Continuing with Part (3)
Having examined modern Judaism and compared it with the spiritual meaning of Judaism in the Bible, one can only conclude that modern Judaism, biblically understood, is a false religion and should be treated as such. By this we do not mean that its adherents should be treated with disparagement, but we merely wish to draw attention to the acute need for evangelism amongst Jews, as amongst any other false religion. Those who continue to call themselves Jewish today but who do not follow the Lord Jesus Christ and thereby (do) not become part of His Church should not be treated as if they were from some special class of human being who, despite their disobedience, are still under the favour of God. Of all people, they need to hear and believe the Gospel of Jesus Christ. God neither ordained nor created modern Judaism, which must not be confused with the religion which was ordained and created by God as recorded in the Old Testament.
It is a false religion — a mark of apostasy from God’s ordained way. So modern Judaism is a false religion. But, you may say, “what if a Jew today follows the Old Testament Scripture to the letter and is very orthodox?” Actually, that is impossible, for the following reasons:
1) There is no temple at which to sacrifice;
2) The priesthood has been abolished; and,
3) the entire ceremonial Levitical code was concluded on the Cross.
In fact we discover that all the constituents of the Old Covenant economy find their fullness in Christ. If people were to read Rom.4; Rom.9 – 11; Gal.3 & 4; Heb.7-10 with the eyes of faith none of these problems would arise. How important it is to understand these things in order to ensure that we evangelise in a God-honouring manner. Therefore, having been scattered around the world as “a desolation, an astonishment, a hissing, and a curse” (Jer.25:18) — in fulfilment of the awesome covenant curse in Deut.28:15 & 64 and what they brought on their own heads in saying “His blood be on us and on our children” (Matt.27:25) — the hope of salvation for any Jew today lies only in obedience to the Gospel of Jesus Christ: Rom.10:16-17:
“But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, ‘LORD, who has believed our report?’ So then faith comes by hear- ing, and hearing by the word of God”.
Therefore, we must conclude that the only true Jew in biblical terms today is one who has made the transition to Christ — who is the only “hope of Israel”.
Having now considered Judaism at the personal, spiritual level — identifying what is a true Jew and contrasting this with the Judaism of today — we now turn to look at Judaism on a corporate level, concentrating on the array of claims made by many professing Christians about the earthly nation Israel. Before opening this up, it is important to note that we should not be influenced by the fact that so many people adhere to the ideas about Judaism and Israel with which we are taking issue here. The fact that vast multitudes of professing Christians believe a certain teaching to be right — no matter how passionately they may believe it, does not prove that the teaching itself is right. Millions of sincere, devout Christians believe much of the hype about Israel and Judaism today, and these teachings have found their way into a broad section of respectable Bible commentaries, in spite of the wide range of written material which adequately refutes them. Does the widespread nature of such teachings give them authenticity? Of course not. The sheer number of professing Christians who believe a matter to be true is no pointer to its accuracy!
In the early years of the Church, Athanasius, a gentle deacon from Alexandria stood up against the prevailing heresy of Arianism, which denied the Trinity and the deity of Christ. As a result of this he became known as Athanasius Contra Mundum (“Athanasius against the world”) — a reference to the fact that it was just one little man against the multitudes — and was banished from his country five times while a “contract was put out on him” for his assassination. But history eventually bore witness to the fact — as it has done so often — that the multitudes were wrong and Athanasius was right. It is fair to say (from a human standpoint) that if Athanasius had not resisted the beliefs of the majority of professing Christians at that time, there would be no Gospel to preach today. Christian truth would have perished. So much for the majority view at any time in the Christian Church! Truth is never authenticated by the number of people who adhere to it.
A mighty fact of divine sovereignty is that heresies and false belief systems regularly appear in the churches in order to spark the Body of Christ into life and to bring the truth sharply into focus (1 Cor.l 1:19; cf. 1 Jn.2:18-20). And then the Lord always raises up teachers who will successfully oppose those who bury this truth behind the alluring skirts of falsehood. Do not forget that at virtually every stage in Church history there have been far more professing Christians who would rather adhere to the false, complex, often sensational man-made systems of their choice than those who hold to the simple truths of the Scriptures.
An insatiable thirst for the truth has never had a very high premium in the Christian churches at large. Holding to truth is uncomfortable, and reaching it requires study beyond what is merely superficial; but most professing Christians want to be comfortable and appear to prefer superficiality. When Paul spoke of the time that people in the churches would heap up to themselves false teachers because they have ears which are just itching to hear them (2 Tim.4:3) — although he could have been referring to the prevailing situation in almost any era of the Church — surely the plethora of crazy teachings of the present day take some beating.
So let us not be overawed by the large numbers of people who may believe something. This is no barometer of truth, as even the most false of religions have always had a massive following, while those who are faithful are referred to in Scripture as a ‘remnant’.
Having now established how Scripture defines a true Jew, in comparison with “those who say they are Jews and are not”, let us now examine the main claims that are made about the nation-state of Israel today.
III. ANALYSING SOME COMMON CLAIMS ABOUT ISRAEL AND JUDAISM
Claim No.1: “The Establishment of the Middle- Eastern Nation-State of Israel Today is a Fulfilment of Bible Prophecy”
This claim is based primarily on two erroneous ideas. First, that the land promise to Abraham was never fulfilled in the Old Testament era and is therefore out- standing, awaiting its full accomplishment, of which the present Israeli state is the ‘first installment’. The second erroneous idea is that the O.T. prophecies which appear to speak of the restoration of the nation Israel to a land inheritance still await fulfilment. To these claims, we respond:
1. THE LAND PROMISE WAS FULFILLED IN THE OLD TESTAMENT ERA
One of the principal claims made from certain quarters is that the land promise to Abraham was never fulfilled during the Old Testament period. But the word of God says otherwise. Two promises which God made to Abraham are a multiplicity of descendants and a portion of land which is described in clear terms. We see these clearly laid out in two Bible texts:
“Blessing I will bless you, and multiplying I will multiply your descendants as the stars of the heaven and as the sand which is on the sea- shore”. (Gen.22:17)
“The LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying: “To your descendants I have given this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the River Euphrates”. (Gen.15:18)
These are no longer awaiting fulfilment, for during the reign of Solomon, we find a statement made which virtually mirrors the language used in Genesis concerning these promises. In 1 Kings 4:20-21 we read:
“Judah and Israel were as numerous as the sand by the sea in multitude, eating and drinking and rejoicing. So Solomon reigned over all kingdoms from the River to the land of the Philistines, as far as the border of Egypt.”
This is precisely the same territory referred to in God’s promise to Abraham (cf. 2 Chron.9:26). And after the return from exile, the Levites and others raised up a mighty prayer to the Lord in which they said:
“You are the LORD God, Who chose Abram, And brought him out of Ur of the Chaldeans, And gave him the name Abraham; You found his heart faithful before You, And made a covenant with him to give the land of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Jebusites, and the Girgashites — to give it to his descendants”. (Neh.9:7-8)
But they were in no doubt about the outcome. Unlike the confused neo-Judaisers of today, they were not waiting for a future fulfilment of this land promise, for they immediately said: “You have performed Your words, for You are righteous” (Neh.9:8). As the psalmist also exclaims:
“He remembered His holy promise, and Abraham His servant. He brought out His people with joy, His chosen ones with gladness. He gave them the lands of the Gentiles, And they inherited the labour of the nations”. (Psa.105:42-44).
However, another aspect of this land promise is the fact that it is said to have been given to Israel “forever”. In support of this, they often quote Gen.13:14-15:
And the LORD said to Abram, after Lot had separated from him: “Lift your eyes now and look from the place where you are—northward, south- ward, eastward, and westward; for all the land which you see I give to you and your descendants forever.
They claim that because the text says “forever” therefore that must still apply today and should thus be forcibly taken back. They say that one must distinguish between the covenant made with Abraham and the Mosaic covenant. The Mosaic covenant, they say, was temporary and fulfilled in Christ; whereas the covenant with Abraham involving the land was spoken of as an “everlasting covenant” (Gen.13:14-15; 17:7,19), thus it must still be in force.
However, once one understands the symbolic nature of so many Old Covenant promises, then the “forever- ness” of the land promise becomes clear. Plainly, a patch of geographical territory cannot be given forever because we know from elsewhere in Scripture that the earth will come under the fire of judgement and be destroyed (2 Pet.3:10). Consequently, there will be no physical land left to own forever.
However, the “forever” can be plainly understood when one sees that the Promised Land was only ever a “type” — a symbol of heaven, which is eternal. Just as the physical nation Israel pointed to the church, so the physical land pointed forward to eternity. To enter the true Promised Land is to come into eternity.
The Israelite patriarchs understood this symbolic aspect of the “foreverness” of the land very well. Abraham, for example,
dwelt in the land of promise as in a foreign country, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise; for he waited for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God” (Heb.11:9-10).
Unlike the modern Judaisers and Christian Zionists, who see the fulfilment of the land promise as the be-all and end-all of spiritual life, the patriarchs “confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth” (Heb.11:13) and they desired “a better, that is, a heavenly country” (Heb.11:16). They knew very well that the promise of the land “forever” was really the promise of a spiritual home in eternity.
Actually, we Christians are the continuation of the everlasting nature of the promise to Abraham. Paul makes it plain that “if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise” (Gal.3:29).
So when the Lord said “I will establish My covenant between Me and you and your descendants after you in their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and your descendants after you”, it transcends mere physical descent. As Matthew Henry puts it:
“here [in Gen.17], where it is promised for an everlasting possession, surely it must be looked upon as a type of heaven’s happiness, that everlast- ing rest which remains for the people of God”.
It is this inability to recognise the spiritual nature of so many of the Old Testament promises regarding Israel and her patriarchs, coupled with a willingness to force certain prophecies into a mythical endtime scenario which has led to the deception we have today.
The problem with many Christians today is they will not accept that the promise of the geographical land was for fulfilment under the Old Covenant, which is now obsolete:
“In that [God] says, ‘A new covenant,’ He has made the first obsolete” (Heb.8:13).
The land promise to Abraham was fulfilled a long time ago. Therefore we conclude that the Middle-Eastern nation state of Israel today cannot possibly be a fulfilment of Bible prophecy but, on the contrary, is merely the product of the inner workings of international political cabals, coupled with abhorrent acts of terrorism which were, and are, every bit as bad as those of the Palestinian extremist groups.
2. THE RESTORATION OF ISRAEL IN THE O.T. HAS ONLY EVER BEEN BASED ON CERTAIN CLEAR CONDITIONS
The many Christians today who simply accept the notion that modern Israel is a fulfilment of Bible prophecy appear to overlook the important fact that any restoration of Israel must be based on some conditions which are clearly set out in Scripture. In Jer.50:4-5, we are provided with a classic example of the conditions for the restoration of the people of Israel:
“In those days and in that time, says the LORD, the children of Israel shall come, they and the children of Judah together; with continual weeping they shall come, and seek the LORD their God. They shall ask the way to Zion, with their faces toward it, saying, ‘Come and let us join ourselves to the LORD in a perpetual covenant that will not be forgotten’”.
This plainly refers to the restoring of Israel in the purposes of God. But note that there are preconditions attached. Never once do we find in Scripture that Israel is restored without these conditions having been fulfilled. Let us look at what those conditions are.
These conditions are as follows,
i. Deep Repentance
We read “with continual weeping they shall come”. That is a clear precursor to restoration. The desire for restoration is not simply to be restored to the land but to be restored to the Lord. And that involves deep repentance of heart. This is a fundamental law of restoration of any kind in Scripture — whether corporate or individual.
There are a great many times when we find Old Testament writers expressing the mind of God on the fact that He has no time for mere outward actions in worship but instead desires a contrite heart, a penitent mind-set. And that is the trigger for restoration. Other texts which plainly show the need for repentance as a precursor to restoration are Dan.9:1-6; Neh.1:4-11.
Do we find that it was this kind of repentance which led to the founding of the modern nation-state of Israel today? Not at all. There was only national pride, embitteredness because of having been persecuted, a desire to claim “their right” to a national homeland and a willingness to kill anyone who got in the way.
The awful truth is that until there is a repenting of having broken the Covenant and denied their Messiah, Jewish people will perpetually be subject to trouble and devoid of a real relationship with the Lord.
ii. Faithfulness to God
In our text in Jer.50:4-5 it is said that the restored nation will be “seeking the LORD”. What does it mean to “seek God”. Surely it refers to the desire to be discipled by Him, to be obedient to Him and to keep His ways. A seminal text in this respect is Deut.30:1-3:
“Now it shall come to pass, when all these things come upon you, the blessing and the curse which I have set before you, and you call them to mind among all the nations where the LORD your God drives you, and you return to the LORD your God and obey His voice, according to all that I command you today, you and your children, with all your heart and with all your soul, that the LORD your God will bring you back from captivity, and have compassion on you, and gather you again from all the nations where the LORD your God has scattered you”.
Here we see that the compassion on Israel and its ingathering as a people of God is dependent on first returning to the Lord and “obeying His voice”. And that indeed is the spirit that was found at the return of the Jews from the exile in Babylon:
“On the first day of the first month he began his journey from Babylon, and on the first day of the fifth month he came to Jerusalem, according to the good hand of his God upon him. For Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the Law of the LORD, and to do it, and to teach statutes and ordinances in Israel”. (Ezr.7:9-10)
Where does that leave the Israeli state of today? For it was not founded on obedience to the commandment of the Lord which, in a post-Calvary world, finds it highest expression in obedience to the Gospel of Jesus Christ (cf. 1 Pet.4:17)? Surely, the Israelites of today have not at all sought God, otherwise they would have realised that they should no longer be under the law of Moses but under the law of Christ (1 Cor.9:21).
iii. Being True Zionists
We read in our text in Jer.50:4-5 that an Israel which desires to be restored will be asking “the way to Zion”. The word Zion has become most misused by modern- day Israel, mainly due to its earthly understanding of divine things.
To be a “Zionist” in Scripture is to desire to be where God especially manifests His presence: “Arise, and let us go up to Zion, To the LORD our God” (Jer.31:6). Zion is the dwelling place of God in relation to His human creation: “For the LORD has chosen Zion; He has desired it for His dwelling place” (Psa.132:13). “For the LORD dwells in Zion” (Joel 3:21).
First, we find this manifested in relation to the city of Jerusalem in Old Testament times, where the Temple was, which was the heart of spiritual life in those days.
Then, under the New Covenant, we find Zion used to refer to the body of Christ, the Church (see Heb.12:22- 23). However, the ultimate meaning of Zion is heaven in the new universe after the restoration of all things at the end of the age, as we see the heavenly Jerusalem portrayed in the closing chapters of the Book of Revelation.
If Israelites today were serious about “asking the way to Zion”, and thereby being restored, they would be coming into the Church, the body of Christ, where the Lord dwells by His Spirit. The body of Christ is Zion today.
iv. Engaging in Genuine Spirituality
Our text says: “They shall ask the way to Zion, with their faces toward it”. With their faces towards it, i.e. in sincerity of faith. There would be spiritual integrity. How can there be any spiritual integrity in the Israel of today when it is not only seeking Zion in the wrong place but it has such a hatred toward the One who came as their Messiah nearly two thousand years ago?
v. The Desire to be in a Perpetual Covenant Relationship with God
An Israel which is desirous of restoration to God says: “Come and let us join ourselves to the LORD in a perpetual covenant that will not be forgotten”. But we have already shown above that Israel was disobedient to the Old Covenant, having rejected the New Covenant in the blood of Christ and still does to this day.
So where does all this leave the Israel of today in the Middle-East? The picture we are given here regarding conditions for the restoration of Israel is one involving the deepest spirituality, penitence, desiring to be among the people of God and covenant obedience. Is that what we see in the so-called restored Israel of today in the Middle East?
Modern Israel is a secular state. It is proud and arrogant in its claims. It regards Zion as a nationalist polity run by human beings on a piece of earthly territory rather than the spiritual dwelling-place of God. It oppresses helpless people in a manner which defies the Law of God in a most dramatic fashion.
For example, we read in the Torah: “You shall neither mistreat a stranger nor oppress him, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt” (Ex.22:21).
Bear in mind that this particular command comes immediately after the commands: “You shall not permit a sorceress to live. Whoever lies with an animal shall surely be put to death. He who sacrifices to any god, except to the LORD only, he shall be utterly destroyed”.
This is how seriously God means His people to help the afflicted, helpless and oppressed foreigners. After all, the end of the law is love (Rom.13:10; 5:14). All this cuts entirely across one of the three signs of the presence of true religion designated by James in his letter:
“Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble” (Jas.1:27a).
Helping the helpless and afflicted lies at the heart of the Law of God, which the redeemed are to enact in their lives (Eph.2:10; Tit.2:13-14).
People who are in God’s covenant would not be brutal, and be seen as such by the world. Compare their brutality against the Palestinians, and the violent audacity of the Israeli state security force Mossad. Even the Israeli Defence Force has an official policy of shooting unarmed Palestinians indescriminately. How then can the nation of Israel be living in covenant obedience even to the Old Covenant of the Mosaic era? We believe that the modern nation-state of Israel is an evil regime, and we are utterly amazed that professing Christians could give this corrupt, anti-Christian country their spiritual and financial support. As the courageous Israeli commentator, Dr. Israel Shahak, dares to state:
“The extent of persecution and discrimination against non-Jews inflicted by the ‘Jewish state’ with the support of organised diaspora Jews is also enormously greater than the suffering inflicted on Jews by regimes hostile to them”.
However, not only is Israel today disobedient to the Old Covenant, it is also utterly defiant of the New Covenant which is now in force and which was prophesied for them in Jer.31:31-34.
It is often stated by Christian supporters of Israel that Israel is restored to the land initially in a state of unbelief. However, nowhere in Scripture is there sanctioned a “restoration in unbelief”, as is often asserted today. As we have shown, there are conditions attached to any restoration of Israel and those conditions have not been fulfilled. GOD HAS NOT CHANGED.
Almost the entire western-world of Christianity takes it for granted that an endtime restoration of Israel has been prophesied in the Bible and that the modern state of Israel is preliminary evidence of the fulfillment of that prophecy. Not only that but they claim that this “restoration” will take place with the Jews who return to the land living in unbelief to begin with.
This goes hand-in-hand with the idea that when Christ returns He will set up His headquarters as an earthly king in Jerusalem with restored temple sacrifices and Old Testament style worship for a period of exactly 1000 years, based on an entirely false understanding of chapter 20 of the Book of Revelation.
Apparently, so they say, when Christ returns, the inhabitants of Israel will “look on Him who they pierced and mourn” and thus all Israel will be saved.
They ignore entirely the fact that the Zechariah prophecy about looking on Him who they pierced and mourning (Zec.12:10) was primarily fulfilled when Christ hung on the Cross, as John’s record shows in John 19:34-37;
Instead, one of the soldiers pierced Jesus’ side with a spear, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water. The man who saw it has given testimony, and his testimony is true. He knows that he tells the truth, and he testifies so that you also may believe. These things happened so that the scripture would be fulfilled: “Not one of his bones will be broken,” and, as another scripture says, “They will look on the one they have pierced.”
And this is the problem. Ignoring the plain fulfillment of prophecy as having already taken place and instead trying to make them fit a future plan entirely of their own making.
To be continued..