Full of Sap and Green
By Jonathan C. Brentner
We live in a day when the prophecies of Ezekiel 36-39 are coming to life before our eyes. The Lord miraculously brought Israel into existence in 1948 and the nation is flourishing, just as God said they would many years ago.
Yet, many Bible-believing preachers and writers today reject the idea that Israel has a place in future biblical prophecy. In support of their assertion, they list numerous writers, popular pastors, and many schools who agree with them regarding Israel. They regard teachers and bloggers like me as relics from the past. As for Israel, her existence today is simply a coincidence.
Am I a vestige from the past because I believe in Israel’s future millennial glory and that a literal seven-year tribulation lies at our doorstep as I write?
The Book of Revelation is Prophecy
The prevailing trend today among biblical scholars is to regard most of the book of Revelation as something other than prophecy. Godly and gifted men such as John Piper and other popular writers and preachers believe there is no literal seven-year tribulation. They believe in a millennial reign of Jesus (minus Israel), so at some point they begin to take Revelation literally rather than symbolically.
I find this viewpoint disturbing at best. What is the basis for applying a more literal understanding to the last three chapters of Revelation after regarding the events of chapters 6-19 as symbolical?
Yes, the apostle John uses symbolism in the book of Revelation; however, he does so while describing actual future events that he saw and things he actually heard. The words “saw” and “looked” appear a total of 56 times in Revelation. And in no less than 30 times the apostle says he is recording things he “heard.”
These are not the words one uses when writing an allegory; they are the words one expects from someone seeing events and hearing words from the future (Rev. 1:19, 4:1, and 22:10)! According to John himself, he wrote about future events he both saw and heard. Who are we to suggest otherwise?
God is Not Finished with Israel
In addition, I see a solid biblical basis for believing Israel will be at the center of the coming millennium; I see no verse in the Bible that suggests otherwise.
Why then do so many today insist on overlooking the astounding miracle before our eyes, God’s restoration of the nation of Israel, and insist that in spite of Paul’s clear words in Romans 11:1-2 God has forever pushed Israel aside in His program? I have no answer to this question, but it does grieve my heart.
I cannot read Jeremiah 31:35-40, Ezekiel 36:22-37:28, and Zechariah chapters 12-14 and believe that Israel has no place in future prophecy. The Jeremiah passage is clear: if the sun comes up today Israel remains a nation in God’s eyes. And, since the sun is shining brightly outside my office at this moment, Israel remains an essential part of prophecy!
Why, you might ask, would God bless Israel in such a way so as to restore a kingdom to her as the disciples clearly expected in Acts 1:6? Ezekiel 36:22-28 provides the answer to this question. Verse 22 says, “Therefore say to the house of Israel, Thus says the Lord God: It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for the sake of my holy name, which you have profaned among the nations to which you came.”
God will restore a kingdom to Israel for the sake of His glory, for the sake of His character. The One who made unconditional covenants with the Patriarchs and great promises to Israel will keep His word. We can absolutely trust the Lord to keep all His promises. He is a God who keeps His Word!
How can one understand Jeremiah 33:23-26 any other way than to say the Lord will someday restore the kingdom to Israel just as the disciples believed He would do in Acts 1:6? If one takes Scripture for what it says, the Lord will restore a kingdom to Israel someday.
God is most certainly not finished with Israel!
Am I a Relic from the Past?
Am I a relic from the past for believing what I do about Israel? I do not believe so.
Even if Israel was not a nation today, I would still believe exactly the same as numerous premillennialists did prior to 1948! Isaac Newton, after studying Revelation and Daniel, also proclaimed the place of Israel in prophecy!
I prefer to think of myself as “full of sap and green!” My prayer is that the words of Psalm 92:14-15 will always be true of me, “They still bear fruit in old age; they are ever full of sap and green, to declare that the Lord is upright, he is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in him” (ESV).
The King James Version translates the Hebrew for “full of sap and green” as “fat and flourishing.” Either way, the text refers to a tree that full of vitality (“fat” or “sap”) and still flourishing with leaves (green). For me, writing about the future of Israel is my way of proclaiming that “the Lord is upright, he is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in him.”
Why do all these things matter? First, how secure would we be if we relied on a God who reneged on His promises to Israel and His covenants with the Patriarchs? If God has turned His back on the “everlasting covenant” of land He made with Abraham, what does that say about His honor (Gen. 15:12-21; Ps. 105:8-11) and the confidence we can have in Him? God keeps His Word!
Second, the last two chapters of Revelation describe the eternal state. If the book of Revelation is all symbolism up to somewhere in chapter 20, does that not strip away our confidence in Revelation 21-22? Of course it does. Where does our ultimate hope rest if the book of Revelation cannot be trusted to provide a reliable and literal prophecy of the future for both the world (the tribulation) and for the redeemed of all the ages (the eternal state)?
I feel a fierce passion within me to show why the Old Testament prophecies regarding Israel remain in effect today. My prayer is that the Lord will keep me “full of sap and green” as I continue to write and teach on these things. Without Him working through me, my efforts would be vain.
Stay tuned for more articles on this matter.
Daymond Duck concluded a recent post on Rapture Ready with these words and I cannot think of a better way to end this article: “Concerning Bible prophecy, many church members have their fingers in their ears and their heads in a hole in the sand, but it is being discussed in the White House, significant events are taking place on a daily basis, and Jesus is coming soon – ready or not.”