A number of false teachings about Israel are accepted by many Christians.
Right to the Land
Many Christians believe that Israel has the right to all the land within the biblical boundaries of Israel. It is true that God gave the land to the children of Israel when Joshua led them into it, but the promise is conditional on obedience to the requirements of the covenant. While promising to bless Israel, God also warned that if they failed to obey him, they would be removed from the land. He did not give the land in perpetuity. It was a gift, conditional on obedience to his law.
While promising to bless Israel, God warned that if they failed to keep their side of the covenant, they would be removed from the land.
If you do not carefully follow all the words of this law, which are written in this book, and do not revere this glorious and awesome name-the Lord your God You who were as numerous as the stars in the sky will be left but few in number, because you did not obey the LORD your God. Just as it pleased the LORD to make you prosper and increase in number, so it will please him to ruin and destroy you. You will be uprooted from the land you are entering to possess. Then the LORD will scatter you among all nations, from one end of the earth to the other (Deut 28:58, 62-64).
God warned Israel that if they rejected him, they would be scattered among the nations. This warning was fulfilled when Jerusalem was destroyed and the people scattered throughout the earth. Given that God scattered them, they cannot claim title to the land until God gives it Back to them. His word promises that he will do this after he has poured his Spirit on Israel. He has not yet poured out his spirit on Israel, so they do not yet have a right to the land.
Israel does not currently have a divine right to the land. The conditions of the covenant still apply. The Jews lost their land because they rejected Christ. Until they repent, they do not have God's blessing on their ownership of the land. At present, Israel's right to the land depends on a United Nations decision and a successful defence of the land. This title is as legitimate as that of many other nations, but it is not a divine right.
The Mosaic covenant made life in the land conditional on obedience to God. It also promised a promise of Return to land contingent of faith in God.
When you and your children Return to the Lord your God and obey him with all your heart and with all your soul according to everything I command you today, then the Lord your God will restore your fortunes and have compassion on you and gather you again from all the nations where he scattered you. Even if you have been banished to the most distant land under the heavens, from there the Lord your God will gather you and bring you back. He will bring you to the land that belonged to your ancestors, and you will take possession of it. He will make you more prosperous and numerous than your fathers (Deut 30:2-5).
The Jewish people still have a claim to their homeland, but it depends on their turning Back to God and fulfilling their covenant. Until Israel fulfils the covenant by coming to faith in Christ (Deut 30:1-5) it does not have a covenant right to the land. It holds the land by right of military conquest. Unfortunately, land won by military power can be lost be by military power.
Israel's and the Kingdom of God
Many Christians believe that he Kingdom of God will be established from Israel. This is not correct. Although Israel receives the gospel, it will not go Back to having a special role in the world. In Old Testament times, God worked through the nation of Israel. In this age, he is working through the church, so he will not go Back to working though a chosen nation like Israel. However, when Israel has come into the church, God will be able to work through Israel again, as part of the church. Old Israel will have joined the New Israel, the Church. Once this takes place, the church will have a completeness that it did not have, while the Jews were stuck in darkness.
When Israel is grafted into new Israel, two great streams in the workings of God will have come together. When they come together, he will be able to work together in a mightier way. This is what Paul meant in Romans 11, when he wrote of the calling of the Jews bring blessing to the world.
Re-building the Temple in Jerusalem
Many Christians believe that the temple will be rebuilt in Jerusalem. There are several reasons for this belief, but they are all incorrect.
Some Jews would like to see the restoration of both the temple and its sacrifices. This view fails to understand the change brought about by Jesus ministry. His death was the perfect sacrifice, so there is now no need for sacrifice or altar (Heb 8,9). To establish sacrifices in a restored temple would be a terrible insult to Jesus. The reason that God allowed the temple to be destroyed in AD 70 was that the sacrifices offered there had become repugnant to him. Once Jesus had completed his sacrifice upon the cross, the sacrifices in the Jewish temple were no longer necessary. They had been replaced by Jesus' one, true, perfect sacrifice, and should have ceased. When continued after the perfect sacrifice of Jesus, they were an abomination to God. The tearing of the temple curtain at the time of the crucifixion showed that a better way to God had been opened. If animal sacrifices are restored, Jesus will be insulted and the wrath of God provoked.
Note: the temple described in Ezekiel 40-44 has animal sacrifices, so it must either be a spiritual temple or a prophecy for Old Testament times. The prophecy cannot be literally filled now that Jesus a perfect sacrifice has been completed. The valley of bones described in the preceding chapter and river flowing to the sea in the following chapter are not literal, so the Ezekiel temple is most likely a spiritual picture of a heavenly reality.
Some Christians believe that the temple will be restored as a place of worship without sacrifices. People will go to the temple to worship Jesus. However, this view also fails to understand the change wrought by the resurrection and ascension of Jesus. He is now seated at the right hand of the Father in heaven, but through faith, we are seated with him (Eph 2:6). We do not need to go to a temple to meet with him. Our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit, so we can commune with him wherever we are. The Holy Spirit is present throughout the world, so here would be no benefit in going to a temple in Jerusalem. There is now no function for a temple as a place for worshipping of God.
The most common belief is that Jesus will Return to earth and rule the world from the temple in Jerusalem in a millennial kingdom. The teaching that Jesus will personally come Back to establish the Kingdom of God is one of Satan's worst lies. The church has given up on establishing the Kingdom of God because Satan has fooled it into believing it cannot happen until Jesus returns.
The truth is that the Holy Spirit will establish the Kingdom using the church. In Daniel 7:27, there is a description of the Kingdom coming to power, when all the "power and sovereignty under the whole heaven is handed over to the saints, the people of the Most High" (while the Son of Man is seated with the Father). The bible declares that God will bring the church to victory.
His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, according to his eternal purpose, which he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord (Eph 3:10,11).
This passage teaches that the defeat of Satan and his forces will be accomplished through the church. Christ will not have to Return to display his glory, for his glory will be displayed through the victories of the church. These victories will take place "now" in the present age.
God's people will establish the Kingdom while Jesus is seated at the right hand of the Father. He returns to receive the kingdom established by the church and hands it Back to the Father (1 Cor 15:24,25). Since Jesus does not have to come Back to earth to establish the kingdom, he does not need a temple to rule from. The belief that the temple needs to be rebuilt before the Kingdom can come is part of Satan's lie. Christians who want to see the temple rebuilt are declaring their lack of faith in God's ability to fulfil his promises through the church.
Jesus does not have to come Back to Jerusalem to rule the world, as he is already reigning as King of Kings. If people would obey the voice of the Spirit, his rule can be complete now. Jesus appears at the end of the when the spiritual world is opened wide to the people on earth. Those who believe that he must Return Jerusalem to reign do not understand the glory of his appearance.
Another strange belief that has emerged in recent years is the doctrine that prayers prayed in Jerusalem are more effective than other prayers. The doctrine is based on the idea that Jerusalem is built on land that it is holy. In the Old Testament, the activity of the Holy Spirit was sporadic, so God used special places and special people. The Cross and Pentecost made the concept of a holy land redundant
God no longer has special people. The Holy Spirit has been poured out on all flesh. Everyone who is called by his name can hear him speak.
Every Christian is a temple of the Holy Spirit, so he does not need a temple or special city as his dwelling place. The Holy Spirit is omnipresent, so we do not need to go to a special place to meet with him.
We are kingdom of priests, so God does not need to re-establish a Levitic or Aaronic priesthood in Jerusalem. Jesus is the perfect high priest who has finished the job that they could not do.
The Holy Spirit is present wherever two or three followers pray in his name.
The land of Israel is no more holy than any other piece of ground. Jerusalem is just another place where people can live and serve God.
Some Christians believe that the Palestinians should be expelled from the land, in the same way as the Canaanites were ousted. One suggestion is that they should all move into the nation of Jordan. However, God has not said that they can be forcibly removed from the land. The biblical prophecies about the Return to the land are not like the Exodus. They do not say that the Jews will expel the inhabitants of the land with force and violence. They prophesy that people will return in joy and live in peace. Taking the land by force is not part of God's prophetic plan.
We must understand that God placed the Palestinians in Israel for a purpose (Acts 17:26). He wants them in the land, so that he can demonstrate the power of the gospel when Israel returns to blessing. Destroying the Palestinians or forcing them out of the land is not part of his plan.
There is plenty of room in the land for both peoples, so the Palestinians do not need to be expelled. God is quite happy for refugees who fled their homes in 1948 to return and share in the wonderful things he plans to do there.
Removing the Barrier
The Israeli government is currently building a wall that divides the promised land. This is a denial of God's plan. He intends to pour out his spirit on all the people in Israel, whether Jew or Palestinian. He will change the hearts of all people living in the land, so that they can live together in peace.
He himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility (Eph 2:14-16).
Jesus died to break down the hostility between racial groups. He loves to create united communities from people who were at war with each other. He intends to do this in Israel. When all groups in Israel believe in Jesus and receive the gospel, the Palestinians,
will no longer be foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God's people and also members of his household (Eph 2:14).
Very few Christians believe that the Holy Spirit could achieve this. Most have never prayed for it to happen. Many Christians have moved to Israel to pray, but few have taken the gospel to the Palestinian people. That has severely restrained the Holy Spirit.
Pauls wrote that Jesus has broken down the "dividing wall of hostility" (Eph 2:14). His words are actually a prophecy. Israel is building an enormous fence half the length of the land to separate Palestinian cities from Jewish settlements. This is the opposite of what God is doing. He is breaking down barriers through the power of the gospel, so it is ironic that the people of the messiah are building a "dividing wall of hostility" across the Promised Land. An even greater irony is that Christian America is funding the wall. They are actually opposing God plans and giving Israel a false sense of security. Their hope is Jesus, not a wall. Paul is prophesying that the fence will come down, in the same way that the Berlin wall was smashed.
Many Christians believe that Israel should be a Jewish homeland, but God does not want a Jewish state. When the gospel sweeps the land, all the descendants of Abraham in Israel will belong to Christ and be heirs of his promise. There will be no need for a separate Palestinian or Jewish state.
When the people of Israel accept the gospel, they will no longer see the Palestinians as enemies, but as children of God. They will go to them asking for forgiveness and to share the gospel. Some Israelis will make restitution to the Palestinians who had been forced off their land. Instead of trying to destroy them, they will look for ways to bless them. The humility and contrition of the Jews will be a powerful witness, so many Palestinians will also become Christians. This will allow God to establish his kingdom in the nation of Israel.
Israel will fulfil its original calling by demonstrating the power of the gospel to the nations. In a nation divided by religion, Jesus will bring peace by destroying hostility and division. The sight of Israelis and Palestinians living in unity will be a tremendous witness to the world.
The Old Testament promised that Jewish Christians will have a tremendous impact in the world. Isaiah prophesied that during a time when darkness had come into the world, the glory of the Lord will arise on Israel and shine brightly. Nations will be drawn to that light (Is 60:1-3,19). When the people of the world see the power of the gospel to change Israel, many will come to see what has made the difference. When they see what Jesus had done, they will be amazed and give glory to God.
Some Christians are captivated by the power and might of the Israeli defence forces. Israel is a major exporter of weapons to the world. This is quite different from Samuel's time (1 Sam 13:19-22). Christians who endorse Israeli militaristic activity are doing the Jewish people a disservice, as confidence in military power will eventually lead to disaster. Military force cannot keep the people of Israel safe. The Christians who prophesy that God is on Israel's side will have difficulty explaining what has happened when the Israeli defence forces are defeated.
Christians should pray for the Jewish people and look for opportunities to bless them, but blessing is not the same as endorsing the militaristic activities of the Israeli government. True blessing can only come to Israel through fulfilling the covenant.
The odd thing is that many Christians seem to have more faith in the ability of the Israeli army to accomplish God's purposes for Israel, than they have in the Holy Spirit working through the Church. They assume that the safety of the Jewish people depends on the military power and the Israeli state. This widespread confusion comes from a distorted understanding of the Kingdom of God. Jesus taught that his kingdom would be established by the Holy Spirit, moving in the church, preaching the gospel and teaching the nations to obey him.
In the last two centuries, this belief has been overshadowed by a different gospel. Most Christians no longer believe that the Kingdom of God will be established by the Holy Spirit working through the church. Their only hope is Jesus return. They believe that Jesus will return and force all the nations to obey him while ruling a powerful empire from Jerusalem. Supporting a militaristic Israel is natural for Christians who want Jesus to establish his kingdom using force.
This popular view is an awful distortion of Jesus character. The cross is proof that God will never force people to obey him. Jesus has full confidence in the Holy Spirit.
Many Christians believe that the emergence of Israel is a marker for biblical prophecy. This is incorrect, because the Zionist movement got the timing wrong and ran ahead of God's plan by building a nation using political alliances and military power. God allowed this to happen, because he works all things for good, but it was not his timing.
The emergence of Israel had to happen so that God's greater purposes can be achieved, but the timing of these events did not match God's plan. The six-day war was a well-executed military campaign, but it was not an act of God. Since these events were not part of God's plan, it is risky to turn 1948 and 1967 into markers on a prophetic timetable.
Israel and the Second Coming
Many Christians believe that the existence of the state of Israel is a sign that the second coming is near. They assume that Jesus comes Back to Jerusalem when he returns. This is not true. Jesus appears in the air and his followers will be caught up to be with him and the existing earth disappears. He does not Return to Jerusalem.
For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever (1 Thes 4:16,17).
For as lightning that comes from the east is visible even in the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man (Mat 24:27).
But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare (2 Pet 3:10).
The second coming is a worldwide event, so Israel does not have to be in existence for it to occur.
The creation of the state of Israel is an important event, but it must be kept in perspective. It is an event that had to happen, but it is not God's ultimate purpose for Israel. His real goal is to bring Israel into the church. The restoration of the land is just a prior event to make that possible. It is a sign that the times of the Gentiles are drawing to a close.
God's main goal is build a church that can establish the Kingdom of God. Even Israel must fit with this goal.
Timeline for the Church
In recent years, a strange doctrine has emerged that events in the church are determined by what happens in the nation of Israel. Some Bible teachers urge Christians to watch what is happening in Israel to know what will happen in the church. They say that when things go well in Israel, then the gospel and the church advance. This is a perverse teaching.
Firstly, what happens in the church is determined by the Holy Spirit. He is not constrained by political or national leaders in any nation. The only thing that constrains his work is the unwillingness of Christians to obey him. We can hold back his activity by refusing to trust him.
Secondly, the leaders of the nation of Israel are not Christians. They have refused to acknowledge that Jesus is their messiah. They do not walk in the Spirit, so they do not hear his voice. Most are fully secular. As long as the leaders of Israel fail to keep God's law, they are outside the blessing of the covenant. A nation in this state cannot determine the work of the Holy Spirit on earth.
Thirdly, what happens on earth is largely determined by the church. When the church is weak and lost, the world goes downhill. When the church is in touch with the Holy Spirit and walks in his power, the world is changed.
A nation that rejected God cannot shape the destiny of the church. On the other hand, there may be a parallel between state of the church in the West and Israel. They are both missing the will of God, so they both face a troubled future.
America and Britain
A strange doctrine has taken hold among Christians that claims that God blesses nations that support the nation of Israel. This doctrine is built on Genesis 12:3.
I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse.
The verse is quoted as final proof, without any discussion of who should be blessed. It is not clear that it would apply to a desolate house. There no discussion of what blessing means. Providing military support may not be what God had in mind.
The historic proof claimed for this doctrine is the suggestion that Britain lost its empire when it stopped supporting Israel. America has been blessed, because it has provided military and political support for Israel.
A closer look at history shows that this doctrine depends on a re-write of history. The British were always ambivalent about the Jewish people, so how did they get such a large empire in the first place? If their policy did not change, why did they lose their empire? For most of the twentieth, the United States was ambivalent about the Jewish cause. During the 1930s, many Jews trying to escape Nazi Germany were refused entry in to the United States. Some of them died later in the death camps. During the Second World Ward did very little to stop they death camps. They could have bombed the rail lines going to them, but chose not to. During the 1950s and 1960s, America was not the main supporter of Israel. Their strongest support came from France, trying to perpetuate their role as a big noise in the Levant. The Israel Air Force flew French Mirage fighter planes. Israeli tanks were armed with French guns. If God blesses nations that support the nation of Israel, France should be humming. Instead, they have continued the decline that began earlier in the century and has never stopped.
American support for Israel only got serious in the 1970, when Evangelical Christians got stirred up about the issue and the Middle East became an important theatre of conflict in the Cold War. The Russians were getting involved in many Arab countries, so America supported Israel as a counterweight. America experienced a huge growth in military and economic power during the period from 1917 to 1965 when its support for Israel was weak. The 1950s were probably its best years. When America got serious about supporting Israel, it went into decline, experienced a defeat in Vietnam and long period of stagflation in the economy.
The doctrine that God blesses nations that provide military and political support for Israel does not make sense. God blesses nations that obey him.
The idea that nations can gain blessing by blessing the nation of Israel undermines the cross. It is salvation by good works. Salvation and security come through faith and repentance. Using this doctrine as a prophetic lens will create prophetic confusion. True prophets use a much broader standard for assessing the performance of a nation.
Many Jews see the Holocaust as the pivotal event in their history. The problem with looking Back to this event is that causes the people of Israel to see themselves as victims. In a bad case of the ends justify the means, defence of the Jewish people has been used to justify extreme force and violence.
The holocaust is not the pivotal event in Jewish history. Israel has two pivotal events. The first pivotal event was Jesus, the Son of God, declaring that Israel was left desolate. The second pivotal event will be the day when the people of Israel say,
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord (Matt 24:39).
The blessing of God is the only thing that can secure a safe future for the Jewish people. Those who trust in military power and political alliances will be disappointed.
Hugging the holocaust has led the nation into a moral quagmire. The holocaust has become a justification for immoral actions, particularly by the Jewish state. Fear of another holocaust justifies faith in violence and war. Anger about the holocaust is a justification for propaganda, deception and lies. Fear of what might happen is used to justify ruthless and violent state power. The holocaust will eventually be used as a justification for ethnic cleansing.
In this moral abyss, violence is good, deception is necessary, propaganda is truth. The prophets warned of the dangers of moral confusion.
Woe to those who call evil good
and good evil,
who put darkness for light
and light for darkness,
who put bitter for sweet
and sweet for bitter (Is 5:20).
By defining itself in terms of the holocaust, Israel has fallen into a moral abyss. Worse still, the spirit of the nation has been captured by the evil forces that perpetrated the holocaust.
Some Christians have developed a huge passion for Israel. In many cases, the passion is so strong that I wonder if these people are descendants of Israel without knowing it. This could also explain it is not universal amongst Christians. It does not seem to be mandatory, so Christians who do not share it should not be condemned.
I believe that God is stirring up this passion to get Christians praying for the Jewish people to come to faith in Jesus. A great flood of prayer is essential, because the fullness of the Jews is the next big event in spiritual history. It opens the way for a massive advance of the gospel and a huge victory of the Kingdom of God. God needs a host of Christians praying for this pivotal event.
However, the problem with this passion is that it makes Christians vulnerable to false teachings about Israel. Consequently, most of these Christians do not understand what God is doing in the Middle East. Their desire to see Israel blessed leads them to assume that Israel has returned to the place blessing. They forget that Israel can only Return to blessing when they recognise Jesus as their saviour and messiah. Until that happens, Israel is stuck on the downside of the Mosaic covenant.
Christians should be praying in the events that will bring the descendants of Israel to faith in Jesus, are actually praying that God will bless the nation of Israel in its current situation on the wrong side of the covenant. Unfortunately, they are praying and believing for something that cannot happen. Worst still, they are encouraging their governments to take actions that could disrupt God's plans. These Christians have made a huge commitment to the nation of Israel, so they will be bitterly disappointed and disillusioned by the way that events play out.
The scriptures require Christians to bless Israel and pray for the Jews, but blessing the Jewish people is not the same as blind support for Israel. The Israeli state is not God's vehicle for blessing the Jewish people. It will eventually become a curse for the Jewish people, because it offers a false security that takes them away from faith in Jesus. God will bless Israel by the cross and the Spirit.
To achieve his purposes for the children of Israel, God needs a cohort of Christian prophets who can speak his prophetic word at exactly the right time. He also needs evangelists to take the gospel in the right way at the right time. Unfortunately, most of those who are being called to these roles have disqualified themselves to committing themselves to teachings that do not fit with God's plan for bringing about the Fullness of Israel. It would be sad if a lack of prophets held back his plans.
Return to Israel.