Whose Jerusalem ?
Whose Land ?
by Derek Prince, Christian Friends of Israel, Jerusalem, Israel
There has been a tremendous amount of misunderstanding amongst sincere Christians concerning God's dealing with Israel. I don't believe that this misunderstanding is entirely natural. I think there is a spiritual force behind it. Satan is very busy to keep God's people in ignorance of what His purpose for Israel is because we have a part to play in that purpose. Consequently Satan resists our coming into an understanding and thus becoming qualified to play our part in what God is doing.
I want to deal with two common purposes that are often raised in connection with God's purposes for Israel. The first one is - To whom does the land belong? You will hear a lot of sincere Christians suggest that there is injustice involved in Israel being restored to the land. Certainly, I would have to acknowledge that there has been a considerable measure of suffering on the parts of many different people. I think I can appreciate that because my first wife and I and our adoptive daughters were living in Jerusalem during the period when the State of Israel came into being. Twice in a few months, with the whole of our family, we had to leave our house in the middle of the night and flee, taking nothing more with us than what we could carry in our hands, because our lives were being threatened. The first time, the Arab Legion which was the official armed force of Jordan and theoretically one of the security forces in Jerusalem at that time, had a plan to attack our home and probably slaughter our Jewish girls about midnight. We walked out at 9:00 p.m. and that was the last we saw of that home.
So there has been suffering involved in the re-establishment of Israel, this I would freely acknowledge, but that God is capable of injustice, I will not acknowledge. God is far more just than we are. The real issue, I believe, is the sovereignty of God. Does God have a right to allot certain areas of the earth's surface to certain groups of people? For the answer I do not want to offer you some theory of my own. I want to look at Scripture. Let's see what God has to say about the ownership of the land. First, let's see what Scripture says about the whole earth:
"The earth is the Lord's and everything in it, the world and all who live in it." (Psalm 24:1)
God says a good many times that Israel is His land. He calls it specifically "My Land". Above all other pieces of territory in the earth God has laid a special claim, for His sovereign purposes, to that little strip of territory which is Israel. In Ezekiel He warns the northern invader:
"In days to come, O Gog, I will bring you against My land so that the nations may know Me when I show Myself holy through you before their eyes." (Ezekiel 38:16)
Again in Joel God declares:
"I will gather all nations and bring them down to the valley of Jehoshaphat (which means 'the Lord judges'); then I will enter into judgement against them concerning My inheritance, My people Israel, for they scattered My people among the nations and divided up My land." (Joel 3:2)
God has not forgotten that the land of Israel has been partitioned by Gentile rulers and kingdoms. God uses the word "My" in two connections: "My people Israel" and "My land". In each case He, in a particular way, identifies Himself with them.
Having seen that it is God's land we need to acknowledge that God has clearly and irrevocably given that land to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and their descendants forever. In Genesis He says to Abraham:
"I will establish My covenant as an everlasting covenant between Me and you and your descendants after you for the generations to come to be your God and the God of your descendants after you. The whole land of Canaan where you are now an alien, I will give as an everlasting possession to you and your descendants after you and I will be their God." (Genesis 17:7-8)
God promises to give the whole land to Abraham and his descendants for an everlasting possession. This is established by a covenant of God and God declares in Psalm 89:34 His covenant He will never break.
Later on, He says to Isaac:
"Stay in this land (the land of Israel) for a while and I will be with you and bless you for to you and your descendants I will give all these lands and will confirm the oath I swore to your father Abraham. I will make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and I will give them all these lands, and through your offspring all nations on earth shall be blessed." (Genesis 26:3-4)
Later on, God extends the same promise to Jacob:
"The land I gave to Abraham and Isaac I also give to you and I will give this land to your descendants after you." (Genesis 35:12)
Notice that the promise runs through a certain, specific line - from Abraham to Isaac to Jacob and on to their descendants. In Psalm 105 the psalmist uses the following terms to describe the extent of God's commitment to this purpose: covenant, word, command, oath, decree and everlasting covenant. There is no language used in the Bible that could give stronger emphasis to God's commitment.
"He is the Lord our God; His judgments are in all the earth. He remembers His covenant forever, the Word He commanded, for a thousand generations, the covenant He made with Abraham, the oath He swore to Isaac, He confirmed it to Jacob as a decree, to Israel as an everlasting covenant: 'To you I will give the land of Canaan as the portion you will inherit.'" (Psalm 105:7-11)
If we believe the Bible to be the Word of God, there can remain no doubt as to God's purpose for the land. Furthermore, nothing has changed in God's purpose from the time that it was spoken until this time of restoration which was predicted by Jeremiah:
"Write in a book all the words I have spoken to you. The days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will bring My people, Israel and Judah, back from captivity and restore them to the land I gave their forefathers to possess, says the Lord." (Jeremiah 30:2-3)
I simply cannot understand how any question could exist as to the meaning of those words. There is only one place on earth that could answer to that description, "the land I gave to their forefathers to possess." It is the land which today is again called "Israel".
God alone has the right to determine to whom the land belongs and His determination remains unchanged by all the fluctuating events of history. This is clearly established by the words of Ezekiel:
"Son of Man, when the people of Israel were living in their own land they defiled it by their conduct and their actions… I dispersed them among the nations and they were scattered through the countries... For I will take you out of the nations and I will gather you from all the countries and I will bring you back into your own land." (Ezekiel 36:17, 19, 24)
It was their own land when they defiled it and when God brings them back He says it is into their own land. The Divinely appointed ownership of the land has not changed in all these centuries. Exactly the same language is used in Amos:
"'I will bring back My exiled people Israel; they will rebuild the ruined cities and live in them. They will plant vineyards and drink their wine; they will make gardens and eat their fruit. I will plant Israel in their own land, never again to be uprooted from the land I have given them,' says the Lord your God." (Amos 9:14-15)
God goes out of His way to exclude any possibility of doubt as to whom He considers to be the Scriptural owners of the land. This decision as to the ultimate ownership of the land goes back to the origins of humanity.
"When the Most High gave the nations their inheritance, when He divided all mankind, He set up boundaries for the peoples according to the number of the sons of Israel." (Deuteronomy 32:8)
When God allotted to all nations the areas where they were to live, the countries they were to inhabit, He based their boundaries on the number of the children of Israel and the location which He had appointed for them. In other words, the location of all other nations in a certain sense depends on and is related to the location of Israel.
In Acts 17 Paul explains this to the people of Athens:
"From one man, He made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth and He determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live." (Acts 17:26)
God has left nothing in that area to human decision. He has determined where every nation should live in accord with the location He had appointed for Israel. In other words, all other nations, in a certain sense, find their location with reference to Israel. Of course, that doesn't always suit the other nations. When Israel is not in her home, all other nations are somewhat out of place. It is for the ultimate good of all nations that Israel should be in her place. God has so arranged things that no other nation can truly find its full destiny until Israel finds her destiny.
This is why it is important for you and me who are not Israelites that Israel should obtain their inheritance. Ultimately, the inheritance of all other nations will be determined by Israel being in her right place. This is one reason why we should all pray for the peace of Jerusalem, because not until Jerusalem enjoys peace will the rest of the earth ever know peace. We owe our entire spiritual inheritance to one small nation: Israel. This is an indisputable fact. If there had been no Israel there would have been no patriarchs, no prophets, no apostles, no Bible and most of all, no Saviour. How much spiritual inheritance would any of the rest of the nations have without them? Exactly nothing! We are all debtors to the Jewish people. God says that there are ways we will have to pay the debt back. My personal conviction is that God will never withdraw the Church from the earth until it has at least recognized its debt to the Jewish people and taken some token steps to repay her.
Some Christians assert that the Church has taken over the identity of Israel and therefore that God's promises to Israel now apply to the Church, and not to Israel. But this theory does not agree with the way the New Testament consistently uses the name "Israel". The word "Israel" or "Israelites" occurs about 75 times in the New Testament. In at least 70 of these occurrences the name Israel is used in precisely the same way as it was in the Old Testament. This includes nine distinct quotations of Old Testament Scriptures. In every one of these New Testament quotations, the meaning of the name Israel is exactly the same as it was in the Old Testament.
In perhaps four instances in the New Testament, the apostle Paul uses "Israel" in a special, restricted sense to denote only those Israelites who have continued in the faith of their forefather Abraham and for this reason have acknowledged Jesus as their messiah (see Romans 9:6-8), but never once in the New testament is Israel used as a synonym for the Church as a whole. In Romans 11:25-26 Paul sums up his analysis of the relationship between Israel and the Gentiles in one comprehensive statement: "Hardening in part has happened to Israel until the full number of the Gentiles has come in. And so all Israel will be saved."
This is the divinely appointed climax to which all believers, Jewish and Gentile alike, should be praying and working together.