Who can know?

Today's nation of Israel lies in a bit of land that the Greek historian Herodotus, writing around 430 B.C., referred to as Palestine. Before Joshua led the Hebrew people into the Promised Land sometime around 1273 B.C., the region had been conquered by Hittites, Phoenicians, Philistines and others.

Once in Canaan, the Hebrew peoples did not always enjoy a peaceful existence. After King Solomon died, sometime around 925 B.C., civil war broke out and the nation divided into the northern Kingdom of Israel and the southern Kingdom of Judah. Israel was destroyed by the Assyrians in 722 B.C. and many of her people were deported, giving birth to the legend of the Lost Tribes.

Nebuchadnezzar conquered the Kingdom of Judah in 597-586 B.C., and exiled many upper and middle class Jews. Cyrus II of Persia incorporated Israel and Judah into his Persian empire when he conquered Babylon in 539 B.C.

In the early 330s B.C., Alexander the Great conquered the region that was called Palestine by Roman emperor Hadrian. It was during the Alexandrian era that Aristotle referred to the Jewish homeland as IOUDAIA, according to his disciple Clearchos of Soli. Transliterated into Latin, the name became IVDAEA, the English version of which is Judea. The original source for this name likely is the Aramaic word Yehoudaya, which translates as “The Jews.”

After the death of Alexander, his kingdom was divided among his Generals and Judea became part of the Seleucian Empire. In the Apocryphal books, we read of the tension between the Judean Hellenists and Jewish traditionalists that led to the Maccabean Revolt in the 2nd century B.C. At the time, the Kingdom of Judea controlled most of the region of present day Israel (minus the Negev but with the West Bank, Golan Heights and parts of the Gaza Strip) and parts of western Jordan. Demetrius I Soter suppressed the revolt in 160 B.C., reuniting the Seleucid Empire, but the Hasmonean dynasty established by Simon Maccabeus continued under the vassalage of the Empire until 64 B.C.

Then came the Romans, who conquered Syria in 63 B.C. Israel was a client kingdom of Rome under Herod I from 37 to 4 B.C. , after which it was part of the Judaea Prefecture of Syria Province. Jews did not willingly wear the Roman yoke and rose up in three great rebellions. First was the Great Jewish Revolt (66-73 A.D.), which was suppressed by the Roman army under General Titus Flavius. The cost to the Jews was horrendous. Jerusalem was sacked, the Temple destroyed and an estimated 600,000 to 1,300,000 Jews killed.

The second great Jewish rebellion, called the Kitos War, began in 115AD when diasporic Jews started a revolt in Cyrenaica that spread to Aegyptus and Cyprus. In Cyrene (now known as Shahhat, Libya), the rebels destroyed many temples, including those to Hecate, Jupiter, Apollo, Artemis, and Isis, as well as the civil structures that were symbols of Rome, and exterminated the Greek and Roman populations. The English historian Edward Gibbon, quoting a Roman historian, wrote this about the Jewish insurrectionists:

In Cyrene they massacred 220,000 Greeks; in Cyprus, 240,000; in Egypt a very great multitude. Many of these unhappy victims were sawn asunder, according to a precedent to which David had given the sanction of his example. The victorious Jews devoured the flesh, licked up the blood and twisted the entrails like a girdle round their bodies. See Dion Cassius, l. lxviii. [c. 32] p.1 – Edward Gibbon, The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Chap 16, Footnote 1, in the Public Domain

I don't know about the flesh devouring or the blood licking, but a Jewish source had this to say about the massacres:

By this outbreak Libya was depopulated to such an extent that a few years later new colonies had to be established there (Eusebius, "Chronicle" from the Armenian, fourteenth year of Hadrian). Bishop Synesius, a native of Cyrene in the beginning of the fifth century, speaks of the devastations wrought by the Jews ("Do Regno," p. 2) -- The Jewish Encyclopedia, Cyrene, in the Public Domain

After the slaughter in Cyrene the rebel leader Lukuas took his army to Alexandria, which had been abandoned by Roman troops. They burned the city, but not before destroying the pagan temples and the tomb of Pompey. Rome sent new forces to the area, which was finally pacified in the Fall of 117AD. In that same year, Rome's army pacified Cyprus, where Jewish rebels had also seized control and killed a quarter-million Greeks.

Under the leadership of one Artemion, the Cyprian Jews participated in the great uprising against the Romans under Trajan (117), and they are reported to have massacred 240,000 Greeks (Dio Cassius, lxviii. 32). This insurrection was finally quelled after considerable bloodshed (perhaps by Q. Marcius Turbo, who suppressed the uprising in Cyrene and Egypt), with the result that the Jews of Cyprus were almost entirely extirpated. The blood of the Jews slaughtered in Palestine is said to have streamed is far as Cyprus (Lam. R. i. 16, iv. 19); that is, the insurrection and the consequent slaughter of the Jews extended to Cyprus. In further punishment a severe law was enacted, according to which no Jew was thereafter to be permitted to land on Cyprian soil, not even in case of shipwreck;-- The Jewish Encyclopedia, Cyprus, , in the Public Domain

Then followed a new revolt in Mesopotamia, that resulted in Roman troops reconquering the area and Mauretanian General Lusius Quietus being sent to govern Judaea and get things under control. The rebels in Cyrene, Cyprus and Egypt had not been entirely defeated when Hadrian became Emperor of Rome in 118 AD. The Jewish leader, Lukuas fled to Judaea, which then became the seat of the war. Quietus laid siege to Lydda, where the Jewish rebels had gathered. The siege was successful and Roman troops took the city and executed a great many of the Jews.

The third of the great Jewish uprisings was Bar Kokhba's Revolt, which began in 132 A.D. and took three years for Rome to quash. The Bar Kokhba rebellion was put down in 135 A.D., and resulted in half-a-million Jews killed and destabilization of the region's Jewish population, Roman emperor Hadrian changed the name of the province to Syria Palestina, renamed Jerusalem to Aelia Capitolina and re-established the city as a Roman military colony as part of his efforts to erase historical ties of the Jewish people to the region.

The war was ended, and Bar Kokba met his death upon the walls of Bethar. Indescribable misery spread over Palestine; the land became a desert; the Jews were slaughtered en masse; and Talmud and Midrash bewail the horrors of the Roman conquest. According to Dio Cassius, 580,000 Jews fell in battle, not including those who succumbed to hunger and pestilence. It must have been regarded as an evil omen by the Jews that the pillar of Solomon in Jerusalem fell of itself. Indeed, the end of the Jewish nation had come –The Jewish Encyclopedia, Bar Kokba and Bar Kokba War,-- in the Public Domain

Romans joined the province of Iudaea (comprising Samaria, Judea proper, and Idumea) with Galilee to form new province of Syria Palaestina

The Romans destroyed the Jewish community of the Mother Church in Jerusalem, which had existed since the time of Jesus. The line of Jewish bishops in Jerusalem, which started with Jesus's brother James the Righteous as its first bishop, ceased to exist, within the Empire. Hans Kung in "Islam :Past Present and Future", suggests that the Jewish Christians sought refuge in Arabia and he quotes with approval C. Clemen, T. Andrae and H.H. Schraeder, p. 342 "This produces the paradox of truly historic significance that while Jewish Christianity was swallowed up in the Christian church, it preserved itself in Islam, and some of its most powerful impulses extend down to the present day".—Wikipedia, History of the Southern Levant --In the Public Domain

Life under the Roman thumb was difficult for Jews living in Palestine. When no longer willing to submit to the harsh and cruel policies of Constantius Gallus, Emperor of the Eastern Roman Empire, the Jewish population rose in yet another rebellion against Rome. It only took a year or so for Roman General Ursicinus to put down the revolt, destroying a number of cities in the process.

As a consequence of the division of the Roman Empire, which wasn't finalized until 395 A.D., Syria Palaestina became a part of the Eastern Roman Empire (Byzantium). The Byzantines referred to the area as Palestine, the name first used by Herodotus.

Around 390 CE, the Byzantines redrew the borders of the Land of Palestine. The various Roman provinces (Syria Palaestina, Samaria, Galilee, and Peraea) were reorganized into three diocese of Palaestina. According to historian H.H. Ben-Sasson,[8] under Diocletian (284-305) the region was divided into Palaestina Prima which was Judea, Samaria, Idumea, Peraea and the coastal plain with Caesarea as capital, Palaestina Secunda which was Galilee, Decapolis, Golan with Beth-shean as capital, and Palaestina Tertia which was the Negev with Petra as capital. .—Wikipedia, History of the Southern Levant --In the Public Domain

In 351 A.D., the Jews launched another revolt, this time against the rule of Constantinius Gallus, Caesar of the East. The uprising began in Sepphois, and spread to Tiberias and Lydda. Gallus sent Roman General Ursicinus to deal with it, and his reaction was quick and vigorous. His troops destroyed most of the towns in revolt, as well as neighboring towns, but spared Sepphoris. Roman retribution was severe and a permanent garrison was established in Galilee.

In 613A.D., Jews in Palestine joined with the Persian revolt against Emperor Heraclius, in hopes of liberating Jerusalem and being able to control the city autonomoiusly. The main battle was fought in Jerusalem, which fell to the combined forces of the Persians and the Jews after a 20-day siege. The Christian population of the city was then massacred. Jews then ran the city more or less autonomously for a time. In 625 A.D., the Byzantine army once again conquered the region.

In 628, after the defeat and death of Khosrau II, Heraclius came as victor into Jerusalem. The Jews of Tiberias and Nazareth, under the leadership of Benjamin of Tiberias, changed sides and joined him as allies. According to Eutychius, the Emperor would have kept peace with them had not fanatic monks instigated him to a massacre. Only a few Jews escaped into Egypt or sought refuge in caves and in forests. In atonement for the violation of an oath to the Jews, the monks pledged themselves to a fast, which the Copts still observe. Heraclius is said to have dreamed that destruction threatened the Byzantine Empire through a circumcised people. He therefore proposed to destroy all Jews who would not become Christians; and he is reported to have counseled Dagobert, king of the Franks, to do the same… Heraclius experienced a most exquisite triumph as he knelt in the rebuilt church to receive the blessings of the patriarch that extraordinary day. Apologists would say afterwards that only because of the adamant demands of the patriarch and the local clergy did the Emperor rescind his pledge of amnesty and reluctantly authorize the forced baptism and massacre of the Empire's Jews. – Wikipedia, Revolt Against Heraclius

Then, in 638 A.D., Arabs wrested control of the territory of Palaestina from the Byzantine Empire and the troubles continued.

The point I am trying to make is that the region we know as Israel has been a restless land since the Hebrew peoples first entered and before. The Jewish inhabitants of the region were persecuted and persecutors throughout this time. The land was conquered by foreign nations and Jews frequently rose up in rebellion against their persecutors. Hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, were killed in the rebellions. Jewish rebels sometimes wreaked havoc among Christians unfortunate enough to be living in troubled cities. Christians at times worked terrible pogroms against Jewish neighbors.

We know that the earliest Jewish Christians living in Jerusalem were so certain that risen Christ would return in their lifetimes that they sold their homes and distributed the proceeds and much of their possessions to the poor. Jesus did not return as they anticipated and other Christian communities contributed to their support, as demonstrated in Paul's letters to the church at Corinth. But He did not return then.

Do you not sometimes wonder how many Christians living during the persecutions prior to Constantine's Edict of Milan were convinced that Christ's imminent return was near to hand? How many times, as Persian or Greek or Roman or Arab armies stormed through towns and cities, even Jerusalem, burning and killing almost everything and everyone in sight, did Christians look to the heavens, straining to hear the sound of the trumpet announcing Christ's return in the clouds? He did not come then.

These days, it is not unusual to read or hear that Israel is in danger of being conquered or destroyed yet again and that will trigger the Perousia. But will it? When asked when He would return for His bride, Jesus answered that He didn't know, that only the Father knew.

29 Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken:
30 And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.
31 And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.
32 Now learn a parable of the fig tree; When his branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is nigh:
33 So likewise ye, when ye shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors.
34 Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled.
35 Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.
36 But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only.
– Matthew 24:29-36, KJV

Will Israel be conquered again? I hope not, for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is that I do not doubt that in the face of such an imminent threat Tel Aviv would loose its arsenal of nuclear weaponry. Will the conquest of Israel, with or without nuclear devastation, signal the beginning of the Tribulation? It could, but hasn't done so following historical conquests of Israel.

Like others who read here, I eagerly await the call to gather in the clouds with the saints in the presence of our Savior. I also am convinced that God will not set the timetable for our Lord's second advent according to my hopes. I wait, looking skyward every now and then, hoping to see an angelic guide coming to lead me into my Savior's holy presence, but knowing that may not happen in my earthly lifetime. I am content to wait, comforted by knowing that one day I WILL stand with the saints in the presence of my God. And so I wait and I pray, as did the writer of Revelation, “Even so, come, Lord Jesus.” (Revelation 22:20)

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