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(RNS) — Of the two evangelical pastors who offered prayers Monday (May 14) at the ceremony for the opening of the American Embassy in Jerusalem, Robert Jeffress received most of the publicity. And understandably so.
Jeffress is known for making controversial religious pronouncements. Mitt Romney has rightly criticized President Trump’s choice of a “religious bigot” to participate in this event, pointing to Jeffress’ condemnatory comments about other religions — including the pastor’s characterization of Romney’s own Mormon faith as “a heresy from the pit of ****.”
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The most theologically significant prayer at the ceremony, however, was offered by John Hagee, a megachurch pastor from San Antonio. Hagee, a longtime supporter of Israeli policies, thanked the Lord on this occasion “that Jerusalem is and always shall be the eternal capital of the Jewish people.”
“Eternal” covers a long timespan. It is not often that presidential administrations get to make decisions with that kind of staying power, but for those evangelicals who endorse the theology that informed Hagee’s prayer, Trump was simply doing God’s will in relocating the embassy in Jerusalem. They see the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948 as a fulfillment of an ancient prophecy.
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Many Jewish people of Jesus’ day, of course, did not accept the claim that he was the promised Messiah — a refusal so serious in Jeffress’ mind that those who continue in the Jewish religion are on a path to ****.
But Jeffress, Hagee and others who hold to this version of the “Bible prophecy” scenario also insist that when Jesus returns the Jews as a people will recognize him as their true Messiah, and Jesus will establish his eternal kingdom in Jerusalem. Israel, in this view, has a great future, and the event this week is yet another step in the unfolding of God’s plan for the...
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