Dear Friend of Israel,
I was recently interviewed by a gentleman doing some research about what Christians believed concerning the end times. Following that interview I had a fascinating discussion with Sondra Baras, the Director of our Israel Office. Clearly, this is an issue that so many are curious about when exploring the Jewish-Christian relationship. And it is an issue associated with so much misunderstanding and confusion. As I have struggled with this issue myself, I believe it is critical that we discuss it.
I grew up in a home where belief in “end times rapture” was taken to the extreme. Thankfully, when I left home, I went through a year-long process re-evaluating everything I had been taught by my parents, accepting some and making them my own, and rejecting others that I did not find in God’s Word. I never questioned my faith, rebelled, or left Christianity. However, I did evaluate some of the more radical ideas I had been brought up to believe and decided that they were not something I could ever believe myself. I made a conscious choice to live with a more moderate view of the end times.
This may sound like I’m watering down the gospel, but I am convinced that after you’ve read about where I’ve been you will understand a little better what I’m trying to say. My Dad was born again when I was about 12. He had an extreme personality and never did anything half way. So he approached his new-found faith the same way. He was particularly interested in the end times and Israel and I owe a lot of what I know about Modern Israel to him and his constant study of events in Israel since 1948.I can remember him reading every book ever written in the ‘80’s about end times and prophecy, while at the same time searching for every scrap of news coming from the Middle East.
At some time in my early teen years, he came to the conclusion that the rapture was going to happen on Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year). As a result, from the middle of summer until after Rosh Hashanah our world stopped. He was so sure that the rapture was just around the corner, so what was the point in doing anything? Why be productive when you would never see the fruits of your labor? Then, each year, when the rapture did not happen on Rosh Hashanah, he would go into a depression that lasted for months. This pattern repeated itself for years and it did not make for a healthy lifestyle.
Another of my memories is being 16 years old and wanting desperately to get married and have a child, because I didn’t think that I would live to be 18. And I wanted to be married and have a family before the rapture happened. I was ready to marry any man that breathed; I didn’t think I had time to be choosy. Around the same time, we bred a pony that we had, and I was so excited at the possibility of raising the foal. However, those were the longest 11 months of my life, because I was absolutely sure that I would not be around to see the day when the colt was born. The rapture was going to happen and I was going to miss one of the most exciting times of my young life.
As I look back, I realize that I missed out on some of the most beautiful moments of childhood, the innocence and the carefree spirit, because I was sure that I would never live to see adulthood. I wasted my youth worrying about things I could never change. Thankfully, we have an awesome God who restores years that the enemy steals from us. I had a wonderful time in my 20’s being single and carefree, still loving God but not overwhelmed with a depressing sense of doom that could happen at any time.
Most Christian theology regarding the end-times rapture holds dire consequences for Jews. Pretty much across the board, Christians believe that in order for Jesus to return, the nation of Israel must be massacred. This isn’t a pleasant thought and one that causes Jews to question Christian “charity”. If Christians are being nice to the Jews, just so they can be “wiped out,” so Jesus can return to rule from Jerusalem, why would the Jews want to encourage that relationship? Who needs enemies, if you have friends like that?
I personally believe that we have already seen the massacre of Jews that is prophesied in the Bible as “the time of Jacob’s trouble”. I believe that we saw it happen in the ovens of Auschwitz and the Holocaust of Eastern Europe over 60 years ago. But that aside, my true belief comes down to the fact that I don’t have a clue what God has planned for the future, or end times. And I don’t really care. I know that He is in control and that He loves me. I also know that He chose the Jewish people thousands of years ago as His own special people, so He must have a plan and a purpose for them. And I’m willing to trust God to take care of His own and make a way for them when there may seem to be no way.I don’t have to have it all figured out.
So when I get asked if I am supporting Israel so that it will hasten end times, I unequivocally answer that I do not believe my support of Israel will hasten the destruction of the Jewish people or the return of Jesus. That is not my intent or purpose in showing the Jews my unconditional love. I support Israel because I believe that: a) God said that He will bless those who bless His people Israel. b) God’s chosen people are the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, who are the modern day Jewish people we have living among us. c) God has a plan and a purpose for His country Israel, and I can take part of what He is doing by standing with and supporting those who are living in the very heart of what He promised centuries ago.
How exciting it is that we live in a day when we are seeing the fulfillment of so many ancient prophecies. To see the mountains of Israel flourishing under Jewish control after they lay barren and desolate for thousands of years under foreign powers.
What the future holds and when, I leave in God’s hands and try to do my part by just living in the here and now, doing what I feel the Lord is telling me to do on a daily basis. I think that is what God meant when He told Joshua and Caleb that they had to go in and “possess” the Promised Land, to take hold of it and live each minute to the fullest — not wasting a single moment dwelling on what the future may or may not hold.
We do have to be responsible with and for our actions, but I think if we live each moment to the fullest in light of eternity, we will accomplish far more than if we try through human schemes to “force” or otherwise “move” God’s time table.
Director, US Office
Christian Friends of Israeli Communities