Friday, July 27, 2007

The Peacemaker as the Anti-Christ?

Below you will find a link to a brief video made by a Jewish young man named Mr. Max Blumenthal. He decided to visit the recent CUFI (Christians United for Israel) meeting led by Rev. Hagee and his friends. There are many things that are chilling about this video but here are my top five:

1) the Anti-Christ will be a person who will seek to make peace between the Arabs/Palestinians and the Jews

2) Armaggedon is something to look forward to, when we will have 'the cleansing of the earth'.

3) U.S. support for Israel should be unconditional, regardless of how they treat Palestinian Christians

4) If we want to participate in the second coming of Jesus, then we have to unconditionally support Israel from now until then, regardless of their policies or behaviors, otherwise we miss out on the parousia blessing.

5) It's a Biblical idea to have a pre-emptive strike on Iran before they cause more trouble for Israel.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/max-blumenthal/rapture-ready-the-unauth_b_57826.html


Oh yes, there was also the tidbit about Hagee's multi-million dollar salary, ranch etc. So much for following the examples of the early church as described in Acts 2-6, who forsook all self-centered self-indulgent, self-aggrandizing behavior.


It seems that Rev. Hagee has given up on the beatitudes of Jesus, which among other things blesses the peacemakers and the poor. Indeed, it seems Rev. Hagee has managed to give up on the sovereignty of God as well since the NT is perfectly clear that 'vengeance is mine, I will repay' says the Lord. The NT is emphatic about Christians leaving issues of final justice in the Middle East and elsewhere in the hands of God, and not taking up weapons to try and exact some poor flawed human vision of justice. No one is worthy to unseal the seals of the wrath of God on human wickedness except Jesus himself, according to the book of Revelation. No One. Not the U. S. , not Israel-- no one. We have no more to do with Armageddon than the Israelites had to do with causing the original plagues on Egypt. Indeed Armageddon is according to Rev. 20-21 the day when Jesus simply calls down fire from heaven on the ungodly. There will be no final battle, simply a word of judgment by the Lord and then the end. And none of the events in the Middle East right now have anything to do with Armageddon. That's all in God's hands, not ours.

What is perhaps most disturbing about this video is not how many Christians have bought this horribly distorted view of the Gospel and the future, and fervently believe it too, but how very clear it is that the mixing together of bad theology with bad politics results in a Devil's brew which makes the Gospel say just the opposite of what it says.

Christians, are called, here and everywhere to be followers of the example of the prince of peace, and to be peacemakers. If they wish to be vocal supporters of any persecuted group, it should be their fellow Christians including Palestinian Christians in the first place and others thereafter.

Even more disturbing is the schitzophrenia of affirming the Gospel of peace for one's personal life and spiritual development, and longing for peace for oneself, whilst support the politics of destruction, bombing, and general mayhem in the Middle East. Jesus said "inasmuch as you have done it unto the least of these, you have done it unto me." Perhaps, you will remember how Saul was confronted on Damascus road about his persecution of Christians. Jesus' words are chilling "Why are you persecuting me?" Well frankly, this is precisely what Jesus is asking Rev. Hagee right now because of his support of the destruction of the homes, families, and lands of Palestinian Christians by means of Israeli policy.

We should all be praying for the peace of Jerusalem, as Jesus himself did. And we should do all we can to support the recent efforts to bring peace between President Abbas and the non-Hamas Palestinians and Israel, so Jews and Christians and Moslems can live in some sort of uneasy peace in the Holy Land until the Lord returns, whenever that may be. It will not be politics at all that sorts things out in the Middle East-- it will only be the return of Christ. Short of that we are called upon to pray for and work for peace in that region.










62 comments:

Todd H said...

Right on: bad theology + bad politics = antigospel. I like the formula.

knsheppard said...

Great post!

samlcarr said...

Thanks Dr. Witherington! If only we would immerse ourselves in our Lord's 'words of life', all of the 'bad theology' and accompanying rotten exegesis would get that much less of a hearing.

Leslie said...

Wow...

That's pretty creepy. And it's frustrating, because a lot of the world sees this, and they think this is what Christianity is about - sheer madness and sensationalism. I wish people would start studying scripture on their own instead of just listening to the guy in the pulpit.

Alan said...

Thank you for your post. I totally agree although you said it far better than I ever could.

Alan Miller

John said...

Responsible Christians need to be more vocal about the differences between them and the likes of John Hagee. Too many people have been scared away from serious Christianity because of this nonsense.

Ben Witherington said...

Thank you all for your posts. I am quite in agree that we need to do a better job of publicizing real Christianity not its clone or caricature that is easy for the outsider to dismiss and dismantle. One of the saddest things about the whole Hagee phenomena is to see Jews sucking up to these people, even when they think his theology is complete out to lunch. Any port in a storm I guess...

The other bizarre bit about all this is that Hagee himself, despite his great apparent love for the modern secular nation of Israel (which I would remind you once more is not Biblical Israel-- just ask any orthodox Jew living in Israel), in his writings sometimes says anti-Semitic things like-- the Jews in the past even in the 20th century have brought God's wrath on themselves through their compromising of the Law and the Land. Translation-- the Holocaust was partly Jews own fault!! Just incredible.

What Rev. Hagee demonstrates is what we already know from studying the terrorists-- that fundamentalist zeal wed to a particular militaristic political ideology is a recipe for war and mayhem and disaster, none of which Jesus would endorse in the name of rescuing Israel.

Blessings,

Ben W.

P.S. Take a look at my poem a little lower down the blog-- Seer's Tower.

David said...

I have a friend and mentor who travels frequently to the Middle East to work with Arab pastors who are frequently persecuted for their faith.

The sad response many times from them is how Christians in the West have forgotten about them because all there time, energy, love, prayers, and money go to Israel.

You're right Ben. The whole Middle East needs the Kingdom and love of God, not just Israel.

It's sad so many fail to see that.

J. Blake Huggins said...

Amen Dr. Witherington. It's things like this that make me embarrassed to be a Christian at times.

Percival said...

Embarrassing for us?! Just imagine how Jesus must feel.

Steve Pressley said...

Ben, given your sadness about Jews "sucking up" to the likes of Hagee, a book you'll want to see is "A Match Made in Heaven, American Jews, Christian Zionists, and One Man's Exploration of the Weird and Wonderful Judeo-Evangelical Alliance." Written by Zev Chavets, formerly editor of The Jerusalem Report (a serious publication, for those not familiar with it), the book is a serious but entertaining look at why Hagee et al. think as they do, and why some American Jews support them as they do. Chavets has not "bought in" to the thinking of the parties to the "weird and wonderful" match, but he acknowledges their humanity, and his viewpoint is not unsympathetic.

gib said...

Great post Dr. Witherington. I would pray that those with a similar voice and platform as yours would speak out against this sloppy theology that gets sold in pulpits, publications, and broadcasting. Thanks again.

Daniel said...

Amen! The louder this gets said, the better.
Peace.

Cole Brown said...

Another great book on this topic is "Christian Zionism" by Stephen Sizer. It traces the history of Christian Zionism and then shows the error in their interpretation of Scripture.

Bill Barnwell said...

There' so many things wrong with Hagee's theology and dispensationalism in general, but it is very troubling that millions of Evangelicals have written off any kind of meaningful peace in the Middle East because they think any sign of peace is a sign of the "anti-christ" and hence an evil thing, not a good thing. Also, peace in the Middle East would get in the way of their order of events leading up to the Second Coming. All this primarily because of a very weird interpretation of Dan. 9:27.

eblondet said...

Hmmm... another example as to why "religion" is a bad idea, especially when the "preaching party" is crazy.... If people would just go back to the basics, back to "The Way" a. Love G-d above all things b. Do unto others as you want done to you... we would all have a peaceful life.

Ben Witherington said...

The problem is not with 'religion' qua 'religion'. The problem is with horrible theology and bad politics which the theology is supposed to warrant.

James Garth said...

Outstanding post, Ben. Thanks for having the courage to tackle this dangerously mistaken theology head-on.

James Pate said...

Hi Dr. Witherington,

I think that your post raises good points, but I am disappointed that no one here has defended the pro-Zionist perspective. Being a peacemaker should not mean letting Palestinian extremists walk all over Israel. Israel has tried the "land for peace" approach in the past, and it has turned out to be a policy of "land for no-peace." And you are partially correct when you say that modern Israel is not biblical Israel. If I'm not mistaken, biblical Israel included some of the places in dispute, such as the West Bank, which may be given up under "peace" proposals.

James Gibson said...

I thought we participated in, or at least anticipated, the second coming of Christ every time we celebrated the eucharist. But I don't think the sacraments figure very prominently in Hagee's theology (if you can even call it that).

Matt, Christine, Elijah, Joseph & Sarah said...

I add my enthusiastic "amen" to all voices that proclaim the absolute folly of dispensationalism and the hate and anti-intellectualism it continually spawns. Thank you, Prof. Witherington, for the post.

Matt Walsh

Steve Pressley said...

In their reaction to the uncritical pro-Zionism of some dispensationalists, many swing toward an uncritical pro-Palestinianism. A good book to balance the discussion is David Horovitz, "Still Life with Bombers: Israel in the Age of Terrorism." (Horovitz is editor of the Jerusalem Post.) If advocating for justice means siding with the underdog, this book will cause you to wonder who the underdog is.

Ben Witherington said...

tojlgHi Brother Pate:

If you actually go and live in Israel for a while as I have done, you will discover that the Palestinians, even the radical ones have little or no control, even over their own land. This is one of the reasons some see their only option as a guerilla response. I disagree with them, but I understand why they are angry.

I could cite you umpteen examples where Palestinian families including Christians, and I am not talking about radicals, have simply had their land taken from them by the Israelis, had their homes bulldozed etc. even if their families have owned the land for hundreds of years!!

There are no counter examples to this at all, except in cases where, once the Israelis have taken the land without paying for it, occasionally some Palestinians have tried to take it back. I am thinking for example of some of the Gaza Israeli settlements now abandoned, thank goodness.

The modern nation of Israel does not have an inherent right to steal land owned by other human beings. Even the OT allowed that foreigners in the land could own their own land.

In other words, the vast majority of the power, all of the organized military, and the control of the land lies in the hands of the Israelis. They in turn must be held most responsible for what goes wrong when they simply bulldoze someone's family home and pay nothing.

I have watched this in Bethlehem and it is ugly to watch. The saddest part is that pro-Zionist American Christians busily support this nonsense even when it disenfranchises their fellow Christians who have lived in the land for over a millenia! Do you see Palestinians building huge walls in Bethelehem and elsewhere--- no. That is solely the efforts of the Israelis to box in the Palestinians one little bit after another and so separate them, making them easy to squeeze and marginalize.

Go sometime to Bethelehem Bible College and get the real story. It is not a pretty picture. The American government through its aid to Israel and its refusal to limit how that aid can be used is paying for the persecution of Christians in Israel!!! Amazing.

Blessings,


Ben W.

Ben Witherington said...

tojlgHi Brother Pate:

If you actually go and live in Israel for a while as I have done, you will discover that the Palestinians, even the radical ones have little or no control, even over their own land. This is one of the reasons some see their only option as a guerilla response. I disagree with them, but I understand why they are angry.

I could cite you umpteen examples where Palestinian families including Christians, and I am not talking about radicals, have simply had their land taken from them by the Israelis, had their homes bulldozed etc. even if their families have owned the land for hundreds of years!!

There are no counter examples to this at all, except in cases where, once the Israelis have taken the land without paying for it, occasionally some Palestinians have tried to take it back. I am thinking for example of some of the Gaza Israeli settlements now abandoned, thank goodness.

The modern nation of Israel does not have an inherent right to steal land owned by other human beings. Even the OT allowed that foreigners in the land could own their own land.

In other words, the vast majority of the power, all of the organized military, and the control of the land lies in the hands of the Israelis. They in turn must be held most responsible for what goes wrong when they simply bulldoze someone's family home and pay nothing.

I have watched this in Bethlehem and it is ugly to watch. The saddest part is that pro-Zionist American Christians busily support this nonsense even when it disenfranchises their fellow Christians who have lived in the land for over a millenia! Do you see Palestinians building huge walls in Bethelehem and elsewhere--- no. That is solely the efforts of the Israelis to box in the Palestinians one little bit after another and so separate them, making them easy to squeeze and marginalize.

Go sometime to Bethelehem Bible College and get the real story. It is not a pretty picture. The American government through its aid to Israel and its refusal to limit how that aid can be used is paying for the persecution of Christians in Israel!!! Amazing.

Blessings,


Ben W.

Ryan said...

I just wanted to point out a nuance which I feel is missed with regards to this subject. There has been much controversy with regards to the "peace" which these folks believe will be a sign of the anti-Christ. There is a qualification on this peace, though, which has been missed. It is believed that this peace will be a false peace in that it will be a peace based upon the raising up of mankind which pervades the world and even the Body of Christ in the modern-day humanist movement. By humanist movement, I do not mean it in the historical sense, but in the sense of raising up of human beings to the same level of God. The peace which these people see as being the sign of the AC is one that is devoid of the Holy Spirit of God. There can truly be no peace apart from God and His son, Jesus. So this peace, signaling the End-Times, will be one in line with the humanist spirit, which gives glory to man instead of God.

David Johnson said...

ryan,
We live in the "End Times" now. We have lived in the "End Times" since Jesus ascended. That is precisely the point: it is patently ridiculous to try and figure out what world conditions will be like when Jesus returns. When he comes, it will be "like a thief in the night." The "End Times timelines" and "road maps to the End Times" put out by Tim LaHaye and John Hagee and their ilk are among the greatest follies ever conceived.

The only place in the Bible where the term "antichrist" appears is the first two of the three Johannine letters---and in that instance, it simply refers to anyone who denies that Jesus is the Christ. The Bible knows no "The Antichrist." The whole Rapturist movement is based on some pretty ridiculous hermeneutics/eisegesis.

james pate,
I believe when Dr. Witherington says that "modern Israel is not biblical Israel," he is referring to the fact that the modern nation known as Israel is not the homeland of the "Jewish race" in the same way as it was in biblical times. Israelis today are a transplanted people who essentially stole the land from the native Palestinians (by a combination of greater economic power and foreign support) in a manner quite analogous to the European colonization of the Americas---minus the genocide---and for several decades now have been trying to get the Palestinians into "reservations."

Steve Pressley said...

Ben, I hope no one is thinking the Israelis bulldoze homes for sport. Right or wrong, wise or foolish, the bulldozing is aimed at the "collective punishment" of the families of persons who have carried out acts of terrorism in Israel.

I have lived in Israel, and I have visited Bethlehem Bible College and worshipped with the brothers there. I have also walked the ridge back of Gilo, across from Beit Jala, where terrorists once took over the homes of Palestinian Christians and sent bullets into the living rooms of Israelis. The artistically decorated defensive wall back of Gilo reminds us that there are many walls in Israel/Palestine, all a testimony to the difficulty of life for both sides.

These are complicated issues. Israel has dealt roughly, and Israel has been dealt roughly with. Which has come first, in most cases, is hard to verify. The point is, if the dispensationalists are wrong, they are not wrong because they are supporting the "wrong" side.

What all of us Christians need is a willingness to look at both sides, a confession of the common humanity on both sides, and more compassion and prayer for both sides.

Ryan said...

David,

I find the amillenialist argument to be less than convincing. I find that premillenialism is more true to what the Scriptures say. I don't want this to turn into the age-old amil vs. premil battle, though. If we really wanted any part of that, we could easily search the internet and get hooked up with one of the many already in progress. Along with this, I definitely believe and see the AC showing up in multiple places, just not in name. Again, though, we obviously disagree about a topic where there can be no winner in this sort of venue.

Fear not, though I actually do not buy into the rapture, which I see as being a bunch of bologna. It is completely unfounded, wishful-thinking. I am of the belief that everyone on the earth will be here for the great tribulation where the Lord will shake everything that can be shaken. I believe that Christians will be spared from the judgments, but will not be spared the persecution from non-Christians.

Furthermore, Hagee and his cohorts are obviously not living a Sermon on the Mount lifestyle, which is the starting point of Christianity in my opinion. I'm sure that this will start an interesting discussion, but I am receive much of my teaching regarding the End-Times from the International House of Prayer in Kansas City, MO. Here, the central ministry is a 24 hour prayer room, and everything that is said and done stems from that reality. All of the staff live as missionaries, relying on donations and the like to support themselves. There is no million dollar mansion anywhere near this picture. In light of this, I recommend a book entitled, End-Times Simplified, written by David Sliker. He is one of their leading teachers on eschatology and makes a compelling case for apostolic premillenialism.

Anyway, I am deeply sorry for the long post, but I thought that a voice in the opposite direction was in order. I feel that nothing is learned when like-minded people just agree with each other. There is nothing better to the learning process than a little challenge here and there.

Blessings

Brian said...

Thanks Dr. Witherington for being willing to speak out on this issue. It's a sad day when the so-called "people of God" are so blinded by their pet theology that they are willing to unleash such destruction on those we should be trying to reach.

That said... although I'm not a dispy, I do know others who would want to put distance between themselves and the Hagee types. Given that, some of the comments above seem to make too close of a connection between dispensationalism which, IMO, does not necessarily exist.

sam andress said...

Ben can you clarify something for me? It's my understanding that Israel, as in the "Israeli" modern nation-state is not the same thing as biblical monotheistic Israel.

How does Israel the modern nation-state relate to the "Israelites" of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and the Judaisms of the first century?

Do we need to take into account the sort of Israel the Scriptural narrative is speaking? It seems people like Hagee make an extreme hermeneutical jump in positing Israel the modern nation-state as one in the same as biblical Israel. Of course these are the same people that think "America" is Christian nation. Whatever that means.

What do the Scriptures mean when they speak of the nations? I just finished reading Chris Wright's "The Mission of God" and that question has been on my mind. In the First Testament, does the word Goyim refer to the peoples and tribes or their actual goverments? In the Second Testament, does ethnos refer to ethnicites or nation states? Is God concerned with making nation states Christian? Or is he forming his people in the midst those states?

Gosh this is longer than I expected. Hope it's somewhat clear...thanks Ben.

Jason Dollar said...

"Even more disturbing is the schizophrenia of affirming the Gospel of peace for one's personal life and spiritual development, and longing for peace for oneself, whilst support the politics of destruction, bombing, and general mayhem in the Middle East."

Dr. W, this seems to be the most significant point in your post. I think a person from any of the orthodox eschatological systems (Dispy included) could affirm that Christians have a higher allegiance to Christ then we do to any country, flag, nation, blood, or government ideology. But instead, most of the Christians who embrace one of the orthodox eschatological positions, or some variation of them, general see that bombs and mayhem have their place - as unfortunate as that might be. I have a difficult time, however, imagining that killing (or contributing to the death of) a fellow Christian is ever justified, even in a war situation. Your choice word "schizophrenia" is an appropriate description of this attitude.

Surely we can have our theological differences (eschatology is a tough one after all) but what marks the Church as unique and different is our state-transcendent insistence that peace is the goal of humanity and the way to achieve peace is not through war.

Alex said...

Ben,

Have you or other public Christian leaders considered writing a sort of petition to guys like Hagee, etc. to "encourage" them to cease and desist from this reckless theology? Just wondering if a direct appeal, a la Matthew 18, from fellow believers has been tried with them.

Thanks

James Gibson said...

http://www.knoxseminary.org/Prospective/Faculty/WittenbergDoor/index.html?Printer=yes#_ftn1

This is a link to an "Open Letter" written a few years ago during another similar cycle of Middle East madness. The signatories are all Calvinists, but they make some very important points. Hagee, et al. won't be swayed by such correspondence, but it might help to inform the wider Christian community about alternative views on eschatology.

Ben Witherington said...

ibDear All:

Here is an interesting point. Paul in Rom. 9-11 (on which see my Romans commentary) says that not all Israel is true Israel. He then proceeds to say that those Jews who have rejected Christ, have been temporarily (I underline the word temporarily) broken off from true Israel, so they might be reintegrated into the true people of God on the same basis as Gentiles-- by grace through faith in Jesus. True Israel, in his view, turns out to be Jews who recognize Jesus as their messiah, whereever they may live (he does not reaffirm the territorial doctrine). WHile we are on the territorial doctrine, Jesus also modified it: 1) by saying it is not about a holy spot on Mt. Zion but about worshipping wherever in spirit and in truth (Jn. 4) and 2) by saying that the meek will inherit not the holy land, but the whole earth at the eschaton.

In short, neither Jesus nor Paul affirm a traditional view of the Jewish people or the Jewish land. The people of God are those who are in Christ, whether now or later and Paul believes there will be a day when many Jews (for which he uses the phrase all Israel) will own their savior at the eschaton. In the meantime, the promises of God are not fulfilled by or in some land-- they are yes and amen in Jesus, and wherever one finds Jesus'followers of whatever ethnic extraction, for in Christ there is no Jew or Gentile.

Blessings,

Ben W.

properly basic said...

Good stuff, Dr. Witherington! I’m surprised your position is not pronounced more by other Christians? There’s got to be respected Christian folks who can help clear up some of this confusion. What do you think of Hank's (Bible Answer Man) end time position? He’s one popular Christian fellow I can think of who's saying something different.

James Gibson said...

Christians who hold a non-Zionist/non-dispensationalist view outnumber those who do by a wide margin. They are just not as flambuoyant as Hagee, LaHaye, et al. Eschatology is a serious discipline but dispensationalism has given it a bad name. Preterism (Hank Hanegraaf's position) is helpful as a hermeneutic, but it is frought with many dangers when used to develop a whole theological system.

James Pate said...

Dr. Witherington:

Another good Scripture for your position is Romans 4:13, where Paul says that God promised Abraham his descendants would inherit the world (kosmos). Paul may interpret the land promise to encompass more than Palestine.

But, on the other side, the land promise does apply to Israelite possession of Palestine throughout the Old Testament. And the promise does appear to be unconditional. Yes, the Israelites can lose possession of the land for a while, but God promises in the OT to return them. Paul says in Romans 11 that God's promises to the Jews are without repentance, which is why he believes that unbelieving Jews will one day respond to the Gospel. He bases his belief on the OT promises, so does that not indicate that he still saw them as valid?

Ben Witherington said...

Hi James:

There are some promises in the OT which are conditional (e.g. 'If my people who are called by my name....') and there are some which appear to be unconditional. Most, I am afraid are not unconditional.

But what is important to note from the teachings of Jesus and Paul is that these promises have been universalized and broadened, no longer limited to Israel, or to one piece of land for that matter. A good example of this sort of practice can be seen in Paul's handling of the 'promise' which comes to those children who honor their parents. Compare Ephes. 6.3 to Deut 5.16--in the latter its about living long in the promised land. In Ephesians its now about living long on the earth anywhere! I would stress that I am not talking about the spiritualizing of promises necessarily, but their being given a broader or in some cases different application.

But the most salient problem with the whole Dispensational schema when it comes to promises is that they fail to understand that promises from previous covenants, UNLESS they are renewed in the subsequent covenant (in this case the new covenant) are null and void, as are the stipulations and sanctions of the previous covenants. Promises are the blessings sanctions of the covenants, and almost always they are contingent on the keeping of the covenant.

Blessings,

Ben W.

Les Brittingham said...

Ben

Great stuff. For those struggling with the traditional dispensational approach to end-times prophecy there is hope. I have written three books to address this issue, including Taking A Second Look at the Second Coming, Decoding Daniel, and Revelation Unraveled. In the Second Coming book I take head on the rapture, antichrist, and Israel issues. Readers from across the country have thanked me for the books. My website is www.mannari.com

Les Brittingham

gib said...

Dr. W,

I know this is off topic, but since Revelation is being discussed, I wanted to try to slip in this quick question.

Do you think the "angel" addressed at each of the 7 churches in Revelation is the pastor of the church? I know this is a popular opinion, but I can't find any exegetical reasoning for it. Thanks!

sam andress said...

Lieberman likens Hagee to Moses! Oh dear Lord, how long must we sing this song?

Those who are proclaiming the world as blasphemers are the ones leading the march.

bethel said...

Dear Dr Witherington,

You pointed out in response to James’ post that the promises to Israel in the OT are made null and void where they are not specifically renewed, and that most promises to Israel are conditional. I don’t see a strong scriptural basis for this conclusion.

God’s promises to Israel in the OT (specifically in the Prophets) are on the basis of Grace since Israel was not in the position of accepting God’s command on their own accord. Hence God’s promise to give them a ‘heart of flesh’ – an act of Grace – should tie in with His promise of bringing them back to the land of Abraham, Issac and Jacob.

Indeed Paul in Rom 11 affirms that God’s election of Israel as His first-born (or natural branches) cannot be revoked. Further Paul looks forward to the day when Isa 59:20-21 and Jer 33:33-34 are fulfilled. I can’t see how this can be independent of the territorial promises to Israel since both Isaiah and Jeremiah also speaks of Israel’s restoration as a nation from exile.

Agape and blessings,
Keith Tan

Falantedios said...

Israel's election as firstborn has not been revoked; it has been fulfilled IN CHRIST. Christ is the Israelite, the ONLY true Israelite. He is the firstborn, and all the promises IN HIM are Amen.

Israel, as a nation, never returned from exile. The Shekinah of God never came to the second temple. The Davidic monarchy never again ruled a nation dependent only upon God.

When John the Baptist came crying out in the wilderness, he was preparing the way for the return from Exile. Preparing the way for God to return to the temple. Preparing the way for Israel's sins to be forgiven. Preparing the way for Israel's true enemies (sin and death, not Rome) to be defeated. If Israel, the nation, had patiently obeyed her Messiah, only God knows how things would have worked out. It is not beyond the scope of imagination to think that Rome would have fallen under her own weight of sin, leaving Israel to stand free again with a Davidic king, Jesus.

Obviously, this did not happen, and Jesus' warnings about rejecting his Messiahship were fulfilled brutally and efficiently in 70AD.

None of the fulfillment talk is necessarily independent of the territorial promises to Israel. In the renewed creation, God's Israel will fully and eternally possess everything God has promised.

in HIS love,
Nick Gill
Frankfort, KY

Pastor Greg said...

Amen Dr. Ben. I love the jews, the palestinians and the world. I'm a Christ follower!

gaj

Brian said...

Great Post...I'm not sure how the CUFI and other like groups have hijacked orthodox Christianity but it is disturbing to see how easily people are brainwashed.....what is perhaps most frustrating it that the guy who made that film prabably thinks all 'evangelicals' are like this

J. K. Jones said...

I agree that anyone who looks forward with blood-lust to the battle of Armageddon is ignorant of the nature of God’s grace to him. I do not subscribe to the dispensational pre-millennialist view of the end times, although I once studied it at length.

I agree that we should not seek vengeance. That is God’s job.

I do not agree with the pacifism that seems to underlie many of your comments here and elsewhere. Christians have a right and an obligation to defend those in their care from harm. This necessarily entails violence in some situations.

Flawed ideas of human justice are just that: flawed. Everything humans do is imperfect, but that is no argument to cease from action. We could not have evangelism without using imperfect means of communication. We could not give to the poor without using inefficient and sometimes politically flawed means of distribution. There are other examples.

Our imperfect concept of justice must be acted upon on behalf of the weak. Israel must be able to defend herself if required to.

I join you in your prayer for peace.

J. K. Jones said...

By the way, you might want to check out some opinions and stories from http://my2shekels.blogspot.com/

properly basic said...

Is Hank (Bible Answer Man) preaching a solid end time theology?

Ben Witherington said...

This has been a fine discussion all around. Just a few more points are germane. What the NT says about the fulfillment of prophecy or promises is that they are all fulfilled in Christ, by Christ, or in Christ's people (by which I mean Christians-- of whatever ethnicity). They are not fulfilled outside of the context of Christ and his people. Paul is perfectly clear on this. More pertinently, all of the promises about the patriarchs, the messiah, the followers of Jesus sitting down at the messianic banquet on earth (presumably in Israel) are promises about what follows the return of Christ and is inaugurated by Christ-- not prior to that time. In other words, 1948 has nothing to do with it, nor do present goings on in Israel and the Middle East.

Election, very clearly is a corporate concept involving a people group, Israel and then those who are in Christ, and it is not the same concept as salvation. There were plenty of elect Israelites who commited apostasy and fell by the wayside along the way. Election has primarily to do with God's purpose for some person or persons on the earth whether they are saved or not. Cyrus would be a good example of this.

Lastly, its not a matter of revoked promises or prophecy, its about the fact that: 1) most have already been fulfilled before and in Christ; 2) some were conditional to start with; and 3) some were contigent on the covenant being fulfilled. In other words, we have something to do with this whole process. This is why for example we hear in Mk. 13 that the Gospel must first be preached to all the nations before X,Y., and Z will happen. God is not doing all of this unilaterally. We have roles to play, and when we don't obey then things do not happen. 4) previous covenants are no longer in force now-- they have been and are being fulfilled in Christ and in the new covenant.

Blessings,

Ben W.

Steve said...

Hey Ben. I enjoy reading your thoughts. Keep up the good work.

Quick question that perhaps you could use for a future blog (no pressure, though, really). :)

One of my friends has recently encountered Paul Washer, specifically through his 'shocking message' that he delivered to a youth conference. It's posted on YouTube at the link below:

http://youtube.com/watch?v=uuabITeO4l8

When watching it, I couldn't help but think about the NY Times article you posted regarding the 4% Doctrine. Very relevant, esp. in the context of this message.

Anyway, enough of me. What are your thoughts, both on the Paul Washer approach but also contemporaries including Ray Comfort, etc.

Thanks be to God for your faithful and diligent scholarship.

Peace,

Steve Pratt

Bill Barnwell said...

Hank H. is a "partial-preterist" meaning that he believes most of what was prophetic in both the OT and NT has been fulfilled. "Full preterists" believe all has been fulfilled, including the Second Coming. For both groups, 70AD is a crucial event. Both groups interpret the fall of Jerusalem to be a major prophetic event, foretold in such passages as the Olivet Discourse and that this was a "coming in judgement" upon Jerusalem.

For the most part, I find many partial-preterist arguments very persuasive and consider myself a partial-preterist in many respects I do not believe Daniel 9:27 is referring to the future from our vantage point, and I do think much, but not all of the Olivet Discourse has the fall of Jerusalem in mind. I also think partial preterist arguments regarding an early date for Revelation and their identifying Jerusalem as the harlot in Rev should be taken seriously and not just dismissed out of hand because of traditonal views on the subject, though I have not yet been persuaded by them on those points.

I have little use for "full-preterism" and consider it a dangerous teaching. But here lies the problem with even many "partial-preterists": many take any and every eschatological passage and try to relate them in some way to the fall of Jerusalem. For many of them, "It's all about 70AD," and that goes for almost the entire book of Revelation, 2 Peter, 2 Thess. 2 and many other passages as well. At times I think some of it is a great stretch and their desire for consistency turns all of NT eschatological teaching into one big prophecy about 70AD and I think there's more to the Biblical story than that.

But on passages like Ezekiel 38-39, Dan. 9:27, most of the Olivet Discourse, etc, partial-preterists have much to offer and are more in line with historic teachings on these passages. I'll also take their view of Rev. over the dispensational view, though the former is not without its problems. By far, out of the "orthodox" options on eschatology, the dispensationalists make the weakest Biblical case and carry the worst theological and political baggage.

Sarah said...

Wow... It is strange, but I think out of all the bad theological systems across which I have come, it is bad eschatology that causes the most damage on the moral/practical level. Whether it manifests itself through bad political policy, or just the 'Pat Robertson' breed of social (and environmental) apathy, it really is a huge problem within Christendom.

The irony of it all is that eschatology (esp. of the apocalyptic breed) is also the most speculative of the theological spheres (well, beyond the certainty of the judgment, restoration and God's total Lordship, of course). Perhaps one could say that the generalities are certain, but the particular way whereby it will come about is, at this point, only known by God and God alone (and even that could be narrowed down to solely the Father's knowledge in regards to time).

bethel said...

Hi Dr Witherington and Nick,

Thanks for your insights and well considered points. I’m surely edified although I may still have a way to go before being completely convinced. It’s not easy letting go of the idea of physical land as part of the fulfilled destiny of Israel in the present day, which has been such a central tenet of the Jewish faith. True enough, that as Christians, our riches and blessings are beyond the mere physical, and more in the spiritual – or rather, the spiritual has subsumed the physical.

However, unlike Dr W, I cannot imagine Israel’s formation in 1948 to be something apart from God’s grace and specific plan for His people – whatever happens in the Middle East is moving the fates of peoples and nations (I do not imply here that everything Israel does, is then automatically correct). And whatever theological interpretation we may have on the physical people group of Israel, the state of Israel is a unique nation, comprising of ethnic Jews who have had no state since being dispersed in AD 70. (Yes, I realize I’m using ‘Israel’ and ‘Jews’ interchangeably). Although I take Dr W’s point that all will be consummated when Christ returns, it surely does not follow that God is not working out His purposes in both the Church and Israel now, leading up to Christ’s 2nd advent.

Of course if one adheres to the premise that God has a unique plan each for the Church and the nation of Israel (or the Jewish people), what then is the exact relationship between the Church and Israel before Christ comes again? That is admittedly a topic too far ranging to be dealt with in a forum page.

But I must say, both Dr W and Nick have presented their views comprehensively - thanks to you both, and others for your prayerful considerations.

Agape,

Keith Tan

David Johnson said...

Wow. I'm amazed at the amount of "theological" apologetics on behalf of the modern nation-state of Israel taking place in these comments. Simply amazed.

Graham Buck said...

Did anyone else catch the quip from Joe Lieberman about Rev. Hagee being greater than Moses? Ok, while that may be somewhat of an insinuation the remark that the CUFI was a body greater than the Exodus generation was not. hmm...

Lorna said...

so sad and downright scary. Thank you for speaking out against it

preacherman said...

Great post!

Kzer-za said...

I'm no expert on theology, but it really bothers me how every couple years someone is always claiming that these specific current events are leading to fulfillment of biblical prophecy and the end of the world is right around the corner. And then, when the events that book was written around have passed, it makes Christians look utterly foolish. I understand that people were even saying this about the end of communism around the time I was born.

Pamela Lyn said...

Thank you for this post.

This type of theology scares me just as much as radical fundamentalist Islam.

What is the difference between the individuals in the video who stated that they an anxious for Armageddon versus the radical members of Islam who believe that killing an infidel guarantees them a place in paradise?

Jeremiah said...

Thanks Dr. Ben for speaking out against bad theology.

Paul E. said...

Thanks for the post, Dr. Witherington...The Left Behind type of theology really bothers me, and I honestly think that it might be one of the biggest problems with Christianity in America today.

Marc Axelrod said...

I still think that it is unfair to indict dispensationalism based on its most sensational and poorly trained preachers (Hagee and others). I think we are painting with a broad brush. Most of the dispensational people I know are godly Christians like the people in this forum, people who love the Lord and love His appearing. I am a pretribulationist, and I can tell you right now that I do not take an inner delight in Armageddon, nor do I feel that modern Israel is the blossoming fig tree of Matthew 24. We must avoid the old shibboleths of argumentation by association and do theology in a loving way.

I think that J.D Pentecost's Things to Come and Alva J McClain's The Greatness of the Kingdom are the two benchmark publications by which dispensational eschatology should be judged rather than the rubbish that comes from the mouth of the Rev Hagee. Just as we don't like it when the media judges evangelicalism by its less than sterling representatives, we should avoid doing the same here, I feel.

I also recommend Vern Poythress' great book Understanding Dispensationalists. He is a Reformed Westminster scholar, but he is also a longtime member of the dispensational study group of the ETS. He interacts with dispensational theology in an irenic and friendly manner, the way it should be done. He does a good job of exposing the areas where dispensationalism needs to correct itself.

Also, see my review of Barbara Rossing's book at Amazon.

I just got back from an awesome Alaskan cruise! There was a wonderful Catholic priest on board who gave a stimulating lecture on New Testament theology. (I can't remember his name, but he is from Vancouver, BC).