I was recently handed a tract and asked to give my opinion about it. I was told to be frank and honest in my assessment – which I always try to be anyway. But my instructions included not pulling my punches or holding back – which sometimes I do. The tract dealt with a subject I’ve never explicitly addressed, and because of this I feel led of the Lord to offer my opinion publically. But I have to admit that this isn’t something I have studied for months and months. I don’t have a seasoned opinion, based on reading several books and hearing a dozen sermons by men who I consider to be expert in the subject. In other words, this will be a pretty simple answer, and with more study my opinions might change slightly some day. But the original challenge was – “What do you think about this tract?” And so I am going to begin where I am right now – with the knowledge I have at the moment.
The article is entitled “Zionism: What it is and what it is not.” It is published by Ariel Ministries, one of the Messianic Jewish organizations in the world today. Their leadership and teachers appear to be entirely Jewish – that might bother some people, but not me. Their doctrinal statement, published on the internet, includes some pretty good stuff, but mixed with some of the common precepts of Protestantism. For example, they believe, as we do about the Triune God, with the full and absolute deity of Christ Jesus. They believe in the fall of man the way that I do, and in regard to salvation, they state: “We believe that salvation is wholly a work of God’s free grace and not the work of man in whole or in part, nor due to man’s goodness or religious ceremony.” They say, “the righteousness of Christ is imputed to the sinner, thereby justifying him in God’s sight.” “Those who are saved have been unconditionally elected to salvation in eternity past and have been effectively and irresistibly called by the Holy Spirit.” When it comes to Eschatology, we appear to be of the same mind – Premillennial and Pretribulational. Unfortunately, their definition of the CHURCH is wrong; they define it as universal – all the saved. And while they hold to the 66 books of the Bible, they haven’t learned the difference between the Textus Receptus and the corrupt manuscripts of Westcott and Hort.
More than half the tract is introductory.
It begins by saying, the word “Zionism” is well known, thanks to the United Nations’ condemnation of that term in 1975. Because of this, they say, Christians don’t know if they should support or condemn Zionism. Haven’t we been taught to reject anything the U.N. tells us? It declares, “anti-Zionism has become the new term for anti-Semitism.” It says, some people believe that Zionism is the Jewish conspiracy which created communism. I admit that when I was a new Christian I was given a copy of “The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion” which taught that sort of thing. Along with that I was given the anti-Semitism material written by Henry Ford and others. I am not unfamiliar with this kind of thinking. This has been quit common among Christians for more than a hundred years, and not just in Europe.
The tract goes on say that another idea is that Zionism is a form of Jewish racism. Some suggest that it is the backlash of the Jews against the racism which they have experienced for 2,000 years. It is purported that Zionism teaches the same hatred toward others that the Jews have received. Ariel Ministries denies these definitions of “Zionism,” and I do as well. Racism and communism are not “Zionism.”
The tract says, “The United Nations has ceased to be an organization seeking justice and peace for the world. By condemning Zionism’s right to exist, they have condemned Israel’s right to exist. It is impossible to separate Zionism from Israel. By this one stroke, the United Nations legalized the destruction of Israel by her enemies. The United Nations is guilty of playing into the hands of Satan who will, during the Great Tribulation, organize a world-wide invasion of Israel (Zechariah 12:1-3; 14:1-2). But if Zionism is neither a world-wide Jewish conspiracy nor a Jewish form of racism, the what is it?”
It is with these things I start to have some reservations about the article. IS it indeed “impossible to separate Zionism from Israel”? I am not sure that I agree. I have always believed that Zionism is somewhat different from Israel as a nation and people. I have pictured it as a sect within the Jewish community like Pharisaism or Saduceeism.
At this point the tract begins to define more clearly Ariel Ministries’ definition of “Zionism.” But before I get to their’s, let me share with you the common definition, as provided by Google. This is what I have generally believed “Zionism” to be. “A movement (originally) for the re-establishment and (now) the development and protection of a Jewish nation in what is now Israel.” Going on Google added, “It was established as a political organization in 1897 under Theodor Herzl, and was later led by Chaim Weizmann.”
In the first outside reference brought up by Google, one non-Christian Jewish organization gave this definition: “The term ‘Zionism’ was coined in 1890 by Nathan Birnbaum. Its general definition means the national movement for the return of the Jewish people to their homeland and the resumption of Jewish sovereignty in the Land of Israel. Since the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948, Zionism has come to include the movement for the development of the State of Israel and the protection of the Jewish nation in Israel through support for the Israel Defense Forces. From inception, Zionism advocated tangible as well as spiritual aims.” Now listen closely – “Jews of all persuasions – left, right, religious and secular – formed the Zionist movement and worked together toward its goals. Disagreements in philosophy led to rifts in the Zionist movement over the years, and a number of separate forms emerged. Notably: Political Zionism; Religious Zionism; Socialist Zionism and Territorial Zionism.”
Both in the common definition and the typical Jewish definition, “Zionism” is a relatively recent, political movement designed first to establish, or re-establish, the nation of Israel, and then to defend it. In the common definition of the word, it is NOT a religious or spiritual movement. And certainly among many liberal Jews, it has NOTHING to do with the Jewish Messiah. If I am not mistaken, in the past, many Jews refused to be called “Zionists,” condemning it for various reasons, and that may still be the case today.
Now, let’s return to quoting the tract as it begins to reach its target.
“The root of Zionism is the word “Zion.” Although the word “Zion” originally referred to the mount upon which the Jewish Temple stood, it eventually became equivalent to the name ‘Jerusalem.’ Zionism describes a feeling. It is an expression of the longing and yearning that the Jewish people have had in the past, and still have, for their homeland. Zionism existed during the Egyptian bondage. It existed during the Babylonian captivity. Is exists in these day of the Dispersion which began in A.D. 70. As soon as any Jews expressed a desire to go back to his Land – regardless of his reason – he was expressing Zionism. Unfulfilled Zionism is being outside the Land of Israel. Fulfilled Zionism is being in and living in the Land.”
It may be a matter of semantics, definitions and my understanding, but I have problems with most of that quote. First, it disagrees with any definition of “Zionism” I have ever heard before. Yes, “the root of (the word) Zionism is the Zion.” But you will search in vain, even in the modern Bible versions, to find the Jews in Egypt or Babylon claiming to be “Zionists.”
Continuing the quote – “But what most (Christian) believers want to know is this: Is Zionism biblical? To this question, every believer who takes the Bible literally and seriously must say ‘yes.’” Then is quoted Psalm 137:1-6 with which we began this evening. The tract goes on to say, “The longing to go back to Israel by the Jewish captives in Babylon is an expression of Zionism. It is impossible to be more Zionistic than the author of Psalm 137. Another Zionist was Isaiah the Prophet for he wrote in 62:1 – ‘For Zion’s sake will I not hold my peace, and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not rest, until her righteousness go forth as brightness, and her salvation as a lamp that burneth’ (ASV). Many other passages may be cited, but these should suffice to show that Zionism is a biblical expression.”
I’m sorry, but my Bible never uses the term “Zionism,” and therefore I will not agree that it is a “biblical expression.” I do admit that the Israelites of the Babylonian captivity yearned to return to their land, but I do not agree that it was “Zionism.” And it is absolutely silly to say that Israelites while in Egypt were “Zionists” before Zion was even known to exist.
The last statement in the tract reads – “Zionism is a biblical expression. Therefore, believers (ie. Christians) should be active in two things: first, to stand by the state of Israel; and secondly, to condemn all misrepresentation of Zionism as either a conspiracy or as racism.”
Here is my position in regard to Zionism.
I admit to having mellowed in regard to Zionism over the years, and maybe there will be even more. I used to condemn any form of “Zionism.” Admittedly it was in reaction to the way I was raised. But my thought-process has changed just a bit. As I read what the Bible says about the Tribulation, I see the Arabs, probably Russia, the Anti-Christ, and the world as a whole, attacking Israel IN HER LAND – the area between the Jordan and the Mediterranean. If “Zionism” had a part in the recreating of the nation in 1948, then it has played a God-designed role in preparation for the return of Christ. In other words, God may have used “Zionism” for His purposes. As such, I can’t condemn it quite as harshly as I once did. However, if “Zionism” is trying to establish the Millennial Kingdom – with or without Christ – then at this point it should be condemned.
Please turn to Zechariah 8. I believe that this is one of the many prophecies which have a duel fulfillment – This chapter refers to the regathering and rebuilding of Israel after the Babylonian captivity, but it ALSO speaks of the Millennium. In fact, its primary reference is to the future Millennial reign of Jesus Christ. “Again the word of the LORD of hosts came to me, saying, Thus saith the LORD of hosts; I was jealous for Zion with great jealousy, and I was jealous for her with great fury. Thus saith the LORD; I am returned unto Zion, and will dwell in the midst of Jerusalem: and Jerusalem shall be called a city of truth; and the mountain of the LORD of hosts the holy mountain. Thus saith the LORD of hosts; There shall yet old men and old women dwell in the streets of Jerusalem, and every man with his staff in his hand for very age. And the streets of the city shall be full of boys and girls playing in the streets thereof. Thus saith the LORD of hosts; If it be marvellous in the eyes of the remnant of this people in these days, should it also be marvellous in mine eyes? saith the LORD of hosts. Thus saith the LORD of hosts; Behold, I will save my people from the east country, and from the west country; And I will bring them, and they shall dwell in the midst of Jerusalem: and they shall be my people, and I will be their God, in truth and in righteousness.” The rest of the chapter continues with the same kind of revelation. I am of the opinion that it will be the Lord Jesus Christ who re-establishes the nation of Israel for the Millennial Kingdom. He will do it fulfilling the promises to Abraham and David. “Zionism” will not be directly connected to the re-establishment of the Kingdom of David.
Correct me if I am wrong, but none of the three definitions of Zionism we’ve considered this evening have made mention of the Lord Jesus Christ. Neither Google, nor the non-Christian Jewish group. Not even the Christian version of Ariel Ministries speaks of glorifying Christ Jesus in “Zion.” But without Him, is any of this Biblical?
I think it strange that in the Ariel article there were no New Testament references to Zion. Actually there are 7 verses where “Zion” – spelled with an “S” – is mentioned in the second Testament. Some are incidental, but a couple are vital to the question of “Zionism.” Romans 9:33 says, “As it is written, Behold, I lay in Sion a stumblingstone and rock of offence: and whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.” I Peter 2:6, which was in our text this morning, repeats that thought – “Wherefore also it is contained in the scripture, Behold, I lay in Sion a chief corner stone, elect, precious: and he that believeth on him shall not be confounded.” Somewhat differently, Romans 11:26 says – “And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob.”
It seems to me that the thing which modern Zionism misses entirely is the Saviour. I don’t think there should be any talk of “Zionism” without reference to the King of Zion. And more specifically – the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ. Those New Testament scriptures refer back to Psalm 17 and Isaiah 59, both of which are used by Paul in his presentation of the gospel. Psalm 17 – “The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that doeth good. The LORD looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand, and seek God. They are all gone aside, they are all together become filthy: there is none that doeth good, no, not one. Have all the workers of iniquity no knowledge? who eat up my people as they eat bread, and call not upon the LORD. There were they in great fear: for God is in the generation of the righteous. Ye have shamed the counsel of the poor, because the LORD is his refuge. Oh that the salvation of Israel were come out of Zion! when the LORD bringeth back the captivity of his people, Jacob shall rejoice, and Israel shall be glad.” This reference to Zion isn’t secular, political or social – it is spiritual.
More likely than Psalm 17, both Paul and Peter are probably referring to Isaiah 59. “Behold, the LORD’S hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither his ear heavy, that it cannot hear: But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear. For your hands are defiled with blood, and your fingers with iniquity; your lips have spoken lies, your tongue hath muttered perverseness.” Notice verse 7 – “Their feet run to evil, and they make haste to shed innocent blood: their thoughts are thoughts of iniquity; wasting and destruction are in their paths.” Now go to verse 12 – “For our transgressions are multiplied before thee, and our sins testify against us: for our transgressions are with us; and as for our iniquities, we know them; In transgressing and lying against the LORD, and departing away from our God, speaking oppression and revolt, conceiving and uttering from the heart words of falsehood. And judgment is turned away backward, and justice standeth afar off: for truth is fallen in the street, and equity cannot enter. Yea, truth faileth; and he that departeth from evil maketh himself a prey: and the LORD saw it, and it displeased him that there was no judgment. And he saw that there was no man, and wondered that there was no intercessor: therefore his arm brought salvation unto him; and his righteousness, it sustained him. For he put on righteousness as a breastplate, and an helmet of salvation upon his head; and he put on the garments of vengeance for clothing, and was clad with zeal as a cloke. According to their deeds, accordingly he will repay, fury to his adversaries, recompence to his enemies; to the islands he will repay recompence. So shall they fear the name of the LORD from the west, and his glory from the rising of the sun. When the enemy shall come in like a flood, the Spirit of the LORD shall lift up a standard against him. And the Redeemer shall come to Zion, and unto them that turn from transgression in Jacob, saith the LORD.”
To my heart and mind, this is the Zionism which should delight the child of God – Jewish and Gentile. This is the Zion which should be encouraged and promoted. The subject should not be the nation of Israel, even though Christians should defend her. It is rather the Zion of the King which we should defend and should seek to glorify.
I believe that we as Christians, and this country as a professing “Christian nation,” must try to be a blessing to the nation of Israel. Beginning as early as Genesis 12:3, God pronounced curses on those who curse the children of Abraham – “And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.” Genesis 27:29 – “Let people serve thee, and nations bow down to thee: be lord over thy brethren, and let thy mother’s sons bow down to thee: cursed be every one that curseth thee, and blessed be he that blesseth thee.” Numbers 24:9 – “Blessed is he that blesseth thee, and cursed is he that curseth thee.” It would seem to me that a Christian would be a fool to ignore what God has said in these verses. But obviously, neither these verses, or any others, are referring to a Zionistic attempt to create the nation of Israel or the Millennial Kingdom. I also believe that references to Israel in the Book of Revelation, specifically in regard to the Tribulation teach God’s saints to pray for the peace and protection of God’s chosen nation.
Beyond this, or perhaps underlying it, I think the greatest blessing that we can be to Israel is to share with her people that Jesus Christ is the Messiah. Those folk need to know that the Passover has become unnecessary because God’s Passover Lamb has already been slain at Calvary. They need to hear Paul’s condemnation of the rites and ceremonies of Israel as the means of salvation. Paul sought to be a blessing to Israel – in his presentation of the gospel. And I think that should still be our greatest blessing to Israel and to the individual Jew.