Much has been written about prophecy concerning the return of the Jews and establishment of the Jewish state. Until 1948 it was common teaching in Christian churches that this return would not take place until the end of the age and our Lord’s return. The reason is that a number of Old Testament prophecies indicated that Israel would return in belief, not in ignorance of Christ. An example of this is in Isaiah chapter 35:8-10, “And an highway shall be there, and a way, and it shall be called The way of holiness; the unclean shall not pass over it; but it shall be for those: the wayfaring men, though fools, shall not err therein. No lion shall be there, nor any ravenous beast shall go up thereon, it shall not be found there; but the redeemed shall walk there: And the ransomed of the LORD shall return, and come to Zion with songs and everlasting joy upon their heads: they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.”

‘Israel, redeemed and ransomed, returning to Zion with everlasting joy and gladness, with all sorrow forever removed?’ is a totally different picture than what transpired in the year 1948 or ever since. Nor was this fulfilled centuries earlier in the Old Testament return of the small number of 42,560 Judean exiles from Babylon in 537 B.C. The way of holiness clearly points to a Millennial picture of Eden-like perfection.

The Whedon Bible Commentary supports a Millennial fulfillment: “In the foregoing portions of prophecy the people of God were seen to be in danger respectively from Syrians, Egyptians, Assyrians, Moabites, Edomites, and Babylonians; and from each and all, their deliverance was achieved, and their enemies destroyed as predicted. Now the conclusion is, that all God’s foes shall ultimately and forever be put to naught. The rule of Messiah shall be universal and eternal; and security and joy shall come upon God’s ransomed ones; a conclusion most fitting to this prophetic series.”

Lang’s Commentary adds, “As exile is the sum of all terrors for the Israelite, so exile’s end, return to Zion to everlasting, blessed residence there is the acme and sum of all felicity.” Not even the most ardent Dispensational Futurist advocate would insist that today’s Palestine is the sum of all felicity! Yet, John Trapp’s Commentary states concerning Isaiah 35, “there is no sufficient reason for departing from the strict sense of the future.”

The establishment of the Jewish state in 1948 therefore created a dilemma, if Bible prophecies of Israel’s return were to be taken literally. The usual response of many modern commentators is to spiritualize these prophecies of Israel’s return as referring to the Christian Church. The Pulpit Commentary, for example, titles the prophecy in Isaiah 35 as “The glory of the last times.” They state, “On the punishment of God’s enemies will follow the peace, prosperity, and glory of his Church. Previously, the Church is in affliction, waste, and desolate. Its enemies once removed, destroyed, swept out of the way, it rises instantly in all its beauty to a condition which words are poor to paint. The highest resources of the poetic art are called in to give some idea of the glory and happiness of the final Church of the redeemed.”

Another issue is that Isaiah chapters 34 and 35 are linked together prophetically. The Biblical Illustrator says, “The thirty-fourth and the thirty-fifth chapters of Isaiah are by the best scholars supposed to constitute one entire and complete prophecy.” Lang’s Commentary points out, “Thus here [in chapter 35] the prospect of joyful return home is presented to Israel in contrast with the frightful judgments that in chapter 34 are to come upon the heathen.” In Isaiah 34, Israel’s enemies, chiefly Edom, are visited in judgment by God as a prelude to Israel’s joyful return in chapter 35. John Trapp’s Commentary says, “The Jewish doctors understand these two chapters as a prophecy of their return into the Holy Land, when once Idumea shall be destroyed.” Prophetic Edom’s destruction was thus the essential precursor to Israel’s return.

For this reason, it was common teaching among Christians up until 1917 that the Turks were prophetic Edom (Greek: Idumea) because they were in control of the Holy Land. When World War I burst upon the scene, many Christians believed that this event was a sure sign of the immanent end of the age. The end-time prophecy in Ezekiel 36 was often quoted as referring to Turkey, and false claims were even made that the Turks were the physical descendants of Edom. Ezekiel’s prophecy states, “Thus saith the Lord GOD; Because the enemy hath said against you, Aha, even the ancient high places are ours in possession…Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD; Surely in the fire of my jealousy have I spoken against the residue of the heathen, and against all Idumea, which have appointed my land into their possession with the joy of all their heart, with despiteful minds, to cast it out for a prey.” (Ezek. 36:2, 5)

Lang’s Commentary, in contrast, seems to think that the Isaiah 35 prophecy is hyperbole or mirage: verses 7 to 10 “denotes the illusive appearance often witnessed both at sea and land, called in English looming, in Italian fata morgana, and in French mirage. In the deserts of Arabia and Africa, the appearance presented is precisely that of an extended sheet of water, tending not only to mislead the traveler, but to aggravate his thirst by disappointment. ‘More deceitful than mirage’ (or serab) is an Arabian proverb.” Yet no amount of hyperbole could make Isaiah 35 fit either the Christian Church spiritually, or a literal return of unbelieving Jews. Only an age-end return of Christ setting up His Holy Kingdom for a redeemed Israel will fit the facts of Israel’s prophetic return.

The Bible Knowledge Commentary on Isaiah 35 reveals, “Changes will occur in the people and the land. Because of God’s healing power (cf. Isa. 33:24) those who are blind will see, those who are deaf will hear (cf. Isa. 32:3; Isa. 42:7) those who are lame will leap (cf. Isa. 33:23), and those who cannot talk will shout. The Messiah will bring this about.”

The Keil & Delitzsch Commentary says, “The whole chapter [35] is, in every part, both in thought and language, a prelude of that book of consolation for the exiles in their captivity. Not only in its spiritual New Testament thoughts, but also in its ethereal language, soaring high as it does in majestic softness and light, the prophecy has now reached the highest point of its development.”

We fervently look forward to Christ’s return and the fulfillment of these wonderful Messianic prophecies!