A Biblical View of the Embassy Move to Jerusalem

As I scanned my Facebook feed this morning, I noticed a barrage of posts hailing Donald Trump’s decision to move the US embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. They weren’t hailing it for political reasons, but Biblical ones. The Jews, they argue, are God’s chosen people and God has earthly promises for them alone as a separate plan of redemption from His plan for Christians. This move of the US embassy, for them, marks a step closer to the fulfillment of those promises and Christ’s return.

Moving the embassy may or may not be a great political move. I’m not qualified to speak into that. But I would like to press on Christians supporting this move purely from a redemptive-historical (God’s plan of redemption over history) point of view. God has one plan for one group of people, the church.

One plan

Genesis to Revelation is one progressive, continuous story about God’s pursuit of His people who have rebelled against Him. God lays the foundation for this plan with Abraham promising that through him all nations would be blessed (Genesis 18:18, 22:18). This promise follows his son, Isaac, and his grandson, Jacob, whose name is changed to Israel and through whom this nation would come about.

The plan from the beginning was that God would redeem all types of peoples through Jesus Christ and the seeds of that redemption were planted in Israel. It was through the line of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and David that the Messiah would come. There was never a shift of plans. It was always a continuous, predetermined plan that would, one day, go global (Romans 4:11, Matthew 28:18-20).

One people

Theological problems arise when we fail to see the continuity of God’s plan in the Bible. One of these problems is this large division between God’s plan for Israel and God’s plan for the church. God’s plan has always been for one people, the church. God made a covenant with Israel (we call this the Old Covenant) and this physical covenant was always intended to be a forerunner to the better spiritual New Covenant. The ‘oldness’ of the Old Covenant is that not all the people in it were true believers (Jeremiah 31:32, Romans 9-11). Many in Israel did not believe resulting in a people of God made up of both believers (or remnant) and unbelievers.

Jeremiah addresses this problem prophesying that one day God would provide a New Covenant comprised of believers only. (Jeremiah 31:31-34).  This is why Paul, speaking of the New Covenant, says,

For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring…This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring. (Romans 9:6-8).

Paul explains that the believing remnant of Jews was preserved, but all unbelieving Jews were cut off and believing gentiles were grafted into this Jewish remnant (Romans 11:17-18). We don’t have two groups of people, but one: the church containing both Jew and gentile. Michael Horton says, “Thus, it becomes clearer that we are not dealing with two peoples but one (Ephesians 2:11-22) and not with a displacement of Israel, but its enlargement.” The true Israel is not the nation that physically descended from Abraham, but those who believe in Christ.

There are not two plans, one for Israel and one for the church. There is one plan for one people that has been building over the millennia.

What about the promises?

The promises continue! We don’t have to figure out which promises are for Israel and which are for the church because there is only one group of recipients: the church. What, then, do we do with the promise in Romans 11:26 that God will save “all Israel”? It seems clear that one day, there will be a large scale conversion of ethnic Jews to Christ and in Paul’s words, they will be “grafted back into their own olive tree” (Romans 11:24). But this is no separate plan! They will believe in Christ and join the church! Still one plan for one people.

What about Israel today? 

Israel is a hugely important historical site because the seeds were laid there for the redemption of the world. There are no longer priests there, though, making sacrifices for us because we are a ‘royal priesthood’ with full access to God through Christ (1 Peter 2:4-5). There is no longer a temple there where God’s presence dwells because we are now that temple and in us dwells God the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 3:16). God’s chosen people are no longer those physically descending from Abraham, but those who believe the promise given to Abraham (Romans 9:6-8). God’s favor is no longer limited to the nation of Israel, but expanded to God’s “holy nation” (1 Peter 2:9), the church, made up of every tribe, tongue and nation.

The embassy move is a political matter, not an eschatological (end times) one. So, I will leave that decision in the hands of those more educated in world affairs. As we, Christians, watch the news coming from Israel, we should remind ourselves of the grandness of God’s plan for the redemption of His people, the thousands of years He worked to bring that plan about and the penalty He took on Himself in the Israelite, Jesus Christ, that we might be redeemed.

12 thoughts on “A Biblical View of the Embassy Move to Jerusalem

  1. Dear Brother Jim:
    Why not be fair and acknowledge that there are many brothers and sisters in the faith, not to mention thousands of churches and scores of seminaries all over the world who are dispensational (to some degree) and do see a possible eschatological significance in Israel’s rebirth. These folks are just as committed to verbal inspiration of the Bible as you are. They have studied Greek and Hebrew as much as you have. They are led by the Spirit as you are. They believe in the “solas” as do you. They are leading people to Christ and planting churches just as you are. But they see the eternal, seemingly unconditional promises to to Israel differently from you. Your brief article seems so arrogantly “cock-sure” of your view, and that there simply is no other view. My counsel to you is to sprinkle your messages with grace and love, and strive for unity in the Body of Christ. And be fair. Hopefully we dispensationalists are fair in our articles, acknowledging that there are godly brothers in Christ who see the promises of God to Israel differently from us. We could be wrong. So could you.
    Grace and peace,
    Brian

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    1. Thanks Brian. I certainly don’t want to come across as arrogant and I appreciate your comment. The blog medium (1000 words or less) necessitates brevity that could lend itself to toward arrogance. I will be sure to keep this on my radar.

      Jim

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    2. Brian – I found absolutely nothing offensive, abrasive or condescending about Jim’s article. Would it have made you happier if he had said something to the order of “Now please understand that my view is just one of many and doesn’t express the opinion of many other great and wonderful Bible teachers in the Body of Christ”?

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  2. Brother Jim
    Thanks for your concise and well written article. I was gratified that you didn’t waste time trying to knock down other views, but presented what you believed coherently and with a high regard for Scripture. It’s very refreshing to hear a different and triumphant view regarding our friends in the Middle East.

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      1. Pastor Cooper:
        Your “knock down” language is the exact issue I was addressing. The people you wish to “knock down” are fellow believers, or the views you wish to “knock down” are held by your brothers in Christ. They love Christ like you do. They are earnestly studying God’s Word like you are. They have graduate degrees in theology just like you do. Interacting with fellow believers is not a “waste of time”, but an act of humility and love. You Reformed pastors and theologians have so much to offer — your clear understanding of grace, sovereignty, substitution, the “solas”, and so on. But unfortunately you sometimes come across so arrogant as if you have figured out all the mysteries of God’s Word, which us “other Christians” are not smart enough or spiritual enough to grasp. That attitude seems so contrary to John 13 and Ephesians 4:2.
        Let us love and respect one another as fellow believers in Christ. We are all sinners saved by grace. God’s absolutely undeserved favor. Brother Jim’s response to my comment was so gracious. I sensed that we are brothers in Christ, serving together — albeit with different views on certain aspects of eschatology. But we both believe (I am certain) that Jesus Christ will return as He promised and that we will receive resurrection bodies and rule and reign with Him on the “new” earth.
        Blessings on your ministry Pastor Cooper.
        Grace and peace to you,
        Brian

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  3. From World Magazine’s radio program (which I highly recommend):

    http://worldandeverything.org/2018/05/washington-wednesday-u-s-embassy-in-jerusalem/

    I took away two interesting points:

    1. This was a decision made in 1995.”Congress did that in 1995 when it overwhelmingly passed the bipartisan Jerusalem Embassy Act, which called for relocating the embassy to Jerusalem. Only 37 members of the House and just five senators objected to that bill and it became law without a presidential signature in November 1995.”

    2. The same as your point – this was a political move, not a religious one.

    BELZ: Well, I think the emphasis that we’ve, that Christians put on what’s happening here as sort of a triumph for Christianity. I think that’s mistaken. This is a political move. Modern Israel is not exactly ancient Israel. And more to the point, the affluent Dallas megachurch of Robert Jeffress who gave the prayer at yesterday’s transfer, could not be more different than the situation for churches in the Middle East. You think about his First Baptist Church, they spent $130 million on a massive renovation that covers six blocks in downtown Dallas. The tiny church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem, you know, considered the site of Jesus’ crucifixion, they struggled to spend $4 million on a recent renovation to that 12th century church. This is very different. And I think that because the situation is so fragile in Israel, in the West Bank, in Gaza where there are about a thousand Christians trying to hold on against a jihadist kind of leadership in Gaza, the situation for Christians in this part of the world is so fragile that I think we should not be conflating the way that we do, and we should not be using this as a moment of sort of Christian triumph. It might be a great day for American evangelical leaders who support President Trump, I’m just not sure that it’s a great day for the gospel of Jesus, the man from Nazareth. It’s a political move and we should see it that way.

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  4. I cover a lot of this territory in my recently-published book, “Israel The Chosen: Her Identity, Land, Enemies, Religion and Messiah.” It’s listed on Amazon with reader reviews, one of which gives an encapsulation of the content. It is thoroughly biblical (including some exegesis) with carefully-chosen history both ancient and modern–Israelite and Zionist. Included are startling quotes by theologians like Barth, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Bonhoeffer, Abraham Joshua Heschel, from historians, rabbis both ancient and modern and explanations of biblical scholars like Alec Motyer.

    Quinton Everest, Jr.

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