By Earl E. Robertson
To answer this question seems superogatory. If the word of God can be believed, while having to totally reject the doctrines of men, this question can easily and quickly be answered. To answer the question poses no difficulty to any Bible student; getting one to accept what God says about the matter does present problems. Nearly every religious denomination is saturated with the premillennial web, which position has as a cardinal doctrine the contention that the land promise has not been kept.
Here is the original promise that God made, “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. So Abram departed, as the Lord had spoken unto him . . . and they went forth to go into the land of Canaan; and into the land of Canaan they came . . . And the Lord appeared unto Abram, and said, Unto thy seed will I give this land . . .” (Gen. 12:1-7). While Abram “dwelled in the land of Canaan” the Lord said unto 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 for ever” (Gen. 13:12, 14-15). “In the same day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying, Unto thy seed have I given this land, from the river of Egypt unto the great river, the river Euphrates” (Gen. 15:18). “And I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after thee in their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee. And I will give unto thee, and to thy seed after thee, the land wherein thou art a stranger, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession” (Gen. 17:7-8).
Furthermore, Jehovah said, “And I have also established my covenant with them, to give them the land of Canaan, the land of their pilgrimage, wherein they were strangers . . . And I will bring you in unto the land, concerning the which I did swear to give it to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob; and I will give it you for an heritage: I am the Lord” (Ex. 6:4, 8). Moses, a man of faith in God, and “educated in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and was mighty in words and in deeds” (Acts 7:22), some three centuries after the promise was made to Abraham he evidenced his confidence that soon the land promise would be fulfilled, saying, “And Moses said unto Hobab, the son of Raguel the Midianite, ,Moses’ father in law, We are journeying unto the place of which the Lord said, I will give it you: come thou with us, and we will do thee good: for the Lord hath spoken good concerning Israel” (Num. 10:29).
God Kept His Word The Land Received, (Joshua 21;43-45)
Joshua, the aged leader of God’s people, preparing to die, intensely told the Israelites, “The Lord gave unto Israel all the land which he sware to give unto their fathers; and they possessed it, and dwelt therein . . . There failed not ought of any good thing which the Lord had spoken unto the house of Israel; all came to pass” (Josh. 21:4.3, 45).
When God called Abram from the Ur of the Chaldees, Abram “departed as the Lord had spoken unto him.” This started the long and eventful trek which ultimately led to the seed “after him” receiving and dwelling in the land of Canaan. The apostle said, “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” (Heb. 11:8). Abram knew neither the “where” nor “when;” God knew, however. Stephen said, “The God of glory appeared unto our father Abraham, when he was in Mesopotamia… Get thee 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 7:2-4). Abraham personally had no inheritance in the land, “no, not so much as to set his foot on” (Acts 7:5). Stephen’s speech carries Israel through the Egyptian bondage, embracing more than four hundred years, and then says, “And the nation to whom they shall be in bondage will I judge, said God: and after that shall they come forth, and serve me in this place” (Acts 7:7). “In this place” is the “land wherein ye now dwell” (vs. 4), being the very land that God had said “I will give.” So, the inheritance would be received after the bondage. But, further, Stephen says, “But when the time of the promise drew nigh, which God had sworn to Abraham, the people grew and multiplied in Egypt” (Acts 7:17). The time drew nigh!
Abraham could not personally inherit the land, but his seed “after him” would, following the serfdom, inherit the land and dwell in it. This is exactly what Joshua said about it. He said, “The Lord gave unto Israel all the land which he sware to give unto their fathers; and they possessed it, and dwelt therein” (Josh. 21). All the land promised the fathers was given and possessed by Israel – the seed after the fathers. This is what the word of God says about it! Stephen said God made this promise to Abraham “when as yet he had no child” (Acts 7:5). Emphasized in the promise is the seed of Abraham, not Abraham himself. Of this promised land of Canaan, Nehemiah testifies: “Thou art the Lord the God, who didst choose Abram, and broughtest him forth out of Ur of the Chaldees, and gavest him the name of Abraham; And foundest his heart faithful before thee, and madest a covenant with him to give the land of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, and the Perizzites, and the Jebusites, and the Girgashites, to give it, I say, to his seed, and hast performed thy words; for thou art righteous” (Neh. 9:7, 8).
Possession Of Land Conditional
The possession of this land was conditioned on the Jews keeping the word of God. When Israel went into the land of Canaan and possessed it there were remaining in the land heathen peoples with their false gods and idolatrous worship. Joshua spoke unto Israel of “these that remain among you” (Josh. 23:7/, and warned the people of God “That ye come not among these nations;” “neither make mention of the name of their gods, nor cause to swear by them, neither serve them nor bow yourselves unto them.” Further, he said, “Know for a certainty that the Lord your God will no more drive out any of these nations from before you; but they shall be snares and traps unto you, and scourges in your sides, and thorns in your eyes, until ye perish from off this good land which the Lord your God hath given you” (Josh. 23:13/. The watchword was, then, “keep the words of God” or perish. Cf. Deut. 8:19, 20; Deut. 30:18. Often the sins of Israel caused them to lose the land; to be driven out and become slaves to the nations used by the Lord. As captives they lamented unto the Lord, and He, with pity, would bring them back into their land. A case in point to illustrate is David “recovering” the land. The record says, “David smote also Hadadezer, the son of Rehob, king of Zobah, as he went to recover his border at the river Euphrates” (2 Sam. 8:3). Also, “He restored the coast of Israel from the entering of Hamath unto the sea of the plain, according to the word of the Lord God of Israel” (2 Kgs. 14:25).
The “recovering” of the land was not a fulfillment of the promise; Israel had already inherited and possessed the land. Conditions causing the “recovering” was sin disobedience to God. All the later Israeli encounters have absolutely nothing to do with the promise God made to Abraham about the land. The Israeli war with the Arab Nations of June 5-10, 1967 has no connection whatsoever with the Abrahamic promise for Israel to inherit and possess the land. Our point of contention is: God kept his promise to Abraham. The rebellion and sins of the Jews afterward is the cause of their losing the land. The Assyrian captivity in the days of Tiglath-Pileser and Shalmaneser; with the great Sennacherib leading the capture of Samaria by Sargon; the Babylonian captivity under the leadership of Nebuchadnezzar, have nothing to do with God giving Abraham’s seed the land as He promised in Genesis 12. These captivities were the results of Israel sinning against God; their return to the land came about because of repentance of sin and their faith in God. When they returned to their land they did so by observing the law of tribal estates (Lev. 25:13-28). When these Jews returned from Babylon under the leadership of Zerrubabel, Ezra told them to obey God, thus, tribally, they dwelt in their cities (Ez. 2:70). Their awareness and ability to do this depended on their knowledge of genealogy. Contrary to the concepts now held by modern millennialists, these records of the Jews are unknown. The Holy Spirit moved Paul to write: “But avoid foolish questions, and genealogies, and contentions, and strivings about the law; for they are unprofitable and vain” (Tit. 3:9). Where would the premillennial put these Jews now scattered to every part of the world? Paul said, don’t try! The efforts are “unprofitable and vain”.
David R. Reagan wrote in Word And Work, March 1980, p. 81, of the Jews returning to their land after the Babylonian captivity: “Unfortunately, Bro. Woods (Guy N., EER) did not bother to explain how these chapters were fulfilled by,the return from Babylon. They may have been prefilled in type by the return from Babylon, but they certainly were not fulfilled in any literal, sense.” No one, including Reagan, understands such to be anything but nonsense. Prefilled in type! Reagan’s theory of premillennialism demands “the regathering of the Jews to their homeland” to “be worldwide in extent;” “a future kingdom of regathered Jews in the land of Palestine;” that Jesus will be the earthly king over this kingdom of regathered Jews in Jerusalem, and that all of this will come to pass unconditionally! Reagan declares their re-entrance into Canaan by “recovery” was not literal. Yes, they literally entered the land and that was literally fulfilling the promise.
Charles C. Ryrie, in his book, The Basis Of The Premillennial Faith, says the Abrahamic and Davidic covenants have not been fulfilled. He says, “The unconditional character of the Abrahamic covenant is the crucial issue in making the Abrahamic covenant a basis for premillennialism. If the covenant is unconditional, then the national aspect of it must yet be fulfilled, and premillennialism is the only system of interpretation which makes a place for a national future for Israel in which she possesses her land” (p. 52). Again, on page 60, he says, “Since the coveant has never been fulfilled. in history, if language means anything at all, it must have a future fulfillment.” And among the things God promised Abraham which have not been fulfilled, he says, “specifically, the national promises.” He says there have been three dispersions of the Jews, “The third and last dispersion began in 70 A.D. and continues to the present day. Israel has not yet returned from this dispersion although the prophecies of her final regathering are manifold, which prophecies must be fulfilled if the ‘ Bible is the word of God . . . Israel’s regathering is surely future” (p. 74).
Premillennial teachers tie the Abrahamic promise (Gen. 12) to the Davidic covenant (2 Sam. 7:12-17), making the land promise literally received (but yet future) through the restoration of the Jews from all over the world and the establishment of the kingdom of Christ with a physical rule over these returned Jews; these re-gathered Jews being the kingdom of Christ, the subjects of his rule.
As we have shown, the Jews have already inherited and possessed the land. That promise has literally been fulfilled. The words of God through Nathan the prophet to David are: “And when thy days be fulfilled, and thou shalt sleep with thy fathers, I will set up thy seed after thee, which shall proceed out of thy bowels, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build an house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom for ever” (2 Sam. 7:12, 13). The apostle Peter quotes this Scripture and makes an inspired application of it to the resurrection of Christ; to the exaltation of Christ to the right hand of the Father, and the Lord’s foes becoming His footstool. Upon these facts the Son of God was preached “both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:36). In the “name” of this Lord salvation was offered through faith, repentance, and baptism to these Jews “out of every nation under heaven” (Acts 2:5, 36-38). Three thousand of these Jews did obey the Lord that day and were added to the church (Acts 2:41-47). The kingdom of the Messiah was established at Pentecost in Jerusalem; it was at this time the “throne of his kingdom” came into being; it was here the sovereign reign of the ruling Redeemer had its beginning over newly blood-washed saints who comprised His kingdom. He truly is the head of the church, which is His body (Eph. 1:22, 23; Col. 1:18, 24). Peter says that Jesus Christ “is gone into heaven, and is on the right hand of God; angels and authorities and powers being made subject unto him” (1 Pet. 3:22).
Though R.H. Boll taught the early church did for three centuries believe and teach “the millennial reign on the earth of Christ,” which “would be inaugurated at Christ’s return;” that the prophecy of Daniel (Dan. 2:44ff) could not be fulfilled by the first coming of Christ, but rather, “to be realized at His Second Coming,” we must go on believing the testimony of God as shown above. See, Kingdom Of God, pp. 11, 25.
Boll’s side-kick, Charles M. Neal, said in his book, Looking Into The Dark, “Israel’s restoration to the land is just as plainly and abundantly taught as the dispersion from the land. One is a fact of history, the other a fact of prophecy” (p. 56). Yes, but his explanation of the “fact of prophecy” stresses the “shalls” of Luke 1:31-33, and places the “reign of Jesus” in his Seventh period of history which is “the thousand years, Rev. 20” (p. 103). So, with Neal (like Boll) the restoration and reign are yet future. God says otherwise!
God made a promise to Abraham that “his seed” would possess the land of Canaan (Gen. 12); God kept His word, Israel possessed the land (Josh. 21). God promised David that He would raise up his seed (Gal. 3:16) and establish His throne and kingdom (2 Sam. 7); God kept His word by raising up the Christ, establishing His kingdom, and giving the Son the throne (Acts 2:30ff; 13:33; Col. 1:13).
The land promise has been fulfilled! Do not let the materialist deceive and confuse you by telling you all of this is yet future. Do not allow them to equate “inheritance” with “possession”. This they will attempt to do to show, as Ryrie put it, “The unconditional character of the Abrahamic covenant is the crucial issue in making the Abrahamic covenant a basis for premillennialism.”
Guardian of Truth XXVI: 1, pp. 11-13
January 7, 1982