Joel C. Rosenberg is a New York Times bestselling author who is considered an expert on Middle East politics. A Jewish follower of Jesus, Rosenberg, along with his wife, Lynn, are founders of The Joshua Fund, a nonprofit that seeks to “bless Israel and her neighbors in the Name of Jesus.” A dual citizen of the U.S. and Israel, Rosenberg is also founder and editor-in-chief of the news websites AllIsrael.com and AllArab.news. He spoke with Decision by phone from his home in Israel two weeks after Hamas launched its deadly attacks Oct. 7 on the Jewish state.
Q: First, how are you and your family—and your extended church family—there in Israel?
A: It’s been a brutal two weeks. Members of our family know people who have died, been injured, lost homes, or who have narrowly escaped while they were hearing their neighbors being murdered in homes nearby. About half of the men in our church congregation are now activated for military service, as well as a good number of our broadcast ministry team. We’re involved around the clock in humanitarian relief through the Joshua Fund. This is Israel’s darkest hour since the creation of the country. More Jews have been murdered in the last two weeks than at any other time since the Holocaust.
Q: Many people are asking about future-looking prophetic events. Do you see a specific Biblical reference to this conflict? Or is it perhaps a precursor to something else?
A: It’s an important question. I don’t see a specific prophecy about this specific event. Now, it’s important for Christians to know that there are 20 references specifically to Gaza in the Bible. The references are in both the Old Testament and the New. Most of the references are negative, with the Gaza region having been controlled by the Canaanites originally, later by the Philistines, and it describes terrible wars and atrocities that the Philistines inflicted upon Israel and the Jewish people. The Bible also describes Israel conquering Gaza at God’s direction in the Old Testament, but then the Philistines regaining control later. There are numerous times that God sends prophets to warn that judgment will fall on the leaders and people of Gaza if they don’t repent. Unfortunately, they rarely do.
But there’s one positive reference to Gaza in the Bible—in the Book of Acts, where an angel of the Lord directs Philip, the evangelist, to go on the road between Jerusalem and Gaza, where he finds someone very important in a chariot who is reading the Isaiah scroll, Isaiah 53. He doesn’t understand what he’s reading, so Philip explains the Gospel and the prophecies to him, and leads him to faith in Jesus Christ and baptizes him, and all that happens dramatically on the road into Gaza.
Now, in terms of forward-looking prophecy, two things. First, there’s a debate among Bible scholars about whether Psalm 83 is a specific prophecy of a war or whether it’s a description of the heart of those in those particular nations that hate Israel so badly, sort of an X-ray into their hearts. They’re saying in Psalm 83, “Come, let us wipe Israel off the map, that their name would be remembered no more.” I don’t see it as a prophecy of a specific war, but I do see it as relevant to this situation because it’s giving us a window into the hearts of the Hamas leadership, who are backed by Iran, saying exactly this, thousands of years after it was written. The Hamas Charter in 1988 says their goal is to obliterate the nation of Israel.
Q: Are you saying this hatred and the current war may lay the groundwork for a larger war later?
A: In Ezekiel 38 and 39, famously there’s the war of Gog [an individual leader of a great army that attacks Israel] and Magog [believed to be Rosh or Russia]. But before Gog and Magog happens, with this Russian-Iranian alliance that has already been forming, several things must happen first. One, Israel has to be reborn as a country. That happened in 1948. Check. Israel has to become very prosperous. Check. Israel has to feel like they’re living securely in the land. Well, Israel now has six Arab-Israeli peace treaties. We’ve been actively negotiating a peace treaty with Saudi Arabia. But clearly, we’re not living securely in the land yet. So this war with Hamas, which is backed by Iran, may be a precursor event—that when this war is over and Hamas is eradicated, that could lay the foundations for the preconditions needed for Ezekiel 38 and 39 to happen at a later date.
But one word of Gospel encouragement here. The two greatest spiritual awakenings in modern history are going on right now. One is in Communist China and the other is in the Islamic Republic of Iran. So as bad as this is right now, God can take what man plans for evil and turn it for good. We’ve seen it time and again, and I believe we’re going to see it now. There are now millions of Iranians who follow Jesus Christ passionately. Many Christians inside Iran believe a prophecy in Jeremiah 49 points to a time after God judges the Iranian leadership that He will make that nation a center of Gospel evangelism.
Q: What do you see God doing in Israel, especially as this conflict has emerged?
A: So in the aftermath of Ezekiel 38 and 39, God says, “I’m going to pour out my spirit on the whole house of Israel.” That day is coming. For the last 15 years or so, Israelis have been more open to hearing the Gospel of Jesus Christ than any other time since the first century. The Joshua Fund has funded short-form testimony videos of Israelis, speaking in the Hebrew language, who have come to faith in Jesus, and their lives have been completely transformed. Those videos have been viewed more than 80 million times over the last decade. Now, there aren’t 80 million Hebrew speakers, so a lot of people are watching them repeatedly. This is an extraordinary thing because it’s the first metric we’ve ever had to show both the interest and the breadth of interest in Jesus Christ among Hebrew speakers.
Now, it doesn’t mean we’re seeing a massive response yet. There are only about 30,000 Jewish followers of Jesus who live in Israel. But compare that to 1948, when there were 23 known Jewish followers of Jesus in the entire land of Israel. And now we’re 30,000. What I’m saying is the condition of the soil in the hearts of Israeli Jews is being softened. The ground is being softened. He’s calling people to Himself, including Israelis and including Palestinians. ©2023 BGEA
Interviewed by Jerry Pierce, senior editor.
At top: Israeli armored fighting vehicles drive close to the border with Gaza.
Photo: Ziv Koren/Newscom