Christian Zionism: Misguided Millennialism

2. The Theological Basis of Christian Zionism

As the navel is set in the centre of the human body,
so is the land of Israel the navel of the world...
situated in the centre of the world,
and Jerusalem in the centre of the land of Israel,
and the sanctuary in the centre of Jerusalem,
and the holy place in the centre of the sanctuary,
and the ark in the centre of the holy place,
and the foundation stone before the holy place,
because from it the world was founded.

This quote is taken from the Jewish Midrash Tanchuma. It explains the deep significance of and attachment to the land, the city and temple within religious Judaism. Christian Zionists identify with these Jewish aspirations for the land of Israel, for Jerusalem and the Temple.

          To use a simple analogy of three concentric rings, the Land represents the outer ring, Jerusalem the middle and the Temple the centre. The three rings comprise the Zionist expansionist agenda of which part of the outer was claimed in 1948, the middle ring in 1967 and the inner is eagerly sought and under constant threat. The three therefore ultimately stand or fall together.  Yesterday we examined the historical roots of Christian Zionism from rural 19th Century England to 21st Century Capitol Hill. Today we want to consider the way the Bible is used by Christians to justify the Zionist agenda. Christian Zionism can be distinguished by seven basic tenets and these will now be evaluated in the light of scripture.


1. An Ultra-Literalist Biblical Hermeneutic

The rise of biblical literalism and a futurist reading of Old Testament prophecy, can largely be attributed to Edward Irving, John Nelson Darby and those associated with the Albury and Powerscourt ‘Unfulfilled Prophecy’ Conferences in the 1820's - 1830s. Their innovative premillennial dispensational views equating ancient biblical prophecies concerning Israel with Zionism and the contemporary State of Israel became the theological basis for Christian Zionism.  Scofield explained his literalist hermeneutic in this way:

‘Not one instance exists of a ‘spiritual’ or figurative fulfilment of prophecy ... Jerusalem is always Jerusalem, Israel is always Israel, Zion is always Zion ... Prophecies may never be spiritualised, but are always literal.’ [2]

Rob Richards, former UK Director of the Churches Ministry Among Jewish People, (CMJ) offers a modern paraphrase of their position. “Israel is Israel is Israel.”[3]  The other six tenets of Christian Zionism follow from this literal and futurist reading of the Old Testament.

          The fundamental error made here is the refusal to acknowledge how Jesus and the Apostles reinterpreted the Old Testament. The implicit assumption made by Christian Zionists is that Old and New Testament run at times parallel into the future, the former speaking of Israel and the latter of the Church. This is at variance with the way the New Testament interprets, fulfils, annuls and completes the Old. For example, Jesus annulled the Levitical food laws.

"Don't you see that nothing that enters a man from the outside can make him `unclean'? For it doesn't go into his heart but into his stomach, and then out of his body." (In saying this, Jesus declared all foods "clean.") (Mark 7:18-19)


          In Acts 10, a vision of unclean food is specifically used by God to help the apostle Peter realise that in Christ there is now no longer any distinction between Jew and Gentile.  Both are accepted as equal in the kingdom of God.  Only when Peter encounters Cornelius does he begin to realise the implications of the vision for the way he should now view Jews and Gentiles.  “I now realise how true it is that God does not show favouritism but accepts men from every nation who fear him and do what is right.” (Acts 10:34-35). If God does not show favouritism, the Jews cannot presume to enjoy a favoured or exclusive status. The movement in biblical revelation is explained more fully by the writer to the Hebrews. The Old Testament revelation from God often came in shadow, image and prophecy. In the New Covenant that revelation finds its consummation in reality, substance and fulfilment in Jesus Christ (Hebrews 1:1-2).

By calling this covenant "new," he has made the first one obsolete; and what is obsolete and aging will soon disappear. (Hebrews 8:13)


The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming-- not the realities themselves. For this reason it can never, by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship (Hebrews 10:1)


          It is fundamental that Christians read the Scriptures with Christian eyes, and that they interpret the Old Covenant in the light of the New Covenant, not the other way round. In Colossians, for example, Paul uses a typological hermeneutic to explain this.


Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day.  These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.  (Colossians. 2:16-17)


          The question is therefore not whether the promises of the old covenant are to be understood literally or allegorically as Christian Zionists like to polarise the issue.  It is instead a question of whether they should be understood in terms of Old Covenant shadow or in terms of New Covenant reality. This is the most basic hermeneutical error which Christian Zionists consistently repeat. This is illustrated in the way Christian Zionists continue to regard the Jews as God’s ‘chosen people’.


2. The Jews Remain God’s ‘Chosen People’

Based on their literal reading of the Old Testament Christian Zionists believe that the Jews remain God’s ‘chosen people’ enjoying a unique relationship, status and eternal purposes within their own land, separate from any promises made to the Church. So, the promises made to Abraham remain true today for the physical descendants of Isaac, Jacob and Joseph.  Based on passages like Genesis 15, Christian Friends of Israel, for example, insist,

The Bible teaches that Israel (people, land, nation) has a Divinely ordained and glorious future, and that God has neither rejected nor replaced His Jewish people.[4]


          Similarly, Jews for Jesus perpetuate the dispensational distinction between God’s purposes for Israel and that of the Church.


We believe that Israel exists as a covenant people through whom God continues to accomplish His purposes and that the Church is an elect people in accordance with the New Covenant, comprising both Jews and Gentiles who acknowledge Jesus as Messiah and Redeemer.[5]


          David Brickner affirms the position first propounded by Darby, that the Jews remain ‘God’s chosen people’ while the church is merely ‘a parenthesis’[6] to God’s future plans for the Jews. The implicit assumption is that the Jews continue to enjoy a special covenant relationship with God apart from through Jesus Christ. This contradicts John the Baptist and Jesus own clear and unambiguous statements to the contrary.


Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, `We have Abraham as our father.' For I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire." (Luke 3:8-9)


"Abraham is our father," they answered. "If you were Abraham's children," said Jesus, "then you would do the things Abraham did... You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father's desire.” (John 8:39, 44)


"I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)


          For this reason Peter warned his Jewish audience soon after the Day of Pentecost that if they persisted in refusing to recognise Jesus as their Messiah, they would cease to be the “laos” (people) of God, ‘Anyone who does not listen to him (Christ) will be completely cut off from among his people.’ (Acts 3:23)

          Jesus and the apostles repudiated the notion that the Jews continued to enjoy a special status or relationship apart from faith in Jesus as their Messiah. Christian Zionists fail to recognise that 'chosenness' is the gift of God's grace in Jesus Christ to all who trust in Him, irrespective of their racial origins. In the New Testament the term is  never used exclusively of the Jewish people, apart from as members of the Church. Jesus Christ is the ‘chosen’ one. Indeed in the New Testament the term is always used to refer to the Church, the Body of Christ (Ephesians 1:11).

Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. (Colossians 3:12)


But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. (1 Peter 2:9-10)


It is therefore no longer appropriate to designate the Jews as God’s ‘chosen people’. The term has been redefined to describe all those who trust in Jesus Christ.


3. The Restoration to and Occupation of Eretz Israel

Since Christian Zionists argue that the Jews remain God’s chosen people, they insist the promises concerning the land still apply unconditionally and in perpetuity. Therefore they actively encourage Jews to ‘return’ to Zion.  The contemporary State of Israel is seen as evidence of God’s continuing protection and favour toward the Jews.

However, they insist that the present borders of Israel are only a fraction of those God intends for the Jews. The geographical extent of ‘Eretz Israel’, as Arnold Fruchtenbaum explains, is nonnegotiable and covers everything from Egypt to Iraq.


At no point in Jewish history have the Jews ever possessed all of the land from the Euphrates in the north to the River of Egypt in the south. Since God cannot lie, these things must yet come to pass.[7]


At the Third International Christian Zionist Congress held in Jerusalem in February 1996 under the auspices of ICEJ, some 1,500 delegates from over 40 countries unanimously affirmed a proclamation and affirmation of Christian Zionism including the following beliefs,


The Lord in His zealous love for Israel and the Jewish People blesses and curses peoples and judges nations based upon their treatment of the Chosen People of Israel....  According to God's distribution of nations, the Land of Israel has been given to the Jewish People by God as an everlasting possession by an eternal covenant. The Jewish People have the absolute right to possess and dwell in the Land, including Judea, Samaria, Gaza and the Golan.[8]




Christian Zionists fail to recognise how Jesus universalises the land promise made in Psalm 37. “But the meek will inherit the land and enjoy great peace.” (Psalm 37:11) ”Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.” (Matthew 5:5).  Meekness was always a precondition of remaining in the land, whereas arrogance or oppression were reasons for exile. It is also significant to note the way Zionists must also downplay the repeated warnings of the Hebrew Prophets who insist the land belongs to God and residence there is always conditional. For example, “The land must not be sold permanently, because the land is mine and you are but aliens and my tenants.” (Leviticus 25:23)

          Because the Land belongs to God, it cannot be permanently bought or sold.  It cannot be given away, let alone stolen or confiscated as has occurred in the Occupied Territories since 1967. The Land is never at the disposal of Israel for its national purposes.

Instead it is Israel who are at the disposal of God's purposes, tenants in God's Land.  The ethical requirements for occupancy of Canaan were clearly outlined in Leviticus.

But you must keep my decrees and my laws. The native-born and the aliens living among you must not do any of these detestable things, for all these things were done by the people who lived in the land before you, and the land became defiled.  And if you defile the land, it will vomit you out as it vomited out the nations that were before you.  (Leviticus 18:24-28)


The prophet Ezekiel amplifies the same warning to those tenants.


Thus says the Lord God of Israel: You shed blood, yet you would keep possession on the land? You rely on your sword, you do abominable things... yet you would keep possession of the land?... I will make the land a desolate waste, and her proud strength will come to an end. (Ezekiel 33:25-29)


On the basis of such sober warnings is it not more likely that Israel will experience an imminent exile rather than restoration? The tension between Christians who call for the implementation of international law and Zionists is no where more clearly polarized than on the issue of the status of Jerusalem.


4. Jerusalem, The Eternal and Exclusive Jewish Capital

The place and purpose of Jerusalem, or ‘Zion’ as it is sometimes called,[9] is deeply felt within Christian Zionism. Margaret Brearley insists, ‘Jerusalem is the place where the Lord has ‘chosen to place his name’. Lindsey also points out that

‘Jerusalem’s importance in history is infinitely beyond its size and economic significance. From ages past, Jerusalem has been the most important city on this planet ... More prophecies have been made concerning Jerusalem than any other place on earth.’[10]


The New Testament, however, knows nothing of this preoccupation with a nationalistic and materialistic earthly Jerusalem. Instead through faith in Christ we already inhabit the heavenly Jerusalem and look forward to its appearing.

But you have come to Mount Zion, to the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. (Hebrews 12:22-23)


But the Jerusalem that is above is free, and she is our mother (Galatians 4:26)


In Galatians 4 Paul criticises the ‘Jerusalem-dependency’[11] of the legalists who were infecting the Church in Galatia. Galatians 4:27 is a quotation from Isaiah 54:1 which referred to the earthly Jerusalem. Paul now interprets the passage as now referring to the home of all who believe in Jesus Christ.[12] Access to heaven no longer has anything to do with an earthly Jerusalem. Jesus had already made this clear to the woman of Samaria.

Believe me, woman, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 22 You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. (John 4:21-23)


At his trial Jesus explained why.


My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews. But now my kingdom is from another place. (John 18:36)


Subsequent to Pentecost, under the illumination of the Holy Spirit, the Apostles begin to use Old Covenant language concerning the Land in new ways. 

          So for example, Peter speaks of an inheritance for Christians living in exile which, unlike the land, ‘...can never perish, spoil or fade.’ (1 Peter 1:4).   Paul similarly asserts, ‘Now I commit you to God and to the word of his grace, which can build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified.’  (Acts 20:32) There is no evidence that the Apostles believed that the Jewish people still had a divine right to a kingdom centred on Jerusalem, or that this would be an important, let alone central aspect of God's future purposes for the world.  In the Christological logic of Paul, the Land, like the Law, have now been superseded and become irrelevant to God’s redemptive purposes.

          The contradiction between the flow of biblical revelation in the New Testament and the Zionist agenda is no where more clearly seen than in the question of the Jewish Temple. This is also the most controversial issue uniting Christian Zionists with the more extreme Jewish Zionists. 


5. The Rebuilding of the Jewish Temple

Just 500 metres by 300 metres it is according to Hal Lindsey, the most disputed 35 acres on the Planet.’[13] “I believe the fate of the world will be determined by an ancient feud over 35 acres of land.”[14] Lindsey is representative of many Christian Zionists who are convinced that the Jewish Temple will be rebuilt very soon.

Obstacle or no obstacle, it is certain that the Temple will be rebuilt. Prophecy demands it... With the Jewish nation reborn in the land of Palestine, ancient Jerusalem once again under total Jewish control for the first time in 2600 years, and talk of rebuilding the great Temple, the most important sign of Jesus Christ’s soon coming is before us... It is like the key piece of a jigsaw puzzle being found... For all those who trust in Jesus Christ, it is a time of electrifying excitement.[15]


David Brickner basis his belief on a futurist reading of Daniel 9.


Obviously the Temple has been rebuilt because Daniel tells us this ruler puts an end to sacrifice and sets up some kind of abomination (a loathsome horror that would be anathema to Jewish worship) right inside the Temple in Jerusalem. Ultimately this ruler is destroyed in a final conflagration of enormous proportion.[16]


The conviction that the Jewish Temple must be rebuilt is, ironically, the Achilles' heel of Christian Zionism for it is inevitably also associated with the reintroduction of the Mosaic sacrificial system.

          Scofield in his Reference Bible claimed that the sacrifices mentioned in Ezekiel 43:19, would, however, be only ‘memorial’ offerings.

Doubtless these offerings will be memorial, looking back to the cross, as the offerings under the old covenant were anticipatory, looking forward to the cross. In neither case have animal sacrifices power to put away sin (Heb. 10.4; Rom. 3.25).[17]


In fact the verse explicitly refers to the sacrifice of a ‘young bullock as a sin offering.’ If Scofield appears to fudge the issue suggesting this is only a memorial sacrifice, the New Scofield Reference Bible note on the same verse goes further, undermining the entire hermeneutical premise of Dispensationalism.

The reference to sacrifices is not to be taken literally, in view of the putting away of such offerings, but is rather to be regarded as a presentation of the worship of redeemed Israel, in her own land and in the millennial Temple, using the terms with which the Jews were familiar in Ezekiel’s day.[18]


If this particular reference to sacrifice in Ezekiel 43 need not be taken literally then the ultra-literalist distinction between Israel and the Church collapses, flawed by its own internal inconsistency.[19] A literalist hermeneutic precludes the possibility that the sacrifice of a young bullock can be synonymous with a memorial offering consisting of grain and oil.[20]

          The immediate context for Ezekiel vision of a rebuilt Temple is the promised return of the Jews from Babylonian exile, not some long distant eschatological event.  This would have been utterly meaningless to the exiles longing to return to Israel. How could Ezekiel be referring to some future millennial age, when Jesus Christ fulfilled the role of the sacrificial system, once for all, by the shedding his own blood.[21] To suggest that animal sacrifices must be reintroduced undermines the New Testament insistence that the work of Christ is sufficient, final and complete[22]. Nevertheless, Zahava Glaser claims, ‘when God instituted the sacrificial system, it was instituted for all time.’

What flour is to bread, the sacrificial system is to the religion revealed in the Jewish Scriptures. It is not a garnish. It is not a flavoring. It is the very substance out of which the Jewish religion was constructed. We can forever design our own substitutes, but they cannot satisfy our yearnings the way God's own provision can… Can there be a "proper" Judaism without a priesthood, an altar, a sacrifice and a place on earth where God meets the individual?[23]


Such logic is at variance with the way in which the New Testament speaks of the place of Temple and sacrifice. While Jesus warned of the destruction of the Temple he never promised that it would ever be rebuilt.[24]

          There is in fact not a single verse in the New Testament which promises that a Jewish Temple would be rebuilt, that a 2000 year ‘parenthesis’ should be placed between references to its desecration and destruction, or indeed that the Temple in Jerusalem would play any part in God’s purposes after the cross. Christian Zionists must therefore ignore the way in which the Temple is invested with new meaning in the New Testament and becomes instead an image of the Church.

Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God's people and members of God's household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. (Ephesians 2:19-21)


As we have already seen, Peter quotes directly from Exodus 19 using the promise made about a Jewish priesthood and now applies it to the Church. Whereas the Israelites had the priestly tribe of Levi, the Church becomes the priesthood of all believers.


But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. (1 Peter 2:9)


Furthermore, in Hebrews, the author describes the offering of sacrifices between the death of Christ and the destruction of the Temple as merely an ‘illustration’ of, and ‘copies’ of, heavenly realities, a ‘reminder of sins’ which are unable, unlike the finished work of Christ, to take sin away.[25]

          The movement in the progressive revelation of Scripture is always from the lesser to the greater. It is never reversed. The New Testament repeatedly sees such Old Testament concepts as the Temple, High Priest and sacrifice as ‘types’ pointing to and fulfilled in Jesus Christ.[26] Typology in Scripture never typifies itself, nor is it ever greater than that which it typifies.[27] Therefore Christians who advocate the rebuilding of the Temple are regressing into a pre-Christian sacrificial system, superseded, made redundant and annulled by the finished work of Jesus Christ. The Temple was only ever a temporary edifice, a shadow and type anticipating the day when God would dwell with his people drawn from every nation through the atoning work of the true Temple, Jesus Christ.[28] If Zionists do rebuild their Temple and re-institute sacrifices it will only confirm their rejection of Jesus. For Christians to support them in the belief that future sacrifices may atone for sin is surely apostasy.[29]  It is not surprising perhaps that Christian support for Jewish sovereignty over the Land, Jerusalem and the Temple Mount, inflames tensions between Jews and Arabs. This is further exacerbated by the language used to describe Arabs and Palestinians who oppose Zionism.


6. Antipathy Toward Arabs and Palestinians

Christian Zionists, while lovers of Israel, rarely show the same feelings toward Arabs and Palestinians.  Anti-Arab prejudices and Orientalist stereotypes are common in their writings.[30] Comparisons between Hitler and the Arabs are common.[31] Hal Lindsey, the most prolific Christian Zionist writer, insists,

Long ago the psalmist predicted the final mad attempt of the confederated Arab armies to destroy the nation of Israel... The Palestinians are determined to trouble the world until they repossess what they feel is their land. The Arab nations consider it a matter of racial honour to destroy the State of Israel.[32]


          Rob Richards justifies Israel’s apartheid regime on the grounds that Palestinians are the biblical equivalent of the ‘alien’ residents in Eretz Israel, to be respected but not entitled to the same status or equal rights, as the Jews. “Palestinians and Arabs who have made Israel their home come under that biblical word ‘alien’.”[33]

          Richards ignores the fact that most Palestinians did not choose to ‘make their home in Israel’. Those over the age of 55 were living in their own land of Palestine long before the State of Israel was unilaterally imposed upon them in 1948. While the United Nations is invariably viewed with mistrust, America and Israel, like Siamese twins, are perceived to be pitted against an evil world dominated by Islam,[34] in which people like Yasser Arafat or Saddam Hussein are manifestations of the Anti-Christ.[35]  

          Regrettably such instances of racism which demonise Arabs, and denies Palestinians the basic right to self determination is difficult to square with the New Testament ethic. The followers of Jesus Christ are called to be peace makers (Matthew 5:9), to love their enemies (Matthew 5:44) and to no longer regard others from a worldly point of view but instead reach out to the widow and orphan, the poor, the sick and the stranger, through a ministry of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:16-20).  Tragically, many Christian Zionists, it seems, are more concerned with heralding Armageddon than building peace.


7. Anxious for Armageddon
The 1967 ‘Six Day War’ marked a significant watershed for Christian interest in Israel and Zionism.   Most Christian Zionists, like Lindsey and Falwell subscribe to a pessimistic and deterministic premillennial view of the future. For example, without any hesitation or doubt Lindsey insists,

‘And look what’s happening in the Middle East - ground zero in the end-times events.... This phoney peace deal in the Middle East thus only ensures that eventually there will be a thermonuclear holocaust in the Middle East... This seems to parallel predictions in Revelation... Mark my words. It will happen.’[36]


Let’s talk about World War III... We can almost see the handwriting on the wall... Does this sound like a scenario that could happen in the very near future? Perhaps at almost any minute? You bet it does.[37]


The titles of Lindsey’s books are typical of many other Christian Zionist writers in showing an increasingly exaggerated and almost pathological emphasis on the apocalyptic, on death and suffering, especially as the year 2000 approached.[38] Lindsey's last but one book, The Final Battle, includes the following,


Never before, in one book, has there been such a complete and detailed look at the events leading up to 'The Battle of Armageddon.'[39]


          At times Lindsey's description of the suffering inherent in this most terrible scenario of a nuclear holocaust is tasteless if not repulsive.


Man has pretty much exhausted his arsenal. There are few popguns left, but not very much left to pop them. At least four billion people have perished in the first 14 Judgments alone. Now its God's turn.[40]


Lindsey, along with people like Jack Van Impe offer graphic maps showing future military movements of American, Russian, Chinese and African armies and naval convoys which they claim will contend with one another in the battle of Armageddon.[41]

          While Christians respectfully disagree in their eschatological interpretation of Scripture, Christian Zionists have a tendency to intimidate or threaten their critics with divine retribution. As we have already seen Lindsey accuses those who refuse to accept a distinction between God’s purposes for the Church and Israel of perpetuating,

...the same error that founded the legacy of contempt for the Jews and ultimately led to the Holocaust of Nazi Germany.[42]


 Brickner also warns those who do not share his particular Zionist perspective that they are fighting against God.

Peril awaits those who presume to say that God is finished with His chosen people… Evangelicals who would understand the Middle East must pay close attention to the teaching of Scripture, and take note of the cosmic forces that now do battle in the heavens but will soon do battle on earth. They must choose carefully which side to uphold.[43]


Basilea Schlink pronounces similar anathemas on those who question Israel’s expansionist agenda.  

Anyone who disputes Israel's right to the land of Canaan is actually opposing God and his holy covenant with the Patriarchs. He is striving against sacred, inviolable words and promises of God, which He has sworn to keep.[44]


          Such literalist assumptions preclude any possibility of an alternative reading of the Bible, history or a just and lasting outcome to the search for peace in the Middle East.


8. Conclusions : A Theological Critique of Christian Zionism

As we saw yesterday, Christian Zionism as a movement was born within British evangelicalism in the 19th Century and has become institutionalised through Dispensationalism into mainstream American evangelicalism in the 20th Century. This second presentation has sought to demonstrate that while evangelicalism may have given birth to Christian Zionism, it is time to look again at its parentage and re-evaluate whether we are indeed related.

Satirically, Kenneth Cragg summarises the implications of Christian Zionism’s ethnic exclusivity.   

It is so; God chose the Jews; the land is theirs by divine gift. These dicta cannot be questioned or resisted. They are final. Such verdicts come infallibly from Christian biblicists for whom Israel can do no wrong-thus fortified. But can such positivism, this unquestioning finality, be compatible with the integrity of the Prophets themselves? It certainly cannot square with the open peoplehood under God which is the crux of New Testament faith. Nor can it well be reconciled with the ethical demands central to law and election alike.[45]


Christian Zionism only thrives on a futurist and literal hermeneutic when Old Testament promises made to the ancient Jewish people are transposed on to the contemporary State of Israel. To do so it is necessary to ignore, marginalise or bi-pass the New Testament which reinterprets, annuls and fulfils those promises in and through Jesus Christ and his followers.  This is no where more evident than in Galatians 4 where we are taught that we should no longer regard unbelieving Jews as descendants of Sarah and Isaac but of Hagar and Ishmael.

Tell me, you who want to be under the law, are you not aware of what the law says? For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by the slave woman and the other by the free woman. His son by the slave woman was born in the ordinary way; but his son by the free woman was born as the result of a promise. These things may be taken figuratively, for the women represent two covenants. One covenant is from Mount Sinai and bears children who are to be slaves: This is Hagar. Now Hagar stands for Mount Sinai in Arabia and corresponds to the present city of Jerusalem, because she is in slavery with her children.  But the Jerusalem that is above is free, and she is our mother... Now you, brothers, like Isaac, are children of promise. (Galatians 4:21-28)


          The promises made to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Joseph are therefore now to be understood as fulfilled only through those who follow Jesus Christ. They alone are designated the true children of Abraham and Sarah. Jews who reject Jesus Christ are outside the covenant of grace and are to be regarded as children of Hagar. Paul takes Sarah’s words of Genesis 21:10 and applies them to the Judaizers who were corrupting the faith of the church in Galatia.

Get rid of the slave woman and her son, for the slave woman's son will never share in the inheritance with the free woman's son. (Galatians 4:30)


This injunction should perhaps also be applied today toward those who demonstrate the same legalizing tendencies within Christian Zionism. With sensitivity and compassion we are mandated to share our faith in Jesus praying that our Jewish friends find their Messiah and complete their faith. However, any suggestion that they continue to have a special status before God, a separate and continuing covenant or exclusive rights to the lands of the Middle East is, in the words of John Stott, ‘biblical anathema.’[46] 

          The fundamental question Christian Zionists must therefore answer is this: What difference did the coming of Jesus Christ make to the traditional Jewish hopes and expectations about the land? We may not interpret the Old Covenant as if the coming of Jesus made little or no difference to the nationalistic and territorial aspirations of first century Judaism.  In the process of redemptive history a dramatic movement has been made from type to reality, from shadow to substance. 

          As has been shown, Hebrews 8:13 provides us not only with the hermeneutic key to refuting the Christian Zionist case, but also explains Paul’s vehemence at the Judaizing tendencies corrupting the church in Galatia.

By calling this covenant "new," he has made the first one obsolete; and what is obsolete and aging will soon disappear. (Hebrews 8:13)


          The destruction of the temple and sacrificial system in 70 AD fulfilled that prediction. The choice since then has been between two theologies. One based on the shadows of the Old Covenant and one based on the light of the New Covenant.  Christian Zionism is an exclusive theology that focuses on the Jews in the land rather than an inclusive theology that centres on Jesus Christ, the Saviour of the world.        As we shall see tomorrow, Christian Zionism provides a theological endorsement for apartheid and human rights abuses, rather than a theology of justice, peace and reconciliation which lie at the heart of the New Covenant. 

          Like Isaac's children Jacob and Esau, it is time to stop fighting over the birthright and start sharing the blessings.[47] Garth Hewitt is a friend who has written many songs about the plight of the Christian community in Israel and Palestine. One of them, based on some verses from the Jewish Talmud, is called ‘Ten measures of beauty God gave to the world’.  I would like to close by using it as a prayer.


May the justice of God fall down like fire

and bring a home for the Palestinian.

May the mercy of God pour down like rain

and protect the Jewish people.

And may the beautiful eyes of a Holy God

who weeps for His children

Bring the healing hope for His wounded ones

For the Jew and the Palestinian.



©    Stephen Sizer

27 May 2003






[1]Midrash Tanchuma, Qedoshim. Cited on

[2]   C.I. Scofield, Scofield Bible Correspondence Course, (Chicago, Moody Bible Institute, n.d.), pp45-46.

[3]Rob Richards, Has God Finished With Israel? (Crowborough, Monarch, 1994), p. 23.

[4]Christian Friends of Israel, Standing with Israel, information leaflet, n.d.

[5]Jews for Jesus,, Our Doctrinal Statement,

[6]David Brickner, Future Hope, A Jewish Christian Look at the End of the World, 2nd edn. (San Francisco, Purple Pomegranate, 1999), p. 18.

[7]Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum, ‘This Land is Mine’, Issues, 2. 4.

[8]International Christian Zionist Congress Proclamation, International Christian Embassy, Jerusalem. 25-29 February 1996.

[9] Zion more specifically refers to the hill on the western edge of the Old City of Jerusalem.

[10] Lindsey, Israel, op.cit., p20.

[11]Peter Walker, Jesus and the Holy City (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1996), p. 129.

[12]Walker, Jesus., p. 131.

[13]Hal Lindsey, Planet Earth 2000 AD (Palos Verde, California, Western Front, 1994), p. 156.

[14]Hal Lindsey, ‘World’s fate hangs on 35 acres’ 21 February 2001.

[15]Hal Lindsey, The Late Great Planet Earth  (London, Lakeland, 1970), pp. 56-58.

[16]Brickner, Future.,

[17]C.I. Scofield, Scofield Reference Bible (New York, Oxford University Press, 1945),    p. 890.

[18]The New Scofield Reference Bible ed. E. Schuyler English (New York, Oxford University Press, 1967), p. 864.

[19]Cornelis P. Venema, The Promise of the Future (Edinburgh, Banner of Truth, 2000), p. 285

[20]Leviticus 2:2, 9, 16.

[21]Gary DeMar, Last Days Madness (Atlanta, American Vision, 1997), p.85.

[22]Hebrews 2:17; Romans 3:25.

[23]Zhava Glaser, ‘Today’s Rituals: Reminders or Replacements’ Issues., 8, 3.

[24]John 2:19, Mark 26:61, 27:40; Mark 14:58, 15:29.

[25]Hebrews 9:9, 23, 10:1-3, 11.

[26]John 1:14; 2:19-22; Colossians 2:9.

[27]John Noe, The Israel Illusion (Fishers, Indiana, Prophecy Reformation Institute, 2000), p. 16.C

[28]John 1:14.

[29]Hebrews 6:4-6.

[30]Edward Said, Orientalism (New York, Vintage, 1978)

[31]Jan Willem van der Hoeven, Babylon or Jerusalem? (Shippensburg, Pasadena, Destiny Image Publishers, 1993), pp. 132-133.

[32]Lindsey, Israel and the Last Days (Eugene, Oregon, Harvest House, 1983), pp. 38-39.

[33]Rob Richards, Has God Finished with Israel? (Crowborough, Monarch/Olive Press, 1994), p. 159.

[34]Merrill Simon, Jerry Falwell and the Jews (Middle Village, New York, Jonathan David, 1984), pp. 63-64, 71-72. 

[35]Charles Dyer, The Rise of Babylon (Wheaton: Tyndale, 1991)

[36]Lindsey, Planet., pp. 243-244.

[37]Lindsey, Planet., p. 255.

[38]Satan is Alive and Well on Planet Earth (London, Lakeland, 1973); The Terminal Generation (New York, Bantam,); The 1980’s: Countdown to Armageddon (New York, Bantam, 1981); Combat Faith (1986); The Road to Holocaust (New York, Bantam, 1989); Planet Earth-2000, Will Man Survive? (Palos Verdes, California, Western Front, 1994); The Final Battle (Palos Verdes, California, Western Front, 1995); The Apocalypse Code (Palos Verdes, California, Western Front, 1997);

[39]Hal Lindsey, The Final Battle (Palos Verdes, California, Western Front, 1995), front cover.?

[40]Lindsey, Planet Earth: The Final Chapter, p. 254.

[41]Hal Lindsey, The Late Great Planet Earth (London, Lakeland, 1970), p. 155; Louis Goldberg, Turbulence Over the Middle East (Neptune, New Jersey, Loizeaux Brothers, 1982), p. 172.

[42]Lindsey, Road., back page. Refuted by Gary DeMar and Peter J. Leithart, The Legacy of Hatred Continues: A Response to Hal Lindsey’s The Road to Holocaust (Fort Worth, Dominion Press, 1989)

[43]Brickner, Don’t.,

[44]Schlink, Israel, p.22.

[45]Kenneth Cragg, The Arab Christian A History in the Middle East. (London, Mowbray, 1992) p. 238.

[46]John Stott, quoted in Don Wagner, Anxious for Armageddon ( Scottdale, Herald Press, 1995)  p. 80.

[47]Yehezkel Landau. An illustration given at St George’s, Jerusalem, December 1998.