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Episode 121 | October 25, 2023

Does the Bible Require Christians to Support the Nation of Israel?

A Biblical Way for Christians to Think About the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

By now, we’re all familiar with the tragic events happening in the Middle East. We are shocked and deeply grieved by the events of October 7, 2023. And like many others, we’ve recently found ourselves perplexed by some of the reactions of supporters on both sides. In this episode, Keith and Patrick aren’t seeking to weigh in on this political, international situation, nor are they offering a detailed history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Today, they address one specific question: Does...

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Keith Simon  00:12

By now, we're all familiar with the horrible events that happened in Israel on October 7, when Hamas terrorists broke through Israel defenses and killed over 1300 people, and took nearly 200 Back to Gaza as hostages. Now, to be frank with you, I can't even describe everything that happened to that day. Like Patrick, I've been following this pretty closely. And the stories are absolutely heartbreaking. So what you're not going to hear from us today is a conversation about exactly what happened on October 7. Partly, that's just because by the time you listen to this, it will be outdated. There's new information that comes out daily, sometimes it feels like it comes out hourly. And partly, we're not going to talk about it, because I just think it's too horrific to recount any more than necessary. And if you've been following this, like we have, then you've already heard your fill of tragic, heartbreaking stories. And then maybe lastly, we're not going to try to recount everything that happened on October 7, because once you start, I don't know exactly where you stop, I sure wouldn't want to treat some of the events as more important than others. And we can't be comprehensive. So we're just not going to go down that road. And

Patrick Miller  02:18

likewise, we are not going to in this episode, offer a detailed history of the Israeli Palestinian conflict. When we wrote the book truth on retry, we had a chapter where we said, it's really important to know what you know, to know what you think you know, and to know what you don't know. And the truth is that while Keith and I have read about this, like many other people, we can't put ourselves into the category of those who have a deep knowledge of Middle Eastern politics, much less what's happened in Israel in the last 100 years, 1500 years. There's a long, long history there. That's not our expertise. And so we don't think it's appropriate for us to begin to weigh in on a political international situation.

Keith Simon  02:56

But we are going to have a conversation with this topic. And we're going to try to do it without stepping on a landmine there are a lot of people that Patrick and I work with who have written about this topic, hosted podcasts about it been involved in this discussion in a number of ways. And one thing they've told us is avoid this topic, like you shot for sure not talk about it. And I understand why I mean, everybody is very raw right now. And sometimes when we're raw and emotional, we tend to interpret things in the most negative way possible. We hear people saying things, that they're not saying we don't give people the benefit of the doubt. And like Patrick said, this is incredibly complex from the history to just the vocabulary and what people mean by the words they use. So we're going to dive into this because we think that there's something important for Christians to think about here. So we're going to dive into one specific area of this conversation. But there's a lot we're going to leave unsaid.

Patrick Miller  03:54

Yeah. So what are we talking about? Well, again, let's be clear. If you think we've answered this question, by the end, you haven't listened well to the podcast, we are not going to answer the question, should Christian support the nation state of Israel? Instead, we're going to be talking about whether the Bible says all Christians should support the nation state of Israel. And part of the reason we're actually talking about this is because it's a discussion that's in the national news right now. There was a fascinating article that appeared in the New York Times on October 15. And we'll get to it in just a second. But it is exploring how evangelicals historically and in this particular moment, have responded to the Israeli Palestinian conflict. And we want to think about this biblically and theologically. Remember what I said just a moment ago, know what you know, know what you think, you know, know what you don't know. Well, Keith, and I do feel a lot more confidence when we're talking about the Bible and theology, something we've spent most of our lives studying and thinking about than we do wing into international politics. But

Keith Simon  04:50

before we dive into that article in the theological conversation, I think there are still some things that we can say, and that is this as complex as The history is there's no context that justifies what happened on October 7. I'm fond of saying that every action makes sense in its context. Because I think when you know somebody's situation, maybe it's their relational situation, that family they grew up in their economic environment, their education, whatever it is, I think you can see how they got to the point where they made the decisions that they did, you know, but there is no context that justifies murder, rape, kidnapping of men, women, children, Holocaust survivors, there's no context that you can tell me where I go, Oh, okay, that makes sense, even if I disagree with it. So I think we can unequivocally say the events that happened on that day, were evil. And I think we can also say that some of the reactions to those events have been perplexing. I don't want to say the reactions have shocked me as much as the events on October seventh did because they, that means that's a whole different category of evil. And yet the reactions have really surprised me, sometimes they've caused me to doubt myself and say, maybe there are things I don't know. But on the other hand, I don't know how you get away with cheering, what happened there, I just, I don't have a category in my mind for how you go out and demonstrate and celebrate shooting guns off chanting, in support of what happened on October 7.

Patrick Miller  06:21

I don't understand that either. And I'm with Keith, I would unequivocally condemn what Hamas did. And I'll even go one step further. It's not only wrong to cheer it, but it's also wrong to try to hide it. There have been videos that have come out of students, for example, at NYU, tearing down posters and images of the hostages and the violence. And when I saw that, my honest first thought was, this is exactly what Germans did. After the Holocaust, they tried to hide the atrocities and the evils that they committed. Seeing evil is incredibly painful, especially when that violence involves children and women and innocence. It is incredibly traumatic. But sometimes we do need to see evil and trying to hide it, I think is unequivocally a form of evil itself.

Keith Simon  07:03

I heard some people say that the Nazis they tried to hide the evil. In other words, they put up a front to hide the horrible things that are happening inside the Holocaust and the gas chambers. But on October 7, a moss has trumpeted those, like they released their own videos of them. And so it's a whole different category of saying, Hey, we're doing this evil, but we don't want anybody to know it to turn around and say, We're doing this evil, and we want everybody to know it.

Patrick Miller  07:30

Okay, so, remember where we started. This podcast is not us weighing into international politics, if you walk away, and you think, Oh, I know exactly where Keith and Patrick, stand with regards to the Israeli Palestinian conflict. Well, you've read a lot into this, because that's not going to be the main focus of this discussion. But let me say this, it is fine to say I disagree with Israeli policies, or I think we should support a peaceful two state solution. While simultaneously condemning the murder, the rape of civilians, and calling for the release of all hostages, it's fine to say that you condemn what's happened, that you're heartbreaks for innocent civilians who are dying on both sides of this war. But what you can't do is cheer violence, what you can't do is try to hide the violence or act as though what Hamas did was justified. Like Keith said earlier, we realize there's going to be a multitude of responses. And we aren't weighing in on this particular episode. Because we are not experts in this field. There's something else that we feel like we can talk about, which is how evangelical churches in America have historically engaged with the Israeli state. Now I'm gonna pause here because we're gonna hop into the main part of the episode in just a moment, I'm going to give you some definitions, because we're going to try to be as careful as we can be with our language. Because if we're not that will lead to confusion. When we say Israel, we are talking about the ancient people of Israel in the Bible. When we say the nation state of Israel, we're talking about the modern nation state of Israel. When we say Israelites, we're talking about those ancient people in the Bible. When we say Israelis, we're talking about modern citizens of the nation state of Israel. When we talk about Jewish people, we're talking about people throughout history of this particular ethnic descent from the line of Abraham. So just keep those in mind Israel, old nation, state of Israel, the modern state, Israelites, ancient Israeli citizens of the nation state of Israel.

Keith Simon  09:20

You might think that how Christians think about Israel, both the Israel of the passion of the Bible and the nation state of Israel and the future is something that only people inside the church would be interested in. I get it, but you'd be wrong because this topic this issue has bubbled out into the public conversation. That's evidenced by an article that appeared in the New York Times on October 15, and the byline is belong to Ruth Graham and Anna Betts. The title of the article is for American evangelicals who back Israel, neutrality is not an option. The gist of the article is that there is a large segment of American evangelicals who support the nation state of Israel, and they route that support in the Bible.

Patrick Miller  10:08

And this isn't just of interest to the New York Times because evangelicals are actually one of the largest voting blocks in the country, their support and how they think about the nation state of Israel has repercussions for how the United States government actually enters into these conflicts. So it's of importance to people in the nation state of Israel, as well as of importance to the New York Times, Keith, let's hop into the article. Yeah,

Keith Simon  10:30

we're just going to read some excerpts here to give you a flavor for it. And I think anybody Ruth Graham does at the New York Times is going to be awesome. And this article was spot on. I thought she was clear. And I think she was very fair to all the sides. Here's a paragraph. American evangelicals are among Israel's most ardent advocates compelled in part by their interpretation of scripture that says, God's ancient promise to the Jewish people designating the region as their homeland is unbreakable. Now, that's a key point we're gonna come back to some evangelicals also see Israel's existence connected to biblical prophecy, about the last days of the world before a divine theocratic kingdom can be established on Earth. Here's the ology right here in the front pages of the New York Times.

Patrick Miller  11:15

And she goes on to interview our friend Daniel, darling. So let's pick up there. This is what he said. There's probably no greater friend to the State of Israel than American Evangelical Christians.

Keith Simon  11:24

And this goes back to your point that evangelical Christians make up a large part of the Republican Party and therefore evangelical beliefs about the nation state of Israel shape Republican policy. The article focused in large part on a pastor of tait springs Baptist Church in Arlington, Texas. His name is Jared Wellman, and in the sermon, he said, neutrality is not an option. In other words, in the sermon in the church, he's telling the people that you can't be neutral on this topic.

Patrick Miller  11:56

Let's hop back into the article and she begins to talk about a different church at radiant Church, which has several locations in southwest Michigan, the Pastor Lee Cummings preached a sermon about the escalating war between Israel and Hamas, describing the Jewish people's right to the land as an inheritance from God. Peace between the Palestinians and Israeli people is not possible right now, because of Hamas, he said, speaking ominously about future violence. When they're done with the Jews, they're coming for us Christians, he warned, prepare your hearts for the Rising Storm, because this isn't calming down.

Keith Simon  12:28

Inside the article, Ruth Graham and her co author Anna Betts, they show how this support for Israel among these churches is rooted in the Bible. And let's think about this for just a second. American evangelicals don't show the same support for Ukraine, or other countries where atrocities in war are committed, like they show support to Israel. That's because in the American evangelicals mind, the nation state of Israel, as it exists today still plays an important role in biblical prophecy. And God still has them as his chosen people, but a

Patrick Miller  13:04

little bit differently. There's a strong continuity between ancient Israel and the modern nation state of Israel. Let's continue from the article. The intensity of American Evangelical attachment to the State of Israel is impossible to disentangle from popular beliefs about the role of the State of Israel in the end times. Books like the Late Great Planet Earth, an overheated tour of apocalyptic predictions published in 1970. And the Left Behind series of novels reinforced the appeal for many evangelicals of interpreting contemporary global events, as the combinations of prophecies recorded in the Bible. We'll come

Keith Simon  13:41

back to those book series in a little bit. But the Late Great Planet Earth was the best selling nonfiction book in the 1970s not have Christian books, just have any book published in the 1970s. Nonfiction, it sold more copies, and the Left Behind series, it was wildly popular, both the movie and the books. And so it shaped how a lot of people, a lot of Christians, but just a lot of people think about the future and biblical prophecy.

Patrick Miller  14:09

And the article goes on. And many evangelicals see Israel as a key setting for those events. She's talking about the events prophesied primarily in the book of Revelation. But these books drawn other prophecies. So let's pick that back up. And many evangelicals see Israel as a modern State of Israel as a key setting for those events. Four out of five American evangelicals say that the creation of the modern state of Israel in 1948, and the return of millions of Jewish people were fulfillments of biblical prophecy. According to a survey conducted in 2017. Almost half the respondents said the Bible is the primary influence of their opinions on Israel.

Keith Simon  14:46

And that poll was taken by Lifeway, which is a publisher associated with the Southern Baptist Church. Now, that Lifeway poll was also quoted in a recent Washington Post article, and they said this Among the questions was one about the biblical promise of the Holy Land to Abraham and his descendants. Two thirds of the respondents strongly agreed that the promise was an eternal one from God. So you can see that two thirds of those people in this Lifeway poll said that the promises God made to the ancient country of Israel and to the descendants of Abraham is unbreakable and still applies to the modern nation state of Israel. Hey,

Patrick Miller  15:27

let's continue. She interviewed Joel C. Rosenberg. So we'll pick up Josie Rosenberg, the survey's other co sponsor, was born in the United States, but has lived in Israel for almost a decade. He hosts the Rosenberg report on the conservative evangelical Trinity Broadcasting Network that offers quote, biblical perspective on Middle East News, often with an eye to how those news events line up with biblical prophecies. In an interview, he described American Evangelical support for the country as primarily theological, not political. This is a quote from him, God has laid out his love and his special plan for Israel and the Jewish people starting in Genesis 12. So that's the story of Abraham that we were just talking about a moment ago, and going right through to the book of Revelation. So

Keith Simon  16:12

I'm sure you caught that, that he's saying that certain groups of evangelical Christians support the nation state of Israel, not because of the political situation going on. Like, for example, they're the only viable democracy in the Middle East, or because America has common national interests with that modern nation state of Israel, but for theological reasons. In other words, they go to their Bible and they say, I must support the Israel of today, because of God's promises made in Genesis. And

Patrick Miller  16:41

I think you just made a really important distinction that we need to parse apart. You can support Israel for political reasons. You can also support Israel for theological reasons. You might support Israel for both reasons, or just one reason or neither or neither. Right? You might not support Israel at all. But the point is, there's two different reasons that you may or may not support Israel theological and political. And the main focus of our podcast as we go forward is to answer the theological question, Should we theologically support Israel? Do we have a reason in the Bible to support the modern nation state of Israel,

Keith Simon  17:14

when the former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley was kicking off her presidential campaign, one of her first stops was at Cornerstone Church, which is a massive church in San Antonio, Texas, and the pastor there is a guy named John Hagee. And when he was endorsing Nikki Haley, he said, one of the primary reasons he was doing so was because she was a defender of Israel. So you can see the political connection that is happening between a person's theological beliefs and who they support for President. A lot of evangelical Christians believe that the United States has been successful because they have backed Israel. In other words, God has blessed the United States, because the United States has been a defender and partner with Israel. So they want us to continue to support Israel, because they think that keeps God's hand of blessing on our country.

Patrick Miller  18:08

So let's go ahead and start tackling the main question that we want to discuss. Does the Bible teach Christians that they must support the modern nation state of Israel? This is not the question, Should Christians politically support the nation state of Israel? But does the Bible give us a theological reason to do so? So Keith, let's start here. Let's lay out the case. I think a lot of American evangelicals have probably imbibed through some of these books, The Late Great Planet Earth Left Behind series from the preaching, they've heard in their churches, the case that the Bible does give us a theological reason to support the modern nation state of Israel.

Keith Simon  18:45

I think the first place that people who believe this would turn to is Deuteronomy chapter seven, they would say, Look, God chose Israel that he has a special relationship with them. Deuteronomy seven says, for you are a people holy to the Lord your God, the Lord your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on the face of the earth to be His people, His treasured possession, the Lord did not say his affection on you and choose you because you are more numerous than other peoples, for you are the fewest of all peoples. But it was because the Lord loved you and kept the oath he swore to your ancestors, that he brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the land of slavery from the power of the Pharaoh king of Egypt. So they started go, Look, God clearly chose Israel. He sent His love on them. Yeah.

Patrick Miller  19:30

And as we've read in other places, people who hold this view would say that God's promised to Abraham now God made multiple promises to Abraham. He promised him children and offspring, he promised him the promised land, which would be the land strip that the modern state of Israel currently inhabits. And he promised to bless Abraham so that through Abraham, all nations might be blessed. And so they would look at those promises that hey, these are eternal promises. They are unending promises. And that means that the land is always if you think about it rightly the property of the descendants of Abraham aim, which they would equate with the modern nation state of Israel and the Jewish people.

Keith Simon  20:05

Yeah, so let's make it clear. Again, we're laying out the case for a theological reason to support the modern nation state of Israel. And I just want to read the verses that Patrick was alluding to real quick here. This is out of Genesis 12, the first few verses, he says to Abraham, I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you, I will make your name great and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse for all the peoples on earth. We bless through you. So what they're saying is, look, people, we have to support the modern nation state of Israel, otherwise, God isn't going to bless us. And they would also point to the fact that salvation has always come from the Jews. Jesus said to the woman at the well, the Samaritan woman, and John for he said, You Samaritans worship what you do not know, we worship, what we do know for salvation is from the Jews. So God has chosen Israel, he has told us to work on behalf of Israel, if we want his blessing, salvation comes from Israel, he's promised the land Israel, therefore these evangelicals say, we must support the nation state of Israel, because look, it's right here in the Bible, it's crystal clear.

Patrick Miller  21:14

So we've laid out some of the biblical promises that are often used to make this case. But it's not quite that simple. Because part of this is also rooted in a very popular theology of the End Times amongst evangelicals. And Keith and I have perhaps learned the hard way that when you start talking about this theology, you begin to insult people who don't agree with it. So I'm just going to say this, if you grew up with this, we do disagree with it. I'm gonna say that upfront, we aren't sneering at you. In our disagreement. We aren't frustrated at you in our disagreement. We all get our theology from somewhere, and we're all doing our best to interpret the Bible. But this theology, the 10 times, which is called dispensationalism, is undeniably one thing, brand spankin new. This is a way of thinking about biblical prophecy that did not exist 150 years ago, it is a new phenomenon that is very unique to the United States. It's not an international phenomenon, except for where we've sent missionaries spread some of the ideas. This is something that comes out of our own context. And specifically, it comes after the Civil War. If you know anything about American history, one of the times when America was highly, highly Christianized, when people were beginning to come back to the church was actually after the Civil War. But they felt as though they had just lived through a sort of apocalypse. And that takes us to someone who actually wasn't born in the United States, John Darby. He was born in London, but he created some of the ideas we're talking about. And again, the reason why they took root in America as opposed to the UK where he was from was because of our Civil War context. If you've

Keith Simon  22:37

noticed, we've been saying throughout this conversation, that there's a group of evangelicals, who believe these teachings about the modern nation state of Israel, and those Christians have their theological roots in dispensationalism. While dispensationalism started after the Civil War, it was first mentioned maybe in the 1830s, but it really grew popular after the Civil War, it became even more popularized through a study Bible by a guy named C. I Scofield and then it was attached dispensationalism attached to Dallas Seminary Biola, the biblical Institute of Los Angeles and Grace Seminary in Winona Lake, Indiana, those became seminaries that we're producing theologians and pastors who aligned themselves with this processional list. Now, to be frank with you, dispensationalism has been on the wane for quite a while now, at least in seminaries. But it is still out there in the churches. And it's still what a lot of people believe, again, popularized by books like The Left Behind series. So we're not saying therefore this is wrong, because it's associated with dispensationalism. This view about Israel is wrong. We're not saying that. What we're saying, like Patrick said, is that this is relatively new, is rooted in one segment of the Church's teaching in the last couple 100 years. It's not what the church has widely believed for centuries.

Patrick Miller  24:02

Put differently. If you're like Keith and I, and you reject dispensationalism, you are walking in perfect stride with most Christians throughout most of history. But Keith, we probably need to pause because we've been talking about dispensationalism. And we have yet to actually explain what dispensationalism is. What's this idea that was popularized in the Scofield Reference Bible, as people are reading through the book of Revelation. They've got little study notes at the bottom, and it's telling them how to interpret these passages that was popularized by the Late Great Planet Earth and Left Behind series, what is dispensationalism

Keith Simon  24:30

dispensationalism framework of the Bible that emphasized the plain reading of Scripture. Now they took that to be a very literal interpretation of Scripture. And it saw God worked in different ways, in different epics of biblical history. So they would say that we are currently in the church age, but there is a future age coming that will include a rapture, a tribulation, a millennium, they see a series of events coming where the temple will be rebuilt, and usher in the kingdom of God finally, in a new heaven and a new earth, but that will only transpire after the millennium. So it is a framework that I think is forced onto the Bible. But of course, it's hard to define a theological system like that, because there have been many people who've held different variations in forms of it. There is a guy who has a really popular book right now called The Rise and Fall of dispensationalism. And I really want to talk to him and get him on the podcast. So I think we're working toward that. And he'll be able to give us a better history of that theological framework. But I don't think that's where we need to focus our time right now. I think mainly, we just want to be able to say that this idea that Christians should support the nation state of Israel, because the Bible calls them to, is rooted in this one particular theological system, I just

Patrick Miller  25:55

want to add one more thing, because I'm afraid people are going to be confused, I still don't understand how this is connected to Israel, or to the modern nation state of Israel. So key said earlier that this theology claims to be rooted in a plain reading of the Bible. If you read dispensational writers, you will find very quickly, nothing could be further from the truth. For example, when they write about plagues of locusts that are described in biblical prophecies, they in the 80s, read this passage and said, Ah, those were actually Apache helicopters. You see, John was transported to the future. And he didn't know what he was seeing in the sky, but he knew they were loud, like locusts. That is not a plain reading of Scripture by any stretch of the imagination. But here's why I show that example. Because the tendency in dispensational theology is to map modern events, on to biblical prophecy to say what's happening in the contemporary world is exactly what what John was talking about. And because their predictions rarely come to pass, they have to constantly redo it over and over and over and over, we're about to have the rapture Actually, no, the rapture is coming in 10 years, I would didn't come okay, we better fast forward to 20 years, where this begins to apply to the nation state of Israel was that when the nation state of Israel was founded, many dispensational theologians and authors began to say that this was part of what John predicted that there would be a new temple built in that it would be this modern nation state of Israel that was going to build that new temple. Now, if you read the Bible carefully, this is not a plain reading. They're talking about some passages in the book of Ezekiel, Ezekiel talks about the construction of a new temple, which John the Revelator, does pick up at the end of the book of Revelation. But for John, it's not a new temple that's being built. It's the kingdom of heaven coming down to the kingdom of Earth. It's God coming down to heaven. And so we can't get into all the details. It's simply to say, Where did this idea come from? Well, there are some promises in the Bible that we have to wrestle with where God does seem to say that he has a special love and care for Israel, that he's promised them a land. And there's a dispensational theology that says that what's happening in our contemporary moment, and international politics maps on to what John in the book of Revelation saw and Ezekiel and other prophets saw, and they're seeking to interpret our contemporary moment in light of those prophecies.

Keith Simon  28:02

Right, so up to this point, we've been saying, hey, there's a group of Christians out there. And these are the people that the New York Times article talked about, who say that the Bible gives theological reasons that Christians need to support the modern nation state of Israel. And we've laid this out, you know, they're God's chosen people, God promises to bless those who bless Israel and curse those who curse them. And, you know, God made land promises and all these things to Israel. Now, we're going to turn to a different group of Christians. And to be honest, this is the majority of Christians throughout history and of which Patrick and I are aligned, who would argue something really different. They would argue that the Bible does not give a theological reason to support the modern nation state of Israel. That doesn't mean you can't support Israel for all kinds of reasons. But it just says you can't turn to the Bible and make that case. And so what we want to do now is lay out kind of how they understand the Bible.

Patrick Miller  28:54

So one of the major themes that we saw in the New York Times article from people who held the previous view was that they believe that there is a eternal or unbreakable promise to the Jewish people that started with Abraham, that God would give them this particular strip of land, and so in perpetuity, into eternity, it is technically there's one of the major problems with his view is that it really does not jive well with what God Himself says and does in the Old Testament, when the Israelites are taken out of Egypt, and God brings them to Sinai and he makes his covenant promises with him. He makes it very clear and you can go read the long passage, keep won't let me read long Bible passages on this, you can go read a very long passage, Exodus 23, where it is very clear that they're both taking of the land and they're keeping of the land is conditional, and it's conditioned upon their worship of Yahweh and their obedience to His laws. This same theme is developed writ large at the end of the book of Deuteronomy, where God makes it crystal clear. If you don't obey me if you don't worship Me, you will be literally expelled, vomited out of the land and sent into exile. And if you know the biblical story, what happens well The people of Israel begin to worship other gods, they begin to break God's covenant laws, they take advantage of those who are poor and needy. And after hundreds of years of this, God finally did what he promised he would do, which was exile them from the land and expel them from the land. And so that shows you right there that God's promises of the land are conditioned upon obedience. Now, I'm going to circle back to this theme of the land later, because I know what someone will say is, but then we have Ezekiel and Jeremiah and others talking about a return to the land when Israel will take the land back. The problem is what the New Testament does with those prophecies. But before I explain what that is, we need to move into a slightly different subject, which has to do with Abraham's descendants. So Keith,

Keith Simon  30:41

right, we read the promises in Genesis 12, that God made a covenant with Abraham and his descendants. The question is, who are Abraham's descendants. And one way of thinking about it is his descendants were biological, physical descendants. But that's not how the New Testament interprets,

Patrick Miller  30:59

let's just pass it's not actually had the Old Testament deals with it, because Abraham has children that are not included in the promise. And you know who else has children that aren't included in the promise, Isaac,

Keith Simon  31:07

so Abraham has Isaac and Ishmael they're both his physical descendants. But the promise only goes through Isaac, Isaac has Jacob and Esau. They're both his physical descendants, but the promise only passes through Jacob. And you see that play out, like Patrick says throughout the Old Testament, and then you get to the New Testament. Before

Patrick Miller  31:24

we get to New Testament, we also see shocking moments where the promise is applied to non Israelites. So when Israel is sent out of Egypt, it says that they go out as a mixed multitude. There are Egyptians in their mitts for whom the covenant promises are very real. When they take the land, there's characters like Rahab, who enter into the covenant promise, even though she's a Canaanite, and we can go throughout history, Ruth, a descendant of Jesus Rahab, was as well, she was a Moabite, someone who should not have been able to explicitly not have been able to enjoy the covenant promises of God, and yet God brings her in. And so we see both sides that ethnic descendants does not equal, I received the covenant promises, nor does it mean I am excluded from the covenant promises.

Keith Simon  32:02

And that also sets up what we read in Galatians three and Romans four where we're told that we are children of Abraham by faith. So the ultimate vision of the promise that God made with Abraham was not to his physical descendants, but those who put their faith in God and His promises. And if you go to the modern nation state of Israel, what you don't have are people who are Christians, it's not a Christian state, if anything, it's a secular state, some people can make an argument that it's a Jewish state, but it's mainly Jewish by ethnicity, not Jewish by faith. And if the Old Testament pointed toward the coming of the Messiah, so if you were going to try to make the case that the nation state of Israel formed in 1948, was the reconstituting of the land around what God had promised back to Abraham, you would have to make the case that it is faithful to the covenant God made with Abraham. And I don't think there's any possible way you can make that case they don't believe in Jesus, Israel is a very secular state, if you look at synagogue attendance, it is very low. And so I think it is nothing more and nothing worse than another secular state, like the United States, or Ukraine, or Kenya, or any other state in the world. Now,

Patrick Miller  33:18

let me add a layer of nuance. And there's going to be disagreement, even in people in our camp on this. In Romans nine Paul talks about how the Gentiles had been grafted into the tree of Israel. They're not natural branches. They're wild branches, but they've been grafted into the cultivated branch of Israel. And Paul says that to do this, God had to lop off other branches. In other words, there were going to be Jews who did not worship Jesus as their Messiah. Interestingly, Paul says that God did this in part to make Jewish people jealous, so that he might bring them in. And so I think while we're saying this, we can also affirm that there is some sort of special love and care for Jewish people that God has and that God wants to bring Jewish people into His kingdom, as he does, by the way, wants to bring Gentiles into His kingdom.

Keith Simon  34:01

I want to bounce back to those land promises. Because I think someone can say, Well, God made this promise. And yes, they were conditional, but God reached back to the land eventually. But the New Testament interprets those promises as being not for the land in the Middle East, but for the whole world. Here's Romans 413. It was not through the law that Abraham and his offspring received the promise that he would be heir of the world, but through righteousness that comes by faith, how would you catch it? So the land was a pointing to the whole world that those who put their faith in Jesus would one day inherit? And that of course, is referring to the new heaven and new earth that's been transformed by God at His return?

Patrick Miller  34:41

Yeah, and there's some fantastic work on this. Greg Beal is probably the best scholar on this. But these promises are latent in the Old Testament. If you go back to Psalm 72, it describes a king over Israel. He's the idealized king. He's bringing justice and peace and shalom. And the vision is that his kingdom will spread from sea to shining sea That wasn't for America originally that was for this king. Not just that when you look at the book of Isaiah, there's this vision of the Gentiles coming in to the land of Israel to learn the ways of God and to bring him their treasures. There's this sense in which in the Old Testament, there's an expectation that one day God's kingdom and God's rule is going to expand to include all people. Now in the Old Testament, that was what you might call a centra fugal mission. In other words, the goal was for all the Gentiles to come to Israel and be converted. But then when we get to the New Testament, Jesus flips that on its head, and he makes it a centripetal mission. In other words, he doesn't say, hey, come to Israel and meet me, what does he do? He sends people out into the world to go and spread the good news of his kingdom. And in Matthew 28, in a very famous passage where Jesus says, Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, he is riffing on the promise to Abraham. Abraham was the one through whom blessing was supposed to spread throughout the whole world so that God's kingdom could spread throughout the whole world. And Jesus says, you might disciples, you go make followers of all the nations so that my special blessing can bless all people. Now, what's key here is that we're a nation, that's actually ethnicities. And so Jesus is not saying we're gonna go, bless individual nation states, he's saying, we're going to bless the world by converting people of every nation so that they can bring my love and shalom wherever they live in the world. So that one day when I return, and my kingdom comes on Earth, as in Heaven, all of the world will be covered with the glory of the knowledge of God. That's the New Testament vision is the whole world being encompassed by God's love.

Keith Simon  36:29

Like he worked with that private school Patrick moment. They're the centrifugal and centripetal. I thought you meant like Centipede, I don't know. So like the video game, but I want to keep building on what you're saying. And let's put it a little bit in perspective. We're saying the promises that God made to Abraham and to the ancient state of Israel have been fulfilled now in the church, and the land promises have been transformed into taking possession of the whole world through faith in Jesus. So it can't get more clear than Galatians 616, in which Paul calls the church, the Israel of God, the Israel of God, what is the Israel of God? Well, the church made up of people of Jew and Gentile people from every tribe, tongue and nation who put their faith in Jesus. And

Patrick Miller  37:18

this is one area that I think we have to say, if you grew up in a dispensational background has been gotten totally wrong, because in dispensational theology, what they will say is that God has one special promise covenant promise for the church. And he's got a different set of covenant promises for Israel. And to make the case they go into the book of Revelation, where there's lots of numbers, and there's 12 tribes, and 144,000 people, and they start trying to parse all these things apart, and they're missing John's point. John is talking about the church by comparing them to Israel, Donna's talking about the church by calling them the true Israel of God, the vision and revelation, that vision for Paul is not that there's two separate Israel's there has always only been one Israel, and it's the Israel that is created by faith in Jesus Christ.

Keith Simon  37:58

Now, if you're confused about this, so where are the disciples? Yes, because after Jesus's resurrection, there, they still don't quite have it figured out. And so they say this to them in Acts, one, six, the disciples go, Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel? I mean, you hear the questions like all the promises that you've made are you got to give this all back to Israel now, the land and the blessing and all that and listen to what Jesus says to them. It is not for you to know the time or dates the Father is set by his own authority, but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the ends of the earth. So just like Patrick said, that the Great Commission, Jesus sent out the disciples to bless all the nations all the ethnicities of the world, that his same response when the disciples say, Hey, are you going to restore the kingdom of Israel now? And he goes, No, you knuckleheads, you still don't have it figured out? No, you're going to be my witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the ends of the earth, because my promises were always for the whole world for all who put their faith in Jesus.

Patrick Miller  39:04

All right, you can almost say it in exactly the opposite way. You guys are knuckleheads. And yes, God's going to restore the kingdom of Israel. But you know how he's going to do it. By you guys, being my witnesses by you guys going out into the world as the church establishing churches throughout the world that embody his love, justice, and mercy. That is the fulfillment of the promises to Abraham to bless the nations who have many children and descendants now of every nation, every tribe and tongue and of the land promises because the church is spreading throughout the world, you see the fulfillment of every promise in the church. And that's the real risk here, when we start making the modern nation state of Israel into a kind of pseudo church. That's not how the New Testament deals with God's promises to Israel, we are actually working almost entirely against what the New Testament has to say. Because by the way, in the early churches was one of the major conflicts you had people of ethnic Jewish descent who thought that their ethnicity was the thing that made them right with God that made them bearers of God's covenant promise and Paul to come along and say It's wonderful and beautiful that you are Jewish. But that's not how the covenant works. The Covenant works by faith through grace, oh,

Keith Simon  40:06

we've got to kind of somehow try to land this plane. Here's one more thing that helped shape my thinking about all this. And let me just say that when I became a Christian at 19, I got involved in a Bible Church, that type kind of dispensational theology. And I have a lot of respect for those people, they have invested in me, they love Jesus, they studied their Bible, they cared about missions, they're great Christians, probably will be closer to Jesus when we get to heaven than me, right. So this isn't a personal thing. This is just trying to figure out what the Bible teaches so that we can be wise and be men and women who know the Scriptures. Also, because I grew up in that part of the Christian community. It took a while for me through study and reading and prayer, to kind of change my position on all of this. But one of the things that did that is how First Peter interprets what happened at Mount Sinai. So at Mount Sinai all the way back in Exodus guide says to the ancient Israelites, you are some Egyptians, you are a holy nation, right? You are My priests. And then Peter takes that in first Peter to I think, and he applies that to the church. He says, You are my royal priesthood. You are the holy nation, who is the holy nation? Well, not a nation state. Again, it's the people of God, who love and trust in Jesus.

Patrick Miller  41:29

Okay, so by way of landing the plane, remember where we started? We aren't trying to answer the political question. We're trying to answer a theological question. Does the Bible give us a theological reason to support the nation state of Israel? And

Keith Simon  41:41

the reason we're doing that is because the New York Times is writing about it? Right. So this is interesting inner squad squabble among Christians. Yeah, this is something that is affecting foreign policy. It's something that everybody's talking about if it's on the front page of the times. Yeah. And

Patrick Miller  41:55

I hope you've heard our case to say, No, we don't have a theological reason to support the nation state of Israel, which means that when we get into the particular situation that we're facing right now, we have to think about it in similar ways to how we had to think about Ukraine and Russia or other wars that have happened throughout history. And thankfully, I've actually been really encouraged because we've seen a lot of Christians trying to do exactly that. Oh,

Keith Simon  42:16

can I just real quickly, there are Palestinian Christians who are part of Israel. Yes. Right. I mean, it might sound really crazy to you to say there are Palestinian believers who are part of Israel, because they're not part of the nation state of Israel. You know, they may or may not live there. But they're part of God's Israel, because they're part of the church. They're part of the holy nation, that priesthood of all believers. Yeah.

Patrick Miller  42:36

When I visited Israel, I got to meet some wonderful Israeli Christians, I got to meet some wonderful Palestinian Christians. And that was a eye opening experience. For me just a reminder that the holy nation of Israel is spread throughout the world. It is not congruent with a single ethnicity, we are everywhere. But back to what I was saying just a moment ago, we do need to address what's happening in the Israeli Palestinian conflict. What happened when Hamas committed this horrible, atrocious, awful attack against innocents? We're going to have to think about this the way we would think about any international war. And I've been encouraged because we've actually begun to see Christians do exactly that. One example. And by the way, this is not keep an eye saying this is what we believe. In fact, it's going to talk about just war theory. And if you know anything about me, I'm actually not a fan of just war theory. So you know,

Keith Simon  43:22

you love to ask questions about what he would do in this situation. So so glad I have intentionally left all that off the table. I know now that he brought it up, I'm just gonna have to say it's hard to hold just war theory on October 7, but go for it. I

Patrick Miller  43:38

think he meant to say it's hard not to hold just for theory on October. So maybe, anyways, the SPC, the Southern Baptist Convention, their Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, the erlc released a statement calling American lawmakers to support Israel and deal severely with terrorism everywhere in the world that didn't make the theological case by going to dispensationalism, or some of those promises that we've discussed. They made the case using just war theory, which goes all the way back to the time of Augustine. And it's a way of saying, when theologically Am I able to go to war with a another nation. It argues that Romans 13 gives the government the right to take the sword in defense of their people, while also emphasizing that all Palestinians and Jewish people are made in God's image and that they're praying for Palestinian and Jewish believers just like Keith and I said a moment ago. And it's actually interesting to see the people who sign this because it's a pretty diverse bunch people who maybe don't always get along. You've got everyone from Russell Moore to Al Mohler, who sometimes don't seem to get along that well. They used to or they used to, you had the president, the SPC Barber, Dan darling, who was quoted in that article a moment ago, is that part of this JD Greer Hunter Baker? I mean, we just get Tony Evans, Ray ortlund. Lots of people have signed this letter, and I think it tells you something about where the SPC is at theologically, which is they're not as dispensational as they used to be. They're thinking about this slightly differently. And again, our point is not to say that what they wrote is something that we agree with. Our point is simple. way to say that's a better way of handling this not making it into a theological debate, but dealing with this as a international political situation.

Keith Simon  45:07

So where does all this leave us? Well, Patrick, and I said earlier, that we don't think there's any context that justifies the evil atrocities that took place on October 7, we need to be able to say that full stop. We also believe that this conflict between Jews and Palestinians between Israel and Hamas, it's incredibly complex, and it has a sordid history. And there has been right and wrong done on both sides. And we're not experts in that we encourage you to read widely, and find out about that history from other people who know more than us. But our big point here today is say that there is not a theological reason that requires all Christians to support the modern nation state of Israel. And that means that there will be Christians who have a wide variety of political views on this wide varieties of views about what they believe the relationship between Israel, the modern nation state and the Palestinians and the other Arab countries should be and it's okay for Christians to have different views on that. You can have political views, you can say, hey, Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East. Or you can say that we don't think in 1948, Israel should have been made a nation state there by the UN, because it displaced a lot of Palestinians, you can make whatever argument you want. What you cannot do is go to the Bible and say this biblical argument means that all Christians must support the modern nation state of Israel. Bring your biblical ethics to this conversation, bring your other things that, you know, realize there's a lot you probably don't know, and make room for other Christians who disagree with you. And

Patrick Miller  46:45

I think it's a great final point, I suspect that this issue will in some churches cause a lot of division. And some families cause a lot of division. And I hope what we can remember is that the church is God's Israel does quote, Paul. And this is not something that we should be dividing ourselves over. We know that this episode might end up offending or bothering people. Or you might think that you know what we believe about this or that issue. But we haven't made any statements along those lines. What do you think we've tried to say is that there are two separate issues here. We have a theology of Israel, and we have our Political Theology, how we engage with international wars in this particular instance, we need to think about this politically. And I hope that helps you going forward as you can gauge with people in this dialogue, because it is inevitably as a New York Times shown happening all over keep I know, we don't usually end these episodes by praying, you know, we end a lot of our interviews that way. But would you just lead us in prayer for the nation state of Israel, for Palestinians for what's happening overseas?

Keith Simon  47:42

Yeah, Patrick, I'd love to do that. I think you're right after talking about this, we should definitely pray about it. Father, we all come to you with heavy hearts. There is so much injustice, so much pain, so much death, so many children, so many vulnerable people who are hurting right now. And it just seems like this violence continues. And so we cry out to you, with all the people who call on you as Lord. And we pray that you would bring justice, that you would expose lies, that you would protect vulnerable people. We pray and ask that you would come again soon and establish your kingdom of justice, righteousness, love and peace on this earth. Father, we lament all the deaths. We lament all the people who have suffered from both sides of this conflict. We pray for your hand of protection, your hand of blessing to be upon them. Please protect the hostages, Father, please protect the vulnerable. They are close to your heart. It's in Jesus name we pray, Amen.

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