The Present Truth : July 16, 1896
We have noted the repetition of the promise, and the oath, which confirmed it. But there is yet one very important feature of the promise, which has not been specially noted. It is this: “And thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies.” Genesis 22.17. This is worth most careful attention, for it presents the consummation of the Gospel.
Let it never be forgotten that “to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, and to seeds, as of many; but as of one, and to they seed, which is Christ.” Galatians 3.16. There is only one seed, and that is Christ; but “as many as have been baptized into Christ, have put on Christ,” so that they are all one in Christ Jesus. And “if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” Verse 29. The seed is Christ and those who are His, and it is nothing else. The Bible nowhere sets forth any other seed of Abraham. Therefore the promise to Abraham amounted to this: Christ, and those who are His—thy seed—shall possess the gate of their enemies.
By one man sin came into the world. The temptation came through Satan, the archenemy of Christ. Satan and his hosts are the enemies of Christ, and of everything that is like Christ. They are the enemies of all good, and of all men. “The enemy” that sowed the tares is the devil. The name “Satan” means adversary. “Your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour.” 1 Peter 5.8. The promise that Abraham’s seed should possess the gate of his enemies is the promise of victory over sin and Satan, through Jesus Christ.
This is shown by the words of Zacharias the priest, when he was filled with the Holy Ghost. He prophesied, saying, “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel; for He hath visited and redeemed His people, and hath raised up an horn of salvation for us in the house of His servant David; as He spake by the mouth of His holy prophets, which have been since the world began: that we should be saved from our enemies, and from the hand of all that hate us; to perform the mercy promised to our fathers, and to remember His holy covenant; the oath which He swear unto our father Abraham, that He would grant unto us, that we being delivered out of the hand of our enemies might serve Him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before Him all the days of our life.” Luke 1.68-75
These words were spoken on the occasion of the birth of John the Baptist, the forerunner of Christ. They are a direct reference to the promise and the oath, which we are studying. The Holy Spirit prompted them. Therefore we are simply following the Spirit when we say that the promise of possession of the gate of our enemies means deliverance from the power of the hosts of Satan. When Christ sent out the twelve, He “gave them power and authority over all devils.” Luke 9.1. This power is to be with His church till the end of time, for Christ said, “These signs shall follow them that believe; in My name shall they cast out devils,” etc. Mark xvi. 17. And again, “He that believeth on Me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto My Father.” John 14.12
But death came by sin, and as Satan is the author of sin, so he has the power of death. A theology derived from heathenism may lead man to say that death is a friend; but every funeral train, and every bitter tear shed for the dead, proclaims that it is an enemy. The Bible so declares it, and tells of its destruction. Speaking of and to the brethren, it says: —
“For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. But every man in his own order; Christ the first fruits; afterwards they that are Christ’s at His coming. Then cometh the end, when He shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when He shall have put down all rule and all authority and power. For He must reign, till he hath put all enemies under His feet. The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.” 1 Corinthians 15.22-26
This tells us that the end is at the coming of the Lord, and that when that takes place all Christ’s enemies will have been put under His feet, in accordance with the word of the Father to the Son, “Sit Thou at My right hand, until I make Thine enemies Thy footstool.” Psalms 110.1. The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death. John in vision saw the dead small and great stand before God to be judged, at the last great day. Those, whose names were not in the Lamb’s book of life, were cast into the lake of fire. “And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.” “Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection; on such the second death hath no power.” Revelation 20.14, 6
The promise, “Thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies,” cannot be fulfilled except by victory over all enemies by all the seed. Christ has conquered; and we even now may give thanks to God, who “giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ;” but the battle is not yet over, even with us; there are very many who will be Overcomers at last, who have not yet enrolled themselves under the Lord’s banner; and some who are now His may turn from the faith. The promise therefore embraces nothing less than the completion of the work of the Gospel, and the resurrection of all the righteous—the children of Abraham—and the putting on of immortality, at the second coming of Christ.
“If ye are Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” But the possession of the Holy Spirit is the distinguishing characteristic of those who are Christ’s. “Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His.” But whoever has the Spirit has the surety of the resurrection, for “if the Spirit of Him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, He that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by His Spirit that dwelleth in you.” Romans 8.11
Thus we see that the hope of the promise made to Abraham was the resurrection of the dead, at the coming of the Lord. The hope of Christ’s coming is the “blessed hope” that has cheered God’s people since the days of Abraham, yea, even from the days of Adam. We often say that all the sacrifices pointed forward to Christ, and we almost as often fail to realize what that statement means. It cannot mean that they pointed forward to the time when forgiveness of sins should be obtained, for all the patriarchs had that as much as anyone has had it since the crucifixion of Christ. Abel and Enoch are especially mentioned, among a multitude of others, as having been justified by faith. The cross of Christ was as real a thing in the days of Abraham as it possibly can be to any who lives to day.
What then is the real significance of the statement that all the sacrifices from Abel down to the time of Christ pointed to Christ? It is this: It is clear that they showed the death of Christ; that needs no second statement. But what is the death of Christ without the resurrection? Paul preached only Christ and Him crucified; yet he most vigorously preached “Jesus and the resurrection.” To preach Christ crucified is to preach Christ risen. But the resurrection of Christ has in it the resurrection of all that are His. The well instructed and believing Jew, therefore, showed, by the sacrifices that he offered, his faith in the promise to Abraham, which should be fulfilled at the coming of the Lord. The flesh and blood of the victim represented the body and blood of Christ, just the same as the bread and the wine of the Lord’s supper, by which we, even as they did, “show the Lord’s death till He come.”