Historically, many evangelicals have believed that Israel has a God-given right to its land and that the nations that support Israel will be blessed. During the present Middle East crisis, however, some evangelicals have begun to rethink their support of Israel. To find out how the Bible addresses this issue, Biola Connections spoke with Dr. Alan Hultberg (M.Div. ’89), who teaches a class titled, “Expositional Methodology in Daniel and Revelation.”
What are Biola's views on Israel and the end times?
Biola affirms “dispensationalism,” the view that Scripture teaches a distinction between the Church and Israel, and that ethnic Jews still have a place in God’s prophetic plan as His covenant people. Thus, Biola is also “premillennial” — we affirm that Jesus will return physically to earth to set up a kingdom centered in the nation of Israel. This kingdom will fulfill God’s Old Testament promises to Israel of a worldwide rule and a worldwide ministry of blessing as part of His larger purpose to reconcile all of creation to Himself. Biola also affirms that the Church will be “raptured” before the establishment of the millennial kingdom and that the timing of this event is unknown.
Does the current Middle East crisis relate to Bible prophecy?
The Bible prophesies about “wars and rumors of wars” (Matthew 24:6) — presumably focused on the land of Israel — and it prophesies a final assault of the nations against Jerusalem (Ezekiel 39:2, 4, 17; Daniel 11:45; Joel 3:9-16; Zechariah 12:1-9). But these “wars and rumors of wars” are explicitly not signs of the end — that is, Israel (if not the entire world) will experience many wars throughout time, starting with the primary “war” for Jesus’ listeners, the first Jewish revolt against Rome and subsequent subjugation of Israel and destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple. Thus, what we see in the Middle East today may merely be one in a long series of disturbances in Israel and so does not, in itself, signal the end. On the other hand, the current crisis could lead to the final war, the gathering of the nations to Har-Magedon (or “the mount of assembly,” Rev 16:16; Isaiah 13:4; compare Isaiah 14:13). Before it were to do so, however, I would expect to see the “abomination of desolation” that Jesus referred to (Matthew 24:15; Daniel 7:25; 8:13; 11:31; 12:7, 11) and that Paul apparently understood to be “the man of lawlessness” (or Antichrist) taking his seat in the Jerusalem Temple and proclaiming himself God (2 Thessalonians 2:3-4; Daniel 11:36). Until that event takes place, I attach no particular significance to the current crisis.
Should Christians support Israel in the Middle East crisis?
On the one hand, we are exhorted in Scripture to pray for the peace of Jerusalem (Psalm 122:6) and told that those who bless Abraham (and by extension Israel) will be blessed (Genesis 12:3). As a dispensationalist, I believe that God still has a covenant relationship with Israel, and I thus support Israel by default and, in particular, its right to the land. On the other hand, this doesn’t mean that the current government, people, or policies of Israel are beyond fault. We can and should judge their actions against biblical principles in the same way the Old Testament prophets did.
What's the most common misconception about end-times prophecy?
A common misconception is that all biblical prophetic language is to be taken at absolute face value, that is, a “hyper-literalism.” Such an approach is wrong because it fails, at least, to take into account the various literary genres in which the prophecies are found. For example, someone may mistakenly expect everything in the book of Revelation to find a literal fulfillment. Everything in Revelation will be fulfilled, but the genre indicates that not everything will be fulfilled as portrayed in the visions.