This week President Trump officially declared that Jerusalem was the true capital of Israel, indicating that, among other things, the American embassy in Israel would be moved there from Tel Aviv, though no timetable has been set. Of course, that move has pleased pro-Israel Christian dispensationalists, who for decades have argued passionately for that recognition as a fulfillment of prophecy.
And I’m not convinced that it’s biblically correct.
The thinking is, among other things, that a return of the Jewish people to that part of Palestine would result in the long-prophesied bodily return of Jesus Christ. But I see several flaws in that thinking.
Let’s remember that God promised Israel could remain in the Promised Land so long as it continued to worship Him “in spirit and in truth.” Indeed, part of its founding was that, according to Genesis 18:18-19, “Abraham will surely become a great and powerful nation, and all nations on earth will be blessed through him. For I have chosen him, so that he will direct his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing what is right and just, so that the Lord will bring about for Abraham what he has promised him.” Read that again — “all nations on earth will be blessed through him.” And that promise would be based on the obedience of his descendants.
But even a cursory look at the Old Testament, most notably the Prophets, would show that ancient Israel didn’t follow through and God as a result sent the nation into captivity a number of times. Indeed, by the time Jesus arrived on the scene only two of the landowning tribes, Judah and Benjamin, were still left.
And even here, God never demanded ethnic purity. One often-overlooked reason Jesus overturned the tables of the merchants in the temple was because they were set up in the Court of the Gentiles, the idea of which violated Isaiah 56:7, which He quoted: “My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations.” (That’s likely why He added, “But you have made it a den of robbers.”)
In the days of the early church, of course, it took some prodding for the Jewish members to accept Gentiles; refer to Peter’s vision of the unclean foods. And even Jesus disciples didn’t get it, asking Him in Acts 1:6, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” He responded, in effect, “None of your business.”
I do understand that some Orthodox Jews regard the modern state of Israel as illegitimate because they believe that its establishment won’t occur until the Messiah comes.
But let’s remember one thing about “prophecy”: It’s about declaring the intent of God, not necessarily predicting future events; indeed, the prophetic books, including Revelation, have always been more “Get it right!” than “Here’s what the future holds.” That’s why I’m suspicious of any attempt to say “This-and-this must happen for Jesus to return” — doing so misses the big picture.