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May 12, 2005

Jews, Israel, and the Rapture

As pointed out earlier, believers in the Rapture are convinced that at the end of the world (which they think is imminent) all those people who are not Christians, or are even just nominal Christians and not the full-throttle version, are going to meet an extraordinarily sticky end, too gruesome for even a Quentin Tarantino or Mel Gibson film. But the role that Jews play in the rapture drama is curious and worth examining.

As Chris Hedges points out in his essay in the May 2005 issue of Harper's Magazine, the Dominionist belief in the Rapture has a role for Jews that is not very appealing. They believe that "Israel must rule the Biblical land in order for Christ to return, though when he does, all Jews who do not convert to Christianity supposedly will be incinerated as the believers are lifted into heaven."

Gene Lyons, in his November 2004 Harper's Magazine review of the Left Behind novels points out that "Israeli Jews play a strange role in the Left Behind series, existing to be converted or slaughtered. As God's chosen, they are to be protected from harm until the battle of Armageddon, at which point they must accept Jesus as the Messiah or die."

So while many fundamentalist Christians speak of their "Judeo-Christian heritage," one suspects that what they mean by that is not that Jews and Christians are equal partners but merely that the Old Testament is an important part of their religious framework.

One might think that all Jews would recoil from being placed in this role and give a wide berth to Christian organizations that promulgate it. So then why was the Israeli Ministry of Tourism hosting a breakfast at the annual convention of the National Religious Broadcasters association, a stronghold of Dominionist thinking? And why were Avraham Hirschohn (the Israeli Minister of Tourism) and Michael Medved (a nationally syndicated radio talk-show host) featured speakers at an event where everyone sees only two options for them – conversion to Christianity or a gruesome death?

Both Chris Hedges and Gene Lyons suggest reasons for this seemingly bizarre alliance.
Once again, it is the End Times beliefs that provide an explanation, at least for the Dominionist partners.

The book of Revelations refers to "a thousand years" several times, and end-timers have thought that this is a clue that the Rapture will occur around the time of the millennium. Revelations also gives a special role for the city of Jerusalem and these two things help bring about this alliance, overcoming what one might think is an unbridgeable chasm. As Lyons says "Ironically, given American fundamentalism's historic ambivalence about Jews, it was the 1948 founding of Israel, coming as it did near the end of the millennium, that gave the End Times prophecy industry a boost." The true believers see this conjunction of events as a sign of the beginning of the end.

As a result, Christian fundamentalists have become some of the strongest boosters of Israel and the most implacable foes of Islam, supporting even Israel's most hard-line policies on settlement expansion, seeing all these things as fulfillment of Biblical prophecy that the end times are near. Belief in the rapture and seeking to hasten its arrival trumps everything else. At the broadcaster's convention, Hedges says that:

The [American] Christian writer Kay Arthur, who can barely contain her tears when speaking of Israel, professes that although she loves America, if she had to choose between America and Israel, "I would stand with Israel, stand with Israel as a daughter of the King of Kings, stand according to the word of God." She goes on to quote at length from Revelation, speaking of Jesus seated on a throne floating about Jerusalem as believers are raptured up towards him into the sky."

From the Israeli point of view, they obtain economic and political benefits from this alliance with a grouping that one might think they would otherwise recoil from. The immediate economic benefit is from tourism, thus explaining the Israeli tourism minister's presence at the convention and his announcement that Israel will build a Pilgrim Center for visiting Christian tourists. As Hedges says: "Some 400,000 Christian tourists visit Israel each year, and, what with the precipitous decline in Israel's tourism industry in recent years, these people have become a valuable source of revenue."

The more strategic benefit for Israel is that fundamentalist Christians now have a lot of clout with the American government and thus are likely to exert pressure to provide unqualified political support for Israeli policies, including economic and military aid. Hedges quotes Michael Medved (who was one of the most passionate Jewish defenders of Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ) as saying: " Take a look at this support for Israel. A more Christian America is good for the Jews, something Jewish people need to be more cognizant about and acknowledge. A more Jewish community is good for Christians, not just because of the existence of allies but because a more Jewish community is less seduced by secularism."

One might wonder if the benefits of political, military, and economic support is sufficient to cozy up with people who think that the end of time is about to occur and that your only choice is to convert or die. It may well be that the Jews who are allied with the Dominionists think that this whole rapture thing is sheer nonsense and that they are willing to pander to it, knowing it will never occur, all the while benefiting from the existence of this belief. Basically, they may think they are playing the Dominionists for suckers.

I am not so convinced that this is a good strategy, even assuming that it is true. The trouble with rapture theology predictions (indeed with all predictions based on religious texts) are that they are so malleable. The Book of Revelations is graphic in its imagery but pretty opaque on what it all means and hardly an unambiguous blueprint for the future. People who devoutly believe that the rapture is imminent may grow impatient when it does not occur soon and start reinterpreting Revelations to explain the delay. What if the new message that emerges is that it is the existence of Israel that is holding up the rapture? Or that the present Israel is the "wrong" Israel (in whatever sense) and the "new" Jerusalem described in Revelations means new in terms very different from the way is conceived? Suppose that it is decided that the reason the new Jerusalem has not "descended" (another signal of the rapture) is because the old Jerusalem needs to be first obliterated to make way for it?

When you start basing public policy on Biblical interpretations, one is going down a very dangerous road. The secularism scorned by Medved may, in the long run, be what saves us all (in all countries) from governmental policies that are disastrous. Secularism leads to a reality-based world-view that is less likely to confuse wishful thinking with reality.

In case regular readers of the blog think that I have forgotten, all this rapture stuff is not a digression but does have relevance to the question of the religious opposition to Darwin. But before I address it directly, in the next posting, we will see another area where Dominionist thinking is affecting public policy, and that is with regard to gays.

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Comments

I agree wholeheartedly about the foolishness of such short-term alliances of convenience, but I'm not sure that the Dominionists' envisaged fate for the Jews is really at odds with Jewish teaching. The way my rabbi taught me, the Old Testament does prophesise an End Time when the Messiah will come, and those who recognise the true Messiah will be the ones who are rewarded with eternal life in a sort of heaven on earth. The variance between standard Jewish teaching and Christianity is all rooted in one issue: Judaism doesn't recognise Jesus as the true Messiah. All the same, he is recognised as a historical figure, so if he were to descend from the heavens for his second coming that would rather imply that his followers were right all along and my ancestors should have just accepted him as the true Messiah all those years ago.

Posted by Eldan Goldenberg on May 12, 2005 12:55 PM

I Thank you for the article, 'Jews, Israel and the Rapture', as it clarifies two questions I've had: Are Jews pawns in the game of millions of Christians?...If this is so, why do Israelis welcome & support them? As far as those who believe in "The Rapture", I find their faith & fervor in this 'Divine Plan' to be frightening and very unloving. As a Jew, I find it to be extremely anti-semetic...Websters defines a pawn
as "One used or exploited to further the purposes
of another"...When will this world ever learn to live in acceptance, love and peace? When will the people of this planet collectively look forward to and work toward a better world...not celebrate such destruction, and another holocaust?...As far as Israel welcoming these people, it just shows how starved and desperate that tiny nation is for any kind of support.

Posted by Sharon on May 3, 2006 11:56 AM

After nearly two thousand years of the Church, we still haven't caught on to the biblical fact that, after Israel rejected and crucified Christ, God turned all Jews back into "unbelieving" Gentiles (Rom. 11:32), so that His program to save all men who would be saved could move forward, unhindered by the constant rebellion of His chosen people.

Everyone, "Jew" and Gentile alike, can come to the Father, but only through faith in Jesus Christ. Peruse some of the articles on Tribulationhoax Web Site for more details.

mac

Posted by mac on May 18, 2006 09:59 PM

Dude... I mean dude... that is wacked up.

I don't get that reading at all from that passage. Just read all of Romans 11, and it soundsd like the jews are still the chosen people, but christians may be 'grafted' like a branch from a wild olive tree onto the supporting base of Judiasm, thus claiming the same birthright. Chapter starts off saying that God isn't going to be an indian giver to the Jews, and yes, they're still the chosen people. Don't see nothing about jews not being jews no more. It even says in Romans 11:26 that all of Isreal shall be saved.

that is, of course, if you believe the bible is anything but a disconnected set of writings from an evolving religion, and this piece in particular a retro-fitting for the new religion using the texts of the old... but that's me.

Posted by marie on June 6, 2006 10:32 AM

Stick to the King James Bible.
Jews are no longer "Jews": because some two thousand years ago God concluded them all in unbelief. Read more than Romans chapter 11, and put it all together without the help of dispensational futurists. For example, they will read verse 26, and tell us that "all Israel shall be saved," so therefore God has a future for Israel. They don't tell us that Paul identified this "all Israel" that was saved before AD70, and they were Jews who believed in Christ. When you say "all Israel shall be saved, be sure to look up "all Israel," to see who they were?(Rom. 9:6)

"What then? Israel hath not obtained that which he seeketh for; but the election hath obtained it, and the rest were blinded." (Rom. 11:7) According to 2Thes., those who were blinded were damned. So according to those Scriptures, all Israel was not saved. I would be afraid to put all my weight on the "supporting base" of Judaism.

As I see it, there is no rapture for us Gentiles.
The Jews who stuck by the Lord Jesus Christ to the end - that is - to AD70, were saved and, I believe that their souls were raptured. They are in heaven, actually in the New Jerusalem, with Christ. I believe that they, or at least the 12 apostles, are ruling the Old Testament tribes in heaven. We Gentiles, and all the "ex-Jews," who are now Gentiles themselves, will rule and reign during the Church Era, and when we die, we remain dead for the duration of the "Millennium," which is not exactly 1000 years, but some multiple of 1000 (Rev 20). After that, the general resurrection. But even then, it seems that the Jews who endured to the end with Christ will command first place with Christ, and we Gentiles will come in second best, but there'll be nothing to complain about.

All for Christ,

Mac

Posted by mac on October 17, 2006 02:19 PM

God made a promise to the Jews. It will be fulfilled. We all have been unfaithful to God, but he loves us and promise us eternal life through obedience. I believe in the pre-rature and if by chance I am wrong or my teaching has led me wrong. I will still have victory, because, my obedience will cause the Holy Spirit that abides in me to keep me safe or to endure the trials. Remember God wants us to have eternal life and even to the unbelievers chances for salvation will be given even through the tribulations. Who cares what people think, its about God and he is "LOVE"

Posted by karon cunningham on January 10, 2008 11:58 AM

This is a sad commentary by so called believers who have been duped by "replacement" theology and other man-made religious thinking.

There is a difference between "Jews" and Israel/Hebrews. The name Hebrews refers to those who have "crossed over" metaphor for making the change from being identified with the world, a culture or society and becoming in the Image of the One True God - the God of Abraham, Isaac & Jacob (all given in their Greek translation).

No one has "replaced" or "diposed" His Chosen people as His special people of God. If that were true, then Yeshua/Jesus has no validity either.

We are all emerging from the ignorance and satanic hatred from the Dark Ages and the rise of multiple anti-Messianic pagan whore religions. Do the research Babylon/Babel means "confusion" or "mixture" - ie - mixing truth with lies and paganism. Every so-called Christian church on the earth is guilty of that, from the totally created ordinances of the Catholic Church to the humble Jehovah Witnesses. . . why?

They have ALL forsaken the true covenant sign between God and His people: celebration of the Shabat! (sabbath) God did NOT change the shabat (sabbath) from Saturday to Sunday! No where do you see this.

Furthermore, every so called "holiday" is based on pagan rituals. Yeshua/Jesus celebrated EVERY single feast. The KJV decided not to name them in the NT so they all became anonymous gatherings with no meaning.

Yeshua/Jesus taught the Torah, was the manifestation fo the Torah and NEVER at any time did He "do away with the Law (Torah = teaching, guidance and instructions)

The prophets say over and over again that "all nations" will go to Yerushlem to "learn" and be "taught" about the True God.

How can we teach anyone when we know nothing!? And if we know less than nothing, WE are obviously NOT the usurpers of God's Chosen people.

All "so called Jews" (a misnomer like "Christian" another coined phrase from someone outside of the faith) have no more rights than anyone else unless they join to their Messiah. And many, many have!

Find info on Rabbi Messer and others who teach Torah and know their God.

Please do your research in the light of truth - not to confirm your predisposed doctrines.

Only then will you awake to righteousness and no longer sin. For some of you have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge...or truth

Posted by Zadok on July 28, 2008 07:26 AM

Jews are no longer "Jews":

Exactly. Paul tells us that a "Jew" is NOT a "Jew" who is one OUTWARDLY (physically, of the literal nation of Israel), but one INWARDLY, who has been circumcised in the HEART (spiritually).

Posted by 23 Minutes In Hell on June 8, 2010 09:20 PM

When Fundamental Christians support Israel it is not necessarily to support the modern state of Israel but to align themselves with God, who made an eternal promise to Abraham.

Posted by sermon guy on July 28, 2010 01:41 PM

Well
One just have to look at history to know that Christians, or some do have the right idea. Just the fact that most people, that's to say the christians, moslems, and jews believe that Abraham was the the father of the Jewish and Arab race. The history reveals that. But there are so many prophetical history that we can refer to that will prove the Christians are right.
One example: In the old testament in the book Daniel and also in the New Testament it mentions the fact that Israel, who was a nation in Moses's time, will be dispersed but then will also be united again just before the "rapture" that you mentioned above. If that prophetic history is correct, and it is because it is history that can be proven, then what the Bible also talks about the rapture, is correct. The fact that there are so many prophecies in the Bible and so many already has happened, why should only this one not happen. I am sure people like to ignore all the prophecies, but that's history.http://www.yourdogtags.com

Posted by Dog Tags on August 1, 2010 08:32 PM

This is a very interesting viewpoint. I am a Christian myself, but its interesting to get a non-Christian perspective on the Rapture. A very interesting read.

Posted by christan college on September 1, 2010 02:03 PM

Much of the confusion I see in the Christian world and reflected in some of the comments here comes from a wrong understanding of the millennium and the events that happen at the start and end of it.
I have done a careful study (posted at: www.jesus-resurrection.info/millennium.html) that I believe is helpful. I believe in allowing the Bible to define its own terms by examining how it used various terms. For example, "the lake of fire is the second death." (Rev 20:14, 21:8) This lake of fire is an experience (the second death) not a place.

Posted by Ray Foucher on September 13, 2010 05:27 PM

The doctrine of the RAPTURE is as Biblical as anything else in the Bible. This site explains in great detail all the prophecies for the last days. Believe them or not.

kenraggio.com

Posted by Ken on September 22, 2010 05:06 AM

"When you start basing public policy on Biblical interpretations, one is going down a very dangerous road." Isn't this what the entire world has done for generations and continue to do? It is a battle that is being fought but those who oppose it never gain enough ground.

Posted by Faded Gibson SG on April 28, 2011 03:35 PM

Christianity today has devolved into idol worship, for a few primary reasons. The first of which is the lack of recognition of what Jesus was required to do, i.e. remain entirely celibate, as his subsequent Catholic priests were made to do. This meshes with this profane and ridiculous and base proposition that when 'elohim' said make humanity 'in our image', this meant that the highest idea of God equated with the human form, i.e. a human male, also celibate. Many today say that Jesus' "pre-existance" was as Yahweh itself, which is the prattle of any other pagan deist from Sumer, Indus or Egypt. The procession of ideas identified in Revelations is no more than a repeat of the 'fallen angels' idea, something crossing a spiritual barrier, much like a female idea of Mother Earth desiring to absorb something either never incarnated or dead already, same as portions of Genesis 6. Also, many hardcore fundamentalists contravene Jesus' ideas as to heaven in constantly implying that no one goes to any heaven but rather rots in their graves until End Times. I tend to think that religion means absolutely nothing and can easily be refuted, as too many of these indicators of how fundamentalists use religion are so obvious, such as 'Jealous God', much the same as mother earth as whore, drawing everything into it. Judaism was influenced by many other forms of thought anciently, such as Greek pantheism and such as Neo-Platonism, and as far as I'm concerned, all religion has always been about temporal rule on this world, and religion in all forms evolved as much as anything else here did, yet at heart remains infanitle and controlling.

Posted by atheistscoundrel on July 29, 2011 09:48 AM