"Israel is not just necessary to the return of Christ, it is essential to it." So says Reverend A.R. Bernard, pastor of the Christian Cultural Center in New York City.

His sentiments are shared by millions of Christians around the world, who steadfastly believe that a Jewish state is necessary for the Second Coming of Jesus. Their fervent support for Israel is buoyed by Old Testament passages that anoint Israel to the Jewish people, refer to the Jews as God's "chosen people," and promise that God will bless those who bless the Jewish people (Genesis 12:3).

Others Christians support Israel out of a sense of spiritual debt to the Jews, noting that the majority of the bible was written in Hebrew and ordained by God to the Jews. It is through this original covenant between God and His "chosen people" that Gentiles are able to come to God. Paul speaks of this spiritual debt and instructs us to assist the Jews (Romans 15: 27).

Other Christians have more secular reasons for supporting Israel. They believe that a united Jewish state represents the best hope of curbing the persecution of Christians throughout the Middle East and preserving the Holy Land.

Whether religious or secular in nature, a deep support for Israel resonates with millions of Christians throughout the world. Undeterred by the ongoing Israeli/Palestinian conflict and the widespread hostility toward Christians throughout the Middle East, throngs of Christians immigrate each year to the Holy Land. Indeed, Israel is the only state in the Middle East where the Christian population is actually growing.

So widespread has this support for Israel become, that there are far more Christian than Jewish Zionists in North America. This support of Israel is particularly strong among evangelical Christians.

Of course, all do not share their fervor. Many Orthodox Christians and Catholics, for example, subscribe to the "replacement theology," or the belief that the Christian church supplanted the Jews as God's "chosen people," when the latter refused to accept Jesus as Messiah.

To the evangelicals, there is a certain sublime arrogance involved in the replacement theology--the arrogance of simply crowning oneself "God's chosen people." Indeed, lacking any definitive new word from God, it would seem sublimely smug--and human--to presume that the original covenant between God and the Jews no longer exists. Furthermore, it would entail ignoring roughly 80 percent of the Bible (the Old Testament) and the biblical prophesies, all of which talk about the restoration of Israel prior to the Second Coming. Isaiah, for example, foretold that in the last days, "the Lord shall set his hand again the second time. and shall assemble the outcasts of Israel. from the four corners of the earth. and the adversaries of Judah shall be cut off." (Isaiah 11: 11-13). Ezekiel 37:22 proclaims that God will "make them one nation in the land of Israel. and they all shall have one shepherd. they shall be my people. and the heathen shall know that I the Lord do sanctify Israel."

The New Testament speaks of the dismantling of Israel (which occurred in 69 A.D.) and the scattering of the Jews across the earth. Both Luke and Mathew prophesize that the Jews will gather again in Israel prior to the advent of Christ's Second Coming. All of these examples show Israel is a major player in the big judgment, and therefore deserving of the support among the evangelicals.

While the restoration of Israel seemed inconceivable for much of Western history, it became a reality in our generation. In 1948 Israel was reestablished as a nation. In 1967, the Holy Land was restored when Israel regained the capitol, Jerusalem.

The restoration continues, moved along, in part, by evangelicals' unwavering faith in God's duty to fulfill His words.

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