The Battle for Biblical Truth
A look at the importance of Israel and why Christians could never separate themselves from the Hebrew Scriptures.
Modern Israel is a miracle. When Mark Twain visited there in the 1800s, he left thinking it was the most miserable place on the face of the earth. The Ottoman Turks let it deteriorate into a barren wasteland. But when you visit Israel today, you see anything but barrenness. Israel is thriving. It has blossomed into a country with an economy much of the world envies. Why? Because God has His hand on the little Jewish nation and is using it—as He promised—to bless the world.
Innovation drives much of Israeli society. About three years ago, I toured a seed company in Israel that focuses on developing new foods and finding ways to produce more fruits and vegetables. The company understands the global need to feed the hungry.
Last year, The Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN) released a wonderful documentary called To Life: How Israeli Volunteers Are Changing the World. It’s available online for free at tolifethemovie.com. The film shows how Israel is not merely bettering its own country but helping the rest of the world, as well. The film follows six Israeli organizations working outside Israel to make the world a better place.
Israel has taken its advanced technology to Africa to help the nations there use solar power to pump water from the ground without electricity. Israel’s drip irrigation system allows them to grow crops using a minimal amount of water. Because of Israeli innovation, formerly starving Africans now grow and develop their own food.
Israel’s technological advancements shouldn’t surprise us because God said Israel would bless the world. Our cellphones, tablets, and computers all employ Israeli technology; and many medicines and medical procedures used every day in the United States were developed in Israel.
Israel is blessing the world, and the world should be blessing Israel. In Genesis 12:3, God told Abraham, “I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you.” This promise to Abraham is instructive to Gentiles. If we, as Gentiles, want to be blessed by God, we must love and bless His Chosen People.
Some people today claim modern Israel is a mistake; it should never have been allowed to exist. They are wrong. Israel is a miracle from God, and it is critically important Christians understand this fact because Israel is crucial to our salvation, demonstrates God’s faithfulness, and tests the church’s commitment to biblical truth.
1. Our salvation is rooted in the covenant promises God made to Israel.
Jesus said, “Salvation is of the Jews” (Jn. 4:22), which means salvation came through the Jewish people—the nation of Israel. There is no other nation on Earth through whom salvation comes. The apostle Paul taught,
Though it is only a man’s covenant, yet if it is confirmed, no one annuls or adds to it. Now to Abraham and his Seed were the promises made. He does not say, “And to seeds,” as of many, but as of one, “And to your Seed,” who is Christ. And this I say, that the law, which was four hundred and thirty years later, cannot annul the covenant that was confirmed before by God in Christ, that it should make the promise of no effect. For if the inheritance is of the law, it is no longer of promise; but God gave it to Abraham by promise (Gal. 3:15–18).
Paul said our salvation comes through the everlasting promises God made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob—which are fulfilled in Christ alone, not by the Law. These promises cannot be annulled or canceled. The Abrahamic Covenant contains everything needed for salvation to come to the world. It includes the promises of a land, nation, Redeemer, and blessing—all for the purpose of bringing salvation to humanity to complete God’s plan of redemption.
It’s important to remember that Israel and the land are inseparable. If Israel had not been in the land, the Messiah would not have been born. God removed Israel from its land more than 500 years before Jesus came, but He returned the nation to it before the Messiah’s arrival. Why? Because Israel needed to be there for God to send the Messiah. (See Micah 5:2.)
Our salvation is rooted in God’s promises to Abraham (Rom. 11:1–32). Those who believe God has forsaken Israel are cutting off the roots, and when a plant’s roots are severed, it dies. The apostle Paul warned Roman believers not to “boast against the branches [Jewish people]. . . . Remember that you do not support the root, but the root supports you” (v. 18). God’s promises to Israel form the root, and if He fails to fulfill them, no confidence remains for our salvation.
Because most Jewish people do not believe the gospel, God allowed salvation to go to the Gentiles. But Paul said the Jewish people’s unbelief doesn’t mean God has rejected them. He has chosen Israel to bless the nations, and Israel’s restoration to the land proves He is honoring His promises to the patriarchs. We should be grateful God says of Israel, “The gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable” (v. 29). God will not go back on His election of Israel. Even in unbelief, Israel carries on its redemptive purpose in its national destiny.
2. Modern Israel’s existence proves God is faithful and will complete His plan of redemption.
God is preparing the next major phase in His redemptive plan, which includes far more than the salvation of mankind, important as that is. His plan also involves restoring His creation and Kingdom on Earth. The Almighty subjected all of creation to a curse after Adam and Eve sinned, and it eagerly awaits redemption and restoration to its pre-sin condition:
For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope; because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now. Not only that, but we also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body (8:19–23).
God’s redemptive plan for the world flows through Israel, and it is clear Israel must be in its land for the plan to succeed. Perhaps that is one reason Satan is working so hard to push the Jewish nation into the sea.
Mere days before Jesus’ death, the Lord spoke of His return and the coming of God’s Kingdom: “Do you see these great buildings?” Jesus asked His disciples as they looked at the massive Temple complex, thought to be the largest physical structure in the Roman Empire. “Not one stone shall be left upon another, that shall not be thrown down” (Mk. 13:2). Jesus’ words disturbed the disciples, who could not imagine life without the Temple.
Forty years later, in AD 70, the Romans destroyed the Temple. If you visit Israel today, you can see the stones they heaved off the south end of the Temple Mount when they destroyed the structure. The stones remain on the street below, right where they fell.
When Jesus’ disciples asked, “When will these things be? And what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?” (Mt. 24:3), they weren’t talking about the Church Age. The church had not yet begun. They were talking about the end of the pre-Messianic age. That’s what the Jewish people were expectantly anticipating. They were looking forward to the Messiah coming and ushering in the Kingdom.
In Matthew 24 and 25, Jesus explained the signs that would precede His Second Coming. All of them presume Israel’s presence in the land, including the future Temple’s desecration, when the Antichrist will erect an image of himself in the holy place and declare himself to be God.
Modern Israel’s existence is no coincidence; it is proof of God’s faithfulness. The land of Israel is directly connected to our salvation. If God were not to complete His plan through Israel, He would break His promises; and our salvation would be questionable. Thankfully, God is not like man. “If we are faithless, He remains faithful; He cannot deny Himself” (2 Tim. 2:13). The Bible testifies that God swore by Himself when He made the covenant with Abraham, and it is impossible for God to lie (Heb. 6:13–18).
God will complete His redemptive plan because His plan does not depend on Israel’s faithfulness; it depends on God, who is faithful and just and true.
3. Israel tests the church’s commitment to biblical truth.
If you want to know whether a church holds to the literal interpretation of Scripture, find out where it stands on Israel. Many churches have lost the connection between Israel and the church, divorcing it from its Jewish context.
Yet it was Jewish men who penned the Scripture in its historical, Jewish context. The Bible clearly teaches God is not finished with Israel, and it raises the question of theological malpractice to read what Scripture says and not accept it at face value.
During the second and third centuries of the church, Christians began to spiritualize God’s Word, particularly those passages that spoke of a future for Israel. This allegorical method of interpretation was foundational to the development of Replacement Theology, a teaching that claims Israel has no future role in God’s plan and replaces Israel with the church.
Israel’s rebirth as a nation bothers adherents of this view because the Jewish state’s existence fits the literal interpretation of God’s Word. It contradicts the claim that God has rejected the nation and that today’s Israel has no legitimate biblical foundation. Replacement proponents deny God’s hand in bringing the Jewish people back to their land.
I believe the church’s delegitimization of Israel greatly threatens the nation today. Anti-Zionists claim Israel is the cause of all the trouble in the Middle East, and they have developed the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement to injure Israel economically in an effort to destroy the Jewish nation.
Although anti-Zionists say they are not anti-Semites, anti-Zionism is blatantly anti-Semitic. Saying, “I’m against the modern state of Israel but not the Jewish people” is like saying, “I’m anti-America but not anti-American.” You cannot divide the two. The land and the people are one.
Recently, a popular pastor of a major evangelical church in the United States suggested Christians “unhitch” their faith from the Jewish Scriptures. There is so much wrong with this viewpoint, not the least of which is that our very salvation is “hitched” to the Old Testament. Jesus Himself said, “Salvation is of the Jews” (Jn. 4:22); and God loves them forever (Jer. 31:3).
In Romans 11:1, Paul wrote, “Has God cast away His people? Certainly not!” God has not rejected the Jewish people. Anti-Semitism arises when the world and the church fail to understand the Word of God and the importance of Israel.
History reveals that when the church loses its connection to Israel, it becomes susceptible to anti-Semitism. Over the last 1,500 years, anti-Semitism in the name of Christ has inflicted much pain and suffering on the Jewish people. And the church wonders why so many Jews distrust the church and reject Jesus.
We are in a battle for biblical truth. Does the church accept God’s Word and live by it—including the Jewish Scriptures and the admonition to bless Israel—or does it not?
Jesus warned, “But as the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and did not know until the flood came and took them all away, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be” (Mt. 24:37–39).
My fear is that the world and many churches are behaving as in the days of Noah, occupied with life and not listening to God and His warnings. May we understand that the Almighty is a God of love but also a God of judgment, and may we hear His Word and heed its truth concerning Israel’s importance in His plan of redemption. After all, Israel is the conduit through which all our blessings flow.