Looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory |
of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus (Titus 2:13)
Abraham - Israel - The World
Covenant Theology cannot see the future glory of the restored nation of Israel with her Messiah, Jesus Christ, reigning over the entire earth on His father David's throne in the exalted city of Jerusalem because it refuses to recognize (literally) the four unconditional covenants that reveal this marvelous truth. Of these four covenants revealed in Scripture the most important to understand is the unconditional, Abrahamic covenant (Gen. 12:1-3; 13:14-17; 15:1-7; 17:1-8) with promises given along three major lines:
(1) Abraham would have numerous posterity (Gen. 13:16; 17:16), be given much personal blessing, his name would be great and he personally would be a blessing (Gen. 12:2).
(2) Through Abraham a great nation would emerge (Gen. 12:2). Its primary reference is to Israel, his descendants through Jacob who formed the twelve tribes of Israel. To this nation was given the promise of the land forever (Canaan, Gen. 12:7; 13:15; 15:18-21; 17:7-8).
(3) Through Abraham divine blessing would come to all the families of the earth (Gen. 12:3). This would be directly fulfilled through the nation of Israel which would be God's special channel of divine revelation: The prophets, the writers of Scripture, and ultimately the Person of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world, a direct descendant (Seed, Gen. 22:18; Gal. 3:15-19) of Abraham through Isaac and Jacob. For this reason the covenant specified that those who blessed Israel would be blessed and those who cursed Israel would be cursed. This stipulation remains in effect today since God has yet to fulfill his eternal promise with the Nation.
The Abrahamic covenant is extremely important to understand because on it hinge the other three unconditional covenants: the Davidic (2Sam. 7:4-16), Land (Deu. 30:1-10) and New (Jer. 31:31-33) covenants. Though they are separate covenants they are really an expansion of the Abrahamic. As the Abrahamic covenant guarantees to Israel an everlasting entity as a nation, the Land covenant reiterates the nation's guaranteed possession of the land. The Davidic covenant guarantees to the nation an everlasting throne (2 Sam. 7:16; Ps. 89:36), an everlasting King (Jer. 33:15-21) and an everlasting kingdom (Dan. 7:14, see Lk. 1:32-33). The New covenant guarantees its spiritual life and blessings.
J. Dwight Pentecost states succinctly the importance of recognizing the literalness of the Abrahamic covenant for understanding accurately Biblical eschatology:
"Thus it may be said that the land promises of the Abrahamic covenant are developed in the Palestinian covenant, the seed promises are developed in the Davidic covenant, and the blessing promises are developed in the New covenant. This covenant, then, determines the whole future program for the nation of Israel and is a major factor in Biblical Eschatology." (Things To Come)
Covenant Theology is largely constructed on two theological covenants: Works and Grace, as well as an ecclesiology that extends from the Garden of Eden to the Great White Throne. In other words, one universal, continuous church throughout the ages. However, the theological terms Covenant of Works and Covenant of Grace do not occur in Scripture, so if they were to be sustained it must be wholly apart from Biblical authority.
In order to remain true to its theologically (not Biblically) based system, the adherents of Covenant Theology must dismiss the Abrahamic covenant with the future eschatological promises it holds for national Israel. Below are four examples of how they try to discredit Israel's Biblical covenants, followed by my commentary:
1. Genesis 17:9-10 proves that the Abrahamic covenant is conditional?
The only conditional element for God to enter into a covenant with Abraham was Abraham's act of obedience in leaving his homeland and going to the land of promise. Once Abraham obeyed, the covenant that was instituted depended not upon Abraham's continued obedience (or his descendant's) but upon the promise of the One who instituted it (God).
That Abraham's descendants would literally inherit the land forever was ritually symbolized in Gen. 15:7-21. The symbolic action of only one (God) passing through the severed, acceptable, sacrificial animals is what reveals the land portion of the Abrahamic covenant unconditional. In other words, it is God alone who will fulfill it. A deep sleep fell upon Abram and he was not allowed to pass through with God. It was not a covenant made between the two with requirement put on Abram, but as Scripture states, "On that day the Lord (Himself) made a covenant with Abram saying, "To your descendants I have given this land, from the river of Egypt as far as the great river, the river Euphrates" (Gen. 15:18).
However, within the context of this passage God reveals that Abram's descendants will for sure ("know for certain") be enslaved in a land that is not theirs (Egypt). But true to the unconditional nature of the covenant they will return to their land with many possessions (the Exodus).
God, faithful to the unconditional nature of the Abrahamic covenant, sovereignly and powerfully redeemed Israel out of Egypt. And based on this same unconditional covenant, Israel is back in their ancient, promised homeland today for the purpose of soon receiving its Messiah, Jesus Christ, and the future enjoyment of the promised earthly, Davidic Kingdom (Lk. 1:32-33; cf 2Sam. 7:16; Is 9:7; Rev. 3:21). Based on the unconditional nature of the covenant, the land is theirs... unconditionally! The literal boundaries are mentioned in verse eighteen of Genesis fifteen.
The ultimate fulfillment of the Abrahamic covenant and the possession of the land by his descendants is not hinged on faithfulness respecting the matter of circumcision, because the promise regarding the land was given even before the rite of circumcision was introduced (Gen. 12:7). A descendant of Jacob not circumcised was considered outside the promised blessing but the convent itself was not conditionally based upon it. Circumcision is a seal or sign of the promise, not its condition.
2. Cut covenants were not a traditional custom in those days.
This statement is more rooted in prejudice than Biblical ignorance.
(A) The word for covenant in Hebrew literally means "to cut."
(B) In the text Abram asks YAHWEH how he may know (for sure) he shall possess the land (Gen. 15:8). After the covenantal act in Gen. 15:7-21, Abram did not respond by saying he did not understand. Obviously, God did not present to Abram something he was not custom to in his day.
3. Joshua 21:45 and 23:14-16 justify that all God's promises regarding the land to Abraham's descendants have already been fulfilled.
John F. Walvoord answers this quite well:
"The amillennialism position is often distinguished for its blindness to facts which would upset its own argument. The present instance is a good illustration. If its promises regarding the land were fulfilled in Joshua's time or in Solomon's, why do the Scriptures which were written later still appeal to the hope of future possession of the land? Practically every one of the Major and Minor Prophets mention in some form the hope of future possession of the land. All of them were written after Solomon's day. This is an obvious rebuttal to the amillennial position and points to the amillennial failure to face the real issues of the millennial debate with a view to all the evidence.
4. Nowhere does the Bible say that Christ will establish a kingdom on earth.
In Luke 1:32-33 Mary is told that her Son would be given the throne of His father David and He would reign over the house of Jacob forever and His kingdom would have no end. Just prior to Christ's ascension His disciples, knowing the Davidic, Messianic Kingdom promises, asked if it was at this time He (the Son of David) was restoring the Kingdom to Israel. Jesus did not rebuke them, accusing them of error in their thinking, but instead responded by saying it was not for them to know the times or epochs fixed by the Father (Acts 1:6-7). In other words, Israel's Messianic, Kingdom hope was yet future.
In Acts 15:12-18 James lays out the chronology. During this Church age God is now taking out from among the Gentiles (alongside believing Jews) a people for His name (the Body/Church of Christ), and then "After these things (the Church age) I will return and I will rebuild the tabernacle of David which has fallen, and I will rebuild its ruins, and I will restore it..." In Rom. 11, Paul argues that they (Israel) did not stumble so as to fall (i.e., never to recover, vs. 11), and speaks of the nation's future "fulfillment" (vs. 11) and its future "life from the dead" (vs. 15). In Rom. 11:25ff, Paul reveals that a partial hardening has happened to Israel "until the fulness of the Gentiles has come in" (to the Church) and then "all Israel (national) will be saved, just as it is written"(emphasis mine).
The prophetic scene depicting Christ's return in Rev 19 does not present the destruction of this present world, but Jesus is seen coming to this earth to smite the nations and rule them with a rod of iron (Ps. 2; cf Matt. 25:31-46). And in the following chapter (Rev. 20) the duration of 1000 years is stated no less than six times.
All of these (and myriads of others) New Testament prophecies coincide with the literal interpretation of the Old Testament prophecies regarding a Kingdom with Israel's Messiah ruling from David's literal, earthly throne over Israel and all the nations of the earth. For example, Daniel 2:35 & 44 speak of a literal, earthly Kingdom which the God of Heaven will set up and that Kingdom will never be destroyed.
The O.T. prophecies are far too numerous to list but are clearly understood when left to their literal (or normal) interpretation. For instance, read Micah 4:1-8; Hag. 2:7-9; Zech. 2:10-13; 6:12-13; 8:1-8, 13, 18-23 (see, Num. 14:21; Is. 11:9); 9:9-10; 12:10; as well as all of Zechariah chapter fourteen.
The Church is not Israel
The Old Testament ended with the hope of the fortunes of Israel yet to be faithfully restored and neither Jesus nor the writers of the New Testament give any indication that this is now, or was to be, fulfilled in or by the Church (Jer. 29:14; 30:3,18; 32:44; 33:7,11; Eze. 39:25; Joel 3:1; Zeph. 3:20) The theological concept that the Church now spiritually fulfills these Old Testament national promises is read into the Scriptures, not a drawn conclusion from and by the Scriptures. It is no accident that the nation of Israel, against all odds and after 2000 years of Jewish dispersion, again exists in its ancient homeland. God is true to His Word and He has promised, according to the prophets, that such an event would occur prior to the Messiah's return, faithfully fulfilling the unconditional covenants made with Abraham and the nation - to His glory.
It should be clearly understood that Covenant Theology is not based on what the Scriptures literally reveal, or, in other words, an exegetical study of the Word, but on man's presuppositional notion that God is finished with national Israel and that the Church is now the consummation of His work on earth. Therefore, those who postulate such a notion must spiritualize or allegorize large bodies of Scripture in order for them to conform or bend to their preconceived ideas. However, both the Old and New Testament Scriptures, when allowed a normal interpretation, militate against this error. Not to mention the ever present testimony of that nation which once again exists in the middle east. Just as God's Word literally said would take place prior to Christ's (Messiah's) return.
Written by Gary Nystrom