Does Israel Have a Future? – Part 2

Norbert Lieth and Johannes Pflaum

It’s incomprehensible today that replacement theology advocates are stubbornly sticking to their guns, when Israel is obviously at the center of world events. And beyond that, the fulfillment of Scripture’s final prophecies is beginning to dawn.

Lack of a Vision for Israel in Church History

Although the Reformer’s primary purpose in writing was to confront Judaism theologically, Luther let himself get carried away by the anti-Semitic conspiracy theories of his day. His writing accused the Jews of laziness, poisoning wells, and kidnapping children for ritual murder. He also cast suspicion on Jewish doctors of poisoning their patients. The following sentences appeared in his work:

“What shall we Christians do with this rejected and condemned people, the Jews? […] Thus, we cannot extinguish the unquenchable fire of divine wrath, of which the prophets speak, nor can we convert the Jews. With prayer and the fear of God we must practice a sharp mercy to see whether we might save at least a few from the glowing flames. We dare not avenge ourselves. Vengeance a thousand times worse than we could wish them already has them by the throat. I shall give you my sincere advice:

“First to set fire to their synagogues or schools and to bury and cover with dirt whatever will not burn, so that no man will ever again see a stone or cinder of them. This is to be done in honor of our Lord and of Christendom, so that God might see that we are Christians, and do not condone or knowingly tolerate such public lying, cursing, and blaspheming of his Son and of his Christians.”

Despite this anti-Semitic rant (which must be explicitly denounced on a biblical basis), we shouldn’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. The church fathers also made very important and valuable discoveries, for which God is to be thanked. For example, Luther’s recognition of the four “solas” of the Reformation—“faith alone, grace alone, the Bible alone, Christ alone”—is significant in church history.

The way Luther saw it, the land covenants made to Israel and the messianic promises of David’s scepter were fulfilled at Christ’s first coming, sealed by the Jewish Diaspora. To him, the promises and service to God had passed to the Christians.

The Reformer’s incorrect way of thinking is still understandable to a degree, due to the circumstances of the time: there was no trace of an Israeli state. Then again, it’s all the more incomprehensible today that replacement theology advocates are stubbornly sticking to their guns, when Israel is obviously at the center of world events. And beyond that, the fulfillment of Scripture’s final prophecies is beginning to dawn. 

We can also follow the effects of replacement theology to the rise of National Socialism (Nazism) and the anti-Semitism that characterized it, in its worst form to date. The guidelines for the “German Christian Faith Movement” were published in 1932, closely mirroring Hitler’s political agenda. They said, in part:

“We recognize in race, ethnicity (Volkstum), and nation laws of life given and entrusted to us by God, who has commanded us to preserve them […] We also demand that the people be protected from those who are inept and inferior […] In the mission to the Jews we see great danger to our people. It is the point at which foreign blood enters the body of our people […] Holy Scripture speaks both of holy wrath and of self-denying love. It is especially important to prohibit marriages between Germans and Jews.”

These “German Christian” guidelines won a third of the available seats in the November 1932 Prussian church elections. A moderate version was eventually released in May of 1933, due only to massive criticism of the original by the Confessing Church, spearheaded by pastors Niemöller and Bonhoeffer.

Even after the war and the Holocaust had come to an end, traces of anti-Semitism lurking in replacement theology can be found over and over in the Church. In 1984, an evangelical pastor named Schenk wrote in the Palatinate (Germany) parish newspaper: “Believers in Christ, forming a community of saints and the one Christian church, have replaced the formerly chosen people of God.”

During the 1982 Lebanon War (Operation: “Peace for Galilee”), evangelical theologian Ulrich Schoen of Beirut expressed himself as follows:

“And there are theological ideas, together with anger, which I wouldn’t mind if there were also some divine anger (!) involved. This ‘peace’ has nothing to do with the peace that the three sister religions (Islam, Christianity, and Judaism) want. All three of them should bring a case against the State of Israel for ‘theft’ and ‘sexual assault of a minor.’ For it has stolen the name of God’s people, and it has violated something young and delicate: peace. And I wish that an unexpected by-product would shake loose from all this war: a death blow for all Christian theological ‘pro-Zionism.’”

In January 1999, Israel Today reported that 1,000 American clergy (including Roman Catholic and Protestant bishops) had signed a petition urging then-President Bill Clinton to end US aid to Israel. The intent was to put pressure on Israel and promote a Palestinian state.

The “Kairos Palestine Document” of December 12, 2009 was published by the World Council of Churches (WCC) as, “A word of faith, hope, and love from the heart of Palestinian suffering.” It’s important to note that this statement from the WCC isn’t shared in principle by all adherents to disinheritance (replacement) theology. There are also adherents to that belief who reject this document. The whole text is characterized by an ideological, biased, and anti-Israel attitude. It’s a clear demonstration of where replacement theology’s reprehensible excesses can lead. Any belief in a biblical future for the land and people of Israel is dismissed with the following sentences:

“Our Lord Jesus Christ came, proclaiming that the Kingdom of God was near […] He came with ‘a new teaching’ (Mark 1:27), casting a new light on the Old Testament, on the themes that relate to our Christian faith and our daily lives, themes such as the promises, the election, the people of God and the land. We believe that the Word of God is a living Word, casting a particular light on each period of history, manifesting to Christian believers what God is saying to us here and now. For this reason, it is unacceptable to transform the Word of God into letters of stone that pervert the love of God and His providence in the life of both peoples and individuals. This is precisely the error in fundamentalist Biblical interpretation, which brings us death and destruction when the Word of God is petrified and transmitted from generation to generation as a dead letter. This dead letter is used as a weapon in our present history in order to deprive us of our rights in our own land.”

This quoted passage subtly suggests that belief in the promises to Israel equates to the promotion of destruction and death. Elsewhere in the document we read:

“We believe that our land has a universal mission. In this universality, the meaning of the promises, of the land, of the election, of the people of God, opens up to include all of humanity, starting from all the peoples of this land. In light of the teachings of the Holy Bible, the promise of the land has never been a political program, but rather the prelude to complete universal salvation. It was the initiation of the fulfillment of the Kingdom of God on earth.”

In other words: Israel no longer has any significance in redemptive history, and never had the right to be its own people with a nation and a state. The Old Testament is also dramatically robbed of its promises and meaning, and even the fulfillments that had already occurred at that time. Finally, this statement from the WCC even goes so far as to say that a belief in the biblical promises, and the future for Israel that is inseparably connected with them, is a sin:

“We also declare that the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land is a sin against God and humanity, because it deprives the Palestinians of their basic human rights, bestowed by God. It distorts the image of God in the Israeli who has become an occupier, just as it distorts this image in the Palestinian living under occupation. We declare that any theology—seemingly based on the Bible or on faith or on history—that legitimizes the occupation, is far from Christian teachings because it calls for violence and holy war in the name of God Almighty, subordinating God to temporary human interests, and distorting the divine image in the human beings living under both political and theological injustice.”

This isn’t just a one-sided view of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that largely contradicts the facts; the reader is also force-fed the provocative thesis that, believing in the promises and, by extension, taking a stand in favor of the present-day state of Israel, is equivalent to calling for “holy war.” This equates a belief in Israel’s biblical future with Islamic jihad. Moreover, mankind elevates himself as the judge of God and His promises.

With this flawed position toward Israel, Christianity is not only repeatedly taking a heavy burden of guilt upon itself, but also has lost its ability to judge the signs of the times. In Zechariah 2:8b, God says of Israel, “he that toucheth you toucheth the apple of his eye.”

Footnote 20 of the revised Elberfelder (German) translation of 1986 explains: “Yes, whoever touches you, touches his (own) eyeball.” In other words, whoever touches Israel damages his own sight, or blinds himself. This is exactly what happened in Church history. However, when anti-Semitism is being traced throughout the centuries of Church history in its various forms and manifestations, the following important fact must be mentioned, lest we draw the wrong conclusions.

Many followers of Jesus, including theologians, see no future for the land and people of Israel, due to their theological framework. However, they aren’t anti-Semites, nor would they defend anti-Semitism in any way. For this reason, we shouldn’t make false generalizations.

But there is no question that the lack of salvation-historical perspective toward Israel has, in many cases, led to anti-Semitism throughout Church history, and even the promotion of it. A clear biblical view on the issue of Israel and the Jews during the time of the Third Reich, would certainly have saved a large part of German Christianity from deception. Conversely, it was a succession of simple believers during the darkest part of German history, who recognized the anti-Christian spirit because of its attitude toward Judaism. As a result, these men and women didn’t allow themselves to be carried away by Satan’s deception.

News from Israel - 08/2022

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