The people of Egypt and Assyria were, for the most part, enemies of God; yet he has promised to bless them. Concerning the time when they are awakened from death we read: “In that day shall Israel be the third with Egypt and with Assyria, even a blessing In the midst of the land: whom the Lord [Jehovah] of hosts shall bless, saying, Blessed be Egypt my people, and Assyria the work of mind hands, and Israel mine inheritance.”—lsa 19:24,25 The words “captive,” “captivity,” and “prisoners” are often used in the prophecies to refer to the death condition and to those held “captive” in death. Job refers to those in death as “prisoners” who “rest together.” (Job 3:11- 19) Referring to those who die in the great Armageddon struggle, the Prophet Isaiah wrote, “They shall be gathered together, as prisoners are gathered in the pit, and shall be shut up in the prison, and after many days shall they be visited.”—Isa 24:22 In a definite statement that the people of Sodom and Samaria and the nation of Israel shall be restored to their “former estate”—that is, the estate of life—their awakening from death is described as a bringing again of their “captivity.” The text reads, “When I shall bring again their captivity, the captivity of Sodom and her daughters, and the captivity of Samaria and her daughters, then wilt I bring again the captivity of thy captives in the midst of them.”—Eze 16:53 The 48th chapter of Jeremiah (Jeremiah 48) describes the complete destruction of ancient Moab; yet In the last verse of the chapter we are given the promise, “Yet will I bring again the captivity of Moab in the latter days, saith the Lord.” This means that the Moabites are to be awakened from death and given an opportunity to enjoy God’s premised blessings.
The Ammonites were also a wicked people, yet the Lord has promised to “bring again the captivity of the children of Ammon.”—Jer 49:6
Jeremiah 49:34- 39 describes God’s wrath against the Elamites, resulting In their destruction as sinners; but in verse 39 he says, “It shall come to pass In the latter days, that I will bring again the captivity of Elam”— bring them forth that Is, from their captivity in death. God destroyed Egypt’s firstborn, as well as Pharaoh and his Army. He also destroyed certain wicked kings because of their position to his people. Concerning these the Prophet David explained that God destroyed them because “his mercy endureth forever.” (Psalms 136:10,15,18,19,20) How different Is his explanation from that which, with a restricted viewpoint, some might offer as to why God destroyed those wicked)people. Some would probably be inclined to say that God destroyed them because he had no more mercy for them forever. But this would not be true. From God’s standpoint it vas a merciful act to destroy them, for he was merely causing hem to sleep until his due time came to further extend his mercy by enlightening them and giving them an opportunity to receive his promised blessings of everlasting life.
That the wicked are to be resurrected in order to come into harmony with God, If they will, is shown in the promise that the Sodomites and Samaritans are to return to their “former estate.” (Ezekiel 16:53- 56)
Verses 60 to 63 ((Ezekiel 16:60- 63) reveal that the purpose of their awakening, as well as the awakening of the Israelites, Is that they might be brought Into covenant relationship with God.
Ezekiel explains that in the resurrection the “shame” of the Israelites, because of their more favorable opportunity, will be greater than that of the Gentile nations then resurrected. Evidently Jesus had this prophecy In mind when he said it would be more tolerable, or “endurable,” for Sodom and Gomorrah In the day of Judgment than for the Jews who rejected him. (Matthew 10:15) But even these are to be raised from the dead and given an opportunity for salvation. Paul emphasizes this. Speaking of those who stumbled and fell In their rejection of Jesus and including them in God’s grace, he said: “All Israel shall be saved; as it Is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer [Christ and his church] and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob: for this Is my covenant unto them when I shall take away their sins.” —Ro 11:26,27 The “covenant” here referred to by Paul is the New Covenant promised in Jeremiah 31:31- 34, a covenant which Is to be made with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah. For the Israelites who rejected Jesus to be saved under the terms of this covenant means that they must be raised from the dead. And this, indeed, is Just what the apostle declares, “What shall the receiving of them be, but life from the dead?”—Ro 11:15 Paul had good authority for this statement. Near the close of Jesus’ ministry he addressed the Jews who rejected him, and particularly his persecutors, saying: “0 Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them that are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not! Behold, your house is left unto you desolate. For I say unto you, Ye shall not see me henceforth, till ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.” (Matthew 23:37- 39) Herein one grand sweep Jesus speaks of the wicked Jews throughout the entire Jewish Age, including those who rejected him, and said that In the future they would see him and accept him and would say, “Blessed is he that cometh In the name of the Lord.” There Is no possible way this statement could be fulfilled apart from the resurrection of these wicked Israelites whom the Master addressed.
True, Jesus did say to the Israelites of his day, “Your house Is left unto you desolate.” But this had reference to the loss 01 their opportunity of continuing to be God’s royal, or kingdom, nation. It did not mean that as individuals they would not have the opportunity of receiving the blessings of Christ’s kln9dom. The “kingdom” was taken away from them and given to a “nation bringing forth the fruits thereof,” but their opportunity to receive life through Christ was not taken away.
The scribes and Pharisees were the religious leaders of Israel and, as such, “sat In Moses’ seat.” They were about to lose that honored position, and concerning this Jesus pronounced “woe” upon them. He called them a “generation vipers” and asked, “How can ye escape the damnation of hell (Gehenna]?” (Matt. 23:33) obviously their willful opposition to Jesus and his message resulted In a considerable hardening of their hearts, which will make it much less tolerable for them In the future Judgment day than r those less favored in this life. But Jesus did not say there as no hope for them to escape the condemnation of Gehenna. His question merely suggests the difficulties they , would encounter, difficulties which they could overcome only by humbling themselves and, together with the remainder of mankind, Joyfully and wholeheartedly acclaiming, “Blessed is He that cometh In the name of the Lord.”
In Romans 11:26 we read, “All Israel shall be saved.” And, s Paul further explains, this will be in keeping with God’s promise to take away their sins and to make a New Covenant with them. (Romans 11:26, 27; Jeremiah 31:31- 34) The “Deliverer” who will “take away their sins” and save Israel will “come out of Sion”—Christ and his church In heavenly glory. It will be then that the Israelites will be restored to divine favor— those who have died, as well as the living generation, Including the scribes and Pharisees who were instrumental In crucifying Jesus.
The majority of the Jews in Jesus’ day refused to believe on him. A few did believe partially, but Paul explains that “God hath concluded them all in unbelief, that he might have mercy upon au.” (Romans 11:32) How vast, Indeed, is the mercy and grace of Jehovah! “O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his Judgments, and his ways past finding out!” (Romans 11:33) The reason God will be able to extend his mercy to the unbelieving Israelites Is that receiving them back Into his favor will, as Paul explains, mean “life from the dead.”—Ro 11:15 In setting forth this great fact of Israel’s restoration, Paul was merely emphasizing the verity of God’s promises which are recorded in the Old Testament. In Ezekiel 37:1- 14 is presented a remarkable prophecy of the restoration of Israel, a prophecy in which the “whole house of Israel” is symbolized by a valley of dry bones. “Our bones are dried, and our hope is lost: we are cut off for our parts,” they are represented as saying. This has been very true of the Israelites throughout the centuries.
But the prophecies show that this scene would change, that they would be restored eventually to their own land. (See Jeremiah 31:8- 12; Amos 9:14,15; Jeremiah 30:3- 7; 16:14- 16; Ezekiel 20:33- 37) The last prophecy cited Indicates that the regathering would take place in times of great stress. The Lord declares, “I will bring you out from the people, and will gather you out of the countries wherein ye were scattered, with a mighty hand, and with a stretched out arm, and with fury poured out. … And I will cause you to pass under the rod, and I will bring you into the bond of the covenant.”
This indicates that the Israelites are to be regathered to Palestine prior to their acceptance Into the New Covenant. In another prophecy the Lord says, “I will take you from among the heathen, and gather you out of all countries, and will bring you Into your own land. Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and: ye shall be clean; from all you filthiness, and from alt your idols, will I cleanse you.” (Ezekiel 36:24,25) This also shows that they are regathered In unbelief.
The prophecy of Joel 3:1,2 reveals that the regathering of Israel would take place during the “last days” assembling of the nations for the great Armageddon struggle. We have been witnessing the fulfillment of this prophecy. The fact that the Jewish people themselves do not yet recognize the significance of what is occurring does not mean that the Lord’s hand is not overruling In their restoration to the land. This however, is but the first phase of their restoration. Their ‘dry bones” are coming together, but not until they are clothe with flesh and the Lord puts his Spirit In them, will the Israelites turn to the Lord. The prophecy reads, “When have opened your graves, 0 my people, and brought you up out of your graves, and shall put my spirit in you, and ye shaII live, … then shall ye know that I the Lord hath spoken it, saith the Lord.”—Eze 37:13,14 This prophecy refers to the national resurrection of Israel as well as to their individual restoration to the Promised Land, and it includes those who are in their graves. How right, therefore, was Paul, when he wrote that the receiving again of Israel would be “life from the dead”! How true also is his statement that “all Israel shall be saved” and that God had counted them all in “unbelief that he might have mercy upon ill.”And this Is also In full harmony with Jesus’ assertion to the hypocritical scribes and Pharisees that while the “house” of Israel was left desolate, they would later see him, and would say, “Blessed Is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.” But only after the Lord has awakened them from the sleep of death will they thus discern that Jesus is the messiah and, recognizing his blessedness, acclaim and serve him, and serve Jehovah who sent him.