Is Modern Israel Important?

Jerry Falwell: “God has raised up America in these last days for the cause of world evangelism and for the protection of His people, the Jews. I don’t think America has any other right or reason for existence than those two purposes.” .... “To stand against Israel is to stand against God.”

A pro-Israeli Kansas journalist: “As a gentile American, as a Christian who considers loyalty to God above all human commitments, if the choice ever comes between loyalty to an American government and loyalty to Israel, I have no choice. I must stand by Israel.”

The political ramifications of those statements are truly frightening, but they do reflect the convictions of many Americans, because they believe that God has a special plan for the nation of Israel yet to be fulfilled. But it is my conviction that this loyalty to the modern state of Israel is misplaced for at least two reasons: (1) God has fulfilled all of the promises that He made to ancient Israel; and (2) The modern state of Israel is not biblical Israel.

Students of the Bible are well aware of the fact that God made three great promises to the patriarch Abraham. He promised to (1) give him a land, (2) make him a great nation, and (3) bless all people through the Messiah (Gen. 12:1-3). Many people today believe that the modern state of Israel must be preserved and protected at all cost so that God can finally fulfill all of these ancient promises to Abraham. But the Bible clearly teaches that these three great promises have already been completely fulfilled. God fulfilled the second promise when He made the descendents of Abraham a great nation during their in Egypt (Gen. 46:3; Ex. 1:7; Dt. 1:9-11; 10:22; 26:5; Heb. 11:11-12). God fulfilled the first promise when He gave the Israelites the land of Canaan in the days of Joshua (Ex. 6:4-8; Dt. 1:6-8; Josh. 1:2-6; 11:23; 21:43-45; 23:14-16; 2 Chr. 20:7-8; Neh. 9:7-8, 23-24; Psa. 105:8-13, 42-45; Jer. 32:21-23; Acts 7:2-5, 17, 44-45). God fulfilled the third promise when He sent Jesus Christ to die for the sins of the world (Acts 3:24-26; 26:6-7, 22-23; Gal. 3:8-9, 13-16, 26-29).

Unfortunately, many Bible students ignore the fact that God also made other promises to Israel which He has likewise fulfilled. Jehovah repeatedly promised His people that if they sinned, they would be driven out of the land He had given them (Lev. 26:27-39; Dt. 4:25-28; 8:19-20; 28:15ff, 21, 36-37, 41, 45-48, 62-68; 29:24-28; 30:17-20; Josh. 23:11-16; 1 Chr. 28:8-9), and this is exactly what happened. The Israelites sinned grievously, and although Jehovah was patient and longsuffering with them, He eventually kept His promise (2 Ki. 17:7-18; 23:26-27; 24:3-4). The northern kingdom of Israel was carried away into Assyrian Captivity in 722 BC (2 Ki. 17:5-6, 22-23), and the southern kingdom of Judah was carried away into Babylonian Captivity in four different stages: the nobility in 605 BC (2 Chr. 36:5-7; Dan. 1:1-7); the majority in 597 BC (2 Ki. 24:10-16; 2 Chr. 36:9-10); the remainder in 586 BC when the temple was destroyed (2 Ki. 25:1-12; 2 Chr. 36:15-21); and a very small group in 582 BC (Jer. 52:30). Jehovah also promised that the captivity of His people would last seventy years, and then they would be returned to their land (Jer. 25:8-14; 29:10-14). But Jehovah promised that He would only restore a remnant of the people, not the whole nation (Isa. 10:20-25; Jer. 23:3-4). When Daniel realized that the time for the captivity of his people was almost over, he prayed to Jehovah confessing the sins of his people, and he called upon the Lord to hear and forgive and listen and act on behalf of Jerusalem and His people (Dan. 9:1-19). Jehovah kept His promise, and a remnant was restored to the land in three stages: some under the leadership of Zerubbabel and Joshua in 536 BC (2 Chr. 36:22-23; Ezra 1 & 2; Neh. 1:8-10; Hag. 1:12-15); some under Ezra in 458 BC (Ezra 7:1-10; 9:13-15); and some under Nehemiah in 444 BC (Neh. 2:1-11). Jehovah also promised that although the Israelites would be preserved as a people (Jer. 4:27; 5:18; 30:11; 46:28), the nation would be broken as a potter’s vessel which cannot be made whole again (Jer. 19:7-13; 22:24-30). God has kept, not only the three great promises that He made to Abraham, but also all the other promises that He made to ancient Israel; thus, there is no divine mandate for anyone to protect and preserve the modern state of Israel.

But there is also no biblical reason to protect and defend the modern state of Israel today, because it is not even a forty-second cousin to the ancient nation of Israel as chart one (previous page, below left) clearly demonstrates.

The return of some Jews to Palestine today and the modern state of Israel has nothing to do with the fulfillment of God’s promises to Abraham. The modern state of Israel is not important, but the citizens of that nation are certainly important to God, because they are sinners in need of a Savior.

“But wait a minute, preacher!” Some may be objecting to exactly the line of reasoning this article develops. The remainder of this article will answer arguments for the unfulfilled land promise.

Despite the Bible’s clear and comprehensive teaching that all of the promises that God made to Abraham have long since been fulfilled, Dispensationalists and Premillennialists unanimously say “Tain’t so!,” and they make three major arguments to “prove” it. Let’s take a closer look at those arguments.

“Israel never occupied the territory of the Greater Land Promise (Gen. 15:18-21).” God promised Abraham that he would give him the land of the nations from the river of Egypt to the great river Euphrates, and Dispensationalists contend that this promise has not been fulfilled. But they have not read their Bibles carefully, because the evidence proves beyond a reasonable doubt that Israel did possess this territory. First, when Moses outlined the borders of the Promised Land, those borders corresponded to the borders of the “Greater Land Promise” (Num. 34:5, 8). The “Brook of Egypt” or the “River of Egypt” is not the Nile, as some mistakenly assume, but rather the Wadi el-’Arish, which served as the southern border of Judah (Josh. 15:1-4), and the “entrance of Hamath” was in the vicinity of the Euphrates River (1 Chr. 18:3). Second, before the Israelites went into the Promised Land, God repeatedly promised to give them a land that would encompass the boundaries of the Greater Land Promise (Dt. 1:7-8; 11:22-25; Josh. 1:1-6). Third, after the conquest of Canaan was completed, Joshua said that God had given the Israelites all the land, and they had possessed it and dwelt in it (Josh. 21:43-45; 23:14). If the Promised Land encompassed the borders of the “Greater Land Promise,” and if God gave Israel all the land and they possessed it and dwelt in it, then there is only one possible conclusion: the Israelites occupied the territory of the “Greater Land Promise.” Fourth, before the Israelites went into the Promised Land, God promised that He would appoint six cities of refuge if all the land was given (Num. 35:9-15; Dt. 19:7-9). Six cities of refuge were appointed (Josh. 20:1-9). Therefore, we must conclude that all the land was given. Fifth, the border at the Euphrates was restored during the reigns of David (2 Sam. 8:3) and Jeroboam II (2 Ki. 14:25), and territory cannot be restored that has not already been possessed. Sixth, Solomon ruled over the territory of the “Greater Land Promise” (1 Ki. 4:21 // 2 Chr. 9:26; 1 Ki. 8:65 // 2 Chr. 7:8). Seventh, the Levites said that God gave Israel the land of the nations (Neh. 9:7-8, 23-24), which was the land of the “Greater Land Promise.”

“The land was promised ‘forever’ in an ‘everlasting covenant’ as an ‘everlasting possession’ (Gen. 13:14-17; 17:7-8; 1 Chr. 16:16-18; Psa. 105:9-11).” Dispensationalists contend that since the land has not been occupied continuously since its original possession, the land promise has not been fulfilled. But they abuse the definition of the words “forever” and “everlasting.” Gesenius observes that while the Hebrew word owlam can mean “eternity,” it properly signifies “what is hidden; specially hidden time, long; the beginning or end of which is either uncertain or else not defined; eternity, perpetuity.” He reports that the word most “often refers to future time, in such a manner, that what is called the terminus ad quem, is always defined from the nature of the thing itself.” When the word is applied to the affairs of “individual men, it commonly signifies all the days of life,” and when it “belongs to a whole race (dynasty), or people, comprehends all the time until their destruction....” (Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon of the Old Testament, #5769, pp. 612-613). This should not surprise us, since we use the word “forever” in exactly the same way. Sometimes we mean for ever and ever and ever, and sometimes we simply mean for a very long time. When a young man says to a young lady “I’ll love you forever,” we know what that means and what it doesn’t. In the Bible, “forever things” sometimes cease (see chart two on the next page).

Furthermore, God promised Israel that her retention of the land “forever” was conditioned upon her obedience to the commandments of God (1 Chr. 28:8), and her disobedience would result in her being cast off “forever” (Dt. 28:45-46, 63; 1 Chr. 28:9). Finally, if the land promise were truly “forever,” possession of the land by the modern state of Israel during the alleged millennial reign of Christ will not fulfill it.

“Abraham did not inherit the land that God promised him.” Dispensationalists contend that since Abraham did not personally inherit the Promised Land, the promise remains unfulfilled. The fact is, the Bible says that Abraham did inherit the land (Gen. 28:4; Ezek. 33:23-24) and that he did not (Gen. 23:4; Acts 7:5; Heb. 11:9, 13). Although that may seem to be contradictory on the surface, there is no contradiction, because while Abraham inherited none of God’s promises personally, he inherited all of God’s promises through his descendants. He became a great nation through his descendants in Egypt (Dt. 26:5). He inherited the land through his descendants (Gen. 15:7-21). All the families of the earth are blessed through his greatest descendant, Jesus Christ (Gal. 3:8-9, 13-14, 26-29). God’s promises to Abraham were fulfilled through Abraham’s descendants, and that is all that God ever intended. Stephen said that the time for the fulfillment of the land promise drew “near” while the Israelites were in Egypt (Acts 7:17). That makes perfect sense if the promise was fulfilled through Abraham’s descendants, but if the promise to Abraham is still unfulfilled, how could it have been “near” while the children of Israel were in Egypt?

When you test these arguments by the Scriptures, you find that they “have been weighed in the balances, and found wanting” (Dan. 5:27).