Will Two-Thirds of Israelis Perish?

Monday, February 01, 2016 |  Brian Hennessy

There is a popular belief, even among Christian lovers of Israel, that according to Zechariah’s prophecy, two-thirds of the Jewish people in Israel “will be cut off and perish” (Zech. 13:8). This interpretation is tied to the belief of how God will bring about Israel’s ultimate salvation. The theory being, that nothing short of near annihilation will ever be able to overcome their stubborn resistance to accepting Jesus as the Messiah.

Quite frankly, I believe it is dispassionate theological interpretations of Scripture like this that only reinforce Jewish resistance to the gospel.  How can we loudly proclaim love for Israel one minute, and in the next breath, say, “oh well, it’s a shame, but up to four million more Jews must die before all Israel is saved.” I don’t buy it.

So - can Zechariah’s prophecy be understood another way? Let’s look at it. “It will come about in all the land, declares the Lord, that two parts in it will be cut off and perish; but the third will be left in it. And I will bring the third part through the fire, refine them as silver is refined, and test them as gold is tested. They will call on My name, and I will answer them; I will say, ‘They are My people,’ and they will say, ‘The Lord is my God.’” (Zech 13:8,9).

Like all prophecy, we never really know when or how it will be fulfilled until it happens. Who could have guessed the massacre of the children in Bethlehem would be a fulfillment of Jeremiah’s prophecy of “Rachael weeping for her children?” (Matt. 2:18) Nevertheless, the Holy Spirit can and does give us advanced insight on Bible prophecy, often based on what God is doing in our day. And one thing that should be abundantly clear today, especially to a Christian Zionist, is that God is now squarely on Israel’s side. That their long exile is over and God is restoring all that the “gnawing … swarming … creeping … stripping locust has eaten” (Joel 1:4).

So when we read Zechariah’s prophecy, I believe it must be understood in light of God’s favor being shown to Israel today. Not in terms of the divine displeasure the nation has already suffered. If we look at the prophecy in full context we see it follows these words, “Strike the Shepherd that the sheep may be scattered, and I will turn My hand against the little ones” (Zech 13:7). We know this is speaking of Yeshua, as John informed us (John 26:31). So we can safely assume the judgment that follows is connected to that first-century rejection of him. 

Historians tell us that 1.1 million Jews died in the siege of Jerusalem, far less than two-thirds of the population needed to fulfill the prophecy. But who can say the counting didn’t continue over the centuries? When Zechariah said “in all the land,” it could mean the whole earth. In fact, I find it beyond coincidental that the number of European Jews murdered in the Holocaust is always said to be “two-thirds.” If we needed to have an obvious sign that God’s judgment spoken by Zechariah has been fulfilled, that did it for me.

More importantly, we know that just three years after the Holocaust the dark days of Jewish exile came to an end when the nation of Israel was resurrected from the rubble of history. Those who had ears to hear understood immediately God was once again restoring favor to His people. The winter was over. 

So does that mean Israel will avoid severe tribulation in the days ahead? Of course not. They are even now being “refined as silver” in their efforts to reclaim the land. Jeremiah states concerning the last days, “Alas! for that day is great, there is none like it; And it is the time of Jacob’s distress, but he will be saved out of it” (Jer. 30:7). 

It doesn’t take a military genius to see Israel is facing the battle of its life in the days ahead. And with the mass migration of Muslims to Western nations, it’s inevitable European and American Jewry will also soon face an explosion of anti-Semitism. Yes, God will no doubt use all the coming tribulation to bring His chosen ones to faith (and home), but it won’t be Israel that suffers the catastrophic judgment. 

Instead of forecasting doom and gloom upon Israel, Christians ought to see the handwriting on the wall regarding their own nations. As Jeremiah also told Israel: “I am with you, declares the Lord, to save you; For I will completely destroy all the nations where I have scattered you” (Jer. 30:11). 

Is there any nation on earth where a descendant of Abraham has not lived?


Brian Hennessy is the author of Valley of the Steeples, available at: ketchpublishing/BrianHennessyBooks.htm

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