The Voice of the Martyrs is a Christian nonprofit organization that highlights the persecution of Christians around the world. They list Israel as a restricted nation that is hostile to the proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The Voice of the Martyrs defines a restricted nation as, “Countries where government policy or practice prevents Christians from obtaining Bibles or other Christian literature. Also included are countries where government-sanctioned circumstances or anti-Christian laws lead to Christians being harassed, imprisoned, killed or deprived of possessions or liberties because of their witness” (www.Persecution.com).
Nevertheless, some evangelical Christians contend that the Bible mandates that Christians offer unqualified support to Israel and its government. On October 5th, a “Stand with Israel” rally took place in the nations capital led by Governor Mike Huckabee and Concerned Woman for America. The crowd at the rally was primarily composed of evangelical Christians who affirm Huckabee’s assertion, “If America doesn’t stand with Israel, God will remove his hand from us.” Jennifer Rubin of the Washington Post summarized the message of the speakers at the rally, “America — and Christians in particular — must stand with Israel”
Without a doubt, the Bible tells the story of Israel and Israel’s God. The four New Testament gospels present the fulfillment of Israel’s story. Nevertheless, the Bible is not Israel-centered any more than it is Gentile-centered. The Bible is Christ-centered, and we must be as well. God is working in the world “to sum up all things in Christ” (Eph 1:10). “The eternal purpose of God” is “realized in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Eph 3:11). Any time we sum up Christianity and Christian doctrine in anything other than Jesus Christ we fall into error and misapplication. All doctrines, practice, and events are to be summed up in Christ. Christ is never the sub-point. He is always the main point and gives meaning and purpose to all else.
The current geopolitical entity of Israel is not coterminous with Israel as referenced in the scripture. No Christian is under obligation to give the current Israeli government unqualified support. The current Israeli government and its actions ought to be judged in the same way all other governments and actions are judged. Jesus proclaimed messianic salvation and offered to Israel, and then to the Gentiles, himself, as the fulfillment of Israel’s true destiny as a light to the nations. This destiny is accomplished in Christ through those from every tribe, tongue, and nation who receive his message by faith.
The focus of the Old Testament was not on Israel in the abstract but on Israel’s role as a light to the nations in the fulfillment of the covenant promises, which was accomplished in Israel through the obedience of one Israelite—Jesus of Nazareth. Psalm 2 concludes, “Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way, for his wrath is quickly kindled. Blessed are all who take refuge in him” (Ps 2:11-12). Jesus’ disciples are the recipients of the messianic salvation who have kissed the Son and are under no obligation to kiss the ring of any nation-state or its government.
In the same way that the sacrificial system came to fulfillment in Christ, so now we “continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name” (Heb 13:15). Israel’s role as a light to the nations in redemptive history came to fulfillment in the life, death, and resurrection of one Jew, Jesus of Nazareth, and all who are united to him by faith are the true “Israel of God” (Gal 6:16). Every believer will be eternally thankful for Israel’s role in being a light to the nations. Gentiles are joined to spiritual Israel through faith in Christ as “fellow heirs, members of the same body” with ethnic Israelites who also become a part of the true “Israel of God” only through faith in Jesus Christ (Eph 3:6). The promised future salvation of a majority of ethnic Israelites, which Paul emphatically asserts, will come through the preaching of the Gospel, not through support of the Israeli government (Rom 11:26).
Jesus has fulfilled the promise to Abraham, “I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Gen 12:3). Paul writes, “Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham. And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, ‘In you shall all the nations be blessed.’ So then, those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith” (Gal 3:6-8). Paul clarifies, “Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring. It does not say, ‘And to offsprings,’ referring to many, but referring to one, ‘And to your offspring,’ who is Christ” (Gal. 3:16).
The promised seed of woman in Genesis 3:15 is not a generic reference to humanity as such but a specific reference to a human individual: the singular seed. The promise in Genesis 3:15 provides the basis of all of God’s merciful and gracious dealings with his people. The promise to Abraham in Genesis 12 was a continuance of the “seed promise” in Genesis 3:15 and finds its culmination in the cosmic authority of the Israelite Jesus Christ—and, by extension, all who are united to him by faith. Jesus is the promised seed and he is resurrected Israel.
Israel has been and continues to be a strategic ally of the United States of America in a volatile and dangerous part of the world. But the notion that Christians must unequivocally support the current Israeli government in order to obey the Scripture is tragically misguided. Christians do not owe the current nation-state of Israel unqualified support any more than they owe the American government unqualified support.
Jesus, the Christ, is the center and goal of redemptive history and the entire cosmos. The resurrected Christ taught his disciples on the road to Emmaus that the whole story of Israel built to its narrative climax in him—the Messiah (Luke 24:13-49). A Christ-centered approach to the Bible avoids the error of replacement theology on one hand (the church replaces Israel) and the error of eschatological dualism on the other (the church and Israel are eternally distinct in God’s program).
The gracious gospel promises are fulfilled in Israel as represented by the Israelite Jesus, and they are applicable to the church “in him.” Michael D. Williams helpfully concludes, “Thus the church does not replace Israel, nor is it simply identical to Israel. Some new historical and redemptive development has forever transformed and redefined the people of God. That development is the incarnation and work of Christ the Messiah. Since Jesus becomes the new covenant representative, himself the true Israel, the people of God are constituted as such in relationship to him” (Far as the Curse is Found, 251-252). Only those who bless and serve Jesus, the center and goal of Scripture and history, truly bless geopolitical Israel (and all other nation-states), because all things are being summed up in him and will answer to him—including the present day Israeli government.
Don’t completely disagree… Israel is absolutely fallible, and we don’t look to Israel for our salvation. However, the Bible is very clear that at the end of time God will step in to intervene against Israel’s enemies with hail, fire, and sulfur. Then he will give their bodies to the birds and wild beasts and completely destroy them. So if we oppose Israel, we need to be VERY careful to understand all the facts of the situation and be able to defend our position. We certainly don’t want to give the impression that what goes on in Israel doesn’t concern us. We’re watching events there closely to see the signs of our returning Savior. And we don’t want to give the impression that supporting Israel doesn’t really matter when they’re in the right and need our support. And frankly, they’re picking up the slack because we are currently failing to lead the way.
Great to hear from you. I am not sure what passage you are referring to when you write “at the end of time God will step in to intervene against Israel’s enemies with hail, fire, and sulfur.” Perhaps it is the trumpet judgments from Revelation 8-11?
If so, I would note that Revelation is written to the churches (Rev 1:4), that is, believing Jews and Gentiles–the “true Israel of God” (Gal 6:16). When Jesus was resurrected it was the resurrection of faithful Israel in one faithful Jew who who had obeyed the covenant–Jesus of Nazareth. The promises to Israel are fulfilled only “in Christ.”
Revelation specifically mentions “Israel” 3 times (Rev 2:14, 7:4, 21:12). The trumpets judgments are vindicating God as Lord of history who has accomplished his purposed in Christ, the only one who was worth to open the seals (Rev 5–which led to the trumpets). The judgments are against all who have refused to repent–Jew and Gentile.
As I said in the article “The promised future salvation of a majority of ethnic Israelites, which Paul emphatically asserts, will come through the preaching of the Gospel, not through support of the Israeli government (Rom 11:26).” In the end, a majority of Israelites will become a part of the true Israel of God but that will happen only in defiance of the current Israeli government as a nation-state, who, at present, forbid open evangelism in geopolitical entity known as Israel. Unbelieving Israelites are not the “true Israel of God” but rather “are a synagogue of Satan” (Rev 2:9, 3:9).
Revelation, “the revelation of Jesus Christ” (Rev 1:1) presents a beautiful and fitting conclusion to the biblical narrative and its unfolding of redemptive history. God’s Kingdom is established in and through Jesus Christ. The ancient serpent is fully and finally defeated and Israel, through the covenant obedience of Jesus Christ has been a light to the nations, as powerfully displayed when people have been redeemed and gathered from every tribe, tongue, and nation.
Blessings in Christ,
Just a quick note. I believe this article meant to reference Galations 3:16 in the 7th paragraph rather than Galations 3:18
Excellent article….this articulates the major points in a way that is more clear and concise than other pieces on the same subject.
To Ben D – that view of the end times is fairly popular, but it really has little-to-no Biblical basis. Usually it is arrived at by conflating Revelation with various passages in Ezekiel.
Thank you, Michael. Fixed.