Are Current Events In Israel Related To Biblical Prophecy?


As the war between Israel and Hamas escalates, many U.S. evangelicals are debating whether current events are related to biblical prophecy. 

On Oct. 8, the day after Hamas massacred more than 1,400 people in southern Israel, prominent California megachurch pastor Greg Laurie devoted about 10 minutes of his nearly hour-long sermon to the topic. 

“You’re seeing Bible prophecy fulfilled in your lifetime, in real time before your very eyes,” Laurie said. “The Bible predicted hundreds of years ago that this large force from the north of Israel would attack her after she was regathered.”

Yet author and theologian Joel McDurmon counters this application of the Bible to current events. “What is happening in Israel is tragic, terrible, and unnecessary for multiple reasons,” he posted on X. “And it has nothing to do with Bible prophecy or Bible promises.”

A main factor influencing evangelicals’ views on the current conflict is their opinion of Israel. Is it merely a modern state without spiritual significance? Or, is Israel the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy that factors into end times events?

Itinerant minister and best-selling author Joel Richardson told The Roys Report that he believes the re-formation of Israel in 1948 was a fulfillment of biblical prophecy.

“One of the most essential realities, I think, for Christians when studying the Bible is to first understand the Israel-centric context,” said Richardson. “All of the stories in the Bible primarily revolve around Jerusalem, Israel and the larger Middle East. In the future, many of the great conflicts and controversies of the last days continue to revolve around Jerusalem.” 

Richardson believes Christ will literally return to earth and establish his kingdom in Jerusalem for 1,000 years, known as the millennial kingdom. In this view, Israel being reestablished as a nation-state is a precursor to the fulfillment of biblical prophecy.

In his Oct. 8 sermon, Laurie had a similar interpretation of biblical prophecy. “Interesting how it always comes back to Jerusalem,” he preached. “Not San Francisco. Not Los Angeles. Not Moscow. Not Paris. But Jerusalem, this tiny little city, in this tiny sliver of land (is) the focal point of end times events.”

However, author Scot McKnight, professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary in Lisle, Illinois, does not view the reestablishment of the modern state of Israel as related to biblical prophecy.

Earlier this year, McKnight and co-author Cody Matchett released “Revelation for the Rest of Us,” in which they contend the Bible’s final book is about Christian discipleship for the church, then and today.

“Revelation teaches believers how to live as a follower of the Lamb when living in the Empire,” said McKnight in an interview. “It teaches how to discern corruption. It exhorts Christians to resist political corruption.”

He also explicitly rejects the common categorization of end times views.

“Many of us don’t categorize our views by using the millennium as the defining point,” said McKnight. “There is one passage in the whole Bible about the millennium, in Revelation 20. And almost nothing there is part of what many teach about the millennium today.”

McKnight also cautioned students of the Bible about translating passages about Israel as the current nation-state. “The American commitment to Israel by evangelicals seems to be decentering the US,” he said. “But they are putting the US inside that center as allies with Israel. Which means they are patting themselves on the back by patting Israel on the back.”

Such a nuanced approach to prophetic language contrasts with Richardson’s plain reading of the text. “You’re taking very clear words and spiritualizing them to the point where they no longer even have meaning,” said Richardson. 

“The Scriptures are clear that Jesus will come back to reestablish the throne of his father David in Jerusalem and rule the nations from that location.” 

Caution about politics in the pulpit

Mark Tooley, president of The Institute on Religion and Democracy, which advises evangelicals on how to engage politics, commented on evangelicals’ divergent views on end times theology.

“We can all trust God is sovereign and active in all human affairs,” he said. “And we can also be modest about claiming to know the details of His will or how they fit into any possible biblical prophecy.” 

He also cautioned ministers against proclaiming detailed political messages from the pulpit. 

“Pastors don’t typically have expertise or a vocation for addressing political specifics,” said Tooley, who worked for years at the CIA. “Among other problems, listeners might confuse the political views of the pastor with the gospel itself.” 

Richardson demurred when pressed about whether biblical prophetic passages apply to the current conflict between Israel and Hamas, answering flatly: “No.” 

“We need to be very careful of acting like every single newsflash connects to some obscure verse somewhere in the prophets,” he said. “By the same token, we don’t want to just disregard all biblical prophecy as irrelevant.” 

Nadine Maenza, an evangelical policy leader in the international religious freedom movement, noted there are “so many different beliefs in the church about prophecy” and regarding the larger Mideast conflicts. 

“Let’s guard ourselves to be salt and light as we engage in these difficult issues,” she said. “Is the goal to convince everyone that our views are the right ones? Or should we be modeling how Jesus would respond?” 

Wide-lens prayer

Regardless of how one interprets Scriptures about Israel, Christian leaders urge believers to have a “wide lens” on the entire region. 

“Please don’t forget our already beleaguered brothers and sisters in Christ in the Middle East and the impact this war could have on them,” said Maenza, who in recent years served as chair of the U.S. Commission on International Religion Freedom. “The ramifications for some of the oldest Christian communities in the world could be disastrous if Iran increases its involvement, especially for those in Lebanon, Iraq and Syria.” 

In his prayers for the region, McKnight said he is seeking the goodness and welfare of all in harm’s way. “I’m praying for the Palestinian people, a people internationally marginalized,” he said. “I’m praying for the end of all antisemitism. I’m praying for the USA to measure its word by a true and equal justice — both for Israel and for the Palestinian people.” 

Richardson echoed concerns about antisemitism, as troubling rhetoric has become widespread. He noted that protests at universities and major capital cities have “celebrated the slaughter, rape and murder of Jews” which has caused him to “break down in tears.” 

“I’m standing with the global Jewish community,” he said. “And it’s not primarily because of my particular interpretation of biblical prophecy. It’s an issue of standing with other humans who are undergoing horrific treatment at the hands of an inhuman, terroristic, apocalyptic cult.” 

Indicators point to further escalation. Israel has amassed tanks and artillery on its border with Gaza. Palestinians facing suffering and displacement report in a recent survey that they regard Hamas as corrupt. The fate of 200 hostages in Gaza, including Americans, remains uncertain. 

Tooley concluded: “We can pray that peace with justice prevails, with all parties able to live in freedom without fear — which is a tall order in the Mideast.”

This piece was originally published at The Roys Report.

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