I find many Christians who support the restoration of the Jewish people to their homeland in Israel also subscribe to the end-time teaching known as the pre-tribulation rapture. This teaching holds that Jesus will return first as a “thief in the night” to snatch away the Church prior to a hellish reign of terror by a false messiah in the last days. He will then come again with His Church to destroy all satanic rule on this planet and establish the long-awaited Messianic Age.
But have these Christians who hold this view stopped to consider, as I finally did, that this teaching is fundamentally opposed to the heart and soul of Christian Zionism?
I do not know how many of our readers have had the same experience, but I certainly have. Now it must be stated that any position on theology must be based in scripture first and foremost. Although spending most of my formative years in a Scofield Bible, within the first year of college I had abandoned Dispensationalism based on a different look at the texts in the Bible. But at this point in my life, I was not able to see some of the implications of my beliefs and their impact on the connection to Israel. Brian Hennessy continues on with his own experience
It didn’t take long to see where the problem lay. At almost every pro-Israel event there would be a time of public repentance for turning our backs – and often our weapons – on the Jews over the centuries. We’d loudly proclaim that “we will never abandon you again.” Either by keeping silent in times of persecution, as so many did during the Holocaust. Or by doctrinally distancing ourselves again through the acceptance of Replacement Theology.
Yet by embracing a rapture theology, aren’t we already planning to abandon them again? And at a time when Israel and the Jews will need us the most? Worse, we crow about our “saving event” without a blush or a word of apology to our Jewish friends. What must the Jews think? No doubt they are grateful for our present support, but I’m sure they won’t be holding their breath waiting for us to show up once the feathers hit the fan. What is wrong with us? Have we learned nothing from our past betrayals of our brothers? Are we just going to be happy-clappy cheerleaders for the State of Israel as long as the skies are sunny? But when dark clouds come will we quickly start looking for the rapture bus to get us out of here – fast?
Those are sobering words. It is a functional disconnect between theology and relationship. I have said this in conversations with other believers that a “pre-tribulation rapture is anti-Semitic.” Now, those are strictly my words and this observation took over a decade to develop. I say it that way to make us think. A case in point without much personal input is my experience with my father. He had great RESPECT and love for the Jewish people and it is here where I attribute my ‘nascent Zionism.’ Guess what? I know my dad was not anti-Jew, but was his theology? In unpacking some dispensational thought Hennessy reasons
Darby, who is known as the “father of dispensationalism,” believed God has dealt with mankind in different ways in different ages or “dispensations.” Christians belong to the latest dispensation, an age of grace, and are considered God’s “heavenly people.” But the descendants of Abraham – at least those who came before Jesus, plus those who didn’t accept Him as Messiah after He came – belonged to the dispensation of Law and are God’s “earthly people.” The only exception to this rule are Jews who do believe in Jesus. They are counted as part of the Church and those alive at Jesus return can get on the rapture “bus.”
Although he taught that the Church and Israel would always remain separate and distinct, he believed both groups play parallel roles in God’s plan of salvation. And will receive parallel inheritances. That is, he didn’t teach that the Jews had been disenfranchised by the Church, as Replacement Theology taught. But he didn’t see the Church as being a continuation or enhancement of Israel, either.
So maybe I can get my dad off the hook by this logic, but how about those who do not believe in dispensationalism but still have the vestige of a sudden rapture, leaving unsaved Israel behind. If after a thorough look at Scripture you still attest to this view, then I obviously accept that and will not allow us to be divided (Psalm 133). There was never a scientific study done on my part, but via attendance at Messianic conferences, reading Jewish leaders writings and at one time being an active member in a Messianic congregation I observed a trend that they did not ascribe to this view.
In a recent interview of Ron Cantor, an Israeli believer, on Line of Fire radio, host Dr. Michael Brown briefly discusses this issue. Cantor states that most Messianic believers , IN ISRAEL, hold to a post-Tribulation paradigm. (Conversation starts at approximately the 30 minute mark, emphasis mine). This corroborates my experience.
The point here is to help define the relationship of the Church to Israel and clarify the roles of Jew (even unsaved) and gentile believer. Also, how do you daily LIVE your life thinking “Any minute I am out of here.” As opposed to preparing your life knowing you (the Church) are required to live through Israel’s ‘darkest hour’ for a divine purpose and witness.
So coming into focus the question is “What does it say to the unsaved Jewish person, when we sincerely want them to see the reflection of Messiah in our life, if we hold to this escapist mentality?” Once again the thoughts of Brian Hennessy:
Therefore, if we are going to be solidly in Israel’s corner as we promised, we can’t also be planning for an early exit. Their fight is also our fight. We must come alongside them, not just as fans, but as family. It doesn’t matter that the majority of Jews do not recognize us or accept us yet as mishpochah. We know it is true! Therefore we have to act in faith and believe we have a stake in this game. The blessings of Israel are something we too will share in if we faint not.
But if we only rejoice over the reestablishment of Israel because it is a prophetic sign that Jesus is coming soon. Or because it is merely an encouragement that if God is faithful to them He’ll be faithful to us. Or because it shows we now reject Replacement Theology, even though we still hold fast to Darby’s Separation Theology – then our Zionism is indeed a hollow shell.
No, we must be in this for the long haul. We must be one with the Jews, come what may, and trust we will rejoice with them at the glorious deliverance our God has promised to perform for us. “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for calamity; to give you a hope and a future” (Jer. 29:11).
John Paul is is an Associate Editor for Voice of Revolution, overseeing Jewish Issues.
Posted in Featured Articles, Israel & The Jewish People Tagged with: Christian Zionism, Dr. Michael Brown, eschatology, Holocaust, israel, Jesus, line of fire, messianic age, palestinians, pre tribulation rapture, rapture, replacement theology, ron cantor, zionism
Editor’s Note: Joel Richardson is an author, artist, and lecturer, specializing in Islamic eschatology, and its role in how events may unfold in fulfillment of Biblical prophecy.
As a Christian author, teacher and commentator whose message often revolves around “the end times,” I am frequently asked how I cope emotionally with such a constant drum beat of negativity. How can anyone stomach a steady diet of such non-stop gloom and doom without developing a nervous condition?
While I understand the question, the fact of the matter is that discussing “the end times” doesn’t depress me at all, it actually excites me. But before I am quoted out of context, please allow me to explain myself. Discussing the end times actually energizes my spirit because my view of the end times is radically different than the popular understanding of the end times as it is most often conveyed and portrayed. Because the Bible informs my understanding of the end times, instead of anxiety and fear, I am filled with great hope and expectation.
You see, when most people hear the phrases “the end-times” or “the last days,” they often mistakenly understand these terms to be referring to some future destruction of planet earth or the complete end of all mankind. But from a Biblical perspective, this is not how these terms should be understood. Instead, the Bible simply portrays the end-times as the end of one particular age and the beginning of another much, much better age. The things that the Bible portrays as coming to an ultimate end are things that we should all be excited about.
Let’s consider a few examples of exactly what I am talking about.
I am a friend to a ministry called Exodus Cry headquartered in Kansas City, whose efforts are devoted to the abolition of modern day slavery. Did you know there are more slaves today than at any other time in human history? The dark and spidery fingers of the sex-slave trade have worked themselves deep into nearly every corner of the globe. The overwhelming majority of these slaves are young women and girls, some as young as five years old, forced against their wills to endure abuse and degradation beyond description. It’s impossible to hear of this reality without being overwhelmed with emotion. But to be very clear, from a Biblical perspective, when we discuss “the end-times,” this is precisely what we are discussing coming to an end.
And this is unspeakably good news.
The global sex-slave trade will be abolished, those unrepentant criminal predators that have perpetrated these evils will be judged, and every last victim will be personally comforted, healed, vindicated and beautified by the Creator of heaven and earth.
For me, this is the very heart of “the end-times” message. And you can be sure that I’m looking forward to this.
What else will come to an end in the “last-days”?
When I look back to the very first days of my children’s lives on this earth, I can’t help but to think of how absolutely and utterly dependent they were. My family lives next to an elementary school. I love to hear the sounds of laughter and shouting that fills the air during recess. But I also can’t get it out of my head that in the United States, for every twenty kids that are present on the playground, roughly ten more are missing. Where did they go? They were legally murdered by the very people that were meant to protect and care for them. The number is far higher for African Americans; for every ten, there are nearly eight that are gone. This reality should bring anguish to any who have a sense of justice.
Even more disturbing is the fact that abortion is an industry wherein multitudes are slaughtered as a few become filthy rich. I am fully convinced that God is at the same time heartbroken and enraged. With Him, I burn for the day when this great evil will be a thing of the past.
When we discuss the end-times, we are discussing the decisive end of the wholesale slaughter of the most vulnerable, the most dependent, the most innocent little lambs that this world has to offer. So yes, I’m absolutely looking forward to this.
Of course, there are multiplied thousands of other injustices that we could list. When discussing the end-times from a Biblical perspective, we are discussing the end of all of the things that mankind has groaned under for millennia. We are discussing the end of corrupt and unjust governmental leaders, the end of the exploitation of the weak and poor, the end of all war, the end of disease. Who wouldn’t look forward to this?
When I talk about the end times, I’m not talking about the destruction of this planet and all of its inhabitants. Not at all. I’m discussing its redemption, its renewal.
But wait! What about all of the death and destruction that the Bible describes will occur before Jesus returns? To be fair, the Bible most definitely describes some very dark times that will precede the redemption of creation. I believe we are seeing the beginning of those dark days right now. Yes the events in the Middle East are moving toward the unified Islamization of the region. Yes, the increase in natural disasters is going to continue. Yes, the financial crisis will get far, far worse. And for this reason, I’ll continue to blow a trumpet and sound the alarm. Dark days are coming. Wake up. Repent. Get ready.
But from a Biblical perspective, the dark days are never to be the emphasis. The focus is always to be on the Redeemer to come. According to the analogy that Jesus used, the difficulties that lie ahead are only the birth pangs and contractions; they are not the conclusion of the matter. The contractions point to and ultimately lead to birth. And despite the immense pain (or so I have been told), associated with delivery, the miracle of holding a newborn baby always eclipses the suffering that preceded it.
Yes, there are many things these days to be concerned about. There are numerous things that might cause us anxiety or even depression. But I’m looking beyond the dark days to the Messianic Kingdom that will soon be birthed in the earth. Jesus the Messiah will be King over all the earth. I believe this emphatically and I make no apologies. I’ll continue to shout it from the rooftops and yearn for it with every ounce of who I am.
What the caterpillar calls the end of the world, the Master calls a butterfly. – Richard Bach
Joel Richardson is the author of Islamic Antichrist and God’s War on Terror. His blog can be found at www.joels-trumpet.com
Posted in Featured Articles, The Kingdom of God Tagged with: end times, eschatology, Guest Writer: Joel Richardson, Islam, israel, joel richardson