What is the source of the nation of Israel’s resilience? Modern Israelis swear never to allow another Masada or Holocaust—but what does Bible prophecy say about Israel’s future?
When Hamas terrorists invaded the state of Israel last October, I could not help but reflect on how much had remained unchanged there since my wife and I had visited 45 years earlier. And I thought of Masada—the fortress where, according to the ancient historian Josephus, nearly a thousand Jewish patriots died under Roman assault in 73 AD.
The Hamas terrorists—striking while many in Israel were observing Shemini Atzeret, one of the annual Holy Days in the Bible known as the Last Great Day—killed civilians, beheaded babies and children, raped women, and took hostages to use as bargaining chips and human shields. They even used victims’ cellphones to send execution videos back to contacts and families. Much of the world was shocked by such barbarity. But, sadly, too many around the globe ghoulishly cheered and protested on behalf of the terrorists, just as they had on 9/11.
Most observers today are viewing Hamas terrorism and Israeli response in the context of the here and now. Yes, many wonder where all of this is leading, but do they realize there is something bigger at work? Do they realize that Bible prophecy is being fulfilled right before their eyes? You who are reading this—do you understand what is happening and where it is leading? Read on if you want to know.
The biblical prophet Zechariah wrote of events involving Judah (the Jews) and Jerusalem nearly 2,500 years ago. These prophecies, found in the twelfth and fourteenth chapters of his prophetic account, are specific and easy to understand. Their accuracy attests to the fact that God alone inspired them, and the details leave no doubt that they are for our time—now and the days just ahead.
My wife and I had the opportunity to visit Israel in 1978, and one of the sites on our tour was Masada. This ancient fortress looms approximately 1,400 feet above the Dead Sea on the edge of the Judean desert. It served as a summer palace for Herod, complete with a swimming pool and sauna. Despite its location, an ingenious series of canals and cisterns reportedly could store enough water from a single day’s rain to sustain a thousand residents for more than two years.
As impressive as Masada once was, what brings it into focus today is its first-century history. Disaster came upon the Jews when they revolted against their Roman overlords in 66 AD. Four years later, Jerusalem fell, just as Jesus had foretold (Matthew 24:1–2). The siege of Jerusalem was brutal—again, as Jesus had foretold (Matthew 23:37–39)—and the Jewish historian Flavius Josephus recorded some of the details.
Zealots took to Masada to make a last stand—the only way to the top of the plateau was by way of a long, snaking trail, which could easily be defended. You can still see this well-defined trail today, along with the remains of eight stone-walled camps surrounding the fortress. There was no easy way to attack the holdouts who sat comfortably atop the plateau, but the determined Romans embarked on an ambitious building project. They built a ramp of dirt and gravel up to the top of the western side—a time-weathered structure that remains to this day.
Outnumbered 15 to one, once the Jews realized the day of doom was upon them, they chose to kill one another (Jewish law forbidding suicide) rather than have their wives abused, their children enslaved, and the men defeated in battle. Josephus records what happened from the testimony of the very few women and children who survived. He also records the gist of an impassioned speech with which the leader of the enclave encouraged his countrymen.
Let our wives die before they are abused, and our children before they have tasted of slavery; and after we have slain them, let us bestow that glorious benefit upon one another mutually, and preserve ourselves in freedom, as an excellent funeral monument for us. But first let us destroy our money and the fortress by fire; for I am well assured that this will be a great grief to the Romans, that they shall not be able to seize upon our bodies, and shall fail of our wealth also; and let us spare nothing but our provisions; for they will be a testimony when we are dead that we were not subdued for want of necessaries; but that, according to our original resolution, we have preferred death before slavery (The Wars of the Jews, translated by William Whiston, book 7, chapter 8, section 6).
Masada is a monument in and a symbol for Israel. Modern Israeli soldiers swear “Masada shall not fall again” and make nighttime pilgrimages to the site as part of their initiation into the military.
American presidents have consistently declared their support; shortly after the Hamas attacks, President Biden plainly stated on October 10, “Let there be no doubt: The United States has Israel’s back.” President George W. Bush had even declared U.S. support in terms invoking Masada; in a May 2008 address to Israel’s Knesset, he proclaimed, “Citizens of Israel: Masada shall never fall again, and America will be at your side.”
In case you miss the significance of this, our tour guide back in 1978 made it clear—today’s Israelis will not accept defeat as the zealots of Masada did nearly two millennia ago. They will take their enemies with them. Few commentators dare acknowledge that Israel has the weapons, nuclear and otherwise, to do just that. As Israelis today face a threat to their survival from Iran, Iran’s proxies, and other Arab and Islamic nations, no one should doubt their drive for survival—never shall Masada fall again.
One of my major takeaways while visiting the Israeli state was how small it is. A modern fighter jet can fly from the Arab-dominated West Bank territory to Tel Aviv in eleven seconds. How would any of us like to have mortal enemies dwelling so near to us? And as strong as Israel is, how can it defend itself against such overwhelming odds? How is it that the nation of Israel has survived so long? God gives us the answer in the pages of His word, the Bible.
The State of Israel has survived three major wars (1948, 1967, and 1974), two intifadas (violent uprisings lasting six and five years, respectively), suicide bombers, and rocket attacks—and now, after 75 years of existence, it is locked into its fourth and most dangerous war. Each time, no matter how much damage the Israelis sustain, those who come against them end up bloodied and defeated. This is exactly what the prophet Zechariah foretold. Zechariah 12 begins by setting the record straight on who is behind this prophecy—not a playful spook in the night or a crystal ball, but the Creator of the heavens and earth. “Thus says the Lord, who stretches out the heavens, lays the foundation of the earth, and forms the spirit of man within him” (v. 1).
We then read a prophecy that has been fulfilled time and again over the last 75 years: “Behold, I will make Jerusalem a cup of drunkenness to all the surrounding peoples, when they lay siege against Judah and Jerusalem. And it shall happen in that day that I will make Jerusalem a very heavy stone for all peoples; all who would heave it away will surely be cut in pieces, though all nations of the earth are gathered against it” (vv. 2–3).
Do we not see that the nations that today surround Israel and Jerusalem are drunk with hatred? Can we not see that the problem of Jerusalem is as a very heavy stone for those who wish to rid themselves of it? And do we not see that all who try to solve the problem—“heave it away”—get cut to pieces?
Consider what else this passage tells us. The fact that the Jews are in control of Jerusalem is not a trivial point. God gave this prophecy 2,500 years ago. Think about that! Would you like to make a prediction about any city anywhere on earth regarding the circumstances it would face that many years into the future? Consider that the Romans destroyed the city of Jerusalem in 70 AD. Then, in 135 AD, they kicked the Jews out of their homeland. There was not a Jewish state from 135 AD until 1948. This prophecy could not have been fulfilled during any of those 1,813 years!
So, here we have it: Jews in Jerusalem, Jerusalem a troublesome stone, and everyone who tries to solve the problem (heave it away) gets bloodied (cut to pieces). Furthermore, all nations are gathered together against it. Year after year, at the United Nations, there are more resolutions condemning Israel than condemnations of all other countries combined—in 2022, the General Assembly approved 15 against Israel and 13 against all others. Is all this mere coincidence? How could anyone foretell, 2,500 years in advance, today’s state of affairs for that tiny strip of territory at the eastern end of the Mediterranean Sea?
Zechariah goes on to describe the fate of the nations that go against the Jews. “In that day I will make the governors of Judah like a firepan in the woodpile, and like a fiery torch in the sheaves; they shall devour all the surrounding peoples on the right hand and on the left, but Jerusalem shall be inhabited again in her own place—Jerusalem” (12:6).
That certainly sounds like our present day, but how can we know that these prophecies were not fulfilled long ago? How can we know that they are for our time and the near future? As pointed out above, we know that the Jews did not control Jerusalem from 135 AD until 1948, and they did not control all of Jerusalem until the Six Day War in June 1967.
And there is more. The prophecies of Zechariah 12 are ongoing and lead up to the final battle for Jerusalem. The verses we have read foretell what has been happening throughout Israel’s history from 1948 onward, but the latter part of the chapter speaks of a very specific time—a time when the Messiah will directly intervene, and in such a way that the Jews will understand that Jesus Christ truly is the Son of God.
In that day the Lord will defend the inhabitants of Jerusalem; the one who is feeble among them in that day shall be like David, and the house of David shall be like God, like the Angel of the Lord before them. It shall be in that day that I will seek to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem. And I will pour on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of grace and supplication; then they will look on Me whom they pierced. Yes, they will mourn for Him as one mourns for his only son, and grieve for Him as one grieves for a firstborn (12:8–10).
This is a prophecy of Christ intervening for Judah and Jerusalem, but it includes a prophecy foretelling His first coming—“then they will look on Me whom they pierced”—indicating the manner of His death on our behalf.
Chapter 14 of Zechariah partly overlaps chapter 12 but focuses entirely on the crisis at the end-time—at Christ’s return. The first verse gives us the time setting as “the day of the Lord.” This is a time described in more than 30 prophecies, and it refers to the time of the end. Here we see once again irrational hatred for the Jews and their enemies lined up against them. “For I will gather all the nations to battle against Jerusalem; the city shall be taken, the houses rifled, and the women ravished. Half of the city shall go into captivity, but the remnant of the people shall not be cut off from the city” (14:2).
Just as happened on October 7, 2023, but on a far greater scale, women will be raped and houses will be ransacked—and, this time, half of Jerusalem will be taken hostage. But this will involve more than just a few terrorist groups. “All the nations” will make a last attempt to heave the heavy stone away. Revelation 11:2 informs us that when Jerusalem is overthrown, it will be trampled underfoot for three-and-a-half years.
By comparing the time setting of Zechariah to the events described in Revelation, it is evident that these verses foretell the time when Christ will return and stop the madness. “Then the Lord will go forth and fight against those nations, as He fights in the day of battle” (Zechariah 14:3). The events described in verse 4 preclude this being a past occurrence. It is yet in our future: “And in that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, which faces Jerusalem on the east. And the Mount of Olives shall be split in two, from east to west, making a very large valley; half of the mountain shall move toward the north and half of it toward the south.”
Yes, Christ will intervene and put an end to this senseless carnage against the Jews. He will also put an end to war and destruction all over the world. “And the Lord shall be King over all the earth” (v. 9). No longer will false religion of any stripe—Islam, Buddhism, Taoism, and, yes, paganized “Christianity”—stand the test. Many prophecies describe this time following Christ’s second coming, when Jerusalem will be called “the City of Truth” (Zechariah 8:3).
But, sadly, that day is not yet. How this current war will play out remains to be seen. We know it is not the final battle that will bring about Christ’s second coming, as other prophesied events must happen first, according to Scripture. However, there is another prophecy regarding Judah—the Jewish state called Israel—and it has ominous implications. Neither the British-descended peoples (Ephraim) nor their allies, America (Manasseh) and Judah (the Jews), have obeyed their Creator. Though God’s word, proclaimed by this work, has warned them, they refuse to repent and instead choose to live by human precepts (Hosea 5:9–12). And the end result? “When Ephraim saw his sickness, and Judah saw his wound, then Ephraim went to Assyria and sent to King Jareb; yet he cannot cure you, nor heal you of your wound” (v. 13).
There was a former fulfillment of Hosea’s prophecy—and, as is so often the case, there will be a latter-day fulfillment. At some point in the not-too-distant future, and it could happen during this war, Judah will receive a disastrous blow—a wound worse than anything seen so far. What exactly that will be remains to be seen, but even after Christ returns, the Jews will still retain a capable fighting force (Zechariah 14:14).
A thousand years before Zechariah, Moses recorded a prophecy that the enemies of Judah would do well to heed. At the end of his life, Jacob, whose name had been changed to Israel, brought his twelve sons together and told them what would happen to them at the end of the age. “Gather together,” he said, “that I may tell you what shall befall you in the last days: Gather together and hear, you sons of Jacob, and listen to Israel your father” (Genesis 49:1–2).
Judah was one of Jacob’s twelve sons. We know of Judah’s descendants as the Jews. Not only are we told that the scepter—or the ruler—would come from him (v. 10), but also we are told that Judah would be like a ferocious lion against his enemies. “Judah, you are he whom your brothers shall praise; your hand shall be on the neck of your enemies; your father’s children shall bow down before you. Judah is a lion’s whelp; from the prey, my son, you have gone up. He bows down, he lies down as a lion; and as a lion, who shall rouse him?” (49:8–9). Is that not what we have seen over the last 75 years? Iran, who is clearly behind Hamas, has awakened a sleeping lion.
But, as we have also seen in these prophecies about Judah and Jerusalem, it will be a difficult time going forward, and God will eventually allow Jerusalem to be overrun. Only then will the Messiah return to save Judah and all the world from mankind’s self-inflicted troubles. After Christ returns, people all over the earth will come to understand who the God of Israel is—and that His way is the only way to peace, prosperity, and harmony.
Now it shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established on the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow to it. Many people shall come and say, “Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; He will teach us His ways, and we shall walk in His paths.” For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. He shall judge between the nations, and rebuke many people; they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore (Isaiah 2:2–4).
We often quote these words of God from the prophet Isaiah: “Remember the former things of old, for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like Me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things that are not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will do all My pleasure’” (Isaiah 46:9–10).
As of this writing, it remains to be seen what is next for this conflict between Israel and its enemies. Will things eventually settle down for a while before the next major attacks? Will other nations take up arms against Israel? Will Israel use this time to destroy Iran’s nuclear development facilities so that nation will not “get the bomb”? This we do not know. But we know from Scripture the eventual outcome.
One thing is for sure: At the end of this present age, when the Jews are facing an unprecedented barrage of enemy armies set on their destruction, Masada will not happen again—not because of Judah’s most fervent efforts, but because “the one whom they pierced” will step in to do His will.