Genesis 12:3b-7 ….”And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.” 4 So Abram went forth as the Lord had spoken to him; and Lot went with him. Now Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran. 5 Abram took Sarai his wife and Lot his nephew, and all their possessions which they had accumulated, and the persons which they had acquired in Haran, and they set out for the land of Canaan; thus they came to the land of Canaan. 6 Abram passed through the land as far as the site of Shechem, to the oak of Moreh. Now the Canaanite was then in the land. 7 The Lord appeared to Abram and said, “To your descendants I will give this land.” So he built an altar there to the Lord who had appeared to him.
In the Wednesday night, November 20, 2013 airing of the History Channel Program series: “Bible Secrets Revealed”, questions abounded as to whether or not the Bible clearly lays out who has rights of ownership to the Promised Land. In today’s post I want to further set the record straight by continuing to look at the very covenant God made with Abraham. My hope is that yesterday, today and tomorrow’s posts will make clear to readers what the Bible clearly states on the subject of the promised land, as well as clear up the errors and confusion espoused in the History Channel’s current series. Being that one of the main points in the second episode was whether or not the Biblical text itself is clear, the specific aim of this series of blogs is to demonstrate the clarity of scripture.
Yesterday we considered the significance of God’s Covenant to Abraham (The Abrahamic Covenant) in the manner of its significance to Bible Prophecy. We noted how the covenant first of all revealed God’s saving purposes, stretching from Adam and Eve, through Abraham all the the way to Christ’s first coming. We ended yesterday with the following little diagram:
Fall (Adam & Eve)–Noah–Shem—Abraham—————————–t
1. Concerning God’s creation, redemptive and kingdom purposes in the Bible as they relate to Israel, the church and Jesus Christ
We continue today by showing how the Abrahamic Covenant is God’s specific outline of not only His redemptive purposes of scripture, but also His Kingdom purposes as well. Before we move to that specific picture, the reader needs to understand how the Abrahamic Covenant relates to the Bible’s bigger picture of God’s purposes . The three big headings under which we can understand Biblical theology are: Creation, Redemption and Kingdom. The Abrahamic Covenant’s relationship to God’s creation purposes is so important because it shows how Abraham is connected ten generations back to Noah, who in turn is the tenth generation relating back to Adam.
A. Concerning God’s purposes for creation, the Abrahamic Covenant looks forward to how God is going to take an ultimate descendant from Abraham’s bloodline to bring about the salvation promised to Abraham, his physical heirs and ultimately, by extension, those spiritual heirs who by faith believe in the Ultimate descendant – the Lord Jesus Christ. In scripture we see Jesus referred to as the “New Adam” or “Second Adam” (Romans 5; 1 Corinthians 15), thus reminding us that touching His humanity, Jesus alone is the rightful heir not only to the earth, but also because of his lineage to Abraham, the rightful heir to the land of Israel. (please note the genealogy of Matthew 1:1-17)
B. The Kingdom purposes of God are outlined as well in the covenant to Abraham. Being that Jesus Christ is the ultimate heir of the Abrahamic Covenant, the question is: so then does that mean God is done with the nation of Israel? Not at all! Paul writes in Romans 11:25-26 that all Israel will be saved. Furthermore, at Jesus Christ’s second coming, Israel will look upon the one that they pierced and by grace through faith believe upon Jesus as their Messiah. (Zechariah 12:10; Revelation 1:7).
C. With the purposes for creation tied to the Abrahamic Covenant, and the Kingdom purposes marking its ultimate fulfillment, God’s redemptive purposes reveal the true intent for God revealing it. By virtue of the fact that the Jews are physically related to Jesus Christ in terms of His human nature; with the additional idea that Jesus Christ is in that same human nature physically related to Abraham, then through Jesus Christ alone can the Jewish nation claim rights to the promised land. Furthermore, the future redemption of Israel hinges upon their believing upon everything Jesus did for them in His cross and resurrection.
Believing Gentiles of this current age, by virtue of their redemptive connection to Jesus Christ, are regarded as spiritual heirs of Abraham. Though no land promises are afforded to the church, nonetheless with Israel the church is constituted as the people of God. The only distinctions we will note for now between Israel and the church are that Israel will inherit the promised land and enjoy its blessings with their Messiah in His future Millennial reign, whereas the redeemed church will reign with Christ on thrones beside Him in that same period. (Isaiah 11; Zechariah 12-14; Ephesians 2:1-6; Revelation 19-20)
2. God’s redemptive and Kingdom purposes specified in the Abrahamic Covenant
God promised Abraham three blessings: land, seed and blessing. In one respect those three promises were used by God to fulfill his saving purposes in Christ. Before moving further, it must be remarked that Genesis 12:1-7 is not only concerned about God’s saving purpose at large, but also in particular. Abram was an idolater who was called out of darkness into the saving light of God’s salvation. (Genesis 11:26-32; 12:4-6; Joshua 24:2-3) Without the saving purposes of God ever before us, we can lose sight of God’s personal involvement in bringing to pass His Kingdom purpose – which is the focus of today’s blog.
With the saving purpose of God in mind, the arrows in the above diagram point to another purpose behind God’s drafting of His covenant with Abraham – namely His Kingdom purpose.
God’s Kingdom Purpose in General – Genesis 12:3b-7
t–Spiritual Kingdom—–Physical Kingdom——-Eternal Kingdom
The purple writing of the diagram tells you that we are dealing with God’s royal Kingdom purpose in and through Jesus Christ. As you can see, the three main promises of God’s covenant with Abraham find some measure of spiritual fulfillment in this present age, however they all three end at the end of the physical kingdom or “millennium” (Christ’s 1,000 year reign) yet to come. With the simple diagram above, we will offer some commentary on how God’s kingdom purpose is to be unfolded in the Bible as a result of His covenant with Abraham:
A. Jesus spiritually began to reign over His church in heaven at His ascension – The “seed” dispenses the “blessing of Abraham” to fellow spiritual “seeds”, the church
The connection between God’s covenant with Abraham and Jesus Christ points to God’s kingdom purpose. When Jesus came into this world, a major shift in God’s plan for history was set into motion. Jesus began preaching in Matthew 4:17 that the people needed to repent, for “the kingdom of Heaven was at hand”. What is the Kingdom of Heaven or what is elsewhere called “the kingdom of God”? The kingdom of God (or heaven) refers to the rule and reign of God. God is the ruler, all creation is His realm and His people are the subjects over which He rules. Clearly not everyone either acknowledges the reality of the Kingdom nor realizes its reality. However the Bible is clear that the Kingdom of God is to be manifest or made plain in stages: spiritually or redemptively (now), physcially (future millennium) and eternally.1
The following diagram depicts what we have discussed thus far:
t–Spiritual Kingdom—-Physical Kingdom——-Eternal Kingdom
“land”—————————- The Kingdom of God was to be ever associated with Jesus Christ, who upon His ascension, would be inaugurated as its rightful King. God the Father then sent the Holy Spirit in the name of His newly crowned Son to empower the church overwhich He now reigns. Though the church right now is the focal-point of God’s kingdom plan, the idea of her replacing Israel has no final and ultimate support in scripture. Israel will become more central whenever Christ returns and the Kingdom becomes more visible. In the meantime, Christians are termed heirs of God and co-heirs with Jesus, ruling and reigning with Him positionally in the heavenly realms. (Ephesians 2:6-8) In the language of Galatians 3:29 – “And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to promise.”
B. Jesus is already reigning, however He has yet to return to make visible the Kingdom of God here on earth. When He returns, the land, seed and blessing promises of Abraham’s covenant will be made complete.
The kingdom of God is not always going to remain invisible. As Jesus teaches his disciples His famous “Lord’s Prayer”: “Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven”. Jesus is right now ruling and reigning as King over His church in a spiritual and invisible sense. (Acts 2:32-36)2
In order for the land promise of Abraham’s covenant to be completely fulfilled, there has to be a future time in which Israel occupies that land and fulfills her role as a light to the nations. The reader must keep in mind the important distinction that exists between Israel and the Church. As will be shown in the diagram below, the church does not have a “land” to speak of, since her inheritance is directly in Christ. Israel however is heir to the promised land, and will receive such due to her future saving relationship to Christ by faith and repentance. (Zechariah 12:10; Romans 11:25-26) The time period will occur when Christ restores Israel and reigns in her land with His saints (the church) for 1,000 years. (1 Corinthians 15:23-28; Revelation 20:1-15) Below we see another detail added to the little diagram we have been using:
t–Spiritual Kingdom—-Physical Kingdom——-Eternal Kingdom
(present age, church) (Millennium or 1,000 yrs)
3. Why Abraham’s Covenant and God’s kingdom purposes are important to Christian’s today
If God fails to keep his promise to Abraham in Genesis 12:1-7, then that means He could break His promises to Christians. Why? The Bible is clear: Christian salvation is forever linked to God’s dealings with the man named Abraham and his chief heir, Jesus Christ. (Romans 4:16; Galatians 3:16) In order for us to be with God for eternity, there has to be a time wherein the present invisible, spiritual kingdom over which Christ reigns in his church becomes visible here on earth. Let us consider our little diagram once more with one final detail added:
t–Spiritual Kingdom—-Physical Kingdom——-Eternal Kingdom
(present age, church) (Millennium or 1,000 yrs) (Age to Come)
Unless God fulfills his promise to Abraham and Israel, God’s Kingdom purpose will not get to that final stage – namely the Eternal kingdom stage.3 This is why the Abrahamic Covenant of Genesis 12:1-7 stands so prominently as a top Bible prophecy for the Christian. May you and I study it and praise God for it, since it is the basis for Christian faith both in the present age and the ages to come.
1. Jesus said to his disciples that because of his first coming, the kingdom of God was already beginning to dawn inside their hearts. (Luke 17:21) In fact, Jesus Himself was the very embodiment and proof of the Kingdom’s reality. The Kingdom of God as the primary spiritual reality can only be entered in by grace through faith or what Jesus calls the “New Birth”. (John 3:3) So in assigning a name to this first aspect or stage of the Kingdom, we can term this the redemptive Kingdom of God. This redemptive kingdom is the current realm of God’s kingdom activity, entered into by grace through faith in the Gospel and enjoyed in the foyer of the kingdom – the church.
2. However there is what Bible teachers call a “not-yet” aspect to the kingdom, namely the physical, visible aspect. God’s kingdom purpose includes Christ coming a second time in a visible, Personal and Physical return. (Titus 2:13) Without getting bogged dow into too much detail, when Christ returns three main events will occur that relate to fulfilling the Abrahamic Covenant:
a. He will rescue His saints from the earth before God’s final outpouring of wrath. (1 Thessalonians 1:10; 4:13-18; 5:19)
b. Israel as a nation, the “seed” related to Christ (and thus Abraham) will be saved. (Romans 11:25-26)
c. Christ will begin to reign in Jerusalem, over the whole earth for 1,000 years (what is called “the millennium”, meaning “1,000 years) (Revelation 20:1-20)
3. Passages such as 1 Corinthians 15:23-28 indicates that before Christ can hand over His redemptive Kingdom to the Father to go into the Eternal Kingdom, there has to be some type of a physical, earthly kingdom. What God indicates as His kingdom purpose in Genesis 12:7 must include the 1,000 year reign spelled out plainly and clearly in Revelation 20:1-20 and other passages.
- P1 – Why the Promised Land belongs to Israel: A response to “Episode 2: Bible Secrets Revealed” (biblicalexegete.wordpress.com)