Question: Who said the following: ”Israel has no better friends in the world than Christian Zionists. This is a friendship of the heart, a friendship of common roots, and a friendship of common civilisation.”
It wasn’t a pastor at a local church. It was Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu speaking at a conference of American evangelicals in Jerusalem in April 2008.
In a 2008 poll taken in the US, more than 80 per cent of Christians stated that they had a ‘‘moral and biblical’’ obligation to love, pray and support Israel, while 62 per cent of evangelicals said that Jerusalem should remain Israel’s undivided capital.
I recall witnessing the waves of love when 400 Christians, representing more than 10 organisations, gathered two years ago in Melbourne for a Stand with Israel evening. The affection for Israel was palpable. Shorn of Christian signs such as the cross, the event featured Israeli dancing and songs, banners, waving of the Israeli flag, a pep-rally eruption of cheers and standing ovations for Israel, and speeches praising and praying for the Jewish people. Particularly striking was an apology offered by an elderly German woman to the Jewish people for the evil perpetrated by the Nazis and one by a pastor for anti-semitism.
Such words of contrition are not often heard.
Baffling? Only to those who don’t understand a controversial end-time theology that began in 19th century Britain and which divides history into eras (dispensations). According to this theology, Israel’s creation and the 1967 war were galvanising signs that God’s hand moves in history and the clock of prophecy had started up again. Driven by a literal interpretation that prophesies Israel’s establishment as a prelude to the second coming of Jesus, tens of millions are now convinced they are living in the final days as described in the Book of Revelation. They are often called Christian Zionists.
This intense passion was given a boost with the publication of Hal Lindsey’s 1970’s blockbuster book The Late Great Planet and continues today with Tim LaHaye’s prophetic Left Behind Series that has sold 70 million copies.
A review of the recently released documentary Waiting for Armageddon explains the four stages:
1) The Rapture, when, in a microsecond, all true believers, living and dead, will be transported into the clouds with Jesus.
2) The Tribulation, during which untold horrendous catastrophes, ecological and man-made, will rain down upon those haplessly left behind;
3) Armageddon, when Christ will return with a sword to judge the sinners and defeat the Antichrist, who will be placed in a bottomless pit for 1000 years.
4) The Millennium, encompassing the 1000-year reign of heaven on earth reserved for Christ and his followers (along with 144,000 converted Jews).
Standing with Israel guarantees evangelicals that they will be on God’s side when the Battle of Armageddon occurs in Megiddo, Israel. This occurs after the Antichrist is released from his imprisonment, recruits the armies of Gog and Magog and attacks the New Jerusalem. In the final battle, it should be noted, most Jews are wiped out and the rest embrace Christ after he defeats the Antichrist and throws him into the Lake of Fire or Gehena. Jews who don’t accept Jesus are condemned to eternal damnation, while Christians ascend to heaven.
Gershom Goremberg, author of the book The End of Days, is unsure about the evangelicals’ affection. He explains the evangelical attitudes towards Jews as: ”We love you and want you to give up what is most basic to your identity.”
Historical examples of Christian Zionists include William Blackstone, author of Jesus is Coming, who organised a petition for restoring Palestine to the chosen people, Lord Balfour and his 1917 declaration promising a homeland for the Jewish in Palestine and President Harry S. Truman and his support for US recognition of Israel despite the objections of the American State Department.
Indeed, an increasing number emphasise that Christian Zionism is based on the biblical promise that God will bless those who bless the Jews, and curse those who curse the Jews. For many, at a time when Israel faces the threat of nuclear threat from Iran and global anti-semitism is on the rise, biblical motives count for little.
To properly understand the level of evangelical devotion to Israel, one only has to mention the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, which has raised $US250,000,000 ($A277,000,000) for various projects in Israel. The Joshua Fund, an evangelical organisation aims to marshal more than $100 million to fund projects for health, immigrant integration, education and victims of terrorism in Israel.
Yet, there are those who feel a discomfort with this backing. Televangelist Pat Robertson, a leading Christian Zionist said at the time of Ariel Sharon’s stroke that Sharon was being punished for withdrawing from Gaza and ”dividing God’s land”. Jerry Falwell, regarded as the father of the movement in the US, described the Antichrist as being Jewish. John Hagee, John McCain’s pastor, who organises an annual Night to Honour Israel and heads Christians United for Israel, wrote in his 1996 book that the assassination of Yitzak Rabin ”launched biblical prophecy onto the fast track” and has made several offensive remarks about Jews.
An Israeli journalist noted that this extending of a hand in friendship is offered in good faith and that the ”ancient tribal instinct to slap that hand away” is an unwise one. Christians United For Israel executive director David Brog, who last year arranged for 34 Christian students to take part in March of the Living in Poland’s Nazi camps, claims that Christian Zionists are the heirs of the righteous gentiles. His book Standing with Israel: Why Christians Support the Jewish State is fascinating read.
Jews as pawns in a Christian prophecy leading the way to the end-of-days battle? Only if you believe it.
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