I have heard that the restoration of the state of Israel is a fulfillment of one or more Biblical prophecies. But I cannot find any explicit reference to it.
Is this really a fulfillment of prophecy, if so which one(s)?
As seen in the Old Testament books, God repeatedly judges Israel, and temporarily removes His people from the land, but when they repent, He keeps that original promise and restores them to their land. It was still their land in God's mind, they were simply temporarily removed from it.
Unless God lied, or was mistaken in verse 15 above, the land is promised to them forever.
Israel's restoration is implied in perpetuity via the promise above. No further revelation is needed
In Ezekiel 36, the prophet has a vision of a valley of "dry bones." When asked if these bones could yet live, Ezekiel wisely says, "You alone know, O Lord." After this, the Lord miraculously makes the bones come together and come alive.
It is explicitly stated that this refers to Israel. Ezekiel, speaking for the Lord says:
Hal Lindsey, (The Late Great Planet Earth), for instance, explains how he sees this as the restoration of Israel in this video Note: Hal Lindsey is a controversial figure, to say the least, but he is the direct inspiration for many premilennial dispensationalists, such as Tim LaHaye (Left Behind), John Walverood, Ed Whisenant, and others.
Ed Whisenant's well-known work 88 Reasons why the Rapture will occur in 1988 was fundamentally based on the conflation of this event, Jesus' parable of the fig tree (not a generation shall pass away until these things occur) and the restoration of Israel in 1948.
Your question can be answered in two ways:
In a matter like this one I think the 2nd option clearly is the best one. I would build my case along these lines:
It would be impossible to provide all details of how my thinking has evolved on this issue, but the end result is that I view present day Israel as the probable fulfillment of biblical prophecies in an embryonic form. I do not think that such belief warrants political support for repressing the Arab population, e.g. as in advocating forced transfer from the west Bank. Ethics must be a consideration, as well as eschatology.
However, if events occurred that would prove today's nation of Israel as just another Maccabean-like era, my faith in God would not be severely shaken, although any such event would surely be the result of a disastrous war or collapse, that would probably ensure a 2nd holocaust. Thus, it should be avoided, anyway, for simple ethical reasons. That means I support the basic tenant of Zionism - that it is a good idea for the Jewish people to have a national home in their ancient homeland - even if its present day manifestation is not necessarily the product of biblical prophecies.
There are two related but distinct biblical issues here. The first is whether the land belongs permanently and unconditionally to the Jews. The second is whether the creation of the modern state of Israel fulfils a prophecy. One does not necessarily follow from the other, since it need not have been God's intention that a Jewish state be set up in the Middle East in 1948.
Genesis 17:8, with its promise to Abraham, appears to support the contention of Israel being forever the possession of the Jews, but it is arguable whether this passage is relevant to the current situation:
Abraham's first-born was called Ishmael, and he is traditionally considered to be the ancestor of the Arabs:
On a biblical basis, this would give the Arabs a strong claim to the land of the Canaanites, but a later passage clarifies this, ensuring that the covenant accrues to the Israelites only.
This article claims the land never unconditionally belonged to Israel, but to God and is at his disposal. Presumably, since Jesus came to fulfil the law, Christian Palestinians also have a strong New Testament claim to the land.
Many evangelical Protestants see a connection between Israel and the fulfilment of biblical prophecy and/or believe that God gave Israel to the Jews in 1948. What no one seems to have been able to identify is exactly which prophecy or prophecies point clearly to the current state of Israel.
If the covenants with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were permanent and unconditional, the Bible does not explain why the Jews were strangely absent from the land for nearly two thousand years. If it was God's will that the Jews did not occupy the land for so long, it could well be that it is still God's will that they remain abroad. In the absence of a direct link between a prophecy and the current state of Israel, we can not be sure that God intended a Jewish state to be set up at this time.
Ezekiel chapter 36, in which God says that the mountains of Israel will grow branches and bear fruit for his people Israel, who will soon return, is not a prophecy of modern Israel. It is a prophecy of the return of all the Israelites scattered by the Assyrian conquest in 722 BCE and, when read carefully, can only have that meaning. Ezekiel several times prophesied the imminent return of all the Israelites scattered by the Assyrian conquest, but this never happened and, after intermarriage and assimilation, can never happen.
There is no explicit reference to the establishment of modern Israel in the Bible.