As we have seen to this point, God caused the kingdoms of Israel and Judah to be taken into captivity. However, only a remnant of the Kingdom of Judah returned to the Holy Land. The northern Kingdom of Israel remained in lands of their captivity, eventually migrating north and west into Europe.
However, this migration of Israel will reverse sometime in the years ahead. The Bible shows in manifold prophecies that there will be a second Exodus, and God's people will again be brought into the land promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
The first Exodus, when God brought the children of Israel out from Egypt, is a defining event for both Israelites and Christians. But as remarkable as this spontaneous movement of millions of people from a plundered Egypt to a bountiful Canaan was, the Second Exodus will be so momentous that the original exodus from Egypt will pale by comparison:
"Therefore behold, the days are coming," says the LORD, "that it shall no more be said, ‘The LORD lives who brought up the children of Israel from the land of Egypt,' but, ‘The LORD lives who brought up the children of Israel from the land of the north and from all the lands where He had driven them.' For I will bring them back into their land which I gave to their fathers." (Jeremiah 16:14-15; see also Jeremiah 23:7; emphasis ours throughout)
The prophet Isaiah also writes of this time when "the LORD shall set His hand again the second time to recover the remnant of His people who are left. . . . He will set up a banner for the nations, and will assemble the outcasts of Israel, and gather together the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth" (Isaiah 11:11-12). God tells Jeremiah, "In those days the house of Judah shall walk with the house of Israel, and they shall come together out of the land of the north to the land that I have given as an inheritance to your fathers" (Jeremiah 3:18).
During the first Exodus, a few million Israelites left Egypt for the land of Canaan a relatively short distance away. Today, the descendants of Israel number in the hundreds of millions, and their current homelands are thousands of miles from Canaan. They cannot travel to the Promised Land as a single group, for their migrations have left them in numerous countries around the globe (Amos 9:9). Only the sovereign God will be able to orchestrate such a regathering.
While some prophecies speak of Israel returning from every compass point (Isaiah 11:12; 43:5-7), it is most common to read of Israel returning from the north and the west (of the Promised Land) (Isaiah 49:12; Jeremiah 3:18; 16:15; 23:8; 31:8; Hosea 11:10; Zechariah 2:6), reversing the path of their migration thousands of years ago.
Isaiah provides numerous descriptions of how this exodus will take place, such as the individual attention that will be given: "And it shall come to pass in that day . . . you will be gathered one by one, O you children of Israel." He speaks of "a highway for the remnant of His people who will be left from Assyria, as it was for Israel In the day that he came up from the land of Egypt" (Isaiah 11:16). He writes in Isaiah 35:8-10:
A highway shall be there, and a road, and it shall be called the Highway of Holiness. The unclean shall not pass over it, but it shall be for others. Whoever walks the road, although a fool, shall not go astray. . . . But the redeemed shall walk there, and the ransomed of the LORD shall return, and come to Zion with singing, with everlasting joy on their heads. They shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away. (See also Isaiah 43:16-21; 51:10-11.)
Jeremiah 30-31 give a broad overview of what God will do to bring Israel and the rest of Judah back and restore the Promised Land to them. This was not fulfilled in the 1940s, when hundreds of thousands of Jews returned to their historical homeland and founded the modern state of Israel, for only Jews took part in that. The many prophecies regarding the Second Exodus clearly speak of both Judah and Israel.
The word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD, saying, "Thus speaks the LORD God of Israel, saying: ‘Write in a book for yourself all the words that I have spoken to you. For behold, the days are coming,' says the LORD, ‘that I will bring back from captivity My people Israel and Judah,' says the LORD. ‘And I will cause them to return to the land that I gave to their fathers, and they shall possess it.'" (Jeremiah 30:1-3)
God is speaking about both kingdoms here—the descendants of the northern kingdom of Israel as well as those of the southern kingdom of Judah. The return of Israel will be the larger migration because, aside from the 70-year captivity in Babylon, some of the descendants of Judah have always resided in the Promised Land. Today, the State of Israel is predominately made up of the descendants of the southern kingdom of Judah. However, neither Israel nor Judah has truly possessed the land—and certainly not all of it—since the time of their respective captivities. Even though some of Judah returned to the land, ever since the Babylonian captivity, she has rarely been completely sovereign over it.
In the next installment, we will consider what God must do to bring the Israelites back to the land of their inheritance and what changes they must make once they return.
- David C. Grabbe
The Promise and the Kingdom
by Charles Whitaker
Charles Whitaker, reflecting upon the blessings of Abraham, asks " what is it about Abraham that we should look to him?" As Churchill proclaimed, sometime it is necessary to look backward in order to look forward. The promise given to Abraham was actually the Gospel, extending God's blessing to his family and all the nations of the earth- eternal promises of land(actually the Kingdom of God and the Universe), fecundity and increase of peoples(into the spiritual family of God). Abraham knew the gospel of God's salvation through faith. Although there have been a number of types of this fulfillment, the final fulfillment involves Abraham's descendents, a royal priesthood of kings and priests, inheriting the Kingdom of God. Eventually all the nations on the face of the earth will become the spiritual descendents of Abraham, through Abraham's seed, Jesus Christ.
Why Israel? (Part One)
by Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Even the beginning Bible student knows that Israel plays a prominant part in Scripture. Why? Richard Ritenbaugh explores God's stated purposes for choosing and using the children of Israel throughout His Word—and beyond.
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