The Abrahamic Covenant (Part 1) - by Dr. Renald Showers
Two major systems of theology (Dispensational Theology and Covenant Theology) often differ from each other in their approaches to the major biblical covenants. These differences are significant, because they lead to contrasting views concerning the Millennium or future Kingdom of God foretold in the Bible. These differences are significant for another reason: they lead to contrasting views regarding the permanent existence of Israel as a nation and Israel‘s permanent ownership of the promised land. Has God promised Israel permanent existence as a nation? Has He guaranteed Israel permanent ownership of the Promised Land and, therefore, the right to possess that land?
A number of the biblical covenants will determine the final outcome of these important issues. Therefore, the approach that a person takes to these covenants is most crucial. Because that is so, this and future articles will examine the biblical covenants which relate to these issues.
Major Issues Related to the Abrahamic Covenant
The Abrahamic Covenant involves three major issues. First, does it promise Israel permanent existence as a nation? Second, does it promise Israel permanent ownership of the Promised Land? Third, is the covenant conditional or unconditional in nature? If it is conditional, then the fulfillment of its promises is dependent upon the obedience of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and their physical descendants, the people of Israel. If the Abrahamic Covenant is unconditional, then the fulfillment of its promises is dependent upon the faithfulness of God to His word, not upon human obedience.
The Parties of the Abrahamic Covenant
The Abrahamic Covenant was established by God with Abraham and his physical descendants, Isaac, Jacob, and the people of Israel. Genesis 15:18 states, "In the same day the LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying, Unto thy seed have I given this land, from the river of Egypt unto the great river, the river Euphrates." In Genesis 17:4, 6-7 God said to Abraham, "As for me, behold, my covenant is with thee… and I will make thee exceedingly fruitful, and I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after thee in their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee."
The fact that God established the Abrahamic Covenant with the physical descendants of Abraham, the people of Israel, is made even clearer in several Genesis passages. In Genesis 17:19-21 God said to Abraham, "Sarah, thy wife, shall bear thee a son indeed; and thou shalt call his name Isaac: and I will establish my covenant with him for an everlasting covenant, and with his seed after him. And as for Ishmael, I have heard thee: Behold, I have blessed him, and will make him fruitful, and will multiply him exceedingly; twelve princes shall he beget, and I will make him a great nation. But my covenant will I establish with Isaac, whom Sarah shall bear unto thee." When Isaac became an adult God established the Abrahamic Covenant with him (Genesis 26:1-4). Later God established the covenant with Abraham‘s physical grandson, Jacob (Genesis 28:10-14; 35:9-12; 48:3-4). The instructions which Joseph, Abraham‘s great-grandson, gave at the end of his life clearly indicate that he understood the Abrahamic Covenant to have been made with Abraham and his physical descendants, the people of Israel (Genesis 50:24-25).
The Historical Establishment of the Abrahamic Covenant
Although some of the promises of the Abrahamic Covenant were given by God in Genesis 12:2-3 and 13:14-17, the covenant was not formally established until Genesis 15:7-21. Genesis 15:18 specifically states "In the same day the LORD made a covenant with Abram." God formally established the covenant in the following manner: while Abraham slept a deep sleep, God (represented by a smoking oven and a flaming torch) moved between the pieces of animals, which He had commanded Abraham to cut into two halves. Jeremiah 34:18 indicate that this procedure of passing between the halves of animals was a common way of establishing covenants in Old Testament times.
The Promises of the Abrahamic Covenant
God made three major kinds of promises in the Abrahamic Covenant. First, there were personal promises to Abraham. God promised to bless Abraham and to make him a blessing to others (Genesis 12:2), to make his name great (Genesis 12:2), to give him many physical descendants (Genesis 13:16; 15:4-5; 17:6), to make him the father of a multitude of nations (Genesis 17:4-5), to give him the land of Canaan for an everlasting possession (Genesis 13:14-15, 17; 15:7; 17:8), and to bless those who blessed Abraham and curse those who cursed him (Genesis 12:3).
Second, God made national promises concerning Israel. God promised to make a great nation of Abraham‘s physical descendants (Genesis 12:2), to give the land of Canaan from the river of Egypt to the Euphrates River to Abraham‘s physical descendants forever (Genesis 12:7; 13:14-15; 15:18-21; 17:8), and to give the Abrahamic Covenant to his descendants for an everlasting covenant (Genesis 17:7, 19). The Genesis 17:19 passage indicates that God intended the covenant to continue on through Isaac, Abraham‘s biological son, and Isaac‘s descendants—thus, through Abraham‘s physical seed. The fact that God promised to give Abraham‘s physical descendants the land of Canaan forever and the covenant for an everlasting covenant demands that Israel never perish as a people. Should Israel ever perish as a nation, it could not possess the land forever, and its Abrahamic Covenant could not be everlasting.
Third, God made universal promises, which would affect all peoples of the world. God vowed that all families of the earth would be blessed through Abraham‘s physical line of descent (Genesis 12:3; 22:18; 28:14). Later we shall see that great spiritual blessing has been made available to all peoples through Jesus Christ and the Jews.
In addition, Jesus‘ statements in Matthew 25:31-46 (especially verses 40 and 45) indicate, when God promised to bless those who blessed Abraham and to curse those who cursed him, He intended this to be applicable, not only to Abraham, but also to Israel. In other words, God‘s blessing or cursing of the peoples of the world would be determined to a large extent by their blessing or cursing of Israel. Jesus‘ statements in Matthew 25 promise blessing to saved Gentiles who will aid persecuted Jews of the future Tribulation period and judgment to unsaved Gentiles who will not aid them.
The Abrahamic Covenant (Part 2) - by Dr. Renald Showers
Thus far in our study of the Abrahamic Covenant we have considered the following matters: the major issues related to the Abrahamic Covenant, and the parties, historical establishment, and promises of that covenant. This present article will examine other matters related to it.
The Partial Historic Fulfillment of the Abrahamic Covenant
Parts of the Abrahamic Covenant has been fulfilled already. Personally, God did bless Abraham with great wealth and other blessings (Genesis 24:1, 35). God made him a blessing to others (for example, Abraham rescued Lot from captivity, Genesis 14). God has made Abraham‘s name great (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam have respected his name for centuries). God has given him many physical descendants and made him the father of a multitude of nations (the nation Israel has descended from him through Isaac and Jacob; some Arab nations have descended from him through Ishmael).
Nationally, God did make a great nation (Israel) of Abraham‘s physical descendants. He did give the Promised Land to Israel after its exodus from Egypt (Deuteronomy 31:7-8; 32:45-52; Joshua 1:1-5, 10-11). In addition, Israel has never perished as a people.
Universally, God has made great blessing available to all families of the earth through Abraham‘s physical line of descent. For example, Jesus Christ, who as a Jew was a physical descendant of Abraham, provided salvation for all mankind through His substitution death on the cross, burial, and bodily resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:1-4; 1 Timothy 2:5-6; Hebrews 2:9; 1 John 2:1-2). Thus, Jesus could declare, "salvation is of the Jews" (John 4:22) and furthermore; the Scriptures were produced primarily by Jewish prophets and apostles (Romans 3:1-2). God has blessed those people and nations who have blessed Israel, but He has judged those who have abused Israel.
It should be noted that those parts of the Abrahamic Covenant, which have been fulfilled thus far, have been fulfilled literally (in accordance with the historical-grammatical method of interpreting the Bible, not in accordance with the allegorical or spiritualizing method). This would seem to imply that God intends every promise of that covenant to be fulfilled in that manner.
In addition, it should be noted that some parts of the Abrahamic Covenant have not been fulfilled totally. Since God promised to give the land of Canaan for an everlasting possession to Abraham‘s physical descendants (Genesis 17:8) and to give the Abrahamic Covenant for an everlasting covenant to those same descendants (Genesis 17:7, 19), it cannot rightly be said that all the promises have been fulfilled totally until at least the end of world history.
The Controversy Concerning the Nature of the Abrahamic Covenant
In many respects the most crucial of the three major issues related to the Abrahamic Covenant is as follows: is that covenant conditional or unconditional in nature? This issue is most crucial because it determines the outcome of the other two major issues, which were noted earlier.
If the Abrahamic Covenant is unconditional in nature (not dependent upon Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and their physical descendants, the people of Israel, meeting conditions for the fulfillment of its promises), then every promise of that covenant must be fulfilled—including the promises that Israel would be given forever the land described in Genesis 15:18, and that the Abrahamic Covenant would be an everlasting covenant for Israel. This would mean that Israel would last forever as a people and that God has a future for that nation and its land. It would also mean that the biblical prophesies concerning the future of Israel and its land are to be interpreted literally and that the Dispensational-Pre-millennial view of those prophecies is correct.
By contrast, if the Abrahamic Covenant is conditional (dependent upon Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and the people of Israel meeting conditions for the fulfillment of its promises), then not every promise of that covenant has to be fulfilled. Failure by Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and the people of Israel to meet the conditions could nullify the fulfillment of the covenant‘s promises. In light of such failure, Israel would not have to be given the land of Canaan forever, the Abrahamic Covenant would not have to be an everlasting covenant for Israel, the biblical prophecies concerning the future of Israel and its land could be interpreted allegorically or spiritualized, and the Dispensational-Premillennial view of those prophecies would be wrong.
Theologians disagree concerning whether the Abrahamic Covenant is conditional or unconditional. Dispensational theologians contend that the covenant is unconditional. Covenant theologians disagree with each other on this issue. Many Covenant theologians say that the Abrahamic Covenant is conditional, but other Covenant theologians say that it is unconditional, but that the national promises to Israel must be interpreted allegorically, not literally.
Those who believe that the Abrahamic Covenant is conditional point to certain biblical statements as their proof. For example, Genesis 17:1-2 declares that, when Abraham was 99 years old, God said to him, "walk before me, and be thou perfect. And I will make my covenant between me and thee, and will multiply thee exceedingly." In Genesis 22:16-18 God said to Abraham, "By myself have I sworn, saith the LORD; for because thou hast done this thing, and hast not withheld thy son, thine only son; that in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the seashore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies; and in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because thou hast obeyed my voice."
In Genesis 26:3-5 God said to Isaac, "Sojourn in this land, and I will be with thee, and will bless thee; for unto thee, and unto thy seed, I will give all these countries, and I will perform the oath which I swore unto Abraham thy father; and I will make thy seed to multiply as the stars of heaven, and will give unto thy seed all these countries; and in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because that Abraham obeyed my voice, and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes, and my laws."
On the surface, these statements appear to indicate that the Abrahamic Covenant is conditional in nature. Before that conclusion is drawn, however, several significant things should be noted. The next article will begin to consider those things.
The Abrahamic Covenant (Part 3) - by Dr. Renald Showers
In our previous article we noted that theologians disagree concerning whether the Abrahamic Covenant is conditional or unconditional. Dispensational theologians contend that the covenant is unconditional in nature (not dependent upon Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and their physical descendants, the people of Israel, meeting conditions for the fulfillment of its promises). Many Covenant theologians claim that the Abrahamic Covenant is conditional (dependent upon Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and the people of Israel meeting conditions for the fulfillment of its promises). Some Covenant theologians believe that the covenant is unconditional, but that the national promises to Israel must be interpreted allegorically, not literally. Those who claim that it is conditional point to statements in some biblical passages, such as Genesis 17:1-2; 22:16-18, and 26:3-5, as their proof.
On the surface, these statements appear to indicate that the Abrahamic Covenant is conditional in nature. But before that conclusion is drawn, several significant things should be noted.
The Significant Things To Be Noted
First, the biblical statements that appear to indicate that the Abrahamic Covenant is conditional in nature were made years after God formally established the covenant with Abraham in Genesis 15. When God formally established the covenant, He stated no conditions. This is significant, because, according to Galatians 3:15, once a covenant is established no conditions are added to it. Thus, to conclude that the statements of Genesis 17:1-2; 22:16-18, and 26:3-5 indicate that the Abrahamic Covenant is conditional is to say that God added conditions to the Abrahamic Covenant after it was established and thereby violated the principle of Galatians 3:15.
Second, when the covenant was formally established, only God passed between the halves of the animals. A deep sleep came upon Abraham so that he could not move between them (Genesis 15:8-18). This indicated that the fulfillment of the covenant‘s promises was totally dependent upon God, not upon Abraham meeting certain conditions. The only time that both parties of a covenant would pass between the pieces of animals was when the fulfillment of the covenant was dependent upon both parties keeping commitments. Concerning the significance of God alone moving between the halves of the animals, George R. Berry wrote, "Here it is to be noted that it is a smoking furnace and a flaming torch, representing God, not Abraham, which passed between the pieces. Both parties, it would seem, should share such an act, but in this case it is doubtless to be explained by the fact that the covenant is principally a promise by Jeh. He is one who binds Himself" ("Covenant," The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, ed. James Orr [Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1957], Volune II, p. 727).
Third, God formally established the Abrahamic Covenant in response to Abraham‘s question, "Lord GOD, whereby shall I know that I shall inherit it [the land]?" (Genesis 15:8). In the immediate context (v. 7) God had just reminded Abraham of the fact that He had brought him out of Ur of the Chaldees in order to give him the land of Canaan to possess it. In response to this reminder Abraham asked God for proof that he would fulfill His promise to give him the land. God consented to give such proof and formally established a solemn covenant with Abraham as that proof. The point is that the purpose for the formal establishment of the Abrahamic Covenant was that of assuring Abraham that God would keep His word. The total focus of the covenant was the faithfulness of God to His commitment. The focus had nothing to do with the faithfulness or obedience of Abraham or his physical descendants, the people of Israel. If the fulfillment of the promises of the Abrahamic Covenant depended in any way at all upon the faithfulness of anyone other than God, how could that covenant accomplish its intended purpose—confirming proof to Abraham that God would keep His word to give him the land of Canaan?
Fourth, the Abrahamic Covenant was still in effect even after the patriarchs of Israel had sinned several times. Although Abraham had sinned several times (Genesis 16:20) after the covenant had been established, God later confirmed the covenant with his son, Isaac (Genesis 26:1-4). In spite of Isaac‘s sin after that confirmation (Genesis 26:6-11), God later confirmed the covenant with his son, Jacob (Genesis 28:13-15; 35:9-12; 48:3-4). Even though Jacob and his sons were guilty of various sins (Genesis 37:18-36; 38:12-26), Joseph regarded the covenant to be in effect at the end of his life and was convinced that it would continue to be so into the future (Genesis 50:24-26). Several generations after Joseph, when the people of Israel were enslaved in Egypt, God made it clear to Moses that the Abrahamic Covenant was still in effect (Exodus 2:24; 6:2-8).
Fifth, even after the nation of Israel had sinned in numerous ways over the course of several centuries, King David regarded the Abrahamic Covenant to be in effect with Israel in his day. In 1 Chronicles 16:15-18 David exhorted the Jews, "Be ye mindful always of his covenant; the word which he commanded to a thousand generations, even of the covenant which he made with Abraham, and of his oath unto Isaac, and hath confirmed the same to Jacob for a law, and to Israel for an everlasting covenant, saying, Unto thee will I give the land of Canaan, the lot of your inheritance" (compare Psalm 105:8-11). Why would David exhort Jews of his day to be mindful of the Abrahamic Covenant if it were no longer in effect with them? Why would he exhort Jews to remember the covenant always, and why would he specifically call attention to the promise concerning Israel‘s possession of the land if at any point in history that promise of the covenant could be annulled?
Sixth, Moses promised that, even though Israel would become idolatrous and evil and would be scattered from the land and suffer because of its sin, in the latter days it would have opportunity to return to God and be obedient because God would not fail Israel, nor destroy it, nor forget the Abrahamic Covenant which He swore to their fathers (Deuteronomy 4:25-31). Several things should be noted concerning this promise. First, it is the same people (literal Israel, the physical descendants of Abraham) who would depart from God and be scattered from the land of Canaan (v. 26) who would also have the opportunity to return to Him and be obedient in the latter days. This implies that the literal nation of Israel will still exist in the latter days and that God will have a program for that nation during that period of history. Second, the Abrahamic Covenant would still be in effect with the literal nation of Israel in the latter days in spite of its idolatry, evil, and traumatic history of dispersion and suffering. Surely that would not be true if the continuation of that covenant with Israel were dependent upon the faithfulness or obedience of that nation. Third, Moses made it clear (v. 31) that this promise in Deuteronomy 4 would continue to be in effect because of God‘s faithfulness. Even though Israel would fail Him, He would not fail it. He would be faithful to His covenant commitment which He had sworn to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
The next article will consider more significant things that indicate that the Abrahamic Covenant is unconditional by nature.
The Abrahamic Covenant (Part 4) - by Dr. Renald Showers
In our previous article we noted six significant things that indicate that the Abrahamic Covenant is unconditional by nature (not dependent upon Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and their physical descendants, the people of Israel, meeting conditions for the fulfillment of its promises). This present article will consider additional significant things concerning the covenant‘s unconditional nature.
Additional Significant Things To Be Noted
Seventh, even after Israel had compiled its sordid record of sin throughout all its centuries of Old Testament history, the Holy Spirit indicated that the Abrahamic Covenant was still in effect with that nation and that that covenant had something to do with Israel‘s deliverance from its enemies (Luke 1:67-75). Shortly before Jesus‘ birth the Holy Spirit prophesied through the Jewish priest, Zechariah, "Blessed be the Lord God of Israel; for he hath visited and redeemed his people, and hath raised up an horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant, David; as he spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets, which have been since the world began: that we should be saved from our enemies, and from the hand of all that hate us; to perform the mercy promised to our fathers, and to remember his holy covenant; the oath which he sware to our father Abraham, that he would grant unto us, that we, being delivered out of the hand of our enemies, might serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him, all the days of our life."
Eighth, even though Israel committed the ultimate sin of rejecting the Son of God, Jesus, as its Messiah, the Apostle Peter still regarded the Jews (even the very Jews who had rejected Christ) as children of the Abrahamic Covenant. Peter said to a crowd in Jerusalem, "Ye men of Israel,… the God of Abraham, and of Isaac, and of Jacob, the God of our fathers, hath glorified his Son, Jesus, whom ye delivered up and denied in the presence of Pilate, when he was determined to let him go. But ye denied the Holy One and the Just, and desired a murderer to be granted unto you; and killed the Prince of life, whom God hath raised from the dead, of which we are witnesses" (Acts 3:12-15).
Having thereby identified his audience, Peter said to them, "Ye are the sons of the prophets, and of the covenant which God made with our fathers, saying unto Abraham, And in thy seed shall all the kindreds of the earth be blessed. Unto you first God, having raised up his Son, Jesus, sent him to bless you, in turning away every one of you from his iniquities" (Acts 3:25-26).
Peter‘s use of the present tense of the verb "are" in the expression "are the sons" indicates his conviction that these Jews were still sons of the covenant and that the covenant was still in effect with them. The only way the Abrahamic Covenant could still be in effect with the nation of Israel after its rejection of Christ was if the covenant were unconditional in nature. If that covenant had been dependent upon the obedience of Israel for the fulfillment of its promises, certainly it would have been nullified by Israel‘s worst sin.
Ninth, the Epistle to the Hebrews indicates that God doubly emphasized the fact that the Abrahamic covenant was His unchangeable purpose and that, therefore, that covenant was still to be a source of encouragement to Jews who were living when the epistle was written. Hebrews 6:13-18 states, "For when God made promise to Abraham, because he could swear by no greater, he swore by himself, saying, Surely, blessing I will bless thee, and multiplying I will multiply thee…. For men verily swear by the greater, and an oath for confirmation is to them an end of all strife. Wherein God, willing more abundantly to show unto the heirs of promise the immutability of his counsel, confirmed it by an oath, that by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us."
Two things should be noted concerning this statement. First, God wanted to impress Abraham and his descendants with the fact that He is absolutely determined to fulfill the Abrahamic Covenant and that fulfillment of the covenant is dependent totally upon God‘s faithfulness to His Word. Second, the Abrahamic Covenant was still to be a source of encouragement to Jews who were living when Hebrews was written (during the 60s A.D.), in spite of the fact that Israel had rejected Christ several decades earlier.
Tenth, the Abrahamic Covenant included a universal promise of blessing to all families of the earth through Abraham‘s seed (his physical descendants, Isaac, Jacob, and the people of Israel). The fulfillment of this promise involved the coming of the Redeemer and the provision of salvation for all peoples of the world. If the Abrahamic Covenant were conditional, then the coming of the Redeemer and the provision of salvation were dependent upon the obedience of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and the people of Israel. Such an arrangement would have jeopardized the coming of Christ and the whole program of redemption. It also would have undermined the certainty of fulfillment of many Old Testament messianic prophecies. It is a fact, however, that the Redeemer did come and salvation was provided in spite of many centuries of disobedience by Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and the people of Israel. That fact practically demands that the Abrahamic Covenant be unconditional in nature. And if it is unconditional in nature, then the fulfillment of all its promises (including the national promises to the literal nation of Israel) is dependent totally upon the faithfulness of God to His Word.
The next article will begin to consider the effects of the Abrahamic Covenant upon the nation of Israel.
The First Effects of the Abrahamic Covenant Upon Israel (Part 5) - by Dr. Renald Showers
The Guarantee Of Israel‘s Permanent Existence As A Nation In our two previous articles we noted ten significant things that indicate that the Abrahamic Covenant is unconditional by nature. In light of its unconditional nature, the Abrahamic Covenant has at least a twofold effect upon the nation of Israel.
First, it guarantees Israel permanent existence as a nation. Since the Abrahamic Covenant is an unconditional covenant (totally dependent upon God‘s faithfulness for fulfillment), and since God declared it to be an everlasting covenant with the people of Israel (Genesis 17:7, 19; 1 Chronicles 16:15-17; Psalm 105:8-10), the nation of Israel must exist forever. A covenant cannot be everlasting if one party of the covenant ceases to exist.
In Exodus 32:13 Moses appealed to the Abrahamic Covenant that God swore to keep, and to the fact that through that covenant God promised Israel ownership of the land of Canaan forever, as a reason for Israel not being consumed because of its sin. The only way that Israel could own the land forever is if it were to exist as a nation forever.
Several biblical passages promise that, in spite of Israel‘s terrible sins, it never will be totally destroyed as a nation. In Deuteronomy 4:25-31 Moses declared to the people of Israel:
When thou shalt beget children, and children‘s children, and ye shall have remained long in the land, and shall corrupt yourselves, and make a carved image, or the likeness of anything, and shall do evil in the sight of the LORD thy God, to provoke him to anger, I call heaven and earth to witness against you this day, that ye shall soon utterly perish from off the land whereunto ye go over the Jordan to possess it; ye shall not prolong your days upon it, but shall utterly be destroyed. And the LORD shall scatter you among the nations, and ye shall be left few in number among the nations, where the LORD shall lead you. And there ye shall serve gods, the work of men‘s hands, wood and stone, which neither see, nor hear, nor eat, nor smell. But if from there thou shalt seek the LORD thy God, thou shalt find him, if thou seek him with all they heart and with all thy soul. When thou art in tribulation, and all these things are come upon thee, even in the latter days, if thou turn to the LORD thy God, and shalt be obedient unto his voice (For the LORD thy God is a merciful God), he will not forsake thee, neither destroy thee, nor forget the covenant of thy fathers which he swore unto them.
At first glance verses 26 and 31 appear to contradict each other. Notice verse 26 states that Israel will be utterly destroyed, but verse 31 declares that God will not destroy Israel. It is important to note that the words translated destroy in these verses are two different words with two different meanings. Certainly the word destroyed in verse 26 cannot mean to put out of existence, for the next several verses indicate that these same people would be scattered among the nations, serve false gods, and have opportunity to seek the Lord after they had been destroyed. Non-existing people cannot perform such activities. The context requires that destroyed of verse 26 be understood as overthrown or removed from the land.
In verse 26 God warned that he would remove the nation of Israel from its land because of its terrible sins, but in verse 31 He promised that he would not destroy the nation of Israel in the sense of putting it out of existence. God will chasten the nation, but He will never annihilate it for its sins. Thus, verses 26 and 31 do not contradict each other.
It is significant that God linked His promise not to destroy the nation of Israel with His promises not to fail Israel or forget the Abrahamic Covenant, which He swore to Israel‘s ancestors (v. 31). The implication is that Israel‘s permanent existence as a nation is guaranteed through the Abrahamic Covenant, because that covenant is totally dependent upon the faithfulness of God for its fulfillment.
God made a similar promise to the nation of Israel in Jeremiah 30:11: "For I am with thee, saith the LORD, to save thee; though I make a full end of all nations to which I have scattered thee, yet will I not make a full end of thee, but I will correct thee in measure, and will not leave thee altogether unpunished."
In Jeremiah 46:27-28 God declared, "But fear not, O my servant, Jacob, and be not dismayed, O Israel; for, behold, I will save thee from afar off, and thy seed from the land of their captivity; and Jacob shall return, and be in rest and at ease, and none shall make him afraid. Fear thou not, O Jacob, my servant, saith the LORD; for I am with thee; for I will make a full end of all the nations to which I have driven thee; but I will not make a full end of thee, but correct thee in measure; yet will I not leave thee wholly unpunished."
In Amos 9:8 God promised, "I will not utterly destroy the house of Jacob."
In Romans 11 the Apostle Paul taught that even in his day (after Israel‘s rejection of Christ and while they were enemies of the gospel of Christ) the people of Israel were still beloved of God in accordance with His sovereign choice of them to be his special people (verses 1-2, 28; see also Deuteronomy 7:6; 14:2; 26:18-19) and for the sake of their ancestors to whom God swore the Abrahamic Covenant (v. 28; see also Deuteronomy 7:7-8). If God were to reject Israel or allow it to perish totally as a nation from the earth, He would thereby violate His own sovereign choice and betray the covenant commitment that He made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. In light of this, Paul declared that God‘s calling of Israel to be His special people is irrevocable (v. 29). The fact that that calling is irrevocable requires that Israel always exist.
Centuries before the Apostle Paul penned these significant words King David expressed the same truth with the same implication: "And what one nation in the earth is like thy people, even like Israel, whom God went to redeem for a people to himself, and to make him a name, and to do for you great things and terrible, for thy land, before thy people, which thou redeemed to thee from Egypt, from the nation and their gods? For thou hast confirmed to thyself thy people Israel to be a people unto thee forever: and thou, LORD, art become their God" (2 Samuel 7:23-24). The only way Israel could be a people unto God forever is if it would exist forever.
All of these biblical statements indicate that Israel is guaranteed permanent existence as a nation, and the Abrahamic Covenant is a major basis for that guarantee.
The next article will address the second effect that the Abrahamic Covenant has upon the nation of Israel.
The Second Effects of the Abrahamic Covenant Upon Israel (Part 6) - by Dr. Renald Showers
The Guarantee of Israel‘s Permanent Ownership of the Land Our previous article dealt with the first of two effects that the unconditional Abrahamic Covenant has upon the nation of Israel—It guarantees Israel permanent existence as a nation. This present article will examine the second effect—The Abrahamic Covenant guarantees Israel permanent ownership of the land.
Since the Abrahamic Covenant is an unconditional covenant (not dependent upon Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and their physical descendants, the people of Israel, meeting conditions for the fulfillment of the covenant‘s promises), and since one of God‘s promises in that covenant was to give the land of Canaan to Abraham and the people of Israel as a possession forever (Genesis 12:7; 13:14-15; 15:18-21; 17:8; 1 Chronicles 16:15-18; Psalm 105:8-11), Israel must hold ownership of Canaan through the end of history. This does not mean that Israel had to live in this land continuously in order to maintain ownership. Many landlords own property, which they do not personally inhabit. Thus, ownership does not require personal inhabiting of property by its owner. Israel‘s dispersions from Canaan because of sins have not ended its ownership of the land. Thus, Israel has rightful claim to the land both today and in the future.
In line with this rightful claim, many of the prophets foretold a total, permanent restoration of the people of Israel to the land which God promised to their fathers and them in the Abrahamic Covenant. For example, God said to the Prophet Isaiah, "Thy people also shall be all righteous: they shall inherit the land forever, the branch of my planting, the work of my hands, that I may be glorified" (Isaiah 60:21).
Jeremiah foretold that in the future, when Jerusalem becomes "the throne of the LORD" and all nations are gathered to it, all the tribes of Israel will be reunited in the land which God gave to their fathers as an inheritance (Jeremiah 3:17-18). Again he declared that when David‘s righteous Branch, the Messiah, reigns as King, God will once again gather the sons of Israel from the nations of the world and restore them to their own land which He gave to their fathers (Jeremiah 16:14-15; 23:5-8; 30:3). Further, through Jeremiah God promised that when He restores Israel to the land, he will make the people of Israel dwell in safety, will do them good, and "will plant them in this land assuredly" with all His heart and soul (Jeremiah 32:37, 41). The language of these promises indicates that God is fervently committed to this future restoration of Israel to its land and that this restoration is dependent upon God‘s faithfulness to His Word expressed in the Abrahamic Covenant.
Ezekiel prophesied that God would restore the sons of Israel to their own land, the land which He swore to give to their forefathers. At that time God will make Israel one nation; no longer will it be divided into two kingdoms. Israel will have one king. The Israelites will live securely in their own land. No longer will they be a prey to other nations or have to endure their insults, for God will execute judgments upon all who scorn them. The restored Israelites and their descendants will live in their own land forever. God will not hide His face from them any longer. He will make an everlasting covenant with them, in spite of Israel‘s evil and the fact that the nation does not deserve it. God will do it to vindicate the holiness of His name, to make Israel recognize their true God, and to impress all the other nations with Himself (Ezekiel 20:42, 44; 28:25-26; 34:13, 27-29; 36:22-32; 37:11-26; 39:25-29). These divinely stated purposes indicate once again that Israel‘s future, permanent restoration to its own land is ultimately dependent upon God, not upon Israel‘s obedience.
The Prophet Amos declared that God will restore the captivity of Israel. At that time the people of Israel will rebuild their ruined cities, plant vineyards and gardens, and enjoy the fruit of their labors. God declared, "And I will plant them upon their land, and they shall no more be pulled up out of their land which I have given them" (Amos 9:15).
Several things should be noted in light of these prophetic passages. The present restoration of Israel to its homeland that began in the middle of the 20th century is not the fulfillment of these prophecies. Two things indicate this. First, these prophecies foretell a total restoration of the Jews to their land from all the nations of the world. By contrast, the 20th century restoration has not been total. Those Jews who are still scattered among the nations of the world are considerably more numerous than those living in the state of Israel.
Second, these prophetic passages indicate that all the Jews who will return to their homeland in this future restoration will be righteous. They will dwell in complete safety. No one will insult or make them afraid. The Messiah, the righteous Branch of David, will reign over them as their King. They will recognize their true God. None of these things is a reality for the Jews in the present state of Israel. These conditions will not become reality for Israel until the Messiah will come in His Second Coming to reign as King. Thus, the restoration of Israel foretold in these prophetic passages will not take place until His Second Coming.
Another observation to be made on the basis of these prophetic passages is that the divine promises of these passages indicate that God regards the nation of Israel as the continuous owner of the land of Canaan in spite of its various dispersions from that land. They indicate this by God‘s use of such expressions as their own land. God punished Israel for its sins by temporarily removing it more than once from its own land, but He will never punish it to the extent of abolishing its ownership of that land. To do so would be to violate His promise in the Abrahamic Covenant to give the land of Canaan to the fathers and people of Israel forever.
There is, then, an inseparable link between the Abrahamic Covenant and the prophetic passages that promise Israel‘s total, permanent restoration to its homeland and future blessing. The covenant is the foundation or basis for these prophetic passages, and the passages are the natural outgrowth or result of the covenant. They foretell the ultimate, final fulfillment of the divine promise to Israel contained in the Abrahamic Covenant.
Some Important Conclusions
The twofold effect of the unconditional Abrahamic Covenant upon Israel prompts some important conclusions.
First, the fact that the Abrahamic Covenant guarantees Israel permanent existence as a nation prompts the conclusion that Jews will always be present in the world. No matter how ugly and powerful anti-Semitism may become, it will never be able to annihilate the Jews totally. This guarantee of the Abrahamic Covenant stands as an unyielding, immovable stone against which anti-Semitism will dash itself to bits in the future Tribulation period when it will make its last and greatest effort to destroy Israel.
Second, the fact that the Abrahamic Covenant guarantees Israel permanent ownership of the land of Canaan prompts the conclusion that Israel has the right to live in that land and exist there as an independent nation state at any time, even when world conditions do not permit it to do so. Even if future world events were to force Israel out of its homeland again in the future, the Abrahamic Covenant would forbid the conclusion that God had revoked the nation‘s ownership of that land and its right to live there. God‘s Abrahamic Covenant promises to that nation and its fathers are irrevocable (Romans 11:28-29).
I think by examining this study of the Abrahamic Covenant one can readily see what the grace of God is all about and is a tool to combat Replacement theology and Preterest teaching.
Sent by David Lamon