“Left Behind” Theology Has Consequences

Today I wish to make a statement about the premillennial dispensationalist theology (a la Left Behind) that is rife in certain quarters of evangelicalism.  Most Biblical scholars have been moving away from this view in recent years, but alas, the train has already left the station.  Because policy makers in the US and in Israel and others who are concerned about the state of Israel have jumped on board with this “Left Behind” theology and are using it to guide their thinking and decisions.

Let me direct your attention to an op-ed piece that just dropped last week.  I will give it to you straight up, and then check back in afterward with some commentary from yours truly.

IN CRITICAL times such as this, run-of-the mill diplomacy just won’t do. Generating a few press releases, writing a couple of op-eds and mobilizing Jewish organizations won’t be enough to turn the tide that is heading straight for our shores.

Instead, we need to reach deep into our arsenal and harness one of the most powerful, and underutilized, weapons at our disposal: faith-based diplomacy. For far too long, we have relied solely on military, geopolitical and historical arguments when making our case abroad.

Hesitant or even ashamed to invoke our biblical right to this land, many of our spokesmen and diplomats have failed to deploy the moral and theological arguments which are the underpinning of our very presence here.

And just look where that has gotten us.

The fact is that our largest, best-organized and most powerful friends – namely US Evangelical Christians – stand by us not because of some UN resolution from 1947, but because of what God promised Abraham more than 3,700 years ago. And that is why we need to start quoting Genesis far more often than the League of Nations or the Balfour Declaration.

. . . And that is why it is all the more essential to be cultivating faith-based Christian support, both in the US and elsewhere. Because unlike fair-weather friends, whose backing depends on fluid and constantly-shifting political or economic interests, Bible-believing Christians stand with us out of solid belief. Their friendship is like steel – highly durable and resistant to breakage.

Thankfully, various Jewish and Christian groups are stepping in where the government has failed to act. The Knesset Christian Allies Caucus, for example, is building an extensive network of international parliamentary caucuses which mobilize support and coordinate various pro-Israel activities. From the US to Japan to the European Union, it has forged sister caucuses around the world.

Christian organizations in America are also leading the charge. Pastor John Hagee’s Christians United for Israel has built a nationwide grassroots movement that reaches more people and decision-makers than any communiqué from the Foreign Ministry ever did.

[In subsequent paragraphs, the writer mentions other Christian groups that support Israel in the way he is suggesting—the Christian Broadcasting Network, Rev. Robert Stearns of Eagles’ Wings, the International Christian Embassy, Bridges for Peace and Christian Friends of Israel, Christians for Israel International and their paper, Israel and Christians Today.]

. . . Now more than ever, we need to rally our “Christian base” in America and elsewhere. A few simple steps, such as organizing a Prime Minister’s Conference for Christian Leadership, developing the equivalent of a Birthright program for young churchgoers and establishing “Israel prayer battalions” would serve to reinforce this critical bond.

We should also appoint a roving ambassador whose responsibility would be to fortify and strengthen relations with Christians in America. This should not be an honorary title, but a position with real substance and meaning, manned by a person of faith and not just another political appointee.

With the world increasingly breathing down our neck, it is time that we embrace faith-based diplomacy, and not shy away from it in the heat of debate. As proud Jews who have returned to our land by divine right, we need not be embarrassed to assert our claim to our patrimony by relying on the Book of Books.

Nor should we fear that in doing so, we will stand alone. As recent years have shown, there will be millions of Christians ready to stand with us.

The writer of this piece is Michael Freund.  He wrote this for the Jerusalem Post, in a column entitled “Fundamentally Freund”.  In case you haven’t gathered, Freund is a Jew who is very strongly concerned about Israel in its ongoing struggle with the Palestinians, and who wishes to enlist the support of evangelical Christians in this struggle.

Freund seems to believe that this support is automatic–that if Israel seeks to make a case for complete and uncontested possession of the land on the basis of Genesis, then evangelicals will automatically fall in behind them in support.  And many evangelicals will, because of the “Left Behind” theology that is prevalent in many quarters of evangelicalism.  To put it simply and bluntly, many evangelicals believe that certain things have to happen before Christ will return, and that by engineering certain geopolitical outcomes concerning Israel we can hasten the return of Christ.

Whoops…forgot to tell you about the Antichrist.  He’s coming before Christ returns and he will inflict untold amounts of suffering upon the vast majority of the human race.  But that’s OK, because the Rapture will happen long before the Antichrist shows up on the scene and all the true believers (who are the only people who mean anything to God anyway) will be safely out of harm’s way.  Read the Left Behind books (or better yet just read the synopsis on Wikipedia) and it will tell you all you need to know.

Doesn’t this bother you, people?

Personally I think that the idea of unqualified, unquestioning support for Israel regardless of the consequences for others who are involved in this conflict will only push us into a state of all-out war in the Middle East.  This is scary, and we don’t need to go there.

But let’s not even talk about that.  There is an even larger–much larger–issue at play here:  the idea that the Church is nothing more than a pawn that can be used by certain people in the world to achieve the geopolitical outcomes that they wish to achieve.  And beyond that, the idea that the Church can be used by anyone who has an agenda that they wish to accomplish–even when that agenda has nothing whatsoever to do with advancing the message of humanity’s reconciliation with God through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Doesn’t that bother you, people?

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3 thoughts on ““Left Behind” Theology Has Consequences

  1. Joe, I came upon this post, and I am pleased to find someone who doesn’t agree wholeheartedly with Freund’s article. That’s because I do and am surrounded by similar:-)
    I do not want to have a flame war here, I would love to have a calm civil discussion, off-blog or on, to get to an agree-to-disagree point of clarity of both POVs.
    I believe you can see my email or at least my site.
    looking forward,
    Gidon

  2. Dear Sir ,
    My name is Conor O’Riordan and for some years now I been organising interviews and live televised debates for the most popular Christian television station in the UK namely Revelation TV . The station is owned and managed by Pentecostal Charismatic and the staff reflects this however I am not officially a member of staff . I am reformed Baptist in denomination and they are aware how we differ doctrinally but none the less I have been given a lot of freedom to organise these events under their vetting . I suggest topics and provide guests (from both positions) and they produce the actual programme . I would say over 90% of the time they take on board my ideas and allow me to develop them to the point that all they have to do is screen the programme .The viewership reflects the staff and managements position which is pentecostal / pre-Mill .

    I want to try and encourage those from a reformed stance to participate by e mailing and texting from wherever you are in the world during the programme . I would like the viewers to see another Biblical position rather than the one held by the majority under the assumption that because most evangelical hold to this particular view therefore it is the standard Biblical position which is not nessecarilty the case at all . I have organised a debate for November 9th 2011 that can be viewed from anywhere in the world live. It is on the topic of the nation of Israel and has the Church replaced it in the end time plan of God or are the promises fulfilled in spiritual Israel i.e. the Church . The station is normally broadcast via mainstream cable TV throughout Europe however it also has high quality live streaming over the internet and can be viewed with a ROKU box in the US also . See all the details below .

    Live televised Debate : Has the Church replaced Israel
    Place : Revelation TV London UK in front of a studio audience
    Date : November 9th 2011
    Time : 9 pm to 10:30 pm UK time { please adjust for local time } broadcast live via SKY TV in Europe and live streaming worldwide at this link : http://www.revelationtv.com/watch_now

    Participants : Calvin L Smith & Stephen Sizer
    Defending the position that the nation of Israel as it exists since 1948 still has a place in end time Biblical prophecy will be Calvin Smith principal of Kings Evangelical Divinity School

    Opposing this and giving a different Biblical view on Israel and the Church will be Stephen Sizer who is vicar of Christ Church Virginia Water Surrey UK and founding member of the Institute for the Study of Christian Zionism .
    E mails and texts will be intermittently read out and tallied to ascertain which position garners most support from the public .

    Note : Viewers in USA with a ROKU BOX can now watch Revelation TV and so view the debate through this medium .

    Revelation TV is the most popular UK Christian television station http://www.revelationtv.com

    Dr Calvin L. Smith

    Dr Calvin L Smith is principal of Kings Evangelical Divinity School , editor of the evangelical review of society and politics , author of numerous books including The Jews modern Israel and the new supercessionism . He lectures in theology and hermeneutics . He is an academic researcher conference and Church speaker .

    Stephen Sizer

    Stephen Sizer is senior pastor of Christ Church , the community church of Virginia
    Water in Surrey UK . He is a founding member of (ISCZ) Institute for the study of
    Christian Zionism . He is a member of the advisory council of evangelicals for
    middle east understanding . He co authored the jerusalem decleration on Christian
    Zionism signed by the heads of Churches in Jerusalem . He has an extensive
    international ministry teaching regularly in Churches , seminaries and universities in
    the USA , Africa , Europe and the Middle East .

  3. [Enjoying your blog, Joe. Here is a little snippet I ran into on the web, for what it’s worth.]

    Pretrib Rapture Pride

    by Bruce Rockwell

    Pretrib rapture promoters like Thomas Ice give the impression they know more than the early Church Fathers, the Reformers, the greatest Greek New Testament scholars including those who produced the KJV Bible, the founders of their favorite Bible schools, and even their own mentors!
    Ice’s mentor, Dallas Sem. president John Walvoord, couldn’t find anyone holding to pretrib before 1830 – and Walvoord called John Darby and his Brethren followers “the early pretribulationists” (RQ, pp. 160-62). Ice belittles Walvoord and claims that several pre-1830 persons, including “Pseudo-Ephraem” and a “Rev. Morgan Edwards,” taught a pretrib rapture. Even though the first one viewed Antichrist’s arrival as the only “imminent” event, Ice (and Grant Jeffrey) audaciously claim he expected an “imminent” pretrib rapture! And Ice (and John Bray) have covered up Edwards’ historicism which made a pretrib rapture impossible! Google historian Dave MacPherson’s “Deceiving and Being Deceived” for documentation on these and similar historical distortions.
    The same pretrib defenders, when combing ancient books, deviously read “pretrib” into phrases like “before Armageddon,” “before the final conflagration,” and “escape all these things”!
    BTW, the KJV translators’ other writings found in London’s famed British Library (where MacPherson has researched) don’t have even a hint of pretrib rapturism. Is it possible that Ice etc. have found pretrib “proof” in the KJV that its translators never found?
    Pretrib merchandisers like Ice claim that nothing is better pretrib proof than Rev. 3:10. They also cover up “Famous Rapture Watchers” (on Google) which shows how the greatest Greek NT scholars of all time interpreted it.
    Pretrib didn’t flourish in America much before the 1909 Scofield Bible which has pretribby “explanatory notes” in its margins. Not seen in the margins was jailed forger Scofield’s criminal record throughout his life that David Lutzweiler has documented in his recent book “The Praise of Folly” which is available online.
    Biola University’s doctrinal statement says Christ’s return is “premillennial” and “before the Tribulation.” Although universities stand for “academic freedom,” Biola has added these narrow, restrictive phrases – non-essentials the founders purposely didn’t include in their original doctrinal statement when Biola was just a small Bible institute! And other Christian schools have also belittled their founders.
    Ice, BTW, has a “Ph.D” issued by a tiny Texas school that wasn’t authorized to issue degrees! Ice now says that he’s working on another “Ph.D” via the University of Wales in Britain. For light on the degrees of Ice’s scholarliness, Google “Bogus degree scandal prompts calls to wind up University of Wales,” “Thomas Ice (Bloopers),” “be careful in polemics – Peripatetic Learning,” and “Walvoord Melts Ice.” Also Google “Thomas Ice (Hired Gun)” – featured by media luminary Joe Ortiz on his Jan. 30, 2013 “End Times Passover” blog.
    Other fascinating Google articles include “The Unoriginal John Darby,” “X-raying Margaret,” “Edward Irving in Unnerving,” “Pretrib Rapture Politics,” “Pretrib Rapture Secrets,” “Pretrib Rapture Dishonesty,” “Pretrib Hypocrisy,” “Pretrib Rapture Secrecy,” and “Roots of Warlike Christian Zionism” – most from the author of “The Rapture Plot,” the most accurate documentation on pretrib rapture history.
    Can anyone guess who the last proud pretrib rapture holdout will be?

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