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The following article was written by Philip Jarman. In it he discusses some of the theological short comings of Christian Zionism. Philip is a regular follower of this blog and this article is his personal reflection on this issue.
A Personal Introduction :
This paper is my summary challenge to Christians who argue that there is a supportable interpretation of the Bible regarding Israel’s activities in the land of Palestine. I contend there is No such support. Christians in our generation need to know that there is historical scholarship for a valid Biblical point of view which dissolves the arguments that support Christian Zionism. Christian Zionism is defined loosely as unreserved support for the actions of the present nation of Israel justified by a misguided belief that Jews must be re-gathered to their ancient lands prior to the Lord’s return.
Of itself, this paper does not claim to be a work of theological scholarship, but it does lean heavily on the work of three well qualified theologians for its Biblical accuracy and continuity. The study of theology depends on both the sincerity and the humility of a scholar in order to permit the Scriptures themselves to interpret Scripture. To this exercise we truly bring …….no new thing. Faithfully using this method avoids the human pitfalls of presuming the meaning with only partial information or bringing preconceived human notions to the Bible in order to justify them.
After some years of casual study, I conclude that the sources I have used are faithful to the whole counsel of God and that this paper is worthy of your consideration.. I contend that a great many Christians are supporting a Zionist regime because they assume that Dispensationalism, the popular eschatology of our time, is the only option.
If this is your position, you will for certain have come under pressure to support Zionism which lays aside all the Christian principles you have learned in the Sermon on the Mount for policies that are nothing short of “Apartheid” toward the Palestinians. I urge you therefore to carefully re-consider the matter so that your support is properly placed in the cause of justice and mercy.
Sincerely, Philip Jarman email@example.com 8 February 2014
1- Abraham’s Four Seeds – John G. Reisinger http://www.amazon.com/Abrahams-Four-Seeds-John-Reisinger/dp/0966084543/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1390963079&sr=1-1&keywords=abraham%27s+four+seeds
2. The Momentous Event – W.J. Grier
3. Sermons on Romans 11 – Martyn Lloyd Jones
Without doubt, the present nation of Israel, reconstituted in Palestine, by a unilateral United Nations decree dated at sundown 14 May 1948, has been responsible for disturbing years of peaceful coexistence between Jew and Muslim in the land . Wherever there is controversy, books and articles follow passionately written from differing points of view each seeking to explain or justify one side or the other. This is doubly so in this case because the arbitrary decision to insert a nation called Israel into an already settled Palestine was pre-loaded with religious implications for three of the world’s major religions – Judaism, Islam and Christianity.
The purpose then of this paper is to republish the historical Biblical interpretation of God’s promises to Abraham, which if graciously received, will bring a correct perspective to Christians who want to do the right thing by the Jewish people and to also promote peace in a troubled area of the world.
Contrary to the world’s historical record, the Christian worldview itself is not antagonistic toward the Jews. However, confused persons through the centuries, who have claimed association with Christianity have been intensely anti-semitic to the extremes of tragic persecution and death.
But Christian doctrine, rightly held, rejects the evil they have perpetrated on the Jewish people. Christianity recognizes that Abraham’s Natural Seed (the Jews ) were the family first, and then the nation that was chosen to bring the Lord Jesus Christ into the world. He arrived in time, to live perfectly under the Mosaic Law, and then to become the Acceptable Sacrifice for all who would believe that his death would pay for their sin. Ironically, the Jews were also the people that brought about his death on a Roman cross. But Christianity also believes that God the Father sovereignly planned that Sacrifice in eternity past, and that God the Son was obedient unto death in order to save Abraham’s Spiritual Seed. These are people, from all ages, both Jew and Gentile, who would believe experimentally that His death covers their sin and that they are delivered from the curse of the Law. *(…the soul that sinneth, it shall die. Ezekiiel 18:4 )
The Bible tells the story of Abraham and the promises made to the natural and the spiritual seed. If we understand and embrace this interpretation as the Divine plan, we will not become pawns in support of the present day Israel’s irrational drive for racial mastery in the land of Palestine.
To begin, if God in three persons, planned before the foundation of the world to rescue a people for His Name, (the Church), then that plan must emerge in Genesis and conclude in Revelation and the whole counsel of God on the matter be complete in Holy Writ.
God called Abraham from Ur of the Chaldees (1) to be the human instrument for this plan. But , Abraham and Sarah had problems conceiving, so Abraham fathered
(1) Genesis 12:1-3
Ishmael by an Egyptian servant girl Hagar. Ishmael under God’s promise of Abraham’s natural seed, became the father of 10 nations known as the Arabs. (2) But then God permitted Abraham through a deliberate preplanned miracle, to father Isaac when he and his wife Rachel were humanly – too old to have children. Isaac, unlike Ishmael, was identified by God as Abraham’s Spiritual Seed. (3) Isaac in turn, married Rebekah and fathered twin sons Esau and Jacob. Again, it was God himself who chose Jacob as the spiritual seed and left Esau as he was – a natural seed.(4)
As difficult as it may seem to our sense of fairness, God chose some from Abraham’s family to be the Spiritual Seed who would believe the Gospel of a coming deliverance through a Messiah, and he left the rest in their unbelief.
So two peoples were at one and the same time–inside Abraham’s family – The Spiritual Seed, those who believed in the promise of the Messiah (5) and those who,
¬¬¬¬although natural sons of Abraham, did not believe. Further, Abraham , Isaac and Jacob were all in their turn, the spiritual Fathers of the Spiritual Seed for the Gentiles of all the ages. (6)
The Old Testament then, is the Jews earthly story and the beginnings of a heavenly story for all peoples. Through the Hebrews, and the resulting nation of Israel, God produced a type or an illustration of the Church. The nation of Israel itself, was brought into existence from Jacob’s enslaved descendants in Egypt on the night the death angel passed over the Hebrew homes that had the blood of a lamb daubed on the lintel and door posts . In the Egyptian homes all the first born died. In the Hebrew homes marked by blood, everyone lived. (7)
This is a type of the Lord’s crucifixion. As the Hebrews were protected by the blood daubed about the door, all who are covered by Christ’s blood sacrifice will look to Him and be justified (made righteous) and live forever. (8) Those that do not, though they live for a time on earth, are under an eternal sentence of death.
The Exodus from Egypt is the saga of God’s patient work with an earthly people to whom he gave the Law and the Oracles . Yet despite the Red Sea crossing , the firey pillar, the manna and quail, the rock in the desert that spewed a river of water, the people built an idol at the foot of the mountain while God was writing the 10 commandments on Moses’ tablets of stone (9). The majority in the nation were rebellious unbelievers and because of their failure to believe Joshua and Caleb concerning the promised land, God made them wander in the desert for 40 years until all the adults who had left Egypt had died.
You can read the rest of the story for yourself as the pattern remains the same . In every generation through to the birth of the Messiah, God called only a remnant from the nation of Israel to believe the Gospel of the Messiah’s future saving work on a the Roman cross . These were the Spiritual Seed of Abraham and the remainder of the nation were left in their superstition , idolatry and unbelief.
(2) Genesis 21:13 (3) Genesis 21:12 (4) Romans 9: 11-13 (5) Galations 3:26 (6) Galations 3 24-29
(7) Exodus 12:13 (8)Isaiah 45:2 (9) Exodus 32:1
As to the land, when God promised Abraham the land of Palestine,(10) it was also a type of things to come . It’s true that following the Exodus from Egypt, Joshua more or less conquered the land. But Israel, because of disobedience, had only partial success through the time of the Judges and the Kings. Rebellion and unbelief eventually caused them to be judged for their idolatry and taken into captivity in Babylon.
When Abraham received the land promise he knew that he was not looking for the ultimate fulfillment of the promise on earth (11) . Abraham knew that if Israel as a nation was to bring forth the Messiah, an earthly territory would indeed be necessary, but he also knew that the land was a type of a heavenly kingdom which he would one day see in glory.
God’s promises for an eternal kingdom and eternal rights to the land of Palestine were also made Conditional. (12) If then the condition of obedience was broken what of the promise ? We know from the Biblical record in the prophets , that the majority of the people of Israel rebelled against God, burned their children in the fire to Moloch, worshipped many false Gods and forsook the Gospel. In fact, the prophets were ruthlessly killed because their message was damning to the majority conscience.(13) So God stopped sending prophets 400 years before the Messiah although there was always the Gospel by which a remnant in every generation were saved.
When Jesus did come, the scribes and Pharisees had so modified the Law of Moses and the Gospel, that a whole set of human traditions had been overlaid on top of the Sinai Law perverting its meaning. When you read the Sermon on the Mount, (14) look for all the corrections Jesus made to their errors. They hated him for it, for they had what they wanted ,- respect from men. As far as they were concerned, any and all excuses to reject Jesus’ authority over them were valid.
The crucifixion without doubt is the pivotal point in history. The Old Testament and New Testament are on different sides of the crucifixion, yet they both proclaim that the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ is the same and Jew and Gentile from Abraham to the last trumpet are now members of the Bride of Christ – the Church.
When Jesus died the veil of the temple, the heavy curtain through which only one priest per year passed to offer sacrificial blood for atonement, was ripped by God the Father from the top to the bottom because a Holy of Holies was no longer needed. The Priesthood of the Believer had been established .
At the resurrection, the Hebrew nation and all the ceremonial law depicting Jesus’ sacrifice were also finished . The nation through sovereign Providence had fulfilled its role all the way from Abraham to the cross. In 70 AD the Roman General Titus
(10) Psalm 105: 6-11 (11) Hebrews 11: 8-10 (12) Deuteronomy 30: 15-20 (13) Hebrews 11: 36-40
destroyed the last vestiges of the nation and its religion by slaughtering the inhabitants of Jerusalem and destroying the temple completely .
The Lord predicted this would happen for with His ascension to his Heavenly throne and the sending of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, the “Israel of God” was now proclaimed a spiritual kingdom. There was no further need of earthly types. The Nation of Israel had fulfilled the purpose for which God had brought it into existence in the land of Palestine and it is now gone forever. The Bible needs no other support, but it is significant, that some important sects who are current followers of Judaism agree that God has never recalled Israel, to the land.
At Pentecost , as Jesus promised, the followers of Christ were visited by the Holy Spirit and empowered . In one day 3000 souls from many nations and tongues were converted to begin spreading the message out across the world .
The apostles, those that had been chosen by the Lord, and Paul who had been under the Lord’s instruction in the third heaven, are our best authority on just how to view these events. They interpret the Old Testament in many passages of the New Testament. The literal depictions of the Old Testament then, should never be imposed on the New Testament . The prophets knew and accepted the Gospel of the coming Messiah, but when they did prophesy the future, they saw only shadows and types. The New Testament apostles therefore interpret with authority the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies and their interpretation declares that the Lord now reigns in His Kingdom in heaven (15) and that the time that has elapsed since his ascension are the days prophesied by the prophet Joel. (16) The next and final event we can anticipate is the Last Trumpet – His Second Coming, where ALL the dead of ALL ages will be raised to stand before him.(17)
So what of the Jews ? Is God finished with them?
Following the destruction of Jerusalem by Titus the Jews were dispersed throughout the nations . They clung to the memory of their Old Testament privilege and based on portions of Old Testament scripture called the Talmud, they founded the religion of Judaism . Over the centuries their have been many conversions to Judaism among non-Semite peoples . So who among the Jews today, are Abraham’s natural seed? I am sure there are many, but not one of them is able to trace his lineage with any certainty to the Jews of Jesus time. Therefore any self-proclaimed racial identity is a voluntary willingness to be associated with either the religion of Judaism, the present Jewish culture or the political movement Zionism.
Nevertheless, Paul the apostle in Romans 11 says that God still has plans for the descendants from Abraham’s natural seed. But do not make the mistake of equating Jews with the former nation of Israel or any present counterfeit. Paul prophesies in the book of Romans that one day the Jews will recognize their Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ, and will turn en masse to Him in repentance and faith .(18)
(14) Matthew 5 (15) Acts 2: 29-35 (16) Acts 2:14-21 (17) 1 Thessalonians 4: 16-17 (18) Romans 11:26
He also says that this event will strengthen and encourage the Church world wide and that this will all come to pass during this present Kingdom Age . (19)
This knowledge does not define the day or the hour of the second Coming but the Holy Spirit through Paul does promise that God will save his people the Jews before Jesus returns. As in every age, there has been a remnant of believing Jews and so there will be again. The Jews as individual persons will be converted wherever they are on the earth and their conversion grafts them into the Church, the Bride of Christ and the Heavenly Kingdom.
The land of Palestine or the current nation of Israel is irrelevant to the fulfillment of this prophecy. None of the New Testament writers make any reference to a re-gathered Jewry in the land of Palestine. The apostles agree with Abraham that they look for a heavenly Kingdom which is far better than an earthly one.(20) Admittedly this is an argument from their silence, but the New Testament writers were all Jews and they were under pressure from the Jews who were certain that the Gospel of Jesus Christ was bent on destroying their religion. Surely, under the circumstances, if national Israel was to be a factor in the future, the apostles would have mentioned it.
So how should this impact your view of the present tragedy in Palestine ?
Using the Nazi Holocaust for all its worth and more, the Zionist movement has persuaded much of the western world to hold their peace while they carry out “ethnic cleansing” on the Palestinians, wholesale expulsions from their historic lands, and acts of aggression against neigboring Arab nations — all in the name of a resurgent nation of Israel.
If the historical perspective in this paper is correct, many Christians are in real danger of being complicit in quietly accepting the Zionist Program for reasons that are not Biblical. The Zionists are not Joshua cleansing the land under God’s specific instructions; Orthodox Jews who have lived peacefully for centuries in the land of Palestine, oppose Israel because they have no confidence that God has ended the Diaspora ; …and finally, the Lord Jesus Christ has given us the Sermon on the Mount to guide us in our behavior and all Christians should therefore be compelled by conscience to advocate a peaceful compromise that foundationally, establishes true democracy and human rights for all ?
(19) Romans 11: 32-33 (20) Hebrews 11: 8-10
Over the last 4 or 5 years of talking with Christian Zionists I have discovered that they have not the remotest objection to racism, barring anti-Semitism, that is. Of course the very anti-Semitic nature of much of the theology behind Christian Zionism seems to go unscrutinised by the vast majority of those who hold to this novel and unbiblical idea.
In general Christian Zionists are not interested in large scale conversions of Jews in Israel to the Christian faith. This is because by becoming Christian, Jewish people are no-longer Jewish and if this occurred at a magnitude anything close to a national level; it would mean the end of the Jewish State. Christian Zionists abhor this concept. Without a Jewish state their end-times prophecy schedule lies in tatters!
Christian Zionists require that Israel be a non-Christian, Jewish state. This is somewhat ironic since the theologians of history who did predict a literal revival of the nation of Israel held to a belief that Jews must first convert to Christianity before reclaiming the Holy Land. They did this because they recognised (unlike todays Christian Zionists) that Jewish reclamation of Israel was not unconditional and that a rebellious Jewish people could never retake Israel on account of the covenant they made with God as described clearly in the Old Testament. They understood that the Jewish people were in exile because of their sins and I guess, in the minds of those Christian teachers who believed in a revival of literal Israel back then, they thought that mass conversion to Christianity was the necessary act of repentance required for it to be ok for the Jews to retake Israel as a nation.
All of these arguments are ignored by Christian Zionists today. Christian Zionist also believe that when Christ does return, the Jews in Israel will have to decide whether or not they will accept Him as the Messiah. If they do not, they will be cast into the lake of fire, if they do accept Him they will be saved. It is generally assumed that the vast majority of Jews will not accept Christ and hence will be cast into Hell. Somehow the Jews alive at the coming of Christ will at least get a chance to choose, those who have persihed before the final return will not get this privilege. Seems it pays to be born in the right part of history!
Getting back to the racism issue, I believe the position I hold to is ethically far sounder than the Christian Zionist belief system. I consider ALL racism to be equally abhorrent regardless of the circumstances pertaining to who is the victim and who is the perpetrator. A state where Arabs discriminate against Jews is equally repugnant to a state where Jews discriminate against Arabs. The ethnic cleansing of Arabs from Palestine will not be justly dealt with by the ethnic cleansing of Jews from Israel. Such a situation will only inflame conflict in the world.
Martin Luther King’s vision of a world of equality where a man is judged on his character, and not on his ethnic background, is not a vision shared by Christian Zionists. In their way of thinking, if Arabs are displaced and dispossessed in order to make a Jewish state a reality, then bring it on! This twisted ethic is not shared by God and is explicitly condemned in the Old Testament Scriptures in dozens of places.
The ethical bankruptcy of Christian Zionism with regard to its attitude to racism is a major stumbling block for me. The Zionist dream of an Israeli state that is both owned by Jews and democratic for all its inhabitants, is a contradiction in terms. If the fact of Jewish ownership of Israel were not a source of discrimination against non-Jews living in Israel, then why do the Zionists so passionately demand that Israel be a Jewish state? What purpose does it serve for Israel to be a Jewish state if it conveys no advantage to Jews over non-Jews living in Israel? If Israel did not discriminate against non-Jews in Israel in any way at all, then why the determination for Israel to be a Jewish state?
When I visited Israel last year, I spoke to a representative from the Israeli trade union Histadrut. She told me the reason that Israel must be a Zionist state was that Israel was the only way to protect Jewish culture and way of life. How Jews had managed to keep their culture and way of life intact for the last two thousand years (even surviving the Holocaust) and how the 50% of Jews outside of Israel today have managed without a Zionist state, was not explained to me. I doubt that it can be explained.
Martin Luther once said, “If I knew that the world were to end tomorrow, I would plant a tree.” Luther’s attitude to end times prophecy sums up the proper response to the reality of God’s final plan for creation in both the Christian and Jewish traditions. In these traditions human responsibility toward others is not to be abrogated by falling in to the trap of fatalistic indifference. Unambiguous portents of the imminent judgement of God, if indeed they exist, are not meant to be greeted by the faithful with cries of self righteous, pitiless joy over the fate of those deemed to be on the “wrong” side. Scripture tells us that we must not rejoice in the destruction of our foes no matter how much we feel they deserve it.
I would rephrase Luther’s statement to become: “Even if I knew that the current Zionist state of Israel was an unambiguous portent of Christ’s return, I would still fight for the rights of Palestinians to live in Israel-Palestine with full equality and seek justice for the wrongs done to them by the Zionist state. I would still resist the apartheid policies of the Zionist state and pray for the end of Zionist rule in Israel.”
Christian responsibility is always about trying to make today’s world a better place than it was yesterday. We are to work to make the world better, not just try an save some out of the world while we sit and wait for the end to come. Christian Zionist doctrines that teach that the world must necessarily come to a hideous end before Christ’s final return have inspired many to fatalism, indifference and even outright war mongering. If the world must come to a divinely ordained cataclysm, why should we care about doing anything to help the environment or ending the arms race? The most we can expect from the advocates of such doomsday prophecies is endless threats of judgment intended to win us over to their fatalistic ideologies in order for us to be saved out of this world as it goes into oblivion.
Three thousand years of Jewish religious tradition reveal that Jewish identity is centered on ones acceptance of the ethical and religious traditions of the Torah. Traditions that demand equal treatment between Jew and gentile. Traditions that transcend the place of ones birth. Judaism’s essential nature is God centered, not nation centered. A Jew can be faithful to the revelation of Torah regardless of whether one was born or lives in Israel or not. The end game is about what is in one’s heart, not about what nation you live in.
The nature of prophecy in the Bible has always been far more about God’s desire to see justice prevail in today’s world rather than some type of soothsaying concerning future events. Jewish tradition is replete with stories of conflict between those who think that being Jewish is about nationalism and those who think Jewishness is about living with God’s law in your heart. The Jewish quest for nationhood outside of God’s commandments is a sure way to disaster for the Jewish people. Just as God resists salvation by works in the Christian tradition, so in the Jewish tradition does God resist the Jewish people in the land of Israel outside the ethical and religious traditions of the Torah.
God’s plan for the current Zionist state of Israel is His business. Our responsibility is to live up to the divinely ordained mandate for us to do justice for all peoples and walk humbly with our God. In this venture I have come across numerous secular activists that have been far more in line with God’s heart for the oppressed in Israel-Palestine than any number of devout Christian Zionists.