Of great concern is the increase of anti-Semitic theology within the Church. Anti-Semitism has been within the Church since the time of Constantine where the notion that the Jews were Christ-killers first originated, but after World War II and the shock of the holocaust, these views were subdued. With the Israeli-Palestinian conflict making the news almost daily, churches are now being influenced by world media into taking the side of the Palestinians. Anti-Semitic theology has once more found fertile ground to take root and grow, with Jews depicted not as Christ-killers but as apartheid-like persecutors of the downtrodden and disenfranchised Palestinians.     

The importance of eschatology in the attitude of the Church towards Israel must not be underestimated. A Christian’s eschatological view will have an influence on an individual’s decision on whether support is offered to Israel or to the Palestinians, and therein lies a major problem; the cracks of division are starting to appear within the Church. An investigation of eschatological views needs to be done to determine the seriousness of the problem. There are three main eschatological views that need examining: 1. Amillennial; 2. Postmillennial; 3. Premillennial.

Amillennialism does not believe in the millennium period, which is the future rule of Jesus for a thousand years. Amillennialists understand the millennium to be symbolic, happening now in this present Church age, encompassing the time between the life of Jesus and His future return. But the reign of Jesus during the millennium is spiritual with the purpose of redeeming God’s people from sin and the powers of the devil finally ending with the return of Jesus at the end of the age to establish the new heaven and new earth. As Amillennialism denies that prophecy is literally fulfilled, it does not hold to the belief of a Millennial Kingdom reign by Jesus and therefore sees no special significance for the nation of Israel in prophecy. Dr Michael J. Vlach in his paper on What is Amillennialism? (1) points out that “premillennialism, not amillennialism, was the predominant view in the first 300 years of church history. However, the early church did evidence hints of what later would become Amillennialism. For example, Origen (185-254) popularised the allegorical approach to the interpreting of Scripture and in doing so laid a hermeneutical basis for the view that the promised kingdom of Christ was spiritual and not earthly in nature”. It was Augustine (354-430) who was to become known as the ‘Father of Amillennialism’. Augustine moved to Rome in 383 at the age of 29 to debate philosophy. As a lover of Plato he became influenced by the neo-Platonic philosophy adopted in 325 by the Catholic Church as an explanation for the Trinity. Within three years of his move to Rome, Augustine converted to Catholicism and was quick to rise up the ranks of the Roman Catholic Church to become one of its great theologians, establishing Amillennialism as one of its doctrines. Amillennialism therefore has its origins in the Roman Catholic Church.

Amillennialism became part of Protestant theology when the Protestant reformers, who rejected the practice of selling indulgences, the Roman Catholic devotion to Mary, praying to saints, celibacy of the clergy and the doctrine of purgatory, did not object to the spiritualising of the millennium. Dr Gary Hedrick in his paper Replacement Theology –  its Origins, Teachings and Errors (2) reveals the danger of  spiritualising the interpretation of prophetic scriptures, by showing that there is a link between Amillennialism and Replacement Theology: “The natural affinity these views (that is, replacement theology and amillennialism) seem to have for each other is understandable because replacement theology relies so heavily on a non-literal and allegorical interpretation of the Biblical promises to Israel.” The holding onto the Roman Catholic doctrine of Amillennialism by the Protestant reformers allows for the belief that the Church is the new spiritual Israel (it supposedly replaces Israel) to enter the Protestant Church, which in turn allowed for Replacement Theology to become part of Protestant theology. Martin Luther (1483-1546), who began the Reformation, held onto the Roman Catholic doctrine of Amillennialism, to the extent that the belief became entrenched amongst his followers.

Postmillennialism sees the second coming of Jesus occurring after a gradual Christianization of the world, which is the “Millennium” period, a golden age of Christian moral values. Postmillennialists optimistically believe that the Church will continually advance throughout history empowered by the Holy Spirit, until the Church attains total victory over Satan and the forces of darkness. Postmillennialists believe that life on earth will become progressively better and that, with the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the Church, they will be empowered to bring in the eternal Kingdom with Spirit-filled evangelism and miracles. Postmillennialism is an eschatological ideology that comes out of Amillennialism, with both beliefs spiritualising the millennium. Postmillennialism is sometimes called ‘optimistic amillennialism’, as postmillennialists are seen as Amillennialists who are optimistic about the End Times. 

Being thought to be of no greater importance than other nations, Israel holds no special place in either Amillennial or Postmillennial eschatology. Along with the belief that the Church is the sole recipient of God’s blessing, an ideology called Replacement Theology was able to take root. Replacement theology is the belief that God has rejected Israel and replaced the Jews in His plan for mankind. The Church is incorrectly believed to be the new spiritual Israel. The term Supersessionism is often used as the proponents teach that the Church has superseded Israel. Those who hold to Replacement Theology believe that all the promises made by God to the Jews now belong to the Church. This rejection of the Jews has provided the basis for ethical problems within the Church throughout Christian history, becoming the seed for all forms of anti-Semitism, such as intolerance, persecution, pogroms and extermination.

Those who believe that the Roman Catholic Church is wholly responsible for the atrocities perpetrated against the Jews in the name of Christianity should remember that Martin Luther, the founder of the Protestant movement, was a Supersessionist and an anti-Semite due to the influence of his Roman Catholic background. He advocated separating the Jews from society by being confined to their neighbourhoods. This ideology was implemented by Hitler when he had the Jews interned in ghettos. Hitler also cleverly scheduled the infamous Kristallnacht (Night of Broken Glass) for 9 November 1938, which was Luther’s birthday. Hitler was sending a clear message to the German people that by choosing this day to attack and destroy synagogues, he was following Luther’s directions on what should be done to the Jews – only, Hitler took Luther’s anti-Semitism one step further by unleashing his henchmen on the Jews and committing murder for the first time since coming to power. The German Protestants’ behaviour during World War II can be attributed to Luther’s anti-Semitism and his belief in total obedience to the ruling authority. Without the backing of Luther, Hitler would have found his planned annihilation of the Jews, his “Final Solution”, far more difficult to implement.

In contrast to the previous two eschatological views follows a literal interpretation of scripture. Premillennialism pictures Israel as having an important role to play in End Times prophecy: the major focus of Revelation prophecy is the nation of Israel; the capital city of Jerusalem; the third temple being rebuilt on the Temple Mount and the Jewish people themselves in a continual interplay with the Antichrist. The second coming of Yeshua brings in a Kingdom rule and the Jewish Messiah is seated on the throne of David. Israel will receive divine grace and will occupy all of God’s promised territory in fulfilment of the covenant promise to Abraham. Unlike Postmillennialists who see the world’s circumstances continually improving, the Premillennialists see a continual decline and moral decay in humanity, resulting in God bringing judgement on the world. Premillennialism is the only eschatological interpretation of scripture that includes Israel as an integral part of events leading up to the return of Jesus, and that has the firm belief that God has a plan and a purpose for the nation of Israel and that there will be a Millennial Kingdom. Dr Arnold Fruchtenbaum points out that the basis for the belief in a Messianic Kingdom is twofold: “there are the unfulfilled promises of the Jewish covenants, promises that can only be fulfilled in a Messianic Kingdom” and “there are the unfulfilled prophecies of the Jewish prophets” (3). There are numerous prophecies in the Old Testament that speak of a wonderful time of peace under the rule of the Messiah who will reign from Jerusalem, seated on David’s throne. Psalm 132:11-17; Isaiah 2:2-4; 11:6-10; Ezekiel 37:24-25 are examples of these scriptures.  

Amillennialism and Postmillennialism are united by their refusal to accept that there will be a thousand-year reign of Jesus and their belief that the Millennium, which is referred to in Revelation 20, is symbolic of the Church period and not a literal thousand years. Premillennialists point to the fact that while Revelation uses many symbols, the meaning of those symbols is made clear by their repeated use in scripture or by the explanation of the symbols within the narrative of Revelation itself. Revelation 20 mentions the Millennium six different times in seven verses, which must underline its literal importance. Time in prophecy is always literal and never symbolic: In Genesis 15:13, God warns Abraham that his descendants would be enslaved and afflicted in Egypt for four hundred years; in Numbers 14:32-34, the time period of forty years is set as the punishment for the Jews’ unfaithfulness in rejecting the Promised Land; in Jeremiah 25:1, the prophecy of the seventy years of captivity in Babylon is recorded. All of these prophecies of time in scripture were literally fulfilled. Why should scripture suddenly change tack and have time become symbolic in the last book of the Bible? It is not hermeneutically sound. With the denial of literal interpretation of prophecy, the Amillennialist and Postmillennialist spiritualise scripture. Their desire to spiritualise a text without objective evidence will result in a subjective interpretation which is based on the individual’s bias. In spiritualising the Word of God, the interpreter is able to have the Church replace Israel.

Premillennialists follow the literal Hebraic hermeneutics with regards to prophecy, which assumes God’s Word means what it says and says what it means – a very logical path to take. The literal interpretation takes into consideration all aspects of what is sound interpretation of scripture: understanding the basic grammatical structure of each sentence in the original language and adhering to the primary meaning; understanding the scripture in its original historical context in the correct chronological order; and recognising that the Bible does not contradict itself.

For the many eschatological views that have the Church replacing Israel, God has a clear answer for them in Deuteronomy 7:6: “For you [the Jew] are a Holy people to the Lord your God. The Lord has chosen you out of all the peoples on the face of the earth to be His people, His treasured possession” and Psalm 89:34-35: “I will not violate my covenant or alter what my lips have uttered. Once for all, I have sworn in my holiness – I will not lie to David.” The Lord cannot alter the promises that He has given to the Patriarchs, therefore the Church cannot replace the Jew in God’s economy and claim the promises that God has given to the children of Israel.

The Christians who follow the Amillennium or Postmillennium viewpoints are warned that they support a theory that engenders anti-Semitism. They themselves may not be anti-Semitic but they support an ideology that encourages it. Israel is being depicted as the new racist apartheid nation and is fast becoming a pariah in world opinion, with churches – whose eschatological views deny the importance of Israel in God’s plan for the End Times – taking part in the crusade against them. The abomination of ‘Christian’ anti-Semitism in the form of anti-Zionism is on the rise again. Israel is the anvil upon which God will judge the End Times Church. God is sifting the Churches and He is using the nation of Israel to do so. There will be an apostate Church in the last days that will receive the judgement of God. In Revelation 18:4 God calls out to the believers in this Church saying “come out of her, my people” so that they will not receive the judgements that will be directed at the apostate church. Churches that feel that they are in some way exempt and can stand off and be neutral need to remember the warning that God gave to the Edomite people (the descendants of Jacob’s twin brother Esau) when the Edomites were spectators to the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonian army: “On the day you stood aloof while strangers carried off his wealth and foreigners entered his gates and cast lots for Jerusalem, you were like one of them” (Obadiah 1:11). Those Christians who support an Amillennial or Postmillennial view and are not anti-Semitic must realise that their eschatological belief supports anti-Semitism, which means that they hold a theology which, according to scripture (Obadiah 1:11; Genesis 12:3), will see them lose God’s blessing. Those Churches that are antagonistic to Israel will fall under the judgement of Genesis 12:3, where God promises Abraham that He will curse whoever curses him or his descendants. They should be mindful of God’s warning in Obadiah 1:15 that the Lord’s vengeance will fall on Gentile nations: “As you have done [to Israel] so it will be done to you.” Just as those nations received judgement for their actions against Israel, so too will Christians be held accountable by God for their antagonism towards Israel. The acts perpetrated against Israel will have a rebound effect – a return-to-sender outcome.

There is a schism occurring within the Church with some churches supporting the nation of Israel and others showing support for the Palestinians. In reaction to the overwhelming support of Israel by evangelical Christians during the Feast of the Tabernacles Conference held in Jerusalem in October every year, Churches that side with the Palestinians attend the Christ at the Check Point Conference. The latter takes place in March each year at a hotel in Bethlehem that is close to the Bethlehem check point which allows passage through the wall that separates Israel from the Palestinian West Bank area. These churches are from a variety of denominations, but they are mainly churches that have eschatological views that allow antagonism towards Israel. Those attending the conference repeatedly misrepresent and denounce Israel, but not Palestinian policy. Israel is condemned by them for its treatment of Palestinians, but they never censure Palestinians for their continued murderous terror against Israel. Many Protestant churches have come together with Arab Christian churches to form Churches for Middle East Peace to help create a Palestinian State in Israel. The problem with this is that a Palestinian state would have the goal of annihilating Israel!

The 21st century has generated an Islam-influenced Christian anti-Semitism. When a Church denies its Jewish roots it is susceptible to a new form of anti-Semitism, however cleverly cloaked. Replacement theology is a cancer within the Church that causes Christians to be blinded to God’s Word concerning the Jewish people and to become agents of the enemy who direct malicious rhetoric and hate towards the Jews.

In conclusion to this chapter on eschatology, it is important to discuss the attitude of many Christians towards End Times debates. Many Christians believe that the study of eschatology is not all that important because Jesus will ultimately return and triumph over sin and evil, with the scripture most quoted to emphasise their point being Matthew 16:18: “…the gates of Hades will not overcome [the Church].” The opinion is that it does not matter what eschatological view we follow because it will all pan out the way God intends, and the Church will ultimately triumph over “the gates of hell.” However, it is not as simple as that; eschatology matters because it is God’s road map for the Church, by which we see His ultimate control over all things, no matter how chaotic the world may seem. It also focuses the direction of intersession, which God requires of the Church.

Matthew 16:18 is commonly misinterpreted. The error that is made occurs through ignorance of the culture on which this scripture is based; the scripture needs to be understood from the perspective of the Jewish culture and tradition. In Biblical times the gates of a city were where courts were held and disputes settled (Deuteronomy 25:7; Ruth 4:1) and because Kings would sit at the gate to perform their official duties and meet with the elders of the city, the gate would then become synonymous with planning and authority. So, when Jesus used the term “the gates of hell” when speaking to His Jewish disciples, they would interpret that phrase as meaning Satan’s power, authority and his schemes would not prevail against the Church. The Church must realise that Satan will do all he can to disrupt the plans of God. Satan knows that when Jesus returns, his doom is unavoidable, so he will do all in his power to frustrate God’s designed progression of events to delay the inevitable for as long as possible and cause as much mayhem along the way as he can. For the Church to ignore this fact is irresponsible and is playing into Satan’s hand. The Church will prevail as is correctly pointed out, but if we do not confront Satan’s deceptions, it will be at a great cost.

A look at the conflict between David and Absalom in 2 Samuel highlights the tenuous situation that the Church is in when it ignores the correct interpretation of Matthew 16:18. David allowed Absalom to take his place of authority at the gates of Jerusalem (2 Samuel 15:1-6). If the Church allows the plans of Satan to take root, anarchy will ensue. Absalom’s usurping of David’s power and authority resulted in David fleeing Jerusalem, walking barefoot over the Mount of Olives, “weeping as he went” (2 Samuel 15:30) and having stones thrown at him by Shimei (16:6). Although David eventually returned to Jerusalem and was restored to his rightful place as king, he paid a great cost. The lesson to be learned by the Church from this narrative with regards to End Times is that if we ignore God’s prophetic plan and purpose for the Church, we allow Satan to bring deception to cloud God’s intended purpose and this allows Satan to implement his own plans. Conflict will inevitably arise between truth and deception. With God’s guidance, the truth must invariably win. But at what cost? David was reduced to nothing because of his lenient attitude to Absalom, and similarly, God will allow the Church to be humbled if we ignore Israel’s important role in the End Times scriptures.

Prophecy is very important. God uses prophecy in three ways: as a revelation that He is the one true God who knows the end from the beginning (Isaiah 46:9-10); to comfort his Children by assuring them that no matter what the circumstances, He is in control; and finally to direct the focus of intersession and actions of the Church to be in line with His divine will. Therefore, eschatology does matter. It is extremely important for Christians to study God’s Word and ensure that they have a sound understanding of the direction in which the Lord is leading His Church. 1 Chronicles 12:32 refers to the men of Issachar who “understood the times and knew what Israel should do.” The Church needs men and women like the men of Issachar who are able to understand the signs of the times and know what God expects of His Church.

Those Christians who support Amillennialism are able to view prophecy passively as they believe that the Church is already in the Millennium; all that Christians need to do regarding prophecy is wait for the return of Jesus and the New Jerusalem (Revelation 21). This is exactly what Satan wants! A passive Church! “Prophecy is not an excuse for passivism. It is a call to participation” (4). God has opened the window for His Church to identify His plan and purpose and for the Church to intercede into those areas. The Hebrew word paga means “intercession”. An example of this in scripture would be Isaiah 53:12, “He bore the sins of many, and made intercession (paga) for the transgressors.” David Nekrutman, Director for the Centre for Jewish-Christian Understanding & Cooperation, writes, “Intercession is more than just praying. It’s an ongoing commitment to remain in a position before God for a particular situation until the case has been solved” (5). Just as evangelical Christians interceded for the formation of the state of Israel, the return of Jerusalem to Israel, for the Jews to return to Israel from all nations of the earth etc. the Church of today must continue to intercede on behalf of Israel, because there is not only a military threat on the nation, but there is also a spiritual battle taking place for control of Israel, as it is to Israel our Lord will return to set up His Kingdom, with His throne in Jerusalem.

(1) michael-j-vlach-ph-d.html


(3) Premillennialism in the Old Testament:

(4) Lewis, David Allen. Prophecy 2000. New Leaf Press, 1990.

(5) Knowing our Hebrew Roots: News and Views; Edition 32, March/April.


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