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Israel – the Church's Response
What does the Bible teach regarding Israel and the end-times? As Christians, what response should we have to the Israelis and the Palestinians?
According to Scripture, Israel has an important role to play in the end-times. For centuries Bible scholars pondered over the prophecy of a restored Israel. “This is what the Sovereign LORD says: I will take the Israelites out of the nations where they have gone. I will gather them from all around and bring them back into their own land” (Ezekiel 37:21; cf. Zephaniah 3:19,20). When the modern nation of Israel was founded in 1948, and Jews began returning from all around the world, Bible scholars knew that God was at work and that we were very likely living in the last days.
But God’s timetable moves at a different pace than some would like. Over half a century later, Israel is still there, but turmoil and struggle between Palestinians and Israelis, between Arabs and Jews, seem to be hindering the prophetic promise Christians saw beginning to happen in 1948. And many Christians outside Israel seem bent on assisting God in fulfilling His prophesied blessing on His chosen people.
But what part should Christians play in the current conflict? Do we allow our unqualified support for a non-Christian nation to be interpreted by Palestinians as setting aside our basic Christian principles of justice, love for enemies, respect for human life, honesty, and fairness? Do we have as much concern for the souls of Israelis as we have for hastening the fulfillment of God’s prophecy concerning the Jews? Romans 11:26,27 says, “And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written: ‘The deliverer will come from Zion; he will turn godlessness away from Jacob. And this is my covenant with them when I take away their sins.’”
The Great Commission of the Church is “go and make disciples of all nations” (Matt. 28:19). We are not called to determine the time and method for the fulfillment of prophecy. Nor are we called to human attempts in fulfilling ‘Revelation’ prophecy as a means of ushering in the return of Christ. God in His divine providence will fulfill all prophetic events in His time, in His way, and in His will. As believers we need not concern ourselves with such details. Instead, we are called to fervently undertake our mission to win the lost, making the most of every opportunity in the short window of time before His return.
Because of the contribution of the patriarchs, of Jesus, and of the Jewish disciples to our Christian faith, the Church is often viewed as being pro-Israel, and therefore anti-Palestinian. But we must never forget our Christian Palestinian brothers and sisters who suffer great terrors and hurts. But neither should we forget the Jewish Christians and others who are caught in this conflict. We must remember that millions on both sides of this end-times conflict need to come to a faith in Jesus Christ.
The Assemblies of God as a Fellowship has been diligent to take an apolitical stance in matters of government and nations. Our commitment as Christians must always be that of Jesus—to reach the lost, whoever and wherever they are.
Though we have emotional ties and affections with Israel, we cannot endorse and approve every action of a particular country whether right or wrong. Our faith calls us to pray for peace and seek to share the gospel message with all who are lost and without a Savior. The heart of Jesus must break over the worldwide conflict between Christians, Muslims, and Jews, not to mention the many who believe in no God at all.
It is sometimes easy to dissipate spiritual and religious fervor by turning it into political and activist action. Christians who love the lost of the world, as Jesus did, should be careful about activist groups that they align themselves with. Extremists in the Christian community have been known to say that membership in and full support for a Christian Zionist organization is absolutely mandatory for a Christian. This is not true. Warm feelings toward Israel, because of its ancient religious heritage and its present adherence to our cherished principles of democracy, are understandable. But when we are reminded of our spiritual obligation to all the lost of the world, we cannot neglect a single nation or people. The crisis in the Middle East should be one of our top prayer priorities in these momentous days.
The above statement is based upon our common understanding of scriptural teaching.