I. Video. Jump-Starting A Depleted Spiritual Battery. Mark Yarbrough (Ph. D.), President, Dallas Theological Seminary.
II. Article References.
Charles C. Ryrie, Th. D., Ph. D., D. Litt. Merrill F. Unger, Th. D., Ph. D. John F. Walvoord, Th. D., D. Litt. Harold W. Hoehner, Th. D., Ph. D. Stanley D. Toussaint, Th. D. Edward E. Hindson Th. D., Ph. D. Robert L. Thomas, Th. D. Lewis Sperry Chafer, Th. D., D. Litt. J. Dwight Pentecost, Th. D. Robert P. Lightner, Th. D.
III. Article Narrative. The Eschatological Implications Of The Abrahamic Covenant.
A. When it has been determined that the Abrahamic covenant is an unconditional covenant made with Israel, and therefore cannot be either abrogated or fulfilled by people other than the nation Israel, it is seen that Israel has promises regarding a land and a seed, which determine the future program of God. These words land and seed, together with the word blessing, summarize the essential features of the eschatological portion of the covenant. An examination of the promises of God to Abraham will show this twofold emphasis in the promise.
1. Unto thy seed will I give this land [Gen. 12:7]. 2. For all the land which thou seest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed forever. And I will make thy seed as the dust of the earth: so that if a man can number the dust of the earth, then shall their seed also be numbered [Gen. 13:15-16]. 3. In the same day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying, Unto thy seed have I given this land [Gen. 15:18]. 4. 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. And I will give unto thee, the land wherein thou art a stranger, all the land of Canaan, for everlasting possession [Gen. 17:7-8].
B. It is impossible to escape the conclusion that the promise included features related to the physical seed of Abraham and features related to the land given that seed. It is necessary, then, to examine the areas of the seed and the land to determine their effect on future events.
C. Ryrie outlines the implications of the covenant. He says: All agree that the Abrahamic covenant is one of the outstanding covenants in the Word of God. Its crucial issues in relation to premillennialism are two:
1. Does the Abrahamic covenant promise Israel a permanent existence as a nation? If it does, then the Church is not fulfilling Israel’s promises, but rather Israel as a nation has a future yet in prospect; and ,
2. Does the Abrahamic covenant promise Israel permanent possession of the promised land? If it does, then Israel must yet come into possession of the land, for she has never fully possessed it in her history.
D. Who is the seed of Abraham? It would seem obvious to all who are not
deliberately trying to pervert the plain teaching of Scripture that the seed of Abraham, of necessity, is the term applied to the physical descendants of Abraham. Walvoord writes:
1. An examination of the whole context of the Abrahamic Covenant shows that first of all it was vitally connected with Abraham’s physical seed, Isaac. God said of Isaac before he was born, “I will establish my covenant with him for an everlasting covenant and with his seed after him” (Gen. 17:19). How did Abraham understand the term seed here? Obviously, it had reference to the physical seed, Isaac, and his physical descendants. God did not say that no spiritual blessing would come to those outside the physical seed, but the physical line of Isaac would inherit the promises given to the “seed of Abraham.”
a. Nothing should be plainer than that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob understood the term seed as referring to their physical lineage.
b. And again: The term “Israel.” As a title given to Jacob, meaning prince of God, it has commonly been used to designate the physical descendants of Jacob. Israel must mean Israel, and the kingdom promises in the Old Testament concern Israel and are to be fulfilled to Israel literally.
2. It is not denied that the Abrahamic covenant offers universal blessings to those who are not the physical seed of Abraham, but it is affirmed that the national promises can only be fulfilled by the nation itself. Thus, the word Israel is taken in its usual, literal, sense to mean the physical descendants of Abraham
E. The kinds of seeds mentioned in Scripture. The whole issue may be clarified if one observes that the Scripture does not present just one kind of seed that is born to Abraham. The failure to observe this differentiation of Scripture has led to confusion. Walvoord writes: There are, then, three different senses in which one can be a child of Abraham.
1. First, there is the natural lineage, or natural seed. This is limited largely to the descendants of Jacob in the twelve tribes. To them God promises to be their God. To them was given the law. To them was given the land of Israel in the Old Testament. With them God dealt in a special way.
2. Second, there is the spiritual lineage within the natural. These are the Israelites who believed in God, who kept the law, and who met the conditions for present enjoyment of the blessings of the covenant. Those who ultimately possess the land in the future millennium will also be of spiritual Israel.
3. Third, there is the spiritual seed of Abraham who are not natural Israelites. Here is where the promise to “all the families of the earth” comes in. This is the express application of this phrase in Galatians 3:6-9. In other words, the children of Abraham (spiritually) who come from the heathen or Gentiles fulfill that aspect of the Abrahamic Covenant which dealt with Gentiles in the first place, not the promises pertaining to Israel. The only sense in which Gentiles can be Abraham’s seed in the Galatians context is to be “in Christ Jesus”
(Gal. 3:28). It follows: “And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise” (Gal. 3:29). They are Abraham’s seed in the spiritual sense only and heirs of the promise given “to all the families of the earth.”
4. A spiritual seed for Abraham includes Gentiles, and fulfills the
promises given to the natural seed, that the promises to the seed of Abraham are fulfilled by Gentile believers. To make the blessings promised all the nations the same as the blessings promised the seed of Abraham is an unwarranted conclusion. This distinction will explain how the church may be related to the promises of the covenant without being the covenant people in whom the national promises will be fulfilled. Because we are the seed of Abraham spiritually by the new birth, it does not mean we are the physical seed of the patriarch.
F. The church is not Israel. The only logical conclusion that can grow out of this
discussion is that the Gentile believers of the present day, while reckoned as a seed to Abraham, are not the seed in which national promises are to be fulfilled. This is well proved by observing certain facts in the New Testament usage of the words.
(1) Natural Israel and the Gentiles are contrasted in the New Testament (Acts 3:12; 4:8; 21:28; Rom. 10:1). The fact that Israel is addressed as a nation after the establishment of the church and that the term Jew continues to be used as distinct from the church (1 Cor. 10:32) shows that the Gentiles do not supplant Israel in God’s covenant program.
(2) Natural Israel and the church are contrasted in the New Testament (Rom. 11:1-25; 1 Cor. 10:32). In Romans 11 it is shown that God has taken the nation Israel out of the place of blessing temporarily, but will restore them to that place of blessing when His program with the church is terminated. This consideration shows that the church does not supplant Israel in God’s covenant program.
(3) Jewish Christians, who would be a part of spiritual Israel, and Gentile Christians are contrasted in the New Testament (Rom. 9:6, where Paul contrasts these promises which belong to Israel according to the flesh and those which belong to Israel who enter into them by faith; Gal. 6:15-16, where Paul specifically mentions believing Jews in the benediction pronounced on the whole body of Christ). The point seems to be well established, then, that the church today is not Israel in whom these covenants are fulfilled. It is strange that those, who argues that the covenants need not be fulfilled because they were conditional and the conditions were not met by Israel, and who argues further that they will not be fulfilled because they have been historically fulfilled in the Solomonic kingdom, now argues that they are being fulfilled by the church. If they were conditional or already fulfilled why not ignore the covenant promises entirely? Why make such an issue of it? The only answer is that the covenants form such a foundation for the whole expectation of the Word of God that they can not be ignored, even by those who deny their existence or their relevancy to the eschatological program.
G. The relation of the church to the covenant.
1. Since the church is not the seed in whom the covenants will be finally and literally fulfilled, it is well to consider the question of her relation to the whole covenant program. Any relationship which the church sustains to the promises is based, not on physical birth, but on a new birth, and is hers because the individuals are “in Christ.”
2. It is said that “the Seed” shall inherit the land; and we are told by many that this was fulfilled in the history of the Jews under Joshua, the Judges, and the
Kings. What, however, are the facts as given by the Holy Spirit?
a. Certainly, in the interpretation of covenant promise, Holy Writ should be allowed to be its own interpreter, that we may ascertain the meaning intended by God. Let God, then, and not man, explain: “Now (Gal. 3:16) to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, ‘And to seeds’ as of many, but as of one, ‘And to thy seed,’ which is Christ.”
b. If language has any definite meaning, then, without doubt we have here the simple declaration that when God promised “Unto thy seed will I give this land,” He meant that the land of Canaan should be inherited by a single Person—preeminently the Seed—descended from Abraham, even Jesus Christ.
3. The church receives of the promises solely because of relationship to the One in whom the promises find fulfillment. She participates with Him in all He does to bring the covenant to completion. In citing the Abrahamic covenant, Peter, in Acts 3:25, applies only the universal aspects of the covenant to those to whom he speaks. The national aspects must await future fulfillment by the nation Israel.
H. Will the seed possess the land?
1. It is evident from the previous discussion of Abraham was promised the eternal possession of the land. The promise of possession of the land by the seed of Abraham is a prominent feature of the covenant, and the way the promise is given enhances its significance. The promise as given emphasizes that: (1) it is gracious in its principle; (2) the land is an inheritance of the seed; (3) its title is given forever; (4) the land is to be possessed forever; (5) the land promised includes specific territory defined by boundaries.
2. This promise is the basis of the expectation of the Old Testament, and the substance of the prophets’ message. If Israel has been rejected as a nation because of its unbelief, this great line of Old Testament prophecy would be without the possibility of fulfillment. Ryrie well answers the argument that Israel has been set aside. He writes: “Since some insist that the nation has been completely rejected of God, two passages of Scripture must be carefully examined.”
a. The first one is Matthew 21:43: “Therefore say I unto you, The kingdom of
God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits
b. An accurate interpretation of this verse must answer these questions.
(1) what will be taken away, (2) from whom is it taken, (3) and to whom is it given? It is the kingdom of God that is taken from them. The kingdom of God is the sphere of true faith in God. The Lord is saying to these Jews that, because they had rejected Him, they could not enter the kingdom of God, for “except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3). From whom was the kingdom of God taken? It seems clear the you refers to the generation to whom the Lord was speaking. To whom would the kingdom be given? By application, the “nation bringing forth the fruits thereof” may mean any generation which will turn to Christ; but in its strict interpretation it refers to the nation Israel when she shall turn to the Lord and be saved before entering the millennial kingdom.
c. The second passage which shows conclusively that Israel will be restored is the passage which deals with her future salvation, Romans 11:26-27.
(1) And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written. There shall come out of Sion
the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob; For this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins.
(2) Careful exegetes agree that Israel means Israel in this passage. This
passage teaches, then, that all Israel, in contrast to the remnant being saved today, will be saved at the Second Coming of Christ.
d. From these two passages it is clear that Israel has not been cast off but will be restored to the place of blessing in the future. Israel, because she has not been disinherited, will be in a position to fulfill the Abrahamic covenant.
I. Has the Abrahamic covenant been fulfilled?
1. There are those who contend that this covenant will not be fulfilled in the future because it has been fulfilled already in the past. The literalist reminds us of the word “forever” which to him is the all important word here. We are frequently reminded that the “forever” must mean “FOREVER.” This is not without difficulty even for the literalist.
a. Man’s tenure of any part of the earth is not permanent. “It is appointed unto man once to die and after that the judgment.” His leases and contracts in material possessions must come to an end. What, then, does God mean? What would Abraham understand by the word “forever”?
b. If a man is threatened with eviction from his home and a friend of
proven ability, to implement his promises, will give him a promise that he shall
possess that home forever, how shall he interpret those words? He will not expect to live there eternally. The most he could expect from the promise would be that he should spend his natural life there and that his dust should rest there after death. This was what God plainly promised and fulfilled to Abraham. He possessed the land of Canaan in every sense in which a man can possess a land.
2. How empty to contend that the covenanted possession of the land is fulfilled in that the ashes of Abraham rest in its soil! To say that all this was fulfilled in the occupation of Canaan, by the preparatory or initiatory possession of it by the descendants of Abraham, is not only contradicted by Scripture, but is a virtual limiting of the promise.
3. Whatever may be said respecting the temporary possession of Canaan, or
whatever may be asserted respecting the descendants being meant “as yet in his loins,” etc., one thing is most positively stated in the Bible, viz.: that this promise was not fulfilled in the Patriarchs, in any of the forms alleged by unbelief. The Spirit, foreseeing this very objection, provided against it, lest our faith should stumble. Thus Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, tells us (Acts 7:5) that “He (God) gave him (Abraham) none inheritance in it, no, not so much as to set his foot on, yet He promised that He would give it to him for a possession and to his seed after him. This should be decisive, especially when confirmed by Paul (Heb. 9:8, 9, and 11:13-40), who expressly informs us that the Patriarchs sojourned in “the land of promise,” which they were to receive as “an inheritance,” “pilgrims and strangers,” and that “they died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were pilgrims and strangers on the earth.” How, with such evidence before us, can we attribute to only their posterity what is directly asserted of themselves personally?
4. This Abrahamic covenant, which contained individual promises to Abraham,
promises of the preservation of a nation, and the possession of a land by that nation, was given to a specific covenant people. Since it was unconditional and eternal, and has never yet been fulfilled, it must await a future fulfillment, Israel must be preserved as a nation, must inherit her land, and be blessed with spiritual blessings to make this inheritance possible.
5. The restoration of Israel is the capstone of the grand structure of doctrine relating to the Abrahamic Covenant. In bringing to a close consideration of this covenant, attention should be directed again to the strategic importance of this revelation to Scriptural truth. It has been seen that the covenant included provisions not only to Abraham but to Abraham’s physical seed, Israel, and to Abraham’s spiritual seed, i.e., all who follow the faith of Abraham whether Jew or Gentile in this age. It has been shown that Abraham interpreted the covenant literally as pertaining primarily to his physical seed.
6. The unconditional character of the covenant has been demonstrated—a covenant resting upon God’s promise and faithfulness alone. The partial fulfillment recorded to the present has confirmed the intent of God to give literal fulfillment to the promises.
7. It has been shown that Israel’s promise of perpetual possession of the land is an inevitable part and conclusion of the general promises given to Abraham and confirmed to his seed. Israel’s continuance as a nation, implied in these
promises, has been sustained by the continued confirmation of both Testaments.
8. It was shown that the New Testament church in no wise fulfills these promises given to Israel. Finally, Israel’s restoration as the natural outcome of these promises has been presented as the express teaching of the entire Bible. If these conclusions reached after careful examination of the Scriptural revelation are sound and reasonable, it follows that premillennialism is the only satisfactory system of doctrine that harmonizes with the Abrahamic Covenant.
I. A discussion on premillennialism.
A. Originally a doctoral dissertation, The Basis of the Premillennial Faith established the Old Testament foundation of premillennialism: “Holding to a literal interpretation of the Scriptures, [premillennialists) believe that the promises made to Abraham and David are unconditional and have, had, or will have a literal fulfillment. In no sense have these promises made to Israel been abrogated or fulfilled by the church, which is a distinct body in this age having promises and a destiny different from Israel’s” (p. 12). With this foundation, Ryrie develops the Abrahamic covenant (Genesis 12:1-3), showing that this covenant awaits a literal, future fulfillment with the establishment of Israel in the Promised Land. This can only be properly understood when recognizing the distinction between Israel and the church (cf. 1 Corinthians 10:32). The church does not receive the fulfillment of these promises; they were made to Israel and will be fulfilled to that nation.
B. Premillennialism is further established through the unconditional Davidic covenant (2 Samuel 7:12-16), which promises: (1) a posterity; (2) David’s throne will be established forever; (3) David’s kingdom will be established forever (p. 77). Many OT passages confirm the future fulfillment of the Davidic covenant (Psalm 89; Isaiah 9:6-7; Jeremiah 23:5-6; 30:8-9; 33:14-21; Ezekiel 37:24-25; Daniel 7:13-14; Hosea 3:4-5; Amos 9:11). Christ did not inaugurate this kingdom at His First Advent; it awaits His future return for fulfillment (p. 93).
C. Premillennialism also has a basis in the new covenant (Jeremiah 31:31-34), which provides unconditional grace, forgiveness, and restoration to the favor and blessing of God. While an aspect of it applies to the church, its complete fulfillment “requires the regathering of all Israel, their spiritual rebirth, and the return of Christ” (p. 111). Ultimately, “the new covenant is for Israel” (p. 124) and awaits fulfillment at Jesus’ return.
IV. Article Considerations.
A. One of the most difficult and most important factors of writing an article is related to sources of information. A writer must ensure that such sources have a high degree of knowledge on the subjects that are being written, and also must have a high degree of respect from other writers. A second factor that must be considered relates to how to lawfully use material of other writers. In this web site, copyright statutes are not violated. Also, “public domain,” is to be considered. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Public_domain
B. In this article, I have chosen theologians whom have proven themselves to be highly respected by others in the Biblical doctrine of eschatology (the study of what Scripture teaches about the end times), and other doctrines of scripture. All of the references in this article have a connection with Dallas Theological Seminary (DTS) as graduate or instructor.
C. For education and other supporting data for each source of information in this article, please refer to my Page, “About My References.” The following links show information about Dallas Theological Seminary. I encourage you to familiarize yourself with the Seminary. It is important to understand that DTS is not a denominational seminary, and is totally independent of such.
D. About Dallas Theological Seminary (DTS).
1. General Info. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dallas_Theological_Seminary
2. Doctrinal Statement. https://www.dts.edu/about/doctrinal-statement/