"a movement, largely among Gentile Christians, supporting the right of the Jewish people to return to the Promised Land which has, of course, happened right before our eyes during this century"
Following are two essays written in preparation for the Fourth International Christian Congress on Biblical Zionism, which will convene in Jerusalem on 19-22 February 2001 under the sponsorship of the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem.
Sustaining Israel Through Biblical FaithAs we assemble for this Fourth International Christian Congress on Biblical Zionism at the start of a new century, the Jewish people and their Christian friends can proudly point to many stunning successes for the Zionist movement over the past 100 years. On balance, the restored nation of Israel stands today as the main focal point of Jewish values and endeavours; a vibrant, stable democracy; a powerful military presence, and a model of technology-driven economic development.
But the impressive achievement of a Jewish state in Eretz Israel - realized only through great determination and sacrifice - seems yet to be fully consolidated, as the nation remains under assault from formidable adversaries both without and within.
Despite decades spent earnestly pursuing peace, Israel is beset once again by armed Arab aggression and conceivably could be forced at any moment to re-fight the wars of 1967 and even 1948. The unrelenting threats of Palestinian nationalism and radical Islam have slowly depleted Israeli resolve. Their draining effect is compounded by the sympathy these forces have been able to attract from world leaders and the media. And their destructive zeal is unabated: Fanatical Muslim clerics now have come to rationalize and preach the continuing Return to Zion as the means for "Allah" to more easily annihilate the Jews in one place with one final blow.
No less challenging is the growing domestic influence in Israel of "post-Zionism", a revisionist approach that erodes at the historical and spiritual foundations of the Jewish state. The impulse to establish a state for Jewish preservation and empowerment found wide acceptance throughout much of the twentieth century, and especially after the Holocaust. But leading Israeli intellectuals now contend that political Zionism was inherently flawed at its conception and patently unjust in its implementation. The "new historians" deliberately subvert established Zionist history with a version that assesses blame on the Jewish people for the suffering and dispossession of Palestinian Arabs, among other ills. Some have gone so far as to suggest that Jews in medieval times were partly responsible for the hatred and atrocities visited upon them by Christians. These elitist views undermine Israel's national and moral right to exist, feed Arab and other brands of vicious anti-Semitism, and even dare to question the moral basis of Judaism.
We read daily of Israel's external struggle against the malicious diplomacy of the Arab/Islamic world and constant vigilance in confronting armed militias and terrorists. But few outside Israel and certain Jewish circles are fully aware yet of the corrosive inroads post-Zionism has made on Israeli society and particularly within its political echelons.
Among scholars of note, Yoram Hazony has ably charted the clash between post-Zionism and traditional Zionist thinking in his new book entitled The Jewish State: The Struggle for Israel's Soul. The author recounts how Theodor Herzl, founder of the Zionist movement, issued the call for a reborn Jewish commonwealth in answer to the twin perils of anti-Semitism and assimilation. He saw the desperate need for a safe haven for persecuted Jews languishing in the "Pale" of Russia and Eastern Europe. And no less important, the secular Herzl also concluded the promise of emancipation in Western Europe had failed to deliver true equality even to assimilated Jews. Thus Jewish survival depended on revived Jewish sovereignty. Empowerment through statehood would ensure not only personal security for endangered Jews, but also provide "an internal security of the soul" - a place where Jews could once more pursue with dignity a noble Jewish civilization. This was the Jewish State faithfully founded by David Ben-Gurion in Eretz Israel.
However, the conceptual basis of Israel's existence today would undergo a radical transformation in the hands of the post-Zionists. Israel would no longer be a Jewish state, but "a state of its citizens." The nation would relinquish its Jewish character and mission in favor of universally accepted democratic principles. Israel would become a state like any other state - an assimilation by other means.
Nothing could be considered safe or sacred in the drive for integration. In recent years, the symbols of the Jewish state - the Menorah, the Star of David, the national anthem "Hatikvah" - have all been targeted. Israel's most fundamental edict, the Law of Return, has been under assault as too nationalistic and racist. Even the accuracy of the Hebrew Bible - the Jewish title deed to the Land - has been openly questioned by those seeking freedom from the weight of being a "Chosen" people awaiting a promised Messiah.
Though small in number, the post-Zionists have demonstrated a remarkable ability to impact decisions of state throughout the Oslo peace process. When former US President Bill Clinton recently tabled his "outline of principles" for concluding a permanent status arrangement with the Palestinians, Israel's then-Foreign Minister Shlomo Ben-Ami oddly proclaimed that, with his government's accept-ance of these proposals, "we have seen the end of territorial Zionism."
Perhaps the best example of the interplay of these internal and external threats to Israel's existence is seen in proposals to re-divide Jerusalem and place the Temple Mount under Palestinian sovereignty. A billion Muslims, we are told, are ready to wage a global jihad if Israel elects to retain the "Haram as-Sharif." To avoid this calamity, the present Jewish generation is being asked to become the first and only generation in 3000 years to voluntarily and permanently sever the Jewish people from their ancient and profound attachment to the Temple Mount. The post-Zionists consider the site a mere symbol, at best, and thus expendable. The reported response of Prime Minister Ehud Barak was to suggest giving the Palestinians control over the surface of the Mount, while the treasured remains of the former Jewish temples would be indefinitely buried in time. Yet for many Jews, in Israel and the Diaspora, this would entail nothing less than the forfeiture of their hope and longing for ultimate redemption.
Has Zionism run its course?
In examining these and other pressing questions and concerns at this
Christian Congress on Biblical Zionism, it is encouraging to know that,
ultimately, the destiny of Israel and the Jewish people remains firmly in
the hands of the sovereign God of Israel and is revealed in the pages of
His inspired Word. Our Zionism is certain and just when it is anchored in
biblical principles and promises that are unfailing. We are called to look
beyond the momentary strength or cleverness of Israel's enemy or the
evolving political and intellectual debate inside the Jewish nation.
Rather, we are to see with eyes of faith that God is at work among His
people, to yield in them a nation that fears Him and seeks to know and
faithfully pursue their unique and appointed end. As the Psalmist declares,
"Deep calls unto deep."
CHRISTIAN ZIONISMThe Christian Zionist Movement has grown in numbers and in impact in recent years. Today, thousands of Christians from all over the world are, more than ever, ready to declare their love and support for the nation of Israel. Each year they come in their multitudes to Jerusalem to join the International Christian Celebration of the Feast of Tabernacles. Naturally, a growing movement of this nature attracts attention and many honest enquirers are seeking an answer as to what constitutes Christian Zionism. Is it, as many claim, a political movement, or is it firmly based on the teachings of God's Word? Does it have a history and, if so, who have been its leaders and supporters? In this article we shall endeavour to answer those questions and others besides.
The Foundation of Christian ZionismChristian Zionism is firmly founded upon the teaching of God's Word. It is, therefore, not a political movement, but since it has to do with a land and a particular people it may, from time to time, agree with a certain political perspective. This does not mean that it endorses a particular political philo-sophy or party. No, it is only prepared to endorse the Word of God and as such it may also be called "biblical Christian Zionism".
Christian Zionism seeks to declare the truth of God's word that bequeaths to the people of Israel the Land of Canaan as an everlasting possession. This promise was made by God to Abraham some four thousand years ago (Genesis 13:14-18). Moreover, the promise was reiterated time and time again and stressed that loss of domicile, because of rebellion and disobedience, would not mean loss of possession (Deuter-onomy 30:1-6). The God who exiled the Jewish People on two occasions- 586 B.C. and 70 A.D.- has always prom-ised to bring them back and restore their fortunes (Jeremiah 31:10 and Isaiah 11:11). All this because of His promise to Abraham.
Christian Zionists seek to declare this, for here we witness the faithfulness of God, namely that He keeps His covenant and His Word, which will always be veri-fied in the crucible of history. This is chiefly discernible in His dealing with the Jewish people. Someone described this people as "God's test tube nation wherein His Word and promise have been put to the test."
From time to time Christian Zionists have been upbraided for leaning too heavily upon the Old Testament for verification of their stand and belief. However, the biblical foundation of Christian Zionism is also found in the New Testament.
Firstly, Jesus Himself spoke of the scat-tering and latter-day regathering of the Jewish people (Luke 21:23-24). Indeed, He placed their second regathering in an eschatological setting (Luke 21:28). Thus Christian Zionists simply seek to give voice to that which Jesus Himself has already said; namely, that the modern-day restoration of the State of Israel is not a political accident, or merely the result of a secular, political, Zionist movement, but rather the fulfilment of God's own Word. More-over, it heralds the dawn of a soon-coming Messianic age. For Christian Zionists then the restoration of the State of Israel to its ancient soil is evidence that there is hope and redemption for this world. To support Israel (Genesis 12:3), comfort Israel (Isaiah 40:1-2) and pray for her peace (Psalm 122:6; Isaiah 62:6-7) is to work in harmony with God.
Christian Zionism is a commitment to be involved with that which God Himself is doing in the world. Above all, it is not anti-Arab for this would be evil and contrary to God's Word. No, it recog-nises that as God has separate roles for those in marriage (Ephesians 5:21-33), He also has a separate role for certain nations as seen in the wonderful words of Isaiah 19:23-25: "In that day shall there be a highway out of Egypt to Assyria, and the Assyrian shall come into Egypt, and the Egyptian into Assyria, and the Egyptians shall serve with the Assyrians. In that day shall Israel be the third with Egypt and with Assyria, even a blessing in the midst of the land: Whom the Lord of hosts shall bless, saying, Blessed be Egypt my people, and Assyria the work of my hands, and Israel mine inheritance." So then, to recognise the role that God has given to Israel (Isaiah 60:1-3) does not mean that we hate or are prejudiced against the Arab peoples.
A family unit functions better when each person assumes their God-given role. When this is not true, chaos and confusion always abound. In like manner, the chaos, confusion and disharmony in the Middle East would come to an end if the nations in the area would accept the unique role that God has given to Israel. This role is to be a light of God's revelation to the world and a doorway through which He can establish His reign of peace over the world (Zechariah 14:16-21).
A False Re-interpretationSecondly, Christian Zionists wish to re-emphasize the teaching of Paul in Romans 9-11. Neglect of these crucial passages has led to the unbiblical teaching of replacement theology. This teaching removes from the Jewish nation any national future and stresses that the Church has replaced Israel and has inherited all the blessings promised to her. The curses conveniently still apply to Israel. In Romans 11 partic-ularly, Paul refutes this error and says just the opposite (Romans 11:17-28).
Unfortunately the Church, being more concerned with her own interests, has failed historically to heed these clear warnings and the result has been arrogance, pride and anti-Semitism. There is a clear link between anti-Semitism and the Church over the centuries of history, and Replacement Theology has made a major contri-bution to this evil.
The role then that Replacement Theology has played in undermining one of the greatest acts of God in our time is great. Israel has returned home in anticipation of the birth of the Messian-ic Age- of Messiah's rule. The Scrip-tures speak everywhere of this soon-coming age and always in the context of it being preceded by a return of Israel to the Land of their forefathers (Joel 4:18-21).
The fact then that large segments of the Church have been led away by Replace-ment Theology from playing a mean-ing-ful part in this great process is sad, to say the least, especially in view of the fact that Scripture also warns of a great conflict surrounding Zion's return and the coming of Messiah. Great "birth pangs" will shake the Middle East as the forces of darkness attempt to frustrate the coming of the age of righteousness. Because of this, God needs "all hands on deck" in order to outrun the storm (Isaiah 62:6-7). Sadly, many hands are not "on deck" because they see no significance in these events.
Christian Zionists worldwide have "seen them" and are prepared by means of prayer, comfort and practical engage-ment to ensure the survival and tri-umph of Israel. We must in no way minimize the battle in this regard. Yet, at the same time, since the cause of Christian Zionism is biblical, the battle also will be a just and rewarding one. No wonder when God called Israel into existence through Abraham, He de-clared that "they who bless you will be blessed and they who curse you will be cursed" (Genesis 12:3).
One of the factors that led to the birth of Replacement Theology was an historic one. This teaching was birthed at a time when Israel as a nation was in disper-sion. The Land of Canaan was barren, infertile and her cities, especially Jerusalem, were mere desert outposts. The devastation was complete and it seemed beyond belief that the Land could ever again be restored to its former glory.
The impossibility of the situation led to a false re-interpretation of God's Word. Christendom has since paid the price. For God confounded her unbelief in 1948 with the restoration of the State of Israel and exposed the tragic and wicked fruits of Replacement Theo-logy. Christian Zionists are determined to proclaim the truth of the New Testament, namely that God is not finished with Israel and that, in fact, she will yet become a "cornerstone" of His plan for the world.
Thirdly, Christian Zionists recognise with sorrow and repentance the role that many Christians have played in the persecution of the Jewish People. This is even more disturbing since all we love and enjoy as Christians came from them (Romans 9:1-5). In the light of this awful reality they seek to be a blessing and source of comfort to Zion (Isaiah 40:1-2).
The History of Christian ZionismIn a sense, Christian Zionism goes right back to the 1st century period, as there have always been men and women who have believed and taught its tenets. Many examples of this from history could be quoted, but an article of this nature does not allow us to do it. As a definite theology, however, Christian Zionism had its beginnings among the pietistic Protestants of the 16th century and the 17th century Puritans of England. In 1587 a man named Francis Kett was burned alive for expressing his belief that the Bible prophesied a return of the Jews to their land. Moreover, in 1607, Thomas Brightman published a book in Basel called "Revelation of the Revelation". In this book he wrote: "What, shall they return to Jerusalem again? There is nothing more certain; the prophets do everywhere confirm it." Others of the same period frequently expressed a similar belief. For instance, Isaac de la Peyrere (1594-1676), who served as the French Ambassador to Denmark, wrote a book wherein he argued for a restoration of the Jews to Israel without conversion to Christianity.
By the time of the 18th century, the Christian Zionist Movement, known then as the Restoration Movement, included many theologians, writers and politicians. Noteworthy was Thomas Newton, the Bishop of Bristol. He believed Jews would be restored to their native city and country and at the same time he condemned anti-Jewish prejudice. The movement grew with the onset of the French Revolution and the Napoleonic wars.
In the 19th century the movement continu-ed to gather momentum and one of the outstanding personalities in this regard was Anthony Ashley Cooper, Earl of Shaftesbury. He noted in his diaries that the signs were right for the return of the Jews to Palestine. A certain Charles Henry Churchill, a British resident of Damascus, also became a zealous propagator of the creation of a Jewish State in Palestine. In 1841 he wrote a letter to the Jewish philan-thropist Moses Montefiore in which he stated: "...I consider the object to be perfectly obtainable. But, two things are indispensably necessary. Firstly, that the Jews will themselves take up the matter unanimously. Secondly, that the European powers will aid them in their views..."
Another popular figure in the Restoration Movement was George Gawler (1796-1869). He wrote a book in 1845 and in it, concerning the Jewish people, he states that they were to replenish the deserted towns and fields of Palestine.
As the 19th century drew to a close, many prominent men were involved in Christian Zionism. Men like the British industrialist, Edward Cazalet (1827-1883), Lawrence Oliphant (1829-1888), a most active restorationist, and the American, William E. Blackstone. Blackstone was once dubbed the American Christian "Father of Zion-ism". The most interesting Christian Zionist of the period was, however, William H. Hechler (1845-1931). Hechler, Chaplain of the British Em-bassy in Vienna, worked very closely with Theodore Herzl, considered to be the founder and father of the Jewish State. In fact, Hechler dedicated 30 years of his life to the great task of realizing the Zionist goal; the estab-lishment of the Jewish State in Pale-stine. Unfortunately he died only seventeen years before this became a living reality. However, he was privi-leged to attend the First Zionist Con-gress in Basel, Switzerland, in August 1897, at which the foundation stone of the restored Jewish State was laid.
The 20th century saw the Zionist dream come true as a direct fulfilment of God's prophetic word. Sadly, some tragic events preceded this realization, the most terrible and evil of which was the Nazi Holocaust. Out of the ashes of six million Jews rose the restored Jewish State.
From the very beginning of the century, Christian Zionists were in the forefront of the struggle on behalf of the Jewish People. Their influence upon statesmen and men of power was great. It is no secret that this influence played a major role in producing the Balfour Declar-ation of 1917, in which His Majesty's Government viewed "with favour the establishment of a Jewish national home" in Palestine.
Time will not permit us to talk of famous Christian Zionists such as Charles Orde Wingate, John Hayes Holmes, Profes-sor Reinhold Niebuhr and Corrie Ten Boom who, at great personal risk during the Second World War, rescued Jews from the hands of Nazism. All these believed that scripture promised the restoration of the Jewish State in Palestine. Most of them died in hope but some, like Corrie Ten Boom, lived to see the impossible come true.
Christian Zionism has a long history. Today the movement has swelled to embrace thousands. All of them see their task as being far from over, since the same forces that sought the destruc-tion of Israel in decades past are still at work today. The survival and preserv-ation of Israel is dependent upon the same kind of help and support that made her existence a reality. Christian Zionists believe that in seeking her peace they are in the long run working for the world's peace (Isaiah 2:1-4).
The Future of Christian ZionismIn these "last days", as Peter called them 2000 years ago, the struggle between light and darkness will intensify. Israel will be at the heart of this struggle since it is from her that God will establish His reign of righteousness over the world (Zechariah 14:9). The forces of darkness will always oppose such a reign and they will do it chiefly by seeking to destroy Israel. God's tri-umph in and through Israel will be a final proof to the world, and indictment against it, that His word is true. Christian Zionists will have to be in the forefront of this struggle. The fact that in recent years countless thousands have been and are being added to this movement is evidence that God is preparing a spiritual army for this coming "showdown."
It needs to be noted in closing that biblical Zionism is becoming more unpopular in some circles, especially in view of the events that have taken place in Israel in recent months. The timing of this Congress, therefore, is crucial since it serves as a vehicle of encouragement and blessing to all who love Israel and are deter-mined to see her future, as reflected in the pages of Scripture, become a reality.
REV. MALCOLM HEDDING
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4TH INTERNATIONAL CHRISTIAN CONGRESS ON BIBLICAL ZIONISM
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