Robert Jeffress - It Begins and Ends with Israel, Part 2
Hi, I'm Robert Jeffress, and welcome again to Pathway to Victory. The word Genesis means the origin or the beginning, and in the Bible's very first book, the Book of Genesis, we find plenty of beginnings: the beginning of the world, the beginning of life, of God's plan to redeem mankind. Today, I want to show you how the Book of Genesis also holds the beginnings of Bible prophecy. It all began with God's promise to Abraham's family. My message is titled "It Begins and Ends With Israel" on today's edition of Pathway to Victory.
The most important choice we ever make in life is are we going to try to approach God on the basis of our righteousness or the righteousness of God's son? How was Abraham saved? The same way you and I are saved: by God's grace, demonstrated by Christ's death, secured by our faith. Abraham was looking forward to the death of Christ that would provide that salvation. We look back at it 2.000 years ago, but we are all saved the same way, by God's grace, demonstrated by Christ's death, secured by our faith. "Abraham believed God, and it was counted as righteousness". Now, the promise to Abraham was a land, a seed, and a blessing.
Now, quickly, I want you to look at three characteristics of this promise that are key to understanding Bible prophecy. First of all, I want you to notice that God's promise to Abraham was a literal promise. Now, there was certainly a spiritual component to it, as we saw just a few moments ago, but God was actually promising to Abraham an actual piece of real estate, an actual land that would be his forever. This land, this new land, Canaan, is not just some metaphor for heaven in the future. It's an actual land that would belong to Abraham. How do I know that? Look at how Abraham responded to the promise. Genesis 12, verses four and five, as soon as he received the promise, "Abram went forth as the Lord had spoken to him, and Lot went with him. Now, Abraham was 75 years old when he departed from Haran, and Abram took Sarai his wife and Lot his nephew and all of their possessions which they had accumulated and the persons which they acquired in haran, and they set out for the land of Canaan, and thus they came to the land of Canaan".
Abraham understood this was a literal promise. He said, "Family, it's time to pack up and move. We're headed to this land". If he thought this was heaven, why would he have gone to all of this trouble? I mean, it was a big deal in Abraham's day to move someplace. I mean, if you wanted to move in Abraham's day, I mean, you didn't call up mayflower or Daryl flood moving company and say, "Hey, come pack me up. We're headed to Canaan". Didn't work that way. You had to do it yourself, and notice he had to pack up all the things he had accumulated in 75 years of living. Do you have a lot of junk around your house?
Just recently, we cleaned out our garage. Let me rephrase that, recently, Amy cleaned out our garage. It was amazing the junk we had in there just over these last six years we had accumulated. Well, some of it, we had hauled from our last residence that we had hauled from our residence before that. We just carried the junk around with us, but you know, I'm 57. I can imagine what it's going to be like at age 75, but Abraham had a lotta stuff! Why did he go to all that hassle of moving it himself? Because he was headed to a literal land. Yeah, he was looking for heaven too. Hebrews 11:10 says, "He was looking for that city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God," but even though he was looking for a heavenly home, that didn't negate the fact that he was also looking for an earthly home as well.
Secondly, I want you to notice that this promise was eternal. It wasn't just for a specified time. God said in Genesis 13, he reaffirmed, "Abraham, this land is going to be yours forever". Look at Genesis 13, verses 14 and 15: "And the Lord said to Abraham, after Lot had separated from him, 'now, I want you to lift up your eyes and look from the place where you are northward and southward and eastward and westward. From all the land which you see, I will give it to you and your descendants," for how long? Forever. Let me tell you, forever is a long time. We have a hard time as mortal beings understanding what eternity is like. I came across these words from author Henry Willem Van Loon, who writes, "High up in the north, in the land called Svithjod, there stands a rock. This rock is 100 miles high and 100 miles wide. Once every 1.000 years, a little bird comes to this rock to sharpen its beak. When the rock has thus been worn away, then only a single day of eternity will have gone by". Forever is a long time. God said to Abraham, "This land is going to be yours and your believing descendants forever". It was a literal promise. It was an eternal promise.
Thirdly, and most significantly for Bible prophecy, it is an unconditional promise. The fact is, many Christians will concede, "Yeah, God made a promise to Abraham. He made a promise of a land, a seed, and a blessing, and God intended for this promise to be fulfilled, but Israel, Abraham's descendants, messed up big time. They rebelled against God, and they ultimately rejected Christ, and because Israel has rejected Christ, the Abrahamic covenant has changed. It's changed in two ways. First of all, the promises to Abraham have been transferred," these people say, "From Israel to the church, and furthermore, these promises have not only been transferred from Israel to the church, they have been transformed from literal promises to figurative, symbolic promises," and so they reinterpret the Abrahamic covenant.
They say, "No longer is there a promise of a land to Israel. That's been changed. Now, the promise of a land is the promise of heaven for the church". They'll say, "The promise of a Messiah, who would be the forerunner of a great nation, that great nation of Israel no longer is going to exist. The nation of Israel has now become the church of Jesus Christ", and then they'll say, "Yeah, God did promise that a descendant of Abraham's and a descendant of David would sit on the throne in Israel and Jerusalem and rule over the world, but that's been changed and transferred to the church. Now, that promise means Christ is going to rule on the throne of your heart in your life forever and ever," and that's how people reinterpret the Abrahamic covenant. God meant to fulfill this to Abraham, but when Abraham rejected Christ, Israel forfeited those blessings. They've been transferred to the church and transformed into symbolic promises.
Now, what are we to say to that? I mean, it's true, as you read through the scripture, there were some conditional promises made to Israel. Over and over again, God promised Israel blessings and curses, and all of Israel's history is a story of blessings and curses. When they followed God, they were blessed. When they disobeyed God, they were judged. They spent time in calamity and exile. That's all of Israel's history, but here's one thing to remember: these blessings and curses came through Moses. The promise came through Abraham. Abraham lived 430 years before Moses, and what God is saying is, "The conditional promises I gave to Moses in no way whatsoever negate the unconditional promises that I made to Abraham".
Now, let me illustrate that for you. After our first daughter was born, Julia, Amy and I went to our attorney to make out our will, and we made a decision at that time that we were going to leave our estate to our children upon our deaths, and we didn't know at that time how many children we would have. We sure didn't know what they were going to be like, but we made that decision. That was an unconditional decision we made. We were going to leave our estate to our children. Now, as our girls were born and started to grow up and mature, we established our own list of blessings and curses around our house. If our girls obeyed what we told them to do, they were blessed by us. They got their allowance. If they disobeyed us, they forfeited their allowance and experienced other expressions of wrath from their parents.
And so all the time they were in our home, Julia and Dorothy experienced their share of blessings and curses, but you know what, it doesn't matter and didn't matter whatever they did, and whatever temporary consequences they experienced, never once did it cause us to change our will. That was an unconditional promise we had made. They were our children and will be our children forever, and the promise of their inheritance has nothing to do with their actions. It's nothing that can be changed. It's an irrevocable decision. Now, that is exactly what God is saying. Listen to Galatians three, verses 17 and 18. Paul is making the same argument about the unconditional nature of the Abrahamic covenant. He's saying, "What I am saying is this," Galatians 3:17 and 18, "The law," that's the mosaic law, "Which came 430 years later, does not invalidate a covenant," a will, if you will, "Previously ratified by God, so as to nullify the promise. For if the inheritance is based on law, it is no longer based on a promise, but God has granted it to Abraham by means of a promise".
This promise of an inheritance was an irrevocable promise God made to Abraham 430 years before the law. The law came along later. It was a temporary series of blessings and curses, but even though Israel disobeyed God, it in no way negated the promise that God had made to Abraham. By the way, that's what that passage is all about we read this morning from Psalm 89. Listen to verses 30 to 37. You find the difference here between the temporary blessings and curses and the eternal covenant of God. God says if his sons, that is, the Israelites, "Forsake my law and do not walk in my judgments, if they violate my statutes and do not keep my commandments, then I will visit their transgression with the rod and their iniquity with stripes," and the loss of their allowance.
No, it doesn't say that, but that's what he's talking about, the temporary consequences of disobedience. They're going to suffer, Israel, "If they break my law," but look at verse 33, "But I will not break off my lovingkindness from Israel, nor deal falsely in my faithfulness. My covenant I will not violate, nor will I alter the utterance of my lips. Once I have sworn by my holiness, I will not lie to David. His descendants shall endure," how long? Forever, "And his throne as the sun before me. It shall be established," how long? Forever. Write that down, all you all-millennialists, forever, "Like the moon and the witness in the sky is faithful".
Perhaps the greatest evidence of the unconditional nature of the Abrahamic covenant is in the way that covenant was ratified before Abraham. You know, before Abraham got very far, he wanted to make sure that God was going to keep his end of the bargain in this promise. He asked for a sign that God was going to keep this promise and that he hadn't misunderstood it, and so in verse eight of Genesis 15, Abraham asked, "O Lord, how may I know that I'm going to possess this land, that you're going to keep your word"?
In Abraham's day, when two kings entered into a covenant with one another, a treaty, a contract, in order to ratify the contract, according to the custom of the day, they would take some animals. They would split the animals in two. They would place one half of the animal in one line, the other halves of the animal in another line, leaving a path in between the animal parts, and then the two monarchs would walk side by side, each carrying a torch through the animal pieces, and as they did so, they were signifying that the covenant was dependent upon each party keeping his end of the bargain. When they walked together side by side, these two kings were saying, "I'll do my part if you do your part". They each had responsibilities in the covenant.
Now, that's how a covenant was ratified. That helps you understand God's command in verse nine of Genesis 15. Abraham wanted to know, "God, how can I depend upon you to keep your end of the bargain"? Look at what God said, verse nine. "So God said to Abraham, 'bring me a three-year-old heifer and a three-year-old female goat, and a three-year-old ram, and a turtledove and a young pigeon,' and then he brought all of these to him and cut them in two and laid each one half opposite the other, but he did not cut the birds". Now, normally, Abraham knew what was going on. He imagined that God was going to tell him, "Now that you cut the animal pieces, you get a torch. I'll get a torch. We'll walk through the animal pieces together to signify that this deal's really going to happen," but notice in verse 12, God does something very strange next. "Now, when the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram, and behold, a terror and great darkness fell upon him".
Abraham was put to sleep. Verse 17, "And it came about when the sun had set that it was very dark, and behold, there appeared a smoking oven and a flaming torch, which passed between the pieces, and on that day, the Lord made a covenant with Abram". It wasn't Abraham and God who walked through those animal pieces together. Abraham was over here asleep! It was God himself, God alone, who walked through those animal pieces, signifying that this promise, this covenant, had absolutely nothing to do with Abraham and Abraham's faithfulness. It had all to do with God and his faithfulness. This was an unconditional promise God made to Abraham, and to make sure nobody missed it, and the writer of Hebrews said in Hebrews chapter six, verse 13, "For when God made his promise to Abraham, since he could swear by no one greater, he swore by himself".
You say, "Pastor, what does all this have to do with Bible prophecy"? Simply this: God promised Israel a certain land. Since 1948, they been a nation. They been in the land, but they haven't been in all of the land yet. God has kept the nation of Israel. They've endured forever so far, but God's not yet finished with Israel. Not all of elect Israel has yet been saved. It's true that God sent a blessing to all the world through Jesus Christ and that he rules in the hearts of individual believers. That's true, but he's not yet sitting on the throne of David in Jerusalem, as God promised that he would one day. What I'm saying to you folks is God still has some unfinished business here on planet earth. God is going to keep his promise to Abraham and Abraham's descendants, his unconditional promise.
You say, "Well, that's wonderful, pastor, but I'm not a Jew, so why should I care"? Because as we're going to see in the weeks ahead, that Abrahamic covenant, although it was to Abraham and his believing descendants, it has ramifications for you and me as well, but even more importantly, the reason it is important for God to keep this promise to Israel is it's our way of knowing that God is going to keep his promises to us as well. You see, ladies and gentlemen, just as God has made some unconditional promises to the believing Jews, he's made some unconditional promises to you and me that we bank on every day. In John 10:28, Jesus said, "I give eternal life to them, and no man shall snatch them out of my hands".
In Hebrews 7:25, it says, "Inasmuch Christ is able to save forever those who come to God through him, and he lives to make intercession for them". In Hebrews 13:5, Jesus promised, "I will never leave you, nor will I forsake you". The same God who can be trusted to keep his promises to Israel is the same God we are dependent upon to keep his unconditional, eternal promise to us. If God changes this covenant with Israel, if God revokes this promise he made to Israel, how do we know he won't do the same to us? How do we know one day, when we stand before him in judgment, how do we know God won't say to us, "Well, you know, I told you one time I was going to save you by grace, but I've changed my mind. It's going to be on the basis of your works, and guess what, you don't have enough".
What's to keep God from doing that? It is the character of God himself. Romans 11:29 says, "For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable," and just as we can depend upon the character of God to secure the unconditional promise he's made to us, we can depend that God is going to keep his unconditional promise to Abraham and his descendants, a promise that has great ramifications for the world in the years ahead, as we'll see in this series, "Perfect Ending".