Why do Evangelical Christians support Israel?
24th November 2023
The Bible is the answer. Not because of Abraham, prophet shared by Jews, Christians, and Muslims. Evangelicals quote various verses from the Bible to support the State of Israel because of their belief in the Second Coming of Christ. They focus on the following verse of Saint Paul: “Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.” (1 Thessalonians 4:17). The "we shall be caught up" translates the Greek ἁρπαγησόμεθα. This term gives the name of the doctrine ‘Rapture’ a term often employed by Evangelicals. The Rapture (1 Thess 4:17) marks the beginning of the descent of Jesus on Earth. Then there shall be a Great Tribulation (μεγάλη θλῖψις Matthew 24:21, 29) with great suffering on earth and the establishment of the State of Israel as described by the Gospel of Matthew (Matthew 24:16) They read Saint John literally: “Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years.” (Revelation 20:6). At the end of the thousand years will take place the Final Judgement. For Evangelicals, if the State of Israel is not established (Matthew 24:16) and then survives one thousand years (Revelation 20:6), God’s plan (history) cannot progress towards the Final Judgement.
Most Christian denominations do not follow such interpretations. They were elaborated and enshrined by an Irishman, John Nelson Darby (1800-1892), during his Powerscourt Conversations (held on the second Tuesday of every month 1829-1833). These Protestant theological discussions took place at the Powerscourt estate in Ireland under the patronage of the Viscountess Powerscourt (1800-1836).
Darby’s doctrine is defined as premillennial dispensationalism. It was unusual enough that he left the Anglican Church and established the Plymouth Brethren starting in Dublin in 1825. His doctrines had an important impact on evangelicals in the United States especially during his travels there.
Oxford University Press popularised these doctrines with the Scofield Reference Bible. Cyrus I. Scofield (1843-1921) employed Darby’s premillennial dispensationalism in the notes he published for the University press. It has been one of the most popular Bible editions ever published in English.
In 1917 a second edition of the Scofield Reference Bible was published. In the same year the Balfour Declaration indicated the need for the creation of a State of Israel. Arthur Balfour had begun his political career serving as Chief Secretary for Ireland (1887-1891) so he was aware of theological trends as were developed among Protestants in Ireland.
The Scofield Reference Bible also included another Irish Protestant feature: the date of creation as 4004 bc. This date had been calculated by James Ussher, Archbishop of Armagh (1625-1656).
The Scofield Reference Bible is important to Evangelical Christians because it promotes premillennial Dispensationalism and gives a precise date for the creation of the world.
Evangelicals view the State of Israel through Scofield’s Biblical commentary.