Israel in God’s Economy (5) – The Main Prophecies concerning Israel before the Lord’s Coming


As those who eagerly await the coming of the Lord, we should know the three main prophecies concerning Israel that must be fulfilled before His return. The first two have already been fulfilled and were prophesied both by the Old Testament prophets and Jesus in the Gospels: (1) the rebirth of Israel and (2) the return of Jerusalem to the Jews. We still await the fulfillment of the third prophecy, the rebuilding of the temple in Jerusalem. According to Witness Lee:

Other than these three items—the restoration of the nation of Israel, the return of Jerusalem to the Jewish people, and the rebuilding of the temple—it is difficult to locate any other definite signs of the Lord’s return pertaining to Israel. We need to see that the Lord’s return is near, and we need to prepare ourselves for His return. (CWWL, 1973-1974, vol. 2, 390)

When we see the temple rebuilt in Jerusalem, along with the changing geopolitical situation that allows this to take place, we will know that the Lord’s return is imminent.

The Restoration of the Nation of Israel

In the Old Testament, Israel is typified as a fig tree (Hos. 9:10) and Jehovah discusses her spiritual condition in relation to the fruit of the tree—that is, in comparison to good or rotten figs (Jer. 24:2, 5, 8). This backdrop provides an appropriate lens through which to interpret three passages found in the Gospels. In Matthew 21:19, Jesus finds a fig tree with neither good nor rotten fruit—it was fruitless, with “nothing on it except leaves only.” This typifies the condition of Israel at the time of Christ’s earthly ministry. Israel was “full of outward show but had nothing that could satisfy God” (21:19, note 1). Jesus’ parable in Luke 13:6-9 similarly identifies Israel’s fruitless condition. Here, the Lord intimates that Israel was fruitless for three and a half years—that is, the entirety of His earthly ministry (v. 7)—and that God the Father disapproved of her condition, even determining it to be a waste of His provision for them in the promised land (v. 8). In Matthew 21, Jesus’ response to the fig tree’s fruitlessness was to cause it to instantly dry up—in typology, this was to curse Israel. In Luke 13:8-9, the Lord emphasized that if the tree remained fruitless after His redemptive death (typified by digging around the tree and adding fertilizer) it would be cut down. Both the cursing of the fig tree in Matthew and its being cut down in Luke refer to the same historical event: the destruction of Jerusalem by Titus in A.D. 70 and the scattering of the Jews among the nations for the ensuing centuries.

Jesus speaks of the fig tree once more in Matthew 24:32: “But learn the parable from the fig tree: As soon as its branch has become tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that the summer is near.” In human life, we know that summer is preceded by both winter and spring. The Jews experienced a lengthy winter—nearly 1,900 years as a people without a nation. This situation radically changed after the Second World War. The newly formed United Nations passed Resolution 181, which, had it been implemented, would have partitioned the British Mandate of Palestine into Jewish and Arab states. However, the surrounding Arab countries rejected the U.N. resolution and, along with those Arabs who lived in Palestine, attacked the Jews in Palestine. The Jews successfully repulsed this attack and in 1948, the branch of the fig tree became tender—life returned to the tree and the nation of Israel was reborn. This historic event, the ingathering of the Jews, fulfilled long-anticipated Old Testament prophecies such as Ezekiel 11:17: “Thus says the Lord Jehovah, I will gather you from the peoples and assemble you from the countries among which you have been scattered, and I will give you the land of Israel” (cf. Isa. 11:12; Ezek. 20:34; 37:22).

The Return of Jerusalem to the Jews

Nineteen years later, in 1967, Israel emerged victorious from the Six-Day War, Jerusalem was returned to the Jews, and the Lord’s word in Luke 21:24 was fulfilled (see CWWL, 1971, vol. 1, 327; CWWL, 1971, vol. 3, 164; CWWL, 1990, vol. 1, 146). Brother Lee stated that this was “a miracle. No one imagined that Jerusalem could be returned to the Jewish people as quickly as it was.” He further commented that “the return of Jerusalem to the Jews was a miraculous fulfillment of the prophecy in the Word and is a great sign that the Lord’s return is near” (CWWL, 1968, vol. 1, 242). Indeed, the return of Jerusalem was a further fulfillment of Jesus’ parable—the fig tree now put “forth its leaves.” While we cannot know how close we are to the summer—that is, the full restoration of the kingdom of Israel—we are most certainly living during Israel’s springtime. Concerning this, Brother Lee stated:

We must all be awakened. According to the world situation, the time is ripe for the Lord to return. The Bible has been in our hands for many years, and we have learned the prophecies concerning the Lord’s coming. The re-formation of the nation of Israel was accomplished in 1948, and Jerusalem was returned to the Jews in 1967. All that remains outwardly is for the temple to be rebuilt in Jerusalem. (CWWL, 1970, vol. 1, 226)

The Rebuilding of the Temple

The last prophecy concerning Israel before the Lord’s return, the rebuilding of the temple, is implied in several verses:

  • In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus responds to a question from his disciples concerning His return and the consummation of this age: “Therefore when you see the abomination of desolation, which was spoken of through Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place (let him who reads understand)” (Matt. 24:15).
  • Daniel describes this “abomination of desolation.” It is an idol installed in the temple by an evil individual who forces the Jews to cease their sacrifices and worship of God (Dan. 9:27; 12:11).
  • This evil person is described in more detail by the apostle Paul in 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4: he is “the man of lawlessness…who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or an object of worship, so that he sits in the temple of God, setting himself forth, saying that he is God.”
  • The man of lawlessness is referred to by the apostle John in the book of Revelation as “the beast coming up out of the sea” (Rev. 13:1). He is the Antichrist, a powerful human figure raised up near the end of the age to wage war against God’s people. An idolatrous image of him will be set up in the temple and will be given the supernatural power to speak (vv. 1-5, 14-15).

Taken together, these verses paint a clear picture of what will transpire at the end of this age: both the Antichrist and the idol made in his image will be seated in the temple of Jerusalem. Since the temple has been in ruins for nearly 2,000 years, we know that it must be rebuilt prior to the events the Lord said would be the sign of His coming and the consummation of this age. His coming is the hope of the Jews spanning from the prophets to the present day, a further working out of the prophesied salvation of the remnant of Israel (Rom. 11:26; Rev. 7:4-8) and is of particular importance to all those who love the appearing of the God-man Jesus Christ (2 Tim. 4:8).


As previous articles in this series have stated, God’s covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob continues to have ramifications both for Jews and Christians today. The prophetic restoration of Israel and return of Jerusalem to the Jews plainly demonstrate that “the gracious gifts and calling of God are irrevocable” (Rom. 11:29). Though Israel remains unrepentant in the present day, these historic events provide evidence of God’s sovereignty over human history. As believers awaiting the Lord’s return, our concern is not with international politics or issues of social justice. We should, however, be aware of the prophecies related to Israel, both those that have already transpired and those still awaiting their fulfillment. By doing so, we will be those who, despite not knowing the hour or the day of the Lord’s return, are able to discern the signs of the time and make ourselves ready for the return of our Bridegroom (Matt. 16:13; 25:1-13; Luke 12:36-37).