Recently, I heard a terrific Bible teacher give a great message asking, Is there a future for Israel? By Israel, he meant the Jewish people at large, not exclusively the Jewish nation state in the Middle East. His answer was a ringing affirmation of God’s plan for the Jewish people in the future. But, it got me thinking, Is there a present for Israel?
Many excellent Bible teachers teach a glorious future for the Jewish people but ignore, or even deny, any significance for Israel today. My friend, renowned messianic Jewish Bible teacher Stuart Dauermann has called this Athe flaw of the excluded present.@ He describes those who hold this view as recognizing Athe glories of the Jewish past (the Bible),@ and affirming a Aglorious Jewish future (the Millennium),@ but negating any significance to the Jewish present. Thus, according to Dauermann, too often they teach that Athe biblical Jewish past is rosy, the Jewish future is radiant; but the Jewish present is wretched.@
To understand God’s present dealings with Israel we need to start with the Abrahamic covenant, found in Genesis 12, 15, 17 and 22. It is an unconditional and eternal covenant. Abraham didn’t need to do anything to receive or maintain this covenant. When God reaffirmed His promise with Abraham, He solemnized His divine oath with the offering of sacrifices (Gen. 15:8–17) that the Lord alone passed through. This demonstrated that God was solely responsible for His covenant—it didn’t depend on Abraham or his descendants but on God alone. In light of the unconditional nature of the Abrahamic covenant, here are several truths about the God’s dealing with the Jewish people today.
First, God has retained Israel as His chosen people. God’s choice of Israel isn’t only an Old Testament concept; the New Testament agrees with it as well. Paul wrote that despite Israel’s disbelief in Jesus, “God has not rejected His people whom he foreknew” (Rom. 11:2). Moreover, although most Jewish people have rejected the good news of Jesus, the people of Israel remain God’s beloved chosen people “on account of the fathers” (Rom 11:28)—a clear reference to the Abrahamic covenant. Paul categorically states that God’s gifts and call to Israel are irrevocable (Rom 11:29).
Remaining God’s chosen people doesn’t mean that Jewish people have forgiveness and a personal relationship with God apart from faith in their Messiah Jesus. Jewish people, as all people, must trust in Jesus. Regardless, the Lord’s words in Deuteronomy 14:2 remain true as ever: “Out of all the peoples on the face of the earth, the Lord has chosen you to be his treasured possession.” God did this not because of any merit found in the Jewish people. God told Israel that He chose them “because the Lord loved you and kept the oath he swore to your forefathers” (7:8). Since God is faithful to His promises and loyal in His love, the Jewish people are still the chosen people.
Second, God is presently saving a remnant of Israel. Paul asserted, in Romans 11:1–5, that God didn’t reject the Jewish people, and as proof he offered the doctrine of the remnant. His point was that God has always worked through a faithful remnant both during the Old Testament and the present age. Even though the vast majority of the Jewish people have rejected Jesus as the Messiah, God in His faithfulness has preserved a remnant within Israel, chosen by grace, who would believe. So Paul wrote, “So too, at the present time there is a remnant chosen by grace” (verse 5).
Throughout the entire church age there has always been a remnant of Jewish people who have sincerely believed in Jesus as their Messiah and Lord. Since 1967, a significant number of Jewish people have come to believe in Jesus and still maintain their unique role as the Jewish remnant. There are approximately 250,000 messianic Jews worldwide participating in hundreds of messianic congregations and in many evangelical churches. This movement is especially evident in North America, Europe, South America, the former Soviet Union, and Israel.
Third, God is active today preserving and protecting the Jewish people. Through the prophet Jeremiah, the Lord assures that it will be impossible ever to destroy the Jewish people. In fact, in order to put an end to the Jewish people, it would be necessary to stop the sun, moon, and stars from shining and also to measure all the heavens and the foundations of the earth. God declares that only if these impossible acts could be accomplished will “the descendants of Israel . . . cease to be a nation before me” or “will I reject all the descendants of Israel” (Jer. 31:35–37). Plainly, the Lord will preserve His people. That’s why the prophet Zechariah says of the people of Israel that whoever touches them “touches the apple of [God’s] eye” (Zech. 2:8).
Throughout history there have been those who have sought Israel’s destruction but they have never succeeded. In 1981, I attended the World Gathering of Holocaust Survivors in Jerusalem, as a second generation participant. There I heard Menachem Begin, the late prime minister of Israel, declare before those Holocaust survivors and their children that Hitler’s attempt to annihilate the Jewish people ought not to cause them to doubt God’s existence but rather to believe in Him. Begin said that apart from God’s providential intervention, there was no way Hitler could have failed. The prime minister recognized that God was true to His promise to preserve and ultimately to protect His chosen people.
The preservation of the Jewish people, despite a history of hatred and persecution, has led historian Paul Johnson to call the Jews “the most tenacious people in history.” It’s far better to say that the Jewish people are protected by the tenacious God of history, who is faithful to His promises and relentless in preserving His people. For this reason, no weapon formed against Israel will ever prosper (Isa. 54:17).
Fourth, God is restoring the Jewish people to the land of Israel. Since their exile around the world nearly two millennia ago, Jewish people have daily prayed that they would be restored to the land of Israel. The Hebrew prophets foretold a day when God would draw His people back to their promised land. Most significant is the prophecy of the Dry Bones in Ezekiel 37. The text tells us the dry bones represent the house of Israel (37:11). God says their restoration to life represents His regathering of the Jewish people to their promised land at the end of days (37:12). The resurrection of the dry bones in stages seems to indicate that God would bring the Jewish people back in stages, just as happened in the various immigration waves to the modern state of Israel. Also, since blowing of the breath of life is the last stage of the process, it indicates that the Jewish people would be restored to their land before their regeneration by faith in Jesus. Throughout church history, Christians for the most part could not conceive of a literal fulfillment of this prophecy, so they interpreted it figuratively. But we are living in an age when we are seeing its literal fulfillment before our very eyes.
Does God have a glorious future for Israel? Absolutely! But He also has a significant present for Jewish people. Since that’s true, we followers of Jesus must recognize that and commit to being part of it by praying for the peace of Jerusalem, presenting the good news to our Jewish friends, and standing against anti-Semitism. If we do these things, we’ll be part of God’s glorious plan for Israel in the present.