The End Times; what I don’t believe
Stan Goodenough - Jerusalem Watchman - November 30, 2006
A few months ago, my wife and I had the pleasure of meeting some new neighbors for the first time. Young parents in the orthodox Jewish community, they were intrigued to discover these Gentiles -- one South African, the other Czech -- who had chosen to make Jerusalem their home, marrying in Israel's ancient capital, and bringing five children into the world in the heart of this global hot spot.
While the two mothers paired off and visited in Hebrew, I spoke with the young man who probed me for answers, keen to understand our reasons for being here.
I told him that we are believers in the God of Israel; emphasizing that his God is my God. I said we believe the Bible which says that God's promises and covenant with the descendants of Abraham through Isaac and Jacob are eternal; that the nation of Israel, today reconstituted in its own homeland, is that offspring and thus the inheritor of those promises. My wife and I love and stand with the Jewish people, I said, because our God loves them as a nation and has a glorious future in store for them; He has also commanded that we love, comfort and serve them.
We want to go with them into that future because we know that God is with them.
My explanation seemed to hold his interest until, in answer to another question, I described myself as an evangelical Christian. The quizzical look left his face.
"Oh yes, I know what you believe," he said. "You believe that more massive death lies ahead for us, that two thirds of the Jews who have come home will be destroyed by armies that hate Israel, and that those who survive will become Christians and join with you."
His statement was matter-of-fact, without rancor. Nor did his pleasant demeanor change as he leveled the damning charge that, ultimately, my motivation for "loving Israel" was the selfish outworking of a Christian agenda.
I'll record my response to him in a sequel to this article.
My reader may (or may not) be surprised to know that a great many Jews, including those who have expressed genuine gratitude for Christian support and friendship these past painful years, believe that the position described by my neighbor -- and known in Christianese as pre-millennial Dispensationalism -- is universally held by Christian Zionists.
Let me give you another example:
Under the headline "Jewish community grapples with evangelical support," The Jewish Journal (April 21 to May 4, 2006) reported on an interfaith gathering in Boston earlier this year.
Convened in a Brookline synagogue, the event was called "Comfort My People -- Jews and Christians standing together for Israel."
"It is the kind of meeting," said the Journal, "that has become more and more common in the past few years as Jews and evangelicals, united in their support for Israel, have built closer spiritual and political bonds."
Undermining these growing ties, however, is the widely-held and deeply-rooted suspicion that these Christians have a "secret agenda" -- the conversion of the Jews.
While a participating rabbi dismissed the threat, saying the leadership of this Christian group "doesn't have the perspective that a lot of evangelicals do," the Journal reporter noted:
"It is precisely that concern -- that the ultimate goal of such encounters is the conversion of the Jews -- that has bred skepticism of the evangelical embrace of Israel.
"The worry stems in part from certain interpretations of the Book of Revelations [sic], which make Jewish control of the Holy Land a prerequisite for the Rapture, when true believers will be ushered into heaven ahead of the Apocalypse."
Said the paper: "Evangelist Chuck Missler -- who once told a reporter that Israel gets more support in America from Christian fundamentalists than from 'ethnic Jews' -- has called Auschwitz 'just a prelude' to what will happen to Jews in the Last Days."
Missler is far from being a loner. Other high-profile pro-Israel evangelicals -- preachers and Bible teachers -- also subscribe to these beliefs, among them:
- Kay Arthur, founder and director of Precept Ministries
-John Hagee, founder and senior pastor of Cornerstone Church, San Antonia, Texas, and founder of the newly-formed Christians United for Israel
-Jerry Falwell, Moral Majority founder and founder of Liberty University
-Jack van Impe, whose website describes him as the "Walking Bible" and "one of the world's foremost prophecy scholars."
Kay Arthur appears on the dais at all major pro-Israel events in the United States, and was recently nominated to co-chair a new women's association of the Knesset Christian Allies Caucus. She has stated publicly that what lies ahead for Israel will make Hitler's Holocaust look like "a Sunday school picnic."
In her novel, "Israel My Beloved," Arthur has the heroine standing in a massively destroyed Jerusalem, dead and dying Jews littering the ground around her as she whispers in horror, "Auschwitz was never like this."
Hagee, Falwell and Van Impe all hold to this classic Dispensationalist view -- which says that the Church will be raptured out of here while the Jews are left behind to face, in the title of Van Impe's book, "Israel's Final Holocaust."
In "Jerusalem Countdown," published earlier this year, Hagee states emphatically, (as if it were written in the Bible instead of having been deduced from a variety of scriptural passages by mere, if well-intentioned, men):
"Let me remind you that during the great Tribulation the Gentile church is in heaven [while] ... a nation called Israel is alive and well" down on earth.
He repeats it elsewhere with this twist: "... please understand that during the Great Tribulation Christians will already be in heaven at the Marriage Supper of the Lamb."
The message that Jews understand as being an almost universal evangelical doctrine is that the Christians will be partying it up in heaven with "their" Lord while His Jewish people will be going through hell on earth.
What a dangerous and terrible assumption!
It is not only Jews who have identified pro-Israel Christians as all belonging in this camp. At a Council on Foreign Relations meeting earlier this year, guest speaker and former US President Jimmy Carter was asked to comment on the "religious right's" involvement in support of Israel."
This was his answer:
"Well, if you mean the extreme right, the fundamentalists, that is a group of Christians ... who believe that the final coming of Jesus Christ can only occur after the entire Holy Land is taken over by Israel. And that includes the destruction, for instance, of the Dome of the Rock and other Arab or non-Christian groups.
"In the final stages, though, it also calls for the execution or conversion of all Jews to Christianity. (Laughter.) Those are the two elements to it....
"So that's what the right-wing Christians espouse: the complete eradication of any non-Jews from the West Bank and Gaza, the ultimate coming of Christ, the death or conversion of all Jews. That's what they espouse."
Also this year, in its July 28 edition under the question-marked headline "Are these the End Times?" Newsweek published an interview with Tim LaHaye, co-author of the mega-best seller Left-Behind series. (Read the entire interview here)
According to his answers LaHaye, whose influence on the apocalyptic expectation of his millions of Christian readers can hardly be exaggerated -- he was also on the original board of directors of the Moral Majority and an organizer of the Council for National Policy -- holds and expresses the following views:
- That the antichrist will come and "sit at his kingdom after the Rapture."
- That the Church will be "gone" before "the Tribulation"
- That Christians should support Israel so that they can be blessed by God.
- That many Jews "but not all ... will accept Christ" during "the Tribulation."
- That liberal Israelis will likely support the rise of the antichrist.
What is bizarre is that Christians embracing this end-time scenario of an Israel that is attacked by the whole world, its land occupied, its cities destroyed, its people mass-murdered and its women ravished etc are seen as pro-Israel!
So we see one critic of Left Behind, Michelle Goldberg, describing it as "the bestselling series of paranoid, pro-Israel end-time thrillers...."
Goldberg says the books are openly hostile to the Jewish religion.
She derides these "pro-Israel" Christians, for whom "the chain of events that lead to the return of Christ depends on the existence of a Holy Land that is under catastrophic assault."
Nor are they in the minority. Goldberg quotes from the Left Behind website, where LaHaye and co-author Jerry B. Jenkins emphasize that "while it is true that in the broad spectrum of Protestant Christianity there are multiple views of the end-times scenario, the pre-millennialist theology found in the Left Behind Series is the prominent view among evangelical Christians, including their leading seminaries such as Talbot Seminary, Trinity Seminary and Dallas Theological Seminary."
It is important to me that my readers -- Christians and Jews -- clearly understand that this theology, this eschatology, is not mine. Reading back through the above paragraphs, let me highlight the beliefs that I do not share.
I do NOT believe that:
- The Church will be "gone" before "the Tribulation"
- Israel's Jews will be "left behind."
- The antichrist will come and "sit at his kingdom after the Rapture."
- Massive death lies ahead for the Jews in Israel; that two-thirds of the people of Israel will be destroyed; that Israel will face another holocaust; that Auschwitz is "just a prelude" to what will happen to Jews in the Last Days or that "what's coming on the Jews will make the Holocaust seem like a Sunday School picnic."
- A third of the Jews will survive to become Christians; Many Jews "but not all ... will accept Christ" during "the Tribulation."
- The final coming of Jesus Christ can only occur after:
1) the entire Holy Land is taken over by Israel;
2) the destruction of Arab or non-Christian groups;
3) the complete eradication of any non-Jews from Judea, Samaria and Gaza;
4) The death or conversion of all Jews.
- Christians should support Israel so that they can be blessed by God.
- Real Christian Zionists hold these beliefs.
In my sequel I will spell out which beliefs I do embrace.
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