Part 3 — this portion first appeared in the November 1996 Levitt Letter.
Israel, Earth’s Lightning Rod
An ironic and rather sad feature of the worldwide notoriety of Jerusalem and Israel is that a major part of the church, the body of believers who will live there during the coming thousand-year kingdom, is largely oblivious to the significance of ongoing events. The denominational churches see nothing of spiritual import going on in Israel. Only Bible readers are aware of the repercussions of recent events.
Indeed, Israel attracts violent reactions the way a lightning rod attracts lightning, and that is in keeping with prophecy. Practically the whole world is unified in its desire to force Israel to bow to this awful “peace process,” and this shows the widespread lack of understanding of the times. False peace will be the theme of the coming Tribulation period, and we have obviously entered an era of false peace today. Yitzhak Rabin was a fine gentleman and a good soldier, but the peace agreement he set in motion will not last because it is not God’s peace in God’s timing. Ultimately, all the world’s peacemaking will be done by that “Dark Prince,” of whom Daniel, the clear-eyed forecaster of the End Times, remarks, “He shall magnify himself in his heart, and by peace shall destroy many” (Dan. 8:25). Our times parallel such warnings in Scripture as those who cry “peace, peace; when there is no peace” (Jeremiah 6:14), and “for when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape” (I Thes. 5:3).
In the interviews that our ministry collected in Israel for our Jerusalem 3000 television series, a number of spokesmen — believers and unbelievers, Jews and Palestinians — clarified all of the above. It is obvious from all that they told us that virtually no one believes in this “peace process” with all his heart. But according to their various motives, it is a means to an end for the Palestinians — the end of Israel — and for the Israelis it is a hope for the end of terrorism. For the American government, it is good PR, and for the United Nations, a sort of victory. For those who are biblically informed, it is the end of the age.
Obviously, Jerusalem will remain in contention for some time to come. At the time of this writing, the Netanyahu government has ordered all Palestinian offices in Jerusalem to be dismantled, in accordance with the Oslo agreements. The Palestinians were never authorized to place government offices in the Jewish capital, but they did so anyway; and the Peres government, despite many well-publicized threats, never closed these offices. I, myself, with my TV crew interviewed Faisal Husseini, the “Palestinian Representative for Jerusalem,” in the Orient House, an Arab mansion dating from the past century that had been refurbished as a Palestinian governmental headquarters for receiving foreign dignitaries, many of whom have visited. I counted 25 “plainclothesmen” (thugs in jeans and T-shirts) surrounding the building and in the streets on all sides. For me, seeing such an ominous personality as Husseini seated in state in such surroundings felt like an eerie prediction of the Antichrist entering the Temple and declaring that he is the God of Israel!
Israel, the Churches, and the Seminaries
Besides the media bias, there is a kind of theological bias against Israel going on in churches and seminaries today. The liberal churches have always been a lost cause so far as biblical study is concerned, and they, of course, are blissfully unaware of the relevance of Israel in prophecy, or of prophecy in general, for that matter. But I refer to biblically-based churches and seminaries, who over time have seemed to change positions concerning Israel. Dallas Theological Seminary, Moody Bible Institute, and most of the other biblical seminaries admired the Israelis when they were heroes in the media in the great days of the Six Day War and the kibbutzim and so forth. But as the media bias turned against the Israelis, so it seemed did the seminaries and even some Bible churches. As I put it recently during a speaking engagement, my ministry started out explaining Israel to Christians, and now I’m having to defend Israel to Christians.
In reality, the Israelis have not changed, but some peculiar anti-Israel theologies have come down the road. “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; and they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables” (2 Tim. 4:3–4). If we are to expect teachers who will just tickle the ears, we have plenty now.
The ultimate scriptural error is replacement theology, which seeks to establish that the church has replaced Israel. This is the reason for the departure of all of the liberal churches, including the Roman Catholic Church, from sound biblical understanding. It is madness to try to replace Israel in the Scriptures with a miscellaneous group of Gentile peoples scattered around the globe. If the church has replaced Israel in all of God’s promises and covenants, then Israel no longer has a role in God’s future plan. This would make nonsense out of such Bible passages as Romans 11:25–26, which states “that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in. And so all Israel shall be saved.” If Israel is out of the picture, that verse should read “and so all the church shall be saved,” which would be ludicrous because the church is composed of people who are already saved.
The original replacement theology was Islam, which sought to replace both Judaism and Christianity and thus take over the religious world. As a matter of fact, that statement should not be in the past tense, since that process is still going on with the Moslems. But in the Western world, we should be more alert than to put our Bibles away and follow in error some pastor or professor with anti-Israel or simply anti-Semitic biases. We will not take space here to analyze a bunch of odd doctrines, but will simply say that the Antichrist’s religion is the final replacement theology. It will seek to dominate the entire religious and secular world, and even replace Almighty God Himself! Such contemporary doctrinal errors as “Kingdom Now,” in which we need to elect the right officials in order to bring in the Kingdom by human endeavor, and “Progressive Dispensationalism,” a teaching that mixes up the Church Age and the Millennial Kingdom, are ways of simply cutting Israel out of the picture and thus making the whole Bible nonsense.
The fact is, God chose one people, Israel, and has dealt through them since Abraham and will continue that dealing through them in the future. Thus when we read of the building of the Tower of Babel and the godless ways of mankind early on in Genesis, in the same chapter we see Terah and the birth of his son Abram. God’s solution to mankind’s apostasy seems to be the invention of a single people through whom all nations of the earth would be blessed (Gen. 12:3). He continued to deal with them through the long period of the Old Testament adventures until the coming of the Messiah, a Jew, who chose twelve Jewish disciples and twelve Jewish apostles. And likewise, as we have seen, He will choose again from among the Jews in order to have testifiers to Christ in the Tribulation period to come, namely the 144,000. If we interrupt that elegant design of four millennia with the idea that some global Gentile organization will take this mantle upon itself, we obviously interrupt a plan of great magnitude. When we teach that we can bring on the Kingdom ourselves without prayer or reference to Israeli affairs, as in Kingdom Now doctrines, we simply depart from God’s plan. When we teach that Christ is already ruling in the Kingdom at this time (even though the Messiah Himself entreats us to pray “Thy Kingdom come”), we confuse dispensations. We are not exactly getting the cart before the horse, but we are putting the horse inside the cart and cannot move forward. Bringing the Kingdom into the Church Age, as Progressive Dispensationalism does, goes in the direction of Amillennialism, a doctrine that utterly denies the thousand-year Kingdom in Israel.
The Bible is basically the story of one people, the Jewish people. All of its writers cover-to-cover are Jews, Old Testament and New. The Messiah is a full-blooded Israeli Jew whose genealogies on both sides are presented in Scripture. (To show the extremes to which Islam seeks to replace Judaism and Christianity, consider Yasser Arafat’s claiming that Jesus was “the first Palestinian revolutionary.” He made this extraordinary statement in Bethlehem in December 1995 as the birthplace of Jesus Christ was calmly handed over to Moslems while the worldwide church remained asleep. Or consider the amazing claim by Hanan Ashrawi (a member of Arafat’s cabinet) on The MacNeil-Lehrer Report that “Jesus Christ was a Palestinian prophet born in Bethlehem in my country.” When Ms. Ashrawi, who claimed to be descended from the first Christians, was told that the original Christians were all Jews and that Jews never turn into Arabs, she was a bit confused; but this did not prevent her from being celebrated by the Episcopalian Church as a good Anglican in an article in their publication. Such muddling of theological doctrine and historical fact will play into the hands of the Antichrist, who will ultimately make the most fantastic of all claims, as we have mentioned. We are receiving a great deal of practice at believing total spiritual nonsense.
The problem with writing about prophecy is that one is not really a biblical prophet and can only speculate about world events. Israel indeed is a lightning rod for more than prophetic developments; it seems that the whole world is focused on that very tiny nation. The North Koreans mutter that something must be done about Israel, although it is doubtful that many of them could find it on a map. In Japan, where there are virtually no Jews, the Jews are blamed for problems with the economy. And on it goes. Indeed, Israel is the center of the nations, and in the Kingdom it will take its prophetic place as the head of the nations (Zech. 8:20–23).
But to recap what I have said about Israel in prophecy, I believe that the present climate of a false peace process will lead us down one of several possible roads to a Tribulation period situation. As to when this could happen, it is difficult to say; but in view of the very complete fulfillment of all of the Lord’s prophecies in Matthew 24, the Olivet discourse, we could hardly expect so tense a situation to continue for, say, another 50 years. World attention tends to shift from place to place, and since it is currently on Israel, I cannot help having the feeling that this would be an elegant moment to conclude this age. Everything seems to be in the right place except for the entrance of the Antichrist with his peace covenant of seven years. It is hard to think of any other piece of the prophecy puzzle that is not either in position for the End Times, or on the verge so that it could rapidly fall into place.
Thus, I think that the Antichrist is alive today and mature, and calculating his entrance. And I think that the present climate of concern over the peace process can lead us very directly to that day of an offered contract that will start the Tribulation period.