Should Christians Support the Modern State of Israel?
Over the last weekend, the Palestinian militant group Hamas initiated a surprise attack within Israel, resulting in hundreds of fatalities and numerous hostages. This unexpected violation of the border, involving militants infiltrating Israeli communities and military bases, has stunned Israel and led to their declaration of war.
The assault represents one of the most lethal attacks on Israel in decades, and has brought to the forefront discussions among Christians on how we are to relate to the modern state of Israel. Questions arise like, how does the Bible’s teaching on the people and land of Israel inform our political engagement with this situation? How do we pursue peace and justice given the context of this invasion, and what practical considerations should influence our response?
In short, many are wondering: Does the Bible teach that Christians should support the modern state of Israel?
This article argues “yes” as it seeks to articulate several reasons why this is the case. But first, we must define what is and is not included in our “support” of Israel.
What Do We Mean by “Support”?
When discussing “support” in the context of standing with Israel, it’s vital to clarify that we are not advocating for a blanket endorsement of every action or policy. The Old Testament is replete with instances where God and the Hebrew prophets called out Israel for their sins. Supporting Israel does not imply agreement with every political move or condoning all behaviors, as even Israelis themselves are often divided on these matters. Instead, what we mean by support is affirming their belief that the land of Israel has been promised to them by God.
So, then, why exactly should we support Israel today? Let me offer a few biblical and practical reasons, before reflecting on this in light of our call as the church.
BIBLICAL REASONS TO SUPPORT ISRAEL
God’s Promises to Israel Remain – Including His Promise of the Land
The Abrahamic Covenant contains several unconditional promises that God made to Abraham. Included in these is God’s promise to give Abraham and his offspring a particular land for them to dwell in “forever” (Genesis 13:15; 15:18–21). As the story continues, God reaffirms these promises to a particular line of Abraham’s decedents: Isaac (not Ishmael) and then Jacob (a.k.a. Israel – not Esau). In Genesis 28:13-15; 35:11-12; and 48:3-4, God personally assures Jacob of this covenant and His promise of the land.
While recognizing God’s sovereign gift of the land to the Jewish people through the Abrahamic Covenant, the Mosaic Covenant establishes conditional terms for Israel’s possession and enjoyment of the land after they are rescued out of slavery in Egypt. It outlines blessings for their obedience, curses for their disobedience, and concludes with God’s promise to restore them even after they are exiled for their sin (see Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28-30).
It is out of this promise of restoration that the New Covenant unfolds. Unlike the Mosaic Covenant, which the people broke, God promises to empower Israel’s obedience by writing the law on their hearts and forgiving their wickedness. Israel’s waywardness and their resultant exile from the land will not last forever. In the New Covenant, God promises that He will never completely reject His people. He will fulfill His unconditional promises made to Abraham. As He declares in Jeremiah 31:36,
“I am as likely to reject my people Israel
as I am to abolish the laws of nature!” (NLT)
Along with Jeremiah 31, the Scriptures abound with prophecies that not only foresee the return of Jews from the Babylonian exile but also foretell a more distant, definitive return involving both a physical regathering and a spiritual revival of the nation of Israel. In Isaiah, for example, we find “the Holy One of Israel” declaring,
“Then all your people will be righteous
and they will possess the land forever.” (Isaiah 60:21)
When we get to the New Testament, we find Jesus Himself emphasizing that Israel’s rejection of Him is not permanent. Specifically, in the Gospel of Luke, Jesus makes important statements using the crucial word “until” to convey this message:
“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing. Look, your house is left to you desolate. I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’” (Luke 13:34-35; cf. Zechariah 12:10)
“There will be great distress in the land and wrath against this people. They will fall by the sword and will be taken as prisoners to all the nations. Jerusalem will be trampled on by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.” (Luke 21:23-24; cf. Romans 11:25-26)
Apart from a future, widespread restoration of Israel, statements such as these make little sense.
Together, the Abrahamic, Mosaic, and New Covenant consistently teach that God is not yet done with Israel. A day is coming when He will forever settle them in the land promised to Abraham long ago.
God’s Revelation to Israel Remains – Ever Pointing to Christ
In the midst of his argument that “Jews and Gentiles alike are all under the power of sin” and thus completely unable to be justified through their own merits (Romans 3:9, 20), Paul pauses to interject a rhetorical question: “What advantage, then, is there in being a Jew?” (Romans 3:1). To this he eagerly responds, “Much in every way! First of all, the Jews have been entrusted with the very words of God” (Romans 3:2).
Similarly, consider Jesus’ response to the woman at the well, “You [Samaritans] worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews” (John 4:22). Despite the failure and hostility of the Jewish leaders who would soon plot to arrest and crucify Jesus, He nevertheless affirms that it is from the Jews, and not the Samaritans, that God’s plan of salvation unfolds. It is a plan that culminates in the Jew’s promised and now present “Messiah” who came as the “Savior of the world,” even going out of his way to save this ostracized woman and her fellow Samaritans (John 4:25-26, 29, 42).
In response to passages like these, some reason: Shouldn’t we support a nation that has been entrusted with the very words of God and chosen as God’s instrument for the regathering of all nations? By supporting Israel, do we not also promote their Scriptures which ever point to Christ?
God’s Heart for Israel Remains – As Embodied in Paul
In the book of Romans, Paul addresses the puzzling, widespread rejection of Jesus by His Jewish contemporaries. While engaging in some of his most dense theological arguments, Paul’s heart is also at its softest. It remains ever broken for the people of Israel to be saved.
“I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my people, those of my own race, the people of Israel. Theirs is the adoption to sonship; theirs the divine glory, the covenants, the receiving of the law, the temple worship and the promises. Theirs are the patriarchs, and from them is traced the human ancestry of the Messiah, who is God over all, forever praised! Amen.” (Romans 9:1-5)
Paul goes on to reassure his readers that although many of the Israelites rejected their Messiah, who Himself is God over all, God has not permanently turned away from them, nor has He forgotten His promises to them (Romans 11:1-2, 25-26, 28-29). In His sovereign timing, the people of Israel will once again be recipients of God’s mercy.
As we see in Paul’s writings, God’s heart for Israel remains; thus, ours should too.
God’s Blessings Remain to Be Shared – As Reciprocated by the Early Church
Near the end of Paul’s letter to the church in Rome comes an interesting comment, often overlooked, yet pertinent to our discussion. Here Paul reasons that it is only fitting for Gentiles to share with the Jews their material blessings, since they are recipients of the Jew’s spiritual blessings.
“I am on my way to Jerusalem in the service of the Lord’s people there. For Macedonia and Achaia were pleased to make a contribution for the poor among the Lord’s people in Jerusalem. They were pleased to do it, and indeed they owe it to them. For if the Gentiles have shared in the Jews’ spiritual blessings, they owe it to the Jews to share with them their material blessings. So after I have completed this task and have made sure that they have received this contribution, I will go to Spain and visit you on the way.” (Romans 15:25-28)
Twice Paul emphasizes how we as Gentiles “owe it to the Jews.” The terms he uses depict us as debtors (opheiletés) obliged (opheiló) to pay back a debt. For Paul, it is only fitting that we reciprocate God’s blessings, both spiritual and material. This was a practice taken up by early Gentile believers; should it not be ours today?
PRACTICAL REASONS TO SUPPORT ISRAEL
In addition to the scriptural motivations for a Christian to recognize God’s plan for Israel, numerous pragmatic reasons exist as well. These aren’t exclusively applicable to Christians but are relevant to the global population, especially to those who support democratic ideals.
A strong case can be made for Israel’s ownership of the land due to their deep-rooted historical ties and unwavering commitment to it, despite numerous challenges and changes in governance. The Jews were the last indigenous rulers in the land before Roman conquest. Since that time, six different governing powers have ruled the territory, each administering control from a headquarters located outside the region. Yet despite being ruled by external powers, a persistent Jewish presence in present-day Israel has remained. Throughout this time, Jews have often undergone great sacrifice to return to and rehabilitate the land promised to them long ago. Their historic reign and persistent occupation under foreign rule warrants one of several reasons for their current governance.
The legitimacy of Israel’s existence has been recognized through various international agreements and declarations. Initially, the name “Palestine” was imposed by Roman emperor Hadrian following the second Jewish revolt in AD 132-135, aiming to erase Jewish ties to the land. After World War I and the defeat of the Ottoman Empire, the 1920 San Remo Conference delineated territories captured by the Allies and affirmed the 1917 Balfour Declaration, which supported the establishment of a Jewish national home in Palestine. This stance was upheld by the League of Nations in 1922, and in 1947, the United Nations General Assembly voted to partition the land into Jewish and Palestinian states, leading to international recognition of Israel. Furthermore, the 1967 United Nations Resolution 242 acknowledged Israel’s right to peaceful existence within secure borders. Consequently, Israel’s right to exist in its homeland is substantiated by several international declarations and decisions, including the Balfour Declaration, the League of Nations Mandate, the UN Partition Plan, and Israel’s admission into the UN in 1949.
The Jewish Right to a Peaceful Existence within Secure Borders
Support for the modern state of Israel is crucial to establish a safe haven for Jews, protecting them from ongoing persecution. While Arabs have the option to reside in one of seventeen countries, Jews have a small geographic area to realize their ideals. And while their ideals do not seek the elimination of Arab peoples, some radical Islamic factions are set on obliterating Israel. In fact, numerous Arab leaders today advocate for the complete elimination of Israel, perpetuating an ongoing, existential threat to them as a nation and people. Support for the modern state of Israel serves to protect the right of Jews to a peaceful existence.
Israel’s Outsized Global Contribution
The world has much to gain from Israel’s outsized contribution. Within its short timeframe as a nation, Israel has emerged as a global hub of innovation, most notably in the technological and medical sectors, with Tel Aviv housing “Silicon Wadi,” one of the world’s largest startup ecosystems. Israeli innovations include crucial technologies like cell phones, Intel chips, and the flash drive, as well as significant medical advancements. Despite constituting only 0.2% of the global population, Israel has remarkably produced 54% of the world’s chess champions, 27% of Nobel laureates in physics, and 31% in medicine. Additionally, Israelis make up 21% of Ivy League students, 26% of Kennedy Center honorees, 37% of Academy Award-winning directors, 38% of notable philanthropists on a recent Business Week list, and 51% of Pulitzer Prize winners for nonfiction. From 1980 to 2000, Egyptians secured 77 patents in the US, Saudis obtained 171, while Israelis registered a notable 7,652. Along with their outsized technological, medical, and cultural contributions, the nation has demonstrated notable humanitarian efforts, extending aid to over 140 countries and swiftly responding to global natural disasters.
Israel Shares Our Democratic Values for the Benefit of All
Israel distinctively exemplifies democratic values in the Middle East, providing substantial freedoms and a diverse array of political and religious expressions, not commonly found in many of its neighboring countries. Upholding principles such as democracy, rule of law, and freedoms concerning religion, speech, and human rights, it shares fundamental values with countries like the United States. Furthermore, its democratic governance allows all to benefit. Israel not only provides a safe and nurturing environment for its Jewish majority but also extends opportunities and rights to Palestinians and other minorities, who actively participate in various professional sectors and governmental structures, thereby embodying a government that truly serves its diverse populace.
CONSIDERATIONS IN LIGHT OF OUR CALLING AS THE CHURCH
As the Church, We Are Called to Make Disciples of All Nations – Loving Everyone Genuinely, Impartially, and Sacrificially
Discussing support for Israel often seems to necessitate a binary decision between Israelis and Palestinians. In this discussion, it is vital to clarify once more that our support for Israel focuses on their legitimate ownership of the land and does NOT mean that we are to devalue or mistreat people of opposing ethnicities or religions. As Mark L. Bailey, the former president of Dallas Theological Seminary, writes,
“If one is not careful, one will look through the colored lens of politics and end up despising either the Arabs or the Jews, or both. A proper gaze through a biblical lens will engender a genuine love for Palestinians, Arabs, Israelis, and Jews alike as people created in the image of God, the object of his love, and all viable candidates to receive the love of Christ through our proclamation of the Gospel message.”
The Scriptural directive, from Moses to Jesus, mandates loving others as ourselves. This is not a call to “love your neighbor and hate your enemy [or Israel’s enemy],” but rather, to “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44). Jesus shocked His hearers when He told the parable of the good Samaritan, for by it He showed that the neighbor we are called to radically love includes those of differing religious and political views. It includes those we are most inclined to despise.
Thus, our call as the church is to love everyone genuinely, impartially, and sacrificially. Like a city on a hill, we are to shine as a beacon of God’s redeeming love to a dark and broken world. This is the means by which we are to pursue God’s mission, trusting in Him to accomplish His promised end (see Romans 12:14-21). In this way, we as the church will not “be overcome by evil, but [will] overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21).
We must never let our political alignments inculcate hatred or eclipse our call as the church to “go and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19). While God has promised the land to Israel, His salvation extends to the ends of the earth. The most significant way the church is called to support Israel is by helping them discover their Messiah, for it is only in Him that their true restoration is found and the promises of God are realized (2 Corinthians 1:20). The good news is that anyone, whether Jew or Gentile, who trusts in Christ “are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise” (Galatians 4:29).
 This article relies heavily on the work of Mark L. Bailey in “Should Christians Support the Modern State of Israel?” in Israel the Church and the Middle East: A Biblical Response to the Current Conflict, ed. Darrell L. Bock and Mitch Glaser (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 2018), pages 187-201. The book as a whole is great resource for anyone wanting to explore this topic more deeply.
 All quotations of Scripture are taken from the NIV unless otherwise stated.
 Darrell Bock outlines several of these statements in https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F210i-h5ZGI
 For an accessible way to examine this further, see https://biblehub.com/text/romans/15-27.htm
 These statistics are derived from Mark L. Bailey’s chapter in Israel the Church and the Middle East, pp. 198-200. Bailey notes, “The listed contributions have been culled from a variety of articles and websites, including Jim Eckman, “Israel: “A Channel of God’s Blessing,” in Grace University’s Issues in Perspective (June 1, 2003):1;
“Cool Facts about Israel.” Greater Miami Jewish Organization, accessed January 23, 2018, http://jewishmiami.org/about/departments/missions/coolfacts.pdf; Jake Gould, “Why Americans Should Support Israel,” United with Israel, October 2, 2017; accessed January 23, 2018, https://unitedwithisrael.org/why-americans-should-support-israel; David Brooks, “The Tel Aviv Cluster,” The New York Times, January 12, 2010, A:23; “Israel’s Contribution to the World.” The Herald, September-October 2015; accessed January 24, 2018, herald-magazine.com/2015/09/01/israels-contributions-to-the-world-potential-for-blessing; “18 Ways Israel is Changing the World.” Israel 21c., accessed January 20, 2018, https://www.israel21c.org/exhibition/18-ways-israel-is-changing-the-world.
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