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Christian Zionism


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Christian Zionism

1. In general - support for Israel and Zionism among Christians.

2. Support for restoration of the Jews based on Christian religious doctrine.

3. A term of opprobrium used by anti-Zionist Christians to designate and stereotype a variety of Christian Zionism that is today generally identified with evangelical and dispensationalist Christians. That group believes in rapture and may believe in rapture. It also believes in "Greater Israel" ideology. The vast majority of Christians who support Zionism and Israel are not fundamentalists. Moreover, not all evangelical Christian supporters of Israel believe in the characteristic doctrines of what has been called "Christian Zionism" - such as rapture and conversion of the Jews. "Christian Zionists" in the sense of Christians who support Israel, include Catholics as well as members of Protestant denominations. However, the term is generally reserved for members of Protestant denominations.

Myths and confusion about Christian Zionism and support for Israel

"Christian Zionism" or Christian support for Israel has been stereotyped by supporters and detractors. The apocalyptic visions of Tim LaHaye in his novel "Left behind," and those of Hal Lindsey in his books, along with popular anti-Zionist tracts such as Stephen Sizer's Road to Armageddon, have generated a rather distorted and historically incorrect picture of the doctrines of Christian Zionism. Not all Christian Zionists are dispensationalists or pre-millennialists or believers in Armageddon. Christian supporters of Israel include and have included and include Congregationalists, Presbyterians and Roman Catholics such as the Sisters of Zion. Not all Christian Zionists pursue conversion of the Jews, and some do not believe it is necessary for Jews to convert in order to bring the coming of the Messiah. Not all Christian supporters of Israel believe in "Greater Israel" and oppose territorial concessions, though many, including the most vociferous, certainly do hold these beliefs.

Christian support for restoration of the Jews began with the puritans in England and was transported by them to the Americas, well before the appearance of doctrines such as dispensationalism. Since this doctrine became an integral part of American culture, it has been supported by a broad variety of citizens, not confined to "religious fanatics." 

Be careful about accepting anyone's word about the meaning of a particular religious doctrine, or a particular definition of Christian Zionism. Different accounts make different dogmatic statements and give different definitions of the same terms because of theological or political differences.

When reading any definition of Christian Zionism it is important, but difficult, to keep track of the following different issues:

1- Who is a Christian Zionist? Does the term include only millenarians (pre-millennialists) or only dispensationalists, or can it refer to any Christian supporters of the restoration of the Jews, or any Christians who believe today that Israel has a right to exist?

2- What does Christian Zionism believe, or what views are attributed to Christian Zionists? Do they believe that Jews are a people and have a right to self determination somewhere in their historic homeland? This was necessarily the form of the belief of pre-1967 Christian Zionists, and especially pre-1917 Christian Zionists, because nobody had drawn the borders of Palestine or Israel precisely. Or do they believe that the Jews have an exclusive right to all of the land conquered by Israel in the Six Day war? Was the return of Sinai against the will of God?

3- What is political and what is theological? Those Christian Zionists who believe that Israel must not return territories for peace, and equally those who oppose this doctrine on theological grounds are using theology to support politics. It is difficult to understand how the writings of the prophets could refer to a specific map, whether it is the League of Nations mandate that included Transjordan, the UN partition plan, the 1949 armistice lines or the 1967 armistice lines. Whether the borders of Israel are set at the Jordan river or the 1949 armistice lines, they can be viewed as a sharing of Palestine or a fulfillment of God's plan.

4- What do Christian anti-Zionists believe? Do they believe that the Jewish state is against God's will and should be destroyed? Or do they only believe that settlement in the West Bank is against God's will? Or do they only believe that there is no theological basis for Christian Zionism? Even if there is no theological basis for Christian Zionism, does that necessarily mean that Christians are banned from supporting Zionism or the state of Israel on non-theological grounds? Some opponents of Christian Zionism would have you believe this is true. Do they believe that Jews are still being punished for their sins? If so, does this mean that the establishment of Israel was against God's will? Was God "asleep at the controls" according to them? It is probable that different Christian anti-Zionists and non-Zionists believe different things.

This article takes no stand at all regarding the correctness of any side in the theological dispute, but only attempts to give a reasonably correct summary of the history, a definition of the various terms that are in dispute, and an evaluation of certain critiques that are patently based on politics rather than theology.

Confusion of terms about Christian Zionism and theological entities

The literature is filled with a confusion of definitions of Christian Zionism, replacement theology, fundamentalism, pre-millennialism, dispensationalism, Jewish restorationism and  supersessionism (variously supersessionalism,  replacement theology or super-successionism), millennialism, pre-millennialism...  Christian Zionists have been the subjects of scathing attacks, bitingly described by the International Christian Embassy in Jerusalem in Swords into Ploughshares. and these attacks have deliberately contributed to the confusion.

Fundamentalism - Fundamentalism is generally identified with religious zealotry and extremism, and is a term of opprobrium. It is used by both proponents of replacement theology and opponents of this doctrine to discredit the other side. For example, those opposed to supersessionalism or replacement theology note:

In the 2005 annual Book Awards of the Catholic Press Association of the United States and Canada the textbook for the Blenheim Program in Bible, How the Bible Came to Be, Exploring the Narrative and Message (Paulist Press 2004), was awarded First Place in the “Scripture” category.

The following citation accompanied the announcement of this award:

"This book will be very useful for students of the Bible. It addresses some of the most asked questions about the formation of the Scriptures. Miller's canon history approach could have important ecumenical benefits, as well as reinforcing a greater appreciation of the many sources that contributed to the Bible. In addition, this book could help to correct some of the most threatening dangers of religious fundamentalism such as supersessionalism and triumphalism." (Reference )

However, Stephen Sizer, a leading anti-Zionist and proponent of replacement theology states:

The literal interpretation of Scripture, as opposed to the allegoricalism found in Roman Catholicism, was generally normative among Protestant denominations from the Reformation until the rise of liberalism in the 19th Century.5 From the early 19th century literalism increasingly became associated with evangelicalism and fundamentalism to the point where today they are now virtually synonymous. (from citing James Barr, Fundamentalism (London, SCM, 1977); J.I. Packer, Fundamentalism and the Word of God (London, IVF, 1958 and J.I. Packer, 'Infallible Scripture and the Role of Hermeneutics' in Scripture and Truth, eds. D.A. Carson & John D. Woodbridge (Leicester, IVP, 1983), p.345ff.)

Supersessionism (Replacement theology) - Supersessionism is the doctrine that God has broken his covenant with the Jews, and has now invested his favor in the Christian church, which is now to be understood as "Israel." Supersessionism has three different meanings or senses:

1. Supersession of the law - In the second century, Marcion argued that the law of the Old Testament Bible had been superseded by the law of the church, and therefore concluded that the Old Testament was no longer part of the Christian holy scripture. The last part of his view was condemned as heretical, especially by Tertullian. Though the Old Testament remained a part of Christian scripture, supersession survived in the sense of implying that the Jews had been displaced from God's favor and that all prophecies in the Bible that seemed to connected to earthly Jewish restoration and God's covenant with Israel or the Jews, actually referred to the Christian church.

2- Salvational - From the Christian theological point of view, Christians have now replaced the Jews as those who will be saved.

3- Prophetic and Practical - All references to "restoration of Israel" in the Old testament, in the sense of practical return of the Jews to their homeland and reestablishment of a Jewish commonwealth, and all references to "Israel" and "House of Jacob" and "my people" in prophesy, would now be taken to refer to Christianity. Thus, for example, the prophesy of End of Days of Isaiah would have to refer to Christians, rather than Jews.

ISAIAH 2:2 And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the LORD's house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it.

ISAIAH 2:3 And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.

ISAIAH 2:4 And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.

ISAIAH 2:5 O house of Jacob, come ye, and let us walk in the light of the LORD.

Salvational Supersessionism - From the Christian theological point of view this is often, in modern times, taken to refer to who will be "saved" or who will be resurrected at the end of days. In that respect there are two versions of supersessionism - "Hard Supersessionism," which posits that only Christians (and sometimes only Christians of the correct denomination) can be saved, and "Soft Supersessionism," which includes both Jews and Christians among the elect. For soft supersessionism, in some cases at least, Jews who do not accept Jesus as Messiah are still part of the covenant  (5: The Covenant in Rabbinic Thought", in Eugene B. Korn: Two Faiths, One Covenant?: Jewish And Christian Identity In The Presence Of The Other. Rowman & Littlefield, 66f.) ) but Christians have been added.  The Catholic Church and others had maintained that only adherents to the church are saved from damnation.

Catholic Doctrine - The doctrine of "replacement" was stated explicitly by Pope Leo the Great in the fifth century:

To such an extent, then, was there effected a transfer from the Law to the Gospel, from the synagogue to the Church, from the many sacrifices to one victim, that, as Our Lord expired, that mystical veil which shut off the innermost part of temple and its sacred secret was rent violently from top to bottom. (Pius XII: Mystici Coporis Christi  paragraph 29)

The Roman Catholic church declares, "Extra_Ecclesiam_nulla_salus" - Outside the church there is no salvation. This doctrine is part of the catechism and is a dogma of the Roman Catholic Church. It applies to a lesser extent to non-Christian Catholics.

As for the Jews, while Pope Pius XII quoted the early dogma of Pope Leo XII, which would appear to nullify the covenant with the Jews entirely, Pius XII went on to modify it as follows:

If we consider closely all these mysteries of the Cross, those words of the Apostle are no longer obscure, in which he teaches the Ephesians that Christ, by His blood, made the Jews and Gentiles one "breaking down the middle wall of his flesh" by which the two peoples were divided; and that He made the Old Law void "that He might make the two in Himself into one new man," that is, the Church, and might reconcile both to God in one Body by the Cross." (2 Ephesians: 14-16) (Mystici Coporis Christi Paragraph 32)

It is hard to reconcile this statement with the earlier one by Leo I, and with the doctrine of Extra_Ecclesiam_nulla_salus.

Protestant doctrines - Covenant Theology is a name given to the teachings of the Reformed churches, and  is a theological framework within the Reformed Churches. According to them, them, the covenant has been, variously, either enlarged to include Christians, or else the Christians replaced the Jews. Some denominations claim that they are the Jews or their successors. This would appear to be true for the Mormons and the anglo-Israelites and some others. Note that "covenant theology" is used in a slightly different way by some Christian Zionists, who base their Christian Zionist beliefs on it.

Practical Supersessionism - From the standpoint of Jewish theology, salvational supersessionism is largely irrelevant. Old Testament theology did not posit any after-life or any path to "salvation" other than worldly success in the present life. The after life, sheol, was mentioned as a place of shades, like Hades. God's covenant with the Jewish people was with reference to Jewish sovereignty and inheritance of the Land of Israel, and the prophets expressed the fulfillment of that covenant as re-establishment of the temple and return of the Jews to Jerusalem. The prophetic "judgment day," forecast before the destruction of the first temple, was a concrete approaching battle, not a judgment at the end of times. The practical sense of supersessionism or replacement theology is the one that has immediate political relevance in debates between those who support the restoration of Israel based on Christian doctrine (including Christian Zionists) and their opponents.

Eusebius Pamphilius, third century, Bishop of Caesaria, asserted that the destruction of Jerusalem had come about because of the sins of the Jews, and that it signaled the end of the covenant of God with the Jews:

Moses had foretold this very thing, and in due course Christ sojourned in this life, and the teaching of the new covenant was borne to all nations, and at once the Romans besieged Jerusalem, and destroyed it and the Temple there. At once the whole of the Mosaic law was abolished, with all that remained of the old covenant, and the curse passed over to those who became lawbreakers, because they obeyed Moses' law, when its time had gone by, and still clung ardently to it, for at that very moment the perfect teaching of the new Law was introduced in its place. And, therefore, our Lord and Saviour rightly says to those who suppose that God ought only to be worshipped in Jerusalem, or in certain mountains, or some definite places: (Demonstratio Evangelica )

Church fathers accordingly believed that the Jews were accursed and that God would not let them rebuild Jerusalem. The Church apparently decided that God could not do his work on his own. It gave practical aid to God, by expelling Jews from Jerusalem. In the  reign of the Emperor Julian, Jews were allowed briefly to rebuild Jerusalem. The project was interrupted when Julian was killed, and the empire restored to Christianity. According to Christian legends, this attempt was met by terrible prodigies of fire.  As noted by Edward Gibbon:

But the Christians entertained a natural and pious expectation, that, in this memorable contest, the honor of religion would be vindicated by some signal miracle. An earthquake, a whirlwind, and a fiery eruption, which overturned and scattered the new foundations of the temple, are attested, with some variations, by contemporary and respectable evidence. This public event is described by Ambrose, bishop of Milan, in an epistle to the emperor Theodosius, which must provoke the severe animadversion of the Jews; by the eloquent Chrysostom, who might appeal to the memory of the elder part of his congregation at Antioch; and by Gregory Nazianzen, who published his account of the miracle before the expiration of the same year. The last of these writers has boldly declared, that this preternatural event was not disputed by the infidels; and his assertion, strange as it may seem is confirmed by the unexceptionable testimony of Ammianus Marcellinus (Gibbon, Edward, Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Vol 2, Chapter 23, Part III)

The stand of the modern Catholic Church regarding this aspect of supersessionism, or replacement theology is not clear.

The practical and fundamental difference between Christian Zionists like John Hagee on the one hand, and anti-Zionists like the reverend Stephen Sizer, seems to be in the definition of "Israel." Early Christian theology favored supersessionism, the doctrine that the Christian Church replaced the Jews and   Israel, because the Jews had not accepted Jesus as Messiah. This doctrine came to be known as replacement theology. It was based in part on a misreading of the parable of the graft of branches on to an olive tree, given in Romans, 11:

11:16 For if the firstfruit be holy, the lump is also holy: and if the root be holy, so are the branches.

11:17 And if some of the branches be broken off, and thou, being a wild olive tree, wert grafted in among them, and with them partakest of the root and fatness of the olive tree;

11:18 Boast not against the branches. But if thou boast, thou bearest not the root, but the root thee.

11:19 Thou wilt say then, The branches were broken off, that I might be grafted in.

11:20 Well; because of unbelief they were broken off, and thou standest by faith. Be not high-minded, but fear:

11:21 For if God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest he also spare not thee.

11:22 Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God: on them which fell, severity; but toward thee, goodness, if thou continue in his goodness: otherwise thou also shalt be cut off.

11:23 And they also, if they abide not still in unbelief, shall be graffed in: for God is able to graff them in again.

11:24 For if thou wert cut out of the olive tree which is wild by nature, and wert graffed contrary to nature into a good olive tree: how much more shall these, which be the natural branches, be graffed into their own olive tree? 11:25 For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in.

11:26 And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob:

11:27 For this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins.

11:28 As concerning the gospel, they are enemies for your sakes: but as touching the election, they are beloved for the father's sakes.

In fact, Romans 11 is a very strong argument against supersessionism based on the New Testament, since it opens explicitly with the statement:

Romans 1: I say then, Hath God cast away his people? God forbid. For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin.

Christian Zionism: Johh Nelson Darby

John Nelson

Dispensationalism - Dispensationalism is a term that was popularized, if not invented, by John Nelson Darby (1800-1882), a UK divine who is considered by some to be the founder or forerunner of Christian Zionism. Dispensationalism is certainly the root of one branch of Christian Zionism, but Christian Zionism existed before Darby, and some Christian Zionists such as the International Christian Embassy in Jerusalem are not dispensationalists, and base their Christian Zionism on covenantal theology.  Dispensationalism states that God has tried mankind with successive "dispensations" (these may be different in different versions) and mankind has thus far failed all the tests.

One version of the dispensations is:

  1. Innocence (Genesis 1,28);
  2. Conscience or Moral Responsibility (Genesis 3,7)
  3. Human Government (Genesis 8,15);
  4. Promise (Genesis 12,1);
  5. Law (Exodus 19,3);
  6. Church (Acts 2,1);
  7. Kingdom (Revelation 20,4)

The Church has failed too, according to dispensationalists, and the kingdom, the one thousand year reign of Christ on Earth, is yet to come. During this reign, the Jews, restored to their land, will be converted to Christianity. Christians are viewed as separate from Israel. and Jews. Soft supersessionism (or replacement theology), it will be remembered, asserts that Jews are included as part of "Israel." Ironically, dispensationalism has also been branded as "replacement theology" by its detractors, on obscure grounds. 

The key doctrine of dispensationalism regarding Christian Zionism is that the Jews, or Israel, are distinct from the Church and have a special part in God's plan, namely, the return of the Jews to the land of Israel is a necessary condition for the return of the Messiah. However, this belief is not unique to dispensationalists and it precedes dispensationalism. Classical dispensationalists also believe that there are two separate covenants - one with the Jews, based on earthly rewards and restoration, and a separate one with the church, based on heavenly rewards.

The kingdom is the reign of Christ on Earth, which will occur after a set of events that have different timetables according to different theologies. They may include such events as the rapture, the tribulations and the battle of Armageddon, all based apparently on obscure prophecies in the book of Revelations, in Matthew and in 1 Thessalonians Chapter 4. Some Christians believe that these events occurred, either to the Jews or else in later history. Some Christians believe that Revelations is mostly metaphorical and not meant to be taken literally. Dispensationalists believe the prophecies literally, and believe that they are yet to be fulilled. Dispensationalists and other evangelical theologies believe that the return of the Jews to Israel and the reinstitution of animal sacrifice in a rebuilt temple are necessary in order to bring about the return of Christ.

The more extreme adherents of Dispensationalism believe in Rapture, in which every Christian will fly through the air and meet the Lord, and a tribulation of 7 years will ensue. The rapture is believed by some dispensationalists  to occur before the tribulation, while others believe it will occur during or after the tribulation. A great battle of Armageddon will also be fought, between the Lord or the allies of the lord and the kings of the earth or the followers of antichrist. Various versions of these ideas have been popularized by novelists like Tim LaHaye.  Hal Lindsey is an example of a modern dispensationalist who apparently holds most or all of these views.

The belief that the war of Armageddon is desirable and will bring on the coming of the Messiah does not follow logically from Dispensationalist theology, nor is it a tenet of the belief of most Christian Zionists. Nonetheless, detractors insist that this is the case:

. Zealous advocates such as Hagee, Jack Van Impe, and various other regulars with TV ministries consistently reject peacemaking initiatives since they anticipate and delight in an impending cataclysmic battle between the forces of good and evil. Politically, this easily translates into advocacy for policies-in the United States and Israel-that may help make Armageddon a self-fulfilling prophecy. Source :

This provides a false basis for labeling all Christians who support Israel, or who object to a particular peace initiative, as "war mongers" who want to bring on Armageddon. Non-dispensationalist Christian Zionists declare that they are not interested in Armageddon, but rather to the vision of peace in Isaiah, when swords will be beaten into ploughshares  (see  Swords into Plowshares).

Dispensationalism underwent several changes in its formulation by Darby and in subsequent years: (see What is Dispensationalism? )

1. Classical Dispensationalism (ca. 1850—1940s) Classical dispensationalism includes  British and American dispensationalists from J. N. Darby to Lewis Sperry Chafer, who wrote an eight-volume Systematic Theology. C. I. Scofield's bible, published in 1909, contained exegesis that is generally cited as popularizing Dispensationalism in the United States. It can be shown however, that Christian Zionist views were popular in the United States long before.

Classical dispensationalism had a dualistic idea of redemption. In this tradition, God is seen as pursuing two different purposes. One is related to heaven and the other to the earth. The “heavenly humanity was to be made up of all the redeemed from all dispensations who would be resurrected from the dead. Whereas the earthly humanity concerned people who had not died but who were preserved by God from death, the heavenly humanity was made up of all the saved who had died, whom God would resurrect from the dead.”

2. Revised or Modified Dispensationalism (ca.1950—1985) Revised dispensationalists did no believe in the eternal dualism of heavenly and earthly peoples. They emphasized the idea of two peoples of God -- Israel and the church. These two groups have different dispensational roles and responsibilities, but the salvation they each get is the same. The distinction between Israel and the church, will continue throughout eternity. Revised dispensationalists usually reject the idea that there are two new covenants—one for Israel and one for the church. They also see the church and Israel as existing together during the millennium and eternal state. Major theologians of this creed include : John Walvoord, Dwight Pentecost, Charles Ryrie, Charles Feinberg, and Alva J. McClain.

3. Progressive Dispensationalism (1986—present)  The title “progressive dispensationalism” refers to the “progressive” relationship of the successive dispensations to one another. Charles Ryrie notes that, “The adjective ‘progressive’ refers to a central tenet that the Abrahamic, Davidic, and new covenants are being progressively fulfilled today (as well as having fulfillments in the millennial kingdom).”

Progressives do not view the church as an anthropological category in the same class as terms like Israel, Gentile Nations, Jews, and Gentile people. The church is not a separate race of humanity (like Jews and Gentiles) nor a competing nation alongside Israel and Gentile nations. The church includes all redeemed humanity prior to the coming of Christ.

Progressive dispensationalists stress that both Israel and the church compose the “people of God” and both are related to the blessings of the New Covenant. However, progressive dispensationalists do not equate the church as Israel at present and they still see a future distinct identity and function for ethnic Israel in the millennial kingdom. Progressive dispensationalists like Blaising and Bock believe the Davidic reign has been or will be inaugurated during the present church age. The full fulfillment of this reign awaits Israel in the millennium. Major theologians of this creed include Craig A. Blaising, Darrell L. Bock, and Robert L. Saucy. 

Pre-millennialism - According to one source: "Premillennialism is the view that Christ’s second coming will occur prior to his Millennial Kingdom, and that the Millennial King is a literal 1,000-year reign." (Reference: What is Premillennialism?)

Premillennialism is a doctrine of dispensationalism, but not all pre-millennialists are dispensationalists. A better definition of Pre-millennialism is based on the New International Dictionary of the Christian Church, which also distinguishes it from Post-millennialism:

Pre-Millennialism - belief in the return of Christ to rule on Earth for a thousand years before the great White Throne judgment.

Post-Millennialism - belief that the Church will rule the Earth for a thousand years before the return of Christ and the judgment.

A-Millennialism - belief that the church already enjoys victory.

Rapture - Rapture is the belief that Jesus the Messiah will return and snatch up living believers to heaven. It is based on verses in 1 Thessalonians 4, which are related to other prophecies in 1 Corinthians, in the book of John, in Phillipians and the book of Matthew. These are related by believers to prophecies in the book of Daniel and in the book of Revelations.

The key verses of 1 Thessalonians 4 in question in the King James version read:

4:16 For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: 4:17 Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.

In the Latin Vulgate bible of the Roman Catholic church:

16 quoniam ipse Dominus in iussu et in voce archangeli et in tuba Dei descendet de caelo et mortui qui in Christo sunt resurgent primi 17 deinde nos qui vivimus qui relinquimur simul rapiemur cum illis in nubibus obviam Domino in aera et sic semper cum Domino erimus

"Rapiemur" is best translated as will be "seized" or "snatched" or "violently abducted." A raptor in Latin is a robber, and raptus is a tearing off or rending away. The original Greek word is harpazo, which means to forcibly snatch up, to take for oneself. Supposedly, the first use of the word "rapture" in this sense was in the notes to the dispensationalist Scofield Bible, published in 1909.

In 2 Thessalonians 2, it seems to be stated that the second coming and presumably the rapture cannot take place until the evil one in vanquished, the one who is often identified with the anti-Christ.

2:2 That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand.

2:3 Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition;

2:4 Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God.

The special belief of dispensationalists is that the rapture will occur prior to the tribulation. This pre-tribulation rapture can occur at any time supposedly, according to Matthew 24:36:

But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone.

The origins of this belief in pre-tribulation rapture are unclear. Apparently, a Catholic priest Emmanuel Lacunza wrote about it in 1788. J.N. Darby wrote of it in 1827, and it may have been inspired or popularized by a vision of a 15 year old Scottish-Irish girl named Margaret MacDonald, a follower of  Edward Irving, which she supposedly had in 1830, but which was not published until 1861. Believers claim that it was a doctrine of the early church that was later suppressed.  

Covenant Theology - Covenant theology has a specific meaning in Christian theological theory, associated with Calvin and Zwingli, and not related to the issue of restoration of the Jews. However, according to the International Christian Embassy in Jerusalem, (see  Swords into Plowshares)  their covenant theology holds that God gave four Covenants: To Abraham, to Moses, to David, and finally the New Testament Covenant. The land is promised to the Jewish people as an inheritance. It is theirs by right, though they may forfeit the right to residency by misdeeds, and it is a covenant given unto a thousand generations. The Jewish people are chosen to be a light unto the nations and to demonstrate to the world the goodness of God. God could not revoke His covenant or "change His mind." Therefore, it is not possible that the Jews have forfeited their rights in Israel, though they may forfeit the right to live in the land temporarily.

Christian Zionism - Having reviewed some of the background, we can consider some of the definitions and criticisms of Christian Zionism. As noted above there are many definitions of this term, both by supporters and detractors. Modern Christian movements that are supportive of Israel seem to have a broad variety of theological beliefs, and this contributes to the confusion. This definition seems to capture the spirit of most Christian Zionist belief, and makes it clear that Christian Zionism is not necessarily associated with apocalyptic visions:

...Christians who see the regathering of the Jewish people in their land, as well as the establishment of the sovereign nation of Israel in 1948, as the literal fulfillment of biblical prophecy are known as "Christian Zionists". Christian Zionists see the Jewish people as the "apple of God's eye"--His Chosen people, and hold firm that God's promises, established in the Abrahamic Covenant, remain in effect today.

Christian Zionists are "Biblical advocates" for the Jewish people and the state of Israel. Furthermore, they stand in firm, diametrical opposition to land concessions of any sort which involve the forfeiture of the holy land of Israel as it is a sacred manifestation of the promises of God to the people He calls the "apple of His eye".

Christian Zionists also seek to stand with Israel, showing her unconditional support, solidarity and love whilst praying for her spiritual return to the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, who "foreknew" her.

A common rebuttal serving to debunk and discredit the underlying objectives of Christian Zionism is the shortsighted argument purporting that Christian Zionists seek to facilitate the literal fulfillment of Bible prophecy--specifically, the end of the world and the subsequent return of Yeshua Ha'Mashiach. Quick to dismiss the biblical significance of Israel as a nation and people, as well as the longevity of God's faithful and everlasting covenants with her, opponents of Christian Zionism--many of whom would call themselves "Christians"--do not recognize God's biblical commands for Christians to support the Jewish people.

Source: Christian Zionism Defined by Mikael Knighton.

The above is not necessarily an extreme presentation of Christian Zionism, but it does incorporate insistence on keeping the occupied territories and opposition to compromise on theological grounds. Other Christian Zionists do emphasize the aspect of the "end of the world." The same author also writes:

...Christian Zionism": Some folks, unaware of the term's definition, never get past its pronunciation before walking the other way. "It sounds so extreme and fanatical.", they'll undoubtedly retort. The ill-informed will often ask, "What does 'Zionism' have to do with being a Christian?" The answer is quite simple, as you will soon see, and once Christians begin focusing less on the nomenclature, and more on the true, literal meaning of what it means to be a "Christian Zionist", they will soon realize that these are a blessed group of people. They are "blessed" because they bless. They bless because they love His people, and in doing so, are hated for it.

Although the term "Zionism" is considered a political movement in secular circles, it is entirely biblical in nature. Zionists seek to support, facilitate and advance the return of the Jewish people and sovereignty to their native homeland--the land of Israel. Christians who see the regathering of the Jewish people in their land, as well as the establishment of the sovereign nation of Israel in 1948, as the literal fulfillment of biblical prophecy are known as "Christian Zionists". Christian Zionists see the Jewish people as the "apple of God's eye"--His Chosen people, and hold firm that God's promises, established in the Abrahamic Covenant, remain in effect today. Christian Zionists also seek to stand with Israel, showing her unconditional support, solidarity and love whilst praying for her spiritual return to the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, who "foreknew" her.... (The Christian Zionist - Hated by the world, blessed by God by Mikael Knighton)


A different sympathetic author makes these assertions: 


It is not a belief that everything Israel does today carries Divine sanction, nor that her leaders at any time carry divine authority outside that defined in Romans chapter 13:1-6.

It is not a rejection of the Arab people, especially those who live in the land of Israel.

It is not a belief that the ONLY criterion of Divine judgement on nations and individuals is their attitude to and treatment of the Jews. (source: Christian Zionism by Derek White)

The text in bold might contradict "showing her unconditional support, " The italicized text might contradict "diametrical opposition to land concessions of any sort which involve the forfeiture of the holy land of Israel." At least these assertions are not in the same spirit as those made by Knighton. The same author goes on to define Christian Zionism (or to avoid defining it) in this way: 


Recognises that the Bible promises a future restoration of the Jewish people to their land, and that their restoration as a nation is part of God's end-time plan for the redemption of the world.

Recognises that Christians should pray for, and be involved in the upbuilding and wellbeing of the reborn nation, especially in view of the enemies around her who seek her destruction.

Recognises that God does not automatically endorse the actions of the State of Israel and her leaders, especially while the majority of her people live in unbelief in their own God and without her promised Messiah, neither does it feel bound to uncritically support all the policies and political agendas of her government.

Recognises that God is committed to defend Israel, despite her disobedience, because of the Abrahamic covenant which says: "I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse." (Genesis 12:3)

Recognises that the full restoration of the nation of Israel will take place when she comes to a place of national repentance, cries out to her God, and recognises her own Messiah. This is the completion of the restoration spoken of by Moses and the prophets, and as a result of which the whole world will be blessed. It is also referred to in the New Testament as the "fullness" and "acceptance" of Israel (Romans 11:12,15).

He also states:

The term "Christian Zionism" which has become prominent relatively recently is in one sense unfortunate in that Zionism in its normal non-religious sense, is essentially a humanistic/political movement which indeed, through its early pioneers and leaders, sometimes repudiated divine involvement in the restoration of the Jewish people and in the new-born State of Israel. The term "Christian Zionism" is therefore understandably, in the eyes of its opponents, an un-Biblical mismatch of terms. Having said this, it must be emphasised that BIBLICAL ZIONISM - the longing of the Jewish people for their return to their own land of Eretz Israel and their love of the land and the city of Jerusalem - is indeed part and parcel of the Biblical revelation and experience of the Jewish people. It can be said that God is the greatest of all Zionists! "The Lord has chosen Zion ... " (Psalm 132:13) and, "The Lord loves the gates of Zion more than all the dwellings of Jacob." (Psalm 87:2). The word "Zion" (referring to the land of Israel, Jerusalem, or the people of Israel) in fact occurs 161 times in the Bible (including seven in the New Testament).

Nevertheless, it is more accurate and helpful to speak of "Restorationism", a term introduced by the Pietistic Protestants of the 16th century, or the "Restoration of the Jews", or the "Restoration Movement" - phrases which were commonly used in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries when an understanding of a future restoration of the Jewish people to their own land, and to their own God, was widely held in Britain and the U.S.A.

That is fair, inasmuch as it seems that the term "Christian Zionism" was first adopted by detractors of Christian support for Israel. Note that both Knighton and White acknowledge their concern for conversion of the Jews, but at the same time do not advocate an active program to convert the Jews. Not all Christian Zionists are interested in converting the Jews:

For example, an information leaflet distributed by Christian Friends of Israel states:

We believe the Lord Jesus is both Messiah of Israel and Savior of the world; however, our stand alongside Israel is not conditional upon her acceptance of our belief. 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..

D.A. Rausch in the Elwell Evangelical Encyclopedia article on Christian Zionism avoids giving a definition of Christian Zionism, but tells us:

Christians have had an important part in supporting the Jewish people's restoration to "Zion." Within the millenarian tradition the conviction that the Jews would return to Palestine became an important dogma. As premillennialism gained ground during the nineteenth century, forming the core of the early fundamentalist movement, adherents not only believed that the Jewish people would return, but also vocally supported the right of the Jews to be restored to their former homeland.

Other Christians, such as Herzl's close friend William H Hechler, worked diligently to promote political Zionism as the ultimate solution to the Jewish question...Even liberal Protestantism, which has historically opposed Zionism, contributed clergymen through organizations such as the Christian Council of Palestine during World War II.

Nevertheless, because of their premillennial eschatology fundamentalist evangelicals have been particularly supportive of the restoration of the Jewish people to Israel and of Israel itself in the twentieth century. In his periodical Our Hope, Arno C Gaebelein advocated from 1894 to 1945 that the Jewish people would not only return to Palestine, but that they had an inherent right to that land as well...

On October 30, 1977, Billy Graham enhanced decades of support for Israel by addressing the National Executive Council meeting of the American Jewish committee and calling for the rededication of the United States to the existence and safety of Israel.... 

Such unequivocable [sic] Christian Zionism has not gone without attack. It has been criticized even within evangelicalism as an erroneous political philosophy based on a spurious interpretation of the Bible which dictates that modern Palestine is the Jew's own special piece of real estate. These critics argue that Christian Zionism totally ignores the rights of the Palestinian Arab people and that the Jews forfeited their title to the Promised Land through unfaithfulness long ago.

This little article is indicative of the confusion of terminology and likewise the confounding of political views with theological ones attendant upon discussions of Christian Zionism.

The Christian Zionism of John Hagee

Christian Zionism: John Hagee
John Hagee

John Hagee of the Cornerstone church in San Antonio Texas created a sensation when he apoke not long ago at an AIPAC convention.  is probably the foremost Christian Zionist at present. He is an evangelical Christian and his name evokes strong emotions among liberal Jews, even those who support Israel, and among anti-Zionists. However, his public theological statements seem to advocate a rather moderate approach.  Hagee's Christian Zionism, his reasons for supporting Israel and his theology are explained at his Web site

The support of Israel is a biblically based mandate for every Christian. All other nations were created by an act of men, but God Himself established the boundaries of the nation of Israel. God gave to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob a covenant of land that was eternally binding, and it's recorded in the book of Genesis. God also told Abraham that He would make Abraham's descendants into a great nation and through them He would bless all the families of the earth. In the same passage, God said He would "bless those who bless you" (Abraham), and "curse him who curses you" (Gen. 12:3). That gets my attention. I want to be blessed, not cursed, by God.

The Bible shows God as the protector and defender of Israel. Psalm 121:4 says that He never slumbers or sleeps in His watching over the nation of Israel. The prophet Zechariah said that the Jewish people are "the apple of God's eye" (2:8). Any nation that comes against Israel is, in effect, poking God in the eye-not a very wise thing to do! If God created Israel, if God defends Israel, if God considers Israel the apple of His eye, then it is logical to say that those who stand with Israel are standing with God.

Every Christian should remember the debt of gratitude the Christian community owes to the Jewish community. The Jewish people do not need Christianity to explain their existence or their origin. But Christians cannot explain their existence without Judaism. It was the Jewish people who gave us the written Scripture. They gave us the patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. They gave us the disciples and the apostle Paul. The Jewish people gave to Christianity the first Christian family, Mary, Joseph, and Jesus-our Savior! If you take away the Jewish contribution to Christianity, there is nothing left.

Geopolitically speaking, we should support Israel because it is the only true democracy in the Middle East. The tiny democracy of Israel is surrounded by feudal states and brutal dictatorships that control vast regions of land and oil resources. The presence of the Israeli Defense Forces brings stability to that part of the world.

The current conflict in the Middle East is not just about land; it's about Israel's right to exist as a nation...

He also provides similar theological support for Christian Zionism and support both Israel and the Jews here:


Christians owe a debt of eternal gratitude to the Jewish people for their contributions that gave birth to the Christian faith. Jesus Christ, a prominent Rabbi from Nazareth said, "Salvation is of the Jews!" (St. John 4:22) consider what the Jewish people have given to Christianity:

a) The Sacred Scripture b) The Prophets c) The Patriarchs d) Mary, Joseph, and Jesus Christ of Nazareth e) The Twelve Disciples f) The Apostles

It is not possible to say, "I am a Christian" and not love the Jewish people...


While some Christians try to deny the connection between Jesus of Nazareth and the Jews of the world, Jesus never denied his Jewishness. He was born Jewish, He was circumcised on the eighth day in keeping with Jewish tradition, He had his Bar Mitzvah on his 13th birthday, He kept the law of Moses, He wore the Prayer Shawl Moses commanded all Jewish men to wear, He died on a cross with an inscription over His head, "King of the Jews!"

Jesus considered the Jewish people His family. Jesus said (Matthew 25:40) "Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as you have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren (the Jewish people… Gentiles were never called His brethren), ye have done it unto me."

"Pray for the peace of Jerusalem, they shall prosper that love thee." (Psalm 122:6) the scriptural principle of prosperity is tied to blessing Israel and the city of Jerusalem.


We support Israel because all other nations were created by an act of men, but Israel was created by an act of God! The Royal Land Grant that was given to Abraham and his seed through Isaac and Jacob with an everlasting and unconditional covenant. (Genesis 12:1-3, 13:14-18, 15:1-21, 17:4-8, 22:15-18, 26:1-5 and Psalm 89:28-37

Hagee does not believe that conversion of the Jews is necessary at all for their ultimate salvation, a belief that has earned him the opprobrium of more orthodox Christian Zionists, like David Reagan who consider him to be an "apostate."

Typical Critiques of Christian Zionism

Opponent of Christian Zionism: Stephen Sizer
Stephen Sizer

Stephen Sizer, who has contributed a great deal of the criticism and the confusion, offers this definition of Christian Zionism at:

"At its simplest, Christian Zionism has been defined as 'Christian support for Zionism.' (Citing: Colin Chapman, Whose Promised Land, Israel or Palestine? rev. edn. (Oxford, Lion, 1992), p.277.)"

That definition might include anyone from the Pope to Pat Robertson to any Presbyterian or Congregationalist who supports the right of the Jewish people to self-determination and therefore is providing "Christian Support for Zionism."

Sizer is one of the outstanding critics of Christian Zionism. Whereas on the one hand he seeks to include all Christian support for Israel under the heading of "Christian Zionism," when he discusses the specifics of Christian Zionism, it is usually with specific reference to the doctrines of dispensationalists like Darby and to Hal Lindsey and other extremists. He presents an alarmist and extremist view of Christian Zionist theology which in fact seems to reflect the view of only a tiny minority of Christian Zionists, if at all.

His theological claims aside, the major thrust of Sizer's argument is not against Christian Zionism, but against Jews and Israel. For example, he writes:

The question is whether we have good biblical and theological reasons for giving whole-hearted support to the Zionist vision? Or, do we find in Scripture grounds for criticising and rejecting this ideology as sub-Christian or even heretical?

The first part is a valid question in Christian theology. The second part is not. Sizer moved quickly from rejecting "Christian Zionism" as a theological doctrine to rejecting Zionism in general, a sleight of hand. That is not the only place where Sizer deliberately confutes Zionism with Christian Zionism, just as he confutes Christian Zionism with Christian support for Israel and tries to attribute all of them to dispensationalism of the most extreme variety. Zionism as such (as opposed to some doctrines of Christian churches that support Zionism) is not a Christian doctrine or even a Jewish religious doctrine. It therefore cannot be considered heretical or "sub-Christian." As Sizer notes, it is an ideology - a secular political viewpoint.  It is a political ideology and not theology. The danger of using theological arguments to discredit the ideological basis of the national liberation movement of a people, the Jewish people, is clear. It is a platform for mixing politics and religion, and it is also a launching pad for using theology to justify anti-Semitism.

The payoff is not long in coming. In the same article, Sizer writes:

"the present brutal, repressive and apartheid policies of the State of Israel would suggest another exile on the horizon rather than a restoration. " (source-

In other words, the heart of Sizer's argument depends on his view that the policies of the State of Israel are "brutal, repressive, Apartheid" policies, couples with the belief that the Jews have not shown "repentance" (presumably for the crucifixion of Christ) and are therefore being "punished." It is once a political view which misstates facts, and an anti-Semitic doctrine. 

The Reverend Stephen Sizer is probably the most outspoken critic of what he calls "Christian Zionism," views which he variously attributes to all Christian supporters of Israel, or to dispensationalists. His "Road to Armageddon" rang alarm bells over the doctrines of a supposed army of fanatics poised to bring on the end of the world. The truth apparently, is that people with such beliefs constitute a tiny minority among Christian supporters of Zionism. Sizer's major theological contention is basically replacement theology or supersessionism, coupled with the curse of Eusebius: the Jews lost favor, the chance for salvation, and the right to Israel, when they did not accept Jesus as Messiah.  To support his view, Sizer cites the following quote, which is classic replacement theology of the variety that expresses the theological bases of anti-Semitism: 

H. C. Leupold, professor of Old Testament exegesis at the Evangelical Lutheran Seminary, Columbus, Ohio, in his commentary on Genesis 12:3 and the promise made to Abraham, makes the following critique of Darby's dispensationalism,

Now surely, as commentators of all times have clearly pointed out, especially already Luther and Calvin, this promise to Israel is conditional, requiring faith...History is the best commentary on how the promise is meant. When the Jews definitely cast off Christ, they were definitely as a nation expelled from the land. All who fall back upon this promise as guaranteeing a restoration of Palestine to the Jews...have laid into it a meaning which the words simply do not carry. Source:

Again, Sizer is mixing politics with theology.

Another condemnation of Christian Zionism was offered by a Palestinian group of local Church heads (source ). It states:

Christian Zionism is a modern theological and political movement that embraces the most extreme ideological positions of Zionism, thereby becoming detrimental to a just peace within Palestine and Israel. The Christian Zionist programme provides a worldview where the Gospel is identified with the ideology of empire, colonialism and militarism. In its extreme form, it places an emphasis on apocalyptic events leading to the end of history rather than living Christ's love and justice today.

We categorically reject Christian Zionist doctrines as false teaching that corrupts the biblical message of love, justice and reconciliation.

As in the case of Sizer, the most extreme views are taken as characteristic of all Christian Zionism. No theological basis is offered for the condemnation of the theology. Ironically, the signatories include Palestinian leaders of the Sabeel group and others who have been leading the effort to sabotage the peace process and opposing a real two-state solution.

In the United States, the fundamentalist attack on Christian support for Israel is probably lead by the outspoken Hank (Hendrik) Hanegraaff and his "Preterist" ministry. Hanegraaff, like Sizer, insists that Christian Zionists are an apocalyptic cult. He has called Israel the "harlot of revelations," and has written a book, the Apocalypse Code, denouncing dispensationalist theology.

Among the mainline Protestant churches, the Presbyterian Church USA has also been a leader in criticizing "Christian Zionism." They published a call to combat "Christian Zionism" in 2004, citing Stephen Sizer's book among others (see A document they published (see resources/21christianzionism.pdf ) states:


The same document states:

It goes on to make the usual accusations about Armageddon and obstruction of peace, quoting Gary Burge and others. The document does note that not all Christian supporters of Israel are dispensationalists, but the insistence that Christian Zionists are dispensationalists is a characteristic caricature of Christian Zionism. The same language precisely is repeated in many places, with references to denunciations of Christian Zionism by Palestinians and other anti-Zionists. Interestingly, PC-USA is not attacking pre-millennialism. In other words, rapture, Armageddon and other such beliefs are not counter to their views apparently, so long as they do not involve support for Israel. The document is incorrect in associating Christian Zionism so closely with dispensationalism.

What is peculiar about the PCUSA publications on Christian Zionism, are that they are neither fish nor fowl. Had they been intended as a serious examination of the theological validity of Christian support for Israel, they would have had to include pre-dispensationalist support for restoration of Israel, as well as views based on covenant theology, and they would have needed to deal with supersessionism ("replacement theology") as well. Had they been meant as a serious examination of dispensationalist theology, they would have needed to deal with all aspects of the doctrine, which have a far wider scope than support for Israel. The series of documents appear to be politically inspired attacks on Christian support for Israel, which operate by discrediting Christian Zionism as dispensationalism. 

Jewish and Zionist objections to Christian Zionism

Jewish and Zionist objections to Christian Zionism take up the following points:

Opposition by peace camp and anti-Zionists to Greater Israel doctrines of most Christian Zionist groups.

Opposition by American Jews to conservative domestic policies of Christian Zionists, including "right to life," opposition to evolution and opposition to separation of church and state.

Objection to conversion of the Jews and to missionary and evangelical work of some Christian Zionists, and objection to the doctrine of conversion of the Jews at the end of days.

There are number of evangelical groups and churches that engage in conversion of Jews who are anti-Zionist and equally conservative in their domestic views. The Presbyterian Church USA runs a church for converted Jews. Conservative politician Pat Buchanan has identified himself as a holder of conservative Christian views, conservative political views and an opponent of Israel. By condemning "Christian Zionists" and focusing on them, Jewish and Zionist criticism seems to be absolving their enemies and seeking out to specially criticize their potential friends.

Max Blumenthal made this claim: (source: -)

And if you look at what John Hagee has written in his books, like Jerusalem Countdown, his most recent book, which cites 17 unnamed Israeli intelligence sources to claim that Iran is producing nuclear suitcase bombs..

The logical conclusion from the above would seem to be that Iran might have an apocalyptic theology, but Blumenthal continues:

... and that Israel must engage in a "nuclear showdown" with Iran or risk committing national suicide.  if you look at what he's written, he does have an Armageddon-based agenda.

There are numerous non-religious political analysts and analyses that have reached the same conclusion about Iran. It is not clear why this view should be attributed to an "Armageddon-based agenda."

A brief history of Christian Zionism

"Christian Zionism" or Christian support for restoration (which we will call "restorationism," though this doctrine has a different meaning for Calvinist theology) of the Jews did not begin with Darby and the dispensationalists. Rather, it began in sixteenth century England, and was especially, though not exclusively, a popular idea among puritans. The puritans brought this tenet of their faith with them to the American colonies.

In the first century AD, the church was a part of Judaism. The break between the Jewish Church of St James began with the teachings of Paul. Before the first Jewish revolt in AD 66, Christianity was basically a sect of Judaism, like the Pharisees, Sadducees, and Essenes. Following the failure of  the second Jewish revolt of Bar Kochba in AD 133-135 and the banishment of Jews from Jerusalem,  political power moved from Jewish believers to centers of Gentile Christian leadership in Asia minor (Galatians), Alexandria, Rome, and Antioch. This important change was reflected in the changing theology of the fathers of the church, which  began to disconnect itself from its Jewish roots. The church became an active rival of Judaism. In the second century, Marcion had proclaimed that the Old Testament was not part of the Christian religion, having been replaced by the New Testament, but he was condemned as a heretic. The antagonistic view of Judaism, however, took hold.

In AD 321. Constantine declared Christianity the official religion of the Roman empire, and official Christian persecution of Jews for religious, rather than national reasons, began.  By the middle of the fourth century, it was an accepted belief among most Christians that the destruction of Jerusalem and the dispersion of the Jews were God’s method of showing the world that He no longer favored them, and was punishing them eternally for the crucifixion of Christ. This was exemplified in the teachings of Eusebius of Caesaria, who claimed that God would not let the Jews rebuild Jerusalem, and in the theology of St. Augustine and others, who taught that the favors of God had been removed from the Jews and transferred to the church, which was the true "Israel."  These beliefs became an important part and justification, if not the foundation, for anti-Semitic persecutions, including expulsion of the Jews from Jerusalem and later from various European countries, wholesale slaughter of Jews as occurred during the Crusades, and forced conversions. This view of the Jews remained fixed and almost universal in European culture until the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. 

Christian support for restoration of the Jews became popular when Protestant theology began to base its beliefs and sermons on printed copies of the Bible, in spoken languages that everyone could understand. From these, it was evident that God had made explicit promises to Israel and Judah and the fleshly heirs of David, and that these were not necessarily transferred to the Christian Church. Restoration of the Jews was a peculiarly British doctrine, perhaps because of the exceptional success and popularity of the English language Tyndale bible and the King James Version. Eventually, support for restoration of the Jews was to become an important theme in British, and especially in American culture, where it achieved the status of a cultural norm alongside anti-Semitism, and not always opposed to it.

In 1585, one Francis Kett, a Cambridge scholar, published a book entitled The Glorious and Beautiful Garland of Man's Glorification Containing the Godly Misterie of Heavenly Jerusalem. The book had a section in which he mentioned "the notion of Jewish national return to Palestine." For these views, he was burned at the stake as a heretic on January 14, 1589.

The puritan faith adopted both restoration of the Jews and to a greater extent, "Hebraicization," identifying themselves and their cause with the Jewish people.

In 1608, Thomas Draxe published The Worldes Resurrection: On the general calling of the Jews, A familiar Commentary upon the eleventh Chapter of Saint Paul to the Romaines, according to the sense of Scripture. Draxe argued for Israel's restoration based upon his Calvinism and Covenant Theology. The Reverend Thomas Brightman (1552-1607) and Joseph Mede (1586-1638) o both wrote of a future restoration of Israel. Brightman's work appeared in 1607 (or 1609) and Mede's was released in 1627. Brightman's work was published in Basel, perhaps to avoid the complications experienced by Kett. It was called "Revelation of the Revelation." In it he asked, "What, shall they return to Jerusalem again? There is nothing more certain; the prophets do everywhere confirm it."

Henry Finch (1558-1625)  wrote The World's Resurrection or The Calling of the Jewes. A Present to Judah and the Children of Israel that Ioyned with Him, and to Ioseph (that valiant tribe of Ephraim) and all the House of Israel that Ioyned with Him,  King James did not appreciate Finch's view that all nations would become subservient to Israel. Finch and his publisher were arrested soon after the book was released and "examined." Finch was stripped of his status and possessions and then died shortly thereafter.

"Restoration" of the Jews was initially synonymous with their conversion to Christianity. In 1635, Brightman wrote  a commentary on Daniel 11-12 which he sub-titled, 'The restoring of the Jewes and their callinge to the faith of Christ after the utter overthrow of their three enemies is set forth in livelie colours.'

In 1641, the British Puritan leader, Oliver Cromwell stated, "And it may be, as some think, God will bring the Jews home to their station, 'from all the isles of the sea,' and answer their expectations 'as from the depths of the sea.' (Tuchman, p. 141). It is not clear if Cromwell was referring to the actual Jews, or to the Puritans as Jews. The Puritan government also rescinded the banishment of the Jews from England.

In 1649 the English Puritans, Ebenezer and Joanna Cartwright,  living in Amsterdam, petitioned the British Government to  lift the ban on Jews settling in England, and to assist them to move to Palestine:

That this Nation of England, with the inhabitants of the Netherlands, shall be the first and the readiest to transport Israel's sons and daughters on their ships to the land promised to their forefathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob for an everlasting inheritance. (Tuchman, p. 121)

In later years a more secular version of Christian Zionism evolved in parallel to the evangelical one, sometimes relying on moral arguments, sometimes on evangelical arguments and sometimes on practical imperialist ones. Support for Zionism was no longer premised on visions of the end of days and conversion of the Jews. Among the first of these may be counted Isaac de la Peyrere (1594-1676), the French Ambassador to Denmark, who wrote a book wherein he argued for a restoration of the Jews to Israel without conversion to Christianity.

Thomas Newton, the Bishop of Bristol  believed Jews would be restored to their native city and country, and at the same time he condemned anti-Jewish prejudice.

Christian Zionism: Lord Shaftesbury
Lord Shaftsebury

It is likely that the religious movement for return of the Jews was inspired in part by French Revolution and the attendant emancipation of the Jewish people in parts of Europe. Likewise, it was no doubt influenced by the weakening of the Ottoman empire and by Napoleon's proclamation to the Jews, for the early 19th century saw a revival in restorationist beliefs, which also spread to the United States. The greatest part of this interest was purely religious, but restorationism was influenced by imperialist motives as well. In 19th century England, early British proponents of  Jewish Restoration included Anthony Ashley Cooper, Earl of Shaftesbury. He noted in his diaries that the signs were propitious for the return of the Jews to Palestine, and was later active in promoting proto-Zionist schemes. Charles Henry Churchill, a British resident of Damascus,  became a zealous proponent for the creation of a Jewish State in Palestine. In 1841 he wrote  to the Jewish philanthropist Moses Montefiore,  "…I consider the object to be perfectly obtainable. But, two things are indispensably necessary. Firstly, that the Jews will themselves take up the matter unanimously. Secondly, that the European powers will aid them in their views..," At the time, Montefiore had been approached by proto-Zionists with schemes of settling Jews in Palestine and of purchasing Palestine, or at least the temple mount, from the Turks. 

Another popular figure in the Restoration Movement was George Gawler (1796-1869). He wrote a book in 1845 stating that the Jews were to replenish the deserted towns and fields of Palestine.

The idea of restoration of the Jews became as firmly rooted in British and American Protestantism as the idea of the damnation of the Jews had been previously rooted in Medieval Catholic theology. In England, John Nelson Darby founded the small but influential Plymouth Brethren group. Darby had disciples throughout England and in the USA.

Shaftesbury, Oliphant and others furthered the idea of Jewish restoration in England in the 19th century, and it made its appearance in the first "Zionist" novel, Daniel Deronda, by George Eliot.

Why not give Palestine back to them again? According to God's distribution of nations it is their home, an inalienable possession from which they were expelled by force. Under their cultivation it was a remarkably fruitful land, sustaining millions of Israelites, who industriously tilled its hillsides and valleys. They were agriculturalists and producers as well as a nation of great commercial importance - the centre of civilization and religion. Why shall not the powers which under the treaty of Berlin, in 1878, gave Bulgaria to the Bulgarians and Servia to the Servians now give Palestine back to the Jews?

Later 19th century British restorationists included  the British industrialist, Edward Cazalet (1827-1883), and Lawrence Oliphant (1829-1888), a most active restorationist who aided proto-Zionist Jewish settlers in Palestine.

William H. Hechler (1845-1931) was probably the most important of the restorationists of that period. Hechler, Chaplain of the British Embassy in Vienna, worked very closely with Theodore Herzl. He had met Herzl in 1896, and later helped him get an interview with  Kaiser Wilhelm. Apparently, the two were very close.  

Arthur Balfour, author of the Balfour declaration, was said to have been a Christian Zionist. However, his support for Zionism, as explained in the introduction he wrote to a book on Zionism, does not appear to have any elements of religious extremism or "fundamentalism." He wrote, for example:

If Zionism can be developed into a working scheme, the benefit it would bring to the Jewish people, especially perhaps to that section of it which most deserves our pity, would be great and lasting. It is not merely that large numbers of them would thus find a refuge from religious and social persecution; but that they would bear corporate responsibilities, and enjoy corporate opportunities of a kind which, from the nature of the case, they can never possess as citizens of any non-Jewish state. (from Lord Balfour on Zionism, 1919)

Christian Zionism in America

Christian Zionism in America, like that in Britain,  predates John Nelson Darby and dispensationalism by hundreds of years.  Identification and affinity for the ancient Jews was brought over from England in the boats that transported the first puritan settlers. Americans frequently studied Hebrew, identified with Israel and the Jews, and gave their children strange and characteristically biblical Hebrew names such as Abednego, Amos, Obadiah, Habakkuk, Hezekiah, Jeremiah, Elnathan, Ichabod, Jared, Jedediya and Levi for men, and Rebecca, Hannah, Sarah and like names for women. Colleges like Harvard and Yale had serious programs for the study of Hebrew and adopted Hebrew mottos.

Increase Mather, first president of Harvard, and John Cotton, leading minister of Massachusetts Bay, called for destruction of the Ottoman Empire in order to make way for return of the Jews, and they were not alone in this idea.  However, it was not until after the colonies had attained independence that the notion of restorationism took hold in earnest. Ezra Stiles, at Yale, advocated the return of the twelve tribes to the holy land, which would generate enough spiritual energy to "convert a world." David Austin, also in New Haven, spent his fortune on building docks, inns and warehouses  for the use of the Jews in departing to Palestine. The fall of the Ottoman Empire was considered imminent, and it would provide an opportunity for the return of the Jews. Asa McFarland, a Presbyterian, declared in 1808 that "When that empire falls... the Jews will begin to be restored to... and Christ will take to himself his power and his reign." (Oren, page 89).

The idea of Jewish restorationism was not confined to clerics and dreamers. John Adams foresaw "a hundred thousand Israelites...well disciplined as the French army" that would march into Palestine and conquer it. He wrote to the Jewish American Zionist,  Mordecai Manuel Noah in 1819, "I really with the Jews again in Judea as an independent nation." (Oren, p. 90). At the time, Noah was advancing his scheme to purchase Grant Island in New York as a temporary gathering place for the Jews, who would ultimately be restored to the land of Israel. He was greatly aided by proto-Christian Zionists residing in upstate New York, and particularly by Freemasons.

Likewise in 1819, America's first missionaries to the land of Israel set out. They were Pliny Fisk and Levi Parsons. They arrived in Jerusalem in 1820. Parsons succumbed to the rigors of the Middle East in 1822, but Fisk returned to Egypt , where he was well received, and made his way to Palestine. There however, he declared that "the Arabs poured down on us like a torrent...with drawn swords, guns and heavy clubs... setting up a terrible yell, like the war whoop of the savages of North America." Though Fisk continued to Beirut, he was not to be deterred from his purpose. He set up a school in Beirut,  but returned to Jerusalem as well, and was arrested there for distributing leaflets. He also made a trip to Nazareth in 1825, which was his undoing. He was waylaid and beaten by brigands, and died soon after. (Oren, p. 90 ff)

American missionaries and explorers continued to travel to the land of Israel and the Middle East, some with restorationist intent, others as explorers, like Edward Robinson, founder of biblical archeology, and others from curiosity.. Sarah Haight, of Long Island, a Middle East traveler of the 1830s wrote, "God's own peculiar people shall again be brought... to rebuild and worship in their own temple."  

A rather explicit and modernistic thesis, with overtones of modern Zionism, appeared soon after. In 1844, a professor of Hebrew at New York University published a tract entitled, "The Valley of the Vision, or The Dry Bones of Israel Revived. He called for "elevating" the Jews "to a rank of honorable repute among the nations of the earth" by restoring them to the land of Israel. Like many American restorationists, he believed that this would have momentous repercussions for mankind, not necessarily associated in a literal sense with the "end of days." The author was George Bush, whose descendants include two presidents of the United States.

In 1841, John Smith, the founder of Mormonism, sent his emissary Orson Hyde to Jerusalem. Hyde erected an alter on the the Mount of Olives and beseeched God to "restore the kingdom unto Israel..." a prayer that would be integrated into the Mormon liturgy.

In 1844, Warder Cresson, formerly a Quaker and then a Mormon, was influenced by  Mordecai Manuel Noah to take up the cause of restorationism. He applied for, and received, the post of U.S. consul in Jerusalem. He made it his business to protect the Jews and further their interests there. He impressed various interlocutors as eccentric and ignorant. Cresson and a succession of other restorationists pioneered actual active Zionism - aiding in resettlement of Jews and the attempt to teach them agriculture. Harriet Livermore settled in Jerusalem, where she planned to found a colony for the Jews. Funding was not forthcoming however, and she died destitute in a Philadelphia poorhouse. Like Livermore, James Turner Barclay, an architect wanted to initiate an agricultural settlement for Jews. To fund the endeavor, he obtained a commission to renovate the Dome of the Rock, and authored a best selling book about Jerusalem, The City of the Great King, advocating return of the Jews.

Clorinda Minor, an Episcopalian who became an Adventist, traveled to the land of Israel in 1851. She set up a Jewish agricultural training school at Artas, near Bethlehem, together with John Meshullam, a British Jewish convert to Christianity. When this failed, she embarked on a similar project at a small farm outside Jaffa. That too failed and she went bankrupt, and died at age forty nine, in 1855. However, her Mt Hope project was purchased by Cresson. Subsequently, Cresson abandoned Christianity and converted to Judaism. Walter Dickson of Groton, Massachusetts, founded a similar colony nearby, beating off Bedouin marauders with arms supplied by the US Navy.

Influence of the Civil War on Christian Zionism

Following the United States Civil War, America had begun to view itself as a world power. Americans, along with other powers, showed concern for the plight of Russian Jews and the US government beseeched the Sultan to open the doors of Palestine to Jewish immigration. The policy was furthered by the US Consul in Istanbul, Lew Wallace, an ardent restorationist and the author of Ben Hur, and by subsequent consuls. The Turks were obdurate however, and persisted in obstructing Jewish immigration, while at the same time encouraging the migration to Palestine of Muslims from other parts of the Ottoman Empire.

The Niagara Bible Conference

The dispensationalist movement and the preaching of Darby began to take root in the United States. The Niagara Bible Conference, grew out of the  Believers' Meeting for Bible Study, It began in New York City in 1868 with various pre-millennialist and dispensationalist activists.  From 1883 to 1897 the conference met at Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario and thus acquired its name. Over 120 leaders and speakers virtually everyone of any significance in the pre-millennial movement attended the conference. In 1878, this group issued a proclamation of 14 points. The last point stated:

...that the Lord Jesus will come in person to introduce the millennial age, when Israel shall be restored to their own land, and the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord; and that this personal and premillennial advent is the blessed hope set before us in the Gospel for which we should be constantly looking." Luke 12:35-40; 17:26-30; 18:8 Acts 15:14-17; 2 Thess. 2:3-8; 2 Tim. 3:1-5; Titus 1:11-15).

The Blackstone Memorial

Christian Zionism: William Blackstone
William E. Blackstone
Some restorationists began to advocate that the United States take the lead in freeing the land of Israel from the Turks and restoring it to the Jews. T.  DeWitt Talmage, pastor of the Brooklyn Tabernacle, envisioned the increase of anti-Semitism in eastern Europe and Russia. At the same time, he asserted that "All the fingers of Providence are pointing now-a-days to that resumption of Palestine by the Israelites." (Oren p. 277). He arrived in Jaffa in 1889. Talmage soon joined forces with another restorationist, real estate tycoon William E. Blackstone. Blackstone was once dubbed the American Christian "Father of Zionism." In 1878, he attended the Niagara conference,  and he took up the cause. He wrote Jesus is Coming, which was remarkable because it absolved the Jews of the need to convert to Christianity, either before or after the return of the Messiah. 

Blackstone, a follower of Darby, presented President Benjamin Harrison in 1891 with a petition, the Blackstone Memorial signed by over 400 Christians and Jews, calling on the US to facilitate the restoration of the Jews, and presaging the Political Zionism of Herzl: In addition to Blackstone and Talmage,  the petition was signed by Charles Scribner, J. Pierpont Morgan, John D. Rockefeller, Chief Justice Melville Fuller and Congressman William McKinley. This wide support attests to the fact that Christian support for Israel was well rooted in American culture.  Later, Blackstone was to be influential in moving President Wilson to support the Balfour declaration and the British mandate.

The American Colony and the Spaffords

Horatio and Anna Spafford underwent a series of personal calamities. After surviving the Chicago fire, Anna and the four daughters went on cruise to Britain. The ship struck another vessel and sank. The four daughters died. Soon after their only son succumbed to scarlet fever. These experiences induced a religious conversion. The Spaffords founded a new sect, the Overcomers and a decade later, moved to Jerusalem with twelve of their followers, founding the American Colony, a communal settlement that in some ways presaged the kibbutz. Like the kibbutz, the American Colony generated lewd rumors about free love and other practices. Though they were restorationists, the Spaffords and their followers made no attempt to convert the Jews. The project prospered to an extent, though it was harassed by the incessant persecution by the American Consul, Selah Merrill. He denounced them, dug up the bones of Horatio Spafford who was buried in the cemetery of the American colony and accused them of various crimes, apparently because he opposed their communal life style. Merrill was also an ardent anti-Semite, who insisted that the Jews were to blame for their own suffering, and that "The Jew needs to learn his place in the world." Merrill ridiculed the Blackstone Memorial. asserting that the Jews were retarded by "trifling observances," and interested only in money. He insisted that Jews are "a race of weaklings of whom neither soldiers, colonists nor enterprising citizens can be made."

Dispensationalism and Christian Zionism in the United States

John Nelson Darby, founder of the Dispensationalist Plymouth Brethren,  visited the United States and Canada seven times between 1862 and 1877. By the 1870s, followers had set up significant congregations in New York, Boston, Chicago, St. Louis and other major cities. In Chicago Darby met Dwight L. Moody several times. Moody never became an ardent promoter of dispensationalism, but Darby had a marked influence on his theology, both directly and even more through his popularizer, C. H. Mackintoch. Moody provided leadership to the pre-millennialist movement and founded the Moody Bible Institute. From this circle, a project grew to publish an annotated bible. This was the "Scofield Reference Bible" of C.I. Scofield and Arno Gaebelin, conceived in 1901 and published in 1909. The exegesis provided by the notes in this bible apparently had a significant effect in spreading support for restoration of the Jews and other pre-millennialist ideas. However, given the long tradition of restorationist ideas both in the United States and England, it would be a gross distortion to say that this particular edition of the bible was the source of Christian Zionism, as some claim.

Christian Zionists  founded several educational institutions in the United States, including the Moody Bible Institute and the Dallas Theological Seminary.

American Christian support for Israel in Modern Times

American Christians played a significant role in furthering the project of the Jewish state both during and following World War II. President Harry S. Truman's support for Israel was based in part on religious-cultural motives as well as the feeling that the world owed a debt to the Jews following the Holocaust, and political considerations. The establishment of the state of Israel in 1948 energized some Christians, who believed that it heralded the Second Coming. The reunification of Jerusalem in the 1967 Six day war, as well as the swift victory of Israel over its enemies, likewise captured the imagination of many. Though the left leaning governments of Israel kept a polite distance from conservative Christian evangelical movements, this attitude changed when the Likud party came to power in 1977. In 1978, a plan to encourage fundamentalist churches to give their support to Israel" was published by the Institute of Contemporary Jewry at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. It was authored by  Yona Malachy, and  titled "American Fundamentalism and Israel: The Relation of Fundamentalist Churches to Zionism and the State of Israel."

The International Christian Embassy (ICEJ) was founded in Jerusalem on September 20, 1980, and became a strong lobby for Israel. The ICEJ is not a dispensationalist movement. Later in the 1980s, the National Unity Coalition for Israel was founded.

Christian Zionism: Tim LaHaye
Tim LaHaye
Christian Zionism: Hal Lindsey
Hal Lindsey

Two popular works by graduates of the Moody Bible Institute have both attracted a following for the millennial and extremist conceptions and Christian Zionism and at the same time have been easy targets for critics like Sizer and Hanegraaff. Hal Lindsey's book, The Late Great Planet Earth, published in 1970,  introduced dispensationalism to a popular audience and remained a best seller for many years. Tim LaHaye's 'Left Behind" books popularized the idea of rapture as an actual event that could really happen at any moment.

In 2002, Christian Zionists helped bankroll the emigration to Israel of 371 American Jews. This was a very trying time for Israel, in the midst of widespread Palestinian violence, and the support of Christians was a welcome morale booster  Bishop Huey Harris, of the First Pentecostal Tabernacle Church in Elkton, MD, raised $2,500 to help them. He said: "What I'm seeing is the Scriptures being fulfilled right before our very eyes....What's next? I'm looking for the church to be raptured, Jesus returning for the church...and the Jews would receive him as their Messiah..."  Some $60 million were raised from Christian evangelical sources. American politicians ranging from Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton to George Bush Jr. Gary Bauer, and Earl G. Cox have expressed support for Israel based on religious as well as practical motivations. (Danielle Haas, "U.S. Christians find cause to aid Israel Evangelicals " San Francisco Chronicle, 2002-JUL-10

Ami Isseroff

Notice - This is a draft work in progress.

Bibliography Sources (off line works cited in the text)

Oren, Michael, Power, Faith and Fantasy, New York, 2007 ("Oren")

Tuchman, Barbara W. Bible and Sword, New York, 1956.  ("Tuchman")


This work is copyright 2007 by the author, and may not be reproduced in any form. Portions may be excerpted with proper attribution, linking to the original if posted on the Web or giving this URL in printed matter:

Synonyms and alternate spellings:

Further Information:  British ZionismChristian Zionism   Replacement theology: To divorce or not to divorce Christian Zionism and Israel 


Hebrew/Arabic pronunciation and transliteration conventions:

'H - ('het) a guttural sound made deep in the throat. To Western ears it may sound like the "ch" in loch. In Arabic there are several letters that have similar sounds. Examples: 'hanukah, 'hamas, 'haredi. Formerly, this sound was often represented by ch, especially in German transliterations of Hebrew. Thus, 'hanukah is often rendered as Chanuka for example.

ch - (chaf) a sound like "ch" in loch or the Russian Kh as in Khruschev or German Ach, made by putting the tongue against the roof of the mouth. In Hebrew, a chaf can never occur at the beginning of a word. At the beginning of a word, it has a dot in it and is pronounced "Kaf."

u - usually between oo as in spoon and u as in put.

a- sounded like a in arm

ah- used to represent an a sound made by the letter hey at the end of a word. It is the same sound as a. Haganah and Hagana are alternative acceptable transliterations.

'a-notation used for Hebrew and Arabic ayin, a guttural ah sound.

o - close to the French o as in homme.

th - (taf without a dot) - Th was formerly used to transliterate the Hebrew taf sound for taf without a dot. However in modern Hebrew there is no detectable difference in standard pronunciation of taf with or without a dot, and therefore Histadruth and Histadrut, Rehovoth and Rehovot are all acceptable.

q- (quf) - In transliteration of Hebrew and Arabic, it is best to consistently use the letter q for the quf, to avoid confusion with similar sounding words that might be spelled with a kaf, which should be transliterated as K. Thus, Hatiqva is preferable to Hatikva for example.

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