The Meaning of “No Jews or Gentiles in Christ Jesus”


“We still recognize the distinction between males and females. So there is also still a distinction between Jews and Gentiles. Galatians 3:28 doesn’t mean what you think it means.” 

Have you ever heard these words, or something similar, from a Christian Zionist or a dispensationalist? I have. At the end of this post I will quote Galatians 3:28, offer my explanation of what Paul meant, and also ask for your thoughts.

Christian Zionism thrives on distinctions. When Paul says that the middle wall of division between Jews and Gentiles has been broken down (Ephesians 2:14), Christian Zionism tries to rebuild that wall – and make it higher than it ever was. When Paul says that Christ created one new man in Himself (Ephesians 2:14-16), Christian Zionism suggests that there are two peoples of God, one based on faith and the other (the important one) based on ethnicity. When the New Testament defines the Israel of God as only those who are in Christ (Romans 2:28-29, 9:6-8; Galatians 3:29, 6:15-16; Ephesians 2:11-22, 3:6; etc.), Christian Zionism insists that only a national / ethnic group known as Israel inherits a large segment of God’s promises.

The Old Testament prophets looked forward to a day when the people of God would be made up of many nations and He would dwell in their midst. Zechariah had that vision (Zech. 2:10-12). Isaiah had that vision (Isaiah 11:10), and Paul taught that it had become a reality in his day (Romans 15:8-12). Amos had that vision (Amos 9:11-12), and James declared at the Jerusalem council that this had become a reality in his day (Acts 15:13-17). Despite these examples and more, Christian Zionism and dispensationalism insist that ethnic “Jews are God’s chosen people” and national Israel is God’s chosen nation (These four posts refute these ideas: #1, #2#3, and #4).

If we take away distinctions, favoritism, partiality, and superiority from the Christian Zionist movement, there wouldn’t be much left. That movement would fall apart without these elements – and that’s what I hope and pray will happen. Here are three instances where Paul taught that, in Christ, there is no difference or distinction between Jews and Gentiles:

“For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him” (Romans 10:12).

“For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise” (Galatians 3:26-29).

“[You] have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him, where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised nor uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave nor free, but Christ is all in all” (Colossians 3:10-11).

This is how I understand these passages, even Galatians 3:28 in particular: In Christ, there are no blessings available to Jews that are not equally available to non-Jews, or available to males that are not equally available to females, or available to free people that are not equally available to slaves. In Christ, all such distinctions disappear, and there is no favoritism or superiority along racial, gender, or status lines. The line is drawn between faith or no faith in Christ.

Do you agree? Do you understand Paul’s words differently? Feel free to share your thoughts.

 

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“The Diaspora & Aliyah of Judah-Israel (Fulfilled)” by Steve Thomas


The following article is an excellent analysis and critique of a key idea promoted by Christian Zionists (and dispensationalists). This idea is that Old Testament prophecies concerning a regathering of Judah/Israel to the land were not fulfilled under Ezra and Nehemiah, but rather have been fulfilled since Israel became a nation in 1948 (some 2600 years after these prophecies were given). Steve Thomas shows that this idea does not stand up to the light of Scripture or history. Steve lives in the United Kingdom and moderates a Facebook group called “Christian Zionism – Deconstructing the Myths Biblically, One at a Time,” where this article was posted two weeks ago.

The Multinational Dispersal & Return: Christian Zionist Presumptions

Presumption 1.) It is presumed that the 70 year exile of the people of Judah (605-536BC) in Babylon, up to the time of Nehemiah’s return in c. 445 BC was

a.) in only one nation Babylon,

b.) in just one direction East of Israel

Presumption 2.) Upon the 1st is based a 2nd – That as the Babylonian captivity did not fulfil these two  basic criteria, a far greater dispersion (Diaspora) must be intended within the prophecies of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel & Zechariah. In contrast to the Babylonian exile, they say, these prophecies define the location of the Diaspora as:

a.) nations (plural),

b.) all points of the compass – especially to the north.

Presumption 3.) Upon this 2nd is based the 3rd – That the steady migration of Jewish people to Israel, in the 20th & 21st centuries, must necessarily therefore be the prophetic fulfilment of the promises given forth in the following 4 primary dispersion-retrieval passages, as the former exile fails to meet the necessary criteria:

=> Jeremiah 3:18   In those days the house of Judah shall walk with the house of Israel, and they shall come together out of the land of the north to the land that I have given for an inheritance unto your fathers.

=> Jeremiah 16: 14-15  “Therefore, behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that it shall no more be said, The LORD liveth, that brought up the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt; 15 But, The LORD liveth, that brought up the children of Israel from the land of the north, and from all the lands whither he had driven them: and I will bring them again into their land that I gave unto their fathers.”

=> Zechariah 2: 6-8  “Ho, ho, come forth, and flee from the land of the north, saith the LORD: for I have spread you abroad as the four winds of the heaven, saith the LORD. 7 Deliver thyself, O Zion, that dwellest with the daughter of Babylon. 8  For thus saith the LORD of hosts; After the glory hath he sent me unto the nations which spoiled you: for he that toucheth you toucheth the apple of his eye.”

=> Isaiah 11: 11  “And it shall come to pass in that day, that the Lord shall set his hand again the second time to recover the remnant of his people, which shall be left, from Assyria, and from Egypt, and from Pathros, and from Cush, and from Elam, and from Shinar, and from Hamath, and from the islands of the sea.”

A RESPONSE

The Bible record of the Diaspora shows that, contrary to CZM [Christian Zionism] assumptions detailed above, the historical dispersion was definitely multinational, and was certainly multi-directional:

EVIDENCE 1. => Jeremiah 44:1 “The word that came to Jeremiah concerning all the Jews which dwell in the land of Egypt, which dwell at Migdol, and at Tahpanhes, and at Noph, and in the country of Pathros…”

Pathros was situated in southern Egypt, in the region of Aswan, south of today’s Cairo:

http://www.world-guides.com/images/egypt/egypt_map1.jpg

^This^ was written during the exile, in the time of Gedaliah’s governorship of Jerusalem (Jer 40:5), following the 586BC destruction of the temple: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gedaliah

EVIDENCE 2. The following map, from an encyclopaedia of Egypt showing equivalent modern nations, shows the extent of the Diaspora at the time of Esther – from India to Ethiopia:

http://encyclopediaegypt.com/israel/persia.jpg

=> Esther 8: 9   “Then were the king’s scribes called at that time in the third month, that is, the month Sivan, on the three and twentieth day thereof; and it was written according to all that Mordecai commanded unto the Jews, and to the lieutenants, and the deputies and rulers of the provinces which are FROM INDIA UNTO ETHIOPIA, an **hundred twenty and seven provinces**, unto every province according to the writing thereof, and unto every people after their language, and to the Jews according to their writing, and according to their language.”

The book of Esther is set in the 7th year+ of the reign of the Persian King Xerxes (479BC), in Shushan, 200 miles east of Babylon. This places these events during the exile of Judah, some 35 years prior to Nehemiah’s return.

From this evidence it is clear that, far from the Diaspora being to one nation, in one direction, it proves to be well over 100 international provinces, to all four points of the compass.

Source

FURTHER EVIDENCE – provided within the prophecies themselves

1.) The nations surrounding Babylon were all part of the Chaldean empire during the captivity of Judah:

=> Jeremiah 25:11  “And this whole land shall be a desolation, and an astonishment; and these nations shall serve the king of Babylon seventy years.”

2.) Zechariah 2:6-8 (above) defines the dispersion as encompassing: 

a.) Babylon

b.) the land of the north

c.) the nations (plural).

3.) Jeremiah similarly defines the location and extent of the captivity:

a.) Babylon

b.) for 70 years

c.) the nations (plural):

=> “‘For thus says the LORD, that after seventy years are accomplished at Babylon I will visit you, and perform my good word toward you, in causing you to return to this place’; ‘And I will be found of you, says the LORD: and I will turn away your captivity, and I will gather you from all the nations and from all the places where I have driven you, says the LORD; and I will bring you again into the place where I caused you to be carried away captive’; ‘Hear therefore the word of the LORD, all you of the captivity, whom I have sent from Jerusalem to Babylon’” (Jeremiah 29:10,14,20).

This evidence removes all doubt as to the multinational and multi-directional nature of the Babylonian captivity, being the only captivity detailed in these pre-exilic and exilic prophecies.

NEW TESTAMENT EVIDENCE

The Book of Acts describes the gathered Jewish community – resident in Jerusalem and gathered from the Diaspora – identifying their places of origin. The list of locations matches the Diaspora destinations predicted in Isaiah 11:11 (above) from which God said he would gather the children of Judah-Israel. These are comprehensively summarised at Pentecost, being “out of every nation under heaven.” Whether this is emphatic hyperbole, or not, it serves to complete the evidence – that the Diaspora was certainly as full as possibly necessary to fulfil criteria given within the prophecies of dispersion & retrieval:

=> Acts 2:5-11 “And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of **every nation** under heaven. 6 Now when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together, and were confounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own language. 7   And they were all amazed and marvelled, saying one to another, Behold, are not all these which speak Galilaeans? 8 And how hear we every man in our own tongue, wherein we were born? 9 Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites, and the dwellers in Mesopotamia, and in Judaea, and Cappadocia, in Pontus, and Asia, 10 Phrygia, and Pamphylia, in Egypt, and in the parts of Libya about Cyrene, and strangers of Rome, Jews and proselytes, 11 Cretes and Arabians, we do hear them speak in our tongues the wonderful works of God.”

We see that ^these^ locations perfectly match the very places listed in Isaiah 11 – please do see the following maps of the dispersion of Judah under Chaldean Babylon (Nebuchadnezzar and his successors to Belshazzar) and subsequently in the Medo-Persian Achaemenid Empire (Cyrus and his successors, Darius, Xerxes, Artaxerxes et al.):

Isaiah 11: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/b/b3/Map_achaemenid_empire_en.png

 

Acts 2: http://wp.patheos.com.s3.amazonaws.com/blogs/kathyschiffer/files/2014/06/Pentecost-in-Jerusalem-Map.jpg

Other maps relating to the Acts 2 list:

http://www.travellinkturkey.com/images/auxilary/phrygia.jpg

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pontus#mediaviewer/File:1stMithritadicwar89BC.png

http://www.talentshare.org/~mm9n/articles/Paul/Image19.gif

CONCLUSION

When presented with ^this^ conclusive evidence, Christian Zionist & Messianic protagonists generally forego the opportunity to respond to the ‘evaporation’ of those initial presumptions listed at the top of this post. When shown the evidence, I have not yet encountered a CZ enthusiast who admits that, “OK, the Babylonian captivity was, after all, many nations, and multiple directions; and those who suggest otherwise do seem to be unfortunately mistaken.” Instead, they tend to ‘move swiftly on,’ reverting to a couple of further arguments in favour of a modern Diaspora & Aliyah:

Presumption 4.)   It is said that, “the OT prophecies must have had a *double meaning*. Sure – they referred to the Babylonian exile in the near term (and well done for pointing that out in such detail, etc.), but today’s events are the *bigger* picture in view – the final and greater intended dual fulfilment.” Strangely, no evidence from within the prophetic texts is then presented to support this response, if challenged. It appears to be a case of prophetic guesswork – the 4th uncorroborated presumption.

Which leaves us wondering what the modern Christian Zionist theory is actually based upon. Certainly the details of the captivity, the people involved, the timing, and the location, are very precise, and given to the people at the time to show them the direction of travel intended by God. The return to the land was intended to prepare for the coming of Messiah – the prophecies of His advent being interspersed amongst the return prophecies, as God’s intended end in view.

Presumption 5.)    When it is pointed out that no post-exilic OT prophecies of another, later return can be found, and none are given in the New Testament (other than the final ingathering of the elect on the Day of the Lord,) this is brushed aside. It is said that “Israel *needs* to be back in the land for Zechariah 14 to occur” etc., which is another story, but not a proof that the Aliyah prophecies of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Zechariah can be transferred across millennia or responsibly replicated to today’s calendar without any biblical precedent. Ironically, the protagonists of this eschatology generally like to present their position as a literal reading of the bible.

Presumption 6.) Finally, the 6th presumption is called upon, when faced with the logical collapse of the previous five. It is said that, “such a global phenomenon as the Jewish repatriation of 20th and 21st century Zionism is so profound and large-scale, that it cannot be anything other than the work of God.”

But we know that nations and empires do come and go, by the wit and will of men. Organised campaigns have great power to effect enormous political change; to raise ethnic solidarity across the continents and the centuries. Just thinking of the power of the Soviet Union to coalesce and disperse populations; The modern democratic ideology; Globalisation; Nationalisms of other people groups like Kurds, Palestinians, Albanians, Kosovans and Serbs, ethnic Russians in modern Soviet satellites, the international Chinese community, Brits abroad, Irish and Scottish nationalism  etc.

It may be for instance, that the Jewish identity is intended by God to remain intact, but for the purpose of displaying the evidence and veracity of biblical history – to authenticate the bible narrative – to remind the world to take the bible seriously as the largely FULFILLED Word of God. There are several reasons that Israel might exist today – not least, the possibility that a counterfeit Kingdom of God is in view. After all, even Christian Zionists themselves propose that an antichrist kingdom will prevail in Jerusalem in coming days, so this is not too farfetched an idea…

Whichever way we take this – basing an eschatology on a set of disproven assumptions, then continuing to hold to this once they have been exposed, would seem to be to somewhat irrational. Various psychological and emotional responses come into play to defend a belief so strongly held, in the discomfort of ‘cognitive dissonance’. Evidence is compiled to bolster a preconceived ‘confirmation bias’ that persists over and against contrary evidence, no matter the strength and validity of the counter-evidence.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cognitive_dissonance

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Confirmation_bias

SUMMARY

Finally, a 7th presumption is presented, more in the way of a ‘threat’: It is said by CZM enthusiasts, “If God is not going to be faithful to Israel – in bringing the nation back again – how do you know for sure, as a Christian, that God will remain faithful to you?”

This is a poor argument, and easily resolved. The opposite is in fact the case. Having seen the comprehensive evidence above, how does the CZM enthusiast – in claiming that the prophetic fulfilments recorded within the very bible itself are *not* the intended completion of those anticipations – then go on to have confidence that *anything* will happen according to these unfulfilled aspirations? Especially aspirations that to all intents and purposes are widely expected within the CZM movement to conclude in a sinister covenant with the Jewish people, under a satanic regime in Jerusalem, ruled by an antichrist devil-man, in defiance of the Almighty.

Far better, is it not, to accept the well-attested faithfulness of God in:

1.) the fulfilment of the promises to the Fathers in the initial entry to the land (Joshua 21:43-45)

2.) the completion of the promises of exile and return to the people of Judah in the 6th and 5th centuries BC (Ezra 2:70),

3.) the Messianic deliverance in the New Covenant by Jesus,

4.) the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon his people at Pentecost, and

5.) the Word of the Lord going forth from Zion in the Great Gospel Commission?

6.) the remaining, future, final return of Christ in glory to gather his saints from the four winds into the eternal kingdom (Mark 13:27).***

HalleluYAH! Yes indeed God *IS* faithful to his promises and his people – and we can prove it, with biblical evidence, every step of the way!

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*** Adam’s note: I believe that Mark 13 (The Olivet Discourse), and parallel accounts in Matthew 24 and Luke 21, were fulfilled in the first century AD (my study on this topic can be seen here).

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Related Post: Galatians 4 Shows That Isaiah 66 Is Not About Modern Israel

Blessed Are the Warmongers? (When Christians Pray for War Instead of Peace)


Blessed are the warmongers*, for they shall be called sons of God” (Matthew 5:9, Christian Zionist version)

*Of course, Jesus didn’t say, “Blessed are the warmongers,” but rather, “Blessed are the peacemakers.” A watching world, however, could be forgiven for thinking that Jesus taught His people to love war, killings, and bloodshed when some of His professing followers say the things they do. 

A couple days ago, a good friend shared a link to an article titled, “Unite Against the Ceasefire.” This article literally contains a prayer asking God to “collapse” a ceasefire between Israel and Gaza so that Israel could “go back with full force into Gaza,” and Christians were asked to agree with that prayer. In other words, this prayer asked God to allow war and bombs to continue.

The article in question was posted on August 26, 2014 by Stan Goodenough at the Jerusalem Watchman website. Stan is or was connected with International Christian Embassy Jerusalem (ICEJ). As the website’s “About” page reveals, Stan believes that peace efforts for the Middle East are “always doomed to fail.” The following is the prayer that Stan asked other believers to pray together with him (I have underlined certain parts of this prayer and will comment on them at the end):

If the following resonates in your spirit, fellow believer, then stand in prayer with me right now, and get all you believe will agree to join with us. Call on Heaven to bear witness to the massive humanistic and Islamic effort to propagate the enemy’s plan, and pray – with the high praises of God in your mouths, the two-edged sword of His word in your hands, for the speedy and total collapse of the ceasefire that was set to begin at 19:00 tonight. (August 26, 2014)

More than 60 rockets were fired from Gaza in the hour leading up to the ceasefire. One Israeli was killed and five were injured in the barrage.

Arise, O Lord, in Your anger;
Lift Yourself up because of the rage of my enemies;
Rise up for me  to the judgment You have commanded!
So the congregation of the peoples shall surround You;
For their sakes, therefore, return on high. (Psalm 7:6-7)

This is my prayer:

Our Father in heaven, holy, righteous, glorious and eternal King,

Concerning Your determined, declared purpose to restore the kingdom to Israel, and in and through Israel to finalise the complete redemption of this world, may Your name be hallowed in and through all that is happening in and around Your land today; may Your will be done on the earth.

Lord God of Israel – Your ways are not our ways, and Your thoughts are not our thoughts. We do not presume to know everything there is to know about the outworking of Your plan – the methods You employ, the forces and currents You bend to Your will. You alone can see into the heart of man. You alone can see into tomorrow and into the future. Far be it from us to do anything to in any way hinder what You are accomplishing.

What I do see from Your Word – clear as the daylight – is that You have sworn that as long as the sun hangs in the sky, Israel will remain a nation before You.

What I see in Your Word, and what we see all around us in the world today – is that an apocalyptic battle is already raging against this nation, which You have physically reconstituted in Your land as You swore to do. The battle is raging to undo what You are doing, to reverse the restoration that You are bringing about.

It is a war against Heaven itself.

Tonight, from my post on the walls of Jerusalem where You have placed me (and many of Your children), I hear how Hamas is celebrating their “victory” over Israel and, LORD God of Israel, over You.

Just as the ancient Philistines once thought they had beaten You – and carried Your ark triumphantly down to Gaza, so too are the Palestinian Arabs today believing that their god has defeated You. Tonight they will sing his praises throughout the streets of Gaza as in their minds they believe they have triumphed over the armies of Israel.

Rise up, LORD God, for the sake of Your great name. I pray that You will bare Your holy arm in the site of the nations of the world who – in one accord, are pushing for this ceasefire between Israel and Hamas in their vain and bankrupt apparent belief that this is a way towards peace.

The ceasefire will not lead to peace but only to more violence, more terror, more destruction and death.

Make every plan that dishonours You Lord come to nothing at all, no matter how big or how small, no matter who makes it, grind it into dust under the heel of Your Foot, I beseech You.

Stop it – LORD God, I pray. Command Your angels into the fray to bring about the undermining and collapse of the ceasefire as quickly and as irreversibly as possible.

Undermine the work of Secretary of State John Kerry and his boss Barack Obama. Confound Egypt’s Sisi. Expose the evil in the hearts of Turkey’s Erdogan and Iran’s Khamanei

I see Hamas nearly against the wall, LORD – hundreds of its fighters and commanders have been destroyed; years and years of plotting and working to build tunnels to carry out massive terror against the Jewish people have been nullified; its rocket stocks are nearly depleted; it is bordered by the powerful State of Israel and an Egypt today unsympathetic to its cause.

The heart of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is also in Your hands – and You can turn it like the watercourses in the desert. Turn it. Turn him, Lord. Use the poll results that show he is massively losing support as Israelis see him failing to crush Hamas; failing to stop the rocket fire and terror. Use these results to reinvigorate him – to prepare him, when the ceasefire collapses, to go back with full force into Gaza, and to show Hamas no flag but the black flag – no quarter for the mujahedin in the armies of Allah.

Almighty God – do not enable Hamas to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. Crush Hamas and, with it, humble Islam and shake the faith of the Muslim world.

LORD God of Israel – why should the Islamic world say, concerning Israel “Where is their God?” Why should the godless Russian and Chinese people say, concerning Israel, “Where is their God?” Why should the increasingly secular and ungodly United States, European and other western countries deride Your name and say, concerning Your people and Your land: “Where is their God?”

Show them where Israel’s God is, LORD. For the sake of Your name, arise, we beseech You. Do not forget Your promise to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and to their seed.

Again, humbly acknowledging that we do not know all there is to know, I nonetheless pray this way with boldness and with faith, believing that, if our prayers are in line with Your will at this time, You will hear from heaven and move to secure, until you have completed it, the deliverance of Israel and her firm establishment in the land You gave her forever.

I pray this in Your name.

Redemption is available for this world, not “in and through” a nation in the Middle East (Israel), but in and through Jesus. This is the core message of the Bible. This is Christianity 101. This message is represented by probably the most famous verse in the Bible: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). 

It’s both absurd and inaccurate to say that “Palestinian Arabs today [are] believing that their god has defeated [the God of the Bible].” Stan’s words here suggest that all Palestinian Arabs follow the same religion, Islam. Some Palestinian Arabs are Christians! Of course they don’t believe that the God of the Bible has defeated the God of the Bible. Furthermore, plenty of Arabs don’t support or appreciate Hamas, the public face of this recent war that made a declaration to this effect.

It’s ironic that Stan speaks of “the godless Russian and Chinese people” and “the increasingly secular and godless United States” in contrast to Israel and “their God.” Phil Zuckerman, Professor of Sociology at Pitzer College in Claremont, California, published a survey in 2005 revealing the top 50 most Atheistic/Agnostic countries in the world. Russia came out only slightly higher than Israel in terms of the percentage of its people who identify as Atheists or Agnostics (24 – 48% in Russia versus 15 – 37% in Israel). China, which is seeing an incredible and amazing movement to Christ, was well below Israel (8 – 14% Atheist or Agnostic), as was the United States (3 – 9%). There is all kinds of godlessness in Israel, including the brutality with which this recent war was carried out.

Who is “the God” of Israel? Well, according to Wikipedia, 55% of the people in Israel say they are traditional Jews, 20% are secular Jews, 17% are Zionist Jews, 16% are Muslim, 2% are Christian, and 1.5% are Druze. It turns out that only 2% share Stan’s faith in Christ. A notable survey carried out by the Avi Chai Foundation in Israel in 2009 actually found that 46% of Jews there describe themselves as “secular.” Interestingly, among American Jews nearly 50% doubt God’s existence while only 10 – 15% of non-Jews in America feel the same way (source).

I am grateful that God did not honor the prayer of Stan and others who agreed with it for a “total collapse” of the Israel/Gaza ceasefire “as quickly and as irreversibly as possible.” Thank God that a 50-day war, which caused more than 25% of Gaza’s 1.8 million residents to flee their homes and killed more than 2000 of them, is finally over. Thank God that humanitarian aid and goods are being allowed in now:

Vital humanitarian aid poured into Gaza on Thursday as residents began rebuilding their lives following a devastating 50-day war between Israel and Hamas that experts say left no winners.

Millions in and around the war-torn coastal enclave were enjoying a second day of peace after the guns fell silent.

The truce, which went into force on Tuesday evening, saw the warring sides agree to a “permanent” halt to seven weeks of bloodshed in a move hailed by Washington and the United Nations.

Israel agreed to immediately lift restrictions on fishing, allowing boats to work up to six nautical miles from the shore in a move which went into effect early on Wednesday.

It also pledged to ease restrictions at the two crossings into Gaza, Erez and Kerem Shalom, to allow the entry of goods, humanitarian aid and construction materials.

Debate on crunch issues such as Hamas’s demand for a port and an airport, and the release of prisoners, as well as Israel’s calls to demilitarise Gaza have been postponed for another month until the sides resume talks in Cairo.

The focus is catering for the immediate needs of the 1.8 million residents of the Gaza Strip, nearly half a million of whom were forced to flee their homes because of the fighting.

Jesus is known as “the Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6) and He has called His people to make peace, to “be peacemakers.” It would be nice if a watching world could know from our words and actions that we take that calling seriously.

Who Are the Jews in Israel Today?


Growing up under Christian Zionist and dispensationalist teachings, I took for granted that the following narrative that was presented to me was the correct one:

The Jewish people in Israel are direct descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and God restored them to their land as a nation in 1948 in fulfillment of Bible prophecy. The Palestinians, on the other hand, are newly-arrived Arabs, mainly from Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria, who flooded the land when they saw the Jews beginning to come back from Russia, Europe, and elsewhere.

Although it’s been a number of years since I learned that this narrative is far from correct, more recently I’ve learned some details that, if true, take this distortion to the next level. They show the claims of Christian Zionism and dispensationalism to be even further off-base, not only Biblically but also in terms of history. 

I recently read an article written by Schlomo Sand, an Israeli history professor at Tel Aviv University, whose parents were Polish Jewish survivors of the Holocaust. I don’t agree with Sand’s stance on the Old Testament, but he makes some interesting statements regarding the inhabitants of Palestine in the centuries prior to Israel becoming a nation in 1948:

“[After Jerusalem’s destruction in 70 AD], apart from enslaved prisoners, the population of Judea continued to live on their lands, even after the destruction of the second temple. Some converted to Christianity in the 4th century, while the majority embraced Islam during the 7th century Arab conquest.

Most Zionist thinkers were aware of this: Yitzhak Ben Zvi, later president of Israel, and David Ben Gurion, its first prime minister, accepted it as late as 1929, the year of the great Palestinian revolt. Both stated on several occasions that the peasants of Palestine were the descendants of the inhabitants of ancient Judea.

[See David Ben Gurion and Yitzhak Ben Zvi, Eretz Israel in the past and present, 1918 (in Yiddish), and Jerusalem, 1980 (in Hebrew); Yitzhak Ben Zvi,Our population in the country, Executive Committee of the Union for Youth and the Jewish National Fund, Warsaw, 1929 (in Hebrew).]

Sand goes on to talk about the large impact of Jewish proselytizing, especially during the Middle Ages, when non-Jews, ethnically speaking, converted to the Jewish religion. He adds,

“The most significant mass conversion occurred in the 8th century, in the massive Khazar kingdom between the Black and Caspian seas. The expansion of Judaism from the Caucasus into modern Ukraine created a multiplicity of communities, many of which retreated from the 13th century Mongol invasions into eastern Europe. There, with Jews from the Slavic lands to the south and from what is now modern Germany, they formed the basis of Yiddish culture.”

[Yiddish, spoken by the Jews of eastern Europe, was a Germano-Slavic language incorporating Hebrew words.]

Sand was an Israeli soldier for three years and fought in the Six-Day War of 1967, so it’s interesting what he says next:

“The Israeli forces who seized Jerusalem in 1967 believed themselves to be the direct descendents of the mythic kingdom of David* rather than – God forbid – of Berber warriors or Khazar horsemen. The Jews claimed to constitute a specific ethnic group that had returned to Jerusalem, its capital, from 2,000 years of exile and wandering.

…Since the 1970s supposedly scientific research, carried out in Israel, has desperately striven to demonstrate that Jews throughout the world are closely genetically related… By validating an essentialist, 
ethnocentric definition of Judaism it encourages a segregation that separates Jews from non-Jews – whether Arabs, Russian immigrants or foreign workers… But Jews worldwide have always tended to form religious communities, usually by conversion; they cannot be said to share an ethnicity derived from a unique origin and displaced over 20 centuries of wandering.

*Please note that I disagree with Sand when he says that David’s kingdom was mythic.

Arthur Koestler (1905 – 1983) was a Jewish author and journalist from Hungary (later a British citizen) who wrote a book in 1976 titled, “The Thirteenth Tribe: The Khazar Empire and Its Heritage” (available in PDF form here). Koestler’s thesis was that a majority of Jews today have ancestral roots in the ancient Khazar region (corresponding to modern SW Russia, Eastern Ukraine, and Western Kazakhstan), where many members of the Khazar royalty and also of the general population converted to Talmudic Judaism in the 8th century AD and adopted the Yiddish language, which is based on the Hebrew alphabet. Toward the end of Koestler’s book, he summarized its contents with these words:

“In Part One of this book I have attempted to trace the history of the Khazar Empire based on the scant existing sources. In Part Two, Chapters V-VII, I have compiled the historical evidence which indicates that the bulk of Eastern Jewry — and hence of world Jewry — is of Khazar-Turkish, rather than Semitic, origin. In the last chapter I have tried to show that the evidence from anthropology concurs with history in refuting the popular belief in a Jewish race descended from the biblical tribe.”

Koestler stated that his research undermined many accusations of anti-Semitism, since many Jews are not even Semitic. His work was understandably considered to be controversial. Some DNA experts were critical or skeptical of it, while others agreed. Dr. Eran Elhalk and Dr. Avshalom Zoossmann-Diskin are two geneticists who agree with Koestler’s hypothesis. They conducted a 2012 study at John Hopkins University, finding that the European Jewish population featured a mix of Caucasus, European, and Semitic ancestries. Their work is summed up in this abstract published by Oxford University Press:

The question of Jewish ancestry has been the subject of controversy for over two centuries and has yet to be resolved. The “Rhineland hypothesis” depicts Eastern European Jews as a “population isolate” that emerged from a small group of German Jews who migrated eastward and expanded rapidly. Alternatively, the “Khazarian hypothesis” suggests that Eastern European Jews descended from the Khazars, an amalgam of Turkic clans that settled the Caucasus in the early centuries CE and converted to Judaism in the 8th century. Mesopotamian and Greco–Roman Jews continuously reinforced the Judaized empire until the 13th century. Following the collapse of their empire, the Judeo–Khazars fled to Eastern Europe. The rise of European Jewry is therefore explained by the contribution of the Judeo–Khazars. Thus far, however, the Khazars’ contribution has been estimated only empirically, as the absence of genome-wide data from Caucasus populations precluded testing the Khazarian hypothesis. Recent sequencing of modern Caucasus populations prompted us to revisit the Khazarian hypothesis and compare it with the Rhineland hypothesis. We applied a wide range of population genetic analyses to compare these two hypotheses. Our findings support the Khazarian hypothesis and portray the European Jewish genome as a mosaic of Near Eastern-Caucasus, European, and Semitic ancestries, thereby consolidating previous contradictory reports of Jewish ancestry. We further describe a major difference among Caucasus populations explained by the early presence of Judeans in the Southern and Central Caucasus. Our results have important implications for the demographic forces that shaped the genetic diversity in the Caucasus and for medical studies.

Khazaria in 850 AD, Map Source

Martin Trench, the lead pastor of Gateway Alliance Church in Edmonton, Canada, shared similar thoughts in a closed Facebook group recently and gave permission to quote him:

“[There is a] modern misunderstanding of the terms ‘Israel’ and ‘the Jews.’ Moses and the people of Israel who crossed the wilderness were not ‘Jews.’ They were Israelites. The Jews of the post-Babylonian period until the time of Jesus were also Israelites, with some Edomites mixed in too who lived in Judea, but not in Galilee. And the Jews of today are a different ethnic group – roughly 80% of them are an ethnic mixture of non-Israelites who converted to Judaism in the Middle Ages and follow a different religion than the Biblical Israel. They follow the religion of Talmudic Judaism, which was developed AFTER the time of Jesus, not the Old Covenant religion of Israel which requires a Temple, priesthood, and sacrificial system.

The true Israelite Jews in Judea at the time of Jesus either accepted him as the Messiah and so fled to Pella before 70 AD; or they stayed on and fought the Romans in the 66-70 AD war, with many being taken as slaves to Pompeii (which itself was destroyed a few years later by Vesuvius). The survivors who weren’t taken as slaves (because the Romans did not do whole-sale exile, like the Babylonians and Assyrians did – they left most poor people behind) stayed in the land as poor peasants, and the Pharisees, etc. went to different places – mainly Babylon where they wrote the Babylonian Talmud (which is very anti-Jesus and is quite vile and blasphemous). Those were the genuine Biblical Jews, but they were very small in numbers. In the Middle Ages, the Khazar kingdom in Eastern Europe converted to Talmudic Judaism. They were pagans before, known as the “serpent people,” but they had Muslims on one side and Christians on the other, so they converted to Judaism so they could trade with both – they became Ashkenazi Jews, the vast majority of Jews today.”

Concerning the point about “Ashkenazi Jews,” see the Wikipedia entry on this subject for a lot of well-documented information. Notable Ashkenazi Jews have included Theodore Herzl, Albert Einstein, Anne Frank, and Golda Meir.

Concerning Talmudism, interestingly Benjamin Netanyahu, the current Prime Minister of Israel, submitted a new Basic Law to the Knesset in early May of this year that “would establish the Talmud, the core work of Jewish law, as an official basis for Israeli state law” (Source:Report: Netanyahu Promises Talmud Will Be Israeli Law,” Israel National News).

To whatever degree the above information is true, it doesn’t make Jews today, whether they are Semitic or non-Semitic, any more or any less valuable, human, or worthy of respect. What it does likely do, however, is further confirm that key claims within Christian Zionism are false.

The New Testament already clearly refutes the Christian Zionist idea that ethnic Jews (rather than followers of Christ) are God’s chosen people (see this post and this post and this post and this post for more on this). The New Testament also refutes other such ideas that emphasize Jewish ethnicity over faith. Christian Zionism stands strong on the idea that many of the plans, purposes, and promises of God flow to the ethnic descendants of Abraham, even those who despise God’s Son, Jesus. This is despite the fact that Scripture says all of God’s promises are made to Jesus and His followers (e.g. Galatians 3:16, 28-29). Christian Zionism has also chosen as its foundation the assumption that modern Israel is nothing less than the national gathering of Abraham’s ethnic descendants in fulfillment of Bible prophecy.* Biblically, these claims are far-fetched, and they are looking to be far-fetched historically as well.

*See this article for a refutation of the idea that Israel became a nation in 1948 in fulfillment of Bible prophecy.

Here is another brief article of interest on this subject: “DNA of Ashkenazi Jews shows ancient female ancestors were converts from Europe.”

All of our studies related to Christian Zionism can be seen here.

The Palestinian Christian: Betrayed, Persecuted, Sacrificed (An Essay by Abe W. Ata)


The following essay was written in 2006 by Dr. Abe W. Ata, a Palestinian Christian who was born in Bethlehem. I read it once before, but was reminded of it a couple days ago when my friend, Mark Church, shared it on Facebook. Whether or not one agrees with every word Dr. Ata says, it’s instructive to hear his perspective and it’s good for Christians to be made aware of how many of their brothers and sisters in Christ are being affected by the dire situation in Israel/Palestine, a situation that has become even more heart-breaking in recent days.

The Palestinian Christian is an endangered species.

When the modern state of Israel was established there were about 400,000 of us. Two years ago the number was down to 80,000. Now it’s down to 60,000. At that rate, in a few years there will be none of us left. When this happens non-Christian groups will move into our churches and claim them for ever.

I fear that when/if the last Palestinian Christian leaves, extreme groups will move instantly to our churches and schools and have a field day hatching world plots. It would be too late for Bush (or Kerry) to do anything about it!!

Palestinian Christians within Israel fare little better. On the face of it, their number has grown by 20,000 since 1991. But this is misleading, for the census classification “Christian” includes some 20,000 recent non-Arab migrants from the former Soviet Union.

So why are Palestinian Christians abandoning their homeland?

We have lost hope, that’s why. We are treated as non-people. Few outside the Middle East even know we exist, and those who do, conveniently forget.

I refer, of course, to the American Religious Right. They see modern Israel as a harbinger of the Second Coming, at which time Christians will go to Paradise, and all others (presumably including Jews) to Hell. To this end they lend military and moral support to Israel.

Even by the double-dealing standards of international diplomacy this is a breathtakingly cynical bargain. It is hard to know who is using whom more:

bullet The Christian Right for offering secular power in the expectation that the Jewish state will be destroyed by a greater spiritual one; or
bullet The Israeli Right for accepting their offer.

What we do know is that both sides are abusing the Palestinians. Apparently we don’t enter into anyone’s calculations.

The views of the Israeli Right are well known: they want us gone.

Less well known are the views of the American Religious Right. Strangely, they find the liberation of Iraqis from a vile dictator just, but do not find it unjust for us to be under military occupation for 38 long years.

Said Senator James Inhofe (R-OK):

“God Appeared to Abraham and said: ‘I am giving you this land,’ the West Bank. This is not a political battle at all. It is a contest over whether or not the word of God is true.’”

Inhofe must have got it wrong. Promises are being made to earthly Jerusalem, that again, God did not make! For Paul wrote that the Holy Land was promised to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and their descendants. These are the Palestinian Muslims, Christians, and Jews, who have been living in the land for thousands of years. The Bible never mentioned that God promised it solely to Jews. Anyone can be a Jew, but not anyone can be a descendant of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and their descendants. James Inhofe and followers are unable to tell the difference between Jew, Israelite, and Israel.

It is very clear, that in Israel, there will be no continuing city!

bullet (Hebrews-13-13-14) Let us go forth therefore unto Him without the camp, bearing His Reproach. For here we have no continuing city, but we seek on to come!
bullet His Promise to Abraham! (Hebrews-11-10) For he looked for a City which has foundations (Christ The Foundation) whose builder and maker is God!
bullet (16) Now they desire a better Country, that is, An Heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for He HAS prepared for them a City!

Heavenly Jerusalem, of Heavenly Israel!!

House Majority Leader Dick Armey (R-TX) was even more forthright:

“I’m content to have Israel grab the entire West Bank…I happen to believe that the Palestinians should leave.”

There is a phrase for this: Ethnic cleansing.

Silencing us, from seeking your support and enlightening you about our suffering, goes counter to what Jesus has mandated us to do. We all know that Muslims and Jews get ceaseless support (political, spiritual and financial) consecutively from Saudi Arabia and America respectively; We, the Palestinian Christians, get nothing from the Australian and other Western “Christian” governments. (The Pope has been an exception.)

Prior to the 1967 war, the Christian youth at the Lutheran, Baptist, Methodist and other churches in Bethlehem used to pray and rejoice and have a good chat with hundreds of American Christian pilgrims. In particular Texas and California were two places from where many came from to visit us in the Holy Land. Today only fading memories prevail. Christian families have vacated Bethlehem. The remaining Christians are paying the price by experiencing curfews which last for weeks. They remain sandwiched between Muslims and Jews without drawing the slightest concern from the many so-called Western Christians.

So why do American Christians stand by while their leaders advocate the expulsion of fellow Christians? Could it be that they do not know that the Holy Land has been a home to Christians since, well … since Christ?

Do not think I am asking for special treatment for Christians. Ethnic cleansing is evil whoever does it and to whomever it is done. Palestinian Christians — Anglican, Maronite Catholics, Orthodox, Lutherans, Armenians, Baptists, Copts and Assyrians — have been rubbing shoulders with each other and with other religions: – MuslimsJews, Druze and (most recently) Baha’is – for centuries. And we want to do so for centuries more. But we can’t if we are driven out by despair.

We are equally frightened by those who commit suicide bombings. None of us Christians have condoned it or even contemplated the idea. Our commitment to Jesus’ teachings will never shake our resolve in this matter.

American journalist Anders Strindberg makes a clearer conclusion. He says Palestinians are equated with Islamists, Islamists with terrorists. Presumably because all organized Christian activity among Palestinians is non-political and non-violent, the community hardly ever hits the Western headlines. Suicide bombers sell more copies [sic] than people who congregate for Bible study.

What we seek is support: material, moral, political and spiritual. As Palestinians we grieve for what we have lost, and few people (the Ashkenazi Jews are one) have lost more than us (the Ashkenazi Jews are one). But grief can be assuaged by the fellowship of friends.

Source

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From his bio: “Prof. Abe W. Ata was a temporary delegate to the UN in 1970 and has lived and worked in the Middle East, America and Australia. Dr Ata is a Senior Fellow at the Institute for the Advancement of Research, and lectures in Psychology at the Australian Catholic University. Dr Ata is a 9th generation Christian Palestinian academic born in Bethlehem.”

Why I Embrace Christian Zionism


There was a time when I was a stranger to Christian Zionism. I was on the outside, I was in the darkness, and I was very much missing out on the blessings found in Christian Zionism. Then God, in His mercy, added me to the family, and to the number of those who have embraced Christian Zionism for the last 2000 years. I haven’t been the same since!

The author of Hebrews described this great transformation about 1950 years ago to his audience at the time, members of the early church:

But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are registered in heaven, to God the Judge of all, to the spirits of just men made perfect, to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling that speaks better things than that of Abel” (Hebrews 12:22-24).

I am a Christian Zionist because I am a Christian who has been brought to the heavenly Mount Zion, the one that is connected to the heavenly Jerusalem, to Jesus as our Mediator, to the body of Christ, and to the new covenant. This Zionism is glorious, and it’s all about the blessings and promises found in Jesus.

At the same time, I’m not a Christian Zionist. It all depends upon the definition, and one’s covenant perspective. I’m not a Christian Zionist if one goes by the following definitions:

[1] 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 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.

Mikael Knighton, Christians Standing With Israel, 2007 (Source)

[2] “Zionism [is] the national movement for the return of the Jewish people to their homeland and the resumption of Jewish sovereignty in the Land of Israel… Jews of all persuasions, left and right, religious and secular, joined to form the Zionist movement and worked together toward these goals. Disagreements led to rifts, but ultimately, the common goal of a Jewish state in its ancient homeland was attained. The term “Zionism” was coined in 1890 by Nathan Birnbaum.” (Jewish Virtual Library).

If Zionism is the belief in the Jewish people’s right to return to their homeland, then a Christian Zionist should simply be defined as a Christian who supports the Jewish people’s right to return to their homeland… The actual theology of Christian Zionism, also known as Biblical Zionism, supports the right of the Jewish people to return to their homeland on scriptural grounds… Christian Zionism is confirmed throughout the Hebrew Scriptures… Christian Zionism differs with Replacement Theology which teaches that the special relationship that Israel had with her God in terms of her national destiny and her national homeland has been lost because of her rejection of Jesus as Messiah, and therefore the Church has become the new Israel.

Rev. Malcolm Hedding, Vice-chairman of the Board, International Christian Embassy Jerusalem, “Christian Zionism 101 – Giving Definition to the Movement.” (Source)

[3] “Christian Zionism is a belief among some Christians that the return of the Jews to the Holy Land, and the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948, is in accordance with Biblical prophecy.”

Wikipedia, March 2014 (Source)

John Hagee, the founder of Christians United For Israel (CUFI), is recognized as a well-known leader in this movement known as Christian Zionism. CUFI’s theme verse is Isaiah 62:1. “For Zion’s sake I will not keep silent, for Jerusalem’s sake I will not remain quiet, til her righteousness shines out like the dawn, her salvation like a blazing torch.” (Source) It doesn’t take much digging around to understand how Hagee interprets this verse and applies it to the present day. Shhh – don’t tell him that righteousness and salvation have been shining out from Jesus and His church like a blazing torch for the last 2000 years!

Earthly or Heavenly Zion?

You may have already noticed how incredibly preoccupied the Christian Zionist movement is with earthly Zion (Israel). This movement is heavily invested in political/earthly Israel, political/earthly Jerusalem, and the old covenant. This is essentially where this movement goes off track.

Did you notice the very first word in the passage from Hebrews early in this post? It’s a mere conjunction, but it’s very important. It’s the word “but.”

But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem…”

Through a basic language rule, we know that the author of Hebrews is contrasting something he said earlier. Let’s take a look at the previous few verses:

For you have not come to the mountain that may be touched and that burned with fire, and to blackness and darkness and tempest, and the sound of a trumpet and the voice of words, so that those who heard it begged that the word should not be spoken to them anymore. For they could not endure what was commanded: “And if so much as a beast touches the mountain, it shall be stoned or shot with an arrow.” And so terrifying was the sight that Moses said, “I am exceedingly afraid and trembling” (Hebrews 12:18-21).

What did he describe here? He described the scene at Mount Sinai where the law code and the old covenant was given to the people of Israel through Moses. The following contrast is shown:

Mount Sinai = physical (able to be touched), earthly, old covenant… Mount Zion = spiritual (not able to be touched), heavenly, new covenant…

In light of this passage, how does the Christian Zionist movement align itself? Where does it stand in light of what Paul says in Galatians 4:21-31?

Tell me, you who desire to be under the law, do you not hear the law? For it is written that Abraham had two sons: the one by a bondwoman, the other by a freewoman. But he who was of the bondwoman was born according to the flesh, and he of the freewoman through promise, which things are symbolic. For these are the two covenants: the one from Mount Sinai which gives birth to bondage, which is Hagar— for this Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia, and corresponds to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children but the Jerusalem above is free, which is the mother of us all. For it is written: “Rejoice, O barren, you who do not bear! Break forth and shout, you who are not in labor! For the desolate has many more children than she who has a husband.” Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are children of promise. But, as he who was born according to the flesh then persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit, even so it is now. Nevertheless what does the Scripture say? “Cast out the bondwoman and her son, for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the freewoman.” So then, brethren, we are not children of the bondwoman but of the free.

The Christian Zionist movement has hijacked both terms that it carries, “Christian” and “Zionism.” For decades it has tried to tell the world that Christians are obsessed with a certain land, a certain country, a certain city, a certain race of people, and a Zion that is of this world. It has suppressed new covenant truths, such as God not showing favoritism to one race over others (e.g. Romans 10:12), and has promoted and financially supported injustice and ethnic cleansing, all in the name of Christianity and before the eyes of a watching world.

Biblical Zionism, according to Galatians 4 and Hebrews 12, is aligned with heavenly Jerusalem, Jesus as our Mediator, His church, His shed blood, transformed hearts, freedom, God’s promises, and the new covenant.

This is the Christian Zionism that I embrace.

Abraham’s Inheritance: Misunderstood


Yesterday PJ Miller of Sola Dei Gloria posted an excellent study on Abraham’s inheritance, and how the promises that God made to Abraham are expounded upon as the Old Testament progresses and the New Testament is introduced. This study was originally crafted and posted by Stephen Sizer.

Sola Dei Gloria

Good message

They say, “where there’s a will, there’s a family” and boy has there been a family dispute over the inheritance of Abraham. Millions and millions of the relatives of Ishmael and Isaac believe they are the rightful heirs. The Arab-Israeli conflict is the longest running dispute in the hands of the United Nations. In fact its over 4,000 years old. It is also the most dangerous military conflict in the world, without any international regulation of the chemical, biological and nuclear weapons held by some of Abraham’s descendants.

And it is undoubtedly the most controversial media story in the world with accusations of holocaust denial, anti-semitism, racism, apartheid and Islamophobia. And, sadly, it is being perpetuated by some misguided Christians… 

Abraham’s Inheritance was Promised

“On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram and said, “To your descendants I give this land, from the Wadi of Egypt…

View original post 2,540 more words

The Wolf Has Been Approaching for 29 Years/Good News for the People of Iran


In a recent post, I opened by citing the words of Iranian foreign minister, Javad Zarif, who pointed out that Israel has been claiming for the last 22 years that Iran is mere months away from having a nuclear weapon. It turns out that this rhetoric has actually been going on for at least 29 years – since I was in kindergarten, Ronald Reagan was nearing the end of his first term in office, and seven years before the World Wide Web was introduced.

On November 27th, Mondoweiss re-posted a Twitter status from Richard Silverstein, the creator of the Tikun Olam blog, showing a Maariv headline from April 25, 1984. The headline read: “Iran In Final Stages of Production of Nuclear Bomb.”

Maariv headline

Maariv is a Hebrew-language daily newspaper, which was founded in 1948, and is the second highest selling newspaper in Israel. To be fair, the above story in Maariv cited Jane’s Defence Weekly,  which quoted West German intelligence sources regarding Iran. For a good perspective on the long-repeated warnings about Iran’s nuclear program, see this timeline at The Christian Science Monitor. The loudest warnings have come from the United States, the world’s nuclear champion and a signatory of the NPT (Non-Proliferation Treaty), and Israel, a nation believed to have as many as 200 nuclear weapons (undeclared) and a nation which has refused to sign the NPT.

As is now well-known, Iran signed an interim 6-month agreement on November 23rd, after a couple rounds of discussions with the United States and several other nations. The US will provide “limited” and “modest” sanctions relief in exchange for Iran “halting certain levels of enrichment and neutralizing part of its stockpiles,” among other concessions. According to President Obama, America’s toughest sanctions will continue to be applied to Iran. New channels of communication have certainly opened between Iran, the US, and other countries in recent weeks.

Many nations have treated these developments as good news. Saudi Arabia and certain other Gulf States (strongly opposed to the Shiite form of Islam) have not. Israel, predictably, is going nuts. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had these words to say the next day:

“What was achieved last night in Geneva is not an historic agreement; it is an historic mistake. Today the world has become a much more dangerous place because the most dangerous regime in the world has taken a significant step toward attaining the most dangerous weapon in the world… Israel is not bound by this agreement. The Iranian regime is committed to the destruction of Israel and Israel has the right and the obligation to defend itself…”

It’s hard to know if Netanyahu actually believes what he says or not. The government he represents has been crying wolf on Iran for 29 years. Some are suggesting that Israel needs to keep hyping up the Iran issue in order to deflect attention away from its illegal settlements, bulldozing of Palestinian homes, the blockade on Gaza, and other controversial domestic activities.

Just as predictably, Christian Zionist sources (for example, author Joel Rosenberg) have lined up to agree with Netanyahu and continue to demonize Iran.

I’m glad to see these recent developments, though, and I believe they are good steps in the right direction. They are especially good for the people of Iran, who have been suffering the effects of harsh sanctions. As I shared in a post on this subject almost a month ago, the effects of sanctions on the Iranian people have included “a 20% unemployment rate, a 30% – 50% inflation rate, expensive basic goods, the plunging value of Iran’s currency, increasingly unsafe commercial aircraft, an increasing inability to export oil, and other economic ramifications. They are also said to be resulting in half the population struggling to provide food and shelter for themselves, and struggling to maintain emotional health.”

Iranian Muslims, Iranian Jews, and Iranian Christians alike have experienced these things, in part due to a relentless campaign of deceit, politicking, and warmongering that has been vigorously supported by the Christian Zionist movement. Only God knows the extent to which Iranian and Palestinian Christians have suffered needlessly as a result of activities and rhetoric coming from many of their professing brothers and sisters in Christ.

An NBC News article highlights the provisions Iran can expect to see with the new easing of sanctions, concluding that Iran’s people will only see “precious little” relief in the short-term future, but that this deal provides “far more of a psychological benefit than an economic one” for now. Some groups are still investing in efforts to not only reverse these changes, but to bring even harsher sanctions quite soon. Others are watching for the slightest indication that Iran is not holding up its end of this deal, so that such actions can be justified (allegedly). Meanwhile, in plain sight are 2007 intelligence reports and other official statements from the CIA, Mossad, and other agencies agreeing that there is no evidence Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons.

While Israeli and Christian Zionist leaders continue to say that Iran is bent on destroying Israel, Iran’s Jewish parliamentary representative, Siamak Moreh Sedgh, praises Iran for allowing Iranian Jews to worship freely. Sedgh states that conditions for Iranian Jews are “better than yesterday, and today, our condition is much better than 10 years or 20 years ago.” Interestingly, he added that Iran’s Jewish community chose not to commemorate Israel’s 60th anniversary in 2008 because they are “in complete disagreement with the behavior of Israel” and its “anti-human behavior.”

The secular nation of Israel will do as it will do. As for God’s people, may we reflect and work toward God’s desire to see the nations, including Iran and Israel, healed by the river of life that flows from His throne (Revelation 22:1-2).

“The Stones Cry Out”: New Documentary Challenges Evangelical Bonds With Israel


I’m interested in seeing this documentary when/if the opportunity arises. In the meantime, if anyone who comes across this post has seen it, I’d be glad to know what you think about it.

Graham Liddell has written an article for Ma’an News Agency highlighting a new documentary called “The Stones Cry Out.” The documentary is directed by Yasmine Perni, an Italian-born journalist who has lived in various places in the Middle East, including Israel. I’ll share an observation that jumped out at me after viewing one of the links in Graham’s article, but first here’s the article itself:

A new documentary about Palestinian Christians is challenging mainstream evangelical assumptions about the Holy Land in the United States.

As evangelical organizations hold events across the US presenting an unbreakable bond between Christians and Israel, first-time director Yasmine Perni tours American churches with a film that instead documents the plight of Palestinian Christians at the hands of Israel.

“The (Palestinian) Christians have never been covered like this before,” Perni told Ma’an Saturday.

“The Stones Cry Out” starts by documenting the history of Kifr Biram, a predominantly Christian Palestinian village that was destroyed by Israel after the Nakba.

Former residents of Kifr Biram tell the story of being expelled from their homes by Jewish militants in 1948 and becoming refugees in neighboring Jordan and Lebanon. Many attempted to return, but in 1953, they watched as their village was demolished on orders from the Israeli government. Israel has since converted the village lands into a national park.

Perni wants Western audiences to hear the story of Kifr Biram firsthand while they still can. Many of the original residents have already died, including three elderly men who passed away during filming.

“And so I feel that telling their story is a way of keeping their memory alive and their struggle to find peace,” Perni said.

The film moves to an overview of the Six Day War and Israel’s ongoing military occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Footage of the events overlaps with Palestinian Christians’ accounts of their experiences throughout the First Intifada – during which Israeli forces killed over 1,000 Palestinians – and throughout Israel’s 2002 siege on Bethlehem’s Church of the Nativity during the Second Intifada.

“Most of the Christians abroad were silent (during the siege),” Bethlehem pastor Rev. Mitri Raheb says in the film.

He says Christians “like to sing about the little town of Bethlehem in the churches on Christmas Eve, but I felt at that time that actually Bethlehem was abandoned.”

Featured prominently in the film, Raheb told Ma’an Friday that the story of Palestinian Christians is little known in the West, and even less “among Evangelical Christians.”

He said he hopes the documentary reaches as many people as possible.

Hopes for impact on Western audiences

Christian Zionism – the belief that the modern State of Israel is a manifestation of God’s biblical promise to the Jews – is a significant force in US politics. One Christian Zionist organization, Christians United for Israel, is the largest pro-Israel organization in the United States. In addition to lobbying Congress and contributing financially to pro-Israel causes including illegal settlements, CUFI holds regular “Nights to Honor Israel” in US churches using scripture to back up pro-Israel political action. Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee spoke at one such event last Sunday.

“I think that is using the Bible as a weapon,” Perni told Ma’an.

Though she hopes Christian Zionists will see the film, they are not necessarily her intended audience.

“The film is for everyone. … I’m not a theologian. I’m a journalist. I report the stories that I see,” Perni said.

Without dwelling on theology, “The Stones Cry Out” simply tells “the Palestinian story, but through the eyes of the Christians.”

Despite widespread Christian support for Israel in the US, Raheb told Ma’an that he was optimistic about changing evangelical mindsets on Palestine.

“It’s not a hopeless case,” Raheb said. “The first time I went to the States in 1991, most of the people I met knew nothing about Palestine. That has changed a lot.”

“I see among the evangelical Christian community more openness towards the Palestinians.”

Christians under Israeli occupation

In 2012, former Israeli ambassador to the United States Michael Oren wrote an article for The Wall Street Journal in which he blamed Christian emigration from Palestine on Muslims.

Raheb says in the film that Israel “would love” Palestine to be free of Christians, “because then they can sell this conflict as a Jewish-Muslim conflict, as a religious conflict.”

“Oren at the end of the day really is interested in fueling Islamophobia because this sells well with certain groups,” Raheb told Ma’an, “as if Israel actually is the one defending the Western value.”

He said that in an academic study he conducted, less than 1 percent of emigrating Christians said they were leaving because of tensions with Muslims, and most actually left due to political and economic situations imposed by the occupation.

The documentary, Perni told Ma’an, “reveals my own discovery of what it really means to live under occupation.”

Though she lived in the Arab world throughout much of her life, she said that the reality of the occupation only set in when she moved to Jerusalem and visited Bethlehem. A major hub of Christianity in the West Bank, Bethlehem is surrounded by illegal Israeli settlements. A wall constructed by Israel beginning in 2002 separates Palestinians not only from Israel, but in many cases from their own property.

One Palestinian Christian from Bethlehem shows in the film how the wall encases her house on three sides, rendering access to her backyard impossible and turning her home “into a tomb.”

“Christians are hit by the occupation the same way Muslims are,” Raheb told Ma’an.

Unfortunately, Perni said, many in the West are unaware of the very existence of Palestinian Christians. When they meet Christians from Palestine, “people in America ask them when they converted.” 

“The Stones Cry Out” premieres in cities across the US in late October and early November.

In this article, Liddell pointed to a link describing how the former village of Kafr Bir’im had been turned into a national park by Israel. I was struck by the revelation that Kafr Bir’im “was located in an area which IDF [Israeli Defense Forces] wanted, for security reasons, populated only with Jews.” So in November 1948 “most of the inhabitants were evacuated by the IDF ‘temporarily’ to the town of Jish further south ‘until the military operations are over.'”

The reason this struck me is because in numerous conversations I’ve had with Christian Zionist individuals, I’ve been told that the Palestinians were advised by Arab outsiders (e.g. from Jordan, Egypt, etc.) to temporarily take refuge in Arab lands until an Arab alliance could wipe out all the Jews. Therefore, I’ve been told, these Palestinians relinquished their right to the land, and only the Arabs are to blame for leaving them in limbo. This (Israeli) source, on the other hand, indicates that at least Kafr Bir’im was largely cleared of Palestinians by the IDF.

Removing one people group from an area in order to replace them with another people group is not only racist, but this fits the definition of ethnic cleansing. Elias Chacour, another Palestinian Christian, shares similar first-hand stories in his book, “Blood Brothers.” In some of the stories he shares, it wasn’t just ethnic cleansing that took place, but genocide as well.

In any case, I’m glad to see that more Palestinian Christians are being given a chance for their voices to be heard.

The Christian Zionist Movement Is in Panic Mode


“A smile attack is much better than a lie attack. Mr. Netanyahu and his colleagues have been saying since 1991 – and you can refer to your records – that Iran is six months away from a nuclear weapon. And we are how many years, 22 years after that? And they are still saying we are six months away from nuclear weapons. We are not seeking nuclear weapons, so we’re not six months, six years, or 60 years away from nuclear weapons.”

-Javad Zarif, Foreign Minister of Iran, late September 2013

The installation of Iran’s newest president, Hassan Rouhani, has been met with some rather fascinating (and, to me, disgusting) reactions from the Christian Zionist movement. As President Rouhani and other Iranian leaders speak of Iran’s desire for peace and a world free of nuclear weapons, numerous Christian Zionist leaders have locked arms tightly with Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu in loudly and repeatedly denouncing President Rouhani as a wolf in sheep’s clothing who can’t be trusted.

It’s clear that a moderate Iranian president simply won’t serve the interests of either Zionism or Christian Zionism. These movements, which are nearly joined at the hip, need a rabid, fire-breathing, foaming-at-the-mouth, anti-semitic, holocaust-denying maniac at Iran’s helm in order to effectively push their cause. (For that matter, they also need barbaric Palestinian leaders in order to advance other elements of their cause.) Iran’s failure to elect such an individual this year has apparently been a major cause for panic.

It’s one thing if this behavior characterizes Zionism. It’s another thing when it characterizes “Christian Zionism.” By the name of this movement, one could be forgiven for believing that it aims to follow the teachings of Christ, the One who said, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God” (Matthew 5:9).

When’s the last time a Christian Zionist leader highlighted the peacemaking efforts of a Palestinian individual toward the Jewish community? (Such efforts do exist.) How about the peacemaking efforts of Jewish individuals toward the Palestinian community? (These also exist.) When’s the last time a Christian Zionist leader pronounced blessings upon the Iranian people and their leaders, wishing for their peace and well-being?

 Hassan_Rouhani_official_portrait

Photo Source

Hassan Rouhani was elected president of Iran on June 15th of this year, and took office on August 3rd. Rouhani has been described as a moderate and diplomatic leader, and one of his campaign pledges was to repair relations with the West. It wasn’t long at all before Christian Zionist organizations published a flurry of statements seeking to discredit him, to call for increasingly tough actions against Iran, and to highlight Iran’s alleged “relentless development” of nuclear weapons (which, of course, they must be just itching to use against Israel).

A Chorus of Christian Zionist Voices United Against Iran

Israel Today is an organization whose mission “is to be the definitive source for a truthful and balanced perspective on Israel.” They have subscribers in more than 80 countries and believe that “the existence of the State of Israel is a fulfillment of prophecy and a plumb line for the purposes of God for these times.”

The month of September saw Israel Today publish articles featuring [1] Israeli PM Netanyahu responding to Rouhani’s Rosh Hashanah greetings with calls for tighter sanctions against Iran [2] Israeli warnings that Rouhani is a wolf in sheep’s clothing [3] Netanyahu’s warnings against Rouhani’s “charm offensive” [4] another mocking and desperate article seeking to discredit Rouhani and Iran [5] panic and frustration over President Obama’s and John Kerry’s failure to fall in line with Netanyahu’s hardline rhetoric toward Iran. The comment sections under these articles feature plenty of un-Christlike and warmongering pronunciations against Iran which are far worse than anything former Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad ever publicly said regarding Israel.

The month of October saw Israel Today publish articles featuring [1] an admission that Israel has possessed nuclear weapons since at least the early 1970’s, and has almost used them [2] claims that Netanyahu was prophetically correct when he quoted Scripture during his UN address in “a brilliant admonition of Iran’s anti-Israel madness,” that Iran is an “ancient enemy of Israel,” and that Rouhani is a murderous wolf [3] claims that CNN is inept and biased toward Iran by showing Rouhani in a favorable light [4] strong doubts that Iran’s new offer to downgrade “the nuclear crisis” means anything at all [5] Israel’s stress and fears over the possibility that sanctions against Iran could be lifted or lessened [6] how serious Netanyahu is about striking Iran [7] how Israel is wary of American promises and diplomacy toward Iran.

Breaking Christian News, an Albany, Oregon-based news outlet associated with Steve Shultz and The Elijah List, also routinely publishes articles in support of harsh action against Iran. Recent examples include an article (originally from Pat Robertson’s Christian Broadcasting Network) featuring Netanyahu’s urgent cries to the world that crippling sanctions must continue to be levied against Iran. Another example is an article (originally at Israel Today) rejoicing that various Arab nations are secretly aligning with Israel behind the scenes, bonded by “a strong desire to eliminate the influence of Iran.”

One Christian Zionist ministry, which I’ll refrain from naming, is based in Israel. I’ve been receiving their email updates for several years ever since a relative signed me up for them. Back in September, when it looked like President Obama was going to lead the US into war strikes on Syria, this ministry sent almost daily updates passionately setting out a case for why America absolutely needed to strike Syria hard for the sake of Israel. This ministry has also used the same reasoning for why America needs to take tough action against Iran, including military strikes: “for the sake of Israel.”

Since when has the mission of the Christian Zionist movement been to rival AIPAC as the biggest war lobby entity on the planet? Why do both entities behave as if they’re agents of the Israeli government?

Not to be outdone, John Hagee’s organization, CUFI (Christians United for Israel), has an article, among others, highlighting a movement of Republican Senators who want to increase sanctions against Iran, targeting “all Iranian government revenue and reserves.” The effects of the present sanctions on the Iranian people include a 20% unemployment rate, a 30% – 50% inflation rate, expensive basic goods, the plunging value of its currency, increasingly unsafe commercial aircraft, an increasing inability to export oil, and other economic ramifications. They are also said to be resulting in half the population struggling to provide food and shelter for themselves, and struggling to maintain emotional health. The sanctions and their effects on millions of Iranian citizens apparently aren’t crippling enough for CUFI’s liking, however. In an email alert sent out on October 30th, John Hagee and David Brog urged their supporters to sign a letter to be sent to all US Senators, including these words:

“I’ve read that the White House is urging you to delay action on legislation to tighten the economic sanctions on Iran. I think the White House is making a serious mistake. So long as Iran continues to add to its uranium enrichment capabilities, we must – at the very least – continue to add to our sanctions.”

A People Movement to Christ in Iran

These sanctions aren’t so much hurting the government of Iran as much as they are hurting the common people. Among them are a growing number of believers – our brothers and sisters in Christ. Elam Ministries, founded by Iranian believers in 1988, reports on the present phenomenal growth of the church in Iran:

Tell me about Jesus! Do you have Bibles?” This is the continuous cry of Muslim-Iranians, especially the youth, who literally flock around you in the street, like moths to the only light in the night… A quiet revival is sweeping through the country… Christians have sent in hundreds of thousands of New Testaments into Iran, but the demand dwarfs the supply. According to the church of Iran, if more than 10 million Persian New Testaments were available, it would still not be enough.

Reza Safa, a former Shiite Muslim whose television program broadcasts into Iran, shares a similar testimony. J. Lee Grady, a Charisma editor, also highlighted the spiritual breakthroughs in Iran in a 2010 report titled “God’s Strategic Plan for Iran,” calling for believers to look upon Iran with compassion instead of wishing for Iran to be bombed.

Hypocritical Powers Crying Wolf

As mentioned earlier, Israeli officials have been crying wolf now for more than two decades, always urging immediate action because Iran is allegedly just a few months away from having a nuclear bomb (but it’s OK for Israel and trigger-happy America to have hundreds of them). The warmongers imply that Iran’s scientists are so utterly incompetent that they still haven’t developed even one nuke after “being on the brink of having them” for more than two decades. What if, just perhaps, they’re not even trying to develop any?

A year ago, Nima Shirazi of the Mondoweiss news site crafted a list of public statements by Iranian leaders from 1991 – 2012 that they are not pursuing nuclear weapons and that they don’t believe in the principle of doing so. It’s a profound list, and worth checking out.

The Ahmadinejad Objection

“But, but, but Mahmoud Ahmedinejad said he intended to wipe Israel off the map!”

Did he really? Even though this was spread widely around the internet as truth, multiple sources, including native speakers of Persian, insist that Ahmadinejad’s 2006 statement was severely mistranslated. Wikipedia is not necessarily the most authoritative source, but the “wiped off the map” controversy is discussed somewhat at length there, and one can follow the footnotes to various articles (some scholarly) which discuss the matter further. A better translation of his words is said to reflect the following statement:

“This Zionist regime that is occupying Jerusalem must be eliminated from the pages of history.”

A BBC report less than two years later allowed Ahmadinejad to clarify his earlier statement:

“Asked if he objected to the government of Israel or Jewish people, he said that ‘creating an objection against the Zionists doesn’t mean that there are objections against the Jewish.’ He added that Jews lived in Iran and were represented in the country’s parliament.”

Indeed, the Jewish community in Iran is the largest in the Middle East outside of Israel.

In other interviews Ahmadinejad has advocated for Palestinian refugees to be allowed to return to their homes, and for a democratic government to be elected by them and everyone else presently in the land. For example, in a September 2006 interview with Time Magazine, he said:

“Our position toward the Palestinian question is clear: we say that a nation has been displaced from its own land… Our suggestion is that the 5 million Palestinian refugees come back to their homes, and then the entire people on those lands hold a referendum and choose their own system of government.”

In that same interview, Ahmadinejad said that Iran does not oppose the Jews having their own state, but that Iran is, in fact, opposed to nuclear weapons.

I won’t deny that Ahmadinejad made some inflammatory statements during his political career. Some of his own government colleagues and others in Iran also rebuked him for it. From the Zionist camps especially, however, he was also demonized, and some of his statements were either misrepresented or blown far out of proportion. This has been done, obviously at times, by those who seek a pretext for war. Now that a more mild-mannered leader has taken his place, those who are still seeking that pretext are scrambling for reasons to demonize him too. Rouhani’s publicly stated desire for peace and reconciliation simply doesn’t serve the interests of those who are seeking Iran’s downfall and demise.

Most unfortunately, the world of Christian Zionism is as vocal as any camp in playing this spite-filled game. Only it’s not a game. It affects the lives of people. It sows seeds of destruction. It’s irrational warmongering. It literally affects the foreign policy of the United States. It also affects the reputation of those who say they belong to Christ. It makes it seem to the world that we don’t believe Jesus or take Him seriously when He said things like “Blessed are the peacemakers” and “love your enemies.”

But Jesus was serious. He really does call His followers to make peace and to love all people, and there is no exception when it comes to the Iranians and the Palestinians.

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All posts on the subject of Christian Zionism can be found here.