It’s All or Nothing
In 1960 Christian entertainer Pat Boone wrote lyrics for the theme song of a movie based on Leon Uris’s popular novel Exodus. Exodus told the epic story of the Jewish people’s valiant struggle in 1947 to make Israel their home. Boone’s first 10 words say it all: “This land is mine. God gave this land to me.”
Unfortunately, few would write lyrics like that today. Many people, including a growing number of Christians, believe the land does not rightfully belong to Abraham’s physical seed through Isaac, but that it belongs to the Palestinians or possibly even to the church—but most definitely not to the Jews.
In fact, 154 preachers and teachers, including R. C. Sproul and Bruce Waltke, have signed an open letter on the Knox Theological Seminary Web site declaring the Jewish people have no special title to any land in the Middle East:
The entitlement of any one ethnic or religious group to territory in the Middle East called the “Holy Land” cannot be supported by Scripture. In fact, the land promises specific to Israel in the Old Testament were fulfilled under Joshua.1
The founder, president, and chancellor of Knox Theological Seminary is D. James Kennedy, called “the most listened-to Presbyterian minister in the world today” on his Coral Ridge Ministries’ Web site.
The open letter’s position, however, is flawed. The covenant the Lord made with Abraham included three parts: land, seed, and blessing. God promised all three equally and unconditionally, and you cannot have one without the other two.
God promised that Abraham and his descendants would be physically, literally blessed. One of the physical ways He has blessed them is by bringing them back to their land.
God promised Abraham literal, physical descendants whose numbers would be as “the stars of the heaven and as the sand which is on the seashore” (Gen. 22:17). “In your seed,” God told Abraham, “all the nations of the earth shall be blessed” (v. 18). Through their many gifts and accomplishments, the Jewish people have blessed this world in highly significant ways. Between 1901 and 2006, 23 percent of all Nobel Prize winners have been Jewish.2 Scripture says, “The remnant of Jacob shall be in the midst of many peoples, like dew from the Lᴏʀᴅ, like showers on the grass” (Mic. 5:7).
Ultimately, Abraham’s greatest literal, physical descendant is the Messiah of Israel: Jesus Christ. He fulfills the long-range seed promise of the Abrahamic Covenant. However, the land portion still exists. God gave it along with the rest. Therefore, you cannot separate the Jewishness of the physical seed from the promise of blessing and land to the Jewish people. The covenant is an indivisible unit, promising physical blessing, physical seed, and physical land to physical descendants of Abraham. The Gentiles who are grafted in, as discussed in Romans 11, receive spiritual blessings (Eph. 1:3).
GOD’S UNCONDITIONAL PROMISES THROUGH THE ABRAHAMIC COVENANT
Personal: To Abraham
- To bless him (material wealth, Gen. 13:2)
- To make Abraham a blessing to others (Gen. 12:2)
- To make his name great (Gen. 12:2)
- To give him many physical descendants (Gen. 13:16; 15:4–5; 17:6)
- To make him the father of a multitude of nations (Gen. 17:4–5)
- To give him the land of Canaan for an everlasting pos- session (Gen. 13:14–15, 17; 15:7; 17:8)
- To bless those who bless him and curse those who curse him (Gen. 12:3)
National: To the People of Israel
- To make a great nation of Abraham’s physical descendants (Gen. 12:2)
- To give the land of Canaan, from the river of Egypt to the Euphrates, to Abraham’s physical descen- dants forever (Gen. 12:7; 13:14–15; 15:18–21; 17:8)
- To give the Abrahamic Covenant to Abraham’s descendants for an everlasting covenant (Gen. 17:7,19)
- Covenant is restated to Isaac (Gen. 26:1–4)
- Covenant is restated to Jacob, whom God renamed Israel (Gen. 28:10–14; 35:9–12; 48:4)
- Thus the covenant passed through Abraham’s physical seed.
Universal: To the People of the World
- To bless all the families of the earth through Abraham’s physical line of descent (Gen. 12:3; 22:18; 28:14)
- To bless those who bless Abraham’s descen- dants and curse those who curse them (Gen. 12:3; 27:29; Num. 24:8–9)
- God’s blessing or cursing of the peoples of the world would largely be determined by their behavior toward Israel. Jesus’ statements in Matthew 25 promise blessing to saved Gentiles who will aid persecuted Jews during the future Tribulation, and they promise judgment to unsaved Gentiles who will not (Mt. 25:31–46).
Furthermore, if the land portion was supposedly fulfilled under Joshua, why did God reiterate His promise to give the Jewish people the land hundreds of years after Joshua had passed off the scene and the Jewish people were languishing in captivity in Babylon? Yet God still promised, “They shall dwell in the land that I have given to Jacob My servant, where your fathers dwelt; and they shall dwell there, they, their children, and their children’s children, forever” (Ezek. 37:25, emphasis added). In fact, God states, “I will…bring you into the land of Israel” (v. 12).
When the Lord called Abraham from Ur of the Chaldees, He brought him to a physical place, the land of Canaan. There the Lord told Abraham, “To your descendants I will give this land” (Gen. 12:7; cf. 26:3–4; 28:13–15).
Lift your eyes now and look from the place where you are—northward, southward, eastward, and westward; for all the land [literal, physical, material] which you see I give to you and your descendants forever (13:14–15, emphasis added).
In Genesis 15:18 the Lord set physical boundaries for this Promised Land: “To your descendants I have given this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the River Euphrates.”
The river of Egypt could refer to the Nile; but most likely it refers to the Wadi of Egypt, which cuts through the northeastern Sinai. From there the borders go all the way to modern Iraq and the Euphrates.
The prophet Obadiah fleshed out several additional boundaries. The Jewish people will possess “the mountains of Esau,” meaning, modern Jordan; the Philistine lowland, which is the Gaza strip; “the fields of Ephraim and the fields of Samaria,” which the news media calls the West Bank; Gilead; “the land of the Canaanites as far as Zarephath,” meaning, modern Lebanon; and “the cities of the South” (vv. 19–20).
This prophecy is dated at 585 B.C., one year after the destruction of Jerusalem at the hands of Babylon’s King Nebuchadnezzar—750 to 800 years after Joshua. Yet Obadiah was still declaring that Abraham’s physical descendants would possess the land.
God is omniscient. He knows the end from the beginning, a fact He made clear when He called Christ “the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world” (Rev. 13:8). God knew precisely what would transpire throughout all of human history and, in His sovereignty, prepared the way of salvation for lost humanity before anyone even comprehended mankind’s helpless condition.
In the same manner, God made clear promises to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and their progeny, knowing they would sin and that He would still deliver them and give them what He promised.
Replacement theologians claim the land cannot belong to Abraham’s physical descendants because God has replaced them with spiritual descendants, namely, Christians. Yet the Lord vowed never to abandon or replace Israel:
Thus says the Lᴏʀᴅ: “If heaven above can be measured, and the foundations of the earth searched out beneath, I will also cast off all the seed of Israel for all that they have done, says the Lᴏʀᴅ” (Jer. 31:37).
The Lord has permanently established Israel as a people and as a nation. Their security is as sure as the security He promises to all Christians in Romans 8.
Someday God will fulfill all He has promised to the Jewish people. The land promise will have its final fulfillment in the Millennial Kingdom, as Jesus reigns over the Jewish people and the entire world from David’s throne. In that day, “The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the young goat,…the lion shall eat straw like the ox…For the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD” (Isa. 11:6–7, 9). And, most assuredly, all of the Promised Land as delineated in Scripture will belong to the Jewish people forever.
- “An Open Letter to Evangelicals and Other Interested Parties: The People of God, the Land of Israel, and the Impartiality of the Gospel,” The Wittenberg Door, Knox Theological Seminary <http://126.96.36.199/search?hl=en&q=cache:gO06xsaOtwkJ:http://www.knoxseminary.org/Prospective/Faculty/WittenbergDoor/+%22land+promises+specific+to+Israel+in+the+Old+Testament+were+fulfilled+under+Joshua%22>.
- “Jewish Nobel Prize Winners <jinfo.org/Nobel_Prizes.html>.