The Connection between Jesus and Israel is Fundamental
What is written in the Christian Bible about Jesus and Israel is deep and mysterious. Yet this mystery will soon be revealed to the world through end-time world events. It will affect everyone. So with national Israel in world focus today, it is natural to ask:
Is there any connection with the risen Jesus Christ
and the Israel we observe today (the people and the land)?
In particular, some ask
- What do Jews and Gentiles think of Jesus?
- Will today’s Jews every recognize Jesus as their ‘Messiah’. If so, when?
- Are there two biblical Covenants, one for Jews and one for Gentiles? Or does the covenant promise to Israel merge into the New Covenant given to the church?
- What is Christ’s relationship to the nation, Israel?
- Did Jesus’ teaching replace the laws of the Hebrew scriptures?
- Does Jesus fulfill the promises of blessing given to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob? Put another way, does Jesus and His church fulfill the role originally assigned to the nation of Israel – to be a light to the nations?
- Has Christ’s church replaced Israel, as in Replacement Theology?
- If Jesus and His church have taken the place of Old Testament Israel, what is the status and role of the nation of Israel today?
- Is the modern State of Israel a product of man’s will, or a fulfillment of God’s prophetic word?
- Does God recognize as ‘spiritual’ Israel all who respond in faith to follow Jesus?
- Is the church related to the so-called ‘Ten Lost Tribes’? Are their descendants scattered amongst the Gentile church, link?
- Did Jesus’ primary ministry (reconciliation of man to God) fulfill all that the Old Testament temple symbolized? Is a new temple in Jerusalem needed (as some maintain)?
- Does the modern State of Israel have any claim to the land (Canaan) promised to Abraham and his descendants, noting that Israel failed to keep God’s covenant? Put another way, are modern Jews still the true heirs of the land promised regardless of their continued unbelief in Jesus?
Bible Prophecy Holds the Answer to many of these Questions
In his book Jesus and Israel: One Covenant or Two?, David Holwerda (professor of New Testament Studies, Calvin Theological Seminary) argues for a spiritual fulfillment of Bible prophecies, link. He rightly concludes that there is only one covenant and that “The way of salvation for both Jew and Gentile is the same because both must call on the name of Jesus to be saved“. But does a spiritual view of prophecy fit with the facts, with observed reality, with what we see happening in Israel today? Why can’t we take a pragmatic view of prophecies where the text is quite clear?
Jesus’ First Mission: He came primarily to His own people, the Jews (at that time, essentially from the tribe of Judah), but they rejected Him as their expected Messiah (the Moshiach):
He came to that which was His own [that which belonged to Him—His world, His creation, His possession], and those who were His own [people—the Jewish nation] did not receive and welcome Him (Jn 1.11, Amplified)
And He came not to abolish the Jewish Law or the Prophets, but to fulfill them (Mat 5.17).
Jesus’ Second Mission: Why does Jesus return to the Jews in Jerusalem and not to the politically important people in the UN or the EU, for instance? The answer is that prophecy explicitly states that Jesus returns to rule the Gentile nations with justice as King from Jerusalem (Zech 14.9,16,17). He returns to sit on the ancient throne of king David, who reigned 33 years in Jerusalem (Isa 9.7).
He returns to usher in the fullness of the Kingdom of God – a Millennial age of peace when the nations go up to Jerusalem to worship Him (Isa 66.23)! He returns to dwell with His chosen nation, the people of Israel (Ezek.37.26-27). Perhaps most important of all, Jesus returns so that His people recognize Him as their true Messiah, their looked-for Moshiach:
They (the Jews) will look on Me whom they pierced … they will mourn for Him … in that day there shall be a great mourning in Jerusalem (Zech 12.10,11)
Again, these promises are difficult to spiritualize.
Jesus returns to Jerusalem: Bible prophecy says that Jesus will return at the end of this age. And the place of his return? Jerusalem! So at the outset, Jesus and modern Israel are inextricably connected via modern-day Jerusalem. Geologists have even discovered a fault line running through the Mount of Olives, as required for the mountain to split in two at Christ’s Second Coming (Zech 14.4). That is difficult to spiritualize.
Jesus’ return is Unexpected: It will be preceded by deception (false Christs), but his actual return will be sudden, unexpected, and globally observed. In the gospel of Mathew, chapter 24, we read:
Many false prophets will appear and fool many people … if people tell you, ‘Look, he is out in the desert!’ — don’t go there; or if they say, ‘Look, he is hiding here!’ — don’t believe it. For the Son of Man will come like the lightning which flashes across the whole sky from the east to the west
Who Takes Jesus Seriously?
As the video implies, most Jews in Israel today reject Yeshua (Jesus) as their looked-for ‘Messiah’ or ‘Moshiach’. Apart from a minority, those who claim to be religious follow Judaism, not Yeshua. This is alarming – but a fulfillment of prophecy. According to prophecy, God’s people (generically, the Jews) will return in unbelief to the land promised to Abraham and his descendants. The New Testament says that these Jews are suffering a temporary spiritual blindness and a temporary hardening of the heart towards God and especially towards Yeshua (Rom 11.25). Only at the very end of this age, under tribulation, does the vast majority of Jews recognize Yeshua as their Messiah (Zech 12.10-14).
In an ever-darkening western world, skeptics claim that nobody of our era has seen Jesus of Nazareth as the person who lived some 2,000 years ago. Where is he? He died didn’t he? For example, a vast majority of young people in Europe now reject Christianity, link. Some 70% of young people in the UK identify with no religion.
Yet billions of people worldwide who call themselves Christians believe he is a living person, trust him, and hang on to every word he said, as written in the New Testament writings of the Bible. And it is these same scriptures that give shocking warnings to those who don’t believe and consciously reject him. The warnings are so radical that they are brushed off as delusional ideas of the disciples of this controversial personality. The warnings are seen as fundamentalist dogma.
Here’s a series of four thought-provoking exposés about Jesus of Nazareth, born in the land of Israel as a Jew and predicted to return to Jerusalem to become King of a world-ruling government.
Jesus the man
Jesus the Jew
Jesus the Creator
Jesus the coming King