Messiah

Israel and the Church

See also: Israel the Fig TreeMystery of the Olive TreeThe Ten Lost Tribes of Israel

Fundamental issues concerning Israel and the Church

Bible prophecy says that Israel and the church have major roles to play, both today and tomorrow. Their roles are complementary, not mutually exclusive. Some key points are:

  • To Paul the “church” was a new mystery in that it was not revealed to the prophets (Eph 3:2-10). It was “a new creation” (2 Cor 5:17) in that it saw Christ as the new and complete way of being reconciled to God. Nevertheless, the church did not replace Israel. God did not cast Israel away (Isa 49:16, Hos 2:23, Rom 11:1)
  • Israel pursued the law of righteousness by works, but failed because they did not seek it by faith in their true Messiah. In contrast, the Gentile church believed in Christ and so attained righteousness (Rom 9:30-32, 10:19-21, 11:7,11)
  • Jewish and Gentile believers in Christ share equally in Abraham’s inheritance. They all can partake of the rich root and trunk of the symbolic olive tree (Rom 11:16-24)
  • Today’s church or “ekklesia” (the called-out ones) comprises all who trust in Christ as LORD and Savior. In this sense Messianic Jews are part of Christ’s church, although they still identify as Jewish and observe the Sabbath, Jewish customs and holidays, link. Messianic Judaism is often presented as an ethnic church for Jews, link
  • Many prophecies for the church and national Israel remain unfulfilled. A straight end-time interpretation sees the church being removed from the earth (Mat 24:36-44, Phil 3:20, Rev 3:10) and her earthly role as God’s witness and servant being taken by a restored and repentant Israel (Isa 49:22, 66:19, Rev 7:1-8)
  • In the Millennial age, prophecy indicates that resurrected (immortal) saints reign with Christ over a repentant remnant of Israel. In this sense “all Israel”, both spiritual and national Israel honours Christ i.e. is “saved” (Rom 11:26)
Israel and the Church

Israel and the Church
are joint servants of God

Israel – God’s Servant and Witness

Understanding Romans 11

God’s Plan A: Romans chapter 11 is deliberately misinterpreted by churches favouring Replacement Theology. Those holding this theology insist that the Church has replaced Israel and that to promote an end-time ‘chosen people’ (Israel) in Christian circles is ‘cultism’ (see later). But an honest reading of Rom 11 clearly gives a different picture. God’s planned blessing to the world is symbolized by an olive tree rooted in the Abrahamic Covenant – and ultimately in Christ, link. God promised Abraham he would become a great nation (Israel) and promised Israel her own land, Canaan (Gen 12.2, 17.8, 35.12). In return, Israel was to be God’s servant (Isa 41.8-13) and witness to the nations (Isa 43.10). Moreover, through this Covenant the whole world would be blessed (Gen 22.18) – as in the promised Messiah (Mathew 1). That was God’s plan A.

God’s Plan B: History tells us that branches were symbolically broken off the true olive tree (Rom 11.17) due to Israel’s disobedience and unbelief. So, in reality, God scattered the northern and southern kingdoms of Israel (all twelve tribes) throughout the nations (James 1:1). A remnant of the Jews returned to Jerusalem after their deportation to Babylon, but when Jesus came their descendants didn’t recognize Him as their Messiah.

So God had another plan for mankind – the church. Paul saw this as “a mystery not previously revealed to men” (Eph 3:1-7). Here was a new dispensation, a “dispensation of grace” to the Gentiles so that they could be “fellow heirs” with Abraham’s descendants. Symbolically, the New Testament sees the gentile church as a wild olive tree grafted into the true olive tree (Rom 11.17) in the sense that her mission was to be God’s witness to the nations in the absence of exiled Israel. Importantly, the church was to feed on, and so be supported by, her Jewish roots (Rom 11:17,18). She was not a separate tree; she was not to replace Israel.

The Error of Replacement Theology

Replacement Theology is common in Western churches. It teaches that, since Israel was scattered amongst the nations due to her rejection of God’s way, then:

  • the Christian church has replaced national Israel regarding the plan, purpose, and promises of God
  • the Jewish people have no future, no hope, and no calling in the plan of God
  • the Jewish people are no longer God’s chosen people and that the Christian Church now makes up God’s chosen people

Many Anglicans hold this view, and the World Council of Churches (WCC) supports numerous UN Resolutions against Israel’s so-called ‘land occupation’, and advocates peaceful protest e.g. a goods boycott (the BDS campaign). But God doesn’t see it that way, and neither do many evangelical Christians, link.

God’s Warning: Those who follow Replacement Theology should heed God’s warning. Genesis chapter 12 makes it quite clear that the church should not make light of, or simply ignore, God’s chosen nation, Israel. They are a special people chosen by God as His witness and servant (Deut 14:2, Isa 43:10) and they are now back on the world stage in order to fulfill that mission. Concerning Abraham and the nation of Israel, God says:

I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses (Heb: qalal Strongs 7043) you I will curse (Heb: arar Strongs 779) (Gen 12.3)

The Hebrew ‘qalal’ means ‘to make light of’ or ‘to treat something in a superficial manner’ or ‘to regard as trivial’. The Hebrew ‘arar’ means ‘to bring under a curse’. This is serious. The church must not make light of the Abrahamic Covenant and the nation Israel that came from him. It should not ignore Israel or treat Israel as unimportant. It is better to be blessed by God by blessing Israel His people than to come under God’s curse. Is this one of the reasons why the institutionalized church is facing an attendance catastrophe today, link?

The Truth: Replacement Theology fails to recognize that God has not totally rejected Israel:

“For a brief moment I abandoned you, but with deep compassion I will bring you back. In a surge of anger I hid my face from you for a moment, but with everlasting kindness I will have compassion on you,” says the Lord your Redeemer (Isaiah 54: 7-8)
I say then, has God cast away His people? Certainly not! For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin (Rom 11:1)

Rather than ignore Romans 11, the church should really be comforting Israel as she returns home to Canaan (Isa 40.1). Immigration to Israel (known as Aliyah) has been underway for well over 100 years. Soon national Israel will once more take up the baton from the church and fulfill her planned role as God’s witness in the world (Isa 43:10, Rom 11:23-27). Even now we see Israel as a light to the nations (Isa 60.1-3) as Jews return to their Promised Land and national Israel plays a major role on the world scene. God’s Covenant to Abraham is being fulfilled.

What happens to the Church at the End of the Age?

Here we refer to the true church (as in Rev 3:7-13), not the apostate church of Revelation 17. Let’s assume the so-called Pre-Millennial view of prophecy since this seems compatible with observations of today’s world. This view holds that the risen Christ will (soon) return to rule the Earth from Jerusalem for the so-called Millennium (1,000 years). So what happens to the church when Christ returns?

The term ‘church’ in the New Testament means ‘a called out group’ and comprises both believing Gentiles and believing (Messianic) Jews, as well as all those who have died (are asleep) believing in Christ. Most Christians accept that born-again believers will be removed from the earth around the time of Christ’s Second Coming (the so-called ‘rapture’). Paul puts it quite clearly:

Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord (1 Thes 4.17)

This is the time of ‘the redemption of the body’ (Rom 8.23), the time when ‘the perishable body is raised an imperishable body’, the time when ‘the natural body is raised a spiritual body’ (1 Cor 15.42-44). This is the biblical ‘first resurrection’:

In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet … the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed … this mortal must put on immortality (1 Cor 15.52,53)

What happens then? Jesus said that when He meets believers in the air He will reward them according to their works (Mat 16:27). Believers who have used their talents for the kingdom will be rewarded (Mat 25.20-23). And this is the time of the “marriage supper of the Lamb”, when the true church – the bride of Christ – is united with her husband – Christ (Rev 19.1-10).

When does the true Church meet Christ?

Recall that Jesus said no one knows the day or hour when He returns (Mat 24.36, 25.13). But He did give us signs so that ‘watchers’ would know He is “at the doors” (Mat 24.33). One of these signs concerns the in-gathering of the true church – a concept rarely mentioned in Christian circles. In the light of end time prophecy, a time is soon coming when the church will be ‘complete’ and the so-called ‘church age’ ends. Jesus implied that many will not have made a decision to follow Him before He returns. He Himself will ‘shut the door’ and many will be locked out of the kingdom of God at this point in time (Lk 13.25-28). The apostle Paul refers to the same concept. Speaking to the church, Paul said:

I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery … Israel has experienced a hardening (blindness) in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in … (Rom 11.25)

Here again is the concept of the church being ‘completed’ at some point in time. A similar but broader view (spanning from Old Testament times to the Second Coming) is found in the book of Revelation. In Rev 6.9-11 we find the concept of ‘waiting’ until the number of servant martyrs has been “completed”.

So it seems that God’s order of events is to first take out from the Gentiles a people for His name (Acts 15.14). That is the true church. Romans 11.25 suggests that only after the church has been gathered to Christ (raptured) and the door shut does God turn His full attention to the blindness of His people, Israel. Continuing on in Acts 15 God says:

After these things I will return, and I will rebuild the tabernacle of David which has fallen, and I will rebuild its ruins, and I will restore it .. so that the rest of mankind may seek the LORD … (Acts 15.16-17)

If we read this text as referring to a post-church period (‘after these things’), we might expect the true church to be taken to be with Christ before Israel’s blindness is removed and before she recognizes her true Messiah. This is the so-called pre-tribulation view of prophecy. During this short but traumatic period at the end of this age, with the church gone, some see 144,000 Messianic Jews evangelizing the Gentile nations, link. As a result, many more are brought into the kingdom of God, although many through martyrdom (Rev 7.9-17). Returning to the main point, a detailed study shows that Israel’s blindness to their true Messiah is largely removed by end-time war against Israel, link.

So the rapture of the church could be before the next major war against Israel, possibly the so-called Gog-Magog war, link.

An Immortal Church Returns with Christ

As discussed, by the time Christ returns to Earth the true church will have been miraculously changed. Believers will have been resurrected, rewarded, and now have immortal bodies. It is this ‘immortal’ church which returns to Earth with Christ and reigns with Him for 1,000 years (Rev 20:4,6). To paraphrase Paul, Jesus comes back “with all His (immortal) saints” (1 Thes 3.13). And Jude says:

Behold, the Lord comes with many thousands of His holy ones (Jude 14)

What happens to Israel at the End of the Age?

The key point here is found in the book of Romans:

And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written: “The Deliverer will come out of Zion, And He will turn away ungodliness from Jacob” (Rom 11:26)

What does “all Israel” mean? Let’s continue with the pre-tribulation view of Bible prophecy. As just discussed, a time is soon coming when the true church will be miraculously removed from the earth, most probably before the final major wars against Israel. There then follows a brief period, probably about seven years (corresponding to Daniel’s 70th week) during which time Israel will suffer “great tribulation”. The prophetic timeline could be as follows:

  • Jews are gathered out of the gentile nations and brought back to dwell in the land (Canaan) promised to Abraham and his descendants. This is well underway. In just 100 years the Jewish population of Israel has risen an amazing 7,700 percent, link, link
  • The true church is taken to be with Christ. She is the ‘bride of Christ’. But she is also ‘spiritual Israel’ since she is symbolically grafted into the true olive tree rooted in the Abrahamic Covenant, link
  • The ‘man of sin’ is revealed who exalts himself above God and persecutes re-gathered Israel (2 Thes 2.1-12, Rev 12:13). Although persecution from the man of sin involves in a sense the whole world, it is essentially the time of “Jacobs trouble”. A key point here is that Jacob is “saved out of it” (Jer 30:7, Mat 24:15-22, Rom 11:26,27)
  • Through war and persecution regathered Israel (essentially the Jews – the house of David) cries out to God. In their suffering their spiritual blindness is removed and they at last recognize Jesus as their true Messiah (Zech 12:10-14, Rom 11:25-27). Through this suffering they are ‘refined as silver and ‘tested as gold’. Just one-third come through this traumatic time to enter the Millennium (Zech 13.9)
Summarizing: The present age ends as Christ returns with His bride (the church), and through great tribulation Jews recognize their true Messiah (Yeshua):

Then you shall know that I am in the midst of Israel: I am the Lord your God and there is no other … And it shall come to pass that whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved. For in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there shall be deliverance, as the Lord has said, among the remnant whom the Lord calls. (Joel 2:27,32)

So in the following Millennial age the earth sees “two Israels”. It sees spiritual Israel (resurrected saints of the church, and resurrected martyred saints from the great tribulation), and also refined Israel (God’s refined chosen people, the Jews). The age sees “all Israel” in that both spiritual and saved national Israel are present with Christ.

Israel and the Church in the Millennium

Role of the Church

The Millennial scenario appears unique to earth’s history, to say the least! On the one hand we have the remnant nations and a remnant of national Israel – all ‘in the flesh’ – whilst on the other hand it appears that Earth’s ranks are to be swelled by millions of immortal beings – the bride of Christ! A clue might be in Jesus’s comment on marriage after the resurrection:

But those who are considered worthy to attain to that age and the resurrection from the dead … are like angels (Lk 20.35,36)

It seems that, in the Millennium, the saints operate like ministering angels or heavenly administrators of God’s kingdom on earth. Jesus promised His followers:

I bestow upon you a kingdom … that you may eat and drink at My table in My kingdom, and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel (Lk 22:29-30, see also Mat 19:28)

Note here that, since a remnant of Israel will enter the Millennium (Isa 10.21-22), resurrected believers will also reign over the twelve tribes of Israel. Here is the fulfillment of the LORD’s prayer “Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven”. So during the Millennium the resurrected church reigns with Christ over the people of the earth (gentiles and Jews) as priests of God (Rev 5.10), but the final home of the saints will be the New Jerusalem in the New Earth (Rev 21:1-5).

Israel’s Role

So much for the role of the church in the Millennium. What role does the remnant of Israel play? Bear in mind that when Christ returns He reigns over the earth from His new temple in Jerusalem. Plans are well advanced for a literal Third Temple, and much detail is found in Ezekiel chapters 40-48. Jewish feasts and rituals will be honoured since some Jewish festivals are to be held as ‘statutes for ever’, throughout all generations for all time, link. These activities require temple priests. In fact, such honour is applied to all the Jews in Israel in the Millennium. They will be honoured by the nations as priests and servants of the LORD:

But you shall be named the priests of the LORD, they shall call you the servants of our God (Isa 61:6)
In those days ten men from every language of the nations shall grasp the sleeve of a Jewish man, saying, “Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you” (Zech 8:23)

Summarizing, we can say that the Millennium is essentially Jewish, reigned over by Christ and His resurrected saints (the Church, the perfected bride of Christ). For an in-depth study see The Millennial Reign of Christ.

The Final ‘Oneness’ of Israel and the Church

Prophecy says that the two scattered kingdoms of Israel will be reunited as ‘one stick’ (Ezek 37.15-22) and will take root again (Isa 27.6). We are seeing this today as God’s people are drawn from the nations to Israel their homeland. So the “grafted-in olive branches” (the church) and Israel itself (the rooted olive tree) are seen as ‘one’ in the Millennium in the sense that they both serve the God of Israel amongst the nations. They are also seen symbolically as ‘one’ in the New Heaven and the New Earth. The book of Revelation describes a heavenly city with ‘twelve gates’ (the twelve tribes of Israel) and ‘twelve foundation stones’ (the twelve apostles representing the church):

And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me the holy city, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, having the glory of God. Her brilliance was like a very costly stone, as a stone of crystal-clear jasper. It had a great and high wall, with twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels; and names were written on them, which are the names of the twelve tribes of the sons of Israel. There were three gates on the east and three gates on the north and three gates on the south and three gates on the west. And the wall of the city had twelve foundation stones, and on them were the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb (Rev 21.10-14)


The Balfour Declaration

Jerusalem in prophecy

Jerusalem Old City at dawn. Image: Free Israel Photos, Creative Commons 3.0

Balfour Declaration: Summary

On November 2, 1917 the British Foreign Secretary Arthur Balfour declared that the British Government was in favour of the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people. This declaration layed the basis for the British Mandate for Palestine at San Remo in 1920. Article 2 of the Mandate provided for the eventual creation of a Jewish state once “political maturity” had been reached. The Mandate was formalized by the League of Nations in 1922 and transferred to Article 80 of the UN Charter in 1946. So the UN implicitly reaffirmed the 1922 Mandate and Article 80 preserved the mandated rights of the Jewish people. According to the final Mandate, the Jewish people have the irrevocable legal right to settle anywhere between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea, link.

A caveat to the Mandate was that “nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine”. This was not achieved, partly at least because there was no common ground between Arab and Jew (as in different language, culture and religion), link. Finally, increasing Arab aggression towards the increasing Jewish population led to war and today’s Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

See also Zionism

Background to the Balfour Declaration

Jews and Gentiles work Together

Influential Christians: The mid-late 19th century saw a great move of God amongst leading Protestants and Jews. Protestant leaders like Bishop J.C. Ryle and Charles Spurgeon taught about the restoration of Jews to their biblical homeland, as seen in Bible prophecy. As Bible scholars, they longed for the Second Coming of Christ, but they realized from prophecy that before that can happen the Jews must be drawn back ‘home’. Such Christian teaching greatly influenced the British Government of the time.

Theodor Herzel – an Influential Jew: Around the same time, Theodor Herzel (1860-1904) saw the antisemitism around him and the need for a Jewish State. Herzel, an Austrian Jewish journalist, is credited as the father of political Zionism since he was a secular, non-Hebrew speaking, cosmopolitan intellectual who proposed a secular/political solution to the Jewish problem.
So with the help of his friend Rev W. Hechler (an Anglican clergyman, crusader against antisemitism, and follower of Ryle and Spurgeon), they birthed so-called ‘political Zionism’. Because of his Christian beliefs, Hechler was one of the first so-called ‘Christian Zionists’ (see later).

Balfour Declaration
Arthur Balfour. Image via Wikimedia Commons

Weizmann and Balfour: The early 20th century saw more Jew-Gentile collaboration. Chaim Weizmann (a Jew and biochemist) came to England in 1904 and soon became a leader among British Zionists. In January 1906 Weizmann met Arthur Balfour (pictured), a UK politician and former Prime Minister, and persuaded him to look to Jerusalem for the Jewish capital and to Palestine for the Jewish homeland. Being an evangelical Christian, Balfour found the spiritual side of Zionism appealing. But he took no political steps in this direction until 1917, when he was British Foreign Secretary under British Prime Minister David Lloyd George. Lloyd George, who had an evangelical upbringing, made the decision to publicly support Zionism. No doubt this was backed by most of the war cabinet in 1917 since most were evangelical Christians! That said, it seems there were also political motives. Lloyd George saw that British dominance in Palestine (a land bridge between the crucial territories of India and Egypt) was as an essential post-war goal.

The Balfour Declaration: Prompted by government support and Zionist leaders like Weizmann, Balfour wrote a public letter to Lord Rothschild, a prominent Zionist and a friend of Chaim Weizmann. Rothschild was head of the English branch of the Jewish banking family. This historic letter became known as the Balfour Declaration. It reads:

His Majesty’s Government view with favor the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavors to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country [November 2, 1917]

This letter laid the foundations for the 1922 British Mandate for Palestine.

The Effect of the Balfour Declaration

The British Mandate for Palestine

The 1920 San Remo Conference met to decide the future of the former territories of the defeated Ottoman Turkish Empire. It divided the old Ottoman province of Syria into two, and the southern half (Palestine) was ‘mandated’ to Great Britain. The British “Mandate for Palestine” was formalized by the Council of the League of Nations in 1922, link, link. The Council agreed that the Mandatory (the British Government) should be responsible for putting into effect the Balfour Declaration made by the British Government on November 2, 1917. Put simply, the mandate entrusted Britain with the temporary administration of Palestine until the Jewish community reached “political maturity”.

Palestinian Refugees

The Council also endorsed the Balfour Declaration statement protecting the existing non-Jewish inhabitants of Palestine. To quote:

… it being clearly understood that nothing should be done which might prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine …

So given legal protection in the Mandate, what went wrong? Why several major Arab-Israeli wars, and Palestinian refugees? A partial answer can be seen in the political, cultural and religious divide of the Jewish and Arab communities in the 1930’s and 1940’s, link. During the 1930’s, Jewish money poured in from Europe and America: equipment was purchased, factories opened, transport systems set up, and houses and hospitals built. Jerusalem was built in stone by Arab labor and Zionist money, and Tel Aviv expanded into a modern city. So Jewish society increasingly pulled away from both the Palestinian community and the surrounding Arab societies. Whilst Palestinian agriculture did indeed spread, villagers continued their traditional habit of isolating themselves from (now British) government and did not develop. Put simply, there was no common ground between Arab and Jew – as in different language, culture and religion.

Another reason is poor Arab leadership. In the 1930’s and 1940’s the leadership twice rejected the opportunity for a separate Arab state in Palestine, link. They also rejected the Jewish State declared in 1948 and immediately invaded Israel, thereby creating the Palestinian refugee problem, .
More…

The Law Today

Balfour Declaration

Fig.1: The final 1922 League of Nations sub-division of Palestine. Image courtesy Eli E. Hertz. Enlarge

When the League of Nations was dissolved in 1946 the mandate was incorporated into Article 80 of the United Nations Charter. So this Charter implicitly recognizes the League of Nations ‘Mandate for Palestine’. Put simply, Article 80 preserved the mandated rights of the Jewish people, and still stands today. Palestine is still the mandated home of the Jewish people.

Article 25 of the Mandate enabled the Mandatory to change the terms of the Mandate in the territory east of the Jordan River. Britain, under Colonial Secretary Winston Churchill, activated this option and cut away 77% of the original mandated area for the Jews and created a new country called Trans-Jordan, later called Jordan. The East Bank (excepting the Golan Heights) was therefore given to Britain’s Arab allies! The final 1922 mandate therefore redefined the boundary of Palestine as west of the river Jordan, including Judea and Samaria (an area now called the West Bank), and including the Golan Heights. The area east of the Jordan subsequently became Jordan.

As noted, the Golan Heights were included within Mandatory Palestine when the Mandate was formally granted in 1922, but Britain gave the area to France in the Franco-British Agreement of 7 March 1923, link. This is reflected in the final mandated territory shown in Fig.1. So, with the exception of the Golan Heights, the current legal position has been stated as follows:

The Jewish right of settlement in the whole of western Palestine – the area west of the Jordan – survived the British withdrawal in 1948. … They are parts of the mandate territory, now legally occupied by Israel with the consent of the Security Council [Professor Eugene Rostow ]

To date, the finalized Mandate is the last legally binding document regarding the West Bank and Gaza. All of western Palestine, from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea, including the West Bank and Gaza, remains open to Jewish settlement under international law.

 

Spiritual Significance of the Balfour Declaration:

Jerusalem’s Release from Bondage

The Muslim Ottoman Turks conquered and ruled over Jerusalem from 1517 to 1917 — a period of exactly 400 years. Is 400 significant? In the scriptures the number four hundred is sometimes associated with the subject of bondage, link. An often-quoted example is when the Israelites dwelt in Egypt for 400 years:

God said to Abram, “Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, where they will be enslaved and oppressed four hundred years” (Gen 15.13, Acts 7.6)

In reality, the Israelites were only ‘enslaved’ or ‘in bondage’ in the latter years when they had become numerous (Exod 1.8-14). But they were certainly in bondage for 400 years in the sense that they were bound to Egypt and were not in their own land, link.

So was Jerusalem (and the Holy Land in general) in bondage under the 400 years of Ottoman rule? As with the Israelites in Egypt, the early stages of Ottoman rule seemed tolerable. It saw a rise in Jewish immigration, business, and scholarly activity. The Jewish community particularly thrived in the town of Safed, link. But with a gradual decline in the quality of Ottoman rule over the Holy Land, the country was brought to a state of widespread neglect. By the end of the 18th century, much of the land was owned by absentee landlords and leased to impoverished tenant farmers, and taxation was crippling. The great forests of Galilee and the Carmel mountain range were denuded of trees, and swamp and desert encroached on agricultural land, link. Moreover, during the 19th century the position of Jews worsened in Muslim countries, link, and in early December 1917, Djemel Pasha (the Turkish general) issued a proclamation ordering all Jews to leave Jerusalem.

So, as with the Israelites in Egypt, the Ottoman rule meant that the Jews were not masters in the land in which they dwelt – their God-given land at that. In this sense the Jews in the Holy Land were in bondage for 400 years. This period of history is surely part of the ‘times of the Gentiles’ when Jerusalem was to be ‘trampled by the Gentiles’ (Lk 21.24).

The situation changed in the 400th year of Ottoman rule, when General Allenby liberated Jerusalem from Muslim rule on December 11, 1917. Allenby had taken courage from the prophecy:

… the Lord of hosts come down to wage war on Mount Zion and on its hill. Like flying birds so the Lord of hosts will protect Jerusalem. He will protect and deliver it; He will pass over and rescue it (Isa 31.4,5)

Jerusalem was indeed delivered by ‘flying birds’. Allenby used primitive aircraft to drop leaflets on Jerusalem saying (in Arabic) “Surrender the city! Allenby.” The city fell without a shot being fired. At that point in time Allenby assured the people that the occupying power would not inflict further harm on Jerusalem, its inhabitants, or its holy places:

Since your city is regarded with affection by the adherents of three of the great religions of mankind and its soil has been consecrated by the prayers and pilgrimages of multitudes of devout people, I make it known to you that every sacred building, monument, holy spot, shrine, traditional site, endowment, pious bequest, or customary place of prayer will be maintained and protected according to the existing customs and beliefs of those to whose faith they are sacred

This was in accord with the Balfour Declaration of Nov 2, 1917. For the foreseeable future it seemed that Jerusalem had been liberated from ‘bondage’.

 

Current UK View of the Balfour Declaration

Boris Johnson’s View

A few days before the 2017 centenary of the Balfour Declaration, the British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson expressed his views on Balfour and the ensuing Israeli-Palestinian conflict, link, link. Comparing his comments with the political facts, and with the biblical text (which is taken as truth) he is both correct – and mislead.

Johnson’s Favourable Comments towards Israel

To quote:

The Balfour Declaration was indispensable to the creation of a great nation … Israel has always stood out as a free society. Like every country, Israel has faults and failings. But it strives to live by the values in which I believe. Most of all, there is the incontestable moral goal: to provide a persecuted people with a safe and secure homeland. So I am proud of Britain’s part in creating Israel …

This is in accord with Bible prophecy. The God of Israel says:

Surely I will take the children of Israel from among the nations, wherever they have gone, and will gather them from every side and bring them into their own land (Ezek 37.21)
Who has heard such a thing? Who has seen such things? Can a land be born in one day? Can a nation be brought forth all at once? As soon as Zion travailed, she also brought forth her sons (Isa 66.8)

The past 100 years have seen millions of Jews return to Israel, and the sudden ‘birth’ of the State of Israel on May 14, 1948. Johnson also points out (and rightly so):

The vital caveat in the Balfour Declaration – intended to safeguard other communities – has not been fully realised.

But here, who is at fault – Israel or the Palestinian leadership?

Johnson’s Disagreement with Political Facts and with the Bible

Johnson’s ‘solution’ to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict follows that of the US, the UN, the EU and Russia; namely to create ‘two states for two peoples’. He says:

I have no doubt that the only viable solution to the conflict resembles the one first set down on paper by another Briton, Lord Peel, in the report of the Royal Commission on Palestine in 1937, and that is the vision of two states for two peoples … There should be two independent and sovereign states: a secure Israel, the homeland for the Jewish people, standing alongside a viable and contiguous Palestinian state, the homeland for the Palestinian people, as envisaged by UN General Assembly Resolution 181 … The borders should be based on the lines as they stood on June 4, 1967 – the eve of the Six Day War

The Political Facts contradict Johnson:

  • the Peel and Woodhead commissions of 1937 and 1938 recommended partitioning Palestine into a small Jewish state and a large Arab state, but even this generous offer was rejected by the Arab leadership.
  • a UN Special Commission on Palestine recommended that Palestine be divided equally into an Arab state and a Jewish state. Jerusalem was to be “internationalized”. The UN General Assembly adopted this plan as UN Resolution 181. The Jews accepted the UN resolution but, again, the Arabs rejected it.
  • The pre-1967 borders were based upon the ceasefire lines of 1949 – the so-called Green Line. This UN armistice line merely represented interim borders for Israel; “they did not purport to establish definitive boundaries” [Professor Judge Schwebel, former President of the International Court of Justice]
  • Palestinians officially want a two state solution, but long-term a recent survey showed that they want just one state – a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital, link
  • Article 80 of the UN Charter implicitly recognizes the 1922 ‘Mandate for Palestine’ of the League of Nations. So the UN implicitly reaffirmed the Mandate in that Article 80 preserved the mandated rights of the Jewish people. This meant that the Jews could settle anywhere between the Jordan and the Mediterranean Sea. To date, this is the last legally binding document regarding the West Bank and Gaza.

The Biblical Facts: Boris Johnson’s political views appear naive, to say the least. Perhaps he should have referred to the biblical facts. The God of Israel is expressly against a two state solution and those who attempt such a division of the land should note God’s warning:

I will enter into judgement with them … on behalf of My people Israel … they have divided up My land (Joel 3.2)

The true, biblical borders are clearly stated in Bible prophecy, link. They embrace Jerusalem, all of the West Bank and Gaza, and much of Lebanon and Syria. When it comes to non-Jews living in the land, the Bible instructs the people of Israel how they should treat them. Old Testament Israel was commanded to love foreigners (Deut 10.19) and to let them live normal lives amongst them:

When a stranger resides with you in your land, you shall do him no wrong … (he) … shall be to you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself (Lev 19.33,34)

This instruction is timeless and applies now and to future Israel. Sadly, as long as the Arab-Palestinian leadership is determined to eliminate the State of Israel, such peace is impossible.


Jesus and Israel

Good and Evil: Symbolised by Two Trees

 

Choose Between Good and Evil: A Choice between Two Trees

Jesus Christ brings us a mind-boggling concept that defies all logic. It is the mystery of Jesus the Creator dying for His creation. The mystery starts with the story of two trees.

It all started with Two Trees

good and evilIn the Garden of Eden (Genesis chapter 2) God planted many beautiful trees to provide food for man. In the middle of the garden were two special trees. One was called the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. The other was the tree of life.

We will see later that eating from the tree of life gave eternal life. That is, living in the presence of the Creator forever! As for the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, God said “if you eat the fruit of that tree, you shall surely die.”

What actually dies? And what does death mean anyway? The introduction of physical death is strongly suggested in Gen 3.19 – ‘to dust you shall return’. Serious study of the Bible reveals that the “soul” and “spirit” of man leave the physical body at physical death. In contrast to some atheistic beliefs, a person is not annihilated, but may suffer eternal separation from the love of the Creator God, link. So one tree was the tree of eternal death – condemnation to exist outside the presence of a loving Creator God. The other was the tree of eternal life – living in the presence of the Creator forever!

What Happened?
As the story goes, the serpent tempted Eve to eat the fruit of the forbidden tree, and she in turn told Adam to eat it (both could have been actual people, link). So both ate forbidden fruit. Adam and Eve did not die immediately after eating the fruit of that forbidden tree. But they did die eventually of old age. Humans die. That is the consequence of that sin by Adam and Eve. In fact, this sinful act propagated throughout all generations;

All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Rom 3.23)

This may seem hard and unjust on later generations, but can any one of us claim to be sinless? The Hebrew Bible repetitively presents the concept that sin (acts contrary to standards of godly behaviour) is punishable by death. In Ezekiel 38.4 we read:

The life of every person belongs to me, the life of the parent as well as that of the child. The person who sins is the one who will die

That’s not a joke. Humans don’t have inherent eternal life. The Hebrew Bible teaches that eternal existence is God’s prerogative to give or not to give.

The ‘Tree of Life’ today – Christ!

Suppose Adam and Eve had chosen not to eat the fruit of the forbidden tree? Would God have rewarded their obedience by giving them the right to eat from the tree of eternal life and let them live forever? We simply don’t know. They disobeyed God’s instruction and didn’t get to that possibility. But this concept is very real today! Each one of us can indeed symbolically eat from the tree of life if we make one simple but essential step! Jesus said:

Whoever believes in Me will not perish but have everlasting life … I have come that they may have life and have it abundantly

good and evilBy this He meant eternal life – eternal existence with the loving Creator God. The Bible teaches that, today, when a believer in Christ dies, their soul and spirit go to be with Christ in Paradise, link. This is not ‘soul sleep’; rather they maintain consciousness. But unbelievers, those who deliberately reject the reconciling work of Christ on the cross, effectively choose to eat from the tree of good and evil. So when they physically die they go to Hades and await the Great White Throne Judgement (Rev 20.11-15). Likewise, they do not lose consciousness.

Jewish Belief: Both ‘trees’ are open to everyone, including Jews. Some Jews hold similar beliefs to the Christian when it comes to death. For instance, they hold that after death the soul returns to its divine Source, and that the soul of a parent continues to watch over the lives of his or her children and grandchildren, link.

Dare you believe the concept behind the Two Trees?

The concept of the Two Trees leads to great philosophical and spiritual depth. It states that Jesus the Creator offers mankind a choice between good and evil, between one tree and another. This is possible by the unique and supreme act of God becoming man in Christ Jesus, and dying in man’s place on the cross. This act defies human logic. It is logical and possible to die for a righteous man. But to die for “sinners” is contrary to human logic and will.

So the concept of God becoming man and becoming the sacrifice to atone for sinful mankind demonstrates God’s ultimate love for man. He died to “buy” man back and give him the right to become an immortal being. This Hebraic-Christian philosophy is an astounding concept and is unique amongst the philosophies of life. So again, would you dare to believe it? Time will prove its veracity. In the meantime, watch the signs. They are leading to amazing promises to those who dare to believe.


The Mystery of Jesus

Summary

The reality of a historical person called Jesus is beyond scholarly doubt. Jesus lived. This person fulfilled over 300 Old Testament prophecies. And it is mathematically impossible for a person to fulfill even just a dozen of these by chance! Jesus made astounding claims e.g. that he was the Son of God (making himself equal with God). He backed up these claims by many miracles.

It is recorded that Jesus went voluntarily to a painful death by crucifixion. Scripture says he did it to show God’s extreme love for mankind – God died for man to reconcile man to himself. Jesus’ resurrection was well attested to in history, and today he appears to people in voices and visions. Today people are healed in his name. Jesus is soon to return to this earth as Lord and King. What will he say to you? He wants each of us to trust him and follow his words so that we will have life and not perish.

THE MYSTERY OF JESUS

First: Was the Biblical Jesus Fact or Fiction?

Leaving the Bible aside, most secular historical documents affirm that some 2,000 years ago a remarkable person called Jesus (Hebrew: Yeshua) lived a rather brief life and voluntarily suffered a painful and humiliating death on a Roman cross. For example, historians Josephus and Lucian indicate that Jesus was regarded as wise, and Pliny, the Talmud, and Lucian imply He was a powerful and revered teacher. Josephus and the Talmud indicate He performed miraculous feats. And Tacitus, Josephus, the Talmud, and Lucian all mention that He was crucified. Tacitus and Josephus say this occurred under Pontius Pilate. See Ancient Evidence.

Whilst today there is a fringe “Jesus is myth” theory, in modern scholarship this is not supported by any tenured specialists in biblical criticism, link. Few scholars dispute that Jesus is historical fact, link. To quote just a few:

In New Testament scholarship generally, a number of specialists consider the question of whether Jesus existed to have been finally and conclusively settled in the affirmative
[Lawrence Mykytiuk, Assoc Professor, Purdue University]

I know of no one fact in the history of mankind which is proved by better and fuller evidence … than the great sign which God hath given us that Christ died and rose again from the dead
[Thomas Arnold, appointed Professor of Modern History, Oxford, 1841]

No serious scholar has ventured to postulate the non-historicity of Jesus’ or at any rate very few, and they have not succeeded in disposing of the much stronger, indeed very abundant, evidence to the contrary
[‘Jesus: An Historian’s Review of the Gospels’, Michael Grant, 2004]

There are those who argue that Jesus is a figment of the Church’s imagination, that there never was a Jesus at all. I have to say that I do not know any respectable critical scholar who says that anymore
[‘Jesus Now and Then’, Richard A. Burridge and Graham Gould, 2004]

Preeminent New Testament scholar Bart Ehrman agrees. Although he is a skeptic and not a Christian, he vigorously defends the historical Jesus in his book Did Jesus Exist?. Ehrman also comments:

As a historian I think evidence matters. Jesus did exist, as virtually every scholar of antiquity, of biblical studies, of classics, and of Christian origins agrees.

 

The Mathematics of Jesus: Was He a Fraud?

mystery of Jesus

OK. Virtually all scholars are agreed that there really was a historical Jesus, as recorded in the New Testament. So what about those Old Testament prophecies of Jesus? Some claim that Jesus fulfilled 353 Old Testament prophecies concerning His birth and life on earth, from the book of Genesis to the last book, Malachi, link. You may like to read a few key prophecies about the virgin birth of Jesus, the place of His birth, His ‘Kingly’ ancestral descent, the miracles that He would perform, and His entrance to Jerusalem on a donkey, link.

Suppose we take just eight key prophecies about Jesus and estimate the probability of all eight being fulfilled by one man. A conservative estimate was one in 1017, link. That’s 1 followed by 17 zeros. Similarly, the chance that any one man fulfilled 48 selected prophecies was estimated to be 1 in 10157, link.

So, in reality, the probability of one man fulfilling even eight prophecies by shear chance is negligibly small. It seems Jesus’ identity and life was already written in the scriptures before He came.

The Mystery of Jesus
He lived and fulfilled many prophecies. So who was He?

OK. Let’s accept the scholastic view that there really was a biblical Jesus, and let’s accept the mathematical view that the life and death of this particular person was already written hundreds of years before in Bible prophecy. So who was He? When asked by the Jews to identify Himself, Jesus answered:

Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM (John 8.58)

They accused Him of blasphemy, but Jesus was really alluding to how the God if Israel described Himself to Moses in Exodus 3: “Say to the children of Israel, ‘I AM has sent you’“. In other words, Jesus was associating Himself with the God of Israel i.e. with Deity. When pushed, Jesus actually acknowledged He was God in human form. Jesus said that when men looked at Him they looked at God! When talking to one of His followers he said: “He who has seen Me has seen the Father” (John 14.9). A mystery indeed! But Jesus backed up His claims by performing many miracles, from healing diseases, to raising the dead to walking on water, link.

In his book ‘Mere Christianity’, when referring to Jesus, C.S. Lewis said:

A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice

In other words, from a philosophical basis, Lewis leaves us little option but to accept Christ’s claims: He was God in human form. Bible prophecy made some 700 years before Jesus came confirms this conclusion:

A virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son and will call him Emmanuel (which means ‘God is with us’) (Isaiah 7.14)

So here is the mystery of Jesus:
According to the Bible it seems that God, the Creator of all things
came to earth in the form of the man, Jesus. Why?
mystery of Jesus
The Torah

Most Jews Dispute this view of Jesus

Some 80% of today’s Jews follow the Hebrew scriptures (the Tanakh) in some way, from fundamentalism to loose Jewish practice. They are looking for the Moshiach, ‘the anointed one’. They believe the Moshiach will be a great leader descended from King David. They believe that in the coming Messianic era, the Moshiach will rule all nations with kindness and justice, and will uphold the law of the Torah, link.

This person is not unlike the Christ found in Old Testament prophecy, but with one crucial difference. Jews believe the Moshiach will be a human leader, not a divine ‘Saviour’, link. And they reject Yeshua (Jesus) as their Moshiach (their Messiah) since He did not come as King to deliver Israel, or usher in world peace. But Bible prophecy says that, at the end of this age, they will recognize who Jesus really was:

I will pour out on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the Spirit of grace and of supplication, so that they will look on Me whom they have pierced; and they will mourn for Him … (Zechariah 12.10)

More ….

Another Mystery of Jesus: Why did He Die?

OK. Let’s summarize where we are:

  • From a scholastic standpoint, the existence of a biblical person called Jesus some 2,000 years ago seems beyond doubt
  • From simple mathematics, Jesus could not have fulfilled even a dozen prophecies by chance. He had to be special – a mystery
  • From the claims He made, Jesus was either a madman, or a demonic spirit … or God Himself
  • For the doubters, Jesus backed up His claims by many miracles

mystery of Jesus

So why was Jesus’ historic act, His voluntary death on the cross, so necessary? Here’s a little theology. The Bible teaches that there is just one God – the God progressively revealed through God’s servant, Israel, and then through Jesus Christ (God in human form). It teaches that God is holy, loving, just and moral, and that unrepentant rebellious man is none of these things in the sight of God. And, in contrast to other faiths, the Bible teaches that God is knowable.

But it also teaches that it is impossible for man to know God and “earn” his way into God’s presence. Admit it – our conscience tells us we do wrong things and think wrong thoughts. The Bible says that “guilt” separates us from the holy God. But Jesus claimed that through His sacrificial death He would reconcile all those who believe in Him to God. Jesus taught that, through Him, God holds out a hand of reconciliation to Himself. Jesus claimed that through His sacrificial act God would demonstrate His love for each one of us, forgive each one of us, and reconcile each one of us to Himself. All we have to do is believe it! Jesus put it like this:

God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son, that everyone who believes in Him may not perish but have eternal life (John 3.16)

Contrast this with the jihad concept of man dying for God, as seen on the daily news! Which makes most sense? Which is most effective? Which offers most hope? Which shows most love?

Now for another mystery: Jesus offers believers eternal life i.e. abundant life now, and life after physical death. He demonstrated that this was possible by His resurrection. That brings us to a very interesting point.

Another Mystery of Jesus: the Resurrection. Does Jesus Live Today?

mystery of Jesus

Christians see an empty cross and a risen Christ

As mentioned, according to the New Testament, Jesus demonstrated amazing powers which backed-up His mysterious claims. Perhaps the most convincing verification of His claims is His resurrection, which He had predicted.

Evidence of the resurrection of Jesus is found in the numerous eyewitness accounts recorded in the New Testament. It is recorded here that Jesus appeared 12 times to different group sizes ranging from just one person to 500 people, link. These accounts go back to within just a few tens of years after the crucifixion, and probably before 70 AD. So compared to the sources for Greco-Roman history, the Gospels stand head and shoulders above what Greco-Roman historians have to work with, which are usually hundreds of years after the events they record and usually involve very few eyewitnesses, link.

For the many who prefer to discount the biblical account of the resurrection, then, yes, there is little non-biblical evidence, link. Perhaps the most notable evidence here comes from the Jewish priest and historian Josephus (c37-101 AD). It is claimed that he wrote about Jesus’ resurrection, link.

If Jesus is Resurrected, where is He now?

Here’s another mystery. Jesus Himself said that (after His resurrection) He would go somewhere where His disciples could not go at that time (Jn 13.36). The apostle Paul said that, at His resurrection, Jesus “became a life-giving spirit” (1 Cor 15.45) and that Jesus “ascended far above all the heavens, so that He might fill all things” (Eph 4.10). The work on the cross finished, Jesus is now symbolically seated at God’s right hand in the heavenly places (Eph 1.10). Yet it is recorded that He appeared at will in a physical, recognizable form after the resurrection. It is such a resurrected, immortal, spiritual body that is promised to all believers in Christ.

Modern-day Evidence of the Resurrection

Despite the lack of non-biblical, historical evidence for the resurrection, there remains a very convincing verification of the resurrection. The living Christ changes people’s lives today!. Watch the videos to see how Jesus changes lives and heals people today:

 

For many more real-world examples of how Jesus changes lives, see testimonies. This modern-day evidence surely eclipses even the scholarly work (above) showing that Jesus was not a myth?

Who Hears the Gospel, and Who Cares Anyway?

Surprisingly, there are still huge segments of the world’s population that have never heard the name of Jesus, let alone a clear presentation of His gospel message of reconciliation to God as in John’s Gospel chapter 3. Most of these people live in the 10/40 window, link. In terms of numbers, some 42% of the world’s population are still unreached by the gospel, link. In 2016 that was about 3 billion unreached people, link.

Of the 4.4 billion (2016) who might have heard the gospel, perhaps 2.2 billion claim some adherence to Christ, link, link, link. Not all of these will be true followers of Jesus since there are many cults; not all will be truly “born again” in the gospel sense. But let’s be generous and assume some 2.2 billion express some belief in Jesus and don’t outwardly reject Him. This implies that, on a global average, out of every two people who hear the gospel, one walks away! One deliberately rejects Christ’s offer of reconciliation to God. Is that your experience?

Do we really need to Trust in Jesus?
Is it Essential to Follow Him? Is it Urgent?

Yes, it is essential, and it is urgent. Jesus said so. The Bible is clear on this. It is essential to take Jesus and the word of God seriously. Jesus said in John chapter 3:

I am telling you the truth: no one can see the Kingdom of God without being born again … no one can enter the Kingdom of God without being born of water and the Spirit. A person is born physically of human parents, but is born spiritually of the Spirit … I tell you that you must all be born again … those who believe in the Son are not judged; but those who do not believe have already been judged, because they have not believed in God’s only Son

mystery of Jesus
Time running out

Jesus said that when we are confronted with the gospel message of reconciliation with God, then its important not to walk away. He said its important to be “in the Kingdom of God”. But what about the billions in the world who die never having heard the gospel? The Bible makes it clear that after death there is a judgement. Men are judged on what they have done with the revelation they have received about Jesus (see below). But God is loving and just. It seems that God only judges those who have heard the gospel and deliberately rejected it, because in doing so they have rejected Jesus who sacrificed Himself for them. Read John chapter 3 verses 18-20.

Time is Running Out. Few would deny that there is increasing chaos and instability in the world. It seems things are coming to a climax. The Bible calls it “the end of the age” and urges men to take Jesus seriously. Using the symbol of an open (but soon closing) door into the Kingdom, Jesus said:

Strive to enter through the narrow door; for many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able. Once the head of the house gets up and shuts the door, and you begin to stand outside and knock on the door, saying, ‘Lord, open up to us!’ then He will answer and say to you, ‘I do not know where you are from’ (Luke 13.24-25, emphasis added)

His point was that there will be a time when men will seek to be in the Kingdom, but the door will be shut.

What Happens if we are not in the Kingdom of God?

mystery of Jesus
Judgment

As mentioned, we have a free choice when confronted with the good news about Jesus – reconciliation to God through His work on the cross). We can decide to follow Him, or not. If we reject the good news we can carry on through life as normal. We can ignore God and the Bible. But what happens at our death? Note that Jesus stresses the importance of being “born again” and “being in the Kingdom of God”. He said that if we believe in Him (follow Him) we won’t “perish” and be “judged”. What was He referring to?

The one true God as revealed by the perfect man, Jesus Christ, is holy and loving and just. We all long for justice in life, but often don’t see it. Man often seems to avoid justice. So God sees that justice is done after death. And for those who have lived an unjust and sinful life and have never been reconciled to God there is a time of reckoning:

Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat upon it … and I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds. And … they were judged, every one of them according to their deeds … and if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire (Rev 20.11-15)

What Happens when we Trust Our Lives to Jesus?

mystery of Jesus

“If the Son makes you free,
you will be free indeed” (John 8.36)

Let Jesus change your life too. Try not to analyse a divine mystery with a human, unregenerate mind. What is first required is a step of faith in the reconciling work of Christ on the cross. A step of faith to trust in the living Jesus. Today He offers each of us reconciliation to God. There are no strings, it’s free. All we have to do is to acknowledge our imperfections AND accept His offer of a new life with Him. And when we do this we will be set free like a bird at sunset! Jesus said that when we do this some of the mystery fades and revelation of truth grows. He said:

You will know the truth, and the truth will make you free” (Jn 8.32).

Some things that will happen to you after this step of faith:

  • Your new life will be like being ‘born again’ – this time its a spiritual birth (John 3.3)
  • Your name will be written in heaven, in Jesus’ Book of Life (Luke 10.20)
  • You will not come under that “great white throne” judgement for passed wrongs: you have passed from death into life (Jn 5.24)
  • You will start a relationship with the one true God – the God of the Bible, the God of Israel, the Creator of all things (Romans 8.15)
  • You will receive the ‘Spirit of Truth’ (God’s Spirit) to help you live your new life and to teach you truth. God’s word is truth – so pick up a Bible and start to read Jesus’ words in John chapter 3
  • You need not fear death since you will live on after death, to be forever with Jesus and with God your heavenly Father
  • You will also start to understand world events and you need not fear what is happening to the world. You can claim that special peace in your life that only Jesus gives
Here’s a great song for your new life – the words are full of biblical truth:


Did you know that Jesus is returning to Earth very soon to rule as King from Jerusalem, link?
An amazing thought. What will He say to YOU?

Israel’s Watchmen Pray for Israel

Why Bother to Pray for Israel?
Why Care about the Nation of Israel?

To the majority of the world Israel is a ‘thorn in the flesh’. She is a focal point of Middle East tension and aggression and an insoluble political problem for world leaders. Even the institutionalized church says Israel is of no significance today, link. So why should followers of Christ pray for Israel? Many refer to the prayer request in Psalm 122:

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: May those who love you be secure. May there be peace within your walls and security within your citadels. For the sake of my family and friends, I will say, “Peace be within you.” For the sake of the house of the LORD our God, I will seek your prosperity.
(Psalm 122.6-9)

pray for israel

The Roman Siege & Destruction of Jerusalem, 70 AD. Image: Public Domain, Enlarge

History: This is an intercessory prayer by the Palmist David. Written around 1,015 BC, link and towards the end of his life, David was requesting prayer for his brothers and friends in Jerusalem. Bear in mind that around 1,000 BC David conquered Jerusalem and made it the capital of the Kingdom of Israel, link. Then there is the blessing “peace be upon Israel” found in Psalms 125 and 128. These Psalms were written around 536 BC as some Jews returned to Israel from the Babylonian captivity.

Today: Since these Psalms were written, Israel (and Jerusalem in particular) has been far from peaceful. A spiritual battle rages over Jerusalem and prophecy says that this battle will intensify at the end of the age. Today, Israel’s Arab neighbours threaten the very survival of Israel. Nevertheless, Jerusalem means “City of Peace”: Jeru means “city” in ancient Semitic languages and Shalem means “peace” (wholeness). So today we should pray that the city will live up to its name. The peace sought here means much more than the absence of conflict. Besides Israel’s protection (which is promised by God), this ‘peace’ also suggests completeness, health, justice and prosperity. These are key elements in Christ’s Millennial kingdom. So when we pray for the peace of Jerusalem, or the peace of Israel today, are we not also praying for a hastening of the return of Christ to Mount Zion?

A Jewish View of Prayer

The English word ‘prayer’ means ‘beseech’, ‘implore’, ‘plead’ for something. The Hebrew noun ‘bakashah’ means the same i.e. ‘request’ or ‘petition’. The theme here implies two distinct entities, an inferior one making a request of a Superior.

Practicing Jews prefer to use the word ‘tefillah’ which means much more than prayer. Tefillah is etymologically related to the root word ‘tofel’ — meaning ‘reconnect’ or ‘bond’. So tefillah implies a movement towards G_d in order to achieve communion or oneness with Him (rather than simply making a petition to a Superior Being), link. The New Testament has a similar concept when it urges us to “enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus” (Heb 10.19). In fact it goes even further in that “oneness” can be achieved by the Godhead coming to make their home with man: Yeshua said that if a man loves God and keeps His commandments then “We will come and make Our home with him” (Jn 14.23). That is surely communion with God, and is much deeper than prayer.

Some are Praying for Israel
God has set Watchmen on the Walls of Jerusalem

I have set watchmen on your walls, O Jerusalem (Isa 62.6)

pray for Israel

Blowing the Shofar

What is the role of a ‘watchman’ in the Bible? God made the prophet Ezekiel a watchman for the House of Israel. Ezekiel’s role was to first hear the word of God and then to pass on what he heard to Israel. In Ezekiel’s case, he passed on warnings, even if they didn’t want to hear them (Ezek 33.7). In Old Testament times the watchman blew the shofar to warn Israel of impending danger (Amos 3.6). That is still true, and today’s watchmen should be alert to future problems for Israel and sound the alarm (this time by the media).

An awesome song echoing Isaiah 62

But a watchmen can also be an encourager, one who ‘builds-up’, as in Isa 62. Here the watchmen are focused in multiple directions: on the coming glory and righteousness of Jerusalem (Zion), on the return of God’s people to their own land, on the coming blessings of the land itself, and on the witness of Israel to the Gentile nations:

I have set watchmen on your walls, O Jerusalem; they shall never hold their peace day and night. You who make mention of the LORD, do not keep silent, and give Him no rest till He establishes and till He makes Jerusalem a praise in the earth (Isa 62.6,7)

Powerful Prayer in History

God cares for His people Israel, and He answered the prayers of Israel’s leaders in the past. Recall how God heard Israel’s cries in Egypt and delivered His people (Acts 7.34), how He parted the sea for them (Exod 14.16), how He provided water out of the rock when they were thirsty (Exod 17.6, Num 20.11) and gave Israel meat in the desert when they were hungry (Exod 16.12). Recall how God defeated the Philistine who defied the armies of Israel (1 Sam 18.50), how He answered Elijah by fire (1 Kings 18.38), reversed the shadow on the sun dial, as requested (Isa 38.8), and heard Elijah’s prayer for rain (Ja 5.17,18).

Powerful Prayer Today

pray for Israel

The empty cross denotes the risen Christ

The cross of Christ speaks of His sacrificial death for mankind. And an empty cross speaks of His resurrection. Jesus lives today! and He promises all who believe in Him that He is always with them, right to the end of the age (Mat 28.20). As their ‘High Priest’ Jesus has become the one and only Mediator between God and man, and He lives to make intercession to God the Father for all who trust in Christ (Heb 7.25). This means that believers made righteous in Christ through His sacrifice for them on the cross can now come ‘boldly’ to God through Jesus and God will hear their prayer. Jesus said:

Truly, truly, I say to you, if you ask the Father for anything in My name, He will give it to you” (Jn 16.23)

Now that is some promise! Through fervent earnest prayer, believers can ask the God of all creation to intervene in the affairs of men (James 5.16-18). This was demonstrated in Britain during the 20th century as the fervent prayer of a few individuals led to the Hebridean and Welsh Revivals, link. And there’s more. Jesus gives His followers spiritual power and authority to take action in His name, link. So Israel’s watchmen are well equipped!

How to Pray for Israel: Derek Prince

Derek Prince lived in Jerusalem for much of his life and had a deep love for the Jewish people. He was a charismatic Bible teacher and a leading international authority on Bible prophecy. Over the years he came to understand that prayer is most effective in three stages: proclamation, thanksgiving and praise. In his travels Derek found that God placed great emphasis on proclamation. The word ‘proclaim’ is derived from a Latin verb which means ‘to shout forth’ or ‘to shout aloud.’ It means to declare something with great boldness and strength. He gave a number of proclamation examples, such as, link :

Father God, remove the veil You have sovereignly placed over the eyes of Israel, that they would recognize Jesus as their Messiah (2 Corinthians 3:14)
Lord, show Your mercy and favor to Israel in this set time (Psalm 102:13)
The Lord brings the counsel of the nations to nothing; He makes their plans of no effect (Psalm 33:10). We declare that God’s purposes for Israel will be completely fulfilled and that He will be glorified

God hears when you pray for Israel

God cares for His people Israel. The Bible says they are ‘the apple (pupil) of God’s eye’. Recall how God delivered His people from Egypt (Acts 7.34), how He parted the sea for them (Exod 14.16), how He provided water out of the rock (Exod 17.6, Num 20.11) and gave Israel meat in the desert (Exod 16.12). Recall how God defeated the Philistine who defied the armies of Israel (1 Sam 18.50), how He answered Elijah by fire (1 Kings 18.38), reversed the shadow on the sun dial (Isa 38.8), blessed Solomon’s kingdom (1 Kings 3.13) and heard Elijah’s prayer for rain (Ja 5.17,18). Many also believe that God delivered Israel from defeat in the 1967 6-day war, link. Jews across the world thanked God for the great miracles that happened. These examples encourage us to pray for Israel.

The Lord’s Prayer for Israel Today

The disciples asked Jesus …”Lord, teach us to pray” and He replied with a model prayer that has become a classic – a brief and compact prayer but full of deep truths and instructions for godly living (Lk 11.2-4). Let’s see how it applies today and especially in the context of modern Israel:

Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name – a prayer of adoration and worship to the God of Israel who’s throne is in heaven. In prayer Jews usually address God as ‘Adonai’ (Lord). But here Jesus alludes to a warm and free family relationship between God and man, whilst retaining awe and respect. Such a relationship is only possible through the Mediator, Jesus Christ. Pray that God’s people will soon enter into such a warm relationship with Him.
Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven – a prayer for the growth of the kingdom of heaven here on earth, but also looking to the end of the age when all unrighteousness is removed from the kingdom of heaven. It looks to the time when the kingdom of heaven is perfected to become like the kingdom of God, to the time when Christ rules as King from Jerusalem. In contrast, Jews are looking for their Moshiach, a great earthly king who will deliver Israel and usher in world peace. Pray that Jews will recognise Christ as their coming king.
Give us this day our daily bread – an acknowledgement that all we really need actually comes from God. Jesus tells us to “seek first His kingdom” and God will provide our needs – often through those who love Israel. Today man prefers to be self-sufficient, but as we near the end of the age believers and God’s people Israel will be forced to turn more and more to their Creator and Sustainer. In 2016 Israel had the highest rate of poverty among OECD members, link, and many who make aliyah are in great practical need. Pray for Israel’s needy.
And forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us – a reminder to believers to keep a clear conscience and short accounts with God. We must never forget that we are redeemed through the Lord’s sacrifice, and today He is redeeming his chosen people so they can evangelize the world with His truth. God’s word says that, at the end of this age, “they (Israel) will look to Him (Christ) whom they pierced”. A trickle has started and Jews are now recognising Yeshua as their Messiah, and through Him receive forgiveness.
Do not bring us to the test, but deliver us from evil – a plea to be delivered from temptation and evil. At the end of this age the world will be in spiritual darkness (Isa 60) and demonic forces will seek to destroy Israel. Pray for the protection of Jews in Israel as they experience daily rockets and stabbings.

Prayers for the People and Land of Israel

pray for Israel

Prayers for Israel

Jewish Prayers: In his book ‘Prayers for Israel’, Rabbi Yonah Bookstein calls for lovers of Israel to harness the power of prayer to bring peace to Israel and the Middle East. It contains new and ancient prayers based on psalms, sacred writings, and teachings of Hasidic Masters. Note: The Hasidic movement focuses on the joyful observance of God’s commandments, heartfelt prayer and boundless love for God and the world He created.

You might find this serene non-vocal Jewish Prayer good for quiet meditation on God’s word:

Gentile Prayers: In the last days God raises up ‘foreigners’ (Gentiles) to support Israel and to pray for Israel:

The sons of the foreigner … who love the name of the Lord … even them I will bring to My holy mountain, and make them joyful in My house of prayer … for My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations (Isa 56.6,7)

This is seen for example in The International House of Prayer (IHOPKC) whose primary role is to pray for and partner with Messianic Jews living in Israel, and to pray for God’s purposes in the nation of Israel, link.

Pray for the Peace of Jerusalem

I will make Jerusalem a very heavy stone … though all nations of the earth are gathered against it (Zech 12.3)

pray for Israel

Crossed Israeli and Palestinian flags, with ‘Peace’ written in Hebrew and Arabic. Image: Wikimedia Commons

God places on the heart of Israel’s watchmen what is on His heart. But there are generic areas to pray for. Psalm 122 is all about Jerusalem and in it God instructs man to pray for the peace of Jerusalem. What does this mean? Historically, Jerusalem has been besieged 23 times, attacked 52 times, and captured and recaptured 44 times, link. And end time prophecy indicates that Jerusalem will be attacked at least twice more, link. So it is natural to ask God for mercy on Jerusalem and Israel’s people in these last days. There will be great suffering (Jer 30.7).

Daily Suffering: Even during times of relative peace, Israel is under attack as rockets rain down on Israel’s villages and towns, and daily stabbings continue around Jerusalem, link. Pray for the survivors of terror attacks and for those who deal with their psychological damage and scars, link.

Pray against the Demonization of Israel

Susan Michael, Director of International Christian Embassy Jerusalem (ICEJ), link, says that demonization of Israel
is a particular problem on college campuses and that it is bringing the world to a feverish pitch and causing anti-Semitism. Likening it to the Nazi campaign against Jews, Michael says that it paves a way for military action. If Israel is portrayed in a bad light, it leaves the country in a weak position, in that other countries don’t want to step up in its defense.

So pray against increasing world-wide antisemitism. Be specific in prayer: Spain, France, Poland and Greece tend to be the most anti-Semitic countries in Europe, link. Pray against the various forms of economic warfare waged against Israel, as in the BDS campaign, and for the western churches to realize that Israel is a blessing not a curse, link.

Every 2 minutes a new lie about Israel is spread online
STOP THE HATE

Pray for the Aliyah – Jewish Immigration to Israel

Psalm 122.4 says that one day the tribes of Israel will go up to Jerusalem to give thanks to the Lord. So pray for those wanting to make aliyah to Israel and live there since this too is prophesied:

I will bring your descendants from the east, and gather you from the west; I will say to the north ‘give them up’ (Isa 43.5,6)

Pray for organisations like The Jewish Agency and the WZO who oversee aliyah, immigration, settlement and education.

Pray for Israel’s Poor

pray for Israel

Israel has a technologically advanced market economy with a debt-to-GDP ratio that compares favourably with western democracies, link. Economic growth has exceeded most other OECD countries rates for more than a decade. On the other hand, Israel needs to address productivity, inequality and poverty if it wants to improve well-being and reduce socio-economic divides, according to a recent OECD Economic Survey of Israel, link. Today, Israel is characterised by high poverty and the OECD ranks Israel as the country with the highest rates of poverty among its members, with over 20% of Israelis living under the poverty line, link, link. Those making aliyah and arriving in Israel are also in great need. Pray for those in Israel (Jew and Arab) suffering poverty.

Pray for Israel’s Spiritual Restoration

God’s people are returning to Israel mostly in unbelief – they reject Christ as their Moshiach (‘the anointed one’). But the Bible promises that this ‘spiritual blindness’ will soon be removed (Rom 11.25-27). So pray that the Holy Spirit will move upon them and open their eyes to the true identity of Yeshua, the one Mediator between God and man. Pray for those reaching out to their brothers and sisters (see video). There is an urgency here: many believe that those born again before Christ returns will be taken to be with Christ before the time of Jacobs trouble in Israel, link.

Thank God for Assured Future Blessings on Israel

Psalm 122.5 looks beyond this present age and into the Millennial age when Christ will sit on the throne of David (Lk 1.32) and rule the nations in righteousness from Jerusalem. So pray that the Lord will come quickly to reign from Jerusalem. Pray for the day when “living waters flow from Jerusalem” (Zech 14.8). And be encouraged in your prayers for Jerusalem, since those who pray for the peace of Jerusalem are promised a blessing (Ps 122.6).

Pray for Israel’s Arab Neighbours

Prophecy says that in the Millennial age, people from those nations that attacked Israel will go up from year to year to worship the Lord in Jerusalem (Zech 14.16). More specifically, we read:

“In that day Israel will be the third party with Egypt and Assyria, a blessing in the midst of the earth, whom the Lord of hosts has blessed, saying, “Blessed is Egypt My people, and Assyria the work of My hands, and Israel My inheritance” (Isa 19.24,25)

In the time that this prophecy was made, Assyria embraced what is now Iraq, Syria, Jordan and Lebanon – all Arabic countries. So God loves the Arabs and reaches out to them today through our prayers. Listen to Christian Arabs praising God (remember, Christian Arabs normally use the term Allah (God) in association with His begotten Son, Yeshua or Jesus). Listen to Christian Arabs singing “Immanuel, Immanuel, God with us”, a reference to Jesus.

Pray for Your Own Nation

pray for Israel

Pray that your nation (your government, your universities, your churches …) will have a good relationship with Israel and the Jewish People. Remember that God blesses those who bless Israel (Gen 12.3). Pray that any Israeli goods boycott will be made illegal and that business ties with Israel are strengthened. Pray for your church members and leaders, that they will recognise the important role of Israel in these last days. Pray especially that they will reject the common lie of Replacement Theology.

Guidelines for Corporate Prayer:
Be brief, speak clearly, speak from the heart, don’t preach, keep to the current theme, listen to the Spirit. More ….

Send your Specific Prayer Requests

pray for Israel

“I pray in YESHUA’S Name, That more people EYES WILL BE OPENED, AND HEARTS BE FILLED WILL LOVE, in these Last Days, May GOD’S MINISTER ANGELS rain upon the WEAK, SICK, and LOST LAMBS; May the SEEDS that have been sown Be WATERED by the HOLY SPIRIT. and ALL that need FOOD come here to EAT. Amen.” [ Tim Roberts, openarmsministry888@gmail.com ]

Pray 4 Zion know that God answers prayer. So send them your praise reports and prayer requests. Once a month they also place your prayers on the ‘Wailing Wall’ in Jerusalem, link.

Jewish Voice Ministries International aims to proclaim the Gospel to the Jew first, and also to the Nations (Romans 1:16), and to equip the Church — providing education about the Hebraic roots of Christianity, the Church’s responsibility to Israel and the Jewish People, and how to share Messiah with the Jewish People. Send your praise report or prayer request to JVMI.

The Joshua Fund aims to mobilize Christians to “bless Israel and her neighbours in the name of Jesus”, according to Genesis 12:1-3. They invite believers to join with them to pray over topical and serious issues in Israel and in the countries neighbouring Israel, link

The Messianic Bible invites people to submit prayer requests. You can ask for someone to pray privately for you, or for your prayer request to be shared publicly and or on social media, link

Christians United for Israel (Cufi) offer to hand deliver and place your prayer in the Western Wall in Jerusalem, link.

Prayer Groups Based in Israel

Intercessors for Israel seeks to raise up a prayer army in and for Israel. Their primary calling is to intercede before God on behalf of the people and Land of Israel, and to do their part in the battle to prepare the way for the return of the Lord. The leadership of Intercessors for Israel is comprised of Messianic Jews who live in the Jerusalem area, link.

Jerusalem Prayer Tower welcomes groups from the nations seeking to participate in continual prayer and worship in unity as one new man until Yeshua returns, all Israel is saved, and Jerusalem is a praise in all the Earth. Location: Jaffa Road, Jerusalem, link, link.

Bridges For Peace believe that God has enriched our spiritual life through the Jewish people and that it would be an appropriate response to have Christians meet regularly to pray for Israel and to learn about our Jewish roots. The weekly “Israel Current News Update with Prayer Focus” is sent from Jerusalem by email to anyone who requests it. The International HQ is in Jerusalem, link.

International Christian Embassy Jerusalem (ICEJ) was founded in 1980 as an evangelical response for the need to comfort Zion according to the command of the scripture found in Isaiah 40:1-2. It was literally birthed in prayer in the late 1970s by a group of Christians from some six countries who met regularly to pray for Israel, link.


trusting in Jesus

Christian Calendar – Pagan Roots

 

Christian calendar

The festivals of the Christian calendar (principally Christmas and Easter) are based on the Gregorian calendar. This is a solar calendar (differing from the solar year by just 26 seconds) and is a refinement of the earlier Roman Julian solar calendar, link. But the Julian calendar was itself a revision of the Roman and Greek calendars which identified pagan solar festivals around the winter solstice and Spring equinox. Even days of the week and months of the year are from pagan Rome and Greece, link.

By contrast, the Hebrew calendar is based upon cycles of the moon (essentially a lunar calendar). It starts with the first month of the year, Nissan (March-April) and ends with the 12th month of the year, Adar (February-March). The important point is that it is biblical (Exod 12.2, Lev 23) and defines various God-ordained festivals at specific months of the year, link.

Is the Christian Calendar Biblical?

Why should Christians follow festivals rooted in pagan solar festivals? After all, God did not give man specific dates to celebrate the mission of Christ, link. There is no warrant in Scripture for the observance of Christmas and Easter as holy days. Jesus Himself told believers to proclaim His death as a sign of the new covenant (Mat 26.26-29, 1 Cor 11.23-26), but He gave no specific date to do this. Charles Spurgeon agreed and said:

We have no superstitious regard for times and seasons. Certainly we do not believe in the present ecclesiastical arrangement called Christmas

And regarding Easter Spurgeon said:

See how they observe Good Friday, a sad, sad day to many; yet our Lord has never enjoined our keeping such a day

Further more, since Christianity has Jewish roots, why does the church largely ignore the Hebrew (Jewish) calendar? By ignoring the Hebrew calendar and the embedded mystery of the Hebrew feasts, the church could be accused of spiritual naivety! There is something deep and wonderful here. So by adhering to a pagan-based solar calendar is the church losing out? Moreover, is it being misled?

 

The Christian Calendar: Christmas

Did you know …

  • The birth of Christ was not celebrated or observed, neither by the apostles nor by the apostolic church
  • The Roman winter solstice was marked on December 25th on the Julian calendar
  • December 25 celebrated natalis solis invicti, the Roman “birth of the unconquered Sun”
  • The early church wanted to “Christianize” these pagan holidays, link, link
  • The Roman Catholic Church later symbolised the pagan sun-god in the round sun-like wafer used in the Eucharist
  • Modern Bible translations still present Jesus Christ as the “Sun” of righteousness (Mal 4.2, NKJV), replacing the sun god, Sol Invictus, link
  • In Rome the fir tree (today’s “Christmas tree”) related to Baal-Berith, a pagan Messiah and a form of Ba’al-worship practised by ancient Israel, link
  • The Puritans banned Christmas because of its pagan origin, link

 

The Christian Calendar: Easter

Did you know …

  • The term “Easter” is found in Acts 12.4 (KJV only)
  • Some claim this is a correct translation and that Easter here actually referred to a pagan festival involving the worship of the goddess of fertility, Ishtar (pronounced “Easter”), link
  • The mythical Spring Goddess Ishtar is also variously named Eostre, Astarte, Ostera, and Eastre, link, link
  • The Western term “Easter” was derived from the Anglo-Saxon form of Ishtar, ‘Eostre’ – the name of the goddess of spring, International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia
  • The pagan festival involved the worship of Tammuz (her son) and took place at sunrise on Easter morning. It was an abomination (Ezek 8.13-16)
  • Ishtar has been linked to the “queen of heaven” (Jer 7.18), link
  • The pagan festival involved a celebration of reproduction and common symbols of Easter festivities were the rabbit and the egg
  • The early church used the Jewish Passover (Nisan 14 on the Hebrew Calendar) to commemorate the sufferings of Jesus, the true Passover Lamb, link
  • The First Council of Nicaea (325 AD) moved away from the Hebrew Calendar and changed the Easter date to align with the solar calendar, link
  • Today some Christians follow the early church tradition and observe a ‘Christian Passover’, a form of the Jewish Passover but with the freedom Christ gives from ritual (1 Cor. 5:7-8), link

 

Time for the church to return to her Hebrew roots?

GO DEEPER