GOD’S PROMISES TO ABRAHAM
HAVE NEVER YET BEEN FULFILLED*
[* These writings by Robert Govett have been edited, and used in tract form.]
The Sadducees did not believe in any resurrection, or in the existence of angel or spirit: Acts 23: 8. Therefore, they put a case before the Lord, which to them seemed sufficient to prove the resurrection absurd, Luke 20: 38-32.
The case presented was probably not a real one: it was an extreme instance, designed to test a principle.
Our Lord’s reply was: “Ye do err; not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God.”
Concerning the scriptural doctrine of resurrection, Christians have high thoughts of their own intelligence, but in reality they are ignorant - ignorant of those truths which alone carry the real answer.
To them it is incredible, that God should be able out of a heap of dust to restore a living frame, and one that should exist forever. How could it be, that a body, in part scattered to the winds, in part devoured by other animals, separated from a soul at the time of death, should ever be reunited to the soul and restored to life.
To the apostles the resurrection of the dead was the great foundation of the faith. It was proved by the resurrection of Jesus. It was the great and startling truth which they were sent to proclaim, with all its consequences, to an unbelieving world.
But soon the faith fell out of view. In the middle ages, the intermediate state fell through, together with the false doctrine of Purgatory. The idea that Justin Martyr stigmatizes as false – that at the time of death, the soul enters heaven and glory – took its place.
In most instances it is evidenced by the hymns usually sung - death is the object set before the regenerate believer’s view. The topic of funeral sermons is the victory achieved at the time of death, when anyone departs in the faith. The departed faithful have entered the land of promise; may we go with them! The body is a ‘clog,’ a ‘burden,’ a ‘prison.’ Death is emancipation from the flesh, a sudden entry on glory. This, I suppose IS NOT SCRIPTURE DOCTRINE, but contrary to it.
To unbelievers, resurrection has always been one of the chief stumbling blocks to Christianity. Of old it was declared, that the rising of the dead and decomposed body was a something beyond the power of God Himself. The philosophers added, that even if it were possible, it was undesirable in the highest degree. Matter was in itself evil. To be delivered from the appetites and importunities of the body was the great object of the philosopher. And should he allow, that the body that had caused so much mischief to the soul, and was at length laid away out of sight – a putrid mass – was anew and forever to be associated with the purified spirit? It was man’s glory to leave it for evermore.
Celsus said of resurrection, that it was ‘a hope to be cherished by worms.’
Let me then set forth the Christian doctrine upon this important subject.
WHAT IS DEATH?
It is the opposite of life. And life is the union of spirit, soul and body, 1 Thess. 5: 23.
At death these three component parts are severed; and each of them goes to a different place. The animating spirit returns to God. The soul departing from the body, descends to a region called Sheol/Hades. The body left upon the earth is buried.
In Acts chapter two, Peter inspired by the Holy Spirit, refers to the 16th Psalm, where it is written, “My flesh shall rest in hope, because thou wilt not leave my soul in Hadees, neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption:” 26, 27. That, says the apostle, WAS NOT FULFILLED IN DAVID. His body was entombed; His flesh was corrupted, and His soul is still among the souls in Hades. But this was true of “Jesus the Nazarite.” He was slain by the wickedness of Jew and Gentile. At death His spirit returned to God; and his soul - (He Himself, for the soul is the Person) - went down among the souls in the under world. His body was conveyed to the sepulchral chamber that belonged to Joseph.
The severance of spirit, soul and body is the effect
of sin, and of the original sentence of God upon the guilty. Corruption of the body is the token of God’s
displeasure; it is the proof of being a sinner.
It is the repulsive path leading to the sentence of
To believe this, however, is to great a demand for infidels. Their God suffices not for so wondrous a feat. But Abraham believed it. It is the foundation of the Christian faith. Ours is a God who rises the dead.
He has already effected the marvel in the person of Christ. He will rise His people in like manner.
But if so, how do you untie the Sadducees’ knot?
This true view of the dead will materially affect our comprehension of the Saviour’s reply to the Sadducees. Jesus argues from the expression used by Jehovah, “I am the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and Jacob,” that the dead WERE TO BE RAISED. In what condition, then, did Jesus assume these patriarchs to be? Dead? or alive? Christians ordinarily suppose that He assumes them to be alive. So says Wesley, “Therefore Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, are not dead, but living. Therefore the soul does not die with the body.” So says Barnes. “God spake, then, as being their God,” “They must, therefore, be still somewhere living.” “He is the God only of those who have an existence.”
But then there is in that passage no proof of resurrection; but only the separate existence of the soul, after the body is laid aside. Now resurrection never means ‘the immortality of the soul,’ never means ‘a future state.’ Then, too, Jesus’ reply does not refute the Sadducees. Their alleged difficulty did not relate to the intermediate state, but to the coming forth of the dead from their tombs, and the restoration of their BODIES. To whom the woman was as wife to belong, was a question applying ONLY TO THE DAY when the BODY was reunited to the SOUL. Neither Pharisee nor Sadducee believed in marriage among spirits.
This answer, then, makes Jesus evade the question, and
prove the separate existence of the soul, instead of the resurrection
of the body. It is, in fact, a wrong way
of stating the matter. The patriarchs
were not alive, but dead. The dead, as
we have shown, are those human beings whose spirit, body and soul are
severed. Then Jesus admits to the Sadducees, that Abraham is dead, as much as the
woman and her seven husbands.
Abraham is dead, for his body is still in the
It is, indeed, quite true that this passage proves the separate existence of the souls of the patriarchs [in Hadees/Sheol]. But THAT WAS NOT THE POINT. Jesus does not cite it to prove that, but Abraham’s return to his BODY. The separate existence of Abraham’s body and soul is a proof of his being then and NOW among the dead [in Hadees/Sheol]. He will not be alive till his body and soul are reunited. In the same state in which Abraham was when God spoke to Moses at the bush, Abraham is still. Barnes and others call him “dead” then. He is, then, dead NOW. Jesus therefore is referring, not to time present, but to the future day of resurrection, of which the Sadducees were speaking.
Abraham is dead.
Jehovah is his God. But Jehovah
is NOT GOD OF THE DEAD. Therefore God is not NOW showing Himself the God of Abraham, FOR THE RESURRECTION [to
immortality] is not yet come. That the
resurrection was to be at a future DAY,
the Pharisees held; and on that, allowed as a basis, the
Sadducees plead. God, then, by these
words, engages to restore by His almighty power Abraham to become Abraham again
in resurrection. Abraham when the Lord
promised him possession of
Till spirit, soul and body come together, Abraham is not alive, and God is not showing Himself the God of Abraham. There is no visible difference between Abraham and Saul now; but the Almighty means to show His power put forth in goodness in rescuing Abraham wholly from the grasp of death. He has as yet done nothing answering the greatness of His promises for the patriarchs. But He is a God of truth. Therefore what He has not done in the past, HE MUST, HE WILL DO IN THE FUTURE. And God is in covenant relation with Abraham, even as regards his body. That was marked by God. How can God reject it, or cast it away as naught? Mark, too, the terms, “My covenant shall be IN YOUR FLESH for an EVERLASTING COVENANT:” Gen. 17: 13. Then the flesh must be as everlasting as the covenant. And so it is in the only One to whom it has been fulfilled. It is true in the One Heir, the Singular Seed of Abraham risen from the dead, who said, “A spirit hath not FLESH and BONES, as ye see me have.” For this resurrection the patriarchs wait.
A new and better [millennial] AGE is coming, in which they neither die nor marry, nor are given in marriage. As long, then, as marriage and death last among believers, so long have we clear proof that the better age and the [select] resurrection [out] from the dead are not come.
But if ‘death be resurrection,’ and the spirit-state be the eternal one, Abraham had already risen ages before, and was either then enjoying the land of promise, or God’s pledged word was broken. Then, too, the Sadducees should have said, “Whose wife in the resurrection shall she be?” For already in the spirit-state she was the wife of one or more of them. If they were wrong in their supposition about this, Jesus would have corrected their error. But while He affirms the reality of resurrection, which they falsely denied, He confirms them in regard to the futurity of the resurrection. “But when they shall rise from the dead, they neither marry nor are given in marriage:” Mark 12: 25.. “They which SHALL BE ACCOUNTED WORTHY TO ATTAIN THAT AGE, and the resurrection from among the dead, neither marry nor are given in marriage:” (Greek) Luke 20: 34, 35.
The First Resurrection, then, admits into the millennial reign. Therefore Jesus having foretold the exit of His people from the gates of Hades, then speaks of entry into the kingdom of heaven: Matt. 16: 18, 19. And that kingdom is to be the kingdom of glory at the Saviour’s advent, of which a specimen was given on the Mount of Transfiguration: 16: 28; “Verily I say unto you, There be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom. And after six days Jesus taketh Peter, James and John his brother, and bringeth them up into a high mountain apart.”
But Jehovah has never yet fulfilled that
covenant to Abraham. He promised
Stephen said, “Men , brethren, and fathers, hearken; the God of Glory appeared unto our father Abraham, when he was in Mesopotamia, before he dwelt in Charran, And said unto him, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and come into the land which I shall shew thee. Then came he out of the land of the Chaldaeans, and dwelt in Charran; and from thence, when his father was dead, he removed him into this land, wherein ye now dwell. And he gave him none inheritance in it, no, not so much as to set his foot on: yet he promised that he would give it to him for a possession, and to his seed after him, when as yet he had no child.”
So says the Writer of Hebrews: Heb. 11: 8, 13.
“By faith Abraham when he was called to go out into the place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out not knowing whither he went.” “these all died in faith, NOT HAVING RECEIVED THE PROMISE, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.”
But it may be said – ‘Did not
Abraham receive the fulfilment, if not in his own person, yet in his seed as
And we answer – No, in no wise!
2. Never in
their palmiest days, did they possess the land in its extent as given by the
covenant, - from Nile to
3. But the chief reply is – That it is not said, that Abraham should inherit the land in his seed; but that he AND his seed should possess it. “All the land which thou seest, to THEE will I give it, and to thy seed for ever:” Gen. 13: 15. Besides, if so, the Scriptures could not assert, that Abraham had never received the land. On that supposition, he has received it in the persons of his representatives; which was all that was promised.
The covenant of Gen 15, moreover, confirms the land to CHRIST as Abraham’s individual Heir; and no subsequent engagement of God can make void: Gal. 3: 17. But Christ has never possessed the land.
The promises of the
Thus, then, Jesus shows Himself Prince of commentators. He discovers to us, in those simple words – “I am the God of Abraham,” the promise of resurrection. In that bud lay concealed the flower and fruit of HIS glory to come. There it lay concealed, till the microscope of the Great Teacher drew them forth to Light.
We see, then, a new and better AGE is before us. It is to come in by resurrection – the ‘better resurrection’. The manifest of God’s favour will be on those who partake of this kingdom of the ‘thousand years’. As yet it is God the patient, waiting for the filling up of the world’s iniquity. As yet it is His people suffering at the hands of the wicked. As yet Christ is seated at the right hand of God, waiting till His enemies are made His footstool. He is already in heaven, crowned – because of His suffering of death – with glory and honour. But we see not yet the promise fulfilled, that all things shall be set under His feet. That is nigh at hand. And to us it is set forth as our hope - that we may enter into that joy of our Lord. The Father and the Son have been working hitherto, since the Fall introduced trouble into God’s creation-rest. But all is moving on to the rest of God in His better Sabbath of redemption. Into this ‘Sabbath-rest’ of the seventh thousand year – shall enter those who have worked with God and His Christ, and suffered for them. Let us seek this rest! Let us labour to enter it! Let us desire to strive for the prize, which the Righteous Judge shall give in that day! Let us keep from unrighteousness! Into the resurrection of the righteous, and the kingdom of saints, the unrighteous shall not enter: 1 Cor. 6: 9-11. We are sons of God by grace, let us seek to do the works of our Father! Let us labour today in His vineyard! He is not the God of grace alone; He becomes also the Rewarder of those who diligently seek Him: Heb. 11: 6.
Nor let any discourage you by saying – that ‘To seek reward is to make yourselves mercenary in spirit!’ For this reward is to be given by the Heavenly Father to His OBEDIENT children: Matt. 6: 1-18. And Jesus sought this: Heb. 12: 2.
We are sons of God by faith, accepted before Him in Christ, born of the Spirit. I would ask my reader, Have you been born of water also? God calls those who are in His ark to pass through the waters: 1 Pet. 3. But even to those born of the Spirit, and born out of water, there is yet lacking a third birth, ere they can enter the full repose of God. And what is that? THE BIRTH OUT OF DEATH AND THE TOMB: Acts 13: 32-34. Of those so born into the kingdom of glory it shall be true, that the least of them shall be greater than the greatest of those born of women: Matt. 11: 11. Let us, then, flee iniquity! Let us not settle down like Demas, content with this present evil age! But let us seek the better one, the age after the resurrection, the day of glory, and of the reign of Messiah/Christ! To those who faithfully serve Him NOW shall Jesus throw open the kingdom of glory, with His words of power – “Well done, thou good and faithful servant, enter thou INTO THE JOY OF THY LORD!”
Edited from writings by Robert Govett.