Do Most Christians Believe that Jerusalem is the Capital of Israel?

Introduction:

The better way to ask this question might be, “Does the Bible teach that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel?”  Most believers probably do not spend a lot of time trying to answer this question in the course of their everyday busy lives.

However, the December 6th, 2017 announcement by the president of the United States, which identifies Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and indicates the beginning of the process of moving the US Embassy to Jerusalem, causes Bible believers to consider this question more carefully.

This is a very controversial issue from a political perspective as Israel’s neighbors and supporters around the globe disagree with this decision, as they are hoping for a two-state solution, which would once again divide Jerusalem, East Jerusalem for the Palestinian state and West Jerusalem for the Jewish state.

At this time, it seems that we are a long way off from a two-state solution becoming a reality.

The above are just some of the challenges in bringing true and lasting peace to a complex and conflicted region. The alignment of nations in the Middle East is a maze of tensions that are difficult for Westerners to understand fully.  Most disciples of Jesus are not experts on Middle Eastern politics!  But the area in question is familiar to us because we read the Bible, both the Old and New Testament.  Israel, in particular, is the subject of many biblical promises and therefore, evangelicals are very concerned about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and are willing to share their opinions about the situation.

A recent survey entitled Evangelical Attitudes toward Israel was initiated by Lifeway Research and supported by both Chosen People Ministries and author, Joel C. Rosenberg. The survey was commissioned in the summer of 2017 and the results were released December 4, 2017.  Specific questions regarding the U.S. government’s announcement acknowledging Jerusalem as the capital of Israel was not part of the survey.  Yet, a number of other questions in the survey help us better understand evangelical attitudes about both of the above issues.

The following data, gleaned from the survey suggest that evangelicals would likely support Jerusalem as the capital for primarily biblical and not necessarily political reasons.  But again, this is a deduction, as the question was not directly asked of the 2,002 survey participants.

For example, sixty-nine percent of evangelicals say they are positive towards Israel.

The survey also discovered that eighty percent of evangelicals agree that God’s promise to Abraham and his descendants were for all time. This promise included the land, of course, which would also include the most well-known city in Israel: Jerusalem.  The Bible speaks often about Jerusalem.

According to leading evangelical Christian archeologist and author, Dr. Randall Price,

Jerusalem is mentioned 800 times in the Bible and under one name or another for Jerusalem in about two-thirds of the books of the Old Testament and one half the books of the New Testament. Researchers have found 660 verses in the Old Testament and 142 in the New Testament that speaks of Jerusalem. Curiously, Price adds that references to Jerusalem 465 times in the Old Testament and 24 in the New Testament Jerusalem are in a prophetic context.[1]

The survey reported that 76% of the survey respondents support the Jewish people’s right to live in the sovereign state of Israel.  This would imply that evangelicals believe Israel has the right and mandate to determine her own capital.

Sixty-nine percent of participants also say that Israel has a historic right to the land.  This would suggest that since Jerusalem is the historic capital of the land that they would be likely to think the same, at least for West Jerusalem.  This also indicates that evangelicals have a grasp of the history of Israel and Jerusalem, but this knowledge of Jewish history is mostly derived from the Bible itself.  We cannot be sure of this again as it is a deduction, but it would seem to be logical as according to the survey, evangelicals get most of their understanding of Israel from the Bible itself.

According to the survey,

The majority of those with evangelical beliefs attribute the primary reason for their support of Israel to the Bible including thirty-three percent who affirmed the statement “the Bible says God gave the land of Israel to the Jewish people”.

This seems to carry over to modern Israel as the survey participants also view the regathering of the nation of Israel from the diaspora to be the fulfillment of biblical prophecy.  Therefore, the return of Jerusalem to Jewish hands is viewed as an act of God.

According to the survey,

When you think of the modern rebirth of the State of Israel in 1948 and the re-gathering of millions of Jewish people to Israel” eighty percent say these events were fulfillments of Bible prophecy that show we are getting closer to the return of Jesus Christ and twenty percent say these were simply interesting geopolitical events.[2]

Sixty-six percent of evangelicals believe that they should support Israel’s existence, security, and prosperity.  Most of us understand that giving up half of Jerusalem would pose a security threat to the Jewish state. Again, this is a deduction, but it seems to make sense.

On the other hand, twenty- three percent say that the Palestinians should be allowed to create their own sovereign state while thirty-one percent disagree and forty-six percent are not sure! That is a massive amount of uncertainty for such a crucial question!  Again, it seems that evangelicals have a good level of certainty regarding issues that the Bible speaks to more directly.  This is why it is important for those who love the Lord and the Messiah to think through what the Bible says about the city of Jerusalem.

However, Gary Burge, an outspoken evangelical who tends to promote a negative position towards the modern state of Israel writes,

We do not promote what we call the “territorialism” of the Bible. We anchor our thinking not in the Old Testament’s land-based promises, but in the Gospel, where the tribal or local theologies about Israel become global and universal, welcoming all people from every tribe and every land into a divine promise of blessing. Paul can refer to gentiles as children of Abraham (Romans 4:11) because it’s through faith, not ethnic lineage, that one gains access to the blessings of God. This shift in emphasis, which challenges the exclusivity of any one tribe and universalizes blessing, explains the world-mission of the ancient church and the inclusion of Gentiles in Jesus’ Jewish messianic movement. From this vantage, arguments for ethnic land claims—such as disputes over Jerusalem—sound foreign.[3]

Dr. Burge views the Bible and its history through the lens of supersessionism and is simply stating that the land promises to the Jewish people should not be taken literally and certainly should not be applied to Israel today. This would settle the Jerusalem issue in a heartbeat, as he does not think it will ever belong to the Jewish people by divine covenant – capital or not.

But, if a literal view of Jerusalem is understood and the history of Jerusalem in the Bible is examined it becomes clear that this city is the capital city of the nation of Israel.

Jerusalem: Past, Present, and Future

Jerusalem is a Jewish city according to the Bible.  It has a great past, challenging present and glorious future.  How could evangelicals possibly not understand that Jerusalem is a literal city, the biblical and historic capital of Israel?  So many of the great Patriarchs of the Bible all agreed on this important claim! Jerusalem was and always will be the capital of Israel and the future home of Jesus upon His return.  We understand that in the future Jerusalem, the nations of the world will be commanded to come up and worship the King during the Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot) , (Zechariah 14:16-19).  We also understand that the first church was born in this great city, that the Gospel proclamation began there (Acts 1:8), that salvation is of the Jews (John 4:24) and one day as Isaiah describes, the kingdom will have its locus in this very same city of Jerusalem.

We know that Jerusalem will be the capital future kingdom as it was in the past, but is this true today.

Should the United States have moved its embassy to this holy city?

Perhaps we should start here in our biblical journey? It is unclear if embassies existed throughout biblical history.  But, if traditionally embassies are placed in the capital city of a country then I would say absolutely yes. The focus of our question about God’s role for Jerusalem should focus on whether or not the Bible teaches that it is the capital of Israel.

It is up to us to study the Bible and make up our minds biblically – not politically and then allow your understanding of Scripture to inform the way we understand current events like the move of the embassy.

This will provide a helpful path to travel in figuring out what we believe about the city of Jerusalem and nation of Israel.  Enjoy the journey!

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: “May they prosper who love you” (Psalms 122:6)

For a further study on the Jerusalem in the Bible, click here.

 


[1] Randall Price, Jerusalem in Prophecy: God’s Stage for the Final Drama (Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishers, 1998), 78–79.

[2] Survey report, Evangelical Attitudes towards Israel, Life Way Research, p.3

[3] Gary Burge, “You Can Be an Evangelical and Reject Trump’s Jerusalem Decision” The Atlantic, December 6, 2017 accessed December 7, 2017, https://flipboard.com/@flipboard/-you-can-be-an-evangelical-and-reject-tr/f-3c5d40d935%2Ftheatlantic.com