WASHINGTON — A controversial Christian evangelical leader whose endorsement is being proudly trumpeted by Republican presidential hopeful Ted Cruz works energetically to convert Jews to Christianity and has predicted that there will be a new period of concentration camps for Jews before the return of Jesus.
Mike Bickle is also notorious for having said that God sent Hitler to hunt Jews for not accepting Jesus as the messiah.
Bickle, the founder and director of the International House of Prayer, a Kansas City-based Pentecostal Christian missions organization, runs the Israel Mandate project, an effort to “mobilize an international prayer movement that would pray 24/7 for the nation of Israel to receive their Jewish Messiah, Yeshua (Jesus),” according to its website. The ministry hosts a regular livestream of such prayer for anyone to participate.
In public sermons over the years, Bickle has focused intensely on end-times prophesies, and has predicted that Jesus will not return until Jews embrace him as their Lord and savior. His website claims that “Jesus ‘bound’ Himself by His own prophecy, saying He would only come back and rule in Jerusalem when Israel’s leaders ask Him to reign as King over them.”
For Bickle, this is what explains Nazi Germany’s murder of more than six million Jews. In a 2011 sermon, Bickle cited a passage from Jeremiah 16:16 to elucidate the attempted extermination of European Jewry.
“The Lord says, ‘I’m going to give all 20 million of them the chance to respond to the fishermen. And I give them grace.; And he says, ‘And if they don’t respond to grace, I’m going to raise up the hunters.’ And the most famous hunter in recent history is a man named Adolf Hitler,” he told an audience.
On January 21, 2016, Cruz issued a press release announcing Bickle’s endorsement. It came a little more than a week before the Iowa caucuses, a contest where support among evangelicals helped Cruz edge out real estate mogul Donald Trump, who had been previously leading in the polls.
“Through prayer, the Lord has changed my life and altered my family’s story,” Cruz said in the announcement. “I am grateful for Mike’s dedication to call a generation of young people to prayer and spiritual commitment. Heidi and I are grateful to have his prayers and support. With the support of Mike and many other people of faith, we will fight the good fight, finish the course, and keep the faith.”
The press release included a biography of Bickle and a description of the many facets of his organization, including its annual conference for young adults, three full-time ministry schools and “24/7 prayer led by worship teams.” It also included a statement from Bickle.
“Our nation is in a great crisis in this hour,” Bickle said. “We need a president who will first be faithful to honor God’s Word. We need a president who will work to defend religious liberty, uphold our Constitution, keep our country safe and our economy sound, and speak truth to the nation. We have been praying for righteous leaders, and Ted Cruz is such a leader. I am enthusiastically endorsing Ted Cruz.”
Cruz has faced some criticism in recent days over his use of the term “chutzpah” to mock real estate magnate Donald Trump’s “New York values,” a comment some said reeked of anti-Semitism.
“Using ‘New York’ as a euphemism for ‘Jewish’ has long been an anti-Semitic dog whistle,” The Washington Post’s Dana Milbank wrote last week.
The role of Bickle and evangelical leaders in past campaigns
This is not the first time Bickle has involved himself in national politics. He played a prominent role in former Texas governor Rick Perry’s Response Prayer event that effectively launched his 2012 presidential bid. Bickle spoke on stage during the event and musicians from the International House of Prayer’s worship team performed.
This is also not the first time that a controversial evangelical leader — and one with a history of calling Hitler’s persecution of Jews an expression of God’s will — has been involved with US presidential politics. In 2008, Sen. John McCain welcomed the endorsement of the Rev. John Hagee, a televangelist and pastor of a mega-chuch in San Antonio, Texas.
Audio from a sermon in the 1990s captured Hagee, like Bickle, citing the Book of Jeremiah and saying, “If that doesn’t describe what Hitler did in the Holocaust, you can’t see that.”
McCain eventually rejected the endorsement and denounced Hagee’s rhetoric, but not until three months after this sermon first came to light, and after he had secured the Republican nomination, although the veteran Arizona senator said he had been unaware of such comments at the time of accepting Hagee’s backing.
“Obviously, I find these remarks and others deeply offensive and indefensible,” McCain said in a statement. “I did not know of them before Reverend Hagee’s endorsement, and I feel I must reject his endorsement as well.”
His campaign would admit that it did not sufficiently vet Hagee’s background, while also saying that it had been seeking his support early in the election process.
Hagee, the founder and chairman of the Christian-Zionist organization Christians United for Israel, subsequently sought to clarify his position. He wrote a public letter to then-chairman of the Anti-Defamation League Abe Foxman saying that his sermon was grappling with “the vexing question of why a loving God would allow the evil of the Holocaust to occur.” Foxman issued a response “welcoming” Hagee’s explanation, saying he “appreciated his regret over the pain his statements may have caused to any in the Jewish community.”
Bickle on the fate of Jews
Throughout Bickle’s ecclesiastical career, he has professed adamantly that biblical prophesy suggests a bleak future for the Jewish people, including another era of Holocaust-like conditions.
On December 2, 2005, he delivered a sermon that said “Israel’s condition just before Jesus’ coming is described in scripture as being in prison camps and assaulted by foreign armies. Not all of Israel,” he clarified, “but a significant number of Jews will be in work camps, prison camps or death camps.”
‘A significant number of Jews will be in work camps, prison camps or death camps’
Bickle went on to say that half the Jews in Jerusalem will wind up in those camps:
“God says, ‘I’ll gather all the nations to battle against Jerusalem. The city will be taken.’ And it says ‘half of the city,'” he said. “There’s 600,000 Jews living in Jerusalem now. And I don’t know what the number will be then, but according to the numbers now that would be 300,000 brought into prison camps from one city.” He then repeated for effect, “Three hundred thousand Jews.”
In a separate sermon, on July 23, 2006, Bickle cited more scripture to expand on what he claimed will become of the world’s entire Jewish population.
“A lot of Israel’s going to get converted, but a lot of Israel’s going to worship the anti-Christ,” he said. “A lot of Israel’s going to have revival, a lot of Israel’s going to fall away. Portions of Israel will be supernaturally protected and portions of Israel will die and go away to prison camps.”
He explained that, according to the Book of Zechariah, one third of world Jewry will “get radically saved and become lovesick worshippers of Jesus,” sparing them from the inevitable apocalyptic fate of the rest of their fellow Jews.
“And so all of Israel, at the end of the day … they end up dying or if they survive they get radically converted at the Second Coming.”
But it’s not all bad news, according to Bickle. “Many are going to get converted between now and then,” he said, reassuringly. “We’re not giving up on Israel until the Second Coming. It’s the efforts of leading people to the Lord right now that’s significantly related to the events that are going to happen.”
The Cruz campaign did not respond to a request for comment.