Two promises were given to Abraham: one was material; the other one was spiritual. One was earthly; the other one was celestial; that is, an earthly inheritance, and a celestial inheritance. The promise of an earthly inheritance was the covenant with death, and the promise of celestial inheritance was the covenant of eternal life. Let us quote the two promises from the Holy Scripture: “Now Jehovah said to Abraham, ‘Go forth from your country, and from your relatives and from your father’s house, to the land which I will show you; And I will make you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great; And you shall be a blessing’ “ (Gen. 12-1,2). “On that day Jehovah made a covenant with Abraham, saying, ‘To your descendants I have given this land, from the river of Egypt as far as the great river, the river Euphrates: the Kenite and the Kenizzite and the Kadmonite and the Hittite and the Perizzite and the Rephaim and the Amorite and the Canaanite and the Girgashite and the Jebusite’ “ (Gen. 15:18-21). Israel’s inheritance included the peoples of the Earth: corrupt and abominable peoples. “For the men of the land who have been before you have done all these abominations, and the land has become defiled” (Lev. 18:19-27). For Jehovah left these peoples in the earth according with the promise given to Abraham: “And they were for testing Israel, to find out if they would obey the commandments of the Lord, which He had commanded their fathers through Moses. And the sons of Israel lived among the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites; and they took their daughters for themselves as wives, and gave their own daughters to their sons, and served their gods” (Judges. 3:4-6).
Christ’s promise is very different from that of Jehovah, as we can read in the letter to the Hebrews: “For you have not come to a mountain that may be touched and to a blazing fire, and to darkness and gloom and whirlwind, and to the blast of a trumpet and the sound of words which sound was such that those who heard begged that no further word should be spoken to them. For they could not bear the command, ‘If even a beast touches the mountain, it will be stoned.’ And so terrible was the sight, that Moses said, ‘I am full of fear and trembling.’ BUT YOU HAVE COME TO MOUNT ZION AND TO THE CITY OF THE LIVING GOD, THE HEAVENLY JERUSALEM AND TO MYRIADS OF ANGELS, TO THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY AND CHURCH OF THE FIRST-BORN WHO ARE ENROLLED IN HEAVEN, AND TO GOD, THE JUDGE OF ALL, AND TO THE SPIRITS OF RIGHTEOUS MEN MADE PERFECT, AND TO JESUS, THE MEDIATOR OF A NEW COVENANT” ( Heb. 12:18-24).
The mystery of the Bible and of Jesus consists in discerning the two promises and in separating one from the other, because until this day the two are next to one another and mixed together, as the darnel, in the parable of Jesus, is found with the wheat. Let us begin by Abraham’s descendants: “But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For they are not all Israel who are descended from Israel; neither are they all children, because they are all Abraham’s descendants, but: ‘Through Isaac your descendants will be named. ‘That is, it is not the children of the flesh who are children of God, but the children of the promise are regarded as descendants” (Rom.9:6-8). The children of promise are in John 1:12,13, which says, “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God”. Well, the promise of Jehovah to Abraham was to give him an earthly descent, but God the Father doesn’t bear children in the flesh, like Jehovah. Genesis 13:16 say: “I will make your descendants as the dust of the earth”. In this statement Jehovah condemned Abraham’s descendants to death, for dust, in the biblical language, means death. “By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, because from it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return” (Gen. 3:19). “…and thou dost lay me in the dust of death” (Ps. 22:15).
The Jerusalem that Jehovah gave to his people is earthly, and Paul says that there are two of them: “Now this Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia, and corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery with her children, but the Jerusalem above is free” (Gal. 4:25, 26).
Jehovah has never promised a celestial Jerusalem, but promised to restore the Jerusalem of this earth, where it is, together with its inhabitants that were conceived in the flesh. “And it will come about in that day that I will make Jerusalem a heavy stone for all the peoples; all who lift it will be severely injured. And all the nations of the earth will be gathered against it” (Zach. 12:3). “And it will come about in that day that I will make Jerusalem a heavy stone for all the peoples; all who lift it will be severely injured. And all the nations of the earth will be gathered against it” (Zech. 12:3.) “…the inhabitants of Jerusalem again dwell on their own sites in Jerusalem” (Zech. 12:6). This prophet Zechariah lived in the period of the restoration of the temple, after the 70 years of captivity in Babylon, 530 years before Christ. Haggai, a prophet who was contemporary to Zechariah, prophesied that the glory of the second temple would be greater than the glory of the first. The temple was desecrated and destroyed, and up until today 2,500 years of shame have gone by. Isaiah prophesied of Cyrus, the Persian, concerning the rebuilding of the Temple after 70 years (Is. 44:26-28 and Ezra 1:1-3). Jehovah promised it and didn’t have the power to fulfill it. The promise of Jesus Christ pertains to the resurrection unto eternal life, and to the indwelling of a kingdom, which will only be seen in his return in glory, after the judgment of this world.
We will, in this study, separate these two promises made by the Bible. The Bible says that Jehovah called Abraham when he was at the age of 75 years and gave him the promise to give him Canaan (Gen. 12:1-4). Abraham lived, then, in Haram. In the book of Acts, Stephen reveals that Abraham was called when he was still in Hur of the Caldeans (Acts 7:1-4). They were two calls and two promises. Paul reveals to us that the promise of Christ was made before the promise of Jehovah. “Brethren, I speak in terms of human relations: even though it is only a man’s covenant, yet when it has been ratified, no one sets it aside or adds conditions to it. Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. He does not say, ‘And to his seeds,’ as referring to many, but rather to one, ‘And to your seed,’ that is, CHRIST. What I am saying is this: the Law, which came four hundred and thirty years later, doesn’t invalidate a covenant previously ratified by God, so as to nullify the promise” (Gal. 3:15-17). The testament of the Law was made four hundred and thirty years later. “For when every commandment had been spoken by Moses to all the people according to the Law, he took the blood of the calves and the goats, with water and scarlet wool and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book itself and all the people, saying, ‘That is the blood of the covenant which God commanded you’ ” (Heb. 9:19-20).
According to Galatians 3:15-17, this testament that was made 430 years later sought to invalidate and abolish the promise of Jesus, and to establish the promise of Jehovah—the earthly one. Nevertheless, Christ abolished the testament that was old, the one of Jehovah (2 Cor. 3:14). We understand clearly that the promise of Christ, with a sealed testament, was made 430 years prior to the Law. This Law didn’t please the Father. “Sacrifices and offerings and whole burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin Thou hast not desired nor hast Thou taken pleasure in them’ (which are offered according to the Law) (Heb. 11:8-10).
The testament of the Law was interference in the plan of the Father and of Jesus. We can now understand two things: Abraham rejected the promise of Jehovah because he already had one other, which was better, made by Jesus. “Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day; and he saw it, and was glad” (John 8:56). “By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed by going out to a place which he was to receive for an inheritance; and he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he lived as an alien in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, fellow-heirs of the same promise; for he was looking for the city which has foundations, whose architect and builder is God” (Heb.11:8-10).
Jehovah has never promised the celestial Jerusalem, but Christ promised it, and Abraham believed, never accepting the earthly one, which has no foundations. Like Abraham, we, too, receive two promises: one on earth, of Jehovah, and another in heaven. Let us be disciples of Abraham, the first believer (Gal. 3:9).
By Pastor Olavo S. Pereira