Premillenialism (“pre” meaning before and “millennial” referring to 1,000 years) is a system of Bible interpretation which holds to the view that Jesus will come again before He sets up an earthly kingdom and reigns for 1,000 years on the earth. Many advocates of this theory also believe that the Bible teaches that God has never completely fulfilled the land promise which He made to Abraham. If that is true, then at some point in the future, Jehovah, in order to keep His word, will have to give that special land to Abraham’s descendants. What about it? Get your Bible ready.
The land promise to Abram/Abraham – We first read of it in Genesis 12:7, where it is written, “Then the LORD appeared to Abram and said, To your descendants I will give this land.” To which land did He refer? From the previous two verses, we learn that at that time Abram was dwelling in “the land of Canaan” – the territory situated between the Great/Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River, so named because the descendants of Canaan, who was the grandson of Noah (Genesis 10:1,6), lived there. Thus, “the promised land” was the land of Canaan.
At a later time, when Abram was living once again in Canaan, the Lord told him, “Lift your eyes now and look from the place where you are . . . for all the land which you see I give to you and your descendants forever” (Genesis 13:14,15). God repeated the land promise to Isaac (Genesis 26:1-4) and his son, Jacob (Genesis 28:10-13).
There was a second aspect of the land promise that is sometimes unnoticed. The territory which Jehovah originally promised to Abraham was the land of Canaan. God later expanded that promise, telling the father of all those who believe, “To your descendants I have given this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the River Euphrates” (Genesis 15:18). That is a much larger area than just the land of Canaan, as it goes all the way to the Euphrates River. The “river of Egypt” was not the Nile River, but rather a stream or brook that flowed near the southern border between Canaan and Egypt.
Evidence that the land promise has already been fulfilled – Concerning the promise to give the land of Canaan to Abraham’s offspring, we want to give three lines of proof which show clearly that such a promise was fulfilled over 3,000 years ago. First, there are plain statements in the Book of Joshua that declare God did, in fact, fulfill His land promise. Consider: “So the LORD gave to Israel all the land of which He had sworn to give to their fathers, and they took possession of it and dwelt in it . . . Not a word failed of any good thing which the LORD had spoken to the house of Israel. All came to pass” (Joshua 21:43,45). Joshua led the Israelites into Canaan about 1400 B.C., and according to the text just quoted, in Joshua’s lifetime the land promise was fulfilled. “But we later read that God did not drive out all of the Canaanite people – some of them were still living in the land when Joshua died” (Judges 2:20-23). Make no mistake about it: the Israelites did conquer the land, and they did divide the land among the tribes. What occurred was (if I may use modern lingo), when the Israelites subdued the land, they were the ones ruling over it, but there were “pockets of resistance” that caused the Israelites to be engaged in “mop-up warfare.”
Second, there is evidence connected with the cities of refuge. It was God plan for the nation of Israel to have six cities of refuge (Numbers 35:13). God gave three such cities to the Israelites on the east side of Jordan after they conquered the peoples living there. The Lord then made this promise, “Now if the LORD your God enlarges your territory, as He swore to your fathers, and gives you the land which He promised to give to your fathers . . . then you shall add three more cities for yourself besides these three” (Deuteronomy 19:8,9). Thus, if God would fulfill His land promise, then they would set up three additional cities inside Canaan (19:1,2). Did they get those three extra cities of refuge? They did. Joshua 20:1-7 reveals this fact. Conclusion: the fact that God gave them the three additional cities proves that the land promise was fulfilled, because the fulfillment of that promise was required before those other cities would be added.
Third, Levites of Nehemiah’s generation (444 B.C.) praised God in prayer, saying that He made a covenant with Abraham to give the land of the Canaanites and other nations to his descendants. In the most clear terms imaginable, the Levites said to Jehovah, “You have performed Your words, for You are righteous” (Nehemiah 9:8,9) – land promise made and fulfilled.
What about the extended land promise, the promise that the Israelites’ territory would include the land area from the river of Egypt to the Euphrates? It was fulfilled in the days of Solomon: “So Solomon reigned over all kingdoms from the River to the land of the Philistines, as far as the border of Egypt” (1 Kings 4:21). Stop. Do not go past the reign of Solomon (B.C. 971-931). God’s land promise was fulfilled – totally.
“But did not God say that He would give the land to Abraham’s descendants forever?” That is what we noted earlier in Genesis 13:15. The word “forever” simply means throughout the complete duration of a certain period. It is also obvious that for the children of Israel to continue living in the land of promise with the Lord’s blessings was conditional. In unmistakable terms, He warned them that if they did not obey Him, then He would pluck them from off the land of Canaan and they would be scattered from one end of the earth to the other (Deuteronomy 28:15,63,64). By their rebellion against the Lord, the Israelites forfeited the right to live in the land (cf. Deuteronomy 30:17,18).
Yes, long, long before Jesus was born, the Lord God kept His word and fulfilled the land promise. It is folly to think it was not fulfilled until the 20th century and equally silly to look for a future fulfillment of it.
— Roger D. Campbell