Category Archives: Dispensationalism

666: Interpreting the Apocalyptic in the Book of Revelation

sanctuary-lambGeorge Orwell’s book, 1984, a dark vision about a Britain taken over by a totalitarian regime that uses “doublethink” and “Newspeak” to mislead and control its citizens, was published in 1949, but has apparently returned to the best-seller list. And you probably know why.

In the 1990’s as the new Millennium approached, there was a similar spike in interest among Christians in Bible prophecy.  Some commentators called it ‘PMT’ or ‘pre-millennial tension’. Revelation 13 is one of those passages of scripture that continues to arouse considerable speculation and a disproportionate amount of ink if not blood spilt. How are we to make sense of this passage and its enigmatic signs and symbols? How are we to decode them? Do they refer to history? To the present? Or to the future? We are not going to answer these questions today. And I am not going to give you a verse by verse analysis. Not because of a lack of time or because they passage is too difficult.  The fact is godly men and women who hold a high view of scripture, disagree on the meaning and application of the passage before us today.

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Der Christliche Jihadist

christian-poker-crusade-v-jihad-2

Der Christliche Jihadist. Im Zeichen des Kreuzes im evangelikalen Christentum: Die Perspektive eines christlichen Jihadisten

A German translation of my presentation, The Christian Jihadist

Download a pdf version Der christliche Jihadist

See also Sieben biblische Antworten auf populäre zionistische Thesen

Die theologischen und ideologischen Wurzeln der Balfour-Deklaration

Sieben biblische Antworten auf populäre zionistische Thesen

 

 

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Will the Jewish Temple be Rebuilt?

“Mounting tension: Israel’s Knesset debates proposal to enforce its sovereignty at Al-Aqsa Mosque – a move seen as ‘an extreme provocation to Muslims worldwide’” was the ominous headline in the Independent newspaper, 27th February 2014.

Ben Lynfield writes, “The Arab-Israeli conflict took on an increasingly religious hue when the Jordanian parliament voted unanimously to expel Israel’s ambassador in Amman after Israeli legislators held an unprecedented debate on Tuesday evening over a proposal to enforce Israeli sovereignty at one of Jerusalem’s holiest sites, currently administered by Jordan, and to allow Jewish prayer there. 500 metres by 300 metres, the Temple Mount, or Haram Al Sharif as it is called in Arabic, is probably the most disputed plot of land on earth. Hal Lindsey claims, ‘I believe the fate of the world will be determined by an ancient feud over 35 acres of land.’[1]

Many Christians share the belief that the Islamic shrines must be destroyed and that a Jewish Temple must and will be rebuilt – very soon. But this won’t be a museum replica of the one king Solomon built or be just another attraction for pilgrims to the Holy Land. No, this Temple will be built for one purpose and one purpose only – for bloody animal sacrifices, and lots of them.

What is the case for rebuilding the Jewish Temple? Does the Bible predict such an event? If so, where and how it might be built? What does the New Testament  say on the subject? What are the implications for Christians should the Jewish Temple be rebuilt?  Continue reading

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Zion’s Christian Soldiers in Korean

Zion’s Christian Soldiers: The Bible, Israel and the Church is now available in Korean and published by CLC. Further details soon.

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For the Love of Zion

“Brothers and sisters, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for the Israelites is that they may be saved. For I can testify about them that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge.” (Romans 10:1-2)

Unanswered Questions?

Why is there such a close relationship today between the Christian Right, the American political establishment and the State of Israel?  Why after 40 years, does Israel continue to occupy territory in Lebanon (the Sheba Farms), Syria (the Golan Heights) and Palestine (the West Bank) while Syria has been pressured to withdraw from Lebanon? Why is Israel allowed to retain nuclear weapons while Iran is threatened with a pre-emptive attack for aspiring to obtain nuclear technology?  And how have Britain and America become the focus of so much hate in the Arab world and the target for Islamic terrorism – despite out commitment to  the rule of international law, democracy and human rights?  The answers to these questions remain inexplicable unless we factor in what is now probably the most influential and controversial movement amongst Christians today – Christian Zionism.

 The Significance of Christian Zionism

Let me give you a flavour of the movement and their strategy from a recent speech given by John Hagee. Hagee is the Founder and Senior Pastor of Cornerstone Church, an 18,000 member evangelical church in San Antonio in Texas. Hagee broadcasts a national radio and television ministry to Americans on 160 T.V. stations, 50 radio stations and eight networks into an estimated 99 million homes worldwide on a weekly basis. In 2006 he founded Christians United for Israel with the support of 400 other Christian leaders.

 For 25 almost 26 years now, I have been pounding the evangelical community over television. The bible is a very pro-Israel book. If a Christian admits “I believe the Bible,” I can make him a pro-Israel supporter or they will have to denounce their faith. So I have the Christians over a barrel, you might say.[1]

The assumption Hagee makes, that Bible-believing Christians will be pro-Israel, is the dominant view among evangelical Christians, especially in the USA.  In March 2007, Hagee was a guest speaker at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) Policy Conference. He began with these words: “The sleeping giant of Christian Zionism has awakened.

There are 50 million Christians standing up and applauding the State of Israel…” As the Jerusalem Post pointed out, his speech did not lack clarity. He went on to warn:

It is 1938. Iran is Germany, and Ahmadinejad is the new Hitler. We must stop Iran’s nuclear threat and stand boldly with Israel, the only democracy in the Middle East… Think of our potential future together: 50 million evangelicals joining in common cause with 5 million Jewish people in America on behalf of Israel is a match made in heaven.[2]

The Pew Research Centre recently discovered that 60% of evangelicals said they supported the state of Israel,[3] and 32% cited their religious beliefs as the primary reason for such support.[4]

The Unity Coalition for Israel, which brings together over 200 different autonomous organizations, is the largest pro-Israel network in the world. They claim to have 40 million active members, and lobby on behalf of Israel through 1,700 religious radio stations, 245 Christian TV stations, and 120 Christian newspapers. [5] Besides, Christian’s United for Israel, the other three largest Christian Zionist organizations are the International Christian Embassy, Jerusalem, Christian Friends of Israel and Bridges for Peace. A powerful lobby movement? You bet. Christian Zionism is undoubtedly a dominant force shaping US foreign policy in the Middle East.[6]

What about your Presuppositions?

Discovering what the Bible has to say about the relationship between Israel and the Church, in history and prophecy, is not just an academic exercise. What we believe and understand affects how we behave and act. Let me illustrate. If you believe the Bible predicts an imminent war of Armageddon with Israel and the United States on one side and the Islamic and Communist world on the other, then you will not lose any sleep over the stalled peace process. And when you read about yet more bloodshed and suffering in the Middle East it will confirm what you already think is going to happen.

However, if you believe peace and reconciliation between Jews and Arabs in the Middle East is not only possible, but also God’s will; that the UN Declaration of Human Rights is based on Judeo-Christian principles; and that the consistent implementation of international law should form the basis for our diplomacy in the Middle East, then you will act to achieve peace with justice. Our presuppositions not only shape our beliefs but also our actions.

 Postponement or Fulfilment?

Why does this subject arouse such strong emotions among Christians, and evangelicals?  Because the very gospel is at stake. The question to have at the back of your mind as you read further is this: Did the coming of Jesus, his death and resurrection and the founding of the Church, fulfil or postpone the biblical prophecies concerning Israel? Is the Church central to God’s purposes on earth, or a temporary side show? In answering this question, evangelicals tend to fall into one of two camps – covenantalists and dispensationalists. Now there are variations of each, but if you haven’t heard of the terms before, you are not alone. Most evangelicals don’t necessarily know which they are.

Covenantalism or Dispensationalism?

Covenantalists tend to see the coming of Jesus as the fulfilment of the promises made to Israel while dispensationalists tend to see it as the postponement of those promises.  Covenantalists believe the Bible teaches that God has one ‘chosen people’ called out from among the nations. Dispensationalists believe the Bible teaches that God has two separate and distinct peoples – the Church and Israel. They believe that the biblical promises made to the ancient Israelites apply to their Jewish descendents today. If Covenantalists emphasize the continuity within God’s progressive revelation, Dispensationalists emphasize the discontinuity, distinguishing seven ‘dispensations’ in biblical history when God has tested mankind in a different way, and each time they have failed. They believe the present Church Age or Dispensation of Grace will fail and soon come to an end. Then during the Millennium, Jesus will reign as King of the Jews in Jerusalem and the unfulfilled promises of the Old Testament will be realised.

Covenantalists tend to regard promises relating to the Land, Jerusalem and the temple as annulled or fulfilled in the Church. Dispensationalists tend to see them as still in force and either being, or about to be, fulfilled in Israel today. Covenantalists tend to be neutral or positive about the future before the return of Jesus being either amillennial or postmillennial. Dispensationalists tend to be premillennial and pessimistic about the future.[7]

Read more here and other chapters here. Buy the book here.

Seven Biblical Answers to Popular Zionist Assumptions summarises the book.

A set of Seven Bible Studies can be downloaded here.


[1] John Hagee, The One Jerusalem Blog,  25 January 2007. http://www.onejerusalem.org/blog/archives/2007/01/audio_exclusive_12.asp <Accessed March 2007>

[2] “Christians for Israel” Editorial, The Jerusalem Post, 14 March 2007. http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1173879085796&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull <Accessed March 2007>

[3] The Pew Research Center for the People and the Press and The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, “Many Americans Uneasy with Mix of Religion and Politics,” August 24, 2006. The Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, http://peoplepress.org/reports/display.php3?PageID=1084 <accessed March 2007>

[4] The Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, “Americans’ Support for Israel Unchanged by Recent Hostilities,” July 26, 2006. The Pew Research Center, http://pewresearch.org/reports/?ReportID=37

[5] http://www.israelunitycoalition.org/about/index.php <Accessed March 2007>

[6] See Robert Jewett & John Shelton Lawrence, Captain America and the Crusade Against Evil (Grand Rapids, Eerdmans, 2003); Timothy Weber, On the Road to Armageddon: How Evangelicals became Israel’s Best Friend (Grand Rapids, Baker, 2004); and John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt, ‘The Israeli Lobby’, The London Review of Books, 23 March 2006,   http://www.lrb.co.uk/v28/n06/mear01_.html

[7] See chapter 7 and the glossary for an explanation of these terms.

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Chinese Translation of Seven Biblical Answers

A Chinese version of  Seven Biblical Answers to Popular Zionist Assumptions, based on my book Zion’s Christian Soldiers is now available.

The Chinese version was kindly translated by Lo Yuk Fai. Presentations in Chinese were delivered recently for Macau Bible Institute, Sawtow Christian Church Hong Kong and All Saints Cathedral, Kowloon.

See more photos of recent visits to China here

See also:

Seven Bible Studies : Seven Biblical Answers : Seven Biblical Answers Video

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With God on our Side Q&A at Taylor University

Taylor University, Indiana hosted a showing of the film With God on our Side. This video made by the university is of the lively Q&A that followed. Taylor is a liberal arts Christian college near Indianapolis and is ranked number one in ‘America’s Best Colleges – Midwest.

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Laidlaw Principal Rod Thompson interviews Stephen Sizer

Laidlaw College Principal Rod Thompson interviewed me about some of the criticisms made against me, TEAR Fund NZ and the College for sponsoring my lecture tour.

Steve Tollestrup, CEO of TEAR Fund NZ has also issued the following statement defending their position on Israel-Palestine and decision to sponsor my lecture tour in New Zealand.

May I begin by stating categorically that TEAR Fund:

1. Supports the right of the Jewish people to have a national homeland with safe and secure borders.
2. Considers anti-Semitism as abhorrent and evil.
3. Rejects unconditionally violence and takes seriously Christ’s call to be peace-makers and good Samaritans.

I have had the opportunity to spend time with Stephen Sizer and his wife Joanna over the last week and have repeatedly heard him at length support a Jewish homeland, reject anti-Semitism and urgently calling on the church to be praying for peace.

I was raised by a Jewish parent ( my step-father ) with both holocaust survivors and victims’ in my family. I know anti-Semitism when I see it. I have never heard Stephen Sizer say something that would make me feel he is anything but repulsed by anti-Semitism or that he is antagonist to TEAR Fund’s position stated above.

TEAR Fund over the last eighteen years has been transparent with our supporters about our work with Palestinian refugees and poor families. In fact the very first grant TEAR Fund awarded in the 1960’s, was for Palestinian refugees. This is nothing new. I also work very closely with Messianic Jews in Israel as partners in local and international projects and peace-building witness.

Stephen Sizer has been in New Zealand hosted by TEAR Fund and Laidlaw College. Likewise he works in association with World Vision and was interviewed on both Shine TV and Radio Rhema. Do you seriously think that TEAR Fund, Laidlaw, World Vision and Rhema, all Christian ministries committed to the Gospel, would support anti-Semitism?

Stephen’s message is not complicated: Christian’s have a mandate to see that Palestinians as well as Israeli’s are also provided with rights and a secure future for their families. Further he ( and TEAR Fund ) affirm that the Palestinian church be supported and equipped to be a witness of Christ and a peace-maker in the region.

In Christ whom we love and serve,

Steve Tollestrup
Executive Director TEAR Fund.

Steve Haas, Vice President of World Vision USA, has made this statement in support of TEAR Fund NZ.

“I am thrilled that TEAR Fund NZ is serving as host for the very important visit of Rev’d Dr. Stephen Sizer. Stephen is clearly aware of the hurdles to Middle East reconciliation and serves as a tireless spokesman for peace in the Middle East and one that is shared by the Israelis and Palestinians that live there. Stephen has my utmost support and admiration.”

Steve Haas
Vice President, Chief Catalyst, World Vision US

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Christ at the Checkpoint 2012 Statement and Manifesto

A major breakthrough in the evangelical world took place in Bethlehem through a gathering of over 600 international and local Christians, including renowned evangelical leaders. Organized by Bethlehem Bible College, the conference, under the banner “Christ at the Checkpoint,” addressed the issue of how to find hope in the midst of conflict. The conference exceeded all expectations.

For the first time, a broad spectrum of evangelical believers met literally at the “checkpoint,” and engaged biblically on issues that have historically divided them. Subjects included, Christian Zionism, Islamism, justice, nonviolence, and reconciliation. These themes were intended to create an ongoing forum for Christian peacemaking within the context of the Israeli Palestinian conflict. These issues were discussed in the form of inspirational messages, Bible study, interactive workshops, panels and site visits.

Defying the temptation to despair, Palestinian Christians demonstrated renewed hope to continue to stand against the injustice of occupation nonviolently and forms of Christian Zionism that marginalize them. They also acknowledged the right of the State of Israel to exist within secure borders.

Speakers included John Ortberg, Bishara Awad, Chris Wright, Doug Birdsall, David Kim, Tony Campolo, Lynne Hybels, Munther Isaac, Shane Claiborne, Joel Hunter, Ron Sider, Salim Munayer and Colin Chapman. Participants from 20 nations and a sizeable delegation of university students including Wheaton College and Eastern University, were moved by the testimony of Palestinian men and women who shared the pain and suffering they experience on a daily basis caused primarily by the continuing occupation.

A unique aspect of the conference was the presence and presentations by members of the Messianic community including Richard Harvey, Evan Thomas and Wayne Hilsden, who provided an integral contribution to the dialogue.

Conference organizers challenged the evangelical community to cease looking at the Middle East through the lens of “end times” prophecy and instead rallied them to join in following Jesus in the prophetic pursuance of justice, peace and reconciliation.

Conference Organizers:

John Angle, Alex Awad, Bishara Awad, Sami Awad, Steve Haas, Munther Isaac, Yohanna Katanacho, Manfred Kohl, Salim Munayer, Jack Sara, Stephen Sizer

The Christ at the Checkpoint Manifesto

1. The Kingdom of God has come. Evangelicals must reclaim the prophetic role in bringing peace, justice and reconciliation in Palestine and Israel.

2. Reconciliation recognizes God’s image in one another.

3. Racial ethnicity alone does not guarantee the benefits of the Abrahamic Covenant.

4. The Church in the land of the Holy One, has born witness to Christ since the days of Pentecost. It must be empowered to continue to be light and salt in the region, if there is to be hope in the midst of conflict.

5. Any exclusive claim to land of the Bible in the name of God is not in line with the teaching of Scripture.

6. All forms of violence must be refuted unequivocally.

7. Palestinian Christians must not lose the capacity to self-criticism if they wish to remain prophetic.

8. There are real injustices taking place in the Palestinian territories and the suffering of the Palestinian people can no longer be ignored. Any solution must respect the equity and rights of Israel and Palestinian communities.

9. For Palestinian Christians, the occupation is the core issue of the conflict.

10. Any challenge of the injustices taking place in the Holy Land must be done in Christian love. Criticism of Israel and the occupation cannot be confused with anti-Semitism and the delegitimization of the State of Israel.

11. Respectful dialogue between Palestinian and Messianic believers must continue. Though we may disagree on secondary matters of theology, the Gospel of Jesus and his ethical teaching take precedence.

12. Christians must understand the global context for the rise of extremist Islam. We challenge stereotyping of all faith forms that betray God’s commandment to love our neighbors and enemies.

The Statement and Manifesto were presented to the conference participants on the last day but were only agreed on and endorsed by the Conference Organizers.

Conference Organizers:

John Angle, Alex Awad, Bishara Awad, Sami Awad, Steve Haas, Munther Isaac, Yohanna Katanacho, Manfred Kohl, Salim Munayer, Jack Sara, Stephen Sizer

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Middle East Christians in the Light of the Arab Spring

Evangelicals for Middle East Understanding Conference DVDs now available.
“Middle East Christians in light of the Arab Spring” Order here

The set includes my paper Seven Biblical Answers to Popular Zionist Assumptions

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