7th August 2014
There is a battle going on in and over Gaza at the moment. The battle in Gaza is obvious. The battle over Gaza is less obvious. One of the most disturbing aspects of this violent military action is how desensitized those removed from this warfare have become to it. We hear of the death toll in Gaza climbing to over 2,000 souls with little more than a shrug of the shoulders [Source]. Even more disturbing is the apparently Biblically-informed Christian community who actually endorse the killing of Gaza residents so that Israel's security is bolstered. I say "apparently" Biblically informed, and I believe they are, but I believe they may not be correctly Biblically informed.
I was out to dinner with my wife this week when a couple from the Mid-West commented about Israel's right to defend themselves against the Hamas Terrorists. Of course, every nation has the right to defend its borders - including Israel. (Just because someone questions Israel's means of doing this doesn't mean they are being "anti-Semitic".) They went on to say that "God had given Israel their land and they were Biblically allowed to use whatever force was necessary to fully acquire it back. This is also the view of Zionists who were largely responsible for the establishment of the modern state of Israel.
This is at the heart of the Gaza conflict. The Jewish State of Israel regards the territory of Gaza as belonging to them and they feel divinely justified in their attempts to drive the residents of Gaza out of it. The map to the left shows Israel's existing boundaries. The map to the right shows Israel's 'Biblical' borders shaded in red and pink.
Zionists believe that they have a Divine mandate to restore Israel to its Biblical borders. They believe that the prophets predicted this would happen.
For behold, days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will restore the fortunes of my people, Israel and Judah, says the LORD, and I will bring them back to the land that I gave to their fathers, and they shall take possession of it."
¶ "Then fear not, O Jacob my servant, declares the LORD,
nor be dismayed, O Israel;
for behold, I will save you from far away,
and your offspring from the land of their captivity.
Jacob shall return and have quiet and ease,
and none shall make him afraid.
After many days you will be mustered. In the latter years you will go against the land that is restored from war, the land whose people were gathered from many peoples upon the mountains of Israel, which had been a continual waste. Its people were brought out from the peoples and now dwell securely, all of them.
Prophetic passages like these are often cited by Zionists. But there is a problem with this interpretation of the Bible. It was this problem which I referred my fellow dinner guests to. While I understand how Jewish Zionists might come to this conclusion, I am less sympathetic to how Christians can arrive at a similar conclusion. The first problem with the Zionist interpretation of such prophetic passages is so obvious I'm surprised more people haven't raised it. Perhaps this is because of a general lack historical literacy surrounding the events around the prophets in question, Jeremiah and Ezekiel. Their prophecies about Jews being restored to their Promised Land was set against their preceding prophecies of Judah's forced exile from their land. In fact, Jeremiah specified the duration between Judah's exile and their return to the Land - seventy years (Jer. 25:11-12; 29:10), and Daniel recognised the actual time when this was fulfilled.
in the first year of his reign, I, Daniel, perceived in the books the number of years that, according to the word of the LORD to Jeremiah the prophet, must pass before the end of the desolations of Jerusalem, namely, seventy years.
And this sets the background to my question at our dinner outing: Why do you think that there are no prophecies of Israel being restored to its Land after they returned from their exile? The simple and obvious answer is that these prophets were not prophesying about a restoration of Israel some two and a half thousand years into the future! Rather, they were prophesying about the return of Jews from their seventy year exile. This is why there are no prophecies about Israel's restoration to the Land after the Jews returned from their Babylonian exile.
In Jeremiah 29, which contains the famous "fridge-magnet" verse (vs. 11, "For I know the plans I have for you...") there is a clear promise to the Jews who are about to go into forced exile, that God would restore them. In Jeremiah 31, God promises to united all of the tribes of Israel again and restore them to the (Promised) Land. This was immediately fulfilled with their return from exile and restoration to the Land and ultimately (that is, the remaining prophecies of Jeremiah 31) were fulfilled with the coming of the Messiah.
¶ "Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the LORD. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people.
Some cite Jeremiah 31:36 as a prophetic proof-text that promises that God would gloriously restore Israel to the Land in the last days.
"If this fixed order departs
from before me, declares the LORD,
then shall the offspring of Israel cease
from being a nation before me forever."
But the context of Jeremiah 31 pertains not to the Land but the necessary existence of Israel so that Israel could fulfil its divine mandate through the coming of the Messiah - not their conquest of the Land! If "not ceasing to be a nation before Me" pertains to Israel's possession of the Promised Land, then clearly for over nineteen centuries Israel was not a nation before God (because they were dispersed from the Land after the Roman conquest of Jerusalem in AD70) - thus, invalidating this prophecy. But if we understand that Jeremiah 31 promised that Israel would be dwelling in the Land up until the time of the arrival of the Messiah (as the context of the chapter indicates) this prophecy must be regarded as having been gloriously fulfilled in Christ.
Then came my second question. With so many Christians embracing Dispensational Zionism and claiming that the New Testament reiterates the Old Testament's Exilic Prophets that Israel would be restored to their Land as a "last days trigger" for Christ's return, why is there not one New Testament verse which states this? Not one. Perhaps the closest we get is the question asked by the apostles in Acts 1 to Christ about whether He would restore the kingdom to Israel. It appears that Christ dodged the question. But His response about "times and seasons", 'take the Gospel to the nations', and His promise to return, may have actually been a more precise answer than it initially appears.
Rather than labelling all Gaza residents as "terrorists", or even "Hamas", or even the disgraceful term- "collateral damage", call them what they are: people. Rather than glossing over the horrific death toll of this tiny stip or terrafirma, remember, each digit in this horrendously too great a number is a person with a mother, a father, possibly brothers and sisters, and even possibly a spouse with children. These people were not wielding guns, rocket launchers, or even missiles. They were people wielding chalk in a class-room. They were people tending to the injured in a United Nations protected hospital. They were mothers nursing their babies. They were children kicking a ball in the street. It is not anti-Semitic to disapprove of Israel's relentless opposition to a Two-State solution - or to condemn the merciless bombing of non-military targets.
I have written more about the topic of Israel and what the Bible teaches about their place in Bible prophecy in my book, The Most Embarrassing Book In The Bible.
7th August 2014
I have written a fuller explanation of the book of Revelation in my eBook- THE MOST EMBARRASSING BOOK IN THE BIBLE (click here to read a preview). The application from the Book of Revelation is that despite what appears to be an impotent Church struggling to serve an apparently impotent Christ, the Church is in reality made up of overcomers who lay down their lives gladly to promote Christ and His Gospel. In so doing, the Kingdom of Christ is extended, prayers are offered and heard, miracles are graced, and the believer can die with infinite hope that their Lord will keep them for eternity and clothe them with a new body which can not be subject to pain, injury, sorrow, or sin. With this knowledge we can endure momentary hardship during the brevity of this life on earth. We can be assured that our greatest delights and deepest moments of fulfilment are yet to come in the life to come.
John 5:25 ¶ “Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live.
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