The fourth dispensation, the Dispensation of Promise, was inaugurated with the call of Abraham, continued through the lives of the patriarchs, and ended with the Exodus of the Jewish people from Egypt, a period of about 430 years. In this Dispensation, we see the formation of (Elect) Israel, a covenant people in relationship with YHWH.
This Dispensation focuses on the promise(s) that God made to Abraham, which we now call the Abrahamic Covenant. The promise was that he would be the father of a great nation, that God would bless Abraham and his descendants, and that the whole earth would be blessed through him (Genesis 12:1-3). Indeed, all men are blessed in the Seed of Abraham, the Lord Jesus Christ, who accomplished the work of redemption.
As we have said, the basic promise during the Dispensation of Promise was the Abrahamic Covenant. This is an unconditional covenant whose key points include:
- From Abraham would come a great nation that God would bless with natural and spiritual prosperity.
- God would make Abraham’s name great; Abraham is probably one of, if not the most well known figure in religious history as Christians, Jews, and Muslims all claim him as a forefather.
- God would bless those that blessed Abraham’s descendants and curse those that cursed them.
- In Abraham all the families of the earth will be blessed. This is fulfilled in Jesus Christ via His penal, substitutionary, atoning death on the cross, which event is the center point of redemptive history.
- The sign of the covenant is circumcision.
- This covenant, which was repeated to Isaac and Jacob, is confined to the Hebrew people and the 12 tribes of Israel.
In Hebrews 6:13, we see that God swore by His own Name for there was found none greater to swear by. Genesis 15 lays out the Covenant and the Ceremony. Note that God does not lay any conditions upon Abraham; in this particular case, God not only swears by Himself but also binds any conditions of covenant upon Himself.
From http://gotquestions.org and used by permission:
The actual Abrahamic Covenant is found in Genesis 12:1–3. The ceremony recorded in Genesis 15 indicates the unconditional nature of the covenant. The only time that both parties of a covenant would pass between the pieces of animals was when the fulfillment of the covenant was dependent upon both parties keeping commitments. Concerning the significance of God alone moving between the halves of the animals, it is to be noted that it is a smoking furnace and a flaming torch, representing God, not Abraham, which passed between the pieces. Such an act, it would seem, should be shared by both parties, but in this case God’s solitary action is doubtless to be explained by the fact that the covenant is principally a promise by God. He binds Himself to the covenant. God caused a sleep to fall upon Abraham so that he would not be able to pass between the two halves of the animals. Fulfillment of the covenant fell to God alone.
Later, God gave Abraham the rite of circumcision as the specific sign of the Abrahamic Covenant (Genesis 17:9–14). All males in Abraham’s line were to be circumcised and thus carry with them a lifelong mark in their flesh that they were part of God’s physical blessing in the world. Any descendant of Abraham who refused circumcision was declaring himself to be outside of God’s covenant; this explains why God was angry with Moses when Moses failed to circumcise his son in Exodus 4:24–26.
God determined to call out a special people for Himself, and through that special people He would bring blessing to all the nations. The Abrahamic Covenant is paramount to a proper understanding of the kingdom concept and is foundational to Old Testament theology. The Abrahamic Covenant is described in Genesis 12:1–3, and (1) it is an unconditional covenant. There are no conditions attached to it (no “if” clauses suggesting its fulfillment is dependent on man). (2) It is also a literal covenant in which the promises should be understood literally. The land that is promised should be understood in a normal definition of the word—it is not a figure of heaven. (3) It is also an everlasting covenant. The promises that God made to Israel are eternal.
There are three main features to the Abrahamic Covenant:
- The promise of land (Genesis 12:1). God called Abraham from Ur of the Chaldees to a land that He would give him (Genesis 12:1). This promise is reiterated in Genesis 13:14–18 where it is confirmed by a shoe covenant; its dimensions are given in Genesis 15:18–21 (precluding any notion of this being fulfilled in heaven). The land aspect of the Abrahamic Covenant is expanded in Deuteronomy 30:1–10, which is the Palestinian Covenant.
- The promise of descendants (Genesis 12:2). God promised Abraham that He would make a great nation out of him. Abraham, who was 75 years old and childless (Genesis 12:4), was promised many descendants. This promise is amplified in Genesis 17:6 where God promised that nations and kings would descend from the aged patriarch. This promise (which is expanded in the Davidic Covenant of 2 Samuel 7:12–16) would eventuate in the Davidic throne with Messiah’s kingdom rule over the Hebrew people.
- The promise of blessing and redemption (Genesis 12:3). God promised to bless Abraham and the families of the earth through him. This promise is amplified in the New Covenant (Jeremiah 31:31–34; cf. Hebrews 8:6–13) and has to do with “Israel’s spiritual blessing and redemption.” Jeremiah 31:34 anticipates the forgiveness of sin. The unconditional and eternal nature of the covenant is seen in that the covenant is reaffirmed to Isaac (Genesis 21:12; 26:3–4). The “I will” promises again suggest the unconditional aspect of the covenant. The covenant is later confirmed to Jacob (Genesis 28:14–15). It is noteworthy that God reaffirmed these promises amid the sins of the patriarchs, which fact further emphasizes the unconditional nature of the Abrahamic Covenant.
God’s method of fulfilling the Abrahamic Covenant is literal, inasmuch as God partially fulfilled the covenant in history: God blessed Abraham by giving him the land (Genesis 13:14–17), and, centuries later, the sons of Abraham took control of the land: “So the Lord gave Israel all the land he had sworn to give their ancestors, and they took possession of it and settled there” (Joshua 21:43). God blessed Abraham spiritually (Genesis 13:8, 18; 14:22, 23; 21:22); God gave him numerous descendants (Genesis 22:17; 49:3–28). An important element of the Abrahamic Covenant, however, demands a still-future fulfillment with Messiah’s kingdom rule:
(1) Israel as a nation will possess the totality of the land in the future. Numerous Old Testament passages anticipate the future blessing of Israel and her possession of the land as promised to Abraham. Ezekiel envisions a future day when Israel is restored to the land (Ezekiel 20:33–37, 40–42; 36:1–37:28).
(2) Israel as a nation will be converted, forgiven, and restored (Romans 11:25–27).
(3) Israel will repent and receive the forgiveness of God in the future (Zechariah 12:10–14). The Abrahamic Covenant finds its ultimate fulfillment in connection with the return of Messiah to rescue and bless His people Israel. It is through the nation Israel that God promised in Genesis 12:1–3 to bless the nations of the world. That ultimate blessing will issue in the forgiveness of sins and Messiah’s glorious kingdom reign on earth.
I want to deal, briefly, with the idea that (ethnic/national) Israel will be saved.
That all Israel will be saved is a logical possibility.
In two of the sets of judgments, in Revelation, we see the unmitigated death and destruction that the Holy God allows to be unleashed on a Christ Rejecting world. What we do not see, in Revelation, is how many of those who are killed are part of Israel and as a consequence we do not know how many Israelites are left alive to be saved. We can, then, infer that the salvation of the entirety of Israel is logically possible. As to probability, bear with me…
Rev.6:3-2nd Seal: Wars on earth
Rev.6:7-4th Seal: Death released. 1/4 of the worlds population to die by plagues, disease, and beasts of the earth
Rev.6:9-5th Seal: Persecution and mass killing of God’s people worldwide
Rev.6:12-6th Seal: Massive earthquake wrath of God.
Rev.9:13-6th Trumpet: demons released and 200 million army kills 1/3 of the world’s population.
Some points from the Revelation Teaching Series by my mentor, Doug Warwick (with whom I am in perfect communion on this issue)
- “shall be saved”…salvation by faith in Jesus Christ vs works
Genesis 15:6 Habakkuk 2:4 Romans 4:9 – 5:1 Romans 9:24-26 Galatians 3:16-29
- “all Israel”
Romans 2:25-29 Romans 9:6 Romans 9:27 Ezkekiel 20:5, 8, 13, 16-17, 33-44
- When will God rule over Israel…when will God be Israel’s King?
- When will Israel pollute His name no more?
- When will Israel be sanctified before the Gentile nations?
- When will Israel know that Jesus Christ is Lord?
- When will Israel loathe themselves and their tawdry history?
- When will the Lord purge Israel of the rebels/unbelievers?
- During the 70th Week of Daniel (Dan 9:24)
Ezekiel 36:16-31 Zechariah 13:8-9 Romans 11:25-29
“all Israel” are those who believe Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God, their King and Savior
During the Millenial Reign of Christ, Israel as the Most Important Nation is fulfilled
Dr. MacArthur points out that “all Israel” means all of those members of the nation of Israel that survive the Time of Jacob’s Trouble/Great Tribulation.
Romans 11:17- only some branches are broken off, so a believing remnant are being preserved unto/until salvation.
Additional from Dr. MacArthur
Before all Israel is saved, its unbelieving, ungodly members will be separated out by God’s inerrant hand of judgment. Ezekiel makes that truth vividly clear:
“As I live,” declares the Lord God, “surely with a mighty hand and with an outstretched arm and with wrath poured out, I shall be king over you. And I shall bring you out from the peoples and gather you from the lands where you are scattered, with a mighty hand and with an outstretched arm and with wrath poured out; and I shall bring you into the wilderness of the peoples, and there I shall enter into judgment with you face to face. As I entered into judgment with your fathers in the wilderness of the land of Egypt, so I will enter into judgment with you,” declares the Lord God. “And I shall make you pass under the rod, and I shall bring you into the bond of the covenant; and I shall purge from you the rebels and those who transgress against Me; I shall bring them out of the land where they sojourn, but they will not enter the land of Israel. Thus you will know that I am the Lord.” (Ezek. 20:33–38, emphasis added; cf. Dan. 12:10; Zech. 13:8–9)
Those who hear the preaching of the 144,000 (Rev. 7:1–8; 14:1–5), of other converts (7:9), of the two witnesses (11:3–13), and of the angel (14:6), and thus safely pass under God’s rod of judgment will then comprise all Israel, which—in fulfillment of God’s sovereign and irrevocable promise—will be completely a nation of believers who are ready for the kingdom of the Messiah Jesus.
“Behold, days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, not like the covenant which I made with their fathers in the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, although I was a husband to them,” declares the Lord. “But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,” declares the Lord, “I will put My law within them, and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. And they shall not teach again, each man his neighbor and each man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them,” declares the Lord, “for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.” (Jer. 31:31–34; cf. 32:38)
God’s control of history is irrefutable evidence of His sovereignty. And as surely as He cut off unbelieving Israel from His tree of salvation, just as surely will He graft believing Israel back in—a nation completely restored and completely saved.
Most importantly, the reason why, at some point, the entirety of Israel looks upon Him whom they pierced, mourns, and turns to Christ is the fact that God does not change
I, the Lord, do not change
14“Therefore, behold, I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness,
and speak tenderly to her. 15And there I will give her her vineyards
and make the Valley of Achore a door of hope. And there she shall answer as in the days of her youth, as at the time when she came out of the land of Egypt.
16“And in that day, declares the LORD, you will call me ‘My Husband,’ and no longer will you call me ‘My Baal.’ 17For I will remove the names of the Baals from her mouth, and they shall be remembered by name no more. 18And I will make for them a covenant on that day with the beasts of the field, the birds of the heavens, and the creeping things of the ground. And I will abolishf the bow, the sword, and war from the land, and I will make you lie down in safety. 19And I will betroth you to me forever. I will betroth you to me in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love and in mercy. 20 I will betroth you to me in faithfulness. And you shall know the LORD.
1 Samuel 15:29
29 “And also the Glory of Israel will not lie or change His mind; for He is not a man that He should change His mind”
Psalm 102:12 & 25-28
12 But Thou, O LORD dost abide forever; And Thy name to all generations. . . 25 Of old Thou didst found the earth; And the heavens are the work of Thy hands. 26 Even they will perish, but Thou dost endure; And all of them will wear out like a garment; Like clothing Thou wilt change them, and they will be changed. 27 But Thou art the same, And Thy years will not come to an end. 28 The children of Thy servants will continue, And their descendants will be established before Thee”
The Dispensation of Promise has a future fulfillment that we eagerly look forward to.