Is the worst over?

Iran can threaten Israel, but the bible has proclaimed its salvation.

Ayatollah Khomeini's mausoleum 390 (photo credit: Reuters)
Ayatollah Khomeini's mausoleum 390
(photo credit: Reuters)
There is little doubt that the renegade Iranian nuclear program is the gravest threat facing the Jewish people since the rise of Nazism.
Today, nearly half the world’s Jews are regathered back in their ancient homeland, and Iran could potentially do in only minutes what it took the Nazis several years to accomplish – the extermination of six million Jews.
This is a chilling thought, but for the radical Shi’ite clerics in Tehran it is actually a welcoming idea. They are driven by a hadith which holds that Muslims must kill Jews en masse in order to bring on Judgment Day, which also heralds the coming of their mythical Mahdi.
In founding the Islamic Republic of Iran, Ayatollah Rohullah Khomeini declared he was even willing to sacrifice his own country to reach this unreal moment.
“We do not worship Iran, we worship Allah,” Khomeini proclaimed. “For patriotism is another name for paganism. I say let this land [of Iran] burn. I say let this land go up in smoke, provided Islam emerges triumphant in the rest of the world.”
Thus, the Iranian regime has been developing the means with which to carry out their madness. They have not been deterred by tightening economic sanctions and covert cyber-ops, and will stop at nothing to advance their clandestine nuclear capabilities, including lying at every turn.
Tehran may insist it is pursuing the “peaceful atom,” but there is only one known use for uranium enriched to 90% purity – and that is for military applications.
And Iran has been quite clear who will be the target of their nuclear prowess.
Former Iranian president Ali Rafsanjani, considered a “moderate” cleric, once stated that “Israel is much smaller than Iran in land mass, and therefore far more vulnerable to nuclear attack.”
On Al-Quds Day in December 2001, Rafsanjani also warned: “If one day, the Islamic world is also equipped with weapons like those that Israel possesses now, then the Imperialists’ strategy will reach a standstill, because the use of even one nuclear bomb inside Israel will destroy everything. However, it will only harm the Islamic world. It is not irrational to contemplate such an eventuality.”
So it is “rational” in their minds to contemplate the instantaneous destruction of Israel. Further, the ayatollahs and their allies also have rationalized that their efforts to stop the return of more Jews to Israel may have failed for a reason. For instance, Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah explained in 2002 that “if they [the Jews] all gather in Israel, it will save us the trouble of going after them worldwide.”
This is not just a twisted Shi’ite fantasy. A leading scholar of Sunni Islam, Prof. Mustafa Muslim from the United Arab Emirates, told a Saudi TV channel in 2005 that Allah actually has been gathering the Jews in Israel to make it easier for Muslims to fight and destroy them in one place on Judgment Day – citing the very same hadith.
With that dark Islamic vision in mind, we have to ask the same pivotal question posed in this column last month: Has God indeed regathered Israel for annihilation or for redemption? That is, has Israel been restored only to be wiped out in some mass nuclear holocaust – as some Iranian and Hezbollah leaders have portended? Or is Israel’s destiny to be delivered from such calamity and instead redeemed by her glorious King, the Son of David – as the Bible promises? Now we have to start out by admitting that even some Christians – including many who genuinely love and support Israel – also believe the Jews have come back home in order to go through one more mass annihilation, whereby twothirds are wiped out during the Great Tribulation so that one-third will finally get on their knees and call on Jesus.
Now this is a cruel theology, and it is not how most of us got saved. It also gives Jews great pause to hear Christians declare their love for Israel while knowing some of us actually expect them to face one final, massive convert-or-die scenario.
One dear Christian lady even told me recently that the “two-thirds teaching” had always left her anxious about helping Jews make aliya to Israel, because she might be leading them to the gallows. Yet this teaching is based on a poor exegesis of prophetic scripture and needs to be banished from our thinking.
The two-thirds teaching is based largely on Zechariah 13 and Ezekiel 5.
In Zechariah 13, the prophet foresees a time when two-thirds “in the land” will be “cut-off” while the remaining onethird will go through “the fire” and come to know the Lord as their God.
The overall context of this passage is an end-of-days prophecy, yet the verses immediately before it state: “Strike the Shepherd and the sheep will scatter” – which the New Testament writers applied to Jesus and his followers in the First Century. So there is nothing that demands we read this two-thirds reference as a Tribulation event.
Meanwhile, Ezekiel 5 contains a much fuller exposition of the two-thirds scenario. Here, the prophet is speaking straight from the Law of Moses, specifically Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28, where God sets out exactly how He would deal with Israel for rebelling against Him.
The “curse” of the Mosaic Law always starts with Israel being caught in sieges on her cities that get so bad the Israelites turn to cannibalism, and the end result is always exile. Then, once God returns Israel to the land (which He is dutybound to do under His covenant with Abraham – see Genesis 17:8), if they rebel again the curse becomes seven times worse.
Zechariah 5 actually describes with chilling accuracy the events leading up to the Second Exile. The prophet warns that one-third of the Israelites would soon die by the sword, one-third by famine and disease, and one-third would be scattered to the four corners of the earth. And yet the Lord promised Zechariah that this was something He had never done before to Israel and that He will never do again, “and so shall My wrath be spent.”
This is exactly what happened in the Jewish uprisings against Rome in the First Century, and we have exhaustive historic accounts by Josephus to verify this. One-third of the Jews died in battle, one-third fell to disease and starvation, and one-third were exiled to the nations.
Jesus also relies heavily on the Ezekiel 5 passage in his Mount Olivet Discourse recorded in Matthew 24 and Luke 21, in which he warns his disciples that horrific events are coming to Jerusalem in their lifetime. He knew the Law, he knew the Prophets, and he knew the worst that God would ever do to His own people was about to take place.
The key to understanding the prophetic outlook of Jesus is to realize he does not confuse the “tribulation’ and “days of vengeance” that God was bringing upon the Jewish people in those days with the Great Tribulation at the end of the age. The latter is presented in the Bible as chiefly a divine judgment upon the Gentile nations for their own rebellion against Him. This does not mean Israel will totally escape the perilous times ahead, but it does mean God already spent His harshest wrath against Israel during their long exile from the land.
Ultimately, those who maintain the two-thirds judgment on Israel is still to come face an insurmountable problem, because Ezekiel 5 is clear that it ends with the surviving one-third in exile, not redeemed. Yet the Bible speaks of only two exiles and two returns before Israel’s final redemption. Isaiah 11, for instance, says God would “set His hand again the second time to recover the remnant of His people,” while in Amos 9:15 we have God vowing to “plant them in their land, and no longer shall they be pulled up from the land I have given them.”
In other words, Israel’s exiles are over.
And so is the worst God would ever do to them!
Parsons is media director for the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem;