One of the reasons Christian Zionism is so absorbed by wars is their view of the battle of Armageddon. Wherever there is smoke from guns and bombs, especially in the Middle East, you will find Dispensational prophecy claiming that Armageddon is near.
Dispensationalists hold that Armageddon is a yet future prophetic event, i.e. the final days battle that allegedly occurs after the millennium of one thousand years and which ushers in the final coming of Christ.
However, to get this fulfillment in 21st century, Dispensationalists must leap over centuries by ignoring the facts already on the ground according to the Scriptures. Only by ignoring the details of the prophetic texts can they create such illusions.
In this writing, we examine very briefly a section of the "The Little Apocalypse of Zechariah" by Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum in the book, End Times Controversy: The Second Coming Under Attack edited by Tim LaHaye and Thomas Ice.
The book,written to counter the arguments presented by a fulfilled coming of Christ in the first century, fails of it's purpose. In this brief segment, we'll critique the oversights made in the section named Israel and the Messiah.
Israel and the Messiah: (Fruchtenbaum's Three Points Zechariah 13:7-9)
The fourth division of the Little Apocalypse of Zechariah, verses 13:7-9 reads as follows:
Awake, O sword, against My Shepherd, against the Man who is My Companion.' Says the Lord of hosts. Strike the Shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered; then I will turn My hand against the little ones. And it shall come to pass in all the land,' says the Lord, 'That two-thirds in it shall be cut off and die, but one-third shall be left in it: I will bring the one-third through the fire, will refine them as silver is refined and test them as gold is tested. They will call on my name, and I will answer them. I will say, 'This is my people'; and each one will say, 'The Lord is my God.'"
It is universally accepted that "My Shepherd" refers to Christ. The "sword" is not used in a literal sense but figuratively as a representation of the people who violently put Jesus to death. Jesus died by crucifixion not by a literal sword. Prior to Jesus' arrest he quoted Zechariah 13:7, applying it to himself and to "his" disciples, Matt. 26:31-32.
It is key to understanding the text that the sheep, are not "all Jews" or "all Israel", but to the remnant, defined as those who accepted Christ. Failure to make this distinction is a major blunder in Fruchtenbaum's analysis of the text.
Two Results Which Follow The Smiting of the Shepherd
Secondly, Fruchtenbaum, in bait and switch style reasoning assigns the scattering of Israel to the two Roman invasions of Judea, A.D. 66-70 and the Bar Kochba revolt in 132-135. His error lies in transference of the unqualified designation of "sheep" to national Israel, versus to the remnant.
The time of Christ's coming is the "gathering of the remnant" to himself. To the contrary, the scattering of the remnant results from the same source of violence responsible for the crucifixion of Christ. Again, note the text, "Smite the Shepherd and the sheep will be scattered." It is the violent action of smiting the Shepherd which is the direct cause of the scattering of the sheep.
Christian Zionists doctrine holds that the church and Israel are two separate entities running side by side in the last days. They argue God has two separate people with two separate covenants, two sets of promises and two separate end times objectives. The national seed receives the earthly land while the spiritual seed the church receives the "heavenly land". The Bible affirms only "one" hope of Israel, Acts 28:15; Eph. 4:4:5.
This can only mean that the disciples who follow Jesus are the sheep who are scattered. Those responsible for Jesus' death were both the rulers of Israel (John 11:48-50; 1 Cor. 2:6-8) and the people (Acts 2:22-23). It is from this same group that the remnant came, starting with 3000 Jews on Pentecost.
The Scattering of the Sheep
We also discover that the scattering of the sheep derived from the same source, and was directed against the church.
Now Saul was consenting to his death. At that time a great persecution arose against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles. And devout men carried Stephen to his burial, and made great lamentation over him. As for Saul, he made havoc of the church, entering every house, and dragging off men and women, committing them to prison. Therefore those who were scattered went everywhere preaching the word." (Acts 8:1-4)
This persecution against the remnant of Israel (the church or believers among the Jews) continued to scatter the church far and wide.
"Now those who were scattered after the persecution that arose over Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch, preaching the word to no one but the Jews only." (Acts 11:19)
Note that the gospel had been preached to none but the Jews "only". The gospel was to the Jew first, (Rom. 1:16; 2:10) That means that up to that point, the New Testament church consisted entirely of Jews converted from the Law of Moses. They converted from the national religion of Judaism.
By whom was this persecution and scattering perpetrated against these Jewish Christians? It was the non-believing Jews. Saul, an Israelite, before his conversion, led the persecution against the saints. He gave his vote to Stephen's death and continued to breathe threats and murder against the Jewish disciples of the Lord. (Acts 9:1) He traversed the land as far as Damascus of Syria to acquire letters from the chief priests to continue his reign of terror against the church. His intentions were no less than a complete annihilation of the Christian church, (the remnant) Gal. 1:13, 23). When he converted to Christianity, the same Jews of the nation who once supported him turned on him and sought to kill him for the same reasons he had formerly persecuted the church. Thus, we conclude that the "sword" against the church, called the "enemies of the cross of Christ" (Phil . 3:18) were Paul's Jewish brethren according to the flesh. (Rom. 9:3-4; 10:1-3) If the Christian Jews were not the remnant of Israel, then who were they? From whence did they come?
For Fruchtenbaum to assign the "scattered sheep" to all of ancient national Israel and worse to extend it to the modern Jewish state is both wreckless and irresponsible. Such teachings could easily lead a nation to believe it is the subject of prophecy causing it to launch offensives in fear it may be targeted for destruction.
In All The Land
Next, the geographical setting of the prophecy is in all the land. First, this assures us that the fulfillment of the "scattering" is not to be found in the dispersing of the disciples on the night of Jesus' arrest. The scattering takes place "in all the land" as Fruchtenbaum correctly points out. We have demonstrated above where Paul went throughout all the land persecuting the saints until his conversion. After his conversion the Jews continued their persecution, even pursuing and tracking Paul as a wild animal tracts his prey. "But when the Jews from Thessalonica learned that the word of God was preached by Paul at Berea, they came there also and stirred up the crowds." (Acts 17:13)
It is for this reason Paul spoke of them in the letter to the church at Thessalonica.
For you, brethren, became imitators for the churches of God which are in Judea in Christ Jesus. For you also suffered the same things from your own countrymen, just as they did from the Judeans, who killed both the Lord Jesus and their own prophets, and have persecuted us; and they do not please God and are contrary to all men, forbidding us to speak to the Gentiles that they may be saved, so as always to fill up the measure of their sins; but wrath has come upon them to the uttermost." (1 Thess. 2:14-16)
The wrath of God therefore would come upon these persecutors who were scattering the church in the first century. Note that Paul confirms our conclusion above that the source of scattering is one, namely, those who murdered the Lord and who persecuted the saints. (See also Matt. 23:34-37).
Concerning "in all the land" Fruchtenbaum states: "The Hebrew word can be translated to mean the land of Israel, and if that was the intent, then it means that two-thirds of the Jewish people in the land of Israel will be killed." (Ibid, p. 262). However, realizing this statement destroys his Christian Zionism doctrine for a yet future Armageddon theory, he rejects that definition of the local use of land and assigns it to mean the "whole world" without contextual justification. In so doing, he sets the stage for the end times prophecy rant we hear today with preemptive strikes on Iran and other nations to fulfill their prophetic program. They are creating anachronistic arguments and distorting events confined to the local geography of ancient Palestine and imposing them on the entire globe. This is wrong.
The Two Thirds of Israel To Die
As one understands the source of persecution above, the historical time being that of the first century with ancient Israel in the time of Christ and the land of Palestine, then it is clear that the "two-thirds" who would die are those who persecuted the church in the first century. The conclusion is inescapable. The battle of Armageddon is directed against unbelieving Jews in the first century. The wrath was about to come upon them as Paul stated. They were the generation responsible for crucifying Christ and persecuting the church. It has nothing whatsoever to do with Palestine or the people who call themselves Jews today. They need not fear a battle of Armageddon is coming to take them out. That is not to relieve them or any nation, of responsibility for crimes against humanity which are committed today. It simply shows such events are not the subject of Bible prophecy.
Further evidence is cited by Fruchtenbaum's reference to Matthew 24:15-28. This reference is to the conditions surrounding the Jerusalem temple which existed in Jesus' day. It describes the time of the great tribulation the unbelieving Jews would suffer in the destruction of their temple, city and state. See Matt. 24:1-3. That temple was destroyed in A.D. 70, and that marks the time of fulfillment and retribution by God upon the murderers of Christ, his apostles and the persecutors of the church, (Rev. 18:20, 24). All came to pass in that generation, (Matt. 24:34; Lk. 21:20-22, 32), when Rome destroyed ancient Israel in A.D. 70.
The Salvation of the Remnant, or One Third
We have been accused by Dispensationalists teachers that our view of Israel's end times are flawed because we only see their destruction in A.D. 70. This is an irresponsible charge. It is false. We affirm, as does Fruchtenbaum and the prophet Zechariah, that one-third of the nation, i.e. the remnant from Israel would be saved yet refined through the fires of the persecution mentioned above.
Fruchtenbaum has made another fatal admission and serious blow to Christian Zionism as taught by Dispensationalism.
"It should be noted that the one-third who survive and are saved are of the same generation as the two-thirds who die. Those who interpret the two-thirds as dying in A.D. 70 must explain why the remaining one-third of Israel did not come to faith at that time. And those who believe the two-thirds died during the Holocaust must explain why the one-third of surviving Jews did not become believers at that time." Ibid, p. 263
We have a saying in debate called "giving away the farm". Fruchtenbaum's comment has given away the farm in the Christian Zionism.
First, we do not assign the two-thirds to the "holocaust" of Auschwitz, Germany. For more information on this subject see David Irving's work. Secondly, our concern is with the first two statements as they go together. Observe the first admission.
"It should be noted that the one-third who survive and are saved are of the same generation as the two-thirds who die. Amen! We agree 110%. Again, the reader is referred above where we and the New Testament writers assigned the persecution and scattering to the church which for the first 10 years consisted of Jews only. That means they (the church) are the remnant from Israel. Joel's prophecy of the Holy Spirit targeted the remnant of Israel. Peter quotes it on Pentecost, Acts 2:16-20, and 3,000 Jews from Israel obeyed the gospel being added to the church. The remnant from Israel is thereby established.
Paul quoted Isaiah 28:16, another prophecy of the remnant and asked who had believed the gospel? He charged that many in Israel had not submitted to God's saving message, (Romans ch. 10). In chapter 11, he demonstrates that God had not cast off Israel, but saved a remnant "according to the election of grace". (v. 5) That means they were saved through the preaching of the gospel. Thus, believing Jews were the remnant. Then he says, "What then? Israel [the nation] has not obtained what it seeks; but the elect [the remnant] have obtained it, and the rest were blinded." (11:7)
The scattered Christian church were of the same generation as the two-thirds who were persecuting them. Peter directly alludes to Zechariah's prophecy stating the church in the first century was being refined through persecution. He addressed the Diaspora of Israel, (1 Pet. 1:1) saying: " That the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ. (1 Pet. 1:7)
Compare the references to being refined as gold and silver is refined in 1 Peter. 1:7, with Zechariah 13:9. Later, Peter uses the same covenantal term, "And I will answer them. I will say, 'This is My people': and each one will say, "the Lord is my God". See 1 Pet. 2:9. Peter and his readers were certainly in the same generation as those who were persecuting them! Peter says they were receiving the "end of their faith" even the salvation of their souls, (1 Pet. 1:9-13).
Abraham's Two Sons
In Galatians 4:21-31, Paul speaks of the two sons of Abraham, Ishmael and Isaac. They and their mothers represented two covenants and two people. For a time they both existed in the house of Abraham together until Ishmael began to mock and persecute his brother Isaac. Ishmael was born according to the flesh; Isaac was born according to the Spirit.
Hagar, the bondwoman represented the Old Covenant people who were in bondage and represented Old Covenant Jerusalem. Isaac, the son of the free woman represented the church and the freedom they had from the Torah through Christ. But as it was in the historic case, Ishmael persecuted Isaac, so it was in Paul's day that the natural sons were persecuting those in the Spirit.
But what did the scripture say, "Cast out the bondwoman and her son, for they would not be heir with the son of the free woman. Paul said the church were sons of the free woman. Thus, we have both the nation, i.e. the two-thirds who persecuted the one-third (Christians) who were refined through the fires of that persecution who inherited salvation. (Gal. 4:21-31)
Therefore, the church is the remnant, comprised of both Jews and Gentiles. They were the one-third and were of the same generation who received salvation while the "two-thirds or unbelieving Jews were cast out (Matt. 8:11-12, Matt. 21:33-43; Gal. 4:28-31).