Modern Israel in Bible Prophecy: Promised Return or Impending Exile?

Article ID: JAF3296 | By: Stephen Sizer

This article first appeared in Christian Research Journal, volume 29, number 06 (2006). For further information or to subscribe to the Christian Research Journal go to: http://www.equip.org/christian-research-journal/


SYNOPSIS

Many Christians in the United States believe that it is their biblical responsibility to support the contemporary Jewish State of Israel for specific theological reasons (as opposed to general political ones), a view known as Christian Zionism. The Pew Research Center put the figure at 63 percent for white evangelicals. This view holds that the regathering of Jewish people to Israel since 1948 is the miraculous fulfillment of God’s promises to Abraham to establish Israel as a nation forever in Palestine. Tim LaHaye’s Left Behind novels, together with books written by Hal Lindsey, Pat Robertson, and many others, which propound this view, have sold well over 100 million copies. Burgeoning Christian Zionist organizations such as the International Christian Embassy and Christians United for Israel wield immense influence on Capitol Hill, making Christian Zionism the largest single‐issue political lobby to come from Western Christianity. A growing number of Christians, however, are left increasingly uneasy about the idea that God would bring the Jewish people back to Palestine while they are in unbelief, since that was why they were exiled from it in the first place. The methods Israel has used, moreover, to colonize the land and subjugate the Palestinians— many of whom are Christians—do not match the picture of a God‐fearing Israel that Christian Zionists find in their literal interpretation of the ancient prophecies. An alternate interpretation is that the promises of land, like the laws of Moses, were part of the Old Covenant, which was fulfilled in the New Covenant. These Old Covenant shadows were realized in and through the substance of Jesus Christ and the church. Christian Zionists’ unconditional support of the current State of Israel would therefore be a misguided effort to separate Jews and Gentiles again, whom God joined together in the church, the body of Christ.


“For the first time in more than 2,000 years Jerusalem is now completely in the hands of the Jews and gives the student of the Bible a thrill and a renewed faith in the accuracy and validity of the Bible.”1 Billy Graham’s father‐in‐law, L. Nelson Bell, then editor of Christianity Today, expressed the sentiments of millions of American evangelicals when he described the Israeli capture of Jerusalem in 1967 as fulfillment of biblical prophecy.

The roots of Christian interest in Israel can be traced to the Bible prophecy movement in Britain and the speculations of Edward Irving and John Nelson Darby in the early nineteenth century. The 1967 ”Six Day War,” however, marked a significant turning point for fundamentalists and evangelicals with such interest; it fueled among them a resurgence of enthusiasm for Eretz Israel (“Land of Israel”), that is, a resurgence of support for the State of Israel.2 Christians who support the contemporary Jewish nation for theological rather than political reasons are part of a movement, born out of the Bible prophecy movement, that is referred to as Christian Zionism.3

In 1976, a series of events brought contemporary Christian Zionists to the forefront of U.S. mainstream politics. Jimmy Carter was elected president as a ”born¬again” Christian, drawing the support of the evangelical right. The following year Menachem Begin and the right¬wing Likud Party came to power in Israel. A tripartite coalition slowly emerged in the United States among the political right, evangelicalChristians, and the Jewish lobby that increasingly used biblical language to describe the condition of modern Israel. Jimmy Carter later acknowledged how his own pro-Zionist beliefs had influenced his Middle East policy.4 He also described how his generation was witnessing “a return at last, to the biblical land from which the Jews were driven so many hundreds of years ago,” the fulfillment of biblical prophecy, stating that the establishment of the nation of Israel was the “very essence.”5 When Carter vacillated over the aggressive Likud settlement program and proposed the creation of a Palestinian homeland, however, he alienated the pro-Israeli coalition, who switched their support to Ronald Reagan in the 1980 elections.

Reagan’s legal secretary, Herb Ellingwood, one of the most fervent believers in Eretz Israel and the imminent war of Armageddon, described how he and Reagan often discussed the fulfillment of biblical prophecy, according to author Grace Halsell.6

“White House seminars” became a regular feature of Reagan’s administration, bringing leading Christian Zionists into direct personal contact with national and congressional leaders. In 1982, for example, Reagan invited Jerry Falwell to brief the National Security Council on the possibility of a nuclear war with Russia.7 Two years later, Reagan shared his personal convictions in a conversation with Tom Dine, one of Israel’s chief lobbyists working for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee: “I turn back to the ancient prophets in the Old Testament and the signs foretelling Armageddon, and I find myself wondering if…we’re the generation that is going to see that come about. I don’t know if you’ve noted any of these prophecies lately, but believe me, they certainly describe the times we’re going through.”8

Presidents George Bush and Bill Clinton do not appear to have shared the same theological convictions concerning Israel as their predecessors, but George W. Bush proves to be more of an enigma. He has not explicitly affirmed Christian Zionist beliefs and he does advocate a two‐state solution, but his strong support of Israel and statements such as the following, made in 2001 before a Jewish audience, are consistent with Christian Zionist convictions: “Through centuries of struggle, Jews across the world have been witnesses not only against the crimes of men, but for faith in God, and God alone. Theirs is a story of defiance in oppression and patience in tribulation—reaching back to the exodus and their exile into the diaspora. That story continued in the founding of the State of Israel. The story continues in the defense of the State of Israel.”9

The Bible prophecy movement is typified as much by Tim LaHaye’s fictional Left Behind series of novels as by John Hagee’s political organization, Christians United for Israel. Hal Lindsey, however, is undoubtedly the most influential Bible prophecy proponent of the twentieth century. Time magazine described him as “the Jeremiah for this generation,”10 and his present publisher calls him “the father of the modern-day Bible prophecy movement”11 and the “best known prophecy teacher in the world.”12 The New York Times Book Review called Lindsey’s most famous book, The Late Great Planet Earth, the nonfiction bestseller of the 1970s.13 The book has spawned more than 20 sequels, and approximately 40 million copies of it have been published in 54 languages.

The back cover of Lindsey’s Planet Earth 2000, for example, promises, ‘‘Hal will be your guide on a chilling tour of the world’s future battlefields as the Great Tribulation, foretold more than two thousand years ago by Old and New Testament prophets, begins to unfold. You’ll meet the world leaders who will bring man to the very edge of extinction and examine the causes of the current global situation—what it all means, what will shortly come to pass, and how it will all turn out.”14

Many evangelical Protestants see a connection between Israel and the fulfillment of biblical prophecy and/or believe that God gave Israel to the Jews in 1948. At least 60% of those with such beliefs support the state of Israel,15 and 32% cite their religious beliefs as the primary reason for such support.16 It is my conclusion, after 10 years of postgraduate research on the subject, that Christian Zionism is the largest, most controversial, and most influential single‐issue political lobby within Western Christianity today.17 As such, the foundations on which this widespread position rest are open to examination. I propose to examine those foundations by addressing two questions: first, does the regathering of the Jewish people to the contemporary State of Israel have any theological significance in terms of the fulfillment of biblical prophecy?; and second, does the evidence in the Bible suggest that it endorses or that it rejects the Zionist ideology?18

In answer to these questions, I first will explain the relationship between the Old and New Testaments. Then I will examine the meaning of the Abrahamic covenant, the ethical requirements of the covenant relationship, the concept of inheritance in the New Testament, and, finally, the meaning of terms such as the elect and chosen people when discussed from a Christian perspective.

THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN THE OLD AND NEW TESTAMENTS

Christian Zionists assume an ultraliteral hermeneutic when interpreting Old Testament promises concerning the people of God, the land of Israel, Jerusalem, and the Temple, and believe that those promises are being fulfilled literally today. The International Christian Embassy affirms, for example, “The modern ingathering of the Jewish People to Eretz Israel and the rebirth of the nation of Israel are in fulfillment of biblical prophecies.”19 Christian Zionists assume that the Old and New Testaments run parallel into the future, the former speaking of Israel and the latter speaking of the church; however, this is not the way the New Testament interprets, fulfills, and completes the Old. For example, Jesus annulled the Levitical food laws when He said, “Don’t you see that nothing that enters a man from the outside can make him ‘unclean’? For it doesn’t go into his heart but into his stomach, and then out of his body. (In saying this, Jesus declared all foods clean.)” (Mark 7:18–19).20

In Acts 10, God uses a vision of unclean food specifically to help the apostle Peter realize that in Christ there no longer is any distinction between Jew and Gentile—God accepts both equally into His kingdom. Only when Peter encounters Cornelius does he begin to realize the implications of the vision for the way he should now view Jews and Gentiles: “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts men from every nation who fear him and do what is right” (Acts 10:34–35). If God does not show favoritism, neither should we. The Jews no longer enjoy a favored or exclusive status.

The book of Hebrews explains the progressive movement of biblical revelation more fully. The Old Testament revelation from God often came in shadow, image, and prophecy. That revelation finds its consummation and fulfillment in the New Covenant (i.e., Testament) in Jesus Christ. The writer to the Hebrews, then, declares, “By calling this covenant ‘new,’ he has made the first one obsolete; and what is obsolete and aging will soon disappear” (Heb. 8:13). He insists later, “The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming—not the realities themselves. For this reason it can never, by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship” (Heb. 10:1).

It is essential that Christians interpret the Old Testament in the light of the New Testament, not the other way around. Paul insists, for example, “Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ” (Col. 2:16–17). The question, therefore, is not whether the promises of the Old Testament should be understood allegorically or literally. It is instead a question of whether they should be understood in terms of shadow or substance.

THE MEANING OF THE ABRAHAMIC COVENANT

The roots of the Abrahamic Covenant are found in Genesis 2, not in Genesis 12, as Christians Zionists argue. The covenant began with God’s creation of a paradise in the garden of Eden, not with His promise of any real estate in the Middle East. In Eden, people received all of God’s blessings and enjoyed fellowship with Him. Mankind lost the paradise of Eden through the fall, but God promised to restore to him the paradise of heaven through redemption.

In Genesis 12 and 15, God promises to give Abraham’s family a place to live and indicates the extent of that place: “To your descendants I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the Euphrates” (Gen. 15:18). In Genesis 17, God repeats and amplifies the promise: “I will make nations of you, and kings will come from you. I will establish my covenant as an everlasting covenant between me and you and your descendants after you for the generations to come, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you. The whole land of Canaan, where you are now an alien, I will give as an everlasting possession to you and your descendants after you; and I will be their God” (Gen. 17:6–8). Contrary to dispensationalists, who understand the promises God made to Abraham concerning the land as eternal, covenantalists see them not as an end in themselves, but as a foretaste of heaven.

The land is described later as “flowing with milk and honey” (Exod. 3:8), which points to a restored paradise in the future. From the very beginning this Old Covenant shadow would have to wait for the New Covenant substance (or reality) for actual fulfillment, and then not by military conquest but by Messianic crucifixion. Conquest and residency in the land was a temporary assignment, a test of faith, not an end in itself. This is because the covenant always was primarily relational (with God), not material. We see how Abraham and his descendants understood this land promise in Hebrews 11:

For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.…And so from this one man…came  descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sand on the seashore. All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance. And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth.…Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them. (Heb. 11:10–16)

This is how the New Testament interprets the Abrahamic Covenant. In Hebrews, the term heavenly is used not in an allegorical or nonliteral sense, but in just the opposite sense: the promises find their consummation in heaven. The “Jerusalem above,” the heavenly city for which the Old Testament patriarchs reportedly were longing, therefore, is not the territory from Egypt to Iraq, but a relationship with the living God. In this context, residency in Canaan was only ever intended to be a prelude.

The land itself, further, never unconditionally belongs to Israel, but to God. God insists that the land cannot be bought or sold permanently or even given away permanently, let alone annexed and colonized as has occurred since 1967. The land is never at Israel’s disposal for its national purposes; rather, it is Israel who is at God’s disposal. God’s people at best ultimately remain tenants in God’s land (see Lev. 25:23).

A large portion of evangelicals, nevertheless, seem preoccupied with realizing an Old Covenant shadow and building a Jewish kingdom for Jesus. This explains their support for the occupation and settlement of the West Bank, their opposition to Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza, and their lack of sympathy concerning the Palestinian quest for autonomy.

According to Bible teacher Arnold Fruchtenbaum, for example, the geographical extent of Eretz Israel is nonnegotiable and covers everything from Egypt to Iraq: “At no point in Jewish history have the Jews ever possessed all of the land from the Euphrates in the north to the River of Egypt in the south. Since God cannot lie, these things must yet come to pass.”21 Such reasoning ignores the way the Old Testament writers themselves understood the promises made to Abraham. The writer of the book of Joshua, for example, makes clear that the covenant promise already had been fulfilled by his generation (Josh. 21:43–45).

Nehemiah, writing after the second exile, likewise looked back and testified to the fulfillment of the promises made to Abraham: “You gave them kingdoms and nations, allotting to them even the remotest frontiers.…You made their sons as numerous as the stars in the sky, and you brought them into the land that you told their fathers to enter and possess” (Neh. 9:22–23).

The right of Israel to exist as a nation is not in dispute and must be protected; however, it is clear that the promises made to Abraham were given in the context of a covenant relationship that was intended to bless all peoples of the world. To insist, therefore, on an interpretation of those promises that now gives people of Jewish origin born in other parts of the world an exclusive title deed to much of the Middle East in perpetuity, at the expense of the Palestinians born in the land, many of whom are Christians, appears to run as contrary to their Old Testament context as to their New Testament fulfillment.

THE REQUIREMENTS OF THE COVENANT RELATIONSHIP

The Promised Land was never an unconditional right, but always a conditional gift. During the wilderness wanderings, God warned His people, “If you defile the land, it will vomit you out as it vomited out the nations that were before you” (Lev. 18:28).

Thirty‐six times in the Old Testament, God specifically warned the Jews to be compassionate to strangers and aliens because of their own experience in Egypt (see, e.g., Lev. 19:33–34). The prophet Ezekiel amplified the same warning: “‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: Since you…shed blood, should you then possess the land? You rely on your sword, you do detestable things…Should you then possess the land?…I will make the land a desolate waste, and her proud strength will come to an end” (Ezek. 33:25–29; see also Jer. 17:4).

On the basis of such warnings, many in Europe and the Middle East argue that the Israeli government’s failure to comply with UN Resolutions regarding the rights of Palestinians would suggest another imminent exile rather than a final restoration. God stipulated through the blessings and curses that repentance is always a condition of return (Deut. 30:1–3).

The assertion, therefore, that the founding of the State of Israel in 1948 and the capture of Jerusalem in 1967 indicate that God is once again blessing the Jewish people is without foundation in Scripture. Those who believe biblical prophecy is being fulfilled literally in contemporary Israel today must answer this question: if the promises in Genesis are the basis of Israel’s claim to the land, what about the commandments and prophecies throughout the Law of Moses that make it quite clear that the Israelites’ right to the land was conditional?

If you do not obey the LORD your God and do not carefully follow all his commands and decrees I am giving you today, all these curses will come upon you and overtake you: You will be cursed in the city and cursed in the country… The LORD will cause you to be defeated before your enemies. You will come at them from one direction but flee from them in seven… You will be uprooted from the land you are entering to possess. Then the Lord will scatter you among all nations, from one end of the earth to the other. (Deut. 28:15-16, 25, 63-64)

In Leviticus, while the Israelites were still wandering in the desert, the Lord uses some of the most graphic language in the Bible to spell out the basis for their future residency in the Promised Land: “Do not defile yourselves in any of these ways, because this is how the nations that I am going to drive out before you became defiled. Even the land was defiled; so I punished it for its sin, and the land vomited out its inhabitants. But you must keep my decrees and my laws… And if you defile the land, it will vomit you out as it vomited out the nations that were before you” (Lev. 18:24-28).

If the Israelites’ claim to the land was conditioned on obedience, and if they were deported from the land in the first century because of the ultimate disobedience of rejecting their Messiah, how can it be affirmed that they now have a right to the land when they persist in the same disbelief and rejection of their Messiah? Furthermore, if the predictive element of prophecy must be understood literally, so must the prophetic demand for justice. Palestinian theologians are not alone in seeing the present Israeli colonization of Palestine as a twentieth‐century equivalent of Ahab’s theft of Naboth’s vineyard.22

THE CONCEPT OF INHERITANCE IN THE NEW TESTAMENT

Christian Zionists’ preoccupation with a literal fulfillment of biblical prophecy in Israel today is most apparent regarding the status of Jerusalem. In Galatians 4, Paul criticized the “Jerusalem-dependency”23 of the legalists who were infecting the church in Galatia. In verse 27 he cites Isaiah 54:1, which refers to the earthly Jerusalem, and applies it to the home of all who believe in Jesus Christ. Access to heaven no longer has anything to do with an earthly Jerusalem. Jesus made this clear to the woman of Samaria: “Believe me, woman, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem…a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks” (John 4:21–23).

Jesus explained at His trial why this is so: “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews. But now my kingdom is from another place” (John 18:36). He thus repudiated the idea that His kingdom involves the establishment of an earthly Jewish kingdom, a mere shadow. Before the resurrection encounters and Pentecost, the disciples seemed to share the same understanding of the land promises as the other first-century Jews: they looked forward to God’s decisive intervention in history that would restore political sovereignty to the Jews within the Promised Land. This is reflected in the words of the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, who confessed, “We had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel” (Luke 24:21). It also must have been the idea in the minds of the disciples when, before the ascension, they asked, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 1:6). John Calvin comments, “There are as many mistakes in this question as there are words.”24 Jesus redefined and expanded their understanding of the nature of the kingdom of God and thereby the meaning of chosenness. The expansion of the kingdom of God throughout the world requires the permanent exile of the apostles from the land. They are sent out into the world with one‐way tickets, and are not told to return.

After Pentecost, the apostles begin to use Old Covenant language concerning the land in new ways. Peter, for example, speaks of an inheritance that, unlike the land, “can never perish, spoil or fade” (1 Pet. 1:4). Paul, likewise, asserts, “Now I commit you to God and to the word of his grace, which can build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified” (Acts 20:32). The New Testament authors insist that through faith in Christ we already inhabit the heavenly Jerusalem and look forward to its appearing (Heb. 12:22–23). Paul, similarly, insists, “But the Jerusalem that is above is free” (Gal. 4:26). The limitations of the literal land, which was but a shadow of the coming substance, and which provided a temporary home for God’s emerging people and a geographical context for the incarnation, have been transcended. The direction now is outward from Jerusalem, stretching through the Great Commission to the uttermost ends of the earth.25

Paul used the Old Testament story of Sarah and Hagar to inoculate the Galatian believers against the infiltration of the legalistic Judaizers (Gal 4:21–31). He compares Jerusalem, which had rejected Jesus, to Hagar and her slave children (v. 25). He then likens the Galatian believers to Isaac and describes them as “children of promise” (v. 28). Paul’s critical analogy could perhaps apply to some forms of Messianic Judaism today that require Torah obedience, as well as to the political system in Israel which, because of proportional representation, is metaphorically “held captive” to minority religious political parties that are tied to orthodox Judaism (which itself is historically rooted in, and continuous with, New Testament Pharisaism).

After Pentecost, the apostles in no sense believed that the Jewish people still had a divine right to a kingdom centered in Jerusalem, or that this would be an important, let alone central, aspect of God’s future purposes for the world. In Paul’s christological thinking, God has superseded the land, like the law, in His redemptive purposes.

ELECTION AND THE PEOPLE OF GOD

Based on their literal reading of the Old Testament, Christian Zionists believe that the Jews remain God’s “chosen people” who enjoy a unique relationship, status, and eternal purpose within their own land, separate from any promises made to the church. Christian Friends of Israel, for example, insists, “The Bible teaches that Israel (people, land, nation) has a Divinely ordained and glorious future, and that God has neither rejected nor replaced His Jewish people.”26 Jews for Jesus likewise perpetuates the distinction between God’s purposes for Israel and His purposes for the church—the latter being merely a “parenthesis”27 in God’s plan for the Jews: “We believe that Israel exists as a covenant people through whom God continues to accomplish His purposes and that the Church is an elect people in accordance with the New Covenant, comprising both Jews and Gentiles who acknowledge Jesus as Messiah and Redeemer.”28

This contradicts John the Baptist’s statement: “Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. The axe is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire” (Luke 3:8–9). Jesus similarly insisted, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). Jesus then used the analogy of the vine and branches to explain the relationship between God and His people (John 15:1–6); clearly, Jesus, not Israel, is the vine; His followers, not national Israel, are the branches of the vine. Remaining part of the vine and bearing fruit depends on a personal relationship with Jesus, not on heredity.

This is the reason Peter warned his hearers soon after the day of Pentecost that if they refused to recognize Jesus as their Messiah, they would cease to be the “people of God” (Gk. laos): “Anyone who does not listen to him will be completely cut off from among his people” (Acts 3:23). Paul elaborates on the analogy of the vine in Romans 11:17–21 to explain the relationship between the natural branches (Israel) and the wild branches (Gentiles). It is significant that in the New Testament the term chosen is never used exclusively of the Jewish people. It is used only to refer to Jesus or the church, the body of Christ (e.g., Col. 3:12).

Peter also draws terms from the Old Testament that describe Israel and applies them to the church: “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy” (1 Pet. 2:9–10). It is, therefore, no longer appropriate to describe the Jews as God’s “chosen people.” This term has been redefined theologically to describe all those who trust in Jesus Christ, irrespective of race.

This view sometimes is caricatured as supersessionism or replacement theology, that is, the belief that the church has superseded or replaced Israel. The New Testament does not teach that the Gentiles have uperseded the Jews; but neither does it teach a racial exclusivity that gives Jewish people preferential or levated status. According to Paul, God’s intention has always been to break down the “wall of partition” and create for Himself one new people, drawn from every race (Eph. 2:11–16).

ZIONISM THROUGH DISPENSATIONALISM

The Bible prophecy movement, born within British evangelicalism in the nineteenth century, reached mainstream American evangelicalism in the twentieth century. It became institutionalized through a view known as dispensationalism, which sees in history a succession of biblical eras, or dispensations, that are distinguished by God’s different methods of dealing with His people. In this view, the era of the church is different from the coming era of a literal kingdom in which the returning Christ reigns over Israel in the Promised Land for a thousand years. Kenneth Cragg satirically summarizes the implications of this ethnic exclusivity and simplistic dualism:

It is so; God chose the Jews; the land is theirs by divine gift. These dicta cannot be questioned or resisted. They are final. Such verdicts come infallibly from Christian biblicists for whom Israel can do no wrong—thus fortified. But can such positivism, this unquestioning finality, be compatible with the integrity of the Prophets themselves? It certainly cannot square with the open peoplehood under God which is the crux of New Testament faith. Nor can it well be reconciled with the ethical demands central to law and election alike.29

Christian Zionism thrives on a literal and futurist hermeneutic in which Old Testament promises made to the ancient Jewish people are transferred to the contemporary State of Israel in anticipation of a final future fulfillment. It ignores, marginalizes, or bypasses New Testament passages that reinterpret, annul, or describe the fulfillment of these promises in and through Jesus Christ.

The process of redemptive history has yielded a dramatic movement, from shadow to substance. The land that God once constrained to the specific place of His redemptive purpose He then expanded to the entire breadth of the created cosmos, through the New Covenant. The exalted Christ rules sovereign over the entire world, from the heavenly Jerusalem.30

The substance cannot give way again to shadow, for in the will and purposes of God the shadows no longer exist. The light has come in Jesus Christ: “By calling this covenant ‘new,’ he has made the first one obsolete; and what is obsolete and aging will soon disappear” (Heb. 8:13). The choice, therefore, is between two theologies: one based on the shadows of the Old Covenant and one based on the substance of the New Covenant. Christian Zionism offers an exclusive theology that focuses on the Jews in the land rather than an inclusive theology that centers on the Savior of the world, Jesus Christ. It is time to stop fighting over the birthright, like Isaac’s sons Jacob and Esau, and start sharing the blessings.


NOTES:

  1. L. Nelson Bell, Christianity Today, July 1967, quoted in Donald Wagner, “Evangelicals and Israel: Theological Roots of a Political
    Alliance,” The Christian Century, November 4, 1998, 1020.
  2. Rosemary Radford Ruether and Herman J. Ruether, The Wrath of Jonah, The Crisis of Nationalism in the Israeli‐Palestinian Conflict
    (San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1989), 173.
  3. Stephen Sizer, Christian Zionism: Road‐map to Armageddon? (Leicester, England: InterVarsity Press, 2004).
  4. Jimmy Carter, The Blood of Abraham (London: Sidgwick & Jackson, 1985).
  5. Jimmy Carter, Department of State Bulletin, vol. 78, no. 2015 (1978), 4, quoted in Regina Sharif, Non‐Jewish Zionism: Its Roots in Western History (London: Zed, 1983), 136. See also http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/US‐Israel/Carter_Begin4.html.
  6. Grace Halsell, Prophecy and Politics: Militant Evangelists on the Road to Nuclear War (Westport, CT: Lawrence Hill, 1986), 43.
  7. Ibid., 47.
  8. Ronnie Dugger, ”Does Reagan Expect a Nuclear Armageddon?“ Washington Post, April 18, 1984.
  9. George W. Bush, Address to the National Commemoration of the Days of Remembrance, April 19, 2001, quoted in “U.S.
    Presidents on Israel,” Jewish Virtual Library, http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/US‐Israel/presquote.html.
  10. Hal Lindsey, Planet Earth 2000 (Palos Verdes, CA: Western Front, 1994), back cover.
  11. Hal Lindsey, The Final Battle (Palos Verdes, CA: Western Front, 1995), back cover.
  12. Hal Lindsey, The Apocalypse Code (Palos Verdes, CA: Western Front, 1997), back cover.
  13. Ray Walters, “Paperback Talk,” New York Times Book Review, April 6, 1980, cited in Hal Lindsey, The 1980’s: Countdown to
    Armageddon
    (New York: Bantam, 1981), 179.
  14. Lindsey, Planet Earth 2000, back cover.
  15. The Pew Research Center for the People and the Press and The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, “Many Americans
    Uneasy with Mix of Religion and Politics,” August 24, 2006, http://people‐press.org/reports/display.php3?PageID=1084.
  16. The Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, “Americansʹ Support for Israel Unchanged by Recent Hostilities,” July 26, 2006, http://pewresearch.org/reports/?ReportID=37. For statistics regarding American Christians who believe they have a biblical responsibility to support Israel, see also Michael Prior, Zionism and the State of Israel: A Moral Inquiry (London: Routledge, 1999), 143.
  17. See Sizer.
  18. I am indebted to Don Wagner, Colin Chapman, and O. P. Robertson for some of the inspiration for this article, arising from A Theology of the Land consultation, The Levant Study Centre, Droushia, Cyprus, June 1996.
  19. International Christian Embassy, International Christian Zionist Congress Proclamation, Jerusalem, February 25–29, 1996, http://www.internationalwallofprayer.org/A‐013‐1‐Proclamation‐of‐Third‐Intl‐Congress.html.
  20. All Scripture quotations are from the New International Version.
  21. Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum, ”This Land Is Mine,” Issues 2, 4 (July 1, 1982), Jews for Jesus,
    http://www.jewsforjesus.org/publications/issues/2_4/land.
  22. Naim Stifan Ateek, Justice, Only Justice: A Palestinian Theology of Liberation (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1990), 86–89.
  23. Peter Walker, Jesus and the Holy City (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1996), 129.
  24. John Calvin, The Acts of the Apostles 1–13 (Edinburgh: St Andrew Press, 1965), 29.
  25. Walker, 127.
  26. Christian Friends of Israel, “Standing with Israel,” information leaflet, n.d.
  27. David Brickner, Future Hope (San Francisco: Purple Pomegranate, 1999), 18.
  28. Jews for Jesus, “Statement of Faith,” Jews for Jesus, http://www.jewsforjesus.org/ about/statementoffaith.
  29. Kenneth Cragg, The Arab Christian (London: Mowbray, 1992), 238.
  30. See O. Palmer Robertson, The Israel of God: Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow (Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed
    Publishing, 2000).

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