Saturday, March 5, 2011

Israel in the Eschata, Part 2 of 3

Because there are a lot of quotes in this post, I will precede my portion with:
Dennis: Before getting into the Evangelical and Messianic perspectives on Biblical Eschatology, I am going to present a very brief overview of American Protestantism as it relates to this subject. Rather than rehash what has already been ably penned, I will selectively quote from an excellent paper that was written by John M. Brenner. (American Lutheran Views on Eschatology and How They Related to the American Protestants. [An essay delivered at the 32nd Annual Bethany Reformation Lectures, Bethany Lutheran College, Mankato, MN, on October 28-29, 1999]
“As postmillennialism began to fade among more conservative Christians after the Civil War, a new kind of premillennialism called dispensationalism came to America from England. The rise of modem dispensationalism can be traced to John Nelson Darby (1800-1882) and the Plymouth Brethren. Darby traveled and lectured in America between 1859 and 1872. The Niagara Bible Conferences beginning in 1875 and the American Bible and Prophetic Conferences beginning shortly thereafter helped to promote the new premillennial view. Probably because of contacts with Darby the famous American evangelist Dwight Moody (1837-1899) began preaching premillennialism and “nearly every evangelist after Moody followed in Darby’s train.
One of the most significant promoters of dispensationalism in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century in America was William Blackstone (1841-1935). His book Jesus Is Coming (1898) sold over a million copies and was translated into forty languages. Since the Jewish people figured so prominently in his eschatological system, he became an early supporter of Zionism and the establishment of the nation of Israel in Palestine. His efforts included drawing up a petition signed by 414 prominent Americans urging President Benjamin Harrison to seek international support for making Palestine a haven for persecuted Russian Jews.
Cyrus I. Scofield (1843-1921) was perhaps even more important than Blackstone in making dispensationalism the most popular form of millennialism in twentieth-century America. His major life’s work was the Scofield Reference Bible published by Oxford University Press in 1909. Scofield divided all of human history into seven dispensations. In each dispensation God tested human beings in respect to obedience to some specific revelation of his will. 
The seven dispensations according to Scofield are: (I have edited this part)
1. Dispensation of innocence (Genesis 1:28-3:13). 
2. Dispensation of conscience (Genesis 3:23-7:23). 
3. Dispensation of human government (Genesis 8:20-11:9). 
4. Dispensation of promise (Genesis 12; Exodus 19:8). 
5. Dispensation of law (Exodus 19:8-Matthew 27:35). 
6. Dispensation of grace (Current time). According to Scofield, at the conclusion of this dispensation the church will be raptured before the great tribulation. 
7. Dispensation of Christ’s millennial kingdom in which God’s plan for Jews, Gentiles and the church will be brought to fulfillment. 
Scofield’s dispensational plan became the “standard theological framework for American Fundamentalism.” Probably most of today’s best-known Evangelicals, including Billy Graham and Jerry Falwell, have been influenced by Scofield’s work in one way or another. Hal Lindsey has done more than anyone else to bring dispensationalist premillennialism to the “non-evangelical popular culture” with his string of best selling books. Dallas Theological Seminary has been the “academic and ideological Vatican” of dispensational premillennialism ever since its founding in the 1920s.
Through the leadership of Blackstone, Dwight L. Moody and Cyrus Scofield, premillennial dispensationalism and its derivative, Christian Zionism, began to affect the fabric of American religious culture. The literal interpretation of biblical prophecy was the foundational commitment of premillennial dispensationalism and Christian Zionism. The broad appeal of American evangelicalism, a product of the fundamentalist movement, helped infuse American religiosity with the theological and ideological commitments of Christian Zionism. Millions of American Christians accepted the 1948 founding and 1967 expansion of the State of Israel as fulfillments of biblical prophecy. In the month following the 1967 war, the editor of the evangelical magazine Christianity Today offered this reflection: “That for the first time in more than 2,000 years Jerusalem is now completely in the hands of the Jews gives a student of the Bible a thrill and a renewed faith in the accuracy and validity of the Bible.” The pages of Christianity Today marveled at Israel’s military prowess and assured the world that Israel’s wars—defensive or offensive—were God’ s will. Following 1967, premillennial dispensationalism achieved new heights of popularity in U.S. popular culture. In 1970, Hal Lindsey published The Late, Great Planet Earth, an effort to wed contemporary headlines with prophecy interpretation; the book proved so popular that in 1979 it was made in a documentary film narrated by Orson Welles. 1995 saw the introduction of the Left Behind series of novels, written by evangelical powerbroker Tim LaHaye and Christian writer Jerry Jenkins.
Evangelicals are pre-Millennial, which means they believe in a literal 1000 year period where the “Lion will lay down with the Lamb” and the thousand years will be ushered in by the Second Coming. They see Israel as God’s chosen people, but are sad that Israel, by and large, has not recognized Jesus as their Messiah. The rebirth of Israel, the recapture of Jerusalem, the rise of the Messianic movement, and the resurgence in studying about Christianity’s Hebrew Roots has ignited their imagination and has made them ardent supporters of Israel. The ICEJ organization is an example (International Christian Embassy in Jerusalem). Evangelicals have studied Daniel’s prophecy of the 70 Weeks and are looking for the 70th Week to begin.  More and more Evangelicals are starting to question the timing of the rapture; is it before the Tribulation, in the middle of the Tribulation, or at the end of it? See below for more on this. In any case, Evangelicals are looking for a charismatic leader to come onto the world scene and grab the world’s attention. They expect that Israel will enter into an agreement with this nefarious leader who will usher in the first half of the Tribulation. The Temple will be rebuilt in Jerusalem, the sacrifices resumed, as the Anti-Christ prepares to pull a fast one on the Jews. Sometime during this drama, Russia and her allies (Gog & Magog) will descend from the north onto Israel as they act out Ezekiel 37 & 38. Even President Reagan was aware of this prophecy and wondered about its timing. God will destroy Gog & Magog supernaturally, making way for the Antichrist to fill the void. In the meantime, the world gets pressured into receiving the Antichrist’s economic program, complete with the Mark of the Beast (666 or you die). Revelation 11 has two Old Testament witnesses who miraculously appear in Jerusalem causing all kinds of special effects. But the breaking point will be when the Antichrist bursts into the Temple, placing an image of himself for worship! When Israel realizes they’ve been had, things get messy and bloody. 144,000 Jews are divinely selected for special duty and the nation goes into hiding somewhere in the desert. By this time, the Wrath of God is being dispensed from bowls, vials, and trumpets. The scary images of fiery hailstones, stinging locusts, earthquakes, and nuclear devices crescendo until the harlot of Babylon is brought down and “the earth reels like a drunkard, it sways like a hut in the wind; so heavy upon it is the guilt of its rebellion that it falls—never to rise again. In That Day, the Lord will punish the powers in the heavens above and the kings on the earth below.” Isaiah 24: 20-21. With Jerusalem surrounded by hostile armies, the Messiah descends on the Mount of Olives with a host of others and the Lion of the Tribe of Judah (picture Aslan here) takes vengeance on Israel’s enemies. Once Israel realizes who the Messiah really is, “they will look on Him whom they pierced. Yes, they will mourn for Him as one mourns for his only son, and grieve for Him as one grieves for a firstborn...” Zechariah 12:10 But the mourning will give way to joy as the nation is restored and the splendor of the Millennium is revealed. The Messiah takes the dragon (Satan), Antichrist, and the Beast and hurls them into the Abyss. He locks the lid for a thousand years, as it says in Revelation 20:2-7 and the Millennium officially begins. 
The very popular New York Times best selling author, Joel Rosenberg, has a whole series of fast-paced novels which look towards the preparation and fulfillment of these events. I have read most of them and can heartily recommend them. Here are some of the titles: The Last Jihad, The Last Days, The Ezekiel Option, The Copper Scroll, Dead Heat, Epicenter, The Twelfth Imam. 
How have Lutherans reacted to this point of view? Here are a few quotes from an article written by Munib A. Younan, Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land (ELCJHL).
“I believe it is time we named this misinterpretation of Christ and the gospel for what it is (heresy).” There are three objectionable aspects to Christian Zionism: 1) its promotion of Jesus “not as the Savior but as a military general,” 2) its treatment of Jewish people simply as “characters ... in the so-called final battle,” and 3) as “anti-justice, anti-peace, anti-reconciliation.”
When we encounter a theological system that does not care about the lives of real people living in the Holy Land, one that treats all of them—Jews, Christians, Muslims, Druze—as pawns in an end-times drama, it needs to be called what it is. We can boldly name Christian Zionism as a theology of glory that anticipates the destruction of all persons not adhering to its ideology. In it there is no hope for reconciliation or the redemption of this world—only escape from it while it is cleansed through the unleashing of evil and its eventual cleansing by a returned Warrior Christ. It is not a vision of hope, but a vision of injustice; it is a threat. I believe that we have something vital to say as Lutherans, both in response to the challenge of Christian Zionism, and also in the larger sphere of North American religiosity.”
Dennis: This “escape from [the destruction of the world]” is one of the key places where the Messianic view differs from the Evangelical. To this I should say that I own a Scofield Reference Bible and have been taught many good things under the Dispensationalists. I even painted a 20 foot long canvas mural as a teaching aid on the 7 Dispensations for my Baptist church in Ironwood, Michigan. I remember reading The Late Great Planet Earth in the 70’s, watching the drama in the Middle East with interest, and wondered when the rapture would take place. Then I started to study the Jewish background to the Bible and talked with people in the Messianic movement. As with all groups, Messianics have different opinions on the events involved and the timing.  
The first difference is that the Messianics I’ve talked with don’t believe in the rapture happening at the beginning of the Tribulation. The “rapture” basically seeks to answer what is going to happen with living believers when Jesus comes for them. Here is a recent teaching from a Messianic leader in Israel:
“The texts that are usually cited for the [pre-Trib] rapture are:
I Corinthians 15:52 – For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.
I Thessalonians 4:15 – We who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep.
I Thessalonians 4:16-17 – And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them…
"The dead in Christ will rise first." If the Rapture occurs immediately after the Resurrection, it should be a fairly simple matter to determine the timing. Just find out when the Resurrection is, and then you will know when the Rapture is. Let's check the book of Revelation which speaks the most clearly of any book in the Bible about the Resurrection. Well, it's not in chapter one; not in chapter two, not in three, not four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, eleven, twelve, thirteen, fourteen, fifteen, sixteen, seventeen, eighteen, nineteen… Ah here it is:
Revelation 20:5 – This is the first resurrection.
So apparently the Rapture takes place right after verse 5. This of course is right after the Devil is bound (verse 2), which is right after the Beast is destroyed (verse 19:20), which is right after Armageddon (verse 19:19), which is right after the Second Coming (verse 19:11).
If the Rapture takes place right after the Resurrection, which takes place after the Tribulation, how can anyone say that the Rapture is before the Tribulation? No, the Rapture takes place at the end of the Tribulation, along with the Resurrection at the time of the Second Coming. It is at the end of the book of Revelation, not at the beginning, not at the middle, but at the very end.”
Dennis: I have read another theory in a book called the Pre-Wrath Rapture of the Church by Marv Rosenthal. There’s even a website devoted to the idea (by different authors):
Here is a quote from the website on the PreWrath position:
“The PreWrath view is quite easy to follow and quite scriptural. The Great Tribulation begins at the midpoint of a seven year period which is known as Daniel's seventieth week. When the Great Tribulation begins, there will be three and one half years left for God to fulfill His goals stated in Daniel 9:24. Sometime during that three and one half year period, the Lord will return, cut short the Great Tribulation, rapture the church, and bring wrath upon the ungodly. So the PreWrath rapture will occur after the Great Tribulation but before God's wrath. PreWrath maintains that the church will not suffer God's wrath according to the promises found in Romans 5:9, I Thessalonians 1:10, 5:9, and Revelation 3:10.
Further, PreWrath places the wrath of God beginning sometime after the sixth seal according to the book of Revelation's timeline. Before the sixth seal, we plainly see the church going through the tribulation during the fifth seal. At the sixth seal there is the announcement of God's wrath. The trumpets will sound shortly after this and bring fire, brimstone, and destruction upon the earth. The PreWrath rapture could also be termed a Sixth Seal Rapture since the church is in God's presence immediately following the sixth seal, see Revelation 7:9-17.”
Dennis: Whoah, you say; this is heavy stuff!! Isn’t there any comic relief to all this? Well, try clicking on this:
Dennis: You might say, “why does any of this matter?” Well, the idea that the “Church will go through much of the Tribulation until the time when the Wrath of God is poured out on the world is quite disconcerting (to those who thought they’d be taken out of it). Here is a reaction to this viewpoint from a well known member of the Pre-Trib side, Dr. Jack Van Impe: 
“The problem with this view is that rather than the Church looking forward to the return of Christ, the focus now shifts to the fearful expectation of the coming of Antichrist. No longer is the Church safe from the Tribulation, but is now present during the first three-quarters of this most horrible period in history...
For the Christian, the pretrib position must remain paramount because it encourages us to look forward to that "blessed hope" (Titus 2:13)-that any-moment-return of "the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ." The pretrib view promises that Christians will not endure the great terror of that day when Antichrist rules, when hordes of pestilences invade our world, when incurable diseases strike humankind with abandon, and when the atmosphere of earth as we know it deteriorates to where planet earth is unlivable and the air not fit to breathe.
The prewrath theory destroys the sense of expectation, demotivates the body of Christ, and puts the believer's focus on evil rather than good. The only solace given to Christians in the prewrath theory is that they will be raptured before the great Battle of Armageddon-small comfort since the Church would have already endured the worst of the great Tribulation judgments. Fortunately, while disruptive in some circles over the years, Rosenthal's theory has never gained ardent followers. [The folks at would disagree]
Dennis: There are a few more viewpoints that I’d like to explore. The Israel Omen is a book that I haven’t read yet, but you can be sure I’ll add it to my list. Do you remember the verse that I said was key to motivating Evangelicals? It’s Genesis 12:3—“I will bless those who bless you, and curse those who curses you.” This book seeks to show how any nation, including the United States, should not mess with Israel, even if Israel is presently not living by the covenant. 
The Israel Omen by David Brennan (May, 2010) The Ancient Warnings of Catastrophies has Begun
Review of the book The Israel Omen (by an anonymous reviewer):
“The Israel Omen is a well-written book that documents the correlation between the nation's treatment of the modern nation of Israel, to the severe natural/weather judgments that we are seeing in the headlines of our daily newspapers. 
The book begins with a brief reminder of the cataclysmic judgments on Egypt. The leader of Egypt did not make the association between his treatment of the Hebrews and the judgments that were coming upon his nation until Egypt was almost destroyed. 
So, today's current national leaders are not making the connection. As our national leaders make their mid-east policy decisions which negatively impact Israel, we the citizens of those nations, are receiving the brunt of GOD's judgment. 
Whether they are Democrat or Republican, each time one of our Presidents acts in a manner that tries to force Israel to give up the land GOD promised them, we their people become victims of GOD's judgments. Prophecies made thousands of years ago... are being fulfilled today!”
Dennis: Finally, many are concerned that Evangelicals are so pro-Israel that they are blind to the fates of Palestinians and Arab Christians and don’t see Israel’s mistakes. It’s a fair enough comment. I know that I got to hear the president of Bethlehem Bible College (that’s the real Bethlehem in Israel) speak at a church. His comments and answers to questions made it clear that he had serious problems with Israel, politically. Here is a recent article by John Piper about this sort of thing; go to the link to read it in its entirety.
“Israel, Arabs, and the Family of God
March 4, 2011 | by: John Piper | Category: Commentary
Here is the opening paragraph; select the link below to get the whole article.

“Last Sunday I met an Arab Christian who was visiting our church. In a respectful way, he poured out his heart concerning the plight of his people in the Middle East and his sadness at how few American Christian pastors ever say anything positive or hopeful about Arab Christians.
His perception is that Christians in America give carte blanche support for Israel. No injustice against Palestinians or Arab Christians elsewhere seems to get a response in American pulpits.
So I thought it would be good to publicly affirm a few positions that I think the Bible mandates:”
Dennis: The final difference in the Messianic viewpoint is that heaven is on earth - in the New Jerusalem. Furthermore, during the Millennium, the Torah will go forth from Jerusalem and Jesus, who is really Yeshua the great Rabbi as well as Savior, will dispense the proper interpretation of Torah and all nations will go up to observe the New Moons and the Feast of Tabernacles. You can read about that in Zechariah 14:16 and Isaiah 66. 
“And it shall come to pass that everyone who is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem shall go up from year to year to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, and to keep the Feast of Tabernacles.” 
I’ll interpret the puzzle pieces and other concepts using quotes from The Thousand Years in the next post, part 3.

1 comment:

  1. I too am frequently amused by the Tweets coming from Xanity. Very humorous!