The Rapture Factor
Why conservative Christians' love of Israel is intertwined with the Battle of ArmageddonBeliefnet in 2002.
Evangelical Christians have overwhelmed the White House switchboard in recent weeks with phone calls urging President Bush to continue supporting Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. In early May, more than 250 Christian leaders attended a prayer breakfast at the Israeli embassy. Last week, former Christian Coalition chairman Ralph Reed announced the formation of a Christian "Stand for Israel" campaign.
There have been many recent media reports of this "strange bedfellows" relationship between Jews--here and in Israel--and the conservative Christians who love them, especially since the relationship seems to be influencing government policy. Some have explained it as a result of the declining dependence on Arab oil, which meant leaders here needn't be as allied with Arab countries. Others suggest that after Sept. 11, Americans felt an immediate, gut-wrenching identification with Israelis, who have lived with the Muslim militant threat for decades.
But the least understood, and probably most important, reason has been missed by most secular analysts. Evangelicals support Israel because of biblical prophecy, including passages that tie the survival of Israel to the Second Coming of Jesus.
According to their reading of the Bible, God established a covenant with Abraham in the Book of Genesis. Essentially, says Beliefnet columnist Richard Land, a Southern Baptist leader with close ties to the Bush Administration, evangelicals support Israel because they believe "God blesses those that bless the Jews and curses those who curse the Jews. Consequently, we believe America needs to bless the Jews and Israel, because if we bless the Jews and support Israel, God blesses us. And if we don't, God curses us."
But it goes beyond that. The establishment--and continuation--of the State of Israel is essential to set the stage for the imminent return of Jesus. At the time of the Second Coming, these Christians believe, Jesus will descend from heaven, subdue all of Israel's enemies and take believers to heaven in what is known as the Rapture--literally, they will ascend to the clouds to be in heaven. This series of events ushers in the end-times. According to conservative Christians' reading of the Book of Revelation, this won't happen unless Israel exists in the Holy Land.