Change Region:Papua New Guinea

Headlines

The mystery of Evangelical support for Israel

The historically fraught relationship between Christians and Jews has undergone dramatic change in the past century. The low point for our two religions was undoubtedly reached in 1945 when the chimneys of Auschwitz were exposed and the world learned of the horrendous crimes carried out by Germany in the heartland of Christian Europe. The six million Jews murdered in the Holocaust were the nadir of almost 2000 years of animosity between Christians and Jews. The antisemitic atrocities committed by many Church fathers, the Crusades, the Inquisition, the countless pogroms across Europe, all paved the way for the greatest crime in human history – the Nazi genocide against the Jews, which was perpetrated by my home country.

Fast-forwarding seventy years, I well remember the late President of Israel, Shimon Peres, addressing a New Year’s reception for local Christian leaders in Jerusalem by stating: “Jewish-Christian relations have reached an historic high. They have never been better than today.”

Similarly, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has repeatedly stated: “Evangelical Christians are Israel’s best friends today.”

And former Israeli Ambassador to the US, Ron Dermer, just recently upset many in the Jewish world by suggesting that Evangelical support for Israel today is more important than that of the Jewish community abroad. Whether this is true or not, we do need to consider the mystery of why so many Christians suddenly care so deeply about Israel and the Jewish people after so many centuries of antisemitism.

First of all, it is important to understand that Evangelical zeal for Israel did not just start with the Trump administration in Washington – as some media would have you believe. The founding of the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem occurred in 1980 as an expression of the global groundswell of Christian Zionism rising already in those days. Even before that, Israel’s founding leader David Ben-Gurion engaged with friendly Evangelical leaders like Oral Roberts, Billy Graham and W. A. Criswell. Yet it dates back even further than Israel’s national rebirth in 1948, and can be traced to an unlikely figure – Martin Luther.

Yes, that’s right! The reformer Martin Luther, known for his notorious book “On the Jews and Their Lies”, later cited by Adolf Hitler and the Nazis to defend their crimes against the Jews. This same Martin Luther, despite the antisemitism of his later years, single-handedly set in motion the forces that birthed the modern-day Evangelical, pro-Israel movement.

First, he ‘democratized’ Christian like no one before him by emphasizing the priesthood of the believer – that every person is responsible for own faith walk. Second, his greatest accomplishment was his translation of the entire Bible into a common German language. Others had translated the Bible before, but his efforts were the first to succeed as they came in parallel with the advent of the information super-highway of the 16th century, the invention of the printing press by Johannes Gutenberg. His newly translated Bible became the very first bestseller in Europe, making it into every German home that could afford it, defying all efforts to ban the book by the Catholic Church.

You see, for centuries most Christians in Europe could not read, and those who could were not encouraged to read the Scriptures, which were in Latin. Only the learned could understand it and they said only priests and theologians should expound on it. Martin Luther’s German Bible would change that forever. Soon, new Bible translations emerged across Europe, giving everyone broader access to God’s word in English, French or German. It not only reformed the Christian faith, as many doctrines held by the traditional churches were quickly exposed as unbiblical, but also it revolutionized how those new ‘Bible reading Christians’ saw Israel and the Jews.

Already in the late 16th century, Puritan theologians in Great Britain found that the Bible was not against the Jews – as the Church had always taught. They also discovered that almost all the Hebrew prophets foresaw a future restoration for the Jews in their ancestral homeland – a theme that was echoed by Jesus himself (Matthew 19:28; Luke 21:24) and by Paul, the most influential of the early apostles (Romans 11).

John Wesley, possibly the greatest Christian revivalist of recent centuries, stated in his commentaries: “If there is one thing promised in the Bible, it is the restoration of the Jews!” And the so-called prince of preachers, Charles Spurgeon, repeatedly predicted in his Sunday sermons that one day “the Jews would return back to their land, and they will have a king and rebuild the ancient cities.” Similar teachings existed among the German pietists, whose traces can still be seen in Jerusalem’s German Colony. The famous Balfour Declaration of 1917 was made because Lord Balfour believed in the biblical promise of a restored people of Israel, as did Orde Wingate, who trained the early Jewish underground forces that later became the IDF.

It is upon these believers and church movements that modern Christian Zionism was built. While these streams of Christianity always existed, they historically represented only a minority of Christians. But this has changed dramatically over recent decades. Prof. Philip Jenkins was one of the first to document the historic growth of Evangelical Christianity in our times. From several tens of millions of adherents in the 1970s, their numbers have grown in recent decades to around 700 million worldwide. And the face of Evangelicalism is ever changing. While in the past the average evangelical Christian lived in London, Dallas or Geneva, today they can be found in large numbers in Beijing, Manila, Lagos or Sao Paulo. Yet they all have one thing in common: The Bible is their source of inspiration and guidance, and with it usually comes a love and concern for the ‘People of the Book’ – the Jews.

I will never forget meeting several years ago a group of church leaders from the growing Evangelical community in China. In the city of Wenchou, I was enthusiastically welcomed as the first person to teach them coming from Jerusalem. I gave a message on the ABCs of Christian support for Israel. Yet I marveled to see that what I shared was nothing new to them. “Who taught you?” I asked them. I will never forget the puzzled face of the main Chinese leader: “Why do you ask? It’s all in the Bible,” he replied.

The good news for Israel, therefore, is that there indeed is a rapidly growing Evangelical movement around the world which stands firmly at Israel’s side. We see them every year at our Feast of Tabernacles celebration in Jerusalem, as thousands of Christian pilgrims join us from China, the Philippines, Brazil, Bolivia, Nigeria and Ivory Coast – among so many other nations.

Now what is most noteworthy, their support is not tied to any political party or agenda in Israel but in their belief in God’s faithfulness to His people no matter who is prime minister in Israel. When this was called into question this week, I personally reached out to a number of prominent Evangelical leaders and they all confirmed their unconditional support for Israel.

This included spiritual giants like Nigerian pastor Enoch Adeboye, who oversees the fastest growing church movement in Africa with tens of millions of active members. “Our support for Israel is based on the bedrock of God’s word and not on daily changes in politics,” he told me.

This also includes Apostle Rene Terra Nova from Brazil, who oversees a church network of more than three million Evangelical faithful across Latin America. He has committed his movement not only to always pray for Israel’s elected government, but they cannot wait to visit Israel after coronavirus recedes, no matter who is sitting in the prime minister’s seat.

The same is true for the huge Word of Life movement, which has thousands of churches across the former Soviet republics.

Troy A. Miller, currently CEO of the National Religious Broadcasters association in America, has confirmed the same thing on behalf of his group’s millions of listeners, viewers and readers. This week he wrote us: “Throughout NRB’s 77-year history its membership and Board of Directors have always supported Israel. NRB recognizes that Israel’s history, including the creation and continued existence of the modern state of Israel, reveals the providential hand of God and His commitment to fulfilling His promises in His Holy Word, the Bible.”

It does need to be said, however, that the steadfast Christian support for Israel in Western countries is being challenged among the younger generation as many can now be found in social justice movements and other liberal causes. But the fact that Israeli lawmakers are inviting for the first time an Arab party to join a governing coalition can potentially win over even some of these younger critics.

In conclusion, I can attest that Evangelical support for Israel is not going to disappear. On the contrary, from our unique vantage point here in Jerusalem we see the movement growing faster than ever all around the world. This unique bridge of engagement between Jews and Bible-believing Christians has a great future. And one final point: These Evangelicals have no intention of meddling in Israeli politics. This is the Christian Embassy’s proven track record for the past four decades and it will not change.
   

Jerusalem in Islamic Eschatology

“Remember Your congregation, which You have purchased of old… This Mount Zion where You have dwelt. Lift up Your feet to the perpetual desolations. The enemy has damaged everything in the sanctuary. Your enemies roar in the midst of Your meeting place; They set up their banners for signs.” Psalm 74:2-4

 

When Hamas recently launched its latest rocket war against Israel from Gaza, it named the operation “Sword of Jerusalem.” They simply could not stand idly by after Fatah had been staging riots on the Temple Mount and inciting violence against Israel over alleged violations at the al Aqsa mosque during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. Like so many times before, these rival Palestinian factions were stirring jihad over Jerusalem in hopes the Arab/Muslim world would join them in their relentless war against the Jewish state. And indeed, they do believe that one day the Islamic world will mobilize en masse to help them in one final, victorious battle to retake Jerusalem and eradicate Israel.

Interestingly, Jerusalem plays a central role in the eschatology of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. All three faiths believe the end of this age will culminate in a global confrontation over Jerusalem, yet each respective religion foresees itself as emerging triumphant in the age to come. So how did this common view on Jerusalem in the end of days come about?

The Old Testament scriptures are undisputedly the original source of this end-time scenario, and the Hebrew prophets all agree the present age ends in a climatic battle over Jerusalem, after which the promised Messiah will rule over all the earth in righteousness and peace.

For instance, Zechariah 12 says the Lord will make Jerusalem a “cup of trembling” and a “burdensome stone” for all nations, while in chapter 14 the same prophet envisions a final battle involving half the city which ends with the Lord Himself intervening by standing on the Mount of Olives to deliver the Jewish people from disaster. Joel 3 says the Lord will gather all nations to the Valley of Jehoshaphat (the Kidron Valley in eastern Jerusalem) to enter into judgment with them there over the way the Gentiles have never respected the divine calling and election over Israel. Psalm chapter 2 also provides a clear end-time vision of the enraged nations plotting against God’s plan to set the Messiah, Israel’s eternal King, on “My holy hill of Zion” – meaning the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. This final confrontation ends in a good place, however, as the humbled nations flow to and from an exalted Jerusalem to worship Messiah, even as they beat their swords into plowshares and learn war no more (see Isaiah 2; Isaiah 11; Micah 4; Zechariah 14:16-21, etc.).

The Christian scriptures then affirm these prophetic passages about the final confrontation over Jerusalem in the last days, while introducing the figure of the Antichrist, who seeks to supplant the Messiah as the ruler of the nations on the Temple Mount (2 Thessalonians 2; Revelation 11). But the Apostle John, in Revelation 14:1ff, ultimately sees the Lamb (Jesus the Messiah) enthroned on Mount Zion with his elders, just as Isaiah the prophet saw in Isaiah 24:23.

Islam then came along six centuries later and borrowed much of its eschatology from the Hebrew and Christian scriptures. Muhammad was illiterate but learned about the beliefs of Judaism and Christianity from others, and often he confused certain facts and beliefs from the Bible in authoring the Koran. For instance, the Koran identifies Miriam, the sister of Moses, as also being Miriam (Mary), the mother of Jesus. And although Jerusalem itself does not appear even once in the Koran, Islam does view the city as playing a central end-time role, as seen in certain hadiths – or traditions – established by Muhammad and his followers.

One hadith that has greatly influenced Muslim thinking about Jerusalem involves Muhammad’s supposed mythical night journey to the masjid al haram al aqsa – or the “outer-most mosque”. All of his early followers clearly understood this to be a reference to certain mosque in Arabia which represented the furthest extent of Islamic rule at that time. However, a generation or so after Muhammad died, the Umayyad dynasty in Damascus lost control of Mecca and its lucrative pilgrimage trade to a rival ruler in Baghdad. So they sought to elevate Jerusalem and draw Muslim pilgrims there by suddenly claiming al Aqsa – the farthest mosque – was located on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.

This inauthentic claim became the source of Islamic veneration of Jerusalem over the centuries, elevating the city to the third holiest site in Islam in the view of many Muslims. Yet not all streams of Islamic thought accept this altered view, as they know it is a later hadith which did not originate with Muhammad or his “closest companions.” Thus, for instance, most Shi’ites consider Najaf in Iraq (where their founder Ali died in battle against the Sunnis) or Qom in Iran (where the twelfth imam disappeared and will reappear as the Mahdi) as more sacred than Jerusalem.

Yet, ever since Jerusalem came back into Jewish hands in modern times, the city has suddenly become important and even paramount to Sunni and Shi’ite Muslims everywhere. From Morocco to Indonesia and even in Western cities, nothing enflames Muslims more than the Jews ‘desecrating’ the holy al Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem. And this fiery passion over Jerusalem also is inspired by another key Muslim hadith and the teachings of Islamic Supremacy and Triumphalism.

When the followers of Muhammad first came streaming out of the Arabian peninsula in the seventh century, zealously conquering everything in sight for Allah and their prophet, he had taught them that Islam was a superior revelation to Judaism and Christianity. He insisted that Jews and Christians had both falsified portions of their respective scriptures, but he had restored the correct truths through the Koran and thus they were the vanguard of a superior religion which Allah had destined to rule supreme over the entire world.

Those early Muslim armies indeed enjoyed great success, but eventually they fell short of world conquest. Still, the belief remained that one day Islam would triumph over all other religions and rule throughout the earth. Exactly when that will happen is not clear, but a certain hadith holds that there will be perpetual war between Muslims and infidels, and especially Jews, until Judgment Day, and that day will not come until Muslims fight and thoroughly slaughter the Jews.

This hadith expressly states: “The Hour [of Resurrection] will not come until you fight the Jews. The Jew will hide behind stones or trees. The stones or trees will call: ‘Oh Muslim, servant of Allah, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him.’ Except the Gharqad tree.”

Over recent decades, Palestinian leaders and clerics have repeatedly cited this Islamic tradition concerning the end-times battle against the Jews in order to fuel jihad against Israel. This hadith has been invoked by the Fatah-appointed Grand Mufti of Jerusalem. It is inscribed word-for-word in the Hamas Charter. And even the late PLO chief Yasser Arafat positioned the Palestinian people as that certain tribe of Muslims who are one day destined to lead the Islamic world in the final vanquishing of the Jews, thereby ushering in Judgment Day.

The truth is that it has been extremely difficult for the Muslim world to accept that Jews should be in control of Jerusalem once again. How could one of the holiest cities in Islam ever be allowed to fall into the hands of a detested people who follow an inferior faith? Thus, many Muslims are willing to wage holy war for Jerusalem, and the Palestinians know this and exploit it to gain global support, sympathy and funding. Palestinian leaders even depict their national struggle against Israel as the endgame of the perpetual war which Muslims must wage against the Jews.

The Palestinians have been playing the ‘Jerusalem’ card for some 100 years now, with great effectiveness. They have turned the al Aqsa mosque into the core symbol of Palestinian nationalism and a rallying point for tens of millions of Muslims worldwide. Today, there are actually three Palestinian factions competing to outdo each other over defending al Aqsa – Fatah, Hamas and the little-known but growing Tahrir movement. Hizbullah, Iran and many other Islamic nations and elements are poised for the same battle over Jerusalem. And they seem to have the United Nations, the International Criminal Court, and much of the international community aiding and abetting their cause.

And yet, does the Bible not say that in the last days God will draw all nations up against a Jerusalem restored to Jewish hands, and that He will judge and humble the nations there?
 

 

David Parsons is an author, attorney, journalist, and ordained minister who serves as Vice President and senior spokesman for the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem; www.icej.org/

FOR MORE on this topic, make sure to watch the ICEJ Webinar, “Jerusalem in Islamic Eschatology”, from Thursday, 3 June, featuring ICEJ Vice President & Spokesman David Parsons, Johannes Gerloff, Author & Journalist on the Middle East..

The Rockets of Rejection

As usual, one of the first casualties of war is truth.

Many would have us believe the latest Palestinian rocket war against Israel was triggered by the land dispute in Sheikh Jarrah and the desecration of the al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem. But those are just a pretext to hide the real agenda behind this campaign of Palestinian violence and terrorism. The riots and rockets causing mayhem and loss across the Land of Israel right now were a message from both Fatah and Hamas that they continue to reject peace and particularly the dramatic move towards Arab-Israeli normalization embodied in the Abraham Accords.

For the record, tensions indeed were building in Jerusalem over recent weeks until a convergence of events brought them to a boiling point. Small groups of Arab and Jewish agitators were facing off almost daily at the site of the disputed homes in Sheikh Jarrah – nothing new there. But this time the dueling protests came as Muslims were observing the month of Ramadan, a time when Islamic passions and prejudices can easily be stirred against Israel and the Jewish people – especially over Jerusalem. A number of Jerusalem Arab youths then began slapping Orthodox Jews walking through the Old City and posting video clips of the humiliating slaps on TikTok. A group of far-right Jews responded by accosting Arabs on Jaffa Road one evening last week, forcing Israeli police to repel them with anti-riot gear. Meanwhile, the police also barricaded the entrance to Damascus Gate, where Palestinians were congregating to stage their own attacks. Palestinian leaders cried foul at Israel and incited their people to even more violence.

Then came the last Friday of Ramadan – decreed ‘Al-Quds Day’ by Iran’s late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini to provoke jihad for Jerusalem. Right on cue, Palestinians stashed piles of rocks in the al-Aqsa mosque at the south end of the Temple Mount for use in stoning Jews praying at the Western Wall down below. Israeli forces intervened, the rock-throwers retreated into the mosque, and the standoff escalated from there over the weekend.

It was on Monday that Hamas, feeling sidelined down in Gaza, decided to enter the fray and trigger an explosion – which also was timed to spoil Israel’s annual celebration of Yom Yerushalayim. The military wing of the Islamist terror militia issued an ultimatum, calling for the removal of Israel’s security forces from the Temple Mount compound and Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood, and the release of Palestinian terrorists imprisoned in Israeli jails – all by 6:00 PM that evening. When its conditions were not met, Hamas fired seven rockets at Jerusalem, and the fourth Hamas rocket war with Israel was on.

Yet the current conflict must be viewed in a much wider context.

Ever since the Trump administration forged the Abraham Accords between Israel and four Sunni Arab states (United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco), the regional momentum towards peace has been growing, leaving the Palestinians isolated and under pressure – including from Arab leaders – to finally start coming to terms with Israel. Even Israeli Arab members of the Knesset were joining in, as the Ra’am party was poised to break a long-standing political taboo by joining a coalition government as an outside partner.

Trapped by the push for peace, the Palestinians initially tried to escape by calling for elections – their first in sixteen years. But when Fatah realized they would likely lose to Hamas, Palestinian Authority head Mahmoud Abbas called off the elections (while falsely blaming the delay on Israel). This led to growing discontent at home, and Palestinian officials figured the only other way out was to play the Jerusalem card – something they are experts at doing. For 100 years now, Palestinian leaders have repeatedly fed their people and the entire Muslim world the lie that Israel is endangering the al-Aqsa mosque. And sadly, this false accusation always seems to find an audience.

For weeks now, both Fatah and Hamas have been ratcheting up the rhetoric against Israel, especially on Jerusalem. Increasingly during Ramadan, they have openly called for confrontation with Israel in the city and “on the roads,” while also amplifying their appeals for martyrdom. They also have urged the ‘48 Arabs (Israeli Arab citizens) to join the battle – which, tragically, many have. This deliberate incitement campaign has all been meticulously documented over recent weeks by the monitoring group Palestinian Media Watch. Hamas then instantly leapfrogged Fatah in their internal rivalry by launching rockets at Jerusalem to “defend al-Aqsa” – something Fatah (thankfully) is not able to do right now.

The truth is that the Sheikh Jarrah land disputes have been winding their way through the Israeli courts for several years now, and they involve private litigants seeking legal recourse in delinquent rent cases, rather than any draconian Israeli government demolition orders, as is widely portrayed. In addition, Israeli authorities had already decided to postpone any court decisions on the properties until after Ramadan as a means to lower the temperature.

And concerning the al-Aqsa mosque, it was Palestinian rioters and rock-throwers who desecrated the mosque (yet again) by amassing stones there for pre-calculated use against Jewish worshippers and Israeli police, and then by seeking refuge in the mosque to evade arrest for their blatantly criminal behavior.

Thus, neither the Sheikh Jarrah disputes nor the Palestinian scam at al-Aqsa could ever justify the current wave of violence and terror which Fatah and Hamas have now unleashed upon all the peoples of this Land. Viewed in proper perspective, these riots and rockets were simply a means for both Palestinian factions to express their unwavering rejection of peace with Israel.

The shame is that Israelis were coming so close to a genuinely historic breakthrough of reconciliation with their Arab neighbors – both in the region and within their own borders. But alas, those hopes are now badly battered, the pressure is off the Palestinians to make peace, and who knows when these raging flames they ignited will be extinguished.

 

David Parsons is an author, attorney, journalist, and ordained minister who serves as Vice President and senior spokesman for the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem; www.icej.org/

FOR MORE on this topic, make sure to watch the ICEJ Webinar, “The Escalation Over Jerusalem”, from Thursday, 13 May, featuring ICEJ Vice President & Spokesman David Parsons, Amb. Paul Hirschson from Israel’s Foreign Ministry, and Shmuel Bowman of Operation Lifeshield.

Why is Jerusalem important to Christians?

As we mark Yom Yerushalayim in the coming days, it is vital to understand why Jerusalem holds such a central place in Christian thinking. The importance of Jerusalem to Christians is rooted in the significance attached to Jerusalem in the Bible.

One way to determine the importance of a subject in the Bible is to see how often it is mentioned. By this measure, Jerusalem appears to be quite significant, as it is directly mentioned 660 times in the Hebrew Scriptures and 146 times in the New Testament. If we add synonyms and endearing terms, such “Zion”, we get another 165 times. That is almost 1,000 verses which mention Jerusalem – the only city declared “holy” in the Bible.

However, this is just a quantitative answer. It is more essential to ask the qualitative question: What is it that makes Jerusalem so prominent? You may have seen the medieval painting in which Jerusalem is depicted as the center of the world. It is actually based on a scripture from Ezekiel where God declares that He has set Jerusalem in the midst of the nations (Ezekiel 5:5). So, again, what makes the city so special?

First of all, Jerusalem is close to God’s heart. God makes some strong statements about Jerusalem which reveal His desire, His emotions. The prophet Zechariah declares that the Lord has chosen Jerusalem (Zechariah 3:2), and that He is zealous for Zion with great zeal (Zechariah 1:14). A key passage is found in the Book of Psalms: “For the Lord has chosen Zion; He has desired it for His dwelling place: ‘This is My resting place forever; here I will dwell, for I have desired it.’” (Psalm 132:13-14)

So, Jerusalem is a dwelling place for the presence of God. He is omnipresent, and we can experience His presence anywhere in the world. Where two or three are gathered in the name of Jesus, He is present. When the Holy Spirit fills us, we experience the presence of God. Yet God presence rests in Jerusalem in a special way, because God chose this place.

God makes choices; He draws distinctions. Just as He loves all nations, He also has chosen one particular nation as a “special treasure, a special possession” (Exodus 19:5). God made a covenant with the Jewish people and set them apart for His redemptive plan to bring blessing to all mankind. This plan appears already when God first called Abram, saying: “In you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Genesis 12:3). The New Testament affirms this, such as when Paul explains that the advantage of a Jew is “much in every way, mainly because to them were committed the oracles of God” (Romans 3:2). All the world owes a debt of gratitude to the Jewish people, because they brought us the very word of God. And from them came the Messiah, Jesus our Savior.

So, we can see that God makes choices for a purpose. He chose Israel to be the vehicle through which to bring salvation and blessing to the whole world. Likewise, He chose Jerusalem for a special purpose. And again, we see that it is meant not only for Israel but for all nations. Isaiah declares: “My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations” (Isaiah 56:7).

It was in this city that His Son also was sentenced, crucified and put into the grave. It was in this city where Jesus rose from the dead, demonstrating the power of God, which overcomes even death. It was in this city where the Holy Spirit fell upon the first disciples and where the Church was born.

This alone explains why Jerusalem is so important to Christians. Different denominations may have their particular centers – some look to Rome, others to Constantinople, Moscow, Geneva or Wittenberg. These locales emphasize their differences. But when Christians all look to Jerusalem, we emphasize what we have in common. Focus on Jerusalem brings unity – or at least it should. It has been my experience that when we pray for the peace of Jerusalem, we are united despite our differences.

But there is more to Jerusalem than just the past. The Lord has chosen Jerusalem for a central role in His still unfolding plan. The Hebrew prophets spoke of a future time when Jerusalem will be prominent once more. Jeremiah foresaw Israel being gathered “out of the land of the north to the land that I have given as an inheritance to your fathers”, and “at that time Jerusalem shall be called the Throne of the Lord, and all the nations shall be gathered to it, to the name of the Lord, to Jerusalem. No more shall they follow the dictates of their evil hearts.” (Jeremiah 3:17-18)

So we see in this city a unique connection between Israel and the nations. When the Jewish people return to their land, all nations shall come to Jerusalem. The prophet Zechariah explained that after a great conflict over the city, the nations shall come at one particular season of the year: “And it shall come to pass that everyone who is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem shall go up from year to year to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, and to keep the Feast of Tabernacles.” (Zechariah 14:16)

It has been the mission of the ICEJ to make the global Church aware of this prophetic call, and thus we started a Christian celebration of the Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot) more than 40 years ago.

This connection between the Jewish return and Jerusalem exalted among the nations is being confirmed by history. When the first waves of Aliyah started in the 1880s, Jerusalem turned from a neglected provincial town to a highly coveted place. In those days, all the major powers insisted on having a foothold in the city. Until today, we have a German Colony, a Russian Compound, an American Colony, a French Quarter, etc.

And as the Jewish nation grew, so did the global importance of Jerusalem. The United Nations tried to make it an international city. The Arabs ignited a war in 1948 which tragically left Jerusalem divided. In 1967 it was reunited under Jewish sovereignty, but the world has largely refused to recognize this. Jerusalem is the only national capital in the world which is not recognized by most governments. US President Donald Trump broke from the consensus and moved the US Embassy to Jerusalem, but the pressure on other nations not to follow is enormous. It all confirms the special importance of the city. It is as if the whole world is irrationally fixated on Jerusalem, which brings to mind the words of the prophet Zechariah:

Behold, I will make Jerusalem a cup of drunkenness to all the surrounding peoples, when they lay siege against Judah and Jerusalem. And it shall happen in that day that I will make Jerusalem a very heavy stone for all peoples; all who would heave it away will surely be cut in pieces, though all nations of the earth are gathered against it. (Zechariah 12:2-3)

There were so many UN resolutions about Jerusalem, and yet no peaceful resolution over its fate. Indeed, Jerusalem seems to have an intoxicating influence over people. Recall all the major Arab/Muslim riots in recent decades over minor Israeli moves in the city.

The prophets foretell of a coming conflict over Jerusalem which will involve all nations. This is one of the signs of the coming of the Messiah. The disputed status of Jerusalem is an indication of our prophetic times. If you want to discern the times, look to Jerusalem. Jesus said: “Jerusalem will be trampled by Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled” (Luke 21:24). Jerusalem was occupied – trampled - by the Gentiles from the Roman destruction in 70 AD until June 1967. With the liberation of Jerusalem, a paradigm shift occurred. Jerusalem is now at the center of world attention. And God is restoring Israel. We are moving towards the fulfilment of all the remaining prophecies, of salvation for Israel and judgement on the nations. And then His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives. Jesus will come to reign from Jerusalem. And all nations shall come up to Jerusalem to worship Him. And in the end, there will finally be a ‘New Jerusalem’ coming down from Heaven – pure and holy.

So, Jerusalem is close to God’s heart. It is the place where significant events in the salvation history occurred, and it is the future throne of God to rule over all nations.

One final thought on why Jerusalem is so critical role. In Genesis 14 we find the story of Abraham coming back from defeating five kings and meeting Melchizedek, the king of Salem (Jerusalem), as well as the king of Sodom. They represent the very opposite. Melchizedek is a righteous king and priest of the one true God. He offers bread and wine to Abraham, who accepts the gifts and offers back a tithe of his increase. In contrast, the king of Sodom offers him the ill-gotten spoils of war, and was refused (Genesis 14:17-23).

Abraham was put to a test. He had to make a choice. Would he choose material possessions from Sodom, or a humble life of righteousness and peace before God? Abraham understood the choice perfectly – and chose well!

I believe Jerusalem represents this choice for all peoples and nations. This city demands a decision. God chose Jerusalem to be a measuring stick by which He is going to judge all nations. May Jerusalem never lose its spiritual importance to us.

 

FOR MORE on this topic, make sure to watch the ICEJ Webinar: Why is Jerusalem Important to Christians?, from Thursday, 6 May, featuring Deputy Mayor of Jerusalem Ms. Fleur Hassan Nahum and ICEJ Vice President for International Affairs Dr. Mojmir Kallus. 

 

Give an Honorable Man His Due

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has just a few days left to try to form a coalition government before the mandate gets passed to a political rival bent on driving him from office. His chances of success are narrowing by the hour, and thus we may be looking at Netanyahu’s last days in power. But the fact that it has taken four successive elections to pry him from the throne will only add to the legendary status of this formidable Israeli leader and statesman.

After holding four elections in the past two years, Israel remains stuck in a political quagmire. Netanyahu and his Likud party again have the largest number of seats in the new Knesset (30), but he has found it hard to enlist enough partners to form a coalition government supported by a 61–seat majority in parliament. The parties on the Right hold 72 Knesset mandates, but several of these factions are refusing to sit in a government headed by Netanyahu while he is on trial for a series of fraud and breach-of-trust cases.

Netanyahu has until next Tuesday, May 4th, to pull together a governing coalition, but reports suggest he has already given up due to the stiff resistance he is encountering in his own nationalist camp from former-colleagues-turned-adversaries Avigdor Liberman of Yisrael Beiteinu and Gideon Sa’ar of New Hope.

There is still a narrow path back to the premiership for Netanyahu if Naftali Bennett’s Yamina faction and the three conservative religious parties (Religious Zionism, Shas and UTJ) would be willing to sit in a minority government under him that would be supported from the outside by Mansour Abbas and his small Arab/Islamist party Ra’am. However, Bezalel Smotrich, head of the far-right religious nationalists, has deliberately torpedoed such an alignment by repeatedly disparaging Abbas and his pragmatist Arab faction.

Meantime, the anti-Netanyahu bloc also will have trouble forming a majority government should they receive a mandate from President Reuven Rivlin to try to form a government. The reason is that they too would need conservative Jews on the Right to accept outside support from the same Arab party. Netanyahu himself has legitimized such a move by first proposing Ra’am as a possible coalition partner. This could be a breakthrough for societal reconciliation between Arabs and Jews in Israel, but it still would require breaking a political taboo by both sides.

The most viable options for resolving the electoral impasse in coming days involve Bennett serving as prime minister first – either in a rotation deal with Netanyahu and the Right, or in a rotation with Lapid as part of a unity government with the Center/Left. The latter alternative is being vigorously discussed even before Netanyahu’s mandate expires. But Bennett is demanding that the parties on the Right receive most of the prime cabinet postings (Foreign Affairs, Defense, Finance, Judiciary, Education) even if they are a minority within the coalition, since 60% of Israelis voted for parties on the Right. This demand remains a sticking point with Lapid and his leftist allies. Of course, a third option would be going to an unthinkable fifth election, which everyone is vowing to avoid but may prove inevitable.

Most noteworthy in these various scenarios is that the odds for Netanyahu to remain prime minister for now are slim to none. He would have to wait his turn while serving as an “alternate prime minister” – much like Gantz has been doing over the past year. And in such a case, he could try to trigger a new election a year or so down the road if the polls are more favorable. This all means he is unlikely to retain the premiership at this time, yet his political career may be far from over.

Seeing the writing on the wall, some within Likud have been offering ideas for giving Netanyahu an “honorable exit” due to his stature and many achievements for the nation. After all, he did just win the largest number of Knesset seats – by far. One idea would have him voted in as the next president to replace Rivlin this summer, while other suggestions would allow him to stay in the Prime Minister’s Residence on Balfour Street while someone else takes the first turn as head of the government. So far, he has not been too enthusiastic about any of these proposals and seems prepared to fight on, even in the Opposition – and in the courtroom as well.

However this all plays out next week and beyond, Netanyahu certainly is due more honor and respect for all he has done for Israel than the way some want to hoist him on a pike.

 

David Parsons is an author, attorney, journalist, and ordained minister who serves as Vice President and senior spokesman for the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem; www.icej.org/

Make sure to also watch the ICEJ Webinar on the topic “Can PM Netanyahu Stay in Power”, hosted by ICEJ VP & Spokesman David Parsons and featuring Josh Reinstein, Director of the Knesset Christian Allies Caucus, from Thursday, 29 April 2021, on the ICEJ’s YouTube channel. 

 

The Christian Role in Israel’s Rebirth

As we mark the miraculous rebirth of Israel 73 years ago, it is important to also recall some of the unheralded Christians who assisted the Zionist movement in that critical moment when the Jewish State miraculously re-emerged on the world scene.

For more than a century prior to modern Israel’s establishment, well-known Christian politicians and clergy had laid the moral and historic foundation for the Zionist movement’s eventual successes. In fact, it was British diplomatic chaplain William Hechler who befriended Theodor Herzl, founder of the Zionist movement, and became its ‘foreign minister’ by introducing Herzl to many of the leaders of Western Europe in their day. Also notable are a trio of British military officers who helped restore the Jewish fighting spirit in the years between World Wars I and II – Col. John Henry Patterson, Col. Richard Meinertzhagen, and finally Col. Charles Orde Wingate.

There were, however, two lesser known Christian pastors who played key roles in the UN’s decision to partition Palestine on 29 November 1947, which paved the way for Israel’s independence some six months later.

In February 1947 the United Nations appointed 11 member states to the UN Special Committee on Palestine (UNSCOP) to conduct an inquiry and propose a solution to the “unworkable” British Mandate. The committee came to the Land that summer to investigate the deteriorating situation first-hand.

They were impressed with Jewish advancements in the land. The plight of some 250,000 Jewish refugees stuck in European refugee camps also weighed heavily on the committee. Desperate efforts to bring them to Palestine were blocked by Britain’s pro-Arab policies and naval blockade along the coast. The sad ordeal of the Exodus-1947, a ship packed with 4,500 desperate Holocaust survivors, caught UNSCOP’s attention that summer.

Rev. John Stanley Grauel, a Christian sympathiser with the Zionist cause, had volunteered as the vessel’s only non-Jewish crew member and witnessed the British assault on the Exodus off Haifa. He rushed to Jerusalem and gave compelling testimony before the committee; how the ship was rammed seven times, then boarded by armed sailors who shot and clubbed to death defenceless boys.

“The Exodus had no arms,” Rev. Grauel insisted. “All they fought with were potatoes, canned goods, and their bare fists.”

The refugees eventually were returned to Germany. The tragedy stretched out several months before a worldwide audience, fuelling the committee’s growing sense of its humanitarian mission.

Rev. William Hull also impacted UNSCOP that summer, especially Canadian delegate Justice Ivan Rand. Also from Canada, Rev. Hull had ministered in Jerusalem since 1935 and knew first-hand of the injustices visited upon the Jewish community by British and Arab alike. Over dinner one evening, Justice Rand listened to Hull’s views and later admitted their encounter clarified his understanding of the dispute and gave him new appreciation for Zionist endeavours. Rev. Hull also submitted a letter to the full committee setting forth in a powerful way the case for Biblical Zionism.

Since Canada was part of the Commonwealth, Justice Rand’s anti-British leanings held great sway. In a sense, he became “the conscience of the committee.”

Following his lead, the majority of UNSCOP recommended partitioning the Land into separate Jewish and Arab states. The Partition Plan (Resolution 181) was adopted by a vote of 33 to 13 in the UN General Assembly. The Jewish Agency accepted the decision, but Arab leaders rejected it and immediately launched hostilities. By the time the British Mandate ended on 14 May 1948, Arab-Jewish fighting had resulted in a de facto partition and the Jewish people were poised to declare the rebirth of their ancient nation.

When David Ben-Gurion declared the independence of Israel in late afternoon on 14 May, the conflict between Jews and Arabs escalated as five Arab armies launched an invasion seeking to “drive the Jews into the sea” and claim the land for themselves. The struggling Jewish forces were joined by foreign volunteers, including a number of Christians who came to help defend the new-born Jewish state. One of them, Derek Bowden, was a veteran British paratrooper during World War II and went on to train the victorious IDF’s elite paratrooper’s brigade.
 

David Parsons is an author, attorney, journalist, and ordained minister who serves as Vice President and senior spokesman for the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem; www.icej.org/

Make sure to also watch the ICEJ Webinar on the topic “Christian Role in Israel’s Rebirth”, featuring David Parsons, Jerry Klinger and Sam Philipe, from Thursday, 15 April 2021, on the ICEJ’s YouTube channel.

 

Christians and the Holocaust

“How shall I console you? To what shall I liken you, O daughter of Jerusalem? What shall I compare with you, that I may comfort you? For your ruin is spread as wide as the sea; who can heal you.” Lamentations 2:13

This verse lamenting the destruction of Israel repeatedly asks the question as to what should we do and how can we comfort Zion? Of all people, Christians need to answer these questions. While the Holocaust was perpetrated by the Nazis, whose core leaders departed from Christianity to follow pagan Norse gods, the underpinnings of this immense tragedy were indeed Christian. This opened the door and provided the climate for the Nazis to launch their diabolical program of Jewish extermination on an industrial scale that was quite simply mind boggling. That six million innocent Jewish people were murdered in the most brutal fashion is truly beyond belief and we must never forget that this happened just seventy-five years ago.

There were five pillars, if you will, upon which Christendom in Europe built its hatred of the Jewish people:

1. Culturalization
In the second and third centuries, when as yet there was no New Testament canon of Scripture, Church leaders began to make statements concerning the Jewish people that were derogatory and demeaning. Sadly, almost all the highly respected Church Fathers did this. The common people could not test these statements with Scripture as these were also not yet widely available. This continued for centuries and in time became acceptable Christian behavior.

2. Sanitization
Together with the problem of consistently demeaning the Jews, the organized Church began to expunge everything Jewish from their festivals, liturgical practices and theology. The Hebraic foundation, or Jewish root system, of the Christian faith was therefore removed and in some cases replaced with pagan identities. So, for instance, Passover became Easter, or the Feast of Ishtar, and the Feast of Tabernacles became a harvest festival, etc.

3. Indoctrination
By the Middle Ages, the so-called doctrine of ‘contempt’ had been formulated which essentially stated the Jewish people were excluded from the love of God and were only kept alive by God as objects of His wrath and judgment. Jews were therefore beyond redemption and now the Church was the real and new Israel of God. This ungodly theological position was only repealed in the 1960s by the Second Vatican Council.

4. Liberalization
In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Christian universities and seminaries were infiltrated by liberal academics who began to cast doubt on the inspiration and authority of scripture. This, while everywhere prevalent, was particularly true of Germany. With no document of absolute truth, a vacuum was produced into which ultimately stepped the evil of Nazism, which blamed the Jews for the defeat of Germany in the First World War and other societal ills. This opened the door finally to:

5. Intimidation
Adolf Hitler and his murdering thugs could now openly speak evil of the Jews at one mass rally after the next. All of the above came together to produce a deadly vial of murder and extermination, to which a blind eye was turned from the plight of the Jews and fear gripped anyone who would rise up to challenge the Nazi narrative. Those who dared to do so paid with their lives and so the Holocaust began! Too few brave Christians like Corrie Ten Boom and Dietrich Bonhoeffer came to the aid of the Jews.

These, my friends, are the five foundation stones that made possible the Holocaust and the destruction of European Jewry from 1933 to 1945. The following true story well illustrates this historic truth.

In 1987, I was serving on the pastoral team of the Jerusalem Christian Assembly, an expatriate church that met in the main auditorium of the YMCA on King David Street in Jerusalem. Just a few days before Christmas, I was meeting with my fellow pastors Jim Cantelon and Wayne Hilsden over breakfast. Suddenly, the restaurant floor manager, a Jewish man called Yossi, came over to us and asked if he could join us. We duly welcomed him and asked him to take a seat. He then proceeded to tell us that he wished, with our permission, to attend our Christmas Eve service. We, of course, were quite surprised but he quickly assured us that he was not a Christian and did not intend to become one. Our interest was aroused and we therefore asked him why? He then proceeded to tell us an amazing story.

Yossi grew up in Hungary and was a young teenager when his country was invaded and occupied by the Nazis during the Second World War. On Christmas Eve, he was rounded up with other young Jewish girls and boys and herded into a Gestapo courtyard where at one end was a machine gun. They were all told to undress, and then they were placed against a wall as a German soldier made his weapon ready to shoot them dead. Suddenly, a higher-ranking Gestapo officer entered the courtyard and told them to halt and stated that they could not do this on Christmas Eve. He further demanded that they be released into his custody and that after Christmas Day, he would return them to be killed. After much haggling and debate, the other officers conceded and surrendered the teenagers to his custody.

This Gestapo officer promptly loaded all the youngsters, including Yossi, into a truck and drove them to freedom. He was nothing but an imposter, as he was in truth a Christian by the name of Raoul Wallenberg, the now-famous Swedish diplomat stationed in Budapest. Yossi nearly died because of Christmas Day, but the truth is he was saved because of Christmas Day. He therefore had made a vow that on every Christmas Day thereafter, he would attend a church gathering. Hence, his meeting with us and his request to attend our Christmas Day service. I personally welcomed him at the door when he arrived and took his place amongst the congregation. I have never forgotten him.

This, my friends, answers the question posed by the prophet Jeremiah in his book of Lamentations. Who indeed will comfort the daughter of Zion? You, my dear Christian brothers and sisters, will – just like Wallenberg did, even though you know that your long history of antisemitism provided the platform for the Jews to be murdered on Christmas Day. There is such a thing as collective guilt, just as modern-day Americans are having to grapple with their history of slavery. On the walls of Yad Vashem the following words are inscribed: “Remembrance is the pathway to redemption but forgetfulness is the road to exile.” On this Yom HaShoah, Israel’s solemn Holocaust Remembrance Day, we remember!
 

Rev. Malcolm Hedding is the former Executive Director of the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem and still serves on the Board of Trustees.

MAKE SURE to also watch the ICEJ webinar “Christians and the Holocaust” from Thursday, 8 April 2021, featuring Shaya Ben Yehuda and Rev. Malcolm Hedding, founders of Christian Friends of Yad Vashem. View Here!

The Power of the Cross

During the Passover season each year, we are reminded of the most powerful event which ever took place in human history. At exactly the moment when thousands of Passover lambs were being slaughtered in the Temple in Jerusalem, Jesus – the Lamb of God – died on the Cross and carried away the sins of the world. This perfect fulfilment of the Paschal sacrifice on a Roman cross outside the city walls of Jerusalem has become the primary symbol of Christianity.

The Apostle Paul wrote to the church in Corinth that if he had to condense the Christian faith into one single message, it would be the message of the cross of Christ. When visiting the church in Corinth, he was “determined not to know anything… except Jesus Christ and him crucified.” (1 Corinthians 2:2) For all eternity, the Cross declares an eternal and powerful message to the world, for it is a mighty demonstration of God’s character.

A demonstration of God’s love
At Calvary we see more than anywhere else the character of God. Paul declares: “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8) If there is one place where God’s love can be seen and understood best, it is at the foot of the Cross. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son...”

No matter how noble the cause, would any among us consider giving up our children for it? No, family comes first! And of course, this is our first realm of responsibility as good parents. But this was not the case with God. He was willing to give His Son, not to redeem a noble company of saints, but Jesus died for wretched sinners like you and me.

This is the exciting news; God did not wait for the human race to improve until He decided to offer the incredible redemptive gift of His Son. He did so while humanity was hopelessly lost and in open rebellion against Him. This love was not deserved and it remains beyond our understanding. This also gives us hope. Paul uses that very truth to assure the status of the believer. If God was willing to offer the incredible gift of the death of His only Son while we were still sinners, Paul urges us to consider how much more will He now give us everything as His children. God will never come to a point that He is finished with you. He literally is willing to do whatever it takes to finish the good work He started in you (Romans 8:32, Philippians 1:6). So never give up on yourself!

A demonstration of God’s righteousness
The Cross also demonstrates God’s righteousness. “Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed…” (Romans 3:25)

The Cross is a powerful display of the righteous character of God. The German theologian Erich Sauer wrote: “All the patience of the past was only possible in foresight of the Cross and all grace of the future is justified in hindsight of the Cross.” It is there at the Cross where every single righteous requirement of God is being met. It is only at the Cross where God’s righteousness can become our very own righteousness. It is this glorious exchange at the Cross which allows us to enter freely into the presence of God, knowing that all our sins past, present or future are being met by the grace of God.

The exaltation of the person of Jesus
It was the unconditional obedience of Jesus to his heavenly Father which exalted him above all measure. When Jesus is introduced by John in the first chapter of his Gospel, the Apostle sees “the only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father.” (John 1:18; see also Proverbs 8:25-31) After the Cross, Jesus returned to his Father, yet not to His bosom but “after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God”, with “angels and authorities and powers having been made subject to Him.” (Hebrews 10:12; 1 Peter 3:22) What an exaltation!

Paul described this in the following way: “He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. Therefore, God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:8-11)

This does not mean that Jesus through the Cross attained a more divine nature or a higher heavenly status. He already was the all-powerful Creator (John 1:3). Yet the Cross has earned him that glorious name of Jesus which is worthy of all our praise and adoration forever.

The transformation of humankind
The great impact of the Cross on the human race is that it is not just a means to avoid punishment and hell. Jesus did not die to just save the sinner from certain death (even though this would have been reason enough to thank God for all eternity). Rather, the Cross delivers to us something far greater. The death and resurrection of Christ make us part of God’s eternal family! When Jesus died on the Cross, an incredible exchange of identity took place.

It is not only Jesus who died on Calvary, but everyone who places their faith in his hands died with Christ and is resurrected to a new identity (Romans 6:6). Or as Jesus put it, we are “born again.” (John 3:3) And once this transformation takes place, our new identity is that of a son or daughter of God. Jesus brings us into such an intimate relationship with the Father that we can call him “Abba.” (Romans 8:15) Jesus has become our all-powerful elder brother and he himself “is not ashamed to call [us his] brethren! (Hebrews 2:11)

We have become co-heirs with Jesus and one day we will rule and reign with him! What a wonderful redemption!

Therefore let us rise up from the all our lethargy and misery. The Cross has become our victory for today and the gateway to a triumphant future. Let us live according to that glorious destination and let us give thanks to God for His saving love!
 

MAKE SURE to also watch the ICEJ webinar “Resurrection and First Fruits” from Thursday, 1 April 2021, featuring ICEJ President Dr. Jürgen Bühler.

Passover and the Cross

“Now the blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you are. And when I see the blood, I will pass over you; and the plague shall not be on you to destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt.” Exodus 12:13

“Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.” John 1:29

There are many important parallels between the Passover of the Exodus story and that fateful Passover when Jesus suffered and died for our sins. There also are many lessons to be learned from the first Pessach concerning the incredible spiritual victories achieved by Christ at the second.

1) The judgement of false gods
Exodus 12:12 says: “For I will pass through the land of Egypt on that night, and strike all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgement; I am the Lord.”

The first Passover reminds us that there is only one God and we are to love and fear Him. We must be careful not to make idols of things that supplant the place which Jesus should hold in our lives (Deuteronomy 11:16). We must always tell the story of how God came down in Christ to save us from the slavery of sin. The Passover has a liturgy (the Haggadah) which actually means “the telling”. We must tell this story time and time again to our households and children.

2) The judgement of the individual
Both Jews and Egyptians were subject to death on that first Passover night. In fact, a vast multitude of other peoples were delivered that night, including Egyptians.

This reminds us that:
(a) All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23).

(b) The holy love of God, meaning His wrath and anger, is set against us if we do not repent and turn away from our sins. The same God who declares that He loves us will send us away one day into eternal darkness and wrath if we do not humbly turn to Him! (John 3:36).

(c) The atoning love of God in Christ’s death, burial and resurrection is the only way for us to experience the abounding and marvelous presence of God for all eternity. It is the death of Christ alone that frees us from the wrath of God, our sinful natures, death, and the devil – the pharaoh of Egypt.

The sin and death that besets our lives is like leaven which rises to permeate and penetrate everything. Thus, at Passover all leaven has to be meticulously removed from one’s home (Exodus 12:19). Paul used this as an illustration of how we are to follow Christ in that, “Christ our Passover Lamb has been sacrificed” and therefore we must purge the leaven of sin from our lives (1 Corinthians 5:7). This is precisely why Communion, a part of the Passover celebration, must be taken very seriously (1 Corinthians 11:23-28).

Also, deliverance at Passover was effected by the blood of a lamb being placed in the form of a cross on the door posts and lintels of their homes (Exodus 12:7). Thereafter, the sacrificed lamb had to be fully eaten. That is, salvation is by the death of Jesus on the cross, which saves us from the consequences of our sins, while the fullness of the life of Christ in us saves us from the power of sin. We have to feed on Him every day! (Romans 5:10)

(d) The lamb of God sacrificed at Passover was a substitutionary atonement. That is, it took the place of the Israelites and died for them. Jesus did exactly the same thing for us: “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit.” (1 Peter 3:18)

In fact, the Scriptures tell us that He became sin for us (2 Corinthians 5:21). This means that we are wholly sinful and the saying that “God loves the sinner but just hates the sin” is false. Sin is not just an accident in our lives or some unfortunate growth on our bodies. No! We are sin itself and so Jesus became sin for us, in our stead. Do not ever trivialize sin as it cost the Son of God everything, just like the Passover lamb.

At Passover, the lamb of God had to be personally appropriated. That is, the record of Scripture teaches that it was first “a lamb”, then “the lamb” and finally “your lamb” (Exodus 12:3-5). We have to see Jesus, understand that He is unique and sinless, and finally we must make Him our own. We must surrender ourselves to His deliverance just as the Israelites did in Egypt.

3. The judgement of the Lamb
According to Exodus 12:3-6, the lamb of the Passover had to be perfect, without blemish. Likewise, Jesus was perfect, even in being born of a virgin.

The Passover lamb had to dwell in your home and be examined for three days, just as Jesus was inspected closely by all who heard him during his three years of ministry.

Finally, the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed at twilight, just as Jesus died on the cross for each one of us just before the Passover began.

We have a glorious Savior who, by His death, has enabled God – His Father – to pass over our lives and deliver us from wrath, our sins, death and the devil. We must appropriate Him by a personal decision and then go out in haste from the “Egypt” that is this world to follow Him and live our lives for Him (2 Corinthians 5:15).

Rev. Malcolm Hedding is an ordained minister and member of the ICEJ’s international Board of Trustees.

FOR MORE INFORMATION on this subject, please watch the ICEJ webinar “Passover and the Cross” from Thursday, 25 March 2021, featuring Rev. Malcolm Hedding.

Israel’s Fourth Round of Elections Closer Than Ever

Israelis will head to the ballot box next Tuesday (23 March) in their fourth national elections of the past 30 months. The latest polls indicate this may be the closest race yet in these repetitive bids to oust long-time Prime Minister Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu. Somehow, he has managed to stay in office for more than a decade now, despite numerous determined attempts to unseat him, but the key to whether Netanyahu will remain in power this time lies within his own nationalist camp.

The election campaign is winding down just as the nation is emerging from a major corona-related lockdown, thanks to the Netanyahu government’s very ambitious mass vaccination program. With almost 90% of all Israeli adults now vaccinated, everyone is hoping for life to return to normal and for the economy to recover. This may give Netanyahu a last-minute boost which keeps him in office. But it is just as possible that too many party leaders from the center/right – namely Naftali Bennett of Yamina, Gideon Sa’ar of New Hope, and Avigdor Liberman of Yisrael Beiteinu – will refuse to join a Netanyahu-led coalition, thereby ending his historic run as Israel’s longest-serving prime minister.

How did we get here?
In the third election cycle last March, the center/left cobbled together an alignment of parties featuring Benny Gantz and two other former IDF chiefs-of-staff, along with Yair Lapid of Yesh Atid, to try to bring down “Mr. Security” – as Netanyahu is known. The election results were deadlocked, but due to the corona crisis Gantz decided to break his vow not to sit in a government with Netanyahu and entered a rotation deal which called for Gantz to take over as prime minister in November of this year. However, that agreement fell apart in late December when the ruling coalition failed to pass an annual state budget in time, triggering yet another round of elections.

What is at stake?
Israel’s traditional political fault line of hawks vs doves has been increasingly irrelevant over the last four elections, and never more so than now. The Left vs Right divide has taken a back seat to the simple question ‘Bibi or not Bibi.” The peaceniks are still losing ground to the nationalist camp, but even within his traditional conservative base Netanyahu is hemorrhaging support. Liberman abandoned his former ally last election, and Sa’ar just broke away from Likud to form New Hope on a promise to finally replace Netanyahu with a new prime minister. This has left Bennett in the critical position of kingmaker – able to decide if Bibi stays put or not while exacting political benefits for himself either way. Should Netanyahu prevail yet once more in this prolonged political struggle, his legend as an Israeli leader will only become more embellished.

What is their bone with Bibi?
Many contend that Israeli democracy is actually at stake in this election, due to their perception of Netanyahu as corrupt, self-serving and privileged. Fueled by the three corruption trials now pending against him, the drive to oust Netanyahu has become relentless. The “Black Flag” movement has staged weekly boisterous protests across the country for an entire year now – despite corona lockdowns and stormy winter weather. Even younger rivals on the Right are now jumping onto this bandwagon, perhaps exploiting the growing anti-Bibi sentiment as an opportunity to accelerate their own political rise.

Bibi’s rebuttal
This all ignores, of course, Netanyahu’s many lasting contributions to the country, such as his economic success in marketing Israel as the Start-Up Nation; his adept handling of Israel’s many security challenges, including the Iranian nuclear threat; and his many diplomatic achievements, such as the recent Abraham Accords. In recent days, Netanyahu has even hinted that four more Arab/Muslim nations are ready to make peace with Israel. On the other hand, the landmark normalization pact with the United Arab Emirates did hit a slight snag this week when Netanyahu tried to pay an historic visit that Abu Dhabi sensed was skirting too close to the Israeli elections.

Are there any wild cards?
Polls show there are several parties hovering right at the electoral threshold of 3.25% of the national vote count to enter the Knesset – Blue & White, Religious Zionists, Meretz and Ra’am. The failure of one or more of these parties to reach that minimum number of votes could end up boosting other parties last-minute and thus make a crucial difference in the pro/anti-Bibi divide.

  

In addition, the Arab vote has become a key factor in this election. The Arabs make up around 20% of the Israeli population, and thus could potentially account for some 23 Knesset seats. They traditionally vote for Arab and leftist parties, but Netanyahu is courting them for the first time to vote Likud. The leaders of the main Arab party, the Joint List, broke precedent last election by recommending Gantz as prime minister. There is a chance they might go further and actually seek to join a coalition government this time, but the question is whether that could include one with Netanyahu at its head. In an odd twist, Arab party leaders are still reluctant publicly to sit in a government with Netanyahu, even while one recent survey found that a third of all Arab voters prefer him as prime minister – more than any other candidate. The small breakaway Ra’am party is promising to be pragmatic about securing advances for the Arab sector and thus may provide Netanyahu a difference-making boost from an unusual source.

Final forecast?
Neither Naftali Bennett nor Gideon Sa’ar have managed to build enough backing to seriously challenge for the premiership, leaving Yair Lapid as the only realistic alternative to Netanyahu as the next head of government. There were indications this week that the Likud party has gained a seat or two on Yesh Atid due to the positive national mood created by the recent lifting of corona restrictions and the gradual return to normalcy. Thanks to the mass vaccination campaign, malls and restaurants are starting to re-open – just as the polls are about to open.

Netanyahu has managed to seize just enough last-minute momentum to secure re-election several times before, and it may be happening again. If Bennett could be swayed by this most recent late shift, plus some hefty political rewards, it could be enough to convince him to join Netanyahu in a narrow but stable right-wing government. With such an outcome, Bibi’s political prowess would approach the mythical.

David Parsons is an author, attorney, journalist, and ordained minister who serves as Vice President and senior spokesman for the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem; www.icej.org/

FOR MORE INFORMATION on this subject, please watch the ICEJ webinar “The Israeli Elections” from Thursday, 18 March 2021, moderated by ICEJ spokesman David Parsons, and featuring Gil Hoffman, chief political correspondent for The Jerusalem Post, and Chris Mitchell, Jerusalem bureau chief for CBN News.

 

 

Share this: