Covenant and Redemption

The covenant of Abraham is foundational to the biblical concept of redemption, including the promise that “all the nations of the Earth would be blessed in Abraham.” The Patriarch would have innumerable descendants, but how and when would the covenant bless the nations? Who are his descendants, and who is the “Seed of Abraham” destined to inherit the promises?

The promised “Seed” was none other than Jesus of Nazareth, and by familial ties, his New Covenant community. The Abrahamic Covenant was part of the larger redemptive plan of God, the beginning point rather than the end of the process. The initial focus on Abraham and his biological descendants was only the first stage of what would lead to a glorious future - (Genesis 12:1-3, 15:4-6, 17:1-8),

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

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

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 was 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 alongside the sea beyond Jordan, Galilee of the nations; the people that sat in darkness saw a great light” - (Matthew 4:12-17).

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

Matthew’s Gospel applies this passage to the incident when Jesus healed a man’s withered hand on the Sabbath Day. Indignant, the Pharisees conspired “to destroy him,” but he withdrew, and a “great multitude followed him, and he healed them all.” The application of the prophecy suggests that Gentiles were included in the “mixed multitude” that followed him.

This is confirmed by the version of the story 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).

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

Likewise, Jesus commissioned the disciples to be his “witnesses both in Jerusalem and in all Judea, and in Samaria and unto the ends of the Earth.” The 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 ends of the earth”- (Isaiah 49:6, Acts 1:7-9).

The global nature of this mission was stressed in the climax of Peter’s first sermon on the Day of Pentecost. He combined verbal allusions to 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).

The term “promise” is in the singular number and refers to the promise of the Spirit, and 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 TRIBES 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 through 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.”

PREACHING TO GENTILES


Peter was instrumental in opening the Gospel to the Gentiles, beginning at the house of Cornelius. Before his epiphany, he understood 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.” He accepted men “in every nation that fear him and work righteousness”! Peter, therefore, preached the same Gospel to the Gentiles that he had proclaimed to the Jews of Jerusalem - (Acts 10:19-48).

As he was preaching, the Holy Spirit fell on the Gentiles, and they began to speak in tongues. This amazed the Jews who were present with Peter since uncircumcised Gentiles had received the same Gift as 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.” The God of Abraham had “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.

The Book of Acts ends with Paul in Rome “proclaiming the Kingdom of God” to all who would hear, Jews and Gentiles alike - (Isaiah 52:10, Amos 9:11-12, Acts 15:14-17, 28:26-31).

Paul is explicit in his letter to the Galatians. The followers of Jesus are the “children of Abraham.” God planned from the start to justify the Gentiles through faith, especially since He promised Abraham that “In you will all nations be blessed.” Indeed, he would have descendants more numerous than the stars of heaven!

Starry Sky - Photo by Michael on Unsplash
[Photo by Michael on Unsplash]

Men who stand on faith are “
blessed with faithful Abraham” since Jesus is the “Seed of Abraham” in whom the nations are blessed, and believers become “joint heirs” of the promises – (Genesis 12:3, Galatians 3:7-9, 3:14, Ephesians 2:11-19).

Finally, Revelation foresaw New Jerusalem inhabited by an innumerable multitude of men and women redeemed from every nation, the ultimate fulfillment of the promise to “bless the nations” in Abraham. Was not Jesus declared worthy to reign over the Cosmos because, in obedience to God, he “redeemed by his blood men of every tribe, and tongue, and people, and nation”? - (Revelation 5:5-14).



RELATED POSTS:
  • To the Ends of the Earth - (The Gospel of the Kingdom of God announced by Jesus is a message of life for men and women of every nation and people)
  • His Name is Jesus! - (The name ‘Jesus’ means ‘Yahweh saves.’ In the Nazarene, the salvation promised to Israel has arrived in all its glory)
  • Proclaim the Good News - (The mission of the Assembly of Jesus is to proclaim the Good News of his Kingdom to all Nations until he returns – Matthew 24:14)

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