The following study was written by Michael Battle, a friend on Facebook who also posts regularly in a group I belong to. It’s a good study of the words “forever” and “everlasting” in the Old Testament, as they are used concerning the land of Israel, circumcision, the feasts, the Sabbath, and other ordinances of the law of Moses. This study has implications for the claim that the land of Israel always has belonged, and always will belong, to the physical descendants of Abraham:
The land of Canaan is said to be an inheritance for the decedents of Abraham FOREVER (Genesis 13:15; 17:8).
Does this then mean that the promise of the land inheritance has relevance today? If we were to take Genesis 13:15 and Genesis 17:8 at face value without considering the balance of scripture, then we would certainly have to come to a conclusive yes.
Therefore we need to ask, “Does the balance of scripture support our interpretation of the land inheritance?”
To begin, let’s consider the use of the word “forever” elsewhere in the Old Testament. The same Hebrew word translated as “forever” in Genesis 13:15 is translated as “everlasting” in Genesis 17:8 mentioned above (see also Genesis 48:4; Exodus 32:13).
That’s certainly a good start if we are going to build a case that the land inheritance is still relevant.
However, we immediately have our first hurdle before we ever get out of Genesis 17. In verses 10-14 we read that physical circumcision is an EVERLASTING covenant and that the land inheritance coincides with circumcision. The “uncircumcised” have no share in the covenant through which the land was to be inherited.
This immediately becomes problematic in building a defense for the “land inheritance” having relevance today because in the New Testament the apostle Paul tells us that circumcision in the flesh no longer has any value. According to Paul it is circumcision of the heart (in the Spirit) which matters. [Adam’s note: See especially the book of Galatians and the strong language Paul uses there toward those who attempt to push circumcision as a requirement.]
As we continue through the scriptures we find that the feast of Passover and unleavened bread are said to be an ORDINANCE FOREVER (Exodus 12:14, 17, 24) and the Sabbath was to be a covenant FOREVER (Exodus 31:16-17).
Yet the New Testament tells of that these were only shadows of Christ (Colossians 2:16-17) and that Christ Himself is our Passover (1 Corinthians 5:7).
The ministry of the Levitical priesthood (Aaron and his descendants) within the tabernacle is said to be a statute FOREVER (Exodus 27:21, Exodus 28:43, Exodus 30:21, Leviticus 24:1-3) and an ordinance FOREVER (Numbers 18:8). The wearing of the priestly garments by the sons of Aaron was also referred to as a PERPETURAL (FOREVER) statute. The ceremonial washing of the hands of the priests who served in the tabernacle was to be a statute FOREVER (Exodus 30:21).
Yet according to the New Testament this priesthood has been abolished and has given way to one that is greater and more glorious, and that is the Priesthood of the Lord Jesus Christ.
The Law of Moses also declares that the Levites were to be servants to the priests and this was to be a statute FOREVER (Numbers 18:23).
The law of the meat offering’s portion for the sons of Aaron was also to be a statute FOREVER (Leviticus 6:14-19).
The daily meat offerings offered by Aaron and his descendants was to be a statute FOREVER (Leviticus 6:20).
The commandment for Aaron and his sons not to drink wine nor strong drink in the tabernacle was to be a statute FOREVER (Leviticus 10:9).
The heave and wave offerings belonging to the Levitical priests and their families was a statue FOREVER (Exodus 29:28; Leviticus 10:15; Numbers 18:19).
Like the Passover, the Day of Atonement was also to be a statue FOREVER (Leviticus 16:29, 34, Leviticus 23:31). Yet according to the New Testament, those things which were done under the Law on the Day of Atonement served as a foreshadowing of Christ (Hebrews 10:1-4) and have now been taken away because Christ has become the High Priest of a greater and more perfect tabernacle.
With regards to sacrifices for sin, the Law of Moses also says that the sin offering of the red heifer was to be a statute FOREVER (Numbers 19:9-11).
Yet Hebrews 9:13-14 says, “For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh: How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?”
As we can see, the use of the language FOREVER as it applied to the Old Testament promises, statues, and ordinances doesn’t mean “for all eternity” without any change as they originally were.
In studying the scriptures, we should consider the qualifying clause “throughout your generations” and other similar clauses. These should be taken into account when considering those things which were said to be FOREVER.
For instance, Genesis 17 says the covenant of circumcision and the land inheritance is FOREVER in view of THOSE GENERATIONS.
In Exodus 12:14 the scripture says: “And this day shall be unto you for a memorial; and ye shall keep it a feast to the Lord THROUGHOUT YOUR GENERATIONS; ye shall keep it a feast by an ordinance FOREVER (see also verses 17 and 42).
The daily offering of the burnt offering was to be THROUGHOUT YOUR GENERATIONS (Exodus 29:42). The yearly consecration of the altar of incense by the High Priest on the Day of Atonement was to be THROUGHOUT YOUR GENERATIONS (Leviticus 30:10).
These references (above) regarding THROUGHOUT YOUR GENERATIONS are just a few examples of the many times this qualifying clause and others similar to it are mentioned in view of the FOREVERS in the Old Testament.
The Old Covenant was a covenant for God’s people in the flesh and was binding THROUGHOUT THEIR GENERATIONS, wherein the revelation of Christ was hidden in a mystery (Colossians 1:26).The forevers were “types” and “foreshadowings” of Christ.
God has saved us according to His mercy by the washing of REGENERATION, and renewing of the Holy Ghost (Titus 3;5) and that which was “in the flesh” has now given way to that which is “in the Spirit.”
The forevers of the physical covenant have given way and been translated to FOREVER in Christ!
The forever ordinances of things like Passover continue, but now it’s in Christ and not in the outward offering of animals. The same holds true for the land inheritance, the Sabbaths and all other FOREVERS of the first covenant. True inheritance and rest is in Christ!
He is our Passover, He is our Sabbath, He is our promised land!
- Israel’s right to the land, according to scripture, was dependent on their covenant relationship with God. Physical Israel has no covenant with God today because of their rejection of Jesus. Only believing Jews (those who believe in Jesus Christ) have a covenant with God. Physical Israel is a secular nation like all other nations. Covenant membership is found only in Jesus Christ. The only way that secular Israel could be considered God’s people is for there to be two covenants and two groups of people as the people of God. Dual Covenant theology is heresy.
- Israel’s right to the land was not exclusive to the physical descendants of Jacob. Throughout Israel’s history, Gentiles were joined to them and inherited full rights as citizens which included land inheritance (see Ester 8:17, Isaiah 56:3-7, Psalm 87:4-6, Ezekiel 47:21-23).
- When Israel was given the land it was divided among their tribes, which included Gentiles who had joined them. (See the book of Joshua and Ezekiel 47:21-23).
- The Levites were given no land inheritance.
- God never meant for Israelis only to have access to the land, Israel was required by God to treat those living among them justly and not to oppress them (Leviticus 19:33-34; Jeremiah 7:5-7; Jeremiah 22:3; Zechariah 7:10; Exodus 22:21-24; Exodus 23:9; Deuteronomy 23: 7-8; Deuteronomy 10:19).
- Supporting Israel in everything is unscriptural. For example, God was angry with Jehoshaphat, king of Judah, for making an alliance with Ahab, the King of Israel (See 2 Chronicles 18:1 – 19:2). Also the Apostle Paul tells us that the Jews who killed the Lord Jesus and continued to hinder the message of the Gospel were under the wrath of God (1 Thessalonians 2:14-16).
8 By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to the place which he would receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. 9 By faith he dwelt in the land of promise as in a foreign country, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise;10 for he waited for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God.
11 By faith Sarah herself also received strength to conceive seed, and she bore a child when she was past the age, because she judged Him faithful who had promised. 12 Therefore from one man, and him as good as dead, were born as many as the stars of the sky in multitude—innumerable as the sand which is by the seashore.
13 These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. 14 For those who say such things declare plainly that they seek a homeland. 15 And truly if they had called to mind that country from which they had come out, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 But now they desire a better, that is, a heavenly country. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them.