JERUSALEM, ISRAEL – When the American Embassy was officially opened here in the Israeli capital of Jerusalem in May 2018, a Dallas pastor was not only asked to attend the dramatic event, but to pray a blessing over the new embassy.
First Baptist Church of Dallas Senior Pastor Robert Jeffress is one of the most prominent Evangelical leaders in the United States.
As a Bible teacher whose “Pathway To Victory” program on TBN reaches millions, Jeffress is also one of the most pro-Israel leaders
This week, Jeffress has brought more than 450 Evangelicals to the Holy Land to walk where Jesus walked, study Bible prophecy, worship the Lord Jesus Christ, and pray for the peace of Jerusalem.
Last night, he invited me to have dinner with him.
Then he interviewed me about what it’s like to be an Evangelical follower of Jesus living here in Israel as a citizen; what’s really driving the highly contentious debate over judicial reform in Israel; what the most serious threats to Israel are, and how I see Bible prophecy playing out all around us.
We also discussed why my colleagues and I founded ALL ISRAEL NEWS in September 2020 – why I then launched THE ROSENBERG REPORT on TBN in October 2022 – and why Evangelicals in the U.S. and around the world have found it so difficult – and so infuriating – for so long to find sources of news about Israel and the Church in the Middle East that they can truly trust.
That said, as much of an honor as it was to answer his questions for 30 minutes or so, and then take another 30 minutes of questions from his tour group, I particularly enjoyed the opportunity to interview Jeffress while we had a quiet dinner together.
“I believe probably the greatest threat to Israel is America not continuing her support of Israel,” he told me. “Israel will always survive because God's going to see that it does. But I believe it's a true threat if Israel is not supported by the United States like she has been in the past. You know, in the past, it's been bipartisan support for Israel. I'm afraid that may be coming to an end. And I think we need to vote in a way that is conducive to what we believe about God's view of Israel is.”
Jeffress was especially critical of U.S. President Joe Biden’s continuing refusal to invite Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to the White House to strengthen the U.S.-Israeli strategic alliance, especially given the grave and growing threats posed by Iran, Hezbollah, Hamas and other radical Islamists.
“I think Biden knows where the Democrat party is, and I think he knows it costs him nothing with Jewish Democrats to snub Netanyahu. And I think it's atrocious.”
He added, “I think it's one more reason that we need a strong conservative in the White House.”
Jeffress told me he has firmly supported former U.S. President Donald J. Trump for the past eight years and will continue to back him for president in 2024.
He predicted that some Evangelicals may support a range of other good candidates in the GOP primaries but that most Evangelicals will return to the fold and back Trump in the 2024 general election.
I also asked Jeffress why a recent poll shows that a growing number of young Evangelicals – those under age 30 – are not nearly as strongly supportive of Israel and the Jewish people as their parents and grandparents are.
“I blame that on the pulpits of churches in America,” the pastor told me. “That's why people are ignorant about Israel and have no idea what the biblical perspective is. Pastors are afraid to preach about Bible prophecy. They've never taken the time to study what God says about the end times. And so, we're raising a generation that has no idea about God's unconditional covenant with Abraham. All they're learning is how to build strong marriages and how to be successful in their careers. And that's all well and good, but you need to understand what God's plan for the world is.”
“If you don't understand that Israel is the apple of God's eye, you’re going to be on the wrong side of God on this issue,” he added. “And again, I just don't think you can understand the implications of the Second Coming of Christ and what's going to happen in the Millennium and all God has in the future without understanding this unconditional covenant God has made with Abraham and his descendants.”
“And so, this isn't something that's far removed from everyday life. I believe, you know, that what's going to happen to Israel impacts what's going to happen to us, the world, and our eternity.”
The following is the full transcript of my conversation with Pastor Robert Jeffress, lightly edited for clarity.
ROSENBERG: Pastor Robert Jeffress, I think the first time I interviewed you for ALL ISRAEL NEWS was on the South Lawn of the White House when we were watching the Abraham Accords being signed. What a huge and historic moment. And, of course, you were here – although I didn't see you then – at the opening of the American embassy in May 2018. So, why are you back, and what's your sense of what you see happening here in Israel as a prominent Evangelical leader?
PASTOR ROBERT JEFFRESS: We have about 450 of our “Pathway to Victory” friends who watch our broadcast [on TBN]. They all love Israel. They understand that Israel is the center of God's prophetic plan for the world. And we are just here looking at what God is doing here. There's nothing like coming to visit and tour Israel. It sounds trite to say, but we see people and we hear them say all the time, “The Bible comes alive to us when we've been in Israel and see that this isn't some mythological place. This is a real place where Jesus lived, died, and rose again.”
ROSENBERG: Amen. How many people on your tour group do you think have never even been here to Israel before?
PASTOR ROBERT JEFFRESS: I'd say about 80% of the people have never been here before. And I just think it's so important. You really can't understand the Bible without understanding Israel and what God's doing with Israel. And of course, I'm honored to be receiving the Friends of Zion Award because I realize…
ROSENBERG: Yes, congratulations.
PASTOR ROBERT JEFFRESS: Well, I say that because I really believe that it's a no-brainer to support Israel. When you read the Bible, God is very clear. He's going to bless those who bless Israel and curse those who curse Israel. If you want to be on the right side of history and the right side of God, you're going to be on the side of Israel.
ROSENBERG: Now, your first trip, you told me, was in 1980 as a youth minister, bringing 250 young people here. But today we have a real crisis, I would say, that young Evangelicals, by the polling that we at ALL ISRAEL NEWS have done, are drifting away from supporting Israel. They're not against Israel. But there's a significant gap growing between the support that their parents and grandparents have as Evangelicals for Israel and how their children and grandchildren see Israel. Many young people just don't understand, and they say, “I don't know what I think.” What's your sense of why that's happening, and the antidote?
[EDITOR’S NOTE: To learn more about this concerning trend, here are several articles and a video that we have published:
PASTOR ROBERT JEFFRESS: I blame that on the pulpits of churches in America. That's why people are ignorant about Israel and have no idea what the biblical perspective is. Pastors are afraid to preach about Bible prophecy. They've never taken the time to study what God says about the end times. And so, we're raising a generation that has no idea about God's unconditional covenant with Abraham. All they're learning is how to build strong marriages and how to be successful in their careers. And that's all well and good, but you need to understand what God's plan for the world is.
ROSENBERG: I agree with you. I also think it's possible that even good churches that are teaching a biblical understanding of Israel, a healthy understanding, from the pulpit. But in the Sunday schools and youth groups of those good churches, Israel may be not getting taught at all. Why do you think that a Sunday school teacher or a youth group leader should make a specific point to make sure their young people know God's heart for Israel?
PASTOR ROBERT JEFFRESS: Well, if you don't understand that Israel is the apple of God's eye, you’re going to be on the wrong side of God on this issue. And again, I just don't think you can understand the implications of the Second Coming of Christ and what's going to happen in the Millennium and all God has in the future without understanding this unconditional covenant God has made with Abraham and his descendants. And so, this isn't something that's far removed from everyday life. I believe, you know, that what's going to happen to Israel impacts what's going to happen to us, the world, and our eternity.
ROSENBERG: And of course, you're here, just days before the celebration on the Western calendar, May 14th, of the 75th anniversary of the prophetic, miraculous rebirth of the State of Israel. So, again, not even every Israeli sees Israel as a prophetic rebirth. The founders of Israel were secular. Many of them were atheists or agnostics. It's really a fascinating thing. And, of course, while you and many Evangelicals in Israel or in the United States get it, there's a significant swath of Evangelicals who are like, “Yeah, that's not really a thing – Israel has no connection to Bible prophecy.”
PASTOR ROBERT JEFFRESS: Well, you know, I think that's one of the things that has perplexed our former president, Donald Trump. And we've talked about it, about why don't American Jews support what he did [to be so pro-Israel, including moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem]? Why have they become so secularized? And I think there's always been a falling away by secular Israel. And we're going to talk about that tonight. I'm going to ask you the question, “Why is it that so many Jews in America couldn't care less about Israel?”
ROSENBERG: What's your sense of the biggest threats facing Israel right now as it heads into the 75th anniversary year? And what are the things you're encouraging your people to pray for?
PASTOR ROBERT JEFFRESS: Well, I certainly think Iran's a tremendous threat. I asked Prime Minister Netanyahu just a couple of months ago that same question, and he posited that Iran was the greatest threat.
That said, Joel, I'll have to say, I believe probably the greatest threat to Israel is America not continuing her support of Israel. Israel will not survive – well, Israel will always survive because God's going to see that it does. But I believe it's a true threat if Israel is not supported by the United States like she has been in the past. You know, in the past, it's been bipartisan support for Israel. I'm afraid that may be coming to an end. And I think we need to vote in a way that is conducive to what we believe God's view of Israel is.
ROSENBERG: This is great to have a chance to turn the tables and get you on the record. You just talked about politics, so let’s go there a bit longer. President Biden continues to refuse to invite Prime Minister Netanyahu to Washington. What do you make of that?
PASTOR ROBERT JEFFRESS: Well, I think it's all political. I think Biden knows where the Democrat Party is, and I think he knows it costs him nothing with Jewish Democrats to snub Netanyahu. And I think it's atrocious. And I think it's one more reason that we need a strong conservative in the White House.
ROSENBERG: I wrote a column about a week ago, but I've been saying it for several years, that “Israel is the new Iowa” for anybody running for the Republican presidential nomination. Last week, I asked several questions of Florida Governor Ron DeSantis when he was here for a major speech. He got a rousing reception. And anyone, I think, who chooses to run against Trump – after all, he's the most pro-Israel president in American history – is going to have to prove their pro-Israel bona fides to win the Republican nomination. How do you see it?
PASTOR ROBERT JEFFRESS: Well, I think being strongly pro-Israel is an absolute necessity to win the Evangelical vote. And look, let's be honest, winning the Evangelical vote is not a guarantee that you're going to win the presidency. But not having it is a guarantee you'll lose the presidency. And you'll never have the Evangelical support you need to be elected without a strong platform that supports Israel.
ROSENBERG: Are you planning to endorse a candidate for president?
PASTOR ROBERT JEFFRESS: Well, the fact is, I have supported President Trump for eight years now, and I have no thoughts of abandoning President Trump. I do think there are some good people out there. I think there's one in particular that's about to announce and will make a strong play for Evangelical voters. But there's nothing that's happened that would make me fall away from President Trump. He is the most pro-religious liberty, pro-life, pro-Israel president we've had in history. And I want to continue to see….
ROSENBERG: But I have to note, there is some weakening, I think, among some Evangelicals. Trump lost about two percentage points of the Evangelical vote in the last campaign by his own pollster’s analysis – 79% instead of 81%. In a tight race, losing two points can be a critical thing. And then some of the things have happened since the 2020 race that have bothered some Evangelicals. So, how does former President Trump shore up his Evangelical support, because he was so overwhelmingly supported before and now that seems to be weakening somewhat?
PASTOR ROBERT JEFFRESS: My sense is – and I said this the day after he announced in November – my prediction is that some leaders, Evangelicals, are going to kick the tires with some other candidates, but that they will eventually coalesce around Trump like they did in 2016. I really believe they'll do that. I do encourage the President to continue to talk about religious liberty, life and, yes, continue to talk about Israel.
ROSENBERG: It's great to see you, Pastor. I'm so grateful to be sitting with you here in the eternal city of God, and the eternal city of the Jewish people, the capital of Israel, the city of Jerusalem. Thank you.
PASTOR ROBERT JEFFRESS: Well, thank you, Joel. And our folks are excited about hearing from you tonight.
ROSENBERG: I'm looking forward to it. Thank you.
Joel C. Rosenberg is the editor-in-chief of ALL ISRAEL NEWS and ALL ARAB NEWS and the President and CEO of Near East Media. A New York Times best-selling author, Middle East analyst, and Evangelical leader, he lives in Jerusalem with his wife and sons.