The Eagle Has FlownThe United States in Bible Prophecy
Far from the debates over homosexuality and abortion, I am afraid for the United Methodist Church for an entirely different reason. You might (or might not) indulge me as I try to explain why this ignored issue is at least as critical to our health and well-being as the others.
Twice in the past year, the editor for our state Methodist newspaper has been kind enough to print two essays Ive written, both dealing with the lethal effects of liberal Higher Criticism on the Church. For months, however, between those two pieces, I tried in vain to articulate why a small patch of land thousands of miles away is irreversibly linked to our fate.
In the spiritual, tiny Israel is too big for most of us. We are unable to explain Zion, and so we are struck dumb.
I was unable to pull the trigger on an Israel piece because I realized that if the UMC is wobbly about Genesis and the books of the prophets (a tragedy directly tied to liberal, mythologizing of the Bible), how in the world can it understand a stiff-necked people in the Middle East? The issue, however, is too important, it wont go away, and in fact it is heating up. We must pay attention.
It was only when I made the connection between our lack of belief in Genesis and our attitudes toward Israel that I felt free to explore this latter topic.
Let me say clearly that the official UMC position on Israel is so flawed, Im afraid we are headed for a rendezvous in which we will ask the mountains to fall on us. The spiritual blindness and bitterness toward Israel, within the UMC, has placed us in a position so dangerous, the peril can hardly be overstated.
When one reads the Bible, he or she learns certain things. When that person then hears a teaching about the Bible, he or she is likely to hear either an absurdly liberal or absurdly fundamentalist view. I dont know, maybe its the pride, but humans simply think they are smarter than Scripture. We must tell people what it means.
Because of that, I want to walk a fine line here and attempt to give you not an interpretation of Bible prophecy, but simply an understanding of it.
If one opens the Book of Zechariah, the rich flavor of the writing can intimidate. For his congregation, the liberal tries to downplay the terror of the thing by pronouncing it symbolic. In other words, Messiah is not going to actually stand on the Mount of Olives and then watch it split in two; no, what the text (the liberals word for the very words of God. Text. Like a newspaper or romance novel) really is saying is that this represents what happens when Christ comes into a persons heart.
This pitiful, pathetic exegesis is really not worthy of being called scholarship. The many brilliant scholars who twist Zechariah arent doing justice to their own considerable brainpower, as they try to drive a stake into the eternal words. Heres why their attempts are pitiful and pathetic:
Never before in history have the nations of the world raged about Jerusalem. Certainly the Babylonians, Assyrians, Romans, and Crusaders, among a few others, laid siege to it many times.
But in Zechariah...in Zechariah, we are told that there will come a day when the nations of the world will be confounded by Jerusalem. It will be a burdensome stone, a cup of trembling. Then the holy city will be attacked. When this happens, Gods fury will rise up in his face (see also Ezekiel 38, 39) and those who take part in the attack will be destroyed. This theme, presented as literal history, is found many times throughout the books of the prophets (see also Psalm 83). Unfortunately for the United Methodist Church, wolves in sheeps clothing entered many years ago and blinded us with their teaching.
So what is now obvious is not obvious at all.
Let me show you what I mean.
As stated before, it is a historical fact, easily documented, that Jerusalem has been conquered by foreign invaders for thousands of years. Never have the nations of the world plotted attack, however.
If you look at a U.N. list of countries that support a Palestinian state, you might as well list the nations that dont. It would be less time-consuming. Virtually anybody whos anybody supports carving up the State of Israel. Our own Philip Wogaman, among other influential UMs, publicly calls for a divided Jerusalem, shared by Israelis and Arabs.
If you want to argue that this does not constitute an attack on Jerusalem, let me say that you must not be paying attention to the Arabs. Their vitriol toward the Jewish state, in the media, their own public school textbooks, and in mosque sermons is so direct and bold, it resembles the Nazi evil of 1933 - pre-gas chambers. Just like that horror, which did not hide in the shadows but beat its chest unceasingly for a disbelieving world to see, so too is a dark storm on our own horizon.
Besides Wogaman, I have corresponded with two very well-known UM leaders. One told me that he didnt think Jerusalem belonged to the Jews exclusively, the other told me that the whole Middle East conflict is probably unsolvable. My heart does grieve at these statements, for two reasons: I wonder which Bible these two people are reading (or not reading); and, their indifference to Israels plight mirrors that of the European nations, South Africa, Britain, and anywhere else youd care to mention. Likewise, if you believe Zechariah 30 has any real meaning, the day will come when the U.S. will be unwilling or unable to be Israels ally.
Truly, the nations have plans for Jerusalem and the land of Israel.
Are you aware that Palestinian terrorists regularly say that they will knock on heavens door and present a collection of Jewish skulls? Did you know that on Jerusalems Temple Mount, controlled by the Palestinian Wakf, Jews and Christians are not allowed to pray? Has anyone told you that in the West Bank (Biblical Judea and Samaria) that Jews wait for buses behind concrete barricades, because Arab terrorists shoot at them?
Maybe you didnt know that Yasser Arafat routinely describes Jesus as a Palestinian. Perhaps no one has pointed out to you that PLO officials constantly praise suicide bombers as heroic martyrs. It almost goes without saying, then, that no one has informed you about the PLOs heinous crimes in Lebanon, which included raping wives in front of husbands, kidnapping, raping and murdering young girls, fatal shootings, extortion, and torture. All sanctioned by the very people received at the White House today as statesmen.
Incredibly, official UMC media outlets and agencies condemn Israeli intervention in Lebanon. They are today calling good evil and evil good.
Now let me share with you more UMC involvement in this issue.
For over a year, I have been dismayed to learn that the UMC gives almost total support to a Palestinian state in the heart of the Holy Land (which Jesus, the Jew, referred to as Israel).
Further, official UMC sources are not only not interested in Israels side of the Middle East story, they seek to suppress it where they can. One leading clergyman told me last year in a phone conversation that one cannot find Israels fate in the Bible. Hes too smart for that. He knows that Israels fate bleeds through on every page, literally. He simply doesnt want to find Israels fate. Out of sight, out of mind.
As a United Methodist, my views on the Middle East, because they dont line up with official pronouncements, are not fit to print. Many, many times I have queried agency and media officials and they have made it quite clear that Israel is an occupier of Arab ancestral land (if I had a Lincoln penny for every time an Arab pointed to a hill in the West Bank and said his family had owned it for 1,000 years, Id be sprinting past Bill Gates right now. The generations-of-land-ownership canard is akin to an apple picker claming his family had owned New Hampshire since the days of Erik the Red).
Last year, I corresponded with a representative of the Board of Church & Society. I took issue with an article that ran in the UMNS, in which Yasser Arafat, meeting with religious leaders in Washington, condemned what he claims is Israeli refusal to allow freedom of worship for Arabs and Christians. This is an egregious lie, and one easily refuted. In fact, I pointed out to this person that I had personally witnessed Palestinian Wakf officials chastise and ban a Christian from praying on the Temple Mount. In fact, Arafats lie is a real inversion of the truth, since I pointed out to the agency rep that Israel shutting down a holy site for a day, after terrorist activity, does not constitute refusal to allow freedom of worship. The intent, of course, on Arafats part, is to drive a wedge between American Christians and Israel.
Isnt that ironic? The PLO/PA refuses to allow Jews and Christians to pray or read the Bible on Judaisms holiest site, on a daily basis, and yet the United Methodist Church helps a brutal dictator con the world into believing that Israel doesnt allow freedom of worship!
I have many examples of UMC bias against Israel. Bishops, agency reps, and clergy are not interested, though. Interest might harm the peace process.
The peace process is part of this issue, too. Again, Id like to point out that the world view set forth in the Bible is at odds with the world view espoused by secular society today. Because the painfully obvious promises to Israel in the Bible (The Jews, through Isaac, were promised the Land of Canaan forever. This the liberal Church refuses to accept) are perverted by spurious scholars masquerading as angels of light within the UMC, and other mainline churches, millions of members of the laity are drugged. We cant see events in the Middle East for what they are.
Whenever a lover of Israel presents her case, a liberal will start the But, But argument. But, what about Israels transgressions? Because this kind of liberal cant defend the bloodthirsty dictator he loves to hug (Arafat), he must shift the focus to the other side in this long-running Middle East feud. Fine, Israel can handle it.
Three years ago, I heard then-Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speak in Washington. In front of an adoring, overflow crowd of Israel supporters, he said a jarring thing. He condemned not only Arab violence, but also violence of any kind. He once again publicly condemned the evil wrought by Baruch Goldsteins 1994 massacre of Arabs at Hebron. Netanyahu said that there is never a justification for violence. It was a courageous thing to say, but needless to say, it went unreported by the media, who loved to flog the hard-liner Israeli premier at every turn.
Likewise, I once had an opportunity to visit with Ariel Sharon, the Israeli general/statesman hated by the left and loved by the right. Although he has proved in a New York court that he had nothing to do with Lebanese massacres in 1982, Sharon is portrayed as a demon by liberals like those in the UMC.
At one point in our conversation, Sharon departed from the subject of politics and said that although he is not himself religious, he recognizes that Israel has a problem in that youngsters are not taught the Bible, their heritage. This startling statement is so reflective of Ezekiel 37 that I can scarcely understand how we are missing the gigantic issue of the Jewish restoration in our own time.
In beating a dead horse, I must emphasize again that because our teachers have taught us to think symbolically with regard to the Bible, we see Ezekiels famous Dry Bones prophecy as having something to do with the Church(!), and not Israel, even though God Himself said it refers to the House of Israel. Thus, Sharons statement, so indicative of the miraculous spiritual redemption of the Jews in the end-times, would be lost on the UMC, which, in its profound narcissism, thinks that unconditional Biblical promises to the Jews are somehow meant for Christian Gentiles.
In fact, a leading UM evangelical argued with me that the Jews of Israel are some of the most secular people in the world. Of course! I want to shout, Of course! Dont you understand?
No, not if Ezekiel 37 refers to the Church. Then Israels restoration to the land and spiritual rebirth have no meaning and one is blind. Reality is a vapor.
(As an aside, after visiting with him, reading extensively, and talking with those who know him, Ive concluded that Sharon is a fine man).
Our treatment of Israel today is a reflection of the remarkably successful efforts of liberal haters of the Bible - people I think we are justified in calling left-wing hard-liners - to turn predictive prophecy and history into symbolism and mythology.
Look at what our magnificent Lord tells us in Isaiah 46: He reveals things that are to come! The God who can predict the future can do anything He wants, and I can rest in Him because of it. Sadly, millions of people have been taught about a weak god who is limited by evolution and an inability to communicate to man.
The liberal UMC has convinced the laity that God didnt predict, through the prophet Isaiah, that in the future He would raise up Cyrus the Persian, and that he would be the instrument through which the Jews would travel back to Jerusalem. No, the liberal has taught that it only appears as if this prediction was made, but in fact it was made centuries later, long after Cyrus was dead. That is no powerful God, but rather a lying god.
And if He didnt predict the future for eighth-century B.C. Jews, why in the world do we think Hes predicting the future for the end-times generation? What end-times?
Consequently, the promises to the Jews, to the nation of Israel, is pushed back and locked into the remote past, having no relevancy for us today.
Yet God tells us in Jeremiah 30 that one day, all Israels allies will abandon her, and that she will be left defenseless. Gloriously, though, that is the precise moment that Jehovah will fight for the Jews, as in the days of old, and He will utterly destroy Zions enemies, and that this action will herald lasting peace. We are moving through that eternity-drenched process now, today, despite what liberation theologians say.
Another fascinating tidbit is found in a museum in Jerusalems Old City. Next to a window in the old wall is a plaque that refers to Zechariah 2:4, in which God says that one day, Jerusalem shall be inhabited as villages without walls. The context of the chapter is an age in which lasting peace would finally be brought to the earth. Just to the left of the plaque, through the open window, one can see giant cranes outside the Old City walls, as construction of the newer sections of Jerusalem go on day and night. Only since 1856 has construction on any kind of scale happened outside the walls of the Old City. This is prophecy being fulfilled right in front our eyes, literally, yet Id bet that no more than a handful of UM pastors could point out this remarkable act of God. They just dont see it.
Incidentally, I find it fascinating that this warrior God, the one who says that His arm will crush His enemies, also claims to be the Man from Nazareth (see Zechariah 12:10). Thus, the God of Israel is also the God of a 21st century Gentile like me, who worships the Lamb. The God who went before the warrior/servant Joshua is also the Christ who reached out His distinctive hands to me in love.
Oh, that the United Methodist Church laity knew and understood this!
The UMCs blindness toward Israel and her King wont jump up and bite us. It will devour us.
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