The Christadelphians recognise the importance of the role of the Jews and Israel. Some Christians even do not want to know that Jesus was a Jew. Our acceptance of the man Jesus, the Nazareen Jew, as son of God who really died, and not as God who can not die, is one of the differences between Christadelphians and other denominations in Christianity.
De Christadelphians erkennen de belangrijkheid van de Joden en het Israëlische volk. Dat is één van de verschillen tussen onze denominatie en andere kerken in het Christendom. De kijk op de Joodse man Jezus van Nazareth is zo een ander verschil. Sommige Christenen willen zelfs het Joodschap van Christus niet erkennen. Ook zijn er die niet willen inzien dat Jezus God niet is en werkelijk geboren en gestorven is, terwijl God steeds heeft bestaan, onsterfelijk is en voor eeuwig en altijd zal bestaan.
The careful reader of the Bible will be in no doubt that the nation of Israel has occupied a special place in the purpose of God. But many people today find this difficult to reconcile with the nature of the modern State of Israel. How did the "special relationship" arise?
The Bible account shows us that the human race, in the early centuries of its existence, massively abandoned the true worship of God, so that "the earth was corrupt....and filled with violence" (Genesis 6:11), thus bringing the divine judgment of the Flood. It was not long, however, before mankind began to show again the same tendencies to evil. God therefore determined to build up a special community, by whom His Word would be preserved. So he chose Abraham, a man of faith, and made outstanding promises to him and his descendants, involving the future possession of the land of Canaan (later Palestine or Israel) and blessings for all the nations (Genesis 12:1-3; 13:14,15).
Abraham's descendants were brought out of Egypt by God's power and were eventually settled in 12 tribes in the Promised Land, Israel. There they lived under the Law, a system of regulations given them by God through Moses, with the intention of training them to be a people devoted to His service. In the following centuries the Jews repeatedly neglected the worship of God and turned to worship the idols of their pagan neighbours, and as a result were driven out of their land by the invasion of foreign powers. They lived for centuries scattered and persecuted, as God has warned them would happen (read Deuteronomy 28). Nevertheless, despite their waywardness, the Jews preserved the Word of God both in the land of Israel and during their exile in other countries.
Promises to the Patriarchs
God's purpose with Israel, then, was to make them a training centre for the faithful in the pagan centuries before Christ. Of them Jesus was born, to proclaim the good news that his faithful servants become children of Abraham by faith and so inherit the promises. So the Apostle Paul wrote to the Galatians: "If ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise" (Galatians 3:27-29).
The Kingdom of God
The return of Jesus Christ to the earth, just as literally as he left it, was the unanimous hope of the early believers. The Church abandoned it in the early centuries, because Christ did not come as soon as they had hoped, but even more because it did not square with the popular idea of the righteous enjoying their reward in heaven at death. The New Testament repeatedly asserts the Second Coming; the apostles take it for granted in their writings.
When Christ Comes
Then will come the turn of the nations, who will be summoned to "fear God and give glory to him; for the hour of his judgment is come" (Revelation 14:7). The Bible leaves us in no doubt that the governments of many nations will refuse the summons and will have to learn submission. Thus will begin the re-education of the peoples of the earth under the new kingdom of God with Christ as King. When God's will is understood and obeyed, then peace and justice among men will come to the earth at last.
In Genesis 12:7 Abraham, the father of both Jews and Arabs, was told, "Unto thy seed will I give this land". In Galatians 3:16 the Apostle Paul tells us that the seed was Christ. So then, Christ, before he was born, was promised the land of Israel. The Bible says Christ will return from heaven to set up his Kingdom on earth: the center of his government will be Jerusalem and the land of Israel. A repentant and believing section of the Jewish people will form the nucleus of the population. The Kingdom will bring countless blessings to the world, and not just to Israel. The Bible tells us in Psalm 72, "All nations shall call him blessed" (verse 17).
Jerusalem: If the Middle East is the center of God's plan with the earth, then Jerusalem is its epicenter. From the very first, when God brought Israel out of captivity in Egypt, He spoke of "the place" where He would set His name. That chosen place was Jerusalem. There David was established as king over the first kingdom of God on earth; and Jesus himself, David's greater son, called Jerusalem "the city of the great King". The promise that lay behind these words includes the following prophecy:
"They shall call Jerusalem the throne of the LORD; and all the nations shall be gathered unto it, to the name of the LORD, to Jerusalem." (Jeremiah 3:17)
Jerusalem is at the meeting point of three continents and so is perfectly placed strategically to become the capital city of the world. The prophet Ezekiel says:
"Thus saith the Lord God; This is Jerusalem: I have set it in the midst of the nations and countries that are round about her." (Ezekiel 5:5)
Ancient cartographers, taking this passage literally, placed Jerusalem at the center of their maps, an example of which is the famous Mappa Mundi in Hereford Cathedral. As The Daily Telegraph said, "It is interesting to note, in the affairs of the proposed sale of Hereford Cathedral's Mappa Mundi, all those superior smiles at the childish medieval way it shows Jerusalem at the center of the world. But Jerusalem is the center of the world. We may be overwhelmingly reminded of this in due course - and sooner than we may think" (November 24, 1988).
One thing is very clear. In peace talks about the Middle East the most likely sticking point is Jerusalem. The city contains the holy sites of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. But as one writer has said of Judaism, "Its religion is not tied to 'sites' but to the land, not to what happened in Jerusalem but to Jerusalem itself". For Israel, Jerusalem is its capital city now. The Palestinians who have set up their own "state" and government in exile also claim Jerusalem as their capital. But whoever sets their ambitions on that city should consider prophecies such as Zechariah 12 where God says:
"Behold, I will make Jerusalem a cup of trembling unto all the people round about, when they shall be in the siege both against Judah and against Jerusalem. And in that day will I make Jerusalem a burdensome stone for all people; all that burden themselves with it shall be cut in pieces, though all the people of the earth be gathered together against it." (12:2,3)
From this and other prophecies such as Zechariah 14, it is clear that Jerusalem is the very last place that Israel will give up. When the invasion of the land comes, a remnant of the nation will be defending Jerusalem. They will stand on the brink of total defeat. Half of the city will be taken captive but then, as Zechariah says, "shall the LORD go forth, and fight against those nations" (verse 3). At that time Jesus will be revealed to the Jews as Israel's Messiah and some at least will submit to his authority. He will replace their unbelieving spirit of self-confidence and stubbornness with a new spirit of trust and obedience in God and His Son.
"Be Ye Also Ready"
God's Purpose in His Son
Why, you may ask, did God allow His only Son to die in shame and agony? The answer is complex, and yet it is central to God's plan to save men from their sins. On that hill outside Jerusalem, God brought the self-denial and grace and love of Jesus face to face with the human lusts of pride, envy and cruelty which are in all our hearts, and which the Bible calls sins. For three days, sin appeared to have triumphed. But Jesus, the sinless, rose from the grave after that short time, so breaking the power of death for those who believe in him. "He was bruised," Isaiah continues, "for our iniquities . . . and with his stripes we are healed" (v. 5). So, when those conscience-stricken Jews, realising they had killed God's Son, asked Peter on the day of Pentecost what they should do, he explained that the risen Christ had become the sacrifice that could take their guilt away: "Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins." The immediate response was impressive. 3,000 Jews were baptized. But with the passage of time, it became clear that the majority of God's chosen people remained unconvinced. Their pride in being descended from Abraham had blinded them to the need for faith, that quality which entitled Abraham to be called "the friend of God".
The Coming Kingdom
But first, a warning. The coming of Jesus will bring a Day of judgement, when the hearts of Jews and Gentiles are to be inspected by Jesus, the King. We need to make ready for that day. "God's righteous judgment will be revealed," warned Paul. "To those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honour," he continues, "he will give eternal life; but for those who . . . obey wickedness, there will be wrath and fury" (Romans 2:5-8). Glory, honour, immortality - all these can be ours in the Kingdom of God. In his last letter, Paul describes this great reward as "the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me," he concludes, "but also to all who have loved his appearing" (2 Timothy 4:8).
That day of Jesus' appearing could be very close. There is nothing in the world to stop us from laying hold of the wonderful promises God made to Abraham. The way has been prepared, through His great plan. He has shown us, through the history of His people the Jews, that we can trust His Word - the message of the Gospel contained in the Bible. But we must believe, and be baptized; and then live the life that Jesus requires of his disciples. "He who believes and is baptized will be saved" (Mark 16:16).
-- David M. PEARCE in Israel: God's People, God's Land