In defense of Israel

by Matt Ward

"I think we do not attach sufficient importance to the restoration of the Jews. We do not think enough of it. But certainly, if there is anything promised in the Bible it is this."  —Charles H. Spurgeon

More than any other, I receive emails from Christians telling me that I am wrong about Israel. These letters are usually written by well-meaning people—Christians who for various reasons do not believe Israel has any further part in God’s future plans, let alone that they might still be God’s own chosen people, still the very “apple of Gods eye” (Zechariah 2:8).

I believe that the Bible plainly states that Israel is integral to God’s plans and there are numerous Old Testament prophecies and New Testament teachings that clearly validate this view.

This issue is of critical importance because if one has an incorrect theology in relation to Israel then it naturally follows that they will have an incorrect interpretation of certain key biblical prophetic texts, such as Revelation. Israel is found on virtually every page of the Old and New Testaments, therefore to misunderstand or misinterpret this subject necessarily leads to huge interpretational errors in other areas of scripture, especially with regards to prophesy yet to occur, described in books like Revelation.

I will go one step further. I believe that supersessionism or replacement theology, (the belief that the New Testament church has replaced, fulfilled and superseded Israel’s Old Testament place in God’s plan) is not just wrong; I believe it is absolutely unbiblical.

I believe it is a lie that has been used as the justification for countless pogroms, holocausts and persecutions of the Jewish people for thousands of years and it is currently alienating today’s Christian church from Israel in a significant and harmful way.

The apostle Paul, (an apostle because he was taught by Jesus Christ Himself) was under no illusions of the significance of Israel. Paul, a converted Messianic Jew, not a gentile Christian convert, was not an advocate of replacement theology. He wrote in Romans 11:7-8:

“But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, being a wild olive, were grafted in among them and became partaker with them of the rich root of the olive tree, do not be arrogant toward the branches; but if you are arrogant, remember that it is not you who supports the root, but the root supports you.”

Despite this clear teaching a majority of the Christian church look upon Israel with barely disguised contempt and many within our own belief system are actively working against Israel, striving to delegitimize her, and to alienate and isolate her amongst the international community. Many within mainstream Christianity hate Israel and are eager to see the Jewish state’s demise.

I believe this is wrong.

Both the Old and New Testaments clearly and explicitly guarantee the eternal future of Israel. They teach that Israel would be restored and would exist forever. In Deuteronomy 30:1-6, God instructs how the nation of Israel would be dispersed throughout the world because of disobedience, but that they would later be restored once again as a nation:

“When all these blessings and curses I have set before you come on you and you take them to heart wherever the Lord your God disperses you among the nations, and when you and your children return to the Lord your God and obey him with all your heart and with all your soul according to everything I command you today, then the Lord your God will restore your fortunes and have compassion on you and gather you again from all the nations where he scattered you. 

Even if you have been banished to the most distant land under the heavens, from there the Lord your God will gather you and bring you back.  He will bring you to the land that belonged to your ancestors, and you will take possession of it. He will make you more prosperous and numerous than your ancestors.” (Deut. 30:1-5)

The prophet Amos reaffirms this restoration of a sovereign nation Israel:

“In that day ‘I will restore David’s fallen shelter—I will repair its broken walls and restore its ruins—and will rebuild it as it used to be, so that they may possess the remnant of Edom and all the nations that bear my name,’ declares the Lord, who will do these things... ‘They will rebuild the ruined cities and live in them.’ They will plant vineyards and drink their wine; they will make gardens and eat their fruit.  I will plant Israel in their own land, never again to be uprooted from the land I have given them” says the Lord your God” (Amos 9:11-15).

As well as Amos and Deuteronomy, Zephaniah talks about the very real restoration of Israel:

“At that time I will deal with all who oppressed you. I will rescue the lame; I will gather the exiles. I will give them praise and honour in every land where they have suffered shame. At that time I will gather you; at that time I will bring you home” (Zephaniah 3:19-20).

Zechariah 12-14 addresses Israel’s restoration as does the very famous passages in Ezekiel 36-37, with the famous Valley of Dry Bones prophecy,

“I saw a great many bones on the floor of the valley, bones that were very dry. He asked me, ‘Son of man, can these bones live?’ I said, ‘Sovereign Lord, you alone know.’ Then he said to me, ‘Prophesy to these bones and say to them, Dry bones, hear the word of the Lord!’  This is what the Sovereign Lord says to these bones: ‘I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life.  I will attach tendons to you and make flesh come upon you and cover you with skin; I will put breath in you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the Lord’”(Ezekiel 37:2-6).

Ezekiel is even more explicit later in the same passage about God’s intentions toward Israel:

“…Son of man, these bones are the people of Israel…I will put my Spirit in you and you will live, and I will settle you in your own land. Then you will know that I the Lord have spoken, and I have done it, declares the Lord” (Ezekiel 37: 11, 14).

Jeremiah promises not just that the nation would be restored but that Israel would be perpetual:

“Thus says the LORD, Who gives the sun for light by day, and the fixed order of the moon and the stars for light by night, Who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar; the LORD of hosts is His name: ‘If this fixed order departs From before Me,’ declares the LORD, ‘Then the offspring of Israel also shall cease from being a nation before Me forever.’ Thus says the LORD, ‘If the heavens above can be measured, and the foundations of the earth searched out below, then I will also cast off all the offspring of Israel for all that they have done,’ declares the LORD’” (Jeremiah 31:35-37).

God is saying that when the sun stops shining during the day and the moon no longer appears at night, only then will the nation of Israel cease to exist. If someone can measure the heavens and the foundations of the earth, only then will God abandon Israel.

God is saying that Israel is eternal.

Jesus Christ Himself implied a restored nation of Israel when he told his apostles that they, “…will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel” (Matthew 19:28).

In Matthew, Jesus taught that He would be revealed at the time of the end to an actual nation of Israel in Jerusalem, “…For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord” (Matthew 23: 29).

In fact, the Second Coming of Jesus Christ itself, on which we all look forward to and long for so much, cannot occur until the Jewish inhabitants of Jerusalem in Israel cry out to Him, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”

Paul, in Romans talks about how, “…all Israel will be saved” (Romans 11:26) Jonathon Edwards the great evangelist said of Romans 11, “Nothing is more certainly foretold than this national conversion of the Jews in Romans 11.”

For a national conversion there needs to be a nation state!

Many from the replacement theology community state that these Old Testament prophecies are allegorical or refer to the Church, but the apostle Paul says otherwise:

“For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my people, those of my own race, the people of Israel. Theirs is the adoption to sonship; theirs the divine glory, the covenants, the receiving of the law, the temple worship and the promises” (Romans 9: 3-4).

Paul is saying that the promises and covenants to Israel made in the Old Testament are still in force, even if they are exiled from their land and in a state of unbelief. They are still adopted to sonship, still partakers of divine glory, still in covenant with God.

Paul continues that God is faithful to Israel, even though they are unfaithful, because of the Patriarchs, (Romans 11:28) concluding that “…the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable” (Romans 11:29).

Replacement Theology is a tool used very successfully by Satan because he hates Israel. Satan wants to prove God to be a liar. This is why Satan’s hatred for Israel and the Jews is insatiable. In the Old Testament God made a solemn promise to Abraham that he would deliver his seed and because there was nothing that existed holier than Himself God swore this oath with Abraham on his very own Holy name (Genesis 22:16-17). God promised he would deliver a remnant of this seed. That seed became Israel. If Satan can thwart that deliverance by destroying the Jews then he can prove God to be a liar.

“When God made his promise to Abraham, since there was no one greater for him to swear by, he swore by himself” (Hebrews 6:13).

This would mean that because God swore to Abraham on the holiest thing there is, on His own Holy name, if He fails then His own name, by which all other things, including Creation are held together, would be besmirched.

God’s deliverance of Israel is a question of God’s faithfulness. If God does not deliver Israel then God has not made good on His promises to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. If God does not deliver Israel then the ominous, uncomfortable question for us personally is this; does this mean then that we in the Church should have some reason to doubt God in His faithfulness when dealing with us?

Jesus promises us personally that, “I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand” (John 10:28). But if God made the same promise to Israel, more than that, if God swore an oath on His own holy Name that He would deliver Israel, but then does not, then how can I trust Jesus’ words in relation to me?

Does Jesus really mean He will come back to take me from where He is when He says?

“My Father's house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you?” (John 14:2).

If God does not honor His promises to Israel, why would I believe He would honor His promises to me, a New Covenant Gentile believer?

Wolfhart Pannenberg puts the problem of Replacement theology as follows:

How could Christians be certain of their own comparatively new membership in the circle of God’s elect if God for his part did not remain faithful to his election in spite of Israel’s unbelief? This is the apostle’s point when he advocates the inviolability of the election of the Jewish people.

A God who is unfaithful is not the God of the Bible. In fact the opposite is true; God is faithful to us even despite our own unfaithfulness,

“If we are faithless, He remains faithful; He cannot deny Himself” (2 Timothy 2:13).

God is faithful in all things, all of the time. God is faithful to Israel, His covenant people and He is faithful to us, the bride of Christ. The goal of history itself is to bring all things together under one God-Man, Jesus Christ,

“…to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment--to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ” (Ephesians 1:10).

This very much still includes Israel.

“To argue that God replaced Israel with the church is to depart from an enormous body of biblical evidence.” —Walter C. Kaiser, Jr.

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