The Promises to Israel – The Time of the Promise

The Present Truth : August 13, 1896

We have Israel in Egypt, and we know something of what that signifies. The bondage, as well as the deliverance, had been foretold to Abraham when the covenant was made with him; and that covenant had been confirmed by an oath of God. Now let us turn again to some of the words spoken by Stephen when, full of the Holy Ghost, he stood before the Jewish Council. He began his discourse by a positive proof that the resurrection was necessary to the fulfillment of the promise to Abraham; for having repeated the promise, he declared that Abraham had not so much as a foot-breadth of the land that was promised, although God had said that both he and his seed should possess it.

Since Abraham died without inheriting it, as did also a vast number of his descendants even those who, like him, had faith, the conclusion was inevitable that the fulfillment could be only through the resurrection. The only reason why so many of the Jews rejected the Gospel was that they persisted in ignoring the plain evidence of the Scriptures, that the promise to Abraham was not temporal, but eternal. Even so at the present time the belief that the promises to Israel convey an earthly and temporal inheritance, is incompatible with a full belief in Christ.

Stephen next recalled the word of the Lord to Abraham, that his seed should sojourn in a strange land, and be afflicted, and afterwards delivered. Then he said, “But when the time of the promise drew nigh, which God had sworn to Abraham, the people grew and multiplied in Egypt.” Acts 7:17. Then followed the oppression, and the birth of Moses. What is meant by the drawing near of the time of the promise, which God had sworn to Abraham? A brief review of some of the Scriptures already studied will make this question very clear.

In the account of the making of the covenant with Abraham we read the words of the Lord to him, “I am the Lord that brought thee out of Ur of the Chaldees, to give thee this land to inherit it.” Then follow the details of the making of the covenant, and then the words, “Know of a surety that thy seed shall be a stranger in a land that is not theirs, and shall serve them; and they shall afflict them four hundred years; and also that nation whom they shall serve, will I judge; and afterwards they shall come out with great substance. And thou shalt go to thy fathers in peace; thou shalt be buried in a good old age. But in the fourth generation they shall come hither again; for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full.” Genesis 15:13-16

That covenant was afterwards sealed with circumcision, and then when Abraham had shown his faith by the offering up of Isaac, the Lord added His oath to the promise, saying, “By Myself have I sworn, saith the Lord, for because thou hast done this thing, and hast not withheld thy son, thine only son; that in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies.” Genesis 22:16, 17 This is the only promise concerning which God swore to Abraham. It was a confirmation of the original promise. But, as we have already seen, it involved nothing less than the resurrection of the dead through Christ, who is the seed. “The last enemy that shall he destroyed is death,” that the words of God by the prophet may be fulfilled, “I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death; O death, I will be thy plagues; O grave, I will be thy destruction.” Hosea 13:14. Not till then will the promise be fulfilled, which God swore to Abraham, for not till then will all his seed possess the gate of his enemies.

To the weeping mothers who mourned the loss of their children that had been slain by the command of Herod, the Lord said, “Refrain thy voice from weeping, and thine eyes from tears; for thy work shall be rewarded, saith the Lord; and they shall come again from the land of the enemy. And there is hope in thine end, saith the Lord, that thy children shall come again to their own border.” Jeremiah 31:16, 17. Only through the resurrection can the seed of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob come again to their own border. This was indicated to Abraham when he was told that before his seed should possess the land they should be afflicted in a strange land, and that he should die; “but in the fourth generation they shall come hither again.” There can therefore be no doubt but that God designed that the return of Israel from Egyptian bondage should be the time of the resurrection and restoration of all things. The time of the promise drew nigh. How long it would have been after the going forth from Egypt, before the full restoration would have taken place, we have no means of knowing. There was of course much to be done in the way of warning the people of the earth; and the time depended upon the faithfulness of the children of Israel. We need not speculate upon how all things would have been fulfilled, since the Israelites were not faithful. All that concerns us now is the fact that the deliverance from Egypt meant nothing less than the complete deliverance of all God’s people from the bondage of sin and death, and the restoration of all things as they were in the beginning.

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