Puritan Gems

Monday, March 19, 2007

Abraham’s Covenant Fulfilled In His True Seed

"And seeing a fig tree by the wayside, he went to it and found nothing on it but only leaves. And he said to it, "May no fruit ever come from you again!" And the fig tree withered at once... Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people producing its fruits.” (Matthew 21:19, 43)

Are Premillennialists interpretations “literal”?

One common argument among premillennialists is that they take Bible Prophecy more “literally” than their Amillennial and Postmillennial counterparts. We saw in the previous post how consistent they are with their literalism. Over at the Pulpit Magazine End Times Q and A, Nathan Busenitz refers to the Abrahamic Covenant as the sticking point which demands premillennialism. He writes,

“God’s unconditional covenants with the nation of Israel are irrevocable …at the end of the day – without overwhelming evidence to the contrary — I’m left with no other choice than to believe that God will do exactly what He said He would do in the Old Testament, in exactly the way He said He would do it.”

First of all, God does not make “unconditional” covenants. Rather, biblical covenants have ethical stipulations, such as “walk before me, and be thou upright” (Genesis 17:1). That said, Nathan’s argument is a classic case of not being able to see the forest for the “fig tree”. While God promised to make Abraham the father of “many nations” (Genesis 17:4-6), premillennialists limit this to just one nation, that being “Israel after the flesh”. While Scripture declares that the Abrahamic Covenant would be a blessing to “all the families of the earth” (Genesis 12:3), premillennialists limit this to a 10 mile strip of real estate in the middle east. In doing so, Premillennialism, especially the Dispensational variety, pits Scripture against Scripture. While the Bible identifies the true seed of Abraham as Christ and those of the Christian Faith (Galatians 3:7,16), premillennialists reserve covenantal blessings for those who reject Christ, being children neither of Abraham nor God, but of the Devil (John 8:39-44).

Has the Abrahamic Covenant been fulfilled? Yes. According to the Scriptures, the Abrahamic Covenant has been fulfilled, both physically and Spiritually.

"And now I am about to go the way of all the earth, and you know in your hearts and souls, all of you, that not one word has failed of all the good things that the LORD your God promised concerning you. All have come to pass for you; not one of them has failed. But just as all the good things that the LORD your God promised concerning you have been fulfilled for you, so the LORD will bring upon you all the evil things, until he has destroyed you from off this good land that the LORD your God has given you, if you transgress the covenant of the LORD your God, which he commanded you, and go and serve other gods and bow down to them. Then the anger of the LORD will be kindled against you, and you shall perish quickly from off the good land that he has given to you." (Joshua 23:14-16)

We can see that God did fulfill the promise that He made to Israel concerning the land. However, we can also see that it was not “unconditional”. In addition, it can be shown that all of the Old Testament Covenants contained the promise of a new and better Covenant, and the Abrahamic Covenant is no exception (see Genesis 22:7,15-18 and compare Galatians 3:7-9; 15-16; 28-29). It is Christ who is the culmination of all Old Testament Covenants. He is the “seed of the woman” in the Adamic Covenant (Genesis 3:15), the lifeblood from man in the Noahic Covenant (Genesis 9:5), the seed of Abraham (Genesis 22:18), the spotless Passover Lamb of the Mosaic Covenant (Deuteronomy 15:19-23), the heir to David’s throne (2 Samuel 7:12-16), and the sole mediator of the new and better covenant (Hebrews 9:15), “so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance”. There is no Covenant without Jesus Christ, and there never has been.

By focusing this strictly on the land of Canaan instead of Christ, premillennialists have actually made God’s promise to Abraham a failure. God clearly promised that Abraham and his seed after him would have “everlasting possession” of this land (Genesis 17:7-8). They were to have it “forever” (Genesis 13:15), yet as of right now, they do not have possession of all this land. The very definitions of “everlasting” and “forever” do not allow for a postponement. As Gary DeMar points out, imagine if God decided to “postpone” the Noahic Covenant during “the church age”. He could then wipe out the entire human race with a flood and claim that His “everlasting covenant” (Genesis 9:16) was “postponed”. After all, if premillennialists are correct, God didn’t show Noah the “church age”.

Is it proper to interpret the Old Testament with the New Testament?

Nathan Busenitz objects to using the New Testament to interpret the Old. He writes,

“if you take the verses at face value (just accepting what they say, and what their original audience would have understood them to say), it naturally leads to premillennialism. This is, in fact, how the Jews themselves have historically understood these passages.

So I think it’s a little dishonest (not intentionally, of course) for amillennialists to contend that they are the ones actually taking the OT prophecies at face value. Historically speaking, that is just not defensible.”

Does it really matter how Jews would have historically understood a passage? There are many passages of Scripture that they clearly misunderstood, while Christ and his Apostles illuminated the true meaning as inspired by the Holy Spirit. (For a few examples, see Mark 9:11-13, John 5:46, Luke 6:2-5, Galatians 3:16). Proper interpretation of the Old Testament required a Divine and Supernatural Light, the kind that Peter obtained when He confessed Christ as the Son of the Living God.

“And Jesus answered him, "Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 16:17)

In contrast, the Christ rejecting Judaists were blinded (Matthew 11:25-26; Matthew 13:13-16). So yes, postmillennialists interpret the Old Testament in light of the New, rather than follow the “blind guides” of historic Judaism (Matthew 15:14). We need not apologize for this, as even the prophets did not have full insight into the mysteries of God's Kingdom (see Matthew 13:17).

Did the church age end in 1948?

Another common inconsistency among premillennialists concerns the alleged “stopping of God’s prophecy clock”. In an attempt to defend the importance of modern Israel in Bible prophecy, Nathan writes, “The premillennial position asserts that, in keeping with OT prophecy, God will bring the nation of Israel back to her land. Though the nation will be established in unbelief, she will one day return to embrace her Messiah”. I didn’t get a chance to ask him how “God bring[ing] the nation of Israel back to her land” (presumably in 1948) could be “in keeping with OT prophecy”, since he had already explained the mysterious gap in Daniel 9:24-27 by suggesting that the OT prophets did not see the “mystery of the church age”.

In the end, premillennialists claim to “believe that God will do exactly what He said He would do in the Old Testament, in exactly the way He said He would do it.” As a postmillennialist, I believe that God did exactly what He said He would do in the Old Testament, in exactly the way He says He did it in the New Testament, and exactly WHEN He said He would do it.


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Liberty Belle said...

Dear Brother in Christ, Premillennialists do not claim (nor have they ever claimed) that the church age ended in 1948. It is well known and widely accepted by premillennial scholars that the church age ends at the "catching away" or rapture of the church (which is yet future). I don't mind people having an honest discussion about eschatology, but please try not to misrepresent the other side.