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IMPORTANT BIBLE TOPICS

Photo by K. Mitch Hodge on Unsplash.
This stained glass window depicts Melchizedek, Abraham and Isacc.

Abraham

In this series of articles, we come now to a key character − Abraham. We have already seen that the purpose of God is ultimately to fill the earth with immortal beings who reflect His glory. God made promises to Abraham that have a vital bearing on this scheme of human salvation from sin and death.

When we considered "The Fall of Man" in the Garden of Eden (see Light on an New World Volume 30.4), we noted that God made a promise that someone would be born into the world who would destroy sin and death and save mankind. After the flood of Noah's time, God singled out one righteous man to develop His plan. We will see that Abraham was to be a key figure in the development of the divine plan.

A new name

Abraham's original name was Abram which means "exalted father". When making the promises to him the second time, God changed Abram’s name to Abraham which means "Father of a Multitude" (Genesis 17:4-5). Abraham is called the friend of God and is an outstanding example of one who had complete faith in God's Word.

  • Read Isaiah 41.8 and James 2:23.

For the remainder of this article we will use the name Abraham. How was Abraham selected by God? Abraham lived in Ur of the Chaldees (now in Iraq) about 1,900 years before Christ. Genesis 11:27-31 tells us about this. Stephen, in recounting the history of God's chosen people in the first century AD, confirms the Genesis account.

  • Acts 7:2-4

Genesis 12 :1-3 tells us that Abraham was instructed by God to leave Ur and travel to a land that God would show him. This was his first major act of faith. There is no record that he questioned God. He trusted in God and believed the promises that He made to him. He was led, with his household, to the land of Canaan, known today as Israel.

The promises to Abraham

Read Genesis 12: 4-5 and compare it with what the New Testament writers have to say about the same narrative in Hebrews 11:8 and Romans 4:20. The terms of the promises to Abraham were simple:

  1. God would lead him to a land that he would inherit.
  2. This land would be Abraham’s inheritance forever together with hisdescendants. Think of the implications of this for the future, knowingthat God does not lie or go back on His promises.
    • Read carefully Genesis 13:14-17.
  3. Abraham’s descendants ("seed" in the Bible) would develop into agreat nation as numerous as the dust of the earth.
    • Genesis 13:16
  4. One of his descendants would have power over his enemies.
    • Genesis 22:17 KJV
  5. Through his offspring ("seed") all nations would be blessed
    • Compare Genesis 22:18 with Galatians 3:8 and 3:16.

From these 5 points above it is important to note that:

  • The gospel message, which so many only associate with the New Testament, finds its roots in the book of Genesis.
  • Abraham believed the gospel. Galatians chapter 3 demonstrates this quite clearly.
  • The "land of promise" is a clearly defined part of the earth. It should be noted that neither the promises to Abraham, nor the gospel message, contain anything about going to heaven.

The promises were not fulfilled in Abraham's lifetime The New Testament tells us that the promises to Abraham have not yet been fulfilled (Hebrews 11:13); even to the extent that Abraham had to buy a field in the promised land to bury his wife.

  • Read: Genesis 23; Acts 7:16.

But this did not mean these were hollow promises made to Abraham. They were repeated to Abraham's son Isaac and grandson Jacob (later renamed Israel).

  • Read: Genesis 26:1-6; 28:13-14; Hebrews 11:8-9.

The sacrifice of Isaac

There is clear evidence that Abraham looked well beyond his own immediate lifetime for the promises to be fulfilled. The major evidence of this is that Abraham was asked by God to sacrifice his son. Yet Abraham’s son Isaac was miraculously born to Abraham and Sarah in their old age, when they were well past child-bearing. Also, God had told Abraham that the promises would be fulfilled through Isaac, and not through his other sons.

God gave Abraham a major test of faith by asking him to sacrifice Isaac, his heir. On the surface this seems to make no sense, until we recognise that Abraham believed in the resurrection and the fulfilment of the promises being, humanly speaking, a long-term plan. At the last moment, the angel of the Lord intervened, preventing the sacrifice and, in a sense, Abraham received his son back from the dead.

  • Read Genesis 22:1-14 and compare with Hebrews 11:17-19.

Some 1,900 years after the time of Abraham, Jesus Christ offered himself as a sacrifice and God raised him from the dead three days later.

The Nation of Israel

The people of Israel, the Jews, are descendants of Abraham through Isaac and Jacob, whose name was changed to Israel. If we follow the Genesis narrative closely, we learn how Jacob's descendants (the children of Israel) became a nation. Several hundred years later, after a period of captivity in Egypt, this large nation, led by Joshua, entered the land promised to Abraham. The promise to Abraham was partly fulfilled (I Kings 4:20). But the people rebelled against God and they were eventually exiled from the land.

  • Compare Leviticus 26:33 with 2 Kings 25:8-11.

Whilst there is a Jewish state of Israel today, it is constrained by international politics and a lack of recognition by most that they are still God’s people. They will be restored to their rightful status when Jesus Christ returns to the earth. The promises to Abraham will then be completely fulfilled.

Jesus was born and spent his life 2,000 years ago confirming the promises.

  • Read Luke 1:68-75.

But the promises are not yet fulfilled, even in 2020, some 3,900 years or so after they were made.

  • Read Hebrews 11:39-40.

Jesus Christ is the seed of Abraham

The word "seed" in the Bible can be singular or plural but, in this context, refers to one particular descendant or offspring. The Bible makes it clear that Jesus was descended from Abraham (see for example Matthew 1:1). Here is a very important New Testament perspective written by the Apostle Paul: "Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He does not say, "And to seeds", as of many, but as of one, "And to your seed", who is Christ'" (Galatians 3:16). Abraham looked forward to the coming of Christ and, by the "eye of faith", he 'saw' him.

  • John 8:56

We can now begin to see that the promises to Abraham in Genesis are the basis of the Christian hope.

  • Read Hebrews 6:13-20.

We can also see that the Gospel message in the Bible and the hope it offers, is in essence a Jewish hope.

  • Read John 4:22; Acts 26:6; 28:20.

The promise to Abraham is the basis of what the Bible terms "the new covenant". The "old covenant" was based on the "Law of Moses" and, although this came into being after the covenant with Abraham, it has been taken away, making it the "old covenant". The covenant with Abraham remains as "the new covenant" which has been endorsed by Christ's death and resurrection.

  • Read Matthew 26:28; Romans 15:8.

The conclusion of this section has a strong message for us. Those who believe in the Gospel contained in the 'old and new covenants' and follow the directions for individuals by being baptised 'into Christ', become, by adoption, the seed of Abraham and heirs of the promises.

If you only look at one Bible reading suggested in this article, you are strongly recommended to read Galatians 3.

This is a most important summary chapter that brings the 'old and new' covenants together.

How will the promises to Abraham be fulfilled?

  1. The Lord Jesus Christ will return to the Earth (Acts 1:11), see articles on the "Second Coming of Jesus to the Earth"
  2. Jesus will destroy all human rule and authority and establish himselfas king. God said to Abraham: "Thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies"
    • Genesis 22:17 KJV; Psalm 2
  3. The throne of this worldwide kingdom will be in Jerusalem, in theland of Israel and the kingdom will last for ever. God speaking toAbraham: "... all the land which you see I give to you and your descendants (seed) for ever"
    • Genesis 13:15; Luke 1:32; Isaiah 9: 6-7;Isaiah 2:1-4
  4. A great multitude of believers will be with Jesus, both Jews andGentiles, who will share rulership of the Kingdom. God speaking toAbraham: "I will multiply your seed as the stars of the heaven"
    • Genesis 22:17; Revelation 3:21; Revelation 5:9-11
  5. Most of these believers will have been raised from the dead andamong them will be Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, who will finallyreceive their eternal reward
    • Daniel 12:1-2, Matthew 8:11
  6. Christ's reign will result in peace and happiness for all mankind.God said to Abraham: "In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed". This will be the Kingdom of God on earth.
    • Genesis 22:18;Psalm 72; Isaiah 11

Conclusion

The promises of God to Abraham are fundamental to the purpose of God with the earth. They provide conclusive evidence that God has a plan and purpose with mankind. The plan is centred on Abraham's descendants, the nation of Israel, and particularly on one man, the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus himself said "salvation is of the Jews"

  • John 4:22

Non-Jews (Gentiles) can share in this covenant by believing the Gospel message which was first preached to Abraham, and by obeying Christ's command to be baptised. By doing so they become adopted as part of Abraham's seed − "spiritual Israel". Paul wrote that Abraham is "the father of all those that believe."

  • Romans 4:11

In just the same way that Abraham did, we need to have complete faith in God. We need to strive to follow Abraham's outstanding example of obedience to God. The call of the gospel is to "come out from among them and be separate"

  • 2 Corinthians 6:17

Abraham forsook the city he once dwelt in because "he waited for the city which has foundations whose builder and maker is God"

  • Hebrews 11:10

He became a stranger and a pilgrim in the earth because he had complete faith in the future fulfilment of God’s promises

  • Hebrews 11:13

As we grow in knowledge of God's purpose, so our confidence increases. This is how faith grows. As faith and understanding grow, so does humility. A demonstration of our faith and humility is to obey Christ's command to be baptised. Once baptised, our knowledge and our faith continue to grow, and we can look forward to the time when God's promises to Abraham and his descendants will become reality.

Hebrews 11:39 says this: "And all these (men and women listed earlier in the chapter), having obtained a good testimony through faith, did not receive the promise". But they will when Christ returns to raise the dead and establish the Kingdom of God on earth.

Source Light on a New World - Volume 31.4

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