The Promised Land? Part 2by Steve Wohlberg
In Part 1 of “The Promised Land?”, it was shown from Scripture that God's original promise to Abraham to give him "the land of Canaan" as an "everlasting possession" (see Genesis 17:8) applied primarily to that same land cleansed from sin, also called "a better country, even a heavenly" (Hebrews 11:16) which all God's children will one day inherit as their eternal home through Jesus Christ. Peter wrote, "But we, according to His promise, look for a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells" (2 Peter 3:13).
We have previously defined The Primary Land as the same land cleansed from sin (the new earth) and The Secondary Land as the physical sin-cursed land modern Jerusalem sits on. Let's take a closer look at The Secondary Land. Did God give The Secondary Land unconditionally to Jewish people apart from whether they had faith and obeyed Him? Many think so. Their belief is that since God gave the land originally to Abraham's seed, this must mean that all Jews throughout history - including modern Israelis - have an unconditional right to that real estate. This issue has become especially volatile in light of the Road Map to Peace. President Bush, U.S. politicians, and many Israeli leaders are saying the land should now be shared between Jews and Palestinians. This proposal is designed to lessen bloody conflict and promote peace. But many so-called Christian Zionists protest this plan, calling it "a Roadmap to hell," contending that only Jews have rights to land, based on the Old Testament.
What does the Old Testament really say? The answer may surprise you.
In Exodus 19:5, God said to Israel, "If you will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then you shall be a peculiar treasure to me above all people: for all the earth is mine." Thus Israel's being "a peculiar treasure … above all people" was conditional upon their obedience to God's voice.
Deuteronomy 28 is the famous chapter of the blessings and curses. If Israel obeyed God, she would be blessed. If she disobeyed, she would be cursed. Such blessings and curses also applied to "the land which the Lord swore to your fathers to give you" (vs. 11). If Israel followed God, she would be blessed in that land, but if she disobeyed God said, "you shall be plucked from off the land … until you are destroyed" (verses 61,63). Thus Israel's right to the land was conditional upon her relationship with God.
History suggests that over two million people left Egypt with Moses. As Israel journeyed through the wilderness, God repeated His promise to give them "the land which you are going to possess" (Deuteronomy 7:1). God's "land promise" surely applied to those two million people. But what happened? Almost all of them died in the wilderness because of their sins. Paul later wrote, "they could not enter in because of unbelief" (Hebrews 3:19). This proves that even though God promised the land, faith was required to receive the promise. Faith = land. No faith = no right to the land, even though God had promised it to them. Because Israel sinned, God said, "you shall know my breach of promise" (Numbers 14:34).
The next generation – the generation under Joshua's leadership – had faith and entered the land. Yet as time went on, the majority departed from faith and obedience to God's Law. Again the Lord warned, "I will cast you out of this land" (Jeremiah 16:12,13) unless things changed. Eventually, the armies of Babylon came and "Judah was carried away captive out of his own land" (Jeremiah 52:27). Before this captivity, God strongly reiterated the conditional nature of His promises to Israel. Notice carefully, "At what instant I shall speak concerning a nation [He was talking to Israel], and concerning a kingdom, to build and to plant it; If it do evil in my sight, that it obey not my voice, then I will repent of the good wherewith I said I would benefit them. Now therefore go to speak to the men of Judah and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, saying, Thus says the Lord; Behold, I frame evil against you …." (Jeremiah 18:9-11, italics added).
Here God said that even though He made promises to Israel, if Israel did evil and refused to obey His voice, He said, "I will repent of the good wherewith I said I would benefit them." This is clear evidence that God's promises to Israel were conditional. This also applied to the land. Because Israel disobeyed, she lost the land and was carried to Babylon.
The Lord is "the same yesterday, today, and forever." Hebrews 13:8.
How does this apply to the Israeli nation today? Does the modern Jewish nation now have an unconditional right to that land because God originally gave it to her ancient forefathers? Clearly in the Old Testament, when Israel disobeyed God, she lost her right to that land. So let's ask this question: Is modern Israel obedient or disobedient? In the blazing light of the New Testament, such obedience must be judged by Israel's reception or rejection of God's Son, Jesus Christ.
According to both the Old and New Testaments, the modern Jewish nation does not have any divine, unconditional right to the earthly land of Canaan (The Secondary Land). In this light, it is this writer's hope that the Road Map will achieve some limited success in promoting harmony in that volatile region. More importantly, the time is fast approaching when "the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also [including The Secondary Land] and the works that are therein shall be burned up … Nevertheless we, according to his promise [the original promise to Abraham], look for a new heavens and a new earth [The Primary Land] where righteousness dwells." 2 Peter 3:10,13.
The only ones - whether Jews, Palestinians, Russians, Europeans, Chinese or Americans - who have any hope of living forever on The Primary Land are those who repent of their sins, believe in Jesus Christ, and follow the truth of the Bible.
"And if you belong to Christ, then are you Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise." Galatians 3:29