This article first appeared in the Christian Research Journal, as a special single article issue (2016). For further information or to subscribe to the Christian Research Journal please click here.
Christian Zionism—which predates secular Zionism by more than half a century—is constructed along two major theological fault lines. First, Christian Zionists are convinced that the land promises God made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are as yet unfulfilled. The principal flaw here is a failure to recognize that all the types and shadows of the Old Covenant, including the holy land of Israel, the holy city Jerusalem, and the holy temple, have been fulfilled in the holy Christ. Second, at the heart of Christian Zionism is the dispensational notion that God has two distinct people, one of whom must be raptured before He can continue His plan with the other. Scripture, however, reveals one chosen people who form one covenant community, beautifully symbolized as one cultivated olive tree.
Zionism is a religiopolitical movement committed to the establishment of an autonomous Jewish state, with Jerusalem as its capital, and a rebuilt temple as its center of spiritual and sociological identity. Christian Zionism—which predates secular Zionism by more than half a century—is constructed along two major theological fault lines. First is the misconception that the Holy Land, the Holy City, and the Holy Temple continue to have theological significance. Second is the myth that God has two distinct people. Only one of those peoples—the Jews—will suffer tribulation. The other—the church—will be removed from the world in a secret coming seven years prior to the second coming of Christ. This distinctive twist on Scripture is known as dispensational eschatology.
Anti-Semitism is a horrific evil—especially when justified in the name of religion. Hitler, however, needed no such pretext. His belief that Jews were subhuman, and Aryans supermen, fueled a mad rush toward ethnic cleansing. As the smoke from the crematoriums wafted over steeples in the German countryside, another evil reared its ugly head. German pastors and parishioners remained strangely silent. For some, it was simply a matter of self-preservation. Others sought to justify their apathy by blaming Jews for the Great War. Still others believed that Jews were fatalistically destined to face the wrath of Antichrist— and thus did nothing.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer was not among them. “If we claim to be Christians,” he said, “there is no room for expediency.”1 He denounced not only a Nazi regime that had turned its führer into an idol and god but also a confessional church more concerned with survival than with the sins of anti-Semitism and slavery. “When Christ calls a man,” said Bonhoeffer, “He bids him come and die.”2 On April 9, 1945, at age thirty-nine, Bonhoeffer experienced the ultimate “cost of discipleship.” By special order of Reichsführer Heinrich Himmler, he was hanged at the concentration camp at Flossenberg.
On April 9, 1948, three years to the day that Bonhoeffer was martyred in the struggle against anti-Semitism, another Semitic horror unfolded on the western outskirts of Jerusalem at Deir Yassin. In a book titled The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem, 1947–1949, Benny Morris, Jewish professor of history at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Be’er Sheva, describes the Zionist slaughter of Arab civilians and children by Israeli paramilitary. Before the day ended, “some 250 Arabs, mostly non-combatants, were murdered; there were also cases of mutilation and rape. The surviving inhabitants were expelled to Arab-held East Jerusalem.”3 In clinical fashion, Morris unmasks “the Zionist murders, terrorism, and ethnic cleansing that drove 600,000–750,000 Palestinians from their homes in 1948.”4
For cultural Zionists, such as Benny Morris, the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians is a defensible cruelty.5 For Christian Zionists, it is a divine command. From John Nelson Darby in the past to dispensationalists in the present, they forward the notion that God has covenanted to give Eretz Israel—from the river of Egypt to the river Euphrates—exclusively to Jews.6
This contention raises questions of greatest import. Does the promise to Abraham—“To your descendants, I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the Euphrates” (Gen. 15.18)7—provide a rationale for ethnic cleansing? Does the Bible mandate Jerusalem as the eternal capital of the Jewish people? Is there truly a need to rebuild a temple and inflame the fires of Armageddon in the twenty-first century in light of our Messiah’s first-century reminder that the time had come when true worshipers would no longer worship on a mountain in Samaria or in a temple in Jerusalem (John 4:21–22)? Is the land the focus of our Lord, or is the Lord the locus of the land?
The Holy LAND
Two thousand years before Jesus was born in Bethlehem, God told Abram to leave his ancestral home in Basra (southern Iraq) and to “go to the land I will show you.” God promised Abram: “I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you” (Gen. 12:1–3).
When Abram was ninety-nine years old, God reiterated His promise:
No longer will you be called Abram; your name will be Abraham, for I have made you a father of many nations. I will make you very fruitful; 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. 17:5–8)
The promise of God regarding the land was not relegated to Abraham. During a time of great famine, He reiterated the promise to Abraham’s son Isaac:
To you and your descendants I will give all these lands and will confirm the oath I swore to your father Abraham. I will make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and will give them all these lands, and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because Abraham obeyed me and kept my requirements, my commands, my decrees and my laws. (Gen. 26:3–5)
In like fashion, God confirmed the promise to Jacob in a riveting dream at Bethel. Jacob, whose name God would change to Israel (Gen. 32:28; cf. 35:10), saw a stairway that extended from Earth to heaven and heard the voice of God saying:
I am the Lord, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac. I will give you and your descendants the land on which you are lying. Your descendants will be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out to the west and to the east, and to the north and to the south. All peoples on earth will be blessed through you and through your offspring. (Gen. 28:13–14)
Christian Zionists are convinced that the promises God made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob with respect to the land are unconditional and yet unfulfilled.8 They are convinced that Israel will soon control not only the West Bank, Gaza, and Golan but also Iraq, Jordan, and Lebanon.9 Even cream-of-the-crop dispensationalist
scholars contend that the Bible presupposes Israel must yet control an area of land roughly thirty times its present size.10
This, however, is far from true. Abraham was not merely promised a country thirty times its present size. He was promised the cosmos! As Paul, Apostle to
the Gentiles, underscores, “Abraham and his offspring received the promise that he would be heir of the world” (Rom. 4:13). Thus, while Christian Zionists
hyperventilate over tiny areas of land such as the Golan or Gaza, God promises them the globe. In the fore future, God fulfilled His promise when the children of Israel entered the Promised Land. In the far future, God fulfilled His promise to true Israel through Christ, who forever sits on the throne of David. And, in the final future, the promises of God will reach their zenith as Paradise lost gives way to Paradise restored.
To begin with, the land promises God made to Israel were fulfilled in the fore future when Joshua led the descendants of Abraham into Palestine. As the book of Joshua records, “The Lord gave Israel all the land he had sworn to give their forefathers, and they took possession of it and settled there.” Indeed, says Joshua, “Not one of all the Lord’s good promises to the house of Israel failed; every one was fulfilled” (Josh. 21:43, 45). Even as the life ebbed from his body, Joshua reminded the children of Israel that the Lord had been faithful to His promises. “You know with all your heart and soul that not one of all the good promises the Lord your God gave you has failed. Every promise has been fulfilled; not one has failed” (Josh. 23:14).
Solomon, during whose reign the glorious temple was constructed, was equally unambiguous. “Not one word has failed of all the good promises [the Lord] gave
through his servant Moses” (1 Kings 8:56). In fact, at the height of the Solomonic kingdom, “the people of Judah and Israel were as numerous as the sand on the seashore; they ate, they drank and they were happy. And Solomon ruled over all the kingdoms from the River [Euphrates] to the land of the Philistines, as far as the border of Egypt” (4:20–21).
Even in the aftermath of Israel’s exile into Babylon, Nehemiah extolled the faithfulness of God in fulfilling the land promises he had made to the
patriarchs. As the temple was being rebuilt, Nehemiah entreated the Almighty to bless Judah and return it to its former glory. If there was ever a time to adjure God to fulfill an as-yet-unfulfilled promise, this was it! Yet far from appealing to the Abrahamic covenant as a reason for God to restore Judah to the land, Nehemiah humbly acknowledged that the loss of the land was due to the sin of the people of Israel, not to faltering faithfulness or delayed distribution on the part of God (Neh. 9:8, 22–24).
Furthermore, the land promises were fulfilled in the far future through Jesus who provides true Israel with permanent rest from their wanderings in sin. In the irony of the ages, Christian Zionists view a Jewish return to the land as more significant than a Jewish return to the Lord. To suggest that Jews are somehow entitled to building settlements in Gaza and yet excluded from the blessed salvation of the gospel11 might well be regarded as the height of anti-Semitism. Worse still is the Zionist preoccupation with herding Jews into the land, since in their view two-thirds of the Jewish population in Palestine—some say the world—will soon die in unbelief in a horrific Holy Land holocaust.12 Both the idea that Jews in the twenty-first century will endure a holocaust for the first-century sins of their fathers13 and the ideology that Jews have a divine right to the land based on race are decidedly unbiblical.
As with the Levitical law, the promises concerning the land find ultimate fulfillment in the Lord. There is no biblical precedent for supposing that God favors Jews over Palestinians or vice versa. Our heavenly Father is not pro-Jew—He is pro-justice; He is not pro- Palestinian, He is pro-peace. Only a gospel of peace and justice through faith in Jesus Christ is potent enough to break the stranglehold of anti-Semitism and racism fueled in part by bad theology.
This is made explicit through a vision of unclean food that Peter experienced in Joppa. Only after he encountered the gentile centurion Cornelius did Peter fully comprehend the import of the vision. “I now realize how true it is,” said Peter, “that God does not show favoritism but accepts men from every nation who fear him and do what is right. You know the message God sent to the people of Israel, telling the good news of peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all” (Acts 10:34–35).
Just as race is of no consequence in Christ, so too real estate should not be a primary consideration. When the disciples asked, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 1.6), Jesus reoriented their thinking from a restored Jewish state to a kingdom that knows no borders or boundaries. “My kingdom,” He reiterated before Pilate, “is not of this world” (John 18:36). As our Lord typologically fulfilled and thus heightened the reality of the law, so too He fulfilled and thus heightened the reality of the land. The writer of Hebrews makes clear that the rest that the descendants of Abraham experienced when they entered the land is but a type of the rest we experience when we enter an eternal relationship with the Lord. The land provided temporal rest for the physical descendants of Abraham, but the Lord provides eternal rest for the spiritual descendants of Abraham (see Heb. 3 and 4). The land was never the focus of our Lord; instead, our Lord is forever the locus of the land.
Finally, the land promises are fully fulfilled in the final future through Jesus who leads the spiritual descendants of Abraham into Paradise restored. In
the fore future, the land promises were fulfilled when the children of Israel entered the Promised Land. In the far future, the promise is typologically fulfilled in the Lord who is the locus of the land. In the final future, the promise of the land will be fully and finally consummated when Paradise lost is reconstituted as Paradise restored. Canaan is thus typological of a renewed cosmos. Accordingly, Abraham was anything but a Zionist. Like Isaac and Jacob, he viewed living in the Promised Land in the same way that a stranger would view living in a foreign country. Why? Because, as the writer of Hebrews makes plain, “He was looking forward to a city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God” (Heb. 11:9–10). Abraham looked beyond binding borders and boundaries to a day in which the meek would “inherit the earth” (Matt. 5:5; cf. Ps. 37:11, 22).
The Holy CITY
From the time of Jerusalem’s destruction in AD 70 to the time that Constantine made Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire, Jerusalem was a mere “byword among the nations.” Jerusalem did not play a significant role in world history again until the fourth century when Constantine’s mother, Queen Helena, refocused the attention of the Roman world on Jerusalem as the “holy” site of Jesus’ crucifixion, burial, and resurrection.
In the seventh century, Jerusalem was captured by Caliph Omar Ibn al-Khatab and became a major focus of the Islamic world. Muslim control of Jerusalem
continued on into the twentieth century, interrupted only for relatively brief periods of time during the Crusades. Muslim rule of Jerusalem ended in 1917
when the British defeated the Ottoman Turks. Britain in turn relinquished control of Jerusalem in 1947 when the UN issued a partition plan for the establishment of
distinct Jewish and Palestinian states with Jerusalem as an international city. Palestinian rejection of the UN partition plan resulted in the military siege of Jerusalem by Jordanian, Egyptian, and British forces. Having been divided between Jewish and Jordanian control for nineteen years, Jerusalem was fully
captured by Israeli military in 1967 as a result of the Six-Day War. And so, after three hundred years of post-Constantinian Christian rule, thirteen centuries of Muslim control, and thirty years of British domination, Jerusalem is again under the control of a (secular) Jewish state.
While Christian Zionists see the fact that Jerusalem is now completely in the hands of the Jews as validation for the Bible, nothing could be further from the truth. Even if one ignores the typological fulfillment of Jerusalem in Jesus, the Old Covenant promise of return to the land is inviolately conditioned on belief and faithfulness. Modern Israel fails to meet the biblical requirement for return to the land. As Moses unambiguously warned the children of Israel, disobedience against the Lord would result in dispersion (Deut. 28:58–64; 29:23–28), while return to the land requires repentance (Deut. 30:2–3).
There is therefore no warrant for the Christian Zionists’ claims that the recapturing of Jerusalem by modern Israel signifies the preliminary fulfillment of God’s promises to Abraham.14 While one might well defend the right of the secular state of Israel to exist, the contention that the modern state of Israel is a fulfillment of biblical prophecy is indefensible. In truth, since coming under the exclusive control of modern Israel, Jerusalem has demonstrated a far greater resemblance to the harlot city spoken of by the prophets than to the holy city spoken of by the psalmists.
Thus, far from culminating in a supposed fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham, the unholy history of the once-holy city bears out the reality of
Jesus’ words to the Samaritan 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” (John 4:22–23). History, like the New Testament, reveals that the Holy City— turned harlot city—is superseded by the holy Christ. Jesus is the antitype who fulfills all of the typology vested in Jerusalem. Thus, while Jerusalem remains an important historical site as the typological City of David and the “holy” birthplace of Christianity, there is neither biblical nor historical warrant for treating it as the object of our eschatological hope. Actually, it is in Jesus, not Jerusalem, that we come face-to-face with the glory and presence of the living God (John 14).
Furthermore, the New Testament reveals that the Holy City (turned harlot city) is a type that points forward to the heavenly city, “the new Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband” (Rev. 21:2). Biblical Christianity is not fixated on an earthly Jerusalem but on a heavenly “city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God” (Heb. 11:10). The apostle John got a glimpse of this antitypical holy city when the Spirit showed him “the Holy City, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God. It shone with the glory of God, and its brilliance was like that of a very precious jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal” (Rev. 21:10–11). As John gazed on the splendor of this heavenly Jerusalem, his mind must surely have flashed back to the words of King Jesus as He stood before Pilate. “My kingdom,” Jesus had said, “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).
The quintessential point of understanding for John as well as for the rest of the disciples began to dawn at the time of Christ’s postresurrection appearances. Previously they had been under the same misconceptions as modern-day Christian Zionists. They had expected Jesus to establish Jerusalem as the capital of a sovereign Jewish empire. The notion was so ingrained in their psyches that even as Jesus was about to ascend into heaven, they asked, “Lord are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 1:6).
Jesus not only corrects their erroneous thinking but also expands their horizons from a tiny strip of land on the east coast of the Mediterranean to the farthest reaches of the Earth. “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you,” said Jesus, as He was about to be taken up into heaven; “and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8). In effect, Jesus left His disciples with instructions to exit Jerusalem, embrace the Earth, and never again entertain the thought of establishing an earthly Jerusalem.
Finally, God’s promise to David that his descendants would sit on the throne forever (see 2 Sam. 7:11–16; cf. Isa. 9:7) was fulfilled when Christ, the “Son of David” (cf. Matt. 1:1; 12:23; 21:15; Luke 1:32), ascended to the throne of the heavenly Jerusalem and established His rule and reign over all the Earth. To require now that God must provide a literal throne in Jerusalem on which Jesus will physically sit to rule over national Israel in a millennial semi-golden age is more than an anticlimactic step backward; it is an insult to the glory and grandeur of God’s throne. What is greater: ruling the entire heavens and Earth from God’s very throne, or ruling over national Israel on David’s throne? The answer should be obvious. As a result of the Incarnation, “Jesus, not Jerusalem, would now become the central ‘place’ within God’s purposes, the place around which God’s true people would be gathered.”15 The earthly Jerusalem is thus a type that has been heightened by the greater reality of the heavenly city where Christ sits on the throne. It is toward the antitypical heavenly Jerusalem with Jesus on its throne that we are to direct our eschatological gaze.
Paul illustrates this typologically heightened fulfillment when he figuratively contrasts Sarah with Hagar. Says Paul, “These things may be taken
figuratively, for the women represent two covenants. One covenant is from Mount Sinai and bears children who are to be slaves: This is Hagar. Now Hagar stands for Mount Sinai in Arabia and corresponds to the present city of Jerusalem, because she is in slavery with her children. But the Jerusalem that is above is free, and she is our mother” (Gal. 4:24–26). In saying this, Paul emphasizes that all who fixate on an earthly Jerusalem with a rebuilt temple and reinstituted temple sacrifices are in slavery to types and shadows. Conversely, all who recognize that the shadow of Jerusalem has found fulfillment in the substance of Christ are set free to inherit the Earth (cf. Ps. 37:11; Matt. 5:5; Rom. 4:13).
The Holy TEMPLE
In light of the Zionist zeal for rebuilding Solomon’s temple where the Dome of the Rock now stands,16 thus inflaming religious passions, threatening to ignite the fuse of Armageddon, and treating as an unholy thing the precious blood of Jesus Christ, we would do well to take a closer look at what Scripture really teaches with respect to Solomon’s temple, the second temple, and the spiritual temple in which the first and second temples find their fulfillment.
First, it is crucial to recognize in the context of ancient Israel that Solomon’s temple stood as the glorious symbol of God’s immanent presence on the
Earth. It was in this magnificent structure in the heart of Jerusalem, made of the most precious metals and woods, that the holy and transcendent God of the
universe condescended to dwell among the people of Israel (cf. 1 Kings 6:11–13). Solomon’s temple was thus the dwelling place of God’s shekinah glory and the symbol for the Israelites of all the political and spiritual benefits it would bring. It was therefore a devastating blow to the spiritual and social identity of Israel when the Babylonians destroyed the temple in 586 BC.
Furthermore, as Jeremiah had prophetically pointed to the destruction of the first temple, so Jesus prophesied the destruction of the second temple. Just as in the days of Jeremiah, the Jews had prostituted the temple. Like their forefathers, they had failed to heed God’s warning, “Reform your ways and your
actions, and I will let you live in this place. Do not trust in deceptive words and say, ‘This is the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord!’” (Jer. 7:3:4). They had failed to recognize that temple, priest, and sacrifice were but types that pointed to something—no, someone—far greater, someone even now standing in their midst. Incredibly, “when the chief priests and the teachers of the law saw the wonderful things he did and the children shouting in the temple area, ‘Hosanna to the Son of David, ’they were indignant” (Matt. 21:15).
Thus, while Jesus never uttered a single word regarding a third temple, He emphatically pronounced the ruin of the second. After pronouncing seven woes on the teachers of the law and the Pharisees, calling them hypocrites, blind guides, whitewashed tombs, snakes, and a brood of vipers, He departed the temple saying, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing. Look, your house is left to you desolate” (Matt. 23:37–38).
Finally, the shekinah glory of God that departed the second temple, thus leaving it desolate, forever dwells within the spiritual temple. The shekinah
glory of God will never again descend on a temple constructed of lifeless stones, for it forever dwells within “the living Stone—rejected by men but chosen by God” (1 Pet. 2:4). As the apostle Peter goes on to explain, “You, also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (v. 5). The type and shadow of the temple find substance not in a Tribulation temple followed by a millennial temple but in a church built out of living stones comprised of Jews and Gentiles, with Jesus Christ as the capstone.
The conclusion of the matter is this: all of the types and shadows of the Old Covenant, including the holy land of Israel, the holy city Jerusalem, and the holy temple of God, have been fulfilled in the holy Christ. It is Paradise—a new heaven and a new Earth—not Palestine for which our hearts yearn. It is “the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband” (Rev. 21:2) on which we fix our gaze. And it is the Master Teacher, not a majestic temple, that forever satisfies our deepest longings.
Truly, it is the risen Christ, at once the capstone of the spiritual temple and its heavenly architect, who sits on the throne of David as King of Kings and Lord of Lords (cf. Acts 2:30; Rev. 19:16). In light of the Incarnation, the Zionist suggestion that the modern land of Palestine, along with its capital Jerusalem, is to be reserved exclusively for a single ethnicity, or that the temple must be rebuilt and its sacrificial system reinstituted,17 borders on blasphemy. Moreover, while the modern state of Israel has a definitive right to exist, to suggest that native Palestinians—many of whom are our sisters and brothers in Christ—must be forcibly removed from the land is not only unbiblical but unethical.
Just as it is a grievous sin to turn a blind eye to the evil of anti-Semitism, so it is a grievous sin to turn a blind eye to a theology that divides people on the basis of race rather than uniting them on the basis of righteousness, justice, and equity.
TWO DISTINCT PEOPLE
“In Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” —the apostle Paul (Gal. 3:26–29)
In 1831—the same year that Charles Darwin left England and sailed into evolutionary infamy aboard the HMS Beagle—another nineteenth-century dogma with profound consequences for the history of humanity was birthed in the British Isles. That year John Nelson Darby, a disillusioned priest, left the Church of England and joined a separatist millenarian group called the Plymouth Brethren in the English city of Plymouth.
In general, Darby accepted the premillennial perspective of the Brethren movement. Like Darwin, however, Darby was a trendsetter. In much the same way that Darwin imposed a speculative spin on the scientific data he encountered along the South American coasts of Patagonia, Darby imposed a subjective spin on the scriptural data he encountered in the city of Plymouth.
Darby contended that God had two distinct people with two distinct plans and two distinct destinies. Only one of those peoples—the Jews—would suffer tribulation. The other—the church—would be removed from the world in a secret coming seven years prior to the second coming of Christ.18 Darby’s distinctive twist on Scripture would shortly come to be known as dispensational eschatology.
First, far from communicating a distinction between Israel and the church, the Scriptures from beginning to end reveal that God has only ever had one chosen people purchased “from every tribe and tongue and language and nation” (Rev. 5:9). As Paul explains, the “mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus” (Eph. 3:6). Indeed, the precise terminology used to describe the children of Israel in the Old Testament is ascribed to the church in the New Testament. Peter calls them “a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God” (1 Pet. 2:9). Ultimately, they are the one chosen people of God, not by virtue of their genealogical relationship to Abraham but by virtue of their genuine relationship to “the living Stone— rejected by men but chosen by God” (1 Pet. 2:4).
Furthermore, just as the Old and New Testaments reveal only one chosen people, so too, they reveal only one covenant community. While that one
covenant community is physically rooted in the offspring of Abraham—whose number would be like that of the stars of heaven (Gen. 15:5) or the dust of
the Earth (Gen. 13:16)—it is spiritually grounded in one singular Seed. Paul makes this explicit in his letter to the Galatians: “The promises were spoken to
Abraham and to his seed. The Scripture does not say ‘and to seeds,’ meaning many people, but ‘and to your seed’ meaning one person, who is Christ” (Gal. 3:16).
As Paul goes on to explain, “If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed and heirs according to the promise” (Gal. 3:29). The faithful remnant of Old Testament Israel and New Testament Christianity are together the one genuine seed of Abraham and thus heirs according to the promise. This remnant is not chosen on the basis of religion or race but rather on the basis of relationship to the resurrected Redeemer.
Finally, the one chosen people, who form one covenant community, are beautifully symbolized in the book of Romans as one cultivated olive tree (see
Rom. 11:11–24). The tree symbolizes Israel; its branches symbolize those who believe; and its root symbolizes Jesus—the root and the offspring of David (Rev. 22:16). Natural branches broken off represent Jews who reject Jesus. Wild branches grafted in represent Gentiles who receive Jesus. Thus says Paul, “Not all who are descended from Israel are Israel. Nor because they are his descendants are they all Abraham’s children.” Put another way, “it is not the natural children who are God’s children, but it is the children of the promise who are regarded as Abraham’s offspring” (Rom. 9:6–8). Jesus is the one genuine seed of Abraham! And all clothed in Christ constitute one congruent chosen covenant community connected by the cross.
Like Darwinian evolution, dispensational eschatology continues to morph from its humble beginnings in the British Isles. It is today the norm, not the abnormality. Those who dare question the notion of a pretribulational rapture followed by a Holy Land holocaust in which the vast majority of Jews perish are shouted down as peddlers of godless heresy. The ultimate pejorative phrase has even been coined for those who deny the heart of dispensational eschatology. They are dubbed “replacement theologians” and are said to be guilty of spreading “the message of anti-Semitism.”19
One can only pray for the courage to stand in the face of vilification and to do all that is permissible to see that this pseudoeschatology fades into the shadowy recesses of history.20
Hank Hanegraaff is president of the Christian Research Institute and host of the Bible Answer Man daily broadcast (equip.org). Hank has authored many books, including The Apocalypse Code: Find Out What the Bible Really Says about the End Times…and Why It Matters Today (Thomas Nelson, 2007), Has God Spoken? Memorable Proofs of the Bible’s Divine Inspiration (Thomas Nelson, 2011), and The Complete Bible Answer Book—Collector’s Edition, Revised and Updated (Thomas Nelson, 2016).
- Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1995 ed.; first published in German in 1937), 25.
- Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship, 89.
- Benny Morris, The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem, 1947–1949 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987), 113. After further documents were released by the Israeli government, Morris revised his estimate of those who were murdered at Deir Yassin to 100–110. In a revealing, provocative interview, Morris was asked, “How many acts of Israeli massacre were perpetrated in 1948?” He responded: “Twentyfour. In some cases four or five people were executed, in others the numbers were 70, 80, 100….The worst cases were Saliha (70–80 killed), Deir Yassin (100–110), Lod (250), Dawayima (hundreds) and perhaps Abu Shusha (70). There is no unequivocal proof of a large-scale massacre at Tantura, but war crimes were perpetrated there. At Jaffa there was a massacre about which nothing had been known until now. The same at Arab al Muwassi, in the north.” (Ari Shavit, “Survival of the Fittest? An Interview with Benny Morris,” Haaretz, January 9, 2004, http://www.haaretz.com/survival-of-thefittest- 1.61345 [accessed March 2, 2016]).
- Counterpunch News Service, “An interview with Benny Morris,” January 16, 2004, http://www.counterpunch.org/2004/01/16/an-interview-with-benny-morris/, accessed March 2, 2016; cf. Morris, The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem, 1947–1949.
- See Morris, The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem, 1947–1949; Ari Shavit, “Survival of the Fittest? An Interview with Benny Morris.”
- See, e.g., John Nelson Darby, “The Hopes of the Church of God in Connection with the Destiny of the Jews and the Nations as Revealed in Prophecy,” in The Collected Writings of J. N. Darby, vol. II, Prophetic I, ed. William Kelly (Kingston on Thames: Stow Hill Bible and Trust Depot, 1962), 380; John Hagee, Jerusalem Countdown: A Warning to the World (Lake Mary, FL: Frontline, 2006), 47; cf. Stephen Sizer, Christian Zionism: Road-map to Armageddon? (Leicester: InterVarsity, 2004), 160–70.
- All Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version (NIV). Copyright 1973, 1978, 1984, International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. Italics added to NIV quotations indicate the author’s emphasis.
- See, e.g., Tim LaHaye and Thomas Ice, Charting the End Times (Eugene, OR: Harvest House, 2001), 78; cf. Sizer, Christian Zionism, 162–63.
- See, e.g., John Hagee, Should Christians Support Israel? (San Antonio, TX: Dominion, 1987), 99.
- See Ronald B. Allen, “The Land of Israel,” in Israel: The Land and the People: An Evangelical Affirmation of God’s Promises, ed. H. Wayne House (Grand Rapids: Kregel, 1998), 24.
- See, e.g., Hagee, Should Christians Support Israel? 63, 67–68, 125.
- The amount of time and money that Christian Zionists have invested in relocating Jews to Israel is staggering. As noted by Timothy Weber, John Hagee, for example, claims to have spent $3.7 million to relocate over six thousand Jews (Timothy P. Weber, On the Road to Armageddon: How Evangelicals Became Israel’s Best Friend [Grand Rapids: Baker, 2004], 227).
- See, e.g., Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum, “The Little Apocalypse of Zechariah,” in The End Times Controversy, ed. Tim LaHaye and Thomas Ice (Eugene, OR: Harvest House, 2003), 262. For discussion and refutation, see Hank Hanegraaff, The Apocalypse Code: Find Out What the Bible Really Says about the End Times…and Why It Matters Today (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2007), 59–94.
- For further refutation of the dispensationalist contention that preliminary regathering must occur in the context of unbelief, see Hanegraaff, The Apocalypse Code, 264–67, n. 44–46.
- Peter Walker, “Jesus and Jerusalem: New Testament Perspectives,” in Jerusalem: What Makes for Peace? Ed. Naim Ateek (Bishop’s Stortford, Herts, UK: Melisende UK Ltd., 1997), 67.
- See, e.g., Tim LaHaye, The Beginning of the End (Wheaton: Tyndale, 1972), 51.
- See, e.g., LaHaye and Ice, Charting the End Times, 94–95.
- Cf. LaHaye and Ice, Charting the End Times, 81.
- Hagee, Should Christians Support Israel? 1, 73.
- This article is largely adapted with revision from Hanegraaff, The Apocalypse Code.