Christian Zionism is a growing religio-political
of maximalist claims by Ashkenazi Jews to the Holy Land. Widely represented
across Protestant Christianity, it's estimated that there are 20 to 25 million
committed adherents to the point of view that the modern, Zionist State is
fulfillment of biblical prophecy, and a necessary stage leading to the Rapture.
Undergirding this movement is a theological school called
Before attempting to define this ungainly term and the ungainly belief system
signifies, allow me first to relate the circumstances of my introduction to
In San Antonio, in the mid-1970's, I became acquainted
with Reverend R. W.
Matthew, a widower who taught biblical prophecy from his home. A saintly
octogenarian, he was clear-headed, ramrod straight, spare, of cheerful countenance,
and of moderate habits and no one could look more spiffy than he did in his
hat and seersucker suit.
Rev. Matthew was somewhat old school; for instance, though
I was with him
at his home and at church on a regular knew for some years, I never did learn
his initials "R. W." stood for. His word was his bond, and he was true
to the light
that he had. Moreover, he knew entire books of the Bible by heart,
prophetic books: Isaiah, Daniel, and what are called the"Minor Prophets."
he loved expounding upon.
It had not always been so. As a young man, he literally
chained himself to
a desk in order to get himself to study. Later, when delivering
bicycle, he would have a Bible verse propped up on the handle bars.
believer, he had one street-side of his house painted with a graph of the
Not only did I greatly admire Rev. Matthew's devotion to biblical
I also respected his skills as a husbandman. For instance, one day
he cut down
the two pecan trees that stood on either side of his sidewalk leading to
porch, leaving the stumps standing about four feet high. After that
upright into the stumps outer perimeter sharpened little sticks, each about
inches long, some five to a tree and, in due course, they sprouted and grew,
providing him with a desirable variety of pecan.
Having stocked his mind with many pithy sayings,
Rev. Matthew would
come up with such things as "Don't bend the fast, breakfast!" or, paraphrasing
the Levitical injunction, he'd say, "Don't eat the fat, burn it." In
those who promote the "Eternal Security" doctrine, who say "sin all you want,
you can't lose your salvation," Rev. Matthew replied mockingly, "But I already
sin more than I want." Rev. Matthew referred to the prophet Isaiah as "God's
hippie" based on the text that reads "my servant Isaiah hath walked naked
barefoot for a sign" (Isaiah 20:3). Again from Isaiah,
he'd say that it was those
who wait upon the Lord - not those on whom the Lord waits - who would
renew their strength. Of over-serious Christians who draw a long face,
Matthew would say that "they were baptized in vinegar and weaned on a dill
Rev. Matthew viewed my Russian Jewish ancestry most favorably
me for I had heard that conservative Christians were not well-disposed toward
A poem I rember Rev. Matthew reciting by heart, one which I
think reflected his true
disposition, is titled "I met God in the morning":
I met God in the morning
when the day was at its best,
And His Presence came like sunrise,
Like a glory in my breast.
All day long the Presence lingered,
All day long He stayed with me,
And we sailed in perfect calmness
O'er a very troubled sea.
Other ships were blown and battered,
Other ships were sore distressed,
But the winds that seemed to drive them,
Brought to me a peace and rest.
Then I thought of other mornings,
With a keen remorse of mind,
When I too had loosed the moorings,
With the presence left behind.
So, I think I know the secret,
Learned from many a troubled way:
You must seek Him in the morning
If you want Him through the day!
In 1975, I was water baptized in the non-denominational, Spanish-speaking
mission church which Rev. Matthew and his wife had founded and for a period
of time I was, as it were, I was a student in the "school of the prophets"
While no slavish follower of man or any school of
Rev. Matthew was deeply influenced by Dispensational theology, particularly
as articulated by Clarence Larkin in his book Dispensational Truth.
was trained in graphics and his books are profusely illustrated with precise
But what is Dispensationalism? An intricate, even
overlay, Dispensationalism provides a prism through which the Bible can be
viewed. Not "that old time religion," as many suppose, Dispensationalism
actually a Johnny-come-lately, 19th Century novelty which only came to the
attention of a wider public after 1909 when the Scofield Bible was first
published by Oxford University Press. Since then, Moody Bible Institute,
Dallas Theological Seminary. Rev. Jerry Falwell, Rev. Pat Robertson, etc.
have all jumped on the bandwagon, until now this doctine is ubiquitous
throughout the Protestant world. In somewhat sensationalized form,
Dispensationalism has been popularized in best sellers by Hal Lindsey such
as The Late Great Planet Earth; also there is Tim LaHaye's Left Behind
series which sold over 40 million copies.
Dr. Scofield provided us this definition, "A dispensation
is a period of
time during which man is tested in respect to his obedience to some specific
revelation of the will of God." He distinguished seven such discrete
which he called:
1. a "dispensation of innocence," covering the time before Adam's fall in
2. a "dispensation of conscience," following the fall and extended to Noah's
3. a "dispensation of human government," extending from Noah's time to
4. a "dispensation of promise," which commenced the Abrahamic covenant;
5. a "dispensation of law," operative until Jesus Christ;
6. a "dispensation of grace" which is currently operative
7. a "dispensation of the kingdom," or "the millennium," Christ's future
None of this seems too pernicious until one reflects on the
mischief done in
separating Law from Grace. For instance, in defense of their point
Dispensationalists often resort to this verse:
The Law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by
Presumably this means that Moses introduced a "dispensation
of law" but with
Jesus' death and Resurrection all that changed such that the Law was
set aside and
grace and truth were introduced:
The Old Covenant ... holds us in bondage, but the New
Boldly embracing a belief in contrasts, Scroggie apparently
saw little in way
us into freedom. The Old involves a curse, but the New imparts
a blessing. In the Old man seeks God, but in the New God seeks
man. By the Old man is condemned as a sinner, but by the New
he is delivered from his sin. In the Old God says 'you cannot',
but in the New Christ says 'I can". The Old covenant is really
bad news, but the New Covenant is Good News, that is, Gospel. ...
How wonderful is the contrast: Moses and Christ; Mosaism and
Christianity; Death and Life; on Stone and in the Heart; Letter
and Spirit; condemnation and Righteousness; Passing and
Permanent; face Veiled and Unveiled; Bondage and Freedom;
Transience and Transformation. ... There are at least ten points
of contrast between the Old and the New Dispensations.
Christianity is not glorified Judaism; it is something entirely new.
There is a fundamental difference between the Law and the
(W. Graham Scroggie The unfolding Drama of
Redemption, Kregel Publications, 1994 (vol.
II, p 74, vol. III, p. 92)
of continuity between the Testaments, Old and New. No doubt Scroggie,
believed that he was promoting "the faith once delivered to the saints."
but in my assessment he fell about a century short of his objective for it
Marcionism, not the historical Faith, which informed his doctrine.
form of thinking is ancient, having been an essential component of a competing
Church movement founded in the mid 2nd Century by a man named Marcion
who wrote an influential book (no longer extent), titled, Antithesis.
the 2nd Century, Marcion's religion out-paced the proto-Catholic Church in
rate of growth. In countering it, certain of its tenets were picked
propagated in modified form by the Church and this has continued to this
Though Marcion's book has disappeared, as has his religion, its influence
continues, albeit largely unrecognized for what it is.
Because it is an artificial construct, only superficially
grounded in Scripture,
Dispensationalism has assumed many competing forms, including what is called
"hyper-Dispensationalism," where even the Sermon on the Mount is rejected
as belonging to a previous dispensation. Harry Ironside, a famous conservative
expositor from the last century criticized this viewpoint in a tract called
Dividing the Word of Truth." But some have questioned Ironside's soundness
as well, so there you have it. However that may be, here is the way
Many interpreters see the Sermon on the Mount as directly
Other Dispensationalists go so far as to set aside all
apostles except Paul,
primarily applicable to Christians today. To do this, interpreters
depend heavily on the method os spiritualization, for it is apparent
that the laws and regulations found in the Sermon cannot be
directly applied today without producing insurmountable
problems and repercussions.
The requirements of turning the other cheek and not asking for
that which had been borrowed, although applicable under some
conditions, would be difficult to apply under all circumstances.
As Charles Ryrie observes: "But if the laws of the Sermon are to
be obeyed today they could not be taken literally, for as [George
Eldon] Ladd points out, every businessman would go bankrupt
giving to those who ask of him. This is the dilemma every
interpreter faces. If literal, it cannot be for today; if for today,
it cannot be literal.
Moreover, a casual reading of the Sermon reveals that it contains
an embarrassing absence of church truths. Nothing is said
regarding Christ's sacrifice for sin (found as early as John 3), the
faith which brings salvation, prayer in the name of Christ, the
Holy Spirit, and even the church itself. These are all foundational
truths taught by Christ during His early ministry (cf. John 14:13,
26; Matt. 16: 18-19; etc.)
If this the most lengthy and didactic of Christ's teachings were
truly intended to be primarily related to the Christian church, its
omission of basic church truths would be highly irregular.
There are, of course, parallels between precepts in the Sermon
and those found in the Epistles, but this does not mean that one
equals the other. The Ten commandments are all reiterated in
the New Testament except one, but this does not mean that
the Ten commandments and the New Testament precepts are
one and the same.
In view of these considerations, the proper conclusion with
regards to the Sermon on the Mount is that the full and non-
modified fulfillment of this portion of Matthew is possible
only in relationship to the future institution of the Messianic
Kingdom. It is applicable primarily to the nation Israel as
she anticipates the institution of the kingdom at the
millennium. It has no primary application in the church and
should not be so taken.
(The Interpretation of Prophecy, Paul Lee Tan, Th.D.)
claiming that Paul, as the apostle to the Church, is the only one we should
reading, whereas the others - James, and Peter, and John - were Jewish
Apostles, hence not having relevancy except perhaps to Hebrew Christians.
But let us turn our attention again to Clarence Larkin.
Besides his ability to
produce highly original drawings, with which his books are profusely illustrated,
his most compelling attributes was an earnest sincerity that set him apart
the average theologian. This, perhaps, helps explain why his books
continuously in print for almost a century. Nevertheless, Larkin seemed
to know where knowledge ended and speculation begins. In looking back
upon his career, it's apparent that he went astray at some key points, one
his tendency to make too many fine distinctions which he then hung on to
tenaciously. For instance, in 1924, in the last year of his life, in
his closing and
crowning work, titled: The Book of Daniel, one finds this arresting
There is a movement on foot, called "Zionism," to recover
With the advantage of hindsight we can say that
Larkin was wrong about
the possession of Palestine, but it will be of little avail, for it
must remain desolate until the "Times of the Gentiles" are
fulfilled, when God will restore it, without a penny of expense,
to its original owners.
Zionism. He was wrong because he read too narrowly, if you will, too
dogmatically, what the term "Times of the Gentiles" entailed. The "dispensation
of grace" (also called "The Great Parenthesis," also, "The Times of the Gentiles"),
Dispensationalists believe ends with the beginning of Daniel's "Seventieth
But when does one begin counting the 70th week? when the Zionist State
became independent in 1948? when the Old City of Jerusalem became Jewish
in 1967? or will it begin with the building of the tribulation Temple at
In Rev. Matthew's eyes, one of the pivotal events of
the 20th Century was
the founding of the Zionist State in 1948. With reference to Daniel's
week, Rev. Matthew would say "the prophetic clock had began ticking again
once Israel had became an independent state.
The following provides some of the flavor as well as
the content of Rev. Larkin's
way of reasoning:
This vision [of Daniel's] of the "Seventy Weeks" is the
Regarding the pre-tribulation Rapture, I once knew a
dear English lady (this
important revelation, in many ways, made in the Scriptures. It
is not only an interpretation of"Prophetic Chronology," but it
is the "Key" that unlocks the "Scripture of Truth." It also discloses
another important fact that the "Seventy Weeks" only cover
the period when the Jews are DWELLING IN THEIR OWN LAND,
and does not cover the present period of the "Dispensation," but
takes up their history again when they return to their own land,
thus covering the time from the going forth of the decree to "restore
and rebuild Jerusalem" until the"Second Coming of Christ."
THE GREAT PARENTHESIS
Having shown that 69 of the "70 Weeks" ran their course with the
"Triumphal Entry" of Christ into Jerusalem, the next question is,
does the "70th Week" immediately follow the "69th" or is there a
"Time-Space" between them? A "Time Space" that takes in the
whole of the present Dispensation. ...
THE OLIVET DISCOURSE.
When Jesus uttered His "Olivet Discourse" the "69 Weeks" were
already BEHIND Him, ... He foretold the destruction of Jerusalem,
and how it was to be trodden under foot of the Gentiles until the
"Times of the Gentiles" be fulfilled (and they are still running),
After Which He would return, we see that the "70th Week" could
not appear until the END of this Dispensation, and therefore
there is a "GAP" of 1900 or more years between the "69th" and
the "70th Week." The "Olivet Discourse" then is the "KEY" to
the interpretation of Dan. 9:26- 27. ... We must
that the Book of Revelation, while written by the Apostle John,
is the Revelation of JESUS CHRIST" (Rev. 1:1) and therefore
is a "Revelation" made by Him AFTER HIS ASCENSION, and
is not only confirmatory of His "Olivet Discourse," but gives in
detail what is to happen during "Daniel's Seventieth Week."
was back in the late 1960's) by the name ofElizabeth, who told me that as
she use to lay in bed in the wee morning hours, wondering if the Rapture
occurred with her left behind. What she was reacting to is a Dispensational
tactic which has no basis in Scripture. The teaching of the Pre-tribulation
Rapture arose in the early 19th century in the same circles as Dispensationalism
itself. It is really part and parcel of the same heretical program
to get the
Christians out of the picture and paint the Jews in. While I do not
Rev. Matthew ever dwelling on that subject, there is no question that Rev.
did, which is odd for someone who prided himself on the literalness of his
scriptural interpretations for this required reading into the sacred text
which isn't there. For instance, in the following quote, his locating
in Revelation chapter 4. It just isn't there except in his imagination:
... In chapter 4 [of Revelation] the Church is "caught
passes through the "OPEN DOOR" (verse 1) into Heaven. This
is the "Rapture" of the Church as described in 1 Thess. 4:13-18.
And from the 5th chapter to the 19th inclusive, we have a
description of "Daniel's Seventieth Week," which covers the
"end Time" of this Dispensation. (Daniel, Rev. Larkin, p. 197)
One of the more informed discussions about the Rapture I found
on the web titled: "A rebuttal of some of the common Pretribulation
Rapture arguments," which I found at www.apocalipsis.org/rap-rebut.htm
I will not attempt to bring forward all the argu- ments but just a few highlights:
What is the pretribulation rapture? Christ will come
and the church will be silently raptured at the start
of the great tribulation and then at end of the great tribulation Jesus will
come in power and glory with the church and destroy
his enemies and set up the millennial kingdom.
Why a rebuttal? 1. It contradicts
the plain teaching of scripture. The Second Coming, the rapture, and the
resurrection of the dead occur at the same time, on the last day. 1 Th 4:14
-18, John 6:39 ff.
2. The idea that the church will not go through the great tribulation
ignores those Christians who have been
martyred down through the ages and those Christians now undergoing
persecution throughout the world. It is a doctrine that could only survive
in an environment where the church is
not currently undergoing persecution. 3. If the pre-trib
rapture doctrine is false then it means that many Christians will be unprepared
for tribulation and persecution when it comes upon them. What makes the church
in the West so special that it will not
undergo persecution? 4. It fosters complacency within the
church and in the world. It gives those left behind a
second chance and is less likely to encourage evangelism and missionary effort
because the great commission will be fulfilled
by the 144,000 and the two witnesses rather than the
church. The job of the Great Commission belongs to the Church.
5. It gives a false interpretation of the place of the church and Israel within
the bible especially / 112.
in the interpretation of the book of Revelation. Revelation is interpreted
more from the point of view of Israel
than the church (to whom it was written in the first place) see Rev 1:4,
6. Because this doctrine is a modern one invented by men (1830).
It is not supported by the church
fathers or any of the major creeds or confessions - The Apostles Creed, the
Nicene Creed, the Westminster Confession
of Faith etc. It is hardly the faith that was once for all
entrusted to the saints. Firstly
you have disregard the plain meaning of all the scriptures regarding the
unknown date of the Lords second coming and redefine
them to refer to the rapture only and instead of the
Second coming. Read the scriptures below, the unknown day and hour refers
to the very public Second Coming and the rapture.
The unknown day (Mat 24:36) refers to the day when
all the nations of the earth shall mourn. They will see the Son of Man coming
on the clouds of the sky, with power and glory and
he shall gather his elect from the four winds (Mat 24:30-31)
In Rev 4:1 it is clearly John who is told to 'Come up here' not the church.
The next occurrence of the word 'church' occurs in
Rev 22:16 (pleural), however the word 'saints' occurs
12 times, and 'servants' occurs 11 times after Rev 3:22. There is also a rapture
event in 11:12 when the two witnesses are told to
'come up here'. The majority of commentaries on Revelation
do indeed find the church after Rev 3:22 apart from dispensational ones.
Persecution by the Antichrist is not the wrath of God,
although it is allowed by God. Revelation makes it
plain that Christians will be persecuted by the Antichrist, but Christians
have been persecuted down the centuries. Persecution is part of the package,
if they persecuted Jesus they will persecute the Church.
Persecution has nothing to do with the wrath of God,
it is tribulation. By the Law of First Mention.
Further complicating the picture, most Dispensationalists also postulate a
multiplic- ity of covenants, sometimes five or, seven, or eight.
Surely something ought to be that which it purports to be.
Thus, by the Law of First Mention, in Scripture a thing is that which it was
originally defined as being. Hence, the New Covenant of
Jeremiah chapter 34 is that which Jeremiah said it was over 2500 years
ago, namely a description of the Kingdom to come. In no wise can his
description be made to fit present times or present circumstances. By
rightly distin- guishing the times will we avoid confounding the Scriptures.
Regarding the case at hand, if one comes to us laying claim to the "New
Covenant" but presents something having none of its characteristics,
then, logically, we are led to conclude that it is indeed another covenant
and not the biblical one. So unambiguously clear is Jere- miah's description,
a non-specialist, untutored in theology can quickly discern its essential
To the prophet, Jeremiah, came the word: Behold
the days come saith YHVH, that I will make a
new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: not according
to the covenant that I made with their fathers
in the day that I took them by the hand to bring
them out of the land of Egypt; which covenant they brake, although I was a
husband unto them, saith the LORD: but this
shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel;
after those days, saith YHVH, I will put my law in their inward parts, and
write it in their hearts; and will be their
God, and they shall be my people. And they shall teach no more
every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, Know YHVH: for
they shall all know me, from the least of them
unto the greatest of them, saith YHVH: for I will forgive
their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more. (Jeremiah 31:31-34)
Jeremiah's reference to the New Covenant is the Hebrew Scriptures'
sole, explicitreference thereto. While his terminology was new, the concept
laying behind it, God's future, triumphant reign on earth, was already a well-established
doctrine. For in- stance, over 200+ years before, the prophet Isaiah
recorded the following theophany:
For, behold, I [God] create new heavens and a new
earth: and the former shall not be / 114.
remembered, nor come to mind. But be ye glad and rejoice for ever in
that which I create: for, behold, I create Jerusalem
a rejoicing, and her people a joy. And I will rejoice in
Jerusalem, and joy in my people: and the voice of weeping shall be no more
heard in her, nor the voice of crying.
There shall be no more thence an infant of days, nor an old man
that hath not filled his days for the child shall die a hundred years old;
but the sinner being a hundred years old shall
be accursed. ... (Isaiah 65:17-20)
One might at this juncture recall to mind Jesus' having commissioned
his disciples togo forth to teach all nations. Evidently, Jeremiah's
New Covenant condition that "they shall no more teach every man" did not apply
to the conditions of Jesus' day.
Over many centuries, Christendom has assumed, almost axiomatically,
that the New Covenant is currently operative and that its privileges devolve
upon its devotees. But unless Jeremiah's language is devoid of meaning,
the New Covenant is yet future, not present. Meanwhile, in believing
themselves under the New Covenant, not the Old Testament, which is deprecated
as pass�, Christendom for most of 2000 years, in a manner of speaking, has
fallen in a crack between the two, ending up with neither.
But what is grace without law, if not license? And what is New Covenant
privileges without Old Covenant responsibilities but covenantlessness?
One might suppose that a covenanted relationship with God is fundamental to
biblical faith and yet, irony of ironies, some of those who are most vociferous
in proclaiming their faith are the same ones most forward in denying the Covenant
by which that faith came.
It is the concept of Christian entitlement, i.e, the disconcerting
penchant Christians have for seeing themselves as beneficiaries of "New Covenant
privileges" minus Old Testament Law that keeps this covenental shell game
going. By subordinating every concern to proselytizing, or should
we call it "evangelizing"? evangelicals' frame-of- reference has becomes
too narrow to build a truly moral community.
The dean of dispensationalist systematizes, Lewis Sperry Chafer
(1872-1952), Dal- las Theological Seminary's founder, one of its leading lights,
and, in 1924, its first president, wrote:
There remains to be recognized a heavenly covenant
for the heavenly people, which is also styled
like the preceding one for Israel a "new covenant." It is made in the
blood of Christ (cf. Mark 14:24) and continues
in effect throughout this age, whereas the new covenant made
with Israel happens to be future in its application. To suppose that
these two covenants -- one for Israel and one
for the Church -- are the same is to assume that there is a latitude of
common interest between God's purpose for Israel and His purpose for the Church.
(Systematic Theology, VII, p. 98) Apparently Dr.
Chafer believes in two New Covenants, one for Gentiles, one for Jews!