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Jerusalem Caught in the Crossfire

It is a sad irony of history that a city named after the word “Peace” should be the constant battleground between those who claim Abraham as their Father. This struggle for Jerusalem is primarily between Arabs and Jews — each claiming a God-given right to Jerusalem as their capital. But whose right is it really? God recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel when He gave the city into the hands of King David over 3,000 years ago.

To those who trust in the Judeo-Christian Bible, there is no question that Jerusalem has been the very heart of Israel. When Jewish people from around the world began to regather to this tiny Nation in 1878 — buying houses and land at exorbitant prices — a once desolate wasteland began to "blossom as the rose." Isaiah 35:1

But while Israelis have been jubilant over God’s providence in restoring the Jews to their homeland, the worldview has been indifferent at best and resentful at worst. Whole Jewish communities have been systematically expelled from their homes. Arab nations have voiced relentless cries of foul play when Israel reacts under violent provocation. And, world opinion of Israel has remained negative due to carefully crafted propaganda which claims that Israel is “occupying Arab territory.”

As evidence of the effect of this propaganda, sitting U.S. presidents have been treating the status of Jerusalem as “disputed territory," even though the U.S. Congress recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in 1995. Breaking with this disrespect of Israel’s right to name its own capital, the current sitting president, Donald Trump, is now boldly declaring Jerusalem as the rightful capital of Israel. In consequence, Palestinians, who in every peace negotiation have demanded Jerusalem to be the capital of the state of Palestine, are outraged and are calling for widespread violence. What's more, they are threatening that this will be an end of any hope for peace in the Middle East. But have attempts at peace been effective when deliberate campaigns of violence constantly erupt?

What is God’s Peace Plan for Israel?

The nations of the world all wish to have a say in forging a plan which will bring about peace in the Middle East. But concerning these attempts, Jeremiah the prophet foretold: “Peace, peace; when there is no peace.” (Jeremiah 8:11) As long as the nations fail to recognize that this Land belongs to God, their peace plans will fail. God said, “This Land is Mine!” (Leviticus 25:23) The people of Israel know the biblical significance of their country, and their desire is to make Jerusalem a City of Peace once again — it will happen, but in God’s time, in His way and for His purpose.

To understand how God will use Israel to accomplish His purpose, we must review biblical history to see the steps God has already taken toward His promise to Abraham. Four thousand years ago God expressed, as an oath to Abraham, “ thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.” (Genesis 12:3) This oath-bound promise is the key to understanding prophecy, and as the central theme of the Bible, it is the key to understanding the importance of Israel in God’s plan. God chose Israel out of all other nations to be a channel of His blessings to the world. This oath was again confirmed to Jacob — God’s blessings will flow through Israel — “in thy seed” — to the rest of the world. Genesis 28:14

When God repeated this promise to Jacob — whom God renamed “Israel” — his twelve sons inherited the promise when their father Jacob died. Since that time, the twelve tribes of Jacob have been known as the Nation of Israel. Israel’s history has been full of incidents in which God alternately blessed and disciplined His people, for they had covenanted with God to remain separate from the world in every way. The disciplines dealt by God had the effect of developing a class of people who steadfastly hoped for the fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham. The most severe discipline of all, the dispersion or Diaspora, began about 70 A.D. and continued until Zionism brought in a great regathering to Jerusalem. In 1878 AD the Berlin Congress of Nations opened the Land to Jewish settlements, and the Jewish colony, Petach Tikvah, “Gate of Hope” was established by Jewish refugees from Russia.

The ancient books of Ezra and Nehemiah speak of the first regathering to Israel of the Jewish people after they had been taken captive by Babylon. But Isaiah prophesied that Israel would regather this second time. “And it shall come to pass in that day, that the LORD shall set his hand again the second time to recover the remnant of his people... and shall assemble the outcasts of Israel, and gather together the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth.” (Isaiah 11:11-12) Jeremiah confirmed this thrilling prophecy: “Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that it shall no more be said, The LORD liveth, that brought up the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt; But, The LORD liveth, that brought up the children of Israel from the land of the north and from all the lands whither he had driven them: and I will bring them again into their Land that I gave unto their fathers.” Jeremiah 16:13-15

Never before has a nation been scattered throughout the world for nearly 2,000 years and then reborn in accordance with prophecies written over 2,500 years before. Our generation has witnessed this astounding fact, and we recognize that only God could accomplish such a miraculous work. The yearly prayer of the Jews, “Next year in Jerusalem,” is even now in process of fulfillment. Is it any wonder why Israel is so dear to the hearts of the Jewish people? And still the world continues to resist God’s choice.

Who Has the God-Given Right to His Land?

Some disagree that the Jews now have a God-given right to possess His Land. They argue, if God wanted them to have the Land, why did he allow the Jews to be expelled from Israel by the Romans? Why was the door to Israel (renamed Palestine by the Romans) generally shut to Jews for so many centuries? Jesus gave the truth of the matter. Shortly after presenting himself to Israel as King (in fulfillment of Zechariah 9:9), he judged Israel because they killed the prophets and failed to accept him. Jesus said, “Behold, your house is left unto you desolate.” (Matthew 23:37-38) Similarly, Zechariah predicted that the LORD would render double (Hebrew mishneh, an equal portion) because they did not turn to Jesus, their Messiah. Israel would need to experience a period of disfavor equal to their prior period of favor from the Lord. (Zechariah 9:12) Regarding that equal portion of time in the disfavor of God, Jeremiah predicted that God’s “recompense [for] their iniquity and their sin double” would be accomplished before the current massive regathering of the Jews to their Land. “...and I will bring them again into their Land that I gave unto their fathers. Behold, I will send for many fishers [the Zionist movement], saith the Lord, and they shall fish them; and after will I send for many hunters [anti-semitism], and they shall hunt them from every mountain, and from every hill, and out of the holes of the rocks. For mine eyes are upon all their ways: they are not hid from mine eyes...” (Jeremiah 16:15-17) The Old Testament prophets and the Apostle Paul recognized what present day Christians sometimes miss—that the Jewish people would be brought back into God’s favor after their time of punishment was completed.

Which Side Should Christians Support?

With so many conflicting and passionate claims, which side of the battle should Christians support? Some Christians have the idea that Israel lost her chosen status when she, as a nation, did not accept Jesus as her long promised Messiah. These Christians apply all prophetic scriptures about Israel to themselves, hence the term “replacement theology.” However, the Apostle warns against such a mistake, “For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles be come in. And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Zion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob: For this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins. As concerning the gospel, they are enemies for your sakes: but as touching the election, they are beloved for the fathers’ sakes . . . these also now believed not, that through your mercy they also may obtain mercy.” (Romans 11:25-32) Many theologians today preach that only 144,000 Jews will be saved, however, this statement of Paul indicates that Israel as a whole will be blessed and granted an opportunity for salvation once the Church has all been gathered into the heavenly garner.

God foreknew that Israel as a nation would reject Jesus as their Messiah. But God did not allow this to preclude their receiving the promises of the original and everlasting oath-bound covenant through Abraham. The concept of Israel’s permanent forfeiture of their Land and relationship with God is refuted by the prophet Jeremiah. “Thus saith the LORD…if I have not appointed the ordinances of heaven and earth, then will I cast away the seed of Jacob… for I will cause their captivity to return [Hebrew-return from exile] and have mercy on them.” (Jeremiah 31:35-37; 33:25-26) Then Jeremiah shows, “That the city [Jerusalem of Old] shall be built to the Lord” by the returned Jews and, furthermore, “It shall not be plucked up, nor thrown down anymore forever.” (Jeremiah 31:38-40) The descendants of Israel (Jacob) — not Ishmael or Esau — will receive the city of Jerusalem — including East Jerusalem — forever.

Earthly Agents of Blessing Ruling from Jerusalem

Many do not see the depth of meaning in God’s promise to Abraham: “I will multiply thy seed as the stars of heaven and as the sand on the seashore.” (Genesis 22:17) Note the two parts to this covenant referring to two different aspects of Abraham’s offspring — the channel of God’s blessings. The heavenly or spiritual part (alluded to metaphorically as the “stars of heaven”) will be the faithful Christians whom God has been selecting for the last 2,000 years of the Gospel Age. And the earthly part (“the sand of the seashore”) will be the regathered Nation of Israel. God plans to bless everyone who has ever lived through these two classes working together — the faithful Christians as heavenly agents of blessing and the regathered Nation of Israel as earthly agents of blessing. Galatians 3:8

In God’s Kingdom, the fathers of Israel — Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, David, Samuel, Elijah and the many other faithful — will constitute the government of Israel in the City of Peace — Jerusalem! They will be princes on earth, children of the King and of his Bride. (Psalms 45:10-16) God will restore — by raising from the dead — their “judges as at the first, and thy counsellors as at the beginning.” (Isaiah 1:25-26) That which has its beginning as God’s Kingdom on earth in Israel will eventually extend to the ends of the earth. “And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain [Kingdom] of the Lord’s house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it. And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths; for out of Zion [the spiritual seed of blessing] shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem [the natural seed of blessing].” Isaiah 2:2-3

Thank God that His plan will extend from the New Jerusalem in Heaven to Jerusalem of Old in the center of the Land of Israel. (Revelation 21:1-5) When that time comes, the whole world — the Arab peoples too — will come up to worship the God of Jacob in Jerusalem, because they will recognize that God is blessing Israel: “…Jerusalem shall be called a city of truth, and the mountain of the LORD of hosts the holy mountain…O house of Judah and house of Israel; so will I save you, and ye shall be a blessing; fear not, but let your hands be strong….It shall yet come to pass that… ten men shall take hold out of all the languages of the nations, even shall take hold of the skirt of him that is a Jew, saying, We will go with you: for we have heard that God is with you.” Zechariah 8:3, 13, 21-23

Yes, Israel, a nation of miracles, will share her blessings with her Arab neighbors and all nations: “In that day shall Israel be the third with Egypt and with Assyria, even a blessing in the midst of the Land: whom the Lord of hosts shall bless, saying, blessed be Egypt my people, and Assyria the work of my hands, and Israel mine inheritance.” (Isaiah 19:24-25) God’s own peace process will succeed when man’s has failed. The peace God will give Israel and the whole world through the City of Peace will be all-comprehensive and permanent. All the peoples of the earth, including Jews and Arabs, who faithfully drink of the “water of life freely” and who overcome “shall be blessed.” Revelation 22:17; Genesis 28:14

Reprinted by permission Associated Bible Student of Central Ohio