You are hereThe Seed of Abraham
The Seed of Abraham
by John McPherson
As promised, I would like to present an article focusing on the nature of our Covenant relationship with God today, and the Scriptural, historical basis for it. In the face of charges of “deism, nihilism, hyper-cessationalism”, etc. it is important to establish the continuing relevance and Biblical validity of the relationship between the God of the Israel and ourselves, post-AD 70.As promised, I would like to present an article focusing on the nature of our Covenant relationship with God today, and the Scriptural, historical basis for it. In the face of charges of “deism, nihilism, hyper-cessationalism”, etc. it is important to establish the continuing relevance and Biblical validity of the relationship between the God of the Israel and ourselves, post-AD 70.Antecedent to the Old Covenant spiritual economy of Israel founded in the giving of the Law to Moses on Mt. Sinai, another Covenant was made with a man who was called to separate himself from the rest of mankind and devote himself to the Creator, as His God. This man was Abram (later, Abraham). We are told that he lived in Chaldea, moved to Haran with his father, and was approached there by God concerning a land of promise to which He would guide Him. God urged him to leave his father and his father’s house, and allow Him to guide Abram to a new homeland. Abram chose to respond in faith, and trust God to fulfill His promise.
1 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. 2 I will make you a great nation; I will bless you And make your name great; And you shall be a blessing. 3 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." (Gen. 12:1-3)
In the Scriptures we encounter various terms (such as “world”, “heavens” and “earth”) used metaphorically within certain contexts and types of literature. In narratives, such as the one in which this promise from God to Abram/Abraham appears, we are obligated to handle the language in literal terms. Thus, “all the families of the earth” has a planetary significance, rather than a geographically specific, limited frame of reference (such as is found in the usage of “earth” in the prophetic, apocalyptic literature of the major and minor prophets).
With this initial promise to Abram in mind, we are able to track his relationship with God in a different setting than that established in God’s Covenant relationship with the Nation of Israel, as governed by the later Mosaic Covenant. The personal relationship that developed between Abram and God was repeatedly put to the test. God tested Abram and Abram (later Abraham) tested God. But God initiated their relationship, as is evident in Genesis 11, and God guided Abram’s development into a close and personal friend.
In Abram’s relationship with God, there was both a physical and a spiritual element. True to His promise, God led Abram to the land of Canaan, and there made him this promise, in Genesis 12:7, ”7 Then the Lord appeared to Abram and said, "To your descendants I will give this land." And there he built an altar to the Lord, who had appeared to him.”
This was a promise to grant to Abraham’s physical descendants property rights to a specific geographical location on this planet. As the history of Abraham’s physical descendants – the nation of Israel - progressed, God fulfilled this promise – to the letter. By the time Joshua 21:43-45 was penned, the promise was completely fulfilled. ”43 So the Lord gave to Israel all the land of which He had sworn to give to their fathers, and they took possession of it and dwelt in it. 44 The Lord gave them rest all around, according to all that He had sworn to their fathers. And not a man of all their enemies stood against them; the Lord delivered all their enemies into their hand. 45 Not a word failed of any good thing which the Lord had spoken to the house of Israel. All came to pass.”
God made a further Covenant with Abraham, in Genesis 17. This one had spiritual overtones, and a more eternal focus.
1 When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to Abram and said to him, "I am Almighty God; walk before Me and be blameless. 2 And I will make My covenant between Me and you, and will multiply you exceedingly." 3 Then Abram fell on his face, and God talked with him, saying: 4 "As for Me, behold, My covenant is with you, and you shall be a father of many nations. 5 No longer shall your name be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham; for I have made you a father of many nations. 6 I will make you exceedingly fruitful; and I will make nations of you, and kings shall come from you. 7 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. 8 Also I give to you and your descendants after you the land in which you are a stranger, all the land of Canaan, as an everlasting possession; and I will be their God." 9 And God said to Abraham: "As for you, you shall keep My covenant, you and your descendants after you throughout their generations. 10 This is My covenant which you shall keep, between Me and you and your descendants after you: Every male child among you shall be circumcised; 11 and you shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskins, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between Me and you. 12 He who is eight days old among you shall be circumcised, every male child in your generations, he who is born in your house or bought with money from any foreigner who is not your descendant. 13 He who is born in your house and he who is bought with your money must be circumcised, and My covenant shall be in your flesh for an everlasting covenant. 14 And the uncircumcised male child, who is not circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin, that person shall be cut off from his people; he has broken My covenant."
This eternal Covenant was initially tied in to the land of Canaan, and to literal, physical circumcision. As time passed, and the physical Nation of Israel repeatedly violated her Covenant with the God of Abraham (and Israel), the spiritual element in this Covenant was emphasized, the physical aspect having been declared fulfilled (Josh. 21:43-45). The eternal significance of this Covenant became apparent and was realized in Abraham’s expectations concerning a “land of promise” AFTER this life. We read the following, in Heb. 11:8-10, ”8 By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to the place which he would receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. 9 By faith he dwelt in the land of promise as in a foreign country, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise; 10 for he waited for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God.”
Further on in that chapter we read, ”13 These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. 14 For those who say such things declare plainly that they seek a homeland. 15 And truly if they had called to mind that country from which they had come out, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 But now they desire a better, that is, a heavenly country. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them.”
Abraham and his SPIRITUAL descendants (those who exercised faith in God) anticipated a heavenly country and a city “whose builder and maker was God”. God built a heavenly city, governing a heavenly country for his saints (those who exercise Abraham’s faith in Him) to enjoy eternally.
This is further confirmed in Romans 9:6-8, “6 But it is not that the word of God has taken no effect. For they are not all Israel who are of Israel, 7 nor are they all children because they are the seed of Abraham; but, "In Isaac your seed shall be called." 8 That is, those who are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God; but the children of the promise are counted as the seed.”
Which “promise” is in view, in v.8 (above)? I believe the “children of the promise” were those referred to in both Gen. 17 AND Gen. 22:15-18, “15 Then the Angel of the Lord called to Abraham a second time out of heaven, 16 and said: "By Myself I have sworn, says the Lord, because you have done this thing, and have not withheld your son, your only son-- 17 blessing I will bless you, and multiplying I will multiply your descendants as the stars of the heaven and as the sand which is on the seashore; and your descendants shall possess the gate of their enemies. 18 In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice."
Clearly, God planned to increase and multiply Abraham’s descendants infinitely. While God employed figurative terminology to indicate a vast number, here (“as the stars of heaven and as the sand which is on the seashore”), in reality, Abraham’s descendants both physical AND spiritual before 70 AD were not quite so numerous as this language would suggest. Furthermore, “all nations of the earth” being blessed in (and through) his descendants is indicative of fulfillment at a global level, involving mankind as a whole. Thus, we see implied in these promises an eternal commitment extending beyond the termination of the OC Israelite “world” in 70 AD. We see God Covenanting with Abraham to multiply his “seed of promise” ( Spiritual Israel, descended through Isaac) to the extent that it would be a numberless, essentially infinite and eternal Nation.
Jacob's (Israel's) comments in Gen. 32:11,12 further establish this view of the nature of his own (and Abraham's) descendants, “11 Deliver me, I pray, from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau; for I fear him, lest he come and attack me and the mother with the children. 12 For You said, 'I will surely treat you well, and make your descendants as the sand of the sea, which cannot be numbered for multitude.' "
Many Full Preterists have been wondering how we can view the cessation and passing of the Church (from this realm) with the removal of the New Testament generation (at AD 70) as meaning anything other than a cessation of all possibility of Covenant relationship with the God of Israel for ourselves, today. I have been accused of promoting “deism, nihilism and anarchism” at various times. The ultimate intent of such accusations was to highlight the seeming discrepancy between my belief that the God of the Bible (and the Scriptures themselves) have any relevance or real, active relationship with us today, while maintaining that a rigorously, contextually consistent treatment of the pertinent Scriptures requires that we view the New Testament Church as a highly unique entity which, upon its perfection and completion as a “corporate body”, was removed to heaven to dwell with Christ Jesus eternally as His wife (His Body/Bride). Surely, if we have no direct involvement with that Church as members thereof, then New Testament Christianity has no relevance to, or bearing upon our lives, and the Scriptures themselves are no more than an ancient literary artifact of moderate interest to scholars. This argument leveled at my position fails to take into account the reality that those who demonstrate the faith of Abraham, are counted as his seed and are partakers in his eternal Covenant with God. Truly, as Abraham was invited to launch out into the unknown, trusting God to guide, protect and sustain him in his journeys to a land of promise, so we also are invited (at the point of our conversion and spiritual rebirth) to move forward on the great adventure of life, with God as our Guide/Sustainer/Provider/Protector. When we demonstrate a willingness to trust Him and His Wisdom rather than our own, we have taken that great step of Abrahamic faith. We have become his seed by faith, and are recognized and marked as such by God.
Paul referred to the inward “mark” placed upon the heart by the God of Abraham/Israel, in Romans 2:28,29, ”28 For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh; 29 but he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, not in the letter; whose praise is not from men but from God.”
Conversion by faith in God alone is a New Covenant characteristic that superseded all Old Covenant physical, legal requirements and outward signs. The inner man is renewed, and the Holy Spirit’s work of regeneration is a form of spiritual circumcision – “circumcision of the heart”. This circumcision marks one as a member of that Spiritual Nation referred to in Gal. 4:26-31, “26 but the Jerusalem above is free, which is the mother of us all. 27 For it is written: "Rejoice, O barren, You who do not bear! Break forth and shout, You who are not in labor! For the desolate has many more children Than she who has a husband." 28 Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are children of promise. 29 But, as he who was born according to the flesh then persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit, even so it is now. 30 Nevertheless what does the Scripture say? "Cast out the bondwoman and her son, for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the freewoman." 31 So then, brethren, we are not children of the bondwoman but of the free.”
It will undoubtedly be pointed out that, according to the hermeneutic I have presented here in other articles, we have no business viewing ourselves as included in any of Paul’s statements, above, concerning “children of promise” and Jerusalem being the “mother of us all”. However, these New Testament saints (admittedly a unique generation, who were, exclusively, the Body and Bride of Christ) were also part of a much larger Nation – the spiritual Nation whose forefather was Abraham. Paul clearly references their participation in THAT Nation, in Gal. 4, as “the Jerusalem above” is identified as Sarah – the wife of Abraham, and her offspring (the “seed of promise and faith”) are the descendants and citizens thereof.
Paul spoke of his citizenship (and that of the NT saints) as being in heaven, in Phil. 3:20, “20 For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself.” Clearly, Paul tied in the First Century expectations concerning the Parousia of Christ (that occurred in their lifetimes and was exclusive to their experience) with their citizenship in heaven. But do we have any right to consider our own, spiritual experience as enabling us to participate in that same citizenship and transformation into a glorious body? I believe we do. I believe that the Spiritual Nation referred to in Romans 9 and Gal. 4 is both eternal AND continually augmented by the addition of new proselytes to its infinite population.
1 Oh, give thanks to the Lord! Call upon His name; Make known His deeds among the peoples! 2 Sing to Him, sing psalms to Him; Talk of all His wondrous works! 3 Glory in His holy name; Let the hearts of those rejoice who seek the Lord! 4 Seek the Lord and His strength; Seek His face evermore! 5 Remember His marvelous works which He has done, His wonders, and the judgments of His mouth, 6 O seed of Abraham His servant, You children of Jacob, His chosen ones! 7 He is the Lord our God; His judgments are in all the earth.
8 He remembers His covenant forever, The word which He commanded, for a thousand generations, 9 The covenant which He made with Abraham, And His oath to Isaac, 10 And confirmed it to Jacob for a statute, To Israel as an everlasting covenant, 11 Saying, "To you I will give the land of Canaan As the allotment of your inheritance," 12 When they were few in number, Indeed very few, and strangers in it. (Psalm 105:1-12)
It is evident, then, that Abraham’s seed and lineage are eternal, being manifested in the eternal “house” or Nation of Spiritual Israel. As participants in that Spiritual Nation, through exercising the faith of Abraham in the God of Israel, we experience the spiritual circumcision accomplished by God within each true spiritual proselyte and newly regenerated citizen of the Kingdom of Heaven (Spiritual Nation of Israel). The infinitely growing, eternally developing Abrahamic “race” to which Spiritual Israelites belong has the heavenly City of Zion ( the New Jerusalem) as its “capital city” and seat of governing authority. God alone governs this Kingdom, and sovereignly administers it on an individual basis. The “corporate” element in our experience is not a necessity but a by-product of our Covenant relationship with Him in this Kingdom. Truly, as Abraham’s spiritual descendants, we are like the stars of the heavens (Gen. 15:5; 22:17), not only in number but in individual glory. We uniquely manifest God’s wisdom and glory according to our individual capacities to assimilate His Truth, righteousness and Person within the spiritual darkness surrounding us, and forming a backdrop to the glory of God’s Light and Truth. The necessary contrast thus created further magnifies the wondrous beauty of our Creator and King’s essence and Being.
Heb. 8:6-13 is a passage that has been considered carefully within the context of our present ecclesiology, but there is another significant aspect to this text. Here it is again.
6 But now He has obtained a more excellent ministry, inasmuch as He is also Mediator of a better covenant, which was established on better promises. 7 For if that first covenant had been faultless, then no place would have been sought for a second. 8 Because finding fault with them, He says: "Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah-- 9 not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they did not continue in My covenant, and I disregarded them, says the Lord. 10 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My laws in their mind and write them on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. 11 None of them shall teach his neighbor, and none his brother, saying, 'Know the Lord,' for all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them. 12 For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more." 13 In that He says, "A new covenant," He has made the first obsolete. Now what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.
What is truly noteworthy (in terms of this particular article) in the bold-type verses, above, is that the “house of Israel” (spiritual descendants of Abraham) continues BEYOND the events of 70 AD (the clear inference of the language both verses 10 and 13). The spiritual forefathers of the Abrahamic Nation and race lived under the old, Mosaic Covenant referenced in v.9. The New Covenant established in and through Christ Jesus and His First Century Body/Bride represents the eternal perpetuation of the ultimate fulfillment of God’s Covenant with Abraham. Indeed, we have much to celebrate in our citizenship in this infinite, eternal Nation and Kingdom.
Serving the True, eternal Kingdom of Heaven,