A Millennial or A-Millennial Future: Which? (6)
5. Covenants with the Fathers
The amillennialist will agree that men like Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and David, to whom God made such wonderful promises, were great men of God. But then they will point to the fact that their descendants in the nation of Israel did not live up to their standard and thus the nation forfeited the blessings promised to it.
We agree with the first part of this assertion: the history of Israel is generally a sad story of departure from God, and the nation has paid dearly for it many times over the years, right to this present day.
However, we have to examine the second part of the assertion: has the nation of Israel forfeited the blessings promised to the fathers?
Let us look again at the Abrahamic Covenant. We have already considered the promises made to Abraham and to his seed of the land and of blessing flowing out to all peoples. The promises are stated and repeated to him, and also to Isaac and Jacob, on a number of occasions (Gen 12:1-3; 13:14-17; 15:1-7, 18-21; 17:1-19; 26:2-5; 28:13-15). There is no suggestion that it is conditional on the part of the descendants. It is an “everlasting” covenant (Gen 17:7, 13, 19; 1Chron 16:16, 17; Psa 105:9, 10), and thus, by definition, unbreakable by man. When God solemnized it (Gen 15:9-17), He alone passed through the pieces – man had no part in it; its fulfillment depended entirely on God. An individual could, because of disobedience, forfeit his own relationship to the covenant people (Gen 17:14), but that did not nullify the covenant.
Similar considerations apply to the Davidic Covenant (2Sam 7:12-16). It is described as “forever” or “everlasting” (2Sam 7:13, 16; 23:5); its promises are often repeated, in spite of failure (Isa 9:6, 7; Jer 23:5, 6; 33:14-17, 20, 21); disobedience by Solomon would bring chastening, but would not nullify the covenant (2Sam 7:14, 15); it was confirmed by an oath (Psa 132:11); and God says He will not break it (Psa 89:34-36).
Even in the midst of apostasy, God states that He will not cast aside Israel (for example, Jer 31:35-37). Failure on the part of the nation does not nullify His promises.
Turning to the New Testament, after the nation of Israel had committed the worst sin possible, rejecting the Messiah, the covenants are still specifically stated to be theirs (Rom 9:3, 4 and Eph 2:12).
In Romans 3:1-4, Paul makes it abundantly clear that lack of faith on the part of some Israelites in no way nullifies the faithfulness of God. God’s promises are not discarded just because some do not believe them. Even if every person in the world were to say the opposite of what God says, then God is the One Who will be found to be true, and everyone else will be found to be a liar (v 4). God is totally faithful, and will honor His promises to the nation.
In Romans 11:1, 2, Paul states that “God hath not cast away His people which He foreknew.” He goes on (v 11) to state that their “stumbling” is not full and final. Their “blindness” (v 25) is partial and temporary: “until the fullness of the Gentiles be come in.” Israel “shall be saved” (v 26), and it will happen when the Deliverer shall come “and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob” (v 26), and “take away their sins” (v 27). That this is talking about the nation of Israel, and not the Church, could not be clearer, for Paul says of them in verse 28 “As concerning the gospel, they are enemies for your sakes.” He has already spoken of Israel as those for whom he has sorrow in his heart (9:2); of their privileges (9:4, 5); of the fact that Christ came through them (9:5); of their misplaced zeal (10:2, 3); of their disobedience (10:21). All these references cannot possibly be speaking of the Church. The whole context of Romans 9-11 shows that when he speaks of Israel, he is speaking of the literal nation of Israel. So, when he speaks in chapter 11:26 of Israel being saved, it is the future salvation of the nation. To assert that it is otherwise is to twist the plain teaching of this section of Romans.
Now, why is it that, despite all Israel’s failure, its rejection of the Messiah, its enmity to the Church, there is future salvation for them? We are not left to guess. In Romans 11:28, Paul states a fact which overrides all the negatives. “As touching the election, they are beloved for the Father’s sakes.” Their relationship to the patriarchs, to whom the promises were made, means that, notwithstanding their enmity to the gospel, they are beloved of God, and there is great blessing coming to them. Paul clinches the argument when he writes: “For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance” (v 29). That is, God does not change His mind. He has made His great promises to the nation of Israel, and He will keep them. They will be fulfilled.
And so, because of the covenants with the fathers of the nation of Israel, which God will certainly honor, we believe in a literal, future, Millennium, when those promises will surely be fulfilled. Great are our blessings in the Church in this present day, as well as in the future, but they are not the fulfillment of the promises God made to the fathers of the nation of Israel in the O.T. No. God has not changed His mind about the promises He made to Abraham, to Isaac, to Jacob, and to their descendants. He will fulfill them.
Let us take to heart the warning of Paul to Christians in Romans 11:25. There is the danger being “wise in your own conceits,” of being so full of our self-importance that we despise Israel, mistakenly thinking that all the blessings are ours, and that there is nothing left for them. God has a glorious future for that nation, and it is in the Millennium that so many promises will be fulfilled.