Are American pastors dismissive of Arab Christians in Israel? Should Christians treat the Israeli-Palestinian dispute differently than other conflicts? As pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, John Piper has been addressing these contentious questions for years. After he began informally discussing them with David Brickner, executive director of Jews for Jesus, we invited them to share some of their discussion with our readers. We continue today with Piper's response to Brickner's question, "Do Jews have a divine right to the Promised Land?" and will continue tomorrow with Brickner's response.
Thank you for taking this happy initiative. I am eager to discuss Israel and the Promised Land with you. I love Jews for Jesus. Your leadership, and Moishe Rosen's before you, have been for me a cause for continual thanksgiving. "To the Jew first, and also to the Greek" (Rom. 1:16) has never ceased to carry weight with me. I pray we will never lose Paul's passion in Romans 10:1: "My heart's desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved."
We both agree that the way God chose to bring all the nations under the sway of King Jesus is astonishing. After sketching it, Paul praised God, "How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!" (Rom. 11:33).
- First, God chose Israel. "The Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth" (Deut. 7:6).
- Then, for 2,000 years, he focused his saving work mainly on Israel, "allowing all the nations to walk in their own ways" (Acts 14:16).
- Then he sent Jesus, the Messiah, to Israel, knowing they would crucify him, so that the Gentiles might "receive mercy because of their [Israel's] disobedience" (Rom. 11:30).
- And then, lest we Gentiles think we are the end of the story, Paul told us that Israel "has now been disobedient in order that by the mercy shown to you [Gentiles] they [Israel] also may now receive mercy" (Rom. 11:31).
- And the point of it all? To show that "from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen" (Rom. 11:36).
What was Paul's response to this flabbergasting way of saving the world? Unsearchable! Inscrutable! "Who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?" (Rom. 11:34).
So, you are right. I believe God has a future for ethnic Israel. And we agree this is not because there are two tracks to glory or two different covenants of grace. Rather, corporate Israel will be saved in the end because she will be grafted back into the same covenant tree with all of us wild olive branches (Rom. 11:1624). Both Jews and Gentiles become heirs of the promise of Abraham in the same way: "If you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's offspring, heirs according to promise" (Gal. 3:29).
So I am persuaded with J. C. Ryle that Israel, as a people, will someday be converted to the Messiah and saved:
They are kept separate that they may finally be saved, converted and restored to their own land. They are reserved and preserved, in order that God may show in them as on a platform, to angels and men, how greatly he hates sin, and yet how greatly he can forgive, and how greatly he can convert. Never will that be realized as it will in that day when "all Israel shall be saved." (Are You Ready for the End of Time? pp. 137138)
Moreover, I also believe the promise of the Land to this redeemed ethnic Israel is both conditional and irrevocable. Irrevocable means they will finally have it as a special dwelling place when the Deliverer comes from Zion and banishes ungodliness from Jacob (Rom. 11:26).