A fast-growing segment of Fundamentalist and Evangelical Christianity is adopting a belief-system known as “Christian Zionism.” It is troubling that this pseudo-Christian philosophy has received relatively little examination and criticism from Christian leaders. Some mainstream church bodies do oppose it, but for mainly political reasons. In particular, those who advocate a two-state solution in Palestine are perturbed that the Christian Zionists are opposed to any concessions by the Israeli state that might lead to peace with their Palestinian neighbors. Even the liberal National Council of Churches website warns, “Unfortunately it has influence in American churches, to the point where many well-meaning Christians are swayed to support particularly destructive directions in U.S. foreign policy with regard to the Middle East.”
While politics is important in today’s world, yet little is said about Christian Zionism’s theology and its specific Biblical interpretation. For example, Dr. Antonios Kireopoulos stated, “it is a manipulation of Christian scripture and teaching,” but gave no specifics. Let us review what these people teach about the Bible!
The leading proponent of Christian Zionism in the world today is San Antonio, Texas minister, John Hagee. His treatise on this subject, “In Defense of Israel” published in 2007, seems to be nothing less than a radical deliberate denial of New Testament teaching concerning Christ and salvation. However, rather than openly denying the words of Scripture, he seems to subtly and shrewdly undermine its teachings. Let us look at a few examples:
Hagee insists there is “not one verse of Scripture in the New Testament that says that Jesus came to be the Messiah” (p.136). In fact, he claims that the Jews were never told that Jesus was the Messiah. Jesus, he says, even refused to be the Messiah! Do you remember reading that in your Bible? This line of argument serves the purpose of disapproving Jewish evangelism and excusing Jewish unbelief. Therefore, the argument goes, “How can the Jews be blamed for not accepting what was never offered?” (ibid.) If you think such remarks are only the aberrant mindless ramblings of an unimportant crackpot, the fact is that Rev. Hagee boasts a congregation of 14,000 members and an audience of several millions through his speaking and book sales. He is without doubt one of the most influential religious leaders in America today.
Much of Hagee’s argument rests upon the supposition that there were four cups of wine at Christ’s Last Supper at the time of Passover.
Much of Hagee’s argument rests upon the supposition that there were four cups of wine at Christ’s Last Supper at the time of Passover. Jewish tradition designated these Passover cups as: Remembrance, Redemption, Salvation, and Messiah. Hagee claims that Jesus did not drink the fourth cup, signifying that He was rejecting any role as Messiah. However, Hagee does not give his readers the source of this, leaving the implication that it is Scripture-based. In actuality, however, two medieval Jewish rabbis originated the “four cups” tradition, according to the Orthodox Jewish website “askmoses.com.” One was the famous Kabbalist, Nahmanides, whose full name was Rabbi Moses ben Nachman Girondi, Bonastruc ca Porta, usually known by his acronym, Ramban. He lived 1194 to 1270, about 1,200 years after Jesus’ time. The second rabbi who helped develop this custom was a leading medieval Jewish scholar, Obadiah ben Jacob Sforno, an Italian rabbi and philosopher who lived 1475 to 1550.
It is therefore a fact that a couple of medieval rabbis—a Kabbalist and a philosopher—developed the tradition of having four cups of wine at Passover. They did attempt to give it an ostensible Old Testament basis with their own rabbinic interpretation of Exodus 6:6-8. These verses read, “Wherefore say unto the children of Israel, I am the LORD, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will rid you out of their bondage, and I will redeem you with a stretched out arm, and with great judgments: And I will take you to me for a people, and I will be to you a God: and ye shall know that I am the LORD your God, which bringeth you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians. And I will bring you in unto the land, concerning the which I did swear to give it to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob; and I will give it you for an heritage: I am the LORD.”
There are actually five expressions of redemption here, in which God says, “I will bring you out,” “I will remove your bondage,” “I will redeem you,” “I will take you for a people,” and “I will bring you into the land.” The fourth statement, which promises Israel’s nationhood, was interpreted by these medieval rabbis as promising a future political Messiah who would deliver Israel from foreign enemies and create an independent nation. However, turning this passage into a mystical command to assign four (or even five) named cups of wine at Passover first developed over 1,200 years after Christ—hardly proof that Jesus rejected His Messiahship! (Note that Scripture knows nothing about four or five cups of wine at Passover: Lev. 23:13).
What do the Scriptures say about Jesus’ Messiahship? A few verses from the Gospels (using here the Amplified Version) should settle the issue: Mark 14:61-62 reads, “Again the high priest asked Him, Are You the Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed One), the Son of the Blessed? And Jesus said, I AM; and you will [all] see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power (the Almighty) and coming on the clouds of heaven.”
In John 4:25-26 we are told, “The woman said to Him, I know that Messiah is coming, He Who is called the Christ (the Anointed One); and when He arrives, He will tell us everything we need to know and make it clear to us. Jesus said to her, I Who now speak with you am He.”
John 10:24-25 says, “So the Jews surrounded Him and began asking Him, How long are You going to keep us in doubt and suspense? If You are really the Christ (the Messiah), tell us so plainly and openly. Jesus answered them, I have told you so, yet you do not believe Me. The very works that I do by the power of My Father and in My Father’s name bear witness concerning Me [they are My credentials and evidence in support of Me].” Are these and other such verses not found in Rev. Hagee’s Bible?
Other strange statements he makes are not only unbiblical, but also run completely contrary to the New Testament, which is the foundational belief of the Christian faith. Hagee claims to be “believing the same Scriptures as the Jews” (p.13), which therefore, I presume, does not include the New Testament! He states that “The Old Jerusalem” is his “spiritual home”; in other words, his spiritual home is not the New Covenant with its New Jerusalem! (p.12) He states, “The Shekinah [i.e., Holy Spirit-jsb] rests on a wall in Jerusalem” (p.13); can he not find the Holy Spirit in the hearts of Christians? In actual fact, the Old Testament tells us that the Holy Spirit left Jerusalem in ancient times due to the people’s lack of faith and obedience to God (Ezk. 11:23). In 587 B.C. the Babylonians conquered, destroyed, and exiled the nation of Judah, razing the Temple of Jerusalem and its walls to the ground, all due to God’s judgment. (Isa. 10:5-6) Perhaps Hagee’s understanding of the Old Testament is just as lacking as his exposition of the New Testament.
Rev. Hagee states that he purchases and reads Jewish books “because the intellectual foundation of my life’s work” is in them (p.15). Is it strange that a Christian minister cannot find the foundation of his faith in the New Testament and the Words of Jesus? Apparently, the Jewish books that form the basis of his theology are medieval mystics and Kabbalists, as evidenced by his theology above.
We have a responsibility to ask questions when a supposedly Christian minister never seems to profess belief in the saving power of Christ, claims that the children of God are not Christians but Jews (p.51), and ridicules the New Testament as “what sponsored the Crusades, the Inquisition, and ultimately produced the Holocaust” (p.158). Perhaps most telling of his true religious convictions is his statement that, “The only theology God ever created was Judaism” (p.96).
In denying that Jesus was the Messiah, Hagee certainly seems to be denying that His blood sacrifice had any real importance. Accordingly, it is not surprising that Hagee declares that Abraham’s sacrifice in Genesis 15:7-12 is “the most spectacular blood covenant” (p.162). In other words, he is implying that Jesus’ blood shed at Calvary was not as efficacious or essential for redemption as was the Old Covenant. If so, Abraham’s offer of sacrificial animals was of more value than the death of Jesus.
This “Anti-Messiah” religious conviction of Hagee and the Christian Zionists is therefore nothing less than a rejection of Christ and His blood shed for sin. Few of their misguided followers probably ever stop to consider that if Jesus was not the Jewish Messiah, neither could his blood save the Gentiles, either. This doctrine makes Jesus out to be a bald-faced fraud and charlatan, and His followers to be religious fools; but those whose faith is in Christ and Scripture know who the real charlatan is. It is unbelievably sad that millions of Christians can so easily be misled by such false teaching; a sad sign of the times in which we live.