Dr. Thomas McCall, the Senior Theologian of our ministry, has written many articles for the Levitt Letter. He holds a Th.M. in Old Testament studies and a Th.D. in Semitic languages and Old Testament. He has served as Zola’s co-author, mentor, pastor, and friend for nearly 30 years.
This article appeared originally in the July Vol. 2, 2004 Levitt Letter.
Christian Zionism, supported for years by the Levitt Letter, is having an impact on the Church and on the world. In spite of the lukewarm attitude of many leaders of the churches in America toward Israel, and the strong opposition to Israel in Europe and the United Nations, there is a sizable number of Evangelical Christians in America who strongly support Israel—for Biblical, historical and political reasons—enough to resonate in the national decisions. No small part of this support has been brought about through the small, but effective, outlets of Biblical truth about the Church, Israel, the Rapture, and the Second Coming of Christ, all blessed and energized by the power of the Holy Spirit.
The enemy does not like this at all. Satan has organized most nations and most of the world’s press against Israel and against Christianity. He has furthermore succeeded in turning many of the formerly strong Bible teaching schools in this country against taking a strong stand for Israel, as we have chronicled over the years in this newsletter, and in our book Battles with Seminaries. The one movement that has remained resolute in its support for Israel and sound Biblical teaching is the loose-knit conglomeration of individuals and groups that form the entity called “Christian Zionism.”
Christian Zionism believes that God has revealed in the Bible that He has a great destiny for Israel, restoring the Jewish people to the Land, bringing them to true faith in their own Messiah, Christ Jesus, and bringing about the Second Coming of Christ and the Kingdom of God on earth. This is distinct from, but parallel to, the destiny He has for the Church, including the Rapture and the return of the Church with the Lord when He comes back to the earth.
Satan cannot stand this teaching, and has tried to destroy it wherever possible, but, with all the academic and media opposition he could muster, he has not been able to stamp out Christian Zionism. Now it appears he has raised up a direct attack against us, with the development of a new ecumenical organization called Sabeel, which had its International Conference in Jerusalem last month, with the theme, “Challenging Christian Zionism.” In a press statement, Sabeel stated that over 500 delegates from over 30 countries participated in the conference. Representatives from a broad spectrum of international Christian organizations met in the Roman Catholic Notre Dame Centre in Jerusalem, led by Dr. Naim Ateek, who describes himself as a Palestinian Christian and is the Canon of St. George’s Cathedral in Jerusalem. Other speakers were representatives of the Vatican, the Greek Orthodox Church, an Anglican vicar, a spokesman for the Archbishop of Canterbury, and a professor from Wheaton College. It appears that almost all branches of Christianity were involved.
What was taught during that conference would amaze many of our readers, but was reported by Paul Wilkinson, a Christian Zionist from England. The website of Sabeel contains no report on either the title of the conference or the messages of the speakers at the conference, so we are dependent on Wilkinson’s eyewitness account of the proceedings. However, what he reports is consistent with arguments against Christian Zionism we have heard before, and below is a synopsis of what Wilkinson reported, and my response.
The Anglican, Dr. Sizer, attempted to discredit Christian Zionism as being related to the Dispensational movement that began with J. N. Darby in 1809, claiming it has no lengthy historical basis.
Response: The truth is that Darby claimed only to have rediscovered (not invented) the truths of prophecy in the Bible, and there have been Christian Zionist writings supporting the restoration of Israel going back to the 16th century, long before Darby.
The Bethlehem Lutheran pastor, Dr. Raheb, stated that the Apostles of the Lord “did not get it,” when they asked the Lord in Acts 1:6 if He would “at this time restore the Kingdom to Israel.” They were, according to Raheb, the forerunners of contemporary Christian Zionists.
Response: I would agree that the Disciples were our forerunners, and count it an honor to be so associated with the Apostles. However, Dr. Raheb meant it as a criticism, describing the Apostles as “nationalistic,” “narrow-minded” and “blinded” to the future. It should be noted, though, that Jesus did not rebuke His Disciples for asking about the restoration, but merely told them that the timing of the restoration could not be revealed to them.
The Wheaton College New Testament professor, Dr. Gary Burge, gave a rather accurate history of the development of Christian Zionism in its association with Dispensationalism, but then claimed that we believe that the Church is merely an afterthought in redemptive history.
Response: This is certainly not representative of the vast majority of Dispensationalists. We believe that the Church was always in the plan of God, but He did not reveal anything about the Church until after the First Coming of Christ, and the pouring out of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. The full revelation about the Church was then made manifest to the Apostles, especially Paul.
The St. Mary’s (Roman Catholic) College Bible professor, Dr. Prior, had the audacity to lecture that “the Bible is a very dangerous book,” and the God of the Books of Exodus and Joshua is an immoral God, who is guilty of ethnic cleansing of the indigenous Canaanite people in the land. These sentiments were met with the applause of the delegates to the conference.
Response: Dr. Prior thus questioned the sovereignty of God in the matter of His raising up kingdoms and putting down kingdoms, and allowing one nation to defeat another nation as a matter of His rule and discipline.
Arab member of the Israeli Knesset, Azmi Bishara, complained that the recent Bush-Sharon letters were a second Balfour Declaration, that the most potent form of racism in the world today is “Islamophobia,” denied the existence of terrorism, and urged that Americans should rid the world of the Bush administration.
Response: The Bush-Sharon letters stated, in part, that the Arab refugees from the 1948 war and their descendants were not to be resettled in present-day Israel, and pledged U.S. support for Israel’s right to “defend itself against terror.” This is an important guarantee for the future stability of Israel. Furthermore, for Bishara to deny the existence of terrorism, with all the atrocities that terrorists have committed before and after September 11, 2001, demonstrates how biased the enemies of civilization are.
The conference would not have been complete without a visit to Ramallah and a private audience with none other than Yasser Arafat. According to Wilkinson, Arafat and Dr. Hanan Ashrawi expressed their delight in seeing “the Church,” as represented by the Sabeel delegates, express such solidarity with the Palestinian cause.
Response: If there was any doubt before, the delegates show their true political bias in their rally around the infamous Arafat. They apparently had no similar meeting with a leader of Israel during the conference.
All in all, the conference amounted to an organized attack against Biblical Christianity and against all Christians who believe that the restoration of the Jewish people to their ancient land is a harbinger of fulfilled Bible prophecy and the Second Coming of Christ. Are we ready for the battle? It is well to remember Zechariah’s admonition: “Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit, says the Lord of Hosts.”