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The Abrahamic Covenant In Prophetic History

 

 

Contents

  

Introduction  
1 -   What Did God Promise Abraham?  
2 -   Summing Up The Promises    

3 -   "Zera" - The Seed 

4 -   The Nature Of The Abrahamic Covenant 
5 -   The Significance Of The Unilateral Covenant 

6 -   View One

7 -   View Two

8 -   A Long Journey For Me 

9 -   Did Abraham Get What Was Promised? 

10 - Two Big Questions

11 - Paul's Teaching In Romans 1 Through 4 

12 - Paul's Teaching In Galatians 3 

13 - The One Seed Of Galatians 3 

14 - Introduction To Romans 11

15 - Not All Descendents Of Abraham Are Israel - Romans 9:6

16 - The Redeemed Offspring - Romans 9:7

17 - A People Who Aren't His - Romans 9:22 - 23 

18 - The Faith Of Abraham - Romans 10 

19 - All Israel Will Be Saved - Romans 11 

20 - The Fulfillment Of The Abrahamic Covenant

21 - Wrapping It Up

22 - Additional Scripture

 

 

Introduction

 

Abraham is an important man in history.  Christians, Jews, and Muslims, all claim close association with him.  What I say about Abraham, and especially God's promises spoken to him, may be a bit detailed for some people, but it's important if you want to understand the message of both the Old and New Testament.  God's promises to Abraham are first seen in Genesis 12, and then thread their way to the last chapter of Revelation. 

 

What God promised Abraham is commonly known as the "Abrahamic Covenant."  When properly understood
these promises are the basis to a good understanding of the
Bible and especially to Israel's place in Biblical prophecy.  You may or may not agree with my position concerning prophecy and that's your prerogative.  The debate over varying prophetic positions have been raging for a long time.  I certainly won't end the debate.  So, as the Apostle Paul said, "Consider what I say and the Lord give you the understanding in all things" (2 Timothy 2:7).

 

The term "Replacement Theology" is important to the discussion concerning the Abrahamic Covenant.   Replacement Theology teaches that all the promises that God spoke to Abraham, and subsequently to Israel, and confirmed throughout the Old Testament, are no longer applicable to Israel.  They are now promised to the church, thus the church has replaced Israel in the prophetic history of the Bible.  All the prophetic promises directed towards Israel in the Old Testament are seen as being directed towards the church.  Replacement Theologians thus understand the Old Testament prophecies in a way that those Israelis living during the Old Testament would not have understood them.  I view this position as being very problematic.    

To be clear, I do not believe in Replacement Theology, and I will show you why in the following pages.  In my opinion, the whole debate over Israel's place in prophecy hinges on how you understand the Abrahamic Covenant.  In other words, how you understand the promises God spoke to Abraham will  determine how you understand what the Bible says about prophetic history and the end of this age.   

 

Newcomers to Biblical prophecy will often begin their study of prophecy with the book of Revelation, but really, that should be the last place to begin.  To the degree you understand Old Testament prophecies, and especially the Abrahamic Covenant, will be the degree you understand Revelation.   

 

1 - What Did God Promise Abraham?

 

In Galatians 3:16 the Apostle Paul spoke of "promises" God made to Abraham.  It's important to know that God promised Abraham more than one thing, on more than one occasion.   

 

If you compare the promises of the Abrahamic Covenant written in the NIV Bible with that which is written in the KJV Bible you will notice a difference to whom the promises were directed.  The NIV states that there are 3 recipients of the covenant while the KJV states there are 2 recipients of the covenant.  The NIV says that Abraham, his offspring, and his descendents are the recipients of the promises.  The KJV says that Abraham and his seed are recipients of the promises.  This difference has created many problems for those who attempt to understand what this covenant is all about.  It has caused the difference in thinking between those who embrace Replacement Theology and those who don't.   

 

Both the KJV and the NIV state that Abraham is a valid recipient of the promises.  Beyond that the KJV states that Abraham's "seed" is also a recipient of the promises while the NIV states that both Abraham's "offspring" and his "descendents" are recipients of the promises.  What the NIV does that the KJV doesn't do is to allow the context of a verse to establish whether to use the singular noun "offspring" or the plural noun "descendents" in a particular verse.  If this sounds too technical for you, please keep reading.  Understanding this issue will help you understand the Abrahamic Covenant and Biblical prophecy.  

 

Here are the promises God spoke to Abraham as seen in the NIV.  They are listed as they occur in the book of Genesis.  I insert the word "seed" in brackets as it appears in the KJV.   

 

"I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing.  I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you, I will curse; and all the peoples on earth will be blessed through you."  - Genesis 12:2 and 3

 

"To your offspring (seed) I will give this land." - Genesis 12:7

 

"Look north to south, and east to west.  All the land you see will be given to you and your offspring (seed) forever." - Genesis 13:14 - 15  

 

"This man will not be your heir, but a son coming from your own body will be your heir   Look up at the heavens and count the stars, if indeed you can count them So shall your offspring (seed) be ...  I am the Lord who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land and take possession of it."
- Genesis 15:4 - 8

 

" your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own, and they will be enslaved and mistreated four hundred years.  But I will punish the nation they serve as slaves, and afterwards they will come out with great possessions  you however will go to your fathers in peace " - Genesis 15:13 - 14

 

"On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abraham and said, 'to your descendents I will give this land. From the river of Egypt to the great river - the Euphrates " - Genesis 15:18

 

"I will confirm my covenant between me and you and will greatly increase your numbers As for me; this is my covenant with you: you will be the father of many nations.  No longer will you be called Abram; your name will be Abraham, for I have made you a father of many nations.  I will make you very fruitful; I will make nations of you and kings will come from you.  I will establish my covenant as an everlasting covenant between me and you and your descendents after you for the generations to come, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you.  The whole land of Canaan where you are now an alien, I will give as an everlasting possession to you and your descendents after you, and I will be their God." - Genesis 17:3 - 8

 

"God said your wife Sarah will bear you a son, and you will call him Isaac.  I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his descendents after him my covenant I will establish with Isaac " - Genesis 17:19 - 22

 

"I will surely return to you this time next year, and your wife Sarah will have a son." (Genesis 18:10, also in verse 14)

 

"Abraham will surely become a great and powerful nation and all nations of the earth will be blessed through him " - Genesis 18:17 and 18

 

 " It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned." 
- Genesis 21:12

 

"I will surely bless you and make your descendents as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore.  Your descendents will take possession of the cities of their enemies, and through your offspring (seed) all nations on the earth will be blessed " - Genesis 22:17 - 18

                             

 

2 - Summing Up The Promises  

 

I count 13 main promises God spoke to Abraham.  I've placed them in three categories.  

 

Category 1 - Promises To Abraham

 

God promised Abraham
1 - that he'd have a son through Sarah
     - Genesis 15:4 to 8, 17:19 to 22, 18:10 and 14

2 - that it would be through Isaac that his offspring or
      seed would be reckoned - Genesis 21:12

3 - that he'd be a great nation - Genesis 12:2 - 3, 18:18

4 - that he'd be the father of many nations, not just
     one nation - Genesis 17:3 to 8

5 - that these promises would be forever and that He'd
      be the God of his descendents forever - Genesis 17:3
      to 8, 13:14 and 15, 17:19 to 22

6 that he'd die in peace at an old age - Genesis 15:15

 

Category 2 - Promises to Abraham's descendents

 

God promised Abraham's descendents:

7 - that the number of his descendents would be as
     the stars in the sky and sand in the sea
     - Genesis 22:17 and 18 

8 - that his descendents would inherit a specific piece of
      property - Genesis 15:18

9 - that his descendents would be freed from four
     hundred years of  slavery - Genesis 15:13 and 14

10 - that his descendents would possess the cities
       of their enemies - Genesis 22:17 to 18

 

Category 3 - Promises to Abraham's offspring

 

God promised Abraham's offspring;

11 - a certain piece of land to Abraham's offspring that
       would be forever - Genesis 12:7, and 13:14 and 15

12 - that his offspring would number as many as the
       stars in the heavens - Genesis 15:4 to 8

13 - that all nations of the earth would be blessed
       through his offspring, or seed - Genesis 21:17
       and 18, 12:2 and 3

 

There are specific promises directed to 3 specific recipients.  You will notice that promises relating to land, numbers, and greatness are promised to both Abraham's descendents and also to his offspring.  This is important because Paul teaches us that descendents are not the same as offspring.  I'll explain later.  

 

 

3 - "Zera" The Seed

 

There is an important point that I have to address before I go any farther.  I have just said that there are 3 recipients to the Abrahamic Covenant.  I say this based on the NIV Bible.  If you read the KJV Bible you will note that there are only 2 recipients to the Abrahamic Covenant.  They are Abraham and his seed.  This is an important issue, because in part, I believe this is where much of our present confusion stems from.  

 

There are 2 theological positions concerning the Abrahamic Covenant.  One states there are 2 recipients of the covenant while the other states there are 3 recipients.  When I explain Galatians 3:15 to 18 where Paul says there are 2 recipients of the covenant, this becomes an issue that needs clarification.

 

The Hebrew word "zera" is translated as both "offspring" and "descendents" in the NIV while in the KJV its only translated as  "seed."  The KJV does not translate "zera" as "descendents" anywhere in Genesis as the NIV does.  Why is this so? 

 

The NIV translates "zera" in some places as "offspring" (singular) and in other places as "descendents" (plural) based on the context in which "zera" is used.  It's obvious that the plural "descendents" refers to Israel.  The singular "offspring" refers to Jesus as we will later see in Galatians 3:15 to 18.  Some suggest that the NIV translators had a theological bias.  I suggest that the KJV translators had a theological bias.  For the most part, they believed that Israel had lost its prophetic and historic significance.  There was an anti-Israel bias throughout church history that may have excluded Israel as being a recipient of the covenant in their thinking. 

 

So, depending on what translation of the Bible you prefer, might well determine what theological position you hold to concerning the Abrahamic Covenant.

 

I end this chapter with a point which may confuse some of you who aren't familiar with Galatians 3.  Paul says the word "seed" is singular in Galatians 3:16.  He says that "seed" (singular) refers to Jesus.  In Galatians 3:29 he uses the word "seed" again in its singular form when he says that if you (plural in Greek) belong to Christ, then you (plural in Greek) are Abraham's seed (singular in Greek) and are heirs (plural in Greek) of the promise.  In verse 16 the "seed" is in reference to Jesus while in verse 29 it is in reference to those in Christ.  This tells me that Paul thought there were 2 distinct recipients of the covenant beyond Abraham himself that being Jesus and Israel, which includes New Testament believers in Jesus.  Despite the assertion of some, I believe Paul understood that there were 3 recipients of the Abrahamic Covenant.           

 

 

4 - The Nature of The Abrahamic Covenant   

 

A covenant is normally an agreement between two people. 
Both parties ratify and implement the agreement, but this was not the case with the Abrahamic Covenant that was ratified in Genesis 15.  

 

Even though most modern translations of Genesis 15:18 states that God made a covenant with Abraham, contextually speaking, that was not the case.  God did make promises to Abraham as stipulated in the covenant, but, the ratification and thus the implementation of these promises had nothing to do with Abraham.  If you read Genesis 15 you will see the process by which God confirmed the promises in a ritual that was common practice back then. 

 

God asked Abraham to prepare all that was necessary for this ritual, but once everything was in place, God put Abraham into a deep sleep.  Abraham wasn't even awake when the agreement was ratified.  So, if Abraham wasn't awake to sign on and agree to the covenant, whom did God make the covenant with?  

 

God made the covenant with Himself.  Hebrews 6:13 and 14 states that there was no one greater than God to whom God could confirm the covenant.  So, God confirmed it with Himself.   Being the ultimate authority over all things, He agreed with Himself to fulfill all aspects of the covenant.  God alone is responsible to follow through on each and every promise He made to Abraham.  Abraham had no part in the ratification process.  So, he, nor anyone else, has any part in making sure the covenant is ultimately realized.  Abraham's part was to simply trust God that He would be true to His word and keep His promises.  Romans 9:16 states that the implementation of God's plans do not depend on man's ability but on God's ability and mercy.  We can be sure of that.     

 

My point is this.  God will keep the promises He spoke to Abraham as Abraham would have understood them, not as those who have reinterpreted them to mean something different today.  Many of the promises have already been fulfilled and those remaining will be realized.  You can count on that.  

 

 

5 - The Significance Of This Unilateral Covenant          

 

Why is all this important?   One reason why this unilateral agreement is important is because the New Covenant of salvation works the same way.  There is nothing we can do to bring about God's promise of salvation.  God chose to work that out Himself, and He will make sure it's completed.  We simply trust that God will do as He promised, just as Abraham trusted God would do as He promised.

 

Another reason why this is important is because some people think that the unfaithfulness of Abraham's descendents Israel nullified the promises made to Abraham.  It's like God redefined the terms of the covenant in mid stream when He didn't like what Abraham's grandkids were doing.  God did not redefine anything, and neither should we as some do.   

 

We should expect the Abrahamic Covenant to be
fulfilled as specifically promised to Abraham.  With this in mind, let me briefly explain the two views concerning the Abrahamic Covenant. 

 

 

6 - View One

 

This view states that God's promises directed to and meant specifically for Abraham have been fulfilled.  For example, God promised Abraham that he would live to an old age.  Abraham did live to an old age.  No one disagrees with that. 

 

This view holds that promises directed to Abraham's descendents (Israel) have already been fulfilled, never to be fulfilled again. Such promises concerning land and greatness of Israel 's nationhood were fulfilled in the glory days of Israel under the rule of King David. 

 

Soon after the glory days of King David, Israel
forsook the God of Abraham.  At this point the promises
made to Abraham were withdrawn by God.  Centuries later,
the rejection of Jesus by Israel
cemented the cancelation of promises into the ground.  Using the Roman army, God demolished Jerusalem in 70 AD and dispersed the Jews throughout the world, nullifying all of the promises made to Abraham and his descendents Israelfor good.  Israel lost her significance in prophetic history and is now no different than any other nation.        

 

This view holds that all the promises originally directed
towards Israel are now fulfilled through Abraham's
"offspring" or "seed", meaning Jesus (Galatians 3:16).  
Paul says that the word "seed" is singular, not plural in Galatians 3:16.  Therefore, the "seed" can't refer to a whole bunch of Abraham's descendents.  


This view states that all the promises spoken to Abraham should be understood as being directed towards and fulfilled in Jesus.  Since Christians are "in Christ," Christians have replaced Israel as being the recipients of the promises.  Therefore, Jesus and the church have become the means of blessing to the world.  Israel

has no part in this blessing.  The Promised Land promised
to Israel becomes spiritualized into the Kingdom of God.

The greatness of Israel's nationhood becomes spiritualized into
the greatness of the church.  If for some reason Israel becomes a great nation, it will have nothing to do with God or His promises spoken to Abraham.   

 

Those holding to this view thus reinterpret all the Old Testament prophecies directed to Israel.  Prophecy in the Old Testament concerning Israel has been reinterpreted to be directed to the church.  This view states that the church has replaced Israel in the mind of God and in prophetic history. That's why this view is called "Replacement Theology."  Years ago I was heavily influenced by this view, but not any more.

 

  

7 - View Two

 

This view states that what God promised Abraham,
his descendents Israel, and his offspring Jesus,
will be fulfilled exactly as specified, and as Abraham
would have understood the promises.  There are no changes and no redefining of the covenant's terms.  Israel's backslidden condition does not nullify the covenant because Israel did not participate in the ratification of the covenant as I previously pointed out.  God made the covenant with Himself and He will carry it through to completion as He originally intended.  Therefore, Israel still has prophetic and historic significance in the mind of God.  What is prophesied about Israel in the Old Testament prophetic books still apply to Israel and not to the church.  

 

This view is simpler to understand, more literal in nature, and I think more hermeneutically balanced.  I will proceed to explain why I think this view to be the correct view.      

 

8 - A Long Journey For Me

 

It has been a long journey for me when it comes
to understanding the implications of the Abrahamic Covenant.  One reason for the length of the journey is because as a young Christian in the 1970's my two favourite Bible teachers took opposing viewpoints on Israel's place in prophetic history.  Malcolm Smith taught that Israel lost its place in prophetic history when it rejected its Messiah.  Derek Prince, on the other hand, taught that Israel still had a divinely appointed place in prophetic history.    

 

It took years of bouncing back and forth between these two views.  At times I gave up trying to figure it out, only to feel compelled to return to some kind of personal conviction.  By the early 1990's I began to be convinced that God was not finished with Israel.  By 2001 I was convinced that Israel has eternal significance in the mind of God.            

 

 

9 - Did Abraham Get What Was Promised?

 

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

 

10 - Two Big Questions     

 

There are two important questions we need to address at this point.  When did, or when will, all the promises be spoken by God to Abraham be fulfilled?  Were the promises that weren't fulfilled in Abraham's life time directed towards Abraham's descendents, or towards his special offspring, or towards both?  How you answer these questions will determine how you view Biblical prophecy.  It may even effect how you vote in a national election.  Let's see what the Apostle Paul has to say about this.        

 

 

11 - Paul's Teaching In Romans 1 Through 4

 

Part of what Paul taught in Romans 1:1 to 3:20 states that both Jew and Gentile are in the same boat when it comes to sin.  Even though Jews had many advantages over the Gentiles concerning the things of God, they were just as wicked as Gentiles. 

 

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.  Righteousness is more than just doing right things.  It's being right.

 

Paul tells us that if we trust our lives with 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 even as He is perfectly right, even though you are far from perfectly right. 

 

Paul says that this state of being perfectly right is a free gift from God to both Jew and Gentile upon trusting one's life with Jesus.  We can't earn this state of being righteous.  We can not work to obtain it.  It is freely given to us upon handing our lives over to the Lord Jesus Christ.          

 

Paul brings Abraham into the discussion in Romans 4:3.  He says that Abraham believed what God promised and thus he was declared to be righteous.  Paul quotes directly from Genesis 15:6 and 22 where we read the ratification of the Abrahamic Covenant.  God viewed Abraham as being in this state of perfect rightness even though he was far from righteous, and why?  It's because Abraham trusted what he heard God tell him.  For this reason alone God declared Abraham to be a righteous man. The same is true for us today.  When we trust God, trust what He has done for us and promised us, we are declared righteous, even though we are not righteous.   

 

12 - Paul's Teaching In Galatians 3

 

Paul's letter to the Galatians a short version of his letter to the Romans.  One major theme in both letters is that God declares a person as being righteous when he trusts his life with Jesus.  Paul vented his Holy Spirit led frustration with the believers at Galatia because they were forsaking this truth. 

 

False teachers were enticing these believers to obey the Law of Moses.  Only then could God declare them to be righteous.  That meant adult Gentile men had to be circumcised in order to be declared righteous by God.  Imagine a grown man getting circumcised back then.  These false teachers were actually spying on the Galatian men to see who was or who was not circumcised.  I wonder what covert spy techniques were employed to obtain this information.    

 

In Galatians 3:15 Paul said that if a human covenant can't be broken, neither can God's covenants be broken.  In context, the covenant Paul had in mind was the Abrahamic Covenant.  Paul then made a statement in verse 16 that Christians have argued over for years.  "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 said that the promises God spoke to Abraham were promised to both Abraham and to his one seed who he said is Jesus.  

 

The Greek word translated as "seed" and "seeds" in this verse is "sperma."  Our English word "seed" can either be a singular noun or a plural noun.  Paul claimed that the word "sperma" in this particular instance is a singular noun and thus can only refer to one man, meaning Jesus, not to many people, meaning Israel .  This is the point of contention between the two views of the Abrahamic Covenant.     

 

 

13 - The One Seed Of Galatians 3 

 

According to Paul in Galatians 3:16 God made promises to Abraham and Jesus, but, when you read the Genesis account in the NIV Bible you see that God promised certain things to Abraham, his descendents Israel, and his offspring who Paul said is Jesus.  The KJV differs from the NIV in this respect.  The KJV says that God promised certain things to Abraham and his seed who Paul said is Jesus.  This discrepancy has divided Christians into two camps.  One camp says there are two recipients of the promises while the other camp says there are three recipients.  What camp you are in will determine your views of prophetic history and Israel 's place in prophecy.  I believe God made promises to Abraham, his descendents   Israel, and His offspring Jesus.  Here's my reasoning.     

 

Galatians 3 concerns God declaring us as being righteous when we put our trust in Jesus.  Everything Paul said in this chapter is in support of this fact.  Galatians 3 is not an exposition of the Abrahamic Covenant with a detailed explanation of its promises.  Paul only referred to the Abrahamic Covenant to help explain that we are declared righteous by faith and not by works.  No specific promise, like the promise of land or Israel's national greatness is addressed in Galatians 3.  Paul covers those issues in Romans 9 through 11.  You cannot, therefore, build, or begin to build, your doctrine of the Abrahamic Covenant solely on Galatians 3.

 

The specific problem comes down to how we are to understand the word "seed" that is found in both the NIV and the KJV in Galatians 3:16.  The problem is complicated further when you go back to the Genesis account that Paul references.  If you read each promise in the NIV you will note that some promises are directed towards Abraham while others are directed towards either Abraham's "descendants" or his "offspring" who we now know is Jesus.  The word "seed" is not found in the NIV.  It is found in the KJV when it says that the promises are directed to only Abraham and to his "seed" who Paul says is Jesus.    

 

The word "seed" in English can either be a singular noun or a plural noun, a distinction that cannot be seen in the KJV usage of the word "seed."  When you read the Genesis account in the KJV with Paul's understanding of the seed being Jesus you will believe that the word "seed" is always in reference to Jesus and never in reference to Israel.  You, therefore, believe that only Abraham and Jesus are recipients of God's promises.  Israel is excluded from the promises.      

 

In Genesis, the Hebrew word "zera" is translated as "seed" in the KJV and either "descendents" plural or "offspring" singular in the NIV.  This is the crux of the matter.     

 

The NIV translators have studied the context to determine whether the Hebrew word "zera" should be translated as the singular noun "offspring" or a plural noun "descendents."  They have determined that in some instances the word "zera" is plural, thus they translate it as "descendants."  In other places they have determined "zera" to be singular thus they translate it as "offspring."  The KJV does not make this distinction.  Therefore, the NIV states that there are three recipients of the covenant, Abraham, his descendents, and his offspring.       

                    

Depending on what version of the Bible you prefer will determine your view of the Abrahamic Covenant.  Those preferring the KJV believe only Abraham and Jesus are recipients of the covenant, leaving Israel out of the picture and thus out of prophetic history.  Others, like me, who prefer the NIV rendering of the Genesis account believe the context tells us that both Jesus and Israel are recipients of the covenant, thus, Israel still has a place in Biblical prophecy that is yet to be fulfilled.     

 

Let us now see what Paul said about the nation of Israel in Romans 9 through 11.  This passage is vital to our understanding concerning the Abrahamic Covenant.           

 

 

14 - Introduction To Romans 9 Through 11  

 

Romans 9 through 11 concerns Israel's past, present, and future.  We learn from Romans 9:2 that Paul was in "great sorrow and unceasing anguish" over Israel's rejection of Jesus.  I believe Paul's sorrow reflects the heart of God for His chosen nation.     

 

Paul begins this section of Romans with the sad and depressing fact that his own people have rejected their Messiah but he ends this section on a happier note. Romans 9 through 11 was meant to encourage both Jew and Gentile Christians that Israel has a better future.  Israel still is significant in the mind of God because He has not forgotten what He promised Abraham concerning his descendents.     

 

In Romans 9:5 Paul said that the Jews had all the advantages in the world when it comes to the things of God.  They had the "divine covenants."  Notice the NIV uses the plural word "covenants."  Some original manuscripts have "covenant" singular.  Whatever the case, there is more than one covenant found in the Old Testament.  There is the Abrahamic Covenant, the Mosaic Covenant, the Davidic Covenant, as well as the prophetic promises in support of these covenants.  It is the Abrahamic Covenant that Paul is addressing in this section of Romans.        

 

  

15 - Not All The Descendents Of Abraham Are Israel Romans 9:6

 

In Romans 9:6 Paul made a statement that those who believe Israel has no more place in prophetic history jump on and run with.  He said, "Not all who are descendents of Israel are Israel."  This means that just because one is a biological Jew does not mean he is a true Jew in the mind of God.  Paul said that only those who have genuine faith in God, like Abraham had, are true Jews, and that now includes Gentiles.  Jesus alluded to this when He told the Pharisees that their father wasn't Abraham as they asserted.  Their father was the devil (John 8:44). 

 

In Romans 11 Paul explained what he was talking about by using an olive tree as an analogy.  He said that the olive tree is a Jewish tree.  Those Jews who had no faith in Jesus were cut out of the tree and replaced by Gentiles who had faith in Jesus. This may sound like "Replacement Theology" but it's not.  This is still a Jewish tree. It's not a Gentile tree as much of church history has made it out to be. 

 

The inclusion of Gentiles into the family of God isn't new.  It was permitted in the Law of Moses.  Abraham himself had Gentiles under his authority circumcised (Genesis 17:12) so they could be considered part of God's chosen people.     

 

Some people believe that God uprooted this Jewish tree and planted a brand new generic Gentile tree they call "Spiritual Israel," or the church.  They then reinterpret all Old Testament promises and prophecies referring to Israel as referring to Spiritual Israel, the church.  That may sound logical, but it's bad hermeneutics.  If you keep reading Romans you will see that Paul believed that Israel still has a place in prophetic history and this tree is still a Jewish tree.

 

 

16 - The Reckoned Offspring Romans 9:7

 

Promise number 2 of the 13 promises found in the Abrahamic Covenant that I listed in an earlier chapter as stated in Genesis 21:12 says this.  "Through Isaac your offspring would be reckoned."   Paul repeats this promise in Romans 9:7 when he said that this promise has been fulfilled.  Abraham's elderly wife Sarah miraculously gave birth to a son named Isaac just as God promised.  Abraham also had a son named Ishmael by Sarah's servant Hagar.  The promised offspring which we have learned is Jesus would come through Isaac's lineage, not Ishmael's lineage.   

 

The Hebrew word "qara" is translated as "reckon" in Genesis while the Greek word "kaleo" is translated as "reckoned" in the New Testament, which includes here in Romans 9:7.  Both words mean "to call" or "to name."  In short, the promised offspring, or Jesus, would be called out from or born in the lineage of, Isaac, just as Jesus was, and just as God promised Abraham.  This is what the phrase "reckoned offspring" means in Romans 9:7.  

 

17 - A People Who Aren't His Romans 9:22 29

 

So, believing Gentiles are now understood to be descendents of Abraham.  Paul confirms this by quoting Hosea 2:23.  "I will call them my people who are not my people."  Again, this sounds like "Replacement Theology" but it's not.  It's just the inclusion of believing Gentiles into the descendents of Abraham.  There is a difference between replacing Israelis with Gentiles and including Gentiles into the family of Israel.

 

As an aside, I point out something that many miss concerning this Hosea 2:23 quote.  If you read Hosea 2 you will note that the people who are not God's people but will some day be called God's people are not Gentiles as Paul suggests here in Romans.  They are backslidden Israelis who God has divorced, but, to be true to His promise to Abraham, will bring back into His fold.  So, why would Paul misappropriate Hosea 2:23?  The general thinking seems to be that Paul would have understood the context of Hosea 2 to be talking about backslidden Jews and not Gentiles.  He was just saying that if God can reinstate backslidden Jews into Israel He could certainly include believing Gentiles into Israel.       

 

In Romans 9:27 Paul quoted from Isaiah 10:22 and 23. Isaiah said that even though the descendents of Abraham would be as many as the sand by the sea, only a remnant would be saved.  Not all Jews throughout history will be saved.  Only a future remnant of Jews will be saved, but saved they will be, suggesting that God isn't finished with the Jews. 

 

Paul isn't saying God has replaced Israel with the church.  The tree analogy makes that clear.  The tree hasn't been uprooted and replaced by a generic Gentile tree.  Some Jewish branches have been cut out of the tree and replaced with some Gentile branches, but the tree remains a Jewish tree. 

 

Gentile Christians should see themselves as being branches grafted into this Jewish tree.  A people who were once not God's people, now are His people.  Most Christians in the western world fail to see themselves in this Jewish sense.  We have westernized our Jewish heritage out of existence.  For this reason, Replacement Theology has dominated Christian thinking throughout the centuries.            

 

 

18 - The Faith Of Abraham Romans 10

 

Romans 10 concerns faith in Jesus and the preaching of the gospel, especially as it relates to Abraham and his descendents Israel.  Verse 1 shows us Paul's strong desire that his own people would be saved.  He admits, in verse 2, that they have a religious zeal but it's not based on knowledge.  That's interesting in the light of the fact that God predicted through the prophet Hosea (Hosea 4:6) that His people Israel would be destroyed because of lack of knowledge. 

 

Romans 10 ends with a quote from Isaiah 65:2.  "All day long I (God) have held out my hands to a disobedient and obstinate people."  That's a depressing thought to end this chapter on but as we read on into chapter 11 we see that Israel has a better future when it comes to faith in Jesus and its place in prophetic history.  Paul's desire as expressed back in verse 1 will be realized at the end of this age.   

       

 

19 - All Israel Will Be Saved Romans 11

 

In Romans 11:1 Paul asks this question.  "Did God reject His people?"  This is a logical question to ask after what he has said about the influx of Gentiles into the family of Abraham and the lack of faith on behalf of Israel.  Some might have thought that God was scrapping the Jews and replacing them with Christian Gentiles, but that's not so.  When Paul uses the words "His people" in this context, it's in reference to Abraham's descendents as understood in Old Testament terms.  It's in reference to ethnic Israelis.  It is not in reference to the so-called Spiritual Israel, the church, as those holding to Replacement Theology say. 

   

In verse 11 Paul asks another question.  "Did the Jews stumble as to fall beyond recovery?"  The answer is clearly "no."  Abraham's descendents Israel will recover from their fall, and that being the case, means Israel still has historic and prophetic significance in the mind of God.  This recovery is yet to come.  Beyond any doubt, God is not finished with Israel.  Besides, verse 24 says that Jews can be grafted back into their olive tree again.      

 

Verses 25 and 26 are the climax of Romans 9, 10, and 11.  Paul says, "I do not want you to be ignorant Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles have come in.  And so all Israel will be saved."  Allow me, thus, to suggest that those who hold to Replacement Theology might be ignorant, or, misinformed, of the Biblical facts when it comes to Israel's place in prophetic history. 

 

Israel has gone through a hardening period in its history in part so that the full number of Gentiles can be grafted into this Jewish tree.  When the last Gentile is grafted in, this age ends.  Israel as understood in Old Testament terms will repent of its sin of unbelief.  God Himself will pour out a spirit of repentance and grace on the Jews as promised in Zechariah 12:10 to 14, resulting in their salvation.    

 

Romans 11:26 quotes from Isaiah and Jeremiah.  "The deliverer will come from Zion ; He will turn godlessness away from Jacob.  And this is my covenant with them when I will take away their sins."  God will turn the Jews from their sin because He promised Himself that would be so in the Abrahamic Covenant of Genesis 15.     

 

In a Jewish context, verse 29 states that "God's gifts and calls

are irrevocable."  God will not revoke, change, or redefined,
or modify the terms of the Abrahamic Covenant.  He has and He will fulfill all His promises as they were originally meant to be understood by Abraham.  He will do this on His own, without help from anyone.  Israel still has prophetic significance as a nation of people, even though it is still lost in sin and unbelief.

 

20 - The Fulfillment Of The Abrahamic Covenant

 

Let us look at the 13 promises of the Abrahamic Covenant to see if they have been fulfilled.  

 

Personal Promises Directed To Abraham 

 

Promise 1 - Abraham would have a son through Sarah (Genesis 15:4 8, 17:19 22, 18:10 and 14).  Fulfilled.    

 

Promised 2  - Through Isaac Abraham's offspring (Jesus) would be reckoned.  Fulfilled (Galatians 3:16).

 

Promise 3 - Abraham would be a great and powerful nation (Genesis 12:2 3, 18:18).  Fulfilled when Jesus returns to rule the nations from Jerusalem.    

 

Promise 4 - Abraham would be the father of many nations, not just one nation (Genesis 17:3 - 8).  Ultimately fulfilled when Jesus rules the nations on the Throne of David from Jerusalem (Zechariah14).

 

Promise 5 - God would be Israel's God forever (Genesis 17:3 8, 13:14 15, 17:19 - 22).  Fulfilled when God pours out a spirit of grace and supplication on Israel (Zechariah 12:10) when Jesus return to Jerusalem.        

 

Promise 6 - Abraham would die in peace as an old man (Genesis 15:15).  Fulfilled.   

 

Promises Directed To Abraham's Descendents Israel

 

Promise 7 - Abraham's descendents Israel would number as many as the stars in the sky and the sand by the sea (Genesis 22:17 18).  Ultimate fulfillment during the thousand year rule of Christ on earth that carries over to the new earth.     

 

Promise 8 - Abraham's descendents Israel would inherit all the land from the River of Egypt to the Euphrates River (Genesis 15:18).  Fulfilled at the return of Jesus.        

 

Promise 9 - Abraham's descendents Israel would be free from 400 years of Egyptian slavery (Genesis 15:13 14).  Fulfilled. 

 

Promise 10 - Abraham's descendents Israel would possess the cities of their enemies (Genesis 21:17 - 18). Fulfilled when Jesus returns to rule from Jerusalem.

 

Promises Directed To Abraham's Offspring Jesus

 

Promise 11 - Abraham's offspring Jesus would get a certain piece of land to keep it forever (Genesis 12:7, 13:14 - 15).  Fulfilled when Jesus returns to His promised land.      

 

Promise 12 - Abraham's offspring Jesus will number as many as the sand of the sea (Genesis 15:4 8).  Ultimately fulfilled at Jesus' return.   

 

Promise 13 - All nations will be blessed through Abraham's offspring Jesus.  Ultimately fulfilled when Jesus brings peace to the earth during His thousand year rule of the nations.      

 

21 - Wrapping Things Up

 

Those who believe Israel has lost its prophetic and historic significance say that Abraham's offspring Jesus has fulfilled all of the promises of the Abrahamic Covenant.  Israel no longer is a recipient of any promise.  They, thus, reinterpret all of the promises and prophecies of the Old Testament.  These promises and prophecies are no longer directed to Israel but to the church.  This is a problem.   

 

Newer versions of Genesis state that the promises of the covenant are directed to Abraham, his offspring (Jesus) and his descendents (Israel).  The KJV states that the promises are directed to only Abraham and his "seed;" the "seed" meaning Jesus.  This has added to the confusion over this issue.    

 

In Galatians 3 Paul addressed the singular word "seed" and said it referred to Jesus.  For this reason Replacement Theologians say the "seed" of Genesis as seen in the KJV is Jesus, not Israel .  If you understand Galatians 3 correctly you will know that the Abrahamic Covenant is not the theme of the chapter.  It was only introduced into the conversation to point out Abraham's faith in God; the same faith we should have.  You, therefore, cannot base your thinking about the Abrahamic Covenant solely on Galatians 3:16.      

 

The biggest problem with Replacement Theology is it makes God out to be a deceptive liar.  Abraham understood that he and his descendents Israel were the recipients of the promises.  If God understood that only Jesus, not Israel, was the recipient of the promises as Replacement Theology states, and, if God didn't make that known to Abraham, then God deceived Abraham into thinking wrongly.  Also, if God changed His mind concerning the recipient of the promises then He lied to Abraham.  Of course God does not lie or change his mind concerning His people Israel (Romans 11:29).  We, therefore, must understand the Abrahamic Covenant as Abraham understood it, not as Replacement Theology understands it.

 

Another thing to note is that all of the promises concerning Israel's national greatness and land are promised to both Jesus and Israel.  These promises are linked together because when Jesus returns to earth as the King of the Jews, Israel will be that great nation and it will have its land.      

 

The Abrahamic Covenant was a covenant that God made with Himself.  He agreed with Himself to fulfill all that He promised Abraham.  There should be no doubt in our minds that He, not the church nor Israel, will bring these promises to their ultimate fulfillment.

 

 

22 - Additional Scriptures

 

In Acts 7:1 to 5 Stephen made reference to the land God promised Israel.  He understood this land to be literal land, not spiritual land as Replacement Theology states. 

 

In Acts 1:6, Jesus' disciples asked, "Are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?"  Jesus did not deny that Israel would be a kingdom again.  He just told the disciples that they weren't to concern themselves with this matter at this time.     

 

Isaiah 14:1 says that "The Lord will have compassion on Jacob; once again He will choose Israel and will settle them in their own land the house of Israel will possess the nations."  The land is literal. Israel is a literal nation.  

 

Amos 9:15 tells us that once Israelis are back in their land Israel will never be uprooted again.  Israelis are now back, at least in part of their promised land, and there they will stay.   

 

Romans 9:6 says that the fulfillment of God's promises don't depend on man's faithfulness to God, but God's faithfulness to Himself.  All that God promised Abraham will be fulfilled, no matter what we do or don't do. 

 

How you understand the Abrahamic Covenant will determine how you understand Biblical prophecy.  If you leave Israel out of the covenant, you'll leave Israel out of prophecy.  If you keep Israel in the covenant, you'll keep Israel in prophecy.  I keep Israel in the covenant.  For this reason I believe Israel still has prophetic and historic significance.         

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