The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


Key terms

From "Apocalyptic" to "Zionism"


Apocalyptic: “revelatory” or “disclosing.” Apocalyptic is most often associated with the book of Revelation and resulting speculation about the end-times. While cultural interpretations tend toward dramatic and destructive visions of the future (such as a focus on Armageddon), Lutheran interpretation most often intends to provide comfort and meaning for the present.

bogus captionArmageddon

A plain near a mountain in northern Israel (Har Megiddo) designated by the book of Revelation as the site of the final, decisive battle between the forces of evil and good on the day of judgment.

Christian Zionism

Political action, informed by specifically Christian commitments, to promote or preserve Jewish control over the geographic area now comprising the State of Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories. Not all Christian Zionists are motivated by end-times speculation.


Classically a designation for Protestant Christians (beginning with Martin Luther and his community) who understood themselves to be centered on the gospel (evangel).

More recent definitions refer to a type of Christian, now about one quarter of U.S. adults, committed to 1) understanding the Bible as infallible and inerrant for faith and practice; 2) an experience of personal conversion; and 3) sharing their faith with others.


A specific form of Protestant Christianity that developed in the early 1900s in response to different social pressures, including the rising authority of scientific knowledge. The movement sought to recommit Christians to belief in the “fundamentals” of the faith. Premillennial dispensational thought, which had developed in preceding decades, was woven into the foundations of fundamentalism. Later, evangelicalism would challenge the fundamentalist tendency to withdraw from social concerns.

Premillennial dispensationalism

A theological system developed in the 1800s that informed the Christian Zionism of William Blackstone. The system divides human history into several periods (dispensations), teaching that the final judgment will occur prior to Jesus’ 1,000-year reign.

Based on a form of biblical literalism, the system emphasizes the steady decline of civilization, a distinction between the church and Israel (interpreted literally as Jews), and a future tribulation period from which true Christians will be rescued by the rapture.


The most distinctive doctrine of premillennial dispensationalism. Belief in the rapture rests on very thin biblical foundations (1 Thessalonians 4:17 and Matthew 24:20). Invented by John Nelson Darby, the idea became very popular in North America as a tool for promoting religious zeal.


A movement of Jewish nationalism, not necessarily informed by religious commitment. Zionism was a response to centuries of persecution and the apparent failure of dominant Christian societies to accept Jewish efforts toward assimilation. Zionism now seeks to secure and support the State of Israel as a legally recognized national home for the Jews. Growing awareness of Jewish national life, culture and language are central to the Zionist goal of promoting Jewish self-determination and normal relations with other peoples and states.




Posted at 9:36 pm (U.S. Eastern) 5/19/2009

It seems to me that the presentation in this issue is very one-sided.  One does not have to be a believer in the rapture or the Left Behind books to be aware of the precarious situation in which Israel finds itself.  One need only look at a map.  Israel is surrounded by countries that have vowed to wipe it off the map.  The tiny area of the Gaza strip has been the source of numerous rocket and missile attacks against Israel.  Why was this not mentioned?  It would seem to me that when 4 articles are published about the Middle East and Israel, at least one ought to present the picture from the perspective of Israel.  Every nation has a duty to protect its citizens from attack.  It is not particularly loving or even Christian to demand that a nation allow itself to be destroyed.

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February issue


Embracing diversity