The Holocaust Prophesied
By Bob Westbrook and Stan Goodenough

July 22, 2001


"How awful that day will be! None will be like it."

The Holocaust was a time of unprecedented and unspeakable horror for the Jewish people, a tragedy of immense proportions unparalleled in human history. This was the final episode among many episodes of persecution for the Jewish people while exiled from their land, dispersed among the nations. Now, they have their own homeland where they do not have to be subjected to the cruel whims of the nations in which they lived.

In the aftermath of the Holocaust, the evidences for the operation of Divine providence in establishing and confirming the state Israel are unmistakable. The political currents set in motion during this time of awful trouble for the Jews contributed greatly to the founding of the Jewish state a few years later.

The Bible is not silent about what happened in those days. "Surely the Lord GOD does nothing unless He reveals His secret counsel To His servants the prophets." (Amos 3:7 NASB) If every significant event in the history of the Jews has been declared in advance in the Bible, are there not Bible prophecies which describe these events? Should we not expect to find in the Bible predictions of the holocaust, and the subsequent founding of the state? Yes.

For those of you that understand that every important occurrence in the history of Israel, through and including the present time, was prophesied in the Bible, don't you think it odd that you are aware of no prophecies regarding the Nazi Holocaust? Six million Jews perished during that time, and it is the event stamped most harshly on the psyche of every Jew alive today. So would not God have foretold it? Yes, He did foretell that awful, incomparable day.

In Jeremiah 30, we find prophecies that describe the horrors of the holocaust, and the subsequent restoration of the Jewish people to their own land that allows them to be free from oppression in foreign lands. God begins with one of His frequent declarations regarding the restoration of Israel to the land that was promised "'The days are coming,' declares the LORD, 'when I will bring my people Israel and Judah back from captivity and restore them to the land I gave their forefathers to possess,' says the LORD." .(Jeremiah 30:3 NIV)

That is a straightforward statement, easy to comprehend. We understand it to be speaking of the founding of the modern state of Israel in 1948. But the next verse conveys an abrupt change in tone, and may seem to not fit very well at first. However, now that we have the perspective of understanding the circumstances that surrounded the founding of Israel, we know to what it is referring.

"This is what the LORD says: "'Cries of fear are heard-- terror, not peace. Ask and see: Can a man bear children? Then why do I see every strong man with his hands on his stomach like a woman in labor, every face turned deathly pale? How awful that day will be! None will be like it. It will be a time of trouble for Jacob, but he will be saved out of it." (Jeremiah 30:5-7 NIV)

When I read this, the picture it evokes is the haunting videos I've seen about the Holocaust. The pictures from the liberated death camps showed "every strong man" looking like a human skeleton, with every face turned deathly pale. Could a modern reporter have penned a more apt description than Jeremiah did? Certainly it was an awful day for Jacob. Certainly nothing else could be compared to it. The Holocaust was an incomparable time of trouble for Jacob, and though millions perished, the Jewish people as a whole were saved out of it, and their new nation was founded just a few years later.

Therefore, in this passage, we see juxtaposed allusions to both the Nazi Holocaust in 1939-1945, and the birth of the nation of Israel in 1948. However, many Bible commentators wish to incorrectly assign this phrase "time of Jacob's trouble" to the future Day of the Lord, even though there is nothing definitive that ties this to a future time period. Yet there is plenty that ties this passage in Jeremiah to the events of the 1940s.

The prophecy in Jeremiah 30 this tells us that at some point in history after Jeremiah penned these words, a time of incomparable terror was going to come upon the children of Israel. That period could have happened a hundred years after he wrote it or three thousand years after he wrote it. Certainly there is nothing to buttress the belief that it would be part of the final, final days of history.

Of course, even the phrase "the last days" as used in the Bible is often a difficult period to precisely pin down. "The last days" could, and probably does, refer to the period beginning with the first return of Jewish exiles to their ancient homeland in the late 1800s; or it could refer to the period of time beginning with Britain's liberating God's land from over a millennium of Muslim rule. It could have "started" with the rebirth of Israel in '48, or, if we tie it to Yeshua's words about Jerusalem being trodden on until the end of the times of the gentiles, it could have begun in 1967, and so on.

So verse 7 on its own simply tells us that at some point after it was written Israel would experience a time of unsurpassed suffering, and would be saved out of it. Verse 8 gives us a clue as to the period: "' In that day,' declares the LORD Almighty, 'I will break the yoke off their necks and will tear off their bonds; no longer will foreigners enslave them." (Jeremiah 30:8 NIV)

Here we read that, after the period of "Jacob's trouble" God Himself will liberate Israel out from it and from among those who have caused it. "Jacob's trouble" will thus have been Israel's suffering at the hands of oppressors (as opposed to what some teach as Israel experiencing the end of days judgmental outpouring of the wrath of God). The end of "Jacob's trouble" will thus also have marked the end of the people of Israel's being under the heels of the gentiles.

"Instead, they will serve the LORD their God and David their king, whom I will raise up for them." (Jeremiah 30:9 NIV) Instead of being enslaved to gentiles, the people of Israel will serve YHWH their God and the restored King David - whom we know to be the Son of David, Jesus, their Messiah. This restoration to the land just described by Jeremiah will culminate in the reign of Jesus. Note that it does not say that immediately after they come out from "Jacob's trouble" they will be restored in their relationship with their God and His Anointed One, only that they will do so at some point after being saved out of that awful suffering. It is very common in Bible prophecy for us to see descriptions of the reign of Messiah in the same breath as descriptions of events that have already been fulfilled in the last one hundred years. The prophets saw the "last days" as a broad period of time that began with the restoration to the land and ended with the triumphant reign of the Messiah.

Verse 10 spells out the sequence: "'So do not fear, O Jacob my servant; do not be dismayed, O Israel,' declares the LORD. 'I will surely save you out of a distant place, your descendants from the land of their exile. Jacob will again have peace and security, and no one will make him afraid." (Jeremiah 30:10 NIV) When He saves them from out of Jacob's trouble He will save them "from afar", and their children "from the land of their captivity". In other words, they will be saved "out of Jacob's trouble" from places far away from their own land, the lands of the gentiles in which they and their descendants have been held "captive".

Jacob will come back to his land, and once he is here he will have rest, quiet, and freedom from fear. It does not say Jacob will return and then face another holocaust. Nor does it say anything about yet another exile. No, their return to their land follows the time of Jacob's trouble, and the time of Jacob's trouble follows, and marks the end of, the times of the gentiles' ascendancy over them.

"Wait!", you might remonstrate with me, "Israel is back in the land but you can't tell me that Israel knows peace and rest and quiet and a lack of fear, anything but!!!" Of course, if you responded this way you would be quite right. But I believe verse 11 addresses this: "I am with you and will save you,' declares the LORD. 'Though I completely destroy all the nations among which I scatter you, I will not completely destroy you. I will discipline you but only with justice; I will not let you go entirely unpunished.'" (Jeremiah 30:11 NIV)

Yes, ingathered Israel has indeed not been left unpunished. God has and continues to correct the Jews in justice. We see the scales of justice balanced between the successfully perpetrated violence on the one side, and the uncountable acts of God's intervention to thwart and foil attacks on the other. The Jews too witness these horrors and these miracles. But this is meted out punishment, in justice, and not precursor to another terrible holocaust.

Israel's restoration is a process that is unfolding. There is no instantaneous day of restoration, just as there was no instantaneous obliteration of Israel after Messiah ascended. From the day He returned to heaven until the final realization of His words of judgment - with the razing of Jerusalem and the driving into exile of the last of the Jews - nearly a century went by.

So too, Israel's restoration began slowly and almost quietly over 150 years ago, and the groundwork to prepare the way for that happened decades and even more before that with the so-called Enlightenment. Numerous milestones have been passed on the way towards the full rebirth of Israel: the preaching by Christian pastors in the nineteenth century as they realized prophetically that the return of the Jews to their land was nigh; the rise of political Zionism; the waves of immigration that began in the 1890s and continue to this day; the allied victory in World War I that liberated the Holy Land from the Ottoman Empire, Arab and British opposition to Jewish settlement; the Holocaust; the UN's role, Arab wars and terrorism since 1948, the "peace" process - all these events and situations have been part of the outworking and coming to pass of Israel's restoration.

During the years out of her land Israel passed through a long long period of suffering. Certainly in one sense the exile, expulsions, crusades, inquisitions, pogroms and the Holocaust could all be seen as "a time of trouble for Jacob". Or perhaps the day of Jacob's trouble was the Holocaust itself. In either case, the Holocaust is "credited" with being the major factor that brought about the rebirth of the state of Israel or, in other words, as a result of the Holocaust the Jews finally were given an independent homeland and, for the first time in 2000 years were no longer under the heel of the gentiles.

Therefore, based on these considerations and a careful examination of Jeremiah 30, it is reasonable to conclude that the time of Jacob's trouble preceded the rebirth of the state of Israel. God's clock has moved on. His set time to favor Zion has come. So too has His time to avenge Himself on the enemies of Israel for all they have done to her:

(Psalms 102:13 NIV) You will arise and have compassion on Zion, for it is time to show favor to her; the appointed time has come.

(Isaiah 51:22-23 NIV) This is what your Sovereign LORD says, your God, who defends his people: "See, I have taken out of your hand the cup that made you stagger; from that cup, the goblet of my wrath, you will never drink again. I will put it into the hands of your tormentors, who said to you, 'Fall prostrate that we may walk over you.' And you made your back like the ground, like a street to be walked over."

(Isaiah 34:1-2,8 NIV) Come near, you nations, and listen; pay attention, you peoples! Let the earth hear, and all that is in it, the world, and all that comes out of it! The LORD is angry with all nations; his wrath is upon all their armies. He will totally destroy them, he will give them over to slaughter.... For the LORD has a day of vengeance, a year of retribution, to uphold Zion's cause.

The day of the Lord, then, is described by Him as a day "to uphold Zion's cause." The widespread belief that what we commonly call the "tribulation period" can be primarily described as the "time of Jacob's trouble" is false. Not only is this widespread, it's almost universal among theologically conservative Bible teachers. The standard teaching, which is uncritically parroted by many teachers, is this: the seven year tribulation period is the "time of Jacob's trouble." This is a serious misreading of what God will be doing on the earth at that time. To take one phrase of questionable interpretation and build an entire doctrine around it is irresponsible.

In the Hebrew Scriptures, what we refer to as the "tribulation period" is called "the day of the Lord." That day has certainly has not come yet. That day is the outpouring of God's wrath on the wicked world. The book of Revelation develops this theme that was started by the Jewish prophets, and gives us much more detail. It ties together all of the previous prophecies about the Day of the Lord into one end-time scenario. Revelation describes in detail the devastations that God inflicts on the world in those days, and do you see any kind of mention at all of those judgments being directed at Israel? No, not a word.

On the contrary, the Day of the Lord is described as a time of punishment and judgment on the nations of the world, and a time when God throws down the power of those who scattered and oppressed Israel.

(Ezekiel 30:3 NIV) For the day is near, the day of the LORD is near-- a day of clouds, a time of doom for the nations.

(Obadiah 1:15 NIV) "The day of the LORD is near for all nations. As you have done, it will be done to you; your deeds will return upon your own head.

(Isaiah 13:9-11 NIV) See, the day of the LORD is coming --a cruel day, with wrath and fierce anger-- to make the land desolate and destroy the sinners within it. The stars of heaven and their constellations will not show their light. The rising sun will be darkened and the moon will not give its light. I will punish the world for its evil, the wicked for their sins. I will put an end to the arrogance of the haughty and will humble the pride of the ruthless.

(Zechariah 1:14-21 NIV) Then the angel who was speaking to me said, "Proclaim this word: This is what the LORD Almighty says: 'I am very jealous for Jerusalem and Zion, but I am very angry with the nations that feel secure. I was only a little angry, but they added to the calamity.' "Therefore, this is what the LORD says: 'I will return to Jerusalem with mercy, and there my house will be rebuilt. And the measuring line will be stretched out over Jerusalem,' declares the LORD Almighty. "Proclaim further: This is what the LORD Almighty says: 'My towns will again overflow with prosperity, and the LORD will again comfort Zion and choose Jerusalem.'" Then I looked up--and there before me were four horns! I asked the angel who was speaking to me, "What are these?" He answered me, "These are the horns that scattered Judah, Israel and Jerusalem." Then the LORD showed me four craftsmen. I asked, "What are these coming to do?" He answered, "These are the horns that scattered Judah so that no one could raise his head, but the craftsmen have come to terrify them and throw down these horns of the nations who lifted up their horns against the land of Judah to scatter its people."

During this time period, when God pours out His judgments on the earth, He will indeed be dealing with Israel also. But it will not be in a harsh, negative manner. On the contrary, He will be wooing, consoling, restoring, forgiving, and vindicating Israel. If I cited every passage in the Bible that explains this, I would take up very much space here. Nearly every Old Testament prophetic book describes this process. It will be the time when God turns Israel's heart back to Him, and they will all know and understand who their Messiah and Savior is.

Copyright 2001 Bob Westbrook - Use permitted with attribution and link