase, thus says the Lord, thus says the Lord, thus says the Lord is used. It's emphatic here. Now why is it used so often?
Simply because restoration seemed so totally remote. They were in captivity. How was this ever going to be a possibility? And so God is emphasizing, I can do it. Thus says the Lord. Thus says the Lord, His ability to fulfill.
I don't know if you do much research with Encyclopedia Britannica, but they change their additions as the years go by. And we discover in retrospect that they're not always that accurate. Here's an excerpt from a 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica. And I quote, "the possibility that we can ever again recover the correct pronunciation of ancient Hebrew is as remote as the possibility that a Jewish empire will ever again be established in the Middle East." Close quote. That was 1911.
You go to Israel today you discover two things, there is a revived Hebrew spoken on the streets of Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Haifa, throughout the land. And it's done in the ancient homeland that has been re-established, according to the prophecies.
Let's go on. Not only will there be a physical restoration, there will be a lot of people, a bountiful population is promised. Go down to verse 10 of chapter 36. "I will multiply men upon you. All the house of Israel, all of it, and the cities shall be inhabited and the ruins rebuilt. I will multiply upon you man and beast, and they shall increase and bare young. I will make you inhabited, as in former times, and do better for you than at your beginning. Then you shall know that I am the Lord. Yes, I will cause men to walk on you, my people, Israel. And they shall take possession of you. And you shall be their inheritance no more, shall you bereave them of their children."
Not only will people flow and flood into the borders of Israel, but the language here indicates the permanence of this thing, that God guarantees that will be permanent. For notice, "no more show you bereave them of their children." This is what you and I need to understand about all of these predictions that God makes with this unique people group, the Jews, and their land.
God promised the land of Israel to the Jewish people as a perpetual covenant. And it's all the way through scripture. In Genesis 17 to Abraham, the Lord said, "I will establish my covenant between me and you and your descendants after you for an ever lasting covenant. Also, I give it to you and to your descendants after you, a land in which you are a stranger, all the land of Canaan, as an ever lasting covenant." Ah, but they blew it. "And thus they were taken into Babylonian captivity for a period of time." But then they returned after 70 years.
And listen to what Isaiah, the prophet, writes in Isaiah 11: 11. "The Lord shall set his hand the second time to recover the remnant of his people and will assemble the outcasts of Israel and gather together the dispersed of Judah from--" here it is-- "the four corners of the earth." Notice the language, God will do it not the first time only but the second time. Now the first time God brought them back was after this, the captivity. Under Zerubbabel, Ezra, Nehemiah, they came back, they rebuilt the temple, they were re-established in the land.
But then they were dispersed again, destroyed by the Romans, dispersed throughout the four corners of the earth. And it wasn't until May 14th of 1948 when the land of Israel was birthed again. People started flooding in, this the second time, and God guarantees when he brings them back the second time they are there to stay. It's his everlasting covenant. Go to the next verse, verse 13.
"Thus says the Lord God, because they save you devour men and breathe your nation of children, therefore you shall devour men no more, nor bear reviewer nation any more, says the Lord. Nor will I let you hear the taunts of the nations anymore, nor bear the reproach of the peoples anymore, nor shall you cause your nation to stumble anymore, says the Lord God." This indicates that, as the people that read gather to their homeland grow in numbers, that God were also give them a place of prestige in the world setting. I want to paint that picture for you.
May 14th of 1948, the population of Israel was 80,000 people total in the entire country. 80,000 people, less than half were Jewish. Today there are 7.2 million people in that same peace of geography. 5.6 of them are Jewish. That's a 43% increase due to immigration. People from all over the world have flooded back to this land, and it has become thriving.
And I say thriving because just imagine, OK, 7.2 million, but they're surrounded by 300 million, shall we say unsympathetic neighbors. Some claim to be friends, others that they are enemies. And some they just don't know who they are, they're frenemies. But they're all around them. Seven million surrounded by 300 million, many of which, dare I say most of which, want Israel totally obliterated.
They're not just surviving. They really are thriving. The economy of Israel today is $10 billion a year. They are now the fourth leading export country of citrus fruit in the world. They're the third leading exporter of flowers in the world. And since 1948 the amount of land that they cultivate went from then 408,000 acres to today 1.02 million acres that they cultivate.
They're not just surviving, they're thriving. Or look at it this way. The Jewish population of the world makes up 1/10 of 1%, and yet that small minority has 25 to 33% of all of the Nobel prizes ever given. And 30% of all the awards in music, science and literature. God has uniquely blessed this chosen people, causing them to flourish and have a place of prestige on the world stage. We love Israel because we love the God who gave such promises to them. And not just gave promises, but fulfilled those promise. You know, a promise is only as good as the ability of a person to keep them.
Somebody once counted that there are 7,487 promises in the Bible. That's enough to keep you going. 7,487 promises that God made to man and every one God made God keeps. And these are promises God uniquely made to this nation. But it goes on. Not only is this promise blessing for people and land, but also there's a spiritual promise. Look at verse 24, "For I will take you from among the nations and gather you out of all the countries and bring you into your own land, then I will sprinkle clean water on you and you shall be clean. I will cleanse you from all of your filthiness, all of your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you. I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put my spirit within you and cause you to walk in my statutes. And you will keep my judgments and you will do them."
This is not just the promise of the regathering of people to the land, but the restoration of people to their Lord. There's the spiritual component. God says I'm going to sprinkle clean water, that's a Levitical term, when they would sprinkle water on houses and on people and sanctify them and purify them ceremonially from sin. Jeremiah calls this the new covenant. Jeremiah chapter 31, you might want to just write that in the margin of your Bible, God promises a new covenant with the nation of Israel. And that new covenant has three important components.
Number one, what we just mentioned. God will read gather the Jews to their land. Number two, God will regenerate their hearts to their Lord, which is what we just read in Ezekiel. And number three, God will re-establish the kingdom in that land.
Now the first, he's done. The Jews are back. We've watched it. We're seeing them thriving and surviving. We're still waiting for that spiritual revival. It's happening in part. There are now more messianic Jews in Israel than ever before, and the numbers are growing immensely. But I believe the events of the chapters after 36 and 37, Ezekiel 38 and 39, will be the very thing that will jog the spiritual heart of the people of the land to bring them back to their God.
And not only did God promise that He will sprinkle the nation of Israel, But in Isaiah chapter 52 it goes on to say he will sprinkle "many nations." So the blessing has gone out from Jerusalem, to Judea, to Sumeria, and to us. Yes, we're in the uttermost parts of the earth, if you start in Israel. It's gone out to us.
We talk about prophecy, and here is a prophecy update in part. You know, of the tremendous trademarks, the characteristics, of God is that He is omniscient. That's a fancy theological term for God knows everything. That's why prophecy is not a big deal. God knows everything before it happens, and he can say it's going to happen. And you can say, then I know it's going to happen. Because he who knows everything said it will.
If I were to make a prediction, let's say that in my pocket right now I had 10 pennies and they were marked 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10. And I say, I'm going to make a prediction. Now I will reach my hand in my pocket and choose penny marked number one. My odds are 1 in 10, correct? I have 10 pennies. Those are my odds. Let's say I pull it out and you all applaud because it's such a cool trick. And then I put the penny down. There's nine left. And I say, now I'm going to reach in my pocket and pick out a penny mark number two. What are my odds? Well, now they're exponentially decreased. The odds for me to pick out penny number two, or one and two in sequential order, are now 1 in 100. And if I were to go all the way through to number 10, the odds that I could do that would be one in 10 billion. My odds decrease the more details that I add.
Now you have a picture of prophecy. God puts in so many details about the future of the nations, the future of Israel, the end times, things to watch out for, it's as if he stacks the odds against Himself. And then he defies those odds by keeping all of the promises in those detailed predictions. Well chapter 36 then is the blessing that is promised.
Go to chapter 37 for the next couple of moments before we close. This is an illustration of the declaration. The declaration that Israel will be blessed is chapter 36. The illustration is in chapter 37. "The hand of the Lord came upon me and brought me out in the Spirit of the Lord and set me down in the midst of the valley and it was full of bones. And he caused me to pass by them all around. And behold, there were very many in the open valley and indeed they were very dry. And he said to me, son of man, can these bones live? So I answered, O Lord God, you know--" That's a good response-- "And again he said to me, prophesy of these bones and say to them, oh dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. Thus says the Lord God to these bones, surely I will cause breath to enter you and Ye shall live. And I will put sinews on you and bring flesh upon you and cover you with skin and put breath in you. And Ye shall live then you shall know that I am the Lord."
Verse 10, "So I prophesied as he commanded and breath came into them and they lived and stood upon their feet an exceedingly great army. And He said to me, Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. They indeed say, our bones are dry our hope is lost and we ourselves are cut off. Therefore, prophecy and say to them, thus says the Lord God. Behold all my people, I will open your graves and cause you to come up from your graves and bring you into the land of Israel. And you shall know that I am the Lord when I have opened your graves, oh my people, and brought you up from your graves. Then I will put my spirit in you and Ye shall live. And I will place you in your own land. And you shall know that I, the Lord, have spoken it and performed it, says the Lord."
The whole idea of a restored Israel back to their land at the point that this was written while they were in captivity was so far gone and so totally remote it was as if they were dry bones. Dead, lifeless, death had done its work. They were so taken from their land and, so decimated as a people, and so hopeless in a foreign country. They were dry bones. The only thing that could ever revive them would be nothing short of an absolute miracle. And that's what God promises. I'm going to put you back in the land. I'm going to bring lots of people there. You're going to be known around the world. And ultimately, I will restore you back to your God spiritually. And now this illustration of the dry bones.
I want you to look at verse three, at this question, ponder it. Ponder this, Can these bones live? Here are the bones. They're bleached by the sun. They've been dead a long time. The flesh, the sinews are off, and now they're just the skeletal remains. Can these bones live? Can this lifeless thing be made alive? What is the potential of life in these lifeless frames? Can these bones live?
That question could have been asked in 1947, before the United Nations made the declaration of the state of Israel. Can these bones ever live? That question could have been asked on may 15 of 1948, one day after Israel was given statehood, when five nations around Israel attacked her to destroy her before she could ever form a government. Can these bones ever live? That same question could have been asked in 1967, during the six-day war, when Israel's civilian army, not even well trained, their civilian army was outnumbered, get this, 50 to 1 by the nations of Jordan, and Egypt, and Syria. 50 to 1. Can these bones ever live?
You could ask that question today, when you have an Iran, as the general pointed out, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, saying, "The dream of greater Israel is gone. There's not even a dream of a lesser Israel." Promises to wipe it off the face of the map. Can these bones live? That question could be asked today, when the Hezbollah leader, Sheik Nasrallah, said, "After the last war with Lebanon--" in 0 6, you remember. He says, "Hezbollah has put in the final nail to the coffin of greater Israel. Today we only have mediocre Israel." Can these bones live?
Well, go over there and check it out. They're living. They're surviving. They're thriving by God's promise and by God's grace. Every now and then somebody will say, I wish we lived in Biblical times. And then they read the gospel accounts. And they say, I wish I could live in the times of the Bible. You are living in Bible times. Those things that have been predicted are coming to pass before your very eyes. You're watching the hand of God. He brought them back.
Something quickly to notice. Notice this restoration to life is a process. It's not instantaneous. First they're just dry bones and then sinews grow on them. And then eventually flesh grows on them. And then eventually breath is blown into them, and they live, and they get strong. That's a snapshot of this little country that we've been talking about.
In 70 AD, they were attacked decimated, they were scattered, the bones have been dead a long time, almost 2,000 years. Then in 1898, Theodore Hertzel called for the Jews to come back, drain the swamps in Israel. They planted eucalyptus trees, made the deserts flourish. Then on May 14, 1948, at exactly 4:32 in the afternoon, the first prime minister of the nation of Israel, David Ben-Gurion, made the announcement, Israel is now a nation.
Israel was born after 2,000 years. And now we're awaiting for the spirit of the living God to come in them and regenerate them. Israel has always been and will always be at the center of God's program on earth. I leave you with this, Jerusalem is the center, geographical center, of the Earth biblically. We have world maps, and I don't know if you're like me, but I grew up in a classroom. And the map of the world was put in the front of the classroom, and the United States was right in the middle of the map. And we grew up believing, hey, we're the center of the world. And some of us are still that naive.
In God's economy, Israel is. In Ezekiel chapter 5, the Lord says concerning Jerusalem, look I have set her in the middle of the nations all around her. Any the map of the Middle East will show you that Israel in Jerusalem is in the center of a land bridge that connects Asia and Europe and Africa. In the Bible, when directions are given, they're always given relative to Jerusalem. North in the Bible is north of Jerusalem. South is south of Jerusalem. West is west of Jerusalem. East is east of Jerusalem. It's the geographic center of the Earth biblically. It's more than that. It's the salvation center of the Earth spiritually.
Jesus had a conversation with a woman of Sumeria. And she was arguing about the right place to worship. Our father's worship in this mountain, she said. You Jews say it's Jerusalem. Remember when Jesus said? He said, you don't even know what you worship. We know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews. And there is no other place in the world where salvation was purchased. And just outside the Damascus Gate, in the city of Jerusalem, at a place called Golgotha, Calvary, where Jesus shed his blood to pay for your sins and mine. It's the salvation center of the Earth spiritually.
It's more than that. As general Boykin pointed out, it's the storm center of the Earth prophetically. Leaders around the world know this, and they're looking at Israel. The other night in the vice presidential debates, wasn't it fascinating how both candidates were quick to acknowledge, "We love Israel." We have an ally there. And there is this realization, even in the most heated political debates, that we have to watch what's going on in that storm center of the Earth.
Finally, here's the best part, it's the glory center of the Earth ultimately. It's the glory center. Isaiah said, "The law will go forth from Zion, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem." Right now Jerusalem has a king-less throne. The throne of David, still waiting for the son of David to occupy it. So think of it this way, in Jerusalem right now is a king-less throne. Right now in heaven is a throne-less king. When the throne-less king and the king-less throne come together, that will be the fullness of the world. And that is the prophetic calendar that God is moving us toward. So all of listeners that we hear about threats in the Middle East, they perk up our attention.
Yes, how odd of God to choose the Jews, but not so odd as those who choose the Jewish God and would hate the Jews. I want you to understand this. I want you to understand that as the world seems to get darker and there are threats of radical Islam and threats against Jerusalem, know that the same God who promised that he would sustain your life is the same God who promised that that would be the case. And that he would keep Israel. And the one who keeps Israel will never slumber and will never sleep. And because we're seeing that before our very eyes, you can be assured of that in your own life.
I've always loved the story of the little boy who was riding a passenger train all alone. And there were other passengers, couples, older folks, he was a little boy. A storm broke out in the journey of the train. The lightning, thunder, it was loud, and the lights were going on and off in the train. And some of the older folks were white knuckling the little bar right in front of the seat. They were obviously shaken by the storm. The little boy was playing games and singing and happy. He's a little kid, but didn't have a care in the world.
And so one of the older folks tapped a little boy in the shoulder and said, aren't you even a little bit scared being on this train all alone in this storm? And he smiled and said, no! My daddy's the engineer. Your Father in Heaven is the engineer of all that he has spoken about, some of which we are seeing take place. And if what God has promised in part has taken place, know that the rest of it is also going to take place.
I can't wait after lunch to hear our last speaker Dr. Tim Lahaye. Let's close with a word of prayer. And let's close, as we pray, with a commitment to the Lord of trust in this time, engaging in the battle, in full armor of faith.
Heavenly Father, we've come today, not just to listen to words, and more than just to get information, we want nothing less than transformation in knowing how real the battle is. But also in knowing what the end game is and knowing what your plans are and knowing what you have in store for the land of Israel.
The land that gave us the scriptures, the land that was the conduit for the very Messiah that we love and serve, Jesus Christ, the land that is at the center of your prophetic calendar, the land that Jesus will come back to, as he sets his foot on the Mount of Olives, the very land that He will rule and reign from for 1,000 years in the Millennium, before he creates a new heaven, new earth, and of all the cities he could choose for the name of the new one, the new Jerusalem.
This place has always been and will always be the center in your prophetic calendar. Thank you, Lord, that we can stand with her and pray for the peace of Jerusalem. Father, we do pray. We want to be prayerfully engaged in these elections. And responsible, not only to pray, but to act. Help us to act decisively, courageously, and more than anything, biblically. In Jesus' name, Amen.