An Open Letter to Evangelicals…

and Other Interested Parties: The People of God, the Land of Israel, and the Impartiality of the Gospel. This open letter from Knox Theological Seminary. Reading it, I found that I was in complete agreement with their theology, up until I came upon paragraph IX:

The entitlement of any one ethnic or religious group to territory in the Middle East called the “Holy Land” cannot be supported by Scripture. In fact, the land promises specific to Israel in the Old Testament were fulfilled under Joshua.[34] The New Testament speaks clearly and prophetically about the destruction of the second temple in A.D. 70. [35] No New Testament writer foresees a regathering of ethnic Israel in the land, as did the prophets of the Old Testament after the destruction of the first temple in 586 B.C. [36] Moreover, the land promises of the Old Covenant are consistently and deliberately expanded in the New Testament to show the universal dominion of Jesus,[37] who reigns from heaven upon the throne of David, inviting all the nations through the Gospel of Grace to partake of his universal and everlasting dominion.[38]

I make no claim to superior knowledge of Scripture. The Knoxians know their Bible. However, to insist that the fulfillment of God’s promise in the Book of Joshua is the end-all and be-all of ethnic Israel’s salvation history, is to take a far-too literalist reading of messianic history.

God’s promises to Israel, and to the Gentiles who joined the new Israel, are not either-or. They are made both to the Jews, and to the Gentiles — to all who are saved by the Grace of God in Christ Jesus. The Jewish and Gentile Israel, the New Israel of which I am a member. Simply put, just because Joshua took the land on which modern Israel now sits does not negate God’s promise in perpetuity to the Jews. The promise wasn’t just for Joshua’s lifetime. It was for as long as Israel followed His will.

The Book of Revelation strongly implies that the in-gathering of the Jews to modern-day Israel is a necessary precursor for the End Times. I would hope that the Knoxians would agree with this seemingly clear proposition. Support for the modern State of Israel is also a matter of simple justice, which God calls on us to do as best we are able to. Of course this does not mean we may ignore the plight (mostly self-made) of the Arabs — but, yes, God does play favorites. He loves those who do His will; both the errant Jews who will be the first to have the choice of salvation through Christ at the End, and to the new Israel, Jews and Gentiles, who have already been saved in Christ.

Knox may dispute that God favors the modern Israel; I suggest that Israel’s very foundation, in the ashes of the Holocaust, might have the fine hand of the Almighty in it.

It is also useless, and hypocritical, to wail about injustices done to the Jews during the Crusades, if one does not fully support the modern state of Israel. Oh, those wicked Crusaders! But now, we will be even-handed, and treat the Arab Palestinians, who have attempted to complete Hitler’s Final Solution, on a par with God’s chosen people. This is a false equality based on a too-narrow view of Scripture.

It may be true that, in the New Testament, one may not find the literal words that the kingdom, now State, of Israel, should prevail over its neighbors and receive the blessings of God. This may lay outside the literal bounds of Scripture. But it is fully within the love that God has shown for His chosen people, of whom our Christ came from by way of the flesh.

It is further true that the Jews will have a day of reckoning in the end times, as prophesied in Revelation. And, yes, they must come through Jesus for salvation. That’s for the End Times. For now, evangelicals should support the in-gathering of the exiles in order to bring about His Second Coming. Or, for our Jewish brethren, His first.

Finally, I’d like to present for my brothers in Christ at Knox a different evangelical perspective, from an essay, What About Israel? by George Eldon Ladd:

What does this have to do with the present Israeli question? Three things: First, God has preserved his people. Israel remains a “holy” people (Rom. 11:16), set apart and destined to carry out the divine purpose. Second, all Israel is yet to be saved. One modern scholar has suggested that in the millennium history may witness for the first time a truly Christian nation. Third, the salvation of Israel must be through the new covenant made in the blood of Christ already established with the church, not through a rebuilt Jewish temple with a revival of the Mosaic sacrificial system. Hebrews flatly affirms that the whole Mosaic system is obsolete and about to pass away. Therefore the popular Dispensational position that Israel is the “clock of prophecy” is misguided. Possibly the modern return of Israel to Palestine is a part of God’s purpose for Israel, but the New Testament sheds no light on this problem. However, the preservation of Israel as a people through the centuries is a sign that God has not cast off his people Israel.

Amen.

[34] Joshua 21:43-45, “So the Lord gave to Israel all the land of which he had sworn to give to their fathers, and they took possession of it and dwelt in it. The Lord gave them rest all around, according to all that he had sworn to their fathers. And not a man of all their enemies stood against them; the Lord delivered all their enemies into their hand. Not a word failed of any good thing that the Lord had spoken to the house of Israel. All came to pass.”

[35] Matthew 24:1-2, “Then Jesus went out and departed from the temple, and His disciples came up to show Him the buildings of the temple. And Jesus said to them, ‘Do you not see all these things? Assuredly, I say to you, not one stone shall be left here upon another, that shall not be thrown down.'” See also Mark 13:1-2; Luke 21:20-24.

[36] Luke 21:24, “Jerusalem will be trampled by Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.”

[37] Exodus 20:12, “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the Lord your God is giving you.” // Ephesians 6:2-3, “‘Honor your father and mother,’ which is the first commandment with promise: ‘that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth.'” Genesis 12:1, “Now the Lord had said to Abram: “Get out of your country, from your family and from your father’s house, to a land that I will show you”; cf. Romans 4:13, “The promise to Abraham that he would be the heir of the world was not to his seed through the law, but through the righteousness of faith.” Psalm 37:11, “But the meek shall inherit the land, and shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace.” // Matthew 5:5, “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” Psalm 2:7-8, “The Lord has said to me, ‘You are my Son, Today I have begotten you. Ask of me, and I will give you the nations for your inheritance, and the ends of the earth for your possession.”

[38] Acts 2:29-32, “Men and brethren, let me speak freely to you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. Therefore, being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that of the fruit of his body, according to the flesh, he would raise up the Christ to sit on his throne, he, foreseeing this, spoke concerning the resurrection of the Christ, that his soul was not left in Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption. This Jesus God has raised up, of which we are all witnesses.”

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