Promise and Covenants: A Prophetic Legacy

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Promise and Covenants

A Prophetic Legacy

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Prophecy begins with a promise God made in the Garden of Eden. Immediately after “that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan” (Revelation 12:9 Revelation 12:9And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceives the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.
American King James Version×
) lured Adam and Eve into committing their first sin, God said to Satan, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel” (Genesis 3:15 Genesis 3:15And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; it shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.
American King James Version×
).

Here is one of the first and most far-reaching prophecies—the promise that God will rectify the problem of deception and sin brought on by Satan. He promised that from Eve, the first person to be deceived, would come a “Seed”—a descendant—who would “bruise” (crush) Satan’s position of rulership (his “head”) over humanity by which he deceives the world.

God revealed that the “seed” of Satan—people under his influence —would be hostile toward the “Seed” God had promised through the woman. Satan would succeed in temporarily disabling (like a severe bruise on the heel) the Seed promised by God.

Thousands of years later, the life and work of that promised Seed were indeed interrupted, as God foretold, for three days and three nights by the crucifixion of Jesus Christ (Matthew 12:40 Matthew 12:40For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.
American King James Version×
).

On that foundational promise—that God would send a Seed, the Son of Man, as humanity’s Redeemer to defeat Satan—stands a series of other promises God gave to His servants down through the ages. Collectively these promises—each amplifying and expanding the original promise—form the basis of Bible prophecy.

Later God promised Abraham that “in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Genesis 12:3 Genesis 12:3And I will bless them that bless you, and curse him that curses you: and in you shall all families of the earth be blessed.
American King James Version×
). That blessing was to come through Abraham’s seed (Genesis 22:18 Genesis 22:18And in your seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because you have obeyed my voice.
American King James Version×
). Centuries after Abraham, the apostle Paul wrote: “Now to Abraham and his Seed were the promises made. He does not say, ‘And to seeds,’ as of many, but as of one, ‘And to your Seed,’ who is Christ” (Galatians 3:16 Galatians 3:16Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He said not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to your seed, which is Christ.
American King James Version×
). Through Jesus of Nazareth, the Messiah, all nations on earth are to be blessed.

The legacy of two families

Adam, the natural, physical father of the human race, responded to Satan’s deceptive influence through Eve and chose to trust his personal judgment rather than follow God’s instruction. In contrast to Adam, “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness” (James 2:23 James 2:23And the scripture was fulfilled which said, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed to him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God.
American King James Version×
; Genesis 15:6 Genesis 15:6And he believed in the LORD; and he counted it to him for righteousness.
American King James Version×
). Therefore, God chose Abraham as the human father of another family, a spiritually oriented family of believers, that would accept and obey God’s instruction.

That family would be composed first of Abraham’s natural descendants through his son Isaac (Genesis 21:12 Genesis 21:12And God said to Abraham, Let it not be grievous in your sight because of the lad, and because of your female slave; in all that Sarah has said to you, listen to her voice; for in Isaac shall your seed be called.
American King James Version×
). Later, a more important function of that family would begin through another descendant, Jesus, the promised Messiah (Galatians 3:29 Galatians 3:29And if you be Christ’s, then are you Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.
American King James Version×
; Romans 8:16-18 Romans 8:16-18 16 The Spirit itself bears witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: 17 And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together. 18 For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.
American King James Version×
). Through Him, Abraham is “the father of all those who believe” (Romans 4:11 Romans 4:11And 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 to them also:
American King James Version×
).

Finally, God has promised, through the second coming of the Messiah, to give the members of this spiritual family eternal life in His Kingdom.

Dual promises

Along with the promise that a Seed of Abraham would become the Messiah came a promise of greatness for the descendants of Abraham. This promise is to the natural seed of Abraham. In other words, God’s promises to Abraham are dual. They contain implications both physical (to the descendants of Abraham) and spiritual (to the followers of Christ). Both are integral to the success of God’s master plan for the human race.

God told Abraham, “Also I give to you and your descendants after you the land in which you are a stranger, all the land of Canaan, as an everlasting possession” (Genesis 17:8 Genesis 17:8And I will give to you, and to your seed after you, the land wherein you are a stranger, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God.
American King James Version×
; compare Genesis 12:7 Genesis 12:7And the LORD appeared to Abram, and said, To your seed will I give this land: and there built he an altar to the LORD, who appeared to him.
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; Genesis 24:7 Genesis 24:7The LORD God of heaven, which took me from my father’s house, and from the land of my kindred, and which spoke to me, and that swore to me, saying, To your seed will I give this land; he shall send his angel before you, and you shall take a wife to my son from there.
American King James Version×
).

This was only the beginning. Many nations would develop from Abraham’s descendants. For that reason God changed his name from Abram to Abraham: “No longer shall your name be called Abram [‘exalted father’], but your name shall be Abraham [‘father of a multitude’]; for I have made you a father of many nations. I will make you exceedingly fruitful; and I will make nations of you, and kings shall come from you” (Genesis 17:5 Genesis 17:5Neither shall your name any more be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham; for a father of many nations have I made you.
American King James Version×
).

God did increase Abraham’s family. However, He waited until Abraham and his wife Sarah were so old that they would not normally bear children. Then, miraculously, Isaac was born. Eventually all who will be considered Abraham’s descendants must be miraculously “born” (John 3:3 John 3:3Jesus answered and said to him, Truly, truly, I say to you, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.
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) into the Kingdom of God . Isaac was a type, a forerunner, of things to come (Romans 9:6-9 Romans 9:6-9 6 Not as though the word of God has taken none effect. For they are not all Israel, which are of Israel: 7 Neither, because they are the seed of Abraham, are they all children: but, In Isaac shall your seed be called. 8 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. 9 For this is the word of promise, At this time will I come, and Sarah shall have a son.
American King James Version×
).

Isaac fathered two sons, Esau and Jacob. God chose Jacob, the younger one, to receive the physical promises He gave to Abraham. God similarly chooses those to whom He offers the opportunity to be among the spiritual descendants of Abraham and receive the fulfillment of the eternal, spiritual promises (Romans 9:10-11 Romans 9:10-11 10 And not only this; but when Rebecca also had conceived by one, even by our father Isaac; 11 (For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calls;)
American King James Version×
). God places conditions, of course. All must first come to understand His revealed truth, then repent of their sins (1 Timothy 2:3-4 1 Timothy 2:3-4 3 For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior; 4 Who will have all men to be saved, and to come to the knowledge of the truth.
American King James Version×
; 2 Peter 3:9 2 Peter 3:9The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is long-suffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.
American King James Version×
).

God changed Jacob’s name to Israel (Genesis 32:28 Genesis 32:28And he said, Your name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel: for as a prince have you power with God and with men, and have prevailed.
American King James Version×
). From his 12 sons sprang the 12 tribes of Israel, which God delivered from Egyptian bondage under the leadership of Moses. God gave the Israelites the land of Canaan, just as He had promised Abraham. Later, in the days of Saul and David, He established the Israelites as a kingdom.

But God did not limit His promise of greatness for the descendants of Abraham to the territory He had allotted to the ancient kingdom of Israel in the land of Canaan . God promised that Abraham would “surely become a great and mighty nation” (Genesis 18:18 Genesis 18:18Seeing that Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him?
American King James Version×
). Paul tells us that God gave Abraham “the promise that he would be the heir of the world” (Romans 4:13 Romans 4:13For 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.
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).

God confirmed this ultimate expansion of Abraham’s inheritance to Abraham’s grandson, Jacob: “The land on which you lie I will give to you and your descendants. Also your descendants shall be as the dust of the earth; you shall spread abroad to the west and the east, to the north and the south; and in you and in your seed all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Genesis 28:13-14 Genesis 28:13-14 13 And, behold, the LORD stood above it, and said, I am the LORD God of Abraham your father, and the God of Isaac: the land where on you lie, to you will I give it, and to your seed; 14 And your seed shall be as the dust of the earth, and you shall spread abroad to the west, and to the east, and to the north, and to the south: and in you and in your seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed.
American King James Version×
).

Eventually this continual expansion in all directions would embrace the whole earth. God would graft all peoples as His children into Abraham’s family.

Gentiles grafted onto Israel

How does this happen? Through Jesus Christ both physical Israelites and non-Israelites may receive the promises made to Abraham. Paul explains: “Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth … were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ” (Ephesians 2:11-13 Ephesians 2:11-13 11 Why remember, that you being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands; 12 That at that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world: 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who sometimes were far off are made near by the blood of Christ.
American King James Version×
, NIV).

Anyone who is not a natural-born descendant of Abraham can nevertheless become an heir to the inheritance promised to Abraham’s family. Regardless of lineage, all can become part of the spiritual “Israel of God” through Christ (Galatians 6:15-16 Galatians 6:15-16 15 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision avails any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature. 16 And as many as walk according to this rule, peace be on them, and mercy, and on the Israel of God.
American King James Version×
). To be partakers of those promises, they must be grafted into the family of Israel.

Paul compares this to grafting a wild olive shoot onto a domesticated olive tree: “But if some of the branches were broken off [referring to Israelites being cut off for disobedience], and you, a wild olive shoot [gentiles], were grafted in their place to share the rich root of the olive tree, do not boast over the branches. If you do boast, remember that it is not you that support the root, but the root that supports you” (Romans 11:17-18 Romans 11:17-18 17 And if some of the branches be broken off, and you, being a wild olive tree, were grafted in among them, and with them partake of the root and fatness of the olive tree; 18 Boast not against the branches. But if you boast, you bore not the root, but the root you.
American King James Version×
, NRSV).

Then Paul warns the gentiles whom God grafts onto Israel not to feel superior to Israelites who have not yet accepted Jesus as the Messiah and Savior. “You will say, ‘Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in.’ That is true. They were broken off because of their unbelief, but you stand only through faith. So do not become proud, but stand in awe. For if God did not spare the natural branches, perhaps he will not spare you” (Romans 11:19-21 Romans 11:19-21 19 You will say then, The branches were broken off, that I might be grafted in. 20 Well; because of unbelief they were broken off, and you stand by faith. Be not high minded, but fear: 21 For if God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest he also spare not you.
American King James Version×
, NRSV).

Israel must be redeemed

Extending the promises from Abraham’s physical descendants to spiritual believers began shortly after Christ’s death and resurrection. Jesus’ own countrymen rejected Him and refused to accept Him as the Messiah (Matthew 21:42-43 Matthew 21:42-43 42 Jesus said to them, Did you never read in the scriptures, The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner: this is the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes? 43 Therefore say I to you, The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof.
American King James Version×
; Luke 17:25 Luke 17:25But first must he suffer many things, and be rejected of this generation.
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), so the message of Jesus as the Messiah was extended to the gentiles. Soon many gentiles became part of the “Israel of God,” the Church (Galatians 6:15-16 Galatians 6:15-16 15 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision avails any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature. 16 And as many as walk according to this rule, peace be on them, and mercy, and on the Israel of God.
American King James Version×
).

But Abraham’s physical descendants are not permanently alienated from God. They are redeemed and reconciled to Him. Paul explains the role they play in God’s plan. “They are Israelites,” he writes, “and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises; to them belong the patriarchs, and from them, according to the flesh, comes the Messiah” (Romans 9:4-5 Romans 9:4-5 4 Who are Israelites; to whom pertains the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises; 5 Whose are the fathers, and of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came, who is over all, God blessed for ever. Amen.
American King James Version×
, NRSV).

Paul continues: “Has God rejected his [Israelite] people? By no means! I myself am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, a member of the tribe of Benjamin. God has not rejected his people whom he foreknew” (Romans 11:1-2 Romans 11:1-2 1 I say then, Has God cast away his people? God forbid. For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin. 2 God has not cast away his people which he foreknew. Know you not what the scripture said of Elias? how he makes intercession to God against Israel saying,
American King James Version×
, NRSV).

Paul then addresses the Israelites’ present spiritual blindness: “Israel failed to obtain what it was seeking. The elect obtained it, but the rest were hardened, as it is written, ‘God gave them a sluggish spirit, eyes that would not see and ears that would not hear, down to this very day’ ” (Romans 11:7-8 Romans 11:7-8 7 What then? Israel has not obtained that which he seeks for; but the election has obtained it, and the rest were blinded. 8 (According as it is written, God has given them the spirit of slumber, eyes that they should not see, and ears that they should not hear;) to this day.
American King James Version×
, NRSV).

“So I ask, have they stumbled so as to fall? By no means! But through their stumbling [over Christ, their ‘stone of stumbling’; 1 Peter 2:7-8 1 Peter 2:7-8 7 To you therefore which believe he is precious: but to them which be disobedient, the stone which the builders disallowed, the same is made the head of the corner, 8 And a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense, even to them which stumble at the word, being disobedient: whereunto also they were appointed.
American King James Version×
] salvation has come to the Gentiles, so as to make Israel jealous [in the future]. Now if their stumbling means riches for the world, and if their defeat means riches for Gentiles, how much more will their full inclusion mean!” (Romans 11:11-12 Romans 11:11-12 11 I say then, Have they stumbled that they should fall? God forbid: but rather through their fall salvation is come to the Gentiles, for to provoke them to jealousy. 12 Now if the fall of them be the riches of the world, and the diminishing of them the riches of the Gentiles; how much more their fullness?
American King James Version×
).

Did you grasp the significance of Paul’s words? Most descendants of Israel continue to reject Jesus as the Messiah. But God has not rejected them. They will be included in the redemption process of the Messiah when He returns as King of Kings. Understanding this truth is essential if we are to understand prophecies pertaining to the people of Israel at the end of the present evil age.

Admittance into the eternal inheritance promised to Abraham—for Israelites and gentiles alike—is possible only through the Messiah. “And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise” (Galatians 3:29 Galatians 3:29And if you be Christ’s, then are you Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.
American King James Version×
). “Therefore, the promise comes by faith, so that it may be by grace and may be guaranteed to all Abraham’s offspring—not only to those who are of the law but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham. He is the father of us all” (Romans 4:16 Romans 4:16Therefore 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,
American King James Version×
, NIV).

Birthright and scepter

We have noted a duality in God’s promises to Abraham. Although some aspects of the promises relate to an eternal inheritance through the Messiah, others concern a national and material inheritance. The fulfillment of these promises was passed on to Isaac and then to Jacob (whom God renamed Israel).

Shortly before Jacob’s death, God inspired him to reveal to his 12 sons the manner in which the physical heritage of Abraham would affect the generations of Israel. “And Jacob called his sons and said, ‘Gather together, that I may tell you what shall befall you in the last days’ ” (Genesis 49:1 Genesis 49:1And Jacob called to his sons, and said, Gather yourselves together, that I may tell you that which shall befall you in the last days.
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). Jacob explained what would happen to each of his son’s descendants—the 12 tribes of Israel.

Significantly, the core promises God made to Abraham were to pass to only Joseph and Judah. To each came a different promise, a separate heritage.

The Bible summarizes: “Though Judah became prominent among his brothers and a ruler came from him, yet the birthright belonged to Joseph” (1 Chronicles 5:2 1 Chronicles 5:2For Judah prevailed above his brothers, and of him came the chief ruler; but the birthright was Joseph’s:)
American King James Version×
, NRSV).

Because of that birthright promise, Joseph’s descendants would enjoy inconceivable prosperity—possessing the finest material blessings—and achieve great military superiority because the hand of God would be with them. They would increase greatly, colonizing beyond their borders like branches growing over a wall (Genesis 49:22-26 Genesis 49:22-26 22 Joseph is a fruitful bough, even a fruitful bough by a well; whose branches run over the wall: 23 The archers have sorely grieved him, and shot at him, and hated him: 24 But his bow stayed in strength, and the arms of his hands were made strong by the hands of the mighty God of Jacob; (from there is the shepherd, the stone of Israel:) 25 Even by the God of your father, who shall help you; and by the Almighty, who shall bless you with blessings of heaven above, blessings of the deep that lies under, blessings of the breasts, and of the womb: 26 The blessings of your father have prevailed above the blessings of my progenitors to the utmost bound of the everlasting hills: they shall be on the head of Joseph, and on the crown of the head of him that was separate from his brothers.
American King James Version×
).

To Judah and his descendants, however, went the promise of a scepter— a staff held by a king as the emblem of his sovereignty. It signified that from Judah would come a dynasty of kings that would culminate in the reign of the Messiah.

Jacob explained that “the scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet” (Genesis 49:10 Genesis 49:10The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and to him shall the gathering of the people be.
American King James Version×
, New American Standard Bible). The promises to Abraham concerning rulership, salvation and the Messiah would be fulfilled through the Jewish people, the descendants of Judah. Jesus Himself said that “salvation is of the Jews” (John 4:22 John 4:22You worship you know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews.
American King James Version×
). That is why He had to be born into a Jewish family as a physical descendant of Judah (Matthew 1:1-16 Matthew 1:1-16 1 The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham. 2 Abraham begat Isaac; and Isaac begat Jacob; and Jacob begat Judas and his brothers; 3 And Judas begat Phares and Zara of Thamar; and Phares begat Esrom; and Esrom begat Aram; 4 And Aram begat Aminadab; and Aminadab begat Naasson; and Naasson begat Salmon; 5 And Salmon begat Booz of Rachab; and Booz begat Obed of Ruth; and Obed begat Jesse; 6 And Jesse begat David the king; and David the king begat Solomon of her that had been the wife of Urias; 7 And Solomon begat Roboam; and Roboam begat Abia; and Abia begat Asa; 8 And Asa begat Josaphat; and Josaphat begat Joram; and Joram begat Ozias; 9 And Ozias begat Joatham; and Joatham begat Achaz; and Achaz begat Ezekias; 10 And Ezekias begat Manasses; and Manasses begat Amon; and Amon begat Josias; 11 And Josias begat Jechonias and his brothers, about the time they were carried away to Babylon: 12 And after they were brought to Babylon, Jechonias begat Salathiel; and Salathiel begat Zorobabel; 13 And Zorobabel begat Abiud; and Abiud begat Eliakim; and Eliakim begat Azor; 14 And Azor begat Sadoc; and Sadoc begat Achim; and Achim begat Eliud; 15 And Eliud begat Eleazar; and Eleazar begat Matthan; and Matthan begat Jacob; 16 And Jacob begat Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ.
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; Luke 3:23-38 Luke 3:23-38 23 And Jesus himself began to be about thirty years of age, being (as was supposed) the son of Joseph, which was the son of Heli, 24 Which was the son of Matthat, which was the son of Levi, which was the son of Melchi, which was the son of Janna, which was the son of Joseph, 25 Which was the son of Mattathias, which was the son of Amos, which was the son of Naum, which was the son of Esli, which was the son of Nagge, 26 Which was the son of Maath, which was the son of Mattathias, which was the son of Semei, which was the son of Joseph, which was the son of Juda, 27 Which was the son of Joanna, which was the son of Rhesa, which was the son of Zorobabel, which was the son of Salathiel, which was the son of Neri, 28 Which was the son of Melchi, which was the son of Addi, which was the son of Cosam, which was the son of Elmodam, which was the son of Er, 29 Which was the son of Jose, which was the son of Eliezer, which was the son of Jorim, which was the son of Matthat, which was the son of Levi, 30 Which was the son of Simeon, which was the son of Juda, which was the son of Joseph, which was the son of Jonan, which was the son of Eliakim, 31 Which was the son of Melea, which was the son of Menan, which was the son of Mattatha, which was the son of Nathan, which was the son of David, 32 Which was the son of Jesse, which was the son of Obed, which was the son of Booz, which was the son of Salmon, which was the son of Naasson, 33 Which was the son of Aminadab, which was the son of Aram, which was the son of Esrom, which was the son of Phares, which was the son of Juda, 34 Which was the son of Jacob, which was the son of Isaac, which was the son of Abraham, which was the son of Thara, which was the son of Nachor, 35 Which was the son of Saruch, which was the son of Ragau, which was the son of Phalec, which was the son of Heber, which was the son of Sala, 36 Which was the son of Cainan, which was the son of Arphaxad, which was the son of Sem, which was the son of Noe, which was the son of Lamech, 37 Which was the son of Mathusala, which was the son of Enoch, which was the son of Jared, which was the son of Maleleel, which was the son of Cainan, 38 Which was the son of Enos, which was the son of Seth, which was the son of Adam, which was the son of God.
American King James Version×
).

Promises to David

Long after Abraham, through King David of the tribe of Judah, the scepter promise finally took on even greater significance. God gave David the kingdom of Israel and promised that from him would spring a dynasty of kings that would continue forever.

God sent the prophet Nathan to David with this message: “Thus says the Lord of hosts … I will make for you a great name … I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come forth from your body … I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever…and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me; your throne shall be established forever” (2 Samuel 7:8-16 2 Samuel 7:8-16 8 Now therefore so shall you say to my servant David, Thus said the LORD of hosts, I took you from the sheepcote, from following the sheep, to be ruler over my people, over Israel: 9 And I was with you wherever you went, and have cut off all your enemies out of your sight, and have made you a great name, like to the name of the great men that are in the earth. 10 Moreover I will appoint a place for my people Israel, and will plant them, that they may dwell in a place of their own, and move no more; neither shall the children of wickedness afflict them any more, as beforetime, 11 And as since the time that I commanded judges to be over my people Israel, and have caused you to rest from all your enemies. Also the LORD tells you that he will make you an house. 12 And when your days be fulfilled, and you shall sleep with your fathers, I will set up your seed after you, which shall proceed out of your bowels, and I will establish his kingdom. 13 He shall build an house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom for ever. 14 I will be his father, and he shall be my son. If he commit iniquity, I will chasten him with the rod of men, and with the stripes of the children of men: 15 But my mercy shall not depart away from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away before you. 16 And your house and your kingdom shall be established for ever before you: your throne shall be established for ever.
American King James Version×
, NRSV).

God did indeed establish a dynasty of kings through David. God promised that a greater future King would come from David’s descendants. He sent an angel to Mary who told her: “You will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end” (Luke 1:31-33 Luke 1:31-33 31 And, behold, you shall conceive in your womb, and bring forth a son, and shall call his name JESUS. 32 He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give to him the throne of his father David: 33 And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.
American King James Version×
).

The kingdom over which Jesus Christ will rule is to last forever. He will establish that kingdom when He returns to earth. Understanding that truth is of primary importance if we are to comprehend the messages of the prophets who followed David.

David’s kingdom divided

At David’s death his kingdom passed to his son Solomon. God gave Solomon great wisdom and wealth, but in his old age he allowed his many foreign wives and concubines to turn his heart away from God (1 Kings 11:1-8 1 Kings 11:1-8 1 But king Solomon loved many strange women, together with the daughter of Pharaoh, women of the Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Zidonians, and Hittites: 2 Of the nations concerning which the LORD said to the children of Israel, You shall not go in to them, neither shall they come in to you: for surely they will turn away your heart after their gods: Solomon joined to these in love. 3 And he had seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines: and his wives turned away his heart. 4 For it came to pass, when Solomon was old, that his wives turned away his heart after other gods: and his heart was not perfect with the LORD his God, as was the heart of David his father. 5 For Solomon went after Ashtoreth the goddess of the Zidonians, and after Milcom the abomination of the Ammonites. 6 And Solomon did evil in the sight of the LORD, and went not fully after the LORD, as did David his father. 7 Then did Solomon build an high place for Chemosh, the abomination of Moab, in the hill that is before Jerusalem, and for Molech, the abomination of the children of Ammon. 8 And likewise did he for all his strange wives, which burnt incense and sacrificed to their gods.
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). The kingdom lapsed into worship of false gods.

Shortly after Solomon’s death, God divided the kingdom He had given David into two nations. The tribes of Judah, Benjamin and some of Levi remained loyal to Solomon’s son, Rehoboam, preserving David’s dynasty. This much smaller kingdom was known as Judah or the house of Judah. It retained Jerusalem as its capital.

Ten tribes—the majority of the nation—seceded and retained the name Israel, eventually establishing Samaria, in the territory of Ephraim , as its capital. (Years later this northern Israelite kingdom was conquered and taken into captivity by ancient Assyria. Its people disappeared from recorded history, becoming known as “the lost 10 tribes.”)

The division of the kingdom separated the scepter promise from the birthright promise. Judah retained the scepter and the throne of David.

The tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh, the direct descendants of Joseph, dominated the northern kingdom and retained the birth-right. The birthright and scepter promises then followed separate paths until the kingdom of Judah was toppled by the Babylonians and the Jewish throne was transferred to Israel in a distant land. And ultimately the house of Israel and the house of Judah will one day be reunited as one nation under the rule of the Messiah.

(To better understand these promises and the vital role they play in the fulfillment of Bible prophecy, be sure to download or request your free copy of our booklet The United States and Britain in Bible Prophecy and read our online publication The Throne of Britain: Its Biblical Origin and Future . )

A reunited kingdom

The restoration of Israel as one nation under the rule of Christ is a theme that appears in the writings of many of the prophetic Bible books. That reunion will occur shortly after Jesus Christ’s return as King of Kings. Notice God confirming, through Ezekiel, that Israel and Judah will be reunited as one people:

“Thus says the Lord God: I will take the people of Israel from the nations among which they have gone, and will gather them from every quarter, and bring them to their own land. I will make them one nation in the land, on the mountains of Israel; and one king shall be king over them all. Never again shall they be two nations, and never again shall they be divided into two kingdoms. They shall never again defile themselves with their idols and their detestable things, or with any of their transgressions. I will save them from all the apostasies into which they have fallen, and will cleanse them. Then they shall be my people, and I will be their God.

“My servant David shall be king over them; and they shall all have one shepherd. They shall follow my ordinances and be careful to observe my statutes. They shall live in the land that I gave to my servant Jacob, in which your ancestors lived; they and their children and their children’s children shall live there forever; and my servant David shall be their prince forever” (Ezekiel 37:21-25 Ezekiel 37:21-25 21 And say to them, Thus said the Lord GOD; Behold, I will take the children of Israel from among the heathen, where they be gone, and will gather them on every side, and bring them into their own land: 22 And I will make them one nation in the land on the mountains of Israel; and one king shall be king to them all: and they shall be no more two nations, neither shall they be divided into two kingdoms any more at all. 23 Neither shall they defile themselves any more with their idols, nor with their detestable things, nor with any of their transgressions: but I will save them out of all their dwelling places, wherein they have sinned, and will cleanse them: so shall they be my people, and I will be their God. 24 And David my servant shall be king over them; and they all shall have one shepherd: they shall also walk in my judgments, and observe my statutes, and do them. 25 And they shall dwell in the land that I have given to Jacob my servant, wherein your fathers have dwelled; and they shall dwell therein, even they, and their children, and their children’s children for ever: and my servant David shall be their prince for ever.
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, NRSV).

God had promised David that his kingdom would last forever. When the world sees these two divisions reuniting under the rule of Jesus Christ, it will know that the Eternal God keeps His promises.

Speaking of the reunited people of Israel, God continues: “I will make a covenant of peace with them; it shall be an everlasting covenant with them; and I will bless them and multiply them, and will set my sanctuary among them forevermore. My dwelling place shall be with them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people” (Ezekiel 37:26-27 Ezekiel 37:26-27 26 Moreover I will make a covenant of peace with them; it shall be an everlasting covenant with them: and I will place them, and multiply them, and will set my sanctuary in the middle of them for ever more. 27 My tabernacle also shall be with them: yes, I will be their God, and they shall be my people.
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, NRSV).

God confirmed many of His promises through special covenants, beginning with Abraham. “On the same day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying: ‘To your descendants I have given this land’ ” (Genesis 15:18 Genesis 15:18In the same day the LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying, To your seed have I given this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the river Euphrates:
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).

Later the Israelites bound themselves and their descendants to God as His special servants. God told them: “If you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people” (Exodus 19:5 Exodus 19:5Now therefore, if you will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then you shall be a peculiar treasure to me above all people: for all the earth is mine:
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). They responded, “All that the Lord has spoken we will do” (Exodus 19:8 Exodus 19:8And all the people answered together, and said, All that the LORD has spoken we will do. And Moses returned the words of the people to the LORD.
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). This agreement was in essence a marriage covenant between God and the people (Jeremiah 3:20 Jeremiah 3:20Surely as a wife treacherously departs from her husband, so have you dealt treacherously with me, O house of Israel, said the LORD.
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; Jeremiah 31:32 Jeremiah 31:32Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they broke, although I was an husband to them, said the LORD:
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).

The purpose of covenants

Every biblical prophet from the time of Moses forward used this covenant as the standard for evaluating and judging the behavior of God’s chosen people. Each judged the Israelites by whether they were faithful to their covenant with God.

God’s covenants all have the same purpose. They define the relationship parameters between Him and the recipients of His covenant. They explain what He requires of His people if they are to continue to receive His blessings, or benefits of His promises. They set the obligations His people must meet to continue receiving His favor, or grace.

A covenant is a pact between the people and God. Those who break that covenant lose God’s favor—the blessing of His grace. The degree to which God gives His people favor is based on their compliance with His covenants.

The covenant God made with ancient Israel is especially significant in Bible prophecy. It documents, in great detail, the conditions Israel had to meet to stay in God’s favor.

Although the Ten Commandments summarized Israel’s central obligation to God, the people were obligated to obey all of His instructions. God promised: “If you diligently obey the voice of the Lord your God, to observe carefully all His commandments which I command you today…the Lord your God will set you high above all nations of the earth. And all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you, because you obey the voice of the Lord your God” (Deuteronomy 28:1-2 Deuteronomy 28:1-2 1 And it shall come to pass, if you shall listen diligently to the voice of the LORD your God, to observe and to do all his commandments which I command you this day, that the LORD your God will set you on high above all nations of the earth: 2 And all these blessings shall come on you, and overtake you, if you shall listen to the voice of the LORD your God.
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).

In the subsequent 12 verses God listed the marvelous blessings of physical prosperity Israel would receive.

But the agreement did not end there. God also spelled out the consequences that would befall the Israelites if they rejected the conditions of His covenant: “But if you will not obey the Lord your God by diligently observing all his commandments and decrees, which I am commanding you today, then all these curses shall come upon you and overtake you” (Deuteronomy 28:15 Deuteronomy 28:15But it shall come to pass, if you will not listen to the voice of the LORD your God, to observe to do all his commandments and his statutes which I command you this day; that all these curses shall come on you, and overtake you:
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, NRSV). The remainder of this chapter describes what would happen to them if they ignored or rejected their covenant with God.

Stable foundation for prophecy

God’s promises and covenants—especially the promise of blessings for obedience and curses for disobedience that are included in His covenant with Israel—provide the foundation for biblical prophecy.

Let’s now look at the specific work and messages of God’s prophets, men such as Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Daniel. Let’s learn why they committed their prophecies to writing. Few people understand the importance of their prophecies to a blinded world.

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