SYNOPSIS – In Jesus, the original limited land promise to Abraham encompasses the entire creation – 2 Peter 3:10-14.
Foundational to the biblical idea of redemption is the promise to Abraham of a land inheritance for his offspring. Though originally confined to the small territory of Canaan, implicit in the covenant promise was a future fulfillment that would encompass all nations and the entire earth, if not the whole Cosmos – (“So shall be blessed in you all the families of the earth”).
The land of Canaan with its focus on national Israel was a preliminary stage in the greater redemptive plan of Yahweh, one that ALWAYS envisioned the inclusion of all nations. In the New Testament, the covenant finds its fulfillment in his “true seed,” Jesus Christ. In him, the fulfillment will include the New Creation – The “New Heavens and New Earth.” Receipt of the promises is based on the Death and Resurrection of Jesus, NOT biological descent from Abraham. Logically and inevitably, the initial “Land Promise” will lead to everlasting life in the New Creation.
Scriptural passages that promise land to Abraham employ words for “inheritance” and “heir,” and the Hebrew word translated “possession.” The terms are linked to the Abrahamic covenant, and refer initially, to the “possession” of the land of Canaan (Genesis 15:7, Exodus 23:30, Leviticus 20:24, Deuteronomy 1:8, 4:20-21, 26:1, Isaiah 60:21) – For example:
(Genesis 12:1-3)– “Come on your way out of your land…to the land that I will show you, that I may make you into a great nation and bless you, and make your name great and you will become a blessing; that I may bless them who bless you, but him who makes light of you will I curse; so shall be blessed in you all the families of the earth.”
(Genesis 13:14-16)– “Lift up now your eyes and look from the place where you are, northward and southward and eastward and westward, for all the land which you see will I give to you and to your seed forever.”
(Genesis 15:1-6)– “This man shall not be your heir; but he that shall come forth out of your own bowels shall be your heir.”
(Genesis 17:1-8) – “And I will give to you and to your seed after you the land of your so-journeys, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God.”
In the New Testament, “inheritance,” “heir” and “possession” are reapplied to what God accomplished in Jesus and for his people – the church. Jesus is the true heir of Abraham and the heir of 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, Jesus was appointed the ruler of all the nations and given all the authority necessary to reign over them – (Psalm 2:6-9, Matthew 28:18, Ephesians 1:20-22, Revelation 1:5-6).
Through his Death and Resurrection, God has provided 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.”
Jesus is the true “seed” of Abraham. Likewise, as his partners, believers become “heirs according to promise.” The gift of the Spirit is the “earnest of our inheritance for the redemption of the possession,” and the promised “blessing of Abraham” -(Galatians 3:6-9, 3:28-29, Ephesians 1:13-14).
The Greek noun rendered “possession” – peripoiésis – is used by Peter in his quotation of Exodus 19:5 (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).
Thus, the inheritance of Abraham is bequeathed to those belong to Jesus, who “are no longer bondservants but sons; and if sons, then heirs through God” – (Galatians 3:29, 4:7, Titus 3:7, Hebrews 6:17).
At the end of the age, Jesus will declare to all who responded to him in faith:
“Come ye 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 churches of Asia, the risen Christ promised that all those who overcome will “inherit these things, and I will be his God and he shall be my son.” The last clause is from a promise given originally to David – (Matthew 25:34, Revelation 21:7):
(2 Samuel 7:14) – “I will be his father, and he shall be my son: if he commit iniquity, I will chasten him with the rod of men, and with the stripes of the children of men.”
Jesus inaugurated the New Covenant by becoming the true “seed” of Abraham. Consequently, all who are “in Christ” are joint heirs with him destined to receive the same inheritance.
(Matthew 5:3-5) – “Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven…Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.”
The “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 the Middle East – The original promise of a limited territory is transformed in Jesus to encompass the entire earth. This saying of Jesus alludes 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 land, And dwell therein forever.” – (Psalm 37:11, 29).
Originally, the psalm referred to Israel and the land of Palestine. However, Jesus reapplied it to a much narrower, yet, at the same time, a vastly broader audience. Narrower – because the promise is to his disciples. Broader – because membership in his community is open to men and women of all nations.
No longer is the inheritance limited to the nation of Israel or confined to the small land of Canaan. Likewise, the plea in the Lord’s Prayer for the will of God – “To be done as in heaven, so on the earth” – looks beyond the land of Palestine to the entire created order.
Jesus did not abandon the land promise but expanded and universalized it to conform to the redemptive purposes of Yahweh, and to make Abraham a blessing to “all the nations of the earth” – (Matthew 6:10).
Prior to his death, the ministry of Jesus was limited to the “lost sheep of Israel.” But if God simply wanted biological descendants from the line of Abraham, He could have “raised up children to Abraham from stones.” However, Jesus became obedient unto death and, therefore, received “ALL authority in heaven and on the earth.” There were 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).
The disciples of Jesus were summoned to become his witnesses “in Jerusalem and all Judea, and Samaria and as far as the uttermost part of the earth.” This echoes Yahweh’s call for Abraham to look “northward, southward, eastward and westward” to see the extent of his inheritance, which is now implemented wherever the gospel of Jesus is proclaimed – even to the “uttermost parts of the earth” – (Genesis 13:14, Acts 1:8).
According to the Apostle Paul, in Jesus, the original land promise becomes a universal reality – The promise to Abraham was for him to become the “heir of the world” – The kosmos:
(Romans 4:10-13) – “How then was it reckoned? when he was in circumcision, or in uncircumcision? Not in circumcision, but in uncircumcision, and he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had while he was in uncircumcision; that he might be the father of all them that believe, though they be in uncircumcision, that righteousness might be reckoned unto them; and the father of circumcision to them who not only are of the circumcision, but who also walk in the steps of that faith of our father Abraham which he had in uncircumcision. For not through the law was the promise to Abraham or to his seed that he should be heir of the world, but through the righteousness of faith.”
In him, Jewish and Gentile believers become the “children of Abraham” based on faith, not biological descent, and therefore, “heirs.” By “world,” Paul has in view the coming New Creation, the “new heavens and the new earth” – (Isaiah 65:17, 66:22, Galatians 6:15, 2 Corinthians 5:17, 2 Peter 3:10-13).
This was not theological sleight of hand. Abraham was commanded to “go from your country… to the land that I will show you.” “Land” translates the Hebrew word ‘erets – (Strong’s – #H776), which means “land” or “ground,” but can also refer to the entire “earth” – (Genesis 1:1, 12:1-3).
Jews who reject Jesus are “broken off” from the root of Abraham, but the unnatural branches – The Gentiles – are “grafted into to root” – Abraham – from faith. The destinies of Jews and Gentiles are inextricably linked. The covenant with Abraham included promised “blessings” to ALL nations, which included Israel but not exclusively so – (Romans 11:11-22).
A prominent theme in the book of Hebrews is the “new covenant” inaugurated by Jesus. He is–:
“The mediator of a new covenant, that a death having taken place for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first covenant, they that have been called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance” – (Hebrews 9:15).
Abraham was the quintessential man of faith. When called by God “to come forth to a place he was destined to receive for an inheritance,” he responded in faith and “came forth not knowing whither he was going.” He lived as a pilgrim in the “land of promise.” Yet, even in his time, he looked to something far beyond the land of Canaan, to a holy city “whose architect and builder is God.” He and the other Patriarchs—:
“All died in faith, not having received the promises but having seen them and greeted them from afar and having confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.” They were “seeking after a country of their own” but desired a “better country, a heavenly one, for such as them God has prepared a city.” – (Hebrews 11:10-16, 39-40).
Rather than Mount Sinai or the old city of Jerusalem, even now, believers are “approaching Mount Zion and the city of a Living God, a heavenly Jerusalem” – (Hebrews 12:18-24, 13:12-14).
According to Peter, when the “day of the Lord arrives,” the “heavens will be dissolved, and the elements, becoming intensely hot, are to be melted.” We are expecting the “new heavens and a new earth according to his promise.” The “promise” is realized in the new creation, the “promise” that traces back to the land promise given to Abraham – (Isaiah 65:17, 66:22, Peter 3:3-13).
Thus, the Bible tells a consistent story from beginning to end. The coming New Creation will be nothing less than the culmination and fulfillment of the covenant promises to Abraham, including the promises of land and blessings for the nations. The original tiny territory of Canaan assigned to Israel was only the first step in the redemptive plan of God that is being actualized in and by Jesus Christ.