The Abrahamic Covenant
What is the significance of the Abrahamic Covenant?
The Abrahamic Covenant has greatly influenced the course of human history, as it was the watershed moment in God's decision to save the world from sin (Galatians 3:8). The promise is affirmed as an everlasting covenant throughout the Bible (Genesis 17:7-8); Psalm 105:9-12), and the Apostle Paul confirmed that it could never be annulled (Galatians 3:17). Most theologians agree that the covenant was unconditional, although some believe it was conditional upon Abraham showing his willingness to sacrifice his son Isaac (Genesis 22:15-18) - an act that Abraham fulfilled completely. The return of the Jewish people to the Land of Canaan - their everlasting possession - is in fulfillment of the promises contained in the Abrahamic Covenant.
Should the Abrahamic Covenant be interpreted literally or spiritually?
Those Christians who hold that the Land of Canaan is the everlasting possession of the Jewish people are sometimes denigrated for interpreting the scripture "literally." The truth is that Christian Zionists are not literalists or spiritualists (the allegorical method of interpretation); they are contextualists. Scripture should be interpreted based on the nature of the context. If the context is literal, then the verses in the context should be interpreted literally. If it is spiritual or figurative, then it should be interpreted accordingly. For instance, when Jesus said, "I am the door," the context is clearly figurative and needs to be interpreted as such.
- Literal interpretation of the Abrahamic Covenant accords with some 46 scriptures. Each of these passages confirm God's promise of the Land of Canaan to Abraham's descendants. The promise of land was repeated to Isaac and then to Jacob (Gen. 50:24); the Sinaitic Covenant (Mosaic Covenant) required obedience in order to dwell in the land (Deuteronomy 28:1-2,13,38-58); the Hebrew prophets foretold of exile from the land (Jeremiah 5:19); and they promised a return to the land in fulfillment of God's promise to Abraham (Jeremiah 16:14-16)
- Replacement Theology spiritualizes or reconstructs the Abrahamic Covenant, invalidating the promises made to the Jews and appropriating them for the church. This theology, which denigrates the Jewish people as cursed and rejected by God, has been the root of Christian anti-Semitism and persecution of the Jewish people for centuries.
- Fulfillment Theology is a term often used today by theologians to avoid the expression "replacement theology." Other titles that have been used include "enlargement," "expansion," and/or "transference" theology. All of these theologies hold the same basic premise as "replacement" theology: that the church is the new or true Israel.
Why is the Land Promise in the Abrahamic Covenant so important?
The God of the Bible is the God of the whole earth. Yet, His promise of this one little piece of land to one family - the descendants of Abraham through Isaac and then Jacob - is confirmed and repeated in the scriptures 46 times. Clearly, this attention affirms the importance of the land in God's purposes. Land is a necessary element for forming a nation, and here it provided an essential foundation for the children of Israel to grow in numbers and build a national identity with national institutions.
The land also provided a stage on which the Almighty God carried out his plan of world redemption. Since the gifts and callings of God are irrevocable (Romans 11:29), and Israel would never cease to be a nation before Him (Jeremiah 31:36), their possession of this land is also everlasting (Genesis 17:8). Indeed, God's faithfulness to this Covenant is held up before discouraged believers in the Book of Hebrews as proof that He will be faithful to the promises made to them in the New Covenant (Hebrews 6:13-20).