Believers are the heirs of Abraham and possession of the inheritance is guaranteed by the gift of the Spirit.
Possession of the land of Canaan was a preliminary stage in God’s redemptive plan, which always envisioned something larger than Israel. Now, the covenant promises find their fulfillment in the “true seed of Abraham,” Jesus, including the promises of resurrection and new creation.
The receipt of the covenant promises is based on the death and resurrection of Jesus, not on biological descent from Abraham, and their future fulfillment is attested by the presence of the Holy Spirit.
Scriptural passages that promise land to Abraham employ words like “inheritance” and “heir,” including the Hebrew word translated “possession.” These terms are linked to the Abrahamic covenant and originally referred to the “possession” of Canaan. “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” – (Genesis 12:1-3, 13:14-16, 17:1-8).
In the New Testament, “inheritance,” “heir” and “possession” are reapplied to what God has accomplished in Jesus for his people. He is the true heir of Abraham, and therefore, 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, Christ was appointed the ruler of all nations, and through him, God has provided the coming 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.”
Thus, Jesus is the true “seed” of Abraham, and therefore, his followers become the “heirs according to promise.”
The Greek noun rendered “possession” in the passage from 1 Peter was used in his quotation from the nineteenth chapter of Exodus, a promise given originally to the nation of Israel (Strong’s – #G4047). “You are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession.”
Thus, the inheritance of Abraham has been bequeathed to those who belong to Jesus, who “are no longer slaves but sons, and if sons, then heirs through God,” are regardless of their ethnicity – (Exodus 19:5, Galatians 3:29).
And the receipt of the Spirit by believers is the very “earnest of their inheritance for the redemption of the possession,” and it is the “blessing of Abraham” promised by Yahweh to the Patriarch.
Because Abraham believed God, it was “reckoned to him for righteousness.” And those men and women who are likewise of faith are the true “sons of Abraham,” whether Jewish or Gentile. When Yahweh promised that “in you will all the Gentiles be blessed,” He proclaimed the gospel beforehand to Abraham. Therefore, anyone who is of the same faith is “blessed with the faithful Abraham” – (Galatians 3:4-9).
Because of the gospel, believers have been “sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, which is the earnest of our inheritance, unto the redemption of God’s own possession.” The gift of the Spirit promised in the Hebrew Bible has become reality in the church, and it is the “earnest” or down payment by God that guarantees our future possession of the inheritance – (Ephesians 1:14).
Moreover, if the same Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead “dwells in us,” we are assured that God will raise us from the dead and give us immortal bodies. Not only is the gift of the Spirit the “earnest” of the full inheritance, but it also is the “first fruits”” of the coming harvest, namely, the “redemption of our body,” the foretaste of things to come – (Romans 8:10-23, 2 Corinthians 1:20-22, 5:5,).
At the end of the age, Jesus will declare to all who respond to him in faith – “Come, you blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” No longer is the inheritance limited to Israel or confined to the small territory of Palestine. And the plea in the Lord’s Prayer for the will of God “to be done as in heaven, so on the earth” looks beyond Palestine to the entire world.
Jesus did not abandon the original promises but expanded and universalized them in accord with the redemptive purposes of God – to make Abraham a blessing to “all the nations of the earth” – (Matthew 6:10).
And according to Paul, the original land promised to Abraham has become a universal reality, for Abraham is now nothing less than the “heir of the world,” the kosmos – (Romans 4:10-13).
In Christ, Jewish and Gentile believers become children and heirs, a reality affirmed and guaranteed by the gift of the Spirit. The coming resurrection and New Creation will be nothing less than the culmination of the covenant promises to Abraham. The tiny territory of Canaan assigned to Israel was only an early stage in God’s redemptive plan, one that has been actualized and put into motion by Jesus Christ, and confirmed by the gift of the Spirit.
[Download PDF copy from Google Drive]