The existence of the modern State of Israel is living proof—solid, irrefutable, dramatic proof—that Bible prophecy is true and we are living in what the Bible calls the "last days" before the return of Jesus Christ. Unfortunately, liberal theologians, and now even a significant number of “evangelical Christians” are denying the biblical importance of modern Israel and are teaching that God has rejected the Jewish people and replaced Israel with the Church. Scripture teaches us that false teachers will grow in number and influence in the last days, but it also commands us to keep teaching the Word of God and equipping believers to hold fast the “Word of truth.”
That’s why I’ve asked some of the world’s leading theologians to join me in teaching on the biblical theology of Israel at the 2012 Epicenter Conference that will be held in September at Calvary of Albuquerque. This conference will be unique in that it is specifically designed to help pastors, seminary professors and students, and lay people develop a solid theological understanding of God's love and plan for Israel and her neighbors. Participants will gain an accurate overview of Israel's past, present and prophetic future, from Genesis to Revelation, including an in-depth understanding of the present spiritual climate in the epicenter for Israelis and Palestinians. Attendees will leave the conference with the tools necessary to effectively communicate these truths to current and future generations of Christians.
Some of the most fascinating prophecies that we’ll explore are found in Ezekiel 36 and 37, and concern Israel's rebirth in the last days. In these chapters, God improbably promises to bring the broken nation of Israel back into the land. “Can these dry bones live?" He provocatively asks Israel’s prophets. Then he imparts a vision of the nation’s resurrection to Ezekiel. This promise sustained God’s chosen people through thousands of years of exile and persecution. For centuries, the promise must have seemed elusive. Yet, it began to unfold in the twentieth century and we continue to witness its fulfillment in the twenty-first.
Not everyone has eyes to see God’s hand moving through history though. Wars and rumors of war, anti-Semitism, replacement theology and other distractions have led many to abandon the people of the epicenter. But I believe true and faithful followers of Jesus Christ should bless both Israel and her neighbors with unconditional love and unwavering support. With war threats mounting, we should be even more committed to going to Israel, praying for and with her people, caring for the poor and needy in the region, and strengthening the Church as the only hope for peace and reconciliation there. The more solid our understanding of the biblical theology of Israel and her neighbors is, the more faithful we will be in loving her people, come what may.
Now, more than ever, we must pray for the Lord's grace and mercy on the Jewish people, that they would be safe from harm and would turn to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob for strength and hope. We must also pray for her neighbors, especially the Palestinians, that God would be gracious to them, that they would also turn to the Lord Jesus Christ, and that they and the Israelis would find a way to live together in peace and security despite their many differences.
America has been deeply blessed because we have blessed Israel according to Genesis 12:1-3. We don't want to see that blessing removed, especially now when our nation is increasingly at risk of economic and spiritual implosion. Now, therefore, is the time to pray that the Lord would strengthen the strategic friendship between the United States and Israel. Few Americans really understand how close the U.S. government came to refusing to support the rebirth of Israel in 1948. Few realize that most of President Truman's advisors were dead set against the Jewish state, and that even many American Jews didn't support Israel’s rebirth. But God had a purpose and a plan. His plan came to pass and, amazingly, the United States played a significant role in those prophetic developments.
Along these lines, I am particularly encouraged by the interest that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is taking in the Bible and its relevance to Israel’s present and future. In January 2010, he announced at the Auschwitz death camp that Ezekiel 37 has come true in our lifetime. In March 2012, he met with President Obama in the Oval Office, gave him a decorated copy of an Esther scroll, and discussed the significance of the story with him. It was Esther’s prayer and fasting that moved God to intervene to save the Jewish people from a Persian tyrant in ages past. What encourages me about Netanyahu’s gift is that it demonstrates his growing interest in the Bible and his willingness to include the Scriptures in discussions with world leaders about the most pressing issues of our time.
Then, in May 2012, while leaders from the United States, China, Russia, France, Britain and Germany were meeting with the Iranians about their nuclear program, Mr. Netanyahu and some of his advisors met in Jerusalem with Jewish scholars to kick off a long-planned home Bible study. The meeting was scheduled to last an hour, but lasted two, and focused on the Book of Ruth.
The Israeli media didn’t really get why Netanyahu was starting a Bible study in his official residence, but they were curious. “There was something at once heartening and slightly humorous about Netanyahu setting aside precious time in the late afternoon to talk about biblical figures Tamar and Yehuda, Naomi and Boaz, Ruth and David, while Iran loomed so large, and domestic issues beckoned so seriously,” The Jerusalem Post reported. Mr. Netanyahu said that modern Israel’s founder, David Ben-Gurion, and its sixth prime minister, Menachem Begin, both believed the Bible should be part of the heritage of the entire nation and they, too, held Bible studies while in office.
“The Bible is the foundation of our existence,” said Mr. Netanyahu, following in Ben-Gurion and Begin’s footsteps. “It unites the Jewish people, as it has throughout the generations. It also serves not only as a foundation but also as a map and compass. The Bible is always relevant vis-à-vis today’s problems and challenges. It inspires, it is a source of life for our people and I think that it is important to expand Bible study and love of the Bible among all parts of the nation.”
Now is the time to teach what the Bible says about Israel’s past, present and future to Christians, Jews and whoever else will listen. In Jeremiah 31:2, God tells the people of Israel that He has loved them “with an everlasting love.” The people of Israel matter because they matter to God. With Iran threatening to “wipe Israel off the map,” and the nations distancing themselves from her, we matter to Israel. It is vital for Christians to pray for the peace of Jerusalem and to find practical ways to bless Israel and her neighbors in the name of Jesus. Together, we can heed the words of Ezekiel 38:7 to “get ready” and “be prepared.” Together, we can follow the call of Jesus in Matthew 25 to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the prisoners, care for the suffering, and sow the seeds of God’s Word. Together we can “pray for peace and prepare for war.” Together, too, we can bring the Word of God to the people of the epicenter.
My wife Lynn and I established The Joshua Fund with the objective of “bringing good news to the poor… binding up the brokenhearted…and proclaiming liberty to the captives and freedom to the prisoners” as the Lord commanded the Hebrew prophet in Isaiah 61:1-3. Our team has many goals for 2012 and beyond. We want to bless more Jews and Arabs in the epicenter through our rented warehouse and twelve food distribution centers, assisting Holocaust survivors, the elderly, widows, orphans, and many others. We want to share God’s love and encourage more embattled Christians there by supporting Bible training conferences and other ministries.
The next Epicenter Conference will be in Albuquerque this September. It will be an exciting time of studying what the Bible says about Israel, how we should think about the theological and political debates that rage around her, and how we can respond with God’s perspective in mind. Next summer, I’ll lead a Prayer & Vision Tour to Israel and host another conference in Jerusalem. Imagine how fruitful that trip will be for those who have had their hearts and minds prepared in Albuquerque. I hope to see you there. We need you on the team “for such a time as this.”
Joel Rosenberg is a Middle East expert and a New York Times bestselling author of eight novels. He is also the founder of The Joshua Fund, a nonprofit educational and charitable organization to mobilize Christians to "bless Israel and her neighbors in the name of Jesus" with food, clothing, medical supplies, and other humanitarian relief.