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Mixing prophecy and politics

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"We stand for the right that all the land that God gave under the Abrahamic covenant 4,000 years ago is Israel's ... and He will regulate the affairs of how Israel comes into the allotment which is hers forever," says the Rev. Malcolm Hedding, director of International Christian Embassy Jerusalem (ICEJ), the largest of the Zionist groups with branches in 55 countries. Biblical Zionism rejects any effort to read the Scriptures spiritually or allegorically, Mr. Hedding says. "There is no such thing as a Palestinian," he adds.

Christian Zionism's roots

Christian Zionism is a more recent term for a 19th-century theology that began in England, called premillennial dispensationalism. It divides history into eras (dispensations) based on a complex interpretation of biblical texts in books such as Daniel, Ezekiel, and Revelation. Most other Christian groups view these prophecies as predictions fulfilled long ago or as visions with a purely symbolic or spiritual meaning. But premillennialists insist they will occur on earth in the future.

Israel's creation in 1948 and the Six-Day War of 1967 - in which Israel captured all of Jerusalem, the West Bank, and Gaza - galvanized premillennialists to believe the Last Days had begun. Mr. Lindsey's book, the nonfiction bestseller of the 1970s, popularized premillennialist teachings for millions of Americans and put Israel right at the center, says Donald Wagner, professor of religion and Middle East studies at North Park University in Chicago. Lindsey started a consultant business, Dr. Wagner says, which involved sessions with the Pentagon, CIA, Israeli generals, and the US Congress.

But Lindsey wasn't the first premillennialist author to leave his mark. William Blackstone, a fundamentalist lay preacher in the US, wrote a 1882 bestseller, "Jesus Is Coming," and in 1891 organized the first campaign in support of a Jewish state in the Middle East. Premillennialists in the British imperial government included Lord Arthur Balfour and Prime Minister David Lloyd George, who were the first to officially promise a Jewish homeland with the 1917 Balfour Declaration.

Christian Zionism today
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