Get to know biblical promises God made to Abraham and his descendants. Many times God reminded Abraham how great and multiple nations would come out of him for being so obedient and God-fearing. Many people got it confused as to where and when these nations would be established. This article written by Howard Davis from the United Church of God explained in explicit details all that people need to know about the promises God made Abraham.
This may sound like crazy fiction to many people—and maybe to you too. But a considerable amount of Bible prophecy specifically talks about the United States and other major English-speaking Western nations at our time in history—a time the Bible calls “the time of the end.”
Most readers of the Bible believe it’s the basis of spiritual truth. Many know that a large number of prophecies are found within it. But without the vital key to understanding where these nations are found in Scripture, Christians cannot perceive what’s going to happen next in the world.
Nations small and great described in Bible prophecy
Several midsize and smaller nations, such as Egypt, Jordan and Libya, are identified clearly in the Bible. So does it makes sense that the greatest single nation of our time or the greatest community of nations would be left out?
Many events now in the past were laid out in advance in the Bible. God’s prophets accurately foretold the rise and fall of great empires and nations, and sometimes specific kings one after another. Many prophecies, including those dealing with the United States and other major English-speaking nations today, were spoken and written down thousands of years before their fulfillment.
Prophecies make up a fourth to a third of the Bible. But why are the scriptures that identify the United States and give advance news of its future not widely taught or understood among Christians today?
A primary reason is that the key to understanding the most sweeping prophecies has gone largely ignored. It can be found in the first books of the Bible—especially the book of Genesis.
Key to the prophecies of the United States
In the book of Genesis we find that God made great promises to one man—Abram, whose name was changed to Abraham. We read about this first in Genesis 12:1-3 Genesis 12:1-31 Now the LORD had said to Abram, Get you out of your country, and from your kindred, and from your father’s house, to a land that I will show you: 2 And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great; and you shall be a blessing: 3 And I will bless them that bless you, and curse him that curses you: and in you shall all families of the earth be blessed.
American King James Version×: “Now the Lord had said to Abram: ‘Get out of your country, from your family and from your father’s house, to a land that I will show you. I will make you a great nation; I will bless you and make your name great; and you shall be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed’ ” (emphasis added throughout).
Within God’s statement to Abram are two promises. The first is that God would make from him “a great nation.” Now when God calls something great, it is great!
Most people are blind to the tremendous meaning of this promise today. If they have any opinion at all, most think modern Jews fulfill this prophecy. But they are wrong. Although significant, the Jewish people have constituted a relatively small nation in world history—with modern nation-states such as the United States, China, India, Russia, Germany, Britain and others far exceeding them in terms of national greatness.
And indeed, God’s promises of national greatness to Abraham’s descendants have been fulfilled among other great nations—nations related to the Jewish people, as we will see.
Most churches generally acknowledge the second part of God’s promise to Abraham in Genesis 12—that “in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” This deals principally with the saving knowledge of the coming Messiah, Jesus Christ, and God’s gift of eternal life through Him.
However, God intended to shape all history through His promises to Abraham’s descendants of building a great nation—one that would dominate the world in the time before Christ’s second coming. Another would have significant influence over much of the rest of the world.
Promise of a great nation and multiple nations
Later God expanded His national promises to Abraham. He said, “I will make your descendants as the dust of the earth; so that if a man could number the dust of the earth, then your descendants also could be numbered” (Genesis 13:16 Genesis 13:16And I will make your seed as the dust of the earth: so that if a man can number the dust of the earth, then shall your seed also be numbered.
American King James Version×).
Then, when Abraham was 99 years old, God spoke again, making these national promises even bigger, more elaborate and everlasting: “I will make you exceedingly fruitful, and I will make nations of you, and kings shall come from you” (Genesis 17:6 Genesis 17:6And I will make you exceeding fruitful, and I will make nations of you, and kings shall come out of you.
American King James Version×). So not just a single nation but multiple nations would descend from Abraham.
God also promised that He would deal with Abraham’s descendants directly. He would guide their history through the ups and downs of prosperity, peace, war and poverty, whether they acknowledged Him or not: “And I will establish My covenant between Me and you and your descendants after you in their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and your descendants after you” (verse 7).
It’s important to recognize that the covenant promises of national greatness—including multiple nations—were to be fulfilled through Abraham’s son Isaac (compare verses 19-21).
Notice that at first God told Abraham his descendants would possess and rule over the land of Canaan where Abraham sojourned: “Lift your eyes now and look from the place where you are—northward, southward, eastward, and westward; for all the land which you see I give to you and your descendants forever” (Genesis 13:14-15 Genesis 13:14-1514 And the LORD said to Abram, after that Lot was separated from him, Lift up now your eyes, and look from the place where you are northward, and southward, and eastward, and westward: 15 For all the land which you see, to you will I give it, and to your seed for ever.
American King James Version×).
The land of Canaan is all the territory that theologians, Christian and Jewish, will acknowledge as the national promise to Abraham. But next let’s notice that this promise extended to vast regions of the entire earth, not just the sliver of land in the Middle East. This fact helps to explain the many more Bible prophecies indicating that the Israelites would be spread throughout the world in the future—prophecies not fulfilled in the ancient world.
The expansion was revealed in a dream to Abraham’s grandson through Isaac, Jacob—whose name was later changed to Israel. First, God reconfirmed that Jacob’s descendants were to possess Canaan. God began the prophecy saying, “The land on which you lie I will give to you and your descendants” (Genesis 28:13 Genesis 28:13And, behold, the LORD stood above it, and said, I am the LORD God of Abraham your father, and the God of Isaac: the land where on you lie, to you will I give it, and to your seed;
American King James Version×).
A few centuries after the dream, Jacob’s descendants were led out of Egypt and occupied the land of Canaan. This fulfilled the first part of the dream promise, but the Israelite territory was generally much smaller than the Egyptian empire and other great empires of the ancient world, except for a short time under David and Solomon.
But notice that God added a huge extension of national greatness in Jacob’s dream: “Also your descendants shall be as the dust of the earth ; you shall spread abroad to the west and the east, to the north and the south” (verse 14). They were to move far beyond their boundaries in the Middle East!
Later, God made it clear that the promise of multiple nations was to come through Jacob. In fact, God specifically told Jacob that through him would come “a nation and a company of nations” (Genesis 35:11 Genesis 35:11And God said to him, I am God Almighty: be fruitful and multiply; a nation and a company of nations shall be of you, and kings shall come out of your loins;
American King James Version×).
Never fulfilled in ancient times
The promise of national expansion beyond Canaan into a great nation and company of nations was never fulfilled in biblical times by the Israelites. After having reached the peak of their power during Solomon’s reign, the tribes of Israel split into two competing kingdoms at his death.
The 10 tribes of the northern part of the land of Israel formed the kingdom or “house” of Israel. Two tribes of the south, Judah and Benjamin (along with most of the scattered priestly tribe of Levi), formed the smaller territorial state of the kingdom or “house” of Judah—so named after the larger of the two tribes and from which the term “Jew” is derived.
Curiously, the first time reference to “Jews” is found in the Bible (2 Kings 16:5-6 2 Kings 16:5-65 Then Rezin king of Syria and Pekah son of Remaliah king of Israel came up to Jerusalem to war: and they besieged Ahaz, but could not overcome him. 6 At that time Rezin king of Syria recovered Elath to Syria, and drove the Jews from Elath: and the Syrians came to Elath, and dwelled there to this day.
American King James Version×, King James Version), they are at war with their northern cousins in the kingdom of Israel! This shows, contrary to what most people assume, that “Jews” and “Israelites” are not the same peoples. Being descendants of Jacob or Israel, all Jews are Israelites. But not all Israelites are Jews!
Both of these small Middle Eastern states disappeared off the map in ancient times. First, Israel was taken into captivity through invasions by the Assyrian Empire, one in 733 B.C. and another in 722 B.C. Because of their many sins, as 2 Kings 17:23 2 Kings 17:23Until the LORD removed Israel out of his sight, as he had said by all his servants the prophets. So was Israel carried away out of their own land to Assyria to this day.
American King James Version×tells us, “the Lord removed Israel out of His sight…So Israel was carried away from their own land to Assyria, as it is to this day.” Never returning to their homeland, they became known to history as “the lost 10 tribes” of Israel.
The kingdom of Judah, repeating Israel’s sins, was conquered and exiled by the Babylonian Empire in 586 B.C. Only a small group of exiles of the tribes of Judah, Benjamin and Levi (Nehemiah 11:3-36 Nehemiah 11:3-363 Now these are the chief of the province that dwelled in Jerusalem: but in the cities of Judah dwelled every one in his possession in their cities, to wit, Israel, the priests, and the Levites, and the Nethinims, and the children of Solomon’s servants. 4 And at Jerusalem dwelled certain of the children of Judah, and of the children of Benjamin. Of the children of Judah; Athaiah the son of Uzziah, the son of Zechariah, the son of Amariah, the son of Shephatiah, the son of Mahalaleel, of the children of Perez; 5 And Maaseiah the son of Baruch, the son of Colhozeh, the son of Hazaiah, the son of Adaiah, the son of Joiarib, the son of Zechariah, the son of Shiloni. 6 All the sons of Perez that dwelled at Jerusalem were four hundred three score and eight valiant men. 7 And these are the sons of Benjamin; Sallu the son of Meshullam, the son of Joed, the son of Pedaiah, the son of Kolaiah, the son of Maaseiah, the son of Ithiel, the son of Jesaiah. 8 And after him Gabbai, Sallai, nine hundred twenty and eight. 9 And Joel the son of Zichri was their overseer: and Judah the son of Senuah was second over the city. 10 Of the priests: Jedaiah the son of Joiarib, Jachin. 11 Seraiah the son of Hilkiah, the son of Meshullam, the son of Zadok, the son of Meraioth, the son of Ahitub, was the ruler of the house of God. 12 And their brothers that did the work of the house were eight hundred twenty and two: and Adaiah the son of Jeroham, the son of Pelaliah, the son of Amzi, the son of Zechariah, the son of Pashur, the son of Malchiah. 13 And his brothers, chief of the fathers, two hundred forty and two: and Amashai the son of Azareel, the son of Ahasai, the son of Meshillemoth, the son of Immer, 14 And their brothers, mighty men of valor, an hundred twenty and eight: and their overseer was Zabdiel, the son of one of the great men. 15 Also of the Levites: Shemaiah the son of Hashub, the son of Azrikam, the son of Hashabiah, the son of Bunni; 16 And Shabbethai and Jozabad, of the chief of the Levites, had the oversight of the outward business of the house of God. 17 And Mattaniah the son of Micha, the son of Zabdi, the son of Asaph, was the principal to begin the thanksgiving in prayer: and Bakbukiah the second among his brothers, and Abda the son of Shammua, the son of Galal, the son of Jeduthun. 18 All the Levites in the holy city were two hundred fourscore and four. 19 Moreover the porters, Akkub, Talmon, and their brothers that kept the gates, were an hundred seventy and two. 20 And the residue of Israel, of the priests, and the Levites, were in all the cities of Judah, every one in his inheritance. 21 But the Nethinims dwelled in Ophel: and Ziha and Gispa were over the Nethinims. 22 The overseer also of the Levites at Jerusalem was Uzzi the son of Bani, the son of Hashabiah, the son of Mattaniah, the son of Micha. Of the sons of Asaph, the singers were over the business of the house of God. 23 For it was the king’s commandment concerning them, that a certain portion should be for the singers, due for every day. 24 And Pethahiah the son of Meshezabeel, of the children of Zerah the son of Judah, was at the king’s hand in all matters concerning the people. 25 And for the villages, with their fields, some of the children of Judah dwelled at Kirjatharba, and in the villages thereof, and at Dibon, and in the villages thereof, and at Jekabzeel, and in the villages thereof, 26 And at Jeshua, and at Moladah, and at Bethphelet, 27 And at Hazarshual, and at Beersheba, and in the villages thereof, 28 And at Ziklag, and at Mekonah, and in the villages thereof, 29 And at Enrimmon, and at Zareah, and at Jarmuth, 30 Zanoah, Adullam, and in their villages, at Lachish, and the fields thereof, at Azekah, and in the villages thereof. And they dwelled from Beersheba to the valley of Hinnom. 31 The children also of Benjamin from Geba dwelled at Michmash, and Aija, and Bethel, and in their villages. 32 And at Anathoth, Nob, Ananiah, 33 Hazor, Ramah, Gittaim, 34 Hadid, Zeboim, Neballat, 35 Lod, and Ono, the valley of craftsmen. 36 And of the Levites were divisions in Judah, and in Benjamin.
American King James Version×) returned from Babylon to set up the politically weak provinces where Jesus Christ’s ministry took place.
However, after two disastrous rebellions against Rome from A.D. 66-73 and 132-135, Jewish power was shattered. They were only reestablished as the modern state of Israel in 1948. Even then, Israel exists as an independent state largely because the United States and Britain have supported its existence in the Middle East.
Joseph’s descendants to be great
We see, then, that these promises of national greatness were never fulfilled anciently by either Israel or Judah. So how were they fulfilled?
Jacob, or Israel, was the father of 12 sons who founded the 12 tribes of Israel. When he went to Egypt to be reunited with his son Joseph, God inspired specific prophecies of national greatness to the two sons of Joseph. Of all the tribes of Israel, those from Joseph would be the specific nations on which the promise of national greatness would predominantly come—not the descendants of Judah, the Jews.
Again we need to understand that this would not be fulfilled among the people of the small kingdom of Israel in ancient times. Rather, the fulfillment would be vastly greater, yet still among the same peoples of the house of Israel, though much later in history, when Israelites would dwell around the world.
Jacob told His son Joseph that his two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh, would grow to become great powers on earth, not in a tiny portion of the Middle East. Conveying to them the promises originally given to Abraham (and later expanded), he said, “Bless the lads; let my name be named upon them, and the name of my fathers Abraham and Isaac; and let them grow into a multitude in the midst of the earth” (Genesis 48:16 Genesis 48:16The Angel which redeemed me from all evil, bless the lads; and let my name be named on them, and the name of my fathers Abraham and Isaac; and let them grow into a multitude in the middle of the earth.
American King James Version×).
The language is very expansive. God said the promise of national greatness would mean a world power involving “a multitude” in the middle of the entire world system—global in scope and power.
Prophetic fulfillment “in the last days”
When were these stupendous prophecies of national greatness going to be fulfilled? The Bible is very clear. Just before he died, “Jacob called his sons and said, ‘Gather together, that I may tell you what shall befall you in the last days’ ” (Genesis 49:1 Genesis 49:1And Jacob called to his sons, and said, Gather yourselves together, that I may tell you that which shall befall you in the last days.
American King James Version×). The promises of global greatness to the descendants of Joseph would occur “in the last days”—the time leading up to the second coming of Jesus Christ!
The language in this prophecy shows that the blessings of burgeoning population, fabulous wealth, power and military dominance were to be fulfilled on a global scale.
Notice this prophetic description of Joseph’s descendants “in the last days”: “Joseph is a fruitful bough…his branches run over the wall…The arms of his hands were made strong by the hands of the Mighty God of Jacob” (verses 22-24).
God inspired Jacob to get quite specific about the characteristics to look for in the nations that would fulfill the promises made to Abraham, his grandfather. And the promise of national greatness would not be limited to the small corner of the world.
“The Almighty…will bless you with blessings of heaven above, blessings of the deep that lies beneath, blessings of the breast and of the womb. The blessings of your father have excelled the blessings of my ancestors, up to the utmost bound of the everlasting hills. They shall be on the head of Joseph” (verses 25-26).
The nation and company of nations identified
Jacob revealed that the descendants of Joseph would become two great peoples—brother nationalities. Those descended through his son Manasseh would become a great people, while those who would come through his other son, Ephraim, would become a group or multitude of nations (Genesis 48:19 Genesis 48:19And his father refused, and said, I know it, my son, I know it: he also shall become a people, and he also shall be great: but truly his younger brother shall be greater than he, and his seed shall become a multitude of nations.
American King James Version×). Both would dominate the earth as no others in history.
Thus, through them would be fulfilled the earlier promise to Jacob of a nation and company of nations. But have the prophecies of Israel’s global greatness been fulfilled? Yes— by two geopolitical powers on the world stage that have defined global greatness for the last two centuries.
Descended from Ephraim was the group of nations that formed out of the greatest empire the world has ever seen, the British Empire.
It ruled over five times the territory of the Roman Empire, and four times the number of people. Its territory encompassed almost a quarter of the earth’s population and surface, including many of its most fertile and productive regions. Meanwhile, the Royal Navy ruled the seas. Out of this power came the British-descended countries of the Commonwealth of Nations—Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
From Manasseh came the great single nation. Its people dwelt with the Ephraimites in Great Britain until it was time for their separation through westward colonization and a war for independence—the American Revolution, by which came the formation of the United States.
The post World War II period saw America rise to replace the British Empire as the world’s wealthiest and most dominant nation. Since World War II, up to half of the wealth of the world was owned by America. And until the current recession, 33 percent of the gross domestic output of the global economy was from the United States despite having only 4 percent of the world’s population. Militarily, as Britain dominated the 19th century, America dominated the 20th—and remains the world’s lone superpower.
Many prophecies in the books of Isaiah, Hosea, Jeremiah and Ezekiel foretold the future history of the ancient scattered Israelites who would one day form the United States and the other British-descended nations in the last days. The promises of national greatness God made to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Joseph are fulfilled in these nations. Americans called it their “Manifest Destiny” to become the greatest nation of the world in their time. They were right!
Yet these prophecies also show what is going to happen next to the United States—as well as all the British-descended nations. Your life and future may depend on understanding these prophecies and acting in accordance with God’s warnings and instructions! GN
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