claims, Christian Zionists proclaim a message that confuses the true Gospel with chauvinistic loyalty to the political state of Israel. Many are given the mistaken message that to believe in Christ requires one to be committed to the prejudice that unjustly favors the State of Israel in contravention of the spiritual and moral standards inherent in the true Gospel and to the detriment of other peoples.
C. THE BIBLE ESTABLISHES PRIORITIES
The Bible teaches that the spiritual seed of Abraham always takes precedence over his physical seed. If one truly grasps the significance of Christ being the seed of Abraham, he will understand why priority always belongs to the collective spiritual seed. The doctrine of the redeemed remnant of Jews in contrast to the whole nation is crucial in both Testaments (Isa. 1:4-9; 6:13; 66:5; John 1:11; Rom. 11:5; Gal. 6:16). From Acts 2 until the rapture of the church (I Thess. 4:13-18), the redeemed Jewish remnant is incorporated into the Body of Christ, in which there is “neither Jew nor gentile” (Gal. 3:28). Since in the era of the church all regenerate Jews and gentiles are in Christ, the Seed, they are collectively the spiritual seed of Abraham: “it is not the natural children who are God’s children, but it is the children of the promise who are regarded as Abraham’s offspring” (Rom. 9:8).
Therefore, if we want to fulfill the mandate implicit in Genesis 12:3, we must give precedence to those to whom God gives priority. We must first and foremost bless the spiritual seed of Abraham, namely members of the Body of Christ. Christian Zionism reverses God’s order by giving precedence to the physical seed of Abraham—despite the fact that the vast majority of ethnic Jews are not true Jews (Rom. 2:28), for they have not received the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior and Messiah (Jn. 10:25-28).
The apostle Paul wrote, ‘For no matter how many promises God made, they are ‘Yes’ in Christ” (II Cor. 1:20). All of God’s promises, including those integral to the Abrahamic, Davidic, and New Covenants, are inextricably centered in Christ. Therefore, it is not our relationship to the State of Israel but our relationship to Christ that constitutes the supreme touchstone for obtaining the divine blessing promised in Genesis 12:3. Of course, ethnic Jews, who are Abraham’s physical seed, are not to be ignored or mistreated. Christians should do good to them as they should “to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers” (Gal. 6:10). And they should stand with them to preclude another Holocaust. We should do no less, however, for any other ethnic group that is facing the scourge of genocide.
III. CUFI IS BASED ON AN ANACHRONISTIC TWISTING OF
A. CHRISTIAN ZIONISM IS UNBALANCED IN ITS APPEAL TO THE BIBLE
CUFI’s perspective is shaped more by the Old Testament than the New Testament. That is why the Zionism in “Christian Zionism” overwhelms the “Christian” in it. It is also why “Christian Zionism” is an oxymoron. If one understands the biblical hierarchy of values—Christ the Seed over the spiritual seed over the physical seed—one could not embrace Christian Zionism, for, despite what it professes, it elevates Abraham’s physical seed over his spiritual seed and even over Christ. The priority of the spiritual seed is contained in the overriding priority of Christ.
Of course, Christian Zionists would deny that they subordinate Christ to Abraham’s physical seed. They undoubtedly believe that they are putting Christ first, for they are convinced that their perspective is authorized by the Lord Himself. Nevertheless, their inversion of the biblical hierarchy of values is undeniable. This is borne out by their avowed purpose, namely, to support the State of Israel unconditionally. It is also demonstrated in their attitudes and actions, many of which go contrary to the character and teaching of Christ about impartial justice and universal compassion.
Christian Zionists typically give the Old Testament controlling priority over the New Testament. Almost all of the biblical passages invoked by CUFI to justify its existence and agenda are from the Old Testament. My theological perspective does not dismiss or minimize any of the Old Testament. I believe that its promises and prophecies pertaining to end-times will all be fulfilled. But a careful exegesis of the Old Testament passages cited by Christian Zionists shows that they refer either to the Abrahamic and Mosaic era or to the future Tribulation period or Millennial kingdom. None of them refer to the Body of Christ in which believing Jews and believing gentiles would be equal and in which ethnic distinctions would be completely irrelevant. The church age was a mystery unforeseen prior to its New Testament revelation (Eph. 3:2-5).
B. ISRAEL’S SPECIAL ROLE IN THE OLD TESTAMENT
From Genesis 12 to the end of Malachi, the Hebrew people were a divinely chosen nation on whom a special calling devolved. They were to be God’s witnesses, the recipients of His special presence and His prophetic and inscripturated word, and the unique channel through whom the incarnate Lord, Messiah, and Savior would come into the world. They had a special role among the nations, not due to anything inherent in them but due solely to the election of grace (Rom. 9:4, 5).
During the Old Testament period, Gentiles who desired to know God were compelled to convert to Judaism and conform to it as much as possible. They were strangers and aliens to the commonwealth of Israel and to its divinely granted covenants. Therefore, they had to acknowledge that God had given Israel the primacy of servant leadership among the nations of the world: “Now if you obey Me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations, you will be My treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (Ex. 19:5, 6).
C. ISRAEL IS TEMPORARILY SET ASIDE
That was then. It is not the case today. During the church age, which has lasted for almost two thousand years so far, Israel has been temporarily set aside. “A veil covers their hearts” (II Cor. 3:15) and Israel has been “rejected” (Rom. 11:15) “until the full number of the Gentiles has come in” to the olive tree from which the Israelite “branches have been broken off” (Rom. 11:17, 25). The Body of Christ, which consists of regenerated gentiles and Jews, now occupies the special position and role as God’s unique vehicle on earth.
Christian Zionists fail to adequately understand and appreciate this change. They often play fast and loose with Scripture, disregarding contexts as they indulge in special pleading to find supposed support for their agenda. Despite the New Testament reference to Old Testament prophecies about the salvation of multitudes of gentiles and despite its use of the Old Testament in terms of typology and analogy, the Old Testament does not specifically refer to the unique creation of this age, namely the Body of Christ (Eph. 2:14-22).
D. THE NEED TO CAREFULLY STUDY CONTEXTS
Nevertheless, Christian Zionists persist in taking myriads of passages out of context. Especially gratuitous is their wresting of verses from contexts that refer to the future Millennial reinstatement of Israel to a special status and role like that which she had in the Old Testament.
Careful dispensational exegetes, like the authors of The Bible Knowledge Commentary, which was written by dispensationalist scholars at Dallas Theological Seminary, have largely repudiated the excesses of Christian Zionism and the sensationalism of popular prophecy preachers and writers. All of the main biblical passages used by Christian Zionists to support their notions are shown to be misinterpreted by them. In every instance it refutes the anachronistic construals made by Christian Zionists.
For example, Christian Zionists unwarrantably interpret Ezekiel 36-37 as a passage that refers to the present age. The aforementioned Commentary maintains that the passage refers to the Millennium. Christian Zionists are fond of exploiting passages from Isaiah for the present although they refer to the return of Jews to Palestine during the Millennium as any careful reading of their context reveals (e.g., Isaiah 2:1-5; 66:20). They adduce and emphasize many other skewed interpretations of Old Testament texts because they cannot find anything in the New Testament to justify the extremism of Christian Zionism and its rationale for the existence of CUFI.
IV. CUFI IS BASED ON A RADICAL MISUNDERSTANDING OF
THE ABRAHAMIC COVENANT
First mentioned in Genesis 12:1-3, it is elaborated upon in Genesis 13, 15, 22, 26, 28, 35. It included God’s promise that Abraham would have “a great name,” that he would have descendants who will become “a great nation,” that there will be great blessing on Abraham and his seed, that there will be blessing on those who bless him and cursing on those who curse him, that he and his seed will have a specific geographical territory, and that through Abraham all the peoples on earth will receive a blessing.
A. THE “LAND PROMISE”
The primary element of the covenant that is a matter of dispute between Christian Zionists and those who oppose their view is the land promise. Nondispensatonalists generally view the land promise as obsolete, for their theological framework makes no allowance for a future for ethnic Jews in which they will occupy the land of promise. Dispensationalists like me, however, maintain that redeemed, ethnic Jews have a national future in God’s plan at the second coming of Christ and they will occupy the land of promise whose boundaries are specified in Genesis 15:18.
The Abrahamic covenant is clearly unilateral and unconditional. The land was a gracious gift that God provided for Abraham and his seed. Although the gift of the land was unconditional, its occupation was not. One of the most fundamental errors of Christian Zionism is the failure to make this distinction. They are so obsessed with the unconditional nature of the gift of the land to Abraham and his seed that they totally miss the conditional nature of their enjoyment of the gift (Deut. 28-30). They are so focused on the unconditionality of Romans 11:29, which says that “God’s gifts and his call are irrevocable,” that they fail to see the conditionality stated in the immediate context: “If they (Israelites) do not persist in unbelief, they will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again” (Romans 11:23, italics mine for emphasis).
B. THE CONDITIONAL ASPECT OF THE ABRAHAMIC COVENANT
Christian Zionists are given to special pleading, for in their biased, selective citation of biblical verses they invariably ignore the scores of passages that state the conditional requirements imposed by God if the Israelites will be entitled to occupy the land and remain in it. God gave them an explicit warning as they were on their way to Canaan:
”If you defile the land, it will vomit you out as it vomited out the nations that were before you” (Leviticus 18:28). God did not want them to become corrupt and complacent, resting on the Abrahamic covenant with a false sense of security. Despite this warning, in Jeremiah’s time, that very complacency had overtaken the people of Judah who mistakenly believed that their right to possess and live in the land was unconditional and inviolable.
Do not trust in deceptive words and say, “This is the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord!” If you really change your ways and your actions and deal with each other justly, if you do not oppress the alien, the fatherless or the widow and do not shed innocent blood in this place, and if you do not follow other gods to your own harm, then I will let you live in this place, in the land I gave your forefathers for ever and ever (Jer. 7:4-7; italics added for emphasis).
Unfortunately, the people of Judah did not heed the divine warning, and they were expelled from the land by the Babylonians, who were God’s instrument in bringing judgment on them (Habakkuk 1:6). Christian Zionists today, like the people of Judah then, are deceived by a serious misunderstanding of the Abrahamic covenant. The people of Judah mistakenly assumed that it gave them an unconditional right to occupy and live in the land. They ignored the frequent admonitions that God gave them through Moses and the long line of prophets God raised up to warn them that expulsion and exile would come if they continued to rebel against Him.
A lack of biblical knowledge led Senator James Inhofe to adopt and promote the extremism of Christian Zionism. “In a March 2002 speech on the Senate floor, Senator Inhofe detailed seven reasons why Israel is entitled to the land currently under its control, including the West Bank” (Standing With Israel, David Brog, p. 156). Inhofe stated his final reason in the following words.
This is the most important reason: Because God said so…In Genesis
13:14-17, the Bible says: “The Lord said to Abram, ‘Lift up now your
eyes, and look from the place where you are northward, and southward,
and eastward and westward: for all the land which you see, to you I will
give it, and to your seed forever….Arise, walk through the length of it
and the breadth of it; for I will give it to thee.’”
That is God talking. The Bible says that Abram removed his tent and came
and dwelt in the plain of Mamre, which is Hebron, and built there an altar
before the Lord. Hebron is in the West Bank. It is this place where
God appeared to Abram and said, “I am giving you this land”—the West Bank.
This is not a political battle at all. It is a contest over whether or not the Word of God is true (Italics added for emphasis).
I suppose that to expect Senators to be careful students of the Bible is asking too much, especially when they are ill-equipped to evaluate unscholarly interpretations dogmatically propounded day after day by television preachers who are also lacking in hermeneutical expertise and intellectual rigor. Senator Inhofe was obviously unaware of many other biblical passages that enunciated essential conditions for Jews to be entitled to occupy the land.
It is not surprising that he and many others who echo the truncated interpretations of Christian Zionist preachers would selectively cite only those texts that state the unconditional promise made to Abraham by God. Such preachers rarely if ever make any reference to the biblical texts that state the conditions Israel must meet in order to occupy the land. Without meeting those conditions, Israel’s occupation of the land is entirely bereft of God’s authorization.
The endless repetition of the Bible verses that indicate the unconditional nature of God’s gift of the land is what the public daily hears on the radio and television, and reads in countless popular books and articles. The conditional side of the coin is never heard from such preachers, either because they are unaware of it or because their Christian Zionist bias blinds them to their presence in the Bible. Besides, it is likely that if rabid Christian Zionists become aware of them, they will not publicly read or proclaim them. To do so would pull the rug out from under their Christian Zionism.
I fear that they are more committed to Christian Zionism than to the word of God. To maintain their unbiblical perspective with some degree of equanimity requires that when they come upon such biblical texts that serve to nullify their Christian Zionism, they find it so painful that they either suppress them or reinterpret them in order to preclude them from having any bearing whatever on their cherished doctrine. Such a selective, doctrinaire approach to Scripture is not unlike the heretical cults that incorrectly handle the word of truth (II Tim. 2:15) in the interest of their own bias.
Senator Inhofe could not have been more mistaken than when he said that “it is a contest over whether or not the Word of God is true.” Rather, it is a contest over whether the Christian Zionist interpretation of the word of God is true. Since the word of God is true, the Christian Zionist interpretation is not. One cannot have it both ways. Either the Bible is true or Christian Zionism is true. Since Christian Zionists select only what seems to support their position and wittingly or unwittingly suppress that which is antithetical to it, it is obvious what a Christian ought to align himself with—of course, the Bible, the whole Bible, and never an “ism” that is based on only part of it or that is a distortion of what the Bible actually teaches.
C. ISRAEL’S EXPULSION FROM THE LAND
The prophet Daniel understood this clearly, as his prayer of confession indicates: “You have scattered us because of our unfaithfulness to you” (Dan. 9:7). Furthermore, unlike Christian Zionism’s “unconditional support” for Israel that inverts the biblical hierarchy of values, Daniel says, “The Lord did not hesitate to bring the disaster upon us, for the Lord our God is righteous in everything he does, yet we have not obeyed him” (Dan. 9:14; italics added for emphasis).
Strikingly relevant to Israel in the New Testament is Daniel’s statement that “all this disaster has come upon us, yet we have not sought the favor of the Lord our God by turning from our sins and giving attention to Your truth” (Dan. 9:13). When He who is the Truth (Jn. 14:6) came to Israel, the nation refused to repent and receive Him (Mt. 4:17; 11:20-24; 13:15; Lk. 19:14; Jn. 1:11).
Repeating the hardheartedness and rebellion of their ancestors in Old Testament times, the Israelites once again incurred the judgment of God--which entailed the destruction of Jerusalem and the expulsion and scattering of the Jewish people. Christ not only foretold the judgment that would take place in A.D. 70 (Lk. 21:20-24) but he also said, “your house is left to you desolate. For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord’” (Mt. 23:38, 39; italics added for emphasis). Their expulsion from the land and their consequent Diaspora were due to their rejection of the Messiah. Their divine restoration will come only when they turn in faith to receive the Messiah that Israel rejected in the first century.
The Gospel of Matthew was written especially for a Jewish readership. More than any other New Testament writer, Matthew cites the Old Testament, especially its prophetic passages. The Jewish people of his day were virtually unanimous in their expectation of a coming kingdom that would be established on earth by the Messiah. In that kingdom, according to Old Testament prophecies, Israel would be the head and not the tail among the nations of the world. Jews were looking for spectacular signs (I Cor. 1:22; Mt. 12:38ff.) as indices of the conquering Messiah who would appear in dramatic judgment on the gentile nations, thus bringing national liberation, political hegemony, and material prosperity to Israel.
There was nothing wrong with this expectation of the Jewish people, for it was clearly spelled out in the Tanach, especially in the prophetic books from Isaiah to Malachi. But they had overlooked the one crucial factor needed to bring this expectation to fruition. They had forgotten that it was their apostasy and sin that had brought divine judgment upon them, especially in the form of the Assyrian and Babylonian captivities. Their subjugation by the Roman Empire, under which they were chafing in the first century, was also a continuation of divine chastisement.
Their great error was their presumption that deliverance would come to them in fulfillment of the Abrahamic, Davidic, and New Covenants simply because they were God’s chosen people who had unbreakable divine promises. They did not reckon with the uncompromising holiness of God that requires repentance. Before they could enjoy the realization of God’s gracious promises, they had to become rightly related to Him in their hearts. That is why John the Baptist was sent as Christ’s forerunner—to proclaim the necessity of repentance and faith in Christ before God would bring in the promised kingdom. The necessity of repentance is why Christ stressed purity of heart before God (Mt. 5-7).
At the beginning of his three-year ministry, he said that only “the pure in heart…will see God” (Mt. 5:8). He also indicted the nation of Israel for substituting external rituals and tradition for true worship from the heart: “You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you: ’These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me’” (Mt. 15:8). That is why he began his ministry with this message: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near” (Mt. 4:17).
With their inconsistent dispensationalism, Christian Zionists have failed to grasp the profound significance of this. From Matthew 4:17 to 12:50, Christ emphasized God’s holy standards and the necessity for the Jewish people to repent if the kingdom prophecies of the Old Testament were to be fulfilled. In Matthew 13, he made it clear that the kingdom would not be inaugurated at that time, because that “wicked and adulterous generation” (Mt. 12:39-45) had refused to repent. Since they had rejected him, the true Messiah and Son of God, he began to prepare his disciples for the period of time between his first and second coming. In Matthew 13 he expounded the nature of the inter-advent period which would be characterized by a mixture of good and evil, believers and unbelievers. These inter-advent “mysteries of the kingdom” were not foreseen by the Old Testament prophets. The promised Messianic kingdom would not be nullified; rather, it would await the repentance of a future generation concomitant with the second advent of Christ (Mt. 21:43).
Christ turned the spotlight on the two great events of the intercalation prophesied by Daniel (9:26). First, he spoke of his crucifixion: “From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life” (Mt. 16:21). Notice that it was the leaders, who represented an unrepentant Israel, who would be the primary instigators of his crucifixion.
“The Messiah would be cut off and have nothing” (Dan. 9:26). He would not have the kingdom at his first advent, and because Israel rejected him, it would not have the kingdom either. That was the first crucial event Daniel placed in the period between the sixty-ninth heptad and the seventieth heptad of years. Israel forfeited the peace that King Messiah would have brought them. The chronology of Daniel 9 specified the precise time that the Messiah would present himself to the nation, namely, “the triumphal entry” on Palm Sunday (Lk. 19:41, 42; Zech. 9:9; Mt. 21:4, 5). Instead of repenting and acknowledging his messianic kingship, Israel rejected him and conspired with the Romans to have him crucified.
Second, Daniel foretold the destruction of Jerusalem (which occurred in A.D. 70) consequent upon the nation’s rejection of its Messiah (Daniel 9:26). In the midst of all the joyous clamor of his “triumphal entry” to Jerusalem, Jesus was filled with sorrow and began to weep over the city, repeating Daniel’s prophecy in his warning that the Romans “will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you” (Lk. 19:44).
In their spiritual dullness, the people did not understand that an impenitent and unbelieving nation of Israel meant that the kingdom would not be inaugurated in their generation. In fact, this misunderstanding of theirs was the reason that Jesus told the parable in Luke 19 before his “triumphal entry,” for he knew what they did not. He knew that despite their exclamation, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord” (Lk. 19:38) and the auspicious celebration that would accompany his impending entry into Jerusalem, the nation would not accept him. He told them “a parable, because he was near Jerusalem and the people thought that the kingdom of God was going to appear at once” (Lk. 19:11).
In the parable, he indicated that Israel’s refusal of his kingship would preclude the kingdom from appearing at that time: “But his subjects hated him and sent a delegation after him to say, ‘We don’t want this man to be our king’” (Lk. 19:14). Nevertheless, God will do what He wants at the time He determines: “He was made king, however, and returned home” (Lk. 19:15). King Messiah will have his kingdom at his return to earth, which would occur “at the end of the age” (Mt. 13:40-43; 24:30). And it will only be inaugurated with a generation that will repent and acknowledge the Lord Jesus as Messiah and Savior—in striking contrast to first-century Israel (Mt. 21:43; 23:39).
The foregoing exposition relating to the messianic kingdom is essential to an adequate understanding of the conditional aspect of the Abrahamic, Davidic, and New Covenants.
For all their good intentions, Christian Zionists today are making the same mistake that Israel made in the first century, namely, ignoring the necessity of repentance for the fulfillment of these biblical prophecies. Notice the precise sequence in God’s message through the apostle Peter to Israel.
Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that
times of refreshing may come from the Lord, and that he may send the
Christ, who has been appointed for you—even Jesus. He must remain in
heaven until the time comes for God to restore everything, as he promised
long ago through his holy prophets (Acts 3:19-21).
Without the requisite repentance on the part of Israel, there is no biblical basis for claiming that the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948 was according to the directive will of God. All of the Old Testament passages that Christian Zionists are fond of citing in reference to the State of Israel today are misused. Even those passages that are taken to refer to Israel returning in unbelief have no unequivocal reference to the church age.
First, a consistent dispensationalist recognizes that no such prophecies explicitly refer to the church age. Second, the biblical prophecies about unbelieving Israel in the promised land refer to the Tribulation period, as their context invariably indicates. Third, prophecies about Israel being in the land in a state of unbelief do not entail God’s approval of the nation. God never approves unbelief toward Him and Christ.
When Christian Zionists, such as the International Christian Embassy in Jerusalem, take as their watchword, Isaiah 40:1, “Comfort, comfort my people, says your God,” in reference to the contemporary State of Israel, their compassionate motivation is commendable, but their interpretation of Scripture is wrong. When one reads the entire context of Isaiah 40-66, there is no comfort to be given to the unrepentant in Judah and Israel (e.g., Isa. 48:18, 22). Isaiah was to comfort God’s people, the remnant who believed the prophet’s message about the Messiah (Isa. 53) and would thereby be justified by Him (Isa. 53:11; 66:2-5). Throughout Isaiah 40-66 a line of demarcation is drawn between the majority of the Jewish people and the believing remnant. To comfort the former in their sin is to work against God, even as He condemned the false prophets in Jeremiah’s day who were constantly giving the people false comfort: “They dress the wound of my people as though it were not serious. ‘Peace, peace,’ they say, when there is no peace” (Jer. 8:11).
In their tunnel vision, Christian Zionists ignore the full teaching of Scripture. They like to quote Isaiah 40:1, but they ignore Isaiah 58:1 in which God says, “Raise your voice like a trumpet. Declare to my people their rebellion and to the house of Jacob their sins.” In fact, it is only on that basis that they can be brought to repentance so they can know the comfort of God. Furthermore, apart from faith in Christ, real comfort can never be known, as he unequivocally states in Matthew 11:28-30:
Come to me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart,
and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.
Oswald Chambers, in My Utmost For His Highest, acutely observed that if I comfort others with my own sympathy rather than pointing them to Christ and his comfort, I have betrayed my Lord. Does this mean that we should not show compassion and give practical help to needy Jews? Of course not, for we are to extend our love to all suffering people, beginning with fellow-members of the Body of Christ. However, when we withhold the eternal, ultimate comfort that is found in Christ alone, we betray (Next: http://whtt.org/index.php?news=2&id=1296 )