Orthodox rabbis and Evangelical Christians equally believe that the world is on the cusp of the Battle of Armageddon and that “we are about to see the messiah,” said Dr. Jeffrey D. Johnson.
In an interview with The Jerusalem Post, Johnson said that the reality of devout Jewish and Christians sharing this common bond, “should cause us all to pause and say, ‘Oh my word, there is hope here.’ In a world of great despair, there is hope in the messiah.”
Specifically, he said the common bond is in the belief that one day soon, there will be a war as described in Ezekiel 38-39, in which Israel will battle a coalition led by Persia, which is considered today to be Iran, and through this battle the messiah will come.
He admitted that while there may be some theological differences about who the messiah is, the narratives are strikingly similar.
“It’s a common bond,” he said, and the premise of Johnson’s new book, Divine Mysteries: Concise and Thoughtful Ancient Biblical Wisdom. In the work, the author uses both the Tanakh (known by Christians as the Old Testament) and the New Testament to explain some of the Bible’s most perplexing issues.
Johnson, whose mother is Jewish but said he considers himself a Christian, is a former adjunct professor of systematic theology and has taught at universities around the world, including Harvard and Oxford. He is also the founder of Israel Today Ministries, which has provided tens of thousands of meals to poor Israeli children and Holocaust survivors.
He says that any leader or pastor who wants to eradicate the Old Testament from modern-day Christianity is making the New Testament irrelevant as well. This goes against generations of Christians who understood that the Church has replaced Israel, and that the Jewish Bible became obsolete. Known as replacement theology, this doctrine diminishes the significance of Israel and the predictions of the Jewish prophets concerning Israel and the restoration of the Jewish people in their land.
“It’s a very dangerous doctrine,” Johnson told the Post, explaining that replacement theology has been made popular by Bible teachers and leaders who promote it, which can lead to antisemitism and hatred of the Jewish people.
RABBI TULY WEISZ, the founder of Israel365, an Orthodox Jewish organization in Israel that works to build a bridge between Jews and Christians based on their common religious roots, said that replacement theology “has led to all kinds of hostilities until this very day.
“The synagogue shootings can be traced to the antisemitic notions that we refer to today as replacement theology – but throughout history this was just called Christian theology,” he said.
Weisz was referring to the Pittsburgh Tree of Life synagogue massacre and the more recent shooting at a Chabad shul in Poway, California.
While Johnson did not want to link these murders to replacement theology, he admitted that “bottom line, it really is an antisemitic understanding.
“There are those who wish to eradicate, to do away with the Tanakh,” he continued. “As a Christian Bible scholar, I can say that the Tanakh is God’s word and it’s the crucible from which Christianity was birthed. The early followers of Jesus – and Jesus himself – read the Tanakh. We cannot do away with the Tanakh – that is just foolish.”
He said that when Christians become familiar with the Jewish Bible, the natural by-product is that they love Israel and the Jewish people.
“The good news is that there are a few seminaries that now are beginning to emphasize the Jewish roots of Christianity,” Johnson said, which helps to counter those who believe in replacement theology.
Weisz expressed similar sentiments. He published The Israel Bible, a 2,000-page bilingual English-Hebrew version of the Hebrew Bible that highlights the special connection between the Land and the People of Israel. The work is aimed at the Religious Zionist and Christian communities, which both share the messianic beliefs that Johnson described.
“Historically, whenever Christians wanted to study the Jewish Bible it was for nefarious purposes: to bait the Jews, to prove they are right and we are wrong,” Weisz said. “Today, in the modern era, many Christians are studying the Jewish Bible to come to a deeper understanding of the Jewish roots of their Christian faith and to come closer to the Jewish people and the Land of Israel, which is a wonderful thing.
“Jewish people, by teaching non-Jews what the Bible says, are fulfilling our national mandate of being a light unto the nations,” he concluded.
Johnson said that his book is aimed at Evangelicals, but he also hopes that there will be Jews who want to read it so they can see that the core and foundation of Christianity is not antisemitic.
“I know that historically, the Church has done some terrible things and that is very unfortunate,” Johnson said. “But there is a turning point now and people are more educated.
“There are millions of Christians and Messianics worldwide who love Israel,” he continued, “and in their own way, they are standing with Israel.”