While I write this, there are wars (Russia-Ukraine and Israel-Hamas) and rumors of wars (Israel-Iran, NATO-Russia, U.S.-China, China-Taiwan, and more). Regional wars change fast, so who knows what will be happening in just a few weeks.
Jesus said that this would happen before the end of this age, so these events are just the beginning of events that will steadily increase, although there may also be some periods of low activity. He warned us that the coming crises will be similar to a woman giving birth; these times of extreme difficulty will be but the start of the birth pains of the coming new age. Birth pains, as we know, occur off and on, but increasing as birth becomes closer.
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In Matthew our Lord said: “And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars; see that you are not alarmed; for this must take place, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places: all this is but the beginning of the birth pangs” (Matthew 24:6-8, NRSV).1
Right now, Israel is at war with an Islamist political and military organization governing the Gaza Strip.2 From mainstream news reports, there are atrocities being committed by both sides in the conflict, so who is to blame? Well, it depends upon whom you ask. I don’t immediately take sides as events unfold, because much of what is reported — from either side — are lies.
When asked, I usually tell inquirers that I don’t know where to place the blame, because it takes days or longer before all the intelligence is examined and sorted. “Let’s see what sifts down,” is my usual reply and I’ve found that is good advice in such incidents.
Many, if not most, news reports from war zones are far from the truth; the reports are usually only propaganda to sway the public’s opinion in the direction a particular government wants it to go. Fortunately, in these modern times, there are several independent journalists that do report the truth.
Should we unconditionally support the country of Israel?
It is not my intention for this article to explain who are the good or bad participants in this war in the Near East, but about a related matter. During the last couple of weeks many Christian denominations in my country (USA) seem to be implying that no matter what, it is a Christian’s duty to support Israel. Should we?
In a recent article, Christianity Today states that “American Christians should be united in support of Israel as it’s under attack.” They state that in early moments of war we may be uncertain about who is right or wrong, but “there is no such moral confusion in this newest of disputes.”3 Why would they say this?
Well, many Christian groups believe God instructs us to do so because of scripture such as this from the first book of the Bible. God tells Abram (Abraham), “I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Genesis 12:2-3).
Of course no one wants to be cursed by God, but we must realize that this covenant (promise, contract) was dependant upon the great nation’s obedience and faithfulness to God. And as students of the Bible have learned, Abraham’s descendants repeatedly broke their agreement with God and then later repented many times throughout history.
In today’s world, the Jewish nation is still in a cursed position with the Almighty, because they orchestrated the murder of their promised Messiah4 some two thousand years ago. There was a remnant of Jews that believed in Jesus and they individually regained their favored position, but the vast majority did not.
When God withdrew his protection from physical Israel, he then opened the doors to the original promise to Gentiles, of which we are included. All those who accept the invitation are called spiritual Israelites, and that includes the previous Jewish members that accepted Jesus too. An increasing number of new Jewish converts to Christianity can be found around the world today and they are our brothers and sisters in faith.
Another reason we are told it is our duty to support Israel is because all other nations were founded by acts of human will, but “Israel is unique in that it was established by an act of God.”5 In Genesis 17:8, the Bible says, “And I will give to you, and to your offspring after you, the land where you are now an alien, all the land of Canaan, for a perpetual holding; and I will be their God” (Genesis 17:8).
As a well-known American evangelical pastor recently issued a prayer in support of Israel, he asked for support in his prayer to add a “spiritual hedge of protection” for the country, against the terror group which launched a surprise attack. “As Christians,” he stated, “we recognize God’s purpose for Israel, and we must stand with her.”6
But in reality, there is no biblical reason or logic for supporting a nation that has broken their covenant with God. Divine blessings are not unconditional. Neither nation, nor individual, is exempt from the wrath of God because of their own bad choices.
As an example, the country of the United States of America — although not established by God — was established on Judeo-Christian principles. It prospered and grew into a mighty land because of the protective blessing of God, but once this country stopped honoring God, he began to withdraw his protection. Because of this, Satan now has a firm grip on our leadership and its citizens suffer as a result.
The Old Testament is full of stories of God blessing his people when they followed his rules, and withdrawing his blessings when they disobeyed. In the New Testament, we learn that God gave his biggest blessing to his people Israel when he sent his son to be their promised savior. And what did God’s favored people do? The Jewish religious leaders — and those citizens they led and controlled — rejected this extraordinary gift and exerted influence to obtain Jesus’ execution.
Except for the Jews that actually accepted Jesus, God withdrew his blessing and then offered it to all nations. Now all peoples, even though not physical Jewish descendants, can now be spiritual Jews by accepting that same free gift rejected by his promised people.
I know that there are many in Israel today that are believers in Jesus, both Jews and Christians, and they follow his teaching. Our Lord considers both as spiritual Israelites and they will benefit with a possibility of everlasting life. But God hasn’t forgiven what the Jewish nation did two thousand years ago, for they haven’t repented; he would accept them back, if they will just accept Jesus as their Messiah and live by our Lord’s rules. I pray that they soon will.
So, it is not literally being a descendant from Abraham that makes one a true Israelite; it is anyone — Jewish or not — who has put God’s laws in their mind and hearts and truly loves their neighbors and leads a righteous life.7 If this is you, then you are a spiritual Israelite. This also means that you are elected by God to be one of those chosen as saved and will have a position in the coming new world. This is guaranteed, as long as you continue a righteous life.
Now, there is also a different idea of a spiritual Israel held by charismatic8 groups, and it is used to suggest concepts of a ‘replacement theology’, in which the promises directed toward Israel are now totally given to the Church, instead. This replacement theology uses the concept that ‘spiritual Israel’ is the entire Christian church that replaces Israel in God’s plan. This, of course, is not true. The Church being the focus of God’s prophetic promises for Israel is not theologically valid; it assumes some unbiblical beliefs.9
Besides, Christian churches today are not entirely filled with dedicated followers of Jesus, worthy of such a blessing. Even within the various Christian denominations, there is only a remnant of those that can be considered actual spiritual Israelites. To be eligible, you must not only believe in and accept Christ, but must live for him and be of like mind.
Spiritual Israelites are not just a New Testament idea.
In the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Galatians, he vindicates his position that all who believe in and follow Christ become children of God.10 “As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to the promise” (Galatians 3:27-29).
This isn’t just a New Testament idea. In the following scripture, Jesus was quoting Psalms 118:22-23 about a stone rejected as worthless by builders but later used as the cornerstone, when he said the following.
“Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that produces the fruits of the kingdom. The one who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; and it will crush anyone on whom it falls.”
“When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard his parables, they realized that he was speaking about them. They wanted to arrest him, but they feared the crowds, because they regarded him as a prophet” (Matthew 21:43-46).
This is a parable foreshadowing the fact that though Jesus was rejected by the Jewish leaders, he would be vindicated by God and would become the focal point of God’s kingdom. God would take his kingdom away from the Jewish leaders and then describes the deity and kingship of Jesus and the destruction of all who reject him. Other verses that refer to this “stone” are also in the Old Testament: Isaiah 8:14-15; Daniel 2:34, 44-45.11
A Very, Very Brief History of Israel
Where did the name for ‘Israel’, as a nation, come from? The first time the name Israel was used was in the Book of Genesis, when Jacob’s name was changed to Israel. God said, “You shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with humans, and have prevailed” (Genesis 32:28).
Jacob (Israel) had twelve sons whose descendants eventually became known as the twelve tribes of Israel. These Hebrew people, after the death of Moses, took possession of the Promised Land of Canaan and were called Israelites.12 An early biblical reference describes Israel being God’s chosen people during Moses’ negotiations with Pharaoh, to let God’s people leave Egypt (Exodus 4:22-23). And around 800 BC, God spoke through the prophet Hosea about his people saying, “When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son” (Hosea 11:1).13
So, Israel not only refers to Jacob, but also to his descendants and this idea is reinforced in the New Testament, too. “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9).
During the time of Jesus, these people lived not in a country called Israel, but in the Roman controlled province of Judea. A few decades after Jesus’ death, the First Jewish-Roman War (66–73 AD) resulted in the destruction of Jerusalem and a sizable portion of the population was either killed or displaced. A second revolt (132–136 AD) devastated and depopulated the Israelites, after which only a small Jewish presence continued.14
After many centuries under varying nations’ control, the region now called Israel is not the large area of Judea spoken of in the Bible. It is a new politically-negotiated land in the Near East given to reestablish a new nation in 1948, on land then under control of the British Empire and known as Palestine.15 The size was enlarged in a 1967 Arab-Israeli War,16 but still a small nation (about the size of New Jersey, USA). Israel does include many of the landmarks spoken of in the New Testament: Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Nazareth, Jericho, etc.
But this new state of Israel is a man-made creation, not one ordained by God. It was brought into existence by human political dictation, and there is a complex history of this newly created territory. Modern Israel is a Zionist17 state. Its origin came from a nationalist political movement — an ideology for the ingathering of Jewish people back to their historic homeland. That may sound reasonable, but the movement was not a religious movement, but a plan for obtaining land deemed owed to the Jewish people, a form of repatriation for being persecuted, especially during World War II.18 It was an excuse for a political land grab.
So, the political leadership of the present country of Israel is not representative of God’s people any more than the priestly leadership was in Jesus’ day. It is best to separate God’s chosen people from the worldly political state of Israel, as we examine any current activity over there. Spiritual Israelites, which can include any race on earth, are very different from physical Israelites who only claim something through heritage.
Even a pure-race orthodox Jew practicing their ancient faith is not a spiritual Jew in God’s eyes, but anyone, anywhere who accepts Jesus Christ as the Messiah and personal savior and practices what our Lord instructed, is a spiritual Jew and will enter the Kingdom of God.
Consider though, the English term ‘kingdom’ may be a bit misleading, as it directs our thoughts to a particular piece of real estate or territory. “The Old Testament background for the term points to a different idea — namely, the dynamic concept of kingly rule.”19
Therefore, the Kingdom of God can include the entire world — or even a whole planetary system, or more — rather than just a specific section of land on this earth. This Kingdom of God will be among and within true Christians everywhere; it is a spiritual realm over which our Lord reigns as king.
There is a reality for the true Christian that is glorious. It isn’t by one’s merit, ethnic background, or good works that we are elected; it is by the shed blood of Jesus Christ. “What joy this can bring to every one of us! We belong to the family of God, we are the children of promise, we are the true Spiritual Israel. What a comfort this is to the soul in the midst of any and every affliction.”20
When Jesus finally came upon the earth, it was because it was a time for change within God’s divine plan. The long awaited promised Messiah had finally arrived and at the acceptable age of maturity, he began his earthly ministry. As the physical nation had been long promised, the Jews were the first to be invited to be members of Jesus’ new way of life — through a spiritual process rather than just obeying the Mosaic Law. This meant that the Messiah’s path demonstrated that Jewish descendants are not chosen for eternal life through physical birth, but only become righteous for eternal life through a spiritual change of faith; they must be born again.21
This article’s message is important. My sympathies are with all those souls currently suffering in the Near East war; I pray for the innocent victims on all sides, whether or not they are part of spiritual Israel. That is the way the human Jesus would have approached this situation. However, I think both the Zionist political state of Israel and the Palestinian political organization, called Hamas, are not very interested in helping, protecting, or saving people, but only in accumulating more land and political control. Both organizations are evil — many times, even toward their own citizens. Neither side has God’s support.
There is only one way to solve these current, and other soon-to-arrive problems, and that is by way of Christ Jesus. He gave his life to insure a future of love, healing, forgiveness and pardon. The song selected for this article is ‘Because He Lives’ performed by Bradley Walker, an American gospel singer. This award winning performer began singing in public when he was only four years old and began appearing with the Oak Ridge Boys when he was ten. This performance was recorded live at Gaither Studio C in Indiana (USA) during 2017. Selected lyrics are below and the music video link is listed in References & Notes.22
God sent His son
They called Him Jesus
He came to love
Heal and forgive
He bled and died
To buy my pardon
Copyright © 2023, Dr. Ray Hermann
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References & Notes
- Unless otherwise noted, all scripture is taken from New Revised Standard Version Bible, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1989). Used with permission.
- Gaza Strip: territory occupying 140 square miles (363 sq. km) along the Mediterranean Sea, just northeast of the Sinai Peninsula, and sandwiched between Egypt and Israel. Gaza Strip, once controlled by Israel, was transferred to Hamas (Islamic Resistance Movement) control in 2007.
“Gaza Strip”, (Encyclopedia Britannica, 20 July 1998), https://www.britannica.com/place/Gaza-Strip
- Moore, Russell, “American Christians Should Stand with Israel under Attack”, (Christianity Today, 7 October 2023), https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2023/october-web-only/israel-hamas-middle-east-war-christians.html
- Hermann, Ray, “Who Really Killed Jesus?” (The Outlaw Bible Student, OBS, 11 September 2023), https://outlawbiblestudent.org/who-really-killed-jesus/
- Franklin, Jentezen, “5 reasons Christians should always support Israel”, (The Jerusalem Post, 1 March 2022), https://www.jpost.com/christianworld/article-698962
- Llett, Leah MarieAnn, “David Jeremiah: Christians have a biblical mandate to ‘stand with Israel,’ issues prayer amid ‘chaos’”, (The Christian Post, 11 October 2023), https://www.christianpost.com/news/david-jeremiah-christians-biblically-must-stand-with-israel.html
- “True Israel of God”, (Bible Info, retrieved 19 October 2023), https://www.bibleinfo.com/en/topics/true-israel-god
- charismatic: belonging or relating to various groups within the Christian Church who believe that God gives people special powers, such as the ability to make others well again and to speak to him in a special language.
“Cambridge Advanced Learner’s Dictionary & Thesaurus”, (Cambridge University Press, retrieved 21 October 2023), https://dictionary.cambridge.org/us/dictionary/english/charismatic
- “What is spiritual Israel?” (Got Questions, retrieved 14 October 2023), https://www.gotquestions.org/spiritual-Israel.html
- Walvoord John F. and Zuck, Roy B., (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1985), vol. 2, p. 600.
- Quarles, Charles L., in CSB Study Bible: Notes, (Nashville TN: Holman Bible Publisher, 2017), p. 1539.
- “Twelve Tribes of Israel”, (Encyclopedia Britannica, 20 July 1998), https://www.britannica.com/topic/Twelve-Tribes-of-Israel
- “Spiritual Israel”, (Amazing Facts, retrieved 18 October 2023), https://www.amazingfacts.org/media-library/book/e/49/t/spiritual-israel
- “Israel” (Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 18 October 2023), https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Israel
- “Creation of Israel, 1948″, (U.S. Department of State Archive, retrieved 18 October 2023), https://2001-2009.state.gov/r/pa/ho/time/cwr/97177.htm
- Arab-Israeli War or Six-Day War: a brief but bloody conflict fought in June 1967 between Israel and the Arab states of Egypt, Syria and Jordan. The brief war ended with a UN-brokered cease-fire, but it significantly altered the map of the Mideast and gave rise to lingering geopolitical friction.
“Six-Day War” (History Channel, 11 May 2018), https://www.history.com/topics/middle-east/six-day-war
- Zionist: a movement to recreate a Jewish presence in Israel. The name comes from the word “Zion,” which is a Hebrew term that refers to Jerusalem.
“Zionism”, (History Channel, 13 July 2017), https://www.history.com/topics/middle-east/zionism
- “Zionism”, (Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 19 October 2023), https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zionism
- Grindheim, Siguard, “The Kingdom of God: The Great Unfolding Drama of Salvation”, (Word by Word, Logos/Faithlife, Bellingham, WA, 14 October 2023), https://www.logos.com/grow/hall-kingdom-of-god/
- Noble, John-William, “What is Spiritual Israel?” (Servants of Grace, 20 August 2021), https://servantsofgrace.org/what-is-spiritual-israel/
- Calahan, John, “Where is the fine line between natural and spiritual Israel?” (Never Thirsty, retrieved 14 October 2023), https://www.neverthirsty.org/bible-qa/qa-archives/question/where-is-the-fine-line-between-natural-and-spiritual-israel/
- “Because He Lives”, Artist: Bradley Walker; Songwriters: Bill and Gloria Gaither; Album/CD: Blessed: Hymns and Songs of Faith by Bradley Walker, recorded live at Studio C, Gaither Studios, Alexandria, IN (USA), originally released 2017, (uploaded to YouTube October 2023; © Gaither Music Group). Used under ‘fair use copyright’ for teaching under Section 107 of the United States Copyright Act of 1976 — MUSIC VIDEO: https://youtu.be/SQph1olkqDY