It is important to define Christian Zionism because of the confusion and controversy surrounding it. To do so, however, we must first discuss what Zionism is and the difference between the usage of the term “Christian Zionist” and “Christian Zionism.”
The term Zionism today is used to describe the largely secular, political movement that began in the late 1800s and resulted in the founding of the state of Israel in 1948. Therefore, the term Christian Zionism is in a way an oxymoron describing a religious affiliation with a secular movement, which explains some of the confusion and controversy surrounding it.
Moreover, the fact that anti-Israel activists have demonized the term Zionism has had a detrimental effect on the use of the term Christian Zionism as well. It is the same with the term Evangelical Christian; anti-Christian liberals have so demonized the word Evangelical that more and more Christians are no longer using it.
I, for one, do not want to give up on the term Zionism because it is, at its root, a biblical concept. Zion denotes the very place and people God chose for Himself. And Zionism is the political outworking of the longing for a return to Zion which has been at the heart of Jewish prayers and sentiments for over 2000 years.
Zionism is at heart a religious movement that needed political activity to make it a reality. Christian supporters of Israel tend to view Zionism within its biblical context and not as a separate political movement that is somehow distinct and to be disdained. It is a natural progression and necessary expression of the spiritual love for Zion found in the Bible.
There are many reasons why a Christian may be a Christian Zionist—or a supporter of the return of the Jewish people to their ancient homeland and the modern State of Israel. Let me describe a few.
Personally – Millions of Christians have visited Israel and its holy sites, and seen their Bible come alive in profoundly life-transforming ways. It only stands to reason that these pilgrims return with an excitement about Israel and deep appreciation for the country.
Gratefully – All Christians should support Israel in gratitude for the protection of their Christian brethren there and the atmosphere of peace and security they enjoy as full citizens of the Jewish state. Israel provides the only safe haven for Christians in the Middle East and is consequently the only country in the region in which the Christian community is growing.
Practically – Israel’s incredible contributions across the fields of healthcare, agriculture, and technology are saving lives, creating jobs, and enriching communities across the United States. With advances ranging from text messaging to cancer research, and from drip irrigation to the flu vaccine, odds are that innovative Israelis have improved life for you and your family!
Politically – It is vital for all Americans to maintain support of a strong alliance with the only liberal democracy in the Middle East, a country that advances our national interests and shares our values of freedom of speech, freedom of worship, and human rights.
Economically – Support of Israel is a good investment, not just for the United States of America as the investor, but for the blessing of the region. The greatest blessing for the Palestinian people lies in an alliance with Israel through which they would enjoy the benefits of her strong economy and free society.
Legally – One can boldly support Israel whose founding was completely legal and formulated by the community of nations as reflected in the 1917 Balfour Declaration, the 1920 San Remo Conference Resolution, the 1922 League of Nations vote, and the 1947 UN Partition Plan. After the declaration of statehood in 1948, Israel was admitted into the United Nations in 1949 with a majority vote. Her founding was legal and our support is justified.
Morally – The tragic history of Jewish-Christian relations—a history that has been plagued by anti-Semitism perpetuated by confessing Christians—should cause all Christians to seek ways to establish a new relationship with the Jewish people based on mutual respect. Likewise, they should condemn the demonization of the Jewish people and stand with Israel.
Biblically: Christian Zionism
While those are all reasons for a Christian to be a supporter of Israel and be called a Christian Zionist, we still have not defined the ideology of Christian Zionism. It is, in fact, a theology grounded in both the Hebrew Scriptures and New Testament, that the Abrahamic Covenant, found in Genesis 12, reflects God’s choice of Abraham to birth a nation to be the vehicle of God’s redemptive plan for the world.
This everlasting covenant included the inheritance of the land of Canaan as an everlasting possession although the right of domicile on that land was conditional upon the people’s right relationship with God. The Hebrew prophets, therefore, foretold of judgment resulting in exile, and a day when God would gather His children back to their land and restore them spiritually unto Himself. The return of the Jewish people to their ancient homeland is proof of the faithfulness of God to His promises to Abraham and as such, demands our support.
One of God’s promises to Abraham was, “I will bless those who bless you.” In other words, those who blessed His plan and choice of Israel would also be blessed. This explains why Psalm 122:6 commands us to pray for the peace and well-being of Jerusalem, and as watchmen on the walls of Jerusalem in Isaiah 62:6–7, we should pray with great fervor and persistence until all of God’s promises to the Jewish people are fulfilled.
With such a firm biblical foundation for support of the Jewish people, it is no surprise to find that many of the fathers of the Bible-based Evangelical Christian movement preached from the Scriptures the return of the Jewish people to their ancient homeland and the blessing this return would bring upon the world. They include John and Charles Wesley, Robert Murray MacCheynne, Charles Spurgeon, and many of the Puritan preachers, to name a few.
One must conclude that while there are many convincing arguments based on history, morality, and plain old common sense to support Israel, that for Bible-based Christians, the biblical basis for Christian support of Israel—Christian Zionism—trumps them all and demands our lifelong pursuit of the good of the Jewish people. Therefore, we are here for Israel’s next 70 years!