On 30 September 1980, the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem was dedicated at a ceremony attended by 1,000 Christians from 32 nations who were gathered in the Holy City for the first public Christian celebration of the biblical Feast of Tabernacles. Jerusalem’s beloved mayor, Teddy Kollek, officiated at the opening and remarked: “This has been one of the most moving ceremonies I have ever attended in my life”.
In its early years, the ICEJ’s strongest support came from evangelical Christians in Western nations who identified closely with the Embassy’s mandate to ‘comfort’ the Jewish people in response to the long, sad history of Christian antisemitism. In more recent decades, however, the Evangelical movement has experienced enormous growth in Latin America, Africa and Asia, where there are now tens of millions of new Christians who have a remarkable love and zeal for Israel and are seeking to connect with the Jewish state and people through the ICEJ.
Today, the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem remains at the forefront of the global Christian Zionist movement, with branch offices and representatives in over 90 nations and supporters drawn from more than 170 countries worldwide.
HISTORY OF CHRISTIAN ZIONISM
Christian support for Israel stands at unprecedented levels today, as there are tens of millions of Christians worldwide who have a compelling love for Israel and Jewish people. The irony is that Christians are finally getting their hearts right towards the Jewish people, unlike past Christian generations, and yet we are still being vilified as a danger to Jews and even to world peace. Meanwhile, the media often wrongly portray Christian Zionism as a recent outgrowth of the American Christian Right. Yet the Christian Zionist movement has a long noble history, a global scope, and very upright motives towards Israel and our fellow humans.
Christian Zionism is largely an extension of the Evangelical movement, which actually dates back to the Moravian revival several decades before Martin Luther and the Protestant Reformation, when Christians first began rediscovering the ‘born again’ experience of the New Testament. And as the Bible became available again in the common languages of Europe, many new Evangelical believers found that the antisemitic teachings of the established churches were not supported by Scripture. Small Pietist sects arose who studied their Bibles in Hebrew and identified with the Jews as a fellow persecuted religious minority. The Puritans of the 17th century were Christian Zionist by belief, as were those swept up in the great Wesleyan revivals. In Britain, the movement became known as “Restorationism”, which even came to be the prevailing view within the Anglican Church and eventually birthed the Balfour Declaration of 1917.
Thus, Christian Zionism predates the Jewish ‘political’ Zionist movement by decades if not centuries, and Theodor Herzl himself coined the term “Christian Zionist” at the First Zionist Congress in Basel in 1897.
Today, the Evangelical movement is the fastest growing stream of Christianity worldwide, and pro-Israel Christians can be found in nearly every nation on earth. Estimates now run as high as 700 million Evangelicals worldwide, and most tend to have a favorable view of Israel. This is due to their great respect for the authority and veracity of the Bible, and to their simple belief that modern Israel is the same as ancient Israel – the chosen people of God.
Still, Christian Zionism is a broad, diverse movement, with many expressions around the globe. The ICEJ views itself more as carrying on the work and legacy of the British Restorationists and their very pragmatic, responsible brand of pro-Israel Christian activism. We prefer to be seen as Christian adherents to ‘Biblical Zionism.’ This is the view that the God of the Bible elected both the land and the people of Israel for the purpose of world redemption, and that the modern Jewish restoration to their ancient homeland is evidence of God being faithful to His covenant promises to the Patriarch Abraham to deliver the Land of Canaan as an “everlasting possession” to his natural descendants (Genesis 17:8).
Based on this understanding, our stand with Israel is not anti-Arab but a reflection of our belief that God chose Israel because of His great love for all mankind. Further, our support for Israel is not rooted in ‘End Time’ prophecies, but in God’s faithful character to always keep His covenant promises to Israel (Genesis 12:1-3; Psalm 105:8-15; Matthew 19:28; Romans 15:8-9; Galatians 3:15-18; Hebrews 6:13-20).