Snapshots of the Kingdom: Abraham
Issue No. 372
The Kingdom of God was established on earth at the time of creation. However, when Adam and Eve sinned, there was a disruption. With the loss of immortality, the essence of Kingdom life was lost, leaving only residual features that also began to be degraded.
It is not that the Kingdom of God ceased to exist. After all, creation was still owned by the sovereign Creator by virtue of His labor. But because Adam had been given authority under God, Adam’s sin gave him a debt that he could not pay. Therefore, the law of God sold him into slavery as per Exodus 22:3. With him went also his wife, children, and all that he had, as Jesus said in Matt. 18:25.
Fortunately, the law of God limited slavery to the time constraint of the year of Jubilee. The creation had been sold on account of Adam’s authority—not on the level of God’s sovereignty. Really, it was just the USE of the estate that could be sold, because that is all that Adam owned. One cannot sell what one does not own. God said clearly in Lev. 25:23,
23 The land, moreover, shall not be sold permanently, for the land is Mine; for you are but aliens and sojourners with Me.
Likewise, many years later, when God sold Judah and Jerusalem into the hands of Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, He stated in Jer. 27:5, 6,
5 I have made the earth, the men and the beasts which are on the face of the earth by My great power and by My outstretched arm, and I will give it to the one who is pleasing in My sight. 6 And now I have given all these lands into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, My servant, and I have given him also the wild animals of the field to serve him.
God was transferring authority and stewardship of His creation from the kings of Judah to the king of Babylon for a season of “seven times.” Once again, Babylon did not own the land, the animals, or the nations, because they did not create these things by their labor. God did.
The same principle holds true from the beginning of time when the creation was sold in payment for Adam’s debt. It was only the USE of the land, animals, and nations that was sold. The purchaser was a steward, not an owner. More than that, stewards function under the authority of owners, so the kings of Babylon and their successors were responsible to obey the laws of God. When they reached the end of their allotted time, and when they failed to obey the laws of God, they came under judgment.
Promise of Redemption
The promise of redemption was given in seed form as early as in Gen. 3:15. This was defined more clearly in the covenant with Noah in Gen. 9:11-17, where we learn that God swore an oath to save (and take back) the whole earth. His intent was to restore all things and to put all things under the feet of Christ (1 Cor. 15:27, 28).
If you read the fine print of this oath, you will see that it was a one-sided oath. It was not an oath merely to make it possible for this to happen—subject to man’s acceptance of any terms of agreement. It was an oath to do whatever it took to make it happen, regardless of the will of man.
Such is the nature of all New Covenant vows. Men’s vows are all based on the Old Covenant, as seen in Exodus 19:6-8, but God’s vows are all based on the New Covenant. Whoever makes the vow is responsible to keep it.
Centuries after Noah, God selected and called Abraham to be the one through whom He would fulfill His vow to save all of mankind. This revelation gave greater form to the divine plan and intent, for the oath that Noah witnessed left open the ones through whom He would implement the plan.
God said in Gen. 12:3, “in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.” The reward, of course, was that Abraham and his seed would be the first to be blessed. This was based on the law in Deut. 25:4,
4 You shall not muzzle the ox while he is threshing.
Paul quoted this law in 1 Cor. 9:7-10, saying,
7 Who at any time serves as a soldier at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard and does not eat the fruit of it? Or who tends a flock and does not use the milk of the flock? 8 I am not speaking these things according to human judgment, am I? Or does not the Law also say these things? 9 For it is written in the Law of Moses, “You shall not muzzle the ox while he is threshing.” God is not concerned about oxen, is He? 10 Or is He speaking altogether for our sake? Yes, for our sake it was written, because the plowman ought to plow in hope, and the thresher to thresh in hope of sharing the crops.
Paul shows that the principle of the law applies to us, not just to oxen. Paul was an apostle who labored in God’s field, and so he had the right to be supported by the church. More than that, he says in 2 Tim. 2:6,
6 The hard-working farmer ought to be the first to receive his share of the crops.
Hence, the ox was not to be muzzled, because it was the laborer, and therefore it had the lawful right to be the first to partake of the fruit of his labor.
So also is it with Abraham and his seed. Their labor was in blessing all the families of the earth, and so they were not to be muzzled. They were to be the first to be blessed.
Who are Abraham’s Physical Children?
The Hebrew viewpoint made room for at least two kinds of children: physical and spiritual. Each has its relevance on some level. Physical children need little explanation, unless there is some doubt about who begat them. If their physical father is disputed, it may be necessary to administer a DNA test or, barring that, to produce historical evidence.
Hence, we could do a lengthy study of history, including a study of the distinctions between Judah and Israel. We could trace the Israelites to Assyria and beyond, and then trace the Judahites to Babylon and back to the old land.
We might look at the archeological evidence of the migrations of Israel and take note how the Assyrians called them Ghomri and the Greeks called them Kimmeroi (from “Omri”). We may also learn how the Persians called them Sakka and how the Romans called them Saxons (from “Isaac”). By these names we could trace the migrations of Israel from the land of their captivity (Assyria) into Europe and beyond.
Certainly, this is an interesting and worthwhile study, for it gives us a better view of prophecy in the modern nations that sprang from these physical Israelites in exile.
As for Judah, the people returned from Babylon after 70 years in the time of Ezra, and 500 years later Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea. In 70 A.D. the Romans destroyed Jerusalem, and that nation came to an end. The Judeans (“Jews”) were sent into exile as well and were scattered throughout the Mideast and in Europe.
It is of interest that many exiled Jews lived within the nations of Europe that were formed by the Israelites in exile. The Jews were not the Israelites, and for the most part, they did not recognize their physical brethren. In fact, religious differences kept them from reunification. Ezekiel 37:16, 17 prophesied that Judah and Joseph-Israel would one day be reunited, but Hosea 1:11 says that this unification would come when they “appoint for themselves one leader,” a clear reference to Jesus Christ.
That is only partially fulfilled. Paul tells us in Rom. 2:28, 29 that those believers having the sign of the New Covenant are of Judah. These have been united with the King of Judah, the One whose right it is to hold the Scepter. By the legal principle of unity, they are Ioudeos, “Judeans,” or “Jews.”
But there is a second work of Christ that has yet to be completed. It is the Joseph work, and so Christ must come a second time as “Joseph” with His robe dipped in blood (Gen. 37:31: Rev. 19:13). Joseph was the birthright holder, and so Christ must reunite the scepter with the birthright (1 Chron. 5:1) by manifesting through both Judah and Joseph.
This is the manner in which the prophecies of Hosea and Ezekiel must be fulfilled. One must first become a “Jew” by heart circumcision through Jesus’ Passover work on the cross. Then one must mature spiritually through Pentecost to obtain the birthright ultimately through the feast of Tabernacles.
The reunification of Judah and Joseph cannot take place by uniting them genealogically or even nationally. It must be done under the headship of Jesus Christ, who alone confers one’s status as a Jew or as an Israelite. This will reach its apex at the second coming of Christ as “Joseph.”
In the end, physical genealogy does not determine one’s status with God. The law trumps genealogy. The law says that if an Israelite commits certain sins, he might be “cut off from among his people” (Lev. 17:4). He could thus lose his status as an Israelite, regardless of his genealogy.
Likewise, a foreigner could join himself legally to the covenant given to Israel and thereby become an Israelite—whether or not he married into Israelite lineage. Being an Israelite was about legal citizenship in the nation, not about tracing one’s genealogy to Abraham.
Even in the beginning, before there were any Israelites at all (even before Jacob became the first Israelite), we find that in Abraham’s household there were 318 men born in his house who were able to go to war against the kings of Shinar to rescue Lot (Gen. 14:14). If we include their families, there had to be at least 2,000 people in Abraham’s household (village). Yet Abraham had no physical children at that time, for neither Ishmael nor Isaac had been born.
Nearly two centuries later, these all went to Egypt with Jacob and the 70 who were of his immediate family. Gen. 46:1 says “Israel set out with all that he had,” stopping first at Beersheba. It seems that he had some doubt about going to Egypt, so he stopped to pray. God told him, “do not be afraid to go down to Egypt” (Gen. 46:3).
By this time, the household of Abraham that went down to Egypt must have increased to at least 10,000 or more. Only 70 could be considered genealogical descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. That was a tiny minority, even though this number included the non-Israelite wives that the sons of Jacob had married. Yet by the principle of unity (or identification) in marriage, they too were included in the number of “persons who came from the loins of Jacob” (Exodus 1:5).
Again, this shows that their wives had become legal citizens of Israel and were thus imputed a genealogy from Jacob-Israel. This is another excellent example of how the law trumps genealogy by the principle of imputation, which is in turn a subset of identification.
By the time the Israelites left Egypt under Moses, they had increased to more than six million. By this time they were all unified and well integrated into the tribes of Israel. They were considered Israelites by tribe and by nationality, even though the actual number of genealogical Israelites were in the minority.
Who are Abraham’s Spiritual Children?
The Hebrew definition of sons (or children) is seen many times in the New Testament to have more to do with one’s character (spirit) than in one’s genetics. In 1 Sam. 2:12 we read that Eli’s corrupt sons were “sons of Belial.” Jesus talked about “the sons of this age” being more shrewd than “the sons of light” (Luke 16:6).
Again, Jesus told some of the scribes and Pharisees, “You are of your father, the devil” (John 8:44). Two of His disciples were called “sons of thunder” (Mark 3:17). Perhaps Jesus’ most definitive statement is found in Mark 3:32-35, when His mother and brothers came to see Him. He said in verse 35,
35 For whoever does the will of God, he is My brother and sister and mother.
He also defined the term “children of Abraham” in John 8:39-41, where we read,
39 They answered and said to Him, “Abraham is our father.” Jesus said to them, “If you are Abraham’s children, do the deeds of Abraham. 40 But as it is, you are seeking to kill Me, a man who has told you the truth, which I heard from God; this Abraham did not do. 41 You are doing the deeds of your father.”
Some have taken this to mean that the Pharisees were literally children of the devil, having been begotten by the devil through a sexual relationship with Eve in the garden. They take the Pharisees’ devilish deeds as proof that the devil was their biological father. They either ignore or do not understand the Hebrew language.
The Apostle Paul well understood this broader definition of fathers and children, for he himself fathered many spiritual children (1 Cor. 4:15). Likewise, he admonished those children in Eph. 5:8 to “walk as children of light.”
In Gal. 3:7, 8 Paul also defined “children of Abraham” in the same way that Jesus did in John 8:39, writing,
7 Even so Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness. 7 Therefore, be sure that it is those who are of faith who are sons of Abraham.
In other words, those who do not exhibit the faith of Abraham are not his sons, regardless of their genealogy. In Gal. 3:29 he ends with a more comprehensive definition,
29 And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to the promise.
No one, regardless of genealogy, is an heir until they have the same faith in Christ that Abraham had. That faith is defined more closely in Rom. 4:21 as an assurance that God is able to perform that which He has promised. Such is New Covenant faith, by which righteousness is imputed.
In Paul’s view, no one had the right to call himself a son of Abraham unless he exhibited Abraham’s faith. One’s genealogy had its place on some level, but one’s status before God was ultimately determined by the law, not by genealogy. And “we know that the law is spiritual” (Rom. 7:14). To be spiritual, then, is to be lawful. If one is not lawful and faithful, a genealogical son of Abraham could lose the right to the family name.
The Chosen Inheritors
Abraham’s household was a snapshot of the Kingdom in seed form, even before the birth of Isaac. He was the chief of an entire village, none of whom were his physical seed. Yet they submitted to his leadership, because they shared his faith. Righteousness had been imputed to all of them.
Paul alludes to Abraham’s household in Gal. 6:10,
10 So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all men, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith.
Why? Because these are the children of Abraham in the broad definition of the term. The 318 men born in his house (Gen. 14:`4) pictured the remnant overcomers. We see this in Isaiah 7:3 in the name Shear-jashub, Isaiah’s oldest son. His name means “the remnant will return,” which was one of Isaiah’s main themes.
His second son was Maher-shalal-hash-baz (Isaiah 8:3), whose name means “swift is the booty, speedy is the prey” (Isaiah 8:1). This son’s name prophesied the captivity and exile of Israel into Assyria, whereas the oldest son’s name prophesies the return of the remnant.
Isaiah 10:20-22 tells us the manner of their return.
20 Now it will come about in that day that the remnant of Israel, and those of the house of Jacob who have escaped, will never again rely on the one who struck them, but will truly rely on the Lord, the Holy One of Israel. 21 A remnant will return, the remnant of Jacob, to the mighty God. 22 For though your people, O Israel, may be like the sand of the sea, only a remnant within them will return….
First, we see that this remnant “will never again rely on the one who struck them,” i.e., Assyria with its gods. Second, only a portion of the genealogical Israelites will return—not to the old land, but “to the mighty God.” To return is to repent. One cannot do this without submitting to Jesus Christ, for 1 John 2:23 says,
23 Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father; the one who confesses the Son has the Father also.
“The remnant of Israel” is also the “remnant of grace” in Rom. 11:5 KJV, that is, the 7,000 faithful ones in the days of Elijah. These, Paul says, are the “chosen” ones. Rom. 11:7 says,
7 What then? That which Israel [as a whole] is seeking for, it has not obtained, but those who were chosen [ekloge, “elected, chosen”] obtained it, and the rest were hardened [poroo, “calloused, blinded”].
Paul says that only a tiny remnant of the Israelites were God’s chosen people. In other words, their genealogy did not make them chosen.
Jesus said, “many are called, but few are chosen” (Matt. 22:14). The Israelites were all “called,” but only a few were “chosen.” The remnant of grace is always a minority because true faith is rare. New Covenant faith is rare.
The Hebrew word for “remnant” is she’ar, which was the first part of the name Shear-jashub. The word jashub has a numeric value of 318. Thus, we could read his name either as “the remnant will return” or “the remnant is 318.”
Hence, Abraham’s 318 men represented the remnant in his day, who were sent out to proclaim liberty to the captives (including Lot). This is the message of the Jubilee, the law of grace which sets men free from debt and slavery. It was Jesus’ prime directive as well (Luke 4:18, 19).
Abraham’s household of faith were God’s chosen people in his day, even though Abraham was yet childless in a physical sense. One need not be a physical descendant of Abraham to be part of the remnant that returns to God. God has chosen a few out of every nation. Rev. 5:9, 10 says,
9 … Thou didst purchase for God with Thy blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation. 10 And Thou hast made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God; and they will reign upon the earth.
These are the ones through whom God will bless all the families of the earth. It does not require an Abrahamic bloodline to “reign upon the earth,” as so many teach today. It does require the faith of Abraham, however. God has chosen a few to bless the many, and these few chosen ones reign, the rest of creation will follow them. Rev. 5:13 says,
13 And every created thing which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all things in them, I heard saying, “To Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and dominion forever and ever.”
The remnant is a fractal and a snapshot of the Kingdom.