I often reflect on my and my wife's first tour of the Holy Land in 1999 (although we have done others since). I thought of the millions of previous pilgrims who came before me and took in what I now was beholding.
Centre stage are the places and events of the Bible; there was something more. Perhaps summed up by the feeling, that as I entered the land of Israel for the very first time, my soul, was in high anticipation for the yet-to-be fulfilled Biblical prophecies.
What are these Biblical prophecies, but first, some facts about modern Israel.
Of the approximately 250 nations today, Israel with seven million people, is one of the smallest in land mass. At 20,323 sq km, it is less than a third of Victoria. After being a protectorate under British rule since 1917 (then known as 'Palestine'), Israel has been a western-style democracy since its Independence in 1948.
Although mineral wealth is limited, Israel has made use of the plethora of educated Jewish migrants from war-torn Europe to invest heavily in areas that will help support its population; first in agricultural innovation (the Kibbutzim are legendary), and more recently in medical research and electronic technical expertise.
Many international companies undertake research and manufacture there, and many scientific and agricultural researchers from all over the world (Jews and non-Jews) find congenial conditions to undertake their work. Also, Israeli scientists freely collaborate with the best from other countries, enabling high quality research to be done in Israeli Universities.
One of the 2009 Nobel Prizes (for Chemistry) was won by an Israeli woman, Ada Yonath. The desert has been made to 'bloom' and produce crops, and Israel leads the world in some of the 'green' agricultural procedures particularly those which conserve water. Israel attracts funding for various projects from many Western countries.
The population is highly educated, particularly compared with the neighbouring countries, and this is consistent with the traditional Jewish culture, with its emphasis on learning, which has been reinforced by centuries of Diaspora where the only thing that 'can't be taken away from you' is the knowledge that is in your head.
Coming to the prophecies, this success as a modern nation in just 62 years vindicates the Biblical statement which presents Israel as the centre of the world. Both Jeremiah 31 verse 7 and Amos 6 verse 1 says it is "the chief of the nations."
"Israel shall be the wealthiest", Isaiah 60 verses 5 and 11; Chapter 61 verse 6; Zechariah 14 verse 14 "the abundance of the sea shall be turned to you, the wealth of the Gentiles shall come to you .... your gates shall be open continuously; they shall not be shut day or night, that men may bring to you the wealth of the Gentiles you shall eat the riches of the Gentiles gold, silver and apparel in great abundance."
The Bible also announces Israel's military might. Micah 4 verses 11-13; Isaisah 41 verses 15-16; Jeremiah 51 verse 20; Zechariah 10 verse 3; Chapter 12 verse 8, which states:
"Many nations have gathered against you but they do not know the thoughts of the Lord, nor do they understand His counsel; for He will gather them like sheaves to the threshing floor â€¦ You are My battle-ax and weapons of war; for with you I will break the nations in pieces; with you I will destroy kingdoms. For the Lord of hosts will visit His flock, the house of Judah, and will make them as His royal horse in battle.. The one who is feeble among them in that day shall be like David, and the house of David shall be like God, like the Angel of the Lord before them."
These prophetic words were written after the Babylonian Exile, and are yet to be fulfilled. Israel shall be wealthy with the riches of the Gentiles and mighty with the power of God. Until then, Israel shall be, according to Zechariah 13 verse 3 "a burdensome stone for all the peoples."
Scoff, if you wish, but this, at least, seems to be being fulfilled in modern times. The former USSR opposed Israel and persecuted its Jews, and before them Nazi Germany, and before them â€¦.. Even Britain was not seen to act in Israel's best interest just prior to Independence. Still, today there is much international criticism of some of its policies and actions, even in the United Nations, and even by some Jewish people of the Diaspora.
There are numerous fascinating stories recounted about modern Israel's various wars. Israel's 18,000-person fighting force in 1948 overwhelmed seven powerful, trained and equipped Arab armies. In one instance swarms of bees from Petah Tikva (whose name means "door of hope") attacked and Egyptians surrendered believing they were surrounded by a vast army. Sickness immobilized a combined Syrian and Lebanese force in Galilee.
The 1967 Six Day War saw Israel decimate five opposing armies. Although in 1973 Egypt and Syria struck suddenly in a co-ordinated attack on Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement â€“ the holiest day of the Jewish calendar â€“ when most people were praying in the Synagogue), the Israelis still managed to mobilise their well-trained army quickly enough to triumph in the end, although outnumbered and surprised in the beginning.
These Israeli wars have been liberally sprinkled with supernatural manifestations.
War, regardless of our personal position on war, will play a large part in Israel's future, according to the prophecy in Joel 3 verse 2; and Zechariah 14 verse 12. In one war, such, will be its intensity that few from any of the nations will survive, and those who do will, "survivors from all the nations that have attacked Jerusalem will go up year after year to worship the King, the Lord Almighty" (Zechariah 14 verse 16).
Finally, 'peace' will come to Jerusalem after The Messiah comes to reign in His city the City of the Great King (Psalm 48 verse 2). Our prayer for this is Habakkuk 3 verse 2 "in judgment, He remembers mercy."
Further, Acts 1 verse 7 prophesises "It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority."
Jesus did not respond negatively to the question, rather Jesus stated that these things will come to pass.
The New Testament urges every believer to be ready for Jesus' Second Coming. I have seen Israel's rebirth was miraculous. The Bible is fully reliable, and it thus follows that the expectant Christian rejoices in the expectancy of fulfillment of prophecy.
My wife and I have lived by faith finance for 42 years. Each morning we wake with expectancy, to see what the Lord will surprise us with on this new day. This is the expectancy of prophecy, that it will come to pass. We have faith that this will occur, as we have seen how the prophecies are gradually being revealed in Israel."
Dr Mark Tronson is a Baptist minister (retired) who served as the Australian cricket team chaplain for 17 years (2000 ret) and established Life After Cricket in 2001. He was recognised by the Olympic Ministry Medal in 2009 presented by Carl Lewis Olympian of the Century. He mentors young writers and has written 24 books, and enjoys writing. He is married to Delma, with four adult children and grand-children. Dr Tronson writes a daily article for Christian Today Australia (since 2008) and in November 2016 established Christian Today New Zealand.
Mark Tronson's archive of articles can be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/mark-tronson.html