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
“For it is unbecoming beyond measure that on this holiest of festivals we should follow the customs of the Jews. Henceforth let us have nothing in common with this odious people…We ought not, therefore, to have anything in common with the Jews…our worship follows a…more convenient course…we desire dearest brethren, to separate ourselves from the detestable company of the Jews…How, then, could we follow these Jews, who are almost certainly blinded.” Council of Nicea, 325 CE
This was an ordinance of the Catholic Church that distinguished the celebration of Passover from Easter. The separation of the Jew and Gentile was taking place insidiously over the past two centuries, but with the coming of Constantine the schism was decisive and final. In the prior decade Constantine forbade Jews from living in Jerusalem and ordered them not to proselytize.
Also at this time, Sunday became the day of rest, whereas before gentile believers had observed the Sabbath with the Jews on Saturday. Rick Chamberlain writing about this epochal period states
Nicea, with its theological anti-Judaism, laid the groundwork for anti-Semitic legislation of later church councils. The Council of Antioch (341 CE) prohibited Christians from celebrating Passover with the Jews. The Council of Laodicea in the same century forbade Christians from observing the Jewish (and biblical) Sabbath. (Some Christians had been observing both Sunday and the Sabbath.) Christians were also forbidden from receiving gifts from Jews or matzoh from Jewish festivals and “impieties.”
It wasn’t all bad news in those early centuries. Judaism was not a “prohibited sect,” according to the Codex Theodosianus of 438 CE. Rabbis were entitled to the same privileges as Christian clergy. Jews were not to be disturbed on their Sabbath or Feast Days. Their synagogues were not to be attacked, violated, burned, or confiscated. However, conversion was a one-way street. Jews could convert to Christianity, and were encouraged to do so. However, Christians were forbidden to convert to Judaism. Also, Jews were forbidden to own Christian slaves, but Christians could own Jewish slaves. Christians were forbidden under penalty of death to marry Jews. Jewish tribunals were considered valid only in matters purely religious. The Fiscus Judaicus (Jewish tax) from earlier centuries was maintained, a tax which only Jews were required to pay to government authorities.
The few protections offered by the Codex Judaicus were relatively short-lived. It wasn’t many decades until attacks on Jews and their synagogues became commonplace. The Jew was a second-class citizen, somewhat protected by law, but merely tolerated, something akin to the dhimmi status that is given to non-Moslems in Islamic countries. However, these were the “good old days” compared to the horrors that would be inflicted upon Jews in later centuries by the “Church triumphant.” Rav Shaul (Paul) commanded the Christians to “provoke the Jews to jealousy” with righteous living. Unfortunately, Christians kept only half the commandment; they provoked the Jews.
To some in the church this is a new era where the gospel receives a deeper and more replete authority in the world and for others of the Kingdom of Messiah it is interpreted as a day of infamy. Chamberlain states
More Christians were killed (by other Christians!) in the first century after the Council of Nicea than had been killed by pagans in the century before Nicea.
Have you ever wondered what the Church would look like today had this split from her Jewish roots never happened? Even more profound is the attitude and treatment of the Jews by the established ecclesiastical bodies and how that would effect their acceptance of the Messiah? The hatred that the Romans had for the Jews was carried on by the Church. I have made two trips to the Holocaust Memorial in Washington, DC. In the permanent exhibit are two films, one is about the rise of Nazism and the other, on antisemitism. The films are each about 15 minutes long. Within 2 minutes of the film on antisemitism the first mention of the Church is made and thus remains the main character(culprit) for the balance of the picture. Overcoming this sentiment from the Jewish community is one of the chief obstacles on the way to the salvation of Israel.
So it is a relief to see gentile believers support Israel and Messianic Jews, but also to see them celebrate the feasts of Israel in the liberty of the Spirit. This is the focus of a Jerusalem Connection article by Nicole Jansezian. She begins,
Jews all across Israel and the world will sit down for the traditional Seder dinner commemorating the miraculous exodus of the Israelites form Egypt. Each year, more Christians join in whether with their Jewish neighbors or at Seder dinners of their own.
Wayne Hilsden, senior pastor of King of Kings Community in Jerusalem, said that Christians have a precedent for observing the Passover: Jesus’ last supper was a Passover Seder with his disciples.
The first few Seders I participated in were enlightening. It actually formed part of the foundation of my intercession for Israel. The article continues:
Christine Darg, president of Exploits Ministry, has led Passover conferences in Israel and in countries around the Middle East for Christians over the past 14 years.
“We gain a deeper revelation of the principles and precepts of our God by observing the (biblical) feasts, all of which are types and shadows of Messiah,” Darg said. “Every element of the Passover meal and Seder points in some way to Him. The striped and pierced unleavened bread speaks of Him as the sinless one who was pierced and wounded for our sins and sicknesses.”
Darg noted the striking parallels between Passover and Jesus’ death. The process of the Passover sacrifice began in the temple at 9 a.m.; Jesus was bound to his cross at the third hour, 9 a.m. The temple sacrifices continued until the the evening sacrifice at the ninth hour, or 3 p.m., when then the high priest would cry out, “It is finished.” At the ninth hour Jesus also cried from the cross, “It is finished!” as he died.
The Lord’s Supper was (is) the Passover meal. What a great point of contact for your unsaved Jewish friends? Also, a wonderful time keep the unity of faith with our Messianic brethren. Drag admonishes us,
“The church historically never should have distanced itself from its Hebraic foundations,…It is important to commemorate the death and burial of Jesus, the Lamb of God, and to celebrate the resurrection of Yeshua as the first fruits from the dead at the appropriate season, at Pesach, rather than during the pagan spring holiday named after a fertility goddess.”
This doesn’t mean that Christians don’t or shouldn’t also celebrate the resurrection of Jesus. Most do observe Easter, but many call the holiday “Resurrection Sunday” instead.
As part of the reparations of the Body of Messiah to Israel then, celebrating the Biblical feasts can be an easy first step. As with most things in our maturing as believers, more revelation comes in the doing. No room for legalism here, let the Holy Spirit lead us. Maybe, after centuries of ostracizing the Jew we can begin to recover that relationship that was never intended to be broken and facilitate the salvation of Israel.
John Paul is is an Associate Editor for Voice of Revolution, overseeing Jewish Issues.
Posted in Featured Articles, Israel & The Jewish People Tagged with: easter, Holocaust, jewish roots, Jewish roots of Christianity, messianic, messianic judaism, passover, resurrection, resurrection of Jesus
For those that can stomach it, check out the video below to see clips from anti-semitic Arabic television shows (warning, the last part includes actual Holocaust footage with the host rejoicing and hoping it will happen again, but this time by the hands of Muslims):[Link to Video]
Posted in Israel & The Jewish People, News Tagged with: arabic television, Holocaust, Islam, Muslims
President Obama has overturned the restrictions on the federal funding of stem-cell research that were set in place by the Bush administration in August 2001, when President Bush limited funding because of “fundamental questions about the beginnings of life and the ends of science.”
President Obama showed his lack of concern for these “fundamental questions” when he made these statements:
Our government has forced what I believe is a false choice between sound science and moral values…
It is about ensuring that scientific data is never distorted or concealed to serve a political agenda — and that we make scientific decisions based on facts, not ideology…
Promoting science ‘is about letting scientists like those here today do their jobs, free from manipulation or coercion, and listening to what they tell us, even when it’s inconvenient — especially when it’s inconvenient.’
Restrictions from the Bush administration on stem cell research allowed scientists to work with stem cells which were not obtained through the exploitation or destruction of human embryos. Those restrictions are now lifted:
“The president is, in effect, allowing federal funding of human embryonic stem cell research to the extent that it’s permitted by law — that is, work with stem cells themselves, not the derivation of stem cells,” Varmus said in a conference call with reporters Sunday.
While conceding that “the full promise of stem cell research remains unknown” and “should not be overstated,” Obama nevertheless expressed hope that the order will help spur faster progress in the search for cures to afflictions such as Parkinson’s disease, cancer and spinal cord injuries…
Researchers highly value embryonic stem cells because of their potential to turn into any organ or tissue cell in the body. Stem cells have this ability for a short time. A few days before the embryo would implant in the uterus, it starts to develop into specific cells that will turn into skin or eyes or other parts of a developing fetus.
When the embryo is 4 or 5 days old, scientists extract the stem cells and put them in a petri dish. With the removal of these stem cells — of which there may be about 30 — the embryo is destroyed.
Several polls from different sources indicate that the majority of Americans were in favor of these restrictions being lifted. Scientists are hoping to use stem cell research to eventually develop treatments for people with diabetes, cancer, spinal injuries, and many more debilitating conditions, which garners support from many Americans. However, the ethics involved in embryonic stem cell research are questionable. Some opponents of the bill have this to say about stem cell research:
“Advancements in science and research have moved faster than the debates among politicians in Washington, D.C., and breakthroughs announced in recent years confirm the full potential of stem cell research can be realized without the destruction of living human embryos,” House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, said Sunday.
Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Alabama, said the Bush policy imposed proper ethical limits on science.
“My basic tenet here is I don’t think we should create life to enhance life and to do research and so forth,” Shelby said Sunday. “I know that people argue there are other ways. I think we should continue our biomedical research everywhere we can, but we should have some ethics about it.”
Wendy Wright, president of Concerned Women for America [says this]: “President Obama’s order places the worst kind of politics above ethics. Politics driven by hype makes overblown promises, fuels the desperation of the suffering and financially benefits those seeking to strip morality from science.”
President Obama set his “ethical limits” at using stem cells for human cloning. Such cloning, he said, “is dangerous, profoundly wrong, and has no place in our society or any society.” One might ask, since he has made such clear statements about science not being limited by ideology, why he sets the limits at human cloning as wrong and dangerous? Once the value of human life has been removed and disregarded for the sake of “scientific progress,” why couldn’t the same argument he is making for “science” eventually be used for what many now consider unethical boundaries?
Scientists in Nazi Germany performed many experiments on Jews in concentration camps in the name of advancing “science,” some of the results of which have been banned from being used or taught in the medical community, because of the unethical way in which they were performed. Yet many of their “experiments” were in order to find treatments and cures for diseases, which is the same argument being used for the justification of embryonic stem cell research. The Nazi ideology had so far dehumanized the Jewish people in the German culture that these horrific experiments were allowed and encouraged.
How far have we fallen as a culture, when the majority of Americans (according to some polls) no longer consider these helpless embryos as human, and their lives can be taken simply to bring possible benefits to those who are stronger and have voices that can be heard?
Posted in News, Revolution & Justice Tagged with: Barack Obama, embryo, George W. Bush, Holocaust, nazis, polls, pro-life, science, stem cell research
For the past five months, an underground campaign of violence directed against Christians has erupted in Orissa (one of the poorest states in India) and spread to several surrounding states as well. According to a London online newspaper as of November 20, 2008, there have been 67 Christians killed, thousands of homes burned, hundreds of places of worship destroyed, and there are now around 11,000 displaced Christians in refugee camps. The leaders of several Christian organizations in India have said that Hindu militants are offering rewards to those who commit violence against Christians. Allegedly the reward offered for killing a pastor is $250, and rewards of food, fuel, weapons, and money are being offered to those who hurt or destroy Christians or their property. They have also said that the Hindu extremist group, Bajrang Jal has set up training camps for training women to use weapons in order to kill Christians in rural areas. The Hindu groups have denied these claims, but according to the Times of India, the Indian government has found enough evidence to indicate a planned conspiracy of violence against Christians by the militant Hindu groups.
This string of violent activities was triggered by the assassination of Hindu extremist leader Swami Lakshmanananda Saraswati. Despite the Maoist party claiming responsibility for the assassination, the militant Hindu group has continued to blame the murder on Christians. Following is some of the story and quotes from the interview with Maoist leader Azad by an Indian newsgroup:
“We killed Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati to avenge his villainous role in Kandhmal,” said Azad, a leader of Maoist outfit, People’s Liberation Guerrilla Army, in an interview to a leading Oriya daily on Friday.
Azad said ever since the December 2007 riots in Kandhmal, a predominantly tribal area, Laxmanananda and VHP secretary general Pravin Togadia portrayed Christians as Maoists and attempted to defeat the revolutionary movement. “Laxmanananda was taking the lead in Hindu fascist activities,” he said in the interview. “We appeal to the public to join us to fight exploitative organizations.”
According to this Maoist leader, the militant Hindu group (VHP) has portrayed Christians as Maoists, even though they are not, thus allowing them to shift the blame and focus for the murder onto the Christians rather than those who claimed responsibility themselves. Hindu extremist groups have a deep-seated hatred of Christians for converting Hindus from their religion, and claim that the Christians use coercion, bribery, and force to win converts, and it appears that they have been waiting for just such an excuse to justify a concerted attack on Indian Christians. Here is what one Hindu leader has to say to the Times of India on the subject:
‘People are bound to react when their leaders like Swami Laxmananda Saraswati are killed and fellow neighbours and friends brazenly converted.” … He was chillingly forthright when he said he will continue seeing the killers of Laxmananda as ”Christians”, not Maoists. Incidentally, three men, now arrested and calling themselves Maoists, have claimed responsibility for the murder of the Hindu leader on August 23 this year. ”Conversions have to stop, only then will violence (against Christians) cease,” he warned darkly… He went on, ”Tribals are being threatened, coerced, and cheated into becoming Christians. Even otherwise, the Orissa Freedom of Religion Act (1967) prohibits it.”
All the leaders of Christian organizations in India have condemned the killing of Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati, and assert that violence is never an acceptable way to solve their problems. However, the Hindu leaders promise that Hindus will react with violence whenever they are attacked, and it seems they reserve the right to decide who the attackers are without recourse to actual evidence. According to the London Newspaper covering the story, “Extremists said that if Mr Lakshmanananda’s killers were not caught by December 15 they would begin a day of violence on December 25.” The men who were ALREADY arrested by the Indian government for the killing freely claimed responsibility for the attack, but that has not satisfied the Hindu extremist groups who insist upon blaming Christians instead.
In Kandhmal (a region of Orissa), Hindu families have been flying saffron flags over their houses to distinguish themselves from the Christians, because houses without these flags have been vandalized or destroyed by angry Hindus. This seems very similar to the Nazi Germany’s identification of the Jews using yellow stars of David, albeit the other way around. All those without the “safety” of the saffron flag are in danger of violent attacks on their person or property.
In the next article, we will look at some of the reactions of the Indian government, as well as international reactions to this campaign of violence. As the threatened day of violence approaches on December 25th, let us not forget to pray that this violence will be averted, and the glory of God manifested in great power within India! Pray for our brothers and sisters, many of whom have suffered violence for the name of their Savior, and pray that they will be peacefully restored to their homes and not have to suffer through the winter in refugee camps. Pray for those who have been blinded by fear and/or hatred, that they would encounter the love and reality of our Messiah Jesus and live transformed lives, devoted to the Lord. He is our great God, able to do so much more than we can ask Him! Pour out Your Spirit, Father!
Posted in News, Persecution Tagged with: God, Hindu, Holocaust, India, martyr, Orissa, Persecution, violence against Christians