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The Abrahamic Covenant: Fulfilled or Postponed? (Part 2)

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Prior to the establishment of the Abrahamic covenant, God instituted the Noahic covenant. Even though “the intent of man’s heart is evil from his youth,” God says that He “will never again destroy every living thing” (Gen 8:21). The everlasting nature of this covenantal promise is so secure that the earth itself would have to pass away in order for it to be postponed, put off, or revoked (8:22). Mal Couch insists that the Noahic covenant will remain in effect “As long as earth history remains in its present physical state.”[1] He can affirm this because, as the Bible states, it’s an “everlasting covenant”:

And I will remember My covenant, which is between Me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and never again shall the water become a flood to destroy all flesh. When the bow is in the cloud, then I will look upon it, to remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth (Gen. 9:15–16).

Following dispensational postponement theology, God could send another worldwide flood and claim that He was not abrogating the everlasting nature of the Noahic covenant. God could claim, following Ryrie and other dispensational advocates, that He was only interjecting a parenthesis, an indeterminate period of time in which the keeping of the promise is delayed (stopping the prophetic clock, so to speak). Would anyone accept such an argument as being legitimate? And yet this is exactly what dispensationalists do with the Abrahamic covenant.

Dispensationalists see no problem in manufacturing gaps, delays, postponements, and parentheses[2] while still claiming that the Abrahamic covenant is eternal. But they would be hard pressed to apply and defend a similar methodology when it came to God’s everlasting character (Gen. 21:33; Ps. 93:2; Isa. 40:28; 1 Chron. 16:34, 41; 2 Chron. 5:13; Ps. 136; Ps. 119:142; 135:13; 145:13; Is. 45:17; Jer. 31:3; Hab. 3:6) or the everlasting nature of the Noahic covenant.

Israel’s Disobedience

The Noahic covenant remains in force, according to the dispensationally oriented Nelson Study Bible, “no matter how evil Noah’s descendants got. Indeed, He promised that until the end of the earth, there would be seasons of planting and harvest and day and night. God unilaterally promised to uphold the rhythms of the earth in order to sustain human life—even though humans had rebelled against Him, their Creator.”[3] But to a dispensationalist, this same promise does not apply to the Abrahamic covenant which is also said to be everlasting.

Pentecost writes that when the nation of Israel refused to embrace Jesus as the promised Messiah, the kingdom offer “was withdrawn and its establishment postponed until some future time when the nation would repent and place faith in Jesus Christ.”[4] There is no such condition attached to the Abrahamic covenant as dispensationalists continually insist. The maintenance of the covenant is not dependent on the response of those with whom it was made since God deals with a remnant of Israel (Rom. 11:1–5; cf. Matt. 21:43–44; 1 Peter 2:9–10).

Adding to the Word of God

Of the Abrahamic covenant, Ryrie writes, “The Scriptures clearly teach that this is an eternal covenant based on the gracious promises of God. There may be delays, postponements, and chastisements, but an eternal covenant cannot, if God cannot deny Himself, be abrogated.”[5] As we’ve seen, the Abrahamic covenant is identical in wording to the Noahic covenant in that both are said to be everlasting. Let’s apply Ryrie’s qualifier to the Noahic covenant that he applies to the Abrahamic covenant and see if it makes sense: “The Scriptures clearly teach that the Noahic covenant is an eternal covenant based on the gracious promises of God. There may be delays and postponements, but an eternal covenant cannot, if God cannot deny Himself, be abrogated.” An eternal covenant cannot be abrogated or delayed or postponed and still be described as “eternal.”

A fundamental question remains: Does the everlasting Abrahamic covenant mention anything about the possibility of postponements or delays? Dispensationalists are quick to point out that there are no conditions to the Abrahamic covenant,[6] but they seem to ignore the fact that there is no mention of postponements or delays which would presuppose conditions. Where do we find a verse that reads something like this?: “And I will establish My covenant between Me and you and your descendants after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your descendants after you although there may be delays or postponements”? If conditions cannot be added ex post facto, then neither can new definitions of everlasting be invented.

Endnotes:

[1] Mal Couch, “Hermeneutics and the Covenants of Scripture,” An Introduction to Classical Evangelical Hermeneutics: A Guide to the History and Practice of Biblical Interpretation (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 2000), 140.
[2] “An intercalary period of history, after Christ’s death and resurrection and the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70, has intervened. This is the present age, the Church age. . . . During this time God has not been dealing with Israel nationally, for they have been blinded concerning God’s mercy in Christ. . . . However, God will again deal with Israel as a nation. This will be in Daniel’s seventieth week, a seven-year period yet to come.” (E. Schuyler English, A Companion to the New Scofield Reference Bible [New York: Oxford University Press, 1972], 135). Emphasis added. John F. Walvoord writes: “As H. A. Ironside had made clear in his thorough study of this problem, there are more than a dozen instances of parenthetical periods in the divine program.” (John F. Walvoord, The Rapture Question, rev. ed. [Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1979], 26). Contrary to Ironside and Walvoord, Philip Mauro is correct when he writes, “Never has a specified number of time-units making up a described stretch of time, been taken to mean anything but continuous or consecutive time-units.” (Philip Mauro, The Seventy Weeks and the Great Tribulation, rev. ed. [Swengel, PA: Reiner Publications, n.d.], 93). Emphasis in original.
[3] Earl D. Radmacher, “The Noahic Covenant, The Nelson Study Bible (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1997), 20.
[4] J. Dwight Pentecost, Things to Come: A Study in Biblical Eschatology (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, [1958] 1964), 293.
[5] Charles Caldwell Ryrie, The Basis of the Premillennial Faith (Neptune, NJ: Loizeaux Brothers, 1953), 53.
[6] Ryrie writes: “The original promises given to Abraham were given without any conditions whatsoever” (Ryrie, The Basis of the Premillennial Faith, 54).

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