John Piper is founder and teacher of desiringGod.org and chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary. For 33 years, he served as pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis, Minnesota.
At the very outset of John Pipers article, entitled Israel, Palestine and the Middle East, he wrote, “The existence of Israel in the Middle East and the extent of her borders and her sovereignty are perhaps the most explosive factors in world terrorism and the most volatile factors in Arab-Western relations.”
I understand why the existence of Israel is a problem for some people, but that is not Israel’s fault. The blame belongs to those who wrongfully hate her! Unchristian Arabs have been hating Israel since her existence, when God chose her as His own. Unconverted Arabs (and many others) have always been jealous and hateful toward Israel.
Piper’s next sentence is also disturbing. He said, “The Arab roots and the Jewish roots in this land go back for thousands of years. Both lay claim to the land not merely because of historical presence, but also because of divine right.”
Divine rights? The Arabs have no divine rights to the land. God gave Israel the land, not the Arabs!
Mr. Piper goes on the try to explain why Israel as a people and a nation have no rights to the land: because, he says, they are enemies of God and have rejected her Messiah. Yes, as a nation they have and are rejecting Him. But soon, when He comes, “all Israel” will be saved (Rom. 11:26). And we must understand that “Israel” here means Jewish people, not Gentiles!
I would like to point out here, as Piper fails to, that not all Israel (every individual) is rejecting God. There are many thousands of Jews who have become Christians and have received their Messiah. I think it is worth the time here to listen to Rabbi Baruch, in response to what Piper has said on this issue, especially in regard to his reference to John 8:
It is incorrect to interpret the John 8 passage as referring to Israel or the Jewish people at large, for this is not the context. The only individuals that Jesus is addressing in this passage are a small group of Pharisees who entered into a discussion with Him. (See John 8:13). Further on in this passage, verse 22 says “the Jews”, but once again, the text is not referring to the Jewish people as a whole. The term “Jew” is often used to refer to a Judean sect synonymous with the Pharisees and/or Scribes. Whether one accepts this interpretation for the term “Jews” or whether one does not, is not vital. This is because once again, context is of key importance. In this section, context demands that the statement in question from verse 42, is only speaking about those Jewish individuals who wanted to kill Jesus. One must be extremely careful not to include the Jewish people at large in this desire of a few Jewish individuals to kill Jesus, which was ultimately carried out by Gentiles. For Mr. Piper to use John 8 as a proof text to support his view that the Jewish people at large are enemies of God cannot be substantiated by this text. Mr. Piper sounds awfully similar to those who label the Jewish people as “Christ killers”. If one looks throughout the Gospels, one will find that Jesus Himself made a distinction between the Jewish people in general and those Jewish individuals that He happened to be speaking with at any given time.
I do believe that anyone (Jew or Gentile) who rejects the Gospel is lost and remains in the same status as when he was born—in need of redemption. But, to imply that Jewish individuals are enemies of God in some unique way from other individuals who have not accepted the Gospel is incorrect. In all fairness, I’m not saying that Mr. Piper has made a distinction between the conditions of the unbelieving Jew vs. the unbelieving Gentile. But what Mr. Piper has done, is say that because of the overwhelming rejection by Jewish people of the Gospel, that this has caused a loss of rights for the Jewish people for the land of Israel today. This view cannot be substantiated by Scripture.
Although Mr. Piper correctly sees this rejection of Jesus as a “hardening” as part of God’s plan to move the Gospel to Gentiles and a future restoration of Israel, the problem is that he does not include the current issues in regard to the Land of Israel into God’s future plan for the Jewish people. Nor does he correctly state that this “hardening” is only in part (ὅτι πώρωσις ἀπὸ μέρους τῷ Ἰσραὴλ γέγονεν). This means that there is a remnant of Israel which has not been hardened and has received (or will receive) the promise.
Now, in the remainder of this article I will point out where I think Piper’s ideas are in error—due to his supersessionist (replacement theology) view. Piper gives seven points. I will only examine four of them, points 3 through 6. The following are just the headings. You may want to read his entire article—click HERE.
- The promises made to Abraham, including the promise of the Land, will be inherited as an everlasting gift only by true, spiritual Israel, not disobedient, unbelieving Israel.
- Jesus Christ has come into the world as the Jewish Messiah, and his own people rejected him and broke covenant with their God.
- Therefore, the secular state of Israel today may not claim a present divine right to the Land, but they and we should seek a peaceful settlement not based on present divine rights, but on international principles of justice, mercy, and practical feasibility.
- By faith in Jesus Christ, the Jewish Messiah, Gentiles become heirs of the promise of Abraham, including the promise of the Land.
Here is my response in three points:
1. Corresponding to #3 in Piper’s article, I agree that Israel will inherit all the land that was promised her; and this will happen when Christ comes to set up His kingdom. However, Piper’s supersessionist view of “true Israel” and “spiritual Israel” is not correct. He believes, as all supersessionists do, that the church (Jew and Gentile) believers become true Israel. He plainly teaches this in another of his articles, God’s Word Stands: Not all Israel is Israel, Part 1. But there is no Scriptural truth to this! Of course Jews may, and have, become Christians and members of the church, but the church does not, nor ever will become Israel. In fact, the name Israel, as it is referred to in scripture, always means the Jewish people—those who are the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; and the church always means those people who are believers in Christ and the Bride of Christ. Therefore, after the birth of the church at Pentecost, the distinction between these two groups remains intact. In fact, in the book of Acts, both Israel and the church exist simultaneously. The term Israel is used twelve times and ekklesia (church) nineteen times, yet the two groups are always kept distinct.
Also, in addition to the term “true Israel” and “spiritual Israel,” there is also the term “the Israel of God” in Galatians 6:16. This term, with the others that Piper has used, refers to Jewish believers in Christ, those who are both physical and spiritual descendants of Abraham.
2. Corresponding to #6 in Pipers article, do Gentile believers inherit the land promised to Abraham? Piper says they do, based on Romans 11:17. Well let’s examine that verse.
But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, being a wild olive, were grafted in among them and became partaker with them of the rich root of the olive tree, (NASB)
It is clear from this verse and the surrounding verses that since Israel has rejected her Messiah, God has broken off her branches and has grafted in another branch—the church. So we should understand that God has temporarily put aside Israel and has now put His focus on the church. But we should also understand that at His return the natural branches of Israel will be re-grafted in—when all Israel is saved and the church is glorified (at the rapture).
But as for now, what does the church inherit as a result of being grafted into the olive tree? The verse says, we “became a partaker of the root and fatness of the olive tree.” Does this mean that we inherit all the covenant promises of Abraham—even the land covenant? No it doesn’t. That promise belongs only to Israel and no other—as we shall see in the next point. The church inherits only God’s covenant of salvation. And this is really all we need. There is no indication in the bible that the church inherits the land of Israel. In fact, the church will be raptured before the kingdom on earth begins; so it has no interest in the land. I believe the glorified church will exist on earth in the millennial kingdom only as glorified observers and of course as those who reign with Christ. But it will be primarily Israel—converted and made holy, yet still in physical form—who will occupy and reign over the earth in the millennium (Gentile will also be on the earth, but they will have a lesser role or rank than the Jews).
3. Corresponding to #4 and #5 in Piper’s article, is it true that Israel cannot claim a divine right to the Promised Land, now or in the future? No! This is not true! Romans 11:1 clearly states that God has not rejected His people, and He never will. Paul wrote, “May it never be!” And this is because God’s covenant with Israel (the Abrahamic covenant) is unconditional. (Please look at a blog post I wrote on The Nature of the Abrahamic Covenant. In this post I set out to prove in four points its unconditional nature.)
His promise of the land to Israel (the Jews) is not dependent on anything they do, but on God’s grace and faithfulness.
Although Israel will suffer for her disobedience (as we all do when we are disobedient), the land covenant to them will be maintained by God. He will gather them and save them. In fact, it is God’s plan to gather all of Israel (every Jew) to the land, and there He will save them. There are numerous Scripture passages that say this. Here are the main ones: Isaiah 54:2-10; Jeremiah 23:1-8; Ezekiel 34:7-31; 37:21-28.