In his book, “The Delusion of British-Israelism,” Anton Darms states, “The fallacy of British-Israelism is seen in the teaching that England, and not Palestine, is the Promised Land; that London, not Jerusalem, is the city from which the Prince of David will rule.” (p.204)
Without question, critics love to seize upon any stray or seemingly outlandish teaching of our proponents. The suggestion that Christ will reign from London, England plays to their advantage in making us look cultic and foolish in the eyes of the public.
Yet this was not the teaching of the founder of the British-Israel movement, John Wilson, or of a majority of British-Israel leaders and proponents since his time. Wilson founded the British-Israel movement in about the year 1840 with publication of his book, “Our Israelitish Origin,” and a dozen or so books followed until his death in 1870. He believed that Christ would reign from the city of Jerusalem, and that Britain would gain control of Palestine within about thirty years, opening up the area for a representative return of God’s people. In the 1840’s and 1850’s, there were few who foresaw Britain’s coming rulership role in Mideast affairs. Wilson was quite insightful in this, although off by a few years, since Britain’s famed Viscount Edmund Allenby with a British army gained control of Jerusalem only in December 1917—although Cypress and the Suez came into British hands in 1880.
Wilson was so confident in his understanding of Scripture that he sent his son to Palestine to prepare the way with a few other members of their growing London fellowship. Unfortunately, this son, John Wilson, Jr., contracted a disease (possibly dysentery) a short time after his arrival in Palestine and died. This son was being groomed to take over leadership of the British-Israel movement, and although the elder Wilson had three children (two sons and a daughter), his children all died without heirs.
In his work, “A Handful Of Corn On The Top Of The Mountains” (1869), John Wilson wrote of his efforts to encourage the emigration of Christians to Palestine, and the building up of Christian communities and missions there. He wrote, “The building up of a holy city to the Lord was to be the crowning glory of the latter day. Its gigantic proportions and exact locality long ago puzzled far wiser and more learned heads than mine. Yet it may be that ere long the simple truth will shine in upon the souls of some of these true-hearted teachers, who are working on so patiently among these ‘living stones’, and polishing them ‘after the similitude of a palace’; that they have been making them meet for the Great Master Builder’s use, when He comes to set up his kingdom of righteousness and peace.”
Likewise, the founder of our own Canadian British-Israel Association, longtime author and lecturer, W.H. Bennett, also proclaimed the reign of Christ from Jerusalem in the Mideast, and strongly opposed the “London reign” hypothesis. A large majority, I am sure, of others in the British-Israel movement through the years agreed. Yet our opponents talk as if the stray teaching of a few is a central tenet of our belief.
What does Scripture teach? Here there should be no room for disagreement or confusion. The prophet Isaiah wrote, “And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the LORD’S house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it. And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. (Isa. 2:2-3)
Jeremiah chapter 30 is addressed to both houses of Israel, not just Judah, as is stated in verse four. The Amplified Version of verse 18 tells us, “Thus says the Lord: Behold, I will release from captivity the tents of Jacob and have mercy on his dwelling places; the city will be rebuilt on its own [old] moundlike site, and the palace will be dwelt in after its former fashion.” In other words, lost and scattered Israel will return to the old city of Jerusalem and dwell there as in former days. However, Bible prophecy indicates a representative return (Jer. 3:14-17), not a complete immigration. When was this prophecy to take place? Verse nine pinpoints it at the dawn of the return of David’s greater son, Jesus Christ; the beginning of his Millennial reign, at the close of the period of Jacob’s trouble, the Great Tribulation, mentioned in verse seven. This is not London, nor Edinburgh, nor any other place than Jerusalem in the land of Palestine.
John Wilson commented on these Jeremiah 30 verses in his book, “The Title-Deeds Of The Holy Land,” saying, “The words seem to imply that the very site of the Jerusalem of old is now to be the site of Jerusalem in the great restoration. The rubbish of ages may have been removed, and the proper foundations laid bare; but the hill itself remains, as well as the surrounding mountains…And thence Jerusalem, rebuilt unto the Lord, on her own proper foundations, shall see peace…Now as such a restoration never has as yet taken place, we may rest assured that it is yet to be.” (pp. 45, 49)
The Prophet Joel wrote, “For, behold, in those days, and in that time, when I shall bring again the captivity of Judah and Jerusalem, I will also gather all nations, and will bring them down into the valley of Jehoshaphat, and will plead with them there for my people and for my heritage Israel, whom they have scattered among the nations, and parted my land.” (Joel 3:1-2) The word “Jehoshaphat” means “God Judges,” and is usually associated with the Kidron Valley to the southeast of Jerusalem. The wording is also sometimes interpreted to identify this place as the location of the Last Judgment. (Compare Matthew 25:31-46).
Joel further explains, “Assemble yourselves, and come, all ye heathen, and gather yourselves together round about: thither cause thy mighty ones to come down, O LORD. Let the heathen be wakened, and come up to the valley of Jehoshaphat: for there will I sit to judge all the heathen round about. Put ye in the sickle, for the harvest is ripe: come, get you down; for the press is full, the fats overflow; for their wickedness is great. Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision: for the day of the LORD is near in the valley of decision. The sun and the moon shall be darkened, and the stars shall withdraw their shining. The LORD also shall roar out of Zion, and utter his voice from Jerusalem; and the heavens and the earth shall shake: but the LORD will be the hope of his people, and the strength of the children of Israel. So shall ye know that I am the LORD your God dwelling in Zion, my holy mountain: then shall Jerusalem be holy, and there shall no strangers pass through her any more. But Judah shall dwell for ever, and Jerusalem from generation to generation. For I will cleanse their blood that I have not cleansed: for the LORD dwelleth in Zion.” (Joel 3:11-17, 20-21)
The Prophet Zechariah explained, “Then shall the LORD go forth, and fight against those nations, as when he fought in the day of battle. And his feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east, and the mount of Olives shall cleave in the midst thereof toward the east and toward the west, and there shall be a very great valley; and half of the mountain shall remove toward the north, and half of it toward the south.” (Zech. 14:3-4)
British-Israel expositors are in agreement with many mainstream scholars in recognizing that Biblical prophecy refers to Britain as “the isles.” Yet I am aware of no Scripture passages that speak of “Christ’s Second Coming to the isles” or that the Millennial kingdom will be set up in “the isles.” Instead, the verses above and others like them speak of Christ’s return and reign in the land of Palestine and its environs: Jerusalem, the Mount of Olives, Zion, the Valley of Jehoshaphat, etc.
We should not heap ridicule upon our teachings and ourselves by introducing beliefs that lack Scriptural support and have an array of passages against them. Otherwise, the essential concepts we teach will surely be missing or overshadowed in the great Scriptural debate over Israel’s lost tribes.