The message of Christ’s return to dwell with man is the keynote of all Messianic prophecy. In the beginning, man dwelt with God. Yet on account of sin, God left His throne in Eden to take up His abode in the heavenlies. In the years succeeding man’s exile from Eden, the wickedness of the world became so great, that God destroyed all except eight with a universal deluge of water (2 Peter 2: 5).
After the Flood, however, God sought a particular family with whom He might make a covenant. It would be the purpose of this family to preserve God’s statutes and ordinances, to function as both “salt and light,” and to keep the worship of the true God alive in the world. God chose Israel to be that special family. And so He made a covenant with Abraham, saying, “In thee shall all the families of the earth be blessed” (Gen. 12: 3).
Appended to this promise were certain privileges of land ownership, as well as dominion over the entire world (Romans 4: 13). Abraham received these promises by grace through faith (Gen. 15: 6). The promises were then ratified by a solemn covenant, the form of the covenant itself manifesting the nature of the promise, which is purely of grace. When Abraham was about to pass through the pieces of the slain animals, a deep sleep fell upon him, and “behold, a smoking furnace and a burning lamp passed between those pieces” (Gen. 15: 12, 17). Thus the covenant was ratified by one contracting party, making it unconditional in nature (see Galatians 3: 18-20).
To Abraham’s descendants these promises were confirmed: first to Isaac (Gen. 26: 3) and then to Jacob (Gen. 28: 13). Subjoined to the promises of eternal land inheritance were those which looked forward to dominion over the world (Gen. 27: 27-28). During the patriarchs’ own lifetimes, however, these predictions were unfulfilled. When arraigned before the Sanhedrin, Stephen reminded the Jews that Abraham “had none inheritance, no, not so much as a foot” in the land God promised him (Acts 7: 5).
Going back to the original promise, we find the patriarchs themselves included among those who would possess the land. The promises, then, remain future, and will be fulfilled when JESUS CHRIST, the seed of Abraham (Gal. 3: 16), returns to dwell with the family which He chose from all the nations of the earth to be His people.
The natural descendants of Abraham thought these promises were through the law. But the law was added 430 years after the covenant made with Abraham, and so could not annul the original nature of the promise (Gal. 3: 17; Romans 4: 13, 16). Because Israel could not keep the law, they were continually driven out of the land. Hence the prophet Jeremiah revealed that the land promises are secured only in the “New Covenant” (Jer. 31: 27-40).
The promises of land inheritance and dominion are by grace, and because so, those who partake of them must be grafted into JESUS CHRIST through faith. When all the children of both dispensations (the law & the gospel) have been gathered into Christ, the true Seed of Abraham will return to the land that God promised the fathers, and will raise up those who are joint-heirs with Him (Romans 8: 17 ff.). The “one new man,” formed of both saved Jews & Gentiles (Eph. 2: 15), the holy nation of kings and priests, shall then rule and reign with Christ for 1000 years, in the city of Jerusalem. This is what the “Millennium” is about. See Revelation 20: 4-6.
Amazingly, there are many Christians today who scoff at these promises. Some even say that the land inheritance is “already fulfilled in Christ.” But any Christian with a grain of common sense, and who really knows the Scriptures, can see that it isn’t so. Unfortunately, the phrase “in Christ” is too often a vague term used by ‘spiritualizers’ to nullify God’s promises.
Unbelief in the simple truth that Christ will return from heaven to dwell with man on a renewed physical earth is Gnostic in nature, and perhaps arises from the belief that matter is essentially evil. The question is not, however, what man believes, but what God has revealed. Has He promised through His inspired prophets that Christ will one day return to rule and reign over the earth? If He has, then man has nothing to say in the matter. The word of God shall be fulfilled in its time.
Aside from the unconditional promise made to Abraham concerning the land, God made another unconditional promise to David, regarding the throne (2 Samuel 7). The fulfillment of both these promises shall come in the “First Resurrection,” when Christ will sit on the throne of David in the literal city of Jerusalem, ruling and reigning with His saints, who in that day shall have “power over the nations” (Rev. 2: 26)–the same power wherewith the Lord Himself will be invested (Psalm 2: 8-9).
Thus, the two promises–the land and the throne–are the twin subjects of Messianic prophecy, to be fulfilled only when the Heir (JESUS CHRIST) comes into His own. During the present dispensation, the Lord is like David in Hebron. He has already been anointed (2 Sam. 2: 4), but has yet to attain possession of the kingdom. Paul writes: “But now we see not yet all things put under Him” (Heb. 2: 8, italics mine). The words of the psalmist still ring true today: “The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool” (Psalm 110: 1; Acts 2: 34-35; 1 Cor. 15: 25).
The reason for this “abeyance of the kingdom” is quite simple. Because the children of Abraham are still being gathered from among the Jews and Gentiles, and since Israel has not yet been grafted back into their own olive tree (Romans 11: 23-25), the time of fulfillment is future. JESUS CHRIST is still in the Holy Place making reconciliation for the sins of His people.
But when the full number of the elect have been sealed, Christ will return to raise His saints from the dust (1 Thess. 4: 16), to transform the living (1 Cor. 15: 51), and to grant all that are His a “better resurrection” (Heb. 11: 35), when the eternal city will come down from God out of heaven (Rev. 3: 12). This will be the “restitution of all things” (Acts 3: 21), when God will again dwell with man, in the person of His Divine vicegerent, JESUS CHRIST.