12. Our Relationship with Israel

Negative attitudes and sometimes even blatant hatred of Israel is widespread throughout the world but, on the other hand, there are also supporters of this people among those who recognise Israel’s biblical mandate to their land and who earnestly pray for the spiritual restoration of Israel.

It is encouraging that there are increasing numbers of Jews who receive Jesus as Messiah, despite the fact that they still constitute a relatively low percentage. For obvious reasons, Messianic Jews are viewed with contempt by orthodox Jews. In much the same situation as that which prevailed during the first century (cf. Acts 8:1-4), they are regarded as heretics who have defected from the God of their fathers. As the numbers of Messianic Jews in Israel increase, there is a corresponding increase in the resistance against them from the orthodox establishment. This tendency is indicative of the impending severe persecution of Messianic Jews who will be saved during the time of Jacob’s trouble (the coming tribulation period):

“And there will be great earthquakes in various places, and famines and pestilences; and there will be fearful sights and great signs from heaven. But before all these things, they will lay their hands on you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons. ... You will be betrayed even by parents and brothers, relatives and friends; and they will put some of you to death. And you will be hated by all for My name’s sake” (Luke 21:12-17). “Yes, the time is coming that whoever kills you will think that he offers God a service. And these things they will do to you because they have not known the Father nor Me” (John 16:2-3).

It is our duty to pray for the young Messianic congregations in Israel so that, during these trying times, they will stand strong in the Lord. The resistance which they are experiencing will also spread to other countries. All the false religions will eventually join hands to form an alliance of world religions that will recognise the Antichrist as their common Messiah. Forming part of that alliance will also be orthodox Jews, who will follow the false Messiah and obtain the right from him to rebuild the temple. A major rift will develop between the supporters of the true Messiah and the false messiah.

Israel and the nations

There are widely diverging attitudes entertained by different nations towards Israel. This is an important matter since the judgements of God have been pronounced upon the enemies of Israel, but blessings upon those who support them. In spite of the spiritual darkness in which the majority of Jews are currently, there is no justification whatsoever for conducting a campaign of hatred against them. In fact, apart from rejecting God, this is one of the most dishonourable and detrimental things anyone can do, as it provokes the anger of God (Gen. 12:3). Large world empires have been destroyed in the past because they tried to annihilate Israel. Among them are the once mighty Babylonian, Assyrian and Roman Empires, who were all sworn enemies of Israel.

A major test for the nations’ disposition towards Israel is the present struggle for control over Jerusalem. Those who support the division of the city between Israel and the Palestinians, or who call for international control over the city, are diametrically opposed to Israel’s biblical right to the city. With perfect clarity, Zechariah 14 describes the judgements of God that will come upon nations foolish enough to engage in a war against Jerusalem. In the final analysis, the hatred of Jews (anti-Zionism) is the ideology of the Antichrist as it is aimed against Israel’s Messiah, Jesus Christ. Christians should completely denounce and resist this ideology.

Replacement theology

There are also other ways in which Israel are denied their identity and position, thereby robbing them of the promises regarding their restoration to the land which the Lord gave to their fathers. One of these efforts is made within the framework of replacement theology, which advocates the replacement of Israel by the church. Promises made to Israel are spiritualised and applied to the church, which results in a strong denial of there being a literal people (or nation) of Israel which will be restored to their land in the end-time. This practice amounts to a total disregard of the true Israel’s identity and calling, and represents a form of theological anti-Zionism.

Churches that regard themselves as being Israel by using descriptive terms such as the “spiritual Israel” or the “Israel of the New Testament”, can easily become involved in the deception of dominionism. They take all the promises of blessing which are to be Israel’s during the future millennial reign of the Messiah (the kingdom dispensation), and apply them to the present dispensation of the church. Resultant from this thinking, the church adopted a position of dominion in which Christians strive to live like kings endowed with great authority, wealth and honour. They are expected to use these special powers to do signs and wonders, start revival movements, destroy satanic strongholds, and even attempt to take over the whole world for the kingdom of God. In accordance with this approach, adherents are not to wait for Christ to establish a Christian new world order at His coming, but to use the power of their faith to manifest the kingdom of heaven in the present, during the church dispensation. They make the erroneous supposition that the church was commissioned and empowered to take over the world and become rulers.

In this way, the deceived church rejects the idea that they are sojourners and strangers in a world which lies in the power of the Evil One, and in which they should be prepared to suffer for Christ and enter into His kingdom through many tribulations (1 Pet. 2:11; 1 John 5:19; Acts 14:22). Instead of this they pursue a visible kingdom and see themselves as “Israel”.

Rather than trying to replace Israel we should commit ourselves towards recognising them, assisting them and praying for them.

Our duty towards Israel

Not only should we recognise Israel as a people with whom God has concluded a covenant, but we should also actively support them. If we wish to ensure the blessings of the Lord upon our own lives we should bless Israel. Don’t be hasty to condemn them because they rejected and crucified Jesus. Even though it certainly was an act of unbelief on their part, it was also part of God’s plan for the saving of sinners throughout the world. Without the substitutionary death of Jesus, you and I would never have been able to become Christians – Israel’s stumbling and sin opened the way for us to be saved:

“I say then, have they stumbled that they should fall? Certainly not! But through their fall, to provoke them to jealousy, salvation has come to the Gentiles. Now if their fall is riches for the world, and their failure riches for the Gentiles, how much more their fullness!” (Rom. 11:11-12).

In their fallen state, Israel is a source of blessing to us, but the Lord has said that in their spiritually restored state they will be an even greater blessing to the world. Considered from every point of view, we owe gratitude, blessing, intercession, and support to Israel. We should provoke them to jealousy by the way in which we worship the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob through the Messiah, Yeshua. We should also pray for the peace of Jerusalem if we wish to live in peace in our own country (Ps. 122:6).

The need for all believers to actively intercede for Jerusalem arises from the fact that, historically and prophetically, this city is closely associated with both Israel and Christianity. It was in Jerusalem that Yeshua revealed Himself as Messiah, died on the cross to atone for our sins, rose from the dead on the third day and ascended to heaven 40 days later. Ten days after His ascension, the Holy Spirit was poured out upon 120 faithful and praying disciples in Jerusalem. That event heralded the birth of the Christian church, and the disciples were commissioned to proclaim the message of salvation from Jerusalem to the furthest ends of the earth (Acts 1:8). During this time Israel would be dispersed and Jerusalem trampled by the Gentiles, only to be restored again in greater glory than before.

It will be to the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem, that the Messiah will return at the end of the great tribulation to judge the unbelieving nations, save a believing remnant of Israel and the nations, and to establish His kingdom on earth. In answer to the prayers of the saints and in accordance with His holy will, the Messiah will elevate Jerusalem to the status of world capital – the city of the great King! (Ps. 48:2). Subsequently, during the Millennium, the Lord Jesus, the son of David, will reign over the world from the restored throne of David (Luke 1:32; Acts 15:16-17). Do you pray for the fulfilment of these wonderful promises? (Isa. 62:6-7; cf. Isa. 52:1-2). Remember that only the Messiah is the peace of Israel and Jerusalem (Eph. 2:14) and that we should pray that Israel be reconciled with Him.

Israel is the target of a well organised and severely hostile campaign of anti-Zionism. Concerted efforts are being made to undermine the interests of Israel in every sphere of life, to slander them and render them the black sheep of the international community. Satan is the evil power behind this campaign. He knows that the restoration of Israel will occur during the last generation before the coming of the Messiah and he is doing everything in his power to prevent them from returning to the Promised Land, to destroy them as a nation and to hand control of their country to their enemies.

Satan is actively concerned with assuming control over Jerusalem because he knows that this city is destined to be the capital of the Messiah’s kingdom after the destruction of the Antichrist’s world empire. Tremendous pressure is exerted to alienate this city from the Jews by either internationalising it or handing it over to the Palestinian Authority as their capital. In particular, the devil is trying to prevent Israel from retaining control over the Temple Mount and the Mount of Olives, as this area is clearly identified in the Bible as the place where the second coming of the Messiah will occur, and also where Israel will be reconciled with Him (Zech. 14:4-5).

The Bible gives very clear directions to the nations, particularly to the Christians, on what their conduct and responsibilities towards Israel should be. God has promised to bless those who adhere to this advice, both the giver and the recipient. These directions are often given in the imperative form and are therefore commands. If you want to know God’s will regarding your relationship with Israel, and at the same time secure blessings for yourself and your nation, you must observe these commands.

In Revelation 1:13, Christian congregations are likened to lampstands. As witnesses of Christ they must be like lights shining in a dark world. The lampstand referred to in this instance, has seven branches. It also features in the Jewish religion, and is called a menorah. Apart from our general commission as witnesses of Jesus in the world, these seven candles must also be made to light up Israel’s way, as indicated in the illustration.

However, many Christians and Christian congregations have lost sight of their spiritual mission and are bogged down in self-centred activities. They have clearly apostatised and only serve Jesus Christ with their lips. These congregations have become spiritually estranged from God, therefore it is no wonder that they have also lost touch with Israel as the covenant people of God. Jesus admonishes such congregations lovingly, but sternly: “I have this against you, that you have left your first love. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place – unless you repent” (Rev. 2:4-5).

The key concepts which are stated in the Bible regarding our responsibilities towards Israel, are mentioned below. Observing these commands will result in a comprehensive programme of caring for Israel in every sphere of life. The focus and mission of a ministry of this nature is to win the hearts of the Jews and to show them the way to the Father through the Messiah, Yeshua.

1. Bless them

Right at the beginning when God called Abraham, He said: “I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Gen. 12:3). To bless someone is to ask for God’s favour or protection over him, and also to act accordingly. The act of us blessing Israel is a practical demonstration of doing the Lord’s will and will ensure His blessings upon us. To curse someone is to condemn him and to express the wish that he be struck by disasters and be afflicted by evil powers. Those who have an evil disposition and engage in such negative practices, usually bring the curses intended for others upon themselves. Do you want to enjoy the blessings of the Lord? Then serve Him with all your heart and bless His people!

2. Comfort them

“Comfort, yes, comfort My people! says your God. Speak comfort to Jerusalem, and cry out to her that her warfare is ended, that her iniquity is pardoned” (Isa. 40:1-2). We should speak tenderly to the heart of Jerusalem’s inhabitants, encourage and motivate them to return to the Lord through the Messiah, because He is a forgiving and merciful God. They should also know that that in the midst of all the hostility and attacks, they have Christian friends who stand by them. However, this nation should realise that, not only are they the innocent victims of their many enemies, but they are also forfeiting God’s blessings because of their own spiritual waywardness. Israel cannot be truly comforted without leading them back to the great Comforter, who alone is able to permanently wipe all the tears from their eyes (Isa. 25:8).

3. Care for them

In order to bless and comfort Israel in a meaningful way, we need to back up our positive attitude of spiritual support with practical programmes to care for them and lend a helping hand where the most urgent needs exist. The logistics of caring for Israel can take on a variety of forms:

·         Awareness programs should be organised to inform people about Israel’s biblical and practical situation, and to suggest ways in which to render assistance.

·         Diplomatic support can be offered to Israel by protecting their territorial integrity against any claims which advocate the division of their land or capital city.

·         Counter the evil ideology of anti-Zionism (anti-Semitism) by emphasising that, from a biblical point of view, the rejection of Israel simultaneously amounts to the rejection of the God of Israel, who has granted certain clear-cut rights to His covenant people.

·         Address the spiritual needs of Israel in a very sensitive but convincing way by indicating to them that various Old Testament prophecies were fulfilled in the first coming of Jesus as Messiah.

·         Render financial and material support where needed, particularly in the relocation of Jewish immigrants. Also support poor Jewish families in Israel.

Apart from preaching to his fellow-Jews and introducing them to Yeshua, the Messiah, Paul also organised practical programmes to care for them in various other ways: “For the present, however, I am going to Jerusalem to bring aid [relief] for the saints – God’s people there. For it has been the good pleasure of Macedonia and Achaia to make some contributions for the poor among the saints of Jerusalem. They were pleased to do it, and surely they are in debt to them, for if these Gentiles have come to share in their [the Jerusalem Jews’] spiritual blessings, then they ought also to be of service to them in material blessings” (Rom 15:25-27; AB).

In which programmes are you involved to care for those in Jerusalem who are going through such hard times? Thousands of immigrants from poor countries are arriving in Israel with virtually nothing except the clothes on their bodies.

4. Pray for them

At the heart of any support programme for Israel is prayer: “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: may they prosper who love you” (Ps. 122:6). All of us should take to heart the promises on the future glory of Jerusalem, and pray accordingly: “I have set watchmen on your walls, O Jerusalem; they shall never hold their peace day or 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).

Not only should we pray for the present needs of Jerusalem and Israel, but also for the full restoration of this land and its people. That will only happen when the Messiah has been accepted by them as the Holy One of Israel and the only Saviour of His people. Until Israel is reconciled with Him they will not have lasting peace, but will continue to be at variance with God’s purposes for them as a Messianic people. Consequently, they will be heading for the time of Jacob’s trouble. Only a redeemed Israel under the authority of their Messiah-King will have true peace.

5. Give full recognition to them

Never doubt Israel’s right to exist. Give full recognition to them as the people through whom the Word of God has come to the whole world: “What advantage then, is there in being a Jew, or what value is there in circumcision? Much in every way! First of all, they have been entrusted with the very words of God. What if some did not have faith? Will their lack of faith nullify God’s faithfulness? Not at all!” (Rom. 3:1-4; NIV).

There has always been a faithful remnant in Israel with whom one could identify spiritually, while still proclaiming the gospel to the unsaved majority. Never forget the facilitating role of Israel in bringing the true faith to the world. Even though the majority of Jews were unfaithful to the Messiah, it is due to the witness of the faithful minority that we could also become members of the household of faith. We have no reason to boast in ourselves:

“For if their being cast away is the reconciling of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead? For if the firstfruit is holy, the lump is also holy; and if the root is holy, so are the branches. And if some of the branches were broken off, and you, being a wild olive tree, were grafted in among them, and with them became a partaker of the root and fatness of the olive tree, do not boast against the branches. But if you do boast, remember that you do not support the root, but the root supports you” (Rom. 11:15-18).

6. Arouse them to jealousy!

We should awaken Israel spiritually by arousing them to jealousy. We should serve the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in such a convincing and inspiring way through the Messiah, Yeshua, that Jews become jealous: “So I ask: Have they stumbled so as to fall – to their utter spiritual ruin, irretrievably? By no means! But through their false step and transgression salvation [has come] to the Gentiles, so as to arouse Israel [to see and feel what they forfeited] and to make them jealous” (Rom. 11:11; AB). Have you presented the truth regarding the fulfilment of the wonderful Messianic promises in the Old Testament to a Jew, and distanced yourself from nominal Christians who are antagonistic towards Israel and further alienate them from Christ?

7. Proclaim the Messiah to them

It is a tragedy that some Christians are ashamed to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ to the Jews as they do not want to offend them and arouse their resentment. Paul said: “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek” (Rom 1:16).

If we adopt the correct attitude of love and compassion, and the correct approach from the Old to the New Testament, fruitful service can be rendered to Jews. This was done during the first century and there is no reason why it cannot be done today. It can indeed, provided the Word is once again proclaimed with boldness in Jerusalem: “And the Word of God spread, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests were obedient to the faith” (Acts 6:7). But how will they come to faith if nobody witnesses to them about the Messiah?

Support the Messianic Movement

The Bible charges all Christian churches with the responsibility of becoming involved in evangelising the Jews (Acts 1:8). Israel’s spiritual fall brought about by their rejection of the Messiah was not permanent. Their blinding contributed towards the achievement of a wonderful purpose, i.e. the evangelisation of the entire non-Jewish world. Their fall resulted in us receiving spiritual riches, and because of this we are their debtors. We should portray our gratitude towards Israel, as they rejected the salvation which was initially destined to be theirs, and it was subsequently offered to us. We are being spiritually enriched by it and should now have compassion on Israel. By the way we live our lives, it should be made evident to them what it is that they have missed.

We must not make the mistake of abandoning our duty to evangelise the Jews by arguing that the Lord has given them a spirit of blindness and deep sleep. The Lord only hardens the hearts of people who have already hardened themselves, and He will only place a veil over those who are so negatively inclined that they refuse to see. All people are responsible for their own misery. The veil over Israel is removed by God when they repent (2 Cor. 3:14-16; Acts 17:30); therefore, all Jews can turn to the Messiah for salvation.

There is no barrier in the way of Jewish evangelism since the Holy Spirit convicts all people of their sin and also of the righteousness of Christ (John 16:8). The duty of proclaiming the gospel to Jews was assigned to Peter and various other apostles, and work of this nature has been conducted throughout the church dispensation.

Jewish evangelism is a very big challenge since deep-rooted prejudices must be overcome before a Jew will accept Jesus as Messiah. Firstly, a Jew has to come to terms with the internal problem of societal disapproval and rejection by his orthodox compatriots when he receives Jesus as Messiah. Secondly, there is the external stumbling-block of a predominantly anti-Jewish world which must be overcome. Jews are often raised with a mindset in which they are expected to view Christians as their critics and enemies, and it is not easy to overcome this barrier of resistance in order for them to become followers of Christ.

It is the duty of Messianic Jews as well as evangelical Christians to overcome these strong prejudices and prove them wrong by demonstrating the love of the Messiah to orthodox as well as agnostic Jews. The more Israel becomes isolated and internationally rejected, the more they will be receptive to and thankful for the aid and support they receive from evangelical Christians and Messianic Jews. The situation is already changing.

It should be clearly stated that our main obligation is towards Messianic Jews. Paul says, “Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith” (Gal. 6:10). We should strongly support the Messianic movement by assisting with its expansion. Israel’s entire future is dependent on them as the Lord is preparing the whole nation to once again be His people in the true sense of the word. Those who refuse to be spiritually revived and become Messianic will die in their sins, but the remnant who are reconciled with the Messiah represent the small beginning of the true Israel of the future.

It should always be remembered that the spiritual awakening of the entire nation is the Lord’s ultimate purpose with the restoration of Israel. At this stage we should not be overly concerned with the promotion of Israel’s political or economic stability, or in bringing peace to the Middle East, as that will only be achieved after the Messiah has come. We should indeed assist where great need exists, but our main priority should be to promote the Messianic movement. Assistance of this nature is focused on the full spiritual restoration of Israel.

It is obvious that the spiritual awakening of Israel has not yet occurred. Indeed, since the beginning of the church dispensation, the Messianic movement has been in existence in a small way, but the majority of Jews have not yet awakened spiritually – particularly not the political and spiritual leaders of Israel. Now that Israel has been physically and politically restored to their land, it has become all the more imperative to expand the Messianic movement among them. This obligation should be pursued with greater dedication so that more Jews can become conscious of the Lord Jesus and His biblical claims to being the Messiah of Israel, while they also become informed about the coming of the false messiah. They should also come to know that, in accordance with traditional Jewish practice, similarly the heavenly Bridegroom will secretly come to take His earthly bride away (Matt. 25:1-13).

Knowledge of this nature is critically important to prepare the future group of 144 000 Jews to resist the false messiah shortly after the rapture, and to accept the true Messiah as Saviour. They will replace the Messianic Jews who will have been taken away at the rapture, and through their dynamic witness the Messianic movement in Israel will grow strongly. According to Revelation 11:1-14, two special witnesses with great powers will also minister during that time and proclaim Jesus as Messiah. Due to their ministry many Jews and Gentiles will be saved.

  However, the deception of the false messiah will be so strong and convincing that the majority of the unsaved Jews will conclude a covenant with him and follow him (John 5:43). The deceived, unsaved Jews will be disappointed when, in the middle of the tribulation period, their new found messiah proves to be false when he proclaims himself to be God in the rebuilt temple in Jerusalem (2 Thess. 2:4). They will revoke their covenant with him and, according to Matthew 24:15-22, they will have to flee for survival to a place in the wilderness. Only then will their spiritual perspective be corrected and they will start seeking the true Messiah as explained in Hosea 6:1-2. At that time they will fully realise that Israel’s afflictions during the previous two thousand years were caused by their rejection of the Messiah who was born in the house of David.

When the remnant in Israel see the true Messiah descending upon the Mount of Olives at the end of the tribulation period, all of them will heartily welcome Him and be reconciled with Him (Matt. 23:39). According to Zechariah 12:10, they will weep at His feet while repenting of their sins. At that point the Messianic movement will have achieved its full and glorious purpose.

Do you wish to join in realising this worthy purpose? If so, become a supporter of the Messianic movement in Israel and also across the globe. At the end of this wonderful journey the Lord will say of Israel: “No more shall every man teach his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord, for they all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, says the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more” (Jer. 31:34).