John Gill on the Resurrection and the Land Promise

A year ago this month, i posted an article entitled Resurrection or Immortality of the Soul? In it, i expressed how baffled i was that Jesus would appeal to Exodus 3 as a proof text for resurrection of the dead, when challenged by the Sadducees. His answer to them only appears to prove immortality of the soul; not bodies being raised from the dust. Puzzled over this, i began digging up as many commentaries as i could, hoping to find an answer that didn’t settle for the ole’ immortality bitI mean, after all, Jesus clearly stated that the “passage about the bush” proves that the dead are raised. People shedding their body and continuing to live in a soulish existence cannot in any shape, form, or fashion be construed as a resurrection from death. There’s something in Ex 3 that i wasn’t getting and neither were the commentators.

After weeks of wrestling with the text, a solution finally began to dawn on me:

What triggered the Exodus? “During those many days the king of Egypt died, and the people of Israel groaned because of their slavery and cried out for help. Their cry for rescue from slavery came up to God. And God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. God saw the people of Israel—and God knew.

And what was the purpose of the Exodus? “I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey.”

Two things: Covenant and Land.

Then the things that i learned in my study and recent teaching of GK Beale’s book The Temple and the Church’s Mission started coming to the forefront. In the consummation, according to Beale, the whole earth becomes a temple to the Lord. Heaven and Earth merge. The earth (land) isn’t done away with. It becomes our inheritance. Did not Jesus say that the “meek shall inherit the earth”?

What was one of the promises in God’s covenant with Abraham, which extended to Isaac and Jacob? The answer is right there in our “passage about the bush”:

“I will bring you {Moses/Israel} into the land that I swore to give to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob. I will give it to you for a possession. I am the Lord.”

Then i thought, “wait a second. Did Abraham ever inherit the land?” Nope. But don’t take my word for it:

“Stephen said: ‘Brothers and fathers, hear me. The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham when he was in Mesopotamia, before he lived in Haran, and said to him, ‘Go out from your land and from your kindred and go into the land that I will show you.’ Then he went out from the land of the Chaldeans and lived in Haran. And after his father died, God removed him from there into this land in which you are now living. Yet he gave him no inheritance in it, not even a foot’s length, but promised to give it to him as a possession and to his offspring after him, though he had no child.”

Ok, now we have a problem. God PROMISED Abraham something that he never received. And now he’s dead. How then will God fulfill his promises, especially that of earth-inheritance, to a man who is dead? hmmm…then it hit me.


So, that was the solution i proposed in my mind and with Sam on the phone. Googling like a mad man, in hopes of finding someone who has made the same connections, i found an article by Bradley R. Trick arguing the same thing; all of which can be read on the post Resurrection or Immortality of the Soul? Let me also note here that to my knowledge, no hyper preterist (aka full preterist) has answered this material, which provides a lethal blow to their system.

Fast forward: On Facebook today, someone posted a quote from John Gill arguing that the best governments are those that “come nearest to the commonwealth of Israel, and the civil laws of it…” Having Gill’s “Complete Body of Doctrinal and Practical Divinity”, i decided to pull it off the shelf and dig up this quote. And as it typically happens in a work like this, i start wandering off…reading how the author addresses other topics. So, i headed over to his section on the “Resurrection of the Body” and there it was:

From Exodus 3:6 produced by Christ himself in proof of this doctrine; “As touching the resurrection of the dead,” says he, “have you not read that which was spoken to you by God; saying, I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob; God is not the God of the dead but of the living?” (Matthew 22:31, 32). Let it be observed, that it is not said, “I was,” or “will be;” but, “I am the God of Abraham,” &c. which, as it relates to covenant interest, respects a covenant in being, and an abiding one, even the covenant of grace; which is concerned, not only with the souls of men, but their bodies also, their whole persons; wherefore, as the souls of the above patriarchs now live with God, who is the God of the living only, in the enjoyment of the promised good; it is necessary their bodies should be raised from the dead, that, with their souls, they may enjoy the everlasting glory and happiness promised in the covenant; or otherwise, it would not appear to be ordered in all things and sure.

Bingo! Note: Abraham needs to be raised in order to “enjoy the everlasting glory and happiness promised in the covenant…” Question: what were some of those promises in the covenant? Land, for one.

Gill doesn’t mention the land promise here, but i could not help but think, in light of his covenantal observation, that he had to have made the connection between covenant and land. So, i started Googling like a mad man again, and i found the “connection” in a sermon he preached on the “Doctrine of the Resurrection.” You will notice that the wording here starts off like the wording in his Divinity work, but it is what he adds that has my attention: [emphasis mine – jason]

Secondly, I now proceed to show, that the resurrection of the dead is not only credible, but certain; and this I shall do, partly from Scripture testimonies, and partly from other Scripture doctrines.

1st, From Scripture testimonies, which shall be taken both out of the Old and New Testament. I shall begin with producing testimonies out of the former; and,

1. With the words of God to Moses: “I am the God of thy father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob,” Exod. 3:6. I choose to mention this scripture, and to begin with it, because with this our Lord confronted the Sadducees, who denied the resurrection of the dead, and put them to silence; insomuch, that, after that, no man durst ask any question at all; the account of which you have in Mat. 22:23, and some following verses; and it stands thus: the Sadducees came to him with an instance of a woman, who had had seven husbands, who were brethren; and their question upon it is, whose wife she should be in the resurrection? To which Christ replies, having observed to them their ignorance of the Scriptures, and the power of God, that “in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage; but are as the angels of God in heaven;” and then adds, “But as touching the resurrection of the dead, have ye not read that which was spoken unto you by God, saying, I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob; God is not the God of the dead, but of the living.” But now here lies a difficulty, how this appears to be a proof of the resurrection of the dead.

Some have thought, that our Lord’s design is to prove the immortality of the soul, which the Sadducees denied, as well as the resurrection of the dead; for they that deny the former, deny the latter; and some of the same arguments which prove the one, prove the other. Menasseh-ben-Israel, a learned Jew of the last century, produces this same passage of Scripture, to prove the immortality of the soul, and argues from it much in the same manner as Christ does. But it is certain, that our Lord produced this testimony as a proof of the resurrection. In one of the evangelists, it is said, “As touching the resurrection of the dead, have ye not read that which was spoken unto you by God?” &c. Mat. 22:31. And in another, “Now, that the dead are raised, even Moses showed at the bush, when he called the Lord the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob,” &c. Luke 20:37. Let it be observed, then, that it is not said, I was, or I will be, but I am the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; which is expressive not only of a covenant which had been made, but of one that abides and continues, which must be either the covenant of grace made with them in Christ, of which they had some glorious discoveries and manifestations, or some particular covenant respecting them and their posterity. As for the covenant of grace, this respected not their souls only, but their bodies also, even their whole persons; therefore, as their souls now live with God in the enjoyment of the promised good, it is necessary that their bodies should be raised from the dead, that, with their souls, they may enjoy the everlasting blessing of glory and happiness; otherwise, how would God’s covenant be “an everlasting one, ordered in all things, and sure?” The learned Mr. Mede thinks, that Christ has respect to the covenant which God: made with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, in which he promised that he would give the land of Canaan to them, and to their posterity; not their posterity only, but to them also; therefore he observes, that it was necessary that they should be raised from the dead, that they, in their own persons, might enjoy the promised land. It must be acknowledged, that this is a way of arguing the Jews were used to, which may be the reason of the scribes being so well pleased with it; and therefore said, “Master, thou hast well said,” Luke 20:39. Such kind of arguments as these, to prove the resurrection of the dead, are now extant in their Talmud: for instance; R. Simai said, “From whence is the resurrection of the dead to be proved out of the law? from Exod. 6:4, where it is said, And I have also established my covenant with them, to give them the land of Canaan; it is not said to you, but to them.” But, not to insist any longer on this proof, I proceed…

ahhhhh. Music to mine ears. What a treat to find in someone like Dr. Gill affirmation of a theory i had.

Thank you, Dr Gill.

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