Prof. Michael Horton weighs in on President Obama’s statement that any Israeli-Palestinian peace accord “must begin with a return to the 1967 borders.” Jack Hayford, representing the dispensationalist camp, immediately reacted, saying, “We are living in a sobering moment in history that calls us, as believers in Jesus Christ, to take a stand with Israel. We could be people of the last hour …Â Israel is a land about which God says uniquely, prophetically, redemptively and repeatedly in the Bible,Â This is Mine. God refers to Israel as He does to no other land on Earth. Israel was raised up to be a light to the Gentiles.”
Horton counters with the Biblical view of the relationship between Old Testament Israel and the Church:
The way the Gospels, but especially Hebrews and Galatians, interpret these passages is to recognize that the Sinai covenant was temporary, conditional, and typological. It was a shadow of the things to comeâ€”namely, Christ and his kingdom. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus announces a â€œregime changeâ€ from the civil laws of the theocracy. Instead of driving out the enemies of God, the True Israelâ€”those united to Christâ€”are to endure suffering for the gospel and to pray for their persecutors. Godâ€™s common grace is shed on the just and the unjust alike in this age. Having fulfilled its job, like a trailer for a movie, the old covenant is now â€œobsoleteâ€ (Heb 8:13). Christâ€™s ministry, far greater than that of Moses, fulfills the everlasting promise that God made to Abraham. Now, blessing has come from the Jews to the ends of the earth in Jesus Christ, the true Israel, the true and faithful Son of David, the true Temple … Through Christ, he has fulfilled this promise, bringing blessing to all the families of the earth. All heirs of this kingdom are â€œa holy nation,â€ living in theÂ common nations of this age.
Especially given the legacy of Christian persecution of Jews throughout the medieval and modern periods, there is a special obligation of Christians to defend the common rights of the Jewish people to a flourishing existence. Â Yet, by acknowledging that Godâ€™s promise of a temporal, geo-political theocracy and land were conditional and that this covenant now lies in the past, we are free to support our friends in IsraelÂ and Palestine in their pursuit of a stable peace that will doubtless require trust and negotiation on both sides.
Read the rest of Horton’s article here: “Biblical Foreign Policy?”. The open letter below, written in 2002, details what Horton explains in his article.
An Open Letter to Evangelicals and Other Interested Parties:
The People of God, the Land of Israel, and the Impartiality of the Gospel
Initiated by Knox Theological Seminary
Signed by over 100 evangelical pastors, educators, and others
Recently a number of leaders in the Protestant community of the United States have urged the endorsement of far-reaching and unilateral political commitments to the people and land of Israel in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, citing Holy Scripture as the basis for those commitments. To strengthen their endorsement, several of these leaders have also insisted that they speak on behalf of the seventy million people who constitute the American evangelical community.
It is good and necessary for evangelical leaders to speak out on the great moral issues of our day in obedience to Christ’s call for his disciples to be salt and light in the world (Matt 5:13-16).It is quite another thing, however, when leaders call for commitments that are based upon a serious misreading of Holy Scripture. In such instances, it is good and necessary for other evangelical leaders to speak out as well. We do so here in the hope that we may contribute to the cause of the Lord Christ, apart from whom there can never be true and lasting peace in the world (John 14:27).
At the heart of the political commitments in question are two fatally flawed propositions. First, some are teaching that God’s alleged favor toward Israel today is based upon ethnic descent rather than upon the grace of Christ alone, as proclaimed in the Gospel. Second, others are teaching that the Bible’s promises concerning the land are fulfilled in a special political region or “Holy Land,” perpetually set apart by God for one ethnic group alone. As a result of these false claims, large segments of the evangelical community, our fellow citizens, and our government are being misled with regard to the Bible’s teachings regarding the people of God, the land of Israel, and the impartiality of the Gospel.
In what follows, we make our convictions public. We do so acknowledging the genuine evangelical faith of many who will not agree with us. Knowing that we may incur their disfavor, we are nevertheless constrained by Scripture and by conscience to publish the following propositions for the cause of Christ and truth.
The promised Messianic kingdom of Jesus Christ has been inaugurated. Its advent marks the focal point of human history. This kingdom of the Messiah is continuing to realize its fullness as believing Jews and Gentiles are added to the community of the redeemed in every generation. The same kingdom will be manifested in its final and eternal form with the return of Christ the King in all his glory.
Of all the nations, the Jewish people played the primary role in the coming of the Messianic kingdom. New Testament Scripture declares that to them were given the oracles of God (Rom 3:2), the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the service of God, and the promises (Rom 9:3-4). Theirs are the fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and from them, according to the flesh, came ChristÂ (Rom 9:5). Salvation is, indeed, of the Jews (John 4:22). While affirming the Scriptural teaching that there is no salvation outside of Christ, Christians should acknowledge with heartfelt sorrow and grief the frequent oppression of the Jews in history, sometimes tragically done in the name of the cross.
But what are we to make of the unbelief of Israel? Has their unbelief made the faithfulness of God without effect for them? (Rom 3:1-4) No, God has not completely rejected the people of Israel (Rom 11:1. See further Rom 11:2-10), and we join the apostle Paul in his earnest prayer for the salvation of his Jewish kinsmen according to the flesh (Rom 9:1-3). There always has been and always will be a remnant that is saved (Rom 11:5). While not all Israel will experience the blessing of participation in the Messianic kingdom (Rom 9:6), yet Jews who do come to faith in Christ will share in his reign throughout the present age and into eternity. In addition, it is not as though the rejection of some in Israel for unbelief serves no purpose. On the contrary, because they were broken off in unbelief, the Gospel has gone to the Gentiles, who now, through faith, partake of the blessings to the fathers and join with believing Jews to constitute the true Israel of God, the church of Jesus Christ (Rom 11:11-18).
The present secular state of Israel, however, is not an authentic or prophetic realization of the Messianic kingdom of Jesus Christ. Furthermore, a day should not be anticipated in which Christ’s kingdom will manifest Jewish distinctives, whether by its location in “the land,” by its constituency, or by its ceremonial institutions and practices. Instead, this present age will come to a climactic conclusion with the arrival of the final, eternal phase of the kingdom of the Messiah. At that time, all eyes, even of those who pierced him, will see the King in his glory (Rev 1:7). Every knee will bow, and every tongue will declare that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (Phil 2:9-11). The kingdoms of this world will become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he will reign forever and ever (Rev 11:15).
In light of the grand prophetic expectation of the New Testament, we urge our evangelical brothers and sisters to return to the proclamation of the free offer of Christ’s grace in the Gospel to all the children of Abraham, to pray for peace between Israelis and Palestinians, and to promise all humanitarian sympathy and practical support for those on both sides who are suffering in this current vicious cycle of atrocity and displacement. We also invite those Christian educators and pastors who share our convictions on the people of God, the land of Israel, and the impartiality of the Gospel to join their names with ours as signatories to this open letter.1
In the Year of our Lord 2002
Soli Deo Gloria
Signed by over 100 Evangelical pastors, educators, and others
1 Signatories are updated periodically. Those who wish to add their names as signatories to this Open Letter may do so by contacting us by letter at Knox Theological Seminary, 5554 N. Federal Hwy., Ft. Lauderdale, FL, or by e-mail at DeanofFaculty@knoxseminary.org. Due to the potential for various abuses, names will be added as signatories only after receipt of 1) correspondence (letter or e-mail) granting permission to attach said name and pertinent identification to the Open Letter; and 2) a phone number for verbal confirmation. Individual signatures do not necessarily imply institutional endorsement. For further study on the contribution of the Book of Revelation to biblical eschatology, see The John-Revelation Project under the Faculty Forum on this web site.