EVERLASTING - PERPETUAL - FOREVER
When people see any of these words, they at once conclude that they mean that they will never end - or, there is no end. But in the Bible that is not necessarily true. The words have to be studied in their context and their relation to the entire Scripture base.
One may say: "Well, it says everlasting, perpetual, or forever, and I just believe it means what it says". On the surface, it sounds good.
Let the Bible speak for itself. In Psalms 41:13 we have this reading. "Blessed be the Lord God of Israel from everlasting, and to everlasting."
In I Timothy we read: "Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen".
Now let me ask this: Are these words used in the same sense when we speak of the promises, or covenants, that God made with man as recorded in the Old Testament?
In our two references, everlasting points backward and forward in relation to time. However this does not hold true concerning some of the promises or covenants made with man. Everlasting, when applied to some covenants, does not always have the same meaning, as when applied to God.
On the other hand circumstances may limit the meaning of everlasting. In Genesis chapter 17, and verses 9 and 10, we have the following statement: "And God said unto Abraham, Thou shalt keep my covenant heretofore, thou and thy seed after thee in their generations. This is my covenant, which ye shall keep, between me and you and thy seed after thee; Every man child among you shall be circumcised." Now verse 13 reads: ".and my covenant shall be in your flesh for an everlasting covenant".
Question. Do you circumcise every male born to you? If everlasting always means that it cannot end, cannot under any circumstances cease to be - then you must circumcise. It is true that the Jewish people (for the vast majority) today do so sternly. They believe the covenant with Abraham still is in force.
Christians claim today to be the seed of Abraham (in a spiritual sense - Galatians 3:29) because they believe that that covenant with Abraham has been abrogated (annulled - done away with, according to the reading of Colossians 2"13-14) and - NAILED TO THE CROSS OF JESUS. In Galatians 5:2-4 Paul writes these words: "Behold, I Paul say unto you, that if ye be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing". And he mentions that if they bind such practice - 'they are fallen from grace'.
In Genesis 17 circumcision was to be an EVERLASTING covenant - yet Paul says that ye 'are fallen from grace' if you practice it - and Christ will profit you nothing. This covenant of circumcision (everlasting) does not have the same meaning as when the word is use with reference to God. The covenant of circumcision came to an end. For it applied to the Hebrews (and later the Jews) when we read in Genesis 17 verses 9 and 12: ".and in thy seed after thee in their generations", and, ".in your generations". With the passing of 'their generations', came an end to this everlasting covenant of circumcision which was of the flesh.
Now it is a 'spiritual circumcision' of the heart. (See Romans 2:28-29). In Genesis 17 it had a special use - and its duration was for a particular period of time, and that time was stipulated - 'Throughout their generations'. Their generations now having came to an end - this everlasting covenant did also come to an end - for, it was 'everlasting' - but only for that particular period of time.
What about the meaning of 'perpetual' and 'forever'..In Exodus 31 God is making another covenant between Himself and man. Verses 16 and 17: the Sabbath covenant. From these passages it is argued that the Sabbath day is just as binding on us today as when it was first given or commanded. It is suggested that 'forever' means 'without end' (it shall never cease).- Or does it?
To show that this argument will not stand the test, we have but to read Exodus 12 - where the Lord is giving instructions regarding the lamb to be slain the night He was (His angel) to pass over Egypt to slay the firstborn in all houses, where He did not see the blood on the door posts. Upon reading verses 8 through 11 why were the Israelites to carry out the instruction ? Because it (verse 11) -IT IS THE LORD'S PASSOVER. What is the passover? Continue to read verses 12 through 14. The passover feast was to last ONE NIGHT ONLY followed by seven days of the FEAST OF UNLEAVENED BREAD. In verse 17 of the same chapter (12) we have this reading: "And ye shall observe the feast of unleavened bread; for in the selfsame day have I brought your armies out of the land of Egypt; therefore shall be observed this day in your generations by an ordinance forever". Note those words 'in your generations' and 'forever'.
Now ask another question - do you keep the passover feast of the unleavened bread? It was to 'last forever' If the Sabbath can be binding, because we find it was to be observed 'forever', then why can we not bind the Feast of Unleavened Bread for the same reason? There is no answer to this for those who attempt to bind the Sabbath - for the'feast' was to last 'forever' . I Corinthians 5:7 is paraphrased like this - The animal sacrifice of the lamb is not sufficient any more. that Christ is our Passover. No longer do we observe the passover feast.
When Christ and his law became effective - it was the end of the Jewish generations. This is proof that the expressions do not mean that they NEVER END - only that it was 'forever' during, or for a specified period of time. .'throughout their generations'.
We can establish positively and without a doubt that neither the Sabbath, the Circumcision, nor the Passover covenants are being observed by those who ascribe to the teaching of Christ as revealed in the New Testament. Some may try to bind one of them and not the others. But the Bible clearly reveals that if one does so, he/she must keep the whole law. Galatians 5:4. Circumcision, the Sabbath, and the Passover covenants - were to last 'forever', for an 'everlasting' covenant from God. But they were so only 'throughout their generations'.
When Christ became our Passover - when Christ became our law-giver; then His testament became effective. It was then that the 'GENERATIONS' throughout which all these covenants were to be 'everlasting', or 'forever' came to an end. They are no longer binding according to the New Testament teachings. Christ 'freed' the Jews from all the fleshly bonds, ties, and covenants.
The Jews were the seed of Abraham. Those covenants were binding upon them. But with the coming of Christ - we now are the 'spiritual' seed of Abraham (in Christ). The period of 'throughout their generations' slowly eroded away throughout the history of the Israelites to the point that God turned his heart from them and caused them to be carried off into captivity for a period of time.
The coming of Christ proved to be a relief for the Jews to come back into fellowship with God. But they rejected Christ because they could not, or would not interpret the prophets correctly. They are still rejected by God. But there is a chance for them. Colossians 2:14 affirms that the old law ( with all the covenants, the ordinances, the regulations, and, the restrictions) was taken away and nailed to the cross of Christ The New Testament is now our guide for worshipping the Lord. The Old Testament is our schoolmaster that brought us to Christ. Not one command for us to entertain those covenants that was to 'last forever -- .throughout their generations'.
Argument. If the Sabbath was a perpetual observance, then the burning of incenses can also be observed (Exodus 30:8, and Exodus 31:16-17) . If one tries to keep one part of the old law - he is obligated to keep all of that law. One cannot bind where Christ had un-bound. Christ is our source (of law) and not Moses.
Moses, himself, told the Israelites that there would be a greater prophet to rise up - they should listen to him (Deut 18:15). The prophet Jeremiah warned Israel that God would make a new covenant (Jeremiah 31:31-34) with the house of Israel. Under the Law of Moses everything was a physical relationship with God. Israel, as a nation, was a "STATE RELIGION"
Under Christ, it is a spiritual relationship with God. Observe here - there was one Old Testament covenant that cannot be associated with all the covenants mentioned above. That covenant of God with Noah when he established the everlasting covenant of the rainbow - for the rendering in the text was specific, as it was for "ALL GENERATIONS", and has no limitation on time.
I must here mention one other thing. Recall that Jeremiah (Jeremiah 31:31-34) told Israel that the God of Heaven would establish a new covenant with the House of Israel different from that which they had come accustomed to, and that the new covenant would last forever. Even though the new Kingdom (along with the new covenant) was to last forever - I have to interject here - that the use of the word 'forever' does not necessarily mean forever.
The new covenant (in the new Kingdom) under Christ was God's final attempt to reconcile mankind to himself. Therefore, there will be nothing more coming from God. This new covenant was ushered in to last for a specified period of time. Christ was given full authority over the Kingdom on Earth. When the time comes for Christ to end it all by his return -then He will turn that authority back to the "Father" - and so ends the Kingdom on earth - and so ends the new covenant that we are under at the present.
The Promises of God to the Israelites in the Old Testament are as valid as was the covenants that he established with them. The Jews of today argue that God has the duty to restore unto them the land of Canaan. Genesis 17:7-8 is the reference upon which they base their argument.
Since they do not believe the Messiah has come to deliver them and to set up the throne of David again -they want the land back. They claim that the land of Canaan was promised them from God himself, and that David once ruled over that land. Our scripture reference reads in part.'I will give unto thee, and thy seed after thee, the land wherein thou are a stranger all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession." The Jews claim that God should restore the land to them. But the land, called Canaan in the Old Testament, has not been in possession of the Jews for some 2500 years. In fact the title 'Land of Canaan', or the word 'Canaan' does not exist on the maps of today, and have not been for centuries. The fact that they have not retained it for some 2500 years is proof positive that the promise of the land of Canaan was not an 'everlasting' promise to be possessed.
Abraham is referred to by the Jews as the progenitor of their race. They believe all the promises made to him by God are the basis for their following him - especially after the giving of the Law. It is not too far fetched to say that the children of Israel had forgotten the God of Abraham and started to cleave to the gods of Egypt when they were in that country.
The Jews don't own the Land of Canaan - they never will own it (for it will never be restored to them) - because for any centuries they have lost their entitlement to it. Even though it was to last 'forever'.
Remember, all spiritual blessing are in Christ - not in the Law of Moses. It is sad that the Jews rejected Christ as the Messiah. If they had accepted him as the Messiah - their reward would be ten times over - the worth of the Land of Canaan.
EVERLASTING- PERPETUAL - FOREVER - Hmmmmm.
By Eldon Scott March 2001
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