Some six thousand years ago God promised an aging Abraham he’d have as many offspring “as the stars in the heavens and sand on the seashore” (Gen. 22:17). Was that just God’s way of saying, “Stop doubting! You’ll have more grandkids than you can imagine!” Or was He saying something more?
According to one popular teaching, God was distinguishing between Christians and Jews. It holds He was saying the stars in the heavens represent the Christians, his spiritual seed, whose reward will be Heaven. And the sands are the Jews, his physical, earthly seed, who will receive their inheritance on Earth. But if that is true, then how can we ever become one flock with one shepherd? Or one new man in Messiah? Or one at all?
Of course, that doesn’t mean God wasn’t prophesying to Abraham in a hidden way that in addition to fathering an astronomical number of descendants there’d be a spiritual difference in his offspring. Meaning, that although all his descendants would have an earthly Adamic nature (the sand), many would also experience a spiritual rebirth and become as the stars in the heavens who shine forth with God’s glory.
The stars in the family would be from the chosen line of Isaac who would reign in glory with Yeshua upon the earth. They would be the faithline within Abraham’s bloodline. But the rest of his offspring, like Esau, would be excluded from the inheritance. “It is not the children of the flesh [those born outside the promise] who are children of God, but the children of the promise who are regarded as descendants” (Rom. 9:8). In other words, all the stars are sand. But not all the sand are stars.
Of course, replacement theologians would say this physical/spiritual understanding of the promise to Abraham fits their doctrine perfectly. That is, they would argue the physical people were the Jews who, because they didn’t believe in Jesus, were replaced by a more spiritual people from other families. Christians are now reckoned as Abraham’s spiritual seed who inherit it all.
But that is a false understanding because Christians did NOT replace the unbelieving Jewish nation as God’s new people. Paul clearly informs us that, even in their unbelief, “…from the standpoint of God’s choice they are beloved for the sake of the fathers, for the gifts and calling of God are irrevocable” (Rom. 11:28,29). We simply were grafted in among the believing wing of the family, while a promise was given to the rest that one day a remnant would be given the grace to believe also, once “the fullness of the Gentiles has come in” (Rom. 11:25). And then “all Israel would be saved” (Rom. 11:26).
Furthermore, it’s silly to suggest Old Testament saints like Joseph, Moses, David and Elijah were less spiritual than New Testament (NT) saints. Are they not all listed in Hebrews 11 as heirs to the same promises as those who believe in Yeshua? And are not all NT believers just as physical in nature as the saints of old?
Paul explained it this way: “The spiritual is not first, but the natural; then [comes] the spiritual” (1 Cor. 15:46). You need both to be a saint of God. First we must be born a human being, a descendant of Abraham. And then, if we are among the elect of his family, we will be given ears to hear the Shepherd’s voice and be reckoned among the seed that inherits.
Of course, this principle of ‘physical first-spiritual second’ can be applied to what God is doing in Israel today. It explains the dilemma that confounds those who look at the mostly secular Jewish State today and ask, “if God is with them, where is their spirituality?” Well, God told us their spiritual awakening would follow their physical restoration. As Ezekiel put it, “I will take you from the nations, gather you from all the lands and bring you into your own land. THEN I will sprinkle clean water on you and you will be clean” (Ezek 36:24,25 NAS). And in Ezekiel 37 we see the flesh coming on the dry bones first before the spirit blows life into them.
The bottom line is if you belong to Yeshua you are one of Abraham’s grains of sand. “For if you belong to Messiah, you ARE Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise” (Gal. 3:29). But more importantly, you were represented by one of the stars Abraham saw shining in the night sky.
If we don’t become earthbound, one day, “nations will come to our light, and kings to the brightness of our rising” (Isa. 60:3).
Brian Hennessy is the author of Valley of the Steeples, available at: ketchpublishing/BrianHennessyBooks.htm