When the US Declaration of Independence was adopted on the 4th of July 1776, a special committee consisting of Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams was given responsibility for designing a seal for the nation. Inspired by the Bible, the committee proposed a seal which showed pharaoh sitting on an open chariot, with a crown on his head and a sword in his hand passing through the divided Red Sea in pursuit of the Israelites. Rays from a pillar of fire beamed down on Moses who is portrayed standing on the shores extending his hand over the sea causing it to destroy the Egyptian forces. Around this picture were the words: 'Rebellion to Tyrants is Obedience to God'. Although the Great Seal of the United States was subsequently altered, it has always carried the thirteen stars, symbolizing the colonies, arranged in the shape of the star of David. Similarly, the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia had inscribed on it a verse from the Book of Leviticus: 'And proclaim liberty throughout the land unto all inhabitants thereof'. This ideal of liberty and equality, which was exported to the colonies from England and Holland, was directly linked to Scripture. In addition, the settlers were anxious to link the New World to the Holy Land by giving their settlements biblical names like Salem, Massachusetts/ Bethlehem, Pennsylvania/ Nazareth, Pennsylvania/ Zion National Park in Utah/ Jericho, New York. Among Christian sects, the Mormons maintained that descendants from the House of Joseph came to America. Their historical record, kept on metal plates, was delivered to the prophet Joseph Smith, who translated them into English. This record - The Book of Mormon - was published in 1830.
Meanwhile in England seven years earlier (May 1823), one Lewis Way and the Rev. W.E. Lewis had sailed to Lebanon with a letter of recommendation from Sir Sidney Smith, the commander of the British fleet that had defeated Napoleon at the Battle of Acre in 1799. Way presented this letter to' the Emir of Lebanon who allowed these missionaries to enter the country. Way and Lewis brought 10,000 Bibles with them, which they distributed to those whom they visited. While these missionaries were in Lebanon, considerable opposition was aroused concerning their activities. Remarking on these events, Way wrote: 'I am therefore not surprised that on the landing of 10,000 Bibles on the shore of the Holy Land, there should be persons ready, as if prepared to prevent their distribution, or counteract their efficacy; and such was the case.' In January 1824 the Pope issued a bull forbidding Roman Catholics to receive and read any of the 10,000 Bibles, and Turkish authorities issued a decree forbidding the distribution of Christian literature in the Levant.
When following a war with the Turkish Pasha the Egyptian leader, Mehemet Ali 1832 conquered Acre, Damascus and Aleppo a Dutch missionary John Nicolayson January 1833 wrote to the Egyptians, asking permission to allow missionaries to settle in the Holy Land. But even though the Egyptians were willing, a number of local Christian communities were opposed to the interference of these Protestants. Nicholayson nevertheless rented a house near the Jewish quarter, thereby becoming the first permanent Protestant missionary in Jerusalem.
But the project to build a first Church was interrupted by the Damascus Affair: in March 1840 a French Capuchin monk Padre Tomaso disappeared in Damascus after visiting a Jewish area; later the Jews were accused of murdering him and using his blood for a Passover meal. In support of the Damascus Jews, Nicolayson sent a letter with Pieritz in which he expressed his outrage at the blood libel accusation. Similarly in England over fifty Hebrew Christians signed a statement in which they repudiated the charge.
The events of 1840 also hastened the beginning of Jewish Religious Zionism Yehuda hai Alkalai, in Serbia, became convinced that the Jewish people could be secure only in their own land. And Zwi Hirsch Kalischer, the rabbi of Thorn published his Derishat Zion in 1862.
When Britain, Russia, Prussia and Austria met in London in July 1840, they made an alliance with Turkey for peace in the region. The terms demanded the withdrawal of Egypt from Turkey. At the same time Syria revolted against its Egyptian rulers and war broke out throughout the region. In September a British fleet captured Beirut and then proceeded southward, capturing Sidon and Acre. Thus it comes to no surprise that England played a pivotal role to bring Jewish believers to Christ, for if settling in Palestine under the sanction and protection of the Sultan, they could be a check upon any future evil designs of Mehemet Ali or his successor. Founded in 1882 by Dr H.A. Stern, the Hebrew Christian Prayer Union, thus sought to unite Jewish Christians in spiritual fellowship. Every Sunday, prayer was offered privately by each member and there were general worship meetings as well. From 1883 to 1890 its membership increased from 143 to 600. In addition, other branches were established in Germany, Norway, Romania, Russia, Palestine and the United States. And in 1866 they declared that they had found in Jesus the Messiah to whom the Law and the prophets bear testimony. It was in his blood, they stated, that they had found peace, and looked for his coming in glory as the hope of Israel.
The Russian pogroms of 1881 had a profound impact on what now became Jewish Secular Zionism, thus in 1882 Leo Pinsker published Autoemancipation, asserted that the Jewish problem is as unresolved in the modern world as it was in former times. 'The Jewish people', he wrote, 'has no fatherland of its own, though many motherlands; it has no rallying point, no centre of gravity, no government of its own, no accredited representatives. It is everywhere a guest and nowhere at home. Having no home, he can never be anything other than an alien. He is not simply a guest in a foreign country; rather he is more like a beggar and a refugee. In conclusion, Pinsker contended that the Jews are despised because they are not a living nation.
In 1883 a Jewish immigrant from Russia, Reuben Lehrer, built a house in Wadi Hanin in the coastal plain; later other Jews including Avraham Yalofsky joined him. Lehrer called the village Nes Ziona ('Banner towards Zion'); there he and his friends planted citrus groves, but he was killed by a group of Arabs five years later. Despite such dangers, other Jews continued to come to the country. Between 1882 and 1903 a total of 25,000 Jews settled in the country, many of which lived by tilling the soil or worked as hired laborers at the Mikveh Israel school. Amongst Jews in the diaspora, these early Jewish settlements in Palestine were viewed as a religious community. In reality however, Jews living in Palestine ranged across the religious spectrum from the strictly Orthodox to the most secular.
Unlike Christian Zionists who were preoccupied with biblical prophecy, Jewish Zionists were intent on establishing a place of refuge for the Jewish people. Unlike both Jewish and Christian Zionists in turn ultra-Orthodox critics believed it was forbidden to accelerate divine redemption through human efforts. Paralleling this critique, liberal Jews assailed Zionism as a misguided utopian scheme.
In the summer of 1914 the Turkish government imposed strict measures to curtail Jewish immigration. Later, when Turkey entered the First World War on the side of the Central Powers, France and Russia became Turkey's enemies. As a result, the Jews of Palestine suffered great hardships as food supplies dwindled and the Turkish government came to regard the Jewish population with hostility since large numbers of Jewish immigrants were Russian in origin.
During the First World War, the Turkish government ordered the expulsion of 6000 foreign Jews in the Holy Land. As the Evening Standard recorded:
The unfortunate captives were literally thrown into the boats, while on the way the Arab boatmen brandished knives and robbed them of what little they possessed. Moans, tears, hysterical shouts filled the air. Then, without any warning, the steamer weighed anchor and left. It was late in the evening and you could imagine the horror of the situation.
In line with the British aspiration of defeating Turkey and becoming the major power in the Middle East the Balfour Declaration was issued, and a letter from the British Foreign Secretary, Arthur Balfour to Lord Rothschild, dated 2 November 1917, the British government resolved to create a National Home for the Jewish people in Palestine.
Turkish military commander, Jemal Pasha, sought to quell both Jewish and Arab
national sentiments. In Beirut and Jerusalem several Arab leaders were hanged,
and 18,000 Jews were expelled or fled from Palestine to Alexandria. In addition,
Jews known to have been active in Zionist circles were expelled from the
country. In response to these developments, the Jaffa Group, consisting of a
number of Jewish fighters, was established to defend Jewish settlements in
Palestine. With the outbreak of war, a number of Zionists were anxious to
establish a Jewish legion to fight alongside the Allies against the Turks. It
was the aim of this group to participate in the liberation of Palestine from
Turkish control and to convince the Allies of the need for a Jewish homeland.
In the years following the First World War, approximately 35,000 settlers entered the country, including now also Jews who were inspired by socialist values. Hostility on the part of the Arab population, erupted in the 1920 riots, and Jewish leader Vladimir Jabotinsky was arrested by the British and put into prison.
During this period of instability an English Jew, Sir Herbert Samuel, arrived on 30 June 1920 in Palestine as High Commissioner and Commander in Chief. He believed that Jews would be able to live harmoniously with the Arab population. Thus in August 1920 Samuel authorized a Land Transfer Ordinance that made it possible for Zionists to acquire land; in September an Immigration Ordinance opened Palestine to legal immigration from those who obtained visas from the Zionist Organization.
When Palestine was transferred from the Foreign Office to the Colonial Office under Winston Churchill, a conference of senior British officials in the Middle East took place in Cairo in order to reach a settlement with the leaders of Arab nationalism. Added to Arab fears about Zionist aspirations was the dispute about the election of the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, the supreme representative of Muslim Arabs. Once the post of Grand Mufti became vacant, it was to be filled according to Ottoman procedures. An election took place. Hajj Amin, the principal instigator of the anti- Jewish riots of Easter, 1920 and his followers declared that the elections had been rigged by the Jews. During early May, rioting spread to other coastal centres. In order to calm Arab feeling, Samuel introduced a temporary suspension of immigration and agreed to Richmond's recommendation about the election of the Grand Mufti. One of the three Arabs who had been elected was encouraged to stand down, and Hajj Amin became Grand Mufti of Jerusalem.
end of the decade, there was a change in Whitehall in London: the Conservative
government fell and was replaced by a Labour
government under Ramsay MacDonald. Britain was now governed by those who had no
past links with the Balfour Declaration; in addition the new Colonial Secretary
was unsympathetic to the notion of a Jewish national home in Palestine.
Enter Hal Lindsay and Tim LaHaye
After all of this, and by the time when the Nazi holocaust had engulfed millions of Jews in Europe, dispensationalists looked for signs of the times and sought to predict what would occur in the future. Basing their views on biblical prophecy, they were determined to interpret world events and illustrate how they were leading to the Second Coming. As futurist premillennialists, they felt that they would be raptured before the end-times occurred, but they expected to live long enough to see history moving toward its predetermined end. However, with the establishment of Israel and the expansion of its borders dispensationalists became more politically active.
Where Hal Lindsey today is considered one of the most significant Christian dispensationalists of the twentieth century. The past ten years, along with Hal Lindsey and Tim LaHaye and so on, dispensationalism has significantly started to influence Zionism.
Books dealing with Armageddon are best sellers, such as Hal Lindsey's The Late, Great Planet Earth which has sold more than 25 million copies. In the late 1990s evangelist Tim LaHaye's Left Behind series of books dealing with the rapture of born-again Christians sold nearly three million copies. The Dallas Theological Seminary, the most influential seminary teaching Christian Zionism, graduated many of the pastors now preaching Armageddon Theology in nearly 1000 Bible churches. The popularity of Armageddon theology extends from ordinary believers to the highest level of government. The former Secretary of Defence, Casper Weinberger, for example, remarked in 1982 concerning Armageddon: 'I have read the Book of Revelation and yes, I believe the world is going to end by an act of God, I hope - but everyday I think that time is running out.
With the establishment of Israel in 1948, a number of premillemnial dispensationalists began to assert themselves within the large evangelical community. Israel and the Cold War were linked together by premillennial authors and preachers who interpreted world even in the light of biblical teaching. According to their view, the end of history was approaching, and an evil global empire was soon to emerge under the leadership of a world leader, the Antichrist.
In 1990 Robertson founded International Family Entertainment Inc. as well as the Family Channel, a satellite cable-TV network with 63 million US subscribers. In 1997 Robertson sold IFE to Fox Worldwide Inc. for 1.9 billion dollars. Today, CBN is one of the world's largest television ministries and produces programmes seen in 180 countries and heard in 71 languages. The 700 Club, hosted by Robertson, is one of the longest running television programmes and reaches an audience of about seven million viewers. According to Robertson, its goal is to fulfil end-time prophecy:
I will never forget the time, April 29 1977, when we had built the first earth station ever to be owned by Christian ministry in the history of the world, and we were the first ever to take a full-time transponder on a satellite ... so we were pioneers in this area. I remember it was ten 0' clock in the morning when we went on with the broadcast. We then cut to the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem, a little after five 0' clock in the afternoon. There were some clouds forming over the Temple Mount... And when I saw the Mount of Olives, and I saw where my Saviour is going to put His foot down when He comes back to earth, I was thinking, 'I'm transmitting it!' The Bible says every eye is going to behold Him, and here it is happening! We see how it is going to be fulfilled right in front of our eyes!
Along with Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson, Hal Lindsey has played a central role in the development of evangelical dispensationalism. The author of over 20 books spanning 27 years, he hosts his own radio and television programmes, leads pro-Israeli Holy Land tours, and publishes a monthly Christian journal Countdown as well as the International Intelligence Briefing. In addition, he hosts a weekly news programme, International Intelligence Briefing on the Trinity Broadcasting Network television station.
Lindsey's most famous book, The Late Great Planet Earth, has sold more than 18,000,000 copies in English and has been translated into 44 languages. Despite changes in the world events since it appeared in 1970, Lindsey argues that his prophetic and apocalyptic scenario is accurate. Determined that political events are the fulfilment of Scripture, he contends that the end of the world is imminent. Hence, later books such as The Final Battle (1994) and Apocalypse Code (1997) are revised versions of earlier works: The Late Great Planet Earth (1970), and There's a New World Coming (1973). Determined to demonize Russia, China, Islam and Arab nations, he encourages the economic funding of Israel by the United States. Israel, he insists, should resist any negotiation of land for peace; instead, the Occupied Territories should be incorporated within Israel.
These three figures - Falwell, Robertson, and Lindsey - are figureheads of a vast evangelical movement consisting of over 150 influential Christian leaders including Oral Roberts, Mike Evans, Tim LaHaye, Kenneth Copeland, Paul Crouch, James Dobson, Ed McAteer, Jim Bakker, Chuck Missler and Jimmy Swaggert. Together they reach an audience of over 100 million Americans weekly through their radio and television programmes.
One of the more extreme examples it a right-wing Israeli group that has drawn on American dispensationalist support is the Temple Institute founded in 1986 by Rabbi Yisrael Ariel. Its aim is to educate Israelis about the significance of the Third Temple and to prepare for its creation. A veteran of the liberation of the Temple Mount during the Six Day War, Ariel believes that Israel's future depends on rebuilding the Temple. When this is achieved, God's original promises to Abraham will be fulfilled. including Israel's possession of the territories promised to Abraham' descendants. In 1989 Ariel and Joel Lerner of the Sanhedrin Institute did manage to gain access to the Temple Mount, where they planned to have a Passover sacrifice. Yet they were stopped by the authorities. As the leader of Tzifay, Ariel organized members of the Jewish underground who had been jailec after their attempt to blow up the Dome of the Rock. In his view, killing the enemies of Israel should not be the concern of the Israel courts; in his journal, he condemned all Jews who did not support the creation of the Third Temple. In addition, he classified Christians as well as Muslims as idolaters, thereby making them unfit to live in the Holy Land. Dispensationalists are encouraged by such activities as well as the knowledge that under the institute's auspices, Israelis arc sewing priestly vestments, manufacturing implements for animal sacrifice, and teaching Temple priests how to officiate.
In certain respects, Christian Zionists share the same religious agenda as Jewish Religious Zionists. However, Christian Zionists - no matter what their theological orientation believe that the prophecies in Scripture concerning the Jewish nation are being fulfilled in our own time. Today, millions of these fundamentalist Christians have become "massive lobby, actively involved in Middle East affairs. Some, like Pac Robertson and Jerry Falwell, have played an important role in the highest levels of American political life.
Christian Zionists claim that their views are based on biblical principles and promises, which are backed up by biblical prophecies and New Testament truths. Their position, they believe, looks beyond the evolving concerns of political Zionism and views both the Jewish people and the land of Israel as chosen by God for the purpose of redeeming the world. Whatever one makes of this debate, there is no doubt that Christian Zionism has become a massive and influential movement. Dispensational premillennialism in its various forms, in particular, continues to arouse passionate devotion to the Jewish state and generates both political and financial support for a Jewish homeland in the Middle East. In our war-torn world it will inevitably playa significant role as Jews and Palestinians seek to find a solution to the crisis in the Middle East.