Is Dispensationalism Anti-Semitic in Nature?
For those of you who may not be familiar with the term, Dispensationalism, let me begin by defining it. Basically, it is a form of theology that crystallized in the early 1800s in England. One of its distinguishing features is that it makes a clear differentiation between Israel and the Church.
Whereas other forms of Christian theology tend to dismiss the Jewish people by making the claim that the Church has replaced Israel, Dispensationalism argues that God still loves the Jewish people and is determined to bring a great remnant of them to salvation. Further, Dispensationalists believe that God will ultimately fulfill all the promises He has made to Israel during the Lord’s millennial reign. Other forms of Christian theology usually argue that all the promises made to Israel have been transferred to the Church, and they deny that there will be any future Jewish kingdom.
There are two aspects of the Dispensational view of the end times that have come under attack by many Jewish believers, who are referred to as Messianics. Specifically, the two Dispensational teachings that some Messianics have labeled anti-Semitic are the Pre-Tribulation Rapture and the Two-Thirds Massacre.
The Pre-Trib Rapture is the concept that the Church will be taken out of the world before the beginning of the Tribulation, when the wrath of God and the terror of the Antichrist will afflict all of humanity. The Two-Thirds Massacre refers to the teaching that two-thirds of the Jewish people will die during the Tribulation before they come to the end of themselves and turn their hearts to Jesus and receive Him as their Messiah.
Messianic Judaism as a distinctive manifestation of Christianity developed in the late 1960s and early 70s following the Six Day War in 1967. It was a part of what Church historians call “The Jesus Movement.” There was a great movement of the Holy Spirit nationwide, and it touched the lives of many young Jews who gave their lives to Yeshua (Jesus’ Hebrew name).
Those of you who are familiar with this ministry are well aware of the fact that we have always been very supportive of the Messianic Jewish Movement. In fact, there are few things that excite me as much as meeting a Jew who has discovered that Yeshua is his Messiah. Messianic believers are filled with the joy of the Lord, and they love to celebrate their Messiah in exceedingly joyous worship. About the only people I have found who are equally happy are Catholics who have discovered the grace of God!
In recent years as I have experienced increasing fellowship with Jewish believers, I have discovered to my consternation that many of them believe that Dispensationalism is an expression of anti-Semitism! If you mention either the Rapture or the Two-Thirds Massacre, many Messianics are likely to respond, “Here we go again, Gentiles hoping that Jews will be persecuted and killed.”
With regard to the Pre-Trib Rapture, many Messianics have the idea that believing Gentiles will be taken out in the Rapture and all Jews will be left behind to suffer the terrors of the Antichrist. What those with this view fail to understand is that all true believers will be taken out in the Rapture, and that includes Orthodox, Catholic, Protestant, Pentecostal and Messianics. Of course, many who fall into these groups who are not true believers will be left behind. But all true believers, regardless of their label, are members of the Church and are therefore a part of the Bride of Christ. When Jesus appears in the heavens in the Rapture, he will be coming as a Bridegroom to snatch His Bride out of this world — and that definitely includes Messianics.
As for the Two-Thirds Massacre of the Jewish people, this teaching is based upon a prophecy found in Zechariah 13:7-9 where the prophet says that during the end times, two-thirds of the Jewish people will die.
This terrible persecution is affirmed in the New Testament in Revelation 12:13-17 where we are told that during the second half of the Tribulation the Antichrist will focus his fury on the Jewish people and try to annihilate them. This is the reason that Jesus referred to the second half of the Tribulation as the “great tribulation” (Matthew 24:21), because at the time, He was speaking to an audience of Jews. It is also the reason why both Jeremiah and Daniel referred to the same period as a time of “distress” for the Jewish people (Jeremiah 30:7 and Daniel 12:1).
There are a couple of things that Messianics forget when they get upset with this teaching. First, God’s wrath is going to be poured out on the Gentile nations during the first half of the Tribulation, resulting in the death of one-half of all the Gentiles on earth. We are talking here about more than three billion Gentiles! So, the Tribulation is not just a time of Jewish suffering.
As for the Jewish people during the second half of the Tribulation, their persecution is motivated by God’s love for them. He is determined to bring a great remnant of them to salvation, and He is going to do that by bringing them to the end of themselves. Unfortunately, that is going to require intense suffering because, as the Hebrew prophets affirm over and over in their writings, there are no people as stubborn and stiff-necked as the Jewish people.
Some Messianics try to dismiss Zechariah’s prophecy by claiming it was fulfilled during the Holocaust. But that horror resulted in the deaths of about one-third of the Jews, not two-thirds.
Dispensationalists love the Jewish people and are among the strongest supporters of the nation of Israel. They do not desire to see the death of a single Jew, but they must teach what the Scriptures say.