The Blessing of Abraham

Basic to the biblical perspective of redemption is the covenant with Abraham and his “Seed.” The covenant included the promise that “all the nations of the Earth would be blessed in him.” Moreover, the Patriarch would have innumerable descendants. But how and when will the nations be blessed by him? Who are his descendants, and most importantly, who is the true “Seed of Abraham” destined to inherit the promises?

In the New Testament, the promise of “Seed” finds its fulfillment in Jesus and his New Covenant community, namely, the “Assembly,” the “Body of Christ.” The Abrahamic Covenant was always part of the larger redemptive plan of God, a beginning point rather than the end of the process. The initial focus on Abraham’s immediate biological descendants was only the first stage of a much larger program.

Glass Globe - Photo by Alin Andersen on Unsplash
[Photo by Alin Andersen on Unsplash]

From its inception, the Abrahamic covenant envisioned a glorious future beyond the confines of national Israel or the small territory of Canaan, a promise that finds its ultimate fulfillment in the New Creation and the redemption of the nations - (Genesis 12:1-3, 15:4-6, 17:1-8),

For example, in the Book of Revelation, John saw an “innumerable multitude” of men purchased from every nation of the Earth by the “blood of the Lamb.” They were standing and worshipping before the Throne and the “Lamb” in the city of New Jerusalem - (Revelation 7:9-17).

THE NATIONS


During his ministry, Jesus limited the activities of his disciples to the “lost sheep of Israel.” However, his mission also envisioned the inclusion of the “Gentiles,” and this is demonstrated by the application of the Messianic prophecy in the Book of Isaiah to the commencement of his ministry in Galilee:

  • The land of Zebulon and of Nephtali by the way of the sea beyond Jordan, GALILEE OF THE NATIONS; the people that sat in darkness saw a great light” - (Matthew 4:12-17).

Israel’s Messiah was anointed to reign “upon the Throne of David.”  He was the Servant of Yahweh who was “declaring judgment to the nations…and in his name shall nations trust” - (Matthew 12:18-22, Isaiah 42:1-4).

Matthew’s Gospel applies this passage to the time when Jesus healed a man’s withered hand on the Sabbath Day. Indignant, the Pharisees began to conspire about “how they might destroy him,” but he withdrew, and a “great multitude followed him, and he healed them all.”

Moreover, the application of the prophecy from Isaiah at this point in the account suggests that at least some Gentiles were included among the “mixed multitude” that followed the man from Nazareth.

This is confirmed in the version of the story recorded in Mark (“A great multitude from Galilee followed him, and from Judea, Jerusalem, Idumea, from beyond Jordan; and a great multitude from Tyre and Sidon”). Both Tyre and Sidon were Phoenician cities populated by Gentiles - (Mark 3:6-7).

GLOBAL MISSION


After his resurrection, Jesus commanded his disciples to announce the Good News of Salvation and the Kingdom to “all the nations,” a mission that must be completed before his “arrival on the clouds of Heaven.” The salvation of the “nations” was and is pivotal to the redemption of humanity and the creation itself - (Matthew 24:14, 28:18-20, Romans 8:17-23).

Likewise, he commissioned the disciples to be “witnesses for me both in Jerusalem and in all Judea, and in Samaria and UNTO THE END OF THE EARTH.” This last clause alludes to the prophecy of the Servant of Yahweh in Isaiah:

  • I will also give you for a light to the nations that you may be my salvation UNTO THE END OF THE EARTH”- (Isaiah 49:6, Acts 1:7-9).

The global nature of the mission is stressed in the climax of Peter’s first sermon given on the Day of Pentecost when he combined verbal allusions from the books of Isaiah and Joel - For to you is the promise, to your children and TO ALL THAT ARE AFAR OFF, AS MANY AS THE LORD OUR GOD WILL CALL to him” – (Acts 2:33-39).

In his conclusion, the term “promise” is in the singular number and refers to the promise of the Gift of the Holy Spirit. Moreover, the phrase, “To all that are far off,” is another allusion to the prophecy in Isaiah - “Hear, O isles, unto me; and hearken, YOU PEOPLES FROM FAR; Yahweh has called me from the womb… I will also give you as a light to the nations that you may be my salvation UNTO THE END OF THE EARTH” - (Isaiah 49:1-6).

In the third chapter of Acts, Peter prayed for the lame man at the entrance to the Temple, declaring that “the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob” healed him in the name of “His Servant,” Jesus:

  • All the “prophets from Samuel and them that followed after, as many as have spoken, told of these days. You are the sons of the prophets and of the covenant that God made with your fathers, saying to Abraham, and IN YOUR SEED SHALL ALL THE CLANS OF THE EARTH BE BLESSED. Unto you first God, having raised his Servant, sent him to bless you by turning away every one of you from your iniquities” - (Acts 3:25).

Thus, Peter linked the ministry of Jesus to the promise to bless all the nations in Abraham’s Seed, and to the suffering “Servant of the LORD.” His words anticipated the broadening of the covenant community to include the Gentiles by declaring that God blessed the Jewish nation “first.”

Starry Sky - Photo by Casey Horner on Unsplash
[Photo by Casey Horner on Unsplash]

PREACHING TO GENTILES


Peter was instrumental in opening the Gospel to the Gentiles, beginning at the house of Cornelius in Caesarea. Before his epiphany, he understood that it was unlawful “for a man that is a Jew to join himself or come into one of another nation,” yet God showed him that he must “not call any man common or unclean.”

The Creator of all things accepts men “in every nation that fear him and work righteousness”; and therefore, Peter preached the same Gospel to Cornelius and his household that he proclaimed earlier to the Jews in Jerusalem - (Acts 10:19-48).

As he was still preaching, the Holy Spirit fell on the Gentiles, and they began to speak in tongues. This amazed the Jews who were with Peter since uncircumcised Gentiles had received the same Gift as the Jewish believers did on the Day of Pentecost. After hearing about these events, the brethren in Jerusalem “glorified God, because TO THE GENTILES ALSO He had granted repentance unto life.”

Moreover, James declared that the Gentiles were not required to undergo circumcision “in order to be saved,” for God has “visited the Gentiles to take out of them a people for his name,” and James justified the outreach to uncircumcised Gentiles by citing the prophet Amos:

  • And to this agree the words of the prophets; as it is written: After these things, I will return, and I will build again the tabernacle of David, which is fallen; and I will build again its ruins, and I will set it up, that the REMNANT OF MEN may seek after the Lord and all the nations upon whom my name is called” - (Acts 15:14-17, Amos 9:11-12).

The Book of Acts ends with the Apostle Paul in Rome “proclaiming the Kingdom of God” to all who would hear, to Jew and Gentile alike - (Isaiah 52:10, Acts 28:26-31).

In Galatians, Paul is explicit. The followers of Jesus are the true “children of Abraham.” God’s plan was always to justify the Gentiles through faith, especially since He promised Abraham that “IN YOU WILL ALL NATIONS BE BLESSED.” Men who stand on faith are “blessed with faithful Abraham.” Jesus is the true “Seed of Abraham” in whom the nations are blessed, and with whom they become “joint heirs” of the promises – (Genesis 12:3, Galatians 3:7-9, 3:14, Ephesians 2:11-19).

Finally, Revelation foresaw the city of New Jerusalem inhabited by a vast multitude of men redeemed from every nation, the ultimate fulfillment of the promise to “bless the nations” in Abraham, and Jesus was declared worthy to reign over the Cosmos precisely BECAUSE he “purchased for God by his blood men of every tribe, and tongue, and people, and nation” - (Revelation 5:5-14).



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