Understanding the promises to Abraham!
The untold story
There are ten full covenant promises which
were given to Abraham and his descendants. Since the Abrahamic Covenant is unconditional,
and based upon his prior faith and obedience, we should see all of these promises manifested
in some nations or peoples in our world today.
In the Gospel of John chapter 3, the priest Nicodemus came privately by night for an important conversation with Jesus. We read our Savior’s Words beginning at verse three: “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother's womb, and be born?…How can these things be?” Of course there is a physical birth, but Christ spoke here of a Spiritual birth instead.“Jesus answered… Art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things? Verily, verily, I say unto thee, We speak that we do know, and testify that we have seen; and ye receive not our witness. If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not, how shall ye believe, if I tell you of heavenly things?”
This passage is key to understanding the deeper mysteries of the Bible. Nicodemus was an educated priest, yet he could only see the physical, material meaning of Christ’s Words. Our Savior replied to Him, that unless he could see the deeper, heavenly, Spiritual meaning, he could not understand Divine teachings.
So is it true today! There are many who can only see on the physical level, and cannot understand Spiritual truths. Others focus only on the Spiritual and ignore the physical. Yet in God’s Word we often find that BOTH may be had at the same time. Men are still born from their mother’s wombs, while having opportunity for a rebirth in a heavenly or Spiritual sense, as well. Therefore, we need to see both the literal fulfillment of God’s Word, as well as the heavenly, or Spiritual, meaning. Both are important.
The Abrahamic Covenant is one of the most important covenants God made with man. Its importance lies not only in what it promised, but also in the fact that it was given unconditionally. No man’s disobedience can overturn the Promise. The Apostle Paul said that even the law given 430 years afterward could not annul this great unconditional covenant. (Gal. 3:17-18) It was a covenant important not only to Abraham’s physical descendants, but of worldwide significance to all of mankind. This is the untold story of the Abrahamic Covenant. Let’s review the promises or provisions it contained.
The Abrahamic Covenant included ten separate unconditional promises, all of which have both a material and a separate Spiritual fulfillment:
2. Great nation
3. To be blessed
4. Great Name
5. Blessing to others
6. God blesses those who bless
7. God curses those who curse
8. In thee shall all families be blessed
9. Many Nations
10. Exceeding Fruitful/Multiply Exceedingly
1. The Land
In Genesis 12, verse one, we read, “Now the LORD had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father's house, unto a land that I will shew thee:” This promise is repeated in Genesis 15:7, “And he said unto him, I am the LORD that brought thee out of Ur of the Chaldees, to give thee this land to inherit it.” Modern authorsseem to focus almost exclusively on the physical land promise and its fulfillment in Palestine, usually ignoring the other nine provisions of the Abrahamic Covenant. But few realize that the modern Jewish state comprises less than 10% of the territory of the land of Israel under David and Solomon. Is this all that there is today to the Abrahamic Covenant? In Romans 4:13, the Apostle Paul tells us, “For the promise, that he should be the heir of the world, was not to Abraham, or to his seed, through the law, but through the righteousness of faith.” God was not just concerned with a little piece of real estate in old Palestine. Abraham’s seed were to inherit the whole world! This prophecy doesn’t speak of a literal conquest at the point of a bayonet, but instead a Spiritual conquest through the gospel message of righteousness by faith. The Scriptures tell us that Israel, Abraham’s descendants, were chosen for the purpose of carrying this gospel to the ends of the earth. (Isa. 49:6) Therefore the Abrahamic land promise in its Spiritual context represents the universal spread of the gospel.
2. Great Nation
Again, Abraham was promised in Genesis 12:2, “And I will make of thee a great nation.” In ancient times under David and Solomon, Israel became a great nation that extended from Mesopotamia to the border of Egypt. But with the coming of Christ, the Apostle Paul speaks of the New Jerusalem which is our Spiritual mother, and contrasts it with the old Jerusalem: “For this Agar is mount Sinai in Arabia, and answereth to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children. But Jerusalem which is above is free, which is the mother of us all.” (Gal. 4:25-26) This is none other than the Kingdom of God, in its Spiritual stage on earth today as the Ecclesia, or true body of believers. Its existence is due to Christ’s sacrifice, “Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son,” (Col 1:13) Some deny the present existence of that kingdom, but Paul assured us, “But ye are come unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels… Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved…” (Heb. 12:22, 28) The physical kingdom of God’s saints was great, “But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city.” (Heb. 11:16) The word, ‘city,’ is translated from the Greek, ‘polis,’ which can also be interpreted as “way of life.” Christians who are living lives of faithfulness and service practice ‘kingdom living.’
Abraham was promised in Genesis 12:3, “I will bless thee.” Abraham’s descendants were given “a land flowing with milk and honey,” (Lev. 20:24), and the physical wealth of Abraham’s natural descendants today is similarly blessed. But there is a Spiritual blessing, as well, in the Abrahamic Covenant, which has been fulfilled in those who put their faith in the Son of God. The Christian faith was foreshadowed in Isaiah 61:3-9, “that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he might be glorified… But ye shall be named the Priests of the LORD: men shall call you the Ministers of our God… everlasting joy [i.e., eternal life] shall be unto them… all that see them shall acknowledge them, that they are the seed which the LORD hath blessed.”This promise is not limited to great material blessings, as important as they are! There are great Spiritual blessings here as well. Israel, joined by people of all races and nationalities who worship Christ Jesus in faith, is promised a great Spiritual blessing. Romans 11:26-27 says, “And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer [Jesus Christ], and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob: For this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins.” The removing of Israel’s sins and ungodliness is in process of taking place in this age, as God has promised in His unconditional covenant with them.
4. Great Name
In Genesis 12: 2, God says, “I will…make thy name great;” The nation of Israel literally was to have a great name down through history. We all know of the national greatness under David and Solomon, but after the break-up of the nation in the Assyrian and Babylonian captivities, that greatness continued under other tribal names. We believe that the Israelite “lost tribes” migrated into Europe and continued there the greatness which was guaranteed them under this unconditional covenant. Interestingly, Great Britain is the only nation in the world today to have the word, great, in its name.
But there is a Spiritual blessing at the same time. Through faith in Christ, we become part of His Body, the true Church. Of Christ, our great head, we read, “Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:9-11) Spiritually, believers have greatness in Christ, whose name is above every name, who rules above all potentates and powers.
5. Blessing To Others
In Genesis 12:2, Abraham was promised, “thou shalt be a blessing.” Abraham’s physical and Spiritual descendants would be a blessing to others, not just to themselves. As an unconditional covenant, this had a literal fulfillment throughout history among Abraham’s descendants, both during the Old Testament Israel nation and afterward as “lost tribes.” Isaiah 58:6 called upon Israel, “to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke.” This Biblical theme is called the ‘Year of Jubilee,’ and it was a law of God from Leviticus chapter 25. Christ referred to it in Luke 4:17-21, saying, “And there was delivered unto him the book of the prophet Esaias. …he found the place where it was written, The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, To preach the acceptable year of the Lord. And he closed the book… And he began to say unto them, This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears.” Christ referred here to Isaiah 61 and its prophecy of the “Acceptable Year of the Lord,” the Year of Jubilee. He proclaimed a Spiritual fulfillment of this Jubilee at His first coming; a jubilee of forgiveness and cancellation of sin-debts through His sacrifice for sin. This deliverance is available Spiritually to all who put their trust in Him.
6. Blessings To Those Who Bless
In Genesis 12:3, still another promise stated, “And I will bless them that bless thee…” This promise has had a literal fulfillment in history: God has blessed those nations and peoples who have blessed Abraham’s natural descendants. But the Apostle Paul adds that there is a Spiritual fulfillment in Christ: “Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ. And if ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise.” (Gal 3:16, 29) In a Spiritual sense, Abraham’s seed is the Christ, and those who put their love and trust in Him will receive Spiritual blessings now and life in the ages to come.
7. Curses To Those Who Curse
The promises to Abraham continue in Genesis 12:3, “and [I will] curse him that curseth thee.” This received a definite literal fulfillment in history as Isaiah 54:17 assures us, “No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper; and every tongue that shall rise against thee in judgment thou shalt condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD, and their righteousness is of me, saith the LORD.” Israel consequently was called “God’s battle-ax and weapons of war.” (Jer. 51:20) But an even greater Spiritual fulfillment is also true. Christ is Spiritually Abraham’s seed (Gal. 3:16), and all those who spurn His Salvation are in a state of condemnation in the eyes of God. Fortunately, as a loving Father, God’s judgments are remedial, aimed at the correction and turning of His children. The Apostle Paul expressed this theme in 1Cor 3:13-15, “Every man's work shall be made manifest: for the day [of judgment] shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is. If any man's work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.” The lake of Fire and God’s fiery indignation await the wicked and all unconverted sinners. That fire is called ‘aionian,’ age-lasting, in the original New Testament Greek, and does not last forever. In the ages to come, God’s wrath will be removed when He has purged the dross from the sinner’s life, restoring and reconciling him to His Father. So we shall be saved by fire!
8. All Families Blessed
Abraham is further promised in Genesis 12:3, “…and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.”Abraham’s descendants would be identifiable as the people throughout recorded history who did the most to help the world’s diverse peoples, both materially (with food, medicine, inventions and scientific achievements, etc., to help improve their physical lives), and Spiritually with the light of the gospel. What people sends out over 90 percent of the world’s Missionaries and Bible literature? The nations historically comprising “Christendom,” or Christ’s Kingdom on earth, are, and have been, fulfilling this prophecy to its very letter. Ultimately, every family on earth will receive a blessing through the seed of Abraham.
9. Many Nations
In Genesis 17:4-6, we are told, “As for me, behold, my covenant is with thee, and thou shalt be a father of many nations. Neither shall thy name any more be called Abram, but thy name shall be Abraham; for a father of many nations have I made thee. and I will make nations of thee, and kings shall come out of thee.” Israel’s 12 tribes, Abraham’s descendants, were to become literal nations having kings ruling over them. Few modern commentators will discuss this verse; most (such as the large ‘Pulpit Commentary’) just leave this tremendous prophecy unnoticed. One commentator stated that Israel was a nation in Old Testament times, they were again a nation at the time of Christ, they became a nation again in 1948, and that’s the many nations. But a parallel prophecy in Genesis 35:11 said that Israel would become “a company of nations;” many nations all at the same time! A study of history shows that during the Assyrian captivity beginning in 745 B.C., the Israelite tribes lost in Medo-Persia traveled north through the Caucasus Mountains to become the many nations of modern Europe.
Spiritually, the many nations are the Christian believers scattered throughout the earth, as the Apostle Paul expounds in Romans 4:16-18: “Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace; to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed; not to that only which is of the law, but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham; who is the father of us all, (As it is written, I have made thee a father of many nations,)…Who against hope believed in hope, that he might become the father of many nations; according to that which was spoken, So shall thy seed be.” In a Spiritual sense, all races and nationalities share in the Abrahamic Covenant, becoming part of the “many nations” through faith in Christ.
10. Exceeding Fruitful/Multiply Exceedingly
The final tremendous promise contained within the Abrahamic Covenant is found in Genesis 15:5-8, “Look now toward heaven, and tell the stars, if thou be able to number them: and he said unto him, So shall thy seed be.” Genesis 32:12 promises, “I will surely do thee good, and make thy seed as the sand of the sea, which cannot be numbered for multitude.” Again in Genesis 17: 2, 6, we are told, “And I will make my covenant between me and thee, and will multiply thee exceedingly… I will make thee exceeding fruitful.” And in Genesis 24:60, “They blessed Rebekah, and said unto her, Thou art our sister, be thou the mother of thousands of millions…” A thousand million is a billion people! Who do they represent?