There are two pictures that God paints in this book that predict the future of the kingdom of Jesus. The Bible speaks of this as a foreshadowing. You know what a shadow is. And when the sun is behind you the shadow moves ahead of you – it is foreshadowing your arrival. If you try to sneak up on somebody with the sun at your back, they will know. Your shadow lets them know that you are coming before you even get there because your shadow is falling ahead of you. That's foreshadowing. The shadow may not show all of your features, but you can often make out enough in the form that you can even tell who is coming. And that is true of the prophetic pictures in the Old Testament. Carson in his commentary points out that the defeat of the Agagites (which is just another name for the Amalekites and their allies) stands as a prophetic foreshadowing of the defeat of all humanism by Christ's kingdom. So that is a marvelous picture.
The second picture in this book is the feast of Purim which predicts or foreshadows the future conversion of Israel and the even greater blessings that will come upon the Gentiles. Chapter 8 ends with the conversion of many Gentiles during that period of time. You may not have thought of this book as being a missions book, but it is. This is not a book describing Jewish racism against Persians (as Deffinbaugh tries to make it out to be). He and some others have claimed that Mordecai was acting out of revenge rather than self-defense; that this was totally unnecessary since the king was now on their side and that this slaughter of 75000 people by the Jews was murder. But that is a total misreading of the text. The Jews only attacked those who attacked them. The Jews show restraint, forgiveness and a gracious spirit when they welcome Gentiles into the faith and into their synagogues. They don't even touch the plunder. Those who were killed were killed only because they attacked. And over the next two weeks we will look at these two great symbols: the defeat of Amalek and the symbolism of Purim.
Now you are going to have to dredge up from your memory a lot of the background that we have already given. And actually, to help you on that I have provided on the back table a six page handout that shows 24 reasons why the battle of Gog and Magog that is described in Ezekiel 38-39 is fulfilled to a "t" in the book of Esther. I've only given you eleven of those reasons so far, and this paper gives 24 connections that I have discovered. I didn't want to give all of those details in the sermon itself. But you can have the paper for additional reference if you are interested in the details. Not everybody is.
The battle of Gog and Magog is simply the ancient animosity that the Amalekites had against Israel, and from Exodus 17 and on, God declared perpetual war against all Amalekites. Those Amalekites stand as a symbol of Satan's kingdom. And this moving from tears in the beginning of this chapter to joy in the end of the chapter prefigures the joy to the world that Christ's kingdom will bring. We sing the hymn, "Joy to the world, the Lord has come." Christ's coming reverses the effects of sin far as the curse is found. And this book gives two marvelous pictures of that.
The tears: the battle of Gog and Magog goes forward
But just because victory was prophesied did not make the tears in the beginning of the chapter any less real, did it? Remember, we've seen over the last two weeks that prophecy does not make the Christian inactive and passive; rather it gives guidance to action. It gives faith to expect great things from God and to attempt great things for Him. And the danger that these Israelites faced was real. It is not an illusion. Verse 3 has the queen bursting into tears and pleading for the life of Israel. She is safe and Mordecai is safe, but she longs to see Israel saved. And you know what? - that should be our longing as well. Many times we are told to pray for the salvation of apostate Israel; that they would come into the true Israel, the church.
Despite a great reversal in favor
Despite the fact that Haman Gog is dead (v. 1)
And so point I is that the tears of the battle of Gog and Magog must go forward. It must go forward despite the fact that Haman Gog is dead. Verse 1 says, "On that day King Ahasuerus gave Queen Esther the house of Haman, the enemy of the Jews. And Mordecai came before the king, for Esther had told how he was related to her." And so, here we have the strong man, Haman, bound and destroyed, just as Satan was bound and destroyed by Jesus at the cross. In fact, upon Christ's ascension to the right hand of the father, He not only triumphed over Satan, but he gave the house of Satan to the church. Did Jesus not say, "The meek shall inherit the earth?" Was He not given all authority in heaven and on earth? Yes He was. And He tells the church in 1 Corinthians 3:21-23, "Therefore let no one boast in men. For all things are yours: whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas, or the world or life or death, or things present or things to come – all things are yours. And you are Christ's, and Christ is God's."
The serpent's head has been crushed and his house has been given to the church. But that does not rule out tears in this world. It does not rule out warfare. Yes Haman has been bound. Yes, Haman Gog is dead. Yes Christ has accomplished everything needed for us to wrest the kingdom away from Satan's demonic hosts. But we still have to enter the land of Canaan and possess it. Were there people who died in the wars of Canaan? Yes there were. Hadn't God already given the land to them? Yes He had. But God gave it to them no so that they could sit passively in a chair, but so that they would have the authority to conquer. And just as Haman was bound and defeated so that the Jews could fight with confidence, boldness and success, Christ defeated Satan so that we could fight with confidence, boldness and success. But fight we must.
Despite the fact that the Jews are in charge (v. 2)
Second, the battle of Gog and Magog had to come despite the fact that the Jews were in charge. Verse 2 says, "So the king took off his signet ring, which he had taken from Haman, and gave it to Mordecai; and Esther appointed Mordecai over the house of Haman." God transferred power from Haman to Mordecai in the third month of the year. But hey! - there was still a battle to be fought in the twelfth month. That's a little over ten months away. You see, making the Jews in charge did not change the king's decree that the enemies of the Jews could attempt to destroy the Jews. This change in power did not remove all the tears. And in the same way, Christ's resurrection to the right hand of God the Father gives the kingdom to Christians. We are seated with Christ in the heavenlies. We are in charge. We have been given authority over demons. Revelation 2:26-27 says that we have the right to wield Christ's iron rod and smite the nations with that rod of iron. There has been a transfer of authority. All of the power to win the battle has been granted. In a sense, the battle was won for the Jews on the first month – that's why there is such celebrations. And in the same way, Scripture says that Jesus has already defeated Satan. And we can rejoice in a victory already guaranteed. But that does not do away with our responsibility to claim that victory and to apply it in history. It does not do away with the need to fight. Satan knows that he is doomed and that he has been bound, but that is going to make him try to take down as many with him as he can. Revelation 12 says, "the devil has come down to you, having great wrath, because he knows that he has a short time." Don't see the increased persecutions around the world as evidence that Satan is winning. It is evidence that Satan is frustrated with his having lost the ring of power. And though there is joy in this victory accomplished, the church must still go through a vale of tears.
Despite the tears of the queen (v. 3)
Verse 3 says, "Now Esther spoke again to the king, fell down at his feet, and implored him with tears to counteract the evil of Haman the Agagite, and the scheme which he had devised against the Jews." Though her tears touch the king's heart, the king cannot change the fact that a battle will take place. All he can do is to make sure that the Jews have everything that it will take to win the battle. Can you see the pattern here?
Now - I do want to comment on those tears for a bit. These are not tears for herself. She is safe. Mordecai is safe. No one would dare to hurt them. These are tears on behalf of Israel. She longs to see Israel saved. And this is the heart that Paul had for the Jews. He says in Romans 10:1, "Brethren, my heart's desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they may be saved." In chapter 9 he says, "I tell the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Spirit, that I have great sorrow and continual grief in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my countrymen according to the flesh, who are Israelites…" He wept for and had a deep burden for the salvation of Israel.
I want to ask you if you have a heart that prays for Israel's salvation? Do you weep for their salvation? Has God burdened you for their salvation? The Gentiles will not enter fully into their blessing until Israel is saved. And by the way, the Israel Paul was praying for was not the church. He was praying for people who were not saved. He recognized that they had been cast away and that only a remnant of them were being saved. The ones he was praying for were outside the church and still had a veil over their eyes. He calls them his countrymen. And I think that we must have a longing for the salvation of the jews. The principle in the New Testament is that the Gospel must go to the Jews first, and then to the Gentiles. And it has never changed. You see, outside of Christ, the nation that calls itself Israel is really Sodom and Egypt. They are under judgment, not blessing. They have no special place or benefit apart from being converted and joining the true Israel – the church. But God has ordained their salvation, and following their salvation, even greater blessing to the Gentiles. We will see this in the symbolism of this warfare. But we will see it even more strongly next week in the feast of Purim. It is ordained.
Despite the favor of the King toward the Jews (v. 4)
Point 4 says that this battle of Gog and Magog must go forward despite the king's favor toward the Jews. Verse 4 says, "And the king held out the golden scepter toward Esther. So Esther arose and stood before the king." Remember that this king loved Esther. And king Darius is known in Biblical history as a king who was very favorable to the Jews. But that does not completely remove the tears. The battle must go forward.
Because it has been decreed
God's prophecy was determined (Ezekiel 38-39)
And there is a two-fold reason. First, some 70 years before, God had said that this battle must go forward. Take a look at Ezekiel 38-39 and let's just read a few passages which show that this battle was not an option. My paper just gives materials that show the fulfillment in Esther. We won't look at that. But look at chapter 38:4. God says, "I will turn you around, put hooks into your jaws, and lead you out, with all your army, horses, and horsemen, all splendidly clolthed, a great company with bucklers and shields, all of them handling swords." Haman has favored his people so that they are wealthy, well clothed and well armed. And because of the king's decree, they have nothing to lose by trying to win. Let's say that these enemies do win – the king can't come against them and punish them because they are simply doing what the king has authorized. In fact in chapter 9 you will notice that Haman's sons are not killed till ten months later. They can boldly try to oppose Israel and may actually believe that they will have success. But notice who is leading them: it is God. And it's not a very flattering image. God forced them to fight against Israel just as much as a hooked fish is drawn to the shore. Look at verse 16: "You will come against My people Israel like a cloud, to cover the land. It will be in the latter days that I will bring you against My land, so that the nations may know Me" [and this is a common theme in these two chapters. The purpose is missions – to cause the nations to know God. Verse 23:] "Thus I will magnify Myself and sanctify Myself, and I will be known in the eyes of many nations. Then they shall know that I am the LORD."
But the point is that even though everything has turned against Haman's plans and for Israel, the battle must go forward because the Lord has ordained it. Ezekiel 39:2 says, "and I will turn you around and lead you on, bringing you up from the far north, and bring you against the mountains of Israel. Then I will knock the bow out of your left hand, and cause the arrows to fall out of your right hand."
And God gives a reason why Israel has to suffer these tears – because of their sins and their compromises. Look at Ezekiel 39:23-29 where God says that he will use this to make Israel turn to him. And this purpose which was accomplished in the sixth century BC is such a wonderful picture of how God will use pressures to draw the nation of Israel to himself in the future. In fact, in Zechariah 14 it implies that it is absolutely devastating pressures. If I have time, I may show you how it looks like a description of a nuclear holocaust intended against Israel, but which backfires on the Arabs. We'll look at that maybe in a bit. But look at Ezekiel 39:23-29. This is fulfilled prophecy, but it still stands as a picture for the future.
Ezekiel 39:23,/sup> The Gentiles shall know that the house of Israel went into captivity for their iniquity; because they were unfaithful to Me, therefore I hid My face from them. I gave them into the hand of their enemies, and they all fell by the sword. Ezekiel 39:24 According to their uncleanness and according to their transgressions I have dealt with them, and hidden My face from them. Ezekiel 39:25 Therefore thus says the Lord GOD: 'Now I will bring back the captives of Jacob, and have mercy on the whole house of Israel; and I will be jealous for My holy name — ' Ezekiel 39:26 'after they have borne their shame, and all their unfaithfulness in which they were unfaithful to Me, when they dwelt safely in their own land and no one made them afraid.' Ezekiel 39:27 'When I have brought them back from the peoples and gathered them out of their enemies' lands, and I am hallowed in them in the sight of many nations,' Ezekiel 39:28 'then they shall know that I am the LORD their God, who sent them into captivity among the nations, but also brought them back to their land, and left none of them captive any longer.' Ezekiel 39:29 'And I will not hide My face from them anymore; for I shall have poured out My Spirit on the house of Israel,' says the Lord GOD.'
The battle must go forward because God has prophesied it. There are tears because God's purposes were designed to purify the church.
the king's decree could not be reversed (Esther 8:5-8)
But back to Esther, the battle of Gog and Magog had to go forward in the time of king Darius because the king's decree could not be reversed. Esther 8:5-8:
and said, "If it pleases the king, and if I have found favor in his sight and the thing seems right to the king and I am pleasing in his eyes, let it be written to revoke the letters devised by Haman, the son of Hammedatha the Agagite, which he wrote to annihilate the Jews who are in all the king's provinces. For how can I endure to see the evil that will come to my people? Or how can I endure to see the destruction of my countrymen? Then king Ahasuerus said to Queen Esther and Mordecai the Jew, "Indeed, I have given Esther the house of Haman, and they have hanged him on the gallows because he tried to lay his hand on the Jews. You yourselves write a decree concerning the Jews, as you please, in the king's name, and seal it with the king's signet ring; for whatever is written in the king's name and sealed with the king's signet ring no one can revoke.
The tears came because the king could not revoke his decree. The battle lines had been drawn and there was no escaping the conflict. And try as Christians might to avoid the conflict with Satan, they will never succeed. Satan will make sure of that. All you can do is stand in the victory of Christ or lose. Those are the options. You cannot avoid the battle. You can win the battle, but you cannot avoid the battle.
The joy: the battle of Gog and Magog favors the Jews
Success in defending themselves predestined by God (Ezek. 38-39)
So those are the tears. But this chapter moves from tears to joy just as New Testament history will move. If they knew of the prophecy of Ezekiel 38-39, then we know that this joy was grounded in Scripture. Over and over Ezekiel promises complete victory for the Jews. Looking again at Ezekiel 38-39, there were many promises that they could bank on. Ezekiel 38:3 for example says, "Thus says the Lord God: 'Behold, I am against you, O Gog, the prince of Rosh, Meshech, and Tubal.'" What encouraging words. God is against their enemies and He is for His people. And if God is for us, who can be against us? Even the physical creation would be made to signal the defeat of the humanists. Verse 19 says, "For in my jealousy and in the fire of My wrath I have spoken: 'Surely in that day there shall be a great earthquake in the land of Israel, so that the fish of the sea, the birds of the heavens, the beasts of the field, all creeping things that creep on the earth, and all men who are on the face of the earth shall shake at My presence. The mountains shall be thrown down, the steep places shall fall, and every wall shall fall to the ground.'" I forgot to put this into your outlines, but Sieberg's exhaustive study of the evidence of earthquakes in history show earthquakes during the reign of Darius that must have caused massive damage. It's a good thing actually that Nehemiah doesn't build the walls for another few years. But God moves even creation to give the Jews a sign of their success.
In verse 21 God will cause the Gentiles to side with the Jews and fight against their own countrymen. Look at verse 21: "'I will call for a sword against Gog throughout all My mountains,' says the Lord GOD. 'Every man's sword will be against his brother.'" And you can see through these two chapters numerous encouragements that they will succeed in winning the battle.
Permission to defend themselves granted by the king (8:9-14)
Back in Esther, let's quickly read through chapter 8:9-14 where the king grants permission for the Jews to defend themselves.
Esther 8:9 So the king's scribes were called at that time, in the third month, which is the month of Sivan, on the twenty-third day; and it was written, according to all that Mordecai commanded, to the Jews, the satraps, the governors, and the princes of the provinces from India to Ethiopia, one hundred and twenty-seven provinces in all, to every province in its own script, to every people in their own language, and to the Jews in their own script and language. Esther 8:10 And he wrote in the name of King Ahasuerus, sealed it with the king's signet ring, and sent letters by couriers on horseback, riding on royal horses bred from swift steeds. Esther 8:11 By these letters the king permitted the Jews who were in every city to gather together and protect their lives" [this was not vengeance; this was self-protection from people attacking them. "to gather together to protect their lives"]"— to destroy, kill, and annihilate all the forces of any people or province that would assault them, both little children and women, and to plunder their possessions," [Now there is a question in how that should be translated. The NIV translates it "to destroy, kill and annihilate any armed force of any nationality or province that might attack them and their women and children. On this translation, the Jews are not authorized to kill the women and children. Rather, they are defending themselves against those who are trying to kill their women and children. That is a possible translation. Certainly there is no evidence that Haman's wife, or the wives of the ten sons of Haman were killed. But either way, it was God Himself who had commanded the total annihilation of any Amalekites. And so I think the New King James translation is probably more correct. This was not ordinary warfare. This was harem warfare that could only be authorized by special revelation. In any case, whichever interpretation is true, verse 12 goes on:] Esther 8:12 on one day in all the provinces of King Ahasuerus, on the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, which is the month of Adar. Esther 8:13 A copy of the document was to be issued as a decree in every province and published for all people, so that the Jews would be ready on that day to avenge themselves on their enemies. Esther 8:14 The couriers who rode on royal horses went out, hastened and pressed on by the king's command. And the decree was issued in Shushan the citadel.
So they were given hope and joy by prophecy, by providence and by the king's authorization.
The Jews rejoice with faith and hope (8:15-17)
But verses 15-17 indicate that they also had hope because of their faith that God controlled their future. We are skipping a lot of material here, but I want you to see the big picture. Verses 15-17:
Esther 8:15 So Mordecai went out from the presence of the king in royal apparel of blue and white, with a great crown of gold and a garment of fine linen and purple; and the city of Shushan rejoiced and was glad.
The battle hasn't even happened yet, and yet the people are moved from tears to joy. This is what eschatology can produce. This is what faith and hope can produce. This is what a trust in God's providence can produce. Unbelievers may be mystified by it, but in the midst of facing distress and attack, Christians can rejoice that they are more than conquerors through Christ who loves us. Verse 16:
Esther 8:16 The Jews had light and gladness, joy and honor. Esther 8:17 And in every province and city, wherever the king's command and decree came, the Jews had joy and gladness, a feast and a holiday. Then many of the people of the land became Jews, because fear of the Jews fell upon them.
The actual battle was not until the next chapter, but they could enter by faith into the confidence that they would overcome the world. We too can rejoice in confidence that God's promises of victory will be achieved in history. Jesus has won it in His ascension, the Holy Spirit is progressively applying it, and one day it will be 100% entered into.
It is right to defend oneself (8:11; 9:2)
What are some further lessons that can be learned from this chapter? I want to look at both personal lessons as well as prophetic lessons.
The first personal lesson is that it is right to defend oneself. Though the Bible indicates that a citizen may never raise the sword against the civil government unless authorized by a civil government to do so, it is perfectly appropriate to defend yourself against common attackers. In fact, where did these Jews get their weapons? If weapon controls had disarmed them, they would have been in trouble. In chapter 9 it becomes quite clear that the Jews were already armed. Chapter 9:2 says, "The Jews gathered together in their cities throughout all the provinces of King Ahasuerus to lay hands on those who sought their harm." Verse 5 speaks of the stroke of the sword. Jesus Christ Himself taught that it was important to be able to defend your families and your own life from common dangers. He commanded His disciples to get swords. In Luke 22:36 Jesus commanded, "he who has no sword, let him sell his garment and buy one." That's how seriously Christ took self-defense.
But when Peter used his sword against a government official, Christ told Peter to put his sword away. The Reformation principle is that citizens may resist tyranny in government if a lower magistrate or another magistrate has authorized them to raise the sword. For example, the state of Israel would have had the biblical right to authorize the people to arms to resist Persian attempts to annihilate them in Israel. But it would have been tough for Jews in other provinces. In this case, the federal government itself authorized the sword to be used against federal tyranny. This is the only case that we know of that the same government that was the problem also authorized resistance to the problem. If it hadn't been for this, the Jews only option would have been to flee. Anarchy is not a good substitute for tyranny. But self-defense is such a basic human right, that no one can remove the right to defend oneself against common dangers. And no one can remove the right to have personal weapons of self-defence.
It is right to seek the civil government's defense (9:3)
A second personal application is that it is right to seek the civil government's defense. Chapter 9:3 says, "And all the officials of the provinces, the satraps, the governors, and all those doing the king's work, helped the Jews, because the fear of Mordedcai fell upon them." The civil government is not to be viewed only as a negative nuisance. Many times the government does do bad things. But think of the troubles we would have without civil government. Contracts could not be enforced, highways would be unsafe (if there even were highways), and society would quickly become unstable. In Israel during certain periods between the Judges, there was anarchy – and it led to robbers, bandits, murderers getting away with murder. God has given the state as a blessing. It is the mininster of God according to Romans 13, and there is nothing wrong with asking the civil magistrate to defend us. Paul did.
We should pray for Israel to be saved (8:3-6)
Another personal application is that we should pray for pagan Israel (or what Paul called Israel according to the flesh) to be saved. The Westminster Larger Catechism 191 asks, "What do we pray for in the second petition [of the Lord's prayer]? Answer: "In the second petition, (which is, Thy kingdom come,) acknowledging ourselves and all mankind to be by nature under the dominion of sin and Satan, we pray, that the kingdom of sin and Satan may be destroyed, the gospel propagated throughout the world, the Jews called, the fulness of the Gentiles brought in…" It calls upon the curch to pray for the salvation of Israel that the Jews would be called.
There will be a turning of the hearts of physical Jews to Christ
And that brings up the first prophetic lesson. The historical salvation of the Jews in this passage prefigures or foreshadows their salvation in the future. I'll put it on the overhead like this:
510 BC foreshadows future danger & conversion of Israel
Who knows? The second column may be in our life time. There are several passages which predict the future conversion of Israel. But there are also a few which predict this first column – the first time that Israel is saved from annihilation and the first time that they bring blessing to the Gentiles. Let me just give you one example of a prophet who foretold this saving of Israel and salvation of many Gentiles. Why don't you turn first to Zechariah 8.
Zechariah 8 is a passage which describes 510 BC in great detail. This was written probably in the beginning of 518 BC (that's 8 years before the battle of Gog and Magog). And Zechariah also has some things to say about this battle. But I want to focus on two things here. The salvation of Israel and the salvation of many, many Gentiles in Esther's day. And obviously we don't have time to go through the whole passage, but let me at least give the context. Chapter 7 tells the Israelites why God had scattered the Jews. Chapter 8:2 addresses the misconception that God does not care about His people. God assures them that He does. Verse 3 assures them that He will dwell in the new temple that is about to be completed in three years. The foundation is already laid, but it will be another three years before it is finished. There are hardly any people in Jerusalem at this point (according to Ezra), but verse 4 promises that that situation will be changed. In verse 9 he talks about the foundation of the temple which has been laid not too long before. He says before that, it seemed as if God was against them. Verse 11 says, "But now" and he talks about prospering them. That can't be thousands of years in the future. He says, "but now."
Again in verse 15 he contrasts the former days with what he is going to do "in these days." Verse 19 talks about four fasts that the Jews had been having for the past many years, but he says that this must change because God is going to change their situation to gladness. Change whose situation? The Jews in the sixth century BC.
So hopefully you can see that the context is pointing to this left column of the same period of time that Esther is talking about. And there are two things that Zechariah says will happen during this time period. First, Israel will be saved from destruction – and it is salvation from a danger present all over the empire. Look at verse 7. "Thus says the LORD of hosts. 'Behold, I will save My people from the land of the east and from the land of the west; I will bring them back, and they shall dwell in the midst of Jerusalem. They shall be My people and I will be their God, in truth and righteousness.'" And throughout this passage, there are several references to God doing a mighty work of grace in Israel's midst. Verse 13 says, "And it shall come to pass that just as you were a curse among the nations, O house of Judah and house of Israel, so I will save you, and you shall be a blessing. Do not fear, let your hands be strong." So you can see that this is very parallel to what we have seen in Ezekiel and Esther.
There will be even greater blessing among the Gentiles.
The second result of the battle of Gog and Magog will be blessing to the Gentiles. My paper shows this in Ezekiel. Let's just take a couple minutes to see it in Zechariah. Look at Zechariah 8:20-23: "Thus says the LORD of hosts: 'Peoples shall yet come, inhabitants of many cities; the inhabitants of one city shall go to another, saying, "Let us continue to go and pray before the LORD, and seek the LORD of hosts. I myself will go also."'" Yes, many peoples and strong nations shall come to seek the LORD of hosts in Jerusalem, and to pray before the LORD.' Thus says the LORD of hosts: ‘In those days ten men from every language of the nations shall grasp the sleeve of a Jewish man, saying, "Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you.'" We are talking about a tremendous missions success in the reign of Darius. Zechariah 2:11-12 says, "Many nations shall be joined to the LORD in that day, and they shall become My people. And I will dwell in your midst. Then you will know that the LORD of hosts has sent Me to you. And the LORD will take possession of Judah as His inheritance in the Holy Land, and will again choose Jerusalem." So when Esther 8:17 says, "then many of the people of the land became Jews…" , he meant many. This was perhaps the most successful missions program of the pre-cross world. We are talking about a tremendous missions success in the reign of Darius. And so it serves as a fantastic foreshadowing of what will happen in our future. Now shadows are never as great as the reality. But there was enough there, that it gives us hope and confidence about the success of the Gospel in the New Testament era. There are yet eras of glory that we only know in type and in faint foreshadowing.
If you want to have our future history in a nutshell, it is this: There will be a long period in which only a remnant of Israelites believe (but more and more Gentiles believe), there will be a period of threat of annihilation of Israel according to the flesh, this threat will be turned back against the enemies of Israel. Both Zechariah 14 and Isaiah 19 imply that the warfare will be so destructive that a huge percentage of the Arabs around Israel will be killed, and the land itself will be defiled. In fact, if you want a description of nuclear warfare, Zechariah 14:12 sure sounds like it to me. In any case, the Lord will bring conversion and healing to these Arab countries, and God will use the converted Jews to evangelize and convert the world. So this short period of history serves as a paradigm of a future time when Israel will be gathered, restored, saved and will then in turn bring blessing to the Gentiles.
And by the way, on the controversy of whether the church is Israel it can be said that God has always only had one people, one bride, one vine, one temple, one olive tree. Israel was called the Olive Tree in Romans 11. Only unbelieving Jews were broken off from that Olive tree, so it was still Israel. And only believing Gentiles were grafted into that Olive Tree. But when we Gentiles were grafted in, what were we grafted into? It was into Israel – the true Israel, the spiritual Israel.
And Esther here describes a time when Gentiles became part of Israel by faith. These believing Gentiles are called Jews in Esther 8:17. Can you see that? Many Gentiles became Jews. Jewishness was not first and foremost ethnic. It was religious. So we are Jews in the true sense of the term. Revelation 2:9 and 3:9 says that ethnic Jews are not true Jews because they have rejected the Gospel. But that does not do away with God's promise that national apostate Jewry, that does not deserve the name, will one day be readmitted into the olive tree. In other words, they will by faith in the gospel be grafted back into the church – into true Israel. Paul guarantees that they will. Scripture promises that a nation will be born in one day, and Israel will be called God's people as will Egypt and Assyria. You can read that in Isaiah 19.
There are other prophetic lessons that we will pick up in chapter 9 next week. But let this war with Gog and Magog encourage your hearts. Though the church may go through trials and tribulations, it cannot be extinguished. Jesus promised, "I will build My church and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it." Satan's gates will crumble to the Gospel. Israel according to the flesh will believe. And they will bring even greater Gospel blessings to the Gentiles. And it is with that hope and that encouragement that I close today.