How God Will Fulfill His Promises to Abraham and Israel

[Articles in the Multiple Views series are intended to present various views held by Christians, in an objective and unbiased manner]

What were God’s promises to Abraham?

  1. To make a great nation from Abraham’s descendants (Genesis 12:1-3)
  2. To give to Abraham’s descendants all the land of Canaan (Genesis 15:18-21)
  3. To make Abraham a father of many nations (Genesis 17:2-9)
A) Dispensational i) Quick Summary: God has two plans with two people, the church and Israel. God will fulfill His promises to Abraham and Israel by giving to ethnic Jews the land that He promised to Abraham

“Throughout the ages God is pursuing two distinct purposes: one related to the earth with earthly people and earthly objectives involved, which is Judaism; while the other is related to heaven with heavenly people and heavenly objectives involved, which is Christianity.” [1]

ii) Specifics

  1. Fulfillment in the future through the nation of Israel: At some point in the future, physical descendants of the ancient Israelite people will possess the land God promised to Abraham

iii) Different ways someone can be a child of Abraham [2]

  1. Through physical descent: The Jewish people are children of Abraham through natural lineage from Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
  2. Through spiritual adoption: Believers in Jesus Christ are children to Abraham through a spiritual lineage. God’s purpose in the spiritual lineage is separate from His purpose and work with the nation of Israel.

The offer of grace to Gentiles was “an unexpected and unpredicted” spiritual parenthesis within God’s work with the physical descendants of Abraham. [3]

B) Covenantal   i) Quick Summary: God has one plan with one people, with one covenant of grace which extends from the fall of humanity to the end of time. God’s work with Israel was preparatory for His work with the church

ii) Differing opinions amongst covenantal theologians on the specifics:

  1. Fulfillment during King Soloman’s reign: According to 1 Kings 4:21, Solomon ruled all the kingdoms from the Euphrates River to the border of Egypt. This fulfilled God’s promise to Abraham in Genesis 15:18
  2. A promise with a condition: God promised that the descendants of Abraham would receive the land regardless of their deeds (Deuteronomy 9:5) but would retain the land only if they remained faithful to their God (Joshua 23:15-16). When the Israelites turned to other gods, they lost this aspect of God’s blessing (Deuteronomy 4:26)
  3. Fulfillment through the church:  The church has superseded Israel as God’s people. God is fulfilling His promises to the Jewish people through the church. Verse referred to include Galatians 6:16, James 1:1, Matthew 21:43)

Because the Jewish people had not               turned to Jesus, “God changed his                 covenant – that is, he bestowed the               inheritance of eternal life on foreign           nations – and collected to himself a               more faithful people.” [4]

C) New Covenantal  i) Quick Summary: God has one purpose that He has worked out through multiple covenants. God’s work with Abraham and Israel was a temporary picture of what God has already purposed to do in Jesus. God’s promises to Abraham find their fulfillment in Jesus

“The [Old Testament] law was a parable, a sketch. The gospel became the explanation of the law and its fulfillment.” [5]

ii) Specifics

  1. Old covenant as a temporary picture of the new covenant: The covenant with Abraham and Israel was intended to be fulfilled in Jesus and then to pass away (Hebrews 3:5, 8:5-13, 9:8-10, 10:9). The present and future reign of Jesus over all the earth fulfills God’s promise to Abraham.
  2. Fulfillment in Jesus Christ: God’s promise was made primarily to one offspring of Abraham, Jesus the Messiah (Genesis 12:7; Galatians 3:16). The present and future reign of Jesus over all the earth fulfills God’s promise to Abraham.

[1] Lewis Sperry Chafer, Dispensationalism (1951), p.107

[2] John F. Walvoord, The Millennial Kingdom (2010), p.145

[3] John F. Walvoord, The Rapture Question (2010)

[4] Lactanius, Divinarum Institutionum, 4:11

[5] Melito of Sardis, Peri Pascha, pp. 39-45

Source: Rose Guide to End-Times Prophecy (2011), pp.54, 57-63

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