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Commentary

The House that Fell

According to Islamic theology the world is divided into two spheres – the “House of Peace” (or Dar al-Salaam) and the “House of War” (the Dar al-Harb). Those living under Islamic shari’a law belong to the House of Peace, wherein they are told they enjoy the most advanced civilization anywhere and thus live in paradise on earth! Theirs is a superior religion and culture and those outside of it are inferior and infidels who have to be brought into submission to Islam and shari’a by jihad (holy war).

There is just one small problem – those living in the House of Peace are now everywhere in revolt. They are tired of its oppression and brutality and would prefer to live like those in the House of War, who are supposedly inferior in every way. Revolution is in the air because those living in this supposed paradise discovered that it meant the removal of their freedoms and human rights and their subjugation under the heel of hereditary despots, murderers and thugs who, in the name of Islam, have robbed them of their human dignity.

To put in bluntly, there is no ‘bright shining city on a hill’ in the Islamic world giving credibility to their utopian claims. The house has fallen! It has split open and thereby laid bare the truth for all to see. No wonder the Islamic bloc has been desperately trying to get a resolution passed in the United Nations that will effectively make it against the law globally to criticize Islam. They knew all along how bad things were and wanted to cover it all up. Too bad that Twitter, Face Book and text messaging came along in the “nick of time” to reveal the truth!

Many had tried to blame the brewing troubles in paradise on Israel! There was the Mossad’s top secret shark menacing tourists at Red Sea resorts and its vulture flying high over the Arabian desert and sending back highly sensitive images to Jerusalem.

The real truth is that many peoples of the region are tired of the theocratic rule of Islam that has only kept them poor, enslaved, illiterate and subjugated even though the region enjoys fabulous oil wealth.

By the way, where has all this wealth gone? The answer is simple; into the pockets of the ruling elites and for buying up the West! Is it not incredible that Israel’s national economic output exceeds that of most nations in the region combined! Could this have something to do with democracy and freedom?

Another thing that has emerged from this spreading revolution in the region is that Israel is not the real Apartheid state of the Middle East – it is the Arab nations! In this House of Peace there has been no democracy, no freedom of religion, no equality under the law for minorities, no freedom of the press, no equal rights for women, no independent judiciary, and no freedom of speech.

I grew up in a country like this; it was called South Africa! Thank God this house also fell because a house built on oppression and human rights abuses must eventually implode. South Africa did just this, as the House of Islam is doing today. For sure, the only shining city on a hill in the region is Israel! Of course all this is definitely not politically correct to say!

Yet the truth is finally out, and not because of the West or the United Nations or the European Union. They were too busy kissing Moammar Gaddafi in his tent. Rather, it was because men and women, mostly the young, took to the streets of the Islamic world and insisted enough was enough. Their revolution has surprised everyone, especially those with sophisticated intelligence services. But it underlines the fact that, in the end truth will prevail and shine like a great light in the darkness. We only hope that, once the dust settles, the “house” that emerges will be a kind, compassionate and peaceful one where all are free and protected. Actually, much like Israel!

Viva the revolution!

 

Honouring the Memory of Johan Greeff

Dear Friends,

It was with great shock and sadness that I learned of the passing away of Johan Greeff on May 22nd, 2011. He will be greatly missed by everyone that knew him because he had a zeal and enthusiasm for the things of God that was infectious. He was always abounding in the work of the Lord and most certainly was a faithful defender of Zion and of the Jewish people.

Johan worked with and for the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem for many, many years. In this regard he was an inspiration to all of us and, though we know that he has now gone to be with His Lord, our hearts are saddened and our thoughts and prayers go out to Gayle and the whole family.

Johan's life was guided by his personal relationship with God by Jesus Christ and it gave meaning and a clear example of what it means to bless Israel.

Well done good and faithful servant you have now entered into the joy of your Lord.

Rev. Malcolm Hedding

Malcolm Hedding
Executive Director ICEJ

Read ICEJ South Africa's official announcement

Sixty-three Years Since Israel Was Born

Dear Friends,

The modern state of Israel has reached 63 years of age. This is nothing short of a miracle, because she is actually an ancient nation which has been restored and achieved unbelievable successes in just a short a time and in the face of many wars aimed at her demise. Israel’s existence is clear evidence of God’s faithfulness to His promises given to Abraham some 4000 years ago. So we salute Israel today and rejoice with her, but we also weep with those who have fallen in her defence. Most of all we know her future is secure because God watches over her day and night! Thus the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem congratulates the people of Israel on this, their 63rd national Day of Independence.

On this momentous occasion, we are also proud to announce the launch of an updated version of our global ministry’s website, redesigned and greatly enhanced so that together we all can be better equipped to take our stand with Israel. The new site provides closer integration with our worldwide network of branches and informs you of more ways to get involved with Israel and the ICEJ.

Shalom from Jerusalem!

Malcolm Hedding
Executive Director
International Christian Embassy Jerusalem


Israel at 63: Some interesting facts

  • As Israel marks its 63rd Independence Day, the population has grown to approximately 7,746,000 residents. At the time of the establishment of the State, it numbered 806,000 residents.
  • This includes approximately 5,837,000 Jewish residents (75.3%); 1,587,000 Arab residents (20.5%); and 322,000 (4.2%) other non-Jewish residents.
  • Since last Independence Day, approximately 178,000 babies were born, and 24,500 immigrants arrived in Israel. Factoring in departures and deaths, the total population of Israel has grown by about 155,000 residents, up 2.0% from last year.
  • In 1948 there was only one city in Israel with more than 100,000 residents – Tel Aviv. Today, 14 cities number more than 100,000 residents, of which six number more than 200,000 residents: Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Haifa, Rishon LeZion, Ashdod, and Petah Tikva.

The Struggle Within the Dream

By David Parsons, ICEJ Media Director

As Israelis prepare to celebrate the 63rd Anniversary of the nation’s rebirth in May 1948, many will think back longingly to when the Jewish State marked fifty years of modern independence.  Those were heady days, when the Oslo process still filled many with hope that the long search for peace with their Arab neighbours was about to bear lasting fruit. In his keynote address at the official ceremonies for Israel’s 50th birthday, then-US Vice President Al Gore struck heart chords with his reference to the Patriarch Jacob who – like Israel today – had to endure the “struggle within the dream”....

Read more »

Understanding the Prophetic Word

The Apostle Peter urges us in 2 Peter 1:19-21 to give attention to the “prophetic word” because it constitutes a light shining in a dark place. In other words, it is our only reliable “GPS system”. Sadly, too often this prophetic word has been mishandled and abused by those who are only interested in speculation and sensational entertainment. In reality, the prophetic word is testimony to the unfolding purpose and plan of God in Israel, the Church and the nations. It tells what we should be doing!

The words of Jesus

In Matthew 24 and the other synoptic Gospels, Jesus pinpoints our times by giving us “signs” that have no relevance until the Jews have returned, by the hand of God, to the Land of Israel. This will include a return to Jerusalem (Luke 21:24) and it will arouse global hostility. The nations will be in uproar and will mobilise their resources against Zion. However, this means that we should see this return of the Jews as evidence of the plan and will of God and we should therefore rise up to bless what God Himself is doing. As Jesus put it, “the fig tree” is once again putting forth leaves and by this we know that the summer is near. That is, the day of His coming is at hand (Matthew 24:32-33).

Jesus also spoke about the gospel going to the ends of the earth and then the “end will come” (Matthew 24:14). Here again, this is a call to action and not to speculation. The Church must be involved in the Great Commission. A church that is outward looking will enjoy spiritual vitality and growth. Sadly, Jesus also warns that the last days’ church will be inward looking and “grow cold” (Matthew 24:12). The prophetic word should therefore warn us against procrastination.

The words of Paul

Paul mainly saw the end of days in terms of spiritual disease and failure. For instance, in 1Timothy 4:1 he says that in the last days elements of the church will give heed to “deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons”. This is incredible because he is speaking about the true church, not some false entity that we all know is wrong. No, true believers will be seduced and turned away from the faith. This implies a spiritual assault of great proportions against the people of God. We must be warned and armed!

Again in 2 Timothy 3:1-7 he warns that in the latter days “fierce times” will come because Christians will be obsessed with themselves. Their love of God will be a hobby and it will always play “second fiddle” to their own interests! These days are upon us. We need to wake up and ensure that we are seeking first the Kingdom of God!

The words of John

The Apostle John had much to say about the prophetic word as he was given the awesome vision that we have recorded in our Bibles as “The Revelation”. His message to the seven Churches of Asia is a warning against lawlessness, immorality, disobedience and lukewarmness. His visions of the world in upheaval remind us that God is in control of all things and that, through a process of judgment on the earth seen as natural catastrophes, he will bring about His triumph and thus “the kingdoms of this world will become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ” (Revelation 11:15).

John sees that this time of upheaval and uncertainty will require the patience of the saints (Revelation 14:12). Moreover, they will have to reject deception and keep their eyes on a heavenly city that will be their inheritance and eternal home. The struggles of their earthly sojourn will fade away as they hold dear the heavenly vision (Revelation 21:1-8). The prophetic word will not entertain or amuse them, but it will fortify and prepare them to face and walk through the “end of day’s struggles”. It will be their “road-map”, constantly guiding them and renewing their faith in Jesus. The prophetic word enlightens our way. But it should and must encourage us to ever make Jesus our Lord! (Revelation 19:10)


Rev. Hedding is Executive Director of the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem.

Holy Convocations!

Two recent church convocations have reached conclusions that are unbiblical but widely believed in Christian circles. The first was the special Synod of Catholic Bishops of the Middle East, which concluded with the official secretary of the gathering insisting that Israel was no long a “chosen people” and that the Abrahamic Covenant has been “annulled.” By doing so, he sought to negate Israel’s divine right to the land of Canaan and to Jerusalem. If this be true, then modern-day Israel enjoys no biblical significance, her restoration is an accident of history, and she simply like any other nation on earth – the same as Zambia or Switzerland!

The second convocation was that of the recent Lausanne Conference on World Evangelization held in Cape Town. Oddly, this assembly of leading Evangelicals initially considered a resolution that would have agreed entirely with the Bishop’s statement made in Rome: “…no single ethnic identity can any longer claim to be “God’s chosen people”… We strongly believe that the separate and privileged place given to Jewish people today or to the modern Israeli state in certain forms of dispensationalism or Christian Zionism, should be challenged, inasmuch as they deny the essential oneness of the people of God in Christ.”

Thus, this indicates many Evangelicals also see no biblical significance whatsoever in Israel’s restoration. Christians should ignore it and move on to more important spiritual matters. At least the Catholic Bishop was honest in recognizing his stand on Israel meant he must declare the Abrahamic Covenant obsolete. There is just one problem, however. Scripture nowhere says it. It is an argument crafted from silence!

In fact, if anything the New Testament scriptures everywhere affirm the ongoing efficacy of the Abrahamic covenant, even going so far as to declare that it cannot be annulled (Galatians 3:17); that it constitutes an example to believers of God’s truthfulness and unswerving faithfulness (Hebrews 6:13-20); and that the finished work of Jesus on the cross was to make good its promises (Galatians 3:9; 13-14;). Indeed, if we are Christ’s we are “Abraham’s children according to the promise (covenant).” (Galatians 3:29)

Moreover, I know of no Christian Zionist who affords a privileged place to Jews or Israel. If anything, the call of God over the Jewish people was never a “privileged place” but a place of servant-hood, of suffering and rejection for the sake of the world! As a gentile believer in Jesus I would not want their role in history, but truly I have been eternally enriched by it because “salvation is of the Jews” (John 4:22), “we share in their spiritual things” (Romans 15:27), and from them “Christ came who is over all, the eternally blessed God. Amen.” (Romans 9:5)

To assert then that, since Jesus’ coming, the Abrahamic Covenant has been abolished is quite frankly theological ineptitude! The scriptures nowhere support this theory. In fact, if accepted, these convocations are guilty of the very theological position that they claim to be against! That is, they are guilty of being dispensationalists because they endorse the movement from one plan of salvation to another down through history. This is classic dispensationalism, which we reject in all its forms! There has only and forever been one plan of God for redeeming the whole world (Revelation 13:8). This plan was unveiled and promised in the Abrahamic Covenant which, according to Paul, was the first and foundational proclamation of the Gospel (Galatians 3:8). The fact that this saving initiative also promised land as an everlasting possession to the Jewish people (Genesis 17:8-9) has always “stuck in the throat” of many people and groups (Nehemiah 2:19-20; 4:1-3; 6:1-2).

The fact is all nations are blessed and saved by faith in the finished work of Jesus because of the peculiar servant role that Israel has played out on their behalf. This calling Paul declares to be irrevocable! (Romans11:29)  For this role or calling to be removed the Abrahamic Covenant has to be removed but, if that ever happens (and it will not) then God’s decision to save the world also has to be removed!

Some attendees at the Lausanne Conference and the Mideast Catholic Bishops have failed to “rightly divide” the word of God and are also casting doubt over the character of God. For even years after Israel’s rejection of the Messianic credentials of Jesus, the writer of the book of Hebrews holds up the Abrahamic Covenant to wavering believers as an example of God’s faithfulness to His word, character and promises (Hebrews 6).
 
Rev. Hedding is Executive Director of the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem; www.icej.org/
This article first appeared in the January 2011 issue of The Jerusalem Post Christian Edition; www.jpost.com/ce  

Signs of the times

Jesus warned that just prior to His return, cataclysmic upheavals would take place in the world that would defy human explanation and strike fear into the hearts of men. In just the last few weeks, our eyes have witnessed a rampaging fire in the Carmel heights of Israel, snow storms in Europe and the USA never witnessed before, rain storms and flooding in Australia on a scale that boggles the mind, and the unexplained deaths of thousands upon thousands of fish and birds in North and South America.

When one adds to this picture the wholesale murder of Christians throughout the Muslim world, plus the rise of anti-Semitism and the hatred of Israel in all international spheres, then the words of Jesus become more important and most worthy of our careful consideration. No wonder he said that we are to watch and pray and, more notably still, to be ready for His sudden appearing.

Nations buckling under huge mountains of debt, coupled with nuclear proliferation, only add to the dangers of an unstable global situation, not to mention the wars that continue to rage in Iraq and Afghanistan. Anxiety levels are increasing everywhere! World leaders are void of real answers and their political theories have proven to be bankrupt. No wonder they are now openly calling for a one-world government, a new global currency and human controls never imagined or seen before. As things get worse the masses, longing for safety, will join this call thinking that their only way out of the present distress will be totalitarianism with its promise of peace and order.

Freedom, as we know it, could become a thing of the past and a brave new world order could arise totally transforming the present social, political and economic order. All of this would be hailed as progress and another step forward in humankind’s evolutionary development!

Naturally, leadership over this new globalist regime would have to be given to a dynamic, benevolent and “wise” leader such as the world has never seen but certainly has longed for. Absolute obedience would be given to him by universal decree and those who failed to submit would be removed from society under the charge of being enemies of the global order. Celebrations would abound and a new one-world religious system would be established. The Bible, once the world’s most loved and read book, would be banned!

With every passing day, this picture seems to be emerging with frightening clarity and what was once only written about by “whistle blowers” is now openly being stated and published without shame. Economic pressure, natural upheavals, wars, and nuclear threats coupled with fear and anxiety have enabled the globalists to “show their hand” with increasing brazenness. Meanwhile, the followers of Jesus are being slaughtered everywhere across the Middle East and North Africa, and are being mocked in nations that once called themselves Christian. It turns out that faith in Jesus is now a problem for much of the world!

Nevertheless, is it not amazing that his words of warning in Matthew 24 have been fulfilled with pinpoint accuracy? He is hated only because He tells the truth and thereby unmasks the wickedness of the human heart. He himself declared that his own people would be hated by all men because they bear God’s glorious name. What did he do to these nations to arouse such hatred and rejection? The answer is simple – He loved them and gave His life for them!

In the end the “signs of the times” will prove to be the only “road map” worth following. The coming new world order will only bring humankind closer to utter destruction. Indeed, Jesus said, “Unless those days be shortened no flesh will be spared.”

Rev. Hedding is Executive Director of the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem; www.icej.org/
This article first appeared in the February 2011 issue of The Jerusalem Post Christian Edition; www.jpost.com/ce  

Crossing the Bridge

Hot on the heels of the documentary “With God On Our Side,” another new anti-Israel film funded and produced by Evangelicals is making the rounds. “Little Town of Bethlehem” features three protagonists – a Palestinian Muslim, a Palestinian Christian and an Israeli Jew – who have concluded that non-violent protest is the best way to end the bitter Israeli “occupation.”

One of the main characters is Yonatan Shapira, an Israeli helicopter pilot who was one of 26 IAF pilots that refused to undertake missions against Palestinian terrorists operating in civilian areas – as if they operate anywhere else.

Ahmad Al’Azzeh is a Muslim from a refugee camp in Bethlehem who opted for non-violence while studying in Spain.

Finally, Sami Awad is a Christian from Bethlehem who says he first learned about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as a teenager and later traveled to India to study the life of Mahatma Gandhi.

In following the trio, the film seeks to draw a direct parallel between the Palestinian cause and the American civil rights struggle in the 1950s and 60s. The analogy is clear: Bethlehem is Selma, Alabama, and the Palestinians and their leftist Israeli and foreign friends are walking arm-in-arm with Dr. King across the Edmund Pettus Bridge.

Such comparisons are not new. No less than Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice both drew the same connection in comments about the Palestinian nationalist movement while serving as secretaries of state under US President George W. Bush. Never mind that Dr. King had openly declared his support for the Zionist enterprise. He could do so consistent with his great moral principles because the analogy between the Palestinians and the Jim Crow South actually runs in a completely different direction.

'Little Town of Bethlehem' promo posterIN THE OLD SOUTH, the whites had convinced themselves that they were inherently superior to blacks and thus owned and traded them like chattel. Even the time-honored US Constitution devalued these slaves as less than human, counting them as two-thirds of a person only for purposes of determining representation in Congress.

Such notions of racial superiority had become so ingrained that even the most ignorant, poor white man felt he could lord it over any black man – even those with money and education. For a black man to look a white directly in the eye was a sign of disrespect, and the white was entitled to physically punish the offender. Even if the assault resulted in death, the white merely owed the slave’s owner his market value.

America paid for this glaring injustice with a horrific Civil War, but even that great conflict was not enough. Slavery may have been abolished, but Southern whites refused to give up their sense of superiority over blacks for another hundred years, until Dr. King bravely led a non-violent movement which achieved equality for all Americans.

In the still lingering Israeli-Arab conflict, it is the Muslims who have refused to give up their historic sense of superiority over Jews, Christians and other non-Muslims. For centuries, ordinary Muslims have been taught they follow a superior faith and thus are inherently better than non-Muslims. Christians and Jews falsified their respective scriptures and thus belong to inferior faiths, rendering them dhimmis or second-class citizens. Muslims were free to lord it over these minorities to the point they felt it was their natural right, no matter how poor or ignorant they might be themselves. Much like in the Old South, this unjust system was presented and defended on religious grounds, ordained by Allah no less.

The Zionist movement, however, challenged this belief system. The victory of a rag-tag Jewish militia over much larger Arab forces in 1948 was a theological shock to the Islamic world. How could the lowly Jews go from the nadir of the Holocaust to besting Arab armies on the battlefield in less than three years? Herein lays the root of Muslim attraction to Zionist conspiracy theories and even Holocaust denial. The evil Jews must have lied and manipulated their way to triumph and independence.

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict will not be resolved until this Islamist mentality falls. The current slaughter of Christians across the Middle East is further evidence that Muslims refuse to surrender their historic sense of supremacy. It is past time that we all join arm-in-arm to cross that proverbial bridge and challenge Islam’s claim to dominance over infidels.

 Parsons is media director for the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem; www.icej.org/
This article first appeared in the February 2011 issue of
The Jerusalem Post Christian Edition; www.jpost.com/ce  

The blame game

The question of the “collective guilt” of the Jewish people for the death of Jesus has once again come to the fore with the Vatican’s recent release of excerpts from Pope Benedict XVI’s newest book, Jesus of Nazareth – Holy Week: From the Entrance into Jerusalem to the Resurrection. In it, the pope issues a broad exoneration of the Jewish people for the crucifixion of Christ, instead laying the blame on a narrow band of “Temple aristocracy” and supporters of Barabbas.

The Catholic Church had already officially abandoned its historic charge of Deicide against the Jews in the authoritative document “Nostra Aetate,” adopted by the Second Vatican Council in 1965. Sadly, this break from the Church’s traditional position of contempt for the Jews came far too late to save countless innocent lives which fell victim to this odious doctrine. The same is true of the current pope’s new book, yet its potential to finally reach the Catholic masses with this vital corrective message is being applauded by Jewish leaders. Even Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu sent the pontiff a warm note of thanks.

The last time this issue received such wide play was during the controversy over Mel Gibson’s movie “The Passion of the Christ,” released in 2004. It turned out Gibson’s father belonged to a conservative Catholic sect that had yet to come to terms with the sea changes wrought by Vatican II. Indeed, the film exposed that there are still more than a few Christians who consider the Jews to be “Christ killers” – and thus rejected and cursed by God.

Meantime, other Christians offered alternative views that would deflect responsibility away from the Jewish people. “The Romans killed Jesus,” said some. “It was my sins that placed him there,” explained others.

These are all valid points, but the problem is that the New Testament is quite clear in squarely fingering the Jewish people of that day for playing a central role in his death. The list of verses that take this view are too many to ignore or explain away.

In Acts 3:12-18, for starters, the Apostle Peter addresses the “men of Israel” with the accusation, “you… killed the Prince of life.”  But Peter adds, “yet now, brethren, I know that you did it in ignorance, as did also your rulers. But those things which God foretold by the mouth of all His prophets, that the Christ would suffer, He has thus fulfilled.”

That is, he implicated his fellow Israelites in the death of Jesus, but he did not pronounce any guilt or curse over them as a consequence. Rather, Peter declared that this had all happened by the foreordained purpose and will of God concerning the things that the Messiah must endure.

Peter issues the same challenge in Acts 4:8-10 to the “rulers of the people and elders of Israel,” saying “let it be known to you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified…”

We see it when Peter leads a corporate prayer in Acts 4:27-28, and again in Acts 5:30, where certain Apostles tell the Sanhedrin that, “the God of our fathers raised up Jesus whom you murdered by hanging on a tree.”

And if that is not enough, in Acts 7 we find that Stephen the martyr decreed to his “brethren and fathers” that they were “betrayers and murderers” of the “Just One.”
 
So it is hard to avoid their point, repeatedly stated in the preaching of the Apostles. They boldly confronted both Jewish commoners and their leaders of that day for helping put Jesus on the cross. But his disciples also laid no guilt or curse on their fellow Israelites as a result; rather, they held that the Jewish people were doing exactly what God wanted of them in that fateful hour.

So as we approach the Passover season once more, it is good to consider that the Bible teaches the Jewish people were the only priestly nation which could offer up the sacrifice Lamb for the sins of the world. And we are told to rejoice in that priceless and predetermined act and to be totally grateful for it, while holding no animosity towards the Jews on account of it – whether then, now or ever!

Parsons is media director for the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem; www.icej.org/
This article first appeared in the April 2011 issue of
The Jerusalem Post Christian Edition; www.jpost.com/ce  

Israel and Fulfillment theology

While most born-again Christians today are supportive of Israel, there is a growing movement among Evangelicals which is sympathetic to Palestinian suffering and claims to statehood. Yet to provide a biblical basis for their position, they are generally uncomfortable with being identified with classical Replacement theology, due to its malevolent fruit – namely the pogroms, Inquisitions, Expulsions and right up to the Holocaust.

So instead, these Christians are turning to the trendy new answer of Fulfillment theology. This is a biblical outlook which does give natural Israel some credit for having been chosen by God for redemptive purposes. But this calling is seen as having been already “fulfilled” with the coming of Christ and the birth of the Church. Thus it ends up at the same place as Replacement theology in concluding that God is finished with Israel, albeit with less inherent hostility towards the Jews.

Adherents to this view place much emphasis on the ever-expanding “inclusiveness” of God’s salvation plan as it culminated in the Gospel being preached to all nations.

Now the universal nature of God’s intended family is such an elemental truth of Scripture, no Christian can rightly contest it. Yet some are presenting this as if it were a deep new revelation in the Bible. But when God first called Abraham into redemptive service, He was not exactly ‘hiding the ball’ when he stated quite clearly that His ultimate purpose was to “bless all the families of the earth.” (Genesis 12:3)

On the other hand, the Apostle Paul tells us there is a certain enduring “mystery” about natural Israel that has survived into New Testament times. That is, there is still something about Israel’s calling that has yet to be fulfilled. To unlock this mystery first requires a basic understanding of the alternative view of Covenant theology.

Covenant Theology – The Story of Salvation
The great covenants of the Bible actually tell the story of God’s salvation plan. In the Abrahamic covenant, God first offers His grace and salvation to “all the families of the earth” through faith in Him. But the world did not know it was in need of redemption, so in the Mosaic covenant the Ten Commandments were given to tell us we are sinners and in need of a Redeemer. Thus, Paul says, “the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ.” (Galatians 3:24)

Under the Davidic covenant, we are then assured of a King from David’s lineage who one day will be the Righteous Judge of the whole earth, applying the grace and law of God justly.

In the New Covenant, the atoning sacrifice of Jesus enables Gentiles to be “adopted” in as “sons of Abraham” and “heirs of the promise” of blessing (salvation) made to him (Romans 4:1-16; Galatians 3:6-14, 29).

The sinless life of Jesus also satisfied the just requirements of the Mosaic law (Romans 2:29; 8:1-4; Colossians 2:11). His perfect obedience to the Father, even to the point of a cursed death on a tree, earned Him the right to ascend to the throne of David as Judge of the whole earth (Psalm 110; Ephesians 1:15-23; Philippians 2:5-11; Hebrews 5:5-10).

Israel’s Calling – Custodian of World Redemption
Now notice that all of this was accomplished in and through natural Israel. In fact, Paul describes this phenomenon using words that denote possession or ownership.

In Romans 9:3-5, for instance, he explains that the covenants “pertain to” or “belong to” his fellow Israelites in the flesh. Earlier in Romans 3:1-4, he insists that the very oracles of God were “committed” or “entrusted” to natural Israel.

In addition, we can note the words of Jesus himself, who told the Samaritan woman that “salvation is of the Jews.” (John 4:22)

These are all possessive terms used to describe the unique covenant relationship which God established with ancient Israel. They were entrusted with the means by which the world would come to salvation. God called Israel into a special trust relationship, with the beneficiary being the world. Even title to the Land of Israel was vested in Abraham’s progeny in the nature of a trust so that Israel could become a nation which over time might birth into the world all the things we need for salvation.

Yet in serving this unique birthing role, the people of Israel were called to be suffering servants, even to the point of being hardened by God towards their own promised Messiah. Paul tells us that this was all for the sake of the Gentiles, with the expectation that we should be grateful for it (Romans 11).

So God called natural Israel in order to birth spiritual Israel – that is, the one, ever-expanding household of the redeemed. We Gentile believers do not replace natural Israel, we enlarge spiritual Israel (Galatians 6:16).

To accomplish this end, God established each of the great biblical covenants with natural Israel. He has thus always worked out his salvation plan for the world through natural Israel, using their belief and their unbelief in equal measure to produce the one family of the redeemed from the earth.

It may come as a surprise to some Gentile Christians, but this is even true for the “new covenant,” which was established by Jesus with twelve Jewish disciples gathered for the Last Supper. Recall that God had promised to “make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah.” (Jeremiah 31:31, cited in Hebrews 8)  Further, even the New Testament Church was birthed when the Holy Spirit fell on 120 Jews in the flesh gathered on the Day of Pentecost in that same Upper Room.

Thus, Paul bases his “mystery” in Romans 11:25 upon this understanding of natural Israel’s irrevocable covenant relationship with God, which is still working out His redemptive plan in the earth even through their unbelief. What he essentially says there is that so long as natural Israel rejects their Messiah, there is still time for Gentiles to get saved.

Fulfilment Theology and the Davidic Covenant
Besides Paul’s defense of natural Israel’s enduring election in Romans 9-11, we also have the preaching of Peter in Acts 3:17-21. Here he declares that all the prophecies concerning the things Messiah must suffer have indeed been fulfilled, but that there are still many other things spoken by the mouths of the prophets concerning the “restoration” which are still to come. He adds that Jesus is “received” – or more accurately “retained” – in heaven until all this takes place.

For any Jew hearing this message in first century Jerusalem, “restoration” had one meaning and one meaning only! It refers to the future restoration of Israel in fulfillment of the Davidic covenant, when the promised “Son of David” will take up his throne in Jerusalem, to rule over all the earth in righteousness and peace. And since the covenants were entrusted to natural Israel and always find their outworking through them, this means that the Jewish people still have a redemptive role to fulfill for the benefit of the world.

Plainly stated, the modern-day restoration of Israel is destined to birth the world into the Messianic Age in fulfillment of the Davidic covenant. In this regard, Israel is promised a physical restoration to the Land in unbelief and then a spiritual restoration to God and His Messiah in the last days (see e.g., Jeremiah 31, Ezekiel 36).

Jesus as well alludes to this future “regeneration” of natural Israel in Matthew 19:28, when his disciples will “sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” (See also Luke 13:35; Luke 21:24)

In this process, natural Israel will be merged with spiritual Israel and will finally enter the rest and peace in the Land that was promised to her by God.

This may frustrate some Christians, as it takes certain matters out of our hands. We Evangelicals think that if we will only preach the Gospel in all nations, then “the end will come.” (Matthew 24:14)

This is true, but it is equally true that natural Israel still has a redemptive role to play. We need to understand and identify the out-workings of this redemptive process and to pray that it be hastened in our day. In the meantime, this demands that we show respect for natural Israel as still elect of God, even in their unbelief (Romans 11:1, 11, 29).

Parsons is media director for the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem; www.icej.org/
This article first appeared in the March 2011 issue of
The Jerusalem Post Christian Edition; www.jpost.com/ce  

A problem pregnancy

This coming July 9th, South Sudan is slated to declare its independence and be welcomed into the family of nations. This new country is being born out of decades of conflict and suffering, as the Christians and animists of the south have been brutalized by the Islamist regime in Khartoum. Roughly two million south Sudanese have died as a result of war, famine and disease, while another four million were displaced.

Many of these refugees are now streaming back home, some with newly acquired skills and a keen desire to help build their new nation. There are still hurdles to overcome, as the South Sudanese Authority must negotiate with its former masters over their common border and a sharing of the land’s rich oil resources.

But South Sudan’s recent referendum on independence was an inspiring exercise in democracy and a ringing endorsement of freedom, as nearly 100% of the populace voted for seceding from the north. Its impact on nearby countries has been widely overlooked, as just a few months later peoples throughout the Middle East erupted in an unprecedented wave of longing for liberty from tyrants and for political reforms.

Yet what a disappointing moment it will undoubtedly be for Palestinians to witness the poor and battered people of South Sudan celebrating their independence and especially their release from the cruel hand of dictator Omar al-Bashir, now a fugitive war criminal. To hear the Palestinians tell it, they too have suffered from a ruthless oppressor called the “Israeli occupation” and are no less deserving of nationhood.

Actually, there have been many peoples celebrating their newfound sovereignty ever since the PLO was formed and laid claim to statehood in 1964. No less than 73 nations have been admitted as new members of the United Nations since the 1967 Six Day War. Some were freed from Soviet dominance, others emerged from colonial rule by Western powers, while still others arose out of bitter ethnic conflicts and civil wars. Yet all are now full-fledged members of the fraternity of nations.

So why, it must be asked, are the Palestinians still on the outside looking in? Is history simply passing them by?

The answer is that the effort to birth a Palestinian state has always been a problem pregnancy for the entire world. The state of Palestine was still-born in the wake of the 1947 Partition Plan, and again with the PLO’s Algiers declaration of 1988. Even with broad international backing and Israel’s most accommodating offers, it failed to gestate again at Camp David in 2000 and at the end of the Annapolis process in late 2008.

And the reason for this is that the Palestinian nationalist movement has always been motivated more by a need to destroy the Zionist enterprise, rather than focusing on building a state of its own. The international community has been trying to hand the Palestinians a state for decades, but they have refused if it means the conflict is over and Israel remains intact.

Palestinian Authority leaders Mahmoud Abbas and Salaam Fayyad contend they have now corrected course and concentrated on developing the institutions of modern statehood in time for a September coming-out party at the UN. Yet at the same time, they have promoted a global campaign to delegitimize Israel, encouraging boycotts and sanctions against her abroad while feeding anti-Israel incitement at home.

Both PA leaders also have refused to consider any compromise on the right of return, which continues to be a thinly-veiled formula for Israel’s destruction. Finally, Abbas has also decided to re-engage with Hamas for the sake of national unity, a path that inevitably leads away from statehood.

Nevertheless, much of the international community is prepared to ignore these self-defeating actions and press ahead towards Palestinian statehood, despite the heightened risks for Israel of a region in rudder-less turmoil. There is even increased talk among European officials of an imposed solution.

So we can only expect more wrenching labor pains ahead in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which are looking ever more like the Bible’s depictions of the birth pangs of the Messiah.

Parsons is media director for the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem; www.icej.org/
This article first appeared in the May 2011 issue of
The Jerusalem Post Christian Edition; www.jpost.com/ce