In July 2012, I debated Joel McDurmon (PhD), Director of Research of American Vision in Atlanta, GA. McDurmon said the Abrahamic Land promises must be fulfilled literally and physically in the future because Abraham never received the land. (Be sure to get a set of my DVDs on “Israel and the Land Promises.” The book of the debate will be available shortly, and DVDs are available now).
McDurmon’s argument was that God promised the land to Abraham personally, not just to his descendants. Abraham. McDurmon argued from Acts 7:5 that Abraham never received the land promise. Therefore, Abraham must be physically resurrected from the dirt and receive the literal land promise, which is not confined to the borders delineated in Genesis 15, but, encompasses the “world” (kosmos, Romans 4:13).
I responded that McDurmon’s comments were a thinly veiled remake of the dispensational doctrine. His claims are almost exactly what Dispensationalists teach. McDurmon seeks to deflect this by noting how some church leaders believed this prior to the advent of modern dispensationalism. Of course, this does not help McDurmon, because by and large, the early church leaders who espoused that view were Chilialists, i.e. premillennialists, the first cousins to modern Dispensationalism!
McDurmon and other Dominionists have labeled my charge as a falsehood. They claim there is no resemblance between what they are teaching and the dispensational paradigm. This is simply specious and a desperate attempt to avoid the truth. Let me be very clear, however. What Joel McDurmon, and his camp is espousing is, without any doubt whatsoever, nothing but dispensationalism wrapped up in some different colored robes.
I have debated dispensationalists for years. I am intimately familiar with their theology. And I can say unequivocally that what McDurmon, and seemingly American Vision, is now advocating is nothing but what I will call “Dispensational Dominionism.”
McDurmon said that he would have no problem at all debating a Dispensationalist. He claimed he could dispatch them with ease. No, not really. As this series of articles will reveal, modern Dispensationalism will surely be thrilled with the current direction of Dominionism. Let me continue now to establish this by demonstrating that just like Dispensationalism, Dominionism posits a huge, so far now 4000 years!, gap between the land promise and fulfillment.
Dispensational Gap Doctrine
Dispensationalists posit a gap between the 69th and the 70th Week of Daniel 9:24f. It is claimed that as a result of Jewish unbelief, “The Kingdom is contingent on Israel’s acceptance of its King. Because even after his resurrection, that nation refused Him, it became impossible to establish the kingdom (Acts 3:18-26). In fact, the tribulation period did not come; if it had, the promise of the soon coming of the Son of Man would have been a great comfort to the apostles” (Thomas Ice, End Times Controversy, (Eugene, Or. Harvest House, 2003)85). This kind of quote could be multiplied many times over, but that is not necessary.
The point is that in fact, a Gap Doctrine is crucial to Dispensational doctrine. So much so that Ice says if there is no Gap between the 69th and the 70th Week, then Dispensationalism is totally nullified: “Without a futurized (i.e. postponed, DKP), seventieth week, the dispensational system falls apart. There can be no pre-tribulational rapture, great tribulation, or rebuilt temple without the gap.” (Ice, Internet Article: www.according2prophecy.org/seventy-weeks-pt2.html.)
Let me make it abundantly clear that I am not suggesting that Dominionism has a Gap Doctrine for exactly the same reasons as the Dispensationalists. Millennialists say there is a gap because of Jewish unbelief, because of man’s rebellion. Dominionists posit a gap based solely on their presuppositional view of the resurrection and the kingdom. Of course, there are direct similarities between Dispensationalists and Dominionists in this regard, but we will discuss that later.
For the moment, take note of Genesis 15 and the initial land promise to Abraham. I am giving the majority of Genesis 15 to help the reader grasp the whole context. The Lord reminded Abraham how He had taken him from Ur to the land, and promised the land to him. Abraham responded:
“Lord God, how shall I know that I will inherit it?” So He said to him, “Bring Me a three-year-old heifer, a three-year-old female goat, a three-year-old ram, a turtledove, and a young pigeon.”
Abraham offered the sacrifices and YHVH “descended” and said,
“Know certainly that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, and will serve them, and they will afflict them four hundred years. And also the nation whom they serve I will judge; afterward they shall come out with great possessions. Now as for you, you shall go to your fathers in peace; you shall be buried at a good old age. But in the fourth generation they shall return here, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete.” …On the same day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying: “To your descendants I have given this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the River Euphrates— 19 the Kenites, the Kenezzites, the Kadmonites, 20 the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Rephaim, 21 the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Girgashites, and the Jebusites.”
I want the reader to grasp what is laying right there on the surface: in explaining to Abram how He was going to fulfill the land promise to him, God specifically and emphatically said He was going to give the land to Abram’s descendants! There is no delineation between the seed receiving the land, and then, one day by and by, Abraham receiving it. That is pure invention, springing from presuppositional theology. It is eisegesis, not exegesis to get the Dominionist doctrine into the text.
What we have in Genesis is a clear cut promise of representative fulfillment, just as I argued in the debate. Abraham was told, at the first giving of the land promise, that the promise would be fulfilled when his seed entered the land in the fourth generation.
In the debate, I appealed to Hebrews 7 where Paul spoke of this principle. See my previous article for more on this. He said that Levi paid tithes to Melchesidec (representatively) when Abraham paid titles to him. During the debate, McDurmon said not a word in response to this. However, in the appendix to the debate, McDurmon offered these comments in a desperate attempt to counter the truth: “Don’s misattribution (sic) of Abraham’s children’s inheritance of the land to Abraham himself (Don applies the principle of Abraham and Levi in Hebrews 7 backwards!)” (His emphasis).
Joel is arguing with Paul, not Preston. The fact that Paul could apply representative fulfillment or actions, all the way backward to Abraham proves definitively that the identical principle could apply to the land promise! Paul was not, unlike the Dominionists, inventing a new concept. He was expressing common Hebraic thought. McDurmon’s desperation is patently obvious in his claim that it does not count since Paul was looking backward. The claim is specious at the very best.
Notice again a point I made in the first article in this series: In Genesis 12:3, God promised that in Abraham and his seed, “in you and your seed shall the nations of the earth shall be blessed.” Notice the direct parallelism between “Abraham and his seed” being the blessing to the world, and “Abraham and his seed” inheriting the land.
Now, if the land promise has not been fulfilled because Abraham did not personally receive that piece of dirt, then on the same exact “logic” the world has not been blessed through Abraham because he is not “here” personally, individually, physically, to give that blessing! However, as I argued in the debate with McDurmon, Abraham rules the world, NOW, through Christ, his seed. Abraham does not have to be personally, physically present for the world to be blessed through him and his seed. McDurmon never offered a word in response to this indisputable fact.
Look again at Deuteronomy 34:1-5:
“Then Moses went up from the plains of Moab to Mount Nebo, to the top of Pisgah, which is across from Jericho. And the Lord showed him all the land of Gilead as far as Dan, all Naphtali and the land of Ephraim and Manasseh, all the land of Judah as far as the Western Sea, the South, and the plain of the Valley of Jericho, the city of palm trees, as far as Zoar. Then the Lord said to him, “This is the land of which I swore to give Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, saying, ‘I will give it to your descendants.’ I have caused you to see it with your eyes, but you shall not cross over there.”
There could hardly be a clearer “commentary” on the land promise to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. YHVH said He promised the land to them. Yet, He then explicitly says the promise was to their descendants! They were not promised the land individually, but representatively: “I promised to give it to them, saying, ‘I will give it to your descendants.” They would receive the land through their seed– and they did. This is simply undeniable.
But, the Dominionists, precisely like the Dispensationalists, can’t accept this. If Abraham received the land as promised, the Dominionist theory of resurrection falls to the ground. So, what do they do? They posit a huge gap of so far 4000 years, from Abraham (Genesis 15) to the present, claiming Abraham is still waiting on the land promise.
Even though God set a time for the fulfillment of the giving of the land, i.e. the fourth generation after entering Egypt, the promise was not fulfilled. It is still waiting for fulfillment. Gap Theory. But of course, such claims fly in the face of the texts I produced in the debate.
Notice Acts 7, where Peter, citing the land promise to Abraham, said: “But when the time of the promise drew near which God had sworn to Abraham, the people grew and multiplied in Egypt.” Notice Stephen’s emphasis that the promise was to Abraham, and, his emphasis that the time for the fulfillment– the fourth generation from entering Egypt, had arrived in the time of Moses.
Now, according to the Dominionists, Stephen must have been confused. God didn’t promise to give Abraham the land in the fourth generation, after all! But of course, it is not Stephen that was wrong. It is the Dominionists.
Should it be argued that the “real” promise to Abraham awaited the work of Christ, that is fine. Or, should it be argued that Israel’s entrance into the land was typological of final salvation, no problem! Scripture does not leave us to ponder about when the ultimate fulfillment was to be. We will look and more at that in our next installment.