Let us now examine these promises. They shed a great new light on the promise concealed in the protevangel.
First we must take notice of this: that according to the promise as here communicated the Lord would give to Abraham’s seed not only but to Abraham as well that land in which at the time he was walking up and down and was beholding with his eyes, namely Canaan. “To thee will I give it and to thy seed forever.” The promise was fulfilled with regard to Abraham’s seed, the people of Israel. Approximately 430 years thereafter the Lord entered the rest of Canaan with this people, but not so with Abraham. And yet the Lord spoke plainly, “to thee will I give this land,” also to thee, and not alone to thy seed, was what the Lord was saying. But can it really be said that the Lord held Him to His promise as far as Abraham was concerned? Indeed He did. The Lord always keeps covenant trust with His people. What then is the solution? It is this: Abraham shall receive that land—he and his seed—when God shall have made it with all things new. In a word, what Abram and his seed shall receive is the new and glorified earth, the Canaan that is heavenly and therefore certainly that very land where Abram with Isaac and Jacob had dwelt in tents. For essentially the two are one. The heavenly is not a new creation essentially. It is the same creation but with a new form.
Abram then—he and his seed, the church of the elect—shall receive the promise. Together with all the saints they are yet to receive the promise at the appearing of Christ.
Hence, quoting the Hebrews (), “these— Abraham and all the Old Testament worthies, in fact all God’s people—died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them far off, and were persuaded of them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims in the earth.”
Mark you well, “and confessed that they were pilgrims and strangers in the earth.” The contrast here is this earth and the heavenly, heavenly country, the new earth. And on the heavenly, and not on this earthly, including Canaan as to the form it had at the time that Abraham sojourned in it—Abraham and all his seed have their affections set and the heavenly they seek. This is literally stated: “But now they desire a better country, that is a heavenly.” ()
It is plain in the light of these observations that the term everlasting in the divine communication: “For all the land which thou seest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed forever” indicates not a limited number of ages but age without end, thus everlasting.
And it also ought to be plain that the earthy Canaan as occupied by the seed of Abraham 430 years thereafter was a prophetic type of the heavenly country. For let us take notice of this: that not once did God say to Abram in just these words: “I will give thee a heavenly country.” Yet Abraham was very actually living by the promise of this heavenly land. And by the promise of this land he died, as has just been shown from the Hebrews. It can mean but one thing, namely, that in promising him the land where he was a stranger, the Lord in the final instance was vowing to give him the new earth where God’s tabernacle will be with His people, which must in turn imply that, as was just said, the earthy Canaan was a prophetic picture of the heavenly. If not, Abraham was without the promise of the heavenly and then his seeing the promise of the heavenly afar off as a good promised him was a sheer delusion.
We have yet to take notice of the Scripture at, where it is stated that Abraham, after he had patiently endured, received the promise. But this looks to the preceding verse which is a promise spoken by the Lord Himself according to which He will surely multiply Abraham, that is, give him a seed. The birth of Isaac was the initial fulfillment of this promise, and therefore the writer could go on to say, “And so, after he—Abraham—had patiently endured,—that is, waited—he obtained the promise,” that which the promise held forth, namely a seed. There is therefore no conflict between this Scripture and the one at , which states that Abraham in common with all the believers of the old covenant died in faith, not having received the promise. How this latter Scripture must be understood has just been explained.
By these revelations and the reactions of Abraham’s faith to them, a new light is shed upon the promise of the protevangel. For the first time God by promise sets before the eye of the church the new earth under the type of an earthy land. What was also concealed in the protevangel—the promise of this heavenly land—the Lord now brings into view.
Then there is the Lord’s saying to Abraham that in his seed all the families of the earth will be blessed. These, too, are momentous words for the light they shed on the question of the identity of the seed. They reveal who this seed is. This seed is Christ. For in whom can God bless all the families of the earth, men sinful, lost and undone in themselves but in one who, in the language of the Heidelberger, is very man, and perfectly righteous; and yet more powerful than all creatures; that is, one who is also God? And who is that one, save our Lord Jesus Christ? This is not reading our theology into this divine communication. It is the full truth contained in it, and in the Gospel as first published. But never before had the Lord spoken thus plainly. With what degree of clarity the truth here proclaimed was made to penetrate the sanctified consciousness of Abraham and God’s believing people in general, is impossible to say. But we know and we know it from the Scriptures that the promises of God were to them pearls of great price. For by these promises they lived and died. They embraced them as confessing that they were pilgrims and strangers in the earth, which was but another way of their saying that they counted all things refuse in order that they might gain Christ. It shows that their knowledge of the truth of their redemption, however imperfect, was adequate, and that there was real depth to their insight into it.
New light was shed on the promise of the protevangel not only by the Lord’s dealings with Abraham, the representative of the seed of the woman, but also by the riotings of the seed of the serpent, the serpent’s brood. The builders of the tower of Babel were this seed. The Canaanites infesting Canaan in Abraham’s time and who in the 400 years to come were to fill their measure of iniquity in order that they might be destroyed, were this seed. This, of course, is not saying that Abraham was the only man on the face of the earth who truly feared God. There are plain indications in the book of Genesis that at the time there were many more such men as Abraham. We think of Melchizedek and the people over whom he ruled.
But now further, Esau was this seed, Esau the brother of Jacob. The Sodomites, that is, the men of the cities of the plain were this seed. The five kings who carried Lot away captive were this seed, this reprobated seed. And the struggle between these two seeds comes prominently and peculiarly into view in this second epoch of the series. It comes prominently into view in the recorded struggle between Esau and Jacob in the womb of their mother. It comes into view in the struggle between the three great patriarchs—Abraham, Isaac and Jacob—and those of the Canaanites who were hostile to them and troubled them. But the Lord suffered no man to do them any wrong,. It, this warfare, between the two seeds, comes into view in the war of Abraham with the five kings who carried away Lot captive. It comes into view in the struggle between Jacob and Esau and Jacob and Laban. But the holy seed wars the warfare of God. It fights this warfare in His fear and as kept by His power. Thus in this second epoch the victory is always this holy seed’s. Abraham and Isaac and Jacob triumph over the hostile Canaanites; for, as we saw, God permitted no man to do them wrong. He was their sun and shield. Abraham triumphs over the five kings and is subsequently blessed by Melchizedek. Jacob triumphs over Esau and Laban. God gave them the victory. And Christ himself appears in this section as confusing the speech of the builders of Babel and of destroying the cities of the plain. It means that over and over in this section the head of the serpent is seen as being crushed.
In this second section or picture Isaac the seed appears as the wonder child. For he was born from parents whose bodies in the point of view of sexual potence were dead. Isaac was thus one of whom it must be said that he was raised from the dead.
(to be continued)