God Makes Abraham a Promise About the Millennium

The nature of the Abrahamic Covenant is strikingly unconditional as recorded in the ceremony of Genesis 15:9-11, 17-18:

He said to him, “Bring me a heifer three years old, a female goat three years old, a ram three years old, a turtledove, and a young pigeon.”  And he brought him all these, cut them in half, and laid each half over against the other.  But he did not cut the birds in half.  And when birds of prey came down on the carcasses, Abram drove them away…When the sun had gone down and it was dark, behold, a smoking fire pot and a flaming torch passed between these pieces.  On that day the LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying, “To your offspring I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the river Euphrates… (ESV)

This corridor of slain animals seems strange to the modern mind.  However, this would actually be understood as the norm during Abraham’s time.  The most notable difference here is that five animals are used instead of the usual one.  God is amplifying the already severe commitment to be made by anyone passing through the animals.  These animals cut in half contributes to the “cutting” of the covenant as it was referred to in more ancient times.  By cutting these animals, the parties entering into the covenant are saying that if they break the agreement they shall likewise be severed.  Compare this ceremony with that in Jeremiah 34:18-20.  There we find that those who entered into a covenant via a cutting ceremony are to be handed over to those who sought their lives as a result of not fulfilling their commitments.  The bodies of all those who passed between the parts of the calf will have their bodies feasted on by birds and beasts.  While those who break the covenant may not have been literally cut in half, there are clearly serious consequences in breaking a commitment made under a cutting ceremony or blood covenant (as some may understand it).

With the serious nature of a blood covenant in mind, it becomes all the more remarkable to see that it is the LORD alone who moves between the rows of animal halves.  The smoking furnace and flaming torch represent God here.  In Genesis 15:12 a deep sleep falls upon Abram.  No doubt that this sleep was brought on by the LORD.  The covenant would have still been unconditional had Abram opted out or fallen asleep on his own.  It is even more profound that the LORD caused Abram to fall asleep.  God determined that He would be the one to completely fulfill this covenant.  The LORD bound Himself here so that He must stay true to what He is promising Abram.  Because the LORD completed the ceremony without Abram, He must do as He says regardless of what Abram and his descendants do or do not do.

A STALLED FULFILLMENT

Before moving on, the birds of Genesis 15:11 must be understood.  The birds of prey coming down upon the carcasses and Abram driving them away might have been mentioned for posterity.  However, there may be some illustrative significance here.  The promises God is making to Abram contain an element of delay; the coming enslavement of the Hebrews by the Egyptians (and other later enslavements).  This is confirmed in Genesis 15:13-16.  The sojourning of the Hebrews in a land not their own is initially in Canaan, but was largely done in Egypt.  The four hundred year affliction is a delay to the Hebrews experiencing God’s promises.  In a more complete sense, even now such promises have not been absolutely realized.

Birds can represent Satanic activity (e.g. Jesus using birds as a picture for Satan in Mark 4:4, 14).  Therefore, it is at least fair to speculate that the birds represent the same in Genesis 15:11.  The bondage of the Hebrews is itself not a promise (in the same sense), but part of the reality of waiting for all of God’s promises to come to their final fruition.  God may make promises, but He will act on them according to His own timetable.  In addition, much of the promises will not be fully given until the remnant of Israel accepts Jesus as the Messiah (Matt. 23:39).  Abraham drove the birds away, and the partial hardening currently affecting the people of Israel (Romans 11:25) will also be removed.  This will be followed by the Millennium, and during this time God will finally give all that He has promised to Abraham.

DETAILS OF THE ABRAHAMIC COVENANT

The details of the covenant are found in Genesis 12:1-3:

Now the LORD said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you.  And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing.  I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”

Here we see three promises made by God to Abram.  The first of those being that God will give Abram and his descendants a very particular piece of land.  God called Abram out of Ur of the Chaldees (in Mesopotamia) (Acts 7:2) and determined that he would live in what is rightfully referred to as the Promised Land.  In Genesis 15:18-21 the dimensions of the Promised Land are given.  This is important to remember.  Often times those with an agenda to undermine the Millennium will attack its roots.  One of the most important roots is the promise made by God to Abraham regarding the Promised Land.  The Bible is very clear that the Promised Land is on Earth and its borders are well defined.  The Promised Land should never be equated with Heaven or an after-life paradise.  The promise of the land is expanded upon in Deuteronomy 30:1-10.  Amazingly, Abraham only dwelled in the land that was given to him.  Abraham and his immediate descendants lived in tents (Heb. 11:9).  And while God kept His promise to give Israel the land of Canaan (Gen. 17:8, Josh. 21:43-45), they have yet to fully inhabit and control the larger territory (Gen. 15:18-21).  It is during the time of the Millennium where Abraham and his descendants will have absolute control of the entire Promised Land.

The next promise made to Abraham is that God will make of him a great nation.  This promise is explained in Genesis 13:14-16.  In addition to affirming the land promise, we also get additional proof that the land is to belong to Abraham’s descendants.  Abraham is promised not just some descendants, but so many that they would be as difficult to count as the dust of the earth.  Keep in mind that when Abraham is given this promise he is without children and seventy-five years of age (Gen. 12:4).  This promise is clarified in Genesis 17:6.  Here we see that Abraham is the father of a multitude of nations.  Among those who will make up these nations, there will be kings.  This is to include the King of Kings Jesus Christ.

The last promise that is part of the Abrahamic Covenant is one of blessing.  We see that how one treats Abraham (and by extension his people and their right to the Promised Land) results in likewise treatment.  To bless Abraham is to receive a blessing, with the same paragon applied to curses.  All of the families of the earth are to be blessed through Abraham.  This is easy to understand as Jesus descends from Abraham and brings salvation to elect Jews and Gentiles alike (Gal. 3:14).  For now it is important to note that Jeremiah 31:34 speaks of the forgiveness of sins.  This relates to the Millennium in that as part of the nation of Israel being restored physically it will in tandem be restored spiritually (Zech. 12:10, Rom. 11:26-27).

It needs to be stressed that the Abrahamic Covenant is unconditional.  The very language God uses when reaffirming the Covenant to Isaac tells of His will.  Count how often “I will” and “will” are used in Genesis 26:3-4:

Sojourn in this land, and I will be with you and will bless you, for to you and to your offspring I will give all these lands, and I will establish the oath that I swore to Abraham your father.  I will multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and will give to your offspring all these lands.  And in your offspring all the nations of the earth shall be blessed.

The phrase “I will” is used four times, with the word “will” being used a total of six times in just these two verses.  In comparison, God never says “if” or requires something of Isaac (other than to simply dwell in the land that was given) here.  In Genesis alone the Abrahamic Covenant is affirmed yet again with God repeating the promises to Jacob (Gen. 28:14-15).  When a teacher repeats himself even once, the wise student will make sure to pay attention.  When God repeats Himself multiple times, it is all the more paramount that what He says be taken seriously.

WHAT IS TO COME

At least in a partial way, God has already kept His promises that He made to Abraham.  Abraham was given the land (Gen. 13:14-17).  Abraham was absolutely blessed spiritually (E.G. Gen. 14:9, 21:22).  Abraham was certainly given many nations, and in ways that he did not imagine (Matt. 3:9).  While these are of great importance, not every aspect of them has come to pass.  Neither Abraham nor his descendants have ever fully possessed the Promised Land.  And they certainly have not experienced an everlasting possession (Gen. 17:8).

Even at this point, the nation of Israel has only been partially restored.  The genetic descendants of Abraham now both dwell in and control much of the Promised Land.  Among many examples, perhaps none is more telling of the restoration of Israel than Ezekiel 37.  Here there is a powerful picture of God renewing the Hebrews to their land.  The restoration that has not happened to the nation yet is that of the heart.  The Jewish people will finally serve their God as He has always intended (Ezek. 37:23).  The Hebrews will be converted when God pours out His Spirit upon them, causing the nation to embrace Jesus (Zech. 12:10).  It is through the Nation of Israel that the blessing promised in Genesis 12:3 will find its climax.  If such things either directly promised by God or stemming from that promise have not yet occurred, then we must conclude that they will in the future.  Israel being in a position to bless the world will happen in the Millennium.

Comments

  1. Steve Haukdahl says:

    It says here that Abraham was looking to a heavenly country…..

    Heb 11:13 These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.
    Heb 11:14 For they that say such things make it manifest that they are seeking after a country of their own.
    Heb 11:15 And if indeed they had been mindful of that country from which they went out, they would have had opportunity to return.
    Heb 11:16 But now they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed of them, to be called their God; for he hath prepared for them a city.
    Heb 11:17 By faith Abraham, being tried, offered up Isaac: yea, he that had gladly received the promises was offering up his only begotten son;

    • Matthew Ervin says:

      Yes, thank you for the comment. Abraham was indeed looking for the Heavenly Jerusalem (Heb. 11:10; 12:22) as this is the pilgrim’s final homeland (Heb. 11:16). Of course this does not conflict with any of the Biblical information brought forth in the article. All of the faithful will ultimately experience the totality of the Kingdom in the New Jerusalem and eternal state (e.g. Is. 65:17; Rev. 21; 22). So totally in agreement with you there brother. Blessings.

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