The Controversy of Zion

The Controversy of Zion and the Time of Jacob’s Trouble, Dalton Lifsey, Tauranga: Maskilim Publishing, 2011.

Dalton Lifsey is a pastor in New Zealand and he has something to say about Israel and the end times that is slightly different than others who have written this sort of book before.

  • He does not believe there is a rapture of Christians prior to the return of Messiah (so he believes the Second Coming is the time when the dead will be raised, which some call the post-tribulational view).
  • He not only opposes supersessionism (a.k.a., replacement theology, the idea that Christians supersede Jewish people as the chosen ones) but says a day is coming, the time of Jacob’s trouble, and Christians will be judged based on how they come to the aid of Jewish people and stand against evil.
  • He does not think that it is suffering per se that will bring our people to repentance, but will show Israel love and send a rescue in crisis which will melt away rebellion and cause Jewish people to cleave to Hashem at last.
  • He does not think the usual Christian Zionist and Dispensationalist views have it right, and believes that our people in the land are not yet secure and do not yet have the promise of absolute divine security to remain and not be scattered yet again.
  • He does not think the anti-Zionists have it right either and affirms strongly the continuing covenant of Hashem and the Jewish people and that the land grant is a necessary part of the covenant.

This is a refreshing book of interpretation of prophetic hope concerning the Jewish people, the land of Israel, and the events leading up to the return of Yeshua. Let’s consider some of the strengths of Lifsey’s book, including the encouraging signs of a maturing Christian love for Jewish people, and some flaws as well, including the problematic cherry-picking approach to prophetic promises.

Lifsey is very strong on the ethical and spiritual requirement for followers of Jesus to stand against anti-Semitism, to be brothers and sisters with the Jewish people, and prepared in a coming time of unparalleled suffering to support Jewish people against a world set on Jew-hatred. He takes Paul’s olive tree analogy in Romans 11 very seriously, and find much support for gentile brotherhood with Israel in the prophets as well. Christians are mutually dependent with the Jewish people in the plan of God. There is union and distinction at the same time between Israel and the Church (it sounds like Lifsey would be open to bilateral ecclesiology as in Mark Kinzer’s Postmissionary Messianic Judaism).

One of Lifsey’s beliefs about the end times is of a coming time of world hatred leading to unprecedented violence against the Jewish people. It is the idea of Armageddon and the numerous passages about the nations attacking Israel at what seems to be the end of the age just prior to divine intervention and the Messianic Age. Yet Lifsey sharpens the image, being concerned that the final devastation for Jewish people will exceed even the Holocaust. He is persuaded of this because of a connection he makes between various scriptures which refer to suffering as has never been before:

  • “That day is so great there is none like it; it is the time of Jacob’s trouble” (Jer 30:7).
  • “There will be great tribulation, such as there has not been since the beginning of the world until now” (Matt 24:21).
  • “… when the complete shattering of the holy people comes to an end” (Dan 12:7).
  • “I will gather all the nations against Jerusalem for battle …” (Zech 14:1).
  • “… two thirds shall be cut off and perish, and one third shall be left alive. And I will put this third into the fire, and refine them as one refines silver …” (Zech 13:8-9).

Lifsey says of the Church’s responsibility and divine calling in the time of Jacob’s trouble:

The escape and expulsion of the Jews from their crippled and war-torn state will dramatically impact the Church among the nations. In the coming days when the violence begins, potentially millions of Jews will take to flight “among the nation” (Amos 9:9-10), seeking refuge from their tormentors (Isa 51:23). They will need to be received and served by those who anticipated their arrival. Much like Corri ten Boom and her family who secretly housed and protected Jews during the Nazi Holocaust, so also will the Church in the great tribulation be called upon to serve disoriented, panic-stricken, and traumatized Jews.

There are differences between Lifsey’s prophetic timeline and the usual theories offered, especially by Christian Zionists and Dispensationalists. Our people’s present place in the land is not guaranteed, contra the Christian Zionists, but the promises of absolute divine security for Israel in the land seem to Lifsey to be about the regathering to come when Messiah appears and not about the current gathering to Israel. Lifsey does believe the prophets foresaw Israel regathered without yet being renewed, as in the current state of Israel. Yet he does not think the security promises apply yet. Anything may happen, including another scattering of the people from the land.

Like nearly all prophecy books, Lifsey picks verses here and there which appear to refer to the last days. I cannot argue too strongly against this as I did it myself in The World to Come. What is needed in using verses plucked from their contexts is the hard work of careful study. Is the scripture in question definitely about the final time of the age, is it possibly about the final time, or is it better read as a promise for the nearer context? Lifsey cites hundreds of verses and the reader is at his mercy to decide if he is using them fairly or not. On the other hand, few readers would have the patience to read a 600 page tome with thorough exegesis and thematic examinations of each prophet in context!

The future of this age will see the Temple rebuilt in Jerusalem and a few years later an attack upon Israel and Jewish refugees fleeing the land. Jerusalem will be trampled for three and a half years. An anti-Christ figure will rise and be responsible for this attack and will set up a desecrating sacrilege in the Temple. All nations will become involved and the death toll for the Jewish people will be large. And God will at the climax of the war and suffering send Messiah and the hearts of Israel will melt in love and the greatest renewal in history will commence. Messiah will establish his kingdom, beginning with vengeance upon the attacking armies, and then there will be an age of peace and final regathering of the Jewish people to the land. God will judge the nations, especially Christians, based on their response to suffering Jews. The greatest blessings will be for those who served and supported the chosen people in history’s darkest hour.

If you have been turned off in the past by books about the end times, Lifsey’s book is refreshing. It is not free from all of the faults of prophecy books, but its maturity is inspiring and its message is encouraging (in spite of the bleak picture of coming suffering for our people, which is not Lifsey’s fault).

You may conclude that Lifsey is wrong about this or that. You may feel that some of Jacob’s trouble has already happened, that it describes Jewish history in general. It is harder to deny the coming Armageddon, which is first and foremost an attack on Israel which is followed by divine vengeance on the attacking armies. These are not pleasant and encouraging thoughts, but if we had lived before the advent of Nazism and knew the death camps were coming, perhaps we all — Jew and gentile — would have been better prepared. Perhaps more Christians would have been Corrie ten Booms. And so it just may be that because of increasingly mature expositions of prophecy that a segment of the Church will be prepared if it should happen that the end of the age comes sooner than later.

In the meantime, The Controversy of Zion and the Time of Jacob’s Trouble is for Christians as much about living now with a love for the Jewish people and in awe of God’s plan as it is about knowing future timetables.

This entry was posted in Book Reviews, Dispensationalism, End Times, Eschatology, Prophets, Replacement Theology, Supersessionism, Zionism. Bookmark the permalink.

24 Responses to The Controversy of Zion

  1. Glenn says:

    “Yet Lifsey sharpens the image, being concerned that the final devastation for Jewish people will exceed even the Holocaust.” “All nations will become involved and the death toll for the Jewish people will be large.” – Derek, are you aware that many Jews see statements like this as anti-semitic and do not want anything to do with people who hold to such a view! Some quarters of Messianic Judaism are even viewed as anti-semitic for these viewpoints. Jewish leaders have begun to explore this and some have called for the Jewish community to distance itself from people who subscribe to this. How does one respond?

  2. Derek Leman says:


    Anyone in the Jewish community who would say this must not read the Israelite prophets. The theme of an attack on the Jewish people by the nations is commonplace in the prophets. My response would be: you don’t think Isaiah was anti-Semitic do you?

  3. Glenn says:

    What I hear Jewish people say is when tens of millions of dollars are collected and invested in groups who have a specific agenda to support missions to Israel and the conversion of Jews that is directly related to such a well defined and sometimes dogmatic end time belief that “the final devastation for Jewish people will exceed even the Holocaust and the death toll for the Jewish people will be large” and some of these people seek to influence power and politics many Jews seem to get very uncomfortable.

  4. David says:

    Derek, thanks for this detailed review – looks to be an interesting read – I’ve put the book on my Amazon wish list.

    To respond to Glenn’s point, many Jewish people do indeed think that the Holocaust was Jacob’s trouble, and they (quite understandably) have extreme difficulty with the concept that something even worse is yet to come. However, a careful reading does suggest that the events Jeremiah prophesies will happen in Eretz Israel, so they cannot refer to the Holocaust. As Derek says, what matters is what the prophets say, whether we like it or not.

    Also see this interesting article by Christian Zionist Malcolm Hedding:

  5. Dan Benzvi says:

    “■He does not think the usual Christian Zionist and Dispensationalist views have it right, and believes that our people in the land are not yet secure and do not yet have the promise of absolute divine security to remain and not be scattered yet again.”

    I guess he did not read Amos 9:11-15.

    I will not spend my money on this book.

    • Andrew T. says:


      OK, so he may be wrong about that one. But you ought to not be so judgmental. Inevitably, any teacher gets some things wrong (that means you too, whether you admit it or not). That is OK, and not a reason to reject a teacher or a book outright.

      Yeshua dined with tax collectors and publicans, people understood to be fundamentally sinful. He also dined with Pharisees, whom he certainly disagreed with on this or that interpretation. Moral: we do not reject everything a person has to say just because some of what they think is objectionable.

      • Dan Benzvi says:


        You speak like that because for you maybe it is not a major issue, It is a major issue for me, I am an Israeli.

        • Andrew T. says:

          Certainly, we all have our biases. But remember: when the Master prophesied that the Temple would soon be destroyed, so that not one ston would be left standing atop another, I can’t imagine that his nationalistic fellows found that teaching palatable. Of course, he was right; the Temple proper was completely demolished by the Romans, leaving all but the impregnable Western Wall standing.

          Dalton Lifsey may be scripturally wrong on this point, but we should still hear him out with open ears.

    • …I guess he did not read Amos 9:11-15…

      That’s precisely the problem; making theology on one verse instead of allowing the whole Bible to support itself. At least Lifsey is using more than one verse to support his views.


  6. James says:

    ,i>”He does not believe there is a rapture of Christians prior to the return of Messiah.”

    Fabulous. Neither do I. There’s like one verse in the NT that could be interpreted that way, but as I recall, the actually Christian theology of the rapture isn’t that old. I doubt the original disciples ever thought that way.

    I think too many Christians and especially too many Messianics are obsessed with “the end times”. It’s like the Christian “X-Files” or something. Everyone is into the whole conspiracy theory aspects and the “Left Behind” book series only fuels that sort of thing. Judaism is about the here and now, about taking care of the person who needs food today, visiting the person who is sick in the hospital today, comforting the widow who has just lost her husband today. If we think that our spiritual lives are bound up in the future, we’ll miss the reason God put us here in the first place.

    • Andrew T. says:

      Amen, James. Yeshua said that he who says he loves God (who is hidden) but hates his brother is a liar.

    • Keith says:

      I would like to read more about the end times and this rapture; what are some good resources?

      • Andrew T. says:

        Well, this book seems a good place to start, if you trust Derek’s review. But you will only find a scriptural refutation of the very recent “Rapture” doctrine in this book, and rightly so. The Rapture’s bad theology.

  7. Joe Berkopec says:

    This theme for your web site, the controvercy of Zion is a very interesting theme.
    As one whom subscribes to this view that you hold, I do truly believe that this is the day that the Lord is returning to his ancient people. The signs of his glory are already rising from the east, the day of his great unvieling is very near.
    We today are witnessing the begining of the the return of the great king, those whom have ears to hear are begining to hear the trumpet sound, the call to battle is now, for the great day of the Lamb is very near.
    The spirit world is in the midst of turmoil, the powers that govern this present age know that their long hold on power over the nations is drawing to a close.
    The Day of Jacobs trouble is not coming it is here.

  8. What a great review Derek. It brings me so much joy to know that Dalton’s book is being read with an open heart and mind. I have read this book as well and the Spirit testifies within me that Dalton has received a significant amount of insight through his study of this topic. For anyone to dismiss this book because of their own preconceived ideas of how the present situation relates to biblical prophesy is, I believe, foolish.

    Particularly in reference to the afore mentioned Amos 9:11-15. I look at that and say clearly that it is not fulfilled. The first reason is simple: Verse 10. I believe that it is this specific attitude described in Verse 10 which is being declared now by so many. And what a dangerous thing to declare.

    Secondly, I read “the mountains shall drip with sweet wine” and hope for something infinitely greater than the current reality. Why is it that so many are satisfied to apply the current situation to something so grand and beautiful as this promise in Amos and the many other similar promises of full restoration? I believe that those promises are far greater than what could be “naturally” achieved over the present course of natural history. What a compromise to apply this promise to the present reality!

    Hopefully this comment does not offend in anyway. It is not my intent to offend, just declare what I believe the spirit has revealed to me through the study of the scriptures, and submit it for open discusion.

    Bless you Derek!

  9. samuelclough says:

    I’m so encouraged to see books like Dalton’s being read with an open mind. I remember the first time I heard Art Katz speak about future suffering for the Jewish people. My world was rocked and it caused me to consider the gravity of the issue for some time before becoming fully convinced by the Scriptures that great suffering is coming not just for the Jews, but for those who stand with them. Given the events unfolding in the Middle East I believe we must hear teachers like Dalton so that we might be fully prepared for whatever may come, whether we are Jews or gentiles who serve the God of Israel. While I would love to believe that Jewish suffering is over, with the volume of Scripture on eschatological suffering and the observable storm clouds gathering in the middle east, it feels an awful lot like Nazi Germany in the mid 1930’s and we must take that very seriously so that the gentile church is prepared to respond like the Boom family did when we begin to see dreadful events unfold.

  10. Derek Leman says:

    Keith, you asked: “I would like to read more about the end times and this rapture; what are some good resources?”

    First, and I am not kidding: Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, the 12 minor prophets, and Daniel. Don’t even think of reading Revelation until then. Revelation’s 400-plus allusions to the Hebrew Bible suggest it is a book intended to be read by those who are intimately familiar with the Hebrew Bible.

    Second, there are many good books about the coming events in history. My book The World to Come focuses more on the Messianic Age and the New Earth than the tribulation and events to come before the Messianic Age. Lifsey’s book, mentioned here, is a good read. But most people won’t do the hard work of reading the prophets first and so these kind of books can become a substitute.

    Third, I would learn to settle for some general ideas about what is to come and not get too specific or be quick to throw support behind a specific view. Everybody sounds convincing when they make their case. There are three or four main views which can be presented with support that seems overwhelming. Stick to some big principles: no replacement theology, if God’s rescue came physically and literally in the past we should assume it will in the future as well, yet if descriptions in the past also contained poetic and symbolic language we should expect it of future events also.

  11. So far, from what you described Derek, this guy appears to be a Post-Tribulational Dispensationalist. As such, much of what he says is hardly new – it’s still classic Dispensationalism view of the future but with rapture after the 7 year period. I think we need a fresh look at prophecy – this one is a tired one.

    • Andrew T. says:

      It is flawed, but it’s a heck of an improvement over the more conventional Evangelical eschatology he is trying to correct. I’d be jumping for joy if the mass of conservative Christians adopted his view instead.

  12. Derek Leman says:


    I am certainly open to a wider view of eschatology. And I am spending this year in Isaiah and plan to give Isaiah a second close reading next year as well. That is why I am writing up the Daily Isaiah notes that many people subscribe to.

    To be fair to Lifsey, though, it is not only his post-tribulationalism that differentiates him from Dispensationalists, but also his appreciation for both unity and distinction with Jewish-gentile relations. I would say he is between Covenant and Dispensationalist. He has not addressed the postmissionary issues but much of what he says sounds like a leaning toward something like bilateral ecclesiology. I think it is possible he may be realizing the ongoing validity of the Sinai Covenant and not just the Abrahamic.

  13. louise says:

    Wow, this is quite a good discussion, thank you to all who have contributed.

    Derek: you are absolutely right in your advice to Keith that the place to begin to understand prophecy is with the the Bible, with the prophets. A huge problem in ‘the church’ today (and i think most of us mean the evangelical church because i do not think it is the ‘old mainline denominations’ or the Catholic or Orthodox churches where most of these discussions are taking place, please correct me if i am wrong) is that born-again evangelical Christians do not read the Bible as the story of God’s Plan for His world, including mankind, from beginning to end and we are not taught that approach in the evangelical church. Most evangelicals read more books about the Bible from someone or other’s point of view than they read it for themsevles with Holy Spirit guidance and Christian bookstores promote certain popular beliefs because they are just that, ‘popular’ and maybe a movie has been made about it, etc. sad.

    IoytoT OS

  14. louise says:

    woops, sorry..

    it is more than likely that in the Day of Wrath to come, a day you cannot ignore reading about as you study God’s Word, it will be ALL the people of God, both Jew and born-again goyim who will suffer. period. I do not think the Bible tells us to think otherwise…..we are not defending Jews per se in any of these things, united we will be defending God and those He made in His image….all people who will be suffering because they do not receive the mark and lies of an anti-Christ. Psalm 23, “He leads me in paths of righteousness for HIS NAME’S SAKE”, not ours.

    and yes, as was pointed out in one of the contributors to this discussion, we have a big work to do every day of life He gives. We are to to ‘occupy’ until He comes and to be salt and light and be conformed in hearts and actions to our Master and Saviour as possible, in His Love and Truth for everyone, no exceptions. includes enemies. …..

  15. Malcolm says:

    Good healthy debate both challenging and scary. Have we not got the word of G-d and the spirit of G-d to lead and guide us into all truth.? than k you Derek for your encouraging response to Lfesy book. which helps to fuel the fire of intercession for the Land ,People of the Land and “Pray for the Peace of Jerusalem” here in Jerusalem.We must all do our own study of the Word which is our only guide to G-d’s eternal plan and our responsibilty to your people and Jerusalem through the council of the Holy Spirit.Time is running out for debate,its time for the veil of both jew and gentile to be lifted and for us all to be obedient to what the Lord has called us to do for His kingdom to come.

    Malcolm (Romans 15v13

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