U.S. President Donald Trump made news in December, 2017, by announcing that the United States would move their embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, to honor the Israeli claim that Jerusalem is truly the capital of that modern nation-state. For many Christians, when they read their Bibles, they think that this is a “no-brainer.” Jerusalem has been the center of Judaism since the days of the Old Testament. Why not now?
But a lot of other Christians, when they read their Bibles, beg to differ.
As British theologian Ian Paul writes, Theodore Herzl, the pioneer of modern Jewish Zionism, modestly envisioned Mount Carmel as the capital for a modern Jewish state, and not Jerusalem. Ben-Gurion, the first prime minister of modern Israel, was willing to accept the loss of Jerusalem as the price to be paid for having a homeland at all, for the Jews, in the Middle East.
The 1967, Six-Days War, whereby Israeli forces took control of all of Jerusalem, changed all of that.
The latest move by the United States, as many see it, is simply accepting what everyone knows is the reality behind modern day Israel. Why pretend? Jerusalem is, and should be, the capital of Israel.
Well, others are quite uncomfortable with the idea, The planned implementation of U.S. foreign policy creates concerns that this move could lead (and in a few cases, has already led) to unnecessary violence..
They call Jerusalem, the “city of peace.” Why then, is it so controversial? What does the Bible have to say about all of this?
A Compendium of Previous Veracity Blog Posts… With More to Come
In 2016, I got about halfway through a blog series on “Christian Zionism,” before I took a break. Aside from the “science vs. the Bible” issue, this has been the most fascinating and complex issue I have ever written about here on the Veracity blog. It involves all sorts of topics, including the relationship between the Old Testament and the New Testament, dispensationalism vs. covenant theology, and the “End Times.” All of that serves as a mere backdrop to the pressing geopolitical concerns in the Middle East.
The status of Jerusalem is just one piece in a much larger puzzle. In a nutshell, “Christian Zionism” is at the root, and it involves one primary question: Is God now restoring, or will God in the future restore, the land of Israel to the Jewish people, to the original borders as described in the Old Testament, extending from the border with Egypt, to the Euphrates River in central Iraq, hundreds of miles away, with Jerusalem as its capital?
Christians are divided on this issue. So, it takes some effort studying the Bible, and in current events and history, to try to sort all of this out… and learning to listen to one another. Throughout the coming year, I plan to publish the remaining half of the drafted blog posts that address “Christian Zionism,” in order to resume that conversation.
But before doing that, I am compiling here a compendium of previous blog posts, that you can review, if you are new to the series. Some posts are introductory in nature, some are interesting rabbit trails I went on, and others constitute the main flow of the story; that is, my story as to how I am trying to get a handle on this most difficult issue.
One thing is for certain: the topic of “Jerusalem,” or “Israel,” in general, is not simply about some far away place off in the Middle East. What we think about “Jerusalem” tells us a lot about what it means to be a “Christian.” As philosopher Richard Weaver once said, “Ideas have consequences.” So, the ideas presented here will make you think, and they will have an impact on how you live your life as a Christian, whether you realize it or not, whether you agree or disagree with certain ideas presented for discussion:
- Christian Passion About Israel: Can We Talk?: What is the controversy all about? Two movies tell very different sides of the story.
- Replacing Replacement Theology?: What is “replacement theology,” and why do people even care?
- Revelation…(And the Rapture Reboot): How to interpret the Book of Revelation.
- Who is a “True” Jew?: That is a really important question!
- Four Views on the Land Promise: A Zionism Cheat Sheet. How different Christians view the status of God’s covenant with Abraham and his descendants.
The Zionism Series (The First Half!):
- What is “Christian Zionism?”
- The Parting of the Ways: A look at how Jews and Christians became divided, during the early history of the Christian movement.
- Luther’s Deadly Error: How antisemitism became a horrid stain on church history, and why we should continue to remember the “Holocaust” that killed 6 millions Jews. 500 years have passed since Martin Luther’s nailing of his Ninety-Five Theses. But many wish to bury Luther, due to his virulent anti-Jewish polemic.
- Theodor Herzel’s Quest: The story of how hatred against the Jews led to the search for a permanent Jewish homeland.
- Dueling Narratives: Many Jews claimed modern day Palestine as their homeland…. but so did Palestinian Arabs.
- The Holy Land Today?: The crisis between Jews and Arabs in the Middle East today.
- Forgotten Christians: The lost story of those Christians caught in the crossfire between Jews and Arab Muslims.
- The Promise of the Land in the Old Testament: The Abrahamic covenant in the Old Testament.
- The Promise of the Land in the New Testament.
- Why Proof Texting Has its Limitations: Christians disagree about the future for national, ethnic Israel.
Romans 9-11: The most important passage in the New Testament relevant to this topic.
- VIDEO: Romans 9-11 Panel Discussion Night One: First night of a two week pastors’ panel at our church.
- VIDEO: Romans 9-11 Panel Discussion Night Two: The second night of the panel.
- Who is the “All Israel” in Romans 11?: My take on how to interpret Romans 9-11, broadly, and how we can avoid extreme views concerning “Israel,” on both sides of the discussion.
- Questions about Romans 9-11: A resource list for further study.
- When is a Gentile Not a Gentile (or Pagan or Heathen)?: What does it mean to be a “Gentile?”
- What is the “Church?” #1: Is the New Testament church something completely different from the “Israel” of the Old Testament?
- What is the “Church?” #2: More on the relationship between Israel and the church.
- Is the European Union the Beast of Revelation?
- God Dwells Among Us. A review of G. K. Beale’s and Mitchell Kim’s book on the theme of Jerusalem’s temple woven throughout all of the Bible. G. K. Beale has written one of most well-respected commentaries on the Book of Revelation.
- When a Jew Rules the World: Joel Richardson’s Defense of Israel, An Extended Review. Joel Richardson is probably the leading spokesperson for the idea that the future Antichrist will rise from the Islamic world, and not from a “revived” Roman Empire, as many Christians believed in the 20th century. I read his book that defended a future for national, ethnic Israel.
- Augustine and the Jews, by Paula Fredriksen: Book Review. A very scholarly book, but incredibly informing, as she digs into the much of the history as to why Christians have had such a conflicted history in their dealings with the Jews. In this post, I also include a mini-book-review of Barry Horner’s Future Israel: Why Christian Anti-Judaism Must Be Challenged.
- Does the Prophet Amos Predict a Literal Rebuilding of the Temple? Many Christians believe that towards a future millennial reign of Christ, in Israel, the Temple in Jerusalem will be rebuilt. Does the prophet Amos make such a prediction for a still yet future event, or for an event that has already been fulfilled in the past, or something altogether different?
- Are the “Kingdom of Heaven” and the “Kingdom of God” Different? Matthew is the Gospel that uses the phrase “Kingdom of Heaven” to describe the “Kingdom” that Jesus preached. A popular 20th century theory suggests that the “Kingdom of Heaven” is really a specific reference to the future literal fulfillment of the Abrahamic land promise, with the capital of Israel in Jerusalem. So, why do most scholars today reject this idea, even those sympathetic to Christian Zionism?
- The difference between dispensationalism and covenant theology, in 8 minutes.
- Many older dispensationalists favor the King James Version of the Bible’s rendering of 2 Timothy 2:15. But is this really the best translation? Are We Charged to “Rightly Divide” or “Rightly Handle” The Word of Truth?
UPDATED October 2018:
Here is the second half of the blog posts series, posted September through October, 2018:
- A Dispensationalist Perspective on Zionism: How a theological movement in Britain the 19th century changed the course of evangelical thought regarding Israel.
- A Covenant Theology Perspective on Zionism: The traditional Christian perspective on Israel, throughout the bulk of church history.
- Has the Church Replaced Israel?: Why talk about “replacement theology” can become so unsettling.
- The Shifting Theological Landscape Regarding the Land: Why the old debate between “dispensationalism” and “covenant theology” does not adequately explain what evangelical Christians think about the land of Israel today.
- Fulfillment Timeframe… 1948, Past or Future?: What does it mean to say that the existence of the modern nation-state of Israel might be a fulfillment of Bible prophecy, and does the question even make any sense?
- One More Time with Martin Luther… and Vampires: Some quirky thoughts on how Martin Luther might be surprised today, at what has happened with the Jewish people, and why this surprise impacted the life of popular vampire novel writer, Anne Rice.
- Tentative Conclusion: This blogger’s attempt to draw something together, as to how Christians might think about the “land of Israel.”
- A Parable: Cheeseburgers, filet mignon, and how the restoration of the “land of Israel” might help us to think more deeply about the promises of God.
January 24th, 2018 at 4:45 am
Thanks for your blog on Jerusalem Clarke. Here a few thoughts that I had re. Trump’s decision.
The Lord Jesus, and other Bible prophets, make clear predictions about Jerusalem. They make these predictions to warn us that Jesus’ return is near and we need to get ready by trying to live our lives according to God’s standards.
President Trump has declared that America now acknowledges Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, and that the U.S. will eventually move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Guatemala and Honduras appear to be following Trump’s lead. Now, I do not support any nation politically – not the UK, USA or Israel. None. But I am interested in what the Bible has to say about various nations and I think that Trump’s move might be significant. (Notice my language: might, perhaps, possibly, maybe… probably.)
As the Palestinian state views East Jerusalem as its capital, Trump’s move is bound to have repercussions, as the BBC reported: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-42265337?SThisFB
The consequences could be terrible and bring about much suffering for Palestinians and Israelis alike.
One of the Old Testament prophets, Zechariah, has this to say about Jerusalem and it might well be relevant to what’s happening right now (I’ve put links on the Bible verses so you can read the whole chapters if you’re a keeny):
“The Lord, who stretches out the heavens, who lays the foundation of the earth, and who forms the human spirit within a person, declares: 2 ‘I am going to make Jerusalem a cup that sends all the surrounding peoples reeling. Judah will be besieged as well as Jerusalem. 3 On that day, when all the nations of the earth are gathered against her, I will make Jerusalem an immovable rock for all the nations. All who try to move it will injure themselves” (Zechariah 12: 1-3).
The key points of this prophecy are:
Jerusalem will be an international problem
There will be an attack on Jerusalem involving “all the nations of the earth”
Those who attack Jerusalem will ultimately only “injure themselves”.
Zechariah goes on to give more details:
“A day of the Lord is coming, Jerusalem, when your possessions will be plundered and divided up within your very walls. I will gather all the nations to Jerusalem to fight against it; the city will be captured, the houses ransacked, and the women raped. Half of the city will go into exile, but the rest of the people will not be taken from the city. Then the Lord will go out and fight against those nations, as he fights on a day of battle. On that day his feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, east of Jerusalem, and the Mount of Olives will be split in two from east to west, forming a great valley, with half of the mountain moving north and half moving south… The Lord will be king over the whole earth. On that day there will be one Lord, and his name the only name” (Zechariah 14:1-9).
Zechariah 14 underscores the same point as Zechariah 12:
“All nations” will come to fight against Jerusalem
But now we have some additional information:
The attack will initially be successful as the city will be captured
Its destruction will be horrific with the sordid distress of plunder and rape
Half of the city’s inhabitants will be taken prisoner – why half? Possibly because half of the city is Israeli and the other half Palestinian?
Those who attack Jerusalem will only injure themselves as “the Lord will go out and fight against those nations”, because
Jesus will return to the Mount of Olives (Acts 1:6-12) to save Jerusalem and to reign as king of the whole earth
Jesus himself, when he is asked by his disciples when his kingdom will be established (Matthew 24:3), takes up Zechariah’s message about the fate of Jerusalem being a sign that his return is near (Luke 21: 20-28).
Humanly speaking, Trump’s decision seems crazy – pouring oil on to the flames of the struggling relationship between Israel and Palestine. But, perhaps… perhaps… it’s all part of God’s plan. Part of his warning to us to get ready, to change our lives and to open our hearts to Jesus Christ: The king and judge of the world. For Jesus’ advice on how to get ready to welcome him, have a read of Matthew 24 & 25. Pure brilliance.
The parable of the sheep and the goats in particular, is one that makes me think that Jesus is truly the saviour who is worth following. He said:
“‘When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. ‘Then the King will say to those on his right, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was ill and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.”
‘Then the righteous will answer him, “Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you ill or in prison and go to visit you?”
‘The King will reply, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me…” (Matthew 25:31-46). Love it! It’s a good way to live and a lot of society’s problems would be solved in the here-and-now if we all tried to do this.
Jesus is the world ruler we so desperately need. Here’s praying he returns as soon as!
January 24th, 2018 at 11:13 am
Sarah, I share your cautious view, regarding the question of Jerusalem.
Hopefully, as the blog posts (here and there, over the coming year) will attempt to argue, it is difficult to be dogmatic on this issue.
Take the Book of Zechariah that you extensively quoted. Most futurists would say that what Zechariah is talking about here most definitely refers to future events, surrounding Jerusalem. However, there are preterists who say that many, if not all, of the events, in Zechariah, have already been fulfilled. Though it is important to note that Zechariah 14 presents a huge difficulty for a preterist view.
Either way, Zechariah is one of the most difficult books in the Old Testament for us to fully grasp, as it sits a lot within the genre of the apocalyptic, a type of literature largely foreign to the modern mind.
I am still wrestling with this all myself. But I fully appreciate where you land: “Jesus is the world ruler we so desperately need. Here’s praying he returns as soon as!”
Amen, to that!
Thank you for contributing at Veracity.