Home Christian News ‘Til Kingdom Come’ Documentary Examines Link Between End-Times Theology and Israel Politics

‘Til Kingdom Come’ Documentary Examines Link Between End-Times Theology and Israel Politics


(RNS) — Soon after Donald Trump took office, Maya Zinshtein, an Israeli filmmaker, noticed the growing prominence of evangelicals, not only in the president’s Cabinet and among his advisers, but also in Israel, where she was always told these believers were among Israel’s biggest donors and staunchest of allies.

Why, she wondered?

As Zinshtein began to explore the phenomenon, she met up with many of these evangelicals, including members of a fundamentalist Baptist church from Kentucky that made annual pilgrimages to Israel and donated large sums of money to the Jewish state through the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews.

The IFCJ, Israel’s largest humanitarian relief organization, gets a big part in Zinshtein’s new documentary, “‘ Til Kingdom Come, ” which focuses on the complex alliance among evangelicals, Israel’s political establishment, its largest charity and the religious Jewish settlers in the West Bank.

The film, shown in Israel in the fall and now available for streaming in the U.S., shows how the evangelicals’ end-times theology, which sees Israel as playing a major role in Jesus’ final return, has caused them to adopt the settlers’ cause, and how the settlers have encouraged and nurtured the relationship.

Evangelicals see world events — from Israel’s creation in 1948 to Trump’s move of the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem — as signs of God’s unfolding plan. As Trump’s informal adviser Johnnie Moore says in the film, “We are taught to translate geopolitical reality through the lens of prophecy.”

For some evangelicals, support for Israel, whether financial or moral or ideological, is a deeply felt religious obligation. For many in Binghamtown Baptist Church in Middlesboro, Kentucky, where part of Zinshtein’s film is shot, it is also a sacrificial one. The church, in the forested mountains of Appalachia, lies in coal-mining country, but that industry has dried up. The poverty rate in Bell County now tops 38%, with an average household income of less than $25,000.

Still, Yael Eckstein, president and CEO of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, comes knocking. In the documentary, she is driven through a half-abandoned neighborhood but gratefully accepts a $25,000 check from the church to help various charity efforts in Israel.

“In the story they tell themselves, this is a key to salvation,” said Abie Troen, the film’s producer and director of photography, reflecting on the church’s generosity.

But there are other moral complications. The end-times theology subscribed to by evangelicals will culminate in the seven-year Tribulation and the Battle of Armageddon, during which two-thirds of Jews will be condemned to die for not accepting Jesus, with a remnant converting to Christianity.

That, Eckstein acknowledges, is the “elephant in the room,” but it is rarely broached.

Evangelicals also support an expansive Israel that refuses to acknowledge the existence of 2.5 million Palestinians in the Israeli-occupied West Bank or their aspirations to statehood — driving a wedge through any effort to resolve the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians.