“The Lord had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will shew thee: and I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: and I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed. … And the Lord appeared unto Abram, and said, unto thy seed will I give this land” (Genesis 12:2-7).
“And the Lord said unto Abram, after that Lot was separated from him, Lift up now thine eyes, and look from the place where thou art northward, and southward, and eastward, and westward: for all the land which thou seest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed for ever” (Genesis 13:14-17). “And the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying, Unto thy seed have I given this land, from the river of Egypt unto the great river, the river Euphrates” (Genesis 15:7-18).
“When Abram was ninety years old and nine, the Lord appeared to Abram, and said unto him, I am the Almighty God; walk before me, and be thou perfect. … As for me, behold, my covenant is with thee. … A father of many nations have I made thee, … and kings shall come out of thee. And I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after thee in their generations for an everlasting covenant. And I will give unto thee, and to thy seed after thee, the land wherein thou art a stranger, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God. … This is my covenant, which ye shall keep, between me and you and thy seed after thee; every man child among you shall be circumcised. And ye shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskin; and it shall be a token of the covenant betwixt me and you. And he that is eight days old shall be circumcised among you, every man child in your generations. … And the uncircumcised man child whose flesh of his foreskin is not circumcised, that soul shall be cut off from his people; he hath broken my covenant.
“Sarah thy wife shall bear thee a son indeed; and thou shalt call his name Isaac: and I will establish my covenant with him for an everlasting covenant and with his seed after him.
“And as for Ishmael, I have heard thee: Behold, I have blessed him, and will make him fruitful, and will multiply him exceedingly; twelve princes shall he beget, and I will make him a great nation. But my covenant will I establish with Isaac. … Abraham was ninety years old and nine, when he was circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin. And Ishmael his son was thirteen years old, when he was circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin. In the selfsame day was Abraham circumcised, and Ishmael his son” (Genesis 17:1-27).
Israel went down into Egypt as the Lord had said, and they came out on the very day which the Lord had promised. It took forty more years before God allowed them to begin to posses the land, and it took several more years for them to receive the full measure of the promise. Then, just before he died, Joshua told them, “Behold, this day I am going the way of all the earth: and ye know in all your hearts and in all your souls, that not one thing hath failed of all the good things which the Lord your God spake concerning you; all are come to pass unto you, and not one thing hath failed thereof.”
Paul attested to the surety of God’s promises in 2 Corinthians 1:18-20, saying “As God is true, our word toward you was not yea and nay. For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who was preached among you by us, even by me and Silvanus and Timotheus, was not yea and nay, but in him was yea. For all the promises of God in Him are yea, and in Him Amen, unto the glory of God by us.” If some of the heirs apparent to the promises fail to receive them because of unbelief, the promise will yet be fulfilled in those who do believe. As Paul said in Romans 11:7-8, “What then? Israel hath not obtained that which he seeketh for; but the election hath obtained it, and the rest were blinded unto this day.”
In his epistle to the Romans, Paul spent most of chapters 9-11 explaining to us how the promises and covenants to Abraham were to be fulfilled. He said, “Not as though the word of God hath taken none effect. For they are not all Israel, which are of Israel: neither, because they are the seed of Abraham, are they all children: but, In Isaac shall thy seed be called. That is, ‘They which are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God: but the children of the promise are counted for the seed’” (Rom. 9:6-8).
The first phases of the fulfillment of the true intent of those promises began with the followers of Jesus beginning to be born again: the creation of the spiritual Kingdom of Heaven. The second phase will come almost two thousand years later, just prior to the return of our King. The throne of David and the literal Kingdom of God shall be “Set up” among the Gentiles, and the Jews shall be grafted in again into their own olive tree (Dan. 2:43-44). The matter of the inheritance of the land being theirs forever will be resolved after Jesus returns. Remember, the Old Testament was only a shadow of the true. Much more was intended by those promises than is readily apparent in the account in Genesis.
The Apostle Paul explained it this way, “Cometh this blessedness then upon the circumcision only, or upon the uncircumcision also? for we say that faith was reckoned to Abraham for righteousness. How was it then reckoned? … Not in circumcision, but in uncircumcision. And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had yet being uncircumcised: that he might be the father of all them that believe, though they be not circumcised; that righteousness might be imputed unto them also: and the father of circumcision to them who are not of the circumcision only, but who also walk in the steps of that faith of our father Abraham, which he had being yet uncircumcised. For the promise, that he should be the heir of the world, was not to Abraham, or to his seed, through the law, but through the righteousness of faith. For if they which are of the law be heirs, faith is made void, and the promise made of none effect. … Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace; to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed; not to that only which is of the law, but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham; who is the father of us all” (Rom. 4:9-17).
In spite of the fact that we diligently study the word of God, we sometimes have a tendency to miss the full intent of His words. Take the promise to Ishmael in Genesis 17:20, for instance. Although God called Isaac Abraham’s only son in Gen.22:2 (“Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac,” an allegory of “the only begotten Son of God”), and Scripture shows that Abraham had six other sons by Keturah after Sarah died (Gen. 25:1-6), yet the Lord went to great lengths to give a special promise to Ishmael, including him in the promises to the seed of Abraham. “It is written, that Abraham had two sons,” Ishmael and Isaac (Gal. 4:22). The nation of Israel was established on the reality of Israel’s twelve sons. However, Ishmael also had twelve sons. Just as surely as Jesus fulfilled the allegory of Jacob’s twelve when He ordained twelve Apostles, so shall a Gentile arise today and ordain twelve Gentile Apostles in fulfillment of Ishmael’s twelve.
When Genesis 25:8-18 was written, the natural promise to Ishmael had already been fulfilled. He named Ishmael’s twelve sons, beginning with Nabjoth and Kedar. Then He said, “These are the sons of Ishmael, and these are their names, by their towns, and by their castles; twelve princes according to their nations.” The spiritual part of it will come soon as Paul said, “Glory, honor, and peace to every man that worketh good; to the Jew first, and also to the Gentile” (Rom. 2:10). The Lord said, “All the flocks of Kedar shall be gathered together unto thee, the rams of Nebaioth shall minister unto thee: they shall come up with acceptance on mine altar, and I will glorify the house of my glory. Who are these that fly as a cloud, and as the doves to their windows?” (Isaiah 60:7-8).
The Apostle Paul told us how to really understand the meaning of the things in the Old Testament, saying, “The law having a shadow of Good things to come, and not the very Image” (Heb. 10:1). He also said, “Whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope” (Rom. 15:4). We would be greatly benefited in our Bible studies if we would heed Paul’s words here.
Solomon also said, “I know that, whatsoever God doeth, it shall be for ever: nothing can be put to it, nor any thing taken from it: and God doeth it, that men should fear before him. That which hath been is now; and that which is to be hath already been; and God requireth that which is past” (Ecclesiastes 3:14-15). It was this passage to which the Apostle Paul referred when he said, “Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God: whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation. Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever.”
All of those promises about the inheritance of natural things were written as prophetic allegories of the things which were to come, in the 2,000 or so years of the Grace Age. For instance Jacob’s twelve sons foreshadowed Jesus’ Twelve Apostles. By the same measure, Ishmael’s twelve sons foreshadowed the Twelve Gentile Apostles which must yet be brought forth and manifested to this generation. Jesus said, "Many are called, but few are chosen.” (Matthew 20:16; 22:14).
Of Abraham’s two sons, Ishmael was born first and Isaac, the seed of promise, was born last. The fulfillment of that allegory must be played out by Jesus being born first to provide the circumcision of the heart for all of the spiritual seed of Abraham. The man by whom the allegory of Ishmael will be fulfilled must be born again at this end of the Grace Age to prepare for the coming of the Bridegroom.
The nation of Israel existed for about 1,500 years. It was formed just prior to its exodus from Egypt, and was watched after by judges for about 450 years. It then became a kingdom which functioned as two sovereign kingdoms: Israel’s ten tribes, and the two tribes of Judah and Benjamin, for much of the following 1,000 years, until it was destroyed in about A.D. 70.
In about 40 A.D., Peter had “confirmed the covenant” with enough Jewish believers to meet the Lord’s requirement. Then he brought that Church to perfection (Dan. 9:27; Acts 5:1-14). Soon after that, the Church fulfilled Proverbs 9:1-6, when they ordained The Seven (Acts 6:1-7). About that time, Jesus appeared to Saul of Tarsus and appointed him “The Apostle to the Gentiles.” Those Gentiles were not added to the Church in the same sense that its members had been up to that time. They were grafted in as a group, as Paul said, “I am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ” (2 Cor. 11:24).
Paul and Barnabas led the beginning of the outreach to the Gentiles. They later parted and the Gospel spread westward to Rome, Spain and much (if not all) of the rest of Europe. It was almost a thousand years before the gospel effectively reached Moscow, Russia. When those two apostles separated, Paul began to consolidate a particular group of Gentiles, of which the Church at Corinth was a part. He espoused them to Christ; grafting them into that Jewish Church.
In the process of the development of the Churches of God in the first century A.D., Peter brought the Church of God to Christ in fulfillment of the allegory of Jacob’s wife, Leah (Gen. 29:15-24, 32-35). Afterward Paul also prepared the Gentile group for Christ, in fulfillment of the allegory of Rachel’s handmaid, Bilhah (Gen. 30:1-5). Of whom Paul said “If thou wert cut out of the olive tree which is wild by nature, and wert graffed contrary to nature into a good olive tree: how much more shall these, which be the natural branches, be graffed into their own olive tree?” (Rom. 11:24).
At this end of the Grace Age, the process will be reversed. God’s Anointed, the Messenger of the Covenant in Malachi 3, will bring about the fulfillment of the allegory of Ishmael becoming a great nation by building again the Tabernacle of David which has been broken down since about the end of the first century A.D. In so doing he will have accomplished the fulfillment of Rachel. When that has been accomplished, and the “fullness of the Gentiles be come in,” The Deliverer shall come out of Zion, and shall turn ungodliness from Jacob. Then shall Zilpah, Leah’s handmaid, be fulfilled by the Jewish Remnant.
The forces who are driven by hatred for Jesus Christ, and all that He represents, are beginning to execute their plan to eliminate Christianity from the world society. In recent months we have heard of an American Christian military Chaplin being fired because he used the name of Jesus in a public prayer. Then, in just the last few days, a session of the U.S. Senate was opened with a Buddhist Priest praying in the names of his gods.
We are very near to the glorious manifestation of God’s power among the Gentiles. The coming of our King, the resurrection of the dead in Christ, and our change to immortality is imminent. We must shake ourselves and hasten to prepare for the “Marriage Supper of the Lamb.” By the time that glorious year of Jubilee is over, the proclamation will have been made, “The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of His Christ; and he shall reign forever and ever.” Glory to His holy name!