Donald Trump’s decision to recognise Jerusalem, rather than Tel Aviv, as the capital of Israel seems to me to be an act of monumental folly, guaranteed to provoke a huge backlash and wave of anger across the Middle East. It will be sure to add to the ranks of Islamist terrorists. It will alienate still further some of the US’s supposed allies (such as Turkey). And it will increase the influence of Iran throughout the Middle East. In other words, it will have precisely the opposite effect of the stated goals of the United States in the Middle East.
What is interesting about this decision is that it is clearly influenced by two main things. Firstly, there is the huge sway that Israel has over the United States and its foreign policy. But secondly, it is because much of Trump’s support base are premillennial Christians who see the Jewish people as God’s chosen people, and the rebirth of Israel as the fulfilment of biblical prophecy. Even now, I expect that huge numbers of Christians in the US are turning to Ezekiel chapters 38 and 39 to try to work out what comes next. Who is Gog in all this?
It is this second issue that I want to pick up on, basically because it is the driver for the first. So let me begin by stating this to all those who believe that Jews, by reason of their being descendants of Abraham, are God’s covenant people: They are not.
The New Testament makes it clear that even within Israel of old, there were two types of people. Though they were all physical descendants of Abraham, not all were his spiritual descendants. Here is the Apostle Paul:
“But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring, but ‘Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.’ 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. For this is what the promise said: ‘About this time next year I will return, and Sarah shall have a son'” (Romans 9:6).
What is he saying? That although Israel was God’s covenant nation, and all the people within it were part of that covenant, not all of them were ultimately God’s people. What was the difference between those who were God’s people and those who weren’t? Very simply, it was faith. Faith in God’s promises. Faith in the coming seed of the woman who would crush the serpent’s head. Faith that through this seed, God would bless all nations.
In other words, Abraham, who believed these covenant promises and it was counted to him as righteousness (Genesis 15:6; Romans 4:3) had two types of offspring — those who also believed God’s promises and those who didn’t.
And so when we get to the fulfilment of those promises – the Coming of the Messiah into the world – there were again those two types of Abraham’s physical descendants. Those who accepted that this was the Messiah God had promised to Abraham, and those who didn’t. Jesus was very explicit about this:
“They answered him, ‘Abraham is our father.’ Jesus said to them, ‘If you were Abraham’s children, you would be doing the works Abraham did, but now you seek to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. This is not what Abraham did. You are doing the works your father did.’ They said to him, ‘We were not born of sexual immorality. We have one Father — even God.’ Jesus said to them, ‘If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and I am here. I came not of my own accord, but he sent me. Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word. You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies. But because I tell the truth, you do not believe me'” (John 8:39-45).
And then later on in the same discourse:
“Jesus answered, ‘If I glorify myself, my glory is nothing. It is my Father who glorifies me, of whom you say, “He is our God.” But you have not known him. I know him. If I were to say that I do not know him, I would be a liar like you, but I do know him and I keep his word. Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad.’ So the Jews said to him, ‘You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?’ Jesus said to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.’ So they picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple” (John 8:54-59).
“Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad.” This is the nub of it. Abraham believed in God’s Messiah. He rejoiced in it and had he been alive when Jesus came into the world, he would have rejoiced all the more. And he would have proclaimed that this was the One whom God had told him about. All who were truly Abraham’s children — after the Spirit and not the flesh — also rejoiced in it.
But the unbelieving sons of Abraham – sons after the flesh but not after the Spirit – rejected Jesus. And so in accordance with the principle of lex tallonis — an eye for an eye — Jesus rejected them:
“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! See, your house is left to you desolate. For I tell you, you will not see me again, until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord'” (Matthew 37-39).
This was confirmed when the Roman armies came and destroyed Jerusalem in AD70.
And so Abraham’s children according to the flesh are not in any way God’s covenant people. God’s covenant people are Abraham’s offspring according to the Spirit — that is those who believe what Abraham believed. That is Christians.
Abraham’s offspring according to the flesh can become God’s covenant people, but — just like everyone else — this can only happen if and when they accept the Messiah that God sent 2,000 years ago. Again, Jesus is explicit on this point:
“Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.'”
Whether you accept his teaching or reject it, this is Jesus clearly saying that there is one way and one way alone to come to God. It is by faith in him as the Messiah, the Christ of God, the Lamb slain. There is no other way he says, and so the idea that those Jews who continue to reject the King that God sent to them are somehow God’s covenant people is refuted clearly by Jesus himself.
Which is why I’m baffled as to why millions of Christians, particularly dispensationalists in the US, seem to have persuaded themselves that the Jews are still “the people of God” or “God’s chosen people”. Nay, nay and thrice nay. Their situation is absolutely no different from that of the atheist, the Buddhist, the Muslim and so on. They don’t have a free pass to eternal life because they are descended from Abraham. Jesus made that so, so clear. Like everyone else, they must repent and believe the Gospel.
According to Jesus, those who do not accept him as the Saviour of the World are:
“condemned already because they have not believed in the name of the only Son of God.” (John 3:18).
But thanks be to God, the reverse is also true. When the atheist (such as I once was) or the Buddhist or the Muslim or the Jew comes to believe in Jesus as is Saviour; as the Saviour of the World; as the One whom Abraham looked forward to with rejoicing, then they shall be grafted into God’s covenant and be granted eternal life. And there shall be much rejoicing in Heaven.