Jerusalem Countdown – Fear or Faith?

In John Hagee’s article “The coming Holy War” featuring extracts from his book “Jerusalem Countdown”, he warns Christians of the imminent threat to Israel and the world posed by Iran’s nuclear program and advocates a showdown with Iran: “The coming nuclear showdown with Iran is a certainty. Israel and America must confront Iran’s nuclear ability and willingness to destroy Israel with nuclear weapons. For Israel to wait is to risk committing national suicide.” He urges Christians to pray and to “stand on God’s side in defense of the Jewish people who have been targeted for genocide.”

Hagee’s article raises fear in order to harness Christian support for Israel against Iran. He seems to suggest that Christians who want world peace must support war against Iran (or whoever else the USA deems to be a rogue state) in order to achieve that peace, but the Lord said, “Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit.” Jesus taught, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God” (Matt. 5:9). As Christians we have a mandate to proclaim peace, but it is not the peace that the world gives: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (Jn. 14:27).

How should Christians respond to such an alarming article? The word of the Lord to Isaiah when faced with an imminent threat was, “Do not call conspiracy everything that these people call conspiracy; do not fear what they fear, and do not dread it” (Isa. 8:12). The apostle Peter quoted these same words to encourage Christians who were being persecuted (1 Pe. 3:14).

Christians are called to love their enemies. Christians must be motivated by the love of God, not by fear, knowing that God is sovereign over all nations: “See, it is I who created the blacksmith who fans the coals into flame and forges a weapon fit for its work. And it is I who have created the destroyer to work havoc; no weapon forged against you will prevail . . .” (Isa. 54:16).

Violence breeds violence. The stronghold of terrorism cannot be demolished by a “war on terror” with the weapons of this world. The killing of our enemies is no victory for Christians – it is a victory for Satan, our adversary. Jesus tells us not to return evil with evil. The apostle Paul said, “…some people think that we live by the standards of this world. For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds” (2 Cor. 10:2-4).

Christians, like everyone, are subject to a relentless barrage of propaganda from every side in the global struggle for power. We are being drawn into the political conflicts of the Middle East that centre on the issue of Zionism. Even Christians are being polarized into those who support Zionism and those who sympathize with the plight of Palestinians.

Hagee takes it for granted that God is automatically on Israel’s side and that Christians must support Israel unconditionally. But Joshua made no such assumption: “Now when Joshua was near Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with a drawn sword in his hand. Joshua went up to him and asked, ‘Are you for us or for our enemies?’ ‘Neither,’ he replied, ‘but as commander of the army of the LORD I have now come.’ Then Joshua fell facedown to the ground in reverence” (Joshua 5:13).

God is on neither side. Self-determination, whether expressed in Arab nationalism or Zionism is not what God honours – it is we who must bring ourselves into submission to His will and purpose. Both Jews and Muslims reject the Prince of Peace and while they continue in their unbelief the Lord says, “There is no peace for the wicked” (Isa. 48:22). The gospel of Jesus Christ is the only hope of peace and salvation for Jew and Gentile. “For HE IS OUR PEACE! He has broken down the dividing walls of hostility” (Eph. 2:14). If Christians really understand this then they must realize that it is futile to be drawn into sectarian struggles on either side, for true peace will not be achieved by resolving these disputes. Even if the conflict were resolved, all men remain at enmity with God unless they are reconciled in Christ.

“Christian Zionism” demonizes Islam as the greatest enemy of the truth and of God’s people, but a Jew who rejects Christ is as much an unbeliever as a Muslim who rejects Christ. As with all unbelievers, millions of Iranians are merely pawns in a global power struggle. They are a people floundering in darkness desperate for the light of Christ. All of us were once enemies of God before coming to the knowledge of God’s mercy revealed in Jesus Christ. “And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation” (2 Cor. 5:19). The apostle Paul asked, “What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever?” Are “Christian Zionists” and “Jewish Zionists” pursuing the same goal? God’s purpose in Christ was to destroy the dividing wall of hostility, while Zionism is premised on preserving the dividing wall between Jew and Gentile. Both Jews and Muslims claim to be children of Abraham but the apostle Paul said, “…those who believe [in Christ] are children of Abraham” (Gal. 3:7). Christian Zionism purports to bless Israel, but in fact withholds the real blessing that was prophesied – the gospel of Jesus Christ – for the sake of preserving a superficial friendship.

As Christians it is imperative that we rise above sectarian divides and find our identity first and foremost in Christ, not according to the flesh. If we are drawn into the conflicts and power struggles of this world we have lost sight of the fact that the kingdom of God is not of this world and that our hope is in the resurrection. We must wage war, but not as the world does. The weapon that we fight with is the word of God and the victory is in seeing our enemies reconciled to God and to us in Christ. If Christians are concerned about the threat to world peace posed by Muslim fundamentalism they should be all the more earnest about proclaiming the gospel of peace.