Were Old Testament People Saved? – Examining the Biblical Narrative, Part 2

 

Part 2

As we have seen in the previous 2 posts (part 1 and video critique), the Lord has progressively revealed His plan of redemption throughout the Scriptures beginning in Genesis 3:15 with the promised Seed of the woman. Thankfully, we are not held in darkness wondering who this Seed might be, otherwise we would still be scratching our heads as to when the Messiah might show up on the scene (see modern Judaism).

The mystery has now been fully revealed to us (see Eph. 3). God, in His infinite wisdom has chosen to progressively reveal His plan of salvation from infant or seed form found in the beginning of Genesis to the more mature revelation of His Son Jesus Christ, tree form if you will, through His incarnation, life, death, resurrection, and ascension. The plan never changed and the substance of that plan never changed, nor was it ever disrupted.

Frequently, those who hold the view we defined earlier and saw in the video by Dr. Randy White, fail to see how people in the OT were saved because they place far too much discontinuity in the Scriptures and hold the OT in isolation from the NT. This simply cannot be and often leads to erroneous assumptions. God’s revelation must be allowed to progress and most-often the latter revelation helps interpret the earlier revelation. This is referred to as the analogy of Scripture, or the rule that Scripture interprets Scripture and it is critical for understanding the meaning of God’s Word.

While there is certainly benefit in trying to determine the meaning of a particular passage in its given context, i.e. author, audience, time period, culture, etc. we simply cannot bury our heads in the sand and pretend to be ignorant about the rest of God’s Word, which may provide greater insight and additional revelation on a particular passage. As mentioned, holding a passage in strict isolation has led to many doctrinal errors throughout church history. We have been given a complete revelation, one that has progressed throughout redemptive history and we must allow its internal unity and clarity to aid in our interpretation.

By observing how latter revelation illumines prior revelation in those passages quoted in the part 1 post, we can see clearly that the seed promised in Genesis 3:15 is developed throughout the immediate unfolding of the New Testament. Evidence of this can be found in those oft-neglected genealogies of the Gospels.

Such an example may be found in Luke 3:23-38 which traces Christ’s ancestry directly through David, to Judah, Jacob, Isaac, Abraham, and ultimately to Adam. Luke’s purpose in doing so is to show the universality of Christ in relation to mankind by tracing Him back to the beginning of man, and likewise to emphasize the fulfillment of the promised Seed.

The promise from Genesis 3 has several NT allusions most notably by the Apostle Paul, writing in his epistle to the Romans where he speaks specifically of the skull-crushing seed of the woman in chapter 16, “The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet.” Here we see “seed” in reference to a collective, or plural seed, namely those who are the seed of Christ, united to Him by faith. This does not negate the implication that Christ is the seed of the woman, but gives us a fuller picture of all those who are the seed of the woman (with Christ as our Head; see Romans 5) versus the seed of the serpent (which began with Cain;see 1 John 3:8). Similarly, in Galatians 4:4 we have the statement “born of a woman”, an allusion to Genesis 3 also, but more specifically Revelation 12:1-6 where we find the seed of the woman who was to bare a male child who would rule the nations with a rod of iron. In this passage, her and her Seed are under assault by the dragon continuing the “enmity” between the two seeds which was promised by God in Genesis 3:15.  A strong argument could be made that the entire earthly ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ has been collapsed into this passage.[1]

But there is more to be said.

As alluded to earlier, God’s redemptive plan through the seed of the woman was progressively revealed such that the focus becomes clearer as His arrival nears. To be expected, further development of the seed concept occurred with the promises given to Abraham, particularly in Genesis 12, 13, 15, 17, and 22, as we saw in the first post of this series. Consequently, the New Testament has more to say regarding this specific promise, particularly in the Epistle to the Galatians.

Here we find the Apostle making several interesting references to Abraham in Genesis. First, in Galatians 3:7-9 (Genesis 12:3) we read, Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham. And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “In you shall all the nations be blessed.” So then, those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.” Notice what the Apostle Paul calls the reference to Genesis 12:3; he calls it the Gospel. As seen later in this passage from Genesis 12, this promise of blessing through Abraham becomes clearer as the promise narrows to Abraham’s “seed” as the source of blessing. In this passage however, the inspired author makes the connection between Abraham’s seed and those who have faith, equating them to the spiritual offspring of Abraham, whether ethnic Jew or Gentile.

Next, in Galatians 3:15-20 (Genesis 12:7) we read, 15 To give a human example, brothers: even with a man-made covenant, no one annuls it or adds to it once it has been ratified. 16 Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring. It does not say, “And to offsprings,” referring to many, but referring to one, “And to your offspring,” who is Christ. 17 This is what I mean: the law, which came 430 years afterward, does not annul a covenant previously ratified by God, so as to make the promise void. 18 For if the inheritance comes by the law, it no longer comes by promise; but God gave it to Abraham by a promise.” Here the reference is to Genesis 12 again, as in the previous use by Paul in Galatians. This time however it is without question who the “seed” or “offspring” spoken of in Genesis is referring to. Paul states explicitly that this is Christ. Summarizing his argument here, Paul sees the promises made to Abraham in Genesis 12 as being made to Abraham and to Christ and all those who are in Christ are Abraham’s offspring (seed) collectively.

Which bring us to Galatians 3:29, “And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.” As we saw in the previous post, Abraham believed the promises of God and it was counted to him as righteousness. As the lens of the gospel comes into clear view in the Newer Testament, we can see that those promises from the Old Testament were implicitly speaking of Christ, who would come from the lineage of Abraham and become heir to the promises Himself. Therefore all those who are united to Christ by faith and repentance subsequently become co-heirs with Christ of the promises made to Abraham, whether Jew or Gentile. As Paul explicitly states, it was nothing less than the Gospel that was preached to Abraham and he believed!

There is much more to say regarding Abraham, but for now, let us move on to the promise of a royal seed given to David 2 Samuel 7:8-17 which was introduced last time. This promised Seed is clearly revealed through Peter’s sermon at Pentecost found in Acts 2. Note specifically the following section, 29 “Brothers, I may say to you with confidence about the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. 30 Being therefore a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would set one of his descendants on his throne, 31 he foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption. 32 This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses. 33 Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing. 34 For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he himself says, “‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at my right hand,35 until I make your enemies your footstool.”’ 36 Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.” Acts 2:29-35 Clearly, Peter makes the connection between the promise of a royal Seed, found in the passage from 2 Samuel, and the Lord Jesus Christ, even to the point of stating that he has now ascended to the right hand of the Father where He rules and reigns (presently I might add).

What perfect continuity there is in God’s Word from the Old Testament promises and anticipation to the New Testament fulfillment in the person of our Lord Jesus Christ!

From the beginning there was always the promise of Christ. Therefore any faith in the promise of the coming seed is implicitly faith in Christ. Simply because Adam and Eve, or even subsequent generations, may not have known the name of Jesus or may not have known the details of His death and resurrection, or propitiatory sacrifice as in the video we saw, in no way invalidates their faith or makes it inferior. It simply means that by faith they embraced the promise that God had revealed in the manner He had chosen to reveal it at that time. Note the words of Simeon in Luke 2:28-32 “he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said, 29 “Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word; 30 for my eyes have seen your salvation 31 that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel.” Simeon’s faith was anticipatory, meaning it was looking forward to the coming of Messiah, just like those we have already looked at. Can anyone rightly say that his faith was misplaced simply because he lived prior to Christ’s death on the cross? Surely not.

Simply because we have the advantage of knowing that this promise reaches its fulfillment through the coming of The Seed Jesus Christ, as we look backward to the cross, does not make our faith superior and that of Abraham or David inferior, but it does make us more accountable for the amount of light and revelation that has been given to us. It was therefore sufficient for Adam, Eve, and subsequent generations, as it is for us now having seen the fulfillment of this promise in Christ, that faith placed in the seed of the woman is clearly faith placed in Christ.

I close with two summary questions from the Heidelberg Catechism

Question 19: From where do you know this?

Answer: From the holy gospel, which God Himself first revealed in Paradise.[1] Later, He had it proclaimed by the patriarchs[2] and prophets,[3] and foreshadowed by the sacrifices and other ceremonies of the law.[4] Finally, He had it fulfilled through His only Son.[5]

[1] Gen. 3:15. [2] Gen. 12:3; 22:18; 49:10. [3] Is. 53; Jer. 23:5, 6; Mic. 7:18-20; Acts 10:43; Heb. 1:1. [4] Lev. 1:7; John 5:46; Heb. 10:1-10. [5] Rom. 10:4; Gal. 4:4, 5; Col. 2:17.

Question: Are all men, then, saved by Christ just as they perished through Adam?

Answer: No. Only those are saved who by a true faith are grafted into Christ and accept all His benefits.[1]

[1] Matt. 7:14; John 1:12; 3:16, 18, 36; Rom. 11:16-21.

What a glorious gospel!

“For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory.” 2 Corinthians 1:20

 

[1] http://jimhamilton.info/2013/12/24/the-woman-the-dragon-and-the-baby-born-king/

Salvation in the Old Testament – A Dispensational Critique

 

Below is a video which highlights some of the various misunderstandings I pointed out in the last post.  In the video, Dr. Randy White attempts to answer the question that we began looking at in that post, Were Old Testament People Saved?

This is not a personal attack on either Dr. White or his ministry, it’s simply an interaction with the doctrinal views that he sets forth in the video below.  As a side note, I am thankful that in putting forth his answer, Dr. White has indicated his theological position as a dispensationalist.  That is extremely helpful in understanding what he is trying to say and the direction he is coming from.  Take a listen to his response and perhaps re-read the last post.  I hope to follow this critique up with a post addressing some of the passages he brings up, but more fully the continuity of salvation between the Old and New Testaments.

Below the video, I’ve transcribed some of his more interesting notes/comments in black, along with my interaction in red.

 

  1. What about the salvation of those who lived before Jesus Christ 2:10 This is the fundamental question.
  2. We look back (propitiation) Glad that Dr. White has pointed out the biblical necessity of propitiation, more on this later.
  3. 3:05 Dispensational theologian This is good. He helps us identify where he is coming from.
  4. 4:00 simplistic answer – “Saved in OT just like in NT; saved in that day just like in this day- by faith in Jesus Christ. We look back, they looked forward” His summary of this view is fair.
  5. 4:50 No doubt that Jesus was promised in the OT; The first promise of salvation Gen. 3:15 This is interesting that Dr. White has recognized the protoevangelion, or first Gospel because this is precisely what I brought up in the previous post.
  6. Were they saved by simply looking forward to the coming Messiah or is there something else to it? Good summary of the problem.
  7. 5:30 – Proof text He identifies what a proof text is; This is helpful, but it’s a setup for a straw-man.
    1. Genesis 15:6 – This is the text identified as a Proof text.  Those who use this text say everyone is saved by believing; by grace through faith
    2. Counted unto him for righteousness – Abraham believed in the Lord and it was counted unto him for righteousness.
  8. Charge to be Berean -like Acts 17
  9. Does this answer square up with the Bible? Ask a few questions: What did Abraham believe? What does credited unto righteousness believe?  These are fair questions to ask
  10. 7:20 “In the Context of Genesis 15 it wasn’t that Abraham had belief in a coming Messiah, I think he already did that.  I think he already had that belief and held to that belief.” Notice what Dr. White is saying here.  He is asserting that Abraham had faith in the coming Messiah.  How did he know about a Messiah?  Let alone have faith in him?  And as we’ll see it is THIS faith that results in righteousness being credited or imputed to him.
    He really believed that God would give him an offspring.
    From his own body. This is true, in the near context.  However, the Apostle Paul’s explanation of this passage offers much more.
  11. So “just believe and they were saved.  That’s how Abraham was saved.  But what did he believe” In his coming son.” With all due respect to Dr. White, he seems to take a condescending tone to the concept of salvation by faith alone.  I’m uncertain if this is intentional or not, but later on this will come up again.
  12. Different than believing in the propitiation of a coming Messiah. This is true, but God had not yet revealed this to Abraham, or anyone else for that matter.  Even as a dispensationalist, Dr. White should recognize and agree with the doctrine of progressive revelation and realize that God calls Abraham to believe in the promise of a coming Seed; yes, in the near context this is his own son, but more was revealed to Abraham in Genesis 12.  He is not asking him to provide a dissertation on substitutionary atonement, simply to believe.
  13. 9:05 Romans 4 “counted unto righteousness used in reference to justified.” Dr. White offers a warning of using these terms in reference to personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
    It may mean something else.  You can be justified in a number of different ways.
    – 9:42 Gen. 15 used in the NT as an illustration – In the same way God made a promise to Abraham He makes a promise to us.
    – Given to us by faith.
    – 10:15 Paul uses the illustration to say that Abraham was saved by grace through faith.  James comes to say, using the same
    verse, to say Abraham was not saved by faith alone by also by works.  When we begin to ask questions is not as cut and dry and as simple. There are several problems to be noted with this section, not the least of which is that Scripture never contradicts itself.  In a subtle way, Dr. White has left this door wide open without explaining how Paul in Romans and James do not contradict each other, but rather compliment each other.  Secondly, dispensationlists are fond of using the term “illustration” when citing the New Testament use of the Old Testament because it frees them from the responsibility of seeing continuity between the Testament’s and allows them to remain “rightly divided”.  The Apostle Paul is using the reference to Abraham as much more than an illustration, but as an example and one with application to Paul’s audience and our own day.  Namely, that just as with Abraham, so now, salvation is by faith alone.  He cites Genesis 15:6 to show that Abraham was justified, i.e. made right with God prior to his circumcision, i.e. obedience to the law. The “counted as righteousness” is actually better translated imputed righteousness, giving clear implication to the imputation of Christ’s righteousness to Abraham.  More on this passage in the next post.
  14. Dr. White cites Ephesians 2:11-12 and comments You Gentiles in times past (previous dispensation) were aliens, foreigners, not in commonwealth of Israel; strangers from the promise; Because of this you had no hope, without God in the world
    – Clear and powerful words
    – Gentiles in the previous dispensation, unless they found a way to come into the commonwealth of Israel were without hope; absolutely no hope
    – What does this do to “Just believe and you are saved?”
    – Well not if you were a Gentile you didn’t; you were without hope.
    – Only in THIS dispensation (but now) are made nigh by the blood of Jesus.
    – Previously it didn’t matter if you had faith, didn’t matter if you were sincere, didn’t matter if you believed in a coming Messiah
    – YOU WERE WITHOUT HOPE  The use of this passage would fit well with  his description of a “proof text”.  If I understand him correctly, he is using the phrase “without hope” to mean that the Gentiles had no chance of salvation prior to Christ.  This is alarming to say the least.  Why then would God waste His time by sending the prophet Jonah to the gentiles in Ninevah?  Maybe it should be noted that Abraham was a gentile also.  Who exactly was a Jew?  One whose father was “Jewish”?  That would eliminate Jacob and our Lord Jesus Christ by the way.  So maybe its through matrilineal descent; then what about the entrance of Ruth into the line of David.  Not to mention the line of Christ which included the gentile women Ruth, Rahab, and Bathsheba.  Dr. White may want to rethink his supposition that gentiles, simply because of their race or heritage, could not be saved in the OT.  It is meant to be a general statement referring to those people who did not fear God and obey His commandments, summarized as “gentiles in the flesh” (which is an important reference to the uncircumcised), because they were outside of the Jewish community and the benefits and promises that God had given them.  No hope does not mean no chance, as Dr. White seems to imply.  
  15. 13:40 So then, maybe it was just the Hebrew people that could have faith. But what about the law?  What about the sacrifices? What about the Passover Lamb?  Was all that symbolic, did it just take faith to be saved?  Or did it also take the sacrificing of a lamb and the placing of the blood on the doorpost? This is the erection of a classic straw-man argument.
  16. 14:12  If you had faith but didn’t have obedience, then I wonder would you have been saved?  If you had faith but no lamb would you have been saved? If you had faith but you had some kind of physical ailment that prevented you from putting blood on the doorpost would you have been saved? Not according to Scripture.  According to Scripture – it was the physical blood on the doorpost that was the sign to cause the Angel of Death to pass by. What Dr. White has actually set forward here is that Jews, because they had the  law, were saved on the basis of that law.  In other words faith + works.  And thus we have the classic dispensational two-ways of salvation.  The entire book of Hebrews undermines this assertion.  In fact, if salvation could come under Old Covenant obedience to the law, then there was no need for Christ.  He ruined a good thing.  He was unnecessary.  Surely Dr. White would not assert this, but by necessary implication this is where his view ultimately leads.
  17. What about the law given to Moses at Sinai – were they just ceremonial? I don’t think so. If an Israelite chose not participate in the covenants of Israel, would he be saved? Even if he had faith? No I don’t believe so, it really did take some more.  Salvation has never been faith + works, but though saved by faith alone the believer now has a desire to obey and “work” so to speak.  The Pharisees were guilty of superficial obedience to the law, when God required a heart of obedience (Mark 12:29-33).
  18. The problem is we’re asking the wrong question that the OT doesn’t answer. Redemption in OT is actually a word about the redemption of creation. Salvation is about Israel and created order. OT is more about the redemption of creation than it is the salvation of an individual.  Only when we come into this dispensation do we see any word about going to heaven after you die or having a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. This isn’t what the OT is about; it’s about something else. There is alot in here to respond to, but let me just summarily say that these statements, while partially true, fail to recognize that the entirety of the Old Testament anticipates the coming of the Messiah, who will redeem not only creation, but a people for Himself and this begins no less with the people of the Old Testament.
  19. Going to OT to ask about personal salvation, but it is not a book about personal salvation
  20. 17:00 Many people of the OT were people of faith, no doubt about it. Sites Hebrews 11.  If the OT has many people of faith, what was their faith in?  What good was it for?  There are certainly people in the OT who walk by faith. Faith in Whom?  He has no answer for this, nor an answer for salvation in the OT, so he again resorts to Genesis 15:6 and sets up an argument for how it doesn’t mean what Paul says it does in Romans 4 by taking the phrase “counted to him as righteousness” and showing how Scripture uses it in other ways.
  21. Ps. 106:30-31 Counted to him as righteousness; same words as Abraham. Unto all generations for evermore; even stronger than Abraham. He is using Scripture against Scripture again without any explanation and this is simply indefensible.
  22. Too simplistic to just believe; dangerous just to simplify Scripture Too simplistic to just believe?  Friend, this is precisely what Scripture commands, a simplistic, child-like faith.  If we are required to DO anything in addition to our faith, then we have a works-righteousness religion and the Reformation never happened.
  23. Deut. 6:25 – Righteousness for us, if we do these commandments
  24. Lev. 18:5
  25. Ezekiel 18:9
  26. Ezekiel 20:11
  27. 21:30 Luke 10 – story of Good Samaritan. If you love the Lord your God…you shall live. “Wait a minute Jesus, why didn’t you tell them if you believe? You told them they had to do the law.” Paul quotes the same verse, those who live by the law its how they shall live.  This is simply shocking.  Using the OT to defend a belief that the Jews were saved by faith + works is one thing, but using the NT, a quotation of Jesus no less, to prove faith + law= salvation is simply wrong!  I sincerely hope this is not what he meant, but it is what he said.  He is showing here how his dispensational system cannot only rectify salvation in the OT, but law in the NT.  It is a flawed understanding of Law/Gospel that is at the heart of dispensationalism and ultimately drives the distinction between Israel and the Church.
  28. 22:00 Cannot put away obedience to the law; would marginalize the strict nature of the law in the OT.  Again, this is faith + works and it violates everything the OT says about the law and certainly everything the NT says about the law, namely Romans 3:21-31.  Obedience is required of believers, but not for their salvation.
  29. 22:10 “Ugh, just believe! Well it did take belief.  The Lord wants belief even before He wants sacrifice, but in the OT He wanted that sacrifice as well.” I don’t wanna marginalize the law. On the one hand he affirms the necessity of faith, then on the other affirms faith plus works.  The contradictory nature of his responses reveals much about the position he represents.  It is internally inconsistent and therefore unbiblical.
  30. If we come along and we see that there really is a difference before the cross of Christ and after the cross of Christ, then I think what we’re doing is exactly what Scripture tells us to do and “Rightly divide the word of truth.” This is a fundamental dispensational misapplication of this passage to “rightly divide the word” which they take to mean divide it between the testaments.  – There’s alot of sloppy division going on. Agreed, primarily within the dispensational stream (sorry couldn’t resist!).
  31. If you’ll rightly divide the word of truth and recognize there really is a difference in dispensation, that will help you to understand the whole word of God in a way that is rich and true and powerful. This video helpfully illustrates the point I was interacting with in the previous post and it serves to reveal the fundamental error of two-ways of salvation that the classic dispensationalist sets forth.  The Bible, in both testaments, has only known salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone and Lord willing, I can show that more fully in a subsequent post.

Were Old Testament People Saved? – Examining the Biblical Narrative, Part 1

 

(Warning: This is going to be a long post and I’ve already split it into parts. It is such an important and broad topic that in order to maintain the thought, there’s no easy way to split it up further. So grab something warm to drink, a snack, and settle in! I’ll try to make it as painless as possible.)

One of the more common questions and misunderstandings that I encounter on a regular basis concerns the salvation of those who lived in the Old Testament, i.e., those who lived and died prior to Christ’s death on the cross. Were any of them saved? If so, how and when were they saved? If not, what are we to make of the patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob not to mention Moses, Joshua, and David? Likewise, what about John the Baptist or the Apostles themselves? Were they saved prior to Christ’s death or subsequent to His resurrection or perhaps not until Pentecost, if at all?

Much of this confusion and controversy comes from the proliferation of dispensational theology that swept through England in the late 19th century and was fertilized by the fundamentalist movement of the United States in the early 20th century. I’ve introduced Dispensational Theology here, with a partial critique. I still hold out hope that I’ll one day have time to interact more with dispensationalism, particularly how the system interprets Scripture and arrives at some of their last days (eschatology) beliefs.

If you haven’t the time to read that post or are unfamiliar with the doctrines that this system proposes, then you should at least know that at its root dispensationalism drives a wedge between the Old and New Testaments which in turn affects how salvation in the Old Testament (Israel) and salvation in the New Testament (the Church) is viewed. This is often referred to as discontinuity between the testaments. Granted, this view has migrated since its early days and has settled into a more progressive form of dispensationalism which still maintains a division between and Israel and the Church, but has abandoned any thoughts of two separate ways of salvation.

Which brings us to the purpose of this post. Much like a surgical scar, dispensationalism has left an indelible mark on Christianity in America. Most church-goers these days have dispensational beliefs without ever knowing where they came from or what they are called, let alone the Scriptural basis for them. In this way, dispensationalism has become the default tradition for many. It’s likely, particularly in the old “Bible Belt” of America, that one has been influenced by dispensationalism without ever knowing it.  We must lay down our traditions and pick up our Bibles to find out what God’s Word has to say about salvation in the Old Testament.

In order to speak to this, no argument from silence will suffice. We must examine Scripture to see what, if anything, it has to say about the salvation of Old Testament saints. Any discussion of the Old Testament understanding of the Gospel must begin where Scripture begins, with an implicit announcement of the Gospel as found in Genesis 3:15

“I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” Genesis 3:15

This passage is often referred to as the protoevangelion, or first gospel. If this is true, and the gospel is present in this passage from Genesis, then is faith in this promise of the gospel sufficient for salvation? Could an evangelist in that day have simply said, “Believe in the Gospel and be saved?” Likewise, what are we to make of this Promised Seed[1] or Offspring? Whoever it may be, revealed only in this promise thus far, it is clear that Eve embraced the promise of God through the expected arrival of Cain[2]. As pointed out in more detail from this post The Gospel Hope of Eve, The evidences suggests that Eve had an expected fulfillment of God’s promise, i.e. faith in the Promised Seed of God.  Her faith was seemingly not void simply because she expected Seth to be the fulfillment of that promise, as the would-be skull crushing seed.  Her faith was still in the promise of God’s Seed. Though it may not have been as clearly revealed yet who that Person may have been, faith in the substance of that promise was still in effect.

The Promised Seed comes on the scene again by the time we reach Noah in chapter 5 of Genesis. Here we find an expectation for the arrival of this Promised Seed, though this time the hope for fulfillment looks towards the birth of Noah. For the expectation of hope that Noah’s father, Lamech, had in this Promised Seed, see The Gospel Hope of Lamech. After obeying God and experiencing His merciful deliverance from judgment, Noah is given the details of the covenant that God makes with him, commonly referred to as the Noahic Covenant.

8 Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him, 9 “Behold, I establish my covenant with you and your offspring after you, 10 and with every living creature that is with you, the birds, the livestock, and every beast of the earth with you, as many as came out of the ark; it is for every beast of the earth. 11 I establish my covenant with you, that never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of the flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.” 12 And God said, “This is the sign of the covenant that I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations: 13 I have set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. 14 When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds, 15 I will remember my covenant that is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh. And the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh. 16 When the bow is in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.” 17 God said to Noah, “This is the sign of the covenant that I have established between me and all flesh that is on the earth.” Genesis 9:8-17 (emphasis mine)

With this covenant, God has insured that His Promised Seed will be protected, given a seminal line through which to proceed, lest the promise of Genesis 3:15 fail.

Just 3 chapters later, we encounter a man named Abram (who interestingly proceeded through the line of Noah’s blessed son Shem see Gen. 9:26-27; 10:21-31; 11:10-26). Here we are given a fuller picture of this Promised Seed through the Abrahamic Covenant, the divine promises given to Abraham by God.

“Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. 2 And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” Genesis 12:1-3

“Then the Lord appeared to Abram and said, “To your offspring I will give this land…” Genesis 12:7

“The Lord said to Abram, after Lot had separated from him, “Lift up your eyes and look from the place where you are, northward and southward and eastward and westward, 15 for all the land that you see I will give to you and to your offspring forever. 16 I will make your offspring as the dust of the earth, so that if one can count the dust of the earth, your offspring also can be counted. 17 Arise, walk through the length and the breadth of the land, for I will give it to you.” Genesis 13:14-17

“3 And Abram said, “Behold, you have given me no offspring, and a member of my household will be my heir.” 4 And behold, the word of the Lord came to him: “This man shall not be your heir; your very own son[b] shall be your heir.” 5 And he brought him outside and said, “Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” 6 And he believed the Lord, and he counted it to him as righteousness.” Genesis 15:3-6

“13 Then the Lord said to Abram, “Know for certain that your offspring will be sojourners in a land that is not theirs and will be servants there, and they will be afflicted for four hundred years. 14 But I will bring judgment on the nation that they serve, and afterward they shall come out with great possessions.” Genesis 15:13-14

“On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying, “To your offspring I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the river Euphrates, 19 the land of the Kenites, the Kenizzites, the Kadmonites, 20 the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Rephaim, 21 the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Girgashites and the Jebusites.” Genesis 15:18-20

“And I will establish my covenant between me and you and your offspring after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you. 8 And I will give to you and to your offspring after you the land of your sojournings, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession, and I will be their God.” Genesis 17:7-8

“And God said to Abraham, “As for you, you shall keep my covenant, you and your offspring after you throughout their generations.” Genesis 17:9

“God said, “No, but Sarah your wife shall bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac. I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his offspring after him.” Genesis 17:19

“15 And the angel of the Lord called to Abraham a second time from heaven 16 and said, “By myself I have sworn, declares the Lord, because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, 17 I will surely bless you, and I will surely multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. And your offspring shall possess the gate of his[d] enemies, 18 and in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice.” Genesis 22:15-18

As the promises of this Abrahamic Covenant are restated and reemphasized from Genesis 12 through Genesis 22 we can begin to see how the lens comes more into focus. The seed promised in the garden, carried along in the flood of judgment, given a covenant of preservation has now been given a familial line and promised the land in which it will grow roots and begin to bring forth fruit. These promises are reiterated to the “offspring” of Abraham, namely Isaac, then Jacob.

By the time we come to Moses in the book of Exodus, the sons of Jacob have settled in the land of Egypt and have become numerous.  At the command of God, Moses leads the burgeoning nation out of slavery and headed toward the land promised in the Abrahamic Covenant.  The familial line of the Promised Seed has now become a nation, whom God declares to be a royal people and a holy nation.  In order to structure the formation of this new nation, God provides them with moral, civil, and ceremonial guidelines and enters into a covenant with them, known as the Mosaic Covenant, sometimes called the Sinaitic Covenant.

To this point in the biblical account of redemptive history, Moses has been the human author of the first five books of the Bible (or Torah in the Hebrew Bible). So we can conclude that he at least has a broad exposure to this concept of seed and through divine inspiration of the Holy Spirit has written extensively about it. Note what he writes for us in Numbers 24 (see also ch. 23) the oracles of Balaam which includes an interesting reference

“The oracle of Balaam the son of Beor, the oracle of the man whose eye is opened, 4 the oracle of him who hears the words of God, who sees the vision of the Almighty, falling down with his eyes uncovered: 5 How lovely are your tents, O Jacob, your encampments, O Israel! 6 Like palm groves[b] that stretch afar, like gardens beside a river, like aloes that the Lord has planted, like cedar trees beside the waters. 7 Water shall flow from his buckets, and his seed shall be in many waters; his king shall be higher than Agag, and his kingdom shall be exalted. 8 God brings him out of Egypt and is for him like the horns of the wild ox; he shall eat up the nations, his adversaries, and shall break their bones in pieces and pierce them through with his arrows.9 He crouched, he lay down like a lion and like a lioness; who will rouse him up? Blessed are those who bless you, and cursed are those who curse you.” 15 And he took up his discourse and said, “The oracle of Balaam the son of Beor, the oracle of the man whose eye is opened,16 the oracle of him who hears the words of God, and knows the knowledge of the Most High, who sees the vision of the Almighty, falling down with his eyes uncovered: 17 I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near: a star shall come out of Jacob, and a scepter shall rise out of Israel; it shall crush the forehead of Moab and break down all the sons of Sheth. 18 Edom shall be dispossessed; Seir also, his enemies, shall be dispossessed. Israel is doing valiantly. 19 And one from Jacob shall exercise dominion and destroy the survivors of cities!”

Balaam’s oracle clearly has an expectation for the arrival of a sovereign king, while verse 9, “Blessed are those who bless you, and cursed are those who curse you” calls to mind the promise of the Abrahamic Covenant given in Genesis 12:3. In verse 17 we should recall the blessing of Jacob to his son Judah as recorded in Genesis 49, while the prophecy to “crush the forehead of Moab” is a clear reference to the language of Genesis 3:15, specifically the skull-crushing seed, here spoken of as a star from Jacob and a scepter rising out of Israel. Moses, writing the inspired words of the Torah in recording the God-given oracle to Balaam, records God’s consolidation of the promise given in Genesis 3 with the promise given through the Abrahamic Covenant and focused in the blessing of Jacob to his son Judah, “The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until tribute comes to him; and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples.” Genesis 49:10

Fast forward through redemptive history to the theocracy of Israel and we arrive at the anointing of King David. The Promised Seed is again mentioned in the Davidic Covenant of 2 Samuel 7:8-17

“8 Now, therefore, thus you shall say to my servant David, ‘Thus says the Lord of hosts, I took you from the pasture, from following the sheep, that you should be prince[a] over my people Israel. 9 And I have been with you wherever you went and have cut off all your enemies from before you. And I will make for you a great name, like the name of the great ones of the earth. 10 And I will appoint a place for my people Israel and will plant them, so that they may dwell in their own place and be disturbed no more. And violent men shall afflict them no more, as formerly, 11 from the time that I appointed judges over my people Israel. And I will give you rest from all your enemies. Moreover, the Lord declares to you that the Lord will make you a house. 12 When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. 13 He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. 14 I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son. When he commits iniquity, I will discipline him with the rod of men, with the stripes of the sons of men, 15 but my steadfast love will not depart from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away from before you. 16 And your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me. Your throne shall be established forever.’” 17 In accordance with all these words, and in accordance with all this vision, Nathan spoke to David.”

Here, we find that the royalty of the Promised Offspring which was spoken of to Abraham (Gen. 12) and by Jacob (Gen 49), and alluded to by Moses (Numbers 24), is now clearly seen to come from the lineage of David. In the immediate context we may conclude that this is a reference to Solomon who would build God a physical house, the temple. However, 2 clues in this passage show that while Solomon may have at least been in view in the near context, the far context points beyond him. First is the statement by God that He would build David a “house” in verse 11 (an additional note is the promise of rest, surely recalling Genesis 1 and calling forward to several passages from Hebrews and the eschatological rest of God). The reference of house here is not a reference to a physical dwelling place, but is instead a royal house, a lineage, and what will ultimately be a spiritual house. How do we know this? Our first clue may be that David already had a house, 2 Sam. 7:1, and that there is no recorded biblical evidence that God built David a separate physical, material house to live in. When we arrive at verse 13, “He shall build a house for my name” we must at least have this understanding of house in mind, especially since God says the house will be for His Name. However, as mentioned earlier, we do know that it was Solomon that built the temple, commonly called the House of God. Secondly, the kingdom promised to David’s offspring is perpetual, “I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.” Not only was Solomon’s reign brief by dynastic standards, since it split due to the infidelity of his father and his own shortcomings, but the throne of David had no earthly descendents after the exile of Jehoiachin in the 5th century BC (see Ezekiel 1:2). A compelling argument could be made that David on some level grasps this. Note the following Psalm

The Lord says to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.” Psalm 110:1

David sees the enthronement of another King and it’s not himself or Solomon, but one whom he references as Lord, a point that we will clarify as we examine the New Testament in the next post.

These promises often in the form of covenants (prophecies and promises also) given in the Old Testament, though distinct in some ways, still have as their substance the Promised Seed of God. Is faith in this Promised Seed misplaced faith? Is it insufficient faith? Is it a faith that brings about salvation from sins and life everlasting with God in heaven?  In the next post, we will examine passages from the New Testament to see if they help illumine our discussion here and answer some of the questions regarding salvation in the Old Testament.

 

[1] Some have rightly concluded that this “seed” can be plural or referring to an individual; A similar wording in English would be sheep, deer, or fish with the same word is used in both the singular and the plural. See T.D. Alexander From Eden to the New Jerusalem footnote on pg 105. For a more in-depth discussion on the seed, see Hamilton http://www.sbts.edu/resources/files/2010/07/sbjt_102_sum06-hamilton.pdf . Note also the interplay of singular and plural in Genesis 22.

[2] This is clear evidence that the expectation of the seed was a singular individual, not a plurality.