Was Israel 1948 a Fulfilment of Bible-Prophecy?

In my opinion, the creation of the State of Israel in 1948 probably wasn’t a direct fulfilment of any specific Bible-prophecy. And I’ll explain why it matters.

Some claim the following verse:

8 Who hath heard such a thing? who hath seen such things? Shall the earth be made to bring forth in one day? or shall a nation be born at once? for as soon as Zion travailed, she brought forth her children.

The State of Israel, it is claimed, was rebirthed by a stroke of the pen, on a single day, on May 14, 1948, fulfilling Isaiah’s prophecy.

But I think the above prophecy more than likely referred instead to the reinstatement of Israel after captivity in the nations, which occurred in Old Covenant times.

That’s the meaning that would have been more obvious to Isaiah and his direct audience.

Also the context mentions a number of factors which were unique to Old Covenant times, but irrelevant in 1948. For example, it mentions:

* the Temple (verses 1 & 6);

* the holy mountain, animal sacrifices, and Temple vessels (verses 3 & 20);

* priests and Levites (verse 21);

* the captivity of Israel, which happened soon afterwards (verse 4);

* the nations of Tarshish, Pul, Lud, Tubal and Javan were specified (verse 19);

* the weapons of the day were said to be the bow and arrow (verse 19);

* it mentions the subsequent demise of Israel’s enemy-kingdoms, which also happened one-by-one throughout the time of Israel’s captivity and following (verse six);

* one of the specific condemnations which was mentioned was eating swine’s flesh (verse 17);

* the preferred mode of transport mentioned in those days were horses, chariots, litters, mules and swift beasts (verse 20);

* worship on new moons and sabbaths and specifically in Jerusalem were mentioned as obligations (verse 23);

It’s in that specific historical context that the above verse (mentioning the rebirth of Israel) is found. So if the promise to rebuild the nation (in verse 8) was directly fulfilled by the events of 1948, then the rest of the prophecy had to be fulfilled in 1948 as well. But it wasn’t – neither could it have been – neither can it at any time in the future – because although each of those details had relevance in Old Covenant times, none of them have relevance now because we’re in a New Covenant now.

Verse 8 was intended as Isaiah’s encouragement to Israel, reassuring them that despite soon going into captivity, they would again be restored as a nation. This would have been little comfort to his immediate audience if it never actually referred to them in their own context but refers instead to someone else thousands of years later in an entirely different context!

Still some retort that the rebirth of Israel after captivity at that time didn’t take place in a day. But neither is it strictly true to say that the State of Israel was created in a single day in 1948 either. The announcement in 1948 was made in a day – but so was Cyrus’ decree made in a day. Both events alike were preceded by a period of struggle. Therefore the terminology of travail and birthing in a day used by Isaiah can be applied to Israel’s return from captivity no less than it can be applied to 1948.

Some feel that Isaiah’s mention of the new heavens and the new earth (verse 22) puts the fulfilment of the whole passage in the context of a future ‘Millennium’. But it says, “…which I shall make…” not, which I will have made. The Lord was just reassuring Israel that despite their upcoming period of captivity, their ethnicity would continue to exist just as assuredly as the future new heavens and new earth which He shall make shall never end.

So those are some of the reasons why I think the prophecy was primarily about Israel’s experience in Old Covenant times, and isn’t directly about the events of 1948 or any future event.

However, God’s promises, having been fulfilled long ago, were never explicitly repealed. Throughout Bible-history we saw that Israel’s experience of the promises ebbed and flowed – but never without a cause. There are Bible-verses which explained the reasons why Israel again lost the status which it regained in fulfilment of the above prophecy. Jesus discussed it in Matthew 24, and it came to pass exactly as He predicted, in around AD70.

All of the experiences of the Jews throughout subsequent centuries can be explained in terms of a number of principles in God’s Word. They were the ramifications of fulfilled-prophecy, but not the fulfilment of prophecy itself. The events were an outworking of various Bible-principles, but not necessarily the direct subject of any specific Bible-prophecy.

The events of 1948 were not necessary in order to fulfil any specific Bible promise or prophecy for the first time, but everything that has happened to Israel since around AD70 until the present – including the events of 1948 – happened because of Bible principles – happened because Bible-prophecy had been fulfilled. And once the promises and prophecies were fulfilled – long ago – both God’s goodwill towards Jews and also the consequences of unbelief have continued to show their pertinence.

In any case, if Bible-prophecy concerning Israel was not fulfilled before 1948, how could we know for sure that 1948 fulfilled it? Circumstances could change in Israel which could make the 1948-generation seem less Biblically significant and cause us to wait for a more complete fulfilment in a future generation. We just wouldn’t know for sure. The only way we can be sure a Bible-prophecy has been fulfilled, is if the Bible itself states that it has. And that’s what we have in the Gospel. The Apostles understood Bible-prophecy with regards to Israel to have been fulfilled, to have culminated in Christ and His Gospel, with Gentiles included and unbelieving Jews excluded. Jesus’ prediction of the destruction of the Temple and fall of Jerusalem included a specific time-frame in which it was to be fulfilled. So we don’t just have history to rely on, but we also have the Bible itself, in order to know that Jesus’ prediction has now been fulfilled. The only thing the Apostles’ doctrine has us waiting for now is the second coming of Christ and His kingdom. Only the born-again can see His heavenly kingdom, regardless of ethnicity and without the works of the Law ever being a requirement.

Getting Bible-prophecy wrong, and misunderstanding current events as the direct fulfilment of Bible-prophecy rather than as the ramifications of already-fulfilled prophecies that they are, has the effect of blurring some of our focus on Jesus and the Gospel. It lends credence to the wrong idea that modern Judaism has validity as a means of salvation. It wrongly portrays the Gospel as nothing more than an unexpected interlude before God gets back to His alleged kingdom-program for Israel. It depicts us all reverting again to Old Covenant Feasts in future, rather than adhering to the freedom of the New Covenant. But getting it right – understanding and applying Bible-prophecy correctly – right dividing the Word – and understanding current events in those terms – keeps our focus solely and clearly on Jesus Christ and the everlasting Gospel as it should.

ACTS 4:12
12 Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.

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