What is the significance of making a pilgrimage to Israel? Find out as Dr. David Reagan interviews Dr. Gary Frazier on the show Christ in Prophecy.
Last aired on March 18, 2007.
Dr. Reagan: In the fourth century, a Christian pilgrim to Israel wrote in his journal that in his opinion, a visit to the Holy Land is like reading a fifth gospel. What would provoke him to make such a statement? And why in stark contrast, do so many pastors today see no significance whatsoever to making a pilgrimage to Israel? For insights regarding the importance of visiting the Holy Land stay tuned for an interview with a person who has made the trip more than 100 times.
Dr. Reagan: Well greetings in the name of Jesus our blessed hope. And welcome to Christ in Prophecy. My special guest this week is Dr. Gary Frazier, founder and director of Discovery Ministries in Arlington, Texas. Gary, at the beginning of this program, I quoted a fourth century pilgrim who wrote in his journal, “A visit to the Holy Land is like reading a fifth gospel.” That was in 350 AD he wrote that. Would you agree, and if so why?
Dr. Frazier: Well absolutely Dave, you know a lot of people are typically unaware of the fact that the land itself is considered by most people to be the fifth gospel, because many people do not realize the significance that the role of Israel, that is the land itself, plays in the formulation of all that we know. Not only about the gospels of the life of Jesus but about the Old Testament as well.
Dr. Reagan: I know one thing that always impresses groups I take over is how small that land is. They have no idea how small it is.
Dr. Frazier: Absolutely, it’s amazing, you know, it will fit in the peninsula between Orlando and Miami. That’s how small Israel is. It’s only a little 200 or so miles north to south and about 65 or so east to west. Very small place.
Dr. Reagan: And I find that people often get a better idea of the strategic nature of the problems over there when they go and see it first hand, because I’ve had people, I had a guy on a plane one time say to me “I just don’t know why the Israelis don’t give away the West Bank and get it over with.” And I said, “Where is the West Bank?” He said, “You know where it is.” I said, “Where is it?” He said, “Well you know the West Bank of the Nile.” I said, “No, not exactly.” But you know, that would leave Israel only like nine miles wide at its narrowest point and people don’t understand that.
Dr. Frazier: Well, they don’t and what happens is, is that when you’ve never journeyed to Israel, you have no concept of the size of the land and the strategic importance of their maintaining all the property that God has given to them since 1948, and then again of course in the enlargement in 1967.
Dr. Reagan: Would you say that going to the Holy Land brings the Bible alive in a special way?
Dr. Frazier: Well, we have a guarantee, Dave with the people who travel through our ministry and of course we appreciate the numerous times that you’ve been with us and brought your friends along, but the fact is, we tell everyone, we will guarantee that the Bible will become Technicolor in your life.
Dr. Reagan: Hey I like that. Because you know, once you’ve been there, Capernaum is no longer a name on a page, it’s a place where you’ve walked, you’ve smelled it, you’ve seen it, you’ve felt it, and suddenly it just comes off the page in a new way.
Dr. Frazier: Well, many times when I will be preaching or teaching some place I will be talking about a location in Israel, for example the sea of Galilee, the Garden of Gethsemane, whatever the case might be. And often times I’ve had people come up to me afterwards and say, you know, brother Gary, when you were speaking a moment ago, I could just see that place, and I said, the reason you could see it is because I have the picture in my mind, I can draw the picture then in your mind.
Dr. Reagan: There you go, there you go. Well, you know, if going over there is so valuable, and I would agree it is extremely valuable from a spiritual viewpoint, why do you think it is that so many pastors that I’ve encountered for example just say, “Ah, I don’t see anything so special about that.” Have a nonchalant attitude about it.
Dr. Frazier: Yeah, well, you know, Dave I think probably the number one underlying factor with that kind of pastoral response is their background, their education. You know, if you come through a church that de-emphasizes the importance of Israel. Perhaps you grew up in a church where they taught Replacement Theology, that insidious teaching that says the church has replaced Israel. That Israel becomes really irrelevant and insignificant and as a result of that, you didn’t go off to a Bible college or a seminary, maybe you come out and through that time you have professors who further support that kind of position. You come out as a pastor of a church and you just can’t figure out why anybody would be interested in going to Israel.
Dr. Reagan: Well, let me ask you this Gary, what is your background and how in the world did you get interested in going to Israel in the first place?
Dr. Frazier: Well, it’s a great question Dave, let me just say this, that when I made my first journey to Israel in 1971, it totally changed my life.
Dr. Reagan: Did you go over just as a pilgrim?
Dr. Frazier: I did, yes. In fact, was not yet in Bible college a seminary at that particular point in time, and went over there and it was a life changing experience for me. And not only did all the places just come alive, but I’ll never forget standing at the empty tomb, with a retired pastor and his wife who were on this particular trip because the church had given it to them as a retirement gift. And this pastor and wife looked at me with tears streaming down his face and he said, “You know, I would give anything if I were making this trip at the beginning of my ministry instead of at the end of it.” And right there, God really kind of just spoke to my heart. I wasn’t real sure what was going to happen, but as the years went by, as I later pastored a number of different churches, felt very much called to begin an equipping, educating ministry, an evangelistic by the way, with regard to the Middle East, Israel’s role, etc. etc. And through the years we’ve had the privilege now of taking something over 800 just first-time pastors over there to teach them about the land, this is just pastors, and then countless, thousands of lay people and then the pastors from other churches.
Dr. Reagan: Think how many sermons you have enriched over the years as a result of that.
Dr. Frazier: The Lord has been good and we’ve seen tremendous blessing.
Dr. Reagan: You started out as a Southern Baptist pastor?
Dr. Frazier: I did.
Dr. Reagan: Okay. And then moved into this expansion of your ministry.
Dr. Frazier: In 1985 I resigned my pastoring in New Orleans and started Discovery Ministries. And so for the last 22 years now we’ve been full-time. Although we had done groups, I had put together a number of groups while pastoring a church of course, but full-time for the past 22 or so years.
Dr. Reagan: You really look upon what you’re doing now not as just a business but a ministry.
Dr. Frazier: No. I’m not interested in the travel business. Many times people will say, well, now, here’s our travel agent, and I’m very quick to remind them, whoa, wait a minute, time out here. I’m not a travel agent. I’m not in the travel business. We are a ministry, we are a non-profit equipping ministry and we provide a service to churches and people that simply, you know, is an essential. It helps the pastor fulfill his role of equipping his saints to do the work of the ministry. Anything and everything that we do is Bible land associated oriented.
Dr. Reagan: Well I want to say one thing that your ministry has always had a tremendous reputation for integrity and I appreciate that, because in the early ’80s when I first started taking, in 1980, the first group over, I went through a series of tour brokers that were very painful, because there were a lot a fly by night operations. And people who will promise you anything to get your business. And one thing I discovered with you is that you are very responsible, you put the money in escrow, you take care of it, and I just want to thank you for the integrity you’ve shown over the years.
Dr. Frazier: Well, Dave, thank you so much. The reason, one of the compelling reasons why I began this ministry was because, me, just like you, I had numerous problems with people promising, not delivering, last minute price increases, ripping us off in essence. And I just really felt like if there was a place where integrity and character ought to shine, it ought to be in travel to the Holy Land.
Dr. Reagan: Well, God has really blessed you there.
Dr. Frazier: He really has.
Dr. Reagan: Why don’t you just tell our viewers right now how they could get in touch with your ministry, over the internet for example?
Dr. Frazier: Yeah, there’s a couple of ways. First of all, our website is discoveryworldwideministries.com, or garyfrazier.com
Dr. Reagan: Okay, we’re going to display that on the screen right now. Okay, well we’ll put those two contacts on the screen and hope people get in touch with you. Let me ask you a couple of other questions here about going to Israel. And that is, how do you respond to people who say to you, “I’d love to go, oh I really want to go, but it’s just too dangerous. I don’t want to go over there and get killed.” How many times have I been asked that question?
Dr. Frazier: Dave, let me just first of all tell you that one of the things that I’ve learned through the years is that I don’t try to convince people of the safety of going to the Holy Land. What I do like to challenge them with is saying, “Well, first of all, if you’re thinking that you’re going to wait and go to Israel someday when you think it’s safe, my advice is don’t pack.” The fact of the matter is that things are always going to be in turmoil in the Middle East. We know that. But, the reality of it is that if people are interested in statistics, here they are. Israel is the single safest country in the entire world.
Dr. Reagan: Well, I often tell people I go out and walk around Tel Aviv and Jerusalem at night, I wouldn’t do that in Dallas, Texas.
Dr. Frazier: Well, absolutely, and here’s the reason, people just don’t stop and think. Why is Israel the safest country in the world? And you know this as a fact that every male and every female goes into the military at 18 years of age. The men do three years active, the ladies too. That means every person that you meet in Israel who’s 18 years of age or older who is not part of the Hasidic Jewish movement, they have been through military training. Well, that kind of readiness simply prevents what we would call acts of random violent crime.
Dr. Reagan: I also point out two other things, first of all, that we very rarely ever go anywhere near where the violence occurs. You know, if people had watched television in the ’60s in Europe about the United States, they would have thought that every city in the United States was burning to the ground. All you see from television is violence and we don’t go near those areas on our tours. Another thing too is that there has never been a terrorist attack on a tourist group in Israel, where there have been many in Egypt. The terrorists in Israel want to kill Jews, they’re not interested in killing foreign tourists. So it’s just.
Dr. Frazier: Well, what you’ve pointed out is so accurate. First of all, we have no desire by the Palestinian terrorists to attack Christian pilgrims. All the Christian holy sites have always been safe, there’s never been an act of terrorism at one of those sites. And the reality of it is, is that it is, as I said, the safest place in the world to travel. But you know, at the end of the day, what you really have to ask people is this. Do you believe that is it appointed a man once to die? And if you do, it’s already written on God’s calendar. There’s freedom in that. You do not have to be afraid. The Bible tells us we’ve not been given a spirit of fear. And so the truth is we don’t have to walk around and wonder and be afraid and ring our hands. And we can go and enjoy and be blessed of God and not have to worry about those things.
Dr. Reagan: Well, you know, I tell people too, this is a pilgrimage. This is a place where you’re putting your faith in God and if you get killed in the process, where’s a better place to die than Israel?
Dr. Frazier: I’d just as soon go to heaven from Jerusalem as from Dallas I can assure you, I mean, what difference does it really make? We’re going to be in the presence of the Lord, Paul said absent from the body, present with the Lord so what difference does that make?
Dr. Reagan: Let me ask you another question. You’ve been over there over a hundred times. What is your favorite place to visit in all of Israel?
Dr. Frazier: Well, that is a very hard question, in fact, I ask people frequently, and that is such a hard thing to narrow down. But I think that all of us have been numerous times really truly have to say obviously the empty tomb in Jerusalem has to be the most important place to us, because it speaks to us of the great sacrifice of Christ and the fact that our Heavenly Father accepted that sacrifice and because He lives we too shall live. And so I think we have to just look at the empty tomb and say, of all the sites, as wonderful as they are, and I love the Sea of Galilee. I love the serenity of upper Galilee. I love all of the sites are phenomenal, the Garden of Gethsemane, etc. But if you bring it down and say just one, it has to be the empty tomb.
Dr. Reagan: Well, I would agree with you on that and I would say that based upon my experience with tourist groups, no doubt it’s their favorite place. Brings up a question. What do you have to say about the Jesus ossuary and the family tomb of Jesus that supposedly was recently found?
Dr. Frazier: Well, Dave, it’s interesting you’d bring that up. I have just, just did a message the week that came out entitled “Deception in the Last Days.” And dealt with some of the major forms of deception out there today and I want to tell you that because we believe that Jesus is coming soon, the one thing that Jesus warned us about in Matthew 24 four times was do not be deceived. And because we’re getting closer to the coming of Christ, then we’re going to have greater deception, with greater frequency and greater intensity than before. The lost tomb of Jesus, found by the way in 1980, 27 years ago.
Dr. Reagan: These guys present it like it was found yesterday.
Dr. Frazier: You know it was right down the street from our office there in Jerusalem and we knew about this years and years ago. But here’s what’s interesting. The Jewish archaeologists themselves said there’s nothing to this. Now if there’d been anybody who would love to have been able to say we have the bones of Jesus, we’ve been telling you for 2,000 years He was dead. They would have jumped all over him.
Dr. Frazier: In fact, the Jewish archeologists are outraged over this.
Dr. Frazier: That’s what I mean, the facts simply are not there. If we had time, I could just go step by step-by-step through why this is nothing more than an opportunity for economic gain by those people who are perpetrating this ridiculous story.
Dr. Reagan: It smacks of Hollywood from beginning to end.
Dr. Frazier: Sure it does.
Dr. Reagan: And anyone who knows anything about the life of Jesus knows number one his family was a poor family who lived in Nazareth. Why would they have a family tomb in Jerusalem? He was visiting in Jerusalem when he was killed.
Dr. Frazier: Absolutely, and not only that, no one in history that we know of ever referred to Jesus, as Jesus the son of Joseph. Number one, and not only that, think about this, if it’s your own family tomb, why would it have even been necessary to write Jesus son of Joseph on the ossuary. That’s so ridiculous. But, apart from that, think about the historical evidence. Five-hundred people saw Jesus at one time, secondly, the disciples, everyone of them with the exception of John who survived being boiled in oil, every one of those disciples died an excruciatingly painful, horrible death.
Dr. Reagan: For a myth?
Dr. Frazier: Do you know that if it had come down to it, and if it had not been true, if they had not seen Jesus after the crucifixion that at the last minute they’d say, “You know what guys? Yes, we stole the body, I’m not about to die for this, let me go.” They went to their painful death because they saw the resurrected living Lord Jesus.
Dr. Reagan: Well folks, in just a moment I’m going to ask Dr. Frazier some questions about Israel’s role in end time prophecy, but for just a moment let’s pause for a resource that you need to get that will help you to better understand Israel in world politics today.
Dr. Reagan: Well, welcome back to Christ in Prophecy. I am talking with Dr. Gary Frazier about the importance of making a pilgrimage to Israel. Dr. Frazier is the founder and the director of Discovery Ministries in Arlington, Texas. And his ministry is the one that makes all the arrangements for the pilgrimage groups that I take to Israel each year. Gary, I want us to start looking now for a moment at Middle East politics, and boy, what a quagmire that is. I want to ask you a question that’s related to Ezekiel 5, and Ezekiel 38 where, two places the prophet Ezekiel refers to Israel as the center of the nations. Do you think that description is still relevant today in the 21st Century?
Dr. Frazier: Oh, absolutely Dave. You know what’s interesting is for many, many years people talked about the great capitols of the world. London, Paris, Washington, and of course New York got thrown in the mix as well. Today, when you look at the media, by and by you see that the real center focus of everything happening in the world today is the Middle East and Israel in particular. Every single day you’re going to hear somebody somewhere talking about the fact that if there could be some kind of resolution to the Palestinian Jewish problem that we could then have this euphoria of world peace.
Dr. Reagan: We could even have peace in Iraq, right?
Dr. Frazier: Absolutely. Because they blame it all on Israel anyway.
Dr. Reagan: It’s amazing, it’s supernatural how Israel is the focal point of world politics. A tiny nation, the size of New Jersey has more international corresponds in Jerusalem than any other city in the world. It has to be supernatural in nature.
Dr. Frazier: Well it is and I want to tell you the key to that as you know is Zechariah, Jesus himself, rather, the word of God itself talks about how in the last days that God would make Jerusalem a stumbling block to the nations of the world. And that is exactly what is happening today. Jerusalem is the most important city on the face of the earth today.
Dr. Reagan: Well, my next question is related to that and that is that quite often I have critics write me or call me and say you’re just obsessed with Israel. Why is it that Bible Prophecy teachers can’t seem to talk about anything else other than Israel? Why is it that Bible prophecy teachers spend so much time talking about Israel?
Dr. Frazier: Well, first of all, Dave, as you well know from studying the scriptures, Israel validates the accuracy of all the prophecies contained in the world. I mean, you know, prophecy is just simply history written in advance, and only God can do that. In fact, the Bible tells us that He’s the one who knows the end from the beginning and in God’s panoramic plan of the future, Israel becomes, and Jerusalem in particular, the center of the world. Everything evolves around what’s happening in the Middle East, and any person who does not understand that is not really going to be able to realize how important the prophetic Word of God is and how Israel validates the accuracy of prophecy.
Dr. Reagan: You know that reminds me of a comment that I often make and that is that Israel is God’s prophetic time clock.
Dr. Frazier: No question about it.
Dr. Reagan: Because you know, throughout the Bible God will say, this is going to happen in the future and it will happen when this happens to Israel, so watch Israel and then this will happen. In fact, Jesus during the last days of His life on the Mount of Olives said watch Jerusalem, it’s going to fall to the Gentiles it’s going be trampled down but one day the Jews will be back and when that happens I’m coming.
Dr. Frazier: Well, and probably the greatest prophecy that we’ve seen fulfilled in our lifetime was when Jesus Himself spoke from the Mount of Olives and He talked about how one day not one stone would be left on another, everyone would be thrown down. That is He spoke about the destruction of the temple in 70 AD. Now, 2,000 years fast forward almost, we stand today and look at how that prophetic word was fulfilled exactly down to the minute detail, not only in 70 AD but further in 135 AD when Hadrian and his soldiers plowed up every parcel, every inch of the Temple Mount, turning over every stone there before the temple obviously was built the pagan shrine to Jupiter was built on that spot. But it is the prophecies pertaining to Jerusalem, to the Jewish people that just reinforce everything that this book teaches.
Dr. Reagan: It sure does and every time I go to Israel, one of the first things I want to see is I want to get up on the Mount of Olives and look at the Eastern gate, because in Ezekiel 44 it says that gate will be closed and it will remain closed until the Messiah comes and Gary, that was written hundreds, thousands of years before. You know, and here it is. It’s closed.
Dr. Frazier: Little did Suleiman the Magnificent know that when he rebuilt those walls on that side of the city in 1542 AD and he sealed that gate, little did he know he was actually bringing about the fulfillment of the literal Word of God, prophecy. So that that gate would remain sealed until the Messiah comes.
Dr. Reagan: The Bible says the Jews will be dispersed all over the world, they were, it says they will be persecuted everywhere they go, they were, it says that they will be preserved which is one of the great miracles of history, and it says one day they will brought back to their land in unbelief. What other prophecies are being fulfilled in Israel today?
Dr. Frazier: Well, not only that, think about Jeremiah 31:23 where he talks about the revival of the ancient Hebrew language. I mean for almost 2,000 years the Jewish people scattered in all the parts of the world, they adapted the local language at that time. Hebrew fell into disuse. But with the rebirth of the land of Israel, well, actually I should say even prior to that, when the pilgrims began to return to the land of Israel in the late 1800s, early 1900s, as time went on the language itself began to be brought back and then finally today, now, what do we have? This ancient language being spoken everywhere in direct fulfillment of Scripture. Nothing like this Dave has ever happened.
Dr. Reagan: No, no dead language has ever been revived. You take the writings of Homer in Greek and you give it to a Greek person today, they have no idea what it says. Just like an American can’t read Chaucer it’s a form of English that’s gone.
Dr. Frazier: That’s right.
Dr. Reagan: And here it is. You know, I had a group at the Dead Sea scroll museum there in Jerusalem and I explained the Isaiah scroll, we turned around to walk away and I heard somebody reading in Hebrew and I turned around and there was a 12 year old boy, he had a pointer, and he was reading the Isaiah scroll which was written by a scribe in the first century, a copy you know from the original, other scrolls. And here he was reading it. I mean, God said he was going to do it and He’s done it. Or the reclamation of the land.
Dr. Frazier: Well, yeah but think about the fact that for 1800 plus years, a kid could not have stood there and read that. But now because of the revival of the language, reclaiming the land that you mentioned. I mean, here we have a malaria infested swampland in the Jezreel valley.
Dr. Reagan: Beautifully described by Mark Twain in the 1860s.
Dr. Frazier: He said I walked from Galilee from Jerusalem to upper Galilee, never saw a single living soul. And here’s an area that today is the bread basket of the Middle East. And so when people talk about, why are you prophecy guys so hung up on Israel? It is because of the example after example after example of the fulfillment of the prophetic Word of God.
Dr. Reagan: Well, you know, you’re talking about mark twain writing that book in 1867 called Innocence Abroad. He did talk about going from Tiberius to Jerusalem, never seeing a single human being, a tree or an animal. And he said, all I saw were rocks, and more rocks, and more rocks. In fact, by the time, by 1900, nearly all the trees in Israel had been cut down, it was a barren wasteland, malaria-infested. As the Jews came in and began to buy the land, the Arabs laughed all the way to the bank. And yet today, the number one myth is, the Jews stole the land from the Arabs. How do you respond to that?
Dr. Frazier: Well, first of all, when I hear someone make a statement like that, if I may be so bold, what they have just done is just put a big sign on their forehead that said “I am historically ignorant.” Because the truth is, the historical fact, Dave, it’s like, don’t confuse me with the truth. The big lie, there are many facets of the big lie but part of the big lie is that the Jews moved back into this land and they took the land away from the Arabs. The reality of it is, is that the Jewish people as you just so succinctly said, came in, bought land from the Turkish land owners at that time, at outrageous prices.
Dr. Reagan: Who thought they were nuts!
Dr. Frazier: They took Malaria infested swampland, began to dig trenches to drain the water off, planted the Eucalyptus twigs they brought in from Australia to dry up the ground and they began to work the ground and can I tell you that the problem we have today, which we recently saw with the return of Gaza, which was an incredible mistake on the part of the Israeli government and the American government who supported that as well. All of that quarrelling is over the envy that is associated with what God has done with the land, and yet, remember this, Ezekiel 36, what did God say? He said I will make, in first 35 of Ezekiel 36, he said I will make that land like the Garden of Eden. We have seen how it is becoming incredibly beautiful, prosperous. And what’s happened, that green-eyed monster of envy now has shown its head in the Palestinian world and they didn’t want the only malaria-infested swampland, but they do want this beautiful, productive land that’s been brought about by the blessings of God.
Dr. Reagan: It’s really amazing how effective the Arabs have been in their propaganda effort mainly since ’67 to convince the world that there was a Palestinian state there. And that this, you know, Palestinian culture, Palestinian language, and it was somehow or other displaced and the Jews stole all that. There was never a state there!
Dr. Frazier: Of course not, but Dave, think about this. What I said a moment ago when I said they put the sign up that said I’m historically ignorant. We have people today who do not even know what two countries border the United States of America. And yet we expect these people to have some awareness of world history, they have none. So what happens is, they are ripe for the deception of the media. Historical revisionists today are trying to convince us that there was a Palestinian state, there was a Palestinian language, that all of those things are lies!
Dr. Reagan: In fact, they’re trying to convince us that Jesus was a Palestinian. I mean, isn’t that what Arafat says?
Dr. Frazier: That is what Arafat said. He said Jesus of Nazareth, the first Palestinian.
Dr. Reagan: Well, let me ask you this question. What does all this have to say about the return of Jesus Christ? Does it mean we’re living in the end times? Living on borrowed time, what?
Dr. Frazier: Well, Dave, I’ve got to tell you that the prophetic Word of God is screaming to us, because of fulfilled prophecy, because of the state setting that’s taking place that will bring about the future fulfillment of many additional prophecies that we are the generation. I’m convinced that we’re the generation that’s going to experience the soon return of Jesus Christ.
Dr. Reagan: I am too. I believe that.
Dr. Frazier: I do too. I believe that not just because I’m a pie-in-the-sky preacher, not just because I’m a follower of Jesus Christ, but because I am a serious student of not only world history but most importantly the Word of God and I am seeing this take place right before my eyes.
Dr. Reagan: Come back next week and let’s talk about that, okay?
Dr. Frazier: I would love to do that.
Dr. Reagan: Alright, well, folks, I am delighted to report that Dr. Frazier has agreed to come back with us next week when we will discuss a new book he is writing titled It Could Happen Tomorrow. The subtitle is Future Events that will Shake the World. We are going to be asking him to identify those events for us. Until next week, the lord willing, this is Dave Reagan speaking for lamb and lion ministries saying “look up, be watchful, for our redemption is drawing near!”
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