An Evangelical, millenialist pastor named John Hagee has written [an article][jdf] for the *Jewish Daily Forward*. In it, Hagee presents some reasons why Christian zionists support the present-day nation of Israel. He writes,
> On May 23, pastors, ministers and priests at more than 1,500 churches in all 50 states and over 50 foreign countries will dedicate their Sunday services to teaching the importance of Christian support for Israel.
Some of our members, or our neighbors, may wonder if we will join with those churches, or whether we should. The answer to that stems from the theology of Christian zionism. Zion is the name for the hill where the Jebusites had established the city of Jerusalem, and which King David later captured and made his capital. It became symbolic of the entire city, and ultimately, for the nation of Israel. *Zionism* is quite different, though the word is related. It describes a movement in which people attach special historic and theological importance to the existence of an earthly nation of Jews. It goes further than respect for the Jewish people as the nation from which our Savior, the Messiah, was born. It goes further even than recognizing a spiritual significance to ancient Israel that is connected to our present-day faith in Jesus.
In the words of John Hagee: “As is the case for many Jews, our support for Israel starts with Godâ€™s promises in the Hebrew Bible, but it does not end there.” By the Hebrew Bible, Hagee means the Old Testament scriptures. I suppose that the promises he references are the ones that describe a future kingdom of peace, ruled by the Messiah, when all enemies will be vanquished. Orthodox Christianity considers those promises to be fulfilled spiritually by Jesus right now, though their fulfillment will be revealed to all on the Last Day, which will be the First Day of our bodily eternal life in paradise. Millenialists, however, look for an outward earthly kingdom in which the Messiah will subjugate all outward enemies and reign as a sovereign potentate. This is not a new teaching; many Jews have made the same error for thousands of years. Hagee and others have, knowingly or not, imported such ideas into their Christian worldview. They support this notion with forced explanations of Bible passages under the guise of a “literal” interpretation. Unfortunately, those explanations usually do not allow the text of the Bible to stand on its own.
> Christian Zionists recognize that we owe an enormous debt of gratitude to the Jewish people. As I have stressed to my Christian audiences for years: If you take away the Jewish contribution to Christianity, there would be no Christianity.
I beg to differ. It was not the Jewish people who provided the doctrine of holy scripture. That came from God Himself, *in spite of* those to whom He spoke. The Jewish people, as such, have their beginning in Babylon, after Nebuchadnezzar destroyed the first Temple in 586 B.C. They are called “Jewish” because the kingdom Nebuchadnezzar destroyed was Judah, named for one of the twelve tribes of Israel. Today’s Jewish traditions and worship are indeed very old, dating back to that 6th century before Christ. Yet we should not imagine that Jewish worship is the same as the worship of Israel. Jewish worship centers in synagogues, which became the organizational model for early Christian congregations. It was a tradition designed to preserve the precious doctrine among the generations of Jews, despite the absence of the most important element of Israelite worship: the Temple in Jerusalem, and before it, the Tabernacle.
Today’s Judaism is quite different from Israelite worship, say, during the reign of King Josiah, or during the period of the Judges. Judaism’s roots are found in Israelite worship and doctrine, but the two are different. More importantly, a major focus of both ancient Israelite worship and ancient Judaism has been lost in present-day Judaism. That focus is echoed today only among the “messianic Jews” (those who recognize that Jesus is the Messiah) and Christians. It is the redemptive, justifying atonement of the Messiah, who through His own suffering and death, would provide forgiveness and remission of sins for all Israelites and for Gentiles, to be received through faith alone. The significance of this is only understood when we know the deep depravity and guilt of original sin, which cannot be erased or mitigated by the efforts of mortal man. This is all taught throughout the Bible, in both Old and New Testaments, but it is lost to modern-day Judaism.
Hagee writes, “From the patriarchs to the prophets, from Jesus and his family to the men who wrote down the Bible, Jewish people have provided us with the fundamentals of our faith.” The patriarchs were not Jews, nor even Israelites. Jesus and the apostles were indeed Jews, of the kind disowned today by their unbelieving Jewish families. They all believed and taught that Jesus is the Messiah. For this, most of them were killed. I don’t hold that fact against modern day Jews, but mention it only because Hagee would have us thank present-day Jews for their contribution to our Christian faith. History shows this to be senseless.
Speaking for Christian Zionists, Hagee also writes something with which I heartily agree: “Israel is not the cause of militant Islamâ€™s hatred of America, but an ally in the fight against militant Islam.” Islamofascists use Israel as a convenient excuse and a favorite punching bag, but their real target is personal freedom and the Christian worldview behind it.
Hagee writes that the focus of Christian zionists on May 23rd will include “Godâ€™s promise in Genesis 12:3 that He will bless those who bless Israel.” If you look up that verse, you will see that it does not mention Israel by name. It says “you,” meaning Abraham and the nation that would come from him. The promise in Genesis 12 does include Israel, but not in the way Christian zionists would have us believe. Israel was the beginning of the “great nation” descended from Abraham. The purpose of this nation was not to bless those who bless it, but that through it, “all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” That is fulfilled in Jesus the Messiah, who has provided salvation not only for Israelites, but for every nation. Other blessings of God upon the Israelites were fulfilled between the Exodus from Egypt and the Ascension of Jesus into heaven. After that, many believed in Jesus as the Messiah, and finally, the time of Temple worship came to a permanent end when the second Temple was destroyed in 70 A.D.
If we want to be a genuine blessing to the present-day Jews, we will hand them a copy of the Letter to the Hebrews and repeat what the apostle Paul wrote in Galatians 3:7-9 (NKJV), “Therefore know that only those who are of faith are sons of Abraham. And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel to Abraham beforehand, saying, ‘In you all the nations shall be blessed.’ So then those who are of faith are blessed with believing Abraham.” The faith Paul mentions is faith in the true Messiah, Jesus of Nazareth.
That brings me to the false identification of present-day Israel with ancient Israel. There are only two similarities between them: their citizens are primarily descendants of the patriarch Jacob, and they roughly occupy the same physical territory. In all other respects, they are different. The ancient nation of Israel does still exist, but it is hidden in this world. Its members include all those who belong to the Messiah, Jesus, by faith. Some are in heaven already, including such Israelites as Moses, Aaron, Joshua, Rahab, Ruth, David, Hezekiah, Elijah, Daniel, Esther, Ezra, John the Baptizer, the apostle Nathaniel, the pastor Titus, the evangelist Luke, the confessor Athanasius, and the reformer Luther. Others still live on the earth. The root of Israel is described in the Old Testament, but the wild branch of the Gentiles has been grafted in by faith (Romans 11:17), while many original branches have broken away because of unbelief. Yet unbelieving Jews may yet believe, and some are converted all the time (v. 23).
The true Israel is the Church. It is not a democracy, like the modern-day nation of Israel, but remains a monarchy. Our king is the Messiah, Jesus, who has fulfilled the prophecies of His victory and will return to end this world of sorrow and bring us into His everlasting kingdom of glory. Christians are Israelites, citizens of this world while also citizens of heaven. We live in the time of fulfillment, in the “millennium” that so many are awaiting. We pray weekly that God will open the hearts of Jewish people to believe in their Messiah. We would have them blessed with all that God promised to their forefathers, but as long as they reject their true God and Messiah, we shall not call them the true “Israel.”