Christian Zionism maintains that the current Zionist state of Israel’s creation in 1948 can only be truly understood as the fulfilment of Biblical prophecy. The state of Israel, according to their eschatology (theology of the end times), is an unambiguous portent of the imminent return of Christ and the final judgement of the world. With God’s final apocalyptic plans for the end of the world being played out before our very eyes, all Christians need to get on board with God’s agenda in the Middle East or face the consequences of being caught on the “wrong side” of the apocalypse.

A few comments about this belief need to be made to unpack where exactly Christian Zionism goes astray on this point.

First of all Christian Zionism states that the final return of Christ and judgement of the world cannot occur until the nation of Israel is restored from its demise in 130AD. This means that in periods of history before the creation of Israel in 1948, Christians could know that Christs return could not be imminent. The trouble is, once again, that two thousand years of Christian tradition does not affirm such a concept. The consensus of the Church over the last two millennia has been that no one can know the time of Christ’s return. When it comes it will be as “a thief in the night”. Christian Zionists do all they can to deny this obvious teaching of scripture but the plain teaching of the Bible is that we are to act as though Christ’s return can occur today, tomorrow or the day after. The concept that Christ’s return cannot occur until certain specific events (be they the restoration of Israel or anything else one thinks the Bible says) take place is simply not consistent with the teachings of the New Testament.

Christian Zionists give no reason as to why this attempt to recreate the nation of Israel is the one that they demand is prophesied in the Bible. Jews have attempted to return to the Holy Land on masse on other occasions in the last two thousand years. Why this attempt is any different to the others is not known. There is nothing in scripture that says that Jews may unsuccessfully try to return to the Holy Land a number of times before the final return. One could easily argue that the current attempt of Jewish people to return to Israel has been unsuccessful. After 60 years, greater Israel officially comprises about 78% of historic Palestine: only a fraction of the total land that God promised to Abraham, with 50% of Jewish people choosing not to return to Israel. And this when Israel is a regional super-power backed by the greatest military power the world has ever known, the U.S.

The idea of illegitimate Jewish occupation of the Holy land is unknown to Christian Zionists, betraying a major lack of understanding of both testaments of the Bible as well as Jewish tradition which has acknowledged the potential illegitimacy of Jewish occupation of the Holy Land ever since the famous oaths of the Rabbis, as recorded in the Talmud, in 130 AD.

Christian Zionists also demand that Christians must unconditionally support the current Zionist state of Israel lest God will punish them for even daring to speak against His chosen people. Christian Zionists believe that being God’s chosen nation gives the Israelis a license to break His covenantal conditions in just about any manner you can imagine. The only thing that a person can criticise Israel for is if Israel allows for equal rights or rights to self determination of Palestinians.

Anyone reading scripture can see for themselves the ridiculous nature of this idea. While God clearly promises to deliver the nation of Israel in times of trouble, He also equally promises to bring catastrophe (via other nations) to Israel if they continue to ignore the Law of Moses and the testimony of the prophets He sends. The scriptures are filled with criticism of Israel. This criticism comes both directly from God, from His prophets and from both Jews and non-Jews who have grievances with Israel because of the wrong that has been done to them. God promises to hear the cries of those oppressed by Israel regardless of whether they be Jew or gentile.

But it must be said that in the end it would not matter if the Christian Zionist claims about the state of Israel are true. Even if every claim they make in their eschatology could be proven to be true, it would not even remotely mean that the state of Israel should be unconditionally supported or that Palestinian rights to justice, equality and self determination can be ignored. Oppression of the poor and dispossessed is unjust and that is all one really needs to acknowledge and this fact should be the final word on the Israel-Palestine conflict.

CRAIG NIELSEN

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