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Israel at a Crossroads on Iran

The Iranian nuclear threat has been building since the early 1990s, and every Israeli prime minister has had to deal with it in their own way. Over the ensuing years, each Israeli leader has expressed fealty to the ‘Begin Doctrine’ – the policy first set by Prime Minister Menachem Begin that Israel will not allow a hostile state in the region to acquire weapons of mass destruction. But it has recently emerged that due to a flurry of distractions over recent years – most notably the coronavirus pandemic and four stalemated elections – Israel may have fallen behind in its readiness to deal a lethal blow to Iran’s renegade nuclear program, if needed. Some in the security and political elite are even insisting that it may be too late for Israel to handle this threat on its own and must now rely solely on the United States to deliver the Jewish state from this dilemma. Whether that is truly the case or not, the new Bennett-Lapid government is clearly at a crossroads concerning Iran’s ambitions to destroy Israel by nuclear means.

The first Israeli intelligence reports about Tehran’s pursuit of a nuclear weapons program hit the desk of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in 1992. The program was still very early in its development then, but it is interesting to note in retrospect that Rabin sought to sell the seven-year Oslo peace process as a race against time for the forces of peace to gain control of the region before Iran did.

Over the years, Israel has been able to slow Iran’s nuclear progress with Western help, but Tehran has been extremely determined to forge ahead. The ayatollahs learned the lessons of Israel’s attack on Iraq’s atomic reactor at Osirak under Menachem Begin in 1982 and Ehud Olmert’s surprise operation against the Syrian reactor at al-Kibar in 2007. So, they have taken key components of their nuclear infrastructure deep underground in hopes of protecting them from Israeli strikes and prying Western eyes.

Over the past decade, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu focused on securing international sanctions to impede Iran’s progress towards the Bomb, while also carrying out a series of largely successful covert operations against Iran’s nuclear facilities and atomic experts. Part of Israel’s success in getting Western powers to finally take serious action against Iran was due to the IDF showing it was indeed ready to carry out a long-range direct assault on Iran’s nuclear sites, including a very brazen war exercise involving a mass sortie of 100 strike and re-fuelling aircraft which flew all the way to Gibraltar and back in plain sight of American and European radar. The result was a tightening of sanctions on Tehran, which forced the Islamic regime to the negotiating table, but then ended in 2015 with a weak JCPOA agreement due to the Obama administration’s strangely munificent approach to Iran.

US President Donald Trump later abandoned the JCPOA, for good reasons, but the Iranians have used that as an excuse to cross a number of red lines. In recent weeks, the International Atomic Energy Agency has disclosed that Iran is enriching uranium up to 60% purity, which falls just short of weapons-grade uranium, and also has been forging uranium metal, a key part of a nuclear warhead. Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz also recently warned that Iran is only two months away from developing an atomic bomb if it decides to make one.

On the heels of that warning comes the assessment of former prime minister Ehud Barak, published in a column in Yediot Ahronot over the High Holy Days, that just as Iran is approaching the nuclear threshold, Israeli leaders have been distracted by the coronavirus crisis and two years of stalemated elections, leaving little in the budget to help the IDF keep its plans current for attacking Iran. Israel’s only option now, argued Barak, is to strengthen its ties with the US and hope it will take the actions necessary to deliver Israel from this existential threat. He added that the US does not have any military plans at present to strike Iran, and will not likely develop any under the Biden administration. The result, he concluded, is that Israelis will have to learn to live under the shadow of a nuclear Iran.

Although he criticized the Bennett-Lapid government for helping to put Israel in this dire strait, Barak put most of the blame on Netanyahu. [It is worth recalling here that Barak sat with Bibi in a coalition government not so long ago and together they developed the “gunslinger” strategy which eventually swayed the Americans and Europeans to ratchet up sanctions on Iran.]

Only time will tell if Barak’s dour assessment is right. Some suggest the Israeli military is still well-prepared for a long-range strike on Iran’s nuclear assets, especially with its new squadrons of F-35 advanced stealth fighter-bombers. Others contend that the budget shortfalls can quickly be made up and the IDF still has time to update its contingency plans for striking Iran.

In any case, there is a point in time not far ahead when Iran will likely cross the nuclear weapons threshold, closing the window for Israel to carry out pre-emptive strikes in keeping with the Begin Doctrine. Let us all pray that Israel’s leaders, intelligence agencies, military branches, and civilian resilience will all be up to the task should that moment come.

 

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/

Yom Kippur: A Day to Prepare our Wedding Garments

“For such a High Priest was fitting for us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and has become higher than the heavens; who does not need daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for His own sins and then for the people’s, for this He did once for all when He offered up Himself.” (Hebrews 7:26-27)

Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, is the holiest day on the Jewish calendar, and most Jews worldwide take it very seriously. It marks the day when the people of Israel are to stand before God as one and give an account for their moral lives, and then await His judgment. Recent studies show that the vast majority (85+ percent) of Israeli Jews fast on this day. The streets are empty, the TV and radio go silent. Everyone is dressed in white. It is hard to find another nation which observes such a solemn day with such respect each year.

The name Yom Kippur also means “the day of covering” – a reference to the mercy seat (kapporeth) covering the ark of the covenant in the Holy of Holies in the ancient Jewish temples. The High Priest had to sprinkle the blood of a sacrificial goat on this mercy seat to atone for the sins of the nation. Thus, the word kippur – which means to atone, purge or cover. It comes from the Hebrew root word kaphar, which first appears in Scripture in connection with the pitch used to seal Noah’s ark in Genesis 7. This waterproof seal saved the lives of Noah and his family. So, an atonement or covering for our sins is immensely important.

In Leviticus 23, God singles out Yom Kippur as a day when the Jewish people must “afflict your soul” (Leviticus 23:26-32). This is taken to mean that we should humble and abase ourselves, weaken our own wills, admit our wrongs, and plead for forgiveness.

Meanwhile, Leviticus 16 outlines the special duties of the High Priest at the Temple on Yom Kippur. This was the only day each year when Israel’s High Priest was allowed to enter beyond the veil into the Holy of Holies, and he was to do so twice; once for Himself and once for the people. He was first tested as to whether he or his family had sin, and if he reappeared from behind the curtain it was a good sign. This then allowed him to go back in a second time to sprinkle blood on behalf of the sins of the people. His duties included having to place incense on the “censor,” lest he die, and then sprinkle blood seven times on the mercy seat.

Why test the High Priest in this fashion? Aaron, the first High Priest, had made the Golden Calf, while his sons had offered strange fire. It was God’s mercy to allow him to be High Priest and he had to prove himself anew to be serious about his important role.

In this regard, it is interesting to note that Moses had already set the pattern for the High Priest’s duties on Yom Kippur. Moses ascended the mountain twice for 40 days each time to stand before the Lord to receive the law. The first time (Exodus 24-31), he passed the test but the people were in rebellion. In Exodus 32-34, Moses went up again to atone (intercede) for the people’s sins, and this time he stayed for 40 days once more, the people were patient, and he came down with the second set of tablets. Yet his face shone so brightly from being in the Lord’s presence that the people were afraid, so Moses put a veil over his face. Now, Jewish tradition holds that he ascended on the first day of the month of Elul and came back down with the tablets on the tenth of Tishri, which is Yom Kippur.

Yom Kippur in the New Testament
There are many references and allusions to Yom Kippur in the New Testament. For instance, in Revelation chapters 6, 8 and 11 we find imagery from the High Priest’s duties on the Day of Atonement, such as incense being placed on the censor, and the ark of the covenant being seen in the Temple above. There also are several New Testament references to the “Book of Life” – which are based on Yom Kippur traditions.

The Book of Hebrews, of course, has the most extensive treatment of Yom Kippur, which is held up as a core part of the Mosaic covenant that served as a yearly reminder of sin. But it presents the New Covenant as being built on better promises, because it was given through a better mediator. Here, Jesus is compared not only to the Aaronic priesthood, but to Moses as well as mediator of the covenant at Sinai.

Every covenant required a death, meaning some person or animal had to be sacrificed to seal the covenant. And just as the High Priests under the Mosaic law were tested on Yom Kippur, Jesus also was first tested by His suffering and death, qualifying Him to be our eternal High Priest and Lord of all (Ephesians 2:5-11; Hebrews 4:15). Indeed, he was perfected by his obedience in all the things he suffered (Luke 13:32; Hebrews 7:28). Then he reappeared – the Resurrection – because he was without sin, and thereby became the Judge of all men (Acts 2:22-33, 17:30-32). And when he sprinkled his blood on the mercy seat in heaven, he atoned forever for the sins of those who trust in his sacrifice (Hebrews 7:27).

Hebrews 5:7-11 affirms that Jesus … “in the days of His flesh, when He had offered up prayers and supplications, with vehement cries and tears to Him who was able to save Him from death, and was heard because of His godly fear, though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered. And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him, called by God as High Priest “according to the order of Melchizedek...”

It also is important to note here the biblical truth that the blood of Jesus speaks on our behalf in heaven, as that is where he sprinkled his blood on the mercy seat (Hebrews 9:23-24, 12:24).

Thus we can see the connection between Jesus being tested and dying at Passover and then fulfilling the further priestly role foreshadowed in Yom Kippur when he ascended to the Father and placed his blood on the ark in the heavenly temple on behalf of all who believe in him. Yet Yom Kippur has further prophetic significance, especially in connection with the Second Coming of Jesus. This also is borne out in the New Testament, as seen in the Parable of the Wedding Feast.

Parable of the Wedding Feast
The Parable of the Wedding Feast told by Jesus appears in Matthew 22:1-14 and is paralleled by the Parable of the Great Banquet in Luke 14:7-24. In Second Temple times, a wedding was a very sacred and joyous thing. The feasting and merriment even lasted for up to a week or more, and it was considered a mitzva (good deed) to share in the joy of the occasion. When Jesus told this parable, his hearers understand the picture he was creating because such traditional weddings were a part of Jewish culture.

Thus we read in Matthew 22 that a certain king arranged a marriage for his son, and invited the usual list of nobles and elite, but they all had better things to do, and some even killed the king’s servants. So, he sent out more servants to invite people from the highways and hedges – both bad and good. In Luke 14:15-24, it is described as a Great Banquet but presumably it is a wedding feast, as the preceding verses in Luke 14:7-14 have Jesus cautioning us to take the lowly seats at wedding feasts, lest you get bumped from the front row. So, these are very similar parables.

Now, Matthew says the initial invitees were too busy with their businesses and families, while Luke says the high and mighty all made excuses for why they could not attend. But
Matthew 22 has an extra scene. Right before the wedding starts, the king comes into the waiting room and inspects all the guests. One man did not have on a wedding garment. The king confronted him, but the man remained silent and offered no excuse. Then the king ordered that he be bound and thrown into outer darkness.

This moment of inspection of the wedding garments is very instructive! The Fall festivals – Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur and Feast of Tabernacles – are all tied together and all portend the Second Coming of Jesus! They speak prophetically of the Coronation of Jesus as King and the Wedding Feast of the Lamb.

The Parable of the Wedding Feast assumes the listener is familiar with the ancient Oriental custom of the host providing garments for the guests who were invited to a royal feast. In ancient times, kings and wealthy men had wardrobes filled with fancy garments (today called ‘caftans’) as a symbol of their wealth and glory. Examples can be found as follows:

Genesis 45:22 – Joseph gives all his brother garments, but three garments to Benjamin.
Judges 14:12 – Samson offers 30 linen garments and 30 changes of clothes to answer his riddle.
2 Kings 5:22 – Naaman promises 10 garments plus gold and silver to Elisha.
2 Kings 10:22 – King Jehu gives vestments from wardrobe in the temple of Baal.
Esther 6:8 and 8:15 – Haman says: “dress him in royal robes” / Mordechai is the one dressed in royal apparel.

Even today, at very posh country clubs and restaurants, there are similar strict dress codes, and small closets with appropriate dinner jackets and other attire if an improperly dressed guest warrants entry.

In the parable of Jesus, it would have been a great insult to the king to refuse to wear the garments freely offered to the guests. The man who was caught wearing his old clothing learned what an offense it was as he was forcefully removed from the celebration.

This was Jesus’ way of teaching the inadequacy of self-righteousness. From the very beginning, God provided a “covering” for our sin. Adam and Eve tried to cover their nakedness and shame with fig leaves, but God replaced them with skins of animals, which meant a life had been sacrificed (Genesis 3:7, 21). To insist on covering our shame ourselves is to be clad in “filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6). In the book of Revelation, we see those in heaven wearing “white robes” (Revelation 7:9), and we learn that the whiteness of the robes is due to their being washed in the blood of the Lamb (verse 14). We trust in God’s righteousness, not our own (Philippians 3:9). Further, the true Church is described as "not having spot, or wrinkle" (Ephesians 5:27).

Finally, in Revelation 19:6-9, a great multitude has gathered for the “marriage of the Lamb… and His wife has made herself ready. And to her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints. Then he said to me, “Write: ‘Blessed are those who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb!’’

Just as the king provided wedding garments for his guests, God provides salvation for mankind. Our wedding garment is the righteousness of Christ, and unless we have it, we will not be allowed into the Wedding Feast of His dear Son.

The great preacher Charles Spurgeon, commenting on the Parable of the Wedding Feast, duly noted that it is the custom in the East for a king to provide robes for his guests. These wedding garments were a sign of grace, freely given and received, and wearing it was a sign of respect for the king and for his son, the bridegroom. So why was the one man speechless? Making excuses is the easiest game in town. But here, there was nothing to be said. He could have easily put on a beautiful flowing robe provided by the king, but he simply did not care. And he stands as a symbol and warning to us all to take heed on how we prepare for our appearance before God.

At Rosh HaShana, the shofar sounds to awaken our souls to a time of awe and introspection, as we are about to stand before the Lord. On Yom Kippur, the verdict is delivered whether we are to be found naked and ashamed or worthy of His grace. If you pass muster, it is time to rejoice in your salvation and join the wedding feast, which is the Feast of Tabernacles!

We now find ourselves in that time of preparation before the Wedding Feast. This Yom Kippur, let us make sure we have clothed ourselves with the righteous garments God has provided through Jesus, our High Priest, and his very blood already sprinkled on the mercy seat in heaven.
 

FOR MORE on this topic, make sure to watch the ICEJ Webinar: “Yom Kippur!” from Thursday, 9 September 2021, featuring ICEJ VPs David Parsons and David van der Walt. 

 

The Tragedy of Afghanistan

The events currently unfolding in Afghanistan are an immense tragedy – and here “tragedy” is used in its most dismal, heart-breaking sense. The sudden American surrender of the country to the Taliban is not some sad or ironic ending to a Greek play. It is an unmitigated real-life catastrophe which has millions of Afghanis once again living in utter fear of the Islamist militia’s oppressive ways and imminent revenge against anyone connected to the departing US and Western forces.

It will take time to gauge just how much of a geo-strategic and humanitarian disaster the hasty American-led exit from Afghanistan is, but no doubt it will have repercussions throughout the region and beyond. The early assessment is that this is a clear win for radical Islamist and jihadist forces everywhere, most notably Iran and its proxy militias, as well as for their patrons in Russia, China and Turkey. The losers are the US, its European and NATO allies, and especially Israel and its new Sunni Arab friends.

To evaluate the fallout from the Taliban’s astonishingly rapid re-conquest of Afghanistan, we first need to look back at the country’s long descent into war and anarchy over recent decades.

The Road to Ruin
The Soviet-Afghan War, which lasted from 1979 to 1988, already had drastic effects on Afghanistan. Lasting nine years, the conflict caused the deaths of somewhere between 500,000 and two million Afghans, and displaced about six million more people, many of whom fled to Pakistan, Iran and elsewhere. Afghan society became heavily militarized and fragmented along tribal lines, as war lords of mujahideen militias competed for control of various regions of the country.

Backed by the Pakistani military and intelligence services, the Taliban militia eventually seized power in Kabul and most of the country, and they immediately began to impose a very strict version of Islamic shari’a law. They were particularly notorious for suppressing women and destroying ancient monuments. They also gave refuge to the radical Sunni terror militia al-Qaeda and its leader, Osama bin Laden, who carried out the mass terror attacks in the United States on September 11, 2001.

When the Taliban regime refused to hand over bin Laden, the US led an invasion of Afghanistan, along with British forces. By December 2001 they had quickly routed the Taliban and installed a UN-approved government under Hamid Karzai. Since then, NATO forces have helped stabilize the country and keep the Taliban in check. There has been much development and over four million Afghan refugees have returned to their homeland. But the Taliban were never completely vanquished and the prolonged battle against them has claimed some 150,000 lives over the past 20 years.

During these last two decades, the US alone has sunk an estimated $2.3 trillion into its Afghanistan mission, including more than $80 billion invested in training and equipping the Afghan army and police forces. But they were just rolled over by the Taliban after the US forces began a rapid, surprise pull-out. In just one week, the Taliban managed to take control of Kabul and most of the country, and the result is all the violence, chaos and desperation we have seen at the Kabul airport over recent days as tens of thousands try to flee in fear. Large amounts of Western military equipment have now fallen into the hands of the Taliban, and the world is facing an August 31st deadline to get people out before they face revenge from the Islamist militia.

Lessons to be Relearned
Many of the lessons to be learned from this conflict were already there from the Soviet imbroglio in Afghanistan. To start with, Afghanistan is a large mountainous region which proved to be too tough for the Russian military, and now for the US and NATO, to hold. The terrain is rough and the tribal peoples in these mountains and valleys are fiercely independent and committed to their ancient and Islamic ways.

The population of Afghanistan also is a diverse mix of ethnic tribes, including Pashtuns (42%), Tajiks (27%), Uzbeks (9%), Hazara (9%), and others. The Taliban’s support base is among the Pashtun tribes. Recent reports indicate that most of the US-trained army and police forces came from other ethnic groups, with very few Pashtuns. That, in itself, should have been a sign to US military commanders that their reliance on these forces was hugely misplaced.

Further, the US-trained Afghan security forces were happy to receive payments for their service, but they were not willing to die for their paychecks in the face of a militia committed to a radical Islamist ideology and Pashtun patriarchal dominance.

The Fallout for Israel
The implications of the Afghan tragedy for Israel could be quite serious. As we all watched desperate Afghanis clinging to planes as they lifted off from Kabul airport, the world was reminded of the chaotic American evacuation from Saigon. But the Israeli people thought back to two similar scenarios of their own in recent decades.

First, the IDF carried out a comparable overnight withdrawal from south Lebanon in May 2000, which caught its allied forces in the South Lebanese Army by surprise. The SLA soldiers were a capable and courageous fighting force, but many fled with their families over the border into northern Israel due to the shock of Israel’s unannounced exit and the threat of reprisals from the much larger Hizbullah militia. The radical Shi’ite militia has since built up a massive arsenal of over 150,000 rockets and missiles which can now threaten all of Israel.

Secondly, after Israel’s controversial Disengagement from Gaza in August 2005, the US-trained, EU-paid Palestinian Authority security forces lost control of the Strip to the Hamas terror militia in a brief but decisive skirmish in 2007. Here, the PA forces proved as well that they were not willing to die for a paycheck when confronted by militiamen driven by a mad Islamist ideology. Hamas has since developed its own homegrown rocket-making capabilities and provoked several missile wars with Israel – the latest in May of this year.

Both Hamas and Hizbullah are backed by Iran, and herein lies the real danger for Israel. The Taliban has just won a great victory in Afghanistan which no doubt is stirring and emboldening the spirit of jihad throughout the region. No one is benefitting from this more than Iran.

The Ayatollahs in Tehran now have well-armed Islamist proxy militias encircling Israel, including in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Gaza and the Sinai. Iran also is now enriching uranium up to 60%, just one small step short of weapons-grade material, according to the IAEA. The UN’s atomic watchdog also just disclosed that Iran has begun the process of fashioning enriched uranium metal, yet another key move to developing nuclear warheads. Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz believes such moves have brought Tehran just two months away from developing the Bomb!

Given how close Iran is getting to nuclear weapons capabilities, we are now running up against Israel’s policy – or rather promise – to never allow a hostile regime in the region to acquire atomic weapons. New Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett is paying his first visit to Washington this week to meet with US President Joe Biden and try to work out an agreed approach for dealing with the Iranian nuclear threat. The meeting comes just as the Afghan fiasco has many asking whether America’s allies can trust the US any longer? The answer largely depends on who is sitting in the White House, and Biden is turning out to be a thin reed to lean upon.

The timing of a weak US administration in retreat and an aggressive and emboldened Iran pressing to cross the nuclear threshold could not be worse for Israel. And the question is whether the new, untested government in Jerusalem will take the difficult decisions necessary to finally eliminate Iran’s nuclear facilities.

In a well-timed warning, even as Biden is hosting Bennett in the Oval Office, IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kohavi has just stated: “The progress of the Iranian nuclear program has led the IDF to accelerate its operational plans and the recently approved defense budget is earmarked for that.” Translation: Do something about Iran or we will!
 

 

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/

Possessing the Gates of Our Enemies – Part Two

Restoring the Gates of the Church
Sadly, as in days of old, the enemy has infiltrated the gates of the Church! This is deeply worrying and so we must set out to repair these immediately. The Prophet Isaiah mirrors this truth when he writes: “Go through, go through the gates! Prepare the way for the people; build up, build up the highway! Take out the stones, left up a banner for the peoples.” (Isaiah 62:10) In the book of Nehemiah, we have a record of the gates of Jerusalem that had to be restored by the returning exiles before they could branch out and take the gates of their enemies. It is this holy work that we must urgently give ourselves over to, lest the enemy continue to impede the advancement of God’s people.

In Nehemiah chapter three, we have a record of the gates which need repair. These apply spiritually to the Church of Jesus Christ today. We should therefore note the following:

1. The Sheep Gate – Nehemiah 3, v. 1
The people of God need to be cared for and loved, and this is the calling that God places over the leaders of local churches. This must be real and engaging and not just through meeting structures. Paul was very clear about this when He called the Ephesian elders together (Acts 20:17-28).

2. The Fish Gate – v. 3
Paramount to the life and existence of the Church is the proclamation of the Gospel. This proclamation must be true and bold. When Jesus called His disciples, He told them that they will become fishers of men (Mark 1:17), and of course He re-emphasized this when He gave the Great Commission (Mark 16:15-16).

3. The Old Gate – v. 6
We must embrace “the new” that God is doing but never forget the old and tried ways of God. We are not better than previous generations and we have yet in this generation to witness a revival like that of the Wesley brothers, even though our resources and opportunities are greater. The Bible clearly warns about moving the ancient landmarks (Proverbs 22:28). So much of modern Christianity is weak and superficial because it has abandoned its fathers. This is especially true of those churches that have abandoned Israel.

4. The Valley Gate – v. 13
The Church must be separate from the world, yet sadly today there is not much difference. Our way of living is entirely different to that of the world (Acts 17:6), but in this regard the enemy has greatly infiltrated the Church. We must be in the world but not of it. Of course, this is not a popular message, but it needs to be heard and especially so because the Book of Revelation calls upon us to forsake the world system and come out of it (Revelation 18:4). James and John have very strong words to say about this matter (James 4:4-6; 1 John 2:15-17).

5. The Refuse Gate – v. 14
The people of God must grow into the likeness of Christ. Therefore, the filth (refuse) in their lives must be diminishing as they embrace the call of God over their lives and walk with Christ. Our election in Jesus, as Paul puts it, must culminate in our glorification and total transformation (Romans 8:29-30). Again, the devil has ravaged the Church in this area and so consequently preaching on holiness is regarded as negative and unedifying. The truth is, God only uses and walks among a holy people and this gate must be urgently repaired (2 Corinthians 6:15-18).

6. The Fountain Gate – v. 15
We desperately need a new outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the people of God. This, again, is one area of biblical truth over which the powers of darkness have thrown a smokescreen, in order to prevent the Church from rising up and taking the gates of its enemies. The early Church could not go forth to take the Gates of Hell until it was filled with the Spirit and then, once placed under the fountain of God, it was unstoppable (Luke 24:46-49). The 1906 Azusa Street outpouring of the Holy Spirit actually impacted the whole world. The Wesley brothers and their associates prayed for days on end in a building on Fetter Lane in London until one day, while so doing, the power of God by the Holy Spirit fell on them, and they went out to shake the world and take the gates of their enemies.

7. The Water Gate – v. 26
Without water we cannot live, and so it is that without the flow of the Word of God we cannot live. Jesus underlined this when He said, “Man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” (Matthew 4:4) Again, like never before, we are witnessing an assault against the Bible in and outside of the Church. Its inspiration and authority are being attacked and even well-known preachers are discrediting the Hebrew Scriptures or Old Testament upon which the early Church was entirely built. Topical preaching is the order of the day and expository teaching is almost wholly neglected. The result is “truth has fallen in the streets” and the people of God are generally illiterate (Isaiah 59:14). How shall we ever take the gates of our enemies if we do not know the will of God as it is expressed through His word?

8. The Horse Gate – v. 28
The horse is an animal of war. When Jesus comes again to defend Israel (Zechariah 12:8) and wage war against His enemies, He will do so on a horse (Revelation 19:11). We are called to wage war by means of intercession and the proclamation of God’s word (Ephesians 6:10-20). This is the time for the Church to go to war and thus to tear down the Gates of Hell. This war is in the nations, in order to complete the Great Commission, and in Israel, to stand with her and pray for her as Daniel did. Paul states that we have very powerful spiritual weapons, for the left and right hands, and we must urgently learn to use them (2 Corinthians 10:4-5). The ICEJ’s frequent global prayer gatherings are certainly a welcome manifestation of this battle.

9. The East Gate – v. 29
The “blessed hope” that we have is the Second Coming of Jesus (Titus 2:11-14). This is a constant reminder that as we wage war and tear down the Gates of Hell, we will conquer in the end because our great Savior will come again and, as it were, “finish the job.” He Himself said that His coming will be like lightning that flashes from the east to the west and thus we must have within our hearts the joy of looking for His soon return (Matthew 24:27). The certainty of victory embodied in His triumphant Second Coming enables us to hold the line in the battle and not give up.

10. The Inspection Gate – v. 31
There will come a day when we shall all be gathered by Christ’s coming to the glorious and perfect Kingdom of God. On that day we shall enter the Inspection Gate, where our service to God while on earth will be evaluated or inspected and we shall be rewarded accordingly (1 Corinthians 3:11-17). We will then finally enter the Gates of the New Jerusalem and subsequently we will be invited to ascend Christ’s throne. From there, and serving with Him as vice regents, we shall have dominion and authority over the created order of things (Revelation 2:26-29; Revelation 3:21-22). How astonishing, because we are just sinners saved by grace but given the privilege of taking down the Gates of Hell!

Dear friends, the time has come for us to believe and take hold of what Jesus said to His disciples. Let us restore the gates of authority in the Church and let us go forward to believe that God will from amongst us raise up men and women who will occupy crucial places of influence in the world, so that the message of the Church may prosper, and Israel may be blessed and enter the Age of Redemption. Even so, come Lord Jesus!
 

FOR MORE on this topic, make sure to watch the ICEJ Webinar: “Possessing the Gates of Our Enemies” – Part Two, from Thursday, 19 August 2021, featuring Rev. Malcolm Hedding. 

 

Possessing the Gates of Our Enemies – Part One

“And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My Church, and the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it.” (Matthew 16:18)

Gates in Scripture are places of power, authority, defense, splendor and safety. Whoever holds them or sits in them is in control of everything. Sadly, the unseen demonic world controls most of them today and they do so chiefly to resist the preaching of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. As always, however, there is a contextual element to our understanding of Scripture, and this is no less true in terms of coming to terms with the promise of God to Abraham recorded in Genesis 22:17. That is, that Israel will posses the gates of her enemies, on condition that she walks in the will and purpose of God.

Israel was called by God to be a “shining light theocracy” whereby the reality and character of God’s redeeming love for the world would be displayed through her to the nations. It is probably true that the only time when she truly possessed the “gates of her enemies” was during the reigns of David and Solomon and thereafter for short periods during the reigns of people like Hezekiah and Josiah. Nevertheless, this remarkable promise will be finally fulfilled during the glorious messianic reign of the Messiah. In that soon coming day the nations that will not honor the God of Israel by coming up annually to Jerusalem to worship Him will be judged (Zechariah 14:16ff).

The Church by its calling is not territorial. Her calling and authority is a spiritual one whereby the evil gates of spiritual dominion that block the purposes of God in revealing the light of the Gospel are torn down. Paul wrote of this struggle in this way:

“But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, whose minds the god of this age has blinded who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God should shine on them.” (2 Corinthians 4:3-4)

“For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.” (2 Corinthians 10:4-5)

“Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in heavenly places.” (Ephesians 6:11-12)

So then, to possess the gates of our enemies requires dedicated, importunate and energetic prayer since we are up against the unseen but real and wicked “rulers of this age.” This is no easy struggle! Christians routinely get these areas mixed up and consequently claim and assert things in prayer that are just not biblical. They sound spiritual and very triumphant, but they are just not true! We should then note the following:

1. God is already finished with the structures or systems of this world and thus our chief task is to call people out of them by the preaching of the Gospel (1 John 2:17; Revelation 18:3-5). We are not called to rehabilitate the world systems.

2. The preaching of the Gospel to every person is the sole and only purpose laid upon us by Christ Himself. We call this the Great Commission (Mark 16:15-16). Paul went to Rome, not to rehabilitate the Roman government but to preach the Gospel there (Romans 1:11-16).

3. The Church, however, is called to retard wickedness or restrain its growth by being “salt and light” in the world; salt preserves and light shines the way (Matthew 5:13). This enables the Gospel to be preached and this is the only reason why we pray for our political leaders and governments (1 Timothy 2:1-7). We want peace, not so that we can live our lives as we please, but for the easy flow and proclamation of the Gospel. In other words, we seek to possess the spiritual gates of our nations and enemies so that people can hear the saving message of Jesus. We should never forget to thank God for those places in the world where this can happen, but the powers of darkness are even now working overtime to regain these gates.

4. In certain pivotal times in history, in order to prevent the overflowing of wickedness, the Church by its devotion and prayers has greatly impacted governments and their leaders. In all cases, the onward march and proclamation of the Gospel was in the mind of God. Here are a few examples of this:

a) The spiritual conquest of Rome in the fourth century AD opened the empire to the preaching of the Gospel. Rome in fact was shortly after this destroyed by the so-called Barbarians, but the message of Jesus took root in all of Europe, North Africa, Ireland and Britain.

b) The Great Awakening in the original 13 colonies of what would become the United States of America impacted the revolutionary leaders so greatly that they were enabled by the grace of God to put in place a Constitution, which gave free course for the Gospel to be preached throughout the land without hindrance. America also became the great catalyst thereby for the proclamation of the Gospel throughout the world. This freedom is today being vigorously challenged by gates of hell!

c) The saving of the British army trapped at Dunkirk during the Second World War was achieved because of the ‘wrestling’ prayers of the Church of Jesus in the nation. Chiefly this was spearheaded by Rees Howells, the great intercessor of the time. This remarkable miracle saved Europe and no doubt the world from the wickedness and evil of Hitler’s Third Reich.

d) We could also reference people like William Wilberforce, who being an eighteenth-century Christian politician in England abolished the slave trade in the British Empire. Then there is David Livingstone, and Lord Arthur James Balfour, whose evangelical faith inspired him to make the famous declaration which paved the way for the establishment of the State of Israel, and of course Billy Graham, who routinely spoke with presidents, queens and leaders of countries.

It is to be noted that in all of these cases Christians never took over the governments of these nations, but they highly impacted them and served in them as salt and light. The lesson is clear; we possess and take hold of demonic gates for the furtherance of the saving message of Jesus Christ and not to hold physical territory. We are a spiritual body of people that is comprised of all peoples from all over the world. We are not held together by nationalism, but by Jesus Christ alone (Ephesians 2:19-22).

History has shown and proved that when Christians seek temporal power, and many are doing this today, the results have been catastrophic and the Church has suffered greatly from spiritual adultery, blindness, compromise and wickedness. This is the warning contained in Revelation 17. It is a spiritual whore that seeks temporal or territorial power!

5. What we urgently need today is the restoration of corporate prayer meetings in local churches everywhere. The early Church made corporate prayer an absolute priority and thus the pages of the Book of Acts affirm this all the time (Acts 1:14; Acts 2:1; Acts 4:24-31; Acts 13:1-2). Today, this is not so as the weekly prayer meeting, if they even have such a gathering, is the least attended meeting of the church. Jesus said that His house should in the first place be a house of prayer for all nations (Matthew 21:13). The local church today is anything but a house of prayer and this is precisely why we cannot take down the gates of hell! It has been said that the Sunday worship service demonstrates the popularity of the preacher, the Wednesday night Bible Study demonstrates the popularity of the Bible, and the Friday night prayer meeting demonstrates the popularity of God!

Dear friends, trying to take down the physical gates of this world by “claiming this” and “rebuking that” is easy and misguided, but assaulting the gates of dark demonic rulers and principalities will require wrestling prayer, dedication and effort. Somehow then, we urgently need the grace of God to bring us to this place. Peter was given the keys to the gates, that once under demonic control were torn down, enabling the Gospel to go forth from Jerusalem and to the Gentiles. We must pick up these keys again that by them we too can possess the gates of our enemies and witness the triumph of the Gospel.

 

FOR MORE on this topic, make sure to watch the ICEJ Webinar: “Possessing the Gates of Our Enemies” – Part One, from Thursday, 12 August 2021, featuring Rev. Malcolm Hedding. 

 

Recent Finds in Israel Continue to Affirm Biblical Accounts

There were rising hopes that Israel would soon open up once again for Christian tourists, but a fourth wave of the coronavirus has the new government heading back towards tightening restrictions, including a likely one-week quarantine requirement for all incoming foreign visitors – vaccinated or not. But until the country does begin welcoming tour groups again, the Land of the Bible continues to divulge its hidden treasures proving the accuracy of God’s word.

Just in recent months, there have been numerous amazing archaeological finds verifying the accounts in both the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures.

In the latest news, for instance, excavations in the ancient City of David have uncovered a layer of destruction in Jerusalem dating back some 2,800 years which does not correspond to any battle or conquest of the city, leaving archaeologists to surmise that it may be proof of the major earthquake which struck the city mentioned in the prophetic books of Amos and Zechariah. The unearthed ruins include shattered clay vessels, lamps, cooking utensils, bowls, and storage containers which were damaged when the walls of an ancient building collapsed. The books of Amos (1:1) and Zechariah (14:5) both make reference to a great earthquake which shook Israel “in the days of Uzziah king of Judah.”

Archaeologists from the Israel Antiquities Authority continue to find many fascinating artifacts in the City of David which build on the overwhelming evidence collected so far that the walled area indeed served as the capital of the Davidic dynasty ruling over Israel and the Kingdom of Judah in the time period outlined in the Hebrew Bible. For instance, recent digs have uncovered a missing eastern section of the outer city wall of Jerusalem that the Babylonians encountered on the eve of its destruction in 586 BC. Other finds are adding to our knowledge of the same area in Second Temple times, including recently unearthed arrowheads and other weaponry from the Roman conquest in 70 AD.

Meantime, two large, magnificent domed rooms were recently unveiled in the area of the Western Wall tunnels which are believed to have been part of an ornate public hall used by local Judean officials to welcome and host very important visitors before they ascended to the Temple courts above. The Western Wall Heritage Foundation will add the rooms to the tour options when visiting the Kotel tunnels complex in future.

Elsewhere, an ancient clay jug was recently found in a dig at Khirbet al-Ra‘I, believed to be biblical Ziklag (e.g., 1 Samuel 30), with a very interesting ink inscription of the name ‘Jerubbaal.” This is the name given to Gideon in Judges 6:31-32 and can mean “Let Baal plead against him” or “May the lord be great”. The jug and inscription in an ancient Canaanite script date back 3,100 years to the time of the judges, when Gideon destroyed the altar of Baal on Mt Gilboa and led the Israelites in defeating the Amalekites in the Jezreel Valley below. While it is not certain that the inscribed piece of pottery has a direct connection to Gideon, experts say it does reveal how the Bible preserves authentic names from this early period in Israel’s history.

In recent months, the excavations at Tel Azekah (where David slew Goliath) have revealed not only pottery and walls of the fortified Israelite city, but also skeletons of troops who fell in battle there. The human remains are believed to date to when King Sennacherib destroyed Azekah at the time of the Assyrian invasion of the Kingdom of Judah more than 2,700 years ago (see 2 Kings 18-19; 2 Chronicles 32; Isaiah 36:1).

Several months ago, archaeologists reported finding dozens of fragments of a biblical scroll dating to the Bar Kokhba period in 135 AD – the first such discovery of an ancient biblical parchment in some 60 years. The scroll, written in Greek, includes portions of the Twelve Minor Prophets, including the books of Zechariah and Nahum. The rare find was uncovered during a concerted national effort to locate and preserve any remaining ancient parchments from looters of antiquities operating in the Judean Desert and Dead Sea basin.

Finally, at Timna, near the southern tip of Israel, evidence has recently been discovered which indicates that Israelites were indeed working the copper mines located there in the time of King Solomon, as the Bible suggests. Until now, many archaeologists and scholars had dated the copper mining activities at the site almost exclusively to an earlier Egyptian presence in the area. Among the groundbreaking new finds, archaeologists have recovered scraps of fabric dyed in royal purple from the times of King David and King Solomon.
 

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/

The Media’s Obsession with Armageddon

For various reasons, the mainstream media seems to be back to their old habit of slandering Christian supporters of Israel by presenting them as warmongers who are thirsting for Armageddon. This is more than religious bias and journalistic malpractice, it is a modern-day blood libel. And if anyone is obsessing over the Apocalypse, perhaps it is not evangelical Christians so much as the ‘fourth estate.’

The recent wave of negative reports and commentaries on the evils of Christian Zionism have likely been fueled by a series of concurrent events. Most notably, many on the Left are piling on Evangelicals in general after the defeat of their favorite leaders, Donald Trump in the US and Benjamin Netanyahu in Israel. They also have reported and commented with some glee on recent polling numbers which suggest that white Evangelicals are on the decline in America and that Israel is enjoying less support among young Evangelicals. But one sure catalyst for the on-going denigration of Christian Zionists is the documentary film “Til Kingdom Come,” which was deliberately timed for release during the US presidential election campaign last year.

The documentary was produced by Israeli filmmakers Maya Zinshtein and Avraham Troen and purported to offer a fresh take on Evangelical Christian supporters of Israel, yet it simply rehashes the same old, well-worn stereotype that Christians are still the worst enemy of the Jews, and even the entire world. The film had its world debut in Israel last summer and was shown in numerous film festivals and before American Jewish audiences in the ensuing months. It was then scheduled to be broadcast on PBS stations in the US in late March, but now has been indefinitely postponed pending an independent review of its many flaws and deceptions.

The film is on hold largely due to the efforts of Dexter van Zile, a Christian media analyst for CAMERA (Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting and Analysis), who has exposed its real malignant agenda. He has identified a number of significant deliberate deceptions in the film, including:

1) The producers deliberately doctored the audio of remarks by former US President Donald Trump, when he introduced his ‘Deal of the Century,’ to make it sound like his plan called for Israel to annex the entirety of Judea/Samaria (the West Bank), instead of just the portions where the Jewish settlements are located and other parts of ‘Area C’ needed for valid security reasons.

2) The producers deceptively used a clip of US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo making a tongue-in-cheek reference to the “Rapture” from years earlier, delivered in a completely different context while holding a different office, to make it appear that he had incorporated Dispensational eschatology into the official policies of the State Department on the Israeli-Palestinian issue.

3) The producers seriously misrepresented the remarks of David Brog and the lobbying efforts of Christians United For Israel concerning UNRWA, making it appear they were heartlessly seeking a total cut-off of all US foreign assistance to Palestinian refugees, when in fact they were advocating for greater accountability and efficiency by re-channeling the funds through USAID. The film also portrayed CUFI’s efforts to defund UNRWA as going against the advice of Israeli political and military leaders when in fact Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had asked the White House to do this very thing.

4) The producers derisively portray Evangelicals as supporting Israel not out of a genuine love and concern for the Jewish state and people or a firm biblical belief that God promised to restore them to their ancestral homeland, but rather out of a bloodlust for the end of the world.

This latter false accusation is inescapable for anyone who has viewed the film “’Til Kingdom Come.” And it has already been shown to Israelis over the main state TV channel last year and to many American Jewish audiences in the months since. The documentary is intended to invoke fear and loathing of pro-Israel Christians among its viewers. In his review of the film before it aired on Channel One here in Israel, Ha’aretz commentator Gideon Levy even warned Israelis to bring along a barf bag due to the odious nature of its subjects and their beliefs.

Yet it turns out that Zinshtein and Troen’s caricature of blood-thirsty Evangelicals blocking peace in the Middle East was far from accurate. Instead of playing the spoilers to Middle East peace, out to provoke a global conflagration pitting Israel against the Arab/Islamic world, Evangelical leaders in fact were actively working to bring about peace between Israel and the Arab nations through the Abraham Accords. This was totally ignored by the filmmakers even though it was well-known to them during their three years of shooting and editing the movie.

HERE at the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem, we have been battling for decades this canard that Christian Zionists are thirsting for Armageddon. In the lead up to Y2K, I personally was interviewed by some 200 major media outlets who were hyping stories about the hordes of crazy Christians who were coming to Jerusalem to blow up the Dome of the Rock and force the Apocalypse in order to bring back Jesus in the year 2000. Afterwards, I wrote about this experience in the manuscript “Swords into Ploughshares” , which recounts how the media were all wrong yet they never apologized for slandering tens of millions of good people. The paper further sets out our real motivations and theological beliefs concerning Israel, the Jewish people, and the momentous events foretold in the Bible concerning the end of the age.

In my paper “Swords Into Ploughshares”, I also quote from the resolutions of the Fourth International Christian Zionist Congress, which set out our true approach concerning Israel and the Apocalypse, that our focus is on the prophetic vision of the Hebrew prophets for that glorious time of worldwide peace afterwards, when the nations will “beat their swords into ploughshares… and learn war no more.” (Isaiah 2:4)

Those resolutions further state that Christian Zionists…

“are not longing for the fateful battle of Armageddon, but rather for... ‘that glorious vision of coming peace for Israel and for the world which was first proclaimed in times past in the sacred writings of the Hebrew prophets and confirmed by our Lord and His Apostles. We consider this biblical concept of peace to be the one that has furnished hope and shaped human history like none other, inspiring faith and uprightness throughout successive generations and surpassing still any other path to world peace yet conceived of man. It is our enduring devotion to this promised epoch of Messianic peace and rest that ever governs our approach to the present circumstances confronting Israel, the Church and the world... No greater hope has ever been instilled in the heart of mankind, as when ‘they shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more’ (Isaiah 2:4; Micah 4:3).”

So the question now becomes: “Who are the ones really obsessing over Armageddon?” Perhaps it is the mainstream media, and some documentary makers looking for awards and acclaim.


FOR MORE INFORMATION on this subject, please watch the ICEJ webinar “The Media Assault on Christian Zionism” hosted by ICEJ Vice President & Senior Spokesman David Parsons and joined by special guest Dexter van Zile of CAMERA.

 

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/

Outcasts and Orphans

This week, the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem welcomed another Aliyah flight bearing Jewish families making their way home to Israel. This particular flight came from Paris with a group of 160 French Jews on board, with the ICEJ sponsoring the flights for 32 of these newcomers, who hope to start a new life in the Jewish state away from the rising tide of antisemitism in France and elsewhere.

Some may wonder why the need to help French Jews with the costs of their flights to Israel. The general perception is that France is a well-to-do country, and most French Jews can afford the move to Israel. But the reality is that most of the old-line native French Jewish community were wiped out or chased out of France during World War Two and its aftermath. Of the remaining 500,000 Jews left in France today, nearly three-fourths of them come from families who escaped to there from North Africa during colonial uprisings in the region two generations ago. And with them came many Arab Muslim immigrants, who settled alongside the Jewish refugees from Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia in the same poor neighborhoods of Paris, Marseilles and other large French cities.

Today, many of these North African Jewish and Arab refugee families still live side-by-side in these same crowded, poorer neighborhoods, where they still struggle to make ends meet. And over the past two decades, the Jewish families in these areas have come under the increasing threat of antisemitism, especially as many young French Muslims have been drawn into radical Islam and jihadism.

Even in more prospering areas of France, Jews have felt under siege, especially since the terror assault on the Charlie Hebdo magazine offices and the deadly hostage stand-off at the Hyper Cache kosher supermarket in Paris in 2015. As with many other Jewish communities across Europe, Jewish synagogues, day schools, museums and community centers in France all have become like fortresses, with metal detectors and heavily armed guards posted outside.

As a result, nearly 250,000 Jews have left France since around the year 2000, when violent protests erupted against Israel and against Jews at the outset of the second Palestinian intifada. Some of these Jewish émigrés have opted to join the growing French Jewish enclaves in Canada, Australia or the US, but a rising number have chosen Israel as a safer location for them. And many of those coming to Israel right now tend to be from these poorer, more vulnerable Jewish neighborhoods, and are the least able to afford the expenses of moving to another country.
So they need our help, and it is our privilege and even our moral duty to assist them on their way home to Israel.

THE TRUTH is that most of the nearly four million Jews who have returned home to Israel over the past 140 years have been poor and in great need of assistance. In began in the 1880s, when Jews from southern Russia decided to flee repeated pogroms by simply leaving everything behind and starting to walk towards Jerusalem – they knew the direction because they had always prayed facing the holy city. At about that same time, remnants of the ancient Yemenite Jewish community felt the same drawing towards the Promised Land and began walking to Zion with few possessions in hand.

This fit the vision of the last-days ingathering of Israel proclaimed by the prophet Isaiah: “What will they answer the messengers of the nation? That the Lord has founded Zion, and the poor of His people shall take refuge in it.” (Isaiah 14:32) This has turned out to be an extremely accurate prophetic word.

After Israel gained its independence in 1948, the young nation made it a priority to bring in all the beleaguered Jewish refugees from Europe who had been denied entry under the British Mandate. The focus was on the 250,000 Holocaust survivors still stuck in displacement camps across Europe. These were primarily European Jews who had lost everything in the Nazi Holocaust – not only their homes and wealth but their families as well. Many were left without a single living relative. So a wave of penniless orphans were absorbed into an already struggling country of 660,000 people.

In his book “My Promised Land: The Triumph and Tragedy of Israel”, journalist Ari Shavit writes about how the state of Israel was established by European Jews who were orphaned by the Holocaust. Many of their parents and grandparents sent them ahead to Palestine in the 1930s but never made it themselves. Others rebelled against their parents and travelled to Eretz Israel on their own, and never saw their parents again.

“Zionism was an orphans’ movement, a desperate crusade of Europe’s orphans,” writes Shavit. “As the unwanted sons and daughters of the Christian continent fled the hatred of their surrogate mother, they discovered they were all alone in the world… Having lost one civilization, they had to construct another. Having lost their homeland, they had to invent another. That is why they came to Palestine, and why they now cling to the land with such desperate determination.”

These mainly Ashkenazi Jews from European backgrounds then faced a new and sudden crisis. Following Israel’s victory in the 1948 War of Independence, many of the Arab and Islamic countries began expelling Jewish communities that had lived in their countries for over 2,000 years. In the early 1950s, more than 800,000 Sephardic Jews (of Spanish and Middle Eastern origins) began flooding into Israel, many by foot. They came from Morocco all the way to Iran, stripped of all possessions. Many had left behind large villas and estates and lucrative businesses, only to spend the next several years living in tents. Early on, there were social tensions between Ashkenazi and Sephardic Jews, yet the nation managed to successfully absorb this massive wave of destitute refugees.

The next major wave of aliyah came when the Soviet Union collapsed, opening the door for over one million Russian-speaking Jews to come home to Israel during the 1990s. As they left their former nations, authorities severely limited the amount of money and goods they could take with them. When neighbors found out they were moving to Israel, no one wanted to pay anything for their homes, knowing it could be gotten on the cheap once they left. Stories abound of these Soviet Jewish olim throwing their last few rubles and kopeks on the tarmac once they landed at Ben-Gurion Airport.

Still today, there are many Jews making Aliyah to Israel who are struggling and need help in re-starting their lives in the Land of Promise. Not all of them can afford the move and the rebuilding of their lives from scratch. So we should be there to help, knowing that Israel after all is a nation built by orphans and outcasts regathered from nations who had always rejected them. Indeed, “The Lord, has founded Zion, and the poor of His people shall take refuge in it.” (Isaiah 14:32)

 

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/

Why Israel?

There is no doubt that Israel enjoys growing support from the Evangelical movement today. At times this support is little understood, especially as for centuries the Church struggled to understand the ‘Jewish question’ and even displayed and instigated militant antisemitism against the Chosen people. They taught that God was finished with the Jews. However, this has changed dramatically, yet the question remains: Why do we support Israel today?

I invite you to take your Bible and consider with me ten reasons why all believers in Jesus should support, bless and stand with God’s chosen people, the Jews.

Reason #1 God loves Israel!
The prophet Jeremiah states very clearly: “The people who survived the sword found grace in the wilderness...” The Lord has appeared of old to me, saying: “Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love; Therefore with lovingkindness I have drawn you. Again I will build you, and you shall be rebuilt, O virgin of Israel! ….” (Jeremiah 31:2–4). After a season of judgement (‘the sword’), God is motivated by His ‘everlasting love’ to restore Israel. Note that it is an everlasting love… unceasing, never ending! It was this love which birthed God’s plan with Israel (Deuteronomy 7:7) and this love will also bring it to a glorious end (Romans 11:25-28).

Someone once asked me: “How can God love a sinful nation like Israel?” The answer is simple: By the same unconditional love the Lord has towards the Church. Indeed, “while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). So here is a simple rule for all believers: We should love what Jesus loves. How is your love for Israel? Just ask God to give you His love for the Jewish people!

Reason #2 God is a covenant-keeping God!
God affirmed His promise to give Israel the Land of Canaan with a sworn covenant. In Genesis we read how God appeared to Abraham to promise him a land and descendants as innumerable as the stars of heaven. Abraham replied: “How can I be sure You really will do this?” God answered by coming down as a burning torch which passed through sacrificial animals to seal the land promise with Abraham by covenant oath (Genesis 15:17-18).

One of the main character traits of God is that He is a covenant-keeping God. In the past some Christians insisted God changed His mind about Israel, gave up on them and established a new covenant with the Church – the ‘new Israel’. But that would be catastrophic news for every believer today. With our every sin, lukewarmness or lack of commitment, do we need to fear that God will change His mind about us too? No, for “even if we are unfaithful, He remains faithful; since He cannot deny Himself” (2 Timothy 2:13). Thus, the great hope for both Israel and the Church is that God always keeps His covenant promises – forever!

Reason #3 God hallows His name!
The prophet Ezekiel powerfully described in chapter 36 how God will restore the Land and people of Israel in the last days. When he sees them returning from the nations and being filled with God’s Spirit, he gives a clear reason why God is doing this: “I had concern for My holy name, which the house of Israel had profaned among the nations wherever they went.” (Ezekiel 36:21). Then he declares to Israel: “…not for your sake but for My holy name’s sake I will restore you… And I will sanctify My great name … the nations shall know that I am the Lord,” says the Lord God, “when I am hallowed in you before their eyes. For I will take you from among the nations, gather you out of all countries, and bring you into your own land” (Ezekiel 36:23-24).

It is rather astonishing that the world media is still so preoccupied with Israel even 73 years after its establishment. As the Swiss theologian Karl Barth stated in 1967: “Now you can read it in the newspapers; God is fulfilling His promises.” Or as Ezekiel said it, God is sanctifying His name before the whole world. By looking to Israel, the world can see that God is still alive and He is a promise-keeping God! Therefore, whenever you pray the Lord’s Prayer, ‘hallowed be Thy name’, pray also for Israel and God’s faithfulness to them.

Reason #4 Israel is a key for revival and future blessing for the Church!
According to the Apostle Paul, Israel’s full restoration will release an unprecedented blessing to the Church. In Romans 11, Paul makes two most amazing statements: “Now if their fall is riches for the world, and their failure riches for the Gentiles, how much more their fullness!” (Romans 11:12); and, “For if their being cast away is the reconciling of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead?” (Romans 11:15).

Paul presents it as almost a mathematical formula. Looking at Israel’s fall or failure and casting away, he still sees blessing released of ‘riches for the Gentiles’ and ‘reconciliation of the world’. Then he looks to Israel’s future fullness and acceptance and foresees an even greater release for the world of ‘life from the dead’.

John Wesley commented on these verses: “So many prophecies refer to this grand event, that it is surprising any Christian can doubt of it. When it is accomplished, it will be so strong a demonstration, both of the Old and New Testament revelation, that will doubtless convince many… It will release overflowing life to the world, which was dead.”

In Acts 3:19-20, Peter also sees that a spiritually restored Israel will release ‘times of refreshing from the presence of the Lord’, and the ‘times of the restoration of all things’ which eventually brings the return of Christ. That means Israel’s restoration is key for everyone who thirsts for the outpouring that God still has in store for the Church. Or to put it another way: If you thirst for revival, pray for Israel!

Reason #5 We owe it to the Jews!
In his letter to the Romans, Paul recounts his time with the churches of Macedonia. They lavishly poured out a love offering for the ‘poor saints’ in Jerusalem. It was such a substantial gift that Paul decided to deliver it personally to Jerusalem. But why did they give so much? Paul explains: “For it pleased those from Macedonia and Achaia to make a certain contribution for the poor among the saints who are in Jerusalem. It pleased them indeed, and they are their debtors. For if the Gentiles have been partakers of their spiritual things, their duty is also to minister to them in material things.” (Romans 15:26-27)
The believers of Macedonia understood an important principle. Salvation came from the Jews (John 4:22), and they were obligated to return a gift of thanks. We need to remember that Jesus was Jewish, the authors of the Bible were all Israelites, and everything that defines our faith today – even the sacrifice of Jesus and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit – took place in Israel through Jews. Thus, Jesus himself declared: “Salvation is of the Jews!” (John 4:22). Have you ever shown your gratefulness to God’s people for administering to us the means of His eternal grace? If not, I encourage you to follow the Macedonian example and express your appreciation to Israel.

Reason #6 Our roots are in Israel!
Romans 11 contains a botanical miracle. Paul identifies a natural or noble, cultivated olive tree and a wild olive tree. Wild olive trees are scrubs that bear inedible fruit. Paul then describes God doing something no farmer would ever do. He cuts off limbs from the noble tree and grafts wild olive branches in their place. Normally, this process is done exactly the other way around: noble branches are grafted onto wild trees. But Paul relates this strange botany experiment to Israel and the Gentile nations. They, the wild Gentile nations, are grafted in to the noble Jewish olive tree by faith in Jesus and are nourished by the rich sap rising from their prophets, patriarchs and kings.

Paul, therefore, tells the Gentile church in Rome to “remember that you do not support the root, but the root supports you” (Romans 11:18). We always need to keep in mind that our spiritual roots are not in Rome, Geneva or Asuza Street. Our spiritual roots lay in Jerusalem, with Hebrew Prophets, Jewish Apostles, a Jewish Saviour, and a Bible written by Jews (see also Ephesians 2:11-13). So let us honour our spiritual roots, knowing Paul also declares that one day the original natural, noble branches will be grafted back into their own tree.

Reason #7 Now is the right time to do it!
Psalm 102 is one of the most powerful prophetic passages in the Bible. Whenever I read the first 11 verses of this ‘Psalm of the afflicted’, I see in my mind’s eye the crematories of Auschwitz and the emaciated bodies of Buchenwald. It is a cry of hopelessness, where the Psalmist sees his people withering like grass. But suddenly, the tone of this Psalm dramatically changes and becomes one of restoration, culminating in the Lord “building up Zion” and “appearing in glory” (Psalm 102:16).

The key verse is v. 13, where God suddenly takes action: “You will arise and have mercy on Zion; For the time to favour her, Yes, the set time, has come” (Psalm 102:13). The Hebrew word for ‘set time’ is mo’ed, which also is used for Israel’s annual holidays. They are the set or appointed times of the Lord. We should see them as eternal entries in God’s appointment diary. And here the Psalmist sees that God has fixed a day for the restoration of Israel to arrive.
You do not need to be a prophecy expert to see this set day has arrived. Already for 100 years, the Lord has been busy restoring Zion. God has arisen to actively show mercy to Zion. Therefore, it is also time for us to arise and join what God is doing!

Reason #8 God has changed His way of dealing with Israel!
Now this reason might at first sound almost heretical. In the end we all believe God never changes – right? He is the same yesterday, today and forever. Yet already, centuries before the birth of Christ, the Lord announced that one day He would change the way He deals with Israel. This is best expressed by the prophet Zechariah. “‘But now I will not treat the remnant of this people as in the former days,’ says the Lord of hosts.… ‘Just as I determined to punish you when your fathers provoked Me to wrath,’ says the Lord of hosts, ‘And I would not relent, so again in these days I am determined to do good to Jerusalem and to the house of Judah.’” (Zechariah 8:11–15).

These verses describe a total reversal of how God relates to Israel. It is a radical shift in gears – from reverse to fast forward. In previous centuries it might have been difficult to see His ongoing faithfulness to Israel. Looking at a dispersed and downtrodden people, many theologians were tempted to see this as an eternal state of judgement on the Jews. But God never gave up on them. And today, we are without excuse when it is even all over our newspapers that Zion is being restored! And if God has changed His approach to Israel, then He will help you also to arise and bless His people.

Reason #9 The Jews are the family of Jesus!
This may be the most simple yet powerful reason: Jesus is a Jew! Paul puts it thusly… “of whom are the fathers and from whom, according to the flesh, Christ came, who is over all, the eternally blessed God.” (Romans 9:5)

I spoke about this years ago in a church in Bavaria. A brother came to me after the service saying: “Yes, it is true, Jesus was born to a Jewish mother. But you forgot one thing. When Jesus rose from the dead, he received a glorified body. He stopped being Jewish and now he is the universal brother of all mankind.” I was truly impressed. Jesus, the universal brother of mankind, sounded amazing. But in my Bible, I read in Revelation that Jesus in his glorified body is still the “Lion of the tribe of Judah” (Revelation 5:5). And the very last words of Jesus in the Bible, often standing out in red letters, are: “I, Jesus … am the Root and the Offspring of David, the Bright and Morning Star.” (Revelation 22:16). So even on the very last page of the New Testament, Jesus reminds us that his great, great, great… grandfather is a Jewish king from Jerusalem. By serving the Jewish people, we serve the earthy family of Jesus. And I truly believe He takes notice when we do so.

Reason #10 The Bible commands us to comfort Israel!
Finally, and most importantly, we need to bless Israel because God commands us to. Isaiah delivers this divine imperative, saying “‘Comfort, yes comfort My people’ says the Lord.” (Isaiah 40:1) This is clearly not a call to the Jewish people, otherwise they would be comforting themselves. Rather, it is a call to a Gentile people to stand alongside Israel and bless and comfort her. It is a command for a time when Israel’s warfare has ended (verse 2), a set time when God is restoring Zion. And Isaiah 40 also is clearly not a suggestion or discussion point where He invites our opinion. God Himself, the Creator of heaven and earth who calls out the stars by name (Isaiah 40:26), tells us to arise and stand with His people in comfort and love.

It is precisely for these reasons why the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem was established in 1980 to stand with and comfort Israel, and with God’s help we will continue to do so in the decades ahead. Let us all do this together!

 

FOR MORE INFORMATION on this subject, please watch the ICEJ webinar “Ten Reasons to Support Israel Part 1 and Part 2” hosted by ICEJ VP Operations Barry Denison and joined by ICEJ President Dr. Jürgen Bühler.

The dangers of the ICC’s ‘war crimes’ libel against Israel

In case you had not heard, there’s a new sheriff in town.

Two weeks ago, British lawyer Karim Khan was sworn in as the new chief prosecutor for the International Criminal Court in the Hague, replacing Fatou Bensouda who – just two months before her term ended – launched an official investigation of Israel for alleged war crimes against the Palestinians.

Many are watching closely to see if Khan will dismiss the probe against Israel for being politically motivated and outside the limited jurisdiction of the ICC. This will be an important decision, not only for Israeli political leaders and military commanders who could possibly be arrested while abroad and tried by the Court. It also is crucial for all Israelis who look to the IDF to protect them, as well as for Jews everywhere who are facing a rising tide of antisemitism around the world.

Khan, a Muslim, is an international human rights and criminal lawyer who has been involved in some of the ICC’s most high-profile cases. This includes helping the ICC investigate Islamic State for committing atrocities in Iraq. He also has served as defense counsel for several notorious figures brought before the Hague court on charges of genocide and other war crimes, such as Kenya’s deputy president William Ruto, the son of late Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi, and former Liberian president Charles Taylor.

His predecessor left a number of tough prosecutorial decisions on Khan’s plate. Bensouda worked to significantly expand the jurisdiction of the court, drawing criticism from many quarters and even personal sanctions from the Trump administration for seeking to try American soldiers for war crimes in Afghanistan. But her most controversial decision was to open the war crimes probe against Israel.

A number of key Western democratic nations opposed the move because the Court clearly lacked jurisdiction over both Israel (which is not a member state of the ICC) and the Palestinians (who lack the necessary element of statehood). But Bensouda pressed ahead anyway, covertly collaborating with the Palestinian Authority for six years now to put the case together against Israel. The fact that she framed the probe to start with actions taken since June 13, 2014 is further evidence her decision was highly politicized, as that is one day after Hamas terrorists brutally murdered three kidnapped Israeli teens, drawing a heavy Israeli response.

Meantime, Bensouda failed to keep her promise that before leaving office, she would formally proceed with a probe of Turkey for its war crimes and forced population transfers while illegally occupying northern Cyrus – a case many argue involves similar points of law to the case she was building against Israel over Jewish settlements.

In this instance, there is no way to sugar coat Bensouda’s actions. She openly turned a blind eye to Turkey’s thuggery while pursuing a modern-day blood libel against Israel.

Based on comments he made when assuming office, Khan may be inclined to agree. He suggested that the Court should not be wasting its limited time and resources pursuing so many cases it should not be involved in or cannot win. He also pledged to reach out to nations that are not members of the Court and encourage them to use their own criminal justice systems more to prosecute suspected war crimes committed in their countries.

So we will all be waiting for his verdict on the Israel probe. But it is not too late to weigh in on that decision. The International Christian Embassy Jerusalem is circulating a global petition addressed to the new chief prosecutor and all the state members of the ICC urging them to drop the unfair and untenable war crimes investigation against Israel. And here is why it is important that the voice of Israel’s Christian friends is heard on this matter.

Ever since the UN’s Durban conference against racism two decades ago, the anti-Israel movement has been driving a very determined agenda against the Jewish state and people. Early on, the goals were to promote divestment from Israel and dismantling of the new security fence around the West Bank. But the agenda expanded over time to include what noted Israeli leader Natan Sharansky identified as the “three Ds” – delegitimization of Israel, demonization of Israel, and applying double standards to Israel. These were all indicators of not just militant anti-Israelism, but of outright antisemitism.

The Palestinian leadership has always been at the forefront of this twisted international agenda, but they have now seen an opportunity through the ICC’s very compliant chief prosecutor to expand it even further to include yet another “D” – the disarming of Israel.

The Palestinians and their obsessed global allies are wanting to officially label Israelis as ‘war criminals’ in order to justify their violence and terror attacks against the Jewish state as well as Jews abroad. Yet at the same time, they also want to strip Israel of its right to defend itself from these attacks. That is, Israel may have the best military in the region, but they will not be able to use it if the IDF is found guilty of committing genocidal crimes against the Palestinians.

Given the current climate of rising global antisemitism, it does not help to have the Hague court – widely seen as having great moral authority – giving serious consideration to these slanderous accusations that Israel has committed war crimes against the Palestinians. This not only endangers all Israelis, it also gives fuel to the antisemites now stalking Jews in the streets of our cities worldwide.

What a sickening outcome – that the Court set up to prosecute and proscribe inhumane atrocities like the Nazis perpetrated against the Jews is now complicit in placing targets on the backs of every Israeli and every Jew in the world.

We must stand against this hideous attempt to turn Israelis and Jews into ‘war criminals.’ Please sign the ICC petition today, and get your family and friends to sign as well.
 

 

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/

 

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