The connection between Pentecostals, Christian Zionism, Judaism and the State of Israel.
Many people do not realize that Pentecostalism is the fastest growing Christian religion in the world with an estimated 497 million followers world-wide and expected to top 1 billion by 2025.1 This is a sharp contrast to the 13 million people who call themselves fundamentalists.
It hasn’t gone unnoticed in Israel, who have wanted their share of this Pentecostal growth in their country. They see it as a serious economic contributor and a powerful political alliance.
Pentecostals have inherited and modernized the fundamentalist end-time system that believes a number of prerequisites must occur before the end of the world: the establishment of Israel as a geographical entity with borders very similar to what was outlined in the Bible, the return of the Jews from exile, and Armageddon — a final war between Israel and all its enemies.
Pentecostals and Christian Zionism
Persons of Jewish heritage that support the formation and expansion of Israel on religious grounds are called Zionists. Most media outlets define Christians who align with the Zionist movement as Christian Zionists. The greater Evangelical community, Pentecostals in particular, do not use the term themselves. The majority, if asked directly whether they are Christian Zionists, would not even know what the speaker is talking about and would categorically say no, though the overwhelming majority do fit within the definition. Some Pentecostals may even feel insulted with them being identified this way. Most would simply think they are following what the Bible tells them to do.
The difference between Pentecostalism and fundamentalism
Pentecostalism has a major doctrinal difference over fundamentalism that is important to understand: it promotes personal involvement rather than being a third party observer.
This may seem trivial, but it has serious ramifications.
The Fundamentalists who previously monopolized the Evangelical perspective on Israel do not believe Christians can personally intervene in the events and circumstances that will ultimately unfold into the end of the world. Their support is done en masse with visible spokespersons such as Hal Lindsey, Bob Jones or John Walvoord.
The role of prophecy, dreams, and prayer for Israel
Pentecostals understand the future events from a prophetic perspective. Prophetic can mean God speaking directly to a person to complete an objective. The cause does not necessarily need to be rational, predictable or major.
This could be a financial commitment, planting trees, political involvement, volunteering, helping in immigration, all night prayer vigils, fasting, raising specialized cattle, evangelism, etc.
For example, some have heard God call them to help Jews return to the Holy Land. One of the better known Christian organizations, Ebenezer Emergency Fund’s Operation Exodus, was started by a prophetic vision to the South African Steve Lightle.2
Dreams facilitate some to unusual acts. Like Bruce Balfour, a Canadian affiliated with the pentecostal based Maranatha Evangelistic Association. He believed he was called of God in dreams to plant trees in Lebanon.3
Others feel called to expedite God’s plan for the end. Clyde Lott, a cattle rancher and an ordained National Pentecostal Assemblies of Jesus Christ Minister in the United States, had an epiphany from God to raise red heifers according to Old Testament requirements for the new Temple.4
It can be financial giving. Maoz Israel Ministries — a messianic Jewish ministry in Israel relates on their website about a 9 year old boy, Christian, who believed God had called him to send his $10.00 of birthday money for Israel.5 This may not seem like much, but this is a grassroots event that Christians are doing all over the world. One Jewish fundraiser, Yechiel Eckstein, has raised over $250 million dollars from roughly 400,000 Christian donors6 alone. This market is seen as a veritable gold mine by the Israeli Government.
Some may feel inspired to accelerate armageddon. In 1969, Dennis Michael Rohan, an Australian sheep shearer and Pentecostalist, “acting upon divine instructions”7 attempted to and almost succeeded in burning down the Al-Aksa Mosque situated on the Temple Mount.8
The call to prayer for Israel is big with Pentecostals. Robert Stearns, who grew up in an Assemblies of God Church, the world’s largest pentecostal denomination, helped organize the annual Day of Prayer for the Peace of Jerusalem, “instituted with the endorsement of hundreds of Christian leaders from around the world, representing tens of millions of Christians.”9 It is arguably the biggest annual protestant rite held in the world.
The mystic side of Pentecostalism exists as a doctrine that transcends denominations and religious institutions — even parts of the Catholic Church. It is also a physical entity as expressed in Churches like the Assemblies of God in the US, and the Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada. There are hundreds, if not tens of thousands, independent Pentecostal Churches around the world with little or no denominational affiliation. Jack Hayford, Jimmy Swaggart, T.D. Jakes, and Pat Robertson are leading Pentecostals.
Pentecostal organizations and leaders in Israel
The Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada, one of the largest and few growing denominations in Canada, founded a Church in Jerusalem. It was originally called Jerusalem Christian Assembly, but is now known as the King of King’s Community Jerusalem.10 The Senior Pastor of King of King’s, Wayne Hilsden, is an ordained Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada minister.
Wayne Hilsden is an important key in the administration of Christian Zionist causes. He describes himself as a pastor, and preacher, and one who, “travels the world sharing with the nations about the restoration of Israel.”11 He was also in charge of Aliyah Ministries Network, a logistical centre for other Christian Zionist based Jewish immigration agencies that existed at least until 2001, 12 and a board member for the Ebenezer Emergency Fund — a Christian organization with the expressed aim of helping Jewish people abroad emigrate to Israel.13 The Sector.ca records him in 2011 serving on the Canadian board of Bridges for Peace14 a large, well-known Christian organization who “. . . are giving Christians the opportunity to actively express their biblical responsibility before God to be faithful to Israel and the Jewish community.”15
The King of King’s Community Jerusalem is the largest evangelical Church in Israel and has the strongest pro-Christian Zionist sentiments as a Church body in Israel. The PAOC was asked by the Israeli Government to come.16
The International Christian Embassy of Jerusalem, one of the largest and most prominent pro-Israel Christian organization in the world, is a world-wide non-profit Christian group that supports Israel. Stephen Sizer, a researcher and writer on Christian Zionism, described it as a self-regulated entity that “draws its support almost exclusively from charismatic, evangelical and fundamentalist Christians particularly in the USA, Canada and South Africa.”17 A look at the leadership list substantiates Pentecostal and Charismatic leanings. The present executive director, Jürgen Bühler, is a licensed minister with the German Pentecostal Federation.18 Juha Ketola, the ICEJ’s International Director, has both credentials with the Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada and Finland.19 The previous executive director was South African born Malcom Hedding. He, along with his Dutch predecessor, Bill van der Hoewen, are also from the Pentecostal/Charismatic realm.20 The ICEJ, has an annual Feast of Tabernacles held in Jerusalem, which is attended predominately by Pentecostals and Charismatics.21
Problems related to Pentecostal fervor
The problem of Pentecostal prophecy is unpredictability. Mainline Pentecostal Churches are quite conservative on prophetic impulses and inspiration. However, it does suffer from a great amount of denominational and independent fragmentation and these elements can especially lead to concern. For example, it is not out of the question that one of these independent Pentecostal groups or individuals could be prophetically inspired to actively participate or encourage the destruction of the present artifices of the Temple Mount.
On the other hand this prophetic impulse is a financial and political bonanza for the State of Israel, but as the Pentecostal community grows, extreme expressions may become more commonplace.■
For further reading see:
- The Alliance Between Israel and Evangelicals
- Blessed Through Israel: How Guatemala’s Evangelicals Inspired Its Embassy Move
- Pentecostals are Quietly Thriving in Jerusalem
- Fast-Growing Pentecostal Movement Enthusiastically Affirms Support for Israel
- Diverse Contours of Pentecostalism in Israel/Palestine by Eric Newberg.
This article was originally published on ScribD, Edocr and WordPress.com websites in 2007. Although some parts of the article have been modified since that time, other portions may be outdated.
- This is according to noted Pentecostal statistician David Barrett as found in http://hirr.hartsem.edu/research/pentecostalism_polomaart1.html, The Spirit Bade Me Go: Pentecostalism and Global Religion by Margaret M. Poloma. The University of Akron. August, 2000
- http://www.ebenezer-ef.org/UK/frameset.htm “In 1974 God showed Steve Lightle in a vision that it was His plan for the Jews to return to Israel from Russia, as prophesied in Jeremiah 16:14-16. When Gustav Scheller heard of this vision in 1982 he went to Jerusalem in search of Steve. From that time on they worked together to bring this message to the Church, and to pray together with others, for its fulfilment. During an Intercessory Prayer Conference in Jerusalem in 1991 Gustav heard God say ‘Now you can begin helping my people to go home’ – and this was confirmed by others, including Johannes Facius, international speaker and bible teacher.”
- http://www.christianweek.org/Stories/vol17/no11/story3.html in an email sent to Christian Week, Canada’s National Christian Newspaper, Balfour stated, “Months before I came on this journey, my Master showed me through many dreams that I would be imprisoned for His sake so He could mold and shape me into a vessel of His choosing, to accomplish His purpose here. I did not rejoice over this.” I asked him in a phone- conversation to confirm this, but he refused.
- http://www.aasfe.org/morrison.html, Believers, breeder await sacred cow. By Kara G. Morrison, Lincoln Journal Star. Lincoln, NE
- Kate Miriam Loewenthal. Religion, Culture and Mental Health: Cambridge University Press, 2007. pg. 18. http://books.google.com/books?id=jbhbK-ypBHYC&pg=PA18&lpg=PA18&dq=denis+rohan+israel&source=web&ots=k9_GH8w9mG&sig=DhTPlZ5C2QiNDfd8Es3P7IOE23g&hl=en&sa=X&oi=book_result&resnum=7&ct=result
- Jerusalem Post, “On Wings of Faith”, December 14, 2001. By Patricia Golan. There has been no mention in any recent literature that this organization exists today.
- He was a board member in 2007, as listed on Ebenezer’s UK website at that time, along with a photo. It has since been removed and there is no mention that he has continued or discontinued in any documents.
- http://www.visionledd.com/about-visionledd/our-team/ Jim Cantelon was the founder of Jerusalem Christian Assembly and has this bio on his website: “In 1981, at the invitation of the Israeli government, Jim, Kathy and their three children moved to Israel where they helped pioneer the Jerusalem Christian Assembly, now called King of Kings, which is the largest evangelical congregation in Israel.”
- Malcolm was the pastor for my Hebrew University Bible study group in 1985. He is from the South African Assemblies of God http://www.uptozion.com/hedding.htm. Bill van der Hoeven’s is based on personally witnessing his public acts of piety, which are consistent within the P/C community.
- This was my observation from attending the ICEJ’s Feast of Tabernacles in 1986.