Israel in the Plan of God
November 3rd, 1968 @ 7:30 PM
ISRAEL IN THE PLAN OF GOD
Dr. W. A. Criswell
11/03/68 7:30 p.m.
On the radio you are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas, and this is the pastor bringing the evening message entitled Israel in the Plan of God. As most of you know, yesterday I returned from an extensive tour of Israel and then visited Cyprus and Lebanon and Egypt, and the message tonight grows out of that journey and out of the Word of God.
And now, Lord, bless those who listen on radio, and bless the great throng that crowd into this auditorium tonight. And may the Lord honor His Word and give us faith to believe—not staggering at the promises of God—but faith to believe that God is exceeding, abundantly able to do above all that we could ever think for [Ephesians 3:2]. God will bring it to pass: these glorious, millennial promises of a better day, a better world, an incomparably glorious season over which our Prince, the Lord Jesus, shall reign in power and peace forever [Matthew 25:31]. So sanctify and hallow, Lord, this service tonight; in thy dear name, amen.
To you who are conversant with the Word of God, the message tonight will be somewhat of a summary, a summation, of things that are mentioned many times. But it does us good once in a while to get out of the forest and on a high peak and look at the topography of the land, does us good sometimes to stand away from ourselves and look at us. So tonight it will do our hearts good, by way of summary, to see in broad outline what God has revealed concerning the time of the consummation, the last days. And in that, of course, Israel, God’s chosen people—Israel figures significantly. You can almost say vastly. We shall follow some of the things that God has said about His people. And I have six of them, and we shall follow in the Word of God, and if you’d like to take your Bible and open it with me, we will just take those six things and look at them in God’s Book.
Now, the first will be Matthew 24:34, Matthew 24:34: the twenty-fourth chapter of Matthew is the apocalyptic discourse of our Lord. This is our Lord’s revelation, His unveiling of the future. And in that apocalyptic discourse, in verse 34, He says, “Truly I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled” [Matthew 24:34]. The word “generation” there is a translation of a Greek word, genea. The botanist, the biologist, the zoologist has taken that word and applied it, and they use it in the sense of “species, kind, genus.” Sometimes, in the Bible, that word will be translated “race.” It refers to the people of God, the Jewish people of the Lord, the chosen family of God. And the Lord says: “Verily I say unto you, This race, this genus, this kind, this species, this Jewish tribe, family, people shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled.” So I know from the Word of the Lord that to the end the Jew will be here. However the dissolution of other families and races and tribes and people, the Jew will be here when Jesus comes again [Matthew 24:34]. He will be here, and he will figure largely in the consummation of the age.
All right, number two: turn to the Book of Psalms, 105. Psalm 105, and we’re going to read verses 8 through 11; Psalm 105, verses 8 through 11:
He hath remembered His covenant for ever, the word which He commanded to a thousand generations.
Which covenant He made with Abraham, and His oath unto Isaac;
And confirmed the same unto Jacob for a law, and to Israel for an everlasting covenant—
saying, namely, which covenant everlasting is this—
unto the seed of Israel—
will I give the land of Canaan, the lot of your inheritance.
I have chosen that one passage, which is kind of a summary of a thousand that you will find in the Word of God. Unconditionally, God promised Palestine, the land of Canaan, to the seed of Israel. Now, whether we want to accept that or not is something else. Whether we want to believe it or not is something else. Whether we would like to deny it or not is something else. But, if you open God’s Book, and if you receive God’s Word, then the question of Palestine for you is settled forever!
In the Bible, this is not something that is peripheral. It is foundational! Israel is always connected in some way with her land. She’s in it. She’s out of it. She is taken away from it because of her sins [2 Kings 17:7-23], or she’s being restored to it in the providences of God [Isaiah 14:1-2], or the Lord is leading to some great gathering of the Diaspora of the scattered family of the Lord [Isaiah 43:5-7], but always Israel is connected with her land. You find that—and I mentioned it this morning—you find that in the heart of any Jew anywhere in the world.
I don’t have any particular longing for England, where my forefathers came from. If you were to describe to me some covenant of God that binds me to the British Isles, I would look at you in amazement, in astonishment! Yet my people, my forefathers, came from England and from Ireland and from Scotland. We are a mongrel group, our bunch. We are mutts. We are just mixed up, all kinds, but we came from the British Isles. But it would be foolish for somebody to talk to me about any covenant of God that pertains to me and my forefathers to England. Yet that is what binds a Jew to Palestine forever, and there’s no exception to it. If he is a Jew anywhere in the world, his heart turns in sympathy, in deepest interest, toward the Holy Land, and God says that Holy Land is his. There is no condition in that promise, in that covenant, in that testament.
Now, you can talk—and we could for hours here—I listened to an able businessman in Lebanon. He took us to dinner, the most luxurious dinner I ever ate in my life. There were—there were fifty different kinds of appetizers to begin with. By the time I got down to the dinner, I was about to break. Oh, I did not know you had such things. They came out of the sea. They came out of the air. They came out of the land. They came from everywhere.
A very fine man, but a Lebanese man, that is, an Arab man—that is, an anti-Jewish man, and he talked for two and a half hours, and I’m in sympathy with what he says, and I understand his point of view. But whatever that point of view and whatever the Arab tribes around Israel have to say, to me this question of Palestine is settled forever. God has promised it as an inheritance, for an everlasting covenant to the seed of Israel. It belongs from God’s hand to them [Psalm 105:8-11].
Now we must hasten, for there are six of these, and one of them especially I want to expatiate upon. First: God says the Jew is going to be here; “He will be here when I come” [Matthew 24:34]. Second: He says that the land of Palestine belongs to him [Psalm 105:8-11], and one of the sermons that I’m going to preach is this: there will never be peace in this world until there is peace in Palestine. “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: they shall prosper that love thee” [Psalm 122:6]. There will never be peace in this world until there is peace in Jerusalem, and there will never be peace in Jerusalem until God’s holy promise is fulfilled that the land, and the city, and the nation, and the country belong to them.
All right, third: God says that the Jew is going to return to Palestine in unbelief. Now turn to Ezekiel, the prophet Ezekiel, chapter 36—Ezekiel, chapter 36. We have such a cursory review of these things, so we just look at one or two verses. God says in Ezekiel 36:19: “And I scattered them”—the people of the Lord—”I scattered them among the heathen, and they were dispersed through the countries.” Then He continues—and we’re going to start in verse 24, scattering the Jewish people among the nations of the world. “I will take you from among the nations”—from among the heathen—”I will take you from among the nations, and gather you out of all countries, and will bring you into your own land” [Ezekiel 36:24]. Now look at the next verse: “Then, will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean [Ezekiel 36:25]. A new heart will I give you” [Ezekiel 36:26]—verse 28: “And ye shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers; and ye shall be My people, and I will be your God” [Ezekiel 36:28].
Now, the reason I know that they are going to return in unbelief is this: God says, “I scattered them throughout the nations of the earth” [Ezekiel 36:19]; then He said, “I will take you from among those nations, and gather you out of all countries, and will bring you into your own land” [Ezekiel 36:24]. Verse 25: “Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean” [Ezekiel 36:25]. Therefore, I know that when Israel turns back to the land, and their faith is turned toward Palestine, I know they’re coming back in rebellion, and in rejection, and in unbelief because, after they return, then it is that God will bring to pass these great consummating end times of the latter days [Revelation 4-19]. When God deals with Israel, Israel is going to be in her land [Isaiah 14:-12]. She will turn her face towards Palestine, and that’s what you’re beginning to see come to pass in your days.
In 1948—I was alive in 1948. Most of us were. In 1948, Israel was born. The nation came into being. And, by the thousands and by the thousands, the Jew is turning toward Palestine. As you read in your papers yesterday, because of the anti-Semitism of Poland and the Russians that have taken over Czechoslovakia, there are thousands and thousands of Jews now that are seeking to leave Poland and Czechoslovakia and go back to Palestine. And as I said in my sermon this morning, when I was there, soon after 1948, I saw the Yemenite Jew and the Baghdad Jew and all of the Jews of Arabian Middle East, from Tripoli, all of the countries, I saw them pouring into Palestine, one by one, family by family, thousands by thousands.
The Jew is turning his face homeward, and when you listen to him talk, he will say, “We have no other place to go. We are persecuted and despised and massacred and placed in camps, and we are tormented and tortured. Our only hope lies in the homeland.” And, the Jew, in our generation, our time, is turning his face homeward. Well, God says that. When God deals with the Jew, He is going to deal with him in that land.
All right, we must hasten. The next thing: turn to 2 Thessalonians, chapter 2—2 Thessalonians, chapter 2. When you go to Jerusalem today, there will be, above the great rock on which Abraham sacrificed Isaac [Genesis 22:1-2, 6-11], and on which Solomon built his temple [2 Chronicles 3:1]—you will find a great mosque. It is called the Mosque of Omar, or the Mosque of the Dome of the Rock. It was originally a church. Long ago it was a church, but as you know, Saladin conquered the crusaders, and the church that was built above that rock where Solomon had his temple was changed into a Muslim mosque.
The United States government not long ago gave Jordan, who then owned the eastern part of Jerusalem, in which the Old City was located—the United States government gave $20,000,000 for the refurbishing and the embellishment of the Mosque of Omar. And when you go look at it, the dome is gold, just recently completed, just before the Jordanians were driven out. And the whole building is a fantastic gem of beauty and architectural glory. The stained-glass windows in the Mosque of Omar are beyond anything in the earth. Each one of those windows cost about $35,000, and they’re not large. They look like jewels. The whole building, when you get away from it, it looks so unimposing and sort of insignificant, but when you come into it, it is a most impressive building.
It is there that Mohammed is supposed to have returned to heaven, and on the side of the rock is a little container, about so big, in which are three hairs of the prophet Mohammed. And they all come and put their hand in a little place there and touch the box that contains the three hairs of the prophet Mohammed. Now, to the Muslim, of course, that is a sacred place. Mecca is the most sacred, and next to Mecca is that Mosque of Omar, the Dome of the Rock. But God says it belongs to the Jew, and God says the Jew is going to rebuild his temple there [Exodus 15:17]. Now when you face the complications, political and otherwise, international, of that sacred place, why, you can hardly believe that such a thing would come to pass. Whoever dared touch that mosque would immediately bring upon himself a holy war by fifty million Arabs. They’re already united in their hatred for Israel. They would certainly be united in a fanaticism immeasurable if anyone dared to touch that mosque. But there is coming a time when every stone in that mosque will be taken down and carried out into another place, and the Jew is going to rebuild his temple in that place!
Now I’ve chosen just one passage. You will find in the ninth chapter of the Book of Daniel—at the end time—that the temple is rebuilt [Daniel 9:26]. You will find in the eleventh chapter of the Book of the Revelation that the temple is rebuilt [Revelation 11:1]. And now, in the second chapter of 2 Thessalonians, you will find the temple is rebuilt. Now, look at it: 2 Thessalonians, chapter 2. This man, who is the Antichrist, the man of sin, who is described in this second chapter, the son of perdition [2 Thessalonians 2:3]—now look at him, verse 4: “He opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshiped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God” [2 Thessalonians 2:4].
“Do you not remember I told you these things?” [2 Thessalonians 2:5]. That’s what Paul writes there. Now, in that fourth verse, the temple is rebuilt [2 Thessalonians 2:4]. The temple of God refers to that holy sanctuary on Mt. Moriah, spoken of in Daniel 9, spoken of in Revelation 11, and here, standing rebuilt, in which the final Antichrist will assume the prerogative of deity [2 Thessalonians 2:4]. And this is in the consummation of the age. So that temple of the Jew is going to be rebuilt some day, some time, on Mt. Moriah.
Now—for we must hasten—now turn to Ezekiel 38. Ezekiel 38. God says the enemy of Israel is Russia. I have never sensed that so deeply, poignantly, as I have in this last journey. Russia covers the horizon of the Middle East today. It enters into everything, every area of life, and mostly in dread and foreboding on the part of Israel. Now I want you to look at Ezekiel 38:
The word of the Lord came unto me, saying,
Son of man, set thy face against Gog, the land of Magog, the prince of Rosh, of Meshech and Tubal, and prophesy against him,
And say, Thus saith the Lord God; Behold, I am against thee, O Gog, the prince of Rosh, of Meshech and Tubal:
And I will turn thee back, and put hooks into thy jaws, and I will bring thee forth, and all thine army . . .
Now, the whole chapter and the following was about that. Now turn to verses 15 and 16:
Thou shalt come up from thy place out of the north, thou, and thy people with thee, riding upon horses, a great company, and a mighty army;
And thou shalt come up against My people of Israel, as a cloud to cover the land; it shall be in the latter days, and I will bring thee against My land…
Now, those names there have meaning. And some of our finest scholars give us the meaning like this: “Son of man, set thy face against Gog, the land of Magog”—now you have it, “the chief prince” [Ezekiel 38:2]. The Hebrew of that is “the prince of Rosh,” and these scholars say Rosh is an old and ancient name for Russia. Today, you say “Russia.” When Ezekiel wrote this prophecy, he called the land “the prince of Rosh.” Now, “of Meshech” [Ezekiel 38:2]: these scholars say that that modern name is Moscow, “and Tubal,” and these modern scholars say that that is Tobolsk. The modern name is Tobolsk, one of the great cities of Russia. Meshech is the ancient name for modern Moscow, and what is translated “chief prince” in the Hebrew is the prince of Rosh, the prince of Russia. God says that the great enemy of Israel is Russia! [Ezekiel 38:2]. And when you go and visit that land, you will find that Russia—Russia is the gigantic terror and threat of the land of Palestine. Russia enters into every configuration of the development of political and international life in that area. And this is a new development.
Now, I told you that in one hand I was going to hold the Bible—this is a prophecy uttered about six hundred years before Christ—and that in the other hand I was going to hold a newspaper. And what this prophet Ezekiel uttered, prophesied, six hundred years before Christ, you’re going to read in the headline of the daily paper. Now, I hold in my hand the Jerusalem Post, which is an English language newspaper in Jerusalem. Here, the prophet Ezekiel says that:
The word of the Lord came unto me, saying, Set thy face against the prince of Russia and against Moscow and Tobolsk, and say, I will turn thee back.
Say, They are coming out of the north parts, a great army, and they are coming against My people, Israel, like a cloud to cover the land; it shall be in the latter days, and on and on, the prophecy.
[Ezekiel 38:1-4, 15-16]
Now the newspaper I hold in my hand: the headline on the right side is this: “Israel not alone if Soviet Union intervenes.” Then I turn, and on inside of the newspaper: “Soviet threat in the western Mediterranean.”
There is some reason why Russia is pouring billions and billions of dollars into the rearmament of the Arab world, Nasser and his allies. I think those reasons are two. First: Russia is seeking ports for her great battle fleet in the Mediterranean, and she is getting those ports by rearming the Arab world. When you go to Alexandria, you will find the home base of the Soviet fleet in the Mediterranean world, and she is now in the process of making arrangements for other bases for her fleet in the Mediterranean. It has been said whoever controls the Mediterranean Sea controls civilization. It was controlled by the Greeks. It was controlled by the Phoenicians. It was controlled by the Romans. It was controlled by the Turks. It was controlled by the British. It was controlled by America, as of now. The Mediterranean now is under the surveillance of the Sixth American Naval Fleet, but day-by-day and moment-by-moment that is being challenged. The American ascendancy in the Mediterranean Sea is being challenged by the Russian naval units that are pouring into those waters. They’re adding to those fleets, adding to those fleets day-by-day, day-by-day. Such a thing was impossible unless Russia could get bases by which her fleet could be refueled and repairs made, and other things that concern the keeping of a giant flotilla at sea. Russia now has that, in exchange for the arms that she is pouring into the Arabian combine; alliance.
All right, second: in my humble judgment, I think Russia has less oil than we think for. To the outside world, Russia gives the appearance of having a superfluous oil reserve, “sell it to you for half of what the Western world will give it to you.” She gives that impression: “We have oil and to spare.” I personally do not believe that. I think that is a front, and I think the second great reason why Russia is entering the Mediterranean world and has aligned herself with those Arab states is this: Russia needs oil. Without oil, no army can move, no industry can run, no navy can sail. In this modern world of the wheel and power and engine, oil is a dire necessity. And those two things are bringing Russia into the Mediterranean.
Now, back of everything you read in those dire and disastrous developments in the Middle East, you will find the hand of Russia. Were it not for Russia, they’d be making peace over there. Israel would be sitting down with King Hussein, head of Jordan; Israel would be sitting down with Lebanon; Israel would be sitting down with Egypt, and there would be peace treaties concluded. But Russia sees to it that no such peace treaty is ever made. And on the floor of the General Assembly of the U.N., and in the Security Council, and by untold billions of dollars, she stirs up that Arab world. And Russia is seeing to it that there is no peace in the Middle East. And finally God says Russia will intervene militarily. Russia someday will send her armies into Palestine [Ezekiel 38:15], and this I think, according to the Word of God, is the beginning of the great final battle of Armageddon [Revelation 16:16].
When you leave the Israeli world and go into the Egyptian world, what an amazing difference! For example, I picked up the Egyptian Gazette. This is an English language newspaper published in Egypt. Now, I had just left Jericho. I had just been there. I was there when this article describes what happened. And I walked around Jericho, just walked around, looking at it, had a car available and a wonderful driver, drove around all through that area, the whole thing, from front to back and top to bottom, going down to Qumran, going to see where those Dead Sea Scrolls were found, which is beyond Jericho.
Now, I picked up this paper, the Egyptian Gazette, when I went down to Egypt, and here is a great black headline; “Israeli Army Fires on Jericho Schoolgirls”—mowing them down. Next great article here, in the Egyptian Gazette: “United States Sixth Fleet Very Vulnerable to Soviet Missiles,” and that thrills them to death: the fact that the Soviet is bringing armaments, and vessels, and battleships into the Mediterranean, with those guided missiles whereby they could sink every ship that the Americans have. That thrills Nasser!
All of these things, according to the Word of God, all of these things are in the prophecy concerning Russia! And in this end time Russia plays a tremendous part, but a disastrous one. According to the Word of God, her armies will find their ultimate and final defeat on the hills of Palestine [Revelation 16:16]. It is there that the great confrontation will be made between God and His Son and His people, and the forces of atheism and heathenism and darkness [Revelation 19:17-21]. That great, final confrontation will be made at the battle of Armageddon in Palestine [Zechariah 12:3-9]. And the world is getting ready for it now.
Now our time is gone. I have one other. Spare me just a moment and let’s read. Turn to Romans 11. Turn to Romans 11, and we’re going to read it out loud, together. Romans 11, verse 25 through verse 29. Romans 11, verse 25 through verse 29. Now all of us reading it out loud; Romans 11, beginning at verse 25, reading through verse 29:
For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles be come in.
And so all Israel shall be saved; as it is written, There shall come out of Zion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob;
For this is My covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins.
As concerning the gospel, they are enemies for your sakes: but as touching the election, they are beloved for the fathers’ sakes.
For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance.
Now, dear people, you may have ten thousand explanations, extenuations, but the Word of God says this: “Blindness in part has happened to Israel until the plērōma, the full number of the Gentiles be come in” [Romans 11:25]. There is a certain number—and when I have spoken of this, there have been people who have so violently objected to it; I didn’t say it, God said it—there is a certain number of Gentiles that are going to be saved in this day and era of grace. There’s a certain number of Gentiles who are going to be saved, and when that last one comes down the aisle, the consummation of the age is at hand. Until the fullness, the plērōma, the full number of the Gentiles be come in, and when that last Gentile has been saved, has come down this aisle, has given his heart to Jesus, when that last Gentile has been saved, God, in the consummation of the age, is going to turn and deal with the people of the Lord.
And, he continues, “And so all Israel shall be saved” [Romans 11:26]. Now, you can take that in any way that you wish to discuss it, but it’s in the Bible: “And so all Israel shall be saved, as it is written”—and he quotes: “There shall come out of Zion that Deliverer, that Savior, and He shall turn away iniquity and sin from Israel” [Romans 11:26-27]. A nation is going to be born in a day [Isaiah 66:8], “for this is My covenant with them. They are beloved for the fathers’ sakes” [Romans 11:27-28]. When God made a promise to Abraham and confirmed it to Isaac and confirmed it to Jacob [Psalm 105:8-11], God said, “I will never change” [Malachi 3:6]. A man may change, but not God, “For the gifts and the calling of God are without repentance” [Romans 11:29]; are without turning, without change, and every promise—and there are ten thousand of them—every promise that God made to Israel, He will faithfully keep someday, somehow, somewhere.
May I make this final and concluding remark? Aren’t you glad that you can trust God? Aren’t you glad? God swore and made a promise to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob [Genesis 25:10-12; Psalm 105:8-11], and a thousand years may pass, but God hasn’t forgotten His word. God will keep His promise [Galatians 3:29], and God has made a promise to us that if we trust in His Son and look in faith to Jesus, He would see us through in life, in death, in the judgment, and in the world to come [1 John 5:11]. And the Lord will surely bring it to pass, even according to His holy, immutable, unchanging, and blessed word [2 Peter 1:19].
Now we must sing our hymn of appeal, and while we sing this song, a family you, or a couple you, or one somebody you, putting your life in the hands of God, coming into the fellowship of His church, looking in faith to the Lord, make the decision now, and in a moment when we stand up to sing, stand up coming. “Here I am, pastor. I’m on the way. I’m coming now. All of us are coming.” The whole family, or just you, while we make the appeal, do come. Give your heart to God. Say yes now, and the Lord bless you in the way, while we stand and while we sing.