In the New Testament, the “promised land” is something far greater than middle-eastern sand (see Hebrews 11:10). And the “chosen people” of God are not from one nation, but come from “every tongue, tribe, people, and nation.” (see Revelation 5:9) Abraham was looking forward to a city "which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God." (Hebrews 11:10) "For here we have no lasting city, but we seek a city which is to come." (Hebrews 13:10) When the Bible speaks of a "promised land" it is speaking of something far greater and more glorious than any earthly city or land. It's speaking of a heavenly city that is eternal (not temporal) in nature.
Recently Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky was castigated by Republicans for pointing out that some Christians seem a little too zealous to go to war over the “chosen people” and the “promised land” (both references to Israel). While bashing Paul may be popular for pro-war hawks like John McCain and Lindsey Graham and for left wing Repubs like Chris Christie; the fact on this issue is that Paul is right. Some Christians defend Israel too strongly for reasons that are more rooted in incorrect theology than diplomatic wisdom.
Dispensationalism is the belief that God has a separate future plan for Israel than he does other Christians. And rabid Dispensationalism is the rule of thumb in most American churches. While the extent of this article is not to get into the flaws of Dispensationalism (and there are many), I would like to point out that two of those flaws lead to extreme foreign policy views by some on the political right.
Under the Old Covenant, Israel was known as the “chosen people” of God (see Deuteronomy 7:6-8). But under the New Covenant, as revealed in the New Testament, the chosen people of God are from every nation. In this sense, Old Testament Israel served as a typological picture of New Testament Christianity. When John the Baptist came preaching, he warned the Jews not to think their status as “Israel” granted them special favor. “Do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham for our father,’ for I say to you that from these stones God is able to raise up children to Abraham.” (Luke 3:8 NASB)
Peter picks up the same theme when he addresses the Christian church by using descriptions of Old Testament Israel. “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” (1 Peter 2:9 ESV) While some get angry at any attempt to "spiritualize" Israel; this is exactly what Peter does. It's also what Paul does.
The Apostle Paul is crystal clear in this assessement when he writes: “For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring, but “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring.” (Romans 9:6-8 ESV)
Paul tells the Galatians: “Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham. 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.” So then, those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.” (Galatians 3:7-9)
The point is this: while the nation of Israel was the chosen people of God under the Old Covenant; they are not the chosen people under the New Covenant. According to the New Testament, the true descendants of Abraham are those with the faith (not the bloodlines) of Abraham. For this reason, the extreme view of some that a lack of support for the nation of Israel means that God will judge America is scripturally unfounded. Jesus did not ascend the throne when the United States helped create the modern state of Israel in 1948; and Jesus will not fall off of the throne if such a nation ceases to exist. With that said, there might be many diplomatic, military, and govermental reasons to be an ally of Israel. We certainly have more in common with them than we do other Middle Eastern nations. But the return of Christ and the blessing of God doesn't hinge upon supporting any ethnic nation, including Israel. To see the nation of Israel as "chosen of God" is to confuse the Old and New Covenants and to cling to the Old which has been fulfilled in Jesus Christ (Matt. 5:17, Eph. 2:15), rather than to understand and live in the New which is now inaugurated.
Some defend the uniqueness of Israel in God's eyes based on passages such as Romans 11:
"I ask, then, has God rejected his people? By no means! For I myself am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, a member of the tribe of Benjamin. God has not rejected his people whom he foreknew. Do you not know what the Scripture says of Elijah, how he appeals to God against Israel? “Lord, they have killed your prophets, they have demolished your altars, and I alone am left, and they seek my life.” But what is God’s reply to him? “I have kept for myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal.” So too at the present time there is a remnant, chosen by grace.” (Romans 11:1-5 ESV)
But the entire point that Paul is making in this passage is not that Israel is the elect people of God; but rather that some within Israel are included in the elect people of God who come from every tribe, tongue, people, and nation (including Israel). In fact the very word Paul uses (remnant) implies that there are many who are ethnic Israel who are specifically not numbered among God's elect. Paul goes on to say that “All Israel will be saved.” (Rom. 11:26) Yet this clearly doesn't mean every indiviual who is a member of that ethnic people will be spiritually saved.
In Jesus' day, he referred to many of the Jews as “sons of the Devil.” (John 8:44) And in Moses' day it was said that many of the Hebrews perished “because of unbelief.” (Hebrews 3:19) To take Romans 11:26 as a declaration of universal salvation for an ethnic people is to take the entire Biblical teaching on soteriology (doctrine of salvation) and render it meaningless. To declare, as some do, that Romans 11 is teaching that a Jew can reject Christ their entire life, die and still go to Heaven, is both Biblically unjustified and experientally dangerous. Furthermore it would be a gross misinterpretion of what it means to be elect, who the elect are, and how the elect are manifested in the world. To be elect means to be “chosen of God.” The elect come from every nation including Israel, but not exclusiely Israel. And the elect from every nation are manifested by repentance from sin and faith in Jesus Christ. Any other concept of the elect is simply not a Biblical concept.
From an economic standpoint, there is a lot of money to be made over Israeli fervor. Entire ministerial empires have been built and millions of books sold over the nation of Israel, the Great Tribulation, the pretribulational rapture (also a concept not taught in Scripture), and millenialism. I'm not saying that every “End Times” guru is financially motivated; but I suspect some are. But even those who are sincere have no right to imply that a different view on Israel should have one branded as a liberal, a heretic, or anti-semitic. Sadly you're declared to be a heretic to conservative politics if you don't jump on the Israel bandwagon; and if you suggest that America might not have the resources nor the place to fight Middle Eastern wars.
In conclusion, while many think that theological matters are for ivory tower seminaries, or stained glass church houses; the truth is that theology affects more than most people realize. An incorrect Biblical interpretation of the nation of Israel has led many Christians to embrace a military foreign policy of zeal for God's people, who are not really God's people. If those on the political right want to support Israel, then by all means do so. But using faulty heremeneutics to do it is not only wrong, but dangerous. As Christians, let us not look to the things that are seen, but to those unseen. Let us “seek peace with all men”. And let us remember that the Kingom of Christ will come in His way and in His time and no nation on earth (including Israel, America, Syria, or Iran) can stop it.