PMW 2019-056 by Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr.
In Gen. 13:14–15 God promises that he will give the land to Abraham’s descendants “forever” (cp. Gen. 12:7). This will soon be confirmed by solemn covenant (cp. Gen. 15:7, 18) and is noted elsewhere in Scripture (Exo. 32:13; Josh. 14:9; 2 Chron. 20:7; Isa. 60:21).
Since “the earth is the LORD’s, and all it contains, / The world, and those who dwell in it” (Psa. 24:1), as Moses well knows (Exo. 9:29; Deut. 10:14), the land is God’s to give to whomever he pleases. Besides this, the evil Canaanite culture would eventually (Gen. 15:16) justify God’s expelling them from the land (Lev. 18:2–3, 24–28 and “Deuteronomy Introduction” at “Special Issues”).
The “forever” nature of this promise must be understood in terms of both the lexical significance of the Hebrew “forever,” the moral sanctions involved in God’s covenant, and the typological function of Old Testament redemptive history.
Israel in the Bible and History (9 mp3 lectures)
by Ken Gentry
The people of Israel are the people of God. But the modern church is divided over the nature, call and identity of Israel. This lecture series covers key issues for understanding the biblical concept of Israel.
See more study materials at: www.KennethGentry.com
First, a lexical observation
Lexically, the Hebrew word translated “forever” is olam. It does not necessarily indicate unending perpetuity, but may represent a long period of time. For instance, it applies to the Old Testament sacrificial system, as in the practice of the Passover (which was fulfilled in Christ, Exo. 12:14, 17, 24), the continuation of offerings for the Aaronic priesthood (which has long since vanished, Exo. 29:28; cp. Exo. 40:15; Num. 25:13), and the permanence of the temple (which was fulfilled in Christ and destroyed in AD 70, 2 Chron. 7:16).
Clearly these samples of “forever” do not speak of unending duration, not even until the end of temporal history. This is further confirmed when “forever” speaks of the permanent status in Israel of a slave who wants to remain with his master’s house (Exo. 21:6) and the memorial stones set up by Joshua (Josh. 4:7).
Calvin observes regarding the language here that “in promising the land ‘for ever,’ he does not simply denote perpetuity; but that period which was brought to a close by the advent of Christ.” He adds, “the change which Christ introduced was not the abolition of the old promises, but rather their confirmation.” All of this fits perfectly with the typological nature of the Old Testament, which finds its fulfillment in the New.
Second, a covenantal observation
Covenantally the Lord gives this land to Abraham in terms of a formal covenant transaction (Gen. 15:12–20), not as a simple gift without any obligations or breach-of-covenant sanctions.
This is evident in that God often warns Israel that she may lose the land if she breaks covenant with him: Israel is warned that she must obey him “so that the land will not spew you out, should you defile it, as it has spewed out the nation which has been before you” (Lev. 18:28). Indeed, in the great covenant blessing and curse chapter, we find that it draws near to its conclusion warning: “It shall come about that as the LORD delighted over you to prosper you, and multiply you, so the LORD will delight over you to make you perish and destroy you; and you will be torn from the land where you are entering to possess it” (Deut. 28:63).
Introduction to Postmillennial Eschatology
10 mp3 downloadable lectures. Southern California Center for Christian Studies seminar. Lecture presentations and some classroom interaction. Very helpful definition, presentation, and defense of postmillennialism.
See more study materials at: www.KennethGentry.com
Third, a typological observation
Typologically the Promised Land serves as a type of the whole earth. As such, it pictures the spiritual rest brought by Christ’s kingdom, which shall cover the earth (see Heb. 3–4). We see this, for instance, in Psa. 37:11, which speaks of God’s promise to his people: “But the meek shall inherit the land.” Yet in Matt. 5:5 Jesus expands this very promise to include the entire earth. Also Abraham apparently understood the land promise as a down payment representing his inheriting the whole world (Rom. 4:13). Paul expands the land promises to extend across all the earth, when he draws them into the New Testament (e.g., Eph. 6:3).
In the unfolding story of redemption in the Old Testament, we see the expanding of the land promises: God gives Adam a garden (Gen. 2:8); he grants Abraham’s seed a country (Josh. 1); he promises the New Covenant church the world (Matt. 28:18–20). Ultimately, in fact, Hebrews 11:8–16 shows that the land received by Abraham was not his ultimate longing. Rather, he understood it as referring to the eternal city of God’s kingdom (Gal. 4:26; Heb. 12:22–29).
Tagged: forever, PMW 2019-056, Promised Land
I totally agree but what about Israel today? Many say that Palestine belongs to the Jewish people today because God gave it to them forever.
They have the land because the UN gave it to them. They forfeited their right to God-blessed land ownership because of their rejecting their Messiah.
I agree, they rejected revealed will of the Messiah and thus forfeited the land. But God it seems orchestrated things behind the scenes so that Israel is where they are presently located today. By Divine Providence, though not based on God’s revealed will which they disobeyed and rejected thus forfeiting their rights to the God-Blessed Land.
I am very interested in what is going to happen to the present-day nation of Israel. I think we can agree that what we have today is not a fulfillment of any OT prophecies, but what about Romans 11 ? I have read from postmillenialists in the past that many expected the Jews to return to Israel and then they would believe in the Messiah and “all Israel will be saved.” What are your comments on Romans 11?