So, I was at Church yesterday and I noticed this pamphlet written by Fr. Peter Gillquist in the narthex.  (And here I thought I’d read them all.)  Lately, I have really been wrestling with how to reconcile our nation and the Evangelical’s insistence on supporting the modern state of Israel, with the knowledge that Israel has no interest in preserving Christianity and since it’s founding in the mid-20th century has done nothing but do its best to wipe Middle Eastern Christians and their neighbors off the map.  I was up late one night, flipping through channels and came upon an Evangelical “preacher-man” who was doing fund-raising in an attempt to give American Evangelicals the “opportunity” to help Russian and other diaspora Jews “return” to Israel.  It made me weep at just how ignorant the majority are in this country: would these same Evangelicals contribute if they knew what Israel is doing to Christians and civilians in the Middle East?   Where did this whole thing of supporting the political state of Israel come from?  I know it’s not biblical!  Now I finally have some facts to help me sort it out, and I thought I’d pass it along to you.  The linked pamphlet (above) will take you to Conciliar Press where you can order the pamphlet, but I will also be using text I’ve copied from it in this blog. 

No one is doubting here that our Lord Jesus Christ will come again – Our Lord says it again and again that He is coming again – nowhere is it indicated in the Holy Scriptures that the diaspora people that had rejected Him would brutalize, uproot, and steal from native peoples (Arab Christians, Muslims, and others) to be gathered into a modern place that they abandoned centuries ago after the Temple was destroyed.

Where does this “manifest destiny” over Palestine come from?  Fr. Gillquist suggests that at the root is the teaching of a little-known Anglican clergyman from the mid-1800’s named J.N. Darby.
     “‘First, Darby taught as dogma that when the Scriptures reveal the Lord will reign for a thousand years (Revelation 20:4), this figure is to be taken literally, rather than as a symbol of eternity.  Many modern Chrstians see the choice between the literal and symbolic views as a toss-up.  But the Church-wide Counces of Ephesus in AD 431 condemned the literal view as heresy.  The council forbade it to be taught in the churches!’
     ‘Next, the Darbyites came to believe in two comings of Christ.  The first would be a “secret” coming, only for Christians, preceding a period of tibulation; the other would be a visible coming of Christ before the thousand-year reign begins.  This view, often called the “rapture theory,” is virtually unknown in Church history before Darby.’
    ‘Ultimately, Darby’s followers came to believe that before the secret coming of the Lord occurs, before the “rapture,” the remnant people of Israel must return to the Holy Land…'”

Ah!  So that’s not just where the whole Israel thing comes from, it’s where the whole “rapture” theory comes from!  When I was a Protestant, I just took as a given that a “rapture” would occur, and then that later Christ would come – just like in the Tim LaHaye novels!  Turns out that all that stuff is not based on what the bible says at all, but on the “innovative speculation” of a modern scholar!  Now, looking back into the scripture, the whole thing makes so much more sense.   This past week, my priest, Fr. Mel spoke on the Second Coming and what it means for our continual commitment to Christ.  He also reminded us that while we are to look forward to His Second and Glorious Coming, that we are also not to speculate the day or the hour.  Our Lord is coming, and we should always work to be ready, because He’s coming to kick some butt and put His world back into the shape He always intended it!  At His first coming, He pulled the dead out of the graves – the righteous from before His Incarnation have already been raised from the dead!  That is the wonder of the Resurrection!  Christ decended into Hell and on the third day He rose again.  On the front wall of our Nave, there is painted the Icon of the Resurrection:  Christ decended to Hades riding on the Cross, His right hand gripping Adam’s wrist, His left gripped onto to Eve’s forcefully pulling them from their graves!  Below his feet are the shattered pieces of locks and chains.  How much greater will the reckoning be at His Second Coming! 

But back to the point at hand:

Fr. Gillquist points out on page 4 that:
“Many evangelicals teach that May 24, 1948, the day Israel became a state, was a fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy.  Passages such as Ezekiel 36:24 are cited: ‘For I will take you from among the nations, gather you out of all countries, and bring you into your own land.’  Evangelicals believe this this refers the the end-time regathering of Israel.  The Church, however, has traditionally understood Ezekiel’s prophecy as referring to Israel’s return home after the Babylonian capitivity in 539 BC.”  The Israel to be regathered is not the original Israel that was set apart, but the New Israel – that’s us, Christians!  If you’re asking where I get that, it’s from Matthew21:33-43:

     “‘There was a certain landowner [God the Father] who planted a vineyard [Israel] and set a hedge around it, dug a winepress in it and built a tower.  And he leased it to vinedressers [the Jews] and went into a far country.
     ‘Now, when vintage-time drew near, he sent his servants [the prophets] to the vinedressers, that tey might receive its fruit.  And the vinedressers took his servants, beat one, killed one, and stoned another.  Again he sent other servants, more than the first, and they did likewise to them.
     ‘Then last of all he sent his son [Jesus Christ] to them, saying, “They will respect my son.”  But when the vinedressers saw the son, they said among themselves, “This is the heir.  Come, let us kill him and seize his inheritance.”  So they took him and cast him out of the vineyard and killed him.  Therefore, when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those vinedressers?’
    ‘They said to Him, “He will destroy those wicked men miserably, and lease his vineyard to other vinedressers who will render to him the fruits in their seasons.”
    ‘Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures: ‘The stone which the builders rejected/ Has become the chief cornerstone. / This was the Lord’s doing, / And it is marvelous in our eyes’?  Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a nation bearing the fruits of it’ ”

As Fr. Gillquist continues:
“So often in the New Testament, when the Lord spoke a parable, the chief priests and Pharisees just didn’t get it.  But that’s not the case here,  Saint Matthew goes on to tell us, ‘Now when the chief priests and Pharisees heard His parables, they perceived that He was speaking of them’ (Matthew 21:45).”

It is made quite clear that the nation of Israel described in the Old Testament had forfeited it’s rights to the land when they handed over Our Savior to be killed.  The old covenant has been fulfilled in Christ!  The new has come!  “It is the Church that is the people of God, the heirs of the promises made to Abraham, and the true Israel.  And Jesus said it so clearly that even those who did not want to hear it understood.” (Gillquist, 13)

Am I saying that we should not support Israel at all?  No!  I am saying that we should examine our reasons and methods of doing so!  I sincerely question, in light of my above discovery, we ought to take a closer look at who we are supporting in backing the political state of Israel.  I surely am not innocent in blindly supporting those who would do harm, who would I be to judge another who might stumble in the same way I have?  I must, however, share what I have learned and hope that others will learn from my own blindness. 

In conclusion, we need to pray for our brothers and sisters in and around the Middle East.  We need to pray for the salvation of the Jews abroad and in Israel.  As Christians, our goal is to be continually working out our own salvation through repentance, prayer, and fasting.