• Jerusalem Western Wall | Photo credit Stella Levi - Getty Images

Zionism, Balfour and the Bible

Andrew Tucker - 15 November 2017

These months of August to November 2017 are historically significant months, as we recall key dates in the world history leading up to the creation of the State of Israel in 1948. 29 and 30 August was the 120th anniversary of the first Zionist Congress in Basel, at which what came to be known as the ‘Basel Programme’ was adopted, setting out the goals of the Zionist movement. It was adopted on the following terms:

“Zionism aims at establishing for the Jewish people a publicly and legally assured home in Palestine. For the attainment of this purpose, the Congress considers the following means serviceable:

  • The promotion of the settlement of Jewish agriculturists, artisans, and tradesmen in Palestine.
  • The federation of all Jews into local or general groups, according to the laws of the various countries.
  • The strengthening of the Jewish feeling and consciousness.
  • Preparatory steps for the attainment of those governmental grants which are necessary to the achievement of the Zionist purpose.”

The Basel programme led twenty years later to the Balfour Declaration, which was published on 2 November 1917, and led in turn to the creation of the Mandate for Palestine adopted by the League of Nations in 1922. These events cause us inevitably to wrestle with the question: to what extent can the political developments surrounding the rise of Zionism at the end of the 19th century, leading ultimately up to the creation of the State of Israel in 1948, be reconciled with our Christian faith in the Bible? Many Christians argue that Zionism is merely a political phenomenon and the State of Israel is a construct of human efforts, and therefore cannot be regarded as fitting in with the Bible. Others say that even if the Bible does allow for the return of the Jewish people to the land promised to their forefathers, it cannot be God’s intention to achieve that goal as long as the Jewish people are blind and ignorant to the gospel of Jesus Christ, or as long as Israel allows offences to God such as abortion and open support for homosexuality, or as long as they mistreat the Arab Palestinians.

All of these are valid concerns. There are (many) aspects of the State of Israel that are far from perfect, perhaps even problematic. But we need to remind ourselves that we are dealing ultimately with what the Apostle Paul, in Romans 11, calls the spiritual restoration of Israel a ‘mystery’. While he does not specifically speak there of the physical restoration of the nation of Israel in the land, it can hardly be argued that that is not part of the mystery of which he speaks. In Romans 11 Paul draws all his arguments from the Old Testament, which speaks clearly of the restoration of the Jewish people to the land and the advent of their Messiah, as a necessary step in their spiritual restoration, when the Saviour comes, after which the word of the Lord shall go forth from Jerusalem.

We are living in a complicated and sometimes confusing period of transition, where many interrelated things are happening concurrently. The gospel of the Kingdom of God is going into all the nations as never before. The Bible tells us that the ‘fullness of the Gentiles’ is inextricably linked to the physical and spiritual restoration of the Jewish people. This ‘fullness’ suggests the completion of the church – the gathering in of the elect of Godfrom amongst the nations. But it also refers to the completion of that period of history in which the Gentiles‘trample on’ (dominate and govern over) Jerusalem. Ever since the destruction of the second Temple in 70 AD, and the destruction of Jerusalem in 135 AD, the nations and empires of this world have sought to govern Jerusalem. Even today, the nations try to keep control of Jerusalem.

That is why the world refuses to accept the legality of Israel’s reunification and the declaration as the capital of the Jewish State of Israel. The prophet Zachariah describes how this will end in the nations going up violently against Jerusalem, only to be met by the Lord Himself who will protect His people and defeat them.The fulfilment of God’s declared promises is happening in the midst of, and by the means of, ordinary men and women, in a broken and imperfect world. Just as you and I are imperfect, but we know that, by grace alone, if we trust in Him God will achieve His perfection in us, so too He will achieve His purposes in Israel and the nations. So that, ultimately, His name will be glorified. 

Andrew Tucker
Executive Director Christians for Israel International
Legal Counsel to the European Coalition for Israel

To view the Jerusalem timeline from 3500 BC – Present Day 2017, look below (click to enlarge).

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