Who Does the Land of Israel Belong To?
Shalom! I am writing as I prepare to return to the U.S. after spending two weeks in Israel. The work in the Holy Land is going well – including evangelism, discipleship, congregational planting, feeding the poor and elderly, and children’s work. I also spent quite a bit of time working on preparations for the Isaiah 53 Campaign in Israel, and I will tell you more about these plans in the near future! The opportunities to reach Jewish people for the Messiah Jesus in Israel are astounding.
There is no question in my mind that the Land of Israel should and must be a focus of our work in the days ahead. There are now more than six million Jewish people living in the Holy Land. Unfortunately, not everyone is as excited about the Land of Israel as I am!
In fact, the questions, “Who has the right to the Land of Israel?” and, “To whom does the Land of Israel really belong?” are becoming an increasingly widespread focus of attention. Is it the Jewish people? The Palestinians? Maybe the Land belongs to the Bedouin tribes that have lived there for many centuries?
The answer to this burning question is not found in U.N. Resolution 181,1 in which the United Nations recommended the establishment of Jewish and Arab states, paving the way for the modern state of Israel. Neither is it found in the declaration of Israeli independence made on May 14, 1948. The answer is simple in my mind. The Land of Israel belongs to the people of Israel – the Jewish people. Let me give you a few reasons why I believe this with all my heart.
King David sang, “…the earth is the Lord’s…” (Psalm 24:1) and it is He who determines the boundaries of nations (Acts 17:26, Psalm 74:17, Deut. 32:8). Therefore, the Land of Israel, like every other nation, belongs to the God of Israel and whomever He decides should be His stewards! The Lord told Abram that both he and his descendants would be given the Land (Gen. 12:1-3). This promise was also given to the sons of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and to their descendants (Gen. 17:19-21, 26:1-5, 35:9-15).
We cannot ignore the present political realities and complexities of the crisis, yet we should base our personal understanding of the issues upon the Bible. I believe the Land of Israel belongs to the people of Israel, whom God created from the loins of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Of course, this does not mean that others who are not Jewish cannot live in and enjoy the Land and nation of Israel! It does mean that Israel today needs our prayers, understanding and involvement in encouraging the nation and the inhabitants of the Holy Land to seek the Holy One of Israel.
Do the Jewish People Have a Moral Right to the Land of Israel?
Many Christians are asking whether the Jewish people of today have a moral right to possess the Land of Israel. This may shock you, but I would answer—no. Jewish people today have not earned the moral right to possess the Land of Israel. Why would I make this bold assertion?
Let’s be frank: most Israelis are quite secular. Their values are not grounded in the Hebrew Bible, much less in the New Testament. Today’s Messianic movement in Israel makes up less than 0.02% of the population. In other words, fewer than 10,000 of the current Jewish population of more than six million Jewish people in Israel follow Jesus as their Messiah.
It is also true that Israel is similar to many secular countries. I am sad to say that Israeli society is plagued by an increasingly high number of abortions, an increasing advocacy for gay marriage, and a growing problem with prostitution. In other words, modern Israel – like any other nation, including our own – is anything but holy!
However, I think this is the wrong question. If nations were measured on the basis of morality, then every country in the world would be forced to forfeit the right to possess its land. There is a deeper question that must be asked.
Do the Jewish People Have a Divine Right to Possess the Land of Israel?
To this question, I would answer yes. The Jewish people do in fact have a divine right to the Land of Israel—at any moment in history since the day of Abram – based upon God’s covenant. This is the only deed of ownership that really matters. By a confluence of events that reflects the hand of God, the Jewish people once again became the possessors of the Land of Israel in 1948.
As the Word of God declares – and as history has shown – the Lord is able to cast the Jewish people out of the Land if it is His will (Deut. 28, Lev. 26, etc.). Yet He is the same God who is able to bring the Jewish people back to the Land as He chooses. And regardless of world politics, the peace and security that God promised to the Jewish people in the Land will take place during the Messianic Kingdom, when all who dwell there will acknowledge the Lordship of Jesus the Messiah.
A Bright Future for the Land of Israel
I believe the Bible teaches that the Jewish people cannot fully enjoy the Land of Israel until they turn to the Messiah Jesus, and until Jesus returns as King to rule on His rightful throne in Jerusalem! At that time, the promises of God will be gloriously fulfilled when the wolf lies down with the lamb, our weapons of war are transformed into tools for farming, and the curse that fell upon the world through sin will be lifted. Yet the Abrahamic deed assures the Jewish people of the right to live in the Land whenever they are able.
Therefore, the Jewish people have a right to the Land based on the promise of God. This right is not based upon national righteousness. The complete fulfillment of this promise will only come about at the second coming of Jesus (Rom. 11:12, 15, 25-29). Until then, I believe the Jewish people have a right to the Land of Israel, even if they will never deserve it based on their own merit. Possession of the Land, as with all the promises of God, is based upon His generous and benevolent character and we will always be undeserving of His goodness and thankful for His grace.
Nonetheless, I believe that the creation of the modern state of Israel is a sure sign of God’s faithfulness and power. We have no doubt that one day the Lord will complete what He started and the nation of Israel will become a Holy Land when the remnant of Israel turns to Yeshua the Messiah. As Paul promised,
Concerning the gospel they are enemies for your sake, but concerning the election they are beloved for the sake of the fathers. For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.(Rom. 11:28-29)
Evangelism and the Promise
This is why Your Mission to the Jewish People continues to proclaim the Good News of Jesus, both outside and inside Israel. Our ministry staff serves among Jewish people in nations representing 96% of the world’s Jewish population. We believe that there is no hope of personal salvation outside of Jesus for either Jew or Gentile. Proclaiming this life-giving message to Jewish people is why Chosen People Ministries exists!
Yours for the salvation of Israel,