“The Future of the Holy Land,” Ensign, May 1972, 96
Because of its strategic location at the crossroads of the great continents of Europe, Asia, and Africa, the Holy Land has always been of paramount importance. Today many people, including the leaders of most countries, would like to know more concerning the future of this strategic and important area.
As Latter-day Saints we probably know more about its future than do any other people. The only definite way the future can be illuminated is through the spirit of prophecy, and this gift of the Holy Spirit should always be evident in the true church. Thus, as Latter-day Saints we have access to everything the world knows concerning the future of the Holy Land, and in addition we have the inspired statements of ancient and modern prophets to guide and direct us.
The future of the Holy Land is closely allied with the future of the house of Israel, more specifically with the future of the descendants of Judah. Thus, an examination of some of the prophecies concerning Judah in the last days should help to illuminate the future of this area. This article will deal with fourteen such prophecies. The following principles were used in helping to determine which prophecies to include:
The Lord has said: “… In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established.” (2 Cor. 13:1.) Thus, only those topics will be discussed where at least two sources of prophecies are available.
Also, the prophecies should definitely refer to the last days. Thus, the points discussed will include (1) statements from Old Testament prophets who lived after the time of the Babylonian captivity and who prophesied concerning a future gathering of Israel, (2) prophecies quoted by the Savior during his ministry upon the earth where he related these scriptures to future events, and (3) prophecies and other material revealed to the prophets of this dispensation.
Malachi, who lived after the Babylonian captivity, said:
“Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord:
“And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.” (Mal. 4:5–6.)
The resurrected Savior quoted this scripture to the Nephites. The Angel Moroni quoted this scripture to the Prophet Joseph Smith on September 21, 1823. And then the Lord quoted this same scripture to Joseph Smith on November 3, 1831, recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 133:64 [D&C 133:64]. Here, literally, in the mouths of several witnesses, we have the fact that Elijah the prophet is going to return before the great and dreadful day of the Lord.
The fulfillment of this prophecy occurred on April 3, 1836, when the following vision took place, as recorded by the prophet Joseph Smith:
“… another great and glorious vision burst upon us; for Elijah the prophet, who was taken to heaven without tasting death, stood before us, and said:
“Behold, the time has fully come, which was spoken of by the mouth of Malachi—testifying that he [Elijah] should be sent, before the great and dreadful day of the Lord come—
“To turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the children to the fathers, lest the whole earth be smitten with a curse—
“Therefore, the keys of this dispensation are committed into your hands; and by this ye may know that the great and dreadful day of the Lord is near, even at the doors.” (D&C 110:13–16.)
The interesting thing is that although other people have also believed in the coming of Elijah before the great and dreadful day of the Lord, so far as I know the Latter-day Saints are the only people on earth who claim that this prophecy has been fulfilled.
The Orthodox Jewish people are still looking forward to the coming of Elijah; at their holy feasts they have an empty chair at the table for Elijah the prophet. It may be one of the great ironies of history when the Jewish people find out that in 1836, at the very time they were sitting down in the Holy Land at their Passover feasts, with the empty chair there for Elijah the prophet, Elijah the prophet came—not to the Jewish people, but to the prophet of this dispensation, Joseph Smith, in the Kirtland Temple.
When Moroni appeared to the Prophet Joseph Smith on September 21, 1823, he quoted from Isaiah 11, which reads as follows:
“And he shall set up an ensign for the nations, and shall assemble the outcasts of Israel, and gather together the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth.” (Isa. 11:12.)
Notice what Zechariah said concerning the gathering:
“And many nations shall be joined to the Lord in that day, and shall be my people: and I will dwell in the midst of thee, and thou shalt know that the Lord of hosts hath sent me unto thee.
“And the Lord shall inherit Judah his portion in the holy land, and shall choose Jerusalem again.” (Zech. 2:11–12.)
In one of the great discourses that he gave shortly before his death, the Prophet Joseph Smith made the following comment while talking about the second coming of Christ; he said these events must take place before the second coming of Christ:
“Judah must return, Jerusalem must be rebuilt, and the temple, and water come out from under the temple, and the waters of the Dead Sea be healed. It will take some time to rebuild the walls of the city and the temple, &c., and all this must be done before the Son of Man will make His appearance.” (Documentary History of the Church, vol. 5, p. 337.)
In 1841 The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints sent an apostle, Elder Orson Hyde, to the Holy Land to dedicate the land for the return of the Jewish people. Part of this dedicatory prayer is as follows:
“[I] dedicate and consecrate this land unto Thee, for the gathering together of Judah’s scattered remnants, according to the predictions of the holy Prophets. … Incline them to gather in upon this land according to Thy word. Let them come like clouds and like doves to their windows. Let the large ships of the nations bring them from the distant isles; and let kings become their nursing fathers, and queens with motherly fondness wipe the tear of sorrow from their eyes.” (DHC, vol. 4, pp. 456–57.)
When Elder Hyde offered that dedicatory prayer, there were fewer than 5,000 Jewish people in the entire land of Palestine. Today there are over 2,250,000, and they have literally come from the four corners of the earth—from over 100 separate nations—and this in fulfillment of the prophecies.
Again Zechariah says: “And Judah also shall fight at Jerusalem; and the wealth of all the heathen round about shall be gathered together, gold, and silver, and apparel, in great abundance.” (Zech. 14:14.)
A substantiating statement from a modern prophet comes from Wilford Woodruff: “… the time is not far distant when the rich men among the Jews may be called upon to use their abundant wealth to gather the dispersed of Judah, and purchase the ancient dwelling places of their fathers in and about Jerusalem, and rebuild the holy city and temple.” (Millennial Star, vol. 41, p. 244.)
In 1967, Levi Eshkol, then the prime minister of Israel, was interviewed by reporters of U.S. News and World Report, at which time he indicated that Israel had received over $1 billion from the Jewish people in the United States. Also, it is known that over $1.5 billion has been received from West Germany in restitution and reparation payments. Literally, the prophecy that gold and silver will be used to reclaim this land has been fulfilled and perhaps is still in the process of fulfillment.
To quote from Ezekiel concerning the land of Jerusalem in the last days:
“… the desolate land shall be tilled, whereas it lay desolate in the sight of all that passed by.
“And they shall say, This land that was desolate is become like the garden of Eden; and the waste and desolate and ruined cities are become fenced, and are inhabited.
“Then the heathen that are left round about you shall know that I the Lord build the ruined places, and plant that that was desolate: I the Lord have spoken it, and I will do it.” (Ezek. 36:34–36. Italics added.)
From modern scripture:
“But behold, saith the Lord of Hosts: I will show unto the children of men that it is yet a very little while and Lebanon shall be turned into a fruitful field; and the fruitful field shall be esteemed as a forest.” (2 Ne. 27:28.)
Orson Hyde, in his dedicatory prayer in Jerusalem, said:
“Grant, therefore, O Lord, in the name of Thy well-beloved Son, Jesus Christ, to remove the barrenness and sterility of this land, and let springs of living water break forth to water its thirsty soil. Let the vine and the olive produce in their strength, and the fig-tree bloom and flourish. Let the land become abundantly fruitful when possessed by its rightful heirs; let it again flow with plenty to feed the returning prodigals who come home with a spirit of grace and supplication; upon it let the clouds distil virtue and richness, and let the fields smile with plenty. Let the flocks and the herds greatly increase and multiply upon the mountains and the hills. …” (DHC, vol. 4, p. 457. Italics added.)
Those who have traveled in Israel recently can verify that portions of this area have become as a garden, in fulfillment of this prophecy.
Zechariah has also quoted concerning this event:
“In that day will I make the governors of Judah like an hearth of fire among the wood, and like a torch of fire in a sheaf; and they shall devour all the people round about, on the right hand and on the left: and Jerusalem shall be inhabited again in her own place, even in Jerusalem.
“And it shall come to pass in that day, that I will seek to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem.” (Zech. 12:6, 9. Italics added.)
In 3 Nephi two witnesses instead of one testify concerning this point, because here the Savior is quoting Isaiah concerning the last days:
“Behold, they shall surely gather together against thee, not by me; whosoever shall gather together against thee shall fall for thy sake.
There is no need to review here what took place in June 1967 when Israel conquered a land area about three times the size of its original land—it went from 8,000 square miles to 26,000 square miles. W. Cleon Skousen uses the term “fantastic victory” as the title of his book concerning this event. Life magazine used the term “incredible victory.” A government leader said it was the nearest thing to “instant victory” yet devised.
“… and Jerusalem shall be inhabited again in her own place, even in Jerusalem.” (Zech. 12:6.)
“And the Lord shall inherit Judah his portion in the holy land, and shall choose Jerusalem again.” (Zech. 2:12.)
For over 1900 years the Orthodox Jews have concluded their ritual prayers with the petition, “Next year in Jerusalem.” And in 1967, for the first time in 1900 years, that “next year in Jerusalem” arrived for the Jewish people.
Notice, too, the amazing thing that although the Jewish people say that Jerusalem is the capital of the land, all of the other countries, including the United States, say that the capital of Israel is in Tel Aviv. Tel Aviv was the capital of Israel only during those months of 1948–49 when Israel was not in full possession of even a portion of Jerusalem; then the capital was moved to Jerusalem. Explaining this event, David Ben-Gurion has written:
“In the tempest of war … we were compelled to establish the seat of government for the time being in the official quarter near Tel Aviv. But the state of Israel has had, and will have, one capital alone: Jerusalem, the Eternal. …” (The Jews in Their Land, pp. 342–43.)
So although the world may refer to the Tel Aviv government, Israel says, “Our capital is Jerusalem.”
Matthew says: “… this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.” (Matt. 24:14.)
The Savior, in talking about the fact that he would remember the covenant he had made with Israel, said:
“And it shall come to pass that the time cometh, when the fulness of my gospel shall be preached unto them;
“And they shall believe in me, that I am Jesus Christ, the Son of God, and shall pray unto the Father in my name.” (3 Ne. 20: 30–31.)
Concerning this event, Wilford Woodruff said in 1855: “When the Gentiles reject the Gospel it will be taken from them, and go to the House of Israel, to that long-suffering people that are now scattered abroad through all the nations upon the earth, … and they will rebuild Jerusalem their ancient city, and make it more glorious than at the beginning, and they will have a leader in Israel with them, a man that is full of the power of God and the gift of the Holy Ghost; but they are held now from this work, only because the fulness of the Gentiles has not yet come in.” (Journal of Discourses, vol. 2, p. 200. Italics added.)
Therefore, Latter-day Saints should not be surprised when a great mission is established in Israel. At the present time we cannot do missionary work there for two major reasons: (1) Our church is not officially recognized by Israel, and (2) there are laws in Israel against proselyting. But the time will come, in fulfillment of the words of the prophets, when the gospel of Jesus Christ will be preached to the Jewish people.
In Zechariah 8:9 is a statement in which he says, “Let your hands be strong, … that the temple might be built.” [Zech. 8:9]
A description of the temple is given in Ezekiel 40–48 [Ezek. 40–48]. Reference is made to the temple at Jerusalem by Orson Pratt in Journal of Discourses, volume 19, pages 19–29, and in Doctrine and Covenants 124:36–37 [D&C 124:36–37]. President Wilford Woodruff said:
“… Christ will not come until these things come to pass. Jerusalem has got to be rebuilt. The temple has got to be built.
“… These things have been revealed by the prophets; they will have their fulfillment.” (MS, vol. 52 [Oct. 6, 1890], p. 740.)
And Joseph Smith said: “What was the object of gathering the Jews, or the people of God in any age of the world? … The main object was to build unto the Lord a house whereby He could reveal unto His people the ordinances of His house. …” (DHC, vol. 5, p. 423.)
Many of the Orthodox Jewish people themselves are talking about the construction of a third temple. Concerning this subject, an important scroll was discovered in the Middle East just a few years ago. Dr. Yigael Yadin of the Hebrew University is now translating this scroll, which he calls the Temple Scroll and concerning which he has said:
“The amazing thing about this scroll is that it was written as a Torah—a law—given by God to Moses. The entire text is written in the first person singular, with God as the speaker. Every other scroll from the Dead Sea is either a copy of an existent Biblical book or a Biblical commentary or a sectarian document composed by the Qumran community. Here we have for the first time a scroll that was apparently meant to be in the Biblical text but which was never part of the Biblical canon, so far as we know.” (Newsletter Number 7 of the American Schools of Oriental Research, November 13, 1967. Italics added.)
With what does that text deal? Dr. Yadin says that it has the plans for the construction of a great temple and that it introduces a new feature into the temple. There are three courts instead of two, each exactly square. The middle and the outer courts of the temple are to have twelve gates, three on each side, and each gate is to be named for one of the Twelve Tribes of Israel. Dr. Yadin adds:
“This is significant. The whole apocalyptic literature and that of Qumran were occupied with the concept of uniting the twelve tribes of Israel as ordained by God. Here, too, the emphasis is on the twelve tribes, as it is so frequently also in the New Testament.” (Ibid.)
Orson Pratt has described another distinguishing feature concerning the temple that will be built in Jerusalem during the last days: “The Temple at Jerusalem will undoubtedly be built, by those who believe in the true Messiah. Its construction will be, in some respects different from the Temples now being built. It will contain the throne of the Lord, upon which he will, at times, personally sit, and will reign over the house of Israel for ever.” (JD, vol. 19, p. 20. Italics added.)
Ezekiel prophesies this, and there are additional references in Jeremiah, Isaiah, Hosea, and Zechariah.
The Prophet Joseph Smith, only three months before his martyrdom, said: “… the throne and kingdom of David is to be taken from him and will be given to another by the name of David in the last days, raised up out of his lineage.” (DHC, vol. 6, p. 253.)
The great hero of ancient Israel was David, the king of Israel; a new leader with this name will yet come forth.
Zechariah says, quoting the Lord: “For I will gather all nations against Jerusalem to battle; and the city shall be taken, and the houses rifled, and the women ravished; and half of the city shall go forth into captivity, and the residue of the people shall not be cut off from the city.” (Zech. 14:2.)
President Woodruff has also discussed this subject: “… O house of Judah, … It is true that after you return and gather your nation home, and rebuild your City and Temple, that the Gentiles will gather together their armies to go against you to battle, to take you a prey and to take you as a spoil, which they will do, for the words of your prophets must be fulfilled. …” (Matthias F. Cowley, Wilford Woodruff [Bookcraft, 1964], p. 509.)
If you wonder how this prophecy could be fulfilled, let me simply remind you that on July 4, 1967, the United Nations General Assembly voted 99 to 0 to condemn Israel because of its annexation of Jerusalem. Twenty countries abstained; 99 countries voted in favor of condemning Israel; not a single nation voted against the condemnation. And if a United Nations military force should be sent into the Middle East to take over Jerusalem again, literally all of the nations of the earth would gather together to battle against Judah.
Joseph Smith has explained the following concerning the two prophets who are mentioned in Revelation 11:2–3, 6–12 [Rev. 11:2–3, 6–12]:
“Q. What is to be understood by the two witnesses, in the eleventh chapter of Revelation? [And the Lord answered:]
“A. They are two prophets that are to be raised up to the Jewish nation in the last days, at the time of the restoration, and to prophesy to the Jews after they are gathered and have built the city of Jerusalem in the land of their fathers.” (D&C 77:15.)
Orson Pratt has said the following concerning the role of these prophets: “We might bring up, also, the declaration of John in relation to the two witnesses who are to prophecy about that period. They are to prophecy three and a half years, and their field of labor will be Jerusalem, after it shall have been rebuilt by the Jews. By means of their prophecies and the power of God attending them, the nations who are gathered together against Jerusalem will be kept at bay, these Prophets will hold them in check by their faith and power. By and by these nations overcome the two witnesses and, having finished their mission, they are slain, and their bodies will lie three days and a half in the streets of the city. Then a great earthquake will take place, and these two witnesses will be caught up to heaven.” (JD, vol. 16, p. 329. Italics added.)
For a thrilling detailed insight into what is going to take place concerning this, one should read the entire eleventh chapter of the Book of Revelation.
“… they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him. …” (Zech. 12:10.) The Doctrine and Covenants provides an even more vivid account, because the Savior, in talking about this, says:
“And then shall the Jews look upon me and say: What are these wounds in thine hands and in thy feet?
“Then shall they know that I am the Lord; for I will say unto them: These wounds are the wounds with which I was wounded in the house of my friends. I am he who was lifted up. I am Jesus that was crucified. I am the Son of God.
“And then shall they weep because of their iniquities; then shall they lament because they persecuted their king.” (D&C 45: 51–53.)
President Woodruff has referred to this great event as follows: “… the Jews have got to gather to their own land in unbelief. … and when they have done this and rebuilt their city, the Gentiles, in fulfillment of the words of Ezekiel, Jeremiah and other prophets, will go up against Jerusalem to battle and to take a spoil and a prey; and then, when they have taken one-half of Jerusalem captive and distressed the Jews for the last time on the earth, their Great Deliverer, Shiloh, will come.” (JD, vol. 15, pp. 277–78. Italics added.)
In fact, Zechariah, in talking about this, says:
“Then shall the Lord go forth, and fight against those nations, as when he fought in the day of battle.
“And the Lord shall be king over all the earth; in that day shall there be one Lord, and his name one.” (Zech. 14:3, 9.)
The Doctrine and Covenants also mentions this event:
“… for the presence of the Lord shall be as the melting fire that burneth, and as the fire which causeth the waters to boil.
“O Lord, thou shalt come down to make thy name known to thine adversaries, and all nations shall tremble at thy presence.” (D&C 133:41–42.)
Also, President Woodruff has said that the Savior will fight the battles of Judah: “… but when this affliction comes, the living God, that led Moses through the wilderness, will deliver you, and your Shiloh will come and stand in your midst and will fight your battles; and you will know him, and the afflictions of the Jews will be at an end, while the destruction of the Gentiles will be so great that it will take the whole house of Israel who are gathered about Jerusalem, seven months to bury the dead of their enemies, and the weapons of war will last them seven years for fuel, so that they need not go to any forest for wood. These are tremendous sayings—who can bear them? Nevertheless they are true, and will be fulfilled, according to the sayings of Ezekiel, Zechariah, and other prophets. Though the heavens and the earth pass away, not one jot or tittle will fall unfilled.” (Cowley, pp. 509–10.)
Isaiah has prophesied the following concerning this event (Latter-day prophets have also indicated this scripture pertains to this day, and the same idea is found in the Doctrine and Covenants, section 133 [D&C 133]):
“And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it.
“And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.” (Isa. 2:2–3.)
President Joseph F. Smith has spoken of these two gathering places as follows: “Jerusalem of old, after the Jews have been cleansed and sanctified from all their sin, shall become a holy city where the Lord shall dwell and from whence he shall send forth his word unto all people. Likewise, on this continent, the city of Zion, New Jerusalem—shall be built, and from it the law of God shall also go forth. There will be no conflict, for each city shall be headquarters for the Redeemer of the world, and from each he shall send forth his proclamations as occasion may require. Jerusalem shall be the gathering place of Judah and his fellows of the house of Israel, and Zion shall be the gathering place of Ephraim and his fellows, upon whose heads shall be conferred ‘the richer blessings.’” (Improvement Era, vol. 22 , pp. 815–16.)
As Latter-day Saints, we should know more about the prophecies pertaining to Israel than any other people on earth, including the Jewish people themselves. We have everything they have, and in addition we have the words of the prophets in the Book of Mormon, the Pearl of Great Price, and the Doctrine and Covenants. We also have living prophets who stand at the head of our church today who can tell us about these great events.
The Savior has admonished us to “search these things diligently.” One purpose of devoting this special issue of the Ensign to the Holy Land is to inspire and motivate Latter-day Saints to learn about the dealings of the Lord with his covenant people.