"Who is the liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, he who denies the Father and the Son. No one who denies the Son has the Father. Whoever confesses the Son has the Father also." (1 John 2:22-23)
This past week, I was treated to a wonderful slide-show presentation by a man who recently visited Israel. The pictures were beautiful. It must have been thrilling to see the sights and walk the paths that Jesus himself may have seen and walked. However, the speaker, obviously a premillennial dispensationalist, was obsessed with the Eastern gate in his presentation, telling how Christ will once again pass through this gate to set up His “millennial” kingdom. For “Jerusalem”, he said, “is the city that God loves. They are his chosen people”. The last slide was an encouragement for us as Christians to “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem” (Psalms 122:6).
Actually, the complete verse of Psalms 122:6 says, “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem! May they be secure who love you!” This begs the question as to the identity of Jerusalem, as well as “God’s chosen people”. The New Testament gives us two Jerusalems, the earthly Jerusalem, the cursed fig tree (Matthew 21:18-21) which “is in slavery with her children” (Galatians 4:25), and the new, heavenly Jerusalem, which is the free and the mother of all the saints (Galatians 4:26, Hebrews 12:22-24, Revelation 3:12, Revelation 21:1-10). Which Jerusalem can rightly be described as those who love God? The answer to that question has huge ramifications, both theologically and politically.
I think that everyone is aware of the political ramifications of Christian Zionism, so I’ll focus here on the theological issues. Should Christians bother to send missionaries to Israel? Believe it or not, many notable Christian leaders have discouraged believers from trying to convert Judaists. John Hagee, the poster boy of Christian Zionism, says that trying to convert Jews is a "waste of time”.
“Everyone else, whether Buddhist or Baha'i, needs to believe in Jesus, he says. But not Jews. Jews already have a covenant with God that has never been replaced with Christianity…The Jewish people have a relationship to God through the law of God as given through Moses…I believe that every Gentile person can only come to God through the cross of Christ. I believe that every Jewish person who lives in the light of the Torah, which is the word of God, has a relationship with God and will come to redemption.” (Julia Duin, "San Antonio Fundamentalist Battles Anti-Semitism," The Houston Chronicle, 30 April 1988).
Showing who he believes to be Sovereign, John Hagee writes, “We support Israel because all other nations were created by an act of men, but Israel was created by an act of God.” (See Supporting Israel). Hagee goes on to say that “The Royal Land Grant that was given to Abraham and his seed through Isaac and Jacob with an everlasting and unconditional covenant.” He seems to forget that the Scriptures plainly teach that “…by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight…” (Romans 3:20). He seems to forget Jesus’ own words concerning the Real Estate in the New Covenant.
“The woman said to him, "Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship." Jesus said to her, "Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth."” (John 4:19-24).
Hagee also seems to forget that God’s covenant with fleshly Israel was not unconditional. It required their obedience (Deuteronomy 28:15, 63). Hagee ignores that fact that the Abrahamic Covenant was already fulfilled, both physically (Joshua 23:14) and Spiritually (Galatians 3:8).
More importantly, however, is the issue dealing with the identity of God and His New Covenant. David Klinghoffer writes, “Both Jews and Christians worship the same God and both have a place, for believers, in God's scheme of things. Jews are the people of the Covenant while Christians approach God through Jesus.” What is this covenant that Klinghoffer is speaking of? It certainly isn’t the New Covenant, to which Jesus is the sole mediator (1 Timothy 2:5; Hebrews 9:15; Hebrews 12:24). It is foolishness to recognize Judaism as a religion of the covenant. There is no covenant without Christ, as even the Old Testament saints “all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ.” (1 Corinthians 10:3-4). So how has God kept His promises to “His chosen people”?
The Identity of Israel
The common Dispensationalist cry is “the Jews are God’s Chosen people”. That begs the question, “just what exactly is a “Jew”?” Is it a nation, a race, or a religion? Are American Jews in covenant with God? What about European proselytes living is Israel? How about Hebrews who practice Buddhism? Dispensational Zionists have a difficult time answering that question consistently. Covenantalists, however, can take their definition of Israel straight from Scripture.
God promised Abraham that he would make of him a “great nation” (Genesis 12:2), and that “in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed” (Genesis 22:18). This nation was to be a “holy nation” (Exodus 19:6).
What does it mean to be a Holy Nation? Is a nation holy simply because the DNA of its citizens matches Abraham’s (which, by the way, would eliminate most of the people living in modern day Israel)? Does the term “holy nation” fit some godless country that exists in the Middle East founded by the United Nations in 1948? Hardly. God never saved anyone based in his or her genealogy, in either the Old or New Testament. If that were the case, then Esau (whom God hated – Malachi 1:3, Romans 9:13) and Ishmael would have a claim on God’s Covenant Blessings. So would King Saul, Judas Iscariot, and the modern day Palestinians. Likewise, Ruth (a Moabite), Rahab (a Canaanite), and Urriah (the Hittite), (two of which were Christ’s ancestors) would never have experienced sanctification. Physical circumcision made one a part of God’s visible church, but in the light of eternity, profits nothing (Galatians 5:6).
A holy nation is set apart by God based on obedience to His Covenant. In the Old Testament, a Hebrew who was disobedient was to be “cut off from the congregation of Israel” (Exodus 12:19). Does this mean that God changed the person’s genetic code so that he was no longer a Hebrew? Of course not. It means that he was no longer part of the “holy nation”, God’s visible church here on earth. The same is true in the New Testament (ex. 1 Corinthians 5:1-12). Sadly, the judicial powers of the modern church are almost non-existent.
In the same Exodus passage, God tells Moses “And when a stranger dwells with you and wants to keep the Passover to the LORD, let all his males be circumcised, and then let him come near and keep it; and he shall be as a native of the land. For no uncircumcised person shall eat it. One law shall be for the native-born and for the stranger who dwells among you." (Exodus 12:48-49). Again, God does not make this person’s DNA match that of Abraham, but instead sets him apart “as a native of the land” in His holy nation. Thus, even in the Old Testament, God never considered anyone a “Jew” based on race alone. Both Jew and Gentiles were to have “one law”.
This is even more obvious the New Testament. The Pharisees took pride in their linage, but were not members of God’s “holy nation”. John the Baptist gave them this warning.
“But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, "Brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Therefore bear fruits worthy of repentance, and do not think to say to yourselves, "We have Abraham as our father.' For I say to you that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones. And even now the ax is laid to the root of the trees. Therefore every tree which does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” (Matthew 3:7-10).
The Judaists even bragged to Jesus about their heritage, proclaiming “Abraham is our father” (John 8:39). But Jesus was very clear with His response. Contrary to popular dispensational belief, Judaism is not “Old Testament religion”, but a demon-inspired, Talmudic cult. When the Pharisees rejected Christ, they rejected Moses (John 5:46). Furthermore, contrary to the above claims of David Klinghoffer, Judaists and Christians do NOT worship the same God. The god of Judaism is the Devil (John 8:44). The Christian God is the only true God, and the Christ of the Covenant is the only mediator (1 Timothy 2:5 – See August’s blog “Only One Mediator”). Those who reject Christ are neither Abraham’s children nor God’s (John 8:39-42). As Christ rejecters, they are no longer “God’s Chosen People”. Jesus told them, "… the kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a nation bearing the fruits of it.” (Matthew 21:43). This nation is His “holy nation”, the Church of Jesus Christ, the new “Israel of God”, and the Galatian church was so called (Galatians 6:16). Paul, a Hebrew of Hebrews (Philippians 3:5), was clear “that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham.” (Galatians 3:7)
The Church is God’s “Israel”
Preterist are often accused of hold to “Replacement Theology”. The truth of the matter is that we do no such thing. Replacement theology is a misnomer. No one has been “replaced” in regard to the blessings of the Covenant. The church is “Israel” (Galatians 6:16), and always has been, even in the Old Testament.
No one can deny Paul’s tender feelings toward his own countrymen. He is clearly dismayed over their stubbornness, and even wishes that he could sacrifice his own soul for their conversion (Romans 9:3). But then Paul clearly contrasts God’s Israel from “Israel after the flesh”. He writes “…for they are not all Israel who are of Israel” (Romans 9:6), “But he is a Jew who is one inwardly, and whose circumcision is that of the heart…” (Romans 2:29). “And if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise.” (Galatians 3:29). In Christ, all ethnic, cultural, economic and generational walls have been removed. “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28). If Jesus Christ removed these barriers, who are we to try and build them back up?
While the modern dispensational church keeps it’s eyes glued to the Middle East, awaiting some sort of Theological Extravaganza, Paul clarified that the Abrahamic Covenant (Genesis 22:18) is being fulfilled through the church, (and the Galatian Gentile church at that). “And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel to Abraham beforehand, saying, "In you all the nations shall be blessed.” (Galatians 3:8). God’s everlasting Covenant is not concerned about a 10-mile strip of real estate in the Middle East. As Christians, we are members of the New, Heavenly Jerusalem which is the one and only bride of Christ, and the mother of us all (Galatians 4:26, Hebrews 12:22).
So what should be the mindset of Christians toward Israel? Politically speaking Israel is a strong ally of the United States and of western society in general, therefore, they have my support, as long as they aren’t the aggressors of conflict. However, we must make it clear that, theologically speaking, Judaism and Christianity have nothing in common. We need not attempt any ecumenical alliances with Judaists, “…For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness?” (2 Corinthians 6:14). We are commanded by our Lord to make disciples of ALL nations (Matthew 28:18-20), and that includes Judaizers, who cannot be saved apart from Christ, no matter what John Hagee says. Therefore, while my dispensationalists friends are praying for the peace of Jerusalem, my prayer is different. I’m praying for the conversion of Jerusalem.