The state of Israel: Seventy years on

By Jon Morgan

Seventy years ago today, the British Mandate over Palestine ended and the state of Israel was declared. Christadelphians were delighted, seeing in this the fulfilment of promises made thousands of years ago that one day Israel would return from exile. It was expected that Jesus would soon return, an expectation that was heightened 19 years later by Israel’s victory in the Six Day War.

However, while much has changed about Israel since then, there has been no return of Jesus and no establishment of world government from Jerusalem with compulsory religious teaching. While Israel has religious elements, it is a secular state which has made major contributions to the technology of the world. And one of the consequences of that new technological world is that many former believers, including me, have found it easier to discover the problems with our religion.

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  1. I recently received advertising material in my letterbox from some local Christadelphians in relation to a talk being held regarding this 70 year anniversary.

    I suspect there has been a lot of excitement generated about it in Christadelphian circles, and it amuses me to think about where they will go from here. Thinking about the 70 year thing, it made me realise that they are fast running out of significant milestone dates to pin their hopes on. No doubt some will hold out another 19 years for the 70-year anniversary of the six day war, but once that has passed, what then?

    How many times did we hear about Jesus returning within a "generation" of the return of Israel? I have no doubt they will find a way to morph the interpretation into something that hasn't been categorically proven false, but I'm interested to see what that new interpretation will be.

  2. I used to think the prophecies about the return of Israel were compelling when I was a believer, and I didn't understand why so few other people were convinced by it.

    I now realise that the "prophecies" I found compelling were more like a mix of cherry-picked Bible quotes taken out of context, with Christadelphian interpretation and biased historical narratives woven into them. The "prophecies" most Christadelphians are convinced by are not the ones written in the Bible per se (for most Christadelphians can barely remember them much less understand them in their original context), but rather the ones they hear from the platform, carefully crafted by speakers with plenty of creative license and 2000+ years of hindsight.

    The prophecies in the Bible only make sense in their original context, and most of them failed (shocking, I know!).

  3. Yeah, I talked about the generation problem when writing about the Six Day War. The generation was always 40 years when I was growing up, and I remember noticing how unconvincing it was at the 40th anniversary of the Six Day War. Last year some people were saying "Maybe it's the 70th anniversary of Israel", but that now seems unlikely. I don't know if they go on to seventieth anniversary of Six Day War or what. I've seen one argument for a generation being 100 years, but can't remember how that was worked out. Seems even more far-fetched. And of course the original passage seems to suggest that it was the generation Jesus was speaking to, but never mind.

    In the Christadelphian last year it said "As in 1917, the anticipations of keen Bible students in 1967 may have been premature but their enthusiasm is to be admired." And also suggested the time of the Gentiles might not actually be expired, since Gentiles still have churches and holy sites within Jerusalem (that does seem a little far-fetched - I thought it was only the Dome of the Rock that was on the hit list...)

    1. Doesn't it actually say this generation will not pass away before all these things be fulfilled? So if you were born in 1967 or a little before you would only be in your 50's. So I would think it's fear to say that generation has not passed away right? I'm not seeing the generation problem your talking about, I never even heard that. You should probably read things more carefully.

    2. The interpretation I spoke of was the common Christadelphian interpretation when I grew up. And, as I showed with "88 Reasons", it wasn't just held by Christadelphians. Those who held it need to consider what its failuire means.

      But as for reading things more carefully, I think the entire interpretation of the fig tree as Israel's return to the land is invalid. When Jesus talked about "this generation", I think he was talking about the people he was talking to then. That makes the prophecy nearly 2,000 years overdue.

    3. Yes who is this generation has always got me a bit...on face value its the people standing..there. but ive always been taught its the people born in those dates in the above comment...i dont think we really know

    4. Uradope,
      "You should probably read things more carefully". Would you apply this to John Thomas as well? When he read his Bible he concluded that Queen Victoria would lay her riches at the feet of the returned Jesus.
      Date setting is the single clearest indicator that you are involved with a cult.

    5. No one should be setting dates even Christ said that. I think people go too far because of their enthusiasm? That is the folly of individual people not of Christadelphians as a whole. You must always go by the scripture and NOT peoples's opinions . Christ says that when Israel returns to their land we live in the days before his return. He said this himself. You can either believe what he says or not.
      John Thomas was not infallible. He was a human being like all of us and made mistakes. But with that said I appreciate his writings and his labor in the word which exposed the fallacy of Christendom and how far off it was from the true teachings of the apostles message of the gospel. So I am very grateful for that.
      We don't know what day or hour Christ will return but we should be wise enough to know the times that we live in and be ready and watching. The problem here is your asking the wrong questions. Christ WILL return. He says so, God says so through the prophets, Moses, psalms, apostles and all the scripture. The question is are you wise or a fool? tic toc....

    6. Ella, where does Christ say that "when Israel returns to their land we live in the days before his return"?

    7. Hi Ella,

      Welcome to the blog :)

      "No one should be setting dates even Christ said that"

      Can you tell me whether Luke 21:32 counts as "setting dates"?

      "But with that said I appreciate his writings and his labor in the word which exposed the fallacy of Christendom and how far off it was from the true teachings of the apostles message of the gospel"

      Do you think there might be Christians who have written about how far off Christadelphians are from the true teachings of the gospel? Have you looked at what they have to say?

      "The problem here is your asking the wrong questions"

      What questions should we have asked? and would you recommend that people in other religions ask the same questions regarding their sacred texts?

      "Christ WILL return. He says so, God says so through the prophets, Moses, psalms, apostles and all the scripture."

      So you have a book, clearly written by humans who claimed to write on behalf of Jesus and God. But how do you know they weren't lying or simply mistaken? Were they mistaken when they wrote about disease being caused by demons or evil spirits?

      What would you say to people in other religions who make the very same claims of divine inspiration about their own holy books?

      Just because something is written in a book, doesn't make it true. You need to verify it.

      What method do you use to verify the one while disproving the other? Could people in other religions use that same method and reach the same conclusions as you?

  4. It is really just another example of date-setting going wrong. Sometimes it seems like everyone knows "We're not supposed to be able to set dates", but it's really tempting, and if the projected date is far enough away and Christ seems on the doorstep surely he must be back before 1988, or 2007, or (insert date here). As an added benefit, when it fails people just go "Oh, they should have known better than to set a date" and dismiss the failure as irrelevant to whether the prophecy is true.

    As I commented earlier: "It's easy to say "The prophecies haven't failed - they just haven't been fulfilled yet". But surely it has to get to a point where the evidence is against it? I can't prove that this year's predictions will be as false as those of last year and the year before, but I think the probabilities are on my side. And I don't understand how more sign-watching believers don't get despondent and give up their watch."

    This isn't just limited to Christadelphians, either. Talking with a few friends from different denominations, each denomination had the nation of Israel as incredibly important to support, and each denomination really got on board with "88 reasons why the Rapture will be in 1988" (one of which was that it was 40 years after 1948 and Israel the fig tree).

    1. I see this one a little differently than mere "date-setting".

      It's less about predicting an actual date (even a year) when Jesus will return, and more about setting an upper limit for when that return might take place (it could occur any time within that period and still satisfy both this prediction re the generation and the secrecy of the day/hour). And obviously the reason for Christadelphians setting that upper limit is to generate hope, but the flip-side is that it also provides a means of falsifying the prediction, and by extension the entire premise of the religion (no return of Jesus = no kingdom, and thus no Christadelphian hope!).

      To put it another way, this interpretation has Jesus himself setting the date (range), and if it failed, that's a big deal for Christadelphians. So even if they don't want to predict dates themselves, they can't walk away from this one unless they switch to a different interpretation - and those are limited (see below).

      There is still some wiggle room though - and Christadelphians will no doubt jump on that.

      Reading the verses in Matt 24:32-34 again, it seems there are a few ways to rescue the prediction.

      (a) Claim that the re-establishment of Israel in 1948 was not the start date - i.e. the event referred to as the fig tree putting forth its leaves - and choose some later event instead. If they choose 1967 that extends it by another 19 years. Even better if they hide behind a fuzzy, vague definition that cannot be pinned down. Then they can extend it indefinitely.

      (b) Claim that "this generation" was not a symbolic number (40 years, 70 years etc), but rather something like "anyone alive at the time". This, too, increases the time span considerably.

      (c) Both of the above.

      However, I think the interpretation of the verses referring to people in Jesus's immediate audience (which I happen to think is the one most likely intended by the gospel authors) is not open to Christadelphians, because that would mean the prediction failed, and few Christadelphians could accept that (e.g. Deut 18:22).

      Some do claim that the prediction refers to AD70, and was thus (partially) fulfilled, but that doesn't satisfy all of the criteria for the prediction, so Christadelphians need a modern-day fulfilment regardless. I suspect most will probably ignore it and carry on believing. Meanwhile, can you imagine the fuss they would make if any of their predictions happened to come anywhere near true?

    2. I don't have to imagine - I saw it with Brexit.

    3. True. I was also thinking of the constant references to John Thomas predicting the return of Israel while ignoring all of his failed predictions.

      And Brexit wasn't even a fulfilment of prophecy! It was more like removing an inconvenient barrier in one of the preconditions. There was no Bible passage that said Brexit would happen, nor any hint that it should have been required in the first place (i.e. the Bible never predicted that Britain would join the EU).

      The analogy would be like predicting that your car would win some specific car race in the future, and then in the meantime your car gets damaged in an accident. If someone repairs your car, that isn't a fulfilment of the original prediction - and that's exactly the same scenario we're in with Brexit.

      (FWIW I certainly am not suggesting that Britian's EU membership was "damage" nor that Brexit was a "repair". I was speaking from the point of view of the predictions made by Christadelphians.)

    4. Jacobus ArminiusMay 20, 2018 at 9:53 AM

      The EU was formed by the treaty of Maastricht in 1992, I dont recall the CDs saying since then that it was a barrier and Britain would have to leave. At best they only predicted the outcome of a yes / no vote.

      Oxford CD site that say "Whether you take these young lions of Tarshish to refer to the United States or just as a reference to the western powers of the last days, the scenario that is developed in Ezekiel 38 fits the present world political situation precisely." - No need for Brexit then !

      You are right about "all about us"- also on that site: "The symbol of Great Britain is a lion. That symbol exists to this day and no other empire had more young lions than Great Britain. The present young lions are the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and the Commonwealth. These young lion nations that came out of the British Empire have generally been pro-Israel." Those countries named explicitly are the ones that white CD's live!

    5. Jacobus ArminiusMay 20, 2018 at 9:59 AM

      My quotes in the last post were not CD, sorry some other adventist group that looks like CD but trinitarian so cant be connected. You can choose whether to publish it and this correction.

    6. Jacobus, I have never been expert on this particular strand of Christadelphian interpretation, but even if it's not CD what you post sounds like what I've heard from CDs.

      I don't remember Brexit being a big deal until it was actually up for a vote. Certainly some had the idea of Europe and Britain having to be separate, but I suspect for many they were just happy to assume the return of Christ was near and not ask too many questions that might lengthen the timeline. Every generation thought they were the unique ones for whom the signs were clearer than for any previous generation.

  5. I think Christadelphians are almost entirely wrong when it comes to prophecy. They interpret everything as being "all about us", but when you actually read the Bible in its original context, it was always all about the author's time period and circumstances. But believers don't like that view because it forces us all to face the fact that life isn't a fairy tale with a happy ending. I completely understand the resistance. It's scary. But facing reality is part of growing up. If it's true, we should accept it instead of lying to ourselves and our kids.

    The egotism in prophecy mania is over-the-top. The belief that an all-powerful being created the entire universe just for us, and wrote us a book full of prophecies specifically written for our time, and then converted John Thomas and co, just so that we lucky few living today could be saved (the rest of the world be damned) and live forever in a magical wonderland that was God's purpose all along - it just smacks of blind, childish, head-in-the-clouds egotism. Oh, look how lucky we are (and let's not think too much about how unlucky everyone else is - or try to pretend it's their own fault)!!

    And let's not talk about the grotesque idea that God orchestrated major world events, often resulting in the suffering and deaths of millions of people, just so that some Christadelphians in their comfortable modern lifestyles could look at their history books and say, "Look - that prophecy was fulfilled!".

    Unfortunately many of us were caught up in the religion well into our adult years so we know just how enticing it can be. The blindfold is applied very early in life, and it can be very difficult to realise that it's there, and can be removed. Removing the blindfold sometimes also comes with the threat of removing/losing one's social support and belonging - in the only community they know - so it's not at all surprising that most will never even entertain the thought. It's much easier to rationalise those who have left as rebels who "just wanna sin" - or who were drawn away by deceit (wilfully or otherwise). That latter one is especially pernicious because it leads believers to doubt their own reasoning ability and cling to blind faith instead.


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