Throughout my lifetime, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has intensified again and again. As I write this blog, the conflict has intensified again. I have been meaning to write something about it, and a question a friend asked me helped me write down some thoughts concisely. This blog will not be long. Properly validating the points made here would require a lot of biblical exegesis, and many will disagree with one or more of these points, but I believe this is a balanced, and more importantly, biblical, perspective on the situation with Israel and Palestine.
I am going to rephrase my friend’s question a little, but what she asked, essentially, was this: “If God fulfills all of His promises to His people in Christ, then why do Christians support the premise that Jerusalem belongs to Israel?”
The question is an excellent one. In what follows, I will share my answer with a few revisions and Additions.
There is actually more than one Christian perspective on this. Sifting through all the related issues can be a little hard to navigate, so I will explain what I believe to be the correct perspective as clearly as I can.
The following points summarize what I believe is a correct biblical perspective:
1. God made unconditional and eternal promises to the Nation Israel, and one of them is that the Land of Israel belongs to them forever.
2. If we take biblical prophecy literally, then the nation of Israel has a future and God’s land promises, along with the others, will be fulfilled during the Millennial kingdom.
3. The regathering of Israel into the land in the 20th century was nothing short of miraculous, so many believe this sets the stage for end time events that involve the nation Israel. These are the reasons that many Christians are sympathetic to Israel in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, They believe “I will bless those who bless you (Abraham’s descendants=” Israel) and curse him that curses you” (see Gen 12:1-3) applies directly in this situation. I do believe this verse applies to modern day Israelites, but quoting this verse as a justification for uncritically supporting anything the State of Israel does is oversimplified at best. We cannot bless someone by encouraging them to do wrong. The degree to which Israel and/or Palestine are wrong in the current conflict is a complicated one, with a lot of history and many viewpoints that need to be understood. Oversimplification will simply not do.
4. God’s original plan for Israel was for God to bless all nations through Abraham’s descendants (Gen 12:3), and this is fulfilled initially through salvation in Christ, who makes it possible for all nations to share in God’s covenant promises to Israel (Gal 3).
5. I do believe that the regathering of Israel is significant for prophecy, but we must also recognize that Israel, as it currently exists, is a secular (and largely athiestic) state. As a nation, they are not following Christ.
6. We must not think that Israel can do whatever they want without criticism, this was not even true in the days of the Old Testament.
7. When Christ returns, Israel will experience a national repentance and the entire nation will turn to Christ and be saved (Rom 11:26), at this time Christ will set up his Millennial Kingdom. The Kingdom will be an Israelite kingdom in that its capital is Jerusalem and Christ (the Son of David) will be its King. But it will also be a world-wide kingdom, where all nations are blessed and share fully in the covenant promises to Israel. Gentile citizens will be full citizens!
8. Israel is not the Church, and “The people of God” is broader that either the Church or Israel. God has worked in different phases as His Kingdom unfolds throughout history, culminating in the Millennial Kingdom and Eternal State. Israel is one phase in God’s Kingdom program, the Church is another. These are not the only phases. We must remember that Israel (Jacob) was Abraham’s grandson. The Nation Israel are descendants of Abraham, but Abraham and anyone alive before Jacob were not Israelites. Nor were they part of the Church, which began on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2). “The people of God” is broader than Israel and the Church. It describes all who have been saved by the blood of Christ and will spend eternity glorifying God in the New Earth, from Adam and Eve to the Last human being who trusts Christ for Salvation. God’s plan for the ages is an orchestra, not a trumpet!
Israel is unique in that it is the only Nation that it is the only nation to whom God made national promises, thus it is God’s channel of blessing for all other nations. It is also unique in being the only Kingdom phase to which God returns after another phase is over.
A. God loves Israel so we must love and pray for Israel.
B. The fact that God loves and has a future plan for Israel does not mean that we must assume Israel is totally in the right in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Israel is, and has always been, accountable to God for their actions. We can neither assume that Israel nor Palestine is totally in the right, but must apply understanding, grace and critical thinking as we formulate our opinions on the matter.
C. The best thing Christians can do in the current conflict is pray that both sides will turn to Christ. The salvation and new life Christ provides is the only real way for them to put aside their hostility and find unity.