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The Constraining Nature of the Land Promises

I woke up this morning with a lot of things stirring in my spirit about the Land promise and its guiding use by God to not only inform but to shape and even constrain what we might call, ‘the eschatology of the covenant’. This is because the Landward side of the promise in particular, would crowd the later prophets to many necessary inferences that would become revelatory in the developing eschatology of Israel.

The Land, with other key elements of the promise, would demand for its fulfillment the coming in of an ‘everlasting righteousness’, not for only a remnant but for the entirety of the nation (Isa 4:3; 45:25; 60:21; Jer 31:34; Eze 39:22, 28-29) Tragically, only a third of those living in the Land when the tribulation begins will survive to the day of their national salvation (Zech 13:8-9). The surviving remnant, come to birth in ‘one day’ (Isa 66:8; Zech 3:9; Eze 39:22; Dan 12:1), will enter the Land as penitent, Spirit filled believers in their natural bodies. This leads us to the necessary inference that because they were not saved before this time, the surviving remnant of Israel is not translated at the last trump with those who were already born of the Spirit (1Cor 15:23; 52).

They will look upon Him whom they pierced at the time of Jesus’ return after the tribulation (Zech 12:10; Mt 23:39; 24:30; Acts 3:21; Rev 1:7). From the evidence of many passages in both testaments, the repentance of ‘the escaped of Israel’ takes place at the time of the Lord’s return in clouds of glory at the end of the great tribulation (Isa 27:12-13; 66:8; Eze 39:22; Zech 3:9; 12:10-13; 12:14; 13:1; 14:7; Mt 23:39; 24:29-31; Acts 3:21; Ro 11:26; Rev 1:7). The Holy Spirit is poured out upon them at the same time their enemies are judged at the great day of the Lord (Isa 32:15; 59:21; Eze 36:26-27; 37:14; 39:29; Joel 2:28-29-32; Zech 12:10). At the end of Zion’s travail (a common metaphor for the great tribulation), the nation of destiny is “born in one day” (Deut 4:30; Isa 13:8; 26:16-17; 66:8; Mic 5:3; Jer 30:6-7; Dan 12:1; Hos 5:15; Mt 24:21, 29).

‘From that day and forward’ all Israel will know the Lord from the least to the greatest (Jer 31:34; Eze 39:22). This means every penitent survivor of the tribulation will “at once” become part of an entirely regenerate nation that will persevere in holiness throughout the millennium and on into the new heavens and earth, “world without end” (Isa 45:17; 66:17, 22). This miracle of saving, keeping grace will extend, without the exception, to every child born to Jewish parentage, and this will be with assured everlasting continuance  (Isa 54:13; 59:21; 66:22; Eze 37:25-26; 39:22; Jer 31:34).

Now observe; from the standpoint of the everlasting covenant that would be sealed in the blood of the Messiah, it is particularly the Landward side of the promise that would form the logical necessity, not only for a mighty apocalyptic in-breaking that would be called, ‘the great Day of the Lord’, but also an ‘everlasting salvation’ that would guarantee the abiding and irreversible regeneration of ‘all Israel’, so that the children of wickedness will never again afflict them, as previously (2Sam 7:10; Zeph 3:19). From that day and forward, Israel will lie down in safety and none make them afraid anymore again forever (Lev 25:18-19; 26:5-6; Jer 23:6; 32:7; 33:16; 46:27-28; Eze 34:28; Hos 2:18; Mic 4:3-4; Zeph 3:13; Zech 14:11). That was the hope, final rest and peace when the people and the Land would be married finally and forever (Isa 62:4-5).

We shall see that is through the implications of what was promised concerning the Land in particular that Abraham was able to see Jesus’ day and why Joseph would give commandment concerning his bones.

The dilemma of the covenant was this: How will a people prone always to backslide ever be fitted to inherit the Land forever, without further threat of judgment or exile? It was precisely the unconditional promise of eternal inheritance of the Land that would constrain the reflective OT believer to infer the necessity of an eternal regeneration that must extend, not only to a remnant, but to all the nation.

It was Abraham’s conviction of the literalness of the Land promise in particular that shut him up to the expectation of his own bodily resurrection. This is because the promise of eternal possession of the Land was not only to Abraham’s seed but to him personally as well. The Land of his sojourn would become his as an everlasting possession, not now, since he would die in a good old age, but later, after his yet unborn son’s family returns after an absence of four hundred years. This is how I believe Abraham saw Jesus’ day.

Remember, when Abraham is commanded to offer Isaac, it is after the covenant promise of Gen 15 that the nation that would proceed from the promised son would spend four hundred years in another country. How does a man die and yet inherit a literal tract of Land together with this son and his son’s progeny after an absence of four hundred years in another country? Not only so, but how else could Abraham have reckoned that such a promise could be fulfilled if the designated channel of the promise is put to death? We know that Abraham not only reckoned on the necessary resurrection of Isaac through whom the nation of promise would come. He also reckoned on the necessity of his own resurrection, since the promise of everlasting possession was to him and his seed, “to you and your seed.” This demands resurrection, not only of Isaac, but of Abraham as well.

It seems evident that Abraham conceived of Isaac’s sacrifice as the fulfillment of the promise of Gen 3:15. With the sparing of Isaac, Abraham could see ahead to the day of Him who would not be spared. Messiah’s death and resurrection would accomplish the mortal wound to the Serpent’s head. Abraham could now see that through the Coming One, the fall and its dread effects would be reversed, so that he, together with his seed, would be raised to inherit the Land forever, as only possible by an indestructible and eternal righteousness. This is Abraham’s faith in the God who raises the dead. The logic of all is the revelation of God’s own righteousness imputed to us, living and working in us and through us by the Spirit, made possible through the sacrifice of the Woman’s Seed.

Apart from this conviction of the promise of eternal inheritance of a literal land by means of bodily resurrection through the reversal of the fall by the seed of the woman, none of the promises to Abraham would have pointed so clearly to the later developments of the promise through Moses and the prophets. For example, at the outskirts of the promised Land, Moses forbids Israel to imagine that their possession of the Land is because of any righteousness of their own (Deut 9:4-6). The gift of the Land is unconditional, indeed, but the ability to retain the Land is conditional. That is why Moses declares that Israel, in its present condition, will not be able to prolong their days upon the Land, precisely because “the Lord has not given you an heart, unto this day” (Deut 29:4). But this will not always be so, because  Moses looks ahead to a time of ‘great tribulation’ in the latter days (Deut 4:29-31) when Jacob will be brought to the end of his power (Deut 32:36; Dan 12:1). At that time, all of the nation will receive the circumcision of the heart (Deut 30:1-6), thus securing finally and forever the promise of everlasting possession of the Land.

The later conditions that were added did nothing to annul the unconditional certainty of the original covenant with Abraham (Gal 3:17). That God alone would secure the covenant despite human weakness is signified when God puts Abraham into a deep sleep before walking through the parted pieces alone. The covenant, though made with Abraham and his seed, will not depend on Abraham but God alone. Thus signifying that God will see that every necessary condition is fully met and fulfilled in the heirs of the promise, but by nothing in or of themselves. It will be God who works in us to do and to will of His own good pleasure. No other source of righteousness can find acceptance with God, that no flesh can glory. Thus the only thing that the later conditions cut off is the flesh, as necessarily excluded from any participation in the promise. It must all be by the Spirit received by grace through faith.

The righteous remnant within the nation was never sufficient to secure the nation from judgement and exile. On the contrary, the remnant would typically suffer with the nation. It is only when the habitual tendency to backslide has been cured once and for all by a new heart and new spirit that all Israel, and not only a remnant, will lie down in safety with assurance of everlasting continuance in the Land. That is the logic of the covenant that all the prophets understood. This alone would satisfy the covenant promise of everlasting possession of the Land. It is the Land, understood as literal, that demands the salvation of ‘all Israel’ whereby an all righteous, “Jewish” nation (‘natural branches’) is able to preserve themselves and their children’s children on the Land without further threat of curse or exile “forever” The rule is this: To inherit the Land forever, Israel must have a righteousness that is forever. This is exactly how I understand Paul’s understanding of that much disputed phrase in Ro 11:26, “and so all Israel shall be saved.” It is not a mere addendum to God’s abiding will that more Jews be saved; it is a covenant necessity! God’s Name and Word is bound up with their salvation and return to the Land. Until the time comes when every Jewish person on the earth is saved (Jer 31:34), the everlasting covenant, secured in the Savior’s blood, has not reached its full goal in the salvation of ‘all Israel’.

The revelation of the day of the Lord that secures the eternal inheritance of the Land is the climactic solution and eschatological resolution to what we might call ‘the dilemma of the covenant’. By definition, Jacob’s trouble, the ultimate travail and tribulation of Zion, is the last stage of covenant curse and discipline threatened in the law. Until then, Israel remains under covenant jeopardy so long as the disposition to backslide continues to threaten curse and exile. What will end this threat? Answer: the coming in of an ‘everlasting righteousness’ (Jer 32:40; Dan 9:24), not for a remnant only, but for the entirety of the nation, from the least to the greatest, i.e., ‘all Israel’ (Jer 31:34). As surely as Jer 31 follows chapt 30, this extravagant promise, so often spiritualized as too fantastic to be conceivable for historical fulfillment, is here on earth AFTER Jacob’s trouble.

Only as the nation is saved in its entirety in a way that preserves them in abiding covenant obedience (new heart and spirit), can the chronic problem of backsliding be finally overcome. That is why the regeneration of a mere remnant can never be sufficient to guarantee an end to the curse that must always follow sin and the continued threat of judgment and exile. Unless and until ‘all Israel’ is saved eternally, even the righteous remnant is subject to the cycles of judgment and exile, as in the case of Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel.

Of course, we know that the DOL is only the partial solution to the dilemma of the broken covenant. The basis for all is the mystery of the gospel, which addresses not only the future of the promise but the very foundation of God in the calling out of His elect throughout all ages by an atonement that was eternally established before creation in the counsel of the Godhead. As we said last night, this means that many enjoyed the working of the Spirit that was based retroactively on an atonement that was not yet accomplished in time but counted as accomplished from the standpoint of God’s eternal predestination. Since the mystery of the gospel was not yet revealed, this means they enjoyed the benefit of much more than they understood.

This is how the day of the Lord ends the age long ‘discipline of the covenant’. Not only does it realize an abiding righteousness whereby the Land may be inherited safely forever; it also subdues and brings under the rod iron rule of Messiah the pride and power of the gentiles, forever ending the divinely allotted ‘times of the gentiles’ in the restoration of the kingdom to Israel, the time of “their fullness” (Ro 11:12). The day of the Lord brings a final end to what we might call ‘covenant jeopardy’ since it ends the threat of the broken covenant by the gift of the Spirit and new heart that keeps it in spirit and truth forever.

This means a mere remnant is not enough, else the problem of backsliding and judgment remains. What the promise requires is a nation that is entirely holy, not in the part but the whole. This alone can guarantee abiding inheritance without fail unto children’s children (Isa 59:21), By a guaranteed preservation through the ‘everlasting righteousness’ that is made sure to all the seed, the Land is assured of abiding inheritance, forever free from covenant jeopardy, because eternal regeneration fulfills the law and secures abiding blessing, not off in an invisible heaven, but here in open demonstration through Spirit filled saints dwelling securely in the Land without further threat of invasion or any of the curses of the broken covenant, as foretold in Lev 26 & Deut 28-32.

This is how Israel’s hope developed along the lines of the inviolable covenant law of the blessing and the curse but in the context of an unconditionally certain everlasting covenant that supersedes all human weakness through the determination of God to overcome all conditionality by real and actual fulfillment in our mortal bodies through grace by the imputation of Christ’s righteousness and the indwelling Holy Spirit.

Now it remains to show how and why the post-tribulational deliverance of Israel is no less the church’s hope, and how and why the foundation of all is the atoning death of a twice coming Messiah. Then there are the questions that rise concerning the new covenant believer’s relation to the law and how Israel’s unique and abiding election to millennial headship over the nations agrees with the revelation of the one new man, etc. The answer to these questions will materially affect how we conceive of the church’s role towards Israel, always, but especially the last seven years and the unequaled tribulation of the last 3 1/2 years in particular.

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