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The Abrahamic Covenant And Prophetic History

Part 2

The Nature of The Abrahamic Covenant   


A covenant is normally an agreement between two people. Both parties have a part to play in implementing and keeping the agreement, but not so with the Abrahamic Covenant of Genesis 15.  


Even though Genesis 15:18 and elsewhere says that God made a covenant with Abraham, technically speaking, that's not exactly the case.  Yes, God did promise Abraham certain things, but the implementation and keeping of these promises had nothing to do with Abraham.  Genesis 15 states the events surrounding the ceremonial ritual that confirmed the promises God made to Abraham.  Remember, God had already made certain promises to Abraham.  Genesis 15 is the confirmation of these promises with a ritual that was common practice back then. 


God asked Abraham to prepare all that was necessary for this ritual, but once everything was in place, God put Abraham into a deep sleep.  Yes, Abraham wasn't even awake when the agreement was ratified.  He was fast asleep.  So if Abraham wasn't awake to sign on to the covenant, who did God make the covenant with?  


It's simple.  God didn't make the covenant with Abraham.  He  made it with Himself.  Hebrews 6:13 and 14 states that there was no one greater than God to confirm the covenant with so He confirmed it with Himself.   Being the ultimate authority over all there is, He agreed with Himself to fulfill all aspects of the covenant.  God alone is responsible to fulfill the promises He made to Abraham.  Abraham had no part in the confirmation process, so he, nor anyone else, has any part in keeping the covenant.  Abraham's part was to simply trust that God would do as He said.   Paul says in Romans 9:16 that what God decides to do does not depend on man's ability to get it done, but on His ability alone.  I'm glad about that.   


My point is this.  God will keep the promises He made to Abraham as they were originally meant to be understood.  That's not our responsibility. It's His responsibility alone.  He made the covenant with Himself, and He'll work it out Himself.  So I believe that all the promises God made to Abraham, have either been fulfilled, or will yet be fulfilled, exactly as they were originally meant to be understood. 



The Significance Of This Unilateral Covenant          


So why is all this so important anyway?   One reason why this unilateral agreement is important is because the New Covenant of salvation works the same way.  There's nothing we can do to bring about God's promise of salvation.  God chose to work that out Himself, and He'll make sure it's completed.  We simply trust that God will do as He promised, just as Abraham did.


Another reason why this is important is because some people think that the unfaithfulness of Abraham's descendents nullified the promises made to Abraham.  It's like God redefined the terms of the covenant in mid stream when He didn't like what Abraham's grandkids were doing.  I don't think God redefined anything, and I certainly don't think we should redefine things for Him.  And by the way, I don't think the apostle Paul redefined any of these things either. 


I believe the Biblical text states that what God promised Abraham, He will cause to happen as specifically promised, without redefining the terms of the covenant.  With this in mind, let me briefly state two main views of thinking concerning the Abrahamic Covenant. 



View One


This view states that the promises that were personal to Abraham have been fulfilled.  For example, "he'd live to an old age".  He did, and we all agree on that. 


Promises concerning Abraham's descendents have already been fulfilled too, never to be fulfilled again. The promises concerning land and greatness of Israel's nationhood were fulfilled in the glory days of Israel around the time of King David. 


Soon after these glory days, Israel forsook the God of Abraham.  At this point the promises made to Abraham were withdrawn by God.  The rejection of Jesus by Israel cemented this withdrawal of promises into the ground.  Using the Roman army, God demolished Jerusalem, and dispersed the Jews throughout the world, ending the promises made to Abraham for good.  Israel lost her significance in prophetic history and is now no different than Canada, the U. S., China, or any other country.  


All the promises are now fulfilled through Abraham's  "offspring" or "seed", and the apostle Paul, in Galatians 3:16 says the "seed" is Jesus.  The word "seed" is singular, not plural, and therefore can't refer to a whole bunch of Abraham's descendents.  So this view states that all the promises given to Abraham are now promised to Jesus, and fulfilled in Jesus.  Since Christians are "in Christ", Christians have replaced Israel as being the recipients of the promises.   Therefore, Jesus and the church have become the means of  blessing to the world.  Israel has no part in this blessing.  The promised land becomes  spiritualized into the Kingdom of God, not national Israel.  The greatness of Israel's nationhood becomes spiritualized into the greatness of the church.  If for some reason Israel becomes a great nation, it has nothing to do with God's promises.   


With this understanding in mind, people who hold to this view reinterpret all the Old Testament prophecies directed to Israel .  So if there's a prophecy that says Israel will return to the land and be a great nation, that's not Israel.  That's the church.  The original intent of these prophecies and promises have now been redefined.  The church  replaces Israel and that's why this view is often called "Replacement Theology".  Years ago I leaned in this direction, but not any more.



View Two


This view states that what God promised Abraham, in all three categories I've previously mentioned, will be fulfilled exactly as specified.  There's no changes, and no redefining of terms.  Israel's backslidden condition does not nullify the covenant because she didn't participate in the ratification of the covenant.  God made the covenant with Himself and He will carry it through to completion as He originally intended.  Therefore Israel still has prophetic significance.  What is prophesied about Israel in the Old Testament still applies to Israel, not to the church. 


This view is simpler to understand, more literal in nature, and I think more hermeneutically balanced.  I will proceed to explain why I feel this view to be the correct view.      


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