Thursday, June 3, 2010


My article from today's Algona Upper Des Moines about Israel:

Q:  How do the physical locations of Israel/Jerusalem and the physical descendants of the Israelites figure into God's will as expressed in prophecy?  How does this compare to the position of the New Testament regarding the earthly nation of Israel?

When reading any portion of the Bible, there are some important principles to keep in mind.  First, when we encounter a section of scripture that seems unclear or confusing, we first look to the very clear statements found elsewhere in scripture regarding the topic, and let them inform our understanding of the less clear sections.  Secondly, the entire Bible is ultimately about Jesus and everything contained in it points to Him.  A correct understanding of the Bible always centers on Jesus, and any interpretation that does not center on Jesus is defective.

In Old Testament times, there was a physically identifiable area of land, named Israel, which God promised would be the homeland of the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  The nation of people descended from these men was also named Israel.  

By the end of the Old Testament, we find that Israel, as an independent nation, no longer existed, that both its northern and southern kingdoms had been conquered by outside forces, and that many of their people exiled throughout the Middle-east. 

Based on the promises made to Eve and Abraham in the book of Genesis, we know that God's intention was that Israel would give birth to a certain man who would save the people of all nations from God's wrath.  This descendant was Jesus, and all promises of the Old Testament are fulfilled in Him.  

Jesus predicted in the Gospels that Jerusalem as it existed would be destroyed, which took place in A.D. 70.  Then, after an unspecified period of time, He would return again to judge the living and the dead—an event which we are still awaiting.  Today, we live in the time between these events.  When Jesus does return, the Bible says that He will raise all the dead and give eternal life to all who have trusted in Him, making a new creation in which they will live.

Jerusalem existed to be the place where the worship of the One True God took place by way of sacrifice.  This sacrifice was not merely the sacrifices of the temple, but more importantly, the sacrifice to end all sacrifice--that of Jesus' crucifixion.  The New Jerusalem, foretold in Revelation 21, will likewise be the place where God is worshipped, but this time apart from sacrifice, because Jesus has already been offered as the final and all-sufficient sacrifice.  There is also no temple there due to the direct and unveiled presence of God in that place which makes it unnecessary.

Biblically, Israel and Jerusalem are much broader concepts than mere physical locations.  Israel, although it had a definable ethnic identity and national borders for a time, was only an initial expression of a much broader reality--the people of God through Christ Jesus, regardless of time or place.  Likewise, Jerusalem, although it had, and still has, a specific geographic identity, is merely a shadow of a greater reality—the gathering of God's people to worship Him, both at the temple in the ancient past and around the throne of the Lamb in eternity, and even today as men and women gather to hear God's Word and receive Him through the Sacraments.  With Jesus at the center, Israel and the Church, Jerusalem and New Jerusalem, are not contradictions, but the worship of the same Jesus from opposite sides of the cross.

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