Introduction to Israel

An important issue

This article is a brief introduction to some of the important issues we need to bear in mind when approaching the subject of Israel.  It’s a vast subject with many facets, and both the land and the people of Israel are key issues we need to focus on as a church today.  Without an understanding of both, we will never fully comprehend the ways and on-going purposes of God.  From this chosen people group, beginning with one man, Abraham, came Jesus the Messiah and the land of Israel is the stage upon which the cataclysmic final events of history will be acted out.


Consider an End-Time scenario.  At the appointed time, according to biblical prophecy, God will cause the armies of the world to attack the Jewish people in the city of Jerusalem.  In the final part of the Armageddon campaign the odds against Israel will be overwhelming and half the city will be taken captive, but at this point when all looks lost, the Lord, the warrior king, will appear to fight the nations and deliver Israel.

In that day the Jews will look on him whom they have pierced and all Israel will be saved (Zechariah 12:3 and chapter 14 and Romans 11:26).  Whilst Israel will receive mercy and enter in to their full inheritance under the covenants, the nations who oppressed and cursed them will be gathered for judgement in the valley of Jehoshaphat (Joel 3).  On that day the Lord Jesus Christ, the Jewish Messiah, will rule the whole earth from Jerusalem – the beginning of the thousand year Millennial reign (Revelation 20).

Some may see the End-Time situation developing slightly differently, but what we believe is going to happen has a major impact on how we live today, and affects how we view Israel and the land.  Incidentally, many prophetic voices around the world today are sensing the closeness of the Lord’s return, and encouraging us to watch and pray.

The church at large has generally neglected Israel and the End-Times, but the world most certainly hasn't.  Since the end of the Second World War, the attention of world politics has turned to the Middle East. Why?  Oil and Israel!

A question about the Jewish state

That the people of Israel, as a sovereign Jewish state, should exist at all in their previous homeland is quite extraordinary.  The key question we need to find an answer for is this:

Is the return of Israel to their own land a God initiative involving the supernatural and divine intervention, or just the result of human struggle and endeavour by the Zionist Movement?

What cannot be denied is that Israel’s return to her ancient homeland is a unique event in history.  No other people group has been displaced from its own land for so long, yet continued to exist as a distinct people group and then returned to the same land to become a nation again.

This has happened in spite of the fact that no other people group has been subjected to so much irrational hatred, persecution, expulsions, pogroms, terrorist activity, bigotry, racist loathing, media lies and prejudice and continuing threats of annihilation.  Such obscene hatred is obsessive and has no rational justification or explanation and is so obviously demonically inspired.

Spiritual inheritance

As Gentile Christians we owe our entire spiritual inheritance to the nation of Israel.  If there had been no Israel, there would have been no patriarchs, no prophets, no apostles, no Bible and therefore no saviour.  Jesus summed it up when he said, ‘Salvation is from the Jews’ (John 4:22).  Indeed, the members of the early church were all Jewish and it is we, the wild olive, which has been grafted in to the natural olive tree (Romans 11:17-24).

The church’s attitude to the Jews

Sadly, the church’s attitude to the Jews over the past eighteen hundred years or so has been for the most part dreadful:

i    Anti-Semitism has been widespread even in the church.  Martin Luther, the great reformer, was anti-Semitic.  Adolf Hitler read and reprinted Luther’s anti-Semitic writings in order to further his own ideologies.  Many other church fathers were also anti-Semitic - for example, Origen, Augustine and Calvin.  Luther said:

The Jews deserve the most severe penalties.  Their synagogues should be levelled, their homes destroyed, they should be exiled into tents like the gypsies.  Their religious writings should be taken from them.  The rabbis should be forbidden to continue teaching the Law.  All professions should be closed to them.  Only the hardest, coarsest work should be permitted them.  Rich Jews should have their fortunes confiscated, and the money used to support the Jews who are willing to be converted.

So much for a gospel of grace!  Calvin said:

Their rotten and unbending stiffneckedness deserves that they be oppressed unendingly and without measure or end and that they die in their misery without the pity of anyone.

ii    The church has failed to show Christ to the Jews.  This is what one Israeli writer thinks as quoted by Michael L Brown in his book ‘Our Hands are Stained with Blood.’

Instead of bringing redemption to the Jews, the false Christian messiah has brought down on us base libels and expulsions, oppressive restrictions and burning of (our) holy books, devastations and destructions.  Christianity, which professes to infuse the sick world with love and compassion, has fixed a course directly opposed to this lofty rhetoric.  The voice of the blood of millions of our brothers cries out to us from the ground: ‘No, Christianity is not a religion of love but a religion of unfathomable hate!  All history, from ancient times to our own day, is one continuous proof of the total bankruptcy of this religion in all its segments.’

And what of today?  In his book  ‘Will Israel Survive?’ by Mitchell G Bard he says:

Israel’s detractors in the Anglican Church shocked British Jews in February 2006 when they convinced the synod of the Church of England to announce support for divesting from companies whose products are used by Israel in the territories.  The archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, who supported the decision, became the highest church official to have joined a boycott campaign against Israel.  The church position was especially galling given its complete silence about the persecution and disappearance of Christians in every other country in the Middle East.  Williams’ predecessor, George Carey, said after the vote that he was ‘ashamed to be an Anglican.’

Anglicans in Israel (Christ Church Jerusalem) which has been in Jerusalem since the late eighteenth century, called the divestment decision ‘one-sided’, ‘anti-Semitic’ and ‘naïve’ and said it would ‘do nothing to promote genuine reconciliation between Jews and Arabs in the Middle East.’

iii    From very early on in its history, the church cut itself off from its Jewish roots and replaced Jewish festivals with pagan ones.  Since we were meant to share in the nourishing sap from the olive root (Romans 11:17-18), God only knows what impact this has had on the spiritual well-being of the church over the centuries.

Britain’s attitude and the decline of the British Empire:

Fortunately, there is some good news.  On a positive note, the evangelical church in this country, along with the British Government, played a key role in the creation of the Jewish homeland (long before the Zionist movement arose).  William Wilberforce, for example, was as passionate about the provision of a Jewish homeland in Palestine as he was about the abolition of slavery.  In 1917 the British Government announced its support for a Jewish homeland in a letter which became known as the Balfour Declaration.

The positive role played by the British Government however, was short-lived.  When we had the legal opportunity to help the Jews settle in the land under what was known as the British Mandate, given to us in 1920 by the League of Nations, we reneged on our obligations by preventing Jewish immigration into Palestine, resulting in many Jews perishing in Hitler’s concentration camps.

This was a dangerous thing to do, because in exploring the issue of Israel it quickly becomes apparent that God’s words spoken to Abraham have an on-going application:

I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse (Genesis 12:3)

At the beginning of the twentieth century, the sun never set on the British Empire.  However, the breaking of our promise to the Jews was a pivotal act that appears to have set in motion the decline of the Empire.  The rapid decline of the British Empire cannot be accounted for in merely political, military or economic terms.

This was not the first time an empire had been lost because of its attitude towards the Jewish people.  In the sixteenth century, Spain was the dominant nation in Europe with a high level of culture, a powerful army and navy, and an empire that spanned both hemispheres.  Yet within a century of expelling all Jews from her territories in 1492, Spain soon became a struggling, second-rate power.

If we also compare the fortunes of the USA and Russia throughout the 20th century and their respective attitudes to the Jewish people, a similar picture begins to emerge.  Whilst successive American governments lent support to the Jewish people, including allowing Jewish immigration, Russia has generally persecuted the Jews.  The consequence of this is that at the end of the twentieth century the USA was the only world super power, whilst Russia suffered a century of incredible pain, revolution, and ultimate decline.  Sadly, in more recent times, America has begun to shift its position in relation to Israel, demanding of Israel that they give up land for peace, with the consequent decline in American fortunes.  For more on this, see ‘As America has done to Israel’ by John P McTernan.

Has God finished with Israel?

Many Christians believe God has finished with Israel.  The argument goes something like this - by rejecting Jesus the Jews forfeited their rights under the covenants.  God withdrew his commitment and all the promises have now either passed to the church or to Jesus.  In effect, either the church has replaced Israel (known by theologians as Replacement Theology) or all the promises were focused and fulfilled in the only true Israelite, Jesus (known as Fulfilment Theology).  For more on this, see ‘Defending Christian Zionism’ by David Pawson.

Neither stance, in our view, is supported by a straightforward reading of the scriptures.  There are too many clear, plain and unambiguous scriptures that would have to be literally torn out of the Bible if one is to believe that God has rejected his people Israel and broken his everlasting covenant with them.  These theories have done great harm to the church’s relationship with the Jews and prevented a right understanding of Israel and the purposes of God.

Back to the earlier question

We believe Israel is back in the land as a result of the activity and purposes of God (incidentally it’s not yet the whole of the land promised to them by God).  We give three primary reasons:

i    God is sovereign over history and over the destinies of nations.  The scriptures bear this out (Isaiah 2:1-4).

ii    Israel's return to the land relates to the fulfilment of numerous, clear and unambiguous Biblical prophecies, as previously mentioned (Jeremiah 30:3 and Ezekiel 36:24).

iii    Jerusalem is again at the centre of world controversy, which fits with many biblical prophecies related to the End-Times (Zechariah 12:3).

The state of Israel today and subsequent questions

This leads to two more important questions:

Does that mean Israel can now do no wrong?

Is Israel back in the land because they deserve to be?

The answer to both is ‘no’.

Whilst having a high regard for the Israeli people, mindful of the manner in which they have carried their calling/destiny and acknowledging the pain they have suffered over centuries of maltreatment, we nevertheless must face the fact that:

i    Israel today is a thoroughly secular state

ii    With high levels of abortion

iii    A growing alcohol and drug culture

iv    Israeli teens and young people are amongst the unhappiest in the developed world

v    Sixty percent of all young adults have no religion or spiritual awareness

vi    Many Jews are dabbling with Kabbalah (an ungodly form of Jewish mysticism)

vii    After national service most young adults go on a spiritual journey to study mystical religions, mostly to India

viii    New Age festivals are growing in popularity as are gay parades

ix    The Israeli army, like every other army in the world (including our own), has not always acted with compassion or restraint, and it’s important that as Christians we don’t try to defend, at times, the indefensible.  However, neither should we align ourselves with those who see Israel as the cosmic evil empire and every act of self-defence as genocide, whilst ignoring Islamic jihad and terrorism.

God says through Ezekiel 36 that Israel’s restoration to the land would not be on the basis that they deserve it, but solely because of his grace and mercy; also that the nations would know that he is the Lord as a result.  Inferred in this is the fact that Israel are his chosen people, he is a covenant-keeping God and he controls the destiny of nations.  The return of the Jews to their homeland is fulfilment of prophecy in our time.  Israel is a sign in the land to the land.

So what should our attitude to Israel and the land be?

So what should our attitude to Israel and the land be? 

i    Firstly, we need to understand how God views Israel and the land.  This has to be our starting point.  We need to recognize the calling and destiny written over the people and the land, and proclaim it to the church and the world as God instructs us through the prophet Jeremiah:

Hear the word of the Lord, O nations; proclaim it in distant coast-lands:

He who scattered Israel will gather them and will watch over his flock like a shepherd.

For the Lord will ransom Jacob and redeem them from the hand of those stronger than they (Jeremiah 31:10-11).

ii    Secondly, we should seek to have the same heart towards the people of Israel as the Apostle Paul had, who longed to see them saved to the extent that he could wish himself accursed and cut off from Christ for their sake (Romans 9:3).

iii    Thirdly, we must acknowledge that the Lord has allowed a hardening to come upon the Jews where the Gospel is concerned so that the full number of Gentiles could be saved and brought into the church.  Our role now as a church is to reveal Jesus to the Jews in all his love and compassion, to show them how much he has done for us, and in so doing, provoke them to jealousy in order that they might be saved (Romans 11:25-27).  We are also called to pray for the peace of Jerusalem (Psalm 122).

iv    Fourthly, we need to understand the challenges they face, including the real intent of their enemies.  We must not simply rely on a biased and pro-Palestinian media.  We must seek to understand what it is to be caught between a rock and a hard place; wanting to live at peace with a neighbour who’s only desire is to annihilate you and drive you from the land.  The world at large generally refuses to acknowledge this reality.

v    Fifthly, in relation to the issue of the land, we need to recognise the sovereignty of the Lord.  Is any human mind capable of coming up with a solution to the Middle East problem?  We think not.  Spiritual problems cannot be solved by human reasoning, however well intentioned.  Consider the following question:

Does God support the ‘Roadmap to Peace’ initiative, which includes giving up land for peace?

Now see how Joel answers this question:

I will gather all nations and bring them down to the Valley of Jehoshaphat.  There I will enter into judgement against them concerning my inheritance, my people Israel, for they scattered my people among the nations and divided up my land (Joel 3:2).

God's judgement

God will judge the nations for dividing up his land.  As Christians it’s imperative that we align ourselves with God’s road-map - the word of God.  Quite simply, the earth is the Lords and everything in it ( Psalm 24:1) and so if he says the land is part of Israel’s inheritance, who are we to argue with him?  According to God’s word, Israel was given the land and that has to be our starting point, or we will find ourselves at odds with God.

Salvation is the key

In any event, without salvation coming to both Arab and Jew there cannot be a lasting solution to the Arab-Israeli problem.  Radical Islam refuses to co-habit with Judaism or, for that matter, Christianity.  Christians who think otherwise should talk to the persecuted church!  A lasting solution will only be found when Muslims and Jews know and acknowledge Jesus as Lord - when Jesus comes back to rule the earth. Proof of this is found in the fact that in Israel today individual Christian Jews and Christian Arabs are enjoying fellowship together and when this happens the issue of the land ceases to be an issue.

Pray for Jerusalem

As we pray for the peace of Jerusalem, may God have his inheritance in Israel and in all the nations of the earth.

From this chosen people group, beginning with one man, Abraham, came Jesus the Messiah and the land of Israel is the stage upon which the cataclysmic final events of history will be acted out

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