“Fly KLM to Palestine” (1931 Ad)

“Palestine never existed.” Or so I’ve been told many times. A Google search of this phrase currently turns up 430,000 results. While it’s true that Palestine wasn’t a nation, it certainly was a region, a territory with its own flag, with hundreds of thousands of people living there who were called Palestinians (in the same way that people who live in America are called Americans).

Fly KLM to Palestine

Source: Duke University Libraries (1931 New York newspaper ad)

Can you imagine flying to a place that didn’t exist? Neither did the people who boarded those flights. 

Notice that these flights were bound for Lydda, Palestine. Tragically, Lydda was ethnically cleansed 17 years after this ad was featured in a New York newspaper. According to a Wikipedia entry (with 118 documented sources, “1948 Palestinian Exodus from Lydda and Ramle,” 50,000 – 70,000 Palestinian Arabs were expelled from the towns of Lydda and Ramle in July 1948. Although these towns were located “outside the area designated for a Jewish state in the UN Partition Plan of 1947, and inside the area set aside for an Arab state in Palestine,” they were “transformed into predominantly Jewish areas in the new State of Israel, known as Lod and Ramla.”

From the Israeli perspective, the conquest of the towns averted an Arab threat to Tel Aviv, thwarted an Arab Legion advance by clogging the roads with refugees, forcing the Arab Legion to assume a logistical burden that would undermine its military capacities, and helped demoralize nearby Arab cities.[6][7] On 10 July, Glubb Pasha ordered the defending Arab Legion troops to “make arrangements…for a phony war”.[8] The next day, Ramle surrendered immediately, but the conquest of Lydda took longer and led to an unknown number of deaths; Israeli historian Benny Morris suggests up to 450 Palestinians and 9–10 Israeli soldiers died.[9] Once the Israelis were in control of the towns, an expulsion order signed by Yitzhak Rabin was issued to the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) stating, “1. The inhabitants of Lydda must be expelled quickly without attention to age.…”,[10] Ramle’s residents were bussed out, while the people of Lydda were forced to walk miles during a summer heat wave to the Arab front lines, where the Arab Legion, Transjordan‘s British-led army, tried to provide shelter and supplies.[11] Quite a few of the refugees died from exhaustion and dehydration. Estimates ranged from a handful to a figure of 350 based on hearsay, which is why the events are also referred as the Lydda death march.[12]

The events in Lydda and Ramle accounted for one-tenth of the overall Arab exodus from Palestine, known in the Arab world as al-Nakba (“the catastrophe”). Many Jews who came to Israel between 1948 and 1951 settled in the refugees’ empty homes, both because of a housing shortage and as a matter of policy to prevent former residents from reclaiming them.

…Father Oudeh Rantisi, a former mayor of Ramallah who was expelled from Lydda in 1948, visited his family’s former home for the first time in 1967: “As the bus drew up in front of the house, I saw a young boy playing in the yard. I got off the bus and went over to him. ‘How long have you lived in this house?’ I asked. ‘I was born here,’ he replied. ‘Me too,’ I said…”

[Father Rantisi’s heart-wrenching story can be read in more detail here.]

In Israel’s first months, largely Arab cities emptied as inhabitants were forced to flee.

(Source: The New Yorker – October 21, 2013 Issue – very informative article written by Ari Shavit, an Israeli reporter, writer, and Senior Correspondent for Haaretz)


(Refugees Escorted from Ramla; Source: Wikipedia)

Other details about this ethnic cleansing can be seen at Palestine Remembered.

Nazareth - الناصرة : NAZARETH - Late 19th, early 20th c. 55 - circa 1905 - Bird's-eye view (Per Reem Ackall)

(Nazareth in 1905; Source: Palestine Remembered)

Jaffa - يافا : Jaffa's famous al-Hamra Palestinian cinema (1937) in Jamal Basha street. Note the Palestinian flag at the tower.

(Jaffa’s al-Hamra Cinema with Palestinian flag on the tower, 1937; Source: Palestine Remembered)

A photograph from Bethlehem in 1880.

(Bethlehem in 1880; Source: Pinterest and Palestine Remembered)

Street scene inside Damascus Gate. Jerusalem, Palestine. 1900-1920. Photograph: Matson Collection

(Damascus Gate, Jerusalem, 1900 – 1920; Source: Pinterest and Palestine Remembered)

Bethlehem Christmas, early 1900s

(Bethlehem on Christmas Day, early 1900’s; Source: Pinterest and Palestine Remembered)

Muslims, Orthodox Jews, Armenian Christians, men and women, different clothing styles and a thriving cityscape of Jerusalem. In 1896, 85% of the population in Palestine was Muslim, 10% Christian and less than 5% Jewish (half the population of Jerusalem, however, was Jewish - this was also the period during the first aliyah).

(Jerusalem, around 1900; Source: Pinterest)

See many more photos of pre-1948 Palestine on Pinterest here.

Israel and the Church: See the Difference?

This graphic is very revealing (source unknown)**:

To elaborate on points 7-10, in the post “Who Are God’s Chosen People and Why Are They Chosen?” we saw clearly the parallel language between what was spoken to ancient Israel (Exodus 19) and what was spoken to the Church (I Peter 2):

The parallel language is unmistakable, and I have letter-coded the parallels (A, B, and C):

[1] To ancient national Israel: “Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, you shall be [A] MY TREASURED POSSESSION among all peoples, for all the earth is mine; and you shall be to Me [B] A KINGDOM OF PRIESTS and a [C] HOLY NATION…” (Exodus 19:5-6).

[2] To the Church: “But you are a chosen race, [B] A ROYAL PRIESTHOOD, a [C] HOLY NATION, a people [A] FOR HIS OWN POSSESSION, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people…” (I Peter 2:9-10).

On this topic, see also:

[1] “Why I Stand With Israel” shows how Isaiah, Matthew, Luke, and John all demonstrate that what was said of ancient Israel in the Old Testament is now said of Jesus. In other words, Jesus is Israel, and it’s no surprise that Paul calls Jesus’ followers “the Israel of God” (Galatians 6:16).

[2] “Both Jews and Non-Jews Belong Equally to “the Israel of God” (Galatians 6:16)

[3] “God’s Promise of a New Covenant to the House of Israel”


**I was told by someone on Facebook that Charles Provan may have created this graphic, but I have not been able to confirm this. Charles authored a book titled, The Church Is Israel Now.

30 AD – 70 AD: “The Crimson Thread Remained Crimson”

In about 30 AD, Jesus said something to the scribes, Pharisees, and people of Jerusalem which must have been earth-shattering to His audience at the time: “See! Your house is left to you desolate” (Matthew 23:38).  This mirrors what happened in the days of Jeremiah: “I have forsaken My house, I have left My heritage; I have given the dearly beloved of My soul into the hands of her enemies” (Jer. 12:7).

Notice that Jesus didn’t say the temple belonged to His Father, but instead He referred to it as “your” house (speaking to the people of Jerusalem). As we will see, even secular history provides a stark depiction of the desolation of the temple and the once holy city of Jerusalem during the next 40 years, before they were destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD.

The Talmud is an important text within Rabbinic Judaism, made up of both oral teachings and interpretations of these teachings. The earlier collection is known as the Jerusalem Talmud and the later collection, compiled between the 3rd and 5th centuries AD, is known as the Babylonian Talmud. Both of them have fascinating things to say about the 40 year period between Jesus’ ascension and the temple’s destruction in 70 AD:

[1] Jerusalem Talmud:

“Forty years before the destruction of the Temple, the western light went out, the crimson thread remained crimson, and the lot for the Lord always came up in the left hand. They would close the gates of the Temple by night and get up in the morning and find them wide open” (Jacob Neusner, The Yerushalmi, p.156-157). 

[2] Babylonian Talmud:

“Our rabbis taught: During the last forty years before the destruction of the Temple the lot ‘For the Lord’ did not come up in the right hand; nor did the crimson-colored strap become white; nor did the western most light shine; and the doors of the Hekel [Temple] would open by themselves” (Soncino version, Yoma 39b).

The Crimson Thread

There was a Jewish tradition tied to the Day of Atonement, when a scapegoat bearing the sins of the people would be released into the wilderness (see Leviticus 16). Of course, for those who trust in Jesus, this ritual no longer bore any meaning after 30 AD, as Jesus took our sins upon Himself on the cross. According to the Babylonian Talmud, though, the scapegoat would wear a crimson (red)-colored strap, and it would become white once it reached the wilderness, indicating that God had forgiven their sins:

“How do we know that a crimson-colored strap is tied to the head of the goat that is sent to [the wilderness]? Because it is said, ‘If your sins be as scarlet, they shall be white as snow’ (Isa. 1:18). By a miracle, this crimson-colored strap turned white, thus showing the people the people that they were forgiven of their sins. Rabbi Ishmael says, ‘Now did they not have any other sign? There was a crimson thread tied to the door of the sanctuary. When the goat had reached the wilderness, the thread would turn white…'” (Tractate Shabbat Folio 86a).

This miracle took place every year, it was said, but not after 30 AD. It was clear that this ritual was no longer acceptable to the Lord, because Jesus was the acceptable sacrifice: “Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption” (Hebrews 9:12).

The Western Light Didn’t Shine

There were seven lamps on the Menorah in the temple, with the westernmost lamp being the most important. Every day the other six lamps would be lit from the Western Lamp. For a long time, it burned continuously, which was seen as a miracle. It was known for being a perpetual fire. However, from 30 – 70 AD it went out every single day. As Ernest Martin explains:

“This ‘western lamp’ was to be kept lit at all times. For that reason, the priests kept extra reservoirs of olive oil and other implements in ready supply to make sure that the ‘western lamp’ (under all circumstances) would stay lit. But what happened in the forty years from the very year Messiah said the physical Temple would be destroyed? Every night for forty years the western lamp went out, and this in spite of the priests each evening preparing in a special way the western lamp so that it would remain constantly burning all night!”

(Ernest Martin, “The Significance of the Year CE 30,” 1994; as quoted in “The Coming Messiah” by Mark E. Jeffries, p. 86

For the believer, this light was unnecessary, for Jesus is the light of the world and so are His followers:

Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, ‘I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life‘” (John 8:12).

You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:14-16).

The Lot Did Not Come Up in the Right Hand

Each year on the Day of Atonement, one goat was chosen “for the Lord” and the other to be the “Azazel” (the scapegoat sent into the wilderness). They were chosen by lot, as the priest would reach both hands into an urn, selecting both a white stone and a black stone and placing them on the heads of the two goats. The people always hoped that the white stone (“for the Lord”) would be in the priest’s right hand, and this happened about half the time (as one would expect).

During the 40 years between 30 – 70 AD, however, the white stone never once turned up in the right hand of the priest. It turned up in the left hand every single time. Perhaps the significance of this is that Jesus “sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2; see also Acts 2:34, Ephesians 1:20, Heb. 1:3). 

The Temple Doors Opened By Themselves

Both the Jerusalem and Babylonian Talmuds also spoke of the temple gates opening by themselves each night between 30 – 70 AD. According to the Jerusalem Talmud (Sota 6:3), Jewish leaders knew this was a sign of impending doom for the temple:

“Said Rabban Yohanan Ben Zakkai to the Temple, ‘O Temple, why do you frighten us? We know that you will end up destroyed. For it has been said, “Open your doors, O Lebanon, that the fire may devour your cedars” (Zechariah 11:1).'”

Jesus had prophesied that the temple’s downfall would take place in His own generation (Matthew 24:1-34, Mark 13:1-30, Luke 21:5-32). Scripture also reveals that God’s temple is Jesus and His followers, both individually and corporately:

“Jesus answered them, ‘Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.’ The Jews then said, ‘It took forty-six years to build this temple, and will You raise it up in three days? But He was speaking of the temple of His body'” (John 2:19-21).

Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?” (I Corinthians 3:16).

Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God?” (I Corinthians 6:19).

For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, ‘I will make My dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be My people‘” (II Corinthians 6:16).

Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit” (Ephesians 2:19-22).

The Christian Zionist movement is excited over the prospect of a rebuilt temple in modern Jerusalem, with some Christian organizations even raising large amounts of money to see it happen. No Biblical prophecy says this must happen, and since Christians are God’s temple it’s odd, to say the least, to see Christians on the edge of their seats watching for it to happen. God’s people, wherever we dwell in the world, are His dwelling place. For a deeper study on how God made His dwelling place in the new Jerusalem instead of earthly Jerusalem, see these two posts: [1] Jerusalem, a Dwelling Place of Demons and [2] New Jerusalem, God’s Dwelling Place.

The Seven-Headed, Ten-Horned Beast of Revelation 17

Series: “Little Gems from Our Study of the Book of Revelation”

In a recent post,The Harlot of Revelation 17 and Its Relationship to Old Covenant Israel,” we examined the first six verses of Revelation 17. There we were introduced to “a scarlet beast which was full of names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns” (verse 3). In that article, we mainly discussed the harlot who sat on this beast. In this article, we will take a closer look at this beast and the significance of its seven heads and ten horns.

This is the same beast as the beast from the sea, which John saw in Revelation 13:1-10. That beast also had seven heads, ten horns, and a blasphemous name (13:1). Just as the whole world marveled and followed him (13:3), here in Rev. 17:8 we see that “those who dwell on the earth will marvel” at the beast.

The Beast’s Seven Heads

The angel tells John that the beast’s seven heads represent two things: “seven mountains on which the woman sits” and [2] “also seven kings” (verse 9). In his book,Revelation: Four Views (A Parallel Commentary),” Steve Gregg quotes from David S. Clark, who says,

“We had the beast located geographically on the seven hills, which meant Rome. Now we have him located in history to tell us what period of Rome we are dealing with. And there is no period of Rome’s history that will fit this description but the dynasty of the Caesars.”

Kenneth Gentry, in his book, “Before Jerusalem Fell,” notes (p. 163) that the Coin of Vespasian (emperor of Rome from 69-79 AD) discovered by archaeologists pictures the goddess Roma as a woman seated on seven hills. First-century Rome used to celebrate a feast called Septimontium, the feast of “the seven-hilled city.”

Rev. 17:10 provides a remarkable time marker for when this was written: “There are also seven kings. Five have fallen, one is, and the other has not yet come. And when he comes, he must continue a short time.” The following chart shows the first 10 emperors of the Roman Empire, who reigned until the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem in 70 AD. The first five are the ones who had fallen by John’s day, and the sixth is the one who was presently reigning when John wrote Revelation:

Order of Emperors Name of Emperor Length of Reign Notes/Details
#1 Julius Caesar October 49 BC – March 44 BC “Perpetual Dictator”
#2 Augustus January 27 BC – August 14 AD -time of Jesus’ birth
#3 Tiberius August 14 AD – March 37 AD -time of Jesus’ ascension
#4 Caligula March 37 AD – January 41 AD Murdered
#5 Claudius January 41 AD – October 54 AD Assassinated
#6 Nero October 54 AD – June 68 AD Committed suicide
#7 Galba June 68 AD – January 69 AD Murdered
#8 Otho January 69 AD – April 69 AD Committed suicide
#9 Vitellius April 69 AD – December 69AD Murdered
#10 Vespasian December 69 AD – June 79 AD Destroyed Jerusalem

Although some historians do not consider Julius Caesar to be one of the emperors, Flavius Josephus (37-100 AD) was one who did, and the above list reflects his own in Antiquities of the Jews (Books 18-19, 93 AD). Numerous Roman historians contemporary to Josephus agree, including Dio Cassius and Suetonius (70-135 AD), who wrote Lives of the Twelve Caesars and De Vita Caesarum. It’s also noteworthy that Julius Caesar was appointed as “perpetual dictator” in 42 BC.

According to the above list, then, Nero was the “king” of whom John said “one is” (i.e. “he is reigning now”), and Galba was the one who had “not yet come.” Galba reigned only six months, and he is the one of whom the angel said “he must continue a short time.”

There is no barrier to this interpretation in the fact that John uses the term “kings” and not “emperors.” Tiberius was referred to as a king in John 19:15 and Claudius was referred to as a king in Acts 17:7. Both were Roman emperors.  One may also note that the chart above indicates more Roman emperors than were referenced by John. Kenneth Gentry quotes J. Russell Stuart, who spoke on this matter in his book Apocalypse:

But why only seven kings? First because the number seven is the reigning symbolic number of the book; then, secondly, because this covers the ground which the writer means specially to occupy, viz., it goes down to the period when the persecution then raging would cease (Gentry, Before Jerusalem Fell, p. 163).

Nero began persecuting Christians throughout the Roman Empire beginning in November 64 AD. This persecution only ended upon his death in June 68 AD. This was 3.5 years later, fulfilling Revelation 13:5-7, which said that the beast would make war with the saints and overcome them for 42 months.

The Beast’s 10 Horns

John is then introduced to 10 more kings in verses 12-13. He is told that the beast’s ten horns are “ten kings who have not yet received royal power, but they are to receive authority as kings for one hour, together with the beast. These are of one mind and hand over their power and authority to the beast.” Some have thought these 10 kings to be the very ones listed in the chart above, since all 10 of them reigned (or had begun to reign, in Vespasian’s case) before Jerusalem’s destruction. However, John wrote that in his day they had “not yet received royal power,” so this view is eliminated.

Another more likely view is that these 10 kings were the rulers of the 10 senatorial provinces of Rome who were empowered by Nero to assist him in carrying out his campaign of persecution against the saints. Revelation 17:14 called this campaign making “war with the Lamb.” Jesus took it personal when His followers were persecuted and martyred. This was also true when Paul (formerly Saul) was “breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord” (Acts 9:1). When he was knocked to the ground on the road to Damascus, a voice from heaven said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting” (Acts 9:5).

The Global Glossary on the Greco-Roman world says there were 10 Senatorial Provinces in ancient Rome: They were “areas that were governed by Roman pro-magistrates; there were ten senatorial provinces, eight of which were led by ex-praetors and two of which were led by ex-consuls.” Wikipedia lists these 10 Senatorial Provinces, as they existed in 14 AD, as follows: [1] Achaea [2] Africa [3] Asia [4] Creta et Cyrene [5] Cyprus [6] Gallia Narbonensis [7] Hispania Baetica [8] Macedonia [9] Pontus et Bithynia [10] Sicilia. One Biblical mention of a Roman provincial ruler is in Acts 18:12-17, where we are told of Gallio the “proconsul of Achaia.” In Cyprus, Paul and Barnabas had direct contact with the proconsul, Sergius Paulus (Acts 13:7). See here for more information on the Senatorial Provinces of the Roman Empire, and how and by whom authority was distributed.

The above quotation from Wikipedia lists the 10 provinces of Rome as they were then named. Steve Gregg lists them by names that would be considered more modern (p. 456): Italy, Achaia, Asia, Syria, Egypt, Africa, Spain, Gaul, Britain, and Germany. As seen in this map, Israel/Palestine belonged to the province of Egypt. Indeed, the Roman Empire was the world at that time, as can be seen by Luke’s description of Caesar Augustus’ decree “that all the world should be registered” (Luke 2:1; cf. Acts 2:5).

Roman Empire

Photo credit: http://gbgm-umc.org/UMW/corinthians/empire.stm (Original source: David Camden)

In Rev. 17:15-17 the angel explains to John why the harlot was shown sitting “on many waters” (verse 1). John was told that they represent “peoples and multitudes and nations and languages.” Steve Gregg shares this quote from David Chilton (pp. 416, 418):

Jerusalem could truly be portrayed as seated on “many waters” (i.e. the nations) because of the great and pervasive influence the Jews had in all parts of the Roman Empire before the destruction of Jerusalem. Their synagogues were in every city, and the extent of their colonization can be seen in the record of the Day of Pentecost, which tells us that “there were Jews staying in Jerusalem, devout men, from every nation under heaven” (Acts 2:5).

In verse 16, we are told that the 10 horns (kings) would join the beast in hating “the prostitute. They will make her desolate and naked, and devour her flesh and burn her up with fire.” Steve Gregg points out that this very same turn of events was predicted for Jerusalem just before it fell in 586 BC for playing the harlot (pp. 418, 420):

I will gather all your lovers with whom you took pleasure… I will gather them from all around against you and will uncover your nakedness to them… And I will judge you as women who break wedlock or shed blood are judged; I will bring blood upon you in fury and jealousy… They shall burn your houses with fire…and I will make you cease playing the harlot (Ezekiel 16:37-41).

It’s probably no coincidence that the word “desolate” is used in verse 16, just as it is used in Rev. 18:17, 19 and also in Daniel 9:27 and by Jesus in Luke 21:20. In each case it’s used concerning first century Jerusalem, the “house” that Jesus said was left desolate (Matthew 23:38).

We also know from accounts provided by Josephus (a Jewish historian) and Tacitus (a Roman historian from the same time period) that a number of kings from surrounding provinces joined Vespasian and Titus in Rome’s war against Israel from 67-70 AD. At the very end of July 70 AD, on the exact same day that Jerusalem was burned in 586 BC, the Second Temple was burned to the ground. Josephus remarked that from a distance the entire city of Jerusalem appeared to be on fire. In fact, during August and September 70 the rest of the city was set on fire and leveled to the ground.

In Rev. 17:18, the woman is identified as “the great city” and is said to have “dominion over the kings of the earth.” The designation “great city” was first given to Jerusalem in Revelation 11:8, where it was said to be the place “where also our Lord was crucified.” It’s repeated here in these chapters as a reference to Babylon the Great on at least seven occasions (16:19; 17:18; 18:10, 16, 18, 19, 21; cf. Rev. 14:8). Steve Gregg quotes from David Chilton on why it’s fitting that Jerusalem was known as “the great city” (p. 422):

If the City is Jerusalem, how can it be said to wield this kind of worldwide political power? The answer is that Revelation is not a book about politics; it is a book about the Covenant. Jerusalem did reign over the nations. She did possess a Kingdom which was above all the kingdoms of the world. She had a covenantal priority over the kingdoms of the earth.

Lamentations, written shortly after Jerusalem fell the first time in 586 BC, begins this way: “How lonely sits the city that was full of people! How like a widow has she become, she who was great among the nations! She who was a princess among the provinces has become a slave.” Interestingly, the great city in John’s day says, “I sit as a queen, I am no widow, and mourning I shall never see” (Rev. 18:7). Also when Jeremiah prophesied of Jerusalem’s soon coming destruction in his day, he wrote:

And many nations will pass by this city, and every man will say to his neighbor, “Why has the Lord dealt thus with this great city?” And they will answer, “Because they have forsaken the covenant of the Lord their God and worshiped other gods and served them” (Jeremiah 22:8-9).

Jerusalem apparently was great in the political sense as well, though. As Kenneth Gentry writes (Before Jerusalem Fell, p. 171),

Jerusalem housed a Temple that, according to Tacitus “was famous beyond all other works of men.” Another Roman historian, Pliny, said of Jerusalem that it was “by far the most famous city of the ancient Orient.” According to Josephus, a certain Agatharchides spoke of Jerusalem thus: “There are a people called Jews, who dwell in a city the strongest of all other cities, which the inhabitants call Jerusalem.” Appian called it “the great city Jerusalem.” …More important, however, is the covenantal significance of Jerusalem. The obvious role of Jerusalem in the history of the covenant should merit it such greatness… Josephus sadly extols Jerusalem’s lost glory after its destruction: “This was the end which Jerusalem came to be the madness of those that were for innovations; a city otherwise of great magnificance, and of mighty fame among all mankind (Wars 7:1:1)… And where is not that great city, the metropolis of the Jewish nation, which was fortified by so many walls round about, which had so many fortresses and large towers to defend it, which could hardly contain the instruments prepared for the war, and which had so many tens of thousands of men to fight for it? Where is this city that was believed to have God himself inhabiting therein? It is now demolished to the very foundations” (Wars 7:8:7).

J. Stuart Russell makes another observation regarding the phrase “kings of the earth” used in verse 18. Not only is this expression found throughout Revelation, he says, but it’s also in Acts 4:26-27. There “Herod and Pontius Pilate are identified by the very same expression. Plainly, then, in Acts the expression means ‘the leaders or rulers of the Land’ (i.e. of Israel). If that is the phrase’s meaning here in verse 18, then Jerusalem surely can be said to be the city that reigns over the rulers of Israel” (Gregg, p. 422).


This article is adopted from our study of Revelation 17 (Part 2), and is also featured in The Fulfilled Connection (TFC) Magazine.

Both Jews and Non-Jews Belong Equally to “the Israel of God” (Galatians 6:16)

In Galatians 6:16, the apostle Paul concluded his letter to the Galatians with an expression that he never used anywhere else:

And as many as walk according to this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel of God.”

Who belongs to this group that Paul refers to as “the Israel of God”? Who is excluded?

Argument #1: Only Jewish Believers Are the Israel of God

Some insist that Paul could only have been speaking of Jews, believers in particular. The following quotes are representative of this view:

“The Israel of God refers to Jewish believers in Jesus Christ, to those who are spiritual as well as physical descendants of Abraham (Galatians 3:7) and are heirs of promise rather than of law (Ga 3:18). They are the real Jews, the true Israel of faith, like those referred to in Romans 2:28, Ro 2:29 and Ro 9:6,7″ (John MacArthur, Galatians. Chicago: Moody Press, p. 210).

“This controversial verse, with its expression, unique in the New Testament, ‘the Israel of God,’ has been misinterpreted as teaching what Replacement theology wrongly claims, namely, that the Church is the New Israel which has replaced the Jews, the so-called ‘Old Israel,’ who are therefore now no longer God’s people. But neither this verse nor any other part of the New Testament teaches this false and anti-Semitic doctrine” (D. H. Stern, Jewish New Testament Commentary: Clarksville, Md.: Jewish New Testament Publications).

H/T: Steve Thomas, “Christian Zionism – Deconstructing the Myths – Biblically – One at a Time” (Facebook)

In one article, Arnold Fruchtenbaum claims that “the Jewish believer” differs from “the Gentile believer,” and that “four lines of biblical truth” form the basis of what he calls “the Messianic Jewish distinctive.” One of these lines is “the Doctrine of the Israel of God,” in which he says the term “Israel” is used narrowly: “It should be pointed out that the term Israel is never used of Gentiles, whether they are believers or not, nor is it used of the Church; it is used only of Jews.” According to Fruchtenbaum, Paul makes a distinction in both Romans 9:6-8 and Galatians 6:16 between “Israel the whole composed of all Jews; and Israel the elect, composed of all believing Jews.” In Galatians 6:16, he claims, believing Gentiles are “the them” and believing Jews are “the Israel of God” (Dr. Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum, “Jews, Gentiles, Christians,” Ariel Ministries).**

Thomas Ice agrees with Fruchtenbaum that “the New Testament consistently differentiates between Israel and the church,” adding that these are “two peoples” of God. When it comes to the term “Israel of God” in Galatians 6:16, they insist that Paul is speaking of “believing Jews in contrast to unbelieving Jews called ‘Israel after the flesh’ (1 Cor. 10:18)” (Thomas Ice, “Israel / Church Distinction: The Fourth Foundation,” Rapture Ready).

Argument #2: All Followers of Jesus Are the Israel of God

Then there are those who, like myself, believe that “the Israel of God” must include all who belong to Christ, Jews and non-Jews alike. In Paul’s day, both Jewish and non-Jewish believers were walking according to the rule named in the previous verse: “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but a new creation” (Galatians 6:15). If Paul used the expression, “the Israel of God,” to only mean Jewish believers, then the following passages would be untrue:

[1] “For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him” (Romans 10:12).

[2] “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28).

[3] “Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his deeds, and have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him, where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised nor uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave nor free, but Christ is all and in all” (Colossians 3:9-11).

If only Jewish believers were “the Israel of God,” but non-Jewish (i.e. Gentile) believers were locked out of this privilege, then there really would be a distinction between Jews and Greeks in Christ. There really would be favoritism and partiality, based on race or ethnicity.

A similar problem exists when the claim is made that all ethnic Jews are God’s chosen people. There’s no doubt that those who belong to Christ are God’s chosen people, as these passages reveal:

In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, being chosen according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will, that we who first trusted in Christ should be to the praise of His glory” (Ephesians 1:11-12).

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do” (Colossians 3:12-13).

But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy” (I Peter 2:9-10).

Those who teach that all Jews are God’s chosen people sometimes fall back on the idea that God has two chosen peoples (one based on race, and one based on faith). This, however, also makes nonsense of Romans 10:12, Galatians 3:28, and Colossians 3:10-11 (quoted above), for it places Jewish Christians (aka Messianic Jews) into two chosen groups. It says that they are [1] chosen because of faith, and [2] doubly chosen because of race. Meanwhile, according to this view, non-Jewish Christians (aka “Gentile Christians”) are only part of one chosen group. Unlike Jewish Christians, they are only chosen because of faith. They allegedly don’t have the same overlap of blessings that Jewish believers do, because they are not of the Jewish race. This also creates favoritism, partiality, and distinction, contradicting the teachings of Paul.

Being a part of the Israel of God is the privilege of all who abide in Christ, because Jesus is true Israel, God’s chosen One. This is developed further in two earlier posts at this site:

[1] “Why I Stand With Israel,” outlines how Isaiah, Matthew, Luke, and John demonstrated that what was once said of national Israel is now said of Jesus.

[2] God also promised that He would one day make a new covenant with the house of Israel (Jeremiah 31:31-34). One way that we see this fulfilled is when Paul, in Ephesians 2, declared that the household of God, His holy temple, the one new man of Jews and Gentiles together, was being built on the foundation of the apostles, who were also known as “ministers of the new covenant” (II Corinthians 3:6). See “God’s Promise of a New Covenant to the House of Israel.”

The Myth of An All Jewish Israel

There’s an idea prevailing in the Christian Zionist movement today that Israel was, and was always meant to be, exclusively Jewish. This idea is applied to ancient Israel, as if God’s promises made to ancient Israel were for Jews only, then and forever. This idea is also applied to modern Israel, saying that the land belongs only to Jews, etc. However, even in ancient Israel, many non-Jews were joined to Israel. Besides the non-Jews who were among Jesus’ ancestors (Matthew 1:1-17), there are numerous other examples. Here are just two:

And the Egyptians urged the people, that they might send [the children of Israel] out of the land in haste… Then the children of Israel journeyed from Rameses to Succoth, about six hundred thousand men on foot, besides children. A mixed multitude went up with them also…” (Exodus 12:33-38).

And in every province and city, wherever the king’s command and decree came, the Jews had joy and gladness, a feast and a holiday. Then many of the people of the land became Jews, because fear of the Jews fell upon them” (Esther 8:17).

Ever since Jesus was obedient to the point of completing His work on the cross, the Israel of God has everything to do with Him and nothing to do with being outside of Him. People of all nations are included. As Paul taught, no one who is in Christ is any longer “alienated from the commonwealth of Israel.”

Thomas Schreiner’s Excellent Summary of Galatians 6:16

Thomas Schreiner offers some excellent thoughts on why Paul’s epistle to the Galatians as a whole mandates that there is no separation between Jewish and non-Jewish (Gentile) believers when Paul speaks of “the Israel of God” (Schreiner is an author and professor at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary):

The key question in Galatians is whether one must become a Jew and be circumcised to belong to the people of God. Must one receive circumcision to belong to the family of Abraham? The false teachers argued that circumcision and observance of the law were required to be part of Abraham’s family. But Paul has argued throughout the letter that circumcision is unnecessary and that those who put their faith in Christ belong to the family of Abraham. When he speaks of “the Israel of God” at the conclusion of the letter, where he rehearses the major themes of the letter, he is driving home the point that believers in Christ, members of the new creation, are the true Israel.

Such an interpretation fits with the whole of the letter, for believers in Christ are the true sons of Abraham [Gal. 3:29]. But if they are Abraham’s children and belong to his family, then they belong to the Israel of God. It would be highly confusing to the Galatians, after arguing for the equality of Jew and Gentile in Christ (3:28) and after emphasizing that believers are Abraham’s children, for Paul to argue in the conclusion that only Jews who believe in Jesus belong to the Israel of God. By doing so a wedge would be introduced between Jews and Gentiles at the end of the letter, suggesting that the latter were not part of the true Israel. Such a wedge would play into the hands of his opponents, who would argue that to be part of the true Israel one must be circumcised.

Instead, Paul confirms one of the major themes of the letter. All believers in Christ are part of the true Israel, part of God’s Israel. This fits with what Paul says elsewhere when he says believers are the true circumcision (Phil 3:3). Since believers in Christ are the true family of Abraham and the true circumcision, they are also part of the true Israel.

–Thomas Schreiner, Commentary on Galatians, pp. 382 – 383

Amen. Let’s also not forget that Galatians is where Paul contrasts earthly Jerusalem and the Jerusalem above, saying that one was in bondage and about to be cast out, but the other (“the Jerusalem above”) is free and is the mother of God’s people (Galatians 4:21-31).

Christopher Gowan (Associate Editor of The Journal for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood) interacts with Schreiner’s conclusion, agreeing with it and expanding upon it in an article titled “Context Is Everything: ‘The Israel of God’ in Galatians 6:16” (4-page + PDF). It’s worth reading as well.

A Question

Finally, I have a question for those who would insist that Paul was speaking only of Jewish believers when he referred to “the Israel of God.” Paul’s use of this expression implies that there was an Israel during his time that was not of God, which would have been national Israel (as a whole, minus the remnant of believers). It’s often insisted today that modern Israel is a continuation, or a restoration, of national Israel, which was wiped out by the Roman armies in 70 AD. If that (pre-70 AD) Israel was not of God, then why is national Israel today allegedly “God’s chosen people”, “the apple of God’s eye,” a nation that we must bless and support unconditionally, etc.?

Paul did make a distinction in Galatians 6:16, but it wasn’t between Jewish believers and non-Jewish believers. It was between “the Israel of God,” those who belong to Christ, and the Israel that was not of God, those outside of Christ. The Israel of God today still has everything to do with God’s chosen One, Jesus Christ.


**When Fruchtenbaum claims that only Gentile believers made up the “them” of Galatians 6:16, he is basically saying that Jewish believers were not walking according to the rule that “in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but a new creation” (verse 15). Supposedly, only Gentile believers were walking according to this rule. In effect, Fruchtenbaum puts all the Jewish believers in Paul’s day into the camp of the Judaizers, who Paul said were in danger of falling from grace (Galatians 5:4).

“[Ancient Israel] Was Merely a Type, a Shadow of the Spiritual Realities of a Better Day” (Louis Berkhof, 1951)

Louis Berkhof (1873 – 1957) “was a Reformed systematic theologian whose written works have been influential in seminaries and Bible colleges in the United States and Canada and with individual Christians in general throughout the 20th century” (CCEL). Berkhof taught at Calvin Theological Seminary in Grand Rapids, Michigan from 1906 – 1944, and served as its president during his last 14 years there. Wayne Grudem called his Systematic Theology, published in 1932, “a great treasure-house of information and analysis…probably the most useful one-volume systematic theology available from any theological perspective.”

Nine years before his death, in 1948, Berkhof watched modern Israel become a nation. Three years later, in 1951, he published a book with a long title: The Kingdom of God: The Development of the Idea of the Kingdom, Especially Since the Eighteenth Century.Here’s a quote from that book, concerning ancient Israel and the emergence of a modern nation with the same name. What do you think of Berkhof’s statement here? I find myself agreeing with him:

“The theocratic nation itself was merely a type, a shadow of the spiritual realities of a better day, and therefore destined to vanish as soon as the antitype made its appearance. The restoration of the ancient theocracy in the future would simply mean the recurrence of the type – to what purpose? – and not at all the establishment of the Kingdom. It should be borne in mind that the beginnings of the Kingdom of God existed long before the theocracy was established, and continued to develop, and even after it lost its national existence. And the founding of the Kingdom in the new dispensation was in no way dependent on the fortunes of the Jewish nation” (Louis Berkhof, The Kingdom of God…, pp.170-171).

Of course, Berkhof didn’t say that the Jewish people were “destined to vanish,” only national Israel along with its previous significance. As we know, God created “in Himself one new man” from Jews and Gentiles who trust in Him (Ephesians 2:15), and God has kept a remnant from among the Jews (Romans 9:27, 11:5).

At least two earlier posts here also address this topic:

[1] “Why I Stand With Israel” shows how Isaiah, Matthew, Luke, and John all demonstrate that what was said of ancient Israel in the Old Testament is now said of Jesus. In other words, Jesus is Israel, and it’s no surprise that Paul calls Jesus’ followers “the Israel of God” (Galatians 6:16).

[2] “Galatians 4 Shows That Isaiah 66 Is Not About Modern Israel” deals with a passage (Isaiah 66) that many say predicted Israel becoming a nation “in one day” in 1948. It shows that Isaiah instead predicted the birth of the Church, the downfall of earthly Jerusalem, and God’s embracing of the Jerusalem from above.

The Harlot of Revelation 17 and its Relationship to Old Covenant Israel

Series: “Little Gems from Our Study of the Book of Revelation”

The following study was published yesterday in The Fulfilled Connection (TFC) Magazine, and is adapted from our study of Revelation 17 (Part 1):

In Revelation 17, John was shown a woman known as “Babylon the Great”, “the mother of harlots,” and “the great city.” This woman/city has been interpreted in various ways, from the Roman Catholic Church, to New York City, to modern Iraq, to the church in America, etc. This article will discuss a number of reasons why “Babylon the Great” was first century Jerusalem and old covenant Judaism. In doing so, we will look at the first six verses of Revelation 17.

The fall of Babylon was first announced in Revelation 14:8, and Revelation 11:8 identified “the great city” as the place “where also our Lord was crucified,” which, of course, was Jerusalem. Revelation 17-19 describes Babylon’s fall in more detail. This is then followed by a description of the bride, the wife of Jesus, who stands in contrast to the harlot. Note how the following passages deliberately contrast each other:

A. Revelation 17:1: “Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and said to me, ‘Come, I will show you the judgment of the great prostitute who is seated on many waters.’”

A. Revelation 21:9: “Then came one of the seven angels which had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues and spoke to me, saying, ‘Come, I will show you the Bride, the wife of the Lamb.’”

B. Revelation 17:3: “And he carried me away in the Spirit into a wilderness, and I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast that was full of blasphemous names.”

B. Revelation 21:10: “And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great, high mountain, and showed me the holy Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God.”

In Revelation 17:2, Babylon is prosecuted for its sexual immorality, by which “the dwellers on earth” and “the kings of the earth” were made guilty. Notice that the reference to “the kings of the earth” here is distinct from the reference to “the kings of the whole world” in Revelation 16:14, where that reference was to the provincial kings of the Roman Empire. In an earlier 3-part series, I discussed 20 instances in Revelation where the phrase “those who dwell on the earth” refers to first century Israel rather than to everyone on the planet (see Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3). 

Verse 3: John then sees a woman sitting on a scarlet beast with seven heads and ten horns. One of my previous articles, “Ten Fulfilled Prophecies Concerning the Beast from the Sea,” makes the case that the beast was Nero in the specific sense and the Roman Empire in the general sense. The fact that the woman is sitting on the beast suggests a very close relationship between the woman and the beast, who are both distinct in their identity. On this topic, I wrote the following elsewhere regarding the woman (Jerusalem) riding the beast (Rome):

In what sense might Jerusalem have sat on the beast that would ultimately turn on her and destroy her (Rev. 17:3, 9, 16-18)? Israel had enjoyed a good relationship with Rome until the Jewish revolt began in 66 AD, and Judaism was recognized as a valid religion within the Roman Empire. Josephus wrote of this relationship, “It seems to me to be necessary here to give an account of all the honors that the Romans and their emperors paid to our nation [Israel], and of the leagues of mutual assistance they have made with it” (Antiquities, 14.10.1-2). The Jews frequently took advantage of this relationship to induce persecution against Jesus and His followers (Luke 23:2; John 18:28-31, 19:15; Acts 4:27, 16:20, 17:7, 18:12, 21:11, 24:1-9, 25:1-2). W.H.C. Frend even writes that “the promptings of orthodox Jews in the capitol had something to do with” Nero’s decision to begin persecuting Christians in 64 AD (The Rise of Christianity [Philadelphia: Fortress, 1984], 109; quoted in Kenneth Gentry, Before Jerusalem Fell, 2002, p. 63).

Kenneth Gentry suggests that the beast was the color scarlet for any of the following reasons: [1] The robes worn by Roman emperors were red in color [2] Rome, led by Nero, was responsible for shedding much blood among God’s people [3] Nero was famous for his red beard.

Verses 4-5: The woman wore purple, scarlet, gold, jewels, and pearls. She had in her hand a golden cup “full of abominations and the impurities of her sexual immorality.” Her forehead proclaimed that she was “Babylon the great, mother of prostitutes and of earth’s abominations.” According to Todd Dennis, the founder of the Preterist Archive,

…the description of the harlot’s attire (purple, scarlet, gold, jewels, and pearls) was nearly identical to the ephod worn by the high priest (Revelation 17:4; cf. Exodus 28:5-21). The golden cup she held was likely symbolic of the temple vessels, the greatest part of which were gold and silver, according to the Jewish historian Josephus (Wars 5.4.4). On Aaron’s forehead was the inscription “Holy to the Lord” (Exodus 28:36). The harlot’s forehead, on the other hand, bore the title “Babylon the great, mother of prostitutes and of earth’s abominations” (Rev. 17:5).

In Jeremiah’s day, Judah (with its capital of Jerusalem) was prosecuted because it had “played the whore with many lovers” and “polluted the land with…vile whoredom” (Jeremiah 3:1-2). Like Israel in John’s day, Judah prior to its fall in 586 BC had “the forehead of a whore” (verse 3).

Duncan McKenzie’s article has helped me to understand that “Babylon the Great” here was more than just a physical city. It was also a religious system full of abominations, old covenant temple-based Judaism. In Revelation 18 God commands His people regarding Babylon, “Come out of her, my people, lest you take part in her sins, lest you share in her plagues” (Rev. 18:4). We know from Revelation 1 that John’s immediate audience didn’t live in Jerusalem, but in Asia Minor. So this was not a command to flee from the city of Jerusalem.

God’s message was about breaking completely free from old covenant temple-based Judaism. Babylon represented not only Jerusalem, but also the unfaithful community which had rejected Jesus and the new covenant. Both physical Jerusalem and temple-based Judaism were judged and destroyed in 70 AD. In Daniel 9:26-27 we see that it is on “the wing of abominations” that one comes “who makes desolate” (see also Rev. 17:16, Matt. 23:38). This was related to the destruction of “the city and the sanctuary” (Daniel 9:24). The abominations of the earth (land) were the apostate practices of old covenant Judaism.

As mentioned earlier, John was shown a contrasting picture of two women: the harlot of chapters 17 and 18, and the bride in chapter 19 clothed with “fine linen, bright and pure…the righteous deeds of the saints” (see verses 1-8). One (the harlot) persecuted the other (the bride, Christ’s Church). What is most fascinating is Paul’s own contrasting of two women in his epistle to the Galatians:

Tell me, you who desire to be under the law, do you not listen to the law? For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by a slave woman and one by a free woman. But the son of the slave was born according to the flesh, while the son of the free woman was born through promise. Now this may be interpreted allegorically: these women are two covenants. One is from Mount Sinai, bearing children for slavery; she is Hagar. Now Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia; she corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery with her children. But the Jerusalem above is free, and she is our mother. For it is written, “Rejoice, O barren one who does not bear; break forth and cry aloud, you who are not in labor. For the children of the desolate one will be more than those of the one who has a husband.” Now you, brothers, like Isaac, are children of promise. But just as at that time he who was born according to the flesh persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit, so also it is now. But what does the Scripture say? ”Cast out the slave woman and her son, for the son of the slave woman shall not inherit with the son of the free woman.” So, brothers, we are not children of the slave but of the free woman (Galatians 4:21-31).

Just as Paul wrote in Galatians 4, we see in Revelation that God casts out and destroys the harlot (Revelation 18:21), but the bride inherits the Lamb as her husband.

Verse 6: The woman is said to be “drunk with the blood of the saints, the blood of the martyrs of Jesus.” This same charge was laid upon those of “the earth” in the previous chapter (Rev. 16:1), where it was said that “they have shed the blood of saints and prophets (16:4-7).” In chapter 18 we also see that “in her was found the blood of prophets and of saints, and of all who have been slain on the earth” (18:24), and that the “saints and apostles and prophets” were told to rejoice over her destruction (18:20). Who was responsible for shedding all the blood of the prophets, apostles, and the saints, according to Jesus, and who would receive judgment as a result? The answer can be found in Matthew 23:

Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you build the tombs of the prophets and decorate the monuments of the righteous, saying, ‘If we had lived in the days of our fathers, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets’” Thus you witness against yourselves that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. Fill up, then, the measure of your fathers. You serpents, you brood of vipers, how are you to escape being sentenced to hell? Therefore I send you prophets and wise men and scribes, some of whom you will kill and crucify, and some you will flog in your synagogues and persecute from town to town, so that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of innocent Abel to the blood of Zechariah the son of Barachiah, whom you murdered between the sanctuary and the altar. Truly, I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation. O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not! See, your house is left to you desolate (Matthew 23:29-38).

The harlot is not a 21st century entity, but was the first century old covenant community. As God’s people, those of us who are in Christ today have the privilege of being part of the pure woman, God’s bride.

Comparing Matthew 24 and I Thessalonians 4-5

Today a Facebook friend, Chris Palios, shared a chart comparing Matthew 24 and I Thessalonians 4-5. I’ve seen this comparison before, and his post was a good reminder that I’ve been meaning to post it here as well. As Chris said, the similarities between these two passages are fascinating.

While it’s still popular to view Matthew 24 as yet unfulfilled, there are plenty (and even more in church history) who recognize that Jesus was prophesying there concerning Jerusalem’s destruction in 70 AD and other events which would take place within His own generation. [A detailed study on the Olivet Discourse (Matthew 24, Mark 13, and Luke 21) can be seen at the top of this page.] However, among those who view Matthew 24 as fulfilled, some believe that I Thessalonians 4-5 speak of future events. Here is the well-known passage that speaks of the resurrection of believers, which others take as being about a “rapture”: 

For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. 16 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. 18 Therefore comfort one another with these words” (I Thessalonians 4:15-18).

As I’ve promised Steve (who posted a 3-part series here as a guest last year), a deeper study on the resurrection of believers is still in the works. For now, though, here is a chart showing the strong similarities between Matthew 24 and I Thessalonians 4-5. The relationship is so close that I don’t believe it’s possible to view one passage as being fulfilled in the first century AD and the other as not yet fulfilled:

Statements Regarding Jesus’ Coming Reference in Matthew 24 Reference in I Thess. 4 or 5
1. Christ Himself returns Matthew 24:30 I Thess. 4:16
2. From heaven Matthew 24:30 I Thess. 4:16
3. With a shout Matthew 24:30 I Thess. 4:16
4. Accompanied by angels Matthew 24:31 I Thess. 4:16
5. With the trumpet of God Matthew 24:31 I Thess. 4:16
6. In clouds Matthew 24:30 I Thess. 4:17
7. Believers are gathered Matthew 24:31 I Thess. 4:17
8. At an unknown time Matthew 24:36 I Thess. 5:1-2
9. He will come as a thief Matthew 24:43 I Thess. 5:2, 4
10. People unaware of coming judgment Matthew 24:37-39 I Thess. 5:3
11. Judgment comes as travail upon an expectant mother Matthew 24:8 I Thess. 5:3
12. Believers are to watch Matthew 24:42 I Thess. 5:4
13. Warning against drunkenness Matthew 24:49 I Thess. 5:7

The Jewish Heritage of Many Palestinians

“If we investigate the origins of the Felahim [Palestinians], there is no doubt that much Jewish blood runs in their veins.”

-David Ben Gurion, (first) Prime Minister of Israel (1948 -1953, 1955 – 1963)

The more I learn about the different groups involved in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the more interesting the whole situation becomes. There’s also plenty of irony to be discovered in the claims and policies of Zionists, Christian Zionists, and the Israeli government. For example, wouldn’t it be ironic if some Palestinians are more Jewish than some of the Jewish citizens of Israel?


It’s no secret that Israel has billed itself as “a Jewish State” for decades. Of course, this idea has created a dilemma, to say the least, for Arabs, Bedouin, and other non-Jews living in Israel and the Palestinian territories. How do non-Jews fit into “the Jewish State of Israel”? (For a parallel, imagine if America was called “a Caucasian State.”)

The ideal of “a Jewish State” apparently runs along ethnic/racial lines more than religious lines. According to Wikipedia, 43% of Jews in Israel identify as secular, and 47% of these secular Jews (i.e. 20% of all Jews in Israel) are Atheists. Only a slight majority of Israel’s Jews consider themselves to be religious.

Israel’s aim to be a Jewish state is instead a battle drawn up along ethnic lines. However, as was pointed out in an earlier article (“Who Are the Jews in Israel Today?“), a case can be made that a significant percentage of Jews in Israel are descendants of Gentile (non-Jewish) converts to Judaism centuries ago. Not only are many Jews in Israel non-religious, but many are also non-Semitic. Yet they are more than welcome in “the Jewish State.”

Another irony is that many with a Jewish background are destined to be excluded from “the Jewish State” – because they are identified as Palestinians. It’s shameful that this exclusion – of all Palestinians – is fervently supported by the Christian Zionist movement.

Hillel Fendel’s Article in Israel National News

There’s a lot to consider in the following article published in Israel National News in 2009 (“Arabs of Jewish Descent in Israel“):

Up to 85 percent of Arabs in greater Israel stem from Jewish ancestors, it is estimated. Some of them want to become fully Jewish, but most are scared to even talk about it.

“In our search for the lost Ten Tribes in India and Afghanistan, we seem to have forgotten to look for their descendants in our very own backyard.” So says the narrator in a new film about the efforts of a former hi-tech pioneer named Tzvi MiSinai to search out the Jewish roots of Israel’s Arab enemies – and to inform them of their Judaic heritage.

MiSinai has spent about a half-million shekels, he estimates, on these efforts. They include visiting dangerous places deep inside Palestinian Authority-controlled territory, hearing the stories of Arabs who remember observing Jewish customs, and distributing literature to Jews and Arabs alike.

One Arab says his father told him the secret of his family’s Jewishness on his deathbed, while another one, on the backdrop of a photo of the saintly Cabalistic sage Rabbi Abuchatzeira on his wall, says their roots have been known in his family for generations. Wrapping what apparently used to be kosher tefillin on his arm, he says, “My father used to do this, and he taught us to do it whenever someone was sick or in trouble.”

The Jews Who Didn’t Leave

It is generally accepted that most Jews left the Land of Israel after the failed Bar Kokhba revolt in 135 CE. Yet many remained, and of these, many are still here, after having been forced to convert to Islam. “It turns out that a large part of the Arabs of the Land of Israel are actually descendants of forced converts to Islam over the years,” says Rabbi Dov Stein of the nascent Sanhedrin rabbinical council. “There are some studies that say that 85 percent of the Arabs in Israel are descended from Jews; others say there are fewer.”

Ben-Gurion Agrees

The claims are not new. Early Zionist leaders David Ben-Gurion and Yitzchak Ben-Tzvi wrote in a book 100 years ago: “If we investigate the origins of the Felahim, there is no doubt that much Jewish blood runs in their veins.” The authors implied that these Jews loved the Land so much that they were willing to give up their religion. The reference is probably to an edict in the year 1012 by Caliph el-Hakim, who ordered the non-Muslims to either convert or leave the Land of Israel. It is estimated that 90 percent of the Jews chose the former, though many continued to practice Judaism in secret. The decree was revoked 32 years later – apparently too late for about 75 percent of the converts.

Tzvi MiSinai continues to convince Arabs in Judea and Samaria that they are likely Jewish. The film shows him passing through the Gush Etzion checkpoint and distributing  pamphlets both to Israeli soldiers – “so that you’ll know who you’re checking here” – and to the Arabs waiting there – “so that you’ll know who the majority of you are.” Asked by an Arab if he is from the peace movement, MiSinai answers, “Yes, yes, peace, so that we can live together as one nation.”

The Sawarka Bedouin Jews

One place where MiSinai has apparently found very strong Jewish roots is in the Bedouin tribe known as the Sawarka. There are about 3-4,000 of them throughout the Sinai and the Negev, and they “are all Jewish,” says a tribal leader in perfect Hebrew. With his face camouflaged for the cameras, the Bedouin says, “They had no choice but to convert; this was centuries ago… I remember my mother and grandmother wouldn’t light fire on Sabbath, and they had a special mikveh…”

Others, in a Bedouin village east of Hebron, also remember burning a small piece of dough (reminiscent of the Biblical command to separate a small piece of dough when baking bread), lighting candles at graves, and tearing clothes and sitting shiva for seven days, and not three as is Muslim practice.

Even today, ritual circumcisions are carried out after the seventh day of birth.  Many homes in some of the Arab villages have doorpost indentations for a Mezuzah, with a scroll placed in some of them.

In another village just south of Hevron, Muhammed Amsalem – a descendant of Spanish Jews – told Aharon Granot of Mishpacha magazine that everyone in town knows he and his clan are Jews: “Our elders tell us that our forefathers came to this land during the [15th century] Spanish Inquisition, via Morocco. They settled in Ramle. Then the Mamluks forced them to convert to Islam, and they moved to the South Hevron area.”

Amsalem says they decided to reveal their Jewish roots after the 1967 Six Day War when they learned that a Jewish community had been reestablished in Hevron. “But the Jews saw we had no knowledge of their religious practices and refused to accept us… If the Jewish community would be willing to receive us today, we would join them with great enthusiasm.”

In the area of the South Hevron Hills, half of the Arabs are aware of the Jewish origins. They used to talk about it openly, though no longer. One man who recently publicized a silver Chanukah menorah that had been passed down to him from his father and previous generations was hung by terrorists by his feet for six weeks, leaving him with permanent injuries.

Genetic Studies Back Claims

At the Hadassah Medical School labs, Prof. Ariela Oppenheim of Hebrew University performed an international genetic study that backs up conclusions of Jewish-Arab genetic similarities. “We found that despite the dispersion of Jews around the world for 2,000 years, they essentially kept their Jewish continuity,” Oppenheim said. “In addition, we found that the Jewish population is surprisingly close, genetically, to the Arabs living here in Israel.”

She said that the study shows that both the Arabs of Israel and the Jews are descended from the Kurds of Aram in Babylon – the birthplace of the Patriarch Abraham. 

“It’s clear that we’re all from the same family,” Oppenheim concludes. “Most unfortunately, however, there are conflicts even within families, and sometimes brothers fight as well. I wish this is what will bring the Redemption, but I’m very sad to say that I don’t think so.”

Some Want to Return to Observant Judaism

South of Hevron, in Yatta, there is a large formerly-Jewish presence – and some even want to return to active Judaism. It is widely known there that half the residents are of the originally-Jewish Mahamra clan – a name that means “winemaker,” a trade that is forbidden according to Islam. “The people in these areas converted to Islam later in history,” MiSinai says, “and therefore more customs and knowledge and artifacts have been preserved.” These include Jewish stars over the entrances to homes, while in at least one house, the family has hidden a mezuzah and tefillin in creative hiding spots. One man pulled out a small Hebrew booklet of Psalms and Tanya with which he says he continues to secretly pray.

Miro Cohen, a Jew from Tekoa, in eastern Gush Etzion, is very friendly with the Arabs in a nearby village known as Kawazbe – a name that he and they agree is merely a corruption of Kuzeiba, the original name of the famous Bar Kokhba.

“These people are the descendants of Bar Kokhba,” Cohen declares. One Arab sitting with him can count his ancestors eight generations back, ending with a grandfather named Kawazbeh.  Another village elder says openly that his grandfather was a Jew who converted to Islam. Some of the residents want to return to Judaism; they don’t call it converting, because they are “already Jewish.”  On the other hand, Arabs with the name Kawazbeh have been arrested for terrorist activity against Israel.

Other areas where Arabs of Jewish descent reside are Kfar Anzah in Samaria, Samoa in southern Judea, villages in the Tel Arad area, and more. Rabbi Stein says, “We know that up to about 200 years ago, the Galilee village of Sakhnin was a Jewish town, with an active synagogue. The Turks pressured them to convert to Islam, but the people there know that they are of Jewish origins.”

Rachel Avraham’s Article in the Jewish Press

There are also a number of things to consider in the following Jewish Press article published on January 6th, 2015 (“Most Palestinians in Judea and Samaria Were Formerly Jews“):

As a journalist, I was always very skeptical what the origins of the Palestinian people are. Some have argued that the origins of the Palestinians date back 1,000 years. Others claim that the ancestors of the Palestinians came much more recently, during the late Ottoman and British Mandate periods. And still others allege that the roots of the Palestinian people in the Holy Land are ancient. So what are we to believe?

The American archeologist Eric Cline reported in his book, Jerusalem Besieged: “Although some would disagree, historians and archeologists have generally concluded that most, if not all, modern Palestinians are probably more closely related to the Arabs of Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Jordan, and other countries than they are to the ancient Jebusites, Canaanites, or Philistines. The major movements of those Arabs into the region occurred after 600 CE, more than 1,600 years after David and the Israelites had vanquished the original inhabitants of the land.” This fact is confirmed by Sherif Hussein, the Guardian of Islamic Holy Places of Arabia, who stated that the Palestinians ancestors had only been in the region for 1,000 years.

Numerous scholars have reported that following the Black Plague and Crusades in 1517, only 300,000 people were left in the Land of Israel, of whom 5,000 were Jewish, and that many of the ancestors of the modern Palestinians came in the late Ottoman and early British Mandate period. During the British Mandate period alone, 100,000 Arabs from neighboring countries immigrated to the Holy Land.

However, after conducting intense research into this issue, another story for the origins of the Palestinian people has appeared which further reaffirms Jewish attachment to the Holy Land. A Palestinian living in Jerusalem who wishes to remain anonymous has confessed in an exclusive interview that this persons’ family origins are 100% Jewish and that this person’s father’s family were Cohanim. He proclaimed: “Most of the Palestinians in Judea and Samaria are former Jews. The Ottomans converted them by force. My family converted to Islam in the early 1900’s.”

This Palestinian explained that the town where this person originally came from and the seven surrounding villages had a Jewish majority up until the early 1900’s: “My grandparents tell me they were born Muslim. The entire town which is Islin and the entire collection of towns near Beit Shemesh were Jewish. The entire towns around us used a Jewish judge known as Khawaja Kakum, who was a rabbi.”

The Palestinian noted that in the late 1800’s, the Ottoman Empire started to pressure the local population to accept Islam, after Herzl informed the Ottoman Sultan of the Zionist movements’ intentions. This resulted in the Sultan going crazy and making sure that would not happen, although he did refrain from issuing a formal edict of conversion: “The Ottoman soldiers would arrive, investigating and making sure everyone was Jewish and that would involve a humiliating act. The locals would have to bring all of the fancy rugs so the soldiers could use them. They had to fix hay mixed with sugar for the horses of the Ottoman cavalry. And then, the locals had to cook food for the soldiers. They were forced to mix yoghurt with lamb in a dish known today as mansaf.”

The Palestinian noted that Bayt Itab, which was near Beit Shemesh, was inhabited by Sephardic Jews: “A particular family in the town began holding Friday prayers on both Friday and Saturday, so the Ottomans would be fooled into believing that they were not Jews. Now Beit Shemesh, another nearby town, had mostly Jewish families that would later on become Palestinian, except for one family.”

“Many Jews would never believe this but if you visit Zora; you will see the tomb or grave of Samson the Great,” the Palestinian noted. “You would learn that Palestinians used to glorify this man in this town. Whenever someone dies, Palestinians used to sing in sadness for him: ‘Oh my G-d, why have you taken him, he has never displaced his grandmother or given advice to a Muslim.’ Why would Muslim Palestinians sing folk songs like that?”

“One of the folk songs for children goes: ‘By the G-d of Moses, don’t make me lose my way,’” the Palestinian explained. “Why not Muhammed? Also, the local comments reflected in the entire Palestinian community used the term ‘he’s a Cohen’ to reflect someone who is wise or who could see stuff others could not see. Most Palestinians don’t know what a Cohen is. Why do they use the term ‘he is a Cohen’ to describe someone with G-d given knowledge?”

While such statements go contrary to pan-Arab propaganda and the standard Middle Eastern history books taught across the globe, this Palestinian is not the only one to make this claim. According to the Jerusalem Post, Tzvi MiSinai conducted research into the Jewish roots of the Palestinian people and discovered that 90% of the Palestinians have Jewish roots: “And what’s more, half of them know it.” He noted that many Palestinians maintain Jewish customs, including mourning rituals, lighting Shabbat candles and even wearing tefillin.

Misnai is not the only researcher to believe this. Genetic studies conducted by Hadassah Medical School found that the Jewish population is surprisingly close genetically to the Palestinian population, implying that many of them have Jewish blood in them. Israel’s first Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion evidently agreed that most Palestinians have Jewish roots, according to Arutz Sheva: “If we investigate the origins of the Felahim, there is no doubt that much Jewish blood runs in their veins.”

…Caliph El Hakim forced all of the Jews of the Holy Land to either convert to Islam or leave the country in 1012 and the Crusaders massacred numerous Jews in the Holy Land in the late medieval period. He maintains that until the British Mandate period, the influx of Muslims into the Holy Land was minimal and most of the locals had Jewish roots.

“When General Allenby, the commander of the British military forces, conquered Palestine in 1917/1918, only a few thousand Muslim Arabs resided in the Holy Land,” Mandelbaum writes. “Most of the Arabs were Christians, and most of the Muslims in the area either came from Turkey under the Ottoman Empire, or were the descendants of Jews and Christians who were forcefully converted to Islam by the Muslim conquerors.”

However, despite the massive influx of Muslims into the Holy Land during the British Mandate period, the Palestinian interviewed proclaimed: “I don’t know of a Palestinian family who does not have a Jewish story to their history. Just like Jews were forced to convert to Christianity in Spain, they won’t ever go back, but it would be helpful to remind us publicly of whom we were and what we were, to show that we must connect as humans.”

This Palestinian explained that both sides made mistakes in the years leading up to Israel’s establishment and afterwards. The Zionist movement did not recognize the Palestinians as having Jewish roots in their family while emphasizing that both sides suffered from anti-semitism and the Palestinians themselves also very much looked down on the newcomers from Europe. But this Palestinian hopes that this information can help bring the two peoples together at the very least to pursue peace in the future: “Unless we study our past, we won’t move forward to the future.”

About the Author: Rachel Avraham is a news editor and political analyst for Jerusalem Online News, the English language internet edition of Israel’s Channel 2 News. She completed her masters degree in Middle Eastern Studies at Ben-Gurion University. The subject of her MA thesis was: “Women and Jihad: Debating Palestinian Female Suicide Bombings in the American, Israeli and Arab media.”


Whether “most” Palestinians have a Jewish background, or only a minority of them do, this information adds further irony to the Israel/Palestinian conflict. The Zionist/Christian Zionist agenda sidelines Palestinians, some of whose ancestors were ethnic Jews, but embraces those currently identified as Jews, even if they have no Jewish blood. It should be pointed out that plenty of Jews are opposed to the Zionist agenda. See this post, for example: Dueling Jewish Perspectives on the Israeli/Palestinian Conflict.

Followers of Christ, in particular, should have nothing to do with an agenda that sidelines or oppresses anyone. As the apostle Paul wrote to the Galatians,

Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith” (Galatians 6:10).


Here are two more articles dealing with this subject:

[1] “The Shared Genetic Heritage of Jews and Palestinians” (at Patheos Blog)
[2] “The Lost Palestinian Jews” (at The Jerusalem Post)

Day Trip to Cincinnati, Ohio and the Underground Railroad Museum

At the very end of last spring, on June 17th, my wife (Jasmine) and I made another day trip, this time traveling to Cincinnati, Ohio and back in one day. Cincinnati would normally be a 3-hour drive from where we live (Bowling Green, Ohio), but that day it took at least five hours due to a tanker leaking toxic chemicals and I-75 being shut down north of Dayton, Ohio. Just like we did on our day trip to Columbus, Ohio in May, we stopped for lunch at an African restaurant.


In Columbus we had Somali food, which is East African, but in Cincinnati we tried some West African food at a Senegalese restaurant. Teranga Restaurant is on the north side of Cincinnati, and as one can see from their parent website the owners also run a grocery/supply store, a hair shop, currency exchange services, and a travel agency.




From there we headed to downtown Cincinnati and visited the Underground Railroad Museum. If you visit Cincinnati, we highly recommend visiting this place. Free parking is available in front of the building, which is in a great downtown location near the Ohio River. The Underground Railroad Museum covers the history of the slave trade in America, and also shines the light on modern slavery around the world, including human trafficking, child labor, etc. It was a highly educational experience, and we could have learned/seen even more if we had more time. Here are some pictures from our visit to this museum:















After spending time at the museum, we walked around the nearby parts of downtown Cincinnati.






We then walked across a nearby bridge to Covington, Kentucky.


(facing Covington, near the entrance to the bridge)



(facing Cincinnati while on the bridge)




(facing Covington)


(facing toward Cincinnati on the left and toward Newport, Kentucky on the right)


(facing Cincinnati)



For those who appreciate unique forms of public transportation, the Cincinnati area features an amphibian taxi, the Newport Ducks. It runs along the Ohio River…



…and on land:

Ride The Ducks Newport

(Photo Source: Newport Aquarium)

After walking back to Cincinnati, we drove back over the bridge to Covington.









(Another bridge from Cincinnati – Newport, Kentucky can be seen on the right side of the photo.)




We then concluded our time in the Cincinnati area by driving over to Newport, Kentucky, just east of Covington.