WAS THE PROMISE ALREADY FULFILLED?
The promise by the God of Israel of the land of Israel to the children of Israel did not expire. Neither the Law nor the New Covenant cancel God's promise to Abraham. Part of the original promise to Abraham and his descendants concerning the land of Canaan was that it would be theirs "for an everlasting possession." (Gen.17:8) When they were disobedient, they would be driven off the land, but it would still be their everlasting possession. Both possession and time seem to be different with God than they are with man.
"By faith [Abraham] lived as an alien in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, fellow heirs of the same promise." (Heb.11:9) It was their land, but it wasn't yet in their possession. Obadiah prophesied of the future destruction of Edom for gloating over the destruction of Jerusalem: "For the day of the Lord draws near on all the nations. As you have done, it will be done to you. Your dealings will return on your own head...But on Mount Zion there will be those who escape, and it will be holy. And the house of Jacob will possess their possessions." (Obad.15,17)
Because of the sins of Judah, God had sent judgment and removed them from the land. The land was still one of their possessions, but they no longer possessed it. While that judgment was still in progress, God warned those who sought to take Israel's possessions for themselves. "Thus says the Lord concerning all My wicked neighbors who strike at the inheritance with which I have endowed My people Israel, 'Behold I am about to uproot them from their land and will uproot the house of Judah from among them.' " (Jer.12:14)
During the Babylonian captivity, the Lord told Ezekiel the specific physical geography by which the land of Israel would one day be divided among the tribes of Israel. (Ezek.47&48) It was a different division than that given by Joshua. The land has not yet been allotted as the Lord described to Ezekiel, but one day it will be. That will be in a day when Jerusalem is called, "The Lord is there." (Ezek.48:35)
There are numerous examples in both Tanakh and the New Covenant Scriptures where the Lord speaks of what is future as though it were taking place in the present or had taken place in the past. For example, John, the forerunner of the Lord, was born, "And his father Zacharias was filled with the Holy Spirit, and prophesied, saying: 'Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for He has visited us and accomplished redemption for His people, and has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of David His Servant.' " (Lk.1:67-69) Yeshua had not yet been born, but the Holy Spirit spoke of the redemption of Israel as having been accomplished.
The claim that the Hebrew for "forever" or "everlasting" really means "to the end of the age" is only partly true. In some cases it does mean that, but that is not all that it means. The English word "always" provides a helpful parallel. It means "every time," but it also means "as long as," and "forever."
There are actually several different Hebrew expressions used to signify "forever." Most of them use the word "olam" by itself or with a prefix or suffix. Examples are "me-olam", "le-olam", and "olamim". Looking at the use of such words in context is very helpful in understanding the meaning that they are given in the Bible.
"Olam" is used quite often. Here are some examples of how it is used in terms of the children of Israel and the land. God promised Abraham, "And I will give to you and to your descendants after you, the land of your sojournings, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God." (Gen.17:8) "Then Jacob said to Joseph, 'God Almighty appeared to me at Luz in the land of Canaan and blessed me, and He said to me, "Behold, I will make you fruitful and numerous, and I will make you a company of peoples, and will give this land to your descendants after you for an everlasting possession." ' " (Gen.48:3,4)
"He has remembered His covenant forever the word which He commanded to a thousand generations, the covenant which He made with Abraham, and His oath to Isaac. Then He confirmed it to Jacob for a statute, to Israel as an everlasting covenant, saying, 'To you I will give the land of Canaan as the portion of your inheritance.' " (Ps.105:8-11)
The word is used to describe God's relationship with Israel. For example, "The Lord appeared to him from afar, saying, 'I have loved you with an everlasting love; Therefore I have drawn you with lovingkindness.' " (Jer.31:3) "And I will make an everlasting covenant with them that I will not turn away from them, to do them good; and I will put the fear of Me in their hearts so that they will not turn away from Me." (Jer.32:40)
It is also used to describe the length of time that God is God (Gen.21:33), that He is King (Jer.10:10) and His reign endures (Ps.66:7); how enduring are His arms (Dt.33:27), His righteousness (Ps.119:142), His salvation (Is.45:17), His lovingkindness (Is.54:8), His light (Is.60:19,20); and how long the righteous will live and the wicked will be abhorred (Dan.12:2).
"Me-olam" is used to describe when the personification of wisdom was established. "The Lord possessed me at the beginning of His way, before His works of old. From everlasting I was established, from the beginning, from the earliest times of the earth." (Prov.8:23)
When David sought to build a house for the Lord, the Lord, in return, promised to build David a house. (2Sam.7) The phrase "ad olam" appears several times in this chapter. The Lord told David, "When your days are complete and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your descendant after you who will come forth from you, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be a father to him and he will be a son to Me... And your house and your kingdom shall endure before Me forever; your throne shall be established forever." (vv.12-14,16) This section is generally understood to be speaking immediately of Solomon, but also to be speaking prophetically of Yeshua, the greater Son of David. It is explicitly applied to Yeshua in Hebrews 1:5.
David responds to the promise of the Lord by praying. "For Thou hast established for Thyself Thy people Israel as Thine own people forever, and Thou, O Lord, hast become their God. Now therefore, O Lord God, the word that Thou hast spoken concerning Thy servant and his house, confirm it forever, and do as Thou hast spoken, that Thy name may be magnified forever, by saying, 'The Lord of hosts is God over Israel'; and may the house of Thy servant David be established before Thee." (vv.24-26)
The same phrase, "ad olam," is also used in Psalm 9:7: "But the Lord abides forever; He has established His throne for judgment." In these cases, "ad olam" is used to signify how long the throne of the Son of David will be established; how long Israel is established as the people of the Lord; and how long the name of the Lord is to be magnified and the Lord will abide or sit as king.
"Le-olam" is used often in the Bible. Moses used it, for example, in interceding with God when Israel built the golden calf. "Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, Thy servants to whom Thou didst swear by Thyself, and didst say to them, 'I will multiply your descendants as the stars of the heavens, and all this land of which I have spoken I will give to your descendants, and they shall inherit it forever.' So the Lord changed His mind about the harm which He said He would do to His people." (Ex.32:13)
It is also the word that is used to describe how long the mercy of the Lord endureth (1Ch.16:34), the truth of the Lord lasts (Ps.117:2), His word stands firm, His righteous judgments abide (Ps.119:89,160), His counsel stands (Ps.33:11), and His name lasts (Ps.135:13); how long the Lord will reign (Ps.146:10), His glory (Ps.104:31) and the Lord Himself shall endure (Ps.9:7).
It is also used to explain how long Yeshua is a priest according to the order of Melchizedek. (Ps.110:4) In Hebrews 7:3, Melchizedek is described as "...having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but made like the Son of God, he abides a priest perpetually." The same Greek phrase that is translated in this verse as "perpetually" [eis to dienekes], also appears in Hebrews 10:12-14, referring to Psalm 110: "But He [Yeshua], having offered one sacrifice for sins for all time, sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time onward until His enemies be made a footstool for His feet. For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified."
Forever, le-olam, the land of Israel belongs to the people whom God did not destroy in the wilderness. Forever, le-olam/eis to dienekes, Yeshua is a priest according to the order of Melchizedek. Forever, [eis to dienekes], the sacrifice of Yeshua atones for sins. Forever [eis to dienekes], those who are sanctified are perfected by that sacrifice. It is incorrect to say that these words and phrases only mean "to the end of the age." That is not the way that the Lord uses them in the Bible.
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