On the Road to Armageddon

How evangelicals became Israel's best friend.

Adapted with permission from On the Road to Armageddon: How Evangelicals Became Israel's Best Friend, by Timothy P. Weber, copyright 2004 Baker Academic, a division of Baker Publishing Group.

In a recent Time/CNN poll, more than one-third of Americans said that since the terrorist attacks of 9/11, they have been thinking more about how current events might be leading to the end of the world.



While only 36 percent of all Americans believe that the Bible is God's Word and should be taken literally, 59 percent say they believe that events predicted in the Book of Revelation will come to pass. Almost one out of four Americans believes that 9/11 was predicted in the Bible, and nearly one in five believes that he or she will live long enough to see the end of the world. Even more significant for this study, over one-third of those Americans who support Israel report that they do so because they believe the Bible teaches that the Jews must possess their own country in the Holy Land before Jesus can return.

Millions of Americans believe that the Bible predicts the future and that we are living in the last days. Their beliefs are rooted in dispensationalism, a particular way of understanding the Bible's prophetic passages, especially those in Daniel and Ezekiel in the Old Testament and the Book of Revelation in the New Testament. They make up about one-third of America's 40 or 50 million evangelical Christians and believe that the nation of Israel will play a central role in the unfolding of end-times events. In the last part of the 20th century, dispensationalist evangelicals become Israel's best friends-an alliance that has made a serious geopolitical difference.

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During times of turmoil and world crisis, many people who ordinarily do not pay the Bible any mind are attentive to Bible teachers who use "signs of the times" to explain where history is headed.

Though dispensationalists fine-tuned their prophetic interpretations as needed over time, they retained their core belief about the role of Jews in the last days. For over 100 years, their insistence on the restoration of the Jewish state in the Holy Land seemed far-fetched. But after the founding of Israel in 1948 and its expansion after the Six-Day War, dispensationalists promoted their ideas with the confidence that Bible prophecy was being fulfilled for all to see. Starting in the 1970s, dispensationalists broke into the popular culture with runaway best-sellers, and a well-networked political campaign to promote and protect the interests of Israel. Since the mid-1990s, tens of millions of people who have never seen a prophetic chart or listened to a sermon on the second coming have read one or more novels in the Left Behind series, which has become the most effective disseminator of dispensationalist ideas ever.

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Related Topics: Faiths, End Times Apocalypse

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