Thursday, July 2nd, 2020
When Abram was 99 years old,
The LORD appeared to him and said,
“I am God Almighty/El Shaddai.
Walk before me and be blameless,
That I may make my covenant between me and you,
And may multiply you greatly.”
Then Abram fell on his face.
And God said to him,
“Behold, my covenant is with you.
And you shall be the father of a multitude of nations.
No longer shall your name be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham,
For I have made you the father of a multitude of nations.
I will make you exceedingly fruitful,
And I will make you into nations,
And kings shall come from you.
And I will establish my covenant between me and you,
And your offspring after you throughout their generations as an everlasting covenant,
To be God to you and to your offspring after you.
And I will give to you and to your offspring after you the land of your sojournings,
All the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession.
And I will be their God.
A major part of El Shaddai’s deal with Abraham was the promise of some intercontinental real estate. Almighty God promised to give Abraham and his offspring a sizable amount of eastern Mediterranean acreage in perpetuity. Do not miss the in perpetuity part. God promised the land as an everlasting possession. And everlasting lasts a long time, if I’m not mistaken.
A question, then: Did Almighty God deliver on his promise of perpetual property? Well…
Historically, Abraham’s descendants briefly had the land, and then they didn’t for 400 years, and then they did (for a very long time), and then they didn’t (for a relatively short time), and then they did again, and then they didn’t for a third time (for nearly two thousand years), and now they do again. So, Abraham’s descendants have been residents of the promised land a total of four times, and have not had possession of it three times.
Do those repeated losses of the land mean that Almighty God failed to deliver on his promise?
It might seem like it, but no. God made a conditional deal with Abraham. A covenant is a conditional deal. Both parties have to keep their end of the deal. If you do this, I promise to do that. Deal? Deal. The promise of perpetual property was (and is) valid as long as Abraham and Abraham’s descendants kept (and keep) their end of the deal.
Hang on. Perhaps I need to make a correction. “And keep their end of the deal” might not be right. It may be that God has altered the arrangement. It may be that Abraham’s descendants will actually hold possession of their land this time, even if they are not faithful to the LORD.
I say that for three reasons, which I shall now enumerate.
Reason number one: Abraham’s descendants are already there now. They were evicted by the Romans almost 2,000 years ago. But now they are back in their ancestral homeland. Officially, they have been back for a little over 70 years. That is a bona fide historical fact. I’m willing to say that God gets credit for their return to their promised land, even if they do not realize it. Jeremiah 16 may speak to this, by the way. It’s worth a read.
Reason number two: In Ezekiel 36:22-38, God asserts that he brought the House of Israel back not for their sake, but for the sake of his holy name. God meant to vindicate his own holiness by bringing them back (which he has done) and by cleansing them from their impurity (which he will do). In other words, God decided not to wait for the House of Israel to get their act together before bringing them back. This time, Almighty God brought them back just to show them and everyone else that he is indeed Almighty God. God altered his arrangement with Abraham’s offspring for the sake of his own holiness.
Reason number three: This time Abraham’s descendants are not going to lose possession of the land. In Amos 9:14-15, God says, “I will restore the fortunes of my people Israel; and they shall rebuild the ruined cities and inhabit them. They shall plant vineyards and drink their wine. And they shall make gardens and eat their fruit. I will plant them on their land; and they shall never again be uprooted out of the land I have given them,” says the LORD your God. They shall never again be uprooted out of the land the LORD has given them. That sounds both straightforward and unequivocal. They will never be uprooted out of their land again.
Some of my seminary-trained friends are probably squirming as they read or hear this right now, though. They may be thinking to themselves, “DeKrakenator, among other things, you are making some very big assumptions about the prophetic timing of the Ezekiel 36 passage and the Amos 9 passage.”
Yes, I am, my seminary-trained friends. I am assuming that Ezekiel 36 refers to a more recent restoration of the House of Israel, and not simply to their restoration after the Babylonian exile. Yes, I assume that these passages are being fulfilled closer to our day and time, not way back when. My counter-challenge to you, my fellow seminarians, is to read the whole of Ezekiel 36:22-38 and ask yourself whether it was fully and entirely fulfilled way back then. Were the Jewish returnees ever thoroughly cleansed in the way Ezekiel describes? If so, why did Jesus lament their obtuseness, and denounce their hypocritical leaders? Did they receive the indwelling Spirit in the way Ezekiel describes? At very best, this prophecy was only partially fulfilled at Pentecost; but most of the Jewish people (the House of Israel) did not repent and believe. Thus, it awaits a fuller and grander fulfillment. It has yet to be completely realized.
As for Amos 9:14-15, it cannot be a legitimate prophecy unless it happens in history. For it to be fulfilled, the Jews must stay put in the land God promised to Abraham, once and for all. But that has not happened, until now. Instead, the House of Israel has been uprooted from their ancestral land time three times in history: first, when they were slaves in Egypt; second, when they were exiles in Babylon; and third, when most of them were slaughtered and the rest were pushed out by the Romans. If they’re going to remain in the land, and never be uprooted again, it must be this time around, since what Paul says in Romans 11:25 is close to accomplishment. That is, before the Jews are redeemed, the fulness of the Gentiles must come in. The Great Commission must become a mission accomplished; and only then will the Jews will be completely restored and established in their promised land, in perpetuity.
There are questions and issues I do not and cannot resolve in just one necessarily brief blog-cast. If you have questions, comments, or observations, please politely let me know, as they help me decide what I should address next. For now, I encourage you to go read or listen to all the passages I just referenced. They include the Covenant with Abraham in Genesis 17, the Prophecy of Compulsory Return to the Land in Jeremiah 16, the Promise that God will Restore them to and Redeem them in their Promised Land in Ezekiel 36:22-38, the Unequivocal and Unconditional Promise of Permanent Residence in Amos 9:14-15, and Paul’s Order of Jewish-Gentile Exclusion and Inclusion in Romans 11.
That’s all for now. Adios.
4 thoughts on “Property in Perpetuity”
Fascinating! So good….and we just watched a segment of “I am Israel” where they shared the incredible story of how the grapevine industry and wine making is a big part of Israel now. Thank you for your insights!
Wow, Marsha! Thank you for all the encouraging responses.
I think you make a lot of great points, and I appreciate much of what you say. However, you wanted my full engagement with the material, so here I go. Forgive my lengthiness, but I want to be as thorough in my biblical explanation as possible.
I agree that God’s promises to the Jewish people through His Word are important and must be understood. Yet they must be understood in light of the entirety of Scripture. Multiple times in the New Testament, God clearly defines what a descendant of Abraham truly is (and the Old Testament supports this).
Firstly, John the Baptist declared to the Jewish leaders of the day (Matt. 3:9-10),
“And do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father,’ for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham. Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.”
Soon after this, Jesus declares that He is the only Way to the Father (John 14:6). He also says,
“…whoever denies Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father who is in heaven”(Matt 10:33). And 1 John 2:23 affirms this: “Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father; the one who confesses the Son has the Father also.”
These do not exclude Jewish people from being heirs of the promise, but they are warnings that following Jesus is necessary to maintaining covenant relationship with the Father.
So, who are the current descendants of Abraham? Galatians 3:29 – “And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.” The previously mentioned texts appear to say, “And if you are NOT Christ’s, then you are NOT heirs according to promise.”
Therefore, I believe it is important to distinguish between the Jewish people who do proclaim Christ as Messiah (i.e., the Jewish Christ-followers such as the original apostles and today’s Messianic Jews), and the Jewish people who deny Christ (denying Christ is something the historic Church has always defined as heresy). Jews and Gentiles alike who believe in and follow Christ are heirs to God’s promises.
Finally, you reference Romans 11 which supports this understanding. Verses 13-14 say, “…I magnify my ministry in order somehow to make my fellow Jews jealous, and thus save some of them.” This implies that they are not inherently saved by being Jewish. The Jews who don’t follow Christ are the branches that have broken off (v. 20), but they are saved in following Christ.
Romans 11:23 – “And even they [Jews], if they do not continue in their unbelief, will be grafted in, for God has the power to graft them in again.”
a squirming seminary-trained friend. 😉
Hi Jacob, I agree with the points you make here. It is necessary for anyone and everyone to put their faith in Christ (Messiah) Jesus for salvation from sin and reconciliation with God. That applies to Gentiles and Jews alike, and without exception. Absolutely and amen. At the same time, I think it is necessary to affirm that God still acts within history in unique ways on behalf of the Jewish people. In saying that, I do not mean that God has provided an alternate means of salvation for the Jews. No, I don’t believe that. All I’m asserting is that God is still at work in history to fulfill his promises to Abraham and the prophets. I think many Christians wrongly dismiss that possibility because they buy into a false dichotomy of NT versus OT. Not every prophecy in the Old Testament has been fulfilled yet. It is fair and necessary to ask when and how those prophecies will be fulfilled. That is the premise of my present blog-casts. Thanks again. I always appreciate reader responses.