June 30, 2016

American dispensationalists liked the attention and were willing to organize their constituents to support Israel in a variety of ways. One of the first groups of this kind was the National Leadership Conference for Israel, founded by Pentecostal preacher David Lewis. It supports Israel by scheduling conferences, organizing letter-writing campaigns, placing advertisements in newspapers and putting on large public rallies. Another group is Christians for Israel, whose main purpose is to help Jews from the former Soviet Union immigrate to Israel. Its "exodus" program claims to assist 1,200 Jews per month.

Probably the largest pro-Israel organization of its kind is the National Unity Coalition for Israel, which was founded by a Jewish woman who learned how to get dispensationalist support. NUCI opposes "the establishment of a Palestinian state within the borders of Israel." The organization distributes an array of newsletters and "chutzpah action alerts" to keep its members informed and involved and claims that it can mount a "virtual March on the White House" at a moment's notice if necessary.

Bridges for Peace is an educational and charitable organization that is driven by its view of Bible prophecy. In addition to sponsoring a variety of tours and educational opportunities, the organization operates the largest food bank in Israel. Christian Friends of Israeli Communities pairs up individual evangelical congregations in America with Israeli settlements on the West Bank.

Dispensationalists are also strong supporters of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, which was founded and is still run by an Orthodox Jewish rabbi named Yechiel Eckstein. The IFCJ sponsors a number of humanitarian projects to help Jews from the former Soviet Union to immigrate to Israel, provides support for Jews in Russia who are destitute and cannot leave, and aids the poor and needy in Jerusalem.

If dispensationalists have been Israel's best friends for the last 30 years, what has such friendship produced? One result has been the emergence of a strong and apparently unwavering supporter for Israel in the United States. The many pro-Israel organizations created by dispensationalists have undoubtedly made a difference. In a political world in which popular pressure counts, Israel is in a stronger position today because of the willingness of American premillennialists to throw their political clout around. The willingness of Christian conservatives to stand up for Israel has helped U.S./Israeli relations stay strong.

There is a downside to the dispensationalist/Israeli friendship. In their commitment to keep Israel strong and moving in directions prophesied by the Bible, dispensationalists are supporting some of the most dangerous elements in Israeli society. They do so because such political and religious elements seem to conform to dispensationalist beliefs about what is coming next for Israel. By lending their support-both financial and spiritual-to such groups, dispensationalists are helping the future they envision come to pass.

Throughout their history, dispensationalists have predicted that before the final events of the End Times can take place, the Temple must be rebuilt in Jerusalem. According to their scenario, half way through the Great Tribulation, Antichrist will enter the restored Temple and declare himself to be God. To outsiders, such predictions always seemed farfetched. But in the Six-Day War Israel gained control of the entire city of Jerusalem, including the Temple Mount. Suddenly all things seemed possible, at least to some people.

Anticipating a Third Temple was nothing new for the dispensationalists. For over a century they had been predicting that once Jews re-gathered in the Holy Land they would eventually build a new Temple on the site of the previous two. Not all dispensationalists agreed on all the details, but in general they saw a rebuilt Temple as indispensable to the completion of God's prophetic program. Of course, there were many practical impediments to the realization of these hopes, not the least of which was the existence of the Dome of the Rock and the Al Aqsa mosque on the site of the future Temple. How could the Temple be built, when the Temple Mount was already "occupied" by Muslim sacred sites? The answer to this question varied.

Dispensationalists could not even agree on where the new Temple would be built. There were three theories about place, based on elaborate archeological study and speculation. According to Asher Kaufman, a professor of physics at Hebrew University, the original two Temples were located on Temple Mount to the north of the Dome of the Rock. He published his findings in the Biblical Archaeological Review in 1983; but his arguments convinced few other archeologists. Kaufman did attract the attention of some leading dispensationalists, however. David Lewis, Hal Lindsey, Chuck Smith, and Chuck Missler pondered the theory with some eagerness.