The Gospel Preached to Abraham

We read in Galatians:

And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations be blessed. (3:8).

Now Abraham had been called out by God to leave his family and country, and given certain promises:

Now the LORD had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father's house, unto a land that I will shew thee: And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed. (Gen.12:1-3)

When Abraham had obeyed God and entered the land of Canaan (Palestine and Israel), these promises were laid out in greater detail:

And the LORD said unto Abram, after that Lot was separated from him, Lift up now thine eyes, and look from the place where thou art northward, and southward, and eastward, and westward: 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. (Gen.13:14-16)

This promise that Abraham was to inherit the land was quite literal, as the next verse confirms:

Arise, walk through the land in the length of it and in the breadth of it; for I will give it unto thee

These promises were renewed to Isaac and Jacob (see Gen.26:2-4; 28:3-4; 13,14), but to this day they have only partially been fulfilled in that, although Abraham's name has become great, his descendants have become numerous and at various times dwelt in the land of Israel, he personally has yet to receive any inheritance in this land. This is made clear in Acts:

And he [God] gave him ,[Abraham] none inheritance in it, no, not so much as to set his foot on: yet he promised that he would give it to him for a possession, and to his seed after him, when as yet he had no child. (7:5)

The word 'seed' in both English and Hebrew can be both singular and plural and, whereas the promises do have reference to the multitude of Abraham's descendants, it is clear that they actually centre on one particular seed; that is Christ:

That in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies; And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice. (Gen.22:17-18)
Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ. (Gal.3:16)

Eventually Abraham's descendants did settle the land of Canaan and, from the time of the Law of Moses until the manifestation of that promised seed, the gentiles had no part in these promises unless they became Israelites, as Paul makes clear:

Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands; That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world: But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ. (Eph.2:11-13)

The apostle Paul makes it abundantly clear that the hope of God's people is still grounded in the promises to Abraham; as he declared to his countrymen in Rome:

For this cause therefore have I called for you, to see you, and to speak with you: because that for the hope of Israel I am bound with this chain (Acts 28:20)

and, as he expounded to the believers in Galatia:

For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. And if ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise. (Gal.3:26-29)

This central promise to Abraham that,

in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed

will be fulfilled when Christ returns as God has promised:

Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven (Acts 1:11);
...Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead. (Acts 17:31)

At that time Abraham Isaac and Jacob and the faithful will be raised from the dead to receive their promised inheritance and the pious hopes of the unfaithful will be dashed:

There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when ye shall see Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and all the prophets, in the kingdom of God, and you yourselves thrust out. And they shall come from the east, and from the west, and from the north, and from the south, and shall sit down in the kingdom of God. (Lu.13:28-29)

It is a time when Jesus, King of the Jews, will receive his rightful throne as promised to His mother Mary:

And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end. (Lu.1:31-33)

David sat on the Throne of the Kingdom of the LORD which ruled over Israel (1 Chr. 28:5), which is to be re-established for the first time since it was taken away from the last independent king of Judah:

Thus saith the Lord GOD; Remove the diadem, and take off the crown... I will overturn, overturn, overturn, it: and it shall be no more, until he come whose right it is; and I will give it him. (Ez.21:26-27)

The re-establishment of this throne will bring the longed-for blessing on all nations promised so long ago:

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 pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more. (Isa.2:2-4)

There is a perception among many professing Christians that the Old Testament is somewhat obsolete, having been superseded by the New Testament. The above proves that the true Christian hope is grounded in the writings of Moses and endorsed and expounded by the Apostles. Let all such consider carefully Christ's admonition to the orthodox at the time of His ministry on earth:

Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me...For had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me: for he wrote of me. But if ye believe not his writings, how shall ye believe my words? (Jn.5:39... 46-47)


2005-16 Martin Allen Cragg