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Recently, I watched a video where Art Katz was interviewed. I did not know that he had just died a few days earlier on June 28 in northern Minnesota. His organization is called Ben Israel. Though he was a Jewish Christian and devoted his life to the evangelism of Jews, he finally came to a very different conclusion about the Israeli state.
At first, back in the 1980's, Art was an ardent Zionist, believing that the present Jewish state was the fulfillment of the biblical prophecies of the regathering of the house of Israel. But later, after seeing the blatant atheism and socialism of the state, and after seeing how they tortured people and abused Palestinians, he could not reconcile this with a great move of God. Israel was supposed to be a blessing to people, not a curse, and the evidence was against this.
He believed that the Jews were Israel, of course, and that (I believe) clouded his overall understanding of prophecy. So even though he thought the present state of Israel was a counterfeit, he believed that it would be destroyed and then replaced by the "true" fulfillment of Bible prophecy.
In other words, he believed that the Jews were going to establish a state at some point--but that this present nation was not that which was prophesied in Scripture.
As for the purpose of the current Israeli state and its occupation of Jerusalem, Art Katz cited Ezekiel 22:18-22,
18 Son of man, the house of Israel has become dross to Me; all of them are bronze and tin and iron and lead in the furnace; they are the dross of silver.
19 Therefore, thus says the Lord God, "Because all of you have become dross, therefore, behold, I am going to gather you into the midst of Jerusalem.
20 As they gather silver and bronze and iron and lead and tin into the furnace to blow fire on it in order to melt it, so I shall gather you in My anger and in My wrath, and I shall lay you there and melt you.
21 And I shall gather you and blow on you with the fire of My wrath, and you will be melted in the midst of it.
22 As silver is melted in the furnace, so you will be melted in the midst of it; and you will know that I, the Lord, have poured out My wrath upon you."
Art Katz believed that the divine purpose for Zionism was to gather the dross to Jerusalem and Palestine--for the purpose of judgment and destruction. In this, Art and I are similar in outlook. In the interview, Art spoke of his property in northern Minnesota as being a refuge for Jews fleeing the Israeli state after its destruction.
While I can appreciate his concern to help those in trouble, and his intention to convert the survivors through Christian love, I think that this idea of a Jewish refuge was a bit unrealistic. First of all, a destruction in the Middle East does not mean that the survivors would have to find refuge in northern Minnesota. Why not settle down in New York City or Miami, where there are millions of Jews already living the good life?
It seems to me that the only way they might have to come to a small town in northern Minnesota would be if there were a general persecution of Jews in America and Europe as well. In which case, his tiny property might be overwhelmed by ten million of them trying to find refuge.
The way Art read prophecy, he believed that the surviving Jews would turn to Jesus as the Messiah as the result of this destruction. Well, God can do anything, of course, but the events of World War II did not bring about the mass conversion of Jews. Instead, it made them bitter against God and men. Even so, I have no doubt that some will become believers, as is always the case, but to single them out for mass conversion assumes that they are the "house of Israel" in Bible prophecy. It also presumes that the cursed fig tree will actually bear fruit and not simply more leaves, which is contrary to Jesus' prophecy (Matt. 21:19).
In the verses above, Ezekiel says that "the house of Israel" (vs. 18) will be returning to "Jerusalem" (vs. 19) to be judged in the fire. This is strange, because it almost seems as if Ezekiel were prophesying that Zionism was a return of the lost tribes of Israel. This would totally contradict Hosea, for instance, who speaks of the "return" in glowing terms (Hosea 2).
Art's view, no doubt, would say that these are two different returns--the first being the carnal counterfeit of present-day Zionism, and the second being a return AFTER the first has been judged. In both "returns," the Jews are the house of Israel, according to this view.
In my view, we are dealing with two different sets of people. But this presents a problem, because Ezekiel 22 identifies them as "the house of Israel." Are they to be judged in this manner? No, Ezekiel is using the term generically, as we see earlier in his indictment,
" (1) And you, son of man, will you judge, will you judge the bloody city? Then cause her to know all her abominations. . . (6) Behold, the rulers of Israel, each according to his power, have been in you for the purpose of shedding blood."
What follows is a list of crimes that the rulers have done in "the bloody city," i.e., Jerusalem. Ezekiel is using the term "Israel" in a generic sense that includes all the tribes. Paul does the same in Romans 9-11, and James 1:1, treating all 12 tribes as a whole. God does the same in 1 Kings 11 when the Kingdom was divided in the first place. Because David had been given a promise to always have a seed that would rule the house of Israel, God left one tribe with Judah--the tribe of Benjamin. A single tribe was sufficient to represent the whole house of Israel.
Ezekiel could speak of "the rulers of Israel" as being the rulers in Jerusalem, because Solomon had ruled over all Israel from Jerusalem. If the "rulers" who fell into sin included Solomon, then the prophet was using the term "Israel" in a generic sense, rather than as a reference to the 10 tribes that had been deported to Assyria a century earlier.
Ezekiel certainly knew the difference between Israel and Judah, because the next chapter makes that distinction very clearly. It prophesies of two women, Oholah the elder and "Oholibah her sister," representing Israel and Judah--or more specifically, Samaria and Jerusalem (23:4).
The bottom line is that Ezekiel 22 does prophesy of modern Zionism and the fact that God caused this to happen in order to bring judgment upon this portion of "Israel," generically speaking. Those who have been gathered to that land are the ones God has marked for destruction--except for a remnant, of course, that God always reserves for Himself. The remnant is there to bear witness and to give men opportunity to repent, so that they are without excuse.
We should point out also that the support which the Israeli state currently enjoys from the Israel nations around the world, including America, makes them liable for judgment along with the Israelis. In that sense, Ezekiel's use of the term "Israel" has application to the historic house of Israel. As they have induced us to fight their wars for them, we have paid a huge price already, and this is part of the divine judgment upon Israel. Thus, the interconnection between the historic house of Israel and the Israeli state can be readily seen in this way.
God is purging dross. But note how he speaks as if the whole Zionist movement is dross. "All of you have become dross," he says in Ez. 22:19. Perhaps that is a divine exaggeration, but yet at minimum, it indicates that there is very little silver that will come out of this fire.