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Rev. Daniel Holstege, pastor of the Wingham PRC in Wingham, Ontario, Canada

 

Most of you know by now that the nation of Israel was attacked by Hamas in what was reportedly the deadliest day for Jews since the Holocaust.1 Hamas is the radical Islamist group that has governed the Gaza Strip since 2007. The Gaza Strip refers to a narrow strip of land situated between Israel and the Mediterranean Sea. The Gaza Strip and West Bank, a territory sandwiched between Jerusalem and the Jordan River, are home to the Palestinian people, an Arabic people, most of whom bow to the idol named Allah. Hamas wants to wipe out the nation of Israel and take over the land that they believe rightly belongs to Palestinians.

The city of Gaza is familiar to anyone who knows the history of the Old Testament. Gaza was one of the five cities of the Philistines along the eastern shore of the Mediterranean, the other four being Ashdod, Ashkelon, Ekron, and Gath. God fought for Israel in the days of Joshua to subdue that region, and He gave those cities to the tribe of Judah as part of their inheritance (Josh. 10:40-42; 15:45-47). Even our little children know that the Philistines, heathen worshipers of an idol named Dagon, rose up and attacked Israel in the days of the judges and kings. But God raised up Samson who once carried the gates of Gaza to the top of a hill near He­bron (Jud. 16:1-3). God raised up Samuel, in answer to whose prayers he thundered against the Philistines and discomfited them (I Sam. 7:10). God raised up David through whose faith he guided a stone into the fore­head of the giant Goliath, a Philistine from Gath (I Sam. 17:50). God raised up Amos to pronounce that “for three transgressions of Gaza, and for four, I will not turn away the punishment thereof… But I will send a fire on the wall of Gaza, which shall devour the palaces thereof” (Amos 1:6-7).

Hamas that governs the Gaza Strip today has this in common with the ancient inhabitants of Gaza: they too hate the ethnic descendants of Jacob, as well as us who are the spiritual seed of Abraham in Jesus Christ, and they want to expel the Jews from their land. Therefore, believing that the conditions regionally and globally were ripe, Hamas unleashed a violent assault on Israel on October 7, the fiftieth anniversary of the Yom Kippur War that began in October of 1973. Hamas launched over 5,000 rockets from Gaza into Israel, invaded the land and butchered men, women, and children, includ­ing babies, and carried away some 150 hostages. The attack provoked a lethal response from Israel, resulting in the destruction of many buildings and the death of thousands of people on both sides of the conflict. As of this writing in mid-October, the war rages on.

In the West, there has been widespread support for the nation of Israel, which has been a bastion of democ­racy in that part of the world and an ally of the United States, the United Kingdom, and other western nations since its founding in 1948. But many Islamic nations in the Middle East lay the blame for this war at the feet of Israel, claiming that the root cause of the conflict is the Israeli occupation of territories that belong to the Pales­tinians, and they call upon Israel not to retaliate. Amaz­ingly, many in the West, including many leftist college students, have expressed support for the Palestinians in this conflict, while ignoring the horrific war crimes of Hamas.2 Nevertheless, the support of the West has been primarily for Israel.

Among the supporters of Israel are millions of pro­fessing Christians throughout the world. Among the most zealous, though, are those who believe the false doctrine that God considers modern Israel and the Jews of the diaspora to be His chosen people and plans to fulfill His ancient promises to them in the future. These premillennialists believe that the church is distinct from Israel and that God may rapture us out of this world at any moment and go on to fulfill His purposes with Israel, converting the Jews to Christ en masse and send­ing Jesus back to the earth to reign in Jerusalem for a thousand years. Therefore, they take a keen interest in this war and issue the call to pray for the peace of mod­ern-day Jerusalem and Israel, failing to see that the call to pray for the peace of Jerusalem is a call to pray for the peace of the church (Ps. 122:6; Heb. 12:22-23).

But others who do not share that theological view of the Israeli nation that began in 1948 still believe we ought to support Israel in this war. Russell Moore, the editor-in-chief of Christianity Today, is in that camp. He published an article on the very day of the attack in which he stated his belief that we Christians ought to support Israel in this war. He pointed out that Hamas is solely to blame for the terrorist violence they initiated and the awful brutality they perpetrated. He said that most Christians throughout history have held to some form of “just war theory” and that Israel is morally jus­tified to respond to the violent attack on their nation with violent force. He believes we American Christians ought to stand with Israel too because it is a nation that shares our democratic ideals in a region dominated by authoritarian regimes. He concluded his article, “How­ever we read the prophecy passages of the Bible, and however we disagree on world politics, American Chris­tians ought to stand together with Israel now.”3

Whatever our view of the war in Israel and the idea of praying for world peace, we must not forget that God is sovereign over this bloody conflict and has ordained it as another sign and means of bringing about the com­ing of Christ. Jesus told us that in the last days there will be wars and rumors of wars, and he showed John in a vision that he would send forth the red horse of war to take peace from the earth (Matt. 24:6; Rev. 6:4). These are just the “beginning of sorrows.” The wars and rumors of wars that are taking place in the world today, including the ongoing Russo-Ukrainian War and the threat of a Chinese invasion of Taiwan, are just the initial birthing pangs in a world that will eventually bring forth the new and everlasting world by way of an ever-increasing groaning and travailing. Thus, the present war in the “Holy Land” draws our attention, even as amillennialists. The question arises, “Might this particular war in that particular part of the world have greater eschatological significance than other wars?”

In the November 1, 2014 issue of the Standard Bear­er, I wrote about the rise of the radical Islamic terrorist organization ISIS along the Euphrates River. I direct­ed the attention of readers to Revelation 9:14-19 which speaks of the blowing of the sixth trumpet. Read that passage after you finish this article and, if you are in­clined, read Herman Hoeksema’s commentary on that passage in his book Behold, He Cometh (especially pages 331-332). He interprets the text as a prophecy of a great war in the last days “rising from the east and coming from the direction of the Euphrates upon the entire world.” This most recent war between Israel and Hamas, like many of the wars of our day, takes place in the area known as the Fertile Crescent, the Middle East, the region of the Euphrates. That whole region is notoriously unstable, a powder keg of tensions that could easily explode into a world war with the striking of a match like this present conflict. According to the vision of John, the great war that will be unleashed by the sixth trumpet will result in the death of “the third part of men” (Rev. 9:18). That devastating war will lead to the rise of the Beast as the “savior” of a world in pro­found turmoil and distress.

But as we watch the developments of the present war in Israel, let us not be afraid but see the footprints of the true Savior of the world, our Lord Jesus Christ. Let us also be comforted by the knowledge that our great God and Savior is absolutely sovereign over all wars and will ultimately bring them all to an end. “Come, behold the works of the Lord, what desolations he hath made in the earth. He maketh wars to cease unto the end of the earth…. Be still, and know that I am God: I will be ex­alted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth. The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah” (Ps. 46:8-11).

War points us to our ultimate hope for the coming of Christ, who will judge the living and the dead, including cruel men who perpetrate the most barbaric atrocities in war. In that day He “shall cast all His and my ene­mies into everlasting condemnation, but shall translate me with all His chosen ones to Himself, into heavenly joys and glory” (Heidelberg Catechism, LD 19). War points us to that glorious kingdom of peace in the world to come when “the wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid,” when men will no longer “hurt nor destroy in all my holy moun­tain: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea” (Is. 11:6, 9). May that day come quickly!


1 https://apnews.com/article/israel-hamas-us-biden-blinken-99eb4063edabc80fa1fa198fb0bb020e.
2 Albert Mohler reported on various pro-Palestinian student orga¬nizations in colleges around the United States in the October 12, 2023 episode of his podcast, “The Briefing.”
3 Russell Moore, “American Christians Should Stand with Isra¬el Under Attack,” Christianity Today, October 7, 2023, https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2023/october-web-only/israel-hamas-middle-east-war-christians.html.