The promises to Abraham find their fulfillment in the New Covenant in Jesus and the New Creation.
The history of Israel includes multiple examples of idolatry and other sins that culminated in her expulsion from the land. But all was not lost. Yahweh foresaw her fall and, from the beginning, determined to restore her and institute a New Covenant, one that would include the nations of the earth. In the end, the New Creation would become the true inheritance of His people.
When Israel repents wholeheartedly, Yahweh will gather her “from among all the peoples where Yahweh your God has scattered you,” and thereafter, “multiply you beyond your fathers” and “circumcise your heart to love Yahweh your God with all your heart and with all your soul that you may live” – (Deuteronomy 30:3-6).
Two things are noteworthy. First, God planned to “multiply Israel beyond her forebears.” “Multiply” translates the same Hebrew verb found in the call to Adam to be “fruitful and multiply,” and in God’s promise to multiply Abraham’s seed – (Genesis 1:28, 17:2).
Second, the restoration was to occur when God “circumcised Israel’s heart” and inscribed His law on it, an internal change integral to the New Covenant promised in the Hebrew scriptures – (Jeremiah 31:31-34, Ezekiel 11:19-20).
God promised a restoration that would be far more expansive and glorious than anything the ancient nation ever knew, an act of sheer grace when He would enable His people to fulfill the covenant by giving them a “new Spirit.” It would be nothing less than a new creative act, one that would impact all the nations of the earth – (Isaiah 65:17-18, Revelation 21:1-3).
In the New Testament, the fulfillment of God’s promises occurs in Jesus. In him, the promise gives way to fulfillment as God actualizes His new covenant in His Son, including the covenant promises made to Abraham.
Jesus came to fulfill the “Law and the Prophets.” The Jews who saw him experienced something “greater than Jonah,” “greater than Solomon,” “greater than David,” and greater than the Temple. In him, the kingdom of God was inaugurated and began to advance on the earth – (Matthew 5:17-21, 12:6, 12:28, 12:41-42).
Having established the “New Covenant,” Jesus began to build his community, “the new covenant in my blood.” But now, his church is formed around and centered on him, not on the land of Canaan or the Temple in Jerusalem. In Christ:
- “What things God had before declared through the mouth of all the prophets…the covenant that He covenanted with your fathers, saying to Abraham, in your seed shall be blessed all the families of the earth” – (Acts 3:24-26, Acts 10:42-43, 13:18-33).
Likewise, for Paul, “all the promises of God find their ‘Yea’ and ‘Amen’ in Jesus.” He ascended on high “that he might fulfill all things.” The jurisdiction of the Torah was only for a limited time “until Christ came,” the one who is the true seed of Abraham – (2 Corinthians 1:20, Galatians 3:24, Romans 10:4).
Jesus became the suffering servant who “confirmed the promises to the fathers so that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy.” Thus, the fulfillment of the “blessing for the nations” in Abraham is achieved in Jesus.
- (Romans 15:8-9) – “For I affirm Christ to have become a minister of circumcision in behalf of the truth of God, to confirm the promises of the fathers; and that the nations for mercy should glorify God, even as it is written: For this cause will I openly confess you among the nations.”
Prior to his death, the Gentiles were “separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world,” but now, in Jesus, “those who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.” God’s purpose from the beginning was “to sum up all things in Christ in the fullness of the times,” including the redemption of the nations and of the creation itself – (Ephesians 1:10, 2:11-13).
When referring to the promised land, the Hebrew Bible employs the terms “inheritance,” “inherit,” “heir,” and “promise.” Now, in the New Testament, the same terms are applied to what God has accomplished in Jesus, and to the new covenant community inaugurated in him. He is the true heir of Abraham and the heir of all things – (Matthew 21:38, 28:18, John 13:3, Colossians 1:12-13, 1 Peter 1:3-5).
The gift of the Spirit confirms the status of believers. They are the “children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ.” Christ is Abraham’s true “seed,” and as partners with him, disciples also become “heirs according to promise,” and the Spirit is the “earnest of our inheritance for the redemption of the possession” – (Romans 8:16-17, Galatians 3:29, Ephesians 1:13-14).
Jesus is “the mediator of the 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 everlasting inheritance.” He implemented the New Covenant by becoming the heir of Abraham. Consequently, all who are “in Christ” are joint-heirs with him and destined to receive the same inheritance – (Hebrews 9:15).
Because Israel failed to keep the covenant, Yahweh promised to establish the new one, one that is not like the covenant given at Sinai. Thus, Jesus declared that the cup of wine offered to the twelve disciples symbolized “the blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the remission of sins.” The wine represented his lifeblood shed on Calvary. Paul is even more explicit: “This cup is the new covenant in his blood” – (Matthew 26:28, Mark 14:24, Luke 22:20, Romans 11:25-27, 1 Corinthians 11:25).
The apostles are “ministers of the new covenant, not in a written code but in the Spirit,” another allusion to the New Covenant in which God writes His laws in freshly circumcised hearts – (Deuteronomy 30:6, Jeremiah 31:34, Ezekiel 11:19-20, 2 Corinthians 3:4-6).
He became the “surety of a better covenant” and established the promised new one. And because Christ established the “new covenant,” logically, “he made the first one obsolete” – (Hebrews 7:22, 8:6-13, 9:15, 10:16).
The bodily resurrection of Jesus was an act of new creation. God did not resuscitate a corpse but gave him a glorious new body that is no longer subject to death and decay. This means that his resurrection inaugurated the New Creation, although there is an overlap between the existing age and the coming one – “Therefore, if any man is in Christ, a new creation, the old things are passed away, behold, they have become new” – (1 Corinthians 15:42-50, 2 Corinthians 5:17).
And the arrival of the new creation means the redefinition of the boundaries of the land promised to Abraham. As Paul wrote in his letter to the Romans, Abraham will “inherit the world,” and not just a tiny strip of land in the Middle East – (Romans 4:13).
Moreover, disciples are the coheirs with Christ. Their final hope will be realized in the bodily resurrection and the New Creation. At present, creation itself “sighs and travails in birth pangs” as it “ardently awaits the revelation of the sons of God.” Both humanity and the entire universe are subject to decay and death. However, God will reverse this dire situation when His sons receive the redemption of their bodies at the arrival of Jesus in glory – (Romans 8:17-23).
And Jesus is the “beginning of the creation of God.” This statement refers to the New Creation that began with his Resurrection. Thus, he is “firstborn from among the dead” and “the firstborn of all creation” – (Colossians 1:15, Revelation 3:14, 1:5).
The New Creation is the ultimate inheritance of believers, not Palestine. According to his promise, “we look for the new heavens and the new earth wherein dwells righteousness,” and in it, “God will tabernacle with men, and they will be his people.” He will wipe away every tear and death will be no more, for “behold, I make all things new” – (2 Peter 3:13, Revelation 21:1-7).
Thus, the promised “New Covenant” and “New Creation” both began with the Death and Resurrection of Jesus, a process that even now is underway, one that will culminate when Jesus “arrives” at the end of the age, raises the dead, and ushers in the “new heavens and the new earth.”