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Is Israel the New Evil Empire?

Introduction

When I picture an Evil Empire, Darth Vadar, Star War’s devious leader of the Dark Side, prowls across my mind.  Throw in a squadron of Imperial Stormtroopers clashing with Rebel Alliance combatants, and we have an accurate description of an Evil Empire.  

Photo by Brian McGowan on Unsplash



But the modern nation of Israel as the “new Evil Empire”?  No way!  Yet some Christian leaders are accusing the Jewish nation of playing the role of ambassadors for the Dark Side in the Middle East.

This article was originally written for The Messianic Times in 2007. Since the accusation of Israel as an apartheid nation continues in some evangelical circles, I thought it would benefit the readers of Scripture Solutions to take a look at the issue once again.

My major concern is not only with the politics involved in the incrimination of Israel but also with the fact this indictment stems from anti-Israel evangelicals.

I presume some evangelicals cited in this article have either changed or eschewed their position or doubled down on their viewpoint. It is not the purpose of this reprint to update the negative views held by these evangelicals towards Israel. This piece is a reflection of what was taking place 14 years ago among Christian leaders in their perspective on the modern state of Israel.

One further observation. Many of the links included in the first article are no longer operable. So I have deleted them from the text and retained the links that are still active.

What Christian leaders would possess the chutzpah to assign this sinister caricature to the Jewish state? 

An evangelical call to unmask the so-called Evil Empire

Rev. Donald Wagner, director for the Center for Middle Eastern Studies at Chicago’s North Park University, addressed the National Middle Eastern Presbyterian Caucus (NMEPC) held in Birmingham, Alabama in June 2006.  Though Wagner offered his remarks on Father’s Day (June 18, 2006), his vilification of Israel could hardly have pleased the Heavenly Father, the Holy One of Israel. 

Wagner, the founder of Evangelicals for Middle East Understanding, referred to Israel as part of a “globalized empire” that employs such things as “weapons and the international media for its gain.”

Appealing to an evangelical audience, the Chicago professor challenged his listeners, “We have to unmask the face of the evil empire.”

Wagner, who had recently returned from a trip to the Holy Land declared,  “It is time that we start using the word apartheid. In fact, it is worse than apartheid.”

Other Christian leaders have unfortunately provided the fodder for Wagner’s biting words towards the Jewish nation.   

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Did Jesus Give Away the Land of Israel to Christians? (Matthew 5:5) Part 2

Photo courtesy of The Holy Land Christian Ecumenical Foundation

Introduction

It is next to impossible to not know what the heartfelt cry, “Stop the Steal” refers to. In the aftermath of the November 3, 2020 presidential race, there are a great number of Trump supporters who believe the election was stolen; thus the declared winner of that contest, Joe Biden is an illegitimate president.

Along with the questionable belief that the election victory of former President Dοnald Trump was pilfered from the former POTUS, we find various conspiratorial assumptions fermenting among a select segment of his support base. According to some conspiracy subscribers, as reported by Joel Lawrence from Center for Pastor Theologians, God has promised to give President Trump another four years in the White House and the “Deep State” has been working to thwart the will of the Lord (“Faith, Apocalypse, and Nationalism: Why Evangelicals are Vulnerable to Conspiracy Theories”, Center for Pastor Theologians, 01/25/2021).

AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana

From these alleged concerns comes the cry, “Stop the Steal!” In the January 6th insurrection of our nation’s capital, we heard the cry repeatedly among those who stormed our nation’s treasured buildings and from those who protested “peacefully” outside. Joel Lawrence traces some of the roots that led to the “Stop the Steal” protest:

According to the Presidential narrative, this vast conspiracy involved Hugo Chavez, Dominion voting machines, Republican governors and Secretaries of State, Democratic poll workers in largely African American cities, Antifa, and countless others. These theories thrived in an environment of conspiracy, eventually leading to an attack on the United States Capitol, in which five people lost their lives and the safety of legislators were threatened.

“Faith, Apocalypse, and Nationalism: Why Evangelicals are Vulnerable to Conspiracy Theories”, Center for Pastor Theologians, 01/25/2021

The important takeaway is that President Trump, along with an extensive team of lawyers and advisors claimed without evidence in court, the 2020 vote for the president was rigged. Despite the data to the contrary, a majority of Trump supporters still aggressively believe the election was poached from the 45th president.

The steal of the identity of the nation of Israel

This author does not hesitate to apply the term “steal” to the teaching among conservative replacement theologians who profess the nation of Israel has been replaced by the church. Essentially, Replacement Theology(RT) maintains the Church or even Jesus is the “new Israel”.

If Jesus or the Church is the “new” Israel, God’s chosen nation has been replaced by a greater spiritual reality. Therefore, the status of Israel is reduced from a people who are the “elect of God” to a community “abandoned by God” when it comes to His national promises to the Jewish people. If this teaching is not true, then these academics, pastors and theologians are guilty of stealing the rightful God-given identity of Israel and misapplying this divine status to the Church.

Photo from Winnipeg Free Press March 24, 2021 https://bit.ly/3qsVFXY

The root of this thinking is the misunderstanding of the election of Israel. The chosen status of the Jewish people has been misread by the Jewish nation’s detractors and supporters in several ways:

1) Many believe chosenness implies the Jewish people are superior to other peoples. Since ethnic or racial superiority is contrary to biblical truth, the Jewish people have disqualified themselves to be divine representatives on earth. This responsibility, according to RT advocates has been transferred over to the Church. This erroneous impression of Israel’s runaway self-importance and superiority is absent from traditional Jewish teaching. if anything, God’s election of Israel calls for the nation to have a greater moral and spiritual responsibility before God and man.

2) Others wrongly maintain Israel’s election grants divine approval of all Israel’s decisions and actions when it comes to the Palestinians. A simple perusing of Israel’s 73-year history demonstrates the nation’s constant examination of its relationship with the Palestinians. On several occasions, Israelis have taken to the streets in protest of the IDF’s actions towards their Arab neighbors. The Jewish nation displays little evidence their concept of chosenness provides them a free pass when it comes to unfair treatment towards those who oppose the establishment of the Jewish state. Once again, anti-Israel evangelicals are grossly mistaken to try to belittle Israel’s elect status because of the Jewish state’s perceived or actual mistreatment of other peoples. When necessary, Israel has proven time after time its willingness for self-examination and self-correction in regards to the Palestinian people.

3) Israel’s election, according to some Christian Zionists, is an alternative for Jewish people needing to believe in the Messiah Yeshua. Christian Zionists who hold to this viewpoint believe are truly supportive of Israel. Yet they are not true to the divine plan for the Jewish nation which includes accepting Yeshua as the promised Messiah. Backing the nation of Israel by Christian Zionists is greatly appreciated by the Jewish nation. However, these well-meaning Christians are pilfering from Israel the blessing of finding redemption in Yeshua.

Due to this fallacious grasp of the election of Israel, many evangelical theologians are susceptible to eliminating Israel from God’s eternal plan for the nation. One of the ways this depreciation pans out is through the teaching Israel has been replaced by the triumphant Church that DID accept Yeshua as Messiah. I often wonder if we applied these same tests of moral superiority and unchecked behavior to evangelicals, how well our elect status would hold together? Church history-both ancient and modern-is filled with numerous occasions when the Church has behaved in ways that betrayed its elect status. Yet to select evangelical scholars, the moral test only applies to Israel.

in contrast, the Apostle Paul warns Gentile Christians, “do not be arrogant toward the branches. If you are, remember it is not you who support the root, but the root that supports you. Then you will say, “Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in.” That is true. They were broken off because of their unbelief, but you stand fast through faith. So do not become proud, but fear. For if God did not spare the natural branches, neither will he spare you” (Romans 11:18–21 ESV).

The steal of the land once promised to the people of Israel

RT advocates the Old Testament land promises no longer describe a geographical space. The nation Israel failed to enter into the physical and spiritual rest to be found in the Promised Land. Presently the land promises have been overhauled. These Christian academics teach the spiritual rest Israel was to experience in the physical land of Israel can now be encountered in the promised spiritual rest in Jesus minus the possession of the land. Some Christian thinkers have added the land of Israel was merely a shadow of the ultimate eternal rest experienced in heaven or in Yeshua.

Thus, the geographical promise of the land of Israel made to the Jewish nation has been transformed into a spiritualized improvement. The spiritual rest in the Son of God appeals especially to those evangelicals who have bought into a Gnostic dualism in which the material world is inferior to the transcendent reality of heaven. If the material land promises now refer to Jesus or heaven or the Church, then the Old Testament promises to the Jewish people are null and void or unnecessary. We now have the greater spiritual reality that the land promised to Abraham pointed to.

In the opinion of this author, the belief system of Replacement Theology is a “steal” of Israel’s rightful place in biblical theology. Once God made time-tested promises to Israel regarding a people, a land and a channel for blessing to others. Now these promises have been reinterpreted and confiscated from the Jewish people by replacement theologians.

Louis Lapides

This present series of articles focuses on the use of the third beatitude to disparage God’s promises of the land to Israel. The misapplication of the third beatitude is a prime example of how RT theologians have no qualms about deploying New Testament passages to support their theological system that supplants or steals God’s blessings from the nation of Israel.

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Christ at the Checkpoint Position Paper by Israeli Messianic Jews

 

 A Position Paper of the Messianic Jewish Community regarding the Christ at the Checkpoint Conference (CatC) 

 1. The Word of God: the Tanakh and the New Covenant Scriptures together, are the one true, infallible, and unalterable standard of truth and life for all believers. As Yeshua our Messiah declared, “Your Word is truth” (John 17:17) and “The Scripture cannot be broken” (John 10:35). Therefore we affirm that “all the promises of God are ‘Yes’” and ‘Amen’ (not abrogated) in Yeshua (II Cor. 1:20), and that “the gifts and calling of God” for His chosen people, Israel, “are irrevocable” (Romans 11:28b-29 in context). “God has not rejected his people whom he foreknew!” (Romans 11:2). Rather, “to them belong [present tense!] the adoption as sons, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the temple worship, and the promises” (Romans 9:4).

2. The Messiah Yeshua’s calling for His Body — in the Land of Israel and throughout the world — is to “make disciples of all the nations” (Matthew 28:19) by proclaiming “repentance for the forgiveness of sins…in His name to all nations” (Luke 24:47). Every movement or activity which does not promote or which, on the contrary, distracts us from that central purpose and calling is not of God, no matter what biblical or spiritual language may be used to describe it. Yeshua never commanded, or even suggested, that His followers were to “bring in” the Kingdom of God on earth. Yeshua Himself promised to establish His Kingdom upon His return (Matthew 25:31, 34), and we, who are heirs of His Kingdom and proclaimers of it in the present age (James 2:5; Acts 28:23, 31), are instructed to pray for that day to quickly come (Matthew 6:10; cf. Philippians 3:20-21).

3. Christ at the Checkpoint is, therefore, a false messianic movement, arrogating to itself the role of Messiah in establishing the Kingdom while promoting a humanistic, political “liberation theology.” [All the “evangelical” CatC speakers reflect the same approach and goals, as is evident from the Kairos Document which Yohanna Katanacho, CatC Committee member, helped compose and Bethlehem Bible College endorsed]. Although cloaking its “mandate” in biblical language (“the teaching of Jesus on the Kingdom of God”) and using seductively positive terms (“Peace, justice, and reconciliation”), this movement has one overriding purpose: to sway Evangelical believers worldwide away from belief in the eternal promises of God to Israel by slandering the Jewish people and delegitimizing the Jewish state; painting Israel as a wicked, oppressive, apartheid “entity”—especially in contrast to the supposedly ‘democratic, tolerant and peace-seeking’ Palestinian Authority and people. There is no Gospel here! (more…)




Not All Israel Is Israel Part 1

Is “replacement theology” becoming the newest fad among Christians?  Lately I run across more and more Christians who claim the Church has replaced Israel as God’s people.  The sad thing is that most of them don’t know why they believe what they claim. As I dig deeper speaking with these individuals, they all share the same defect – they are sadly deficient in their knowledge of the Jewish Scriptures.

For those who teach Israel has been replaced by the Church, Romans 9:6 is an essential verse in their arsenal. On the surface, the verse can be confusing.  Rebirth of IsraelThe verse reads, “For not all who are descended from Israel are Israel.” It’s like saying, “Not all players wearing a LA Dodger uniform on the field at Dodger Stadium and sitting in the dugout are really Dodgers.”

The replacement theologian would say, “Not all Jewish people who are wearing the Jewish uniform and sitting in the Jewish dugout are really members of the team.  In fact, the real Jews consist of members of the Church who have placed their faith in Jesus as the promised Messiah.”

Replacement theology can be very confusing.  If you follow their line of thinking, in some passages “Israel is the Church” and in other texts, “Israel is the Jewish nation.”  Israel keeps switching leagues.  Sometimes they are in the National League; then at other times they are in the American League.  I don’t know who to root for because I don’t know who is who.

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God Doesn’t Keep Jews in a Pickle Jar | Christianity Today

Jews for Jesus Director David Brickner has an online conversation with John Piper, author and pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis and speaker at Christ at the Checkpoint Conference.  This online conversation centers on the Jewish people’s divine right to the land of Israel.  ScriptureSolutions highly recommends to its readers to check out these articles and read the Christian ZIonism side represented by Brickner and the anti-Christian Zionist side purported by John Piper.

God Doesn’t Keep Jews in a Pickle Jar | Christianity Today.

This is part three of a four-part discussion between Bethlehem Baptist Church pastor John Piper and Jews for Jesus executive director David Brickner on the relationship and attitudes American Christians should have toward Israel. See Brickner’s initial letter and Piper’s first response.

Pickle Jar

Dear John,

Thank you for your insightful comments on a number of the issues brought up in my first letter to you, many with which I happily agree. We both uphold the need and priority of Jewish evangelism as integral to world mission. We both affirm the ongoing election of Israel (the Jewish people) and God’s faithfulness to his covenant people and his promises. We both look forward to the second coming of Jesus and his glorious restoration of all things, including his people Israel. I do want to take issue with two of your comments before voicing my main concern.

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