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A Biblical Position on Israel Ancient & Modern, and on Middle-East Conflict

By the Faculty of Shepherds’ Seminary
16 November 2023
Johannesburg, South Africa


Given both the perennial conflict in the Middle East, and the church’s relationship to biblical Israel, we believe the following statement is urgently needed for theological clarity, correct moral judgment, and Christian discernment of current affairs so that the body of Christ is unified in the truth and in gospel witness before a watching world.[1] We would appeal to all evangelical believers to stand with us around convictions 1-10 in light of biblical ethics, human rights and the facts of history. In addition, we offer affirmations 11-13 for those who share our dispensational theology.

  1. The modern state of Israel was created by victorious powers in a just war, and has every right to exist and to survive. As a sovereign nation, it has the right for self-determination and self-protection.[2] The creation of the modern state was lawful, and since it is a lawful state, it has every right to make its own laws, defend itself, make treaties and alliances, and do what is necessary to ensure the protection of its citizens. According to Just War theory, this includes waging wars, whether defensive or pre-emptive, to protect its citizens.[3] The Golden Rule also applies at a national level, treating other nations “as we want to be treated” (Matt. 7:12).
  1. The modern state of Israel, as a legitimate government, is appointed to promote justice and protect life (Rom. 13:1-6; 1 Pet. 2:13-14). To the degree it supports the human freedoms of religion, private property, lawful assembly, free speech, it represents the common grace of God, and is a bulwark against the anarchical forces of sin, tyranny, and evil (Ps. 145:9; Matt. 5:44-45; Acts 14:17; 17:28).
  1. The modern state of Israel is like every other nation ruled and populated by sinners: it is not faultless. Not every choice or policy by modern Israel deserves to be defended. Every nation commits evil deeds, and no earthly political body deserves a Christian’s unqualified, uncritical support (Matt. 28:18; Jn. 18:36; Eph. 1:21).
  1. Modern Israel is not identical to biblical Israel, yet there is overlap. Israel is the legitimate homeland for many millions of Jews, and Christians should be wary of anti-Zionist sentiment. Much of this is old-fashioned antisemitism, smuggled in under the guise of a political battle for land. Many anti-Zionist groups are not in pursuit of justice for Palestinians; they are in pursuit of the destruction of Israel and the eradication of the Jewish people (Ps. 83).
  1. We are not required, in the name of impartiality, to assert some superficial symmetry of sympathy between Israel and other nations (a kind of ‘both-side-ism’, the myth of moral equivalence). Israel stands as a rare example of democracy in a region dominated by authoritarian regimes. If Israel’s neighbours or enemies assert that their aim is the eradication of Israel, the murder of Jews, or the destruction of the modern state of Israel, this does not deserve Christian sympathy, toleration or defence.[4] Christians should always condemn murder, tyranny and oppression, whatever the political motivation (Exod. 20:13; Prov. 8:13; Amos 5:15; Ps. 26:5; 139:21-22).  We dare not join in with a godless world that wants to justify massacre and redefine genocide and apartheid, calling good ‘evil’ and evil ‘good’ (Isa. 5:20; Prov. 17:15; Rom. 12:2; Col. 2:8).
  1. Jews, Arabs, and all the inhabitants of Middle Eastern countries are God’s image-bearers, needing love, compassion and the Christian gospel (1 Cor. 9:16). We recognize the dignity and personhood of all persons and affirm God’s love for them as well as His offer of salvation through Jesus Christ to all people (Jn. 3:16-17; Rom. 1:16-17). Though we are not required to view Israel and its neighbours with an artificial equality of political support, we are required to reject racial or ethnic partiality (Gen. 1:26-27; 9:6; Jam. 2:1; 3:9).
  1. We should recognise, however, that Christians have a unique relationship to the Jewish people, not paralleled with any other ethnic group (Jn. 4:22; Rom. 1:16). The Jewish people are the ethnic descendants of those who gave us our Bible and our Messiah (Rom. 3:1-2; 9:1-5). A relationship of respect, appreciation, and love should prevail, even when we recognise that many of them stand in opposition to the Gospel.
  1. Even when God judged Israel using other nations, He still held those other nations accountable (Isa. 12-24; Jer. 46-51; Ezek. 25-32; Obadiah; Zech. 9,14). Nations that persecuted Israel were judged; nations that blessed them were blessed. It is always in the interest of a Gentile nation to treat Jewish people with respect and provide protection for them if they are attacked. It should be extended to the Jewish population of South Africa and in other countries today. It certainly should be extended to the state of Israel, with its primarily Jewish population.
  1. We also recognize the difficult ministry of Jewish and Palestinian believers who labour for the gospel. We pray for their protection and for God’s blessing on their gospel ministry (Matt. 9:36-38; Eph. 6:18-20).
  1. We must distinguish between the modern state of Israel and biblical IsraelNational Israel in Scripture is an ethnic people-group, descended from Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Modern Israel is a secular state composed of a number of religious and ethnic groups. Biblical Israel was a theocracy; modern Israel is parliamentary democracy. Biblical Israel was a covenant nation that contained a remnant of true believers; modern Israel is a secular nation, with relatively few believers.

In light of our dispensational distinctives (futuristic premillennialism), we further affirm:

  1. The land promises are given as an eternal inheritance to Abraham’s seed (Gen. 13:15). The ethnic descendants of Abraham are given the land as an eternal inheritance. Jews can justly claim the land of Israel as their inheritance. However, possession is not the same as inheritance. Possession of the land was dependent on Israel’s obedience; disobedience would mean expulsion from the land (Deut. 30:15-18). The promised regathering and re-possession of the land is prophesied to take place when Israel is regathered, and granted new hearts – with the complete fulfilment of the New Covenant. With those new hearts, they will obey God’s eternal law, and possess their inheritance (Jer. 31; Ezek. 36).
  1. Therefore, at this time, unbelieving Jewish people stand in an ambiguous relationship to the land. As descendants of Abraham, the land is theirs by inheritance; but if they keep rejecting Messiah Jesus, they cannot possess it, on biblical grounds (Lev. 26; Deut. 28-29; 2 Kings 17). As citizens of modern Israel, the land is theirs to inherit and possess by the international laws of statecraft, war, and legal agreement.
  1. According to Romans 11, the non-remnant (unsaved) Jewish people (national, ethnic Israel) are both “enemies” of the Gospel, but still “loved” by God as “His people” (Rom. 11:1-2, 28). They are temporarily under judgement, but God cares about His ancient people as the “apple of His eye”, and He cares about how others treat them (Zech. 2:8). How the world treats the Jews in Israel matters immensely (Gen. 12:2-3; 27:29; Num. 24:9; Psalm 122:6; Rev. 12).



[1] Partially adapted with much gratitude from here:

[2] Modern Israel is not an illegitimate nation, some trophy of war, or an arbitrary border drawn in the sand by one aggressive power. The Ottoman empire had been defeated in a just war, and the area was carved out of one decaying section, to provide a homeland for the displaced and decimated Jewish people, after the awfulness of the Holocaust. Many had lost home, wealth, and had lived in refugee camps. Israel provided a genuine homeland for the Jews. The original provision of the U. N. Partition plan were accepted by the Jewish people and rejected by the Arab powers.

[3] See good summary here:

[4] The charter of Hamas states: “Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it, just as it obliterated others before it….The Day of Judgment will not come about until Moslems fight Jews and kill them.”

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