As I recently read several articles on the Internet, regarding the Tribulation and the return of Israel, I have been confronted by the idea that Israel will not fully return to the land until Jesus returns, at the end of Armageddon. The implication is that some members of Israel will live in complete, or relative safety, in other nations, while God pours out his judgment on their brothers in Israel. Some of the “big name” scholars teach this, but there is evidence that they are wrong.
It appears that this teaching is based on the faulty reasoning that the Gog/Magog war will occur during the Tribulation period. Ezekiel 39:25 would appear to be the centre of this idea “Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD; Now will I bring again the captivity of Jacob, and have mercy upon the whole house of Israel, and will be jealous for my holy name;” The reasoning is that “since Israel is coming back at the end of this war, and this war is so bad it must occur during the Tribulation period, then Israel must return after the Tribulation.”
As I have stated in other articles, the evidence is that the Gog and Magog war will actually occur during the closing days of the Church age. In other words, the Christian Church will still be on earth during this war. There could actually be a space of several years between “Now will I bring again the captivity of Jacob” and the phrase “and have mercy upon the whole house of Israel”.
Zephaniah 2:1 & 2 give us a better idea of the timing of the final return of the people of Israel.
1 Gather yourselves together, yea, gather together, O nation not desired; 2 Before the decree bring forth, before the day pass as the chaff, before the fierce anger of the LORD come upon you, before the day of the LORD’S anger come upon you.
Who is this “nation not desired”? This is Israel. They are gathered in unbelief, and this is why they are called the “nation not desired”. The Tribulation period is designed to bring Israel to faith in Jesus Christ, and therefore their gathering together must be in unbelief. Jesus is the LORD (YHWH) who is going to bring His anger upon this nation.
The “fierce anger of the LORD” and “the day of the LORD’S anger” are references to the Tribulation period. This gives us the timing for the gathering of verse 25 of Ezekiel 39, it is before the beginning of the Day of the Lord, the Tribulation.
Look at the next verse in Zephaniah 2
3 Seek ye the LORD, all ye meek of the earth, which have wrought his judgment; seek righteousness, seek meekness: it may be ye shall be hid in the day of the LORD’S anger.
If Israel is the “nation not desired” then the “meek of the earth” are not the same people. This is a reference to the Church of Jesus Christ, or Yeshua ha Mashiach. This hiding in the day of the LORD’s anger, is not in a place on earth, but is actually a reference to the rapture, when Jesus takes His church to Heaven!
This passage is thus an Old Testament rapture passage! It times the rapture to AFTER the Gog and Magog war, around the same time as the final remnants of Israel are returning! This will also be the time when the Antichrist shows up. He will portray himself as a Savior after that war.
Notice how the terminology fits what Jesus said in Luke 21:36;
Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man.
Here in Jesus’ teaching on the End Times, He tells us to pray that we will be accounted worthy to escape all these things. The truth is that there will be many professing Christians who will be left behind. You and I can’t tell if someone is truly a part of the Lord’s Church. Many unbelievers dress like Christians, and act like Christians, and in fact many of them may actually be more zealous in certain areas of morality than true believers. They are trying to work their way to Heaven. You can find many of these unbelievers in places of authority in Churches today. Many pastors, song leaders, and Sunday school teachers, will be left behind!
You are not guaranteed a place in the rapture just because you said a certain prayer, or go to church, or preach in church. The question is “does the Lord know you?” and “are you still seeking the Lord?” Now that you have found Him, do you still keep on seeking Him, or do you go on, confident in yourself? Are you trusting Him, and His finished work on the cross, or are you seeking to add something to it?
Notice that the people who escape the Tribulation will be standing before the Son of Man. They will be in Heaven while all Hell breaks loose on earth. As the judgments of the Tribulation come upon the earth, the Church will be judged in Heaven, but none of them will be cast out!
Isaiah also wrote about a pre-Tribulation rapture, as well as the gathering of Israel.
17 Like as a woman with child, that draweth near the time of her delivery, is in pain, and crieth out in her pangs; so have we been in thy sight, O LORD. 18 We have been with child, we have been in pain, we have as it were brought forth wind; we have not wrought any deliverance in the earth; neither have the inhabitants of the world fallen.
This passage hints of the regathering of Israel. The last part of verse 18 refers to the general failure of Israel to be God’s missionary nation “ we have not wrought any deliverance in the earth; neither have the inhabitants of the world fallen”. The references to child birth in verse 17 are common biblical terms regarding the time of the Tribulation. The implication here is that since Israel has failed as God’s missionary nation, they will now be recalled back to their place of origin, like a faulty product, and God will deal with them there.
19 Thy dead men shall live, together with my dead body shall they arise. Awake and sing, ye that dwell in dust: for thy dew is as the dew of herbs, and the earth shall cast out the dead.
Verse 19 concerns the resurrection of the dead saints. This appears to be the resurrection of both the Old Testament saints as well as the Church age saints. The prophet himself is anticipating being resurrected at this time. These dead sing for joy! This is not a general resurrection of both saint and sinner, for these people have no fear, like the unbelievers will have.
Verse 20 is the pre-Tribulation rapture of the Church;
20 Come, my people, enter thou into thy chambers, and shut thy doors about thee: hide thyself as it were for a little moment, until the indignation be overpast. 21 For, behold, the LORD cometh out of his place to punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity: the earth also shall disclose her blood, and shall no more cover her slain.
The “chambers” that Isaiah refers to here are the “mansions” Jesus referred to in John 14:2. This is the rapture of the Church. They are His people, the meek of the earth, that Zephaniah spoke of.
Notice also that they are being hidden while the “indignation” is going on on the earth. This term is often used as code for the Tribulation. The judgments brought to the earth during the Tribulation period are done because of God’s indignation against the earth and her inhabitants. When professing Christians do the practises that the heathen do, like contemplative mysticism, breath prayers, and centering prayer, they invite the wrath of God!
Why won’t the earth cover her slain? There will be so many killed during the Tribulation that most of the dead bodies will lie around exposed, and rotting!
And the slain of the LORD shall be at that day from one end of the earth even unto the other end of the earth: they shall not be lamented, neither gathered, nor buried; they shall be dung upon the ground. Jeremiah 25:33
But, getting back to our subject. Is the rapture of the church related to the final gathering of Israel? I say that it is. At the time that God reverts to using Israel as His witnesses on the earth, he will call the Church to Heaven.
And it shall come to pass in that day, that the LORD shall beat off from the channel of the river unto the stream of Egypt, and ye shall be gathered one by one, O ye children of Israel. And it shall come to pass in that day, that the great trumpet shall be blown, and they shall come which were ready to perish in the land of Assyria, and the outcasts in the land of Egypt, and shall worship the LORD in the holy mount at Jerusalem. Isaiah 7:12-13
Here, the beating off from the channel of the river (the Euphrates) to the stream of Egypt (the Nile) is a reference to either the Psalm 83 war, or more likely the Gog and Magog war. Israel will expand to the borders God gave them in the Old Testament, and this will entice them to return home.
I believe the “trumpet” here is the same trumpet Paul referred to in I Thessalonians 4:16;
For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first:
It appears that this trumped does double-duty. It calls back Israel to the land, and at the same time calls the Church home. Paul also hints of this in I Corinthians 15:52;
In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.
This is the last trumpet for the exiles of Israel to return home. It has nothing to do with the trumpet judgments of the book of Revelation. The book of Revelation had not been written at the time that Paul wrote, and he appears to have had no knowledge of the judgments of that book. If he had he would have written about them, but it appears that the insights of the book of Revelation were reserved for John.
If we were to put these events into a chronological order we will first see the Psalm 83 war, then the Gog and Magog war, then the final regathering of Israel, the revealing of the Antichrist, and the rapture of the church, followed by the Tribulation period, culminating with Armageddon, and the return of Christ, coming with the very same saints who were raptured several years earlier.