Abraham's True Children


It is often said that in Old testament times God was harsh and judgmental. Actually, the Old Testament tells of God's mercy and grace to a persistently rebellious people. It describes His repeated efforts to find friends among the human race, His own creation. God found such a friend in Abraham, with whom He made a covenant which He promised would be an "everlasting covenant". God promised to make Abraham the head of a great nation; in fact, He would make him the "father of many nations." As a result, all nations of the earth would be blessed through Abraham and his descendants. Included in the covenant was the promise of a land that would be theirs to dwell in as an "everlasting possession." With the covenant, God gave a distinguishing mark, circumcision, that would identify Abraham and his family as God's COVENANT PEOPLE on earth. In Genesis 3:15, God had promised that a "seed" of the woman would win the ultimate victory over the forces of evil. God promised to make His covenant with Abraham and HIS seed, a continuation of the original promise. God's covenant with Abraham became the basis of hope for His Old Testament people.

The Jews in the time of Jesus claimed that they were the true children of Abraham and therefore the rightful heirs of the covenant promises. They challenged Jesus, saying, "Abraham is our father." John 8:39. But Jesus answered, "If ye were Abraham's children, ye would do the works of Abraham." John 8:40. Then Jesus clearly told them, "Ye are of your father, the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. . . . He that is of God heareth God's words: ye therefore hear them not, because you are not of God." John 8:44,47.

The Jews thought God was dependent on THEM to fulfill His covenant promises. They should have heeded the words of John the Baptist, who told them, "think not to say within yourselves, `We have Abraham to our father:' for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham." Matthew 3:9 Many STILL believe that God is dependent on the physical descendants of Abraham to fulfill His covenant promises. Are the Jewish people today the true "seed of Abraham?" The answer to this question determines how we will understand the prophecies of all the last-day events on planet earth. This would include the identification of Antichrist, the place and manner of the "Battle of Armageddon," and the events surrounding the Second Coming of Christ. Who are the true heirs of the covenant promises made to Abraham? This is the question we must answer.

1.

Who is identified as the true seed of Abraham? Galatians 3:16

Helps and hints: Not only is Christ identified as the true seed, but Paul specifically says that the promise was to be applied to none apart from Christ.

2.

Who is included in the seed of Abraham? Galatians 3:29

Helps and hints: It is difficult to imagine a clearer statement than this. Those who belong to Christ are counted as the TRUE SEED of Abraham, and "heirs" of the covenant promises made to Abraham. When offering a prayer for His disciples, Jesus prayed, "Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; that they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me." John 17:20,21. When we are "one" with Christ then we too are the "seed" of Abraham, and heirs according to the promise. This promise then is for Christians!

3.

Can we be sure that then "heirs according to the promise" of Galatians 3:29, really means the covenant promises made TO ABRAHAM, and not some other promises? Galatians 3:14

Helps and hints: YES! It is specifically said to be the BLESSING of ABRAHAM that comes on the Gentiles by faith in Christ Jesus.

4.

What was the basis of Abraham's righteousness? Romans 4:3

Helps and hints: Abraham was not righteous because he was circumcised, or because he kept the law. There is only one righteousness available to those who have sinned, whether Jew or Gentile; righteousness by FAITH.

5.

What was the meaning of circumcision? Romans 4:11,12

Helps and hints: Abraham had received righteousness by faith BEFORE he was circumcised. The physical act was only a "seal" of an experience he already had. Notice that both Jews and Gentiles are referred to as children of Abraham. The common qualification is FAITH. Even the circumcised must "also walk in the steps of that faith of our father Abraham" in order to be counted among his true children. That is the significance of the words of Jesus, "If you were Abraham's children, ye would do the works of Abraham. But now ye seek to kill me, a man that hath told you the truth, which I have heard of God: this did not Abraham. . . . He that is of God heareth God's words: ye therefore hear them not, because you are not of God." John 8:39,40,47.

6.

Do both Jews and Gentiles receive righteousness BY FAITH? Romans 3:29-30

7.

How was the covenant promise given to Abraham and his seed? Romans 4:13,14

Helps and hints: The apostle Paul declared, "Behold, thou are called a Jew, and resteth in the law, and makest thy boast to God," Romans 2:17. For the Jew, "law" included the sacrificial and ceremonial laws given to Moses at Mount Sinai as well as the Ten Commandments. In this sense, "righteousness through the law" was another way of saying that righteousness came by being a Jew. Paul flatly denies this possibility. In fact, he says, if it WERE the case, then faith would be void, and the promise to Abraham would be meaningless.

8.

What was the covenant originally based on? Galatians 3:17,18

Helps and hints: Paul says that the original covenant with Abraham was confirmed through the promise of a coming Messiah, Jesus Christ. The Jews criticized Jesus, saying, "Thou art not yet fifty years old, and hast thou seen Abraham?" John 8:57. Today there are those who question whether Abraham could have been aware of Jesus Christ. But Jesus Himself said, "Abraham rejoiced to see my day: and he saw it, and was glad." John 8:56. God instructed Abraham to offer his son Isaac as a sacrifice. Abraham was willing, undoubtedly assuming that Isaac was the "seed" that was promised to the woman. But just before the knife fell, an angel stopped Abraham and showed him that God had provided a ram (which was caught in a thicket nearby) instead. God had used this illustration to impress upon Abraham that God HIMSELF would offer His OWN SON to be the sacrifice for the sins of the world. So the covenant was based on this promise, and Abraham saw Jesus Christ BY FAITH. Paul says that the covenant as it was renewed through Moses at Mount Sinai did not change the basis of this covenant! It was still by PROMISE, and that promise was for both the circumcised and the uncircumcised. The Jewish system was intended to lead people to Christ, not to exclude them from the covenant. It is unfortunate that the Jews came to overlook this, even as so many overlook it today.

9.

Who does Paul identify as the true children of God? Romans 9:6-8

Helps and hints: Paul had just expressed "great heaviness" and "continual sorrow" that he felt for his fellow Jews. they had received so many opportunities and blessings from God, and yet it seemed to no avail. the obvious question would be, "Has God's plan failed?" Paul says "No." While the children of the flesh may have forfeited the covenant promise as a whole because of their rejection of Jesus, many individuals among them had accepted Jesus and become children of the PROMISE, to say nothing of the Gentiles who were receiving the promise from many foreign lands. The book of Acts says, "And the word of God increased; and the number of the disciples multiplied in Jerusalem greatly; and a great company of the priests were obedient to the faith." Acts 6:7.

10.

And who are the true children of Abraham? Galatians 3:7

Helps and hints: We are not left in doubt as to who "they which are of faith" really are. Paul says in Galatians 3:26, "For ye are ALL the children of God BY FAITH in Christ Jesus." The idea that God maintains a covenant with any group of people who do not have faith in Jesus Christ is an erroneous theory, "for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved." Acts 4:12. there is but one group of people on the earth today who can claim the promises made to Abraham; those who are saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, the true Christian Church!

To illustrate how the Old Testament promises are applied to the Christian Church, let us examine one of these prophecies. The prophet Amos said,

"In that day will I raise up the tabernacle of David that is fallen, and close up the breaches thereof; and I will raise up his ruins, and I will build it as in the days of old: That they may possess the remnant of Edom, and of all the heathen, which are called by my name, saith the Lord that doeth this". Acts 9:11,12.
This prophecy is often used to show that the Jewish temple will be rebuilt in Jerusalem before the Second Coming of Christ. But the New Testament provides a different interpretation. Chapter 15 of the book of Acts records a council of the apostles and elders held in Jerusalem. A discussion arose as to whether the Gentile Christians should be circumcised and required to keep the law of Moses. The apostle Peter testified, saying,
"Men and brethren, ye know how that a good while ago God made choice among us, that the Gentiles by my mouth should hear the word of the gospel, and believe. And God, which knoweth the hearts, bare them witness, giving them the Holy Ghost, even as he did unto us; And put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith." Acts 15:7-9
Then Paul and Barnabas gave their testimony:
"Then all the multitude kept silence, and gave audience to Barnabas and Paul, declaring what miracles and wonders God had wrought among the Gentiles by them." Acts 15:12
Finally the apostle James said, "Men and brethren, hearken unto me: Simeon hath declared how God at the first did visit the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for his name." He clearly identifies the issue as the entrance of Gentile believers into the Christian Church! then he announces this to be the direct fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecy given by Amos, and he quotes:
"And after this I will return, and will build again the tabernacle of David, which is fallen down; and I will build again the ruins thereof, and I will set it up: That the residue of men might seek after the Lord, and all the Gentiles, upon whom my name is called, saith the Lord, who doeth all these things." Acts 15:16,17.

Don't miss the significance of this passage. It is a serious thing to disregard the Bible's own interpretation of itself for one of our own pleasing. The Jews may well succeed in rebuilding the temple in Palestine. But this would be more of a political event than religious, because Israel after the FLESH are not longer heirs of the covenant promises. Faced with this dilemma, some have tried to say that God will RETURN the covenant promises to the nation of Israel, even before they accept Christ as Messiah!

There is no question that Old Testament prophecies have been fulfilled in the New Testament Christian Church. But what of the specific promises made to Abraham? Can these also be shown to find their fulfillment in the experience of the Church? Let's examine the elements of the covenant God made with Abraham and see.

PROMISE
"Behold, my covenant is with thee, and thou shalt be a father of many nations." Genesis 17:4.
FULFILLMENT
"Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace; to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed; not to that only which is of the law, but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham; who is the father of all, (As it is written, I have made thee a father of many nations) before him whom he believed, even God, who quickeneth the dead, and calleth those things which be not as though they were." Romans 4:16,17

PROMISE

"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." Genesis 14:16
FULFILLMENT
"After this I beheld, and lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands." Revelation 7:9.

PROMISE

"And I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after thee in their generations for an everlasting covenant. Genesis 17:7.
FULFILLMENT
"For this cause he is the mediator of the new testament, that . . . they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance."

PROMISE

"Unto thy seed have I given this land, from the river of Egypt unto the great river, the river Euphrates." Genesis 15:18.
FULFILLMENT
Under king Solomon, the borders of Israel extended "from the river unto the land of the Philistines, and unto the border of Egypt." 1 Kings 4:21. Did that fulfill the covenant promise? We read in the book of Hebrews that Abraham and his offspring "sojourned in the land of promise" seeking "a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God." Hebrews 11:9,10. Did they find such a place in the land of Palestine? Speaking of the "multitude" of Abraham's offspring, verse 13 says, "These all died in the faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth." They themselves knew that the "promised land" of Palestine was only a shadow of a better place that God had in mind for them. As verse 16 says, "But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city." What is that city? "And I John saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven." Revelation 21:2.

PROMISE

"And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed." Genesis 22:18.
FULFILLMENT
"And ye shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskin; and it shall be a token of the covenant betwixt me and you. Genesis 17:11.

PROMISE

"And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed."
FULFILLMENT
The Jewish nation was to extend God's blessings to the ends of the earth. Instead they became proud and selfish, even to the point of referring to the Gentiles as "pigs," and "dogs." But Jesus Christ came to this earth and offered Himself, "that the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles." Galatians 3:14. God's blessing could not be withheld." 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. So then they which are of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham." Galatians 3:8,9.

By whom have the nations of the earth been blessed? By those who have taken the message of salvation by grace through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ to the corners of the earth. By those who have followed the command of Jesus Himself, "Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost." Matthew 28:19.

The apostle Paul understood these things when he said, "How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!" Romans 10:14,15.

Thus we see that each element of the covenant made to Abraham has found or will find its legitimate fulfillment in the experience of the Christian Church. That church is made up of those who were born Jews, and those who were born Gentiles. But they are "all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus." Galatians 3:26. No one need be excluded, "For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him. For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved." Romans 10:12,13.

SUMMARY:

In the last several lessons we have seen how the Jews in the time of Jesus had perverted their God-given religion in favor of a man-made system of traditions. We saw how this led them to reject Jesus Christ, the very basis of their relationship to God. We noticed that God warned them that He could cut them off from the covenant promises if they persisted in rebellion. And we say that as a result of the crucifixion of Jesus He did just that. Now we see that God did not simply terminate His covenant promises. Nor did He put them on the shelf in order to restore them to the physical nation of Israel at a later time. Rather He CONTINUED His covenant with those who received Jesus Christ and became the spiritual "seed of Abraham." And it is through this seed that the blessing of salvation has been carried to the nations of this earth.

How important it is that we understand the true Bible teaching about God's covenant people. The last generation of God's people on earth will face the wrath of Satan in all his fury. "And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ." Revelation 12:17. The prophet Daniel pictures the outcome of that assault, "And at that time shall Michael stand up, the great prince which standeth for the children of thy people: and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that time: and at that time thy people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book." Daniel 12:1. Who is the REMNANT of the "woman's seed?" Paul says, "Even so then at this present time also there is a REMNANT according to the election of grace." Romans 11:15. He then says, "Israel hath not obtained that which he seeketh for; but the election hath obtained it." verse 7. Who then is the REMNANT? Who is it that shall face the ultimate demonstration of Satan's deceptive and persecuting powers? Wouldn't it be ironic if while all the world was watching for some power like Russia to invade the land of Palestine as a "fulfillment" of these things, Satan was really preparing his last attack against the true covenant people of God worldwide?

Yes it is important to know who the TRUE heirs of God's covenant with Abraham really are. It is these people who are the TRUE object of Satan's hatred. It is remarkable that so many Christians today declare that even now God is fulfilling His covenant promises to the Jews in Palestine, despite their lack of relationship to Jesus Christ. It reminds me of Esau selling his birthright for a mess of pottage. Only an understanding of Bible prophecy can explain how such a teaching could flourish in the face of the clearest Bible evidence. But then Jesus Himself warned of false prophets who would seek, if possible, to deceive the very elect!


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