14 Nov A Christian Perspective on The State of Israel
With tragic current events in the Middle East, many pastors have to deal with questions regarding Israel. How should the pastor respond from the pulpit to these questions? To what extent should Christians stand with the State of Israel? How should we think about modern events that influence Israel’s sovereignty and security? Are we commanded by God to support and defend the State of Israel in times of war and conflict?
The answer to questions like these is interwoven with a literal interpretation of scripture and the prophetic promises of a future for national Israel. With that in mind, here’s a biblically faithful perspective on how Christian believers should think about national Israel.
Israel Remains God’s Chosen People
The apostle Paul makes it clear that Israel has not been rejected by God and they remain His elect people (Romans 11:1-2). Paul confirms that there is a remnant preserved by God. The church has not replaced Israel and national Israel’s future is promised in the coming kingdom of Christ.
One day, the church will be completed – and raptured (1 Thessalonians 4:17) – and prophetic events will feature the restoration of Israel, bringing them to repentance as they are saved and restored by the grace of God (Romans 11:4). Paul writes, “A partial hardening has come up Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in (the church is completed); and in this way all Israel will be saved, as it is written (Romans 11:25-26; Isaiah 59:20).
The prophet Zechariah gives us the detail that this national repentance will occur as they see the “One whom they pierced” returning to earth (Zechariah 12:10).
Israel Remains in Exile
So what about now? We need to understand that Israel is our mission field. Israelites are continuing to experience the judgment of God and are still in exile. This doesn’t justify antisemitism or unjust cruelty against Jewish people. More on that later, but for now, keep in mind that the modern State of Israel, established in 1948, is not necessarily the same nation that will welcome Jesus back to earth after the Tribulation.
In fact, nearly half of the current Jewish population lives somewhere besides Israel, and they will remain at a distance until many of them are wooed by the Spirit of God, during the Tribulation, to return to their land of promise. They will mourn over their sin and defiance against Jesus and will long to see Him return (Hosea 5:15; Matthew 23:39).
The Next Prophetic Event is Always Imminent
Once the church is completed, and snatched away at the Rapture, peace will finally arrive in Israel. Perhaps the rebuilding of the temple will stir in the hearts of every Jewish person a desire to return to the land of their fathers. Peace will be short-lived because the Antichrist will destroy his treaty with Israel midway through the Tribulation. According to the biblical timeline, the prelude to the rise of the Antichrist is peace, not war. He will deceive the nations into following him, and for a short season, guns will be silenced in the Middle East.
I heard a sermon recently by a well-respected pastor who suggested that a current coalition of nations who are preparing to march on Israel signals the Rapture of the church. That sermon might sell books, CD’s and gain subscribers on YouTube, but it accomplished two results: first, it chips away at the imminency of Christ’s coming for His beloved church. According to scripture the Rapture is imminent – it could happen at any moment. Which means the Lord could have raptured His church 1,000 years ago, or 1,000 years from now. Nothing prophetically is standing in the way of Christ appearing in the clouds to rescue His bride from the wrath to come.
Secondly, this kind of preaching misinterprets literal prophecy: a coalition of nations will indeed march against Israel, but they will march at the end of the Tribulation, not the beginning. They may rattle their sabers, and Israel may face real battles in the future, but this great coalition of nations that rumble toward Israel will signal the end of the tribulation, not the beginning. This great battle of Armageddon will be the Antichrist’s final, desperate attempt to destroy Israel. Once again make a mental note – why would the Antichrist attempt to annihilate Israel if they are no longer God’s chosen people?
Israel Will Be Regathered
Another point to keep in mind is that many of the Jewish people will flock back to the land of promise during the Tribulation, following the Rapture. Some believe there will be a “partial” return, which they believe we’re seeing today. But the prophets predicted that during the Day of the Lord – the Tribulation – millions more will flock back to the land. And it’s clear today that the Jewish people are not returning to Israel like they will during the Tribulation period.
At the moment, there are 6 million Jewish people living in America, 9 million Jews living around the globe and around 7 million Jews living in Israel. In other words, over twice as many Jewish people are living somewhere else, outside of Israel.
One day – perhaps today – Christ will rapture the church and the Jewish migration will begin, in earnest, as they return to the land of promise, rebuild a temple, and experience peace in the land, thanks to the deceptive maneuvering of the Antichrist. The Jewish people won’t necessarily know why they are being led back – but we are told that they will return by the Spirit’s prompting as He sets the stage for the return of Messiah some 7 years later, and the reconstitution of the nation Israel will finally be fulfilled in the land of promise.
Yes, Israel is God’s chosen people – and they will experience His covenant promises as prophesied. There is no reason to spiritualize away the promises of the prophets of Israel’s future home, a throne in Jerusalem, and a restored nation. God has not erased His promises to Israel.
But for today, we need to keep in mind that the Jewish population living in Israel is not under some kind of spiritual force field. While we wouldn’t wish it upon them, they could be defeated in war, removed from the land, banned by European nations from expanding, or worse. But even if Israel were to be scattered again from the promised land, not one prophetic aspect would be forfeited in God’s timeline of history.
They will return. And when they do, during the Tribulation period, there might not be a “State” of Israel at that time. And just as Nehemiah faced opposition on his return, the land of promise might be controlled by Arabs and Palestinians or another group altogether (Nehemiah 4:7; 6:1). But that won’t stop the Lord’s promises from being fulfilled for the nation Israel.
The Church Has a Missional Obligation
In the meantime, do we feel compassion for Israel today as they wander in exile? Absolutely. Should our nation support the State of Israel from brutality and unjust attacks? Absolutely.
But let’s be careful not to confuse our military and economic support for Israel with supporting God’s prophetic plans for the future. Here’s a critical distinction to keep in mind: we are “pro-Israel” not because of what they are doing now, but because of what God has promised them later.
In the meantime, the mission of the church remains the same – to make disciples of all the nations: Palestinians, Jews, Muslims, Arabs – everyone equally – to invite them to believe in Christ and join His church. Everyone who yields to Jesus now joins the church and enjoys all the promises God made to the church. That’s our prayer for all people and our Great Commission mandate.
The Roots of Antisemitism Are Demonic
I’m writing this in 2023, shortly after Hamas attacked Israel and killed hundreds of innocent men, women and children. What Hamas did is categorically evil.
It is important to understand that antisemitism is demonically inspired. There is no rational explanation for such hatred. Frankly, the world really doesn’t know why they hate the Jewish people – they just do. But we know why. Satan has attempted since the days of Abraham to exterminate the Jewish people and thus nullify God’s promise of a future, national Israel flourishing in the coming Kingdom of Christ on earth.
Current Events Don’t Change Our Focus
If we didn’t have God’s prophetic word – we might very well be anxious today. But we know that Satan loses, a remnant of the Jewish population will return to the land, and Christ will reign over the nations of the world one day, with Jerusalem as His capitol city.
In the meantime, when you pray, meditate or gather with your church family on the Lord’s Day, your focus remains unchanged. Just like with the early church, what “Rome” does should not disturb us nor distract us from worship. Read the sermons of Jesus and His apostles. It’s clear that the actions and politics of Rome did not disturb Jesus and the early church. Today – our “Rome” should not distract us from worship on the first day of the week, and our mission to shine the light of the gospel every other day of the week.
Let’s live with the joy of anticipating the Lord’s coming for His church, the nation of Israel brought to repentance, and the kingdom of Christ coming as King Jesus eventually ascends the throne of nations.
But before His coronation takes place, remember that the nations in the Middle East will remain embroiled in conflict . . . Ishmael and Isaac are going to fight until Jesus comes back.
Stephen Davey has served as the president of Shepherds Theological Seminary since its inception in 2003. Stephen also serves as the pastor/teacher of The Shepherd’s Church (www.shepherdschurch.com) as well as the principal Bible teacher for Wisdom International (www.wisdomonline.org).