continued from part (1)
What Are the Potential Results of Christian Zionism?
In light of what has previously been said, it should be apparent that Christian Zionism has the potential to shape the beliefs and practices of its adherents in a great many arenas. Some of these will now be designated more clearly:
First, a fervent adherence to the ideologies of Christian Zionism may very possibly lead to outright heresy and anti-christian doctrine. Consider once again John Hagee, perhaps the most outstanding representative of influential Christian Zionists. In his recent controversial book, In Defense of Israel, Hagee made several statements that clearly denied that Jesus came to be the Messiah, and that the Jewish people had rejected him as the Messiah. For example:
If God intended for Jesus to be the Messiah of Israel, why didn’t he authorize Jesus to use supernatural signs to prove he was God’s Messiah, just as Moses had done? (p. 137) Jesus refused to produce a sign … because it was not the Father’s will, nor his, to be Messiah. (p 138) If Jesus wanted to be Messiah, why did he repeatedly tell his disciples and followers to “tell no one” about his supernatural accomplishments? (p. 139) The Jews were not rejecting Jesus as Messiah; it was Jesus who was refusing to be the Messiah to the Jews. (p. 140) They wanted him to be their Messiah, but he flatly refused. (p. 141) He refused to be their Messiah, choosing instead to be the Savior of the world (p. 143) Jesus rejected to the last detail the role of Messiah in word or deed (p. 145) [John Hagee, In Defense of Israel, Frontline, 2007].
Consider also the text of a commercial Hagee produced to advertise his book:
This book will expose the sins of the fathers and the vicious abuse of the Jewish people. In Defense of Israel will shake Christian theology. It scripturally proves that the Jewish people as a whole did not reject Jesus as Messiah. It will also prove that Jesus did not come to earth to be the Messiah. It will prove that there was a Calvary conspiracy between Rome, the high priest, and Herod to execute Jesus as an insurrectionist too dangerous to live. Since Jesus refused by word and deed to claim to be the Messiah, how can the Jews be blamed for rejecting what was never offered? Read this shocking expose, In Defense of Israel.
Hagee did later issue a statement to clarify the “misunderstanding” of his intentions, with such explanations as the following:
I am writing to share with you some important news pertaining to my latest book In Defense of Israel. It has come to my attention that my choice of language and some of the interpretation being given that language in Chapter Ten has caused some confusion and actually led some readers to question whether I believe that Jesus is the Messiah. If people are reaching such a conclusion, then I have clearly failed to communicate my views as well as I should have….
Over the centuries, Christians have been quick to condemn the Jews for failing to recognize Jesus as Messiah. This approach led to replacement theology and the viewpoint of some that God has rejected and broken covenant with the Jewish people. These ideas, in turn, opened the door to a vicious Christian anti-Semitism that led to the Crusades, the Inquisition and countless pogroms.
I tried to challenge this view by highlighting a distinction that has been long recognized in Christian theology between the role Jesus played in His first coming, and the role He will play in his second coming. Jesus came the first time as the suffering Messiah, as exemplified by His persecution, rejection and crucifixion. Jesus will come back as the reigning Messiah, who will rule the world from His throne in Jerusalem as King of Kings and Lord of Lords….
[the rest of the letter can be read here: http://cufi.convio.net/site/PageServer?pagename=learn_teachings#special_message%5D.
However, this letter of retraction remains unconvincing on several fronts. First, the statements made in the book and commercial were too clear and too numerous to be the product of an unintentional slip of words. And then, in the letter, Hagee in no way retracts the content of what he had said, he just attempts to clarify a misunderstanding of what he had meant. Which means that, whatever the statements from Chapter Ten of his book actually mean, Hagee still believes and endorses them. Is it really likely that Hagee did not actually mean what he had seemed to state so clearly, but was simply the victim of a misunderstanding? Or is it not much more believable that he let his true theology, which drives his Zionist movements and organizations, come out into the open, so that it was no longer veiled behind the catch phrases of popular Evangelicalism, which by overuse have largely been derived of any meaningful content anyway?
But let’s consider even the amended statements a little more carefully: for argument’s sake, we will grant that Hagee didn’t intend to say that Jesus had not come to be the suffering Messiah (Moshiach ben Yosef), or that the Jews had not rejected him in that role; but he certainly intended to say that he had not come as the conquering Messiah (Moshiach ben David), and that the Jews had not rejected him in that capacity. And therefore, since they had not rejected him in this conquering role, which he would play in the eschaton, immediately after the rapture of the Church, then they had not in any way rejected or disqualified themselves from receiving the blessings which Christ as the conquering Messiah had been sent to give them. That this is in fact Hagee’s intended meaning may be substantiated from statements he has made elsewhere, such as the following:
GROSS: So where does that leave the Israeli Jews who don’t believe in Jesus
Christ when the Rapture comes?
Pastor HAGEE: Where that leaves them is that during the tribulation, the book
of Revelation says in the 14th chapter that God is going to send angels who
will preach the everlasting gospel across the face of the earth so that
everyone will have the opportunity of knowing who Jesus Christ is. Now, when it
comes to the Jesus people, Zechariah very clearly says that they are not going
to believe that Jesus Christ is the Messiah until they see him. Zechariah says
in the 14th chapter `and when they, the Jewish people, see him whom they have
pierced’–and the word pierced there actually refers to his rib and side–`when
they see him whom they have pierced, they will weep as one weeps for his only
son for a period of one week. They’re simply not going to believe he is the
Messiah until they actually see him, and that’s at the Second Coming. Then, at
that point in time, there is the judgment of the nations in which all nations
are judged for the way in which they have treated the nation of Israel and the
Jewish people, and the Jewish people and that will be an eternal kingdom
Here, Hagee clearly states that the Jewish people will reject Christ and disbelieve the gospel even after the rapture of the church and until the final appearing of Christ to establish his kingdom. However, at that time, after their rejection of Jesus, they will enter into the reward of an eternal kingdom, where they will rule the earth, and all the nations who had mistreated them will be judged. So then, for the Jewish people, there is a very different way of salvation than belief in Jesus as the Messiah. However you look at it, Hagee has indeed denied the salvific exclusivity of belief in Jesus as the Christ, by positing a different type of salvation, namely eternal physical sway over the earth, which is not connected to Jesus’ Messianic task of suffering. If one is a Gentile, he must believe in the suffering Messiah to be given the spiritual inheritance of eternal life. If one is a Jew, he can reject the suffering Christ and forfeit his spiritual inheritance – but he will still get the consolation prize of a physical inheritance, by virtue of his ethnicity, his rejection of Christ notwithstanding. This idea has derived directly from Hagee’s Christian Zionist ideology, and the two-peoples-of-God/two-prophetic-agendas theology which drives it. Consider well: if the leading proponent of Christian Zionism has gone down the path of heterodoxy in pursuing it, is apostasy and heterodoxy not a very real danger for the whole of the church that is in favor of the Christian Zionist ideals? Is heresy not a danger intrinsic to the very nature of the movement, and are not the seeds of it worked into the very fabric of the whole philosophy? If this is indeed the case, then the need for a warning call from the leaders of the church is most pressing indeed.
Second, and conversely, not only does the extreme ideology of Christian Zionism offer a free acquittal to unbelieving Jews, falsely guaranteeing them a hope of salvation to a glorious earthly kingdom in spite of their rejection of Jesus as the suffering Messiah, it also obscures the true riches that ought to be proclaimed among them, in the free gospel offer of grace in Jesus Christ. The New Testament teaching is that all who believe, whether Jews or Gentiles, are heirs of every promise made to the fathers (Galatians 3:28-29; Ephesians 2:12-13, 3:6) and possessors of every spiritual blessing in Christ (Ephesians 1:3), the one to whom all the promises were made (Galatians 3:16), and in whom they all find their fulfillment (2 Corinthians 1:20). Christian Zionism teaches them that, if they accept Christ now, they become a part of a different body (the Church) which is not in continuity with their own heritage and which does not guarantee the fulfillment of the promises made to their fathers. To accept Christ is to denounce the Abrahamic promise, for from the point at which they accept him, they become a part of God’s spiritual people, which does not inherit the physical promises. If they reject him, then, although they forfeit their spiritual inheritance, at least they are still properly considered ethnic Jews, in God’s sight, and so they can still hope to possess their land in peace and fruitfulness. Although most Christian Zionists would no doubt say that it would be of benefit for any modern Jew to embrace Christ, do not their own actions undermine the genuineness of their claim? If they are expending so much effort and energy to see that the modern state of Israel retains hold of her land, are they not saying in effect, “Do not give up your place in God’s eschatological program as an ethnic Jew! If you become part of the Church, where there is no Jew or Greek, you will be raptured away, and the land will not be yours in the millennial kingdom – but it is an invaluably great thing for the land to remain yours, and hence we are spending so much effort to keep it in Israeli hands.” How much better than this false dichotomy is the true gospel that says, “You will certify yourselves to be genuine Jews and Abraham’s seed indeed, and you will be given the full and eternal possession of every blessing ever made to the fathers, if you only embrace the Jewish Messiah, Jesus Christ, who came once to suffer and fulfill every promise, and is coming again to bring his inheritance with him”!
Third, as we have already noted, the ideology of Christian Zionism carries the very real danger of distracting believers from their true and most pressing tasks as Christians on this earth, whether it be spreading the gospel throughout the nations or just living lives of simplicity, hope, and virtue before the watching world, by focusing their attention on a divine agenda which, by their own confession, has nothing to do with themselves as part of the Church, but only serves to indicate the approximate time when God may snatch them up to be out of the way of what he has begun to do again with his other people.
Fourth, the impact that Christian Zionists have on international politics may bring about some very tragic results in the diplomacy of the Middle East, including very real bloodshed and bereavement which might have been avoided if the idea of Israel’s divine entitlement to the land had been abandoned (or rather, if it had been put in its proper perspective as that which guarantees that all of Abraham’s true children will inherit the new earth through much meekness and patient endurance). This effect of a wrong ideology, having such a vast and widespread capacity to do much harm, has no doubt been grossly underestimated by a great many Christian theologians who disagree with the basic premises underlying the Christian Zionist movement.
The Christian Zionist movement is the result of an aberrant theology, and is dangerous on several fronts: it tends to distract and confuse true believers in a vast segment of worldwide evangelicalism; it tends to obscure the true message of the gospel from the Jewish people, by presenting to them a false dichotomy which demands that they forfeit the Abrahamic promises if they should come to Christ (who actually fulfills them – tragic irony!); it tends towards greater doctrinal confusion and heresy, which has been seen even in the most respected and influential leaders of the movement, and not just on the radical fringe; and it tends to work against the preservation of peace in the Middle East, by obstinately refusing any sort of compromise. Any movement that has such a destructive potential, and that has in fact already had many such harmful effects, is no small issue. Perhaps it is time for the leaders of the worldwide Church to present a united front of opposition to a very widespread and alarming threat.
Christian Zionism: Road-map to Armageddon? book by Stephen Sizer