Is Today's State of Israel the Same as Biblical Israel? Scholars Weigh In

Do Old Testament verses regarding Israel apply today to the State of Israel, Jews around the world, or the Church? 

Many Christians believe that God's words to Abraham in Genesis 12:3, where after He instructs him to leave his homeland He says "I will bless those who bless you, and curse those who curse you," as well as other verses regarding Israel, are still in effect today. Favorable foreign policy toward modern Israel, then, is seen as a doorway to blessings from God.

But for others a theological quandary exists as to just who and what constitutes "Israel" and what "blessing Israel" looks like. Such questions are rising in light of the Barack Obama administration facilitating a U.N. resolution against Israel on Dec. 23 and a new Donald Trump administration appearing to back away from its campaign promise to relocate the American embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Richard Land, president of Southern Evangelical Seminary, told The Christian Post in a Jan. 5 interview that he believes God made specific promises to the Jews as a people that he did not make to the Gentiles. Some of those promises include the land of Canaan "forever," his words to Abraham in Genesis 12:3, and that the Messiah will come from the lineage of Abraham.

"[Israel] is ethnic, the seed of Abraham. It is literally the seed of Abraham," Land said. "If you're Jewish, you are part of the promise."

"Does that involve the state of Israel? Not explicitly," he added. "It involves the Jews around the world, all of them."

Land is among those who, like the Christian Zionist scholars CP interviewed on Dec. 31, regards the regathering of millions of Jews to their historic homeland during the last half of the twentieth century and first part of the twentieth century as a fulfillment of biblical prophecy.

Paul Copan, professor of philosophy at Palm Beach Atlantic University, takes a different view.

"When we understand who the people of God are in the New Testament, it does become clear that God's purposes for Israel for ethnic Jews are intermingled with his purposes for the Gentiles as well," Copan told CP in a mid-January phone interview.

"And so that in the fulfillment of the gospel [regarding] the Gentiles, it's the promise of Abraham that comes to fruition through whom all the nations of the earth will be blessed," he said.

In Romans 2 Paul talks about who a true Israelite is, which is "one who has the Spirit of God, they have been circumcised of heart," he said. "We also read in Romans chapter 9 verse 6 that Paul says not all Israel are those who are descended from Israel."

"The modern state of Israel may be in a sense a residual blessing that comes but nothing in terms of theology from Scripture to talk about this being predicted," he said, adding that he does not believe the nation-state of Israel born in 1948 fulfilled biblical prophecy.

When judgement fell on Jerusalem in AD 70, Copan thinks that marked the "decisive end" of national Israel as the people of God.

As to whether or not a potential relocation of the American embassy constitutes a "blessing," Land offered that "we have to defer to the Jews to tell us what they think blesses them and what they think doesn't bless them. It is not for us to tell the Jews what blesses them and what doesn't bless them."