By Babu G. Ranganathan
Most evangelical Christians believe that the "Great City" in the Book of Revelation (chapter 14, verse 8) which God destroys in His wrath and which is described figuratively as "Babylon" is Rome. They believe it is Rome because the city is described as being surrounded by seven hills.
However, Jerusalem, also, is surrounded by seven hills. The proof that Jerusalem is the Great City and not Rome is found in Revelation 11:8 where we read "And their dead bodies shall lie in the street of the Great City, which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified." Was the Lord crucified in Rome or in Jerusalem? The wrath of God against Jerusalem for its apostate Judaism is what the early portions of the Book of Revelation are all about.
The problem with most evangelical Christians today is that they interpret the Book of Revelation literally. Revelation is primarily a book of symbolism and not to be interpreted, for the most part, literally. The Book itself tells us not to interpret it literally.
In the very first verse of the very first chapter we read, "The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God (the Father) gave unto Him, to show unto His servants things which must shortly come to pass; and He sent and signified it by His angel unto His servant John" (Revelation 1:1, KJV). The word "signified" in the passage comes from a Greek word meaning "signs" or "symbols." Thus, Revelation was meant by Christ to be interpreted symbolically, not literally! The Book of Revelation, like the rest of the New Testament, was originally written in Greek so sometimes we must go to the Greek language to have a more precise understanding of certain words.
The New Jerusalem, as opposed to the Old Jerusalem of apostate Judaism in Revelation, is described as being God's bride. Scripture teaches that God's bride is the Church (the spiritual body of Jew and Gentile believers in Christ). The New Testament, spiritually speaking, teaches that the Church now is the "Israel of God". The New Testament teaches that the Church is a mystery not taught or revealed in Old Testament Scripture.
Many evangelical Christians today are looking forward to the seven year tribulation period of Israel which would require for the Jews to be in the land. But this period had already occurred in history during 63 A.D. to 70 A.D. (seven years) when the Roman army besieged and destroyed Jerusalem and the Jewish Temple. It was this destruction of Jerusalem that Jesus said would mark the end of the age (the Jewish Age, that is). During these seven years, there was a brief respite from the attacking Roman army and this respite gave an opportunity for believing Jews (Christians) of this time to escape the final destruction of Jerusalem and have their lives spared.
Most evangelical Christians are dispensationalists and are still seeking for an Israel that the New Testament says is the spiritual body of Christ made up of both Jew and Gentile believers in Jesus Christ and who together (as one seed) inherit the same (not different) promises (Galatians 3:14-16).
The New Testament refers to the Christian church as the "Israel of God" (Galatians 6:16). There is good reason to believe that some of the Old Testament descriptions of God's future dealings with Israel are already being fulfilled spiritually in and through the Christian church which is made up of both Jew and Gentile believers in Christ inheriting the same (not different) promises.
What about the modern state of Israel? Although the modern state of Israel now has every right to exist as any other nation (as long as it honors the UN resolutions upholding Palestinian rights) this does not mean that Zionism ( the belief that Jews have a biblical right to all of Palestine) is correct. And it is Zionism that is primarily fueling the building and expansion of illegal Israeli settlements on Arab land (the West Bank).
As an evangelical Christian, of Indian origin, I wish to set the biblical issue in proper perspective.
From a purely biblical perspective Zionism has enormous problems.
The fact is that almost none of the Jews in modern Israel today are descendants of the original Jews of Palestine thousands of years ago. Most of the Jews in Israel today are descendants of Europeans who had converted to Judaism in the Middle Ages (known as Khazar or Ashkenazi Jews).
The last time God had promised in the scriptures to bring the Jews back to their ancestral homeland was fulfilled centuries ago when He brought them back from their Babylonian captivity. We read in the Book of Daniel that, during the Babylonian captivity, the Jews were spread through out all the nations of the empire of Babylon. When most of these Jews returned to Israel from their Babylonian captivity that fulfilled God's only and last promise of bringing His people back to their homeland. Thus, the Jews in present-day modern Israel are not a fulfillment of that ancient promise.
Furthermore, God's promises concerning the land to the Jews in the OldTestament were conditional - only so long as they continued to obey Him were those promises concerning the land binding (Read Deuteronomy 28). In any case, God had already fulfilled centuries ago His promise concerning the land to the Jews. We read in the Book of Joshua 21:43, 45 "And the Lord gave unto Israel all the land which He sware to give unto their fathers; and they possessed it, and dwelt therein. There failed not ought of any good thing which the Lord had spoken unto the house of Israel; all came to pass". Thus, there is no promise concerning the land that still awaits any fulfillment.
The best way for Israel to stop terrorist attacks in its territory is by first ceasing its occupation of all Arab lands and the continual, unrestrained building of Jewish settlements in the West Bank. In 1967 Israel went to war in self-defense and captured Arab land. Israel was right in defending itself.
However, the issue now is no longer so much self-defense. The problem is that Israel will not pull back to its pre-1967 borders so long as many Israelis and most evangelical Christians in America continue to believe that present day Jews have a biblical right to all of Arab territory in Palestine.
The modern state of Israel, now that it has been established, has every right to exist, but Israel should also be made to uphold the UN resolutions concerning Palestinian inalienable rights. Unlike before, almost all Arabs, including Palestinians, now will recognize Israel's right to exist or, at least, will not wage war with Israel if Israel completely withdraws to its pre-1967 borders. But, what Palestinians and other Arabs cannot live with is Israel's continued occupation of the West Bank and Israel's continued building of settlements there. Most Palestinians will stop their resistance and even go after the terrorists themselves if Israel simply gets out of their way (the West Bank) and that is the best way for Israel to stop the resistance and preserve its security and peace - not to mention the security and peace of others.
It is important, however, to have some basic background knowledge of how the modern state of Israel was founded.
As one writer points out: "Israel was created (in the beginning) not by force of arms or military invasion, but terrorist activity advocated by Jewish immigrants, in an effort to get rid of the British Administration (the lawful government of the day, as sanctioned by the predecessor to the U.N). Britain abandoned its mandate and Israel was created by the U.N."
Any solution to the present crisis must also involve monetary or financial compensation being made by Israel to Palestinian families who have had their homes and lands seized and taken away during the formation of the modern state of Israel in the 1940's. (According to the UN resolution 194, Palestinian refugees have the right for compensation and repatriation).
During that time Palestinian families suffered huge atrocities at the hands of Jewish immigrants including many pregnant Palestinian Arab women having their wombs ripped open alive and their babies slaughtered before their very eyes. This was one of the many horrible crimes committed against Palestinians by even by such notable political figures as former Prime Minister of Israel Menachem Begin, and the Palestinians should be compensated by the modern state of Israel for these crimes. That is only right.
The terrorism committed by Jewish immigrants against Palestinian Arabs in the late 1940's is a major reason for why many Palestinian Arabs fled their homes and land and became refugees.
However, as long as most evangelical Christians in America believe modern Zionism is biblical they will continue to exert one-sided pressure in Washington DC in support of Israel's status quo in the region and prevent any pressure on Israel to pull back to its pre-1967 borders and discontinue building settlements on Arab land.
That is why it is very important to understand that there is no biblical basis for modern Zionism.
If America insists Israel must be fair to Palestinians it will not only help achieve peace in the Middle East but also will reduce Muslim extremism, and even terrorism, against the United States.
For those interested in a biblical study of the historic Christian preterist view and interpretation of the Book of Revelation and Bible prophecy concerning the second coming of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ an excellent site to visit is http://www.preteristarchive.com where various links and resources are available on the subject.
Please read the author's article "Second Coming of Christ Misunderstood" (2nd edition) at: http://bgrnathan.blogspot.com/2010/04/second-coming-of-christ-misunderstood.html.
The author, Babu G. Ranganathan, has his bachelor's degree with concentrations in theology and biology and has been recognized for his writings on religion and science in the 24th edition of Marquis "Who's Who In The East". The author's articles may be accessed at http://www.religionscience.com