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The Palestinian-Israeli war---Israel’s Status in God’s salvation plan

On October 7, 2023, the 50th anniversary of the Fourth Middle East War, also known as the Yom Kippur War, the Palestinian armed organization Hamas launched a surprise attack on Israel, firing more than 5,000 rockets. Hamas militants crossed the border and entered southern Israel. They fired into the crowd at the ongoing Rem Music Festival, massacred Israeli civilians and took about 200 hostages.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared that Israel was in a state of war, and the Israel Defense Forces subsequently responded with air strikes. As of October 19, terrorist attacks had killed approximately 1,400 people in Israel and injured more than 4,000 people, making it the deadliest casualty incident in Israel since the Holocaust. As a result of the Israeli Defense Forces' retaliatory strikes in Gaza, more than 3,000 people were killed and more than 10,000 injured in Gaza. The Palestinian area has once again become the focus of the world's attention, and has even aroused people's serious concerns and worries that the scale of the war may further expand and escalate.

As a Christian, I first condemn any form of terrorist attacks; secondly, I am saddened by the civilian casualties on both sides caused by the war and the humanitarian crisis that caused a large number of refugees. I hope the war will end as soon as possible and people can live together in peace.

Since the outbreak of the war, different countries, media, organizations, etc. have issued statements on the Palestinian-Israeli war and situation, expressing their positions. Many of them express sympathy and support for Palestine. They even applaud Hamas and believe that Israel is an invader and colonizer. The fight against aggression is reasonable and lawful. But the pitiable plight of the Palestinian people is caused by Hamas.

Here, it is necessary to briefly explain some terms.

First, about the origin of the word Palestine. In 135 AD, due to the Jewish uprising against the rule of the Roman Empire, the latter expelled the Jews from the area and renamed the traditional Jewish land (the land of Canaan in the Bible) to Palestine (Palaestina), which means 'Philistia'. Land of the People', in order to eliminate people's memory of the Jews. Therefore, people who were born or lived in Palestine in the early days, even Jews, were called Palestinians.

Second, about Hamas. "Hamas", the full name of "Islamic Resistance Movement," is a religious, political, and military mixed organization established in Palestine in 1987. The original intention of Hamas's founding was to eliminate Israel and the Zionists by force, with the ultimate goal of making Israel disappear from the map, even though the expression "annihilation of Israel" was removed from the new political platform released in 2017. Because Hamas often launches terrorist activities such as kidnappings, assassinations, and even suicide bombings against Israel, it is recognized as a terrorist organization by Israel and most Western countries. Of course, many countries also treat Hamas as a resistance organization.

This article will make a preliminary discussion of the historical issues between Palestine and Israel, and look at God’s arrangements for Israel from a biblical perspective, as well as Israel’s status in God’s salvation plan.

I. Contents of the Abrahamic covenant

The Abrahamic Covenant is an unconditional covenant between God and Abraham and his descendants, including land and descendants. The land God promised to Abraham and his descendants is the entire land of Canaan, and God promises Abraham that his descendants will be extremely numerous, as many as the stars in the sky and the sand on the seashore.

“On that day the LORD made a covenant with Abram and said, "To your descendants I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the Euphrates--the land of the Kenites, Kenizzites, Kadmonites, Hittites, Perizzites, Rephaites, Amorites, Canaanites, Girgashites and Jebusites."”(Gen 15:18-21)

Abrahamic covenant was repeated multiple times in Genesis.

“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.”(Gen 17:8)

The Abrahamic covenant also includes the spiritual promise "Through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed" (Genesis 22:18), which God gave to all mankind through Abraham's unique descendant, Jesus Christ. The forgiveness of sins and salvation!

“Through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed.”(Gen 22:18)

The book of Galatians specifically points out that the singular descendant of Abraham refers to Jesus Christ.

“Now to Abraham and his Seed were the promises made. He does not say, "And to seeds," as of many, but as of one, "And to your Seed," who is Christ.”(Gal 3:16,NKJV)

The promise of land in the Abrahamic Covenant was given to Abraham numerous descendants.

The descendants here may be controversial in people's eyes. Today's Israelis and Arabs all claim to be descendants of Abraham. Abraham is considered to be the common ancestor of the three major religions in the Middle East - Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. So who exactly are these descendants?

God Himself clearly said to Abraham in the Bible,

“It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.”(Gen 21:12,NIV)

Moreover, God himself reiterated to Abraham and to Isaac himself that it was not Ishmael but Isaac who was to inherit the Abrahamic covenant.

“Then God said: "No, Sarah your wife shall bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac; I will establish My covenant with him for an everlasting covenant, and with his descendants after him.”(Gen 17:19,NKJV)

This unconditional covenant was further passed on to Isaac's son Jacob.

“There above it stood the LORD, and he said: "I am the LORD, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac. I will give you and your descendants the land on which you are lying. Your descendants will be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out to the west and to the east, to the north and to the south. All peoples on earth will be blessed through you and your offspring.”(Gen 28:13-14,NIV)

Therefore, from a biblical perspective, the land of Palestine belongs to Israel, and God promised to give it to the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob as an eternal inheritance.

To take a step back, even today's Palestinians claim to be descendants of Abraham and should at least share land with Israel. Palestine and Israel can coexist peacefully.

However, Article 8 of Hamas’s political manifesto declares: “There will never be any recognition of the legitimacy of the Zionist regime.… No matter what the reasons, circumstances and pressure, and no matter how long it is occupied, there will be no part of Palestine land can be ceded in compromise. Hamas will only accept the full and complete liberation of Palestinian land from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean."

Armed resistance is its main means to achieve this goal. Article 9 declares, “Hamas also firmly believes that our people have the right to develop various forms and mechanisms for resistance. The management of resistance includes escalation and de-escalation, as well as the adoption of diversified means, etc. etc., are all necessary measures.”

In 1947, the United Nations passed General Assembly Resolution 181, the United Nations Partition Plan, which divided the Palestinian area into two countries, Israel and Palestine, with 55% and 45% of the territory respectively. Jerusalem was administered by the United Nations. After the resolution was passed, Israel accepted it and declared its restoration as a nation on May 14, 1948. However, Palestine and the Arab League opposed it, and the first Middle East war broke out the day after Israel declared its establishment. Over the next thirty years, a total of five wars broke out in the Middle East, dragging the region into long-term war.

Therefore, describing Israel's rebuilding of its homeland on the land of its ancestors as an illegal occupation not only is inconsistent with biblical records but also lacks legal basis even in accordance with international law. Moreover, Israel initially agreed to give Palestine 45% of its territory. After its territory gradually expanded in subsequent Middle East wars, it was still willing to make further concessions in accordance with the principle of "land for peace."

Speaking of the Abrahamic Covenant, we must mention God’s blessings and promises to Abraham in Chapter 12 of Genesis.

“The LORD had said to Abram, "Leave your country, your people and your father's household and go to the land I will show you. "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. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you."”(Gen 12:1-3,NIV)

God’s sevenfold promises to Abraham:

1. God will make Abraham a great nation

2. God will bless him

3. God will make his name great

4. Abraham would also become a blessing to others

5. Whoever blesses Abraham, God will bless him

6. Whoever cursed Abraham, God will curse him

7. All peoples on earth will be blessed through you.

Anyone who blesses Israel will be blessed by God, and anyone who curses Israel will be cursed by God.

Characters in the Bible, such as Pharaoh, Balaam, Haman, as well as the Edomites, Moabites, Amalekites, etc., who cursed Israel all ended miserably. On the contrary, the Hebrew midwives, Rahab, Ruth, and others who blessed Israel were all blessed by God. Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Rome, German fascism, etc. who once oppressed Israel in history also did not end well.

In modern history, the United Kingdom has produced a large number of outstanding evangelists, missionaries, pastors, Bible exegetes, and Christian scientists to the world. At the same time, the United Kingdom also supported the establishment of the state of Israel in the early days and announced its efforts in the name of the British Foreign Minister in 1917. The Balfour Declaration promoted the rebuilding of Israel's homeland. As a result, Britain was blessed by God and became a prosperous country, known as the "Empire on which the sun never sets." However, after 1939, Britain's position on Israel gradually retreated. In 1947, the United Kingdom even abstained from the United Nations General Assembly's resolution on the Palestinian-Israeli partition plan. Since then Britain gradually declined and has now become a second world country. This is no coincidence in the eyes of many.

Now let’s take a look at the United States. Just eleven minutes after Israel announced its founding, then-US President Truman took the lead in recognizing Israel. The United States has been a staunch ally of Israel for a long time since then. In addition, the early Puritans in the United States founded the country based on biblical values, which laid the foundation for the United States to become a super power in the world. In recent years, the Democratic president of the United States has deliberately alienated Israel, which is one of the reasons why the United States has begun to decline.

Many factors contribute to the rise and fall of a nation, the attitude toward Israel is one of them, because God will never forget His own words. The judgment of the nations in Matthew 25, the distinction between sheep and goats, is based precisely on their attitude toward Christ's physical brothers, the Jews.

Christians pray for peace and hope that there will be no war in the world. If war is inevitable, pray that civilian casualties be reduced to a minimum. But Christians should never forget the prophecies of the prophet Balaam---

“"How shall I curse whom God has not cursed? And how shall I denounce whom the LORD has not denounced? For from the top of the rocks I see him, And from the hills I behold him; There! A people dwelling alone, Not reckoning itself among the nations.”(Num 23:8-9,NKJV)

II. Through the history of Israel

Israel is God's chosen people and they are blessed. However, because of their sins, they have also been seriously disciplined by God. Israel was a nation that went through a lot of tribulations. Some even called them “God’s abandoned children,” but God would never abandon His own people.

The history of Israel has generally gone through the following periods.

1. Oppressed in Egypt

God chose Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Due to the famine in the land of Canaan, Jacob led his family of seventy people to go to Egypt. Israel was able to survive and form a huge people, but it was oppressed and tortured by Egypt for four hundred years. These four hundred years were also the time God waited for the Amorites to repent but they ended up full of sin, just as God predicted to Abraham.

2. Conquer the land of Canaan

God raised up Moses to lead Israel out of Egypt. However, the Israelites often complained in the wilderness and did not believe in God or obey Moses. In addition, ten of the twelve spies reported bad news to Israel, which caused them to wander in the wilderness for forty years until All the people of that generation fell dead in the wilderness. After Moses, Joshua led the Israelites to conquer and possess the land of Canaan.

3. The reign of judges

After Israel settled in the land of Canaan, with the death of the older generation, the new generation of Israelites did not know God and followed the customs of foreign countries, worshiping idols and false gods, which angered God, so God allowed foreigners to enslave and oppress them. But every time the Israelites cried out to God, God raised up judges to save them, but they soon fell into the cycle of idolatry again and again.

4. The Era of the Unified Kingdom

The prophet Samuel was the last judge of Israel. The Israelites followed the example of surrounding countries and demand to have a king. God answered their prayers and raised King Saul. After Saul came the Davidic dynasty, which enjoyed a glorious period during the reign of Solomon. There was peace in all areas, all nations came to pay tribute, and Israel's territory was very close to the boundaries promised by God. It could be called Israel's heyday.

5. The Age of the Divided Kingdom

However, the good times did not last long. Solomon followed his group of concubines to worship foreign idols and sinned against God. After Solomon, the kingdom was divided into two: the northern kingdom of Israel and the southern kingdom of Judah. From then on, Israel entered an era of decline. Continuous sin led to the end of Israel by Assyria in 722 BC, and the end of Judah by Babylon in 586 BC. The temple was also burnt down.

6. Period of return from captivity

The captivity brought an abrupt end to the Jewish idolatry and caused the Jews to be scattered throughout the world. According to Jeremiah’s prophecy, Israel was in captivity for seventy years. Seventy years later, under the leadership of Zerubbabel, Nehemiah and others, the Jews returned to their homeland and rebuilt the Temple and the walls of Jerusalem. Israel’s return to Palestine marked the end of Old Testament era.

7. The era of Grecian rule

At the end of the Old Testament, Persia was the largest empire in the world at that time. It was later conquered by Alexander in 332 B.C., who established a powerful Greek empire connecting Europe, Asia and Africa. Alexander died young at the age of 33, and his vast Greek territory was divided among his four generals. The Ptolemaic dynasty of Egypt and the Seleucid dynasty of Syria had close interactions with Israel history.

8. The Age of the Maccabees

Syria in the north and Egypt in the south were at war all year round. The Jewish land sandwiched in between and unavoidably became a battlefield. The people of Israel were ravaged. Aroused by the ferocity of Seleucid Antiochus IV and the defiling of the temple, Matthias, a highly respected Jewish priest, led an uprising and launched a century-long heroic resistance war, commonly known as the Maccabean Revolution. Jewish people established the Hasmonean Dynasty.

9. Roman rule

With the rise of the Roman Empire, the Roman general Pompey captured Jerusalem in 63 B.C., and Judea completely lost its independence. The temple was burned again in 70 AD, and the Jewish uprising in 135 AD was suppressed. The Roman Empire renamed Judea Palestine, and the Israelites were scattered around the world, tossed among all nations, until they were restored to the nation in 1948.

After more than 2,000 years of subjugation, Israel regained its state in 1948. This is an irrefutable miracle and unique in world history. In fact, as early as more than 3,000 years ago, Moses clearly stated to the Israelites in Deuteronomy 28 to 30 that if they disobeyed God, they would be thrown around among all the nations of the world, making people horrified and becoming a joke and sarcasm. However, when they remember and return to God in the foreign countries, God will bring them back from other nations.

“Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, 'Behold, I will gather them out of all countries where I have driven them in My anger, in My fury, and in great wrath; I will bring them back to this place, and I will cause them to dwell safely. 'They shall be My people, and I will be their God; 'then I will give them one heart and one way, that they may fear Me forever, for the good of them and their children after them.”(Jer 32:36-39,NKJV)

“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,NIV)

III. The future and status of Israel

Israel is called by God His own inheritance, so Israel will never disappear because God will never abandon His people, and God has wonderful arrangements for Israel in the last days.

"Thus says the LORD: 'If My covenant is not with day and night, and if I have not appointed the ordinances of heaven and earth, 'then I will cast away the descendants of Jacob and David My servant, so that I will not take any of his descendants to be rulers over the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. For I will cause their captives to return, and will have mercy on them.'"(Jer 33:25-26,NKJV)

What is special about Israel in God’s plan of salvation?

1. Salvation is from the Jews first

Israel is the people of God. They have many blessings and privileges. The Savior Jesus Christ is also a Jew, coming from the house of David of the tribe of Judah of Israel. The Twelve Apostles of Jesus were Jews, Apostle Paul was a Jew, and the first church was the Jewish Jerusalem Church.

Jesus said to the Samaritan woman,“Salvation is from the Jews.”(John 4:22,NIV)

“The people of Israel, theirs is the adoption as sons; theirs the divine glory, the covenants, the receiving of the law, the temple worship and the promises.”(Rom 9:4,NIV)

2. God’s Holy Words were entrusted to the Israelites

God revealed His holy word to the Israelites. All the authors of the Old Testament were Israelites. Except for Luke and the author of Hebrews, the rest of the New Testament books were also written by Israelites. There were also scribes and preservers. Most of the scribes of the Bible were Israelites, and they preserved God’s complete revelation—the Bible—for all mankind. For this, people all over the world should thank them.

“What advantage, then, is there in being a Jew, or what value is there in circumcision? Much in every way! First of all, they have been entrusted with the very words of God.”(Rom 3:1-2,NIV)

3. God gave the Israelites a new covenant

The well known new covenant established based on the precious blood of Jesus Christ was established between God and the house of Israel. Gentiles only share the blessing of the new covenant by becoming the spiritual descendants of Abraham through faith.

“"Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah…"But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. "No more shall every man teach his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, 'Know the LORD,' for they all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, says the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more."”(Jer 31:31-34,NKJV)

4. The order of salvation: from Judea to Gentiles

Salvation was first given to the Israelites. Because of their fall, salvation came to the Gentiles. Everywhere Paul preached, he first preached in a synagogue. Because the Jews did not believe, he then turned to the Gentiles.

“It is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile.”(Rom 1:16,NIV)

“Again I ask: Did they stumble so as to fall beyond recovery? Not at all! Rather, because of their transgression, salvation has come to the Gentiles to make Israel envious. But if their transgression means riches for the world, and their loss means riches for the Gentiles, how much greater riches will their fullness bring!”(Rom 11:11-12,NIV)

5. All Israel will be saved

Except for a few remnant who are saved by faith, Israel as a whole seems to have been rejected by God because of its rejection of Jesus Christ. However, in the last days, all Israel will be saved.

“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. And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written: "The Deliverer will come out of Zion, And He will turn away ungodliness from Jacob.”(Rom 11:25-26,NKJV)

6. Christ will return to save Israel

In the war of last days, all nations will gather to attack Israel. At the critical moment when the entire Israel army is about to be wiped out, Jesus Christ will come to rescue. At that time, they will see the glory of Christ. They will finally accepted the one they pierced as their Savior, and all Israel was saved.

“For I will gather all the nations to battle against Jerusalem; The city shall be taken, The houses rifled, And the women ravished. Half of the city shall go into captivity, But the remnant of the people shall not be cut off from the city. Then the LORD will go forth And fight against those nations, As He fights in the day of battle. And in that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, Which faces Jerusalem on the east. And the Mount of Olives shall be split in two, From east to west, Making a very large valley; Half of the mountain shall move toward the north And half of it toward the south. Then you shall flee through My mountain valley, For the mountain valley shall reach to Azal. Yes, you shall flee As you fled from the earthquake In the days of Uzziah king of Judah. Thus the LORD my God will come, And all the saints with You.”(Zech 14:2-5,NKJV)

7. Jerusalem will be the center of worship

In the last days, Israel will once again be outstanding, and Jerusalem, as the capital of the King (Matthew 5:35), will once again become the center of world worship.

“Now it shall come to pass in the latter days That the mountain of the LORD'S house Shall be established on the top of the mountains, And shall be exalted above the hills; And all nations shall flow to it. Many people shall come and say, "Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, To the house of the God of Jacob; He will teach us His ways, And we shall walk in His paths." For out of Zion shall go forth the law, And the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.”(Isa 2:2-3,NKJV)

“At that time they will call Jerusalem The Throne of the LORD, and all nations will gather in Jerusalem to honor the name of the LORD.”(Jer 3:17,NIV)

God has not and will never abandon His chosen people, Israel, and God has not transferred His promises from Israel to the church. God is faithful. Everyone should remember God’s own words:

“For thus says the LORD of hosts: "He sent Me after glory, to the nations which plunder you; for he who touches you touches the apple of His eye.”(Zech 2:8,NKJV)

Rev. Yunsheng Ren

Translated by Dr. Yun Ling

Oct 21, 2023


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