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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.   

(more…)

Did Those Six Million Jews Die for You?

Auschwitz entrance

The Entrance to Auschwitz

By now the controversy surrounding the Jews for Jesus video “That Jew Died for You” has simmered down. Still the strong negative reaction by the Jewish community to the JFJ evangelistic effort remains a stain on Jewish-Christian relations.

At the release of the video prior to Holocaust Remembrance Day, a Jews for Jesus press release, explained the video seeks “to help redefine the conversation and reshape views of Jesus and His relationship to the Holocaust.”

The intentions of JFJ in the production of this video were honorable and aimed to initiate conversation among Jewish people regarding Christianity’s relationship to the murder of six million Jews under the evil Nazi regime.

David Brickner, Executive Director of  JFJ offered his public commentary on the video, “The horrors of the Holocaust and the 6 million who died has gnawed at the consciousness of Jews for over 60 years. We want Jewish people to understand that the sufferings inflicted at the hands of the Nazi’s were in no way based on the teachings of Jesus (underlining mine). In fact, he suffered and died on our behalf to show us the love of God.”

Oddly, the majority of Jewish people do not think the teachings of Jesus are responsible for the horrors of the Holocaust. Rather, the Jewish community is  more concerned with the antisemitic attitudes of  Eastern European Christians prior to and during World War II that helped fuel the racist ideology behind the  Holocaust. (more…)




Not All Israel Is Israel Part 3

The controversy over God’s continuation of Israel as a viable nation despite their rejection of Jesus as their Messiah looms large in the Christian church.

Most followers of Jesus are not even aware of the various Christian theologies regarding the Jewish nation.  Yet when uninformed evangelicals are exposed to such anti-Israel beliefs such as Replacement Theology (the view that Israel is no longer God’s elect people but replaced by the Church), these Christians are conflicted over what they are  hearing and what the Bible teaches.

As a representative of Replacement Theology (though he prefers the term “Fulfillment Theology”) Gary Burge, New Testament professor at Wheaton College, in his book Whose Land? Whose Promises?  the author states, “Abraham can become the father of many nations because when Gentiles share in Abraham’s faith, he becomes their father too (Romans 4:16).  Physical lineage, therefore, has been spiritualized into a lineage based on faith (emphasis mine). The ‘land of Israel’ is likewise spirtualized now to include the entire world” (pg. 182).

geneology

The key concept to focus on from Burge’s theology is, “physical lineage  . . . has been spiritualized into a lineage based on faith.”  Israel  is no longer a physical nation, according to the Wheaton professor, but has become a spiritual entity that one enters into by faith  in Christ not by physical heritage through Abraham. If the physical seed has been “spiritualized” then the “physical” is no longer relevant, hence the physical nation of Israel is moot to God’s spiritual program.

The glaring mistake Burge makes is twofold:  first, the physical lineage of a member of the nation of Israel never implied the individual within the nation  has a relationship with God, and second, within the physical nation of Israel there has always existed a spiritual remnant of Israelites who remained faithful to God.  These two truths do not redefined the nation of Israel, but describe the reality of a spiritual remnant within the physical Jewish nation.

In contrast to Gary Burge’s fulfillment theology which pushes aside God’s plan for the physical nation  the Apostle Paul  teaches that Israel still exists as a nation even after the first coming of the Messiah. In Romans 9:3-4a Paul pleads, “For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my people, those of my own race, the people of Israel.” To Paul, “those of his own race” are “the people of Israel” quite alive and not replaced by or fulfilled in the New Testament church.  (more…)




Not All Israel is Israel Part 2

To many students of the Bible Paul’s comment in Romans 9:6 that “not all who are descended from Israel are Israel” (NIV) sounds very strange.  Is Paul saying the part of Israel that is “descended from Israel” is no longer part of the nation known as Israel?  Then that would mean the only people who are actually Israelites are Jewish people who believe in Yeshua as Messiah  and the “not all who are descended from Israel ” group are no longer members of the Jewish nation.  Yet if you follow that logic, any examples of the NT apostles addressing the segment of the Jewish nation who have not accepted Yeshua as Messiah as  still “Israel” makes no sense.

Check out these examples from the New Testament:

Acts 2:22: “Fellow Israelites, listen to this:

Acts 2:29:  “Fellow Israelites, I can tell you confidently that the patriarch David died and was buried, and his tomb is here to this day.”

Acts 2: 36: “Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.”

Acts 3:12: “When Peter saw this, he said to them: “Fellow Israelites, why does this surprise you?”

Acts 3:17: “Now, fellow Israelites, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did your leaders.”

Acts 4:10:  “then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed.”

No wonder Christians are befuddled by Paul’s reference to two Israel’s in Romans 9:6.

Twelve Tribes of Israel

Twelve Tribes of Israel

 

In light of Paul’s head-scratching use of the phrase, “”not all who are descended from Israel are Israel”, Christian theologians come up with explanations that confuse the issue even more.

My favorite explanation is the one that states unbelieving Israel has been replaced by the Church.  This is called “replacement theology.”   In this theological system,  “Israel” that accepted Yeshua is none other than the Church.  Rather than create clarity, Replacement Theology (aka disguised as Fulfillment Theology or Transformation Theology or Promise Theology) contributes more fuzzy thinking since the reader of the New Testament is forced to think “Church” when he reads the term “Israel”. Try to think “Church” in reading Romans 11:26,  “and in this way all Israel will be saved.”  Thanks, but no thanks.  (more…)




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…)




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