Inheritance of Abraham
In Jesus, the original limited promise of territory to Abraham is transformed to encompass the entire creation. The land of Canaan was an early stage in the greater redemptive plan of Yahweh, one that ALWAYS envisioned something beyond the nation of Israel and its relatively small territory in the Middle East. In the New Testament, the covenant promises find their fulfillment in the “true seed of Abraham,” Jesus of Nazareth, including the New Creation, the “New Heavens, and the New Earth.”
The fulfillment of the covenant promises is based on the death and resurrection of Jesus, NOT on biological descent from the Patriarch. Logically, the initial promise of geographic territory culminates in everlasting life in the New Creation.
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Scriptural passages that promise land to Abraham employ words for “inheritance” and “heir,” including the Hebrew word translated as “possession.” These terms are linked to the Abrahamic covenant and originally referred to the “possession” of the land of Canaan - (Genesis 12:1-3, 13:14-16).
In the New Testament, the terms “inheritance,” “heir” and “possession” are reapplied to what God has done in His son for his people. Jesus is the true heir of Abraham, and therefore, the royal son who inherits all things - (Matthew 21:38, 28:18, Mark 12:7, Luke 20:14, John 13:3, Romans 8:17, Hebrews 1:2).
Following his resurrection, he was appointed as the ruler of all the nations and given absolute sovereignty over them - (Psalm 2:6-9, Matthew 28:18, Ephesians 1:20-22, Revelation 1:5-6). Moreover, through his death and resurrection, God now provides the promised inheritance for his saints:
- (Colossians 1:12) - “Sufficiently for our share in the INHERITANCE OF THE SAINTS.”
- (1 Peter 1:3-5) - “He has regenerated us to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from among the dead FOR AN INHERITANCE, incorruptible and undefiled and unfading, reserved in the heavens for you…ready to be revealed in the last ripe time.”
- (Romans 8:16-17) – “The Spirit confirms that we are the children of God and if children, THEN HEIRS - HEIRS OF GOD AND JOINT-HEIRS WITH CHRIST.”
He is the true “seed” of Abraham, and likewise, his followers become “heirs according to promise.” The Gift of the Spirit is the very “earnest of our inheritance for the redemption of the possession,” as well as the “blessing of Abraham” - (Galatians 3:6-9, 3:28-29, Ephesians 1:13-14).
The Greek noun rendered “possession,” peripoiésis, was used by Peter in his quotation from the nineteenth chapter of Exodus (Strong’s - #G4047) - “You are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God's OWN POSSESSION” - (1 Peter 2:9-10).
The inheritance of Abraham is bequeathed to those who belong to Jesus, and who therefore “are no longer slaves but sons; and if sons, then heirs through God” - (Galatians 3:29, 4:7, Titus 3:7, Hebrews 6:17).
INHERIT HIS KINGDOM
At the end of the age, Jesus will declare to all who have responded to him in faith: “Come, you blessed of my Father, INHERIT THE KINGDOM prepared for you from the foundation of the world” – (Matthew 25:34).
This was always God’s intention. To the largely Gentile congregations of Asia, Jesus promised that overcoming saints would “INHERIT these things, and I will be his God and he shall be my son.” This was because they were now “in Christ,” the true “heir of Abraham” - (Matthew 25:34, Revelation 21:7).
He became the true “seed” of Abraham and inaugurated the New Covenant. Consequently, all who are “in him” become joint heirs with him and receive the same inheritance - “Blessed are the meek, FOR THEY SHALL INHERIT THE EARTH” - (Matthew 5:3-5).
In the preceding passage from the ‘Sermon on the Mount’, the term “meek” refers to the disciples of Jesus. They will possess the “Kingdom” and “inherit the Earth.” The inheritance is NOT limited to a small strip of land in Canaan. The territory promised to Abraham has been transformed so that it now encompasses the entire planet. This saying of Jesus alluded to the thirty-seventh Psalm:
- “BUT THE MEEK SHALL INHERIT THE LAND and delight themselves in the abundance of peace… The righteous shall inherit the Earth, and dwell therein forever” – (Psalm 37:11, 29).
Originally, the psalm referred to Israel and the land of Canaan. However, Jesus reapplied it to a much narrower, yet, at the same time, much broader audience. Narrower because the promise is to his disciples. Broader because membership in this community is open to men and women of all nations.
No longer is the inheritance limited to ethnic Israel or confined to the small territory of Palestine. Likewise, the plea in the Lord’s Prayer for the will of God “to be done as in Heaven, so also on the Earth,” looks beyond Canaan to the entire created order.
THE ENTIRE PLANET
Jesus has not abandoned the original promise but expanded and universalized it in accord with the redemptive purposes of Yahweh, thereby making Abraham a blessing to “all the nations of the Earth” - (Matthew 6:10).
If God simply wanted biological descendants from the line of Abraham, He could have “raised up children to Abraham from stones.” But Jesus became obedient unto death, “even death on a cross,” therefore, he received “ALL authority in Heaven and on the Earth.”
There are no territorial limits on his domain. He succeeded where Adam failed in taking “dominion over the Earth” - (Genesis 12:1-3; Matthew 3:9, 10:6, 28:18-19, Philippians 2:11).
After his resurrection, the disciples were summoned to become his witnesses “in Jerusalem and all Judea, and Samaria and as far as the uttermost part of the Earth,” a call that echoes Yahweh’s command for Abraham to look “northward, southward, eastward and westward” to see the extent of his inheritance.
The command to Adam to “take dominion over the Earth,” and the promise of land to Abraham as far as his eye could see, are now being implemented wherever the Gospel of Jesus is proclaimed, even to the “uttermost parts of the Earth” - (Genesis 13:14, Acts 1:8).
According to Paul, the original land promise has become a universal reality, for Abraham was and is nothing less than the “heir of the world,” the kosmos - (Romans 4:10-13).
In him, Jewish and Gentile believers become the “children of Abraham” based on faith, not biological descent. In the passage from the fourth chapter of Romans, by “world” Paul has in view the coming New Creation, the promised “New Heavens and the New Earth” - (Isaiah 65:17, 66:22, Galatians 6:15, 2 Corinthians 5:17, 2 Peter 3:10-13).
This is not any theological sleight of hand on Paul’s part. Abraham was commanded to “go from your country… to the LAND that I will show you,” and the English term “land” here translates the Hebrew word ‘erets - (Strong’s - #H776). It means “land” or “ground,” but can also and often does refer to the entire “Earth” - (Genesis 1:1, 12:1-3).
The Bible tells a consistent story from beginning to end. The coming New Creation is nothing less than the culmination of the covenant promises to Abraham, including the promises of land and blessings for the nations. The territory of Canaan assigned to Israel was only an early step in God’s much larger redemptive plan, one that is now being actualized in and by Jesus Christ as his Gospel if proclaimed to all the nations of the Earth.