Is Jewish aliyah back to Israel something that Christians should encourage and support, in fulfillment of Jeremiah 16:14-16?
There are Christian ministries, such as Ezra International, which assist Jewish people in the world to "make aliyah" or immigrate to Israel. Is this Jewish aliyah something that Christians should encourage and support?
For me, this is a complex issue. I will explain why I think that "making aliyah" is encouraged by many Hebraic and Christian groups. Then I will explain why I feel that, possibly, some Scripture passages pertaining to this may have been misinterpreted. Before I go further, I want to make it clear that I adamantly reject "replacement theology" or "supersessionism," as this commentary I have written should make clear: God's Covenant: with Israel or the Church?
Many believe that God wants Christians to be directly instrumental in helping Jews and other Israelites, scattered and relocated among the nations for millennia (such as during the diaspora), to return to their homeland, Israel. Certainly, because Gentiles have shared in the spiritual blessings of the Jews, they should share their material blessings with them (Romans 15:27), presumably including such things as money, gas masks, food, shelter, clothes, water and Bibles. I absolutely endorse groups, including Ezra International, in their mission to help needy Jews and Israelites in these ways, whether in Israel or in other nations.
However, I will show why I feel it will be none other than God, personally, who will bring the Jews and Israelites back to Israel after the Messiah returns at the end of the 70th Week. Then they will live permanently in their land, never will be harassed or attacked again by their enemies, and will know once and for all, and forevermore thereafter, that the Lord is their God.
Incidentally, there is a difference between "Jews" and "Israelites" (see tribes of Jacob/Israel). Many people use the terms "Jews" and "Jewish" in referring to everyone in the twelve tribes of Israelóthose who have Jacob (Israel) as their common ancestor. However, Jews, more specifically, are of the tribe of Judah. They settled in the region of Jerusalem and Judea before and after the Babylonian captivity (Nehemiah 7:6). Many Benjamites and Levites, and even some of those from the other tribes, also settled there; and, loosely speaking, they may be considered to be "Jews" as well. Over the millennia, many of these and their descendents have left Judea and moved out into the world.
In addition, many Israelites, taken into captivity by Assyria (2 Kings 5:29, 17:5,6,18,23, 18:11), were scattered into the nations of the world. Biblically, they are referred to as "Ephraimites" (Genesis 48:16), who have mixed with the nations (Hosea 7:8). Ephraim was one of the sons of Joseph, a son of Jacob, whose name was changed to Israel by God (Genesis 30:24, 32:28, 41:52.)
Some of the descendants of these scattered individuals have come to find their identities as Israelites, but multitudes have not; their identities are lost to all but God. They have been "exiled" by God; but they will be regathered, by the Lord, back to Israel, and their land will be restored to them, at the very end of the age (Zechariah 10:6-10).
On May 14, 1948, Israel declared the establishment of the State of Israel:
The thirteenth paragraph of that historic document begins, "THE STATE OF ISRAEL will be open for Jewish immigration and for the Ingathering of the Exiles...." Regardless of what the Bible says, then, this is an open invitation to Jews and scattered Israelites, from the other tribes, to move to Israel. Furthermore, as far as I know, people of Israeli descent, whether Jewish or otherwise, are free to become citizens of Israel, regardless of where they are born (although Jews who openly proclaim Yeshua/Jesus as Messiah may have a problem being granted citizenship).
Pertaining to Ezra International (E.I.), specifically, I assume that this organization's name is taken from the book of Ezra, which includes an account of the thousands of Jews, Benjamites, and Levites who returned to Jerusalem after having been exiled to Babylon. Their website states that their mission is to "rescue Jewish people in the former Soviet Union from danger and poverty, saving them from violent situations and providing humanitarian aid" and also to "help them return to Israel to make aliyah in fulfillment of Bible prophecy (Jeremiah 16:14-16). We restore their hope and their quality of life by giving them a new start in their homeland of Israel."
In any case, I am totally in favor of their first goal of aiding Jewish/Israeli people in the Soviet Union and wherever else they require aid. I have no doubt that Ezra International vice president Barry Wagner, his wife, and all of their staff members have the best of hearts and the purest of motives in what they are doing to help Jews and Israelites, especially those living in poverty. I also believe that these are wonderful things to be doing for persecuted, down-trodden, poverty-stricken descendents of Jacob/Israel.
However, one important thing I see missing in E.I.'s Five-Fold Ministry is presenting the Gospel message and the saving knowledge about Jesus to these people, which they could take with them to the land of Israel and relay to others who are there. Furthermore, I question what seems to be their primary goal: returning present-day descendants of Israel back to their original homeland. Let's look at the passage, Jeremiah 16:14-16, which E.I. advocates:
14"However, the days are coming," declares the LORD, "when men will no longer say, 'As surely as the LORD lives, who brought the Israelites up out of Egypt,' 15but they will say, 'As surely as the LORD lives, who brought the Israelites up out of the land of the north and out of all the countries where he had banished them.' For I will restore them to the land I gave their forefathers. 16"But now I will send for many fishermen," declares the LORD, "and they will catch them. After that I will send for many hunters, and they will hunt them down on every mountain and hill and from the crevices of the rocks. (Jeremiah 16:14-16)Actually, verse 14 is referring to the Israelites brought, by Moses, out of ancient Egypt, not present-day Israelites being brought into their homeland. Specifically, though, I want to focus on verse 16. Without reading the context of the entire chapter, it sounds like God will be sending people (such as Christians who love the Israeli people), figuratively known as "fishermen" and "hunters," to help "catch" these Israelites. Then the assumption is made that those who are "caught" will be taken back to their land of Israel, where they will be allowed to thrive and prosper.
I see a problem with this interpretation, though, since I do not feel this is what Jeremiah 16:16, when taken in its full context, is saying. Anyone who reads the three chapters Jeremiah 14-16 will see that the text is talking about how Israel will be punished for its disobedience. The "fishermen" and "hunters" will not be friends of Israelites (or Jews); they will be their enemies, sent by God to destroy them (Jeremiah 15:3), because they will have backslidden and rejected God (15:6), as well as followed, served and worshiped other gods (16:11). So before the banished Israelites are restored, permanently, to the land of their forefathers, they will have to undergo a great amount of devastation by their enemies and discipline by God.
I see either one of two possibilities, concerning Ezra International (E.I.):
17My eyes are on all their [Israel's] ways; they are not hidden from me, nor is their sin concealed from my eyes. 18I will repay them double for their wickedness and their sin, because they have defiled my land with the lifeless forms of their vile images and have filled my inheritance with their detestable idols. (Jeremiah 16:17,18)Here are even harsher passages showing that God is capable of being extremely angry with His chosen people, Israel, and destroying many of them or ordering the destruction, by others, of those in Jerusalem who had not grieved and lamented over the detestable idolatry that had been taking place:
Therefore the LORD's anger burns against his people; his hand is raised and he strikes them down. The mountains shake, and the dead bodies are like refuse in the streets. Yet for all this, his anger is not turned away, his hand is still upraised. (Isaiah 5:25)Look at a prophetic passage showing how God will bring Gog and his mighty army, from the far north, against His people, Israel:
3Now the glory of the God of Israel went up from above the cherubim, where it had been, and moved to the threshold of the temple. Then the LORD called to the man clothed in linen who had the writing kit at his side 4and said to him, "Go throughout the city of Jerusalem and put a mark on the foreheads of those who grieve and lament over all the detestable things that are done in it." 5As I listened, he said to the others, "Follow him through the city and kill, without showing pity or compassion. 6Slaughter old men, young men and maidens, women and children, but do not touch anyone who has the mark. Begin at my sanctuary." So they began with the elders who were in front of the temple. (Ezekiel 9:3-6)
14Therefore, son of man, prophesy and say to Gog: "This is what the Sovereign LORD says: In that day, when my people Israel are living in safety, will you not take notice of it? 15You will come from your place in the far north, you and many nations with you, all of them riding on horses, a great horde, a mighty army. 16You will advance against my people Israel like a cloud that covers the land. In days to come, O Gog, I will bring you against my land, so that the nations may know me when I show myself holy through you before their eyes." (Ezekiel 38:14-16)Thus, it seems that what will happen is that Gog and his armies, from the north, will attack the land of Israel (Ezekiel 38:16) and, most likely, will carry many of the people into captivity back to the north (where many of them already have been for a very long time). Then, after Jesus returns and destroys these armies, He Himself will bring the captive Israelites back from the north and restore them to their land in Israel (Jeremiah 16:15). Differences between the carnage of Gog/Magog and the battle of Armageddon are detailed in my Final Battles commentary.
Now, the following is another single verse used by Barry Wagner, of E.I., to justify bringing exiles back to Israel by Christian Gentiles:
This is what the Sovereign LORD says: "See, I will beckon to the Gentiles, I will lift up my banner to the peoples; they will bring your sons in their arms and carry your daughters on their shoulders. (Isaiah 49:22)Well, again, let's keep reading:
23"Kings will be your foster fathers, and their queens your nursing mothers. They will bow down before you with their faces to the ground; they will lick the dust at your feet. Then you will know that I am the LORD; those who hope in me will not be disappointed." 24Can plunder be taken from warriors, or captives rescued from the fierce? 25But this is what the LORD says: "Yes, captives will be taken from warriors, and plunder retrieved from the fierce; I will contend with those who contend with you, and your children I will save. 26I will make your oppressors eat their own flesh; they will be drunk on their own blood, as with wine. Then all mankind will know that I, the LORD, am your Savior, your Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob." (Isaiah 49:23-26)The Gentiles (non-Israelites) in Isaiah 49:22 are not benevolent helpers; they are "fierce warriors" who, previously, will have plundered the Israelites and taken them into captivity (Zechariah 14:2). Moreover, it appears that God will contend with these Gentiles by forcing them to bring the sons and daughters (descendants) of Israel back to their homeland and to return everything that was stolen from them.
These Gentiles will bow down before the Israelites and lick the dust at their feet (Isaiah 49:23). Do members of E.I. and similar organizations do this to the people they have brought back to Israel? I do not think so. What's more, does all mankind now know that God is the Lord, Savior, Redeemer, and Mighty One of Jacob/Israel? Definitely not. Islam, for one, would argue vehemently against that notion.
It has been noted that words such as "warriors" and "fierce," as well as "oppressors," are used to describe these Gentiles. Are Christians who are helping Jews and Israelites return to Israel considered to be fierce warriors or oppressors? Have they been forced to eat their own flesh or to drink their own blood? Certainly not.
Also, Jewish/Israeli captives and plunder will be taken from these fierce warriors. This will not occur until after Jerusalem and Israel have been attacked, the people captured and exiled again, and their houses ransacked (plundered and looted), near the very end of the age, just before the Messiah returns to save them:
2I will gather all the nations to Jerusalem to fight against it; the city will be captured, the houses ransacked, and the women raped. Half of the city will go into exile, but the rest of the people will not be taken from the city. 3Then the LORD will go out and fight against those nations, as he fights in the day of battle. 4On that day his feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, east of Jerusalem.... (Zechariah 14:2-4)I will not judge the intentions or the motives of Barry Wagner, whom I believe to be a good and sincere man, nor of other members of E.I. and organizations like it. All I can say is that I question whether it is the best thing for the descendents of Jacob to bring them back to Israel in this modern age. Arguably, Israel is the most hated nation on earth, and Jerusalem's end-time devastation is yet to come (see destruction of Jerusalem) during the "time of Jacob's trouble" (Jeremiah 30:5-7) and the Great Tribulation period (Matthew 24:21).
Some might say, "But Jeremiah chapters 14 through 16 are talking about ancient Israel, not the Israel of the future." Yet, if that is the case, then why do E.I., and similar ministries, contend that Jeremiah 16:14-16 tells us that we now, near the end of the age, should be helping Jews return to Israel?
The Bible often has multiple instances of fulfillment of numerous passages, and I feel that chapters 14 through 16 of Jeremiah constitute one such example. So I think the question really is this: Should we be helping Jews and other Israelites, scattered among the nations (Genesis 48:19), to return to Israel, or is this something we should leave entirely up to God to do when the Messiah comes?
Let's compare three passages in Jeremiah 14, 15, and 16 with one passage in Revelation 6:
11Then the LORD said to me, "Do not pray for the well-being of this people. 12Although they fast, I will not listen to their cry; though they offer burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them. Instead, I will destroy them with the sword, famine and plague." (Jeremiah 14:11,12)Here is another comparison between Jeremiah 15 and Revelation 13:
"I will send four kinds of destroyers against them," declares the LORD, "the sword to kill and the dogs to drag away and the birds of the air and the beasts of the earth to devour and destroy. (Jeremiah 15:3)
"They will die of deadly diseases. They will not be mourned or buried but will be like refuse lying on the ground. They will perish by sword and famine, and their dead bodies will become food for the birds of the air and the beasts of the earth." (Jeremiah 16:4)
7When the Lamb opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature say, "Come!" 8I looked, and there before me was a pale horse! Its rider was named Death, and Hades was following close behind him. They were given power over a fourth of the earth to kill by sword, famine and plague, and by the wild beasts of the earth. (Revelation 6:7,8)
And if they ask you, "Where shall we go?" tell them, "This is what the LORD says: 'Those destined for death, to death; those for the sword, to the sword; those for starvation, to starvation; those for captivity, to captivity.'" (Jeremiah 15:2)I feel that although these things have happened to the Israelites in the past, all of them will happen yet again during the Great Tribulation period. So, if this is the case, isn't it worth considering the possibility that by helping Jews and Israelites, residing throughout the world, to return to Israel now, we are assisting and contributing to their destruction when Israel is attacked and assaulted by their enemies, near the very end of the age?
If anyone is to go into captivity, into captivity he will go. If anyone is to be killed with the sword, with the sword he will be killed. (Revelation 13:10a)
Next, I believe there is something else to consider. The Lord said,
3"I myself will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the countries where I have driven them and will bring them back to their pasture, where they will be fruitful and increase in number. 4I will place shepherds over them who will tend them, and they will no longer be afraid or terrified, nor will any be missing," declares the LORD. ... 7"So then, the days are coming," declares the LORD, "when people will no longer say, 'As surely as the LORD lives, who brought the Israelites up out of Egypt,' 8but they will say, 'As surely as the LORD lives, who brought the descendants of Israel up out of the land of the north and out of all the countries where he had banished them.' Then they will live in their own land." (Jeremiah 23:3,4,7,8)Firstly, we know that this regathering of scattered Israelites will be at the conclusion of the age, since the Lord "will place shepherds over them who will tend them...." I believe that the "shepherds" will be believers in the Messiah, Yeshua/Jesus, who will be transformed and glorified in a Rapture event or events.
Secondly, those who are brought back to their "pastures" (Israel) "will no longer be afraid or terrified." Again, this seems to point to the very end of the age, after Israel's Messiah has returned, because only then will they never be afraid or terrified of their enemies again. The Lord will have crushed and vanquished all of their enemies.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, it appears that God Himself will be the one to regather the scattered Israelites back to Israel. The passage makes a comparison of this end-time regathering with the bringing of the ancient Israelites out of Egypt (Jeremiah 23:7). We know that the latter was a direct, supernatural act performed by God, as the pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night.
Thus, I am inclined to believe that the end-time regathering, as well, will involve some type of supernatural intervention by God. Essentially, Israel, as a nation, will "die"; then it will be "resurrected" again, when its Messiah returns (Ezekiel 37:1-14). This ultimate ingathering of the descendants of Jacob very well may be part of the final harvest of "good grapes" (Revelation 14:14-16) before the "bad grapes" are thrown into the winepress of God's wrath and "trampled" by Jesus Himself (14:17-20).
It seems to me, then, that God will not use people to perform the final ingathering of Israelites from among the nations and back to Israel. Rather, He will do this Himself, and this will be at the time that Yeshua, Israel's Messiah, returns to rule and reign. Only then will Israel live in true safety, with no more enemies to attack them. Only then will God show Himself holy, in person, to all the nations. Here are two more passages that seem to corroborate these points:
24"No longer will the people of Israel have malicious neighbors who are painful briers and sharp thorns. Then they will know that I am the Sovereign LORD." 25This is what the Sovereign LORD says: "When I gather the people of Israel from the nations where they have been scattered, I will show myself holy among them in the sight of the nations. Then they will live in their own land, which I gave to my servant Jacob. 26They will live there in safety and will build houses and plant vineyards; they will live in safety when I inflict punishment on all their neighbors who maligned them. Then they will know that I am the LORD their God." (Ezekiel 28:24-26)Does Israel no longer have malicious neighbors? Has God Himself gathered the Israelites from the nations? Have all of the Israelites recognized God as being their holy God? Does Israel live in safety? Has God cleansed these people from their impurities and idols? Has God put His Spirit into the Israelites (in fulfillment of Zechariah 12:10), and do they follow His decrees and keep His laws? No, by and large, these things have not happened.
24For I will take you out of the nations; I will gather you from all the countries and bring you back into your own land. 25I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. 26I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. 27And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. 28You will live in the land I gave your forefathers; you will be my people, and I will be your God. (Ezekiel 36:24-28)
Some will claim that all of these things happened in 1948, when Israel became a nation again, but I firmly disagree with that notion. I believe that they they will not happen until after the Messiah of Israel returns physically and presents Himself before them, in their midst. Only then will they have undeniable proof that He exists and that He has saved them from all of their enemies, and they will embrace Him as their Messiah, Lord, Savior, and King.
Ezekiel 34:11-15 is another passage showing that it is God Himself who will do the following when Israel's Shepherd, Yeshua/Jesus, comes to reign:
But then, near the very end of the age, Israel will be attacked by the Gog and Magog forces (see my Final Battles commentary). It is at that time, I believe, that many in Jerusalem and Israel will be captured and taken into exile (Zechariah 14:2). Finally, the Lord Jesus will return, fight against the attackers (14:3), and ultimately will be the One who will regather many of these back to Israel. Then they will be restored, permanently, to the land of their forefathers.
As I have stated previously, I absolutely do endorse the humanitarian aid of money, gas masks, food, shelter, clothes, water, Bibles, and other items that Ezra International and similar organizations provide to needy Jews and Israelites in Israel and in other nations. However, I simply have difficulty endorsing the movement to help Jews and Israelites return to, and settle in, Israel at this time. Certainly, God will protect many Jews in Israel during the final 1,260 days or 3Ĺ years of this age (Revelation 12:6,14); however, I see this as being, primarily, the people who will flee the area of Judea (Matthew 24:16).
So for me, if I were to consider being a part of this, the bottom line is that the following questions would stir my conscience:
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