Speaker Ryan is a good man in a cynical town. He deserves tremendous credit for his historic conservative achievements. And he’s absolutely right to put his family first. Let’s keep him in our prayers. A few thoughts.

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(Washington, D.C.) — Life can be funny. You never know who you’re going to meet along the way.

In 1993-1994, Paul Ryan and I worked together as policy analysts for a conservative organization called Empower America. He worked out of one cubicle, primarily as an aide to former Housing Secretary Jack Kemp. I worked in the cubicle next to him, primarily as an aide to former Education Secretary and Drug Czar Bill Bennett.

Everyone in the office could see that Paul — only 23 at the time (I was only 25) — was smart as a whip, creative, highly energetic, devout in his Catholic faith, and the definition of “Midwestern Nice.” There was no question this guy was going to make a major impact if he chose to stay in Washington. I can’t say, however, that in our crystal ball any of us saw he was going to go on become the Vice Presidential nominee in 2012 or unanimously drafted (against his will, mind you) to become the Speaker of the House.

But that’s where he is today — the third highest-ranking elected official in the American government, second in line for the presidency only behind Vice President Mike Pence.

At only 48, Paul deserves tremendous credit for his historic conservative achievements:

  • passing the largest tax cuts and tax reform in U.S. history
  • passing budgets to dramatically rebuild the U.S. military and pay our troops and veterans more
  • creating an environment of true free market reform and economic growth
  • helping reduce unemployment for all Americans — especially black and Hispanic workers — to record lows
  • creating enterprise and empowerment zones in America’s inner-cities;
  • passing some of the strongest pro-life legislation in history;
  • defending religious freedom at home and abroad; and
  • always working tirelessly to strengthen U.S. critically important ties to Israel and our Sunni Arab allies.

That’s just to name a few — and it should be noted that he actually helped craft and pass far more sweeping reforms through the House that were, unfortunately, not passed by the Senate (including the repeal and replacement of ObamaCare.)

What’s more, he helped conservatives retake the House of Representatives from the liberals and hold the majority for several cycles. He’s worked closely and effectively with President Trump even while at times disagreeing with him. He’s set an example of working closely with Democrats whenever he could. And — less noticed — he’s made it a point to consistently visit inner cities, build relationships with black, Hispanic and other minority communities, listen to their concerns and seek ways to empower them in a way that reveals his deepest convictions.

Is there more we could have asked for in a Speaker? I submit the answer is no. Paul would be the first to say he’s made mistakes and this hasn’t been a perfect ride. But the naysayers are asking for perfection and will never be satisfied.

Recently, Paul announced he will retire in January. He’s not just stepping down from being Speaker; he’s leaving Congress altogether. His reasons are clear and admirable: he’s a husband and father first. He’s gotten almost everything done he set out to do when he came to Congress two decades ago. Now his kids are teenagers. He doesn’t want to be a “weekend dad” any longer. He wants to make his wife, Janna, and their kids the center of his life. He wants to move back to Wisconsin to be with family and friends. He wants to travel less, hunt more, and see what God would have him do next.

Bravo. He is absolutely doing the right thing and I couldn’t be happier for his decision or more grateful for the service he’s given the country.

What a joy it was, therefore, to be invited to come over to see him in the Capitol yesterday. I introduced him to my 19 year old son, Jonah; presented him with a copy of my latest political thriller, The Kremlin Conspiracy; and we caught up a bit on old times and what has happened since.

The Speaker is a good man in a cynical town. He’s a humble and honorable leader doing a brutally tough job in an often thankless environment. I was glad to be able to tell him thank you, and honestly tell him that I pray for him and his family and team daily. I hope he’s in your prayers, as well.

God bless you, Paul — finish well — I’m eager to see what the next chapter of life holds for you and your dear family!

SpeakerRyan-presentingnovel

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ALL EYES ON THE EPICENTER: Israel turns 70. US Embassy moves to Jerusalem. 50,000 Palestinians trying to storm Israel’s southern border. Al Qaeda calls for new jihad. Yet tourism at record highs. Please pray. Here’s the latest.

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UPDATED: (Jerusalem, Israel) — Shalom from Jerusalem. Please keep both Israelis and Palestinians in your prayers today and all month. If there was ever a time to pray for the peace of Jerusalem, this would be it for we are in a unique moment in history.

The mood here among Israeli Jews is celebratory — festive, jubilant — as Washington formally moves her Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem today in official recognition that Jerusalem is the capital of the State of Israel. The move was timed to coincide with the 70th anniversary of the modern rebirth of Israel. There are American flags everywhere. Israelis are so grateful for the friendship and alliance of the U.S. and are expressing this openly.

Most Palestinians, however — and particularly Palestinian Authority leaders — are furious with the move. President Mahmoud Abbas and P.A. officials have chosen to boycott all meetings with U.S. representatives for the foreseeable future. [UPDATE: Abbas blasts U.S. Embassy Move: An insult to the world and to the Palestinians.]

The latest rhetoric against Israel by Palestinian leaders and Iranian leaders is as dark as ever. Terrorist attacks against Israel are increasing. What’s more, some radical Islamist leaders are threatening all-out war against the Jewish State. 

That said, it does not feel dangerous in Jerusalem or most population centers in Israel. Tens of thousands of police and security officials are on the streets of Jerusalem and deployed around the country. Most of the attacks are occurring on the southern border with Gaza, the northern border with Syria, and against Israeli settlers in Judea and Samaria (commonly known as the West Bank).

Tourism to Israel is at an all-time high — no tour groups go anywhere near dangerous areas. “An all-time record 3.6 million tourists visited Israel in 2017 — 25% more than in 2016,” reported Globes, a publication which tracks the Israeli economy. “The country from which the largest number of tourists to Israel come is the US — over 700,000 tourists — 21% more than in 2016.” In fact, tourism in 2018 is hitting record-highs, as well.

Lynn and I live in Jerusalem with our sons and we don’t feel worried. We remain on track for welcoming The Joshua Fund tour here in July, and hosting the Epicenter Prayer Summit. Indeed, I’ve also been speaking to numerous Evangelical tour groups that have been visiting here in recent months and everything has been safe and wonderful.

That said, here are the latest developments worth noting. These are among the many reasons we would be grateful for your faithful and ongoing prayers.

  • At this hour, an estimated 50,000 Palestinians in Gaza are participating in a “Day of Rage” against Israel. Many are trying to tear down, burn down, or blow up the security fence that protects our southern border and to storm into Israel en masse
  • Reports in recent days said as many as 100,000 Palestinians were planning to participate. So far it hasn’t got that big — but the violence is real. 
  • “The IDF killed three [Palestinian] terrorists who tried to plant an explosive device in the Rafah area and attacked a Hamas post in the northern strip after shots were fired on soldiers,” reported Ynet News. As of 4pm Israel time, 37 Palestinians had been killed and hundreds more wounded trying to destroy the security fence and penetrate into Israel. 
  • UPDATE: As of 6pm local time, 43 Palestinians have reportedly been killed trying to penetrate Israel’s southern border fence with Gaza.
  • UPDATE: As of 8pm local time, the Palestinian death toll has climbed to 52 people — and the Israeli Air Force struck Hamas targets in Gaza.
  • UPDATE: As of 9am local time on Tuesday, the Palestinian death toll has climbed to 58 people.  
  • UPDATE: IDF calls Gaza riots “unprecedented,” insists it followed rules as dozens killed — “Army spokesman says Hamas sent 12 cells to breach border; adds that despite bribes and threats, it failed to bring out the masses it hoped; blames terror group for high death toll,” reports the Times of Israel.
  • UPDATE: On Friday, “a group of some 200 Palestinians…set fire to the Gaza Strip’s only fuel terminal and a conveyor belt used for raw construction materials. Two conveyor belts which brought animal feed into Gaza were also wrecked, according to the deputy director of the crossing,” reported the Times of Israel. “According to assessments by Israeli and Palestinian engineers, it will take weeks to repair the damage to the pipelines, which brought diesel and gasoline into Gaza. There is no alternative. ‘There’s just no possibility [now] to bring fuel into Gaza,’ said the senior officer from the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories liaison unit.”
  • Since President Trump announced in December his intention to move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem in keeping with U.S. law (originally passed in 1995 and unanimously reaffirmed by the Senate in 2017), the number of Palestinian terrorist attacks against Israeli soldiers and military sites has tripled
  • This month, Iran directly engaged Israel militarily for the first-time ever. The attack came just after Prime Minister Netanyahu announced the Mossad had stolen 100,000 top secret Iranian nuclear warhead documents, and President Trump formally announced his decision to withdraw the U.S. from the deeply flawed and dangerous nuclear deal with Iran. “Iranian forces fired 20 rockets at Israel Defense Forces positions in the Golan Heights on Wednesday night. Four of the rockets aimed toward Israel were intercepted by the Iron Dome air defense system while the remaining rockets exploded on Syrian territory, the [Israeli] military said,” reported Haaretz. “The Iranian attack prompted the most extensive Israeli strike on Syria in decades; overnight, Israel openly attacked dozens of Iranian military and logistics targets in Syria.”
  • Meanwhile, Ayman al-Zawahiri — the Egyptian-born head of Al Qaeda — has just made a new call for Muslims to wage “jihad” against Israel.
  • UPDATE: Al-Qaida chief claims Tel Aviv is ‘Muslim land’
  • And a top Shia religious cleric in Iran has just vowed that “Tel Aviv and Haifa will be totally destroyed” if Israel continues to behave “foolishly” (i.e., exist and defend herself), repeating yet again the kind of belligerent rhetoric that has characterized the Iranian regime for decades.

That’s where we are at the moment. I promise to keep you posted and encourage you to follow me on Twitter for the up-to-the-minute updates.

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BREAKING: Iran vows “revenge” attacks against Israel. Tehran launches missile attacks on Israel overnight. Israel hits 50+ Iranian targets in Syria. Tensions spiking. Israel tells residents to unlock & prepare bomb shelters. Here’s the latest.

(Jerusalem, Israel) — Tensions between Iran and Israel are spiking dramatically after four major recent events:

  1. Israel stole 100,000 top secret Iranian nuclear weapons documents and then revealed them to the world.
  2. President Trump denounced the fatally flawed Iran nuclear deal (JCPOA) and announced the U.S. is withdrawing from the agreement and will impose tough sanctions.
  3. Israel has repeatedly attacked Iranian military bases in Syria, vowing to prevent Iran from building a permanent military presence on Israel’s northern border.
  4. President Trump on Monday will formally move the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Overnight, Iran fired dozens of missiles and rockets at northern Israeli towns and military bases. Israel hit Iranian forces in Syria again.

More than ever, I’d ask readers to pray for the peace of Jerusalem and everyone in the region, and to mobilize others to pray, as well. 

While the prospect for a full-blown war is growing, I’m not convinced Iran’s leaders feel the time is ripe to go all-out against Israel. I’ll provide more analysis in the days ahead. But here’s some of the Israeli media coverage worth noting at the moment.

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BREAKING NEWS: President Trump keeps promise to withdraw from dangerous Iran nuclear deal. Will impose severe new sanctions on Tehran. This is the right decision & the President deserves tremendous credit. But pray for peace in the region. Things might get bumpy. Here’s the latest.

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(Jerusalem, Israel) — After a careful policy review by senior administration officials, and consultation with a wide range of U.S. allies, President Donald Trump today kept his promise by announcing the U.S. will terminate the nuclear deal that President Obama and Secretary John Kerry negotiated with Iran.

The President also announced the U.S. will imposing severe economic sanctions on the terrorist regime in Tehran.

  • Read full text of the President’s speech
  • Watch video of the President’s speech

This was absolutely the right decision, and the President deserves tremendous credit.

As I’ve noted previously: “The President should scrap this insane and dangerous deal. 1) It’s not a real treaty signed by both sides. 2) It wasn’t confirmed by the U.S. Senate according to the Constitutional process. 3) The deal does not stop Iran from building or buying an entire nuclear arsenal in the near future. 4) Iranian leaders lied repeatedly through the entire process. They cannot and should not be trusted to keep their word, especially since they continually call for the U.S. and Israel to be annihilated.”

To read fact sheet I wrote in 2015 detailing why deal is so dangerous, please click here.

Most of America’s Sunni Arab allies — especially the Saudis and Gulf emirates — are cheering the decision tonight. So is the government of Israel. That said, most Western Europeans oppose the President’s decision, as do Russia and China.

More than ever, please pray for the peace of Jerusalem and all the peoples of the Middle East. Things might get bumpy.

The Iran nuclear deal decision — along with President Trump’s decision to move the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, the site of Israel’s capital — are being praised by many here. But both decisions pour gasoline on the fire Iran has been stoking for years as they try to rally jihadists to attack the U.S. and Israel.

The apocalyptic regime in Tehran is by far the most dangerous terror regime in the region. What makes them even more dangerous is that have the full backing of its main ally, Vladimir Putin of Russia.

There may be very challenging days ahead in this part of the world. Iran has been repeatedly humiliated by the U.S. and Israel in recent months as both allies are showing more resolve at pushing back on Tehran’s thus-far nearly unchecked aggression. Tehran is looking for a way to hit the U.S. and Israel — and hard. But this is all the more reason to show firmness and unity. You only get peace through strength.

“The Iran deal was one of the worst and most one-sided transactions the United States has ever entered into,” the President said at the White House.

“This was a horrible one-sided deal that should have never, ever been made,” Mr. Trump said, according to a report by the New York Times. “It didn’t bring calm, it didn’t bring peace, and it never will.”

Excerpts from the official White House news release:

  • President Trump is terminating United States participation in the JCPOA, as it failed to protect America’s national security interests.
  • The JCPOA enriched the Iranian regime and enabled its malign behavior, while at best delaying its ability to pursue nuclear weapons and allowing it to preserve nuclear research and development.
  • The President has directed his Administration to immediately begin the process of re-imposing sanctions related to the JCPOA.
  • The re-imposed sanctions will target critical sectors of Iran’s economy, such as its energy, petrochemical, and financial sectors.
    • Those doing business in Iran will be provided a period of time to allow them to wind down operations in or business involving Iran.
  • Those who fail to wind down such activities with Iran by the end of the period will risk severe consequences.
  • United States withdrawal from the JCPOA will pressure the Iranian regime to alter its course of malign activities and ensure that Iranian bad acts are no longer rewarded.  As a result, both Iran and its regional proxies will be put on notice.  As importantly, this step will help ensure global funds stop flowing towards illicit terrorist and nuclear activities.

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Only 20 seats left — register today for The Joshua Fund’s Israel tour and 2018 Epicenter Prayer Summit in July! I would so love to welcome you & your family to this extraordinary city and country.

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Dear friends —

We only have 20 spots left!

If you’ve ever wanted to tour Israel with me and The Joshua Fund — and attend the 2018 Epicenter Prayer Summit in Jerusalem — you need to register immediately.

As God moves so powerfully in this region, as prophecies come to pass, as the Church faces enormous challenges, the need has never been greater to pray for the peace of Jerusalem. And where better to do that than actually in Jerusalem?

The Epicenter Prayer Summit will be the first we’ve ever held and the centerpiece of The Joshua Fund’s next “Prayer & Vision Tour” of Israel.

The tour will take place July 3 – July 15, 2018. Lord willing, we’ll take you to:

  • Jerusalem
  • Caesarea
  • Galilee
  • Nazareth
  • Bethlehem
  • and so many other Biblical sites.

Not only will you have the opportunity to walk where Jesus and the apostles and the prophets walked, and study the Scriptures, and worship together, and fellowship with Israeli and Palestinian believers — you’ll also participate in a Joshua Fund project to care for the poor and needy and touch lives directly with God’s love and mercy!

We so hope you will join us.

Keynote speakers for the Summit include Anne Graham Lotz, Dr. Ronnie Floyd and myself. Also speaking will be local pastors and ministry leaders on the frontlines of the faith. We will be joined by leaders of various Israeli Jewish, Israeli Arab and Palestinian Arab ministries as they share about what they see the Lord doing from their unique vantage points. They will also be sharing real-time prayer requests for their ministries, as well as praying for unity among the brethren in the Land.

The focus of the Summit will be the urgency of praying for the peace of Jerusalem, preaching the Gospel to all people in the Epicenter and asking the Lord to pour out His Holy Spirit to bring about a revival in His Church and a sweeping spiritual awakening in the Land and throughout the region.

Please register before all the seats are taken. I would love to welcome you to this remarkable city and incredible Land!

Yours to bless Israel and her neighbors in the name of Jesus,

Joel C. Rosenberg

Chairman and Founder of The Joshua Fund

>> LAST CHANCE: Register today for The Joshua Fund’s 2018 tour of Israel and the Epicenter Prayer Summit while there is still space — please click here.

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BREAKING: World leaders from UN to EU to Germany & US condemn Mahmoud Abbas for anti-Semitic speech. NYT editorial calls for Palestinian President to step down. The post-Abbas era is approaching. Here’s the latest.

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(Jerusalem) — In January, I said on Fox News that “we may be heading for a post-Abbas era.” That day just grew much closer.

World leaders from the United Nations to the European Union to the German government and the U.S. are publicly condemning a speech Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas gave this week as “anti-Semitic,” “vile,” “ugly” and “unacceptable.” Personally, I can’t remember such governments ever rebuking the Palestinian leader in such strong and unified terms.

And in another unprecedented development, the editorial board of the New York Times is now calling on the 82-year old Abbas — currently serving the 13th year of his four year term — to step down and give the Palestinian people the opportunity for a new leader “with energy, integrity and vision.”

As noted, the editorial board of the New York Times — long a harsh critic of the Israeli government and sympathizer with Mr. Abbas — made the stunning decision to call the Palestinian leader to step down. Excerpts:

  • “Feeding reprehensible anti-Semitic myths and conspiracy theories in a speech on Monday, the Palestinian Authority president, Mahmoud Abbas, shed all credibility as a trustworthy partner if the Palestinians and Israelis ever again have the nerve to try negotiations….
  • Mr. Abbas’s anti-Semitic tendencies are not new. In the 1980s, he wrote a dissertation that seemed to question the widely accepted Holocaust death toll of six million Jews….
  • “Mr. Abbas, who oversees a governing system plagued by corruption and dysfunction, has lost support among the Palestinian people.

  • “He has weakened government institutions that are essential for a future state and refused to call new elections, thus overstaying his term by many years and preventing younger leaders from emerging.

  • “He has also failed to unify the Palestinians in the West Bank, where his Fatah faction dominates, with those in the even more desperate circumstances of the Gaza Strip, where Hamas holds sway.

  • :Even in this gloomy climate, however, Mr. Abbas’s vile speech was a new low. No doubt he feels embittered and besieged on all sides. But by succumbing to such dark, corrosive instincts he showed that it is time for him to step down.”

Please pray for Mr. Abbas, his family and his advisors. Please pray, too, for the Palestinian people both in the West Bank and in Gaza, where they live under the slavery and tyranny of Hamas. God loves the Palestinian people, and so must we. They need better. They deserve better. May the Lord show them much grace and mercy.

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I’m deeply disappointed the President has paid hush money to a porn star. Shouldn’t we Evangelicals be saddened, and say so? A few thoughts.

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While I can’t believe this is a sentence I’d ever have to write, I must be honest.

I’m deeply disappointed the President of the United States paid hush money to a porn star, and that he felt he had to.

Does it negate all the positive policy measures he has undertaken since he took office, from promoting a solid pro-growth and pro-life agenda to boosting defense spending tor rebuild the U.S. military, and strengthening U.S. foreign policy and alliances with key allies like Israel and our Sunni Arab partners? 

No.

But we Evangelicals must be honest — this is sad, and it devalues the presidency.

Trump-Stormy-TheHill

Yes, other presidents and prime ministers have made decisions we have felt were deeply offensive, both in and out of office. It was as true in Biblical times as it is today. But are we not saddened by such things?

Yes, love and forgiveness and grace are central tenets of our faith, and should be now — amen. But should we not begin by “speaking the truth in love,” as the Scriptures teach? Thus, should we as Evangelicals express our disappointment and our sense of sadness at what is unfolding?

Fortunately, no one is beyond God’s mercies. That is the wonderful news of the Gospel message. All can be forgiven through true repentance and sincere faith in the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. Sinners like me. Sinners like you.

Upon the occasion of the National Day of Prayer, let us redouble our commitment to praying daily and faithfully for the President, his wife and his family, and for all our leaders and our nation — indeed, for all of America.

May we all, in whatever nation we live, turn this week to the Scriptures — the Gospels, in particular — and rediscover, or discover for the first time, the great God of amazing grace.

BREAKING NEWS: Netanyahu reveals stunning intelligence coup — Mossad captured 100,000 top secret Iranian documents & videos proving Tehran is aggressively pursuing nuclear weapons arsenal. (Here’s the full text & video of the dramatic TV broadcast.)

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(Jerusalem, Israel) — In a dramatic presentation that seemed ripped out of an international political thriller but was actually broadcast live to the nation of Israel in prime time this evening, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu unveiled a major coup by Israeli intelligence services.

The Mossad, Israel’s foreign spy agency, has stolen thousands of top secret Iranian documents proving conclusively Iranian leaders are lying when they say they have no intention of building nuclear weapons.

“A few weeks ago, in a great intelligence achievement, Israel obtained half a ton of the material inside these [previously secret Iranian] vaults,” he noted. “And here’s what we got. Fifty-five thousand pages. Another 55,000 files on 183 CDs.”

All of the material — some 100,000 documents, plus photos, blueprints and videos from inside Iran’s clandestine nuclear weapons program — are highly classified Iranian documents that “the world has never seen before,” Netanyahu said in a speech given first in English and concluded in Hebrew.

The materials provides “new and conclusive proof of the secret nuclear weapons program that Iran has been hiding for years from the international community in its secret atomic archive.”

Netanyahu explained that all of the material has been shared with — and verified by — the U.S. government, and will soon be shared with the IAEA, the U.N.’s nuclear watchdog agency, and with other governments. [UPDATE: U.S. Confirms Authenticity of Secret Iran Nuclear Docs, Officials See Game Over for Deal — Trump administration officials praise Netanyahu’s ‘powerful presentation’]

“What I’ve shown you tonight is just a fraction of the total material that we have. But even from this sample, you can draw four main conclusions,” Netanyahu said.

  1. First, Iran lied about never having a nuclear weapons program. 100,000 secret files prove that they lied.
  2. Second, even after the deal, Iran continued to preserve and expand its nuclear weapons know-how for future use. Why would a terrorist regime hide and meticulously catalogue its secret nuclear files, if not to use them at a later date.
  3. Third, Iran lied again in 2015, when it didn’t come clean to the IAEA, as required by the nuclear deal.
  4. And finally, the Iran deal, the nuclear deal, is based on lies. It’s based on Iranian lies and Iranian deception. 100,000 files right here prove that they lied.”

Netanyahu-secretIranNukeFiles

“So here’s the bottom line,” Netanyahu noted. “Iran continues to lie. Just last week, [Iranian Foreign Minister Javad] Zarif said this : ‘We never wanted to produce a bomb.’ Again [repeats video clip]: ‘We never wanted to produce a bomb.’ Yes you did. Yes you do. And the atomic archive proves it.”
 
Netanyahu argued that nuclear deal negotiated and championed by President Obama and other world leaders gave Iran “a clear pass to an atomic arsenal.”

“It does so because it gives them the three components that are necessary to produce this arsenal,” he said. “First, unlimited enrichment in a few years. And they plan to do that. They plan to have several hundred thousand advanced centrifuges with which they can enrich mountains of uranium for that core that I showed you before. For many, many such cores. Second, it completely fails to address Iran’s continued development of ballistic missiles. And third, and this is new, it completely fails to address Iran’s secret nuclear bomb program and its advanced work on weaponization. We just did.”
 
“So this is a terrible deal,” Netanyahu concluded. “It should never have been concluded. And in a few days’ time, President Trump will decide, will make a decision on what to do with the nuclear deal. I’m sure he’ll do the right thing. The right thing for the United States, the right thing for Israel and the right thing for the peace of the world.”

TEXT & VIDEO

BREAKING PRESS COVERAGE & ANALYSIS

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BREAKING NEWS: ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER TO ADDRESS NATION AT 8PM LOCAL TIME ON IRAN NUCLEAR THREAT. Here’s what we know so far.

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(Jerusalem, Israel) — The news is just breaking here that Prime Minister Netanyahu will speak live to the nation in a televised address at 8pm local time (1pm Eastern).

At this hour, the PM is meeting with his Security Cabinet.

What we’re hearing so far is that the PM will discuss new intelligence Israel has obtained about Iran’s nuclear program and new plots Iran is developing against the State of Israel.

The speech comes at a moment of high tension in the region.

  • The Syrian regime continues using chemical weapons against its own people, despite the fact Russian President Putin and then US-President Barack Obama assured us all chemical weapons had been removed from Syria.
  • Russia and Iran continue to consolidate their military positions in Syria, and to prop up the Assad regime to keep the dictator in power.
  • Both the U.S. and Israel have launched air strikes against the Syrian regime and Iranian forces and assets in Syria in recent days and weeks.
  • A massive attack at Iranian base near Damascus occurred overnight, though there are conflicting reports as to whether the U.S. or Israel was responsible.
  • Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, just days into his new job, has been crisscrossing the region this week — first visiting the King and Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, then coming to Israel to meet with Netanyahu, and today meeting with both Jordan’s King Abdullah II and the Jordanian Foreign Minister. 
  • At the top of Pompeo’s private agenda — and his public remarks — has been the seriousness of the Iranian threat to the U.S. and our allies in the region.
  • Next month, President Trump faces a deadline to either fix or scrap the Iran nuclear deal.

Developing — check back here and my Twitter feed for updates.

Please pray for the peace of Jerusalem, and for the peace and security of everyone in the region.

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Modern Israel Turns 70 — here are 70 fascinating facts about the modern Jewish State you might not know!

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(Jerusalem, Israel) — It’s been an exciting and joyful week here as Israelis celebrate the 70th anniversary of the Jewish State’s modern existence. Fireworks. Dancing. Picnics. Air shows. And so much more!

I must say it’s been deeply humbling to move here with my wife and sons, to become Israeli citizens, to build friendships with Arabs and Jews and so many others, and in recent months to actually move to Jerusalem and live here in the capital city that King David established some 3,000 years ago. Sometimes, it simply seems surreal. It’s certainly a great place to raise a family — and write novels!

This summer, The Joshua Fund — the ministry Lynn and I founded in 2006 to mobilize Christians to bless Israel and her neighbors — will be hosting another “Prayer and Vision Tour” here in Israel, as well as our first-ever Epicenter Prayer Summit. It will be time to walk where Jesus and the apostle and prophets walked, study the Word of God, worship, fellowship with Israeli and Palestinian believers, and truly pray for the peace of Jerusalem and all those in the region. The tour is filling up fast. There aren’t many seats left. So, please register yourself and your family today before we have to close the registration!

On Facebook yesterday, I posted a short video on modern Israel’s 70th prophetic anniversary. I hope you’ll take a moment to watch and comment on it. Today, I also wanted to post this list of the 70 most fascinating facts I’ve learned about this Beautiful Land and her precious people. I hope you’ll find them interesting, too, and share them with family and friends. Thanks, and may the Lord bless you as you bless Israel and her neighbors!

  1. 82% of the nation’s citizens are proud to be Israelis, according to a new poll, and 81% believe the country is a good place to live.
  2. 73% of Israeli Arab citizens feel a sense of belonging, and 60% say they are proud to be Israelis, according to a 2017 poll.
  3. Wonder Woman is an Israeli — Gal Gadot, who played the superheroine in the film that has raked in $821 million at the box office worldwide, was born and raised in Israel. Gadot (pronounced “Ga-DOTE”) is arguably the most famous Israeli in the world today, eclipsing the Prime Minister.
  4. That said, the most famous Jewish Israeli of all time — followed and beloved by more than 2 billion people worldwide at present — is Jesus (Yeshua) of Nazareth. Indeed, recent studies find that between 25,000 and 30,000 Israeli Jews, and some 871,000 Jewish Americans, have become followers of Jesus, and the numbers are growing. 
  5. Israel’s three greatest exports: The Bible, Judaism and Christianity.
  6. Ironically, the most famous and revered person in Judaism — Moses — was born and raised in Egypt and never stepped foot in the Land of Israel in his lifetime.
  7. Curiously, far more Christians than Jews believe in the Biblical statements and prophecies explaining that God gave the Land of Israel to the Jewish people and will restore the Land of Israel to the Jewish people in the “last days.” (for a partial list of such prophecies, see below, #57 through #70.)
  8. According to a survey by Pew Research, only 61% of Israeli Jews believe that God gave the Land of Israel to them.
  9. According to Pew, only 40% of American Jews believe that God gave the Land of Israel to the Jewish people.
  10. By contrast, fully eight-in-ten American Evangelicals believe that the Abrahamic Covenant that granted the Land of Israel to the Jewish people was a promise God made for all time, that it was unconditional, that it could not be revoked – a mere 5% disagree. (see Alliance for the Peace of Jerusalem survey by LifeWay Research)
  11. Fully eight-in-ten of American Evangelicals believe the rebirth of the State of Israel in 1948 is the fulfillment of Bible prophecy – only 20% think it was merely an interesting geopolitical event but unrelated to God keeping His promises. (see Alliance for the Peace of Jerusalem survey by LifeWay Research)
  12. Nearly eight-in-ten Evangelicals (76%) believe that Christians should support Jewish people’s right to live in the sovereign state of Israel(see Alliance for the Peace of Jerusalem survey by LifeWay Research)
  13. More than seven-in-ten American Evangelicals (72%) say they want to know more about what the Bible teaches about Israel’s future(see Alliance for the Peace of Jerusalem survey by LifeWay Research)
  14. That said, American Evangelical Millennials are sending the Church a sobering message — they’re not against Israel, not yet, not at all, but the survey makes it clear that many of them really don’t understand Israel’s place in the biblical narrative. Thus, their support for Israel is nearly 20 points less than their parents and grandparents. Extrapolate that going forward. Unless the Church gives younger believers a healthy, balanced, solidly biblical understanding of God’s love and plan for Israel, overall Evangelical support for the Jewish State could very well plummet over the next decade as Millennials represent an ever-larger percentage of the overall Church body.
  15. At the same time, American Evangelical Christians are deeply concerned about the need for Israelis and Palestinians to live in peace with one another. Indeed, 59% of Evangelicals believe Christians should do more to love and care for Palestinian people, and fully 66% of younger Evangelicals believe this. What’s more, 73% are concerned for the safety of Christians in areas controlled by the Palestinian Authority. And 41% agreed with the statement: “Jewish people have a biblical right to the land of Israel, but also have a responsibility to share the land with Palestinian Arabs.” Only 28% disagreed with this statement, while 31% said they weren’t sure. (see Alliance for the Peace of Jerusalem survey by LifeWay Research; see also my column in the Jerusalem Post, “Are Evangelical Christians Anti-Palestinian?”)
  16. The United States was the first nation in the world to recognize the State of Israel on May 14, 1948 — and President Harry Truman, a devout Bible believing Christian, made his decision to stand with the Jewish state despite intense opposition within his own administration, including from his Secretary of State. Truman’s decision was announced to the world 11 minutes after Israeli Prime Minister David Ben Gurion declared the nation’s independence. 
  17. Israel currently has diplomatic relations with 161 countries, an extraordinary development given thousands of years of anti-Semitism and the efforts of many in modern times to isolate and shun the State of Israel.
  18. The current President of Israel’s Supreme Court is a woman — her name is Esther Hayut. The U.S. has never had a woman serve as a Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.
  19. Five of the seven newly appointed Israeli Supreme Court justices are women.
  20. Salim Joubran, an Israeli Arab citizen, served as a Justice on Israel’s Supreme Court from 2003 until 2017. Joubran was the first Israeli Arab to serve on the High Court. Indeed, he also served for a time as Deputy Chief of the Supreme Court. He stepped down last year at the mandatory retirement age of 70. (Learn more about his judicial legacy.)
  21. 18 Arab Israeli citizens currently serve as Members of Knesset, Israel’s national parliament, the highest number in the nation’s history.
  22. Ayoob Kara — an Israeli Arab (Druze) politician in the Likud Party — as served as a Member of Knesset since 1999. He currently serves in the cabinet as the Minister of Communications.
  23. Raleb Majadele — an Israeli Arab politician in the Labor Party — became the first Arab Muslim ever to be appointed an Israeli Cabinet Minister. In 2007, he served as Minister Without Portfolio. Then, in part of 2007 through 2009 he served as Minister of Science, Culture and Sport.
  24. In 2017, a record 3.6 million tourists visited Israel — a 25% increase over the previous year.
  25. Of all tourists to Israel in 2017, a stunning 54% were Christians.
  26. Of all tourist to Israel in 2017, only about one-fifth were Jews.
  27. Of the 7,000 languages in the world, Hebrew is the only dead language in history ever to have been revived from effective extinction. (Learn more how this came to pass.)
  28. Today, there are 9 million Hebrew speakers in the world today. 
  29. The population of Israel in 2018 is ten times larger than in 1948 — 8.842 million now, compared to 805,000 then.
  30. Some 6.589 million Jews are citizens of Israel today.
  31. Some 1.849 million Arabs are citizens of Israel today.
  32. Of Israel’s entire population, 3.2 million are immigrants while the rest are “sabras,” born here in the Land.
  33. The international legal legitimacy for the modern State of Israel comes from U.N. Resolution 181, what is more commonly known as the “Partition Plan.” The resolution “was approved on November 29, 1947 with 33 votes in favor, 13 against, 10 abstentions and one absent.” These are the countries who voted for the resolution, and thus for the creation of the State of Israel: Australia, Belgium, Bolivia, Brazil, Byelorussian S.S.R., Canada, Costa Rica, Czechoslovakia, Denmark, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, France, Guatemala, Haiti, Iceland, Liberia, Luxemburg, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Norway, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Sweden, Ukrainian S.S.R., Union of South Africa, U.S.A., U.S.S.R., Uruguay, Venezuela. (click here to read the resolution in full and to see the full list of how countries voted.)
  34. On March 26, 1979, Israel signed an historic peace treaty with Egypt, following intense negotiations at Camp David in September 1978.
  35. On October 26, 1994, Israel signed an historic peace treaty with the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.
  36. On September 13, 1993, Israel signed an interim peace agreement with the Palestinians, an accord known as “Oslo I.”
  37. On September 28, 1995, Israel signed a second interim peace agreement with the Palestinians, an accord known as “Oslo II.”
  38. Of all the countries in the world, Israel is ranked #2 for venture capital funds flowing into the country, second only to the United States.
  39. “Israel has more companies listed on the NASDAQ stock exchange than any country outside the U.S.,” reported Forbes magazine — “The [Israeli] Ministery of Economy released a statement [in 2017] saying 94 Israeli-founded companies are currently traded on the NASDAQ, for a combined worth of $70 billion.” 
  40. In 2013, Google bought the Israeli company, Waze, for a cool $1.15 billion — Waze invented a state-of-the-art GPS navigation app.
  41. Cell-phone technology was invented in Israel — “It was at Motorola’s Israel R&D center that Israeli engineers first developed original cell-phone technology. Most of the technology in your mobile phone can be traced back to Israeli engineering. From the tool that guards your mobile identity to a new keyboard solution, Israeli expertise keeps your phone from getting bigger yet staying cutting edge.” (Israel 21c)
  42. Voice mail technology was invented in Israel
  43. Amazon’s Kindle was invented in Israel — “The Java platform inside Amazon’s best-selling Kindle was developed in Israel. Some four years ago, Amazon contacted Sun, later acquired by Oracle, and asked the company to develop a customized platform to run the software in a new e-book reader device under design. Sun handed the project on to its Israeli R&D office in Herzliya, and it was designed and developed there. After several years, a prototype was created to Amazon’s satisfaction, and manufacturing began. Amazon is now the undisputed leader in the e-reader category.” (Israel 21c)
  44. PlayStation was invented in Israel — “Circuit technology engineers at the IBM Haifa Development Lab played an integral role in developing the cell broadband engine chip controller that powers the Sony Playstation3 introduced in late 2006. The idea for the powerful chip came from Sony-Toshiba-IBM and was turned into an actual product through the collective efforts of 30 researchers working in Israel. The Playstation3 sold 197,000 units on the first day of its debut on the market, and one million within the first six weeks. IBM R&D Labs in Israel was established in 1950 and now encompasses about 1,000 employees at the Haifa Research Lab, the IBM Israel Systems and Technology Group Lab and the IBM Israel Software Lab. Locations include Haifa, Tel Aviv, Herzliya, Rehovot and Jerusalem.” (Israel 21c)
  45. The first USB flash drive was invented in Israel.
  46. One of the world’s most advanced early microchips — the Intel 8088 — was invented in Israel.
  47. The world’s first instant-messaging system was invented in Israel.
  48. Microsoft’s two most popular operating systems, NT and XP, were developed primarily in Israel. Microsoft has had a strong presence in Israel for many years and has two R&D centers in Herzliya that employ 600 people. In 2008, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer said that the American software giant is as much Israeli as it is American.” (Israel 21c)
  49. “Semiconductor chip maker Intel was one of the first multinationals to come to Israel. It set up a small chip design center in Haifa in 1974 — Intel’s first outside of the United States. Today, Intel Israel employs 7,800 people, and is the corporation’s headquarters for global R&D for wireless technology. The 8088 processor was designed and developed here, as was the Centrino and the SandyBridge, powering millions of laptops worldwide. In March, Intel Israel’s general manager, Maxine Fassberg, announced that the SandyBridge processor accounts for 40 percent of the chip giant’s revenue. In 2011, Intel Israel’s exports totaled $2.2 billion.” (Israel 21c)
  50. Drip irrigation was invented in Israel — “Amazing to think that the huge worldwide industry of modern drip irrigation all began when Israeli engineer Simcha Blass noticed a tree growing bigger than its neighbors in the Israeli desert, and found that it was fed by a leaking water pipe. Today, Netafim, the company founded in 1965 to commercialize his idea, is recognized as the worldwide pioneer in smart drip- and micro-irrigation. It has revolutionized the agricultural industry, operating systems in 112 countries with 13 factories throughout the world and 2,400 employees.” (Israel 21c)
  51. The world’s leading desalinization system was invented in Israel — “Israel’s IDE Technologies is the leading company worldwide in desalination — the process of turning seawater into drinking water — with 400 desalination plants in 40 countries producing 2,000,000 cubic meters of water a day. IDE Technologies operates the world’s two largest desalination plants in Israel and is now building China’s largest and greenest desalination plant. The new plant uses runoff steam from a power plant to help run the desalination machinery — producing water for the power plant, drinking water for the community and salt to sell.” (Israel 21c)
  52. The Pill-Cam was invented in Israel — “Founded by Dr. Gavriel Meron in 1998, Yokneam-based Given Imaging revolutionized the world of gastrointestinal diagnosis by developing a miniature camera in a pill, called the PillCam, to visualize and detect disorders of the GI tract. The PillCam is now the gold standard for intestinal visualization and is sold in more than 60 countries around the world.” (Israel 21c)
  53. One of the world’s leading instant-messaging systems — Viber — was invented in Israel.
  54. The world’s leading collision prevention and driverless car-technology — MobileEye — was invented and created in Israel.
  55. The game Rummikub was invented in Israel.
  56. The game MasterMind was invented in Israel.
  57. BIBLICAL PROPHECIES ABOUT ISRAEL — The most famous of the Bible prophecies about the rebirth of Israel are found in the book of Ezekiel, chapters 36 through 39. Here, the Hebrew prophet Ezekiel, writing more than 2,500 years ago, describes in great detail, in chapter after chapter, how “in the last days” (Ezekiel 38:16) the Lord will remember the Jewish people, resurrect the “dry bones” of the Jewish people who seemed left for dead (Ezekiel 37:1-14), remember the land of Israel, bring the Jewish people back to the land, cause the land of Israel to flourish again, and help the Jewish people rebuild the ancient ruins of Israel. The prophet also describes how the Lord would help the Jewish people survive and multiply and be blessed again in a resurrected land of Israel—which Ezekiel describes as “the center of the world” (Ezekiel 38:12)—even though their enemies would repeatedly seek to destroy them. Consider some of these and other passages in more detail.
  58. Ezekiel 36:8-10—“But you, O mountains of Israel, you will put forth your branches and bear your fruit for My people Israel; for they will soon come. For, behold, I am for you, and I will turn to you, and you will be cultivated and sown. I will multiply men on you, all the house of Israel, all of it; and the cities will be inhabited and the waste places will be rebuilt.”
  59. Ezekiel 36:22-24—“It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for My holy name. . . . For I will take you from the nations, gather you from all the lands, and bring you into your own land.”
  60. Ezekiel 37:1, 11-14—“The hand of the Lord was upon me, and He brought me out by the Spirit of the Lord and set me down in the middle of the valley; and it was full of bones. . . . Then He said to me, ‘Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel; behold, they say, “Our bones are dried up and our hope has perished. We are completely cut off.” Therefore prophesy and say to them, “Thus says the Lord God, ‘Behold, I will open your graves and cause you to come up out of your graves, My people; and I will bring you into the land of Israel. Then you will know that I am the Lord, when I have opened your graves and caused you to come up out of your graves, My people. I will put My Spirit within you and you will come to life, and I will place you on your own land. Then you will know that I, the Lord, have spoken and done it,’ declares the Lord.”’”
  61. Ezekiel 38:8, 12—“After many days you [Gog, a key enemy of Israel] will be summoned; in the latter years you will come into the land that is restored from the sword, whose inhabitants have been gathered from many nations to the mountains of Israel which had been a continual waste; but its people were brought out from the nations, and they are living securely, all of them. . . . the people who are gathered from the nations, who have acquired cattle and goods, who live at the center of the world.”
  62. Ezekiel was by no means the only Hebrew prophet who foretold Israel’s miraculous rebirth and the Jews’ return to the Holy Land after centuries of exile. Consider these additional key passages of Scripture.
  63. Isaiah 66:8-9—“‘Who has heard such a thing? Who has seen such things? Can a land be born in one day? Can a nation be brought forth all at once? As soon as Zion travailed, she also brought forth her sons. Shall I bring to the point of birth and not give delivery?’ says the Lord. ‘Or shall I who gives delivery shut the womb?’ says your God.”
  64. Jeremiah 16:14-15—“‘Therefore behold, days are coming,’ declares the Lord, ‘when it will no longer be said, “As the Lord lives, who brought up the sons of Israel out of the land of Egypt,” but, “As the Lord lives, who brought up the sons of Israel from the land of the north and from all the countries where He had banished them.” For I will restore them to their own land which I gave to their fathers.’”
  65. Jeremiah 31:3-9—“The Lord appeared to him from afar, saying, ‘I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have drawn you with lovingkindness. Again I will build you and you will be rebuilt, O virgin of Israel! Again you will take up your tambourines, and go forth to the dances of the merrymakers. Again you will plant vineyards on the hills of Samaria; the planters will plant and will enjoy them. For there will be a day when watchmen on the hills of Ephraim call out, “Arise, and let us go up to Zion, to the Lord our God.” . . . Behold, I am bringing them from the north country, and I will gather them from the remote parts of the earth, among them the blind and the lame, the woman with child and she who is in labor with child, together; a great company, they will return here. With weeping they will come, and by supplication I will lead them; I will make them walk by streams of waters, on a straight path in which they will not stumble; for I am a father to Israel.’”
  66. Amos 9:11-15—“‘In that day I will raise up the fallen booth of David, and wall up its breaches; I will also raise up its ruins and rebuild it as in the days of old; that they may possess the remnant of Edom and all the nations who are called by My name,’ declares the Lord who does this. ‘Behold, days are coming,’ declares the Lord, ‘when the plowman will overtake the reaper and the treader of grapes him who sows seed; when the mountains will drip sweet wine and all the hills will be dissolved. Also I will restore the captivity of My people Israel, and they will rebuild the ruined cities and live in them; they will also plant vineyards and drink their wine, and make gardens and eat their fruit. I will also plant them on their land, and they will not again be rooted out from their land which I have given them,’ says the Lord your God.”
  67. In the New Testament era, Jesus of Nazareth repeatedly reaffirmed the teachings of the Hebrew prophets. Indeed, he challenged people for not having read or understood or believed the Hebrew Scriptures. By reaffirming the truth and the value of the Old Testament Scriptures, Jesus reaffirmed the truth and the value of God’s promises to resurrect the people and the land of Israel in the last days. Matthew 5:17—“Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill.” Matthew 19:4 (NLT)—“‘Haven’t you read the Scriptures?’ Jesus replied. Matthew 22:29 (NLT)—“Jesus replied, ‘Your mistake is that you don’t know the Scriptures, and you don’t know the power of God.’”
  68. What’s more, Christ specifically spoke of the rebirth of Israel in Matthew 24:32-33. “Now learn the parable from the fig tree,” he said. “When its branch has already become tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near; so, you too, when you see all these things, recognize that He is near, right at the door.” What is the “parable from the fig tree” to which Jesus referred? The fig tree repeatedly symbolizes the nation of Israel throughout the Old Testament. In Jeremiah 24, for example, the Lord referred to the Jewish people as figs—some good, some bad—as he promised to bring them back from captivity to the Promised Land. Hosea 9:10 says, “I found Israel like grapes in the wilderness; I saw your forefathers as the earliest fruit on the fig tree in its first season.” In Micah 4, in a passage specifically about the last days and people coming to Jerusalem to visit the Lord’s Temple, Micah writes that when it comes to the Jewish people in the last days, “each of them will sit under his vine and under his fig tree.” When Jesus spoke of the “parable from the fig tree” in Matthew’s Gospel, he was referencing these and similar passages. He was saying that when you see the State of Israel reborn, and Jews coming back to the Holy Land, and the land of Israel turning green and flourishing again—and when you see this happening in the context of all the other signs, all the other “birth pangs”—then you should know we are in a special and distinctive moment in history, a moment unlike any other. At that time, while we won’t know the day or hour of Christ’s return, the Lord Jesus told us to “recognize that He is near, right at the door” (Matthew 24:33).
  69. The apostles certainly believed the ancient prophecies about the rebirth of Israel would one day come to pass. In Acts 1:6, they asked the Lord Jesus after his resurrection if he was now going to bring the prophetic promises to fulfillment, end the Roman occupation, and rebuild the kingdom of Israel. It is reasonable to believe they expected Israel to be reborn as a politically independent state at any moment. “Lord, is it at this time You are restoring the kingdom to Israel?” they asked. Jesus did not say that theirs was a stupid question. He did not say those prophecies about Israel’s future rebirth were inaccurate or irrelevant or canceled by Jewish unfaithfulness to God, or that his followers were misinterpreting those passages. Rather, he said to them, “It is not for you to know times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority” (Acts 1:7). For Christ and his apostles, it was not a matter of if the Father would fulfill his promises to Israel and the Jewish people, but when. And since the Lord Jesus knew the promises would not be fulfilled for more than 1,900 years, he mercifully chose not to give the disciples any details, for it may well have discouraged them.
  70. The apostle Paul also repeatedly affirmed the truth and value of all the Hebrew prophecies in the Scriptures. In so doing he reaffirmed the rebirth of Israel and the re-gathering of the Jews in the last days. In 2 Timothy 3:16, for example, Paul writes, “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching.” That certainly covers all the prophecies in the Old Testament, including those describing the future resurrection of Israel. In Romans 9:3-4, Paul writes about his deep love for “my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh, who are Israelites” and explains that to the children of Israel “belongs the adoption as sons, and the glory and the covenants and the giving of the Law and the temple service and the promises.” When he speaks of “the covenants,” Paul speaks of all the covenants. He does not exclude the Abrahamic covenant, in which the Lord unconditionally promised the land of Israel to the Jews, his chosen people according to Genesis 12 and 17, among other passages. What’s more, when Paul speaks of “the promises,” he speaks of all God’s promises to the Jewish people. He does not exclude the promises of Ezekiel 36, 37, 38, or any of the other promises of resurrecting the nation of Israel or re-gathering the Jewish people to Israel.

Happy Birthday, Israel — may my people turn to the God of Israel, His Word, His prophets, and His beloved Son!

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