QUESTION: Hi Rick, just found your site. Is all this joining with Israel and sending the Jews home to their land jumping the gun and meant for the second coming, and should we be careful supporting it?
ANSWER: So, in one sense this question is past due date. Meaning, the Jews have already been sent back to their homeland. I know you already know that, but it means your question of support for Israel can have two different meanings, one past and one present.
The first question of support deals with what has transpired to bring the Jews to their ancestral homeland. The question is, should we think that this historic event fills a huge prophetic prediction of Scripture which Christians should be very excited about? If we had been around when Zionism was at a fever pitch (around the turn of the last century), should we have supported the formation of modern Israel on these grounds? As you note, this question is connected to prophesy about the Second Coming: would it have been right to support the formation of the modern state of Israel because we would have been “helping” an End Times timetable along?
The second question regarding support is much less biblical/prophetic and more geopolitical in nature and more currently relevant. Given that the UN charter created the modern state of Israel way back in 1948, and given that this did give safe haven to a deeply, historically persecuted and displaced population after the Holocaust, and given that they are today a functioning liberal democracy sharing a lot of what Christians value in terms of freedom, representative gov’t, and all that, should we support Israel today?
I think the first question is an open question of biblical interpretation without a clear answer. Obviously, many Christians think that Israel being home in their land is a necessary precondition to the return of Jesus. Mostly they think this because of Scripture that infers there will be a Temple in the land before the coming of Jesus (Matt 24:15). On that specific question, I think that Christians do not have to commit themselves to an End Times model that requires Jewish presence in Palestine. And I say this because I don’t think that the Temple has to be rebuilt before Jesus returns.
The verses where Jesus talks about the Temple destruction presaging his Return were very clearly fulfilled in 70 AD at the Roman destruction of Herod’s second temple. This is so clear and so compelling a vindication of Jesus words that it’s mind blowing to me why anyone would even want to dilute the power and wonder of that fulfilled prediction by assuming it has some future fulfillment! Let the reader know, Jesus taught that the Temple would be destroyed before his coming and that prediction has already been fulfilled to the letter! We do not need any future state of Israel or a future Temple so this prophesy can happen again before Jesus can come back.
But as I write that the Jews do not need to be in their land and the Temple does not need to be rebuilt, two contrasting thoughts hit me at once:
One, there they are, in the Land! If nothing else, it is historically speaking, astounding! And further, the Jews returning to rule over Jerusalem after the Temple destruction does seem to have prophetic significance as I’ll make clear in a second.
Secondly, if it is a needed sign, our support of it or lack of support can make no difference at all – not in God’s economy! For if we believe that Jesus holds history then he will conclude it on the Father’s chosen timetable (Mark 13:32), not ours, and so modern Christians ranting for or against Zionism could never change what God has decreed!
I’m always amazed at End Times teachers who read the Bible like an advanced News Paper on one hand, then wring their (other) hands at global developments that scare them because “this means the End is near”. A well-known Christian political thinker and fiction writer was on the news years back bemoaning America’s lack of concern over Iran getting “the Bomb”. Why? Because if Iran gets the bomb, he said, it will surely use it to attack Israel and that will signal the Tribulation.
I thought every Christian wants Jesus to come back. We “long” for the “Great Appearing,” don’t we? So for any event which we knew presaged this great Conclusion, shouldn’t we be cheering for that to happen, and quickly? It was as if in this teacher’s mind, we could both know God’s exact, unalterable schedule of events, and yet also totally affect the outplaying of those events by our geopolitical actions and voting preferences!!
Scripture gives us no indication that we can either know or effect the timing of that day or hour.
All that to say, on a prophetic level, we must let God be the Sovereign of history, and stop pretending or worrying that we can alter the unalterable timing He has set by pushing for or against this or that geopolitical agenda. The level of arrogance required to think we could even know what events are “needed” to push the schedule forward, let alone when to push them, is shocking to me. Christians are not alone in this thinking – both Muslim and Jewish radicals think they can “speed” the End of Days by this or that catalytic action – usually an engineered catastrophe.
Having said all that, as I mentioned above, I’d be lying if I told you I didn’t think it was biblically/prophetically very interesting that Israel is once again a State, back in the Land. One thing that leads me to believe it’s not unimportant is Jesus statement in Luke 21:24 “…and Jerusalem will be trampled by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.”
Since 70 AD, Jerusalem has been ruled in part or in whole, by Gentiles. But Jesus seems to indicate that this will come to an end at some point. After the UN partition, slowly the City is coming under more and more Jewish control – the Temple Mount being one glaring exception. Again, I believe the important thing about Jerusalem for End Times has already been fulfilled (Temple destruction), but it interests me that the time of Gentile control of the Holy City may end in our lifetime.
But, if I’m right that modern Israel’s presence in Palestine may not be an important sign relative to the End, then if modern Israel suddenly went away, this would not shake my faith or make me less confident that Jesus was coming back. I’m not committed to the State of Israel one way or the other, prophetically speaking.
So with the prophetic questions sort of up in the air, all that leaves is the modern Christian Church’s stance about the geopolitical situation surrounding the modern state of Israel. On that score, I think we do well to avoid two extremes:
One is the extreme that Israel, because it is populated by descendants of Abraham, can do no wrong and we should never call out immoral or ineffective policies of that State. Biblical calls to bless Israel and warnings against cursing Israel are sometimes misused to imply that God demands the Gentile believer’s unconditional support for what is (let’s face it) a deeply secular and irreligious State today.
I’ve been there, in 2009, and by the testimony of Arab Christians who live there, the Jewish State can be heavy handed with non-Jews living there, and have a bit of an itchy trigger finger when it comes to retaliation for perceived wrongs and self-protection. They do own the gun everywhere you go (except Gaza), including the West Bank where they regularly have funded developing Jewish communities which the Arab Muslim population hates with a passion. They see it has an effort to push them out.
The other extreme is the one taken by the secularists in America who call Israel’s influence in Gaza and the West Bank the “occupation” and regularly paint the Jewish State and the Palestinian leadership as co-equals in terms of their morality, values and behavior. This is utter nonsense. I suspect it is a stance driven less by the facts or political principle and more by a knee jerk reaction against traditional conservative, Christian support for Israel. If Christians like it, it must be bad!
Meanwhile, they ignore that Gaza has basically been left on its own by Israel and has descended into something that resembles a post-apocalyptic nightmare. When Israel did a full pullout in 2005, they left behind a thriving greenhouse infrastructure which the Palestinians, in pure spite, promptly destroyed or looted days after disengagement.
Hamas regularly sends missiles into Israel without provocation because their charter explicitly states the destruction of Israel as one of its goals. Whereas Israel, despite it’s excesses, is publicly committed to a two state solution. Add to that the fact that Gaza (and its neighbors Syria, Iraq, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Jordan) values almost nothing we think important to a moral government, such as democracy, liberty, freedom of religion, freedom of the press, freedom for women, sexual minorities, etc., and it’s not hard to make a case that Christians ought to support Israel’s right to exist, against the credible, persistent, existential threats of its neighbors.
So in sum, we should let the End Times timetable play out by God’s timing without thinking it needs our assist by involving ourselves in world events with our money or votes. And we should simply use our Holy Spirit inspired, biblical discernment to judge what we support or don’t support about what the modern secular state of Israel does.