The Promise To The Fathers
By Arthur Melanson
The Jews rejected their Messiah, but Christianity is not "plan B." Christianity is God's original plan completely on track accomplishing the purpose and intent of God.
Unfortunately, many Christians today have the same mistaken impression; they fail to see the root bears us, we don't bear the root (see Romans 11:18). This false impression shows in attitude and doctrine.
The problem centers on carnal understanding and interpretation of the patriarchal promises. This Bible study will seek to show that salvation is of the Jews (see John 4:22b), and the promises made to the fathers converge in Jesus Christ.
Let's look at the promises. Recorded and emphasized in many places, the promises essentially are as follows: A Redeemer (the Seed of woman) to crush the head of the serpent; a rainbow as a sign God would never again destroy life on the earth with a flood. In a larger sense the rainbow indicates God is a covenant making and a covenant keeping God. Also, as long as the earth remains, seasons and day and night will not cease.
The Promises to Abraham
Most of the promises are in the Abrahamic Covenant. Four areas concern us: 1) possession of the land of Canaan, 2) the multiplying of Abraham's seed, 3) God would be a God to him and his seed after him, 4) in him and his seed all the nations of the earth will be blessed.
The covenant with Abraham reinforces the promise of the Redeemer for Scripture tells us: Now to Abraham and his Seed were the promises made. He does not say, "and to seeds," as of many, but as of one, "And to your Seed," who is Christ. (Galatians 3:16) As we continue through the Bible the picture of God's Messiah grows ever clearer.
Before we examine the promises let's look ahead and view the testimony of the word. Now I say that Jesus Christ has become a servant to the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made to the fathers. (Romans 15:8)
And this important verse...For all the promises of God in Him are Yes, and in Him Amen, to the glory of God through us. (2 Corinthians 1:20) This verse is saying that Jesus is the "Yes" spoken by God to every one of His promises. We reply "Amen" through Jesus Christ, and that gives glory to the Father.
These verses are important. Understanding them saves us from the error that Christianity is separate from the Jewish promises.
The promises do have a natural fulfillment. The promises also have a spiritual fulfillment, but that is overlooked by many. However, the spiritual is not first, but the natural, and afterward the spiritual. (1 Corinthians 15:46)
The Forshadowing by Types
The study of types and their fulfillment (antitypes) is a fascinating one, and we highly recommend it to the student of the word. In this Bible study we will speak of types only as they pertain to the promises to the fathers. In spite of our limited application, we'll explore rich depths.
Jesus, the promised Redeemer, came in the likeness of sinful flesh. After His death and resurrection He appeared in a spiritual body, and we know Him no longer after the flesh (old covenant).
When God promised Noah continuance of the seasons and day and night as long as the earth remained it foreshadowed the eternal properties of the kingdom of our Lord Jesus. The rainbow that we love to see on this earth foretells of the heavenly rainbow around the throne of God (see Revelation 4:3).
As we look at the Abrahamic covenant we will consider first the promise to multiply his seed or to make of him a great nation. God said, "And I will make your descendants as the dust of the earth..." (Genesis 13:16) Many centuries later Jesus spoke to these natural descendants: "I know that you are Abraham's descendants, but you seek to kill Me, because My word has no place in you." (John 8:37) The natural descendants form the Hebrew nation, Israel. (Abraham also fathered natural descendants through Ishmael, but that is not pertinent to this study.)
The natural posterity did not fulfill the promise of God. The natural foreshadowed the spiritual. Let's look at the Scripture. For they are not all Israel who are of Israel, nor are they all children because they are the seed of Abraham; but, "in Isaac your seed shall be called." That is, those who are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God; but the children of the promise are counted as the seed. (Romans 9:6b-8)
The highest fulfillment of the promise is a spiritual fulfillment. That should not come as a surprise, but it is for some. Let's look at further evidence from the word. ...just as Abraham "believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness." Therefore know that only those who are of faith are sons of Abraham. And if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise. (Gal.3:6,7,29)
These verses leave no doubt that the ultimate form of the promise to multiply Abraham's seed is a spiritual realization of that promise. If it were not so, how could the Gentiles be saved?
The next promise we will consider is God would be a God to him and his seed after him. This, of course, took place first in the natural as God led and fought for Israel. Their disobedience and rejection of God as King over them still didn't stop God from being their God.
Even though God was dealing with the natural seed, the way of grace to those outside Israel was always open. Ruth, the young woman of Moab, the great-grandmother of David, being an outstanding example of that divine favor. Those who really wanted God could find Him despite the covenant or century.
Remember, the covenant of the law did not negate the older covenant made with Abraham. And this I say, that the law, which was four hundred and thirty years later, cannot annul the covenant that was confirmed before by God in Christ, that it should made the promise of no effect. (Gal.3:17) We find God gracious even in times of national disobedience.
God is God to all in Christ
God not only told Abraham to number his descendants by the dust of the earth but also told him to look to heaven and number the stars if he could....And He said to him, "so shall your descendants be." (Gen.15:5)
These analogies speak to the two types of descendants--natural and spiritual. We addressed the point that God was a god to the natural posterity. We will look at a couple of verses showing the Lord's Fatherhood of all that come through Christ. This is a case of having an abundance of evidence, because it is difficult to read the New Testament and not see these verses.
I will select a couple of my favorites. But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God - and righteousness and sanctification and redemption.... (1 Cor.1:30) In the Chinese translation it states that God the Father is responsible for putting us in His Son. This is the keeping care of the Father.
The second verse holds blessings also: Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.... (Romans 5:1) These verses, among many others, show the Fatherhood of God over those who are His by faith.
All Nations Shall Be Blessed
God promised Abraham that in His Seed all the nations of the earth will be blessed. That Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world, is a blessing is beyond argument. We appreciate, of course, that He came by the natural descendants to bring forth spiritual descendants (whosoever will) to the glory of God the Father.
A strong indication that his promise converges in Christ is the verses taken from Peter's preaching in Solomon's portico. "Yes, and all the prophets, from Samuel and those who follow, as many as have spoken, have also foretold these days. "You are sons of the prophets, and of the covenant which God made with our fathers, saying to Abraham, `And in your seed all the families of the earth shall be blessed.' "To you first, God, having raised up His Servant Jesus, sent Him to bless you, in turning away every one of you from your iniquities." (Acts 3:24-26)
The evidence of the church, writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, makes the matter certain--to the Jew first, but also to the Greek.
The Promised Land
We will now consider the promise of the land. It was the first promise from God to Abraham, but it is the most misunderstood of all the promises in the Abrahamic covenant. Like all the other promises, it has a natural fulfillment and a spiritual fulfillment.
Some Christians feel that Israel never took possession of all the land. That is a strange position considering the following verses.
So the LORD gave to Israel all the land of which He had sworn to give to their fathers, and they took possession of it and dwelt in it.
The LORD gave them rest all around, according to all that He had sworn to their fathers. And not a man of all their enemies stood against them; the LORD delivered all their enemies into their hand. (Joshua 21:43,44)
He is Faithful that Promised
This next verse puts the capstone on the question. Not a word failed of any good thing which the Lord had spoken to the house of Israel. All came to pass. (Joshua 21:45)
In spite of taking full possession of the land, God issued many warnings to Israel concerning their obedience and loyalty to Him. The penalty for disobedience was for Israel to be taken from the land by their conquerors. As we know, this happened more than once.
This is a point of great vexation for some believers, for they point out that the land was an everlasting possession. Therefore they still look for the Jews to return and occupy the land as given in the everlasting covenant God made with Abraham. (See Genesis 17:7,8.)
Carnal Understanding Brings Error
Because some Christians look at Abrahamic promises only in the natural sense, they arrive at some strange conclusions. Failing to see any spiritual application they apply the words of the covenant only to the natural seed of Abraham. Thus they look for a rebuilt Jewish temple and a return of animal sacrifices. Lord have mercy. It is this type of carnal interpretation that has led us into disastrous end-time teaching.
Earlier in this study we look at the Scripture that showed not all Abraham's children would be from natural Israel. Those born of the Holy Spirit by the will of God would be the children of the promise.
It is amazing to me, and other Bible scholars, how some Christians can see the spiritual fulfillment of the other promises, but when it comes to the land they cannot rise past the carnal foreshadowing. Perhaps you have heard them preach: "Yes, to the church belong the spiritual blessings, but the land belongs to Israel, and someday she will be in full possession of the promised land."
Where do these sincere but mistaken believers miss the boat? They miss the boat in failing to see each promise has a higher, spiritual antitype. We have looked at some verses of natural fulfillment in Joshua. They are conclusive. Let's look now at Hebrews.
For if Joshua had given them rest, then He would not afterward have spoken of another day. There remains therefore a rest for the people of God. (Hebrews 4:8,9)
What's going on? Aren't these verses in direct contradiction to the verses in Joshua? No, not at all. Oh, there is an apparent letter of the word contradiction, but not a real opposition. Where then does the answer lie? It lies in this: The verses in Joshua are the fulfillment to the natural, while the verses in Hebrews speak to the spiritual.
Here is another verse showing that the promise had a fulfillment beyond physical real estate.
...that you do not become sluggish, but imitate those who through faith and patience inherit the promises. (Hebrews 6:12) The Holy Spirit speaks to the spiritual, not the natural.
Abraham Looked to the Spiritual
It puzzles me why Christians become so insistent that the promise of the land be physical when Abraham didn't see the literal real estate as fulfillment of the promise. Two factors are at work here. 1) The carnal interpretation, which we mentioned earlier, and 2) their mistaken view of the end-time. Both factors lead to error.
Let's look to the word and see what Abraham thought concerning the promise. By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to the place which he would afterward receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he sojourned in the land of promise as in a foreign country, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise; for he waited for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God. By faith Sarah herself also received strength to conceive seed, and she bore a child when she was past the age, because she judged Him faithful who had promised. Therefore from one man, and him as good as dead, were born as many as the stars of the sky in multitude; innumerable as the sand which is by the seashore. These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. For those who say such things declare plainly that they seek a homeland. And truly if they had called to mind that country from which they had come out, they would have had opportunity to return. But now they desire a better, that is, a heavenly country. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them. (Hebrews 11:8-16)
Abraham Sought a Heavenly Country
Those who confess that they are strangers and pilgrims on the earth give testimony that earthly real estate is not the filling of the promise. See what the Scripture says: They desire a better, that is, a heavenly country. That's spiritual!
The Scripture also says that Abraham waited for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God. What is that city? It is the new Jerusalem, the city from above, the city that is free, and is the mother of us all. (see Gal.4:26) I submit to you that city and heavenly country is the real fulfillment of the promise of the land to Abraham.
God prepared the heavenly, and these things came to be with the passing of the old covenant and the consummation of the new.
The Holy Spirit makes it clear we should be looking not at the natural fulfillment of the promises but the spiritual. The author of Hebrews records under divine inspiration: But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels... (Hebrews 12:22)
And a little further on we come to this verse: For here we have no continuing city, but we seek the one to come. (Hebrew 13:14) All this evidence surely demonstrates we seek the spiritual fulfillment of the promises as the higher intent of God.
Some Christians still insist that literal Jews must possess the literal land. Don't they see and know the verses we have looked at pertain to them? Yes, they do, but they also make the mistake of seeing the Jews as a separate people with a separate divine plan.
This is error, of course. It is, however, popular error. Many become inundated with bad teaching from well meaning, good men. Sometimes it is their Pastor. The error is so implanted in some hearts that those who swallow this teaching will not witness to a Jew. They feel God's separate plan will save all Israel.
God did have two separate people under the old covenant--the Jews and the rest of the world. But the old contract is null and void (praise the Lord), and we (born again souls) are now one people in our Lord Jesus Christ.
Differences Abolished in Christ
God's word really leaves no room for the "two peoples, two divine plans" idea. Jesus Christ came as a servant to the Jews, showing the truth of God, by confirming the promises made to the fathers. When He did His divine work it made two groups one, not preserving the difference.
For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of division between us, having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace. (Ephesians 2:14,15) That doesn't sound like two peoples, two destinies does it?
Then we have this verse, ...that the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ through the gospel... (Ephesians 3:6)
It was difficult for the Jews to realize that God called the Gentiles too, and the Gentiles had difficulty in realizing God had not cast away His people, the Jews. Paul, and others, struggled to show that salvation is of the Jews. It was only as Christ confirmed the promises to the fathers that it was possible for Jew or Gentile to be saved.
That the Gentiles should become fellow heirs, of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ, is the mystery revealed through the gospel. It was unknown to the sons of men in other ages.
This being "of the same body" is only possible because Christ came as a Jew, to the Jews and verified the promises made to the fathers. That "same body" is the body of Christ.
Paul, writing on this point to the Ephesians has this to say: ...endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all. (Ephesians 4:3-6)
Redeemed Jews and Gentiles One
It is obvious that many Christians who hold to the "two peoples, two destinies" theory don't know what the above verses are talking about. Paul is saying there should be peaceful unity in the Spirit because there is one body, not one body for the Jews and another body for the Gentiles.
There is one Spirit, not one Spirit for the Jews and another Spirit for the Gentiles. There is one hope of your calling, not one hope of calling for the Jews and another hope of calling for the Gentiles.
There is one Lord, not one Lord for the Jews and another Lord for the Gentiles. There is one faith, not one faith for the Jews and another faith for the Gentiles. There is one baptism, not one baptism for the Jews and another baptism for the Gentiles. There is one God and Father of all, not one God and Father for the Jews and another God and Father for the Gentiles.
Seeing the Ephesian verses in this light doesn't leave any room for the "church age gap theory." The idea that the church is in a parentheses unseen by the prophets of old is an invention of men. They would have us believe when the pretribulation rapture takes place, the Jewish clock will begin ticking again, and God will deal, once more, with His people Israel.
May God spare us from these fables. I pray we come out from this unbiblical fiction and see that only as Jesus fulfills the promises to the Fathers in the final spiritual sense can there be any church age. Why? Because salvation is of the Jews, not in spite of the Jews.
Salvation Not of the Old Covenant
Christ came as a minister to the circumcision, but there was no salvation in the ministry of sin and death (the law). The Jews thought the Messiah would make the Old Covenant work, but Jesus let them know that the world below was not His world; He was from above.
His world was the world of the promises to the Fathers (Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob). It is the world of the heavenly city, the Jerusalem that is above and stands in stark contrast to earthly cities and Jerusalem below that is in bondage.
New Covenant Fulfills Promises
It was impossible that the promises could be realized under the law. It must come through faith. The law was of human effort, and as Jesus taught ...the flesh profits nothing. (Jn.6:63b)
Let's turn to the evidence of Scripture. These verses show the strength of faith and the weakness of the Old Covenant that was fading away.
For the promise that he would be the heir of the world was not to Abraham or to his seed through the law, but through the righteousness of faith. For if those who are of the law are heirs, faith is made void and the promise made of no effect, Therefore it is of faith that it might be according to grace, so that the promise might be sure to all the seed, not only to those who are of the law, but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all. (Romans 4:13,14,16)
If the promise could come through the law, only those under the law would receive the benefits of the promise. Notice that those under the law are not excluded, but they must be of the household of faith and receive it by grace.
It is never said that salvation is of the Gentiles. It can't be, because the promises belong to the Jews through the fathers. The Gentiles become beneficiaries, but they only benefit as the promise to the fathers is met in Jesus Christ.
Because the promise is by faith according to grace, then all believers inherit the promise. We are of the faith of Abraham, and he is the father of us all.
God's word says: As it is written, "I have made you a father of many nations." (see Genesis 17:5) Didn't God's word have a partial fulfillment in the natural? Yes, of course it did, but that isn't the fulfillment of the promise. The promise is spiritual, and those who receive are spiritual.
All Promises Confirmed in Christ
It is easy to see how those believers who can't see past the natural type still insist on a final, completed fulfillment in the natural. Therefore, we have Christians who look for a rebuilt temple in Jerusalem, a return to animal sacrifices, and a full embodiment of the covenant of the law.
Please carefully consider these things as we look at the following verses. For as many as were of the works of the law are under the curse; for it is written, "Cursed is everyone who does not continue in all things which are written in the book of the law, to do them." But that no one is justified by the law in the sight of God is evident, for "The just shall live by faith." Yet the law is not of faith, but "The man who does them shall live by them." Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (for it is written, "cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree"), that the blessing of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles in Christ Jesus, that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith. (Gal.3:10-14)
Do we glorify God through a carnal interpretation of the patriarchal promises, or do we bring glory to Him by seeing His word in the light of the Holy Spirit? We need not answer such an obvious question. It behooves all the heirs of promise to see, know, and appreciate all that is ours in the New and better Covenant of the Lord Jesus.
God removed the old Jewish world. Scripture records it thus: Then a mighty angel took up a stone like a great millstone and threw it into the sea, saying, "Thus with violence the great city Babylon shall be thrown down, and shall not be found anymore...And in her was found the blood of prophets and saints, and of all who were slain on the earth." (Revelation 18:21,24)
Is there hope for the Jews? Absolutely! That hope is the Gospel message of Jesus Christ.
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