Wednesday, July 26, 2006
By Donald Wagner
...An early version of Christian eschatology, called "historic premillennialism," held that Jesus would return and establish his millennial kingdom after the world had been evangelized. However, by the 18th century another model of eschatology emerged in England that emphasized the role of a reconstituted Israel in the end times. This eschatology was rooted in three streams of British Christianity: the piety of English Puritanism; the view that Britain was the "new Israel," a theme that dates back at least to the seventh century and the Venerable Bede; and a hermeneutic that interpreted biblical prophetic texts as having a literal, future fulfillment. Among the forerunners of this movement was Sir Henry Finch, a prominent lawyer and member of Parliament. In 1621, Finch wrote a treatise in which he called upon the British people and its government to support Jewish settlement in Palestine in order to fulfill biblical prophecy.
As the year 1800 approached, several premillennial theologies emerged as a result of the insecurity surrounding the American and French revolutions. Among them were various utopian movements and the Millerites (a group that later became Seventh-day Adventists). During this period John Nelson Darby (1800-82), a renegade Anglican priest from Ireland, popularized and systematized eschatological themes while simultaneously developing a new school of thought which has been called "futurist premillennialism."
During 60 years of unceasing travel and preaching across the European continent and North America, Darby converted a generation of evangelical clergy and laity to his views. Darby held that biblical prophecies and much of scripture must be interpreted according to a literal and predictive hermeneutic. He believed that the true church will be removed from history through an event called the "rapture" (I Thess. 4:16-17; 5:1-11), and the nation Israel will be restored as God's primary instrument in history.
According to Darby, Christians must interpret history in light of seven epochs or "dispensations," each of which reflects a particular manner in which God deals with humanity. For example, we currently live under the dispensation of "Grace," whereby people are judged according to their personal relationship with Jesus Christ. This hermeneutical method is called dispensationalism.
Through Darby's influence, premillennial dispensationalism became a dominant method of biblical interpretation and influenced a generation of evangelical leaders, including Dwight L. Moody. Perhaps the most influential instrument of dispensational thinking was the Scofield Bible (1909) which included a commentary that interpreted prophetic texts according to a premillennial hermeneutic. Another early Darby disciple, William E. Blackstone, brought dispensationalism to millions of Americans through his best seller Jesus Is Coming (1882). Blackstone organized the first Zionist lobbying effort in the U.S. in 1891 when he enlisted J. P. Morgan, John D. Rockefeller, Charles B. Scribner and other financiers to underwrite a massive newspaper campaign requesting President Benjamin Harrison to support the establishment of a Jewish state in Palestine.
Similar efforts were under way in England, led by the social reformer Lord Shaftesbury, who, like Blackstone, was so taken with Darby's eschatology that he translated it into a political agenda. These seeds of the Christian Zionist movement preceded Jewish Zionism by several years. Loni Shaftesbury is also credited with coining an early version of the slogan adopted by Jewish Zionist fathers Max Nordau and Theodor Herzl: "A land of no people for a people with no land." Both Lord Arthur Balfour, author of the famous 1917 Balfour Declaration, and Prime Minister David Lloyd George, the two most powerful men in British foreign policy at the close of World War I, were raised in dispensationalist churches and were publicly committed to the Zionist agenda for "biblical" and colonialist reasons.
The establishment of Israel in 1948 gave dispensationalism new momentum. The restoration of a Jewish nation was taken as a sign that the clock of biblical prophecy was ticking and we were rapidly approaching the final events leading to the return of Jesus. During the cold war, dispensationalists readily interpreted the Soviet Union and its allies as the Antichrist. Passages such as Ezekiel 38-39 were read as predictions of an impending Soviet attack on Israel. A ten-member confederation--often interpreted as the European Union--was expected to join the Soviet Union in this attack.
When Israel captured Jerusalem in the 1967 war; dispensationalists were certain that the end was near. L. Nelson Bell, Billy Graham's father-in-law and editor of Christianity Today, wrote in July 1967: "That for the first time in more than 2,000 years Jerusalem is now completely in the hands of the Jews gives the student of the Bible a thrill and a renewed faith in the accuracy and validity of the Bible."
By the early 1970s numerous books, films and television specials publicized the premillennial dispensationalist perspective. Hal Lindsay made a virtual industry out of his book The Late Great Planet Earth: it sold more than 25 million copies and led to two films, as well as a consulting business with a clientele that has included several members of Congress, the Pentagon, and Ronald Reagan.
In the mid 1970s at least five trends converged that accelerated the rise of Christian Zionism. First, evangelical and charismatic movements became the fastest-growing branch of North American Christianity. Mainline Protestant denominations and the Roman Catholic Church were declining both in budgets and attendance....(more)
see also: Christians and Zion: British stirrings
1. John Hagee
2. William Blackstone
3. Dwight L. Moody
4. Billy Sunday
5. Paul Crouch
6. Rod Parsley / Perry Stone
6. Pat Robertson / Jerry Falwell
7. Chuck Swindoll
Posted by Jesus Reyes at 8:04 PM