The Land Promise

by Franklin T. Puckett
in The Preceptor, Vol. 1, No. 10, August 1952.

Premillennialists tell us that God's promise to give the land of Canaan to Abraham and his seed has never been fulfilled. Since His promises do not fail, there must be a future fulfillment. Consequently, when Jesus comes the Jews will be miraculously converted as a nation, the righteous dead will be raised, and these all, with the living saints, will be returned to Palestine to inherit the land according to the promise. A great program of political aggrandizement is built up for these miraculously converted Jews and the "elect from among the Gentiles." The kingdom is established and the millennium begins to roll merrily along.

There are many insuperable difficulties which premillennialists must face in trying to prove their doctrine, but if it can be shown that the land promise has already been fulfilled, the basis for their whole visionary scheme will be removed, and the theory will collapse for lack of foundation on which to rest. I propose to prove that God has fulfilled that promise.

Preceding Events

The Lord had promised to make of Abraham a great nation through multiplying his "seed as the stars of heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore." Since it was impossible to reach such marvelous numerical proportions during Abraham's lifetime, this promise could only be fulfilled in his posterity. Consequently it passed to Isaac and Jacob (Genesis 26:2-4; 28:3,4). When in a time of famine Jacob and his sons went down into Egypt, God said: "Fear not to go down into Egypt; for I will there make of thee a great nation" (Genesis 46:3). In that land "the children of Israel were fruitful, and increased abundantly, and multiplied, and waxed exceeding mighty; and the land was filled with them" (Exodus 1:7). Stephen declared that "when the time of the promise drew nigh, which God had sworn to Abraham, the people grew and multiplied in Egypt" (Acts 7:17). This rapid increase was because "the time of the promise drew nigh."

When "there arose up a new king over Egypt, which knew not Joseph" (Exodus 1:8), Israel was subjected to great affliction. God heard their cry "and with an high arm brought He them out of it" (Acts 13:17). By faith they crossed the Red Sea and came to old shaking Sinai. There God made a covenant with them, saying, "Ye shall be unto Me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation" (Exodus 19:6). They were at this time as the stars of heaven for multitude (Deuteronomy 1:10). It is evident that God's promise to Abraham regarding the development of a great nation was fulfilled in these events.

God now spoke unto Israel, saying: "Ye have dwelt long enough in this mount: turn you, and go to the mount of the Amorites, and unto all the places nigh thereunto, in the plain, in the hills, and in the vale, and in the south, and by the sea side, to the land of the Canaanites, and unto Lebanon, unto the great river, the river Euphrates. Behold, I have set the land before you: go in and possess the land which the Lord sware unto your father, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give unto them and to their seed after them" (Deuteronomy 1:6-8).

Coming to the border of Canaan twelve spies were sent to search out the promised land. They all reported that it was a good land, but ten said that the strength of the cities and the size of the giants made it impossible for them to take it. This so discouraged the children of Israel that they plotted to make them another captain and return to Egypt. Their lack of faith provoked God to swear that none of that generation above twenty years of age save Caleb and Joshua should enter into the land.

The Promise Fulfilled

After wandering forty years in the wilderness, Moses died and was buried in Moab. Those who had provoked God at Kadesh-Barnea now lie sleeping in the wilderness. Under the direction of God, Joshua led their children into the "land flowing with milk and honey." So successful were they in driving out the enemy and possessing the land, that it was said: "And the Lord gave unto Israel all the land which He sware to give unto their fathers: and they possessed it, and dwelt therein. And the Lord gave them rest round about, according to all that He sware unto their fathers: and there stood not a man of all their enemies before them: The Lord delivered all their enemies into their hand. There failed not ought of any good thing which the Lord had spoken unto the house of Israel; all came to pass" (Joshua 21:43-45). Notice:

  1. God gave unto Israel all the land which He sware to give unto their fathers;
  2. Israel possessed all the land which God sware to give unto their fathers;
  3. they dwelt in all the land which God had sworn unto their fathers.

Now, if there is any part of the promised land which Israel did not receive, possess, and dwell in, this Scripture is not true. But, if the passage be true, they received every foot of ground which God had promised. If they received it, the promise was fulfilled; and if the promise was fulfilled, premillennial claims regarding it are false. One cannot believe the Bible and premillennialism at the same time.

The Cities Of Refuge

God ordained that there should be six cities of refuge; three east of Jordan, and three in the land of Canaan. "The Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, When ye be come over Jordan into the land of Canaan: Then ye shall appoint you cities to be cities of refuge for you...And of these cities which ye shall give six cities shall be for refuge. Ye shall give three cities on this side of Jordan, and three cities shall ye give in the land of Canaan, which shall be cities of refuge" (Numbers 35:9-14).

When the children of Israel were encamped on the plains of Moab, Moses said unto them, "When the Lord thy God hath cut off the nations, whose land the Lord thy God giveth thee, and thou succeedest them, and dwellest in their cities, and in their houses; thou shalt separate three cities for thee in the midst of thy land, which the Lord thy God giveth thee to possess it" (Deuteronomy 19:1,2). The succeeding verses show that these were cities of refuge. Then we read: "Wherefore I command thee, saying, Thou shalt separate three cities for thee. And if the Lord thy God enlarge thy coast, as He hath sworn unto thy fathers, and give thee all the land which He hath promised to give unto thy fathers; if thou shalt keep all these commandments to do them, which I command thee this day, to love the Lord thy God, and to walk ever in His ways; then shalt thou add three cities more for thee, beside these three" (Deuteronomy 19:7-9).

They were to have three cities of refuge from the time God cut off the heathen before them until the day when He enlarged their coast and gave them all the land which He had promised to give unto their fathers; but when the promise is fulfilled and they have all the land, three cities more were to be added to these three. As long as the promise is only partially fulfilled, there were to be three cities of refuge; when the promise is completely fulfilled , they were to add three cities more making a total of six. If, therefore, we can find six cities of refuge appointed, it will be proof positive that God had fulfilled His promise in its completeness.

Now turn to Joshua 20:1-8 and take time to read these verses. Six cites of refuge are here appointed; three east of Jordan and three in the land of Canaan. Furthermore, they were appointed by direct command of Jehovah. Since this was to be done when God enlarged their coast and gave them all the land He had promised to give, it follows that He thought He had fulfilled His promise. Since Joshua and the children of Israel thought they had received it all; but now more than thirty centuries this side of that day a premillennialist jumps up to say, "God did not give them all the land, therefore, the Jews must be regathered to the land of Palestine and receive the promise." I am reminded of the old Jew who listened to an atheist sneeringly deny that God had any part in creation, and then silenced him with the question: "Vas you der, Charley?" I am confident that God and the children of Israel know more about what took place than these wild speculators today. They were there and are competent witnesses. The appointment of the six cities of refuge stands as irrefutable proof that the land promise was fulfilled. Having been fulfilled it belongs to the past and has no part in God's program for the future.

A Premillennial Dodge

Sometimes premillennialists, when faced with such convincing proof, will admit that God fulfilled His promise to the Jews of Joshua's day, but deny that it was fulfilled to others included in the promise, thereby claiming that such makes necessary a future fulfillment to them. John R. Rice, a Fundamental Baptist, says: "What is going to happen to Abraham? Was Abraham there when Joshua took the children of Israel into that land? Did Abraham possess it, live on it?...Abraham lived in tents all his life and died in faith not having received the promise. Now was that fulfilled? God's promise to Abraham has not yet been fulfilled." (Oliphant-Rice Debate, pg. 42).

Again he says, "I admit that generation moved to Palestine, but what about Abraham, Jacob, and Isaac, to whom God promised to give the land? Yes, the Jews moved to Palestine. God fulfilled His promise to that generation of Israel, but that was not the same as His promise to Abraham and Isaac and Jacob. But what about the Lord's promise to them? They are heirs of the same promise and they died without having received it. How about that?" (ibid. pg. 38).

And again, "God will keep His promise to Abraham and the remnant of his seed, even though multitudes of Jews died in unbelief and were lost" (ibid. pg. 41).

That Abraham was included in the land promise is evident (Genesis 13:15; 17:8); and that he died without having received it is also quite clear (Acts 7:5); but it does not follow that he must be raised from the dead and national Israel be restored to Palestine in order for the promise to be fulfilled unto him. This is a conclusion which has no foundation in truth.

After Abraham came into the land of Canaan, God appeared to him and gave him assurance that his seed should be as the stars of heaven for multitude. It is said that Abraham believed in the Lord and it was counted to him for righteousness. Then God said: "I am the Lord that brought thee out of Ur of the Chaldees to give thee this land to inherit it" (Genesis 15:7). Abraham asked: "Lord God, whereby shall I know that I shall inherit it?" (Genesis 15:8).

The Lord replied: "Abram, know of a surety that thy seed shall be a stranger in a land that is not theirs, 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 they shall 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" (Genesis 15:13-16).

This is God's own explanation of how Abraham would receive the promise. He had brought him out of Ur of the Chaldees to inherit this land. Abraham asked: "How shall I know that I shall inherit it?" God told him that he could know of a surety that though his seed should dwell in a strange land and be subjected to bondage they should come hither again in the fourth generation. The iniquity of the Amorites being not full prevented the fulfillment of the promise before Abraham's death. He would go to his fathers in peace and be buried in a good old age. But his seed would come hither again from a land of bondage. Hereby Abraham was to know he would inherit the land. Hence, in that day when God brought the children of Israel up out of Egyptian bondage and gave them the land of Canaan the promise was fulfilled to Abraham. When the land was give to his seed, HE received the inheritance. God's explanation that thus it should be ought to satisfy John R. Rice and all other premillennialists.