Zionism, the Christian Heresy, part 2

Francesco Hayez: The destruction of the temple of Jerusalem. Christian Zionists believe the Jews must rebuild the Temple.
God used the Roman army to destroy Jerusalem and the Temple in AD 70. Christian Zionists believe that the Temple must be rebuilt. Francesco HayezThe destruction of the temple of Jerusalem. CC BY-SA 4.0 DEED

In part 1 of “Zionism, the Christian Heresy,” we saw that the land promise that is foundational to Christian Zionist thinking was physically fulfilled in Old Testament times and was also a spiritual type. Now, let’s look at the Christian Zionist belief in the continued distinction of the Jews.

Christian Zionists Maintain the Distinction of the Jews

Dispensationalists—who make up the majority of Christian Zionists—hold to a distinction between Jews and all other people and between Israel and Christians under the New Covenant. They do not consider Israel or the Jews to be the type of an antitype found in the New Testament.

Based on this continuing distinction, Christian Zionists assert that God continues to have a special relationship with the physical Jews, that the only rightful owners of Palestine are the Jews, and that Christians have an obligation to support the State of Israel in its operations to possess and control all of Palestine.

Christ Has Removed the Distinction

In Ephesians 2:11-15, Paul reveals something that is massively important, not just for this topic of Christian Zionism, but for understanding the difference between true Christianity and much of what is false Christianity.

Therefore remember that once you, the Gentiles in the flesh, who are called “uncircumcision” by that which is called “circumcision,” (in the flesh, made by hands); that you were at that time separate from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of the promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off are made near in the blood of Christ. For he is our peace, who made both one, and broke down the middle wall of partition, having abolished in the flesh the hostility, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man of the two, making peace….

The middle wall of the Temple partitioned a court that the Jews allowed Gentiles to enter from the rest of the Temple which they were forbidden to enter. Paul shows that this wall pictured something that he calls a “hostility” or, in other Bible versions, an “enmity”—something that causes opposition. And, what did this hostility that the wall that separated Jews from Gentiles picture? Look again at verse 15. It pictured the law. The law was the one thing that separated the Jews from the Gentiles.

Jesus Christ completely fulfilled all of the demands of the law, and, by doing that, He ended it. Thus, Jesus removed the one thing that distinguished the Jews as a special people. By doing this, Jesus opened up salvation to both Jews and Gentiles equally under the terms of grace through faith in Him rather than by obedience to the law. This truth lies at the heart of the very Gospel itself.

Maintaining the distinction opposes the Gospel

Read through Galatians 3 and notice how Paul progresses from telling of the temporary nature of the law and its ending with the coming of Christ (Galatians 3:19-25) to its result: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28). When the law ended, the distinction of people ended.

Christian Zionists who maintain a distinction of the Jews are essentially trying to re-erect the middle wall of partition. And, I’ll point out that they are also working to put that wall back up when they teach that we are still under the law or that, while we are not justified by the law, it is still useful for our sanctification or as our standard of morality or for preaching the Gospel. In fact, that holds true for all teachers who so adhere to the law. They are laboring against the accomplished work of Jesus Christ, and their teachings are the doctrines of antichrist. I’m not condemning them, because if they are doing it in ignorance (as I once did), they can repent (see 1 Timothy 1:13). But it is a false and blinding teaching (see 2 Corinthians 3:15-16).

Christian Zionism, by refusing to accept that Jesus Christ has removed the distinction of the Jews, are in opposition to passage after passage of Scripture: “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision amounts to anything, nor uncircumcision, but faith working through love” (Galatians 5:6). “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision has any strength nor uncircumcision, but a new creation. And as many as shall walk by this rule, peace and mercy be on them and on the Israel of God” (Galatians 6:15-16). “For we are the circumcision, who worship God in the Spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh” (Philippians 3:3). “That is, it is not the children of the flesh who are children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as a seed” (Romans 9:8).

You might think that this lack of distinction applies only to believers. But it does not. With the Atonement of Jesus Christ on the Cross, God opened salvation to all kinds of people. It is true that only the elect will be saved, but that elect is not limited to one physical group of people. The elect are called from all families and nations of people (Matthew 28:19-20; Mark 16:15-16; Luke 24:47).

The distinction of people in pre-New Covenant times was only a type of the spiritual distinction between the elect and the non-elect. As is clear from the Scriptures we’ve seen, that physical, typological distinction ended at the Cross.

Christian Zionists Reject the Typology of Israel and Abraham’s Seed

Israel Typified Christ and Those in Him

Christian Zionists refuse to see the typology of Israel. But, relating an event that took place when Jesus was an infant, Matthew 2:13-15 tells us this:

Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, saying, “Arise and take the young child and his mother, and flee into Egypt, and stay there until I tell you, for Herod will seek the young child to destroy him.” He arose and took the young child and his mother by night, and departed into Egypt, and was there until the death of Herod; that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying, “Out of Egypt I called my son.”

The quote in the last verse is from Hosea 11:1: “When Israel was a child, then I loved him, and called my son out of Egypt.” At the time Hosea wrote this, people would have understood it as referring to the Exodus. And, of course, as a historical reference, it was.

But, according to the inspired writing of Matthew, Hosea 11:1 illustrates that Israel was a type that was fulfilled by Jesus Christ as the antitype. We must understand, too, that while Israel never fulfilled the Old Covenant, Jesus did (Matthew 5:17). Jesus Christ is true Israel.

I will bless those who bless… Who?

One argument Christian Zionists use to assert that all Christians have an obligation to support modern Israel is based on Genesis 12:3: “I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you. In you will all of the families of the earth be blessed.” But who is this talking about?

Genesis 12:3 is part of God’s command to Abram (Abraham) to leave Ur of the Chaldees, which included God’s promise to make a great nation of him (verses 1-2). Now carefully read verse 3 again. In it, God promises to bless those who bless Abraham and to curse those who curse Abraham. Then He says that in Abraham, all the families of the earth will be blessed, not just Israel. Genesis 12:3 gives physical Israel no special preference. It cannot in any legitimate way mean that God will bless those who bless the State of Israel or the Jews and curse those who curse the State of Israel or the Jews.

Abraham’s True Seed and True Children

Further, Jesus specifically told the Jews, “I know that you are Abraham’s offspring, yet you seek to kill me, because my word finds no place in you” (John 8:37). Then, just a couple of verses later, He says, “If you were Abraham’s children, you would do the works of Abraham. But now you seek to kill me, a man who has told you the truth, which I heard from God. Abraham didn’t do this” (John 8:39b-40).

Now here is what Paul says: “But it is not as though the word of God has come to nothing. For they are not all Israel, that are of Israel. Neither, because they are Abraham’s seed, are they all children. But, ‘In Isaac will your seed be called.’ That is, it is not the children of the flesh who are children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as a seed” (Romans 9:6-8). Genetic descent doesn’t determine who are the true children of Abraham or the true children of Israel.

Paul clarifies this further in Galatians: “Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. He doesn’t say, ‘To seeds,’ as of many, but as of one, ‘To your seed,’ which is Christ…. For you are all children of God, through faith in Christ Jesus…. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed and heirs according to promise” (Galatians 3:16, 26, 28-29). Jesus Christ is the true Seed of Abraham, and we are the children of God through faith in Him.

Christian Zionists are wrong to apply Genesis 12:3 to the mere physical descendants of Abraham. It applies to Abraham and His Seed, Jesus Christ, and to us who are in Christ through faith.

Jesus Often Told of the Destruction of the Jews as a Nation

Christian Zionists commonly refer to Matthew 24:32-33: “Now from the fig tree learn this parable. When its branch has now become tender, and puts forth its leaves, you know that the summer is near.” They say that the fig tree stands for Israel, that it’s putting forth its leaves refers to the coming to life again of the Jewish nation with the founding of the State of Israel in 1948, and that the summer stands for the return of Christ.

The problem with this interpretation is that it ignores Jesus’ own explanation. Jesus essentially says that the fig tree is its own, natural parable that acts as a key to understanding the events Jesus refers to in the context. These coming events are signs similar to the sign of a tree leafing out. That is, just as a fig tree leafing out shows that summer is coming, so the events Jesus has been speaking of are signs. Notice that these signs deal with the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple. Jesus then goes on to say, “Most certainly I tell you, this generation will not pass away, until all these things are accomplished” (Matthew 24:34). Christian Zionists try to say that “this generation” refers to people far in the future from Jesus’ day. But if you study Jesus’ use of that term, you will see that He very plainly meant it to refer to the people He was speaking to in the first century.

In Matthew 24:32, Jesus was speaking about the natural characteristics of a fig tree in general, much as He spoke of the weather in Matthew 16:1-4. But when Jesus speaks of a specific fig tree central to the story of Luke 13:6-9, it was as a warning that Jesus had found no fruit in Israel. He would give it a little more time, but it was in danger of being cut down.

In Matthew 21:18-22, Jesus again uses a very specific fig tree to illustrate Israel. This fig tree was a good one for illustrating Israel because it was growing on Mount Zion near the Temple (see the context). Because He found this fig tree growing on Mount Zion to be barren, He said to it, “”Let there be no fruit from you forever!” Thus, He showed that because Israel was producing no fruit, it would produce no more fruit forever. “Immediately the fig tree withered away.” That was to be the fate of national Israel.

In Matthew 21:21, Jesus told His disciples, “Most certainly I tell you, if you have faith, and don’t doubt, you will not only do what was done to the fig tree…” What He meant was that they would be the means God would use to bring the curse upon Israel. They would do this by preaching the Gospel to Israel for forty years while Israel, with only individual exceptions, rejected it. Jesus continued, “but even if you told this mountain, ‘Be taken up and cast into the sea,’ it would be done.” Since they were standing on it, the mountain Jesus means is Zion. The sea represents the many peoples and nations of the world (see Revelation 17:15). Jesus told His disciples He would make them “fishers for men” (Matthew 4:19). This was Jesus telling His disciples that they would bring to the rest of the world the heavenly glory that was represented physically in Old Testament times by Mount Zion. They would do this by taking the Gospel to the nations. But bear in mind that this illustration would also mean the removal of Zion from Israel.

You Have Come to Mount Zion

The purpose of the Letter to the Hebrews was to convince Jewish Christians of the absolute superiority, precedence, and centrality of Jesus Christ over the Law, priesthood, sacrifice, and Temple of the defunct Old Covenant. Written before AD 70, it seems that it could be the last appeal inspired by the Holy Spirit for the Jewish Christians to let go of the Old Covenant and trust entirely in Jesus Christ alone.

Working with this goal through the entire epistle, the writer, in Hebrews 12:22-24, says,

But you have come to Mount Zion, and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable multitudes of angels, to the general assembly and assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, to God the Judge of all, to the spirits of just men made perfect, to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling that speaks better than that of Abel.

Hebrews 12:22-24

Who has come to Mount Zion? The believing Jews to whom he is writing. What Zion does he mean? Considering that in the very same sentence he is speaking of heavenly things and of “Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant,” it should be obvious that he is speaking of the heavenly Zion of God’s glory, of which the physical Mount Zion was only a mere type. These Jewish Christians, as is true of all believers, had come to the heavenly Mount Zion. This then means that with the New Covenant, the antitype has become manifest, superseding the obsolete type.

Just like the dietary laws, feasts, new moons, and Sabbaths, Mount Zion and the Temple were only shadows of the reality, which is the body that casts the shadow, Jesus Christ (see Colossians 2:16-17).

The Temple

Central to the beliefs of many Christian Zionists is the notion that the Jews must rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem. They see the erection of what would be the Third Temple as absolutely necessary to the return of Jesus Christ: “Folks, the footsteps of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, can already be heard as He approaches the doors of heaven to return. The Temple is the last sign that needs to fall into place before events irreversibly speed toward the return of Jesus” (Hal Lindsey, Planet Earth 2000 AD [Palos Verde, California: Western Front, 1994] 131).

In Stephen’s speech to the Jews just before they killed him, he witnessed against them something that begins with the Temple:

But Solomon built him a house. However, the Most High doesn’t dwell in temples made with hands, as the prophet says, ‘heaven is my throne, and the earth a footstool for my feet. What kind of house will you build me?’ says the Lord; ‘or what is the place of my rest? Didn’t my hand make all these things?’ “You stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit! As your fathers did, so you do.

Acts 7:47-51

Why does Stephen use God’s words that He doesn’t dwell in temples as a springboard into pointing out that the Jews were uncircumcised in heart and ears and resisted the Holy Spirit? Because they failed to realize from God’s words that He didn’t dwell in the Temple. They had lost sight of the fact that the Temple was a mere representation.

“Don’t you know that you are a temple of God, and that God’s Spirit lives in you?” (1 Corinthians 3:16); “What agreement has a temple of God with idols? For you are a temple of the living God. Even as God said, ‘I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they will be my people’” (2 Corinthians 6:16); “So then you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God, being built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the chief cornerstone; in whom the whole building, fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord; in whom you also are built together for a habitation of God in the Spirit” (Ephesians 2:19-22); “You also, as living stones, are built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 2:5).

Exodus 19:6 to 1 Peter 2:9

Exodus 19:5-6 begins with God’s instructions to Moses concerning what to say to Israel: “‘Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice, and keep my covenant, then you shall be my own possession from among all peoples; for all the earth is mine; and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests, and a holy nation.’ These are the words which you shall speak to the children of Israel.”

The above seems clear. Yet, the New Testament shows us that Exodus 19:5-6, as it refers to the physical children of Israel, was merely typological. Why? Because Peter said this to the ekklēsia: “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, that you may proclaim the excellence of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light:…” (1 Peter 2:9).

It is past the time for Christians to stop turning back to the things that are behind, to abandon the shadows for the light and the earthly types for the heavenly. How can any Christian read of all that Jesus Christ has done and still believe that God will again deal with Israel as His nation or the Jews as a special ethnicity? Certainly, such a person is at best still partly spiritually blinded. The Christian Zionist position diminishes the earth-shattering consequence of the New Covenant and sees this age of grace as a parenthesis that will be replaced by a return to an age of law, the distinction between races and nationalities, and the rebuilding of a physical Temple. These beliefs corrupt the very Gospel.

Is Anything I’ve Said Antisemitic?

Jesus Christ left us with the mandates to believe and to love (1 John 3:23). He left no exceptions to the sweep or scope of that love. It is in love that I wrote this article out of concern that brethren may get caught up in a heresy that wrongly looks to the State of Israel or the physical Jews to fulfill God’s promises instead of Jesus Christ and, by extension, the spiritual nation of believers in Christ.

Our love as Christians must not have exceptions, but it is to include people of all nations and races. In this New Covenant age, the Bible does not give us any reason to consider any one nation or group of people as being any better or more special in God’s sight than any other. That means that Jews and Palestinians must equally be the objects of our love. I personally abhor the violence that has been committed by both groups, but that does not make me anti-Palestinian or antisemitic.

Throughout the centuries after the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple in AD 70, the Jews suffered much persecution. As a part of that antisemitism, they were sometimes known by the epithet, “Christ killers.” Were those Jews, or even the Jews today, guilty of the death of Jesus Christ?

Jesus, speaking to the Jewish leaders of His day, said, “Therefore, behold, I send to you prophets, wise men, and scribes. Some of them you will kill and crucify; and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues, and persecute from city to city; that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zachariah son of Barachiah, whom you killed between the sanctuary and the altar” (Matthew 23:34-35). Jesus knew that they would kill and otherwise persecute Him and His apostles, evangelists, prophets, and other followers. Because of that, Jesus said they would also be held guilty of the murders of all the martyred righteous in the Old Testament.

This information is what has been used to say that all Jews are guilty of these deaths. But that is a terrible mistake. Because, in the very next verse, Jesus says, “Most certainly I tell you, all these things will come upon this generation” (Matthew 23:36). Many times, Jesus spoke of the Jews of His time as “this generation.” The Bible defines a generation as forty years (see Numbers 32:13; Psalm 95:10; Hebrews 3:8-10, 17-19). Forty years from Jesus’ crucifixion is AD 70. So, “all these things” came upon that generation when God used the Romans to destroy Jerusalem and the Temple, kill over one million Jews, and capture nearly 100,000 more.

The Jews of Jesus’ generation were the last generation of the Old Covenant. The apostles preached the Gospel to them for forty years. Those who didn’t repent—the majority—were guilty of their own sins and the sins of their fathers. The “blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zachariah son of Barachiah,” as well as the blood of New Covenant “prophets, wise men, and scribes” (see Matthew 23:34) fell on them, as Jesus said it would. But that guilt did not go past that generation. It is, therefore, wrong to consider Jewish people today to be guilty of Jesus’ death.

To love the brethren enough to warn them of heresy, and to love Palestinians as much as Jews, is not antisemitic. To be against the colonialist settler policies known as Zionism being carried out by the State of Israel is not antisemitism. Nor is warning Christians to have no part in such a brutal policy. But in this Orwellian world in which the US House of Representatives resolved that anti-Zionism is antisemitism, who knows what may be decreed next? (“The GOP just conflated antisemitism with anti-Zionism. That’s problematic”)

Will All Israel Be Saved?

The simple answer is yes, but that answer confuses many people. That’s because we haven’t defined Israel. In Romans 11:1 and 2, Paul writes, “…did God reject his people?… God didn’t reject his people, which he foreknew.”

Absolutely, God didn’t reject His people. But what people is Paul talking about? His people “which he foreknew.” What people does God foreknow? The elect (see Romans 8:29-30; Ephesians 1:3-7). By rejecting physical Israel as His special nation and ethnicity, God has not rejected His people. Just as He chose people out of the Gentile nations, God had reserved by election His people—spiritual Israel—out of physical Israel also.

To illustrate his point, Paul talks about Elijah (see Romans 11:2b-5). Elijah believed that all Israel had turned from God. But God corrects him and says that He had reserved seven thousand men. Paul sees that as like his time: “Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace” (Romans 11:5). As a nation and ethnicity, Israel has not found the righteousness it has sought because it seeks it through works. But the chosen ones [eklogē—“the election” or “those elected”] obtained it. And the rest—the non-elect—were hardened (Romans 11:6-7; 9:30-33).

By electing people from both physical Israel and the rest of the world to be His spiritual Israel, God will have saved all Israel. But the teaching that God will again see all physical Israel as His special people is contrary to the Gospel and God’s eternal, determinate will.

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