When I hear liberal politicians and news commentators taking an anti-Israel stand I am really not surprised. When I hear and read of mainline denominational leaders in the Church making statements not in support of the modern State of Israel or the Jewish people it comes as no great shock, as for the most part they have no affinity with the true gospel message, but instead have opted to replace the gospel with a socialist message. However, when I hear those who are considered evangelical leaders saying some of things that are being said concerning Israel and the Jewish people, I am greatly concerned and deeply saddened.
A very recent case in point were statements made (as I write this) last week by radio’s The Bible Answer Man, Hank Hanegraff. Hank was hosting Dr. Gary Burge, Professor of New Testament at Wheaton College and Graduate school in Wheaton, Illinois. They were discussing the DVD With God On Our Side, and talking about the plight of Palestinian Christians and how, in their view, we as American Christians are to view these things in the light of scripture. I want to mention that this video presentation is very anti-Israel in nature. [See a trailer for the film at, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wMcLfA_sfqA also visit, http://www.withgodonourside.com/] At the outset of the interview Hanegraff condemned “Zionism” as being racist, and stated that those of us who are dispensational in our theology are “controversialists”, while Burge charged Evangelical Dispensationalism with being antisemitic based on our eschatalogical interpretation of Israel’s prophetic future in the Great Tribulation with two thirds of the Jews being killed by Antichrist.
I dealt with this in our series on the book of Revelation, so I will not reiterate it here. Suffice it to say that Hanegraff and Burge’s remarks not only misrepresent Christian’s support of Israel, but also dispensationalism as a school of theological thought. After I finish this particular series we are on now, I plan to do a detailed study on dispensations. There is much misinformation in the Church today with regard to what dispensationalism actually is and what dispensationalists actually believe.
Why should this even matter? Why even bring this issue up? Because when Hank Hanegraff speaks on a subject it carries some weight in a good portion of the Christian Community, as he is viewed as an evangelical leader and many listen daily to The Bible Answer Man radio program. Hank not only hosts the program, but is also the President of the Christian Research Institute (CRI). CRI was founded by the late Dr. Walter Martin. I want to say that I greatly appreciate the work of CRI in exposing the world of the cults and aberrant doctrines that have invaded the Christian Church. I believe they provide an invaluable service to the Body of Christ in this area.
The problem I have with Mr. Hanegraff is his brand of eschatology. Hank Hanegraff is what could be referred to as a suppressionist. This is in reality nothing more than a word used in academic circles to describe Replacement Theology. That is the view that the Christian Church supersedes, replaces, and fulfills Israel’s place and role in the plan of God. It is born out of an adherence to Covenant Theology, and in Hank Hanegraff’s case, the most extreme brand of Covenant theology, preterism. Even among many Covenant theologians preterism is viewed as extreme and is rejected. Even given that fact, Hanegraff has aligned himself with this school of thought, and his remarks on his radio program reflect this.
It is my belief and conviction that Covenant Theology and Preterism present an unbalanced and incorrect view of God’s plan for man, and specifically Bible prophecy. Most mainline denominations, at least on the seminary level, would adhere to Covenant Theology. That is the reason the clergy educated in these particular seminaries approach the subject of eschatology marginally, if at all in the pulpit. This results in congregations who are grossly lacking in knowledge with regard to a full one-third of scripture. Some may ask, “What is the big deal? What a person believes about Bible Prophecy really isn’t that important, is it?” On the contrary, I believe how we approach the subject of Bible prophecy is very important. That is the reason a few years ago the Holy Spirit laid on my heart to focus the vast majority of my teaching and preaching ministry to the subject of Bible prophecy. A good number of even Evangelical Pastors never expound on the prophetic Word whatsoever.
God’s people need to be taught, “What saith the Lord” concerning end-time events just as surely as they do other portions of the Bible. I would challenge any and every Pastor who may read these words to dig into the prophetic Word, and then begin to teach your people what is coming in these days. Teach your people to live in a sense of expectancy with regard to the Coming of the Lord. Show them from the scriptures the “why” behind world events. Our God has a plan for three groups of people in the earth, the Jews, Gentiles (Nations), and the Church. [See 1 Cor. 10:32] God is even now working and setting the stage for the “Grand Finale” of world history. People need to be aware of these things so they can order their lives accordingly by the power of the Holy Spirit. John the beloved wrote in his first epistle, Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure. [1 John 3:2, 3]
Commenting on this third verse, the late Dr. J Vernon McGee wrote in his Thru The Bible Commentary, “There is nothing that should encourage holy living like the study of Bible prophecy. Today we see a lot of careless, slipshod living, but also a great emphasis on prophecy. I hear people say, “Oh, I’m waiting for the Lord to come!” Brother, my question is not whether you are looking for the Lord to come, but how are you living down here? How you live down here determines whether or not you are really looking for the Lord to come.” [Dr. J Vernon McGee, Thru The Bible Commentary on 1 John 3] The doctrine of immanency, I.E., that Jesus could return at any moment, that there are no prophecies remaining to be fulfilled prior to Him receiving the Church in the air, is a tremendous motivator for holy living. And conversely, holy living is the truest testimony to one truly expecting the Lord to Come.
The word translated, “purifieth” in verse 3 is the Greek, hagnizo, ceremonially and morally clean. It speaks of that which is set apart. It is connected to a believers sanctification. It is a verb, and as such really describes an on-going process of sanctification. We are sanctified (set apart) in the mind of God the moment we are born-again. However, practically we are being made pure, hence the tense in the Greek, present active indicative. Simply stated, this an action that is presently occurring as a direct result of the hope the believer has. This isn’t speaking of performing religious actions that make one pure, for this is an impossibility. So where does purification come from? From the hope the believer has of the appearing of Christ. The English Standard Version (ESV) offers a little more clarity, And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure. In essence, our hope makes us a partaker in His purity! What hope? Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ.[Titus 2:13]
The same price of Jesus’ precious blood shed on Calvary’s Cross that purchased our justification also purchased our sanctification! We are not justified (declared right with God) by faith and then expected to sanctify ourselves by works, and yet the modern church is attempting to do just that. However, as we place our faith solely in the finished work of Christ on the Cross, and maintain our hope there, the Holy Spirit is given the latitude to do the work in us that only He can do, namely make us pure! I said all of that to say this, what we believe about prophecy really does matter. What we believe and teach concerning Israel and the Jewish people matters as well.
Our support of Israel is not born out of a desire to separate people groups on the basis of race. Race, which is not even a biblical term, doesn’t even enter the equation for a true child of God, or at least it shouldn’t. We are not oblivious or uncaring with respect to our Palestinian brothers and sisters who are suffering great atrocities, I might add at the hands of their so-called Palestinian leadership. Nor is our support of Israel indicative of a Carte Blanche endorsement of every decision of the Israeli government, which is primarily secular and ignorant of the Tanach (Jewish Old Testament).
No, our support of Israel comes from acknowledging God’s Sovereign choice in choosing Abram, cutting an everlasting Covenant, and declaring that through his descendants God would raise up a Nation and a people who were called and destined to not only deliver the Word of God to the Nations, but through their lineage according to the flesh, Messiah would be born through whom all the nations of the world would be blessed. Yes, due to unbelief the “Natural Branches” were cut off and temporarily set aside in the great plan of God, making way for the Gentiles to be “Grafted in” and for the Church to become the primary tributary through which the Good News was distributed to the Nations.
However, that does not mean Israel has been forever cast off, for they have not. In the coming Kingdom Age Israel will be fully restored and fulfill their destiny in the plan of God.
In this prophetic hour, Mr. Hanegraff, Mr. Burge, and the rest of us need not be so concerned on whose side God is, but rather that we are on His side!