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The Abrahamic Covenant And Prophetic History

Part 3

A Long Journey For Me


It's been a long journey for me when it comes to this subject.  One reason for the length of the journey is that as a young Christian my two favourite Bible teachers in the early 1970's took opposing viewpoints on the subject of Israel.  Malcolm Smith taught that we shouldn't get excited about the influx of Jews toIsrael because for every boatload of Jews that go to Israel, there's a boatload that returns.  Derek Prince on the other hand taught that Israel had a destiny, and that for every major event in her recent history there is a corresponding event in the church.  At least I began to understand both sides of the issue at an early age.        



Did Abraham Get What Was Promised?


Abraham had a son by Sarah.  You can put a checkmark beside  promise number 1 on my list of 13 promises.  Abraham died in peace as an old man.  Put a checkmark by promise 6.  Abraham didn't get to see the fulfillment of the other promises in his lifetime because  although they were spoken to him, they were specifically addressed to his descendents and to his offspring.      


Two Big Questions     


There are two important questions we need to address.  When did, or when will all the promises be fulfilled?  And, were the promises that weren't fulfilled in Abraham's life directed towards Abraham's descendents, or towards his offspring, or towards both?  How you answer this will determine how you view prophecy.  It may even effect how you vote in a national election.  Let's checkout Paul to see what he says.        



Paul's Teaching In Romans 1 Through 4


In Romans chapter 1 through 3 verse 20 Paul states that both Jew and Gentile are in the same boat when it comes to sin.  Even though Israel had the advantage over the Gentiles, she was just as wicked.  Paul lumps us all together; wicked at heart, and in desperate need of a Saviour.    


Paul's argument shifts gears in Romans 3:21.  He says that there is "now a righteousness from God that is apart from law".  The word "now" might  suggest that this is something new, but Paul says it's not new.  Abraham experienced this righteousness way back in his lifetime.   


Righteousness is the state of being in which one is perfectly right in the essence of who he is, just as God Himself is perfectly right in the essence of who He is.  You might want to think about that for a bit.  Paul tells us that if we trust our lives to Jesus, God declares us as being in this state of perfect rightness.  I like to say it this way.  Trust your life with Jesus and God will view you as being perfectly  right all the time, even as He Himself is perfectly right all the time, even though you're far from perfectly right most of the time. 


Paul says that this state of being perfectly right is a free gift from God to both Jew and Gentile upon trusting your life to Jesus.  We can't earn it or work for it.  We trust for it.           


Paul brings Abraham into the discussion in Romans 4:3 when he states that because Abraham believed what God promises he was credited, or declared  as being righteous.  Paul quotes directly from Genesis 15:6 and 22, the confirmation of the Covenant chapter.  God viewed Abraham as being in this state of perfect rightness even though he wasn't, just because he trusted what He said.  For this reason alone God declared Abraham as righteous. The same is true for us today.   


Paul's Teaching In Galatians 3


The book of Galatians is also about God declaring us  righteous by our faith.  In the book Paul vents his Holy Spirit led frustration with the Christians at Galatia.  These people once understood that God would view them as righteous if they'd simply trust that He'd do as He promised.  That was changing.  Certain men had infiltrated their midst and were successfully convincing them that Paul was all wrong.  They claimed  that you had to do lots of things before God would declare you righteous.  For men, circumcision was at the top of  the ”things to do list".  Imagine grown men getting circumcised in those days.  These infiltrators actually spied on the Galatian men to see who was circumcised and who wasn't.  I wonder what covert spy techniques were employed to gain this information.    


In verse 15 Paul states that if a human contract, or covenant, can't be broken, it makes no sense that God would break His covenant.  With God's covenant in mind, he then makes the statement in verse 16 that we've argued about for centuries.  He says, "the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed.  The Scripture does not say and 'to seeds', meaning many people, but, 'to your seed', meaning one person who is Christ."  Paul says that the promises God spoke to Abraham were promised to both Abraham and to his seed who is Jesus, and that these promises won't be broken.   So what does that mean?



The One Seed Of Galatians 3 


Galatians 3:16 says that God made promises to  two people, Abraham and Jesus.  Here's the problem we have to solve.  When we list all the promises from Genesis, there are three recipients of  God's promises, not two as Paul says in Galatians 3. The three recipients in Genesis are, Abraham, his descendents, and his offspring who we now know is Jesus.  The two recipients in Galatians 3 are, Abraham and his offspring Jesus.  Galatians says two. Genesis says three.  What's going on here?


This is the issue that separates the two views concerning Israel in prophecy.  I can't stress enough that how you solve this apparent discrepancy will determine your perspective concerning Biblical prophecy.  Here's the most important questions.  Did God make promises to just Abraham and his offspring Jesus, or did He make promises to Abraham, his offspring Jesus, and Abraham's descendents who is Israel? 


As I study all of Paul's writings, not just Galatians 3, I conclude that God promised Abraham, his descendents, and Jesus certain things.  Here's why I believe as I do.  Paul's point in Galatians 3 is that God declares us as righteous when we trust him for it and not our good deeds.  Everything else he says is in support of this fact.  


Galatians 3 is not an exposition on the Abrahamic Covenant with a detailed explanation of all the specific promises within the covenant.  The Abrahamic Covenant is a side issue to help explain righteousness by faith.  No specific promise like the promise of land or Israel becoming great is addressed.  That's not why Paul wrote Galatians 3.  He covers those issues elsewhere, especially in Romans 9 through 11.


We do learn one main thing about the Abrahamic Covenant from Galatians 3.  We learn that when we read the word "offspring", or the word "seed" in Genesis, it applies to Jesus.  We therefore can replace the word "offspring" with Jesus when we read Genesis.  What we cannot do is replace the word "descendents" with Jesus when we read Genesis.  Paul isn't explaining the word "descendents" here, he's only explaining the word "offspring".  Descendents aren't  part of the discussion in this chapter.  Therefore Galatians 3 does not discount the fact that God promised specific things to Abraham's descendents Israel.   


Because Paul emphasizes the word "offspring" as being singular, we can emphasize the word "descendents" as being plural.  Offspring refers to one person, descendents to more than one person.  So both words can't refer to just the one person Jesus.  Therefore the promises were made to both Jesus and Israel.  Those who say Israel is no longer important in prophecy say all of the promises God made to Abraham are fulfilled in Jesus, nothing is promised to Israel.  This misrepresents Galatians 3 and doesn't distinguish the difference between the singular word offspring and the plural word descendents.    


To me it's simple.  God promised Abraham certain things, his descendents Israel certain things, and Jesus certain things.  This approach to prophecy makes all the difference in the world concerning Israel.  It's more literal and more hermeneutically balanced.  Now let's see what Paul says about Israel in Romans 9 through 11.        


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