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Israel and the enduring land promise

Church of Scotland recently issued a report that concluded the land promise to Israel no longer stands.

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Posted on: 
27 May 2013
Israel and the enduring land promise

Gentile Christians have always had a problem with understanding and accepting God's enduring election over Israel. The latest to challenge Israel's irrevocable calling is the Church of Scotland, which recently issued a report entitled "The Inheritance of Abraham" that concluded the land promise to Israel no longer stands and was allegorical to begin with.

After sharp criticism from the Jewish community and fellow Christians, the Scottish church is now reconsidering this document. But in it, they also insisted that the divine election of Israel can no longer be defended in light of the New Testament message of God's universal love.

The debate now raging over Israel's modern-day restoration is undoubtedly a heated one and there are good, honest Christians on both sides of the divide. Some Christians see no biblical significance in Israel's restoration, since they view God's promise to give the Land of Canaan to Abraham and his descendants as an "everlasting possession" (Genesis 17:8) as being forfeited when the Jews rejected Christ.

At the heart of the matter is the Abrahamic Covenant and what one thinks about it. Have the everlasting promises of God to Abraham, including the land allotment to the Jewish people, been revoked? And if so, what evidence of this "revoking" is in the Bible? This alone is the real issue!

The Abrahamic covenant is first mentioned in Genesis 12:1-3 and is reaffirmed time and again throughout all of Scripture, including repeatedly in the New Testament. This covenant sets aside a people and a land in order to "bless all the families of the earth." For the Apostle Paul, this was one of the earliest proclamations of the Gospel (Galatians 3:8). Thus, the Abrahamic Covenant promises salvation to a world lost in sin, and it is made with Abraham and his descendants after him (Genesis 17:7). It is, therefore, "the covenant of decision" and all the other great covenants of the Bible flow from it. John the Baptist and even Jesus come into the world because of the promises made to Abraham in this covenant (Luke 1:54-55; 72-75).

The Jewish people are chosen as the servants of the covenant. In other words, the nation of Israel is not brought into existence as an end itself, but as a means to an end - the salvation of the world. They are the means by which God delivers His redemptive initiative to the world. Jesus said "salvation is of the Jews." (John 4:22)

Yet some Christians contend that the Abrahamic Covenant has been abolished or reconstructed in the New Covenant. The "abolitionists" say it has been totally invalidated. Yet Paul says a later covenant cannot "annul" an earlier one but merely builds upon it (Galatians 3:17-19). In fact, he taught that Christ came to "confirm the promises made to the fathers" (meaning the Patriarchs; Romans 15:8), and that Jesus came so "that the blessing of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles" (Galatians 3:14). The writer of Hebrews adds that wavering Messianic believers can trust God and His promises in the New Covenant because He is completely faithful to His promises made in the Abrahamic Covenant (Hebrews 6:13-20). Hence, there are absolutely no grounds for saying the Abrahamic covenant has been abolished in the New. On the contrary, it is affirmed and established in the New Testament, even after Israel's rejection of Jesus' Messianic credentials! (Romans 3:3-4; 11:11, 29).

But others say it has been "reconstructed" - the position of Replacement theology. This theory claims that the Abrahamic Covenant has been altered or adjusted because of Jewish unbelief. Yet those who expound it inadvertently accuse God of lying! (Romans 3:4)

The covenant that promises the world salvation also promises everlasting possession of the land of Canaan to the Jewish people. To question either is to say that God is not trustworthy! But the God we serve does not lie!  (Titus 1:2; Numbers 23:9)

The land promise will have a literal fulfillment in due time, just as the coming of the "seed" that would "bless all the families of the earth" had a literal fulfillment in Christ.

In the end Scripture affirms that Israel will exist forever as a nation before God and He will not cut her off because of all that she has done (Jeremiah 31:35-37; Romans 11:25-27).

Rev. Malcolm Hedding is an international speaker and former executive director of the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem;


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