Question: "What is Israel's role in the end times? Does what is happening in Israel today mean the end times are quickly approaching?"
Answer: Every time there is an explosion of conflict in or around Israel, many see it as a sure sign of the quickly approaching end times. The problem with this is that it creates a “boy that cried wolf” syndrome. We may eventually tire of the conflict in Israel, so much so that we will not recognize when true prophetically significant events occur. Conflict in Israel is not necessarily a sign of the end times…allow me to clarify.
Conflict in Israel has been a reality whenever Israel has existed as a nation. Whether it was the Egyptians, Amalekites, Midianites, Moabites, Ammonites, Amorites, Philistines, Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians, or Romans – the nation of Israel has always been surrounded by and persecuted by its neighbors. Why is this? According to the Bible, it is because God has a special plan for the nation of Israel, and Satan wants to defeat that plan. Satanically influenced hatred of Israel is the reason that Israel’s neighbors have always wanted to see Israel destroyed. Whether it is Sennacherib, king of Assyria, Haman, official of Persia, Hitler, leader of Nazi Germany, or Ahmadinejad, President of Iran – attempts to ultimately destroy Israel will always fail. The persecutors of Israel will come and go…but the persecution will remain. As a result, conflict in Israel cannot be considered a reliable indicator of the soon arrival of the end times.
At the same time, there will be terrible conflict in Israel during the end times. That is why the time period is known as the Tribulation, the Great Tribulation, and the “time of Jacob’s trouble” (Jeremiah 30:7). Here is what the Bible does say about Israel in the end times:
There will be a mass return of Jews to the land of Israel (Deuteronomy 30:3; Isaiah 43:6; Ezekiel 34:11-13; 36:24; 37:1-14).
The antichrist will make a 7-year covenant of "peace" with Israel (Isaiah 28:18; Daniel 9:27).
The Temple will be rebuilt in Jerusalem (Daniel 9:27; Matthew 24:15; 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4; Revelation 11:1).
The antichrist will break his covenant with Israel. Worldwide persecution of Israel will result (Daniel 9:27; 12:1, 11; Zechariah 11:16; Matthew 24:15, 21; Revelation 12:13). Israel will be invaded (Ezekiel chapters 38-39).
Israel will finally recognize Jesus as the Messiah (Zechariah 12:10). Israel will be regenerated, restored, and regathered (Jeremiah 33:8; Ezekiel 11:17; Romans 11:26).
There is much turmoil in Israel today. Israel is persecuted, surrounded by enemies – the Palestinians, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Hezbollah, etc. This hatred and persecution of Israel is only a hint of what will happen in the end times (Matthew 24:15-21). Israel has been persecuted since it was reconstituted as a nation in 1948. Many Bible prophecy scholars believed the six-day Arab-Israeli war in 1973 was the "beginning of the end." Could what is taking place in Israel today indicate that the end is near? Yes. Does it necessarily mean the end is near? No. Jesus Himself said it best, "Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming, 'I am the Christ,' and will deceive many. You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come" (Matthew 24:4-6).