Two peoples claim the same piece of real estate in the Middle East. Whose land is it? Who owns the title deed? Israel or the Palestinians? Both peoples? Who has the right to decide to whom the Land belongs? Israel? The Arab nations? The United States? The United Nations? How do we decide? By occupation? By war? By the claims of history? When the Word of God speaks authoritatively on any subject, that is the final word. God has much to say about the land and people of Israel in His supernatural revelation, the Bible.
A PEOPLE CHOSEN TO WITNESS
The Creator of all things chose the nation of Israel to be a unique people that would witness to His reality. For you are a holy people to the Lord your God; the Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for His own possession out of all the people who are on the face of the earth (Deuteronomy 7:6). We were chosen to be witnesses of God’s reality to a world that had fallen away from God. You are My witnesses, declares the Lord, and My servant whom I have chosen, in order that you may know and believe Me, and understand that I am He. Before Me there was no God formed, and there will be none after Me. I, even I am the Lord; and there is no Savior beside Me (Isaiah 43:10-11). The Jewish people were chosen to demonstrate to the world that there was one true and living God.
We were to show the world that this Supreme Being isn’t an impersonal force. He is not some vague “higher power” who made the universe and then left it running on its own. God is a Person, and He desires to enter into personal relationships with men and women. The God of Israel is a Savior who desires to help Jews and Gentiles, men and women, rich and poor, avoid the destruction to which we are surely headed.
The Jewish people were designed to witness to all the nations that this God desires that mankind turns back to Him and comes to the knowledge of His truth that will save them. If we Chosen People were faithful to our calling, God promised to bless us above all the other nations, so that the nations would know that the God of Israel is the true God. But if we were disobedient to our calling, the Lord promised to severely punish us so that the nations of the world would know that it’s a terrible thing to disobey the God of Israel. Either way, through our obedience or our disobedience, the Chosen People would witness to the world that the God of Israel was to be reckoned with.
A CHOSEN LAND
Being the Chosen People means being connected to a Chosen Land. God gave us Eretz Yisrael (the Land of Israel) which is strategically located in the center of the world. This is Jerusalem; I have set her at the center of the nations, with lands around her (Ezekiel 5:5). The Land of Israel is the bridge connecting the continents of Europe, Africa and Asia. Because of this central location, the Jewish people had ample exposure to all the nations of the world.
It’s important that everyone know fourteen other facts about this special Land:
Fact #1. The Land of Israel belongs to God. The Land is Mine; for you are but aliens and sojourners with Me (Leviticus 25:23). Since the Land of Israel belongs to God, He can give it to whomever He wishes.
Fact #2. The Land of Israel was given by God to the descendants of Abraham. The Lord appeared to Abram and said, “To your descendants I will give this land” (Genesis 12:7). The living God further said to Abraham: I will establish My covenant between Me and you and your descendants after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your descendants after you. And I will give to you and to your descendants after you, the land of your sojournings, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God (Genesis 17:7-8).
Fact #3. Even though Abraham had many sons, the Land of Israel wasn’t given to Ishmael, or to any of the others sons of Abraham, but only to Isaac. Abraham said to God, “Oh that Ishmael might live before You!” But God said “No, but Sarah your wife shall bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac; and I will establish my covenant with him for an everlasting covenant for his descendants after him” (Genesis 17:18-19). God rejected Abraham’s prayer that Ishmael would be the heir of the covenant, and appointed Isaac instead. Years later the Lord God appeared to Isaac and said, “to you and to your descendants I will give all these lands, and I will establish the oath which I swore to your father Abraham. And I will multiply your descendants as the stars of heaven and will give your descendants all these lands; and by your descendants all the nations of the earth shall be blessed” (Genesis 26:3-4). Knowing that Isaac was the heir of the covenant, which included the Land of Israel, Abraham gave all that he had to Isaac. He gave gifts to his other sons, but he sent them away to the lands of the east, not wanting the heir of the covenant to have rivalry over the Land of Israel from his siblings (Genesis 25:5-6).
Fact #4. Even though Isaac had two sons, Jacob and Esau, the Land wasn’t given to Esau, but to Jacob. One night Jacob had a dream while fleeing from his brother Esau. In his dream the Lord said to him, “I am the Lord, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie, I will give it to you and to your descendants. Your descendants shall also be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread out to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south; and in you and in your descendants shall all the families of the earth be blessed” (Genesis 28:13-14). God later appeared to Jacob and said to him, “the land which I gave to Abraham and Isaac, I will give it to you, and I will give the land to your descendants after you” (Genesis 35:11-12). This promise deeds the Land of Israel to the descendants of Jacob – the Jewish people of today.
Fact #5. There is no doubt about Israel’s God-given borders because they are described for us in detail in the Holy Scriptures: The Lord said to Abram after Lot had separated from him, “Now lift up your eyes and look from the place where you are, northward and southward and eastward and westward; for all the land which you see, I will give it to you and to your descendants forever… Arise, walk about the land through its length and breadth; for I will give it to you (Genesis 13:14-17). The Lord made a covenant with Abraham, saying, “To your descendants I have given this land, from the river of Egypt as far as the great river, the river Euphrates” (Gen. 15:18-21). I will fix your boundary from the Red Sea to the sea of the Philistines, and from the wilderness to the River Euphrates (Exodus 23:31). Therefore we must conclude that the entire Land of Israel, including Judea and Samaria (the so called “West Bank”), Gaza, the Golan Heights, and all of Jerusalem, is given by the God of Israel to the people of Israel in perpetuity. We and we alone have been given the title to the Land of Israel as a permanent inheritance by the Lord. No human government or governments has the right or authority to cede portions of the Land of Israel to anyone else.
Fact #6. In addition to the everlasting covenant (which includes the Land), more than forty times the Holy Scriptures record the fact that God swore an oath to give the Jewish people this Land. Here is one example: He has remembered His covenant forever, the word which He commanded to a thousand generations, the covenant which He made with Abraham, and His oath to Isaac. Then He confirmed it to Jacob for a statute, to Israel as an everlasting covenant, saying, “To you I will give the land of Canaan as the portion of your inheritance” (Psalm 105:8-11). There is no other passage in which there are so many words used to describe God’s unyielding commitment to Israel: covenant, word, oath, confirm, commandment, a thousand generations, statute, everlasting covenant. A person has to have a terrible bias not to understand that God is assuring the Jewish people the perpetual right to the Land of Israel in the strongest possible language. It’s absolutely impossible for God to break an oath (see Hebrews 6:16-18).
Fact #7. Israel’s sin, disobedience and exile never annulled God’s covenant with His Chosen People, nor permanently abrogated our right to the Land of Israel. Our exile from the Land would only be temporary. Yet in spite of this (Israel’s sin), when they are in the land of their enemies, I will not reject them, nor will I so abhor them as to destroy them, breaking My covenant with them; for I am the Lord their God. But I will remember for them the covenant with their ancestors (which includes , whom I brought out of the land of Egypt, in the sight of the nations, that I might be their God. I am the Lord (Leviticus 26:44-45).
Moses specifically predicted that we would experience a time of obedience and blessing within the Land, followed by a period of temporary disobedience and exile from the Land, followed by spiritual restoration to God and physical restoration to the Land. So it shall be when all of these things have come upon you, the blessing and the curse which I have set before you, and you call them to mind in all nations where the Lord your God has banished you, and you return to the Lord your God and obey Him with all your heart and soul according to all that I command you today, you and your sons, then the Lord your God will restore you from captivity, and have compassion on you, and will gather you again from all the people where the Lord your God has scattered you. If your outcasts are at the ends of the earth, from there the Lord your God will gather you, and from there He will bring you back. And the Lord your God will bring you into the land which your fathers possessed, and you shall possess it (Deuteronomy 30:1-5). It’s no coincidence that after two thousand years of exile, the Jewish people are being restored to the Land that our fathers possessed, and simultaneously the spiritual restoration of the Messianic Jewish movement is growing.
Knowing that God will not break His covenant with the sons of Israel, even in spite of our sins, should be reassuring to every Christian. If God broke His covenant with the Jewish people (which includes the Land of Israel) due to our sins, what about nineteen centuries of Christian history? It’s true that there has been a faithful remnant within the Church, just as there has always been a faithful remnant of true Believers within Israel, but there has also been an endless succession of anti-Semitism, heresy, apostasy, greed, immorality, divisions, and ceaseless struggles for power and prominence within the visible Church. Professing Christians have subjected fellow Christians to torture and death in the name of Christ. If God can annul His covenant with Israel, then He can just as easily annul His covenant with the Church! But the faithful God will never will break any of His covenants with Israel or the Church.
Fact #8. In His prophetic Word, God promised to regather us to “our own land.” For I will take you from the nations, gather you from all the lands, and bring you into your own land… And you will live in the land that I gave to your forefathers (Ezekiel 36:24, 28). Again Ezekiel predicts: Thus says the Lord God, “Behold, I will take the sons of Israel from among the nations where they have gone, and I will gather them from every side and bring them into their own land Jeremiah adds: Behold days are coming declares the Lord, when it will no longer be said, “As the Lord lives, who brought up the sons of Israel out of the land of Egypt,” but, “As the Lord lives, who brought up the sons of Israel from the land of the north and from all the countries where He had banished them.” For I will restore them to their own land which I gave to their fathers (Jeremiah 16:14-15). Ultimately this regathering to our own Land will be greater than the Exodus out of Egypt!
Fact #9. In His prophetic Word, God calls this restored Land “Israel” – not “Palestine.” Behold I will open up your graves and cause you to come up out of your graves, My people; and I will bring you into the land of Israel (Ezekiel 37:12). The name “Palestine” comes from the Philistines, the ancient enemies of the Jewish people. “Palestine” was the derogatory name given to the Land of Israel by the Romans after they conquered us. But throughout the Word of God, this Land is always called Israel, never Palestine.
Fact #10. God, speaking to us through the prophet Ezekiel, informs us that this Land is specifically reserved for the Jewish people. You O mountains of Israel, you will put forth your branches and bear your fruit for My people Israel; for they will soon come. For behold, I am for you, and I will turn to you, and you will be cultivated and sown. I will multiply men on you, all the house of Israel, all of it; and the cities will be inhabited and the waste places will be rebuilt (Ezekiel 36:8-10). 2500 years ago Ezekiel told us that In the Last Days the Jewish people would be restored to our Land. The Land would begin to prosper and the Jewish population would greatly increase. In the past century these prophetic words have been coming to pass. The Land of Israel, which lay barren for centuries, has seen increasing numbers of the sons of Israel returning to our ancient homeland over the past century. Starting in the 1880’s this prophetic regathering to Israel picked up speed, and now there are four and a half million Jews in Israel who have been gathered from more than 70 countries around the world.
Fact #11. Twenty-five hundred years ago the Lord also told us that the Jewish return to the Land would provoke a reaction from the Israel’s neighbors. Because the enemy has spoken against you “Aha” and “The everlasting heights have become our possession” … Surely in the fire of My jealousy I have spoken against the rest of the nations, and against all Edom, who appropriated My land for themselves as a possession with wholehearted joy and scorn of soul, to drive it out as a prey (Ezekiel 36:2-5). Even though the nations surrounding Israel would claim possession of the Land of Israel for themselves, and try to drive out the rightful Jewish inhabitants, God repudiates the claims of these nations.
Even though most of the Jewish people were temporarily exiled from our Land (there was always a remnant of Jewish people who remained within Israel), that doesn’t give anyone else the right to claim the Land of Israel. If a landlord has some bad tenants that he evicts from his property, he does not expect anyone else to enter his vacant property and claim it for their own. God is the landlord of the Land of Israel and the majority of the Jewish people were bad tenants. The Lord temporarily evicted us from the Land. That didn’t give the Romans, the Byzantines, the Crusaders, the Ottomans or the Arabs the right to claim God’s holy Land for themselves.
Fact #12. God will severely judge anyone who claims this special Land for their own. For behold in those days and at that time when I restore the fortunes of Judah and Jerusalem, I will gather all the nations and bring them down to the valley of Jehoshaphat. Then I will enter into judgement with them there on behalf of My people and My inheritance Israel, whom they have scattered among the nations; and they have divided up My land (Joel 3:1-2). When Messiah returns, the fortunes of the Jewish people will be restored, and the nations will be summoned to Jerusalem, where they will be judged for scattering the Jewish people, and dividing up our Land.
Fact #13. Eventually this conflict over the Land of Israel will involve the entire world. In Zechariah 12:2-3, written in the sixth century BC, the prophet predicted: Behold I am going to make Jerusalem a cup that causes reeling to all the peoples around (the nations will react to the regathering of the Jewish people with irrational behavior); and when the siege is against Jerusalem, it will also be against Judah. And it will come about in that day that I will make Jerusalem a heavy stone for all the peoples (Israel’s Islamic neighbors want to destroy the hated “Zionist Entity.” An Islamic world view insists that a Jewish state in the Moslem Middle East is by its very existence an insult to Allah and Islam that must be destroyed); all who lift it will be severely injured (the nations of the world will be drawn into this conflict and unite to remove the Jewish presence from Jerusalem. However they will discover that removing the Jewish people from our Land will bring each nation a national hernia!). And all the nations of the earth will be gathered against it. (These united nations will wage the final world war in the Middle East, and it will center around Jerusalem). It’s amazing to see the same scenario that the prophet declared so long ago shaping up before our very eyes.
Fact #14. This is a time of great trouble for the Jewish people, but we will be miraculously delivered out of it. Alas! for that day is great, there is none like it; and it is the time of Jacob’s distress, but he will be saved from it (Jeremiah 30:7). The fires of anti-Semitism will reach their hottest point in the near future, but with God’s help we will come through the fires to a time of unparalleled salvation.
There is one way the anti-Semites of the world can destroy the Jewish people, and the Lord tells us how! 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” (Jeremiah 31:35-37). To destroy the Jewish people, all the anti-Semites need to do is change the course of the sun, moon and stars. They also have to quiet the mighty oceans so that they don’t have any waves. Next they must launch an expedition to the farthest limits of creation and measure the circumference of the universe. Finally they must launch another journey to the center of the earth. Then, and only then, will they have enough power to destroy the sons and daughters of Israel.
If you are a Christian, you need to repent of any anti-Semitism. In the area of theology, you need to repudiate “Replacement Theology,” that erroneous doctrine that God is finished with the Jewish people, and has replaced Israel with the Church. Through the prophet Jeremiah we are warned against having a theology that denies Israel’s future national destiny. Have you not observed what this people have spoken, saying, “The two families which the Lord chose, He has rejected them?” Thus they despise My people, no longer are they as a nation in their sight. Thus says the Lord, “If My covenant for day and night stand not, and the fixed patterns of heaven and earth I have not established, then I would reject the descendants of Jacob and David My servant, not taking from His descendants rulers over the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. But I will restore their fortunes and will have mercy on them (Jeremiah 33:24-26). No one is to teach or believe that the Jewish people have been lost, destroyed, replaced, superseded, permanently set aside or continually exiled from our Land!
If you are a Christian, you need to stand by Israel, and support Israel whenever possible.
You need to “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem,” by asking God to send King Messiah back to rule on the throne of David from Jerusalem. There will never be peace in the Middle East, or on Planet Earth, until Messiah Yeshua is ruling from Jerusalem over a restored Israel populated by Messianic Jews.
You need to support ministries that are reaching out to the Jewish people throughout the world with the Good News about Messiah. You want to support those organizations that not only bless Israel, but that also are committed to bring us the Good News.
Messianic Ministry of Israel
THE CHURCH IS NOT A “NEW ISRAEL”. Third in a series on Bible Prophecy By Dr. Kenneth G. Hanna (Professor at Dallas Seminary and MMI Board of Directors)
Some Christians refer to the church as “the New Israel.” They argue that when the leaders of Israel rejected Jesus as their Messiah, God in turn rejected the nation of Israel and replaced it with the church. Thus, they say, the promises God made to Israel in the Old Testament are now being fulfilled in a spiritual sense in the church. A careful study of the New Testament reveals otherwise. The Bible makes it clear that,
1. God has not “cast away” the nation of Israel: “I say then, has God cast away His people? Certainly not! God has not cast away His people whom He foreknew.” Romans 11:1,2
2. After Jesus’ resurrection, the Apostles believed Israel had a national future. “Therefore, when they had come together, they asked Him, saying, “Lord will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” Acts 1:6
3. Jesus said Israel’s kingdom would come in the Father’s own time. “And He said unto them, ‘It is not for you to know times and seasons which the Father has put under His own authority.'” Acts 1:7
4. God made many promises to Israel that have not yet been fulfilled. “Behold, I will gather them out of all countries where I have driven them in My anger, in My fury, and in great wrath; I will bring them back to this place, and I will cause them to dwell safely. They shall be My people, and I will be their God; I will give them one heart and one way, that they may fear Me forever, for the good of them and their children after them. And I will make an everlasting covenant with them, that I will not turn away from doing them good, but I will put My fear in their hearts so that they will not depart from Me.” Jeremiah 32:37-40
5. The church is never called Israel in the New Testament. A concordance study reveals that Israel is mentioned 66 times and in every instance it refers to the Jewish nation. In fact, the church and Israel are kept distinct from each other. “Give no offense, either to the Jews or to the Greeks or to the church of God.” 1 Corinthians 10:32
6. The Church is a new and unique work of God, not a New Israel. “to make all see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the ages has been hidden in God who created all things through Jesus Christ; to the intent that now the manifold wisdom of God might be made known by the church to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places, according to the eternal purpose which He accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord. Eph.3:9-11
7. Israel will one day embrace her Messiah and find salvation as a nation. “And I will pour on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of grace and supplication; then they will look on Me whom they pierced. Yes, they will mourn for Him as one mourns for his only son, and grieve for Him as one grieves for a firstborn. In that day a fountain shall be opened for the house of David and for the inhabitants of Jerusalem, for sin and for uncleanness. Zechariah 12:10; 13:1
8. Paul said that Israel’s national salvation was certain, but still future: “And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written: ‘The Deliverer will come out of Zion, and He will turn away ungodliness from Jacob; For this is My covenant with them, when I take away their sins.’” Romans 11:26,27
We conclude that the church is not a “New Israel.” God has not abandoned or rejected His ancient people, Israel. He will complete the re-gathering and restoration of Israel. He will one day bring their spiritual rebirth as He promised in both the Old and New Testaments. Until then, He has called the church to proclaim the good news that the Messiah, Jesus, has come. That is good news for all nations, but for the Jew first!