Does Rev. John Hagee – friend of Joe Lieberman and erstwhile endorser of John McCain – believe the End is Nigh? Is that what’s behind his oft-proclaimed love for Israel? Does he expect horrible suffering for Jews during the apocalypse that he yearns for?
I would have thought these were easy test questions, to be answered, “Yes, yes and yes.” But a recent news report put out by the JTA newswire for Jewish papers asserts otherwise. “The pastor has, in fact, repeatedly disavowed End of Days theology…” it says. It quoted David Brog — executive director of Hagee’s organization, Christians United for Israel (CUFI) — as saying that “Hagee’s theological musings have little to do with why he promotes support for Israel.”
The JTA report dealt with a survey commissioned by J Street, the dovish Israel lobby, on U.S. Jewish attitudes toward Hagee and Lieberman.
According to the poll, which has a margin of error of 3.5 percent, Lieberman scored an unfavorable rating of 48 percent among U.S. Jews, compared to a favorable rating of 37 percent. Hagee… fared even worse: The pastor registered a 7 percent favorable rating and 57 percent unfavorable…
According to J Street’s executive director, Jeremy Ben Ami, part of Hagee’s problem with American Jews is that he brings a strong religious sensibility to his politicking.
But in the article, Brog gets the last word.
So where does Hagee’s interest in Israel come from? In a 1996 book, The Beginning of the End, he recalls listening to the radio with his father in 1948 when news came of Israel’s establishment. Young John was eight at the time. His father told him, “We have just heard the most important prophetic message that will ever be delivered until Jesus Christ returns to earth.” Hagee writes that he has never forgotten that incident, or his father’s lesson that Israel’s birth is the essential prelude to “the coming of her Messiah,” by which Hagee means Jesus. The entire book uses contemporary events in Israel to prove that the apocalypse is near, in line with the theology known as dispensationalism.
Hagee wrote the same dispensationalist story in his 2001 book, The Battle for Jerusalem. He was also kind enough to respond to my statement, in my book The End of Days, that dispensationalists look forward toward immense suffering for Jews. He notes a text that I quoted from Chuck Missler, another populizer of the apocalypse, who says that the last years of history will be worse for Jews than “Auschwitz, Dachau, the horrors of Europe…”
The truth of Bible prophecy is this: Israel and Jerusalem are about to enter a dark hour of suffering in which God personally comes to their defense… This hour of darkness will be followed by the Messiah and the golden age of peace, lasting one thousand years.
Do you see? Heartbreak and sorrow and suffering last only a short while…
There’s much more, but the meaning is simple. Yup, Gershom, he says, you’re right about that scenario, but since it’s the gateway to the Second Coming, you shouldn’t be so concerned.
And has he changed his mind since? Check his 2007 book, Jerusalem Countdown. What’s new here is that he has bent his verses to fit the latest headlines. Now Iran is in the last-days scenario:
Just before us is a nuclear countdown with Iran, followed by Ezekiel’s war, and then the final battle – the Battle of Armageddon. The end of the world as we know it is rapidly approaching…
But, again, that’s great, because it’s necessary for Jesus’ return.
Rejoice and be exceedingly glad – the best is yet to be.
Maybe, in the last year, Hagee has changed his mind; maybe he no longer thinks that unimaginable wars on Israeli soil are great because they lead to redemption; maybe that’s no longer why he’s interested in Israel. Maybe he’s left the Party, as it were, on his way to becoming a liberal protestant, or perhaps the next Chris Hitchens.
Or maybe he’s realized that talking as he did in the past makes it hard to talk to the Jews, and embarrasses a politician he endorses, and that the press is actually listening. So he’s become careful about his rhetoric, and tells David Brog to issue denials.
In the meantime, he can also unendorse McCain. Who cares, he may figure. McCain has learned how to sound a teenage ringtone for dispensationalists, with an ad that tells them that Obama is the Antichrist, while other viewers don’t hear the message. And the Endtimes crowd is still showing up for CUFI conventions to hear Joe Lieberman.