A most unfortunate state of affairs within Christian teaching today is the almost total ignorance of the many wonderful, foundational, and far-reaching prophecies given to the patriarch Abraham. Yet even on those rare occasions when ministers do consider the individual provisions of the Abrahamic Covenant, these magnificent promises are discounted, especially by our critics. In a typical book, “British-Israelism Examined,” author S.H. Wilkinson states, “these promises were never meant to be taken literally.” Similarly, Louis Talbot, in “What’s Wrong With Anglo-Israelism?” accuses us of what he considers “a slavishly literal interpretation of selected phases of prophecy.” This line of interpretation is taken in book after book. Christians are thus discouraged from giving serious thought to any actual fulfillment of the provisions of the Abrahamic Covenant. It is not surprising that one of the central claims against our belief is that the Abrahamic promises were not to be literally fulfilled!
Did God deceive Abraham?
Yet is this really so? Did God, in whom is no guile, make clear to Abraham—and to us through the pages of Scripture—that the wonderful promises he was given would never see a tangible, literal, physical reality? Was Abraham given to understand that his covenant was simply a spiritual matter of the heart? Or did God deceive Abraham?
Let us state at the outset that there were indeed some great spiritual benefits conferred through the Abrahamic covenant. In the latter part of Genesis 12:3, we read, “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.” These blessings included salvation by faith, as Paul and James made clear in the New Testament: “For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness.” (Rom. 4:3; Gal. 3:6; Jas. 2:23) However, nowhere are we told that these family blessings would be limited to spiritual matters, nor are many of the other Abrahamic promises so easily spiritualized.
In the first part of Genesis 12:2, Abraham is told, “And I will make of thee a great nation…” It is popular today among Gospel preachers to claim that this “nation” is the church, and that the church is the New Covenant form of Old Covenant Israel. Since both are singular entities in opposite Testaments, New and Old, this may sound like a reasonable interpretation until parallel passages are compared. Abraham was further promised, “And I will make Nations of thee.” (Gen. 17:6) Since this is plural, was God actually promising Abraham that “churches”—a multitude of incongruent Christian denominations—would be his great reward? We can see that the “nation = church” interpretation breaks down upon analysis. This also clarifies Matthew 21:43, which promised that “The kingdom of God shall be…given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof.” No, that fruitful, believing nation which inherited the promise is not the church!
The modernist approach to Abraham and the covenants is to assume that the Jewish people alone inherited them, and whatever prophecies do not fit the Jews are then spiritualized and given to the church. However, since few, if any, of the distinct Abrahamic provisions can fairly be interpreted to fit today’s Jewish people, nearly all are spiritualized instead. This has led to an incipient antagonism toward any literal interpretation of the Biblical covenants. Yet it is somewhat surprising that reasonable people could read the Divine promises and assume most of them to be spiritual with no literal basis in history. When Abraham was given the Divine call, “Get thee out of thy country…” (Gen. 12:1), he did not take it as a spiritual matter of the heart but a physical reality and promptly obeyed: “He went out, not knowing whither he went.” (Heb. 11:8) Was the Divine call literal, or did God deceive Abraham?
In Genesis 15:5, Abraham was promised, “Look now toward heaven, and tell the stars, if thou be able to number them: and he said unto him, So shall thy seed be.” As the patriarch lifted his head and gazed heavenward at the seemingly endless number of stars shining forth, was he not justified in assuming that these brilliant points of light betokened an immense number of literal descendants? Or did God deceive Abraham?
In Genesis 22:17, Abraham’s gaze turned earthward as he was promised, “…in multiplying I will multiply thy seed…as the sand which is upon the sea shore.” With seas and waterways covering over seventy percent of planet earth, that is a lot of shoreline! Would Abraham not have been justified in assuming that the vast sea shore and its sand was a material sign promising a vast number of descendants? Or did God deceive Abraham?
In Genesis 13:16, Abraham was promised that his descendants would be in number as “the dust of the earth.” To confine this number to the small and declining contingent of Jews remaining in the world today would be an incredible overstatement bordering on falsehood. Did God deceive Abraham?
In Genesis 17:6, yet another promise was given: “…kings shall come out of thee.” If our critics are correct, and the promised nation is the church, are kings the church ministers? No, I am not being silly, but pointing out the silliness of spiritualizing the promises to Abraham. Who, then, are these kings? Our critics cannot spiritualize this promise, nor can they affix it upon the Jewish people, who have no kings. Unless there are birthright nations in the world descended from Abraham, with kings or queens ruling over them, Abraham was deceived by God! Kings rule on the thrones of nations; where are all of these nations today?
Again, these nations are not the New Testament church. Genesis 35:10-11 tells us of Jacob, “And God said unto him, Thy name is Jacob: thy name shall not be called any more Jacob, but Israel shall be thy name: and he called his name Israel. And God said unto him, I am God Almighty: be fruitful and multiply; a nation and a company of nations shall be of thee, and kings shall come out of thy loins.” Abraham’s grandson Jacob was promised marvelous fruitfulness; the Divine majesty of this promise implies a relatively large number of large nations. Where are these “company of nations” representing literal Israel today?
Jacob was told in Genesis 35:12, “And the land which I gave Abraham and Isaac, to thee I will give it, and to thy seed after thee will I give the land.” Abraham was given literal land in Canaan, yet the Kenneth Taylor version of Hebrews 11:8 spiritualizes this and claims that the land given to Abraham was heaven. Did God deceive Abraham?
It should be clear at this point that the modern Jewish people are not in view in these Abrahamic prophecies. They are not bringing forth spiritual fruit, nor are they a literal company of nations. They have no kings or queens. Their population is small and declining; in contrast to the unconditional Abrahamic covenant promise of an increasing great number of descendants as the stars of heaven, as the dust of the earth, and as the sand on the seashore. Who then represents this people of promise?
Is it only an accident of history that the Western Christian nations of Europe, America, and other lands for many long centuries have been known as “Christendom,” meaning “Christ’s Kingdom”? Is it only a coincidence that the ten tribes of the House of Israel were exiled to the northern Assyrian Caucasus region and lost to history—at the same time and place as the sudden appearance of several early “Caucasian” tribes who subsequently overspread Europe? These important questions carry us beyond the scope of this article, and we invite you to learn more about your own Biblical heritage in the book, “The Story of Celto-Saxon Israel,” by W.H. Bennett; available at our book site: www.migrations.info. May God show you your true place in His plan and purposes!