The Abrahamic Covenant
Nations Shall Be Blessed
Indeed I will greatly … multiply your seed as the stars of the heavens and as the sand which is on the seashore.—Genesis 22:17, NASB
The Abrahamic promise is one of the most comprehensive covenants in the Bible: “By myself I have sworn, declares the LORD, because you have done this thing, and have not withheld your son, your only son, indeed I will greatly bless you, and I will greatly multiply your seed as the stars of the heavens and as the sand which is on the seashore; and your seed shall possess the gate of their enemies. And in your seed all the nations of the earth shall bless themselves [see margin], because you have obeyed my voice” (Genesis 22:16-18, NASB).
This promise states God’s will for his human creation, and it is the foundation for the redemption provided through Jesus and the blessings that men will receive by it. God saw in Abraham possibilities of faith and devotion that were acceptable, and so offered him the privilege of being the channel of intended blessings to mankind. But Abraham did not receive the “Abrahamic promise” immediately.
This is the original promise:“Now the LORD said to Abram, Go forth from your country, And from your relatives and from your father’s house, to the land which I will show you; and I will make you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great; and so you shall be a blessing; and I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse. And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” (Genesis 12:1-3, NASB)
Over time the promise was expanded. In Genesis 13:15,16, the allusion to the “dust of the earth” is added: “For all the land which thou seest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed for ever. And I will make thy seed as the dust of the earth: so that if a man can number the dust of the earth, then shall thy seed also be numbered.” The phrase “the stars of heaven” was added later: “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 15:5).
God’s promise was unconditional, but Abraham had to prove his faith and degree of dedication: “By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac; and he who had received the promises was offering up his only begotten son; it was he to whom it was said, IN ISAAC YOUR DESCENDANTS SHALL BE CALLED. He considered that God is able to raise men even from the dead; from which he also received him back as a type.” (Hebrews 11:17-19, NASB) Because Abraham acted according to his belief, God promised him by oath, through the Abrahamic promise, that his seed would bless all the nations of earth (Genesis 22:16-18).
Bible Students have long understood “stars” and “sand” to convey a deeper meaning than just a vast number. The “stars” picture the heavenly seed of Abraham (the church of the firstborn), while the “sand” pictures the earthly seed of Abraham (which will ultimately include all of restored mankind).
In Genesis 15 Abraham asked for an assurance of God’s promise of a child. At this time Abraham had no child at all, and it appeared that his inheritance would fall to one of his servants, “Eliezer of Damascus” (Genesis 15:2,3; cf. 14:14). But the Lord assured him, “This man will not be your heir; but one who will come forth from your own body, he shall be your heir” (Genesis 15:4, NASB). Paul stated this promised child was Isaac, who pictured the spiritual seed of Abraham (Galatians 3:16,29; 4:28). God continued by telling Abraham to “look toward the heavens, and count the stars, if you are able to count them. And he said to him, So shall your descendants be” (Genesis 15:5, NASB). So the promise of Isaac was tied to the stars, just as we would expect if the stars picture the spiritual seed of Abraham, as Isaac did.
This linkage of the stars with Isaac is continued when God repeated the Abrahamic promise to Isaac, for God used only the symbol of stars to describe Isaac’s seed: “I will multiply your descendants as the stars of heaven, and will give your descendants all these lands; and by your descendants all the nations of the earth shall be blessed” (Genesis 26:4, NASB).
The apostle Paul wrote of the seed of this promise, made to Abraham and then to Isaac: “Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. He does not say, And to seeds, as referring to many, but rather to one, And to your seed, that is, Christ” (Galatians 3:16, NASB).
Who is this Christ of whom Paul wrote? The term “Christ” means “the anointed,” and refers to Jesus AND his followers. Paul confirmed this: “Now you are Christ’s body, and individually members of it” (1 Corinthians 12:27, NASB). It is with this larger “Christ,” Jesus as the Head and his followers as the Body, in mind that Paul continued his explanation: “If ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise” (Galatians 3:29). Here Paul clearly identified the “seed of Abraham” as Jesus Christ and his followers.
In Romans Paul discussed the question of our relationship with God as sons and shows that acceptance is the result of his grace through our faith in the sacrifice of Jesus as a ransom for Adam (Romans 3:22-26). He emphasizes the fact that just as favor came to Abraham through faith, so favor comes to us through faith. The importance of faith is reiterated again in the fourth chapter: “Now it was not written for his sake alone, that it was imputed to him; but for us also, to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead; who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification” (Romans 4:23-25). Paul summed it up: “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: by whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God” (Romans 5:1,2).
Paul stated that the ransom provided through the sacrifice of Jesus is the basis for acceptance with God. Furthermore, in the test placed upon Abraham in the offering up of his son Isaac, there is a picture of the sacrifice of Jesus—“the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world” (Revelation 13:8; cf., 1 Peter 1:19,20). In due time Christ Jesus, the Lamb of God, the promised seed through Abraham, offered himself willingly for the sins of the world (Matthew 20:28; 1 Timothy 2:5-6). The sacrifice offered by Abraham in place of Isaac was a ram, provided by God, showing that Abraham’s offering of Isaac was accepted as if he had been slain on the altar. Thus, we have proof that God’s action in justifying Abraham by faith was based upon the coming sacrifice of the son of God.
The Covenant given to Abraham was by God’s grace, and, in accordance with its promise, The Christ, Head and Body, is the Seed that will bring blessings to all the families of the earth. By faith Abraham received the covenant, by faith he was justified, and by faith Sarah conceived and brought forth the child of promise long after she had passed the child-bearing stage of her life.
In Galatians 4:21-31 Paul proceeded to show that Sarah, the original and true wife of Abraham, pictured the Promise Covenant God had given him. He stated that the true seed, the great antitypical Isaac, is Christ—“To thy seed, which is Christ” (Galatians 3:16). But, lest his readers misunderstand and think that he referred only to Jesus, Paul said: “If ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed and heirs according to the promise” (Galatians 3:29).
The Christ, Head and Body, is one Seed. Together, they constitute the Child of Promise, and are the offspring of the same mother or covenant. A child cannot have one mother for its head and another mother for its body. Paul showed that the same is true of the spiritual seed. He stated that both Jesus and the church are the seed of Abraham through the promise represented in Sarah. As Isaac was the child of promise through Sarah, so “We brethren, as Isaac was, are the children of promise” (Galatians 4:28). “For both he that sanctifieth and they that are sanctified are all of one [promise, covenant, spirit]: for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren” (Hebrews 2:11).
So, being one with our Lord, children of the same father through the same mother (covenant) and begotten of the same spirit, these share with their head (Jesus) in the same baptism, drink the same cup, die the same death, partake of the same kinds of sufferings, and are crucified together (Mark 10:38,39; Romans 6:3,4; Galatians 2:20; 1 Peter 4:12,13). Because they follow Jesus in all these earthly experiences, they are promised a share in his glory, are made partakers of his inheritance, rejoice in the same hope, have part in the same resurrection, are raised to the same degree of life (immortality on the divine plane of existence), and will be manifested with Jesus in glory, to share with him the office of judge, priest, and king (Romans 6:5; Philippians 3:10,11; 2 Thessalonians 2:14; 1 Peter 2:9,10; 1 Peter 4:13; Revelation 20:4,6).
As Isaac was brought forth through faith, by the grace of God in exercising his power to make it possible, so the antitypical Isaac, Christ, head and body, are the seed-of-promise covenant through faith, and through the exercise of God’s grace in begetting them by his holy spirit.
Following in the footsteps of Jesus, each member of this seed must exercise faith and obedience; each must forsake all earthly prospects and become a pilgrim and a stranger in the earth; and each must present his body “a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God” (Matthew 16:24, 25; Romans 12:1; 2 Corinthians 5:7; 1 Peter 1:3). These steps result in an individual covenant which, if faithfully performed, will make “sure” the calling and election of each follower to a place in the body of Christ, granted through the begettal and sealing of the holy spirit. It is these individual covenants that the psalmist spoke of when he wrote, “Gather my saints together unto me, those that have made a covenant with me by sacrifice” (Psalm 50:5).
This term first appears in connection with Abraham’s offering of Isaac. That event pictured the death of Jesus as the ransom for mankind, which assures the blessing of all those of the heavenly seed of Abraham, and all those of the earthly seed.
This earthly seed includes the nation of Israel and all mankind. The apostle wrote: “For I do not want you, brethren, to be uninformed of this mystery—so that you will not be wise in your own estimation—that a partial hardening has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in” (Romans 11:25, NASB). Paul meant that when the spiritual seed is completed from amongst the Gentiles, then all Israel will be saved. The prophet Hosea confirmed Israel is part of the earthly seed, “Yet the number of the sons of Israel will be like the sand of the sea, which cannot be measured or numbered; and it will come about that in the place where it is said to them, You are not my people, it will be said to them, You are the sons of the living God” (Hosea 1:10, NASB). In Revelation 20:8 the expression “sand of the sea” is applied to restored mankind. Satan will “go out to deceive the nations which are in the four quarters of the earth … the number of whom is as the sand of the sea.”
In the Millennial age, or Christ’s thousand-year reign, natural Israel will have its blindness turned away. Then through Israel all the nations of the earth will be blessed, the light of the knowledge of God’s glory will fill the whole earth, and all blind eyes (both figuratively and literally) will be opened: “And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the LORD’s house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it. And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.” (Isaiah 2:2-4)
When the Millennial age is complete, all things will once again be in perfect harmony with the creator. Mankind will acknowledge and honor the Lord Jesus (Philippians 2:9-11), and God will have wiped away all tears from mankind’s eyes (Revelation 21:4). Then the Lord’s prayer will be a reality, “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10). The earth will be filled with the glory of the LORD (Numbers 14:21), and from that time forward man will enjoy everlastingly peace, health, happiness, life and security. All the families of the earth will indeed be blessed, even as God promised to Abraham so long ago: “In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed” (Genesis 22:18, NASB).