GOD’S COVENANT WITH ABRAHAM
T. PIERCE BROWN
When one is cutting down a tree, it is not necessary to cut off each twig or branch. If one cuts it off at the base, or uproots it, the tree is down. However, there are values in cutting it up in smaller pieces for other purposes. The same is true with any false doctrine. For example, there are numerous verses in the Bible that show the falsity of premillennialism. Any one of them cuts it off at the roots. When a doctrine is based upon the idea that the kingdom that God promised has not yet been established, but God’s word plainly teaches that it has, we need go no farther to show that the doctrine is false. Mark 9:1 says, “And he said unto them, Verily I say unto you, There are some of them that stand by, who shall in no wise taste of death, till they see the kingdom of God come with power.” Since it is evident that none of them are still living, the kingdom has come with power. Many other passages are equally decisive.
However, we want to examine some roots of the tree and see that it is rotten from the roots up. Also, when we examine it in smaller parts, we can better understand and combat other related false doctrines.
One of the foundations of the premillenial doctrine is that God made a covenant with Abraham that has never been fulfilled. It must therefore be fulfilled in the millennium, a thousand-year period in which Christ will set up the kingdom that He planned to set up, and the Jews will inherit the land which was promised to them, but they never received. How a literal thousand-year reign can fulfill a promise that they will possess the land forever is not clear.
It would take several large books to properly deal with all the errors of the system, but let us look at a small sample. J. D. Pentecost says on page 70 of THINGS TO COME that since Abraham, Isaac and Jacob died without receiving the fulfillment of the promises (Heb. 11:13), it was necessary for God to raise them from the dead to fulfill His word. Then on page 73 he says, “If it is a literal covenant to be fulfilled literally, thenIsraelmust be preserved, converted and restored.”
Let us note some of the promises made to Abraham and what the Bible says about their fulfillment. It is interesting to note that the same author, on page 83, after giving a list of promises, says, “Denial that these aforementioned promises have been fulfilled is puerile.” Since he says the covenant has never been fulfilled, then gives a list of the things that were fulfilled, what part of the covenant has not been fulfilled, according to his assumptions?
The primary thing seems to be the land promise. In order to give himself room to maneuver, he says on page 68 that although the covenant is an unconditional one and promises Abraham and his seed the land forever, “an unconditional covenant may have blessings attached to that covenant that are conditioned upon the response of the recipient of the covenant–but these conditioned blessings do not change the unconditional character of the covenant.” It is remarkable how theologians, diplomats and politicians can throw words together that sound like they might mean something but do not. How a covenant can be unconditional and have the blessing of a promised land, but the blessing be conditioned on the response of the recipient, and yet the promise be unconditional is never explained. He does not specify which blessings of the covenant had conditions attached, but it could not possibly be the blessing of keeping the land! It does not seem to matter that Deuteronomy 4:26 says, “I call heaven and earth to witness against you this day that ye shall soon utterly perish from off the land whereunto you go over the Jordan to possess it; ye shall not prolong your days upon it, but shall utterly be destroyed.” Deuteronomy8:20says, “As the nations that Jehovah maketh to perish before you, so shall ye perish; because ye would not hearken unto the voice of Jehovah your God.” These are but two of many such references, which show that the idea of an unconditional covenant with disobedient people to receive the land forever is but a figment of imagination.
Let us look at the facts of the case, as the Bible gives them. God says, “I will give to you and your seed after you this land.” Regardless of what any unbeliever says, Joshua 21:43-45 says, “So Jehovah gave untoIsraelall the land which he sware to give unto their fathers; and they possessed it, and dwelt therein. And Jehovah gave them rest round about, according to all that he sware unto their fathers: and there stood not a man of all their enemies before them; Jehovah delivered all their enemies into their hand. There failed not aught of any good thing which Jehovah had spoken unto the house ofIsrael; all came to pass.”
Without another scripture, although there are other similar ones, the whole foundation of the premillenial theory is destroyed, for it based upon the idea that they never received the promise of the land. However, we need to understand that even though they received it, God also told them that they would lose it if they were not faithful. Deuteronomy 4:28, 8:19-20 and dozens of other scriptures make this abundantly clear. Jeremiah19:11makes it even more striking, if possible, “Thus saith Jehovah of hosts: Even so will I break this people and this city, as one breaketh a potter’s vessel, that cannot be made whole again.”
Paul shows in Romans 9 through 11 that even though that was true, and they lost their right to the land, God has not cast away his people, for Paul was one of them. In Romans 11:5 he says, “Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace.” He shows clearly that it is not the fleshly children of Abraham who are to receive the promise, but the spiritual ones who walk by faith. Galatians 3:7 says, “Know therefore that they that are of faith, the same are sons of Abraham.”
However, it is affirmed that Hebrews11:13shows that they did not receive the promises, so they must be resurrected to receive them. It says, “These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.” How can we reconcile Hebrews 11:13 with Hebrews 6:15 that says he did receive the promise and Joshua 21:43-45 that says that not one word failed, it all came to pass? The answer seems simple for those who accept the Bible as God’s word. Abraham, Isaac and Jacob died before all of the promises were fulfilled, for some of the promises had to do with the coming of Christ and the blessings that came through Him, including the “eternal city, whose builder and maker is God.” Even while they were dwelling in the land that had been promised them, they recognized that they were but pilgrims and sojourners, looking for an eternal home. Hebrews 11:13-16 shows that Abraham was not expecting an earthly home, but a heavenly one. The whole of Galatians 3 shows the same thing, summarized by the statement in Galatians 3:27,”And if ye are Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, heirs according to the promise.”
One other point needs our consideration. It is affirmed that the land was promised to them forever, so they lost it by disobedience, so they will have to get it in the millennium to have the promise fulfilled. There are several problems with that. If Christ is to reign 1000 years, and they are to inherit the land during that time, that 1000 years would no more be forever than some other prior period would be. The truth is that the Hebrew word “olam,” translated “everlasting,” is equivalent to the Greek phrase “eis ton aiona,” which literally means “unto the age” and is an undefined period, meaning “throughout the age” to which it refers. Such passages as Deuteronomy 15:17 where a servant was to belong to his master “forever” and Philemon 15 where the same idea is expressed show it to have reference to an undetermined length of time, but throughout the period under consideration — whatever the period was. Exodus 30:21 gives a fairly clear picture of how a thing could be said to be “forever,” but only last throughout their generations–as long as they existed as God’s chosen people. He is giving instructions to Aaron and his sons who were to be priests. He says, “So they shall wash their hands and their feet, that they die not: and it shall be a statute for ever to them, even to him and to his seed throughout their generations.” Although it was said to be a statute forever, it was to be only “throughout their generations” and the Aaronic priesthood is shown by the Hebrew letter to be replaced by Christ, who is a priest forever, after the order of Melchizedek. It is amazing almost beyond belief that persons who claim to be preachers of the gospel can either deny these facts or teach that although they do not believe the premillenial doctrine, it is of no consequence. It is of serious consequence, for one cannot consistently believe that doctrine and believe what the inspired Apostles and Christ Himself taught.
So God’s covenant with Abraham was not unconditional, and like all other promises of God was either fulfilled or is being fulfilled. The parts that were literally fulfilled are clearly shown, such as the land promise. The parts that are spiritually fulfilled are also shown by the New Testament writers who specifically indicate their fulfillment. Remember that the surest way to know if a prophecy has been fulfilled is to listen to God’s word as He says, “This is that which was spoken” or other similar words.