The Noble History of Christian Zionism
by Dr. Jürgen Bühler, ICEJ President
Christian support for Israel is not a new phenomenon, it is as old as the Church itself. The New Testament tells us how the new Gentile churches in Greece, Asia Minor and Rome were specifically instructed to bless their Jewish brethren. The Apostle Paul gives the Roman church a powerful motivation for why Christians should support Israel. “For if the Gentiles have shared in the Jews’ spiritual blessings, they owe it to the Jews to share with them their material blessings.” (Romans 15:27)
In many of his letters and wherever he went, Paul admonished the saints to never forget to return the blessings they had received from the Jews. He devotes an entire chapter in II Corinthians to this, and mentions this practice in the churches of Achaia, Macedonia, Greece and Rome.
It is therefore no surprise that many revival movements, both pre- and post-Reformation, understood the Jewish roots of their faith and felt a heart attachment to the Jews, wanting to bless them and even foreseeing the future restoration of Israel as a nation.
Down through the centuries, such early ‘awakenings’ as the French Valdese, the Huguenots, German Pietism or the British Puritans were united in their love for the Chosen People. This, of course, contrasted with the Replacement teachings and antisemitic sentiments prevalent in most of the established churches, and so these new philo-Semitic streams often faced stiff opposition. Some even had to pay with their lives. In 1587 a man named Francis Kett was burned alive for expressing his belief that the Bible prophesied the return of the Jews to their Land.
But the teaching of God’s faithfulness to natural Israel remained bright in many Protestant circles. In 1607, Thomas Brightman stated in his book “Revelation of the Revelation” that the restoration of the Jews to Israel is most certain, since “the prophets do everywhere confirm it”.
The founder of the Methodist Church, John Wesley, writes a century later: “So many prophecies refer to this grand event [of the restoration of the Jews], that it is surprising any Christian can doubt of it. And these are greatly confirmed by the wonderful preservation of the Jews as a distinct people to this day. When it is accomplished, it will be so strong a demonstration, both of the Old and New Testament revelation…”
The English theologian Charles H. Spurgeon declared in a Sunday sermon in 1855 that, “I think we do not attach sufficient importance to the restoration of the Jews. We do not think enough of it. But certainly, if there is anything promised in the Bible it is this. I imagine that you cannot read the Bible without seeing clearly that there is to be an actual restoration of the children of Israel. […] May that happy day soon come!”
It is therefore of no surprise that since the rise of the Zionist movement among Jews in the late 19th century, devout Christians have stood alongside the Jewish people to help and support their re-establishment in Eretz Israel. Rev. William Hechler, Lord Arthur James Balfour and Col. Orde Charles Wingate are just a few examples of Christian ministers, politicians and men in uniform who stood uncompromisingly alongside the Jewish people in the years before and after the modern re-birth of the State of Israel. They were not merely friends of the Jews, but full partners in fulfilling His eternal promises to re-gather His beloved people.
Therefore, Christian Zionism is not a new stream nor do we teach a novel doctrine, but we follow in the footsteps of an ancient and noble tradition. Rooted in this Protestant and Evangelical heritage, the ICEJ has been discharging its ministry of comforting the Jewish people for over 40 years now. We invite you to join our efforts today!