The entire Bible testifies that God will bring his Jewish people back into their land from the ends of the earth, argues Dr James Patrick


Source: REUTERS/Alexander Ermochenko

People wave Israeli flags following the release of hostages who were seized during the October 7 attack by Hamas

Christians are asking serious questions in response to the 7 October attack by Hamas, to Israel’s ensuing war in Gaza, and to the huge anti-Israel protests around the world.

Why are the Jewish people and their state hated so much? Why is the Palestinian-Israeli conflict so long-lasting and traumatic? How does modern Israel relate to biblical Israel? Are we witnessing fulfilment of biblical prophecy in any way? 

In his recent article for Premier Christianity, Mark Woods gave simplistic Bible-based responses, as if this conflict were just a personal disagreement – “Blessed are the peacemakers” (Matthew 5:9); “Never take your own revenge” (Romans 12:19); “Love your enemies” (Luke 6:35). Of course these principles are godly, and modelled by Jesus himself. But until we have forgiven a neighbour for torturing, raping and then slaughtering our own little sister or grandmother, we Christians have no right to lecture the grieving citizens of Israel.

Even if we were to treat this like any other international war, the Bible has far more to teach us than the above. God has entrusted governments with “the sword” to avenge evil and enforce justice (Romans 13:1-7), and although individuals should not resort to violence, soldiers serving their government can use force justly (Luke 3:14; Matthew 5:41). ‘Just war theory’ is a robust Christian concept based on biblical patterns found throughout the history and laws of Israel. At the same time, the Bible recognises the tragic justice of collective punishment for the offences of leaders (Luke 19:41-44; 20:15-19, 23:27-31), provided there is due warning given (Luke 11:49-51) and opportunity for innocent individuals to escape (Luke 21:20-22). If Jesus decreed this for his own beloved nation, others cannot expect different standards of justice. 

However, we must not treat this conflict as if it were ‘any other war’. Regardless of Israel’s response to the Messiah, they remain chosen and loved by God, with irrevocable “gifts and calling” (Romans 11:28-29). The entire Bible is centred around this one ethnic group, so how can we ignore their ongoing identification with God as a major factor in this war?

I propose to explore this significance in three areas: the underlying excuse for attacking Israel at home and abroad, the tactics of Israel’s enemy, and the proper reaction of Christians toward the Jewish people.

First, the Bible speaks clearly about the ‘gift’ of the land. 

Scripture records that Israel inherited from father Abraham God’s ‘gift’ of the land as an eternal covenant (Genesis 15:17-21; 17:7-8; etc.; Exodus 6:5-8; 32:13). Even within their future ‘new covenant’, God again promised to “plant them in this land with all my heart and with all my soul” (Jeremiah 31:31-37; 32:36-42). The condition of possessing this inherited land that was “given for all time” was that Israel keep God’s commandments (Deuteronomy 4:40), hence Israel’s repeated exiles from the land. But as Paul affirmed, Israel’s “gifts” are not revoked despite sin or exile (Romans 9:4; 11:28-29). We also note that the land was never Israel’s exclusive possession. The law repeatedly affirms that ethnic minorities have equal legal status (Exodus 12:43-49; Leviticus 24:10-22; Numbers 15:11-16, 29-31), provided they too worship Israel’s God (Jeremiah 12:14-17).

Surprisingly, the prophet Ezekiel discerned that God would regather the Jewish people to the land even before their repentance and spiritual transformation, to prove his own unmerited faithfulness (Ezekiel 20:39-44; 36:16-32). And the prophet Isaiah made Israel’s hope dependent upon the nations. When the nations have been drawn to Israel’s Messiah, they will then assist the Jewish people to return to their ancestral land (Isaiah 11:10-12; 49:5-7, 22-23; 60:4-9).

Therefore, Jesus himself testified to an ongoing longing to regather Jerusalem’s exiled “children” from the diaspora (Matthew 23:37-39; see Isaiah 49:14-22), such as Greek-speaking Jewish pilgrims (John 7:35-36; 12:20-32). He understood his mission as being the son of David who would gather both Judah and the ‘lost’ northern tribes of Israel, to be one flock with one shepherd (John 10:15; 11:51-52; echoing Ezekiel 37:21-24, also Isaiah 56:6-8). He also prophesied that at some point after the Roman exile, when salvation has been offered to all nations, Jerusalem would again be restored to Jewish sovereignty or ‘kingship’ (Luke 21:24; Acts 1:6-8). When he returns to reign on earth, his Jewish apostles will then govern the twelve tribes of Israel, and likewise his servants from the nations will inherit ‘kingship’ over their nations (Matthew 19:28; 25:31-40; Revelation 2:26-27; 7:3-10).

The entire Bible, from beginning to end, testifies that God will surely bring his Jewish people back into their land from the ends of the earth. And this promise will be accomplished only by Israel’s Messiah Jesus (Romans 15:8; 2 Corinthians 1:20), through those nations who rally to his standard. This clear biblical teaching was celebrated and pursued by mainstream evangelical Christianity in Britain for 300 years. This included some of our greatest spiritual forebears such as the writer of 'When I survey the wondrous cross', Isaac Watts, the founders of Methodism, John and Charles Wesley, the 'Prince of Preachers', C.H. Spurgeon, Bible-in-a-year revivalist, Robert Murray M'Cheyne and even leading intellects such as poet John Milton, philosopher John Locke and physicist Isaac Newton.

Biblical literacy has plummeted in the British church during the last century, so it is little wonder that the convictions of our esteemed ancestors are so rarely reflected today. Had they been alive now, they would be eagerly awaiting and interceding for the imminent spiritual outpouring upon the regathered Jewish nation, prophesied in Ezekiel 36.

Second, the Bible alerts us to the tactics of Israel’s enemy.

Israel’s primary opponent throughout history has been Satan, the Father of Lies (John 8:44), and the Accuser of the Brethren (Revelation 12:7-12; Luke 10:17-20) whose greatest challenger is Israel’s angelic prince Michael (Daniel 10:20-21; 12:1). Satan hates the Messiah who will destroy him, and therefore he hates the nation of Israel who gave birth to Messiah (Revelation 12:1-6, 13-17; Genesis 37:9-10).

Antisemitism is the most persistent racial hatred in humanity’s history. It arises not only from the unjustified jealousy of nations towards the one chosen to bless them (Genesis 18:17-33; 27:29; Isaiah 19:24-25), but also simply because darkness hates and fears the light (Isaiah 60:1-3, 14). The Jewish people still carry God’s special revelation and glory (Romans 3:1-2; 9:4-5), so Satan is determined to slander and slaughter the nation who mediates God’s blessing on earth (Esther 3:8-9; Romans 11:12, 15; 15:8-12).

All of scripture bears witness to the common human failures of the Jewish people, but Satan goes further, stirring up the world he controls in unending false accusations out of all proportion to Israel’s faults. In fact, Israel's efforts to spare Palestinian civilians surpass any other army in the world, and prior to this war they welcomed Gazans and even Hamas leaders and their families for free urgent medical treatment.

In the current war, Israel is unfairly blamed for every death in Gaza, whether combatants, human shields of Hamas, or victims of Gazan terror rockets, even for simply retaliating to Hamas’ sickening aggression. And on our streets and social media, selective sympathy for these Palestinians (abused for decades by their own people) often masks violent spiritual hatred of the one and only Jewish state.

Sometimes criticism is justified, yet when Satan prosecuted the leader of the Jewish nation in Zechariah 3:1-7, the pre-incarnate Angel of the Lord rebuked the accuser by interceding for the guilty on the basis of God’s election. He still does the same for us (Romans 8:34), so let us not be found imitating Satan’s work when it comes to Israel.

Third, the Bible defines right attitudes and actions towards Jewish people.

Just as children are to honour their parents and wives their husbands for God’s sake (Ephesians 6:1-4; 5:22-33), without necessarily implying that the authority figure is morally superior (1 Peter 3:5-6), so also the nations should honour the Jewish people as God’s chosen leader nation (Romans 1:16; 2:9-11; 11:28-29).

The centurions and the Canaanite woman who demonstrated proper humility as non-Jews, received blessings associated with salvation which Jesus said "is from the Jews" (Luke 7:2-10; Acts 10:1-6; Matt 15:21-28; John 4:22; see Isa 35:4-6). He also taught that he will judge nations based on how we have treated "the least of these brothers of mine" (Matthew 25:40), which must at least include Jesus’ ethnic kinsmen.

So, Paul warned non-Jewish believers against arrogance and ignorance about God’s ongoing and especially end-time purposes for his “beloved” Israel, even in their unbelief (Romans 11:17-28). Instead, he taught that we who have shared in their spiritual blessings ought to minister to them in practical ways (Romans 15:26-27).

In these troubled times for Jewish people worldwide, the least we can do is stand up publicly against all who hate and slander them, for Jesus’ sake.