The Gospel Coalition

The Story: After eight days of bloody conflict, Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas have agreed to a ceasefire, The New York Times reported yesterday. Five Israelis and more than 150 Palestinians have been killed along the Israel-Gaza border during the past week.

Such events raise typical and salient questions. Does Israel possess a "divine right" to the "Promised Land" in the Middle East? What is the "Promised Land," anyway? The interminable Israeli-Palestinian conflict has always been freighted with biblical significance; Israel, after all, isn't calling their anti-Hamas campaign "Operation Pillar of Cloud" for nothing.

But are such appropriations legitimate?

The Background: In 2004, John Piper, pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, delivered a sermon from Romans 11:25-32 titled "Israel, Palestine, and the Middle East." In it, he offers seven principles concerning the ever-contentious issue of "the Land":
1. God chose Israel from all the peoples of the world to be his own possession.

2. The Land was part of the inheritance he promised to Abraham and his descendants forever.

3. The promises made to Abraham, including the promise of the Land, will be inherited as an everlasting gift only by true, spiritual Israel, not disobedient, unbelieving Israel.

4. Jesus Christ has come into the world as the Jewish Messiah, and his own people rejected him and broke covenant with their God.

5. Therefore, the secular state of Israel today may not claim a present divine right to the Land, but they and we should seek a peaceful settlement not based on present divine rights, but on international principles of justice, mercy, and practical feasibility.

6. By faith in Jesus Christ, the Jewish Messiah, Gentiles become heirs of the promise of Abraham, including the promise of the Land.

7. Finally, this inheritance of Christ's people will happen at the Second Coming of Christ to establish his kingdom, not before; and till then, we Christians must not take up arms to claim our inheritance; but rather lay down our lives to share our inheritance with as many as we can.

Why It Matters: Wherever you land theologically or politically, the events of the past week mark yet another distressing development in the Israeli-Palestinian saga. This is a prime opportunity to pray. Pray for the Israelis, image-bearers of God, that they'd search the Scriptures and find life in the Savior (John 5:39-40, 46). May they discover that the meeting point between God and man is no longer a place---whether reconstructed temple or geographical partition---but a risen and reigning and soon returning Person (John 4:21-26).

Pray too for the Palestinians, image-bearers of God, that they'd turn in droves to Jesus the King. Pray particularly for our Palestinian brothers and sisters in the faith; there are, after all, far more Palestinian Christians in the Middle East than the news headlines imply.

May the Prince of Peace reveal what's been hidden (Luke 19:41-42) and bring everlasting shalom to a Land flowing with blood and hatred---with little milk and honey to be found.


Comments:

K

November 30, 2012 at 11:40 AM

Pablo,

The last thing this should devolve into is personal attacks. Believe me, that was never my intent. I apologize for drawing incorrect conclusions from your words. But just note that I never once charged you with a dislike of Gentiles, I never accused you of harboring pride or anger, and I certainly did not insinuate that you had any ulterior motives. I never judged your heart, and while I did attempt to draw conclusions about what you believe based on your statements, I never made any conclusions about your character. But you have repeatedly questioned the character of those who do not share your beliefs, calling their positions "warped... full of pride". You have charged that we deliberately make God out to be a liar, and you personally associated by pseudonym with the KKK (whether that was your attempt or not God knows). I do not have any hidden agenda, nor do I say this with any pride or arrogance.

My convictions remain. That does not make me closed-minded or prideful. My only aim was to present clearly my position, as it contrasted with yours. Now if my words have not been civil, please show me specifically where I made attacks on your character, doubted your intelligence, or in any other way treated you less than someone who simply has a different (and in my humble opinion, incorrect) set of beliefs. And I beg you, do not try to glean emotion from my posts. Typed words do not reveal such at all.

Hal Jaffe

November 30, 2012 at 10:46 AM

I am happy in my Jewish religion and hope everyone else is happy with their religion and I do not appreciate anyone suggesting my religion is wrong and/or the Jews haven't "seen the light" You are quoting from the new testament that is NOT in OUR book, sorry. Live and let live and let everybody be happy in their own religion and stop trying to convert others.

Pablo

November 30, 2012 at 10:16 AM

You do not listen K, you are right and everyone who disagrees with you wrong (dilution), you are an angry person and it shows in your writings (not a shred of humility, the real worry) probably because you have a hidden agenda (God sees all) but what I dislike most is that you have attempted to twist my words and presume to know what I believe about myself, God's church, spirituality and salvation. I will not answer you claims because it is pointless, you will never be open minded enough to have a civilised discussion, so with this said I live you in God's capable hands :) ...Adieu.

Kirk Slow

November 30, 2012 at 09:16 AM

Thanks Diana for this link.

This article is definitely worth reading and clearly gives a context to the current debate. This article gives a very comprehensive biblical overview of this topic. This before Israel was even a nation again.

What I really respect about the commentary is that it gives a thorough biblical overview of the similarities and differences between Israel and the Church. This was perhaps my disappointment with Piper's article on the subject.

Thanks again and I hope others read it. Both inspiring and prophetic!

elainebitt

November 30, 2012 at 08:39 AM

Dispensationalism does NOT teach two people of God.

Matt Smethurst

November 29, 2012 at 11:54 AM

Amen to that reminder, Shawn. Thank you.

K

November 29, 2012 at 08:14 AM

You say that I have a dislike of Israel. The problem is that you equate the Israel of God's choosing with the present secular state of Israel. That is the problem. You equate the secular state of Israel, that does not acknowledge God, with the divinely sanctioned kingdom of Israel that followed God in centuries past. They are not the same, and God gave no guarantees of protection or blessing to an Israel that did not turn back to him. Remember that apostate Israel was cast out of the land by God himself.

You also say that Israel cannot break the covenant. But Scripture disagrees. From God's own mouth:

Any uncircumcised male who is not circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin shall be cut off from his people; he has broken my covenant. Genesis 17:14

The earth lies defiled under its inhabitants; for they have transgressed the laws, violated the statutes, broken the everlasting covenant. Isaiah 24:5

They have turned back to the iniquities of their forefathers, who refused to hear my words. They have gone after other gods to serve them. The house of Israel and the house of Judah have broken my covenant that I made with their fathers. Jeremiah 11:10

Yes, the covenant that God himself swears to uphold cannot fail, but that doesn't mean it cannot be broken. And what it means for the covenant to be upheld is not that it is never broken, but that God will restore it. But when will he restore it with Israel? When the Messiah returns from heaven.

God doesn't have two different covenants for both Jew and Gentile. Gentiles are not Plan B, nor are they a backup people for God. From the beginning, God's intent for Abraham was not that he would have this exclusive ethnic people who would be better than all others. The express purpose was to bless all nations, and for Abraham to be the father of all those who were blessed. God never intended to stop at Israel, and that is where I perceive the biggest oversight.

You view national Israel as an end in itself, as the sole people with whom God ultimately intends to deal. Gentile blessing is temporary and, as you state, "only for a time... until Israel the nation is restored once again." But the blessing that comes to the Gentiles is not temporary. It does not end with Israel's restoration. Rather, when Israel is restored, both Jews and Gentiles will reap the benefits of the promise. How else can you understand Romans and Isaiah and Galatians and Ephesians and Luke and Acts and Revelation? "The Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the SAME BODY, [equal] partakers of the promise in the Messiah Jesus through the gospel" (Ephesians 3:6). And let's be very, very clear: the promise is only in the Messiah, through the gospel.

Jewish belief in the Messiah is not optional. Jewish acceptance of the gospel is not optional. There is no second path. Jews too, not just Gentiles, obtain the promise by faith in the Messiah. They do not obtain it through ethnic descent. Why not?

6 ...For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, 7 and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring, but “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” 8 This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring. Romans 9:6-8

And who are the children of the promise? Just the Israelites descended from Abraham?

13 For the promise to Abraham and his offspring that he would be heir of the world did not come through the law but through the righteousness of faith. 14 For if it is [only] the adherents of the law who are to be the heirs, faith is null and the promise is void... 16 That is why it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his offspring—not only to the adherent of the law but also to the one who shares the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all, 17 as it is written, “I have made you the father of many nations”... Romans 4:13-14, 16-17

If it is just Torah-keeping ethnic Israel that inherits the promise, then the promise is not a promise: it is just an ethnic right. Then it has nothing to do with God's word, but with the biological and cultural heritage of a certain portion of Abraham's descendants. But the Scriptures make no allowance for an ethnic right to the inheritance; else it really would be Ishmael's inheritance (or if not Ishmael's, Esau's). And this gets us back to the primary argument above: Israel has no divine right, based on ethnicity, to the land. That right belongs solely to God, who signifies such with the restoration of his presence to the land. As of yet, he has not done so. Israel is still in exile, cut off from God. Though yes, God calls out to Israel through the gospel, they have not all obeyed. Many don't even acknowledge that there is a covenant. So by the state of Israel's own justification for their existence (not divine covenant, but ethnic right and justice), they have no right to exclude another, whose claim rests on the same basis.

There is no ethnic superiority in the Messiah. He is Lord of all who call upon him, whether Jew or Gentile, and he is rich in mercy to whom? To those who call upon him. Yes, Israel, by being the people chosen for the covenant, are the apple of God's eye. But that is because of the covenant of promise, not because of their ethnicity. Gentiles, estranged and without God, when they come to faith in the Messiah, are brought into this very same covenant. What becomes of them? Are they second-class citizens of God's household? God forbid! There is no partiality with him. Rather, they too become beloved, chosen by God, his treasured possession. They join with those of Israel who believe in being the apple of his eye, for they are one people in the Messiah, not two. And they are defined not by ethnicity or culture, but by faith in the Messiah.

Pablo

November 29, 2012 at 07:17 AM

KKK ... may my God have mercy my friend, what can I say, I don't understand is why is there such dislike of Israel in your heart? ...What's the real reason behind the comments ...am not trying to upset you... God knows.

They are the apple of His eye K; not to be displaced by pride filled People, Nations, Christians, Muslims, Buddhists or anyone else; God has loved them for the last 6,000 years working at their salvation tirelessly. Isa 62:1 "For Tzion’s sake I will not be silent, for Yerushalayim’s sake I will not rest, until her vindication shines out brightly and her salvation like a blazing torch.

God's word is to be interpreted as literal as possible, right? So please... don't over spiritualise this (read again with that in mind). God not only deals with an Israel who is spiritual and Messianic; time and again they sin, God sends someone who cries out for them or to them, they repent and God restores them back (land, riches, blessings and all). Please consider this, in all humbleness as I said am not trying to upset you; but you think that as a nation they have broken covenant with God, I think that they can't... See Jeremiah 34:18-20 (as reference) & then read Gen 15 (all) In the first instance the people perform the covenant ritual, by walking between the parts they binding themselves but in the covenant with Abraham, Abraham was put to sleep (Y?) it is God alone who does the ritual walk (one sided covenant)... He holds all the cards in this and He is faithful to the end too; not just to the spiritual Israel but to Abraham himself in the flesh.

We received this promise by faith yes, but we have been privileged to enter the promise and only for a time until what? until Israel the nation is restored once again...

I'll add simply this friends, every time someone miss handles Israel they get their proverbial kicked.
God Bless

Gen 12... 1The Lord had said to Abram, “Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you.
2“I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you;
I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing.
3 I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse;
and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”

Kirk Slow

November 29, 2012 at 03:35 PM

My final word on this. I believe that when Jesus returns Jew and Gentile believers alike will be together as one new nation under our king. This means that certainly a number of prophecies have to be fulfilled before He comes (some of which have). Your theological expectation is correct, but only after Jesus returns because only then will it make sense. The times of the gentiles doesn't end with Jesus return, because we then have the one new nation under God.

Irrespective of our persuasion, does not the reality remain that the whole world is focused on a very small piece of real-estate? Of all the places on the planet that the world could contend over, it has to be Israel and the Jewish people. Does it not strike you as significant that all the terror and contention in the world currently is centered on a Jewish and Gentile settlement? Would we even be having this discussion if the world had decided to give the Jewish people a land that was not Israel with the capital being Jerusalem?

The only legitimate claim that (unbelieving) Jews have to that land is a divine one. If you do not hold to this, and base your decision on what the world says is just, then you MUST follow your persuasion to its logical conclusion which is; Jews have no recent right to the land and must be removed.

K

November 28, 2012 at 11:42 PM

God mandates the rise and fall of all powers. That does not necessarily mean that they are divinely sanctioned. Zechariah does prophecy of an Israel and Jerusalem in the hands of Jews. This doesn't mean a divinely sanctioned government (though it is divinely willed). Zechariah also speaks of an Israel that must be brought to repentance (and will through great destruction). In fact, the prophecies that speak of Israel with reference to the Day of the LORD categorically define that Israel as a yet unrepentant Israel, and the Day is a day of gloom and wrath not only for those armies that come against Israel, but against the unrepentant in Israel. It says one-third will be spared, and they will repent when they see the Lord. So I take Jesus' words about the completed time of the Gentiles with Paul's words about the full entrance of the Gentiles. In other words, Jerusalem will no longer be trampled by the Gentiles when the full number of those Gentiles who would be saved are saved. Then, Jerusalem will no longer be trampled - not as a result of secular political action, but the very hand of God. Keep in mind that presently, Jerusalem is still a contested city, and to this day East Jerusalem (including the Temple Mount) is occupied predominantly by Muslim Arabs. It is far from a Jewish city. So, no, I wouldn't say that the time of the Gentiles is over (what would that mean anyway?)

As to the legitimacy of the state itself, I believe personally that Jews have every legal right to live in the land, and to exercise governance over themselves. That said, you cannot ignore the Arabs, Christian, Muslim, and Druze, that have been living there since before the arrival of the European Jews in the late 19th century/early 20th century. Their rights to the land are the same as that of the Jews (by international standards more so, since they were presently living there). If they are not to be granted the same ability to govern themselves as the Jews have been granted, then another solution must be found that accords with fairness and justice.

I don't believe that there is an amenable solution without dividing both the land and Israel. Therefore, impossible as it may be, the only possible long-term solution would be to share the entirety of the land, Jew and Arab. This of course would require a great change in the nature of the state itself, from a Jewish state to a multiethnic state (a state that represents and protects both Jew and Arab equally). In this way, despite the hatred and mistrust that exists between Jew and Arab, neither Jew nor Arab will be restricted from any part of the land. As equal citizens, they may lay nonexclusive claim to the land, and reap its benefits. And the land will not be divided. This would require a secular state, so that no single religious group would have hegemony in the government. It would also require both Jews and Palestinians to abandon their dreams of a homogeneous state (whether Jewish or Arab-Islamic), a sacrifice well worth the peace that could follow.

Of course, any such solution would be temporary in light of the fact that one day the Lord will return to establish his universal rule(and according to prophecy, this after a final Arab-Israeli war), but until the whole of national Israel is finally redeemed from exile, the Israeli government must be treated no different than any other nation-state.

The Jewish right to the land is not exclusive [and neither would any Arab/Palestinian/Muslim right be exclusive]. It cannot be exclusive. Neither international law nor the gospel permit it. Paul's whole point in Romans and Galatians is this. Neither Jew, nor Gentile, have exclusive rights to the covenant (and all that it entails). To say otherwise is to throw aside the gospel. This covenant access is not based on the Torah ("Circumcision", the identifying marks of who was a right-standing Jew), nor is it based on not having the Torah ("Uncircumcision"). It is based on God, who calls people into his covenant through faith in Jesus, the only one who has exclusive rights.

So this is not, and cannot be about which group has to pack up and leave. That is not the gospel response. Rather, this is the gospel response: "Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God" (Romans 15:7). And what is Paul saying in this passage? That Jesus became a servant to the Jews in order to confirm God's promises made to the patriarchs, and to include the Gentiles in those promises. So our response must be the same. And as I contend, this should begin among Jewish and Arab Christians. Who has more reason to welcome each other for the glory of God?

K

November 28, 2012 at 11:42 PM

Final point. When the Lord establishes his kingdom, it will not be one ruled by Jews alone for Jews alone. He will rule exclusively over both Jew and Gentile. Jerusalem will be his possession, and not only his, but the possession of all his saints (the Scriptures make no distinction). For all share in Christ's reward equally. For this is the mystery of the gospel:

This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel (Ephesians 3:6). And per Romans 4, this promise is that Abraham would be heir of the world (not part of it, but the whole). So if Abraham is not only the father of national Israel, but also all those Gentiles who believe, then as Galatians 3 says, they also are Abraham’s offspring (and therefore heirs according to the promise) through their belonging to Jesus.

So there is truly no covenantal distinction between Jew and Gentile. There cannot be, or else Paul’s long treatises in Romans and Galatians are misguided at best, deceptive at the worst. And this should inform our views on the present Arab-Israeli conflict (let’s not mention the fact that it is Christ who brings the inheritance when he returns). And finally, let’s face it. Everything in this present age will endure wrath (“Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens” Hebrews 12:26-28). Neither we, nor those Jews who presently do not believe, should rest our hope on present territorial gain. We look for a kingdom that cannot be shaken, which the Lord will establish. A kingdom which we all, Jew and Gentile who believe, will receive from the Lord when he comes. So getting back to the points John Piper made:
Yes, God did choose national Israel to be his own possession, to be members of his household and covenant.
Yes, the Land was part of the promised inheritance.
Yes, this inheritance is given only to those who believe in the Messiah, who is the heir of all things.
Yes, national Israel as a whole (but not every single one) rejected the Messiah and were broken off the covenant tree (Rom 11).
Yes, present secular Israel does not have any divine right to the land, but derives its rights from and must operate according to international standards.
Yes, Gentiles through faith are grafted in to this very same covenant tree (Rom 11).
Yes, this inheritance comes solely through the Messiah, when he returns. And it is for all who believe.

Kirk Slow

November 28, 2012 at 09:01 PM

I think your last comment is my starting point rather than an addendum.

I am a gentile saved by grace through faith in Jesus. From a physical point of view, grouped with the palestinians as a gentile.

Jesus makes it clear in matt 24 that Jerusalem (not any other place) would be trampled under foot by the gentiles until the times of the gentiles are up. One can only assume from this statement that the Jews would again rule in Jerusalem. We know (biblically)that it is God that raises up a nation and takes down another.The Jewish people have come to rule in Jerusalem again, whether its legitimate or illegitimate it is now so, and we have to believe, God determined. If it is God determined then any attempt by any nation to attack Israel is to fight against God. It is obviously my belief that the current Jewish rule in Jerusalem is an indication of the times of the gentiles in Jerusalem being over.

Now if I am wrong, the alternative is to horrific to contemplate, but contemplate it we must. We must then side with every Arab nation and make every effort to completely remove the Jewish people from Jerusalem and Israel. Of coarse the Jewish people have no legitimate claim to that area unless that claim is divinely given. While there has always been some Jewish presence in the area they haven't had any legal right to this land for almost 2000 years. If biblical prophecy concerning Israel does not inform my understanding of this area then how can I possibly affirm their right to this land?

I would suggest that there is no middle ground between these two views. Either God has divinely placed the Jewish people in this land and over Jerusalem at this time or He hasn't. I believe He has and this informs my view.

K

November 28, 2012 at 05:31 PM

1) 13 For the promise to Abraham and his offspring that he would be heir of the world did not come through the law but through the righteousness of faith. 14 For if it is the adherents of the law who are to be the heirs, faith is null and the promise is void. 15 For the law brings wrath, but where there is no law there is no transgression.
16 That is why it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his offspring—not only to the adherent of the law but also to the one who shares the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all, 17 as it is written, “I have made you the father of many nations”—in the presence of the God in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist. 18 In hope he believed against hope, that he should become the father of many nations, as he had been told, “So shall your offspring be.” 19 He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was as good as dead (since he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah's womb. 20 No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, 21 fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. 22 That is why his faith was “counted to him as righteousness.” 23 But the words “it was counted to him” were not written for his sake alone, 24 but for ours also. It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, 25 who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.

How is it not based on faith? If the promise God made to Abraham is based entirely on faith, as Paul says quite clearly, then the covenant and the blessings of the covenant are also based entirely on faith (that is, those who have access to the covenant have access by faith). What does election mean in this context? Israel will repent! God will see to that. But this has absolutely nothing to do with the moral responsibilities of a secular, non-Christian, extra-biblically cultural Jewish state. Are Palestinian lives irrelevant? Are peaceful foreigners and strangers, including Arab Christians, to be cast out from the land of Israel, though they themselves have done no harm or violence? Have those whose families have lived on the same land for many generations no equal right to it?

2) All this talk of "a part to play" and "a future role" strikes me as odd. To what sort of "part" are you referring? This really doesn't have any thing to do with any special role that Israel will play in history (except in drawing the ire of all the nations). Even then, that is not an indication that the majority of Jews are still individually within the covenant (from God's perspective). Paul describes clearly that individually, those who disbelieve are broken off. They are beloved, according to election, because God will redeem them in the end. Again, this has absolutely nothing to do with the present, secular government of the secular state of Israel. The bible gives no such legitimacy to Jewish rulers that deny God's rule. The existence of this state is not to be commended as divinely produced and therefore divinely sanctioned. Brush up on your history. It was the enterprise of men who expressly distanced themselves from rabbinical Judaism and its strands (strands which themselves are developments upon second-Temple Jewish belief, not revivals of Old Testament worship).

That said, it perhaps is short-sighted and biblically-lacking to say that national Israel is irrelevant and no longer in the plan of God. Paul makes very clear in Romans 11, citing the Prophets, that God will bring national Israel as a whole to repentance when Jesus returns. Until then, national Israel is partially hardened, with some (few) coming to faith in the Messiah, and the rest resisting. This hardening is in place while large numbers of Gentiles are believing, and it will happen until the full decreed number of Gentiles comes in. Then, the Lord will come and remove the veil from national Israel, resulting in their repentance and redemption. And he will gather together both redeemed national Israel and redeemed Gentiles into the one covenant household of God.

Johnny C

November 28, 2012 at 05:21 AM

How is this calling God a liar? Was Paul calling God a liar when he defined a Jew as only those with a circumcised heart? (Rom 2:28-29) was Paul wrong when he said that there is no Jew or Gentile for those in Christ and that the heirs to the promise are those in Christ? (Gal 3:28-29) Was Peter wrong in describing the new covenant people of God in the exact same way God described Israel at Sinai? (1 Peter 2:9-10)

Kirk Slow

November 28, 2012 at 03:29 PM

To interpret this situation from man's point of view is pointless. All prophetic fulfillment has less to do with how we feel one way or the other but on what God has determined. This is not about who's side we are on and whether Israel deserves this land or not. Jesus prophesied distress against the Jewish people until the times of the Gentiles was up. This we have seen through history. If Jesus makes a distinction between Jew and Gentle, not based on faith, then we should do the same.

The scripture further affirms God's purpose with Israel not based on faith but on election. {Election as I read it has more to do with the corporate than the individual} Rom 11:28-29 As far as the gospel is concerned, they are enemies on your account; but as far as election is concerned, they are loved on account of the patriarchs, 29 for God’s gifts and his call are irrevocable.

It is a remarkable thing that the Jewish people have ruled In Israel for 72 years and in Jerusalem for 45 years. The last time this was so for this length of time was before the Babylonian exile. If this doesn't grab you as significant then nothing will.

I am disappointed in the article as it like so many on both sides approaches the conflict from a human perspective. I also feel that from a biblical point of view John should have made clear the distinctions between physical and spiritual Israel. Does he believe that Physical Israel outside of faith in Jesus is meaningless and has no part to play any more? For me it leaves more questions than answers. A much more thorough biblical exegesis should be given regarding an understanding of Physical Israel before any comment on the current situation can be made.

Kendall Adams

November 27, 2012 at 08:14 AM

Why not deal with what started this latest war? Have you read the Hamas agenda and goals against Israel? Doesn’t Israel have the right to defend itself against rockets being shot at its civilians?

Pablo

November 27, 2012 at 03:46 PM

Well said Shawn, Shalom! :)

shawn

November 27, 2012 at 02:41 PM

Have been reading most of your comments, most of what I would add has been already stated. Let me just say, I'm impressed with both the vigorousness of the discussion, and how relatively free it is from descending into name calling.
Let us all in humility, state our biblical convictions, and pray that in and through this dialogue the Spirit of Christ moves us all closer to the truth.
May you continue to glorify him not only in the content of your conversation but in the tone as well.
Christ is all.

Johnny C

November 26, 2012 at 09:40 AM

This is not replacement theology; God has always had one people not two. The history of Israel was all typological of the work of Christ. Thin k about it:

Israel are delivered by grace out of bondage by the blood of a lamb. God then gives them his law to be a distinct people and promises them his presence among them until they arrive at their destination - the promised land where they will receive final rest. This is exactly the same with the Christian.

The writer to the Hebrews in chapter 4 makes it clear the Promised Land was not the final rest - that there remains rest for the people of God. No where in the NT does any writer promote political future glory in Israel. We have to read the O.T with Christ in view not Israel. He is true Israel. This is made clear at the beginning of the NT where Matthew quotes a text that speaks of Israel and applies it to Christ (Matt 2:15)

Michael B Babbitt

November 26, 2012 at 08:09 PM

I would only add that opinions on this topic will not change one's salvation as it is based solely upon faith in the Messiah. But if one cannot differentiate between the violence from hatred by the Arabs and the self-protection of the Israelis, that is the crime of moral equivalence is ever there was one. I think Paul goes to great pains to differentiate the Gentiles from physical Israel, emphasizing physical Israel's special, time honored relationship with God. Romans 11:1 ; 25-26
"I ask, then, has God rejected his people? By no means! Certainly not! For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin. 2 God has not cast away His people whom He foreknew. Here he makes the claim of being an part of physical Israel."
"For I do not desire, brethren, that you should be ignorant of this mystery, lest you should be wise in your own opinion, that blindness in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. 26 And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written..." This certainly seems like a prediction to me of a future role for physical Israel with Paul again diffentiating between physical Israel and the Gentiles. We may be all on the spiritual plane equal before God (no male, no female, etc) but on the physical plane we are different. My own take is that considering the horrible legacy of Christians upon the Jews (see Michael Brown's "Our Hands are Stained With Blood"),
Gentile Christians should show more humility in regard to the Jewish people and their destiny; they should not de-sacralize the physical and try to make all of Gods oaths now only apply to the future spiritualized Israel.

Pablo

November 26, 2012 at 05:09 AM

This is plain replacement theology, God have mercy on you. You should have read the context and definitely the first couple of verses of Rom 11

... I ask, then, has God rejected his people? By no means! For I myself am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, a member of the tribe of Benjamin. 2 God has not rejected his people whom he foreknew....

Point 1 100% right,
Point 2 100% right (Note the Forever part),
Point 3 (not true, see point 2 Forever not Whenever),
Point 4 God does not break covenant or approve of divorce He is faithful even when we are not else we are in trouble,
Point 5 Not true Israel has the only divine right/claim to the land (it was never given to us directly ...Grafted in Rom 11) also see point 2 ...Forever,
Point 6 not true God gives the church a heavenly place not the land of Israel (...John 14) and this to us is as a privilege not a right,
Point 7 Somewhat right but again missed the point it is not a right and the kingdom is already here in us and in Israel.
The establishment he's talking about is a global one and does not include the land of Israel which is His inheritance to Abraham's descendants and already will be in
His command at the second coming.

K

November 26, 2012 at 04:38 PM

By the way, this is not replacement theology because as Paul states, quoting the OT, just as a large portion of Israel was broken off through unbelief, leading to Gentile inclusion, so in that final day, when the full decreed number of Gentiles has entered, the Lord will come and bring full repentance and salvation to Israel. And so all Israel will be saved.

In this way, God will be faithful to his promises. But until that time, Israel is still in exile. And so the present secular government of Israel, illegitimate with respect to the kingdom of God, must be evaluated and must act in accordance with international law and justice. That means that they cannot claim an exclusive right to the land on nationalist grounds without also lending credence to "Palestinian" claims to the land. And this is why I say that the solution, imperfect as it may be, cannot be to divide the land between a Jewish Israel and Arab Palestine. That will not suffice.

Present conflict will merely turn into nation-state war. The only thing that will suffice in the long-run, temporary as it may be, is a single, secular, liberal democratic state that equally respects and defends both Jew and Arab. In this way, as equal citizens, both Jews and Arabs have equal right to the land; not exclusive rights, held over one another's heads as grounds for boasting and prejudice, but legal rights that unify them both.

Yes, this is highly unlikely given present prejudices and presumptions by both Israelis and Arabs. But this should be the aim. Segregation and solidified division will not do. Not in this environment.

K

November 26, 2012 at 04:20 PM

Ephesians 2:13-22

13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation, 15 having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace, 16 and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity. 17 And He came and preached peace to you who were afar off and to those who were near. 18 For through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father.

19 Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, 22 in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.

What is the common-wealth of Israel? Is it Israel? Or is it rather the nourishing root of the olive tree that is not based on ethnic descent but on the promises of God for all of Abraham's offspring, those who believe in God through Jesus, whether physical descendants or not?

Who supports who?? Is it Paul's aim to say that Israel supports the Gentiles, or is it rather to say that both Jew and Gentile are supported and nourished by the promise made to Abraham, fulfilled through the Messiah? It is the Messiah who is abundant in riches to all, not Israel. The Messiah, not Israel, is Lord of all. And therefore, being both Lord of Jew and Gentile indiscriminately, his inheritance belongs to Jew and Gentile indiscriminately, to the Jew first and also to the Gentile. For God does not show partiality. All have sinned against God, and are justified, are brought back into covenant with him, freely by his grace through Jesus Christ. He has consigned ALL to disobedience, to exile, in order that he might have mercy upon all.

Gentiles are not grafted into national Israel, but covenant Israel, into the family of Abraham, within the household of GOD founded upon his Son. Notice what it is that God has accomplished in Ephesians which you quote:

God has abolished the hostility between Jew and Gentile. How? By abolishing the very thing that kept Gentiles separate and excluded: the Torah mediated at Sinai. What replaces it? The Messiah himself!!! And in this way, by abolishing that good and holy and just law given because of sins (to safeguard the people of the covenant), God has reconciled both Jew and Gentile to himself through the crucified and risen Messiah, who is our peace. They are unified through Jesus, through his death and resurrection, not through the Torah, not through politics, not through national citizenship. Unity is true peace. True peace is in Jesus, who unites us to God through the Spirit.

And here we see what ultimately will bring peace between Jews and Arabs. Jesus! He unites Jew and Gentile in himself. They both grab hold of *his* garments, and he brings them to God. And through the Spirit, through the love of God filling our hearts, we have the hope of the glory of God because of the maturity of Christlike character within us.

Pablo

November 26, 2012 at 03:36 PM

Then you make God a liar! which He is not His covenants with Israel were never broken nor will they be.Zec 8:22-23 NASB - 22 'So many peoples and mighty nations will come to seek the LORD of hosts in Jerusalem and to entreat the favor of the LORD.' 23 "Thus says the LORD of hosts, 'In those days ten men from all the *nations will *grasp the *garment of a JEW, saying, "Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you."'"
Eph 2:11-12 NASB - 11 Therefore remember that formerly you, the Gentiles in the flesh, who are called "Uncircumcision" by the so-called "Circumcision," which is performed in the flesh by human hands— 12 remember that you were at that time separate from Christ, *excluded from the COMMONWEALTH OF ISRAEL (of who!!!???, the Church?), and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.
Honestly read Romans 11, plain as day! we are grafted in, ignore your branch and roots and you are dead ...mmm ...a warped self serving understanding and a lot of pride that's the Church ...sound like someone else who fell. :)

Kenton

November 25, 2012 at 12:02 PM

Israel has never had a right to the land. The land belongs to God, to give to whom he will. How else could God expel Israel from the land? This whole debate over who constitutes true Israel misses entirely what Paul says. On one hand, dispensationalists state that the church is secondary and temporary, and after the church is gone God will resume dealings with Israel. On the other hand, covenant theorists hold that Israel has been superseded by the church, and therefore God no longer deals with Israel uniquely.

Paul's two main arguments, in Romans and Galatians, say this:

Ethnic Israel (or better, national Israel) emerged within the covenant that God made with Abraham, which was more than just Jewish ownership of a plot of land. This covenant was for Israel to be God's people, and through the Sinai covenant, a kingdom of priests set apart for God. Israel, though given adoption, the Torah, and the priestly service, did not keep the Sinai covenant, and after being exiled for a short time, rejected their Messiah who was promised through both covenants. As a result, God separated some (many) of the Jews from the Abrahamic covenant, which is being fulfilled now through the new covenant.

In contrast, Gentiles, in believing the gospel, are grafted by God into the Abrahamic covenant through the new covenant. It is the new covenant, then, that fulfills the Abrahamic covenant, for it and it alone truly brings blessing to all nations, the purpose of the Abrahamic covenant.

So what then of national Israel (or the majority of it)? Paul states that they are partially hardened (that is, some believe, many do not believe). Those who do believe remain in the Abrahamic covenant. Those who do not are broken off, but may be grafted in again. Both Jew and Gentile who believe are grafted into the same covenant tree. So if the land is the sole or primary substance of this covenant (which I do not believe to be the case), then Gentiles who believe (yes, including Palestinian Christians) are equal inhabitants to Jews (only those who believe).

Keep this in mind, however. It is the Sinai covenant that establishes conditions for remaining in and returning to the land. However, the new covenant's conditions pertain to the new earth, in which it is not just the one plot of land, but the whole earth that belongs to the people of God under the true heir Jesus. In this new covenant, the land is the least important part. What matters most is the reign of the Messiah, and the salvation and life that he will usher in when he returns. And when he returns, as Paul quotes in Romans 11, he will banish ungodliness from Jacob, leading to their repentance, and God will take away their sins and bring them back into his covenant. And so all Israel will be saved.

So what does this mean for the present? The state of Israel should not claim an exclusive right to the land. Nor should it restrict the legal rights of Arabs within its borders. The state defines itself as a Jewish state, with a Jewish character. This would be fine were it not for the Arabs within its borders. If Israel wants to retain this character, it should support the establishment of a fully sovereign Palestinian state.

However, I don't believe that this is a real solution. Only a single, multiethnic, secular, and truly democratic state comprising the entirety of Gaza, the West Bank (biblical Judea and Samaria), and present Israel will suffice for peace and security until the Lord returns. In this way, all who lay claim to the land will have equal access to it, and will be able to share it. This isn't ignoring the present prejudices on both sides, but if they cannot live together in one state, they will not be able to live together in two.

And more importantly, if Israeli Jews will not share with their non-Jewish neighbors (and Palestinian Arabs with their Jewish neighbors), how can they believe a gospel which does exactly this? We as Christians should be making reconciliation, first between Israeli and Palestinian Christians (who should be united), and then through all Israelis and Palestinians.

Simon

November 25, 2012 at 05:29 PM

Spot on Derek. Especially your point on interpretation of Scripture. What tradition of Christianity do you practise?

Simon

November 25, 2012 at 05:20 PM

John is to be commended for his comments here.

American evangelicals would do well to recognise that there are many Christian brothers and sisters amongst the Palestinians - be they Catholic, Orthodox or Protestant.They are suffering doubly in these conflicts.

Strider

November 25, 2012 at 03:49 AM

Why does this matter? If the nation state of Israel is entitled to the land or not they must behave justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with God. They do not have a right to oppress the stranger and alien. This talk about Israel's right to the land has blinded the Christian community to the reality that multiple people groups have always been on the land. Israel's promise to the land - however interpreted- has never and should never give them the right to bulldoze anyone's home. If the whole land belongs to Israel then they are morally obligated to provide justice for all who live there - including and especially the Palestinians. There should be no refugee camps- there should be Israeli towns and cities where all ethnic groups live together under one just law. Yes, Arafat was a traitor to his people and kept them from benefiting from all that Carter and Clinton gave them but how should a just government respond? If gangs in New York are strong and violent will we give them New York? I don't think so. We need to support Israel to give justice. Partition and sanctions are strangling poor people. They are turning to Hamas - who is there true oppressor- because they see Israel- and we Christians in the West- as the enemy. We have earned the right to be called the enemy. How can we now earn the right to share the Gospel?

[...] Israel, Gaza, ‘Divine Right,’ and John Piper (article) [...]

richard

November 24, 2012 at 06:28 AM

A simple body count of the number of non-combatants (innocent civilians including the elderly, the sick, and children) killed by each side makes quite ridiculous your suggestion that 'principles of justice and mercy' are on Israel's side.

If you want to consider legal rights under international law, then, yes, Israel have a right to defend themselves. But they do not have a right to use weapons which are illegal under international law (e.g. phosphorus shells, see e.g. 2009 news report http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/jan/16/phosphorus-bombs-video-israel-gaza).

Nor do they have the right to use other indiscriminate weapons that kill so many civilians. The IDF have historically managed to kill UN observers as well ( http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2006/jul/27/syria.israel4 ).

The IDF and the Government of Israel simply do not care how many non-combatants they kill in the process of taking out Hamas.

Yes, the Hamas terrorists are to be condemned. But the body count that results from what Israel always does in response makes Israel far more culpable when it comes to killing innocent non-combatants.

As for biblical comparisons, it is laughable that Israel use the so called 'star of David' on their flag. They are apostate. If they want to put an allusion to biblical Israel on their flag, it would be more appropriate to make up an emblem to represent wicked Ahab and use that, for they are not a state that loves and worships YHWH, but a godless state.

As for some Zionist Christians who seem to think true Christians should support the modern God-denying state of Israel no matter how they behave, consider the rebuke Jehoshaphat received when he made an alliance with wicked Ahab (2 Chronicles 17-19).

God's people (today that means all believers in Jesus, whether Jew or Gentile) are not supposed to make alliances with the wicked.

David Juniper

November 24, 2012 at 04:57 PM

Not to "seeds"but to"seed"meaning one. Cant get much clearer than that.

Ashley

November 24, 2012 at 04:25 AM

While I agree the church is not Israel, Jesus himself is the new and true Israel (Gal 3:16, 2 Cor 1:20), and through union with him does the church inherit the promises. It always was, and is, about Jesus.

Neil

November 24, 2012 at 03:30 AM

Every thing will pass away but only the truth will remain. No liars in Kingdom of heaven. The Kingdom is within us.God gave them a lying spirit, or delusion. Rom 2:29 But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God. He reveals to His true prophets before He brings calamity on the city which is called by His name... Jer 25:29-38... Judgement starts in the house of the Lord. We should know better... Christchurch N.Z is still shaking.

Steve Matthews

November 24, 2012 at 02:03 PM

"Heirs to the Promise" doesn't refer to a land allotment. It refers to the "The Promise" that Abraham himself inherited, first made in Genesis 3:14-15: that the Curse would be reversed by the Offspring of the Woman. In other words, holistic and complete salvation.

Steve Matthews

November 24, 2012 at 01:58 PM

I think I can agree with this.

Jewish believers in Jesus share in and benefit from his faithfulness, and so are able to inherit the promises of the OT made to Jewish people.

Gentile believers in Jesus share in and benefit from his faithfulness, and so are able to inherit the promises of the OT made to Gentiles.

Steve Matthews

November 24, 2012 at 01:55 PM

Wow. The divine revelation of the OT is what guided the writing of the NT. (Remember - Jesus' "Bible" consisted of only the OT).

If the NT says something, you can be sure that it must fall in line with what the OT teaches, not the other way around. Otherwise, you fall into faulty, Marcionite-esque theology.

Steve Matthews

November 24, 2012 at 01:52 PM

This is such a white, Western, Protestant way of reading the OT. In its original ancient Near Eastern context, the covenant promises made to the family of Jacob (Israel) were understood to be made to his whole family.

God unconditionally promises the Land of Promise to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob's descendants: their family would own the land forever. How could the Lord then pull a fast one on the actual descendants themselves without breaking the original promise to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob?

Israel, Gaza, Divine Right | harleyandmakara

November 24, 2012 at 01:52 AM

[...] Click here to read the article. Share this:Like this:LikeBe the first to like this. This entry was posted in Theory and tagged christian palestinians, conflict between israel and palestine, human-rights, Israel, israelites, land of israel, middle-east, Palestine, politics, prime opportunity, religion. Bookmark the permalink. [...]

Steve Matthews

November 24, 2012 at 01:48 PM

And yet, Christians are never described as children of Isaac or Jacob (i.e. ethnically Jewish).

Are you saying that Christians will literally inherit all of the covenant promises made to the ethnic descendents of Jacob?

Steve Matthews

November 24, 2012 at 01:18 PM

It's frustrating to me that the church, as a whole, is implicitly Marcionite. Covenant theology exegesis is so NT-centric that it subordinates and negates the entire Hebrew Scriptures in a way that Jesus and the authors of the NT (all Jewish) never did.

Good NT exegesis only happens when the exegete has a solid background in and understanding of the ancient Near Eastern, and Jewish, context of the OT. Unfortunately, very few NT scholars have this, and very few also meaningful engage with OT scholarship.

As for Gentile Christians today being the "New Israel" - this makes no sense in the context of the actual OT covenant documents. There are so many exegetical problems with this, but of course this is only an issue if you meaningfully engage with the OT covenant documents. If you simply focus solely on the NT and settle for a shallow, simplistic understanding of the OT documents, then it is not really a problem.

One thing that bothers me the most is that, when Western Protestants today try and identify the Church as the "New Israel" - they (a) spiritualize the OT blessings - a la Augustine, Origen, Clement - in a way the OT and NT authors never did and (b) they completely fail to mention how the OT covenant curses might apply to the "New Israel" who have supposedly inherited the OT covenant blessings.

The OT authors, Jesus, and the NT authors were not supersessionists, and the approach only became accepted when Gentiles took over the church and were disconnected from their Jewish roots.

I have to agree that traditional Dispensationalism doesn't offer all of the answers either. But that isn't a very good reason to simply accept wholesale the problematic supersessionism of covenant theology.

Mike Riccardi

November 23, 2012 at 12:40 AM

I think it's important to note that as a dispensationalist, I can agree with all of Piper's points, with only minor clarifications to #s 3 and 6.

3. The promises made to Abraham, including the promise of the Land, will be inherited as an everlasting gift only by true, spiritual Israel, not disobedient, unbelieving Israel.

Yes. But "true, spiritual Israel" (cf. Rom 9:6; Gal 6:16) is not believing Gentiles, but believing Jews. If we stipulate that, the dispensationalist agrees.


6. By faith in Jesus Christ, the Jewish Messiah, Gentiles become heirs of the promise of Abraham, including the promise of the Land.

This is true, but many who say this assume (or at least, they intend, without explicitly saying) that ethnic Israel will not inherit the land promised in Gen 15:18. The reality that believing Gentiles will inherit the earth (what many call an expansion of the land promise) doesn't negate the fulfillment of the promise to Israel. This is a both/and.

Given these stipulations, the dispensationalist can also affirm the present apostasy of Israel and agree with Piper that they currently have no divine right to any land. The land promise of the Abrahamic Covenant will not be fulfilled without the salvation of the New Covenant. It, like all the blessings of salvation, is received in Christ, and in Him alone.

Douglas Daily

November 23, 2012 at 12:28 PM

I too am a dispensationalist (although I am not completely comfortable with extra-Biblical categorical titles) because it seems to make the most sense in viewing historical and future Biblical events. Having said that, I fully agree with Dr. Piper's point that the focus must be on the salvation of the Jewish people, as well as the other peoples in the regions who are equally created in God's image. If we focus too much support on supporting secular Israel, we water down this main purpose. This is why my wife and I have decided to no longer support an organization whose primary purpose is to support the State of Israel, but instead to support a missionary organization whose purpose is the evangelization of the Jewish people.

John

November 23, 2012 at 11:36 AM

I still don't understand how many evangelical Americans can blindly support the nation-state of modern day Israel. They are a secular, agnostic people group. We aren't even sure what a jew is according to DNA. Studies show that there is a high DNA crossover between Palestinians and Jews in Israel. I remember when a friend said to me, "There are Palestinian Christians, not many, but some. I would rather side with my Palestinian brother who is having his home bulldozed by Israelis than I would a secular, agnostic Israeli government."

Jeremy Kidder

November 23, 2012 at 10:00 AM

Friend, those two texts (as I am sure you well know) are hardly conclusive. Either way, my point about the 'Abrham falicy' remains. Proving that we are sons of Abraham does not in any way prove that we are Israel.

student

November 23, 2012 at 08:39 PM

I wonder how many people there are who believe that Israel has - on theological/biblical grounds - a right to the land and at the same time believe - on political/sociological grounds - that they don't have a right to the land. I also wonder how many people there are who hold the opposite.

Would also be nice to get some fMRI scans done on the brains of the participants in these types of discussions to see how much political intuitions/inclinations affect theological reflection.

Johnny C

November 23, 2012 at 07:57 AM

Steve, regarding point 3 and the future of Israel. This is a classic example of how dispensational theology does not interpret the O.T. In light of the new.

Zechariah 12:10 is quoted in John 19:37 and says it was fulfilled at the cross. It is not a reference to Jews after a future tribulation time. The NT does not allow us to interpret it that way

Matthew 24:29-30 is in the context of Jesus speaking about the destruction of Jerusalem in AD70. Notice the reference to the son of man in Daniel 7 is not Jesus going from heaven to earth but being vindicated by the ancient of days. I do not believe these verses are a reference to the second coming but are an apocalyptic description of Jesus being vindicated as he spiritually judged the Jews for rejection of him in AD70. Even if this were a reference to the second coming where does it say it is talking of Jews only?

Again where in Romans 11 is there a reference to literal promises being fulfilled?

Are we going to conclude Jeremiah 31:27-40 has not bee fulfilled? Is this not the New Covenant which the writer to the Hebrews quotes and sees fulfilled? He spends a few chapters saying that it has.

Where does it say there will be a future "tribulation" for Israel? In Revelation 1:9 John says he is a partner with the church in "the tribulation" (there is a definitive article in the Greek). The church has been tribulation for the past 2000 years, because, as Christ said, the world will hate us because of him

Steve Cornell

November 23, 2012 at 07:02 AM

In "Continuity and Discontinuity (Essays in Honor of S. Lewis Johnson, Jr.): Perspectives on the Relationship Between the Old and New Testaments," John Feinburg made some interesting observations:

#1. RELATIONSHIP OF THE O.T. WITH THE N.T.

The crucial point is how we know whether something in the OT especially prophecy about Israel’s future is still binding in the N.T.

“If an O.T. prophecy or promise is made unconditionally to a given people and is still unfulfilled to them even in the NT era, then the prophecy must still be fulfilled to them. While a prophecy given unconditionally to Israel has a fulfillment for the church if the NT applies it to the church, it must also be fulfilled to Israel. Progress of revelation cannot cancel unconditional promises.” (p.76)

“If the NT explicitly rejects an OT institution, etc., it is canceled. But if God makes a point once (the OT), why must he repeat it in the NT for it still to be true and operative? So long as he neither explicitly or implicitly rejects the OT teaching, why assume it is canceled just because the NT does not repeat it? To argue that it is canceled because it is not repeated is a classic case of arguing from silence. On the other hand, it is not arguing from silence to claim it is still in force despite the NT’s silence, because God has already in the OT broken the silence and given us his thinking … the promises cannot be canceled even implicitly if they are made unconditionally! Unconditional promises are not shadows, nor are the peoples to whom they are given” (p. 76).

#2. UNDERSTANDING THE OLD TESTAMENT COVENANTS

“Concerning the covenants” dispensationalists see both a conditional and an unconditional element. What is unconditional is that God will fulfill the covenants to Israel. On the other hand, not every last Jew, ethnically speaking, will receive the benefits of those promises. Individual blessing under the promises is always conditioned upon obedience to the God who made the covenant. So, the particular Jews who experience the blessings of Israel’s promises are those who form the believing remnant of Jews throughout history. Unconditional promises guarantee that some Jews will experience covenanted blessings; through their obedience we learn who is of the believing remnant” (pp. 79-80).

“The ultimate difference on the covenants between dispensational and non-dispensational systems is not just conditionality v. unconditionality, but which aspect(s) of the covenant promises one emphasizes. Dispensationalists demand that one emphasize the variety of elements of covenant blessing, not just the spiritual, and that one take seriously the need for the whole covenant promises to be realized sometime in the life of the nation to which they were addressed unconditionally. The total complex of promises (spiritual and material), meant to be fulfilled simultaneously, has never been realized conjointly in the history of this nation” (p.80).

#3. THE FUTURE OF ISRAEL

“A distinctive future for ethnic Israel is essential to dispensationalism. The church neither replaces nor continues Israel. There will be a distinctive future for ethnic Israel, despite the fact that spiritual aspects of the kingdom are now being applied to the church. Because of passages like Zech. 12:10ff, Matt. 24:29-30, and Rom. 11:25-27, dispensationalists expect a grand ingathering of Jews to Christ at the end of the tribulation as they “Look upon me, the one they have pierced (Zech. 12:10). Jews saved during the church age are members of it and find their identity with it. But O.T. Jewish saints and Jewish tribulation saints after the rapture will form the believing remnant of Israelites who see the fulfillment of the O.T. promises to Israel in a 1000 year earthly kingdom. OT prophecies predict a time of spiritual, social, political and economic blessing for Israel (e.g. Zech. 12-14; Is. 60; Jer. 31:27-40; Zeph. 3:11-20). Those prophecies are still unfulfilled. Thus, one can reasonably expect a distinctive future for Israel” (pp. 81-82).

#4. UNDERSTANDING OF THE CHURCH

“Another distinctive of Dispensationalism is the belief that the church is a distinctive organism. By this, dispensationalists mean that the church does not begin until the NT era (most say at Pentecost). They also mean the church did not exist in any form in the OT. In the OT and NT eras, people are always saved by grace through faith in the truth God has revealed; but being saved is not the only defining characteristic of the church. A new organism began at Pentecost” (pp. 83-84).

Geoff

November 23, 2012 at 06:14 AM

Romans 9:8 "but the children of the promise are counted as offspring."

Geoff

November 23, 2012 at 06:06 AM

Honestly one of the most profound, to the point, unambiguous, and theologically accurate blogs I've seen from TGC. Great stuff.

Jacob Rodriguez

November 23, 2012 at 06:04 AM

I think we need to read the article first before posting. Here is what some may be missing:

1) Piper says Israel broke the covenant with God, thus they are unbelieving Israel, and thus the modern, unbelieving state of Israel does not have divine right to the land. Is this any different from Lev 26:33 and the warning of a continuing exile in Malachi 4:6?
2) Piper is still saying that the modern state of Israel has a reason to exist, just within the standards of international justice (which, I might add, should be biblically grounded).
3) Eschatological Israel (= believing ethnic Jews and engrafted Gentiles) inherit all the promises given to Abraham, including the Land.

Does Piper say the Abrahamic covenant is unconditional? It seems so, but in the sense that salvation itself is unconditional but only appropriated to the descendants of Abraham who are defined by faith (both Jew and Gentile). Does Piper allegorize the meaning of land? No. He reads the promise literally, but also in the light of the New Testament revelation.

How much more literal can one get than, "If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's seed and heirs according to the Promise"? Shall we allegorise that verse and say it does not apply literally to Gentile believers inheriting literal land?

LJG

November 23, 2012 at 05:15 PM

I disagree with the premise, but regardless of what you think about the promises to Israel, "principles of Justice and Mercy" are clearly on Israel's side. Focusing only on the political, Israel was given the land after WWII, and as a legitimate nation, they are entitled to defend themselves from neighboring nations who have a stated objective of obliterating Jews from the earth.

David Juniper

November 23, 2012 at 05:06 PM

The promises are made to believing Israel, Jesus the True Vine. Matt 4:1ff, John 15:1, Gal 3:15ff. Jesus is the faithful covenant partner so the promises are for all those who are in Christ through faith.

Johnny C

November 23, 2012 at 04:24 AM

where in Romans 11 does Paul mention the land? Romans 11 is talking about salvation for Jews not literal promises being fulfilled in Israel.

Paul begins by asking has God rejected Israel? His answer in V1-10 is "No" and by and large is two fold:

1. Because he has been saved
2. Because there always has been a remnant (this remnant can be seen in the book of Acts in Jews coming to faith)

Paul then gives his infamous illustration of the olive tree (notice there is only one). Despite the natural branches being broken off Paul says they can still be grafted in. What does their grafting in involve??? is it the land? is it a rebuilt temple with sacrifices being reintroduced in a millennium? None of these.

In v25-26 Paul tells us what the grafting back in involved - salvation. He reveals a mystery. Although there is debate over this, for me, the clear meaning in this is that at the end of the age prior to Christ's return, to show his immeasurable grace toward Israel God will convert a significant amount of Jews to Christ. To conclude: Romans 11 seeks to asnwer "has God rejected Israel?" Paul gives 3 answers to say why he hasn't:

1. He has been converted
2. A remnant is being saved throughout this age as the Gentiles also receive salvation
3. prior to the second coming God will save a large amount of Jews

This is to humble the Gentile believers since we too are saved by grace through faith and need not look proudly upon the hardness of Israel at present. They may be enemies of the gospel but through election they are beloved (v28-29)

Johnny C

November 23, 2012 at 03:45 AM

We need to let the NT be our guide for interpreting the O.T. The writer to the Hebrews clearly indicates that even Abraham was not looking to the land but something greater (Heb 11:9-16). Peter writing to believers (who were not exclusively Jewish believers) refers to them in the exact same words that God called Israel at the giving of the law at Sinai (1Peter 2:9-10 c.f. Exodus 19:5-6). Even more incredible is 2 Corinthians 6:14-7:1. In this section, Paul (writing to Gentile believers) lists a number of promises from the O.T. given to Israel and in 7:1 he says that WE HAVE RECEIVED THESE PROMISES. Paul has no problem applying promises given to God's people under the O.T. and applying them to believers under the New. In fact, he even spiritualises them. For example a literal OX treading out the grain is spiritualised and used to command churches to pay their pastors! All the promises of God find their yes and Amen in Christ (2 Cor 1:20), thus, promises given to Israel must be interpreted Christologically not literally.

Hannah

November 23, 2012 at 03:13 PM

The greatest danger, in all of this, is the temptation to oversimplify the whole situation--either by those who would unilaterally support or easily condemn the modern state of Israel. We can't accurately talk about "divine right" in a theological way if we don't also have a robust understanding of the conflicted history of the entire region--everything from the original Abrahamic covenant to the return from Egypt to the Roman conquest to the Crusades to Holocaust to the present pressures of existing as a state surrounded by enemies.

If we're honest, we are generally ignorant of these things and our ignorance should keep us from overarching pronouncements and commentary. With the author, I agree that the best thing we can do as Christians is to pray for the peace of Jerusalem who is Christ Himself. Because truthfully, divine right or no, wars and conflicts will not cease until he is established as the Righteous King of the earth.

(And FWIW, I think it is highly ironic that in the US we once embraced a "divine right" of sorts that was the basis of the west-ward expansion and settlement of the very land that many of us live on today... just something else to consider.)

Erwin M

November 23, 2012 at 01:05 PM

You use the NT to guide you in interpreting the OT. What do you use to guide you in interpreting the NT? Your theology?

David L.

November 22, 2012 at 12:34 PM

I have MAJOR problems with Piper's assertions. At what time were all of the Jewish people en masse obedient to God? Never, and yet the Land still belonged to them in the Old Testament didn't it? So then, the Land still belonged to unbelieving Jewish people too. And who is "true Spiritual Israel?" Believing Jewish people! Gentiles are not Jewish. Read Romans 11, does the meaning of Israel suddenly change in vs 26? Paul clearly equates Israel with those of his own race. Believing Jewish people are the true Spiritual Israel.

[...] Read the whole thing. [...]

Derek Rishmawy

November 22, 2012 at 12:19 PM

Thank God! This is one of the shortest, sanest, biblical articles on the subject I've seen for days. I say this as a Christian and as an American Palestinian growing up in largely dispensationalist Evangelical churches that constantly preach very disturbing sermons on the Middle East, who, at the same time, is very disturbed by some of the weird, anti-Israel rhetoric coming from people outside of that camp. This is what I think of whenever I hear somebody talking about the fact that everybody's interpretation of the Bible is equally valid. Mmm...no. Some lead to Christians being happy about gross, international conflict. Not good.

Keep up the good work.

Ruth Anne shorter

November 22, 2012 at 09:34 PM

James I agree. Too much "man" talk and not enough listening to Hm. I totally disagree with Piper on the last three points. Amazing how "new" seems to be right to do many.

Ruth Anne shorter

November 22, 2012 at 09:28 PM

David I totally agree with you.

Erwin M

November 22, 2012 at 07:30 PM

Nobody is saying God broke his promise. God made a promise to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. God made another promise to their descendants. Two related but distinct promises. And by the way, nobody is talking about salvation here. It's about God's promise of land to Abraham.

James Johnson

November 22, 2012 at 07:13 PM

In the OT, God says He will keep His promises despite Israel's behavior. This blog says God has broken His promise because Israel sinned. Praise God this blog is wrong. And praise God that my salvation isn't dependent on my ability to maintain my own righteousness.

David

November 22, 2012 at 06:41 PM

It's proven that we're Israel by being called the Israel of God (Gal. 5:15-16), and saying that we were once estranged from the commonwealth of Israel, but have now been brought into Israel by faith in Christ (Eph. 2:11-13). We (all believers, Jewish and Gentile) are the true, spiritual Israel.

[...] TGC Mobile | Article | Israel, Gaza, ‘Divine Right,’ and John Piper [...]

Jeremy Kidder

November 22, 2012 at 06:20 PM

Gentiles are sons of Abraham, but that does not make us Israel. He would after all be the father ofmany nations. I only make this point because it seems like many, many covenant folk seem to think that if they can povethat the getiles of faith are spiritual offspring of Abraham (which they can) that they have somehow proven that we are Israel.

Erwin M

November 22, 2012 at 06:01 PM

God's promise to Abraham was unconditional. But that was a promise made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob only, NOT to their descendants. God promised the patriarchs without reservation that they would have at least one generation of descendants whom God would bless and through whom God would bless all the other nations. But God did NOT promise the patriarchs that each and every generation from them would receive those blessings.

Then God called the Hebrews out of Egypt so that he could start fulfilling his promises to the patriarchs. God told the Hebrews at Sinai that they would be the start of those blessed generations PROVIDED they remain faithful to the laws he gave to Moses. The first generation under the leadership of Moses was unfaithful, so they failed to enter the promised land. The second generation under the leadership of Joshua proved to be faithful, so they received the land. When a generation of Israel was faithful especially under godly kings, God blessed them and through them other peoples were also blessed. When they became unfaithful especially under wicked kings, they perished as the Mosaic Covenant had stipulated.

To reiterate, God's promise to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob was unconditional. But his promise to their descendants (a promise saying that they would participate in the blessings promised to the patriarchs) was conditioned upon their faithfulness to the Mosaic Covenant. God's promise to the patriarchs DID NOT automatically include every generation of Israel. ONLY those generations that obeyed the laws of Moses were included. That was God's intention from the beginning. So there was NO change in the promise from being unconditional to being conditional. The Mosaic Covenant was a conditional covenant through which a generation of Israel MAY claim the Abrahamic blessings. In other words, you have make a distinction between the patriarchs and the generations after them. God's promise to the former was unconditional. To the latter, conditional.

But as I said, after the Babylonian exile, the Mosaic or Old Covenant was replaced by the New Covenant. By faith in the Messiah, the believing Jew receives God's Spirit (starting at Pentecost), and through that Spirit, he or she is able to remain faithful to God's laws. Thus, the Messianic Jews are the inheritors of God's promises to the patriarchs. Before Jesus, only those Israelites who remained faithful to the Mosaic Covenant inherited God's promises to Abraham. After Jesus, only those Jews who believe in Jesus inherit the blessings including the land.

But in the same way that the task of the Messiah now is not to judge but to save, the task of the Messianic Jews now is not to claim the land, but to become a channel of blessings and reconciliation to the whole world. Through the preaching of the Messiah by the believing Jews, other ethnicities may participate in the New Covenant, which is exactly what happened to the first Christians, esp. Paul. In the same way that the Messiah will judge only after he returns, the Messianic Jews will receive the land only after the Messiah returns. In the meantime, the Messianic Jews and the Gentiles who believe in their message about the Messiah ought to be the channel of blessings for other people, starting with the blessings of forgiveness of sin, the Spirit of God, and ethnic/racial reconciliation.

[...] Davidson Luna do original “Israel, Gaza, ‘Divine Right,’ and John Piper” no site The Gospel [...]

Jon Nitta

November 22, 2012 at 03:51 PM

Here's what I don't get (probably my thick head). How can any covenant be unilateral and yet later conditional? What you're suggesting is when God "cut the covenant" with Abram the message was "I will give you a land that is not dependent upon your faithfulness but if you don't keep the Law the promise of land is negated." I'm not sure what to make of a promise like that. How does failure to hold to the Mosaic Law negate a unilateral promise? Even when Israel fails to hold to the covenant, they are exiled but there is a return to the land. Further, I think another person commented on this. If God's unconditional promises to Israel are in fact conditional, that is bad news for New Testament believers because it seems to call into the question the veracity of His promises to the Church . While Brickner is correct is saying that this is not a "Divine Right" it seems odd to me to think that there is not some promise of the land still in force today for His people, the Jews. Again, these are just my thoughts.

Chris Roberts

November 22, 2012 at 03:51 PM

The land was taken from them because of disobedience. It didn't happen overnight, but it's what God promised and it's what ultimately resulted.

As for "true spiritual Israel" Paul identifies the offspring of Abraham - true Israel - in Romans 9:6-8.

Finally, those who talk about a spiritual obligation to defend Israel (you didn't, though many do) need to pay attention to God's warning in Isaiah 31:1-3. Those who view Israel as being much the same today as it was in OT times need to realize that God said Israel's being blessed or cursed came from his hand in response to their obedience or disobedience. If nations came against them, it was due to God's judgment. If Israel turned around and went to a third nation for help, God's judgment fell all the more on Israel and it also fell on the nation who came to their aid. To try to stop God's judgment is to bring judgment on yourself. What Israel was called to do then - as today (this part hasn't changed at all) - is to turn to God for help and deliverance.

Scott B.

November 22, 2012 at 03:43 PM

Why go back to the OT shadow, when the real has come in Jesus?

Jon Nitta

November 22, 2012 at 03:42 PM

Sorry, the discussion is from Christianity Today. The link is:

http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2012/juneweb-only/john-piper-david-brickner-israel.html

[...] Source: http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/tgc/2012/11/22/israel-gaza-divine-right-and-john-piper/ Share this:StumbleUponEmailPrintFacebookTwitterMoreGoogle +1Like this:LikeBe the first to like this. Tagged Christianity, Dispensationalism, Hamas, Israel, Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Middle East, Promised Land [...]

James Johnson

November 22, 2012 at 03:15 PM

God keeps His promises. The Jews weren't chosen due to works and God hasn't rejected them due to works. It's as if nobody here has read Romans 11. Paul goes out of his way to say that God will keep His promises to the Jews.

How ironic that the Calvinists at TGC reject God's eternal unconditional promises to Israel because of their works (or lack of works). God says that His keeping His promises to Israel is about Him and His glory, not because Israel has earned it. Same with our salvation.

Listen to this series if you want to claim to have considered all sides of this debate: http://www.gty.org/resources/Sermon-Series/300

Erwin M

November 22, 2012 at 02:53 PM

The Abrahamic Covenant was indeed unilateral, but which generation of Israel would participate in that covenant depended on their faithfulness to the Mosaic Covenant. God's promises to Abraham did not apply to all descendants of Abraham but only to those who as a nation (esp. the king, later on) obeyed the laws of Moses. That's the reason God could have always wiped out a generation and replaced them with a new one without breaking his promises to Abraham, as he had threatened to do to the generation coming out of Egypt. With the Babylonian Exile, however, Israel suffered the ultimate penalties stipulated in the Mosaic Covenant. Because the Mosaic Covenant proved insufficient to create a nation who would always be faithful and therefore able to inherit the Abrahamic Covenant, God decided to replace it or supplement it. With the death and resurrection of Jesus, the New Covenant was inaugurated for the believing Jews who were then given the Spirit to obey God's laws. Therefore, the land promised to Abraham now belongs to the faithful remnant or the Messianic Jews (not all Jews) starting with Jesus' disciples. But they won't really get the land until Jesus consummates the New Covenant at his Parousia. Now the New Covenant also applies to the believing Gentiles in as much as God has promised blessings to all the families of the earth through Abraham and his faithful descendants. In conclusion, nobody has exclusive right to the promised land right now. But at the coming of Jesus and only then, it'll be given to the resurrected saints of Israel and all believing Jews. And most significant of all, the Messianic Jews and the Gentile church right now have the responsibility to promote reconciliation with God and among all the families or ethnicities of the earth. See Blaising & Bock, "Progressive Dispensationalism," 1993.

Diana Lovegrove

November 22, 2012 at 02:44 PM

This article by JC Ryle is well worth reading. http://gracegems.org/Ryle/coming_events_and_present_duties6.htm

Joy Erdile

November 22, 2012 at 02:10 PM

The current land of Israel is a small portion of the Land promised to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Even though the nation of Israel (the people) do not recognize their Messiah (yet), I believe God is faithful to His promises even when we (be the "we" Israel or the Church) are unfaithful to Him. God gave the Land unconditionally (Deut 9:5) and as an everlasting possession (Gen 13:15; 17:8) to the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, so even though we, the Jews, have not been faithful, He will remain faithful to His promises.

This is good news to the Church; because if God was a God that would break His unconditional promises with Israel, He would with the Church, as well.

He has one Bride, formed of both Jew and Gentile, and He will be faithful to all His peomises. 

Jon Nitta

November 22, 2012 at 01:57 PM

I think David L.'s comments are well said. Further, if the covenant made with Abram is unilateral (not dependent on Abram's or Israel's obedience) then in what sense can Israel's failure to uphold covenant negate Yahweh's commitment to give them the land? Isn't this Yahweh's answer to Abram's question in Genesis 15? Yahweh's election is unilateral as well as His gracious giving of the land. I'm not an expert in eschatology (I'm willing to listen and learn) but at this point in my thinking I'm deeply concerned that if the conclusion is simply that spiritual Israel inherits the land then it does serious damage to God's unequivocal commitment to His people. I would encourage people to read the charitable and thought-provoking discussion between John Piper and David Brickner from Jews For Jesus.

Joshua Waulk

November 22, 2012 at 01:06 PM

I'm grateful to be living in an era in which the stranglehold by Dispensational Eschatology on the church in America is diminishing. The Gospel was never intended to be about a place, but a Person.

[…] Israel, Gaza, ‘Divine Right,’ and John Piper Does Israel possess a “divine right” to the “Promised Land” in the Middle East? […]

Catch of the day, March 6, 2014 | re:gen

March 5, 2014 at 11:50 PM

[…] Israel, Gaza, 'Divine Right,' and John Piper Does Israel possess a “divine right” to the “Promised Land” in the Middle East? […]

[...] them used with confident precision by those holding to various forms of Covenant theology (click here for a neo-Reformed sample  and here to see a menu of choices from a classic Reformed [...]

Clay

December 4, 2012 at 12:47 PM

K, I was really opening some people a lot smarter than me would answer my statement.

Clay

December 3, 2012 at 09:41 AM

Until we examine our hermeneutic presuppositions, I believe we are destined to just speak past one another until the cows come home. The question underneath all of this is "How do you read the Bible?" Is some form of a covenantal/historical redemptive or a historical/literal hermeneutic Biblical? Until we examine this, we will just throw our comments over the wall at one another without very little landing anywhere.

K

December 3, 2012 at 07:39 PM

The two "approaches" are really labels for two different ways of viewing the whole of God's activity in the past.

Both tend to try to fit the biblical historical narrative into epochal categories, whether by dispensations or covenants. And neither, I think, takes the biblical narrative both at face value and in light of the New Testament commentary on the Old.

I do think it's important to define terms, though. If only so we can see where we all stand in our underlying rationales.

Kirk Slow

December 3, 2012 at 06:08 PM

I am not sure that these approaches are mutually exclusive. I think holding both would give us the most accurate rendering of scripture.

K

December 3, 2012 at 03:07 PM

sounds like an excellent thing to do. Could you define (as definitively as possible) what you mean by these two approaches, and what (at least in your opinion) are the fundamental differences between these two approaches (and their conclusions)? I know it's asking a lot, but I've seen these two terms thrown around, and clear, thorough definitions would help greatly.

Thanks

Doug Wright

December 13, 2012 at 12:29 PM

The US has acted like the thug 'bo' of 'israel'; picking on Afghanistan, then Iraq, and Syria and Iran ...etc. in the end will end up like the bully 'whipped' boyfriend in bondage and broke. For now we live in a country where a Hanukkah menorah is our 'cultural' symbol, but a Christmas scene is criminal. (Hanukkah, btw does not offer peace to all men, it's a racial victory celebration). As the conscience of the nation being co-opted by this heresy is the greatest evil on the land today.

K

December 12, 2012 at 07:58 AM

There are some who believe that, some who want full political and social equality within Israel, and some who merely want a Palestinian state along side Israel. The solution above keeps the land from being divided. That neither Israel nor HAMAS and the PA pursue the above should not lead to the conclusion that one or the other should be kicked out. These exclusive claims to the land are a large part of the problem. And yes all states should be held equally accountable, especially the US and Canada.

More importantly, what we believe about Israel *does* matter. Yes, God ordains all things, but as I opined earlier, that does not mean he sanctions all things. I believe that a large problem with, say, dispensationalism (or a large portion of its proponents' theology), is the equation of the present state of Israel with biblical, God-worshipping Israel. The two could not be further apart. "She" may exist, but as what? A restored, legitimized, redeemed kingdom? Or a man-made, secular, of-this-world nation-state? This should determine how we view Israel, and how we hold them accountable.

Is the present state of Israel sanctioned by God? I would argue strongly against it. Look up its history, and that of its founders, its ideologies.

Even if it were sanctioned by God, how then would we hold it accountable? Would it have free reign to expel all of the Arabs (many of whom are citizens)? Would it be justified in maintaining social inequality between Jews and Arabs based on ethnicity? This would give us more reason to stress one state, not based on ethnicity or culture (the present Judaism). And if God commanded the Israelites not to oppress or expel the stranger who desires to live among them, why should the state of Israel seek to do that?

Also, should we be pushing Israel to become a theocracy?

Kirk Slow

December 11, 2012 at 11:32 PM

That has been tried and failed as no Arab wants an Israel on any part of that land. Meaningful peace can never be a realistic expectation until the state of Israel no longer exists. The Goal of the Arab nations and Palestine is to wipe Israel off the map and that is not a secret.

The ethics in this is more than difficult because if one has to apply the same expectation to the rest of the world then I suggest that America, Canada & Australia would have to do some house keeping.

Perhaps we may not agree on divine right, but surely we agree on divine intervention. What we believe concerning Israel is know a mute point. She exists, and one has to believe, as a Christian, that God has determined it. I believe that what God has determined with Israel and what we currently see is based on biblical prediction.

Just reflecting, divine right may not be the right wording. It may be preferable to use God determined. It's not really about what men decide or claim, Jew or Gentile, but what God has determined.

Elizabeth

December 11, 2012 at 07:25 AM

Thanks for this explanation! I've come from the camp of Dispensationalism, and upon reading Scripture prayerfully for mySELF, many things I have been taught make absolutely no sense.

K

December 11, 2012 at 04:24 PM

In my opinion, the problem stems from this nationalistic claim of who owns the land. The practical, observable reality is that the land neither belonged to the Arabs nor the Jews. It was in fact the Ottomans, and then the British, that had any sort of internationally recognized control.

Beyond that, it is absurd to speak of Arabs or Jews having possession of the entirety of the territory in any meaningful sense that lends itself to a claim for statehood.

I think for our purposes, and for the purpose of considering what the ethical course should be, it is necessary to view the land at the time of statehood as being inhabited by Arab and immigrant (and some native) Jewish communities. By that observation, preserved from nationalist language that is inherently restrictive, all rights pertaining to the land are on the basis of legitimate habitation (which mind you, pre-1948 was not restricted to just native inhabitants).

Therefore, when speaking of the rights of Palestinian Arabs and Israeli Jews, each should, by this observation, have an equal right to inhabiting the land AND to self-determination. What this means, in my opinion, from a biblical, international-legal, and practical standpoint, is that the state of Israel, insofar as it is exclusively Jewish (that is, by and for Jews only), has no *exclusive* right to the land. Since by this observation both Jews and Arabs (who have lived on this land) have an equal claim to the land, they have equal rights to the land; not exclusive rights, barring the other, but inclusive rights to inhabit and govern themselves.

Practically, two ethnically-based exclusive states cannot occupy the same exact space. So what follows in my conclusion is either a civic state or a binational state, that protects and upholds the equal claims of the Yeshuv (the Jewish community that settled in the land prior to 1948) and the Palestinian Arab communities. This, I believe, is the only way in which to be fair and just, without dividing the land, since both lay claim to the entirety of the land. This would forego nationalism (the actual basis of the Zionist claim to the land), but would allow both Palestinians and Israeli Jews to live freely within the territory. But, they would have to learn how to share it.

This isn't just a pragmatic solution (implementation is always hard); I believe it is also a gospel solution. The gospel says that there is no difference between Jew and Gentile when it comes to the inheritance. While acknowledging that in this case, the majority of both Jews and Arabs are not in Christ, the principle should be our guide.

So to conclude, it isn't about "either/or" claims to the land. The land did not actually belong to either one in any real sense. Both made nationalist claims to the entirety of the territory, which were the source of the present conflict. What follows is not the expelling of one or the other, but the equal sharing of the land as that which unites them. This alone will bring any sort of temporary peace, in my opinion.

Kirk Slow

December 11, 2012 at 03:40 PM

I would love an answer to the practical question rather than the biblical one. If Israel has no divine right to the land, do they have any right at all? The land belonged to the Arabs/Palestinians before 1948, was taken from them and should be returned to them if we are not talking divine right.

Clay

December 11, 2012 at 01:10 PM

Here's my short summary of what I see as two opposing methods of reading the Bible here in this discussion.
1. The beginning of the book interprets the end (Gen 12 for example)
2. The end of the book interprets the beginning (Luke 24 for example)
What help does Scripture itself give us on how it should be read? Unless that is settled, I feel we will just lob our proof texts over the walls at one another. There are some helpful insights on the Gospel Coalition site on this very topic. I was trained one way but now believe the other.