In the first part of this series, I discussed the physical restoration of Israel. In this part, I want to move on to the second part of Ezekiel’s prophecy. Israel has been physically restored as a people and as a nation, so that the first part of the Ezekiel prophecy has been fulfilled. This is where we are right now. However, the second part of his prophecy has not yet been fulfilled.
TIMES OF REFRESHING
In Acts 3, during Peter’s second sermon, he makes the following statement:
Repent therefore and return, that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of
refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord; and that He may send Jesus, the
Christ appointed for you, whom heaven must receive until the period of restoration of all things about which God spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets from ancient time. (Acts 3:19-21)
In looking at the Scriptures, I believe the “times of refreshing” that Peter is referencing here in Acts 3 and the spiritual restoration of Israel prophesied by Ezekiel are interconnected. In looking at part 1, we now understand that we are nearing the end of the period of Israel’s restoration.
And we also saw something else in part 1, a pattern we see repeated in history. In the book of Romans, Paul writes that the gospel is for “the Jew first and also to the Greek [or Gentile (non-Jew)] (Romans 1:16c). As we saw, this was not just Paul’s particular approach to his ministry, but it is God’s general approach to all things – He begins with the Jews and then to the Gentiles (non-Jews, i.e., Christians), whether we are talking about the gospel or His activity among us. In fact, later in the book of Romans, Paul states,
Now if their transgression be riches for the world and their failure be riches for the
Gentiles, how much more will their fulfillment be! But I am speaking to you who are
Gentiles. Inasmuch then as I am an apostle of Gentiles, I magnify my ministry, if
somehow I might move to jealousy my fellow countrymen and save some of them. For if their rejection be the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead? (Romans 11:12-15)
Twice in this passage (verses 12 and 15), we see God’s personal pattern of how He operates. He presents the gospel first to the Jews, and then when it is rejected by many of them (not all of them rejected it), He then has Paul present it to the Gentiles (non-Jews). And like the Jews, not all of the Gentiles accept it either. But Paul tells us here that because the gospel was rejected by certain Jews in a particular area, that we (Gentiles/non-Jews) benefitted from that because then the gospel was proclaimed to us. He then presents us with something we need to strongly consider; and that is, if “rejection” of the gospel has led to “the reconciliation of the world,” then what will happen if Israel were to accept the gospel and Yeshua as their long-awaited promised Messiah? Paul’s answer: “life from the dead,” or in other words, the return of Yeshua and the resurrection of the dead.
Now since we have already discussed the third part, the restoration of all things, then below we can see the other two items:
- First, the whole House of Israel (all the tribes) need to repent and to return. This is not something that is going to happen instantaneously, but God has been working on this for the past two thousand years.
- The “times of refreshing,” which Peter says, “may come from the presence of the Lord.”
And what I find interesting in his prophecy is that the “times of refreshing” are a prelude to the return of the Messiah Yeshua (Jesus). In fact, more Jews have come to faith in Yeshua (Jesus) since June 7, 1967, than in any time period in history. However, out of all the Jewish people in the world, only about 2.5% of them are believers in Yeshua (Jesus). So God has got a way to go before the majority of His people have repented and return to Him. But this is the beginning of the “budding of the fig tree” as Yeshua (Jesus) discussed in the following parable:
Now learn the parable of the fig tree: when its branch has already become tender, and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near; even so you too, when you see all these things, recognize that [it] is near, right at the door. Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place. (Matthew 24:32-34)
There are many Christians who try and connect this parable to the birth of Israel, on May 14, 1948; however, the parable is not about there being a tree when there was no tree before, but about the tree’s branches being at a time when the branches are tender and producing life: living, green leaves. And since June 7, 1967, Israel has produced more forms of life and has benefited more people in so many different areas, including spiritually, that it would be amiss to not see this date as the beginning of the budding of the olive tree.
However, Israel has not yet come to the “times of refreshing.” She’s had a taste of it, but she has not yet experienced all that God has for her. And I believe the “times of refreshing” for Israel and the nations are, in fact, just around the corner.
STAGE 2: THE SPIRITUAL RESTORATION OF ISRAEL
If we return to the prophecy of the “Valley of Dry Bones,” let’s review what Ezekiel writes in the following verse,
And I looked, and behold, sinews were on them, and flesh grew, and skin covered them; but there was no breath in them. (Ezekiel 37:8)
At the time of this writing, this is where the majority of the Jewish people, including those in Israel, are today. Israel is a physical entity, and the Jewish people are physically alive, but they are not spiritually alive yet. I say this because the majority of Jews in Israel and the rest of the world do not believe in a literal God who objectively exists, and who gave them the Scriptures. Instead, they believe these writings evolved, and were written by various Jewish writers who wrote their own interpretations of what was going on around them, but the words they wrote, they believe, are not literally the breathed-out words of a literal God. And this is why when they are attacked, they rely on themselves and the IDF, but they do not call out to God to come to their aid.
For example, they do not do what King Hezekiah did when Sennacherib, the King of Assyria, sent his troops against Israel (Isaiah 36-37; 2 Chronicles 32) who went before the LORD and asked Him to defend them. This is why I say that the majority of them are physically alive, but they are not spiritually alive yet. That spiritual reconnection needs to happen between them and God. And I believe that we are on the verge of witnessing that reconnection, their spiritual restoration.
In the second part of this prophecy, God tells Ezekiel to say the following:
Then He said to me, “Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, son of man, and say to the
breath, ‘Thus says the LORD God, Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe on
these slain, that they come to life.” So I prophesied as He commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they came to life, and stood on their feet, an exceedingly great army. (Ezekiel 37:9-10)
In this passage, the word “breath” here in the Hebrew text is the word ruach, which means “breath, wind, or spirit.” Therefore, this same passage could be translated as the following:
Then He said to me, “Prophesy to the Spirit, prophesy, son of man, and say to the
Spirit, ‘Thus says the LORD God, Come from the four winds, O Spirit, and breathe on
these slain, that they come to life.” So I prophesied as He commanded me, and the Spirit came into them, and they came to life, and stood on their feet, an exceedingly great army. (Ezekiel 37:9-10)
The outpouring of the Spirit upon the Jewish people is a sign and part of God’s promised restoration of Israel. And I believe there is coming a day when the Spirit of God will be poured out on the Jewish people like never before. The ancient Hebrew prophet Joel also prophesied of this as well:
And it will come about after this that I will pour out My Spirit on all mankind; and your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions. And even on the male and female servants I will pour out My Spirit in those days. And I will display wonders in the sky and on the earth, blood, fire, and columns of smoke. The sun will be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and awesome day of the LORD comes. And it will come about that whoever calls on the name of the LORD will be delivered [or saved]; for on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there will be those who escape, as the LORD has said, Even among the survivors whom the LORD calls. (Joel 2:28-32)
Peter quotes much of this passage on the day of Pentecost in Acts 2, but if we look at the context of it, we realize that even though the process of the restoration had begun on that feast day of Pentecost, we are now coming to the close of that process, and so we are about to enter into the actual time period of this prophecy.
Of course, the question is whether this will happen when the Temple has been rebuilt, or will it happen after this, or will it happen when the Lord returns to set up His kingdom here on earth? But I believe whenever it does happen, the Jewish people will be anointed with the Spirit, as David was when Samuel anointed him. They will experience the Presence and the power of God in their lives like never before, which is why I believe that the Scriptures say that during the coming Messianic Kingdom,
Thus says the LORD of hosts, “In those days ten men from all the nations will grasp the garment of a Jew saying, ‘Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you.” (Zechariah 8:23)
And one day, when the Spirit is poured out on Israel, they will come alive in a way like they have never experienced before. But just like Israel’s physical restoration, I believe the outpouring of the Spirit that the Christian world is waiting for will happen when Israel receives her Spiritual outpouring as well. On that day, indeed, the Spirit will be poured out on all flesh.