THE PROMISES TO ABRAHAM NEVER YET FULFILLED

 

By ROBERT GOVETT.

 

[The following tract was first published by Fletcher & Son, 8 Market Place, Norwich: dated 1872, Price two pence. Many of the Robert Govettís writings are now published by Schoettle Publishing Company, U.S.A.]

 

In the three first Gospels we have the record of our Lordís reply to the Sadducees.   They did not believe in any resurrection, or in the existence of angel or spirit: Acts 23: 8.  They put, then, before our Lord a case, which to them seemed sufficient to prove the resurrection absurd.

 

"Master, (Teacher) Moses wrote unto us, If any manís brother die, having a wife, and he die without children, that his brother should take his wife, and raise up seed unto his brother.  There were therefore seven brethren: and the first took a wife, and died without children.  And the second took her a wife, and he died childless.  And the third took her: and in like manner the seven also: and they left no children, and died.  Last of all the woman died also:" Luke 20: 28-32.

 

The case presented was probably not a real one: it was an extreme instance, designed to test a principle.  Now, if there were a resurrection, must not strife and confusion be the result?  But God is not the author of strife and confusion.  Therefore the resurrection is impossible.  And Moses himself is a witness against it.

 

Our Lordís reply falls naturally into three parts

 

1. THE SOURCES OF THE DIFFICULTY.

 

2. ITS REMOVAL.

 

3. PROOF POSITIVE OF THE RESURRECTION.

 

First, then - 

 

1. THE SOURCES OF THE DIFFICULTY.

 

"Ye do err; not knowing (1) the Scriptures, nor (2) the power of God."

 

Unbelievers have high thoughts of their own intelligence and knowledge.  They are able summarily to decide questions the most profound.  But in reality they are ignorant - ignorant of the truths which alone carry the real answer.

 

Is there to be a resurrection?  This depends upon the intentions of the Most High.  And His intents are revealed in the Scriptures.  Those, therefore, who are ignorant of the Scriptures, are unfit to pronounce upon the question.  But Holy Writ establishes the doctrine of a resurrection, as part of Godís design.

 

The Sadducees were moreover ignorant, like most unbelievers, of the power of God.  To them it was incredible, that God should be able out of a heap of dust to restore a living frame, and one that should exist for ever.  How could it be, that a body, in part scattered to the winds, in part devoured by other animals, should ever be restored to life?

 

This unbelief arises from low views of the power of God.  Did not He make the living frame at first out of the ground? How, then, shall it be impossible to Him to recreate it?  To believe this, however, is too great a demand for the faith of infidels.  Their God suffices not for so wonderous a feat.  But Abraham believed it.  It is the foundation of the Christian faith.  Ours is a God who raises the dead.  He has already effected this marvel in the person of Christ.  He will raise His people in like manner.

 

But if so, how do you untie the Sadduceesí knot?  We arrive then at the second point.

 

2. THE DIFFICULTY REMOVED.

 

"And Jesus answering said unto them, The children of this age marry, and are given in marriage.  But they which shall be accounted worthy to obtain that age, and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry, nor are given in marriage.  For neither can they die any more: for they are equal unto the angels; and are the children of God, being the children of the resurrection:" Luke 20: 24-36. (Greek.)

 

Their mistake turned upon a false assumption, which our Lord drew into the light.  They took for granted - that life after resurrection would go on as life before resurrection does.  Here was their error.  In some respects, indeed, that life will resemble this life.  But the imperfections of our present existence will then pass away.

 

The period in which we live is limited.  Our Lord calls it, "this age."

 

Of it marriage and death are the usual course.

 

But it is to be succeeded by another age: and they who enter that blest period of resurrection will not die, nor will they marry.

 

Jesus does not affirm, that in the age to come there will be neither marriage nor death for any.  He only denies it of those risen from the dead.  For the prophets testify, that in the days of Messiahís reign, there shall be both marriage and death to the Jew and Gentile; or to nations still in the flesh and on earth.  For thus it is written:-

 

"Thus saith the Lord: Again there shall be heard in this place, which ye say shall be desolate without man and without beast, even in the cities of Judah, and in the streets of Jerusalem, that are desolate, without man, and without inhabitant, and without beast.  The voice of joy, and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom, and the voice of the bride:" Jer. 33: 10, 11.

 

"Neither shall any priest drink wine, when they enter into the inner court.  Neither shall they take for their wives a widow, nor her that is put away: but they shall take maidens of the seed of the house of Israel, or a widow that had a priest before:" Exek. 44: 21, 22; Psa. 128; Isa. 65: 20-23.

 

Those however, who are raised from the dead, whether man or woman, marry not; for neither are they to die. As partaking of the resurrection of bliss, they are as incapable of death, as the angels;*  and as partakers of their state of incorruption they take also the name of the angels, and are called "the sons of God." Angels are Ďsons of Godí by creation; the risen of mankind, will be sons by adoption.  Renewal of the soul takes place now by the Spirit of God. But until the redemption of the body, they are not visibly adopted as Godís children: Rom. 8: 23.

 

[* Here again with holy wisdom our Lord introduces a protest against the Sadducean unbelief of the existence of angels.]

 

From these words of our Saviour it is certain, that there must be a resurrection of the "just" alone: Luke 14: 14. Those who partake of this resurrection are all sons of God.  But the wicked are not sons of God.  Then none of the wicked* have part in this resurrection. There is a "resurrection of life," as well as a "resurrection of judgment:" John 5.

 

[* That some who are regenerate are described in Scripture as "wicked" (1 Cor. 5: 13), we maintain that this resurrection is one of reward for those ďaccounted worthy to obtain that ageĒ.]

 

And this is more fully stated in the 20th of Revelation, in which is announced the duration of the bliss assigned to the partakers of the first resurrection.  The resurrection of the righteous takes place upon a different principle from that of the wicked.  It is effected by the Holy Ghost indwelling in the believer, and because of His indwelling: Rom. 8: 11; see also 1 Thess. 4; 2 Thess. 2: 1.

 

The same conclusion follows from the two different expressions employed by the sacred writers to describe resurrection.  Sometimes they speak of "the resurrection of the dead:" 1 Cor. 15: 12, 13, 21.  This expression embraces alike the wicked and the righteous: Acts 24: 15.

 

But the Scriptures teach also a resurrection "from among the dead."*  Of this Jesus was the first example.  He was "raised [out] from among the dead by the glory of the Father:" Rom. 6: 4.  He went down [into Hades/Sheol] among the dead; but, as the Righteous One, He could not be detained in their abode; but rose out from among them: 1 Cor. 15: 12; Mark 9: 9, 10.

 

[* We use the article always before "dead:" the Greeks do not. They say - ĎFrom among persons dead:í which is more correct.] 

 

Observe, it is not a resurrection out of death, or out of the place of the dead, but from among persons dead.

 

It will be so with partakers of the first resurrection.  They will come out from among the dead, leaving them still in Hadees, the place of souls departed.  The thirty-fifth verse of Luke 20, gives us this expression.  "They that are accounted worthy to attain that age, and the resurrection from among the dead." Also Acts 4: 2; Phil. 3: 11.  Any one can see, how great a difference of sense there is between the expressions Ďan uprising of the mutineers,í and Ďan uprising from among the mutineers.í  The one rising would be evil; and the other would be good.

 

But there is further proof.  On what principle will any enter on this time of joy?  As "judged worthy."  This, then, is the opposite principle to the entering on the ground of grace.  Eternal life is the gift of God to every believer: Rom. 6: 23.  But this is a special, limited time of reward granted to the believer according to his works.  And to attain this, faith alone will not suffice: as it is written -

 

"Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven:" Matt. 7: 21.

 

"Which is a manifest token of the righteous judgment of God, that ye may be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which ye also suffer." "Wherefore also we pray always for you, that our God would count you worthy of this calling, and fulfil all the good pleasure of his goodness, and the work of faith with power:" 2 Thess. 1: 5, 11.

 

Who will be the judge of such fitness?  Christ!  When? At His coming: Rev. 3: 4; 22: 12; 2 Tim. 4.

By "the first resurrection" is not meant alone Ďthe act of being raised from the dead;' to those accounted worthy it is the entrance on the blessed period of the thousand years.  This is the period called also "the kingdom of heaven," or the millennial "kingdom of God."  Of this we have an example in Matt. 7: 21. "Not every one that saith unto me Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven, but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven."  It is also clear from the words of our Lord on this subject.  Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are to attain this feast and blest resurrection.  But it is also said of them, that they are to enjoy the kingdom of heaven.  "Many shall come from the east and from the west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven:" Matt. 8: 11. This can only be in resurrection.  Again, Luke 13: 28, 29.

 

"There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when ye shall see Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, and you yourselves thrust out. And they shall come from the east and from the west, and from the north, and from the south, and shall sit down in the kingdom of God."

 

The first resurrection, then, admits into the millennial reign.  Therefore Jesus having foretold the exit of His people from the gates of Hadees, then speaks of the entry into the kingdom of heaven: Matt. 16: 18, 19.  And that kingdom is to be the kingdom of glory at the Saviourís advent at which a specimen was given on the Mount of Transfiguration: 16: 28; 17: 1.

 

"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 now we advance to the third point.

 

3. SCRIPTURAL PROOF OF THE RESURRECTION FROM THE OLD TESTAMENT.

 

For the removal of the Sadduceesí difficulty by the exposure of their ignorance, was no proof from Scripture of the reality of the resurrection.  And Jesus had affirmed, that on this point they were ignorant of the Scriptures, which discover to us Godís intentions in regard of the future.

 

Our Lord, therefore, adds -

 

"Now that the dead are raised,* even Moses shewed at the bush, when he called the Lord the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.  For he is not a God of the dead, but of the living; for all live unto him:" 37, 38.

 

[* Why is it in the present tense?  Does it mean that resurrection is continually going on?  No.  The resurrection of the blest is yet future, and they are to rise together.  It is in the present, because it is a question of doctrine.  So we say, "The woes of the lost are eternal!"] 

 

It is generally supposed, that our Lord in these words seeks to prove the existence of the soul after death.  And it is true, that the words do establish that doctrine.  But that is not the primary import of them.  For what was the question?  It was the resurrection of the man.  Is that promised in Scripture or is it not?

 

So the Sadducees put it. "Therefore in the resurrection whose wife of them is she?" "Therefore in the resurrection when they shall rise, whose wife shall she be of them?"

 

So also the Saviour states it. "In the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage." "But as touching the resurrection of the dead have ye not read that which was spoken unto you by God?"

 

It is evident also, that the difficulty suggested by the Sadducees had no existence, while the departed are naked spirits [i.e., disembodied souls] in Hadees.  It only begins to come to view when the body is resumed.

 

The Lordís reply then goes to establish the doctrine of the resurrection of the body - the redemption of the whole man from the power of death and the slavery of corruption.  But whence comes the proof?

 

The proof is involved in Godís words to Moses out of the burning bush, when he was sending him to be the deliverer of Israel out of Egypt.  The prophets saw further into Godís design; but even in Mosesí early day this truth was taught - ĎMoses, whom you quote against me, is really against you

 

"I AM the GOD of ABRAHAM."

 

1. In what sense was Jehovah the God of Abraham?  Priestey suggests, that it means - ĎI am the being whom Abraham used to worshipBut out of this view no proof of resurrection can be drawn.

 

2. It means, ĎI am the Almighty benefactor of AbrahamEx. 6: 7; Gen. 17: 7. It is Godís past, present, future, and eternal relation to Abraham; not Abrahamís past relation to God.  It is as though He had said - ĎIt is my purpose to exhibit My Godhead in doing good to Abraham. I am Abrahamís Creator, I am his Preserver, I shall be his Restorer. I shall restore him as God alone can - in resurrection.í  This Abraham believed; this Jehovah will effect.  It will be a benefit to Abraham, in a way worthy of God, and possible to Him alone.  Jehovah justified Abraham upon his believing Him.  But the issue of the soulís justification is the bodyís redemption from the effects of sin.  The man is not redeemed and justified, till his body is delivered from the curse inflicted on Adamís trespass.  "Thou shalt return unto the ground, for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return:" Gen. 3: 19.  The issue of justification, then, is the undoing of this: - and that is life in resurrection.  This saying then affirms - that all that God can do of good to Abraham, as long as he is God, he intends to do.

 

3. But there is yet further force in it.  Jehovah in Abrahamís lifetime had put Himself, in his grace, under special engagements to Abraham the justified.  As soon as he believes, Jehovah by solemn rite engages to give the land of Palestine to himself and to his seed. (Gen. 15.)  When Abraham, in the last crisis, is found obedient to God, surrendering to the altar even his beloved son Isaac, God swears to bless him, and to bless the whole earth in his seed. (Gen. 22.)

 

We have especially to do with the chapter of the covenant of faith, (Gen. 15.) and the reader will do well at this point to peruse it.  When Abraham surrenders to Lot the choice of a locality, Jehovah promises him all the land which was then before his eyes: Gen. 13: 14-17.  When Abraham has conquered the kings, and brought back the spoil of Sodom, the king of Sodom offers it all to the patriarch.  But he refuses.  He will not be made rich by man: Gen. 14.  Then Jehovah declares:- "I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward:" Gen. 15: 1.  Jehovah shall be his Benefactor.

 

But Abraham enquires, how that should be, seeing he has no heir?  The Lord replies, that he would give him an individual Heir, sprung from Himself: ver. 4. ĎThis,í says Paul, Ďmeans Christ :í Gal. 3: 16.

 

The Lord then promises him a numerous seed, like the stars: Gen. 15: 5.  Abraham believes it, and is justified.  By this seed shining fixedly in heaven, are intended the risen saints, fixed in heavenly glory for ever: 1 Cor. 15: 41, 42.

 

Jehovah next assures him, that He brought him out of the land of his birth, in order to give him "this land:" verse 7.

 

How should he be assured that he would possess it?  The Lord gives him, as the foundation of his confidence, two things. - 1. SACRIFICE, or atoning death; and 2. A FORMAL COVENANT.

 

Abraham, thereupon, renders God the sacrifice He commanded.  Then a deep sleep falls on the patriarch; and God speaks to him of yet another numerous Seed: 13-16.

 

"And God said unto Abram, ĎKnow of a surety that thy seed shall be a stranger in a land that is not theirís, and shall serve them; and they shall afflict them four hundred years; And also that nation whom they shall serve, will I judge: and afterward shall they 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."

 

The plural seed here spoken of are the people of Israel, Abrahamís earthly posterity.

 

Then the Lord ratifies with solemn ceremonies the possession of the land to Abraham and to his individual Seed, which is Christ.*  "Unto thy Seed have I given this land, from the river of Egypt [the Nile] to the great river, the river Euphrates:" verse 18.

 

[* Sometimes the Lord speaks of the plural seeds of Abraham. They are to be numerous, as the dust of the earth, and as numerous as the stars of the sky. But where no note of plurality is given, One Person only is meant:- Ďtis Christ.  The others are "thy seed after thee." Jesus is the seed before Abraham was: John 8: 58.]

 

Now it was in pursuance of the covenant then ratified with Abraham, that Jehovah manifested Himself in the burning bush of the desert to Moses.  He had promised, that after the four hundred years of the earthly seedís suffering were over, He would judge the Egyptians, and deliver Israel out of Egypt, with great wealth.  The iniquity of the occupiers of the land of Canaan was now full.  Therefore Jehovah had come down, in remembrance of His covenant with Abraham, to bless and deliver his posterity.  Mosesí mission from Jehovah in the desert was the result of that covenant with Abraham His servant.

 

BUT JEHOVAH HAS NEVER YET FULFILLED THAT COVENANT TO ABRAHAM.  He promised him the land of Canaan.  But Abraham has never yet enjoyed it.  So says the Scripture itself: Acts 7: 2-5.

 

And 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 Paul - [or the Writer to the 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 promises, 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 - ĎDid not Abraham receive the fulfilment, if not in his own person, yet in his seed as represented by Israel

 

And we answer - No, in no wise!

 

1. Israel never entered the land on the ground of faith, and justified, as Abraham was.  At Sinai they agreed to be dealt with on the ground of their deserts.  And hence, after God had patiently borne with their evil deeds, they have been twice swept away.

 

2. Never in their palmiest days, did they possess the land in its extent as given by the covenant, - from Nile to Euphrates.

 

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.

 

[* That is, for as long as the land remains: the word "forever," must be understood in this limited sense. Other Scriptures make it perfectly clear that this present earth (land) will be destroyed and replaced with ďa new heaven and a new earthĒ (Rev. 21: 1) Ė ďand the sea was no more,Ē R.S.V.

 

The covenant of Gen. 15, moreover, confirms the land to Christ as Abrahamís individual Heir; and no subsequent engagement of God can make that void: Gal. 3: 17.  But Christ has never possessed the land.

 

The promises of the land of Canaan, then, made by the Most High to Abraham, and to Christ his Lord, have never been fulfilled.

 

Look again at the words from another point of view.

 

"I am the God of Abraham."

 

Where was Abraham when Jehovah made the engagement with him?  In the land of Canaan, in the plains of Mamre.

 

What was Abraham? A living man, consisting of body and soul [and spirit] in union.  What is Abraham now! Dead! Where is he? "His sons Isaac and Ishmael buried him in the cave of Machpelah:" Deut. 25: 9. That was but his corpse.

 

Where is he? In Hadees among the dead; as Jesus tells us in Luke:- "The beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abrahamís bosom." The rich man "Seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom:" 16: 22, 23.

 

Abraham then now is no longer where he was when the engagement was made; nor is he what he was.  The house of his tabernacle is taken down, the tenant driven out, and gone elsewhere.  Abraham is divided; part of him in the earth; part of him under the earth.  But Abraham dead and divided is not Abraham!  Abraham is not now the living man to whom God made the promise.  Neither part of Abraham is enjoying the benefits guaranteed to him. They cannot be enjoyed by him, so long as he is divided.  They cannot be received till Abraham is living, and on earth once more.  Neither Abrahamís dust, nor his separate spirit [or soul] can possess the land of Palestine.  And Abraham saw this.  He must have learned, that God did not intend him to enjoy the land of promise, save in resurrection.  For God in His prophecy assured him, that there were 400 years yet to roll, ere his descendants would be able to enter the land.  And in the mean time he himself was to go to his grave in peace and be buried in a good old age: 15.  He trusted, then, in a God who would set him, body and soul [and spirit] re-knit, upon the soil of the chosen land once more!  God was well pleased with this faith of the patriarch; and means to fulfil this his hope.

 

The Sadducee [ancient and modern] may deny this; the Gentile philosopher vote it impossible.  But Jehovah will do it.  He must do it; if he be true.  Abraham cannot receive the promise of the land made to him by God, save as raised from the dead.  Then, as sure as God is the God of truth, the two [three parts including his animating spirit] parts of Abraham must be brought together, in order to enjoy the land promised. But this is RESURRECTION.

 

"God is not the God of persons dead,* but of persons alive."

 

[* There is no article, and this in an important manner modifies the sense.] 

 

The favour of God is not displayed to the dead: Psa. 78: 5, 11; 115: 17.  The touch of the dead made the living unclean.

 

While Abraham remains dead, Jehovah is not manifesting His favour to him.  Abraham was long ago justified in his soul.  But there is no distinction visible now between Abraham and Adam.  Both have died, both been buried.  Death and corruption mark both of them out as sinners.  Only when all the effects of sin upon Abraham have been removed, will God be seen to be the God of Abraham.  And that will be, only when Abrahamís body is restored from the tomb.

 

Jehovah sealed Abrahamís body for himself by circumcision, as well as accepted his soul [and spirit.].  He means, then, to exhibit His power of beneficence upon his body as well as upon his soul.  He must, therefore, undo the curse on it, which sent it to the dust.  That is, He must restore it to life again in resurrection.  Then He will be seen to be the God of Abraham, loading him with benefits; and distinguishing him from the lost and the rejected, who will still for a thousand years moulder in the dust.  For indeed, hitherto God has not done to Abraham the great things to be expected from His promises.  Was there anything in the worldly circumstances of the life of Abraham to mark him out as a favourite of God?  Little enough!  He feels the effects of famine; in Egypt he is in peril of life; there is strife between his retainers and those of Lot.  There is domestic trouble between him, and Hagar, and Sarah.  He beholds the wrath of God fall upon part of the land of promise.  At Gerar his domestic peace is again invaded.  Sorely is his heart tried by the sacrifice of Isaac: and then Sarah dies.  It is only when Abraham shall again be living, that the glory of God will be displayed on His servant - and all eyes will see and confess it. For "God is not the God of persons dead, but of those alive."

 

The proof of resurrection, then, is twofold; arising out of the nature of God on the one hand; and out of ABRAHAM on the other.

 

1. While Abraham is dead, Jehovah is not displaying Himself to be the Almighty benefactor of Abraham according to His promise.  Nor is He fulfilling the engagements He has entered into with him by covenant, (Gen. 15,) and by oath, (Gen. 22,*)  to give His servant the land of promise, in a wider extent than was ever possessed by Israel.

 

[* This is the basis of the observation in Heb. 6: 18, that God by "two immutable transactions" - the covenant, and the oath - would sustain our faith.]

 

2. While Abraham is dead, he is divided, and neither part of him is receiving the fulfilment of Godís promise of possessing the land.  Abraham dead is not on the earth, where the promise is to be enjoyed.  Nor can he return to earth, till that which death has severed, life shall reunite.  But then his body and soul [and spirit] will be re-knit; and that in resurrection.

 

While Abraham sleeps in death the promises are unfulfilled.  But as truly as Christ - the Singular Seed of Abraham - has been raised from among the dead, so shall Abraham himself be.  This good pleasure of the Lord was first exhibited on Jesus, the Righteous.  It shall by and bye be displayed in Abraham, the justified by the righteousness of Christ.  When Christ descends to take the kingdom as Son of Abraham, Son of David, He shall fulfil the covenant to the other seeds of Abraham; both the heavenly seed, and the earthly.

 

Then shall Israel, the plural seed of Abrahamís flesh enjoy the land of promise; and it shall stretch from Nile to Euphrates, embracing even the desert in which they wandered - then a desert no longer, but watered, verdant, and inhabited: Isa. 35Then shall the heavenly seed of Abraham, children of his faith, raised [out] from the dead, and "shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father."  Then shall Abraham enjoy, not the earthly heritage alone, but shall receive also the "better country, the heavenly;" and his poor tent shall be exchanged for the city of the twelve foundations "whose builder and maker is God."

 

From this of course it follows, that Jesus is not coming to burn up the earth as soon as He descends from heaven. While the Gospel of Godís grace and patience lasts, Jesus does not leave the heaven.  And till He rises up, the resurrection of the righteous tarries.  The Gospel, then, will never fulfil to Abraham the promise of the land.  The Gospel is Christ waiting, His people falling asleep, and resurrection tarrying.  It is only when the new age of reward according to works has arrived, that the covenant with Abraham, to be fulfilled to him in a new life, takes effect. The millennial kingdom of God, then, is a something quite different in principle from this Gospel to-day.  And when the new age begins, it must last a thousand years; during which Abraham shall be living once more; and the living God shall be shown to be the God of Abraham, from henceforth alive for evermore.

 

But what mean the words - "For all live unto him?" The sense of them will be modified according as we assign different extents of meaning to the word "all."

 

1. Does it apply to Ďallí - good and evil alike?  Then it will signify - that "God hath made all things for Himself," and even the wicked will exist for ever before Him.

 

But I do not think that is the meaning.

 

2. Does it refer to ĎAbraham, Isaac, and JacobThis sense is warranted by the previous context. "Last of all the woman died also. Therefore in the resurrection whose wife shall she be of the seven? For they all had her." "These all died in faith, not having received the promises:" Heb. 11: 13.

 

Then the words of our Lord will signify, that the souls of the patriarchs, though no longer existing on earth, are still alive before God. "I am the God of Abraham." Not "I was,"*  This last would be the natural expression, if Abrahamís soul were no longer in existence.

 

[* The Hebrew thus express the present of the substantive verb. "Wherever, either the past of the future is intended by the speaker, as the orientals are not deficient in these tenses, the verb is not left to be supplied by the hearer," See Joshua 1: 5, 17; 1 Kings 8: 57. "Where the substantive verb is not expressed, but the personal pronoun is immediately conjoined with what is affirmed, the sense must, in other languages, be exhibited by the present :" Campbell ii, 115.] 

 

The sense here given is excellent.

 

3. But there is yet another extent which may be assigned to the word "all."  "They which shall be accounted worthy to obtain that age, and the resurrection from the dead."  "God is not the God of persons dead, but of those alive; for all are living unto Him." This, then, would inform us, that before God who "calls the things that be not as though they were," the departed who are to enjoy that day are - though dead to men - alive before himself.  And this is, I think, the sense.  It was, then, an assertion of our Lord, placed in designed opposition to the Sadducean denial of the existence of departed spirits.

 

'But will not this sense overthrow your previous argument?  If Abraham be alive already before God, how can resurrection be proved?  Will not the life of Abrahamís spirit satisfy the expression - "I am the God of Abraham?" ' 

 

By no means! Abraham alive in spirit [i.e., as a disembodied soul] below*  is still Abraham dead, and Abraham divided. And divided Abraham is not the man to whom the promise was made. Only when Abraham is alive before men in body and soul, [and spirit,] can he enjoy the land of promise. Only then is God seen to be his God.

 

[* 1 Sam. 28: 11, 13-15 ; Amos 9: 2 ; Matt. 12:40.]

 

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 the glory to come. There they lay concealed, till the microscope of the Great Teacher drew them forth to light.

 

We see, then, that a new and better age is before us.  It is to come in by resurrection - the better resurrection. [See, Heb. 11: 35.The manifestation of Godís favour will be on those who partake this kingdom of the thousand years.  As yet it is God the patient, waiting for the filling up of the worldís iniquity.  As yet it is His peoples 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 the joy of our Lord. The Father and the Son have been working hitherto, since the Fall introduced trouble into Godís creation-rest.  But all is moving on to the rest of God in His better sabbath of redemptionInto 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 and 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 the saints, the unrighteous shall not enter: 1 Cor. 6: 9-11.  We are sons of God by grace, let is seek to do the works of our Father!  Let us labour to-day in His vineyard!  He is not the God of grace alone: He becomes also the Rewarder of those who diligently seek Him: 11: 6.

 

Nor let any discourage you by saying - that ĎTo seek reward is to make yourselves mercenary in spirit!í  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 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 the present evil age!  But let us seek the better one, the age of resurrection, the day of glory, and the [millennial] reign of 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!"

 

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