Why does it seem so hard to agree on the place of Israel in the plan of God? Though the issue is so central to the prophets, some Bible Believers give little thought to the issue. Why?
Last month we documented the hopeful signs of the advance of the Gospel in the Southern Hemisphere of our globe. It is a faith in Yeshua that is vibrant, growing and akin to New Testament supernaturalism. Yet I also sounded an alarm concerning the failure of this emerging church movement to recognize the importance of Israel and world Jewry. There are wonderful exceptions to this in Southern Hemisphere leaders such as the Anglican Archbishop in Kenya and Ram Zango, an important apostle in Burkina Faso, Africa. Even so, replacement theology, though repudiated by many denominations including the Roman Catholic Church, is making a comeback.
As I travel the world, I encounter such a divergence of viewpoints on Israel. Though most Israelis do not walk in God's ways, Christians Zionists, mostly in America, encourage Israel to stand firm on the basis of Biblical promise and take all the land now! They are more Zionist than Ariel Sharon and were angry at him for leaving Gaza. Some encourage all Jews to make aliyah (move to Israel) so that they might be safe in the last days. Then we hear of two Messianic Jews who are encouraging Jews to leave Israel. They argue that the people are very sinful. Therefore the land must spew them out again. On the one hand we are told that Jews need to believe in Yeshua to be saved. On the other hand we hear that God's covenant with our people is so absolute that only a full renunciation of the covenant of God with Israel will lead to a Jewish person being lost. No wonder Christians are confused!
Reading the Whole Bible with Care
I believe that the reason for all of this confusion is a failure to carefully read the whole Bible. Many read and interpret only a few texts. This then becomes an interpretive grid whereby other passages are just not allowed to speak. I am often surprised at how little of the Bible is read and known by so many leaders in the Church.
I have tried to read all the texts of the Bible and to seek a harmonization of passages while allowing each passage to speak in context. In this regard, I do believe that we have almost certain reliability on many points because of the strong multiple assertions of Scripture.
Sure Points on Which to Stand
1. God's covenant with Israel is everlasting. Period. Replacement theology teaches that the Church has replaced the Jewish people who are no longer in special covenant relationship with God. We can quote so many Scriptures that they would fill a book. From Leviticus 26:44 to Romans 11:29, God makes it clear that his covenant with ethnic Israel is everlasting and that no failure on Israel's part can nullify this covenant. Passage after passage affirms Israel's preservation. She has been written on the palms of God's hands for everlasting remembrance. She will be restored to her land. She will give her life fully to God through the New Covenant (Jer.31:31 ff.). Though scattered, she is preserved.
The Bible describes two different returns. In the first return, they come back before they embrace faith in Yeshua and receive the Spirit. This is described by Ezekiel 37 where Israel in the Land is described as dry bones coming together. Only at the end of the symbolic description is the Spirit given to Israel. In Zechariah, she is already in the land before she looks upon Him whom she has pierced. (Zech. 12:10)
In Isaiah we see a description of another return at the beginning of the Messianic Age where Kings and Queens carry a repentant and believing Jewish people back to the land of Israel. (Isaiah 49:22, 60:10,11)
Only giving both sets of passages their due answers the debate concerning the future of our people in this land and in the Diaspora.
2. Before Yeshua returns, there will be a significant remnant in Israel believing in Him (Romans 11:11-14) This is symbolically described as 144,000 from the twelve tribes of Israel. (Rev. 7) Their witness will have world wide effect.
3. The Jewish people need Yeshua to be saved. The older covenants alone are no longer adequate. It is crucial to say that God's corporate covenant with Israel does not guarantee the salvation of Jews individually. The truth of the Abrahamic Covenant is in the Jewish Bible and its meaning is well repeated in the Jewish prayer books. Yet, most Jews do not really have faith in this covenant. Many religious Jews, in my experience, are not conscious of any personal and redemptive relationship with the Father. Paul's pain at Israel's unbelief with regard to Yeshua can not be fully understood unless salvation is at issue. Paul's concern cannot be explained if Jewish people are in good condition through the former covenants but would be at a higher plain through receiving Yeshua. The condition of our people shows a desperate need for explicitly embracing Yeshua to be saved.
4. The ups and downs of Israel's political situation should not be our primary focus, which should be on the progress of the Messianic Jewish Community in the Land. What time are we in? It is the season of making Israel jealous (meaning to desire the faith of Christians who love Israel). Love for Israel should not be expressed as strident nationalism that rails against Israel's government when she makes decisions that are contrary to an unbalanced adulation of Israel. It is instead expressed in loving support for Israel's just cause of self determination in her own land. It is an empathetic understanding of the difficulties we experience. There will be ups and downs in Israel's political situation. Indeed, sometimes the downs lead to greater numbers coming to Yeshua. It will not look good for Israel just before the end of this age. Zechariah 14 makes this clear. I so hope that the true Christian communities world wide come to this understanding! May Southern and Northern Hemisphere true Christianity be in unity on this and fulfill their destiny of making Israel jealous. This is the promise of the Bible for the last days Church.
5. It is of the greatest importance, therefore, to see the Messianic Jewish body of believers in Israel strengthened in numbers and maturity. If we discern the times, it is crucial to realize that this is not the time for Israel to obtain the full promise of her borders and of peace with the nations of the World. Rather it is the time to wholly give prayer and support to the saved remnant. This is most strategic. The whole Church should be in unity about this.
The loss of Gaza is not nearly as important as the present openness of Israeli Jewish people to the Gospel. Patty and I have ministered in the Jewish vineyard for 33 years. The openness in Israel astonishes us! Israeli Jews hear our testimony, come to our home for dinner and attend services. We are recent immigrants and did not anticipate that our direct involvement would have such effect. This is a fact of great importance. In Israel, it is a difficult but thrilling time.
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