Before I say anything else, I simply need to beg you to pray for peace and for mercy in the Holy Land. All of us are watching the events there with horror at what has transpired and dread of what has yet to take place.
What Hamas did October 7th was entirely abominable, and not at all surprising. They have made it blisteringly clear from their very beginning that the complete annihilation of the Israeli state is their whole reason for existence, and have a long record of bloody terrorism to show they mean it. The majority of Palestinians say they approve of the recent attacks as well, and agree that the Jewish state should not exist. If you do a little research into classical Muslim thinking about Islam’s perpetual right/duty to expel non-Muslim authorities from any formerly Muslim land, as well as the unique role Jerusalem has in Islam, you’ll see why this is so. Then ask yourself why Hamas named their attack “Al-Aqsa Flood,” and the pieces will begin to fall in place. I have virtually nothing good to say about Hamas.
Yet this is not a pro-Israeli screed, either. This is my attempt to clear up a little confusion about biblical teaching on Israel. Some misguided Bible teachers have suggested that the modern nation using the name “Israel” is the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies and the heir of God’s ancient covenant with Abraham, including the eternal gift of the land of Canaan. They surmise that, in the contemporary conflict, the Israelis must be entirely right and the Palestinians must be utterly wrong, because of God’s ancient gift of the land to Abraham. However, to automatically equate modern and biblical Israel is just muddleheaded thinking. It certainly shouldn’t be used to justify Israel’s current war on Hamas. For what it’s worth, I think Hamas’ actions on October 7 are justification enough. But that’s my personal opinion, based on my admittedly limited understanding of the details of the situation. But biblical history, prophecy, and theology related to Israel give no such justification.
The New Testament makes two truths abundantly clear about how God sees things, and thus how things really are.
- In this New Covenant age, from the Ascension of the Jewish Messiah Jesus of Nazareth (AD 30 or so) until his literal, physical, visible Return at the end of history, his followers are the true Israel, the true children of Abraham, and the true Jerusalem. Consider the following line of thought. Even under the Old Covenant, it became apparent soon enough that not all ethnic Israel was truly Israel. There was a mere remnant within the visible Israel who were the true heirs of Abraham. The coming of the prophesied Son of Man Jesus and the teachings of his Apostles made it very clear that his followers were now the true Israel. Now any group claiming to be Israel, other than the followers of Israel’s Messiah Jesus, are not actually Israel at all. (See the whole letter to the Romans, but especially chapters 9-10); the whole letter to the Galatians; chapters 2 and 3 of the Ephesian epistle; the entire book of Hebrews; all of James’ letter, especially in light of 1:1; the entirety of 1 Peter, particularly considering 1:1-12 and 2:1-10; the whole Apocalypse, but especially 2:9 and 3:9; and other spots throughout the New Testament.)
- Initially, from Joshua until Jesus, God’s everlasting gift of the land of Canaan to Abraham was fulfilled literally and physically in literal, ethnic Israel. It is now fulfilled in his gift, not just of Canaan, but in fact of the entire world, to the followers of Jesus Christ, the Heir of the Abrahamic, Mosaic, and Davidic covenants. Yet this is not a fleshly or natural thing, but a spiritual grant. We are not a geopolitical nation claiming political authority over the peoples of the world, but rather a gospel army sent to disciple the nations of the world for Christ. He is the one to whom all authority in heaven and on earth has been given. (See Matthew 28:18-20; Romans 8:31-32; 1 Corinthians 3:21-23; Hebrews 11:8-10; several other passages throughout the New Testament)
So what does all this have to do with the modern Israeli/Palestinian conflict? Only this: we cannot rightly use the Bible to say that the Israelis alone have a rightful claim to the land. That’s actually a misunderstanding and a misuse of the Bible. The contemporary conflict is a tangled mess of history and hate that has little to do with Abraham or God’s covenant with him. The Bible does not serve any geopolitical agenda – Israel’s, Palestine’s or any other. The Bible’s only agenda is Jesus Christ and the supremacy of his Kingdom over all the earth for all of time. He alone is the rightful owner of the Holy Land. He alone is Israel’s peace, and Palestine’s freedom.
Christopher Gudmundsson, 2023