The American Vision: A Biblical Worldview Ministry

The Abrahamic Covenant: Fulfilled or Postponed? (Part 1)

Become an insider.
Sign up for our emails.

We won't spam, rent, sell, or share
your information in any way.

All prophetic eyes are on Israel. A majority of fundamentalists believe that what happens in the Middle East determines the fate of the world. The world moves at Israel’s pace. For the dispensationalist, what the rest of the world does is irrelevant and meaningless because not only are all prophetic eyes on Israel, but God’s eyes are on Israel. The New Testament focuses on Israel as well. Jesus “was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matt. 15:24). Even so, He ministered to Canaanites, Samaritans, and Greeks because it was part of God’s plan of world-wide redemption (Luke 2:32). All the promises made to Israel were fulfilled in Christ. The first Christians were Jews (Acts 2). The church was not a new concept designed to replace Israel. The first church was made up almost exclusively of Jews. Gentiles were grafted in to an already Jewish congregation of believers called “the church.” The Greek word “church” (ekklesia) was a familiar word to first-century Jews (Matt. 16:18; 18:17; Acts 5:11) because it was an old covenant idea (Acts 7:38).[1] Modern-day prophetic theory is based on the false premise that God still owes ethnic Jews the fulfillment of unfulfilled covenant promises.

J. Dwight Pentecost writes that the Abrahamic covenants, “according to the Scriptures, are eternal.”[2] The Bible describes them as “everlasting.” If “everlasting” means “lasting or enduring through all time,” then dispensationalists do not believe that the Abrahamic covenants are “everlasting” since they have been postponed for nearly 2000 years! Given that dispensationalists claim that only they follow a consistently literal method of interpretation, it’s surprising that they equivocate on the meaning of “everlasting.” Consider Charles Ryrie’s standard definition of “literal interpretation” and apply its principles to how dispensationalists propose a postponement theory to explain how the Abrahamic covenant was not realized during Jesus’ ministry:

Dispensationalists claim that their principle of hermeneutics is that of literal interpretation. This means interpretation that gives to every word the same meaning it would have in normal usage, whether employed in writing, speaking, or thinking.[3]

Another often quoted definition is David Cooper’s Golden Rule of Interpretation which states, “When the plain sense of Scripture makes common sense, seek no other sense; therefore, take every word at its primary, ordinary, usual, literal meaning unless the facts of the immediate context, studied in the light of related passages, and axiomatic and fundamental truths, indicate clearly otherwise.” The problem is, dispensationalists do not always follow these guidelines. This is especially true in the way they interpret “everlasting.”[4] By applying the Ryrie/Cooper literal litmus test, “everlasting” should have “the same meaning it would have in normal usage, whether employed in writing, speaking, or thinking.” To go further and to be more accurate, “everlasting” should have the same meaning it has elsewhere in the Bible unless there is a specific indication that the meaning is different in degree.

All the dispensational writers I consulted, who have the irritating habit of quoting one another to support their claims, agree that the “Abrahamic covenant is called eternal in the Word of God” (Gen. 17:7, 13b, 19; 1 Chron. 16:16–17; Psalm 105:9–10).[5] Paul Benware writes, “Those blessings included the guarantee of national existence as well as the greatness of the nation, the land area of Canaan as an everlasting possession, and the continuation of the Abrahamic covenant as an everlasting covenant.”[6]

At the same time the Abrahamic covenant is said to be “everlasting,” dispensationalists insist that it has been postponed. Mal Couch, an advocate of dispensational theology, writes:

Most dispensationalists hold to a kingdom postponement theory. . . . Dispensationalists believe that the kingdom was set aside, the Jews suffered the final dispersement, and the church, which was not mentioned in the Old Testament, was given to reach the Gentile nations.[7]

Does “everlasting” include the idea of postponement in its dictionary definition or its biblical usage so that it passes as the “primary, ordinary, usual, literal meaning” of the word? Is there anything in “the immediate context” of Genesis 17 or when “studied in the light of related passages, and axiomatic and fundamental truths” that would “indicate clearly” that a definition of “everlasting” can include the idea of postponement? Absolutely not. Everlasting and postponement are contradictory ideas.

Endnotes:

[1] The word translated “congregation” in Acts 7:38 is the Greek word ekklesia, translated almost exclusively as “church” in the NT.
[2] J. Dwight Pentecost, Things to Come: A Study in Biblical Eschatology (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, [1958] 1964), 69.
[3] Charles Caldwell Ryrie, Dispensationalism Today, rev. ed. (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1995), 80.
[4] Eugene H. Merrill writes that the “everlasting covenant of salt” is “probably . . . a metaphor to speak of its durability [Num. 18:19].” (Eugene H. Merrill, “Numbers,” The Bible Knowledge Commentary: Old Testament, eds. John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck [Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1985], 236).
[5] Charles Caldwell Ryrie, The Basis of the Premillennial Faith (Neptune, NJ: Loizeaux Brothers, 1953), 49.
[6] Paul N. Benware, Understanding End Times Prophecy: A Comprehensive Approach (Chicago: Moody Press, 1995), 33.
[7] Mal Couch, “The Postponement Theory,” An Introduction to Classical Evangelical Hermeneutics: A Guide to the History and Practice of Biblical Interpretation (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 2000), 221. The book is misnamed. Dispensational hermeneutics cannot be described as “classical.”

Join the email family.

We won't spam, rent, sell, or share
your information in any way.

Join the support family.

Donate Now
linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram
The American Vision

FREE
VIEW