The Study of Last Things
by James T. Bartsch

Learning about the Future to Live Better Today

"I will make you pass under the rod, and I will bring you into the bond of the covenant; and I will purge from you the rebels and those who transgress against Me; I will bring them out of the land in which they sojourn, but they will not enter the land of Israel. Thus you will know that I am the LORD." (Ezek. 20:37-38)

The Judgment of Israel in the Wilderness
Ezekiel 20:33-38

(1) Adonai Yahweh’s oath to be King indeed over rebellious Israel (Ezek. 20:33). We believe that, according to other Scriptures, He will rule over Israel in the person of the Messiah, Jesus of Nazareth. He will rule over Israel "with a mighty hand, and with an outstretched arm, and with wrath poured out. “The descriptions of God doing this with "a mighty hand" and "an outstretched arm" recall the terms used of His liberation of the Israelites from Egypt (Exod. 6:6; 32:11; cf. Deut. 4:34; 5:15; 7:19; 11:2; Ps. 136:12)” (Thomas Constable).

(2) King Jesus will retrieve Israelis from all over the world. He will gather them from the various peoples and lands to which they have been exiled. He will gather them "with a mighty hand, and with an outstretched arm, and with wrath poured out" (Ezek. 20:34).

(3) King Jesus will bring all Israelis into the wilderness of the peoples, and there He will enter into judgment with them face to face (Ezek. 20:35). Some commentators think this is a wilderness consisting of peoples. For example, Constable, alluding to Barbieri, states,

He would bring them into another type of wilderness, a wilderness full of people, and there He would personally judge them. This probably refers to the present worldwide dispersion of the Jews that began in A.D. 70 when the Jews had to leave the Promised Land again.

But I believe a better understanding is that the King will bring them out from the peoples and will enter into judgment with Israel in a wilderness belonging to the peoples. There are many desert places outside the land of Israel, but near it. I think that the Sinai Peninsula may be in view here, which is under Egypt’s control. Or perhaps this has reference to the vast stretches of the Arabian Peninsula, which houses or borders nations such as Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Oman, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait, and even Iraq. I think this place of judgment will be outside the land of Israel, but in the wilderness that belongs to the peoples.

(4) God had entered into judgment against the first generation of unbelieving Israelis who would not enter the land at Kadesh Barnea by having them wander in the wilderness for forty years until the older generation had died off. They could not enter the Promised Land due to unbelief (Numbers 14). Just so, the generation of Israelis alive at Christ’s return will be placed in the wilderness outside the land of Israel, and there God, in the person of Christ, will enter into judgment against them (Ezek. 20:36).

(5) He would make them pass under the rod and bring them into the bond of the covenant, probably the New Covenant (Ezek. 20:37).

(6) He will purge out the rebels and those who transgress against Him (Ezek. 20:38). These will not be permitted to enter the Land of Israel, but will be put to death (Luke 19:27). When Christ has thus purified the nation of Israel, all Israelis will know that He is Yahweh (Ezek. 20:38).

(Scripture quotations taken from the NASB 1995.)

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Updated April 1, 2021