Q: There seems to be very little written on the subject of British Israelism. Would you please explain what this is, and how this teaching affects Christianity today?”
A: In order to understand what is meant by “British Israelism,” or “Anglo-Israelism,” one must recognize what is called the teaching of “millennialism.” Millennialism—a false teaching that is very popular among fundamentalist preachers, such a Falwell, Graham, Roberts, McIntire, etc.—is the view that Jesus Christ will establish some kind of a glorious kingdom here on this earth at the time of his Second Coming. Proponents of millennialism take the number 1,000 in Rev. 20:2-4 very literalistically, and claim that this “earthly kingdom” of Christ and his true followers will last exactly for a period of 1,000 years, after which will come the final judgment. Millenialists overlook the fact that the Apostle John’s terminology in his book describing the Revelation of Jesus Christ is obviously figurative, since he is recording what was seen in his vision (Rev. 9:17). As a result, we Lutherans believe the 1,000 years mentioned in Rev. 20 are a figurative expression for the period of time in which we are now living—the time form the first coming of Christ to the Last Day.
It also needs to be said that Scripture repeatedly rules out any kind of “heaven on earth” thoughts with regard to Christ’s Second Coming on the day of judgment. Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36). Peter in his second epistle informs us that the moment Christ returns this present world will be completely destroyed, leaving no room for any millenialistic ideas of a peaceful, utopian reign on this present earth. Look up II Peter 3:10-13. This is why our Augsburg Confession also states: “Rejected, too, are certain Jewish opinions which are even now making an appearance and which teach that, before the resurrection of the dead, saints and godly men will possess a worldly kingdom and annihilate all the godless. (Art. VII, par. 5).
British Israelism is simply millennialism with a slightly different twist to it. Adherents of this movement believe that the Anglo-Saxons make up two of the lost tribes of Israel, one in England, the other in the United States. They maintain that when the northern kingdom of Israel was taken captive by the Assyrians, these tribes escaped and emigrated to the British Isles. They feel that the Anglo-Saxons and not the ostensible Jews, were the chosen people of God; that by destiny they have been selected to rule the world; that this will be accomplished by the merger of Britain and America into one common citizenship.
Herbert W. Armstrong (who just recently died) and his Worldwide Church of God has been one of the leading and visible proponents of British Israelism. But this non-Trinitarian cult is not the only pusher of this pernicious doctrine; even many Trinitarian groups have incorporated this kind of millennialism into their theological system. It is hard to expose the British Israel World Federation, since they have no membership as such, visibly speaking. It is the invisible, though, that makes this movement so dangerous to our Christian faith, as well as to our national independence.
There is, of course, no more historical proof for the British Israel people’s claim (to be the lost tribes of Israel) than for the Mormon claim that the captives of the northern kingdom of Israel immigrated to American and their descendants are now American Indians. These are myths which have been made popular in our day, and, sad to say, a number of people have itching ears (II Tim. 4:3-4) and are willing to listen to fables rather than the truth of God’s Word. God gave Jesus Christ as man’s substitute in payment for sin in order that those who believe may have everlasting life. We should not look to some theoretical British-U.S. empire as the “savior” which ushers in a millennial reign—a cheap substitute for the real life God offers.