God is truth. He always keeps his promises. Do God’s promises prove an earthly kingdom or a heavenly kingdom?
This is the fourth article in the series on Amillennialism. If you haven’t read the previous articles (they build on one another), please read them first:
If you have worked through these articles you have seen that the Bible contains overwhelming evidence that there will be a Kingdom after Jesus returns, that it will be a literal 1000 years, and that it will be on the earth.
This article provides even further proof of those things, plus it will be begin to add evidence that the Nation of Israel will participate in that Kingdom.
We term God’s Old Testament promises as “Covenants.” There are four main covenants; and understanding them and the obligations of each party will help us navigate this difficult question. I refer all the readers to the masterful book by Joel Richardson: “When a Jew Rules the World.” This book walks the reader thru the various issues in regard to covenants in a very detailed manner. This article is based on his teachings.
God made ancient promises to Abraham, Moses, David and the houses of Israel and Judah. These four famous covenants are listed below. Some of the Covenants are unilateral; that is God promised things irregardless of whatever Israel did. One of the covenants was “contingent,” that is, if Israel obeyed, they would receive blessings. If they didn’t keep the covenant, they would receive curses.
God’s first covenant with Israel was made through Jacob’s (Israel’s) grandfather Abraham. Many will ask why this covenant applies to Israel alone and not to all the sons of Abraham (Ishmael, and others) and not to the children of Esau since all of these children were technically children of Abraham. But the covenant promise flowed only through Isaac to Jacob.
And Abraham said to God, “Oh that Ishmael might live before You!” But God said, “No, but Sarah your wife will bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac; and I will establish My covenant with him for an everlasting covenant for his descendants after him. (Gen. 17:18-19)
And behold, the Lord stood above it and said (to Jacob), “I am the Lord, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie, I will give it to you and to your descendants. (Gen. 28:13)
The covenant promised the descendants of Israel (Jacob) a “land grant.” The extent of this land grant (from the Nile to the Mediterranean to the Euphrates) has never been occupied in the history of Israel. (The map attached to this article is one artist’s view of this land grant). This covenant land or promised land is detailed in Gen. 15:18, Deut. 11:24, Ezek. 47:17, Josh. 1:4. It was also detailed as the land possessed by ten nations (ten kings) in Gen. 15:19-21. (Are these related to the ten kings of Daniel and Revelation?)
The covenant itself was one of a kind. It is the covenant upon which all the rest of God’s promises of salvation were built. Abraham’s (Abram was his name at that point) faith in the covenant was credited to him as righteousness. Paul frequently referred to credited righteousness as a basis for our own salvation and uses this covenant as a scriptural example. Shouldn’t every “child of Abraham” have faith in this covenant just as Abraham did? Especially as Abraham’s faith is a model of the faith that produces righteousness.
Additionally, when God appeared to Moses, he referenced this promise as a reason he would free the Israelites from Egypt (Exo. 6:3-4). He then directly promised the land to the Israelites as an “everlasting possession.” Other references to Israel as the holder of the covenant is 1 Chron. 16:13-18, 1 Kings 8:35-36, Isa. 14:1-3, Ezek. 11:15,17, and Amos 9:14-15. Many of these are eschatological references to the physical Kingdom that is to come.
Psalm 105:6-12 gives us a wonderful re-enforcement of the promise and its length:
O seed of Abraham, His servant, O sons of Jacob, His chosen ones! He is the Lord our God; His judgments are in all the earth. He has remembered His covenant forever, The word which He commanded to a thousand generations, The covenant which He made with Abraham, and His oath to Isaac. Then He confirmed it to Jacob for a statute, To Israel as an everlasting covenant, (Psalm 105:6-10)
The land is Israel’s forever.
God “Cut” a Deal with Israel
When God made this covenant, he caused Abraham (Abram) to fall into a deep sleep. He then cut a heifer, a goat, a ram, a turtledove, and a pigeon into two halves and walked between the pieces. It is very important to note that only God walked between the pieces.
This strange symbolic walk was an ancient middle eastern custom meaning “let what happened to these animals happen to me if I break my side of the covenant.” But God was the only one who walked the path. He was saying, “If either you or I break this covenant, let this be done to me.”
This was the most one-sided covenant in history! God agreed to pay the penalty if Israel broke it (although they only broke the Mosaic Covenant). And on the hillside of Calvary, 2000 years later, God would pay the price. In Daniel 9:26 it says the Messiah would be “cut off” (KARATH) The Hebrew word for cut in Daniel is the same word used in Gen. 15:18 (the Abrahamic Covenant):
On that day the Lord made (KARATH) a covenant with Abram, saying, “To your descendants I have given this land”
The word translated “made” in English is actually “cut.” And 2000 years later God would pay for Israel’s breaking their covenant (the Mosaic) with him by being “cut.”
God’s promises prove an earthly Kingdom
Many Amillennialists state that God never intended an actual specific land grant on earth, but rather this is symbolic of a heavenly land grant. They point to this verse in Hebrews as proof:
All these died in faith, without receiving the promises, but having seen them and having welcomed them from a distance, and having confessed that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For those who say such things make it clear that they are seeking a country of their own. And indeed if they had been thinking of that country from which they went out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; for He has prepared a city for them. (Heb. 11:13-16)
At first glance this seems like the Amillennialists could be correct, but careful examination proves otherwise. The city mentioned is the New Jerusalem. It is in heaven now, but eventually God returns it to the earth. Our final living quarters in the eternal state will be on the earth; as will Jesus’s and God the Father’s!!!
I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them and they shall be His people. (Rev. 21:2-3)
Second, the better country the Old Testament saints desired is not in heaven, but a heavenly one; one that abides by heavens rules. “On earth as it is in heaven.” As Jesus told us, “The meek shall inherit the earth;” not heaven after all.
If God promised Abraham a specific tract of land and planned that promise to “symbolize” heaven, why was he so specific defining the exact physical borders?? Even if heaven was “better” than what he promised, not giving Israel what was promised is still breaking that promise: something God cannot do.
The Next Installment
We have now shown that Abraham’s descendants will inherit a tract of land in the Middle East that is roughly twice the size of modern day Israel, and that this will occur after the return of Jesus. Our eternal dwelling will be upon the earth not in heaven.
The next installment will show that Jesus will rule the earth from the earth with the saints. Then in the final installment we will show that the Jewish remnant will inhabit it as well: that these promises haven’t been stripped away from Israel and given to Christians; that there is no replacement and replacement theology is incorrect.
Please hold your questions about these last two segments for the appropriate articles.