John R. Houk
© January 2012
Some might wonder the reasoning of a Christian Right Winger is so committed to the existence of Israel and Jews that internally and globally support the existence of a Jewish State. Then again as part of the Christian Right you might not wonder. In this day and age every Christian (authentic, Progressive or Emerging/Emergent) needs to search their conscience and contemplate their reasons for supporting or hating on Israel.
I am obviously a part of the Christian Right that wears the moniker of a Christian Zionist. Zionists lobbied heavily for the creation of a Jewish State and ultimately for that State to be in the homeland of the heritage that God provided to Jews (Hebrews) as a Promised Land. The British plugged into the Zionist movement during WWI in battling their enemies of Germany, Austro-Hungary and the Ottoman Empire (Turkey). In the case of the Jews that enemy that mattered was the Ottoman Empire which still held a multinational empire in the Middle East. Victory over the Ottoman’s meant that Europe controlled Middle Eastern land as victors in war. Essentially the British and the French took slices of the Middle East with the League of Nations validating that control under the idealism that a Mandatory System would give Middle Eastern people their own nation. Primarily the Middle Eastern people had not known personal sovereignty for centuries due to Ottoman rule. Indeed Middle Eastern Arabs rose up in revolt against the Ottomans under the dream of freedom and sovereignty.
Many Arabs became understandably nationalistic and dreamed of a Pan-Arab nation. Unfortunately for the Pan-Arabists the Brits and the French had no intention of allowing one huge Arab nation to exist in the Middle East. Hence the Mandatory system was utilized to play on the tribalistic thinking of Muslim Arabs and offered kingdoms to Sheiks; i.e. essentially to the Muslim families that were the most supportive of the British Army fighting the Ottomans in the Middle East. (It was mostly a British effort in the Middle East during WWI even though the French was given a Mandatory as well.) By playing on the greed for power Britain and France easily carved up the Middle East.
The British Mandate for Palestine’s original intention was for a Jewish State. The British bean to rethink their National Interest position when somebody realized that the Arabs – being good Muslims – were extremely hostile to a largely immigrant Jewish crowd that with the promise of leaving European persecution. So the British tried to slow down the Jewish promise for a return to their homeland to accommodate nationalistic Pan-Arabism.
Well that is the end of my incomplete thoughts on how modern Israel began to emerge.
The point is that Zionism prevailed and Israel came into existence. The irony of the 1948 survival to claim the independence of modern Israel is that a significant amount of Zionist Jews were Left leaning and not necessarily totally observant Jews. The one commonality between Israel’s Left and Right (with the Right largely being religious Jews) was to survive as a nation to avoid the extermination that Hitler’s Nazi Germany attempted to perpetuate on Jews that resulted in nearly SIX MILLION Jewish deaths.
Now let’s be clear that Israel is a Jewish State that also has Christians, Muslims and various Islamic offshoots such as the Druze syncretic religious population. Christians, Muslims and Muslim offshoots are completely free to practice their faith openly without threat of state sanctioned persecution. The drawback is that proselytization is not allowed in Israel.
For a Christian Right person such as me, evangelism is a preeminent part of being a Christian. So question is: Why are there evangelicals that are so supportive of the Jewish State of Israel? The answer is related to the term Christian Zionism.
Let’s look at some thoughts on Christian Zionism
Here is a Jewish perspective from the Jewish Virtual Library:
Christian Zionism can be defined as Christian support for the Zionist cause — the return of the Jewish people to its biblical homeland in Israel. It is a belief among some Christians that the return of Jews to Israel is in line with a biblical prophecy, and is necessary for Jesus to return to Earth as its king. These Christians are partly motivated by the writings of the Bible and the words of the prophets. However, they are also driven to support Israel because they wish to “repay the debt of gratitude to the Jewish people for providing Christ and the other fundamentals of their faith,” and to support a political ally, according to David Brog, author Standing With Israel: Why Christians Support the Jewish State.
Despite their support for Israel, many Jews however, are uncomfortable with Christian Zionists. This discomfort is fed by Christian anti-Semitism, Christian replacement theology, evangelical proselytizing, and disagreements over domestic and political issues.
Dispensationalist Christianity, an interpretive or narrative framework for understanding the overall flow of the Bible, teaches that Christianity did not replace Judaism, but that it restored lost elements of it. The dispensationalist view of the Bible is that the Old Testament is foreshadowing for what will occur in the New Testament and, at the end, Jesus returns to reign on Earth after an epic battle between good and evil. Israel plays a central role in the dispensationalist view of the end of the world. The establishment of Israel in 1948 was seen as a milestone to many dispensationalists on the path toward Jesus’ return. In their minds, now that the Jews again had regained their homeland, all Jews were able to return to Israel, just as had been prophesied in the Bible. As described in the Book of Revelation, there is an epic battle that will take place in Israel after it is reestablished — Armaggedon — in which it is prophesied that good will finally triumph over evil. However, in the process, two-thirds of the Jews in Israel die and the other third are converted to Christianity. Jesus then returns to Earth to rule for 1,000 years as king.
Although these Christians do hope for a Messianic age, the majority of them do not wish for the deaths of thousands of Jews during Armageddon. Dispensationalist Christians believe that the Jewish people, not Christians, are the ones who were promised Israel in the Bible. In their view, Christianity did not come into existence to replace Judaism, but to restore it. This view has surpassed replacement theology as the dominant form of Christian thought regarding Israel in America today. Jews who are suspicious of Christian Zionist motives are usually unaware that many Christian supporters of Israel have abandoned replacement theology.
Aside from anti-Semitism and Christian replacement theology, many Jews are wary of the fact that many evangelical Christians simply want to convert them to Christianity or speed up the Second Coming of Christ …
Christian Zionists say Jews have no reason to distrust their motives for supporting Israel because they do not believe they can speed up the Second Coming of Christ. In the Gospel of Matthew, it is written that Jesus said about his return, “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only.”
Christian Zionists are also more conservative on Israel than many Jews. They favor Israel maintaining all of its settlements in the West Bank, and were opposed to the Israeli disengagement from the Gaza Strip. Some prominent Christian Zionists have been highly critical of Israeli government policy of giving over parts of Israel to the Palestinian people. Christian Zionists, like followers of the Israeli Right, believe that Israel should never cede any section of Israel to the Palestinians because Israel was given to the Jews by God. … (Read the entire JVL article)
It is important to understand that not all Jews are on board with Christian Zionism. The organized Christian Church has a long history of persecution against Jews. Jews are proud of their heritage whether Liberal or religious, have nearly no interest in listening to a proselytizing message from a Christian.
Part Two: Christian Zionism
In the previous segment we looked at the question “What is Zionism?” and simply defined it as the biblical promises and prophecies made by God to the Jewish patriarchs that their descendants would occupy the Promised Land, what the world today calls Palestine, forever. Today we are going to look at the question:
“What is Christian Zionism?”
You may never have heard of it before. Christian Zionism is a movement resulting from the Bible, mainly among Gentile Christians who share this interpretation and this vision of God being faithful to all His covenants; including the covenant He made with Abraham so long ago. We have been convinced by God to support this modern return, this latest and final return of the Jewish people to the Promised Land; by our prayers and fervent intercession and with our finances, actions and energies. (From webpage – Christian Zionism)
The above quote is from a very informative website.
I have got to post this article on Christian Zionism Defined by the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem which is re-posted at ZionismOnTheWeb.org. This is a succinct explanation of Christian Zionism:
Christian Zionism Defined
Tens of thousands of churches, and literally tens of millions Christians in the USA have a committed belief in the importance of standing with Israel and blessing the Jewish people. The verse most often referred to as their biblical mandate is Genesis 12:3 in which God tells Abraham “I will bless those who bless you and I will curse those who curse you and in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.”
Since the birth of the State of Israel in 1948 the theological error known as Replacement Theology has begun to decline and increasing is a theology of Christian Zionism that understands the importance of God’s everlasting covenant with Abraham and the nation he would birth.
However, just as the term “Zionism” has been turned into a negative word by Israel’s enemies, so “Christian Zionism” is under attack and often misrepresented in the media and in some public discourse. For this reason, the ICEJ’s articles and monographs defining and clarifying the beliefs of Christian supporters of Israel and placing their “love for Israel” within its proper biblical context are proving invaluable.
“Zionism, [is] the national movement for the return of the Jewish people to their homeland and the resumption of Jewish sovereignty in the Land of Israel, advocated, from its inception, tangible as well as spiritual aims. Jews of all persuasions, left and right, religious and secular, joined to form the Zionist movement and worked together toward these goals. Disagreements led to rifts, but ultimately, the common goal of a Jewish state in its ancient homeland was attained. The term “Zionism” was coined in 1890 by Nathan Birnbaum.” (Jewish Virtual Library).
If Zionism is the belief in the Jewish peoples right to return to their homeland, then a Christian Zionist should simply be defined as a Christian who supports the Jewish peoples right to return to their homeland. Under this broad and simple definition, many Christians would qualify no matter what their reasons are for this support. Just as Jews of all persuasions formed the Zionist movement then Christians of all persuasion can also fall within this broad definition of a Christian Zionist.
For this very reason, a myriad of answers may be given by a Christian when questioned about their support of Israel. Answers can include political, historical, and/or religious reasons. For example, see our article Why We Support Israel.
Theology of Christian Zionism
The actual theology of Christian Zionism, also known as Biblical Zionism, supports the right of the Jewish people to return to their homeland on scriptural grounds. The biblical foundation for Christian Zionism is found in Gods Covenant with Abraham. It was in this covenant that God chose Abraham to birth a nation through which He could redeem the world, and to do this He bequeathed them a land on which to exist as this chosen nation.
Christian Zionism is confirmed throughout the Hebrew Scriptures. The major and minor prophets consistently confirmed this national calling on Israel, promised her future restoration to the land after a period of exile, and spoke of her spiritual renewal and redemption bringing light to the world.
Christian Zionism differs with Replacement Theology which teaches that the special relationship that Israel had with her God in terms of her national destiny and her national homeland has been lost because of her rejection of Jesus as Messiah, and therefore the Church has become the new Israel. The Church has then inherited all the blessings promised to Israel but the judgments and curses still conveniently remain over the Jewish people.
Instead, Christian Zionism teaches from the scriptures that Gods covenant with Abraham is still valid today. There remains a national destiny over the Jewish people and her national homeland is her everlasting possession in fulfillment of Gods plans and purposes for her. The New Testament scriptures not only affirm the Abrahamic covenant, but they confirm the historical mission of Israel and that Israels gifts and calling are irrevocable.
Most Christian Zionists would agree that Israels reemergence on the worlds scene, in fulfillment of Gods promises to her, indicate that other biblically-predicted events will follow. However, Christian Zionism is not based on prophecy or end-time events. It is based on Gods promises and calling – which are irrevocable. (The end of the article has several links to information on Christian Zionism)
Now here is my thing on being a Christian Zionist. If a Jewish person desires to know about Jesus I am more than willing to share the Gospel so that a Jewish person can KNOW Jesus – personally; however I believe evangelizing Jews is not a profitable action. The Jews – who are God’s Chosen People – will know Jesus by the Lord’s own Divine action. How that plays out, I do not have a clue.
Perhaps in the Last Days when Israel is in trouble of destruction without some kind supernatural help, the Lord Jesus Christ will reveal Himself as the King of the Jews of the line of David and as the Son of God. Or perhaps at Christ’s return with his angels and Saints at the end of the Tribulation period when the Thousand Year Reign of King Jesus is established in which the remnant of living Gentiles and Jews who have not Believed will now know Jesus is King, the head of government of the true New World Order. Undoubtedly the power of the Lord’s return will create instant respect for the authority of Jesus to rule as the head of One World Government; however it will take a training period of One Thousand Years to allow a heart belief in Jesus as Lord and Savior.
It is after the 1000 year training period that Satan will be released from chains. Satan will work his temptation on the humans of planet earth and some will join Satan’s army. The end of the Book tells us Satan loses in that final battle and he is cast into the lake of fire with the anti-Christ and the False Prophet to exist in eternal burning with bodily consumption. Those humans committed to reject life in Christ before the Parousia and after will join Satan in the lake of fire.
By the time of the creation of the New Heavens and the New Earth with the New Jerusalem as the dwelling place of God’s presence all things will be new and there will be division of Jew and Gentile. The point being, from a Christian perspective, the Jews will discover their Messiah supernaturally and accept His Presence.
Now here is a little personal rumor history. When I was a teenager my Grandmother told me a Jewish ancestry existed in my heritage to go along with my German and English strains. Now she told me this in hush-hush terms as if she was embarrassed to share this with me. I thought it odd at the time that she spoke of my ancestors in such a hushed tone. At the time I could care less because my prime directive was to have fun and party in the small college town – Washington State – I grew up in.
As I grew older and became a Christian I thought on that day of my Grandmother’s hushed information Jewish blood in my veins. If it is true, I had a sense of pride rather than embarrassment. I understand my Grandmother’s close-to-the-vest attitude because she was a kid in the days in which a Jew was frowned upon even in America.
Whether my Jewish lineage is true or not, I could not say. I never pursued an ancestry chart, mostly because it has never been in my budget. I might try to get someone to work on that for me some day, but I don’t have time currently. At any rate the potential of a Jewish ancestry increases my position as a Christian Zionist.