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Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Did God have anything to do with moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem?

A great many Christians have recently experienced something akin to sexual arousal over Donald Trump's decision to move the U.S. embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem (see https://religionnews.com/2018/05/14/some-christians-and-jews-hail-embassy-move-to-jerusalem-as-key-to-a-biblical-plan/). Some even hailed it as the fulfillment of biblical prophecy (see https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/jeanine-pirro-trump-biblical-jerusalem_us_5af92283e4b032b10bfbf607). But how do these views/claims square with what is actually recorded in the Bible? More importantly, is the near obsession of some Evangelical Christians with the modern state of Israel justified by the Scriptures they claim to revere and follow?

Although many Christians would agree with Fox News commentator Jeanine Pirro that Trump is merely giving a nod to historical reality by recognizing "that Jerusalem is the eternal capital of the Jewish state," the historical and biblical record does not support this view (see http://www.patheos.com/blogs/progressivesecularhumanist/2018/05/fox-news-trump-fulfilled-biblical-prophecy-by-moving-embassy-to-jerusalem/#disqus_thread). As any good student of the Judeo-Christian Bible and history knows, Jerusalem has not always been the capital of the Jewish state. Prior to the establishment of the kingdom of Israel, the Bible maintains that authority floated among a number of judges and the cities which they called home. Prior to the establishment of Jerusalem as the focal point of the political and religious life of the Jews, Scripture informs us that Shiloh fulfilled that role. When the kingdom was finally established under Saul, the capital was not at Jerusalem. David spent the first part of his reign as king at Hebron. When the kingdom was divided after Solomon's death, Jeroboam used Shechem and Peniel as his capitals and made Bethel and Dan religious centers. Later, the Bible informs us that Tirzah served as the capital for Israel's kings. Later still, we are told that King Omri established Samaria as the capital of Israel. Hence, we can clearly see that Jerusalem was not the only capital of the ancient Jewish state.

 Even so, my Evangelical friends will point out that God placed his name at Jerusalem when Solomon completed his temple there. But what about everything that happened after that event? What about the Babylonian captivity when the Jewish state ceased to exist and Jerusalem was destroyed and abandoned? Moreover, even when we consider the "restoration" which these folks point to under Cyrus, we must acknowledge that the Jews did not regain their sovereign status as a nation (they continued to be a small vassal of a greater empire). Now the Jews did briefly regain their independence as a nation under the Maccabees, and the Hasmonean kings did rule from Jerusalem. Nevertheless, we all know that the Jewish state was eventually swallowed up by the Roman Empire, and that Jerusalem was also destroyed by them, and that there was no Jewish state on planet earth for one thousand nine hundred years!

Which brings us to another question: Was the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948 a fulfillment of biblical prophecy? Was that  event necessary to usher in the "time of the end"? (see the offering of the Jehovah's Witnesses on this topic: https://wol.jw.org/en/wol/d/r1/lp-e/2010813). In this connection, it is interesting to note that ALL of the prophecies associated with the restoration of the Jewish state and Jerusalem are associated with the Messiah. In other words, the fulfillment of these prophecies in both Jewish and Christian eschatology is still in the future. What happened in 1948 was not associated with the Messiah or God. It was the work of a small group of Jewish people in coordination with the United Nations, Britain and the United States.

The Apostle Paul said:  "For you are not a true Jew just because you were born of Jewish parents or because you have gone through the ceremony of circumcision. No , a true Jew is one whose heart is right with God. And true circumcision is not merely obeying the letter of the law; rather, it is a change of heart produced by God's Spirit. And a person with a changed heart seeks praise from God, not from people." (Romans 2:28-29) Christ raised up children to Abraham. Christ made it possible for ANYONE to be a spiritual Jew and a part of his Messianic Kingdom. The establishment of the modern state of Israel was certainly an interesting development on the world stage, and we should all be interested in what happens to Jerusalem and the Palestinians; but none of that should be interpreted as fulfilling prophecies that can only be fulfilled by the return of Jesus Christ to this earth.

It is foolish for us to mix politics and religion and try to interpret ancient prophecies by comparing them to current events. Moreover, it is dangerous for our politicians to attempt to move prophecy along and give God a hand in fulfilling them. Instead, the people of all Abrahamic faiths would do well to heed the words attributed to David: "Pray for peace in Jerusalem. May all who love this city prosper." (Psalm 22:6) 

1 comment:

  1. I have remarked in my own blog a few times on how powerful Turkey is becoming, and Turkey has put out a call to 57 Moslem nations to raise up an army to destroy Israel. See https://www.express.co.uk/news/world/936954/World-War-3-Turkey-Erdogan-army-of-Islam-Israel-war-attack-all-sides-latest-news. Turkey already has a million person armed force. If this effort gains momentum, then it won't much matter where the capital of Israel is. Not that there won't be an Israel, but Israel will have its hands full with bigger issues. I don't pay much attention to prophecy except for its moral lessons, but this is a remarkable development it seems to me.

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