The Temple Mount with the Dome of the Rock shrine in Jerusalem.
It has been just over a week since Hamas’ horrific terrorist attacks were carried out against civilians living near the border of the Gaza strip. Men, women, children, and even infants were slaughtered in their homes. Numerous reports claim that more than 100 others were taken as hostages. Shocking and soul-disturbing videos have been released revealing some of the inhuman brutality carried out against these innocent individuals. Girls were raped and a grandmother was assassinated before a terrorist used her phone to post a picture of her dead body on her social media page. To add insult to murder, some Palestinian supporters in major Western cities like London, New York, Chicago, and Sydney marched in the streets, reveling in the murder of over 1,300 Jews. In some cases, chants of “Gas the Jews” could be heard. Let’s call this what it really is. Evil, vile, shameful, disgusting, and Satanic.
I was heartened to see many Christians sharing support for Israel and the Jewish people on social media in the first few days after these disgusting murders. At the same time, I was saddened to see other Christians claim that the Jews cannot be God’s people because they killed their Messiah and that according to Hebrews 8:13 the old covenant has been made obsolete. I want to quickly address this latter claim before addressing the first one.
Also, I want to be clear. This post is not primarily about the political situation going on between Israel and Hamas right now. The focus will be on the attitude some Christians have toward Israel and the Jewish people. This is also not intended as a full-throated endorsement of every decision modern Israel has ever or will ever make. They have made and will likely continue to make terrible mistakes. Indeed, it is grievous that many more innocent lives will be lost on both sides as the war continues. But if you think there is a moral equivalence between the actions of the Hamas terrorists and the actions of Israel toward their Arab neighbors and citizens over the past 75 years, you need to learn the history of this ongoing conflict and check your moral compass. Now, on to the two points I want to address.
God’s Promises to Israel Are Not Obsolete
This point should be so simple to understand, but unfortunately, many Christians throughout church history have adopted an unbiblical framework for interpreting the Bible and they fail to see something so plainly described throughout the New Testament. It is true that Hebrews 8:13 states that with the institution of the new covenant, “He has made the first obsolete. Now what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.” Does this mean that all of God’s promises to Israel are now fulfilled or obsolete? By no means!
Look closely at the context and pay attention to the bold words. The author of Hebrews quoted from Jeremiah 31:31–34 when he wrote:
Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah—not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they did not continue in My covenant, and I disregarded them, says the Lord. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My laws in their mind and write them on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. None of them shall teach his neighbor, and none his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them. For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.
Which covenant has been made obsolete according to the author of Hebrews? It’s the one that God made with Israel’s fathers after He led “them out of the land of Egypt.” The Mosaic Covenant (the Law given at Mt. Sinai after God freed the Israelites from slavery in Egypt) has been made obsolete through Jesus’ sacrificial death, burial, and resurrection. Do you realize that God made some other covenants with Israel’s forefathers, such as the Abrahamic and Davidic covenants, and these have not been made obsolete? In fact, these are everlasting and irrevocable (Romans 11:29). God’s unconditional covenant with Abraham regarding his descendants and the land He would give them still stands (Genesis 12:7; 13:15; 15:1–21). In fact, in Genesis 17:8, God said that the land was given to Abraham and his descendants as “an everlasting possession.” This covenant was repeated to Isaac (Genesis 26:2–5) and to Jacob (Genesis 28:13–15) as each of these men were leaving the land given to them. Their right to live in the land was contingent upon obedience to the Lord, but their right to its possession was established by God forever (Deuteronomy 4:25–31). God’s covenant with David regarding his kingdom and throne being established forever still stands as well and will be fulfilled (2 Samuel 7).
The Valley of Elah viewed from Socoh. This valley is where David killed Goliath. The Bible states that God promised this land to Abraham and his descendants through Jacob as an everlasting possession.
Sadly, many Christians have accepted a supercessionist reading of the Scripture (aka replacement theology). As a result, they reinterpret many New Testament passages about Israel, especially those that promise blessing, as being about the church. There is not a single place in the New Testament where the church is called Israel. Israel means Israel, the physical descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Israel), and in some places, such as Romans 9:6 and Galatians 6:16, Paul uses Israel to refer to the believing remnant of Israelites. And Gentiles are never called Jews or Israel. The church is not true Israel or the Israel of God, as many have claimed.
I am not stating or implying that everyone who has adopted a supercessionist reading of Scripture is antisemitic (holding a prejudice against the Jewish people). I am absolutely certain that there are many who harbor no ill will against the Jews. However, there has been a clear connection throughout church history between supercessionism and antisemitism within the church. I would argue it is because the theology itself is based on unbiblical principles that strip the Jewish people of the promises God made with their forefathers. Sadly, some professing Christians of the past have carried out acts toward the Jews that would make Hamas proud. There is so much more that can be said on this topic. Indeed, entire books have been written to address it, so I will not belabor it here. If you are interested in reading more on this subject and the connection between supercessionism and antisemitism, I would strongly recommend reading Future Israel by Barry Horner and Our Hands are Stained with Blood by Michael L. Brown.
Who Killed Jesus?
Since the rise of supercessionist readings of the New Testament in the second century, it has become all too common for Christians to accuse the Jewish people of being the “Christ killers.” Let me be as clear as possible. Shame on any Christian who has accused or implied that the Jews and the Jews alone are responsible for the death of Jesus. All we need to do is open the Bible to see what it says on the subject
Shortly before Jesus went to Jerusalem to die for our sins, He told His disciples, “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and to the scribes; and they will condemn Him to death, and deliver Him to the Gentiles to mock and to scourge and to crucify. And the third day He will rise again” (Matthew 20:18–19). Did you catch that? Who did Jesus say was going to put Him to death? The Gentiles. Of course, that’s exactly what happened. The Jewish leaders condemned Him, but then Pilate, a Gentile, sentenced Jesus to be beaten and crucified, and it was Gentile soldiers who carried out the execution.
We need to balance that statement with several others. Consider what Peter told his Jewish audience at Pentecost. “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a Man attested by God to you by miracles, wonders, and signs which God did through Him in your midst, as you yourselves also know—Him, being delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God, you have taken by lawless hands, have crucified, and put to death…” (Acts 2:22–23). Peter blamed his fellow Jews for the crucifixion, although he qualified it by saying it was “by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God.” Yes, the Jews, like the Gentiles, were also complicit in the death of Jesus. In fact, Jesus told Pilate that “the one who delivered Me to you has the greater sin” (John 19:11). While it is not entirely clear who “the one who delivered” refers to, nearly all scholars agree it refers to a Jewish person (perhaps Judas, Annas, or Caiaphas), the Jewish leaders, or the nation in general. Apparently, the reason this deliverer was guilty of the greater sin is because he (or they) had greater knowledge about the Messiah—he or they should have known better. Jesus taught that “to whom much is given, from him much will be required” (Luke 12:48). What the Romans did largely in ignorance, the deliverer carried out in hardness of heart. So, both Jew and Gentile are guilty of Christ’s death.
But that’s not all. One could also make a case that Satan and his demons killed Jesus, or at the very least, that they inspired others to carry it out. During one of his many disputes with certain Jewish people, Jesus told them that they did the deeds of their father and that, “You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning” (John 8:44). Shortly after that, they attempted to stone Him. Also, John 13:27 tells us that Satan entered Judas shortly before Judas betrayed him.1
But that’s still not all. As mentioned above, Christ’s crucifixion was part of God’s plan. Indeed, Isaiah 53 predicted Christ’s sacrificial death, burial, and resurrection, and verse 10 states, “Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise Him. He has put Him to grief. When You make His soul an offering for sin…” The word translated as “bruise” is rendered as “crush” in many other translations. So, Christ’s death can also rightly be attributed to God the Father.
Jesus said that He would lay down His own life and that no one would take His life from Him.
And that’s still not all. In John 10:17–18, Jesus stated, “Therefore My Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again. No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again.” Jesus said that no one takes His life from Him because He would lay it down willingly.
So, who is responsible for the death of Jesus? We all are! It was part of God’s plan from the beginning, and Jesus willingly laid down His life, dying as a sacrifice for the sins of both Jew and Gentile. To label Jews as Christ killers or to blame them alone for killing Jesus is patently unbiblical. At best, it is ignorant, but it might also be from a veiled or overt antisemitism borne out of sinful pride and prejudice against God’s chosen people.
Paul warned against this very thing in Romans. Throughout Romans 9–11, Paul lays out God’s plan for the Jewish people, categorically denying that He has cast away the Jews (Romans 11:1) and rejoicing that someday the Jewish people will turn back to God and be saved (Romans 11:25–36). In Romans 11, Paul uses an analogy of an olive tree to illustrate what was happening. Natural branches of the tree (unbelieving Jews) were broken off (v. 20) while members of a wild olive tree (believing Gentiles) were grafted in to the natural tree. Then Paul issues a warning that is extremely relevant to the subject of this post.
And if some of the branches were broken off, and you, being a wild olive tree, were grafted in among them, and with them became a partaker of the root and fatness of the olive tree, do not boast against the branches. But if you do boast, remember that you do not support the root, but the root supports you.
You will say then, “Branches were broken off that I might be grafted in.” Well said. Because of unbelief they were broken off, and you stand by faith. Do not be haughty, but fear. For if God did not spare the natural branches, He may not spare you either. (Romans 10:17–21).
Charles Spurgeon echoed Paul’s heart for God’s chosen people. Someday their partial blindness and resistance to the gospel will disappear and “all Israel will be saved” (Romans 11:25–26).
How much clearer could this be? Do not boast against the Jews or be haughty toward them. You might say, as many have, “But they rejected their Messiah and are living in unbelief, so how can they be His people?” Yes, many Jews did reject their Messiah, but not all did, and at some point, as Paul predicted in v. 26, they will believe in Him (cf. Zechariah 12:10) and be saved. Do they deserve God’s favor? Of course not. But neither do you. Since when has Christianity ever taught that we deserve salvation? Do you think Christians deserve God’s favor? We do not. We are not saved by our own goodness and works. We deserve God’s judgment, but He graciously offers forgiveness of sins and eternal life to all who believe in Him, to the Jew first and then to the Gentile (Romans 1:16).
Dear Christian, do you realize that Jesus was a Jew? In fact, He is still a Jew and will be for all eternity. Do you understand that all of the apostles were Jews? Do you realize that nearly our entire Bible, both Old and New Testaments, was written by Jews? How on earth could any Christian harbor or promote antisemitism? If your theology encourages, fosters, or promotes this type of thinking, you’re doing it wrong.
Let me close with the words of Charles Spurgeon, who echoed many of the same sentiments.
So now, my Brothers and Sisters, we ought to have very great tenderness of heart towards the older branch of the family—the seed of Abraham, the house of Jacob, the children of Israel, who, for the most part, still reject our Lord Jesus Christ and remain outside the pale of His Church. A Christian is the last person who ought to ever speak disrespectfully or unkindly of the Jews. We remember that our Lord belonged to that race and that His first Apostles were also of that nation…Let us pray to God continually for the ingathering of the Jews. They are the original branches of the good olive tree, although for a time they have been cut off because of unbelief…Yet, they are to be grafted again into the olive tree, and it is according to the mind of Christ that we should pray and labor for their conversion, and long for that happy time when they shall be brought in and, with the fullness of the Gentiles, be gathered at the feet of the Messiah whom they have so long rejected.2