Frame, Reframe: The Battle for Truth
I witnessed an attempt to reframe theology during our Canadian Friends of Israel Prophecy Conference in Winnipeg, Manitoba, last year when a colleague showed me a one-page flyer titled “Questions for Christian Friends of Modern Israel.” He had found hundreds of them circulating in the auditorium during the lunch break. At the bottom, it read, “Prepared by concerned friends of Palestinian Christians.”
We both knew the flyer was a stealthy attempt to undermine our teaching and persuade those attending our conference to abandon biblical Zionism in favor of Replacement Theology, which puts the church in place of Israel. How did we know? After all, the flyer itself did not contain the word replacement. We knew the historical truth, and we examined the flyer’s contents. It’s easy to fall for a reframed theology and its euphemistic language if you don’t know the facts.
Most Palestinian Christians hold to a replacement position. In light of the geopolitical tension that exists between Israel and the Arab world, that fact should not be surprising. The Christian community is not immune to events on the ground.
In the book What Should We Think About Israel? Dr. Randall Price interviewed Jerusalem-based Pastor Meno Kalisher concerning the relationship between Jewish and Arab believers in the Middle East. The interview reveals an intense difference between believing Jews and believing Palestinians concerning Israel’s future.
Meno is a sabra (native Israeli) and a Jewish believer in Jesus. He knows the turf, and he knows Palestinian Christians who live in the territories governed by the Palestinian Authority. Most Arabs, he said, “hold to replacement theology.”1
Each year Bethlehem Bible College in Bethlehem, six miles from Jerusalem, sponsors a high-profile conference called Christ at the Checkpoint (CATC). (Christ at the Checkpoint USA now holds a conference in the United States as well.)
The conference website explains its viewpoint: “We reject theologies that lead to discrimination or privileges based on ethnicity. Worldviews that promote divine national entitlement or exceptionalism do not promote the values of the Kingdom of God because they place nationalism above Jesus.”2
The statement utterly ignores God’s call of Israel as a people for Himself: “For you are a holy people to the LORD your God; the LORD your God has chosen you to be a people for Himself, a special treasure above all the peoples on the face of the earth” (Dt. 7:6).
The CATC statement also contradicts the theology of a literal, future kingdom for Israel.
A Look at the Flyer
The flyer’s opening paragraph states, “The questions below are difficult ones that are not often asked in churches or at prophecy confererence [sic]. But we hope they can stimulate greater faithfulness for followers of Jesus. We admit there are no easy answers! But pondering them prayerfully can bring new light.”
While the tone of the message seems mannerly and spiritual, the questions are misleading. And saying that answering them would “stimulate greater faithfulness for followers of Jesus” implies that someone who holds to biblical Zionism is a less faithful follower of Jesus than someone who does not.
The flyer posed eight questions, each one framed to refute biblical Zionism. The first asked, “What role of the Old Testament prophets was more important?” The choices were:
1) Predicting the future, especially the end times? OR
2) Calling God’s people to faithfulness, justice, and repentance?
The question is unfairly framed because both answers are true. The prophets were tasked with both, and both are equally important. God used the prophets to warn the Israelites about judgment for their ungodly behavior, yet He always had a word of hope for them and always reiterated His promises to them.
The second question asked, “When the Bible refers to the ‘Israel’ of the end times, what exactly is meant?” The choices were:
1) The faithful covenant people of God, committed to the Law and loving the Lord? OR
2) A modern secular Jewish state by that name? OR
3) A community that includes Jews and Gentiles committed to the reign of God in their lives?
The issue here is Israel. Does Israel mean the land of Israel and the Jewish people? Or does it mean something else? The “friends of Palestinian Christians” want the reader to consider that Israel means something else. If the word is taken literally, however, the answers are easy.
Biblical history teaches that God chose a people for Himself (Dt. 7). He desired them to be holy (Lev. 20:26), but most were stiff-necked (Ex. 32:9). Yet He always preserved a remnant from within literal Israel who were faithful; and His promises—made to a literal, physical, corporate people—of a glorious future have never been negated. That truth is evidenced by the modern State of Israel, standing today without breath (Ezek. 37).
Furthermore, choice three has nothing to do with Israel. The “community that includes Jews and Gentiles committed to the reign of God in their lives” is called the church, a distinct body that is not part of Israel. That is why the apostle Paul told the Roman church,
Blindness in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written: “The Deliverer will come out of Zion, and He will turn away ungodliness from Jacob; for this is My covenant with them, when I take away their sins” (Rom. 11:25–27).
Paul never said blindness has happened to the church. He never referred to the church as “Jacob,” the patriarch whose name God changed to Israel (Gen. 35:10); and members of the body of Christ already have been cleansed from sin. Israel and the church are completely separate entities, and the terms are not interchangeable.
God’s Indelible Framing
The more I thought about the flyers, the more convinced I was of the need to expose them to the people for whom they were intended. So at the opening of our question-and-answer session, I asked the audience if anyone from friends of Palestinian Christians was in attendance. No one responded, yet we proceeded to address the issues.
After the session, several people made it a point to thank us for using the flyer to expose Replacement Theology. They now could better see the attempt to reframe the biblical view on Israel, and they were renewed in their faith. God’s promises to Israel are indelibly framed in His Word and provide a guarantee to protect, preserve, and provide for His Chosen People:
Thus says the LORD, who gives the sun for a light by day, the ordinances of the moon and the stars for a light by night, who disturbs the sea, and its waves roar (The LORD of hosts is His name): “If those ordinances depart from before Me, says the LORD, then the seed of Israel shall also cease from being a nation before Me forever” (Jer. 31:35–36).
God’s Word stands forever. No need for reframing.
- J. Randall Price, ed., What Should We Think About Israel? (Eugene, OR: Harvest House, 2019), 275.
- “About Christ at the Checkpoint” (tinyurl.com/vonr4re).