Qui sont ces chrétiens sionistes ? Analyse théologique de ce courant de pensée (en anglais)
During my time in the Jesus People as an Evangelical Charismatic Protestant, it was taken for granted that the modern State of Israel, established by the Great Powers in 1948, was the fulfillment of Biblical prophecy and a sign of the End Times. How clever, Biblically-discerning, and prescient we were may be gauged by the fact that we also took it for granted that the Rapture would happen any day and that it would occur by 1988 at the latest. The oracular Hal Lindsey (of Late, Great Planet Earth fame) said so: Jesus must return no later than a generation after the establishment of the State of Israel, and “a Bible generation” was 40 years, so 1948 + 40 = 1988. We were “the terminal generation”. It was all in the Bible. Read it for yourself.
Hal’s predictions are now of course in the ashcan, and his books are (presumably) only read for their nostalgic value by the same sort of people who keep their Pet Rocks (remember those?) But despite the fact that the dated imminence of the Rapture has been proven wrong, some people still cling to elements of the original system, including its center-piece, the Biblical significance of the modern State of Israel.
There is a lot one could say about the modern State of Israel, much of it depressing. Anyone declaiming its excellencies and virtues is invited to read books like Palestine: a Personal History. But here my concern is not with the tortuous and complex politics of the Middle East, but with the more straight-forward theology of the Bible. Those who quickly and easily translate their understanding of Bible prophecy about the End Times into political loyalty and lobbying often go by the label “Christian Zionists”. They differ from normal Zionists in that normal Zionists usually confine themselves to saying that the establishment of the State of Israel was a good thing and that Israel has the right and duty to defend itself from internal enemies (i.e. the Palestinians).
Christian Zionists go further, and say that the establishment of the State of Israel was not simply a good thing, but the fulfillment of Biblical prophecy to regather Israel to the Promised Land, and that this was a necessary event presaging the imminent Second Coming of Christ. Christian Zionists also usually spend lots of time poring over the books of Daniel and Revelation, and believe that the Antichrist must make a covenant with Israel, and then break it and take over the Temple in Jerusalem before the Second Coming can occur. They therefore assert that the Temple will be rebuilt (on the space, no less, where the Dome of the Rock has stood for 1327 years), and some even spend money to make this happen. They expect a mass conversion of Jews to the Christian faith prior to the End, and offer enthusiastic and unambiguous support to the State of Israel in their struggle with the Palestinians. These latter are usually cast in the role of villains and terrorists, despite the fact (possibly unknown to Christian Zionists) that many of those Palestinians are fellow-Christians. One imagines that the Israelis look at the Christian Zionists with a kind of puzzled pleasure: they privately think them crazy, but are happy for the American support and the American dollars.
There is a lot wrong with the Biblical interpretations of the Christian Zionists. Since this is a blog and not a book, I will mention only three of them.
First, the Biblical prophecies about the gathering of Israel to the Promised Land were completely fulfilled in the return of the Israelites to the Promised Land after the Babylonian captivity. One needs to date the scattering of Israel properly to understand the regathering. The northern kingdom of Israel/Ephraim was scattered by the Assyrians in 722 B.C., and then later to the southern kingdom of Judah was scattered by the Babylonians in 586 B.C. This being the case, the prophesied regathering was the one which occurred after the Babylonian captivity, under Cyrus the Persian after 538 B.C. The exiles returned to the Land (in small numbers) and formed a little community in the area around Jerusalem, led by such men as Nehemiah and Ezra. One can see these prophecies of regathering in oracles such as Ezekiel 37:15f, which makes the point that after the regathering the pre-exilic hostility between the northern and southern kingdoms will be overcome “and they shall no longer be two nations and no longer divided into two kingdoms” (v. 22). Obviously this dates prophetic fulfillment to the time immediately after the Babylonian captivity and not to a time after 1948, since prior to 1948 the distinction between the “two kingdoms” of Israel and Judah did not exist.
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