Skip to comments.The End Times: what I don't believe [Evangelical Dispensationalism and the Jews]
Posted on 12/01/2006 12:53:15 PM PST by Alex Murphy
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.
"Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name's sake. And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another. And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray.
And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.
So when you see the abomination of desolation spoken of by the prophet Daniel, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand), then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. Let the one who is on the housetop not go down to take what is in his house, and let the one who is in the field not turn back to take his cloak. And alas for women who are pregnant and for those who are nursing infants in those days!
Pray that your flight may not be in winter or on a Sabbath. For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, and never will be. And if those days had not been cut short, no human being would be saved. But for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short.
Then if anyone says to you, 'Look, here is the Christ!' or 'There he is!' do not believe it. For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect. See, I have told you beforehand. So, if they say to you, 'Look, he is in the wilderness,' do not go out. If they say, 'Look, he is in the inner rooms,' do not believe it. For as the lightning comes from the east and shines as far as the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. Wherever the corpse is, there the vultures will gather.
Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then will appear in heaven the sign of the Son of Man, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.
- Matthew, Ch. 24
(just a little reference material...)
I'm not a Dispensationalist but...
It takes a truly paranoid worldview and a lightning speed to take offense to perceive as "anti-Jewish" the belief that the Jewish Messiah will one day come at a time of great peril to rescue Jerusalem and its inhabitants.
"The Writings" (the books Isaiah through Malakai in the Christian "Old Testament") are filled with promises of horrible things happening to the citizens of the nations of Judah and Israel. Are they also anti-Jewish?
Are Falwell and Lahay "anti-Jewish" because they believe that Jews will one day recognize Jesus as their "Lord"? Let me ask this: If the Jewish Messiah comes tomorrow, is recognizing him as Lord and as whomever he says he is (even G_d himself) a Jewish thing or a Christian thing? Say a man has a Jewish mother, is circumcized, and follows all 270-odd rules of Moses's Law?. If he rejects the authority of the Messiah when he comes, is he a true Jew?
Perhaps an Orthodox Rabbi and Falwell will never agree about what will ultimately occur when the Messiah comes. Does that make Falwell "anti-Jewish"? Orthodox Jews and Reformed Jews don't agree on almost anything except that Jesus isn't a Jewish thing. But Falwell is some kind of special danger to Jews?
Paul the Apostle talked of Dispensationialism...
Regardless of what your school, church or pastor tells you, the coming Tribulation is real...You don't want to be there...You don't want your family to be there...
If you can't find the Rapture and the Tribulation in the Bible, pick it up again...Just you, the bible and the Lord...Ask God to show you...And prepare you...
Should we just "off" ourselves now, then?
I can find the Tribulation in the Bible, but I can't seem to locate the "rapture".
I surely can find the Second Coming, but I can't find the "rapture".
As to "classic dispensationalism", what is really classical about the bad dream of a little Brethren girl less than 200 years ago?
LaHaye and Jenkins simply reformulated Hal Lindsay who reformulated M.R. DeHaan who reformulated H.A. Ironside who probably reformulated C.I. Scofield who, along with a few others, over the years, divided, and then dominated, the conferences started in 1878 at Niagra which spawned the Fundamentalist sect.
And the Niagra Conferences came from J.N.Darby, who reformulated the dream of that little Brethren girl. And from that dream came a whole host of dispensational, apocalyptic sects, of which Fundamentalism is merely one.
That's the nutshell version.
If Paul the Apostle talked of Dispensationalism, surely J. Vernon McGee perfected it.
No, I don't want to be there during the Tribulation. I would like to die peacefully in my bed. But, tell me, how could it be any worse in those days for any individual Christian than it was in the days of Christians under Nero, or in the days of Savonarola or in the case of Christians today in China or any other Christ hating society? Did Bonhoffer have it better under Hitler?
Christians have been burned alive, buried alive, eaten by lions, stoned to death, gutted, de-tongued, de-fingered, decapitated, tortured beyond belief, crucified upside down, and left to die agonizing deaths. The Tribulation has been with us since Christ rose to be with His Father.
Nope...Just be sure of your salvation, and avoid the Tribulation...
I can't imagine either scenario...I suspect the worst is being forced to watch your loved ones being ripped to shreds...
As to "classic dispensationalism", what is really classical about the bad dream of a little Brethren girl less than 200 years ago?
I don't know anything about that but if you are suggesting that some little girl invented dispensationalism, I don't buy it...I see it all over the bible...
I can find the Tribulation in the Bible, but I can't seem to locate the "rapture".
Not necessarily you, but a lot of folks don't believe what they read in the bible...How about the Bride of Christ and the marriage supper of the Lamb??? You believe in that???
How about the Bride of Christ and the marriage supper of the Lamb??? You believe in that???
Of course, I do.
As to Dispensationalism, I won't belabor the point, but I would suggest, if you are interested, that you study how it came to be prevalent in the Evangelical community.
First, start with Darby and work back. Then take a look at the Niagara conferences which spawned the primary expositor of Dispensationalism, Scofield.
I will be the first to admit that the Rapture and Dispensationalism are so ingrained in Evangelicals it almost appears to be "Biblical".
My position regarding the Rapture is agnostic, not, however re the Second Coming.
Just out of curiosity, I may do that...I've read references to Scofield but haven't delved into his history...I can't say whether his ideas have indirectly influenced my view of the scripture...
I've heard it said that Scofield 'invented' the rapture since it was unknown up until his time...I take the view that God will reveal certain 'biblical' things to people as the time approaches for them to be fulfilled...
I know there's a great deal of stuff in Ezekiel, Zachariah and other places that I'll never get...I'm guessing those things will be revealed to the right people at the right time...
And then there's the disbelief factor...How many people will get into a discussion about that gigantic body of water above the stars??? The one that NASA hasn't found yet...I believe that God opening the Red Sea is a 'type' of the Rapture showing us that He will open that great body of water during the Rapture...
I realize a person has to reach to get that, but it's in THAT book...There is SO much stuff in THAT book...
I am not trying to be dogmatic, because, as you point out there is a lot in that Book.
The point is, Pre-Trib, Post-Trib, Dispensationalism or not, they are all minor side issues that are, at best, interesting. The important thing is a person's relationship to Christ.
On that, I am sure we agree.
As to whether Scofield has influenced your view of Scripture, let me assure you, he has, even though you may not know it. There was a time in this country (30's, 40's, 50's, 60's) when the only Bible one would carry in order to show he was a "real Christian" was the 1909 edition of the Scofield KJV, leather-bound, gold-edged, with onion-skin pages. The preferred edition was 7 by 4 and a half. To really show how deep you were, the pages would be marked, and highlighted, with hand-written comments from some wonderful sermon one had just heard. If you were particularly deep, passages would be marked not just in red, but in blue. They even had special pencils that were red on one end and blue on the other.
It wasn't just the KJV that was God-inspired, it was the Scofield KJV that was God-inspired. Preachers would simply refer to "page so and so in your Scofield Bible". Most of us have moved beyond that today...with a few exceptions.
If you want to see how much influence Scofield has had on you, go to your nearest Bible Book Store and pick up a copy of the original 1909 Scofield with all the notes (they still sell them). You'll literally see the blueprint of modern day Dispensational Fundamentalism.
If you approach prophecy by prejudging God and the motives of all those who believe then you are just going to end up with a self-willed interpretation.
For the non-believers, take comfort. We are not commanded to make it happen. We are told to watch for the signs. So if they are right and we are wrong then there is nothing for them to worry about. The signs will never appear. However....if we are right and they are wrong, they need to stop falsely accusing people of evil motives and plots.
The problem with the Rapture is that Revelation is quite explicit regarding the Resurrections. John even numbers them: First Resurrection. Second Resurrection. The first occurs at the Second Coming. The second occurs after the Millennium.
There is no mention of a "pre-resurrection" occurring at the Rapture and it is difficult to wedge one in.
I understand the problem however. Jesus said no man knows the time He would establish his kingdom. If one believes that a seven year Tribulation starts with the appearance of the Anti-Christ, then it *would* be possible to identify His coming. The Rapture helps resolve that problem, but as I said it has problems of its own.
I agree...However, as I see it, the 1st Resurrection has 3 parts to it...It's called the harvest and it consists of the firstfruits, the main harvest and then the gleanings...
During the Rapture, only the Christians/Saints see Jesus and they meet Him in the air...At the 2nd coming, ALL eyes are on Jesus as he lands on earth...
As far as Revelation is concerned, the wedding takes place in heaven with the bride of Christ, the church, and then Jesus comes back for the 2nd coming...The church is getting hitched in heaven during the Tribulation on earth...
I've yet so see anything that makes me believe we are meant to *avoid* hardship & avoidance is written all over the Rapture. Faith & knowledge brought by our faith gives us strength to withstand anything, including the Tribulation.
Ezekiel - Chapter 13
Pay attention to 13:20
Wherefore thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I [am] against your pillows, wherewith ye there hunt the souls to make [them] fly, and I will tear them from your arms, and will let the souls go, [even] the souls that ye hunt to make [them] fly.
"Pillows" are protective charms. Watch for those offering charms to show the reaper those who are looking to fly away in the Rapture, so you'll know whether or not there is truth in what you're being told about the Rapture here. IOW, don't take my word for it, but please have your eyes opened & remember.
KJV English Concordance for "pillows"
Is "offing" yourself the way you have been taught to meet or greet the Messiah? Were you taught that the Messiah will come during good times or He come when things are most difficult?
This explanation is far too complex for an event that remarkably simply related in Revelation. One should note that Revelation is not written chronologically throughout, and there is reason to suppose that the Marriage Feast of the Lamb is a one time event rather than a continuous event. After all, if you are right, then who are the 12,000 evangelizing during the Tribuation? I don't have all the answers regarding Bible prophecy, but I'm pretty well satisfied that the Rapture has problems that cannot be overcome without some new inspired revelation.
but I'm pretty well satisfied that the Rapture has problems that cannot be overcome without some new inspired revelation.
I haven't encountered those problems...
Ah! Well, if you're just going to get snarky...