In the mid-1970s I was going to Christian-Jewish observances of the Passover. You understand, First Baptist Church of Dallas had about 400 converted Jews in the congregation when I lived there, from 1975-88.
So if God blesses those who bless the Jews, and you are pro-Israel and pro-Jewish, explain Southern Baptists' efforts to convert Jews to Christianity.
We bless the Jews because they are God's chosen people, and God commanded us to, but we also believe that everyone needs to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, and we believe that that is true for everyone, including Jews. And for a Jew to come to accept Jesus as Messiah is to come to completion.
I'm often asked this question: shouldn't we respect other religions? Well, we do. But when they say we don't have the right to witness to them, they don't respect our religion because at the foundation of our faith is a command from Jesus Christ to go into all the world and preach the gospel and to seek to make disciples of all nations. If they're going to respect my faith, they have to understand I'm going to, in a non-coercive manner, seek to share my faith in Jesus Christ with them.
The key here is they both come from the way in which the person approaches the text of the scriptures. We take the scriptures to be what they say they are-which is God's word. We don't try to symbolize them away. If they say something, as incredible as it may sound--and it certainly sounded incredible in 1900 for people to preach that before the Lord came back Israel was going to be in the land of Israel--it doesn't seem so incredible today.
That is a "pre-millennial" understanding of prophecy. Premillennialism is a belief that prior to a 1,000-year literal millennial reign of Christ on earth, he is going to come back, judge the world, defeat the anti-Christ, and rule from Jerusalem for 1,000 years. That's when the lions lie down with the lambs and the children play in snake nests and not be hurt. It is the restoration of Eden.
There is also the post-millenial view, which was the dominant view up until World War I, which is that Christians will spread the gospel around the world and set the stage for Christ's return and set up a millennial time, and the Lord will come and take charge. They were far more optimistic about human nature than we have been since 1917.
Then there is the a-millennial view, which is that the millennium is a symbolic reference in scripture and not to be taken literally. So they believe the Lord is going to come back and judge the [living] and the dead, and then you're going to go straight into the new heaven and the new earth. No millennial reign.
People say that because the state of Israel was established, that proves the end-times are coming and that is why keeping the Abrahamic covenant, keeping Israel strong, is so important-because it's a sign of the end-times.
I think it is a sign of the end-times. But that's not the reason to bless Israel. The reason to do it is because God commanded it..Yes, we're one step closer to the end-times than we were before Israel came back into the land, because my understanding of biblical prophecy is that Israel is established in the land at the time that the events of the Second Coming take place. But the Bible tells us no man knows the hour or the day of his coming.
I think the time described in the Book of Revelation were really bad. But that doesn't mean we can't have a Reformation beforehand. After all, there were 19 centuries between the crucifixion and Israel being back in the land. So I don't support Israel because I want to hasten the Lord's return. The Lord is going to return when he's going to come back. It's not my concern to worry about that. My concern is to do what the Bible commands me to do.
What if Israel is destroyed in this latest conflict? What does that mean theologically?
First of all, that's not likely to happen. If all the Arab countries attacked Israel at once, Israel would defeat them. Any competent military official will tell you the Israeli defense forces would defeat them, and rather badly. But if it did happen, then my assumption would be that it means we'll have to wait a while until Israel goes back into the land. That means the Second Coming is coming later than some expected.