THE THEOLOGICAL BASIS FOR WHY ISRAEL SHOULD MATTER TO CHRISTIANS

Anti-Semitism Arises Once Again – What is the Biblical Basis to Oppose it?

It’s quite unusual to find a Christian author or teacher that favors Israel who isn’t also a dispensationalist.  And it is difficult to find a dispensationalist who isn’t also a Christian Zionist.  Nevertheless, in Gerald McDermott, we have an Anglican theologian, Israel scholar, and author who is not dispensational, but who advocates for Jews everywhere, especially those living in the present state of Israel.  McDermott has written extensively on the subject of why Israel should be valued by Christians rather than repudiated for their historical rejection of Jesus as the Messiah. Given the intensifying controversy surrounding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and the growing disapproval of the Israeli government by many Christian groups, a timely analysis of the situation appears most warranted.

In this article, I begin by pointing out while McDermott’s advocacy of Israel is welcomed and proceeds from an eschatological basis, his rationale owes as much to “Christian guilt” over our historical treatment of the Jews, as it does to truly biblical commitments for why Israel should matter to Christians.  To be more specific, his theological basis dismisses the dispensational hermeneutic, seeing Dispensationalism as a birthplace for wild prophetic speculation and fundamentalist dogma. McDermott offers an alternative basis for favoring Israel. His viewpoint is gaining traction and thus, it is worthy of consideration. My goal in penning this piece affords only a short analysis of his perspective, it is a relevant way to begin when considering the conventional basis for supporting Israel, commonly identified as Dispensationalism.  Additionally, while affirming Zionism (limited in its proper meaning here, advocating solely for Israel’s right to exist in its historic Middle Eastern land), I will provide a counter-argument to McDermott’s point of view, which comprises my main reason for writing; that is, asserting that Dispensationalism is a respectable, historical, and indeed, the strongest hermeneutic for why Christians should care about Israel.  Obviously, one could write an entire book on the subject.  This I hope to do in the months ahead.  Here I will provide what amounts to no more than a prolog.

If Dispensationalism Isn’t Right, How Then Is Zionism Supported by the Bible?

An article in The Christian Post, published on June 22, 2017, by Brandon Showalter, discusses McDermott’s position.  The article is entitled, “Christians Must Think Differently About Israel, Jews in Light of Past Atrocities.” McDermott is Anglican chair at Beeson Divinity School in Birmingham, Alabama.  The subject of the article comes from his book, Israel Matters:  Why Christians Must Think Differently About the People and the Land. In it, McDermott seeks to undergird support for Israel and Jews while rejecting the traditional biblical case for national Israel built upon Dispensationalism.  Furthermore, he attempts to do this based upon his view that Israel’s return and having formed a nation state, fulfills biblical prophecy.  Furthermore, and it would seem, more importantly, McDermott’s position builds not upon any geopolitical value that Israel may have to the United States, but due to how badly Christians treated Jews over the past 1800 years.

Israel Matters by Dr. Gerald McDermott

Perhaps it is obvious that McDermott is no supporter of “replacement theology.”  Instead, he contends that Israel holds a special position in the heart of the biblical God. Any view of Jesus Christ which argues Jesus or the Church fulfills God’s promises to Israel, languishes as badly as does any view which deems Jesus less than fully Jewish.  Showalter summarizes McDermott’s perspective as follows:

Israel Matters (McDermott’s book) argues strongly against supersessionism. This is also known as “replacement theology” which holds that the Church replaced Israel as God’s chosen people.  Today, what is known as “fulfillment theology,” which some assert is merely an updated form of replacement theology, also holds that Jews do not have a God-given destiny in their ancient land. But instead of the Church replacing Israel, its proponents [wrongly] contend that Jesus fulfills in his life and redemptive work all the promises that God ever made to the Jews, including [superseding] the promise that the land of Canaan would be their everlasting possession.  This theology [supersessionism] considers the land insignificant and that the only Jews who are now significant to God are Messianic Jews, those who believe Jesus is the Messiah.[1]

Understandably, McDermott doesn’t draw a hard line between Jews and the state of Israel.  In contrast, a polemic against the State of Israel generally follows on the heels of drawing this distinction. “Replacement theologians” commonly call upon this tactic to denounce the government of Israel while giving the Jewish race “a pass.”  Nonetheless, although many seek to avoid the charge of anti-Semitism by indicating they are solely against the Zionist state, McDermott writes, “Even if the covenanted people of Israel and the state of Israel are not one and the same, they are intertwined in a complex way.” Moreover, “The state could not exist without its people, and the covenanted people could not survive or flourish without the state. The state shelters the people, and the people — though not all are religious Jews — support the state. One without the other is unthinkable and impossible.”  I interpret his meaning thusly:  drawing a distinction between Israel and Israelis is a difficult position to maintain. This is especially so since his rationale for the support of the Jewish race and the Jewish state seems untethered from firm moorings.

In summary, McDermott does not advance his case for Israel on a dispensational foundation. He remains a staunch advocate of Israel. However, as I will argue here, McDermott would have an unshakable argument to advocate on behalf of the Jewish state if, while explaining his perspective, he did not dismiss the dispensational framework for interpreting the Bible.  As we will see here, it is a long-standing tradition of “Anglo-American” theological scholarship for over 400 years to affirm the restoration of the Jews to their homeland in the Levant.  Dispensationalism, which is cited as the basis for Christian Zionism, is merely a more recent name for a tradition that finds its origin beginning at the time of the Geneva Bible in 1537 and was contended for throughout the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, long before John N. Darby was born.

Christians Have a Bad Record on Treating Jews Right

Mentioned in the article is the contention that Hitler’s Germany was the most Christianized nation in the world just before the Holocaust began.  Indeed, German clergy and priests did invoke Christian tenets to justify the genocide of the Jews by the Third Reich. As a counter-point, one might argue that the Evangelical Christian Church in Germany was only nominally Christian; regardless, history discloses (without much digging) how Protestants and Catholics both chose acquiescence to Hitler rather than opposition to Nazism.

Pogroms of Christians Against Jews

We are all familiar with the standard, age-old castigation against the Jews as “Christ killers.” And that pernicious label affixed by throngs of Christians in many times and places has led to tens of thousands of Jews being persecuted and murdered. In the present day, we are seeing the embers of anti-Semitism being fanned back to flames.  Not only are Islamist extremists energizing hatred and murder, but even “moderate” humanists and progressive Christians are denouncing the nation state of Israel.  And “alt-right” conservative radio stands guilty of “amping up” hate toward Jerusalem condemning the Israeli government for its alleged mistreatment of Palestinians. In America, this amounts to a “sea change.” In other words, the condemnation of Zionism isn’t just advanced by Iranian Mullahs and apocalyptic Muslim politicians.  It is widely promoted by conservative talk-show hosts who hint (if not outright assert) that the Israeli Mossad was instrumental in the 911 attacks against the United States to inflate anti-Islamic sentiment. In fact, Zionism has often become a synonym for the globalist agenda – a NEOCON ideology advancing Western hegemony as set forth by the late Zbigniew Brzezinski. Conservatism is fast becoming an anti-Zionist atmosphere that will influence supporters of Israel to lower the volume of their advocacy. Donald Trump’s strong support for Benjamin Netanyahu’s government goes against the flow of an increasing number of populist and libertarian voices. A survey of talk-shows and podcasts, which we won’t undertake here, demonstrates this to be the case.

Showalter notes that in Chapter 3 of McDermott’s book, “Those that Got It Right,” a number of well-known “non-dispensational” theologians took positive stands regarding the prophetic forecast for Israel returning to its historic land and once again becoming a nation:

From early Church fathers like Tertullian to more recent figures like American theologian, Jonathan Edwards and Swiss theologian Karl Barth, each of these men believed that a day would come when the Jews would return to their ancient homeland.

During his ministry, Edwards repeatedly warned against spiritualizing biblical promises to the Jews. When the modern state of Israel was established in 1948, Barth wrote that it was a “secular parable” and that the large numbers of Jews returning to the land was a fulfillment of biblical prophecy.[2]

When asked by Christian Post whether McDermott sympathized with those who wanted the U.S. Embassy to move to Jerusalem, he offered emphatic support:

“First of all, it would be the simple recognition of reality: Jerusalem and no other city is Israel’s capital,” McDermott said.  “Second, the Palestinian leaders are thugs who would realize by this move that they can no longer dictate as they did to Obama, whose policies hurt both Jews and Arabs.”[3]

S. Douglas Woodward and Dr. William C. Watson speak at the Denver Prophecy Summit, Aug 4-6

Despite a favorable opinion on the place of Israel which this author shares, the Christian Post article seems to make it plain that McDermott affixes his position to a weak biblical hermeneutic. Based upon my reading of McDermott from two of his books, the hint from Showalter’s article on how McDermott builds his theology stands consistent with his writings. Happily, like the founder of Neo-orthodoxy, Karl Barth, McDermott argues on behalf of a biblical supernaturalism including the contention that its prophetic declarations can be given weight.  However, as with Barth, this author is suspicious that McDermott’s view of biblical inspiration would stop him from advancing an especially strong case for Israel’s importance in the last days as can be constructed through Dispensationalism with its higher view of scripture and a much stronger commitment to the historical accuracy of the Bible.  Additionally, those of us who support plenary (complete) inspiration search the Scriptures anticipating its words can be the source of nearly endless and detailed “micro” truths rather than only generalizations and “macro” truths, upon which Neo-orthodox scholars typically base their teachings.[4] That is to say: broad brush strokes are usually recognized and exalted.  The “short strokes” may be downplayed if not maligned.

Is Dispensationalism an Aberrant Evangelical Theology with Infamous Beginnings?

How do scholars today define Christian Zionism and Dispensationalism? Allow me to provide these brief definitions penned by Dr. William C. Watson, a Colorado-based scholar who has written extensively on both topics.  Watson explains:

  1. Dispensationalism is “futurist Premillennialism with an expectation of a future rapture, great tribulation, literal Antichrist, and battle of Armageddon, culminating in a return of Christ to rule on earth 1000 years.”
  2. Christian Zionism was known originally as Restorationism – “the Jews are still God’s people, they have a major role to play in apocalyptic events, they will return to the land God gave them, and Christ will return as their Messiah.”[5]

Using my words, most scholars regard John Darby of the Plymouth Brethren as the originator of Dispensationalism, and his teachings the basis for Christian Zionism. However, scholars often make Darby a whipping boy of sorts, with ad hominem arguments (disingenuous attacks advanced against his character) in an attempt to scuttle the biblical authenticity of the “dispensational system.” For practical purposes, virtually all opponents of Dispensationalism likewise associate Pre-Millennialism and the Pre-Tribulation Rapture theory – now falling in disfavor across America – with Darby’s dispensational perspective. Darby begat his (perceived) “cultic view” of the dispensational position circa 1830 in jolly Old England. Regardless of the truthfulness of this frequent viewpoint of its beginnings, there is no disagreement that “Darbyism” was popularized early in the twentieth century by C.I. Scofield’s Study Bible (1909, 1917) and then much later in the 1970s by Hal Lindsey’s blockbuster book, The Late Great Planet Earth (1970). The dispensational “system” (i.e., a hermeneutic for interpreting scripture) came to dominate those denominations which studied Bible prophecy from a futurist perspective; most notably the Southern Baptist Convention, The Assembly of God, and hundreds (if not thousands) of “Bible Churches” across America – often pastored by graduates of Dallas Theological Seminary, Talbot Seminary (at Biola University), and the Moody Bible Institute. Many popular “televangelists” have been vocal advocates for this viewpoint too. Pastors John Hagee, John McArthur, and David Jeremiah come to mind.

William C. Watson, Ph.D.

As asserted above, most of today’s scholars wrongly see Darby as the origin of dispensational thinking, unaware of the grander picture of Christian historicism which can be demonstrated to exist throughout the last two millennia. In this instance, by employing the term historicism – a label with several meanings – I am following the thinking of Dr. Watson, mentioned above [by the way, a recent acquaintance via email who I will join as a co-speaker at the Denver Prophecy Summit in Denver (August 4-6, 2017)].  From this point forward, I will attempt to expound a number of salient points compiled by the wonderful work of Watson in his book, Dispensationalism before Darby: Seventeenth-Century and Eighteenth-Century English Apocalypticism. In doing so, I seek to demonstrate that while Dispensationalism has its detractors and often lends itself to extreme positions in prophetic discourse, this does not sully its value nor refute its historical basis as the preferred Christian hermeneutic upon which to base prophetic exegesis – and regarding the subject of this article, the strongest foundation for demonstrating why Christians should care about Israel.

To explain, Christian scholars and theologians from the seventeenth century forward saw history divided into distinct periods and those resulting from the works of God and His Holy Spirit eschatologically during the “church age” – from the Apostolic period until the future return of Christ at His Parousia.  Watson’s outstanding book zeroes in on Dispensationalism, Restorationism (Zionism), and to a much lesser extent the Pre-Tribulation Rapture Theory in England before Darby (dating back almost 200 years prior to Darby’s time). It represents the finest study I have seen in this regard. For those students of eschatology who wish to refute the wrong-headed assertion that Darby invented the tenets of dispensational thinking, Watson’s book is indispensable.

Watson’s thesis in this:

It is my intent to show that the ideas of Dispensationalism and Christian Zionism (known at the time as Restorationism) existed in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, long before John Nelson Darby who is considered the father of modern Dispensationalism and Theodore Herzl (the father of modern Zionism) articulated them. The ideas espoused by Darby were present in earlier British theology dating back to English Puritanism long before Darby set them within a framework that subsequently arose as a system in the 1800s.[6]

Of course, I readily agree with possible critics that the argument Dispensationalism and Christian Zionism existed long before Darby doesn’t prove either are true, are biblically sound, or demand political or theological adherence. However, given that much of the present momentum against Dispensationalism progresses as a consequence of incorrectly seeing Darby as its originator, it deserves to be set right. Therefore, the remainder of this article will focus just on the early “beginnings” of what would later become the dispensational position.  I will reference Watson’s work, but from only the first two chapters and its initial 40 pages.  The reader should be impressed that Watson’s coverage of the issue continues well beyond this first section, totaling over 300 pages.

Millennialism and Historicism from the Second to Sixteenth Century

To begin, Watson cites the renowned nineteenth-century church historian Philip Schaff, who summarized the view of the early church with these words:

The most striking point in the eschatology of the ante-Nicene age is the prominent chiliasm or millenarianism, that is the belief of a visible reign of Christ in glory on earth with the risen saints for a thousand years, before the general resurrection and judgment. It was … a widely current opinion of distinguished teachers, such as Barnabas, Papias, Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Tertullian, Methodius, and Lactantius … The Jewish chiliasm rested on a carnal misapprehension of the Messianic kingdom, a literal interpretation of prophetic figures, and an overestimate of the importance of the Jewish people and the holy city as the center of that kingdom.[7]

Dispensationalism Before Darby, Dr. William C. Watson

What is important about Schaff’s assessment:  he rejects Dispensationalism’s doctrine of the literal millennium following Christ’s return, and that the kingdom of God will be centered in Jerusalem.  However, Schaff stipulates to the fact that the early church believed in both.

Watson also cites the Church Fathers, Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, and Tertullian from the second century A.D., who all affirmed a literal millennium, the prominence of the New Jerusalem, and a reconciliation of Christians and Jews in the Kingdom of God.

When Justin Martyr was asked, around A.D. 150, whether he believed that “Jerusalem …

Justin Martyr

shall be rebuilt; and [whether he expected his people] to be gathered together, and made joyful with Christ and the patriarchs,” he responded, “I and many others are of this opinion.” Similarly, around A.D. 170, Irenaeus claimed it was an “indispensable part of orthodoxy to believe that these things shall indeed come to pass on this earth.”  Around A.D. 180, Tertullian claimed that he saw the heavenly Jerusalem about to descend to earth and that Christians should “expect Christ to appear in Jerusalem.” Some early Christian sources— notably, The Shepherd of Hermas, Pseudo-Ephraem, and The Apocalypse of Elijah— even hint at a pretribulational rapture.[8]

From Augustine in the fifth century through the reformers such as Luther and Calvin in the sixteenth, the millennium was spiritualized, a Jewish kingdom rejected, and the Church was made the receiver of all Old Testament prophecies.  But this hiatus of affirming millenarianism would begin to be overthrown in England after the publication of the Geneva and the King James Bible.  Once lay persons could read the Old Testament scriptures for themselves, “chiliasm” (millenarianism) began a decided resurgence.[9] Luther said, “Of the great mass of the Jews … I have no hope for them, nor do I know any passage of Scripture that does.” Calvin was of the same mind, “God so blinded the whole people that they were like restive dogs. I have had much conversation with many Jews: I have never seen either a drop of piety or a grain of truth or ingeniousness – nay, I have never found common sense in any Jew.”[10]

The English Commence Zionism (Restorationism) over 200 Years Before Darby

The English felt differently. Watson cites Reformer Theodore Beza who included a marginal note in the Geneva Bible indicating he expected Jews to convert in mass during the last days.  Likewise, John Bale (1495-1563) stated that the Gospel shall return again to the Jews, although dispersed, God will bring them again to the fold.  John Foxe (15617-1587, author of Foxe’s Book of Martyrs), also saw a return of Jews to the land.  It was a promise to be kept, “Even so the Iewes [Jews], although they prescribe upon a promised place in Sion. … [The] blessed and joyfull returne of the Iewes … [is like] the branches … recovering the natural verdure of their honorable stocke.”[11] Thomas Draxe wrote in 1608 that God made a singular covenant with the Jews to be His one peculiar people.  And although they wander and are dispersed in all countries, they should still continue to be a distinct and “unconfounded nation.” Watson provides another extended quotation of Draxe concluding with these words, “Let us not dispise the Iewes. … If God loue the Iewes for their Father’s sake and for his couenant made with them … we must herein follow and imitate the Lord’s example.”

Watson noted that it was the Puritans in particular who came to study Hebrew intently and chose to give their children Hebrew names.  Oliver Cromwell, for all the criticisms directed at him from many secular sources, was nonetheless tender-hearted toward the Jews and allowed them public worship in England for the first time. During the “Interregnum,” Philo-Semitism (love of the Jews) reigned.

Watson cites a series of scholars to reinforce the striking affinity that English Evangelicals had with the Jews.  His quotations include the following:

The interest of Englishmen in the Jewish people and a Jewish Palestine dates back to the Commonwealth. The same school of thought which permitted the Jews to return to England speculated further upon the Jewish restoration to Palestine; and this religious interest, fed upon the Bible and upon Protestantism, has survived in great strength down to our own day.[12]

Sixteenth- and seventeenth-century historicist premillennialists expected the conversion of the Jews and their return to their own land. Elizabethan Puritan Thomas Brightman called the Jews “our Brethren”[13] who would convert to Christianity; in the last days, “the Jews would rebuild Jerusalem,” thereby “hasten[ing] a series of Prophetic events that would culminate in the return of Jesus.”[14]

Throughout the seventeenth century, there were many works that laid the groundwork for Dispensationalism and Restorationism, arguing for a literal millennium, the return of the Jews to their land in the last days, and the futurist point of view (that the last days were upon England). It is fairly well-known that in 1666 when the great London fire occurred, there were apocalyptic signs of comets blazing through the skies, and the great alchemist and mathematician Sir Isaac Newton spent untold hours searching the Scriptures to determine if the Bible held a code validating that Christ’s return was imminent.

Geneva Bible 1560 Edition

In my book, Decoding Doomsday, I wrote concerning the apocalyptic fervor of this period:

Newton eventually decided that this wasn’t the date. Nonetheless, as he was inclined to do, he would systematically assemble his thoughts on the subject. Newton would exit this experience with his own prediction – the end of the world was still 400 years away – he wrote that we should witness it, but not before 2060 AD… However, Newton wasn’t the only one looking for the end. A radical group called the Fifth Monarchy Men, spurred on by the conflict between Charles I and Parliament, was certain the return of Christ would occur in 1666.[15]

Returning to Watson’s work, we learn of another interesting chapter in the story, regarding a Portuguese rabbi and writer, Manoel Dias Soiero, who was better known as Menasseh ben Israel (1604-1657). This figure secured Oliver Cromwell’s support for Jewish immigration into England.  Menasseh’s book, The Hope of Israel was translated into English by Moses Wall in 1652.  Watson quotes Wall in his defense of Menasseh’s belief in God’s continued covenant with the Jews:

I doe firmly believe, and fear not to profess it; That the Jews shall be called as a Nation, both Judah and Israel, and shall return to their owne Land, and have an earthly Kingdome againe. For the proof of which … I shall cite anything which Mennaseh Ben Israel brings for himself, beleeve me, that I have it not from him, but from my owne observations out of Scripture, some years since. [cited Micah 4: 8 and Zechariah 10: 6-10] Say not this was done in the returne of those few in the captivity of Babylon; for those of the ten Tribes that then returned, were but some gleanings of them; and of Judah itself, there returned but about one halfe: [cited Ezekiel 37: 16-25] Sir, in good earnest, hath this scripture been fulfilled? Hath Judah and Ephraim been but one stick in God’s hand, but one Nation, so that they shall be no more two Nations, [cited Romans 11: 12-28 and Isaiah 66: 7-8] you are pleased to put the term Millenarian upon me; … you adde in the Post-script, not to looke for a Fifth Monarchy, because Christ reigns now. I answer, that though he reignes de jure, yet not de facto. For expressly in Scripture the Devil is called kosmokrator [ruler of world] he is the grand Tyrant, and great Usurper … yet I am farre from denying Christ a kingdome now in being, Spirituall, and Invisible, but I looke for a visible one yet to come.[16]

Description of the Fifth Monarchy Men

Watson references a second work penned in 1654 by an anonymous author with the pseudonym, J.J. but who called himself, Philo-Judaeus. Watson cites numerous passages from his work.  I have selected one to share here:

We do never find (Christian reader) that the Lord did ever cast away any of his people. … [W]hen Titus the Roman Generall carried them away captive … scattered even at this very day throughout the four corners of the earth: And thus cast off shall be, until the fullness of the Gentiles be come in; [but] Israels restauration cannot be far off … many scoffers there now are, saying, When will the Jewes be called? and, Where is the promise of his coming? Who likewise shall have their reward. … This should make believers … when the Hebrews shall by providence come into this Nation. … so necessary is it that Israel should be called before his coming to judge the world … Jerusalem must be trodden down by the Gentiles. … So according to humane censure Israel is past recovery; but according to the supernatural promises of God, they were never so near their restauration as now. … when the Lord sees that there is no man to help, his own arm will raise and put new life into these dead and dry bones of Israel. … in the mean while I desire thee to remember desolate Zion in all thy approaches to God.[17]

Conclusion: English Evangelicals Were Committed to Restoration Almost Four Centuries Ago

To conclude this paper, the reader should make note that long before the Balfour Declaration of 1917 showing the predisposition of England to support a nation state (read: restoration) of the Jews in Palestine, or the support of the Plymouth Brethren and other Englishmen to Theodore Herzl at the Zionist Conference in Basel during 1897, it was at Whitehall in the Year of Our Lord, 1655, 252 years earlier, that Oliver Cromwell and a group of English clergy, attorneys, and merchants met with Menasseh ben Israel to confirm resettlement of Jews in England. This would be a step toward eventual restoration.  The hope was clearly expressed that by showing love and concern to the Jews, the Puritans of Cromwell might influence Jews to come to the saving knowledge of the Messiah.  However, such conversions were not to be forced as was exacted in the Spanish Inquisition.  Sanctuary should be granted based upon the knowledge that biblical prophecy was yet to be fulfilled (and the Jews would be at the center of its fulfillment), while the law of love as expressed by Christ should be a guiding light.

Menasseh ben Israel’s Mission to Liver Cromwell

Watson cites the following from the “deliberations:”

“It is Gods will there be dealing courteously with strangers, and persons in affliction, Exod: 23,8. 2. Especially respect is to be had to the Jewes, Isa. 14.3,4. Because their debtours we are, Rom. 15.27 … Because their Brethren of the same Father Abraham; they naturally after the flesh, we after the Spirit. Because we believe those natural Branches shall return; and it shall be riches and glory to the Gentiles … Because many Jews are now in very great streights in many places … being driven away from thence … Also the Jews … under the Spanish if they are professed Jews, must wear a badge … are exposed to many violencies … which to avoid many dissemble themselves to be Roman-Catholicks; then if in anything they appear Jewish, they forfeit goods, if not life also.

“It seems to some that it would be very acceptable to the Lord, if favour be shewed them … No Nation hath been more faithful, frequent, and fervent prayers for the Jews, then in England. None are more likely to convince them by scripture, and by holy life, then many in England. … Many of the Jews being now very cruelly dealt withal, and persecuted by the Turks … Other Jews in several Nations persecuted by Papists, unles they will turn Papists … even after their rejecting Jesus Christ, and the Lords rejecting them, yet the Apostle saith of them, That they are beloved for their Fathers sakes, Rom. 11.28. And for the Lords Covenant sake with their Fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob … the Lord will restore them, as he saith, Levit. 26.41, 44, 45. Micah: 7.19, 20.”[18]

The surest foundation to advocate for the Jewish people and for the Jewish state as a means to bless the Jewish race globally, remains the Bible itself and the English (and more recently, American) tradition that sees history moving toward an eschatological conclusion.  With the Puritans, dispensationalists today believe that the Kingdom of God is yet to be realized.  When it comes through the appearance of the Messiah, who the Christians believe was Jesus Christ, the Kingdom will be centered at Jerusalem. Ultimately, there will be a New Jerusalem whose gates contain the names of the Twelve Tribes of Israel, and whose foundation stones hold the names of Christi’s twelve apostles (Revelation 21:12-14) Thus, there will be everlasting reconciliation between Christians and Jews.

Whatever disparaging words may be tossed at Christian Zionism and Dispensationalism in the years ahead, this does not change the fact that there has been a rich and wide-spread tradition in the Anglo-American world for over four centuries, encouraging that Christians pray for the peace of Jerusalem and ascribe to the position that one day the Jewish people will embrace Christ, willingly not begrudgingly and that God’s Kingdom will come upon the earth. Messiah Y’shua will reign with His glorified saints and His chosen people for 1,000 years.  The nations of the world will be blessed by His governance and the utopia sought by so many for millennia will then be realized in its fullness.


NOTES

[1] Showalter, Brandon, “Christians Must Think Differently about Israel, Jews in light of Past Atrocities, Christian Post, June 22, 2017.  Retrieved from http://truthtroubles.com/2017/06/22/ christians-must-think-differently-about-israel-jews-in-light-of-past-atrocities/, 25 June 2017.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Admittedly, this characterization is difficult to clarify in a sentence or two.  My point is that Evangelicals with a high view of scripture believe biblical inspiration, when understood in the terms about which the Bible testifies concerning itself (see 2 Timothy 3:16, Hebrews 4:12), ascribes infallibility and inerrancy to the Bible.  Neo-orthodoxy argues the Bible provides spiritual truth, but only in an “existential sense.” Not so regarding historical truth.  That is to say (wrongly), that whether or not the Bible is right in the history it records is beside the point and of no consequence. Neo-orthodoxy accepts a supposed “fact” that the Bible contains errors.  Given this admission, the spiritual admonitions of the Bible grow increasingly “watered down” and less trustworthy.  This was the essential assessment of Christian intellectual and apologist, Francis Schaeffer. Given the growing debasement of theology and its decreasing impact across Western culture over the past two centuries, conservative theologians readily appreciate his point of view.

[5] Watson, William C. (2015-07-28). Dispensationalism before Darby: Seventeenth-Century and Eighteenth-Century English Apocalypticism (p. 3). Lampion Press. Kindle Edition.

[6] Ibid., p. 2.

[7] Watson, William C. (2015-07-28). Dispensationalism before Darby: Seventeenth-Century and Eighteenth-Century English Apocalypticism (p. 4). Lampion Press. Kindle Edition.  Schaff’s quotation is from Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church (Scribner, 1884; reprint by Eerdmans, 1910), vol. 2: 614.

[8] Ibid., p. 5. The quotation from Justin Martyr is found at Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho, chapter LXXX. Watson’s references to Irenaeus and Tertullian are drawn from Silver, The History of Messianic Speculation in Israel 33-35; and from Norman Cohn, The Pursuit of the Millennium: Revolutionary Millenarians and Mystical Anarchists of the Middle Ages (New York: Oxford University Press, 1971), 25-27.

[9] Ibid., p. 13.

[10] Quoted by Watson from other sources citing Luther and Calvin.  Ibid., p. 14.

[11] Ibid., p. 14.  Quotation of Foxe:  John Foxe, Sermon Preached at the Christening of a Certain Jew (1578), 64, [from] Robert O. Smith, More Desired than our Owne Salvation: The Roots of Christian Zionism (New York: Oxford University Press, 2014), 64.

[12] H. Sacher, “A Jewish Palestine,” Atlantic Monthly, July 1919; Nahum Sokolow; History of Zionism, 1600-1918 (1919), 40.

[13] Thomas Brightman, A most Comfortable Exposition of the last and most difficult parts of the Prophecie of Daniel (London, 1644), 920-923 and A revelation of the Revelation (Amsterdam, 1615), 557-59, 851-52, 932-33; cited in Hindson, 139.

[14] Donald Wagner, “Christians and Zion: British Stirrings,” Daily Star. October 9, 2003.

[15] S Douglas. Decoding Doomsday: The Quest to Discover the Date the World Ends (Kindle Locations 1881-1889). Faith Happens Books. (2011)

[16] Ibid., p. 24. Citation from Moses Wall in a letter to a critic, November 5, 1650, in Lucien Wolf, ed., Mennasseh Ben Israels Mission to Oliver Cromwell (London: MacMillan, 1901), 61.

[17] Ibid., p. 28, Citation from J. J. Philo-Judaeus, The Resurrection of Dead Bones, or the Conversion of the Jews. (London, 1654).

[18] Ibid., pp. 35-36. Citation from Henry Jessey, A Narrative of the late Proceeds at Whitehall concerning the Jews (London, 1656).

 

 

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