The Kingdom of Israel and the Kingdom of God – A Response
So my recent blog on Israel, Replacement Theology and the Kingdom of God (or Jesus), was the most read of anything I’ve written. That actually disappoints me, but…it’s not surprising. There’s definitely something about that place and the theology behind it that interests the world.
A fairly thoughtful response was given under the comments section of that post and so I’m responding to him (and others) with this new blog. Here are the common mistakes that the Christians who are also Zionist tend to make. I do believe they make them with the best of motives and are well-meaning Jesus-following people, who have been blinded by modern interpretations of the Bible by dispensationalism.
Top Five Mistakes made by Christian Zionists:
1. They misread the promises made to Abraham and Isaac as being fulfilled in the physical land of modern day Israel. Genesis 17:19-21 talks about the Covenant that will be fulfilled through Isaac. This is clearly the promise fulfilled in Jesus – according to Paul in Galatians 3:15-18.
The other places that say God will give the land to Abraham and his descendants (sometimes specifying Isaac and sometimes not), can only be read in the light of being fulfilled literally at THAT time. It never says that this physical land is an eternal inheritance. Exodus 3:6-8 where God says that his “Covenant will last for 1000’s of generations” is referring to this eternal covenant that was promised to Isaac and which Paul explains in Galatians chapters 3 and 4 as The Seed – which is Christ.
There were promises of Land. And a return to the land from exile – which was fulfilled in the Old Testament when the Jews returned from Exile in Babylon and Persia. Thank God he fulfills his promises. They did return. Promise fulfilled.
2. The Zionists only use the Old Testament, as there are no passages in the New Covenant that would support their views. In the very thoughtful response made on the last post, the gentleman can only say that while it is technically true “that the New Testament does not mention the land….”
Why would someone say that and still try to prove a point from it using Old Testament verses? It’s as if they’re reading the New Testament through the lens of the Old. Should be the other way around.
Not only do Jesus and Paul not mention the Land as an inheritance of any kind, they continually say the opposite. The Kingdom of God is NOT of this world. The disciples (who were also confused about this point) kept asking Jesus when he was going to restore the Kingdom of Israel (David’s Kingdom) to them. It was actually the last thing they said to Jesus before he ascended in Acts chapter one. Jesus doesn’t answer (he must have sighed) and told them the Holy Spirit will give them power to be his witnesses. He drives home the point. NO physical Kingdom. But spiritual power to be his witnesses. Anything other than this is a terrible distraction!
3. The Zionists miss the powerful vision of Daniel. The Prophet Daniel was one of the most quoted and highly recognized Jewish prophet. In Chapter 7 verses 13 and 14, God shows Daniel that one like “the Son of Man approached the Ancient of Days” and was “given authority and power” and that “all nations…worshipped him” and “his dominion was an everlasting kingdom that will not be destroyed.”
Here is the danger: a Christian who is also a Zionist is in danger of denying the true King and his Kingdom the dominion he rightly deserves. THIS IS SERIOUS STUFF!
The Old Testament prophets continually point to Jesus as the one who will come and fulfill all the prophecies given to Israel.
Jesus is not REPLACING anything. He is fulfilling it. This is not “replacement theology” (a title no one that I’m aware of actually accepts), but it is inclusion theology. We have been included in the Promise/Covenant given to Abraham and fulfilled through Isaac’s Seed – the Messiah.
4. An emotional argument often comes up at this point. “But God loves Israel.” Of course he does. He loved the people he called out to demonstrate his mercy thousands of years ago, and he loves the modern nation of Israel now. But he also equally loves the Palestinians and the Muslims and the Americans and the Chinese, and…
A careful (not selective) reading of Romans chapters 9-11 explains this. Romans 11:1 says “Did God reject his people? By no means.” God has not rejected them or stopped loving them or even ceased in fulfilling his promises to them. His promise of an eternal inheritance is fulfilled to them in the Seed of Isaac – Jesus.
But Paul says in 9:6, “For not all who are descended from Israel are Israel,” and “it is not the natural children who are God’s children, but it is the children of the Promise who are Abraham’s offspring.”
Actually again and again in Romans and Galatians, Paul hammers this home. He repeatedly identifies with the Jews and with Israel – he is from both. And he honors them, as should we, but he tell us time and time again, that the Kingdom is of the Spirit….not of “a land.” And it is available to all who trust in Jesus.
5. Finally, the Christians who are also Zionists, make the mistake of equating the current nation called Israel with the Old Testament people of God who were called by that name. Granted, there is some connection. But not much.
We should support the current nation of Israel, for three reasons: 1. God loves all people and so we should love and support all people. 2. They need Jesus like the rest of us do. 3. They provide a potentially beautiful mix to the region with their diversity.
But we DO NOT support them because we somehow think that God has miraculously fulfilled something by making them a nation.
The “Children of Israel” of the Old Testament were called that because they were literally the children of the Patriarch named Israel – changed from Jacob. Jacob had 12 boys who became the fathers of their respective clans. The 12 clans of the children of Jacob/Israel.
The most powerful was Judah and from his name we get the name “Jews.” When the modern secular movement called Zionism started in Europe in the late 1800’s there was no connection with that movement (secular Zionism) and Biblical prophecy or the current land called Israel. In fact, they simply wanted a homeland for Jewish immigrants in Europe and Russia. They considered large tracts of land in South America and Africa. And no one suggested that it be called “Israel.”
Around the turn of the century a new idea was formed – move Jews back to the Middle East and loosely to the land ruled by King David around Jerusalem. It was a fine idea. I actually have no problem with that – and they should have the right to live in peace today. Just don’t confuse it with something Biblically prophetic. And since God loves all people equally, it follows that the returning Jews should respect the rights of the non-Jews who were already living in that land.
Finally, here are the reasons why this discussion is important.
1.If we don’t get this right, we end up supporting anything Israel does, thinking we are supporting God’s will in the Middle East.
2. We can inadvertently become enemies with the enemies of Israel, for no other reason then “just because.” Not carefully thinking this through can actually cause us to hate Arabs or Muslims – because if we think they are the enemies of God’s friend, Israel, then we should be their enemies too.
3. It can lead us to deny or ignore the human suffering of the Palestinians. Ironically, much like we denied or hid from the Holocaust. Let’s not let history repeat itself out of either guilt or poor theology. We know of the current suffering of many Israelis at the hands of terrorism – it’s unthinkable and wicked when anyone kills innocent civilians. However, we tend to hear only this side of the story. We know the suffering there. But we may be blinded to the suffering of the other side.
4. We have brothers and sisters in the Lord on both sides. Palestinians and Jewish Israelis both have rich communities of Jesus-followers. We need to love and honor both, but if we see this only as a political issue, we miss much of what’s actually happening there.
The Middle East needs Jesus. They need his ways. His teachings. His life and his salvation – at every level. Let’s not allow a simplistic and uneducated eschatology called Christian Zionism ruin this!
Pray for the peace of Jerusalem!