QUESTION: I have learned that this year, 1988, marks the 40th year of Israel as an independent state. Isn’t this very significant, since it is the Year of Jubilee?

ANSWER: We can certainly rejoice that the modern state of Israel has been in existence for 40 years. However, you are mistaken in trying to link this anniversary with the scriptural Year of Jubilee. You are a decade too early.

In Leviticus 25:8-12 God commands that after seven sabbaths of years (49) in the Land, the 50th year is to be especially set apart as a holy Year of Jubilee.

In ten years from now—if the Lord Jesus has not returned by then—there probably will be a big jubilee celebration for Israel’s 50th year of survival as a modern nation. However, unless there is direct divine intervention of some kind, we don’t expect that the leaders of that country will be amenable to shutting down all industry and crop growing for a year as the Scriptures command.

We cannot know whether or not the Lord has special plans for Israel at that time. We can only speculate, for Jesus himself told the disciples, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power” (Acts 1:7).

In the meantime, some Christians are wondering about another possible significance to Israel’s 40-year anniversary because in Scripture, the number 40 is often linked to times of testing and judgment.

The Flood in the days of Noah lasted 40 days; Moses stayed 40 days on Mt. Sinai to receive the Law; the Israelites wandered 40 years in the desert after the spies brought in their negative report; Jonah preached 40 days of impending judgment upon Nineveh; Elijah went 40 days without food on his way to Mt. Horeb; and Jesus was tested 40 days in the wilderness by Satan. Finally, approximately 40 years after the Crucifixion and Resurrection, Jerusalem was destroyed, and with it the Temple, which has never been rebuilt.

Some speculate that at this time of Israel’s 40th anniversary, the great unrest we see may be indicative of a time of God’s testing and judgment. Whether or not that is the case, we ought to pray that many will turn to the God of Israel and the Messiah Jesus during these crucial days.