Since the announcement from Trump that he would move the US embassy to Jerusalem, there has been an uproar in the media about how this pushes back the effort for peace between Israel and the Palestinians. I am aware that the Jews have violated human rights in the occupied West Bank, but somehow deep inside I’m relieved that someone would recognize that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel. I am reminded that Jerusalem is part of the land promised to Abraham. It was also the capital of Israel since the reign of King David.
However, after reading a couple of your articles, I have begun to understand that physical Jerusalem no longer matters for us as Christians, especially since the Temple was destroyed for good.  I read an article recently at   This article says that Jerusalem is the emotional capital of three religion, making it hard to support Trump’s decision.  What do you think about this?


There are four points of view one can take on Jerusalem as the capital of a Jewish state.

1.  As a biblical question for a Christian.

2.  As a Jew who does not accept the Christian New Testament as inspired, but who accepts the Jewish Bible.

3.  As a political question of whose land ought this to be.

4.  As a sentimental question for any human being, knowing the sad history of the Jews.

1. From the Christian/biblical perspective, there is no reason for a Christian to support the idea of the necessity of a Jewish state in Palestine.  This is not really our business.  We are part of a kingdom that is not of this world (John 18:36) and that does not and should not have a physical capital.  As far as we are concerned, we are the true Israel–the promised children of Abraham.  We are the true circumcision (Romans 2:29).  We are Abraham’s descendants (Galatians 3:7, Galatians 3:29).  Because many (but not all!) of the Jews at the time and still today reject the promised Messiah sent to them, God has removed himself from the temple and will certainly not occupy a human-built temple in Jerusalem again (Hebrews 8:13).  For a Christian to anticipate the rebuilding of a Jewish temple in which God will dwell makes no sense.  The New Covenant has come and the Old has been fulfilled.  The Church and Christians individually are now the temple of the Holy Spirit, not some building in Jerusalem. God’s favor has come to all and is no longer reserved for the chosen people alone.(1 Cor 3:16, I Cor 6:19)  The political fate of the Jews is not really our business, but we do not see the need to support Jerusalem as the capital of a reestablished Jewish state–at least not for biblical reason.  There may be other reasons (see below), but not biblical ones for a Christian to lend their political support for establishing a Jewish capital in Jerusalem.

Of course, I understand that many evangelical Christians take a different view, but this is because of an incorrect understanding of end-time prophecy.  Some evangelicals believe that Jesus will come back to reign on the earth–specifically in Jerusalem–for a thousand years.  Many of these anticipate that Jesus will rule from a restored Jerusalem and many even anticipate the reestablishment of sacrifice in a rebuilt temple.  There is no biblical warrant for this false teaching of premillenialism.  This is the result of a false understanding of the kingdom of God and a rather blatant misinterpretation of the Bible.  There is a strong right wing conservative  “Christian” element in the US for supporting Israel for religious reasons.  Trump is pandering to this element, but I believe strongly that this sentiment is misplaced.  I have a lot of material on this in my book on Daniel (Daniel, Prophet to the Nations, available at and in the class I have taught on Revelation, available at the web site.  Please feel free to ask a follow-up question because, to be honest, I am not supporting this rather broad statement here, but I do elsewhere.

2. Jews who accept the Old Testament as the inspired words of God and who have committed themselves to observing the Mosaic covenant are likely to see the need, biblically, for a reestablished spiritual and even temporal capital in Jerusalem.   I believe that this is the result of a misunderstanding of the messianic expectation given to them by God.  However if I were a Jew who, for whatever reasons, rejected that Jesus of Nazareth is the fulfillment of the messianic expectation and who therefore believe that God’s chosen people are still under the Mosaic covenant, then I might very well yearn for the reestablishment of Jerusalem as the spiritual and political capital of a reestablished Jewish state.  Such a Jew might wish for the temple to be rebuilt in Jerusalem, but this is a political impossibility with the Dome of the Rock, a revered mosque, built on the site of  Solomon’s temple.  There is no way to dislodge the Muslims from this site without inciting a war with untold consequences.  The Jews can reestablish political hegemony over parts of Palestine, but they will not be able to reestablish the Levitical sacrificial system in Jerusalem.

3. Then there is the political question, apart from the religious consideration.  Some secular Jews claim Jerusalem as a capital, even though they have no faith in God and have no faith-based commitment to the Mosaic covenant.  They feel that possession of Jerusalem as a Jewish capital is theirs by right, based on history.  Some secular non-Jews support this Zionist idea as well.  To me, this historical argument is a very weak one.  Until 1948 the Jewish people had not controlled Jerusalem politically or even been a major part of the population of this city for nearly two thousand years.  In the intervening time, the site of Jerusalem had been occupied by the Romans, the Greek Byzantines (Eastern Rome), by the Muslim caliphs, by a succession of Turkish dynasties, and by the Ottoman Turks.  The people who have occupied this land for nearly two thousand years are Arab-speaking Palestinians.  Surely they have more historical right to this land, including Jerusalem, than people who had not even occupied it for nearly two thousand years.  The British published the Balfour Declaration over one hundred years ago, announcing the support of the British people for a Jewish state in Palestine, but one can argue that this was one of the biggest historical mistakes of the last century.  The decision to send Jews back to Palestine has caused political unrest which seems to have no end in sight.  Of course, many support Zionism, the ideal of creating a Jewish state of Israel, but political wisdom and history is very weak support for this idea.  This is more a matter of sentimentalism than political wisdom.

4. This brings me to the last reason to support the Jewish state, with Jerusalem as its capital, which is sentiment.  The Jewish people have been among the most abused in history.  Their story is tragic on so many levels.  Surely, any Christian will find themselves feeling compassion for the political/cultural interests of the Jewish people.  Whether this is sufficient reason for establishing a Jewish state in Palestine is questionable, as it created many social justice issues for the Palestinians, but sentimentality is a reason to support the return of Jews to what was their homeland nearly two thousand years ago.

Of course, such a state already exists.  Zionism found sufficient support in Europe and in the United States, both before and after World War II that many thousands of Jews did return to Palestine. In 1948, the Jewish nation of Israel was established and after 1967 they occupied West Jerusalem as their capital.  This is a fait accompli.  At this point, to dislodge the Jews from the state of Israel is an impossibility.  Therefore, many if not most Christians accept for practical reasons the nation of Israel, and many of us for reasons of sentiment are happy that Israel exists.  However, this is not what you asked.  You asked if we Christians should support the reestablished Jewish state for biblical reasons.  My answer is no.  We can and perhaps we should support Israel politically for practical reasons and for reasons of sentimentality–compassion on the Jews who have been persecuted for so long.  That is all fine and good, but the reason for supporting Israel at this point is political or because of sentiment, not for biblical reasons.  Besides, we, as Christians, ought also to support the desires of the Palestinian peoples as well.  They have been dispossessed of their lands by force. If we feel compassion for the Jewish people, we ought also to feel compassion for those who have been displaced by the Jews as well.  Where we fall in the political debates over Palestine is a thing I will leave for the individual believer to decide, but let us not make this a “Christian” issue.

John Oakes
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