Dispensationalist and Modern Views on Israel and the Holy Land

A Comparative Study by Philip P. Eapen

under the guidance of Dr Donald Leggett, Professor Emeritus of Old Testament, Tyndale University


1. Introduction

The land of Palestine is a bone of contention between Israelis and Palestinians. For many centuries after ancient Jews were destroyed during and after the Roman siege from AD 66 to AD 70, non-Jews, especially the Arabs, inhabited Palestine. The occupation of the land by Israel in the 19th and 20th centuries, the formation of the modern state of Israel in 1948 accompanied by the partition of the land between Jews and Palestinians resulted in a long and bloody battle between the two parties. In a fresh spate of violence, dozens of Jews and Palestinians were killed in bombings and missile attacks.Adapted from Philip P. Eapen, “The Palestine Issue: Towards a Biblical Approach.” Praise the Almighty. Sept/Oct 2001. p. 7.

Christians, especially Protestants, as a result of their understanding of the Abrahamic covenant and eschatology have been supporting the cause of Jews in Palestine. The Christian community today is, however, divided on this matter.

In this study, I intend to study and compare the two major views of Christians – the dispensationalist and modern views – on this vexed issue of the land of Palestine. The dispensationalist view considered here is the one proposed by J. Dwight Pentecost. Modern views considered here are those put forward by Elmer A. Martens, Peter Walker and David E. Holwerda.

2. The Dispensationalist View on “Land”

Dispensationalism, a system founded by J. N. Darby, has many notable proponents. Dispensationalism is based on the claim that there are seven distinct dispensations in the history of humanity and salvation, each with a distinct revelation as to God’s will.Stephen R. Sizer, Dispensational Approaches to the Land, Philip Johnston and Peter Walker, The Land of Promise, (Downer’s Grove, IL: IVP, 2000), p. 143. According to Charles Ryrie, one of the uniqueness of the dispensationalist approach is the adherence to a literal interpretation that leads to keeping Israel and the Church distinct in all theological discussions.Cited. Ibid. p. 143.

Dwight Pentecost has published his thesis titled Things to Come, enunciating the dispensationalist approach to eschatology. He has dealt with the Abrahamic covenant and the issue of the Promised Land. The major points of Dwight Pentecost’s argument for the Jewish right for a state in Palestine are summarised below:

Dispensationalists such as Hal Lindsey have been gathering the support of evangelical Christians towards the Zionist agenda. Noted Dispensationalists formed the International Christian Embassy, Jerusalem (ICEJ), in 1980 to “encourage and facilitate the restoration of the Jews to Eretz Israel.”Stephen R. Sizer, ‘Dispensational Approaches to the Land,’ Philip Johnston and Peter Walker, The Land of Promise, (Downer’s Grove, IL: IVP, 2000), p.161. They regard the formation of the state of Israel as a work of God. Johann Luckoff said in 1985: “The return to Zion from exile a second time (Is. 11:11) is a living testimony to God’s faithfulness and his enduring covenant with the Jewish people.”Cited. Sizer, ‘Dispensational Approaches’, p. 161. Thus they interpret current political events in the light of biblical prophecies.

It is interesting to note that American dispensationalists of nineteenth century were more zealous for the formation of a Jewish state than the Jews of those days! Timothy P. Weber, in his book On the Road to Armageddon: How Evangelicals Became Israel’s Best Friend traces the history of Evangelical support for the nation of Israel. He observes that, in the 1890s when the Zionist movement was formed, few Jews were enthusiastic about the idea.Timothy P. Weber, “How Evangelicals Became Israel’s Best Friend”, Christianity Today, October 1998. Conservative evangelicals, on the other hand, were hard selling the concept of a homeland for the Jews based on their interpretation of the Scriptures.

A similar zeal for the restoration of the nation of Israel and of a Jewish Temple at Jerusalem is seen among most Evangelical and Pentecostal Christians in other countries. Since the 1980s, I’ve heard sermons on the fulfilment of biblical prophecies regarding Israel and “end time” events in the southern Indian state of Kerala. Christians rejoiced whenever they heard about Israel’s military exploits and about their plan to build a Temple in Jerusalem. Interpreters of biblical prophecy were excited to learn about the European Union and the unification of Germany. News about Operation Desert Storm against Iraq to liberate Kuwait sent these preachers into a frenzy! To this day, special prayers are regularly offered in some churches for the “peace of Jerusalem.”

3. Modern Views on the “Promised Land

According to Peter W. L. Walker, what Jesus and the New Testament writers said about the covenant promises, and about the land are of utmost importance for us today to shape our understanding on the “promised land.”P.W.L Walker,. ‘The Land in the Apostles’ Writings, Philip Johnston and Peter Walker, The Land of Promise, (Downer’s Grove, IL: IVP, 2000), p. 81. Jewish religious understanding with respect to the “land” and the political stance they adopted during Jesus’ time are quite similar to what prevails among today’s Zionist circles. Jews of modern times subscribe to a literalistic interpretation of the prophets concerning the restoration of the kingdom to Israel just as the Jewish teachers did during Jesus’ time.Walker, ‘The Land and Jesus Himself,’ in Philip Johnston and Peter Walker, The Land of Promise, (Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 2000) p. 119.

3.1 Jesus and the Temple, City and Land

Jesus did not explicitly teach about the “promised land.” In order to understand Jesus’ views on the “land,” it is important to understand what Jesus said about the Temple and about the city of Jerusalem. According to Davies,

Within a first-century Jewish world-view the temple, the city and the land were understood as three interconnecting theological realia. They were like concentric circles. So a new approach to one aspect of this triad might well signify a new attitude towards the others as well.Ibid. p. 101. ‘Just as Jerusalem became the quintessence of the Land, so the Temple became the quintessence of Jerusalem.’ W.D. Davies, The Gospel and the Land: Early Christianity and Jewish Territorial Doctrine, (Berkely: University of California Press, 1974.), p. 152. Cited in Johnstone and Walker

Walker moves from the explicit New Testament teaching about the fulfilment of the Temple in Christ to less explicit areas of “city” and the “land.” He charges the dispensationalists and Christian Zionists with failure in allowing the New Testament teaching concerning the temple to adequately shape their thinking about the land.Walker, ‘The Land and Jesus Himself,’ in Philip Johnston and Peter Walker, The Land of Promise, (Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 2000) p. 117.

The New Testament’s re-evaluation of the Temple and the city of Jerusalem, claims Walker, began with Jesus Christ.P.W.L. Walker, Jesus and the Holy City, (Grand Rapids: Eerdmanns, 1996), p. 270. Jesus was critical of the Jews who felt devoted to the temple of God without recognising the Lord of the temple. He was “greater than the temple” and “greater than Solomon,” the builder of the temple.

I tell you, something greater than the temple is here. …

The queen of the South will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and behold, something greater than Solomon is here. — Matt. 12:6, 42 ESV

Moreover, “by forgiving the paralytic his sins, he implicitly set up a challenge to the temple as the unique place for the assurance of sins forgiven.”Walker, ‘The Land and Jesus Himself,’ in Philip Johnston and Peter Walker, The Land of Promise, (Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 2000 ) p. 102. Cf. Mark 2:1-12.

The Lord Jesus cleansed the Temple. He accused Jewish leaders of corrupting the House of Prayer citing the very words Prophet Jeremiah had spoken about Solomon’s Temple, “You have made it a den of robbers.” (Matt. 21:13; Jer. 7:11) Jesus’ use of Jeremiah’s words signalled the imminent destruction of Herod’s temple because Jeremiah had spoken those words to signal the destruction of Solomon’s Temple. Jesus’ prediction infuriated the Jewish leaders. They demanded, as usual, a ‘sign’ to backup that prediction.

Jesus offered them a sign: “Destroy this temple and I will raise it up” (John 2:19). This heightened the tension between Jesus and the Temple! The Jews thought that Jesus was speaking about Herod’s Temple. Which Jew in his right mind would talk so bluntly about the Temple’s destruction, they might have wondered. They asked him how He would ever be able to achieve a feat of restoring the Temple in just three days. However, Jesus was referring to his own body. He had just predicted his own violent death at Jewish instigation, and his resurrection after three days. That would be the sign of the sure destruction of the Temple they venerated so much.

If Jesus declared God’s decree of destruction on that Temple, what had replaced it? His own body! Standing within the courts of Herod’s Temple, Jesus declared: “Destroy this temple and I will raise it up.” That was a bold declaration that His body was the real Temple that carried the glorious presence of God. He thereby invalidated the significance of Herod’s Temple. It was no more God’s Temple!

“In the light of the resurrection (v.22) John was convinced that Jesus himself, in his own body, was a new ‘Temple’ […] The Temple has been eclipsed and replaced by the advent of a new Temple—namely, Jesus himself.”Walker, Jesus and the Holy City. p. 163, 170.

Jesus had no doubts about Jerusalem’s importance in God’s plans. It surely was “the city of the great king” (Matt. 5:35). Jesus affirmed the importance of Jerusalem over Mt. Gerizim while speaking to a Samaritan woman (John 4:20, 22). Yet, in the very next breath, Jesus announced to her the beginning of a new era to which the temporal city of Jerusalem and the Temple pointed: “But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth.” (John 4:24 NASB) We need to understand the phrase “spirit and truth” within the context of their discussion on the proper place of worship. A new age had dawned, Jesus declared, when true worshippers would be able to worship anywhere and at any time—because God is Spirit! He is omnipresent. His worshippers need not be confined to any holy place. “… a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem.” True Christianity has neither a holy land nor a holy hill! There is no sanctuary other than any place where two or three gather in the name of the Lord Jesus.

True Christianity has neither a holy land nor a holy hill! There is no sanctuary other than any place where two or three gather in the name of the Lord Jesus.

Jerusalem and her inhabitants failed to see Jesus’ arrival into the city on a donkey as the much-awaited visitation by God. Therefore Jesus wept over the city and predicted her downfall (Luke 13:34; 19:42). Jesus then entered the temple and cleansed it – an act that served as “a portent of its imminent destruction.”Jesus and the Holy City, p. 102.

Colin Chapman notes a major distinctive of the prophecies of Jesus regarding God’s judgment on Israel and Jerusalem.Colin Chapman, ‘Ten Questions for a Theology of the Land,’ in Johnston and Walker, The Land of Promise, p. 179. Unlike the prophets of Old Testament who predicted both judgment and restoration of the city and the people to their land, Jesus spoke just of the city’s destruction with no mention of any restoration. Neither did any apostle or prophet speak about Jerusalem’s restoration after Jesus predicted the city’s destruction! Jerusalem was the city of God but Jesus pointed out the city’s most “defining” characteristic thus: the city that “kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it.” (Luke 13:34)

The Lord’s words help us identify the cursed “Babylon” in chapter eighteen of Revelation. Of which city other than Jerusalem could the Apostle John have described in this manner?

Rejoice over her, O heaven,
and you saints and apostles and prophets,
for God has given judgment for you against her! …

And in her was found
the blood of prophets and of saints,
and of all who have been slain on earth.
Rev 18:20, 24.

Jesus, the Jew, should have been aware of the nationalistic fervour of his people. However, he did not subscribe to popular nationalism. He was willing to praise the faith of – of all people – a Roman centurion! (Luke 7:9). He commanded his disciples to go the extra mile for a Roman soldier! He taught his disciples to love their enemies and to pay taxes to the Caesar. To the Jews who held their land and inheritance as dear as they could, he spoke of leaving houses and farms for His sake (Mark 10:29). What could be more anti-Zionist than leaving the land? At one instance, Jesus refused to arbitrate between a man and his brother in their dispute over land (Luke 12:13-15).

Family and property both functioned symbolically within the total Jewish worldview. Those who followed Jesus, who were loyal to his kingdom agenda, would have to be prepared to renounce them, God-given as they were. [Jesus’ coming] will not reaffirm Israel’s symbolic, and zealously defended, territorial inheritance and possession. On the contrary: the unfaithful tenants will have their vineyard taken away …N.T. Wright, Jesus and the Victory of God, (London:SPCK, 1996), p. 405 cited in Johnstone and Walker, The Land of Promise, p. 105.

Though Jesus acknowledged his primary mission as one directed to the Jews, his eyes went far beyond the limits of ethnic Israel. According to Robertson, “Jesus’ choice of Capernaum for his base of operations may reflect his more universal goal.”Cited in Johnstone and Walker, p. 110. He ministered to the Samaritans who lived within the borders of Israel and to a Syro-Phoenician woman. He wanted his disciples to be the ‘salt of the earth’ and ‘light of the world.’ All these show how Jesus saw himself, Israel, and the world. The King of the Jews was giving a new ‘twist’ to biblical narrative, taking into his fold both Jew and Gentile and extending the borders of his Kingdom to the ends of the world (Matt. 28:18-20) in fulfillment of Daniel 7:13-14 and of Psalm 2:8-9.

His disciples always envisioned in Him a Messiah who would restore the ‘kingdom’ to Israel. But Jesus – the rightful heir to David’s throne – interpreted the Scriptures differently and claimed that His kingdom was not of this world (John 18:36) and certainly not according to their expectations.

The resurrected Christ spoke many things concerning the kingdom of God; yet his disciples echoed a major Jewish concern: “Lord, is it at this time You are restoring the kingdom to Israel?” Jesus’ answer was not anything that they had expected (Acts 1:7-8). Instead of asking them to remain in Judaea or in the “promised land,” Jesus commanded them to go to the rest of Judaea, to Samaria, and to the ends of the earth! Acts 1:8 was Jesus’ answer to his disciples’ Zionism! He gave them marching orders. That was the only way to remove whatever notions of Zionism they had in their minds. In fact, Jesus extended the boundaries of the “Promised Land” – now being fulfilled in Him in the form of Kingdom of God – to a global or even to a cosmic scale!

The kingdom had arrived and at the same time, it was still to come with respect to that point in time when Jesus said it. Walker, in his book The Land of Promise, makes this clear:

‘Israel has been restored in principle through the resurrection of her Messiah. Hence she will be restored in practice only when she bows the knee before her Messiah. […] Restoration is not a Jewish return to the land, but rather a coming to the Messiah and an acceptance of his rule.’Walker, ‘The Land and Jesus Himself,’ in Philip Johnston and Peter Walker, The Land of Promise, (Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 2000 ) p. 112.

The disciples were to serve as witnesses to the glorious and exalted King Jesus and let God decide the time for the full revelation of the Kingdom. Jesus thus offered a ‘different, non-nationalistic model of messiahship’ that his contemporaries could not comprehend fully.Walker, ‘The Land and Jesus Himself,’ in Philip Johnston and Peter Walker, The Land of Promise, (Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 2000 ) p. 112.

Jesus offered a ‘different, non-nationalistic model of messiahship’ that his contemporaries could not comprehend fully.

What must have puzzled the disciples most was Jesus’ command to be His witnesses beyond the borders of the erstwhile Davidic kingdom. They had to start in Jerusalem, and move out to all of Judaea, to Samaria, and to the ends of the earth! While Jews who were bent on the restoration of their kingdom under a Davidic Messiah encouraged their folks to hang on to ‘the land’, Jesus commanded his little band of disciples to move away from ‘the land’ to the far corners of the planet! Unless Jesus’ words are understood in their socio-political context, we might erroneously see Acts 1:8 as a mere outline to the book of Acts or, as a mere paradigm for today’s missions.

Summing up the significance of Jesus’s attitude towards the temple, city and the land, Walker says,

The focus on the land of Israel was effectively a bridgehead within God’s long term purpose of reclaiming the whole world to himself and of bringing in his ‘new creation,’ the restored Eden. The land can be seen either as a temporary phase within God’s eternal purposes or (perhaps more properly) as an eternal aspect of those purposes – but one which in the era of the new covenant is opened out to include all those who are in Christ, the true ‘seed’ of Abraham (Gal. 3:16). It thereby loses its physical particularity, but it still functions as a potent vehicle for God’s purposes of blessing in his world.The Land of Promise, p. 116.

3.2 New Testament writers and the ‘land’

The New Testament understanding of the ‘land’ will be much clearer with a study of the epistles. In Romans 9:4, Paul makes a mention of ‘promises’ given to Israel in general but does not refer to the promise of the land in particular.

Similarly, in his discussion on the Abrahamic covenant in Romans 4 and Galatians 3, the Holy Spirit through the apostle Paul asserts that the ‘seed’ of Abraham is none other than Jesus Christ. Though in Genesis the word ‘seed’ seldom appears without the mention of the Promised Land, Paul seems to have deliberately avoided any mention of ‘the land’ in these passages. Davies takes note of this and says that Paul’s interpretation was ‘a-territorial.’Cited in Chapman, The Land of Promise, p. 85.

Paul’s use of the word ‘world’ in Romans 4:13 (“For the promise to Abraham … that he would be heir to the world …”) suggests that the primary New Testament meaning of ‘land’ is the world. Besides, take note of how Paul cites the Fifth Commandment in Ephesians 6:4. Paul uses the word ‘earth’ instead of the phrase ‘the land which the LORD your God gives you’ (as in Exodus 20:12). It suggests a basic change brought about by the New Testament regarding how the ‘Promised Land’ should be understood—that which served as a mere shadow for a season made way for the real thing: Christ’s global kingdom!

Walker supports this view by noting a comparison between the books of Joshua and Acts, “with the apostles’ going out with the gospel to ‘the ends of the earth’ corresponding to the Israelites’ entrance into the promised land.”Walker, The Land of Promise, p. 117. While some religions are rooted to a sacred land of their own or are wedded to territorialism, true Christianity remains detached from geo-political ambitions. The apostles weren’t sent out to conquer certain territories but to announce to all nations Christ’s God-given dominion over the whole world. There was no interest whatsoever in driving out ‘territorial spirits’ as some do today. Christ was already Lord over all heavens and the earth.

As for the apostle Paul, Davies argues, the concept of being ‘in Christ’ has effectively replaced the blessings of being ‘in the land.’ In such a case, Christ himself is the fulfilment of the ‘land.’ Cited. The Land of Promise, p. 117.

Further, based on Hebrews, it may be said that the land (or ‘the rest’) in the New Testament corresponds to the eternal rest of the Church. According to Hebrews, Joshua did not give Israel rest (4:8) even though he led them into the Promised Land. Therefore the promise of ‘the rest’ remains.

Therefore, while the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us fear lest any of you should seem to have failed to reach it. …

For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken of another day later on. …

Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience. — Hebrews 4:1, 8, 11 ESV

Even more enlightening is the statement in Hebrews on Abraham’s understanding of God’s promise of a ‘land.’ The writer of Hebrews says that Abraham looked beyond the literal fulfilment of the promise concerning the land‘for he was looking for the city which has foundations, whose architect and builder is God’ (Heb. 11:10). Need anything be said about his descendants’ less admirable desire for a piece of earthly land instead of emulating their Patriarch’s faith?

Paul reinterpreted various other Jewish practices in the light of the Christ event. Christ is the ‘Passover Lamb’ who was slain for us (1 Cor 5:7). In this new Exodus that ensued, people were redeemed, not from Egypt, but from the domain of darkness and sin to be transferred to the kingdom of God’s beloved Son (Col. 1:13). Moreover, Paul presents the Church and the individual Christian’s body as the Temple of God (1 Cor 3:16; 6:19). The Christian’s baptism is compared to Israel’s journey through the Red Sea under Moses’ leadership. (1Cor. 10:2)

‘The logical development of this would be that through Christ’s work believers had now been ushered into the promised land, albeit a quiet different ‘land’ from the former one. […] In other words, through Christ’s act of redemption […] they had been brought into all that the promised land had been intended to signify: the true inheritance, the ‘kingdom of God.’P.W.L Walker,. ‘The Land in the Apostles’ Writings, Philip Johnston and Peter Walker, The Land of Promise, (Downer’s Grove, IL: IVP, 2000), p.86.

Hebrews shows how the earthly temple was just a shadow of the heavenly temple.

“They serve a copy and shadow of the heavenly things. For when Moses was about to erect the tent, he was instructed by God, saying, ‘See that you make everything according to the pattern that was shown you on the mountain.’”
— Hebrews 8:5 ESV Emphasis added

As a result, Walker explains:

‘Just as the temple was now eclipsed by the revelation of the ‘heavenly sanctuary’, so the land was eclipsed by the new focus on the heavenly ‘rest’. […] The temple could not fully effect the forgiveness of sins (10:4), nor could the land give complete rest. With the coming of Christ, what was lacking was now revealed.’The Land of Promise, p.89-90.

Walker argues that Hebrews was written before AD 70.P.W.L. Walker, Jesus and the Holy City, (Grand Rapids: Eerdmanns, 1996), p. 227-230. In that case, Hebrews addressed the issue of the Church’s attitude towards the Jewish temple, their priesthood, and sacrifices. At that time, followed by the Jewish revolt of AD 66, the Jewish community in Judaea was eager to affirm the ‘centrality of the temple within their religious and political identity.’Jesus and the Holy City, p. 229. Christians from a Jewish background, on the other hand, were hard pressed between the social pressure to identify with the political cause of Israel and their commitment to Christ. The writer of Hebrews urged his readers to make a bold stand for Jesus Christ even if they had to suffer social disgrace from their Jewish neighbours. ‘So, let us go out to Him outside the camp, bearing [Christ’s] reproach’ (Heb. 13:13).

The reinterpretation of the temple, the Promised Land, Passover, and the city of Jerusalem in the New Testament is not a mere ‘spiritualization’ of Old Testament concepts. This exercise is rooted in the Lord Jesus’s interpretation of the Hebrew Scriptures. Those who stick to literal interpretation fail to notice that Aaronic priesthood, which should have continued ‘forever’ (1 Chron. 23:13) is no more. There is no descendant of David who is ruling over Israel either (Cf. God’s promise in 2 Sam. 7:12-16). Yet, both of these – the Aaronic priesthood and Davidic kingship – ‘have been fulfilled (really, if not literally) in Jesus Christ.

The Lord Jesus went to the extent of pouring out the Holy Spirit in a spectacular manner on His disciples on the Day of Pentecost to demostrate his exaltation to David’s throne in heaven. That’s how the apostle Peter explained the significance of that outpouring of the Spirit:

“Being therefore a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that He would set one of his descendants on his throne, David foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of the Christ, … This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses. Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing.

Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ [Messiah or Anointed King], this Jesus whom you crucified.”
— Acts 2:30-33, 36 ESV Emphasis added

Prophet Ezekiel had predicted this outpouring of the Holy Spirit. He wrote about the Valley of Dry Bones in chapter thirty-seven. The dry bones would become an army, empowered and animated by God’ Spirit, he had predicted. In that very chapter, Ezekiel had predicted that all Israel would come together and David their king would rule over them!

“Behold, I will take the people of Israel from the nations among which they have gone, and will gather them from all around, and bring them to their own land …

“My servant David shall be king over them, and they shall all have one shepherd.
— Ezekiel 37:21, 24

In Acts 2, we see the fulfillment of these prophecies too! Jesus, the Davidic Messiah was on the throne at the right hand of God. The Spirit of God was poured out on a Valley of Dry Bones. A Spirit-filled army called the Church was raised up to serve God. What about the gathering of “the people of Israel from the nations?” How could that alone be left out for a later fulfillment? No! God fulfilled that promise too on the Day of Pentecost! Peter made no mistake when He uttered these words in power of the Holy Spirit:

Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ this Jesus whom you crucified.
— Acts 2:30-33, 36 ESV Emphasis added

Every Jew knew that only a remnant from three tribes inhabited Palestine since the exile. And yet, addressing a massive crowd that God had gathered there – Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians – Peter spoke these words, Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain … That was no slip of the tongue.

Chapman concludes his treatment of the Abrahamic covenant thus:

“The New Testament encourages us to see the coming of the kingdom of God in Christ as the real and substantial fulfillment of every aspect of the Abrahamic covenant. It is therefore impossible to distinguish between literal and spiritual fulfillment of Old Testament promises and prophecies.”Chapman, The Land of Promise, p. 175. Emphasis added.

Chapman finds it difficult to acknowledge the return of Jews to Palestine in the modern times as a fulfillment of biblical prophecies.The Land of Promise, p. 175-76. The arguments that he presents are the following:

“If the temple was destroyed in AD 70 and Jews exiled from the land, as Jesus taught, as a judgment for their failure to recognize him as Messiah (Luke 19:41-44), the repentance required in the terms of Deuteronomy 30 would, from a Christian perspective, mean recognition of Jesus as Messiah. This would be the condition of return.The Land of Promise”, p. 176.

Since such a repentance never took place, the modern “return” to Palestine does not qualify as fulfillment of the scriptures in any way.

4. Conclusion

In the above discussion, it is amply clear that the Dispensationalist view of the land of Palestine fails in comparison with its modern counterparts. Christians should be willing to reconsider their respective positions in the light of scriptural teaching. A scriptural view on the Promised Land might win Christians the disfavour of Jews. Christians may get accused of ‘anti-Semitism.’ But they must be willing to ‘go out’ and suffer scorn with Jesus who was crucified outside the city of Jerusalem. The preaching of the Gospel has an inherent offense that either infuriates or convicts listeners. Christians cannot stand for Jesus Christ and the New Testament, and at the same time remain in the good books of the Jews. If that were possible, Jesus wouldn’t have been crucified; the apostles and the early Jewish Church could have avoided persecution and harassment.

For Further Study

Burge, Gary M. Why I’m Not a Christian Zionist.

Chapman, Colin. ‘Ten Questions For a Theology of The Land.’ Philip Johnston and Peter Walker (ed). The Land of Promise. Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 2000 pp. 172-187.

Crump, David M. Like Birds in a Cage: Christian Zionism’s Collusion in Israel’s Oppression of the Palestinian People. Cascade, 2021.

Pappe, Ilan. The Biggest Prison on Earth: A History of the Occupied Territories. Oneworld Publications, 2016.

Pappe, Ilan. The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine. Oneworld Publications, 2006.

Pappe, Ilan. A History of Modern Palestine. Cambridge University Press, 2003.

Peled, Miko. The General’s Son: Journey of an Israeli in Palestine. Just World Book, 2012.

Pentecost, J. Dwight. Things to Come. Grand Rapids, MI: Academic Books, 1958.

Pomerville, Paul. The New Testament Case against Christian Zionism. Create Space, 2015.

Segev, Tom. 1949: The First Israelis. Picador, 1998.

Sizer, Stephen R. ‘Dispensational Approaches to the Land.’ Philip Johnston and Peter Walker (ed). The Land of Promise. Downer’s Grove, IL: IVP, 2000 pp. 142-171.

Sizer, Stephen R. Christian Zionism: Road-Map to Armageddon?. Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 2005.

Spector, Stephen. Evangelicals and Israel: The Story of American Christian Zionism. OUP, 2008.

Stott, John. The Place of Israel - A Sermon.

Walker, P. W. L. ‘The Land in the Apostles’ Writings.’ Philip Johnston and Peter Walker (ed). The Land of Promise. Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 2000 pp. 81-99.

Walker, P. W. L. ‘The Land and Jesus Himself.’ Philip Johnston and Peter Walker (ed). The Land of Promise. Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 2000 pp. 100-120.

Walker, P. W. L. Jesus and the Holy City: New Testament Perspectives on Jerusalem. Grand Rapids/Cambridge: Eerdmans, 1996.

Weber, Timothy P. On the Road to Armageddon: How Evangelicals Became Israel’s Best Friend Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2004.

Films / Videos

  1. The Present (2020) Short Film by Farah Nabulsi. Nominated for Oscar; BAFTA Best Film 2021. Total 33 awards and 22 nominations.
  2. Christian Zionism by Rev Stephen R. Sizer.
  3. The Relationship between Israel and the Church by Rev Stephen R. Sizer.
  4. Hank Hanegraaff: A Gospel Response to Christian Zionism


  1. What is the Relationship between Israel and the Church? Seven biblical Answers - by Rev Stephen R. Sizer


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End Notes


About the author

Philip Eapen, an environmental scientist by training, devoted his life to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ ever since he realized that the world needs Jesus Christ more than anyone or anything else. Apart from sharing the good news of Jesus Christ, Philip teaches Christians in order to equip them for service. He is supported by donations from readers; he also runs a small ‘tent-making’ business. Philip is married to Dr. Jessimol and they are blessed with three sons and a daughter.

Date: April 1, 2004




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