The tiny nation of Israel has been a flashpoint in the Middle East for a very long time, and that ought not be puzzling to those who know the Bible. Genesis 21 gives us the account of the friction between Ishmael and Isaac, the putative heads of the Arab and Jewish peoples, respectively. Galatians 4 recounts to us this quarrel between Hagar and her son Ishmael on the one side, and Sarah and her son Isaac on the other, in the presence of Abraham, the reluctant arbiter who caused the trouble in the first place by acting in the flesh with Hagar at Sarah’s instigation. The apostle Paul speaks there of Ishmael’s attitude toward Isaac as “persecution”, and while he was using this ancient story as an allegory to make a larger doctrinal point, it is evident to any observer that the underlying friction between the two parties has never been resolved.
A majority of Christendom (i.e., those from the historical Protestant denominations, Catholicism, and Eastern Orthdoxy) would deny or question Israel’s right to exist as a nation in their own homeland, for a variety of reasons. Recently, I heard a recorded address by an educated convert to a very conservative segment of the Anabaptist movement, in which the speaker denied that God had anything to do with Israel’s return to its ancient land. While he could not account for why that amazing in-gathering actually did occur, he sought to make this point against the teaching of dispensationalism and “Modern Zionism”, and I paraphrase here: It could not have been God that brought the Jews back to their land in the 20th century because they and their advocates did not and still do not adhere to the teaching of the Lord Jesus in the “Sermon on the Mount” (Matthew 5-7). Now, this is just one example of the faulty reasoning used by the “Christian Palestinian” movement, and by those who espouse Covenant or Replacement Theology.
Two of the overarching principles of a dispensational understanding of the prophetic Scriptures are these: (1) That Israel and the church of God are two completely separate entities, dealt with very differently in the purposes and ways of God, and (2) that Israel must return to its homeland in the latter days, where Jehovah will deal with them, first in judgment, then in marvelous grace. Bible teachers like John Nelson Darby and others even predicted many decades in advance that the Jews (but not the 10 “lost” tribes) would return to their land in unbelief before the “Great Tribulation”, because they believed the prophecy and warning of the Lord Jesus in passages like Matthew 24:3-28 simply cannot apply to the church, for it is entirely heavenly in its character and destiny.
It may be easy enough for a Christian believer to think in terms of a heavenly inheritance, in contrast to an earthly one that includes real estate. However, we should not project our own heavenly point of view upon the child of Israel, who was always promised earthly blessing and an earthly kingdom. One can hardly read through the last dozen chapters of Ezekiel without being impressed by the clarity of God’s promise to His earthly people to raise them up, give them spiritual life, and bring them back into their land (chapters 36-37), to judge their enemies before them (chapters 38-39), to cause a magnificent physical temple to be built (chapters 40-42), and to endow that temple and the whole, enlarged land of Israel with His own glory and blessing (chapters 43-48).
There is a glorious day yet coming for this earth, after the bride of Christ is taken home to be with Him forever, when Jehovah will fulfill all His promises to Israel, including this precious gem: “I will give salvation in Zion, and unto Israel my glory.”¹ The Lord Jesus, the Messiah of Israel, will have His excellence and majesty placed on display through His earthly people, before a wondering world that once rejected and crucified Him.
¹ Isaiah 46:13, JND translation