Whenever Israel comes under attack from one of their enemies (as is happening as I write this), you will see Christians on social media encouraging others to pray for Israel, or to pray for the peace of Israel. Why? Not that this isn’t a good thing. Of course it is. But why do they request prayer specifically for Israel? Why are they so concerned about Israel?
One, it’s because they believe the nation of Israel are still the people of God. Two, they believe Genesis 12:3 still refers to that nation. Three, they want to be faithful to Psalm 122:6. Four, they don’t want America to lose God’s blessing (Ge 12:3). Five, they believe that Israel has a key role in end time prophecy.
They (dispensational Christians) have this understanding about Israel, because they still view Israel through the lens of the OT. However, this is not the view of the NT. Let’s do a comparison between the two Testaments:
(Genesis 12:1-3) – 1 Now the Lord had said to Abram: “Get out of your country, from your family and from your father’s house, To a land that I will show you. 2 I will make you a great nation; I will bless you and make your name great; And you shall be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” (NKJV)
When God made this promise to Abram (Abraham), that He would “bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you,” to whom was God referring? For sure, this promise applied to the nation of Israel, to the ethnic Jews that would come through Abraham’s line under the Old Covenant. However, in Galatians chapter 3 (also Romans 4), Paul reveals that this promise had a wider application under the New Covenant:
(Gal 3:7-9) – 7 Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham. 8 And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “In you shall all the nations be blessed.” 9 So then, those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith. (ESV)
(Gal 3:14-16) – 14 so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith. 15 To give a human example, brothers: even with a man-made covenant, no one annuls it or adds to it once it has been ratified. 16 Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring. It does not say, “And to offsprings,” referring to many, but referring to one, “And to your offspring,” who is Christ. (ESV)
(Gal 3:29) – 29 And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise. (ESV)
Paul reveals that when God made the promise of Genesis 12:1-3 to Abraham, He ultimately had His Son and those who are in Him in view — those who place their faith in Him, both Jew and Gentile. This promise was completely fulfilled in Christ and His Church (Fulfillment Theology). Therefore, when God says that He will “bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you,” today (since the time of Christ) this applies to the people of Christ, not to the ethnic people of Israel. Likewise, when God says that “in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Ge 12:3), this was fulfilled in Christ and in those who place their faith in Him (Ga 3:7-9).
Therefore, when Christians today apply this “blessing or cursing” to the nation of Israel, they’re misapplying it. It no longer refers to the blessing or cursing of those who bless or curse the people of Israel, but to Christ and the people of Christ in Him, which together, make up the Church.
Some (many?) dispensationalists believe that this type of theology encourages antisemitism. While it may be true of some who hold to Fulfillment Theology, that is not something I condone. Shame on those of whom it is true. I actually support Israel. I respect that they are a free country and are a strong ally of America, and that they allow Christianity to be practiced in their country. More importantly, if one understands the unity between the OT and the NT, there’s no way a Christian could ever be anti-Jew, especially when you consider the fact that Jesus Himself came through the line of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob — and that the early membership of the Church consisted almost entirely of Jewish believers.
However, one can not or should not support or “bless” Israel (Ge 12:2-3) unconditionally. Because, first of all, as I already explained, Genesis 12:1-3 ultimately refers to Christ and His Church, not to the nation of Israel. Furthermore, if dispensationalists insist that this promise to bless or curse refers strictly to the treatment of the nation of Israel, then they have a real problem. What if Israel becomes a terrorist nation, such as Iran? While that may be highly unlikely, what if they did? What if they turn against Christians, like Iran has? Are they going to continue to give their support to Israel? But if they don’t support Israel, aren’t they setting themselves up to be “cursed?” But how could they rightly give their support (blessing) to a terrorist nation, which also outlaws Christianity? There is a real conflict here that dispensationalists must consider.
I believe the only way that people could ever bless Israel unconditionally, is if that promise ultimately and actually has Christ and His Church in view. Christ’s Church will never become a terrorist organization, or anything else evil — for she is pure and holy, set-apart to Christ. This cannot be said of the nation of Israel. They are, in fact, already evil and always have been, and can possibly become much more evil. That is why God destroyed both the Northern and Southern Kingdoms of Israel. Of course their greatest evil is their rejection of Jesus as their Messiah. That is why He destroyed them in AD 70. That is their history. However, in modern times, they’re not evil in the same sense terrorist or communist nations are, and certainly no more evil than the United States, or any other country, generally speaking (Ro 3:22-23; Ro 11:32).
In truth, if Israel ever turned completely against Christianity and America – which consists of many millions of Christians – I believe the “curse” of Genesis 12:3 would instead be upon them. In fact, because of their rejection of Jesus, the curse of that promise is already upon them (Ro 11:7-10,25; 2 Cor 3:13-16). But if they were to ever turn against Christians as many other countries have, then I believe the “curse” of that promise would increase further.
Now consider this! What an amazing revelation we have here. Israel rejected Christ and Christianity, and the result is that “a hardening has come upon part of Israel” (NRSV – Ro 11:25). Now I confess that I don’t understand all that is involved with this hardening, but I do know that it’s a judgment against this people — as evidenced by God’s judgement against them in AD 70 (Matt 21:42-44; Lu 17:25). Yet, according to Genesis 12:3, the “curse” is reserved for those who curse Israel! Yet, God destroyed Israel, for a third time! Does that not strongly (if not obviously) indicate that Genesis 12:3 actually has Christ and His Church in view? The true people God? When you stop and think about it, this is a very strong argument against Dispensationalism, is it not?
In regard to God’s rejection of Israel and turning to the Church (Matt 21:42-44) – consisting of both believing Jews and believing Gentiles – lest dispensationalists quote Romans 11:1-2, God has not rejected individual Jews. That is quite obvious. It was the corporate people of Israel that God rejected, not individual Jews. That’s what Paul is referring to in Romans 11:1-2. God’s focus turned away from the nation of Israel to His Church, through whom the gospel of Jesus Christ would be spread to the whole world.
In regard to this “blessing and cursing” as it relates to America, let’s be clear about this. God has not historically blessed America because she supports Israel. I believe God has blessed America because she has always supported Christianity. Many Christians seem to believe that if America turns against Israel, God will withdraw His blessing. First of all, I don’t believe America would ever do that without just cause (terrorism, attack on our country, etc). Secondly, I believe God would only withdraw His blessing from America if it turned against Christ and His people — something we’re already seeing develop, more and more.
Therefore, the people who are ultimately in view in Genesis 12:2-3, are God’s true people, which are those who are in Christ of the New Covenant. Dispensationalists who are always quoting the Genesis promise to “bless” Israel, seem to elevate the importance of that nation above the Church. While they may certainly deny such an idea, the reality is, we never hear them use that passage in regard to Christ’s Church, who are the true representatives of God in the world. At least I’ve never heard them make that reference. But why not? There should be no debate about who the true people of God are, that they are those who have embraced His Son — whom Israel rejects. So how does Genesis 12:3 not apply to God’s people in Christ during this present age?
So then, while I support Israel, I do so because they are a free country (allowing the practice of Christianity) like America and are one of our strongest allies. I do so because Jesus came through that line of people, and that Christianity began with Jewish believers. But I don’t support that nation unconditionally. However, I do support Christ’s Church unconditionally — and that is the only way that Genesis 12:3 can ever be applied unconditionally, and for all time.