The Unpopular Truth

I’ve been to many churches during my lengthy ministry with The Friends of Israel. Most have welcomed me warmly. But I spoke at one recently that did not.

Even the pastor disliked having me there. But the leaders had asked students in a Bible class whom they wanted as a guest speaker, and they voted for me. The concern was that I might influence the class to believe that God has a future for Israel.

This church does not believe in the future restoration of Israel in its own land. As I see it, the problem stems from a failure to understand the unconditional covenant in Genesis 12:1–3. Even if Israel does not physically possess its inheritance, this covenant guarantees that the title deed to it still belongs to the Jewish people forever.

God vowed to give Abraham and his descendants the land of Canaan, located “from the river of Egypt to the great river, the River Euphrates” (Gen. 15:18). He repeated the promise to Isaac (26:2–5) and then to Jacob (28:13; 35:12). Ownership was transferred via an absolute and irreversible covenant, ratified by God Himself (chap. 15).

Like multitudes of Jewish people prior to 1948 when the modern State of Israel was born, both Jacob and his son Joseph lived most of their lives exiled from the Promised Land. Jacob spent almost 20 years in northern Mesopotamia due to a conflict with Esau, his brother (27:43—28:10). God eventually brought Jacob and his family back (31:3). Joseph was sold into exile (chap. 37). He and four generations of his people would live in Egypt until the Exodus, when God forced Pharaoh to let them go (Ex. 13:14).

Both Jacob and Joseph died in Egypt. Yet both asked that their bones be buried back in the land of Canaan. Few may appreciate this prophetic act. It reflected their deep faith in God’s covenant promise to give all that land to the children of Israel. They knew what everlasting meant (Gen 17:8): The land covenant for ethnic Israel extends all the way through the establishment of the Messianic Kingdom (Isa. 43:5–6; Zeph. 3:14–20).

During the New Testament period, the apostle Paul, a former Pharisee, said Jesus came “to confirm the promises made to the fathers” (Rom. 15:8). Since ownership of the land is embedded in the terms of the promises, Israel’s future restoration is certain. God’s unchallengeable name and character are at stake. If El-Shaddai (God the Almighty) is not able to bring the Jewish people back to their land, how then can He be trusted?

Many first-century Judean coins even bore an imprint stating belief in the Messianic Kingdom to come. During the first Jewish-Roman war in A.D. 66–70, early coins bore the inscription “For the Freedom of Zion.” Toward the end of the war, however, as the battles intensified, new coins were minted with the message “For the Redemption of Zion.” Scholars suggest that the rally cry was for liberation from Roman oppression and then for the Messianic redemption that comes with Israel’s restoration in the new Davidic Kingdom.

As my class ended, the leaders quickly scurried out. One gentleman lingered and offered to help me pack my literature and display. He whispered, “I’m a Jewish believer. I only come to this church because it’s my wife’s family tradition. In spite of what is preached here, I know that Israel has a future; and many others in the class also know it. Thank you for coming.” His confession encouraged me that, though the truth may be unpopular today, God still has His believing remnant.

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