The Grace of God

That Brings Salvation Has Appeared to All Men (Titus 2:11)

Dispensational Zionism Proof Texts Examined, Ezekiel 37:1-14

Introduction

Many people believe that Ezekiel 37 has been fulfilled by the creation of the Israeli state. This includes the Prime Minister of Israel himself, who claimed the following in a speech:

Armed with the Jewish spirit, the justice of man, and the vision of the prophets, we sprouted new branches and grew deep roots. Dry bones became covered with flesh, a spirit filled them, and they lived and stood on their own feet, as Ezekiel prophesied:

“Then He said to me, ‘Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. They indeed say, ‘Our bones are dry, our hope is lost, and we ourselves are cut off!’ Therefore prophesy and say to them, thus says the Lord God, ‘Behold, O My people, I will open your graves and cause you to come up from your graves and bring you into the land of Israel. Then you shall know that I am the Lord, when I have opened your graves, O My people, and brought you up from your graves.”

Well, that certainly is an astounding claim, but let’s examine the Scriptures to see if these things be so!

Read Ezek. 37:1-14 here.

God defined the dry bones as the “whole house of Israel.” Ezekiel gave this prophecy (while in exile himself) after the capture of Jerusalem (33:21), at a time when Israel and Judah were overthrown by enemy nations. We can understand, then, why Israel was pictured as a valley of hopeless dry bones. How could they ever rise to life after such thorough judgment had befallen them? When asked by the Lord if these bones could live again, Ezekiel could only reply, “Oh, Lord God, you know.”

Notice that God did not give, as an antidote for Israel’s problem, a military plan by which to overthrow the oppressing countries. Instead He told Ezekiel to prophesy the Word of the Lord to the bones (4). Israel’s calling was spiritual, its problem was spiritual, and its remedy must also be spiritual. The only hope of life is the Word of the Lord–received, believed and obeyed. Israel had become a valley of dry bones through disobedience. Thus thoroughly humbled, some (a remnant) would respond to the Word of the Lord, and again “rise from the dead.” For are we not all dead in sins while in a state of disobedience, yet alive again when we receive with meekness the implanted Word which is able to save us?

God said He would put His very Spirit in those who would arise from their graves. Remember that God’s Spirit is not given indiscriminately to everyone, but to those who obey Him (Acts 5:32)! The “exceedingly great army” that would arise in obedience to the Word and Spirit of the Lord, was not a military army. It was a spiritual army made up of people who had returned to the Lord in obedience after being humbled by judgment.

Obedience Necessary for Blessing, No Exceptions

Deut. 30:1-10 contains the requirements Israel would have to meet after falling under God’s judgment, if they wanted to be restored to a blessed state again–

Now it shall come to pass, when all these things (the curses of the covenant) come upon you, the blessing and the curse which I have set before you, and you call them to mind among all the nations where the Lord your God drives you, and you return to the Lord your God and obey His voice, according to all that I command you today, you and your children, with all your heart and with all your soul, that the Lord your God will bring you back from captivity, and have compassion on you, and gather you again from all the nations where the Lord your God has scattered you. If any of you are driven out to the farthest parts under heaven, from there the Lord your God will gather you, and from there He will bring you. Then the Lord your God will bring you to the land which your fathers possessed, and you shall possess it. He will prosper you and multiply you more than your fathers. And the Lord your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your descendants, to love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live. Also the Lord your God will put all these curses on your enemies and on those who hate you, who persecuted you. And you will again obey the voice of the Lord and do all His commandments which I command you today…For the Lord will again rejoice over you for good as He rejoiced over your fathers, if you obey the voice of the Lord your God, to keep His commandments and His statutes which are written in this Book of the Law, and if you turn to the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul.

It is very clear that any blessing after judgment could only follow renewed obedience to the voice of the Lord. Lipservice wouldn’t do; they would have to keep God’s commands out of circumcised hearts that had sincere love for Him.

So, is Ezekiel’s prophecy of Israel’s resurrection still yet to be fulfilled, or has it already been fulfilled by events in history? There is a very clear fulfillment of this prophecy in earthly Israel’s history not too long after it was given. There is also a greater fulfillment in the spiritual Israel, which I will discuss later.

Earthly Fulfillment of Ezekiel’s Dry Bones Prophecy

In Daniel 9:2, Daniel understood from reading Jeremiah (25:1-12) that there would be 70 years of judgment, and then the repentance and restoration of Israel would occur. This is the very restoration promised in Ezekiel’s vision of dry bones coming alive again. Remembering that Ezekiel’s prophecy was written between 593-565 BC, let’s look at the books of Ezra and Nehemiah, which record the rebuilding of the nation after that time.

Ezra

The first group of exiles to return to Jerusalem came under Zerubbabel’s leadership between 538-520 BC. Ezra 1 records the stirring up of Cyrus King of Persia by the Lord, who issued a proclamation that any of the exiles who wished to return to Jerusalem were free to go! The time of judgment (70 years) had been fulfilled, and what had seemed impossible for many years (the bones were dry) was suddenly possible (God resurrected the humbled remnant). Ezra 1-6 records the rebuilding and re-dedication of the temple over a period of years, under the protection of kings Cyrus and Darius. Once the temple was completed, “the children of Israel who had returned from the captivity ate together with all who had separated themselves from the filth of the nations of the land in order to seek the Lord God of Israel.” (Ezra 6:21)

Beginning in Ezra 7, we see that Ezra is a very godly man who had prepared his heart to seek the Law of the Lord, and to do it, and to teach statutes and ordinances in Israel (7:10). Persian king Artaxerxes allowed Ezra to take a second group of exiles back to Jerusalem, and even gave money to the God of Israel! He gave Ezra authority to set up leaders and judges who “know the laws of your God; and teach those who do not know them.” (7:25) Having testified to the king that “The hand of our God is upon all those for good who seek Him, but His power and His wrath are against all those who forsake Him” (8:22), Ezra did not request a military escort, but had the people humble themselves and fast, asking for God’s protection. They arrived safely in Jerusalem, not due to military superiority, but because “the hand of our God was upon us.” (8:31)

When it was revealed to Ezra that some of the people were marrying unbelievers, he tore his clothes, fasted, and prayed with great humility. He acknowledged that Israel had been justly punished, yet God extended mercy to us in the sight of the kings of Persia, to revive us (9:9–the same revival Ezekiel prophesied in his dry bones vision). Then he cries, “O our God, what shall we say after this [new sin]?” (9:10) Look at his humble confession:

And after all that has come upon us for our evil deeds and for our great guilt, since You our God have punished us less than our iniquities deserve, and have given us such deliverance as this, should we again break Your commandments, and join in marriage with the people committing these abominations? Would You not be angry with us until You had consumed us, so that there would be no remnant or survivor? O Lord God of Israel, You are righteous, for we are left as a remnant, as it is this day. Here we are before You, in our guilt, though no one can stand before You because of this!” (9:13-15)

Ezra acknowledged that if they broke God’s commands again after their revival, God would be likely to be so angry as to consume them for good!While he knew the prophesies of restoration, he obviously believed the promises were conditioned on obedience. The people were apparently stricken with conviction, for they came confessing their sins. They then made a law that whoever would not come and listen to Ezra, that person’s property would be confiscated and he would be cut off from the assembly (10:7-8). Apparently, they didn’t view the land as an unconditionally theirs based on genetics! Instead there was an emphasis on spiritual fidelity to God. An investigation was then carried out in an effort to bring the people into conformity to God’s law.

Nehemiah

The third group of exiles to return was led by Nehemiah, and this is recorded in the book by that name.

Nehemiah’s prayer of repentance on behalf of himself and the nation is found in Neh. 1. It includes confession of sin and a humble plea that God would do for those “who desire to fear your Name” as He promised in Deut. 30. There was no assumption on Nehemiah’s part that God would bless anyone who was unrepentant.

Both my father’s house and I have sinned. We have acted very corruptly against You, and have not kept the commandments, the statutes, nor the ordinances which You commanded Your servant Moses. Remember, I pray, the word that You commanded Your servant Moses, saying, ‘If you are unfaithful, I will scatter you among the nations; but if you return to Me, and keep My commandments and do them, though some of you were cast out to the farthest part of the heavens, yet I will gather them from there, and bring them to the place which I have chosen as a dwelling for My name.’ Now these are Your servants and Your people, whom You have redeemed by Your great power, and by Your strong hand. O Lord, I pray, please let Your ear be attentive to the prayer of Your servant, and to the prayer of Your servants who desire to fear Your name; and let Your servant prosper this day, I pray, and grant him mercy in the sight of this man. For I was the king’s cupbearer.

Under exile, Nehemiah had become the servant of Persian King Artaxerxes. He apparently had served him respectfully, in the fear of God, for Artaxerxes seemed to genuinely care for him when he was downcast about the condition of Jerusalem. God gave Nehemiah favor with the king, who not only allowed him to return to Jerusalem, but also gave him letters which protected him on his journey. As with the first two groups who returned to Jerusalem, the restoration was not brought about by rebellion and warfare, but God supernaturally resurrected the humble remnant, directing the hearts of kings to let them go and even help them.

When threatened by neighboring peoples while rebuilding Jerusalem’s walls, Nehemiah resorted to prayer (4:4). He armed his men but reminded them,“Our God will fight for us.” (4:20) When Nehemiah discovered that some of the Jews were taking advantage of their poor brethren, he rebuked them and commanded them to fear God and do what was right. He even said if they didn’t repent, “may God shake out each man from his house, and from his property, who does not perform this promise.” (5:6-13) Obviously, Nehemiah (like Ezra) did not hold to an unconditional land promise.Once the returned remnant was again living in Israel’s cities (7:73), the Book of the Law was read by Ezra the priest, and “the ears of all the people were attentive to the Book of the Law.” (8:3) After hearing the Word of the Lord, they agreed with it, and humbly bowed their faces to the ground, worshiping the Lord (8:6). Neh. 9 finds the people assembled with fasting in sackcloth, confessing their sins and the sins their people had committed over a period of many years. They confessed that God had justly judged them for their wickedness (9:33), and offered themselves as God’s servants once again (9:36). Again in Neh. 13, the people repent and obey God when challenged by Scripture.

Can you see that Ezekiel’s prophecy of dry bones coming to life again was fulfilled?! The remnant heard the Word of the Lord and were obedient. They returned to Israel “not by might, nor by power but by my Spirit.” There, the Lord would soon bring forth His Servant Jesus in Bethlehem of Judea, who would save His people from their sins.

Spiritual Fulfillment of Ezekiel’s Dry Bones Prophecy

First, I contend that the earthly fulfillment of the prophecy was, in fact, also spiritual–because the remnant had to get right with God spiritually in order to be “resurrected” in the days of Nehemiah and Ezra. But as the days of Nehemiah and Ezra brought a repentant spiritual people to an earthlyJerusalem, that fulfillment stands in contrast to the return of a repentant, spiritual people to the heavenly Jerusalem. This is a spiritual reality which the earlier fulfillment foreshadowed.

Consider the days recorded in the four gospels and Acts. John the Baptist came preaching the Word of the Lord in Israel (prophesying to dry bones) when a relapse into sin and apostasy had once again enslaved the people under Roman occupation. Did he preach about how God gave the land to Abraham and therefore the Romans had better take their hands off the apple of God’s eye?–On the contrary, he preached that the Jews needed to Repent, for the kingdom of heaven was at hand!(Matt. 3:2) He did not allow anyone to rest in earthly heritage (Matt. 3:8-12). The gospel of the kingdom was preached to the Jew first, and many “dry bones” came together in response to the Word of the Lord. The Spirit of God filled these resurrected people through the breath of God (Jn. 20:22; Acts 2), and empowered them to be the army of the Lord–a spiritual army which the very gates of hell could never overcome.

From the time of John forward, Scripture elevates the importance of the heavenly kingdom preached by John, Jesus and Paul, and pays little attention to earthly kingdoms. For the law and the prophets were until John. Since that time the kingdom of God has been preached, and everyone is pressing into it (Lk. 16:16). This heavenly kingdom, even now being populated, is a fuller fullfillment of all the Old Testament prophecies of a glorious restored Kingdom. Peter pointed to this spiritual Kingdom being the fulfillment of the prophecies, saying “all the prophets, from Samuel and those who follow, as many as have spoken, have also foretold these days.”(Acts 3:24) Its final and most glorious fulfillment will occur when Jesus returns for His complete international Bride and destroys the wicked in the same day (Lk. 17:29-30 is very clear that these two events happen on thesame day.)

Jesus put an end to earthly sacrifices (and the Old Covenant) by the sacrifice of Himself (Dan. 9:27; Heb. 9:26), and was resurrected to His eternal throne. His kingdom is not of this world, and His servants don’t fight for earthly land, but instead are busy seeking the Kingdom of God (remember the Jewish believers were known for selling their possessions and lands to help the poor–Acts 2:45; 4:34-35). Once it appeared that the Jews of that generation had been reached, some of the Jewish converts turned their attention to bringing Gentiles into the kingdom. Gentile converts were grafted into the same olive tree to which believing Jews belonged, thus putting and end to division between Jew and Gentile forever. This Mount Zion to which all believers come, is supernaturally protected. The repentant “exiles” of the whole earth come to her, and God Himself sees to it that all who desire to, arrive in their beloved city–the Jerusalem Above (Gal. 4:26; Heb. 12:22).

Now, God’s people no longer worship Him on the mountains of Samaria or in earthly Jerusalem, but in spirit and truth wherever they are on the earth (Jn. 4:19-24). Regardless of national borders or races, all who enter Christ by faith are counted as the seed of Abraham (Rom. 4:16, 9:8; Gal. 3:7-9). These inherit all the promises–for all the promises of God ***in Christ*** are Yes, and in Him Amen (2 Cor. 1:20).

Why the Modern State of Israel Has Not Fulfilled Ezekiel’s Prophecy

Was the founding of the modern Israeli state a fulfillment of Ezekiel’s prophecy, as Netanyahu and Christian Zionists claim?–No, for it does not meet any of the qualifications.

Was the state founded upon obedience to God, who sent His Son Jesus to die once for all men, and now commands all men everywhere to repent and believe on Him?–No.

Is the state the home of people who have circumcised hearts that love the Lord and keep His commands?–Again, No.

Are its citizens all Spirit-filled, and do they obey and promote the Word of the Lord?–Sadly, no.

While we can certainly sympathize with the desire of any people to have a safe place to live after the horrors of the holocaust, the events of 1948 have nothing to do with Ezekiel’s prophecy. It was simply the founding of another secular state by force. Yes, it was created in the place where ancient Israel once dwelt, but anyone who is honest must admit that it identifies more with the rebellious Israel than the repentant Israel. As we saw in our study of Nehemiah and Ezra, disobedience to God disqualified one from possessing the land even under the Old Covenant, regardless of ethnicity.

Furthermore, the even more glorious restoration of God’s Kingdom has already come through Jesus Christ, as the apostles believed and taught. God’s Kingdom, the Kingdom of Heaven, fulfills the restored Israel of God. This olive tree has had all unbelieving branches removed, and it has admitted believing branches from all over the world. The raising of Israel’s temple began with the resurrection of Jesus; it is still being rebuilt, as the lives of individually saved/resurrected believers become stones in the temple walls. Israel’s King can never be dethroned, Israel’s High Priest is a Priest forever (Heb. 5:6), and the veil which was rent cannot be un-rent. What place in this mystery, then, is found for an earthly Israel still ruled by ungodly people who may or may not return to animal sacrifices one day? If they did so, it would be a massive insult to Jesus Christ. The only appropriate place for such is the lake of fire. I can only agree with Paul, who wrote that this earthly nation will not inherit the promises (Gal. 4:29-30), no matter what they might be able to accomplish in their flesh.

It is imperative that we learn to recognize and discern the Lord’s Body, and have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness. The Lord’s Body is not a state. The Lord’s Body is a unified people who obey the Lord. These are the chosen people–people who abide in the Chosen One. Lots of politicians quote snatches of Scripture to legitimize their worldly ambitions; do not be deceived. We are repeatedly told by false teachers today to “watch (earthly) Israel,” but the Kingdom of God does not come with observation; in this lifetime, it is within us (Lk. 17:20-21). These false teachers seem to be under the same darkness and confusion the Jews were under who fought for their homeland in the Jewish/Roman wars.

Isn’t it time to begin interpreting the Old Testament prophecies in the light of the New Testament, and how its inspired writers interpreted them?

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