promises to Abraham and Christ
No attentive reader of the New Testament
can be ignorant of the prominence given in the apostolic writings
to "the promises made unto the fathers".
He may not understand what is meant by the phrase, but he can scarcely
avoid acquaintance with the phrase itself, as a thing of importance,
because it is used in such a way as to show that whatever it refers
to, it expresses something that has a fundamental relation to the
scheme of truth apostolically delivered.
Those who are not New Testament
readers, or Old Testament readers either, will know nothing about
it. For their benefit and the general elucidation of the subject,
we call attention to the state of the matter, by quoting Paul’s
statement that "Jesus Christ was a minister of the circumcision
for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made unto
the fathers" (Rom.15:8). This at once brings
the subject to a point, declaring a connection between the mission
of Christ and that which is styled THE PROMISES; and thereby imposing
upon us the necessity of recognising the importance of the stem
and branch of truth so expressed, instead of turning away from the
subject with indifference, as is the custom with the majority of
religious people, not excepting those professing to be New Testament
Christians. If Christ came to "confirm the promises made unto
the fathers", it is obviously of the first importance that
we know something about these promises, and we need have no difficulty
in getting the knowledge desired. Paul incidentally declares that
whatever they are, the promises belong to the Jews:
"My kinsmen according to
the flesh, who are Israelites, to whom pertaineth the adoption,
and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and
the service of God, and the promises"
Speaking more definitely on the
subject, he says:
"Now to Abraham and his seed
were the promises made. He saith not,
And to seeds, as of many, but as of one, And to thy seed, which
is Christ . . . And if ye be Christ’s then are ye Abraham’s
seed, and heirs according to the promise" (Gal.3:16,29).
From this, it is evident that if
we would know something about "the promises" which Paul
had in his mind, we must refer to the history of Abraham, from which
he derived his information. While many people are familier with
this history, they are ignorant of anything in connection with it
which answers to Paul’s words in Gal.3:16,29. They know that
Abraham emigrated from Chaldea, by divine command, became a settler
in Canaan, and that God promised to greatly multiply his posterity,
and make them a great nation in the country where he was then a
stranger; they believe that it was promised to him that Christ,
the Saviour of the world, should come in his line, and that in this
way, through the preaching of the gospel, all nations should ultimately
be blessed through him; but they have no idea of any promises which
form the groundwork of the Christian faith, or the subject-matter
of the gospel. They admit there were promises, but, practically,
they consider them past and done with. They consider them as applicable
only to the now insignificant events of Jewish history.
They certainly have no idea of any
"promises made unto the fathers", in which they can hope
to have any personal interest, or from which, indeed, Abraham himself
can have any future benefit. They have no idea of themselves or
any one else "inheriting the promises" made 4,000 years
ago to the fathers. The promises, in their estimation are an affair
of the past, a part of the first dispensation which having waxed
old, has vanished away. The thing to be looked for from their point
of view, is the thing that, in their opinion, has happened to the
fathers themselves and to all righteous men ever since - an event
before which all parties are on a dead level, promises or no promises;
and that is, going to heaven when death comes, if righteous. They
sing and teach their children to sing: "Where is now the prophet
Daniel? Safe in the promised land".
In their estimation, the promised
land is heaven; thither they sing of all the faithful having gone
- the "souls" having according to their creed, "departed
to glory", when death laid their bodies low. They consider
that the promises made to them have been amply realised. It is evident
there is a great mistake in this. Paul says:
"These all died in faith,
not having received the promises, but
having seen them afar off, and were
persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they
were strangers and pilgrims on the earth" (Heb.11:13).
This affirms that the fathers died
without receiving what had been promised, in direct opposition to
orthodoxy, which says they died and thus received the promises,
being one and all "safe in the promised land". Paul repeats
the statement at the end of the chapter. He says:
"These all, having obtained
a good report through faith, received not the promise, God having
provided some better thing for us, that they without us should
not be made perfect" (Heb.11:39,40).
What were the promises made to the
fathers, the substance of which they did not receive, and which
Paul here declares they will not receive until the totality of the
chosen ones "from every nation, kindred, people, and tongue"
is completed? In answer to this, we affirm that they relate to matters
forming the very essence and foundation of the salvation offered
through Christ. We do so on the strength of the following testimonies,
to begin with:
"And now I (Paul) stand (before
Agrippa’s judgment-seat) and am judged for the hope of the
promise made of God unto our fathers" (Acts
"He hath shewed strength
with his arm; he hath scattered the proud in the imagination of
their hearts. He hath put down the mighty from their seats, and
exalted them of low degree. He hath filled the hungry with good
things, and the rich he hath sent empty away. He hath holpen his
servant Israel in remembrance of his mercy, as he
spake to our fathers, to Abraham,
and to his seed for ever" (Luke 1:51-55).
"Blessed be the Lord God
of Israel; for he hath visited and redeemed his people, and hath
raised up an horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant
David (that is, Jesus - see context); as he spake by the mouth
of his holy prophets, which have been since the world began; that
we should be saved from our enemies and from the hand of all that
hate us; to perform the mercy promised to our fathers,
and to remember his holy covenant, the oath which
he sware to our father Abraham" (Luke 1:68-73).
"Thou wilt perform
the truth to Jacob, and the mercy to Abraham, which thou hast
sworn unto our fathers from the days of old"
These passages show that the promises
made to the fathers were unfulfilled at so recent a date as the
first century - that is, two thousand years after they were made
- and further, that they have reference to the things to be accomplished,
through Christ, instead of having, as the generality of religious
people suppose, been fulfilled in Jewish history.
But, for the better discussion of
the question, and to come closer to the subject, let us look at
the promises themselves. In seeking for them, we act under the guidance
of Paul, who says, "To Abraham and his seed were the promises
made". This is an infallible clue: we go to the history of
Abraham, and find the following promises recorded:
"Now the Lord had said unto
Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and
from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will shew thee.
And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee
and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing. And I will
bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee; and
in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed"
"And the Lord said unto Abram,
after that Lot was separated from him, Lift up now thine eyes,
and look from the place where thou art northward, and southward,
and eastward, and westward: for all the land which thou seest,
to thee will I give it, and to thy seed (Christ) for ever. Arise,
walk through the land in the length of it and in the breadth of
it for I will give it unto thee"
(Gen.13:14-17). (See also 12:7, 15:8-18).
"By myself have I sworn,
saith the Lord; for because thou hast done this thing, and hast
not withheld thy son, thine only son: that in blessing I will
bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the
stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore;
and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies. And in
thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed,
because thou hast obeyed my voice" (Gen.22:16-18).
Paul styles Isaac and Jacob "the
heirs with him (Abraham) of the same promise" (Heb.11:9). It
will therefore lay the foundation more securely to quote the promises
made to them, which it will be seen are as Paul’s words give
us to understand, identical with those made to Abraham:
"And the Lord appeared unto
him (Isaac) and said . . . Sojourn in this land, and I will be
with thee and will bless thee; for unto thee and unto thy seed
will I give all these countries, and
I will perform the oath which I sware unto Abraham thy father"
"And God Almighty bless thee
(Jacob)...and give thee the blessing of Abraham, to thee, and
to thy seed with thee; that thou mayest inherit the land wherein
thou art a stranger, which God gave unto Abraham" (Gen.28:3,4).
"I am the Lord God of Abraham
thy father, and the God of Isaac: the land whereon thou liest,
to thee will I give it, and to thy seed...and
in thee and in thy seed shall all the families of the earth be
Now, in analysing these "promises
made to the fathers", it will be found that they consist of
several distinct items, which it will be well to enumerate for the
sake of clearness, and the consideration of each of which separately
will enable us to see the truth of the proposition that stands as
the subject of this pamphlet, viz., that these promises will only
be fulfilled when Christ, having returned from heaven, and raised
his people from the dead, reigns in Israel as universal ruler, to
whom all nations will bow in blessed allegiance.
1st. Abraham's posterity should become
a great nation
This has not been fulfilled in the
sense of the promise. It is true that Abraham’s descendants,
according to the flesh, have multiplied and filled a large place
in history; but this is not the only event contemplated in the promise,
as is evident from Rom.9: 6-8. The natural Jews from the day that
they murmured against Moses and Aaron, in the wilderness, till now,
when they reject the prophet like unto Moses, have ever been a stiff-necked,
disobedient generation, walking after the ways of the heathen, and
persecuting and slaying the servants of God sent to bring them to
the right way. This is not the great nation multiplied "above
the stars of heaven", that was promised to Abraham; it is no
blessing to surround a man with such a race of flesh-born rebels.
"They are not all Israel
which are of Israel, neither, because they are the seed of Abraham,
are they all children; but, In Isaac shall thy seed be called:
that is, They which are the children of the flesh, these are not
the children of God, but the children of the promise
are counted for the seed" (Rom.9:6-8).
Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob pleased
God by their faith and obedience: those of their descendants who
were not of this disposition were not of Israel, although they inherited
their flesh and blood, and, therefore, were not "counted for
the seed". They were not reckoned as constituents of the great
nation promised to Abraham. The great majority of the Jews have
been of this class, and are, therefore, rejected. Whence, then,
comes the promised race of children? The principal part of them
will be furnished by the Jewish nation after the flesh; for in all
their history, there has been a remnant, that were truly Abrahamic,
not only in blood, but in faith and obedience: these are "the
children of the promise", and will be raised at the coming
of Christ. The other part will come from the Gentiles, who, after
ages of darkness, were visited in the apostolic era, with an invitation
to become adopted into the stock of Abraham. This fact is made known
in the following words:
"God at the first did visit
the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for his name"
"By revelation he made known
unto me (Paul) the mystery . . . which in other ages was not made
known unto the sons of men . . . that the Gentiles should be fellow
heirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ
by the gospel" (Eph.3:3,5,6).
"And he (Abraham) received
the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith
which he had yet being uncircumcised, that he might be the father
of all them that believe, though they be not circumcised; that
righteousness might be imputed unto them also; and the father
of circumcision to them who are not of the circumcision only,
but who also walk in the steps of that faith of our
father Abraham, which he had being yet uncircumcised"
Hence those who embrace the faith
of Abraham, and become circumcised by putting on Christ in baptism,
thus partaking imputatively of the literal circumcision of which
Christ was subject under the law, become the children of Abraham,
and heirs of the promises made to him. This is Paul’s testimony:
"For as many of you as have been baptised into
Christ have put on Christ... And if ye be Christ’s,
then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according
to the promise" (Gal.3:27,29). Of those in that
position, Paul says: "Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are the
children of promise" (Gal.4:28). This is the class contemplated
in the promise made to Abraham; but the point of time at which they
are contemplated is not the present time, when they are a weak and
scattered family, and the great bulk of them in the dust. It is
the time referred to in John 11:52, when Christ will "gather
together in one the children of God that
are scattered abroad"; and in 2 Thess.2:1, "the coming
of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together unto him".
Speaking of this time, Jesus says:
"Many shall come from the
east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham,
and Isaac, and Jacob,
in the kingdom of heaven" (Matt.8:11).
When this takes place, Abraham will
behold the fulfilment of the promise that he should become a great
and mighty nation, above the stars of heaven in multitude; his children
of the royal order, raised from the dead of all ages, will be "a
great multitude which no man can number" (Rev.7:9); and his
descendants according to the flesh, disciplined and renovated as
a nation, by trial in the wilderness a second time, will be the
mightiest people on the globe, all righteous, and inheriting the
land (Isa.60:21), and having "praise and fame in every land
where they have been put to shame" (Zeph.3:19). This will be
when the Kingdom of God is established in the land.
2nd. Abraham and his seed should receive
possession of the promised land
This is "the land
from the river of Egypt unto the great river Euphrates", styled
in the promise to Abraham, "the land wherein thou art a stranger"
(Gen.17:8). That this part of the promise is unfulfilled, requires
but a feeble effort to see. First, Moses records that Abraham had
to buy a field of the original possessors of the country, wherein
to bury his dead, and said to them, "I am a stranger and a
sojourner with you" (Gen.23:4). Secondly, Paul says, "He
sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country"
(Heb.11:9). Thirdly, Stephen says, "God gave him none inheritance
in it, no, not so much as to set his foot on:
yet he promised that he would give it to him for a possession"
(Acts 7:5). If Abraham was a stranger and a sojourner in the land
of promise, as in a strange country, and received none inheritance
in it, not so much as a foot-breadth, surely, so far as he is concerned,
the promise is unfulfilled. If so, it remains to be fulfilled at
a future time. "Not so", says the orthodox objector: "the
promise has been fulfilled in Abraham’s descendants; the Jews
possessed the country for many centuries, and this was the fulfillment
of the promise". The answer to this is found in Gal.3:16-18:
"Now to Abraham and his seed
were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many,
but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ. And this I say,
that the covenant, that was confirmed before of God in Christ,
the law which was four hundred and thirty years after, cannot
disannul, that it should make the promise of none effect. For
if the inheritance be of the law, it is no more of promise; but
gave it to Abraham by promise".
"The promise, that he should
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 they which
are of the law be heirs, faith is made void and the promise
made of none effect" (Rom.4:13,14).
Now, let the reader observe that
the Jews occupied the land under the law of Moses, which stipulated
in the most stringent terms that their occupation should depend
upon their conformity to its requirements (Deut.28:15-68). Their
inheritance of the country was altogether "of the law";
it provided that if they kept the law, they should dwell in the
land in prosperity; and that if they broke it, they should be dispersed
among the nations in suffering. History records how continually
they failed in the matter, and how repeatedly they were subject
to foreign yoke and captivity in consequence, and how at last, when
hopeless rebellion had established itself in the whole house of
Israel, culminating in the rejection of "the prophet like unto
Moses", the Romans came and "took away their place and
nation", scattering them in the wide dispersion of the present
It is impossible in the face of
these facts to maintain that the Jewish occupation of the land was
a fulfilment of the promise made to Abraham: for Paul says, in the
words quoted, that the promise was not to Abraham or his seed through
the law, but through the righteousness of faith. God gave it to
Abraham by promise, free and unconditional. Therefore, says Paul,
if they which are of the law be heirs, the promise is made of none
effect (Rom.4:14). It follows that the promise that Abraham and
Christ should possess the land is wholly unfulfilled, but will have
its fulfilment when Abraham rises from the dead to enter the kingdom
of God, then and there to be established. A consideration of what
Paul says in Hebrews will shew this:
"By faith Abraham, when he
was called to go out into a place which he should
after receive for an inheritance obeyed; and he
went out, not knowing whither he went. By faith he sojourned in
the land of promise, as in a strange
country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs
with him of the same promise. For he looked for a
city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God.
These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but
having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced
them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the
earth. For they that say such things declare plainly that they
seek a country. And truly if they had been mindful of that country
from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to
have returned. But now they desire a better country, that is,
an heavenly" (Heb.11:8-16).
Let the reader carefully peruse
and re-peruse this quotation from Hebrews, and having done so, let
him realise its purport. Abraham, says Paul, was called to go into
a country which he should afterwards receive for an inheritance.
What country was this? Let the reader consult Gen.12:4,5, and he
will have an answer: "So Abram departed, as the Lord had spoken
to him, and Lot went with him . . . and into the Land of Canaan
they came". To make the matter certain beyond dispute, we will
quote the words of Stephen:
"Get thee (Abraham) out of
thy country and from thy kindred, and come into the land which
I shall shew thee. Then came he out of the land of the Chaldeans,
and dwelt in Charran, and from thence, when his father was dead,
he removed him into this land, wherein ye now dwell"
(Acts 7: 3,4).
The land which Abraham was "after
to receive for an inheritance", was the land inhabited by the
Jews in the days of the apostles. He lived in it as a stranger,
with Isaac and Jacob, to whom the promise of possession was afterwards
renewed. This sojourn was the result of faith. But for this, on
finding, as years rolled on that he was not put in possession of
the land, but left to wander without inheritance, he would have
returned in disgust to his native country, and spent his days among
his kindred. Paul says he and his sons "had opportunity to
have returned"; but they did not avail themselves of the opportunity,
but steadfastly remained in the country to which they had been commanded
to emigrate. Paul says the reason of this was, that they were "persuaded
of the promises and embraced them". Notwithstanding that appearances
were against them, they believed that God would in time fulfil his
words, and give them the promised possession, and believing this,
they were able to crucify the natural desire to go back to a country
where they would have had both inheritance and friends, but in going
back to which, they would have forfeited the promises. They saw
that the thing promised was more worthy than "the country from
whence they came out". They looked for a city (polity) which
had foundations, and desired a heavenly country. The country from
which they came out was without foundation; based upon flesh, which
is of earth, earthy, it was ephemeral and passing away: as John
says: "The world passeth away, and the lust thereof, but he
that doeth the will of God, abideth for ever" (1 John 2:17).
Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob saw in
the promises the guarantee of a heavenly order of things in which,
God being the founder, there would be the stability of "foundations"
that could never be removed; therefore, they consented to live as
strangers in a foreign land, waiting in faith for the things promised.
They saw that the promises were "afar off"; they, therefore,
in faith, accepted exile, confessing themselves for the time strangers
and pilgrims on the earth. Paul says, "They died without receiving
the promises". What is it, then, but that they must rise to
receive them? When? At the time described in Rev.11:18, as "the
time of the dead, that they should be judged, and that thou shouldest
give reward unto thy servants the prophets" - [Abraham, Isaac,
and Jacob were prophets - Psalm 105:15] - the time, the reader will
perceive by the context, when "the kingdoms of this world become
the kingdoms of our Lord and of his Christ" (verse 15). It
is the epoch mentioned by Paul in the following words: "Jesus
Christ shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his
kingdom" (2 Tim.4:1). When Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob come forth
from their graves to judgment and reward, they will "receive
the land for an inheritance", according to the promise. On
doing this, they will inherit the kingdom of God, for the kingdom
of God is to be establshed there. Hence, said Jesus to the Pharisees:
"Ye shall see Abraham, and
Isaac, and Jacob, and all the prophets, in the kingdom of God,
and you yourselves thrust out. And they shall come from the east,
and from the west, and from the north, and from the south, and
shall sit down in the kingdom of God" (Luke 13:28,29).
If any one doubt that this will
be in the very land promised to the fathers, and in which they wandered
as strangers, let him read the following testimonies from the prophets:
"The Lord shall inherit Judah
his portion in the Holy Land, and shall choose Jerusalem again"
"But upon Mount Zion shall
be deliverance, and there shall be holiness; and the house of
Jacob shall possess their possessions. And saviours shall come
up on Mount Zion to judge the Mount of Esau; and the
kingdom shall be the LORD'S" (Obadiah 17,21).
"In that day, saith the Lord,
will I assemble her that halteth, and I will gather her that is
driven out, and her that I have afflicted. And I will make her
that halted a remnant, and her that was cast far off a strong
nation; and the LORD shall reign over them in Mount
Zion from henceforth, even for ever. And thou, O
tower of the flock, the stronghold of the daughter of Zion, unto
thee shall it come, even the first dominion: the kingdom shall
come to the daughter of Jerusalem"
"Then will I remember my
covenant with Jacob, and also my covenant with Isaac, and also
my covenant with Abraham will I remember; and I will
remember the land" (Lev.26:42).
"Then will the Lord be jealous
for his land, and pity his people"
"Fear not, O land;
be glad and rejoice; for the Lord will do great things" (Joel
which the Lord thy God careth for; the eyes of the Lord thy God
are always upon it, from the beginning of the year even unto the
end of the year" (Deut.11:12).
"And the desolate land shall
be tilled, whereas it lay desolate in the sight of all that passed
by, and they shall say, This land that was desolate is become
like the Garden of Eden, and the waste
and desolate and ruined cities are become fenced, and are inhabited.
Then the heathen that are left round about you shall know that
I the Lord build the ruined places, and plant that that was desolate;
I the LORD have spoken it, and I will do it"
"For the Lord shall comfort
Zion, he will comfort all her waste
places; and he will make her wilderness like Eden,
and her desert like the garden of the LORD; joy
and gladness shall be found therein, thanksgiving, and the voice
of melody" (Isa.51:3).
"Thou shalt no more be termed
Forsaken; neither shall thy land any
more be termed Desolate, but thou shalt be called Hephzibah (my
delight is in her), and thy land Beulah (married); for the Lord
delighteth in thee, and thy land shall be married" (Isa.62:4).
"Whereas thou hast been forsaken
and hated, so that no man went through thee, I will make thee
an eternal excellency, a joy of many generations" (Isa.60:15).
When the state of things depicted
in these testimonies passes out of the domain of prophecy into that
of accomplished fact, the "city having foundations" and
the "heavenly country", which were the objects of faith
with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and the subject of promise to them,
will be realised. The Scriptural meaning of these phrases will then
be exemplified. Orthodox interpreters of Paul make them apply to
"heaven above the skies": they overlook the fact, that
the promises related to the land in which the fathers sojourned;
and forget the absurdity of calling heaven a "heavenly country".
Israel will be a heavenly country when Christ, having re-established
the kingdom of David, rules in it as monarch of the whole earth:
and his kingdom will be "a city having foundations", for
it will stand upon a rock which no rude assault of rebellion whether
of democrats or kings, will be able to shake.
It will be observed that Abraham’s
"seed" is joined with Abraham himself in the promises.
Paul says that this seed is Christ (Gal.3:16), and all who are Christ’s
(verse 29). In view of this, we are bound to give an application
to the promises which may be a little startling to those who have
hitherto read the Bible with an orthodox bias, but which is the
only application that a rational reading and a child-like belief
in the promises can admit, and that is, that Christ and the saints
are destined, in conjunction with Abraham, who, in fact, will be
one of them, to possess and occupy "the land of Israel".
From this conclusion, the orthodox mind will doubtless recoil with
horror. This is owing to the perverted condition of the orthodox
mind, and not to the nature of the conclusion itself. What is there
in the conclusion to justify horror? Is it not a beautiful and a
fitting conclusion? If it is the purpose of God to rule mankind
by Christ and his people, it is meet that they should have a centre
of operations and headquarters somewhere on the earth. And where
could a more appropriate spot be found than the land promised to
Israel is situate at the conjunction
of the three great continents of the eastern hemisphere, and can
be approached from any quarter on the great oceans. It is the natural
centre of universal government; both for commerce and law-giving,
it stands in the finest situation there is on earth. In addition
to this, it is the locality that has witnessed all God’s operations
in the past, down to the very crucifixion of his Son, and the sending
forth of the gospel; and what more fitting than that it should be
the place fixed upon for the resumption of his great and mighty
acts? The scene of Christ’s humiliation; what more befitting
than that it should witness his exaltation as monarch of all the
earth? But these considerations pale before the strength of the
promise. Nothing is needed after the testimony:
"The law shall go forth of
ZION, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem"
"The redeemed of the Lord
shall return, and come with singing unto Zion;
and everlasting joy shall be upon their head; they shall obtain
gladness and joy, and sorrow and mourning shall flee away"
"Rejoice ye with Jerusalem,
and be glad with her, all ye that love her; rejoice for joy with
her, all ye that mourn for her, that ye may suck and be satisfied
with the breasts of her consolations; that ye may milk out, and
be delighted with the abundance of her glory.... As one whom his
mother comforteth so will I comfort you, and ye shall be comforted
in Jerusalem" (Isa.66:10-13).
"Thine eyes shall see Jerusalem
a quiet habitation, a tabernacle that shall not be taken down;
not one of the stakes thereof shall ever be removed, neither shall
any of the cords thereof be broken... For the Lord is our judge,
the Lord is our king; he will save us" (Isa.33:20,22).
"He will destroy in this
mountain the face of the covering cast over all people, and the
vail that is spread over all nations. He will swallow up death
in victory; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from off all
"The Redeemer shall come
to Zion, and unto them that turn from
transgression in Jacob" (Isa.59:20).
"At that time they shall
call Jerusalem the throne of the Lord"
3rd. Christ, the seed of Abraham is
to conquer the world
This is the third feature of the
promise made to Abraham. It is expressed in the words "Thy
seed shall possess the gate of his enemies". To apprehend the
significance of this statement, it is necessary to remember that
in ancient Oriental countries the gate of a city was the seat of
authority. It was the place where consultations were held, decrees
issued and registered, and where the rulers showed themselves to
receive the obeisance of the people. For an enemy to possess this
place was to give evidence of having conquered and deposed the original
holders of power.
Now it must be evident that the
promise that Christ should possess the gate of his enemies has not
been fulfilled. In no sense can an orthodox interpreter make it
out that Christ has displaced his enemies from the seat of honour,
glory, and power. Ungodly men rule the world. But when the kingdom
of God comes, this will be changed. God shall speak to the nations
in anger, and have them in derision; Christ shall break them in
pieces like a potter’s vessel (Psa.2:9, Rev.2:27); He shall
come forth as a man of war - as the Lion of the tribe of Judah -
to fight the confederated power of his enemies (Rev.19:19; Zech.14:3;
Ezek.38:21-23). He shall punish the kings of the earth upon the
earth (Isa.24:21). He shall put down the mighty from their seats,
and send the rich empty away (Luke 1:52,53). He shall then possess
the gate of his enemies. All kings shall bow down before him, and
all nations shall serve him (Psalm 72:11). All people, nations and
languages shall serve and obey him; his dominion is an everlasting
dominion that shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall
not be destroyed (Dan.7:14). Then will the proclamation be sounded
in loud paeons of joy throughout the whole earth:
"The kingdoms of
this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ;
and he shall reign for ever and ever" (Rev.11:15).
4th. All natons shall be blessed
in Abraham and his seed
This is the gospel in a sentence;
so Paul gives us to understand in Galatians 3:8. The attentive reader
will be able to discern in it the substance of what Jesus and the
apostles preached. They preached "the things concerning the
kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ" (Acts 8:12; 28:29-31).
The announcement made to Abraham is neither more nor less than these
"things" compressed into a sentence, for it announces
in a general form what the others disclose in particulars. It tells
of universal blessing in connection with Abraham and Christ; while
these make plain the process by which the blessing is carried into
effect: first, in relation to individuals, and then in relation
to nations. It must be evident that it is not yet realised. The
nations are not in a state of blessing. Not only groaning under
misrule, they are in a state of poverty, ignorance, and misery,
which is the opposite of blessedness. The world lieth in wickedness.
Abraham and his seed are unknown, except as objects of derision.
Unbelief and vice are the order of the day. There is little fear
of God or regard for his word. There is much fear of man and love
of the world. People are befooled and degraded: their brains are
bemuddled with Paganism in regard to Christianity.
All nations are not yet blessed
in Abraham and his seed: but they will be; for we read:
"Behold a king shall reign
in righteousness, and princes shall rule in judgment . . . and
the eyes of them that see shall not be dim, and the ears of them
that hear shall hearken. The heart also of the rash shall understand
knowledge, and the tongue of the stammerers shall be ready to
speak plainly" (Isa.32:1,3,4).
"In that day shall the deaf
hear the words of the book; and the eyes of the blind shall see
out of obscurity, and out of darkness. The meek also shall increase
their joy in the Lord, and the poor among men shall rejoice in
the Holy One of Israel. For the terrible one is brought to nought,
and the scorner is consumed, and all that watch for iniquity are
cut off" (Isa.29:18-20).
"Say to them that are of
a fearful heart, Be strong, fear not; behold, your God will come
with vengeance; even God with a recompence; he will come and save
you. Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened and the ears of
the deaf shall be unstopped. Then shall the lame man leap as an
hart, and the tongue of the dumb sing" (Isa.35:4-6).
"From the rising of the sun
even unto the going down of the same my name shall be great among
the Gentiles, and in every place incense shall be offered unto
my name, and a pure offering; for my name shall be great among
the heathen, saith the Lord of Hosts" (Mal.1:11).
"The battle-bow shall be
cut off, and he shall speak peace unto the heathen, and his dominion
shall be from sea even to sea, and from the river even to the
ends of the earth" (Zech.9:10).
"Many people and strong nations
shall come to seek the Lord of Hosts in Jerusalem, and to pray
before the Lord" (Zech.8:22).
"Many nations shall be joined
to the Lord in that day, and shall be my people" (Zech.2:11).
"The earth shall be filled
with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover
the sea" (Hab.2:14).
"They shall fear thee as
long as the sun and moon endure, throughout all generations. He
shall come down like rain upon the mown grass, as showers that
water the earth. In his days shall the righteous flourish, and
abundance of peace so long as the moon endureth . . . He shall
deliver the needy when he crieth; the poor also, and him that
hath no helper. He shall spare the poor and needy, and shall save
the souls of the needy. He shall redeem their soul from deceit
and violence; and precious shall their blood be in his sight....
His name shall endure for ever. His name shall be continued as
long as the sun, and men shall be blessed in him; all nations
shall call him blessed" (Psa.72:5-7: 12-14, 17).
These testimonies illustrate the
blessing guaranteed for "all families of the earth" in
the promises made to Abraham: they show what the blessedness consists
of in its full development. It is no imaginary blessedness: but
the bestowal of just those substantial boons which the whole world
is yearning after, but knows not how to compass. These, however,
will not be realised till the kingdom of God comes. They cannot
be attained before that time; for it requires a righteous and resistless
despot to eject all other rulers from place and power, before they
become practicable. It requires power, wisdom, righteousness, and
humanity to concentre in a universal king, before the nations can
be made righteous, prosperous, and happy. In a word, it requires
Christ, the seed of Abraham, to take the world’s affairs into
his own hands, before there can ever be "glory to God in the
highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men". This blessing
of Abraham is realised individually, at the present time, in proportion
as people lay hold of the promises by faith, and become heirs of
future exaltation, through present submission to Christ; but the
state of things covenanted to Abraham in the promises, will never
be realised until Abraham himself inherits the land, and his seed
possesses the gate of his enemies.
The promises form the groundwork
of what is termed "the Christian dispensation". It was
necessary that God should create a title to the blessings of his
love, for men to lay hold of; because, as sinners, they were without
hope, and could not establish a title for themselves. It was necessary
he should make the first advance; and he did so, by bestowing an
unconditional promise upon Abraham, whom he selected for his faithfulness.
These, by the belief of them, gave Abraham a right to the things
promised, and vested in him and his seed the sole title. Hence the
necessity for becoming Abraham’s seed by connection with Christ
before a Gentile can have any hope of a future life and inheritance.
Something in addition to the promise
was, however, necessary to secure to Abraham the blessings covenanted:
this is styled the "confirmation" of the promises. The
precise meaning of this will be apparent on a review of the facts
of the case as affecting Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. It was promised
to them that they should possess the land of Israel for ever. For
this promise to be carried out, it is necessary that Abraham, Isaac,
and Jacob be raised from the dead, and made to live for ever. Hence
it may be taken that the promises carry this feature with them;
that, in fact, they bear upon the face of them an undertaking on
the part of God, that, at the time appointed for the realisation
of the promise, he would bring them from the dust of death, and
give them eternal life. How else can they inherit the land for ever?
That this was God’s intention
toward them was made evident by Christ’s argument with the
Sadducees on the resurrection. He says:
"But as touching the resurrection
of the dead, have ye not read that which was spoken unto you by
God, saying, I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and
the God of Jacob? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living"
Christ argued that the circumstance
of God calling himself the God of the fathers who had gone to the
dust, was proof of his intention to raise them; and the argument
overpowered the Sadducees, who were "put to silence".
Thus, the inference that the promises to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob
involved the promise of resurrection and immortality, is established
beyond question by Christ. This being so, we have to realise the
fact that under the circumstances existing at the time of the promise,
it is impossible the things promised could be bestowed on Abraham,
Isaac, and Jacob who were constitutionally under sentence of death.
They were "in Adam" - sinners by descent and individual
act, and, therefore, precluded from that resurrection to immortality,
implied in the promise. Yet the inheritance was guaranteed by "two
immutable things" - the promise and the oath - and as "it
was impossible for God to lie", its bestowment was a matter
of necessity. How was the impossibility of making sinners immortal
to be reconciled with the necessity that God’s promises should
We find the answer in the work accomplished
by Christ at his first advent. "He confirmed the promises made
unto the fathers". How? By making their fulfilment possible.
And how did he do this? By "shedding his blood (which he styled
"the blood of the new - or Abrahamic - covenant") for
the sins of many". He took away sin by the sacrifice of himself,
thereby unsealing the gates of death, and bringing life and immortality
to light - opening the way for the fulfilment of all that had been
promised beforehand to the fathers. Thus the impossibility vanished,
and the necessity was placed on the triumphant basis of Christ’s
accomplished work. This was the great event shadowed in the sacrifices
of the law of Moses, which were not in themselves of any value,
except as a means of connection between God and his nation, typifying
a higher and a more enduring connection to be established over the
body of the slain "Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of
It will be seen that the things
declared in the prophets and preached in the aggregate by the apostles
as "the things concerning the kingdom of God and the name of
Jesus Christ", are but the elaboration of "the promises
made of God unto the fathers", in which they have their legal
origin and efficacy. It is important to recognise this fact, so
that the position of the saints as "children of Abraham"
and "the seed of Abraham" may be clearly apprehended,
and that we may see the harmony and completeness of God’s
plan, as commenced in the days of Abraham, typified in the law of
Moses, and gradually unfolded through the prophets, and consummated
in the proclamation of Jesus and the apostles.
In view of all these things, well
may we exclaim with Paul (Rom.11:33-36): "O the depth of the
riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable
are his judgments, and his ways past finding out. For who hath known
the mind of the Lord? Or who hath been his counsellor? Or who hath
first given to him and it shall be recompensed unto him again? For
of him, and through him, and to him, are all things; to whom be
glory for ever. Amen".
from Christendom Astray by Robert Roberts with slight amendments
to reflect the current state of affairs among the nations. Copies
of this excellent guide to understanding the Bible are available
by contacting us).