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What Does the Bible Really Say About the Land? – Part Two

written by Asher Intrater
March 02, 2006

We, the Jewish people, have never dealt fully with the reasons for our 2000 year exile. Often we attribute it all to anti-Semitism. Well, that is partly true; and God will punish the Gentile nations for their anti-Semitism and persecution of the Jewish people.

Zechariah 1:14-15: I am zealous for Jerusalem and for Zion with great zeal. I am exceedingly angry with the nations at ease; for I was a little angry, and they helped – but with evil intent.

According to this verse, God is more angry with the nations over their persecution of the Jews than He is over the reasons for the exile (the Babylonian Exile, at least). He is more zealous to restore Zion, than He was to punish her. However, anti-Semitism is not the only reason for the exile. If you are a Gentile and are reading this, it is the primary reason from your side of the sin. However if you are a Jew, like me, then the primary reason for us is our own sin. Exile in scripture is always a punishment for sin.

When we deal with the root cause of the exile (our pride, unbelief, stubbornness, religiosity and, rejection of the Messiah), then we will be able to arrive at the full restoration from that exile. Then the kingdom will be restored to Israel; there will be peace on earth and even resurrection from the dead (Romans 11:15).

It is God’s will to proceed as much as possible in all aspects of kingdom restoration (both spiritually and materially). “He may send Messiah Yeshua, who was preached to you before, whom heaven must receive until the times of restoration of all things, which God has spoken by the mouth of all His holy prophets since the world began” – Acts 3:20-21. This restoration of the kingdom is a key prophetic message of the end times by this Elijah generation. This restoration of all things takes place before and leading up to the Second Coming. “Indeed, Elijah is coming first and will restore all things” – Matthew 17:12. Which all things? – those things prophesied by the prophets of Israel.

This includes the land of Israel. It is God’s will for as much as possible to be restored before Yeshua returns, even though we know it will not fully happen until he does return. In the dispensations of God’s plan, we are not in the season of exile now, but in the time of restoration. (Scripturally, we are in a season more like Nehemiah’s than Jeremiah’s.) Ultimately all the national aspirations of the people of Israel will be fulfilled through Yeshua, their Messianic King.

Secular and Religious Errors
I am struck by the resistance that comes to God’s plans both from secular humanism and from religious zealotry. Yeshua said to be wary of the leaven of both the Herodians AND the Pharisees – Mark 8:15. Because of the New Testament rebukes of Herod for sexual sins and complicity with the Romans, I see a spiritual meaning of the leaven of Herod with modern liberal secular humanism. Likewise, because of the rebuke of the Pharisees for religiosity and hypocrisy, I see a spiritual meaning of the leaven of the Pharisees with religious coercion and zealotry in our day as well.

Note: Of course, when dealing with such sensitive and complex issues as Jewish history or the Holocaust, any sweeping conclusions are by necessity grotesque oversimplifications. Yet with fear of the Lord and recognizing the inherent impossibility of proving such statements, I would still like to state some observations and perceptions.

The Zionist movement started more than fifty years before the Holocaust. I believe this was a prophetic call from God for the Jewish people to leave Europe and go either to America or Israel. Zionist Jews came from both secular and religious world views. The secular Zionists saw the need for a Jewish state along with the need for national liberation for every ethnic group. They were mostly socialists. There were many pro-Zionist Orthodox Jews in the BILU, Mizrachi, Kook, Poalei Zion movements, etc., who took their inspiration from classic religious writings.

However, there was a tendency in secular Western Europe, because of comfort and complacency, to stay where they were and ignore the warnings of a coming Holocaust. In Eastern Europe (where most of my family came from), the people were more religious. The tendency of the Haredi religious Jews was to reject the Zionist message because it did not fit their traditional view of the Messiah. As heartbreaking as it is, millions of Jews, influenced either by false humanism or religiosity, did remain in Europe and were slaughtered by the Nazis.

The same pattern took place through the early years of the State of Israel. Many ultra-orthodox religious Jews opposed the State of Israel, claiming that it was not religious enough or that they could not come back until the Messiah came; while humanistic Jews in Western countries tried to ignore or even oppose the struggles of the State of Israel to exist, not wanting to disturb their comfortable lifestyle.

Over the few decades since the recapture of Jerusalem in 1967, a transition took place in the secular and religious viewpoints within Israel. Many of the secular Jews moved to the Left, believing in an illusory peace agreement which would come through land concessions; while many of the religious have tended to move to the Right, entering the ring of politics with there own religious agenda.

In the last few years, another change has taken place. In 1999 Israelis felt that Prime Minister Barak offered enormous concessions to the Palestinians. They were shocked when those offers were refused. They were further shocked in the wake of the failure of those negotiations, that Yassir Arafat declared the opening of the Second Intifada in the fall of 2000. Israelis became disillusioned both on the right wing and on the left wing. They didn’t see a military solution or a diplomatic one. They didn’t see a solution in settling more land in the territories or giving land back for peace.

A new call came from both the right and the left to get away from the Palestinians, to separate from them. This desire for separation led to policies like the security fence and the Gaza disengagement. In 2006, it led to Sharon’s new political party, between the Labor left and the Likud right. I see the initial attraction of the Kadima party as a pragmatism void of idealism. Some may see that as positive, some as negative. My purpose in this article is not to support one or the other.

Biblical Models of Exile and Restoration
The most relevant biblical model in the Tenach (Hebrew Scriptures or Old Testament) for understanding the great exile is the example of the Babylonian exile at the time of Jeremiah. Just as Jeremiah predicted the seventy year exile, so did Yeshua predict the exile that started in 70 AD. While most of Yeshua’s prophecies were moral and spiritual, not predicting the future of political events, He did clearly predict the coming exile and destruction of Jerusalem in His famous “Olivet Discourse” (Matthew 24, Luke 21).

At the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 and 135 AD, there was a strong faction of religious nationalist zealots who fought against the Romans and ultimately caused much more harm and damage. (This is the viewpoint of Josephus, the great Jewish historian, whose writings comprise the primary historical documents available of that period.) Yeshua warned His disciples not to take part in the rebellion against Rome, by saying, “Put your sword in its place, for those who take up the sword will perish by the sword” – Matthew 26:52.

The Romans crucified Yeshua because of their fear that He was leading a Jewish rebellion to overthrow Caesar (John 11:48, 19:12-13). However, His revolution was more spiritual than political. While ultimately demanding the submission of all the governments of this world to His kingly authority, the movement of His followers is not in the first place one of religious nationalism (see John 18:36).

Scriptures strongly affirm military service (Romans 13). God refers to Himself over 200 times as the God of Armies (Of course there is no word in scriptures for “hosts.” The word is Tsevaot, which means simply “armies.”) All our children serve in the Israeli Army (IDF). However, they are aware that God’s spiritual kingdom must take first priority.

As Ezekiel and Jeremiah taught of the exile, Ezra and Nehemiah taught of the return. The books of Ezra and Nehemiah give a biblical model for the restoration of the remnant of Israel. There we see a fledgling community, looking to national restoration. They held the sword in one hand and the trowel in the other (Nehemiah 4:17). They maintained a balance between the political issues and the spiritual ones.

The Messianic Jewish remnant within the nation of Israel is a key part of the spiritual renewal that will ultimately bring about the full restoration of our nation, and even impact the whole world. (If their failure… brought riches for the Gentiles, how much more will their fullness! … what will their restoration be, but life from the dead?” – Romans 11:12, 15). I see a parallel between the modern Messianic movement and the remnant at the time of Ezra and Nehemiah. We are trying to seek that godly balance in dealing with both the spiritual issues and the political ones at the same time.

Pluralism and Zionism
Although the restoration of Israel and the re-gathering of the exiles is a common theme in Jewish religious prayer and in rabbinic writings, the first 100 years of modern Zionism was overwhelmingly secular.

Note: The Sephardic “Shas” revolution of the late 1980’s brought an increased influence of religion into the political sector. Of course long before that, the charismatic Ashkenazi chief Rabbi Avraham Yitzhak Kook (1865-1935) laid the spiritual and theological foundations of combining religious orthodoxy with the political Zionist state, which was unprecedented in his day.

Why was it, in the sovereign hand of God, to empower such secularists as Theodore Herzl and David Ben Gurion, to be the leaders of the modern restoration of Israel? I believe that their view of a modern state with pluralistic values, particularly freedom of religious expression, was an essential factor in God’s timing and decision to start the re-gathering of our people and restoration of our nation.

As we look back 2,000 years ago, there is no escaping the conclusion that there must be some connection between the crucifixion of Yeshua and the start of the great exile in 70 AD. While tens of thousands of religious Jews did accept the message (“myriads” – Acts 21:20), the apostolic community was generally rejected and persecuted by the religious establishment. The rejection of the message of the early Messianic Jews from 33 to 70 AD is parallel to the rejection of the messages of Ezekiel and Jeremiah in the years leading up to 586 BC.

Theodore Herzl was a liberal humanist Jew in Western Europe. He encountered anti-Semitism in Paris in 1894 in the famous case of falsely accused Jewish French army captain, Alfred Dreyfus. His encounter with anti-Semitism caused him to see the need for a Jewish state. His liberal background caused him to envision that state as a modern pluralistic one. His history changing book, The Jewish State (published in German in 1896), described that simple formula: a modern state, both pluralistic and Jewish.

The plurality of religious thought and ideals in the modern Zionist movement reversed the cause (albeit inadvertently) of the rejection and persecution against the early Messianic Jews, and thus reversed the cause of the exile in the first place. This opened the door spiritually to start the process anew for the restoration of the nation of Israel.

It was not necessary for the government leaders to accept the gospel in order for God to start to restore the nation. It is the job of the community of faith to preach the gospel; it is the job of the government to provide a structured and just society that enables the gospel to be shared freely. (Notice the connection between I Timothy 2:2 and 2:4).

Paradise Restored
The original covenant with Abraham concerning the land of Israel was the beginning of God’s plan to restore the Garden of Eden and reverse the exile of Adam. (“And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” – Genesis 12:3). The exile of Adam from Eden is part of the same pattern of exile that includes the Babylonian Exile and the great Jewish Diaspora over the past 2,000 years. Exile symbolizes the separation between God and the entire human race through sin.

The restoration of Israel is symbolic of God’s restoration process in every nation of the world. The deeper issue is not just the Jews resettling the Land of Canaan, but the reconciliation between God and the human race. (The spiritual parallel between the union of the Jewish people with their Land and the cosmic union of God and the human race is also a common theme of rabbinic mystical writings.) Israel’s role in the restoration of the nations is part of their calling as a kingdom of priests.

The reunion of God and Man was not accomplished by Theodore Herzl or David Ben Gurion, nor by Father Abraham or King David. That is the job of the Messiah. At His first coming Yeshua repaired the separation that occurred between God and mankind at the first sin of Adam; at His second coming, He will repair the expulsion from the Garden of Eden caused by that first sin.

When God created the heavens and the earth, He gave earth to mankind (Psalms 115:16). Adam was the proprietor of planet earth. By sin he ruined the rental\ownership contract. Yeshua came in Adam’s place to restore that contract. He came to give us a new covenant, both to restore our relationship with God and to restore human proprietorship over planet earth.

Jeremiah 31:31, 34
Behold the days are coming says the Lord that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah… For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.

This new covenant not only forgives sin, it restores the meaning of the physical creation. Without the new covenant, there would be no legal basis for preserving physical creation. Since the Messiah was to be born of the Jewish people, there would also by necessity be a connection between the preservation of the Jewish people and the physical creation through the new covenant.

No Jewish people, No Messiah. No Messiah, no new covenant. No new covenant, no physical creation. Therefore: No Jewish people, No physical creation.

Jeremiah 31:35, 36
Thus says the Lord, who gives the sun for a light by day, the ordinances of the moon and stars for a light by night, who disturbs the sea, and its waves roar… If those ordinances depart from before Me, then the seed of Israel shall also cease from being a nation before Me forever.

Jeremiah describes two articles of this new covenant:
1. Forgiveness of sins through Messiah,
2. Preservation of physical creation dependent on the existence of the Jews.
(It would be worth reading the whole passage in context, Jeremiah 31:31-37.)

If that were the case, one would think that every Christian would be committed to protecting the Jewish people from extinction, sharing the gospel with them and getting them back to Israel.

If that were the case, one would think that all of the forces of evil would be aimed at exterminating the Jewish people, keeping them away from the gospel, and trying to attack the nation of Israel.

Yeshua and Resettlement
Yeshua restored the ownership contract ruined by Adam. That’s why He had to be born as a son of Adam. In God’s view, as the planet once belonged to Adam, it now belongs to Yeshua. As planet earth once was under the proprietorship of the human race through Adam, now it is under human proprietorship through Yeshua. No Yeshua, No Earth.

God also made a covenant with Abraham for the ownership of the land of Israel. That’s why Yeshua had to be born of a son of Abraham, as a native-born Israeli (Sabra). The very purpose for the existence of the State of Israel is connected to Yeshua. No Yeshua, no Israel.

According to the scriptures, the Messiah lives inside His disciples through the Holy Spirit. When the religious establishment of the first century excommunicated the Messianic Jews, they in essence exiled Yeshua from the Land of Israel. When Yeshua was “exiled,” the owner was exiled. Thus in fact we excommunicated ourselves from our own land. (Luke 13:34-35; Luke 19:41-44; Matthew 23:37-39).

Thank God the opposite is also true. If Messianic Jews return to the Land of Israel, then the Spirit of Yeshua returns to the Land. If Yeshua comes back in, then all the Jewish people can be let back in. It is like three concentric circles. The inner one is Yeshua. The second circle is the Messianic Jews. The third circle is the rest of the nation. To put it another way: the first circle is the Messiah; the second is the Messianic Remnant; the third is the Nation of Israel.

This could sound megalomaniac, as if everything was dependent on us Messianic Jews. But that’s not the point. Nothing depends on us. Everything, including the occupation and ownership of Israel, is dependent on Yeshua the Messiah. He is the deciding factor.

Isaiah 65:8-9
As the new wine is found in the cluster, and one says, ‘Do not destroy it, for a blessing is in it,’ so will I do for My servants’ sake, that I may not destroy them all. I will bring forth descendants from Jacob, and from Judah an heir of My mountains; My elect shall inherit it, and My servants shall dwell there.

As long as that new spiritual wine is in the cluster, we Messianic Jews are preserved and the rest of our people as well.

To say that the settlement and conquest of the Land of Israel is dependent on the Messiah is not that far-fetched from an ultra-Orthodox Jewish point of view. That is the reason that some of the Haredi even oppose the State of Israel today, since it was not brought about by the Messiah. While I think their view is incorrect, it shares with our view of the Bible that the existence of the State of Israel is integrally connected with the Messiah.

In fact, conscious or unconscious forms of “messianism” underlie many different streams of thought within Israeli politics today. Even Shimon Peres’ “New Middle East” vision is hoping for the “wolf and the lamb to dwell together” (Isaiah 11:6), although that utopian peace is seen in a secular humanistic or even socialist manner. The political agendas of Shas, Habad and Mafdal all have a “messianic” element in their world view. In other words, the connection between the Messiah and the Land of Israel permeates all Zionist ideology, including ours. The difference between us is who the Messiah is.

In a more perverted view, one could even say that Hamas and Islamic Jihad see the settlement and conquest of Israel in a “messianic” way. However, their divine messenger is Muhammad. The Islamic claims to the Holy Land are ultimately a rejection of the authority of Yeshua as the Messianic King.

As long as Messianic Jews have a right to live in the land of Israel, I do not believe that any weapon on heaven or earth could uproot the nation from its land. There is no scriptural backing for a third exile by divine decree. In fact, when all the nations of the world do unite to try to destroy Israel (Zechariah 14), God will move decisively to destroy them. (While there are judicial rulings against Messianic Jews immigrating to Israel and persecution against us by the ultra-Orthodox, the majority of Messianic Jews do manage to stay and live here.)

Note: The only three places where the Israel government agreed to pull back from the settlements (Gaza, isolated northern Samaria settlements, and part of the Hebron neighborhood) were areas mostly controlled by religious communities that were not tolerant of Messianic Jews. For the major settlements in the “disputed” areas where Messianics do live in significant numbers (like Maaleh Adumim and Ariel), the Israeli government has resisted all worldwide pressure to withdraw.

There was dispute among the Messianic Jews here in the Land as to whether the disengagement was right or wrong. Some felt, myself included (along with the majority of the Israeli public), that the disengagement from Gaza and from a few more isolated settlements in northern Samaria was necessary for strategic reasons. However, as we look to the future, I believe there will be a unified stance against withdrawals from any major settlements, like Maaleh Adumim or Ariel.

The Land and Armageddon
God made another covenant, this time with David; which granted him governing authority over Israel and the whole world (II Samuel 7:13-14; Psalm 89:3-23). That’s why Yeshua had to be born in Bethlehem as the son of David. No David, No Yeshua. No Yeshua, no world kingdom. When government leaders in Israel begin to believe in Yeshua, then the Messianic kingdom on earth is close at hand (Matthew 23:39, Revelation 11:15, Daniel 7:18).

At that point Yeshua will be ready to return to Jerusalem. (The son of David will act on His covenant with the house of David to rule upon the throne of David.) As that happens, there will be no choice for the forces of evil other than to launch a full-scale, all-out attack on Israel. That’s what causes the battle of Armageddon. (The Biblical prophecies of that battle seem to be describing nuclear weapons.) Yeshua will be compelled to return, as the commander in chief of the armies of the God of Israel, in order to defend the nation. At the same time that the armies of the world attack Jerusalem (Zechariah 14:2ff), Yeshua returns leading the armies of heaven (Revelation 19:11ff).

Sometime before that apocalyptic battle, there will be a successful period of peace and prosperity in the Middle East. During that peace, Israel will begin to disarm. (This peaceful period and its disarmament are repeated in the end-times prophecy in Ezekiel 38:11 and in Jeremiah 49:31). The prosperity is cause for envy among the nations. Envy is the motive. The disarmament provides the opportunity.

The battle of Armageddon will be precipitated by the ongoing argument over the Land. Throughout history, the efforts to attack the Jewish people and block the restoration of the land have been cause for God’s anger. At Armageddon He brings judgment against those who have rebelled against His authority in the Messiah (Psalm 2:2) and have disputed His ownership of the Land. (“I will gather all nations… and I will enter into judgment with them on account of My people, My heritage Israel, whom they have scattered among the nations; they have also divided up My land.” – Joel 3:2).

May God give us all grace to understand and to share His word correctly in these end times.

Asher serves as president of Tikkun Global family of ministries and congregations, dedicated to the dual restoration of Israel and the Church. He is founder of the Revive Israel five-fold ministry team, and oversees both Ahavat Yeshua and Tiferet Yeshua congregations in Israel.

He and his wife Betty share a passion for personal prayer and devotion, local evangelism and discipleship in Hebrew, and unity of the Body of believers worldwide.

Asher was raised in a conservative Jewish home and holds degrees from Harvard University, Baltimore Hebrew College and Messiah Biblical Institute. He has authored numerous books, tracts and articles.

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